FirstLight Workshop

Where's Jay?

Working with Mirrorless Cameras

The globe-trotting, equipment lugging, moment-gathering photographer and the eternal quest on how to make life easier. This is the dilemma for both the aspiring photographer and the working professional, reducing the footprint (weight and size) but not the quality of the image.

As the technology in digital photography makes huge strides, the life of the photographer should be made easier. The sensor technology is amazing today, and quality of images has never been higher. Also, speed of the gear is fantastic and shooting high frame rates with almost no slow down allows the digital photographer to stay with the subject until they are able to capture the moment.

Banded sea krait, Niue, South Pacific Olympus E-M1, 7-14mm f2.8

Banded sea krait, Niue, South Pacific                    Olympus E-M1, 7-14mm f2.8

However, the bane of the photographer continues to be the weight and massive size of today’s DSLR cameras. Carrying a modern single lens reflex can become an aerobic activity: 4-5 pounds of camera with a lens the size of a cricket bat does not necessarily incentivize the photographer to carry that gear for extended periods. It’s not only the weight; in many places the last thing I want to do is carry, and exhibit, large and obviously expensive gear. The smaller “equipment footprint” I can make, the more I can disappear into the background. Large and cumbersome cameras can “intrude” on a situation-I’d rather be invisible as a photographer in many shooting environments, and most of today’s DSLR cameras take this possibility into the other direction.   Working in many locations (both domestically & abroad) the more I can look like a tourist, not a pro the better, along with lessening the chance of theft or other negative happenings.

Wave breaking in front of iceberg, Canadian Archipelago

Wave breaking in front of iceberg, Canadian Archipelago       E-M1 50-200mm

There is a new paradigm in camera equipment today: younger photographers are essentially NOT carrying heavy & cumbersome DSLR cameras anymore.   I think in part because they’ve grown up with cell phones as their image making gear. Another appealing aspect of the mirrorless systems, as their footprint and ergonomics are so much less intrusive than DSLR cameras.

Water pump, Kachhpura village, India Olympus E-M1

Water pump, Kachhpura village, India                                                        Olympus E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

I’ve been shooting with the Olympus OM-D system since its release in 2012. This is one of the mirrorless cameras, called so as the mirror “box” has been eliminated and replaced with an electronic viewing system. The most obvious benefits of this design are less weight and smaller size which equals more ease in carrying. As the thought goes, what is the best camera to own? The one that’s in your hands when you need it. And, by creating this very light-weight system, the camera is most often with me when those photographic opportunities arise.

King penguin breast feathers, Gold Harbour, South Georgia E-M1 50-200mm

King penguin breast feathers, Gold Harbour, South Georgia                                        E-M1 50-200mm

Add to this formula the sensor size of the “Micro-Four Thirds” system, adopted by Olympus and other companies in the Micro Four Thirds consortium. Lenses also become much, much smaller due to a sensor about half the size of a full sensor camera. This allows the lenses not only to be much smaller, but effectively “doubles” their effective length. (We still use the 35mm equivalence as the measurement formula for thinking about lens-length.)

Marrakech, Fanatchi furnace fueler E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Marrakech, Fanatchi furnace fueler                                                                                       E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Side mosque near the Taj Mahal

Side mosque near the Taj Mahal                                                                                            E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Much of my work these days is with National Geographic Expeditions, Workshops and Adventures, which often involves global travel to places far off the beaten path. My requirements/preference for equipment is heavily based around extremely-high quality, portability and light weight. Travel today, if you haven’t noticed, can often involve minimal space on aircraft, gate agents who don’t follow the “international carry-on regulations,” and a fight for what little space is available on that aircraft. The photographer really has to either minimize the size of their equipment, or be prepared to bid adieu to their roll-aboard at the gate and hope (pray) that it not only makes it to the destination, but that it makes it to the destination in working order.

Buck Draney, Dubois, WY E-M5 14-150mm

Buck, Dubois, WY                                                                                                     E-M5  14-150mm

 

When I work, I always carry two cameras: one with a wide-angle zoom, the Olympus 12-40mm & the other with a telephoto zoom, the 40-150mm. Both these lenses are quite fast, f2.8 throughout the range, which allows me to work in all sorts of lighting conditions, varying from bright to minimal available light.

Full moon over Smith Island E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Full moon, Smith Island E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

By doing this I’m actually minimizing the amount of gear I carry. Instead of a bag full of optical choices (lenses) I use these two lenses to accomplish almost all my photography needs. If a specific wildlife or sports shoot, the dynamic does change and I’ll use the appropriate super-telephotos for those assignments. But, these two lenses really allow me to work almost any situation, and by not having the weight of an accessory bag on my shoulder, I’m able to move and react much more quickly to just about any photographic situation.

I shoot primarily for publications that demand the utmost quality of the image, but the newer photographer is also looking for high quality images. Whether posting on a photo-sharing site, publishing ones own book or printing to hang on the wall, celebrating your latest adventure, the smaller camera is much more likely to be in your hands when opportunity knocks!

 

Bedouin, Petra, Jordan E-M1 12-40mm

Bedouin, Petra, Jordan E-M1 12-40mm

 

 

Also -check out “My Shot”, which is a photo sharing site hosted by National Geographic. This site provides a monthly theme/assignment to all participants. It’s a creativity inspiring process, as many photographers submit images (3 per month) to the site, which are then edited down to a select group and published in a layout on the website.   http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com

 

Saunders Island, Falklands (Malvinas) E-M1 12-40mm

Saunders Island, Falklands (Malvinas) E-M1 12-40mm

Quality is amongst the top criteria for my equipment as well, and I’ve found that this system can deliver files that allow me to print to quite large sizes, up to 30 x 40”. Images of the quality required for publication are easily accomplished, as I shoot RAW exclusively. I’ve also found that, to achieve the best image, the proprietary RAW reader really gives me the ultimate quality. Shadow detail and highlights seem to be those areas most benefitted by the manufacturer’s software. I’ll open the images in my camera’s proprietary software and immediately export that image as a 16-bit TIFF. I’ll either import that into Lightroom, or use Photoshop to open that image as a Camera Raw. This provides me access to the highlights and shadow tools, allowing me to pull in available info in the bright areas or open up the shadows.

CM Ranch, Dubois, WY E-M1 9-18mm

CM Ranch, Dubois, WY E-M1 9-18mm

Take a look at the images posted here, all shot with my Olympus OM-D mirrorless cameras and I think you’ll agree that the quality shines in these images, and they are very realistic for so many types of coverage.

I’m actually heading off soon for a FirstLight photo tour in Namibia, in my ThinkTank Airport Commuter Backpack (we are limited on weight, as well as no “wheelies” on this trip) I’m carrying: three OM-D E-M1 bodies, a bunch of batteries, a flash and these lenses: 8mm f1.8, 7-14mm f2.8, 12-40mm f2.8, 40-150mm f2.8 (along with the MC-14 1.4 teleconverter) and the just released 300mm f4.  In addition to my Singh Ray filters, Acratech ballhead and Lexar memory.  So, I am covered, in the 35mm equivalent, in lenses ranging from 16mm out to 840mm. I weighed the bag – under 20 pounds.



Around the World by Private Jet-March 20 – April 13, 2016

Starting in Cusco, Peru then Machu Picchu, this trip took us to Easter Island, Samoa, Australia, Cambodia, China & Tibet, India, Tanzania & the Serengeti, Jordan and ending in Marrakech.  An amazing trip as always, with photographic surprises at every step. All images shot with Olympus E-M1 with lenses: 8mm f1.8 Pro, 7-14mm f2.8 Pro, 12-40mm f2.8 Pro, 40-150mm f2.8 Pro, 300mm f4 Pro, along with MC-14 teleconverter.

In Kachhpura, India, a school teacher in the Muslim school in the village

In Kachhpura, India, a school teacher in the Muslim school in the village

Vendor at Angkor Wat near Siem Reap, Cambodia

Vendor at Angkor Wat near Siem Reap, Cambodia

Morning near Hanga Roa on Easter Island

Morning near Hanga Roa on Easter Island                                                                         iPhone 6s Plus

Morning on Easter Island, overlooking Motu Morotiri, a rock formation near Ahu Tongariki and the 15 Maoi heads.

Morning on Easter Island, overlooking Motu Morotiri, a rock formation near Ahu Tongariki and the 15 Maoi heads.

