Tag Archives: wildlife

Happy Valentine’s Day! Snow Monkey Love :-)

Japan, Nagano: Snow monkey (Macaca fuscata) nursing her baby

Japan, Nagano: Snow monkey (Macaca fuscata) nursing her baby

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you who celebrate it! ūüėČ

This year, my Valentine to my readers is an intimate, misty portrait of a snow monkey (Macaca fuscata) nursing her baby that I took on Japan’s big island, at Jigokudani Yaenkoen National Park. Should you be interested in knowing more about these animals and the place they live in, you can check out my previous snow monkey post that contains information in that regard.

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 :-)

Yawny Monday – Steller Sea Lion

Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus)

Hey there y’all! ūüôā

Hope everyone is doing fine, easing into Fall.

I am still under the gun at work, but hopeful that things will go back to quasi-normal sooner rather than later. Bear with me a little longer, if you will…

To start off your week with a… big yawn, here is an image of a¬†Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) that I took while visiting the beautiful Kodiak Archipelago in Alaska.

Steller sea lions are the largest otariids and the fourth largest pinniped. They are sexually dimorphic, with adult males weighing three times as much, and growing 20‚Äď25% longer than, adult females.¬†Steller sea lions feed on fish and invertebrates.

From a conservation standpoint, Steller sea lions experienced a dramatic and unexplained population decline of about 70% between the late 1970s and the 1990s, with the steepest decline occurring between 1985 and 1989, when the population was reduced by 15% per year. The population reached its low point in approximately year 2000 and has shown an overall annual increase of 1.5‚Äď2% since then, which has been enough to make¬†the species move from Endangered to Near Threatened¬†status in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Nature history and conservation information source for Steller sea lions: the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

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 :-)

Black Bear Cub, Cinnamon Phase – and Happy Labor Day!

Black bear (Ursus americanus) cub, cinnamon phase, on a tree

Hey there, everyone – long time no hear, I know…

Apologies to all for the long dry spell, which has been due to work being absolutely crazy intense over the past couple of months. Just so you know, activity is going to be fairly slow for a while longer here as I am not out of the woods yet. Apologies also for not being able to participate in your wonderful blogs: I just can’t keep up right now.¬†Bear with me, if you will.

I thought I would just quickly say hi as well as a very late Happy Labor Day to all in the U.S.

The image above is of a Black bear cub (Ursus americanus) in its cinnamon phase (which gives its fur a light brown color) perched up high on a tree.

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 Fourth! Bald Eagle

Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Just a quick note to wish all our U.S. followers, readers and friends Happy Fourth of July!

The image above was taken in Alaska’s Katmai National Park and is (of course) of a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus): nothing more appropriate to celebrate Independence Day, I think! ūüôā

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 :-)

Godzilla Is Real!… Happy Father’s + Nature Photography Day!

American alligator close-up

American alligator close-up

Happy Father’s Day to all Dads out there and Happy Nature Photography Day to all!

If you are interested, you can learn more about Nature Photography Day on NANPA’s Website. Go out and take some nature shots today, if you have the opportunity!

Today’s shot is a close up of an American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) which was taken in Florida’s Everglades National Park: now, is it only me or it just looks like Godzilla? ūüėČ

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 :-)

Walking on Thin Ice… One More Polar Bear

Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) crawling on thin ice

Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) crawling on thin ice

It has been quite a while since I published an image, so I thought I would put up a funny one, one that I really like about Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) because it shows the (deceivingly) goofy side of these white, fluffy and yet deadly giants.

Beside being funny, the image actually shows an interesting behavior: when they are approaching thin ice, polar bears assume this position and start crawling on the ice so that their considerable weight more evenly spreads out a wider surface, thus reducing the risk of breaking through the ice and going for a cold swim.

For more information about this image, please click on 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 :-)

The Easter Bunny Is Real!

Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) in summer coat

Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) in summer coat

As you can tell from the image above, traveling to Canada’s arctic territory of Nunavut allowed me to undeniably prove that the Easter bunny does exist! ūüėČ

Happy Easter, y’all!

For more information about this image, please click on it. If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to brow. se 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 :-)

Polar Bears

I am reblogging this post that was published today on The World According to Dina, a magnificent blog about the northern part of the world, photography, literature and symbolism.

The post is the result of a recent collaboration project on Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) between one of the authors of that blog, Dr Klausbernd Vollmar, a German-raised, English-resident psychologist, symbologist and author, and myself. When Klausbernd asked me if I wanted to be a part of this project, I was very excited and honored and of course I enthusiastically jumped on board!

More specifically, the post/article contains a part with general natural history information about polar bears (this is the portion that I researched and contributed) and a part dealing with the symbolism of the polar bear (which Klausbernd authored), plus a selection of my polar bear photographs.

I am very pleased of this collaboration and I think the end result shows the hard work that both of us put into it – but of course I will let you, dear readers, be the judge of it if you feel like visiting The World According to Dina (which I think you should, regardless of this specific post) and reading the article! Needless to say, your feedback would be most welcome! ūüôā

Thanks,
Stefano

The World according to Dina

URSUS MARITIMUS
Der Eisbär

General Information
Polar bears are the largest land carnivores in the world and the most carnivorous of the bear species: they primarily feed on seals and, to a lesser extent, walrus and beluga whale. In search of their prey, they may often be found in areas of shifting, cracking ice where seals may surface to breathe air. Adult males (which are larger than females) measure up to 2,5 m in length and can weigh up to 720 kg!
Since they spend much of their time on Arctic sea ice, they have evolved to adapt to such extreme conditions: their white fur provides camouflage in their environment and is thicker than any other bears’, even covering their feet for both warmth and traction on ice; their skin is black to absorb heat from sun rays; and a thick layer of fat provides buoyancy and insulation. Polar bears…

View original post 2,425 more words

Valentine’s Day First Date?

CANADA, Churchill (Hudson Bay) Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) interacting

Because that’s what this image reminds me of when I see it! A clumsy kiss, some indecision mixed up with curiosity, you know… ūüėČ Anyway, Happy Valentine’s Day, wherever you are and whichever way you plan to celebrate it! ūüôā

I took this photograph of Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) interacting in Canada’s Manitoba province, where every year many polar bears congregate in late Fall, waiting for the temperatures to drop so that the waters of the Hudson Bay freeze and the bears can venture out on the ice in search of their favorite food item – seals. More about this on a future post.

For more information about this image, please click on it. If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to brow. se 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 :-)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Photographers & Brown Bear

Photographers and coastal brown bear (Ursus arctos)

I shot this image of a group of photographers that traveled on a ship from which they had been taken ashore by an inflatable boat in Katmai National Park (AK). After a while, a brown bear nonchalantly walked by them in search of salmon.

Since I was shooting into the sun, I opted for a silhouette, which simplifies the composition and gives the image more of a graphic feel. Shooting from a¬†low angle of view makes viewers relate to the bear’s perspective. Finally, the compression effect that is typical of a telephoto lens, such as the one I used for this shot, emphasizes the feeling of closeness between the bear and the¬†photographers.

What do you say: too close or just fine?

For more information about this image, please click on 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 :-)

Herculean Polar Bears

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) confronting one another in a snow storm

With winter storm Hercules being the first big storm to hit New England in 2014, two mere days into the New Year, it only seems appropriate that I share another image from my Polar Bear Gallery, portraying two Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) play-fighting in a snow storm near Hudson Bay, in Canada’s Manitoba province: if you live in an affected area, stay warm! ūüôā

For more information about this image, please click on 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 Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

Just a quick note to wish you all Happy Holidays and a wonderful, peaceful and rewarding New Year! ūüôā

For more information about this image, please click on 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 :-)

E=mc2 – Snow Monkey Portrait

Snow monkey (Macaca fuscata)

This is one more image from my trip to Japan, a portrait of a snow monkey (Macaca fuscata) that I took on Japan’s big island, at¬†Jigokudani Yaenkoen National Park. Should you be interested in knowing more about these animals and the place they live in, you can check out my previous snow monkey post that contains information in that regard.

As to the title of this post, I don’t know if it is just me, but whenever I look at this portrait, it vividly reminds me of Albert Einstein! ūüėČ

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 :-)

Hunting High and Low: American Bison

Grand Teton National Park (WY): Bison (Bison bison) at Antelope Falls

A while ago I posted a close-up shot of an American bison (Bison bison), while today’s image is a full-body portrait of the king of North American land mammals (by size, at least).

The reason I post this image is essentially to say that a new gallery is up on my Website with a selection of my bison shots, so feel free to check it out if you like this animal.

A few facts about the American bison (Bison bison). For starters, it is not called buffalo, it is called bison. As mentioned, weighing about 900 to 2,200 lb/400 to 1,000 kg, bison is the largest land mammal in North America. These large grazers have poor eyesight, but excellent senses of hearing and smell, which help them defend themselves from predators. Their sharp, curved horns can grow up to 2 ft/60 cm long.

