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Images of the Month

2015-2016

 

Each month I select an image captured and

processed during the month and add some

commentary about the experience behind

the image.

  

                                                                   Michael F Dougherty

    

Archives:                      

   

     2003 - 2014                      

     2000 - 2002  (sc)                     

2017

       
 

 

FEBRUARY - 2017

 

 

PERFECT TIMING 

(And a little help from another member.)

      

 Additional images can be viewed under Ducks.    

    

I was at Descanso Gardens to photograph fungi after a rain storm in the early morning when one of

the members came up to me and pointed me towards an owl in an oak tree (2) about a 100 yards away.

I had earlier heard a bunch of ravens throwing a hissy fit but didn't know what the problem was.  An owl

was the problem. It sounded like a scene from an old classical movie.  It was very dark and I could hardly

see the owl.  The owl and leaves in the tree were very backlit as I aimed my camera straight up into the

 canopy of the oak trees. 

  

  There was nothing particularly interesting during the rest of visit but as I approached the exit, the same member flagged me down to see if I had gotten any good images of the owl.  I showed him an image on

the LCD on the back of my camera.  I then asked him if he knew the names of a couple ducks in a nearby pond and he proceeded to tell me about all the crayfish that were in the pond.  I didn't think much about

his comment but went over to the pond to take a couple of shots even though nothing was going on.  All

of a sudden, the male duck ducked under the surface of the water for a couple seconds and then popped

up with a crayfish in his mouth. Holly cow.

 

I wasn't quite prepared (low ISO) as the scene was very dark which resulted in shooting at a low shutter

speed but my camera was on a tripod.  Any movement the from the camera or subject would be blurred. 

I rattled off a couple dozen images as the duck cruzed through the water and actually got one that wasn't blurred.  The duck was thrashing his head and biting off the crawfish's claws which was very blurred. 

It was an amazing scene and I was fortunate to have gotten a single sharp image, by luck. 

                        

Above image shot with a cropped frame DSL and 150-600 lens at F8 and 1/100th second on tripod.

   

    

           
 

 

JANUARY - 2017

 

 

IRVINE REGIONAL PARK

(iPhone ... are you serious?)

      

 Additional images can be viewed under Irvine Regional park.    

    

December 30 was fall for Liquid Amber in Southern California this year, at least where I live.  I've been

walking in this park for over a decade and have never seen it this beautiful during the golden hour.  There

were several evenings when it was this beautiful but this is a popular park so lots of visitors didn't hesitate

to run through the leaves and mess it up.  If you look closely, you will see a person walking their dog at

the middle right side of the image. 

 

The above image was taken with an iPhone while walking my dogs.  Can I blow this image up really

large?  Nope.  Would I have gotten that image if I didn't have my iPhone with me? Nope.  Am I glad I got

the image even though it was taken with an iPhone?  Yup.  This is a prefect example why the smart

phone has a clear advantage over a DSLR.  It's always on you.

 

On a business note, iPhones are cleaning the clock of the traditional manufacturers of DSLRs and point-n-shoots.  Demand is collapsing as iPhones are increasingly improved and now can take stunning images at

12 MP or higher. As a result, the demand for DSLRs and P&S cameras are becoming a niche business, only supported by professionals and old farts like myself.   

                      

Above image shot with an iPhone, hand held.  I have no clue on the settings.  Are there any?

   

2016

       
 

 

DECEMBER - 2016

 

 

HAKONE VENETIAN GLASS MUSEUM

(1" sensor ... not too bad)

      

 Additional images can be viewed under Hakone.    

    

On a recent trip to Tokyo, we spent an extra day and found this really nice little museum outside of

Tokyo with a great garden.  The primary attraction was the main garden and show cased trees with

thousands of crystals on them.  After wandering around a bit, I found a path that led to a hillside garden

 with few tourists.  It truly was as serene as Japanese gardens are supposed to be.  I could easily visit the garden again in different seasons to really capture its hidden beauty.  Unfortunately, I only had a couple

hours to experience the garden.

 

Normally, I would just take a bunch of images, select the best, and post them on the site.  I'm trying to

be a little more comprehensive and tell a story that will project the look and feel of the location in my

mind, and maybe the viewers, for years to come.  It's not just a picture but an experience.  I generally

begin with a general image which typically ends up being nothing special but provides an overall view of

the setting.  Along the way, I will usually capture an image or two that I really like such as the one above.

 I will also post an image that will remind me of the "non-photographic" experience such as the table I

was sitting at drinking a glass of wine.  Not much relevance for the viewer, but plenty for me. 

     

In summary, instead of presenting isolated images without context, I try to think and plan for groups of

images that might mean something as a group.  It kind of sounds like an old fashion vacation slide show

 with projector but hopefully it will become more than that. 

                      

Above image shot with a high-end, 1" sensor, Point & Shoot, hand held.

