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Green Violetear Hummingbird 4

 

Photography

Costa Rica, San Gerardo de Dota, Green violetear hummingbird (Colibri thalassinus) at Savegre Lodge

 

During my November visit to Costa Rica, I began my trip with several days of birding in the San Gerardo de Dota. While my main goal was to photograph a quetzal, I also spent time photographing hummingbirds by the lodge’s feeders. There were often dozens of hummingbirds darting back and forth, sometimes sharing the feeders, but other times heatedly pursuing each other over some imperceptible slight. This is one of my favorite photos of a green violetear hummingbird ruffling its tail feathers. I especially love the detail and iridescent colors in the feathers.

I created this image using my Canon EOS 7D Mark II camera bodyand Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM II lens. I processed the RAW file using Adobe Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC 2015, and Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.


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MEET THE AUTHOR

Jon Cornforth photographing surf on the North Shore of OahuJon Cornforth photographing surf on the North Shore of OahuJon Cornforth is an award-winning wilderness photographer whose images have been recognized internationally for their masterful composition and incredible detail. He’s compelled to express the beauty of the natural world through his photography, traveling all year, challenging himself in new locations and documenting the unique creatures who live there. All of his images are captured in the wild. He believes in supporting environmental groups and raising awareness through photography. He lives in Seattle, WA with his wife, Daisy, daughters, Maddy and Chloe, and Boston terrier, Buni.

Click here to visit Jon’s website.

Cornforth Images are copyright protected. Cornforth Images are available to be licensed for a fee and can not be used without permission.

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Secret Beach Sunset 3

canon ef

During my recent visit to Maui to photograph humpback whales, I also put some effort into shooting landscapes. The weather was clear, blue sky for most of my trip, which is great for tourists, but not for landscape photos. I finally got lucky with some epic conditions the night that I took my buddy Patrick Kelley to this beautiful location. I have been to this spot, known as Secret Beach, many times over the years and several times this trip. It is located south of Makena and is a small and popular beach, especially for weddings, so it is always hard to get everyone out of the composition. (I digitally removed a couple that were sitting behind the rocks on the left.)

The beautiful sunset light was brief, but dramatic, and I especially like the reflected light in the wet sand. I created this image using my 36MP Sony a7R camera body with a Metabones Canon EF Lens to Sony lens adapter, Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS lens, and Singh-Ray 2-stop Hard Graduated Neutral Density filter. I processed the RAW file using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CC 2015, and Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.


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MEET THE AUTHOR

Jon Cornforth photographing surf on the North Shore of OahuJon Cornforth photographing surf on the North Shore of OahuJon Cornforth is an award-winning wilderness photographer whose images have been recognized internationally for their masterful composition and incredible detail. He’s compelled to express the beauty of the natural world through his photography, traveling all year, challenging himself in new locations and documenting the unique creatures who live there. All of his images are captured in the wild. He believes in supporting environmental groups and raising awareness through photography. He lives in Seattle, WA with his wife, Daisy, daughters, Maddy and Chloe, and Boston terrier, Buni.

Click here to visit Jon’s website.

Cornforth Images are copyright protected. Cornforth Images are available to be licensed for a fee and can not be used without permission.

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TECHNIQUE – Top 5 Tips for Quality Image Files (part 3)

EXPOSE TO THE RIGHT

Exposing to the right is a practice that many people don’t follow precisely because RAW files do stand up so well to post-processing. But shooting RAW doesn’t give us an excuse to be sloppy, and exposing to the right is important for two reasons. The first is simple. If you underexpose an image and then have to pull out shadow detail from the darker areas of an image, you’re going to be introducing noise. But darkening slightly overexposed areas will not give you a loss in quality. This is true because of the second reason.

This second reason is even more compelling but requires a bit more explanation. DSLR cameras in general have about five stops of dynamic range. Recall from above that a 12-bit RAW file has 4,096 possible tonal values in each color channel. If we array the stops of dynamic range along our monochromatic or luminance histogram, we’ll notice that each stop (from left to right) contains two times more information than the previous stop. And notice also that most of the possible color values are in the brightest areas. That is, our camera can capture only a relatively few dark tonal values and lots of bright tonal values.

photo exposureAs the figure above illustrates clearly, fully half of the tonal values are in the brightest fifth of the histogram. So, if you don’t have at least some pixels heading out into that rightmost fifth of the histogram, you’re wasting half of the potential tonal information that your camera can capture!

