Fallow Deer, Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen

in Shooting reports, Wildlife Trip Reports by on October 26th, 2010

Due to a rather busy diary, I haven’t found much time to go out wildlife shooting this year. I managed a short trip to the Hoge Veluwe in September to catch the rut, but that was about it. So I was happy to have some free time to pop off to the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen this past weekend.

Around this time of the year the fallow deer at AWD are ready to start their rutting activities (Bronsttijd in dutch), and when you walk through the park you will hear the distinctive sound of their burling. Unfortunately it is often only the noise that you hear, and a lot of the deer remain out of sight in the dense woodland.

So I set out on Sunday, a little later than I had hoped, to try and find some deer willing to be photographed. The weather was clear and not cold, completely opposite to the weather forecast that had suggested the day would be a wash out, and I took a picnic along with me which I was able to eat under the trees.

Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen, October 24th 2010

As usual, walking along the concrete roads in the AWD gives very few results, save for the occasional deer running in front of you, but if you take some of the pathways through the wood, your chances of meeting a herd of deer greatly improve. The deer I ‘met’ seemed to be making a lot of noise, but didn’t seem quite ready to rut just yet. Maybe if I plan another trip over there this weekend I will be luckier. I did come away with the picture in this blog post, of a young fallow deer, which I was happy with.

When I make these trips, I prefer to be mobile on foot, so the really big lenses stay at home. This time I took my D3, the Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G VR, and mounted a tc-14e teleconverter to give me 420mm of focal length. Normally I will shoot from hand, but this time I used a monopod as the light was a bit lower. The shot posted here was shot at 1/320s @ f/4, iso1400. Just as a side note, although the deer in nature reserves are often more used to people, they are still easily startled. I always try to dress in a subdued manner (normally wearing camouflage) and stay down wind of the animals. That way I am able to sit and observe them for quite some time.

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Safari Photography: Supporting a big lens

in Shooting reports, Technique, Travel, Wildlife Trip Reports by on May 30th, 2010

I’ve been lucky enough to visit South Africa a couple of times now, and knowing what gear to take is always the big question before I leave. In discussing this with other photographers, through my blog, and on forums, one question that people often ask me is what sort of camera support system they should be using whilst on the safari vehicles.

Often the initial thought is something along the lines of, ‘I’m taking a big camera lens, therefore I need to take the heaviest tripod that I own in order to support that lens.’ A logical way of thinking if you are intending to sit in the bushes for a day to wait for your prey to approach. Problem with that in Africa is if you sit in the bushes for any length of time, you’re likely to get eaten by a lion 🙂

You might also think that the safari vehicles will have enough space to mount a tripod. However, even if you are lucky enough to have a whole row to yourself, mounting a tripod is not going to be practical. Asides from the fact that there isn’t enough space in the footwells to put the tripod up, the rough ground you may be traveling across will quite likely throw the tripod outside of the vehicle, lens and body along with it.

So what is the solution? Well, you will probably be either shooting from the window of a 4×4, or traveling along in a typical safari vehicle such as the one in the following image (passenger normally not included….)

As you can see from the construction, it is a very open setup, designed to give the most flexible vision in any direction. You may be sharing your row with one or two other people, or you may have it to yourself. The way I work, when shooting with one of my big guns, such as the 200-400mm or the 600mm, is to take along a couple of bean bags with me. The most useful one I have is around 20cm (8″) square, and has a velcro fastening on it. The first day I arrive in Africa I go to the local supermarket, and buy around 2.5kg of maize or dried beans, and fill the bean bag up with this. They only cost around 2€/3$, so it’s not worth taking up 2kg of my luggage allowance to bring them with me from home. I then have a very flexible solution that I can use to support the lens, either on one of the chair supports, or on top of a fellow passenger body part. It is very easy to quickly change from one side of the vehicle to the other, without having the hassle of moving a tripod, monopod, or other support system, and easily gives enough support to get sharp images.

The bean bag solution also works well if you are shooting out of a car/4×4 as it will rest on the opened window, or, if you do have the chance to shoot from outside the vehicle, on top of the car roof. (Edit: the following image was not taken standing outside of a vehicle, as I value my limbs too much….)

All animal shots in this article taken with the D3/600mm, using a bean bag support, at the Krugersdorp game reserve, Johannesburg, South Africa.

