2017 Japan Winter Wildlife Photography Tour 2 Travelogue #2 (Podcast 565)

2017 Japan Winter Wildlife Photography Tour 2 Travelogue #2 (Podcast 565)

This week we continue our travelogue series to walk you through the second of my Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido, Japan Winter Wildlife tours for 2017, with a few more crane shots, then moving on to the Whooper Swans, Sea Eagles and Foxes.

We pick up the trail on day five of the tour, when the wind was whipping up a snow devil at the Akan Crane Center, as we can see in this first image for this episode (below). The cranes get somewhat excited when the wind gets up, and they lean into it, and spread their wings, and jump up and down a bit. I got various photographs from this few minutes, but the snow was not so apparent in many of them, so I selected this one where the snow really stands out and the left side crane still has it’s wings splayed out, seemingly enjoying the moment.

Revere the Drifting Snow

Revere the Drifting Snow

Part of the reason that I like this, is because the drifting snow hides part of the background, and helps to take our attention away from the heavily textured foreground, which I don’t like. I also ran a gradual layer up to the bottom of the crane’s legs in Capture One Pro, and then lowered the clarity to reduce the texture in the snow along the bottom of the frame. My settings for this image where 1/1000 of a second shutter speed at f/11, ISO 320 at 560mm with my 200-400mm lens with the built-in Extender engaged.

Cranes Gradually Returning

The following morning, we went back to the bridge in Tsurui, for our second chance at some mist and hoar frost. On the previous day, there had been snow on the trees, which was nice, but it wasn’t cold enough for the hoar frost, and that requires mist too. So, I was pleased to see that it was a few degrees colder as we left the hotel, and sure enough, as the sun started to rise, a bit of mist formed, and started to stick to the trees on either side of the river, forming the hoar frost (below).

Dawn Conductor

Dawn Conductor

There were around twice as many cranes on this day as the previous day, following the irresponsible and selfish acts of the Korean photographers on Feb 19, as I explained in Episode 564. We waited for quite a while hoping for a little more action, but the cranes weren’t very active. This is probably my favorite image from this second morning, with the crane in the back right of the scene flapping its wings, almost looking like an orchestra conductor, although the rest of the cranes don’t look very interested in his actions.

Panning with Whooper Swans

After breakfast we checked out of our hotel, and moved over to the Kussharo Lake area, where we’d photograph the Whooper Swans for a couple of days. We stopped at Lake Mashuu on the way, and then Kotan, a small corner of the lake, before we went to Sunayu, the place where we do panning shots as the light drops, and you can see an example of that in this next photograph (below).

Whooper Swan Duet

Whooper Swan Duet

As you can see, there was still a little sunlight catching the wings of the swans in this image, which I like, but the contrast is much greater when the birds are in sunlight, so I generally like to do this after the sun has gone behind the mountains. I do like the detail caught in the wings of the foreground bird though, and I often like to try and get at least two swans in the frame at once, mainly because I already have so many shots of single swans, I just like to see what I can do with more. My settings for this image were 1/40 of a second at f/16, ISO 200, at 100mm with my 100-400mm Mark II lens.

Hoping for Sharp Heads

I went a bit crazy with the multiple swans thing for this next image (below) getting three and a half of them in the frame. I considered cloning out the half swan on the right, but not only would that be too much work, I really don’t mind him showing that there are more birds out of frame. We also get a hint of that from the footprints in the foreground, from a bird that has already left the frame.

Swan Frenzy

Swan Frenzy

My settings for this were again, 1/40 of a second shutter speed, at f/16, but now the sun has gone well behind the mountains, maybe even below the horizon, so my ISO was up at 1250 at this point, and again, I was at 100mm. As I select my favorites from these panning shots, I’m generally looking for at least one sharp head. The reality is that at these shutter speeds, most frame look like the heads on the other three birds, but we usually get a few images with heads sharp, and that for me is what this is all about.