   

 

       
 

 

NOVEMBER - 2016

 

 

HURLEY PRO ROUND 3 - TRESTLES

(Woh! 150-600 +1.4X close-up)

      

 Additional images can be viewed under Flora.    

    

I specifically visited Descanso gardens in La Canada California to test out the new Tamron 150-600 G2

with 1.4x matched tele-extender.  I had intended to shoot flying birds closer to the beach but the

weather was lousy and there weren't any flying birds.  It happens. 

 

I don't know the name of the above plant but it just sparkled in the backlit sunlight. I also took some

images of other flowers in the backlit sunlight and they came out similarly. 

     

Now a little math.  The image was shot at 600 mm, add the cropped frame factor of 1.5 plus the TC factor

of 1.4 and you have a net of 1,260 mm.  Yes that really is 1,260 and the image is cutting sharp.  Some of

the other images also displayed outstanding Bokeh.  For those that are experienced at shooting with

DSLR's and long lenses, this is a game changer at any price and this lens is a fraction of the price and

weight as any prime lens offered by the dominant camera companies producing DSLR's. 

                      

Above image shot with 10 FPS, 21 MP, DX body with Tamron 150-600 + TX1.4 on tripod.

   

 

       
 

 

OCTOBER - 2016

 

 

HURLEY PRO ROUND 3 - TRESTLES

      

 Additional images can be viewed under Hurley Pro Round 3.    

    

I always wanted to get some sort of big fish swimming through the wave with a surfer but I'll settle

for a pelican.  Obviously this is an unplanned event.  In fact, I didn't even know the pelicans were flying

above the waves.  All of my focus was on the surfer and the wave.  The pelicans just happened to

fly above the wave.  I was shooting at 10 FPS so I was only able to catch a couple of shots.  I would

have thought I would have caught more but the action was pretty quick.

 

I love the bloggers who claim they can catch action images, peak action, with only one shot.  I certainly

can't.  In fact, I miss images with a 10 FPS "pray and spray" (which is one of my favorite sayings and a pun).

  I have enough difficulty keeping up with the surfer and keeping him in the frame while trying to position

him in the frame for composition issues. 

     

After an image has been successfully captured, it looks pretty easy.  I actually go to surf (and football)

events a little early to practice following the surfers. I actually have to warm up a bit.  If they just went

in a straight line, it's a piece of cake.  But they don't.  They zig zag, cut back, and do just about anything

 they can do to leave the frame.  The smaller the surfer in the image, the easier it is.  But I like to zoom

in close for maximum resolution which makes following the subject more difficult, but worth it in the final image. 

                      

The above image shot with a 10 FPS, 21 MP, cropped frame body with 300-800 on gimbal head.

   

 

       
 

 

SEPTEMBER - 2016

 

 

SANTA ANA COLLEGE FOOTBALL

      

 Additional images can be viewed under SAC vs Desert.    

    

First game/scrimmage started at 5:00 in the evening with beautiful light enabling me to capture the kind of color saturated images that I like. At one point, the sun cast a shadow on the field which is brutal going from the shade to the bright sunlight.  As the sun sets the shadow goes away, and after jacking up the ISO on the body to 3,200, the images still look pretty good.  Using a relatively slow 80-400 handles most situations very nicely. 

 

Unfortunately, the next 4 games will start at 6 in the evening so most of the game will be shot in the dark.  This requires and entirely different approach and different equipment.  First, you have to use a big and heavy fast F2.8 telephone which in this case is a Sigma 120-300.  It also cannot be hand held for more than a few moments so a monopod is required.  The zoom range is less than 3:1 whereas an 80-400 is 5:1.  Finally, it's very dark with inconsistent stadium lighting so the photographer needs position oneself so as not to blow out the background with random bright light sources. 

     

Otherwise, shooting fast moving football at night is a challenge but can be a lot of fun. 

                      

The above image shot with a 10 FPS, 21 MP, cropped frame body with 80-400 lens hand held.

   

 

       
 

 

AUGUST - 2016

 

 

Lotus Blossom

      

 Additional images can be viewed under Lotus.    

    

I've been photographing Lotus in Echo park (near Los Angeles) since 2001.  Unfortunately, in 2008, just

about all the Lotus died due to disease resulting from water pollution.  I then learned that the

Huntington Library in San Marino had a beautiful, much smaller display of pink Lotus in a couple of

ponds in their lower gardens.  A couple years later, they opened a Chinese Garden and the main

pond supports a beautiful collection of yellowish Lotus as photographed above. 

 

For a relatively simple flower, there are a lot of different ways of photographing them.  Along with simple
solo blooms, I've been trying to capture the natural, artistic beauty of one or two blooms relative

 to the buds and leaves around them.  These tend to be more complex, portrait-type images.  There are

just  so many combinations and possibilities. 

