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Focus Tips for Sharper Images

Focus Tips for Sharper Images

All Photos by Eric Bowles

By Eric Bowles

With all the talk about new cameras, we get the impression that focus is suddenly like magic – a new secret sauce that will make all your photos perfectly sharp. Sadly, that’s not exactly the case. Yes, there are new technologies that help with focus, but photographers still must do their part. Let’s take a closer look at what you can do to create more images that are sharp and in focus.

There are, of course, lots of different cameras. And depending upon when a camera was developed and the intended market for that camera, performances will vary. In general, newer cameras bring better focus performance with a range of scene- and subject-recognition technologies. These new focus technologies mean the learning curve with a new camera may be steeper, and your old settings and techniques may not apply. Part of focusing is knowing what settings to use and how to help your camera focus quickly and accurately.

No matter the camera, there is a limit on how much data can be processed quickly. So the general guideline would be to use the smallest auto-focus area you can accurately maintain on the subject. A smaller focus area means the camera looks for a subject or target over a smaller area, and thus has less data to process. If you use the entire frame for focus, it may work fine in some situations, but if you are having trouble, try reducing the focus area to a smaller group or area of the frame. If the subject is large relative to the focus area, the camera will have a much better chance of sharp focus.

The second way you can help the camera is by making sure the subject is large enough in the frame. Sure, we often encounter distant subjects. But the subject needs to be large enough in the frame to be a target rather than just a few pixels. Try to have a subject occupy at least one-third of the height and width of the frame. If it is smaller or more distant, consider using a longer lens or try to move closer. If the subject is small within the frame, you will much more likely need to use traditional focus methods rather than face or eye detection. Don’t get hung up on trying to make the eye focus detection function work – the point is to focus on your subject and get a good photo no matter what techniques are required.

Autofocus generally works by utilizing contrast within the area you’ve chosen. But if your subject has little contrast or is undefined, your camera may struggle to identify the intended target. There are a number of reasons why you may have low contrast (and cameras tend to cope with this remarkably well), but be prepared to step in and help if necessary.

Conventional wisdom dictates you should always focus on the eye of your subject. And that’s true – you do want the eye in focus. But in many cases the eye is too small, or moving too quickly, to be a good focus target. In this case, you can choose a different focus target within the same focus plane and still capture that subject in sharp focus.

In this photo of a rider on a horse, the eye of the rider and the eye of the horse are small and moving rapidly. Another problem is that, by focusing on the eye of the rider, the resulting depth of field will likely throw the horse’s head and eye out of focus. The solution? Select a good target that is easier to follow, in this case perhaps the knee of the rider, the rider’s hands, or the front edge of the saddle. Even with fast movement, the knee of the rider is relatively easy to follow and the horse’s eye and the rider should both be reasonably sharp. The angle of the horse and rider relative to the camera makes a difference. If the horse is running, say, right to left in front of you, all within the same plane, it’s much easier to keep everything in focus. If it’s running right at you, depth of field will be more of an issue, since the horse’s head and the rider are not the same distance from the camera.

For photographing birds in flight, there are some similar strategies. Focusing on the eye of a moving bird can be difficult, but if the neck or shoulder of the bird is in the same focus plane, it makes a much easier focus target. Even if the bird angles slightly to the side as it flies, the bird’s head and its nearest wing will remain in focus.

What does it mean to have a good focus target? While focus generally relies on contrast, there’s more to it than that. Focus tends to be faster and more accurate with a good target. A good focus target is one with contrasting elements, adequate lighting and sufficient size to fill a meaningful portion of the frame. A poor target tends to have irregular shape and texture, relatively little contrast, low lighting (and therefore minimal contrast), or an indistinct pattern. If you have a poor focus target, auto-focusing will take longer and/or be less accurate, so you may need to identify an alternate focus target.

Let’s consider some examples:

When I photograph a subject or genre, I have a very specific focus target. I’m not focusing on a group of trees or flowers – rather, it’s a specific tree trunk, flower or plant. The closer I get, the more specific that focus target becomes, coming down to a specific petal or part of the stamen of a flower, the near corner of the eye of an owl, or the eye rather than the muzzle or nose of a dog, etc.

I also want to be aware of hyperfocal distance – the distance at which I can focus and make the entire scene sharp, including my subject and the background. With a 24mm focal length on a full frame camera, I can shoot at an aperture of f/8 and the entire scene will appear in focus if the camera focuses on a target 8 feet away. In this case, everything from 4 feet to infinity is in acceptable focus. I’ll typically use f9 for a little extra cushion on my depth of field.

I’ve memorized several focal lengths and the related hyperfocal distance so I can shoot at 24mm, 35mm, 50mm or 70mm and make a reliable guess on hyperfocal distance, which allows me to predict which parts of the scene will appear in focus. These settings are a starting point, and I adjust depending upon my subject and where it is located within that range.

For wildlife, in most cases you want the near eye to be in sharp focus and to contain a catchlight. Depending on the position of the bird’s head, depth of field may need to be increased to bring both eyes into relative focus. But it may not be possible to capture a large flying bird that is in sharp focus from one wingtip to another. So make sure the eye and head are sharp even if your depth of field is relatively shallow. The same would be true for insects, like this butterfly:

Sometimes, however, your subject is partially obstructed, or in such low light that your camera fails to focus reliably. Fortunately, there are strategies you can use for those situations.

My first choice is to look for an alternate focus target near the same plane. For example, I might focus on a tree trunk or branch near a small bird. I may try a smaller auto focus area, such as a small group or single point instead of the entire frame. I might focus on the wing or feet of a bird if that presents a better target than the head. Or I may override auto focus and use manual focus to zero in on my subject. I find that once focus has been achieved, the camera is remarkably good at maintaining that focus on a difficult subject.

In the following image, I focused on the trees and waited for the birds to reach that approximate area in order to have both the trees and birds in focus in the pre-dawn light.+

Many photographers have questions about focusing on fast-moving subjects. Certainly, the degree of difficulty goes up in these situations, but the principles are the same.

Of course, we all like our subjects to be isolated, with the clean backgrounds that are associated with a fast lens and shallow depth of field. But if your subject is completely out of focus and the image in your viewfinder is a blur, your camera will take longer to focus because it can’t readily identify your subject.

However, if you can pre-focus in the general vicinity of your subject, you will likely make it a lot easier for your camera to pick up a fast-moving target. Cameras can make small focus adjustments almost instantly, but large changes in focus distance take much longer. It will usually help if you focus on a fast-moving subject before you are ready to make a photo. Pre-focusing allows the camera to find the subject and will make it easier to maintain focus as the subject gets closer. So try to lock focus on that big bird as soon as possible, and then maintain it as he gets close enough for your photo.

