I got a nice new Apple Watch for Christmas from my lovely wife Robin. It is pretty cool but a little too advanced, it wouldn’t work with my old iPhone 6, so of course I was forced kicking and crying to to upgrade my phone! OK, I’ve been eyeing one for a while so it wasn’t too painful, other than the price. I got the spiffy iPhone 11 Pro Max since it has what is reputed to be a great camera built in. I hear a lot of people saying their phone can make images as good as my expensive DSLR camera. I tell them to come to my gallery and I’ll show you plenty of shots you aren’t going to make with that phone. But now that I have the fanciest around I need to give it a try.
All phone cameras have an extremely wide angle lens but this gets even wider. While a nice soft snow was falling this morning in Vermont, I went out with our dog Pudge to give the phone a little trial run. I shot some photos on normal setting, some with the telephoto and then the wide angle. Any camera would handle these conditions pretty well so it hard to tell what the camera will really do but so far they look pretty good. I got Pudge to sit and pose and used the extreme wide angle to really make her dominant in the photo. Like most cameras, it made the image too dark because of all the snow. It made the snow gray rather than white and I needed to correct it in post processing but it wasn’t off that far. I got the normal wide angle distortion in the trees but that is to be expected. The image looks pretty sharp but I’m not making a 60″ print. That will be the real test.
We started my latest Iceland Photo Workshop by heading north to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, a beautiful area that doesn’t get the big bus loads of tourists. It is well known for a cute little church in Budir that is painted black and for Kurkjufellsfoss a scenic waterfall beside the iconic Kirkjufell mountain. We were based near the little town of Grundarfjörður just across a small bay from Kirkjufell. There is an artist in town who goes by the name of Liston and I have visited him with groups several times. He can usually be found outside his studio carving stone and his artwork is all over town. He greets me with a big smile and firm hand shake and is always willing to talk with everyone. I’d love to have one of his large carvings but getting it back home would be a major event. He did offer one of our folks to come stay with her for a couple of months and carve anything she wants! In the winter when it too cold to be outside carving he is in his studio painting. I bought one of his larger acrylic paintings on paper and can’t wait to hang it.
During our two days around Snæfellsnes we journeyed to Bjarnarhöfn, home to a shark musuem but rather than go inside we photographed another black church and the beautiful country side. We also went up to the little harbor town of Stykkishólmur, which is a classic quaint Icelandic village. We made the fairly easy climb up a small mountain that has a great overview of boats in the harbor and the town built on the hills. It is a great view.
Back in Grundarfjörður we wandered out through fields to a pretty waterfalls. It was more than a mile round trip and the last section to get close to the falls was pretty tricky so only a couple of people made the final hike. On the way out an Icelandic horse wandered over to see what we were up to. Before getting too close she stopped and did some posing for all the photographers. And she was a great poser, striking the right moves with a scenic mountain behind her. When she had enough of that she came over to check the camera of one of our people. She sniffed around but didn’t lick the lens!
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I went to Washington Square Park today and ran across Paul, a guy who seems to have an affection for pigeons. Paul was sitting on a park bench surrounded by maybe 100 pigeons and many sparrows too. But the pigeons weren’t just on the ground like the sparrows, they were all over Paul, sitting on his arms, legs, clinging to his shirt, hanging off his pants, covering his shoes and even sitting on his head. It was quite the sight.
Today for my Iceland Photography Workshop we made the fairly long drive from the Snaefellsjokull Peninsula down to the south coast and our home for the next two days in Vic. There are many things to shoot along the way and we stopped at a couple of the most dramatic waterfalls in Iceland but the weather limited our ability to make great shots. As we got farther south the weather got nicer.
We stopped at Dyrhólaey cliffs and photographed the puffins. They are cute and colorful little birds that roost near the public area, making it pretty easy to photograph them. They fly away from the cliffs, catch some fish which dangle from their beaks and then come back to pose for photos. They are exciting to see and always make for fun photos.
While up on the cliffs you have a great view of the black sand beaches below. The waves and surf rolling up on the sand creates a stunning contrast.
The next stop was Reynisfjara Beach, which was filled with tourists. You really want to be there at low tide otherwise you can’t walk around to see the cool caves created when lava flow hit the ocean. There are basalt columns that are quite unusual and very graphic. They were created when the flowing lava cooled quickly.
We we blessed to start off my latest Iceland Photography Workshop with great weather. Nice cool summer temperatures and a summer day greeted folks to Iceland. We headed right out from the airport and were shooting old sod roofed houses in Keflavik within 20 minutes. The old houses are really cool and small. The door is less than five feet tall. When I was here in March I shot selfie on my phone in front of one and posted it on Facebook saying my hotel was smaller than I thought it would be. Way too many people thought I was serious.
When then hit the road for a drive up to the Snaefellsjokull Peninsula where we are spending the next two nights. One of many unique things in this country are Icelandic horses. They are a separate breed from any other and the only breed allowed in the country. They are amazingly hardy, they spend the winters outside while cattle are brought indoors for safe keeping. They have beautiful long manes and a heavy coat. Plus they are pretty friendly, whenever I have stopped to photograph them they always walk over to the fence to say hello. The light was great on them today and the background scenery couldn’t be better.
We stopped at Seal Beach, where seals lay around on the rocks and pretty much don’t care how close you get to them. I did have one keep an eye on me but I didn’t get close enough to disturb it. We off to a great start.
The cutest thing in Iceland and some people think anyplace, are puffins. They are colorful birds about eight inches tall that have a rather sad face. They spend most of their lives at sea and only come ashore in the summer to mate and raise babies. Then they are back to the ocean, floating on the waves for nine months. I took my Iceland workshop group to a location where they nest in the cliff near a very public area.
