Sunday, November 22, 2009

Red-Tailed Hawk Photo Shoot Walkthrough

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Infinite Possibilities, Part 5

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Infinite Possibilities, Part 3

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Infinite Possibilities, Part 2

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Infinite Possibilities, Part 1

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Monday, October 26, 2009

A Few Favorite Nature Photography Books

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Subject is Not The Subject

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Beyond Good and Bad Subjects

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Apparent Perspective and Focal Length






























Many photographers think focal length affects perspective. They think wide angle lenses exaggerate perspective, and telescopic lenses flatten perspective.

Technically speaking, that's not true. All focal lengths show perspective identically.

Some of you might be thinking, "But I've seen exaggerated perspective with wide angle lenses and flattened perspective with telescopic lenses". So, what's going on?

Here's the way it's actually working:

In order for a wide angle lens and a telephoto lens to exactly fit a subject of the same size (such as a yardstick fitting exactly across the length of the frame), the wide angle lens needs to be closer to the subject than the telephoto lens. If we wanted to exactly fill the frame with a yardstick, using a 24 mm lens on a 35 mm format camera, we'd need to be about 2 feet away. To similarly fill the frame with a yardstick, using a 600 mm lens, we'd need to be a little over 49 feet away.

Now imagine there's a second yardstick, a blue one, two feet behind the first one, which we'll say is yellow. As you photograph the yellow yardstick with the 24 millimeter lens from 2 feet away, the blue yardstick will be 4 feet away – twice the distance from your lens – which means the blue yardstick will look half as large as the yellow one in your picture. By comparison, when photographed with the 600 millimeter lens, the blue yardstick is 51 feet away – about 4% farther away than the yellow yardstick 49 feet away, which means it will look 2% smaller in your picture.

Thus, while all lenses actually show perspective the same way, the way we use lenses, due to their focal lengths, gives us the appearance of different perspectives. The way wide angle lenses usually get used (comparatively closer to subjects) appears to "exaggerate" perspective; the way telephoto lenses usually get used (comparatively farther from subjects) appears to "compress" perspective.

If you used both the 24 mm lens and the 600 mm lens from 49 feet away, and then cropped the 24 mm picture down to where it covered the same area as the 600 mm picture, then compared the two shots side by side, you'd see that the perspective in the two pictures is identical.


View East of Tioga Pass, Near Yosemite National Park, California

All pictures and text are © Mike Spinak, unless otherwise noted. All pictures shown are available for purchase as fine art prints, and are available for licensed stock use. Telephone: (831) 325-6917.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Imagination and Ambition

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Disclosure

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tools of the Trade

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Great Egret and Chicks














































Since several people have requested for me to discuss the stories behind making my pictures, here it is for Great Egret and Chicks.

Every year, many dozens of snowy egrets and black crowned night herons, and a handful of great egrets, come around the beginning of March to nest in the palm trees by the duck pond at Palo Alto Baylands (previously the Palo Alto Yacht Harbor). Usually the birds nest in the thick of the trees, where views and photography are blocked by palm fronds. This particular great egret nest was positioned so as to be more accessibly viewed than all the others, with only one frond blocking the nest from view. By standing back far enough, and getting up high enough, it was possible to achieve a mostly clear view of the nest behind the frond.

In early Summer of 2005, the mating pair of egrets which resided upon this nest, having already successfully raised one pair of chicks, had a second clutch of three chicks. By early July, the chicks were big enough to stick their heads above the nest, and mature enough to become more active toward their parents and each other. At this point, I came as often as I could, so as not to miss the spectacle. I'd get up early in the morning, put on my Kinesis pack with my 1,200 mm set-up inside (Canon EOS 1Ds Mark 2, with a Canon 600 mm f/4 IS L lens and a Canon 2x teleconverter), carry my eight foot tripod (Bogen 3051) in one hand and a large footstool in the other, and make the short trek to the nest. I'd set up as far back as I could, with the footstool right up against the eroding muddy edge where the land dropped off into the marsh, behind me. Then I'd extend my tripod to its tallest setting, and mount my camera and lens. Once set up, I'd stand on my tip-toes on the footstool, press my eye to the viewfinder, rest one arm along the top of the lens, and wait for the right moment.

For the right moment to happen, several factors had to come together. There was often morning fog, and – for the shot to work – first the morning fog had to burn off. This could happen anywhere from early morning to mid-afternoon. But, due to the direction of the clearing for viewing the nest, it was only possible to get the shots I sought before noon. After that, the nest was in shadow, with harsh backlighting streaking through the palm fronds. If the sun came out early enough, and the wind didn't sway the nest (or my giant lens) too much, then – in order to get the picture I sought – I'd also need the egrets to be active. Most of the time, the chicks napped, while one parent stood guard, and the other parent was out hunting and fishing. When one parent would come back from the hunt, the other would immediately take off; meanwhile, the chicks would wake up, demand food, and be fed (in a surprisingly brief instant).

