Friday, December 30, 2011

Moving the camera to stop motion

The usual goal in photography is to create an exceptionally sharp image. If you're photographing a bird, for example, most photographers want an image that's so sharp you can see every feather on the bird and every barb on the feather.

To capture that, you typically need a sturdy tripod, a cable release, lots of light — and a stationary subject.

But what if the light is dim and your subject is moving? That's when you need to pan — moving the camera with your subject. It involves moving the camera so that your subject is always at the same spot in the image.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dramatic sunsets: Two shows daily

If you're out photographing a sunset and you're not happy with what you get, you can try again. In a half hour.

For photography purposes, there are two sunsets every night. The sun actually sets below the horizon just once, but the dramatic golden color on mountains and clouds happens twice.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Photographing the elusive northern lights

For the next couple years, you'll have a better-than-average chance of seeing and photographing the northern lights.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

iPad photography (business) apps

Judging by the number of articles written about the iPad over the past few months, you wouldn't think we would need another. But I think we do.

Most of the articles I've seen are obsessed with using it as a camera. They go on and on about all the creative effects you can buy and use. But my camera is my camera; my iPad is a tool for getting my photography business work done when I'm away from the office.

With that, here's my list of useful apps. Some are directly related to photography; others are applicable to any small business.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A tripod with sea legs

People often ask me what they can do to improve their images. Often, I reply, "Get a tripod."

I'm a firm believer in tripods, so to speak. They allow you to capture sharp images that could be impossible to capture with shaky hands. They also slow you down. In the time it takes to set up your equipment, you can also think about whether your first idea for a composition is really the best it can be. Nearly all of my images were captured from a tripod.

This one wasn't. And it wouldn't be anywhere near as good if it had been.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Big Picture

I rarely crop my images. There's nothing wrong with cropping; I just find that most of the time, the relatively wide 35mm frame works for me.

But every now and then, I want something wider. Really wide. Perhaps 10 times the width of a traditional 35mm frame. A serious panorama.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Getting to know all about you

For as much time as I've spent watching this bald eagle nest, I should be on a first name basis with the owners. The eagles don't talk much, so I'll just assume their names are Eddie and Ellen.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Raining? Use an umbrella, not a lens cap.

It's a gray day in Seattle, just like yesterday, the day before, and the week before that. It's the end of May, and I've been able to barbeque only twice so far this year. And one of those times was in the rain.

So what does this have to do with nature photography? If you only photograph (or barbeque) when the weather is just right, there may be long periods of time when you don't get to do it.

You may have to change your photographic style a bit.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Stunning shorebird migration zig-zags into Grays Harbor

It's late April and the sun is just beginning to rise over the Bowerman Basin, a muddy bay in Washington's Grays Harbor.
Very little mud is visible right now. One of the highest tides of the month, 8½ feet, is covering much of the mud. Tens of thousands of shorebirds are covering the rest. And more shorebirds are on the way.
Over the span of a few weeks, maybe a million shorebirds will stop here. The flock consists mainly of western sandpipers, dunlin, two varieties of dowitchers, and plover.
They're on their way to breeding grounds in Alaska and northern Canada, but given that some started in Chile and Argentina, they tend to take a few regular breaks on their way north. Grays Harbor is one of the few major stopovers.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Everything old can be new again

Last month, I wrote about sharing a small vantage point in Yosemite National Park with hundreds of other people, all hoping to catch one of the most photographed natural events in the park. This month, I want to talk about how to do your own thing despite that.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Everybody's doing it (and you should too)

I'm waiting in knee-deep snow for a natural light show that may or may not happen. So are hundreds of other photographers. Any parking space within a half mile of good vantage point was claimed three or four hours before show time.

We're all waiting for the setting sun to light up Horsetail Falls, a thin thread of a waterfall that occasionally glides down El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. For a few weeks in February, if the conditions are just right, the setting sun will make the waterfall appear as if it were on fire.

Monday, January 17, 2011

And now, something different

Imagine a print by Ansel Adams. You're probably thinking of a black and white image, impeccably sharp and detailed, perhaps of Yosemite. Now visualize something by Monet. You're probably seeing a vividly colorful "impressionistic" painting, perhaps of a Japanese bridge or the French coast.

A lot of artists have a definitive style. You can see a piece and instantly know that it is an Adams, for example. Cultivating a style can be key to developing your own brand as an artist.

But you may also want to try something else.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My Best Images of 2010

Ansel Adams once said that producing "twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop." I'm not going to go so far as to call these 12 images significant, but of the images I produced in 2010, they are my favorites. At least for now. My tastes change over time.

I posted my first "12 best" set last year, prompted by photographer Jim Goldstein. I'm doing it again because it's a worthwhile exercise. It can help you identify themes that you're passionate about so you can focus on them in the New Year. It can help you see where you're in a rut.

It can also help you feel better about your work. Creating a significant image is incredibly difficult. It's easy to get frustrated by uncooperative weather or wildlife. Reviewing your best work of the year can help you see the photographic drought was never as long as it seemed at the time.

So here are my favorites, in no particular order: