Boring but Very Important Work!

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The big snowstorm hit the northeast this Tuesday and I was able to spend some valuable time at my desktop computer. This is something I haven’t done in a while. You see, I use my laptop for much of my work at sporting events. I have the routine down pat. I can quickly go through over a thousand photos, find the best ones to send to my editor, and then get them off to him. I use a color label scheme in Photo Mechanic and it works very well for me.

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The problem is two months later when my editor wants a photo of a specific player. It doesn’t matter which game, just a usable image of this player. Well, there is no time to poke around through all my images to find that small selection of photos of this player to send to my editor. Panic can set in pretty quickly and no one wants to make an editor wait. Thankfully, captions and keywords are the answer!

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Do you faithfully enter keywords and captions into your images? I confess that this is boring but very important work. Down the road it will pay off beautifully. Here is another scenario. I sell wildlife postcards at the Elk Country Visitor Center. So I decide to find some new photos that I haven’t yet used to make new postcards. Thankfully, I created a keyword combination: “Potential Postcard.” Now all I have to do is go to my Smart Collection in Lightroom, which contains all these potential postcards, pick the ones I like, and send them out to be printed. Previously, I did not use these keywords and locating new postcards was a pain. Now I can do it quickly and efficiently.

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Inputting keywords and captions is boring work. I admit it. In fact, I avoided it way too frequently. I remember something my dad used to say when he retired: “Why do today what you can put off ’til tomorrow?” Well, that might work in retirement, but not for keywording and captioning. Do it soon or pay dearly later.

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I recently read John Shaw’s e-Book, “Organizing and Locating Your Images Using Adobe Lightroom” where he describes using a hierarchical keyword scheme. It works like this. Suppose I want to add a keyword word for the location of an image. It was shot in a specific school during a basketball game, which is in a town and a state, too. I could enter the appropriate state, town, school, and gymnasium names individually or I could use a hierarchical scheme like this: LOCATION: State > Town > School > Gymnasium. Then, after setting up the hierarchical system, I could simply add the specific Gymnasium keyword to the image and automatically the School, Town, and State are added as well. Beautiful! It’s simple, once set up, and very quick!

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I am all about speed. I have to be in order to meet deadlines, which sometimes happen even during a game in progress! But boring work done soon after a game can repay itself over and over. I do not like boring or repetitive work, but with my sports and wildlife photography I know the critical importance of this so called boring work. I am learning to be more efficient, but I am also learning the importance of keywording and captioning. Are you? By the way, these images are ones I found when setting up my hierarchical keyword scheme. I forgot I even had some of these photographs so I thought I would give them a little exposure.

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New Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience Just Listed

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We just announced a new Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience, which will be held on October 2-5, 2017. This guided photo trip will take you to the amazing Pennsylvania Elk for a photographic experience you will not soon forget!

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Along the way, you will be around some neat and interesting people who, like you, share a passion for wildlife and outdoor photography. We present three different photography seminars, including how to set up your camera and photograph the PA Elk, and an in-depth look at how to use Adobe Lightroom for your photography. The final seminar is about wildlife photography ethics, the PA Elk Herd, and we also have you share your best five shots from the trip so we can learn from each other!

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You will have the opportunity to be out on six photo shoots to photograph the majestic elk during the fall rut when their activity is at an all-time high. The photographic possibilities are only limited by your imagination!

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We only have 1 more opening available for 2017 but we will be doing this again next year. Click here for more information.

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Bird Photography 101 at Pocono Environmental Education Center

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I led a workshop entitled Bird Photography 101 at the Pocono Environmental Education Center this morning. Eleven participants showed up to learn how to make better bird photos and I had a blast!

I shared some basic equipment needs, camera settings, and tips on how to attract and photograph birds in our backyard. The participants were enthusiastic, had very good questions, and shared some additional tips, which really added to the success of today’s workshop. I enjoyed the time with this group very much!

I am scheduled to lead Bird Photography 101 again on September 20th from 2pm – 4pm. For more information and to register for this event, go to the PEEC website. If you are interested in learning some ways to make better bird photographs in your backyard, this is the workshop for you!

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He was Barking at Me!

