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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Outdoor Clothing: What to Wear to Survive

At some point, talk about outdoor photography turns to what clothing and footwear do you need to use in order to stay warm and safe in the outdoors, especially in this climate (Coastal Rain Forest) in British Columbia. I'll touch on this for a little bit.

First of all you need proper foot gear to go tromping out in the woods. Most outdoors types hate the ankle high hiking boots of yesteryear with the heavy soles. Sure it's great if you're on a construction site and you've got steel-toes, but do you need that for traipsing around the woods? No. The best tool that you have is your eyes and a light set of good trail runners. Make certain of your step and footing before you take the next one. Unless you're climbing on logs, you don't need to worry about your ankles. And if you're wanting to climb on logs and do something stupid; try to stay away from trails and the outdoors. The outdoors can kill you without trying and you don't have to do stupid things and risk your neck to get killed. Just stay out without enough proper warm clothing and hypothermia will get you.

My Hiking Shoes (trail runners) - Nike Air Alvord 8s: Notice the heel and the good tread - needed for grip...

There is a saying in the outdoor community: "Killer Cotton". Why? Because cotton, that wonderful natural fabric sucks as outdoor-wear. When cotton gets wet; it stays wet and it doesn't breathe. Water and sweat stays trapped in the fibre and you end up with a sopping rag covering half your body. Cotton has resulted in many deaths of outdoor adventurers.

What do I wear in place of a cotton t-shirt? I wear "UnderArmour" or like-clothing with moisture-wicking fabric. Sportek creates UnderArmour-similar fabric t-shirts and long-armed undershirts for this purpose for less cost than Underarmour. They also make underwear in the same fabric as well as compression long pants to keep you cool and dry down there as well. Then all you have to do is throw some goretex or other rain resistant material over-clothing on top and you're all set to get out in the wild. Fleece is also a good material (it sucks when it gets wet, but you can use it in colder weather under goretex and over the Underarmour longsleeved breathable fabric to stay warm.

They say: dress in layers when you go into the outdoors. Sweat and moisture kills. You need to be able to strip off layers in order to allow your body to regulate it's temperature. If you are sweating, it means your body is too warm. That means it's time to shed a layer and throw it in your backpack. Remember the mnemonic: Cool and Dry Stays Alive. Frankly, experienced outdoorsmen don't allow their bodies to sweat because they wear the bare minimum to stay warm and pace themselves in order to not get hot enough to sweat. This also means take lots of water and stay hydrated.

There are three layers: Your base layer, your middle layer and your outer layer.

Your base layer is the layer of clothing closest to your bare skin. This means that you should wear something like UnderArmour (long-sleeved shirt or t-shirt depending on whether it's winter or summer), long underwear, and socks (yes, Underarmour makes socks too). This fabric wicks moisture away from your body and allows it to evaporate.

Your middle layer should be something like fleece, polyester or wool. This is a layer primarily used to stay warm and if you feel the slightest bit warm enough to sweat, you need to take it off. Wool take a long time to dry when wet and should be avoided, but fleece tends to be a better substitute for wool. Avoid down. When it gets wet, it loses all insulating capability and it will not dry unless you throw it into a dryer and you don't have one of those in the wild. The middle layer should also be able to wick moisture from your base layer and out.

Your outer layer is the shell; which needs to be resistant against incoming moisture from the exterior and be able to evaporate your moisture from inside. This primary shell material should be Gore-tex as it doesn't allow environmental moisture to penetrate yet allows the moisture wicked from the inner materials to evaporate out into the environment. Unless it is raining or snowing, this shell is rarely ever worn.

So to encapsulate the three layer system of staying alive in the outdoors (in terms of outdoor clothing):

  1. The first layer wicks moisture away from your body.
  2. The second layer traps body heat in order to keep you warm.
  3. The third layer sheds water and snow...and repels wind.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Debating the Big Purchase of a Super Telephoto

My wife and I have been talking and she's been mentioning that I should be looking into the high-powered lenses. I've come up with 5 options that encompass two lenses.