Looking for Extremes

Once I get a sharp head, I’m then looking at the wing position. Sometimes the wings look better than others, and sometimes the wings almost disappear, and that doesn’t look good at all. In this next image, I was happy to see the foreground swan’s wings at full extent upwards, and the second swan’s wings are at full extend downwards. Extremes like this are often nice, as long as the head is sharp.

Wings Up Down

Wings Up Down

There are times when I will work with these swan photos when the head isn’t sharp, if the shapes and form of the bird is pleasing enough, but I generally find myself weeding these images out of my selection as I try to get my numbers down. I guess I’m just a bit of a traditionalist in this respect. The settings for this were the same as the previous image.

Apocalyptic Fumaroles

After we spend two days photographing the Whooper Swans, we move on to Rausu to photograph the sea eagles and foxes. On the way out of town, we stop at Iouzan, or “Sulphur Mountain” to do a group shot with the steaming geothermal vents in the background, and go up to the fumaroles for a while to capture scenes like this one (below).

Light Through Steam

Light Through Steam

Although this is a location that I’ve shot to death, it’s still nice to capture with the group. I never get tired of seeing what the steam and wind will present us with. Here I waited for a bit of a tunnel of light through the steam, between some of the main fumaroles. I also decided to add a bit of a vignette to this image in Capture One Pro, to emphasize this tunnel of steam. My settings for this image were 1/320 of a second shutter speed at f/11, ISO 100 at 80mm, with my 24-105mm Mark II lens.

No Ural Owls in Hokkaido!

As usual, we stopped to see if we could find any Ural Owls at the nests I know, but there are none to be found this year. They all disappeared last December, and I believe this is because of the actions of some of the East Asian photographers visiting the nests. I’ve heard reports of them throwing things at the nests to get the owls to open their eyes or to fly, and this has probably caused the owls to retreat further back into the woods, away from the reach of humans.

Oil Drum Fox

Oil Drum Fox

So, once again they’ve screwed it up for everyone. The sooner they understand the wildlife that they are trying to photograph, and treat it with the respect it deserves, the better things will be for everyone that would like to photograph the animals, and of course, most importantly, for the sake of the wildlife itself.

As I mentioned last week though, when something gets taken away from us, we generally gain something else, and this year was an incredible year for the Northern Red Fox, as you can see in this image, of this cute guy sitting on an old rusty oil drum.

The snow melted quickly this year, so we were treated with a number of environments to photograph these beautiful animals in. On tour #1 we had them on top of the fishing nets, and again here on oil drums. A nice white snowy background is great too, but it’s nice to shake it up a little bit.

My settings here were 1/800 of a second exposure at f/10, ISO 320 at 560mm, which is my 200-400mm lens at full reach with the built-in 1.4X Extender engaged.

The following morning, we had our first trip out on a boat to photograph the sea eagles. For the first time in four tours, we actually had sea ice, which works well for some shots, but my favorite image from this first morning is this one of a White-Tailed Eagle catching a fish from the open water. I’d asked the skipper to go to open water towards the end of our time out at sea, so that we could get some shots like this, as opposed to over the ice.

The Catch

The Catch

I have of course cropped this down some, from the top, to make it a 1:2 ratio, as I didn’t think the top of the image was adding anything to the scene. I’m really pleased that the head of the eagle is sharp here too. With the autofocus settings I use the camera does a great job of locking on to the body of the eagle and staying with it, even as the wings move across the eagle. And of course there’s a certain amount of skill involved in just framing and focusing on the bird at high speed, and with the low frame rate of the Canon EOS 5Ds R camera, I have to be very careful about when I release the shutter to capture the action. My settings here were 1/1000 of a second at f/10, ISO 800 and a focal length of 330mm.

