a trip to the zoo

A Trip to the Zoo in Phoenix

The zoo can be a great place to begin to study animal behavior to help make you a better wildlife photographer.

When I photograph wildlife, I try to get behavior images that I believe have a bit more impact than capturing the animals while they are stock still. The secret to making that work is learning and knowing an animal’s micro-movements that occur just before they are about to do something different. Often you will see a small twitch. A turn of the head or some other indication they are about to move. The only way to see that is to watch intently over long periods of time and patterns will begin to emerge.

phoenix zoo primatesPrimates in the Phoenix Zoo. I had to be exceptionally patient in waiting for eye contact with these Gibbon (buff cheeked?) monkeys.

orangutan at Phoenix ZooAgain, I was waiting for eye position helped make this a more moving portrait of the orangutan. This image was captured at 1/30th of a second handheld with an 800mm equivalent lens. (see my camera notes below)

jaguar at zoo in phoenixA beautiful animal, the jaguar, looks to another across the pen.

baboon at zooThis baboon appears lost in thought. Primates being as close to human expression as you can get in the animal kingdom keep me interested for long periods of time.

One of the things I find extremely helpful in photographing wildlife is a lens with a long reach. This can allow you to fill the frame with your subject. All of these images were made with the Lumix GH5 and the Leica 100-400mm DG Vario-Elmar f4.0-6.3 lens. The five-axis image stabilization and the lens stabilizer working together allow for hand-holding and getting sharp images. The jaguar was at 1/800th of a second. The Gibbons were at 1/320th of a second. If an animal is still such as the baboon, the 1/160th of a second is no problem at all.

The tools we have at our beck and call are kinda amazing and allow us to capture photos that were virtually impossible only a few years ago.

Yours in creative Photography,       Bob

 

night sky photography capture

Photographing the Night Sky – Capture Techniques

Night sky photography has its own little set of things to think about and prepare. I’ll try to share a few sources I came across in my research in trying to get night sky photos. (some issues covered here)

stars and moon over sedonaLandscape with stars over the Village of Oak Creek, Sedona Lumix GX85 with Leica DG Summilux15mm f1.7 lens

Lens choice is crucial. Faster glass means better images as they will allow more light to reach the sensor. Wider angle lenses can give you more time to let some of that light through. Look into the rule of 500. It will help you keep your stars as pinpoints as opposed to starting to streak.

According to the rule, the longest shutter speed you can use before your photo gets blurry is equal to 500 divided by your lens’ focal length. This formula has variables, but it is a good starting point. In my searches, I found this calculator on the Lonely Spec web site. There’s excellent info contained in the calendar that has been a great help to me! The calculator takes all variables into account. Sensor size, focal length, ISO, and aperture. If you are looking for more in-depth info, Ian Norman is rocking it over on his site.

lonely spec web site bannerGreat resource for night sky photography

Another important site is timeanddate.com. You can look up the sun or moon cycles, rise and set times along with the direction of appearance on the horizon on the charts. This is handy if you want to find out where the moon will be rising if you are trying to catch rock formations or building with the full moon. (next full moon should be a good one in October AKA Harvest moon)

moon info chartAbove is a moon chart for Sedona, AZ. Go to the site and plug in your town/city name. Use the compass in your phone to see where the moon will come up. Note that if there are mountains and hills between you and the horizon the moon will be moving across the sky a bit and you’ll need to make adjustments.

Stardate is a great site. The more you know about your subject, the better your results will be. For example, if you are trying to photograph stars the darkest skies will be of help and know where, and when, the moon will be in the sky is important. Stardate can also keep you up-to-date with happenings in the heavens.

stardate.com moon chart septemberMoon chart with dates. Days around the New Moon are the best for dark skies and better rendition of your stars

The new moon is not the only time for photographing the night skies. A little bit of moon can help render the landscape visible for a different night photography look. Full moon and waxing and waning gibbous moons I tend to shoot for the landscape itself as the extra light tends to make the stars less visible.

Next post, I’ll look at processing the files once you are back at the computer.

Yours in Creative Photography,      Bob

night sky photography

Photographing the Night Skies

I was always a little hesitant about photographing the sky after dark. Never could quite make it work out. Either the focus was off, or exposures were wrong, or both!

Then it came time for me to start working on those captures as I was jealous of those who were killing it in the night sky photography showing incredible renditions of the Milky Way.

