The Good Ones Always Go Too Soon...

It was a few mornings ago I had heard of the sudden passing of a fellow photographer and friend, Jeff Woodlee.  Like many that heard the news, I was shocked, then deeply saddened.  Although I did not know Jeff as well as many other people, we had meet and photographed together for the first time in Savannah, Georgia.  

It wasn't long after we met that Jeff began working at Showcase Photo Atlanta, Georgia.  He was always the guy I went to there if I needed anything when I was in town.  Jeff always told me he was giving me the "friends and family" discount, which we joked was about a 15% up charge than anyone not on that discount plan.  Jeff and I shared a love for photography and a similar sense of humor.  I would see Jeff at trade shows that Showcase attended and he would always make it a point to shake my hand and talk for a few minutes, no matter how busy their booth was.  He was that kind of guy.

Jeff was only 53 and left behind his wife, Ledra.  I can't imagine what she is going through and will continue to go through.  My thoughts and prayers go out to her and the rest of the family.

This image was an image taken at Fort Pulaski, where Jeff and I first met and photographed together.  There is nothing really special, technically, about this image, it just reminds me of that day photographing with Jeff.

Jeff, I hope that as you are walking along the golden streets, you have a camera to your eye and another on your shoulder.  I'll be waiting to see those images.

That Lens Isn't Wide Enough

This past weekend, I met up with a small group of friends to do some waterfall photography in the back woods of North Georgia.  I am always up for waterfall photography!  When you throw in nice weather conditions and a waterfall I've never visited before, I will be even more excited.

I wanted to make sure I was traveling light for the trip, so I only took the Canon 5D IV and the new Tamron 24-70mm G2 Lens.  This was my second chance to try out the new Tamron Lens.  I have no idea how they did it, but they managed to make it even better than the previous 24-70, which I used more than any other lens in my arsenal. 

One of the falls we visited was Crow Creek Falls.  It has two parts, an Upper Crow Creek Falls and a Lower Crow Creek Falls.  I enjoyed the upper falls much more and spent more time photographing it. 

Did I mention that I only brought my 24-70mm lens?  When I typically shoot these water scenes, I like to use a wide angle lens and anchor the foreground with something.  In my experience going with a wider lens, like a 15-30mm is usually too wide for these scenes.  It also presents a bit of another problem in the fact that you will absolutely need a circular polarizer for these scenes...and although I have the polarizer setup for that lens, it is bulky and takes a bit of work to assemble.  I went the lazy route and stuck with the 24-70mm lens and its easy peasy, screw on polarizer.

Aperture-priority, 2.5 sec, f/16, ISO 100, 24mm

I wanted to use this group of rocks and small cascade as my foreground anchor, but when I tried that at 24mm I was losing the main waterfall in my composition.  I need to be wider!  Crap, I was lazy and didn't bring my wider lens.  What did I do?  I took two shots.  One for the foreground, then another including the main waterfall in the background overlapping the scene by about 30%.  In Lightroom I used the Photo Merge feature to create a panoramic out of the two images.  I got the composition I wanted and I could still be a little lazy by only bringing one lens...winner winner chicken dinner!

Image made with Canon 5D IV, Tamron 24-70mm G2 Lens and Sirui Circular Polarizer.  Gear supported by a Sirui W-2204 Tripod and K-20x Ballhead.

Berry College Bluebirds

Over the weekend I got a chance to get away to Berry College in Rome, GA to check out the eagle's nest over there.  

This was a very bad day for me photographically speaking.  First, I was meeting a friend at Little River Falls to ride over to Rome, GA.  I got to the falls early in time to run down and take a few shots.  I got down there with my camera and tripod in perfect lighting only to realize that I had thrown my new lens adapter in the bag with no tripod plate on it, so I had no way to mount the camera to the tripod.  So, I tried my best handheld leaning against rails and rocks to stabilize my camera.  How did that work, you ask?  I have no idea, I accidentally deleted those images when I got back home.

