March 31st, 2015

Twenty + Hours of Photoshop Lessons and Image Critiques: All Free

What’s Up?

Just so you know, I sent 79 e-mails today…. Plus swim, core exercises, and a trip to town for grocery shopping. At 7:00pm I enjoyed a very cold ice bath; the water temp was only 58.6 when I got out. I am shivering hard as I type. In all, this blog post, the 83rd in a row without missing a day, took about 3 hours to prepare and was published from my home at ILE at 12:01am on Monday. While I slept. Got nine hours last night.

After a great first half by the Dayton Flyers–it seemed that they could not miss–the juggernaut Lady Huskies of the University of Connecticut, who trailed by one after the first 20 minutes, romped in style. I do not think that they will be beaten…


bh-passoverclosing

Azizen Pesach to all of our good friends at B&H

Order Soon to Avoid Lengthy Passover Delays/Please Of Course Use Our B&H Affiliate Link(s)

If you are in a hurry to get some new photo gear, please note that you must place your order before noon on Thursday, April 2. Orders received before then will shipped before the holiday closing. Be sure of course to use our generic B&H link here in the right hand column of the blog or to click on one of our product-specific links. Many thanks for that.

Orders placed after the deadline will not ship until Monday, April 13.


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This image was created on the Cheesemans’ Southern Ocean 2014/2015 Expedition. Note the perfect framing and the perfect head angle, one to two degrees toward us. Just like I taught him :)

Image courtesy of and copyright 2015: Michael Hercules Viljoen

Image #1: Adelie Penguin flapping in place

Meeting and Working with Micheal

I first met Michael Viljoen (say FILL-yoon) on a BAA Katmai Bear Boat IPT about 8 years ago. Even going back that far I remember him sitting next to me aboard the Coastal Explorer soaking up Photoshop, watching me choose my keepers, sharing his best bear images with me, and asking dozens of questions. Not much has changed since then. On our last of many trips together, the Cheesemans’ Southern Ocean 2014/2015 Expedition, Michael hung with me even more than the eager beginner, Sally Sue South.

Michael, who has lived his whole life in South Africa, was a good photographer when we first met in Alaska. Over the years he has developed into a superb, world class photographer. If you think that I am exaggerating, check out his portfolios here and let me know what you think. With my rather slow connection, each portfolio took a while to load and view, but each was well worth my while. Michael is great technically and has the eye of an artist. His stuff from Africa is among the best in the world.


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This image was also created on the Cheesemans’ Southern Ocean 2014/2015 Expedition. I was exhausted and simply did not have the strength to stay up for the New Year’s celebration. I missed nature’s celebration….

Image courtesy of and copyright 2015: Michael Hercules Viljoen

Image #2: Icebergs, sea ice, and moon at midnight.

Michael’s BAA Group Comments

I have been privileged to have been on two great Cheesemans’ Southern Oceans trips and did my booking both times through BIRDS AS ART. So what are the advantages of signing up to be part of the BAA group?

It does not cost you a penny more and there are many benefits. Artie has a lot of experience in the Southern Ocean and an uncanny ability to remember the different landing sites and where the best photo opportunities are at those landings. Prior to each landing he does do a full briefing with his group, advising them on what equipment they need to take for the landing and where they need to be for the best photo opps. He normally does a slide show for the group to highlight what can be expected at the different landings. This is crucial because the time at landings whizzes by, especially at South Georgia where one can be overwhelmed by the numbers and magnitude of the wildlife and easily walk around aimlessly for hours. There is just too much to take in.

Everyone visiting South Georgia wants to optimize the time on the landings rather than wasting time trying to figure out where to be or struggling either because of not having the right lens at hand or having brought too much equipment along. On the landings, artie is always glad to share and to teach. On the last trip, few in the group took advantage of artie on the landings. Folks would see something great and get lost in their own worlds.

Another plus is that artie always keeps an eye on the stern. Whenever there were seabirds following the ship, artie would find the individual group members and alert them. In addition, he is a pretty smart guy. After extensive delays due to high winds we were very late getting to Right Whale Bay. Artie who was late getting to the Zodiacs said to me, “It is getting dark. By the time we land it will be time to head back to the ship.” We grabbed our tripods and 70-200 f/2.8s and photographed very successfully for 90 minutes from the decks of the Ortelius….

Between landings and on navigations Artie normally stakes out spot or a corner where he can be found with at his computer, editing or processing images. Anyone who knows artie knows that he cannot help himself–he has to teach. He is always glad to explain his Photoshop workflow and answer any photo-related questions that one might have. And he is always glad to have a look at your keepers and to comment on the goods and the bads.