Foxy Faceoff

Later this day, we went back out to the Notsuke Peninsula, to photograph the foxes again. The pair that you can see in this image have been hanging out together the whole season, probably brothers, and here (below) you can see them comparing mouth sizes. I actually missed the optimal moment here, as I had lowered my camera for a second, and on this occasion was too slow to raise it again as I saw them do this.

Foxy Faceoff

Foxy Faceoff

Still, I’m happy enough with this image, although the light was on the wrong side of the foxes. Luckily the sliders and curves in Capture One Pro enable me to bring out a lot of detail in the shadow side of the animals, so I still photograph them, especially when they are interacting like this. My settings were  a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second at f/11, ISO 1000, at 340mm.

A few minutes later I shot one of these guys stretching and yawning at the same time, as we can see in this final photograph for this episode (below). Again, the light is coming from the wrong side, but that’s not a big deal. I love the relaxed posture of this fox, and the texture of the fur in this shot is beautiful. I also like how we can see his claws sticking out of his furry feet.

Foxes Yawny Stretch

Foxes Yawny Stretch

These are a truly beautiful animal and I’m really pleased that we had such a good year with them this year. I hope that they stick around for next year’s tours too. My settings for this shot was the same as the previous image.

We’ll wrap it up there for this week. Next week I’ll be back with the third and final part of this travelogue, as we cover the next two days with the sea eagles, then our final bit of landscape work before heading back to Tokyo to complete the tour. We’ll also hear from the participants next week, with our usual recording of their kind comments.

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tours 2019

Because our 2018 tours have now filled, we’ve started to take bookings for 2019, so if you are interested, please check the details and book at https://mbp.ac/ww2019. If you’d like to be added to the wait list for 2018, please drop us a line. Note though that the 2018 wait list is getting a bit long now, so if you want to secure a place, 2019 is a safer bet.

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tour 2019

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tour 2019


Show Notes

Check out details of the 2019 tours here: https://mbp.ac/ww2019

Contact us to be added to the 2018 wait list: https://mbp.ac/contact

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes for Enhanced Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

Download this Podcast in Enhanced Podcast M4A format. This requires Apple iTunes or Quicktime to view/listen.


Japan Winter Wildlife 2016 Tour 2 Travelogue #2 (Podcast 516)

Japan Winter Wildlife 2016 Tour 2 Travelogue #2 (Podcast 516)

This week we continue to walk through a series of 40 images from my second Japan Winter Wildlife tour for 2016, when we visited the “Sound of Wings” bridge for a second time before moving on to perhaps the best two days with Whooper Swans that I’ve yet experienced.

On the sixth morning of the tour we had our second crack at Otowabashi, or “Sound of Wings” bridge, in the hope of beating the first day there, when there was actually a little bit too much mist to maximize our opportunities with the wonderful hoar frost covered trees.

As we left the hotel shortly after 4am, I was pleased to see that the outside temperature was about 3 degrees warmer than the previous day, giving us a temperature of probably around -18°C (0°F) which is perfect conditions for the hoar frost and not so cold that there is too much mist. We waited on the bridge, our places secured, for around an hour as the dawn light started to illuminate the scene.

I start shooting long exposures mostly to see what the scene looks like, but then as the light got better, we were treated with scenes like this one (below). We’d been at the bridge for about two hours by the time I shot this, so the sun was directly falling on the right side of the scene, but the white helps to reflect light around, so you don’t really get a harsh shadow from the trees along the left bank of the river.

Distant Dance 2016

Distant Dance 2016

Right now, I’d say this is one of my recent favorites from this location. My first nice photo from here was an image I called “Distant Dance” from way back in 2008. I still love that photo, although it was demoted out of my Nature of Japan portfolio a number of years ago now.

In some ways, I’d say that my old photo may have this beat, but here I do like the formation of the three cranes in the right foreground, looking as though they’ve been shunned by the forth, and the four pin-tail ducks along the bottom edge, anchoring the photograph. Then of course, the stars of the show, the pair of dancing cranes in the left background, that aren’t initially obvious. You have to work a little before you find them, and I like that in a photograph. It’s like an Easter egg, that a kid has to look around the house for in excitement, before finding their reward.

