Telephoto Lens Cap for Canon & Nikon Camera Lenses

Four Favorite Images from Valley of Fire State Park

A few weeks ago I found myself in Valley of Fire State Park once again leading a photography workshop. Valley of Fire has become  a favorite location of mine for it’s unique and colorful sandstone geology. No other location, as far as I know, has such a rich concentration of dramatic sandstone in one place.  The great thing about Valley of Fire is that you can simply park your car and walk out across the sandstone in any direction and find your own unique images. Running a workshop however requires getting clients to some of those “iconic” locations, and it’s my pleasure to do so. All the more so when the weather and light cooperate. Over the workshop the light certainly was dramatic at times!

Vally of Fire State Park

The first image I from the very first field session we had as group. We hiked out to Fire Wave under partly cloudy skies in hopes that we might catch some dramatic light at sunset. Fire Wave has become a popular spot in the last couple of years. So popular in fact that the park decided to put in a maintained trail to the location. In the past, you had to know where to go and simply choose a route across the stone until you arrived at this small yet dramatic parcel of swirling color. We arrived well before sunset and waited and studied the light until it reached it’s most dramatic point about 10 minutes after the sun had set and the sky caught fire with dramatic light. I was immediately drawn to the symmetry between the shape of the clouds and the swirling sandstone in the foreground.  The light was pretty intense and required a blend of two exposures to capture the full dynamic range of light –Nikon D800 DSLRNikon 14-24mm f/2.8, ISO 50, F11 @ 2 seconds for the sky and 8 seconds for the land.

2-crazy-hill-sunset-valley-of-fire

The image above is from a incredibly surreal area of multi-colored sandstone near White Domes. The formation is unofficially known as “Crazy Hill” and it has become a favorite spot to visit for me in the past couple of years. In fact some of my finest images from the park have been captured at this location. I have been trying to capture a traditional take on this formation for some time, but the light and clouds never have cooperated, not until this last trip that is! Nikon D800 DSLR14-24mm f/2.8, ISO 100, 1 second @ f11. 

3-sandstone-swirl-sunset-valley-of-fire

I captured this image above after the workshop had ended. I had an early flight the next morning out of Vegas and considered driving into Las Vegas in the afternoon, getting a room and sleeping the rest of the day. I was exhausted after ten days of shooting, camping, hiking and finally leading a workshop. Instead I decided to stay the night in Overton and finish up the trip with one last session out in the sandstone. I stumbled on this location about two years ago and immediately fell in love with the swirling s-curve of color. it wash;t until this time around that I got good condition, color and some clouds to capture the image.  Nikon D800 DSLR14-24mm f/2.8, ISO 50, 4 second @ f11.

4-elephant-rock-moonrise-valley-of-fire

On the way out of the park, the full moon was rising at twilight. I rushed over to Elephant Rock to try and capture the moon coming up through the opening of the arch. The sky to the east was bathed in a deep blue glow from the Earth shadow and a few clouds on the horizon were still catching some soft pink light. The moon was rising quickly and the stars were beginning to shine. I had time to only shoot three images before the moon was above the arch.   Nikon D800 DSLRNikon 24-70mm f/2.8,  8 seconds @ F8, ISO 800.

I’ll be posting more images from the trip soon. In the meantime, we have some opening for a few upcoming photography workshops if you are interested in chasing the light with me in some of the most beautiful locations in the U.S.

CHARLESTON & SAVANNAH PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP

WEST VIRGINIA PHOTOGRAPHY BOOTCAMP

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP

ACADIA NATIONAL PARK PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP

don-zeck-lens-cap 

JosephRossbachJoseph Rossbach has been photographing the landscape for over fifteen years. Joe’s photographs and articles have appeared in a number of books, calendars and magazines including Outdoor Photographer, The Nature Conservancy, Digital Photo, Photo Techniques, Popular Photography, Blue Ridge Country, Mountain Connections and many more. Joe is also a staff course instructor for Nature Photographers Magazine, and writes a regular blog column for Outdoor Photographer Magazine online edition. Joe is also a co-author and contributing photographer two print books, The Ultimate Guide to Digital Nature Photography (Mountain Trail Press) and 50 Amazing Things You Must See and Do in the Greater D.C. Area, The Ultimate Adventure Guide. Joe continues to travel extensively producing new and exciting images of the natural world as well as leading several photography workshops and photo tours each year.

Posted in: Photography Destinations, Photography Workshops

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Four Top Photographers Share Insight on Processing Images with Nik Software


You all know I’m a huge fan of Nik Software plug-ins for Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.  I’ve written often about my affection for Silver Efex Pro 2 and it’s powerful but intuitive controls for converting color images to black and white, and how Viveza 2 makes it effortless to to make local and global adjustments to light and color, and don’t get me started on all the amazing filters in Color Efex Pro 4 that allow me to make creative edits without logging endless hours at my desk.  Now throw in Dfine 2 for noise reduction that doesn’t sacrifice detail, Sharpener Pro 3 for painless sharpening of images for web and print and HDR Efex Pro 2 for creating stunning images with expanded dynamic range and you’ve got an unparalleled collection of imaging software.  But you expect to hear that from me.  So instead of writing another blog post about how I use the Nik Software Complete Collection, I thought I’d ask a few of the most talented photographers on the planet to share some insight on how they use these tools in their workflow.  Read on to learn how Laurie Rubin, Mike Moats, John Batdorff and Peter Tellone take control of their images with the Nik Software Complete Collection.

