Front Range Wildlife Photographers, LLC: Blog en-us (C) Front Range Wildlife Photographers, LLC (Front Range Wildlife Photographers, LLC) Sat, 12 Aug 2017 03:13:00 GMT Sat, 12 Aug 2017 03:13:00 GMT Front Range Wildlife Photographers, LLC: Blog 120 86 Directions I changed my mind.  I'm allowed to do that, right?

Not too long ago, I was considering moving us from a Facebook group (and a MeetUp subgroup) to an actual club with meetings and everything.  It seemed like there would be some advantages to this kind of format.  We held a meeting to review some of the options, and folks in attendance were very helpful in providing information about the operations of some of the other local camera clubs.

Some of the other camera clubs are well established - in some cases, they've been doing this for decades.  They have big-name guest speakers who tend to be very prestigious.  The  more I found out about the other camera clubs,  the more I realized that we didn't need to compete head-on with the big boys, we don't need to try to do what they're doing (and doing very well, apparently).

I'd rather keep doing what we're doing, namely, making this a welcoming place for newbies, providing options for member to build their skills, and become the artists that they want to be.  I believe we're doing something unique with our efforts with art shows (and Lauren Lang gets all the credit for setting that up), and we're adding new MeetUp  Event Organizers to allow a much broader base of knowledge than we've ever had before.

We're not moving in the direction everyone else is moving; we're following our own path, and I think we're doing a pretty good job with it.  I'd like to express gratitude to everyone who decides to join us on this journey.  We'll evolve collectively and individually.  I'm glad you're along for the ride.

]]> (Front Range Wildlife Photographers, LLC) Sat, 12 Aug 2017 03:12:40 GMT
Moving to Mirrorless Wow, it's been a while since my last blog post.  Busy, busy . . .

Might as well continue the theme from my last post: moving to mirrorless.  You can check my old posts to bring you up to speed.  Here's where things stand now.

As of my last post, I was primarily a wildlife photographer - that means (usually) long lenses and tripods, among other gear.  Since that time, I've branched into people photography, too.  Same cameras, different lenses and other gear (usually).

One of the things I loved about mirrorless was smaller cameras and fewer, lighter gear bags.  That's no longer particularly relevant.  For wildlife, I'm using Canon EF-mount lenses with adapters.  Big, heavy lenses.  I can (and do) put a Sony a6300 on a Canon 600mm f/4 with a Metabones adapter, but the small size of the camera is pretty irrelevant at that point.

But I'm also using native E mount lenses when I'm photographing people in and out of the studio.  Usually either a 55mm f/1.8 Sony Zeiss or an 85mm f/1.8 Zeiss Batis, sometimes with natural light, but more frequently with Speedlights or studio strobes.  That means flash and a modifier or a flash trigger is mounted to the camera, again, negating a lot of the small size advantage, right?

So why keep using mirrorless if there's no size advantage?  In no particular order:

The Good

  • The image quality is stunning.  I'm not saying better than DSLRs, I'm just saying, IQ is at least as good
  • Focus is spot on.  Using native E mount lenses, I never have to worry about focus.  Even better, I can specify faces for priority focus.  Group photo , I can specify that my wife's face is going to be in focus, above all others.  Even better, the focus can nail an eye for focus.  I can shoot wide open, and no matter how shallow the DOF, the eye will be in focus.  Bangs hanging over the eyes?  Not a problem; as long as the focus can find an eyeball, the eye will be in focus.  Not the tip of the nose, not the ear - the eyeball.
  • Silent shutter - great for wildlife.  How quiet?  So quiet I think there's something wrong with the camera, and I have to review images in the viewfinder to make sure the shutter fired.
  • I love the EVF.  The folks that complain that an EVF will never be as good as an OVF just aren't familiar with current models.  I see exactly what the sensor sees.  I have friends ask me to look through the view finders on their DSLRs; "Look through that big, bright optical viewfinder and tell me you still like electronic viewfinders," they proudly claim.  Yeah, I'm sticking with my EVF, thanks.  I keep the camera up to my eye, and I see exactly what any settings change does, I see clipped shadows and highlights, I see everything, and I don't have to put the camera down to see the results - I can review the images in the EVF.  No worry about it being in bright sun and conditions too bright to see the rear LCD, I just look through the EVF.  DOF?  There it is, I got the snout to the tips of the ears in focus, with the focus point right in the eye ball.  I'm shooting in the studio with a model, and I never have to take the camera away from my eye to review the image.  I have a live histogram in my EVF.  I have a live  feed on how level my camera is.  I'll keep my EVF, thanks.
  • Focus peaking - I freaking love focus peaking.  I do lots of macro, and the focus peaking allows me to absolutely nail the focus.  I know exactly what's in focus, exactly what's out of focus, no guessing.  I can also get automatic magnified views to make sure my focus is spot on.
  • Adapted lenses.  I can use practically any lens on my bodies.  If there's an adapter, I can use the lens.  And I love the Sigma MC-11 adapter.  Yeah, yeah, you can only use it with certain Sigma lenses.  I don't care, it makes those lenses work just like native E mount glass.  I have access to all my focus options.  I don't need to beg Sony to make long, fast glass, I can just use Sigma S (and A and even C) series lenses function just like native E mount glass.  I like it so much that I'm considering selling my Canon 600mm F/4 IS so I can get the new Sigma 500mm f/4 Sports lens.

