Saturday, December 20, 2008

Spooky Gulch II (Alex Mody)

Hey everybody,

Here's another one from Spooky. I thought the shadows and contrasting colors looked interesting. Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Spooky Gulch (Alex Mody)

Hey everybody,

I'm now in Moab, Utah. I have been shooting in a bunch of different spots in the area, including but not limited to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. It has snowed the last couple days, and I've been out from sunup to sundown photographing. I'll have photographs from here ready in my next post.

A few days ago, before arriving in Moab, I shot for a few days in the Grand-Staircase/Escalante National Monument. Among my favorite spots in the Monument is Spooky Gulch, a long and narrow slot canyon. If you didn't know, A slot canyon is a deep and narrow canyon that is formed by the erosion of rushing water. There are dozens, if not hundreds, peppered throughout the desert southwest. Most of them are fairly difficult to get to, requiring advanced skills in rappeling and climbing.

Spooky Gulch is a favorite of mine, because it is more easily accessed than others. It requires a round-trip hike of under 4 miles, and only has a few obstacles once inside the slot. Spooky is one of the more deep and narrow slots in the area. In some sections, it was so narrow that I could barely fit through.

The reason many photographers want to shoot in slot canyons is because of the beautiful reflected light. The best part is that they are well photographed in the middle of the day, when the sun is high in the sky. Direct light hits the top of the canyon walls, and then reflects back and forth off the sandstone, eventually reaching bottom. When there is a good amount of reflected light, the walls seem to glow with red and orange light.

Here is a photograph that shows just how narrow and colorful Spooky Gulch can be. At this point, the canyon was about a foot wide at the bottom.

Monday, December 15, 2008

December Issue is Posted!

Hi All -

I hope your holiday season is going well and that you are almost on winter break from school. I leave on Wednesday for a birding trip! Hopefully I will have some great images to share in the coming weeks. For now, check out the December issue of NBPS online at www.naturesbeststudents.com and remember to enter our new online photo contests. Details on the Take Action page.

- Gabby

Friday, December 12, 2008

Death Valley Badlands (Alex Mody)

Hey everybody,

Here's a shot I took last week in Death Valley, CA. I saw the light hitting just the tops of the ridges, and I saw a few different compositions. I really love photographing badlands, or any really textured terrain when the sun is low in the sky.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Photojournalism Tip #3: Approaching an assignment

After getting to know your camera the next step in photojournalism tackling your first assignment. Each type of newspaper or magazine has a different style for doling out assignments. At the newspaper where I work, we meet weekly to give out general assignments for the week and then touch base with our photographers throughout the week if things change or if other news items come up. We have an editor go with new photographers on their first assignment to make sure they understand the procedure of a shoot and to see if any questions arise. I recommend taking an easy assignment first. It's a great time to make sure you're comfortable with the camera. And, even if the assignment seems boring, it gives you all that more room to be creative: what angles can I use to best capture this lecture? What kind of lens would work best for crowd shots? How can I make this meeting interesting to my viewers and still tell the story?


Things to remember on your first photo assignment:
1) Move around! Move yourself to different locations and move your camera to different orientations. That is one of the most important aspects, you never know what size or orientation the editor is going to need.
2) Take Lots of Photos! This is extremely important as well, the more photographs you take the better chance you'll have some great shots. Even if your taking a simple assignment take lots of photos.
3) Understand your assignment. Before leaving on assignment make sure you understand what you need to get photographs of or what the story is about. Don't be afraid to ask if to get more information on site if things seem different.
4) Get names. Obviously this is not the case for large group shots, but if you take a picture of a small group, don't be afraid to approach them after the shot to get their names. Having a small notebook where people can write their own names down leads to fewer frustrated readers and happier editors -- both great things.
4) HAVE FUN!! Be Creative! Don't be afraid to get close to your subject.

~Maya

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Coyote Buttes South (Alex Mody)

I was shooting at Coyote Buttes South yesterday and I made this image. The Coyote Buttes are on the border of Arizona and Utah. The land is divided into two sections, North and South. The land is managed by the BLM, and visitors must have a permit to enter. There is a daily quota of twenty permits for each section. The North section is full almost everyday, as it has more popular and well known landmarks (The Wave, The Boneyard, etc.) Just google it if you're not familiar. The South section, however, is quite desolate, and getting a permit is usually pretty easy. High clearance 4WD is a neccessity to get to the trailheads, which helps thin out the crowd a bit as well. I was there for two days, and didn't see another soul! While the North section has more landmarks, I feel like the South section is a bit more impressive due to the fact that it's so much more diverse.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Little Green Heron (Nathanael Gass)