Nik Software Laurie Rubin – Laurie is a well-traveled nature and wildlife photographer with an impressive portfolio of stunning imagery.  I found her “Animals of East Africa” web gallery to be especially impressive.  Laurie’s been using Nik Software plug-ins for about 8 years.  I asked Laurie why she prefers to use Nik plug-ins instead of a more traditional approach like Photoshop.  Her response? “The Nik Software products make it so easy to make adjustments without having to make layers and masks. Using Dfine 2.0 to remove noise from images that are shot at high ISO is a simple click of a button and having the ability to use Control Points within any of the Nik products allows for quick and easy selective adjustments. Whether you are trying to bring up details in shadowed areas with Viveza 2 or creating global enhancements throughout your image by adding a soft, moody effect, with Color Efex Pro 4 and the Midnight filter for example, you have total control how you want your image to look.”  Laurie’s two favorite plug-ins are Color Efex Pro 4 and Sharpener Pro 3, which she uses on wildlife images to selectively sharpen the eyes because she believes “an animal’s eyes can speak volumes in an image.”  Some of Laurie’s favorite Color Efex Pro 4 filters include Tonal Contrast, Midnight, Vignette Lens, Darken/Lighten Center, Image Borders and Detail Extractor, which she enjoys because it makes it easy to bring out details in feathers on a bird or within a lion’s mane.  Laurie also likes the Glamour Glow filter – even for animals!  To see more of Laurie’s fantastic work, please visit her website at www.imagesbylaurie.com.

Mike Moats – Simply stated, Mike Moats has mastered macro photography.  His website, Tiny Landscapes, showcases what I consider to be the most inspired collection of macro images you’ll ever see.  Mike learned of Nik Software’s Complete Collection nearly two years ago from a student at one of his wildly popular (and usually sold out) “Macro Photography Boot Camps”.  Mike watched as the student used a Control Point in Viveza to selectively adjust exposure and color without having to resort to complicated layers and masks.  He was intrigued and downloaded the software as soon as he got home.  Mike’s workflow usually begins with Color Efex Pro 4 to achieve “the look he wants using one or more of the filters”.  Then he fine tunes the image using Control Points in Viveza 2.  I asked Mike to name a few of his favorite Color Efex Pro 4 filters and he rattled off several that he uses on a regular basis, often with four or more used on one image.  His favorite filters include Detail Extractor, which he likes because it “pulls out the details in the textures, and also enhances the colors” and the Midnight filter, which he finds “slightly softens the details and adds a nice dark moody look to an image”. He also uses the Dark Contrast or Low Key filter on images that are a bit too bright, the High Key or Skylight filter on photos that are a bit dark and the Brilliance/Warmth filter to enhance colors (I also use this one often).  Other favorite Color Efex Pro 4 filters include Solarization, Polaroid Transfer and Glamour Glow.  Be sure to check out Mike’s blog at www.mikemoatsblog.com for inspiration in the form of beautiful macro images and frequent tips on how he makes these stunning images.

John Batdorff – John is a talented landscape and travel photographer, author of several books including the fantastic “Plug In with Nik“, an in-demand workshop leader and all-around great guy.  John has been using Nik Software for six years and though he still uses Lightroom and Photoshop to some degree, he finds that Nik’s plug-ins are “very intuitive and the tools are so powerful that it allows me to focus on my creative vision without the technical “how to” distractions”.  As a nationally recognized authority on black and white photography, it should come as no surprise that one of John’s favorite Nik tools is Silver Efex Pro 2.  He says, “Nothing gives you as much control over your black and white images”.  He’s also a “big fan” of HDR Efex Pro 2 because of the ease with which it allows you to create natural looking high dynamic range landscapes and Color Efex Pro 4, which he describes as the “Swiss Army Knife of plugins that can be used to deal with a flat sky or add a cool border around an image and many other important edits”.  I’ve never heard it put that way but I wholeheartedly agree!  Stay in touch with John on Facebooktwitter and Google Plus.

Peter Tellone – There aren’t a whole lot of photographers who produce truly spectacular HDR landscapes but Peter Tellone is one of them.  Peter’s images are masterfully composed and expertly processed, resulting in stunning HDR photographs based in realism.  He’s been using Nik Software’s plug-ins for about two years.  I asked Peter if he had any tips to share with photographers about using HDR Efex Pro 2 that would help them avoid “overcooking” their HDR images.  He said that the most common problem he sees is that “with all of HDR Efex Pro 2’s controls in front of them they think they have to use them all” when in fact, doing less often results in a much more natural image.  Peter typically adjusts only the overall exposure, saturation, compression and structure.  The HDR process can often add noise to an image, which Peter deals with by using Nik’s Dfine plug-in.  He likes using Dfine because it allows him to easily eliminate noise while maintaining important detail.  He also uses Nik Sharpener Pro 3 to sharpen his images for web and print.  I asked Peter why he prefers to use Nik Software’s plug-ins instead of Photoshop.  He said that he’s been using Photoshop for a very long time and “knows his way around it very well, so when he reaches for other software he needs to do it better and faster than Photoshop can.”  That’s a sentiment I echo.  Be sure to check out Peter’s excellent blog, “The HDR Image“, for great tutorials, tips and more.

There you have it, folks.  Insight from four top photographers about how they use Nik Software’s Complete Collection of Lightroom and Photoshop plug-ins to take control of and streamline their digital darkroom workflow.  For even more in-depth training and tutorials, I can’t recommend enough the great videos and webinars on the Nik website.  I owe a huge thanks to Laurie, Mike, John and Peter for taking time out of their busy schedules to share their thoughts and advice with me.  Please take a moment to check out their websites and get inspired by their photography!

Don Zeck Lens Cap

bret edge

 Bret Edge is a nature and adventure photographer in Moab, Utah. His interest in photography evolved as an extension of his life long passion for the outdoors. He is an avid hiker, backpacker, mountain biker and canyoneer. A visit in 1999 to an exhibit featuring photographs by Ansel Adams, Jack Dykinga and David Muench stoked Bret’s creative fire such that he immediately purchased his first SLR camera, a Canon Rebel. In the years since, he has traveled extensively throughout the American West creating a diverse portfolio of dynamic images.

Bret’s work has appeared in magazines, calendars, travel guides and advertising campaigns. His clients include Backpacker magazine, Popular Photography, the Utah Office of Tourism, Charles Schwab & Co. and Jackson Hole Mountain Guides.

