Archives for August 2012

Excellent Photo Adventures…Alaska Brown Bears 1

Each August a group of intrepid adventurers and I head to the Alaskan wilderness to photograph the coastal brown bears during the salmon run.  I time our adventure to be at “peak” fishing time to maximize our time working the bears as they work the rivers and streams catching fish and fattening up for the winter…

Nikon D4, AF-S 70-200mm 2.8 VR II ISO 800 f5.6 @ 1/500

 

There is nothing like the power of a bear running full out to catch a fish.  It’s amazing to watch and even more amazing is that what appear to be  big lumbering creatures can be so quick on their feet to catch a slippery salmon as it follows it’s natural path from the ocean back to the place of it’s birth to spawn and die…

Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR, TC-14E II ISO 1400 f8 @ 1/1000

 

Life moves at a different pace in the Alaskan wilderness and we must be patient, just like the bears, as we wait for the fish to arrive and the frenzy to begin.  Unlike most photographic locations, our activity is dictated by the tides rather than the light.  Alaska has some of the largest tides in the world and timing is crucial.  A big incoming tide floods the rivers to overflowing, pushing both photographers and bears to high ground.  An outgoing tide must be monitored to avoid grounding our boat.

Each day would find us at the river’s mouth at either the incoming or outgoing tide which is when the fish move into the river to spawn and then get caught in pools as the tide recedes providing the bears with a rich banquet of salmon.  We became familiar with one local resident, “Red”, who seemed to have taken over the river chasing lesser bears away from his own private feeding hole.  In fact Red became out barometer for the week.  If he was lolling lazily on the sandbar, he had likely already fished the early morning tide and wasn’t likely to move much other than to stretch here and there…

Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4, TC-20E III ISO 800 f8 @ 1/250

 

If Red wasn’t fishing we would take a spin around the bay to see what other wildlife we could aim our lenses at.  The break from fishing bears provided us with many other wonderful photographic opportunities.  We worked the Harbor Seals hauled out on the rocks.  It’s amazing how their coloring blends into the rocks providing camouflage…

Nikon D4, AF-S 70-200mm f2.8 VR II, TC-20E III ISO 200 f5.6 @ 1/125

 

A few friendly Sea Otters allowed us to get close enough to photograph…

Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR, TC-14E II ISO 400 f8 @ 1/350

 

A flock of Black Turnstones flew onto the beach one day providing us with an opportunity to add a new species to our files.  I got low to the ground to blur the background making the bird pop against the background that hides it so well…

Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR, TC-14 E II ISO 2200 f5.6 @ 1/750

 

A newly fledged eagle posed with it’s catch of the day, a tasty octopus…

Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR, TC-14E II ISO 800 f8 @ 1/1000

 

While one of it’s parents watched from a nearby tree…

Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR, TC-14E II ISO 1600 f8 @ 1/1000

 

We even had a Red Fox escort us to the boat one morning providing those who had their cameras ready with a brief photo opp…

Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR ISO 1600 f8 @ 1/125

 

With typical Alaska weather, exposure can be a challenge.  When photographing from a boat while handholding a telephoto lens or trying to stop action, a fast shutter speed is needed.  One minute we would have bright overcast, the next our exposures would drop several stops as the clouds hid the sun and showers were the norm for the week.  I found myself using Auto ISO with a desired shutter speed selected as the emphasis for the camera changing the ISO as needed.

We certainly had a variety of subjects to photograph all week but, our main focus was the bears, fishing bears to be exact and we weren’t disappointed.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Pennsylvania Shuffle…Philly

After a wonderful, albeit brief, visit with friends and family in the Burgh, we headed to Philadelphia to see more friends and some of the local sights.  I had heard about Eastern State Penitentiary and Graffiti Underground from reading Denise Ippolito’s blog and was anxious to check it out for myself.

