Monday, January 15, 2007

Photographing Flowers

The only way that you will capture beautiful flower pictures is to always use a tripod. You will also need the type of tripod that can get close to the ground. I shot this Yellow Columbine in the Canadian Rockies and the flower was only about 6" from ground to flower bloom. For the best results I always put my focus on the front of the flower, or as in this case, the side of the flower, and adjust my f-stop to carry the resolution into and around the flower bloom. Of course weather conditions wil factor into the success of the shot. Wind is a killer of course. Generally, you will need to stop down your shutter speed to get to the optimim f-stop to carry the resolution into the flower. I have found that F-16 works really well for this, depending on how big or deep the flower bloom.

A successful way to bring out the beauty of the bloom is to find the right light angle. As in this case I waited for the sun to get in a position that fully lit the bloom but was blocked from the background of my shot. As you can see, this technique has the ablitiy to frame the bloom in a dark background, and isolate the beauty of the bloom.

This Water Lily shot is another prime example of isolating the bloom of a flower. This was shot in a botanical garden pond.
The sun's position was at about 10 o'clock in the morning so any refection from the bloom in the pond water would be delicate as opposed to straight overhead which would create very sharp and harsh refection in the pond water below the Lily bloom.

Believe it or not, bad weather can be a boost in photographing flowers. As in this example, the rain left delicate drops of moisture throughout the flowers and the clouds created a great flat lighting to bring out the different hues of pink and white colors in the these roses.

As you can see from these last two shots, creating a composition by zooming into the bloom can highlite the form and design of the bloom. While setting up on each of these blooms I kept moving my focus point around the bloom until there was a strong composition with an almost abstract quality to the shot.

As always I shot each and every one of these blooms with a tripod. Don't try this at home with out one!

Equipment used in these flower shots:
Tripond - Bogen w/ Manfrotto Proball 468RC Head
Camera - Canon EOS-3
Lens - Canon 24-70 mm F-2.8
Film - Fuji Velvia asa 50

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Photographing Eagles & Hawks

One of the most exciting shots you can get are pictures of Raptors. Here are a few hints to help you be successful on this type of shoot. If you notice that Hawks or Eagles roosting in a special tree, or branches of a tree, over and over again, then you can be sure that they like this particular roost and will return frequently. Large bird of prey will always return to a roost near their feeding grounds if it is easy to enter and exit the roost with their wing spans, etc. So wait until they are gone and see if you can find a place near the roost that will give you natural cover. Remember, these birds have eye sight like spy satelites, so your natural blind must conseal you from the front as well as over the top. It must be close enough so that the lens you have will reach the bird. If you must create a blind near the roost because there isn't natural cover near by, make sure you choose material from the immediate area so it looks like it belongs there. Use sticks and twigs and leaves that will give you cover in front and on top. Once you have a consealed place constructed, do not use the cover for a few days and watch to see if the birds are comfortable with the new landscape. if you see that they are coming back to the roost area and seem comfortable, you're ready to try and get the shot. Never enter your cover area when the birds are at roost. You must be patient. Enter your cover a few hours before they usually use their roost and wait. If you do this correctly, you will be rewarded with shots like these Eagle Mates shown on this entry.

Some days you get a gift when you least expect it. While I was investigating a potenial landscape, this immature Red Tail Hawk landed on an abandoned power pole not 20 yards away. He looked right at me, and my presence didn't seem to bother the Hawk at all. After staring at each other for a while and without making any quick moves, I quietly put my equipment together and slowly started to set up the shot with my camera. He seemed at times to be curious about what I was doing, and the Hawk would stop preening to stare at me, but with very, very, slow movements, I didn't spook the Hawk. My quiet, slow and deliberate movements paid off, and the Hawk sat on the pole and posed for me for about 20 mintes. I shot two rolls of film, and this is one of about 12 favorite shots I took of the Hawk during our encounter.

Equipment Use on both shots:
Camera - Canon EOS-3
Lens - 400 mm F2.8 w/ 2X extension
Film - Fuji Provia 100
Tripod - Bogen w/platform for lens

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Using a Polarizer

We've all seen how mountains and hills get that "blue hue" in the early morning hours, or late afternoon hours, when the sun is positioned behind them. You can use a polarizer to accent the blue tones of these landscapes. This photo is called "Crack of Dawn" and was taken on the southeasten shore of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park. I took the shot about 5 minutes after the sun had broken the horizon of the Montana plains east of the Contennial Divide that you see in the background. I wanted to accent the blue tint of the mountains and lake, so I used a polarizing filter to bring up the natural color that was being created. When you use this technique be aware that you don't have to ajust the filter to it's maxium polarizing capability. The landscape will have a natural blue hue at this time of day, so what you are looking for is to accent the color. If you were to ajust the polarizer to it's maxium, it would flood the shot with a saturation that would look muddy. So look through the camera and ajust the filter so that it's pleasing to your artistic eye. In this shot, I only ajusted the filter to about 10% of maxium.

