I just read another “pro” blog saying to leave your DSLR camera and lenses at home when traveling and just take a small mirrorless camera with one lens. If the purpose of your trip is to make great images, then that is the most stupid advice there is.
Let me get this straight:
- You’re going to a grand location.
- You may never go there again.
- You want to make great images.
- You’ve invested a good deal of money for the trip.
- You’re spending valuable time on the trip.
So you should use equipment that you wouldn’t use at home to photograph your dog?
Yes, I’d rather travel light, it is much easier. I’d rather take no luggage and have everything given to me when I arrive. But that doesn’t happen in my income range. I always have at least one more case of equipment than anyone else – I want to be ready for the shot.
Now if I were to go on vacation and sit on a beach and do nothing, then I don’t need my real camera gear. But that doesn’t happen for me. Even when I’m not on a exclusively photography trip, I get away at least of a couple of mornings for sunrise light so I can make some decent pictures.
I see people buy these light, flimsy tripods for trips and they would never use the skinny things at home. So why use them when you are someplace special? Oh yea, it is easier. I hosted a workshop in Tuscany last summer and a couple of times when we went into quaint medieval villages I didn’t bother taking my tripod. I shoot nearly everything on a tripod but I was feeling lazy. And it showed. When I got home and looked at my images I couldn’t figure out why some days I didn’t get much in the towns. Then it hit me that I wasn’t using the tripod and it changed the way I shot in the towns. I did snapshots instead of real photos because I was just walking around popping off tourist photos without thinking what I really wanted to say with my photos. I blame that on my laziness.
I’m not going to let “It is easier” be the determining factor on whether I get good images. I hope you don’t either.
One of the nice things about doing art shows in Florida is being able to get out early for sunrise and not freeze. I headed to Juno Pier this morning hoping to get some good clouds at sunrise. I wasn’t disappointed. I had hoped to go at 3 a.m. to catch the Milky Way over the pier but it was cloudy when I got up. I went back to sleep for a couple of hours and by then many of the clouds had cleared away.
The crescent moon was shining bright when I got there before any light was in the sky. As the sky filled with color the became less distinguishable and by the time the sun cleared the horizon, the moon was barely visible.
Today was the last day for this year’s Vermont Winter Photography Workshop. The weather was good, there is lots of snow on the ground and we had a great group of eight people. They came from all over, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. We were prepared for the cold, so it didn’t feel like 15 degrees during the day.
We hit many locations during the three days, farms, covered bridges, towns, rural scenes and a couple of real Vermont country stores. Several of the group hadn’t walked on a lake before, so going out on Silver Lake to see people ice fishing was a bit of an adventure.
I always know it was a good shoot when my SUV is a filthy mess. After our breakfast stop this morning, I was surprised to see a lovely note scratched on my back window. Thanks gang.
My love affair with birch trees continues. There is a fairly large grove about 15 minutes away from my Vermont house and I love wandering around there. It has a magical look to it no matter when I go.
Today I was there before sunrise hoping to get the rising sun shooting through the trees. When the sun came up, it glowed for a couple of minutes and then went behind a large cloud. I could see it would come out again so I tried several shots while waiting to see how the snow, trees and sky would look once the sun was shining again.
As usual, I wasn’t disappointed. The long shadows in the snow and deep blue sky highlighted the white bark and made for beautiful images. There must be 250 trees in the grove and today I noticed a couple of crooked ones shooting skyward. I like the shape they make and worked to get an angle that would highlight them. I’m pretty happy with the shot.
I went to a Ft. Meyers beach for sunrise today that is more populated by wildlife than people. There are lots of better beaches for sunbathers, so the only people that come to Bunches Beach are there to either walk, look at birds or photograph birds. Today there was a large group of bird watchers carrying binoculars and scopes, wearing their bird watching clothes and their boots. Which means they were going to mess up a lot of photos.
So I went the other direction on the beach. There weren’t as many birds and no people, but one great blue heron was working the surf to get a fish. Herons are one of my favorite birds to photograph. Their long necks make great shapes, it is either curled back as they relax or it gets taught when they have prey in sight. My heron today was standing in shallow water as small waves rolled in on. It didn’t move a whole lot so I tried lots of different shots, using different composition and placement of the bird in the photos. I decided to try some very slow shutter speed to see if I could get a unique effect blurring the incoming waves.
