Tag Archives: photography

Wolverine Image Supports Conservation Efforts

USA, Montana: Wolverine (Gulo gulo) (C)This image that I made of a wolverine (Gulo gulo) has recently been utilized by not-for-profit organization Conservation Northwest in a video presentation that has been shown to supporters in the context of their annual fundraiser auction, “Hope for a Wild Future“.

Conservation Northwest is a nonprofit that has been protecting and connecting old-growth forests and other wild areas from the Washington State Coast to the BC Rockies since 1989. In this timeframe, they have been ensuring such region remains wild enough to support wildife, from wolves to grizzly bears to mountain caribou, and they have been working with local communities on forest restoration and wilderness protection projects. Conservation Northwest is supported by around 5,000 families and hundreds of volunteers who together provide 70 percent of their funding.

For more information about Conservation Northwest and their projects, as well as how to get involved or make a tax-deductible donation, please check out their Website.

Wolverines are the largest terrestrial members of the weasel family (mustelids). Wolverines are shy of humans and therefore very hard to encounter in the wild (the image above is of a captive animal). Although technically omnivores, wolverines have a strong preference for meat, which makes them strong, aggressive and fearless hunters, known to fight for their food even against wolves or bears,

Wolverines are both scavengers and active predators, able to take down prey over five times their size! These solitary animals may travel 15 miles (24 km) in a day in search of food. Nowadays, they mostly live in Northern Europe and Russia, in Canada, Alaska, and in remote wilderness regions in the northern and western mountainous States of the US. Wolverines are threatened not only by habitat loss but by climate change, trapping, and highways: this has seen their numbers drop considerably in the United States, so much so that today they are thought to number just 300 in the lower 48 States. Wolverines have been recently recommended for protection under the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Sources: National Geographic; BBC Nature; Conservation Northwest; Defenders of Wildlife

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)


Cleared for Landing: Steller’s Sea Eagle in Flight

Steller's sea eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus)

The image on this post is of a Steller’s sea eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus) that I photographed in Hokkaido, Japan. These are large, powerful eagles (just think that their wingspan measures up to 8 ft/2.5 mt) that are mostly dark with a white tail and white accents on the wings and a huge yellow beak.

They are believed to breed only in far eastern Russia, in the Sea of Okhotsk and Bering Sea regions and particularly on the Kamchatka Peninsula. Each winter, most Steller’s sea eagles migrate south to Japan.

Open water provides these eagles with their main food sources. These birds hunt from a perch or from flight by diving and clutching prey in their talons and sometimes they steal food from other birds. In Japan, Steller’s sea eagles primarily feed on cod and sometimes on crabs or shellfish and small animals.

With a total population estimated at 5,000 adults and declining (mainly due to habitat alteration and industrial pollution, logging and overfishing), Steller’s sea eagles are classified as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Main sources: National Geographic; BirdLife International and the IUCN Red List.

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Saint Emilion Chronicles #2: Collegiate Church & Cloisters

Saint Emilion
: The Eglise Collegiale (XII-XV century)

Saint Emilion
: Portal of the Eglise Collegiale (XII-XV century)This is the second post in our series about our trip to Saint Emilion (in the Bordeaux wine region of France) and its beautiful surroundings. In case you missed it, you can find the first post (about the town of Saint Emilion) here.

On this post, we will briefly focus on a beautiful church-clositers complex in Saint Emilion: the Collegiate Church (Eglise Collégiale) and its cloisters.

The Collegiate Church is an imposing Romanesque building that was built between the XII and XV centuries and is considered one of the most impressive churches in the Gironde region.

Saint Emilion
: the cloister of the Eglise Collegiale

Saint Emilion: 
the stained glass windows of the Eglise Collegiale

Supposedly, Arnaud Guiraud de Cabanac gave impulse to start building the Collegiate Church in 1110, even if the church plans were repeatedly modified over time. While the nave was completed in the XII century, the remainder of the Collegiate Church blends together different styles from the XIII to the XVI century.

The facade and main portal of the Collegiate Church are in a beautiful, sober Romanesque style. In addition, a beautiful XIV century Gothic portal on the left flank of the church provides another entrance from Place Pioceau, on the northern side of the XIV century chancel that houses a magnificent listed organ built in 1892 by Gabriel Cavaillé-Colle and XV century carved stalls.

Saint Emilion: 
The cloister of the Eglise Collegiale

Saint Emilion: 
facade of the Eglise Collegiale (XII-XV century)

Inside the church, the Romanesque nave is adorned with nicely restored XII century wall paintings and amazing Gothic stained glass windows, while the statues of the Apostles on the tympanum were partly destroyed in the XVIII century during the French Revolution.

The Gothic cloisters, which impress the visitor due to their architectural elegance, were built on the southern side of the church during the XIII and XIV century, and remodeled during the XV and XVI century.

Saint Emilion: Statue in the Eglise Collegiale (XII-XV century)

The cloisters were built in the shape of a square, with each of the four covered walkways being 98.5 ft/30 mt long and 14.7 ft/4.5 mt wide: elegant arcades support the inner side of the four walkways, which encase a peaceful garden with a cross in the middle, symbolizing the Eden (or Paradise).

The Collegiate Church once hosted Augustinian canons who stayed in the monastery until the end of the French Revolution.

Sources: Travel France Online and Saint-Emilion.pro.

I hope that you enjoyed this second installment of our virtual trip to Saint Emilion… until the next chapter!

When Less Is More: Close-Up of a Bison

Bison (Bison bison) close-up

Sometimes – actually often times in photography, less is more.

By simplifying an image to its core elements, by eliminating distractions, by focusing on bare essentials such as color, lines, textures, contrast, the photographer may come up with a more powerful image, one that grabs the viewer’s attention, even if it portrays a well known subject.

Sometimes, even revealing only part of a well known subject may be an effective technique to resort to in order to engage the viewers by making them mentally process the partial information they see and linking it to the complete mental image they have of the subject.

In this photograph of a Bison (Bison bison) in Yellowstone National Park‘s Hayden Valley, I zeroed in on the bison’s face, isolating its most distinctive features – the horn and the expressive eye, by placing them in opposite power points in the frame. Using a telephoto lens added the extra benefit of compressing the scene, thus emphasizing the color contrast and blurring the background, which contributes to simplifying the image.