Exposing to the right does not mean overexposing to the extreme though. It simply means that you should expose your image so that the brightest tones in your scene display out into the right fifth of the histogram. If you want detail in the whitest or brightest parts of the scene, however, you need to take care to take them just to the edge of the histogram but not over.

Take the image of a Montezuma oropendola below. This is one of the tougher birds in Costa Rica to expose properly because of the white skin on the face and the black feathers around the head and neck. Underexpose this one, and you’ll have no feather detail in the blacks. Overexpose too far, and the white skin will be blown out white with no detail at all.

Below is a screen shot of my untouched RAW file and the resulting histogram. Notice that there is some space on the left edge of the histogram. This means that the dark feathers are not pure black. And notice that the brightest pixels go right out to the right edge but not past. This means that I made the image as bright as I could in order to capture feather detail in the blacks but without blowing out the white skin. You’ll note also that there is a large amount of pixels clustered toward the middle right of the histogram. This is the background, which is represented by brighter than average mid-tones. The background in this shot was distant forest but there was some fog moving through, which meant that the background was indeed a bright but fairly dull green.

photo exposureIn terms of exposing to the right, there is a caveat that applies especially to the rainforest, where light is usually scarce. Let’s say that I’m shooting a monkey that’s moving around a bit. I have my lens
aperture set wide open, I’m getting only 1/60 of a second, and I’m already at ISO 3200. That is, I’m doing everything possible to get just barely enough light for a sharp image. I take a shot and check my histogram and find that I really should be pushing my exposure one stop to the right to get good detail in the monkey’s dark fur. I have a bit of a dilemma now — how to get that extra stop of light.

I can’t open up my aperture any further; it’s already wide open. If I adjust my shutter speed to let in one stop more light, I drop to 1/30. I think that’s going to make it hard to get a sharp image in this situation, and it’s also placing me into the territory where mirror vibration becomes a concern. So, I don’t want to take my shutter speed any slower. I could take my ISO from 3200 to 6400 but, even though my Mark IV is quite good at high ISOs, I’m not enamored of 6400. So, this is a case where not exposing to the right and brightening the exposure in post-processing may actually be a better or at least equally valid choice. I want a sharp image so I need that shutter speed. And going to ISO 6400 will introduce noise, perhaps just
about as much as taking the image at ISO 3200 and brightening it by one stop in post-processing.

This, of course, is a fairly extreme situation but it’s worth noting because there are some potential tradeoffs involved when exposing to the right. Still, it’s a good habit to have and will help you to get the cleanest image files possible in the vast majority of shooting situations.


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About the author Gregory Basco
Like many nature photographers, I started my career doing something else. A political scientist by training, my research focused on the politics of the environment in Latin America. I researched environmental politics and ecotourism in Costa Rica and worked here for a number of years as a conservation professional, having first come to the country in 1992 as a Peace Corps volunteer. I now dedicate myself full-time to my own photography and my Costa Rica photo tour company. I work out of my home office in Costa Rica’s central highlands, where I live with my wife, twin boys, our dogs and cats, and various hummingbirds and songbirds that visit our backyard feeders. Visit Greg’s galleries, store, and workshops at Deep Green Photography.

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Living with Lions

africa safari

A gentle wind blows across the plains as prides of lions lie in the shade of the acacias, waiting patiently in anticipation. At any moment now, a dust cloud will gather over the horizon, as thousands of wildebeest thunder through the tall grasses of the Maasai Mara; marking the arrival of the Great Migration. During migration season, the Maasai Mara is arguably the greatest wildlife photography experience in the world.

I am currently in the Maasai Mara, at Little Mara Bush Camp, which is my home for the next three weeks. This is a fascinating time to be in the Mara. The grasses are the highest of the year, providing tremendous opportunities to capture artistic and unique photographs. I am slow to click the shutter, as my focus is on creating interesting and powerful images through the use of dramatic lighting, slower shutter speeds, creative exposures and different white balance choices. Each morning starts before sunrise, quickly fading into the heat of the day without seeing another vehicle. It has a feel of a private reserve; the calm before the storm.

I have spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours photographing in this reserve over the past decade. What’s so different about these three weeks is that I am driving my own Land Rover. I must admit, it takes the experience to entirely new heights. I feel even more connected to the wildlife and this extraordinary place; no longer a visitor, but a feeling of belonging. Over these three weeks, I will be maneuvering over rough roads, crossing through rivers with rocky boulder bottoms, and sliding through the wet swampy black cotton soil, covering as much of the Mara as possible. Some of the most important skills for a wildlife photographer to have are to intimately know a location, understand the animal territories and behavior, and to build strong personal relationships in the area.

