Welcome to the seventh edition of Behind the Frame.
The behind the Frame post features wildlife and landscape images from wildlife photographers who share some of their thoughts, whether from an artist or technical point of view, behind their image. I still feel that one of the best ways to learn and be inspired is to look at other peoples images and get some insight as to the how, what and why. In the spirit of sharing we then share links to their websites so that you can see more of their work.
If you are keen to contribute check out this post for details. For now, here goes with this week’s images from the following photographers:
– Guy Dekelver
– Marcelle Robbins
– Anthony Robbins
– Gerry van der Walt
African Fish Eagle by Guy Dekelver
Canon 7D, 300mm, 1/1000, f/18, ISO 1000
Lake Baringo, Kenya
Lake Baringo must be one of the best places in Kenya to get a shot of an African fish eagle in flight.
I must admit, I find the baiting a bit dubious, yet I guess most of these going-in-for-the-catch shots are taken that way. It would take an immense amount of luck and time to get such a shot right otherwise. On this particular morning, although we were early, the eagles didn’t seem to get into action and we met 2 boats on the Lake who came back frustrated, we actually saw the guides calling for the eagle, yet without it making any attempt to move.
When they left, our guide got into action and he clearly spoke the eagles language in a better way, since it set off. It is by the way great to watch the action unfold without a camera, I’ve done that before and I can highly recommend it.
When you do want to get a shot of the action though, I would recommend not to follow the guide’s instructions. They would tell you to focus on the fish and to wait for their count to release the shutter: 3 … 2 … 1 … and fire away, in my case that has always resulted in a nice pair of legs holding a fish belonging to a bird that already left the frame. It might work for you, yet it doesn’t for me. What works for me is to dial in a high enough ISO and a small enough aperture to then trust your servo auto focus, or to dial in similar settings (in this case ISO 1000 and f/18), manually pre-focus on the fish and follow the bird as he approaches, to then fire away and pan along as he catches the fish.
Next time I’m in Baringo, I will go with the shutter seed priority setting, since 1/1000 seems to be just right to get the bird in focus and the fast moving wing tips slightly blurred, which to me gives this shot a slight edge. This actually highlights how fast their wings are, shot at 1/1000 and still blurred. Talking about fast, know your equipment and be prepared, since the moment they leave their lookout, there is very little time left till the actual catch.
Nice anecdote on this shot is that the bird actually missed the fish, to swiftly turn around and have a second go. It was in the moment of turning around that this shot was taken. One final thought, this shot was taken with a 300mm prime lens, yet depending on the fish throwing skills of your guide, that might be too long, since if the fish ends up too close to your boat, no way you will manage to make the eagle fit within your frame, something to consider when deciding on the equipment you plan to carry to get this type of shot.
– Google +
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Wow Dad! What Big Teeth You Have by Marcelle Robbins
Canon 10D, 425mm, 1/100, f/9, ISO 100
Mabula Game Reserve, South Africa
So most of us will agree that equipment does not affect the outcome of your image. I guess today when you look at the advances even in small hand held point and shoots, it’s quite true. Right moment…great image! So yes, we can’t blame equipment for a bad image. What happens though when the equipment you use poses a problem all on its own?
I shoot with a Canon 10D. It was launched in 2003 so its 9 years old. Its a 6.3 mega-pixel camera with an ISO of 3200! It was quite modern and revolutionary in 2003. Last we checked it was a safe bet that more than 50 thousand images have run through this camera.
With this particular shot I used a Sigma 170-500mm lens launched in 1993 and is 19 years old. Don’t get me wrong, old stuff still works that’s for sure, especially if all is fully functional! Actually even old stuff that’s not fully functional can work too.
This 170-500mm lens is quite a challenge to shoot with. Here is an example of the challenge I have with this lens. It sends the wrong messages regarding light readings. I have to shoot at ideally F6.7 on a bright sunny afternoon for it not to blow all the whites to kingdom come. F 16 gives me a solid white image. I can’t shoot higher than an ISO 200 because this old camera throws out noise like confetti. At F6.7 I don’t get the most ideal depth of field for these kind of shots. So what do I do?