The heron had caught a good size fish was standing pretty still so I knew it would be sharp and the blurry water surrounded it. Of course, as soon as I make lots of setting changes the heron kind of turned around and a bald eagle came out of nowhere and stole the fish from the heron’s mouth. I was a bit dumbfounded knowing I didn’t have time to change camera settings and fired the camera anyway knowing that anything moving would be a blur even though the eagle was moving fast. I got cool wave effects but the two birds look like blurry blobs. It was fun knowing I was the only person to witness nature at its peak.
I love the name Ding Darling, it is a National Wildlife Refuge on Florida’s Sanibel Island and a great place for people to observe birds. I was named after a cartoonist who was instrumental in wildlife conservation in the early 1900’s and helped initiate the duck stamp program. The park has a four mile long Wildlife Drive where you can walk, bicycle or slowly drive your car and see wildlife in its natural habitat. I’ve been there several times and it always has something going on. The park claims to have 230 bird varieties visit and I think there are that many types of photographers too. The nice thing is it is easy to drive your car and not have to carry a ton of gear long distances.
This morning I found this group of willets. I’m not a birder and I can’t name a lot of birds, so I had to look this one up. They were fun to watch, they would come to attention as a group and they start milling around looking for food. I tried a long exposure to show some of their movement and I think it worked pretty well.
I drove 150 miles today around Vermont making pictures on a beautiful day – the first official day of winter. I didn’t hear too many people talking about it but they were pretty happy that the temperature got above freezing and it was sunny in some areas. People were out enjoying the day, I went to a couple of the big ski areas and they were pretty busy for a Wednesday in December. There is a good base of natural snow and the weather is perfect for making snow. It should be a good week for them as the new year approaches.
I stopped at Moss Glen Falls in Granville to see how it was looking. It has been very cold here and the falls was nearly completely frozen over. There were a couple of spots you could see water flowing but it didn’t make for a good photo. I put on my big snow boots and wandered into a little brook that runs along the road in front of the falls. I always love seeing how flowing water makes unique designs of ice, especially where it lightly splashes to make weird shapes and then carves into it.
I think Winter Solstice should be a holiday and many Vermonters would agree with me.
On the way home I heard a guy on satellite radio say the best thing about this being the first day of winter is that spring will soon be here. He wasn’t from Vermont.
We lost one of the American great ones today – John Glenn. He was the first American to orbit the earth and the oldest man in space after going up in the Space Shuttle at age 77. He was a Marine fighter pilot flying 149 combat missions during World War II and the Korean War and was known as “Old Magnet Ass” because his plane was shot so many times and he kept it flying. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross six times.
To be a hero you have to be willing to sacrifice your life in a way that will benefit others. Hero gets tossed around too much, people many times do the right thing but if they don’t put their life on the line, they ain’t a hero. I heard a dog called a hero this week because it bit someone attacking its owner.
But Glenn was a hero, many times over. And a good guy.
He was a Senator from Ohio when I lived there in the ’80s and ran for President in 1984. I worked for a small daily newspaper and even though our circulation area was 50 miles from where Glenn lived, it was such a big story that we covered his presidential announcement. We were an afternoon paper and the event was scheduled for late morning, which meant we had time to get a story in that day’s paper and an AP photo. I talked the editor into sending me and I promised I have a print ready by noon from a 10 a.m. event that was 90 minutes away.
These were the days of film and we didn’t have a transmitter, so the only way the get the picture in the paper was to develop the film during the 90 minute drive back to Marietta. I arranged to use the newspaper’s circulation van and got one of their people to be my driver. I set up a film darkroom in the back of the utility van, I had a changing bag to load my film into a developing tank, the proper chemicals and rinse. I was ready. (more…)
I took my Meetup.com groups to Conowingo Dam in Darlington, MD, for a fun weekend of photographing bald eagles. The eagles gather at the dam to grab stunned fish that come through the generators. There are eagles that live in the area and many migrate south as it gets colder up north. At one point I counted 89 eagles sitting on the bank across the river and there were many more on an island and our side of the river.
