Steal Nothing But Photographs

There be Whales Here! (Juneau, AK):

"Captain, There be whales here"!  Maybe it's the nerd in me but every time I see reference to a hump-back whale I think of Mr. Scott declaring that two  whales were beamed aboard the Enterprise in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  The plot where Mr. Spock and the rest of the team race back in time to capture some whales to keep an alien probe from destroying earth.  If that doesn't make you think that these amazing creatures are important, then just go on a Whale Watching Excursion with Juneau Alaska outfitters "Gastineau Guiding".  After an awesome rainforest hike with biologist/naturalist "Van" who had some serious Alaska wilderness Kung Fu, we boarded a custom build whale watching boat with our guide Lindsey and Captain Scott (Ironic, I know) who got us in the thick of things with Whales, Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, and more Whales.  Here are the images I captured on the excursion.  Don't forget to click on the images to see them full size on your monitor!

The hike began in the wilderness where we go up close and personal with Alaska's rainforest.

Alaskan Rainforest (D3S, ISO800, f/6.3, 1/100th seconds, 14mm through Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8)

We saw some awesome Flora/Fauna and learned all about its uses by the First Nations people of Alaska from Van:

Juneau Flora/Fauna (D3s, ISO1600, f/2.8, 1/500th second @ 14mm through Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8)

The beach-combing with Van and Lindsey allowed us to enjoy the Juneau shore:

Juneau Shore Pano (D3s, ISO1600, f/2.8, 1/8000th second @24mm through Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8)

Then after a short bus ride to a loading ramp we boarded the boat to find some whales.  Lindsey was amazingly knowledgeable about anything living in the waters around Juneau and made the ride interesting while Scott did some whale recon on the radio to the other boats to find some whale action.

We found these lazy sea-lions on the way out, where we learned the difference between sea-lions and seals.  The eagle was a nice touch hired by Gastineau  Guiding to make the scene more "Majestic" :).

Bed and Buoy (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/800th second @ 320mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)

Then we got to see what we came for, humpback whales galore!  At one point when I was looking through the D3s at about 320mm I saw at least 4 blows from whales.  It was awesome!

Flukes on the Horizon (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/1000th second @ 150mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)

There was one little calf who I think Lindsey referred to as "Smudge" because of the smear on the underside of his flukes that spent as much time out of the water breaching as he did under water.  An amazing show!

Breaching (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/1000th second @340mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)

Whale Dancing (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/800th second @ 110mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)

Belly Flop (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/1250th second @ 180mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)

Flukes Galore (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/640th second @ 340mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)

It was an amazing adventure made even better by Lindsey, Van, and Scott of Gastineau Guiding and thanks to Disney Cruise Lines.

Until the next image theft,



Photogs Note:

Shooting whales is a lot like shooting action sports.  The trick is to keep your lens zoomed close to maximize your field of view and keep both eyes open to expand it even more.  When you see some action, be ready to zoom all the way in so you can capture the barnacles on their fins!  I keep track of my shutter speed while in aperture priority (A mode on Nikon) because I want to keep my depth of field as shallow as possible.  It's probably not a big deal on a cloudy day like this one but on a sunny day you could end up with a camera at f/8 or greater if you let the camera adjust aperture.  Not a huge deal when on the open ocean but this photog isn't as religious about keeping my sensor clean so at f/8 I end up cleaning a lot of dust spots off the photo which sucks.  However, you could easily put it in shutter priority (S mode on Nikon).  Either way keep your shutter speed above 1/500th of a second because you don't want any breaching whales to be blurry.  I also make sure that I put the lens in VR mode if you have it and set it for "Active" since you're on a pitching boat.  

All that being said, don't ruin the moment by spending the whole time looking through the viewfinder.  What I missed out on while getting these shots is seeing Julie and the boys enjoying the moment.  Something that really is more important than capturing images.  I screwed up but you don't have to.  We photographers sometimes forget that we need to spend some time watching the people you love enjoy the experience that you have provided too.  It's not all about getting the shot, you have to live and love a little too....


Poor Man’s Safari (Disney Animal Kingdom):

The family spent 5 days in Orlando at Walt Disney World and I have to say, I was very impressed with the place.  They spared no expense on going after the "Feel" of a real experience.  At the Animal Kingdom I spent quite a bit of time in Africa and Asia and we all had a tremendous time.  The Kilimanjaro Safari was a fun ride through their animal park on a simulated Safari and we had a great time.  I did manage to steal a couple of HDR's (High Dynamic Range) of the Serengeti.  The truck would stop on occasion to give us a better look at the animals and I was lucky enough to be on the perfect side to capture a few images.  Make sure you click on them to see them full scale on your monitor!

