Wildlife Photography Awards – The Winning Formula

You’ve read the title of this blog and perhaps you’re now thinking that finally someone is going to give you an easy to follow winning formula for taking award winning National Geographic wildlife images.   Truth is there is no easy step by step guide, it takes a lot of time in the field to master the craft, understand your subjects and you require the patience of Job. Let’s face it you wouldn’t sign up to an online gaming site like Castle Jackpot unless you already knew how to play because you know the odds of winning are better if you know what you’re doing.  Capturing winning wildlife images is no different.

Sure there will always be those one in a million lucky moments when magic presents itself and you just happened to be in the right place at the right time.  However I would argue that luck is certainly not a repeatable process for success. Professional wildlife photographers like Canadian John Marriot have a well thought out plan and thought process.  So what is it?

Wolf Picture in snowLet’s use this image I took of a timber wolf shaking snow off of himself to demonstrate what went into the making this image.  Note: I planned ahead to get this specific image and the steps below detail the thought process behind capturing it.

1/ Research to find a location where timber wolves reside and can be photographed.

2/ Use The Weather Network to find a day when it will be snowing heavily at the location where the wolves are.

3/ Pack the right photography gear, below was my checklist;

  • Shoot with long lens to fill the frame as much as possible.
  • Bring fast frame rate camera to improve odds of capturing that decisive moment.
  • Heavy snow conditions means low light and long lenses with slower shutter speeds require the use of a tripod. I brought along the Gitzo GT5542 LS with a Jobu Pro2 Gimbal Head.
  • Pack rain/snow cover to protect camera and lens.  Tip: Spare batteries are a must in cold weather shooting.

4/  Research wolf behavior.  Ever notice how a dog shakes when it comes out of the water or has snow on its coat, wolves are no different. I observed this wolf sleeping for about two hours as the snow built up on his coat, knowing when he did finally get up he would shake.  Yes two hours to capture 2 seconds so you have to be ready when the magic occurs.  Being ready means just that, eyes on the subject at all times.  Watch for tells on when he/she might stand up.  If another wolf approaches, a bird lands nearby, a branch breaks due to snow build up and makes a loud noise, etc. these are all things that may trigger activity.

5/ Knowing your camera and its settings is critical, practice until it is second nature.  The moment you want may only happen once and very quickly so determine exposure, white balance, ISO and shutter speed requirements in advance and visualize the motion blur you want in the image.  I wanted a tack sharp eye but a blurring of the fur and snow so I went with a slower shutter speed intentionally.  Experiment with 1/15th to 1/60th for motion blurs.

6/  The truth of the matter is even the best thought out plan won’t always get you the award winning shot you were looking for, in fact the odds are in the houses favor which takes us to the final and perhaps most important tip of all, lucky number 7.

7/ The more you play, the more chance you have of winning.  Simply put, the more you get into the field and put yourself in a situation that has the potential to yield success the more likely you are to hit the jackpot and capture a publishable image.

There you have it, no magic, no secret winning formula, just good planning, lots of practice, plenty of patience and willingness and desire to get out there and shoot.

Bonus Tip: Never leave one subject to find another.  I can’t tell you the number of times I have been shooting with an impatient fellow shooter who leaves in pursuit of a better opportunity only to have the magic unfold 20 minutes after they’d left. PATIENCE PAYS.

 

 

Posted in Wildlife Photography Shooting Tips Tagged , , , , , |

Gura Gear Photography Bag | Best DSLR Camera Bag

Gura Gear 32L photography bag

I’ll get right to the point, with the hundreds of available photography bags on the market how do you know which is the best camera bag for your needs?  When I bought the Gura Gear Kiboko 30L I thought I had found perfection and believe me I have a closet full of not so perfect DSLR camera bags.  I will call it near perfection as there were two  things I did not like about the Gura Gear Kiboko 30L. One was that it would not swallow my Nikon 600mm lens with the lens hood reversed.  Two, it only allowed me to access one half of the bag at a time,  given the butterfly flap design, and I often want access to all of my gear at once.

So I always said if Gura Gear came out with a larger bag that could handle my 600mm and a design which  permitted  access the entire bag while still maintaining the butterfly flap,  they would have perfected the photography bag once and for all.