Equipment used:
Camera - Pentax67
Lens - 105 mm F2.4
polarizing filter
Film - Fuji Vlevia - asa 50
Tripod - Bogen 3221 w/Manfrotto Proball 468RC head

Monday, January 01, 2007

Photographing Landscapes

Patience and per-severance are the two words that are paramount in capturing the image that you see in your mind's eye. How many times have you been shown "vacation" pictures and the person that took the picture takes five minutes to "explain" what the picture is and what it should look like? With a little patience and perseverance anyone serious about photography will never have to explain anything. The shot should jump out at the viewer. When I was in Australia a few years back, I was staying in Melbourne. I had heard about a sandstone formation called "The Twelve Apostles" on the sea coast of the Providence of Victoria in southeast Australia. It was about a three and one half hour drive (sitting on the wrong side of the car, and driving on the wrong side of the road-you've got to stay focused!) from Melbourne on two lane roads that travel through flat and rolling country scenes with 20-30 foot hedgerows dividing pasture lands and cultivated fields. As I neared the coast, the road traveled through a rain forest that would make you believe that you had driven into a tropical jungle somewhere in the South Pacific! The rain forest went on for miles and as the road broke out of the forest you could see the ocean in the far distance. Following my map I hooked up with the coast road that would take me to the "The Twelve Apostles". Eons ago, there were finger peninsulas jutting out into the ocean from the coast made up of sandstone. Sandstone is so soft, that the wave action at the base of each one of the peninsulas erroded the base so that all was left was a sandstone sentry standing in a line up the coast in the shallow waters of the ocean. I arrived at about 8 a.m. and as I parked the rental (with the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car) and started putting my equipment together, the sky was heavily overcast and the windshield started to blur with a misty rain. I grabbed my medium format camera, (Pentax 67-which I have now upgraded to a Pentax 67 ll) my rain gear, and explored the coast line for a position to shoot one of the most incredible scenes I had ever seen along any coast, anywhere. The rock formation stretches for a mile or more, so after a couple of hours I found a shoot position, based on a composition that had formed in my mind's eye that was clear of the other visitors, so I wouldn't be in the way, and they wouldn't be either.. The sky hadn't cleared and the misty rain continued on and off, so I spread out a small plastic tarp to protect my delicate booty, set up the camera and tripod for the composition I wanted, and settled in. This is where patience comes in. I sat there all day. While this may sound boring to some, for me, it's a time to absorb the life spirit of the area. The smell of the ocean traveling on the gentle breeze of that day, the sounds from the coastal birds, the waves thumping on the bases of the Apostles and the changing overcast light on my subject in front of me. I knew the shot I wanted was here, but the weather was not being kind and the light was beginning to fade, so at about 9:30 p.m. I packed up my gear and drove the 3 1/2 hours back to Melbourne. Perseverance. I could see the shot in my mind's eye so as I was heading back to Melbourne I was already committed to coming back the next day. I arrived in Melbourne around 1:00 a.m.-took a quick shower, jumped into bed, and got up around 4:30 a.m. and started the drive back to the southern coast. As the sun began to rise on the drive back to "The Twelve Apostles" I could sense that the weather may be in my favor-if only it would be clear down at the coast, I prayed while I drove! When I arrived at around 7:00 a.m. I was one of the first humans there, so I set up in the spot I had found the day before and settled in again. I studied the shot through the day looking for the right angle of lighting from the sun. It wasn't until late in the day, about an hour or two before sunset that the shot in front of me matched the shot in my mind's eye. The shutter made that familiar sound and I knew I had the shot. With an exhilaration of knowing that I had hit the "sweet spot" on the shot, I packed up my equipment, pulled out of my parking spot, and headed out on the two lane road up a long sloping hill that would take me away from the coast and back to Melbourne. As I was driving up the hill, I was mentally engrossed with the landscape I had just shot when I noticed that a car had come over the hill and was heading straight for me! Luckily neither car was going very fast and I was able to snap out of my exhilaration for the "shot" and realized I WAS IN THE WRONG LANE!!! I jerked my car to the "correct" lane, and I can tell you that it wasn't very hard to lip read at all! As our cars passed each other, every person in the other car was looking straight at me say something derogatory about my ancestry! Ah..., patience and perseverance. It works well in America. But when you are in a foreign country, sitting on the wrong side of the car and driving on the wrong side of the road - add FOCUS(!) to patience and perseverance!
LENS - 105MM F-2.4