Monday, November 28, 2016

The world we see is what we think it is, not what it actually is...

So much of our reality is self-invented, self-limited.
We see what we want to see.
We see what we have seen before.
We see what we expect.

We see what we allow our selves to see.

We are blind to what we do not expect.
We are blind to what we do not see with our eyes closed.

Reality is a fungible thing.  We don't think it is, but it is.  We bring so much to the table when it comes to enabling a reality to be experienced.  We bring so much that it doesn't seem right.  It should be an objective thing, something that just is.

I recently heard the saying "I'd rather be the person that bought the Bridge, than the person that sold the Bridge".  And I would rather have bought the bridge, than been the person that knowingly tricked and took advantage of another...

So what about photography?

As a photographer I see what I see and then make a choice to capture it.  But how can I capture what I don't see?

One way to overcome this might be to play.  Playing allows me to try things, to experiment, and to not have an expectation or result in mind.  An easy example of this is to play with slow shutter speeds and see what happens.  The pleasing results can be few and far between, but then there's that one that works.  (Kind of like most of my experiences on the golf course - the rare well struck ball that makes the day fun.)

Another way to overcome the expectations of experience and past sight is to put the camera up to my eye and see what I actually see.  This is different than looking without the camera, because the camera restricts vision, frames it in a little box and focusing the mind on just what is there.

And another way is to slow down, and sit, observe and stop looking for a pattern match.  This can be when I start to see past everything I've brought to the day.

I was in Florida this year (2016), my 5th year there to drive around and see nature, photograph birds and landscapes, etc.

While there I made it to Fort De Soto and looked for the GHO nest from the year before but I didn't see it and was disappointed.  So I did what I have learned to do when this happens and I found a local (park guy) and asked him some questions.  I learned that the nest I was looking for failed, as did another nest in the park - but there was a nest by the fort just up the road.

I have learned to value locals and their knowledge, and to not be afraid to get some advice.  When I go to a new National Wildlife Refuge for example, I will stop by the visitor's center and talk to them and try to learn from them. By contrast I also do not do a ton of prep/research when going somewhere new and try to have an open/fresh and unplanned approach.  It doesn't always work for the best results (images), but it removes stress and expectations and in that regard I am good with it.

Once I knew where there were owls I headed over there and quickly found the tree with the nest and 2 chicks.  It was in a grassy area just off of the parking lot and the tree itself was in a small area protect by some orange tape to instruct visitors to keep their distance.

Great Horned Owl Chick

I saw the chicks and took a few photographs.  Then I saw another photographer and we started talking a bit.  He said he had been there for a while and didn't see an adult around but he had looked this way and that way and was keeping his eyes opened.

By now I had just been here for maybe 5 minutes and he said he had been there for a couple hours.

What happened next is the reason for this post.

I could have taken his longer observation as fact, and shot the chicks and nest some more and then moved on.  But instead I used my own history with nests and birds and I had a hunch that the female/adult was nearby and within eye sight of the nest, watching over it.

A few years ago I watched another Great Horned Owl nest a few times, and learned that the female would hide in almost plain sight, but high up and blending in to the canopy.  This makes good sense to me - laying eggs and raising chicks is a huge investment in time and effort, and the adult is not likely to be off hunting or sleeping or whatever away from that investment if they have a choice.

With my own perspective, and not the other guy's perspective, I found the female perched in a tree, a tree INSIDE the taped off area, within just a few minutes.  From the perspective below, you can actually see the bird in this wide angle shot pretty clearly outlined.

She was there, clearly resting and watching the nest, from a very close vantage point.  She was hidden, but not that hidden.  One thing I remember the other guy saying after I spotted her was he didn't think she'd perch in a palm tree so he didn't really look there much.

Great Horned Owl - Fort De Soto Florida

Reality is more than just what you see.  Look harder.

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Making different images at the zoo

I enjoy going to the zoo.  I've been going now for over a decade, to the US National Zoo in Washington D.C.

By now I know where most things are, and try to time some photos for the seasons, the colors, and take care to make images that show the animals in a way other than the boring "animal at the zoo" kind of way I think a lot of people expect.  I think it is true that a lot of the time the zoo and the animals can be boring - they might not be outside, they might be hiding, they might be sleeping, they might be pooping.  There's a lot that can go wrong if you want to take interesting photos.