The Disney Serengeti (D3S, ISO200, HDR, f/2.8, 70mm through Nikkor 24-70mm)

I wished I had my 70-200mm lens for this ride but it just wasn't reasonable to lug it around the park for a few pictures and have to deal with it on Roller-Coasters and such.  The 24-70mm had to go multi-purpose.

I also managed to steal this image of a Giraffe pruning the low hanging branches.

Pruning (D3s, ISO200, 70mm, HDR, f/2.8 through Nikkor 24-70mm)

I would have loved to bring the Trinity along (14-24mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm) but it is just too much to carry around for 12 hours a day.

I'm going to be milking these Disney Images for a few posts so stay tuned!



The St. Louis Zoo:

St. Louis has one of the best zoo's in the nation, period.  Did I mention it is completely free?  Except for the popcorn, soda's, pretzels, ice cream, toys, and other delights of course!  Obviously a zoo is a target rich environment for photogs but I often find shooting zoo animals kind of depressing.  When you get down to it, when you compose an image at the zoo, too often what you get is that "Caged" look in their eyes.  Its not easy to capture images that show the fun and adventure of being a free animal thriving in the wild, able to do whatever I want.  Probably the same reason you don't see any images of my co-workers from the corporate jungle on here!  This king cobra is a perfect example.  I bet this guy hasn't raised up, spread his hood, and scared the bejeezus out of anyone in months.  Poor guy should be free to bite a honey badger every once in a while!  He still looks pretty "Bad Asp" if you know what I mean.

King Cobra

King Cobra (D3S, ISO1600, 1/60th, f/2.8, 56mm through Nikkor 24-70)

Today I had the opportunity to watch the Hippopotomus and they were obviously having fun.  I wish I would have recorded their "Voices" because in all the times at the zoo, I have never actually heard them talk.  They certainly have that gruff and gutteral "Barry White meets Satchmo" kind of sound down.  Here is my favorite image of the day.....


Hippopotamus (D3S, ISO200, 1/640th, f/2.8, 70mm through Nikkor 24-70)

Make sure you click onit and see it full size on your monitor!  The rest of the images I took today were so boring that they even put this penguin to sleep.

Sleepy Feet

Sleepy Feet (D3S, ISO800, 1/100th, f/2.8, 70mm through Nikkor 24-70)

Until the next image theft, enjoy.


Forest Park Collection: Suspension Footbridge

I am lucky to have "Summer Hours" at work which allows me to work an extra hour, Monday - Thursday and take off after 12:00 on Fridays.  Although 12:00 noon isn't the ideal time for landscape photography, shooting in crappy light is better than not shooting at all.  High Dynamic Range (HDR) tends to give you some serious forgiveness when shooting in just about any lighting condition.  I was planning on shooting architecture since the front face of the Art Museum and the History Museums are shaded but surpisingly there were hundreds of people out today, even though the temperature was 100+ Degrees.  The front steps of both structures were covered with tourists relaxing in the shade so I punted.  I was almost ready to just quit completely when I spied this interesting footbridge between the Grand Basin and the Muny and decided to shoot it.

Suspension Footbridge (D3s, ISO160, 1/250th, f/10 @ 24mm with Nikkor 14-24)

Suspension Footbridge (D3s, ISO160, 1/250th, f/10 @ 24mm with Nikkor 14-24)

 Suspension Footbridge (D3s, ISO160, 1/200th, f/10 @ 20mm with Nikkor 14-24)

Suspension Footbridge (D3s, ISO160, 1/200th, f/10 @ 20mm with Nikkor 14-24)

Both photographs were processed from 7 images (-3 to +3 EV) using Photomatix Pro, Curves and Shapening in Photoshop CS5, Noise reduction in the sky with Imagenomic's Noiseware, and archived with Adobe Lightroom 3. 

I should also give credit to my assistant on this shoot even though he didn't contribute much because he couldn't stop eating the fish out of the stream!

Forest Park Heron (D3s, ISO125, 1/800th, 200mm @ f/2.8 with Nikkor 70-200 VRI

Forest Park Heron (D3s, ISO125, 1/800th, 200mm @ f/2.8 with Nikkor 70-200 VRI)

Until Next Time! 



