Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Kiss the Day Goodbye

The light of day fades slowly as we begin to wind down for the evening.  The "Magic Hour or Golden Hour" approaches.  

In the deep south, folks sip mint juleps on the front porch.  The west coast signifies back-to-back cars driving home in thick traffic with sapphire blue views of the Pacific coast.  In west Texas' Big country, an evening horse ride under a rose-hued sky can gently close out the day.  In the Great Lakes Region, couples sit on the beach staring into periwinkle skies that melt into deep aqua water.

Softly Fading Sunset on the Leelanau Peninsula on Lake Michigan
Nikon 600, 24 - 85mm, ISO 50, 6/10 sec

The "Golden Hour" hues create magical moments for the photographer.  Harnessing the light and color correctly is part artistry and part skill.  A photographer who creates amazing magic with light is global photographer Richard Bernabe.  His recent image posting from Iceland "Picture yourself in a boat on a river....." on his Facebook page inspired me to buy his book Essential Light: Photography's Lifeblood.  

Rich in content along with camera settings used to capture specific images, the Essential Light eBook is  filled with facts that we know and facts that we 'forget' in the moment of the shoot.

Last Flight of the Day....one of my 1st sunset images.  ©Sheen's Nature Photography
Nikon 5100, 55 - 300mm, ISO 200, f/9, 1/800sec

Landscape, sunrise and sunset images can be readily captured with the Nikon or Canon lens that's bundled with the camera. For wider angle shots, wide angle lenses reign in big images that can surround the viewer.   Both Nikon landscape lenses (as well as Canon wide-angle lenses, other manufacturer's) offer multiple, diverse wide-angle options.  My personal next-to-buy item is either the AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED or the AF-S-NIKKOR-14-24mm2.8G-ED.

Whether you are new or seasoned in photography, a sense of humor in exploring different settings, angles and lenses fosters an open mind to the possibilities you can take from real life to image.

The Sun's Evening Kiss by ©2013 Sheen's Nature Photography
Nikon 600, 24 - 85mm, f/29, 1/10 sec
There are so many sunset horizons to view, many evening moments in nature to share with others.  So little time.

Photographers not only chase the light.  Photographers practice creating images with the light and the focal points they been given with every press of the shutter.  Happy Shooting!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Finding The Photographer Within Us...

How many times have you said, "I wish I had a camera" or "I want to start taking pictures?"

What do you love to spend free time doing?  What energizes you to wake up early?  Stay longer than planned?  Answer these questions and you may find your inspiration.

Yellow Male Warbler "Hide & Seek"
Nikon 5100, 70-300mm f/6.3, ISO 500 1/1000th sec
For years I've studied birds through binoculars to get  close-up views of these spritely, colorful beauties.  On a few excursions, a friend brought her camera. Each time she did, I mumbled "I wish I had a camera."

It was Christmas 2011 when my husband surprised me with a Nikon kit that had 2 lenses.  I must have looked at him funny because he smiled and said, "You've been wanting a camera for years."  I was thrilled!

And yet, it sat in a box for three weeks.  In early 2012, I pulled my camera out and took five pictures of a chickadee.  It looked like a tiny bird on a branch.  Back in the box, it wasn't used it again for a few months.

So what in the heck was my problem?  A bird lover and nature enthusiast, I had always wanted a camera.

The reality was I didn't want to start at the beginning.  I wanted to capture bird images that reflected their details, their expressions.  Details of flowers, brilliant color hues, soft backgrounds were desired state.  The term 'depth of  field' was foreign but I wanted that soft, 'blurred look" complementing the focal point.

Chicory Flower
Nikon 600, 105mm, f/16, ISO 250, 1/50 sec
I started with Google Images by typing in bird species such as bluebirds, mockingbirds, warblers to see what other photographer's images looked like.  Then Google Images took me to tulips, roses, wildflowers.  Google Images continues to be a great place to see the possibilities.

A spring Easter trip to sunny Arkansas was a week away.  A trip to California was close behind.  Time to take out the manual to learn the camera.

The manual, while thorough in learning the buttons and menus, was still a manual.  Off to Amazon to see what ebooks were out there that would explain the features and when to use them.  Nikon for Dummies sounded just right even though I would have preferred that the title read Nikon for Smart, Impatient People.

Eastern Screech Owl
Nikon 5100, 55-300mm, f/8, ISO 320, 1/320
Now that I understood how to operate the camera, I needed to understand how to artistically capture the image.  Short, 'how-to photograph' eBooks. They're easy, quick to the points and inexpensive.

The eBook that was instrumental in putting it all together was Jim Harmer's 60-page book Improve Your Photography: How Budding Photographers Can Get Pro Results.

At the end of chapter two, I understood how to use my camera as a photographer.  By chapter five, I was engaged in wildlife photography.  And by chapter six?  Hello RAW, bye-bye JPEG.  Chapter ten, composition.

These thirteen game-changing chapters inspired me to dive in.  Instead of five images, I take many using different settings and angles.  Some subjects can easily consume one hundred plus presses of the shutter.  To draw out what captivated you to take the picture requires many shutter snaps from multiple perspectives.  Thank goodness for digital and a bit of evolving patience!