I try to focus on the framing, the colors and getting images that don't scream "captive animal", but I also don't want to mislead anyone and I label the zoo images as taken in a zoo.  In addition to the captive zoo animals I photograph there, I also shoot a lot of the native/migratory wildlife.

Here are 2 captive animals I recently shot.





And here are a couple of wild / non-captive birds from the zoo's grounds also.


Big Flap

Red-Shouldered Hawk
Red-Shouldered Hawk

If you like to photograph wildlife one thing that can make a difference in the animals is what they are used to.  A RSH that lives off in the woods and rarely sees a human will be very likely to fly away when it sees a photographer.  However a RSH/animal, that often sees people/photographers, because that's what is in their home turf will likely not be so eager to fly away.  This is true anywhere.  I was surprised when I learned about the Red-Tailed Hawks on the Mall in DC, and other animals like ducklings, that people have photographed there.

-Jon Read more On "Making different images at the zoo"!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

What's the value of an unshared photo?

 What's the value of an unshared photo?

Are you a photographer?
Do you take photos?
Do you share your photos?
Do you email them to friends?
Do you post them on facebook?
Do you post them on flickr/instagram/blogs/forums?
Are you a citizen reporter, and do you send your images to CNN or the Weather Channel?

Many people do share their images, and post them online at places like Facebook or Flickr, or Instagram.  Those are the places I regularly share images.

Do you only share small versions of your images?
Do you hold back the best images for yourself and don't share them publicly?

I used to share small versions, and only shared those photos that were everything but what I considered super special, or my best images.

Before I go on let me address the opposite of the problem I'm getting at.  Some people post all their images, every day they post photos.  And everyday they post too many photos.  They either don't know what the good ones are, or they think they're all great and want to share them with everyone.  Unless you're some amazing photographer, the chances are that you are not making amazing images every day.  If you're posting dozens of images from the same day of the same thing, you're doing it wrong.  As a photographer you need to curate your own work.  You need to find the best, new, unique images you've made, and share them, slowly, giving each image a chance to stand on its own.

I learned from flickr early on (2006) that posting multiple images at a time will distract from the group of images, and at best 1 image will get viewed and get feedback and appreciation.  Posting multiple images can be useful when you're not sure what a good image is, or what images others might like and respond to.  But once I got an idea of what works, sharing a single image at a time worked best.

In time I learned that I should not hold back some images, and these days I will eventually share just about any image, but I will delay the posting.  Delaying posting in general is another subject, which I will say is useful in that you can explore a subject/approach/technique/style and work on it for days without sharing an image and then when you've advanced you can share images that are much better than what you initially started capturing.

So what's the value of an unshared image?

What I'm getting at with this is the mindset of people that think:
  • People are going to steal my images
  • My images are special
  • My images will be worth less if I can't control them
  • I just take photos for myself, no one else needs to see them.
  • I don't care what other people think of my images
Or maybe people have a negative view and think:
  • My images aren't that good
  • People won't like my images
  • People will be mean and nasty and tell me how my images suck

Above are reasons I've thought of for not sharing images, reasons I've thought myself and that have made me wonder about sharing images publicly.

In recent years I've not shared a lot, and posted very infrequently.  I guess I got burned out on the social aspects of photography.  And I got burned out on the competitive nature of photography.  While some people might appreciate my/your images, there is a group of people that are only interested in getting their own images, copying my/your images, and wanting to know how you got what you got!

So what good is a photograph if no one gets to see it?  What good is the work if it is locked away, a secret to be kept?

I would argue that the unshared photograph isn't worth that much, but there's also the experience of going out and taking the image that is of value.  That's what kept me going when I was put off from sharing.  I did it for myself, not motivated by likes/favs/etc.  But it had a bitter taste to it, like I was upset with the world for trying to make photography in to something besides what I wanted it to be and what I appreciated.

But sharing images has many positive aspects.  When I joined flickr in 2005 I knew next to nothing about photography, or animals, or the area I lived in (MD/VA/DE),  Sharing photos changed that, and I met people, got better at photography, and learned a lot.

