Category Archives: Travel

More or Less

How much of a subject should be included in the image?  That’s always a compositional question: exactly where should you position the edge of the frame?  When shooting with a fixed focal length lens, you really don’t have a choice unless you can physically change your location.  If you’re using a zoom lens, you have an almost unlimited choice.  Of course, no matter the lens you could always crop the image afterwards, but all cropping is lossy and personally I hate to throw away data.

So just how much, or how little, needs to be included?  Consider these two images.  Your thoughts?  Is the roller too small in the frame, the elephant too tight?  What do you think?

 

Lilac-breasted roller.

Elephant.

 

Nikon D800 Action

I read this question time after time on Web forums:  “Can the Nikon D800 be used for wildlife photography?”  Well, why not?  Here are two full frame images taken last week during a short stop I made at Bosque del Apache.  Both images: D800E, Nikon 600mm, ISO400, early morning light.   FYI, I don’t have the extra battery pack for the camera so the motor drive rate is 4 frames/second.   Anyone else remember when 4 frames/second would have been considered pretty amazing?  Remember winding film with your thumb?

 

 

 

 

Cottonwoods

I really enjoy photographing autumn color.  In the mixed hardwoods of the eastern US, the beech/maple/oak forest, the trees present a wash of color, even a painterly effect.  Not so on the high plains and prairies.  Here the autumn color is that of the cottonwood trees, which line every local water source.  In contrast to the mixed reds and oranges of the eastern autumn, cottonwoods show only one color: yellow gold.  But be out photographing when the trees hit peak color, and the intensity is overwhelming.  Here are a couple of shots from two weeks ago in central Montana.  No, I wasn’t intentionally there to photograph the cottonwoods, in fact I was just passing through the region headed elsewhere, but who could resist?

 

 

Elephants

As some of you may know, the trip mentioned in my last blog post was to Botswana.  I’ll say right here, Botswana is a great wildlife photography destination (the very first subject I photographed was a leopard, not a bad way to start!).  Toward the end of the trip I had the opportunity to spend one afternoon in a “bunker blind” at an elephant waterhole.

 

 

 

 

PACKING

For me, 2013 has been a long-distance travel year.  A “short hop” this year has meant at least five or six hours in the air.  I’m really tired of the longer flights, but right now I’m in the midst of packing for another long flight.

Besides all the usual camera, clothes, and computer stuff, what do I take?  Here’s a list of some odds and ends, in no particular order:

  • A three-outlet electrical jack.  Even notice that most hotel rooms only have two outlets, one of which is generally located somewhere inaccessible under the bed?
  • If I’m traveling internationally, I carry a 120/220 volt power strip with a built–in surge protector and USB ports, http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B8B9ERK?psc=1.   Added to this are several of the necessary electrical plug adapters.
  • A short roll of electrical tape.  I also have multiple strips of gaffers tape stuck on the inside flaps of my camera pack.
  • A tube of super glue.
  • Brightly colored elastic hair bands (not for my use, since I’m really shy of hair on top, a subject which we don’t need to discuss).  These are a cheap and easy way to wrap cables and cords, and the bright colors help me find those cables when I drop some in a dimly lit room.
  • A small tool kit: a selection of allen wrenches (hex keys), small screwdrivers, plus an extra rubber ring that goes around the eyepiece on my camera (anyone else ever lose one of these?).
  • A couple of large rubber bands, great for getting a grip on stuck filters.
  • A Leatherman “Micra” tool.
  • About 15 feet of lightweight parachute cord.
  • Several binder clips, used to clamp things together.
  • A couple of mini-carabiners.
  • Several trash compactor bags, much stronger that standard plastic garbage bags.

I keep PDF versions of my camera manuals on both my smartphone and my Kindle.  I also have a flash card wallet filled with older cards that are now too small capacity for my day-to-day use.  This lives in my wheeled duffel, along with an extra card reader.  Not that I’m paranoid, but I imagine being at some remote location and losing my flash cards, or having my card reader die.  I would be saying words that most people would not want to hear.

 

Permafrost.

For Earth Day, 2013.

Permafrost, exposed and melting. Near Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen.