While Bret enjoys seeing his work in print, he receives the most satisfaction by helping others realize their potential as photographers. He accomplishes this by leading several group workshops each year and guiding photographers on private photo excursions. For information about his workshops and guided excursions, visit www.moabphotoworkshops.com. To view a collection of Bret’s images, visit www.bretedge.com.  Bret lives in Moab with his wife, Melissa, their son Jackson, and two All-Terrain Pugs named Bierstadt and Petunia.

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Through the Grama

For February at 6500′, it’s a warm day–about 40 degrees–and the sun makes it feel even warmer as we hike across the windswept grassland plateau.  Snow still blankets the north-facing slopes, but the rest of the ground is free of snow, soft, and slightly muddy in places.  Everywhere, almost literally, signs of elk abound; I have never seen so many turds and tracks in one place.  This small plateau must be great winter ground for them.  I haven’t seen (or felt) any invasive Drooping Brome (Cheat Grass) in my socks all day, only native Bouteloua (Grama Grass).  Here on the Colorado Plateau, where some areas have been grazed extensively, that must be one sign of a healthy ecosystem.

Through the Grama we hike, our heavy packs weighing us down more and more, until–finally–the east rim of the Grand Canyon reveals itself to us.

Reflected light in the Colorado River

Reflected light in the Colorado River

Last weekend, Jackson Frishman invited me to join him on a trip to visit the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers.  Jackson’s proposal was ambitious: nearly 40 miles of hiking in 2.5 days, with no water along the route (we had to carry our own water cache).  He introduced it to me as a hare-brained plan, and honestly that’s all he needed to say to get me on board.

Jackson told me he wanted to visit the confluence because the Grand Canyon Escalade–a proposed tourism development on the western edge of the Navajo Nation, which overlooks the confluence.  If the project passes, it would include a tram from the rim down to the Little Colorado River (read more about Escaladeherehere, and here).  For me, it was a good time to familiarize myself with this area, learn a little more about the proposal, as well as to visit the Grand Canyon again; I began my backpacking life there, and the Grand Canyon evokes many special memories for me.

On Friday night, we discussed the final plans over beers and enchiladas, and it was clear that the stress of planning the trip had turned into excitement for what lied ahead.  We started out on Saturday morning; our packs were weighed down with a couple of extra gallons of water for the return hike.  We dropped the water underneath a couple of stiff piñon boughs to keep it from freezing, as well as to keep it away from the ravens which were surely watching us.  As we got closer to the park service boundary with the Navajo Nation, we found an old hogan, with a missing west wall; the doorway of a Navajo hogan faces east to receive the morning sun and it’s good blessings, and when someone dies in a hogan they are carried out through a hole that has been knocked in the west wall, then the home is abandoned.

Little Colorado River Arizona

Little Colorado River Arizona

After several more miles, we crested a hill and scared a large herd of maybe 200 elk out of a drainage.  They must have known about a water source that we didn’t.  We watched the elk until they disappeared into the horizon and would see them several times over the next couple of days.   The final push to the east rim was tortuous; buttes on the north side of the Colorado River were visible, but they never seemed to get any closer.  However, finally, after what felt like hours we arrived at Cape Solitude.

Solitude indeed.  We had not seen any other human footprints all day, and aside from a windbreak built from rocks, our campsite showed no sign of other humans at all.  In the second-most-visited national park, solitude can be tough to come by.  It’s a special feeling to have a piece of the Grand Canyon all to yourself.

Sunrise at the confluence of the Colorado and the Little Colorado Rivers

Sunrise at the confluence of the Colorado and the Little Colorado Rivers

We woke up to a windy but beautiful sunrise the next morning and hiked back to our water cache (thankfully untouched) from the day before.  After rehydrating, I was happy to hike to our second night’s camp, closer to our trailhead, but with another private view of the canyon’s rim.  Horned larks flitting through the sagebrush and elk were our only company.  The next morning Jackson and I returned to our cars, shared a couple of cold beers, and parted ways.

We hiked through the Grama–through a healthy ecosystem–to a part of the Grand Canyon only a few people get to see.  Elk tracks went right up to the rim.  I wonder if they admire the view from time to time?  In my twentieth year of visiting the Grand Canyon, I still stand in awe of the vast landscape, and can’t help but wonder if some of that awe would be diminished if I could take a tram all the way to the bottom, or if–consequently–the elk tracks didn’t go all the way to the rim.

sunset on the little colorado river gorge

Sunset on the little colorado river gorge

P.S. You can also read Jackson’s post and see his image of Cape Solitude at his blog here.  His blog is always worth a visit, with fantastic writing and wonderful imagery.
Don Zeck Lens Cap

Greg RussellWendell Berry wrote, “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.”  This notion of Sense of Place–our geographic location partly defining who we are–resonates with me.  Because I was born and have lived my entire life in the American West, the landscapes, people, culture and values of the West have helped shape who I am today.  I feel at home in the mountains and canyons I grew up exploring.

As a photographer, I continue exploring the wild places I fell in love with as a child.  Through my images, I want to foster in the viewer an authentic sense of attachment and belonging to the environment.  I make images of landscapes that connect me to these places; often they are intimate scenes whose beauty may not be immediately obvious to the casual observer.

I very much hope you enjoy the images on my website and I encourage you to subscribe to my blog.  If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me!  Greg Russell

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The Sound Of Silence

As much as I enjoy making images, I’ve been journeying to the kinds of places I go now to take pictures long before I got serious about photography.  In fact, one of the things I like about image making is that it allows me to capture a moment and relive the  experience whenever I view the corresponding image.

An acquaintance of mine once told me that when he saw my images, he often had the feeling that he was seeing a pristine landscape—as though he was the first person ever to see the setting.  I’ve rarely, if ever, received more meaningful praise, because one of the most appealing aspects of most of the photo shoots I go on is a sense of quiet—at least, in terms of man made sound.  I frequently find myself listening to the sounds of running water, the wind, birds and other wildlife…or nothing at all.

