Whitetail Bucks and High ISOs

Today I have more whitetail photographs, this time two bucks. Again, I was looking for the Pennsylvania elk and while searching for them came across these two nice, healthy bucks. One was a spike and the other a 6-point. The conditions for photography were far less than ideal: hazy, overcast, and downright lousy light in the mid-morning. This required a very ISO, 1600 to be exact.

I currently shoot with a Nikon D300. Previously, I used a Nikon D70. The differences in the two are amazing. One of the features that was greatly improved is the quality of photographs with higher ISO settings. I hear the D3 is even exponentially much better yet! In the meantime, I have to settle for the D300 and how it works in the higher ISO settings. I still prefer to stay at ISO 200, but sometimes this just isn’t possible. I get decent results even up to ISO 800 but get worried after that. My daughter acts in some school and local community musicals where the stage light sometimes requires an ISO as high as 2500! I do not like going that high, but with the D300 I still can get some useable photographs.

The results in wildlife photography are far different, however. Tack-sharp focus and no noise are required for quality wildlife photographs. We can never be too picky in trying to get the absolute best quality photographs. I will do much of anything with these photographs I am posting today but am showing them for the purposes of supporting my thoughts on this discussion of higher ISO settings.

These photographs were taken with an ISO setting of 1600. I did some minor post-processing in Adobe Lightroom 3.0. However, I did not use any noise reduction in Lightroom. I tried using it, but I personally think it sacrifices some sharpness, which is critical to me. Perhaps I am doing something wrong, but I just didn’t like the results using the noise reduction on these images. So what you see, as far as handling the higher ISO is right from the camera.

Here they are. Let me know what you think. Do you use higher ISOs with any success? Do you use noise reduction in post-processing? Are you satisfied with the results? What are the standards you use in your photography?

Join Us on the Next Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience!

How would you like to photograph an elk as he bugles into the brisk air or stands face-to-face with another competing bull in a showdown during the fall rut?

Our Fall Elk Rut photo workshop provides opportunities like these and more! Fall brings not only a change in colors, but also the Fall Rut for the elk. We are privileged to have elk here in Pennsylvania and my colleague, Dick McCreight, and I like nothing more than sharing this experience with others as we photograph the elk during this breath-taking season. It will be memorable!

The 3-day workshop actually begins on Monday evening and concludes on Thursday. We pack a lot of quality time into photographing the elk, sharing photo instruction and tips, and leading three different photo workshops in the evenings.

Includes 3 workshops:
1 – Setting up & using your camera for wildlife photography
2 – How to use Lightroom to manage and edit your photographs easily
3 – Techniques for Better Wildlife Photography & a History of the PA Elk Herd

Dick is incredibly knowledgeable with Lightroom and will show you how to quickly and easily manage your photo library and also how to edit your photos after a shoot. You will learn ways to photograph the elk at different times of the day and in different situations, how to set up your camera for wildlife photography, and more about this unique elk herd of Pennsylvania in these 3 workshops. We keep the group small so we have quality time together. It is sure to be a rewarding and unforgettable experience, which is why we titled our photo workshop: the “Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience.”

The cost is $595 for the trip and includes lodging and meals. You can find more detailed information on our website. Join us for this exciting adventure as we photograph the PA elk together!

Here are just a few photographs we captured on previous trips:




A New Use for My Old Laptop Hard Drive

Earlier this year my laptop died. Yep; dead as a door nail. Kaput.

I was not happy since I spent much of that day working on a presentation only to get home and not be able to even turn on my laptop. Huge bummer! I feared the worst at first thinking my hard drive bit the dust. That wasn’t the problem. This laptop wasn’t even two years old when it failed. I was frustrated and angry, vowing never again to purchase an HP laptop.

Two very good things came out of this tragedy. First, I made the decision to buy my first Apple, a MacBook Pro, which I am extremely happy to own! I was worried about compatibility issues and the learning curve, but was pleasantly surprised to quickly realize neither of these two issues was going to be a problem. Sweet!

The second good thing that came out of this laptop failure was only realized recently. The laptop still had its hard drive intact. I knew that it was not damaged because I was able to safely copy everything off of it and install all the files on my new MacBook Pro. I also saw an advertisement online for the OCW external hard drives. They are enclosed in a hard plastic case with a heat sync to disipate any heat. I also saw they offered a kit to convert your own laptop hard drive into an external drive.

