sirui

Milky Way over Clingmans Dome

Last week during a trip to the smokies with a few friends, we had the opportunity to photograph the milky way.  The weather was clear, there was very little moon, and it didn't even rise until after the milky way was to set anyway.  The weather was cooperating, so we just needed a place to shoot it.

After consulting my PhotoPills app and considering a few other places, we decided to try our luck at Clingmans Dome.  There isn't much as far as interesting foreground elements go in the parking lot there, so we decided to make the walk up to the observation tower and use that as a foreground element.  That walk, by the way, is not very fat friendly.  It is only about a half mile, but has an elevation gain of 331 feet.  That probably doesn't sound too bad reading it, but after a 1/4 of the way your thighs will let you know how bad it actually is.  We also did this at 3:00 AM.

We shot a few images at the base of the observation tower then one of my friends and I decided to walk up to the top of the tower to get above the trees and see how the compositions would look.  I'm sure glad we did.  Although the images from the base of the tower were great, what you could see from the top was incredible!  

You could not fit the milky way into the frame, even at 15mm, so this is a 6 shot panoramic image.  This was taken just minutes before the galactic center was to disappear behind the horizon. This was the first image I processed from my trip once I returned home.  I knew it looked pretty good on the camera's LCD, but I was just hoping it lined up and stitched together OK.  Lightroom Classic had no issues stitching the images.  I made sure to overlap each image by about 25% or so.  I'm pretty happy with the way this one turned out.

Equipment list: Nikon D850, Tamron SP 15-30 F/2.8 Di VC USD, Sirui Tripod and K-40 Ballhead

EXIF Info: Manual exposure, 30 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600, 17mm

 

The Chapel Of The Transfiguration

This year, our Winter In The Tetons Workshop group didn't experience anywhere near the volume of snow that the area normally gets.  The advantage to that is we could get a lot more places to shoot.  One of those places was The Chapel Of The Transfiguration. 

This little chapel was built in 1925 and still holds Sunday Services in the summertime.  Each chaplain at the church serves for one month each summer.  It is also a popular spot for small weddings.  Let's not forget the view...it has one of the best views of any small church I've ever seen.

Although I have visited the church many times, I haven't photographed it very much.  Inside the church is a tough scene to deal with, exposure wise.  You have a dimly lit church on the inside and a big, bright window that looks out onto the mountains.  There is such a big exposure difference the best way to handle it is to bracket your exposures for HDR.  That is exactly what I did.  I took seven separate exposures to ensure I had detail covered from the brights to the darks.  Then I merged them as a HDR inside Lightroom Classic CC.  After I had the merged HDR photo I decided to process it in black and white.  I really like the feel of it as a black and white, too.

Aperture-priority, f/16, ISO 100, 7 varied exposures

I made this image with my Canon 5D IV and Tamron 28-300mm lens.  Since I shot for HDR I did use my Sirui Tripod and ballhead.

Mobile, AL Birding Workshop

This past weekend was our birding photography workshop in Mobile, AL.  It went really well!  We were hosted Friday night by Calagaz Photo in Mobile, where David and I both gave presentations then Calagaz offered some super specials to the 6o+ in attendance.

Saturday and Sunday morning we held our field sessions of the workshop.  Due to weather and blustery winds, the bird activity started out a bit slow.  However, thanks to the nesting osprey in the area, we got plenty of chances to photograph stationary birds and birds in flight.

We made some great new friends and had a great time!

On Friday morning, while we were out scouting locations for the workshop, we got the opportunity to photograph some osprey that were busy nest building.  

Aperture-priority, 1/2,000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 400, Compensation: +2/3, 600mm

This is the female osprey bringing in a few sticks to accommodate the nest.  She and her mate spent about 45 minutes non stop adding to the nest this particular morning.  She would leave and get a stick, and upon her return, he'd then leave and go get a stick.

I used my Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens all weekend attached to my Sirui monopod.  The Tamron G2 did so well at locking on focus and never losing it!

Photographing In The Snow

While out in the tetons on our photography workshop, it snowed.  Then it snowed some more.  After that, it snowed a little more.  Over about a two and a half day period it snowed over 30".  So, we got our fair share of photographing while it was snowing.  If you didn't mind standing outside and getting snowed on, there were a lot of photographic opportunities to be had.  Wildlife was the biggest of those opportunities.