Option 1: The Whole Kit and Caboodle.

LensRetailer Price Price w/tax Per/Month Savings
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4 G IF ED VR The Camera Store 9,646.47 10,847.65
Nikon AF-S VR 200-400mm F4 G IF-ED Broadway Camera 6,439.99 7,213.00
Nikon TC-14EII The Camera Store 396.15 454.89
Nikon TC-17EII The Camera Store 396.15 454.89
Nikon TC-20EIII The Camera Store 548.77 614.62
Gitzo 5561 SGT 6X tripod B&H Photo 1,299.00 1,534.51
Wimberley WH-200 B&H Photo 594.95 691.06 21,810.62 $ 610.00/mo

Nikon AF-S VR 200-400mm F4 G IF-ED

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4 G IF ED VR

Option 2: Just the Big One and TCs Plus Tripod

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4 G IF ED VR The Camera Store 9,646.47 10,847.65
Nikon TC-14EII The Camera Store 396.15 454.89
Nikon TC-17EII The Camera Store 396.15 454.89
Nikon TC-20EIII The Camera Store 548.77 614.62
Gitzo 5561 SGT 6X tripod B&H Photo 1,299.00 1,534.51
Wimberley WH-200 B&H Photo 594.95 691.06 14,597.62 $ 408.00/mo

Option 3: Bare Bones and Use Monopod w/ Gimbal

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4 G IF ED VR The Camera Store 9,646.47 10,847.65
Nikon TC-14EII The Camera Store 396.15 454.89
Nikon TC-17EII The Camera Store 396.15 454.89
Nikon TC-20EIII The Camera Store 548.77 614.62
Wimberley WH-200 B&H Photo 594.95 691.06 13,063.11 $ 390.00/mo (use Wimberley on 680B Monopod - which I already own)

Option 4: Big Lens + TC

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4 G IF ED VR The Camera Store 9,646.47 10,847.65
Nikon TC-14EII The Camera Store 396.15 454.89
Nikon TC-17EII The Camera Store 396.15 454.89
Nikon TC-20EIII The Camera Store 548.77 614.62 12,372.05 $ 345.00/mo. (screw the Manfrotto 680B monopod onto the 600mm foot)

Option 5: 200-400VRII Option

Nikon AF-S VR 200-400mm F4 G IF-ED Broadway Camera 6,439.99 7,213.00
Nikon TC-14EII The Camera Store 396.15 454.89
Nikon TC-17EII The Camera Store 396.15 454.89
Nikon TC-20EIII The Camera Store 548.77 614.62
Gitzo 5561 SGT 6X tripod B&H Photo 1,299.00 1,534.51
Wimberley WH-200B&H Photo 594.95 691.06 10,962.97 $ 299.00/mo.

All of the "savings per month" is based on a 3 year save-up period. This is no longer a hobby, but a dead serious shot at a career in wildlife photography. I'm fed up with playing it safe and I'm going for it. I'm getting the equipment in 3 years time.

Questions and Comments To Not Say To A Photographer

Have you ever come across a photographer while you're traipsing your way (quite possibly walking your dog) around a park. He's got a nice camera (a DSLR from the looks of it); and a rather large lens mounted to the front of the camera? So you think? "Wow, he must know what he's doing. And maybe he might be able to give me some pointers." Y'know what? Chances are, he isn't going to be solicitous if you interrupt him in the midst of his photography.

When the camera lens is UP...and attached to his face...THAT is NOT the time to bother him with questions. Wait until he gets the shot and brings his camera down.

And there are several things that you needn't touch upon:

That's a nice camera (or lens)
Yes he knows that's a nice camera and/or lens, he bought it as a tool and he uses it to get the photos he creates. When he's not using it, it sits in his camera bag and not in some sort of shrine dedicated to the God of Photography or something. And another variant of this is "Nice photograph, you must have a nice camera..." That to a photographer is like my telling a hunter who has made a great kill and saying "Hey, nice shot, you must have a great rifle." It's not the camera, it's the vision of the photographer.