So - are you making images and hiding them away, keeping them just for yourself because of some of the reasons I listed above?  Do you want to get better at photography, discover new places, new people, new ?  Then you should overcome that resistance, make a profile on flickr or instagram, and start sharing images.  If you're new to it, that's where you have to start.  I've removed many of my earliest posts from flickr, but there are some up there still that kind of suck.

Here are a few images I shared when I first started:


2nd BWI Trip 8

Turtle at Rivermeadow

Here are a few images I made in the last few years:


Happy Birthday America

Am I Blending?

Proud Parents

Luke in B&W

As I'm sure you can tell, my images went from awful to pretty good.  It took a decade of shooting, learning, buying new gear, and finding what I liked shoot and what others like to see.  I still shoot what I like, I haven't just started shooting what other people like - but the aspect to consider is that feedback on your images, the ones you like, from others will make you a better photographer.  And if you don't share your images you will most likely not get much better.  Or if you do get better it will be very slow and then for what?

If no one else sees your images, it's like that saying "if a tree falls in the woods, and no one is there to hear it, did it make a sound?"

Make images.  Share images.  Make more images.  Sharing your images won't make them worth less, it will make you a better photographer.


Original content posted at / Jon Read more On "What's the value of an unshared photo?"!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Fall in Virginia - Foliage shooting 2016

Unlike all previous years I went to Shenandoah National Park 3 times in October.  I think all other years I've only gone once, usually on or about October 20th.

This year I went in very early October and there was no fall color, just green.  And on this visit I hiked up Hawksbill Mountain, and that was also a first.  I've always taken the easy approach to SNP and shot from the road, from the overlooks and walked very very little, almost not at all exploring.  But this year was different, and the hike and views were good.  It was a bit of a scouting trip to see what the views would be like, as well as a good day of exercise, hiking with ~3 cameras, ~4-5 lenses, and a tripod.

Then I went back on Saturday October 22nd.  The fall colors were late arriving, and according to the SNP fall foliage reporting page, it was here finally, in gloriously fine colors here, there, and all over...  It was much better on the 22nd, but it was also very windy.  Like, 50 mph windy, so a good bit of the turned leaves were blown off.  The SNP site did it's report on the 21st, and probably described views of foliage that had subsequently fallen from the trees by the time I got there.  But as with any day out in nature, exploring, and hunting for cool images it was worth it.

My new found routine was to get to SNP ~45 minutes before sunrise (6:30am-ish) and then drive along Skyline Drive and see what the sunrise might do and pick a spot.  The sunrise wasn't as spectacular as past ones, mostly cloudy but still great to be out.  And I just checked to see what the images looked like from sunrise in my edited folder, and there was nothing.  So I checked my lightroom app to see what happened and it was ok, and I did bulk edit hundreds of RAW files in to TIFs and then in to HDR TIFs.  I do that in bulk to save time and see what comes out, and then if I like an image either post process that HDR file, or start over the process it fresh with unique settings for that group of source files.  Part of what I was disappointed with from the files is that due to the wind and slow shutter speed I used a lot of the images have motion/blur and that didn't seem appealing at least so far...

Anyway, I shot as normal for much of the morning, and was among a number of photographers all shooting sunrise from the same overlook.  Then after a little bit everyone had left and I was the only photographer still there.  At this point I realized there were probably many more images to be had if I just slowed down and looked for different things, and kept an open mind.

I shot leaves gathered in the corner of one part of the stone wall.  I hopped over the wall and shot some of the trees, leaves, rocks, etc.  I shot the road with the wall, and used the wall and it's graphic line to lead the eye in to the image...  And then I started to also focus on the wall and the smaller details.  There were a handful of vines and growing plants on the wall itself. 

When I go shooting to a place like SNP I bring a lot of gear, multiple bodies, multiple wide angle lenses, a zoom or two, and occasionally a macro lens.  The below images was taken with a D4 and 24-120mm f/4 lens.  I've had the D4 for a while, and 24-120mm is new to me, and I got it used less than a year ago - it has a nice smallish aperture, and good close focusing distance.  As I was playing around, I realized I could get the background blur to have the color of the leaves and that would complement the stone wall and vine in the foreground.  I like the resulting image, and managed to get some other varieties of the same theme later in the day with different plants and background that I may still share.

