Merging images – landscape photo tip from Summit presenter Jay Goodrich.

Utah skyscape, (c) Jay Goodrich

Utah skyscape, (c) Jay Goodrich

On a recent trip to the desert southwest of Utah I photographed an amazing sunrise as a winter storm front approached my location. For landscape photographs such as this one, I prefer to use a graduated neutral density filter in the field to balance out my scene’s High Dynamic Range, but the composition that I selected for this particular moment did not allow me to follow this practice for two reasons. One, my horizon line was very erratic and jagged, which would have made the filter’s delineating line visible along the top of lower peak. Second, I decided to use my new Vari-ND filter from Singh-Ray to slow my shutter speed drastically, which blurred the clouds in the sky to give them a more dramatic look as they drifted across my composition. This filter had my shutter speed so slow that my standard practice of hand holding the grad ND filter still in front of my lens, for the prescribed amount of time, would have been next to impossible.

So with the given parameters how would you accomplish the above image? Simple, take two exposures, one for the sky and one for the foreground then merge the two in Photoshop CS5 to yield the desired results. Continue reading

Large Mammal Photo Tip: Let Them Come To You

Here’s a tip on photographing large mammals from Summit workshop leader, David Cardinal.

One of the biggest and most harmful mistakes many wildlife viewers and photographers alike make is to follow mammals trying to get a photograph. In addition to adding to the animal’s stress doing this is likely to get you only a poor photo of their hind end. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

By studying the animals you expect to find and their behavior, along with some early scouting you can be in the right place at the right time for the wildlife to come to you. It’s not as simple as planting yourself directly in their path as then they’ll just wander off in another direction if you’re lucky or perhaps decide you’re a threat if you’re not. Knowing the specific species and ideally the specific animals lets you pick a vantage point where you can quietly observe and photograph their behavior without disturbing their travel.

If a mammal is hunting it is especially important to stay out of the way and certainly not to try to follow it. That’s a sure way to tip off their prey, stressing your subject as well as making it less likely that it’ll be cooperative enough to be photographed in the future. When you do it right you can get amazing action shots of unstressed animals like this one of Blue Wildebeest in southern Africa, like we’ll be photographing during our May Safari.

Wildebeest, Busanga Plains, Kafue Park, Zambia. (c) David Cardinal

Wildebeest, Busanga Plains, Kafue Park, Zambia. (c) David Cardinal

Herd animals are especially skittish around humans, especially if they have ever been hunted. Far too many photos show them running—unfortunately often from the photographers’ truck or helicopter. To get a photo of these magnificent wildebeests coming towards us we got nearly a thousand yards ahead and waited quietly as they approached near us on their way to a watering hole. This isn’t intuitive for most local guides as they often aren’t used to working with photographers but instead have impatient clients who want to “see and go.” So your best bet for situations like this is to be with a like-minded group of fellow photographers and have someone able to clearly explain to the guide what you are trying to do.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to be in the right place at the right time for many of the mammal species found in America and Africa or benefit from dozens of other hard learned tips like this you can by signing up for my workshop on Creating Compelling Wildlife Photography which is being offered on March 9th in McAllen, Texas as an early part of the NANPA Summit program. It’s a great way to acquire the skills to make the most of your local photography or your next photo safari.

I hope to see you there!  — David Cardinal, Cardinal Photo

Wildlife Photo tip from Summit Workshop Leader Doug Otto.

Sandhill Crane, Bosque Del Apache, NM. (c) Doug Otto.

Sandhill Crane, Bosque Del Apache, NM. (c) Doug Otto.

Just over an hour south of my home in Albuquerque, near the Rio Grande River as it flows to southern Texas, lies one of the premier bird photography locations in the United States. Bosque del Apache, a National Wildlife Refuge, is host to over 300 different bird species.

This image was taken just before sunset. With the sun low in the sky, this sand hill crane was in the middle of a very bright reflection. Left in an automatic mode, the camera would have created a completely different feel than what I captured. The secret to this warm golden tone isn’t filters or software it’s underexposure. Rather than allow my camera to make creative decisions for me, I spot metered on the brightest portion of the frame and set my shutter speed to 1 stop below a middle tone. The added benefit is that there’s no fiddling with exposure compensation each time you change the framing. As Ron Popeill would say, “just set it and forget it.”

Learn more about Doug and his workshop, Demystifying Social Media: How to use it Productively and Safely, here.

Two New Summit Field Trips.

Javelina. © Steve Bentsen.

Javelina. © Steve Bentsen.

Since our field trips at the McAllen Summit are proving so popular (several have sold out,) we’ve added two more!

Now you can enjoy a trip to the Javelina-Martin Refuge either during the morning or afternoon of Tuesday, March 8. The Javelina-Martin Refuge is a 300-acre wildlife sanctuary and photography ranch complete with blinds (some below ground), small pools of fresh water and feeding stations. The ranch was named for the javelina or collared peccaries that relish this thicket of thorn brush and cactus. Some of the most photogenic wildlife includes javelina, bobcat, great kiskadee, green jay, white-fronted dove, common ground-dove, pyrrhuloxia and greater roadrunner. Cost is only $60.

Digital Imaging Evangelist Julieanne Kost.

Julieanne Kost, Adobe's Digital Imaging Evangelist

Julieanne Kost, Adobe’s Digital Imaging Evangelist

NANPA is excited to welcome Adobe’s Digital Imaging Evangelist, Julieanne Kost to the Nature Photography Summit this year. Julieanne will be teaching a day-long Photoshop and Lightroom seminar on the Tuesday before the Summit. Thanks to sponsorship by Adobe, we are able to offer this seminar at the greatly reduced price of $60.00.

Joining Adobe in 1992, Julieanne has learned her craft through hands-on experience and now serves as Adobe’s senior digital imaging evangelist. Her role spans digital imaging and illustration, and includes customer education, product development and market research. She is a frequent contributor to several publications, a speaker at numerous design conferences and tradeshows, and an instructor at photography workshops and fine art schools around the world. A passionate photographer, Julieanne is also the author behind the Comprehensive Photoshop CS3 training DVDs and author of Window Seat: The Art of Digital Photography and Creative Thinking.

Julieanne has also produced a series of great video tutorials on the Adobe website. To get a taste of what she’ll be bringing to NANPA, check out this episode, “Little Known Feature Enhancements in PSCS5.”

To learn more about Julieanne’s photography, and to find a list of her on-line tutorials, visit: http://www.jkost.com/.

Texas Songbirds by NANPA Summit presenter, Alan Murphy

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

Alan Murphy is a Texas-based nature photographer whose love of birds is obvious once you’ve seen his images. NANPA is excited to have Alan as both a workshop leader and breakout session speaker at this year’s Summit in McAllen. Unfortunately, his pre- anbd post- summit workshops in the McAllen area are sold out, but if you attend the Summit you can still attend his breakout session on Thursday, March 10, titled Guide to Songbird Setup Photography. Continue reading

NANPA Summit Testimonial.

NANPA's Outstanding Photographer of the Year, Jack Dykinga, will be the keynote speaker on Saturday of the Summit.  ©Daniel Beltra

NANPA’s Outstanding Photographer of the Year, Jack Dykinga, will be the keynote speaker on Saturday of the Summit. ©Daniel Beltra

I wrote this post last month over at outdoorphotographer.com, but it seemed appropriate to post it here as well:

Earlier this year, I wrote about the benefits of attending portfolio reviews at the North American Nature Photography Association’s (NANPA) annual Nature Photography Summit (http://www.outdoorphotographer.com/community/blogs/in-the-zone/getting-feedback.html). Portfolio reviews are a great way to get instant feedback from picture professionals, and I still highly recommend the experience for anyone interested in improving their photography or making connections with picture buyers.  The 2011 Summit is scheduled for March 9-12 in McAllen, Texas, and it is shaping up to be the usual great mix of inspiration, learning opportunities, and non-stop networking.  The McAllen Summit features photo field trips, outdoor and indoor workshops, and breakout sessions that touch on a variety of topics pertinent to outdoor photographers interested in creative learning, photo business skills, and cutting-edge software techniques. Speakers and instructors include Jack Dykinga, Daniel Beltra, Michele Westmorland, and Photoshop guru Julieanne Kost. If you’re not familiar with McAllen, it’s located in the lower Rio Grande Valley, the heart of one of the best birding locations in the U.S. that offers plenty of opportunities for shooting “big sky” landscapes as well.

I have been attending these summits since 1997. At that time, my main hope in attending a summit was the hope of selling some photos to magazine and calendar editors.  While that certainly has happened, picture sales are really only one small benefit I’ve realized from taking part in this event. More lasting for me has been the inspiration and ideas I get from watching the keynote presentations and meeting others who are successful in the field.  Slide shows given by photographers like David Muench, Nick Nichols, Dewitt Jones, and Jim Brandenburg still resonate with me years later.  I can also trace the fact that I’ve focused my career on conservation to several conversations I’ve had with Gary Braasch and Robert Glenn Ketchum.  Without attending past summits, I never would have met these great conservationist photographers or heard their advice.  The same goes for the numerous editors I now know personally from magazines like Outdoor Photographer, National Wildlife, and Ranger Rick.  And the idea for at least two of my books came from conversations I’ve had at past summits.

Not surprisingly, I heartily recommend attending the McAllen Summit. I’d love to hear your comments about how NANPA Summits have affected your photography.