Will you shoot my wedding?
If he's shooting animals with his camera, chances are you've stumbled across a wildlife photographer, especially if he has an extremely long lens. And most wildlife photographers are solitary animals, much like the prey they stalk. The last thing they want to do is hang out in a smoke-filled room filled with boisterous, loud people who use this wedding as a way to socialize. Most Wildlife photographers don't socialize; we're out tracking. And frankly, I'd rather shoot an irritated king brown in the Outback with an 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 than shoot a wedding. NO thanks.

Oh...I see you've got such and such a brand and model of camera; I've got this brand and's so great; I'm sure it'll get me just as good shots as you create... I've spent 26 years working on my photography skills. And chances are 9 times out of 10 my shots turn out. Again, it's not the brand and model of the camera you choose, it's whether or not you can make use it or not and have results come out of it.'re using a digital? Well, I use a film camera...
See above. The other corollary to this is "I use film, any person who knows photography knows they really learn when they have to use film. Uh...OK...whatever. It just so happens that visual learners learn the best when they see immediate results, not results 2 weeks down the road (such as were developing times when I was growing up unless you wanted to pay $$$ out your nose for 48 hr turnaround) by which time, you forget every damned setting you used. Hence I learned best on a digital SLR. And like one of my friends, Paul Burwell, said "Digital has far surpassed the quality of film cameras nowadays." You don't need to worry about exposing your film to light when you have to chance film speeds or carry around a black bag with you to swap out your film rolls when you have to make a film speed change. All you have to do is flip a dial and up your ISO. So frankly when I hear a film user complain that you can't learn "true photography" off a digital camera, I say they're sucking sour owl s***.

What do you think of my photos?
Look, if I give you an honest critique of your photography, 9 times out of 10 you'll be annoyed unless you're a serious amateur photographer who is looking to advance in your photography. If you're just a person who likes picking up your camera and taking shots once in a while to have're probably just expecting me to blow sunshine up your ass. Unfortunately, I'm a photographer who takes his work very seriously and I don't spend my time blowing adulation in anyone's direction, so frankly, I'm the wrong one to ask. I can usually tell if someone is serious about their photography. They take the time to study online, read up everything that they can possibly get and they'll usually have a photography magazine (subscribed to, of course) in their camera bag that they've got their nose in if and when they don't have their camera attached to their face. Real serious amateurs live and BREATHE photography.

Did you Photoshop that?
Yes, all photographs require some post-processing. The most I usually do is amp the colors up some and do some slight sharpening, but other than that, most of my work is pretty much straight out of camera. I will not remove a branch with the clone tool...I will more than likely just reposition and reshoot. Better to get it right in camera and have to do the least amount of post-processing possible.

I just bought a $1,200 DSLR...why are my pictures blurry?
Your minimum handheld speed is 1.5X the focal length of your lens. So if you are shooting a 200mm lens. Your minimum shutter speed at ISO 200 would be 1.5x 200mm= 1/350th of a second; and frankly, the higher the better. On a sunny day, I'm shooting somewhere in the neighbourhood handheld at 200mm 1/1000th of a sec. That's more than enough to freeze moving objects.

Do you do selective coloring on your photography?
No ma'am...that is strictly in the realm of "faux"tography. I generally call it "bad taste".

Hey, do you think I can get the same shot with my 12.1 MP P&S?
You have a 12.1 MP point and shoot, your sensor is half the size of mine. Do you know what light-bleed is? Do you know what happens when you cram 12.16 million pixels into a space 1/2 the size of a postage stamp? You have absolutely no control over your ISO, shutterspeed and aperture. Let me put it in this way: You have a Lilliputian idiot inside your camera selecting your shutterspeed and aperture as well as ISO by putting numbers on a dartboard and throwing darts at it BLINDFOLDED. In other words...NO.

