FirstLight Workshop

Where's Jay?

The Portrait-thinking about lenses

Holy Man, Kathmandu, Nepal                                                             12-100mm f4

One of the great powers of photography is its ability to capture and share portraits, be it people or animal. We love looking at others, both from nearby and abroad, because a good portrait can help define and describe our subject.

Tibetan woman reacting to having her picture made  12-100mm f4

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I love photographing people, actually any and all portraits.  In our camera bag we carry various lenses: those used to photograph people, make portraits of our pets, animals, anything that walks or crawls.  Each of these lenses provides a unique and specific look.  With our cameras, we can use those lenses to create either a standard or environmental portrait. A standard portrait is usually a fairly close-up image, filling the frame with the subject.  An environmental portrait includes the subject as well as background info, which provides that important information of place. Photographing people is something I love and I encourage other photographers to include that skill in their photographic range.  It can be an intimidating process, the idea of approaching a total stranger, either domestically or internationally. But, with a little practice as well as a little nerve, the comfort level in this process can be improved.

 

Man in Agra, India                                                                    12-100mm f4

Tibetan Monk, Potala Palace, Lhasa, Tibet                                     12-100mm f4

Super-wide: Olympus 7-14mm f2.8

Olympus 7-14mm f2.8

This great lens provides a huge field of view, in 35mm equivalence from 14mm to 28mm, or 114∞ to 75∞, which in laymanís terms is REALLY wide.  One of the great advantages of working with this lens when photographing people is you can be physically very close to your subject. That closeness can be beneficial as it allows you to connect more readily with your subject.  You also can take advantage of that huge field of view by bringing in the background information, which makes this a great environmental portrait lens.  The photographer has to be careful as that information can overwhelm the viewer.

 

 

Isle of Harris, Scotland                                                           7-14mm f2.8

Dubois, WY wrangler                                                                     7-14mm f2.8                                          

Isle of Harris, Scotland                                                      7-14mm f2.8

Using this as an environmental portrait lens, watch the background closely.  Your subject, if in the near foreground, can also be distorted if placed too close to the edge. The lens is ìrectilinear,î meaning if held level the horizontal and vertical lines will appear to be straight.  Tilt the lens up or down, and you will force those lines to distort.   There are times I do want as much information as possible, usually to emphasize the background.  Working with ìplanesî of information, Iíll place my subject in a foreground plane, allowing the background to be a second layer of information, telling me about that person and the importance of place.

 

Wide to short telephoto:  12-40mm f2.8 / 12-100mm f2.8

Montana winter horse herd                                                              12-100mm f4

Mongolia camel herd, Gobi Desert                                                   12-100mm f4

Kacchpura Village, India                                                        12-100mm f4

Olympus 12-100mm f4

We use the term “normal lens” to describe this length as it closely replicates  the field of view the human eye sees.  The eye is so sophisticated as it zooms effortlessly to what it needs at that moment.   When using the wider range, the 12mm setting, greater and inherent “depth of field,” or DOF,which is the zone of focus, from foreground to background.  Wider lenses have greater DOF, longer have less.  The photographer can use that DOF for creative purposes, either blurring the background by shooting at a large f-stop (diaphragm of the lens, smaller numbers give less DOF) or utilizing a small f-stop, creating a deeper DOF, more in focus from foreground to background.  This is a great focal length with which to work as it allows the photographer to be close to the subject, but not “in their face.”  I love working close enough that I feel a connection to my subject, instead of being too far away.

 

 

 

Marrakech, Morocco fire tender                                               12-100mm f4

 

 

Medium to Long telephoto:  40-150mm f2.8

Olympus 40-150mm f2.8

The longer the lens, the shallower DOF you get in a photo.  The closer to the 40mm on this lens, the greater the DOF and conversely, the closer to 150mm, the less depth of field.   The out of focus visual quality of a lens is referred to as “bokeh.”  By stopping these longer lenses down to an f-stop of f 11 or smaller, the photographer dictates the amount of background that is in focus,  in between, or out of focus . There is a reason for spending the extra money for a fast lens, and the ability to control the amount of focus or de-focus is a prime consideration.  This medium-length lens can allow you to work a bit further from the subject.