Recently I obtained two of the Singh Ray “Hi-Lux” filters, that have pretty much replaced my UV filters.  I always keep a filter on a lens, not a cheap filter as that can really degrade the quality of the photo.  I also like the protection that the filters offer the lens when in the field.  The Hi Lux are amazing, they give a slight “punch” across the visible spectrum, further making that image look as I saw it in my mind’s eye when shooting.

A few of our new 500 best friends who joined us for sunrise over Angkor Wat

A few of our new 500 best friends who joined us for sunrise over Angkor Wat

Moai heads of Tahai near Hanga Roa and one of the canine residents

Moai heads of Tahai near Hanga Roa and one of the canine residents

Vendor at Moai site of Tahai, near Hanga Roa on Easter Island

Vendor at Moai site of Tahai, near Hanga Roa on Easter Island

On the road in between Cusco, Peru and Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley

On the road in between Cusco, Peru and Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley

Young Incan descendant in Sacred Valley of Peru

Young Incan descendant in Sacred Valley of Peru

 

Samoan fire dancers

Samoan fire dancers

Sera Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet-monks head into debating session

Sera Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet-monks head into debating session

Lhasa, Tibet, a pilgrim honors Poltala Palace by prostrating himself a couple of hundred times in front of the sacred building.

Lhasa, Tibet, a pilgrim honors Poltala Palace by prostrating himself a couple of hundred times in front of the sacred building.

Chinese flags line the highway along highway in between Lhasa and airport in Tibet.

Chinese flags line the highway along highway in between Lhasa and airport in Tibet.

Gentleman at "Baby Taj" in Agra, India, the Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah

Gentleman at “Baby Taj” in Agra, India, the Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah

Near Agra, India, the village of Kachhpura

Near Agra, India, the village of Kachhpura

A young girl drinks from village water pump in Kachhpura, India

A young girl drinks from village water pump in Kachhpura, India

Near Arusha, Tanzania, the active volcano, Ol Doinyo Lengai, "Mountain of God" in the Maasai language

Near Arusha, Tanzania, the active volcano, Ol Doinyo Lengai, “Mountain of God” in the Maasai language

Wildbeest migration in the Serengeti of Tanzania

Wildbeest migration in the Serengeti of Tanzania

Wildebeest migration, Serengeti, Tanzania

Wildebeest migration, Serengeti, Tanzania

Maasai giraffe, Serengeti, Tanzania

Maasai giraffe, Serengeti, Tanzania

Elephant travel, Serengeti, Tanzania

Elephant travel, Serengeti, Tanzania

Impala, Serengeti, Tanzania

Impala, Serengeti, Tanzania

Impala, Serengeti, Tanzania

Impala, Serengeti, Tanzania

Petra, Jordan...walking through the Siq, approaching the Treasury

Petra, Jordan…walking through the Siq, approaching the Treasury

Petra, Jordan-goat herd near the Monastery

Petra, Jordan-goat herd near the Monastery

Petra, Jordan-sandstorm around the Treasury

Petra, Jordan-sandstorm around the Treasury

Wadi Rum, Jordan, near to where "The Martian" was filmed, as well as "Lawrence of Arabia"

Wadi Rum, Jordan, near to where “The Martian” was filmed, as well as “Lawrence of Arabia”

Camel train in Wadi Rum, Jordan

Camel train in Wadi Rum, Jordan



Around the World by Private Jet-January, 2016

Inle Lake fisherman using traditional fishing device E-M1 40-150mm Pro

Inle Lake fisherman using traditional fishing net                                               E-M1 40-150mm Pro

I’d received a call from Ford at National Geographic Expeditions early in 2015, asking if I could do two, back-to-back “Around the World by Private Jet” trips. Amazing, incredible, outrageously cool, on and on, but two back-to-back? Then, he mentioned that Myanmar was included on the first trip, so it was an automatic “yes” from me. The old Burma, Myanmar has been on my list of places to see for a long time.

And, Myanmar did not disappoint. From the 3000+ temples around Bagan to the net fishermen and pagodas of Inle Lake, it was a visual sensory overload.

 

Elephant feeding in the Serengeti E-M1 40-150mm w/1.4 converter

Elephant feeding in the Serengeti               E-M1 40-150mm w/1.4 converter

Llama at Incan site of Saksaywaman, near Cusco, Peru E-M1 12-40mm

Llama at Incan site of Saksaywaman, near Cusco, Peru                                    E-M1 12-40mm

The Around the World (ATW) trip visits 10 iconic locations-and does an amazing job of getting one to that great place with a really thorough experience. Plus, the hotels are incredible…most regularly on the Conde Nast “Gold” list of great hotels. Add the incredible food and you have a wonderful and deep experience.

Every reason I signed on with Olympus over 10-years ago is constantly confirmed as almost all my work these days involves location/travel, and as I’ve harped on for so many years, the Olympus OM-D system couldn’t be any more perfect for the travel/location photographer. Lightweight, portable, incredible high-quality, and with a series of real-world lenses that address every need of the pro/high end photographer needing equipment that will fit the requirements of stunning quality…guess it sounds like I’m hooked…

Near Cusco, Peru EM-1 40-150mm Pro

Near Cusco, Peru                                                                                                       EM-1  40-150mm Pro

Young woman at Ahu Tongariki on Easter Island with Moai behind her E-M1 12-40mm

Young woman at Ahu Tongariki on Easter Island with Moai behind her                           E-M1 12-40mm

Aha Tongariki on Easter Island, Moai site E-M1 12-40mm lens

Aha Tongariki on Easter Island, Moai site                                                  E-M1     12-40mm lens

Young couple posing for photos at Ahu Tongariki on Easter Island

Young couple posing “selfies” at Ahu Tongariki on Easter Island                      E-M1 12-40mm Pro

Samoan warriors tattoos being photographed E-M1 12-40mm

Samoan warriors tattoos being photographed                                                                    E-M1 12-40mm

 

Sea turtle, Great Barrier Reef, Australia Olympus TG-4

Sea turtle, Great Barrier Reef, Australia                                                            Olympus TG-4

 

Balloons fly over some of the thousands of the old Buddhist temples

Balloons fly over some of the thousands of the old Buddhist temples        E-M1 40-150mm w/1.4 converter

Bagan region of Myanmar and some of the 1000's of ancient Buddhist temples E-M1 40-150mm

Bagan region of Myanmar and some of the 1000’s of ancient Buddhist temples             E-M1 40-150mm

Bagan region of Myanmar and Buddhist temples E-M1 40-150mm

Bagan region of Myanmar and Buddhist temples                                            E-M1 40-150mm

Inle Lake in Myanmar and traditional fishing E-M1 40-150mm

Inle Lake in Myanmar and traditional fishing                                                            E-M1 40-150mm

Traditional balloon launch near Inle Lake, Myanmar

Traditional balloon launch near Inle Lake, Myanmar                                          E-M1  12-40mm Pro lens

Myanmar woman on Inle Lake, Myanmar E-M1 12-40mm

Myanmar woman on Inle Lake, Myanmar                                                                 E-M1 40-150mm

Pagoda in Bagan region, Myanmar E-M1 7-14mm Pro

Shwezigon Pagoda in Bagan region, Myanmar                                                                                  E-M1 7-14mm Pro

Young monks gaze at interior of XXXX Temple in Bagan region of Myanmar E-M1 7-14mm Pro lens

Young monks gaze at interior of Ananda Temple in Bagan region of Myanmar          E-M1 7-14mm Pro lens

Taj Mahal appears out of morning fog, Agra, India E-M1 7-14mm Pro

Taj Mahal appears out of morning fog, Agra, India                                                     E-M1 7-14mm Pro

Taj Mahal E-M1 12-40mm Pro

Fog lifts on Side Mosque by Taj Mahal                                                                           E-M1 12-40mm Pro

foggy morning at the Taj Mahal, Agra India E-M1 7-14mm Pro

foggy morning at the Taj Mahal, Agra India                                                     E-M1 7-14mm Pro

Visitors at Taj Mahal E-M1 7-14mm Pro lens

Visitors at Taj Mahal                                                                                        E-M1 7-14mm Pro lens

Two sisters discuss being photographed at Agra Fort in India E-M1 12-40mm

Two sisters discuss being photographed at Agra Fort in India                                           E-M1 12-40mm