Eagles sit in trees along the bank and then swoop down and grab fish out of the water. Then many times other eagles try to steal the fish and aerial battles ensue.
There are probably more photographers than eagles, it is an amazing the amount of big lenses in use. Canon Pro Services brought a ton of equipment for us to use. A special thanks goes to Tony Kurdzuk of Canon for bringing the equipment and helping our people with their photos. Also thanks to Paul Fishkin who provided us with Benro and Induro tripods and heads.
I came across an old photo today and all these years later it makes me feel as good as it did that day. I was lucky to work for the Associated Press at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. I worked the evening shift, so during the day I would go out and shoot around the Olympics. One day I got on the subway and headed out to a neighborhood away from the Olympics. It was a fairly poor area and it didn’t take long to realize not a lot of 6’2″ guys with blonde hair wandered their streets.
I noticed a young boy and girl walking across the the street from me and they were giggling and gawking at me. I waved to them and they waved back. It continued for a few blocks and they disappeared. I thought it was a pretty cool experience when the two appeared again. They came over to my side of the street and were carrying three ice cream cones, one for each of them and one for me. What a surprise!
It was one of the nicest gestures ever. We stood there eating our ice cream and laughing. I pointed to my camera to ask them if I could make a picture of them. They gladly posed, waved goodbye and headed off down a side street. I wished I was able to go to their house but at least I had a great memory and a nice photo. It was fun thinking about it again today.
While on my way back to N.J. after two art shows in Florida, I made a side trip to Charleston, S.C., to photograph the “super moon” tonight. The full moon won’t be this close to the earth until 2034, which means it looks larger than normal.
I usually like to shoot the full moon on the night before the actual full moon, it rises about an hour earlier, so there is still light in the foreground. But I had an art show yesterday and couldn’t get out to shoot, so my only choice was tonight.
I used a program called Photographer’s Ephemerist to pre-determine where the moon would rise behind a large fishing pier on Folly Beach. It blows my mind that I can sit at my computer or use the app on my iPhone and know where I need to be to line up the rising moon and the pier.
I was out on a beach tonight in Jupiter, Florida, as the sun went down and color came into the sky. The moon was bright and clouds were blowing past as surf was crashing on the sand.
When I looked south, there was a colorful glow on the horizon. I love what happens when clouds and waves are moving during a long exposure, so I used a 30 second exposure so the movement would be recorded as a blur.
While doing the art show in Pensacola, FL, I’m getting lots of requests for local photos. Since this is the first time I’ve been in Pensacola, I don’t have anything to show them so I went to the beach after the show tonight to catch sunset and see what was going on around the pier.
There was some great color in the sky after the sun went down, as I waded in the edge of the surf, I was able to get the pier in the foreground and the sky blazing behind it.
After the color faded a bit I went under the pier but I didn’t want the typical shot of the silhouetted pier and smooth water. I brought a flashlight with me to try some light painting. I did a 30 second exposure and used the flashlight to illuminate the pier and give me a different effect.
This weekend I have an art show in Pensacola, Florida, which is a long drive from New Jersey. Since 18 hours is too much for me to drive in one day, I looked on the map to find a place that was a little more than half way and came up with Knoxville, TN. Looking closer I saw there is a town named Kodak, so I had to look into that. It turns out that a postmaster in 1892 heard about the new Kodak camera and he thought it would be a good name for the village. He contacted Eastman Kodak Co. and George Eastman said OK. So here I am in Kodak!
I thought that it would be cool to hear Paul Simon sing Kodachrome on the radio as I pulled out. It came on an hour later, and yes, I was singing!
At Chittenden Reservoir in Vermont there is a pretty little island about 300 yards off shore. It is a favorite place for photographers and I’ve photographed it on many occasions at different times of day and different seasons. I decided to try it at night and use a large flashlight to illuminate the island using a technique called light painting, where you pass the light over the subject many times during a long exposure, I usually do 30 seconds. So tonight I started about 30 minutes after the sun went down and shot for the next hour. There was only a slight breeze which gave me the nice reflection on the water. Then I was lucky to have a shooting star which gave me a beautiful final touch. This is one exposure with only minor adjustments in Lightroom. As the sky got darker I needed to bump my ISO up to 400 and I was shooting at f/5.6.