August 30, 2011

What I Did on My Vacation #7

Before I get into today’s post, I want to answer a question that Ellen posed in her comment abut Friday’s post—do I consider these (my posting) print ready?  The short answer is no.  All of them would require sharpening and probably some additional dodging and burning.  As to specifics for each picture:  I would remove a lot of the specular highlights in the classical crab shot because I think they take your attention away from the subject; I would probably not print the crab in the ice plant because the ice plant leaves (?) directly front of the crab take away from the subject and I am too lazy to spend the time required to remove them from the photo; and the final shot is probably the one closest to “print ready”.
In my What-I-Did-on-My-Vacation-#3, I said: “As to the Galapagos Islands, I would have to say that the landscape is nice but not spectacular.”  Well, several of my co-travels on boat to issue with me in emails.  They completely disagree with me; they thought the landscapes and seascapes were spectacular.
The first photo is our group exploring one of the islands.  The plant life you see is quite common to many of the islands.  The reds, greens and yellows go well with the blue, overcast skies.  The second photo (taken with the Canon G-12 from a Zodiac) shows a granite island take through an opening in another island.  Here, I liked the framing of the island and the contrast of the warm colors of the rock and the cool colors of the sky and ocean.  The final photo is more-or-less a typical shot of the wet side of most islands.  I think that our guide said that the wet sides of the islands were generally characterized by cliffs.  

August 26, 2011

What I Did on My Vacation #6

Today, I plan to finish-up photos of the Big Four—sea lions, iguanas, birds and crabs—with Crabs.
Before we went on vacation, I was sitting down with my grandchildren, viewing photographs of the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu.  As I always do, I asked them what photo they would like me to take for them.  Cole wanted a shark eating a sea lion (not likely), and of course, Cam added a “me, too.”  Chloe wanted a photo of “bright-colored crab”, to which, Cam added another “me, too.”

The traditional shot of crabs is against the black volcanic rock.  And, why should it be the classic?  Brightly colored red, yellow and blue crabs set off beautifully against the black rock.  I is almost like setting-up a black backdrop to take a portrait of a beautiful light skinned, blond woman.  The black backdrop just makes the colors and the light features more dominate.  The only trick to this type of photo is to realize that your in-camera meter will want to turn the black rock into 18% grey, so you must set your EV compensation to at least -2 EV.  You can try to do a post-processing adjustment, but I have found that trying to save washed-out, over exposed colors is almost impossible. 
After getting my traditional shot in the bag, I started looking for shots that you normally do not see.  I found crab in my second shot about 400 feet from the water, laying in an ice plant.  Here, you have color on color, which, to me, just seems to help illustrate just how colorful the crabs are.
My final crab photo was a challenge to get.  Why?   First, because the crabs in water are very fast and they tend to move away from you as soon as you get close; and, second, because overall scene is very bright with a lot of specular highlights which again fools your in-camera meeting.  So, how did I solve these problems?  As I wrote earlier, I used a polarizing filter to eliminate many of the specular highlights.  In addition, I generally waited until a cloud was in front of the sun and then I would start firing away.  In the final photo, I like how the three primary colors—red, yellow and blue—stick out and how the rock covered-in green algae seems to point directly out the subject.


August 23, 2011

What I Did on My Vacation #5

Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend.  During the course of our lunch, my Galapagos Islands photos became a topic.  He wanted to know why I was not putting in technical data on my photos so he was curious about how the photos were taken and what post processing was done on most of the photos that I have posted.
As to how all the photos were taken, they were taken with my Nikon D3, set at variable ISO (up to ISO 1,600 with a minimum shutter speed of 1/180th of a second), a Nikon 28-300mm, f/3.5-5.6 lens and NO flash (not allowed in the Galapagos Islands).   I also often resorted to using automatic bracketing (three shots at one-stop increments) to make sure that I got the photo was properly exposed. 
 Because there are so many animals that have almost no fear of humans, you can more-or-less shop for your shot.   As an example for the first photo of the iguana posted last Friday, I walked up and down a row of four iguanas that were perched on rocks.  I was looking for a simple, pleasing background and light falling on the iguana’s face.  After “shopping” for several minutes, I selected the one that you saw.  Normally, in wild live photography, you just cannot do that and that is one reason that I really admire wildlife photographers, especially bird photographers.
As to post-processing, it has been done totally in Lightroom 3 (Camera RAW).  The processing generally includes making sure that I have a good white and black point set, tweaking color hue, saturation and luminosity, adjusting clarity and vibrance, using various tone curves, cropping, using post-crop vignetting and occasionally using the adjustment brush to lighten or darken various parts of a photo.  The overall adjustment time would probably be less that two minutes on all the photographs presented.
Today’s topic:  BIRDS.  Following is my usual disclaimer:  I AM NOT A BIRID PHOTOGRAPHER; I TAKE BAD BIRD PHOTOGRAPHS.  But, I felt that I had to include birds because they are such an important part of the Galapagos Islands experience.
I chose the first photo of a Blue-Footed Booby because it illustrates the lack of fear that the birds have of humans and shows how hard the light was during many of our hikes on the islands.  These birds have a tendency to stand (and nest) on the designated paths and will generally not move when you walk by them.  In this photo, I am about four feet in front of the bird and the legs are about two feet behind the bird. 
Second photo is one of the blue feet of the Blue-Footed Booby.  I really wanted a photo of a Blue-Footed Booby doing its dance (we saw it several times on our first visit to the Galapagos Islands) but I never saw any dance.  In the photo, I wanted to show-off what makes the bird unique.
The final photo is of a duck (forgot the name) taken in the highlands on an overcast day.  I really liked how the bold, vivid colors of the duck contrasted with the soft, muted colors of the reflection in the water.