Traditional Indian dancers, Agra, India E-M1 12-40mm Pro

Traditional Indian dancers, Agra, India                                                                   E-M1 12-40mm Pro

Impala reacting to noise in Serengeti, Tanzania E-M1 40-150mm Pro lens

Impala reacting to noise in Serengeti, Tanzania                                              E-M1 40-150mm Pro lens

Wildlife in the Serengeti E-M1 40-150mm Pro lens

Impala in the Serengeti                                                                                  E-M1 40-150mm Pro lens

 

Marabou storks in Serengeti E-M1 40-150mm w/ 14. converter

Marabou storks in Serengeti                                                       E-M1 40-150mm w/ 1.4 converter

Serengeti lion pride cubs E-M1 75-300mm

Serengeti lion pride cubs                                                                                                                                                  E-M1 75-300mm

Bedouin near Monastery at Petra, Jordan E-M1 12-40mm Pro

Bedouin at High Place, overlooking Wadi Araba, near Monastery at Petra, Jordan                                                E-M1 12-40mm Pro

With his dogs, overlooking Wadi Araba E-M1 12-40mm Pro

With his dogs, overlooking Wadi Araba                                                             E-M1        12-40mm Pro

Desert in Wadi Rum, Jordan-"Lawrence of Arabia" and "The Martian" were filmed here. E-M1 12-40mm Pro

Desert in Wadi Rum, Jordan-“Lawrence of Arabia” and “The Martian” were filmed here. E-M1 12-40mm Pro

Bedouin in desert tent in Wadi Rum, Jordan

Bedouin in desert tent in Wadi Rum, Jordan                                            E-M1 7-14mm Pro

Marrakech woman, in Morocco E-M1 12-40mm Pro

Marrakech woman, in Morocco                                                                         E-M1 12-40mm Pro

Man who keeps fire going in "Farnatchi (furnace) that heats water in public baths. E-M1 12-40mm Pro

Man who keeps fire going in “Farnatchi (furnace) that heats water in public baths.                                E-M1 12-40mm Pro

 



Fiji/Cook Islands/Tahiti and South Pacific

 

Aitutaki, Cook Islands. coral in the lagoon.       Olympus E-M1 7-14mm Pro lens

Aitutaki atoll Olympus E-M1 12-40 Pro lens

Aitutaki atoll                                              Olympus E-M1  12-40mm Pro lens

I recently returned from two incredible National Geographic Expeditions: “Fiji to the Cook Islands: Polynesian Discovery,” and “Cook Islands to Tahiti: Pristine Reefs of the South Pacific.” We were in some of the most remote waters on earth, on the National Geographic Orion. I’ve spent some time in this area, but not an extensive assignment..what a blast.

Starting in Nadi, Fiji, we headed out for a couple of sea days, as the distances are so large in the South Pacific, Nadi was the closest airport and port for our entrance into this part of the world. Tonga, Niue, the Cook Islands were all part of the first itinerary.

 

20151028_Fiji-Tahiti-Cook_0391Fv2

Young warriors practice on Fiji Island of Taveuni                                      Olympus E-M1 40-150 Pro lens

Local greeter on Aitutaki atoll

Local greeter on Aitutaki atoll Olympus E-M1 12-40mm Pro lens

Taveuni was a first stop, a morning spent on-shore on this, Fiji’s third largest island, known as “The Garden Island” for it’s rich and diverse vegetation.

From there, on to the Kingdom of Tonga, and Neiafu, the capital of the Vava’u island group.

20151030_Fiji-Tahiti-Cook_0790Fv2-2

Near Vava’u, Tonga, swimmer jumps in waters                                                  Olympus E-M1 7-14mm Pro lens UW housing

20151101_Niue_1023Fv2

Sea caves on Nieu                                                                           Olympus E-M1 7-14mm Pro lens

 

20151101_300mm_1641Fv2

More sea days and large distances took us to the very interesting island of Niue and it’s famous (infamous??) banded sea kraits (snake.) Snorkeling here was great, wonderful visibility and an abundance of the sea snakes. First one you see, it does get the adrenaline going when you are in the water with the critter a couple of feet from you. They are quite venomous, about 10X the toxicity of a cobra, but very non-aggressive. I saw dozens of these beautiful creatures swim from the bottom (20-50’ deep) to the surface to breath, leisurely looking around to check out the surroundings. If you got too close, the krait would do a mad dash to depth. I saw the one in this photo surface so I swam up to it from behind…the front of my housing bumping into the snake…causing it to freak-out and dive madly to the bottom. The tail-flip was great to see. I did wonder about something: I was told that this particular krait, the Niuean krait, was passive, but not to “tick it off.” While swimming with these, I started trying to define what “ticked-off” a krait?

Aitutaki, Cook Islands. lagoon of the Island.

Off island of Nieu, a banded sea krait surprised by me & my camera                                         Olympus E-M1 7-14mm Pro lens UW Housing

Aitutaki, Cook Islands. lagoon of the Island.

Aitutaki, Cook Islands. a giant trevally swims under boat               Olympus E-M1 7-14mm Pro lens UW housing

Aitutaki, Cook Islands. lagoon of the Island.

Aitutaki, Cook Islands.in the lagoon, a giant trevally amongst other fish Oly E-M1 7-14mm Pro lens UW Housing

This was a wonderful trip, a wonderful time to get back into the ocean. Very fond memories as I sit here in Denver (some snow on the ground) remembering those clear, warm-waters of the South Pacific.

Photo tip: Many manufacturers make very nice point and shoot cameras that are waterproof to a limited depth. Olympus’ entry into this field is the Olympus Tough (TG-4) This is a very powerful and compact camera that is capable of submerging to depths of 50 feet, which is more than enough for snorkeling, or diving into that world where the colors are the most intense. When diving deeper, you start “losing” red in your photographs, as that color is filtered out of the visible spectrum the deeper you dive. Plus, this powerful camera is also capable of shooting RAW files.

20151105_Aitutaki_2057F

lagoon on Aitutaki Atoll Olympus E-M1 12-40mm Pro lens

20151105_Aitutaki_2102Fv2

Lagoon on Aitutaki Atoll Olympus E-M1 12-40mm Pro lens

20151105_Aitutaki_2131F

Aitutaki Atoll                                                                                                              Olympus E-M1 12-40mm lens

20151110_MillenniumAtoll_2963F

Millennium Atoll, fringing reef, school of fish                                   Olympus E-M1 7-14 pro lens UW Housing

20151110_MillenniumAtoll_3278F

Diving on sunken ship on Millennium Atoll                                                               Olympus E-M1 7-14mm Pro lens

20151110_MillenniumAtoll_3333F

Diving on Millennium Atoll                                                                                                                                                    Olympus E-M1 7-14mm Pro lens UW Housing

When photographing underwater, a few rules to follow:

  1. Before I approach the water, I ALWAYS check out the gaskets and integrity of my camera, making sure there are no grains of sand, small hairs, anything on the rubber O-rings that are found on any and all underwater (UW) photographic equipment. This simple and important step is critical for the UW photographer. Usually a small tube of O-ring lubricant comes with the camera, or can be found at your local camera or dive shop. Keeping those O-rings clean and lightly lubricated is critical. An obvious step that I’ve seen divers/snorkelers get caught on, not having batteries charged or fresh card in camera. You’ve got to be REALLY fast to open a housing, change a card, and close it before flooding!!
  2. Whether using the TG-4 or my full housing, as soon as I get into the water I check for leaks. If snorkeling with TG-4, I’ll just go into water with camera held up out of the water, put on my mask and get comfortable, then slowly move the camera below the surface. My task here is to watch for any bubbles coming out of my camera or housing. I’m not looking around at the fish or reef (well, I may be looking for the kraits, but that’s not usual snorkeling for most!) instead I’m immediately checking my equipment for any chance of leakage. Salt water is highly destructive to camera gear, so this move is critical. If it’s my full UW housing, I’ll ask someone to (carefully) hold my camera as I make my entrance into the water. Whether snorkeling or diving, I do the same drill of checking the gear out for that tell-tale sign of problems, bubbles coming out of the camera/housing. If this occurs, time to get out and address that problem.
20151110_MillenniumAtoll_3347F

Diving on Millennium Atoll                                                            Olympus E-M1  7-14mm Pro lens UW Housing

