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BIRDS OF PREY Recap – May 26, 2013

Eagle Eyes – D600 at 500mm, F6.3, 1/2500s, ISO400, by Les Palenik

Setting Up – by Harvey Beitchman

For a change, we had a very nice sunny day with a lot of light and pleasant temperatures, but around the noon the light got quite challenging for close-up portraits. A fill-in flash helped considerably to eliminate harsh shadows and green colour cast as reflected from the surrounding foliage.

Dan Copeland with his own flash enhancer

The lenses ranged from 70-200mm to a 600 prime. Below are some images from the workshop.

Bald Eagle by Harvey Beitchman, D800, 70-200mm at 70mm, F9, 1/1600s, ISO400

Barn Owl- by Harvey Beitchman, D800, 70-200mm at 135mm, F10, 1/1000s, ISO800

Kestrel by Harvey Beitchman D800, 70-200mm at 70mm, F6.3, 1/2000s, ISO500

Great Horned Owl by Harvey Beitchman D800, 70-200mm at 70mm, F6.3, 1/2000s, ISO500

Great Horned Owl by Dan Copeland

Great Horned Owl closeup portrait by Dan Copeland

Bald Eagle by Rob Hunt

Bald Eagle by Rob Hunt

Bald Eagle by Les Palenik D5100, 70-300mm Nikkor at 155mm, F5.6, 1/1600s, ISO200

Red-tailed Hawk by Les Palenik D5100, 70-300mm Nikkor at 200mm, F9, 1/2500s, ISO2500

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BIRDS OF PREY Recap – May 26, 2013

Setting Up – by Harvey Beitchman/caption]

In summary, we had a very successful outing – great group, nice weather, and beautiful, well trained and very cooperative models. Originally, the weather forecast called for some showers, and I had packed some rain gear, but fortunately, we had a mix of sun and cloud, and the rain didn’t materialize until the late afternoon.

We were using Canon and Nikon equipment, and the lenses ranged from 50mm through 105, 200, 500, 600 primes to 70-200mm, 120-400, 150-500mm zooms.

Glenn Springer will be on May 31-June 2 exhibiting and selling his prints at the Haliburton Home and Cottage Show. If you tell him, you read about the show here, he will give you 15% discount on his prints and future workshops. For more information and to sign up, visit his website at www.photography.to

Below are some images from the May 12th workshop.

BIRDS OF PREY Recap – May 12, 2013

Great Horned Owl by Ben Eby – Canon 1D MkIII

In summary, we had a very successful outing – great group, nice weather, and beautiful, well trained and very cooperative models. Originally, the weather forecast called for some showers, and I had packed some rain gear, but fortunately, we had a mix of sun and cloud, and the rain didn’t materialize until the late afternoon.

We were using Canon and Nikon equipment, and the lenses ranged from 50mm through 105, 200, 500, 600 primes to 70-200mm, 120-400, 150-500mm zooms.

Glenn Springer will be on May 31-June 2 exhibiting and selling his prints at the Haliburton Home and Cottage Show. If you tell him, you read about the show here, he will give you 15% discount on his prints and future workshops. For more information and to sign up, visit his website at www.photography.to

Below are some images from the May 12th workshop.

Great Horned Owl by Ben Eby – Canon 1D MkIII

Great Horned Owl by Ben Eby – Canon 1D MkIII

Great Horned Owl by Ben Eby – Canon 1D MkIII

Great Horned Owlets by Barbara McMahon – Canon T4i,50mm/1.4, ISO400, F5.6, 1/320s

In this place, you can get some spectacular pictures even by using an inexpensive kit lens or a 50mm lens. Of course, a long lens gives you many more options.

Barn Owl by Barbara McMahon – Canon T4i,50mm/1.4, ISO400, F5.6, 1/320s

Barn Owl by George Reichert – Nikon D800,70-200mm/2.8, ISO180, F2.8, 1/800s

George got an incredibly sharp picture of the flying owl, especially considering that it was shot at 2.8 and just 1/800s. You can see the details in the crop below.

