70-200mm IS lens, Animals, Canon 50D, Photo Challenges, Photo Editing, Photography

Weekly Photo Challenge: Eye Spy

Sometimes a visit to the zoo is like a game of  I Spy, as in good luck finding anyone out and about.  Not so a few days ago on a cool autumn morning, a lot of animals were out enjoying a bit of the morning sunshine, including this cheetah:

ISO 800 f/5.6 1/250 0ev 200mm

ISO 800 f/5.6 1/250 0ev 200mm

Usually when I am taking animal photos I try to get a shot with their eyes in focus.  In this case, there was something I liked about the photos with its eyes closed.  A bit relaxed and aloof at the same time.  While I was shooting that morning I had set my ISO to 800 because I felt like with the sun going in and out, 800 would cover the changing conditions.  I had my shutter speed at 250 because a lot of the animals were moving around, and that speed was enough to capture that motion.  In this particular photo, that wasn’t really necessary.  I have not done much post processing with this photo, the original is below, and you can see the biggest change is the cropping:

ISO 800 f/5.6 1/250 0ev 200mm

ISO 800 f/5.6 1/250 0ev 200mm

In this case I was mindful of the rule of thirds, and placed the cheetah’s closed eyes along one of those rule of thirds grid lines.  I think keeping it simple in this case made for a good photo, but what do you think?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Cheers!

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50mm Lens, Animals, Canon 50D, Nature, Photo Challenges, Photo Editing, Photography

Travel Theme: Stone

One of my favorite places to go and photograph animals in the St. Louis Zoo.  This Black and White Ruffed Lemur lives there:

ISO 1600 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/50

ISO 1600 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/50

Obviously the image has been edited in Photoshop.  I’ll show you the original exposure at the bottom of the post.  Photographs in the primate house can be difficult to get.  The closer you can get to the glass the better and flash generally works against you in the scenario.  I have a fairly high ISO here but a slow shutter speed.  This combination worked for this particular photo because this lemur was pretty still, he seemed content to stare back at whoever was looking at him.

The image I wanted to create in Photoshop was one that looked like a print or a silk screen.  I would say the toughest part of achieving what I wanted was to maintain some of the texture in the white fur.  The way to go about creating an image like this is to create a separate layer for every color value you want to use.  Because I am pretty new to the technique, I first created a duplicate layer of my original photo, that way I hadn’t lost it if I messed up completely.  Then on my duplicate layer I went to Select-Color Range.  From there a dialogue box will open up and you can choose the color values you want to work with first.  Then click OK.  Then I clicked quick mask and got rid of any areas that I did not want to have selected.  Then I created a new layer, used the eye dropper to pick the color I wanted and did and option-delete to fill the area with that color.  That is one color selection done.  For each additional color I repeated those same steps.  Once I was satisfied with that, I added a layer of solid grey at the bottom of the layers to sort of hold the image together.  Then I found a stone texture on line and dragged it into the image as the top layer and dropped its opacity.  The lemur was sitting on a stone, but I wanted that texture to run through the whole image.  Here is the original image:

ISO 1600 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/50

ISO 1600 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/50

Pretty different from the edited version I created isn’t it?  What do you think? Do you like this particular editing technique?  Have you ever tried it?  Your comments are welcome below.

I wrote this post in part as a response to the Weekly travel-themed photo challenge at Where’s My Backpack?  The theme this week is stone.

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50mm Lens, Animals, Canon 50D, Photo Challenges, Photo Editing, Photography

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside the Zoo

The St. Louis Zoo has an event every year for folks who participate in their Zoo Parent program.  One of the presentations was a talk by an orangutan keeper.  She was showing how they train the orangutans to present body parts to the keeper so that any medical care they might need can be as non-evasive as possible:

ISO 1250 50mm 0ev f/6.3 1/40

ISO 1250 50mm 0ev f/6.3 1/40

This wasn’t a particularly easy photo to get.  It was a very contrasty scene.  I was standing in the shade, as was the keeper, but you can see that it was very sunny in the background.  I did not want to use my flash in this situation as I thought it would be too distracting.  So, I have my ISO set high and my shutter speed is slow.  The keeper is a bit blurry, but I was OK with that in the case, because I really want you to look beyond the keeper to the orangutan.  I edited this photo in Photoshop.  I added a Levels adjustment and slid the black slider to the left.  I also did both some dodging and burning on the square that includes the orangutan.  Parts of it needed to be darkened and parts lightened.  When I was dodging and burning I also changed the opacity level of that tool, because having it set at 100% seemed a bit too heavy handed.