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Giromania reaches Amsterdam

in Shooting reports, Sport by on May 8th, 2010

Vasil Kiryienka

Today the first stage of the 2010 Giro d’Italia started in Amsterdam with an 8.4km time trial. With just under 200 starters, the cyclists kept the streets of Amsterdam busy for over 3 hours. I went out with the D3 and my 200mm f/2G VR lens and took some photos along the Ceintuurbaan in Amsterdam de Pijp.

Maciej Bodnar

It was the first time I had tried shooting a cycling race, and I learnt some valuable lessons:

– It’s better to shoot wider and crop later

– Shoot in full manual mode, and keep an eye on the light levels. Don’t rely on aperture or shutter priority modes, as this will mess you up

– On the D3, use AF-C, turn focus tracking off, and use the 9 AF area mode – 51 3D can confuse the camera too much

– Keep the ISOs up as the light drops – remember you need a shutter speed of at least 1/500s to freeze the action (unless of course you are planning on doing some panning with slow shutter speeds, but I wasn’t in the right location for that)

– Placing your self on a bend is a good place to get some shots as the cyclists slow down. However make sure you get there early to get a good spot (which I didn’t)

Here is a short slideshow of some of the images I took. More are online at http://bit.ly/8XuYJw

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Super Bikes Championship, Assen

in Shooting reports, Sport, Travel by on May 3rd, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I was given the opportunity to visit the Super Bikes Championship at the Assen TT Circuit in Holland, as part of a corporate sponsorship package we had purchased. Of course I was more than happy to go along, as long as I was able to take my gear with me 🙂

Although I pleaded with the organisers to get me a place in the press pit, it appears our Gold Club sponsorship didn’t quite give us that many privileges, so I ended up shooting from one of the tribunes. I was lucky to be able to get a seat on the second row just near the final bend, so, although I was a bit higher than I would have liked, I was able to capture the action as the riders were leaning over to take the bend.

I decided to travel to the venue fairly ‘lightly’ so ended up just taking my D3 along with 300mm f/2.8G VR, TC-14e, a 24-70mm f/2.8G for general shots, and my Gitzo monopod. As it turned out, I needed to use the teleconverter with the 300mm, but then it was just the right focal length to get frame filling bikes, after a slight crop in post processing. (I find with this sort of photography it is always best to be slightly wider, and crop later, rather than fill the frame in camera and risk chopping the nose or the tail of the bike).

The weather was great on the day of the race, but unfortunately this meant I was left shooting at relatively high shutter speeds, since I wanted to keep my aperture fairly wide. This meant that I wasn’t able to blur the movement of the wheels to introduce the sensation of speed, and I had to avoid taking too many shots where the bike just looked stationary on the track. Luckily from my vantage point I was able to get shots of the riders leaning into (and out of) the curve, so at least the spokes of the wheels weren’t visible.

Panning the action was not so easy from the height I was sitting in the stand, so I was glad I could use the monopod for some support, and I finished the day with a number of shots I was happy with. Getting press credentials for these sort of events is next to impossible unless you are representing a media publication, but at least I now have some images that I may be able to use to blag my way in next time….

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Romany in the Studio

in Shooting reports, Studio by on February 28th, 2010

For a while I had been wanting to do a shoot in the studio using mirrors. Rather than using them as a way of getting light into the photo, I wanted to use them as a prop in the photo itself, so I invited Romany from Model Mayhem to come along one afternoon, so we could try some things out. Romany wanted to update her portfolio as well, and brought along Natasja to do her make up.

My intention had been to position the model in front of a mirror, and then stand behind her so that I would be able to shoot both the front and the back of the model in the same shot. However we soon worked out that since mirrors are very good at reflecting whatever is in front of them <g> it was going to be hard to get the pure white background both in front and behind the mirror.

So for the first shots I positioned Romany at right angles to the infinity background in the studio, and asked her to hold the mirror so that the infinity background reflected in the mirror, giving the effect that I wanted.

Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to get any full length shots, due to the reflections around the studio that got into the mirror….

Take a look in the mirror

The second thing I wanted to try was to have the model leaning on the mirror. Since we have a white linen ceiling in the studio, it was fairly easy to get the effect I wanted, so with a bit of Photoshop to clean the images up, I was happy with the shots.

All in all, it was a successful afternoon. Thanks to Romany for the modeling, and Natasja for the excellent hair and makeup!

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