If there's a point or take away from this blog post it is to keep looking and exploring, and be open to seeing images that you didn't plan on taking or didn't immediately reveal themselves.  And also don't just go with the crowd - I could have easily left the overlook and moved on when I noticed everyone else had done that.

Searching for something different I started to explore around the overlook for something other than the big views:

Fall in Virginia 
After sunrise and this area, I drove south on Skyline Drive and then hiked Hawksbill Mountain.  I took this image after being up there for a while (HDR) and posted it already to flickr...

Hawksbill Mountain - Shenandoah National Park, VA

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sunrise at Hemingways near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge March 2016

The first time I ever went to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, many years ago, I had the pleasure of witnessing the sunrise while crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. I say pleasure because I had not planned it right and didn't know how far I had to drive (no smart phone at the time, no google maps, and no proper prior planning) and while I was less than half way there I got to see the sunrise and realized I had blew it, and would be more than an hour "late" for sunrise...

Pretty much every visit since, over 50 easily in the last 9 or 10 years I've made it to Blackwater before sunrise, sometimes 45 minutes before... It is around a 100 miles to drive for me, and can take nearly 2 hours in the early morning. And it is totally worth it. Here are a couple sunrises from Blackwater that were awesome/epic/wow'd me, etc... Any many more here.

Sunrise @ Blackwater
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, MD
Blackwater NWR Sunrise
And finally this sunrise, from my second visit when I did actually make it in time for sunrise... ( Taken on December 16, 2006)

In March 2016 I think the weather wasn't supposed to be great and I slept in and then decided anyway to go east, and instead of getting up at 4am I got up at 5:30am or something. As I was driving I saw the amazing sunrise and these strange clouds and it was something to see. So for the first time, I stopped on the East side of the Bay Bridge at sunrise and went to the marina there.
Previously I'd shot the Snowy Owl that was there in the evening, while coming back from the Eastern Shore:

All that lead up to show off these two images I've shared so far from this spot... I shot a bunch, walked on the docks a bit, shot looking east, looking west, and took a few hundred photos. Then I continued east and hit a couple other spots without going to Blackwater.
Empty Docks
Empty Docks @ Sunrise

Sunrise @ Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Sunrise @ Chesapeake Bay Bridge

Finally, here's a 'contact sheet' from the images I processed and rated from this day in March 2016. I've only posted the 2 above so far. There might be another couple to post from the sunrise timeframe... Later in the day the images were not unique, though it was fun to see the osprey early in the season the ducks as well.

If you're wondering about how I rate images, here it is:
1= come back and find this image and process it later.
2=used for an automated image/hdr creation, not editing by itself for single export
3=any edited image that is not rated higher
4=hdr images (TIF's then processed and exported), or regular images that are a "4". So just because an HDR is a 4 doesn't mean it is an image I really like.
5=highest rating, any image that I REALLY like...

Original content posted at / Jon Read more On "Sunrise at Hemingways near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge March 2016"!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Summer 2016

Over the last 8 years I've been to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens a bunch of times, mostly looking for the Yellow Crowned Night Herons. But also other birds and the great Lotus flowers and water lilies.

This year there weren't any YCNH's that I spotted, so I photographed the Lotus a *lot*.

Sometimes the petals would fall off quickly, in a sort of chain reaction once the first one broke free. I'd never seen that before, it was cool.

Lotus Bloom

The YCNH's were great in 2008. I went multiple times and got some close ups and some feeding photos...

Yellow Crowned Night Heron

JYCNH Hunting

You Can See The Crunch

The second to last time I went this year I shot the water lilies in the back, and the light was pretty good. I used a 600mm lens, which I would normally use for birds, and I shot the flowers...

Water Lilies @ KAG

Just prior to this visit I had gone to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens I think 5 times, and the first few times I took a normal approach and shot the flowers with a long lens, and had hoped to see birds, but still shot the flowers. The images I got were "normal" and looked ok. I was happy with them at the time. But they were like many other images I've taken and seen others take. This one with the Red-Winged Black Bird was a highlight. The birds were in the flowers and I could shoot them for just a few minutes before they flew off.

