Monday, March 30, 2009

Puerto Rico (Gabby)

I just returned from a spring break photography trip to Puerto Rico. I was traveling with friends and thought of it as traveling with potential models for my photographs. As nature photographers, we often overlook the value of including people in our images. Sometimes, adding a person can completely change the quality and feel of your image in a positive way. People viewing the image may be able to picture themselves in the scene more easily if there is a person included. My friends were all good sports and here one of the images. I often like to silhouette people so that their presence is noticed while their specific features do not take distract from the image.

More soon!

- Gabby

Saturday, March 28, 2009

More on Polarizing Filters (Johan)

My original idea was to post about polarizing filters, but Gabby beat me to it! :-) After some thought, I decided to post about polarizing filters anyway. One unusual aspect of these filters is that their effect changes as you rotate the filter. They work based on the angle of light in relation to the filter, so when you spin it or pan the camera, the effect changes. (See Gabby's post for more on polarizer effects.)

I have two example photos taken from the deck behind my house. The view is of my family's organic dairy farm (our milk is sold by Organic Valley). I used a polarizer for both, just rotated it for opposite effects (warm vs. cool). Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture without the polarizer. Both pictures were taken with a Canon EOS 10D and Canon EF 16-35/2.8L USM. The metadata for both is f5, 1/100sec., ISO 200, and 35mm.

The only problems with polarizers are that they take a few extra moments to put on your lens, and they decrease the amount of light reaching the sensor by about two stops. They are otherwise invaluable--everyone should have one in their bag.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A helpful set of tools for macro photography (Nathanael Gass)

When I was at NANPA, I learned a lot about different tools that could be used to make macro photography a little easier. I thought y'all might want to here about these, so here's a list.

Flowerpod: A unique little device that functions like a free-standing plamp. It is a compass rule mounted on three legs that you can use to hold flowers steady. For more info, go here

Glycerin: Glycerin is a common ingredient in soap, and is a very thick substance. It appears a lot like water, but due to it's thickness, it moves slower. It's slow movement allows you to use it in place of water in some shots were you may want to catch motion. You should only use glycerin for 1-5 drops in a photo. Don't cover the subject with it. If you want a lot of drops, get a small pocket mister with water. Also, after you are done, take a cloth and clean the glycerin off the subject. Small insects can get caught in it and die. The best method for placing the drops is an eye-dropper or medicine dropper.
The drop in the image shown is glycerin. As you can see, it looks exactly like water.

Wire Retriever: A wire retriever basically looks like a j with a dot at the hooked end. However, many versions can extend up to 4 ft. or more. This is helpful for moving elements in the photo just the way you want them while still looking through the viewfinder. Find one at your local home supply store.

All of these are amazingly useful tools, and can be really helpful, especially in garden photography.

Metadata: Canon EOS 50D with 100mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/2.8, 1/125th of a second. tripod, no flash. Drop is glycerin.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring hares (Jodie Randall)

Top: Brown hare looking out over fields.
Above: Marsh sunset. This image was taken a short distance from the field where I have been photographing the hares. As the sun disappeared below the horizon, mist began to creep across the marshland. The atmosphere was magical.

My 'search for the mad March hare' began rather unsuccessfully. After quite a few hours in the field, I had not seen many hares. I decided to wait a week before I returned again.
The weather here in Kent has been unusually warm for March. We have had a succession of sunny days culminating with impressive sunsets. I am not sure whether this has anything to do with the hare's increased activity or not, but I am certainly having more luck than I was a couple of weeks ago.
The hares are now a lot more visible, feeding in the fields in the evenings. Some individuals are particularly bold and have come very close to my car (which I am using as a hide). It is wonderful to see their burning amber eyes at such close range, watching me so intently. For me, these enchanting creatures truly encompass the essence of wildness.
When my car has remained still for long enough, I seem to be accepted as part of the landscape. I have witnessed a pair of grey partridges having a dust bath right in front of the vehicle and watched as a short-eared owl glided past hunting for prey only a few metres from where I was sitting.
The hares appear to be most active just as the sun goes down and mist begins to creep across the fields. I have seen them chasing each other, though I am beginning to think that is unlikely that I will see them 'boxing'.

Below: Hare Stretching

Sunday, March 22, 2009

NANPA Summit, continued.

Sorry it's taken so long, here is some more info from the NANPA summit.

Wednesday: We had an all day macro workshop. We spent all day making images, playing around, and having fun! We had a blast, and it was one of the best days there. Our instructors that day were Nancy Rotenburg, Les Saucier, and Kris Morgan. It was amazing!

Thursday: We attended the Summit, and went to presentations from top nature photographers on so many different topics. It was amazingly educational, and I can't begin to relate all of the stuff I learned.

Friday: Same as Thursday, but we also got a pizza party (Thanks to Hunt's Photo) a talk about the Nature's Best Student magazine, and a chat with Art Wolfe.

Saturday: More learning, and a chat with Norbert Rosing. We also gave our speech and presentation to the general membership.
Sunday: We left.

