When given the chance, I enjoy helping people out, especially if it is using my camera. So, when our son came up with the idea of building a tiny house on a trailer, we helped. As he finished the build, instead of selling it, he bought property in Grand Canyon Junction (Valle) and set up the most unique off-grid, glamping scene. Now known as Kaibab Kottage. Although I moved bricks, rocks, limbs and dirt; I was happiest when he asked me to photograph his pride and joy.
Starting with a few interior shots that he captured with his GoPro. The house is built on an 8′ x 5′ trailer, so it is small. It was much easier to hold up the GoPro to capture these wide angle shots than use my camera.
After finding used treasures like Trex decking, table and chairs, and a propane grill, we set everything up including a compost outhouse! He added solar panels to power the lights.
This Airbnb listed property needed photos for the listing and the instruction binder. Showing how the bed converts from a couch to a bed through images is beneficial to international visitors. I cropped tight and captured a clear subject.
And here are the last images I captured. Using off camera flash to light up the camp kitchen area I captured sunstars and the whole site. A tripod was used for all of these images since my priority was to capture “sunstars” with the lights. This was a fun project and it felt great to help.
Finding new ways to photograph paper became easy when we bought a laser cutter. Our years teaching high school taught us the many uses of a laser cutter and now that we have one, my husband, Rod, produced several new “pop-up” patterns for me to photograph. Click here to read my original blog and get caught up to speed. Otherwise, keep reading to view the new images.
Just like before, I used two off-camera flashes with gels with a snoot on one flash and a grid on the other. I used the snoot and grid to control the flashes from “spilling” light onto the background, leaving me with a rich black background. Flash power was 1/64 power and manual exposure settings were 1/60 sec, f/11, ISO 200. The images below include the paper pattern, shooting setup with two gelled off-camera flashes, and the finished image.
The new paper patterns are three-dimensional “pop-ups”. The laser cut the lines, then we folded diagonally across the slits, then slid the two ends together to the desired height and taped it down. Once a pattern is ready, I can print as many times as desired.
The images below demonstrate how different perspectives/angles create a completely different photo. Not to mention the gel colors changed too. If you want to see this method demonstrated, here is my YouTube video.
Be watching for more of these images in the future. We have many more pop-up designs to print! And if you want to try it in person, check out our April Macro workshop. Of course, if you need help with your flash, check out my April Flash Fundamentals workshop.
Most of you know I shoot with an Olympus camera system, well, now I’ve added the Nikon Z6ii. Before the Olympus system, I used Nikon gear but when I decided to switch to mirrorless, Nikon didn’t have a great camera, that’s why I moved to Olympus. There are many features to my Olympus system that still impress me like: focus bracketing, focus stacking, in-camera ND filter, focus shift, and starry sky focusing. Not to mention the smaller sensor doubles the focal length of each lens. So, when I head to Florida next month, I will take my OMD1 Mark III and 300mm F/4 lens which is an equivalent focal length of 600mm. And it fits in my camera backpack, along with an extra camera body and two more lenses. My Olympus gear is compact and of high quality.
But, I love cameras and found myself a little jealous when so many participants were shooting with the new Nikon mirrorless cameras, so I purchased the Nikon Z6ii, 50mm macro, and 24-70mm f/4 lenses. I still use my Olympus, but I am loving the new Nikon. But buying a new camera is not simple. Not only is there research before purchasing, but there are also a lot of extra costs involved. Here is a list of items I purchased in addition to the camera:
L – bracket
Luckily, my Yongnuo and Godox flash units already work with Nikon.
You might be wondering why I purchased the Nikon? Well, to be honest, sometimes it is fun having something new! Frequently I shoot in low light and wanted the full-frame sensor for that purpose. Whether I am shooting night skies, events, or even extensive focus stacks, a full-frame sensor with less noise is always welcome.