So this year on visits 4 and 5, I brought some macro gear and shot much closer images of the flowers and got much different and I think better results.

As I reflect on the half a dozen-ish visit I've made to KAG before this year, and then the 6 or 7 visits I made this year I noticed how it took a few visits to shoot through the shots and approach I had in my head already. It took that long to then be able to try to think differently, to see the gardens and flowers differently and to get different images.

A photo posted by Jon (@the_real_nikographer) on

On the last few visits I still brought a long lens (600mm) but I also brought a 70-200mm f/2.8 and a 24-120mm f/4 lens, along with the Canon 500D closeup filter for a 77mm lens ring. By using that filter I was able to turn both lenses in to very close focusing lenses that gave drastically different shooting distances and super narrow depth of field.

I'm happy with the results I got this year. It took a bunch of visits to get lucky with the RWBB and then to start to see and shoot the flowers in a new way. In the future I guess I hope to be able to push past what I had planned and the way I was seeing things initially, and start to see in a fresher/different way like I did on visits 4 and 5 with the macro shots.

I've been meditating and practicing mindfulness this year and last year, and as I read what I just wrote above, I think that is a result of this new approach to life. It's all too easy to have a plan, work towards a plan, and then either execute on the plan and be happy, or not execute on the plan and be disappointed. But with a fresh approach and fewer expectations, and a more flexible nature new and unexpected things can happen.

-Jon / Jon Read more On "Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Summer 2016"!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wildlife Photography Doing it Right and Doing it Wrong @ Nickerson Beach in NY

I should start by saying I grew up literally just down the beach from Nickerson beach, and back then it was called Nassau Beach, and they would spell out that in flowers along Lido Boulevard at the park entrance. I visit regularly, and I have numerous friends that still live there. Many people I know were directly impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

Nickerson Beach is a great place to see nesting birds along the shore, including common terns, black skimmers, plovers, and oystercatchers. There are a couple of areas that are restricted and this allows the birds some space to nest in.

The string that ropes off the area can be pretty close to where the birds have chosen to nest. So if you want to, you can get very close to them. I have sat along the string a handful of times and gotten shots of the birds, sometimes on eggs from dozens of feet away. I found this interesting at first, but now I prefer to spend more time shooting around the edges, along the surf, or when the birds are flying around.

I think you can shoot from close up respectfully and without bothering the birds. That said, as you approach to get that close, the birds will fly right at you and can attack you. I've heard of people getting cut up, or pooped on.

When I shoot wildlife I also very much like to get as close as possible. But over the last few (or more) years something changed in myself and partially from seeing others pursue their shots. Now I like to enjoy my outing, get photos, but not at the cost of the animal or doing something others might frown on. Basically, I am not shooting for a magazine, or for an award or even really in search of praise anymore. I just shoot to enjoy the time out, and to have images for myself. Sure I share my images as well, but I am not primarily motivated by the sharing / social aspect of photography any more. I've been burned by it personally, and realize that being a go-getter isn't all it's cracked up to be.

And then there's seeing how other people behave, and that's just too much for me to be associated with or to contribute to. A few years ago we had the eruption of Snowy Owls and people were jerks all over. Some of the jerks were birders. Other jerks were photographers. And still more jerks were those with a cell phone camera who would walk in the dunes (restricted/not allowed) to try to get close to the owls - and of course the owl would fly away and they'd still have a cell phone. So - for what? Not everyone knew or knows better, but people should know better.

I shot this owl in New Jersey for 4 hours and felt very lucky. It was my first owl, and a friend shared the location with me. I made the bird fly a couple times in that period, but it didn't fly off until 2 birders approached me and the snoozing owl, causing the owl to fly away. They tried to blame me, but no - the bird was actually sleeping a little and they flushed it. Snowy Owl in NJ

So back to Nickerson Beach New York.

