I'll be posting some random thoughts here about my photography: my travel plans, technical information behind some images, stories about how certain pictures were captured, etc.  The timing of the postings will also be random as my priority is capturing new images rather than writing about existing ones.  I hope you will feel free to comment on any of my postings and I appreciate you taking time to read my entries.

 

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"Icelandic Horse" Wins Photo of the Day!

June 22, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

This morning, my "Icelandic Horse" picture won Imaging Resource's "Photo of the Day". CLICK HERE to view Imaging Resource's Photo of the Day page.

This photograph was captured in February during my trip to Iceland. This was the very last picture that I took during that trip--it was captured at our last scenic stop before our guide dropped us off at the hotel near the airport. I rushed to get this image as the other tour participants were already back in the vehicle waiting for me. In the interest of full disclosure, this is a composite photograph (a blend of two separate pictures--the sunset and the horse).

This marks the 51st time that one of my photographs was recognized by Imaging Resource as its "Photo of the Day". A photographer is limited to one winning entry per month, so this series of winning images stretches back more than four years. Click here to view all of the winning entries over the past few years.

Icelandic SunsetIcelandic SunsetImaging Resource's Photo of the Day for June 23, 2018
(Note that this is a composite image--a blend of a photograph of the sunset with a picture of the horse.)


Microstock Earnings Through May

June 21, 2018  •  2 Comments

My monthly microstock earnings were $1,074 for the month of May. This is the fourth consecutive month of earnings over $1,000. Year-to-date earnings through May, 2018 exceed the year-to-date earnings from May, 2017 by about $271, or 5%.

Shutterstock posted another good month with earnings surpassing $700. iStock's revenues of $168.15 were within 3 cents of last month. 

Following is a summary of my monthly earnings:

Shutterstock applies an algorithm to determine the most "popular" images in a portfolio. The computation isn't clear, but certainly takes into account how many times the photograph has been downloaded in recent times. This photograph of the Detroit Institute of Arts is currently a top seller within my portfolio:


The Beautiful Cockroach

June 13, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

During my recent trip to Iceland, I visited the famous Hallgrímskirkja church in the center of Reykjavik. This church stands at 244 feet high and is the second tallest building in the country.

The Hallgrimskirkja church is a major tourist attraction. At any given time, there were nearly 100 people inside the church. It was impossible to capture any photographs of the interior (other than ceiling shots) under those circumstances.

While I was inside the church with the huge crowd of tourists, I concentrated on taking pictures of the ceiling. For this particular image, I used a fisheye lens. The fisheye lens captures a very wide perspective--nearly 180 degrees. So, I was having difficulty even getting this picture without people standing in the corner of the frame!

Someone helped me by asking some of the tourists to step back for a moment while I took the picture--so that I could get a clear view of the ceiling. Once I captured the image, a couple of tourists asked if they could view the picture. So, I showed it to them on the back of my camera.

One woman said, "My God, it's beautiful!" Then, the woman standing next to her said, "It looks like a cockroach". I had to laugh. In my mind, this picture will forever be remembered as "the beautiful cockroach".

Hallgrimskirkja ceilingHallgrimskirkja ceilingCeiling of the Hallgrímskirkja church at Hallgrímstorg 1 in Reykjavik, Iceland on February 19, 2018


Skogafoss Waterfall

June 07, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

One of the first landscapes that I photographed during my recent trip to Iceland was of the Skogafoss Waterfall.

Skogafoss FallsSkogafoss FallsSkogafoss Waterfall in Skogar, Iceland on February 20, 2018 Unfortunately, I was only able to compose one picture. Capturing pictures such as this can be exceedingly frustrating. It took more than 20 exposures and 30 minutes for each sliver of the frame to free itself of tourists. During post processing, I blended the images (using a small area within each frame that I captured when it was free of people). Much of the time, there were people standing right in front of me. Keep in mind that I visited Iceland in February to avoid the crowds as it is far more crowded in the summer. Not fun!

