Puffins are camera shy, as they flee when they see you coming — unlike many seabirds that I’m accustomed to in Florida. As soon as I spotted one, tried to creep a bit closer, framed the shot and focused — off it went. Most of my photos that afternoon on Vigur Island were shot a second too late. Charlie and I were a persistent team; he was holding high sticks to ward off the Arctic Terns who are apt to attack your head. He was watching the long grass in the hillside for puffin nests where the puffins briefly land to feed their chicks, and acting as my spotter.
“Over there,” Charlie whispered to me, pointing. I crept closer with camera poised, hoping to focus and shoot before the puffins took flight.
I kept my shutter speed high and my lens wide open, trying to freeze action on a flying puffin at the very least. I was working hard to get a good puffin shot before leaving Iceland. Having seen puffin photos in all the shops, I knew how cute the little birds are!
At last our teamwork paid off, and I captured this image of a puffin with a beak full of fresh fish for the chicks. The Nikon D800 with 70-200 lens and a 1.4 teleconverter gave me a sharp image even though we were about 10 meters away.
Recently in the Florida Everglades, I shot a series of images of this blue heron as it took off and landed. I was pleased to see this magnificent bird with its wings outstretched. In order to freeze motion of wildlife, I usually increase the ISO on my camera making the sensor more sensitive to light. That way, I can still get a good exposure with a very fast shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second. In this case, I increased the ISO to 2000, anticipating the bird’s flight. (I was just explaining this formula to my daughter who will be traveling to Africa to enjoy a safari in a few days.)
I also made a conscious choice for the f stop setting. A lens is usually at its sharpest in the mid-range (f/7.1 here), and the depth of field is forgiving — keeping the bird in focus for the split second between the time I focus and the shutter releases. Had I opened the lens aperture wide (to counter balance the fast shutter speed), it would have been very difficult to keep the flying bird in focus. You can see, the image is successful, as long as you don’t mind a little grain, resulting from the high ISO. I will share some of the other photos in the series in subsequent blog posts.
I see green grass out my window today, but it’s starting to snow, and the blustery wind blew my hair up and in every direction. I was so cold, I had to come inside and take a hot shower! I’m reminded on this photo I took six years ago today after a fresh snow fall.
I used a textured brush tool in Photoshop to reveal the image through a layer of solid white for a notecard. It almost looks like I have scraped the fresh snow off my window.
With my husband and photography friends having departed, I woke up on my own in Maui this morning, but my productive photography workshop with Gary Hart gave me a tip to start my morning in a unique way. On a rainy afternoon in Hana (on Maui) this week Gary shared his methods for moonlit, full moon, and star photography. Then, last evening I remembered that this morning was just one day after the best day of the month for shooting a moonset — still close enough to capture something. Yesterday would have been better, but it was cloudy in Hana. On the second morning after a full moon, the moon (waning but 97% full) will set two hours after sunrise, when the landscape will be gently lit to balance the light of the moon. AND, as fate would have it, my room at Napili Shores opens on the Pacific Ocean, facing west where I saw the sunset last night. I looked up the time of the sunrise and moonset on my Focalware app, and set my alarm. It would only take me five minutes to put my clothes on, grab my camera and set up my tripod outside.
About 30 minutes after sunrise, when the full moon was about 20 degrees above the horizon was my best opportunity for an image. I was able to frame the moon with the silhouette of a palm tree, and the sky would only get brighter in the next 30 minutes, making it harder to separate the brightness of the moon from the brighter sky.
I did venture down on the lava rocks by the ocean in an effort to capture the moon sinking into the ocean, but clouds got between us (the moon and me), and that view didn’t happen. (Daily reminder: Mother Nature does whatever she wants. Cooperation is not in Her vocabulary.) I did capture some other cool images that I will share in future blogs, though. A vivid rainbow appeared for a few fleeting moments, and I captured that. Stay tuned to this nature photography blog…now is great time to subscribe by entering your email address. I’m posting some other cool Maui and Hawaii images on Instagram. Follow me there at @cathykellyphotography.
Sometimes you just have to respond to a magnificent view by making a stitched panorama with your camera — not just an instant one with your iPhone. I was so inspired after hiking to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica Dome in Rome, and inside St. Peter’s under the central dome.
Here are some best practices for shooting for a successful panorama.
If practical, use a tripod and make sure your camera is level. Realistically, you aren’t going to hike all day in the summer heat with a tripod in one hand, so if you don’t have a tripod handy, just do your best to hold the camera level as you shoot a series of images from left to right or low to high. Some locations don’t allow tripods — such as St. Peter’s (and most Major League baseball and football stadiums in the U.S.).
With your camera set to Program, Aperture Preferred Mode or Shutter Preferred Mode, determine your best average exposure setting. Especially outside, looking in one direction may be brighter than another, but you are going to need to choose one exposure setting for your camera, and then set it on Manual.When I shot these panoramas in Rome, I had a 24/70 lens on my camera, so I used the zoom level of 24mm and the aperture of f/2.8. That aperture is wide open, but I knew the whole scene would be in focus, so it worked. I chose an ISO level and shutter speed that worked (fast enough to eliminate camera shake blur), and set the camera on Manual, so these values would not change as I pointed the camera in different directions along my axis.
I also reduced the variables by making sure that my focus was constant (manual/turn off auto), and white balance was set manually, not auto. One last variable to eliminate: don’t use a circular polarizer filter, as this will change the color of your sky.
Now you are ready to shoot. Overlap each frame by at least one third. This way, Photoshop will have an easy time stitching the frames together and eliminating lens distortion.
Back at home, open all your files in the series in Photoshop and run the Panorama action. Crop and resize your finished file. You will be rewarded with a large file, that might enjoy printing as large as possible at a lab. My panorama of St. Peter’s Dome would make a print 18″ wide by 38″ tall with an ideal resolution of 300 dpi. That’s a powerful print!Interested in buying these or other images from Italy? Visit the Italy gallery on my website.
I continue to experiment with ICM (Intentional Camera Movement). A good subject is one with strong contrast and strong vertical, horizontal or circular lines — any lines that can be accentuated with camera movement. Last time, I used a vertical subject, trees reflected in a pond, and this time I used the strong colors of sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
I like the peace and serenity of the selective blur. I also find myself studying longer the colors and lines and the blend of hues. Here you can compare the the ICM image with the still photo. Do you find the ICM image more moody? Which image do you prefer to look at longer?
I did minimal processing to the ICM image: just some tweaking of the contrast, clarity, vibrance and highlights and some spot removal. The streaking effect was achieved by moving the camera during a .6 second exposure. To lengthen the exposure, I lowered the ISO to 100 and closed the aperture down to f/22.
Experimenting rewards my desire to create, because every image is different. Will I find a market for this genre?
My camera settings were ready to capture this graceful Great Egret in flight when he lifted off. You need a fast shutter speed, the bird in focus, and a proper exposure (difficult when the bright sky is the background). I was really excited to see this egret with two wing positions and water dripping off his feet.
Since the sky was cloudy, I had my ISO set to 400. My Nikon 70-200 lens was extended to 200 to isolate the bird without moving too close to disturb him. I had my Nikon D800 set to Aperture Mode and set the aperture to f/5.6 to keep the bird in focus if he moved a bit closer or farther from me. This setting gave me the balance between wide depth of field and enough light to yield a fast shutter speed (1/1,000) to freeze action. I also employed the fast continuous shutter mode, so my camera would shoot multiple exposures with one long depression of the shutter button. Of course, you have to make these choices ahead of time, so when the bird takes off, you can pan and press the shutter button.