In recent years travelling with camera gear has been an increasing problem as carry-on requirements become more restrictive, and actual application of weight limits more regularly applied. Indeed, when travelling to Turkmenistan on Tukish Airlines they were actually asking me to buy an extra seat if I wanted to take my Thinktank Roller as cabin baggage. After much argument and telling them I would prefer to return home they finally relented and allowed me on board but it was certainly a touch and go situation. (On the return journey I wore my photo vest to get on the plane and loaded it up with cameras and lenses to educe the weight of my rolling bag to below the limit, and, of course my bag was not weighed)
One of the problems is that in addition to the weight of the gear itself, there is the added weight of the bag or box that it is in. My Pelican hard case shipping box weighs 17.6lbs, before I put anything in it. That’s already a fair percentage of the 50lbs per bag limit. My Thinktank Airport International rolling bag that I use for all International flights as my carry-on weighs 11.5 lbs empty. Weight restrictions for carry-on varies tremendously between airlines (check yours before you go) but some restrict to around 20lbs – that means my empty bag accounts for half of that.
I was therefore very interested to read the announcement by Thinktank Photo that they have a new version of the rolling bag for International travel that weighs in at just 7.5 lbs yet still offers Thinktanks superb protection of your valuable equipment.
13.3” W x 18” H x 6.5–7.5” D (33.8 x 45.7 x 16.5–19.1 cm) Exterior Dimensions:
14” W x 21” H x 8” D (35.6 x 53.3 x 20.3 cm) Laptop Compartment:
13.8” x 17.3” x 2” (35 x 44 x 5 cm) Tablet Compartment:
10” x 10” x 1.6” (25.4 x 25.4 x 4 cm) Weight:
7–7.8 lbs. (3.18–3.59 kg)
As I move toward smaller and lighter DSLR’s (I will travel with my D850 without the additional grip) and mirrorless bodies that are of course considerably lighter than their DSLR counterparts, I hope this will make future travel a less stressful and more pleasurable experience.
Get your new Airport Advantage XT by clicking here and get free shipping and an additional free gift from Thinktank.
As we move into September the Southern migration of shorebirds is in full swing. The main way station beaches are full of life as these long distance travellers rest and fuel up for their long journeys, in some cases thousands of miles well into South America, but photographing shorebirds can present some challenges.
Nikon D3, Nikon 500mm f4 lens + TC14 (700mm), 1/800th sec, @ f7.1 with aperture priority mode with ISO 400, + 1.3 stops exposure compensation
It can be difficult to get frame filling shots, even with the longest of lenses as the majority of shorebirds tend to be nervous, quick movers and relatively small. Maybe this is in part due to their habit of wanting to use the same beaches popular with humans, resulting in constant disturbance from their feeding areas, and, not least by dog owners who find great amusement in allowing their pets to chase the birds.
Nikon D850, Nikon 500mm f4 lens + TC14 (700mm), 1/800 sec, @ f5.6 manual mode with Auto ISO active at ISO 500 with + 1.3 stops exposure compensation from metered value
To stay away from the crowds I get out early and late, coinciding with the best light of the day. The other thing I check out is the state of the tides. High tide tends to be poor as there is little sand and mud for the birds to feed on. Low tide is much more productive and the best of all is when the incoming tide coincides with the early or late period.
Nikon D850, Nikon 500mm f4 lens + TC14 (700mm), 1/2500th sec, @ f5.6 manual mode with Auto ISO active at ISO 400
The reason for this is it’s the easiest way to get close action. By getting in position well back from the flocks of feeding birds and getting low to the ground the birds will totally ignore me. Then I just let the incoming tide bring my subjects to me until I am forced to move.
Getting low also gives a much more natural perspective, in fact a birds eye view!
Nikon D3, Nikon 500mm f4 lens + TC14 (700mm), 1/640th sec, @ f8, ISO 800, aperture priority mode, + 2/3 stop exposure compensation from metered value off wet sand
Identification of shorebirds can be a real challenge, especially at this time of year when breeding plumage is being shed for their winter look, many of the birds now looking incredibly similar. One should make a habit of making a note of behaviour of each of your subjects as you shoot them, especially when working with mixed flocks. The relative size of each species is much easier to determine when they are stood close rather than in trying to determine the size of a single bird in a photo. I highly recommend ‘The Shorebird Guide by O’Brian, Crossley and Karlson’ for help in identifications as this book attempts to provide details on each different plumage and between the sexes.
