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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Utilizing ND and Grad ND filters on Airliners

I love working with PSE8, yet it doesn't do everything that I would want it to do. Having a physical ND filter or a Grad ND filter on the camera as you take your picture can do things that utilizing a ND filter function on PSE8 cannot do.

With these two shots, I wanted to bring out the intensity of the sky and bring some definition into the clouds.

The unmodified image of a DH-8 coming into land on Runway 26R

When I applied the post-processing ND 1.2 (4 stop) filter simulated by PSE8, the sky was darkened and the clouds gained definition.

This shot, I underexposed a bit to bring out the clouds, however, that was not bringing out the clouds in a way that I wanted.

With this shot here, I cranked up the exposure of the RAW file by one stop, then applied a 1.2 soft ND Grad with PSE8 (post processing) to the photo with the transition point to the center-line of the aircraft. This allowed a gradual transition from the clouds to being able to see the aircraft. The clouds are being lit by the setting sun and that was the intensity that I wanted to bring to them. The problematic part of throwing a GND or ND filter PP on the aircraft is that you are going to end up with a dark aircraft. You can either use shadows to tweak the exposure, or you can dodge (using the dodge and burn tool) as I have in this updated photo. Learning how to utilize the "dodge and burn" tool is essential in post-processing and if done right, it can make a world of difference in your photos.

The dodging and burning allows you to bring out the exposure of the aircraft and ONLY the aircraft, not the darkened sky behind it.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Is It Too Many Cameras Too Fast (or Is Nikon Not Really Giving Us What We Want)?

As Darrell has clearly stated in his blog entry for today: Too Many Cameras, Too Fast, it is clear that we are entering a stage of camera manufacture that seems to emphasize marginal upgrades on the previous model with the attitude that "if you make it, they will buy it" - that we are being led into the mindset of "Let's see what the latest and greatest will bring?" Yes, it has led to a overabundance of camera models to choose from. But are they really giving us what we need? For those of us wildlife photographers waiting on a D400, we were looking at what the D7100 offered us, which didn't come close to being what we needed. The D300s offered 6fps without grip, with an optional 1-2 fps with the MB-D10 battery grip given the right type of battery - I believe you had to have an EN-EL4a battery installed to get the extra 1 to 2 fps.

For wildlife photography, you do need frames-per-second and you needed buffer. If you are shooting flying or rapidly-moving subjects, you need to have the frame rate - preferably in the neighbourhood of 7-8fps if not 10 or 11, because somewhere in that pile of photos you've just shot, may be the keeper. Certainly, I've known people who could do it in one or two frames. I could probably get that shot with my D50 which has a rather laughable 3 fps at its maximum. But it's not a matter of flag-waving on who can do it better, but whether or not you have that certain pose that the magazine editors are looking for, the certain wing-position and posture of the subject that brings out the image and catches the viewer's attention. It's not so much the simple fact that you have the ability to get the shot that you want inside of 5fps or not, it's that given 5fps, it's a crap-shoot whether you get the image you're looking for on a one-time beautiful pass. When you have more fps to work with you have more chances that you will get the shot you're looking for - Will you have a better chance of getting THAT shot in with 8 shots to choose from rather than 5? Your chances have probably gone up.

Judging from multiple reviews, the D7100's buffer rate stank - this is what allows us to do Continuous High Speed Shutter - the rate in which the camera sensor sends data to the memory card allows us to "click-shutter" without backlog of data being written. "Continuous raw performance was much shorter-lived, starting at 4.9fps and slowing to 1.4fps after just five frames (the D7000 lasted for ten). " - Expert's Review on the D7100. From this I take that the buffer of the D7100 is considerably less than the buffer on the D7000 let alone the venerable D300s. This is an unacceptable result for anybody wishing to capture fast moving objects with the D7100 and that pretty much makes it a deal-breaker in my books when it comes to utilizing it for the kind of wildlife photography that bird photographers deal with on an everyday basis. Certainly some people will find it acceptable, but I don't. And I plan to hold on to my D300s as long as I possibly can. When I'm sherpa'ing my Nikon AF-S II 600mm f/4 D IF-ED in the field, that is a 16-20 lb weight including tripod so I want to maximize my chances for the effort. And to me, having 6 chances and a miserably low buffer rate to get one shot versus 7 or 8 chances with my old D300s doesn't make it worth my while to hump that beast attached to a D7100 over rough treacherous terrain.

Has Nikon given us what we (as wildlife photographers) want in the D7100 (DX) or D800 (FX)? No, I don't believe so. The fps is a slow 5fps at top for the D800 versus 6fps for the D7100 (with an idiot dial versus the more intuitive dial for the D300s - my WB, ISO and QUAL features are right there within easy reach, whereas I would have to go nuts trying to find it in the menu system with the idiot dial). Essentially to me, that's a downgrade, no matter what the added megapixels are. I don't have time when I'm out in the field to be monkeying around in my menu system. I'm looking for functionality at my fingertips with everything I need to execute being manually accessible. 5 fps is fine for the studio, but when you want every aspect of a bird's trajectory, no.