Watching presentations like this are very interesting to me, because it is just a glimpse of what goes on inside a zoo.  Inside is the theme for this week’s photo challenge at WordPress, so you can click here to see other interpretations.

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50mm Lens, Animals, Canon 50D, Nature, Photo Challenges, Photography

Travel Theme: Peaceful

This weekend I made a short visit to the St. Louis Zoo.  I had my 50mm lens on my camera when I saw this very peaceful looking lion:

ISO 250 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/160

ISO 250 50mm 0ev f/5.6 1/160

And right there you see the limitation of a 50mm lens.  I can’t get any closer to the subject, so that is as good of a shot as I am going to get.  So I switched to my 28-135mm lens for these next two shots:

ISO 400 135mm 0ev f/7.1 1/60

ISO 400 135mm 0ev f/7.1 1/60

How peaceful looking is that? but remember to stay alert around wildlife because I took this picture 15 seconds later:

ISO 400 135mm 0ev f/7.1 1/80

ISO 400 135mm 0ev f/7.1 1/80

Hello there, not asleep!

For the two shots taken with my 28-135mm lens I did have to increase the ISO and decrease the shutter speed to get the depth of field that I wanted.  I don’t find the rock outcropping that she is sleeping on to be distracting, so I wanted to keep it in focus.

My blogging friend Rosemarie wrote about the St. Louis Zoo recently and also took some great photos.

This post was written in part as for the weekly travel-theme challenge that is hosted on the blog, Where’s my backpack? this week featuring peaceful as its theme.

Thoughts? Comments? feel free to leave them below!

Cheers!

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50mm Lens, Animals, Birds, Canon 50D, Nature, Photography

I go to the zoo, encounter a few problems

For this trip to the St. Louis Zoo I went to the bird house. The problems there for photographers include:

  1. Low light
  2. Cage wires
  3. Distance from the birds

For me you can add:

  1. Forgetting to take down the names of the birds.

I’ll come back to the problems is a minute, but for now the birds:

ISO 500 50mm 0ev f/13 0.6s

ISO 500 50mm 0ev f/13 0.6s

This was probably my most successful image.  I actually got two exposures of this white winged wood duck, which I merged in HDR to bring out some of the really interesting detail this duck has. Notice I actually know the name of the duck as well.

Here are some other images, notice how many don’t have names:

So, of the seven birds featured in this post, I know the names of three.  Pretty bad when you consider I had a strategy for remembering the names.  The thought was to take a picture of the display sign whenever I took a picture of a bird.  Not a bad idea, but I guess I didn’t follow through because I came home with a bunch of birds but not a bunch of names.

As for the more generic problems I listed, here is what I did.  First I bumped my ISO to 500, usually I stick to as close to 100 as possible.  I was using my 50mm lens, because I can get my f-stop to 1.8, allowing as much light in as possible.  Where possible, I tried to have a fast shutter speed.  What I was trying to do with that was blur the cage wires as much as possible.  Because a fast shutter speed cuts down on the light, my shutter speed varies a lot in these images.  The shutter speed range is 1/30 to 1/320 depending on the shot.  I also used my tripod.  The birds were already moving, I didn’t want to add in camera shake.  As far as the distance from the cages, I did the best I could.  There were certain birds that I could not get close enough to to get a decent shot.  Either the bird was too far away for a 50mm lens, or the cage wires were to prominent in the images.

So, when you are taking photos of subjects and want to remember proper names later how do you do it?  I guess I could use some tips!

Cheers!

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50mm Lens, Animals, Birds, Canon 50D, Flowers, iPhone, Nature, Photo Challenges, Photo Editing, Photography

Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures

This is a gallery of some of my favorite pictures from my blog this year.  It is a response to this week’s photo challenge from WordPress.  A big thank you to everyone who has stopped by my blog this year!

Cheers!

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Animals, Birds, Canon 50D, Nature, Photo Challenges, Photography

Weekly Photo Challenge: Green

This week’s challenge from WordPress also includes the challenge of adding a gallery, so we will see how this turns out.  For my “green” I am using some photos I took this past spring at the zoo.

Cheers!

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