Review: Black Rapid RS4 Strap

August 26th, 2011 by Varina Patel

I was skeptical about this one – I have to admit it. I already have a camera strap that I really like. It has great padding and little pockets where I can keep a couple of extra memory cards – so why do I need the Black Rapid RS4? But I’m game. I said I’d try it out, and write up a review if I liked it. If not, I’d just send it back. Well – I was wrong… this thing is great!

First off, it has a pocket. So what? My old one has two pockets. Well – the pockets on my other strap are just the right size for my memory cards. Which is great – if that’s the only thing you plan to put in there. They’re too small to fit anything else. The Black Rapid has one slightly larger pocket with a small zipper – it’ll fit a couple of memory cards– or you can do what I did. I usually use a tripod – so my camera has a quick-release bracket screwed into the bottom. Rather than risk losing the bracket, I put it in the pocket – along with its easy-to-lose screw, and my allen wrench. When I want to switch back to my tripod mount, I know exactly where those small parts are. No fishing around in the bottom of my camera bag trying to find them. That may not seem like a big deal, but if you are primarily a tripod-shooter, it means a lot. The pocket was just large enough to fit a spare memory card in there too. Nice!

Eckla Eagle Car Door Support Video Review

August 25th, 2011 by Chris Klapheke

Good friend and incredible bird photographer Alan Murphy came in last week to shoot a series of videos, both on bird tips and on products. We had a fun time shooting finches and woodpeckers out on my deck, and have some great footage.

Our first video is on the Eagle Car Door Support from Eckla. Alan reviews all the features of this sturdy mount, which makes shooting from your vehicle a breeze.

You can see the Eckla Eagle in the OPG store here.

Alan has an incredibly detailed and useful best-selling ebook “Songbird Setup Photography” in the store. You can also check out Alan’s images and workshops at his website here. Thanks Alan!

Dewy Morning Dragonfly Tip

August 23rd, 2011 by Mike Moats

Well we had another cool morning, no wind, and everything covered in dew.  I’ve mentioned this before, but if you get out on these cool dewy mornings the dragonflies will hold their position allowing you to set up your tripod, move in as close as you like, and take your time shooting.  The cool body temps and dew on the wings prevents them from taking off.

You can visit Mike’s blog and learn about his workshops here:  Tiny Landscapes

Mike’s eBooks are available in the OPG store here:  Mike Moats

On Image Value and Effort

August 22nd, 2011 by Bret Edge

How often do you see photos posted in online forums or hanging in a gallery, accompanied by a description wherein the photographer recounts the miles hiked, grizzly bears fought off, violent storms encountered and years of preparation before they were finally able to create the image before you?  I see it on a regular basis.  Usually, I have no doubt about the authenticity of the story.  Other times, the claims are a bit dubious.  Regardless, a recent experience left me wondering whether the effort expended to create an image is somehow tied to the value viewers place on an image.  Is a photograph made deep into an inhospitable wilderness more inherently valuable or artistic than an image where the greatest physical effort expended was simply pressing the shutter button?

The image you see above was not photographed in a wild and remote location.  I didn’t backpack 30 miles wearing a 100 pound backpack in stinging rain with lightning crashing all around.  No, all I did was pull to the side of I-80 so my son could go pee.  I saw potential in the cracked mud, mountains and ominous sky so I casually strolled to my truck (in flip flops) where I reached in, grabbed my camera and tripod, then walked 30 feet to the very spot where this image was made.  My biggest challenge was wrangling a persistent 2 year old who was intent on peering through the viewfinder and making his own photo while I tried to nail the composition before the fast moving storm in the distance was upon us.

I posted this image on flickr and, to date, it has received 793 views, 41 favorites and 21 comments after flickr added it to the explore page.  If you’re familiar with flickr you’ll understand that 800 views is nothing compared to what truly popular images receive.  For me, it’s a bunch.  I didn’t mention that I made the photo mere feet from a busy interstate with cars and semis whizzing by at 80 MPH.  I wonder if I had, would the photo have received so many likes and comments?

Read more about Bret and get info on his upcoming fall workshops here.

Understanding Depth of Field and how to use it correctly

August 19th, 2011 by Jack Graham

If you were to talk to many of my workshop attendees and they will tell you there are a few things I really espouse throughout the workshop, hopefully not to the point that its information overload. One of these techniques is DEPTH of FIELD. Some of of my attendees did not know what depth of field is, let alone how to achieve it. Some didn’t understand it and others thought it too complicated and therefore have never mastered the techniques. Well, it’s not complicated at all, once you understand it, and perhaps this essay will help explain it to you in as easy terms possible. I will state that Depth of Field is essential in every form of photography and must be understood and applied.

So, what exactly is depth of field? Simply, it is the amount of detail, within the image that is in focus. You, the photographer must decide on how much depth of field (DOF) is desired. Do you want the entire image in focus? Do you want the background out of focus ( often referred to as blown out—-I don’t really like that term as “blown out” might refer to overexposed, not out of focus).

Once you make the decision on how much of the image you want in focus, you must understand the technique that must be used to achieve your goals.

