JHP Newsletter - 2008, No. 1, 12 May
This will be a long Newsletter because a lot has happened since my last Newsletter.
- Website: Galleries Powered by Exposure Manager
- Equipment: Canon REALiS SX60 Digital Projector
- Equipment: X-rite i1 Beamer
- Equipment: Canon TS-E 90mm f2.8
- Equipment: Canon Speedlite 580EX II
- Equipment: Wimberley Macro Flash Bracket
- Tour: Bats in Aug 2008
- Tour: Kenya in Oct 2008
- Tour: Winter Wildlife in Jan 2009
- Travel: Yellowstone National Park
- Travel: Animals of Montana
- Travel: Local Colorado (Sterne Park and Denver Zoo)
Website: Galleries Powered by Exposure Manager
I've converted my website to use a third party gallery and online order fulfillment center. I had heard great things about SmugMug, so I jumped right in and started setting up an account with them. I became frustrated while customizing the site to have it look like my regular site, and especially didn't like the fact that the shopping cart couldn't be changed at all. I was going to be stuck with the standard SmugMug layout and color scheme for the cart, with no mention that they were still dealing with a site connected with James Hager Photography — not acceptable!
So, I started setting up an account with Exposure Manager, and I am much happier with it. It's a lot easier to get my pages there to look like my regular pages, and the shopping cart even looks like my regular site! I also like the way they handle the online display images and the behind-the-scenes print images.
As part of the change, I've split the online image gallery into two galleries. The Showcase Images gallery holds a small sample of images and provides a quick introduction to my work. The Stock Images gallery holds a much larger collection of my work.
Equipment: Canon REALiS SX60 Digital Projector
Late last year, I purchased a Canon SX60 digital projector so that I could give "slide shows" to various groups. The SX60 uses Canon's LCOS (Liquid Crystal On Silicon) technology to produce a very bright and sharp image without the flicker of DLP systems or the "screen door" effect of LCD systems. It has a resolution of 1400x1050 pixels (SXGA+), significantly larger than the common 1024x768 pixels (XGA) found on most digital projectors. The images it projects look spectacular, and I would highly recommend this unit for serious photographers who care about their images.
Equipment: X-rite i1 Beamer
In order to color calibrate the SX60, I bought an X-rite i1 Beamer, formerly sold by Gretag Macbeth. (In Europe, digital projectors are called "beamers.") This is a pricy spectrophotometer, and before getting one, I tried out a cheaper calorimeter, the Spyder3 from Datacolor. I was terribly disappointed with the ICC profile generated by the Spyder — images looked much better with the generic ICC profile for a SX60 than with the custom ICC profile the Spyder3 generated!!! After that evaluation I purchased the i1 Beamer, and images look better with the ICC profile it generated than with the generic ICC profile for an SX60, but only slightly so. The i1 Beamer is a lot easier to use than the Spyder3 because it sits on top of the projector and looks at the screen instead of being mounted on a tripod next to the screen, where I think it mostly looks at its shadow, because cable lengths can become a problem. If you have a quality digital projector that has some native support for the sRGB color space, like the SX60 does, then you might be better off without calibrating it at all. The Spyder3 will cost you some money and (likely) create an ICC profile that's worse than not using a custom profile, and the i1 Beamer is expensive and will (likely) create a profile that's only marginally better than a generic profile. If you are using a cheaper digital projector with no native support for the sRGB color space, then I recommend that you get the i1 Beamer to obtain quality projected images. In either case, I would avoid the Spyder3 like the plague!
Equipment: Canon TS-E 90mm f2.8
The Canon TS-E 90mm lens is a very convenient tilt-shift lens. Tilt and shift controls let you adjust the optical path similar to the motions available in large-format cameras. Tilt lets you align the plane of focus along the subject, so it's perfect for shooting large, flat flowers at an oblique angle so that the whole flower is in focus with a smaller f-stop than would be required without a tilt. Shift is useful for "looking up or down" without pointing the camera up or down, thus avoiding unwanted convergence effects. The 90 tilt-shift has good close-focusing capabilities, and can be used to shoot semi-macro (0.29x magnification) images as is. The magnification can be increased using extension tubes.
