Jun 6, 2010

Feeling Pigeonholed!

Landscape photography is not something I shoot often.  While making over my website a couple of weeks back I realized that I'm not paying enough attention to this side of photography.  To be honest, I really don't feel landscapes are one of my strong points.  I've been feeling pigeonholed in that most of my efforts have been concentrated on shooting the 'friggin birds'.

Most of you know that I love shooting anything with wings.  I have thousands and thousands of bird images I consider keepers but only have a couple dozen landscape images that I would consider hanging on my wall.  Having taken the plunge into photography as a full time profession this past January I have come to the realization that I need to shoot more landscape images!

The love for shooting landscapes was rekindled when I found a three year old image on one of my hard drives of the man in the mountain, a rock formation just west from Corner Brook on the Trans Canada Highway.  I though the image may have sale potential and thought that I really should be shooting more of this type of image.  And photographing things without wings can actually be fun, right?   :)


*Note.  Click all image to view larger! 



'Man in the Mountain'
Nikon D200.  Nikkor 70-200VR.  ISO 100.  1/160th @ f6.3.


Onward to 'Flow', an image of a local brook I took on a cold, wet and dreary day a short time ago.



'Flow'
Nikon D200.  Sigma 10-20mm.  ISO 100.  1.3 Seconds @ f16.


Satisfied with the image (framed 20X30 inch print now sitting in our dining room!) I felt compelled to shoot more!

I had a kind lady contact me looking for a nice image of Corner Brook.  The only interesting image of my hometown that I have is 'Corner Brook at Night'.



'Corner Brook at Night'
Nikon D200.  Sigma 10-20mm.  ISO 100.  20 Seconds @ f6.3.

She wasn't interested in the image as she would have preferred a daytime image.  Unfortunately, this time of the year the light is so harsh mid day that attaining a pleasing image taken during the day is just not possible.

Residents of Corner Brook are lucky in that in summer the sun sets almost straight out the Bay of Islands and makes for wonderful sunsets.  Photography is all about 'taking the hand that is dealt', right?  It took a couple of ventures out to get what I was looking for but the rewards were well worth the efforts!  Let me elaborate.

The first trip out I made the most basic of mistakes.  Lesson number one is that while photographing sunsets you never leave immediately after the sun sets behind the horizon.  If you are lucky the best of the light show will come after the sun disappears.  I got impatient and discouraged as the sun vanished and made for home.  About half way there I glanced back over my shoulder to see that the cloud in the sky had made the metamorphosis from mundane to insane!  The entire sky looked as if it were on fire!  Muttering every cuss word in the vocabulary I beat it back to my vantage point to be greeted with a drab and colorless sky followed with another slew of curses.  Lesson number two here is once the show begins it doesn't last long.  Be patient and ready!

The second sunset adventure was more of a success.  I was rewarded greatly with another sky on fire, this time while the sun was still above the horizon.  But I had made another rookie mistake.  I was more concerned with timing the sunset than with picking a good vantage point.  I got an image but had to crop off the bottom off from a very poor choice of foreground.



'Fire in the Sky Above Corner Brook and the Bay of Islands'
Nikon D200.  NIKKOR 17-55MM.  ISO 100.  1/5 @ F11.


My third attempt was more successful I feel.  I changed locations entirely and managed to time another intense sunset.



'Corner Brook Downtown at Sunset'
Nikon D200.  Sigma 10-20mm.  ISO 100.  1.6 Seconds @ f20.

On a side note some may question my composition in the above image to include the mill and the renovation of City Hall on the far left.  Personally, I feel that both structures are a major part of this city, like them or no.  There is beauty even in the unsightly.  You just have to look a little deeper.

Just a few nights ago Leanne said to me, "Look outside!  The light is wonderful!"  Our view the entire mountain across from us was lit with intense golden light.  "It might be another nice night for a sunset, Scott."  I was tired and outright lazy and made every excuse not to get off my ass to go after some photos.  With a little coaxing I caved in and gathered up my tripod, a camera body, a couple of lenses and some other essentials and headed out in search of light.

Seeing the rays of sun filtering through the clouds on that walk down to the shoreline made me think that it was going to be a great sunset.  Or was it?

By the time I got the the beach it looked like I had already missed the best of the show.  Remembering my amateur mistake a few nights back I sat tight and enjoyed the sounds of the norther waterthrush, bald eagles and distant loons while hoping for something to happen to the sky.

Patience paid off!  There wasn't much color left when a few whispy clouds lite up like roman candles with very dark and ominous clouds backdropping them!  Fantastic!  

Even though the sun may be behind the horizon it can still shine upward at the clouds.  By this time the sunlight has to pass through an even thicker section of the atmosphere.  Dust and moisture particles diffuse the sunlight into intense colors, even more so than at sunrise as more particulate matter exists in the atmosphere.  In the evening wind tends to diminish somewhat allowing these particles to setting to the ground making for less intense color at sunrise.



'Wildcove Sunset and Stones'
Nikon D200.  Sigma 10-20mm.  ISO 100.  3 Seconds @ f22.


