Jackson Hole Total Eclipse Guide

Jackson Hole Total Eclipse Guide
I’m super excited for my new book to come out this month: Jackson Hole Total Eclipse Guide, the Commemorative Official Guidebook. It’s loaded with eclipse photography specifics, safety info, and locations to shoot from. If you want to photograph the eclipse over the Grand Teton, this book has specific locations to shoot from. It has specific locations to be in on August 21, 2017.
Photographing an eclipse is actually pretty dangerous. I partly fried the inside of my D300s during the 2012 partial eclipse. Oops! My Nikon still works but it was a good lesson. It was like looking into a laser beam.
It also explains how to photograph the total eclipse. The difference between shooting a partial and a total eclipse is massive. Your exposure goes from, well, the sun, all the way to starlight in a few seconds. Can you shoot 11 bracketed shots in 2 minutes under pressure? That’s what it takes to capture that corona and the stars.
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Aaron on KHOL

Radio interviewAaron on KHOL

Both myself and Thomas Macker from the Art Association were featured this morning on Jackson Hole KHOL 89.1 radio. Brielle hosted both of us to talk about the 4th Teton Photography Symposium.

For the spring Teton Photography Group program, we’re covering photographic composition. It’s the most important aspect of photography, well ahead of exposure and basic camera management. If you don’t know where and how to point your camera, all of the exposure controls in the world won’t help you.

We’re bringing in several professional photographers and artists for this one. Attendees will enjoy speeches from:

Teton Photography Group Symposium Presenters

  • Heather Erson
  • David Agnello
  • Ed Lavino
  • Chase Dekker
  • Roger Hayden
  • Thomas Macker
  • Richard Tambor

Each of these speakers brings their own photographic and artistic genre to life. Each is special in their own way, sharing their knowledge with the audience. They’re all worth listening to, as how they view the world will help you better view yours.

The symposium is on Mar 14, 2015, from 830am to 315pm at the Black Box Theater in the Center for the Arts.

Come, enjoy, learn and ask questions. I know I will!

Aaron Radio Interview

Listen to the radio interview here:


 

Thanks to Kelly for recording this for me in her Toyota FJ (hence the tin can sound).

 

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Time lapse footage Old Bills

Old Bills vantage point

Old Bills vantage point

Old Bill’s Fun Run Timelapse

Some of my Old Bill’s Fun Run time lapse footage was used in the 2014 1% For the Tetons Video Blitz Film Festival. Check out the film here:

Any part with the race, banner or runners were my shots. There were taken with a Nikon D800, Nikon D300s, and a Sony RX-100 to create the footage for part of this film.

Time Lapse Shooting Tips

Nikon 85mm f/1.4 aperture

Nikon 85mm f/1.4 aperture

I used Nikon  lenses with aperture rings to take all of the shot sequences to avoid flicker. When building up a time lapse video, flicker is the bane of time lapse shooters. It’s caused by subtle variations in the aperture setting when the camera takes pictures. You’ll never notice these in normal shooting but if you lay the shots down in a video sequence, the effect is distracting and ruins the video.

There are software tools to “de-flicker” or deflicker the video sequence. That’s all fine but it’s another step. All of Nikon’s new lenses are G series without aperture rings. I rarely use them but for time lapse. But when you need it, there’s nothing better. The only way to directly avoid this problem is to leave the G lens wide open or stop it all the way down. Both of these options aren’t as ideal.

Canon lenses and cameras used for time lapse shooting suffer from the same problem. If you are lucky enough to own a lens with an aperture ring and are thinking about selling it, consider that if you’re ever going to shoot time lapse, you’re selling off a superior tool.

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Getting away from iPhoto

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 5.00.49 PMIf you own a Mac and have ever downloaded pictures to your computer, you’ve been prompted to add images to iPhoto. This is a very handy program for you to organize, edit, and share your photographs.

The program is built in, it’s free, and it’s quite powerful for the cost. Many people use the software and been quite happy with it.

However, if you photograph a great deal, are serious about your shooting, and really need to upgrade your images, the only major software on the market now is Lightroom. It has far more capability than iPhoto, being able to manage images with  keywords, collections, heavy editing, and seamless integration with Photoshop.

iPhoto to Lightroom

What happens when you have overwhelmed the abilities of iPhoto and you want to expand your repertoire, go pro, or whatever else you might like to do with your images? How do you get these images out of iPhoto and into Lightroom easily? Unfortunately there’s no easy answer. There are software packages out there to do the conversion but there’s nothing that’s truly dominating the market.