 

 

Sri Lanka Temple worshipper                                                    40-150mm f2.8

Sri Lankan stilt fishermen                                                              40-150mm f2.8

Bora tribal woman, Madagascar                                                 40-150mm f2.8

In addition to extra working distance this length provides, a longer lens also starts to “compress” the photo: background and foreground start to appear on the same plane of interest. This also becomes a creative tool for the photographer.

 

Super-telephoto: 300mm f4

Puffin, Vigur Island, Iceland                      300mm f4 + MC-14 Teleconverter

Olympus 300mm f4

Normally thought of as a wildlife or sports lens, one doesn’t normally think of a very long telephoto as a portrait lens.  But, they absolutely have their place here.  From the obvious situation of simply not being able to get close enough to the subject (think lions, hippos, polar bears, and hungry puffins,) to using the super “compression” these lenses provide (compressing being the nature of a super-telephoto to put everything on one plane of interest, foreground to background) a super-telephoto can drop out the background easily in terms of focus.  This can be a creative tool when wanting to heavily emphasize the main subject of the photo.

Polar bear                                                        300mm f4 + MC 14 teleconverter

Hippo, Chobe River, Botswana                                                        300mm f4

 

Super-fast prime lenses: 17mm f1.2,  25mm f1.2,  45mm f1.2

Geisha, Kyoto, Japan                                                                             25mm f1.2

Olympus 25mm f1.2

By design, the super-fast Olympus Pro F1.2 lenses (the 17mm, 25mm, and 45mm) have a beautiful bokeh, very smooth and creamy, enhanced by its multi-blade diaphragm. I use these lenses often for their dramatic visual effect: minimal depth of field which “directs” the viewer where to look, as the sharpness is in on that layer of the image. These lenses also work incredibly well in low-light environments, where a higher shutter speed or greater aperture is desired.

Holy man, Kathmandu, Nepal                                                                25mm f1.2 

 

Cusco, Peru                                                                                                    25mm f1.2

Samoan fire dancer                                                                            25mm f1.2



Horizons 4th Grade Photo Program

4th grade Horizon’s Photo Student

Our family has had a long association with a wonderful summer academic enrichment program named Horizons, held at our kid’s school Colorado Academy. During the summer of 2001 our son Matt began interning with the program; this June he will begin his 17th summer, now Assistant Executive Director. Our daughter Maggie began volunteering in ’03, followed by interning & Teacher Assistant through high school & college summers. She’s continued in this same field, now an urban education teacher. My wife, Becky, and I also jumped in volunteering because we were drawn to the mission, helping underserved children with academic support through the summer gap. Volunteering in the classrooms led to photographing in the program and subsequently creating a photo course.

I’ve always felt photography is critical, as we are visual creatures that recall our memories, and process our thoughts through still images. If I mention your first birthday, your first pet, 9-11 or the Iraq war, a still image most often comes to mind. We don’t think or process via video clips, it’s still images that create the foundation for the process of memory and recall. Based on that thinking, I decided to create a photo program for Horizons, specifically for the 4th graders, believing that age group would be perfect for this class as those kids were old enough to understand the mechanics of the camera and young enough to be impressionable.

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

 

From Horizons Mission Statement:

Horizons at Colorado Academy is an enrichment program designed to promote the potential of a diverse population of children from low-income families.  Guided by a professional faculty in a nurturing environment, the program emphasizes academics, the arts, intramural sports and social growth.  Horizons is committed to the development of the whole child through experiences that encourage a life-long interest in learning and enhance self-esteem, foster awareness of community responsibility, and build problem-solving skills.

Horizons was created in New Canaan, Connecticut in 1964 to serve low-income families in lower Fairfield County. Horizons demonstrated that participation in their program reverses summer learning loss. In 1995, Horizons went national, adding two more locations…along with more locations through the subsequent years. Now, there are 51 Horizons programs in 17 states. Initially only a pre-K through middle school program, currently it has expanded to serve pre-K to high school students. Because of Horizons, those kids participating in the program exhibit a high school graduation rate of 99% along with increased school attendance, improved self-esteem, better grades and love of learning.

From Horizons website:
THE PROBLEM Gaps–of opportunity and
achievement–continue to grow between low-income students and
their more fortunate peers.

THE OPPORTUNITY Horizons students discover the joy of learning, the skills for success, and the inspiration to realize their dreams.

THE RESULTS Increased school attendance. Improved self-esteem. Better grades. A love of learning. And a high school graduation rate of 99%.

