Category Archives: Travel

Travels (Continued)

On my return drive up the coast from California, I stopped at Bandon, Oregon, to photograph the seastacks.  Bandon is one of the classic locations on the Oregon coast, and, indeed, I’ve photographed there many, many times.  I don’t think I’ve ever gone past Bandon without stopping, if for no other reason than just to walk the flat, packed sand beach.  On this location I was lucky…I arrived just in time for a great sunset.

Beach and seastacks; Bandon, Oregon. Nikon D800E, 45mm T/S lens.

Beach and seastacks; Bandon, Oregon. Nikon D800E, 16-35mm lens.

Travels

I’ve been traveling a lot this year. Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting some images from several locations. Several months ago I made a very quick “get out of the office” trip down the coast from my home in Oregon to Bowling Ball Beach, just south of Mendocino, California. I entered the redwoods in thick fog, with periods of intense rain. The only image I took was this, shot with my Nikon D800E at ISO 1600 with the 80-400mm lens.

The redwoods coast, in fog and rain.

Better weather awaited me at the beach. Here are three images, taken the same afternoon about 2½ hours apart, all three done with the 45mm T/S lens on my D800E. FYI, the “bowling balls” are concretions eroded out of the steeply tilted mudstone cliffs.

Bowling Ball Beach, California.

Bowling Ball Beach, California.

Bowling Ball Beach, California.

If you even plan on photographing here, try to time your visit for a low tide around sunset, wear rubber boots as you’ll be wading, and bring a heavy ND filter to soften the waves.

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.