Book Review – Bryan Peterson’s “Understanding Exposure”

As photography continues to grow in popularity and practice, more and more beginners are finding themselves spending lots of money on equipment and traveling to places to photograph.  Unfortunately, all too often, a lack of exposure theory and understanding prevent them for making the most of their equipment and time.  I have read many books and articles on exposure and I found one that seems to excel at explaining the concept of exposure.  Bryan Peterson is a well-known photographer from Chicago who has written many books on exposure, hosts workshops all over the world and has had many big name clients.

If you are trying to get a grasp on exposure, I think the best first book might be Bryan’s Understanding Exposure.  This book is in its 3rd edition so make sure you get the latest.  The book is available in both print and digital format and I purchased the digital format.  I have found that not all photography books work in digital format because what is often being described in a photo and the actual photo can be far from each other in digital format.  However, I found that this book did work well in digital format.

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird Proper Exposure is the Key!

According to Peterson, “A correct exposure is a simple combination of three important factors: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.”  These three factors are what I call the “trinity” of exposure and Peterson calls them the “photographic triangle.”  One of the best explanations is how the author helps you understand that there can be many correct exposures, but there is just one “creatively correct exposure.”  This is the combination of aperture (f-stop), shutter speed, and ISO that created the desired effect.  If you get cross-eyed when people start discussing f-stops (depth of field), shutter speed, ISO, adding light or subtracting light, and types of lighting then I can honestly say this is the place to start learning.  You have already invested a lot of money on equipment, why not spend a few dollars and get a better understanding of the most important element of photography?

The photo above is a dark bird with a pale background on an overcast day.  Without understanding the interplay of shutter speed, f-stop, ISO and quality of light, this shot probably would have ended up with a very dark bird and no detail in the feathers.

Bird Photography for Birders – TOS Spring Meeting 2014

As the 2014 Texas Ornithological Society (TOS) spring meeting approaches, I wanted to share with those that will be going that my presentation on Thursday night (April 24th) will be “Bird Photography for Birders.”  Photography has a lot of technical aspects to it that can be confusing or challenging for a birder and, when we are out birding, it can often be a challenge to get great photos of the birds we are seeing.  In this presentation, I will seek to bring balance to your photography and birding in the field.

If you would like to see your photos go from this:

Bald Eagle - If You Look Real Hard

Bald Eagle – If You Look Real Hard

to this:

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail

then be sure and join us Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. at the Cherotel in Freeport, Texas.  Our host for the 2014 TOS spring meeting is the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory.

Precision Camera Wedding Workshop

I have had some requests to do wedding photography of late and I figured I would do some exploration, learning, buy some equipment and try to find a workshop.  Precision Camera University offered a one-day wedding workshop and the instructor was Dustin Meyer.  Our location was the fabulous Chateau Bellevue and the setting couldn’t have been better!  We also had several companies donate or loan items for our use during the workshop and they include:  Verbena Floral Design, Yes, More Please, Signature Bridal Salon; and Profoto Lighting.

Dustin Meyer Wedding Workshop Instructor

Dustin Meyer
Wedding Workshop Instructor

who is an awesome wedding photographer in the Austin area.  Having done a lot of photography related to wildlife, landscapes and other non-human subjects, I entered the day with a bit of trepidation only having one prior experience with portrait photography.  My concerns were quickly dismissed by Mandy (Precision Camera University Director), Dustin and the fact that most of the workshop participants were coming from other photography fields such as sports, family portraits, and similar fields.  The opening lecture was brief but concise and extremely helpful.  I found it a great start to the day because we didn’t just jump right into photographing the mock wedding.  After instructing us on what we REALLY need, the basic camera settings we should use, various lighting techniques and then composition, we were off to meet our models.  The cool thing is our models, Ash and Anna are actually getting married this weekend so the chemistry was great and you could tell they were a great match.  Anna is a makeup artist who helps on the workshops and Ash works with a catering business.

We started off photographing each in their respective dressing rooms and I started using the Canon 1D Mark III with the 40mm pancake.  I pushed the ISO to 3200 and to say the Canon 1D Mark III isn’t up to the challenge of high ISO’s is an understatement.  I will be getting the Canon 6D body as soon as possible for wedding and night photography where high ISO’s are critical.  While I did get some nice shots on the 1D Mark III at high ISO, I know I can get better with the 6D.

One of the best parts of the workshop was that each student had time to pose the model, move the model and find their own shot.  We were never told to take the shot like this or that, creativity was left to you!

