Spring 2013: part II

As promised, light rays 🙂. I found a spot in the forest that’s about 10x as large as the previous place where I took most of my light ray shots. One large open space with big, old trees. I wonder how that’ll look in the Fall ;).

Anyways, here’s a good selection:

Light rays
Light rays
Light rays

The projects for my upcoming summer holidays include: Roe Deer (fawns I hope), King Fisher (as always), Beaver, Blue Throat (colorful bird), perhaps wild boar, badgers (.. will be difficult), and the occasional macro stuff. Hope to be able to show you something soon.

Until next time!

The rise and fall of Fall..

Time for my yearly Fall post! I have seven images to show you that basically represent what I’ve been up to in the past 2 months. Due to bad weather, shortening days, and travels I haven’t been able to do what I initially planned to do. This colorful season went by too quickly for me this year. No reason to complain though as I’m still very satisfied with the images below. I’ve come up with an awesome new idea that, if successful, should take my work to the proverbial ‘next level’. I won’t give out any details as I don’t want anyone else to try it before I do and I need to wait either for Spring or Fall 2013… and I need a new camera for that as well but more on that at the end of this post.
Anyways, enough blabla and time for the latest photo’s.

This was a magical morning. Dense fog and clear skies above..
sun rays
sun rays
sun rays
I have to start finding new locations for these sun ray shots as most of the ones taken thus far have been in the usual spot.

Time for the Fall shots:
mushroom
Fall color
Forest colors
Forest lane

Furthermore, I’m thinking about buying a new camera. If Nikon won’t announce a D400 before April 2013, I will switch to either a D800 or a D4. This means going FX and losing the crop factor which I still find essential for wildlife and small birds. I would however gain unsurpassed speed, low light capabilities, and dynamic range etc…. we’ll see what 2013 brings us. My D300 has a 5 year old sensor and AF system which, I believe, are starting to limit my ‘development’ as a photographer.

Until next time!

4 in 1, and where did my mojo go?

Four weeks crammed into one blog post. So it’ll be a long one. I basically had the larger part of 4 weeks to spend on nature photography since this was, or as I’m writing this, still is my spring/summer holiday. I wanted to make the most of it so I threw myself out into the field every day looking for stuff to photograph. The weather was not really super, but manageable. I needed clear skies in the morning and clear skies in the evening. Once these requirements have been met, all you need to do is look for the correct location. So, the first three weeks all went pretty bad. No beaver, no kingfisher, no bee eaters, no buzzards, no wild boar or roe deer. The Buzzards (buizerd) were my largest project. I knew a nice location where these birds of prey have a nest each year and thought I should give them a hand in raising their young by laying out some bait (roadkill) for them. In the meantime, I’d be there waiting in my tent with my camera. I picked the perfect spots with the rising sun behind me so if it would work, I could capture these amazing birds in the warm morning light. Unfortunately these birds are quite watchful which meant that I had to go into my tent in the middle of the night when it was still dark! This meant getting up at 4 am in the morning, cramming food down my throat, cycling 10 minutes to the location, arriving without lights, without making a sound, putting the bait on the ground in the dark, securing it with hooks so they don’t fly off with it, and try not to fall asleep while waiting. Thus, there I was at 4.30 in the morning awaiting an attack on my bait. No such luck :(. After 3 long mornings I gave up. The third time they clearly saw the bait, circled 2m over it, and flew off again. Now, 3 days later, the bait is still there, untouched. I could have sat there for over 3 days and nothing would have happened. Lesson learned I’d say. I guess this only works well in winter time when there is snow and it is much more difficult for them to find prey. After 2 weeks of bad luck I started to doubt myself, and realized that I might had lost my ‘photography mojo’ (watch an Austin Powers movie in case you don’t understand the word ‘mojo’, if you do understand it, watch them anyways as they are kind of fun). So this is when I resorted back to macro photography in an effort to find my mojo again as this is the more easier part of nature photography. Your subjects don’t run away and you don’t have to get up while its dark outside. A good place to start to get my mojo back again. The results can be found directly below. I’m quite happy with the dragonfly shots:

Tulips

Tulips

After some time, I realized that most of the time you don’t have to go look for photo opportunities but they’ll find you eventually. Just by going for a bike ride or taking a stroll along the riverside. That’s when I saw this cutie:
roe deer fawn
It must have been a few days old! I hit the brakes (I was cycling), immediately started unpacking my lens + camera and was able to take just a few shots before it ran of. Good to see that their fear of humans is a genetic thing.

