Saturday, February 27, 2010

Full Flight

Last night I had a shoot for this band called, "Full Flight". We shot a few outside in the alley before the show. I suggested that since they are a heavy metal band, I'd process a few of them with this "grunge/edgy" style.

These guys aren't actors; my instructions to them were to look "bad". This look is their interpretation of "bad". Actually, they look more "bad" on stage. It was difficult since this is the first time I've worked with them and the only one I knew is the bass guitarist, Igor, on the left. I'll probably be posting some of the photos of the stage show sometime this week. Not all will be digitally enhanced.

We're currently looking for an aviation graveyard to shoot more. Not much luck so far.

What do you all think of this style?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bald Eagle

My friends have been going to Honeymoon Island and Anclote Key, here in Florida, where there are known active Eagle nests. Although I don't have a lens nearly long enough to successfully shoot these beautiful birds, I thought I'd give it a try anyway.

I've never seen a Bald Eagle in the wild before and I must say that finding a pair nesting was quite the thrill. This is either the male or the female. For a long time, probably an hour and a half I watched the nest and only saw the Eaglets (there are two of them at this nest) popping their heads out every now and then. Mom and Dad were somewhere else and I assumed they were out hunting. Well you all know what assumed stands for. Mom and Dad were both there, very close to the nest keeping a watchful eye on their cute little Eaglets. It took a while for me to spot them. Each parent was hidden in different, but nearby trees.

An Osprey on the hunt flew over the nest and Mom and Dad came to the rescue, each of them perching in the open on two separate branches just above the nest. I know they had nothing to fear from the Osprey, since Osprey only eat fish, but they let him know that they were there to protect their babies in case he got any funny ideas. It was amazing to watch them squawking at the Osprey until he left the air above the nest. I also know that the Eagles knew they had nothing to fear from the Osprey. It was as if they were telling him that this was their territory and that they were mightier than the Osprey. Besides, there was two of them.

I waited for another hour, but they never went into the nest to feed their young. I guess it was the wrong time of day. It was quite an amazing experience. One that has convinced me that more than ever I need a longer lens.

Settings for this image in very tricky, contrasty light were: ISO 200 because the light was very bright, Aperture Priority Mode at F5.6 to ensure a fast enough shutter speed to contain any movement and + 1 2/3 exposure compensation to keep from burning out the shadows since the Eagle was backlit from the sky. I used two cameras with 2 lens combinations: on the tripod, I had my Canon EOS 40D with a 75-300mm lens and a 2X tele-extender, and I hand held my 20D with the 55-250mm lens attached. This was shot with the 55-250mm at 250mm. The 75-300 lens isn't that great a lens and I knew it was pretty useless to try it with a 2x tele-extender on it. I'm glad I kept the 55-250mm handy because the other lens, while it gave me a lot more distance, there was so much chromatic aberrations (purple fringing in high contrast areas) that the photos I took with it were pretty much useless. I had a feeling that would happen. I was hoping the better camera might make up for the loss in quality with the lens/tele-extender combination. It's always good to be prepared.

My Blog Has Gone Green

This blog is just to let you know that my blog has gone green. I had no idea that everytime a blog is viewed it adds to the carbon footprint. There is a company in Germany that started an initiative to plant a tree in California to replace the many trees that have been burned down due to wild fires. I've joined that effort by writing this blog, and adding the green button on the right sidebar to make people aware.

Do you blog? Check out the information here:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


While walking with my friend, Margo, at Sawgrass Lake Park a couple weeks ago, we spotted this little Raccoon trying to turn around between these two trees. He wasn't more than 5 feet from us. It was strange; here we were shooting like crazy with our cameras pointed right in his face almost and he could've cared less.

He was so intent on turning around between these trees he didn't even bother to look at us. He wasn't stuck; he just couldn't figure out how to get out of his situation. It didn't last long, though, because he spotted a snack and quickly figured out how to get out of his situation.

We had a great time that morning at Sawgrass, and saw so much wildlife and so many birds. It was a great day.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

African White Pelican (digital art)

I follow many blogs and read many newsletters and web articles like so many of us photographers. This technique caught my eye while reading one of my favorite newsletters from Artie Morris, who, in my opinion is the greatest bird photographer of all time.

This image was created using a plug-in program for Adobe Photoshop, called Fractalius. It doesn't do the complete job for you. After you apply the filter and come fairly close to what you want by adjusting the sliders, it must be brought back into Photoshop to finish up. This image probably took about 1/2 hour to complete. I like the effect, although it's not something I would be doing a lot of anytime soon.

Like most special effects, they should be used in moderation; not on every image. I'm a photojournalist by profession, so I'm more into realism than the average person. I have fun once in a while playing around with filters and special effects, but I don't think it's something I'd like to do all the time.

The second image is the original file, as you can see in order for something like this to work, it has to start with a strong image. You can't make something out of nothing.

The image was taken during a special showing by the staff of Lowrey Park Zoo. They allowed us to go behind the scenes in an area not open to the general public to make this and other shots in return for the use of some of our shots in their publications. It's a win-win situation. The staff was wonderful, telling us all about these beautiful birds as well as other birds at the zoo. It will be my pleasure to allow them to use my photos on any of their publications.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Red-shouldered Hawk

In keeping with the bird theme from yesterday, I thought I'd post this very elusive (to shoot) Red-shouldered Hawk. I think I forgot to mention that we also saw him at Sawgrass. This guy just sat there with his back turned to us and I can 't tell you how long I waited for him to turn his head enough to get a decent shot of him.