One of our 4th Grade Horizon’s Photo class

We began our first photo class in 2004, with the support & enthusiasm of our good friend, fellow parent in our own children’s class, & Executive Director of Horizons at Colorado Academy, Jenny Leger.  Jenny understood my vision & readily wanted to offer it to her students. I then asked Olympus to provide cameras, simple digital point and shoot ones, for our students.

Olympus generously jumped on board. Those cameras worked well as we didn’t have the learning curve of trying to educate the kids on the various shooting modes, etc. We’d put the camera in “Program” mode and let our young photographers focus on the image, the moment. Classes ran for 4 days of a week, immediately after lunch until the end of the day. They would photograph around the school grounds, a different subject each day. Our “curriculum” included photographing people, action, close-ups and telling a story through photos. I kept it simple to allow more time to address the photos they’d create, as I’d do a critique session each day of the previous day’s work…what was discussed on Tuesday would be easily remembered on Wednesday. The “best of the week” photos would be presented in a final slide show at the end of the week. Additionally we printed a “gallery show” of their work for the final night of the 6-week Horizons program. Parents and visitors were able to view the final body of photos, each of them signed by the proud student photographers.

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

A couple of years into the program, I realized I needed help as my business schedule began to conflict with finding time for this week-long class. A very good friend and premier sports photographer for the Denver Post, John Leyba, came to mind. John and I were friends from my time as a Denver Post photographer back in the late ’80’s. I knew John’s easy-going style and love of kids would complement my teaching style. I approached John and he readily agreed.

It was great seeing John the first time we co-taught the class. I asked him to present a body of his sports work, which I knew would resonate with the kids in the sports-savvy town of Denver. His photographs of pro sports include the Denver Broncos, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Rockies and Colorado Avalanche as well as college and high school sports. Our plan worked, as all the kids love John and his work with them.

John began printing the final show, producing 11 x14 prints of two of each of our photographer’s best photos from the week. We’ve been able to keep the 4th grade photo class going throughout these 13 years because John has taken over the class a couple of summers when my work prohibited me from participating. Much of the success of this class has been due to John.

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

Now, for our 4th-grade photographer’s images. I knew they would be able to produce nice photos, as those young minds are open and the cameras were simple to operate, empowering them to capture what they were seeing. I then thought it would be great if they took a camera home with them to document their family life but didn’t want to worry about losing or breaking a digital camera. I approached Bryce Cole of Englewood Camera in Littleton, asking him to provide enough “disposable” film cameras, with a flash built in, for each student. Not only that, but I asked Bryce to develop the film, print and digitize the photos so we could deal with electronic files for ease as our week was so filled already. This enabled us to choose and print from those photos as well, eliminating a time-consuming conversion from film to digital.

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

What really became tough was choosing which images to hang in the final show. Once the kids got the hang of the camera and had a specific theme of portrait, action, etc, the shooting became natural. Having to narrow the choices down was tough, so often too many nice photos from which to choose.

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

Take a look at the quality of these photos, how many are very personal and do tell as story. The idea of visual narrative is close to the heart of many photographers, and these young image-makers did an amazing job of creating beautiful prose.

 By Becky & Jay Dickman, April, 2017

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

 

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

Photo by Horizons Photography Student

Hanging one of the final shows

John and Jay with one of our Horizons 4th Grade Photo Class



Traveling Light

The Benefits of Traveling Light

 

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  “He who would travel happily must travel light.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

It was around 1962 when I first stepped foot outside of the US, on a family trip to the Texas/Mexico border including a visit to Laredo. Looking across the Rio Grande River into Nuevo Laredo, I experienced that first thrill, and at the same time an uncertainty of crossing a border. What a daring thing I was doing, I thought, going into a foreign country, into a place where my language was a foreign tongue. I remember trying some of my basic Spanish phrases, “Hola,” “Como Esta?,” and a few others that came out pretty garbled from the lips of a very shy kid.  Even though it was a brief family trip the excitement of new & foreign places resonated with me.

"Floating" Shinto Shrine, Miyajima Island, Japan E-M1 MkII, 40-150mm

“Floating” Shinto Shrine, Miyajima Island, Japan      E-M1 MkII, 40-150mm

Fast-forward to today…travel/location photography is the main component of my professional work now, and I know that my first foray into that foreign country was a catalyst for my love of adventure and travel.