My settings for this photo were 1/500 of a second at f/11, ISO 640, at 420mm. I was using the 200-400mm lens with the 1.4X Extender engaged, but had pulled back a little to include more of the scene, and show the cranes in their roost environment. Again, this is not cropped, so I have the full 50 megapixels to work with. I am really enjoying getting high resolution shots like this, that I can add to my portfolios. My original Distant Dance was 21 megapixels, shot with the 5D Mark II, so it was fine for printing large, but having this new photograph at 2.5X the resolution really opens up options for really large prints.

Another favorite from this morning is this next image (below) of a pair of cranes dancing in the foreground this time. I like the poses on the dancing cranes here, and there is also a crane calling to the left, in the foreground, which adds an additional element of interest. The trees once again are quite pretty, and I just find this to be a generally pleasing scene to look at.

Crane Courtship

Crane Courtship

My settings were almost the same as the previous image, except that I have decreased the ISO from 640 to 500. I generally shoot in manual mode, and simply keep an eye on my histogram and the blinkies, and as the scene starts to get brighter, I bring down the ISO a further each time, to keep the whites white, but not overexposed.

This second morning at the bridge certainly beat the first for this trip, and I think that this is the first year where we’ve had the hoar frost and mist on both tours, as this doesn’t happen every day, so this was another added bonus, especially when you consider how the El Niño weather patterns had taken some opportunities away from us this year.

After breakfast, we took a steady drive over to Lake Kussharo, where we were to spend the next two days photographing the beautiful Whooper Swans. When we first arrived, we called in at a little corner of the lake called Kotan, where I made this photograph (below). Now, I know that some of you aren’t going to get this, especially if you have your display brightness turned up quite high, but if you look carefully, you’ll be able to make out the face of a swan through the mist.

Almost Not There

Almost Not There

There are hot springs that flow into the lake in a few locations, and on cold days, that causes mist to rise, and although it’s only in a small area of the lake, with a long lens, you can isolate your subjects enshrouded in the mist, just like this, and I love this kind of image. Again, there’s an Easter Egg element here; you have to work to see what the image is about. All of the image information in this photograph is in the top 15% of the histogram, so really, if your monitor is too bright, you just won’t see this. I am really looking forward to printing this as well though. These tones come out really well on a subtle matte fine art paper like Breathing Color’s Pura Bagasse Smooth.

My settings for this image were 1/800 of a second, f/5.6, ISO 400, at a focal length of 400mm, with my 100-400mm lens. Although I often photograph large birds at f/8 or f/10, here, I opened up the aperture as wide as it will go for this lens at 400mm, to get as shallow a depth-of-field as possible, to emphasize the dreamy feeling of the rest of the scene. I also dropped a small Radial Filter over the main swan’s face and neck in Lightroom, and set the Shadows slider to -15, the Clarity to 55 and the Sharpness to 38, just to give the main character a little more body.

Later in this first day with the swans, we tried to do some panning, but the swans weren’t being very cooperative. We had a few chances and I have some images, but I have a better one from the next day, which we’ll look at later, so for now, let’s move on to the dawn shoot on the following morning. As we approached the lake from the hotel, we were happy to see a beautiful band of mist across the surface of the lake, that we can see in the background of this photo (below).

Whooper Swans' Misty Approarch

Whooper Swans’ Misty Approach

I love it when there is something in the air to give the image atmosphere, and the distant mountains on the other side of the lake add a lovely bit of additional interest to these next few shots. Here I released the shutter as the swans were in front of the central band of mist, and I have added a Graduated Filter in Lightroom, just across the bottom white band, which is the frozen lake, and I reduced the Dehaze slider, just to take the edge off a little bit of contrasty snow that was visible down there. I thought this cleared up and simplified the image nicely. My settings were 1/1000 of a second at f/10, ISO 400 at 188mm.