When we got to Berry College, there was almost no action from the eagles the entire time I was there.  And when mom did fly from the nest to another branch I missed every single shot I tried to get of here.  The shots I did take of her perched I ended up deleting because there were branches across her face.

The only bright point of the day was this bluebird that stopped by the bluebird house for literally about 3 seconds.  This was the one shot I was ready for all day.  I'm ok with that, though...at least I came away with one. ;)

ISO 800, 420mm, F/6.3 @ 1/320th second

Hover over the image to see camera settings used.  Click image to view it larger.

If you are a regular reader you know I am a huge bluebird fan, so this being the only shot I really got all day was good with me.  This ole boy had a big, honkin' cricket, too.

This image was made with my Sony A77 II and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  This was one of the rare occasions I was hand holding and not using a tripod.

Anna Ruby Falls Pano

A few weeks back I was in the North Georgia Mountains with my good friend, David Akoubian.  We had an extra day to get in some shooting so we went to a couple of waterfalls.  One of those waterfalls was Anna Ruby Falls near Helen, GA.

While we were there, we were photographing from a bridge that the creek flowed beneath.  Well, right at the edge of the bridge was a cascade that I really wanted to get into the foreground and still be able to include the big falls in the background, too.   I was limited to a 24mm lens as my widest and it wouldn't allow me the composition I wanted.  I decided to remedy that situation by shooting a vertical panoramic image.

Most people always think of panos being in a horizontal format, but you shouldn't rule them out all together for a vertical.  In this case, I zoomed into about 50mm and set my aperture to F/16 and ISO to 100.  My shutter speed varied from frame to frame, but it was roughly around 2-3 seconds for each frame.  Once I had my settings dialed in and my focal length set, I basically started in the upper left and took three frames across the top left to right making sure to overlap each frame by at least 25%.  Then I went down about 75% (in order to overlap again by about 25%) and started the process over from left to right.  I repeated this process until I had everything I wanted to include in my image.  It ended up being 27 images (9 rows of 3 images)  total.  I then brought those home, and using Photoshop, I merged them into a panoramic file.  The result is what you see below.

I used my Sony A7R, LA-EA3 Lens Adapter and Tamron 24-70mm Lens to capture this image.  It was mounted atop my Sirui R-5214X Tripod and K-40X Ballhead.

Long Lens & DOF

Today I wanted to share with you an image I created during our Gibbs Garden Workshops a few weeks ago.  

I had to take 2 images to create this image and then do a little Photoshop work, but it was so simple it's crazy.  The reason I had to do this is because I had an object in the foreground I wanted in focus and an object in the background I wanted in focus.  I was shooting with my Tamron 150-600mm Lens @ 600mm.  Shooting lenses that long, your Depth of Field decreases drastically.  I shot these images at an aperture of F/11, which you would normally think would be great enough to cover your entire scene.  It would, if I was using a wider lens, but like I mentioned the depth of field is so shallow with these longer lenses, even at F/11, I had more shallow a depth of field than I wanted.  Let me show you what I mean.

ISO 100, 600mm, F/11 @ 1/50th second

In the above image you can see I focused on the frog in the background and it is in sharp focus, but the foreground frog is pretty soft.  That's due to our limited DOF with the long lens.

ISO 100, 600mm, F/11 @ 1/50th second

Now in this image you can see the exact opposite.  I had focused on the foreground frog and it is in sharp focus, but we've lost the background frog.

How do I remedy this?  I take those two images you see above, I highlight them both in Lightroom, right click and choose "Edit In" and then choose "open as layers in Photoshop".  Then after they are loaded into Photoshop.  I highlight both layers, then go to the Edit menu and choose "Auto-Align Layers".  Once that is done, I choose one of the images, it really doesn't matter which one, then I create a "layer mask".  Then I can take my brush tool and using the opposite color of my layer mask (if my layer mask is white, I would use a black brush and vice versa) I can simply brush the out of focus frog into focus.  The resulting image is below.