   

New technology is a wonderful thing.  In this case, the new Sony 21 MP cropped frame sensor in the

D500 has incredible sharpness (no Bayer filter) and extremely wide dynamic range (15 stops). 

This provides a higher level of color nuance and detail in the petals.  Second, Adobe Photoshop has

included some additional capabilities in its latest version of Photoshop CC such as blur correction.

 I thought I used pretty good long-lens technique but CC was able to reduce blur even further.

                    

The above image shot with a 10 FPS, 21 MP, cropped frame body with 150-600 lens on carbon tripod.

   

 

       
 

 

JULY - 2016

 

 

Surfing at the Wedge in Newport Beach

      

 Additional images can be viewed under Newport Wedge.    

    

It's seems forever since the last time the surf was large enough and the light was good enough to

photograph surfing action.  I accidentally missed a surfing event at Huntington Beach in early January

and the surfing contest for professionals at Trestles in April was also cancelled for another year.  I

understand that since the surf wear industry has consolidated in recent years, there simply aren't

enough sponsors to financially support more than a couple events in SoCal each year.  Too bad. 

 

The Newport Wedge is my go-to location when I hear the local TV news stations report "surf advisories"

and viewers to stay away from the water.  For me, that's code for going to the Wedge if the swell is

originating from the right direction. 

 

There really is no right lens for shooting at the Wedge since there are typically 3 different breaks, the

largest waves coming straight in, really nice rides breaking off the jetty, and body breakers crashing on the sand a couple hundred yards to the west.  The wave above was of the first variety due to its size but the

 most prominent wave is the jetty break.

 

My favorite time to shoot is from sunup, about 5:58 on the day I shot the above photo, to about an hour

later depending on fog and low cloud conditions.  This day was perfect with the first rays of sun lighting

up the edges of the waves right at sunup.  This really doesn't happen very much and most days you have

to wait around till the sun breaks through the low clouds.  The window of opportunity is much shorter on

 these days as the light becomes very hard and blows out the whites on your surf images.  

                    

The above image shot with a 10 FPS, 21 MP, cropped frame body with 150-600 lens on carbon tripod.

   

 

       
 

 

JUNE  - 2016

 

 

Fitzroy Massif

  

 Additional images can be viewed under Fitzroy Massif.

              

For over 17 days, we photographed the Horns of Torres del Paine, the Perito Moreno Glacier, and finally the Mt. Fitzroy Massif.  It was also

autumn so when Fitzroy was clouded in, there was no shortage of opportunity to photograph the colorful forest, ponds, rivers, and

waterfalls in the valley adjacent to Fitzroy.  It was magical and I don't say that casually. 

 

One of the problems (good kind) on a trip like this was the number of images (10,000+) taken between the 3 locations so it was like 3 separate

 trips.  At least the number of images can be divided into 3 groups.  I also performed a lot a 3 image brackets to make sure I got the  correct

 exposure or could exposure blend later for the more difficult lighting situations.  Add in some multi frame panoramas, and the number of distinct

views is reduced even further.  Keep in mind that when shooting in the morning or evening, the light changes rapidly and the same image from

 the same location can look totally different only 5 minutes later. 

 

One lesson learned is that sometimes a properly exposed image is not the best looking image.  Sometimes an under-exposed or an over-exposed

image just looks better.  Often times, the meter in the camera is simply faked out by the difficult lighting conditions. 

 

With so many images and variations, selecting the "right" image is a lot more difficult than it sounds.  After the trip on my home computer, I will

sort the images chronologically into days and further sort into specific locations.  I may delete up to 80% of the images due to technical issues such

as focus and movement.  (I do keep an entire copy of images from the entire trip on a separate external hard disk which is placed aside.)  Much

later after completing the entire sorting process, selecting the best images, and post processing them, I will go back to the original image "dump"

and scrounge for images that I may have overlooked on the first or subsequent sort.  The image above is an example of an image that I nearly

deleted. Enough said. 

                 

The above image shot with a FX body with a 36MP, FF sensor, body with 24-105 lens on travel tripod.

                                                    

   

 

       
 

 

MAY - 2016

 

 

 

Torres del Paine

      

 Additional images can be viewed under Torres del Paine.    

    

We arrived in Calafate after flying over 1,000 miles of desert.  Patagonia, after all, really is a desert

east of the Andes Mountain range.  We had to drive another 5 hours south to Torres del Paine before

 we saw anything that didn't look like a desert.  Technically, I don't think it is pure desert, but ferocious

winds most of the time sure made it look like a desert. We arrived at Pehoe at night so I didn't know

where the desert ended. The next morning we saw the Horns and it was definitely more vegetated

although I wouldn't call it forested.