Traveling extensively for the past 35+ years as a photographer, I am constantly on the search for ways to reduce the weight of my accompanying baggage, both equipment and personal.  2016 was a busy travel year; I just finished a shoot in Japan, the 28th country I worked in this year. My world is pretty much about traveling light, as heavy bags really do slow you down, literally and professionally.

I’m one of Olympus’ “Visionaries” because I believe in the company’s vision for our industry: small, compact, extremely high quality… gear you can carry all day with suffering “camera fatigue.” I believe Olympus is following the design ethic that Oskar Barnack used when building the first Leica in 1927: small, compact, ergonomic and a camera one could carry all day. Sounds familiar, eh?

Arashiyama bamboo forest, Kyoto, Japan E-M1 MkII 7-14mm f2.8

Arashiyama bamboo forest, Kyoto, Japan                             Olympus E-M1 MkII    7-14mm f2.8

Here’s my list to make your travel & photography all the more pleasurable & productive.

Camera & lenses:

I have preached in talks/seminars/lectures/workshops what I consider the benefits of the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) system. The sensor is smaller than a full-size sensor, which allows 35mm equivalency lens lengths to be accomplished with much lighter and smaller lenses. Until the law of physics is changed, lens speed will dictate the size of lenses based on their millimeter rating. My Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 lens is equivalent to an 80-300 f2.8, and is considerably smaller and lighter than a Full Frame (FX) lens

When working in the field, I carry two E-M1 MkII bodies, on a BlackRapid “Dual” strap. This strap allows a camera to suspend from each shoulder, with no chance of the strap slipping. On those bodies, I usually carry the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 (24-80mm in FX equivalency) and a 40-150mm f2.8 (80-300mm FX equivalent) Olympus Pro lens. Unless sports or wildlife specific, I find I can accomplish 98% of my photographic needs with these lenses. I have a couple of extra batteries in the small cellphone pouch that can clip onto the BlackRapid strap.

I’ll often stick the 7-14mm f2.8 lens in a pocket, so I have coverage from 14mm FX equivalence out to 300mm. A lot of range covered here.

E-M1 Mark II w/12-40mm f2.8

E-M1 Mark II w/12-40mm f2.8

Here are the Olympus lenses from which I’ll choose for my particular assignment:

8mm f1.8 fisheye. Yep, you read right, an f1.8 16mm equivalent lens. Great for those huge sky photos.

7-14mm f2.8   A workhorse, as I always seem to find need of this lens.

12-40mm f2.8   If only working with one lens, it would be this. 24-80mm FX equivalent, and a pretty awesome near-macro

40-150mm f2.8 One of the greatest inventions since canned beer, this 80-300mm FX equivalent lens works for so many situations, from portraits and landscape to sports and wildlife, this is a great lens. And with the MC-14 1.4 millimeter converter on this, you have a very real-world African wildlife lens reaching out to 420mm.

MC-14 teleconverter   Usable on the 40-150mm f2.8 and the 300mm f4, this always goes with me, as so many times you want just a bit more lens length. Think of this, with the 300mm f4 and MC-14, you have an FX equivalent 840mm f5.6

300mm f4   Speaking of this lens, here it is on my list. A fantastically sharp lens, it is the perfect lens for Africa and other wildlife locations. Bosque del Apache, here it comes.

Iya Valley, Japan E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Iya Valley, Japan                                                                                             E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Other specific usage lenses from which I’ll choose for low light situations:

12mm f2 I’ve found usage after usage for this tiny jewel of a lens. I will carry this in my roll-aboard ThinkTank bag, along with the 25mm f1.2 for those low light situations, and/or where I want to really drop the background out of focus.

25mm f1.2 This is an amazing piece of glass, sharp, beautifully built, I’ve found myself looking for subjects I can photograph with this lens.

75mm f1.8  Another jewel of a prime lens.  I’ll often use these three lenses, the 12mm f2, the 25mm f1.2 and the 75mm f1.8 for working in those low-light conditions.