Each of the images accompanying this entry reminds me of a peaceful, bucolic experience.

cades cove great smoky mountains

On this morning, I was third in line at the gate to get into Cades Cove at sunrise.  When the rangers opened the gate, I made a beeline for the back side of the loop road, while others stopped at Sparks and Hyatt Lanes.  That gave me the rare opportunity to experience this open meadow with no one else around which made for a very quiet setting…except for some deer moving through the fields and the occasional gobbling of wild turkeys.

Wooly Back Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

I spent almost two hours at this overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, during which time only three cars passed by.  The rest of the time I heard nothing but the sound of the occasional songbird and the rustling of leaves in the light breeze.

Heart of the Dunes, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

I hiked into the “Heart of the Dunes” at White Sands National Monument about two hours before sunset and returned after the sun had gone down.  I never saw or heard another soul.  In fact, the only sound I ever heard was my own feet in the sand.  When I stood still, the silence was ear-splitting.

Mill Creek Rapids, Cataract Falls State Recreation Area, Indiana

I didn’t see a single person during the late morning/early afternoon I spent at Cataract Falls State Recreation Area.  I heard the unfettered sound of the rushing rapids of Mill Creek, and nothing else.

Swift Creek Overlook at Sunrise, Red River Gorge, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky

I could hear—but not see—the distant waters of Swift Creek, far below the narrow rock outcropping that I had all to myself on a morning that found the Red River Gorge choked with fog.

The Fire Wave at Dusk, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

There had been a few other people at the Fire Wave during the hour-plus that I had been at this location, waiting for the light to improve.  Fortunately, by the time it reached its apex, I was all by myself.  I could have heard a pin drop a mile away, but there wasn’t anyone there to drop one.

Red Jack Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

I was all alone on a morning so quiet I could hear myself think at Red Jack Lake, miles into the Hiawatha National Forest.  It seemed like the epitome of irreverence to make a sound.

Bandon Beach at Sunset, Oregon

Depending on the time of day, you can wander for miles on Bandon Beach and never see another soul.  Not long after making this photograph, I hiked roughly three miles back to Coquille Point, in the gathering gloom, with only the sound of the surf as a companion.

I don’t know if these are among my best images, but they are among my favorites, precisely because of the memories they trigger.  Perhaps that implicitly makes them among my “best”…

lens cap 

Kerry-LeibowitzHi, my name is Kerry Leibowitz.  I’m a Midwest-based (I split my time between the Chicago and Indianapolis areas) photographer with a particular propensity for the landscape.  

You can read my other blog posts at my website Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog and see my photo galleries at Lightscapes Nature Photography

The entire contents of my web site, images and text, are the copyrighted property of Kerry Leibowitz and may not be duplicated or reproduced in any form without express consent.  Image rights may be purchased; please contact me to make arrangements.  Images may not be hot linked.

copyright Kerry

Posted in: Nature Photography, Photography Destinations

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Wacom Intuos5 Review

In today’s world of photography, post-processing of digital images is an absolute necessity.

In the old days of film photography one would spend hours in the darkroom dodging and burning, working with filters to increase contrast, and pushing development times to achieve better exposures. We were limited.

Now there are tools which can greatly enhance one’s processing. Enter the world of digital tablets. At the top of the pyramid of this class are the Wacom Intuos5 Tablets.

My friends at Hunt’s Photo sent me one to review and test.

Wacom Intuos5 Review

 

After opening up the package and plugging the tablet, I set about becoming familiar with how it works. It is amazingly complex with a vast array of ways to program the tablet to suit one’s needs.

There are basically two interfaces one can use with the table. The pen, with lots of choices of brushes, or one’s hand using gestures. I soon had a photo loaded in photoshop and set about using dodge and burn, saturation, masks, and curves to get the photograph to look like what I wanted it to do.

Wacom2IMG_3274_DxO-600x446
What I found myself doing was using my hands for controlling the various Photoshop Tools. It was a new experience for me, something I had never done before. Gone was the mouse and its limitations. It seemed inuitive.

I was interacting with the computer in a way I had never experienced before. I felt a sense of creativeness, much like a painter who individual brush strokes bring a canvas to life. It was the freedom of it, smooth, simple, so very easy to adjust the foreground saturation, change the warmth of tones in the distance forest, sharpen only what needed sharpening. Yes, indeed, after a few hours of working with the Wacom I had discovered a new world of human/technology interface.

For most users, who do have a bit of desk space, I would recommend the medium sized tablet.

Dimensions (W x D x H): 380 mm x 251 mm x 12 mm
Active area Pen (W x D): 224 mm x 140 mm
Active area Touch (W x D): 224 mm x 140 mm
Weight: 990 g
Multi-touch Support: yes
Wireless Accessory Support: yes
Resolution (per point): 0.005 mm (5,080 lines per inch)
Tilt sensitivity: ± 60°
Maximum reading height with pen: 10 mm
No. of ExpressKeys: 8 capacitve keys
Touch Ring controller: 1

The tablet can be used as a large touchpad for simple navigation.  It uses some standard universal (Apple-like) gestures. There are some custom gestures that you can assign macro commands for use in your favorite post-processing software.

There are options to adjust touch settings, like pointer speed, scrolling speed, pointer acceleration, double-tap time, or completely disable the touch input. While I would not replace my mouse, I must admit that using the tablet one could very well consider this idea after using the device for an extended period.

Standard gestures include: tap to click, two finger tap to right click, two finger drag to scroll, pinch to zoom/rotate, three finger swipe left-right to navigate, four finger swipe left-right to switch application. You can disable any of them.

The tablets come in three sizes. I recommend the medium sized unit, especially if one has limited desk space. If one spends a great deal of time using the keyboard, I recommend the small unit. At $229, today’s price, it’s a bargain.

Intuos5-touch-range-PTH-Fam

Customizable gestures include: three finger tap and hold, four finger swipe up/down, five finger tap and hold, and five finger swipe up/down.

In other words, the tablet had almost unlimited ways to set it up to your liking.