Image Metadata: ISO 800, f/6.3, 1/5th of a second. Canon EOS 50D with 100mm macro lens. Tripod, flowerpod.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Polarizing Filters

I am heading off to Puerto Rico tomorrow for some photography and wanted to write a bit about polarizing filters. Most filter effects can be created in Photoshop, but the polarizer is not replicable through Photoshop - you have to have your filter on your camera while you are out in the field. A polarizing filter serves a number of functions including the two most important - darkening the sky and helping to reduce glare. For instance, a polarizing filter can significantly reduce glare on rocks when you are photographing a stream. Similarly, it can reduce glare on the surface of water so that you can see through to the bottom of a body of water. I have included two images to illustrate this property. The first is a picture taken in midday sun with a polarizer. Instead of being washed out, the sky is dark blue. The second image clearly shows the sand beneath the surface of the water - this is achieved through the use of a polarizer. Without the polarizing filter, the water would have been opaque because of reflections.

I'll have more images when I return!

- Gabby

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Revisiting an image (Alex Mody)

Hey everybody,

I'm in the process of going through all of my photos from the gigantic road-trip I took this past fall/winter. I came across this image from November, which I took in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument of Utah.

I had processed one from the road but I was just never happy with how it looked. The initial version, in my opinion was too warm. Also, the sky is too dark, and I think that I did a bad job handling the foreground.

This is the initial version.

This is the newly processed version.

I don't have much of a point here, other than saying that it's always worth it to try processing an image twice. Maybe you might even prefer the first one. Regardless, giving an image you're unsatisfied with a second glance is a good idea. The most you have to lose is a few minutes of your time.

Microsoft Future Pro Photo Competition (Gabby)

Hey Photographers -

Just wanted to let you know that Microsoft has just launched their fourth annual Future Pro Photographer Competition.

This is the fourth annual installation of the contest. This contest helps recognize young emerging talent in the field of photography with the aim of kick-starting college students careers as a future professional photographers. The grand prize is awesome - $20,000 + a sweet digital package. There is a nature and landscape category.

On another note, I saw something really neat yesterday. I was traveling to Boston on the commuter rail and as I was walking down the platform I saw a man dressed in a very nice suit fishing newspapers out of the trash can and putting them in the recycling bin. Every little bit helps.

- Gabby

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Wild Flowers (Jodie Randall)

Scentless Mayweed

Due to some very uncooperative brown hares, my plans to post on my progress photographing them boxing have been somewhat hindered this week.

In between waiting for non-existent hares, I have been researching the many orchids and rare wild flowers that grow in the south east of England. Plants and flowers are subjects that I am hoping to cover this year, so I have lots of little excursions planned for the summer.

Going through some old files I came across the above image which I took one evening last summer. I was working on photographing flowers in more imaginative ways - something I hope to continue this year.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Helpful Accessories (Johan)

For this post, I decided to share some of my favorite "low-cost" accessories. I use these items often.
  • Spudz Microfiber Lens Cloth--Very useful, ~$5, clip it onto your camera bag and never lose your lens cloth again.
  • Off-camera hot shoe cord--A great accessory for getting your flash off the camera's hot shoe for interesting effects.
  • Sto-fen Omni-bounce--Great little diffuser for shoe-mount flashes such as my Canon 580EX II, retails for ~$20.
  • Remote Shutter Release--Very useful. There are wireless and wired versions for many cameras. Use along with mirror lock-up and a tripod for long exposures.
  • Reflector--These come in many sizes; I'd recommend a reversible one with gold and silver sides. Reflectors are especially useful for macro shots.
  • Spare memory card(s)--Cards are so cheap now, there's no excuse for running out of memory while shooting. I recently purchased a SanDisk Ultra II 8GB CF card for $24 at Office Depot.
"Spider's Delicacy"
1/200sec. ~ f/16 ~ ISO 200
Equipment: Canon 10D + 100/2.8 Macro + 580EX II + Off-Camera Shoe Cord OC-E3 + Remote Switch RS-80N3 + Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce + Manfrotto 055XPROB
To my mother's horror, this photo was taken in the window jamb of my bedroom. :-)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

NANPA Update (Gabby)

Hi Photographers -

I just returned from a fantastic week in New Mexico at the North American Nature Photography Association's annual Summit. There were just over 600 photographers and editors in attendance. There were presenters, vendors, and a lot of people passionate about protecting our environment through the art of photography. Overall, a very inspiring show.

I'd like to share a few highlights with you from the show (and some neat freebies I learned about).

First of all, check out Microsoft Pro Photo Tools at: The tools are free to download and include some great features. My favorite is the geo-tagging tool - it allows you to put GPS coordinates into the metadata (the file info) of each of your images. If you did not use a GPS unit when you were taking the pictures (most people do not), you can find your location on a map and the tool will write everything into your image, then you can put all of your images onto a map of the United States or the world to see where you've been and to show people your images by location. If you search around, you'll find all the instructions on the website.

My favorite presenter was Tim Laman - he is an excellent photographer who works for National Geographic and has a Ph. D in rainforest biology. His photography benefits from his extensive knowledge of natural history. Check out his website at

I will share more tips next week - for now, I've posted a photo that I just found in my archives.

Gabby Salazar