Introducing the Gura Gear Bataflae 32L which hits both of my requirements above and a whole lot more so I am giving it my “Winner Best DSLR Camera Bag Award.”  Below are the features I wanted in my camera bag:

  • Large bag that can handle a 600mm (and the 800mm just in case I won the lottery)
  • Swallows Pro Body DSLR’s with L-brackets attached
  • Whole camera bag opens at once to access all camera gear
  • Butterfly flaps to access only half the camera bag (great for dusty shoots like safari’s)
  • Airline carry-on compliant photography bag
  • Gura Gear 32L photography bag with 500mm and bodyBack pack carrying straps with stowable harness design
  • Waist belt that is removable
  • Many, many dividers for multiple lens configurations
  • Wow A DSLR Camera Bag available in more than black.  Comes in black, grey or a limited-edition desert tan
  • Light weight coming in at 5.3 lbs
  • Tripod carrying syste
  • Waterproof rain fly which doubles as a ground cover in dirty settings

 

So if it is so darn perfect what would prevent you from buying one.  In a word “cost”.  The Gura GearBataflae 32L photography bag is expensive.  So if your Scottish like I am dropping big bucks on a camera bag requires careful thought.  That is until you frame it up correctly.  I drop tens of thousands of dollars on cameras, lenses, tripods and they all get carried and protected by…..yes my camera bag.  So why the %$#@ wouldn’t I buy the best damn photography bag money can buy rather than compromising on a camera bag that does not meet all of my needs just to save a hundred bucks?  Seems kind of silly when you put it that way.

It’s a no brainer decision, if you travel for photography adventures or hike into the field with your gear, especially with larger lenses, the Gura Gear Bataflae 32L delivers quality, is feature rich and is well worth the extra money.  Buy it directly from Gura Gear and save on closet space as it is the last bag you’ll ever buy.

Gura Gear 32L photography bag three colors

Posted in Wildlife Photography Gear Review Tagged , , , , , |

Largest Print Size for Nikon D3s

Swans In The Mist PhotoI recently had a client from Switzerland request a large canvass print, we’re talking 9 feet on the longest side, of a swan image that was published in Digital SLR Photography Magazine in April 2012.

My first reaction of course was one of euphoria having made the sale but my second was one of horror.  The image that had been requested was taken with my Nikon D3s which is a 12 MP camera.  According to the charts as depicted below the biggest picture size is 9×14 inches which is a far cry from the 108 inches being requested.  Well I am writing this to let you know that the largest print size for a Nikon D3s or any other 12MP camera I expect can in fact be pushed to at least 9 feet.

Above is the canvass print proudly displayed in the clients home and they have reported that the quality is stunning.  Of course I am sure a well researched and knowledgeable printer is a mandatory part of this equation as one does need the facility in which to process this large print size.  I am sure that a sophisticated enlargement software was also used to extrapolate the image to the final size while still maintaining image quality.  Point here is it can be done, so don’t shy away from big picture sizes.

You may view the original “Five Swans In The Mist” image without the living room in our waterfowl gallery.

For reference sake the chart below provides suggested large print size by camera resolution.  Each colored box represents a certain number of megapixels. The numbers along the top and left side are print dimensions in inches at 300ppi (pixels per inch). Most books and magazines require 300ppi for photo quality. For example, the chart shows that you can make a 5″ x 7″ photo quality print from a 3 megapixel camera.

Megapixel for print size

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , , , , |

Nikond800 Firmware Update Announced April 2013

Nikon Logo

Today Nikon announced a Nikon d800 Firmware Update. The latest Nikon d800 software upgrade includes the following fixes:

  • Support for the AF-S NIKKOR 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR has been added.
  • Subject tracking performance in AF-C (continuous-servo autofocus) autofocus mode with framing using the viewfinder has been improved.
  • Gamut for Adobe RGB images displayed in the camera’s monitor has been changed. This enables more vivid display of images.
  • With live view photography in [M] (Manual) exposure mode, exposure preview was always on.  This issue has been resolved.
  • In some very rare cases when certain memory cards were used, movie recording would stop, even when the time remaining display indicated remaining recording time.  This issue has been resolved.
  • With shooting at an image quality setting of TIFF (RGB) and an image size setting of Small, the right edge of images contained a purple line.  This issue has been resolved in the latest d800 firmware.
  • In some rare cases, images recorded in JPEG format could not be opened by some software applications.  This issue has been resolved.
  • In some very rare cases, colors would change with shooting when white balance was set to a specific color temperature, as with Preset manual or Choose color temp.  This issue has been resolved.

