Monday, February 18, 2013

A Million Goose Opportunity

The Omaha World Herald reported that one million Snow Geese were visiting Squaw Creek NWR in Missouri.  Mid-February is usually very cold in the Midwest so the shallow water at Squaw Creek in normally completely frozen.  I didn't want to miss this opportunity.

Photographers cannot get very close to the geese.  The only road open to the public runs around the perimeter.  The geese stay in the middle so they are never very close.  The one way road around the geese is ten miles long.   If you leave your position for a better view, you need to travel all the way around to get back if you were wrong.  

It is extremely difficult to take a photo that captures the noise and chaos when a million geese take flight.  The chaos is three dimensional so it's also impossible to get the entire group in sharp focus with a telephoto lens.  The truth is that they are more fun to watch than to photograph.

It's difficult to fly next to a million panicked  geese.  Occasionally an unfortunate goose tumbles out of the sky.  In the fall, Bald eagles join the migration to enjoy the goose dinners.   There were a few eagles present, but not many compared to the fall.  I did spot a Northern Harrier checking out a carcass.  When I moved my lens to photograph it, it immediately took off.

I was pleased to find Trumpeter Swans much closer to shore than the geese.  They are huge and need a long runway to take off.  I've seen the Snow Geese many times but I've never seen this many swans before.   I spent the majority of my day photographing them. 

While I watched the swans, several American Tree Sparrows were in the weeds between me and the water.  They were a challenge to photograph because they spent most of their time out of the view of my lens.   

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Simple Still Life

I've set up a small photo studio in my basement.  This week I added a brown background that I will use for low key portraiture.  I decided to test it out using some interesting pears that I found in the supermarket.

If I've been successful, the three pears in my image will look like they were randomly placed on a table.  I wanted lighting that looked natural - like the light from a north window.

It's easy to place the pears in a random arrangement.  It is much more difficult to pose them.  They kept falling over and rolling around.  I wanted their red blush to be visible.  I wanted their "pear shape" to be apparent from camera position.  I wanted the stems to show but I didn't want them pointing to the edge of the fame.  I also wanted each pear to be different in pose and in height.

I needed to light the pears so that they had highlights that weren't to specular and shadows that weren't' too dark.  I positioned a 48" Octabox  very close to the fruit and as far to the front it could go before blocking the camera.

I took a few test shots and decided that I also needed a background light.  I used a battery powered speedlight with an umbrella.  I posited it so that it didn't spill any light onto my subject.    I  could have used a third light or reflector to put a little more light onto the pear on the left.  I didn't because I needed the shadow to know it's uneven surface.  

I used Lightroom to complete the process.  I cropped the image a bit.  I added a little negative clarity to make the pears look softer.  I  added a vignette to make the edges slightly darker.