2014 Challenge, Week 8: Nature & Wildlife Photography – Birds in Flight

A couple of weeks ago Jeremy got us all up to speed with panning. Well panning is an interesting skill to master when it comes to wildlife photography, in this case, BIRDS IN FLIGHT.

Basic panning skills allow you to follow your subject. Although you can use Panning’s slower shutter speeds to create interesting and artistic effects, many wildlife photographers prefer to freeze their subjects with higher shutter speeds.

Flock of Common Starlings in flight

Flock of Common Starlings in flight – Slow Shutter Speed

In the example above I choose to shoot a flock of Starlings flying from fruit tree to fruit tree with a slower shutter speed. This gave my image many of the photographic attributes we commonly see with panning. The subject itself is in motion, the movement of the wings is well illustrated.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

In the case of this Black-crowned Night Heron, a higher shutter speed was used to completely freeze the flying motion of the bird’s wings. It’s important to follow the bird as you would any panning subject and to shoot at a minimum speed of 1/1000 of a second to completely freeze your subject.

Common Tern in flight

Common Tern in flight

Herons can be fairly slow flying birds, but this Common Tern is like a jet fighter and the Challenge gets a little harder. Fast flying birds demand a greater deal of practice panning and a fast response from the camera in addition to higher shutter speeds.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant in flight

It’s important to make sure your focus is on the bird’s head. On large birds like this Cormorant it’s easy to accidentally focus on the tip of the wing. This can leave the head (Eyes & Beak) out of focus. The bright sky can also trick your exposure meter to under-expose your subject. You may want to over expose by one stop when shooting birds against a bright sky.

Swans - Lake Neuchatel, Switzerland

Mute Swans – Lake Neuchatel, Switzerland

The closer you find yourself to a bird in flight, the harder it will be to capture the moment. You may want to integrate birds in flight to a landscape type scenery. Having a greater distance between you and the moving subject will give you more time to compose and shoot your image.

Common Tern Chasing Black-crowned Night Heron

Common Tern Chasing Black-crowned Night Heron

Birds can get pretty territorial and don’t tolerate predators that can present a menace. In this case a small Common Tern is chasing away a much larger Black-crowned Night Heron

To fully take advantage of the sunlight, early mornings and late afternoons will provide a lower angle and softer light to work with.

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge.org. or #photochallenge2014.
  • The shot should be a new shot taken for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2014 Photo Challenge is fun and easy.

2014 Challenge, Week 7: STILL LIFE – CAMERA

Wow, the PhotoChallenge.org community seems to have exploded with new members this year. Awesome! We love seeing all the amazing and creative photos the community comes up with every week. Since there’s been an influx of new people, I thought I’d start of with a quick rundown of the rules.

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one shot each week for theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge.org. or #photochallenge2014.
  • The shot should be a new shot taken for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog.
  • Have fun.

That’s it. If you miss a week, no worries. The challenge isn’t a competition, it’s for you to learn and grow as photographer, and hopefully make some new friends along the way. It’s acceptable to post “make up” shots, but try not to make that a habit. We want the photos posted each week to remain in the theme, but know that people have lives, families, get sick, etc.

Now onto this week’s theme: Still Life – Camera. We love cameras, maybe we’re even obsessed with them. The sound of a shutter opening and closing is majestic, and nothing compares to the feeling of your favorite camera in your hand as you press the shutter button. This week you get to train your camera on a camera.

“voigtlander vitessa l773-74″ by mondays child

Old cameras make great subjects, but you can use any camera you have available. With a still life the composition, lighting, and background are as important as the subject. The shot above uses a simple gray background with a slight texture that compliments the texture of the camera body.

By contrast, the image below uses other cameras in the background to set the stage. Controlling the depth of field provides separation between the subject and the background. The lighting and surface compliment the color of the camera tying the shot together.

“Olympus PEN-EE S (meio quadro)” by Silvio Tanaka

Reflections and lighting are used in the shot below to accent the main subjects. Using these two cameras together in the shot is a great choice of subjects that adds a compelling story.

“Why Not Both?” by Mosi Lager

Here the texture of the table, grain in the photo, and the use of black and white set the mood of this shot and give it a vintage feel. I also really like the contrast and tones.

“.through her eyeS” by Sippanont Samchai

You don’t have to just use a camera, you can add in other related elements, like the empty film spools in the this shot. I picked this shot because of the background. It looks like a sheet, which is something anyone can get ahold of and use for still life photography.

“Zeiss Ikon Box-Tengor” by Ralf

And finally, just a cool shot of a cool camera. My wife had a K-1000 way back when we were dating. It’s a great 35mm camera.

