I am trying a new processing method: rather flat, low contrast, with smooth tones. Let me know how you like it! Image taken in Everglades National Park at Mrazek Pond, with soft lighting from a mostly overcast sky. Mrazek Pond is nearly useless in full sunlight in the morning, due to the only angle one can get on the birds.
An America the Beautiful Pass is only 80 USD!!! This pass gives a person access to all federal recreational lands with no further fee (unless they try to bring in a canoe, which gets them for extra!). This vast freedom includes all national parks, national wildlife refuges, national monuments, and other related lands and facilites. This pass gets a person and all the folks with him in his car into the park with no additional charge!!!
The Florida Annual Park Pass? 60 USD. And, it admits ONLY ONE PERSON! ONLY ONE PERSON??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? A National Pass can get me and my entourage into the Grand Canyon, Denali, Everglades National Park, Glacier National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Redwoods, Olympus, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and so many more of the most iconic places in the entire world!!! These are the places National Geographic shows us, which calendars display, and Ansel Adams photographed. If I wish to bring my entourage into a Florida State Park with a Florida Pass, it costs 2 bucks extra per person. How much for a family pass? 120 USD!!!
The charge 1.5 times MORE for a family pass than the America the Beautiful pass, and mostly all I can see with it are places not worth remembering! To be sure, there are some good parks, and that be the rub… Riverbend, Jonathan Dickinson…
I think I need to write a letter to Congress to get them to adversely acquire all state parks around the Jupiter region, and call them “Atlantic Ridge National Wildlife Refuge”. They would be better run, have more amenities, and possibly even attract a volcano to erect some new epic national monument!
PS Bill Baggs State Park has no friends! But Biscayne Bay National Park has hoards of friends.
PPS To increase usage, get a reasonable pricing for the stupidly priced family pass…
This is a cool dominant color harmony image. The neck and bill of the reddish egret provides the warm accent, with the remainder of the image, both subject and setting, are cool. The overall effect of using green and blue together is very soothing; the warmth adds a mellow balance.
How to get a smooth background on a bird image? In brief,
1. Get low. Getting low puts the angle of the focus plane completely off the focal plane. In this image, I was level with the background, and could go no lower, based on the terrain (a boardwalk).
2. Shoot long. The longer the focal length, the easier it will be to blur the world. However, in this image, the I was using my longest focal length.
3. Shoot wide open. With my lens and TC combo I was using (300 2.8 + 2x TC), I like to stop down a full stop to give me better sharpness. Also, the large birds can end up rather out of focus in the wrong parts with too broad an aperture.
4. Position the background as far as possible from the subject. The subject was flying to and from an area where he was gathering sticks, and flying his pattern rather regularly. There was no perceivable way to get him farther.
5. Get as close as possible to the subject. Remember the boardwalk? This was as close as I could get.
6. Post processing. Once the image has been captured, it is possible, and often quite desirable, to render the background more out of focus in the post processing stage. This was not done on this image, however…
Because I actually like the background! The vegetation and water provide an excellent frame for the bird with the curve they make as they meet. The out of focus vegetation is still recognizable as vegetation. The bird’s natural environment is shown here. However, I do not like environmental context for all images all the time. This is art; there is no crime in processing or not processing. The decision is the artists’! The paint is photons and a sensor, as well as some digits in binary. In making the decision of how to process, the goal is not to simply copy what is vogue, but to deliberately select exactly to create in the final image, to express the message desired.
This image was slightly out of focus when taken; I believe that the bird had flown through the focus area. I really liked the bird’s pose, so I tried some Richardson-Lucy Deconvolution on the image. I managed to recover the image, to some degree. There’s not a whole lot of fine detail, but, it is better than it was. I will try this on some more images, and experiment with images where the eye is out of focus.
This guy was seen at Shark Valley; I tried a new sharpening method learned from Arthur Morris’ pdf, Digital Basics, https://store.birdsasart.com/shop/item.aspx?itemid=252 (Home Site http://www.birdsasart-blog.com) I used what he teaches in the sharpening section. In this instance, I sharpened at 450, Radius .8, 0 Threshhold, with the image at full size. I had not tried this before, but was impressed at the level of detail it revealed. I also had first run noiseware on it though, www.imagenomic.com/nw.aspx. The lesson we can learn from this image, if nothing else, is to keep on learning and growing. The path of improvement is through change, and change comes when we listen. Sometimes, we are too smart for our own good and miss out on valuable learning opportunities because we would not humble ourselves to listen. Go out and learn something new this year! Stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone! Embrace change!
Today’s photography lesson is persistence. When I took this image, I was leaving Arthur Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, but had my gear ready, just in case something would appear. At Lox NWR, the water levels were too high for many birds to be in the impoundments, so I left for Green Cay. Never quit trying!