Eastern State Penitentiary was built in 1829 and continued to operate until 1970 when it was abandoned for the next eighteen years and left to fall into a wonderful state of disrepair.  It is now open to the public for tours or to wander around at your leisure.  Some areas are being restored while others are blocked off due to hazardous conditions.  We spent several hours exploring the nooks and crannies that were open.  It’s a fantastic location for a photo shoot.  They are very photographer  friendly with a small fee to bring your tripod in and they even open up for special tours.

I liked the solitary feel and body language of this tourist taking a break.  It fits the mood of the location and all the graphic lines lead your eye to the lone person who is nearly centered in the frame…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR ISO 200 f16 @ 1/8 sec

 

There are so many repeating shapes, graphic patterns and leading lines to be found.  In order to make this image I had to place my lens right up against the chain link fence and open my aperture to make the fence disappear and be able to photograph the closed off cell block…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR ISO 200 f4.8 @ 1/8 sec

 

I was drawn back to the dentists chair in one of the cells several times, working different compositions considering both B&W and color as possible final output.  Back in the digital darkroom I worked some magic using NIK Color Efex Pro 4 and came up with the image that I felt best reflected my vision of the scene…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR ISO 200 f16 @ 1/3 sec

 

A stop at the 30th Street Station where Frank began his illustrious career at Amtrak to see if anyone from the “good old days” was around proved that time moves on and things change as there was no one left.  I did take time to make a fisheye image of the interior of the station to add to my growing portfolio of train station images…

Nikon D4, AF 16mm 2.8D Fisheye ISO 200 f22 @ 1/7 sec

 

Philadelphia is filled with history and along with that history are wonderful old buildings and churches.  I love photographing the old buildings reflected the the glass of modern skyscrapers.  In Philly, there is no shortage of subjects to work…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR ISO 200 f22 @ 1/30 sec

 

Following the directions I had pulled off the web, we headed to the Graffiti Underground, an abandoned pier with cement pilings covered in graffiti in an industrial part of Philly.  After about a five minute walk we arrived at the site and I began making some images…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR ISO 200 f22 @ 1/7 sec

 

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR ISO 200 f32 @ 4 sec

 

Unfortunately, there was a shady character who followed us acting suspicious, ducking behind the pilings when we looked up and yet making it obvious that he was there so, we packed up and headed back to the car more concerned with our safety than photos.  It really is a wonderful location that I would love to re-visit and take time to explore the photographic possibilities but, personally, I didn’t feel comfortable with only two of us there.

All too soon we were packing up and heading back home with fond memories and new images for the files.  A quick turnaround in Portland and I’ll be heading back to Alaska to photograph coastal brown bears during the salmon run.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Pennsylvania Shuffle…The Burgh

A quick trip to the east coast to meet our new nephew, Joey, see friends and family and generally get away is always a perfect chance to visit local locations to find photographic opportunities.  I had never photographed Pittsburgh at night so, Frank took me up to Mount Washington with a view of the city.  We parked near a circular overlook that was straight across from downtown Pittsburgh and I made a few images with the reflections in the water…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR ISO 200 f8 @ 6 sec

 

While I liked the composition, it just didn’t say Pittsburgh to me.  Yes, there are a few iconic buildings that let the viewer know it is Pittsburgh but, something was missing.  I grabbed my camera and tripod and moved on up the road, past the end of the “viewing” area and beyond.  After several blocks I found what I was looking for; the junction of the three rivers (the Allegheny, the Monongahela join up to form the Ohio) that meet in downtown Pittsburgh and some of the bridges that cross over them.  The famous joining of rivers gave me the landmark that was missing in the first images…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR ISO 200 f8 @ 8 sec

 

Whenever we visit downtown Pittsburgh I am drawn to the PPG building with its acres of glass.  I could get lost in the reflections for hours…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR ISO 200 f8 @ 1/500

I am drawn to the vibrant colors…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR ISO 400 f8 @ 1/125

 

And the graphic patterns…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR ISO 400 f8 @ 1/250

Not a lot of time to do much shooting but, what time I did manage to squeeze in was fun.  After a few days in “The Burgh” our next stop “Philly”.  Stay tuned.