Tag Archives: Stock photography

My customers make great photographs. You can too!

Goluch Jays

This is a recent image made at my South Texas Bird Photography Workshop by Denver photographer, Richard Goluch. A repeat customer, Richard shot this aggressive pair of Green Jays from one of the permanent bird blinds at my last workshop in October. The jays always make good subject matter, but Richard was able to take it a step further, catching the in-flight squabble. Well done, Richard!

Workshop participants often return for an additional season. Here is a note from another repeat customer:

“Brian is a great teacher and host. He wants you to be successful and goes to great means to make sure that you are.  I really liked the ranch and the atmosphere of the hotel. “ G. Payne- Arkansas

My South Texas workshops are three to five days long and prices are most reasonable, including all meals, lodging, instruction and ranch fees. Our ranch has four purpose-built bird blinds, each with permanent water features, automatic feeders and plenty of birds. Additional, specially constructed blinds for shooting raptors provide added exciting and action-filled photographic opportunities. South Texas specialties like the jays above are plentiful.

Crested Caracara

Incoming Crested Caracara landing at the raptor blinds. Nikon D800, Nikkor 80-200 mm F 2.8 lens with 1.7 teleconverter. This is an ideal setup for shooting on this ranch. Many of the birds are 12-15 feet from the blinds. Raptors, about 15 yards.

Workshops are planned to take advantage of both spring and fall migration. The species count is now at seventy-seven species photographed. There are two slots remaining for the next workshop in late February, 2015.For more information, please see: www.thenatureconnection.com/SoTxBirdPhotoWS.html .

Copyright © 2014 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

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Don’t miss: Two new South Texas bird photography workshops

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South Texas Bird Photography Workshop •Laguna Seca Ranch Edinburg, Texas
• October 23-26, 2014
• February 27-March 1-2015

This instructional, hands-on bird photography workshop is located in the heart of the South Texas flyway. The October workshop features a half-day of hands-on instruction and a day and two and a half days of shooting (or a day and a half in February ) in some of the best South Texas birding habitat available where neotropical South Texas varieties abound.

The workshop will be held at the Laguna Seca Ranch north of Edinburg, Texas in the heart of the lush Rio Grande Valley. The facilities of the 700-acre ranch are purpose-designed for photography and preserved with all native species. It features four constant-level ponds, each with permanent photography blinds oriented for the best use of light. A fifth blind is set up specifically for raptors.

Each location has been hand-crafted to provide the most outstanding bird photography opportunities. With nearly eighty species found on the property, Laguna Seca Ranch clearly offers a uniquely outstanding South Texas bird photography adventure! Many photographers have added numerous birds to their species life list while at the workshop. Read the website for their testimonials.

For more information, see: http://www.thenatureconnection.com/SoTxBirdPhotoWS.html

Are you using your lenses effectively?

Zoom lens photography is somewhat fairly understood. But, a lot of deep understanding is missed by the casual photographer. Sure, everyone knows that a wide angle lens, like a 24 mm, will cover a lot of countryside. Hence the name, wide angle. And it is relatively well understood that longer lenses, like a 150 mm produce a telephoto effect, bringing distant objects apparently much closer to the viewer.

But many shooters miss a lot of the benefits of zoom lenses. Remember, lenses do three things: they affect angle of view, affect image size, and perhaps most importantly, they can affect perspective. Lets examine three photographs of a farm house with fresh round hay bales.

Normal lens

The first is with a “normal” focal length lens of 50 mm. This lens produces an image size and a perspective similar to the unaided eye. But the angle of view is far from that of our eyes because we humans have such exceptional peripheral vision of 140 degrees or more.

So let’s understand what we can “see” here. First we can see several of the hay bales, we can see the house and tractor surrounded by the trees. All appear reasonably sized. The background sky takes up a nice portion of the frame. Good. But there is more to understand. Let’s look at the three “grounds”, or visual zones in this photo. The row of bales make up the foreground, the home and surrounding trees, the midground and the sky and clouds become the background. These three layers are very important in a photo like this.

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The human eye enjoys this layering effect. We like to wander around in the frame inspecting what we see. But a normal lens is not our only compositional tool. We have other focal lengths at our immediate disposal. Let’s look at others.

