Pink Lady Slippers

I returned home yesterday from our Spring workshop in The Great Smoky Mountains.  We had such an incredible group!  From the images I saw when working with some of them on processing, they got incredible shots, too!  I'm already looking forward to next year's workshop!

One area of focus when we visit the smokies in the spring is always the wildflowers.  There are so many lovely wildflowers there, but the "holy grail" of those is always The Pink Lady Slippers.  We've been fortunate enough to find a fairly large group of them the last few years and everyone has gotten great images of them.  This year was no exception.

Here's an image I took with the Tamron 90mm Macro Lens.  We counted over a hundred of these flowers in this area.  They usually grow in bunches, or groups of 4 or 5 in one spot, but I like singling one out when making images of them.  When photographing with a macro lens your depth of field is very shallow.  This usually results in you having to stop down your aperture in order to get everything you want in focus...and sometimes that isn't even enough!  However, this time I went with an aperture of F/2.8 because I wanted to make sure the background was a total blur.

Sony A7R II, Metabones Lens Adapter, Tamron 90mm Macro Lens, SIrui W-2004 Tripod and G-20 Ballhead.


Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone is the image you see on almost everything promoting the park.  The image you see most often, though, is taken from the air.  Unless you pay for an airplane or heli ride, you are out of luck to re-create that shot.

There is a trail that will gain you some elevation above the spring so you can shoot somewhat down on it.  It is a bit of a booger.  Straight up.  Not fat friendly.  I didn't go all the way up to the top.  I got high enough to get above the trees and stayed low enough to keep my heart inside my chest.

Shooting this thing from above you need a few things to be in your favor.  First, you need it to be a little windy.  If it's not windy the steam from the hot spring just sits above it and blocks the spring.  The wind pushes it out of the way.  Secondly, you need sun.  Afternoon sun is better.  You would think softer light would be better, but I've tried it and it isn't near as vibrant.

Another thing that really helps when you are processing your image is the new Dehaze Tool in Lightroom.  IN the case of these hot springs, it pretty much kills all of the haze caused by the humidity surrounding these springs.

ISO 100, 75mm, F/14 @ 1/30th second

I made this image with my Sony A77ii and Tamron 16-300mm lens.  I'm glad I took that lens, because the composition I needed was just outside the range of my favorite landscape lens, the 24-70.

Schwabachers Landing

Today I'm sharing another image from the Tetons.  This image was made at Schwabachers Landing.  Although it wasn't made at the "iconic" location that you see most of the images from this area.  It was made just up the road a bit.

I actually prefer this spot over the "iconic" spot.  To tell you the truth, I've never really gotten fired up about the "iconic" spot.  It's just a scene that doesn't do much for me.  I've been there several times and it's just never gotten me excited, even when the light has been great.

I like this spot because of the way you can include the river rocks as a foreground anchor.  I also like how you are able to use the river as a lead in line.  You do give up the reflections, though, so that's the trade off. And, I'm OK with that, personally.

ISO 100, 35mm, F/11 @ 1/40th second

So, this image was made with my Sony A7R, LA-EA4 Lens Adapter and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.  I also used a Marumi Circular Polarizer to kill glare off of the rocks and water's surface.  

Then I processed the image using Lightroom and On1's Perfect Effects.  I used a preset in Perfect Effects called "Vecchio".  This effect was nice, but much too strong for me out of the box.  Since everything in Perfect Effects is in layers and works very similarly to Photoshop in that regard, I simply dialed back the opacity of this effect until I was pleased.  That's it...nothing fancy at all.  Just pushed a few buttons. ;)

Morning Glory

Yesterday I told you about how I got lucky on my way to photograph The Morning Glory Pool in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone and was able to capture a bonus sunset image.

Well, this is the image I was originally going after:

ISO 100, 24mm, F/16 @ 1 second

While I am happy with this image, I'll take this and another good sunset image on the same day any time I can ;)

This pool is one of my favorites in Yellowstone.  Unfortunately, it's suffering from abuse.  Visitors to the pool have thrown coins, trash and debris into the pool over the years which has blocked the vents of the pool.  When the vents to the pool are blocked the water becomes cooler than normal causing more of the brown algae to thrive and the vibrant blue and green bacteria to die off.