Here is a view of a storm approaching over Mount Massive. At this time, I was descending (thanks to Jesus!). This view is near the treeline on the North Elbert Trail. Mount Massive looks less massive than it should due to use of wide angle focal length, 24mm Fullframe, my 5D (16mm on 7D). This is a rather processed image; I darkened the sky by about two stops, then added local contrast by way of the Tonal Contrast in Nik Colorefex.
One of the biggest struggles in mountain photography is dynamic range. Very frequently there is a 5+ stop dynamic range difference between parts of the image. I got off easy in this image. For many, a ND-Grad is necessary, or HDR. I prefer HDR, because I hate the way ND grads make the tops of mountains look weird (I can almost always tell when people use an nd grad!!!). Many do use them to very aesthetic effect, and their images look quite good (http://imagesofrmnp.com/). Still, even in many of the best pictures, I can still see the graduated density filter effect. HDR done badly, however, is a nightmarish monstrosity. Halos and posterization is MUCH MUCH MUCH worse than a bit of unnatural darkening of peaks. Good HDR is invisible, and subtle like the spices of a master chef.
How to build the Intelligent yet Affordable Beginner System:
A. Avoid Pitfalls!
1. Don’t buy what you don’t need. (Corallary: Know what you need and why you need it before you buy it!)
There are a whole lot of shiny things out there… Don’t blow your budget on junk! Know what you need and get a basic grasp of what you are trying to do (if you are dedicated, this will become refined a few months down the road…)
2. Don’t buy the latest, greatest, or most expensive.
You don’t need fullframe to start photography. Actually, you don’t want it either! You also don’t need the latest model camera. Choose a basic yet competent body. Lens choicing we will get to below. Which leads to:
3. Don’t buy into an ineffective system.
Canon, Nikon or Pentax. The rest are still trying to figure it out. Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, et all are not good basic system camera sets. Next post we will evaluate what makes an effective system. The mirrorless crew can be part of a system, but they will not make the system, specifically for our point of interest, adventure photography (wildlife, landscape, etc…).
B. Choose the Right Lenses
1. Base your system more around your lenses than your camera.
Your camera you will replace more frequently than your lenses. Especially if you follow my advice and get in your beginning stages an inexpensive camera. Right now, the T2i is a great camera for the aspiring photographer. It has the same sensor as the 7D, at a much lower price. Until the camera becomes a significant limitation, using an entry level model will save you money and weight and help you figure out what you really want in an relatively painless manner.
2. Start with a 50 1.8.
This lens will teach you how to see. You will be able to use it to effectively capture images in low light, to easily isolate subjects from their background, and capture fascinating details of your surroundings. However, this lens is not long enough, nor is it wide enough… You will need others…
3. Get an effective mid range zoom and tele zoom.
Don’t drop a lot of money on this. You need to figure out what will work and what won’t for you at this stage. Get a 17-85mm lens off ebay for about 180-200. Get a 75-300 lens off ebay for about the same. Don’t worry about ultra wide or ultra long yet; both are hard to use effectively. The above lenses will serve you well, but, if you are dedicated to learning and growing, you will outgrow them soon…
Why inexpensive lenses? You will invest very little into these lenses, but learn a lot from them. Likely, you will drop them some learning how to control your gear. If they get dunked, smashed, or otherwise killed, you will cry little. You will indeed out grow them. Next article in the series will tell you where to go from there.
C. Add the Following
The following pieces will stay in your gear selection for a while, so don’t skimp on them!
1. Shoulder Strap
This piece is much more important than it may seem. The problem with a neck strap (like your camera retails with) is that it will cause great discomfort with more than only minor use (I one carried a 7D + 300 f4 for 5 hours on a neck strap. It hurt.). Moreover, wearing your camera on a neckstrap will make you look rather neophyte-esque. And, finally, a neck strap will cause your camera to get in your way when you try to do stuff. Use a shoulder strap. They are much more comfortable, and much more user-friendly. The blessed ease of swinging a camera up from the side to shoot, and being able to ease it back and be able to continue functioning makes the 50 bucks these things cost cheap! I use the R-Strap. Don’t skimp and get a knock off. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and, by most accounts, the cheap straps really are cheap. You will save nothing by having your connector break on your strap, thus sending your camera (usually lens first!) to the hard merciless ground below. You get what you pay for, and you know it! Here: http://www.blackrapid.com/
2. A Good Tripod
A good tripod will last forever. Get a good one to start. You will never regret the money you spent on it. This article, http://www.bythom.com/support.htm, has a ton of extremely helpful information, way more than this article can say. I ended up getting a set of manfrotto legs (the 3021) and pay the weight penalty. At some point, I will likely get a light tripod for hiking. A heavy tripod is an unused tripod. Also, DO NOT skimp on the head. Kirk, RRS, or Wimberly. I recomend wimberly, but my Kirk isn’t bad. When you get a long lens, you will need a Gimbal head. Don’t whine, just get it and be glad that for around $500 you can protect $5,000 or more in gear! Get the quick release plates from the manufacturer of you head. http://www.kirkphoto.com/ throws in a as a freebie! Get two, and get two allen wrenches, so when you lose one, you can still remove the quick release plate from your camera.