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Chronicle of a French Wine Country Trip: Saint Emilion

Saint Emilion
: View of the town

Saint Emilion: the bell tower of the Monolithic Church

Francesca and I have recently spent a few days in France, at Saint Emilion, in the heart of one of the most renowned among the Bordeaux wine districts and appellations. There we have enjoyed the courteous hospitality of a fellow blogger (more on that later, on a dedicated post), the culture and the beauty of those places, a lot of good food and wine and of course the magic of the Bordeaux wine country and its multitude of Chateaux.

This post is the first in a series that will take you with us, if only virtually, to visit Saint Emilion and its surroundings and discover some of the attractions that such area has to offer.

Saint Emilion: The Monolithic Church and its bell tower

Saint Emilion: 
La Porte de la Cadene (the Door of the Chain)

We will start by showing you the town of Saint Emilion and telling you something about its rich history on this post, then on future posts we will show you one of its churches, we will talk about the wine country and the Saint Emilion wine classification system, we will take you to a beautiful nearby village and to a full-blown visit of our gracious host’s residence, we will make you visit a lively food market, we will take you food and wine shopping in Saint Emilion, and of course we will visit a few Chateaux and talk about their wines… Yes, it will be a fairly extensive trip, but don’t worry, we will take a break here and there with posts on different subjects, but we think it will be worth your time! 😉

Saint Emilion: 
La Maison du Vin and the bell tower of the Monolithic Church

Saint Emilion: The bell tower of the Monolithic Church

Now, without further ado let’s talk a bit about the town of Saint Emilion.

Saint Emilion is a beautiful, elegant small town located in the Libournais area, on the right bank of the Dordogne River, not far from Bordeaux. Saint Emilion’s long history goes back to the Roman times, and precisely to the IV century when the Roman ruler Decimus Magnus Ausonius (after whom the famous Chateau Ausone, one of the four Premier Grand Cru Classé “A” wineries, was named) erected a property there, where he eventually retired. Incidentally, it was the Romans who got the long-standing Saint Emilion wine tradition started by introducing viticulture to the region.

The beauty of the Saint Emilion landscape and its wine-making history have won the area UNESCO status of World Heritage Site for its being an “outstanding example of an historic vineyard landscape that has survived intact and in activity to the present day”.

Saint Emilion: Les Grandes Murailles (the Big Wall) and the vineyards of Chateau Les Grandes Murailles

Saint Emilion: 
a "tertre" (steep alley) and a pastry shop

Saint Emilion is a town of steep alleys known as “tertres, winding narrow streets, pleasant squares dotted by bistros as well as several food and wine stores, beautiful Medieval buildings and ancient churches built in the yellowish local limestone, and hectares and hectares of lush vineyards.

Probably the focal point of the town revolves around the central Place de l’Eglise Monolithe: this square borrows its name from the homonymous Monolithic Church, the largest underground church in Europe, that was dug out of Saint Emilion’s limestone rock walls by Benedictine monks between the IX and the XII century. The Monolithic Church’s finely sculpted portal dates back to the XIV century and presents scenes inspired by the Last Judgment and the resurrection.

Saint Emilion: 
ancient buildings in town

Saint Emilion: detail of the Place de l'Eglise Monolithe and portal of the Monolithic ChurchUnderneath the Monolithic Church lie the Benedictine catacombs and the Hermitage, an underground cave where Saint Emilion himself (an VIII century Benidctine monk called Emilian, who became the town’s patron saint) is believed to have spent the last years of his life, from 750 to 767. There visitors can see an underground spring that was used for baptismal water, a bed and meditation seat both carved in rock, and graffiti reportedly dating back to the French Revolution. Above the Monolithic Church stands an imposing 53 mt/174 ft tall bell tower that was built between the XII and the XV century, while to the side of the church is the XIII century Chapelle de la Trinité (Trinity Chapel) hosting well preserved frescoes on the walls of its apse.

Saint Emilion: The Eglise Collegiale and the bell tower of the Monolithic Church

Saint Emilion: La Maison de la Cadene (House of the Chain) and la Porte de la Cadene (Door of the Chain)The inside of the Monolithic Church and the complex comprising the catacombs, the Hermitage and the Trinity Chapel can only be accessed and visited through a guided tour operated by the tourist office and, unfortunately, photography is not permitted anywhere within the complex – so here you will only be able to see images of the outside of the complex.

Other notable monuments in Saint Emilion are the Romanesque Eglise Collegiale (Collegiate Church) and its XIV century cloister (this will be the subject of another post), the complex of the Maison de la Cadene and the Porte de la Cadene (House of the Chain and Door of the Chain) located at the top of a steep tertre and dating back to the XVI century, and Les Grandes Murailles (the Big Wall) which are the last remains of what used to be a XIII century Benedictine monastery that collapsed for the most part and are now immersed in the vineyards of the homonymous Chateau Les Grandes Murailles, one of the 63 Grand Cru Classé wineries in the Saint Emilion wine classification.

Saint Emilion: 
elegant building in Rue des Ecoles

Saint Emilion: the bell tower of the Monolithic ChurchTypical of Saint Emilion are also several pastry shops selling two local specialties: the Macarons (delicious almond-based cookies) and the Canelé (small, chewy sweets with a caramelized sugar outside and a core of rum-infused custard).

Enough for today: I hope you enjoyed this first stop in our Saint Emilion trip and our general overview of the town – stay tuned for the next chapters of our chronicle! 🙂

Saint Emilion: Restaurant tables at Place de l'Eglise Monolithe

Nikon D800 & Action Photography: a Swiss Army Knife?

USA, Nantucket (MA)
 Kite surfer on a windy day

Nikon D800, Nikkor AF-S 70-200 f/2.8G VR II; 1/1600 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 250

After my previous post about how to effectively customize a Nikon D800 so as to make it work the way you want/need, a question from a reader prompted me to write again about the D800 and explain why I think that, if properly configured, the D800 is a dream camera (at least in the Nikon camp) and a star performer not only for photographing still subjects but also action.

