Archive for Photo Tips

Wild Photo Tips Magazine

Posted in Photo Magazine, Photo Tips, Wild Photo Tips Magazine, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , on September 30, 2013 by bobshank

 

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 10.05.28 PM

 

I enjoy photographing wildlife and sharing insights I learned over the years is just a natural progression in my photography passion. So, inspired by fellow photographers, I decided to write a wildlife photography tips magazine. You can view the premier issue here, or by clicking on the photo above.

In this magazine you will find a breadth of info on wildlife photography from suggested gear to practical shooting tips in the field. I share some camera setting suggestions as well as a detailed step-by-step account on location during one of my photo shoots. The goal is to share wild photo tips to help photographers capture better wildlife photographs they will be proud to share with others, and help you become a better photographer. Beginners to experts will find something of value in each issue.

Check out my new Wild Photo Tips Magazine. Share it with others who are interested in wildlife photography. Then be sure to let me know what you think about it!

 

Advertisements

Lenses for Wildlife

Posted in Lenses, Pennsylvania Elk, Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience, Photo Tips, R-Strap, Think Tank, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , on September 28, 2013 by bobshank

PEPE#7 0854

 

Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience #7 was a pure blast! We saw elk all over the place and bulls were everywhere! I cannot remember a year where we saw so many different bulls and most of them were in camera range. Many of us are spoiled, owning 200mm, 300mm, and even 400mm lenses. The big boy wildlife photographers even haul a 600mm lens out on the mountain!

I confess that lens envy is rampant in my photo circles. We always want more reach. Bigger lenses allow us to stay at a safe distance from the animals and still fill the frame with the subject we are photographing. The other related problem is lack of light in many lenses. Take, for example, the typical 70-300mm zoom lens that is often the second lens purchased by many photographers, it has reach but at 300mm the f-stop is a whopping f/5.6. That is simply not usable at dawn and dusk when animals are most visible and active. An f-stop of 2.8 is ideal, but many settle for f/4, which is a decent comprise to get the reach but also keep the lens affordable. The Nikon 400mm f/2.8 is $9,000!

PEPE#7 0984

My favorite lens for wildlife and sports photography is the 200-400mm f/4. I really like the zoom capability of this lens, especially for sports and wildlife. It allows me to zoom in and out from my position on the sidelines or on the mountain with the twist of the wrist. Typically I rest my left hand on top of the lens to be able to rotate the zoom mechanism when needed. Just remember, righty tighty, which zooms in closer, at least for the Nikon shooters.

I purchased the book, “How to Photograph Animals in the Wild,” by Lennie Rue III, and Len Rue, Jr. about 11 years ago. I got to meet them both twice–once at my favorite spot on the elk range behind my camp and once in a workshop they co-led here in the Poconos. Anyway, this book contains some of their incredible photographs. As I read the book and studied the photos, I saw a repeating trend: most of the photos were captured with a 200-400mm lens. Well, it then instantly became my dream lens. I saved for 3 1/2 years to purchase the lens and I use it every week. It really is a great lens for sports and wildlife photography, and it has quickly become my go-to lens!

PEPE#7 1756

 

Each of these photographs in today’s blog entry were captured with my 200-400mm f/4 lens. The lens is sharp and clear and it can be coupled with a teleconverter to provide even more reach if there is enough light. I also am now in the habit of carrying a second camera body around my body. This is necessary when photographing football games, so it comes quite naturally to me now. This week I carried the D300 with the 200-400mm f/4 on my tripod and another D300 with the 24-70mm f/2.8 around my body on an R-Strap. I also toted the Think Tank Belt System to carry my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, my 50mm f/1.4 lens, my 1.4x teleconverter, and other accessories. It is all easy to carry and I am covered from 24mm all the way through 560mm. That’s pretty sweet for wildlife photography!

When we teach our photo classes for the Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience, we recommend at least 200mm with a teleconverter. This covers out to 280mm and provides good minimal coverage for the large elk. For most other mammals, which are smaller, we recommend 300mm or more. A wildlife photographer can never seem to have enough lens reach!

Another helpful tip is getting close to the wildlife, or preferably, letting the wildlife get close to you. More on this topic next week. For now, just remember that lenses for wildlife might be expensive, but they sure produce consistently clear results. I really, really like my 200-400mm f/4 lens!

Now my next dream lens is the 400mm f/2.8 for football, and the 600mm f/4 for bird photography. It just never ends…

PEPE#7 2515

 

Photo Tip Tuesday – Move Your Feet

Posted in Backgrounds, Move Your Feet, Photo Tips with tags , , on April 10, 2012 by bobshank

Photographers often hear the old adage, “move your feet” when the subject of getting closer to the subject emerges. This is not what I’m talking about today. When I say, “move your feet,” I’m talking about working the background of you image and moving left or right to get the best possible background for your photograph.