Other than Pennsylvania, the only other place I visit regularly is the small town where my grandparents live. It is about 4 hours from my house, and still in North Carolina. When I am there, I photograph around my grandparent's house and a boardwalk nearby. At the boardwalk, I photograph everything from landscapes to wildlife to macro shots. Boardwalks can be great places to photograph. They allow you to safely shoot in areas that would be hard to access otherwise. The main drawback is the lack of maneuverability, but with a little creativity, you can get some great shots.
Here is a photo I took of a green heron at the boardwalk.
Metadata: ISO 320, f/6.3, 1/250th of a second.
Nikon D-80, 180mm macro lens.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Block Island Thanksgiving (Gabby)

I decided not to venture home to North Carolina for Thanksgiving this year because winter break is right around the corner. Instead, I spent Thanksgiving with my friend Gillian at her house on Block Island, a small island 13 miles off the coast of Rhode Island. This was my first trip out to Block Island. I have been in school in the Northeast for four years, but have not had access to a car, so I have only started exploring the area this year.


Block Island has very few tall trees but is covered with bushes and red winterberry at this time of year. The cliffs overlooking the ocean are steep and jagged - offering spectacular views of the sunset and the surrounding shoreline. While I was pretty busy eating and visiting with Gillian's friends and family, I snuck off with my camera for a few moments.


On Thursday, I noticed that the sky was darkening and that gaps in the clouds were allowing the sun to peak through on occasion. I walked out to a surrounding overlook and waited for a while as the sun began to play on the shoreline. Finally, I took this shot with my 28-135mm lens at 28mm. The colors were beautiful and while it is not a very artistic shot, it captures the mood of the island on a fall day.


Next weekend, I will be going out to Plum Island in MA to look for Snowy Owls - hopefully I will have pictures to share!

- Gabby


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Submit to Picture of the Week (Gabby)

Please submit to picture of the week through our website at www.naturesbeststudents.com/takeaction/. I'd love to see more work, and if your image is selected (new winners are selected each Sunday) you will receive a free subscription to Nature's Best Photography Magazine.

Thanks!
- Gabby Salazar

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bosque del Apache NWR (Alex Mody)

Hey everybody,

I have now passed the halfway point of the three-month trip I am currently on. I apologize for the lack of recent updates, as internet access has been limited, and I have been really busy. Anyway, I'm now in Socorro, New Mexico photographing at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Due to the 37,000 Snow Geese and 4,700 Sandhill Cranes that the Park Rangers counted recently, I've been making tons of photographs out here and have had no problem keeping busy.

Here's a photograph of a Sandhill Crane in flight. I really liked being able to shoot birds in flight with something other than blue sky as the background.

Sunflower (Nathanael Gass)


Back in August, I took my annual trip to Pennsylvania for a week. Not far from where I was staying, there was a church surrounded by a cheerful field of sunflowers. Not only were there many sunflowers to photograph, there were also plenty of insects. I tried taking macro photos with both my macro lens and my wide-angle lens. I tried many techniques and got some great images. It was really fun, and I can't wait to go back next year.
Metadata: ISO 320, f/9, 1/640th of a second
Nikon D-80 with 180mm macro lens

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fall Colors (Nathanael Gass)


As summer turns to fall, the trees change color, and I set out to capture the vibrant hues with my camera. Most photographers choose to shoot wide-angle landscape images. However, I prefer to shoot macro shots, including only a few leaves at a time. I especially enjoy photographing dogwood buds and leaves. With pastel colors and soft textures, the buds provide a focused center for my image, while the leaves add colors and designs to the image.
The dogwood I photograph is about 100 ft. from my front door. You don't have to go to the mountains to capture the beautiful colors of fall.
Metadata: Nikon D-80 with 180mm macro lens. ISO 1600, f/13, 1/60th of a second.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

South Texas Birds (Alex Mody)

Hey everybody,

I've now made it down to the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, and am photographing birds and wildlife out here. This area definitely has the greatest biodiversity of anywhere I've ever visited. I see something new every day. I anticipate being able to put together a longer and more thoughtful post in the next few days, but I don't have enough time for that right now.

Here are two photographs I made at John and Audrey Martin's "Javelina Ranch." They are very kind and generous people who have made my stay down here much better than I had expected.

This first photograph is a Plain Chachalaca, which the locals call a "Mexican Pheasant." They're very interesting and noisy birds, and I felt fortunate to have photographed them perching up on branches, as they usually remain low in the brush.



This second shot is of a Sharp-Shinned Hawk. It came in and landed on this perch that I had set up just outside of a photo blind on the Javelina Ranch. It stayed on this branch for all of 10 seconds before moving on to another. I almost didn't get to make this shot. My autofocus worked just in the nick of time. I suspect the hawk came in to the feeder setup looking to grab a snack, but all of the songbirds were long gone by the time he landed.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Photojournalism Tip #2: Get to Know Your Camera’s Exposure Settings (Maya Robinson)

Before you can confidently go on an assignment it is really important to understand your camera’s exposure settings. They control how much light strikes the image sensor and whether you have an image that can be published. The three most important things to know how to change are the aperture, f/stop, and ISO and then to understand how they are interconnected.