If you have had the same problems let me share some of the things that have made a difference for me.

milky way sedona arizona photoMilky Way photographed at Bell Rock, Sedona, AZ Lumix G 8MM Fisheye f 3.5 lens

The focus was often a problem for me. Couldn’t quite get the hang of not being able to see my subject in the dark. Either the foreground was out of focus, or the stars were less than stellar until I put in the time and did some serious testing. Using Panasonic’s Lumix cameras has given me a perfect way to set focus and know I am going to get solid detail throughout the image. It’s quite simple and no need to be on scene before dark to get focus. Yay! See the capture of the back of the camera below.

focus screen photo lumix cameraCamera back of the GH5 showing the Manual – Mode focus screen

To get this view set your camera or lens to manual focus mode and touch the focus ring. The assist will give a small 10X magnified view. You won’t need this. Bring your attention to the bar across the bottom. There is a white line that goes from macro to mountain. Just before it gets to the mountain you’ll see a red bar. That’s the sweet spot. Set your focus right in the notch between the red and white portions of the stripe. Done! Test this for yourself.

milky way photo sedona arizonaMilky Way with Juniper, Sedona, AZ Lumix G 8MM Fisheye f 3.5 lens

The other important piece of the puzzle is to use the fastest lens available. Having a very wide aperture allows the sensor to be exposed to the most light allowing for lower ISO settings.

milky way bell rock sedona photoBell Rock in silhouette to the left with the Milky Way, Sedona, AZ with 12mm Leica DG Summilux f1.4 lens

Images were captured with the Lumix GH5 camera. Lenses listed above.

In another post I’ll share some ideas on post, processing using Adobe’s Photoshop to get the most out of your captures.

Yours in Creative Photography,     Bob

time lapse at night part 2

Time-Lapse at Night – Clouds and Meteors – Part 2

Out for the second night of trying to catch the Perseids Meteor Shower. The largest amount of visible streaks across the sky were scheduled for the early hours of Sunday morning.

Set the alarm for 12:05 AM. Wake up 11:58 PM. Check cloud cover. Looks OK. Dress. Hop in the car. Head to the pre-scouted location at Bell Rock Vista one of my favorite rock venues for photos in Sedona. (partly because it’s five minutes from my house.)

About one minute of time lapse from three cameras.

Note clouds and lightning to the south. Thankful there’s an open to the sky ‘window’ to the north.

Set up cameras. Yes, cameras plural. When photographing images for time-lapse video one thing you end up with is time. Once a camera is set, and recording do not touch, bump or adjust unless you would like to restart the sequence.

Camera one – Lumix GH5 with Leica 12mm Summilux f1.4 lens. This camera and lens combination ended up giving me the cleanest, sharpest files. I set the camera for RAW capture. Note that RAW files can chew up some real estate on your card. Make sure you have a large capacity. **

Camera two – Lumix GX85 with the Leica 15mm Summilux f1.7 lens. This set-up is a great go-to set up for night skies.

Still form time lapse captureHere’s a single still image from the shoot. Processed in Photoshop

Camera three – The Lumix FZ2500 with a built-in 25-480 Leica DC Vario-Elmarit F2.8-4.5 lens. This is best shot at the 25mm setting to keep the f2.8 aperture. As you’ll note in the video, this is the only camera lens that showed condensation toward the end of the sequence. It was a VERY moist and humid night. This camera must generate a little bit of heat as time goes on. In less humid situations I wouldn’t see this as a problem.

A great resource for deciding what exposure settings to use including various camera and lens combinations may be found here. I highly recommend checking out the rest of Ian Norman’s blog Lonely Speck. Lots of helpful info there to set you on the right path. Remember the guide gives you a starting point. You still must experiment to get the most from your experience.

Yours in Creative Photography,       Bob

Working on my settings for better quality imagery. Any lack of quality is purely operator error!

** The GH5 has two cards slots and can be set to behave in a variety of ways including to continue recording on the next card when one fills up. Very handy for lots of captures. When not gathering images for time-lapse the cards can be set to be an automatic back-up by writing to the cards simultaneously, RAW files to one card, jpegs to the other, videos to one card and stills to the other, etc. But I digress.

night time lapse

Time Lapse at Night – Clouds and Meteors

The Perseid Meteor shower was coming to a peak. I went out on the 11th of August to test out camera settings. It’s always better to practice before the ‘Big Show’ so you don’t end up spending time and not getting your images correct. I rarely do night time-lapse photography so I needed a refresher.

Good thing too!

MAJOR TIP! One thing you can never depend on is the LCD on the back of your camera when viewing images at night. Because your pupils are expanded because of the general darkness the light coming from your LCD looks nice and bright and full of detail. It’s a physics and eye thing. My images came out about two stops darker than I would have liked. That doesn’t mean I didn’t get anything. Just that the quality is not up to the snuff that I would like. A bit on the dark side. NEXT TIME IT’S BY THE NUMBERS.

