November 29, 2014
Last month I couldn't help but notice the number of giant tree skeletons along the canyon rim, overlooking the Hoodoos of Bryce National Park. Where I live in the Alaska Range Mountains the Spruce trees pale in comparison in both girth and height, so I always notice any large trees. Even more striking are the dead trees, whose limbs against the sky are a study of lines and shapes. (Make sure you expand this thumbnail image). Hard to say what the cause of death was--no visible evidence of any fires, so that might indicate insects or disease.
Canon 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm USM lens at 65mm, exposure of 1/320 second at f8, ISO 200, handheld.
October 31, 2014
"Ho, hum...just another noisy eruption. Can't a lazy buffalo get some decent sleep around here? Why are all those tourists looking at me? Oh, that's right, they traveled from all around the world just to see that smelly water gush out of the ground every 60 minutes or so. I should charge them for appearing in their pictures. A candy bar from each of them would be great. You know, it's a tough job posing for all those tourists. I'm glad the grass grows so well here--I hardly have to move anymore. Guess the show's over--time to munch more grass..."
Canon 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm USM lens at 82mm, exposure of 1/1600 second at f8, ISO 200, handheld.
September 20, 2014
One of the difficulties of still photography is trying to convey the feeling of motion from a still photograph. One remedy is to use a slow shutter speed while panning the camera lens as it closely follows the subject, hopefully keeping the subject fairly recognizable and rendering the background as a linear blur. Good results take "on location" experimentation to determine the best shutter speed for the combination of subject motion and lens focal length.
Another use of this technique is on waterfalls, where the blurred water (from a slow shutter speed) against a sharp background helps reinforce the idea of falling water. See numerous examples in my Iceland Portfolio.
Canon 5D Mark III, EF300mm f2.8 II USM lens with 2X III teleconverter, exposure of 1/60 second at f25, ISO 200, Jobu 3 Jr. gimbal head mounted on an Apex beanbag.
August 29, 2014
With tonight's weather forecast of 1-2" of snow in the surrounding mountains, these Bitter Fleabane flowers have gone to seed just in time for the winds to disperse them. Bitter Fleabane is fairly common in Interior Alaska, typically found growing on recently disturbed gravel (my driveway).
Like last month's example of good bokeh, the background of this image was specifically chosen to be free of distractions and the proper exposure for the seed pods rendered it darker for even a more dramatic effect.
Canon 5D Mark III, EF100mm f2.8 macro lens, exposure of 1/200 second at f2.8, ISO 200, Arca Swiss ballhead on a Feisol CT3301 tripod.
July 28, 2014
Fireweed contributes a welcome splash of color to the otherwise green landscape of Alaska, especially so this summer when record rains have given us too many gloomy days. This plant is one of the first to appear on freshly disturbed earth and after forest fires.
Did you notice the pleasing out-of-focus background? This is the result of using a telephoto lens with an excellent bokeh (boh-kay, meaning a smooth rendering of out-of-focus points of light) along with an extension tube to allow close focusing. Not all lenses produce a pleasing to the eye background.
Canon 5D Mark III, EF300mm f2.8L II lens with a 36mm extension tube, exposure of 1/400 second at f6.3, ISO 200, Jobu Jr. 3 Deluxe Gimbal head on a Feisol 3371 tripod.
July 3, 2014
Not a dyslexic word transposition, but a rare example of an elephant killing something rather than being killed. This Secretary Bird chick, not quite old enough to fly, was thrown from its nest (at the top of the Acacia in the background, shown in the full image) after a bull elephant pushed the tree over. This is common, as witnessed by all the mangled trees on the Serengeti, since knocking a tree down brings more leaves within the elephant's reach. What is disturbing is that the chick appears to be old enough to have run away, so there is the distinct possibility that the elephant stomped on it. And it must have just happened, since the elephant was still feeding on the other side of the tree as I photographed.
Canon 5D Mark III, EF17-40mm f4 USM at 17mm, exposure of 1/200 second at f11, ISO 200, handheld.
May 22, 2014
Play toys for lion cubs are a little scarce on the Seregenti Plains, so mother's tail is fair game. When this three month old cub and her sister became a little too rambunctious around and on top of their mother, the lioness decided she had enough and tried to walk away. But this cub didn't want the fun to end quite yet...
Canon 5D Mark III, EF300mm f2.8 II + 2X Teleconverter III, exposure of 1/500 second at f8, ISO 320, gimbal head mounted on a beanbag.
April 30, 2014
I've just returned from another successful photographic safari in Tanzania--my goal was to photograph the wildebeest migration during the Green Season, and as you can tell from this photo, I succeeded! This part of the migration must have totaled 100-200 thousand animals (the migration also includes zebras and Thomson's Gazelles), and stretched as far as you could see. The herds are always on the move, looking for fresh grass; after they move on, the remaining grass is so short you would think that a lawn mower had just passed...
Canon 5D Mark III, EF100-400 f4.5 IS lens at 220mm, exposure of 1/250 second at f9, ISO 320, handheld.
March 24, 2014
Elephants are a fairly docile animal, and if your vehicle remains stationary rather than appearing threatening by advancing, most elephants will continue grazing around you. That is the key to getting close-ups of most animals--appear non-threatening, and they will continue going about their daily business. Elephants aren't really pure gray in color, since the color of the mud they cover themselves with influences the shade of gray, so I decided that a black and white image would be more striking, especially after restoring the normal eye color.
Canon 5D, EF100-400 f4.5 IS lens at 400mm, exposure of 1/200 second at f8, ISO 500, handheld.
March 2, 2014
"Wolf Eyes" is the title of a new Limited Edition photograph that I am preparing to offer soon. This image has languished in my slide files for ages, but I knew it had potential after some computer work. The photo was taken on a very dark and wet evening, so it lacked obvious contrast and color. My original intention was to convert it to a black and white, but once I saw the cream and tan colors of the fur, I knew it had to be in color. But to me the most captivating feature was the eyes, thus the title "Wolf Eyes". (Please note that this website version is cropped slightly different than the actual 16"X20" Limited Edition print)
February 3, 2014
Dawn on the Masai Mara can be a peaceful experience. The thermal-caused winds haven't started up yet, the noisy airplanes ferrying more tourists are still hours away, and other safari vehicles are scarce since they usually leave the lodges at sunrise. But photography can be difficult in such low light, such as the ISO 3200 needed to achieve even the very risky (too slow) shutter speed of 1/25 second. Another example of how Image Stabilization can save a photo...
Canon 5D Mark II, EF100-400 f4.5 IS lens at 190mm, exposure of 1/25 second at f8, ISO 3200, handheld.
January 15, 2014
Visiting the Serengeti Plains at the start of the long rains has its pros and cons. On the positive side, everything is green and there are fewer tourists; on the negative side, the rains might prevent you from crossing a small stream, or much worse, turn the plains into a quagmire. After watching a cheetah family in the pouring rain, this tourist safari vehicle unfortunately drove into a warthog hole as they tried to leave. After many attempts to extricate the vehicle from the hole, the driver radioed another company vehicle for assistance. To lighten the load in the stuck vehicle, all the passengers had to stand in the rain; surprisingly, they took the inconvenience in stride.
Canon 5D Mark II, EF500 f4 IS lens, exposure of 1/500 second at f8, ISO 400, handheld.