If you are trying to focus on a fast-moving subject, make sure it is large enough in the frame and can be clearly identified and separated from the background. It’s very difficult to focus on a small songbird flying across a cluttered, wooded background, but much easier to focus on a wading bird as it launches into flight or drops to the water for a fish.

 Closing Comments

Practice, practice, practice! With a difficult subject, it’s amazing at how much improvement you will see with lots of practice. I’ve seen photographers start the week struggling to capture birds in flight, but by the end of the week they are nailing a very high percentage of their shots. Even if you are photographing slow-moving subjects or landscapes, practicing focus and concentrating on your focus targets will provide sharper images.

 

Eric Bowles is a former president of GNPA, a professional nature photographer, and director of Nikonians Academy. He leads bird photography workshops for Nikonians, Chattahoochee Nature Center and Georgia Audubon in addition to his own programs.

 

 

Photographing Wildlife In Action

Photographing Wildlife In Action

All Photos by Mark Buckler

By Mark Buckler

I’ve spent nearly 40 years (I started at a young age) working with wildlife in one professional capacity or another, either by performing field research studies or through photography. When it comes to photographing animals, my preference is to capture their behavior in some type of action. I’d much rather photograph a flying bird than one perched on a branch, because it’s a much more dynamic image. This doesn’t mean that I won’t shoot wildlife portraits – just that my priority has always been to capture action.

But to get those compelling action photos, I’ve learned that you need to be properly prepared. Here are a few suggestions that can help:

Pre-set Your Camera

Contrary to what you see in many documentary films, wildlife action can happen without much warning and is often very fleeting. If you’re not prepared, you will likely miss it. That’s why you need to preset your camera in order to capture these wild moments whenever they occur, because you won’t have time to adjust your camera each time. This means presetting your camera to faster shutter speeds, larger apertures and higher ISO settings. Larger apertures will allow more light to reach the camera’s sensor, which in turn allows you to shoot at faster shutter speeds. Those wider apertures have the added benefit of reducing your depth of field, allowing the background and foreground to fall out of focus and therefore draw more attention to your subject.

Faster shutter speeds, of course, will allow you to “freeze” the action in front of you. Determining the necessary shutter speed depends on how quickly your subject can move. For instance, for most birds in flight, I like to shoot at a minimum of 1/2500 second, because this will freeze the flapping wings of most birds. However, much of the time (if the light allows) I will be shooting at speeds even faster than that. It’s important to realize that, in many situations, sharper images are the direct result of faster shutter speeds.

Consider Your ISO

If you’re going to photograph wildlife, you will need to get over any fear of shooting at higher ISO settings. Wildlife is often the most active early and late in the day, when there is little available light, so you will need to shoot at higher ISOs in order to achieve the faster shutter speeds you need to freeze the action.

Many photographers are overly concerned with the increased noise levels associated with shooting at higher ISOs. I don’t worry much about my ISO level; I simply shoot at whatever ISO is going to give me the proper exposure at my desired shutter speed and aperture. It is critical, however, to get proper exposure at high ISO settings so that you don’t end up revealing excessive noise and artifacts in the shadow areas. Modern cameras have sensors that are much better at handling noise at higher ISOs. Noise reduction software can also be used during image processing to help alleviate that pesky digital noise.

Autofocus and Frame Rate

You will want to rely on the power of autofocus to capture sharp images of moving animals.  Specifically, you will need to use continuous autofocus when photographing a moving subject, which will help keep the focus locked on your subject. Continuous AF, coupled with a high frame rate (number of frames per second), will help you capture stunning images of wildlife behavior and action. If you are using a mirrorless camera, however, you need to make sure that you are shooting within a frame rate that is compatible with your continuous AF. Just because your camera is capable of shooting at 60 frames per second doesn’t mean that continuous AF will function at that level.

Manual Mode

This is a topic for a more detailed article, but I am a firm believer that shooting in full manual mode is the best way to photograph wildlife, especially action. If the light is consistent and you have the right manual settings, you will get the right exposure in manual mode regardless of the tonal composition of the image and the background. With wildlife photography, the tonal composition is often changing because the animals are in constant motion, with backgrounds that change from shadows to sunlight and back again. In essence, manual mode allows you to set-it-and-forget-it and not worry about changing shutter speeds, apertures and ISO; you can simply concentrate your effort on the animal’s behavior.

Know Your Subject

As with any genre of photography, the more you know about your subject the better you will be able to portray that subject in an image. This is particularly true with photographing wildlife action. Many animals provide clues that can indicate a particular behavior is about to happen.  This can be something as simple as reading the body language of an animal or maintaining an awareness of certain types of actions that will allow you to anticipate specific behaviors.

For instance, a bathing duck is likely going to sit up on the water and flap its wings to expel water from its feathers. And of course, a photo of a wing-flapping duck is much more compelling that one of a duck simply sitting on the water. If you are hoping to photograph a bird taking flight, it’s important to know the wind direction, because birds are almost always going to take off (as well as land) into the wind. The more you learn about your subjects, and watch for cues, the better you will be able to anticipate their actions and capture them in motion.

 

Mark Buckler is a professional photographer who leads photo tours around the world, including near his home base on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. His background in wildlife biology and teaching promotes immersive and engaging photographic learning adventures. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram (@markbucklerphotography) and Bucklerphoto.com

 

 

Don’t Leave Home Without It:  Your Spares and Repair Kit

Don’t Leave Home Without It: Your Spares and Repair Kit

Photo by Eric Bowles.

By Eric Bowles.

As nature photographers, we need to be prepared for just about anything out in the field. That’s why, through the years, I’ve learned that one of the most important things I can pack for any photo outing is my Spares & Repairs kit.

What’s that? For me, it’s a zip-lock bag that contains solutions for all the problems I might run into in the field (and for all the workshop participants or friends who may be with me). It goes beyond just a spare battery and memory card. Instead, it’s a small bag with all the replacements and tools for things I might lose, break, or need to repair on a trip. My kit is like an insurance policy covering all of the problems I’ve encountered through the years – including the solutions I wish had been with me at the time.

You should put together a Spares & Repairs kit that suits your particular needs. But to get your started, here’s what’s in mine.