Barn Owl by George Reichert – Nikon D800,70-200mm/2.8, ISO180, F2.8, 1/800s – crop from the above picture

Bald Eagle landing – by Glenn Springer – Nikon D600, 400mm, F8, ISO2000, 1/800s

Great Horned Owl in Flight by Glenn Springer – Nikon D600, 200mm, F8, ISO360, 1/400s

According to Glenn:  the wings were blurred because the shutter speed was too slow, and then I helped it along by using the Radial Blur filter in Photoshop.

Red-tailed hawk by Les Palenik – Nikon D600,350mm, ISO400, F6.3, 1/640s

Harris hawk by Les Palenik – Nikon D600, 250mm, ISO400, F6.3, 1/640s

Bald Eagle by Les Palenik – Nikon D600, 500mm, ISO640, F7.1, 1/1000s

Between all of us, we must have shot thousands of the owlet images. And all of them look great. Here is one more for closing.

The main attraction – the adorable great horned owlets – by Les Palenik – Nikon D600, 500mm, ISO400, F7.1, 1/500s

White Spirit Bear

Recently, I’ve seen a National Geographic Magazine documentary about the selection and making of their best ten 2011 photographs. You can see all ten photographs at:  Top Ten 2011 NGM Photos

I liked best the spirit bear story and the photo of the white bear laying contently in the moss-draped green rain forest. If you ignore the bloody salmon between his paws, the bear looks almost angelic in that setting. However, the report of the photographer coming to the close proximity of the bear is the really dangerous stuff. According to Chris Johns, Editor in Chief at NGM:

“Paul Nicklen, the photographer is a master at getting closer. He gets close enough to take this beautiful forest with this beautiful bear, eating a salmon, and make it all come together in a photograph that captures your imagination. I feel like I’m there. I can almost smell that forest, the bear. This is Paul’s home. This looks like a photo he took in his backyard of a dear friend.”

To see the whole series of the spirit bear photographs, click on the following link White Spirit Bear Photos

Western Canada is the only place in the world that’s home to this unusual form of black bear, whose fur is white due to a genetic abnormality (it’s not an albino). The white spirit bear is also called kermode, and with total population of about 200, it is a more rare species than the panda bear.

Paul Nicklen reports that he spent two months looking for the bear, when “this incredible big white male came right beside me about three feet away, he grabbed a fish and ate it. I then spent my entire day living my childhood dream – walking through the forest with this bear. I actually got to sleep within three feet of him and photograph him. It was a truly amazing experience.”

I have to confess that about twelve years ago in northern Ontario, I came close enough to a large black bear to feed him an apple. Right between his teeth.  OK, it was a captive bear in a large fenced-in enclosure, and I went in with a warden, but if we had ran out of apples, that bruin could have made a winter food cache of both of us. Mellow fellow, but really big, and drooling too much for my taste. All this white foam coming out of the black mouth from the shooter’s perspective was just too contrasty, and trust me, not a pretty picture. It seems that Pavlov’s conditioning experiment works also on bears – he definitely associated our visit with food.

I’m glad for Paul that he was able to fulfill his childhood dream and walk all day through the forest with the bear, but reports like this may entice some well-meaning hikers to approach wild black or grizzly bears, and these encounters often end tragically. As reported in my previous post, just last month in Alaska, a large grizzly bear killed and partially devoured an experienced hiker who got too close to the bear.

Hiker, killed by a grizzly

Now, it could well be, that the bears on a salmon diet are much calmer and of a better disposition than the grizzlies grazing on Denali tundra or starved black bears during a dry summer in Algonquin Park. I can attest that after eating a smoked or grilled Pacific salmon I feel also at peace with the world around me.

A grizzly sprinting at 35 miles an hour from hundred feet away will sink its teeth into your expedition cargo pants in less than two seconds, giving you just enough time to engage the autofocus, select burst mode, and press the shutter. Depending on your reaction time and camera model, your closed ones may inherit six to ten pre-mortal frames that could be made into a very short viral video clip.

