Monday, March 30, 2009

Not so Wildlife

Lately, I've been thinking of changing the name of this Blog to something like: Misadventures in Modern Photography !

Wildlife Photography ? The only wildlife I'll probably shoot for the next few weeks will probably be Grandkids !

At any rate, this vertical shot was pre-planned for a Magazine. I'm practicing; this shot won't be submitted. The actual shot I'll submit will be on the left side of the page with the text on the right. I know, because the writer emailed me a copy and it had a sketch in the original version and I promised to try and duplicate it as best I could with a photo. So, why practice? Because that's the way I like to do stuff, ever since reading that a National Geographic Photographer on assignment may shoot 20,000 pictures, just to get 10 or 12 of them published in an article. Hell, I bet I get my picture published in under 100 shots ! Then, maybe National Geographic might hire me if the cost of Gigabytes keeps going up !

The second photo I shot horizontal, at a different location and using another model. These are my Grandkids and when I take them along with 3 dogs, there's no point in bringing a tripod, extra camera or lenses. The grand plan is to wear them and the dogs out while checking the lighting and shadows at different locations along the beach. Hopefully, the 5 mile round-trip walk will get me a few hours of quiet in the afternoon, while they all nap ! But, as it turns out, I'm usually the one who winds up napping, right after lunch and the kids are bouncing off the walls with a sugar-high from the ice cream I cooked them for breakfast !
The last shot I took just to show the writer what kind of scenery is available and if it'll work, when the lighting is just the way I like it, a model will appear in the picture. Only it won't be done without my tripod. No dogs, no Grandkids, no hurry; the only one on a sugar-high will be me ! More later

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Some Pictures Have to be Vertical

Even though myself and my cameras hate to shoot vertical shots, sometimes it's the only way to go. Unless you feel like shooting horizontal with a wide angle and 20 something MegaPixel camera, then cropping it vertical after the fact. That's what I ought to do; buy a bigger camera !

This shot isn't something a glossy magazine would want to print, but it'd be great for a newspaper. When I shot it the sun was going down. I saw the plane coming and knew I had to get my camera off the tripod, if I wanted to get low enough to the ground to compose the shot the way I did; airplane, people and flagpole all in the frame.

A newspaper isn't as concerned about a picture being noisy, as long as it's newsworthy. Magazines want sharp, clear and detailed images for their glossy pages. In newsprint even a sharp picture looks noisy because of the quality of paper it's printed on. The way to get a picture like this sharp, clear and noiseless would be to have your camera mounted on a tripod, ISO set at the lowest tolerable setting for the shutter speed you desire, and have a cable release attached to the camera to eliminate shake when you snap the picture.

I'm always yelling at my shooting buddy when we go on our weekly shooting excursions about using the tripod. You just can't beat it for getting great shots. Even if you don't have a cable release, you can use the timer on your camera to eliminate the shake you get from pressing the shutter button. Just don't try a timer when the subject is moving !

Now, when I'm out in the woods or on the beach trying to catch critters on the move I rarely carry a tripod. If it's light enough to get a 1/1000 second shutter speed, I can probably hold steady enough for a good clear shot while panning the camera. If the subject isn't moving and the light isn't that great, I try to find something to steady the camera on ( a rock, limb of a tree, anything sturdy ); even sit down and use my knees and elbows to form a human tripod ! You're just not going to get the greatest photos in the world without a tripod, so always use one unless there's absolutely no other way to take the picture.

This morning I went without a tripod. Why ? Three dogs and three Grandsons went on a three mile hike with me. I had to travel light and be able to move quickly. Didn't take any wildlife shots, but got some great shots using expedient methods. Where are they ? Going to a Glossy Magazine ! More later

Monday, March 23, 2009

Flowers n' Ferns

Luckily I packed almost all my camera gear in a bag for this trip. Thinking I'd get some nice close-ups of the Azaleas it was kind of disappointing the way the weather turned out. The wind in the mountains and harsh sunlight kind of wilted all the flowers.

When you go out on a shoot like this, you better be flexible. Mother Nature takes a turn for the worst, you just have to outsmart her. For this shot I got up high in a tower and looked down into a valley where the wind wouldn't have much effect on me or the scene. I set my tripod in a position where a concrete barrier protected it from the breeze. The Giant Ferns in the upper-center of the frame weren't moving, so I knew the valley was also, sheltered from the wind. I stopped-down a few clicks on aperature and used the camera's 2 second timer, held my breath and fired-away.

To this day, I couldn't tell you what an Azalea looks like; even if I tripped-over a flock of them ! What I really wanted was the picture of the Giant Ferns ! About a month ago, I shot this curly wachamakallit, golden plant sprouting at the base of another mountain. I was on a Cherry Blossom assignment that day and it was another windy day on the top of a mountain with me trying to get nice, slow shutter speed shots of (ugh) flowers moving in the wind ! The gal writing the story I was shooting for spotted the plant on our way down the hill and started shooting it with her point and shoot (toy) camera. I noticed the way the sun was hitting it, just right and knew if I took the time to set-up my tripod, it'd be too late; the sun would move. So, I just laid down behind a log and rested my lens on a log and captured it !