“Things I Like: Pentax K1000″ by Dave Lawrence

We all want to see your best shot! So, share your single submission with us all on at least one of our social media groups at Google+Facebook, or Flickr.

Also, here are the links I shared last week with some tips:

2014 Challenge, Week 6: PANNING

Welcome to week 6 of the 2014 challenge! This week we will focus on a technique that can be used to convey a sense of motion in a still photo: panning.

“Terry Perkins – 1957 Nota Consul” by Richard Taylor

Panning allows you to capture a crisp image of something that is moving, while at the same time showing a blurred background, which gives the viewer an impression of movement. Of course, you can freeze a moving object by using a fast shutter speed, but a fast shutter will also freeze the background, and that is not always the desired effect.

“Bicycle downhill series” by Nikos Koutoulas

To get this effect, the camera needs to be moving along with the subject when the shutter is released, and the camera should continue to follow the subject as long as the shutter is open. This can be tricky at first, but with practice you will find that it becomes easier and you will be able to use slower shutter speeds, giving the sense of faster movement in the image.

“Untitled” by Tony Eccles

To practice this technique, find a place where traffic, such as cars or bicycles, will pass in front of you. Pick a vehicle and follow it through the viewfinder as it passes. Practice keeping the vehicle in the same place in the viewfinder, moving the camera smoothly to follow the vehicle as it passes. While the camera is moving, release the shutter and keep moving smoothly. If done correctly, you will have a sharply focused vehicle and a blurred background. Once you get the hang of it, you can try slower shutter speeds to get more movement in the image.

“FULL OF ENERGY” by Vinoth Chandar

You can try this with any moving subject, and in any direction. The key is to continue following the subject as the shutter opens and closes. Try lots of different subjects, and see which you enjoy shooting the most!

As always, please share your one final photograph with us on at least one of our social media groups, found at Google+Facebook, or Flickr.

2014 Challenge, Week 5: LANDSCAPE – SKY

And now we’re back to my focus, landscapes. For our first landscape, we focused on finding a distinctive tree to include in your landscape. Hopefully that forced you to think a little harder than you might have, in composing your image. Many of our themes are designed to do just that, help push you a little harder at making the best photograph you can. With each of the four of us emphasizing something different, by the end of this year, I truly hope that you’ll look back at your work, and see some maturity in the results.

“Shell Beach Sunset”, by Trevor Carpenter

Wonderful landscapes do not all have exactly the same elements. Yet, they do often share many characteristics. While a landscape photograph doesn’t need to be entirely nature, most often it has captured nature wonderfully.

“Mongolia Landscape”, by tiarescott

For this week’s landscape focus, I want you to consider the sky. The sky can and should be a serious consideration for a landscape photo. That doesn’t mean that the sky is or should be one of the larger elements. You might choose to omit most of the sky, and fill the frame with a vast countryside. But the slice of sky at the top, makes all the difference. Or maybe the giant, negative-space-inducing blue sky is 90% of your image, with a simple mountain line along the bottom of the frame?

“Any landscape is a condition of the spirit.”, by Rachel Sarai

No matter how you include the sky, it is usually distinctive.

“HDR Landscape in Sweden”, by Daniel Carlbom

I want you to make the sky the majority of your image, for this week’s photograph. Please fill more than 50% of the frame with it. Obviously what’s in the sky isn’t dictated by us, the photographer, but how you frame it with your landscape beyond can make all the difference. Maybe the weather in your area will give you something dynamic to work with? Or maybe the typically vast and blue sky is all you have to work with, like me? If you really cannot get it the way you want, maybe the night time sky will give you something else. Just don’t forget a tripod for that!

“The Night of the Fireballs”, by Luis Argerich

As always, please share your one final photograph with us on at least one of our social media groups, found at Google+, Facebook, or Flickr.

2014 Challenge, Week 4: Nature & Wildlife Photography – Backlit Leaves

Week 4 of the 2014 Photo Challenge. Up to now we have Trevor focusing on landscape photography, Jeremy technical aspects and Gary on Still Life photography. I’ll be focusing on my expertise, NATURE & WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY.

Nature photography is a little different from other types of photography as it focuses less on the artistic merits of the image. Nature photography tends to be more documentary and editorial as we try to bring forward the nature value of every subject we photograph.

Considering that half of the USA and Canada is stuck in a Winter Vortex I decided to start with a subject that can be photographed indoors. Leaves, more precisely backlit leaves. We don’t usually consider house plants, NATURE, but to accommodate the weather we’ll accept any leaves from any plant or tree.

Backlit Leaf

In photography we’re usually inclined to photograph our subjects lit from the front. The translucency of leave’s opens up a whole new dimension of details when they are lit from behind. (TIP: When photographing a scene like the one above make sure the Sun doesn’t hit your lens directly. This will help you avoid flares.)