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 5.10.40 PMYou are most likely going to need to convert manually. Before you break out in a cold sweat, don’t worry, it’s not a terribly complex deal, just a bit laborious. However, once you make the switch to using Finder to organize your photos on the Mac then use Lightroom to edit the ones you want to work on, you’ll be set.

Mac, iPhoto and Lightroom tutoring

I spent the afternoon with a private lesson student working on exactly this process. There were over a hundred events in iPhoto to convert. At first it seemed overwhelming, but once I shared the tricks and procedure of how to make the conversion and organize the files, the student saw it really wasn’t a complex process. Just a bit laborious. Once the folders are set up in Finder and the files are exported as originals out of iPhoto, it will be much easier to manage, view, and share these images.

If you’d like help with this process, contact me and I can arrange a lesson show you how to make the daunting task manageable.

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Recording Voice Overs

AT2035 in case

AT2035 in case

Recording voice overs isn’t as simple as it seems. I’ve been working on getting the audio set for Antarctic Tears: The Movie, and it’s been a long haul getting audio correct. As all still cameras now have video capability, learning better audio to present your video and still work is worthwhile. The Nikon D800 records amazing film, as well as the Canon 5Diii. Photographer  journalists are now virtually expected to produce good video as well as compelling stills.

Apple would have you believe you can just hook your ear buds into the computer, click the Record Voice Over in Final Cut Pro X and everything will be good. Only if you want room noise, the dog next door barking, and lots of static hiss to ruin your otherwise good film.

How about the built in microphone on your Macbook Retina? Only if you want to record fan noise, your keyboard strokes and who knows what else.

No, you have to go to some effort to get good audio and a great deal of effort to get excellent audio. People spend a lot of money on it! How do you make a basic voice over that sounds decent?

  • Buy a great mic
  • Buy an awesome audio recorder
  • Build a sound booth [you’re an audio engineer, right?]

10k later, you’ll be set for your first audio book. Maybe.

OR

Don’t believe it? Here are 2 audio samples of what you’ll get if you chose

A bad recording location: Wood floors, cathedral ceiling, lots of windows. This was recorded directly into a Zoom H4n into the stereo mics

You can hear the room echo. It’s terrible and makes the voice over difficult to hear.

Now, listen to this audio recorded on a Audio Technica AT2035 connected to the Zoom H4n in mono mode (mono input mode makes it possible to use a single microphone and record on both stereo tracks).

You can hear the voice, it’s clear and there’s no high or low frequency echo. Would this be better if it were recorded on a Schoeps CMC641G microphone? Sure! But you’ll be set back $2000 or more just for the microphone.

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TPG Photo Wednesdays

Viewfinder issues

Viewfinder issues

I’ve been self-assigned the duty of creating Photo Wednesdays with the Teton Photography Group. To foster discussion, have a good time and improve communication between photographers in the group, we’re going to do this.

Loren Nelson will be sending out more specifics. Specifically, it’s informal, post your photo you think is interesting, even it’s your house cat. We’ll eventually have themes, but it’s a forum for everyone to post, have fun, and learn something. It’s a supportive environment and I hope to grow this into something fun that people always like to check out every Wednesday.

This will be open to everyone who is a TPG member, more details from Loren forthcoming, but we expect it to be fun and worth the time. Even if your photo is like the above and you’re hoping to get some discussion, it’ll be good. You see the pink area? That’s from light leakage in the Nikon D800. That’s why it has a little hatch on the viewfinder for long exposures. I learned that one. But it does make the photo more colorful, so maybe it worked out.

The Lion in Winter

DSC_D8_10355The Jackson Hole Off Square Theater Company contacted me to photograph their staged reading of The Lion in Winter, a 1966 play by James Goldman about Henry II of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their children (include Richard the Lionheart) during the Christmas of 1183.

The play was made into a movie in 1968 featuring Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn. It was also made into a television show in DSC_D8_103382003 with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close. Though those actors are gone, the actors who played in this rendition directed by Natalia Macker, went well and was quite enjoyable.

DSC_D8_10505Presented in two parts, the play relates the trials and tribulations of the medieval era and illustrates how people have not changed in 1000 years. The intrigues, devious nature, and constant infighting are no different today than they were at any other time in history.