Will I "upgrade" to the D7100? Emphatically, NO! I will more than likely save my simolians and upgrade to a Nikon D4 or whatever replaces it. Am I satisfied with what Nikon has produced in the past two years with regards to a replacement camera for my D300s? No...if they were going to replace my D300s they would have upgraded the fps rate to 7fps, given us a buffer to at least get 25 shots in without slowing down and they would have retained the pro-dial features of the D300s in the D7000, but they chose to go with the less intuitive "idiot dial". No, Nikon isn't going to give us the ultimate bird photography camera because how else will they make money, then? If they give us everything we want - then what reason would we have to upgrade? Can we work with the limitations? We're going to have to. But the complaints are there, because we shouldn't have to; not because we can't.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hawthorne Park Wanderings

I had 45 minutes before I headed over to Storm's daycare to actually go out and get some photography done. So I thought at first that I would head over to Green Timbers, my usual haunt, but the traffic was horrendous leading over to that park, so I made a split-second decision to go up to Hawthorne Park instead. I took my D300s/50mm f/1.8 D lens and a Hoya polarizing filter with a 52mm to 62mm step-up ring so that I could use my 62mm Hoya polarizing filter on my 50mm f/1.8 D lens. I've often loved the Hoya filters because they give you a deep rich blue as opposed to the 67mm Tiffen which gives a greenish cast to the sky that is harder to get out than the Hoya filter tint.

This creature was in my driveway. The last time she nearly got catapulted to the roof thanks to her attaching her web to the rear fender of my car. Not a wise choice when I have to pull out of the driveway.

What I need to do is to get some graduated neutral density filters.

A Few More Shots from Green Timbers Park.

Some more shots from Green Timbers.

Two shots above are that DAMNED pied-billed grebe.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Surrey Minor Hockey Association Peewee C Tryout #3

My son's Surrey Minor Hockey Association Peewee C Tryout #3 at Newton Arena. It was a scrimmage game. Brought my 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII & D300s to the arena and took a few shots of my son trying out for Peewee C.

Now we just need to see which house team he's on.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Abbotsford International Air Show - Need to go back...

When I was a child, I used to go to the Abbotsford International Airshow. Back then they had some great planes come out to the airshow. The F-14, the F-15, the F-16 and the F/A-18 were all there. Unfortunately though back then, my photography skills weren't much to talk about and it was a crap-shoot everytime I picked up the camera to take a photo. Of course I got some nice photos, but they were pretty much the "luck of the draw" rather than any coherent knowledge of what to do with a camera back then.

I started going to the Abbotsford Airshow in 1983 at the age of 13 thanks to a close family friend by the name of Mr. Wakita who was the father of a young boy much younger than myself by the name of Masao Wakita and went religiously every year afterwards as much as my pocketbook could allow. The Airshow was a relief for a young child enamored of airplanes and aiming "high" to want to become a fighter pilot, although those dreams were unrealized. But even then I had photographic aspirations from what I can see. I wanted a Nikon back then but all my dad could afford was a Mamiya Sekor TL500 35mm manual focus SLR and I had to try my luck on that. Nowadays I wish I still had that beautiful little SLR combined with the knowledge that I've gained from my Nikon D50.

This shot was of the Blue Angels back when they were flying A-4F Skyhawks. The Scooter was a hell of a great plane and the Blue Angels were terrific flying them.

This next shot was in 1986 during the Airshow that was Expo 86. It was an all-out bangout show that featured many aerial aerobatic teams from around the world. The TA-4J was from an unknown West Coast Adversary squadron. Makes me wish that I had a better camera angle to get the squadron number.

The Concorde made an appearance at Abby as well in 1986. With World Exposition held in 1986, the Airshow wanted to compete with the marketing that was going on for Expo 86 and it succeeded far beyond its expectation.

The F-111F came to Abbotsford in 1986 as well, as the 391st FS "Bold Tigers" made an appearance. I was lucky enough to talk to the pilot and managed to get a patch from him. Patch-collecting was yet another hobby of mine back then.

The aerobatic Pitts S-2 Special was there as well with the Canadian Ray-Ban Golds flying a spectacular aerobatic routine.

During the 90s, I went sporadically. and unfortunately ended up not going for a long time after 1997. I hope to go again with my kids. It will be a hearkening back to the wonderful times that I spent with my late father.

Some of the images from 1992 which was the last time that I went with my parents.

This was the last time I ever saw the F-14A Tomcat at Abbotsford when I went there. The last time it actually flew at Abbotsford was in 2003 - I wasn't present.

One of the rare shots of a B-1B Lancer in European Green.

With Sequester and the removal of all United States military assets from performing at international and domestic airshows, the likelihood of US involvement in airshows in the future is up in the air and the outcome does not look good at all. It may be that I may not be able to get any more USAF and USN aircraft into my portfolio. However, with the Canadian Forces flying their CF-18s, I'll be happily content with building up my CF-18 Hornet photo collection. I hope to go to Abby in 2014. In the meantime, I'll photograph the CF-101B Voodoo gate guard there.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Some more shots from Boundary Bay & Green Timbers - September 4, 2013

Some more shots from my quick tour of the three main birding spots I go to - Boundary Bay, Serpentine Fen and Green Timbers


An identified stump from some of the photos that I have seen around the internet of the snowy owl locations. This uncropped image incidentally is the unedited reach of a 600mm f/4 from the dike. Any questions? So if you have a 600mm, you have no excuse that you needed to get closer. Use the 600mm with a teleconverter if you need to get even closer! Stay On The Dike!