Sri Lankan stilt fishermen

Sri Lankan stilt fishermen                                                                E-M1, 40-150mm f2.8 w/Singh Ray Vari ND

Travel and working bags:

As air travel becomes worse, the photographer is continuously fighting an uphill battle in terms of traveling with gear. Overhead space on planes comes at a premium (literally as some airlines now charge for overhead space) given nearly every flight is loaded to capacity. And if you think you can argue with a gate agent when traveling internationally that your bags fall within “international carry on regulations,” I’ve got a bridge to sell you. In so many inter-continental flight, from South America to Africa, Asia to Europe and Australia, that determination of what you can bring aboard is determined by the gate agent, who is most often judge and jury on that argument. Who wants their expensive gear delegated to checked luggage?

I use the ThinkTank Airport Advantage bag for carrying gear aboard the aircraft. I’ve carried this on international as well as commuter flights, with limited overhead and haven’t had a problem (but there is that first time waiting everyone.) This bag is compact, provided a locking system if the horrors of having to gate-check a bag happens.

Again, this is the beauty of the Olympus system, the compact size of the lenses and bodies allow me to pack everything in this case, including batteries/charger, 3 camera bodies, lenses ranging from 16mm FX equivalent out to 600mm f4, my Singh Ray filters and my flash. This entire bag weighs under 22 pounds. See the photo below of my working ThinkTank Airport Advantage.

Once on the ground, if I am working in an environment where I may need a greater compliment of lenses, I’ll use the ThinkTank Retrospective 7 bag. As a long-time traveler, I find that even if you go to that larger bag, you will fill the space accordingly. The Retrospective 7 bag works really well, and takes a minimum of space but can pack a surprising amount of gear.

In years of travel, I’ve found the Eagle Creek line of bags to be great: lightweight, durable and very realistic in terms of packability as well as dragging through an airport. An argument today over the 4-wheeled bags vs. the 2-wheeled bags; I still prefer the 2-wheeled bag, tows straight behind me and moves over uneven ground. Check out the Eagle Creek ORV 30 bag, large but able to also carry tripods, reflectors, etc in addition to your clothing. I trying to go lighter still, check out the Eagle Creek “Load Warrior” series, the link takes you to the Load Warrior 26

My ThinkTank "Airport Advantage" with all cameras for a trip

My ThinkTank “Airport Advantage” with 3 bodies and lenses ranging from 14mm (equivalent) out to 840mm f5.6

 Travel Clothing:

                        For many years, my vanity fought the idea of “travel clothing.” I saw it as nerdy and not-cool. But I tried an “ExOfficio” shirt once, synthetic with a zipper pocket for my passport or other important papers and I was hooked. I use Patagonia travel-specific pants and shirts a ton as they are rugged, putting up with the abuses of travel and equally important, wash quickly and dry rapidly in your hotel room. I’m a fan of the Patagonia Quandry pants. Check out the Patagonia “Sol Patrol “ shirt, this link is to long sleeved version, short also available. Both pants and shirts have an SPF built in, for sun protection. If traveling to areas with endemic malaria, consider spraying your clothing with Permethrin, an insect repellent that will work to repel mosquitoes for 5-6 washings.

Another nerdy thing that I always travel with is my hat. I’ve tried baseball hats, which are a pain for the shooting photographer as one constantly is turning it backwards to shoot vertically. Also, a baseball hat provides no sun protection for ears and neck. So, I have been using the Tilley “Airflo.” Guaranteed against essentially anything this hat has been on so many assignments with me, that I’ve lost count. It has a wind cord, to cinch the hat down so it won’t come off in strong winds. Plus, and here’s the big plus, the brim will collapse against your forehead when holding a camera vertically, then spring back to normal position after shooting.

 

ThinkTank ShapeShifter, Airport Advantage and Shinkansen "Bullet Train," Hiroshima

ThinkTank ShapeShifter, Airport Advantage and Shinkansen “Bullet Train,” Hiroshima

Travel minutiae:

 Stuff I always carry:

2-chamois cloths. Great as an impromptu raincoat for my cameras, use it to wipe off front filters (never the front element) Don’t buy the synthetics, look for the real ones at local auto supply, Target, etc.

Small umbrella: I travel with a “SeaToSummit” travel umbrella. Great products from this Boulder, Colorado based company. This is a really small umbrella (5.3 ounces) that provides to a decent sized canopy

SeatoSummit Aeros travel pillow: It is amazing how your carry on bag will build in bulk and weight unless carefully watched. This pillow is ridiculously small (3 ounces), packs very small and works nicely when traveling back in steerage. Trust me, anything to reduce bulk and/or weight.