Compared to my Olympus, this new Nikon camera has a similar grip, and the menus don’t throw me off, so it has been an easy transition. However, the new focus bracketing feature is different. I’m still testing it, but mostly I notice the interval spacing is different. Setting a focus stack on my Olympus with an interval of 5 is a much larger spacing than the same setting on the Nikon. As I use the feature more, it should become more intuitive. I’ve used the internal focus bracketing feature and can’t imagine a camera without one.
Overall, I am very happy with my new Nikon Z6ii. The full-frame sensor does offer less noise but that also means less magnification (macro and telephoto) than the Olympus system. Now with multiple systems, I can pick and choose the right tool for the job. And for now, I plan to use both tools.
Every spring we remove those pesky dandelions from our yard. This year, before the weed & feed came out, I picked a dandelion to photograph.
As a child, I enjoyed blowing the dandelion seeds everywhere, not grasping why it upset my parents. As an adult, when I look at a dandelion, I imagine myself wandering through those tiny seed pods; maybe it comes from reading The Borrower’s or Dr. Suess’s, Horton Hears a Who. So, I spent a few days photographing dandelions from my yard and I thought I would share my process with you.
I started with a perfect, fluffy dandelion. But the image was busy and I struggled seeing into the seed pods, so I removed some of the seeds to gain a better vantage point. Using my macro lens, tripod and a Raynox DCR250 close up lens, I captured the above image at approximately 2.5x magnification. The off camera flash units were at 1/64 power with diffusion (copy paper). At this magnification, I chose to focus stack so that the closest seed pod would be in focus.
Next, I moved in closer keeping my exposure and flash settings the same. By adding extension tubes to the macro and Raynox lenses, I isolated an individual seed pod achieving almost 4x magnification. When using the Raynox, I use a plastic container on the end of my lens to diffuse the flashes. Anyone that has taken our Arizona Highways PhotoScapes Super Macro workshop (ahps.org) has used this diffusion technique. For these next images, I included my super macro setup and the single seed pod image.
Then, I continued to play with the dandelion seeds, pulling some away to reveal less seed pods drawing me to different compositions. The colored paper background added variety and I chose to capture single images with varying depths of field.
While setting up the next shot, I added a continuous light to the background and loved the silhouetted dandelion. So, I turned off my flashes and captured silhouettes with and without extension tubes. Much to my surprise, I found a bug crawling around in the dandelion. It took a lot of twisting and positioning in front of my lens, but I finally captured the bug in the seeds. The final bug image expressed my original intent – as if I was that bug within the dandelion.
So, if you are looking for a project, find something simple around your house and keep “working the subject” by changing settings, lighting, backgrounds, etc until you achieve what you want. These images were captured over the course of three days. When I take on new projects, I like to review, reflect, and then reshoot several times. Regardless, have fun and I hope you enjoyed reading about my process.
Paper – check; off-camera flash – check; flash gels – check; macro lens – check. Grab those supplies and you are ready to capture abstract art. My YouTube video isn’t ready yet, but I couldn’t wait to show you how to capture these images.
Let me take you step-by-step through capturing these images:
Grab white computer paper and roll or curl it to a desired shape, then either staple or paper clip it so the shape holds in place.
Place two off camera flashes facing each other pointing toward the paper (see image). A good starting point to the flash power is 1/32.
Add a gel to each flash. I used a red and a blue.
Set your camera on a tripod and focus on the front edge of the paper. I used Manual exposure, 1/60 sec, f/5.6 to f/10 and ISO 200.
Take a photo.
Review your image checking the histogram and composition. Adjust camera settings as needed.
Now, modify your shape or change gel colors. The images below represent some of these changes.
Image A: For this image, placed one flash with blue gel on the background (wall) and a green felled flash on the paper. Olympus OMD1 Mark III, 60 mm macro, 1/60 sec, F/10, ISO 200, 2 off-camera flash.
Image B: This image uses an orange gelled flash from the left and a purple gelled flash on the right. I added small curls of paper in my loops to create different shapes. Olympus OMD1 Mark III, 60 mm macro, 1/60 sec, F/10, ISO 200, 2 off-camera flash.
Image C: Here is the looped paper and added curls to create image B.