No matter the type of camera you have, all cameras have these settings. I started my photography with a simple Olympus where there were minimum features and I could focus on making the correct exposure choices. You don't need an expensive camera to take great photographs!

Once you know how to change these settings you'll be able to take better photographs. The best way to get to understand these settings is to take lots of pictures, experiment with those exposure settings and study your results. In photojournalism you need to know how to make exposure decisions quickly and confidently because news or sports happen fast.

~Maya

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Great Images and More to Come (Gabby Salazar)

Hey Everyone -

I'm sad that I don't have any beautiful new pictures to share like Alex and Nathanael (great stuff!). I've been writing essays for school and trying to get outside to take walks everyday. The fall colors are fading here, but still beautiful, especially in the evening light.

Just wanted to share the following gallery with you. The BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition just put its winners up online: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/whats-on/temporary-exhibitions/wpy/ There are some outstanding images among this year's selection.

And, in the next month, the winners of Nature's Best Windland Smith Rice International Awards will be online at http://www.naturesbestphotography.com/ and on display in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Check out both competitions and remember to enter the Nature's Best Awards for next year - there is a youth category!

- Gabby

Monday, November 3, 2008

Just checking in (Alex Mody)

Hey everyone,

I’m going to be out here in OK until the 5th. The Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge is a gem that is just waiting to be discovered by other photographers. The diversity of wildlife in combination with the great scenery makes for a place any photographer could easily spend a week at. I’ve been shooting wildlife when the sky is clear, and shooting landscapes when there are clouds.

So, the night before last, a few hours before sunset, I saw my first cloud in the sky for the entire time I’ve been here. I made my way up to the top of Mt. Scott and found a beautiful spot with potholes and peak fall foliage. The clouds stuck around, and it was quite the show. I shot some shots with the sun in them, and some of just the potholes and foliage, but I feel like this photograph is the most complete, and the most well composed of them all.

I will be shooting today, tomorrow, and the next morning before meeting up with my dad and making the drive down to South Texas.



Saturday, November 1, 2008

Flying Squirrel (Nathanael Gass)


About a year ago, I bought a bluebird box in an attempt to lure more bluebirds to my yard. I frequently watched it, but I never saw any kind of bird try to make a nest in it. Recently, I went out to check on it, and opened the side. Much to my surprise, I saw a nest in it. I suspected it was a flying squirrel nest, since I hadn't seen any birds carrying nesting material. A little while later, my mom came to see, and accidentally scared out a Southern Flying Squirrel. While it was out, I decided to photograph this infrequently seen species.
Southern Flying Squirrels are quite common in the southeatern U.S., but because of their nocturnal habits, they are rarely seen. If you ever get the chance to photograph one, use a fast shutter speed. They breathe really rapidly, causing motion blur. Here is one of my many pictures.
Metadata: ISO 200, f/5.6 1/20th of a second
180mm macro lens, tripod, Nikon D-80

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Out to Oklahoma (Alex Mody)

Hey everybody,

I left the Blue Ridge yesterday and made the 15 hour drive to Lawton, Oklahoma! I'm out here photographing on the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge. They have Bison, Elk, Deer, Prairie Dogs, and tons of Birds. I plan to spend the better part of a week shooting here, before I go down to Texas.

Here's a photograph of a Black Tailed Prairie Dog. I came across the Prairie Dog town as I was driving through the refuge just before sunrise this morning. When I stopped my car, every single one of them retreated into their "homes." I had to set up my gear, sit down, and wait 15 minutes before they began popping their heads out to get a better look at me. Eventually they got comfortable with me around, and I began photographing them. This shot here is one of my favorites from the morning, and this was my first time photographing Prairie Dogs!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Update from the Smokies (Alex Mody)

Hey everybody,

I'm currently in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The fall foliage has not been too ideal, and I'm having a bit of a hard time photographing it. Just about all the trees above 5,000 feet elevation have gone past peak and dropped their leaves. Most areas of medium elevation (3k-5k) have dropped a good portion of their leaves, and have failed to produce very much color, and finally, areas between 1k-3k are still mostly green down here! Also, most of the trees surrounding the Smokies' many photogenic streams have dropped lots of leaves and are not allowing for much photographic opportunity. With that said, I'm still thrilled to be down here. It's simply beautiful. I just find myself having to look a bit harder, and to work a bit harder to make the images I'm after.

Here's a photograph from a few days ago at Mingo Falls, located on the Qualla Indian Reservation, just outside of the Park boundaries. This waterfall has been published to be at heights between 120' and 200'. I really like the look of the fallen leaves on the wet rocks, and for this reason I make a point of trying to photograph waterfalls after peak foliage, or after a good portion of the leaves have dropped. I plan to shoot this waterfall again in a few days, and I'm hoping more leaves have fallen since this visit.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Camping Trip

If you have not noticed already, the new issue is officially up! Check it out at http://www.naturesbeststudents.com/.