When everything came together as I liked, I took this picture of the chicks demanding food from the newly arrived parent.

Thanks for visiting.


Great Egret and Chicks (Ardea alba), Palo Alto Baylands, California

All pictures and text are © Mike Spinak, unless otherwise noted. All pictures shown are available for purchase as fine art prints, and are available for licensed stock use. Telephone: (831) 325-6917.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Secret of Stalking Wildlife

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mysteries of Nature: Fire and Ice

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Value of Projects

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Answering Some Questions

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Compositions Rules Problems, 2

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Composition Rules Problems, 1

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Examples of Artistic Communication

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Language of Art

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Content, Part 1

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Brief Note About Content and Communication

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

First Light, Mono Lake



















Since telling the story of the picture was well received, with First Snow, Yosemite Valley, here's another – the story of First Light, Mono Lake.

This Picture was taken at exactly 5:00 A.M., in May 2004, with a Canon EOS 1Ds camera and a Canon 24-70 millimeter f/2.8 lens.

I had been traveling along Highway 395 for a week with my friend, Steve, photographing the Eastern Sierras in the late season snow. We arrived at Mono Lake the evening prior to this shot, much later than we had intended. This had been my first visit there since I'd taken up photography, and we only had about 10 minutes to reconnoiter the area before dark, to plan for our dawn shot the following morning. I rushed around the South Tufa area in those last few minutes of light, compass in hand to keep track of precisely where the sun would rise.

I found and chose this spot, then left to return in the early morning. It didn't look like much in the pale post-sunset waning light. The formation was spectacular, but it was not complimented by the flat light which made it blend into its surroundings; and the choppy water obscured all traces of reflection. Nonetheless – compass in hand, I envisioned it darkly backlit and sharply contrasting with the bright surrounding water, reflecting the morning sunlight; and I envisioned better reflections as long exposures in the dim early morning smoothed the water's chop.

I wanted it to stand out in stark isolation. I wanted the picture to convey how fantastic and other-worldly this structure is. I wanted the break of day upon these tufa towers to express a sense of the primordial.

I rarely choose to shoot toward the sun on the horizon. The light is usually more interesting facing the direct opposite direction, or a sidelong direction. Further, silhouetted shapes usually have to be very engaging, indeed, for silhouette photos to work. In this case, however, the shape of the tufa formation was certainly strong enough.

When I showed up at the spot during the beginning of morning twilight, I didn't think the conditions looked very promising. I had hoped for more clouds in the sky, perhaps with a nicely detailed pattern, to reflect the colors of the rising sun's light. Nevertheless, I set up my composition according to my plan from the previous evening, and hoped for the best.

In the last few minutes before the sun's first appearance, the few wisps of cloud on the edge of the horizon thickened and drifted closer, greatly improving the photographic potential. As the light developed while I waited for the peak moment, it became clear that the never-the-same-twice light variables of dawn's light were presenting me with a significant photographic opportunity. The character of this dawn's light had three qualities that I found exceptional, and wanted to incorporate into my picture: First, it separated each element of the scene clearly from the other elements, while showing each element as a simplified and very coherent form. Second, it had numerous distinct bars of color and tone, each on top of the next, extending in horizontal strips across the sky. Third, it had every color of the rainbow visible, but in an unusual, un-rainbow-like pattern.

I made some quick compositional readjustments in order to optimally work with these special lighting characteristics, toward my desired expressive ends, and, in excited anticipation, took the shot.

Thanks for reading this.


First Light, Mono Lake

All pictures and text are © Mike Spinak, unless otherwise noted. All pictures shown are available for purchase as fine art prints, and are available for licensed stock use. Telephone: (831) 325-6917.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

First Snow, Yosemite Valley













































It's been suggested that readers would enjoy hearing the stories behind the pictures. So, here's the story behind my picture, First Snow, Yosemite Valley.

In Autumn of 2003, I came to Yosemite Valley to photograph the Fall foliage and then the ice formations at the start of Winter. At first, the weather was unseasonably warm and dry. The daytime temperatures were in the upper 80s Fahrenheit, and even the overnight lows were warm enough for comfortably walking around without a jacket. The earth was parched, and the sky was thick with the yellow haze of dust and campfire smoke.

Then, on the evening of Halloween, the weather changed in an instant. The haze disappeared, a chill wind blew, and billowing clouds, rose colored in the day's last rays, piled up high on the edge of the sky. The next morning, the world was white with an eight inch thick cover of snow.