Let’s start from a few basic facts: the D800 has a so-called “FX” format full-frame CMOS sensor, capable of recording images at the stunning resolution of 36MP in the traditional 35mm format of 24×36. At this resolution, the D800 resolves much more detail than any “legacy” 35mm film-based camera and approaches medium-format territory. The flip side of such phenomenal resolution is that, given the huge amount of data that the camera needs to move from the sensor to the flash card, at maximum resolution the D800 achieves a relatively slow continuous shooting speed of 4 FPS (frames per second). In addition, if you are shooting NEF (i.e., RAW files – which I think you should for the reasons explained on a previous post), even with a fast CF card the buffer would fill after about 17 consecutive shots (using the “14-bit lossless compressed” NEF setting).

While of course the above limitations are not a concern if/when you shoot stationary subjects, they will most likely get in the way if you plan to also use your D800 to shoot action.

USA, Nantucket (MA) 
Kite surfer on a windy day

Nikon D800, Nikkor AF-S 70-200 f/2.8G VR II; 1/1600 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 250

So, is all hope lost and do you need to resign yourself (as many have lamented on the World Wide Web) to choose the D800 if you shoot landscapes/portraiture/architecture OR the D4 if you shoot sports or active wildlife?…

The short answer is: not really.

Let me explain why. Your D800 could be compared to a Swiss Army knife: if you have the corkscrew tool out, your versatile knife will let you pop a bottle nice and easy, but will it be as effective a tool to, say, cut an unplugged electrical wire? Of course not: to do that you will have to switch to the appropriate tool for the job, a blade.

Much the same way, Nikon engineers did not pack all that unbelievable technology in the D800 for no reason: you need to configure your camera so as to maximize its capabilities of shooting action.

USA, Nantucket (MA) 
Windsurfer on a windy day

Nikon D800, Nikkor AF-S 70-200 f/2.8G VR II; 1/1600 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 200

Let’s see what I think you should do:

  1. Set the AF Mode to AF-C (Continuous Servo AF) and the Release Mode to CH (Continuous Shooting – High Speed)
  2. If you shoot NEF (as you should), set your compression to “14-bit Lossless Compressed”
  3. Set the Image Area function to the DX (24×16) format
  4. Use a fast CF (or SD) Card! For best results, get an UDMA 7 card, such as Lexar Professional 1000x or SanDisk Extreme Pro UDMA 7
  5. Purchase the optional MB-D12 external battery grip (note that the street price for it in the US is almost 50% less than what Nikon USA charges) and a D4 battery (EN-EL18) and connect them to your D800

USA, Nantucket (MA)
 Kite surfer on a windy day

Nikon D800, Nikkor AF-S 70-200 f/2.8G VR II; 1/1600 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 250

That’s it! By configuring your camera as above, you achieve the following benefits for action photography:

  • You maximize the D800 “base” 4 FPS rate, by increasing it by 50% to 6 FPS, which is adequate for most action shooting scenarios, barring only those involving extremely fast moving subjects (such as if you professionally shoot F1/NASCAR/MotoGP)
  • You increase the number of images that can be saved to the buffer before this fills up by 70%, from 17 to 29, depending on how fast your memory card is
  • Although by switching to the DX image format you reduce the file size from 36MP to 15MP, your image size is still going to be plenty enough to print even large photographs or to submit to agencies/magazines
  • By switching to the DX image format, you get the “1.5x magnification” effect typical of such format, which effectively adds 50% to the focal length of your long lens, something desirable for most action shooters who, no matter how long a lens they are shooting with, often find themselves hoping it were even longer! (A technical note: technically speaking, it is incorrect to call such effect a “magnification” as by switching to DX there is no optical difference – what happens is that the file you get is just an in-camera crop of the center portion of your full-frame FX image. But in practical terms your image, at the reduced DX size, will be very similar to the image that you would get if you used a 50% longer lens at the larger FX size)

USA, Nantucket (MA)
 Kite surfer on a windy day

Nikon D800, Nikkor AF-S 70-200 f/2.8G VR II; 1/1600 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 250

Also, the accuracy of the D800’s Multi-CAM 3500FX autofocus sensor module and 15 cross-type AF sensors is phenomenal – it really nails down the focus on almost all images, so much so that you will soon come to realize that, if you have occasional out of focus shots, in most cases it is due to operator error, not inaccurate technology!

One final note: for your convenience, you may decide to assign one of the four customizable Shooting Menu Banks available on the D800 to your action shooting settings, so that you may recall them at any time with just one click. See page 268 of the D800 User Manual for instructions how to set it up.

Now have fun and go shoot some action with your Swiss Army knife D800! 🙂

USA, Nantucket (MA)
 Kite surfer on a windy day

Nikon D800, Nikkor AF-S 70-200 f/2.8G VR II; 1/1600 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 200

Sea Otter Resting on a Rock

USA, Afognak Island, Kodiak Archipelago (AK) Sea otter (Enhydra lutris)

Not long ago I have uploaded a new gallery to my Website showcasing images of certain Mustelids (Mustelidae), which is a family comprising some 54 species of carnivorous mammals such as otters, badgers, martens, wolverines and weasels. If you are interested, feel free to check it out.

The image on this post is of a sea otter (Enhydra lutris) in the Kodiak Archipelago, in Alaska.

Sea otters are members of the weasel family. They spend most of their time in the water (they even give birth in it!) but, in some instances such as the one recorded in the image above, they come ashore to sleep or rest.

Sea otters often float at the water’s surface, lying on their backs, often with a clam and a rock. Otters will place the rock on their chests, and repeatedly smash the shellfish against it until it breaks open so they can feed on the mussel. Otters sometimes float in forests of kelp in which they entangle themselves to provide anchorage in the swirling sea. Given all the time they spend in the water, sea otters have thick underfur that traps air to form an insulating layer against the chilly waters: this is particularly important as sea otters have no insulating fat (source: National Geographic).

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

A Snack on the Fly – Black-eared Kite

Black-eared kite (Milvus migrans lineatus) eating fish in flight

This image is of a Black-eared kite (Milvus migrans lineatus) eating a fish in flight: it is a shot that I particularly like because it shows an interesting behavior of the bird.

Black-eared kites are large birds of prey with dark brown plumage and black feathers over the ears. They have large wings (with a wingspan of about 50 to 60″/130 to 150 cm) and spend much of the time soaring and circling in the sky. Viewed from beneath, kites have prominent broad white patches under their wings, just before their dark wingtips. The end feathers often splay into “fingers” when they’re flying (source: Japan Times and Silly Reflections).

