Category Archives: Education

Monday Musings – My First Publication!

The current issue of the BT Journal published by Wildlife Research Photography (WRP) contains a portfolio of images I created during the time I studied under Moose Peterson’s Master of Light Program (MLP). Here is the link for that story.

This is a really special opportunity for me. My images in the BT Journal are the first images I have ever had published professionally. I can never thank Moose and Sharon Peterson enough for their help and guidance during and after the program. I am truly honored to have my images included in this great publication. Below are 3 of my favorite images from my time in the MLP

Moose in Baxter State Park

As Moose states in the BT Journal article, I always wanted to photograph Moose. I can’t wait till the fall so I can get back up to Baxter and have another crack at some more images. I hope to one day make it to Alaska to photograph the bigger Moose of the species.

Feeding Time
Osprey Being Harassed by Red Winged Black Bird

The thing I love about this last image is the fact that you can tell which bird is harassing the female osprey, Being able to capture the red in the Red Winged Blackbird made the image special. This Osprey nest is one I worked for several months on Long Island. Moose encouraged me to keep working nests so that I could not only learn about the species biology but also document it through my photography. I look forward to returning to that nest this Spring.

The Flashbus Tour

Over the years, the many mentors in my life have impressed upon me that learning should never end. I make an effort to learn something new every day, even at my rippening old age. ­čśë

Flash Bus Tour Logo

So yesterday I traveled to NYC to see The Flashbus Tour. The tour is the brain child of David “The Strobist” Hobby
and Joe Mcnally who are the most prolific users of small flash in their photography. Many people consider this painting with light. To me, what they are teaching is the use of flash to augment and control ambient light and as a tool for enhancing texture and detail in our photography.

The day was filled with great tips and a lot of learning in a fun environment. If you have not had luck with using your flash in a complementary way in your photography, I highly recommend sitting in on one of the tour stops. While I usually prefer smaller venues when attending photography courses, I am glad I did not pass up this opportunity to see David and Joe in all their glory.

DaBus

Note: Pictures courtesy of the Flash Bus Tour and The Strobist websites.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill in Flight Blur

Normally I am not a big fan of blurred images. However this image struck me as an interesting blur. I enjoy this image as a blur, in part, because the background is almost completely black. We were photographing on this day in the rain, with overcast skies. You can also see a few drops of water coming off the feet of the bird which again is a cool effect on a dark background. I think if the background were blue or green, the blur effect would not be as pleasing and the pink of the bird would not stand out as well. If you are interested in creating “pleasing blurs”, Art Morris at Birds As Art and Denise Ippolito at A Creative Adventure have some really fantastic workshops and tutorials on doing so.

Roseate Spoonbill Preening

In the image above, I really like the color of the Roseate Spoonbill against the dark black water. This is actually how I saw the image, I did not intentionally “colorize” the image. That is a technique some photographers use but not one I employ on my wildlife images.

Images captured by D700, 200-400 VRI w/TCe 1.7 II on Lexar UDMA digital film

Monday Musings – My 2011 Photographic Goals

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and are ready to take on 2011 with vigor! I know I am. Last year I started keeping track of my photographic goals in a public way. This verbalization and the resulting feedback and comments from friends and readers was very helpful to me. Besides, being creative is not a science and with support from friends and readers you can get a whole lot more from the process. So without further ado……..

Two Medicine Before Sunrise

1) Photograph more, a lot more! This will be difficult given my schedule but I think it is crucial for growing as a photographer. I see how much better I get with every click which inspires me to try new things. There is still much for me to learn and I know I can’t achieve more without shooting more.

2) Get Published!!! This goal really could be considered 1b. As of this writing I have 2 text – photo packages in the hopper and ready to go to magazines. I just need to decide which magazines will get the first submissions!

3) Attend at least one photographic workshop. Working with skilled professionals in any given discipline can only make you better. The same holds true with photography. Given that nature and wildlife photography is my thing, I find 2 benefits to attending workshops other than the educational aspect. First is the camaraderie and networking. Usually you meet several people that are in the same boat as you (whatever that boat may be) and who are always willing to share their knowledge. I have made some fantastic, time tested friends simply by attending workshops. Second is the “guide” aspect of the instructor. For the price of many of these workshops you get the instruction of a pro or pros as well as the advice of a travel guide, all for the same price. However, you must do your homework on workshops, they are not all equal. Make sure you are attending a workshop that is being taught by someone who likes to teach!

Two Medicine Sunrise

Glacier National Park is one of the best locations for a Wildlife/Nature Workshop I could have attended. The images above are both from Two Medicine, one before sunrise, one at sunrise. My next National Park stop will be Yellowstone in Winter!

4) Attend Photoshop World. I hope to be able to attend PSW in Orlando this spring. Maybe even get 2 days of bird photography in before the event!