In other news, after over a month of schoolwork, I finally got away with a few friends last weekend for a camping trip. It was a lot of fun. We packed up the car, went to the grocery store and drove up to Massachusetts to check out the fall colors. We arrived just as the sun was setting and the trees were lit up in late evening light around a beautiful lake. I actually forgot to bring my camera in the rush of packing! Luckily, my friend Julia had a camera with her and I was able to take some pictures.

It was so refreshing to be behind the camera for a few minutes and I am going to attempt to go out more often before winter completely sets in up here. New England in the fall is unbelievable if you hit it at the right time.












Monday, October 20, 2008

Art Wolfe Creative Sessions (Nathanael Gass)


Last weekend, I went to a photography workshop held by Art Wolfe. He talked about his experiences photographing and how he composes an image. It was a great weekend and I learned a lot. If you have the chance to hear him speak, I would recommend you do so.

His main point was that the longer the viewer looks at the image, the more interesting, and therefore better, the photo is. By adding mystery to the photo, the photographer can pique the viewer's interest and make him look at the photo longer. He frequently uses texture to highlight his subject and add interest.

I was particularly interested in his discussion on texture because I had already begun to experiment with texture in my photos. For example, in this photo, I chose to use the opposing textures of the tortoise's shell and leg to add interest to the composition. I also moved in close to give the viewer fewer clues at what they were looking at to add mystery.

Metadata: f/5 at 1/20th of a second at ISO 100
Tripod, Nikon D-80 with 180mm macro lens

Friday, October 17, 2008

Off to the Blue Ridge! (Alex Mody)

Hey everybody,

I've come from West Virginia down to Boone, North Carolina, where I am now. I had planned to shoot for a day or so around Breaks Interstate Park, which is interestingly in Virginia and Kentucky, but the weather conditions and foliage were not ideal. So, I made my way south towards the Linville Gorge, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and I photographed Linville Falls this afternoon. I'll have a photo from Linville ready in my next blog entry.

Here's a photograph I made yesterday on Lost Land Run in western Maryland. This is a small section of a much larger set of cascades. I was able to compose this scene by getting super close with my 12-24mm zoom lens.



Drop by the Nature's Best Students website and check out the new magazine!

Get Involved!

Hey Photographer!

Photojournalism Tip #1: Get Involved!
Pick up your camera and stop by your local or school newspaper, and ask how you can get involved. See if you can become an intern at your local paper because this would give you an opportunity to work with a professional who makes their living taking photographs. Find out how to join the photography staff at your school newspaper because your photographs will very likely get published and you will get the experience of working on assignments and taking photographs that tell a story. You don’t have to have professional equipment or an awesome portfolio to get started and these first steps will give you a chance to see if photojournalism is something you are interested in. Generally local photographers are generous about acting as mentors for people just starting out and school newspapers always need more photographs to work with so don’t hide behind your lens …. Get involved!!!
The way I started was through an internship at my local newspaper. I got my position because I had an Junior High social studies assignment to job shadow someone in my community and I asked at the end of the day if they had interns. My job was to photograph the happenings in my town, and pay special attention to school news. I was a High School intern for The Herald from Freshman to Senior year and had to be creative in taking photos of the drama club, new teachers and spaghetti fundraising suppers- I learned a lot and you will too.

Six years later a few of my assignments are a bit more exciting. I thought I would share a photograph I took this past week for The Chronicle. I traveled with one of the writers to Greensville, NC to go to a speech by Sarah Palin, Republican Vice Presidential Candidate. I had a lot of fun taking these photographs and using my lens to document the circus of Palin supporters, this assignment reminded me how much I love photojournalism! And learning how to work an angle at all those school assemblies helped.


Get Involved!
~Maya

Thursday, October 16, 2008

New Magazine Online (Gabby)

The new magazine is now on the website at www.naturesbeststudents.com for those of you that are searching. We are working out a few glitches and updates so that it directly links to the homepage. For now, access the last issue through the homepage and click on the folder button found on the bar under the magazine viewer (to the left)- this is the archives section. You can access Issue II through that folder. I'll post another update as soon as everything is running smoothly.

- Gabby

Friday, October 10, 2008

Another update from West Virginia (Alex Mody)

Hello,

I'm still here in West Virginia, shooting away. I've got to keep this one brief, because I'm a bit pressed for time. The color is phenomenal, and conditions have been great. I've been camping and shooting the whole time and it's great. I plan to stick around here for about another week, because of how good conditions are here, and then I'm off to the Smokies/Blue Ridge Parkway!