3. A Good Camera Bag
A good camera bag makes the difference between your camera, lenses, and cards and such dying of water, concussive forces, etc, and being able to live to see another day. A good camera back also will allow you to bring the gear you need without weighing too much. A good camera bag will keep your gear organized, yet accessible.
I use a Lowepro AW 75 shoulder bag, and an AW 300 nack pack, as well as their Dryzone 200. These bags are well-made, durable, and tough. The shoulder bag and regular back pack are rather water proof. They can take a steady rain and keep the contents dry for abou 30-60 minutes. Things begin to become somewhat damp after that point, though. Note: the zippers must be zipped! The fierce tropical torrents of Florida or the drenching mountain rains of Colorado are a whole nuther matter, though! They come with rain covers; the one on the shoulder strap is atrociously ineffective. I have not to this date assembled in correctly. Emergency measures should work smoothly and flawlessly and with a minimum of needed dexterity (because usually there is little dexterity to go around by that point…). This thing doesn’t. The AW 300′s rain cover is remarkable, though! The Dryzone keeps everything dry. If only the zipper would zip!!! I must lubricate it more…
I have no major experience with other bags at this point. However, there are many reviews of bags online; find the bag which will fit your sort of adventure. I would start with a back pack. A good back pack will always be helpful. When you get more gear, as your craft improves, you will refine your choice, and hopefully not blow the bank on bags, seeking the elusive utopian bag!
What then? Go shoot a lot, and learn your gear. Learn what works, what doesn’t, and why. Work on your images (another article for another time!) and learn from your mistakes. We will also deal with the other side of your system, your digital darkroom, in a later episode.
The next article is this series will deal with your next system moves. Until then, have fun shooting, and grow in grace, and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Every so often, in the development of technological things, be they cameras or computers, telephones or even timepieces, there is an interesting trend they all undergo: every so often, they experience a quantum leap in technology. After that quantum leap, they get iterated smaller, smaller, and smaller. Then, they leap some more, or perhaps suffer obsolescence. And so it is with cameras. When film replaced photographic plates, photography took a quantum leap. Quality drastically increased, as did portability. When color photography began, a whole new world opened up. A wonderful world of color opened up a wonderful world of processing woes; but, people could see color! 35mm film was a huge developmental milestone, in that it made things much more portable, and therefore usable. But what really changed the day was autofocus. Lenses became bulkier, and often made of cheaper materials. Then came the digital era. Just like the first cell phones were monsters, the first digital cameras were huge and clunky and really not much of a replacement for film… so some thought. Then, they got much better, and learned how to get smaller and smaller… and the mirrorless interchangable lens camera was gradually born.
An oft proposed question is: will mirrorless kill the SLR? My answer is: no. To me, it seems that mirrorless is a size iteration more than a quantum leap. Their portability offers tremendous options for use. Having climbed Mount Elbert earlier this month, I feel mightily their call. For some fields of play, the mirrorless camera fits in naturally. Street photography especially comes to mind. They actually have been pushing mirrorless cameras in that field all along (rangefinders). But, in adventure photography (and other genres as well I won’t cover), the downsides of mirrorless begin to show: 1. battery consumption and 2. viewfinder lag.
High battery consumption in the wild is a bad thing. Especially when it is only about 30 degrees out and electricity is a long long way away. Stashing extra batteries means extra weight, which, to be usable, must be kept warm, which means carrying them in awkward ways. Unlike the good old days, when a digital camera runs out of power, it is time to go home. Stashing extra batteries also means extra price and extra space… Which begins to defeat the purpose of mirrorless in the first place.
Viewfinder lag is the critical sin of the mirrorless camera. Even a 20th second lag with birds makes the difference between a keeper and a useless image. With an slr, one views the scene on ground glass as it actually is happening. On an OLED electronic viewfinder, a person sees what the computer thinks he should see. Dynamic range is greater through the viewfinder, allowing one to see the scene more clearly. In short, depressing the shutter button to capture an image only to see that the opportunity passed away in lag is depressing.
Is this to say that mirrorless cannot become better than it is? No. Mirrorless will iterate furiously. However, it will not defeat the mighty slr in its current form. I suspect, however, that probably in about twenty years something we cannot now possibly comprehend will eat the slr. However, the slr will never disappear. Viewfinder cameras are still here! And some even call for digital tlrs…
My conclusion: Mirrorless is more an iteration than a quantum leap.