You can spend as little or as much time sitting next to him as you wish. The more time you spend with him the more massive your learning experience will be. If you have plans to go to South Georgia, book through BAA – there will be a lot of great photography and learning and laughter.


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This image was also created on the Cheesemans’ Southern Ocean 2014/2015 Expedition.

Image courtesy of and copyright 2015: Michael Hercules Viljoen

Image #3: King Penguin rookery, Salisbury Plain, South Georgia.

South Georgia October 2015

Do consider joining me in South Georgia next October for the trip of a lifetime. If you would like 20+ hours of free Photoshop tutoring and image review click here.

If you are thinking of joining me on the next Cheesemans’ South Georgia expedition, be sure to check out Michael’s penguin portfolio here.


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This image was created on the Cheesemans’ Southern Ocean 2014/2015 Expedition.

Image courtesy of and copyright 2015: Michael Hercules Viljoen

Image #4: small blue iceberg

About Michael Viljoen

Michael Viljoen, wildlife photographer, was born and bred in South Africa, is truly African at heart, and has a deep-seated love for the last remaining true wilderness areas and it’s animals. He uses his photography to express this passion while at the same time trying to create awareness of the urgency of conservation efforts and the need to protect both wildlife and wild habitat.

Michael’s passion often takes him to places far removed from the normal pathways, to remote and less travelled destinations, in order to capture animals in their natural environment. This regularly puts him in a situation where he is up close and personal with wild animals and that is why his photos often arouse feelings of intimacy. His images strive to portray another world, one of drama and poignancy where the very souls of the animals seem to be revealed…. with the aim not to only exhibit their beauty but also to highlight their fragility in a world where they are struggling against powerful forces. The human population has an insatiable hunger for land, water and food and is competing with wild animals for these finite resources, often putting whole ecological systems under threat. In Africa especially, poaching is rampant, not only for bush meat but also for ivory and Rhino horn. We are at a crossroads and the sad truth is that if more is not done to save our environment, many of the animals depicted in Michael’s photographs will not be there for our children to see and experience.


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This image was created on the Cheesemans’ Southern Ocean 2014/2015 Expedition.

Image courtesy of and copyright 2015: Michael Hercules Viljoen

Image #5: Black-browed Albatross: courting pair

About Michael Viljoen continued…

From an early age Michael was exposed to wildlife and hunting and has spent lots of time in the bush. He has always been a conservationist at heart and transformed from hunter to photographer years ago. His photography is self-taught and he will be the first to tell you that it is a continual learning experience. It is his means to interact with nature and wildlife and his knowledge and understanding of animal behavior gained over many years, give him an edge in capturing photographs with a different and fresh approach. The patience required for wildlife photography is legendary but the allure of capturing a moment of beauty and observing unusual behavior is more than enough motivation for the many hundreds of hours waiting in the bush for the right light or the right moment!

Michael has done work for African Parks, a non-profit organization that is currently managing seven parks totaling 4.1 million hectares in six countries in Africa, with plans to expand to more countries. Working with African Parks, his photographs have been exhibited at prestigious venues in order to raise awareness and also to help with fundraising for conservation projects.

Additionally he has photographed for The Peace Parks Foundation that has played a big role in the creation of various Trans-Frontier Parks in Southern Africa. Currently they are using some of his rhino photographs in the fight against Rhino poaching. Action is needed to preserve our natural world and Michael’s hope is that his photographs will inspire people everywhere to join the cause and to help stop the senseless destruction of life and beauty before it is too late.


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This image was created on the Cheesemans’ Southern Ocean 2014/2015 Expedition.

Image courtesy of and copyright 2015: Michael Hercules Viljoen

Image #6: Weddell’s Seal in heaven look

Michael’s Southern Ocean Gear Bag

Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM lens with Internal 1.4x Extender Michael was kind to loan me his 2-4 on occasion.

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens Great for flight from the ship.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. Both Michael and I used this lens extensively on the trip with the 7D II often with either the 1.4X III or the 2X II TC.

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM zoom lens We often mixed and matched our short zooms as I had both the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS and the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II along.

Canon 1.4x EF Extender III (Teleconverter) and the Canon 2x EF Extender III (teleconverter). At one point one of Michael’s 1.4X III TCs failed so I loaned him one of my three for the duration of the trip.

Canon EOS-1D X

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Like me, Michael used his 7D II almost exclusively for birds and wildlife and his 5D III for scenics. And like me he rarely used his 1D X on the trip.


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This image was created on the Cheesemans’ Southern Ocean 2014/2015 Expedition. I like Michael’s creativity here. He inverted the image in Photoshop to turn the BLUEs to Penguin Poop Krill Pink.

