Best Focal Length to Get Into Wildlife Photography

What’s the BEST Lens for Wildlife Photography? If I had a nickel for every time I was asked this question, I could retire. It’s a very common and extremely valid question to ask. And to cut right to the chase, there is no one or right answer to this question. And that’s for many reasons from you, the photographer to the subject and most importantly, to the story you want to tell with your photograph. But there is a focal length that gets used over and over again and I feel is the best one to start with.

Allen's Hummingbird

400mm, you simply can’t go wrong with this focal length however you get to it. It’s the focal length I started with and depended on for the first years of my career. It’s the lessons I learned from that lens and some of the images it created that got me to this point. You can get to this focal length in many ways, 300mm f/4 with a converter, 80-400mm, 200-400mm or a 400mm prime. No matter how you get there or which lens you have, you have the same angle of view and that’s key.

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The Riddle of Intermediate ISO Settings

I guess today is a “blow your mind” Friday, because we have a guest post here by Iliah Borg, the person behind the RawDigger software that is used to analyze RAW images. I had a chance to engage in a conversation with Iliah when discussing the noise performance of the Nikon Df, where he not only proved me wrong on my assumption that the Df had exactly the same sensor as the D4 (turns out that they are similar, but not exactly the same), but also shared some incredible information about testing procedures, data analysis and other crazy, mind-boggling stuff! The learning curve with photography never ends, especially when you get into the whole sensor and image processing pipeline side of it. I must warn our readers though – the below article is very technical and is not intended for beginners! Hope you enjoy it! Nasim.

If one is shooting raw, they might be interested to know if there is any benefit in using intermediate ISO settings like ISO 125, 160, etc. There is no single answer to this question, because it depends on implementation of these intermediate ISO settings in the particular camera. Sometimes they are implemented the same way as the main ISO settings, but other times they are a result of certain manipulations, like digital multiplication.

To demonstrate how this can be determined, we will first analyze the so-called Masked Pixels (often called optically black area, or simply OB), which is a portion of the sensor that we normally do not see in our images. It is covered from light, so it can be a good indicator of the lowest possible noise of the sensor, while noise is what we analyze to learn how to use a given sensor optimally. We are taking a series of shots at varying ISO settings, from the lowest to the highest and, of course, using all intermediate ISO settings available. The subject of the shots can be anything – you can even shoot with a lens’ cap on.

Next, bring the first shot of the series into RawDigger and set RawDigger preferences to display the black frame (Display Options, Masked Pixels checkbox, checked) and not to subtract black Level (Data Processing, Subtract Black checkbox, unchecked).

RawDigger Preferences 1

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Yosemite Valley in Autumn

Here in California, we do not have the autumn hues to rival New Hampshire or Colorado. Nevertheless, the Sierra Nevada mountain range attracts a good number of photographers and seekers of fall colors every autumn. Yosemite Valley, situated on the western slopes of the Sierras has its own display, thanks to the Black Oaks, Maple, Cottonwoods and Dogwoods, which flourish here. Apart from these, there is the famous Elm tree in Cook’s meadow, which in peak color offers a memorable light show at sunrise and I believe it to be the most photographed Elm in the world.

Yosemite in Autumn (3)

Yosemite in Autumn (12)

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Guide to Photographic Photo Paper

Photographic photo papers are designed to produce a high quality image in an effort to best reproduce the photographed object. How good or bad the paper is at meeting this objective will depend on the type of printer, type of ink and of course the subject of this guide; the type of photo paper. In this guide we will explain the various considerations to take into account when evaluating your options.

Inford Photo Paper

Inkjet Vs. Laser Photo Paper

The mostly widely adopted technology by the professional printing community is the Inkjet printer technology. Laser printing is able to outperforming Inkjet printing in terms of speed, but it lacks the accuracy that high quality photographs require. Laser uses melted powder-like substance in CMYK colours, while Inkjet uses the same colours though liquid ink form that are delivered to the paper by means of small jets (hence Ink-Jet). This method of printing can achieve 2880Dpi vs. 720Dpi commonly found in laser printers. Therefore from here on, the various parameters for choosing photo paper will refer to the Inkjet type.
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Portrait Photography Tips

In this article, Patrick Downs is providing very useful portrait photography tips to our readers, sharing his experience and beautiful images that he has taken as a professional photographer. As a photojournalist for 25 years and shooting for much longer, I may have a different or expanded definition of what a portrait is, and what it takes to produce them. There are genres of portraiture, of course, such as: editorial, corporate, commercial/retail, documentary or candid, and illustrative portraits. With some you exercise almost no control (e.g., William Albert Allard), and with others almost total control (e.g., Annie Leibovitz). There is no right or wrong answer … the photographer chooses their style! There are many photographers whose portraits I love, and not all of them are pure portrait photographers. Allard is a documentary photographer, but his found portraits are wonderful. Annie L. imposes her will on her subjects, but the results are fascinating and something I’d love to be able to do. If I were to pick my top 3 pure portraitists, it might be Arnold Newman, Gregory Heisler, and Annie L, in no special order. I went back and read my Arnold Newman’s “One Mind’s Eye” the other day, and was struck by how many of his images don’t use “perfect” light by today’s standards, but so many are amazing. This one, of Igor Stravinsky, is still one of the most brilliant photo portraits ever taken, I think. It’s interesting to know that Greg Heisler was one of Newman’s last assistants.

