If you’ve spent much time hiking around outdoors then you’ve probably seen one or two sets of remains laying around. It’s pretty common and yet every time I see them I think about what was once there and no longer is. But here’s the thing, I never photograph them. If you think about Wildlife photography, in general we tend to skip over those scenes that would seem gruesome, gross or sad. It’s not how we like to picture critters and it’s not how we like to think about our own mortality in the animal kingdom. But it is important to document this stage in a tasteful way because it is part of the life cycle and that’s really what wildlife photographers do. We document the life cycle.


Which Image is More Important?

I’ve come across this a lot over the years especially when it comes to aviation. Which image is more important? There are many ways to make an image happen. Different angles, lights, backgrounds, foregrounds, etc. There is no one solution but many questions. This question refers to people and capturing the moment that means the most to them while also making the images that can be used for multiple purposes.

I’m going to use by buddy Dan as an example because this was a happy day for him. I don’t really need to say why. In the editorial world the above image is considered the trophy shot or the “fin and grin” shot. It’s very common and while it means a lot to the person in the image, it doesn’t communicate that much outside of Dan being happy.

A close up puts more emphasis on the fish which is important to capture. The fish is just as important to the story as the fisherman is. With aviation the pilot often gets overlooked and it’s just the plane that gets photographed. The plane has the history, it’s really sleek and cool looking, it goes fast, it gets all the glory. The pilot doesn’t. The reverse of this is with biologists. Often times it’s the subject being studied and not the people that are doing all the work that are getting photographed. The point is to really look at all sides of the equation and see what is being photographed and what’s being forgotten.

Images Captured with Nikon D750, AF-S 24-70, SB-5000, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Pretty Cool Discovery

By now most of you had probably heard about the discovery of the USS Lexington in the Coral Sea by Paul Allen and his crew. Paul Allen being the co founder of Microsoft and besides multiple businesses is also the owner of the Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum. His research crew have made many important discoveries over the years including the Japanese battleship Musashi, the USS Indianapolis and now the USS Lexington. Thanks to some aviation experts one of the aircraft discovered on the Lexington was flown by none other the LtCMD. Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare.

Butch O’Hare was the US Navy’s first flying ace shooting down multiple Japanese bombers on February 20th 1942. He was the first US Navy recipient of the Medal of Honor. He was also unfortunately shot down on November 26th 1943 and was never discovered. A US Destroyer was named after him as well as the famous Chicago O’Hare International Airport. The aircraft O’Hare flew while on board the Lexington was a F4F Wildcat.

The above image was taken a few years back of Goodyear built FM-2 Wildcat of the Texas Flying Legends Museum. The FM-2 was the license built version of the F4F.

Matching the Light

When it comes to using a flash I feel I still have a lot to learn. There are some pieces of equipment that I’m better with and others I am not. This comes down to my own experience level as well as my own personnel feelings. I’m sure for many of you out there this is true also. It’s part of being a photographer. We have to keep trying different things in order to grow. The only way to truly master light is by challenging yourself. So here’s the question that came up. Is it better to match the light coming out of the flash to the feeling being given off by the light in the background or to change it?

My good friend Alex needed a portrait taken of him in his lab. Well I had never been to his lab so right there I was walking into the unknown. Thankfully not only was the room really well lit but there was lots of reflectors. Now he works in a greenhouse so naturally it is very warm and as you can see by the overhead lights they are very warm in tone as well as temperature. I did two shots, both simple setups with the D5, 24-70 and SB-5000, didn’t need much. The difference was a dome diffuser and here’s where I bring up that question.

Dome Diffusers add more warmth to the light coming out of the flash. Sometimes that’s good. Sometimes that’s not. In this scenario it matches the feeling and the light already present in the greenhouse but it doesn’t feel natural to us because we know that people don’t look that way. The bottom image had no diffuser and was just a white light. It feels more normal to how our brains would interpret this but it takes away from the environment. These kind of questions and decisions have to go into your thinking before you go click.

Spring Spawning Grounds

While one of the most recognized fish species in the world, Rainbow Trout are actually non native species to the state of Montana. There is one sub species that is native and that’s the Redband Rainbow. Today’s species was introduced somewhere in the 1800’s from one of the west coast states. Despite that it has become a staple of today’s angler and for good reason.

Rainbow’s are not only pretty, touting their unique color configurations about, but they are also amazing fighters. They jump, spin, run and fight like crazy which make them fun to catch. But like all species they are fragile and right now we are going into the spring spawn which makes certain areas very fragile to human impact. Some spots are point blank closed to fishing but that doesn’t always stop people. Trout lay their eggs in reds which look like nothing more then dimples in the river bed, but underneath the layer of protective dirt are the eggs. They aren’t visible which make them easy to be damaged. The ethics for photographers that want to photograph these areas are just as important as the anglers. If we want these species to persist then we have to be careful how and where we capture these images. Read the rules and regulations first. If you’re going to photograph a spot be sure you don’t enter the water. Stay on the bank. Be careful and respectful.

Image Captured with Nikon D5, 24-70 AF-S on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Spitfires on Malta

The Spitfire has a long history throughout WWII as it was used on so many fronts. Since the first time it flew in 1936 to its introduction into service in 1938, the Spitfire went through many changes and variants as its capabilities and potential were continually pushed until production stopped in 1948. To many the Spitfire is the epitome of aviation spirit due to its design and its legacy. For those that flew the plane, they loved it because it got them home safe.