Chincoteague 2014-01-21-148I was in Chincoetague, Virginia this week. On Tuesday morning I was photographing a blue heron when I heard this sound. I wasn’t sure what it was at first. Then I looked down the way a little off to my right and there was this red fox barking at me!

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It was great to see a fox so close. Sadly, it saw me before I saw it. I didn’t get many photos of it and no really great ones, but I did get a few. It was my first time seeing a red fox to photograph.

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The blue heron saw this predator well before I did! This served as a great reminder: don’t get stuck in tunnel vision when photographing wildlife. Keep alert and watch in all directions. You never know what might come along!

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Before & After

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Lightroom is my go-to choice for both keeping track of and editing my photographs. I do use Photo Mechanic, as well, but that is a topic for another blog post. I also have and use Photoshop, but easily 95%+ of my photo edits are accomplished in Lightroom. So I thought for today’s blog post, I would share this before and after photograph to just share a few edits I do routinely in Lightroom.

First, I have to thank Dick McCreight, my colleague and professional photographer who is an absolute guru with Lightroom’s Develop module. He makes it look so easy and is somehow uniquely able to teach what he knows. He is awesome! Thanks, Dick! Also, John Kliest, another colleague and photographer, recently helped me to better understand Lightroom’s Develop module. One tip in particular comes to mind that I learned from John, which involves the Highlights slider. I know my way around Lightroom’s Library module well. I can edit a new shoot in no time, flagging the best photos and using color labels to identify photos I want to use for my blog or some other purpose. The Develop module, however, was a place I somewhat feared to tread. It just seemed kinda overwhelming to me to be honest. Well, Dick and John relieved my fears and taught me some really valuable and helpful stuff so I can now edit my photos efficiently. Thanks guys!

Let’s start by looking at the first photo above. You can see the exposure is a little dark and there is a floating arm from a person located in the lower-right corner of the photo. The cropping tool was used first and I just slightly cropped out that floating arm. LIghtroom makes this quick and easy.

Then I adjusted the exposure, bringing up the light a little shy of half a stop. This was a good start to editing the photo but I knew I couldn’t stop here.

So, I then adjusted the highlights, white clipping, and black clipping sliders. The goal in wildlife photography is to always keep the focus on the subject. Working with the white and black portions of the photograph can sometimes provide drastic changes. Sure enough, once I made these adjustments, I had to scale back the exposure about 2-tenths of a stop. I guess I should have started with these adjustments before correcting the exposure.

Then I worked on adjusting the shadows and contrast. Typically, I find the shadows slider to be a very helpful tool in bringing details out of the dark, literally!

Finally, I added a little smidgen of clarity and vibrance, which I do to most of my photographs.

Within just a few short minutes I edited the photo to a very usable and better quality photograph by using the Develop module in Lightroom. I know I still have a lot to learn about properly editing photographs, but equipped with even the little knowledge I do posses, I can see big changes in my photographs after editing them.

Lightroom is a great tool on a number of levels. I will post more blog entries in the future to share in detail how I use this amazing software. Lightroom rocks!

Be Patient… Let Them Come to You

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Much of the time spent in wildlife photography is pursuing the animals we want to photograph. I often tease that, “Yeah, I was out on the mountain chasing the elk around with my camera.” I do not mean this literally, of course. Chasing an animal is just not a very good idea if you intend to photograph it!

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So how can you actually get closer to the wild animals? Be patient and let them come to you. That’s right, be patient. In our fast-paced society today, this is not an easy thing for many people to do. Being patient means taking the time to stay in one place for an extended period of time.

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Last week, while shooting the Pennsylvania Elk, we were on a hill with a small harem of cows and a couple of bulls within about 100 yards of us. We had our cameras on our tripods and were capturing some photographs at that distance. We patiently remained in that one location for well over an hour. Amazingly, the elk ever so slowly began to feed in our direction. They didn’t close the distance by leaps and bounds; rather, they slowly mossyed in our direction. This took time and we remained patient.

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Eventually, the bull moved to within a few yards of our location. You can see in these photos that I now had too much lens with my 200-400mm. It was an amazing experience!