 

We drove down the only highway in the area and after photographing several Guanaco on a hill,

stopped at a water fall which required a short hike so you can carry as much equipment as you would

like.  Most people, including myself, were shooting the waterfall from in front of the small hill in the

upper right.   I decided to walk around and just absorb the scenery and all its beauty.  I will

 generally take a couple "grab" shots while doing this.  Had it not been for the rays of light hitting

the grass in an area on the lower right, this image would not have worked.  Instead, I got one of my

favorite images taken on the trip.        

 

                 

The above image shot with a DX body with a 36MP, FF sensor, body with 24-105 lens on travel tripod.

   

 

       
 

 

APRIL - 2016

 

 

 

WOODPECKER

(Really? ... teeny weenie sensor at 2,000 mm)

    

 Additional images can be viewed under Woodpeckers & Parrots.    

    

Some times just having a camera or smart phone with you is more important than having a pro-grade

camera sitting in your closet at home.  I am trying to get into the habit of taking a 24-2000 MP, mega-zoom, point and shoot  camera with me when I walk my dogs each evening.   It's amazing how many different, picture worthy images you will discover just by looking.

 

This year has been kind of unique.  Last year, there was an owl I saw a number of times in a Sycamore

tree at the Irvine Park.  This year, he's gone, but many woodpeckers have made their presence known. 

I have never seen so many before.  Of course, the parrots. noisy as they can be, are hiding in the trees just

out of reach of a pro-grade camera even with an 800 mm lens.  This is where the P900 proves its worth.  It's not professional, but it is 2,000 MM and that's what it takes to capture the parrots.  Of course just locating

 them in the trees is another challenge.  These light green birds camouflage very nicely in the light green Sycamores. 

 

This gets down to classifying photographers into those that must use the finest equipment available or the image will be a failure (pixel peepers) and those that just want to get the image and will use whatever equipment it takes to accomplish that goal.  In the bigger picture, doesn't that also define human nature.

             

The above image shot with a DX body with a 16MP, small sensor, P900, hand held.

 

 

       
 

 

MARCH - 2016

 

 

 

Flower Pattern

    

 Additional images can be viewed under Flower Patterns.    

    

Every once in a while I come across something that I can't believe and really don't know what it is.  I don't know if this flower, or whatever it is, fell out of a tree into some barren branches or this was a bloom that originated from the branches in preparation for spring.  I just thought the pattern of the branches was pretty cool and the bloom made it even more unique.

             

The above image shot with a DX body with 80-400 lens at F8, 1/80 sec., ISO 320.

 

 

       
 

 

FEBRUARY - 2016

 

 

 

Cactus Landscapes

    

 Additional images can be viewed under Cactus Landscapes.    

    

I had no real reason to go to the Huntington Library in San Marino, California except that I hadn't been

there in a while.  The sky was overcast, most of the plant life dormant, and definitely not a "touristy"

kind of day.  The cactus garden is typically the first garden I walk through as I do a walk around the

perimeter of the 100+ acre property.  Keeping a open mind, I quickly realized that while there were few blooming cactus, the garden, as a whole, just looked beautiful.  This happens sometimes. 

 

This is not only a flora landscape, it also a complicated landscape.  I just learned this term as I was reading through a photographic magazine.  I've always felt that landscapes don't have to always be clean with leading lines.  This landscape, besides being of all cactus, has layers and I learned from a previous trip to the Grand Teton with miserable weather, that layers can be really interesting and also be leading in their won right. 

 

Also notice that there is no single subject in the image.  I like to think that the viewer is the subject as he or she visually encounters the image.  The viewer can pretty much make of the image for what they want. 

           

The above image shot with a DX body with 17-70 lens at F8, 1/80 sec., ISO 320.

 

 

       
 

 

JANUARY - 2016

 

 

 

San Joachim Marsh - Green Heron

    

 Additional images can be viewed under San Joachim Marsh   

    

The first time I had photographed a green Heron was last May since that was the first time I had ever seen one.  This time I was at San Joachim Marsh in Irvine, CA and some other photogs pointed out to me this little Green Heron hiding in the reeds on the other side of the marsh.   The difference this time was that I wasn't carrying any higher-end enthusiast or professional equipment with me.  I was carrying a new point & shoot camera with a unique, long focal length lens. 

 

P900 - WHAT IT IS:

  The Nikon P900 is a $600 P&S that, while relatively large and heavy for this type of camera, has an equivalent focal length of 24 to 2000 mm.  Yikes.   It contains a 16 mp (not bad) tiny little sensor and is really usable during the day in full sun.  At 2000 mm, there is simply no other body/lens combination on the market that even comes close to this range, professional or not.  I found myself shooting birds so far away that I wouldn't even have tried shooting them with my other equipment.  Not to be minimized, the P900 also shoots 24 mm wide angle shots which cover a wider angle than most other P&S cameras.  I figured the P900 would be great for just having on hand when casually hiking around wildlife reserves in SoCal when not really planning to shoot anything in particular.  The zoom range just about covers everything including close-ups.  