Here's one of the pictures from that sequence of 20 exposures:

Skogafoss FallsSkogafoss FallsSkogafoss Waterfall in Skogar, Iceland on February 20, 2018


Figure Skating

June 02, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

I recently attended the Northern Blast Figure Skating Competition in Woodridge, Illinois. This was the second time that I photographed a figure skating event. I enjoy capturing pictures of figure skating as the sport features amazing athletes, colorful costumes and some great action. It also gives me an excuse to use one of my favorite lenses--the Nikon 200 f2!

During the event, my goal was to capture images that:

  • included the skater's face (hopefully with an expression)
  • caught the skater in an interesting pose or during peak action
  • filled the frame with the subject
  • controlled the background--mostly by simplifying it

I've been impressed with the versatility of my new Nikon D850 camera. It's amazing that the camera can pump out such large files (48 megapixels each) at 9 frames per second. That high frame rate increased my chances of capturing peak action. I was also pleased with the auto-focus capabilities of this camera. I used the 21 point dynamic AF...and nearly every image was in sharp focus.

I set the exposure manually--using a shutter speed of 1/800th of a second, an aperture of f/2 and an ISO setting of 2000. My goal was to produce a file in which the histogram was pushed to the right in order to render the ice white. 1/800th was sufficient to freeze most of the action. However, I could have used a faster shutter speed to freeze the faster spins. Of course, setting the exposure in such poor lighting is a balancing act. Setting a higher shutter speed would have meant increasing the ISO--as the aperture was wide open for every image.

My post processing workflow was fairly basic. Most of the photographs required very little cropping. From there, I added some contrast (by moving the white and black points in Lightroom). I added a bit of vibrancy as well. The noise was manageable and I reduced noise by running every image through Nik Define software using the auto setting. I applied a curve to add contrast to the midtones in Photoshop...and finished by selectively sharpening the skater (using a high pass filter in Photoshop). For a few images, I extended the canvas to give the skater a little more breathing room from the edge of the frame. In some images, I extended the white background to eliminate distracting elements in the background. Most pictures took less than 2 minutes to process.

Here are a few of my favorites from the photo shoot. CLICK HERE to view more images.

Northern Blast Figure Skating CompetitionNorthern Blast Figure Skating CompetitionNorthern Blast Figure Skating Competition at the Seven Bridges Ice Arena at 6690 Route 53 in Woodridge, Illinois on May 12, 2018

Northern Blast Figure Skating CompetitionNorthern Blast Figure Skating CompetitionNorthern Blast Figure Skating Competition at the Seven Bridges Ice Arena at 6690 Route 53 in Woodridge, Illinois on May 13, 2018

Northern Blast Figure Skating CompetitionNorthern Blast Figure Skating CompetitionNorthern Blast Figure Skating Competition at the Seven Bridges Ice Arena at 6690 Route 53 in Woodridge, Illinois on May 12, 2018

Northern Blast Figure Skating CompetitionNorthern Blast Figure Skating CompetitionNorthern Blast Figure Skating Competition at the Seven Bridges Ice Arena at 6690 Route 53 in Woodridge, Illinois on May 13, 2018

Northern Blast Figure Skating CompetitionNorthern Blast Figure Skating CompetitionNorthern Blast Figure Skating Competition at the Seven Bridges Ice Arena at 6690 Route 53 in Woodridge, Illinois on May 13, 2018


Ice Cave Crowd

May 28, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

One of my goals during my recent Iceland trip was to capture a photograph of an ice cave.

The ice cave was an optional location offered as part of our photography tour. Since I was visiting Iceland in February and the ice cave is located about 275 miles from Reykjavik, I was expecting the location to be somewhat remote and free of crowds. Then, I received the following information from our tour leader:

"The regular ice cave has become very popular and has become busy in recent years.  As you can imagine it can be difficult to do photography with 20 people around us in a tight space.  I am trying to arrange an early tour with one of the companies.  They will take us out at 07.00 when it is still dark.  We could have the cave to ourselves for an hour before the crowds arrive.  This special arrangement will cost $277 USD - $77 more than the standard tour that you have paid for."

