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New Nikon Wildlife Lens

Monday, May 3, 2010

Nikon has just announced a new AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm telephoto lens. This one, the VR II model, is an update on an existing telephoto zoom that incorporates an additional stop of vibration reduction for a total of four stops worth of VR stability. While many photographers see vibration reduction as a way to squeeze in shots in lower light at slower shutter speeds, with a lens this long it’s equally valuable at fast shutter speeds for steadying the scene and capturing great wildlife photos. The f/4 lens is darn fast, which makes it practical for serious shooting too; you don’t sacrifice length for speed. The only negatives with this lens are size and price. Weighing in at just over seven pounds it isn’t the kind of glass you tote around in your pocket. And at $7000, you’ll feel the lightness in your wallet as well. Then again, for a truly professional lens with some amazing specs capable of producing equally amazing images, its size and price are relative pluses. Read the press release at Nikon’s web site, and while you’re there check out a new podcast discussion about Nikon lenses.


Jay Dickman Summer Workshops

Friday, April 30, 2010

Photojournalist and Olympus Visionary Jay Dickman has shot more than 25 assignments for National Geographic, and lately he’s been teaching several great photographic workshops too. He recently finished up his “Around the world on a private jet” workshop and he’s gearing up for his next FirstLight “Cowboy Country” workshop in the Wind River Range at Dubois, Wyoming. If you can’t make it to the June session, come back in July to photograph working cowboys, a real live rodeo, fly fishing in pristine mountain streams and much more. Learn all about Jay and his work at www.jaydickman.net, and sign up for his workshops at firstlightworkshop.com.

Beetlecam, Beetlecam, Beetlecam!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Two British brothers who share an interest in wildlife photography are all the rage these days after publishing pictures from their homemade “Beetlecam.” It’s a remote controlled camera carrier—with two fill-flash units built in—that can roll right up close to dangerous animals for unique perspectives and up-close pictures. These are the kind of images of wildlife in their habitat that have never quite been seen before. Read all about it, and see a bunch of great African animal close-ups, at the DPS blog.


The Photographer’s iPhone Edge

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I've long been a fan of the great software from Stephen Trainor called The Photographer's Ephemeris. Used on your home computer or laptop you can calculate all sorts of useful information before heading out into the field—things like where and when the sun will set, moonrise locations, and exactly how these events will unfold on any future date. That's great software, but don't forget that we're already living in the future; we need our software live and portable and right now. That's probably why Trainor created his just released version of The Photographer's Ephemeris for the iPhone. Take your tools with you into the field and calculate all that useful information on the spot and on a moment’s notice. Wondering where the moon will rise over that distant hill? Plug in the info and watch your iPhone—and The Photographer's Ephemeris—do the rest.


Stacking Images For Extended Depth Of Field

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In close-up photography we are dealing with shallow depth-of-field, even at small apertures. There's nothing we can do about it in the field - physics is against us. Small camera-to -subject distances always result in one narrow plane of focus. However, it is possible with software and good shooting techniques to combine multiple images, focused at different points, and create an image with extended depth-of-field. In the above flower image, I combined seven different images using the Auto Blend feature in Photoshop CS4 to create one image with all three flowers in focus.

The technique is fairly simple by following these steps:

1) Put your camera on a tripod, compose your image, and determine the proper exposure (shoot in manual exposure mode.)

Take anywhere from 4 to 10 exposures, slightly changing your focus point for each exposure. I usually start with the front of my image in focus and move into the scene with each exposure, but Photoshop doesn't care how you do it. Eliminating movement of the subject is key, so on windy days this technique might be close to impossible to pull off. Also, be sure to use the same exposure and white balance settings for each image.

3) Download your images to your MAC/PC and open Photoshop. You can use RAW, JPEG, or TIFF images - they all work. Bring your images into Photoshop by using the FILE-- Scripts-- Load Files into Stack command. Be sure to check the box for "Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images"

4) Go to your layers palette. You will notice each image is on its own layer. Highlight all the layers (click on the top layer, then shift-click on the bottom layer.)

Lightning in a Volcano

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

For all the trouble that last week’s unpronounceable Icelandic volcano caused over European airspace, it also produced some beautiful and arresting photographs. Perhaps the most notable collection of them comes by way of Boston’s Big Picture blog. The huge format always makes for an engaging presentation, and this gallery showcases the awesome power and undeniable beauty of mother nature at her worst. One of those images is Lucas Jackson’s soon-to-be-iconic shot of a lightning bolt spidering through the volcano’s ash plume. Read Jackson’s account of creating the one-in-a-million picture and see more of his photographs from Eyjafjallajokul at the Reuters Photo blog.



All About ILCP

Monday, April 26, 2010

Are you familiar with the ILCP? It’s the International League of Conservation Photographers, and its goals probably dovetail nicely with your own. The ILCP’s mission is to “further environmental and cultural conservation through ethical photography.” The organization works to promote environmentalism by harnessing the power of photography. Not only can you support the ILCP with your financial donations, you can apply for membership too. Members must have demonstrated the highest ethical, photographic and environmental standards—like ILCP fellows David Doubilet, Frans Lanting and Jim Brandenburg. For more information on ILCP and its many programs— including the revolutionary and groundbreaking “RAVE” initiative—visit the ILCP web site at

Ten Travel Photo Tips

Friday, April 23, 2010

As spring rolls on and summer nears, folks everywhere are making travel plans to take full advantage of warm weather and long days. If you’ll be taking a camera with you on your next journey—and you really should be taking a camera with you and finding time to make great photos along the way—stop by Digital Photography School first to read their ten tips for taking better travel photographs. Suggestions from taking good notes to advice for lens selections make the list a worthwhile read before you head out on your next adventure, whether it takes you across the state or around the globe.


D-SLRs are officially ready for prime time

Thursday, April 22, 2010

What do outdoor photographers and network television dramas have in common? Sometimes each of them use the same camera—the Canon EOS 5D Mark II—to get the job done. The D-SLR with HD video recording capabilities was recently used to film the entirety of the May 17th season finale of the Fox show, signaling yet another milestone in the convergence of professional still photography and video production. It makes me wonder what the future holds for both cameras and their capabilities, and for what photographers will produce with their fancy new tools. Will we see professional landscapers or wildlife photographers film their own TV shows a’la Wild Kingdom on a shoestring budget? Whatever the future holds, it’s clear that the technology is already there to do amazing things; it’s just up to us to make use of our cameras capabilities. Perhaps this continued convergence is why a company like Zeiss is now making cine lenses for use on video-ready D-SLRs, and why Canon has expanded its Explorers of Light program—previously populated exclusively by still shooters—to include cinematographers too.



Shutter Speed Info for Everyone

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I love lists, especially when they’re one-stop shops for multiple resources I can use to improve my photographic technique. The SLR Lounge blog recently compiled a great list of shutter speed tutorials for photographers. Drawing from resources geared toward everyone from newbies looking to understand how shutter speeds affect their photos, all the way to more advanced techniques for experienced users who want to experiment with motion blur, panning and long shutter speeds for artistic effects. Worth a look, no matter how skilled you are with everything relating to shutter speeds.


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