20151110_MillenniumAtoll_3379F

Millennium Atoll selfie Olympus E-M1 7-14mm Pro lens UW Housing

  1. Once in, the fun starts. I have all my settings in mind, and usually set on the camera…which often includes setting the camera in “burst” mode, so you capture those fast moving residents of the sea. In addition to that, if not shooting with a flash, I’ll set the ISO a high enough to provide a shutter speed of 1/500th, so I can stop that motion. In shallower waters my ISO is set high enough so I am shooting at an aperture that is in the f8-f11 range, providing enough depth of field (dof) so my sharpness is deep.
  2. If your camera struggles with AF underwater, you might consider putting it in manual focus. Then, set the focus at a good hyper focal distance: with my 7-14mm (which is equivalent of the field of view of a 14-28mm in 35mm format) I’ll set it at a manual focus distance of about 2 ½ feet. At this distance, and with that aperture in the range of f8 – f11, my dof is from about a foot in front of the lens to infinity. When something fast happens in front of me, say the sea lions cavorting directly in front of the camera in the Galapagos, the camera will fire immediately when I press the shutter, and my sharp focus is accomplished.
20151110_MillenniumAtoll_3424F

Sea turtle at cleaning station, Millennium Atoll Olympus E-M1 7-14mm Pro lens UW Housing

20151112_Rangiroa_3496F

Diving, Rangiroa, school of snapper              Olympus E-M1 7-14mm lens UW Housing

20151112_Rangiroa_3531F

Diving at Rangiroa, while I was photographing a school of snapper, another fish “photo-bombed” the image Olympus E-M1 7-14mm Pro lens UW Housing

  1. When shooting underwater with a non-corrected port on the housing, or when shooting with most point and shoots, you actually “lose” the wide-angle capability of your lens due to water refraction, which “magnifies” the size of the image. If shooting macro work, then use a flat port, as it will magnify the image about 25%. Generally you don’t use a dome port for a macro…for one, you’ll probably bump the front of the port into what you are photographing.   Zoom lenses less than 35mm at their widest should be behind dome ports.
  2. You can effectively photograph about 1/5th the distance you can see when taking still photos. All that particulate matter moving about in the water will be “frozen” when shooting stills, occluding the subjects further away from you. So, that water that has 50 feet of visibility, you can effectively photograph about 10 feet away before the subject starts to get blurry, or disappear in the snow of stuff in the water. This is another reason I like super wide lenses in a dome port underwater.
  3. Color balance can become strange the deeper you go. Remember, the deeper you go, the less red in the spectrum. This has to be dealt with by either software, compensating/adding warmth in deeper water photos, or by using flash to re-introduce that color.
20151112_Rangiroa_3540F

Diving on Rangiroa Atoll                                                             Olympus E-M1 7-14mm Pro lens UW Housing

Diving on Rangiroa Atoll, a school of Barracuda Olympus E-M1 7-14mm Pro lens UW Housing

Diving on Rangiroa Atoll, a school of Barracuda                                                              Olympus E-M1 7-14mm Pro lens UW Housing



National Geographic “Wyoming’s Cowboy Country” Workshop, August 9-15, 2015

20150812_Portraits_1164

Wrangler Aidan Garrity                        Olympus E-M1 40-150mm Pro lens “Dramatic Tone” art filter

August, 2015….and we just wrapped up another National Geographic “Wyoming’s Cowboy Country” Workshop. For 10 years, we’ve been making the drive to Dubois in summer, it truly feels like going home. We (Becky and I) started FirstLight in 2003 with the idea of building what we saw as an ideal photo workshop. The print show, the magazine, the assignments, all were part of the FirstLight magic…just ask anyone who attended one of those workshops.

Milky Way from CM Ranch  Olympus E-M1 8mm f1.8 Pro lens

Milky Way from CM Ranch                                  Olympus E-M1 8mm f1.8 Pro lens

Our good friend and regular FirstLight instructor, Jeff Vanuga, and I had discussed with the folks at CM Ranch the particulars of the proposal I was eventually going to write and submit to National Geographic. They accepted this workshop idea, and the rest, as it’s said, is history. We just completed the 7th “Wyoming’s Cowboy Country” Workshop, and it was a fantastic event.

We’ve had several attendees who are repeat participants, and I asked one about what it’s like coming back. Her response was: “it’s totally different each time.” Which is really the best way I can describe the workshop…this is also what I love about the style of photography I get to do, it is constantly changing, nothing is ever the same.

Friday night at the Dubois Rodeo

Friday night at the Dubois Rodeo                                                                           Olympus E-M1  12mm f2  5000 ISO

Our first event on Monday is outrageous…I won’t describe it as some of you may be considering coming to the workshop, and I don’t want you coming in with images in mind that you want to duplicate. Each workshop is a unique event and should be about the individual capturing their own vision. The workshop is constructed so we all shoot the same event…which works perfectly for this style event. One photographer will shoot the session one way, another photographer will bring an entirely different look to the shoot. In the projection sessions that occur daily, everyone is always amazed-and educated-by how differently the work looks.

Horses running by my cabin  Olympus E-M1 40-150 Pro lens

Horses running by my cabin                                                                                    Olympus E-M1 40-150 Pro lens

It was a nice break, coming back in August after the two workshops in the last two weeks of June. The days were shorter, mosquitoes were pretty much gone, and the summer light is always beautiful in Wyoming.

Backstage at the Dubois Rodeo  Olympus E-M1 12-40mm Pro lens

Backstage at the Dubois Rodeo                                     Olympus E-M1 12-40mm Pro lens 3200 ISO

In the workshop, I talk about visual narrative, which includes: sense of place, introducing your characters, bringing in detail, capturing the power of moments and closing your story are a perfect blend for the final event, the rodeo. This “template” of visual narrative translates perfectly to your own style of photography, as it works in capturing the story of your life…

Hope you enjoy the images from this last week of the CM Ranch Workshop, stay tuned.

Preparing for rodeo Olympus E-M1 12-40 Pro lens

Preparing for rodeo Olympus                                                                     E-M1 12-40 Pro lens

Dubois Rodeo   Olympus E-M1 7-14 Pro lens

Dubois Rodeo                                                                                                    Olympus E-M1 7-14 Pro lens

Horses driven across Jakey's Fork  Olympus E-M1 40-150 Pro lens

Horses driven across Jakey’s Fork                                                                             Olympus E-M1 40-150 Pro lens

Horses driven across Jakey's Fork  Olympus E-M1 12-40 Pro lens

Horses driven across Jakey’s Fork                                                         Olympus E-M1 12-40 Pro lens

Wrangler    Olympus E-M1 12 mm f2

Wrangler                                                                                         Olympus E-M1 12 mm f2

Studio Cabin     Olympus E-M5  8mm f1.8 Pro lens

Studio Cabin                                                                                    Olympus E-M5 Mk II  8mm f1.8 Pro lens

One of the real amazing aspects of digital photography: how long exposures can really “open up” the night sky.  The image above is the Milky Way, shot from directly in front of our cabin, Studio, at the CM Ranch.

CM Wrangler Jess Howard   Olympus E-M1 40-150 Pro lens

CM Wrangler Jess Howard after muddy ride                                                              Olympus E-M1 40-150 Pro lens

Afternoon at the CM Ranch

Afternoon at the CM Ranch                                                                                  Olympus E-M1 40-150 Pro lens

 

 

 

 



National Geographic “Wyoming’s Cowboy Country” Workshop, June/July 2015

Sabang, Pulau Weh, Indonesia.  Gapang Beach

Saturday evening at the Dubois Overlook…crazy beautiful!    Olympus E-M1 75mm f1.8

How does the time go past so quickly?  We’re already in the middle of summer of ’15, and it certainly has started well.  I just completed the first two of the three National Geographic “Wyoming’s Cowboy Country” photography workshop, held at the CM Ranch in Dubois, Wyoming.

I’d built a proposal for National Geographic about 5 years ago, after having conducted a number of FirstLight Workshops in Dubois.  Becky and I had built the first Dubois workshop in 2006, you can see the results of these by clicking on “Previous Workshops” link on the left (or by scrolling down through the “Where’s Jay” blog posts.)

Throughout these years in Dubois, we’ve always had our great friend and incredible instructor, Jeff Vanuga, working with me on these events.

