Frederick J. Bremner Charitable Trust paves the path to Professional Wildlife Photography at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

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Principals attending the launch meeting of the CKWRI Wildlife Photography Program include, (from left) Brian Loflin, CKWRI Wildlife Photography Program Founder and Instructor; Sandy Hurwitz, Bremner Trustee; Janell and Tio Kleburg, CKWRI Advisory Board members; Leslee Hurwitz and McKayla Donovan, Del Rio Veterinary Services; April Conkey, Assistant Professor, Department of Animal, Rangeland, and Wildlife Sciences; Clay Hilton, CKWRI Director of Veterinary Technology; David Hewitt, and Executive Director of Caesar Kleburg Wildlife Research Institute. Also attending the meeting were Scott Henke, Chair, Department of Animal, Rangeland, and Wildlife Sciences, and Shad Nelson – Dean, Dick and Mary Lewis Kleberg College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences.

Brackettville, Tex.- October 2, 2017

A new program for Wildlife/Biology majors at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK) has been implemented by a generous donation from the Frederick J. Bremner Charitable Trust. The program includes a thirty-hour course of study in biological and wildlife photography, classroom and laboratory equipment and professional digital cameras and accessories for student use when enrolled. When fully established, this academic program will be the only one of its kind within a university setting in the United States.

Bremner Trustee Sandy Hurwitz said, “The trust was charged in finding a home for this donation in the center of a robust educational environment that can make a difference in habitat understanding and outdoor utilization. We believe that TAMUK is the perfect home for this program and we want to make TAMUK the unquestioned world leader in Wildlife Photography and Eco Tourism. As an educator, mentor and outdoorsman, Fred Bremner would be exceptionally thrilled with this new program.”

Dr. Fred Bremner, professor emeritus of psychology at San Antonio’s Trinity University, died June 30, 2016 at 80 years of age. A specialist in the relationship between the brain and behavior, Bremner joined the Trinity faculty in 1965 as an associate professor. Promoted to full professor in 1974, he served twice as chair of the Department of Psychology before retiring in 1999.

Dr. Bremner had a great love for horses and the outdoors and enjoyed teaching his students to ride, hunt, train bird dogs, and fish. He established the Frederick J Bremner Charitable Trust to continue his life’s work in promoting these passions.

Housed within the Caesar Kleburg Wildlife Research Institute at TAMUK, the new Wildlife Photography Program will provide students in the Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate programs an additional avenue to enhance their professional career through biological and wildlife photography. The purpose of the grant is to address the need to educate current and future students at the university level to serve the fast-growing needs of the millions of people in Texas and globally who are traveling to enjoy and photograph wildlife and nature.

The students will learn to make our public parks, private ranches, urban greenbelts, wildlife preserves and other wild places accessible and productive for wildlife photographers while preserving and enhancing the environment of the open spaces that the increasing number of ecotourists and photographers are utilizing. Every one of us that goes out into the field to photograph birds and wildlife clearly understands the need for more and better venues to enjoy our passion. The ultimate goal is to promote the Conservation and enjoyment of our Natural Environment through photography and ecotourism.

TAMUK is one of the most active and respected research universities in the world in the discipline of Wildlife Science. As a tool for research in the natural sciences, Digital photography is a tool on the cutting edge in providing new methods and practices in measurement, analysis and integrity in publication. As a tool in ecology and the environment, digital photography is very effective in attracting more people to the outdoors to better understand and appreciate our wild places. Wildlife photography also stimulates eco-business and nature tourism on a large scale beyond the scope of biological science.

These programs in wildlife photography and ecotourism will produce TAMUK graduates that will fill thousands of entirely new, well-compensated, high-quality professional jobs in rural Texas, and rural America that are not exportable to China, India or downtown Dallas.

 

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Sandy Hurwitz, Trustee, or                      Brian K. Loflin,

Phone: 512-751-8128                                     512-743-7009

Email: ausvetdiag@aol.com                          bkloflin@austin.rr.com

 

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Multiple Flash Hummingbird Photography

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Capturing the inflight antics of hummingbirds, like this Black-chinned female,  poses a number of challenges. We have to think about getting them where we want them to be, to be in focus, to have a good exposure, and to be sharp with wing feathers rendered in fine detail.

With today’s digital cameras, automatic technology makes some of this possible. But to get truly refined in-flight images of these little jewels, requires a bit more than camera and high shutter speeds alone. So multiple off-camera, electronic flashes is the only way to go.

To get the flying hummer where we want it, requires placing a feeder with one feeding port in the shade. Shade is important because we need the high speed capability of the off-camera flashes to work for us to stop the motion and wing beat of the hummers. If the set is placed in the sun, most flashes don’t have the power at high speed to compete with the sun for proper exposure.

