Sunday, June 16, 2013

Because of my father

I wasn't going to blog about today's photos I did when I visit Frame Park in Waukesha, however, I realized today that my nature photos are because of him. Not in the traditional sense of him showing me how to use a camera, but he showed me how to hunt.

Today I realized that taking my nature photos wasn't something that naturally came to me, but was passed down from my father. He taught me the fundamentals of hunting and patients which allowed me to get my shots today. I realized this when I saw a family of ducks swimming around the edge of the water, and when I tried to walk up on them I scared them away. I then thought, when we go hunting we scare all the animals when we walk out to our spot. What if I just set my stuff up here and just wait. My reward was some great shots, and something I can show my father I am grateful for because of what he taught me.

My first shot is what I was rewarded with after waiting in one spot for over an hour. I was hoping their nest was near by and that I simply just scared them away, and with their nest near by they would come back. As you can see from this shot, they did.

I was able to shoot these ducklings from only 15 yards (about 13.5 meters), and was able to do so for about 30 minutes! As long as I only moved my camera on my tripod they didn't seem to care I was there. Whenever someone would walk up to me to see what I was taking pictures of, they would swim away quickly. They would then apologize for scaring the birds away and would walk away, and no more than a minute later they would come back.

The ducklings got even closer when their mom swam around the bushes and was out of site.  I couldn't believe how close they got. They where less than 10 yards (9 meters) away! I checked my exposure when I took this picture as the sun popped out of the clouds and I was very pleased with this picture. I did wish I zoomed out slightly more to get his tail in foot in the picture, but I still love this shot.

My last shot was when they started to swim away, and I felt I had enough duck pictures. I made sure in this picture that I would have full body and feet in the shot. It almost seemed he was looking back to make sure I got the shot (the rest of the family was eagerly swimming away).

Because of my father, I had the patience to sit in the bushes like a weirdo and get these great shots of the ducklings.

Happy Father's Day to my dad, all the other dads, and to all the moms who also need to play dad. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Photowalks: What are they, who are they for, and what do you bring?

I have been attempting to get into a photowalk for a few months now, but they always ended up to be on a day I couldn't make it (sick, out of town, vacation). Finally, I was able to make one yesterday in downtown Milwaukee.

So what you may be asking yourself, what is a photowalk? It is exactly what it sounds like,  you walk around and take photos. However, the fun of this is you are walking around with a group. If you are lucky, you wont know anyone there and you get to network with other photo hobbyist or even professional photographers. The next thing you are asking yourself; how do I know I can join the photowalk? Majority of the time, EVERYONE is invited. You don't even need to take pictures, you can walk around the group and just learn things. Look how they set-up their equipment, how they handle their camera, or how they get the angles in their photos.

Another great aspect of a photowalk is that you never know what is going to happen or what you are going to see. The walk that happened yesterday was a prime example! So what do you bring to a photowalk? Well, photowalks can have a predefined goal. Such as landscapes, so you probably wouldn't want to pack a 500mm telephoto lens. These walks are to help you grow in your photography, so bring what you would like. Yesterday, it was only stated to bring a tripod since it was a night photography walk.

I didn't know how long this photowalk was going to be, so I left my camera grip with extra battery attached, I knew I could shoot for well over 3 hours with that on. I also brought two 16gb memory cards, as I wasn't sure how many shots I wanted to take (also is great in case one card goes bad). I decided prior to the walk, that I primarily only wanted to shoot with my 20-70mm 2.8 tamron lens. I also brought my 70-300mm with macro capibility in case there was a macro opportunity or I absolutely needed the zoom. I also brought some lens cleaning cloths, my air blower, and some granola bars (in case I got hungry). I will also put an exact list at the end of this blog of items that I brought.