Birds in flight
For shorebirds in flight I have given up trying to work from a tripod. They move so fast that it’s almost impossible to keep them individual birds in the frame, although much easier when shooting the vast flocks that can form.
Nikon D3, Nikon 500mm f4 lens + TC14 (700mm), 1/1250 sec, @ f8, ISO 400, aperture priority mode, + 1/3 stop exposure compensation from metered exposure off sea
I handhold the Nikon 500mm, both with and without the TC-14 converter. The Nikon D850 bodies I am now using are remarkably accurate at locking on to these fast moving subjects and retaining focus. Use a fast shutter speed, keep your vibration reduction turned on, and swing the lens rapidly with the subject, ensuring you keep the lens moving the whole time you are shooting.
For fast moving birds in flight I keep a minimum shutter speed of 1/2000th second, stop down to f5.6 to give a little extra depth of field and use auto ISO in manual mode to ensure my shutter speed does not drop. In fact, I am finding myself using auto ISO more and more.
Nikon D850, Nikon 500mm f4 lens, 1/1600th sec, @ f5.6 manual mode with Auto ISO active at ISO 200
When setting out to the beach for shorebirds you need to be ready for other subjects that may suddenly present themselves a couple of days ago I was heading over the stone berm leading to Cherry Hill Beach when a sudden flurry of movement in the water attracted my attention. This turned out to be a Blue Shark in the surf right up by the beach. You just never know what might turn up!
Nikon D3, Nikon 70-200 f2.8 lens, at 200mm, 1/1000th @ f5, ISO 800, aperture priority automatic
I will soon be announcing the first workshop series since I have arrived in Nova Scotia. These will include classroom workshops for post-production work using Lightroom, Capture One and Photoshop and the always popular ‘digital workflow’ where you will learn the complete process involved for every one of my images from camera to final archive. Spring 2020 will see several practical ‘in the field’ workshops learning a variety of photography techniques.
This item is sold – there will be another available soon
I have one of my Nikon D3’s for sale.
Body only (no lens) in excellent condition. No dings, or scratches other than a couple of small wear marks on top of pentaprism. Regularly serviced by Nikon. Sold complete with two EN-EL4a batteries, charger and Sandisk Extreme Pro 16GB compact flash card.
I have recently been having real difficulties with getting really sharp images with my 500mm f4 lens. I have tried different camera bodies and re-calibrated the lens using Lens align with Focaltune software, with each of them, both with and without the TC-14 teleconverter I regularly use, with no real sense of the problem.
Then I spent a couple of hours on Cherry Beach shooting shorebirds, both foraging along the tide line and birds in flight at varying distances. On examining the images in Photomechanic the light suddenly went on! All the images shot at closer distances were sharp, most of those beyond about 40 feet were decidedly not, yet occasionally even an image further out would be sharp as a pin.
Obviously the issue was not with the camera bodies but decidedly funky behaviour form the lens, so it’s on it’s way to Nikon service in Toronto.
This left me with a problem as I have been waiting several days watching a nearby Osprey nest as the youngsters were obviously very close to taking their first flights. Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity yesterday I grabbed the 200-400mm f4 zoom with the 1.4 converter and hoped that I would have enough reach if there was any action.
Sure enough almost as soon as I arrived I could see the two youngsters were testing their flight skills, launching themselves a few feet above the nest and hovering on outstretched wings before landing neatly back on the nest. By adding the TC-14 converter, zooming in to the 400mm setting I was able to get a focal length of 560mm and by stopping down to f8 to give me a little more depth of field and sharpness came away with a good set of usable images.
As many will know my wife and I have spent the last 20 months living in Mexico but, for a variety of reasons, have now returned to Canada. I am now based in Nova Scotia and will be concentrating on the local wildlife scene and also getting back to running a series of workshops and field trips, more on that to follow soon.
Although currently in temporary accommodation on the North shore of Nova Scotia near Annapolis Royal, I am beginning to get out and doing a bit of shooting. Regular posts will once again start appearing on Instagram @peterllewellynphoto and you can also keep up to date with more images by regularly checking the Latest images gallery.
At the end of the May I will be moving to my new home on the South shore of Nova Scotia where there is a wealth of wildlife and nature opportunities, along with some amazing scenery, and UNESCO world heritage sites.