You can see that both frogs are in sharp focus here in the final image.

You might ask why I wouldn't just crank up my aperture and take one shot.  Well, in this case, I was shooting at F/11 and had a shutter speed of 1/50th second.  I didn't want to slow my shutter speed any more.  If I had and one of the frogs moved, I would have had a blurry photo of a frog, with nothing I could do about it.  

Another thing to mention is that you need to shoot both images on a sturdy tripod so your camera doesn't move.   I would also advise you use a tripod @ 600mm and 1/50th second ;) I've started using Sirui Tripods and camera support equipment.  I couldn't be more happy with these tripods. 

Minnehaha Falls in Veritcal

Here's another shot of MInnehaha Falls in North Georgia.  It, too, was taken with the Tamron 15-30.  This image is a vertical composition vs. the horizontal I posted a few days ago.  It's certainly a good idea to shoot both compositions when on site, and I recommend doing so.  I also believe that some scenes just lend themselves better composition wise to vertical more so than horizontal.  Of course, everything is subjective and mostly personal preference, but I think this scene looks much better as a vertical.

When I was standing there, in the water, I knew I'd like this better as a vertical composition, too. I could get more of the foreground anchor of the cascade and rock in the scene while still including all the top of the falls.  Also, there wasn't very much interesting to me along either side of the image, so I knew it would look more pleasing as a vertical to not include those portions of the scene.  It also allowed me to use the dark edges as kind of a natural vignette.

This image was made using my Sony A7R, a borrowed Nikon mount Tamron 15-30 Lens and a borrowed Novaflex lens adapter.  I had all of this gear mounted on my Sirui R-5214X Tripod.  I often get asked if I am in the water when I make these waterfall shots.  The answer, more often than not, is yes.  Sometimes that water is flowing at quite the force.  Having a stable and sturdy tripod like the Sirui R-5214X gives me the security that my image will be tack sharp, even in fast moving water.  That thing is SOLID.  It stands up to the moving water with ease.  I'm still impressed with how little it weighs for how much weight it supports, too.

ISO 100, 15mm, F/22 @ 20 seconds

I mentioned I was using a borrowed lens and adapter.  The way this adapter worked was the adapter had it's own aperture ring that you adjusted vs. adjusting the lens.  The adapter did not report a F # back to the camera, but I had it cranked down as far as it would go, so I'm assuming it was about F/22.  It gets pretty scientific out there, folks ;)

Gibbs Gardens

Last Thursday was our workshop at GIbbs Gardens in Ball Ground, GA.  We had a  fantastic group of photographers!  The waterlilies were amazing!  I was on the hunt for a frog, though.  Maybe one by a waterlily...maybe.  One lady in our group, whom her husband says was blind, was the first one to spot the hidden frogs.  Once I learned of her skill, I followed her around until I got my frog shot.

ISO 100, 600mm , F/11 @ 1/80th second

I was using my trusty Tamron 150-600mm Lens to pull these waterlilies in close.  Well, waterlilies and frogs, too.  I also had my Sirui beast tripod, the R-5214X.  That thing could hold 40 of those lenses and not miss a beat.

I shot this at my camera's lowest native ISO of 100.   I also shot this on the longest end of my lens at 600mm.  Depth of field is a lot more shallow on longer focal length lenses, so I went with F/11.  You can see what I mean by looking at the waterlily right behind the frog.  It is out of focus.  These settings yielded a shutter speed of 1/80th second. I know that seems like a slow shutter speed for 600mm, but I was on a very sturdy tripod and my subject wasn't moving.  Those two factors allowed me to pull this off and still have a sharp image.  

Oh yeah....rib-bit! 

Minnehaha Falls in North Georgia

Last week we had our Gibbs Garden Waterlily Workshop.  It went fantastic!  The weather was dang near perfect, the participants were amazing and the waterlilies were off the charts awesome!