Equipment: Canon Speedlite 580EX II
I purchased a Canon Speedlite 580EX II earlier this year to compliment my trusty Speedlite 550EX and enhance my flash setup capability. The 580EX II has a redesigned case that's a lot more convenient to use than the 550EX. The head tilt/swivel control is released using a single button instead of two separate buttons (one for tilt and one for swivel) which really makes it easy to point the head in the right direction. The battery compartment cover has also been changed to make changing batteries easier. Another nice feature is that the flash now has a considerable amount of weather/dust-proofing. The biggest problem with the 580EX II is that the master/slave control is buried in the onscreen menu system and is no longer handled through a dedicated slide switch like on the 550EX. Once the 580EX II is set up to be the master though, the 550EX works perfectly as a slave to provide more control over your lighting.
Equipment: Wimberley Macro Flash Bracket
After I got the Speedlite 50EX II, I replaced my Kirk Single-Arm Macro Flash Bracket with two Wimberley Macro Flash Brackets. The Kirk Single-Arm Macro Flash Bracket works well with a single flash when using a Kirk lens plate, but is practically useless if you're shooting with a lens that doesn't have a tripod foot because the macro flash bracket mounts to the lens plate. The Wimberley Macro Flash Brackets can be mounted to any Arca-Swiss plate, so they can be used with almost any lens setup. The normal F-2 Macro Flash Bracket is composed of their M-1 and M-4 modules, and because I already had several M-1 brackets, as part of an F-1 Telephoto Flash Bracket and beanbag supports, I only had to purchase the M-4 modules.
When I shoot with the 180 Macro, which has a tripod foot, I mount the M-1 modules on the lens plate. When I shoot with the 90-TS, or other lens without a tripod foot, I mount one M-1 module on the left/vertical part of the camera L-bracket and the other on the bottom/horizontal part. I had to file down the locking knob of the M-1 so it would clear the bottom/horizontal part of the L-bracket, but that saved me from having to buy one of their M-8 modules which is the recommended way to mount two M-1 modules to a camera without using a tripod foot.
Tour: Bats in August 2008
Come shoot bats in flight in southeastern Arizona, and set yourself apart from the competition! Shoot several bat species, and also nighthawks, in flight in a controlled situation allowing you to obtain stunning, and unique, images.
Tour: Kenya in October 2008
Join me for a 16-day photo safari to Kenya in the fall of 2008 (October 16-31) where we will visit three parks and witness the wildebeest migration. The trip will begin with four (4) days in Samburu National Reserve where we will see the unique gerenuk, reticulated giraffe, Biesa oryx, and Grevy's zebra and have good opportunities for cheetah, elephant, and leopard. Then we will spend two (2) days at Lake Nakuru National Park where we will see flocks of thousands of lesser flamingos and also Rothschild's giraffe and white rhino. Then we will spend eight (8) days in Masai Mara National Reserve to witness the wildebeest migration and see Masai giraffe, black rhino, and common zebra, along with cheetah, elephant, leopard, and lion. We will spend those eight (8) days in the Mara in two different areas of the large park to minimize travel time and increase shooting time, and there will only be three photographers per 7-passenger Land Rover to facilitate shooting and carry our gear.
Tour: Winter Wildlife in January 2009
Come shoot wildlife models during the wonderful Montana winter and set yourself apart from the competition! Shoot species like Siberian tiger, gray wolf, and mountain lion in a controlled situation allowing you to obtain stunning images. In four days of shooting, you will be able to obtain images that would probably take more than four years of shooting in the wild. The animal models will be in a natural setting, and most shooting is done in wide open areas.