CM Ranch E-M5 MkII, 12mm f2 triggered remotely from iPhone OI-Share app

CM Ranch E-M5 MkII, 12mm f2 triggered remotely from iPhone OI-Share app

I travel with either a ThinkTank “ShapeShifter” or “Perception Pro” backpack. The Shapeshifter will carry up to a 17” laptop, the Perception Pro, a 15” laptop. These are deceiving bags, as you really can’t believe so mush will fit into such a small space. Within mine is my traveling office stuff, some of which is listed below.

I used to carry a “Monster” brand extension cord with USB ports. I can’t find that model anymore, so I’ve just purchased a “Bestek” Portable Power Strip.   This compact power strip has a two outlets, and 2 USB outlets: one is a 5.8V, the other is a 4.9V. This can impact charging times for your iPad, so be sure and use correct port for maximum charging ability. I also ALWAYS carry a three prong (type B) to two prong (Type A,for US outlets, grounded to ungrounded ) adapter with me, as often you’ll find some locations (older, very often in US) won’t have a three prong outlet. I plug this Bestek power strip either directly into the plug adapter to local type of plug, or use the 3-2 adapter if necessary.

Geisha, Kyoto, Japan. E-M1 MkII w/ 25mm f1.2

Geisha, Kyoto, Japan.         E-M1 MkII w/ 25mm f1.2

1-2 local plug adapters. Here’s a great website that provides you photos and designation info for international power plug

There are also compact multi-adapters made, if buying MAKE SURE the country your intending to visit is included in the built-in adapters.   Many available via Amazon, here’s an example of one

Small headlamp or flashlight which is always with me, REI sells some great ones. I carry a small and cheap tungsten flashlight, found at Target, etc, sometimes in the checkout aisle. These are nice for light painting, as the tungsten light provides a very warm light. I also carry a Black Diamond “Icon” headlamp that projects an intensely powerful beam, in addition to a lesser-power consuming light source and a red light, great for illuminating something at night without causing a loss of night vision. In that headlamp I use Lithium batteries, long lasting, coming in at nearly 1.7 volts instead of the usual 1.5V of standard AA batteries, and cost a bit more, but worth it for longevity and weight savings.

I frequent “Bed Bath & Beyond” as their travel section of stuff is awesome. Folding hair brushes, tiny individual packets of Tide, travel sized deodorants, toothbrushes, toothpastes, etc..the selection is huge. Look at their small bottles, in which shampoos, etc can be downsized.  In that same line of thinking, in my “dopp kit,” I carry a very small bottle of “Maca Root Shave Cream” from the Body Shop.  This stuff is amazing, as a little goes a long way and provides an incredibly close shave from a tiny dab.

In the conversation of clothes washing, I carry a small “sink stopper.”   Hotel laundry can be expensive, slow or non-existent, and I find that the clothing I use on the road (as noted above, mostly synthetics) is fast drying after a quick wash in my sink. I can’t tell you how many hotels/inns/places I’ve stayed that had no way of stopping up the sink, this simple device has made travel that much easier. Look at your grocery store, hardware store or Bed Bath and Beyond.

Remember the old saw about packing when you’re backpacking: go through your selection of stuff, pull out what you know you won’t use, then reduce that pile by another 50%.  With those quick dry clothes, one can pack 2-3 pairs of pants 3 shirts along with synthetic underwear, all of which will dry in your hotel.  Don’t let the weight of your baggage get in the way of your experience.

 

 “Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

Speaking of travel, this year was pretty crazy…I had the opportunity of working/shooting in over 30 countries in 2016.  Below you’ll find photos from the places I visited…

Landing in Chicago Olympus E-M1 MkII, 12-40mm f2.8

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Puffin on Vigur Island, Iceland                                                      E-M1 300mm f4 w/MC-14 teleconverter

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Polar bear, Baffin Island                                                                                             E-M1 300mm f4

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Polar bear, Baffin Island                                                                                        E-M1   300mm f4

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S Ellesmere Island, Canadian Archipelago                                                                E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Melville Bay, Canadian High Arctic E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Melville Bay, Canadian High Arctic                                                                           E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Qilakitsoq, Greenland E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Qilakitsoq, Greenland                                                                                                                                  E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