Examples of time-lapse video made with Lumix GH5 and Lumix FZ2500 and Adobe PremierePro
(Click on the image above for two time_lapse segments lasting a little over a minute or so)

Three quarters of the noise in a digital file resides in the bottom, or left side, of the histogram. Conversely, three quarters of the best pixels reside on the right. When shooting night star scenes such as time-lapse video or star trails it’s better to get closer to over exposure and make your adjustments in post to keep the noise level at a minimum. You’ll see that in the images below.

Still form night tiime lapse sequence imageProcessed as a still from one of the images in the sequence. Made with Lumix FZ2500 (I underexposed this a lot! and was still able to pull a decent image)

bell courthouse red rocks in sedona photoThis image was produced with a still from the Lumix GH5 and the 12mm Leica Summilux f1.4 Lens This is a sweet piece of glass! I also underexposed this image but between the GH5 and Leica glass achieved a lot higher quality image.

I’ll share another shoot and some star/night shooting tips in an upcoming post.

Yours in creative Photography,        Bob

PS – the landscape was so bright at night because of the 1/2 moon shining down

 

slow motion humminbirds

Hummingbirds in Slow Motion

Testing out the slow motion in 4K Video with the Lumix GH5. Hummingbirds are a favorite of mine. They are fascinating to watch as they maneuver through the air. Here’s a short clip that tells so much about their feeding and territorial habits.

Slow Motion Hummingbirds (click on the video above to play

still image from hummingbird videoHere’s a still I grabbed from a very small section of the video frame

Video captured using the Leica 100-400mm lens

Yours in Creative Photography,       Bob

6K photo mode

6K Photo Mode post Focus – Lumix GH5

Ran into a very interesting phenomenon pointed out by my wife. She was working in the yard and saw these long strands of moving stuff. (tech talk here) Never saw anything like it. Turns out it was tens of thousands of Gnat larva on a migration.

I wanted to get a shot of the larva to help identify it. Grabbed the GH5, my Leica 45mm Macro-Elmarit f2.8 lens, and a small tripod and was having no success. Even at 6400 ISO I couldn’t get a sharp photo of the moving, writhing masses due to the macro lens and speed with which the larva was moving.

I decided to try the Post Focus Photo Mode just to see if it could help. The photo mode uses all 225 focus points in the camera and captures them in a 6K video. Each of those 225 frames can be pulled and processed into an eighteen meg-pixel photo. The intended use in the beginning was to allow the user to decide which focus point to use later. An addition to the mode is the ability to fuse all the frames together giving you just the sharpest bits. The beauty is this can be processed in camera. Focus stacking in camera! Able to give you a 50MB plus file.

gnat larva on the move photo6K Photo mode image focus stacked in camera.

Even though this was a moving mass because each focus point is being photographed separately it is stopped and in focus. When all the images are processed together I get a Depth of Field i couldn’t with a single capture it also processed the sharp areas into a still image even though there was lots of movement.

gnat migrationSingle capture of the same general subject.

The new technology can be leveraged in many ways to make it possible to create images in a different way.

I’m diggin’ it!!

Yours in Creative Photography,        Bob

international photographic competition 2017 artist

International Photographic Competition 2017 – Artist Category

You can check out the post from yesterday about my Photographic Open entries in the Professional Photographers of America IPC competition. In that post you will also see the elements that the judges use to make their determinations on scoring. In the Artist category those twelve elements are also an important part of the judging but there is additional criteria that has to do with how much work and the difficulty of it that goes into the creation of the image.

You will notice there are small reference images on the canvas. These are there to help the judges understand the starting point of the art. This helps them see the amount of work that went into the creation of the final piece.

Without further ado, here are my Artist entries.

wall of fame photo ipcWall of Fame – Artist entry. This image scored a 93 at District and unfortunately did not make it to the PPA Loan Collection. This particular image needs a champion and sees the amount of work that is required for each individual image, let alone the collection.

homage to salvador daliFull Moon Over Dali Swamp – This was a personal favorite as I created an homage to Salvadore Dali. The image started to evolve in my head while photographing at the Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Preserve. Seeing that tree in the water at the bottom of the reference images was the catalyst.

Iris artist submissionIris – Started with a ‘focus-stacked’ image of an iris and I then used Adobe Photoshop to paint the resulting image.

grand openingGrand Opening – This image was photographed and processed as above.

I have been participating in imaging competition for eighteen years and feel that it has been on of the most important parts of my education. The process gives you feedback on your work from professional image makers. This feedback and attention to detail force you to stretch and improve.

Yours in Creative Photography,      Bob

international photographic competition 2017

The International Photographic Competition (IPC) 2017

Professional Photographers of America (PPA) hold a photographic competition each year. Judges from around the country assemble in Georgia near Atlanta in the Gwinnitt Technical College in Lawrenceville. Five thousand eight hundred images were entered and reviewed over a four day period.