I downloaded and installed the Nikon d800 Firmware Update without any issue.  The download and installation instructions are included on the Nikon site.

Enjoy!!!

 

Posted in Firmware Upgrades, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , |

Waterproof iPhone Case by Hitcase

waterproof iphone case

For those of us into wildlife photography we don’t often think of our iPhone for photography, or at least we don’t take of it as a serious tool for photography.  I will have to include myself on that list until now.  In addition to my DSLR’s I carry a Canon s110 pocket camera for those moments when life happens and I don’t have my DSLR with me, sound familiar?  I also recently sprung for a Go Pro to capture those spur of the moment video’s.  However all too often we don’t have the pocket camera or Go Pro’s with us and we miss a great opportunity as a result.  My wife tells me to take a picture in my head but somehow that just isn’t as satisfying as capturing the moment.

Now if you are like 99% of the people on the planet, you have your iPhone glued to you 7/24 365 which make the iPhone your new best friend for photography the way I see it.  The iPhone is no slouch when it comes to its capabilities.  The iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 camera has an 8-megapixel, five-element lens with f/2.4 aperture.   And I love the new Panorama mode which stitches together multiple photos in real-time producing pictures at a full 28 megapixels.  Not too bad at all except the iPhone is neither waterproof nor shockproof ….that is until now.

Introducing the Hitcase Waterproof iPhone case which doubles as an iPhone shockproof case.  The Hitcase makes your iPhone waterproof to 30 feet and was built for sports like motocross and autoracing so it makes your iPhone shockproof as well.  And I love this line of thinking, the folks at Hitcase designed the case such that it comes standard with a GoPro® compatible mounts so if you own accessories for your Go Pro there’s no need to buy additional accessories, well done Hitcase.   Hitcase waterproof iPhone case accessories such as heavy-duty mounts for your motorbike and suction cup mounts for your car are available just in case you feel adventurous.  Every case comes with tripod mount included.

And yes you can still make and receive calls on your phone, use your touch screen and send your pics off to your friends all without taking the iPhone out of the Hitcase.

waterproof iPhone case

waterproof iPhone case

Some hard core photographers will still not consider the iPhone a serious tool for photography, but I for one am tired of taking pictures in my head so the thought of having 8MP strapped on my hip 7/24 365 is a winner. Priced from $89 – $129, even a cheap Scott like me will bite on that price.:))

Be sure to check out the the Hitcase video and pic gallery for further cool applications.

Posted in Wildlife Photography Gear Review Tagged , , , , , , |

Nature Photography Blogs – Your Access To A Professional Photographer

Coolwildlife BlogWhen I started in photography oh so many years ago you had to rely on books and magazines to acquire knowledge and get better at the craft there were no such things as nature photography blogs.  (Yes I am that old)

Flip forward to 2013 and there are endless resources that photographers can use to expand their skills and answer their questions.  We still have the traditional books and magazines however with the advent of social media there has been an explosion of data availability.  You can follow well known photographers like Art Wolfe and Moose Peterson on Facebook and Twitter, you can Google articles and any aspect of nature photography you like.

One  of my favorite ways to learn, which is often over looked, is to subscribe to nature photography blogs or wildlife photography blogs which will push information to you each and every time the author of the photography blog writes an article.

I highly recommend, whether you are a new to wildlife photography or a seasoned veteran, that you subscribe to a few nature photography blogs from photographers whose images inspire you.  Most photographers will have information about workshops and tours they offer as that is their bread and butter.  This isn’t a bad thing, I’ve taken trips based on those reviews and been very pleased.  It can help you weed out the good trips from the bad ones as people often comment within the blog.  Many will also share with you valuable shooting tips for a variety of conditions, etc so again it is a great way to learn.  Often times the nature photography blog becomes the means by which you, yes little old you, gets to engage in a dialogue with a professional photographer.   How cool would it be to open a dialogue with Moose Peterson or Art Wolfe, seriously that’s way cool in my books.

Here’s a few nature photography blogs to get you started, you’ll want to look for a subscription link or text box and subscribe so you begin to receive the content to your email:

Art Wolfe Nature Photography Blog – Art Wolfe is an icon in wildlife and landscape photography as far as I am concerned.  In addition to his blog be sure to check out his PBS TV Series entitled “Travels to the Edge” where Art visits hot photography spots.  It is his shoe on the Brown Bears of Alaska that was the catalyst for my Brown Bear photography trip this past summer.

