Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Birdies everywhere on the Golf Course!

If you feel that you are being watched whilst teeing off that might very well be the case and by no other than the Residence Merlin Falcon. He is silently watching over their first tee box and their chipping practice area. He blends in very well with the palm trees natural colours so it can be hard to get a glimpse of him at times. But once you know where to look then you will be able to see him every day. I usually go to see him with my camera in the afternoons around four pm. The temperature is nicer so I can sit and watch him or if he is away wait for him to come back because he always does. The thing with being a twitcher which I am by no means you need to be patient, and that is not really me but since he is so predictable its easy.
Merlin Falcon also known as Pigeon Hawk
If you are golfing you will first run into the Merlin Falcon then at hole 3 you will be greeted by an array of different kinds of birds. Such as the very bright coloured Shining Blue Kingfisher, Gray Heron, Snowy Egret, White Heron and Yellow Wagtail among many other kinds of birds that feed around the lake.
This bird i am not totally sure which kind it is but a kind of sand piper is my guess. But please tell me if you know.
It was a couple that was by the lake, they did not like it when I got to close. They never flew far only across the lake. So I kept on going after them ;-) So there we were going back and forth it was great practice for taking images of a flying bird which is not as easy as it might look. It definitively takes practice. I admire the photographers that takes wild life images for a living both their patience and their skill.
Yellow Wagtail.
Grey Heron.
Snowy Egret.
Shining Blue Kingfisher. 
You will also be able to see some of them again whilst playing the back nine. The Majestic Eagle is very well camouflaged by the Sinai Mountains. The Eagle is just like the Merlin Falcon very predictable once you have spotted him you know where to look the next time you pass by the same location. When I am out to photograph the birds on the golf course I usually start with the Eagle and end my photography session with the Falcon but that is just me. These are just to mention a few of all the birds that you will be able to see while enjoying your golf game in the sun in Egypt.
Cattle Egret.
The other day I got a phone call saying that there was a 1.5meter tall Great White pelican on the golf course. I rushed down with my photography gear in the hope that the bird would stay till I arrived so that I would be able to take a few snaps of it. S Murphy’s Law has it of course it was nowhere in sight when I arrived. I did speak to a few guests that had seen it and taken some images of it. They said it was just magnificent when if came flying in over them and I can imagine that since it was so big in size. Unfortunately I have still not seen it myself so therefore have no pictures to show you of it yet. Hopefully one day…
One thing that I discovered while taking photographs of wild birds is that my 70-200mm IS 2.8f is not enough I wish I had a 300mm or a 400mm lens. At least when trying to get a good photograph of the Eagle when he is sitting up on the mountain. With the birds on hole 3 and the Falcon you can get quite close to them before they fly off. You should have seen me one day when I literally followed the poor falcon all the way around the clubhouse with my camera. But he still comes back for more! Both the Falcon and the Eagle was here last year as well around July I believe it was if I remember correctly and they hung around the same places/trees so I guess they are very territorial. 

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Dust Aid Wand!