What is difficult to explain is the feel of the tablet surface, not too slicky, not too rough, just right, especially for those of us who have lots of finger grease. :-)

One thing I do want to emphasize is that cheaper is not better. There are lots of digital tablets out there, those designed for the consumer market aren’t what a serious photographer should consider. After all, if one has spent $15,000 on cameras and lenses, why would one buy a cheap tablet with severe limitations?

If you are serious about trying this fantastic new human/technology interface, I strongly suggest that you consider buying one from Hunt’s Photo Video. Why? Because the company has an incredible reputation for quality support services. I have used Hunt’s for years, they are always willing to assist me. One example was my desire to be among the first to get a Nikon D800. I got one within a week of asking, most other vendors said it would be six weeks!

I also recommend that one visit Wacom and plunder around. One can download the manual for the Wacom Intuos5 and have a good read before ordering.

In sum, even old dogs like me can find a new toy to use. Life is about learning new ways to do old things. The Wacom Intuous5 is a splendid example.

 

Don Zeck Lens Cap

Bill LockhartBill is a retired Courts Administrator of one of the largest trial courts in the United States. He is also a retired Lieutenant Colonel, US Army National Guard, in which he served for 30 years.  He holds a BSJ from the University of Florida School of Journalism, is a Fellow of the Institute for Court Management, a graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College, and the US Army Inspector General School.

His photographic experience spans four decades; his photographic awards are too numerous to list, but include well over 100 photographs of the day, photographs of the week, and photographs of the month, at many Internet forums.

He travels extensively throughout the world, his most recent trips include journeys to South Africa, Tanzania, Alaska, Scotland, the Farne Islands, Poland, the American North West, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, Slovenia, and Orkney.  From the jungles of Panama and Honduras, to the mountains of Europe, to the awesome islands of Scotland, to the islands of the Galapagos, from the coastal regions of Alaska,  to the intense heat of tropical Africa, Bill constantly searches for the “light that dances.”

Bill and two other photographers recently created Photo Travel Review, a website for those who love travel and photography.  Bill enjoys interacting with other photographers, please feel free to contact him.  You will find more articles by Bill at his blog Bill Lockhart

All photos and content Copyright © 2013 Bill Lockhart Photography, all rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication of photos and content is strictly prohibited.

 

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Don Zeck Telephoto Lens Cap Review

Don Zeck Lens Cap After purchasing the Nikon 300mm f/2.8 VRII lens, I couldn’t help but feel nervous about having the front-most glass element of this investment exposed to the world.  The  black bag-cover thingy that Nikon provides with the lens,  is bulky and I find myself not wanting to lug it around and keep up with it when I am out shooting.  Plus it takes too long to take off and put back on again in a pinch.  So I looked online for a product to solve this problem and found the Don Zeck Lens Caps at http://donzecklenscap.com/.  I read a few positive reviews about these Don Zeck lens caps and since there are not a ton of options in this particular market, I decided to take a chance.  I bought mine on B&H website at http://www.bhphotovideo.com/.  I will be honest that I was a bit reluctant to spend over $50 on what I assumed would be a flimsy plastic lens cap….boy was I pleasantly surprised!!

The lens cap arrived and I was immediately impressed by the thick and durable, though still lightweight (2.9 oz), construction of the plastic cap.   The handle is securely attached and I even gave it a few firm tugs to make sure it was properly fixed to the cap.  You can see this sturdy handle in the photo above.  The lens cap surface that faces the len’s glass has six round soft-plastic/rubber O-Rings that securely hold the cap in place (seen below).  No worries about these O-Rings, as they do NOT touch the surface of the lens glass when in place.  As mentioned the lens cap fits the end of the lens (make sure to get the correct size for your lens) and is easily removed.  The best quality about the lens cap besides the construction, is the fact that it fits on the lens even while the lens hood it on.  This is extremely convienent if you leave the lens hood on and facing forward the majority of the time (like I do).  All you have to do if reach in to remove or replace the cap….take only a couple of seconds.   Overall I am very satisfied and feel that the lens cap was well worth the investment!   Highly recommended!

02-lens-cap-img_4040f   04-telephtoto-lens-cap-img_4045f

 

don-zeck-lens-capThank you Kyle for the wonderful review!   Be sure to visit Kyle’s photography blog for ideas, tips, and tricks at http://ksqphotography.wordpress.com DZLC

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Canon 135mm of Pure Joy

 

Canon 135mm f/2L

Canon 135mm f/2L


After over a year of waiting and much debate, I decided to order a Canon 135 f/2L lens. Being primarily a landscape/wildlife photographer, this lens wasn’t on anywhere close to my future purchase shortlist (I was holding out for a 17 or 24 tilt/shift) for quite a while. Reviews of this lens are nothing short of rave. On every merchant website I visited this lens never scored below a 4 out of 5 and the vast majority of those reviews were 5s. I have never seen any product that didn’t have at least 1 bad review since usually, there’s one or two people out there ready to throw out a bad review for any little thing. This lens had none of that and there were literally hundreds of reviews.

So what were the main motivating factors that pushed me towards this lens?

  • As my portraiture picked up, I needed a lens with a fast autofocus (lots of fast kids).
  • Compatibility with Canon teleconverters, both the 1.4x and 2x support autofocus on all Canon cameras (making it a 189 f/2.8 and a 270 f/4 lens).
  • I needed a lens that allowed me to capture a greater rate of in-focus photographs in lower light.

The 135 arrived on Friday so I spent the weekend field testing it. As I am not into photographing brick walls, looking at charts, or studying diagrams I am going to include my subjective thoughts and observations into today’s posts. If you need charts and graphs, feel free to look at the hundreds of sites dedicated to that. Frankly, it gives me a headache and keeps me from shooting.

I’ll begin by what I expected. Since this lens is at the top of every portrait photographer’s list and is recognized for its sharpness, I expected to receive a lens that was sharp, provides a good working distance between my subject and I, and gave excellent bokeh, color, and contrast. When I finally had it in my hand and attached to a camera I found that I was wrong on 4 counts. The lens is extremely sharp, has incredible bokeh, fabulous color, and phenomenal contrast. In short, the lens exceeded my every expectation (well, except my working distance one, I guess, but how do you improve on that?).