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Ilullisat Ice Fjords, Greenland                                                                                              E-M1 300mm f4

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Red Lady, Siena, Italy                                                                                                                 E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

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Colle di Val d’Elsa, Italy-Three friends                                                       E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

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San Gimignano, in the Tuscany region of Italy                                                   E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

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Levanto, province of La Spezia, Italy                                                                   E-M1  40-150mm f2.8

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Monterosso al Mare, province of La Spezia,                                                    Italy E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

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workers clear old building bricks from atop Sigiriya, an ancient rock fortress, Matale District,Central Province, Sri Lanka                             E-M1 7-14mm f2.8

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Young monk in Golden Temple of Dambulla, Sri Lanka                                     E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

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Sri Lankan traditional dance                                                                   E-M1 12mm f2

In Sri Lanka, at the Temple of the Tooth Relic, a pilgrim prays at entrance to temple

In Sri Lanka, at the Temple of the Tooth Relic, a pilgrim prays at entrance to temple      E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

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Tea plantation and tea picker, Sri Lanka                                                               E-M1 7-14mm f2.8

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Fishermen pull in nets, Kataragama, Sri Lanka                                               E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

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Fishermen launching boat, Weligama, Sri Lanka                                               E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Iya Valley, Japan E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Iya Valley, Japan                                                                                                         E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

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Itsukushima Shrine is a Shinto shrine on the island of Itsukushima (popularly known as Miyajima), best known for its “floating” torii gate. Hiroshima Prefecture in Japan.                  E-M1 MkII  12-40mm f2.8

 

 

 

 



CM Nat Geo & FirstLight Absaroka Workflow & Printing Workshops

Road to Dubois Olympus Pen F, 12-40mm f2.8

Road to Dubois                                      Olympus Pen F, 12-40mm f2.8

FirstLight held our printing workshop, July 3-8, 2016 at the Absaroka Ranch, in Dubois Wyoming. Along with printing guru Frank Varney, we hosted a sold-out workshop built around photographing the incredible scenery and western lifestyle on this western town.

Printing is the natural final product of the shooting process, and many never get to experience the pleasure of seeing their photographic efforts come to fruition in a beautifully managed 13 x 19” print.

Moab/Legion Paper provided their really incredible Juniper Baryta Rag 305 paper for our participants. This is one of the first digital media that I’ve seen that has the texture, feel and look of a traditional darkroom print. It’s got an incredible sheen to it, similar to how a glossy paper would look when dried matte. Without question, it’s my new favorite printing paper.

Our great sponsor Olympus provided E-M1 bodies along with 12-40mm, 40-150mm and a couple of the just released 300mm f4 Pro lenses. I’ve been using this system since its release, and I’m a total and enthusiastic advocate for the Micro Four Thirds system. I know a couple of our particpants were swayed over to “the light side.”

To transfer images from our participants to print, we used Lexar flash drives…never have had a problem with their media…

These are just a few images shot during this workshop, please visit FirstLightWorkshop.com soon for updates on our future workshops.

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CM Wrangler Zach LeCompte on Dubois Overlook

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Early morning horse drive, Boneyard

 

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CM Ranch students at Overlook

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FirstLight Absaroka participants

Jack & Apryl Poikvar with their prints

 

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Badlands overlook

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Photographers taking advantage of great light in front of Rustic Pine

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Bryce Street

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Bryce Street jumping

Wrangles at CM

Wranglers at CM

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Horses returning into corral, early evening.

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Horses returning into corral, early evening.

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Dubois Rodeo

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Dubois Rodeo



FirstLight Namibia Photo Expedition is complete!

Yellow-billed stork lands on tree in Chobe River, Botswana. Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8 wMC-14 teleconverter

Yellow-billed stork (Mycteria Ibis)  lands on tree in Chobe River, Botswana.                                Olympus E-M1 40-150mm f2.8 wMC-14 teleconverter

Him woman in village near Okahirongo Elephant Lodge

Him woman in village near Okahirongo Elephant Lodge                                                                                                                     E-M1   40-150mm f2.8

There are those places that grab you and that you’ll recall at a moments notice. Namibia is one of those places for me. I’d first worked there over 15 years ago, and have been back several times since. Over a year ago I decided to build a FirstLight Photo Expedition there, and we just finished that incredible trip.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe                                                                                            E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Interior of one of the buildings at Kolmanskop E-M1 7-14mm f2.8

Interior of one of the buildings at Kolmanskop                                                           E-M1 7-14mm f2.8

A different model than FirstLight has used before, we limited the group size to a total of 6 individuals, as to take advantage of the structure as we were traveling within Namibia via aircraft for the majority of the trip. We actually had two aircraft: a Kodiak to fly our group and a Cessna 210 for the luggage and gear. This proved to be a perfect model, as distances in Namibia are vast and traveling from one location to the other can account for many hours in a 4×4 safari vehicle over very rough roads.