The Meh

  • Battery life.  That's the complaint that I hear from DSLR users who don't shoot mirrorless, particularly Sony mirrorless.  It's really a non-issue.  I'm not going to rave about the battery life, but it's never caused any problems while shooting.  It seems to be a combination of time the camera is on plus the number of images, rather than just the number of images.  I'm shooting Momma Fox and 4 fox kits for an hour, and I walk away with 1500 images, and about 30% battery left on a single battery.  For most of my Sony cameras without a vertical grip, I take the battery door off.  And I carry extra batteries.  Switching them out takes all of 5 seconds.  It's really not a problem.  I would like to be able to buy extra battery sleds for the vertical grips, so I could slide out the expired batteries as a unit, and slide in a sled with fresh batteries.
  • SC cards.  I was kinda disappointed that  the new a9 didn't use the XQD card - eveb dual slots with an XQD card and an SD card would have been better.  I'll take a single XQD card slot (my needs are modest).

The Not So Good

  • Buffer size.  When I'm shooting people or macro, I'm in single shot mode, I take an image, I review it, and it's time for another shot.  Buffer size isn't an issue then.  When I'm shooting wildlife at maximum frame-rate, I hit the buffer limit pretty regularly, and when I do, it takes a painfully long time for the buffer to clear.  A. Painfully.  Long.  Time.  It does make me more mindful of waiting for the peak action, hitting the shutter for a few frames, and backing off.  I might miss a few things, but I also don't have a dozen identical frames, either.
  • Adapters with long glass.  If I photographed small birds moving really quickly, I don't think I'd use my current set up.  The AF struggles a little to keep up.  But I don't photograph small, fast birds, I photograph cute, furry mammals.

If you have questions about mirrorless, particularly Sony mirrorless, let me know.  I'm happy to answer questions.

]]> (Front Range Wildlife Photographers, LLC) Sat, 06 May 2017 14:23:30 GMT
20 Questions with Weldon Lee 20 Questions – Weldon Lee


It's my great pleasure to start out a new series on this web site with an interview with Weldon Lee.  Weldon is a master wildlife photographer, published author, speaker, workshop leader, and I'm proud to say, a personal friend.


1.       How long have you been a professional photographer?

Going on 30 years.


2.       What got you started in photography?

My parents gave me a camera for my birthday when I was in the 3rd grade. It was plastic and featured the likenesses of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. It used 127 film and I've been shooting ever since.


3.      What was it that steered you in the direction of wildlife photography?

My love for animals. I've always had animals around me ever since I can remember.  e.g. dogs, a couple of pet raccoons, a pet skunk, alligator, rock dove, many different snakes, turtles, tortoises, and even catfish. I even raised and sold tropical fish when I was in high school. I remember going rabbit hunting at night with my grandfather when I was about five and six year old. He would use an old carbide head-lamp to find the rabbits. Their eyes would glow in its light. He gave me my first gun and taught me how to shoot it when I was around 7. It was a single shot .22 rifle. Although I've eaten lots of fried rabbit over the years, I quit hunting many years ago. With the up close and personal encounters I've had with my wild brothers and sisters over the years, I find it impossible to even consider shooting one of them now days. Heck, I can't even eat wild animals. 


4.      What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started wildlife photography?

How to locate wildlife and work them once they had been found.