Next, I’ll mention how it compares to what I already own. In the normal and short to long telephoto arena I currently own a 70-200 f/4l (Non-IS), 300 f/4l (IS), and a 50mm compact macro lens. The “fastest” lens I had owned previously was the 50 which opened up to 2.5. This lens gives me some great depth-of-field, and it has some good bokeh associated, but the autofocus is horrendous and the working distance was a tad close. The lens is primarily meant to be a macro lens with the primary mode of focus being manual so it often hunts to obtain focus. This makes this “fast” lens not so fast when it comes to snapping portraits, especially of constantly moving children.

My 300 f/4l focuses quickly and was my sharpest lens. Not great as a general-purpose human portrait lens (as opposed to animal portrait), but it has great bokeh. This was the sharpness benchmark that I expected the 135 to exceed.

The 70-200 f/4l covers the 135 focal range and was the primary reason I held off on purchasing this lens for so long. I have owned this lens longer than any other and I use it frequently for portraits. The focus is fairly snappy, however, this lens lacked when it came to focusing inside and was not as fast as I needed more often than I was willing to admit.

Finally, I’m going to post some photos. These exemplify the beauty of this lens. My focus rate was extremely high and I used various focus points. Really, I felt like I was holding a whole new camera, the autofocus was that fast! The sharpness of the lens and the way that the rest of the image melts away from the area in focus is simply superb. All photos below were taken with a Canon 5d (Original flavor) and 135 f/2L.

Taken at f/2.5

Taken at f/2.5

Taken at f/2.8

Taken at f/2.5

Taken at f/2.5

Extending the Possibilities

Adding to the versatility of this lens, this is the shortest telephoto lens in the Canon lineup that allows for the Canon teleconverters to be added. Wanting to get the best bang for my buck, I went out and field tested the performance with the second iteration of the Canon 1.4x.

Below are two sample images from the Canon 135 f/2L with the Canon EF Extender 1.4x IImounted to an original Canon 5D. This is the shortest lens that allows this combinations and my experience with this was quite good, excellent, in fact. The autofocus continues to be snappy, most of my photos achieved focus quickly, perhaps not quite as fast as without the teleconverter, but the difference was barely noticeable. Image quality is excellent, the sharpness and bokeh are still very good. Additionally, this combination maintains the minimum 2.8 aperture, which provides for the extra sensitivity on the diagonal cross type center focus points on most Canon DSLRs. I have no hesitation in using the 1.4 teleconverter in almost any situation if I found myself a little more distant from my subject.


Shot at f/2.8


Shot at f/2.8

This lens is great for portraits, but how is it for other purposes?

Wildlife

Since the 135 f/2l is super sharp and fast, shooting wildlife might be a good use for this lens. As I wanted to try this, I went out to a local wildlife conservatory and shoot some critters. Here are some samples, all shots were with a Canon 5d (Original Flavor), the 135 f/2l and a Canon 1.4x Extender II and all shots were captured at f/2.8.

As is evident, the lens with the teleconverter was great at capturing these wolves clearly and easily. The focus was achieved quite effectively allowing me to get some action shots. Because of the wide aperture of this lens, I was also able to open up wide to blur out the fence between the wolves and me, rendering it invisible in almost every shot. In the wild, I certainly would not want to be as close to these guys as I was here. Overall, the lens worked well for this purpose, but I doubt I would want the short distance I had here when capturing shots of wildilfe (I was about 12 feet away). Besides encroaching on their personal space, they would either run away or see me as a threat! I think I’ll stick to my 300 and 1.4tc for most shots of wildlife.

Macro

While researching this lens, I read several posts of individuals utilizing it as a macro lens. Since I dabble in the macro quite often I was very interested in seeing what I could do. Spring in Nebraska brings some wildflowers, but most tend to be small, delicate, and can be difficult to capture. While hiking through Platte River State Park, I came across some examples of a white fawn lily.


Shot at f/6.3

Using the lens by itself, the flower was too far to focus on. In order to get a closer shot, I placed a 1.4x teleconverter and a 25mm extension tube on the 135 and even then, I wasn’t as close as I would have liked. This example shot is about a 65% crop of the image that was captured. Even so, the flower is sharp (as expected) and the bokeh is very nice. Not horrible for macro, but I would say if macro’s your thing to get a dedicated macro lens, otherwise, be sure to have a few extension tubes and a teleconverter handy. A crop camera would be beneficial here as well.

So, the end result is that the camera is adequate for other work, but would not be the ideal lens for wildlife and macro shooting. Still I always like pushing my lens into other areas than what is considered the “norm”, partially because I like to see what I can do, and partially because when one spends that much on something it’s nice to be able to use it in diverse ways.

Lastly, this lens begs to be used at wide-open apertures. It’s sharp, got excellent bokeh, versatile, and did I mention sharp? If you have any reservations about this lens, cancel them now and order.

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Derrald_Farnsworth-LivingstonWhile growing up, Derrald’s parents took him on several trips across the United States to numerous national parks. It was on these trips that Derrald grew a love for the outdoors which we wished to explore and share with others. Photography was a natural result, an endeavor that Derrald began at a young age and continued to explore in years to come.

While pursuing a Bachelors degree at Creighton University, he enrolled in all of the photography courses. With these courses he learned the fundamentals of chemical darkrooms, light, balance, and exposure. After college he continued to explore the art and develop his own technique and style and choose to focus on nature and scenic photography as his primary subjects, although he is not hesitant to point the lens at anything.

Amongst the images of majestic mountains and the crashing waves of the ocean, one can find photographs of the prairies, lakes, and wetlands of the American Great Plains and Midwest. Some of these images are the artist’s favorites as they show the expansive heartland of the United States and the subtle beauty of the area surrounding his home. Through the right balance of subject, composition, and light, Derrald strives to transport the viewer into the composition.