Northern Mockingbird April 2012, one of my first images as a photographer
Nikon 5100,  55-300mm,  f/5.6, ISO 500, 1/1000 sec

Since then, I've downloaded more ebooks, talked to other photographers, linked to photographer's Facebook pages and talked extensively with my local camera guys.   Dennis, Rick and Roy at Woodward Camera get involved with where I am at skill-wise and offer insight into decisions.  When your camera experts understand you, their suggestions and questions drive better outcomes.

Hint:  while there's a time to shop online as there are many diverse resources available, there's definitely a time to shop locally.  You are investing in more than a camera, you are investing in you!

Sunset in San Francisco, 2012
Nikon 5100, f/10, ISO 200, 1/320 sec 
Photograph what you love and you'll find the photographer within.  Happy Shooting!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Watching the World Wake Up...Sunrise Photography

Sunrise Sun-Puddles by Sheen's Nature Photography
Nikon D600,  24-85mm,  f/16 ISO 50 1/40sec
It's 5:30 a.m.  Your corner of the world is still chasing dreams.  Except for you.

The coffee is brewing while you're filling your cameras with fully charged batteries. You need to be out of the door and at your destination by 6:15 since sunrise is at 6:33.  Hurry up.

Hurry up only to watch, breath and wait.

Wait for the world to wake up.  Digital Photography Schools' 15 Minute Exercise to Improve Your Photography can be easily applied during the waiting for the sunrise window.  Our best, most creative images happen as a result of watching for the moments versus planning perfect shot.

Velvety hues of color drift in just before the sun rises. Midnight blue skies are mirrored on sapphire blue waters.  Colors of gold dance across the lake.  Cormorants fly across rosy blue waters.   Great Blue Herons stroll along the pier taking in morning's glow.

Synchronized Morning Wing Plan by Sheen's Nature Photography
Nikon 7100, 70-300mm, f/5.6, ISO 250 1/1250sec

Your time and timing is crucial.  A few minutes of missed sunrise considerably changes color and composition.  Wunderground accurately tracks sunrises on your laptop or smartphone so you can set your schedule the evening before.

What you see and feel in the moment of capturing the photo is not always translated to the image.  Sunrises can look flat or simply like a yellow spot on a dark background. Boring!  Having a foreground focal point along with trying different exposures can quickly change sunrise images from "nice" to "Wow".

Great Blue Heron:  Watching the World Wake Up, Sheen's Nature Photography
Nikon 600, 24-85mm, f/9, ISO 250 1/100sec
Whether we're just beginning in photography or have a lot of experience, having your own mental tip checklist can make the difference from a nice picture to an image that draws the viewer in to the moment.

There are many articles and tips from talented photographers to help guide all levels.  A few standard must-haves include a good tripod, shoot in RAW and manual mode, use Lightroom or other high quality image processing software.

A reference page that's a quick read, filled with lovely images and their settings, tools of the trade and lenses used is Nikon's Shooting Spectacular Sunrises and Sunsets.

The sun has risen, many images have been captured and the beach chair beckons for a partner.  Time to rest as the sunset is just hours away.  Happy Shooting!

After the Sunrise by Sheen's Nature Photography
Nikon 600, 24 - 85mm, f/22, ISO 80 1/10sec

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Invading the Invasive

The bright buzzing bee tickles the chicory flowers as she moves from stem to stem in the abandoned, wild garden.  In the background, a red winged blackbird sings its' sharp screech while perched on a low branch.  The moment of making the big decision of the morning arises.  Do I use my telephoto for the audaciously loud blackbird?  Or, do I stay with my macro to capture the bees?
Sweet sweat bee enjoying some morning Chicory
Nikon 600, 105mm

Both wild and cultivated gardens have flowers, insects, birds and other natural gifts offering a changing pallet for the photographer.  The natural order and food chain that provides this pallet needs to be protected and preserved.  Our understanding of how native plantings, compatible plantings and invasive plants impact nature's gardens is necessary for balanced environments.

Native plants are adapted to the combination of water, soil, temperatures and nutrients.  As a result, they are energy efficient, require less maintenance and enhance the food chain.  Natives easily fill gardens, fields, roadsides with color that returns year after year.

The Lady Bird John Wildflower Center site has a quick guide to finding out if your favorites are considered native along with other event and conservation information.

Red-winged Blackbird
Nikon 7100, Sigma 150 - 500mm
Invasive plants do just the opposite.  They consume more water.  They require chemicals and potentially radical methods to destroy.  They can become aggressive and destructive weeds to the local habitat and ultimately, nature's order.  Natives are basically choked out of their habitat.  Invasive plants' resistance to local bugs and insects cause insect decline or disappearance.  When local insects decline, sadly, other's in the food chain follow.

Our call to action: invade the invasive plants and take them out of our gardens, landscapes by the roots!

Information and warnings of invasive plants can readily be found on the internet.  Check out Cornell University's Ecology and Management of Invasive Plants Program to see a listing of invasive plants and the research work Cornell is performing.

Going "native" does not mean that you get rid of your beautiful, well-tended compatibles. Compatibles coexist nicely with our natives.  Rose bushes, hydrangeas, hostas, annuals and other plants while require a commitment for care, do not tear down native habitats.  It's important to understand your non-native plants behavior before planting.

Today, more nursery's are carrying more native plant inventories.  A nursery that is leading by example is Four Season Nursery in Traverse City, Michigan.   They are very active members of organizations that promote native planting habitats including Saving Birds Thru Habitat.

So whether we are gardening, birding or capturing images...knowing and nurturing our native plants and what they attract will protect and enrich our environment.

Happy Shooting!