While looking through the 2011 photographs, I realized that I shot very few wildlife images last year. Part of it has to do with the fact that I was too busy testing equipment, but I also realized that I just did not get out locally as much as I used to in order to photograph birds and other wildlife of Colorado. A large number of great wildlife shots from Yellowstone and Glacier NP were lost during my two week trip across North-Western US as well, due to my own fault. All in all, 2011 was just not a good wildlife year for me. Hopefully I will do better in 2012. Enjoy!
Happy New Year! The Mansurovs are back after a short holiday, with some photos to share from 2011. At the end of each year, I go back and start reviewing what I have photographed. It is a very long and painful process, because I have to sort through tens of thousands of images and pick the ones that I think are worthy of getting published as wallpapers on our website, in addition to being featured in our portfolio (I know, the images in the portfolio are very old, but I am working on updating it). While the process is very time consuming, if you have not gone back and reviewed your images from last year, I highly recommend that you do. It is a great exercise to re-evaluate your work and understand your weaknesses. You should be a better photographer now than you were a year ago, so see what you like and you don’t about your pictures. Are you seeing a significant improvement in your work? How do the images from last year compare to the images from the year before? Once you pick your favorites (which you should limit to 100 images max and don’t forget to flag them in Lightroom), invite your friends and family to look at your images. If you have any photographer friends, ask them to help you out with this. Tell them to be very critical and only pick the images that communicate with them. Let them vote on each images and give a star rating from 1 to 5. Walk out of the room and come back when they are done. Filter Lightroom by 5 stars and see how many images you are left with. Then ask your friends/family to tell you why they chose those particular images, find out what they felt about each photo. Also ask them what they feel is missing in each image they picked – perhaps there are some things they see that you did not see before. Trust me, this kind of feedback is invaluable. It is OK if the feedback is very harsh – you should welcome any criticism. In fact, you need to learn to be very critical of your work.
This is the first part of my 2011 landscape favorites. Please note that some of the images you will be seeing in the “Best of 2011” wallpaper collection have already been posted earlier last year in various articles, but in much smaller resolution. If you are looking for technical data, like Camera type, Lens and Exposure information, you will find it in the EXIF data. Enjoy!
I have been so busy during the last couple of months, that I have not had a chance to work on any of the images from my recent trips. October is always a busy month for me, because I try to travel as much as I can in Colorado and Wyoming to capture the fall colors. This year was different than the previous several years, because we got some heavy snow in the mountains right when the leaves started changing colors. Because of this, many of the areas lost a lot of leaves very quickly. The window of opportunity to capture the beauty was only about 5-7 days and unfortunately, I was a little late (but more on that later).
Here is an image of fall colors right before we got hit with the heavy snow:
The photograph was taken with the Nikon D7000 and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens, without any filters. Actually, I could not use a filter, because the image was shot as a panorama (24 vertical images). As I have explained in my “how to photograph panoramas” article, using filters while photographing panoramas is a bad idea. Although the lighting conditions were ideal with the sun directly behind me, I was actually surprised by how the D7000 captured the scene. Its dynamic range is indeed very impressive and it just makes very colorful and beautiful images.
Post-processing in Photoshop took me about 5 minutes after stitching the image. I first started out by cropping the stitched image, then brightened up the shadows a little and adjusted the levels. Sharpened it up by around 40% in Nik’s Sharpener Pro, then saved and closed the image. The image popped up in Lightroom, I then increased the clarity a little to bring out the clouds and the trees, then exported from Lightroom at 80% resolution, adding our watermark using the same technique described in my “how to watermark a photo in Lightroom” article.
The drive from Montana to Washington was beautiful. I really wanted to stop in many different locations and take more pictures, but I had a set and compressed schedule that I did not want to change. It was rainy and wet at Mount Rainier, which is quite normal at this time of the year. The snow was everywhere though and it turned out that I was there too early. Should have done my homework. I wanted to take pictures of wildflowers, but because of the high snow accumulation this year, there were very few areas in the park where you could find them. Apparently, the best time to be there is late August to early September. Oh well! I still managed to take some good waterfall pictures though:
Here are some photos that I decided to share with you from Yellowstone NP and Glacier NP from my trip across the Western USA. I have not done much processing on these yet, which I am hoping to do during the next few weeks. The images from Yellowstone NP are from the Nikon D5100 that I was testing – all images from my Nikon D3s were on the card that I unfortunately lost somewhere in Yosemite NP. All landscape images of Yellowstone are lost, so I only have some wildlife + wildflower shots to show.
While in Yellowstone, there was not a day when I did not see black bears. First day I was super excited about seeing a bear cub walk alone and eat flowers, so I took several hundred pictures of him eating, resting and playing. My favorite picture was with the cub sitting in between many wildflowers. Of course those pictures are all gone, so it is only a memory. During the next bear encounters, I only photographed when the bears were close. For the first couple of shots, I would use the Nikon D5100 and then switch to my D3s, due to better and more accurate autofocus. Here are some images of bears from the Nikon D5100 + Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR combo.
This is a black bear that some call “Cinnamon” bear:
From the bottom of our hearts we thank everyone, who made it today to our Portrait and Wedding Photography workshop. We are honored to have spent our day with great photographers and amazing friends. Although we do not have a picture of all of us together (I don’t know how we forgot that!), I am sure we will meet again and have another opportunity to have lots of fun and help each other out! Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to go through post-processing this time and we are hoping to cover it next Saturday.
Our utmost special thanks go to Eric Abbott and his beautiful wife D’Ann Carle Abbott, who own multiple My Favorite Muffin Bakery Cafes in Denver Area. Eric brought us a big variety of mini muffins and we devoured them with pleasure. Honestly, I haven’t had muffins this good EVER! Huge thanks!
Kudos to my favorite makeup artist and a very good friend Sameera for the fabulous work she does. Thank you for everything you do for me!
Special thanks to Hilton Garden Inn Cherry Creek for hosting our workshops!
Here is a portrait of our beautiful model, Leeza from the day. I hope we will be able to cover a lot more in our next workshop, in which we will go through Flash Photography in depth.
We just got back from a two week vacation in Florida and we are back on track with a workshop schedule update for free workshops coming up during the next few weeks. The dates are now finalized, with the following information and schedules (please see the bottom of this page on how to sign up for a workshop):
May 29 – Introduction to Photography
- Location and time: Roxborough State Park, May 29 @ 9 AM
- The Exposure Triangle (Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO) and White Balance
- Introduction to DSLR cameras and lenses
- Camera modes and how to shoot in manual mode
- Metering modes and exposure compensation
- Autofocus and manual focus operation
- Taking sharp photos
- Shutter speed and creative photography
- Shooting scenarios (portraits, landscapes, action, etc)
- Basics of composition
- Depth of field and bokeh
Update: We are meeting in the parking lot of the park
I am putting together a schedule of workshops that Lola and I will be organizing during the next few months. Many of our readers have been asking whether we conduct workshops or not and we are excited to announce that we will be hosting a number of free photography workshops in Colorado this year. Why free? Because first, this is what our website is all about – to give free knowledge to our readers, and second, both Lola and I love sharing our knowledge and helping out struggling photographers.
The workshops will be divided by categories (landscape, portraiture, etc) and levels (beginner to advanced), so we will go through a lot of content. In addition to outdoor photography workshops, the plan is to also host some post-processing workshops, but it will depend on whether we can find free conference space or not.
It has been a while since I photographed birds. A couple of weeks ago, I went to a local park to scout for some birds. Although I did not get a good opportunity to photograph small birds, I found a couple of hawks that were willing to somewhat cooperate. The first one let me watch him on an electric pole for a little, right before he dove down to get a dead rabbit:
Too bad he turned the other way…would have been a nice shot. The rabbit was pretty heavy, so he did not make it very far. I guess food was scarce and he just decided to feed off the rabbit carcass. After a short while, he abandoned the carcass and went back to sit on a tree branch:
This is a bonus post to my Best of 2010 series, with pictures that did not make it to landscape or wildlife categories. I’m posting images that have received positive feedback from our readers and some of the below images were specifically requested to be provided in high resolution.
Some of our readers sent me emails and posted comments, asking if any of the images I have posted so far were processed in HDR software. With the exception of one image called “Sunrise“, every single picture I have posted so far is a non-HDR image. The dynamic range and soft shadows you see in the wallpapers are a result of RAW images from a full-frame sensor (although some images were shot with D90 and D300s cameras) and a little “Fill Light” use in Lightroom. Obviously good technique and use of various filters do play a substantial role here, as explained in my landscape photography tips article. When I really want to bring out the shadows, I typically overexpose by a stop, which gives me plenty of detail to recover. If the sky is blown out because of this, I will shoot in brackets of three and then pick one image to work with in Lightroom. Another key is to try to photograph early in the mornings or late afternoons – that’s when the shadows are always light and soft, giving an “HDR” feel to photographs.
I hope you liked the “Best of 2010″ collection!