You encounter a few problems when photographing in the falling snow.  Depending upon the amount of snow falling in between you and your subject it can cause your autofocus system to get confused. It can also create a layer of "haze" between you and your subject.  The first one you can deal with in a few ways.  You can just use your autofocus system and hope it is smart enough to figure it out, which might cause you some lost shots, or you can simply switch to manual focus.  The problem with autofocus is it's going to, sooner or later, decide to focus on falling snow instead of your subject.  There is almost a guarantee this will happen when your subject is doing something super interesting, or has moved to a nicer background ;)  The second problem..haze.  It can't really be fixed, but can be helped out a bit by using the "dehaze" slider in Adobe Lightroom CC.  This slider is pretty much magic and can knock down that haze in your image by a great deal.

Aperture-priority, 1/1,250 sec, f/8, ISO 800, Compensation: +1, 150 mm

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

This is one of the moose that came to hang out with us at the ranch.  There were three of them.  They showed up everyday.  Usually, when the ranch fed the horses, the moose showed up there to "share" breakfast with them.

This image was made using my Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

Along The Gros Ventre River

During this trip to the tetons, I saw more moose than I've ever seen there.  Of course, the ranch we were staying on had about three that would come in every morning, many times, right by our cabin.  Aside from the "ranch moose" we saw several many more, mostly along The Gros Ventre River.

This image was taken on my first evening in the tetons.  It had been been cold and grey the biggest part of the day, but for a brief second that evening the sun was attempting to break through the clouds to put a little touch of warm light on things.

Aperture-priority, 1/800 sec, f/8, ISO 800, Compensation: +1, 180mm

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

Moose are very large animals.  This means you do not generally have to be very close to them in order to fill the frame with their large bodies.  The 25 yard limit imposed by the park service is more then enough.  Often times, 25 yards is too close.  However, in this case, I wanted to give you more of a look at the moose's environment.  I wanted to include things like the river, the frozen willows, the warm light on the river and willows, all the snow and leave enough room in the composition for the moose to "move" into.  Instead of zooming to 600mm to fill the frame with the moose, I shot this at 180mm to include the moose and it's surroundings.

This image was made using my Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens.

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse

One of the lighthouses along our stop up the coast from Boston to Maine was Pemaquid Point Lighthouse.  We did get to shoot this one around 9:30AM, which wasn't the best light, but not the worst either.

Pemaquid has these rocks in the foreground which make for excellent composition elements.  From the angle I shot this, there was no waves crashing onto the rocks, so I did not want to use a 10 stop ND filter here, since there really was no movement anyways.  I did use a circular polarizer, however to cut some glare off of the foreground rocks and enhance some of the colors.

Aperture Priority, F/16, 1/15th second, ISO 100

When composing This image, I simply wanted to include as much of the foreground rock as I could, so I picked a spot in the rocks that had lines that lead you into the lighthouse and jammed my lens as close to it as I could while laving the lighthouse in the upper third of the frame.  

I created this image with my Canon 5D III, Tamron 15-30mm lens and Vu Filter system.  All resting atop my Sirui W-2204 tripod.

Marshall Point Light

One of the lighthouses on our list to stop at was Marshall Point Light.  Not because it was overly beautiful or picturesque, but because it was in Forrest Gump, of course!

Marshall Point Light was in the movie Forrest Gump.  It was in the scene where Forest ran across the country.  When he ran from one ocean to another, he ended up at Marshall Point Light.

Due to our schedule we had to shoot it during the middle of the day, with not the best light.  So, I was looking for a way to present it that you don't normally see it  while trying to make the best of the light we had.

Aperture Priority, F/16, 1/125th, ISO 100, 15mm Exposure Compensation +1

Here's one of the shots I came up with.  It's from the "back" side of the walkway looking back into the sun.   I used the handrail of the walkway to diffract the sunlight in order to get the sun star.

I used my Canon 5D III and Tamron 15-30 for this shot at 15mm.  I choose F/16 as an aperture to help enhance the sun star.  Then, since I was shooting directly into the sun, I set my exposure compensation to +1.  This allowed me to get detail in the foreground and lighthouse.  If I hadn't adjusted my EC, the image out of the camera would have had very little detail in the foreground, almost a silhouette.  

