Waiting a year for the Morro Bay Women’s Workshop didn’t stifle any of our fun. We spent four fantastic days photographing the ocean, wildlife, harbors, and of course, Morro Rock. We spent four days capturing sunrise, sunset and everything in between. Don’t worry, I always offer a little down time and image critiques. We managed to schedule three image critiques throughout the four days.
A highlight to many photo workshops (and definitely the Morro Bay Women’s Workshop) is the time bonding behind the camera and in social settings like meals. For example, we found many great restaurants to taste local seafood and baked goods. We had a blast! If you haven’t been on a women’s workshop, here is a photo gallery of our trip. To learn about our next workshop visit ahps.org.
Photography is like any other hobby – to improve you need to practice and this is especially true with wildlife photography. To practice my wildlife photography, I love to visit local ponds and zoos in my area. After all, I’m not much of a tracker, so I go where it is easy to find the animals. That way I can practice camera settings, technique, and composition to prepare for when I see animals in the wild. Fortunately, there are several ponds near my house with a variety of waterfowl and birds to practice photographing.
Along with my camera, I pack a long lens (100-500mm range). My favorite Olympus lenses are the 300mm f/4 and the 40-150mm with a 1.4x extender. If I am photographing at a zoo through fences, I prefer the 300mm. Longer focal lengths eliminate the fence better. My gear is in my hand, or my backpack and I make sure to include extra camera batteries, memory card, water, and snacks. Sometimes I will use a monopod, but not if there are a lot of people around.
Setting the shutter speed correctly is crucial in wildlife photography. Generally, you have two options – a fast shutter to stop the action (like wings in flight) and the shutter speed should be at least 1/2000 sec. The second option is a slower shutter speed for panning shots. Panning requires a little more practice and the shutter speed changes depending on the speed of your subject. For example, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125 sec are shutter speeds I have used on wildlife. So, once you decide on the vision of your photo, set the shutter speed.
Focus is most often in continuous and either a single spot or a small group of spots. Birds flying in the air are easier to focus on using multiple spots. But to focus on a bear’s eye, the single spot is best. Get eye level with the animal to capture the strongest possible image. Below are a few images from zoos, ponds and my backyard.
Next time you have the opportunity – go out and practice!
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.
Our son, Austin adopted a dog last month. Ryder (dog) is a
great addition to our home and we walked him day and night for the first few
weeks. Most of these walks were to Francis Short Pond, a ½ mile from our house
and easy to maintain social distancing. Here are several photos from these
Spring Break started with the announcement of a pandemic and the cancellation of, well, everything. What was a week of photography, workshops, and relaxation became stressful, instantly. My husband saw my stress and suggested a road trip through Oak Creek Canyon to Slide Rock State Park. Water in nature always calms me and the brisk March afternoon meant we had the place to ourselves.
We hiked down to the creek noticing a waterfall we didn’t remember on our last visit in October. Since it was a cloudy afternoon, I used the Singh-Ray Bryan Hansel Waterfall Polarizer to blur the water. Next, we found moss under the bridge too. The contrasting textures from the exposed tree root and bright green moss drew me in. Therefore, it was time for the macro lens. After several different compositions, I used the 60 mm macro lens for a close-up image instead of capturing a 1:1 macro image.
Next, we walked down the west side of the creek and I noticed the ripples in the water. When photographing patterns like these, it takes me a few attempts to find the right shutter speed. Let me take you through my process. In the images below, number one is with a shutter speed of 1/30 sec., just slow enough to look blurry. Image number two used a shutter speed of 1/3 sec. creating an abstract image about the ripples. That was what I wanted: the right shutter speed to tell my story. Lastly, I adjusted the composition. Image number three used a shutter speed of .4 sec. and the blurred water ripples lead the eye through the frame.
Our short trip to Slide Rock State Park was a success. I walked away with a two photos I loved and two more that I really enjoy. That’s a successful shoot to me and to think the day started out stressful.
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/.
Check out this fun iPhone app – PIP Camera composites images with a postcard/postage stamp feel. Therefore, I used this app during a road trip to send images home. It was fun change to texting normal photos. Give it a try!