Image courtesy of and copyright 2015: Michael Hercules Viljoen

Image #7: Ice patterns, color inverted from blue in Photoshop

Best of All…

Best of all, Michael Viljoen is a really sweetie, a died in the wool happy camper. The only thing more persistent than his cough was his warm, friendly smile. I am trying to convince him to re-up for the 2015 voyage and to bring his son along as well :)


southgeorgiacarda

All of the images on the card were made on South Georgia. This remote wilderness island offers both spectacular scenery and hordes of tame wildlife and birds. From top left clockwise to the center: Southern Elephant Seal, courting King Penguin pair, King Penguin abstract, Grey-headed Albatross, King Penguin rookery on Salisbury Plain, Macaroni Penguin head portrait, King Penguin molting Okum Boy, Macaroni Penguin pair, King Penguin preening, Southern Elephant Seal yawning, the view of Gold Harbour from a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross nest.

Click on the image to see an extra large version.

The Southern Ocean

South Georgia Expedition Voyage

I’ve been blessed. I’ve now made four trips to the Southern Ocean, three expeditions that visited the Falklands, South Georgia, and the Antarctic Peninsula, and one to the Falklands and South Georgia. Each was a truly amazing experience. South Georgia has been the star of the show each time: rugged snow covered peaks, tame and abundant wildlife including Southern Elephant Seal and Southern Fur Seal, and penguins: more King Penguins than you could ever have dreamed of. Gentoos. And my favorite, the golden-yellow spaghetti-topped Macaronis. With four trips to South Georgi under my belt, I have a pretty good idea about how to make great images at each of the iconic landings. In addition, we should have some pretty good flight photography sessions from the stern of the ship. I would love the chance to share my knowledge with you.

Going Light

On my recent trip, I found myself going with shorter lenses and lighter gear than on any previous Southern Ocean Expedition. In part that was due to the crop factor of the 7D Mark II, in part because going light makes life (and landings!) much easier. I made many landings with just the 7D II and the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS. I refined the way that I got my gear safely from ship to shore. Lots more on that here soon.

Cheesemans’ Well Deserved Kudos

I know from personal experience that if you are a photographer who is going to invest in Southern Ocean voyage, you will want to put your money on Cheesemans’. No other tour company goes as far out of their way to ensure making every possible safe landing. And no other tour company will have you spending more time on land. Michael Viljeon from South Africa was aboard the Ortelius on a Southern Oceans voyage that preceded the Cheesemans’ trip that we were both on. As we headed back to Ushuaia, he said, “The folks that ran that first trip were pathetic. Too rough. No landing today. Surf too high today. No landing. Wind wrong direction. No landing. Cheesemans’ routinely and safely gets folks on land in conditions where the leaders of other tour companies do not even bother getting out of their bunks.”

Here, from the” Way to Go CES! (Cheeseman’s Ecology Safaris)” blog post here, is one of my favorite Cheesemans’ stories:

The landing at Bailey Head, Antarctica, was especially rewarding to me as I had been sitting in a zodiac 100 yards off shore on my 2007 trip when the zodiac in front of mine swamped and the captain of the ship called off the landing…. Early that day it looked as if my weather Karma might not be working. Ted’s “Good morning shipmates” was followed by the news that we would not be able to land at Bailey Head that morning as the swell was too big. The beach there is sloped tremendously and the sea strives to pull the zodiacs back into the ocean before folks have gotten off with their gear. Tom Murphy had said to me several days before, “We will get you on the beach at Bailey Head.” Ted concluded his morning greetings by saying, “We are sending out a scout team to see if landing is possible.”

After breakfast I was thrilled to hear Ted’s voice again on the PA, “We will be landing at 8am.” Afterwards folks noted that it was the calmest landing ever at this amazingly beautiful spot. My good weather Karma (courtesy of late-wife Elaine) had come through one last time. Along with St. Andrews Bay, it was one of my two favorite super-great once-in-a-lifetime days of the trip. And we even got to enjoy three additional hours at Hannah Point, Antarctica before calling it a wrap and heading for the feared Drake Passage. All thanks to Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris.

Important Notes

#1: If you register directly with CES you MUST remember t0 let them know that you would like to be part of the BIRDS AS ART group.

#2: Joining the BIRDS AS ART group as above will not cost you one penny.

The Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris South Georgia Expedition Voyage

An in-depth Adventure aboard the Ortelius: October 29 to November 17, 2015

From the CES website:

We are very excited to be able to bring this special in-depth expedition to you. This is a product of years of experience leading voyages to South Georgia and a passion for everything found here. Our itinerary is specifically designed to take advantage of the vibrant early season on South Georgia when snow blankets the mountains and early summer brings special wildlife treats seldom experienced. We will explore vast colonies of King Penguins, elephant seals in their peak of breeding activity, and colonies of Wandering, Gray-headed, Light-mantled, and Black-browed albatross. This cruise allows us many days to explore this truly unique island, the crown jewel of the Antarctic. The landscape filled with expanses of glaciers pouring into the sea provides rare beauty and photogenic impressiveness that words cannot convey. We will enjoy about nine days in the midst of the most beautiful and wildlife-rich island on the planet! Exceptional leadership expertise will enrich your experience throughout the voyage. Our priority on this special expedition is to give you the maximum time possible in the field so you can explore at your own pace during a special time on South Georgia. Come explore South Georgia with us!

I can personally attest to the accuracy of everything above. :)

More CES Kudos

From multiple IPT veteran Alan Lillich who (along with wife Pat) was in the BAA group on a 2012 CES voyage with me:

Start with some of the world’s best alpine landscapes, add an overwhelming abundance of tolerant wildlife, and finish with tour operators who put you there and give you the freedom to explore. It doesn’t get any better.

Questions?

I’d be glad to answer all of your Southern Ocean/Falklands/South Georgia/Antarctica questions. Please leave a comment if you’d like to learn more.

Facebook

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Support the BAA Blog. Support the BAA Bulletins: Shop B&H here!

We want and need to keep providing you with the latest free information, photography and Photoshop lessons, and all manner of related information. Show your appreciation by making your purchases immediately after clicking on any of our B&H or Amazon Affiliate links in this blog post. Remember, B&H ain’t just photography!

…..

Amazon.com

Those who prefer to support BAA by shopping with Amazon may use this link:

Amazon Canada

Many kind folks from north of the border, eh, have e-mailed stating that they would love to help us out by using one of our affiliate links but that living in Canada and doing so presents numerous problems. Now, they can help us out by using our Amazon Canada affiliate link by starting their searches by clicking here. Many thanks to those who have written.

Typos

In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right :).

March 30th, 2015

Two Puzzling Mysteries...

What’s Up?

Kudos to the Wisconsin Badgers. I am rooting for them to upset undefeated Kentucky in the Men’s NCAA Final Four. It would seem that the winner of that game would be the likely national champion, Coach K and Duke notwithstanding…. Can Notre Dame stop the Lady Huskies juggernaut? All in all, great stuff. The jubilation of the winners and the tears of the losers are quite point/counterpoint. I get a tremendous amount of pleasure watching the handshake lines….

This blog post took about 1 1/2 hours to prepare and was published from my home at ILE at 12:01am on Monday. While I slept.


bh-passoverclosing

Azizen Pesach to all of our good friends at B&H

Order Soon to Avoid Lengthy Passover Delays/Please Use Our B&H Affiliate Link(s)

If you are in a hurry to get some new photo gear, please note that you must place your order before noon on Thursday, April 2. Orders received before then will shipped before the holiday closing. Be sure of course to use our generic B&H link here in the right hand column of the blog or to click on one of our product-specific links. Many thanks for that.

Orders placed after the deadline will not ship until Monday, April 13.

Puzzling Mystery #1

I was getting ready for my Sunday swim. I was putting on the snorkeling cap that I wear to keep body heat in; it is black with ear flaps. The pool is about 75 degrees right now. Suddenly I remembered, “I need to put in my ear plugs.” Those help me avoid getting water in my ears. I walked into my office (aka man cave) which is adjacent to the pool deck. The plastic box with the earplugs was right where it was supposed to be. I took the two wax plugs out, shaped them, and inserted one into each ear.

I walked back out to the pool expecting to see the cap either on the table or atop my fins and snorkel that lay on the deck next to the pool. Not there. I went back into my office thinking that I might have placed the cap on my desk. Not there. I walked back into the bathroom to see if the cap was on the counter. I had gone there to apply anti-fog spray to my goggles. Not there. I checked my bed. Not there. I went out to the laundry room as that is where the cap was when I first grabbed it. Not there.

As my #1 rule for good living is “If you can’t find something, go back to the first place you looked and you will generally find it within two feet of that spot.” Not there. Then I looked again in all of the locations mentioned above. Still no cap. I was beginning to think that I was nuts. I knew that I had had the cap out on the deck as when I started to put the cap on it made me realize that I needed to put my ear plugs in. I searched the whole house again. No luck.

Finally I found my snorkeling cap. Where was it?