I tried going in front of him, then on the side of him and everywhere I tried, he was blocked by brush. This was the only angle I could catch him, so I was forced to wait until he turned his head. I got only 2 shots off while he was looking in my direction. The rest of the time, he was preening and just ignoring our presence. I'm sure he knew we were there.

Among all the things you learn when you take up photography the two most important are patience and quick reflexes. You need to be ready because you may only have a split second to get the shot. I think I may have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating; the hunt is as much fun if not more fun than the getting the shot itself. That's the reason my passion lies in nature photography--even though it's family photography that pays the bills.

Settings used for this shot were ISO 400, aperture priority, partial metering off the bird, 1/200 at F7.1 to ensure I was using my lens' sweet spot and +2 stops exposure compensation because he was backlit by the sky and in a dark area with a lot of foliage around him. I shot this through the only hole in the foliage I could find.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Shooting Osprey

Today my friend, Margo, and I went shooting at Sawgrass Lake Park. It's one of my favorite parks to shoot. It's almost a guarantee that one will find wildlife around 8:00 am. Today was no different.

Before we even got into to the park we spotted a Little Blue Heron, a Snowy Egret and a Tricolor Heron on the edge of the canal. We made a few shots of the Tricolor Heron and went off into the park.

A few minutes later, we spotted a young Raccoon, less than 5 ft away, and he didn't mind it one bit that we were taking pictures of him. In fact, he didn't pay any attention to us at all. Right after that, we saw an American Alligator, but there was too much brush between him and us. We couldn't get off a decent shot of him. Then the fun began. We spotted this Osprey hunting above the water.

I told Margo to shoot anything successfully, you need to know a lot about it. Just like in sports, to get the best shot, you need to know the sport enough to know where the action is and to be ready for it when it happens.

While watching this Osprey circling, I told her that in a few minutes she'd see him spread out his talons, like in the second photo in this series. After that, we'd see him hovering, then he'd dive and they always get their fish.

These shots show all of these actions just as they were unfolding. The first shot is of him circling, the second spreading his talons, then the hovering followed by the dive.

It's amazing to see how fast they can dive and how hard they hit the water; and just as fast, with wet wings, come up with their fish. They always carry the fish head first because there is less drag and it's pretty difficult for a bird that size to fly with wet wings.

What an amazing experience it is to capture all these steps in a sequence. They are awesome birds to watch.

Later, on the way out of the park we saw another American Alligator and we were able to get some decent shots of it before we left.

On the way out, Margo spotted a Gopher Tortoise and we stopped to grab a few photos of him as well.

I can't get over how much wildlife we spotted today. It was such a productive day.

I hope you enjoyed this series as much as I enjoyed making these shots. Don't forget to check out Margo's post. She'll probably be posting something from today's shoot. You can find her blog here: Check it out; she's an amazing photographer with an awesome eye.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tweaked Landscape of Tarpon Lake

I saw this tutorial today on how to fake HDR using Lightroom only. I tried it and it looked awful. So, I decided to play around a little by tweaking the colors a bit.

This was taken a little later than the other landscape from Tarpon Lake that I posted a couple days ago. The first one was first thing in the morning while there was still a little bit of mist in the air. When I shot this one, the clouds had come up a little better.

I remembered what Jim's comment about the sky being 1-2 stops lighter than the reflections in the water, so i was careful to let this one look about the same to save the reality "look". To get these colors, I added saturation and exposure to the sky and the water, and added saturation to the boardwalk. The trees were left untouched. I'm pretty happy with the results. What do you all think?

Settings used for this image before post processing were at ISO 200 in aperture priority mode, I shot this at 1/15th at F11. I chose F11 to increase the depth of field. The image was shot with my 18-55mm lens at 21mm.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Great Blue Herons

During our walk the other morning at John Chestnut, Jr Park, we noticed several Great Blue Herons nesting in the pines across an inlet on Lake Tarpon.

There was quite a lot of activity with this pair. As we watched, we saw the male (I presume) flying back and forth gathering nesting material and bringing it back to the female so she could build the nest. This is just one of the many hand offs. At one point, he joined her in the nest and they were both weaving the twigs into this huge nest. We watched them with interest for quite a while.

Unlike most of these long-legged waders, Great Blue Herons do not roost with other birds. They are usually solitary. It seems it must be different during nesting season, because there were several pairs in these trees. As a matter of fact, at one point, we saw 2 Herons on the nest, while one watched from the position of the one pictured in this photo.

I only had my trusty 55-250mm lens, so this is a crop from the original. I thought it important to the photo to include the nest in the scene. This image was shot at ISO 400, in aperture priority mode with partial metering off the birds. It was exposed at F5.6 at 1/250 to get a high enough shutter speed to stop action to prevent blurring, since it was pretty dark up in the trees.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Crab-like Spiny Orb Weaver

This Crab-like Spiny Orb Weaver is one of my favorite spiders to photograph. I like their smiley faces on their backs and their colors.

These spiders are fairly common in this part of Florida. I can see them on most any days in my backyard; which is where I spotted this one. They're pretty small, only about 3/8" in diameter, but their webs are distinct, so they're easy to spot. They can be found in woodland edges and shrubby gardens and their favorite food is small insects.

Settings used for making this image are as follows: ISO 400, partial metering off the spider in aperture priority mode; 1/250 at F10 for greater depth of field and +1 2/3 exposure compensation because he was backlit against the sky and I wanted to retain detail in his head. I used fill flash at -2 exposure compensation to keep the whites from blowing out and I used my Tamron F2.8 90mm macro lens. This was shot hand held; but I recommend using a tripod whenever shooting macro shots. In this case, this spider was quite a bit over my head, so a tripod wasn't practical.