I was out photographing before dawn, excited to shoot as much as possible, before it all melted and disappeared. (In patches, it had melted entirely by mid-afternoon.) I chose to take a picture which emphasized the meadow's leaning grasses, laden with sticky, granular snow, because this shows the unique character of a first snowfall of Autumn. The snow would melt away, then fall anew, several times more, before it finally heaped into a blanket that remained for the season – but the grasses would already be entirely crushed flat before the next snow fell, irreversibly changed until next year's new growth. In this way, the picture shows a brief slice of time, and hints at the many special ways that only the first snowfall transforms the land.

While towering granite cliffs are iconic of the Yosemite Valley, they are mostly excluded from the picture, to focus on a more intimate sense of the changing of the seasons. After a little while waiting for the fog to rise a bit, the rising fog outlined the trees and obscured the granite valley walls, and gave a sense of the seasonal weather and evanescence.

Photographed with a Canon EOS 1Ds, and a Canon 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens.

If you enjoy reading the stories behind the pictures, and would like more, please let me know. If you'd rather I stick to other topics, instead, I'd like to hear that, too.

Thank you, Rhonda Harrison Cole, for suggesting posting about the stories behind the pictures.


First Snow, Yosemite Valley

All pictures and text are © Mike Spinak, unless otherwise noted. All pictures shown are available for purchase as fine art prints, and are available for licensed stock use. Telephone: (831) 325-6917.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Allure of the Intertidal Zone

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The Perils of Nature Photography

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Giving and Receiving Criticism

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ordering Fine Art Prints




























All of the pictures shown in the Naturography blog are available as fine art prints.

To purchase a print, please either email me at mikespinak(@)naturography.com (remove the parentheses), or call me at (831) 325-6917, to discuss your choices for sizes, finishes, and the like.

The prices for my fine art prints are as follows:











For prices for canvas prints, add $60 to the prices listed above.

Thank you for your consideration.



All the details:

• Prints are on Fuji Crystal Archive paper

Fuji Crystal Archive is a true, light sensitive, silver halide photographic paper. I choose Fuji Crystal Archive paper for my prints because it's the highest quality for photographic reproduction currently available.

• Matte or glossy finish

Glossy is a very smooth finish which has slightly higher contrast, making the colors appear a little more saturated, and making fine details appear slightly crisper; but it is a little harder to see the picture, due to reflections and glare. Matte is a finely stippled finish with a touch lower contrast, saturation, and apparent detail; but it is easier to see the picture, because it is less reflective.

• Sizes refer to paper size, not photo size

Photo paper comes in standard sizes. My pictures are not always in the same height-to-width ratio as the standard paper, and therefore not always the same size. Prints are made onto the closest available standard sized paper upon which the picture will fit, with a border around the edges.

• Border color

Border colors on the photo paper around the image can be white, gray, black, or the color of your choosing. The default is white.

• Signature

I can sign in pen, pencil, or digitally as part of the picture, itself; front in the bottom right corner, or on the back. (Pencil is only available as an option on the back.) Each picture will also be dated and numbered, on the back.

• Shipping

The shipping charge is not included in the price listed above; it will be added separately. You can specify which carrier, and what kind of shipping you want, and I will do my best to accommodate you. My charge will be the actual shipping cost.

• Copyright

Your print purchase does not include any licensing nor transfer of copyright. It does not entitle you to duplicate this photo, neither as a print nor digital file. If you would like to license copyrights, please contact me and we can make the arrangements.

• Questions and/or special needs

If you have any questions or special needs, please feel welcome to call me or email me, and I will be happy to discuss them with you.



Here's what people have to say:

"Your extraordinary talent has never been more evident than in your haunting and heartwarming Sleeping Sea Lions series.

I'm impressed with the technical skill required to capture these animals in intimate slumber, but I'm blown away by the empathy and vision that drove you to document them from this uniquely powerful perspective.

I love the muted blue and gray palette and the juxtaposition of velvety textures and intriguing "scar-scapes" ...and I never get tired of looking at them. These lush, peaceful images touch my heart so much that I redesigned my bedroom around them.

Thank you, Mike, for creating these... they're simply amazing."

Liss Sterling


"I love the photo... Thanks so much for your wonderful artistry!"
Tamera Goldsmith


"I am very proud to have this hanging pride of place in my house."
Geraldine Dukes

"I love the print of ours that graces our walls!"