The long awaited Photo Mechanic 6 has now been released and I have been using it extensively for the past week. As many will know, Photo Mechanic is an essential part of my workflow for all my images, both sport and wildlife and is my program for culling outtakes and captioning every image that I shoot.
The new version is a big step forward, primarily in speed with a few added functions.
Incidentally all settings from Photo Mechanic 5 will be automatically ported across into the new version.
Get a free 30 day trial of the new version, click here
What’s new in Photo Mechanic 6
64-bit, Photo Mechanic is now a 64-bit application, which allows more and better caching of images to keep you working at your fastest (no more annoying messsage that Photomechanic will no longer be compatible with future versions of Mac OS)
Faster viewing – image caching improvements increases thumbnail / preview generation speed by approximately 2-3x. Instantly start working on images even when a large card is still ingesting.
Copy only the images you need from your memory card to your hard drive
Fullscreen support on macOS and Windows for both the Contact Sheet and Preview windows (including both at same time on different monitors)
Better cropping – A new grid helps you crop to your best composition, then press ‘p’ to preview a crop quickly. (I never use the crop tool in Photomechanic)
Better slide shows: Now with multiple transitions including crossfade and add Tag, Color Class or Star Ratings during a Slide Show
Hot codes – I regularly use code replacements at major sports events to automatically insert the correct players just by inserting their player number – for a full explanation go here
Photo Mechanic Plus
Photo Mechanic Plus is due for beta release on April 22. This eagerly awaited add-on to the basic Photo Mechanic functions will provide catalog functionality for large numbers of images across multiple locations. If this is as speedy as I hope this maywell indicate a fundamental change in my workflow as I have always been less than happy with the cataloging ability of both Lightroom and Capture One.
Last night I spent several hours photographing the 2019 super blood wolf moon. I was lucky to have perfectly clear skies and a warm evening to shoot this amazing phenomenon.
Your camera needs to be locked down on a very sturdy tripod and head as the slightest shake will result in a blurred image due to the huge distance you are shooting over – Some 238,900 miles! Either lock up the mirror on your camera and use the self timer, or use an electronic cable release, or even both.
I started with the full moon around 9.30 pm. Focus on the moon, take a couple of shots to check your focus is spot on and then turn autofocus off , you don’t want the camera to be trying to re-focus for each shot.
Shooting a full moon in a black sky can often completely fool your cameras meter into overexposing the image rendering the moon as a bright white blob in the sky. You can get away with surprisingly high shutter speeds. I start with a test exposure of 1/100th @ f8, ISO 400 – and after a couple of tests just upped the ISO to 500 and felt I was spot on. I set this manually on the camera.
I continued to shoot an image every 10 minutes each time checking my exposure. As the moon moved into the earth’s shadow it darkened, meaning I had to continually adjust the manual exposure set on the camera. First I lengthened the shutter speed, then opened the aperture, and finally as the moon moved into the red phase I also upped the ISO.
I didn’t worry too much about exactly where the moon was in my frame as my intention was to crop each image to make the sequence shot found at the end of this post.
The image below was shot at 1/320 sec. @ f8 at ISO 800
As the eclipse begins to turn into the blood moon I need to continue to increase my exposure. For the next image I am at 0.2 sec, f8 ISO 1600
Finally for the full blood moon my exposure has become 1/4 sec, f 4.5 ISO 2500
All images were shot with a Nikon 500mm f4 lens on a Gitzo tripod and Arca Swiss ball head.
Finally, for a bit of fun, here is a full sequence of 20 images stitched together in Photoshop representing a time frame of three hours
First, let’s be clear, I no longer use Lightroom. ( See https://peterllewellyn.com/new-workflow/)
However, I did use Lightroom for many years and, as it’s still the most popular program for handling RAW files, I include it here for comparison
Imaging software 2018, what each program does.
Photoshop has been around as long as digital photography has existed and is the best known of all digital image manipulation programs. Indeed the very word ‘Photoshopped’ has entered the vocabulary to mean a digitally altered photo, even if Photoshop itself was not even involved.
Adobe Photoshop has greatly expanded from it’s original target of photographers and is now used by, graphic designers, publisher, architects and animation studies to name but a few.
Basically, for photographers, Photoshop is a high-end, pixel level editor, and is still often the primary editor used. Indeed many photographers still only use Photoshop for digital editing.