“Wyoming’s Cowboy Country”, week one, started on June 28 and ran until June 28, week two followed immediately, June 29 until July 4.  Over the past three years of that workshop every week has its very own and distinct personality.  Groups change, events are a bit different, wranglers change, but the overall results of this incredible workshop are constant: incredible photographic opportunities, wonderful camaraderie among the group, and life-long friendships created in the Wind River Valley, home to CM and the workshop.

Dubois Rodeo, Friday evening….

Workshop HQ in the Roundup Cabin at CM Ranch-this is when I arrived...

Workshop HQ at the Roundup Cabin at CM Ranch                                                           Olympus E-M1  7-14mm f2.8

Workshop HQ in the Roundup Cabin at CM Ranch-this is a couple of hours later, after setup...

Workshop HQ in the Roundup Cabin at CM Ranch-this is a couple of hours later, after setup…         Olympus E-M1 7-14mm f2.8

This is such an ideal event to work with our participants on that idea of visual narrative.  I’ve been preaching this concept for years, that if shooting any event in which 2 or more images are made, by applying this “template” of story-telling to the collection of photos, the photographer then creates a more engaging and compelling body of work.  What we do as photographers is actually quite similar to what a writer does, we simply use a different form of narrative in this process.  And, we use a narrative that resonates perfectly with our process of remembrance of those events we photograph.

When photographing our “story” (this includes photographing our lives in general, events, sports, etc., etc.) by applying this template to our coverage, and making sure we have covered those 5 “components”, our story telling becomes more cohesive and complete.  For more about this, you’ll have to buy “Perfect Digital Photography” and/or come to a workshop!!

Two wranglers in the dust of the "Boneyard" morning horse drive.    Olympus E-M1 40-140mm f2.8

Two wranglers in the dust of the “Boneyard” morning horse drive.                                             Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

One great component of the CM Workshop-lot’s of dust!  We work with our participants on taking advantage of the atmospheric conditions (dry, dry and dryer) in which that dust can be a significant component in the images, instead of a detriment.  The simple method of shooting into a backlit situation can really make those atmospherics work for the image.  This also helps create a “ghost riders in the sage” look, which is very western and romantic.

Morning at the "Boneyard"   Olympus E-M1  12-40mm f2.8

Morning at the “Boneyard”                                                                                    Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Workshop photographers documenting the first morning.    Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Workshop photographers documenting the first morning.                                                            Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Spencer Clark in upper pasture      Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Spencer Clark in upper pasture                                                                                                            Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Dubois Badlands....Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Dubois Badlands….                                                                                                                                      Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

In between the two workshops, I went to dinner with our two incredible assistants-and I use “assistant” very lightly, Frank Varney and George McDonald who bring huge amounts of experience, knowledge and credibility to those positions.  Both are former instructors at Colorado Institute of Art, and both are extremely accomplished photographers in their on right.

Saturday evening rainbow seen from Dubois Overlook.  Olympus E-M1 7-14mm f2.8

Saturday evening rainbow seen from Dubois Overlook.                                                                         Olympus E-M1 7-14mm f2.8

Saturday evening rainbow, seen from Dubois Overlook.  Olympus E-M1 7-14mm f2.8

Saturday evening rainbow, seen from Dubois Overlook.                                         Olympus E-M1   7-14mm f2.8

This was on the Saturday night, after dinner in Dubois, I was going to head on back to the ranch (I don’t have many opportunities to use that expression accurately) instead, I decided to check out Dubois Overlook, as a powerful afternoon storm was just passing through.  I was the only one up there and the views were stunning, made that much better by the dramatic cloud coverage that was being underlit by the suns coming  out from behind the clouds, lighting those clouds from below.  I was actually considering running up to the high spot, a knob that juts above the surrounding landscape.  Then, my Boy Scout training came into play, with the realization that this high point was also that much closer to the strong lightening that was coursing through those clouds…I turned around to head to the car, and was confronted with this incredible rainbow.

Boneyard, CM Ranch, first morning....Oly E-M1   40-150mm f2.8

Boneyard, CM Ranch, first morning….Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

CM wrangler John Melvin

CM wrangler John Melvin                                                                     Oly E-M1  12-40mm f2.8

CM wrangler Bryce Street, late afternoon    Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

CM wrangler Bryce Street, late afternoon                                                                             Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Afternoon shoot in upper pasture at CM

Afternoon shoot in upper pasture at CM                                                          Olympus E-M1  12-40mm f2.8

Afternoon in CM pasture    Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Afternoon in CM pasture                                                                                                 Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Wranglers driving horse herd across Jakey's Creek   Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Wranglers driving horse herd across Jakey’s Creek                                                   Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Wranglers driving horses across Jakey's Creek    Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Wranglers driving horses across Jakey’s Creek                                             Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Molly and Hunter Sullivan, along with Ringo     Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Molly and Hunter Sullivan, along with Ringo the WonderDog                                               Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Nose to nose, Tom Barry and subject...Oly E-M1  12-40mm f2.8

Nose to nose, Tom Barry and subject..                                                                      .Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Friday night rodeo, Dubois   Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Friday night rodeo, Dubois                                                                                                              Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Friday night at Dubois Rodeo    Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Friday night at Dubois Rodeo                                                                              Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Bryce Street and sunset   Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Bryce Street and sunset                                                                                                 Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8



Sri Lanka, Andaman Islands and Borneo…and places further…

Sri Lankan woman                                                      40-150mm f2.8

Sri Lankan woman                                    40-150mm f2.8

On this National Geographic Expedition to Sri Lanka, Andaman Islands and Borne, we were exploring these places …Borneo, Ceylon (such a great name, now Sri Lanka,) Singapore, Java, Malayasia, all romantic titles harkening back to my days of reading adventure stories about far off places on the other side of the globe….and now I’m here.

Blue sea star (Linckia levitate) near Gapang Beach, Sabanag, Sumatra           E-M5, PT-_EPO8 housing  7-14m

 

Good friend Gary Davis on fringing reef, Cinque Islands, Andaman Islands   E-M5  7-14mm

Good friend Gary Davis on fringing reef, Cinque Islands, Andaman Islands         E-M5, PT-EPO8 housing,  7-14mm

Jackal in Yala National Park   E-M1  40-150mm

Jackal in Yala National Park                                                                                                         E-M1 40-150mm

Coconut harvester, along Madu Ganga River, Sri Lanka    E-M1  9-18mm

Coconut harvester, along Madu Ganga River, Sri Lanka                                                    E-M1  9-18mm

worker at spice farm, Port Blair, Andaman Islands     E-M1  40-150mm

worker at spice farm, Port Blair, Andaman Islands                                                                 E-M1 40-150mm

Crows battling over water, Galle, Sri Lanka     E-M1  40-150mm

Crows battling over water, Galle, Sri Lanka                                                                                      E-M1 40-150mm

Beautiful woman visiting Cellular Jail Natl Monument, Port Blair, Andaman Islands   E-M1  40-150mm

Beautiful woman visiting Cellular Jail Natl Monument, Port Blair, Andaman Islands                             E-M1 40-150mm

birdlife, Yala National Park, Sri Lanka E-M1 40-150mm

birdlife, Yala National Park, Sri Lanka                                    E-M1 40-150mm

Orchid in Singapore    E-M1 12-40mm

Orchid in Singapore                                   E-M1 12-40mm

farmer, along Madu Ganga River, Sri Lanka      E-M1  40-150mm

farmer, along Madu Ganga River, Sri Lanka                      E-M1 40-150mm

Water buffalo, Yala National Park, Sri Lanka  E-M1 40-150mm

Water buffalo, Yala National Park, Sri Lanka                                                                                    E-M1 40-150mm

swimmer, Gapang Beach, Sabang, Pulau Weh, Indonesia  E-M1 PT-_EPO8 housing, 7-14mm

swimmer, Gapang Beach, Sabang, Pulau Weh, Indonesia                                             E-M1  PT-EPO8 housing, 7-14mm

Barastagi, with volcano in background  E-M1 40-150mm

Berastagi,Sumatra, Indonesia,  with volcano in background                                                                    E-M1 40-150mm

Port Blair, Andaman Islands  E-M1 40-150mm

Port Blair, Andaman Islands                                                                                                E-M1 40-150mm

Cinque Islands, Andaman Islands, India E-M1  12-40mm

Cinque Islands, Andaman Islands, India                                                                                                                  E-M1 12-40mm

enthusiastic diver, Gapang Beach, Sabang, Pulau Weh, Indonesia  E-0M1 PT-_EPO8 housing, 7-14mm

enthusiastic diver, Gapang Beach, Sabang, Pulau Weh, Indonesia                                E-M1   PT-_EPO8 housing, 7-14mm