I wish to not only improve my own skills as an African wildlife photographer, but to specialize my guiding skills for those joining me on safaris.

Africa truly awakens your soul, as it did mine, on my first safari eleven years ago. I will savor these three weeks and immerse myself fully into every moment. As always, it will be hard to leave, even if only for a short time. I will return in August and September to lead my annual safarisKenya Wildlife Safari and Great Migration Safari, during the height of the migration season. No matter how much time I spend in the Maasai Mara, it is never enough; it never gets old. Most all who have been here would also agree.

You know you are truly alive
when you are living among lions.
Karen Blixen – Out of Africa

Piper_2_Elephant-Africa-Safari-Blog


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Piper 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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Experience the Extraordinary

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

― Eleanor Roosevelt

africa safari

It is the adventures and experiences that create the excitement that feeds one’s soul. When life starts to feel mundane, it is time to take an adventure; grab your friends, book a flight, head into nature, climb a mountain, dream about the future, feel the freedom, and experience something that makes your heart race. Take more than an epic journey; experience an odyssey in the fullest sense of the word. A single decision can be the defining moment, which changes the direction of one’s path in life. This is what happened to me a decade ago. Making that sudden decision to go to Africa taught me to jump out there, live boldly, and experience the extraordinary.

Although my camera is the drive behind seeking adventure and capturing compelling stories, it is the incredible experiences that stay with me long after the click of shutter. Last year was no exception. I had the opportunity to spend up close and personal time with the young orphaned elephants that were being reintroduced to the wild. We were invited for an exclusive stay at two of the David Sheldrick properties near and in West Tsavo.

Each morning we awoke at sunrise to go down to the stockade for the elephants’ morning feeding, before they headed out into the wild accompanied by their keepers. Midmorning we would join them again for their noon feeding. They would then head to a small water hole where they would interact with the wild elephants that had also come in for a drink. It was fascinating to watch. Both the orphans and the wild elephants would then wander down to a larger water hole for a mud bath. We could lay right beside their water hole, photograph them, play with them, or even get a personal dusting from them! We were able to interact with them, one on one, for several hours.

In the evening we were able to greet them again as they came in from the wild to spend the night in the safety of the stockade. The orphans will decide for themselves when it is time to stay in the wild, as one evening they just don’t come home, so to speak. It has now been placed in the top 10 experiences I have had in Africa.

More amazing than the experience itself was witnessing the incredible dedication of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the keepers who dedicate their lives to help save these amazing animals. I have supported this organization for many years, including donating proceeds of my exhibit “Wild on Earth” that was held at the G2 Gallery in 2013, to the organization. They continue to show the world that we can make a difference. Because someone cared enough to take action, these orphans now have a chance to live a full life in the wild. You can learn more about this amazing organization and the work they do by visiting their website.

This year, I am excited to be able to take 4-5 photographers with me, for an exclusive visit and up-close personal encounter with these gentle giants. Proceeds from our visit will go back to the DWST. Here are the details. Below are a few of the images from our visit.

Vuria, who I adopted, coming from the water hole with the wild elephants

Vuria, who I adopted, coming from the water hole with the wild elephants

Click here to continue reading  www.pipermackayphotography.com.

 


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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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Seeing in the Field, Part I

In an entry, posted about two months ago, I provided an introduction to a series of collaborative exchanges planned between myself and my friend, photographer Tom Robbins.  For more information about what we hope to accomplish, broadly speaking, check the prior linked post.

Here’s the first installment of the series.  The basic exercise was to introduce a single image that was produced from an excursion to a place ostensibly unfamiliar to the photographer.  The notion was to flesh out the ideas behind recognizing a photo opportunity that wasn’t preceded by any obvious preconceptions.  In other words, the purpose of the excursion was to see what popped up–it wasn’t a case of going to a location to photograph something specific.

We started by having Tom present an image that resulted from one of these excursions, and he’ll set the scene.  We then engaged in a dialogue to hopefully expand up on and clarify aspects of the in-the-field thought process that followed.  The image itself will be included below, as will a link to a larger version that resides on his Website.

In the next installment in the series, we’ll switch roles; I’ll provide the image and set the scene and Tom will ask the questions.

We heartily encourage readers to post remarks and ask questions in the comment section below, and hope you get something out of this entry.