Reaction times for trained athletes vary from superfast 40 ms for Muhammad Ali’s fastest punches to 150 ms required to return a table tennis ball. Sprinters take 100-150 ms after registering the starting pistol to jump off the blocks.

As an action photographer, you might find it interesting that once an image hits the retina, it takes approximately 100 milliseconds before it consciously registers in the brain. Although the light travels much faster than sound, the human’s body visual system is actually slower than our audio system. When the light or an image hits our retina, the photons must be translated into a chemical signal that in turn must be converted into an electrical impulse that can be carried via the nerve fibres to visual cortex residing in the back portion of the brain. Visual cortex will process the input signal and split it into two entities – one processing the shape and identity of the object(s) we see, and the other decoding the location and motion of the object(s). These two streams are then combined into a final information block which is converted into conscious awareness. Lot of complex data manipulation and processing.

Neuroscientists have discovered another problem with the real-time watching. A simple assumption is that our visual system continuously monitors the surroundings and records it in “video camera” style. In reality, we are continuously scanning the entire scene and taking a quick sample from each location. The seamless connection and stitching of the entire scene is handled by the brain that combines the individual segments into an equivalent wide-screen scene that appears like a movie.

Typically, we perform about five such visual relocations per second with the minimum time of 200 milliseconds to shift our viewpoint. Then you add 300-400 milliseconds required to execute a cognitive decision and another 50 milliseconds to engage a motor command to be communicated by nerves to the finger on the shutter. All these activities add up to 500-600 milliseconds or half a second, which translates to several missed frames.

Case in point:

This past summer, I was photographing a whitewater kayak race. I used a 70-300mm zoom lens across its entire range, shooting at F8 in single frame mode. From my vantage point, I was able to follow the racers, set the continuous autofocus, and fire off one or multiple shots in each gate. Except one tricky spot on the river with a fast short drop followed by a haystack. I took a number of shots in that spot, some better than others. When I examined images on my computer screen, I came across the following shot:

I like this image, and it was a sheer luck capturing it. Surely, I wasn’t composing and focusing for the hand with paddle. Most likely, I noticed the racer just coming down the chute, focused on him and pressed the shutter. Let’s assume that in that particular drop the water moves at 15mph (24km/h), kayak moves relatively to the water at 5 mph (8km/h), so the resulting speed is 20mph (33km/h). If the distance from the top of the drop to the bottom is 5 ft (1.5m), moving at that speed, the kayak can cover 9m in a second, or 5 ft (1.5m) in 165 ms. This corresponds roughly with 100 ms required for a transmission of the image from the retina to the visual cortex, plus another 50 ms to press the shutter. And that explains the confluence of kayak being in the hole just with the hand and paddle visible behind the standing wave and click of the shutter in that very fortunate moment.

As the kayaker cleared the haystack, he was slowed down sufficiently, that I could easily focus on him in that position and make another exposure. If his speed in that moment was around 3-4 mph, he would cover in 165 ms only 1 ft (30cm) which didn’t pose any problem for locking the focus or sufficient depth of field at that distance.


 

Back to the grizzlies:

On August 24th, 2012, in Denali National Park, a grizzly attacked and killed a lone backpacker who was photographing the bear from just over 40 yards away. He took 26 pictures of the bear with his camera over a span of 7 1/2 minutes, but the bear seemed to take notice of him only for the last few seconds, according to National Park Service officials who based their assessment on satellite imagery and photo time stamps. The park service said that, based on “initial evidence,” authorities believe a bear attacked the backpacker by the river and dragged his body to a “food cache site” in a bushy area 100 to 150 yards from where the attack occurred.



Picture above taken by yours truly a few years ago in Denali from a safe distance, not too far away from the fatal site.

 

The hiker took the first bear shots with a wide angle. Then he zoomed in. The last five pictures, taken in a span of 13 seconds, show the bear lifting its head up, looking away from the camera, and then turning towards the photographer (did the hiker sneeze or yell at him?). The mauling probably occurred almost immediately after the last image.