5) Grow my photographic network. I have made a few friends in this great business but think I need to cast a wider net. Part of this problem is mine. I think I am very personable but I am a tough nut to crack. I don’t let too many into the shell, but when I do, I am ferociously loyal. Hopefully I will need a bigger shell when 2011 ends!

6) Enjoy every moment of everyday! I know this sounds funny and some are even wondering why this would be in a photographic goals list. Truth be told I am a championship level worrier. In this regard I can’t be beat. I was grey haired at 27! The reason this belongs on my list is that I don’t think I can get to the next level as a photographer and person unless I do this. It requires a “rewiring” of who I am, but it is never too late to try. Besides, it will make me a better father, husband and person as well as helping me as a photographer.

So thats my list, what do you think? And whats on your list for 2011?

Great Video from Nikon NPS

This is a great video done by Nikon NPS.  Surprisingly, the video quality is not good but Scott and Joe are some of my favorite people in the business and I think the video is worth 15 minutes to watch.

Hope you all are enjoying the holiday season!

Click on the link below to watch the video.

Scott Kelby and Joe McNally from Nikon.

2010 Photographic Goals, How Did I Do?

As 2010 comes to an end, its time to reflect on the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year as I think about new goals for 2011. So here if you will is my scorecard.

1) Visit and photograph another National Park: A highlight of 2009 for me was visiting Glacier National Park. I attended Moose Peterson’s Wildlife Photographer’s Base Camp and learned more in 5 days than I ever imagined I could. Moose and his son Jake did a great job of combining wildlife biology and practical photography knowledge with business experience. I will definitely attend another Base Camp in the near future. As a result of Moose’s teaching I have read about and researched our National Park system since that visit and have become obsessed with visiting these national treasures. Ken Burns put together a fantastic series called “The National Parks: Americas Best Idea” that I highly suggest everyone watch.
I give myself +1/2 point for this one. I visited many state parks, most notably Baxter State Park in Maine and Honeymoon Island State Park in Florida. However I did not make it to any National Parks in 2010. I need to come out strong in 2011 when it comes to visiting National Parks!

Swiftwater Lake Reflection at Sunrise

2) Create photographs that illicit emotion: One of the true tests of being a successful photographer is whether your images are able to pull at someones heart strings. Good photographs capture moments, great photographs illicit emotion.
I give myself a +1 for this goal. I owe a lot to my mentor Moose Peterson in this regard. He is the king of pixel passion! While I give myself +1, I have a lot of work to do in this regard. I’m still at the bottom of the hill in my learning curve.

3) Get published: I will attempt to have one of my photographs or a text/photo package published in 2010. I will also explore having my images exhibited at some of the local Fairfield County art and framing galleries. I will also enter at least one judged photography contest.
I give myself a 0 here. While I should be able to announce a series of my images being published shortly, it didn’t happen in 2010. I also did not have any of my images exhibited at any art galleries or judged events. I hate when I come up short. That being said, I have 2 submissions about to go to magazine editors so 2011 should see some big dividends for me in regards to being published……I hope.

4) Experiment with different forms of output: I would like to try new print media and video capture (I need to get a DSLR with video capabilities first)! I believe the advent of devices like Amazon’s Kindle and the rumored Apple Tablet will make “moving pictures” an important part of a photographers output capabilities. If you have not seen the Sports Illustrated Tablet Demo it is well worth your time and really cool. While the origin of this mockup is being questioned, the capabilities described are real. There is an old Wall St. traders saying, “Don’t fight the market, go with the flow for resistance is futile”. While I like creating and viewing photographs the tide in the industry is definitely trending toward moving pictures.
I will give myself a +1/2 here. I was successful with trying new output media but did not tackle video. I decided early in 2010 that I should invest my time in improving my photography and not attempt video at the same time. I don’t want my skills to be considered “Jack of all trades master of none”.

5) Attend Photoshop World: I have never attended PSW. Based on my current level of proficiency I think the educational and networking opportunities will far outweigh the costs.
Alas, I have to take a -1 here. Shame on me, I should have gone to at least 1. I bet you can guess what goal will be on the 2011 list!

6) Attend at least one Wildlife Workshop: This doesn’t have to be a photographic workshop, although it can be. The goal is to learn more about wildlife. Having just returned from Africa (I will definitely visit Africa again) I have an even greater interest in learning more about the biology of wildlife. I have started to investigate volunteering for a local wildlife organization to help them with their research by taking pictures.
+1 here!

Grand total 2 out of 6 possible points. Hmmmm, I thought I had a pretty good year photographically in 2010 but a grade of 33% doesn’t seem like it.