Backlit leaf

In a close-up the details of backlit leaves are even more magical. Due to the leaves intricate structure, we’re mixing a little bit of texture work in with our backlit photography. No special lighting equipment necessary. You can use the Sun’s natural light, a lamp or even a flash. You can place a white translucent fabric between your light source and your subject to diffuse and soften harsher light.

If you’re looking for subjects out in nature, many Oak trees keep their golden dried leaves on the branch through winter.  Dead dried leaves have a special appearance of their own. Take time to find just the right subject for this challenge. Nature Photography is a great way to spend time outdoors, alone or with the family.

Backlit Oak Leaf

To fully take advantage of the sunlight, early mornings and late afternoons will provide a lower angle and softer light to work with.

Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2014 Photo Challenge is fun and easy. Post and share your images with the Photo Challenge Community on  Google+, Facebook,or Flickr.

2014 Challenge, Week 3: STILL LIFE – FRUIT

Photo Challenge 2014 has gotten off to a great start! This year is a little different than last year, and will be more challenging. Trevor will be focusing on landscape photography, Jeremy will be focusing on technical aspects, and I’ll be focusing on Still Life photography.

Still Life is one of the oldest photography genres. In the early days of photography, with long shutter speeds and cumbersome flash techniques, photographers needed subjects to be still for long periods of time, so like painters, photographers turned to inanimate objects. Still life photography focuses on a grouping of objects and gives the photographer complete control of the arrangement of objects, lighting, and composition. Many other genres strive to capture a scene as it is – with still life the photographer creates the scene.

Each of my posts this year will challenge you to create a still life in a specific theme or with a specific object. This week we’ll start with what is probably the most common still life: Fruit.  You can also include your object for the year that Trevor mentioned a few weeks ago, if you have one.

“Still Life” by Judy van der Velden

Many of the still life challenges will incorporate the technical focus from Jeremey’s themes, and lighting is one of the keys to still life photography. For this week’s challenge, take what learned last week and apply it while shooting a still life. If you want to read  more about lighting still lifes, check out these articles:

“Still Life in yellow” by Leonardo D’Amico

One aspect of still life is that the photographer has complete control over the background. As you compose your shot, think about the setting and background. Move your subject around and try different backdrops. The key is to make sure the subject is the focus, and background draws your eye to the main subject.

“Still Life” by Amanda Richards

“Still Life” by Herman Layos

Often, simple is better for still life photography. A single subject, simple lighting, and a simple background make a great shot.

“101:366 Berry” by Meghan Hess

While the subject may not be exciting to everyone, still life photography forces the photographer to pay attention to the essential technical aspects of photography, like composition and lighting. Shooting still lifes will improve all aspects of your photography. We’ll get more into the technical aspects as the year progresses, for this week grab some fruit and make a shot, paying close attention to the lighting.

We all want to see your best shot! So, share your single submission with us all on at least one of our social media groups at Google+Facebook, or Flickr.

2014 Challenge, Week 2: LIGHTING

Welcome to week 2 of the 2014 challenge! As Trevor noted last week, each of the posts he writes will have something to do with landscape photography. This extra focus on a specific genre will help us focus on a single theme, and improve in that area. Along those lines, you can expect each of my posts for the challenge this year to focus on a technical aspect of photography. For this post, lets focus on LIGHTING.

There are a few ways you could approach this theme. One way would be to look for a scene with interesting natural light. Perhaps ambient light is focused on part of the scene, or sunlight is highlighting something in the frame.

“Argentina Light” by Doug Wheller

Another approach would be to use backlighting. You can accomplish this by using artificial or natural lighting. If you are shooting on a sunny day, you can use the sun as a backlight.

“Blossom In The Sun” by Jeremy Brooks

“Beneath the leaf” by Coby Bidwell

If you have access to a flash for your camera, or access to some lighting equipment, things can really start to get interesting. Using artificial light sources allows you to control exactly where the light falls in the scene. This can really help emphasize the subject and convey the feeling you are going for.

“April 14th 2008 – Daddy Rocks” by Stephen Poff

“Photo Booth – Part III” by Matthias Weinberger

This is also a great chance to work on portraits. Grab a flash and a couple of friends, and spend some time experimenting with different lighting scenarios.

“Ringflash Bride” by Stuart Crawford

“A Portrait In Darkness” by Sean McGrath

If you would like to learn more about how to light a scene, The Strobist website is a great resource. It is probably worth spending some time on that site before diving into this weeks challenge.

We all want to see your best shot! So, share your single submission with us all on at least one of our social media groups at Google+Facebook, or Flickr.