Friday, February 27, 2015

10 years of photography: What's most important?

  "It's not just about a photograph, it's the outdoor experience." - Doug Gardner

 What's most important in nature and wildlife photography? For me it's definitely the nature it self. In these ten years I've learned that it's not so important to make that image, but to be there, and just relax and enjoy the surroundings, views, sounds, smells... the whole experience. In the beginning, I so often missed not only the photo, but the moment too. Once I remember how a herd of deer passed us by in the forest, and they were close, really close. What did I do? My camera wasn't ready so I started to make adjustments just to make a nice picture. When I was ready, yes, the deer were gone. No image, but I missed the moment too, and that sucks. So there are times when it's better just to enjoy the creation, sit still, listen, make observations and forget the camera. Like last night for example, great time listening owls and sounds of returning swans, the sounds of spring! (That was it, the last post in this "10 years of photography:...". From March onward I'll try to figure out something else.)


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

10 years of photography: You don't need to go too faraway...

  Travelling here and there with your camera and making photographs of wild places, animals or plants, is just great, who wouldn't love it. But as you dream of your next trip, may it be near or far, don't forget your backyard. Some amazing stuff can be found just a few steps from your door. Even if your pet cat or dog isn't too wild, it's still an animal and a great subject. Small wild critters such as frogs, lizards and mice can be found even in urban areas. And don't forget the insects crawling inside and outside our homes.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

10 years of photography: Patterns, patterns, patterns...

  A cool subject for photography is patterns. You can find patterns everywhere. During these ten years I've shoot quite a bunch of patterns and in this post I thought I'd share a couple of images with you. Only thing that's needed is a camera and to keep your eyes open. Just visit a grocery store and look for romanesco broccoli, just how wonderfully full of patterns and fractals subject it is, it just cries for being photographed up close. Or checkout rock surfaces, you can find some pretty cool patterns on them especially if they are covered in lichen. Closeups of flowers can be a rewarding subjects with full of interesting patterns and lines. Reptile skin, if you dare to get enough close can be a rewarding subject. Wasp or bee hives, fungi, just pretty much everywhere, here and there you can find some great things to shoot, just get close and press the shutter...


Sunday, February 15, 2015

10 years of photography: Keep the eyes in focus

  When on 3rd class I somehow managed to close my eyes for every single class photo that year, from portraits to the group photo made of our class. The good thing was that we got the portrait images for free. Eyes are definitely the one single most important thing to focus on when making an image. Most often it is even considered as a mistake if the eyes aren't in focus. During these ten years I've made so many pictures of different kinds of critters, from people to tiny insects, and just too often it has happened that the focus were not where it should had been, in the eyes. Too often I've focused in the nose, sometimes in the ears or somewhere else, but not in the eyes. And so many times the image has been left on the hard-drive to rotten in there, until one day the delete button will take care of that bad image and this just because the eyes in the image are blurry and soft. So, when making a photo and there is no real reason why, make sure that the eyes are as sharp as possible. In the following image, where do you look first? I'll look at the beautiful lady with the closed eyes, but your eyes will most likely meet the gaze of the furry cutie on the front left.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

10 years of photography: The best time of the year for photography

  You can make images whenever you want, no matter the season, winter, summer, fall or spring. However spring is my favorite. Summer is nice, it's warm and lots of cool things around. Fall is colorful. Winter... some like it, I don't, even if you can shoot nice things during the dark and cold months too. Anyway, spring is my favorite. That's when there is so much going on in the nature. First in February everything is slowly waking up from the winter and then suddenly in March and April there is so much to shoot, flowers, insect, nice lime green colors when the trees start get their leaves, so on and so on. Then finally in the May the nature start to be ready for the hot summer months. As long as I can remember the spring has been the best season. One cool thing with the first part of the spring is when you start to find things. There's still a little snow on the ground when the first flowers pop up. On a sunny south or west facing slope you can find the first lizards basking and with a little luck under a rock you can find scorpions or some other cool invertebrates. I just love spring!!!

Friday, February 13, 2015

10 years of photography: Shoot the ugly and use flash

  Light is good. Sunlight is the best (IMHO). But then there are those moments when you really might want to combine the sunlight with a little strobe light. Today for example, was a beautiful sunny day and because it still is kind of wintry the light is pretty nice throughout the day. Then I stumbled across this nice little dead horse. Not really a beautiful subject for a photo, actually quite gross, but still somehow I felt I really have to make a photo of it. During these 10 years I've not tried to shoot only those nice things, but the ugly too. If a piece of poop can be a good subject, then a carcass for sure will do too. Three a clock, even if the light is good, you might get some pretty bad shadows on your subject. In this case the horses rump shadowed its head quite badly. The good thing was that I had my speedlight (old trusty SB-600) with me. Attached it on my D5100 and fired away. Probably the results would have been even better if I would have placed the flash unit on the right side of the dead horse, but sadly the D5100 don't allow me to use my SB-600 off camera, without a sync cord or a radio trigger, which I do not own. So... Why is there a dead horse corpse in the middle of nowhere on a field? I don't have a clue. Whatever the reason, it was the most interesting thing to shoot today.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