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Setting the Scene

Tom:  The leaves have several weeks to go yet in the Midwest [this was originally written in late September — KL] before they reach peak color, so I spent this morning atWhite Pines State Park, in Ogle County, Illinois to explore the landscape possibilities. I remembered the general layout of the place from visits as a kid with family a few decades ago, so this was essentially an exploration of new territory. Tripod and camera with 45mm and 90mm tilt shift lenses were on hand—I’ve forgotten how to hike without that gear—but only for chance opportunities. The primary goal was to establish familiarity with the area.

Late Summer, Ogle County, Illinois Image Copyright 2013 Tom Robbins, All Rights Reserved

I chose a trail that ran along the eastern edge of the park. The choice was not random as the morning sun had cleared the horizon just a few minutes earlier. A forested area with direct sunlight, even early in the morning, will present dynamic range problems more often than not. The east edge of the park would hopefully allow an unobstructed wash of early sunlight over farm fields, and so reduce the likelihood of “hot spots.”

The strategy didn’t really work within the park itself, but things turned around when I hopped over a maintenance gate and found a gravel county road running north and south. The view southward was OK, but the northward view drew me in. A railroad crossing was off in the distance, and there was no particular subject beyond that. However, the disparate elements of the simple scene seemed to fit together like the tumblers of a lock. Such a gestalt may work as a photograph, or not, but it will certainly be a logical construct. Very often the appeal at first sight is subconscious, with analysis following later.

Link to larger image:  http://www.pbase.com/image/152551879/original

In this instance, the warm oak trees and grass alongside the road on the left are a starting point; a home base for the eye. The backlit scruffy woods on the right provide some late summer color, and the cool blue sky mirrors the path of the road. Aside from that, I just can’t seem to pass up young shadows crossing a road.

The Dialogue

Kerry:  For me–strictly as a viewer of the image, the first thing that catches my eye–and the “center of interest” (for lack of a better term)–is the road.  It’s lighter in tone than virtually all of the other elements, so it has a natural tendency to draw my attention first, but there’s more to it than that, in this case.  It’s providing a kind of entryway into the image, both literally and figuratively.

Tom:  You’re absolutely right. Oddly enough, I tend to take the existence of roads for granted these days. After the number of my farm and rural photographs grew into a sizable collection, I noticed that most of them included roads, lanes, and such. My first thought was that I’d fallen into a rut, but then realized that the Midwest is covered by a network of roads, most of them in quarter to half mile grids wherever the terrain allows. They were originally created in the early to mid 19th century, and are an essential and common part of the landscape.

Kerry:  Did this principle figure into your decision to make this image when you were in the field–either consciously or unconsciously?  Do you see the road as a crucial element (meaning, in your view, can you see having made an image here at all without its presence)?


Tom:  Yes, the road is a key element, but at this stage it’s an almost subconscious one. Good question about its being crucial. I’d say it is absolutely crucial. Not only is it a means of transportation, it also provides a lane for the utility poles. The open sky above the road would not exist but for the road.

Kerry:  I like what the light is doing here, but I can also imagine this shot working in, say, even light.  Would you agree with that assessment or do you feel that these lighting conditions were a necessary component to the shot?


Tom:  Ah, it may very well work in even light, especially with fog or mist. I doubt the scene would have captured my interest to the same degree without the direct early light, however. The light ran through a gauntlet of trees and brush at the right side of the frame and enough made it through to light up the road and the woods on the left side. The direct lighting was a necessary component for recognizing the composition at a glance. The composition in even light light would require a more subtle and contemplative eye to appreciate, and would have resulted in a completely different photograph, of course.

Kerry:  Finally, re your (in my opinion, entirely correct) assessment that “very often the appeal at first sight is subconscious, with analysis following later.”  Is that what happened here?  Was this just a case of your finding the scene inexplicably appealing at the time of capture or were you aware of the why(s) of that appeal when you saw it?

Tom:  Yes, I’d say so. I’m out with the camera just about every day now, and seem to hike around on auto pilot most of the time. Then, smack dab in the middle of thinking about my neighbor’s dog waking me up last night, a scene will stop me in my tracks. Without any apparent thought at all, the pieces of the jigsaw suddenly fit together and the tripod jumps off my shoulder for the shot. I can’t say how unusual this is, but it has evidently become my m.o. these last couple of years.

Next in the series:  Seeing in the Field, Part II:  My image and answers, Tom’s questions

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Kerry-Leibowitz

 Hi, 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

 

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