It is estimated that centuries ago between 20 and 30 million bison freely roamed throughout North America, from Alaska all the way down to Mexico. Then, unregulated hunting in the XIX century (aimed also at depriving Native Americans of their primary food source) almost entirely wiped out the species, to the point that just a little over 1,000 bison were left in 1889. Today things have somewhat improved, and we can count about 500,000 bison in North America.

Unfortunately, however, the most part of that number are not pure bison, but animals that have been cross-bred with cattle and are raised as livestock (about¬†97% of the continental population is managed for private captive commercial propagation). Only about 30,000 “real” bison are in conservation herds and about 11,000 are in wild free-ranging and semi-free-ranging populations.¬†Yellowstone National Park has the largest population of free-roaming plains bison (about 4,000).

As a result, the American bison is classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in light of its dependence on an ongoing conservation program, a very limited number of viable populations (five), and the small size of the populations.

Sources: Defenders of Wildlife; National Geographic; BBC Nature; 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 :-)

Black Bear, Cinnamon Phase

Black bear (Ursus americanus), cinnamon phase

On previous posts, I have shown images of a black bear cub (Ursus americanus) climbing a tree and a Spirit, or Kermode, bear (Ursus americanus kermodei), which is a rare subspecies of black bears who are born white because of a recessive gene present in the blood of both parents, but are not albino because their nose and eyes are black.

The image on this post shows a cinnamon black bear (Ursus americanus cinnamomum): sometimes these black bears are mistaken for brown or grizzly bears because of the color of their coat. Although there is no clarity as to what makes the fur of certain black bears take on this cinnamon brown color, evidence suggests that black bear coat colors vary as a mechanism of camouflage or because of climate and habitat.

So, while in the forested states east of the Great Plains, almost all black bears are black-furred, in western states that have mountain meadows and open forests, more than half of the black bears are brown or cinnamon. This is because lighter colored fur reduces heat stress in open sunlight and also helps bears camouflage from predators in open areas.

Sources: North American Bear Center; The American Bear Association; Ursus International

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 :-)

Coastal Brown Bear Determination

USA, Katmai National Park (AK): Brown bear (Ursus arctos) running in the water

This is an image I took of a Coastal brown bear (Ursus arctos) in Katmai National Park, Alaska, sprinting in shallow water in pursuit of its favorite prey during the annual salmon run.

For more information about the salmon run in Alaska and how bears behave at that time of the year, please refer to my previous post about it.

Regarding the image itself, I think that the bear’s determined stare, the position of its front paw and claws, just about to hit the water, and the thousands of water droplets surrounding the running bear are the elements that make this photograph and, in my view, tell the story of a beautiful, powerful and elegant creature in its environment during a defining moment in its lifecycle.

The world population of brown bears is estimated at about 200,000 individuals, half of which are in Russia alone, with the US and Canada (with respectively 33,000 and 25,000 brown bears) coming in second and third place. Encroaching and hunting are two of the major threats to bear populations outside of protected areas.

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 :-)

Endangered Elegance: Japanese Crane

Red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis)

One more image from my photo trip to Hokkaido, Japan: this one is of an adult Japanese crane, also known as Red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis).

Japanese cranes are huge birds that are about 5 ft/1.5 mt tall and are the only crane species with white primary feathers. In adult individuals, the majority of the body is white, with black plumage on the neck and face and black secondary/tertiary feathers: their distincitve mark is a red patch on top of the head.

Japanese cranes are well adapted to cold temperatures and mostly feed on fish and grains. During the courtship and mating period, their display is¬†amazing and at times a little goofy ūüôā¬†with much posturing, wing-flapping, unison calling and… dancing, which includes jumping in the air and tossing sticks or grass around. I will publish images of this interesting behavior on a future post.

Japanese cranes are very elegant, beautiful birds, as you can see. Unfortunately, however, their elegance brought them trouble, as at the beginning of the XX century they were hunted to the brink of extinction in Japan so that their plumage could be utilized to adorn hats and other fashion accessories.

Nowadays, only a very small population of Japanese cranes, that is estimated at 2,750 birds, survives in Japan (where the local population is non-migratory and now protected) and in mainland Asia (mostly Russia, China, Mongolia and Korea). Although the population in Japan is stable, the mainland Asian population continues to decline due to loss and degradation of habitat.

As a result, the Japanese crane is classified as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Sources: BirdLife International; International Crane Foundation; BBC Nature; 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 :-)

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 :-)

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 :-)

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 ‚Äúfingers‚ÄĚ when they‚Äôre 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 :-)

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! ūüėČ

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 ūüėČ 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.