Pipe fish, Sabang, Pulau Weh, Indonesia  E-M5 PT-EPO8 housing  7-14mm

Pipe fish, Sabang, Pulau Weh, Indonesia                                                  E-M5 PT-EPO8 housing 7-14mm

Orchidarium worker, Port Blair, Andaman Islands E-M1 12-40mm

Orchidarium worker, Port Blair, Andaman Islands                                                                   E-M1 12-40mm

Traditional Batak dance, Desa Lingga village, Sumatra  E-M1 9-18mm

Traditional Batak dance, Desa Lingga village, Sumatra                                                      E-M1 9-18mm

Probobscis monkey, Sekonyer River   E-M1 40-150mm

Probobscis monkey, Sekonyer River, Borneo                                                               E-M1 40-150mm

Orangutan near Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas' Orangutan Foundation center   E-M1 40-150mm

Orangutan near Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas’ Orangutan Foundation center                                                           E-M1 40-150mm

Orangutan near Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas' Orangutan Foundation center   E-M1 40-150mm

Orangutan near Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas’ Orangutan Foundation center                                                           E-M1 40-150mm

Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas with an Orangutan E-M1 12-40mm

Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas with an Orangutan                                                              E-M1 12-40mm

20150523_Borneo_3029F_640T

Becky and her encounter with a juvenile                                                                                       E-M1 12-40mm

fire soccer, played with a flaming ball at night, Borneo  E-M1 12-40mm

fire soccer, played with a flaming ball at night, Borneo                                    E-M1 12-40mm, 3200 ISO

Sekonyer River, Tanjung Putting NP  E-M1 9-18mm

Sekonyer River, Tanjung Putting NP                                                                                           E-M1 9-18mm

Arriving Singapore   E-M1 12-40mm

Arriving Singapore                                                                                                 E-M1 12-40mm, 1.6 seconds, handheld

Borneo, motoring down the   Sekonyer River in the Tanjung Putting National Park   E-M1 9-18mm 5 second exposure, handheld

Borneo, motoring down the Sekonyer River at dusk, in the Tanjung Putting National Park                                                                                             E-M1 9-18mm 5 second exposure, handheld, image stabilization on

 

 



National Geographic Tanzania Photo Expedition

 

A pride of lions in Ngorongoro Crater     Olympus E-M1   75-300mm

A pride of lions in Ngorongoro Crater                          Olympus E-M1 75-300mm

There are those places you can go back to time after time-for me, Tanzania and the Serengeti are one of those magical places. I had the good fortune to lead a National Geographic Photo Expedition to that favorite place in March of this year.

Arriving Arusha, Tanzania late in the first week of March, I met the photographers accompanying this adventure. The itinerary on this trip was really well thought out-10 days in some of the most photographically-productive areas in Tanzania.

Early morning and late afternoon outings provided great photographic opportunities…I really don’t think anyone was disappointed, and came out of this trip with at least a few wall photos.

Traveling light in Africa, and Asia, Europe and Australia (also,add Antarctica and you’ve covered a lot of the globe) is the key to being able to carry the essential gear for your photo adventure. A total of 3 camera bodies (I always work with two cameras: one with a wide zoom, the other a telephoto zoom) and a carefully chosen selection of lenses allow me to carry my gear onboard the almost always small aircraft-and size/weight is paramount here. I don’t want to check, at the check-in or at the gate, my equipment.

Hope you enjoy this group of photos from this Expedition, Sri Lanka is coming up, so come back to see those images.

Cape Buffalo with tick bird    Olympus E-M1   40-150mm f2.8 w1.4 adapter

Cape Buffalo with tick bird                                        Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8 w1.4 adapter

Maasai, Ngorongoro Highlands   Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Maasai, Ngorongoro Highlands                                                                     Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Maasai eating goat  Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Maasai eating goat                                                      Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Male lion in Serengeti   Olympus E-M1  40-150mm f2.8 w/1.4 converter

Male lion in Serengeti Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8 w/1.4 converter

20150314_Serengeti_1887F 20150314_Serengeti_1882F

Zebra altercation    Oly E-M1 40-150 f2.8 w/1.4 converter

Zebra altercation Oly E-M1 40-150 f2.8 w/1.4 converter

Dusk at watering hole   Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Dusk at Lake Masek                                                                      Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Early morning, Ngorongoro Crater   Oly E-M1  75-300mm

Early morning, Ngorongoro Crater                                                                     Oly E-M1 75-300mm

Zebras/Wildebeast   Oly E-M1   40-150mm f2.8

Zebras/Wildebeast Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Another zebra altercation    Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Another zebra altercation Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Hyena attempting zebra   Oly E-M1   75-300mm

1 of 5 – hyena pursuing zebra                                                                                           Oly E-M1 75-300mm

2 of Hyena pursuing zebra  Oly e-M1 75-300mm

2 of 5 – of hyena pursuing zebra

3 of hyena pursuing zebra

3 of 5 – of hyena pursuing zebra

4 of hyena pursuing zebra

4 of 5 – of hyena pursuing zebra

5 of hyena pursuing zebra

5 of 5 – of hyena pursuing zebra-hyena loses

Elephants near Lake Masek

Elephants near Lake Masek

early morning lion  Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

early morning lion                                                Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Maasai with his cattle   Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Maasai with his cattle                                                                                   Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Zebra, Serengeti   Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Zebra, Serengeti                                                                                              Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Maasai driving cattle home    Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Maasai driving cattle home Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Maasai and cattle    Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Maasai and cattle Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Late day, Ngorongoro Crater  Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Late day, Ngorongoro Crater                                                                            Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Baboons, Lake Manyara National Park  Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Baboons, Lake Manyara National Park                                      Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Maaxai and child

Maaxai and child

Days end, Lake Masek

Days end, Lake Masek

 

 

 

 



Around the World, January – February 2015

 

 

Glacier near Greenland in

Tibetan pilgrim at Sera Monastery                                                    Olympus E-M1 12-40mm

I wish I received frequent flyer miles: this is the 4th “Around the World by Private Jet” trip I’ve done for National Geographic…but, it truly doesn’t get old. That forever-changing panorama in front of the camera always presents a new, challenging set of dynamics. This is an amazing business and it’s something I’ve always loved, and I still feel that thrill when a moment comes to fruition and is captured.

The usual routing, Peru and Machu Picchu, Easter Island and the Moai Heads (and Kari Kari!!), then on to Samoa, Australia and the Great Barrier Reef, Cambodia’s stunning Angkor Wat, north to China and on to Tibet, then down to Agra and the Taj Mahal, go to the extreme difference by going on to Tanzania and the Serengeti, next stop Petra, Jordan and we end in Marrakech, Morocco.

I feel I could probably lead the trip by now, but that wouldn’t be as much fun, as I wouldn’t be shooting…so those Expedition Leaders for the trip can rest easy..

Traveling light has become my favorite method of working these trips…and I have really whittled my bag down to a very manageable size…which makes the process of photography all that more enjoyable.

Samoan greeting      Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Samoan greeting                                           Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Glacier near Greenland in

Traditional weavers, Cusco, Peru                                                                                                       Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Child in Ollantaytambo, on route to Machu Picchu                                                            Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Llama at Machu Picchu                                                                                                                              Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

On road between Cusco & Machu Picchu          Olympu E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

On road between Cusco & Machu Picchu                                                         Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Hanga Roa on Easter Island / Moai Heads                     Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Sunset “selfie”, Hanga Roa, Easter Island                                     Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Moai Heads, Easter Island                           Olympus E-M1 9-18mm

Dawn, Easter Island                              Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Moai Heads, Easter Island                                         Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Dawn, Easter Island coastline                                         Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Angkor Wat                                                             Olympus E-M1 9-18mm

Monk, Angkor Wat                                   Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Elephant driver, Angkor Thom                                   Olympus E-M1 9-18mm

faces in Angkor Thom                                                                  Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Angkor Thom                                       Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

woman paddles toward floating village near Siem Reap                       Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Near floating village, Siem Reap, Cambodia                     Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Pilgrims, Sera Monastery, Lhasa, Tibet                            Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Lhasa, Tibet                                 Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Lhasa, Tibet                                          Olympus E-M1 9-18mm

Taj Mahal, India                                 Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Early morning, Taj Mahal                                        Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Taj Mahal                                 Olympus E-M1 9-18mm