The Great White Heron:

 I swung by the Winghaven Swamps (Green Area) tonight after picking up the boys to see what was going on with the local wild life and managed to steal an image of a Great White Heron.  If you look closely you can see that he has his eye on a rather juicy dragonfly near the center of the image. 
The Great White Heron (D3s, ISO200, Nikkor 70-200 w/TC1.7x @ 340mm, f/4.8, 1/320sec)

The Great White Heron (D3s, ISO200, Nikkor 70-200 w/TC1.7x @ 340mm, f/4.8, 1/320sec)

There were several other Blue Herons walking around the perimeter of the swamps but they were a little more shy than this guy.  Either way, he was about 100 yards from the boardwalk where JD and Wyatt were making enough noise to scare off an entire flight of birds.
The image was sharpened with minor curves and burning in Photoshop CS4 and converted to Black and White in Nik Softwares Silver Efex Pro.

It’s Not an Oriole? Really?

My dad always told me that you need to learn something new every day, even if you aren't trying to!  Tonight I was shooting some images of the various spring birds in the backyard and there was an Oriole sitting in the top of a tree.  I had the D3S with the Nikkor 70-200 bolted on with a Nikkor TC-1.7 adapter between them on my Induro Monopod and was trying to get some shots of birds in flight while attempting to learn more about the 3D focus features on the D3S.  I was having pretty good success and managed to steal the following image.

Red-Winged Blackbird?  Really?

Red-Winged Blackbird? Really?

After doing a little cleanup (Curves, Sharpening, Contrast) in Photoshop CS4, I thought I would get online and "Learn" something about Orioles (Not the baseball team).  I was flabbergasted to see that what I had been calling an Oriole for over 35 years is actually not an Oriole at all but a freakin' Red Winged Blackbird!  A more decorated version of a stock/standard blackbird or a rat with wings as my Dad always called them.  Absolutely Amazing!  I bet every time I called one of those an Oriole, Mr. Audubon rolled over in his grave.

He is kinda pretty for a damn blackbird.....

By the way, the image was captured at ISO 2000, 1/400 sec, and f/4.8 with the lens racked out to 340mm. 



The Patriot Bald Eagle:

The amazing experience of hanging out with the Bald Eagle yesterday compelled me to dig through and grab a cool image of "Old Glory" and layer it with one of the bald eagle images.  Here is the result.
The Pure Patriot...

The Pure Patriot...

 If you have never done an overlay in PhotoShop, its a cool way of adding that special zing to your images.  Just drop an image above another, change the blend mode to Soft Light or Overlay (Experiment with them all!).  Change the opacity until it looks the way you want it and viola, instant awesome image.  I added a layer mask over the flag and brushed out the eagle to maintain his colors.  Try it yourself!  There are several awesome tutorials on-line that you can learn from as well.


Bald Eagle Taking Flight:

It was a late night with friends, Irish Whiskey, and Coffee and Baileys but I managed to roll out of the rack this morning with visions of eagles in my head.  I loaded my gear into the old King Ranch and headed to Alton, IL where our nations pride and joy is supposed to be wintering.  I was very skeptical that I would even see anything with the temperature being 4°F.  If our American Bald Eagle is anything at all, he aint stupid.  However, like any good American, no matter the situation, he sucks it up, crawls out of his nest, and goes out into the world to feed his family.  After 3 hours of driving up and down the Great River Road and only getting shots of Eagles sitting on the horizon, I managed to finally spy one of my fellow predators scanning the river from the treeline up on a bluff next to the water.  I took several portraits of him when he finally decided to stretch his wings.  This is the best of the images I managed to capture.  The photography gods have smiled on me this cold winter day. 
D3S shot at f/4.8, 1/1600sec, ISO400, and -1.3EV through a Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 and a TC-II 1.7x adapter for a total of 700mm.
D3S shot at f/4.8, 1/1600sec, ISO400, and -1.3EV through a Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 and a TC-II 1.7x adapter for a total of 700mm.
What a powerful and amazing creature.  Maybe next time I'll capture one without the bright morning sun on his face so I don't blow out the white on the sunny side of his face.  Sorry Haliaeetus leucocephalus (American Bald Eagle), I'll try to do better for you next time!

The Cardinal Returns:

I stole this image of a cardinal sitting in a tree on the other end of my pond with my D80 Handheld, f/4.8, 1/640 sec, through a rental Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 lens, all bolted to my TC-1.7x adapter for a total of 765mm.  I was rather excited how the combo worked out.  I'll be using it to shoot the Eagles on the river tomorrow morning bright and early.  Why not the D3S you ask?  That is the one advantage that a DX sensor has my friends, 1.5X the total focal length of the lens due to the smaller sensor or crop factor.  I love cardinals and I love the extra pop they have when the rest of the image is converted to B&W with NIK Silver Efex.  If you look closely, you will see several of this guys girl friends in the tree as well.

The Cardinal Returns for the Winter.....

The Cardinal Returns for the Winter.....

Happy New Year!