Thinking Outside Of The Box

Lens profile correction added in Lightroom
Lens profile correction not added

Are lens profile corrections always necessary? Take a look at the two photos above. You tell me which one looks better.

If you are like me, when I edit a photo I automatically add a lens profile correction to the image when it is imported.

When it comes to post-processing your photos, I don’t think it’s always necessary to correct for the lens and as a matter of fact, sometimes you can improve the image quality by not correcting for lens distortions and vignetting.

What you talking about Gary?

First, I think it’s always a good idea to remove visible chromatic aberrations from the image. You know, those red, blue or green lines on the edges of objects in the photo. Some lenses are better than others when it comes to this; however, all lenses are not the same and some of my lenses introduce no noticeable CA. If CA is not visible, there is really no reason to remove it. When you click that remove CA button, the editing software will shuffle pixels to make it look cleaner. Every time you shuffle pixels in your image, you reduce the effective resolution of the lens. No way around it.

Lens distortions can be obvious in some images. Buildings or objects geometry can be obvious but it can also not be noticeable. You may want those trees to align vertically on the edges of the frame, fair enough. Go ahead and correct it. But, sometimes your image will have no obvious distortion due to the subject matter and content of the composition. Every time you click the correct lens geometry the image is re-sampled and those pixels get shuffled. Every time you reshuffle the pixels in your photograph, you lose resolution. If there is no obvious geometric distortion in your photograph, why shuffle the pixels to correct it? You’ll be hard pressed to see a difference. If you examine your shot up close, that small loss of image clarity can be noticeable though. If you can’t obviously discern a problem with distortion, why correct for it?

How about vignetting/shading? Some lenses will produce a visual drop-off in brightness as you move towards the corners of the frame. There are several things at work here, but vignetting is the most obviously visible artifact. If it bothers you, remove the vignetting. Keep in mind though, further editing to reintroduce that vignetting is going to shuffle pixels. When you shuffle pixels in the image, you lose resolution. No way around it. Plus, adding vignetting back to an image that has been corrected is making two corrections for something just to get back to where you started. Why correct it to begin with? You can manually shade the corners if you like but you don’t need to reshuffle pixels to do it.

I add vignetting to a lot of my images. It draws the eye into the frame. It’s an age-old photographic technique. You really need to decide for yourself if you need it or not, but if you do want it, don’t correct for it. Let the lens do the talking and reduce the number of steps in your workflow.

Read any lens review and they will tell you how easy it is to correct for CA and distortion in post processing.

It’s even easier to not make the corrections, and the visual results can be exactly what you where hoping for to begin with.

Think outside the box.

Pending Approval

Mallard Drake and Hen Wading in a Stream Near a Rock

I’m back to my normal office routine for a few days. This time of year, I typically wait for shifting weather patterns before planning a photography outing. I like to get out before or after a snow storm as the clouds and general environment tend to add to the esthetics of wildlife photography.

While I wait, I sift through my catalogs for stock photos. I have enough material to keep me busy for a couple of years.

What I normally look for is nicely lit, sharp images of animals and such that I’ve skipped over on my first reviews. I tend to take my photo editing in stages. Find the standout photos first, develop them and then move them out into circulation as soon as possible. When one has catalogs that contain 10,000 or more photographs, it’s quite easy to glide on by good shots so for me, re-examining these catalogs is like going through the couch cushions looking for loose change. I have lots of loose change in those couch cushions too. These little hidden gems are plentiful and it’s a great way for an old guy like me to turn them into coffee cans full of quarters.

Here’s a shot from 2013. I was working along Clear Creek near the Coors brewery in Golden, Colorado for a few days. Lots of waterfowl along the creek, I managed quite a few usable photos of ducks and other birds.

Mallards are probably the most common waterfowl to find in these parts and as such they tend to be a little less exciting to photograph. But, one thing I’ve learned is that any nice photo of wildlife is a potential earner as buyers aren’t interested in my subject selection bias, they are simply looking for a good photo of something they need.

Before I kick the bucket, this photo could earn me a hundred bucks or so.

I uploaded this image and several others to the Stock agencies this morning.

It’s pending approval.

Deer in Colorado

A short while back I began posting small collections of wildlife photos of the different species of animals found in Colorado.

Photography trips and personal life caused me to pause briefly but today I’m picking up where I left off. I’m thinking perhaps once a month as the Winter settles in, I’ll resume the practice.

I’ve been working on deer photos this past week. I’ve got a ton of them and they do sell so here’s a collection I’ve spooned from the bowl. Some of these shots have been published in the past but a few I’ve never shared before.

Colorado has two species of deer, white-tailed and mule deer. The mule deer are the most common that I encounter but the white-tailed can be found almost as easily. One of the great things about Colorado is the variety of wildlife that live within shouting distance of my home.

So, today you get some deer action for your viewing pleasure.

