Category Archives: outdoors

Close up lens selection for larger insects

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Roseate Skimmer Dragonfly, Orthemis ferruginea (m)-
Nikkor AF 200 mm F 4.0 Micro Nikkor lens. Fill flash.

 

Last week I was preparing to visit one of my favorite hunting grounds for insects and other critters. The nearby Hill Country Water Gardens is an amazing emporium catering to those who build and maintain ponds. Additionally, they are a very complete nursery with a wide variety of plants. The best thing for me is that they have many tanks and ponds with live water lilies and lotuses. These water features attract many varieties of aquatic insects, including dragonflies and damselflies.

As I was gathering equipment I was selecting the optics appropriate for the day. I knew that I needed more reach than standard macro lenses like my Nikon AF 60mm F 2.8 Macro Nikkor or my Nikon AF 105 mm F2.8 Macro Nikkor. These two lenses are great, but the magnification just is not enough. My longer, Nikon AF 200mm F 4.0 has more reach, but as a fixed lens, there is no angle of view versatility and it will not accept a teleconverter.

So, the tried-and-true solution is a mid-range telephoto lens, with the addition of a teleconverter and for close-focusing ability the addition of a short extension tube. Frequently, a prime lens like a 300 mm lens with a 1.4x or 1.5x teleconverter and a 10 to 25 mm extension tube works well. The arrangement allows a full frame sensor to produce a field of view of about 4 inches and will focus to about 2 feet. That’s perfect, but that arrangement still has no angle of view flexibility.

The answer lies with a zoom telephoto lens, a teleconverter, and if required, an extension tube. With a teleconverter and extension tube robbing the optics of light, a fast lens is most desirable. The solution is a Nikon AF 70-200 mm F 2.8 VR Nikkor lens. To it we add a TC-17EII AF-S teleconverter. This produces a focal length range from 119 to 340 mm and at 200 mm, a field of view of 3.5 inches wide on a full frame sensor. The good thing about this arrangement is that it will focus down to 3.6 feet (measured from the sensor- about 2.5 feet from the front of the lens), plenty close for dragonflies and similar insects.

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Four-spotted Pennant Dragonfly Brachymesia gravida (m)
Nikon AF 200mm F2.8 Nikkor lens with TC- 17 EII 1.7x teleconverter. Fill flash.

 

Canon makes the same arrangement with a 1.4x and a 1.5x teleconverter as well as a 2.0x. Their 70-200 F 2.8 lens will focus to 3.94 feet with a similar set up.

Both Nikon and Canon produce F4.0 versions of these two great lenses at a considerable difference in price.

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Robber Fly, Efferia albibarbis (m)
Nikon AF 200mm F2.8 Nikkor lens with TC- 17 EII 1.7x teleconverter. Fill flash.

 

As these minimum focusing distances are perfectly ideal for butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, and other insects and creatures, there is no need for an extension tube. A 12 mm extension tube will produce a 3.0-inch field of view but will further reduce the effective aperture by an additional stop. In some cases, you need all the light you can get for best auto-focusing and low light situations.

Another benefit of not using the extension tube is the lens combination can focus to infinity. This is a great benefit for that surprise bird or other subject at greater distances.

As in all outdoor photography, a flash used as a fill flash about 1.0 EV below the ambient exposure helps produce images with lower contrast, higher dynamic range and with more motion stopping capability. All the images in this article, except the lilies,  were produced with a Nikon SB-910 Speedlight at minus 1.0 EV.

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White water lilies in water garden-
Nikon AF 200mm F2.8 Nikkor lens with TC- 17 EII 1.7x teleconverter.

Copyright © 2018 Brian Loflin All rights reserved.

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NEW- Photography Workshops for 2018

2018 Workshop Promo

Copyright © 2018 Brian Loflin
All rights reserved

2018 Wildlife Photography Exhibition at Texas A&M University – Kingsville

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Winners in the First Annual Wildlife Photography Exhibition at Texas A&M University- Kingsville include, left to right:  David Campbell, Best Habitat; Kelley Wood, Best in Show; and Alex Meza, Best Wildlife. The Best in Show was awarded a sizeable cash award. The Best Wildlife and Best Habitat winners both received a Rotational 180 Backpack from Mind Shift Gear.

 

The first Wildlife Photography Exhibition represents the finest of the images produced and selected by students of the new Wildlife Photography Program at Texas A&M University- Kingsville. Students created images to best depict Texas wildlife and its habitat. The class members produced these images during the Spring 2018 semester and printed and prepared the mounted images for the May exhibit at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Center in Kingsville, Texas.

AWARDS

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BEST IN SHOW- “It’s a Small World”- Kelley Wood

“This ladybird beetle was on a Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) inflorescence. I was looking at the plant because there were multiple butterflies and other insects that I wanted to take pictures of. It was in the shade, so the lighting was not as harsh.”

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BEST HABITAT- “Bobcat”- David Campbell

“I was on the ranch I work on near Cotulla, TX heading to one of our ponds with a fishing pole and cold beer in hand. As I got near the water I noticed this bobcat sitting on the edge of the brush and realized I didn’t have my camera. I watched him for a second and decided to go back to the truck (a couple hundred yards away) to get my camera. To my surprise he had not moved an inch which allowed me to take this and several other great photos.”

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BEST WILDLIFE- “Burrowing Owl”- Alex Meza

“Photographed in Granjeno, Texas, a small town literally at the edge of the Rio Grande River. This owl nests in crevices created by big boulders that are placed next to the levee to protect citizens from the Rio Grande River flash floods. The Burrowing owl was out in the sunset after a hot day in South Texas.”