Derrald has won numerous awards and exhibited in several solo and group shows regionally. His work has also appeared in several regional and national magazines, calendars, websites, and postcards. He continues to live and work in Omaha with his family.

Visit Derrald’s website Journey Of Light Photography http://www.journeyoflight.com/blog/ to read his other articles.   His images may be ordered from his store at http://store.journeyoflight.com.

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I choose the iPhone

IMG_11461For weeks you have been wondering about my experience with the Nikon D4 and if I have decided to make the change from Canon to Nikon. I honestly have not had the time yet to get my hands on the 1DX Canon, which I must test first, before making a fair decision. However, on my recent trip to the Omo Valley I almost decided to go with neither and just use my iPhone.

One of our last stops was at a Konso village, a world heritage site. The area is unique as the villages are at the top of the hills and the Konso have created a beautiful  terracing system to grow their crops. The villages are very dense with a labyrinth of  very narrow stone wall pathways. I had been there before and knew that even in the best lighting it was a very difficult place to photograph. I was tired and decided it was not worth the trouble of grabbing my camera’s but instead threw my iphone in my pocket.

Louise Porter was on the trip and brought an infrared camera. The images on the back of the camera looked amazing and were very inspirational (yes I am thinking about doing some infrared going forward!). The village, with the stone and use of wood was very neutral in color. With the thoughts of the infrared images in my mind, I was thinking the best way to capture this would be in black and white or cepia to capture the ancient and timelessness of this place.

We came around a corner and there sat this elder man along the beautiful stone pathway and I just had to take a photograph. They say the best camera is the one you have with you. Not wanting to miss this opportunity or the others below, I whipped out my iPhone and did what came natural. It was pretty exciting to see the results when I downloaded the images and processed them in NIK silver efex 2.

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IMG_11841

 

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PiperMackayPiper Mackay is a world, wildlife and cultural photographer, based in Long Beach, California. She believes compelling visual images help to protect what is right in the world. Her work takes her to very remote locations, living cross culturally in the villages and environments that she is documenting.

Her work is heavily concentrated on the African continent, a land she fell in love with when she first touched foot on it’s rich red soil. Her passion for the natural world has grown into a lifelong commitment to inspire others to explore, respect and preserve the beauty of our fragile planet.

She believes compelling work comes when you invest time, living the stories you are trying to tell. It is important to interact and gain the trust of those whose stories you are telling, especially when sensitive and complicated. The world has enough images of poverty, pain and disaster, much more needful is imagery that reveals the beauty and dignity of the communities that are, except by their geography and circumstances, very similar to our own. Powerful images help shape the view of the world and play an important role in disseminating how cultures and wildlife are coping with the rapid changes happening in the developing world.

Piper’s images have been displayed at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, The Museum of History and industry, and  The Art Wolfe gallery, as well as local galleries.  Her work has been featured in Nature and travel publication through representation of several photo agencies, including Rangefinder, Nature’s Best, Birders, and the World Wildlife Fund.  She is an independent photographer and available for assignment work.

Her prior career in the fashion industry, where she was deeply involved with combing color and texture, has greatly enhanced her approach to the unique look and feel of each culture and photographic subject. This also gave her a strong background in business and marketing.   Please visit Piper’s website at www.pipermackayphotography.com.

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Sources Of Inspiration

To kick off the new year, I’ve decided to launch a blog category dedicated to sharing sources of inspiration. We live in a time where technology allows us to connect with so many people throughout the world as well as discover so many different sources of information. We are extremely lucky that through online networks and communities we can share images, critiques and ideas with each other with the sole purpose of helping push our creative boundaries further.

I’m constantly amazed by the amount of optimistic attitudes that are present in the photography community and the willingness to help others advance their craft. On a daily basis, I come across things that inspire and drive my photography career. This could be a certain photographer’s images, a specific article, podcasts etc. Through these blog posts, I hope to provide you all with a source of inspiration.

Alister Benn – Available Light Images

Alister Benn – Available Light Images

 

For today’s post, I want to share a set of podcasts by a photographer named Alister Benn; they are sure to help educate, inform and inspire you. Alister is a talented photographer of Scottish descent, who specializes in images of the Tibetan region. He is also known for his impressive night photography work, his excellent e-books and is also one of the co-founders of whytake.net. Alister runs harvestinglight.net, which is a website focused on educating other photographers through articles, e-books and podcasts. I came across Alister’s podcasts a few months back and spent a good part of the day listening to all three. Alister couldn’t have chosen three better subjects to start with. Each interview touches on its own individual points unique to the photographer; everything from creative vision to processing. 

In my opinion, there isn’t anything much more interesting than listening to experienced photographers speak about their craft, including their approach, style, and technique. So hop on over to Alister’s website and have a listen, you won’t be disappointed: http://harvestinglight.net/podcasts/

Also, while you are there, make sure you take the time to have a look at Alister’s other work. There is plenty of inspiring material to keep you busy for days. 

 

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kmcdougall

Kyle McDougall is a landscape photographer/workshop leader based out of Ontario, Canada.  He specializes in creating fine art images that touch on both a visual and emotional level.  When not outside exploring the land you can find Kyle online sharing his images and helping others through his instructional articles.  In 2012 Kyle was chosen by Photolife Magazine as one of Canada’s Emerging Photographers.  To view more of his work please visit his website: www.kylemcdougallphoto.com

 

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An Important First Step

don zeck lens capOne of the most important steps for you to advance your photography is to have your work reviewed. One on one targeted feedback on your images from talented professionals can help shape your future as a photographer and will provide invaluable business connections.

Don’t focus on the fear of showing your work and having it criticized; see this as an incredible opportunity to get first hand information. This is an opportunity to have one on one time with an individual whom you are not likely to secure an in-person meeting with outside of a review event. Think about it, you will be sitting in front of this person one on one for twenty minutes. If you ask them a question, they are on the spot to answer it. I have scheduled reviews solely to pick a persons brain, so to speak. Now you must be clever and respectful on how you do this, as first impression are very important. You should have a strong portfolio if you are going to sit in front of an editor of a major publication, even though your sole intention is not necessarily for their opinion of your work.