Next day, I got a call from my king fisher ‘connection’ that he had found a nesting site which I could use to finally take some king fisher shots. And so I did:
king fisher
I’ll go back there in my last holiday days (this actually means crossing a fast flowing river in wading boots with 15kg of (rather expensive) camera gear on your back. One slip and things get pricey ;-).

The next shots were taken somewhere in the first 3 weeks or so. I had hoped for more and better but you can’t have it all, right?! We’ll see what the rest of summer will bring us. At least it seems that I have found my mojo again (or still had it all this time).
KungFu Goose
rays of light
phaesant on the move
I’ll end this post with a small bang. Our neighbors have a Little Owl (Steenuil) nesting box in their orchard and each year the young owls are ringed for study purposes (see how many there are and where they go after they leave their parents territory). Now, I usually don’t post photo’s of captive birds but as these are actual wild ones and it’s so darn cute I’ll show it anyway. Hope to get some really ‘wild’ shots of these ladies later this summer. Just look at the newborn! Melts your heart right?
Little Owl / Steenuil

Until next time!

Into the woods

After a long spell of bad weather my Saturday started sunny and it remained so until sunset. I had set my alarm clock at 6.00 am, knowing that the sun would rise at 6.30 am. I looked out my window and I was greeted by open skies and foggy trees in the distance. Fog and clear skies form a good combination so I decided to head out into the woods. I found this great open place with old and majestic trees that I thought would be excellent for the shots I had already thought up in my  mind. I often form these images in my head that I would like to shoot in real life. I then ponder about the ‘how’, ‘when’, and ‘where’ question and start to look for the right places. I found a place not long after my pondering so that’s where I decided to go (nature photography tip: know your places). I knew from experience that sunny skies and misty weather conditions go well together and my experience proved me right once more:

HDR forest sunrays

HDR forest sunrays

To clarify how I took these photo’s I must first explain that a camera does not have the dynamic range of the human eye. Our eyes can adjust to various intensities of light, thereby letting you see detail in dark places, even when there’s a bright light source in your point of view (to a certain extent, the human eye does have its limits of course). Unfortunately, for the camera this is a different story. If you have very dark and very light area’s in your camera’s field of view, it’s dynamic range is not large enough to accurately expose both the light and the dark places. You as a photographer have to tell the camera what to base the exposure on (dark area, light area, or the area in between). You basically want every point of your photo to be exposed correctly. The way to solve this is to shoot several bracketed photo’s, each about 1 stop apart, and digitally merge these later on using HDR software (I used Photomatix Pro). You will get a range of photo’s that will go from underexposure to overexposure, thereby toning down the highlights and lighting up the shadows. The software will determine what area’s of your 3, 5 or 7 shots are correctly exposed and combine these into 1 image. You have to use a tripod though to get images that accurately overlap. After some small fine tuning in the software you can get a ‘realistic’ HDR photo that more resembles what your eyes actually saw. You can do this to varying degrees but I like to keep it more realistic in stead of the abstract you often see with HDR photo’s as well. What you would use depends on your personal taste of course.

So in summary: know your area, weather conditions, choose a correct lens (in my case a Nikon 10-24mm), decide to bracket, know how to work with HDR software.

After my visit to the forest I went to the heather of National Park the Meinweg. The heath bushes have almost reached their full flowering stage and are already creating seas of blooming pink/purple colors. No HDR this time as I did not take my tripod with me (in stead, I used an extended monopod to get a higher point of view).

National Park the Meinweg

Until next time!