On more than one occasion, I have taken photos of a fantastic macro subject only to realize I didn’t know it’s identity. Then I discovered the Seek App by iNaturalist (available on Google Play and the App store). As long as I have my phone with me, I snap a photo of the subject and load it into the app. In a few seconds the app gives me the identity. If I’m without cell service, I still take the photo and load it into the app later.
The below screen shots demonstrate how easily the app works. The image on the left is after loading a photo from my camera roll. The image on the right is the result. This is a very powerful free app. I use it wherever I go to quiz myself of plant species. Give it a try.
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.
My first time in Florida was 35 years ago and that trip was
centered around visiting family and going to the newly opened Epcot Center. This
year, I returned to the area with my husband and the trip was full of beaches,
wildlife and seafood. Our 10-day trip was relaxing and I thought I would share
some of the highlights here.
When we planned our trip, our goals were to see Sanibel Island and the Everglades. We didn’t want too much planned and chose to make up the itinerary as we went. As a result, we booked flights into Fort Myers and found a small Airbnb in Matlacha with kayaks. Matlacha is a small island between Cape Coral and Big Pine Island and an inexpensive alternative to Sanibel Island. During our first day, we recovered from jet lag by taking out the kayaks. It was as easy as walking out the back door. With the protection of Big Pine Island, paddling was a cinch and we investigated the mangrove trees up close. In addition, dinner was a short walk from the house where we ate fresh gulf shrimp on the waterfront and enjoyed local brews.
Our interest in Sanibel Island came from Rod’s research
before our trip. He read about great shelling on the island and his research
was right. We spent hours at several beaches on Sanibel Island in search of the
best seashells and I grabbed a few photos of waterfowl too. We spent another
morning at the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge capturing photos of egrets, osprey,
herons, pelicans, ibis, and cardinals. I spent so much time photographing
birds, Rod got a little bored and took a nap in the car.
We visited Englewood, FL to participate in the Cowboy Chord Club, an acoustic jam group. I’m sure it seems kinda funny that we went on a vacation with our ukuleles and crashed a Meetup group, but we had fun! The group took song suggestions so Rod and I were able to rqeuest a few of our favorites to play. Afterward, we talked to the locals and were encouraged to check out their beach; so, we did. We found a waterfront restaurant with fresh fish and live music before we headed to the sun filled beach. As a result of low tide, many shells were visible and we shelled for a few hours before driving back to Matlacha. On our drive back, we found an alligator in a pond in front of a church. We made a quick U-turn to capture photos.
Marco Island and 10,000 Islands Boat Tour
The tour on Marco Island named “10,000 Islands Boat Tour” was the only thing we scheduled before our trip besides the Airbnb, flight, and rental car. As It turns out, we were the only passengers on the boat, so I guess we didn’t need to schedule it so early. The tour was okay, we opted for a longer tour and later realized we didn’t get all that we were promised, however, we did see a lot of wildlife and get to visit one of the 10,000 islands that receives very few visitors. For example, we saw egrets, dolphin, osprey, heron, pelicans, a tern and spent more time shelling (our favorite past time). Capturing the birds from a moving boat was a new challenge and much harder the photographing birds in flight. (See “For the Photogs” below for details on photographing birds.)
Before leaving Matlacha for the Everglades, we were told about burrowing owls in the Cape Coral area and went out to find them. It turns out we had driven past them for days! Since they are protected, stakes are places around their perch to protect the area. The more we drove, the more we saw them in empty fields, front yards, along busy roads…everywhere. I photographed them in many of these areas but preferred the empty fields. The front yards with groomed grass didn’t give the photo a natural feel. Read about how I used my tripod capturing these images, in my blog titled: Benefit of Using a Tripod. Stay tuned for the next post – Florida: Gators and Vultures.
For the Photogs:
To photograph flying birds, a minimum of 1/2000 shutter speed is used to stop the movement of the bird wings. However, when photographing stationary birds, the shutter speed can be slower. In addition, when I was on the boat, I shot at 1/5000 sec. shutter speed and the captain slowed down the boat too. It was still a tough shooting situation. Even though the captain slowed down the boat, the waves were unpredictable and always hit the boat when I was ready to press the shutter. For maximum success, used continuous focus, continuous shooting mode (burst), and image stabilization when photographing birds. As you would expect, it takes lots of practice and timing to capture strong images of wildlife. Good luck!