One of the things I really like about the web; if you post something (you have no clue as to what it is) on a website and be honest about it, somebody out there will tell you. A few days after I posted it, it was identified ! It's a baby Giant Fern and IT's EDIBLE ! To me, that's what Flower Photography should be all about !

Now, all I have to do is find out the scientific name of these Giant Ferns and I might get a Nature Magazine to buy them. I can Google that easy. Meanwhile, anybody out there who can tell me how you cook them ?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spring Has Sprung: An Azalea Festival (Photo)

Been over a week since I Blogged. It's Spring, already? Well, I'd better get busy. Next thing you know my taxes will be overdue and the IRS will be hunting for me.

This photo was taken in the northern mountains of Okinawa during the last week of the Azalea Festival. I'm not real crazy about shooting flowers, or buying them, or even smelling them; must be a GUY thing.

What makes girls so crazy over flowers, anyway? If you can't eat them, I have no use for them. But, WAIT; maybe if you shoot a great picture of them, you can make a MILLION DOLLARS selling it!

Luckily I brought all my cameras and lenses on this trip. By the time a friend and I got into the hills and walked halfway up the mountain the sun was glaring down on us and would've made the lighting too harsh for shooting flowers. So, my million dollar was taken with the help of some cloud cover. Look for it soon in some Woman's Magazine.

When I saw this group of tourists and flower fanatics with their cameras crossing the bridge, I just had to get a shot of it. I just waited for a cloud to pass by and block-out the sun and fired away.

Gotta run; 7 Grandkids are going on Spring Break and will probably spend the next 3 weeks at my house eating ice cream for breakfast (that's about all the breakfast I know how to cook). Then there's that IRS thing and, oh yeah, Wildlife Photography and Blogs to do. More later...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Dog Days of Summer

It's been awhile, so I figured I'd better post something. So, I dug-up this shot from the 1st of August, last Summer. This is Cheese, my wife's dog. He's got to be close to a year old by now. Still chews my flipflops when I forget to sprinkle them with Red Pepper, though, the son of a bitch !

It's a new week, already and I still haven't fired either of my cameras since, I don't remember when. The never-ending rain just keeps never-ending and, so far, I haven't gotten bored enough to try any indoor photos. I've pretty much kept busy with these freakin' computers; getting even more tangled-up in the web. So, I cant complain, even though I yell at websites and my laptops " IT IS ME STOOPIT", when they deny me access because Windows or Google or somebody forgot my password !

Anyway, all the administrative crap I'm always complaining about paid-off last week when my Okinawan Bullfight Story hit the web and now the whole world can see it: It doesn't pay anything, but it's an honor for a cameraman to get there. Stay tuned for a WILD BOAR HUNT ! COMING SOON; if I survive !

Friday, March 6, 2009

Hello Kitty

When you don't take your camera out for 3 continuous days because it won't stop raining, cabin fever sets in pretty fast. Now my new camera can go out in the rain and won't be harmed by it; I'm the one who doesn't like getting wet !

Actually, I'm like a caged animal when it rains all day long. And I hate taking pictures indoors; that's for those studio photographers, not me. This photo was shot back in August of last year when I was really, really bored, I guess. I'm going through my old folders and throwing everything away to make more room for important stuff and I figured why not post one; might give some aspiring studio photographer some ideas. Then I'll throw the other 99 shots I took of Hello Kitty that day away.

There were two real important things I learned from this shoot, though. One was that I'll never become a Still Life Photographer and the other was I never realized how filthy my poor cameras got from me crawling around on the beach and in the woods until I shot a 10MegaPixel picture of one an blew it up full size on a PC. There was rocks and boulders, maybe even asteroids all over the outside of the camera except for on the lens. Everybody knows about keeping lenses clean, I think ?

So, it's important to clean the outside of your camera, too. Unless you do what I plan on doing tomorrow; take the camera out for a walk in the rain !

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Aquarium Shot

Dug this shot out of my files because it's just another rainy day and I'm in a hurry to get out, go home and walk the dogs and probably get as wet as this fish in an aquarium.
The day I shot this I was in a hurry, too. That's why it's probably not the sharpest aquarium shot you've ever seen. To get a great shot of a fish in a tank you have to be patient, get the right lighting and exposure and watch out for glare off the tank's glass. A great way to avoid glare is to position yourself where you can press your camera lens flat against the glass. I've taken some award-winning photos that way and I keep them in my Nobody GETS TO SEE FOLDER.
Why didn't I take my time on this shot ? Well, I promised this girl, if she modeled for me, I'd give her a free portrait. She's pretty and works in the office at a club I go to for lunch about once a month. She asked if I could make her look slimmer when I shoot her portrait and I said, "Sure, my computer has a program that can stretch you out, make you taller, slimmer, whatever you want". One of my cameras even has that feature built right into it. So, now every time I go to grab a quick hamburger for lunch, she wants to know when I'm going to take her picture. Usually, the place is busy at lunch time and that's my excuse to not take her portrait; this time it wasn't. I passed by the office and saw her, but she didn't see me. I shot the fish on the way out and made a quick exit; that's why I was lucky to get a shot of the fish at all, let alone a decent one.
So, what's the big deal; shy or afraid to shoot a pretty girl ? Not at all ! What kind of an animal do you think I am ? I just spent half the morning with my camera in the jungle and the other half laying in bird crap on a rock overlooking the ocean trying to get some good wildlife shots. So, why would I want to get in some pretty girl's face lookin' like Grizzly Adams and smelling like an uncleaned bird cage to shoot her portrait ?
Besides, with all these Blogs and Meta tags, URLs, Links and other foreign languages I'm looking at every night; who wants to take the time to learn how to make pretty girls skinnier after you shoot them ? Somebody showed me how to put a link to my website from this Blog today. Let me know if it works. Then when I get around to it I'll post a picture of a pretty, skinny girl for you. OK ?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Okinawan Bullfight: An Insider's Tip