I hadn’t seen puffins before and didn’t know what to expect, I saw a woman with binoculars so I asked her if she was seeing puffins. She gave me that “you’re a stupid American” look, said “yes” and went back to her bird watching. So much for conversation. I noticed a nearby rock in the grass with some bird poop on it. That’s always a sign of bird activity, many birds poop before taking flight to literally lighten the load. As I stood there I saw a puffin sticking its head out of the grass, but it was too far away to make a good photo. At least I felt good that they were around. Soon I realized the birds that were landing all over the cliff were puffins, but they were still too far away.
I gathered our group and told them to aim their telephoto lenses at the rock, there was going to be activity there. Several birds flew up to the rock and then quickly circled and flew away. They were landing everywhere else but not close to us. I had all of us move back about 10 feet to see if we were crowding them too much and before long a puffin landed near the rock and in range for us. As I was shooting like a maniac I could hear the other cameras firing away but the bird didn’t care. Another one landed and suddenly we were able to shoot two together.
Puffins dive in the ocean and come out with a beak full of small fish that dangle out. One landed with a longer fish than most and seemed to do a happy dance on the rock. It made me pretty happy too.
When my sister-in-law Penny opened The Hungry Hound in downtown Somerville 13 years ago, we decided to put in a dog portrait studio. I’ve photographed hundreds of dogs since then but her store grew and she needed the studio space for other things.
I recently launched LorenDogs.com for my dog photography business and I’ve set up a couple of studios in my office. Christmas cards are popular so one set has a festival holiday background featuring one of my office fireplaces. I got my seven-month-old puppy, Pudge, to try out the holiday set and she looks pretty good. If you want me to photograph your pup, check out LorenDogs.com
Today I drove from my sister’s house in Grants Pass north along Oregon’s coast on my way back to Portland. It is not the shortest or fastest route, Highway 101 along the coast is mostly two lanes and goes through lots of small towns. It wasn’t my first time but there is always something new to discover.
Highway 101 runs along the coast in many areas and there are incredible pulloffs for great views. I stopped at one overlooking Haceta Head lighthouse which is they claim to be the most photographed lighthouse in America. I can’t say it is the most photographed but I can say t here aren’t any that are more picturesque. It is a postcard photo, the easy kind to shoot so I don’t usually bother but it is fun to look at.
When I got out of the car I heard barking and it wasn’t dogs. I looked over the edge and 300 feet below were sea lions, maybe 200 of them. They were making quite a racket. The first thing that came to me was how to get down there. It didn’t take long to realize there was no way to climb down the cliffs and get near the beach, which is why the sea lions were there!
I had settle for shooting from above with my telephoto lens. There were on the rocks and swimming around in the water, they were fun to watch and I nearly forgot to make a shot of the lighthouse.
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 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.
Today was the end of a fun workshop I hosted in Florida. We went to Gatorland in Orlando, which is a crazy tourist spot that has a special relationship with nature. They have tons of gators, thus the name, but they also have a large rookery for birds that are surrounded by the gators. The gators keep the ground predators away from the eggs and the gators get the hatchlings that fall out of the nest and birds that build their nests a little too close to the water.
There are boardwalks through the rookery and an observation tower. The birds build their nests close to the ground and to the boardwalk, you could touch some of them if you really tried. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays they let photographers enter at 7:30 a.m. to get lots of shots before the public arrives at 10 a.m. There has been a crowd of photographers each time I’ve been there but it is a great place to get intimate shots of birds on the nest, flying around and, of course, gators.
See photo gallery from Loren’s Florida photography workshop.
I daydream a lot about what places must have looked like before humans decided to overdevelop the land. Florida has lots of open space in the middle but the coasts are packed with concrete and asphalt. In the lovely development of Venice, there is a little island in a little park that has been preserved by the Audubon Society and is a highly used bird rookery. Many types of birds build nests on the little island that is protected from predators by the gators in the water.
Since the pond is small, it doesn’t take a huge lens to get nice shots of birds on the nest, although I can’t have a big enough lens. I took the workshop here last night for the evening light and then this morning at sunrise. It didn’t disappoint as there was lots of nesting action, hatchlings yelling and birds bringing in nesting materials and food for the younguns.
I love the color that many of the birds get with their breeding plumage, like this anhinga, all in an effort to get a mate. It is funny that as soon as they have mated, they go back to their plain coloring.
See photo gallery from Loren’s Florida photography workshop.
It has been a fun week shooting around Florida with my workshop. Our last evening we went to Joe Overstreet Landing just south of Orlando. It isn’t anything remarkable, a five-mile dirt road that just happens to be lined with lots of wildlife and ends at a public boat landing on Lake Kissimmee. Eagles tend to hang out at the landing, so if eagles are around, I’m there. I can’t get enough.
I went last week to scout it and there was a fishing tournament going on and no birds to be found with all the boats running around. When we got to the landing today, there weren’t all the boats but there were two bald eagles sitting on posts at the end of the pier. How cool.
After helping a hapless kid get his new boat on his trailer that his girlfriend jackknifed three times, we headed back down the dirt road and right away Fred spotted a great horned owl sitting on top of a utility pole. It was pretty high but another landed on a fence post, which made some nice shots. We continued on and soon there was a sandhill crane walking on the edge of the road. It didn’t mind if we shots some photos, so we did.
A little farther down the road three birds were working on some road kill. One was a bald eagle and the other two looked like mini bald eagles with black heads. It turns out they were Crested Caracaras, which were new to me. They were pretty shy and I didn’t get a good photo of them but they were fun to see.
See photo gallery from Loren’s Florida photography workshop.