1/20 sec at f / 2.8, ISO 3200, 50mm
1/15 sec at f /2.8, ISO 3200, 58mm
So how did this photowalk start? We all met at the 42 Lounge, which has some amazing drinks and drink specials, and decided where we where going to walk. As the group walked some would stop and start shooting things around them, some would lay on the ground to take pictures of puddles, and some would take pictures of people taking pictures. Right away, we had a huge random opportunity jump in front of us. As we were walking in front of the fire department they opened the doors, we thought we were going to get ran over. They were just actually opening the door to see what was going on, and they invited us in to shoot some things in the station. I ended up with two great shots from this. At this time, I was not using my tripod and was shooting everything hand held. We got a small tour of the place, many took the opportunity to snap some shots of the hose drying room (I was one that did not). I believe we may have spent about a half an hour just in the fire department before people started migrating back to the streets.
1/250 sec at f / 2.8, ISO 1600, 34mm

10.0 sec at f / 13, ISO 100, 55mm
We continued to walk down towards the river and it was just before sunset, and just before the golden time for photos. I was still able to pop off some shots before a tripod was needed, and I saw people shooting up in the sky. Looking around I saw the bright clocks were making a great effect with the sky.

We took a long stop at an intersection so people could try to get light trails. However, I was not interested in this so I continued to walk down to the river. It was now after sunset and everything was dark. Tripods were now needed as well as my wireless trigger. For some reason, I was have vibration issues when using my tripod as majority of my shots were coming up blurry. I'm not sure if it was because of the cars passing on the bridge, or what it was. However, this is one of my long exposed shots.

My last photo from this set (I shot about 90 pictures total, ended up with about a dozen I really liked) is another black and white. I was frustrated with the blurry images on the tripod, but I wanted to give it one last attempt.
1.6 sec at f / 10, ISO 2000, 24mm

Equipment list:
  • Nikon D7000 Camera
  • Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC
  • Tamron 70-300mm (didn't use)
  • 2 lens cloths
  • 1 cleaning pen (brush and a cleaning end)
  • 1 air buffer
  • Lowpro 102AW
  • Business Cards
  • 2 - 16gb memory cards
  • 1 - 4gb memory card
  • color checker passport (didn't use)
  • Nikon Wireless trigger (ML-L3)
  • Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod
  • Manfrotto 498RC2 Ball Head
I hope this helps you figure out what a photowalk is and helps you prepare for one.  If you have any questions feel free to leave a commend on here or on my Facebook Page. You can also check out what other people took at the Google Community: Milwaukee Underground Photography.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Adventures in South Carolina

(Please note that you can click on any image and see a larger image of it)

This trip to South Carolina was decided as I was going to be in North Carolina for a wedding, and since I was close why not visit South Carolina too?

I had a few pictures in my head on what I wanted to get, and I had a full week to do it. The first photo I was going for was a sunrise photo, second photo was a shoreline of Myrtle Beach, and a bunch of wildlife shots.

Upon arrival, I look up the weather and it turns out it was scheduled to rain all week with possibility of storms each day (the whole week I'm there). I looked up sunrise/sunset times and set my alarm on my phone for each day of the week (I was only 10 minutes from the beach), with plenty of time to get ready and get to a spot.

So I started out with some wildlife photos as I walked on the beach. Majority of the life are a few types of gulls, sandpipers, and if you look closely you can see the the sand comes to life with moving shells. The first bird reminded me of a typewriter; it would start at the water's edge and race on foot to the land to not get hit by an incoming wave, it would then follow the wave back out. I believe it was an Western Sandpiper.

Looking up, the shoreline continued all the way to the horizon. On one side is the blue ocean with white capping waves, and on the other side are the hotels, people lounging on the beach, and houses. This was actually one of my disappointing moments as I took a picture of this and the picture did not turn out so well. To my eye, I couldn't see it but this is one of the things the camera could. The salty haze in the air washed out my image.

I couldn't get much color from the photo, everything was washed out, and I couldn't save the image no mater what I tried. This is when I realized, I should have done my homework on ocean photography. I haven't look on how to correct this issue, but I did learn that you can't just set-up and shoot near the ocean like I do near fresh water. I did manage to pick up, either a black headed gull or a laughing gull (don't know which one), flying over head. 