I’m sure I will get a few emails or comments about why I would post a goals list and review and put myself out there by saying I didn’t succeed in my goals. The big thing I will tell you is if you only read blogs or surround yourself with people who always are 100% perfect, you are short changing yourself. Life doesn’t work that way. One of the best leaders I ever worked for was Ace Greenberg, the Chairman and CEO of Bear Stearns. He had a very simple message for people that claimed perfection and I paraphrase here, “If you always make money you are not taking enough risk”. While this statement is intended for traders in the investment banking arena, the sentiment applies to anyone, even photographers. If you are always right or perfect, you are not pushing yourself hard enough. I like pushing myself!

The truth of the matter is that I had a great year photographically in 2010. My skills improved dramatically, I continued to meet great people in the industry and I identified other things I need to focus on in order to be a better image and media creator. Personally I find reviewing my goal list motivating and cathartic. I also think you can’t create new goals unless you fully review what you did and didn’t accomplish in your business the previous year. So while I am disappointed with my 2010 score, I now have more information to help me mold the 2011 list. Off to work I go!

An Oldie but a Goodie

One of the things I love most about photography in the digital age is the ability to apply new techniques to old images. I am currently undergoing a big project. I am updating all the images on the website. I am doing this in part because I have become a better photographer over the last year or so and want to update the body of work that I am displaying for photo buyers and viewers. Part of this update is taking some old images I made and applying new techniques to them. This image of Swiftwater Lake in Glacier National Park is one of my all time favorites.

Swiftwater Lake from Bridge

Here is another view of Swiftwater Lake with the Lodge in the background

Swiftwater Lake with Many Glacier Hotel

I have been trying a very minimalist approach to post processing now as I get older…errrr mature in my photographic style. I hope you like these updated oldies as much as I do. Also make sure you stop by the website after the holidays as most of the new work will be in the gallery section. I also have some exciting news that I will announce shortly.

How Do I Backup My Media Files

This question is the natural extension to my earlier blog post about storage devices. And for good reason. If there is one aspect of our digital lives where we should be diligent it is with safeguarding those files. I promise you, most people do not do a good job of backing up their files, only to be disappointed when they find out their hard drive is damaged and their files irretrievable.
When I think about a backup strategy, I try to consider all failure points, mechanical, software and human error. Listed below are the strategies I employ for my office system (desktop). I am going to start with the desktop as I travel with little to know important data. What I travel with is usually replicated and temporary data. The post would be too long for both travel and office and since office (home) applies to more people, I will start there and talk about mobile at some other time or the post would be too long……and boring!

Desktop Backup
As I described earlier this week, I have 4 internal drives in my MacPro Tower.
Drive 1) System/Applications
Drive 2) Media Files (Master)
Drive 3) Media Files (Copy)
Drive 4) Live Work (What I am working on currently and any media file that has been “processed”) I do not have processed images on either drive 2 or 3.
I use 3 backup programs.
1) SuperDuper
2) Chronosync
3) Apple’s Time Machine
As you would imagine, I use each of these for different reasons. SuperDuper and Chronosync are similar programs but I use both to ensure some programing bug in one of their releases doesn’t take my data down. I then use Time Machine as a way to save my work and in essence archive changes on drives 1,2 and 4 in case a mistake is made but not detected for several days/weeks.

Here is how I do it.
1) Everyday at 10:00 PM, after all the days work/editing is done, Chronosync runs a job that mirrors drive 2 to an external Drobo unit.
2) Everyday at 7:00AM, SuperDuper clones drive 2 to drive 3.
3) Everyday at 8:00 AM, SuperDuper creates a bootable clone of my system disk (drive 1) to an external G-Tech mini
4) Apple’s Time Machine runs 24/7 in the background on the other Drobo external drive

Thats it. Basically what this system gets me is piece of mind and redundancy without a lot of technological demands. Oh Yeah, every week, the drives are moved offsite and new ones start the process over. This way I have copies of everything out of the office in case something happens such as a leak, fire etc.

Whatever system you use, it is important that you start doing regular backups right away! Don’t wait till tomorrow, do them now!

Note: One of the reasons I use Chronosync is that it allows for verifications of copies. This is important. You don’t want to “drag and drop” as a strategy for backups. That does not ensure your files are actually copied. This is a big mistake many people make. And the larger the amount of “stuff” you drag and drop, the better the chance that something is not retrievable when you really need it. Please don’t drag and drop as a backup practice!

If all of this seems a little confusing to you, you are not alone. If you need help, send me a note and I will be happy to try and help you with your process. I thought about doing a video on this topic but Chase Jarvis did a great job of explaining this in a diagram and video form on his blog. Why recreate the wheel!
Here is the link: Chase Jarvis Backup

What Storage Devices Do I Use?

I am receiving a lot of questions about how I store my images and what “backup” procedure(s) I employ. I suspect this is because of the holiday season. Folks are looking for great gift ideas for family and friends and what better gift than something that protects their loved ones valuable electronic data. I will attempt to give you a layman’s view of storage and leave all the technical specs to others. The web is filled with that stuff so if that floats your boat, have fun! So lets start by talking about Storage.