Canon 5 D Mk III, Tamron 15-30, Sirui W-2204 Tripod and Sirui K-30 Ballhead

 

 

Prospect Harbor

Taking a break from lighthouses today to show you one of the harbors we visited during our Maine Workshop.

This is Prospect Harbor.  We shot this on a day that they were calling for a total rain out.  Turns out it just rained a little in the morning then it was dreary and foggy the rest of the day, so we shot all day hitting as many spots as we could that would look good in fog.  Harbors were great for this.

This spot in the harbor had all of these colorful lobster buoys, ropes and traps.  Then the boats in the background were immersed in fog.  It's like someone knew we were coming to photograph it and left all of their stuff there for us.

Aperture Priority, 16mm, F/8, 1/80th, ISO 800, Exposure Compensation +2/3

I made this image with my Nikon D500 and Tamron 16-300mm all-in-one lens.  That lens was a great choice for these harbors.  I could shot wide shots at 16mm, like this one, or zoom in and isolate one of the boats in the fog.  It was the perfect lens for his situation.

If you hover over the image you can see my camera settings for this shot.  You'll notice I added +2/3 a stop of exposure compensation.  I did this to account for the fog.  The camera will look at this scene as a whole (if you are using evaluative metering mode) and try to make it grey.  You will then need to compensate for that on your camera.  

My Nemesis

When you look at the photo associated with today's blog post you may think, "Ok, a shot of a Hairy Woodpecker.".  But it's much more than that...

These dang woodpeckers have been my nemesis for years.  I've tried and tried to attract them to my backyard with no success at all.  As part of my feeding ritual I place suet in small cracks of the posing tree.  I do this for a few reasons.  First, I want the birds to spend time on the tree digging out the suet.  Secondly, I want to hide the suet so it doesn't show up in the photographs.  Over the last few days I noticed something had been eating almost an entire suet block a day out of the cracks and crevices of the tree.  I had my suspicions it was a woodpecker, but I had no way of confirming it.  A few days ago I was out in the backyard doing some yard work and there it was.  A Hairy Woodpecker.  Eating all of my suet.  Taunting me.  I watched him for several minutes as he was pretty content.  Most likely due to my lack of having a camera in hand.

So, yesterday, armed with my new knowledge that this guy liked to stop by in the evenings, I put out a fresh block of suet, sat in the blind and waited.  Sure enough, that little guy showed up again.  He wasn't there but a few seconds, however I still managed a few frames of him.  It was like a victory.  

Now for some technicals...

Sony A6300, LA-EA3 Adapter, Tamron 150-600mm Lens, Sirui Tripod and PH-20 Gimbal Head.

300mm, Aperture Priority, 1/1000th shutter speed, F/6.3 Aperture, ISO 1600, Exposure Compensation +0.7

Wildlife photography is so much different from other genres in nature.  When shooting landscapes or waterfalls, I want my ISO as low as possible, usually 100.  When I go out with the intent to shoot wildlife, I usually start at ISO 1600.  I may end up adjusting that according to the light, but that is usually where I feel comfortable starting out.

Get out there and tackle your nemesis today! 

 

Tremont

The Tremont area of The Great Smoky Mountains is one of my favorite areas to visit.  I love shooting the water and rivers of the smokies and Tremont is a fantastic place to do just that.  The river snakes along side the road offering many opportunities for lovely cascades and mini waterfalls. 

We visited this area just after a rain, which is a fantastic time to do this type of photography.  Notice how the rocks are wet from the rain.  Everything being wet offers much more contrast than under normal, dry conditions.  Be sure to pack in your circular polarizer though.  Wet also means reflective, so you'll need that polarizer to cut through the reflection and glare.

I like to get down very low on a scene like this, which means putting my camera and myself in some unusual positions.  This is where a few things come in very handy.  First, my Sirui tripod...I can always get it in the spot I want no matter where that spot is.  Secondly, the tilt screen on my camera...sometimes because my camera is in a position that doesn't allow me to look through the viewfinder, the tilt screen comes in super handy.

Image made with Sony A7R II, LA-EA3 Lens Adapter, Tamron 24-70mm Lens, Marumi Circular Polarizer, Sirui W-2004 Tripod and Sirui G-20 Ballhead.