A clearly marked sign indicating that people should use telephotos and not to get too close to the birds. As a result there should be no excuses by people who think that they can do whatever they want.

Boundary Bay

Serpentine Fen

Ducks sitting on log in the Fen

Green Timbers Lake

Duck floating all alone except for a few duck feathers and debris in the water.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Abstract - Diagonal Lines

An abstract photo just for the heck of it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Twitter Feed: @falconrosephoto

Yes, definitely planning to do a trip to interior BC in the next few years since I want some shots of burrowing owls. It's a "must-get" from what I call my bird photography bucket list.

Please click the "follow" button in the right hand corner of the Twitter to follow me on Twitter.

Monday, September 9, 2013

In Your Face, Mr Grebe! Pied Billed; that is...

I've been swearing up and down at that miserable pied billed grebe that I've had the misfortune of encountering firstly with my 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII (not enough range) and with the 70-300mm f/4-5.6 G (still not enough range). Let's just say he is pretty much the most uncooperative little feathered lout I've had the misfortune of attempting to photograph. It could be my choice of photography venue - Green Timbers Lake or it could just be the signs that indicate no entry into the lake for any reason. However with the acquisition of the 600/4 I have been waiting for that little miserable aquatic bird to poke its head out. And it was just my luck that it was that particular day that I went with my 600/4 to Green I seemed to be having little luck elsewhere.

Despite the fact that this was pretty much a 90% crop, it came out just fine for web use and turned out relatively nicely. When I get the TC-14EII or the TC-17EII, I'll attempt another shot of the pied billed grebe, yet again. Finally...this shot was acceptable (though not a "for sale" type shot). So...Mr. Grebe...who's laughing now?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Richmond - Gulf of Georgia Cannery

Went by Moncton Avenue in order to take a couple of photos at the Richmond Gulf of Georgia Cannery with boys and daughter in tow. This is a place that I need to come back to with the 18-70mm and try to get some decent photos. Consider this a "scouting expedition".

Will try to go back at some point this year.

Big Heavy Metal Birds - YVR

Went to Boundary Bay, Serpentine Fen and Green Timbers on Wednesday. It was pretty much a write-off. There wasn't much to see at all. No birds that were interested in doing much of anything worth photographing. So after I got my daughter from daycare, my sons, daughter and I opted to go to YVR and go shoot big heavy metal birds. At least that kept us occupied until we could pick my wife up from Kwantlen - Richmond.

And this was why a 600mm isn't all that great for plane-spotting.

British Airways B747-436 coming in all flaps out and gear hanging down aiming for Runway 26R. The Boeing 747 landing is a breathtaking sight and one that harkens me back to the days that my late father and I used to come out and watch the aircraft come in. The prize catch for viewing back then was a 747. Now I'm doing the same thing with my own sons and daughter.

China Eastern A330-243 coming in over the fence. Hence the reason why I say the 600mm isn't a great plane-spotting lens. All you see is sections of the aircraft as it goes by.

Delta A320-212 coming in during "golden light". Saw a lot of small ones coming in but have to admit, they're just as nice to photograph.

Particularly hard landing by EVA Air B747-45E B-16411. Kicked up so much burnt rubber smoke that you could smell it from miles away.

Monday, September 2, 2013

How To Get The Photos You Want (Without Scaring Birds Un-necessarily)

Bird Photography Ethics is a very mine-filled topic at many birding and nature photography forums. Understandably birders want to protect and conserve threatened and endangered species from further harm. Bird Photography requires clear frame-filling shots of which magazine editors will take notice. Does this mean that bird photographers have to work at cross-purposes with birders?

No. Most photo editing software programs have crop functions and working with a DX or crop sensor will help, especially with the high megapixel sensors that seem to populate crop sensor cameras nowadays. You can also use resizing programs to resize your image up to a usable image. Of course it is better to resize the original image and then crop it to what you want, though it will take some time to resample the image. Resizing first then cropping is the preferred route to go.

I work with a D300s (1.5x crop sensor) camera and utilize cropping for most of the framing in my images mainly because I will not get close enough to agitate the birds. For me, staying "on the dyke trail" at Boundary Bay means staying on the dyke trail.

This is a great blue heron shot that I took at Iona Beach Regional Park. Partway along the causeway, there is Mud Bay. That bay is a great little place for wading birds and herons. I took the shot from the road with my 600mm. This is the original image from my camera/600mm lens "uncropped".

And this was the image that I got cropped and resized back up to a usable image.

A 600mm and teleconverter will not solve your image problems with regards to composition, however the resizing and cropping will go a long way to giving you a lot more flexibility with your photography.