I stayed over in Georgia an extra day so David and I could go shoot some waterfalls in the area.  We also had what is now dubbed "The Semi-Annual Nature In Focus Company Meeting"  to discuss plans about which workshops to include for the upcoming year.  These meetings usually start off with a vanilla pudding filled long john from Deb's Bakery in Jasper.  If they don't start that way, then they are a huge disappointment.  

We decided to head to Minnehaha Falls in North Georgia Friday morning.  I experienced a few "firsts" that morning.  It was my first trip to the falls.  It was my first time using the Tamron 15-30 Lens with a monstrous circular polarizer on the front and it was my first time putting my new Sirui R-5214X Tripod in the water.  

This Sirui Tripod is a beast!  When I say beast I mean like a beast that is big and strong, not hairy and very light to carry through the woods.  OK, seriously, it is amazing how light and easy to carry this tripod is for it's size.  

The Tamron 15-30 did not disappoint either.  It produced amazingly sharp images and I'm looking forward to getting one of my own so I can add it to the ole landscape arsenal.

ISO 100, 15mm, F/22 @ 20 Seconds

This image was made with my Sony A7R, a borrowed Novaflex Lens Adapter and a borrowed Tamron 15-30mm Lens.  All resting a top the mighty Sirui R-5214X tripod and K-40X Ballhead.

The morning was fantastic!  The clouds hung out long enough for us to capture great images, I spent some time just sitting on the rocks and letting my feet soak in the stream's cold water and I was there hanging out with a good friend.  Oh, that long john was mighty fine, too ;)  

Old Plymouth

Over the Fourth of July holiday I took yet another visit to Old Car city USA.  I've been so many times now, yet I find so much to shoot each time.

Old Car City USA has gotten a lot of press lately.  If you haven't gotten over there, you definitely should...soon.

This is an image I made of an old Plymouth.  As many times as I have visited Old Car City USA, I've never been in the summer.  I thought the ivy growing through and around the grill of this care made for a very interesting shot.

ISO 100, 24mm, F/11 @ 1/15th second

I normally shoot HDR a lot while I'm there, but this day it was very overcast and I could get away with a single exposure and achieve the mood I wanted.  

This was captured with my Sonay A7R, LA-EA3 and Tmaron 24-70mm Lens.  The image was processed in Lightroom and finished in OnOne Perfect Effects 9.5.

Fawns

Over the Fourth of July Weekend, a friend and I visited Berry College to photograph the deer fawns there.  They are in abundance over there and are pretty well accustom to a people presence.

I took my Sony A77ii and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  The lighting was wonderful that morning, as it had been raining and was still overcast for most of the morning.  Usually during a light rain, or right after a rain is the absolute best time to photograph!  The colors are all more saturated, the lighting is usually even and it the weather is generally cooler.  The cooler temps kept the fawns out in the open a little longer than normal, I believe.  They are a lot like me.  When it gets hot they start looking for shade.  The whitetail deer and I both have agility skills that are almost parallel, too...or is it opposite?  Oh, well.

ISO 1250, 500mm, F/6.3 @ 1/400th second

This little guy, or girl, was laying down in the grass.  I got on the ground to get eye level with him, or her.  Getting eye level with your subject usually provides a better perspective when shooting wildlife.  I slowly inched closer and closer until I got within about 20 yards of the deer.  He had no care in the world that I was there, but I certainly didn't want to get any closer and alarm him, or her.

If you notice the settings on this image, you'll notice that typically it's not a good idea to handhold with a shutter speed slower than your focal length.  What I mean is, if I was shooting at 500mm, I typically would want my shutter speed to be at 1/500th second.  However, the in body stabilization on the Sony A77ii allows me to cheat a bit.  Also, since the subject wasn't moving, I could get away with a bit of a slower shutter speed, too.