Yes, this article is incomplete. I don't think I have run across ALL the questions that I have gotten asked yet. I'm sure I will probably think that I will have run across all of them in the course of my photography over the next few years, but then someone will come up with another chart-topper.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Red-Tail Hawk...I saw this morning...

On my way back from Wal-Mart after I picked up a 2L of cola (my go juice), I find a bunch of crows going completely gaga-frickin' nuts. Well...1st rule of thumb, is when you hear crows going nuts, chances are there's a predator around. And then this lady comes along and asks, "Did you see that hawk around?" Well...that pretty much got my head out of my rectal area and made me look around at the trees to see where it was located.

And I found it.

The Red-Tailed Hawk staring at me through the branches. Cue Robert DeNiro's voice "Hey, are you lookin' at me???"

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I Need To Be Awesome (No...I'm not having delusions of grandeur...)

But Awesome in the 500px way. In order to go awesome from your basic 500px account; you have to cough up $50.00 per person and in that way you get access to multiple "collections" that you can create and in essence create your own simplified "webspace" on the World Wide Web. For an HTML troglodyte such as myself, this is a godsend. Right now as a basic member, I have to catalog all my images into one "portfolio" folder and let it play through. Whereas if I went "AWESOME"...I'd be able to allow my website visitors to go and select the "collection" they want to see, whether it be wildlife or landscapes or aviation...etc, etc, etc.

Why do I need to be friends Megan Lorenz, Jamie Douglas, and Misty Dawn Seidel have all become AWESOME since they can really rock a lens and well...why should I be left out? Right?! ~evil grin~

How To Go Awesome on 500px. Look for FalconRose Photography to go AWESOME in the next year.

My Favorite the Whole Wide World...

...and that's because it's within a reasonable walking distance from my home. I just pack up my daughter in the stroller and grab my gear and away we go.

During the week there isn't a whole lot of people wandering the park and that's when I like to go there. It allows me to get up close and interactive with the ducks and that gets me some great shots. I have to say I just love this park because of it's ambience and the peace it seems to generate.

I also have a few more shots taken yesterday up at 500px. You can go to my gallery at FalconRose Photography at 500px

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Another Trip To Green Timbers

We did another trip to Green Timbers Urban Forest. Unfortunately, I found the direct sunlight did some harsh things to the photos. And it'll probably take Adobe Lightroom to edit most of the photos (which I don't have at the moment)

"I'm just taking a rest". - A dragonfly just rests on a plant for a few moments before flying off.

A raven sits in a tree watching all that surrounds him.

An eclipse mallard duck whips the water into a frenzy.

"I'm trying to hide; Is it working?" An eclipse mallard duck tries to make herself less noticeable by trying to hide behind weeds. I'm not really sure it's working too well.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Memory Card Snafu

Yesterday, my middle son and my daughter went over to Green Timbers Urban Forest armed with the intent to go photograph some ducks. We get there, and see a beautiful sight of ducks everywhere paddling around, splashing and generally making wonderful photographic opportunities everywhere.

To top it all off, I see a Great Blue Heron floating in the air...soaring majestically on a north west direction over the treetops, well within camera range. It was an absolutely awe-inspiring sight. And was a sight that could have been preserved for posterity...

except for one thing:


So folks, remember, you can't shoot anything if you don't have your memory card in your camera. Make sure that you check your card slot in your camera before you leave the house. Make sure that your memory card is in the slot before you even set a toe out of your front door.

Now as a result of this snafu, the only place where the memory of this majestic Great Blue Heron flying is preserved is in my own memory. Well...that taught me a lesson.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Stormi and Mt. Baker

Stormi on the bus ride to Willowbrook Mall.

Mt. Baker from Willowbrook Mall.

Just two shots today, but those two were well worth taking.

50mm f/1.8 - Sharpness Assessment

Though primarily considered a portrait lens(it is not a preferred portrait lens to quite a few photographers - it's more of an environmental portrait lens where you put more of the environment in the photo and leave the people at a distance for esthetics), I find that I use mine for anything but portraiture. There have been people complaining about the fact that the f/1.8 is rather soft wide-open. Frankly any lens is soft wide-open. You're letting in a lot of light and you're going to sacrifice image quality for speed, but nothing that can't be sharpened via post-processing.

