Monday, September 30, 2013

You Can Capture the Moon....

Midnight Delight
Nikon 600, 24- 85mm, ISO 80, f/5.6, 20 sec, Lightroom

Simple sounds

Gentle light

The moon

The stars......

Even before photography, we've all experienced nightfalls that encouraged us to pause to mindlessly gaze at the moon and the stars.  Velvety hues of midnight blues fading to ebony illicit moods from romance to melancholy.  During the October timeframe, giggles of chilly delight emerge as children and adults participate in the Halloween season.

It's not every day we see the night in deep splendor.  When we photograph sunrises and sunsets, we typically research weather and sun patterns.  Moon photography requires the same intentional planning.

In the midwest, northern Michigan's Leelanau County and Northport, MI near the 45th Parallel has lingering summer days and short summer nights.  The land distance on the north end of the Leelanau Peninsula between Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay is just a few miles.  You can start and end your day with an array of rose and blue topaz tinted skies that fade into diverse moonscape views.

Moon photography captures the simple essence of bright and dark, texture and the lack thereof.  As a new photographer, it's a playground to test what you know.  It's also helpful to do research beforehand.

Nikon offers how-to tutorial articles.  Their  Photographing the Night Sky is filled with idea generating images along with artistic tips and camera settings.    Google searches of How to Shoot the Moon will provide you with a host of sites with tips, whether it is just a full moon or a desired moonscape image you are shooting for.

Midnight Moon
Nikon 7100, Sigma 150-500, f/6.3, 1/125 sec, Lightroom

Moon views and evenings are meant to be shared, so bring your partner or a friend.  A glass of wine to celebrate the evening before returning home to process your work is highly recommended.

Happy Shooting!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Greener Grasses....

In nature photography the grass is greener right where you are and on the other side of the fence.  Planning our next photography adventure whether it's a destination location or a local favorite spot always gives us something to look forward to.

Sunset Surprise
Nikon 5100,  55-300mm, ISO 200, f/10, 1/500 sec
Cities like San Francisco with Golden Gate Park on the west side and Sonoma Valley in the heart of the wine country are gorgeous hot spots - whether you are a photographer or a tourist.

Interestingly, a couple of my favorite early images as a photographer happened nearby these locations where I was just savoring the moment of being away on vacation.  

This sunset image was taken from the north side of a beach parking lot northwest of Golden Gate Park as we were watching the ocean.  

I had read Jim Harmer's Improve Your Photography: How Budding Photographers Can Get Pro Results on the airplane the day before. A focal point just like he described in the fourth chapter popped in front of me as I strolled up the incline. Nature's bare branches framed the rosy sunset and sapphire blue ocean.

The Love Button
Nikon 5100, 18-55mm, ISO 200, f/5.3, 1/250 sec
On the backend of our trip, we were in Sonoma Valley for a couple of days. Loaded with beautiful landscapes, wonderful birds, hills of many colors and many wines, it was a street side garden near a park that all but smiled to passersby.

We were birding in Larson Park viewing western tanagers, phoebes and scrub jays to name a few.

This garden yellow flower shouted happiness from across the street that needed to be captured and shared.

Recently, on a local natural beauty road near Springdale Golf Course in Birmingham, MI, I had every intention of capturing multiple perspectives of periwinkle-blue chicory flowers.

Soft, early morning sun with no breeze, tripod set low to the ground, several minutes were filled with many snaps shooting images of one of my favorite flowers.

Bleu Backlit Beauty
Nikon 600, 105mm, ISO 250, f/9, 1/400 sec

But then I stood up to stretch - a must in photography.  Across the road the dew sparkled like diamonds on a long, green, multi-acre lawn.  The next 20 minutes were spent horizontal in wet grass completely mesmerized by nature's liquid crystals.

The Greenest Grasses Reside Within Us
Nikon 600, 105mm, ISO 250, f/8 1/800 sec
Afterwards the clothes were a bit soggy, but the images were worth every chill bump.

Enjoy your next destination and don't forget to stop, stretch and find that your greener grass exists right where you are standing.  Happy Shooting!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Time - Life Lesson from Behind the Lens

Our personal interests can teach many life lessons.  Nature photography is no different.  Some lessons in photography are probably obvious, such as looking at your image as well as business challenges from multiple perspectives.

However some lessons are not so apparent, until you see them taking hold in both your photography and your approach to life.   One lesson is the use of time, it's definition quite elusive depending on your perspective.  It's the one thing that cannot be bought, shortened, or extended.  A precious, precious commodity.

In nature photography, each day has a limited amount of time that maximizes the quality of a given type of image we are shooting for.

The minutes before and after a sunrise where the soft rich rose hues cascade across our landscape.

The World Awaits by ©Sheen's Nature Photography

The early to mid-morning time frame where bees, other insects and birds start off by moving slowly before elevating to a darting, rapid pace.

