Australia's Natural Beauties

Coming back to Australia from the US by myself has resulted in a period of adjustment while I get used to things. Besides feeling as though I left a significant part of myself back in the US, I have been dealing with a serious case of procrastination!  These photos are already almost two weeks old!20140802_132831

Upon returning to Aus, I went back to my hometown for some family/friend time and to get back into my Aussie groove I took a little stroll through the bush.

The varied weather winters here in Victoria are quite beautiful! The combination of lots of rain and days of sunshine has turned everything a beautiful lush green.

I was surprised to see so many flowers and different types of moss growing. It's amazing what you can discover when you actually stop and take a look around you.

I got my macro lens out and snooped though the undergrowth like a moss detective.

Here's some of the plants, moss and flowers I discovered on my walk.

20140802_133012 20140802_135109 20140802_131327 20140802_132507 Where the discoveries were made. 20140802_125650These photo's were taken with my Samsung Glalxy SII with my Photojojo Macro lens.

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Photography at the Zoo

Photographing animals requires one thing above all else; Patience.

Whether you're photographing your own cat or dog at home, or if you're in an exotic location with wild animals, capturing them at the right moment when they are doing something amazing is difficult.

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You can't ask animals to change position or move to a new location. You have to wait for them to be in the right place and in the right light.

You can't ask them to do something interesting to make your photo better. You just have to wait until they do it, and be ready to capture it.

The only way you can get better at photographing animals is to observe and wait and practice.

A great place to do this is at your local Zoo. You get to practice photographing animals, and your entry fee goes to rare and endangered species conservation and research.

While I was in Portland a few weeks back I spent an afternoon at the Oregon Zoo to practice my skills. It was a rainy overcast day which is great for avoiding dark shadows and high contrast, but also meant there was less light to enable fast shutter speeds.

I had to go really high with my ISO settings (remember ISO increases/decreases your cameras sensitivity to light, but also increases noise at high ISO), and with my camera (which is a little old) this means an increase in grain. With full frame cameras you can set your ISO quite high without it affecting the quality of your photos, but not so much with cropped sensor, older cameras like mine.

I still have a long way to go when it comes to photographing animals/birds/any moving object, but I really enjoyed practicing at the Zoo.

Here's 5 quick tips for photography at the Zoo

1. Observe and learn

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Observe your subject and get to know some of it's habits, then find a position that works - no distracting wire or smudges on the glass- and stay there. You will notice certain patterns of behavior by simply observing them, and if you practice patience you can simply wait for your subject to come back into the frame you have set up. If you know you have a spot which works, it doesn't help to try chasing your subject around from outside the enclosure.

2. Minimize distraction

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Set up your shots with minimal distracting elements by getting in close and focusing on the eyes of your subject.

If you have to shoot through glass find a clean spot (or wipe it clean yourself) and get in close with a lens hood to avoid reflections.

If you have to shoot through wire get up close and use a high aperture (low f stop number) to ensure the camera doesn't focus on the wire.

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Either try to capture your subject so it seems like they're not enclosed, or use the enclosure as part of your image.

3. Get to know your camera

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While you are observing your subject take some practice shots to see whats going to work. There's nothing worse than missing an awesome shot because you haven't adjusted your settings.

If you want to freeze motion you need fast shutter speeds (1/500 sec or more), high ISO and wide open aperture. Use TV mode for action shots.

If you're shooting in low light you can increase aperture, and set the ISO quite high in order to decrease the shutter speed.

Practice with all three settings to find what works.

4. Be OK with imperfection

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Don't obsess over getting the perfect shot the first time. Think of each photograph as a lesson which you can learn more from.

Don't stress if you can't get a shot of a particular subject (the lion enclosure had huge sheets of filthy glass in front of it making it impossible to get a shot of them). It's ok if some of your shots don't work out.

Learn from each experience.

5. Enjoy the moment

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Don't forget to take time to actually appreciate where you are and what you are experiencing.

Consider the incredible animals you get to see and be respectful of the Zoo rules (don't try to climb on anything to get a better shot).

Conservation Zoo's conduct research and do what they can for endangered species.

If you are so inclined you can help out by purchasing a Zoo membership or even by volunteering.

If you are interested in photographing wildlife go to your local Zoo and practice your skills.

Here's a few extra shots from my afternoon at the Zoo.

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5 Tips For Night Photography

Last night I had a moment of pure happiness. I was set up next to two other photographers on a hill overlooking the busiest highway in Seattle. I had my camera peeping through a hole in the fence which was there to keep me from falling down the hill.

I was getting some really cool shots and had been set up for a while when I noticed the guy next to me suddenly packing up and getting ready to go. He came over to me and asked "are you getting a lot of shake in the sky scrapers?"

"Hmm, not too much. Are you using manual focus?" I replied.

I showed him my live view and how I used the manual focus ring to get everything sharp. He told me my images were way more focused than what he'd been getting and immediately set up again to try it out.

He came back to me a little while later to thank me as he said it had made a huge difference.

Apart from getting some really awesome shots myself, I was so happy to have been able to help someone else get better a better shot too!

Shooting at night has become a favourite time for me to photograph cities. The combination of movement from rushing cars and the stillness of the skyscrapers is beautiful and I think perfectly captures the flow of a busy city.IMG_1340Today's post gives you 5 practical tips for great night shots.

1. Use a tripod

While there will always be a hard surface on which you can perch your camera for a long exposure shot, a tripod will get you the most stable surface and also allow you to change angles easily. Use a time delay and weigh down your tripod to prevent shake (I put rocks in my tripod bag and hang it over the tripod legs). Remember, it is still always good to experiment and you can get some incredible shots of movement without a tripod too.

2. Use Manual mode

This is of course personal preference, but I like to use manual in order to get the settings exactly where I want them. I find the best settings for landscape night shots are ISO 100, Aperture 16 and then use the light meter to set shutter speed for the right exposure.

3. Use live view and manual focus

If you want sharp focused night shots you will really struggle if your leave auto focus on. If your camera has it, switch to live view and zoom in all the way, turn on manual focus then use the focus ring to get a sharp image.

4. Use a lens hood

Using a lens hood will reduce any flare from light sources which you don't want in your image.

5. Get creative

Think angles, leading lines and reflections. You can use light to your advantage to make almost anything more interesting. I am yet to try this, but you can use a flash light to literally paint light into your long exposure shots to bring detail where otherwise there would be none. If you'd like to read more on this click HEREIMG_7902

There you go, 5 simple tips for getting better night shots. Don't forget to always shoot in RAW for post editing and the best quality images.

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ProHDR Photo of the Day

30 Days of Smartphone Photography day 19

Here's my photo of the day, taken last week with the ProHDR phone camera app.

It's not as sharp as I'd like since I didn't have my tripod for this shot, but as you can see, downtown Portland is quite picturesque!

This was shot from East Bank Esplanade where you can walk, ride or run right along the river for miles. It really is a pretty city and reminds me a lot of Melbourne.hdr_00048_0

This Tuesday we are heading to Seattle with plans for some night photography of the city. Subscribe to my email if you'd like to keep up to date!