Kasia Hopewell




Sleeping California Sea Lions

All pictures and text are © Mike Spinak, unless otherwise noted. All pictures shown are available for purchase as fine art prints, and are available for licensed stock use. Telephone: (831) 325-6917.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Minimizing Shake When Photographing Handheld

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This blog post can now be found at http://naturography.com/?p=81

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Obtaining Maximum Sharpness, Part 6

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Obtaining Maximum Sharpness, Part 5

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Obtaining Maximum Sharpness, Part 4

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Announcing The Naturography Business Page on Facebook

First, a picture of the day – Since it's my birthday, and since I'm announcing the "birth" of the Naturography business page on Facebook, here's a picture of a Clodius Parnassian butterfly emerging from the cocoon, stretching its new wings as they fill with hemolymph:





This is just a very brief post, to let you know that I've created a Naturography business page, on facebook.

http://www.facebook.com/naturography

The Naturography business page will show pictures and status report updates, announce blog posts (here), announce print specials, announce instructional offerings (workshops, seminars, private instruction, photo critique, books, and so on), and will be a convenient place to contact me.

Please feel welcome to "Become a Fan", so that you can follow my newsfeed on Facebook.

I hope to see you, there.

Thank you.




Clodius Parnassian Butterfly Emerging from Cocoon

All pictures and text are © Mike Spinak, unless otherwise noted. All pictures shown are available for purchase as fine art prints, and are available for licensed stock use. Telephone: (831) 325-6917.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Obtaining Maximum Sharpness, Part 3

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This blog post can now be found at http://naturography.com/?p=56

Thank you for your interest.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Obtaining Maximum Sharpness, Part 2

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This blog post can now be found at http://naturography.com/?p=56

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Announcing The Naturography Forum On Facebook

First, a picture of the day:





This is just a very brief post, to let you know that I've created a Naturography discussion group, on facebook.

http://groups.to/naturography/

The Naturography forum will serve as a place for people who want to talk about and show nature photography, and for people to view it. I'd like this to be a substantial and lively group for both nature photographers, and enthusiasts who want to look at nature photography. Beginner or advanced, creator or viewer, a passion for nature photography is enough.

It is a place to get your questions answered, to explore ideas, to get your pictures seen and perhaps critiqued, to report sightings (birds, wildflowers, butterflies, fungi, etc.) and to read sighting reports, to find valuable information, to see inspirational photos, to learn and share and have fun, and to meet other nature photographers and enthusiasts.

While the Naturography forum is ostensibly for specifically nature photographers, a lot of the discussion is much more broadly applicable, and may be of interest to photographers in any field.

I'm striving to make it a truly excellent nature photography board, with meaningful discussion and content for every level of photographer from the most beginner to the most advanced. If you'd like that, too, then let's bring this group to life and make it something special. Please come and participate, and please invite other nature photographers and other appreciators of nature photography.

I hope to see you, there.

Thank you.




American Avocet Flock with Reflections

All pictures and text are © Mike Spinak, unless otherwise noted. All pictures shown are available for purchase as fine art prints, and are available for licensed stock use. Telephone: (831) 325-6917.

Obtaining Maximum Sharpness, Part 1

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This blog post can now be found at http://naturography.com/?p=56

Thank you for your interest.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Rebirth of the Naturography Blog

First, I'd like to share a picture of the day. Since this post is about the rebirth of my blog, I'm showing a picture of the birth of an elephant seal.





After more than a year since my last entry, I am bringing back the Naturography Blog.

The long interval since the last post was due to a few reasons. One was a broken heart. Another was that I was looking for a better photo hosting solution, and a better blog hosting solution – and I viewed the use of this blog site as temporary, until I set up a better solution, elsewhere. Also, I've just been busy, and the dealing with the blog software, in order to get the text and pictures and links posted and looking right, was time consuming.

I'll now be giving this blog more priority, and posting more regularly. I'll probably be making the posts a little shorter and a little more simply designed, on average, but I will be keeping the content high. There will be a lot of interesting material, for anyone who likes making nature pictures, or just likes looking at them.

At some point, soon, I'll be re-doing my website, and then transferring the hosting for this blog, and for its pictures, to my own site. Until then, I hope you continue to enjoy it here.

As I revive this blog, I have several new offerings in the works. I'm writing a nature photography how-to book; I'm creating workshops, in addition to the private instruction I already offer; I'll be offering webinars, photo criticism, and also fine art print specials. I'll keep you updated, as these offerings develop.

Please come back, regularly, and tell any friends who like nature photography to come and check it out.

Thank you, readers, for your interest and attention.




Elephant Seal Birth

All pictures and text are © Mike Spinak, unless otherwise noted. All pictures shown are available for purchase as fine art prints, and are available for licensed stock use. Telephone: (831) 325-6917.