Photographing Black Bears in Smokies

Photographing Black Bears in Smokies

The Great Smoky Mountains is a very special place. I took the opportunity to spend a week camping in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. My main goal during this trip was to see some bears and hopefully get close enough to photograph them (without getting too close, of course). The early summer is a very active time for the black bear population in the Smokies. The female bears (called sows) are busy grazing and protecting their cubs, while the male bears (called boars) are running around the park looking for cubs to kill. If the male bear can kill a litter of cubs the female will go back into heat this early in the season. The berries are also starting to ripen and be ready to eat. There is a ton of bear activity in the park in June!  ...
Lens Hacking – the easy way

Lens Hacking – the easy way

I became interested in photography when I was going through High School. I spent the first two years working in the schools darkroom (read: storage closet that also held a photographic enlarger). I also spent those first two years borrowing a Pentax K100o. Shortly before graduation, my Grandfather gave me an older Revuflex T SLR camera that was his when he was in his 20’s and 30’s. I used that camera for a year or two, and eventually upgraded to a k1000 own. Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with these types of cameras; they are built like tanks. Made from aluminum or steal. They are heavy, and fairly large for what they offer. They worked only as a manual camera: manual focus, and manual exposure. The Pentax k1000 was somewhat unique, in that the k mount lenses that it used were very common. I read somewhere, that there are 25+ million K mount lenses out there in the market. That is a lot. The collections of lenses available to a k mount or an m42 screw mount are vast. I eventually bought in to the autofocus idea… and after getting my first camera, was very disappointed in the amount of lenses available and the cost of said lenses. I shoot canon now, and while canon does have a significant lens catalog, I have always found my collection missing a few special purpose lenses. Then I bought a Canon EOS M. If you want to put an older canon manual lens on your canon ef mount camera there is a little thing that you need to understand...
Photographing birds with Wifi

Photographing birds with Wifi

I have a ton of song birds around our property. If you have ever tried to photograph any songbirds you know that they can be tough to get a nice shot of, especially if you are not interested in “feeder” pictures. To get great shots of small song birds you must get close, and that is a problem. Many people will photograph from a blind, but i don’t have one. But, my canon 6d is equipped with remote control over a Wifi through a tablet or phone.  I set a perch up in our yard near a feeder that the birds tend to like, then set my camera and tripod up a few feet away and connected the wifi control over a tablet. I then went away, and waited up on our deck about 75 feet away and waited for the birds to come. It didn’t take too long before this little chickadee came around for some birdseed.  This is all just a proof of concept, and I think it worked pretty well, in all I sat out for about 40 minutes and only saw this little chickadee. Looking forward to trying it again. What do you think?...
Pixelicious – working with Jpeg Files

Pixelicious – working with Jpeg Files

There are so many file formats out there. Jpeg files are among the most common for photography. Jpeg is a standardized file format created by  the Joint Photographic Expert Group (which is where it’s name comes from).  Jpeg was standardized in 1992, so it is a very mature standard, and probably could use a little updating, but part of the problem is that no one wants to deal with the problems that a new standard would cause. I guess we are stuck with it for a while. Everyone loves jpeg for its broad compatibility and ease of use. I have never been a big fan of jpeg files just because of the lossy compression. Lets get at the heart of the pros and cons of jpeg file format. Cons Lossy Compression Blocking artifacts at low bit rate No lossless capability Pros 24 bit color high details & high quality pictures reduced file size it is the most used graphic file format approved as standard in 1994 standard file format. broad range support From the pros/cons list, it may seem that the pros outweigh the cons, and for some uses that is true only because this is not currently a better alternative. The problem is that we are all very impatient. We will not wait for a file to load, so jpeg was created to share images on the web at an acceptable quality level while making the files very small. Every time a *.jpg file is saved it compresses the file to save space. When you save a file you are given a choice on how much compression to apply, the more...
It’s like wearing a belt AND suspenders.

It’s like wearing a belt AND suspenders.

Backups. Surely there is something more fun and interesting to write a blog post about. We all hate doing them, but, at the end of the day , you need to have a solid backup plan in place. If you use a hard drive long enough it will fail, doesn’t matter what kind of drive it is, who made it, etc, etc. All drives/storage media fail at some point. That is a fact. For photographers, backups can be a big problem. The amount of data that we can create in a day is crazy. I have personally photographed at weddings with a 3-man team, and walked away after an 12 hour day with 100 gigabytes of data. Moving around and maintaining a years worth of data that I create can become quite a burden, and it gets a little tricky when multiple desktops are use and some are PC and some are Macs. They do not play nice with each other. One of the tricks i have found to make this manageable is automation. For the PC, i use an app called SecondCopy 8. It is a simple automated back up program. I also use a few different disk drives that are connected to my computer. So, here is how it works for me. I have a drive that I download images to after a shoot, each drive is given a unique name. I use two letters, the year and two more numbers, example: bk2013 01. I so my images live on drive bk2013 01, not on my computer, because I find that I fill up the hard drives...
Milky Way over the White River, Mountain Home Arkansas

Milky Way over the White River, Mountain Home Arkansas

My parents visited over the last weekend, and they stayed at a trout resort just outside of town. The resort they stayed at was located right on the river. The front porch has a river view with the boat dock just a few steps away. They had a fire pit and we came over to sit in front of the fire on their last night here. The night was clear and cold, and we had an awesome view of the southern sky, so naturally I took a few shots of the night sky. I saw several shooting stars, the Milky Way was easily visible in the southern sky last night. I used a Canon 6d + Rokinon 14/2.8 for this shot. I had the camera mounted on a very stable tripod. It was, of course, very dark when I shot this image, so when i set it up the first thing I did was take a few images to get the framing that i wanted. It is hard to tell what you are looking at when you can’t see a single thing through the viewfinder, it took me 2-3 images to get the framing that I wanted. For the framing shots I was using the highest iso my camera has (to get the shortest possible shutterspeed) because I did not want to wait 45 seconds between each shot while i was just framing the shot. After getting the framing right, I changed the iso to a much more manageable setting. In this case I was shooting at 8000 iso on a 6d, which provided a reasonable exposure time and...