I was not sure if my exact drive would work, so I got onto an online chat with one of the reps. She was very helpful and looked up the model of my hard drive. Very quickly she got back to me, reporting that my drive would indeed work. Awesome! So, I purchased the kit and waited for it to arrive at my front door.

A few days later it arrived. I got to work with the kit. I had to remove one piece from my hard drive that helped hold it in place in the laptop. Then it was just a matter of inserting a few screws to assemble the drive in the hard plastic case. Now, with a USB wire I can attach the drive to my computer as an external hard drive with over 300GBs of space available! (Source: https://www.nettoyersonmac.fr/avis-onyx/)

I use this external hard drive to automatically create a backup when I am importing photos into my laptop with Lightroom. I also keep my favorite LR catalogs on this drive so they are with me wherever I go. I really like this new use for my old laptop hard drive!

Free Lightroom Effects Presets

Effects in Lightroom can change the appearance surrounding a photograph by creating an outside border. This is helpful when desiring the main subject to stand out. Oval and rectangular shapes are available to create special borders around a photograph.

Here is a link to five free Lightroom Effects Presets that I created yesterday. The thumbnails show a small version of the finished product. Download these effects and give them a try today.


Directions can be found at the bottom of the web page on how to download and use these files.

Free Lightroom Collage Templates

Yesterday I was inspired to write a blog post about creating a Lightroom template that looked like a matted print. This forced me to troubleshoot a specific problem: how to post the template file on my photo website so guests could download them. The solution didn’t take long to figure out and I quickly installed the iZip software on both my desktop and my laptop. I zipped the template and was able to post the zipped file on a page on my website to share with others.

So then I thought I should also share some collage templates for anyone who might want them. You might recall that in two previous blog entries I shared some insights on several different collages I created in Lightroom. Some of these collage templates are now available on my website and you download them here. I hope you find them helpful and useful. They are easy to use and should at least provide some thoughts for you to consider when creating your own collages in the Print Module.

Directions are provided on my website as to how to download these templates. Once they are installed in your version of Lightroom all you have to do is click on the title of the collage in the left column, which brings the template up in the main screen area. Then just drag the photos of your choice from the thumbnails at the bottom of the screen into the cell boxes on the template. It’s that easy! I prefer to first create a Collection to narrow down which photos I want to use in a specific collage.

I hope you find this helpful. Drop me a line and let me know.



Create a Matte-Like Print Template in Lightroom

Yesterday’s blog post inspired me to use Lightroom 3.0 to create a Matte-like image to display some of the fireworks I photographed on Monday.

This inspiration was placed in the corner recesses of my mind some time ago by John Shaw and then again more recently by Moose Peterson. My thought was to create an image that looked like a matted print of one of my photographs. Lightroom’s print module seemed like the perfect way to turn this inspiration into reality. My goal was to display several of my fireworks photographs on my blog and have them appear to look like a matted print. You can scroll down to my blog post from yesterday to see the finished product of this template.

I started by creating a collection in Lightroom of the photos I wanted to place in my blog. I picked seven. Then I went to the Print module in Lightroom and started creating a custom print template. I started by setting the layout style to “Custom Package” in the right-hand column. Then I navigated down to the Print Job options and set the “Custom File Dimensions” to 10″ x 8.” And then set the “Print to” option to JPEG File. This way I could export the image to post on my blog instead of exporting to my printer. I also created a custom identity plate to display the date: July 4, 2011. I created this custom identity plate by clicking on the down arrow on the “Identity Plate” option, clicked on “Edit,” typed in the date, changed the font, and clicked OK. I moved the text by dragging onto with my mouse and moved it to the bottom of the page.

I then went into the Cells options and drug the cell for the photo over onto the layout, making sure to leave room at the bottom to display the date without it running onto the photo. I checked “Lock to Photo Aspect Ratio” so my image would not be squeeze or look funny by being re-sized. Showing the ruler and grid guides helped me place the photo cell in exactly the right place.

One last added touch was included by going to the Image Settings option and clicking the “Inner Stroke” set to 1.0 pt.

Now it was time to save my template. I moved to the left side of the screen, clicked the plus sign beside “Template Browser” and titled my new template “Fine Art for Blog – 8×10 Landscape.”