Here's a photograph I made in the fog, off US Rt. 219 near Benbush, WV. I absolutely love shooting in the fog because of the eerie and dramatic results one can obtain. I do have to mention that it's not entirely safe to shoot from the side of the road due to the low visibility in fog.

I'd also like to say that Gabby's new site is awesome, and that if you haven't checked it out yet, you should. You can read all about it in the post right under this one.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

My New Website (Gabby)

Fall color is starting to paint the forests up here in the Northeast and I'm stuck inside doing homework. Hopefully I will have a chance to get up to New Hampshire this weekend to photograph the leaves. In my spare time, I've been working on launching my new website. Check out www.gabbysalazar.com. And, please post your websites in the comments sections if I don't already know about them - it's great to find new photographers.

I used Photobiz.com for my website and it was a pretty good deal to suit my needs. It is $15 per month for hosting and a one-time $125.00 fee for template use. The online software is simple and easy to use and the provide instruction and support. While this is out of the budget for many young photographers, it is a good option if you want to create a professional website now or in the future.

Happy Shooting!
- Gabby

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Photojournalism and Introduction!

Hey Nature’s Best Student Photographers!
I’m Maya Robinson, the Assistant Editor to Nature’s Best Photography Students. I’ll be posting about photojournalism.

A little bit about my background I grew up in Vermont where I was surrounded by the natural world! I’m currently a sophomore at Duke University in North Carolina, studying Visual Arts and Sociology. Along with classes, I’m the Photo Editor of The Chronicle Duke’s daily newspaper. Before coming to Duke, I had a four year internship with my local newspaper and I’ve worked with Nature’s Best for two years.

I explored another form of photojournalism during a yearlong exchange in Amravati India and curated traveling and gallery exhibit of my experiences. One of those photographs was included in the 2007 Windland Smith Rice International Photography exhibit at the Smithsonian of Natural History.

Part of my job as Photo Editor of a daily college newspaper is to teach new staff photographers how to use and care for the equipment, , how to approach a news assignment, how to keep the important principals of photography in mind and how to follow the etiquette of photojournalism. The Chronicle has 5 different departments, News, Sports, Online, Recess (an art and entertainment weekly supplement), and Towerview (a monthly magazine). Here is the link to The Chronicle: http://www.dukechronicle.com/.

I’ll be posting weekly about the ever changing excitement and frustrations inherent in photojournalism, and how you can get involved!

Best,
Maya
maya@naturesbestphotography.com

Update from the road (Alex Mody)

Hey everybody,

I'm writing this in Davis, WV right now with photographer Chris Kayler, and I'm almost a week into my upcoming 10 week photography trip. The color is almost at peak here in parts of the Monongahela National Forest, and it's simply awesome. We've been camping and shooting and it's a blast. I've got a bunch of images I have yet to process, but here's one I like. This photograph was taken from an overlook on Canaan Mountain. We had some interesting light!

Carolina Wren


I was in my backyard last Summer photographing my Mom's garden when I heard some carolina wrens nearby. I looked around to see if I could find and photograph them. They were nearby, and one juvenile had climbed atop a fencepost and was calling out. To keep from scaring it, I got down on my belly and started moving slowly forward. Every so often I would take a picture. I continued until it flew away.
Because I was on the ground, I had a stable surface for my camera. That allowed me to get a sharp image. Another advantage of laying on my stomach was that I appeared smaller, and therefore less frightening to the bird.
ISO 250, f/4.5, 1/160th of a second
Nikon D-80 with 180mm macro lens.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Shenandoah National Park: Part 2 + Update (Alex Mody)

Hey everybody,

I'm preparing to leave tomorrow on a ten week photography trip right now! I'll be photographing fall color throughout the Blue Ridge, wildlife (primarily birds) in Texas, and winter scenes throughout Canyon Country. Stay tuned for updates from the field!

Here's another photograph from Shenandoah National Park, to hold you over before the gazillions of autumn foliage photographs I'll have. I just went with a very typical composition with this shot. The stacked ridges looked nice, and so did the sunset color in the sky. I put on my 70-200mm zoom lens, and went with the most natural feeling composition.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Shenandoah National Park (Alex Mody)


I recently traveled to Shenandoah National Park with , a mere 60 miles or so from my house, with two friends: Chris Kayler, and his girlfriend, Kari Post (Both of whom have cool blogs, by the way.) We had the intent of photographing White-Tailed Deer. Bucks, in particular. Unfortunately, none were to be found, and as the sun began to set, we began to focus more on photographing landscape images. There wasn't a whole lot to work with. The skies had some attractive cloud formations, and the sun set over some distant ridges across the Shenandoah Valley. Here's an image from that night that I didn't like at first, but has now began to grow on me.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Introduction (Nathanael Gass)


Hello, my name is Nathanael Gass. I am 15 and have been photographing for 3 years. I am home schooled and have been my entire life. I am primarily interested in macro photography and wildlife photography.