The park service does attempt to clean the pool from time to time in an effort to combat this.  Remember, tossing your penny in might get you a wish, but does long term damage to the pools in the park.

This image was made with my Sony A7R, Sony LA-EA4 Lens Adapter and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.  All of this gear was stabilized using my Vanguard Alta Pro 283CT Tripod and BBH-200 Ballhead.

Starling Box

So, a few days ago I posted an image to Facebook (You should probably follow me there if you aren't already) of one of the starlings that had invaded my bluebird box delivering food to the newly hatched babies.

My good friend, fellow workshop instructor and Tamron Image Master, David Akoubian tells me "Your photo sucks!".  Well, that's what he normally says, because we rib each other pretty good.  Actually he said something like "I wonder how it would look if you had even more of a side angle?".

Well, this morning, I had the chance to get that angle David had suggested.  I sent him the image via email and he said to me "This shot is the best thing I've ever seen!".  Ok, he actually said "You suck!", which means the same.

Here is the shot of the starling coming back to the box with some worms...from even more of a side angle.

ISO 1600, 300mm, F/6.3 @ 1/4000th second

I was sitting in my "bird blind" for this shot.  That is a hunting blind that is typically used for hunting turkey that I purchased at a local sporting goods store and is fat friendly...meaning I actually have a bit of room in there.  

I knew I would need a blazing fast shutter for this shot, so I kept my ISO "high"...hey 1600 is high for me.  Once I got my lens focal length set, I manually focused on the area where the bird would be then left the lens in manual focus.  I was shooting in aperture priority at F/6.3, which gave me a shutter of 1/4000th.  Now it was just a matter of me getting lucky.

The starlings were coming from behind the box with food, so they would have to bank around and come in from the front.  I would basically just hold the shutter button down and let it fire off 10-12 frames as soon as they started to bank.  Out of those 10-12, I might get one where the bird was fully in frame.  I had about 3 tries at this...and on one of them I got lucky.

Image captured with my Sony A77ii and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  Both mounted to a Vanguard Photo US Alta Pro 283CT tripod.

Coyote Pups with the Tamron 150-600

While in the Grand Tetons, we stumbled upon a Coyote Pup Den.  Since I had just received my new Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 DI VC USD Lens, this was my first "real" subject to try it out one.  It did wonderfully!  I used the VC and autofocus on a Canon 7D crop sensor camera.  It never failed to focus, it was very fast to focus on my subject, was quite enjoyable to shoot and produced tack, sharp images!  I had the camera and lens combo mounted on my Vanguard Alta Pro 283 CT Tripod with BBH-200 Ballhead.  I choose to leave the VC on, even though I was on a tripod.  Shooting at that long of a focal length even the slightest amount of movement or wind could create a blurry image, so I left VC on to help eliminate that.

Back to the coyote pups....

I believe it was our first day there, we just stumbled upon this den because it was in another popular location for landscape photos.  On our first day, we spent a few minutes with the pups and it appeared that several were out playing at once, but they kept their distance.  They were a ton of fun to watch.

We went back on our second day, and although they weren't out and about when we got there, we decided to wait a bit and see if they emerged.  They did.  I didn't get any shots this second day, though because I loaned my lens to an off duty park ranger we had met and were talking to.  I let him mount his camera to the new Tamron 150-600.  I didn't get any shots, but it was worth it just to make Ranger Kelley's his day!

On our last day in the tetons, we went back to the den.  No pups were around, so we waited...and waited...and waited.  I believe we were there about an hour before a pup or two emerged.  It felt like hours and hours, though ;)

One of the pups had came around the back of the house the den was under and kinda sneaked up on us.  He even tried to go in the outhouse!

Then he slowly worked his way towards our cameras.

Then he walked within 20 yards of us and just posed for all of us.  I think the sounds of all the shutters ripping was intriguing him.  He gave us a few minutes of posing and then slowly made his way back to the den with his litter mates.

It was a great opportunity to see these tiny creatures!  The sad part of this was when we heard that the litter started at 13 pups and was down to 7 by the time we were there.  And, in talking to the ranger, he said half of those seven would be shot within a year.