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Nikon D800: How To Customize It Effectively

If you have been following the photography part of this blog for a while, you will have noticed that I do not talk about equipment, let alone brands, because I think what matters most are the principles of photography and, ultimately, the photographer who is behind the camera. A photographer may have the best gear in the world, but if he/she does not master the technique to make the best of it or lacks creativity or artistic sensitivity, then the resulting photographs will be either technically inadequate or incapable of expressing an artistic message.

However, a dear reader who knows I have (and love) a Nikon D800 and who has recently bought one herself asked whether I would post some advice as to how to effectively set it up, so here I am talking about equipment! 😉

Saint Emilion Restaurant

In my view, the D800 is a wonderfully capable and powerful camera, that offers the photographer a myriad of options for customizing it just the way that specific photographer needs to suit his/her photography style. In this post I will focus on pointing out some of those that *FOR ME* are the most useful options that I take advantage of to make my D800 work the way I want based on how I shoot. Of course, other photographers may have different needs, so what follows may work for me but not for you – your mileage may vary 🙂

(A) Shooting Menu: These are the main options for which I have changed the defaults:

1. Primary Slot Selection: I changed it so the primary memory card to which images get saved on my D800 is the CF card, while the SD card only kicks in when the CF card is full (“overflow” option). This is because the latest CF cards are still faster than SD cards and trust me, with the unbelievable amount of data that the D800 moves to a memory card, you do need a fast UDMA 7 card if you do not want to fill the buffer too soon!

2. Image Quality: As you may have guessed already if you read my previous post about why one should consider shooting RAW instead of Jpeg, I set this to RAW. 😉

3. Jpeg Compression: For those rare instances when I shoot Jpeg, I set this option to “Optimal Quality.”

4. NEF (RAW) Recording: I set the compression option of NEF files to “Lossless Compressed” and bit depth to “14 bit”.

5. Color Space: I changed this to Adobe RGB as it provides a broader gamut than sRGB, which is a color space that is best assigned to an image at the time it is ready to be published on the Web. Bear in mind that the “color space” setting only affects images taken by the D800 as Jpegs, while it does not have an effect on NEF/RAW images for which the photographer can decide which color space to assign to them at the time of processing.

6. Auto ISO: Auto ISO is a feature that may come in handy on certain occasions, such as when shooting sports indoors (when light levels are generally dim) or wildlife on the move at the fringes of the day. The one setting of Auto ISO that I changed upfront is “Maximum Sensitivity”: this basically allows the photographer to instruct the D800 not to go higher than a certain ISO setting when Auto ISO is turned on. This is useful as it lets you set the highest ISO setting that you feel comfortable will return images with noise levels that are acceptable for their intended use. Personally, I set the limit on my D800 to 3200 ISO.

USA, Arches National Park (UT) Windows Arch at twilight

(B) Custom Settings Menu: The D800 has 54 custom settings that let you customize it just the way you want: use them! Below is a list of the custom settings that are the most useful to me:

a4AF activation: I prefer that my camera AF only activates when I want it to, so I changed a4 to make sure that the shutter release only takes the shot when tripped, without activating the AF. To do that, I assigned AF activation to the AF-ON button only, by selecting the option “AF-ON Only”. This way I have the utmost flexibility and I can activate my camera AF only when I want to.

d6Viewfinder Grid Display: I set this to “ON” so grid lines will show at all times in the viewfinder: this is helpful both not to tilt horizons when you handhold and to quickly identify strong compositional points in the frame according to the rule of thirds.

f4Assign Fn Button: There is a host of options here, so you should choose the one you think you are going to use the most. In my D800 I assigned it to spot metering mode, by choosing the “Spot Metering” option, so whenever I want to take a spot meter reading off a subject I just press the Fn button and there we go.

f6Assign AE-L/AF-L Button: This is one of my favorite customizations in the D800 – I assigned the button in combination with the subcommand dial (the one in the front of the camera) to “Select Image Area”. This way, whenever I want to change the active area of the sensor and therefore the size of the end image (which is something I do fairly often) I can do so in a breeze by just pressing the AE-L/AF-L button while rotating the subcommand dial: this toggles among the four available image sizes (FX – 36×24; 1.2x – 30×20; DX – 24×16; 5:4 – 30×24).

f11Slot Empty Release Lock: I set this to “Lock” – why would I want to trip the shutter when there is no memory card in the camera???

f12Reverse Indicators: In this option I chose “Reverse” so that the exposure indicator that appears in the viewfinder and in the top screen of my D800 has the + sign on the left and the – sign on the right. This is because I mostly shoot in Manual Exposure mode and I find it easier that the exposure indicator mimics the rotation of the camera dials. So for instance, if I rotate the main dial to the left to set a slower shutter speed (therefore increasing my exposure) the mark on the exposure indicator in the viewfinder will also move to the left toward the + sign, showing that my exposure is increasing (i.e., the image is getting lighter).

USA, Arches National Park (UT) Balanced Rock at twilight

(C) My Menu: This is a fully user customizable menu that I find incredibly helpful and I definitely suggest you set up and use. Essentially, you can add to it those of the options/custom settings of your D800 that you use the most so they can be all grouped in, and accessible from, one and the same spot as opposed to scattered across the various menus they belong to. To give you an idea, these are the options that I have assigned to mine: (i) Choose Image Area; (ii) Auto ISO; (iii) Long Exposure NR; (iv) Virtual Horizon; (v) d4-Exposure Delay Mode; (vi) Multiple Exposure Mode.

That’s all for now: I hope the above tips may be helpful to some D800 users who may have preferences/needs similar to mine.

In a future post I will discuss why I think the D800 (particularly if used in combination with the optional MB-D12 battery grip and a D4 battery) is a wonderfully flexible camera that fits many different shooting styles and subjects.

Happy shooting! 🙂

Alaskan Teddy Bear

Coastal brown bear (Ursus arctos) sitting up

In the summer, Alaskan coastal brown bears (Ursus arctos) congregate near the shores of the sea and other bodies of water waiting for wild salmon to come back to the very streams they were born in and swim upstream to reach the headwater gravel beds of their birth and lay their eggs. Clearly, this offers the bears a wonderful opportunity to hunt salmon and feed off of their flesh and especially their eggs, of which they are particularly fond.