Here are my favorites from the dressing rooms (click on images to see larger version):

Anna in Silhouette

Anna in Silhouette

Ash in B&W Dressing Room

Ash in B&W
Dressing Room

After the dressing room, we took the wedding dress and set about trying to capture the right setting.  After trying with the Canon 40mm Pancake lens, I knew I needed a wider lens so I got my Canon 17-40 f/4 lens and took some more shots.  These two are my favorites:

Wedding Dress with Grain

Wedding Dress with Grain

Wedding Dress

Wedding Dress

Once we finished with the dress, we worked with the shoes (what women doesn’t want to remember her shoes from the Big Day)!  I wasn’t blown away by any of my captures.  I had a nice idea but I just didn’t get lined up like I would have liked.

Wedding Shoes

Wedding Shoes

Things really got fun when we went outside to work with the bride and groom in various poses.  Anna and Ash were outstanding in working together, posing, having fun, smiling and cutting up.  I can’t thank them enough for making what we did easier!  These are a few of shots I am proud of:

Walking Together

Walking Together

Off They Go

Off They Go

That Look

That Look

Out the Door

Out the Door

Don't Let Go

Don’t Let Go

Ash Looking Dapper

Ash Looking Dapper

Ash Pondering the Big Day

Ash Pondering the Big Day

Ash Looking Good

Ash

A Loving Embrace

A Loving Embrace

Ash Awaits His Bride

Ash Awaits His Bride

Anna's Got the Look

Anna’s Got the Look

Anna Looking Beautiful

Anna Looking Beautiful

Anna & Bouquet

Anna & Bouquet

Anna Framed

Anna Framed

A Private Moment

A Private Moment

A Loving Embrace

Hold My Hand

I was very pleased with the performance of the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 II lens on the Canon 7D.  It was almost too easy.  I really worked at capturing angles, moments, and view that no one else was trying.  Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I just plain missed it.  After a wonderful lunch and giving our models a break, we gave our best at photographing the rings, the cake, some indoor shots, and bridal portraits.  Unfortunately, while shooting with the Profoto lights, another photographer was standing in the light and his shadow fell on the bride.  I loved the shot, but the shadow was completely inadvertent and things happen.  Here are the ones I like:

On the wedding ring shot, focus locked on the rear ring and hence the front ring is not sharp.  I loved the composition, but this shot would be a throw away.

Wedding Rings

Wedding Rings

I had a lot of fun working on the cake:

Cake

Cake

Close Up of Cake

Close Up of Cake

Cake Topper

Cake Topper

Finally, we worked on some indoor shots and while my flash shots didn’t work due to the shadow and I am not a huge fan of flash indoors, I did get a couple of natural light shots I love:

Mirror, Mirror

Mirror, Mirror

Anna in Natural Light

Anna in Natural Light

After we put our cameras back in the bag, Dustin shared with us about marketing, pricing, and then spent a lot of time answering our questions.  I had a great time and can’t wait to learn more!

I will leave you with one of my favorite shots of the day:

Congrats to Ash & Anna

Congrats to Ash & Anna

10 Day South Texas Trip – Adventure Caravans RV Birding Reunion

During the last ten (10) days, I was busy co-leading a birding tour of the Lower Rio Grande Valley with a total of 58 participants!!  The tour was an Adventure Caravan Birding Tour and they were having a reunion of folks who had gone on previous tours such as Central America, Newfoundland, and Alaska to name a few.  The Tour Masters are Bert and Sharon Frenz and I can tell you participants certainly get their money’s worth as this was one of the most organized tours I have ever seen.  We were able to visit a plethora of amazing birding/butterfly locations and despite strong southeast winds that allowed migrants to fly right past, we still managed to find some outstanding birds and wildlife.  Each day found us traveling to a different destination and included sites such as Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, National Butterfly Center, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Falcon State Park, Edinburg Scenic Wetlands & World Birding Center, Estero Llano Grande State Park, Boat Tour on Rio Grande River, Anzalduous County Park, Old Hildago Pumphouse, Frontera Audubon Center, Quinta Mazatlan, and the Valley Nature Center.

Grey Hawk Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park

Grey Hawk
Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park

Highlights of the trip including roosting Red-billed Pigeons on the Salineno Dump Road, Tropical Kingbird at Anzalduas County Park, Elf Owl near Bentsen, Common Paraque with chicks at Estero Llano Grande State Park, Grey Hawk at Bentsen, twelve (12) Greater Roadrunners at Falcon State Park, Ringed and Green Kingfishers along Rio Grande River, and Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet at several locations.  Butterfly numbers were starting to pick up at the National Butterfly Center as well and a few of us got the treat of watching a Gulf Coast Ribbon Snake swallow a Bullfrog tadpole.

Gulf Coast Ribbon Snake Eating Bullfrog Tadpole Edinburgh World Birding Center

Gulf Coast Ribbon Snake Eating Bullfrog Tadpole
Edinburgh World Birding Center

If you are interested in seeing some of these birds or visiting these locations, please contact me to join one of my workshops or to schedule a personal guide experience.  I can guide your birding or photography trip experience.