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Exhibit juror, Shirley Loflin, critiques an image by student Kelley Wood. Shirley is a published photographer, author and naturalist and is a long time exhibition juror. She resides in Austin.

 

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Student Alex Meza describes cropping suggestions of one of his entries made by the juror to his wife Neyda Gonzales.

 

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY PROGRAM

The new Wildlife Photography program is an unique-in-the-nation curriculum providing classes to biology majors within the Range and Wildlife Sciences department at the university. The program was started through a generous donation by the Frederick J. Bremner Trust. Dr. Bremner was a former faculty member at Trinity University in San Antonio.

The program began this Spring 2018 semester with the first in a series of classes entitled Introduction to Digital Wildlife Photography. Additional classes include: Advanced Digital Wildlife Photography, Wildlife Macro Photography, Wildlife Photographic Technology, and Digital Post Production in Wildlife Photography.

The program was developed by Brian Loflin, a Austin biological photographer, author and educator who has taught similar classes at UT Austin Continuing Education and Informal Classes for the past eleven years and in seminars and workshops throughout the country. Loflin is a adjunct faculty member at Texas A&M University- Kingsville.

ADDITIONAL EXHIBIT ENTRIES:

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“Looking Up”- Kelley Wood

 

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“Rattlesnake”- David Campbell

 

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“Altamira Oriole”- Alex Meza

 

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“Colorful Flower”- Robert Dwyer

 

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“Greater Roadrunner”- Robert Dwyer

 

Exhibit-pedro (2 of 2)

“Sandpiper on Jetties”- Pedro Cesares

 

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“Ocean Current”- Pedro Cesares

 

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“Swallowtail collecting Nectar”- Jeanette Casanova

 

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“Mockingbird Chilling”- Jeanette Casanova

 

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“White-tail”- Crisantos Cesares

 

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“Gulf-Fritillary on Thistle”- Christos Cesares

 

All material Copyright © 2018 by Brian Loflin. Images copyright by their makers. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Texas Bird Photography Workshop where avian antics delight participants

_BKL4795A small sample of the thirty Crested Caracara that appeared in front of our cameras at the raptor blind in the morning.

Inflight shots, raptor antics and unusual appearances were the highlight of the latest South Texas Bird Photography Workshop. Held March 22-25 at Laguna Seca Ranch in Hidalgo County, Texas, the workshop was fraught with overcast skies for most of the time, but great shooting was had never the less by everyone in attendance.

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A wild turkey hen and jake made several surprise visits to both the morning blind and afternoon blind.

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Roadrunner, Pyrrhuloxia, Green jay in flight and a pair of Golden-fronted woodpeckers by Dolph McCranie.

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Wild turkey made a surprise visit, Sparrow on branch, Caracara in the wildflowers, and Bathing sparrow by David Alexander.

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Cardinal bath time, Pyrrhuloxia female, Turkey vulture landing, and Golden=fronted woodpecker by H.S. “Burt” Garcia.

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Curve-bill thrasher and Golden-fronted woodpecker in flight, Crested caracara on ground and landing by Gary Eastes.

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Red-wing blackbird pair (female landing),Crested caracara landing, Northern moclingbird, Red-wing blackbird female, Green jay, and (poss.) Green-tailed towhee by Jill Mcclain.

The next South Texas Bird Photography Workshops are scheduled for October 25-28, 2018 and February 28-March 3, 2019. Seats are limited, but currently available.

Email bkloflin@austin.rr.com for more information or visit:
http://www.thenatureconnection.com.

 

Copyright © 2018 Brian Loflin and listed individual photographers.
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.

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

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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
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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.

 

 

 

 

White Table for Shadowless Lighting

A portable table for high-key photography in the field.

Many times we encounter great photographic opportunities in the field and can accomplish making some superb images of the subject in its habitat. (The mating stink bugs, below) Often however, it would be nice to capture images with greater clarity by the eliminating of ugly or distracting elements and improve the subject view by removing all the background.

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I am often told by many that you can do all this in Photoshop or other post processing software. (Don’t worry, fix it in Photoshop.) While I know that to be true, why spend a lot of time in front of the computer when we can manage the technique in the field and in the camera?

 So, my suggestion is to use a translucent white acrylic plastic background sheet and create near shadowless, high-key lighting by using an electronic flash as backlight. Similar to the White Box technique, (See: Create shadowless macro backgrounds) this has been a common studio practice for many years. Now recreating this technique in the field sheds a new light on our subjects. (Pardon the pun.) Enter the White Table.

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This simple tool is an open framework created of PVC plumbing pipe. My dimensions are simple, 12 inches on each side. And with the addition of a 12 inch square white acrylic plastic top, the table is complete. I do not cement the PVC joints so the legs readily come apart for ease of transport.

In use, above, the unit rests on the ground. A back light flash is positioned to fire upward through the plastic top to provide a blown-out background. A second flash on, or near, camera provides front light for the subject and the trigger for the back light flash.

Here is an example of the same mating stink bugs carefully moved to the White Table. This process provides a completely different view of the insects without background distractions. The photo is clean and this technique allows lighting for maximum detail.

High Key-MedREZ-1A simple twist to this technique is to switch the white acrylic for a black sheet of the same material. This will allow the production of some images with nice, contrasting black backgrounds and interesting reflections. This works exceptionally well with hairy subjects like the tarantula, (below).

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Copyright © 2016 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.