A diagram of my most frequent set-up is below:

Hummingbird Photo Set-up

Specifications include: 

CAMERA:

    Medium Telephoto Lens 70-200 mm

    Manual Shooting Mode

    Manual Focus – Focus on feeder tube-

    ISO 800–    (Adjust to achieve good shade exposure)

    Shutter speed 1/250 sec   (Or maximum flash sync speed for your camera)

    Aperture F11-   (Depending on adequate exposure in the shade)

FLASHES:

    Three:    2 on Bird –about 2 feet in front of bird

                    1 on Background (Optional) — about 3 feet from background

    Set at 45 degrees to bird

    Zoom at 35mm

    Flash Power- Manual 1/64 (Flash duration: 1/35,000 sec)

    Trigger: Wired, Radio or Ettl / iTTl

BACKGROUND:

    Out-of-focus photo of vegetation printed on matte paper about 30×40 inches

    Mounted print on foam core board

    Positioned on easel or stand about 3 feet behind bird (must remain in the shade)

ADJUST EXPOSURE:

    Tweak flash-to-subject distance (preferred) or

    Flash power in Manual Mode. (This changes flash duration)

Here is a photo of the actual set-up:

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The real key to this method is to let the electronic flash do the work for you. They are designed to produce crisp, daylight-white light, and at a very fast flash duration. Today’s Speedlights can produce a flash duration as short as 1/40,000 second.

But that speed is not to be achieved at full power. That full-power flash duration may be as long as 1/900 second, much longer. The short flash duration therefore, comes at a trade-off of output light intensity (or exposure, if you wish). Therefore we must be in the shade to overpower the sun. Two flashes on the bird provides additional exposure for increased apertures and better Depth of Field. Place the flashes on stands and synchronize them with the camera using cables, radios or IR triggers or the flash eTTL / iTTl technology. The flash sync does not need to be TTL as everything is in manual mode. The light intensity at the bird may be controlled by simply changing the flash-to-subject distance.

Once the feeder is set up and hummingbirds are using it frequently, it’s time to bring in the other equipment, including camera, flashes on their stands, and the background. It may take a few minutes for the birds to become settled down with all this around, but my experience has showed it is not very long.

When feeder, camera and background are in place, the camera needs to be focused on the feeder port in manual focus mode. The aperture will provide sufficient Depth of Field to assure the bird is sharply focused. As things are moving around, especially in a breeze, auto-focus tends to continuously hunt for a target. The picture you are trying to achieve, depending on lens focal length is like the one below. As the hummer sips, it will back away and then return to the feeder. When it backs away is the opportune moment to shoot.

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Finally, the last thing to do is process the image. I shoot in RAW, so I can achieve excellent white balance and tone values in blacks, whites, shadows, highlights and mid-tones. Adobe Camera Raw is the perfect solution for the processing. Other software packages are available including, Lightroom, and On1. After processing, a final crop will yield excellent compositions.

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Later, as your success rate increases, the set may be fine-tuned by the addition of a couple of strategically-placed flowers and greenery to hide the feeder and to provide a framing device for the composition. In addition, the hummers may enjoy actually feeding from several species of tubular flowers with a bit of sugar-water mix in the flower throats. Watch the vegetation the hummers actually use and select some blossoms and greenery for a natural set-up. Then get your finger on the trigger and enjoy!

Copyright © 2017 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall photography workshops approaching

Four photography workshops are approaching fast. Each have just a few spots available.

For more information and to reserve your spot before they are gone, please visit the website at http://www.thenatureconnection.com/workshopschedule.html  .

2017 Workshop PromoB

Copyright © 2017 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

New tool simplifies focus stacking

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Many times when producing images of small subjects we find that there is insufficient Depth of Field (or depth of Focus) to render the entire subject sharply from front to back. Insufficient Depth of Field (DoF) is cause by three factors:

First, we understand that, in addition to exposure,  aperture controls DoF. As we increase the F number we add DoF. However we may not be able to make a good exposure with a big F number like F22.

Another factor is that as we increase the focal length of our lens, the DoF becomes smaller. We could select a shorter lens, but that changes perspective and ability to focus close in the case of a macro lens.

The final consideration is that when the lens is moved closer, the DoF also becomes smaller. Thus we are our best enemy and must deal with self-imposed photographic criteria.

Therefore we have learned to use focus stacking to solve this problem. This requires a series of often many images, each made at a different point of focus from front-to-back. The images are blended into on in the computer using specialized software. The image of the bee (below) is an example of a stacked composite of 50 blended images.

