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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Photo of the Day: Prairie Dogs

I spent a hot afternoon at San Francisco Zoo today, and seeing these little Prairie Dogs was the best part of my day.  Due to the heat, most of the Zoo's animals were resting in the shade, but not these guys.

These two were hanging out sharing their bits of straw.

Well worth the visit in the heat!

This was shot at ISO 800, 80mm, f/5 at 1/800 sec on my 75-300mm lens.

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Hummingbird Photography

These tiny little hummingbirds are trying to make me go crazy! I think they are succeeding too, because despite all these shots I am still not entirely happy.IMG_2231

I have become kind of obsessed with photographing them, and my sole purpose at the moment is to get a perfect clear shot of one of these tiny speeding humming birds in flight with all their beautiful colour showing.

How amazing is the colour in this one!IMG_2428

I am starting to feel like capturing both flight and colour is impossible! I just spent 2 hours in the garden trying to achieve this with no luck.

I have been testing out my lenses and different settings and haven't quite got it right yet.

Most of these shots were taken with my 75-300mm lens on Shutter Priority at 1/1000 -1/1600, ISO 800 in full sun. Despite these tiny birds being the fastest I have ever seen, I think my long lens is the culprit. Its quite difficult to keep the lens still enough to get a shot of a moving object.

Anyway, I still have a week left here in Oakland, so I'm not giving up yet!

Wish me luck!IMG_2188

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While I was patiently sitting and waiting in the hot sun to get the perfect shot, Jasper was stealing my water.. IMG_2423

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.

ISO 800, 100mm, f/4 at 1/40 Sec

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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What I Learnt: 30 Days of Smartphone Photography Day 30

Over the last 5 weeks I challenged myself to 30 Days of Smartphone Photography in and around Portland. Although I missed a few days due to travel commitments, I have made it to Day 30. IMG_2129

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, and I really do feel like photography every day and A Post A Day is normal now.

Although I still feel like I have a long way to go, practicing everyday really has made a huge difference in my confidence and understanding of photography.

Here's 5 things that I learned over the last 5 weeks about Smartphone PhotographyIMG_1758

1. Read instruction booklets first

In my excitement of receiving my new Photojojo lenses I skipped the instruction booklets for the Wide/Macro lens and consequently didn't realise that the lens comes in two parts. I was getting severely frustrated that I couldn't capture macro shots like the ones I'd seen captured by other people.

Eventually (2 weeks after getting the lenses) I decided I'd look online to try to find a better macro lens. In my search I discovered that the lens I already had unscrews into two parts!

No wonder it wasn't working!

So, now when I buy a new piece of equipment I check the instructions first.

2. Be prepared

This is still something I am getting used to. No matter where you are going be prepared. Your smartphone is usually close at hand, but remember to take your extra lens and a tripod (or use a stable surface) so you don't miss a great shot.

Using your tripod is especially important when you use Apps like ProHDR, which in order to get a great shot requires your camera to be completely still.

While I always have my smartphone and/or DSLR on me, I have missed opportunities for awesome photos because I left some of my equipment at home.20140709_171807

3. Photography requires patience

When I finally figured out that my Photojojo lens came in two parts and I realized I could get some cool macro shots I spent over two hours playing around with it before I got a clear shot of a fly on a strawberry leaf.

With the macro lens you have to be so close to your subject, and then the magnification causes any movement whatsoever to blur. It was hot out in the sun but I took photos of flowers and dog noses and grass and vegetables to get used to the lens.

You might get frustrated, but ultimately it's so satisfying when you get the shot just right.

The same goes for any form of photography.

Sitting and waiting for the right light at sunset.

Hoping for the right moment when the bird you are trying to capture lands exactly where you want it to.

Sitting uncomfortably hoping the flittery fly will stop on a strawberry leaf right in front of your camera.

I feel that I am getting to the point where I love this process. I don't mind waiting for the right moment because it makes it so much better when I capture the moment I have been waiting for.hdr_00109_0

4. Go back to the same places

Sometime I think I have captured the most amazing photo, and then I get home and open it up on my computer and it looks all wrong. I realise that I have cropped the image too much, or a different angle would have been much better.

Seeing a photo on your small smartphone screen looks very different to seeing it on your computer.

Apart from when you're only in a location for one day, there's no reason why you can't go back and shoot the same location again. Try it at a different time of day, or in different weather.

Shooting the same thing in different conditions has really helps me to understand what works best in different situations.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice

The only way you are going to feel more confident in your skills as a photographer is by practicing.

Practice everyday, even if that means taking a walk to snap just one photo on your lunch break. You don't have to go to exotic locations to practice your skills.

Practice photographing the ordinary to find your own style and make it extraordinary.

 

I am in Oakland for the next two weeks, and yesterday discovered that there are Hummingbirds in the garden! Capturing one of these speedy birds is my challenge this week.

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Photo of The Day: Macro

30 Days of Smartphone Photography Day 29

While exploring the Oregon Zoo in Portland I took some extra time to practice my Photojojo Macro skills. 

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Besides the incredible animals, the Zoo also had beautiful flowers everywhere and here's the tiny petals  of one of them.This flower was about the size of a Australian 10 cent coin or US Quarter.

Remember with Macro shots that you need to hold your camera super still to avoid blurry photos. Because it's so magnified any amount of movement will show up.

Use both hands to hold your camera and practice slow steady breathing to help avoid sudden movements.

If you have one, it really helps if you use a tripod,  rest your elbows on a hard surface, or even just rest your phone camera on a surface as close as possible to the object you're trying to capture.

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