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.
I captured some portraits of Mexican gray wolves during my most recent visit to the Brookfield Zoo. As soon as I approached the exhibit, a couple of the wolves noticed me and came up close to my camera. During my past visits, the wolves usually keep some distance. The outdoor exhibit is quite large and features some large rocks and several trees.
I suspect that the wolves approached me that afternoon out of curiosity. I was probably the first visitor to their exhibit in a long while. In all my visits to the Brookfield Zoo, I have never seen it so empty. And it was a "free day" at the zoo. I arrived at the zoo just after lunch and my car was one of the only ones in the large north parking lot:
I wanted to capture some closeup portraits of the wolves, so I attached a 1.4x teleconverter to my 500mm lens. This gave me an effective 700mm of focal length on my Nikon D850. Here are a few of the photographs:
To give some perspective of how close I was to the wolves, that last picture is hardly cropped--it's 6,500 pixels across!
Visiting the zoo in the Winter has its challenges. It was 18 degrees and windy...and my fingers were stinging from the cold. But, not having to deal with field trips and large crowds makes it well worth any discomfort.
The Basilica of St. Josephat was the last stop of my trip to photograph Wisconsin architecture. I was very fortunate to have this magnificent interior to myself for about 90 minutes! I've photographed nearly 200 places of worship and this Milwaukee Basilica ranks high on my list.
Here are a few of my favorites from the visit:
Having lived in the Chicago suburbs for most of my life, it's kind of surprising how little time I've spent in nearby Milwaukee. This brief trip opened my eyes to some amazing architecture. I had no idea that Milwaukee City Hall was the tallest structure in the United States upon its completion. And, the dome of the Basilica (pictured above) was the second largest dome in the nation upon completion--second only to the United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
I recently participated in a photography event at the Chicago Botanic Garden. 25 photographers were granted private access to the Orchid Show. This event was coordinated through the Out of Chicago photography community.
Not only did we have 2 1/2 hours of access to the exhibit before it opened to the public, but we were also allowed to use a tripod. The tripod provided me with a number of advantages:
The only downside to this level of access is that it required me to leave my house by 5:30 am to get to the Chicago Botanic Garden on time!
For several of my pictures, I blended exposures using different aperture settings. Quite often, I would capture one image wide open and a second image at a very narrow aperture (f/22). During post processing, I start with the wide open exposure to achieve the soft, blurred backgrounds that could not be achieved with a narrow aperture. However, with the wide open exposure, I usually wasn't able to achieve enough depth of field to render the fine details of the flower in focus. So, I then stack the narrow aperture version of the picture on top of the wide open one--and brush the sharp detail into the frame only where I need it. In my view, this blending approach provides the best of both worlds--an overall soft, abstract photo with enough detail in the areas where more sharpness is desired.
CLICK HERE to view my pictures from the show.
Here are a few of my favorites:
All photographs were captured with my Nikon D850 camera and Nikon 200 f4 Micro lens.
While visiting Iceland, I was surprised at how crowded many of the sites were--especially considering that I was there in the middle of the winter. I discovered that many of the locations in Reykjavik were impossible to photograph at sunset due to the number of tourists in the frame at all times. However, the sites were generally clear of people at sunrise. And, getting out before sunrise is easy during winter in Iceland as the sun doesn't rise until 9:00 am.
One location that I hoped to photograph was the Sun Voyager sculpture. However, at sunset, people are lined up to take pictures of each other while they stand next to the sculpture. Many people stand right in front of the sculpture to capture selfies. It's a line of people that doesn't end until the light is gone and the photograph is no longer worth capturing.
So, I returned at sunrise.
The only problem is that the snow surrounding the sculpture had many deep footprints from visitors approaching the sculpture well before sunrise:
In my view, these footprints ruin the image. So, I cleared the footprints as best I could using Photoshop. Note how in the following picture I have activated the upper layer--the one in which I addressed the footprint issue:
And, here's the final image:
I returned the next day and captured a photograph of the sculpture that I like more--because I think the sunrise was more colorful the next morning:
My monthly microstock earnings were $930 for the month of June. This snapped my streak of consecutive months with earnings of more than $1,000. Year-to-date earnings through June, 2018 exceed the year-to-date earnings from June, 2017 by about $393, or 7%.
Shutterstock earnings fell to its lowest level since November. iStock's revenues also fell below the its norm. Fotolia posted its second best month since i started submitting images to that agency. And, Alamy dropped back to zero. I uploaded 25 new files to Alamy just to keep my account alive and active.
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 Old Main Building on the campus of the University of Arizona in Tucson is currently a top seller within my portfolio:
This morning, my "Diamond Beach" 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 a memorable photo shoot. Before going to the beach, our photograph guide instructed us to be sure to always have an escape path from the ocean in case of a big wave. You don't want to have to retreat only to step against or onto a big chunk of ice. Fortunately, I heeded his advice.