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The several images are captured using different points of focus. Some lenses change magnification as the focus is changes, creating alignment problems. The better approach requires moving the camera a measured increment between shots. A geared focusing rail (below) or an automated programmed focusing rail are specialized tools for changing the focal point without compromising image size.

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Another system uses a rail incorporated into a bellows system to change focus but not scale, as pictured below. There are several choices from several manufacturers to accomplish this movement process.

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Now comes the new tool on the market- The Helicon FB Tube. This new idea comes from the producers of Helicon Focus, the industry leader in image stacking software. Essentially it is an extension tube with integrated electronic micro-controller designed to enable automated focus bracketing in single or continuous shooting modes. The measured tube length is 13mm and adds somewhat to the magnification of the lens dependent upon the focal length. Mounted on the camera in the same way as a usual macro extension tube, Helicon FB Tube automatically shifts the focus by one step with each shot thus producing a stack of images of unlimited length that can be rendered into a fully-focused image.

Helicon FB Tube needs no additional hardware apart from conventional cameras and lenses. Helicon FB Tube has no optics and does not affect image quality. Helicon FB Tube settings are configured through an additional application for Android or iOS. The set contains: Helicon FB Tube with IR Receiver and LED Indicator; Front and Rear Caps; IR Transmitter – connects audio port of a smartphone and Extension cable for smartphone and IR Transmitter.

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The unit has been tested and found compatible with a wide number of camera models and lens. Helicon FB Tube is available with mounts for Nikon and Canon cameras and AF lenses with built-in motor.

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I tested the image focusing ability of the FB Tube making 15 focus step images of the acorns below using a step factor of 70. The camera was a Nikon D800 with the FB Tube and 105mm F2.8 Micro Nikkor. Selected aperture was F5.6. Electronic flash in TTL Mode within a softbox provided consistent light.

To set up the FB Tube a couple of simple settings are made on the smartphone device, including lens focal length, crop factor, aperture and step size. this was relatively straight-forward on my iPhone using the available ap:

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IMG_3537  IMG_3539

The phone then transmitted the data to the FB Tube via an IR emitter plugged into the phone audio jack and aimed at the tubes receiver. as shown below.

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To get started, the first focal point was focused manually at 3.0 CM on the rule. The rest of the images in the series were focused automatically by the FB Tube. Three of those images are shown below -the first, middle, and last- of the 15 image sequence.

Acorn Stack-01FP Acorn Stack-07FP Acorn Stack-15FP

The fifteen images were selected in the computer and rendered in Helicon Focus
Method B (depth map) in a normal manner, rendering sharp focus from front to back. Final adjustments for tone, color and sharpening was completed in Photoshop CC.

Acorn Stack Complete

There are several procedures to make images for stacking. Moving the camera is simple and inexpensive. A manual rail is a bit of an expense, Fully automated, servo motor driven rails and associated accessories are often more than $600. In comparison, the Helicon FB Tube costs $200.

Copyright © Brian Loflin 2017. All rights reserved.

Night stars are bigger in Texas

Milky Way, Inks Lake, TX

Twelve photographers met overnight during the dark of the moon to join me on February 24 and 25 for my first DigiNite photography workshop in the granite mountains north of Mason, Texas. The weather was cool and the skies perfect for a highly successful workshop and night shoot.

The day began with a presentation on the process, tools and techniques of digital star sky photography. Participants learned how to successfully make star trails, pinpoint star images (like the Milky Way above), light painting, and time lapse sequences of star movements.

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During the late afternoon two locations were scouted; one (above) for the Milky Way and star fields with interesting granite boulders as foreground elements, and the second, for star trails facing northward.

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With the help of digital aps, like SkyGuide, positions were selected to take advantage of the foreground structures and the star positions. After selection, cameras were positioned and securely mounted for long exposures.

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After dinner in Mason, the group returned to their locations to begin their photography in earnest. After it became fully dark the group was finally prepared and made various images of the Milky Way, with and without painted foregrounds, and two-hour star trail sequences.

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The next DigiNite workshop will be held overnight on November 17-18. 2017. For more information contact me direct at bkloflin@austin.rr.com.

Copyright © 2017 Brian Loflin
All rights reserved.

Update : South Texas Bird Photography Workshop

img_4819Setting up in the wee hours. by Cathey Roberts

Late last October six photographers met met with me where we encountered mild weather and birds in the numbers. It was a little iffy the first morning but the weather behaved itself and presented wonderful photographic light.

This fall we were blessed with a fair amount of rain in South Texas as well as here in Austin. Therefore the conditions on the ranch were in good shape. Things were green and not as parched as in previous months. The temperatures were pleasant.