Even after the blazing clouds subsided the residual cool colors in the sky added great dimension to the images.



'Boulders Under Ominous Skies'
Nikon D200.  Sigma 10-20mm.  ISO 100.  3 Seconds @ f22.


With the majority of the light show over I continued to take images as shutter speeds got exceedingly longer and longer.  You'd be amazed just how much color is still out there, even when color isn't really visible.   Also, remember that at twilight city lights start to balance with ambient light making for great images.



'Humbermouth at Twilight'
Nikon D200.  Sigma 10-20mm.  ISO 200.  15 Seconds @ f8.


My interest in shooting landscapes has seriously been rekindled!  I feel a lttle more confident that I can produce some half decent landscape images and am feeling a lot less pigeonholed!  Regardless if i'm getting great images or not, I've forgotten just how calming it is to stand out in nature on a calm evening. 

ps....In the last day or two I found a couple of American Redstarts and a pair of Cedar Waxwings, birds I don't get to see to often, and couldn't help myself to shooting a few hundred images!  Landscapes are great fun and all but you 'take what is dealt to you', right?  :)

Thanks for reading along!


All the images you see in this blog post are available for sale in digital format and in print.  Custom framing is available.  I print all images on a wide format professional series Epson 7880 printer.  Please contact me by email or by the phone number listed below.

RONiN photography (Scott Grant) offers print and image sales, printing and enlargement services, photographic and post processing instruction, and wedding, graduate and portrait photography.  If you would like to contact me please do so at scott@roninphoto.ca or call at (709) 634-3693.  I'm located in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, in Canada.

Visit me on facebook at RONiN photography.

I also have a ton of images on Flickr.

If you would like to learn more about RONiN photography please visit www.roninphoto.ca.



Jun 1, 2010

When Everything Comes Together!

Ever have one of those days where it seems almost everything works out in your favor?  When everything comes together?

I had to send my favorite camera in for repair a few weeks back right after it developed a sticky 'play' button with hopes of getting it returned for wedding season.  This camera has become 'it' for me and my older ones have been collecting a little dust since last fall.  Not having the camera has been making me feel a quite 'iffy' about photographing as of late.

While photographing this Saturday past everything seemed to work out incredibly for me even without my 'baby'!

Leanne and I decided first thing on in the morning to head to scenic Bonne Bay Pond, just east of Gros Morne National Park.  We packed the essentials of clothes, and some food my camera gear and headed north.

After we settled in I strolled out into the garden and had a listen for some singing birds.  I honestly didn't hear much and was a little disappointed thinking the day could be off to a poor start. 

Upon having that thought a White Throated Sparrow's flew by me.  It was so close to me that the sound of it's wings in flight actually startled me!

*NOTE, Please Click all images to view larger!



Singing White Throated Sparrow.  Bonne Bay Pond.
Nikon D300.  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR.  ISO 400.  1/500th @ f5.6

For some time this little sparrow sang his heart out on some of the most beautiful perches like this stump!  It wasn't until I knew I had bagged some good images of the Sparrow that I noticed a small bird moving from one fir tree to another about 15 feet up.  Through my lens I caught a glimpse of a small, almost florescent orange crest on the head on the petite bird.  Ruby Crowned Kinglet!

If you have no idea as to their size the RC Kinglet is only about 4 inches in length, including the tail, and weighs in around 1/5 to just a tad less than 1/3 ounces!  They are one of the smallest song birds in North America.



Perched Ruby Crowned Kinglet.  Bonne Bay Pond.
Nikon D300.  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR.  ISO 400.  1/500th @ f4.


The Black and White Warblers were in full swing!  I'm assuming it is mating season from the aerial acrobatics these little guys and gals were doing.  Once an individual settled down for 10 seconds or so I was able to get some great singing images.



Singing Black and White Warbler.  Bonne Bay Pond.
Nikon D300.  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR.  ISO 640.  1/250th @ f4.

Stomachs filled with BBQ hamburgers we ventured west to Gros Morne hoping for some moose sightings, and with hopes of a great seaside sunset.  OK, I'll come clean.  We are coffee buffs and love stopping into Java Jacks in Rocky Harbour for some really great coffee!

With a fresh mug of joe and neither moose sighting at this point we were on our way to Baker's Brook beach for a look to see if the shorebirds have yet to make it this far north.

A piercing call gives away the position of a Greater Yellowlegs!  Having only gotten really close to one in my lifetime I was pretty happy to get within good reach of a nice habitat image without using a teleconverter on my telephoto lens.



Calling Greater Yellowlegs.  Bakers Brook.  Gros Morne National Park.
Nikon D300.  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR.  ISO 720.  1/250th @ f4.

Looking out over the many stones that line the shore at low tide I could just make out the shape of a very small Sandpiper.  This little ball of fluff was a Least Sandpiper, the smallest of any shorebird in the world.  How amazing that this little ball of fluff can fly nonstop for over 3000 kms over the Atlantic Ocean on it's southward migration!  To give you an idea of just how minuscule they are you can see this specific bird outlined in red in the image below.  Remember to click the image to view larger!


