Friday, May 29, 2009

Storm Front

It has been raining on and off the last few days (see clouds in previous post!). The clouds looked a little ominous today and I stopped near the lake to try a couple of images. I took a few horizontal and vertical images before the rain hit. I just got my equipment in the car when it started to pour. There's something about water and my camera lately that is starting to concern me!

Let me know what your preference is (i.e. horizontal vs vertical). I think I'm partial to the vertical.

FYI - I used a 2-stop ND grad for this image, on a tripod, remote shutter release, polarizer, and mirror lock-up.

I also find it interesting (and I didn't know this when I was taking the pictures) how the water disappeared from the vertical image. Maybe the wind changed directions and I didn't notice. They were only taken minutes apart.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Oops - almost!

I had some time on Saturday afternoon to get in some pictures and decided to go in search of a location. It was overcast and not ideal but I always go out and just take pictures even if it's to try some new things. I stopped near the Saugeen River and found a location I had always wanted to check out.

Well, I got a few pics in and it was awkward in places on the rocks and I had the tripod legs not even on one of the last images to try find a good camera position. I had set my backpack down to take the shots (see below, it's the vertical with the large rock in the foreground). After I took this one, I planned to head up to take the fence shot that I included below as well. I straightened the legs of the tripod and forgot I had to pick up my backpack so I spread the legs out to stand it back up while I got the backpack.

Here's a hint for using a tripod in the field - ensure it is balanced and stable when you place it down, especially when you are turning your back! I did not do that this time and I had bent down to pick up the backpack and as I was standing back up, out of the corner of my eye, I see my tripod falling over with the camera body and lens heading straight into the water.

Knowing the backpack had padding and the equipment inside was protected (at least I hoped it was!) I dropped the backpack on the rocks and desperately reached for the tripod. This was one of those times when you play it back in your head it seems like it happened in slow motion. I caught the closest leg and almost dropped myself in the water but saved the camera about a foot above the river - the only thing that got wet was the shoulder strap. It was like falling down with a glass of beer in your hand and not spilling a drop - not that I haven't done that before (too many times anyways!).

Speaking of beer, I had a couple when I got home to calm the nerves. If that camera hit the water, I would have been out of commission for awhile. I guess I found out that I still have some reflexes! I don't want to test them this way very often though. Anyways, here are a couple of images from that afternoon.



Thursday, May 21, 2009

As I mentioned in my heading, I am an avid nature and landscape photographer. Since I "got serious" into digital photography, I have been practicing many different techniques to try to understand how the pros get such great images. I enjoy bird photography and have always wanted to be able to be successful with bird images. One thing I found out very quickly is that they are very hard to capture full frame - my initial attempts had the bird looking like a small spec in the image.

In this post, I want to focus on birds in flight - a difficult feat - at least when I try! I have attempted over the last couple of years to figure this one out. After many unsuccessful images (and I do mean many) and a few successful ones, here is what I found has helped to increase my shooting percentage.

A fast shutter speed is needed to freeze a subject in flight. A mistake I made early on was to try shoot at a mid-aperture under the assumption that I needed a large depth of field (I will get into apertures and depth of field discussions in a later post). I would try f11 in hopes to maximize my chance of a in-focus image. However, this actually worked against me since I suffered in shutter speed. My blurry images weren't a result of my inability to focus on a moving subject, but because my shutter speed wasn't fast enough to compensate for the camera motion and subject motion.

A larger aperture (f2.8 - f5.6) can help maximize the resulting shutter speed. Basically, it allows more light to hit the sensor (film) allowing a faster shutter speed. Ever since I realized this, my images have become more successful. A large aperture also helps to give a nice blur in the background to help the subject stand out.

An additional setting to help with gains in shutter speed is increasing your ISO. One thing that you have to be aware of in digital photography is that higher ISO's can cause more noise in the image. Some of the newer cameras are better at minimizing noise giving the photographer the ability of shooting at higher ISO without a great loss in quality. I tend to not go above ISO 400 with my current setup and have come away with some successful images. Although if the image is slightly under exposed and you need to brighten the image in post-processing, the noise becomes noticeable.

Focusing can be an issue with a moving subject as well. I use AI Servo AF (Canon) which allows the camera to track a subject that approaches or retreats form the camera at a constant rate and then predicts the distance from camera to subject just before the image is taken.

Finally, since you can expect to throw away a lot of images because of wing position, lighting, lack of focus, etc. I shoot in burst mode to maximize my chance of a "keeper". You end up with a lot of images, but you also increase your odds of being successful.

Well, I hope these tips make sense and help you become a better in-flight bird photographer. I have posted a few images here - yes they're only ring-billed gulls, but they are good examples of these techniques. They are also a great subject to practice on because they are readily available. All I have to do is go to the beach!

Cheers - Rob

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Welcome to Rob Little's Photo Blog

Well, this is my first post. In this blog, I plan to share photos from various outings and include techniques that I used in the field in hopes to help you become a better photographer. You can also visit my website ( to see more images as well so please take some time and visit there too. In my blog, I will try to include both recent experiences as well as from the past few years to describe a certain experience, technique or theme. Hopefully you will find this blog both interesting and educational at the same time. Feedback is always welcome, so please leave a comment or send me an email at Enjoy!