We had been standing by the lake for almost an hour before the swans started to fly in, but once they started, we had a number of beautiful opportunities, with the mist, and also some hoar frost on the trees to our right, as you can see in this image (below). I have two frames of this pair that I like, one with them a little bit further to the left of the frame, clear of the trees. Depending on my mood when I look at them, I think I prefer that image, but I am happy with them both.

Swans' Dawn Flight

Swans’ Dawn Flight

My settings were the same as the last image, and I have added another Gradient filter in Lightroom just to take the edge off the texture in the snowy surface of the frozen lake again. As we shot the swans, the sun was just coming over the trees to our backs as we faced the lake, so the light at this time of day is beautiful.

Just twenty minutes after the previous photo, I shot this one, and you can see how the mist has now receded down to a much thinner bank, enabling us to see the mountains behind the trees, which weren’t visible at this angle before. Here I have photographed the swans in the distance as they rounded the line of trees, flying in to this spot from their roost (below).

Lake Kussharo Swans Flight

Lake Kussharo Swans Flight

Luckily the hoar frost on the trees was still there, and again, this is one of those shots that you have to work for a little. This will also look great in a large print, where the viewer would more easily find the line of swans, but I hope you can appreciate it at the web size as well. My settings were the same as before, except just a touch of extra light allowed me to reduce my ISO from 400 to 320, again, just trying to maintain the optimal exposure without blowing out any of the whites.

Just 30 seconds later, I shot the same group as they approached, just before they flew almost overhead, in this photo (bel0w). I’ve included this, because I recall explaining to one of the participants, how important it is to develop the ability to zoom out as a group of birds approaches like this. I had gone wide for the last shot, but then zoomed in to get closer shots of the swans, and was by this point zooming back out again as they approached.

Overlined

Overlined

In many ways, this seems obvious, but the person I was talking to looked at me as though to say, “that’s way too much stuff to think about at one time!” And you know what, when you are just getting started, or trying to photograph birds in flight for the first time, it can seem quite daunting. As we hone our skills, and parts of our shooting become second nature, they become automatic, and we stop having to think about them. I don’t have to think about keeping my focus points over at least one of these birds, or refocusing if it runs off. I don’t have to think to press the back focus button, because my shutter button doesn’t activate the focus mechanism.

I do still think actively about how I am composing an image, although I’m drawing from experience and it’s an easy set of decisions, including trying new things from time to time. And, I don’t have to think about exposure, because I’ve done all that before the action starts, and it won’t change because I’m in Manual mode. Finally, as this group of birds approaches, I don’t have to think about zooming out, at least not any more than sending a few signals to my hand to make it twist the zoom ring while composing and doing all of that other stuff.

When you list it all out like this, we are actually doing quite a lot of complicated stuff all at once, and if any of these things require more than a little bit of thinking, it can stop the others from happening altogether, and that’s what happens when people are just getting started. So, how do you get good at doing this stuff? You keep doing it, again and again, consciously thinking of what you need to do, until it becomes second nature, and automatic. Repetition and practice is the only way to get used to doing this stuff, and the more you do it, the better you get.

I Dreamt of Swans

I Dreamt of Swans

I feel very comfortable with the technique of shooting these days, and really now am in a mode where I’m trying to tweak my composition and timing to make better and better photographs as the opportunities provided by each subject and location allow.

Of course, I also find myself in situations occasionally when I’m still challenged, and that’s great. It would get boring otherwise, but I wanted to talk about this really to impress on you the importance of practicing your craft. And, perhaps even more importantly, that it’s OK to be overwhelmed at first, because we do a lot of things in parallel, but with practice, it does get easier. So, if that’s where you are in your photography, don’t worry too much about it. Stick with it, and it will come.

