Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Pecha Kucha, Nature and You

Interested in horse racing? You should have heard Shirley Couteau’s talk on the Preakness Race at Pimlico, Maryland.  What about biomimicry – you know, that’s when a bullet train is designed to be as aerodynamic as the beak of a kingfisher, or a 6” drone is modeled on the physiology of bats.

Or what about Amelia May’s look at how man has constructed beautiful buildings from nature’s materials – rocks, mud and twigs – that last hundreds of years.

A crowd of almost 100 people heard those talks and much more at Pecha Kucha Nature Night last night. Rob Hartwell spoke about the success of the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River’s shad restoration in the Potomac River; sturgeon restoration is the next project.

Up next was Kate Norris with a presentation about her love of Hawaii, and closer to home Judy Gallagher talked about springtime in Woodbridge. The shared aspect of these disparate presentations, aside from the passion of the speakers, is that they were all six minutes long. Continue reading

A Goldfinch Kind of Day

A Goldfinch throws me a bone.

Today I completed my second monthly “Four Hour Walk” which is like the popular photowalk, but I’m by myself instead of with a group of photographers and I’m in a wildlife management area, Merrimac Farm, instead of in a city or town. Hurricane Irene had passed through the area during the night, so I wasn’t sure if I would find any damage or flooding. Fortunately there was none of either.

My last Four Hour Walk was so much fun that I have decided to make it a monthly exercise. This second time turned out to be somewhat frustrating, but fun none the less. I had decided to take a four foot computer controlled camera slider along with three cameras, tripod, video monitor, and my regular bag of lenses and accessories. Dumb.

Walking through the woods with this much gear makes it all but impossible to get shots of birds and other animals during the fleeting seconds that they stay in range. I missed getting a shot of a beautiful Great Blue Heron as well as a small herd of white tail deer.

More frustrating was all the goldfinches. The area around the Stone House is known for always having a lot of songbirds around. (Can you imagine how great it will be when the Conservation Landscape Project is completed?) Today it must have been goldfinch day. With all of the thistles in full bloom, the birds were plentiful and active. So why is the only photo I have of them the poor image above? Continue reading

Introduction to Cameras for Nature Photography Part 3: Depth of Field

These photos are of the same plant, from the same position, and with the same lens, yet they are very different. The flowers in the center of each image are basically the same, but there is a significant difference in the appearance of the backgrounds. (You may click on the photos for a larger image.) Most people would probably agree that the photo on the left is “better” than the one on the right, because it is easier to see the flowers. The background plants are a distraction in the photo on the right.
So how did the camera with the same lens, same focus point, and same position produce such different images? The answer is that it was done by changing the aperture of the lens. The photo on the left was shot at an aperture of f5.6 and the one on the right was exposed at f36. (Remember the smaller the “f” number the larger the opening in the lens.) Why does changing the aperture change the focus of the image? It is a phenomena known as depth of field.

Introduction to Cameras for Nature PhotographyPart 2: Lens Focal Length


This image of an osprey was captured with an equivalent focal length 750mm lens. The bird was at the top of a tree that was 100 feet away.

In the first posting in this series, I briefly explained two of the three most important lens variables: aperture and focus. The third major variable is focal length. The length of the lens, measured in millimeters (mm),  relative to the size of the film or digital sensor, determines the angle of view that is captured by the lens. A short lens will cover a wider area than a longer one. This means that if you were standing in a field and you wanted to take a photo of the field you would want to use a short or wide angle lens. If you wanted to capture an image of a bird perched on a bush on the other side of the field, you would need a long or telephoto lens.

Focal length is relatively easy to understand, but like many things in photography, there are complicating factors. One of these that you need to understand is “equivalent” focal length. Remember that the focal length is relative to the size of the film or digital sensor and that this ratio determines the angle of view. Not all digital cameras have the same size sensor. Because of this, a focal length of 35mm on a point and shoot camera is a powerful telephoto lens, but a 35mm lens on a full size digital camera would be a moderate wide angle. To reduce the confusion (and math), camera manufacturers frequently state the focal length of a lens as the actual length
as well as the length it would be to produce the same angle of view on a full size camera. This is the equivalent focal length. Continue reading

Introduction to Cameras for Nature Photography Part 1: Lenses

Merrimac Farm BluebellsThis is the first of several posts that discuss how to  select  and use a camera for nature photography. The emphasis is on fundamentals. If you wonder why your photos never seem to capture a scene quite the way you intended, this series is for you. If you are an experienced DSLR shooter you probably will not gain much here and you may even be able to give me some pointers!

In the first two posts of this series, I will discuss lenses. You may be asking yourself why start there? Isn’t the camera the most important part and the lens is just an accessory? Well the answer is no. The lens is by far the most important piece of the system. It is the primary factor in how much of the scene you will be able to capture, how close you can get to your subject, how much light you will need to get a proper exposure, and the overall quality of the sharpness and color correctness of the image.

It is a huge and important subject. So let’s get started. Continue reading