Andy Rouse Nature Photography Blog – Andy is an award winning photographer out of the UK.  His blog offers great tips and a host of tours that you may be interested in taking to capture your own images.

COOLWildlife Nature Photography Blog – You knew the shameless plug for my own blog was coming right?  What the heck you just might get a tip on a great photography book, a gimbal head review or a shooting tip that’s worked for me so sign up and become linked to my world of wildlife photography.

Enjoy the learning and who knows one day you may even be inspired to begin your own nature photography blog and share your experiences with fellow photographers.  If you ever get to the point where you wish to create your own photography website or start up a wildlife photography blog I highly recommend you review the offering from Photocrati as they offer photography website & blog templates which is what my COOLWildlife site is designed on, it’s very simple to manage and no previous skills are required.

Happy Shooting

 

 

 

Posted in Wildlife Photography Learning tools Tagged , , |

Jobu Design Pro2 Tripod Head – Serious Long Lens Support

Jobu BWG-Pro2 Gimbal Head

I recently upgraded my original  Jobu BWG-Pro tripod head to the newly redesigned Jobu BWG-Pro2 tripod head and man what a difference.  The head is so much smoother on the pan and the tilt side, I mean seriously noticeable so my hats off to the engineers at Jobu Design as the original BWG Pro was a serious piece of gear and this new Jobu Pro2 tripod  head surpasses the original in every way.  The new 100% CNC swing-arm is 400% stiffer in bending and twisting which translates into less vibration through your lens and more in focus shots.  They also integrated the arca-swiss compatible quick release clamp saving valuable weight and aligning themselves with the gold standard for camera mounts in Arca Swiss so I was glad to see that continue.

The Jobu Design Pro2 tripod head is rated for a maximum capacity of 35 lbs and weighs in at 3lbs 10 oz.  I love the big rubber knobs which can be worked easily with mitts on during cold winter shoots and the mechanism locks down tight through the full range of motion so there is absolutely no creeping when you have your heavy lens mounted and are trying to focus on a static object over a longer period of time.  There is also a locking mechanism for safe transport which you’ll appreciate when you are carrying a $10,000 lens over your shoulder.

I love the Jobu Design Pro2 tripod head so much I decided to do a video to showcase it for you.  During the video I will show you the features of the Jobu Design Pro2 tripod head along with a few tips and tricks to help you with your wildlife photography.

As an added bonus, at time of purchase enter or mention the code “coolwildlife” and you’ll receive a 15% discount.

Posted in Wildlife Photography Gear Review Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Jobu Design HD3 – Voted Best Tripod Head

 

Jobu-Design.com HD3 Head

Jobu Design out of Canada really nailed it with what I consider to be the best tripod head on the market today.  If you’re looking for a gimbal head that’s the perfect balance between weight and support for your longer lenses this is a gimbal head that should be at the top of your shopping list.  In my opinion Jobu Design has been outpacing the competition, namely the Wimberley tripod heads, with engineering marvels and features for some time now.

This head weighs 0.5 lbs lighter than the Jobu Pro2 gimbal head and is rated for a maximum payload of 25 lbs meaning it can easily support your Nikon 600mm lens or Nikon 800mm lens when it is released.   Needle bearings make the movement of the base and swing arm effortless so that 15-20 lbs of camera and lens can be maneuvered with one finger, it really is pretty amazing.

If you’re shopping for a gimbal head or you’re currently trying to use a ball head to manage your longer lenses then it is well worth your time to check out the video review below where I show you some of the features of the Jobu Design HD3 tripod head and just how easy it is to maneuver my Nikon D800 and Nikon 600mm lens combo.

I will also point out some tips and tricks along the way and show you how you can switch back and forth from long lens support to landscape photography using just one Jobu Design HD3 gimbal head.

As an added bonus, at time of purchase enter or mention the code “coolwildlife” and you’ll receive a 15% discount.