DSC_D8_10509Given the play was presented as a staged reading, I at first thought it wouldn’t be too interesting but I was quite wrong. Even though the actors held their scripts to read from, they did such a good job of interacting with each other and making the reading dramatic that them holding their scripts didn’t take away from the action at all.

DSC_D8_10521One interesting technique that the play used was a narrator at the side of the stage to give audible cues to the audience for actions that would have required more props and action than the play afforded. Whether it be Henry drawing a sword on John or Eleanor cutting herself with a knife, the lack of props didn’t detracted from the play.

DSC_D8_10527One of the best parts of photographing on a stage with the lighting is that I don’t have to add any drama to the image, I just have to capture it at the correct moment. So often lighting in things can be bland, so I work hard to add great lighting to give dimension and emotion to the image.

DSC_D8_10218It’s important for me to deliver dramatic images to my clients to give them the feeling of a moment which would be lost otherwise with boring lighting. It’s not the camera that makes the photographer better but rather a sense of timing and ability to manipulate lighting to make the image striking and exciting. And if you can’t change the lighting, then finding a place that makes the image good and the lighting workable is just as important. When I teach photography, I impart in students that it’s important to work the image. With digital photography, you can see what you’re getting, so you can keep adjusting and get the image just right.

For those more interested in learning some of my lighting techniques, check out my training DVD Flash Photography with Aaron Linsdau at TVL Video.

Yellowstone winter panorama

Exhibition

Click for larger view

During my last expedition across Yellowstone National Park in 2012, I had the chance to photograph this stunning sunrise over Duck Lake, on the way to Old Faithful, after leaving West Thumb early in the morning.

Tall enough to leave markings where I did the same

Tall enough to leave markings where I did the same

As I was taking the shots to create the panorama, wolves began serenading me. At least that’s what I told myself as I made my way up the pass. There were at first a few mournful howls as the sun warmed up the horizon, then they all broke into a symphony for what seemed minutes, then went dead silent as the echo faded across the valley.

Wolf tracks following me

Wolf tracks following me

One of my more memorable experiences of crossing Yellowstone, the sound of wolves stayed with me for the rest of the trip. I even had one following me over to Old Faithful later that night. There were a few snow coaches that passed and photographed it, then later saw me along the same road. Many of the passengers demanded the driver go back and warn me that a wolf was following me.

None of the drivers turned around because they were all not worried, as they know the wolves are very spooky in the park. I didn’t learn about this until some time later when a ranger related the story to me. I got a good laugh, as I did see the markings and paw prints in the snow from the huge prehistoric dog. He (or she) certainly had followed me and got close enough that I expected to see eyes with the howls. It really wanted to know what I was, the stranger walking through its land in the night. As so few rarely travel through Yellowstone in this fashion, I was a curiosity.

Wolf food (no, I NEVER feed wolves)

Wolf food (no, I NEVER feed wolves)

It was frightening and all at once exhilarating to have something that weighs nearly as much as I with speed and teeth following me. For all the times I’ve been through Yellowstone in the summer and winter, I’ve never actually seen a wolf. They’ve walked by my tent, left tracks inspecting me, and even stalked me. Yet they’ve never approached me, somehow knowing what I was.

Perhaps he/she was following me because I had shortbread cookies.

Stormy animal day

Hills of Gros Ventre and Blacktail Butte south

Hills of Gros Ventre and Blacktail Butte south

It was a stormy day in the Jackson Hole area, so we decided to go out looking for animals. There were moose reported out past Kelly and that’s what I was hoping to capture. As luck would have it, those moose were as far away as possible. That’s the way animal photography works most of the time.

The first shot on the right ended up being my favorite because of the interplay between light, shadows, shapes, and branches.

As luck would have it, there were several nice images that rendered well in black and white. One even surprised me that I thought it would look good in b&w but actually looked better in color because the green standing out against the plain brown and slate gray of everything else is what caught my eye.

DSC_D8_9777DSC_D8_9752< Posing, making some interesting triangles with his face and horns.

Walking in the landscape as a small animal, this young one has to keep a sharp eye out for trouble. As bighorn sheep seem to have very acute vision, this didn’t seem to be a problem for him. >

DSC_D8_9747DSC_D8_9740< I was quite excited to actually get an “okay” shot of two bighorn sheep head butting. I heard the crack several times but every time I looked, they were just standing around like nothing had happened.