Wide angle lens

Let’s see what happens when we change focal lengths of our lens. For this next image an 18 mm wide angle setting was used. But, more importantly, the image was composed by moving much closer to the hay bales. This did two real important things for the view: first the bales are more emphasized in the foreground, and second, the more distant home and trees of the midground became quite small. This is an effect of changing perspective. This happened because to recompose, the point of view changed and became much closer to the bales. This results in the midground and background receding and becoming substantially smaller.

In photography, perspective is a relationship of elements within the image to other elements of the image and to the frame of the image in size and apparent distance between the elements. Perspective is dependent first, upon distance to the subject and then, lens focal length. Generally, when various focal length lenses are used from the same spot, the perspective is unchanged. That is why the more creative photographers compose with their feet, not just their lens.

Telephoto lens

The next view was made with a 180 mm lens. Some would say it is a telephoto view, bringing distant objects much closer to the viewer. Here we keep the bales as foreground interest. The house and tractor are now much larger with more detail visible. And this view produces more emphasis on the foreground and midground. The background sky is less important. It is important to know that to achieve this view, the composition had to be made from much farther back than either of the two previous views.

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So the lesson learned is to work every scene thoroughly. Certainly, use a variety of focal length lenses. But in addition, it is of paramount importance to vary the subject distance as well. Remember that changing the focal length from the same spot results in a different crop only through angle of view and image size. But to get the best results from any lens, you must vary the lens to subject distance.

Foreground elements are very important in composition. They anchor the scene and can be used to lead the eye into the scene. Depending upon their importance, the size may be easily manipulated through varying the focal length of the lens and most importantly, the lens to subject distance. Just don’t forget to compose with your feet instead of simply zooming your lens. Do both and your images will quickly improve.

Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico

I had the pleasure to lead a photography trip to this fabulous New Mexico birding hot spot for a few days in early December. Bosque del Apache NWR lies on the Rio Grande about halfway from Las Cruces to Albuquerque, NM. This National Wildlife Refuge is an amazing photography destination as it is the resting spot for migratory water fowl in late winter. The birds are there by literally tens of thousands, always an impressive sight! As it turned out, the weather was somewhat mild and photo perfect. I thought I would post a few images from the trip.

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One of nine thousand Sandhill cranes takes off in the early morning light. The birds slept overnight in a shallow pond right by the roadside. They would take off by ones and twos and in very large masses, often right over our head.

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With a wing span of six feet, Sandhill cranes are elegant fliers. They feed in dry fields during the day and return to shallow water at night. At Bosque del Apache the massive numbers of these large birds presented many photographic opportunities as well as a cacophony of sound as they vocalized to each other.

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Snow geese were everywhere! Frequently they would take flight in an explosive liftoff by the hundreds. Often, they would circle and come right back. Later, they may explode again and move to another field or other part of the refuge system.

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My good friend and photographer, Dolph McCranie with poster enumerating Bosque’s bird count for the time we were there. As you can see by the numbers, finding a subject was an easy task.

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A bobcat was a very lucky find. This cat was stalking a small group of Mallard ducks when I spied it near a small canal. A slow, careful approach resulted in a relatively nice image.

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After shooting birds, many of the group photographed other sights in and around Socorro, NM, like the interior of the Capitol Bar, one of the oldest in the Southwest and in business since 1896.

All images Nikon D2Xs and Nikkor optics including 600 mm F 4, 80-200 mm F 2.8, 28-70 F 2.8 and 15 mm F 3.5.

© Copyright Brian Loflin 2012. All rights reserved.

What color are cactus flowers?

Many people are lovers of cacti- or cactophiles- you might say.

There are many reasons for this fact. Cacti are most interesting plants. They grow in many  shapes and sizes. They have spines in many diverse shapes, patterns and numbers. They reproduce easily. And maybe the number one reason for enjoying cacti, is that they take very little effort.

Cacti are a New World plant group and are mostly found in arid parts of this side of the globe.They thrive from the high, cold and dry Altacama Desert of Chile, to the hot southwestern United States. In fact, cacti occur naturally in each of the mainland 48 states and into Canada.

Because they are xerophytes, they require little water or time-consuming care as do other vascular plants. That makes cacti real user-friendly.

