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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Notes From The Field

A recent excursion yielded some keen insights from OP's tech guru

During all this activity, early on I placed the 500mm in the lens bag and switched to the 100-400mm (I could have used the wide-angle), and after the buffer filled on the 1Ds Mark III, I put the camera down next to me and held on. Some pictures you just bring home in your head.

The image here was relatively early in the charge by the female elephant, it's youngster and herd in reserve. I used the EOS-1Ds Mark III with a 100-400mm set to 235mm. The exposure had been preset—1/750 sec. at ƒ/8 with an ISO of 200. I thought I was ready, and for a few images I was, until the vehicle was in full reverse and all we could do was hold on and observe.

A Tripod For Many Spaces

A tripod that fits into many positions and configurations is a plus. This was the third time I used a Gitzo Explorer tripod (GT2540EX) in Africa, and each trip I’ve worked from a different kind of vehicle. On the first trip, the vehicles were completely enclosed; the tripod had one leg on the seat and two on the floor, maintaining a specific height out the window for long lenses. On the second trip, we shot from the open sunroof of Land Rovers, and here I spanned the tripod legs across the opening and had the equivalent of a .50-caliber machine-gun mount.

With the open vehicles used on this safari, the tripod was positioned with two legs on the floor and a third on the seat, or even in a pocket on the seatback in front of me. The articulating capabilities of the Explorer made it easy to maintain the positions needed to keep the 500mm steady and the images sharp, even with a 2x extender at times. I use this tripod for shooting out of the windows of my van’s extended top and from the uneven reinforced rooftop of the vehicle in the style of Ansel Adams. The Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead worked flawlessly throughout the trip.

Sunrise And Sunset

On a trip to a location like Africa, you make the most of the time you have, and starting early and ending late is the norm. In this season, sunrise comes early, sunset is late and the middle of the day is too hot for subjects and photographers alike. This means lots of opportunities to shoot in low-light conditions.

On this trip, abundant palm, acacia and baobab trees added interest to the skyline. A quick way to determine the optimum exposure for early and late light is to meter the colored sky in an area away from the bright sun. Although the sun may burn out, you need to capture the sky and any clouds with good detail and color. Bracket, even when you’re counting on the postprocessing capabilities of digital and RAW. As the sun gets closer to the horizon, the exposure will equalize, and you can attain some detail in both the foreground and the sky. Naturally, an interesting foreground adds a lot to the composition: Cue the zebras!

Don’t Stop Shooting After Sundown

The sunset is finished and it’s time to head back to camp. Not! Now come the opportunities for creative blurring and the use of high ISOs. You can shoot as long as there are opportunities, like running animals, by using a shutter speed of about ¼ sec. and an ISO of 1600 or even higher. The noise of the high ISO can add to the art factor in the images. Pan with the movement, and check the LCD and histogram. Today’s cameras can autofocus in low light levels.

Experiment! You may throw away a high percentage of images, but one keeper makes it all worthwhile. When the last light of the day is gone, then you can finally go back to camp—f.

For information about upcoming seminars and digital-imaging workshops, visit www.geolepp.com. If you have any tips or questions, address them to: OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHER, Dept TT, George Lepp, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025-1176 or online at www.geolepp.com.

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