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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy New Year - Our Photography Resolutions...

As we count down the days remaining in 2011 and round the corner into the New Year, we see plenty of posts about what New Year's resolutions we have on the plate this coming year. As a photographer, what I think about is what can I do in 2012 that will propel me to the next level. What sort of photography am I producing that will make me stand out from the crowd? What can I do with what I currently have in my camera bag that I can use to create a photograph that will make people sit up and take notice.

As a wildlife photographer, it's not the easiest thing in the world to be limited to a 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII when you are trying to take photographs of wild creatures who aren't too tolerant of the fact that you're trying to get close to them to get the shot. In my perfect world. I'd have the trifecta of wildlife photography lenses (300mm f/2.8 VRII, 600mm f/4 and a 200-400mm f/4) along with all three teleconverters. But that won't happen very quickly, unless I were to be lucky enough to win the Lotto Max. So what can I acquire that is in my range that I will be able to compete with my colleagues in the wildlife photography arena? And most importantly, what will enable me to get out to the hallowed ground of 600mm?

My concentration in wildlife photography is raptors (eagles, hawks, owls and falcons) and waterfowl )(ducks and herons). Those are the subjects that get my blood racing. Also I am interested in North American wild canids and felines such as wolves, coyotes, cougars and bobcats. Secondary on my list are the ursines (bears, both black, brown and grizzly) and the ruminants (elk, deer, moose) as they are awe-inspiring, but not as interesting (to me). As a wildlife photographer, you have to be a jack-of-all trades, meaning you go after every wild animal that you can find on the off-chance that you get a saleable shot. But would I go after a ursine or a ruminant with a 70-200mm f/2.8...not if I don't want to become the grizzly bear's next snack or become a rather grizzly (no pun intended) antler ornament.

What did I accomplish this year? Well...I managed to prove to myself that I could shoot a high-calibre quality of wildlife photographs with the lens that I have now, provided that the subjects were relatively used to human interaction. I did manage to prove that I could get some interesting shots, well composed and well-lighted on a consistent basis. And I did find and manage to narrow down the wildlife lenses that I need to compete with the big names. I also joined the 500px photography site which happens to be one of the best sites out there for people who are serious about their photography. But frankly, I'm still to damned scared to go onto 1px, they seem a bit more elitist...than even those of us on 500px. We 500px'rs take pride in our photography and try to do the best we can at what we do.

Oh, the 600mm f/4 is still on my list, but I plan to get a few lenses that will allow me to compete on a level playing field first, namely the AF-S 300mm f/4. A steady stable support (a tripod (Gitzo SGT 5561GT (systematic tripod))) with a gimbal head (the Jobu BWG-Pro2) help mount the 300mm f/4 for steady shots unless I'm trying to go after birds in flight. I also plan to get a TC-17EII 1.7X teleconverter to allow me to get out to 510mm of focal length. It won't allow me to get too close, but still, it is good enough while I'm saving up for the big 600mm f/4 lens. And it may allow me to get some birds-in-flight shots that I wouldn't be able to otherwise do.

I also plan to get into a sideline of macro photography to supplement my stock photography. Hence the requirement for the acquisition of a 105mm f/2.8 VR Macro lens which I hope to get sometime this 2012. This will allow me to get together a substantial stock of seasonal images that I will be able to put up for sale. I am also going to complete my Lee equipment acquisition with the Lee 1, 2, and 3 stop hard neutral density gradient filters, so that I can attempt to take landscape photos of the areas around where I live, quite possibly getting a few saleable landscape shots.

What do I still need to work on? My raging case of "lens envy". Whenever I see someone with a 300mm f/2.8 400 f/2.8, 200-400mm f/4, 500 f/4 or 600mm f/4...I get this nervous tic in the side of my face...along with a desire to run to the nearest camera store to pick up one of my own, if I could convince a bank to extend me a $15,000 line of credit; my inferiority complex that I can't do equivalent work compared to a pro with the lenses that I have (unless we're talking serious ursine, ruminant, wild canids or wild felines) which I have proved myself wrong repeatedly the latter half of 2011 and the raging desire to run to the nearest camera store...and plead and beg that I'll sell photography equipment for them for free for the rest of my life in exchange for the two lenses of my desires (NO lens is worth short-changing myself in my life-goals).

Overall, the thing I learned the most from 2011, is that if I want something bad enough...the only solution is to go after it, utilizing the skills and equipment that I have. So I look forward to 2012 with renewed hopes and a drive to create ever more high-quality images. So fellow photographers, here's to a 2012 that is filled with incredible opportunities for creating images for each and every single one of us. Happy New Year.

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