There was another trip for me to the greenways in south Charlotte and I'm just amazed by the great photo opportunities to photograph wildlife there.
It's been a while, and it's time for some updates! last month saw the first meeting of the Ballantyne Photography Club, and I quickly realized that I needed a bigger space to hold our meetings! It's a great problem to have, and thank you to all that came out showed your support! If you're interested in coming, click the Ballantyne Photography Club link and it will take you to our MeetUp page. Looking forward to seeing you next week!
There was another trip for me to the greenways in south Charlotte and I'm just amazed by the great photo opportunities to photograph wildlife there.
I also led a fantastic group of photographers to Landsford Canal to photograph the blooming spider lilies. The blooms are short lived, appearing for only a few weeks a year, and they didn't disappoint, so as well as getting a 'nature' fix, our group also got a a hands-on education on the challenges of selecting a shooting position, adjusting white balance and ISO and making those aperture/shutter speed decisions to achieve their imaging goal.
Continuing on from my last post that saw me on the Four Mile Creek greenway in south Charlotte, here are the non-snake related photos.
Those of you that have been following me a while know that I set my camera to Shutter Priority when I'm on the trails and rarely use anything higher than ISO 400 unless I really have to.
For those of you asking why: On my camera, a Nikon D200, using an ISO higher than 400 creates a lot of noise, so for quality I limit myself to 400. Now, that may change if there's something I REALLY need to capture. Sasquatch making an appearance deep in the woods would be in that category. Using Shutter Priority means I can set up at 1/250 and hopefully much higher. It's my intent to shoot closer to 1/600 whenever possible, ISO and light permitting. Keep in mind, if you're set at ISO 100 in bright sunshine as a lot of our walk was, photographing something deep in the shade of a tree will probably leave you with an underexposed image. Changing your ISO from 100 to 400 gives you four times the amount of light and can save you from the dark side. Of under exposure that is.
Click on any image to enlarge.
It's all about timing! We were going to go to Landsford Canal, but instead decided to revisit the Four Mile Creek greenway. We were there a few weeks ago for an evening Frog walk and thought it would be nice to go back during the day and take the cameras...glad we did!
The highlight of the walk was this rather hungry snake. I think it's a Northern Water Snake from what I've found online, so anyone with a better idea is welcome to pitch in. We weren't there for the 'catch', but we were there while he swallowed his catfish lunch whole!
After lunch, he slithered off...looking for and almost catching a frog dessert! Quite an appetite!
Then, while we were still looking to see where this guy was going we saw this....
Well, we saw a lot more during our walk, but this was our third snake of the day having narrowly missed a Black Rat snake crossing the road out of our neighborhood, and this seems like a good place to end this post!
Just a quick reminder that my Beginner's Photography Workshop is coming up this Saturday, so register now if you need to learn why you shouldn't be using your camera in 'P' mode! That's just the tip of the iceberg! For a discount to the workshop go to www.ColinHocking.photography/discounts
Also, in the interests of 'spreading the word' I've started a photography meetup group under the name of Ballantyne Photography Club where I'm hoping myself, you, and other like-minded individuals will be able to meet and share our experience and knowledge, and have a little bit of learning fun along the way, too!
The monthly meetings will be free of charge...so check it out and hope to see you there!
Situated in the Dupont National Forest, two and a half hours north west of Charlotte, NC, Hooker Falls allowed me to take photos of some beautiful water falls. For those of you happy to look at pretty pictures...these are for you! For those of you that want to read how I achieved the cloud-like nature of the water, read on below the photos.
To me, when photographing water falls, you have two options: the first and easiest to capture is to freeze the water motion to show the complexity of each individual water formation. The other is to use a long exposure to produce the 'cloud' effect of my first photo in this post, and it's this process that I'm going to cover here.
The overall concept to create the 'cloud' effect is to produce a long enough exposure to really blur the the water motion as it cascades over the fall. The challenge comes in achieving that long exposure time. In 'normal' daylight, even at your longest exposure time you're probably not going to achieve the desired effect, because to get this effect we're talking about exposures of several seconds, at least. In a few of the photos I took I was using exposures of 30 seconds in bright sunshine! Needless to say, we need some specialized equipment to achieve this.
Of course, I always recommend using a tripod, but you're also going to need a Neutral Density filter. I used a Variable ND filter from Polaroid. The ND filter reduces the amount of light reaching the sensor without altering the color balance, and come in various 'stops' of light reduction. If you're buying a filter for the first time, you'll need to buy the right size for the lens you're going to use, and this is printed on the lens itself.