 Stalking Least Sandpiper at Bakers Brook Shoreline. Gros Morne National Park.
Image by Leanne Rose.



Least Sandpiper on Stone.  Bakers Brook Shoreline.  Gros Morne National Park.
Nikon D300.  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR with Nikkor 1.4X Teleconverter.  ISO 400.  1/640th @ f5.6.

I've read that after migration some birds are very approachable, the reasons are that they are extremely tired and hungry and literally don't waste any more energy unless they really have to.  This little one must have been in that category as I was able to make a slow and gentle approach, observant of any signs of stress from the bird.  Fortunately, it didn't seemed bothered with my presence as it continued to forage quite close to me for food.



Least Sandpiper Foraging for Food.  Bakers Brook Shoreline.  Gros Morne National Park.
Nikon D300.  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR with Nikkor 1.4X Teleconverter.  ISO 400.  1/640th @ f5.6.


We continued north up the highway towards the town of St. Paul's.  Right after leaving Baker's Brook we briefly saw a male Northern Harrier gliding for prey along the highway edge!  We followed it up a small side road only to loose sight over some tree tops and decided to pursue.  Unfortunately, during our short drive inland there wasn't any sign of him.

However, perched on a fir tree top in late evening light was a Flycatcher!  Sometimes with photography you have to roll with the blows and work the hand that is dealt to you; find the 'sliver lining in the dark cloud' so to speak.  Instead of hopelessly looking for the Harrier I decided to pursue this Flycatcher.



Olive-Sided Flycatcher.  Gros Morne National Park.
Nikon D300.  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR with Nikkor 1.4X Teleconverter.  ISO 400.  1/800th @ f7.1.

Just up ahead on the little side road we were following was a small brownish bird foraging the road for food, bounding from one side to the other.  Looking through my 500mm lens I could see a Swainson's Thrush!


Foraging Swainson's Thrush.  Gros Morne National Park.
Nikon D300.  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR with Nikkor 1.4X Teleconverter.  ISO 400.  1/800th @ f5.6.

Whatever happened to those moose we were after?  They were just up the highway a mile or two from the flycatcher, munching on some fir trees and grass about 50 feet off the side of the road.  I was hoping that I could get a portrait of both with the moose lined up pleasingly and without shadowing each other.  What were the chances they would position themselves right where I wanted them?

Pretty damn good!



Moose Pair in Golden Light.  Gros Morne National Park.
Nikon D300.  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR.  ISO 400.  1/500th @ f4.

Thinking this was the perfect ending to a great day, we were ready to turn around and start the 45 minute drive back to Bonne Bay Pond.  Just north of us was the Western Brook Beach parking lot where we decided to turn around and start heading south towards home.  We made it to within 500 feet of the parking lot when I noticed a caribou on the open barrens off to my right!

One more time I mounted the big lens on the tripod and jumped out of the truck into the wind and freezing cold air.  By placing a lone fir tree between the caribou and my position I was able to conceal my advance.  Out to the edge of the barren I lifted my setup and peered through the viewfinder.

My heart almost skipped a beat!  There on the pastel colored bog, only a hundred yards away, still lit with golden light stood the caribou and a newborn calf!



Caribou and Newborn.  Gros Morne National Park.
Nikon D300.  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR with Nikkor 1.4X Teleconverter.  ISO 500.  1/250th @ f6.3.


How could this day possibly get any better?

Let me tell you how!

As the sun approached to horizon I watched shutter speeds drop fast as the light turned from a golden hue to almost pink.  At this point I was shaking from a combination of the quickly dropping temperature, wind blowing off the Atlantic, and also from all the adrenaline pumping through my body!  I desperately tried to stabilize the big lens from the wind and my constant shaking but after a few shots I had no choice but to remove the teleconverter to gain back some necessary shutter speed so the images wouldn't be blurred.  By doing so I was able to double the shutter speed, but lost precious magnification. As if on cue the mother caribou walked straight towards me with the calf close behind!  Both creatures, bathed in the some of the best light I've ever witnessed moved to within 75 feet of my position and posed for me for at least a full minute as the sun set behind the horizon!  What a climax!



Caribou and Newborn Posing in Last Light.  Gros Morne National Park.
Nikon D300.  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR.  ISO 400.  1/400th @ f4.


Does it get any better than this for a photographer who loves to shoot wildlife?

I would love to find out!

PS...We did turn around at Western Brook Beach parking lot and just on the other side of the bridge were 2 of the 12 moose we saw on the return drive home!


Thanks again for taking the time!



All the images you see in this blog post are available for sale in digital format and in print.  Custom framing is available.  I print all images on a wide format professional series Epson 7880 printer.  Please contact me by email or by the phone number listed below.

RONiN photography (Scott Grant) offers print and image sales, printing and enlargement services, photographic and post processing instruction, and wedding, graduate and portrait photography.  If you would like to contact me please do so at scott@roninphoto.ca or call at (709) 634-3693.  I'm located in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, in Canada.

Visit me on facebook at RONiN photography.

I also have a ton of images on Flickr.

If you would like to learn more about RONiN photography please visit www.roninphoto.ca.