“A bear could cover that distance before a person could react,” said the park ranger. The bear was estimated at 600 lbs (270 kg), big for Denali. It was a mature boar, at least 5 years old.

Canon 50mm lenses

Few months ago, we compared three Nikon 50mm lenses and examined center and corner sharpness. To complete the exercise, this time, we’ll compare three Canon lenses – Canon 50mm/1.4, Canon 50mm/2.5 macro, and a 17-50mm Tamron zoom XR DiII SP. The Tamron zoom is better and faster than the Canon 18-55mm kit zoom that was omitted from the comparison. For my type of shooting, I find also, that the 17-50mm range is more useful than 18-55mm.

All images were obtained on a bright, sunny day, at F8, and 1/1600s, and a APS-C format Canon T2i camera was mounted on a solid tripod. The images were not manipulated nor sharpened.

The first set of images shows the overall uncropped images (reduced to 720×480 size).

1. Canon 50mm/1.4 – ISO 200, F8.0, 1/1600s

2. Canon 50mm/2.5 – ISO 200, F8.0, 1/1600s

3. Tamron 17-50mm – ISO 200, F8.0, 1/1600s

The primes show better contrast and more vibrant colours than the zoom lens (notice the red chimneys and the reflection in the water). On the other hand, Tamron lets more light through at the same aperture. If you are going to print it in small size or use it just for Web, you won’t notice any difference in image quality, regardless of the lens used.

 

Next set of images shows a crop of the middle section (you can click on the images and see it in full 100% size).

1. Canon 50mm/1.4 – ISO 200, F8.0, 1/1600s

2. Canon 50mm/2.5 – ISO 200, F8.0, 1/1600s

3. Tamron 17-50mm – ISO 200, F8.0, 1/1600s

Both Canon primes are very sharp in the middle section (remember, this is output from a RAW, unsharpened image). As expected, the zoom lens is not quite as sharp, but again, printed at small to medium size or reduced to a web size, it is quite acceptable (you’ll need to view the samples at 100% to see the difference).

 

The last set of images shows the leftmost section in 100% crop

1. Canon 50mm/1.4 – ISO 200, F8.0, 1/1600s

2. Canon 50mm/2.5 – ISO 200, F8.0, 1/1600s

3. Tamron 17-50mm – ISO 200, F8.0, 1/1600s

Both Canon primes show excellent corner sharpness and some moire on the metal netting of the deck balcony. The 50mm/2.5 macro shows slight amount of green fringing along the vertical edges (noticeable on the two white beams under the roof), but that can be easily corrected in Lightroom). The Tamron zoom, as expected, is not quite as sharp, but due to the loss of knife-edge sharpness, it indirectly gets rid of the fringing, and moire on the balcony is also less pronounced.

Conclusion:
If you need the best quality, the 50mm/2.5 macro is hard to beat (it is also the least expensive of three tested lenses). In image quality almost indistinguishable from 50mm/1.4, and you get also the macro capability. Of course, if you need a fast lens in low-light situation or better isolation of the main subject, the 1.4 aperture will be the better choice. Tamron zoom is the longest and heaviest of the three, and not quite as sharp as the 50mm primes, but in good light and exposed at its sweet spot, it delivers good image quality and a useful range of focal lengths.

One more difference:

If you look carefully at the rightmost window in the cropped version in the last set of pictures, you’ll notice a startling difference. In the first two images, photographed with Canon prime lenses, the test subject sits straight and appears interested in his surroundings, whereas in the last photo he stopped cooperating and fell asleep.

Mounting A Photograph In A Reverse Shadow Box


This article was inspired and made possible by Jim Camelford, the past president of Richmond Hill Camera Club who graciously offered to mount my print and allowed me to document the entire process.

 

So you captured and processed your masterpiece, and now, how do you transform it into a displayable artwork?

 

You can take it to a framing shop and pay their price or you can mount it and frame it yourself. Here is a complete tutorial how to make an attractive contemporary reverse shadow-box-frame.