But an additional reason to enjoy cacti are the many variety of flowers. When a cactus gets moisture in nature, it believes that it’s time to reproduce and puts out its flowers in hopes of polination by bees, moths, bats and other critters of cactus country. Again, cacti are show-offs. They may frequently flower with large multi-colored, spectacular flowers, or put out only a few. And some produce blossoms larger than the plant itself. Sometimes, because of the plant’s natural camouflage, these flowers and the bees that they attract are the only method to find the cactus itself.

So what color are their flowers? Every color except blue!

© Copyright 2012 Brian Loflin. All rights protected.

It’s Snowing! (Somewhere)

Austin, Texas is not known to be the snow capital of North America. And it’s not even the rain city. With the long drought recently broken by nice rains, we have begun to accumulate a little of the much-needed moisture for our spring wildflower germination. If it keeps up into January and some in February it should be a nice year.

While watching some of the snows in New Mexico, and the Northern Plains, I was reminded of a great photo day in the mountains west of Denver in February several years ago.

I thought I would resurrect one of those images to post here.

Nikon D2Xs, Nikkor 80-200mm F2.8 D AF zoom lens, Gitzo tripod.

While this image is not of grand mountains nor famous skiers, it evokes a sense of place for me as it was taken at at a favorite old haunt at Guanella Pass just west of Georgetown, CO.

I enjoy the composition leading upward and to the right from the rock anchoring the lower left corner. Except for the spot of color on that rock, this image could easily be mistaken for a black and white. It is important with images like this to nail the exposure. The blacks need to be good and dark with detail remaining and the white highlights pure, but with detail and texture of the snow remaining.

From a traditionalist standpoint the composition works well with the Golden Rectangle (or Fibonacci Spiral) superimposed on it (black) and the Rule of Thirds grid (red). But those are rules.

I say rules are simply guidelines to coach our eye for compositions that work. Must we follow rules? Well, of course not! We have to feel the composition, and when it feels right, voila! Some say that rules are made to be broken. When? There must be another rule for that.

But that’s another story. If it feels good, save it. Print it.

© Brian Loflin 2011. All rights reserved.

Ants in detail

It’s often hard to visualize the tiny anatomical structures on these small creatures. With proper tools and techniques, exceptionally good detail may be revealed, even on the smallest of ants, if a photographer diligently practices an often overlooked,  non-technical skill — patience.

Ants are small indeed, and fast. At macro magnifications it’s difficult and often impossible to chase living specimens with a lens and to expect a quality outcome. Like experienced wild game hunters, it’s best to let the subject come to the lens. To chase the insects, you must try to hit a moving target with a moving camera and that procedure introduces unwanted image degradation into the equation.

In the image below, this Acrobat ant (Crematogaster sp.) was reproduced at a sensor magnification of  2.0X with the use of a macro lens on a bellows. A 105 mm macro lens was selected to provide excellent resolution and adequate working distance between the subject and the front of the lens. This procedure precludes shadows of the lens barrel on the subject area and allows sufficient room for electronic flash.

My method is to isolate several ant subjects on a small mound of clean pebbles surrounded by a moat of water as illustrated in the bottom image below. If assembled carefully, the ants will remain within a small area. That confining stage can be set up in a petri dish or other suitable shallow dish. The pebbles may be contained in a bottle cap or something similar. The trick is to bring the level of the water to the lip of the cap so the ants don’t run all over the place and off the gravel mound.

After a while you can notice the ants establish a trail and may follow each other around and over the pebbles. The trick now is to select a preferred spot, pre-focus and wait. Shoot the picture with a suitable shutter speed of 1/150 to 1/250 second and with electronic flash providing some motion-stopping assistance and acceptable depth of field. This procedure requires considerable patience and persistence to achieve good results. Don’t worry if your first attempts contain only the south end of north-bound ants, or worse, just a leg or antennae. Stick with it. Good results will follow.

So when you become frustrated, remember Brian’s 7-P rule of nature photography: Prior planning, patience and persistence pays in prime performance!

Nikon D2Xs, PB-4 bellows on tripod with 105 mm F 4.0 Macro lens, SB-800 flash and diffuser.

© Copyright 2011 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.