Posted in Wildlife Photography Gear Review Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Live Out There – Outdoor Gear Canada

If you are a Canadian and a wildlife photographer or simply lead an active lifestyle outdoors then you absolutely need to bookmark the Live Out There site and visit it daily.  I discovered the Live Out There site this past summer and while my wallet is a little lighter, ok a lot lighter, I have scored some killer deals on brand name outdoor gear like Arc’teryx, Merrell, Marmot, Icebreaker, Patagonia, The North Face and Mountain Hardwear to name a few.  The  daily deals present discounts of 48-70%, no joke.  My father once told me if it sounds too good to be true walk away.  Well in this case he would say browse away because these deals are for real and they are unmatched by any other retailer I am aware of to date. There are two areas within the site that offer you the possibility to save big.  The first is the Live Out There discount bin.  Here you will find outdoor gear from all the brand names with savings of 25-70% on select items.  Consider it the Winners equivalent for Outdoor gear in Canada. The second area and my personal favorite is the daily deals section.  This is a one day sale or until stock on that specific item is depleted.  To take advantage of the daily deals you need to be aware of a few shopping tips as follows:

  • The Live Out There daily deals are posted at 1:00 pm EST.  (Exception: If stock depletes before the 24 clock expires a new deal will be posted)
  •  Popular brands and items will sell off fast.  I have seen items be sold out in 15 minutes so you need to act quickly especially if you are a Large size as standard sizes go first.

Bonus:  Live Out There offers free shipping and returns within Canada.  Don’t ask me how they do that and still offer such ridiculous discounts, they obviously have some great relationships with their suppliers.  I have personally shipped an item back due to improper sizing and the whole process was handled online and very efficient.  You’ll be provided with a prepaid postage label online that you print and attach to the box and your office to Canada Post. My hats off to Live Out There as they have a winning formula that has me coming back daily and opening my wallet nearly as often, much to the dismay of my wife.:))  Thanks boys for a great outdoor gear shopping experience, keep those daily deals coming.

Posted in Wildlife Photography Gear Review Tagged , , , , , , |

Gore-tex Service – Gore-tex Warranty is #1 in Customer Satisfaction

 

gore-tex logo

I firmly believe that exceptional customer service should be rewarded so I am writing today to tell you about one of those experiences that left me feeling really good.  I am sure you would agree that is more the exception than the norm these days so it’s worthy of sharing the experience.   So my story starts with a pair of Gore-tex Merrell hiking boots that recently failed to keep me dry one rainy day in October.  I own numerous Gore-tex jackets, Gore-tex footwear, Gore-tex pants, Gore-tex gloves, etc. so I am very familiar with the Gore-tex “Guaranteed to Keep You Dry Promise.”

Simply stated, Gore believes in its outerwear and backs it up with a promise: No liquid from the outside will get to you on the inside. This includes moisture from the wet grass you’re kneeling in to the sudden squall you get caught in. We take this guarantee seriously. If you are not completely satisfied with the waterproofness, windproofness, or breathability of your GORE-TEX® product, then we will repair it, replace it, or refund your purchase price.  The Gore-tex contact number is 1-800-467-3839 should you ever require it.

Needless to say I contacted the Gore-tex service folks expecting the Gore-tex warranty would cover this Merrell hiking boot even though the one year warranty from Merrell had passed me by.  I was greeted by a lovely person on the Gore-tex service line and she advised that they would absolutely help me out and she instructed me on the process to return the boots.  As a next step, Gore-tex would run the boots through a lab test to confirm whether there was a leak and notify me of the results.  Approximately two weeks later I had a call from the Gore-tex service Consumer Advocate, and he informed me that the Merrell hiking boots were indeed found to have a breach causing a leak and as such offered to replace the boots at no charge to me .

The Gore-tex service folks offered me two options:  1/ Go buy the new Merrell hiking boots and Gore-tex would reimburse me or 2/ Gore-tex would ship the replacement Merrell hiking boots to me.  I opted for option 1 and provided the size and new model I wanted for the replacement and within a week the new Merrell hiking boots were on my door step, and that’s from Maryland to Canada.  How’s that for great service folks. Oh yes, I must also mention that the Consumer Advocate I spoke with was perhaps the most pleasant guy I have ever had the pleasure of speaking with, keep up the good work Bill and team.:))

I close with a word to the wise.  Even though Gore-tex anything is more expensive, sometimes double, the Gore-tex “Guaranteed to Keep You Dry Promise” (which lasts the lifetime of the Gore-tex footwear, Gore-tex gloves or Gore-tex outerwear you purchase) is well worth the extra cost in my opinion and as such I buy Gore-tex whenever possible.  Let’s just say these Merrell hiking boots are not the first time I have taken advantage of the Gore-tex warranty.:))

Posted in Wildlife Photography Gear Review Tagged , , , , , , , , |