 

Mule deer doe on a forest road in the rugged Colorado back country.
Mule deer buck on a frosty morning at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
Young mule deer doe near Turkey Creek, Colorado
A group of white-tailed deer doe moving through a frosty field at sunrise
Mule Deer Buck, moving through the woods of Northern Colorado
Mule deer fawns nursing their mother
Two mule deer bucks sparing for mating rights
Herd of mule deer having breakfast on a cold, foggy morning.
Mule deer doe watching the sun rise on Mt. Falcon
Deer waking up on a cold winter morning in Colorado
White-tailed buck watching the sunrise
Two young mule deer bucks on a cold, snowy morning

Photographing the Buffalo

Photograph of a buffalo
Buffalo at RMA National Wildlife Refuge Near Denver

I have a love/hate relationship with RMA National Wildlife Refuge.

I love the wildlife photography available there; however, I hate the fact that it’s a miserable drive to get there for me. Being on the exact opposite side of the Denver-Metro area from my home and considering the best photographic time to be there being sunrise and sunset, that means I have to drive across the congested city during rush hours. Yuck.

Once there, all is well.

The “Arsenal” has quite a bit of good quality wildlife to photograph. Mule deer, white-tail deer, coyote, prairie dogs, foxes, bunny rabbits, white pelicans, ducks, geese, great horned owls, burrowing owls, hawks, eagles, great mountain backdrops, lakes, ponds, woods. Who could ask for more in the way of a one stop nature photography location?

It’s easy to get into a photographic rut at the Arsenal though. A common refrain is “who needs more photos of deer and sticks?”

My approach has morphed over the years. I tend to concentrate on getting good stock photos there, based on what sells well. One of my more popular wildlife subjects on the stock agencies are the buffalo. I still call them buffalo too, because that’s what they were called by the people who were here before us.

Buffalo are not as easy to photograph as you might imagine. Yeah, they are large and often times fairly close to you, but they aren’t the most dynamic animal and their behavior isn’t always that exciting. But, they are an American Icon and like bald eagles, they represent our heritage, so you can bet on a good buffalo shot making a little cash.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced getting good, sharp images of these critters is due to the fact that buffalo fur plays havoc with the camera’s auto-focus system. That thick, wiry, low contrast fuzziness of buffalo fur drives a camera’s auto-focus crazy and my hit rate for critically sharp images of buffalo is measurablly lower than it is for other large ungulates as a result.

Here’s an animal that I can honestly say I do better with using Nikon cameras than I ever did with Canon bodies. Canon’s auto-focus tends to be a little more unreliable in this situation.

When I switched to Nikon from Canon a few years ago, I immediately tried using the same focus techniques on the Nikon bodies that I had used on the Canon bodies. Single or small group spot focusing, focus and recompose. I wasn’t really seeing any improvement at first but then I discovered the 3D tracking mode on the Nikon cameras and it opened up a whole new range of improvement in my results.

I’ve always been aware of 3D tracking, but my experience with it was nil at first, so I shied away from using it thinking it was a gimmick or something. My habits were stuck in Canon mode.

In a nutshell, he’s how it works for me.

Those high precision cross-sensors in the camera are what you want to be using. The 3D tracking on the Nikon bodies allows you to point that high precision point at the part of the animal you want to be critically sharp and it will track that point with good reliability. With wildlife, that would be the eyes of the animal in most cases. Using 3D tracking, I can put that little focus square on the eyes of the buffalo and then follow the critter as it moves using continuous focus mode and simultaneously frame the image for a suitable composition without having to do much more than keep an eye on what that sensor square is doing in the viewfinder. The focus point I set tracks the point on the animal as the composition changes. So long as that point is tracking in the viewfinder, and this is what you have to pay attention to, I have a critically sharp image based on that focus point. That tracking point can wiggle a little, and sometimes it drops off to something else. The trick is to watch for it losing the spot and quickly re-establishing that focus point. If the focus point moves off into the fur, you can bet that there’s a better likelihood of that image not being critically sharp. Canon doesn’t give you this, it’s much more operator intensive. Yeah, the precision is there, but it’s much easier to lose that critical sharpness because Canon bodies don’t track that well in 3 dimensions while the camera and subject are moving.

I’ve been using 3D tracking for almost all the large animals I photograph now and it’s been giving me excellent results.

What I also discovered over the past few years teaching workshops is that most Nikon users aren’t aware of the benefit of 3D tracking. Most I’ve encountered haven’t even tried it, so I try to enlighten them on the functionality and improved results I see from using it. If you’re a wildlife photographer shooting Nikon, I strongly suggest you give 3D tracking a go. It’s not for everything though. It’s not as effective with flying birds and other smaller moving critters, but for deer, elk, bighorn, buffalo and other large moving objects such as automobiles and trains, it will improve your auto-focus hit rate.

And improving your in focus hit rate is improving your profit.

A Lost Cause?

iPhone Photograph of real cameras.

I take the time to browse the internet photography web sites a few times each week. I like to keep up with trends, new equipment, tips and such.

Here’s the thing though; and I’ve written about this in my “Consumerization of Photography” article a while back, mobile devices seem to have taken over the photography press world, at least the mainstream photography press.

Today for example…

DXO Mark, 12 of 15 camera articles on their welcome page relate to cell phones and/or mobile devices.