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The key was staying still and patient, while letting the animals slowly feed in our direction instead of chasing them by trying to get closer. I firmly believe that most photographers will get better photographs if they practiced more patience with their subjects. The next time you are shooting wildlife, practice more patience. Remain in one location and let them work toward you. It is an amazing experience when this happens and you will get some incredible photos, too!

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Wild Photo Tips Magazine

 

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I enjoy photographing wildlife and sharing insights I learned over the years is just a natural progression in my photography passion. So, inspired by fellow photographers, I decided to write a wildlife photography tips magazine. You can view the premier issue here, or by clicking on the photo above.

In this magazine you will find a breadth of info on wildlife photography from suggested gear to practical shooting tips in the field. I share some camera setting suggestions as well as a detailed step-by-step account on location during one of my photo shoots. The goal is to share wild photo tips to help photographers capture better wildlife photographs they will be proud to share with others, and help you become a better photographer. Beginners to experts will find something of value in each issue.

Check out my new Wild Photo Tips Magazine. Share it with others who are interested in wildlife photography. Then be sure to let me know what you think about it!

 

Lenses for Wildlife

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Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience #7 was a pure blast! We saw elk all over the place and bulls were everywhere! I cannot remember a year where we saw so many different bulls and most of them were in camera range. Many of us are spoiled, owning 200mm, 300mm, and even 400mm lenses. The big boy wildlife photographers even haul a 600mm lens out on the mountain!

I confess that lens envy is rampant in my photo circles. We always want more reach. Bigger lenses allow us to stay at a safe distance from the animals and still fill the frame with the subject we are photographing. The other related problem is lack of light in many lenses. Take, for example, the typical 70-300mm zoom lens that is often the second lens purchased by many photographers, it has reach but at 300mm the f-stop is a whopping f/5.6. That is simply not usable at dawn and dusk when animals are most visible and active. An f-stop of 2.8 is ideal, but many settle for f/4, which is a decent comprise to get the reach but also keep the lens affordable. The Nikon 400mm f/2.8 is $9,000!

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My favorite lens for wildlife and sports photography is the 200-400mm f/4. I really like the zoom capability of this lens, especially for sports and wildlife. It allows me to zoom in and out from my position on the sidelines or on the mountain with the twist of the wrist. Typically I rest my left hand on top of the lens to be able to rotate the zoom mechanism when needed. Just remember, righty tighty, which zooms in closer, at least for the Nikon shooters.

I purchased the book, “How to Photograph Animals in the Wild,” by Lennie Rue III, and Len Rue, Jr. about 11 years ago. I got to meet them both twice–once at my favorite spot on the elk range behind my camp and once in a workshop they co-led here in the Poconos. Anyway, this book contains some of their incredible photographs. As I read the book and studied the photos, I saw a repeating trend: most of the photos were captured with a 200-400mm lens. Well, it then instantly became my dream lens. I saved for 3 1/2 years to purchase the lens and I use it every week. It really is a great lens for sports and wildlife photography, and it has quickly become my go-to lens!

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Each of these photographs in today’s blog entry were captured with my 200-400mm f/4 lens. The lens is sharp and clear and it can be coupled with a teleconverter to provide even more reach if there is enough light. I also am now in the habit of carrying a second camera body around my body. This is necessary when photographing football games, so it comes quite naturally to me now. This week I carried the D300 with the 200-400mm f/4 on my tripod and another D300 with the 24-70mm f/2.8 around my body on an R-Strap. I also toted the Think Tank Belt System to carry my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, my 50mm f/1.4 lens, my 1.4x teleconverter, and other accessories. It is all easy to carry and I am covered from 24mm all the way through 560mm. That’s pretty sweet for wildlife photography!

When we teach our photo classes for the Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience, we recommend at least 200mm with a teleconverter. This covers out to 280mm and provides good minimal coverage for the large elk. For most other mammals, which are smaller, we recommend 300mm or more. A wildlife photographer can never seem to have enough lens reach!

Another helpful tip is getting close to the wildlife, or preferably, letting the wildlife get close to you. More on this topic next week. For now, just remember that lenses for wildlife might be expensive, but they sure produce consistently clear results. I really, really like my 200-400mm f/4 lens!

Now my next dream lens is the 400mm f/2.8 for football, and the 600mm f/4 for bird photography. It just never ends…

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