To use the template, click on the new user template that now appears under Template Browser, User Templates. Then drag a photo from the thumbnails at the bottom of the screen. Then click on the “Print to File” button at the bottom right of the screen.

That’s it! I actually sounds much more complicated than it actually is to set up and use. And once it is created, it can be used over and over again.

You can download this Lightroom Print Template here. This page also has some Collage Templates you can download to use in Lightroom, too.

And here is an example of one of the Matte-Like Print Templates:

Adobe Lightroom Plug-ins

Yeah, I like Lightroom. One way I use it often is to create web galleries to post on my website for players and parents to view photos after a baseball game or musical. This is a quick method for me to get my photos out in front of others quickly and without a lot of messing around. The current plug-in I use allows me to create the gallery in a format that even accepts PayPal payments if someone wants to purchase one of my photos. Plug-ins are great!

Plug-ins abound but I still haven’t found that I am 100% satisfied with or that completely meets all my needs. Customization and tweaking are just in my blood I guess. In my defense, I strongly believe that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing right. I am fussy and I do have high expectations. I just want things to look a certain way. After all I am a photographer!

So today I am venturing into unknown territory–creating Lightroom plug-ins of my very own.

I do have some very basic programming skills thanks to one college class I had at Temple University in Fortan language. Over the years I also have acquired a few more programming skills and do design my own web pages. Still, this is going to be a monumental task for me. Wish me luck. And if you have any advice, please let me know. I can use all the help I can get!


Pennsylvania Elk Photo Experience – Fall Rut 2011

There is absolutely no place I would rather be in the fall than in Benezette, Pennsylvania photographing the beautiful and majestic elk of Pennsylvania. The fall colors, the active bugling bull elk, and the excitement of the fall rut bring sounds and sights that are just out of this world! Photographing these amazing sights is high on my list of must-do experiences every year.

My good friend and photography colleague, Dick McCreight, and I enjoy leading photo trips on the elk range each fall. We particularly enjoy sharing how we photograph the elk with those interested in learning helpful photo skills to do the same. We take viewing etiquette very seriously, so our numbers are small so we can both teach outdoor photo skills to you while keeping our impact on the elk range to a minimum.

This fall photo trip will be our 6th trip and we cannot wait to be out with our cameras photographing the elk!

If you enjoy wildlife photography and want to learn how to take better photographs, then this is the perfect trip for you. Our photo trip features three in-depth workshops where we discuss camera set-up & use, wildlife photography, history of the PA elk, and editing photographs in Adobe Lightroom. You will definitely learn new photo skills in these workshops! Then we take what we learn from each other and put it all into use as we take a minimum of six excursions on the elk range to capture the excitement with our cameras. Each evening we share our photographs of the day and enjoy constructive critiques on our five best photos of the day.

Digital photography has come a long way in recent years. The problem is learning how to use this new technology to capture the photos of your dreams. This trip will not only help you learn how to do this, but will put you in a position to capture the magnificent elk of Pennsylvania with your camera!

Click here to find out more info about these photo trips. Click here to see some photos of previous photo trips and click here to view a slideshow of what our trips offer. Feel free to email any questions you may have about these trips. We are confident that you will not only find our photo trip to be educational but also entertaining and filled with loads of photo fun! Try it out this year by attending our PA Photo Elk Experience–it will be an experience of a lifetime!

Bob Shank & Dick McCreight

Wild Collages

Today I am piggybacking on yesterday’s post about photo collages. This time, though, the subject is a little more wild–wildlife, that is.

Pennsylvania elk are my most favorite subjects to photograph. There is no denying this. Sure, I enjoy photographing other subjects like sports photography, musicals, and just about anything else I can point my camera at on any given day. Pennsylvania elk are amazing creatures. They are both somewhat predictable and yet sometimes do the most unexpected thing you could ever imagine. A day spent on the elk range with these incredible animals will change your life forever!

My growing portfolio of PA elk subjects should make at least somewhat interesting collages. So I figured I would give it a try. The following five collages are exactly like yesterday’s, except the subjects. Today’s collages feature the beautiful elk that often take my breath away.

See what you think. These collages were all made inside of Lightroom. Do any of these collages attract your photographic or creative eye?