I don’t go to exotic places to take my photographs. None of my photographs have been taken outside of America, and nearly none have been taken outside of my home state, North Carolina. I go to Pennsylvania once or twice a year but that’s the farthest I travel. It is rare for me to ride more than 20 min. to a place I’ll be photographing, and I take most of my images in my backyard.

I’m going to tell you how to attract wildlife to your yard and how to take many different (and hopefully great) photos there. I’m also going to tell you about some close-to-home areas where I photograph.

Here's a photo I took at one of my favorite photo locations- the Eno River. I found this northern water snake eating a catfish it caught. I got into the water and started photographing at different angles, being careful to keep my camera dry.

I used a Nikon D-80 with180mm macro lens and tripod. The settings were ISO 320, f/14, 1/200th of a second. It was taken about 5 miles from my house.
Stay tuned for future posts.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Great Falls of the Potomac (Alex Mody)

As I prepare for a lengthy photo trip this fall, which I'll tell more about in a week or two, I've been photographing locally as much as possible. One spot I enjoy in particular is Great Falls National Park. Here's a shot I made last week. It was fairly cloudy and the sunrise came close to being spectacular. This is still pretty nice by my standards, though. A Polarizing filter and a three stop Graduated Neutral Density filter were used to boost saturation and balance the exposure between the sky and the falls below.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Glamour Magazine Awards (Gabby Salazar)


A little over a week ago I flew down to New York City to accept an award as one of Glamour Magazine's Top 10 College Women of the Year. Part of the honor had to do with my work on Nature's Best Photography Students and it was wonderful to share the magazine with so many amazing people. I got to meet the nine other winners and we were whisked around NYC for three days to meals, events and shows.
The first day we visited the United Nations Population Fund and learned about maternal health throughout the world. We learned that the lifetime risk of maternal death (death while giving birth) is 1 in 7300 for developed countries, including the United States and 1 in 26 for Africa. To me this disparity is completely unacceptable and it really opened my eyes to a new issue that affects women, men, families and communities across the world. To me it really hit home how much maternal health is also an environmental issue. We often think of saving charismatic mammals like polar bears, giant pandas, etc as top environmental concerns. I do not disagree at all and am in complete support of money and resources helping to save individual animals. But, humans are part of the ecosystem too and when women die during childbirth they often leave children and torn families behind - as the speaker at the United Nations Population Fund said, "women are the fabric of society." Just an interesting thought to reflect on when you think about what qualifies as an environmental issue.
On a lighter note, we also met with top female professionals from Nickelodeon, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, the NY State Government, and Sloane-Kettering Cancer Center. The speakers were amazing and the other nine girls were very impressive. Here are some of the websites for their organizations:

Gardens for Health: http://www.gardensforhealth.org/index.php
Lighthouse for Dreams: http://lighthousefordreams.org/

Check out a picture of the 10 winners with Amy Dickonson who writes the "Ask Amy" column for the Chicago Tribune.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Threatening Killdeer (Alex Mody)

Here's another photograph from my shorebird trip last month. When I took this photo, there were two Killdeer getting into a quarrel. They weren't happy with how close they were to one another, and they didn't hesitate to make it known. It was really interesting to see both of them take on this "threatening" pose at the same time.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The History of Photography (Gabby Salazar)

After over 10 years of calling myself a "photographer," I'm finally taking a history of photography class at school. This class does not focus on nature photography, in fact it barely brushes over the genre, but it does cover the beginnings of photography and some of the milestones throughout history.

If you've never studied the history of photography, it is fascinating. There is a lot of debate about who actually invented photography - there were a number of men working on the photographic process around the same time in different countries. It didn't start with film as we know it - photographers started out with light, paper and chemicals. Many young photographers have never really shot with film or transparencies making them even farther removed from the roots of photography. Check out this photographer whose work I just saw at the Harvard Museum of Natural History: http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2008/05.15/09-leaves.html She uses a process more akin to early photographic processes.

Anyway, if you're interested, study photography. The story of photography inspires me and it also gives me an appreciation for how far we've come. Just a few years ago when I was still using 35mm transparencies, a friend gave me a roll of Kodachrome with an ISO of 25. If you don't know what that is - look it up - if you're a photographer, it's a part of your history.

Shorebirds (Alex Mody)

Photographing shorebirds can be a lot of fun. A few weeks ago I spent the weekend shooting in Conneaut, Ohio. I'd like to share a few shots of mine from the weekend. Laying on my stomach, shooting at eye level with the birds, and going for a clean background was key to making both of these photographs. The first is a Killdeer, and the second is a Semipalmated Sandpiper.



Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fall is coming! (Alex Mody)

Fall is on the way and I couldn't be more excited! I plan to photograph and travel quite a bit throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains, but it's important to know that great photographs can also be made close to home. I made this image last fall at Scott's Run Nature Preserve, a mere seven miles from my house. It's just something to consider. Since some of you readers may be too young to get out and travel hundreds of miles, I urge you to take a closer look at what's in your immediate area. Just look more carefully, maybe even do some exploring, and who knows what you could find!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Storm Clouds over Delicate Arch (Alex Mody)

Here's a reeeally old one, by my standards, at least. I've had a different shot from this evening on my website for a long time, but I'm beginning to prefer this one more. Maybe I'll switch them out, who knows!

When I shot this scene, the light only hit the arch for a minute or two. The whole sky was overcast, except for a small sliver of sky on the western horizon. The clouds you see in the sky were part of a huge snowstorm and were approaching quickly. I consider myself lucky to have been able to make a few decent images that night. It just goes to show that you should try and get out there even if the forecast is bleak. Sure, you may end up disappointed sometimes, but the rewards can be great!



Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Moving to School (Gabby Salazar)

I just arrived at school two days ago and have been in a rush to prepare for classes and arrange my room in my first apartment. Photography usually takes a backseat during the school year, but I have made a commitment to take more photos this year. In the past, I have been limited to squirrels and a few pigeons - this year I brought my car along and will have a chance to explore some of the beautiful places in New England.


I am also thinking about accepting some photography assignments for my school newspaper. I'll send an update later in the week when I am in New York.


Here is a photo from a wedding I photographed a few weekends ago. I'm finally getting around to processing all of the images. It was my first time photographing a wedding and whew, what a challenge. I did not sit down for four hours! It was a good experience, but not a career path for me.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Semipalmated Plover (Alex Mody)

I recently photographed shorebirds for a weekend in Conneaut, Ohio. One thing that I learned very quickly was that it's all about perspective. The quality of the images I made when lying on my stomach in the mud are far superior to those from a more "comfortable" angle. Many people, myself included, feel that soft and out of focus backgrounds are often ideal for bird photographs. By getting down to ground level, I was able to render the background out of focus, just as I desired. Don't be afraid to experiment, though, because good photographs are possible from many angles. Remember, there are no rules. As a young photographer, it's even more important to understand that so we don't develop any habits that may restrict our horizons!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dingman's Creek, Pennsylvania (Alex Mody)

Back in early Spring, I spent two days photographing the many waterfalls and stream scenes of the Delaware Water Gap NRA. Spring is often a good time of year to photograph scenes with water features. They seem to be flowing highest that time of year.

This photograph in particular was taken just upstream of Deer Leap Falls in George Childs Park, just outside of the NRA. When photographing scenes like this, overcast or soft light is often ideal. A polarizing filter also helps immeasurably with removing glare from the wet rocks and allowing for use of a longer shutter speed. I used a shutter speed of three seconds, to show the motion in the water while still preserving a bit of detail. It's important to experiment with shutter speed, especially when shooting a scene with moving water. For some subjects, you may find that you like the way a half second exposure looks, but for others, you may prefer fifteen seconds. It's really up to you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Just introducing myself (Alex Mody)

Hi everybody, my name is Alex Mody. I'm a seventeen-year-old nature photographer living in Vienna, Virginia. I'll be posting here a few times a week with field updates, "how-to" posts, and trip reports. I get out and photograph as much as possible, and I hope to share some of my experiences with you though this blog. This fall I will also be going on an extended trip throughout the country, and I plan to blog extensively over the course of my travels.


Here's a photograph I took in Maine this June. It was taken in Acadia National Park from the summit of the famous Cadillac Mountain. Instead of opting for the "typical" image from the top of the mountain, I set out to find an interesting foreground that would hopefully block out the harbor lights, thus creating an image with a more "natural" feel to it.



Please visit my website at www.alexmody.com to see more of my work.

Panoramas (Gabby Salazar)















I spent five weeks in Badlands National Park earlier this year as an Artist in Residence. Everyday I explored the park with my my camera. It was often very chilly and there were not many people in the park during the winter. While I was shooting I tried to remember to take images that I could stitch together to make panoramic images. My friends kept telling me how easy it is to automate paoramic stitching in Photoshop CS3 and I wanted to try it when I got around to upgrading from CS2 to CS3. I took many series using my tripod and panning to take images in a row, both vertically and horizontally and I overlapped each image by about 1/3 to make sure that Photoshop would have enough information to stitch them together. Finally I'm reviewing images and have gotten around to stitching some of the panoramas. It really is incredibly easy. You simply select the "Photomerge" tool under "Automate" in the "File" dro-down menu, select the images you want to stitch and click OK. Check out some of the results.






Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Making a Book


I was recently at a friends house and he pulled out a few photography books to share with me. I was suprised to see that they were actually his photos. He put together books through an online software, designed them, and had them printed. They were high quality and very professional. But, they were mostly just really cool. Self-publishing used to be a major undertaking, but he explained the process to me and it seems that it has become easy and an open market for anyone.