Taj Mahal                                    Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Taj Mahal                                   Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Villager near Taj Mahal                      Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Indian child                                                   Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

School, Indian village                                          Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Hippos, Serengeti                                             Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8 w/1.4 converter

Hippos, Serengeti                                     Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8 w/1.4 converter

Red Headed Agama Lizard, Serengeti                       Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8 w/1.4 extender

Elephant @ watering hole, Serengeti                        Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Serengeti Road                                      Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Glacier near Greenland in

Egyptian living near Monastery at Petra, Jordan                             Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Carriage driver, Petra, Jordan                                      Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Street life, Marrakesh, Morocco                                      Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Street life, Marrakesh, Morocco                Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Street life, Marrakesh, Morocco                                   Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

 



Patagonia & Namibia – 2014

Torres del Paine, Chile, Valle del France Olympus E-M1  12-40mm f.8

Torres del Paine, Chile, Valle del France
Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f.8

 

A swarm of Dragonfly we encountered on the Explorer, off of the coast of Argentina   Olympus E-M1   40-150mm f2.8

A swarm of Dragonfly we encountered on the Explorer, off of the coast of Argentina
Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

What an intense past couple of months.  In late October I left on a National Geographic Expedition to Patagonia with our daughter Maggie, who was also hoping to add a long hike (80+ miles) in Torres del Paine (TdP) National Park (southern Chile) on to the end of the trip.  This hike is considered one of the 5 most scenic hikes in the world (also considered not overly difficult — not true!)   Maggie asked if I’d be interested in doing the hike with her and I cheerfully agreed.

We began our adventures onboard the National Geographic Explorer — a fantastic three-week trip that took us from Buenos Aires, down the eastern coast of Argentina, through the Straits of Magellan, to the western coast of lower Chile.  Throughout, we were provided with incredible sightings of Magellanic penguins, killer whales, great bird life, and icebergs. We even visited Torres del Paine on what we later discovered was a stellar day.  (All the NG group assumed that the weather there was always sunny, calm and capped by deep blue skies; not remotely true!)  At the end of the Geographic trip we began our 2-week addendum…….

Elephant Seal pups playing, Karukinka Park, Argentina

Elephant Seal pups playing, Karukinka Park, Argentina
Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

 

An owl hiding in rock crevasse Olympus E-M1   40-150mm f2.8

An owl hiding in rock crevasse
Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Cormorant near Puerto Deseado, Argentina Oly E-M1     40-150mm f2.8 w/1.4

Cormorant near Puerto Deseado, Argentina
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8 w/1.4

Isla Magdalena, Argentina

Isla Magdalena, Argentina
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Magellanic penguin checking me out Oly E-M1  12-40mm f2.8

Magellanic penguin checking me out
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine

Along Valdes Peninsula in Argentina    Olympus E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Along Valdes Peninsula in Argentina
Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Off of the Valdes Peninsula, Argentina

Off of the Valdes Peninsula, Argentina
Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Snoring Elephant seal, Karukinka Park Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8 w/ MC-14 extender

Snoring Elephant seal, Karukinka Park
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8 w/ MC-14 extender
Torres del Paine Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Torres del Paine
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Killer whales off of Argentinian coast Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Killer whales off of Argentinian coast
Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

In Girabaldi Fjord, Maggie and Jay

In Girabaldi Fjord, Maggie and Jay
Olympus E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Bernal Glacier, Patagonia Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Bernal Glacier, Patagonia
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Male Guanacos fighting, Torres del Paine Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Male Guanacos fighting, Torres del Paine
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Cape Horn

Cape Horn

Magellanic penguin guarding nest, Isla Magdalena Oly E-M1    12-40mm f2.8

Magellanic penguin guarding nest, Isla Magdalena
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Torres del Paine Oly E-M1  12-40mm f2.8

Torres del Paine
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

ON TO THE TREK

We had a very logical plan, flying back with the NG group from Ushuaia, Argentina to Buenos Aires — instead of taking a 12-14 hour bus trip from Ushuaia to Punto Arenas in Chile.  Since we would be returning to US from Buenos Aires, we would be able to store some of our luggage at airport when we began second half of trip.  We had to pack for two entirely different trips on this sojourn: the NG part aboard the Explorer, which called for nice clothes in addition to our hiking gear, and then for the TdP hike, which meant backpacks, tent, sleeping bags, pads, food, etc. After storing our first set of luggage at airport, we left on overnight flight back across the continent to Punto Arenas and then took the 3 hour bus ride up to Puerto Natales, the “gateway town” to the Torres del Paine National Park.  Thankfully, we had a couple of nights there to decompress, prepare, and just enjoy that very cool town.  Then unable to put it off any longer (was hard to leave an incredible pizza place!), we boarded another 2-hour bus north to the park and set off on our hike.

Maggie at Mirador Torres Oly E-M1 9-18mm

Maggie at Mirador Torres
Oly E-M1 9-18mm

1st morning at Mirador Torres Oly E-M1  12-40mm f 2.8

1st morning at Mirador Torres
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f 2.8

Our/Maggie’s plan was to do the famous “O” trail in the park.  About 80 miles, this circumnavigates the incredible range of mountains which make up the heart of the park.   Mistake one on my part: I convinced Maggie that we could take the 2pm bus from Puerto Natales to TdP instead of the logical earlier bus that would have given us plenty of time to do the 6 mile hike along the Rio Ascensio (means uphill river or something similar) to first campsite at Campiento Torres. (In addition to rivers flowing uphill, all the trails are uphill — a fact has been confirmed by me. Even when looping back on a trail, somehow the hiking gods had altered the geology of the place so it’s all uphill!)  The earlier bus would have been so much better as it would have provided the window of time for me to hyperventilate my way up  (did I mention it was uphill?) the trail that triathletes, donkeys, my daughter and other non-humans can accomplish in what the map optimistically and viciously suggested was a few hours.  Also, a suggestion learned from experience on my part: do drink water, dehydration is not pleasant, but it does give one the stage to go slightly insane, fall a lot, and whimper about dying.

We finally made it, I took charge, and carefully chose the best campsite — which happened to be the same one I collapsed onto when seeing the sign designating the place.  Maggie cooked dinner, which I really didn’t touch…and we both realized that I had allowed myself to become dehydrated.  A couple of gallons of water later and I was feeling fine.

Descending from Mirador Torres

Descending from Mirador Torres
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Descending from Mirador Torres Olympus E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Descending from Mirador Torres
Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

2nd morning, Mirador Torres

2nd morning, Mirador Torres
Oly E-M1 9-18mm

Jay and Maggie Oly E-M1  12-40mm f2.8

Jay and Maggie
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Trail in TdP

Trail in TdP
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

A slow and persistent rain started soon after our arrival, which was great to listen to, tapping on the tent as we dimmedd our flashlights and went to sleep.  Waking a few hours later, I noticed that the cadence of raindrops on nylon had changed to that muffled lack of sound that indicates that rain has turned to snow.  Our plan on this leg of the hike was to arise a couple of hours pre-dawn and make the hour-long hike to the famous Mirador Torres — the stunning overview of the “Towers” which are the three vertical granitic extrusions that stick up a couple of thousand feet into the Patagonia sky.  We did head out at our desired time, but the snow was pretty steady and sticking to the talus slope as we started ascending towards the overview.  Becasue I wanted to study the flora and fauna on the (vertical) path to the Mirador, I suggested that Maggie may want to hike ahead and break trail.  This hike/climb took about an hour (Maggie claims 45 minutes, but she didn’t have a watch) for me to accomplish.  Most of the hike is in rock fields above treeline — one finally arrives at a classic view, or lack of due to a complete whiteout, of the Towers.  We tried to wait out the storm, gave up after a couple of hours of observing white on white, definitely not the classic view we were hoping for.

Rio Francis, Valle del France Oly E-M1 9-18mm   3 minute exposure

Rio Francis, Valle del France
Oly E-M1 9-18mm 3 minute exposure

 

The Park requests that hikers limit the stay at this site to one night, but we decided that this was such a classic view we needed to break the rules —  that afternoon we hiked back up, the sun was out, and it was beautiful.  We camped again in Campimento Torres and woke early the next morning to hike up the third time.  At this point, Maggie had given up on my speed-hiking ability — kids today just don’t understand the charm of moving slowly, filling oneself with the beauty of the moment. Made it in time for a stunning sunrise, watching as the light moved over the face of the mountains.