10 years of photography: Same place, different image

  Who wouldn't like to visit new places? Sometimes it's quite a refreshing experience to see something new, to photograph something new, but... there is one thing I've learned during these couple of years about places and that is, our environment is constantly changing. This means that the place where I went yesterday might look a tad different tomorrow. If you're all the time going to new places you won't learn to see the potential of the places you go to. To learn a place you need to return there every now and then in different times of the year or even different times of the day. When you know your subject and revisit it every now and then you'll notice how many different sides that familiar place may have. Only two days between...

Saturday, February 7, 2015

10 years of photography: Gimme some light! But what kind of light?

 "Let there be light" - the Grand Creator (Gen. 1:3)
  Imagine if there wouldn't be any light. It's a simple fact: We need light, we just can't live without it. Life is dependent of light, but it's also essential for photography. Probably the single most important thing in photography is light. Actually without light, it would be pretty difficult to make an image. When I started, I didn't care. For me it was enough if there is enough light so that I don't need a tripod, who cares about the quality of the photons! but actually there is quite a big difference in the quality of  the light and in images made in and with good light. It really is good light vs. bad light. Much light doesn't necessarily mean good light and a little light don't mean that you can't make an nice image. So what is bad light? dull, harsh, light that just won't do anything to your image or even worse, light that ruins your picture. This of course doesn't mean that you shouldn't press the shutter when the light is bad, it just requires more from your subject and composition and even a bit more imagination from your part as a photographer.  What's good light then? It's the light that creates some mood in to the image. Light that makes your subject  look better. It can be hard light or it can be soft light. It can be warm or cold. There might be lots of it or just a tiny little streak of it. Whatever, it just looks good and thus your image looks good. Here's a few samples of (in my opinion) gooood light...


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

10 years of photography: Get close! (How close is close enough?)

 "If your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough." - Robert Capa

 There's two ways to get close to your subject. The first one is to use a long lens and to shoot from a decent distance from your subject. This is a good technique when your subject is shy or there's a risk that the critter you are photographing will get nasty and attack, sting or bite you. The other way, the one I prefer, is to physically get close the subject. With tiny little insects this isn't a problem, usually, but with bigger critters, such as snakes, lizards and others this may be a bit of a challenge.

    This Smooth Snake didn't go anywhere when I approached it. It's easy to shoot a mugshot of a snake when using a 150 mm macro lens and the subject is just eyeballing you with no intention of going anywhere.

Using a wide angle lens and getting really close to your subject will yield in even more interesting images, This way you can show, not only the subject, but also its habitat in a nice way. There is though a challenge you have to face when shooting closeups with a wide lens. You have to get pretty close of the animal for a good shot, but it's wort it.

So how close is close enough? You are close enough when your subject pops out, when there isn't any question about what is your main subject. You are probably too faraway if your subject wont be clear for the viewer of the image and you are too close when your subject ran away or you got bitten. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

10 years of photography: Be ready to get wet and dirty! (About clothing)

  Hard to believe that it's 10 years since I grabbed a digital camera for the first time and started photography. First I shot all kinds of subjects and it took quite a while to find out what I want to photograph. Then more and more I found my self shooting nature and wildlife, especially the small critters, from insects to reptiles. In ten years you learn a lot, but of course there is still a lot to learn and much new things to try out in photography. In this and a few upcoming posts I thought to share a few things I've learned during these couple of years.

  Nature and wildlife photography is mainly done outdoors, that's pretty obvious. Outdoors means dirt. Dirt means dirty and wet clothes. doesn't sound nice, but actually all this means good pictures. When I started, I usually wore the best clothes I had. It's nice to be well dressed and to look cool when in the forest. Most probably squirrels and snakes do like to get photographed by a guy who's wearing hes best clothes. Not! Animals don't care and when dressed in too good clothes you are more probably afraid of getting dirty, than focusing on making pictures, that's at least what used to happen to me. With the years gone by I've started to choose my outdoor clothes so that a little dirt or if they get broken, wont be a too bad thing. Even my wife is probably a little happier that way.

  For this picture of a pond terrapin I had to get wet and dirty. First I dug him up from the bottom of the pond. This meant that both of my rubber boots got filled with dirty and cold water. Then I had to lie down next to it for a low angle image, which meant dirty and wet clothes. I even got my elbow full of bites from some strange insects. But I made the image.
  So it's important to wear clothes when photographing. But don't wear clothes that are preventing you from making that good picture.