After breakfast back at the hotel, we went back out, back to Kotan, and were happy to find that the mist was still there. I love to capture the moments when the swans stretch up and flap there wings a few times, like we can see in this photograph (right).

As I’ve mentioned, I set my exposure in Manual mode when I first arrive at a scene, so I don’t have to think about that when these birds rear up. There is literally just a split second to grab focus, and recompose, but it works sometimes, and the results can be nice.

The mist adds so much to this scene of course, and the dark trees across the top of the frame really add to the dreamy feel, as do the rushes along the bank of the lake, gradually fading into the distance. Again, I feel that mist in a scene like this really does literally add atmosphere.

After spending the rest of the morning photographing the swans at Kotan, we went back to the hotel for lunch, and had a couple of hours in a workshop session, before going back out again at 3:15pm, to try out hands at the panning again. We had a few more chances this time, and most of the group seemed to get something that they were happy with, like this shot (below).

Whopper Swan in Flight

Whopper Swan in Flight

This is a fun technique that I like doing with the group. We set our cameras to a shutter speed of 1/50 of a second, and as it was getting dark, this still required an ISO of 400 at f/11 to get a nice exposure. A 50th of a second is a good speed for this technique. If you go much slower the success rate drops dramatically, and if you select a much faster shutter speed, the background becomes sharper, and the wing movement is not as pleasing. Of course, it depends what you are panning with, and your focal length, but for large birds I find this to be the sweet spot.

The following morning, it was forecast to be snowing, so we rose to a changed plan of going back to lake for another fly-in shoot, rather than our optional shoot at Bihoro Pass which we do sometimes, when weather permits. There’s no point in being on a mountain in cloud and snow though, as we wouldn’t be able to see the scene, so I’d changed our plan.

I’m really pleased I did too. The swans flew in again a number of times, and were in a beautiful mist again, but this time, with snow in the air. We’ll look at a few more images next week, but for now, let’s close with this shot of two Whooper Swans that are just landing, with mist and snow in the air (below).

In White

In White

I know this might sound a little bit conceited, but I absolutely love this shot. I enjoy close up images where the subject fills the frame, but sometimes, I also really enjoy having them occupy a much smaller area of the frame, with lots of negative space, as I’ve done here. I shot this at 300mm, so I could have zoomed in further, but I decided to go with this composition instead.

I just love the softness of this image, with the birds in two different poses, with one walking on the snow by now, and the other still floating six inches above it. I’ve done nothing to this is post, not even a spot of Clarity as I often do. I wanted to leave the softness there, and the feeling of the mist and snow in the air. It feels like these two birds are just sitting in a huge soft box. It was a beautiful quality of light. My settings were 1/400 of a second at f/10, ISO 1000, at 300mm.

OK, so we’ll wrap it up there for this episode. I’ll be back next week where we’ll take a look at a few more images of these Whooper Swans in the soft box, before going on to Sulphur Mountain and the Sea Eagles, in part three.

2018 Winter Wonderland Tours

Before we finish, I’d like to remind you that we are now taking bookings for the 2018 Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tours. For details and to book your place, visit the tour page at https://mbp.ac/ww2018. Our 2017 tours are already sold out, but if you’d like to be put on the wait list, please contact us.

Winter Wonderland Tours 2018


Show Notes

Details of the 2018 Tours: https://mbp.ac/ww2018

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes for Enhanced Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

Download this Podcast in Enhanced Podcast M4A format. This requires Apple iTunes or Quicktime to view/listen.


Winter Wonderland Workshop 2009 #2 (Podcast 179)

Winter Wonderland Workshop 2009 #2 (Podcast 179)

Carrying on from last week, today we are going to take a look at some more photos from the 2009 Hokkaido Workshop and Photography Tour, affectionately known as the Winter Wonderland Workshop. It’s slow going, as we do a lot on the trip, and today we’re going to get through a day and a half, from the second day to the middle of the third. We pick up the trail in the small town of Tsurui, were we spent our first night.