The first afternoon in the first blind was a teaching period. Everyone acclimated to the nuances of shooting from a blind and  the limitations it presents. We double-checked equipment, shooting and exposure settings, flash and more. In general, the use of flash in daylight as a fill for birds is an unfamiliar technique for many new to bird photography. As usual, several bugs were worked out and a number of “keeper Images” were made by all.

img_4849Getting ready- Day One. by Cathey Roberts
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A highlight of the workshop is the raptor shoot. Raptor morning brought us a
mix of 16 Crested Caracaras and 17 Black and Turkey Vultures. by  Gary Eastes.
proud-caracaraProud Caracara by Charles Seidel.
20161022-_07a4739A Para Cara (above) and Coming in for landing by Bob Karcz

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road-runnerGreater Roadrunner by Charles Seidel.dsc_5815
 Roadrunner and luncheon snack. by Richard Flores.
20161023-_07a7076Roadrunner drink and reflection. by Bob Karcz
img_0208Run / Flying away. by Cathey Roberts
mmartin-lsw-oct02016-4-of-6mmartin-lsw-oct02016-3-of-6Great Kiskadee and Pyrrohuloxia by Michael Martin.
20161023-_07a6957Male Pyrrohuloxia with Prickly pear. by Bob Karcz
d4s_5720Mourning dove in the cactus pads. by Richard Flores

grapegrapeolive-1-of-1olive-1-of-1_1

Green Jay with grape and Olive Sparrow. by Gary Eastes
dsc_5287Curve bill Thrasher by Richard Flores
green-jayGreen Jay by Charles Seidel
mmartin-lsw-oct02016-6-of-6Look Out! Turkey Vulture with Crested Caracara. by Michael Martin
20161023-_07a6903
Curious male Northern Bobwhite. by Bob Karcz

The next South Texas Bird Photography Workshops are already scheduled and spaces are available. They will be held March 2-5 and October 12-15, 2017.
Please contact: bkloflin@austin.rr.com  for more information.

Copyright © 2016 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.
All images  copyright by their respected makers.

 

 

 

 

Central Texas Endangered Aquatics

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Texas Blind Salamander (Eurycea rathbuni) lives underwater caves within the Edwards Aquifer only in the San Marcos, Texas area. They retain their external gills and have only vestigial eye spots. Nikon D800, 105 mm F 2.8 Micro Nikkor lens, SB 910 Speedlight in softbox.

In late September I had the opportunity to visit the US Fish & Wildlife Service San Marcos Aquatic Resources Center to photograph several of the endangered aquatic species from the nearby Central Texas waters.

Located near the Edwards Aquifer, a prolific artesian aquifer, the center is involved with scientific research, including equipment and technology development, captive propagation technique development, habitat restoration, native species life history studies, and invasive species life history and control studies. The Center currently serves as a refuge for several listed aquatic species associated with the Edwards Aquifer and other Texas spring systems.

The hatchery also works closely with the faculty at local universities to provide volunteer, work, and research opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students in biology.

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Artificial streams are the main aquaria for the center and use fresh water from wells drilled deep into the Edwards Aquifer. The water is filtered and chilled to temperatures suited for each species and circulated throughout the unit.

To facilitate the photography of these aquatic species, I used a macro tank photography technique with a small 2.5 gal. aquarium, an artificial habitat and background. To better confine the aquatic individuals, a second piece of glass in a vertical orientation was used to narrow the available space for the subject specimen.

Equipment included a Nikon D800 DSLR, 105mm F2.8 Micro Nikkor lens and a SB910 Speedlight in a Lastolite EXYbox softbox on a boom. A black cloth also on a boom with a opening slit for the lens was employed in front of the tank to prevent reflections on the front of the aquarium. The setup is illustrated below.

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Great care was given to the safety of every living specimen. Before introduction of any living subjects, the aquarium, any underwater props and gravel substrate was thoroughly washed and sterilized to prevent contamination of the endangered species. This procedure was also repeated between the introduction of each subsequent species. Water was that of the specimen’s home enclosure.

Over the course of a morning I had the pleasure to photograph the Texas Blind salamander (Eurycea rathbuni), San Marcos salamander (Eurycea nana), Fountain Darter (Etheostoma fonticola), all from the Edwards Aquifer near San Marcos, Texas, and the Devils River Minnow  (Dionda diaboli) from spring-fed streams in Kinney and Val Verde counties west of Uvalde, Texas.

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San Marcos Salamander

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Fountain Darter

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Devil’s River Minnow

Copyright © 2016 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.