Friday, March 7, 2014

Snowy Owls!

This week I saw and photographed my first wild Snowy Owls! It's an irruption year for Snowy Owls who are visiting us in good numbers. I have been watching the reports in my area, but with my focus being on landscape photography rather than wildlife, I wasn't prepared.

I traded my long lens and crop frame camera for a full frame camera with wider lenses about a year ago. I realized I could rent a lens if the time came. With winter's days numbered, the time had arrived. The 2005 Great Gray Owl irruption was before my time and I always wished I was there to be a part of it. Well I didn't want to let this one pass by.

I'm shooting with a Canon 6D and I rented a Canon 400mm f/5.6 L lens. The 6D is a bit slow for wildlife photography at 4.5 fps. The full frame camera isn't exactly ideal depending on whether you need some extra reach. But it ended up working out just fine!

We arrived at the Sax Zim Bog at around 8:00am and found our first owl in less than 10 minutes. It was a Great Gray but is was off in the distance hunting. We found our first Snowy Owl about 5 minutes after that. Sitting on the roof of a house along a busy road. We decided to check another spot and we found this beautiful bird hunting a wide open field with fresh snow.

I just can't get over the beauty of these birds. It was amazing seeing this arctic beauty right here in Minnesota. If you live in the northern part of the United States I suggest looking for reports in your area. It could be there are Snowy Owls right in your neighborhood.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Follow me on Google Plus!

Over the past few months I've taken a concerted effort to use Google+ to share my photos and other thoughts. There is a much broader audience on Google+ with more discoverability and in turn a larger following.

This has led to reconsider how I use the blog. I could post in both locations. However, I think I decided that using Google+ to post most things is best. For longer form reviews, tests or any subject I want to go into depth, I will post here on the blog. So for now, if you want to follow my work, please circle me on Google+ !!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Back to Banff!

I have been reliving my experience in Banff National Park for years. I didn't think I would be going back so soon, but guess what. It's happening! Actually it's happening in just about a week. Banff is a special place for me for several reasons. It was where my wife and I went on our honeymoon 4 years ago. We stayed in the town of Banff and at the Chateau at Lake Louise. It was an incredible experience.

It was also the first time I had seen the rocky mountains. Seeing those mountains was a life changing experience. I live on the flat plains of Minnesota. We have a beautiful landscape in our own right, the land of 10,000 lakes. Northern Minnesota has similar beautiful conifer forests that surround beautiful lakes. But we don't have the MOUNTAINS. It was a beauty like I've never seen before. That mixed with water that is impossibly blue, it's a beauty I will never forget.

It will only be a short trip, four days and three nights, but we plan to make the most of it. A friend of mine will be joining me on the trip and it should be an incredible experience for him as well. Like me, four years ago, this will be his first trip to the rocky mountains. Also, he is new to photography. What a unbelievably photogenic place to learn. Although this location will be tough to beat, it might be all downhill for him after this!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Yosemite Star Trail

I only had one night to photograph the night stars in Yosemite. It was basically my first time photographing at night period and I had my fair share of problems. This star trail was made from a series of photographs while I was trying to make a time lapse. Unfortunately my camera randomly stopped shooting while I was snoozing in the car. Since the time lapse stopped early, it only made for a very short video. But I was able to stack the photos in Photoshop to make this cool star trail.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lesson Learned: Time Lapse Part 2

Nikon D600, Nikkor 16-35 f/4 @ 2 sec intervals

While on my recent trip I had a tendency to shoot a little of everything. I would bracket some exposures for HDR, maybe do a panorama, even do a HDR panorama. I experimented with focus stacking, oh and long exposures. I got a pretty neat Hoya 9 stop ND filter. Oh and if the scene warranted those techniques, then why not a time lapse as well?