Aurora Borealis

Shortly after the Tucson workshop, I traveled to Fairbanks, Alaska, to photograph the aurora borealis, the northern lights.  The last time I shot the aurora I was using film…digital cameras were still in there infancy.  And what a difference digital makes!  On this trip I used both my Nikon D4 and D800E, at shutter speeds between 6 and 20 seconds with the 14-24mm and 24-70mm lenses wide open at f/2.8, and ISOs of 1600, 2200, and 3200.

The northern lights, the aurora borialis.

 

The northern lights, the aurora borealis.

 

 

TUCSON WORKSHOP

I’ve just returned from teaching Vision workshops in Tucson, Arizona, with Jack Dykinga and Justin Black.  In our second session it snowed…an extrememly rare event for Tucson, and the snow only lasted part of one day…but for a short time the desert was magical.  FYI, I highly recommend the workshops that the three of us teach.  These are very intensive, small group sessions (three instructors, ten clients).  See www.visionarywild.com for information on workshops, tours, and expeditions.

 

Snow covers the desert near Tucson, Arizona.

 

Snow on saguaro and prickly pear cacti, Arizona.

 

Four Wheel Campers

A problem facing landscape photographers in the western US is the vastness of the region.  It’s often a very long distance from a good location to the nearest lodging.  Consequently, most of the nature photographers I know who live here have some sort of self-contained vehicle, so that they can stay on-site.

I just got back from southern Utah, where a group of photography friends got together to spend a week in the remote back country.  This was really just a social gathering, but with some very serious photography tossed into the mix.  What set this gathering apart, though, was another connection.  All of us have four-wheel drive pickup trucks (from Toyota Tacoma to full-sized GMC) with a popup camper mounted in the truck bed.  More specifically, we’ve all bought camper models manufactured by a California company:  Four Wheel Campers.  Yes, this is a plug for their products.  I’ve owned a Four Wheel Camper for a number of years now – and am planning to upgrade to a new model this coming spring – and have nothing but good to say about both the campers themselves, and the company.  The company definitely understands photographers as Tom Hanagan, the owner of Four Wheel Campers, is a Nikon shooter himself.

The truck camper is my base-camp, my home on the road, my office in the wilderness – with all the creature comforts of stove, refrigerator, furnace, 85-watt solar panel, queen bed, and lots of storage room.  The weather can be awful, but I remain dry and warm, able to work on my laptop, cook a meal or make coffee, or read with a glass of wine at hand.  And I can set up camp – or break camp and be on the road – in just a few minutes at most.

For specific details, check out their website:  www.fourwh.com.

Here are a few photos from my trip.

Rock and cracked mudFirst lightAgave and lichened rocksIce crystals over streamLake Powell sunsetSunrise on Burr TrailRocks and cracked mudHoodoos at sunriseTemple of the Moon by moonlightSunset light on ridgeWeathered juniper in sandMorning light on hoodoos

 

Lightroom travel catalog

When I travel I make a new Lightroom catalog for that trip on my laptop.  Image files are downloaded and added by date, into a folder with the month and shoot name, such as 09 Alaska (September, Alaska).  I discussed this in a previous blog so please refer back a few entries.  All my images from this particular trip will be within this folder.  Every day I flag any image files I work on, then save metadata to file (select by flag, then Ctrl/Command+S).  And every day I copy all that day’s shoot from my laptop to two external USB powered hard drives, so that by the end of the trip I have three duplicate copies of all my images. I also have Lightroom set to automatically backup its catalog to the external drives every day.

When I get home I export the trip catalog to one of the small USB drives that has all the trip images.  I plug this drive into a USB port on my desktop computer, and copy the folder with the image files over to the correct date location on my main hard drive array, the tower JBOD I discussed earlier.  Then I import the trip catalog into my master Lightroom catalog.  I disconnect the small USB drive, point Lightroom to the location of the trip’s folder of images on the JBOD, and I’m done.   My backup software kicks in, and automatically backs up the new images.

When I’m positive that all the image files are actually on my main system, I wipe the trip catalog off my laptop, reformat the small external USB drives, and I’m good-to-go on my next adventure.