Storage can mean a lot of things. It definitely means different things in the context of how one uses storage devices. I will list here what I use for my portable digital darkroom and my office digital darkroom. I have an all Apple system. However, the procedures and precautions I employ work for Windows as well as Apple systems.

So lets get one point out in the open first. I am anal and paranoid when it comes to storage and backup. This will be confirmed over the next few blog posts! If my methods seem like overkill to you, sorry. But this works for me.

PORTABLE STORAGE
When I’m on the road I need 2 things when I ingest my days images, 1) Speed and 2) Redundancy. Currently I am using G-Technology G-Drive Mini 500 GB drives to to this. They are small, bus powered and reliable.

G-Tech G-Drive mini

I have 3 of these drives. 2 are daisey chained during the actual ingest process. 1 is the master and the other just holds a backup copy of the ingested files. I also keep my gallery images on both of these drives for showing my portfolio if the occasion arises. For safety, 1 drive goes in my briefcase and the other goes in my camera bag which never leaves my side. The third drive is a bootable clone of my laptop hard drive. This way if the laptop drive fails, I can still work off the clone. That also stays in my briefcase. It is important to note that my laptop hard drive does not hold any media files! The only thing on the internal drive is the operating system and applications. I find that the internal drives and the system in general work better this way. I follow the same procedure for my office workstation.

Above is what I use for the laptop while on the road. When my laptop is home, I add one more step. I use a G-Tech G-Drive 2 TB for backup of the overall system using Apple’s Time Machine.

G-Tech G-Drive

Desktop Storage
So if you thought the above process was overkill, wait till you get a load of this. My MacPro tower has 4 drives inside, arranged as follows:
1) System/Applications
2) Media Files (negatives)
3) Media Files copy
4) Live Work (I take a copy of the negative I want to process and move it here, I also store it here)

Then I have 2 Drobo’s (sorry, i couldn’t find any images of the Drobo to show you but their Website can be found here Drobo) attached to my tower that operate as Raid drives with 4 1TB drives each. Basically these units work in a way that allows for 1 of the 4 drives to fail and the data is still in tact. 1st Drobo is partitioned to backup my Media Files and Live Work. The 2nd Drobo runs Apple’s Time Machine which backs up internal drives 1, 2 and 4. If this were not enough, I have a G-Tech G-Drive mini that I use as a bootable clone of this system disk. I know, you are thinking I am crazy but this “system” lets me sleep at night and I have never lost an image. It also protects me from mistakes being made (accidents) via the Time Machine portion of the backup.

I have to admit however that I am impressed enough with the G-Tech units that I am considering switching my Drobo’s for the following G-Tech units:

G-Tech G-Speed

Why you might ask? The reasons are simple. While the Drobo drives are easy to setup, probably the easiest Raid Array to configure I have seen, their software is proprietary, which means that in order for the drives to operate if the box that holds the drives should fail, you need to find a Drobo unit to put them in. If you put them in a non-Drobo box, the drives, and your data are useless. I am having a hard time feeling comfortable with this setup even though I knew this going into the original purchase. Lastly, my Drobo drives are becoming noisy as they get older and this is making me a little nervous as well. The positive side to the Drobo’s is that they can handle most types and sizes of hard disks which helps to keep the costs associated with massive storage needs to a minimum. The G-Tech units need to use their drives (G-Tech is owned by Hitachi which is a first class drive manufacturer). These drives are more expensive as you would imagine.

I hope this helps in your quest for storage solutions. I might take a shot at creating a workflow diagram over the next few days. If you would be interested in this or think it would be worth a blog post, please drop me a line.

On Friday I will tackle the actual backup process I employ and talk about how I use the above storage solutions in that process.

Disclaimer: I do not receive free items from any of the manufacturers listed nor am I a tester for their gear (at least not as of yet ­čÖé ). What is listed here are the items that work for me. There are numerous options and combinations of gear one can employ. This is what works for me. Use my suggestions if and only if you think it would benefit your workflow.
G-Tech images courtesy of the G-Technology Website

Gesture

If you have ever been fortunate enough to listen to or attend a lecture given by Jay Maisel you would know that capturing gesture is very important in his photography. I have been fortunate to have studied with and read many articles written by and about Jay. A game I like to play with myself is to find gesture in wildlife. Doing so brings your subject to life. What better way to speak on behalf of an animal?

While it is not easy to capture gesture in wild animals the reward if you are successful are images that tug on the heart strings of the viewer. The ultimate reward for visual communicators. Here are some of my recent wildlife photographs that I think are good examples.

Laughing Gull Gesture

Ring Billed Gull Peek a Boo