Wildlife Photography Tips Part Two

It has taken a little longer than I wanted, but I finally got around to writing this second article on photographing wildlife. The writer in me is still struggling to get out, wants to keep hiding and do more interesting stuff like taking photographs rather than write about it. Let’s get started and see where it leads. If you would like to read the previous part, please see this link.

PLWLT-Part-II-Photo-01-600lb-Black-Bear-Copyright-Robert-J-Andersen

1) Do you have what it takes?

Wildlife photography can be so rewarding and so frustrating at the same time. It can be a challenge of patience and persistence and all those wonderful photos you see from wildlife photographers around the world took time and effort to get. What a photographer usually shows you on their website or portfolio is the best of their work, a hundred or so photos, sometimes more. What you don’t see is the amount of time it took them to get those photos or what they had to go through or just how many attempts were involved before they got what they were happy with. The featured photo of this article is of a huge wet 500lb black bear taken in New Hampshire, where I live. Let’s talk about that photo for a bit as it relates to this topic of “do you have what it takes”. I have lived in northern NH for five years and it is a place known to have many black bears, yet they are the ghost of the woods, the animal that hardly ever shows itself to you and a male that got to be this big is very aware and cautious. So I have been trying and trying for years to get really good black bear stuff, success in Yellowstone but not at home. It was a little frustrating to say the least, but I kept plugging away, got some keepers but nothing spectacular. Then this year (2014), things fell in place and all of a sudden I got a couple of beauties, photos that make my heart pound faster and take my breath away, the kind of photos that drive me through this crazy passion of getting great wildlife photos. This black bear (photo above and below) is as big as they get for a black bear and a rare opportunity here in New Hampshire, so all my years of hoping and trying finally paid off.

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How to Photograph Interior Domes of Popular Landmarks

Incredibly, the first domes date back to people living in the Mediterranean region 4,000 years BC. Since then, artists have created a fascinating variety of them all over the world. Still today, they are an essential part of modern architecture, as shown for example by Calatrava’s spectacular glass dome of the library of the Institute of Law in Zurich, Switzerland.

Unfortunately, most domes do not get the attention they really deserve. One reason is that many buildings, especially churches, are not well illuminated and the works of art can hardly be seen in the semidarkness. Another reason is that some domes, particularly those from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, are crowned by a lantern with separate windows which cause sharp contrasts. Furthermore, in bigger domes the details are far away from the observer on the ground, making it virtually impossible to study the subtle details of paintings. Finally – no surprise! – domes are located above you and looking upwards becomes strenuous for the cervical spine soon. The photographic technique described below helps to overcome some of these difficulties.

Praha Kreuzherrenkirche

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What is Ghosting and Flare?

When light rays coming from a bright source(s) of light (such as the sun or artificial light) directly reach the front element of a camera lens, they can reflect and bounce off different lens elements, diaphragm and even off the sensor, potentially degrading image quality and creating unwanted objects in images. Better known as lens “flare”, the effect can impact images in a number of ways: it can drastically reduce image contrast by introducing haze in different colors, it can add circular or semi-circular halos or “ghosts” and even odd-shaped semi-transparent objects of various color intensities. Flare is not always undesirable in photography though – sometimes in is used creatively to add artistic elements to images. In fact, lens flare is often deliberately added to movies and computer games to add a sense of realism and boost the visual experience of the viewer.

Dune Sunset Panorama

To help decide whether to use flare in images, it is a good idea to understand why it happens in the first place. Let’s go over the causes of flare in detail, then discuss ways to use, reduce or perhaps completely avoid it.

1) What is Lens Flare?

Lens flare occurs when a point of light source such as the sun is much brighter than the rest of the scene, and it either happens to be in the image (within lens angle of view), or simply hits the front element of a lens without being present in the image. Depending on the position of this bright light source, it can result in a lot of haze / lack of contrast, orbs and polygon artifacts scattered throughout the image, semi-round shapes with rainbow colors, or a combination of all of the above. This happens due to internal reflections that take place inside the lens and even between the imaging sensor and the lens (more on that below). Take a look at the below illustration:

Lens Flare

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What is Vignetting?

Vignetting, also known as “light fall-off” (sometimes spelled “light falloff”) is common in optics and photography, which in simple terms means darkening of image corners when compared to the center. Vignetting is either caused by optics, or is purposefully added in post-processing in order to draw the viewer’s eye away from the distractions in the corner, towards the center of the image. Depending on the type and cause of vignetting, it can be gradual or abrupt. There are a number of causes of optical vignetting – it can naturally occur in all lenses, or can be caused or increased/intensified due to use of external tools such as filters, filter holders and lens hoods. In this article, I will talk about each type of vignetting and also discuss ways to reduce or increase the amount of vignetting in photographs using post-processing software like Lightroom and Photoshop.

1) Types of Vignetting

As I have already pointed out in the introduction of this article, there are different types of vignetting that one might encounter when taking pictures or viewing images. Some types of vignetting are naturally caused by the optical design of lenses, others can occur when using third party accessories such as filters and extended hoods and some are artificially added by the photographer in post-production. Let’s take a look at each type in detail.