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This image was created at Alafia Banks with the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the Canon EOS-1D X . ISO 800. Evaluative metering +2/3 stop: 1/1250 sec. at f/5.6 in Av mode.

One AF point to the left of the center AF point/AI Servo Expand/Rear Focus AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best when hand holding). Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Puzzling Mystery #2

Why in the world would someone intentionally frame an image with the pelican so low in the frame? Can you come up with the number one reason? Or was this possibly simply a bad framing error?

Before and After

The animated GIF above compares the converted TIFF with the optimized image file. How many differences can you list? There are at least five


st-aug-horzscard

Clockwise from upper left to center: Snowy Egrets/breeding plumage pair, American Alligator with egret feather on head, Cattle Egret in breeding plumage (with fill flash), large Snowy Egret chicks, displaying gator, Wood Stork in flight carrying nesting material (fill flash), begging Snowy Egret chick, another Cattle Egret in breeding plumage (with fill flash), and Great Egret chick.

St. Augustine Alligator Farm Short-Notice Spoonbill and Wading Bird Chicks IPT: May 4-6, 2015. TWO FULL and TWO 1/2 DAYS: $1099. Limit 8/Openings 5.

St. Augustine in early May is a bird photographer’s paradise. With any luck we should have chicks of all sizes in the nests ranging from newly hatched Snowy Egrets and Tricolored Herons to nearly fledged Great Egrets. More than a few pairs of Roseate Spoonbills have nested at the Alligator Farm for the past several years. Photographing the spoonbill chicks in the nest is a huge challenge…. With any luck we will encounter a few Snowy and Cattle Egrets in stunning breeding plumage. We should have lots of flight photography ops especially late in the day. We will enjoy extra early entry on our three mornigs. Folks who will need a photographer’s pass ($89.95 includes full season early entry and late stay and submission fees for up to 5 photos in their annual contest; this works out to cheaper than four separate entry tickets). We will have those ready for pick-up on the first afternoon.


st-aug-verts-card-1

Clockwise from upper left: flash-as-main light Great Egret chick begging, breeding plumage Cattle Egret w/fill flash, Little Blue Heron, Great Egret chick in nest begging, Cattle Egrets copulating, Wood Stork with nesting material, another Wood Stork with nesting material, and breeding plumage Snowy Egret displaying.

What You Will Learn

On this IPT you will the learn the basics and fine points of digital exposure and how to get the right exposure every time after making a single test exposure. You will learn to understand and predict bird behavior and to see and understand the light. You will learn to design pleasing images by mastering your camera’s AF system and how and why to work in Manual mode (even if you’re scared of it). Most importantly, you will learn to spot the good situations, to choose the best perspective. Rookeries are crowded, cluttered, white-washed places. Most folks who visit have no clue as to the difference of an image with tons of distractions and one with a clean line of sight and the best possible distant background. Join me and I will teach you to see like a pro.

I will be bringing my flash to the Alligator Farm (gasp!) I have not used flash for at least a year. I will be teaching you how to use flash as fill and how to use flash as main light. In addition, I will be reviewing the flash flight techniques that I developed at St. Augustine more than a few years ago.


s-aug-spoonies-card

Clockwise from upper left: gator back, Great Egret returning to mate (with fill flash), Roseate Spoonbill with bill open, Roseate Spoonbill chick begging, Roseate Spoonbill 11am silhouette, large Great Egret chicks in nest, and bill of Roseate Spoonbill.

Whats the Rest of the Deal?

Afternoon session on Monday, May 4. Then two full days with a morning and afternoon session each day, May 5 & 6. Then our last morning on May 7. At lunch on Tuesday and Wednesday (included) we will review my images; folks learn a ton watching me edit–why keep this one and delete that one? If you opt to bring your laptop, we can take a look at five of your best images from the morning or another session. We will process a few of my images in Photoshop after converting them in DPP. That followed by Instructor Nap Time.

A $499 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your spot. Your balance–$600, payable only by check, is due immediately. Please include a separate check for $89.95 so that we can purchase your pass in advance. Please click here to read our cancellation policy before committing. Then please print, read, and sign the necessary paperwork linked to here and get it to us. You can register by calling Jim or Jen at the office at 863-692-0906 and arranging for your deposit of $499. Balances are payable only by check. I hope to see you there.

Facebook

Be sure to like and follow BAA on Facebook by clicking on the logo link upper right. Tanks a stack!

Support the BAA Blog. Support the BAA Bulletins: Shop B&H here!

We want and need to keep providing you with the latest free information, photography and Photoshop lessons, and all manner of related information. Show your appreciation by making your purchases immediately after clicking on any of our B&H or Amazon Affiliate links in this blog post. Remember, B&H ain’t just photography!