 

P900 - WHAT IT IS NOT:

  The Nikon P900 is not a sophisticated DSLR.  It only shoots JPEGS (as do most sports pros), it's slow to zoom, and image quality substantially deteriorates over 800 ISO.  I would also try to limit zooming to under 1000 mm as detail will begin to suffer. It is possible to take images at longer focal lengths due to its excellent vibration reduction but you are better off with a tripod. However, any movement of your subject will tend to be blurred as the ISO needs to kept low which will keep the shutter speed low thus increasing motion blur.  If you like shooting at night, you will need a larger sensor camera to reduce digital noise.    

 

In short, given its incredible strengths and known limitations (small sensor), this P&S is a game changer.  Volume sales of general purpose P&S cameras are literally collapsing but there is some life left in the ultra zoom, rough and tough, and underwater segments of this market segment.  Reasonable quality telephoto photography is now available to anybody with $600 and a little steadiness.   The P900 does allow for a huge amount of artistic freedom and isn't that what photography is all about.  (And bird watchers, now you have proof of what birds you have seen.)

           

The above image shot at 560 mm equivalent, F6.5, ISO 400.

 

2015

       
 

 

DECEMBER - 2015

 

 

 

Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia

    

 Additional images can be viewed under LA Arboretum   

    

You know what's missing this year from the web site?  Autumn color.  With the California draught not really giving me any encouragement and just a lot of other things to photograph, I almost missed taking any fall images this year.  While the East coast is best know for its color, the California Sierra Nevada and  some metropolitan major parks can show some color.  It's just more subtle. 

 

The Arboretum is located across the street from Santa Anita Race Track and, over the years, has been host

to a number or Tarzan movies and Fantasy Island episodes.  Who knew.  The jungle is still in pretty good shape and the Queen Ann Cottage has been renovated several times.  Unfortunately, some of the lakes on

the property are fairly dry as they were fed by natural springs that are now dried up due to the drought. If

you are ever a tourist in SoCal, you might want to put this garden on your list of places to visit. 

 

The above location is a place I have walked passed many times before, but it never looked like what it

looked like when I captured this image.  In fact, I got a half dozen similar images from different angles of

the same garden.  All of the gardens change with the seasons and offer different photographic opportunities throughout the year.  The Madagascar garden is particularly interesting with a lot of interesting looking plants.  There is also an orchid house, waterfall, large spances of grass, and rose and herb gardens.

           

The above image shot with a  24 MP, cropped frame DSLT with 17-70 zoom lens.

 

 

       
 

 

NOVEMBER - 2015

 

 

 

SAC Dons Football - Touchdown

    

 Additional images can be viewed under Don's Football   

    

It's been over 10 years now that I have been shooting college football.  Not USC or UCLA, but a junior college team, the Santa Ana Dons.  In exchange for images , I get access to the field and the opportunity to create some really neat action photos which I can post and share with the team members and their supporters.  Actually, I could be sitting at home and watching a Pac 12 football game from my sofa, or running up and down the field photographing a real junior college football game. 

 

Shooting sports actually covers and exercises a lot of disciplines (5P's):

       1) Preparation: Lining up access to the field and proper equipment selection, especially if at night.

       2) Photographing:  Deciding, real time, which side of the scrimmage line to shoot from.

       3) Pre-selection:  In order to qualify, the image must have the football, player face, and action.

       4) Post processing:  This is getting a lot easier with the new, high dynamic range, high FPS bodies. 

       5) Presentation: Developed a new scroll mode on web site to accommodate smart phones and tablets. 

 

The first 2 games were night games so I was forced to use a D7200 with 120-300 F 2.8 lens.  The D7200 can capture reasonable good images at ISO 8,000 but is only 6 FPS so I missed a lot of peak action.  The game above kickoff was 1:00 with an artificial turf temperature of 165 degrees F.  It was really hot and a reason not to buy artificial turf for your back yard.  For daylight games I use an A77 II which can shoot at 12 frames per second at maximum aperture.  Since it was so hot and bright, I chose to shoot at F8 which knocked me back to 8 FPS.  Not bad, but 12 FPS is so much more fun and really spoils the sports shooter.

           

The above image shot with a  24 MP, cropped frame DSLT with 70-400 zoom lens.

 

 

       
   

OCTOBER - 2015

 

 

 

Women's Surfing - Trestles CA

    

 Additional images can be viewed under Women's Pre Contest Practice   

    

The Swatch Pro (women) and Hurley Pro (men) are the final pro surfing contests in SoCal for the year.  While I normally shoot just surfing action, there is also the opportunity to shoot "design".  After all, the underlying objective of sponsoring surf contests is to sell clothing and push fashion trends.  Having an athletic female subject in the image doesn't hurt either.  I generally miss a lot of these types of photographic opportunities since I'm so closely focused on the waves and not what is going on around me.  As I've mentioned before, it really makes a lot of sense to keep an eye on what's going on around you.  This is true in photography and it is true in life. 