When you sit down, present your business card as you introduce yourself.  Let them know you would like to leave enough time at the end of the review for a few important questions. The questions can range from: how do I price my work appropriately, what is the best way to contact an editor directly or the owner of a gallery, what type of presentation or marketing stagey would draw a response from you, when is the best day and time to send an email that will get noticed? Remember, information is power!

A reviewer can provide creative guidance for works in progress, as well as marketing advice for completed projects. This will help you explore the marketability and business opportunities for the type work you are producing. Most events that host professional portfolio reviews have a variety of reviewers from different backgrounds. They usually offer reviews for all levels of photographers. There are two great venues coming up that offer theses professional reviews as part of their event.

The Nature Photography Summit hosted by NANPA (Feb 29-Mar2) . This is a great event and they have 20 reviewers. If you are a nature/wildlife photographer that wants to explore making a business out of your photography, this is the best investment you can make! Here is the link to the portfolio & editorial reviews- I also urge you to explore the entire program and the list of speakers.

The palm Springs Photo Festival (Apr 28-May3) is an event that is focused around having the best reviews in the industry. This event is not focused specifically around nature/wildlife and the reviews are geared for experienced photographers. In the past they have had the editors of National Geographic, Outdoor Photographer, PDN and  the curators from such venues as the Annenburg space of photography, Fahey/klein, and Peter Fetterman Gallery. This event is held on the west coast in spring and is part of the PDN event held in NY in the Fall. Here is the link to the reviewers that will be at this event.

Below are some Do’s and Don’ts that I have put together from both of these venues as well as from my own experience.

Do’s

Limit your main portfolio to 20 solid images

Be honest with your self about the level your work is at. If you need another year of shooting before you start showing your book to top editors and art directors, sign up for reviews that will help get you to that level.

Take reviews from those whose credentials indicate their critique will be most valuable for you, may lead to work, or be a valuable connection in the future.

Research your reviewers and make sure your work is relevant to their area of expertise. Learn about what they do so when you sit down you may open with “ I’ve been following your magazine for years and feel my work would ad value to the publication” or “ I would love your feed back on my book project and recommendations for colleagues in the industry who may respond to my style of work”

Have a purpose for each review and communicate it to the reviewer. Have 1-3 specific questions ready, that you want to ask.

Invest in a proper portfolio/book. If you are reviewing with an art buyer, stock agent or editorial editor, then most likely the end out put of your work will be in print. Show them how great your work looks in print. You have 20 minutes to impress them. You will look more professional and it will give you an advantage over the photographers showing up with only a laptop or ipad. Do bring a lap top with a few solid back up portfolio’s, your review maybe interested in seeing more of your work. An ipad picks up too much glare reflecting everything; don’t show your work on one in a review session.

Have a well-printed leave behind. Invest in a graphic designer to help you create something that looks professional. You will be able to use this in marketing your work, so this is not a one-time investment. It is very easy to print small quantities these days and if you create a post card size you can use this to mail to potential clients. However, don’t force your leave behind on the reviewer. They may have several reasons they do not want to take it. It could be as simple as they don’t want the extra “stuff/clutter” in their lives. They will already have your contact information on your business card.

Don’t

Don’t make excuses for your work such as: “ I didn’t bring my strongest work”  (why not?) “I didn’t have time to put together much, but this should give you an idea” (would you want to hire this person or trust them with a deadline?), “I just found out about this event”.  If you are not ready, do not go to a review.

Don’t argue with constructive criticism. The people looking at your work have years of experience. They are going to critique your work to help you understand what you need to do to improve the quality of your work, so you can compete on the level you are striving for. Listen to what they have to say and process it later, but don’t tell them they are wrong.

One last tip

Most reviewers are there to help and will be kind in the way they deliver their criticism. However, there are a few editors and curators that can be tough and brutal. The best way to prepare for a tough situation is to go the review area in advance. See who is sitting with your reviewer. When they exit the area, ask them about how it went and how the reviewer treated them. If they tell you they were tough, you will be prepared and not become defensive during your review. If you sign up for multiple reviewers, ask your first reviewer about the other reviewers on your list.  This strategy can be key for tough reviewers. When they see their harshness does not rattle you, they know you are professional enough to handle this extraordinary competitive, demanding, industry

Good Luck  

If this was helpful to you, please share it.

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PiperMackayPiper Mackay is a world, wildlife and cultural photographer, based in Long Beach, California. She believes compelling visual images help to protect what is right in the world. Her work takes her to very remote locations, living cross culturally in the villages and environments that she is documenting.

Her work is heavily concentrated on the African continent, a land she fell in love with when she first touched foot on it’s rich red soil. Her passion for the natural world has grown into a lifelong commitment to inspire others to explore, respect and preserve the beauty of our fragile planet.

She believes compelling work comes when you invest time, living the stories you are trying to tell. It is important to interact and gain the trust of those whose stories you are telling, especially when sensitive and complicated. The world has enough images of poverty, pain and disaster, much more needful is imagery that reveals the beauty and dignity of the communities that are, except by their geography and circumstances, very similar to our own. Powerful images help shape the view of the world and play an important role in disseminating how cultures and wildlife are coping with the rapid changes happening in the developing world.

Piper’s images have been displayed at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, The Museum of History and industry, and  The Art Wolfe gallery, as well as local galleries.  Her work has been featured in Nature and travel publication through representation of several photo agencies, including Rangefinder, Nature’s Best, Birders, and the World Wildlife Fund.  She is an independent photographer and available for assignment work.

Her prior career in the fashion industry, where she was deeply involved with combing color and texture, has greatly enhanced her approach to the unique look and feel of each culture and photographic subject. This also gave her a strong background in business and marketing. Please visit Piper’s website at www.pipermackayphotography.com.

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