August 19, 2011

What I Did on My Vacation #4

Before getting to today’s photos, an answer to a question that I got on the last post: how do I get such rich, saturated colors?  Two things contribute to the saturated colors: (1) almost all of the photos that I took on vacation were taken with a polarizing filter; and, (2) I generally underexpose my photos by ½ to 1½ stops.  Underexposing the photo will keep you from washing-out the colors.
Today’s subject is iguana.  Little doubt about it, iguanas are not exactly pretty, but they do have character—like an old, wrinkled man.  I have no idea how many different species of iguanas there are but it seems like every island in the Galapagos had at least three or four different ones.
In photographing the iguanas, I tried to emphasize their textured skin and their bright distinct colors.  To me, the real trick of getting a decent iguana photos was isolating them from the background.  Of course, that means getting ground-level and looking at the iguana eyeball to eyeball.

August 16, 2011

What I Did on My Vacation #3

Before getting into today’s photo, I want to provide a little background.  First, camera equipment:  I went light—Nikon D3, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6, Nikon 50mm f/1.4, three filters, cable release, two Nikon SB800s, tripod, Canon G12 and of course, lots of memory cards.  Second, shooting during the “golden hours” was very limited both in the Galapagos Islands and at Machu Picchu.  Both places put access restrictions on visitors.  As a result, almost all photos that I will be presenting were taken during the hours from 9:00 AM until 5:30 PM.  Third, you are not allowed to use flash in the Galapagos Islands.  Finally, you cannot disturb the animals resting place or get within six feet of animal (if they come to you, there is no limit to how close they get to you—sounds a little like a double standard!).
As to the Galapagos Islands, I would have to say that the landscape is nice but not spectacular.   Yes, there is clear blue water and some interesting plant life, but it is the animals and their interaction with humans that gets your attention.  All the islands have the big four animals—sea lions, crabs, iguanas and birds.
Today, I present three photos of sea lions.  I like the first because of the graceful lines that the sea lion is forming and how the light sets him/her off from the background.  As to the second one, how could you not like a photo of a baby sea lion begging for a little attention.  And, as to the final photo, I just like it.

August 14, 2011

What I Did on My Vacation #2

It seems that I have forgotten how to post my blog.  I prepared my blog as normal and I thought that I set it to post on Friday morning, but alas, when I looked today, no blog posting.  It seems that I had merely saved the posting as a draft.  So, here is Friday’s post on Sunday.
Our vacation consisted of visits to Quito and Otavalo, Ecuador (3 days), Galapagos Islands (9 days on the Mary Anne, a 216-foot, 3-masked barquentine sailing ship), Cusco (3 days), Urubamba Valley, the sacred valley of the Incas (1 day) and Machu Picchu (3 days).  Our transportation consisted of seven airplanes, one sailing vessel, eighteen Zodiac rides, five buses, two ferry-boats, six automobiles and lots of walking.  In short, it was not a “laying around the pool, sipping wine and eating cheese” vacation.
JD and I went to Galapagos Islands in 1992 and both of us, consider that trip to be one of our best vacations.   
The Galapagos is a very special place. Why?  Because humans expect animals to fear them and that is not the case in the Galapagos Islands.   
There is something very special about sitting somewhere and having a baby sea lion crawl over to you (first photo) and then start to play with your boot (second photo).  The little guy played with my boot for about five minutes and then wondered off to investigate a lizard laying on a rock.
Hopefully, the photos that I present over the next few weeks will give you a sampling of what JD and I experienced.  Today’s photos are more about my experience than trying to present excellent photographs or “works of art.”

August 9, 2011

What I Did on My Vacation #1

Looking at today’s photo, I am sure that no one has any idea of where JD and I went on our vacation.  A few of you probably guessed:  Disney World.  Nope, that’s where the grandchildren went.
Machu Picchu is a place that I have wanted to visit ever since I first saw a photo of it in National Geographic when I was about twelve years old—it has taken me 53 years to get there, but the wait was worth it!  For the most part, I am disappointed when I finally get to see the great wonders of the world.  Machu Picchu was not a disappointment.  It was everything that I thought it would be and more.
Over the next few weeks, I will show various photos that I took both at Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands where we also went on our vacation.Today’s photo is JD in front of Machu Picchu.  Not a lot of fancy camera work here—exposure compensation dialed back one f-stop, flash pointed a little above and to the right of JD’s face, and the sun used as a hair light.
Camera settings:  Nikon D3, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 at 36mm, ISO 900, f/8 and with shutter speeds 1/180th of second.
Post Processing:  
Lightroom 3—set white and black points, added clarity and vibrance, and adjusted hue and saturation of various colors.
Photoshop CS5—used nik Color Efex Pro glamour glow filter to add