The ice cave tour guide published the following warning:

"Please note!  We will not be the only group visiting the ice cave. This has become incredibly popular winter activity in Iceland.  Other tour companies bring guests to visit the cave which can cause it to be crowded. Please expect to share the cave with additional groups."

I found this information alarming for a few reasons:

  • I didn't expect this ice cave to be so crowded given the time of year, the remote location and the high cost of getting there.
  • The sunrise is 9:00 am in Iceland on that day. I was disappointed to learn that we would be inside the cave in the dark. No wonder it would be less crowded than during the day!
  • I was surprised that the one hour photo shoot suddenly became even more expensive.

We met the ice cave guide in Jökulsarlon at 7:00 am (two hours before sunrise). Once our group was situated in his monster jeep, we started working our way up the Vatnajökull glacier in the dark and driving snow. The drive to ice cave was so unique that it made the whole experience worthwhile. After about 20 minutes or so, we reached the entrance of the ice cave.

Our guide parked the vehicle and then pointed out the various flags that were planted in the snow around the area. He warned that walking past the flags posed risks. The glacier has crevasses that aren't visible as they are covered in snow.

We were pleased that we did have the ice cave to ourselves--at least for a while. Tony Prower, our photography guide, assured us that the blue color of the ice would appear if our exposures were long enough. He was right.

The interior of this cave is quite small. We had just three photographers capturing pictures in there, and we had to take turns at times to get a shot as there wasn't enough room for everyone to compose their shots at once. Exposure times were long...so I ended up with just 10 or 12 pictures during the entire visit--which lasted just under an hour.

About ten minutes before sunrise, we heard the engines of approaching jeeps and knew we had time for just one more picture before more tourists entered the cave. Just then, we asked our ice cave guide to pose in the opening of the cave to give the photograph a sense of scale. I set my exposure for 30 seconds, but after 10 seconds passed the crowd started pushing their way past our guide to enter the cave--despite our request to just let us finish this one last exposure. So, I killed the exposure early...knowing that if I left the shutter open a few more seconds the model would blur.

Fortunately, luck went my way. The shorter exposure worked well for a single shot. I had initially planned for a 30 second exposure to properly exposure the ice...and then to take another 5 second exposure to properly expose the guide. I would then blend the two in Photoshop for a properly exposed picture throughout. But, if there was time for just one exposure, the 10 second one worked best. During post processing, I was able to recover enough detail and color in the ice, yet save the exposure of the guide.

Ten seconds later, about 25 people flocked into the cave. We could hear even more vehicles approaching. As we were escaping, there were so many people in the cave that there was barely room to stand. As our vehicle was heading back to Jökulsarlon, we saw even more vehicles heading toward the cave.

Thankfully, our photography guide knew to get us into the ice cave early. I can't even imagine the disappointment of having to share the experience with 50 or more people and not being able to get a single photograph--after all that it takes to make it to that remote part of Iceland at such cost.

This photograph is one of my favorites from the trip:

Iceland ice caveIceland ice caveIce cave at the Vatnajokull Glacier, the largest glacier in Europe, near Jokulsarlon, Iceland on February 21, 2018


The Gift That Keeps On Giving

May 22, 2018  •  3 Comments

Several years ago, I captured a photograph of a football crowd from my West Balcony seats at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois. I uploaded the photograph, along with a very similar image from the same vantage point.

Since then, some buyer purchases this image nearly every day! This picture has sold almost 3,300 times for a total of $4,612.

As I still hold season tickets for Fighting Illini football, I hoped to capture another such image from my seats with a newer camera. However, two things have made this impossible. First, with the decline in the performance of the football team in recent years, the stadium hasn't been this crowded. Second, security prohibits anyone from entering the stadium with a camera that has a detachable lens.

I'm optimistic that the crowds will return to Memorial Stadium within a couple of years as I believe the rebuilding program is on the right track with coach Lovie Smith. But, I'm not yet sure how I can get around the camera restriction in the stadium.


Microstock Earnings through April

May 19, 2018  •  5 Comments

My monthly microstock earnings were $1,064 for the month of April. This is the third consecutive month of earnings over $1,000. Year-to-date earnings through April, 2018 exceed the year-to-date earnings from April, 2017 by about $120.