Doing a portrait of my shooting buddy Toothy here. you'll find the shots (both full-size and crop in both shots) at both f/1.8 (wide open) and at the sweet-spot (the tipping point between sharpness and speed) of f/8 for this lens.

Full size shot at f/1.8

cropped in shot (100% at f/1.8)

Full size shot at f/8 (the 50mm f/1.8's sweetspot)

cropped in shot (100% at f/8)

So as you can see, there is a noticeable difference in image quality between wide-open and the lens' sweet spot. However it isn't much really to worry about.

Where you are going to be shooting wide-open is usually a portrait shot in dim light and then you are more than likely going to be going for an ethereal glow as opposed to a straight out studio shot portrait in terms of sharpness. If you need it any sharper, then go studio lights and stop down to f/8 or post-process in Adobe Lightroom or Portrait Professional.

The main reason why the 50mm is not preferred as a portrait lens is as follows: (once again using Toothy as the model)

Toothy at 50mm (notice how Toothy's face is rather flat, wide and unappealing... - OK a shark isn't all that appealing any way you look at it, but hey...if you really want to make a shark's face scary, use a 50mm)

Toothy at approximately 105mm (notice how Toothy has suddenly looked like he dropped a few pounds and is now looking like a svelte shark?) - shot with a 70-300mm f.3.5-4.5 lens.

That's the effect of a wide angle versus a telephoto on portraiture.

Don't ask me to do portraiture with models. I'd rather be slathered with honey and fed to a hungry grizzly.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

You Know You're Addicted To Photography When:

  1. You have $300,00 in your bank account and you debate on whether to get decent running shoes and replacement t-shirts (because your shoes are falling off your feet and people hand you money every time you step out) or get yourself that new 35mm f/1.8 lens.
  2. You'd forgo eating just to nail that perfect shot...
  3. You hand your camera bag to your buddy who works in construction; he just about staggers...and comments "What the hell do you have in that bag???"
  4. You look at either the Nikkor Lens Catalog or Canon Lens Catalog and almost drown in a puddle of your own drool.  
  5. At work your right hand feels funny because your camera isn't in it. (unless you're a photographer in your day job and then everything just feels fine). 
  6. People wonder if you're OK in the head because you're looking at an object from different angles trying to find the right angle and background to take a shot.  
  7. You walk out of the camera store without buying anything and have withdrawal symptoms.  
  8. When you start talking in acronyms.  "Well, you got your 70-300 VR hooked up to your D300s and your MC-62 goes in right there. Then you hook her up to the Man 200PL14; snap'er into the 488RC2 then hook'er up to the 190XB and there ya go.  That way yer D300s don't shake.  Got it?" and other photography addicts understand you. 
  9. When a typical PNW (raining like hell) morning doesn't faze you and you still step out with camera bag in hand (and come back with pictures). 
  10. You got a "stuffed animal" shooting buddy in your camera bag.
  11. You talk to your shooting buddy.
  12. Your shooting buddy talks back. 
  13. You have arguments with your shooting buddy about which f/stop to use.
  14. You can bolt down a Big Mac, Large Fries and a Coke in 5 minutes flat because you want to get back to your camera and not miss any more photography opportunities. 
  15. Your kids run when they see you bring out the camera.   
  16. You dream about that big Nikon AF-S 600mm lens, you can feel it in your're caressing it...when all of a sudden you trip and fall...and break that lens...and you wake up in a cold sweat thinking about how you're going to replace that lens...and you realize it was all a dream but instead of being relieved, you feel depressed. 
  17. The local camera shop clerks roll their eyes when you walk into the store, knowing you're coming in to kick tires again. 
  18. And they actually die of shock when you turn around and buy a camera from them. 
(more to come)