It’s a frosty -7°C/19°F out with “breeze” coming over my shoulder, stirring the powder snow into ghost waves that race across the empty, snow-blanketed field in front of me. The sky, turning shades of gray lighter as the sun rises, is laden with lead-colored clouds, a sure sign of more snow throughout the day. Perfect conditions. So, I wait.
An hour or so ticks by, marked by additional photographers showing up to claim spots along the edge of the field. While no Yellowstone by any means, this is a common enough spot for other photographers, mostly locals, to gather on promising mornings. We all huddle down inside our parkas, cameras at the ready, waiting.
Finally, a loud, rattling “kar-r-r o-o-o” sound reaches us…
Bear spray on my belt, a 600mm prime lens coupled to a full-frame body mounted to a gimbal head on a carbon fiber tripod, a 100- 400mm lens on a second body attached to a cross-body strap, and a 1.4x teleconverter in my pocket; this is my typical setup as I set out before the sun rises in search of wildlife subjects. If today is a good day, I will hike more than 12 miles or 20 kilometers with this equipment to get a single opportunity for images. One animal, one subject, one choice; as wildlife photographers, we are lucky to have a single subject close enough for suitable images. Picking up the tripod, we move to the left or right in search of a suitable background while trying not the spook the subject that blessed us with his approach. During my two years in Siberia, this was my daily routine. Now that I live near northwest Wyoming in the shadow of the Tetons and Yellowstone, animals are a bit more abundant but not ubiquitous.
However, for the next four months, I am in Florida…
I was a wimp last night. Instead of sleeping in the back of my truck like I normally do, I opted for a hotel room. Soft bed. Plush pillows. Satellite TV. Wi-Fi. Oh, and heat. Let’s not forget that part. Now, I’m paying for that decision. Out here, towns are few and far between, and the closest hotel was more than an hour away in Idaho Falls.
Actually, it took an hour to get from my bed to the dirt road, then another 30 minutes of navigating what deteriorated into little more than a jeep trail through the dark.
Timing is everything with sage grouse, and I needed to be in my blind not at sunrise but an hour before first light. First light, that moment when the sky first begins to glow, is around 6 a.m. right now. This meant that I needed to be in the hide no later than 5 a.m. Given the distance, and the fact that I had to find my way back in here on unmarked dirt roads and then hike in to the blind, I rolled out of the hotel parking lot at three in the morning. Thank God for coffee…
Many photographers, even professionals, are reluctant to use flash in their nature photography. They often give three reasons — flash looks artificial, flash is complicated, flash harms our subjects.
None of these statements is unilaterally true, and together they belie a lack of understanding of flash as one of the photographer’s most important tools. First, when employed well, flash can create beautiful light. Second, using flash is not that hard. And third, although we should take special care using flash in certain situations, such as around nesting birds, animals and humans suffer no documented harmful physiological effect from flash. As part of my research for my recent e-book Flash for the Nature Photographer, I had the valuable opportunity to speak with many…
I didn’t see the ice. My foot slid out from under me and I pitched forward. Somehow, I maintained some balance, but the strain produced a stabbing pain in my thigh that almost dropped me to my knees. A ripped quad muscle. I knew that walking would be an ordeal now as I limped through 15 inches of ice-crusted snow, one step at a time, the injured leg barely holding my weight.
What could have been a potentially life-threatening situation, had I been miles out, somewhere in the woods or along an ice-covered stream, was nothing more than a painful inconvenience. I slipped on the steps outside my studio, just 40 yards or so from home, and although the walk was indeed painful, I got off easy.
This inconsequential little drama illustrates the potential danger winter photography poses. In writing this…
Since this past summer, 2020, I have been working on a multipart series about mastering your mirrorless autofocus (AF) system. Part one was all about how the mirrorless hybrid AF system works, and how it’s different from DSLR technology. In part two, I discussed the various AF Area Modes in mirrorless cameras.
Part three here is going to be different. This is the conceptual side of the discussion. And in the pages that follow, I will lay out several case studies.
The idea behind this article will be to use specific scenarios to hopefully help you understand my thinking behind how and why I set my AF system the way I did to capture the accompanying images.
Because this article is more conceptual in nature…
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