 

  On the equipment scene, I opted for a D7200, 24 MP, slow FPS, high dynamic range, cropped frame DSLR.  Basically, I chose to sacrifice peak action for image quality and the image quality is a significant  improvement.  (We're talking tools here.)  With Nikon, this is your only option unless you're using full frame and then you don't have the crop factor, even with a 300-800 zoom. As a result, I did miss a lot of peak action.   A lot of other Nikon sports shooters don't like this situation and are moving over to Canon with their recently introduced, high FPS, cropped frame DSLR. 

           

The above image shot with a  24 MP, D7200, cropped frame DSLR with 300-800 zoom lens using an aluminum tripod with gimbal head. 

 

 

       

 

 

 

SEPTEMBER - 2015

 

 

 

Southern Iceland

    

 Additional images can be viewed under Iceland Images   

    

I shoot a lot of color images so sometimes it's exciting to have the opportunity to shoot an image that looks best in monochrome.  This image was taken at the foot of a glacier.  Basically, it's a glacier lagoon.  We were actually hiking our way to a glacier when I noticed this scene to right of the path.  It's one of those situations where you are walking the path, look to the side, and wow, that's beautiful.  This was really easy to shoot and post process. 

           

The above image shot with a  24 MP, cropped frame DSLR with 17-70 zoom lens using a carbon fiber tripod with ball head.

 

 

       
   

AUGUST - 2015

 

 

 

Southern Highlands - Iceland

    

 Additional images can be viewed here.     

    

In July, I spent 10 days in Iceland where we had a nice mix of sunny weather, cloudy weather, and wet, windy miserable weather.  This resulted in an assortment of postcard, type images, fine art type images, and "ugh" types of images and that's just fantastic in photography terms.  If you click through to the Iceland image library, you'll notice how the weather affected the variety of images that I have posted on my web site. 

 

I realize that the 1960's era slide show went out-of-style a long time ago, but I try to focus on more than just a bunch of singular images independent of each other, but a group of images that are related and show a variety of image styles.  Iceland provides the perfect opportunity to achieve this as there are waterfalls, fjords, coastal scenes, and pastoral scenes with a smattering a wildlife thrown in.  Along with the variety, I have really upped my post processing game in order to make each image look like what I thought I saw when I photographed the image.  Unfortunately, photographic DSLR equipment still isn't at the point where you get what you saw.  Ironically, my iPhone does a lot a better job at this.  

 

The image above aptly applies to what I refer to as the photo experience.  I was showing my printed images to some viewers and the most common comment was how beautiful the landscape was, not what a great image.  This is actually a compliment because I didn't want the print to take away from the actual experience.  I have other images that do that.  The image is actually what I thought I saw and experienced but not close to what the scene looked like on the digital capture.  For most casual photographers, this is a true letdown.  In this case, post processing is probably over 50% of the final image.  The image actually consists of a 2 frame panorama, highly cropped, and a lot of cloud and color modification.  However, no subject elements have been added or removed from the image.  This is not unlike the dodging and burning performed in the dark room by the early black and white days of photography during the last century.

 

Now for the ugly part.  I shoot a lot and should know what I'm doing.  If I don't know how to do something, I check it out on the internet, think about it, and then try to implement the new technique in the field.  I am finding out in my older years that this doesn't always work.  For example, I always bring along a graduated neutral density filter with me on trips of this type.  I tried to hobble together a holder that was more convenient and much easier to install on my lenses in the field.  (Putting something together in the field with the rain, cold, and wind is a whole different activity than from the comfort of  your home.)  Unfortunately, traveling over dirt roads literally rendered my new holder to pieces with bolts and screws all over the place.  I was unable to put it together after trying to find all the missing parts that had shaken loose.  With 3 stop bracketing, I didn't lose any potential images, just a little more post processing after the trip.  No harm, no fowl. 

 

Not having adequately prepared to take 2-4 minute time exposures was a problem and I did lose a lot of potential images.  First, DSLRs only take time exposures up to 30 seconds.  Oops.  Second, once you put a variable stop neutral density filter in front of your lens, the body will not be able determine the proper exposure.  Help!.  There really weren't any workarounds except just to take exposures at less than 30 seconds and hopefully the camera can figure out the exposure.  It didn't help that I didn't have a remote release that could be used in the DSLR's "bulb" mode either.

 

Solution, when I got back home, I sidelined the variable ND filter (because the shutter speed is so low that the body can't determine exposure) and bought a fixed 10X ND filter and prepared a little exposure cross reference chart that guides on how long the exposure should be.  First you set the exposure, manually focus,  then put the body in "bulb" mode.  Second, attach the remote release and time the shutter opening as indicated by the cross reference chart and time the exposure using your watch.  Piece of cake!