Some of these sheep will come right up to your vehicle on the refuge road. Of course you have to be very careful when you drive around and it’s best not to get out of the vehicle. They like the chemicals and salts falling off vehicles, so they’ll actually come up and lick car tires. I did my boy scout duty today and towed a guy in a Nissan Altima out of the ditch on the side of the road. He tried to be proper and pull off to the side, only to immediately sink into 2 feet of snow, swamping his car. A little tow strap action got him on his way.

DSC_D8_9738DSC_D8_9727These young bighorn sheep look rather cuddly, though I’d not like to have one around once he gets older. He might give me a huge headache.

Kelly was able to get some video of this young ram munching on the refuge road twigs. He was so loud her iPhone actually captured the crunching. That was the funniest thing of the day.

DSC_D8_9723DSC_D8_9716Even though the animals were fun to photograph, I found some arguably more interesting scenes to capture. A few of them turned out fairly well. I haven’t decided what the power line and the crepuscular rays say, so you’ll have to make your own interpretation.

The sastrugi raking off the sage sticking out of the snow reminded me of Antarctica. Of course continent 7 doesn’t have any plants, but the windswept shapes of snow reminded me of Antarctic Tears.

DSC_D8_9711-Edit-2

At first I thought this shot would look great in black and white but it was the green against the brown gray of everything that actually caught my eye. Once I toned the image, it had not excitement. So the color version actually ended up working better. Finding shots where there’s a single item that’s out of place with the rest always makes for an interesting shot.

DSC_D8_9703DSC_D8_9684The moose was way out there, sitting, down, and facing away. He was no doubt tired from the photography and video he enjoyed having done on him the past couple days. I was hoping for something more exciting. But I’d be resting, too, if I had to run around all day in winter munching on twigs. The wind cooperated and make a blasting bison shot. I was hoping for some worse wind but this worked okay.

DSC_D8_9671DSC_D8_9669Hunters were along the refuge road looking for their prize elk all day. There have been some big disputes about the hunting here but I’ll leave that to other forums to discuss.

The hunters had to slog through knee deep snow to go after the animals they were looking for, so they had to work for their food.

DSC_D8_9663

Flat creek is the perfect place to catch swans, cygnets (baby swans) and mallards One doesn’t even have to drive barely past town to capture these magnificent animals.

Bad weather days are actually very nice to photograph in because there are far fewer people, the light is more interesting, and the drama can be much higher. A plain bison standing in sage in the middle of the summer – boring. A bison laboring to find something to eat while being blasted by 20 knot wind-driven snow – interesting.

Click on any of these photos to see a larger version.

Note – As always, all of these images are copyright and are not in the public domain. Please contact me if you’d like to use them. For most uses, I’ll happily oblige.

Happy shooting as we head into Thanksgiving!

Panasonic Lumix DMZ-FZ1000 review

panasonic-lumix-dmz-fx1000It shoots very nice UHD (not truly 4k) video. There is some noise in the image but that’s to be expected for this price point.

For the body size and handling, it’s really a nice camera for the right person. I can’t use it for my general shooting for several reasons but if I want a stealthy UHD camera, this one just might fit the bill. At a price below $900, I was stunned just how good it actually was.

Image quality

Photo courtesy of Sava Malachowski

Photo courtesy of Sava Malachowski, © Sava Malachowski

The IQ (image quality) of the camera for a still is pretty good, though it’s not a higher end Nikon or Canon. Don’t be fooled. In dark areas at low ISO it’s easy to see the noise. A huge zoom lens just won’t have the resolution for stills. For most, they’ll be amazed. But if you’re discerning, you’ll be only “okay” with the shadow performance.

If you click on the image on the right, you can see a small sized sample of the full image. The red box shows the 1:1 sample area of the image on the moose hide. For as good as the image looks in full screen, when you get down to the nitty gritty, you’ll see it’s “okay”. I didn’t have time to do a MTR test or anything, but those don’t translate well into “what does it actually look like” terms.

1:1 quality of moose hide, you can see noise in the image, 1/160, f/5, ISO 125, 63mm

1:1 quality of moose hide, you can see noise in the image, 1/160, f/5, ISO 125, 63mm

But for video quality you get a very nice image. I was pretty amazed to see it on an iMac display, even though the image was interpolated. It was just clearer than I’ve seen HD. Really, it looked like HD played on a 120Hz TV display. That was the look. The video samples were shot at 60FPS, so perhaps that helped. It really looked like the real thing. I didn’t expect it to be that much better than HD. But if you stack up a 3-chip HD camera with better dynamic range against a limited range, small sensor like this, you might be pressed to tell the difference. Again in the shadows there will be noise. The again, what do you expect for a small form factor single chip camera?