My kit starts with the thing I lose most often – lens and body caps. It’s such a nuisance when you lose a cap, and it adds some risk that you will scratch your lens elements or expose your camera body to dust. I carry a rear lens cap that fits all of my lenses, and the 1-3 most commonly used front lens caps. I also have an extra camera body cap. These items don’t need to be branded OEM parts. You can buy a set of three third-party lens caps for any size at about the same cost as one lens cap from your camera’s manufacturer. I carry 82mm, 77mm, and 62mm spare lens caps. That’s not enough for every lens, but it covers the ones I use most frequently.

Next for me is a set of tripod wrenches. You know, those small wrenches you need to tighten or adjust your tripod legs or the hub. A floppy tripod leg can be a horrible nuisance, so you need to be prepared. Gitzo uses a special star-shaped wrench, while others may use hex keys or Allen wrenches. Just be sure you have the types and sizes you need. Also be sure to carry the wrench you need to tighten or remove camera and lens plates if necessary. After all, a good camera plate doesn’t do you much good when your camera is spinning around loosely. I also pack a spare tripod foot; it’s not something you need often, but it can be a real nuisance if you lose yours.

On the subject of tools, a handy item for me is a set of small screwdrivers. This is an easy-to-find item often used for computer repairs or eyeglass repairs, but it can be very useful for tightening a screw on your camera mount or on a lens foot. On my 70-200mm lens, for example, the foot mount is attached to the lens with four small screws, and if they are loose my lens will not be stable even on the best tripod. If you are dealing with a loose screw, there is a risk it will loosen again, so I also carry a small tube of Blue Loctite as a thread locker. Just a fraction of a drop is enough to hold a screw in place. Don’t use the Red Loctite, which requires heat to loosen.

I like carrying some basic cleaning supplies as well. Start with a bulb blower to clean your sensor. Dust can be a problem, so at the very least, carry a blower in your bag. I use a Giottos Rocket Blower to handle most dust on my sensor. It’s also great in the field just in case you get something on your lens or camera that might scratch the glass if you rub it. Add a small microfiber lens cloth as well. This is an all-purpose item that not only cleans lenses, it can double as a lost lens cap. For lenses, I carry a handful of Zeiss lens wipes, the small alcohol-based wipes intended for optical lenses. These wipes are perfect not only for removing dust and fingerprints, but they work very well with rain, mist, snow or frost on your camera or lens. Alcohol is used in anti-freeze to prevent freezing, but it also dries more quickly than water.

Let’s remember a few basics that are probably already in your bag. These are items you can’t live without and are probably not in a Spares kit, but you better have them. Start with an extra battery and memory card. If you use more than one type of memory card in your cameras, keep at least one old card for each format (this is a great use for old cards). Have you ever left your camera battery sitting in the charger at home, or a memory card in your card reader? Having spares of these items can save a lot of stress. If you are traveling, the other critical item is a battery charger with any cables required. Finally, if you wear glasses, be sure you have an extra pair in your camera bag for emergencies.

So, what’s in your Spares & Repairs kit? Everyone will make their own decisions about what is important. But before your next trip, make sure you have the supplies you need to handle the unexpected.

 

Eric Bowles is a former president of GNPA, a professional nature photographer, and director of Nikonians Academy. He leads bird photography workshops for Nikonians, Chattahoochee Nature Center and Georgia Audubon in addition to his own programs.

 

 

GNPA’s on INSTAGRAM!

GNPA’s on INSTAGRAM!

GNPA photographers create amazing images, and we want to share them–so we’ve created the new GNPA_PIX Instagram page to offer a new way to network, learn, and be inspired by the outstanding work our members share.

GNPA_PIX is a curated page, where our moderators post selected images. And we’d love to feature your captures!

To let us know when you’d like an image featured on GNPA’s page, post it in your Instagram account and use the hashtag #gnpa_pix on your Instagram post. And don’t forget to follow our account, too.

Ready to see what GNPA_PIX is all about? Here are some quick tips to get you started:

  • Follow @gnpa_pix to see every post from @gnpa_pix.
  • Follow #gnpa_pix to see every post that uses this hashtag – every time someone else uses this hashtag, you will see the post, whether it is “featured” on GNPA’s page or not.
  • Add hashtag #gnpa_pix to your posts to give GNPA permission to feature your image AND to make your post visible to everyone who follows our hashtag.

But remember… If your account is “Private,” only your followers will see your post, even if you use #gnpa_pix.

Come check us out, and look for more Instagram Tips and Tricks soon!

(Copy and image by Jenny Burdette)

Expand Your Skills With Outdoors Flash

Expand Your Skills With Outdoors Flash

Photo by Annalise Kaylor

Try These Techniques to Supplement the Sun

 

By Annalise Kaylor

Nature and wildlife photographers have the best and brightest light at their disposal – the sun. But most great things have their less-than-good sides, too, and the sun is no exception. The overhead sun, from midday through the late afternoon, creates harsh shadows. Every photographer has experienced seeing their subject in the perfect location, but badly backlit or facing a less-than-ideal direction. As a result, many outdoor photographers give up on midday shooting, and bring out their cameras only when the natural light is at its most favorable.

However, the addition of a flash to your kit creates a whole new world of photographic opportunities. To many, the mention of flash photography conjures up memories of harshly lit snapshots with red eyes and unflattering, overblown highlights. But when used – and understood – in a meaningful way, the addition of flash can take your work to the next level and provide you with many more options. What is photography, after all, if not the art of reading, manipulating and capturing light?

In nature photography, there are essentially two types of flash photography that come into play: using the flash to add a bit more light to your scene, and using the flash as a primary light source. Both techniques are worth practicing and can be applied to every form of nature photography, from the tiniest macro shots to migrating songbirds to the most magnificent landscapes.

Without a flash (left), the flower looks flat. By adding flash reflected from a bounce card, it comes alive. Photos by Annalise Kaylor.

 

 

 

Adding Flash Adds An Exposure (Kind Of)

When using flash, you’re working with two exposures to create one frame – one exposure from your camera and one from your flash. Your camera exposure is always reading the natural, or ambient, light in the scene. The flash exposure will always be focused on lighting the subject of the scene. The easiest way to remember the difference between the two exposures is that your camera should be set to expose for the background of your image.

In-camera exposure for the background is what every photographer is already familiar with: if you want a brighter, lighter background or you want to have some of the environmental context of your location easily visible, you set your camera exposure for that background. If you want a background that is darker and allows your subject to be more prominent, then you reduce the exposure to create a darker background.

With added flash and a slower shutter speed controlling ambient light, the flower in the second photo is more pleasing. Photos by Annalise Kaylor. 

 

 

 

Manual Or Through-the-Lens Flash?

Adding flash to the mix offers two options: manual flash exposure or through-the-lens exposure, also known as TTL. Manual exposure with flash is just like it sounds, since the photographer chooses the settings of the flash. While there is no hard and fast rule as to which is better, manual flash tends to be the best option for static, non-moving subjects like flowers and some macro subjects. Generally speaking, if you are using a tripod and taking a fair amount of time to compose your scene around a subject, manual flash offers the most control.

Through-the-lens, or TTL mode, is ideal for moving subjects. This mode puts the camera and the flash in communication with one another, and the flash is reading the light through the lens of your camera, constantly judging the distance between your camera and your subject. As it gathers that information, the flash is adjusting itself accordingly to give you the best flash exposure possible based on the data it receives from your camera.

Using Modifiers With On-Camera Flash

Gone are the days when a photographer sets the flash in the hot shoe and blasts their subject with direct light from the flash alone. Not only does this look harsh in the final image, there are also ethical concerns about ambushing wildlife with a bright flash of direct light. Any time the light from your flash is coming from the same direction as your camera, less will always be more.

Flash modifiers are a great way to add another layer of creativity and control while using artificial light.

The larger the source of light, the softer and more natural the light will be. A spotlight, for example, is small and round with all of its light funneling through that very small opening. On the other end of the spectrum, a large picture window, with a sheer curtain hanging in front of it, will diffuse the light all around the room, creating a soft and even wash of light. This is the same reason a bright sunny day creates harsh shadows, while an overcast day creates even lighting all around. The same principle applies when adding a modifier to a flash.

Lavender with no flash at all (left), and lavender with direct flash mounted on the camera (right). Both images have issues. Photos by Annalise Kaylor.

 

 

 

Most flashes come with a small white card built into them – a  “bounce” card that slides up from the back of the unit, allowing the flash to be positioned straight up while the light bounces off this card and forward toward the photographer’s subject on the other side of the lens. The small surface area of this built-in bounce card isn’t ideal, however, so adding a larger, third-party flash modifier creates higher-quality light. This can be a white bounce card with a bigger surface area, or a plastic or silicone globe that diffuses light all around. In a pinch, I’ve even bounced my flash off the white lining of my raincoat!

The same flowers as above, but this time a bounced fill flash creates a more appealing exposure. Photo by Annalise Kaylor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the opposite side of the spectrum is focusing flash. By nature, when you set off a flash, the light scatters everywhere. Focusing that light using a modifier, like a grid over the top of the flash or a set of barn doors, directs your flash much like a spotlight at a theater, where the star of the show is illuminated while everything else fades away into the shadows.

Moving The Flash Off Camera

Even more creativity is unleashed when you move your flash off the hot shoe atop the camera to somewhere completely off-camera. Wireless flash transmitters (triggers) are lightweight, fit in the palm of your hand, and allow you to place your flash anywhere in relation to your subject to achieve virtually any lighting setup. The transmitter sits in the hot shoe of the camera while the flash is placed anywhere nearby to achieve the desired effect. It may be positioned off to the side, strapped to a tree, handheld above the subject, or anywhere one pleases.

Moving the flash closer to the subject will result in a higher-contrast image with well-defined edges and shadows. Moving the flash farther away from the subject will create softer edges and an overall more balanced look. Off-camera flash allows the photographer to light a static subject from any angle for a dramatic effect, or even create the illusion of sunlight on an overcast day.

All of the modifiers that can be used with a flash while it’s on the camera can be used when the flash is off-camera, as well. Plus, most wireless triggers work with up to three off-camera flash units, creating myriad lighting scenarios with the addition of each flash.

Books have been written about using flash for nature photography, so this short article certainly can’t cover every aspect. But photographers looking to elevate their work will find a whole new world of creativity and versatility by adding flash to their toolkit. On-camera or off, with a modifier or without, the combination of options is endless. While there is nothing that compares to making a perfect frame in the perfect light of day, being able to make one’s own light comes pretty close.

 

Annalise Kaylor is a staff photographer and video producer at Habitat for Humanity International, a job that takes her around the world creating visual stories of human resilience. Annalise is a Georgia Audubon Master Birder and spends her free time birdwatching, hiking, kayaking and working in her native garden. A member of GNPA, she is based in Atlanta and lives with her partner Bill and their two dogs, Frank and Susan.

 

 

Tips for Nature Videography

Tips for Nature Videography

 

Extracting Images and Video Focus Stacking

By Tom Simpson

Ever since video capabilities were added to smart phones in 2007, the popularity of videography has soared. Nikon introduced video in its D90 model in 2008, Canon followed suit with its 5D Mark II, and now virtually every camera allows you to shoot video.

Even so, many photographers’ experiences with videography are still limited to their cell phones. That’s unfortunate, because today’s DSLR and mirrorless systems provide far more versatility than phones, as well as higher-quality video performance. If you haven’t taken advantage of these capabilities in your camera, you should.

Here, we’ll take a look at just two ways to utilize your camera’s video capabilities: Extracting quality still photos from a video, and using video for focus stacking. Both options can offer valuable tools for nature photographers.

Extracting a Photo from Video

Each camera has its own settings for video functions, including resolution quality based on pixels.  Typically, those include full HD (high definition) video, which provides an image of 1920×1080 pixels per inch. But higher resolution (i.e., more pixels per inch) became common after 2012 when the Canon EOS 1D C introduced 4K video (about 4,000 pixels per inch), and Panasonic brought 4K to mirrorless cameras in its Lumix GH4 in 2014. Nikon’s first 4K DSLR was the D500 in 2016. Now, 4K video is common in most cameras (and some can even shoot 6K and 8K).

These increased resolutions created the ability to extract high-quality still images directly from your video. Recording at 24 or 30 frames per second, video images can capture action must faster than the frames-per-second rate for burst shooting. It can also do so for much longer periods of time, achieving 30 or more minutes of continuous shooting. This provides potentially hundreds of individual images within an action sequence, offering the ability to find that one “special” shot.

Bringing your video into Lightroom or Photoshop is pretty painless, and you can easily scan forward and backward, frame by frame, to choose a still image. Then, using the sequence of Edit>Copy>Paste>Save, you can save a single image for additional processing. With 4K video, your frame will be about 8.3 megapixels, which is easily adequate for an 8×10-inch image at 300 dpi. But if your photo is not going to be viewed in a “nose-to-image” environment (such as in a gallery), you can go much larger, likely up to 15×30. If you’re shooting 6K video, a single frame will be about 18 megapixels and allow a 10×20 image at 300 dpi. And with the latest AI plug-ins such as Gigapixel, you can enjoy substantially higher quality in these bigger enlargements.

For example, when shooting at a popular south Texas ranch a few years ago, I had focused on a dragonfly that was repeatedly landing and taking off, at some distance from our blind. When I viewed the video later, I realized that what I had not noticed through the lens was why the dragonfly had been making such frequent fly-arounds and landings. As the image below shows, the dragonfly was being attacked by a pair of parasitoid wasps, commonly called “dirt-daubers.” Had I been shooting single or burst shots, it is very unlikely that I would have captured this specific action, since it was a very brief moment in about three minutes of video, or a single frame out of about 4,300.

Wasps attacking a dragonfly. Photo by Tom Simpson.

Video Focus Stacking (using Helicon Focus)

To achieve conventional focus stacking, you typically use a tripod to capture multiple shots of a scene or subject – at slightly different focus points for each shot – and then combine those images into a single, completely focused photo that shows the subject in full depth of field. This can be done manually by repeatedly adjusting the focus through a successive series of shots taken as cross-sections of the scene or subject. These are then transferred into other software (such as Photoshop, Helicon Focus or Zerene Stacker) for post processing.

More recent cameras – including several Olympus and Panasonic models, Canon EOS RP, and Nikon D850, Z6 and Z7 – can actually complete this stacking process in-camera. In either case, the successful finished image requires that every fraction of the scene or subject be captured in focus before being “stacked” together. Skipping any cross-section or plane of focus will noticeably reduce the quality of the final image.

Video focus stacking, on the other hand, avoids the need to take all those individual shots, and assures that all cross-sections are captured, in focus, and included in the stack of images. The process, as with any focus stacking, works best with the camera on a tripod. Simply set your focus point at one extreme of the total depth of field, such as the nearest portion of the subject. Press the record button to begin the video and then, as you’re recording, carefully turn the focusing ring all the way through the complete depth-of-field that’s needed for the subject. Turning the focusing ring through the entire focal range, without moving the camera, may take a little practice at first. Once you reach the other end of focal range, stop the video.

Post processing can be done in Photoshop, Zyrene or Helicon, but only Helicon is ideal because you can import the video directly into the software to render your final image. As seen below, Helicon has an “Open Video” tab, which is used to import your video stack into the software.

 

Then, by clicking on the “Render” tab in the lower right corner (above), the final transformation takes place, as all the individual video frames are merged into a single image with full depth of field. The resulting image can be saved and processed just like any other photo.

This video shows the complete video sequence of a pitcher plant in Maine. The final photo shows the resulting image, captured in Helicon from over 250 video frames. The software rendered this final image in less than 25 seconds.

Maine pitcher plant. Photo by Tom Simpson.

As you can see, creating single images from video – whether from a single video frame or via focus stacking – opens up some fascinating options for nature photography.

Tom Simpson grew up in Nashville and earned biology degrees from MTSC, LSU and FSU. Following service in the Army Chemical Corps and academic positions at Wake Forest and Agnes Scott College, he began a 40-year career in environmental consulting. Now retired, his photography interests include photomicroscopy, macro, landscape and wildlife, with particular interest in nature videography. He shoots primarily with Panasonic mirrorless cameras. His family includes his wife, Cindy, three daughters and seven grandchildren.

 

Eight Tips for Photo Contests

Eight Tips for Photo Contests

Pre-dawn mist in the Okefenokee. Photo by Eric Bowles

By Eric Bowles

Many GNPA members participate in photo contests, online competitions, or gallery submissions of various types.  But once you submit your images, you may not have a good idea of how they are evaluated, what the selection criteria are for winners, and what you can do to improve your odds.  I typically judge more than a thousand images a year for various competitions, critiques, and contests, and I’ll share some tips and observations.

Follow the rules
Most contests are strict about the rules.  Photos that fail to follow the rules are routinely removed from the judging early even if the image has merit.  There are some small mistakes that can be frustrating – including a signature or watermark when it is prohibited, submitting images that are outside geographic restrictions (an African lion in a contest for Georgia and adjoining states), late entry, etc.

Don’t push sliders too far
There is a trend toward highly saturated images, particularly in online competitions.  Excessive vibrance or saturation can easily go too far and cause an image to fail in the eyes of a judge.  The same is true for other sliders and edits – clarity, contrast, texture, and sharpening can all be used excessively and create detail beyond what is needed.  Sharpening or increasing contrast in an out of focus background can detract from an image.  Consider applying some of these adjustments locally rather than globally.

Oxbow Bend is a heavily photographed location. Even a well-composed image with peak fall color is relatively common, with hundreds of similar images being made each day. Photo by Eric Bowles.

Be Interesting / Avoid Common Images
There is nothing wrong with making your own photos of common subjects – we all like landscape images of Sparks Lane in the Smokies, Yosemite from Tunnel View or Gates of the Valley, or iconic formations in Arches, Zion, or Canyonlands.  These classic locations have been photographed by millions of photographers, so for your image to stand out, it’s subconsciously being compared with the best of those millions of images.  What will make your image stand out as spectacular and unique compared to those well-known images?  Look for exceptional images or unique views of common subjects.

A Great Egret is a common subject, but the unusual head position, tight composition, angled feathers and brilliant breeding plumage make this a winning image. Photo by Eric Bowles.

Key Moments – Behavior or Action
Wildlife images have their own common subjects – wading birds are big, slow, and abundant so they are easy to photograph.  If a judge sees 3-4 great egret images in a contest, only a spectacular image will be selected.  The same is true for common mammals.  What makes your bear, elk, deer, lion, or elephant image unique?  In national contests, photographers look for perfect timing on key behavior.  Two thirds of the images are showing feeding, fighting, courtship, or similar behaviors with perfect light and timing.  A simple portrait can be successful, but it needs to be extremely well done.  Think about it this way – is the image unique because you rarely see it, or unique for someone who lives in the area and photographs the subject on a daily or weekly basis?  Look for unique images of uncommon subjects or unique timing that makes an image special.

Watch the Details
It’s easy to look at a good image and fail to notice little details that make a difference.  I recall one image that had a sharpening halo around the subject of what was otherwise a great image.  A recent entry was produced as a high key monochrome image for an exhibit and it had wonderful content and composition.  But it also had magenta and green chromatic aberration that could have been easily removed.  Sensor dust spots always need to be removed.  Small details – reflections, unwanted color, bits of debris or trash, etc. – can make a difference and should be addressed to show your best work.

While generally a good image, the butterfly is slightly clipped. That’s a major flaw and would prevent this image from doing well in a serious competition. Photo by Eric Bowles.

Watch the Edges
Before you finish with an image, check the edges.  Ideally, you’d check the edges when you make the image, but be sure to check the edges when you are deciding to submit an image.  Is there anything cutoff by the edge of the frame?  Does it look intentional?  Do the edges of the frame attract attention to a distraction or something that might be outside the frame?  Do you have spots of bright colors or extreme contrast at the edge of the image?  Normally you want to focus the eye on your subject, and avoid taking the eye to the edge of the frame.  Be careful to compose and crop with intention and avoid clipping.

Pre-dawn mist in the Okefenokee captures wonderful soft colors and reflections. By 9:00 a.m., however, the mist is gone and this same scene would be rather bland. Photo by Eric Bowles.

 

Choose the Time of Day or Season
I often see images of landscapes or wildlife made during the middle of the day.  I wonder if the photographer chose that time of day because it was the best for the image, or because of convenience.  We all understand you may not be able to photograph during the golden hours or when there are great clouds and color in the sky.  With contest submissions, the time of day or time of year is a choice.  For wildlife, breeding season can bring great color and behavior.  With birds, look for breeding plumage, courtship and displaying behaviors, or similar timing to show your subject at its best.  With other mammals, breeding season brings action that is uncommon at other times of year.  Adult bears are healthy in the early fall as their coats are glossy and they are eating to prepare for hibernation.

Don’t Expect Every Judge to Have the Same Perspective
Judges usually have similar perspectives, and with conversation bout an image, they can form a consensus opinion.  But each judge has their own expertise and views in how an image is assessed.  Some judges will have hot buttons that immediately reject images.  Others have subjects they see or photograph regularly, and may have strict standards for what makes a good image.  Don’t worry if your image is Best of Show in one competition, and not even a finalist in another competition.  Judges and competitions are different.  Competing images may be different.  You’ll get a better idea of how judges view your image if you have multiple perspectives.

The nice thing about competitions is they are supposed to be fun.  It’s a good way to share your images, get feedback, try out new ideas, and possibly be recognized for your photography.  But above all, make sure you have fun sharing your images and seeing the work of others.

Eric Bowles is an Atlanta-based professional nature photographer and photography instructor. He is curator for the GNPA Gallery at Chattahoochee Nature Center and regularly judges programs for GNPA and other camera groups. In 2020 he judged exhibits for the Booth Museum Photography Guild and the Blue Ridge Arts Center. Formal training includes the judging school for PPA’s International Photo Competition. Eric is President of GNPA and a board member of the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA).

 

 

 

 

Outfitting Yourself for Cold-Weather Photography

Outfitting Yourself for Cold-Weather Photography

Outfitting Yourself for Cold-Weather Photography

By Charles Glatzer

For taking photos in frigid winter weather, layering is the way to go. The key to maintaining and regulating core temperature is wearing moisture-wicking base and mid-layer garments with a wind- and water-proof outer shell.

Today’s high-tech materials offer a plethora of lightweight, highly compressible materials such as Polar Fleece, Primaloft, Polarguard, WindPro and Coreloft to meet your thermal requirements. Waterproof shell fabrics from GORE-TEX, Epic and Event offer breathability and wind resistance while keeping you dry.

Editor’s Note: For more great advice on winter photography, don’t miss Charles Glatzer’s “14 Pro Tips for Conquering the Cold” also in this month’s newsletter.

Base Layer

Wicking undergarments like power dry, silk, or merino wool are the way to go, and having zippers, snap tops or buttons at the neck is, in my opinion, a must for venting and maintaining comfort while under exertion. Note: do not wear cotton shirts with or without wicking garments, as it will totally defeat the purpose. Cotton is known as the “death fabric,” because it stays wet, zapping valuable energy and dropping your core temperature.

Mid Layer

Polar fleece, down or a synthetic jacket and pants are recommended. Again, breathability and wicking properties are key to regulating your temperature. If you plan on hiking with a pack, down would not be my first choice, as you will get wet from perspiration and stay wet. I prefer my mid-layer to have a hood.

Outer Shell Layer

A good, breathable waterproof shell jacket and pants from GORE-TEX, Epic, PreCip, HyVent, etc., is one of the most important pieces of clothing you can own. Get the jacket one size bigger than you normally wear so that you can layer clothing underneath. A built-in companion hood is also vital.

Parka

In extremely cold conditions, a prime goose-down parka with high loft (800) is your best option. An attached hood is imperative, preferably one that extends beyond your face with a removable fur or synthetic ruff for dissipating wind. Many top-brand cold-weather summit parkas do not come with a hood ruff, but if you are planning to spend time in Arctic-like conditions I would seriously consider adding a ruff to your parka. I suggest you make the ruff removable with a wire inside so that it will hold its shape when used. I had what many consider the ultimate cold-weather parka (Canada Goose Snow Mantra), which worked extremely well but was bulky and heavy, making it difficult to transport to locations with luggage and weight restrictions. I have since gone to a Mountain Hardware Absolute Zero Parka, which is highly compressible and lightweight, features welded waterproof construction, and is insanely warm.

Gloves

Wearing mitten shell gloves with liners is a big plus in cold temperatures. The ultimate cold-weather photographic gloves, in my opinion, are TheHeatCompany.us Layer Gloves. Great emphasis has been incorporated into the functional details. The system is incredibly versatile, as the mitten can be used fully closed, providing the ultimate in warmth, or opened with the liner glove fully or partially exposed to allow for full freedom of movement and dexterity. Thumb and index fingers that feature silver fabric enable the use of your LCD camera and touch screens.

Boots

Sorel XT, Baffin Impact or Steger Mukluks (my favorite) boots are recommended. For wet landings in cold temperatures I use Arctic Pro Muck boots. Wool socks made by reputable manufacturers such as Patagonia or Smart Wool will wick moisture away from your feet, keeping them warmer as a result. Silk sock liners add additional comfort. Placing The Heat Company chemical toe/foot warmers inside gloves and boots will extend your comfort time in extremely cold conditions, especially when remaining in one position for long periods. Rechargeable USB lithium battery hand warmers, which warm quickly and work very well, are available on Amazon.