5.      What’s some advice you’d give to someone with an interest in wildlife photography?

First and foremost, know your subject. Not only the species in general, but the particular animal filling your viewfinder. Watch it and learn its behavior. Every marmot is different. Every moose is different. Every eagle is different. Animals are not unlike people . . . each has it own personality. Move slowly when making your approach. Initially, do not get too close. Most people rush this process, which is why I tend to prefer working alone. Once your subject gets to know you and recognize that you present no harm, more often than not, they will approach you. Our wild brothers and sisters are as curious about us as we are about them. Sometimes, I even think even more so.


6.      Do you have a favorite wildlife subject?

I love them all. However, there is something very special about bears that draw me to them.


7.      Do you have a favorite location?

In general, I would have to say Alaska is my favorite. I've photographed exotic hummingbirds in the cloud forests of Ecuador on numerous occasions. Wildlife of the Galapagos Islands has filled my viewfinder many times over the years. Africa is without equal when it comes to species diversity. I love photographing wildlife in Botswana's Chobe National Park, Savuti, the Okavango Delta and the Moremi Game Reserve. Having said that, there is absolutely no place on Planet Earth that, for me, even comes close to Alaska. Locally, Mount Evans is my favorite location.


8.      What tools do you use for image editing?

Photoshop, Nik software, and my Wacom tablet. It's my belief, that every image needs to be edited in Photoshop, or a similar program, before it's ready for public viewing. According to Ansel Adams, the negative is the composer's score and the print is the performance. What comes out of my camera is the score. Editing in Photoshop produces the performance. Any photographer not editing their images, for whatever the reason, is only fooling themselves and shortchanging their images.


9.      What’s your image editing workflow?

Basically, it goes like this:   camera>computer>Photo Mechanic (delete the bad, rename, add IPTC data)>External Hard Drives.  Editing is typically done at a later time when a particular image is needed.  This question can not be answered fully in a paragraph or two. It needs an entire article to be explained properly.


10.   What lenses do you use most often, and why?

The versatility of Nikon's 80-400mm VR lens is without equal when it comes to photographing wildlife. I use this lens 99-percent of the time. Those times when a wide angle shot is called for, my 18-55mm lens does the trick. That's it!


11.    Besides a camera & lens, what’s the one piece of gear you can’t do without?

My PackSeat. It weighs 26 ounces, comes with its own carrying bag that always stays attached, and folds into a compact package. Best of all, it's 21-inches high - higher than most three-legged camp stools.

I'll always have it with me when photographing elk, Sandhill Cranes, and Snow Geese. In other words, any place where there is a lot of waiting.



12.    When you’re making an image, what is it you’re trying to achieve?  What specific things are you trying to accomplish?

Although I love portraits, I'm always looking for action and new ways of portraying my subjects. I really love, what I call, the environmental wildlife photograph . . . an image of one of my wild brothers and sisters portrayed in the midst of a breathtaking landscape.


13.   Are there any books, videos, instructional material that you would recommend to new photographers?

I very seldom read how-to photography books or magazines any more. Therefore, I'm not able to offer any recommendations along that line. However, any of the books written by Ansel Adams would certainly be worth while.


14.   What’s the image you’re most proud of?

I currently have two - Winter Fury and Distant Thunder. The former features a wild horse stallion running in the snow. The later depicts a brown bear, back lit and standing alongside a stream with dark clouds overhead, indicating an approaching storm.



15.   Do you have a particular “look” or style to your images?

Yes. Can I tell you what it is? No! I believe that is something others see when they view the work of an artist.



16.   What’s the best piece of nature photography-related gear you have?

My Nikon 80-400mm VR lens.


17.   Who were your photographic inspirations?

Leonard Lee Roo III and Erwin Bauer. I've actually had the honor to know both of these individuals. I first met Lenny many years ago in San Diego at a NANPA Summit. Joe, and his wife Peggy, were shooting in Denali when I met them. Peggy invited me into their RV where I had the opportunity to sit and talk with both of them.


18.   Anyone’s work you find particularly impressive today?

I love the environmental wildlife photography of Tom Mangelsen, who happens to be a good friend. I also like some of Art Wolfe's older wildlife imagery. 


19.   Any embarrassing photography stories you’d be willing to share?

The only thing that comes to mind is sometimes forgetting the names of participants on my workshops. I may know them at the beginning of a workshop, but on occasion have forgotten them a few days later.


20.  What’s in your camera bag?

Nikon D2xs (primary camera), Nikon D1x (backup), Nikon 80-400mm VR lens, Nikon 18mm-55mm VR lens, SB80 flash, Flash X-tender (aka: Better Beamer).


]]> (Front Range Wildlife Photographers, LLC) Fri, 03 Mar 2017 02:44:54 GMT