…..

Amazon.com

Those who prefer to support BAA by shopping with Amazon may use this link:

Amazon Canada

Many kind folks from north of the border, eh, have e-mailed stating that they would love to help us out by using one of our affiliate links but that living in Canada and doing so presents numerous problems. Now, they can help us out by using our Amazon Canada affiliate link by starting their searches by clicking here. Many thanks to those who have written.

Typos

In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right :).

March 29th, 2015

Kicking Up Sand & Manual Mode a Must! & Exposure Fine Points & Zone AF & The 7D II/600 II ISO Advantage

What’s Up?

I enjoyed a relaxing 1/2 mile swim and and an ice bath today. BTW, go Wisconsin! I felt like a travel agent arranging my flights to Santiago, Chile and Stanley in the Falklands (where I will board the Ortelius for my next Cheesemans’ South Georgia Expedition) and to Tokyo for the sold out Japan in Winter IPT. Lots lots more healthy eating. And I enjoyed another great night’s sleep on Friday with just one pit stop. This blog post took about 2 1/2 hours to prepare and was published from my home at ILE, FL very early on Sunday morning. Today marks 81 straight days with a new educational blog post.

Canon 600 mm f/4L IS II Lens

David Ramirez is offering a used Canon EF 600mm f/4 L IS II in excellent plus condition for $10,499.00. The sale includes the Lenscoat cover in Max-4, the rear lens cap, the front lens cover, the lens trunk, the lens strap, the original box, the lens manual, and both the original lens foot and the 4th Generation Design replacement low foot CRX-5 (a $122 value). Insured shipping via UPS Ground is also included. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact David by e-mail ­­­­­­­­or by phone at 541-892-3726 (Pacific Time).

As the lens sells new for $11,999 you can save a cool $1500 by grabbing this one now.

I currently own and use the 600 II as my go-to super-telephoto lens when I need reach. It teams well with any camera body and offers amazing reach with the new 7D II (960mm at f/4!). I use it often with my 1DX with both TCs especially the 2X III. as I recommend and use the Mongoose M3.6 I use the CR-X5 Low Foot as the plate. Some young strong folks hand hold the 600 II for long flight and general bird photography shooting sessions. I can hand hold it only for short periods unless I am seated. It is a killer lens when using your car as a blind with the lens supported by a BLUBB.

South Georgia October 2015

Do consider joining me in South Georgia next October for the trip of a lifetime. Click here for complete details.

St. Augustine Alligator Farm Short-Notice Spoonbill and Wading Bird Chicks IPT: May 1-4, 2015. TWO FULL and TWO 1/2 DAYS: $1099. Limit 8/Openings 6.

Two folks have signed up for this IPT that was announced only yesterday. Scroll down here for complete details.

Please Remember to use our Affiliate Links :)

To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you use our the B&H and Amazon affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your purchases. B&H is recommended for you major photography gear purchases, Amazon for your household, entertainment, and general purpose stuff. Please remember: no phone orders: web orders only!

Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod heads, Gitzo tripods, Wimberley heads and plates, LensCoats and accessories, and the like. We sell only what I have used, have tested, and can depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know what you need to make creating great images easy and fun. And we are always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

I would of course appreciate your using our B&H affiliate links for all of your major gear, video, and electronic purchases. For the photographic stuff mentioned in the paragraph above we, meaning BAA, would of course greatly appreciate your business. Here is a huge thank you to the many who have been using our links on a regular basis and visiting the BAA Online store as well.


brown-pelican-taking-flight-_y8a0003-alafaia-banks-fl title=

This image was created at 8:19am on the cloudy morning of March 22, 2015 at Alafia Banks with the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens and the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. ISO 640: 1/1250 sec. at f/5.6. AWB.

AI Servo Zone/Shutter Button AF as framed was active at the moment of exposure; see the DPP 4 screen capture below for the active points. Click on the image to see the spectacular larger version.

Manual Mode a Must!

Those who persist in working in Av mode in all situations for a variety of reasons (and all the rest of you as well) are invited to estimate the correct amount of positive or negative Exposure Compensation (EC) that should have been shown on the analogue scale at the moment of exposure to result in a perfect exposure.

To simplify the question, what would the right EC have been if you had been working in Av mode?

Either way, the answer will be the same. We can make it a multiple choice question to encourage more folks to participate:

a: +2 stops
b: +1 stop
c: +1/3 stop
d: -1/3 stop
e: -2 stops
f: -2 2/3 stops

Be sure to let us know why you chose your answer.