Keep in mind, that the water is not the only thing in the scene that's moving. At these long exposure times, the wind moving the tree branches, grass moving, etc, are all going to blurred to a degree. Only things that are solid and not in motion will be crisply in focus, that's why you see the 'ghost' effect of the tree branches. At 30 seconds exposure time, someone could walk briefly in front of the camera and not be recorded to the image!
Here's what I did. I set my camera to it's lowest ISO at 100, then estimated an exposure of 30 secs at f8. It wasn't far off as determined by the histogram! From there I calculated half stop exposure adjustments and 'bracketed'. What I found was that a slight under exposure produced a more pleasing end result.
Of course, every time I moved my position, I had to recalculate my exposure and bracket each one. I found that for this particular set of shots, a 6 second exposure at f29 produced the effect I was looking for with just the amount of blur to remain pleasing. Setting my aperture to f29 also meant a maximum depth of field and a more manageable shutter speed. I used the histogram to help me determine the exposure adjustments I needed.
I've listed the exposure settings under the photos, but for a more detailed article on the challenges I faced in capturing these images, click here.
I know you think I'm all about chasing birds through the woods and photographing whales leaping from the ocean, and I am, but every once in a while I have the opportunity to take some photographs that commemorate a family's memorable occasion, and it's truly an honor to share in this one.
I've been photographing my neighbors, the Ranzinger family, for many years now so it's quite an event when Matthew is preparing for his First Communion!
Congratulations, Matthew, and thanks for being such a good subject!
A few weeks ago, this visitor appeared on our neighbor's fence! What a beautiful Cooper's Hawk.
It's not the first time he or his lookalike have sat on the fence, and between Christi and I, we've taken photos through the screened porch. But this time I ventured through the door to take these.
When I photograph wildlife, and birds in particular, I adopt the shoot first, shoot often philosophy. I do this because you never know when they're just going to literally take off!
So, before I stepped through the door, I set the camera at 1/640 on Shutter Priority which allowed f6.3 at ISO 400 and Auto White Balance. My 70-300mm lens already set at 300mm. This is something I ALWAYS take care of before getting to my shooting position, because by then it's too late to work out my settings.
Having set foot outside, I kept the camera raised and shot a frame every few feet as I slowly got closer. That way I was guaranteed a few photos before the inevitable happened.
I was disappointed that I didn't get a better flight shot, but I think this is funny! It does show that setting the camera at such a high shutter speed to freeze the motion works though....even though the majority of the photos I took he was sitting still on the fence, the reason I chose the high shutter speed in the first place was with the expectation of catching an in-flight photo. Mr Cooper was faster than me though!
Now, if I were more diligent, and had a better line of approach, I could have kept the pink post out of the background, too. Easy to Photoshop out though if needs arise!
This morning was a beautiful time to take the first of a few of my planned walks with the local chapter of the Audubon Society here in Charlotte, NC. Using Colonel Francis Beatty Park as the backdrop, a large group of us gathered for a pleasant amble around the lake and trails.
Now, neither Christi nor myself are birders, or twitchers, but we do love to watch our feathered friends and whatever else may cross our paths, especially if a camera can be involved. Those of you that have ever tried to 'shoot' birds will know that it takes a lot of time, stealth and patience. And a really long lens! So while the walk was fun and informative, there were few photo ops that I could take advantage of.
Early in the walk, this White Eyed Vireo presented himself as a willing subject!
So, here's the technical details. When I'm out shooting with the intent of capturing potentially fast moving objects, I like to shoot in Shutter Priority mode. Here I set the aperture, in this instance, to a quite slow 1/250s. With Image Stabilization, though, I can shoot at this speed and still get sharp images. My preference would have been to have at least 1/320s or faster...and I later upped my shutter speed to cover the rule of thumb of using a shutter speed to match the focal length you're shooting at to reduce camera shake. There was plenty of room to make this change, as the aperture was f9 or 10, and I like to be around f8 for the best sharpness from the lens.
Later on, as we traversed from wide open space to tree covered trails, I changed my ISO, moving one stop up to 400 from 200. Usually, I do this as soon as I see the light change, which means I have to be an active photographer! If you don't stay aware of the changing lighting conditions, the one chance you get to capture that breathtaking moment could be gone because you weren't proactive in changing your camera settings before you needed to push the shutter release! Believe me, wildlife isn't going to hold the pose while you work out there isn't enough light to get the right exposure and push buttons and turn dials. The moment is gone in an instant.