Shutterstock posted another good month with earnings surpassing $700. Big Stock's revenues of $3.75 were the highest in more than a year! 

Following is a summary of my monthly earnings:

Shutterstock applies an algorithm to determine the most "popular" images in a portfolio. The computation isn't clear, but certainly takes into account how many times the photograph has been downloaded in recent times. This photograph of the historic sign welcoming visitors to Fresno, California is currently a top seller within my portfolio:


Glacier in High Resolution

May 14, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

During my recent trip to Iceland, I visited a lake at the south end of the Vatnajokull glacier called Fjallsarlon.

Fjallsarlon LakeFjallsarlon LakeFjallsarlon, a glacier lake at the south end of the Icelandic glacier Vatnajokull, in Iceland on February 23, 2018.
CLICK HERE to view the super high resolution version of this picture!

I've been shooting with the Nikon D850 camera since November. It features an impressive 48 megapixels of resolution. For this picture, I decided to push that by creating a panoramic photograph consisting of 14 vertical exposures. I then stitched the exposures together in Lightroom. The resulting photograph is 23,200 pixels wide by 7,100 pixels tall--or a whopping 165 megapixels!

To view a high resolution version of the above photography, please CLICK HERE. Note that this high resolution version is only half of the resolution of the original file. It's best to view it on a computer monitor and to zoom into the picture and pan around.

Can you see the tourist in the frame? 


Fun at the Old Ballpark with the Nikon D850

May 07, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

One of the reasons I purchased the Nikon D850 camera is for its versatility. So far, I have mostly used the D850 for architecture and landscapes. But, I also like to shoot other subjects--like sports, The D850 exceeded my expectations yesterday when I attended the Ohio State Buckeyes versus the Fighting Illini baseball game.

Here are a dozen from the day:

1- I used the pregame warmups to practice my photography and dial in the settings. I haven't photographed baseball in a couple of years. The players don't wear their official uniforms until game time, though.

Fighting Illini baseballFighting Illini baseballFighting Illini vs. Ohio State baseball game at Illinois Field at 1605 S Wright Street on the campus of the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois on May 6, 2018


2- One thing is evident about college baseball (at least at the Illini games)--the players are having the time of their lives! It's obvious that everyone is having a great time. And that carries over into the stands. Cheap concessions and free admission add to the fun!
p2858255640-5.jpg
3- One of my first tasks was to get the obligatory "bat on ball" shot out of the way.
p2858255642-5.jpg
4- When I attached the 500mm lens to the D850, it made me feel like I was right in the middle of the action.
p2858255927-5.jpg
5- Can you see what happened here? Answer at the very bottom of this post.
p2858255808-5.jpg
6- This player put on his "rally glasses" in the top of the second inning. I guess it worked. Ohio State scored 5 runs that inning.
p2858255641-5.jpg
7- To shoot through the netting behind the plate, I removed the lens hood and placed the lens directly up against the net. Set the aperture to wide open and shoot away. Finally, just hope that a foul ball doesn't slam into the lens!
p2858255898-5.jpg
8- The home plate umpire called a nice game. I'm not sure that he's ever seen a 500mm lens pointed at him before, though!
p2858255944-5.jpg
9- The centerfield fence is 400 feet from home plate...plenty of distance to create nice, soft backgrounds.
p2858255865-5.jpg
10
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11
p2858255645-5.jpg  
12- The Ohio State pitcher put a little extra into this pitch.
p2858255876-5.jpg
So, here's what happened in #5. The batter tipped the pitch. It slammed into the catcher's face mask (knocking the mask away from his face). The ball then bounced back toward the hitter.

Granted, I haven't shot with a Nikon D5, yet. And, I'm not claiming that the D850 is as good as the D5 for sports. But, the auto-focus was snappy...I had very few photographs that weren't sharp. The high resolution files generate some stunning detail. The camera produced nice image quality even from the higher ISO settings that I sometimes had to use. It was an overcast day and rained a few times during the game. Overall, I was impressed with the performance of the D850. Now, I want to shoot more baseball!

 

 

 

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