Perez, our awesome guide and some stranger in the background!!

Perez, our awesome guide and some stranger in the background!!

Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert. E-M1 300mm f4

Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert.                                                                           E-M1 300mm f4

We’re working on building the same Namibia Photo Expedition for next year, as well as a Mongolian Photo Expedition in 2017. We will send out a notice for each of these, and the process is the first ones to respond are those who participate.

Heeling Ceremony in Ju/’hoan Bushmen village

Heeling Ceremony in Ju/’hoan Bushmen village                                                    E-M1  17mm f1.8

Healing ceremony, Ju/’hoan Bushmen village E-M1 17mm f1.8

Healing ceremony, Ju/’hoan Bushmen village                                                                     E-M1 17mm f1.8

Deadvlei in Namib-Naukluft Park E-M1 7-14mm f2.8

Deadvlei in Namib-Naukluft Park                                                                      E-M1 7-14mm f2.8

Ju/’hoan Bushmen village E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Ju/’hoan Bushmen village                                                                                     E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Yellow-billed storks on tree in Chobe River, Botswana E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Yellow-billed storks on tree in Chobe River, Botswana                                   E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Palmwag Concession in Damaraland E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Palmwag Concession in Damaraland                                                              E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Hippo in the Chobe River, Botswana E-M1 300mm f4

Hippo in the Chobe River, Botswana                                                                               E-M1 300mm f4

Elephant cooling off in the Chobe River w/friend E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Elephant cooling off in the Chobe River w/friend                                                        E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Ju/’hoan Bushmen village E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Ju/’hoan Bushmen village                                                                                       E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Sossuslvei, Namib-Naukluft National Park

Sossuslvei, Namib-Naukluft National Park                                                                                                                                           E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Old diamond ghost town of Elizabeth Bay E-M1 7-14mm f2.8

Old diamond ghost town of Elizabeth Bay                                                                     E-M1 7-14mm f2.8

Full moon rising, Elizabeth Bay E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Full moon rising, Elizabeth Bay                                                                             E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Hunting with Bushman E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Hunting with Bushman                                                                                               E-M1 12-40mm f2.8

Bushman squeezing water from root E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Bushman squeezing water from root                                                                         E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Bushman starting fire the natural way E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Bushman starting fire the natural way                                                                          E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Early evening in Ju/’hoan Bushmen village E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Early evening in Ju/’hoan Bushmen village                                                                E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Cessna 210 seen from our Kodiak, flying into Luderitz

Cessna 210 seen from our Kodiak, flying into Luderitz

Impala, Chobe National Park E-M1 300mm f4

Impala, Chobe National Park                                                                                 E-M1         300mm f4

Our group leaving Deadvlei in Namib-Naukluft Park E-M1 7-14mm f2.8

Our group leaving Deadvlei in Namib-Naukluft Park                                      E-M1       7-14mm f2.8

Kolmanskop, German diamond mine now a ghost town E-M1 7-14mm f2.8

Kolmanskop, German diamond mine now a ghost town                                  E-M1           7-14mm f2.8

Him woman, near Okahironga Camp E-M1 40-150mm f2.8

Him woman, near Okahironga Camp                                                               E-M1           40-150mm f2.8

anhinga (Anhinga anhinga), sometimes called snakebird, on Chobe River, Botswana E-M1 300mm f4

anhinga (Anhinga anhinga), sometimes called snakebird, on Chobe River, Botswana     E-M1 300mm f4

FirstLight Namibia group

FirstLight Namibia group



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.

 

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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.

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

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

 

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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.

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

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

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Aitutaki Atoll                                                                                                              Olympus E-M1 12-40mm lens

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

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

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

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

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

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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.
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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

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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