Gels are transparent colored material placed on the flash unit. Purchase them where you purchase lighting equipment. If you find the Rosco Swatchbook in stock – buy it! The swatchbook gels are sized perfectly for flash units and includes a variety of colors.
On a recent hike with my husband through Pumphouse Wash I dropped my two-month-old camera. The hike required wading through many thigh-high polls of water, and I was careful while wading. Hiking was slow through the water, so after three hours of hiking, we turned back toward the car. That meant wading through the pools of water again. The walk-able ledge on the last pool meant we would stay dry, well that was the plan anyway. Somehow, my pack was open and my camera took a swim. I watched it submerge 18” under water, so I jumped in too. As I grabbed the camera strap the lens broke off and water gushed inside the camera. After getting the camera, I spotted the lens wedged between two rocks and retrieved it. I pulled the battery and memory cards from the camera immediately, hoping to keep the images from the hike.
Once on dry ground, I wrapped the gear in a towel, and we hiked the last 1/3 mile back to the trail head. At the car, I opened every compartment to dry them out and knew Monday I would call my insurance company. Almost ten years ago, I purchased a policy from State Farm Insurance to cover my gear since I own too much camera gear for a traditional homeowner’s policy. On Monday, I called in my claim. A few days later, a claims adjuster called and by the end of the phone call, he issued me a check for the full value of my gear minus the $100 deductible.
Hopefully, this event got you thinking about insuring your gear. My policy cost $20/month and with over $3000 replaced gear, insurance was a wise choice for me. Not only can you get a special policy through most homeowner’s insurance agents, but many photography organizations offer insurance as part of your membership. Here is a short list of options for insurance, but there are many more.
PPA – Professional Photographers of America
PSA – Photographic Society of America
NANPA – North American Nature Photography Association
Howard Burkholz of Allstate
I contacted Olympus to see if a repair was possible. Although they couldn’t say for sure without evaluating it, dropping the camera in water void the warranty. While I waited to hear from my insurance agent, I placed the camera in a bag of rice. I’m glad I had insurance.
After my sabbatical studying water, I spent many days using my variable ND filter. ND filters, otherwise known as “neutral density” filters attach to the front of your lens and darken the exposure. So, on bright days, slowing the shutter to capture “milky” water is possible. My first ND filter was a variable ND filter, allowing 1-5 stops darkening. Recently, I purchased the Singh-Ray Mor-Slo ND filter with 15-stop darkening and love it. These filters do require a little practice since focusing is done before you screw on the filter. Otherwise, the learning curve is short and here are a few examples from my recent Watson Lake workshop.
Image Left: In mid-day light without any filters with exposure f/16, 1/125 sec and ISO 200. Image Right: With the same light, I put on my Singh-Ray Mor-Slo 15-stop filter with exposure f/16, 8 minutes and ISO 200.
Something to try: capture images in black and white to add drama to an image. Check out these two images shooting straight into the sun.
Image Left: In morning light without any filters with exposure f/16, 1/8000 sec and ISO 200. Image Right: With the same light, I put on my Singh-Ray Mor-Slo 15-stop filter with exposure f/16, 8 seconds and ISO 200.
If you are looking for a change with your water photography, consider a neutral density filter, but most importantly, have fun. And, if you are interested in a Singh-Ray ND filter (or any filters), use code Amy10 for 10% off their filters at https://singh-ray.com/.
A clean background can make or break an image. While walking near a waterfall outside of Ouray, CO, I spotted a Richardson’s Geranium with buds just beginning to open. So, I set up my tripod and grabbed my macro lens. After capturing the image on the left with the natural green background, I placed my diffuser behind the bud to block the wind. Then I noticed I could capture an image with a white background as well. Both backgrounds are clean and simple, but express the buds differently.
The image on the left has noticeable backlight on the buds but the image on the right highlights the red balls on the hair of the stem. Which do you prefer? The Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II, 60mm macro lens and settings: Left image: f/4.5, 1/180 sec, ISO 1600. Right image: f/4.5, 1/60 sec, ISO 1600 (notice the faster shutter speed due to the white background.)