Lightroom, or to give it it’s latest name, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC, is both an image editor, and a digital management system. The very fact that Photoshop is now included in the naming convention is a strong clue that many of Photoshop’s primary functions are included in Lightroom.
As far as digital editing is concerned Lightroom is a non-destructive editor, meaning that no pixel level changes are made to your actual files, changes being stored as simple, editable text files (sidecar files) alongside each image, whereas Photoshop is a pixel based editor where changes are embedded in the file as soon as you hit ‘save’. In fact Lightroom has no save button at all. Edits are kept automatically as you make them.
Capture One 11
Capture One is Phase One’s answer to Lightroom. In the early days of digital I was a user of Apple Aperture. When this was discontinued I was forced to adopt Lightroom as, at the time, there was no real alternative.
Lightroom and Capture One offer many of the same tools. The two programs differ mainly in the user interface and some of the more advanced features.
Frankly it is the initial processing of RAW files that I personally find superior to Lightroom that is the main reason I use Capture One. This is followed by the interface which is more akin to the Aperture look. I dislike Lightroom modular approach and find switching form one module to another in the middle of working to be drag. Now, in Capture One 11 we have layers, even less images go to Photoshop.
However, both programs still do a fine job of processing RAW images. (You are using RAW as your format I hope!) It is really a matter of personal preference. As a matter of interest opening a RAW image in Photoshop or Lightroom uses the same engine, Adobe Camera Raw.
Which Program to use when
If you shoot RAW format images then I highly recommend you use Lightroom or Capture One as your primary editor. In fact many of my edits are done solely in Capture One and never get opened in Photoshop. You gain the advantage of non-destructive editing and photo organization at the same time. Lightroom is relatively easy to learn, Capture one a little steeper learning curve, and to use the full feature set of Photoshop plan on spending a lot of time in front of the screen.
However Photoshop does offer numerous features not available in Lightroom or Capture one (yet!)
Advanced retouching is more effectively achieved in Photoshop than either LR or C1. Both offer the ability to output an editable image as a TIFF or PSD to be manipulated in PS then, as soon as you hit save, that new version is imported back into the LR or C1 catalog. In fact, removing blemishes, massive amounts or sensor dust and the like is my main use for Photoshop.
It would be impossible to effectively remove the small branches between the Vermillion Flycatcher and the Hummingbird using Lightroom or Capture One. If you are into compositing images, producing HDR, or Panoramas then Photoshop is still the best tool for the job.
My personal workflow
All my images go through the same process:
Download into Photomechanic for initial sorting, captioning, keywording and renaming
Images are moved to primary storage drive
Images are imported into Capture One 11 and processed
Final images are output for intended use
As promised in an earlier blog I will detail my Photomechanic process shortly. I am waiting for the new 64bit version, Photomechanic 6, to appear, which is promised by the end of the year. This will bring databasing to Photomechanic which may well change my workflow.
People regularly ask me what is my favourite lens, and what lens do I use for this or that subject? The answer may not be a simple one. While the ‘best’ lens for a close-up or macro photo would undoubtedly be my Nikon AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f2.8. Yet, it’s entirely the wrong lens if it’s sitting at home in the equipment cupboard when I suddenly come across a macro-type subject.
This is precisely what happened a couple of days ago when I went for a hike up in the Sierra de San Juan Cosala above my home in Jalisco Mexico. At this time of year the region is beginning to see the return of the migratory bird species. So there I am, out with my 500mm AF-S ED VR f4, a tripod, and a couple of converters in my pocket and not much else .
Setting up to photograph an Ash-throated Flycatcher I was standing in some small acacia trees when I noticed a large bug at the top of the bush that I had never seen before. So suddenly the ‘best’ lens to get a shot turned out to be the only lens I had with me.
Nikon D4s, 500mm AF-S ED VR f4 +TC-14 converter, (effective 700mm), 1/1000th at f8 ISO 800
Solving the problem
The minimum focussing distance of this lens is 4m not ideal for the subject but, what many don’t realize is, that by adding a converter you will increase the size of the subject (by the magnification factor of the converter) but the minimum focussing distance does not alter. You do however suffer a bit of light loss, 1 full stop with the TC-14 and 1 and a third with the TC-17. In this case I added the TC-17, increasing the focal length of the 500mm to 850mm. This gave me a plenty of a large enough view of the bugs which were around 1.5in in length.