In this first time, you can see that the subject is clearly the base runner trying to get back to first base from a pick-off attempt by the pitcher. The baseball is in the image, which helps evoke the action of this shot. But there is a problem with the background — it’s distracting with the fans in the background. If I had taken just a few steps to the right, I could have eliminated this distracting background. Moving my feet would have helped to make this photograph better.

In this next image I was in a good position to eliminate the distracting background. It was actually worse — an electrical unit with a fence around it! But I was in a much better position and thereby eliminated the distracting background.

The next time you look through your viewfinder, stop for a moment. Look carefully at the background. Then move your feet to the left or to the right to get rid of any distracting backgrounds. Remember, move your feet!

 

Photo Tip Tuesday – Shoot Wide Open

Posted in Depth of Field, f-stop, Focus, Photo Tips, Sports Photography, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , on March 20, 2012 by bobshank

We can be creative with our photographs by paying attention to what we want the viewer to focus on in our photo. The goal is to use clear focus on the subject but not the competing surroundings or the background. How can we do this?

Shooting with a larger aperture, small numbered f-stop, say like f/2.8, will blur out the background nicely and keep proper focus on the subject. This is the best way I’ve found to do this and is what I use almost all the time in sports and wildlife photography.

Think about it… you’re shooting an animal that naturally blends into its habitat. This is, after all, what keeps it safe from predators–camouflage. Take a photo of a bunny and you will immediately see just how much it blends into its environment. This does not make for easy photography. By opening up our apertures, we are letting more light hit the digital sensor in our camera. But it also decreases the depth of field that is in focus in the photograph. Several factors contribute to this formula such as distance from the subject, but the effect results in a blurred background. This helps to keep the viewer’s eye focused on the main subject, which of course is our goal.

The next time you’re out on a photo shoot, take a photograph of a subject with your f-stop set at something like f/16, then switch the f-stop to f/2.8 or your lowest setting. Then compare the two photos. Do you see the difference?

Remember, shoot wide open to blur the background and keep the focus on your main subject.

Great Photography Resource

Posted in BT Journal, Moose Peterson, Photo Tips, Resource, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , on March 13, 2012 by bobshank

If you are a wildlife photographer then you no-doubt heard of Moose Peterson. He is a well-known wildlife photographer who lives in the Sierras of California. His website is chock-full of photo tips and lots of useful information. You can check out Moose’s website here: http://www.moosepeterson.com/blog/

Moose also wrote a book on wildlife photography entitled, “Captured.” I highly recommend the book because I keep going back and rereading it many times over. It really is really, really good!

But in addition to his website and his book, Moose also publishes a quarterly publication entitled the “BT Journal.” I found the current issue, “Yosemite’s Winter Wonderland” extremely valuable and useful because Moose goes into detail on how to stay warm on cold weather shoots. The amount of detail and the helpful and practical suggestions are typical of Moose. If you don’t already subscribe to this photo resource, give it a try. I find it not only helpful but incredibly entertaining, too!

http://www.moosepeterson.com/blog/bt-journal/current-issue/

Photo Tip Tuesday – Getting Closer

Posted in Blind, Bull, Close-ups, Elk County, Getting Closer, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Elk, Photo Tips, Wildlife Photography with tags , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2012 by bobshank

Getting closer to the subject is the name of the game in wildlife photography. Yes, sometimes we do want to include the surrounding environment and habitat that wildlife call their home, but getting closer will help a lot in separating an animal from a busy background. Also, there’s nothing worse than taking a photo and then sharing it with someone who asks, “what’s that spot over there?” Your reply, “Oh, that’s the bull elk I wanted you to see.” That little spot just doesn’t do any justice to your photography.

So, how do you get closer to your subject?

First, buying telephoto lenses is an important priority for any budding wildlife photographer. Long glass helps us get closer while maintaining a safe distance from the animals we are photographing. In fact, some National Parks even have a minimum viewing distance that requires longer lenses if we are going to fill the frame with our subject at this safe distance. 300mm is probably the shortest option for a good wildlife photography lens, but I have used the 70-200mm with a 1.4x teleconverter with larger mammals like the elk here in Pennsylvania. Yes, long glass is important and very helpful, but it is not the end all solution every time, especially with smaller subjects.

This brings us to the main topic of this photo tip-how to physically get closer to our subjects. You might assume that stalking or sneaking up on a subject will work. Sometimes yes and sometimes no; but typically no. Animals live longer lives because they are wary of danger, especially human danger. Big racks don’t get big by animals being careless.