Decisions on setting to attain Depth of field are:

  • The F-Stop (see below) chosen to make the image
  • The focal length of the lens
  • Subject size (the depth of field decreases as you decrease the lens/subject distance
  • How far away is the subject?

LENS OPTIONS

Choosing a lens will have a dramatic effect on your depth of field. Lenses below the 60mm range are capable of attaining a large depth of field. (wide angle lenses) The DOF affect attained with lenses above 60mm will be less and when combining a 160mm+ lens on a DSLR, perfect Depth of field is virtually impossible. This is a principle of physics.

Sunflower Fields Forever

August 17th, 2011 by Denise Ippolito

 


Sunflowers

Sunflowers ~ NJ
Image © 2011/Denise Ippolito Photography

 

I started off my morning at this beautiful Sunflower farm in New Jersey. I arrived just before sunrise. A hint of fog was in the air and I was excited to set up. The early morning was peaceful and I had the entire field to myself. I spent hours capturing a variety of images. I couldn’t get enough. I used my fisheye lens, my 24-105mm lens and my 100mm Macro lens. I brought a step stool and tripod. The farmer told me that he has another crop about two weeks behind this one so I may get a chance to go again.


Sunflowers

Sunflowers with Nik Color Efex Midnight filter applied.
Image © 2011/Denise Ippolito Photography

 

Know Your Subject

August 15th, 2011 by Steve Gettle

Whenever I am teaching nature photography one of the things I really emphasize is that, in order to be a better photographer, it really helps to be a better naturalist. The more you know about your subject the more likely you are to be able to predict its whereabouts and actions.

The images you see here prove that statement as true. Earlier this spring I was out photographing when I heard a bird calling that was not immediately familiar to me.  Stopping to listen more, I decided that it might be a Prairie Warbler. Prairie Warblers are only occasionally seen in Michigan, usually during migration. I decided to spend some time searching for the bird, and ended up getting to spend the entire morning with this bird, a species that I had never had the opportunity to photograph before. All because I knew its song!

I was told by a couple of birders (who driven four hours just to see this bird) that this was the only Prairie Warbler that had been seen in Michigan this year!

Browse Steve’s images, read his blog, and learn about his workshops at his site www.stevegettle.com

Review: Mike Moats Macro Light Control Kit

August 10th, 2011 by Varina Patel

The Mike Moats Macro Light Control Kit includes a 24-inch Wimberly™ Plamp and two 14-inch Westcott™ Illuminator Reflector Panels – one is silver and white, and the other is a translucent white diffuser. It also includes the Finding Character in Nature ebook by Mike. I went out for a leisurely “test drive” on a lovely – and hot and humid – July morning.

At first, I felt like I was carrying around too much equipment. Tripod and camera in one hand, plamp and filters in the other – useful or not, I had to find a way to carry everything more easily. So, I clamped the Plamp onto my tripod, and hung the reflector panels from it. Now, I could carry everything with one hand. Problem solved. I chose a small thistle, and got to work. Lucky for me, I had my trusty side-kick along to document the process – thanks for helping out, Jay!

First, I set up my tripod then put the Plamp to work positioning the chosen thistle just where I wanted it. I’ll go into more detail about that fabulous little tool later – for now, indulge me while I go into some detail about controlling the light.

West eBook by E.J. Peiker

August 9th, 2011 by Matt Dennison

West by our friend E.J. Peiker is an eBook collection of 70 Landscape and Wildlife photos taken in the Western United States.

The American West is one of the most diverse and beautiful landscapes on Earth. Millions of people from every corner of our planet visit the treasures of our western states including its National Parks, National Monuments, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges, and State Parks every year. E.J.’s eBook is a celebration of these lands.

The Geek and the Artist

August 8th, 2011 by Steve Gettle

MONARCH BUTTERFLY WING SCALES

One of the things I love about photography is it appeals to both the geek and the artist in all of us. On the geek side you have the technical considerations of making an image; the f-stops, shutter speeds, depth of field, histograms, dynamic range, and that hyperfocal distance stuff that we must all master in order to communicate our vision. Of course we can’t forget about all the ‘geeky’ gear, super telephotos, focusing rails, tele-converters, extension tubes, fill flash, and such.  On the artistry side things are a little tougher to define, shape, color, composition, mood, balance, and that fickle mistress light, to mention just a few.

To make a great photograph you have to find the balance between the geek and the artist. If you lean too much toward the geek your pictures, while technically perfect, can lack emotion. They may not reach out and touch the viewer; they can be missing a mood or feeling. Conversely, too much focus on the artistry at the expense of the technical may leave your work riddled with technical flaws distracting the viewer from your message. Most photographers tend to lean in one direction or the other, some are master technicians crossing every t and dotting every i in their images. While others have a flair for the artistic not having the time or desire to bother with all of that technical stuff. A truly great photographer finds a balance and mastery of these two opposing disciplines.

The best photography communicates with the viewer. It reaches out and touches them in some way.  Your message does not have to be some deep life changing affirmation. It can be something as simple as, “Wow look how pretty this is!” The most effective way to communicate your message is without technical flaws that distract the viewer from your message. The most powerful way to reach someone is by touching their soul with your artistry.

Browse Steve’s wonderful images, read his blog, and learn about his incredible variety of workshops at his site www.stevegettle.com