Nikon D4s, 500mm AF-S ED VR f4 +TC-17 converter, (effective 850mm), 1/500th at f8 ISO 800
Isubsequently found a pair of the bugs, which I identified later as Giant Mesquite Bugs mating at the top of another acacia bush.
Nikon D4s, 500mm AF-S ED VR f4 +TC-17 converter, (effective 850mm), 1/500th at f8 ISO 800
I would have also been well served to have had a set of extension tubes with me which would have allowed me to substantially decrease the minimum focussing distance but they too were in the equipment cupboard.
So – the lesson is the best lens for a shot is the one you have with you, just find a way to make it work.
To view more wildlife and nature images enter keywords in the search box below
Our friends at Think Tank Photo have released two new concepts in camera gear protection. The Emergency Rain Covers, that come in two sizes, are small, lightweight, fast-deploying protective covers you can have on hand when weather conditions change swiftly and you need to protect your bodies and lenses.
The Lens Case Duos are protective lens sleeves that can be used both when transporting your lenses in transit and while shooting. They are available in a range of sizes to fit most DSLR and Mirrorless lenses. Don’t forget that when you use these special URLs you will receive free gear and free shipping on all orders over $50.
How many copies of your precious images do you have, and, where are they located? All photographers should have a sound backup strategy for their images.
My biggest fear as a professional photographer is that a catastrophe of some description would result in the loss of a lifetime of work. So, over they years I have developed a backup, backup, backup strategy. That’s right, at any moment in time my images are always in at least three locations.
I was told by a computer technician many years ago to work on the principal that every hard drive in the world is going to fail, sooner or later. Over the years I have had several hard drives completely fail so, if that drive was the only location for my images it would truly have been a disaster.
Since beginning to work in digital format I have been through several different backup strategies including copying images to floppy disks (remember those!) Iomega drives, and CDs and DVDs. As the price of hard drives has dropped my backup strategy has evolved to be based around a hard drive system.
Everyone, amateur or professional, should follow a photographers backup strategy. Although below you will find a belt and braces method please adapt this to suit your own needs.
My backup strategy.
Images are copied from the camera memory card to the internal drive on my laptop, using Photomechanic’s ingest dialogue. IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not format your card at this point, your images are not yet safe. Format your memory cards only when they are in at least two location. You never know when a disaster is going to strike.
I proceed with culling images and then caption and keyword the keepers
Images are copied to my primary office storage device known as Images-Main. If I am travelling and have no access to my main drive files are immediately copied to a separate portable drive. Do not keep this drive in the same location as your computer. If one gets lost or stolen you will at least have a backup available of the images you have already taken. Immediately I return to the office the portable is copied to Images-Main
Although not directly a part of my backup strategy at this point the images are imported in Capture One 11 ready for further processing and preparation for various uses including submitting to my Agencies, putting on the web site, and my Instagram account. However, once images are processed the very best are uploaded to my Photoshelter account, which is certainly a part of my backup strategy
At 9.00am every day, seven days a week, the main drive is cloned onto an identical second drive called Images-1. To accomplish this I using a small utility, ChronoSync (available for Mac only)
Every Monday the drive Images-1 is removed from the office and switched for another identical drive, Images-2. Not only is the drive removed from the office it’s removed from my house and stored in a secure location
Next Monday Images-2 is switched back for images-1 and so on
Replacing hard drives
When my three drives are nearing capacity they are retired and three identical new drives replace them. This happens around every 18 months to two years and until now it has been easy to simply replace with larger capacity drives. With 10 TB stand alone external drives now available this equals a huge amount of storage. I do not use a RAID system. Remember RAID is not a backup specially if it get stolen or irreparably damaged in a home or office catastrophe!
To re-cap, at any given moment in time all my images are on the drive Images-main. Additionally all images are on an identical cloned drive, Images-1 or Images-2. Whichever of Images-1 or -2 is not currently connected to the office system is stored in a location away from my office to mitigate a total disaster such as fire, flood or theft. At the very worst I can only completely lose a week’s worth of work. Although this would be difficult to accept it would not be the end of a lifetimes images.
Finally, all my first pick images are also uploaded to my Photoshelter account, which means they are safely stored in the cloud and can therefore also be recovered from there, with the added benefit that images are also available for my website galleries and clients.
I highly recommend Photoshelter as your cloud storage method. Photoshelter is built just for photographers rather than a ‘catch-all’ cloud storage method.
To receive a 14 day free trial and a $15 credit on your first Photoshelter subscription click here