           

The above image shot with a  36 MP, full frame DSLR with 24-105 zoom lens using a carbon fiber tripod with ball head.

           

 

      
   

JULY -  2015

 

 

Sleepy Owl 

 

  Additional images can be viewed here

 

I walk my noisy little chiwawa every night at a local regional park in Orange County CA.  One evening at sunset I saw a woman photographing and I advised her that she might take a look at the sun glistening off the backs of some ponies not too far way.    She then showed me some images on her camera's LCD screen of an owl in a tree over by an wooden arch that leads to the parking lot.  I had walked this route a thousand times and never seen an owl. Sure enough, I checked out an old Sycamore tree and there was a sleepy little owl in a crevice in the trunk about 20 feet above the ground.  It was kind of funny because he kept falling over and then righting himself.

 

Well, of course, I was unprepared,  and didn't have the proper equipment to photograph the owl.  So I rushed home, about 5 minutes way, dropped the dogs off, grabbed a cropped frame body with 150-600, and headed back to the park.  I use multiple bodies and grabbed the one that had already been set up to shoot action (high ISO).  Lucky me, the little owl was still in the tree. It was so funny to watch him keep falling over and then getting back up.    I was able to take an assortment of photographs from different angles before the sunset light faded away. 

 

I looked for the little owl again each night for about a week.  I didn't see him so I was a little concerned about his well being.  I didn't really know if he could fend for himself.  I never saw his mom.  Finally, about a week later, I saw him again and he posed for a couple minutes.  He finally disappeared into the crevice in the trunk of the tree,. Apparently, it was a lot deeper than I thought.  In fact, this little owl may not even know how to fly but he had a nice place to hide when the park was full of people. 

 

Finally, the moral of the story is than when you are nice and helpful to people, you might be nicely surprised. 

            

The image was captured with a 150-600 mm zoom lens at F8 on a cropped frame camera and carbon fiber tripod with ball head. 

   

 

        
   

JUNE - 2015

 

 

The Wedge, Newport Beach

 

  Additional images can be viewed here    

    

The Wedge is  famous for body boarding the shore break.  No shortage of surfers breaking body parts hitting the beach on any given day.  On the bigger days, lifeguards will question surfers, who they don't know, in order to make sure they know the dangers of entering the water.  On this particular day, there was a side break off the jetty and 15' to 18' footers breaking 100 yards out.  You'll be surfing one break and another one sneaks up on you and plants you in the sand.

           

The above image shot with a  24 MP, cropped frame DSLT with 150-600 zoom lens using a carbon fiber tripod with ball head.

           

 

      
   

MAY - 2015

 

 

Green Heron 2

    

  Additional images can be viewed here.     

    

These guys have been hiding out at the Fullerton Arboretum for years and most people, including myself, have never seen one before, anywhere.  I'm used to photographing Black Crowned Night Herons.  When I first saw the Green Heron sitting in a tree, I guessed it was a Green Heron which was quickly confirmed by other photographers who specialize in photographing Herons. 

 

It's always fun to shoot something that you've never seen before.  This includes going to different places, especially National Parks.  Beautiful birds such as the Green Heron are particularly interesting.  I was truly surprised since I had no intention of photographing birds that particularly day.  That's why it's important to carry a variety of lenses just in case you come across an interesting situation.  Yes, it's a pain to carry a big and heavy back pack.   

           

The above image shot with a  24 MP, cropped frame DSLT with 70-400 zoom lens using a carbon fiber tripod with ball head.

               

 

      
   

APRIL - 2015

 

 

Mountain Goats - Anza Borrego 

 

Additional images can be viewed here    

    

Sometimes you just get lucky but unless you are prepared and have the right equipment at hand, you won't be able to capture the image.  In this case, I was taking an early morning drive up Hwy 22 in Anza Borrego State Park to photograph some cactus and scenics.   At the last moment I decided to throw a cropped frame body and 150-600 in the car just in case.  Just in case worked out quite nicely. 

 

Driving up the mountain, I noticed 3 young male mountain goats interacting with each other so I jumped out of the car and began shooting.  I thought this was pretty much fun until I found out later in the day that mountain goats are on the endangered species list and most people have never see them, even people living in Borrego Springs.  I had no clue how lucky I was.  But, then again, I just happened to have the right equipment in my car.  This is an advantage to driving you vehicle to a location.  Normally, I would not have brought this lens on a jet. 

 

The next challenge is the the goats wanted to play in the shade and the sunrise was orangish and highlighting the background.  I focused and exposed on the goats and figured I'd just fix the background in post processing which I did.  The wider dynamic range of a 3rd generation sensor and increased capabilities of post processing software really saved the day. 