Exposure Fine Points

#1: if you are photographing a species of a given tonality in flight (working correctly in Manual mode as you should be for most flight situations) and the bird lands, it is generally best to open up 1/3 stop (usually by slowing down the shutter speed one click). Why? Though theoretically the light falling on the subject is roughly the same whether the bird is in flight or on the ground my experience is that “it is lighter up there.” That is, the land absorbs a bit of the light. Does this really make sense to me? No. Does it work? Yes.

#2 is a principle that we teach whenever we are photographing a variety of birds in flight in the same light: to get the right exposure for subjects of varying tonalities you need to adjust your shutter speed for light and dark birds. Again, it is almost always best to do that by adjusting the shutter speed. At the defaults, with Canon gear, that means turning the Index Finger Dial clockwise for a faster shutter speed and counter-clockwise for a slower shutter speed.

Here is how that works at Alafia Banks:

a: Figure the correct exposure in a given lighting condition via experience and a histogram check. Make sure that you have no blinkies on the subject and that you have data well into the fifth (highlight) histogram box on the right. On a clear sunny morning at ISO 400 this usually work out to 1/3200 sec. at f/6.3.

b: If a Great Egret comes along, go one click clockwise with the Index Finger Wheel to 1/4000 sec. at f/6.3. Why? Great Egrets are well whiter than the brightest WHITEs on a spoonbill. Remember this principle: Whites and light tones need less light to be properly exposed than middle tones.

c-If a Great Blue Heron or a Brown Pelican flies by go one click lighter (slower shutter speed) than you are for a spoonbill. Why? The WHITEs on these two species are not as bright as the WHITEs on a spoonbill. This would put you at 1/2500 sec. at f/6.3.

d-If a dark morph Reddish Egret (darn close to a middle tone) comes into range go only another click lighter? Why? You need to guard against getting blinkies on the pink of the bill which can be very bright in full breeding plumage… You will wind up at 1/2000 sec. at f/6.3.

e: If a Double-crested Cormorant flies by open up only four clicks from the spoonbill settings. Though it is a black bird, you still need to guard against toasting the bright orange bill. You will correctly be at 1/1250 sec.

f: If a Fish Crow (basically all BLACK) is the subject, open six clicks from the spoonbill settings to 1/800 sec. (if I have done the math correctly.

We do the exact same thing at Bosque with the geese and cranes, we vary the shutter speed to come up with a good exposure for birds of varying tonalities while working in Manual mode when the light is constant.


dpp-scrbcapt-brpelican

The DPP 4 Screen Capture

Zone AF

As careful readers have been noticing, I have been working more with Zone AF in recent months. While I almost never rely on Zone AF for flight, I have been trying it for action shots and also with somewhat static stuff. I chose it for today’s pelican image in an effort to move the bird back in the frame. The relatively wide coverage of center AF zone allows for that with large birds. When the pelican raised its wings to take off and kicked up some sand in the process I simply fired off several frames. As you can see by the screen capture above, Zone AF did an excellent job of picking AF points that resulted in a sharp-on-the-eye image.

All in all AF Zone has performed quite well in a variety of situations. For flight however, I will be sticking with center AF point/Expand AF… And of course, my new old friend, Shutter Button AF.

Before and After Image Questions

What are the two main differences between the original image (as seen in the screen cap) and the optimized version that opens this post? Eagle-eyed readers will be able to come up with at least three differences.

The DPP 4 Screen Capture

Though you cannot see the Brightness slider, I moved it to +.67 as the original was about 2/3 stop underexposed. I moved the Highlight slider to -1 (as I often do) to assure lots of detail in the brightest highlights, in this case, the light yellow atop the pelican’s head. I moved the Shadow slider to -1 to darken the background; this is something that I do only rarely.

Digital Basics

Everything that I did to optimize today’s image is covered in detail in my Digital Basics File–written in my easy-to-follow, easy-to-understand style. Are you tired of making your images look worse in Photoshop? Digital Basics File is an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. It includes my complete digital workflow, dozens of great Photoshop tips, details on using all of my image clean-up tools, the use of Contrast Masks, several different ways of expanding and filling in canvas, all of my time-saving Keyboard Shortcuts, Quick Masking, Layer Masking, and NIK Color Efex Pro basics, Contrast Masks, Digital Eye Doctor techniques, using Gaussian Blurs, Tim Grey Dodge and Burn, a variety of ways to make selections, how to create time-saving actions, the Surface Blur (background noise reduction) settings, and tons more.