This blog continues from last week about our Florida
vacation and the highlights of our trip. After spending a week in the Fort
Myers area, we headed east to find alligators. Our first stop was the Audubon’s
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, known for alligators, waterfowl and other swampy
stuff. If this location sounds familiar, I mentioned this location in my
“Buttonbush” blog too. The loop trail is a series of boardwalks through the
swamp. A great location to see the swamp safely. Since we visited at the end of
the dry season, water levels were low and we did not come across any gators.
But we found an amazing number of fun things to photograph. For instance, a
spider wrapping up its recent catch to a red shouldered hawk and even a common
squirrel. I carried my tripod and two cameras (12-100mm and 300mm telephoto
lenses) so I wouldn’t miss a thing.
The loop drive was a 24-mile gravel road through mostly
cypress swamp areas. Frequently, the road crossed culverts and almost every
culvert had alligators basking in the sun. We saw so many “gators” we decided we
didn’t need to visit the Everglades; so we planned visiting the Florida Keys
the next day.
Big Cypress National Preserve
After the swamp, we drove south to catch the Tamiami Road
for our drive to Homestead, FL. We stopped at the Big Cypress National Preserve
visitor center to discuss their scenic drives and pullouts. I often stop at
visitor and tourist centers; the employees always have an opinion of the best
places and sometimes they are not on the published maps. The Ranger recommended
the Loop Road Scenic Drive and since it was on our way to Homestead, we took
it. But, before we got to the loop road, we encountered a picnic pullout spot
with a canal and many alligators. Watching these magnificent prehistoric
looking creatures was mesmerizing. They glided easily through the water and
stalked prey silently. We watched an alligator catch a turtle.
We rented a room at an Airbnb in Homestead, FL from a lovely
couple very attentive to our needs. It felt like home. With limited time in
Homestead, we spent one day driving down to the Middle Keys just because we
wanted to experience it. We ended up at Curry Hammock State Park and sat on the
beach watching the kite surfers and played in the warm water. It was a long
drive for just a few hours at the beach, but we were both glad we did it. After
returning to Homestead, we ate dinner at Black Point Ocean Grill, a waterfront
restaurant with live music and enjoyed our grouper and fish and chips. The next
morning we took a detour to Everglades National Park before driving back to
Fort Myers. After all, we were so close, how could we not stop?
We entered the Everglades National Park through the main Homestead
entrance and drove to the Anhinga Trail. This trail was recommended by my
friend, Beth Ruggiero-York from her book, Everglades
National Park: A Photographic Destination and it was easy to access. We tried
to visit the Nike Missile Site too, but it was only open on weekends. As soon
as we drove into the parking lot of the trail, we noticed a large number of
turkey vultures and a few vehicles. Some vehicles had blue tarps on them, some
vehicles had large numbers of vultures on them. We spoke to the park staff and they
recommended putting a tarp (supplied by them) on our car. Apparently, the
vultures love picking at the rubber on cars. We witnessed that love… some cars had
as many as ten vultures picking at the rubber. We were happy to find our car
untouched by the pesky vultures when we returned from our hike.
The Anhinga Trail is a short boardwalk trail through swampy
areas with many alligators. At one point, I photographed a great egret next to
the path and an alligator cruised past in the canal beside the egret. The egret
was so close to me I had to use my short lens (12-100mm) to get the shot. Notice
the photo below with the alligator slithering through the water. Otherwise, I
used my 300mm lens to photograph anhingas, gators, and egrets.
We felt accomplished. We fulfilled our mission to see alligators
and to visit the Everglades, so we headed out to drive back to Fort Myers. We
stopped one last time at our favorite alligator picnic spot and then drove to
our airport hotel. We ate an early dinner at the hotel to prepare for a 6am
flight heading west the next morning. Our Florida vacation was over and we
returned to Flagstaff rested and relaxed (except for the normal airport nonsense).
We are ready for summer in Flagstaff.