The salmon run is particularly important to the bears because the hibernation period is fast approaching and brown bears enter a phase known as hyperphagia where they maximize their food intake (they can eat up to 90 pounds of food per day!) to build up sufficient fat reserves to survive the hibernation months.

However, sometimes the salmon are a little late on their spawning schedule… or the bears are a little early for the party, which means that the bears have some time to kill while they wait for their favorite prey to arrive. So bears go into “energy saving” mode and they just lazily hang out near the water waiting for their lunch to be served.

The coastal brown bear in the image above was just sitting in the sun near a river in Alaska’s Katmai National Park, probably daydreaming of the hordes of sockeye salmon it will soon start chasing all over the place…

To me, it looked just like a teddy bear neatly arranged in a sitting position by a toy store salesperson! 😉

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Yoga Meditation (or Balanced Rock at Twilight)

Balanced Rock at twilight

Shooting famous, over-photographed landmarks such as balanced rock in Utah’s Arches National Park challenges the photographer to come up with images that are not cliche, that portray such landmarks in a different light, from a different perspective or in a fresher way.

Silhouetting your subject may be a way to reinterpret such well-known scenes. Silhouetting essentially transposes your 3D subject into a 2D world, so shape becomes key for a successful silhouette. Thus, moving around your subject, changing your angle of view may radically  alter your final image, the 2D rendition of your subject.

When I saw a sunset with potential (because of some lingering clouds) behind me, I quickly hiked to the other side of balanced rock and moved around until that impressive rock formation took on the shape (at least in my eyes) of a person sitting before a beautiful sunset in a yoga meditation position. Click, click, and there we go: a symbolic rendition of balanced rock! 😉

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Raw Moves: Three Reasons for Shooting RAW Instead of Jpeg

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) play-fightingCaption: Canada, Hudson Bay – Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) play-fighting

A while ago, the exquisite Fairy of the North, Dina (who so elegantly authors the blog The World According to Dina, masterfully combining her beautiful images with perfectly selected quotes to complement them) asked me if I would write a post about why I think anyone who shoots digital and takes his or her photography seriously should shoot RAW as opposed to straight off the camera Jpegs.

By the way, before we even get to the point, what is a RAW file, just in case you were wondering? A RAW file is essentially the equivalent of a film negative in the digital age. Every camera manufacturer has their own proprietary formats of files containing the raw (hence the name), unprocessed input captured by the sensor. In fact, RAW files are called in several different ways and have different extensions, depending on the various camera makers: for instance, Nikon’s are called NEF and Canon’s are called either CRW or CR2, depending on the models.

Unlike straight out of the camera Jpegs (which are the result of the camera’s computer processing the sensor data, making arbitrary choices that you as the photographer cannot control and producing a file format that is immediately viewable by anyone), RAW files need to be processed through specialized software such as the camera manufacturer’s proprietary processing software or third-party software such as Adobe PhotoShop or Lightroom or Apple Aperture and then converted to a usable file format, such as TIFF, PSD or Jpeg.

In essence, processing a RAW file requires more of the photographer’s time because he or she has choices to make (in terms of optimizing white balance, exposure, contrast, color balance/saturation, etc.) but puts the photographer back in control of his or her creative decisions and what’s best, in a totally non-destructive, reversible way (more on this later).

Having said that, here are the three main reasons why I think you should set your camera to shoot RAW instead of Jpeg:

1. Unlimited White Balance Adjustments: This is one of the most powerful reasons for choosing a RAW file over an in-camera Jpeg. In short: if for any reason you shoot an image using a white balance setting that is not optimal for the scene you are shooting and you have your camera set to produce a Jpeg file, then you are stuck with that suboptimal white balance and changing it (or at least improving it) will be a difficult and time-consuming task to be performed in your image processing software. If instead you shoot RAW, you can easily correct your white balance with just one click in your processing software. Done!

2. Lossless Process: Jpegs are image files that are considerably smaller than other formats. This is because they utilize a compression algorithm that is lossy, meaning that it discards a bunch of color information from the image to make the file smaller. The more you compress, the more subtle color transitions and image sharpness you lose. In addition, image data loss is cumulative, meaning that every time you save or re-save a Jpeg file, you lose information that cannot be recovered later on. If you shoot RAW instead, you retain all of the information captured by your camera’s sensor, forever. This means not only that, should you need to perform some intensive editing of your image you will have more information to work on, but also and more importantly that you will forever retain full access to all the information that the sensor originally captured.

3. Non-Destructive, Reversible Editing: If you shoot Jpeg and then edit your file in post processing you can then either keep it as a Jpeg when you save it (in which case, all your edits will become permanent AND you will experience image data loss when you save your processed Jpeg) or work using layers (if available in your processing software). The latter is definitely the way to go, because layers can always be discarded later on, should you wish to process your image differently. However, Jpegs do not support layers, so if you use them and want to retain them, you will have to save your processed file in a format that supports layers, such as TIFF or PSD which are both lossless formats but end up in bigger file sizes. Instead, if you shoot RAW and process your RAW file, all your edits will be stored in a so-called “sidecar file”, meaning a small text file that goes hand in hand with your RAW file and contains all the information about the edits that you performed. This means that your RAW file will never be altered and you will always be able to change any of your edits at any time in the future with no damage to your image file or information loss. Pretty cool, huh?

As a final note, even if after reading these compelling reasons for shooting RAW 😉 you were to choose to continue shooting in-camera Jpegs, at the very least make sure that as soon as you download them to your computer you immediately save them to a lossless image format: as we said earlier on, not only will this let you retain your adjustment layers if you so choose, but it will avoid image degradation every time you re-save that Jpeg.

Standing Tall

Brown bear (Ursus arctos) and fireweed

I took this image of a standing European brown bear (Ursus arctos) with a backdrop of colorful fireweed in the summer in Finland, near the Russian border.  That area is known to have a fairly high concentration of bears and the very long summer days contribute to keep you shooting. This particular bear stood momentarily to watch out for a big male that was in the vicinities and I managed to take a couple of shots before the action was over.

You all have a great weekend!

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Juvenile White-Tailed Sea Eagle in Flight… and The World According to Dina!

Juvenile white-tailed sea eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) in flight

A new gallery with a selection of my bird images is now available on my Web site (feel free to go check it out, if you feel like it!): among other bird shots, it includes several images from my trip to Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s largest island, where in the winter numerous white-tailed sea eagles, Steller’s sea eagles and red-crowned cranes congregate to hunt for fish.