           

The above image shot with a  24 MP, cropped frame DSLT with 150-600 zoom lens using a carbon fiber tripod with ball head.

            

 

      
   

MARCH - 2015

 

 

Succulent Garden 

 

Additional images can be viewed here

 

The above image is a landscape that looks more like a pattern.  No leading lines, no rule of thirds, and no flow.  Just a large mass of succulents.  I think there are painters that utilize this style. 

 

I can really get used to the colors in the south western palette.  A lot of muted greens, pinks, and oranges.  These types of images show their best when blown up really large.  Unfortunately, I can't do that on the internet.  The image just invites the viewer to explore all the nooks and crannies of the succulent garden. 

            

The image was captured with a 17-70 mm zoom lens at F8 on a cropped frame camera and carbon fiber tripod with ball head. 

     

 

   
   

FEBRUARY - 2015

 

 

Gulls - 13 

 

   Additional images can be viewed here.     

    

For photographers that shoot flying birds in coastal areas, sometimes the only birds available are gulls.  Most would rather shoot pelicans, egrets, cormorants, hawks, or other birds of prey.  Unfortunately, you don't always have that option.  I've learned that gulls will seldom let you down photographically.  They constantly  show up and perform by flying all around you.  If a photographer can't capture a couple of gull images, it's time to go back to landscape. 

 

There is simply no shortage of gull photos on the internet.  I suspect it may be the most commonly photographed bird in America.  All you need is an iPhone and a loaf of bread and you can capture some really neat images.  The abundance of images everywhere is why photographing gulls doesn't always get the respect that it deserves.

 

For this shoot, I was photographing pelicans in La Jolla, or at least trying to, but the pelicans just weren't coopering.  All of a sudden, a gull was flying straight towards me.  Hey, why miss the opportunity, so I took a shot.  Not bad.  The auto focus on the camera and lens just nailed the eyeball on the gull. 

 

I often get in arguments with other photographers on the web about the need for speed (shutter) when photographing any fast moving subject.  I'm advised that the difference between 6 FPS and 8 FPS is only marginal.  I don't believe it is. I'm also told that I need to take one image at peak action.  Well, unfortunately the flying gull is much faster than the shutter release mechanism on my camera.   In the 1 second I photographed the gull, I would much rather have 8 images to select from instead of just 6.  In this case, I had 12 imagers (12 FPS) and was able to select the single image that showed the gull with his head turned so I could see his entire eye. 

         

The above image shot with a  24 MP, cropped frame DSLT with 150-600 zoom lens using a carbon fiber tripod with ball head.

           

 

      

 

Photo Home

 

  
 

JANUARY - 2015

 

 

Jackson Hole - Winter - Barn 2 

 

Additional images can be viewed here.      (Folio Images) 

    

One of the big problems with scheduling a trip several months in advance, is that you simply have no clue what the weather conditions will be once you arrive.  For this trip to Jackson Hole, it didn't look good at least a week before the start of the trip.  Because I live in SoCal, it is a lot easier to travel to places like Yosemite or the Eastern Sierra because they are only a 4 to 5 hour drive when the best conditions show themselves. 

 

The positive side of lousy weather is that you're unlikely to capture any  traditional "post card" type images.  Of course, these types of images are nice if you've never been to the location before but not necessary if your trying to shoot "fine art" images. I always like to take a couple standard images to prove to my wife that I was actually at the location I said I was going.  (humor)

 

With no really obvious images to capture due to the inclement weather, the photographer has to really work to find, capture, and create the final image.  Post processing is a major part of the process, and any image shot has to be thought of in terms of the type and amount of post processing that will be needed to complete the photographer's vision.  This is what makes this type of photography so exciting and difficult to accomplish.  It requires the photographer to have a vision and a plan before taking the shot. This is not beginner photography, and, as such, the other photographers on the trip were equally as passionate about photography and even more skilled.   

 

One of the easier images to capture on the trip was a group of barns located in the valley. This particular barn gets photographed hundreds of thousands of times per year with the beautiful Grand Teton mountains in the background.  We didn't even see the Tetons for the first 3 days of the trip.  Photographers will typically limit their composition to the barn and perhaps try to include the tree at the right.  In order to add a little dimension to the image, I chose to add the tree at the left. 

   

 One of the potential criticisms of the image is the excessive white blank space at the lower right.  If the Tetons were visible in the background, this would be true, but since there is little definition in the sky, I use the white space to balance the image.  This was also necessary to include the tree at left.  It will also be possible to add a caption in the white space like "Merry Christmas" for next year's Christmas card.  Did I mention thinking ahead above? 

 

I do take multiple images of a subject with different exposures and compositions so it is always possible to post process a different image of the same barn taken at a different angle at a later time. 

  

The above image shot with a  36 MP, full frame DSLR with 24-105 zoom lens using a carbon fiber tripod with ball head.