APTATS I & II

Learn the details of advanced Quick Masking techniques in APTATS I. Learn Advanced Layer Masking Techniques in APTATS II. Mention this blog post and apply a $5 discount to either with phone orders only. Buy both APTATS I and APTATS II and we will be glad to apply at $15 discount either with phone orders or here in the BAA Online Store. For phone orders, call Jim or Jennifer at 863-692-0906 weekdays.


dpp-4-guide

You can order your copy of “The Photographers’ Guide to Canon Digital Photo Professional 4.0″ (aka the DPP 4 Raw Conversion eGuide) by Arash Hazeghi and Arthur Morris by clicking here.

The DPP 4 eGuide (PDF)

The Ideal Companion to the 7D Mark II User’s Guide

Learn how and why I and many other discerning photographers choose and use only DPP 4 to convert their Canon RAW files in the DPP 4 RAW Conversion Guide by Arash Hazeghi and yours truly. The latest version supports all of the newer Canon camera bodies and several older models including the EOS-7D and the EOS-1D Mark IV. A free update that will cover most of the newly added cameras will be sent in a week or two. See upcoming blog posts for exact details.


st-aug-horzscard

Clockwise from upper left to center: Snowy Egrets/breeding plumage pair, American Alligator with egret feather on head, Cattle Egret in breeding plumage (with fill flash), large Snowy Egret chicks, displaying gator, Wood Stork in flight carrying nesting material (fill flash), begging Snowy Egret chick, another Cattle Egret in breeding plumage (with fill flash), and Great Egret chick.

St. Augustine Alligator Farm Short-Notice Spoonbill and Wading Bird Chicks IPT: May 1-4, 2015. TWO FULL and TWO 1/2 DAYS: $1099. Limit 8/Openings 6.

St. Augustine in early May is a bird photographer’s paradise. With any luck we should have chicks of all sizes in the nests ranging from newly hatched Snowy Egrets and Tricolored Herons to nearly fledged Great Egrets. More than a few pairs of Roseate Spoonbills have nested at the Alligator Farm for the past several years. Photographing the spoonbill chicks in the nest is a huge challenge…. With any luck we will encounter a few Snowy and Cattle Egrets in stunning breeding plumage. We should have lots of flight photography ops especially late in the day. We will enjoy early entry. Folks who will need a photographer’s pass ($89.95 includes full season early entry and late stay and submission fees for up to 5 photos in their annual contest; this works out to cheaper than four separate entry tickets). We will have those ready for pick-up on the first afternoon. All will need to bring a $5 bill for the staff tip for each of our 3 extra-late stays.


st-aug-verts-card-1

Clockwise from upper left: flash-as-main light Great Egret chick begging, breeding plumage Cattle Egret w/fill flash, Little Blue Heron, Great Egret chick in nest begging, Cattle Egrets copulating, Wood Stork with nesting material, another Wood Stork with nesting material, and breeding plumage Snowy Egret displaying.

What You Will Learn

On this IPT you will the learn the basics and fine points of digital exposure and how to get the right exposure every time after making a single test exposure. You will learn to understand and predict bird behavior and to see and understand the light. You will learn to design pleasing images by mastering your camera’s AF system and how and why to work in Manual mode (even if you’re scared of it). Most importantly, you will learn to spot the good situations, to choose the best perspective. Rookeries are crowded, cluttered, white-washed places. Most folks who visit have no clue as to the difference of an image with tons of distractions and one with a clean line of sight and the best possible distant background. Join me and I will teach you to see like a pro.

I will be bringing my flash to the Alligator Farm (gasp!) I have not used flash for at least a year. I will be teaching you how to use flash as fill and how to use flash as main light. In addition, I will be reviewing the flash flight techniques that I developed at St. Augustine more than a few years ago.


s-aug-spoonies-card

Clockwise from upper left: gator back, Great Egret returning to mate (with fill flash), Roseate Spoonbill with bill open, Roseate Spoonbill chick begging, Roseate Spoonbill 11am silhouette, large Great Egret chicks in nest, and bill of Roseate Spoonbill.

Whats the Rest of the Deal?

At lunch (included) we will review my images; folks learn a ton watching me edit–why keep this one and delete that one. If you opt to bring your laptop, we can take a look at five of your best images from the morning session. We will process a few of my images in Photoshop after converting them in DPP. That followed by Instructor Nap Time.

A $499 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your spot. Your balance of $600, payable only by check, is due immediately. Please include a separate check for $89.95 so that we can purchase your pass in advance. Please click here to read our cancellation policy before committing. Then please print, read, and sign the necessary paperwork linked to here and get it to us. You can register by calling Jim or Jen at the office at 863-692-0906 and arranging for your deposit of $499. Balances are payable only by check. I hope to see you there.

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