So, I decided to try it out. After spending a few hours reseraching companies online, I decided to go with http://www.blurb.com/. I've also heard great things about http://www.mypublisher.com/. I was shocked to find that it really is easy! You simply download the free software and use their templates to create your book. You can choose hardcover or softcover, the number of pages, and of course all of the colors, designs and page layouts. Just upload photos from your computer and pop them into the pages. Best of all, when you roll over the picture boxes, the optimal size in pixels shows up for each separate box. In about 15 hours I created a 30-page book of my images with text and captions. After you review the book, you just click order and I couldn't believe it, but the hardcover books are only $29.99! They print them in 5-6 days.


I'll let you know how the books look when I receive them, but as of right now, I'm incredibly pleased. They will make the best personalized gifts or photography portfolios! Check it out online.


- Gabby

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Magazine is Online!

The first online issue is now live on our website (www.naturesbeststudents.com)! This took a lot of work over the last week to get things up and running and to make sure the site is fully functional. We are hoping to add more videos over the next few weeks. It is so exciting to create a new product that is accessible to students and teachers all over the world. Hopefully people will begin to pass it around. Now that we are done with basic website updates I'm thinking about updating my personal website (www.gabbysalazar.com). I've been researching web templates and have found some nice companies. My favorite is www.photobiz.com, but their hosting fees are expensive. 

I'm also in the process of getting together all of the photo contest entries at the moment. The judging will take place in the coming weeks. I'll post some more pictures soon!

- Gabby

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Reporting from the cloud forest



video


Check out this video from the cloud forest of Ecuador. See below for the photo I took of the waterfall shortly after we made this video.



Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Saving the Earth(Worms)

This morning I woke up early to go for a run before work. It was difficult to get out of bed, but with the online magazine launch scheduled for Friday I needed an energy boost. While I was doing a few warm up laps around the driveway, I noticed that there were dozens of earthworms attempting to crawl across the gravel drive.

The worms were coated in the gravel dust and many were struggling to move. I continued on my run, hoping to get in 30 minutes before I had to get ready for work. On my way back to the house, I noticed the worms again. It was clear that many would perish - either death by dehydration or by car tires. I decided that being a few minutes late was worth saving a few of the worms by relocating them to a local field of grass. Little gestures are important.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sorting Through Images and Metadata


After returning from Ecuador, I have thousands of images to process and to sort through. I'm finding this to be a little bit overwhelming. The first step in this process is embedding metadata information into all of my images. I use Adobe Bridge for this process, but you can also use the "File Info" section in Photoshop or Elements or Adobe Lightroom. I'm sure there are many other applications that also add metadata to images. I've been spending a lot of time on The Russell Brown Show website http://www.russellbrown.com/tips_tech.html. It is a fantastic resource that has free tutorials and scripts for Adobe products to help with processing and workflow. Check it out.


And, check out a photo from one of the set of images I have sorted through. It is of a caterpillar in the cloud forest!


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Adventure in Ecuador

















I just returned from 23 days of traveling through Ecuador with a friend. First we visited the cloud forest and then we traveled to the Amazon basin. Now I'm back with thousands of photos that need to be edited and sorted. It is challenging to work in the Amazon because the primary forest has very low light during the day and many creatures are nocturnal. One night we went out on a night walk to search for frogs and were walking back to the station when I spotted a huge snake. I quickly shined the headlamp on it and discovered that it was a six-foot rainbow boa. The snake slithered into a pile of rocks nearby.

There is a herpetologist studying snakes at the research station we were visiting and he was able to catch the snake. He held it over night in order to take blood samples and measurements. In the morning he let us photograph the boa when he released it back into the wild. I took this shot of the boa in a controlled situation with Shawn, the herpetologist, holding onto its tail as we let the snake go. It was a beautiful animal and it is called a rainbow boa because of its iridescent scales. An exciting find! I'll post more images and stories from the trip in the next few days.

- Gabby

The New Online Magazine

Welcome to the blogspot of Nature's Best Photography Students. Nature’s Best Photography for Kids is now Nature’s Best Photography Students, an online magazine targeted at teens and young adults. All of the work in the magazine is by students that are 21 years of age and younger. The magazine is a free, bi-monthly, online publication. The first issue will be online August 15th, 2008 at http://www.naturesbeststudents.com/.
You can submit stories, images, features, and ideas. Check out the website for more information on how to upload and send in your work, or send me an email.
I will be posting tips, travel stories, and useful information on internships, scholarship and opportunities around the world. Other young photographers will also be posting their outstanding stories and photos. Check back regularly and subscribe to the blog!

—Gabby Salazar, Editor of NBP Students
gabby@naturesbestphotography.com