To be fair, I'm new to at least a couple of these techniques but I was excited to try them out. If you want to do it right, special thought probably needs to go to each of these. Time lapses are no different. Here's a list of things that I MUST remember for each time lapse, because a lapse in memory will kill the shot.
  1. Have plenty of memory on the card for the amount of photos your going to take. In many cases I take 300 photos which gives me 10 seconds of video at 30 fps
  2. Do the math. Calculate the time you'll need to be standing there. For example if you want 300 shots and plan to use a 2 second interval. 300 shots x 2 seconds = 600 seconds. 600 seconds / 60 seconds per minute = 10 minutes. This is especially important if your doing any type of long exposure. Say your doing night photography and you need 30 second exposures. Then you take 30 second exposure + 2 second intervals = 32 seconds. 300 shots x 32 seconds = 9600 seconds. 9600 seconds / 60 seconds per minute = 160 minutes. So in this case... bring a chair.
  3. Put the camera in manual focus mode. You can auto focus to make sure it's set properly, but then switch it to manual. The last thing you want is the camera to be trying to find focus between each shot. Slight variations in focus will cause a zooming effect. This effect will made the video choppy and hard to watch.
  4. Turn off VR, IS, VC, OS or whatever your lens manufacturer calls it. Just like the auto focus causing movement, so can the stabilization. So turn it off.
  5. Take several practice photos to make sure your settings are right. Look at the photo and histogram.
  6. Start the time lapse as a test to make sure everything is working properly. I had a situation where I set the camera to 300 images, only to realize it was counting down by 5. So it went 300, 295, 290, 285, etc. If I would have realized this sooner I could have saved some time and hassle.
I hope this blog post was helpful. Please contact me anytime with any questions. And when you create some beautiful time lapses videos, be sure to get a hold of me so I see your amazing work!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Lesson Learned: Time Lapse Part 1

Time Lapses have become very popular over the last couple of years. Today there is easy to use software, built in time lapse or interval timers and plenty of online tutorials. All of this has made making time lapses more accessible to the hobby photographer. As soon as I realized this was something that I could do with my current equipment, I was ready to go.

Well almost, there was a bit of a learning curve and I had to do my research. I did some tests and some more research. This isn't a time lapse tutorial, I don't think I'm quite ready to be writing one of those yet. When I become more proficient, then maybe I will write one. In the meantime, I thought I would share a couple of lessons I've learned along the way.
  1. Buy a battery grip or at least extra batteries. On my recent trip to Yosemite NP, I brought my brother's (Derek) D7000 camera as a second body. He had a battery grip and 2 batteries which, as it turns out, are the same batteries as my D600. The two extra batteries were very important.
  2. Buy an external intervalometer. My D600 has an interval timer built in but I found it to be unreliable. This issue is maybe a blog post of it's own, so I won't go into detail. But I found at times it wouldn't take the right amount of photos. For example, I set it to take 300 photos, but it counted down by 5. It went, 300, 295, 290, 285 etc.. On a couple of occasions it just stopped completely despite having plenty of battery and memory space. I've heard plenty of good things about the generic intervalometers and I'll probably go with the Satechi MTR-M. But I haven't tested it yet, so don't quote me on that.
  3. Buy extra memory cards. I had a 32g, two 16g and two 4g cards with me. I also had a 32g in my GoPro which I could pull if necessary. Derek's camera had another 16g card which I ended up using as well. This was a pretty short trip, so if I plan a longer trip next time, I will need more cards. I could have formatted, transferred to my Macbook and kept going, but I prefer not to format anything until I get home if I can help it. 32g & 64g SanDisk  are cheap next time I'll bring some extras. I found that on a 32g card I could get about 1000 photo's with my D600 in RAW mode. I tend to go for 300 image time lapses which gives me 10 seconds of video at 30fps. So you can see how just a few time lapses will fill a card.
I know this turned out to be a list of things to buy. But the good news is none of them are that expensive, especially compared to what we are used to when comes to photography gear. If you do decide to buy these products please purchase them through amazon via our links in the page or the search feature to the right. It help support Natural Vision Photography. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Back from California

Nikon D600, Nikkor 70-700 VR, 6 shot vertical panorama

It was my first trip to California and I have to say I was blown away by it's beauty. The diversity of beauty is what really has me jealous though. My wife and I did a kind of a mad dash across California. It was great to see the great diversity in landscape, but I really want to take a more focused approach next time.

We started in Yosemite and saw the great valley cliffs and mountains which included vast wilderness. Then we went to Monterrey and saw the coast as we drove through Big Sur down the Pacific Coast Highway 1. I have to say I was very surprised by the epic drive on Highway 1. I knew it would be a nice drive, but it was down right insane. We had clouds rolling in off the ocean which then made a steep climb up the mountain and over the road. We saw this rising of the clouds for most of the drive and it was awesome. I have to say that Yosemite was beautiful, but I knew it would be. I was surprised by Big Sur though, it's beauty was unexpected.

The next leg of the tour was to Los Angles which was not photography related but still an area in which a photographer could enjoy a wealth of subjects.

In coming posts I'll share some photos as well as time lapses that I took. I'm new to time lapses and will share what I learned. I also did a bit of work at night for the first time. I ran into some unexpected problems there as well and will share my experiences. So stayed tuned!

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