Travel: Yellowstone National Park
At the end of February and the beginning of March, I went to Yellowstone National Park for four days. Winter is my favorite time to go to Yellowstone because there aren't as many people as there are in the summer, and the wildlife is still really good. On my first day, I saw a pack of 20 wolves out in the Lamar Valley. They were too far to shoot from the road, but I enjoyed watching them play for a while. I had several nice opportunities to shoot bison, and the guy shown below-left was walking right along the road. I saw lots of coyotes, including two that were particularly comfortable with humans nearby. The coyote below-center was walking right next to the road one snowy day. The weather was good for shooting landscapes on two of the days, and the image of the three birch tree trunks below-right has a nice graphic impact. I had two great opportunities to shoot bighorn rams right by the road as they grazed. The guy below-left had the largest horns of the bunch. Elk were also plentiful, and one group of three bulls hung around the road the whole time I was there allowing me to get the close-up shot of one bull below-right one morning.
1/125 sec, f8, ISO 400
1/1500 sec, f8, ISO 200
(at 310mm), 1/180 sec, f11, ISO 100
1/350 sec, f8, ISO 400
1/1000 sec, f11, ISO 400
Travel: Animals of Montana
In the middle of my stay at Yellowstone, I took a day to visit Animals of Montana in Bozeman. They are a game farm that specializes in providing animals for photographers and videographers to shoot. I had been there before in June 2006, and this was the first time that I had shot captive animals like that in the winter. In the morning I shot a Bobcat (below left) and a Canadian Lynx (below right).
1/250 sec, f5.6, ISO 400
1/1000 sec, f6.7, ISO 400
During a break for lunch, it started snowing and it got pretty dark. Not exactly great weather to shoot in! When the snow started letting up, I went out to shoot some gray wolves. I had a blast shooting the three wolves as they ran and played with each other (below left). I ended the day by shooting a mountain lion (below right). It's absolutely amazing to see and hang out with these animals up close and personal.
(at 275mm), 1/1500 sec, f8, ISO 400
(at 275mm), 1/1000 sec, f8, ISO 400
Travel: Local Colorado (Sterne Park and Denver Zoo)
To take a break from office work at the end of March, I went to Sterne Park in nearby Littleton to shoot some ducks. Wood duck drakes (males) are particularly colorful, and it was nice to capture this guy (below left) while he was stretching his wings. Mallard Hens (females) aren't particularly attractive, but the lady below right swam right up to me and the nice light and calm water helped create an interesting image.
1/1000 sec, f8, ISO 400
1/750 sec, f8, ISO 400
At the beginning of April, I went to the Denver Zoo, primarily to shoot some reptiles. The most interesting images from that trip, however, weren't of reptiles, but the Sebae clown fish (below left) was in the same building as the reptiles. The shot was taken with a 180 macro, a Speedlite 580EX II mounted on a Kirk Macro flash bracket, and a Speedlite 550EX handheld in slave mode. The most interesting shots were of a one-day-old Dall sheep. The image of the mother and lamb (below right) was taken about 12 hours after the lamb was born.
1/125 sec, f9.5, ISO 200,
Canon Speedlite 580EX II & 550EX
1/350 sec, f8, ISO 800
The most exciting shot of a reptile that I got was of the gulf hammock rat snake below left. It was taken with a 180 macro, a Speedlite 580EX II mounted on a Kirk Macro flash bracket, and a Speedlite 550EX handheld in slave mode. Because I had so much fun at the zoo, and because I wanted to go back and get better shots of some reptiles, I went back a couple of weeks later and joined the zoo! I didn't make it into the reptile building on that visit because I got stuck in the primate building where I got the great image of the Wolf's guenon below right. It was taken with a 180 macro with a Hoya rubber lens hood, a Speedlite 580EX II mounted on one Wimberley macro flash bracket, a Speedlite 550EX mounted on another Wimberley macro flash bracket, and the whole setup handheld against the glass. This is my new macro shooting setup and works quite well.
1/125 sec, f8, ISO 200,
Canon Speedlite 58 0EX II & 550EX
1/60 sec, f11, ISO 200,
Canon Speedlite 58 0EX II & 550EX
Take care and happy shooting.
James Hager Photography :: www.jameshagerphoto.com