You’ll need some space, a table or two, and the following tools and supplies:
– Foam Core board (black-on-black or white-on-white), 3/16″, 32×40″ or 40×60″
– Exacto knife (ideally OLFA Cutter, Model A Precision cutter)
– self-healing cutting mats (two large ones, butted togther)
– roller
– gift wrap (somewhat shiny)
– some weights
– Glue spray can (3M Super-77 Spray Adhesive recommended)
– Adhesive for gluing the wood
– Metal ruler
– Isopropyl Alcohol for cleaning your hands, tools and work surface
– Newspaper to cover a table for applying the adhesive

You can buy most of these items in Arts Supply or hardware store

First, we need the actual print. When it comes to selection of print paper, you can choose glossy or mat paper. The glossy paper shows the colors and fine details better, but it is much more sensitive even to smallest creases, bumps and other defects on the foamboard. Personally, for this type of mounting, I would recommend a mat stock. If you are printing it yourself, size it so that you’ll have a sufficient white border around the print. This is important for later handling and trimming the print.

Decide if you are going to mount it onto a white or black foamboard. If you use a black foamboard, it is a good idea to add a black border edge around the picture, ideally about 2-3mm in width. This ensures that when you trim the picture, the edges stay black.

Examine the print in detail and make sure that the colours and sharpening are to your liking. Make sure that the print will fit onto the foamboard.

Finally, inspect the foamboard for any dust and specks of dirt, and wipe it meticulously with a soft tissue paper or a cotton rag.

Somewhere else, preferrably outdoors or in ventilated room, set up another table or stand that will be used for applying the glue to the back side of the photograph. On the table, lay down some old newspaper. I happen to like Globe and Mail or Financial Post, but in pinch you can use also Toronto Star. Main thing, the paper is clean, lays flat and it won’t curl.

To make sure that the paper stays in place, you can weigh the corners with some heavy objects, such as rocks, bricks or old hard disk drives.

Lay the print face down on the newspaper, press down the sides with a thin board (old strips of foam-core work well) and some weights, and start spraying the back side systematically from one end to another. Spray from 8-12″ above the print; coating lightly in one direction then over-spray in the opposite (ie: 1st pass is leftright; 2nd is top-bottom). You should not see any sputter droplets on your print – if so you are spraying too close or too thickly. Allow to dry (cure) about 5 minutes. The print should be tacky – not wet – this will give you some limited re-positioning capability when you start to drop it onto the foam board.

After you finished spraying, remove the side boards which held the print in place and carry the print carefully to your main working table with the foamboard. Make sure not to tranfer any adhesive to your working area and place the print with the sticky side onto the foamboard.

Use a sheet of paper to press the print over its entire length onto the foamboard.

Then cover the print with a soft paper sheet (your wife’s Christmas wrapping will do just fine), and use a roller to press the print firmly onto the foamboard.

The next step is trimming. Use a long metal ruler and a sharp trimming knife. This is where an assistant comes handy by holding one end of the ruler.

If you are working alone or don’t trust your assistant, you can use a clamp to hold your ruler in place.

This completes the mounting part.

To make a reverse shadow box frame, we need light-weight, wooden boards, preferrably already painted – we used 1 1/2″ x 1/2″ size (about 4 x 1.25 cm). First we trim the edge of the board, and then we cut two side panels.

Apply sparringly a light layer of adhesive to the piece of wood (use rather less than more of the glue, and squirt the glue towards to the inside edge where it won’t matter if it spills underneath the board to the backing)

Now, press the side board to the foam board and position it exactly along the edge.

To hold the side board securely in place, place a heavy brick on the side board and another piece of scrap wood beside it.

Repeat the process for the second side board.
Then measure the distance between the two side boards, and cut the boards for the top and bottom. Apply the glue as in above steps and install the top and bottom boards. Ideally, all four pieces should fit tightly together, but it is better to err on shorter side and have a small gap between the end of the long piece and the side panel than to cut it too long and push the boards apart.

If you have any scrap wood left, you can glue a couple of pieces inside the frame to reinforce it.

Completed frame viewed from the back

And the final look from the side: