Education

Education

Let’s Get Social! How to Get Started on Instagram

By Jenny Burdette

As a nature photographer, you’ve probably spent time enjoying the work of others on social media, and perhaps posting your own images there. But if you haven’t really embraced Instagram yet, perhaps it’s time you did. In many ways, Instagram is much more photographer-friendly than Facebook, because Instagram is all about images.

Here are some tips to get started on Instagram, including how to set up your account, post photos, and learn some basic rules of the IG road.

Step 1:  Set up an Account and Profile

First, you must install the app on your phone or tablet. Remember that Instagram is designed for use from a mobile device. You can view posts and manage your account from a computer, but postings must be managed through a phone or tablet.

GNPA’s Instagram page

Go to the App Store or Google Play and download the Instagram app to your phone or tablet.

Once you have the app on your phone, open it and follow the instructions to set up your account. You will be asked to choose an account name and a user name. These names can be the same, but your user name must be unique from other users. Your profile page will show your account name and your user name, but your posts and comments show only your user name. So other people on IG are much more likely to know your user name than your real name.

Your user name should be relatively simple and easy to spell. You want people to remember your user name, associate it with you, and easily enter it using the keypad on their phone.

Instagram allows a 150-character bio on your profile page. You can add this when setting up the account or come back and add it later. You can also include a URL link. Instagram creates a public account as a default, but you have the option to change the setting to private. If your purpose is to share your photography, a public account makes sense.

You will see that Instagram also offers the options of business or creator accounts, which you may want to investigate, especially if you plan to use Instagram to market your work. Users may switch between personal, business or creator account types at any time.

Be sure to add a profile picture. This photo must be uploaded from your phone or tablet. It will display in a very small circle, so keep it simple, whether it’s a headshot or a favorite photo. You can change this photo at any time by editing your profile.

At this point, your account is set up and ready to go! Search for people you know on IG and “follow” them. You can also follow a hashtag, which will notify you when photos using that specific hashtag are posted. Look for @gnpa_pix to follow GNPA’s page, where you can “like” and comment on the photos there.

Step 2:  Create Your First Post

Remember, posting must be done from your phone or tablet.

Instagram now allows photos in square, horizontal or vertical formats; however, a 2×3 vertical will still have a slight crop on the longer sides. Instagram was originally designed to post images taken with your phone, so any images processed on your computer will benefit from resizing.

Post from Anna Destefano
@affirmationphotography

Image Size

Instagram will take whatever size image you upload and reduce it to fit their specs, but this process often results in an image that seems significantly less sharp. If you are exporting images from your computer, you don’t want to use full resolution versions.

I export from Lightroom with my images sized to 1800 pixels on the longest side and 100ppi. You can probably go as low as 1200 pixels and 72ppi, but 1800 seems to work well for me. Use the sRGB color profile, select high-quality JPEG, and sharpen for on-screen display. If you use a photo-sharing app, it will take care of resizing for you. If you are uploading images taken with your phone, there is no need to resize.

 Moving an Image from Computer to Mobile Device

There are several ways to move images from computer to phone, and if you already have a preferred method, just keep using it. The following methods are the ones I’m most familiar with.

  • Simply “airdrop” the image if you are using Mac devices
  • Use the USB ports and cable to connect computer and phone
  • Lightroom users can use Lightroom Mobile on their phones to get photos from the computer
  • Use Dropbox. Add the app to your phone and use Dropbox.com (set up a free account) from the computer to upload images. Then use the phone app to share from Dropbox and save the image to your phone.

Note: Dropbox also offers an option to export directly to Instagram. But this option opens the photo in square format only. Saving the photo to your phone and then uploading to Instagram allows you to choose the aspect ratio.

Post Your Photo and Caption

Once the photo is saved to your phone, go to your Instagram profile page, tap the “+” icon and choose “Post.” If you see a “use Instagram camera” message, ignore it and just click on “Post.”

Photos from your phone will pop up and allow you to select the image(s) you wish to post.

Photos initially display in a square format; you can adjust the ratio if necessary by using the touchscreen or the arrows at the bottom left corner of the image.

Click “Next” (arrow icon on Android) in the upper right corner to open a selection of filters. These filters may be helpful for phone pics, but most likely will not enhance an already edited image, so simply click Next (arrow) again.

Now you have the option to add a caption.

Captions and Hashtags

An image is required for an IG post, but you can post without a caption. However, a caption is a great way to engage viewers. A caption can be as simple as naming your subject (“Chipping Sparrow”), or it can be a lengthy blog-type post.

Post from Clay Fisher @cfphotoimages

Post from Jenny Burdette @jennyburdettephotography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hashtags are a part of the caption and help others find your photos. One way to choose appropriate hashtags is to think of searching for your own image. What would you enter? You can also look at the hashtags others have used for similar images.

Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post, although many Instagram experts advise limiting hashtags to 10-15.

Certain hashtags also serve as permission for your photo to be “featured” by an Instagram group or hub. Add #gnpa_pix to let GNPA know that it’s okay to post your pic on our Instagram page, with full photo credit to you and a link to your page.

After entering your caption/hashtags, click OK in the upper right corner. You can always edit your post to add additional hashtags later.

Final Options

You now will have several options. You can tag various people, add a location, etc. Choose the options you prefer, tap “Share” (check mark on Android) in the upper right of the screen, and you’ve shared your first post!

Step 3: Rules of the Instagram Road

Instagram is a social platform and is designed for interaction and engagement with other users. So be engaged, by liking and commenting on others’ posts and responding to users who comment on your photos.

To ensure that accounts belong to real people, not spammers, Instagram places limits on liking, commenting and following. In general, limit activity to 100-200 “likes,” 60 comments, or 60 follows in an hour. Violating this unwritten rule can result in an IG timeout, where you are blocked from any activity for a period of time (days to weeks).

If you see something on Instagram that is inappropriate, report it immediately. Tap the three dots in the upper right corner of the objectionable post (opposite the username in the upper left corner) and choose “Report.”

Step 4: Get Social

Start posting your images and following others. Check out and follow the @gnpa_pix page and tag your photos #gnpa_pix so that our page can find and feature your images. And stay tuned for future posts with more tips and tricks for sharing your photography on the ‘Gram!

Jenny Burdette is a retired English teacher, photographer, writer, wanderer and grandmother. Her images are featured in the Visitors Centers at many of Georgia’s State Parks and have appeared on the covers and pages of several conservation-themed publications. Jenny is a member of GNPA’s Conservation Committee, a member at large on GNPA’s Executive Board, a moderator for GNPA’s Facebook page, and Administrator for GNPA’s new Instagram page, @gnpa_pix. Follow Jenny on Facebook and, of course, on Instagram (@jennyburdettephotography). www.jennyburdettephotography.com

 

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.
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