1.1) Optical Vignetting

Optical vignetting naturally occurs in all lenses. Depending on the optical design and construction of the lens, it can be quite strong on some lenses, while being barely noticeable on others. Still, vignetting occurs on most modern lenses, especially on prime / fixed lenses with very large apertures. There are two causes for this. First, at the widest apertures, the light than enters the lens is partially blocked by the lens barrel, as indicated by the below diagram:

Optical Vignetting

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Rocky Mountain High – Canadian Style – Part II

This year’s vacation choice was a simple one. Based on last year’s trip to the Canmore/Banff area, we realized there was much more to see of this beautiful region than time allowed. Many of the Photography Life readers were kind enough to suggest possible itineraries for our next trip. In particular, Cindy (a.k.a. “Alberta Girl”) gave us a detailed listing rivaling the length of my original article! Her recommendations served as the foundation for this year’s itinerary. If you are seeking to combine your love of photography with hiking, wildlife viewing, and breathtaking scenery, I would strongly urge you to consider the area around Banff National Park. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

1) Canmore – Home Away From Home

We stayed at Canmore’s Falcon Crest Lodge for our vacation last year. After we decided to return for another visit, we initially thought we might travel around the region, staying in different lodges located in Canmore, Lake Louise, Kananaskis, and Jasper every few 2-3 days. But the more we considered the areas we wished to visit, the more we liked the idea of using Canmore as our home base once again. The notion of packing up our belongings every few days and checking into a new lodge lost its appeal when we considered the logistics and time involved.

Canmore_Elk

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What is Distortion?

In photography, there are two types of distortions: optical and perspective. Both result in some kind of deformation of images – some lightly and others very noticeably. While optical distortion is caused by the optical design of lenses (and is therefore often called “lens distortion”), perspective distortion is caused by the position of the camera relative to the subject or by the position of the subject within the image frame. And it is certainly important to distinguish between these types of distortions and identify them, since you will see them all quite a bit in photography. The goal of this article is to explain each distortion type in detail, with illustrations and image samples.

1) Optical Distortion

In photography, distortion is generally referred to an optical aberration that deforms and bends physically straight lines and makes them appear curvy in images, which is why such distortion is also commonly referred to as “curvilinear” (more on this below). Optical distortion occurs as a result of optical design, when special lens elements are used to reduce spherical and other aberrations. In short, optical distortion is a lens error.

There are three known types of optical distortion – barrel, pincushion and mustache / moustache (also known as wavy and complex). Let’s examine each in more detail, but before we do that, let’s take a look at a lens with zero distortion:

No Distortion

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Time Saving Tips for Wedding Photographers

Summertime for wedding photographers in the northern hemisphere can be quite hectic! Since the beginning of May I have been shooting 3-5 portraits sessions and 1-2 weddings per week – that means before I have little time to process, edit, and complete a session/wedding before I am already onto the next one. It goes without saying that good time management is crucial for not falling behind. In this article, I will share a few time savings tips for busy photographers like me.

1 Laura Murray Wedding Photography Tips

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Hiring a Second Shooter for Wedding Photography

Many photographers prefer to have second shooters to help them out during events, especially big weddings. Hiring or becoming a second photographer to work along with you on a job might be very complicated, tricky and sometimes downright nightmarish. You hire a photographer to come and help you out during one of the biggest weddings of your season, and the photographer shows up late, completely unprepared, with empty batteries, no flash and a completely different camera system. If you wish to avoid such situations, read this post up and make yourself thoroughly prepared. It sure is a hard job to let someone else represent your business. But when you are ready, you can make the experience both pleasant and even memorable for all parties involved.

Hiring a second shooter (7)

1) The difference between a second shooter and an assistant

First things first, without diving into semantics too deep, I want to clarify the difference between a second shooter and an assistant. A second shooter is a photographer that is called/asked/hired to work alongside the main photographer for a particular event. An assistant, on the other hand, is not necessarily a photographer – it could be anyone that is hired to assist the main photographer in carrying his/her gear and perform simple tasks like holding lights, reflectors, etc. While second shooters can also perform assistant roles (if agreed upon earlier), keep in mind that they could be skilled professionals, just like you. Assistants, on the other hand, can be interns or student photographers, who are hired to assist and who are there to learn. Regardless of who you choose to work with, a binding contract with clearly stated duties and dues should be put together and signed in advance.

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Nikon D7100 Infrared Conversion

I have a very unique Nikon D7100 – it is likely the first unit converted for infrared use – in the world. My D7100 is also likely the first to undergo two infrared conversions (more on this in a bit). I was fortunate to receive my D7100 from B&H as part of the first wave of product shipments. Apart from a night of putting the DSLR through its paces to ensure that there were no focusing problems or other issues, I didn’t have the D7100 for very long. For the many reasons Nasim outlined in his detailed D7100 review, and being very familiar with its predecessor, the D7000, I liked what I saw of this DSLR’s capabilities.

D7100 and 720nm filter

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What is Field Curvature?

Field Curvature, also known as “curvature of field” or “Petzval field curvature”, is a common optical problem that causes a flat object to appear sharp only in a certain part(s) of the frame, instead of being uniformly sharp across the frame. This happens due to the curved nature of optical elements, which project the image in a curved manner, rather than flat. And since all digital camera sensors are flat, they cannot capture the entire image in perfect focus, as shown in the below illustration:

Field Curvature

In a simple field curvature scenario like above, the light rays are perfectly focused in the center of the frame, at Image Plane A (where the sensor is). Since the image is curved, sharpness starts to drop as you move away from the center, resulting in less resolution in the mid-frame and much less resolution in the corners. The circular “dome-like” image in three dimensional form is shown to the right of the illustration. If the corner of the image is brought into focus, which would move the image plane closer (Image Plane B), the corners would appear sharp, while mid-frame would stay less sharp and the center would appear the softest. The effect of field curvature can be very pronounced, especially with older lenses.

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