Archive for September, 2012|Monthly archive page

Friday Funnies – September 28th

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Huh??  Peanuts?  You have PEANUTS!

Don’t ever forget that nature can be as close as your own backyard, you need to take the time to notice.

This little chipmunk got very comfortable with us over the summer, running right up to us as long as we didn’t’ make any sudden moves.  Bringing his family along with him, he got very used to the nuts we’d bring.

Look a little closer, and find some of the wild in your own backyard or neighborhood.

Stay in focus,

Mark

Friday Funnies – September 21st

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I  . . .  Grab Your Head!

Keep that shutter shooting, you never know what you’ll end up with!

The luck of timing, along with a little creative cropping provided an entertaining shot that would have otherwise hit the trash can.

This photo was from a “ride along” earlier this year with the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team.  You won’t find a more professional and impressive bunch of guys.  You can check them out here – or at your local air shows.

Stay in focus,

Mark

Duck Bill Do’s and Don’ts

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The Little Things Make a Difference

The opening image isn’t perfect from a composition standpoint (I don’t like the dark line running right across this Wood Duck’s head or the contrast change running through his head) but the angle and position is pretty good.  Good eye and head position compliment the upright pose of the bill, turned slightly towards the camera and the gap between the beak and the body looks natural.

Discussed below are a few of the things to avoid.

Aperture 2

This first image is a non-starter, the top of the log cuts right through the head and bill.

Aperture 3

The second image has the bottom line of the bill “merged” with the top line of the body – doesn’t appear natural and is a little disruptive.

Aperture 4

The third image is better, there is separation between the bill and the body – but just a sliver.  Again, this is a little distracting to the eye.  The composition (in the opening photo) has more separation and a more upright head angle, producing the best overall image.

As your photography improves, you should begin looking for these types of details in the field – and understanding when to pull the trigger.  It comes with practice and will naturally get better with the more images you take.  You’ll notice things like eye contact and head angle – when the background is not working for you and when various elements are pleasingly separated.

Stay in Focus,

Mark

Location Review: Bosque del Apache

MCT 2011 12 09 7732 Bosque del Apache . . . a nature lovers “life list” kinda place

There are a few places that qualify as a “must do” location, but Bosque is definitely one of them.  Located just south of Socorro New Mexico, Bosque is a managed wetlands area of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and migratory home to literally tens of thousands of geese, cranes and ducks.  Comprising over 57,000 acres, the refuge is managed into areas of wet bottomlands, fields and natural landscape.  Refuge roads and “loops” provide excellent access, with most photographic opportunities within 30 yards of where you park along side the road.  Detailed site information can be accessed at Bosque del Apache NWR or the Friends of the Bosque del Apache websites.

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There is plenty of wildlife to view and photograph during the morning and evening hours as the pictures above illustrate.  In fact, the shot directly above of the Blue Goose isn’t one of my best but it does illustrate the opportunity.  The Blue is trying to find a place to land in a “sea” of Snow Geese – yes, the whole shot is nothing but birds!

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The best way to experience Bosque for the first time is to attend a photo workshop or nature tour.  Like most visitors, your time on site will be limited to a few days and it would take a few days just to learn the basics of where to go and when.  Workshop or tour leaders know the lay of the land and “when to be where”.  I’ll be going to Bosque myself this year – but because I attended a fantastic workshop last year, I now have the basics down.  Checkout my Bosque Workshop Review post from last December – I can highly recommend Rick and Juan’s session, great guys and they know where to go and will work hard for the best shots.  Last time I checked there were still a few spots open for this years end of November and early December sessions.  You can learn more about their workshops here.

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The weather in Bosque can be unpredictable and varied.  It’s not uncommon to see a daily range of temperatures between 20 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit – and at times MUCH colder!  Last year was a little different it seems.  There was a couple week stretch of below zero weather and during my week there we had 3 inches of snow on the ground – which certainly provided some unique photo opportunities.  So the lesson here is to come prepared – checkout my Cold Weather Photography post from last year.  I’ll be doing an update to cold weather photography in a few weeks with new lessons learned.  But this post will give you the basics.

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At minimum, I’d suggest 3 days at Bosque, with 5 days probably ideal.  The main support area to Bosque is the little town of Socorro, NM which is about 30 minutes north of the refuge.  Hotel space can fill up during the prime fall viewing period so plan to make reservations early.  If you sign up for one of the workshops or tours, they will usually have rooms pre reserved for you.

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If you can’t make it this year, mark your calendars now and save your pennies for 2013 – you won’t be disappointed!

Stay in focus,

Mark

Friday Funnies – September 14th

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Look Ma!

I’m a fighter jet . . . yea . . . an F-16!  Yea . . . that’s it . . . I’m a FALCON!

All kids dream big . . . don’t lose your inner child.

This male juvenile Wood Duck was preparing for takeoff.  You could tell he was still a bit uneasy with flight (or at least the take-off part) as it took him 4 “false starts” before he made the leap into the air on his 5th try.  And only a bit of his tail hit the water!

Stay in Focus,

Mark

Don’t Let the Mid-Day Sun Ruin Your Photo Outing

2012 2012 08 31 31 | 12 30 56 | B83H5981 HDR  Version 2

Yes, for outdoors shooting it’s hard to beat the “magic hours” of sunrise and sunset – and the two to three hours after sunrise and before sunset aren’t too bad either.  But what do you do with that “11-3″ slot?  Here’s two scenarios to try.

Get in Close

The harsh mid-day light will have less impact on your shots if you get in close to the subject and eliminate any background elements.  You purposefully minimize the high contrast range in your shot.  The engine shot above was at high noon.  By getting in close I eliminated the bright sky and white concrete – not to mention the reflections off the leading wing edges.

2012 2012 09 08 08 | 10 19 37 | E01C0139 HDR  Version 2

Shoot HDR

You don’t like HDR you say?  Really?  Maybe it’s the “grungy” HDR that doesn’t suit your style?

Remember, that “grungy” and exaggerated look is only one style of HDR.  High Dynamic Range photography can look anywhere from very natural all the way to over the top.  Shooting HDR at high noon (the way the second image above was shot) makes the lighting conditions virtually irrelevant.  Take 3 to 5 shots over a range of exposures, use your favorite HDR or stacking program and make a great natural looking shot.

Many More Ways

There are many other scenarios to use during “bad” lighting times, not just these.  Plenty of interesting things can be found in the shade and a small diffuser can give you a bit of your own shade for smaller objects.  Flowers, insects, old fences, abandoned equipment.  Take the time to look and you’ll find your mid-day shots!

Stay in Focus,

Mark

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