Images are judged against a twelve element standard as opposed to being judged against each other. Each artist is trying to achieve their best and it is an incredible event to witness. I had the privilege to be an entrant as well as a juror during the event. Fortunately, they don’t allow you to judge your own work. If they had I might have scored better, ; )>, but then I would not have learned near as much as I did. Here are the images from my Photographic Open entries and their results.

mates for life competition photoMates for Life – PPA Loan Collection Image

monolith competition photoMonolith – PPA General Collection Image

ever watchful competition photoEver watchful – PPA General Collection Image

mission san xavier competition photoMission San Xavier – Did Not Merit

The Twelve Elements

Twelve elements have been defined as necessary for the success of an art piece or image. Any image, art piece, or photograph will reveal some measure of all twelve elements, while a visually superior example will reveal obvious consideration of each one

The Twelve elements listed below.

Impact is the sense one gets upon viewing an image for the first time. Compelling images evoke laughter, sadness, anger, pride, wonder or another intense emotion. There can be impact in any of these twelve elements.

Technical excellence is the print quality of the image itself as it is presented for viewing. Retouching, manipulation, sharpness, exposure, printing, mounting, and correct color are some items that speak to the qualities of the physical print.

Creativity is the original, fresh, and external expression of the imagination of the maker by using the medium to convey an idea, message or thought.

Style is defined in a number of ways as it applies to a creative image. It might be defined by a specific genre or simply be recognizable as the characteristics of how a specific artist applies light to a subject. It can impact an image in a positive manner when the subject matter and the style are appropriate for each other, or it can have a negative effect when they are at odds.

Composition is important to the design of an image, bringing all of the visual elements together in concert to express the purpose of the image. Proper composition holds the viewer in the image and prompts the viewer to look where the creator intends. Effective composition can be pleasing or disturbing, depending on the intent of the image maker.

Presentation affects an image by giving it a finished look. The mats and borders used, either physical or digital, should support and enhance the image, not distract from it.

Color Balance supplies harmony to an image. An image in which the tones work together, effectively supporting the image, can enhance its emotional appeal. Color balance is not always harmonious and can be used to evoke diverse feelings for effect.

Center of Interest is the point or points on the image where the maker wants the viewer to stop as they view the image. There can be primary and secondary centers of interest. Occasionally there will be no specific center of interest, when the entire scene collectively serves as the center of interest.

Lighting—the use and control of light—refers to how dimension, shape and roundness are defined in an image. Whether the light applied to an image is manmade or natural, proper use of it should enhance an image.

Subject Matter should always be appropriate to the story being told in an image.

Technique is the approach used to create the image. Printing, lighting, posing, capture, presentation media, and more are part of the technique applied to an image.

Story Telling refers to the image’s ability to evoke imagination. One beautiful thing about art is that each viewer might collect his own message or read her own story in an image.

Tomorrow I’ll share my Artist entries in the competition.

Yours in Creative Photography,      Bob

density range gh5

Density Range of the Lumix GH5

Mucking about in New Orleans while in town speaking at the Professional Photographers Association of Louisiana last week. I took my relatively new ** Lumix GH5 and the Leica 12-60mm f2.8-4.0 lens out for a solid workout, keeping my camera with me at all times recording lots of different situations. It was a real eye-opener seeing what the camera was capable of recording.

Here is a great example of what got me very excited. As I was prowling the French Quarter just about dark after the sun fell below the horizon I captured this image of the Rev Zombie’s Voodoo Shop.

new orleans voodoo shop photoPhoto made from one image. No HDR involved. Detail in shadows and detail in the neon sign.

voodoo store hdr sequenceHDR sequence in the original capture. I used the middle exposure for the image processed above.

When out photographing random areas if I’m not certain that the camera can capture the entire dynamic range in a single image I’ll run a five stop bracket of the scene and then process the images in Aurora HDR software. I use Aurora because I’ve been able to achieve realistic results on a regular basis.

Just for fun I decided to forego the HDR software and see what I could pull from a single image just utilizing Adobe Camera RAW. There’s full detail in the brightest areas of the image and details in the shadows and the color is spot on for the scene.

Could I have made an even better image using the HDR software? Let’s see.

rev zombies voodoo shop photo hdrI’ll leave the decision up to to you. I seem to have been able to pull some more shadow detail. Lots of options are available in making the image tell the story we want these days. An exciting time in photography indeed.

Yours in Creative Photography,    Bob

** Smokin’ deal alert! Panasonic has bundled this camera lens combo for about $2600 saving 400 bucks from separate purchase.