Hats

Outdoor Research and Black Rock make ultra-lightweight goose-down beanies and hoods that are extremely warm. OR also makes a very warm Aerogel beanie. Balaclavas are a must for keeping your face from getting frostbitten in extreme cold.

Goggles

Goggles are very effective for protecting your eyes and face in extremely cold temperatures and wind. You should note, however, that it’s very difficult to see the full image through your camera’s viewfinder when wearing goggles, and few of them fit or work well if you wear glasses.

Sunglasses

To prevent snow blindness in bright, sunlit snow conditions, polarized or transition eyeglasses are a must.

Anti-fog treatment

This is very useful to prevent your glasses from fogging up due to the moisture from your breath when using a face covering.

I hope these tips will be helpful. Please feel free to contact us for specific clothing or gear product recommendations.

Charles Glatzer’s Clothing and Gear Links

Boots: Baffin Exterme, Sorel XT, Steger Arctic/Yukon Mukluks

Shells and Parka: Arc’Teryx, Mountain Hardware, RAB Expedition, Feathered Friends Rock Ice, Fjallraven

Down Pants: RAB Expedition, Mountain Hardware Nilas, Feathered Friends, Millet Expert Pro

Shells, mid and base layers; Arc’Teryx, Mtn Hardware, The North Face, RAB, Patagonia, REI, Outdoor Research, Ice Breaker, Fjallraven

Gloves: The Heat Company US

Balaclava & Hats: Black Rock, Outdoor Research, Arc’Teryx, Nomar, Mountain Hardware

Socks: Smart wool

Warm-Weather Shirts & Pants: ExOfficio, Columbia, Rail Riders, Mountain Hardware, Fjallraven

Stuff Sacks for Gear: Sea to Summit

Additional outdoor gear accessories: Sea to Summit, Outdoor Research, Exped

Sleeping Pads: Exped sleeping mats

Anti-fog: Cat Crap or Z Clear Lens Cleaner & Anti-Fog

Goggles: Smith I/O, Bolle

Sunglasses: Maui Jim, Smith’s

 

One of the world’s most renowned wildlife photographers, Charles Glatzer has won more than 40 photography awards in his stellar 34-year career. He’s been honored as a Canon Explorer of Light, and his photos have been published in National Geographic, Smithsonian, Outdoor Photographer, Nature Photographer and many others. A sought-after speaker, he’s addressed Audubon, Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy and other organizations, including Georgia Nature Photographer’s Association in 2016. When not on assignment, he can be found fly fishing on the river near his home in western North Carolina.

 

14 Pro Tips for Conquering the Cold

14 Pro Tips for Conquering the Cold

14 Pro Tips for Conquering the Cold

By Charles Glatzer

Editor’s Note: After years of capturing award-winning images in some of the most inhospitable winter locations on the planet, Chas Glatzer has encountered almost every cold-weather problem a photographer can face. Below, he shares some hard-earned tips for dealing with the challenges of winter photography.

Condensation

Whenever you move your camera from a cold environment to a warmer one – especially when humidity is high – condensation can be a big problem. To avoid condensation on camera gear, place your bodies and lenses into stuff sacks, garbage bags or camera bags before bringing them indoors. But be sure to remove media cards and batteries while outside prior to placing the gear into bags. Thin bags will allow your gear to acclimate faster to the indoor ambient temperature than an insulated camera bag. I use Sea to Summit Big River stuff sacks on cold-weather trips.

Felt tabs

When you’re wearing gloves, it can be difficult to locate and depress the buttons on your camera. To make it easier, I use inexpensive, self-stick 3/8-inch round felt tabs on my horizontal and vertical shutter and AF buttons in cold weather. In fact, I like this technique so much that I usually just leave them on all year. Plus, the packages come with enough tabs to share with everyone on the trip. The small tabs are available at Lowe’s, Home Depot, Bed, Bath and Beyond and other retailers.

 

 

Gear acclimation

Always allow your gear to become fully acclimated to the outside ambient temperature before taking images. Lenses are made of different metals and contain various types of glass that expand and contract at different rates. I have found that leaving my camera and lens outdoors prior to shooting increases image sharpness, particularly my initial images. I place my gear in a stuff sack and leave it outside when not in use, even overnight. Just remember to remove the camera batteries when not in use and stash them indoors.

Protect your gear

Many cameras and lenses have a high degree of weather sealing. That said, even the slightest nick in an O-ring gasket can lead to catastrophic gear failure. I cannot afford to take that gamble, especially when shooting in remote locations. I typically use LensCoat RainCoat covers in rain, wet snow and salt spray, and rely upon fully encapsulated covers like Think Tank Hydrophobia or AquaTech covers when I’m dealing with blowing sand.

Pack towel

A dry, absorbent pack towel or cloth will come in handy to quickly wipe moisture off your gear or to clean your filter or front element if it does get wet.

USB rechargeable lithium battery hand warmers

Inexpensive, rechargeable lithium battery hand-warmers are available in various shapes, and range from 5200-7800mAh. They heat up quickly and provide hours of warmth on low settings.

Chemical warmers

Chemical hand- and toe-warmers provide needed warmth to the extremities in severe cold conditions. Make sure you open the warmers and leave them exposed to air for a few minutes before placing them in your pockets or in your boots. Toe-warmers are thin and have an adhesive backing, which also makes them great for utilizing in the top of shell mittens.

Battery grips

In cold weather, consider using a battery grip on your camera. Grips typically allow the use of two batteries instead of one, thus helping to maintain longer camera life in winter conditions. Keeping extra batteries in a warm pocket will provide maximum voltage when needed, and help to revitalize those that have dropped in voltage due to the cold. Switch out cold batteries with the warm ones for longer shooting.

IS/VR

Turning off IS/VR when not needed will help prolong battery life.

Tripod legs

Carbon fiber becomes more brittle in colder temperatures. The deeper the snow, the more the legs need to spread. Pulling out the leg locks will allow the legs to splay out sufficiently, preventing them from breaking at the tripod flange. Additionally, do not try to stand up by pushing down with all your weight on a tripod leg in cold temperatures, or you risk breaking the leg. Tripod foot spikes or rock claws will help in snow and on icy surfaces to keep your tripod feet from slipping.

Breathing

Try to avoid breathing onto the camera’s viewfinder and rear LCD, as they will quickly ice over in very cold temperatures.