This image of a juvenile white-tailed sea eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) in flight is one of those rare moments that make the day of a wildlife photographer, when everything comes together just the way you wanted/hoped for! The sea eagle is tack sharp, it has got the fish in its claws, the entire wingspan (which, at over 2 mt/6.5 ft, makes them the fourth largest eagles in the world!) fits just perfectly within the vertical shot with no clipped feathers, and the eagle looked back at just the perfect time: man, what do you want more? 🙂

Also, a selection of Arctic and Subarctic images of mine has been published in the wonderful, inspirational, educational blog The World According to Dina, that revolves around pretty much everything having to do with the North of the world and her beautiful home country, Norway: please do yourselves a favor and pay my gracious hostess Dina (whom I wholeheartedly thank for inviting me as a guest author!) a visit and check out for yourselves how magical a place her blog is and how masterfully she juxtaposes her beautiful photographs with just the perfect quotes to go with them!

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Landscape Arch at Night and a Few Night Photography Tips

Landscape Arch at night

I took this image of Landscape Arch at Arches National Park at night (which you actually can see much better on my Web site), with the lights of the town of Moab in the background. With certain over photographed subjects, sometimes you need to be creative to come up with images that are not cliché and that still represent those towering creations of nature in their beauty and wildness. Night photography can be an option to resort to, if you are prepared to adjust your meal schedule around it and if you master the technique to get the shot.

A few tips on night photography:

1. Scout your spot earlier in the day to previsualize your shot and identify where precisely you will want to set up later in the day

2. Get to your spot before sunset so, if suitable, you can squeeze in some bonus sunset shots but most importantly you can set up your gear, frame your shot and focus when you can still see something!

3. If you shoot digital, (i) make sure the long exposure noise reduction function of your camera and, if it has one, its mirror lock up feature are activated; (ii) secure your camera to a sturdy tripod; (iii) with your camera in M exposure mode, set your aperture to a low f/stop (say anywhere between f/2.8 and f/4.0 or thereabouts) and set your shutter speed and ISO to a base exposure (of course, you will have to slow down your shutter speed as the night progresses); (iv) if you have a cable release (which you definitely should), connect it to your camera

4. Shoot a series of images, starting from twilight (when the sky will still be tinged with delicate orange, pink, magenta and violet hues) going forward to when the sky will turn pitch black, adjusting your exposure accordingly

5. Decide whether you want the stars to record as dots or streaks of light (star trails) and set your shutter speed/ISO accordingly (for best results, try to keep your ISO as low as possible, but you may have to compromise a bit): as a rule of thumb, bear in mind that anything slower than say 15/20 sec will cause at least some of the stars to streak noticeably – for pleasing star trails you will need exposures north of 30 seconds up to several minutes or even hours (the longer the exposure, the longer the trails – remember, every time you double the time the shutter stays open, with the others parameters staying the same, you add one extra stop of light to your exposure): this means that on your camera your shutter speed dial shall be set to Bulb and you will have to use a cable release and to experiment timing your exposure yourself (an illuminated digital watch may come in handy)

6. Be aware that the longer your exposure, the greater the chances that orbiting satellites and commercial airplanes will ruin your shot leaving all sorts of dotted luminous trails across it…

And by the way, today in the US is Nature Photography Day, a day that in the last 8 years has been designated by NANPA (the North American Nature Photography Association) “to promote the enjoyment of nature photography, and to explain how images have been used to advance the cause of conservation and protect plants, wildlife, and landscapes locally and worldwide”. So, if you are game, you might as well be inspired by the night photography tips on this post and go out with your camera and tripod tonight to give it a shot!  🙂

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Great Basin Bristlecone Pine at Sunset

Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) at sunset

This image is of a Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) and it was made at sunset in the Inyo National Forest (CA): these trees can only be found in certain mountainous areas of California, Nevada and Utah and are really remarkable in that, with some of them being almost 5000 years old, they are the oldest living tree on earth.

Bristlecone pines have adapted to survive in extremely harsh and challenging environments. Typically, they live in high elevation habitats in areas with rocky soil, low rainfall and long winters.

They grow extremely slowly (a 40 year old bristlecone pine may not reach 6 inches!) and, at high elevations, they grow to 60 feet tall. Also, their needles can remain green for over 45 years. At low elevations, bristlecone pines grow straight, while at high elevations their trunks become twisted. Their root system is very shallow so as to allow maximum water uptake in arid environments.

For more information about these incredible trees, you may check out the relevant pages on the Websites of the National Wildlife Federation, the BBC, and the National Park Service.

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Windows Arch and Turret Arch Before Dawn

Windows Arch and Turret Arch at twilight

Utah’s Arches National Park is a special place that rewards visitors with stunning red rock desert views and over 2000 natural sandstone arches and giant balanced rocks.

I captured the above image of Windows Arch, with Turret Arch in the background, at twilight, just before dawn, from a slightly elevated vantage point. Given the bright desert sunlight and the crowds that generally assemble around the most iconic features of the Park, photographing at the fringes of the day or at night are among the best options available to those who do not simply seek to bring home a snapshot from Arches.

Immediately before dawn, contrast is low and manageable but the sky is already lit and takes on delicate pastel tones that subtly complement the warm hues of the ubiquitous rocks and sand. Add a pleasing composition (especially if you are at one of those over photographed spots) et les jeux sont faits 🙂

Oh, and by the way, Happy Memorial Day! 🙂

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Ever Heard of a Sik-Sik?…

Arctic ground squirrel, or sik-sik (Spermophilus parryii)

Thought so. Quite honestly, neither had I – at least before I traveled to Canada’s arctic territory of Nunavut (I have published more photographs from that trip on thisthis and this previous posts). Up there, beyond Inuit, caribou, wolves, arctic hare, the occasional polar bear and billions of mosquitoes and black flies you can find… sik-siks, which is the kind of cute sounding way Inuit call arctic ground squirrels because of the sound they make.

Arctic ground squirrels (Spermophilus parryii) are the largest and northernest among North American ground squirrels. They seek shelter from the frigid tundra temperatures by building a maze of burrows in areas where the permafrost does not prevent digging.