After spending a fair amount of time composing this photograph, I was looking through the viewfinder when I suddenly felt an ice cold wave hit my shins. To my surprise, the water also rushed under the sand that I was standing on. I nearly fell as I quickly retreated from the water. I was also surprised to see the large piece of ice starting to slide toward the ocean. This is a dangerous beach and I was relieved to make it safely away from the water.
My waterproof boots were filled to the brim with freezing saltwater. Unfortunately, all of my other socks were back at the hotel and more than an hour away. Our photography guide generously offered to let me borrow a pair of his wool socks. Otherwise, I would have to spend the rest of the day with freezing, wet feet. It took me quite some time to get all of the dirt and sand off my wet feet before putting the dry wool socks on. Once we were back in the vehicle, I told the guide that I would return the socks that night, but that the best I could do was dry them with the hair dryer in the room since there weren't any laundry facilities there. He said that "proper" wool socks don't require washing--and that those socks had not been washed in a couple of years. Beggars can't be choosy, but I wish he wouldn't have told me that!
This is the third photograph from my Iceland trip to win a "Photo of the Day".
This marks the 52nd 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.
In reviewing my Fotolia microstock sales, I noticed that the same photograph sold three times within one minute. Each download was for the same size and price--$5.90 each.
I'm guessing that it was the same buyer, but I am having trouble understanding why someone would purchase the same file three times.
During my Iceland trip, I visited the Hallgrímskirkja church. This Lutheran church is located in the center of downtown Reykjavik. It is a very popular tourist destination.
I arrived at the church just before the doors opened at 9 am. When the church opened, I entered with about 25 other people. I saw it was going to be difficult to capture photographs of the interior of the church without having to contend with a lot of people in the frame. So, I decided to take the elevator up to the bell tower for the aerial view of downtown Reykjavik.
I enjoyed taking a number of pictures from the tower. It's a good thing that I visited the church first thing in the morning, because it wasn't long before it became very crowded. When I first entered the church, I thought that 25 visitors was a lot and that I could patiently wait for the scene to clear. But, that was not to be. The church became more crowded with every passing minute. Before long, at least 100 people were in the church at any given time.
The only way to get up to the bell tower is by elevator. Despite the $9 charge to use the elevator, by 9:30am there were at least 75 people waiting in line to take the elevator up to the bell tower. The elevator only holds 5 or 6 people, so people were waiting 30 to 45 minutes to go up to the tower.
I came back to the church later in the morning and it was even more crowded. I returned in the middle of the afternoon and it was worse.
So, I decided to talk with someone who worked at the church. I explained that I photograph a lot of churches--and that I was finding it impossible to take pictures inside the church with all the tourists. I asked if it would be possible for me to meet someone after the church closed--so that I could get a few pictures of the interior without anyone in the frame. To my surprise, my request was granted!
I came back to the church at closing (5 pm) and was permitted to shoot for 10 or 15 minutes with private access. That was sufficient time for me to get the bigger views of the interior of the building. I was able to capture pictures of the ceiling, sanctuary and pipe organ during the day--even with the crowd.
Later that night, I went back to the church for pictures of the exterior during the blue hour. The crowd was far worse than it was inside the church. Just when it looked like it was going to be impossible to get any pictures (people kept standing directly in front of my lens), I captured this image:
These pictures were taken on a cold weekday in February. I would hate to see how crowded this location is in the summer.
I don't photograph people very often. Once a year, I break out the studio lights to capture some portraits of the youth baseball players that I coach. This year, I'm managing an team of 11 year old players.
When shooting landscapes, most photographers prefer adverse weather to clear, cloudless skies. However, strong wind and sideways rain are enemies of photography.
While in Iceland, I experienced some very unfavorable weather conditions--even for the Icelandic winter. I participated in a photography tour led by Tony Prower. It started on February 20th and ended on February 24th. Here is the weather forecast from the hotel:
Note the 100% chance of rain every day until Sunday. The tour ended Saturday night. One of the tour participants pointed out that just because the forecast calls for a 100% chance of rain for a day doesn't mean that it calls for rain all day. It just means that it is expected to rain at some point during the day. That's true...but here is the hourly forecast that typically appeared:
This was the first time I ever saw a forecast with a 100% chance of rain for each hour over a 48 hour time span. And, take a look at the consistent wind! So, we experienced sideways rain on a regular basis.
One day, we were shooting inside the ice cave at sunrise--so that photo shoot proceeded despite the weather. But, once that photo shoot ended at 10 am, we were unable to leave the hotel for the next 24 hours.
One might think that this is typical of Iceland in the winter. Iceland certainly has its share of adverse weather conditions, but this was an unusual streak of bad weather even according to the locals.
Here's how the weather forecast looked for the days after we left Iceland!
A few things helped offset the miserable weather:
In the end, I was pleased with the photographs that I captured during my visit. To view my favorites, please click here.
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