Anyway, while there weren't too many bird photo ops, there were a few other memorable moments....
Shooting this little guy with a 70-300mm lens wasn't ideal, but with the lens wide open at f5.6 I got a reasonable exposure. The lighting is flat as we were in a sheltered part of the trail. Below you'll see the difference some light makes! A ring flash would have been a perfect addition to the equipment list here, along with a more suitable macro lens, but I was traveling light!
Just for perspective, the first toad would fit nicely in to the palm of your hand. The one above was about the size of the tip of your pinky finger! Tiny. The sun really helped show off the colors and helped provide the contrast that was lacking in the first shot.
Love the spring colors of trees starting to bud with a Carolina blue sky for a background.
Finally, take a look at your local Audubon Chapter to see if they offer trips around parks in your neighborhood; they are free and provide a great morning out in nature and the chance for a little education.
Equipment: Nikon D200, Nikon MB 200, Nikon 70-300mm f4.5-5.6, AF-S with VR
I just finished adding a brand new page to the website: Birds.
Check out my collection of our feathered friends at www.ColinHocking.photography/birds
Don't forget, my first workshop for beginner photographers is coming up. For a BIG discount, register here:
My first newsletter of the year is out and ready for your reading. Click this link, and don't forget to share with friends!
Our models for one of our upcoming trips.
It's taken longer than anticipated but I can now confirm that I have locations secured and trips planned.
You can join Joy Shuck and I on some trips to a few popular parks in the Charlotte area, or join me if you are a beginner photographer and would like to learn how to use all the dials and buttons on your SLR, plus get in to some hands on photography after the classroom work is done.
If you would like a SIGNIFICANT DISCOUNT on the pricing, register using this link: Discount Trips & Classes
This is one of a few of the photos I added today. It's one of a series of this Humpback from our trip to Maui in December. The series print on metal is available in the Limited Editions tab under Shop.
The other news is that the dates for the photo trips with Joy are now confirmed! Plus, I also have a day long workshop coming up in Ballantyne for all those of you that want to REALLY learn how to use all those buttons on your camera. Half the day spent in the classroom, the other in the park practicing with me by your side.
Finally, I hope to start working on a newsletter later this week, so if you haven't signed up yet, you can using the link to the right. There's going to be freebies involved!
I've taken advantage of not being able to escape the house this week by doing a lot of behind the scenes work. Namely, working with Joy Shuck on putting together some dates for our joint education photo trips. Locations will include Beatty Park, Landsford Canal & South Mountains State Park! These will be added to the Classes & Tours page once everything is confirmed.
I'm also putting together some workshops for classes for beginning photographers that will be held here in the Ballantyne area. There are some beautiful locations here to shoot, so they will be hands on cameras classes! Stay tuned!
Lastly, my domain name using the just-released top level domain .photography has been released.
So, while I'm waiting for my top level domain to be released for use by ICANN, I wanted to let you know some exciting news. Many of you on here will know Joy Shuck who is currently the Youth Programs Supervisor at the US National Whitewater Center here in Charlotte. What you may not know is that Joy is an NC Certified Environmental Educator, and recently, over lunch together, Joy and I discussed the possibilities of working together on a project I've been contemplating for a while.
Specifically, I have been wanting to take my knowledge of photography, background in adult education, and love of the great outdoors, and put together some photography education trips. Joy has agreed to join me in this endeavor, so as well as enhancing your photography skills during an enjoyable hike to places that Joy has spent years devoting time gaining knowledge of, you'll also be able to learn much more about the environment and the places we'll be photographing!
To my knowledge, no other group in the area will be bringing this combination of knowledge together, so stay tuned for dates and places we'll be leading you to in the near future!
Oh, Joy is an avid photographer, too. If you haven't checked out her photos from her recent trip to Yellowstone, you should take a look.
Building the PayPal buttons and editing them didn't take as long as I thought it would....although I did have to remind myself of some HTML coding that I haven't used in 15 years to get them looking just right!
Now I'm waiting for the notice from GoDaddy that my new Top Level Domain will be allocated to me once it is released. Otherwise, I think I'm ready to launch this thing!
A week in, and I'm still working on my new website, and of course, my blog. What I hope you'll find when I'm done is a website of amazing photos...for purchase as well as inspiration...and a resource for things photographic. Most of the website pages are done, so the next task is to add photos and build the buttons.
Since I want to make sure I take care of every little detail, I'm imagining that the web launch is still a few weeks away, so stay tuned!
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