Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Checklist - It's Not about What I'm Packing

When planning our excursions  many of us create a checklist to ensure we don't forget the important items.

Cameras, lenses, remote, cleaners, spare batteries and filters.  Check.
Gloves, hat, sunglasses, snacks ((Erg Bar for long term energy), smart phone.  Check.

There's another checklist that I've found that I need to make.  It's the tactics checklist of what to remember when 'caught up in the moment' of your subject.

Underneath the Outer Banks Fishing Pier at Sunrise
Nikon 600, 14-24mm, f/16, ISO 100, 6 sec

On a recent trip, I had the privilege of shooting above and under piers in the the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  When processing the images in Lightroom,  there were specific shooting areas where I noticed a fundamental issue.  

I hadn't moved my perspective!  

Sure, different f/stops were used along with focal length adjustments.  But the perspective was from one location.   Almost all of the upper level pier shots had the same look and feel including horizon points.  This left very little to work with when back in Lightroom.  

What happened?

Fundamentally, I am a bird and nature photographer.  Because my subjects move, I constantly have to as well.  'Moving' around to the right, left, on the ground is the norm.  

When the objects became stationary, my tendency was to remain in one spot.  The outcome?  A lot of images that looked the same and there was not a lot to choose from.

Bodie Lighthouse after Sunset
Nikon 600,  14-24mm, f/8, ISO 50, 30 sec

Viewing images from the pier and lighthouses with limited perspectives generated the need for a mental  'in the moment'  tactics checklist.  This includes: 
  • Multiple f/stops
  • Multiple focal lengths
  • Multiple steps to the right and left from the initial shooting point
  • Taken from close to ground level
  • Taken from a higher point
  • Use of different lenses on the same subject when possible

Batteries are charged, camera gear and backpack is ready.  Mental list?  Check!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Is there such a thing as the "Affordable Photographers' Equipment Act?"

A common misnomer is that photography is a very expensive hobby.  There are many camera promotions today that make it easy to get started and grow with a modest investment.
Pure Sugar
Nikon 600, 70-300mm lens

Camera manufacturers, particularly during the holidays, offer special bundles.   Some of these include two lenses, camera bags, filters, flash units and a tripod.  Different retailers including local, national chains and online have different bundles so you'll want to do a little research. A kit that has a general purpose lens and a telephoto lens is highly encouraged.

Delicate Details of a Rose April 2012
Nikon 5100,  general purpose kit lens
My first camera was the Nikon 5100 and it's still in my toolkit.  The newer Nikon 5200 has a big sensor and more megapixels.  These bundle kits sell for around $1000.  Also note that Nikon's image processing software is included.  While I am a Nikon user, Canon also offers bundles.  Bundles will provide the fun, creativity and diversity needed by most recreational and family photographers.

The 1st Weekend of Camera Ownership April 2012
Nikon 5100, 55-300mm lens
To pursue photography beyond recreational usage, it will require additional investments.  "Great Glass'  otherwise known as a great lens does come at a price.  Macro, landscape and big telephotos can broaden your reach but as you'll read many times over, an expensive lens does not guarantee great images.  With the right composition, lighting, tools and techniques professional quality images are within your reach.

The other periphery expenses as you expand include higher powered image processing software such as Lightroom by Adobe and a relatively current PC.

The good news is that you can rent lenses before you buy and add at your own speed based on your interest and where you want to take your photography.

Happy Shooting!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Photo Shoot? I Don't Have a Thing to Wear!

It's early, and the sun will be creeping over the horizon soon. The mid-fall chill creates a smokey cast on Quarton Lake, in Birmingham, Michigan.  Wet leaves of speckled yellow, burnt orange, red and umber will present a kaleidoscope for the nature photographer.

A perfect day for kneeling in soggy trails, walking in shallow streams, while balancing a tripod along with camera equipment.

What to wear and not feel like I look like a Jane Hathaway wanna-be?  No offense Ms. Jane, I loved your character on the Beverly Hillbillies but most of us are not that retro.

Looking to the Golden Sky
Nikon 600, 14-24mm, f/7.1, ISO 80, 1/320 sec
As I was passing through the airport recently, the duty free shop had a commercial of a lovely young lady wearing wedge high heels, flowing slacks, and beautifully dressed to the nines. Springing out of the cab with her camera in Paris, she makes a quick turn, followed by an immediate shutter snap.  A twirl, then snap. A delightful distraction into another world.

There was no camera bag, shoulder strap, or heaven forbid a case for at least another lens.
In real life, nature photography brings back your childhood of navigating the elements while not worrying about your play clothes.

Magical Moment of Blue and Gold on Quarton Lake,  Birmingham, Michigan
Nikon 600, 14-24mm, f/16, ISO 250, 1/50 sec
Outdoor clothing for women nature photographers can be be a bit colorless and just plain boring.  What options are out there particularly as we head in to the colder seasons?  Definitely not jeans that get wet and stay that way.

Let's start with our feet.  If they are cold, wet, our time in the field may be cut short. A hardy choice, Hunter Boots deliver dry feet whether in a shallow stream or at the water's edge on the beach.

Silver Sunset Stroll on the Beach
Nikon 7100, f/9, Sigma 150-500, ISO 250, 1/200 sec
Completely rubber, no seams and the ability to line them with a comfy fleece boot sock or a shearling insole this boot provides year round versatility. They come in a rainbow of colors from the basic neutrals to the vibrant brights.  Hose them down and toss them over jeans when you want to hit your local food haunt.

Since we are bending, hiking and kneeling in earthy and wet conditions, running pants can handle wear and tear, they wick moisture well and are comfortable.  Brooks' Thermal Pant provides a work-horse black bottom that's warm on chilly days and not bulky. I've Googled gardening pants online and some may have potential, particularly with the ability to insert a knee pad, waterproof knees and seat.  However, a lot of these had the Ms. Jane appearance at first glance.

For tops, jackets, sweaters the spectrum is broad across many local and online retailers.  Athleta specializes in attractive, well-constructed women's outdoor and athletic wear. While they market to specific sports such as yoga, running, hiking, their designs are functionally fashionable. They use fabrics and designs that lend well to outdoor photography.

Lastly, our head.  We lose a significant amount of body heat through our head for the simple fact that the rest of our body is covered, our head is not.  For years, I resisted the use of hats.  A personal favorite in terms of durability, looks and warmth is Smartwool.  They also have a clothing line and their running, hiking and knee-high socks are the best I've come across.

The weekend and chilly conditions are on the way, what will you be wearing?  HAPPY SHOOTING!