Arnold Newman

I have (too many) other favorite portraitists, for sure: Albert Watson, Mark Seliger, Mary Ellen Mark, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Avedon, Art Streiber, Dan Winter, Peter Yang, Brad Trent, and photojournalist Joe McNally, who is really a great generalist. I know I’m forgetting many.

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Documentary Photography in Conflict Zones

“Landscape” and “documentary” are two of the most celebrated genres in the photographic arts. These traditions are also the inspiration for the photographic images in my primary area of work as a historical geographer focusing on what is arguably the world’s most intractable geo-political dispute – the Israeli / Palestinian conflict. “Photographs furnish evidence,” the cultural critic, Susan Sontag conceded in an otherwise critical examination of the documentary genre in her work, On Photography (1973). The photographs in this collection for Photography Life build on Sontag’s observation in an effort to reveal how aspects of this protracted conflict have become embedded in the Palestinian landscape.

Documenting Palestine in Photographs © Gary Fields 9

While the Israeli / Palestinian conflict has generated impassioned debate about its causes and consequences, there is little debate that these hostilities have altered the patterns of daily life for both Israelis and Palestinians. At the same time, most observers who travel to the region would probably admit that everyday life on the Palestinian side has been transformed in a more fundamental way. Despite the recent lull in hostilities, the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza are conflict zones. In these areas photographers confront very specific rules established by military authorities limiting the type of images that can be taken, along with cultural conventions that place certain subjects out-of-bounds.

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How Stock Photography built my Grammar

Some photographers may have been fortunate enough to obtain professional guidance in their early endeavors at serious photography. I, on the other hand, belong to the camp that had to do on their own. I built most of my photography knowledge through my stock photography experience. My stock work and the associated challenges helped develop my photography grammar.

Stock Photography (1)

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What is an Extension Tube?

Our readers frequently ask us about extension tubes for macro photography. Since I am not much into macro myself, I have not explored this area of photography enough to qualify to write about it. While I have done some macro photography for product shots and ring shots in weddings with my Nikon 105mm f/2.8G VR lens (a very sharp lens that I absolutely love), I have not explored its full capabilities and I have not tried to use extension tubes and bellows to do crazy things that you can achieve with a true macro setup. Meanwhile, our readers have been gracious enough to fill in, and I have recently received the below post from one of our readers, Usama Nasir, who talks about what extension tubes are and how they are used in macro photography.

Extension Tubes

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Extend Your DSLR with a Mirrorless Camera

Most photographers, whether professional or amateur, as much as they love their photographic gear, loathe the notion of lugging around tons of heavy equipment. What’s the solution, you may ask? Well, some would say, “why don’t you get a portable point-n‐shoot”, or “invest in one of those smaller mirrorless cameras”. Others disagree amusingly and grab their bulky DSLR with a smug on their face!

You might have found yourself in one of those tricky scenarios, where you really wanted to carry your bulky camera and yet you wished it was a few pounds lighter, a tad bit smaller but still gave you pleasing results. Thanks to technology whiz-­kids in the camera land, we have had a flurry of compact cameras being introduced recently that offer plenty of bells & whistles to satisfy even the most demanding consumer / prosumer, and professionals alike for their specific needs. Having said that, I admit these cameras may not entirely deliver quality that rivals pro level DSLR’s yet it’s suffice to say they pack quite a punch for intended purposes.

A shot from lower Michigan Ave. by the Chicago river

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Adventures of Traveling Cars by Kim Leuenberger

This guest post is a little different than the ones that we have been posting here at Photography Life. It is not coming from an established pro photographer. It is from an aspiring photographer, Kim Leuenberger, who works hard on bringing something unique to the world of photography, something we do not get to see every day in the never-ending sea of imagery on the Internet. I think a lot of our readers can relate to her and might find her work inspiring. I really liked her concept of Traveling Cars and asked Kim to share a little tip on how she post-processes her car photos.

Traveling Cars (15)

My pondering and wondering

My name is Kim Leuenberger, I’m 21 and I’m a big dreamer! My imagination is so wide and over productive, so I have to find ways to let things go off of my head (so I don’t explode). I’m very close to nature, and I spend most of my time alone, which can be quite heavy at times. I love to get my feelings out through art. As a kid I used to have my own “throw-away” Kodak, and we would develop it and put it in a small album. My parents would tell me how to improve, and it went on like this for years, until The family got a digital camera. After the purchase I could practice as much as i wanted.

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