Metal and skin do not mix

Many camera bodies contain metal, which can become extremely cold. Avoid placing your bare skin (cheek and nose) in contact with metal camera bodies, because this can quickly result in freezing your skin, with resulting frost nip and even more severe frostbite. I have come home with a black nose on a few occasions! Lesson learned: I now place a one-inch adhesive tape strip across the bridge of my nose to prevent frost nip.

Eyeglass fogging

Eyeglass fogging is a big issue when photographing in cold weather, especially when wearing a face covering like a balaclava. Condensation from your warm breath will sneak out the top of your garment, causing your glasses to fog and making it almost impossible to see. I have found some facemasks and balaclavas that allow greater air exchange directly in front of your mouth to help avoid eyeglass fogging. All that’s needed are a few pencil-sized holes punched through the fabric near your mouth. Anti-fog products like Cat Crap and Z Clear Wax also help, but require frequent applications to be effective.

Footwear traction

When walking on slippery icy surfaces, devices like Kathoola MICROspikes, ICEtrekkers Diamond Grip and Black Diamond Access traction systems provide you with improved stability.

Also read Charles Glatzer’s tips on specialized winter clothing this month in “Outfitting Yourself for Cold-Weather Photography.” 

Shoot the Light, Office: 828-891-4082

info@shootthelight.com, www.shootthelight.com

Instagram@charlesglatzer, Facebook: charles.glatzer

TheHeatCompany.us, info@theheatcompany.us, 1-828-393-6513

 

One of the world’s most renowned wildlife photographers, Charles Glatzer has won more than 40 photography awards in his stellar 34-year career. He’s been honored as a Canon Explorer of Light, and his photos have been published in National Geographic, Smithsonian, Outdoor Photographer, Nature Photographer and many others. A sought-after speaker, he’s addressed Audubon, Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy and other organizations, including Georgia Nature Photographer’s Association in 2016. When not on assignment, he can be found fly fishing on the river near his home in western North Carolina.
Tips & Tricks – Using Filters

Tips & Tricks – Using Filters

Use Filters To Elevate Your Photography

By Tricia Raffensperger

No matter what type of photography you prefer, learning how to cope with difficult lighting conditions is one of the biggest challenges we face. Fortunately, there are some practical and easy-to-use tools that can help us capture images that might otherwise be impossible.  

Polarizing filters and neutral density filters give you the ability to tame harsh light, restore color and eliminate reflections that obscure or distract from your subjects. Regardless of your camera type or lens, these two filters can improve your images. And with the GNPA Smokies Fall Weekend coming up on Nov. 5-8, there will be many opportunities to play around with both types of filters to create some stunning effects. Personally, I love using them with water shots to create looks I could not otherwise achieve, or to make those fall colors pop even more. 

The filters I’ll be talking about are the screw-on variety, which thread directly onto the front of your lens. Whether it’s a circular polarizing (CP) or neutral density (ND) filter, you can adjust the effect by rotating it. And by the way, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of always rotating your filter in the same direction in which you threaded it onto your lens. That way, you won’t accidentally unscrew your filter as you’re adjusting it (a lesson some of have learned the hard way!). 

Here are a few of the ways that I enjoy using these two filters:

POLARIZING 

These allow you to remove the glare from water (and other surfaces), and enable your camera to capture what is beneath the surface, which can often add interest and detail to your foreground. To use a circular polarizer, you simply look through the viewfinder and rotate the filter until you see the effect you desire. You may choose to completely or partially eliminate the reflection on water, bright foliage or the sky to reveal more detail and color. Polarizers work best when you are facing 90 degrees away from the sun; in other words, when the sun is off to your side. 

Photo by Tricia Raffensperger

Photo by Tricia Raffensperger

These filters also enable you to capture beautiful reflections and color in the water by removing the glare. Polarizers are especially useful at places like Gibbs Gardens to capture the reflections of the flowers in the water, as well as all the different reflected colors from the surrounding trees and plants. 

There are many CP options available and prices range from $100 to $400. Filters come in various sizes to fit your individual lenses, so be sure to purchase the right size for whatever lens you’re using. Since I have a variety of lens sizes, I found it helpful to purchase a 1-82mm filter and several inexpensive step-up rings to fit all my different lenses. This has helped me keep costs down and travel a little lighter. It also allowed me to purchase a more expensive polarizer to use with all my lenses, rather than many of a lesser quality. You can also choose between neutral, warming or cool polarizers, depending upon the effect you wish to achieve. But any CP will allow you more creativity and eliminate common problems with reflections and glare. 

NEUTRAL DENSITY 

These filters allow you to slow down your shutter speed by reducing the amount of light reaching your camera’s sensor. This is especially important when you’re trying to use a long exposure to blur motion, but the ambient light is too bright to allow those slower shutter speeds. 

Photo by Tricia Raffensperger

With an ND filter, you can create silky, dreamy effects with waterfalls, moving water or clouds, no matter how bright the scene. You can also shoot dramatic images of city lights or floating leaves as they drift on water. 

While newer cameras make it possible to hand-hold at longer exposures than previously possible, a tripod and shutter remote are often required for many slow-shutter water scenes. Also, keep in mind that ND filters are manufactured in different “stops” that reduce the amount of light reaching the camera’s sensor by various degrees, from three stops to 16 or more. Each graduation or stop level can be purchased separately and in different sizes for different lenses. Or, there is the option of a variable ND filter that has many stops in one filter. By turning the filter ring to block the light, you can choose the amount of stops required to achieve your effect. The amount of available light determines the number of stops you must add to reach the results you desire. So a variable filter can again come in handy for coping with different situations. 

I always recommend reading reviews on the different types and brands of filters. Some can create vignetting on your image or a color cast, so the more knowledge you have, the better choice you can make regarding type of filter and price point. 

Photo by Tricia Raffensperger

When using filters, I prefer to use the manual settings on my camera to control the exposure balance, aperture and shutter speed. I feel this gives me better control and more options. But you can use other modes as well. I suggest choosing your water scene, and then setting the ISO as low as possible, but not on auto. You could choose your aperture and then adjust your exposure with the shutter speed, or vice versa. There are endless ways to use CP and ND filters, and I’m by no means an expert. So I’d encourage you to experiment with different approaches and settings to learn what works well for you. 

I think the best way to learn is among friends and surrounded by beautiful landscapes. So please consider joining us in November at our Smokies Fall Weekend, and let’s see what we can create together.

Tricia Raffensperger began photographing nature about 10 years ago after attending workshops and classes at the Showcase School of Photography, and she hasn’t stopped since. She’s served as Vice President on the board of RPS and is currently a board member of GNPA.
 

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