Rather than sneaking up on them, I try to be as calm and unassuming as possible. I take my first photos from a distance if I haven’t photographed this species before just to get an image of this new subject. Then I see if the animal “accepts” me. What I mean by this is noting whether the animal goes back to its routine behavior of grazing or whatever. If not, I don’t move. I look in the opposite direction, remaining as calm as possible and pretending that I don’t care that the animal is even there. Usually, the animal realizes there is no imminent danger and does accept me as a non-threatening photographer rather than a hunter. Of course, this is much easier where hunting is not allowed, which makes Wildlife Refuges and National Parks prime locations for wildlife photography.

I did grow up in the farmlands of Lancaster County and was groomed to be a hunter at the age of twelve. I still hunt white-tailed deer and black bear, but I spend much more time out in the woods with my Nikon camera gear. The skills I learned from hunting are sometimes helpful, such as locating sign of animals and observing their behavior and patterns. With camera in hand, I don’t want my subject to think I am hunting it. I want the animal to realize I won’t hurt it and just want to photograph it. Sometimes talking calmly to an animal can help, too.

Another highly successful method I employ is to situate myself in a place to where the animal is headed and will eventually walk through as it meanders on its way. This is exactly the method we used with this Bull you see in these four photographs. I happened to see him not far off the road and I could see he was heading in a specific direction. I reasoned that he was going to eventually come by a specific location, so we moved to that location and waited for him to arrive. This was relatively easy because we could see him in the open some of the time, but this method works well even when you cannot see the subject if  you know the well-traveled trails and habits of the animal you are photographing.

Still another method I have used this past year is to use a portable blind. My son and I got closer to wild white-tailed deer in Elk County using this method. We both got into the blind well before sunset and just waited. Again, we knew this particular field was often frequented by deer in the evening. We picked our favorite location on this field, set up the blind, and waited. Sure enough, eight deer came out into the field and we had the chance to observe them up close and personal.

This is the goal-getting closer to our subjects. It is not always easy but it is well worth the effort! Oh yeah, one more tip on this subject-patience is key. By nature, I am not the most patient person in the world, but I can sit or stand at a spot for a very, very long period of time waiting to capture wildlife photographs. Most people take a few photos and move on. Don’t. Take your time and “work” the subject. Observe and photograph what the animal is doing. Try to capture facial expressions and body movements. Think about what close-up photographs might work with this subject. Focus your attention on separate parts of the animal’s body and create some art. Is there a tail wagging to chase away a flea? Are there long eyelashes on the eye of this animal? What are the position of the legs and feet? Will they be in a more photographic position if you wait for the animal to move five more feet? What about the background; could you wait for the animal to move in front of a better and more attractive background? Wait, watch, observe, and photograph!

With these tips you should be able to get closer.

Photo Tip Tuesday – Using Your Vehicle as a Blind

Posted in Blind, Photo Tips, Photography, Vehicle with tags , , , on February 14, 2012 by bobshank

Today I am starting a new weekly feature here on my blog that will hopefully provide a valuable photo tip each Tuesday. I am calling this feature “Photo Tip Tuesday.”

Today’s photo tip is pretty simple, but very important. Getting close to wildlife is often not an easy task. Even with big telephoto lenses on our cameras, we still have to make our way toward the animals we photograph. This can be incredibly frustrating at times! If we get too close this is often what happens:

Enter today’s tip: use your vehicle as a blind!

Sometimes it just makes sense to stay in your vehicle and shoot out your open window. Many animals are accustomed to cars and trucks coming near them, but when someone is walking toward them they flee. It comes down to their basic instinct: fight or flight. By using your vehicle as a blind, you can often get close to your subject without alarming them. They might look up to see what’s going on, but they often retain their previous behavior because they perceive the vehicle as something quite safe and something they are used to seeing around them.

In some places, etiquette requires the photographer to stay in the vehicle. One place where I photograph eagles strictly frowns upon anyone leaving their vehicles and risk chasing the eagles away. In this case, the only thing to do is learn how to best shoot from your vehicle and obey the unwritten but oft enforced rule.

There are some tips and tools that help when photographing out of the vehicle. Sandbags can help provide a steady perch for your lens. Drape it over the window sill and then place the lens down on it. Another option is to buy a support that attaches to a partly opened window and even has a place to install a ball head. Turning off the engine will also help reduce unwanted and unnecessary vibration. Please use common sense, however, and do not stop in the middle of the road. This is not only dangerous, it is downright rude!

Using your vehicle as a blind can help you get closer to your subject. Give it a try the next time you have a chance.