Lens

The aperture goes from about f/3 to ONLY f/8. That’s really miserable for photography. Nature of small sensor cameras. Even though the specs claim f/2.8 to f/11, in the shooting I was testing it with, it only really gave me f/3 to f/8 to work with. That’s a tough one, especially in full daylight shooting.

That zoom and optical stabilizer is awesome. I’d love to have something that goes from 25mm to 400mm and does a real good job on my D800. If I did, I could dump a bunch of other lenses. But I’d need it to be f/2.8 and have it go to f/22. Oh well, I can dream.

Dynamic Range

We had a snow shot with moose and it worked pretty well. But the snow on the mountains was blown out in the video with zebras set to 95%. Again, it’s not a D800 but it’ll blow away your little basic point and shoot. But I think my Sony RX-100 probably still beats it for dynamic range.

View finder

The electronic viewfinder – not bad for a video camera, okay for landscape shooting but poor for sports/action/moving things. When you pan/tilt, you get an image jitter. The swim is very small but the smearing in the image will irritate you if you shoot an optical DSLR. EVF (electronic view finders) aren’t there yet. I worked at a digital night vision company where we went to great efforts to have zero swim, jitter or anything else and this isn’t even close. Then again, those systems were $60,000 and this is $900. You get what you pay for.

The info in the viewfinder for a video camera is very nice. It fits the bill of shooting things where a video camera would get you into trouble. For the price, the image quality is pretty amazing. Is there better dynamic range and such out there? Yes, The GH4 and upwards. But for what this is going for, it really makes UHD accessible.

Controls

The switch to go from zoom to MF – not a fan. 2 rings are more expensive, though. There’s the zoom rocker on the shutter release. Eh, it’s under a finger, so it feels like a little point and shoot zoom for the video camera it’s designed for.

The fully manual video camera mode – thank goodness! Not allowing me to control Auto-ISO ruins other camcorders/DSLRs. Locking down exposure is critical if you want professional-looking images.

The different programmable function buttons are nice for getting what you want. Some of the switch modes like focus control are appreciated. They’re not in ergonomic places like my D800 at all. There are buttons which are appreciated on a video camera but the layout leaves lots to be desired. Like all things, it’s something you get used to.

Autofocus

The autofocus – amazingly fast. I’m not sure what they put in there but it must be a hybrid phase/contrast focus system because it matches my Nikon D800 focus speed quite easily. However, when you need to control focus points, that’s where it falls apart.

Storage

You’ll need lots more storage to use UHD on this camera. Your puny little 320GB drive will be gone in no time shooting with this. Think 2TB drives minimum. Why do I say this? I’m editing my film, Antarctic Tears, which is a feature length film. And it eats up 228GB of my SSD drive. And that’s shot in HD. This camera has almost 4x the resolution. Even a 500GB SSD won’t even come close to supporting a feature length film. 4k/UHD video is what HD was to our computers 10 years ago. Be ready to spend a LOT of money if you want to really work with this.

Other items

Major video shooting issue: This thing has no earphone out. That is one major failing. Why in the world they left this out is beyond me. Perhaps Panasonic is trying to push you into a higher end camera. You might be able to use the AV out and cobble something together. Who knows w/o that cable.

If you don’t have ears on your video camera, you’ll realize only after the shot is over what went wrong. I can pipe audio through my ZoomH4n and listen there, as I can use that as my XLR input, but still. No, this doesn’t have XLR. Of course not.

ND filters for video – buy one. You’ll need one. Or two. For a 3-stop ND, I use this Hoya filter.

The batteries seem to konk out pretty quick, but we were shooting at 10 degrees F with wind chill. Buy more batteries.

You’ll need an UHS-1 SD card for it. UHD video eats up a LOT of card space. I hope you bought a spare hard disk or three. Editing this video – get Rocketstore Thunderbolt enclosure with a SSD drive with a fast computer.

Buy your Panasonic Lumix DMZ-FX1000 here at B&H Photo.

Thank you to Sava Malachowski of Sava Film and Open Range Films for the sample images and video. He had excellent footage to sample and work with in tough conditions, shooting in a Wyoming winter with dark animals and bright snow. There’s not much tougher.