In July I got there a little after sunrise, and saw a bunch of other photographers there, all east of the nesting area shooting with the sun at their back. So I went to the south side of the nesting area and sat for a while and there was an oystercatcher family there, with an adult hunting for stuff and feeding a small chick. I shot them like this for 20 minutes maybe. Then three of the photographers that were on the east side came back, and they setup a little ways behind me closer to the ocean. After a few minutes one of the oystercatchers ran out from the protected area, towards the other people, grabbed something from the sand and ran back to the chick and started feeding on something. Then it happened again and I realized that these people were throwing food, open clams as it turned out, to the birds!

So, how many ways to describe how this is wrong are there?!

  • The birds were already eating/feeding
  • Baiting birds is cheating, unless it is your backyard and it is with seed or such
  • I was shooting the birds and these folks not only disturbed the birds but they disturbed me.
  • The bait was huge, and could have potentially either been spoiled or been bad for the chick.  Let mother nature do its thing, no need to stop them from feeding on their native food...
  • It's against the law there
  • There's no benefit I could see for doing this, the birds were already just feet away and it just made them do un-natural things.
These people were on the east side, and in the dunes which you should not be doing.  The dunes are off limits.

This is the guy with the clams and 2 women he was with.  What bugged me more was the hat he was wearing is from a "professional" photographer he probably went on a paid photo trip with and for all I know learned that this behavior is ok and that's how you get bird photos...

So when I realize what he was doing i got up, and cursed him out.  I told him he was disrespectful and that basically he was a jerk.  As I walked away I saw a park ranger in a motorized cart and let him know the guy was feeding the birds and had a bag of clams in his backpack.  He stopped and talked to them, but so briefly it had to be a quick warning and nothing more.

A month later I was back and got these images along the edge of the ocean.  No birds were harmed when I took my images ;)

Oystercatchers 1 of 3

Oystercatchers 2 of 3

Oystercatchers 3 of 3

 -Jon / Jon Read more On "Wildlife Photography Doing it Right and Doing it Wrong @ Nickerson Beach in NY"!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Black Skimmers at Cape May New Jersey 2016

Skimmers landing on the beach at Cape May New Jersey. This time of year there are a few hundred there, roughly by the Arcade. In years past they tended to be near the Second Ave Jetty, but a few years ago they changed their preferred spot.

While I was at Cape May this trip I also did a little bit of night/star photography - it's pretty dark there...

Black Skimmers coming in for a landing @ Cape May NJ

(f/8+1/1250+ISO1100++1/3EV - D500 / 600mm / RRS tripod / Wimberley Head / Manual Exposure w/ Auto-ISO) / Jon Read more On "Black Skimmers at Cape May New Jersey 2016"!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Cape May NJ 2016 - Juv. Osprey Fishing

During the Fall I love to go to Cape May New Jersey. The raptor/bird migration is great. My friend Wayne turned me on to the location a while back, and I've gone every year since.

This year I have been once so far on September 24-25 (2016). It was a little early for big numbers of hawks, and the weather was not great for it either.

The best setup for hawk migration is when a cold front moves through, pushing birds east, and the prevailing winds are out of the Northwest. This pattern pushes birds towards the east coast and the way Cape May and the Delaware Bay are the birds run out of land to fly over, since there's water everywhere else and they tend to stop over on the cape.

But it's Fall and it's Cape May so not great here still has the potential to be good.

On this morning there were a few young osprey flying around over The Meadows and along the shore, over the Atlantic Ocean just at the edge of the beach.

The young osprey aren't very skilled at hunting yet and it takes them a lot of effort to catch fish. Here the osprey has caught 2 small fish, after trying numerous times to get something. I also saw dolphins in this same area and they were hunting as well. I probably saw more than a dozen of the dolphins over the course of a couple of hours.

Juv. Osprey Hunting @ Cape May NJ

Juv. Osprey Hunting @ Cape May NJ

(updated - 10/11/2016 with another image) Juv. Osprey @ Cape May NJ

The ideal time to see hawks migrating is when the weather is right, and during the first couple of weeks in October based on my experience...

To see more of my Cape May photos click on this image to see my flickr set.

Sharpie @ CMBO Banding Demo

-Jon / Jon Read more On "Cape May NJ 2016 - Juv. Osprey Fishing"!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ready for Fall and Ready for Good Luck

For a bunch of years I have made it to Shenandoah National Park during the fall foliage season.  I tend to go and have had some of my best luck on October 20th.