One of my pet hates is dust on my sensor! I started this morning with looking at my images from yesterday afternoon and realised very quickly that I had a few dust specs on the sensor. Not a good start to the morning. But then again better to see it sooner rather than later. So I started to get my gear ready for a sensor cleaning. When you are shooting in digital cleaning your sensor is something that unfortunately becomes part of what you have to do. No matter how careful you are to not get dust on your sensor you will. Especially if you at all change between lenses while shooting. I always try not to change my lens outdoors if possible. When I am out on excursions I always try to trek back to the car to change my lens if possible.
It took me about an hour to clean the sensor today. Once I got rid of the original dust I found new dust in other places. Just great!
When I clean my sensor I use the Dust Aid Cleaning Wand together with their Platinum Strips and I swear by it. It is the one thing that I have tried that works very well for me. I have tried other sensor cleaning products as well but this one is what I like the best and it gets the job done for me. I am by no means sponsored by them…. I wish so if anyone that works for Dust Aid reads this please feel free to contact me I do not mind at all. ;-)
The way I do it is I have an image where I see the dust I look at that image to know where on the sensor the dust is so I know where to focus my attention when cleaning it. I then use the Dust Aid Wand on the sensor I feel its very easy to use and I am not afraid that I will hurt my sensor. But if you are nervous about cleaning your own camera sensor by No means do it yourself go to a professional since it can be very nerve wrecking and of course very expensive if anything goes wrong!
As I mentioned it took me just over an hour today to get mine clean this is mostly due to that I do not have a loupe. Using one of them I believe would have quickened the process a lot.
I was looking at one last time I was in London but thought they were a bit too expensive…. Since you don’t use it so often but I have today realised that it is worth the investment in the long run. I could have done a lot of other work in this hour that it took me to clean my sensor. So a loupe is up on my purchase list again!
Since I did not have a loupe I had to take a test shot with the camera every time I had cleaned the sensor and then download it to the computer to check the results. I did this several times in all I took 78 test images.  So you can understand how tedious this process can be without a loupe.
Something that helps me along with my process to make it more enjoyable is listening to some great tunes while you are doing the tedious work.
A good link I found:
But before you start you might want to rule out that it is not your lens that is dirty.

I just want to say I take no responsibility at all for anyone trying to clean his or her own camera sensor. I just wanted to share with you how I do it.
Happy shooting everyone!


Wednesday, 14 April 2010

It's all about timing!

It's all about timing!
It is Street Festival time! It is great fun both for taking photographs and of course just to enjoy the entertainment in the nice outdoor temperatures.
I went last Friday at 21.00 and stayed for a few different dance shows. It starts however at 20.00 so you can go earlier than I did and if you want to take photographs that might be a good idea so that you can scout out a good vantage point for you and maybe also get up close. I had my 70-200mm L IS f2.8 on my camera so I could stand a bit further away and still get good close up shots…. I had chosen that lens for the evening because of the f2.8. Now in hindsight and already while I was there I realised that my 24-105mm IS f4 might have been a better choice due to me not being able to get a good vantage point from far enough away so I ended up feeling that I was too close to the dancers. Hence the poor belly dancer below looks like she had both her arms chopped off. I was shooting through two very tall men so its their shoulders and heads that are blocking. Those of you that know me know that I am quite tall myself so you can imagine how tall these guys were. You can however get some quite unique shots using other people as props. So don't disregard that. It is always easier using natural props in a shoot than bringing your own along. Less for you to carry as well.
I was shooting only using the stage lighting, which at times did not work so well here because the dancers were not at all times in the spot light making them very dark. The stage light did not seam to move at all with any of the dancers, which was a shame. I had brought my flashes with me but did not want to use them since using a flash on evening events like these often takes away the ambient light that the stage light are creating as well as washing away the colures and that is not very flattering for the dancers.
How to get that amazing shot!
A few steps that you can follow to help you along the way, but as always practice makes perfect!
When taking images of someone that are moving its all about timing! After you have watched the dancers a little bit you might be able to predict a little bit where they are going next and that pre planning helps you with taking a great photograph. Because its all about being in the right place at the right time. 
If you for instance start pressing the shutter when the dancer is looking at you, you will most likely every time get the back of her head. Since by the time that you have pressed the shutter she has already moved. So try to see where she is going before she does so that you can pan with her. 
Here I changed the colour of her scarf above her head to match her dress. It was a boring yellow to start with.
Make sure that your camera is set to taking images in burst mode. (several images after each-other). I also always have only one focus point which at most times is aimed at the head of the dancer. A high ISO helps you when you take images in the dark. I was using an ISO of 500 and 640 while shooting these images (I changed during the night, started with 500 then went to 640). Depending on which camera body you are using you will get different quality results. Some cameras can take very good photographs at very high ISO while the cheaper cameras can not. So check your cameras limit. This is where practice makes perfect comes in try a few different ISO settings and see how good the images are on the computer screen afterwards. Always try to learn from what setting you were using so that you know for next time. My Aperture was between 4.5 and 5f and my Shutter Speed were between 80 to 200 during this event.
If you have any further photography questions please don’t hesitate to contact me and I will try to sort it out for you.
Happy Shooting everyone.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Sunsets and Sunrises in - Egypt