DP Review, over a dozen cell phone related articles featured on their welcome page but in all fairness they do talk about other subjects from time to time.

PetaPixel, at least 6 featured articles on their news page are related to smartphones and mobile devices.

So what does all of this mean?

To me it tells me that these sites have lost the plot. They’ve allowed stories of marginal photographic devices to supersede their original concept. To my way of thinking, mobile devices are not what photography is about. Sure, these devices contain cameras, but as photographic tools they are consumer goods and not really what the art is about.

This won’t be happening on my blog, I can promise you that much.

Though I may write about equipment or trends from time to time, my focus is going to be about sharing my life’s experiences as a photographer. My blog is about photography and how it relates to me and my world and hopefully you’ll find some common ground or interests with my interests.

I will not acquiesce to the consumerization and selfie world that has overtaken the photographic press these past few years. My advertising, what little there ever is, will be about me and what I have to offer and I’ll never sell out to Google, Amazon, Best Buy or Apple.

YAWN!

Mobile devices are useful but the images they make are MUZAK to my ears.

So long as I’m a photographer, my photography blog will be about the subject of photography, not commercial/consumerism or fanboyism.

I promise you.

 

The Photographic Cycles of Life in Colorado

American, Bison, blue, buffalo, bull, calf, coat, Colorado, cow, fur, generically, grass, heavy, herd, hoofed, horned, large, mammal, nature, plains, prairie, pure, seasons, sky, snow, tall, thick, trees, ungulate, water, wild, Wildlife, Wyoming
American Bison at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

By mid-October, Winter weather begins its grip on Colorado. As a matter of fact, it’s snowing as I type this. Our first noticeable snow storm of the season here in Denver.

The warm season doesn’t last long here at high altitude. Mountain folk think of Denver and the Front Range dwellers as “flat-landers” to a certain degree.

Being a flat-lander doesn’t dial us suburban folks out of the mountains though. And it certainly doesn’t prevent us from experiencing and photographing wildlife. My primary residence is in the foothills on the South West side of the Denver metropolitan area and for me to get into the mountains is not much trouble. Living in the Denver area provides us locals with plenty of wildlife to photograph.

A popular location is the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, about 20 miles north-east of downtown Denver, near Denver International Airport.

My next photographic cycle of the season will involve returning the Arsenal for photographs of deer, eagles, hawks, coyote and bison. All of these subjects are worthy of the effort, as I sell quite a few stock photos of these critters. Most popular among them are the bison.

One of the “holy-grail” photos I’ll be after will be the snow covered buffalo. I have a few, some better than others, but there’s always a better shot to get and I will put forth the effort to find that new and better snowy buffalo.

I still call them buffalo too. Techincally speaking buffalo aren’t really buffalo. As every pedantic wildlife enthusiast in the area knows, they are American Bison, but who cares. Nobody ever heard of Bison Bill. He was called Buffalo Bill and he’s buried on top of Lookout Mountain near my house.

I read somewhere that there are over 500,000 buffalo in the United States, the majority of which are actually domestic livestock that are genetically a mix of regular cattle and buffalo. Buffalo meat is tasty and ranchers breed the buffalo with cattle to make the animal more docile and easy to manage in large numbers, though you’d be hard pressed to look at one and know if it’s a Beefalo or a Buffalo.

We have a number of genetically pure buffalo in the state though. The Arsenal herd is a genetically pure herd, so I try to keep it as authentic as possible and go for the pure species specimens.

So with all those happy thoughts evoked, my next goal is the Buffalo.

Grand Finale

Another season of Autumn Photography comes to a close here so I thought I’d put together a gallery of some of my personal favorite Autumn Landscape Photographs from my journeys through Colorado over the past 10 years.

It’s difficult to choose which images to include as I have close to 500 commercial photographs, but this selection represents my personal photographic vision.

Fine Art Print of each of these photographs and others are now available in my online Fine Art Prints sales gallery.

With the holidays rapidly approaching, now is the time to order the gift of art. You may visit my print sales gallery by clicking the link below.

Gray Photography Fine Art Photographic Prints

 

Autumn Blizzard Near Telluride, Colorado
Owl Creek Pass Near Ridgway, Colorado
The Sneffels Mountain Range and the Ralph Lauren Ranch Near Ridgway, Colorado
Misty Morning Near Crested Butte, Colorado.
Long, Tall Aspens on Kebler Pass, Colorado
Sunrise Mist on Kenosha Pass, Colorado
The Last Dollar Ranch Near Placerville, Colorado
Crystal Lake on the Million Dollar Highway in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.
Autumn Road Near Ironton, Colorado
Sunrise Frost Near Red Mountain Pass, Colorado
Pond on the Ralph Lauren Ranch, Colorado
Winter and Autumn Collide on the Dallas Divide, Colorado

Originality in Photography

Autumn Scenery in the Beautiful San Juan Mountains of Colorado

In this article, I explore the concept of the “blue jelly bean” of landscape photography.

Understanding the importance of originality in your art.

Article now available in my Photo Articles