In general I get there an hour before sunrise, and then drive south along Skyland Drive, and check various overlooks and then shoot sunrise from one of them.  As the day progresses I will drive further south and continue to check out the overlooks and shoot photos from them.

I've not explored the trails at SNP at all really, just a tiny bit of walking here and there but nothing that would be considered a hike.  I know I am missing out on a lot of great areas and things to see, but that's not how I have shot there and I don't know the area well enough to go looking without doing with the potential for nothing coming of it if it isn't a good spot to explore or to shoot from.  In the future I may change that, but for now not so much.

But there are great views from the overlooks.  Here is one from 2012 that I like a bunch.  The sky was great and the foliage was pretty good too.
Oct 20 2012
Day Break

This is from 2007, my first visit to SNP. 
Oct 20 2007
Fall's Gold

This photo is from the second year I've been to SNP, and I like this since it has the "blue ridge mountains" in it!  
Oct 26 2008 

Finally, in 2012 I got really lucky! 

I was driving along Skyline Drive and had my 200-400mm lens on the front seat next to me.  As I drove down the road, I had the though that I'd like to find a little foliage detail and shoot it with the longer lens.  So I slowed down, and was looking for interesting and colorful patches of leaves.  After just a few minutes of this mindset, I saw directly out my driver side window, this Barred Owl!  It was sitting along the side of the road and wow.  I was so lucky to be going slowly, to have the window down, and to be planning to shoot with a long lens.  Normally I would have a couple of wide angle lenses at the ready to capture a landscape scene...  But I was ready and I was very lucky.

The owl stayed there for just a few moments, and then flew away.  My shutter speed was only 1/250th, but it worked even though the car was running, I was hand holding and there was an unexpected owl there.

Oct 20 2012
Barred Owl @ Shenandoah National Park, VA

I'm planning another visit next month and I hope to get lucky and I hope to make some nice images. / Jon Read more On "Ready for Fall and Ready for Good Luck"!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Night Photography / Stars and Sunflowers [in Maine/Maryland/NewJersey]

I've started to do a little night/star photography this month, September 2016.  I shot a couple nights in Maine while on vacation, and then again when I got back to Maryland.  In Maryland I shot sunset and then some more at a Sunflower field north of Baltimore.  And then finally last weekend I shot some stars in Cape May New Jersey.

The most unexpected thing I immediately discovered is that after an hour or so the lens on my camera would start to fog up.  This appears to be a result of the lens getting colder than the outside air and can be combated with a handwarmer placed on the lens to keep it warm - I will try this next time, now that I have handwarmers.

Another obvious challenge is getting the lens focused properly while it is nearly pitch black out.  I basically winged it, and then checked my focus on a test shot or two or three and then figured it was as good as I could get at that time.  I was considering marking my gear for infinity focus, or using gaffers tape (now I own some), but I haven't done this yet while out shooting or before hand to prep.

Here are a couple of images I took this month.

This was a shot of my setup, done with my D810.  I was shooting with 2 cameras and cable releases, and then decided to shoot my D4 setup.  The focus isn't that great, but it was good enough for a setup shot.  Notice I have duct tape covering where my little jog dial used to be before it popped out!  I had it fixed once before and then it happened again and i lost the rubber button, so now that.

My critique of the sunflower and images in general that I got is that I underexposed everything by a stop or so.  I wish the sunflowers were brighter.  And I should have know it would be that way.  In reading a lot of folks recommended ISO 1600, 30 seconds at f/2.8.  I stopped down, and shot a shorter duration of about 20-25 seconds.  But it was a good learning experience, and after 4 nights of night shooting/star shooting I think I'm ready to try again, and hopefully do better.

-Jon / Jon Read more On "Night Photography / Stars and Sunflowers [in Maine/Maryland/NewJersey]"!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Maine Osprey Video - Fishing 2014

Here are a couple of quick video clips of an osprey fishing, and then a handful of still images of osprey flying, splashing and carrying fish ;) / Jon Read more On "Maine Osprey Video - Fishing 2014"!