Hello friends!
I keep on forgetting that not all of you are following me through my FaceBook Fan Page or on Twitter. So for you not to miss too much I will try to recap for you what has happened since I last blogged.
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I have been out late afternoons and early mornings the last two weeks to capture the sunrise and sunset for a new photo series that I am doing. I have been up so many early mornings at 5 am now I am still waking up at that way too early hour, even though I don’t have to anymore!
I started with a late afternoon photo shoot by a jetty. I was using long shutter speeds to blur the water movement. It was so windy I was squatting down next to my tripod with my shutter release cable in my hand trying to shield the camera from the wind so that my images would not all come out blurry due to the wind moving the camera. Don’t take me wrong my tripod is not a light weight one so it can stand sturdy by itself but it was just so windy I figured every little helps in order to keep the camera still. I was using exposures from 30seconds and longer, so very sensitive to movements.
Something that you need to consider while shooting sea is that the tide move and if you are not careful you might end up standing in the water quite quickly. I did not have that incident but I did see my foreground disappearing, due to the tide coming in. I was so focused on the jetty that I didn’t really notice that I was loosing my foreground. So keep that in mind when you are out photographing oceans. It you are by a lake you should be fine ;-) The other element that was changing was the sun had set and it was getting darker and darker and therefore harder to see through the viewfinder. The darkness also made it a lot harder for the camera to focus so you might want to focus your lens manually but you need to do that before it gets too dark since later you wont even be able to see it yourself.
My last evening photo shoot I changed location to another jetty further down the beach. I had taken a few frames still doing long exposures so once you have pressed that shutter you are up for a wait, 30seconds can sometimes seam like a very long time. Especially if a beautiful Kingfisher decides to land only 2 meters away from you! I had just pressed the shutter to expose for another image I tried desperately to quicken the time so that I would have time to take a few frames of the Kingfisher before he decided to fly away. In order to get long exposures I was using 2 Cokin filters so I quickly had to grab the filters off the lens, I had nowhere to put them! You know how filters can be especially plastic ones they get scratched very easily so I didn’t want to put them just anywhere. I ended up having them in my mouth. (I know gross but I did get some stunning images out of it though.) Now I only need to clean my filters they are full of lip gloss.
The Kingfisher did fly away in the end before I had time to take a decent shot of him from his first location but he did thankfully not fly too far away. He also let me walk a bit towards him to get a closer shoot. (Of course with the camera, what do you take me for?) I quickly had to change my camera settings to suite taking images of a Kingfisher. Had to change the ISO and of course the shutter speed and aperture! You don’t want long exposures of a bird. Unless you are maybe looking for an Arty blurry feel. Then by all means go ahead.
I went home very happy with myself that I had caught the Kingfisher on “film”. The next morning I went down to the same location to take some sunrise images, and to my surprise my new friend the Kingfisher came along as well unfortunately he was not as chatty this morning as he was the night before. So I did not get to take any photos of him. I waved good morning and thought that I’ll see him later on anyway. Now when I know where he hangs out.
It was till windy in the morning actually every shoot I had done for this photo series the weather conditions have been windy, morning and evening.
This morning however it was not only windy but also cloudy so no sunrise for me, I was hoping that I would get some dramatic sunrays coming through the clouds but that unfortunately never happened either. So instead of capturing romantic sunrises I captured more dramatic moody scenes. Since that was the weather I had been dealt this morning.
The next morning I got clear skies and I saw the sun rise just above the jetty, at about 05.40 in the morning. Hurray!!
I feel that the minutes just before the sun reaches up behind the Jordanian Mountains are slightly more spectacular than once you can see the sun but that’s just me. What do you think?
I guess once again I learned that you need to be prepared for the unexpected and take advantage of the situations that present it self. Like with my Kingfisher.
Happy shooting everyone.