Oh What a Beautiful Morning! ©Sheen's Nature Photography

The midday sun where direct overhead light can be made to work for areas where you don't want shadows.

Don't Forget the Sunscreen.... ©Sheen's Nature Photography

And then sunset, where glowing red to amethyst skies sweep in before nightfall.

So Long, Farewell Until Tomorrow.....©Sheen's Nature Photography

Nature Photography awakened the need to be more aware and in some cases, a bit selfish with time.  Family, fur-children will always take priority.

All aspects of nature - birds, foliage, landscapes, nightscapes - have their individual peaks in each of the four seasons.  These peaks become guideposts as to how and where we will spend our personal time.

The result?  Wonderful memories in the mind, the heart and forever on digital that serve as visible reminders of time joyously spent.

How will you spend your free time today?  Happy Shooting!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

It's Not Just About Our Back Yard

Summer highways, fields and forests are filled with brilliant yellows, pinks and blues. Gardens ebb and flow with color as perennials peak and give way to the next round in the blooming season.  A host of songbirds, butterflies, bees and insects take delight in savoring their region's balanced food chain.  

Black-eyed Susans at Quarton Lake
Nikon 600, 105mm, ISO 250, f/5, 1/60 sec

Sustaining our beautiful, colorful native plants is easy.  Talk to your local nursery, ask them to carry native plants and plant them in your backyard.  Just as important, asking your local communities, city parks and business parks to plant native versus ornamentals also can make a difference. Many of these groups are already headed this direction.

Avoiding and eliminating invasive plants is crucial to maintaining a healthy food chain. The newsletter "Why Should I Care About Invasive Plants?" provides a brief, descriptive review of invasive plants and species.

Butterfly Savoring Breakfast at Quarton Lake
Nikon 600, 105mm, ISO 250, f/6.3, 1/640 sec
Not all non-native plants are harmful. Roses, tulips and many garden favorites are safe for your garden and the environment.  

"Invasive" represents those aggressive plant species that grow and reproduce rapidly and causing disruptive, major changes to the areas they start to take over.  

In my hometown, Birmingham, Michigan's City Government has taken a very active role in eliminating invasive plants.  They use native plants in restoration projects and new developments, educate the community and provide tips on their website about being environmentally savvy. 

Whether in a large metropolitan area, small community or rural environment, planting native plants makes a difference.  Native plants save water and prevent high maintenance costs caused by invasive plants. 

Check your local area website to see what's been accomplished and what's planned. You may find that you can positively impact both your local community and local environment.

 Happy Shooting!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Your Camera is not Exercise Equipment

What does exercise equipment such as a treadmill have to do with a camera?  How many treadmills are either gathering dust or being used as a great place to hang clothes? 

Kestrel's Poised Pose
Nikon 7100,  Nikon 70 - 300mm, IS) 400, f/8, 1/640 sec
Many of us have had or have intentions of getting in to photography.  We think about it, talk about it and buy our first 'real' camera.  The cameras that have dials, buttons, lots of features and capabilities.  

We take it out of the box and start reading the manual.  

Impatient to get through the details, we grab the camera, go outside and start taking pictures.  One of a squirrel, a couple of the kids, the dog and maybe a flower or two.  

We go back inside to find that the picture on the screen looks so....tiny, blurred, washed out, etc.  Definitely not the vision of what we thought our work would look like. 

This is it!  This is where many cameras are gently tossed back to their box to be used another day.  Instead, it gathers dust and takes up precious closet space.  

Why?  Pick one or all of the following or add your own to the list: 

Summer's Color
Nikon 5100, Nikon 105mm, ISO 250, f/5, 1/200 sec  
Not enough reading.  

Not as easy as we thought it would be.  

Not enough time.

No one to ask questions.

No plan.

Here are some simple recommendations to getting started and progressing as a photographer:
  1. Talk to another photographer or your local camera dealer to understand the time commitment, what it takes to learn what you want to do.  It could be a simple as an hour or two.  Or depending of your goals, could require extensive practice.
  2. Have a general idea of what you'll enjoy taking pictures of behind the camera before you make your purchase.
  3. Buy a good camera (I use Nikon) from your local camera dealer and take it out of the box. 
  4. Commit to a few hours of reading the manual, a how-to-use the camera book and an easy to follow photography book.  Refer to blog "Finding the Photographer Within Us" for examples of each.
  5. Explore other's images on Google, Facebook (Facebook page example: Sheen's Nature Photography), Flickr, etc. to inspire your own style.
  6. Get out there and take many pictures. Close up, far away, looking down, looking up, different settings.
  7. Google 'how to' photography tips for your specific interest
  8. Recognize that you will only really be thrilled with a small percentage of your images - that's normal.  
  9. Don't take yourself too seriously. You will evolve with experience. If you're having fun, it will be reflected in your work.

Egret in Reflection
Nikon 7100, Nikon 70 - 300mm, ISO 320, f/6.3, 1/1000 sec