We broke camp, made it back down (up??) the valley and headed out for the second leg of the hike — a 6 mile hike on the Sendero Paso Los Cuernos.  This trail skirted the southern edge of Monte Alte Nieto and the other peaks in this group.  Mountains to the north and the turquoise waters of Lago Nordenskjold to the south gave us a beautiful panorama as we hiked another uphill stretch.  Maggie claims there were some downhill legs, but that simply isn’t true.
As we started nearing the terminus for today’s hike/climb, it started raining.  A cold, steady rain that forced us to stop to put on rain gear.  Did I mention that Patagonia is also known for its winds?   We found those winds, which were a constant for most of our time in the park — winds in the 50-60 mph range were not uncommon.  We’d heard horror stories from other TdP trekkers, one guy telling me that they were hiking one leg when winds hit them, not only ripping off glasses and sunglasses, but lifting a couple of hikers into the air, breaking some bones.  The winds can be brutal.

Trail in TdP Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Trail in TdP
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Ooops, forgot to mention that after that first day of hiking and dehydration,  I made the executive decision that we should change our hiking intention from the 80-mile “O” to the shorter, 50+ mile “W” hike, which really takes you to the highlights of Torres del Paine.  This decision was based on my concern that Maggie may get too far in front of me, possibly lapping me on this trail.  I didn’t want her to get confused, seeing me in front when actually I was behind..or something like that.  Anyway, I was thinking of her.

So, we made day three of the hike, arriving in that driving rain mentioned earlier to the campsite at Refugio Los Cuernos.  A campsite and small lodge, this place was crammed with other hikers trying to get out of the rain.  The lodge had a restaurant, a warming room, and showers…we signed up for dinner at the lodge and hung out in the warming room, which was filled primarily with kids — meaning hikers under 50.  Standing in this room, beer in hand, it struck me that I was kind of unusual here…very few mature hikers in this place…however, Maggie looked right at home.

Tent finally set up, we made our way up to dinner, a luxury after several meals cooked at the tent.  Also, made our way back to utilize the showers.  We realized pretty quickly that we were using the bathroom facilities meant for guests of the lodge — we were supposed to be using the “showers” a short distance away — which were small, dark, crowded, dirty cubicles unfit for man or daughter.  So, we took advantage of those nicer facilities of the lodge.

Next morning: pack the tent, fill the backpacks, head out for the next uphill trek to Campimento Italiano.  Now, anyplace named for anything Italian, in my eyes, should include access to great Italian cuisine.  Instead, it was a “Mountain House” freeze-dried dinner of Jamaican Jerk Chicken.  Good, but no Bolognese.  Camped there for two nights, along the Rio Francis that flows near the entrance to the Valle Del Frances.

We hiked up the valley to an incredible overview of the peaks…then headed back to Campimento Italiano.  Overnighted and headed out the next morning for Refugio Paine Grande.  Set up our tent in time to enjoy a great dinner, followed by unbelievable winds that tore down a couple of tents around us, keeping us awake all night.  Next morning, headed up to Refugio Grey, about a 4-5 hour hike.  Stunning views of the Grey Glacier and lakes below that icefield.  Stayed overnight at that campground, nice meal in Refugio…hiked back down the following day to our final night at the Paine Grande campsite.   And, out the next morning.

View from tent Oly E-M1   12-40mm f2.8

View from tent
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Jay and Maggie, Grey Glacier Oly E-M1  12-40mm f2.8

Jay and Maggie, Grey Glacier
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Amazing clouds above TdP Oly E-M1  12-40mm f2.8

Amazing clouds above TdP
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8
Patagonia Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Patagonia
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

We had an incredible time and an amazing adventure.  Plus, getting to spend this much time with Maggie, not that many opportunities with our busy schedules…priceless, as the saying goes.

We flew home on Thanksgiving morning and made it to the house in time for Thanksgiving dinner … and 5 days later I headed out for Namibia, Africa, for a National Geographic Adventure.

Next stop – Namibia

I’ve been to Namibia before, it’s one of those places that come to mind immediately when asked to list your favorite places.  Primarily landscape and culture, the visual possibilities are tremendous. This was a relatively small group, 6 travelers plus the guide and myself —  an intense trip that took us to several Namibian highlights.

Near Rhino Camp, Namibia Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Near Rhino Camp, Namibia
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Rhino Camp, elephants dusting Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Rhino Camp, elephants dusting
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Himba woman Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Himba woman
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Himba women with child
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Himba woman in village Oly E-M1   12-40mm f2.8

Himba woman in village
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

20141111_Himba_4266F

 

Termites caught in puddle Oly E-M1   12-40mm f2.8

Termites caught in puddle
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Wildlife, Etosha Oly E-M1   40-150mm f2.8  MC-14 extender

Wildlife, Etosha
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8 MC-14 extender

Hawk landing Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Hawk landing
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Flamingos, Walvis Bay Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Flamingos, Walvis Bay
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Shipwreck, Swakopmund Oly E-M1  12-40mm f2.8   30 second exposure, Singh Ray Vari ND filter

Shipwreck, Swakopmund
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8 30 second exposure, Singh Ray Vari ND filter

Sea lions, Walvis Bay Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Sea lions, Walvis Bay
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

"Fairy Circles," Namibia Oly E-M1  12-40mm f2.8

“Fairy Circles,” Namibia
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Rhino Camp Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Rhino Camp
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Healing ceremony, Bushmen camp Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Healing ceremony, Bushmen camp
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Healing ceremony, Bushmen camp Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Healing ceremony, Bushmen camp
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Healing ceremony, Bushmen camp Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Healing ceremony, Bushmen camp
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Healing ceremony, Bushmen camp Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Healing ceremony, Bushmen camp
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Ju-hoans Bushman village Oly E-M  40-150mm f2.8

Ju-hoans Bushman village
Oly E-M 40-150mm f2.8

Women's game in Ju-hoans Bushmen village Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Women’s game in Ju-hoans Bushmen village
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Woman villager- Ju-hoans Bushmen village Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Woman villager- Ju-hoans Bushmen village
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Ju-hoan hunter gatherer drinking from root vegetable Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Ju-hoan hunter gatherer drinking from root vegetable
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Ju-hoan hunter gatherer starting fire Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Ju-hoan hunter gatherer starting fire
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

The Namibia trip presented a great opportunity to work with new Olympus 40-150mm f2.8.  Along with the new 1.4 teleconverter, this combination provides the photographer a tremendous wildlife setup-a very lightweight and extremely high quality lens that provides a range of 80mm to 420mm (with teleconverter-in 35mm field of view).  I’ve spoken at length at the benefits of the Micro Four Thirds system, and it was proven out once again.  Africa creates it’s own set of demands for the photographer: often limited space and weight requirements, long hours of shooting from safari vehicles with camera “at ready,” and long treks carrying your “real world” equipment.

Our guide, Ally, driving in Rhino Camp Oly E-M1  9-18mm

Our guide, Ally, driving in Rhino Camp
Oly E-M1 9-18mm

 

Near the Etosha Pan Oly E-M1   40-150mm f2.8 w/MC-14 extender

Near the Etosha Pan
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8 w/MC-14 extender

Near the Etosha Pan Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8 w/MC-14 extender

Near the Etosha Pan
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8 w/MC-14 extender

Rock python swallowing Starling Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8 w/MC-14 extender

Rock python swallowing Starling
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8 w/MC-14 extender

Vulture chick Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Vulture chick
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Vulture chick Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Vulture chick
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Leopard on termite mound Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Leopard on termite mound
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Wild dogs of N/a’an ku sê Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Wild dogs of N/a’an ku sê
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Leopard at dusk Oly E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Leopard at dusk
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Cheetah at N/a’an ku sê Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Cheetah at N/a’an ku sê
Oly E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

 N/a’an ku sê Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

N/a’an ku sê
Oly E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Hyena in road, Rhino Camp Olympus E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

Hyena in road, Rhino Camp
Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

 

Looking back over this post, I am struck at incredibly fortunate I am to get to do this “job.”  At times, I get so tired of traveling, I don’t want to leave our home, I don’t want to leave Becky..I’m ready to do anything if it doesn’t entail leaving my home…at that point, I always go through the same drill…I’ll pick up my camera out of the bag, and it’s still an electricity that goes through me..the fact that I get to do this is astounding..if that feeling ever leaves, it’s time to get a real job….