Throughout the long acrtic winters sik-siks hibernate for 7 to 8 months a year. Now get ready for a super cool fact: “Researchers at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks have shown that during hibernation, arctic ground squirrels adopt the lowest body temperature ever measured in a mammal. [Their] body temperature […] drops below freezing, a condition referred to as supercooling. At intervals of two to three weeks, still in a state of sleep, hibernating squirrels shiver and shake for 12 to 15 hours to create heat that warms them back to a normal body temperature of about 98 degrees Fahrenheit [(about 36.5 degrees Celsius)]. When the shivering and shaking stops, body temperature drops back to the minimal temperature” (quoted from the Denali page of the National Park Service’s Web site).

By the way, I have uploaded a new gallery to my Web site with a selection of my images of rodents and lagomorphs (i.e., rabbits and hares – no pikas, sorry): feel free to go take a look if you feel like it!

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Happy Mother’s Day!

In a rare (at least for this blog!) multi-image post, here’s to all the Mothers who enjoy reading Clicks & Corks and to the Mothers of all of our readers!

Which of these mommies do you, or your Mom, relate more to?  😉

Happy Mother’s Day!

Snow monkey (Macaca fuscata) nursing her baby


Coastal brown bear (Ursus arctos) sow with cub


Black bear (Ursus americanus) sow play-fighting with cub


Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) sow with cubs


American Graffiti

Sego Canyon (UT) Pictographs and Century Old Graffiti

I took this image of ancient Native American petroglyphs in Utah’s Sego Canyon, not far from Thompson Springs. These petroglyphs were scratched on the rocks of Sego Canyon by Native Americans of the Fremont Culture, who lived in the area between 600 and 1250 of the Common Era. As you will notice, however, just by looking at the top left quarter of the image above, more recent graffiti were also scratched on those very same rocks, right by the Fremont petroglyphs.

When I was framing this image, I wanted to convey the juxtaposition of “ancient graffiti” like the Fremont petroglyphs with relatively speaking more modern graffitis that two different people, seemingly in 1884 and in 1902, felt the need to scratch right next to (if not directly on) those vestiges of the past.

Which begs the question: considering that those “younger” graffiti are by now more than a century old, does age make them more acceptable to us viewers? Do you see them as a “work of art in the work of art” or as the condemnable act of vandals who inexorably defaced that precious Native American rock art?

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

The River

Stubborn dogwood (Cornus nuttallii Audubon)

Readers who have been following this blog since the inception may recall that I very much like dogwood, of which I have already published a close-up of a blossom in a previous post.

This photograph of a small dogwood tree, stubbornly clinging to a rock in the middle of an impetuous river is another image that I hold dear because I think it clearly conveys a message of resilience and will to survive against all odds. Two very positive messages, if you ask me.

The black & white rendition simplifies the image to its graphic elements and amplifies the yin-yang contrast between the dark and the light portions of the image, that balance each other out nicely, as if divided by an imaginary diagonal line.

Oh yeah, the title for this post pays homage to my favorite Springsteen song 🙂

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

Barren-Ground Caribou Bull

Barren-ground caribou bull (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus)

I took this image of a barren-ground caribou bull (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus) during my trip to Canada’s arctic territory of Nunavut (by the way, I have published other photographs from that trip on this and this previous posts).

This bull was strutting on a Nunavut beach, stomping its hooves on a layer of dried sea weed that the high tide had left behind and in so doing the animal was making literally hundreds of black flies come out of those sea weed for the joy of both the caribou and… the photographer! Whenever the wind dies down in the tundra, black flies and mosquitoes fill the air and become a major nuisance. This image was taken in the summer, when caribou shed their winter fur and leave patches of skin exposed to mosquito or black fly bites.

Anyway, to me the key points in this image are the position of the caribou, with two raised legs to convey a sense of motion, and the graphic four-layer background, which appears to be interestingly divided into four bands of brown, yellow, green and cyan.

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

The Long and Winding Road

Cabin in the tundra

I took this image at sunset on a stormy day in Canada’s northern territory of Nunavut, in the Canadian Arctic. On that huge expanse of barren flatland, most houses are built on short stilts because of permafrost that makes it virtually impossible to dig deep enough to lay a proper foundation.

The vast majority of the about 31,000 people living in Nunavut are Inuit (about 26,000 or 85%). Inuit are one of the three groups of Aboriginal people who live in the Canadian Arctic (the other two groups being First Nations and Métis): Inuit speak a language called Inuktitut (Nunavut and Inuit are two Inuktitut words respectively meaning “our land” and “the people“) and some of them also speak English. If you venture out of the just 26 communities where most of Nunavut’s Inuit live in that immense territory of almost 2 million square kilometers (about 772,000 sqm), it is not unusual to see isolated cabins such as the one in the image above that Inuit use mostly as a base for hunting.

That day, when I realized that the setting sun was about to briefly peek out of the thick stormy cloud cover, I quickly set up my camera and tripod and framed that dramatic sunset using the winding dirt road created by the wheels of the there ubiquitous quads as an element of the composition leading to the cabin that I placed in one of the rule of thirds “power points” to add an element of interest to what would otherwise have been a flat, static composition.

This image brings to my mind the lyrics of the famous Beatles’ song:

The long and winding road that leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before it always leads me here
Leads me to your door

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

A Food Photography Primer

Over time, a few readers over at Flora’s Table who seem to have been enjoying the food images that I make and publish in that blog have been asking that I write a post with a few pointers about food photography: today is the day for that. Bear in mind that what follows is not intended to be a comprehensive course on food photography, but just a reflection on some basic rules of photography that play an important role in making a good food photograph.