One of the fronts where the Spitfires was used and isn’t talked about as much was in the Mediterranean at a place called Malta. Malta was a 97 sq mi island which operated as a forward base between Gibraltar and Alexandria. Besides being a British Colony it had a surprisingly large population of natives with a combined total population of 250K as recorded by a census in 1937. The strategic importance of the island was great as allied planes and naval vessels could attack vital supply lines of the Axis powers going into Egypt. Rommel desperately needed the supplies to keep up his desert offensive. Thus a tremendous amount of ships, aircraft and personnel were diverted from other fronts between 1940 and 1942 to fight the defenders of the island. Despite victory almost in hand, the fortress was never captured but the losses that Germany took were significant.

On March 7th 1942 the Supermarine Spitfire Mk V made its debut on the island with 16 aircraft being flown off of the carrier HMS Eagle. Throughout 1942 more and more aircraft were flown into Malta by HMS Eagle and USS Wasp. The island had a unique compliment of Swordfish Biplanes, Bristol Blenheims, Bristol Beaufighters, Hawker Hurricanes and Spitfires. No one aircraft can be contributed with the defense of the island but like all battles it was the combined effort of all that made it possible.

The above image was taken a couple years back at Planes of Fame Airshow of Robert Defords home built Spitfire Mk V.

Image Captured with Nikon D4s, 200-400 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Spring Migration are you ready?

It’s quickly coming up on that time to head to the beach. Not for the sun or the sand but for the birds. Spring migration can be one of the most exciting times of the year as thousands of birds move throughout the United States. I have spent some time down in Florida over the years enjoying these migrations and each year it’s a little bit different. Since migration is affected by temperature and weather there is never a precise date when it’s going to be the best. The end of March is usually when it starts and goes throughout May. Shorebirds and waterfowl aren’t the only species to be watching for. Going into May smaller birds like warblers move through areas like Lake Michigan which can produce some amazing images. So the question is how do you prep for this?

Keep in mind one important element from the get go, no matter where you live there is some form of migration happening. The country is big but birds do fly. While they tend to move along waterways it does vary by species. For instance in Montana we get a big Bald Eagle migration each year. So start by researching your area first. If you plan on going somewhere else study that area and the birds that inhabit it. Go through your gear carefully. If you’re going to the beach be sure to bring a panning plate and a frisbee so you can get down low. Practice your proper long lens technique because if you’re going after birds you’re going to need a long lens. Proper technique means the hand resting on top of the lens barrel, with the eyecup tight against your face. Watch your backgrounds and look for clean images. Most of all be hard on yourself and critique the images. Look at gesture, light and how they tell the story of the subject. Then use that info to push yourself to get better images.

If you need more help Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon can yield some more answers.

Image Captured with Nikon D5, 600f4, TC-17eII on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Don’t be a Gear Hoarder

Moving forward in photography comes in many forms. One of the hardest is letting go of what is not needed anymore. We spend a lot of time collecting photographs, expanding our digital libraries, coming up with more and more stories. The gear locker tends to expand as we make those photographs but the locker has a hard time of being reduced as time goes on. It is important that we keep it cleaned out. 

Camera gear represents an investment and if that investment isn’t producing anything anymore then it’s best to get rid of it. It can be hard to let go because it’s cool having that gear locker! You look around the office and you see all the tech and it’s awesome. I’ve been there. But in the end it’s just stuff. If it isn’t helping you then it’s best to find something that does.

Why you need to use Adobe Portfolio

Adobe Portfolio has been out for a while now and having used it for my own personal gallery, I can honestly say that it’s pretty cool. Creating a gallery for any website is a pain in the butt. It’s difficult finding a way to showcase lots of images that are not only safe but is also easy to change as time goes on. Adobe has made this possible for us.

Adobe Portfolio is available for free to anyone who is already a Creative Cloud subscriber. If you’re not then you can purchase it for $9.99 a month. One of the best parts of the app is that Adobe uses it’s own servers so you don’t have to use up your own space uploading photos. For any of you that have gone through this process in the past then you know how valuable that space is.

Customizing the portfolio is pretty simple but can be a little clunky if you’re used to WordPress. It’s not the same coding which takes a little bit of playing around with to get used to. Scott Kelby did a course on Adobe Portfolio if you’re a Kelbyone member then it’s worth your time watching.

So why is it worth your time? Well not only is it easy to integrate it into your website but once your Portfolio is published a separate unique URL is created which can be very useful.

Anchor Links Rocks!

For a while now I have been testing out Peak Design’s Anchor Links and I have to say they are awesome! This very inexpensive camera accessory is a great time saver. The anchor attaches to the camera body and the other end attaches to your favorite camera strap. That’s it! If you have multiple camera bodies and multiple straps, like I do, then this might be a good tool for you. If you need to know more about straps head over to the Tech Talk page.

These are the Straps I use:

Domke Gripper Camera Strap 1.5″ with Swivel Quick Release – Black

Vulture A4 1.75″ Camera Strap with Aluminum Quick-Release Adjuster (Heavy Duty for Air to Air work)