Going back through my past blogs looking for some unique aspect of culture in this part of the world to publish on my newly created Insider's Tips Page, I found this gem. Well, it deserves an update so, here I am almost two years later dusting it off and doing some editing.

A Bullfight in Okinawa is not the bloody sport most people would imagine when they hear the word "Bullfight". Bull Wrestling would be a better description and it is similar, in many ways, to Japanese Sumo Wrestling.

There are no Matadors or swords and knives used in this sport. Some handlers are present in the ring to cheer their side of beef on and lead them in the right direction.

The bulls lock horns and have a shoving match which may last from two to twenty minutes. When one of them gets tired and runs off, the other one is declared the winner.

Every once in awhile, one of the bulls will look at the size of his opponent and decide to turn into a chicken and just run away without ever bumping heads. Then he'll run around the ring trying to find the exit. And the crowd goes wild.

So, after a few thousand clicks of the shutter on my camera, I've decided it's more fun watching the people at the Bullfights than it is watching the bulls. And the best part of the whole sport is waiting for a bull to come into the ring and run around acting like a chicken. The rest of this post in Quotation Marks is my original from March 4, 2009 back when I was too busy to form an opinion about Okinawa Bullfighting:

"Its been a pretty hectic month of shooting the bull and I thought it was all over in Febraury. Well, the bullshooting is really done, now it's a matter of getting all the, what's called post-processing done. So, it looks like these big fellas are going to be haunting me through the month of March, too.
Too tired tonight to post much of a Blog, but, if you want more of the Bull Story go to my website and click-on articles at the top of the page. Then click Okinawan Bullfight and you'll see my first attempt at putting an article on a webpage. THAT'S ALL FOLKS."

If you ever get the opportunity to see an Okinawan Bullfight, don't pass it up !


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Wildlife Isn't Just Birds

Sometimes wildlife just happens right in your own home and you don't need to be lugging backpacks full of cameras and lenses up and down the hills and along the beaches.

This Okinawan Gecko was hanging from the ceiling of my utility room just wailing the moth he caught and smiling while he was at it ! He kept it up long enough for me to go grab my camera and pop the flash up.

Then, there was the day I walked all the way to the beach and the tide wasn't right, so no birds showed-up. After I drank all my coffee and ran out of smokes, there wasn't anything to do but head back home. That's when I spotted this humongous Banana Spider whose web would've gotten all over me if I didn't duck. Always looking for the right angle to get the sun where it lights up the subject the way I want it, I noticed if I positioned myself and camera just so, I could line the spider up with the cloud. You can't see the web, but who cares? In Japanese the word for Spider is "Kumo" and so is the word for Cloud ( Kumo).

Snails are wildlife, too and what's neat about them is you probably don't need to worry about them causing alot of blur in your photo if you want to use a slower shutter speed and you get plenty of time to move around them to get the best lighting. No need for a tripod, just set your camera on the ground.
Stay tuned, soon when the weather gets a bit warmer, I'll be taking the camera on a Wild Boar hunt ! That's all for today.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Katsuren Castle

The weekend went by fast ! Cloudy and cold, but not too much rain. So, I got out and did some Castle shooting. The idea is to try and catch each major Castle in the right light and at the right time of day so I have Postcard perfect pictures of every one of them. It didn't turn out that way, but I got alot of practice in and even managed to catch a few wildlife shots while I was at it.

Tourists sometimes get in the way when you're trying to get the perfect shot and it used to drive me insane. Now, sometimes I let them in the picture, but I wouldn't want it hanging on my wall and nobody would probably want to buy it except maybe the tourists in the picture. Hey, that might work if I could squeeze a small printer in my camera bag !

The lenses I usually use aren't really the best for trying to shoot a humongus Castle and the grounds around it. One of these days I'll have to break down and invest in a really expensive wide-angle lens and leave the bazookas I usually lug around for shooting wildlife at home.
But, then what happens when you're out somewhere on a nice sunny day shooting Castles and along comes a bunch of wildlife ? Just hafta get a bigger camera bag, more cameras and lots of lenses. Or quit trying to shoot the dumb Castles. Just buy Postcards and Calendars like everybody else does ! And shoot the WILDLIFE !!!