Do I simply put all the equipment away and give up? Never!
I accepted the challenge set by my aging equipment. Using light metering to help get a larger depth of field, F9.5,and locking it in manually using my thumb, I steadied my camera so that 1/180 shutter speed my camera decided on could be used as effectively as possible. I kept my ISO at 100 to reduce noise PLUS underexposed by 2 stops to make sure I didn’t blow any whites and still pick up the blue tones in the water. Then I waited for the right moment ignoring the burn in the thumb.
Eventually after much patience, settings adjustments and finger cramps I managed a good few images that I could try work with. They were good enough to share on my wildlife page and our followers really enjoyed it, which made me quite happy.
The best part about it all…. I didn’t let 20 year old, dysfunctional equipment get me down. I identified the challenge and tried really hard to work around it. I still have some things I need to try to perfect, to get it to work better but it’s still fun trying. After all, the whole time I’m trying, I’m sitting next to a pod of hippo’s in a peaceful section of bushveld, in the best office in the world. I think I can deal with aging equipment.
Moral of the story. Try not to let things get you down. Especially if you cant change it. Rather try to find a way to work around it. At the end of the day, you should just be enjoying PHOTOGRAPHY as a whole instead of just photographs.
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Sun Go-Away by Anthony Robbins
Canon 1D MIII, 1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 100
Mabula Game Reserve, South Africa
If anyone else was with me the day I took this photo they would have burst out with laughter.
I was driving around late afternoon by myself looking for nothing really in particular when I stumbled across this scene. I have to say that what I could see from the driver’s seat was not quite what the final photo looks like. I had the tree, the 2 birds on the tree and the sun somewhere behind. From the low angle, the sun was at a really high angle from the tree and birds and just about no way to get it behind the birds or tree.
Now this is where things become really funny as well as I guess dangerous. I moved the vehicle into the correct position as to line up the tree, birds and sun. Note that at this stage the sun was still nowhere near the tree or birds and I had to raise myself up and change the angle in order to get the sun behind the tree and birds. So, I started to climb up the side of the open vehicle, camera/lens in one hand and the other hand a firm grip on the round bars of the open vehicles canopy. I couldn’t seem to get into the correct position no matter where I stood on the vehicle. I needed to lift myself up slightly higher or rather much higher. So balancing myself, standing on one leg on the top of a head rest, holding tightly with my left hand so as to not fall off and then using one hand lift, aim and fire away some shots to get the right composition.
Now the weight of the camera and lens start to come into play. Try holding your camera with 400mm lens on with a stretched out arm, not supported and see how much fun it is. Now taking aim, more or less, I took some more images then stopped for a rest, check images, re-adjustment of legs/arms as well as camera settings and then fired away again. After about 65 photos I had what I was looking for as well as some sore arms and legs.
My one armed, balancing trick photo camera settings were f5.6, shutter speed 1/1000. I wanted the shutter speed high because of the balancing going on. My ISO was set to 100. I did also use spot metering so I could get a reading off the background colours. In processing very little was done as I had more or less what I wanted in the camera. I played with my levels slightly and sharpened.
Now, I know while reading all of this you are wondering why I did all the climbing etc and just not wait for the sun to get lower. Well, I saw what I wanted and went for it. Yes it was risky but in the end I was happy with the outcome. I also don’t know what the light would have been like later or if the birds might of flown away so I took the opportunity handed to me.
I know this has been mentioned in previous photo chats by other photographers much more qualified than I am, but stop always worrying about who/where/how and use what is given to you. This was given to me, ok I had to do a little climbing, but I hope I made the most of it.
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Storm Brewing by Gerry van der Walt
Nikon D300, 1/800, f/5, ISO 160
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa
Sometimes a striking wildlife image does not have to be too busy, intricate or have a funny description.
Sometimes a simple composition, little bit of texture and amazing light is all you need
Sometimes you can simply shoot what you see.
Until next time.
Gerry van der Walt
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