1/640 sec at f /11, ISO 100
This shot was able to capture the blue sky and a few clouds in the sky (10 minutes before this shot it was pouring rain). I was able to capture him as he was gliding so I don't have any up and down wing motion, so I was able to get a very crisp shot at a lower shutter speed and didn't need to pump my ISO up.

A bit further up the beach I saw a different type of gull and a pair of sandpipers. The gulls seemed very use to humans walking near them as I was about 35 yards away when I took the following picture.

1/400 sec at f / 9.0, ISO 100
My second day, my mom wanted to show me the Boardwalk and some of the stores around the area and then after swim at the beach. Because of the swimming part I didn't want to bring my camera and leave it in the jeep to overheat and ruin the sensor, so I left it behind. Of course, this day was one of the sunny days with large fluffy clouds. I was able to get this picture with my phone.

1/250 sec at f / 5.6, ISO 320
Fast forwarding a few days, there was still no sunrise photo to be had as solid grey clouds littered the sky each morning. So I used this day to visit some of the parks in the area and use the clouds as a large diffuser. I was able to capture two great flower shots

1/320 sec at f / 14, ISO 1600
One thing I forgot to do was take note on the types of flowers these were, and I can't seem to locate anything on the internet. These two shots were taken at the Brookgreen Botanical Garden. I was listening to a couple talk about how in the back of the area is a large trail that takes you beyond "the wall" of the garden and has a small trail you can see some of the wild animals. I was very excited when I heard this, so I headed straight there. Upon coming to this trail there was a sign that was a bit discerning as I had shorts and sandals on; "Please Stay On Trail. There Are Stinging Insects, Snakes, and Alligators".  One of my favorite moments came up, as I walked onto one of the docks on the trails I happened to look down into the water. I had to do a double take as I saw two alligators swim by, I almost dropped my camera into the water. I raised my camera up but the swirls of mud clouded the water shortly after. But something amazing happened, one decided to come on shore and what seemed to go right to sleep.

1/2000 sec at f / 5.6, ISO 1600

1/1600 sec at f / 5.6, ISO 1600
Leaving the garden, I walked around a park right down the road from the garden. I was able to snag some close-ups of some birds (sadly, I do not know the names of the birds).
1/1000 sec at f / 5.6, ISO 1600

My longest lens I shoot with is a 70-300mm Tamron Lens. I sat in one spot a little over 45 minutes until these guys got close enough for me to take shots of. The one with the blue crown, landed about 10 yards away from where I was sitting. It was almost as if he wanted me to take a picture of him as he hardly moved as I slowly raised my camera. On my way back in, I saw something that amazed me. As I was walking back I happened to have looked up, and as I did I saw some fur in the tree. I slowly stepped forward and saw a fox in the tree! I quickly snapped a shot:

1/250 sec at f / 4.5, ISO 1600
 I looked quickly at the shot and realized there was a branch in the way, and when I went to take another one he had already jumped down and was running off.

My father also took me out to some spots in the marsh where I saw a lot of fiddler crabs, and some of the local guys fishing for crabs. This is when I got to witness low tide turning into high tide, and you can actually see the current change before your eyes. He also took me to a few docks, and I was able to get one of my favorite landscape shots and few boat shots.

1/2000 sec at f / 4.0, ISO 320 
1/2000 sec at f / 4.0, ISO 320

These two photos I was very excited about and put them on my gallery right away, and made them available to print ( So overall, the problem I ran into was no sun when I wanted it. It was very frustrating not getting a chance to take a photo I had in my head, and not realizing the effects of the ocean has on your photos. I also had to end my picture taking early the first day because as I was walking through the water a wave crashed on my legs and a few drops got onto my lens. Luckily, this was towards the end of the walk as when I attempted to clean the lens it actually left behind a layer of film on the lens. Even with my lens cloth, it still wouldn't come off. I had to use my cleaning pen (which was back at the house) to get the film off of the lens.

Hopefully, you enjoyed the stories behind each of the photos. And if you know what some of the birds and plants are please leave me a comment so I can update the photo caption! Thanks for reading.