There is no magic, food is just one of the subjects of studio photography and food photography is still photography, so the same basic principles apply. As such, there are three main guiding criteria that everyone with an interest in food photography should focus on:

1. Composition
2. Lighting
3. Post-Processing

Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

1. Composition

Composition is an element that can literally make or break a photograph. A successful image, including one of a food item, needs to have a strong, clean, balanced composition or it will look flat and boring at best. Here are a few pointers as to how to tackle this aspect:

  • Devise a plan before your shoot: pre-visualize how you would like your image to look like and figure out what you need to accomplish your vision (in terms of props, lighting, background and focal length of your lens)
  • Set up well ahead of time, when you have no time pressure: the shoot should be set up according to your plan and your vision, with everything in place except the food you are going to photograph. Take a few test shots in the same light that you would use for the real thing and see how your image looks like through the lens you chose. Use this opportunity to find out what does not work and to move things around or change camera/lighting settings until you achieve a pleasing composition that conveys your vision. Add the actual food item to be photographed only when you are all set and ready to go, so when you photograph it, it is going to be perfectly fresh, in top condition
  • Although composition is subjective and should convey your own vision, there are a few “rules” that will generally make your image a stronger one, including the following:
    • Less is more: keep your composition clean and simple;
    • Compose in such a way that the main subject of your image is immediately obvious to everyone;
    • Avoid blank space near the edges of your frame: make sure that your subject and other meaningful elements of your composition fill the frame in a balanced and pleasing way, making sure that you have a strong foreground, middle ground and background in your image;
    • Very rarely does a subject that is in the smack center of your image look good (unless you are going for an extreme close-up where your subject fills the entire frame): try to create some more dynamism by for instance resorting to the rule of thirds, that is placing your main subject off center, near one of the corners of your frame, or positioning important elements in the frame along an imaginary diagonal line;
    • Know your camera’s commands well and select a focal length and an aperture suitable for what you are trying to accomplish: do you want to achieve a compressed look with quite shallow a depth of field? Select a telephoto lens. Do you want to place a strong subject in the immediate foreground in the context of a wider scene with greater depth of field and a clearer sense of depth? Go for a wide angle lens. Do you want more depth of field? Select a smaller aperture (bigger f/stop number). Do you want only a narrow area in your image to be in sharp focus with the remainder being rendered as a soft blur? Pick a large aperture (smaller f/stop number). Every tool (i.e., your lenses) should be used for the purpose it is intended for and ultimately to realize your vision.

2. Lighting

Lighting is the essence of photography (the very word “photography” comes from Greek and means “writing with light“) and yet it is an often overlooked component in a photograph. Almost never will a photograph taken in bad light look good. Once again, here are a few things to bear in mind while you are planning for your shoot:

  • If you want to photograph using natural light, never set up in direct sunlight (you would end up with harsh, unattractive contrast) – prefer the light of an overcast day or light coming from a northern facing window or skylight, but be prepared to supplement it with some extra light source so as to avoid that the image looks too flat – also, be ready to use a tripod (especially if youintend to use a smaller aperture) as your shutter speed will likely be fairly slow, unless you crank up the ISO which however may end up in a noisy (as in, grainy) image
  • Stay away at all costs from your camera’s pop-up flash and never place a flash head directly onto your camera’s hot shoe as this arrangement would give you flat, unattractive front light: remember, photography (like painting) is the art of creating the illusion of a 3D object in a 2D medium, and the key to achieve that is creating visible, pleasing shadows in your image
  • In order to create visible shadows you need to ensure that your main light source (AKA your key light) is off axis with your camera: side lighting and backlighting are both effective ways to create shadows
  • Generally, in food photography you want to achieve soft shadows and stay away from harsh, unpleasant shadows. The way to do this is to use a large light source or, if you don’t have one, to make your light source as big as you can: remember, the bigger the light source, the softer the shadows it will cast. This is why photographing food (or making people portraits) in natural light on an overcast day is something appropriate: thanks to the cloud cover, the sky turns into a gigantic source of diffused, soft light. In the studio, soft light can be achieved in several ways: by using a light modifier, such as a soft box (essentially, a big diffuser) or an umbrella (a reflector) or (assuming you have white walls and ceiling) by bouncing the light of your flash head off a wall or the ceiling
  • If you need to open up a bit the shadows that you have created, so as to reduce the contrast and provide more detail in the parts of your image that are in the shadow, you should use a fill light, which is another light source coming from a different direction and with a lesser intensity than your key light (you don’t want to obliterate your shadows altogether, you only want to make them lighter): a second flash head at a weaker setting or a reflector that bounces some of the light coming from your key light back into the scene are both good solutions to achieve this (tip: some aluminum kitchen foil crumbled and then flattened out works fairly well as an improvised silver reflector)

3. Post-Processing

Neither in the “good ol’ days” of film-based photography nor in nowadays digital photography world will a great image come straight out of the camera. While the old GIGO rule still applies (Garbage In, Garbage Out – meaning, if you start out with a bad image, it will be very difficult that you may turn it into a good one in post-processing alone), even a very solid image out of the camera will require some extent of post processing to become a great photograph. A few tips:

  • Shoot RAW, not Jpeg: by shooting RAW you will retain the maximum flexibility on your files and will not have to live with choices irreversibly made by the camera – the possibility of changing your white balance into whatever light temperature you desire is by itself totally worth the choice of shooting RAW instead of Jpeg
  • Learn how to use at least the basic features of Photoshop (or whatever other image editing software of your choice): at a minimum, learn how to crop your image (should you need to); how to work with levels and curves and with the dodge/burn tool to control contrast and exposure; how to use the saturation and color balance commands to control color; how to effectively sharpen an image; and finally how to work with layers so every change you make can be reversed at a later time if need be
  • Generally, be subtle with your changes and only aim them at optimizing your image so as to extract all of its potential from that digital file and turn a good image into a great one.

That’s it! I hope the above may be of help or inspiration to some of you to push the envelope a little bit and try to apply all or some of the above tips to your own food photography and see what comes out of it. And especially, have fun in the process and experiment!

If you are interested in seeing more of my food images, feel free to check out my photography Web site.

Bighorn Sheep Portrait

Bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis)

I have uploaded a new gallery to my Web site with a selection of my bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) images taken in Canada’s Jasper National Park: feel free to go take a look if you feel like it.

The image above is a sample from that gallery: a few hours “invested” following a herd of bighorn sheep during their grazing rewarded me with a few photographs that I am happy with. This one is a head shot of a beautiful individual who let me approach at a safe but relatively close distance. I am fond of this image because I think it shows the character of these animals, highlighting their most distinctive feature: those majestic, weathered, curled horns in a graphic way, while the soft, diffused light of an overcast day limits contrast and allows viewers to see every detail of the subject’s face.

The gallery contains a collection of different images, some of which will be the subjects of future posts because they are interesting behavioral shots of these animals.

if you have the opportunity to check them out, let me know what your favorite ones are!

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)