Thursday, December 30, 2010


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Monday, November 1, 2010

Lighting Zoo and Aquarium Exhibits

This Electric eel, Electrophorus electricus, was photographed with a 10-22mm. Canon lens at 22mm. More photos can be viewed here.

Many people have asked me over the years how I shoot indoor zoo and aquarium exhibits.

Lately I've seen photo submissions from aspiring photographers who have simply tried to take advantage of improved noise reduction in the current crop of Digital SLR cameras while pushing their camera's ISO into unacceptable realms. I'm afraid 3200 ISO is not going to be acceptable to any photo editor, art director or photo agency unless you've captured something that no one else can duplicate. In short, I am a firm believer of keeping your ISO at your camera's lowest possible setting.

To light indoor zoo and aquarium exhibits use a strobe. Yes, you can use the pop-up strobe built into your camera. In this case I used the Canon 430EX Speedlight, set to TTL, mounted on the camera's hot shoe with a diffuser. In either case I shoot in Manual mode, usually with the shutter speed set at it's maximum synch speed (1/250 sec in this case) to eliminate the unwanted color temperatures of the exhibit's artifical lighting sources. The lens aperture will usually be the smallest f stop (in this case f 13) in can get for the light output with the diffuser on. Your camera's LCD will give you exposure feedback in each situation. If your image is too dark at f16 (underexposed), open up the aperture. If your image is too light (overexposed), close down the aperture. Pretty soon, you'll be getting the repeat experience you need so you can dial in the f stop quickly.

The other trick to avoid reflections is to make sure your lens is touching the exhibit glass. If you have a subject really close to the glass, you still can shoot it if you get your strobe off the camera on a TTL cord to the hot shoe or by using a wireless TTL strobe trigger.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Testing New HDR Software

Just downloaded Nik HDR EFX PRO software for a free 15 day trial. This image was from my very first test drive. I'm impressed. You will not believe the amount of control you have over the image output with their "U Point" feature:

with "U Point® technology, you can make precise selections to easily fine-tune and enhance specific areas of your image."

Sunrise through Florida Slash Pines, Pinus elliottii, Everglades National Park, Florida

More of our Everglades images here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Different Perspectives

To capture what remains of the Key West shrimp fleet at first light, we set our alarm clock for 4:00 A.M. and drove the 90 miles south in darkness. We had a good idea where to find the old shrimpers as we had done our homework even utilizing Google Map's satellite imagery.

Arriving in dim pre-dawn light
, we located the rusting boats and grabbed our camera gear. I opted for the Canon 10-22mm while Therisa took off in the other direction with the Canon 100mm. Soft first light draped the shrimp boats. 30 minutes later the best light was gone but we each had our images. It was fascinating to see our different perspectives on the same subject, proving to us once again the importance of our teamwork.

More of our Florida Keys images here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Granddaughters In The Pool

Once in awhile it's simply good to get out of your comfort zone and try something new, with the helpful cooperation of two of our beautiful granddaughters.

Manual exposure ISO 100, 1/250sec at f 11.

12 year old Maxine from Montana on the top and our 3 year old Florida Keys mermaid Anya on the bottom.

Friday, May 21, 2010

These Owls Have An Attitude!

Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia) are amazing to observe and photograph. What does it take to get these shots? First and foremost, respect for the wildlife. Never pressure the animal to get the shot. With that in mind it takes a lot of patience while crawling on all fours and laying flat on our tummies looking through a long telephoto lens mounted on a tripod. We learned much from our first attempt and plan to return soon hoping to capture the fledglings emerging from their burrow.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Coral Restoration Photo Assignment

Background image on the opening page above is by our photographer David Fleetham

Our photo assignment on Coral Restoration for National Wildlife Federation's Ranger Rick magazine, May, 2010 issue. While we had photographed this on assignment for another magazine a couple of years ago, this time was very special as it involved young divers harvesting endangered staghorn coral from an underwater nursery and transplanting the coral to a damaged reef site. This is, without a doubt, the most gratifying photo assignment we've ever worked on from the standpoint of subject matter. Our editor and staff at Ranger Rick magazine, once again proved to be the absolute best to work with! For more information see:

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Prop roots of a Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) at low tide, Key Largo, Florida.

We are constantly challenged to create unique images.

How can you make your photography stand out in the crowd?
A fresh perspective on a common subject sometimes does the trick.

In this case, instead of laying down in the wet low tidal zone, I lowered the camera to the ground and without even looking through the viewfinder shot a series of images with the Canon 10-22 lens at 10mm. hoping to get some relatively straight horizon lines which I could crop straight.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Daybreak Fun

We live on a small island (Plantation Key, Florida) and we keep scouting for new locations.

It's quite a challenge, as most of the waterfront land is privately owned and inaccessible.

We found this site a few weeks ago and thought we would give it a try this morning.

Three shot HDR merged in Photoshop and post processed in Photomatix.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Shooting An Earth Science Textbook Cover in Florida?

5:00 A.M. alarm clock wakens us to a 65 mile drive south through several rain downpours in the predawn darkness.  Thirty minutes before sunrise we arrive at our destination: the bare, weather eroded limestone that is the remnant of a fossilized coral reef.  Low tide is on our side, the 20 knot wind is not.  We get to work cautiously scouting locations on the slick rock among the tide pools. A wonderful red mangrove will make a fantastic backdrop, but we realize that HDR isn't possible in this wind.  We photograph it anyway, knowing we can utilize some digital post processing magic to make the image work. Thirty minutes later, it's over and we've captured nearly 1 GB of camera RAW images. Black coffee tastes really good!

The impetus for this photo journey?  For their Florida Adoption a textbook publisher needs a Florida location with obvious Geology for an Earth Science textbook.  This photo need has plagued them for weeks.  Florida is not a state known for dramatic geological features.

P.S. The mangrove photo is a "manual" HDR made from two frames, one 2 stops underexposed and the other 2 stops overexposed, combined in Photoshop, then processed through Photomatix

We shot both vertical and horizontal as we were told there was a possibility of a wrap around cover.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Horizontal and Vertical

A couple more shots from New Year's morning shoot at Everglades National Park.

I absolutely love creating images like these. Unfortunately years of photo marketing experience has taught me that there is not much sales potential for these in the world of publishing. Fine art prints? Perhaps, but we don't deal in that realm much.

Whatever. Sometimes it feels absolutely wonderful shooting creatively instead of constantly being concerned about "what sells". Nevertheless, I did learn a long time ago to work a subject both horizontally and vertically, always forcing myself to recompose in the viewfinder before walking away.

So even if shooting these for enjoyment, I'm no fool. I cover my arse and compose several verticals as well.

Covers photo sales pay more.

Canon 100mm macro lens, ISO 100, exposure 1/200 at 6.3.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year's Morning

We've long held a New Year's Day tradition, photographing a location in Everglades National Park at daybreak. It's wonderful as we set our alarm for 4:30 AM and depart at 5:00 AM. There's no one on the roads and we have Everglades National Park nearly to ourselves. This was taken at dawn, January 1, 2010 near the Long Pine Key campground area.

Camera on a tripod with shutter release cord and mirror lockup to minimize vibration. Canon 10-22mm lens at 22mm, ISO 100, exposure 1/100 at f8.