If you have been following this Podcast or my photography for a while, you’ll know that one of my favourite shots of my own from last year, and possibly of all time, was shot from a bridge in the town of Tsurui, on the second morning of our 2008 trip. It was a magical morning. The temperature was low enough for there to be mist on the water and frost on the trees, in the area where the cranes roost, mostly on the really cold nights. The temperature has to be lower than -15 degrees Celsius, and there has to be no wind, or it blows the mist away, even if it’s cold enough to form. After a pretty good first day, I awoke on the 17th of February, hoping for cold, still weather. As we walked out of the hotel lobby to the bus, shortly before 5AM, well before sunrise, I was pleased to see that a reasonable amount of snow had fallen. We had snow fall almost every night during the trip, which is great, as it keeps the landscape white, for our Winter Wonderland effect. The problem was though, that it was windy. There was going to be no mist, even though it felt pretty cold. As we drove down towards the bridge though, the roadside thermometer said -13 degrees. It was cold, but not cold enough. We pulled up at the bridge, and looked down towards the river. This in itself is kind of futile, because the sun doesn’t rise for more than another hour or so. It was pitch black down there, but we could see that it was not frozen at all. Had the trees been frosty, we’d have seen that with the lights from the bus.

We parked in the car park next to the bridge, and walked out with our gear to take a look, but as it got very slightly brighter, we could tell that not only there was no mist, there were very few cranes in the river. This is not surprising, because they sleep here mainly when it’s really cold. The water is warmer than standing in snow or on ice. I know that we’d been very lucky in 2008, to get such amazing conditions, but I’d really hoped to be as lucky again this year. We weren’t though. After a few minutes wondering what to do, we returned to the bus and decided to go to a place nearby, where there would be cranes, or so I thought. I had travelled to this bridge every morning for five days in December of 2006, and when there was nothing doing, I’d go to the same place that we went to today. Unfortunately, this morning, there were no cranes here at all. We set up our camera’s and waited a little while, but there was no sign of the cranes.

While we waited, the sun rose above the hill at the back of the Itoh Crane Sanctuary, and I shot image number 2125. I actually really like this shot. I focused on the foreground trees, allowing the ones in the back, closer to the sun to go out of focus slightly. The sun placed on the right third of the frame, with the slightly thicker tree trunk running through it, is a pretty large disk, because of the magnification of the 600mm lens that I shot it with. I shot a few with the 70-200mm, and the sun shining off the snow, as it got a little higher, but knowing the location as well as I do, I couldn’t use the shots without cranes. Had there been a few cranes doing a courtship dance, I’d have been showing you that image right now. Having checked with one of the participants in the last few weeks, we have seen cranes there at this time, and I was really surprised that they didn’t show this morning. It seems that the relatively warm weather had sent them elsewhere.

Tsurui Sunrise

Tsurui Sunrise

We had a few decisions to make, to maximum our photographic chances. The itinerary had us shooting cranes at the bridge and this location until lunch time, then going on to the Kussharo Lake, to shoot Whooper Swans for the afternoon. Without any cranes here though, or at the bridge, we felt woefully deprived of cranes. Sure, we’d had a good day the day before, but it wasn’t quite enough. We decided to go back to the TAITO Hotel, and eat breakfast earlier than planned. That would give us time to drive back, in the opposite direction of the Kussharo Lake, to the Akan Crane Center, where we’d shot the previous day. It was a 40 minute drive, although this would add 40 minutes to our drive to the lake later in the day, but this was OK. We had to get our fix of cranes.

Here’s the thing. For those who photograph the cranes for the first time, anything they do is beautiful. Despite any mental preparation you can do, when you are confronted with a field full of 160cm tall birds, that dance and play as beautifully as world class ballerinas, you get trigger happy. So much so that at first, you think you are getting world beating shots. The truth is though getting true world beating shots of these birds takes a lot of time and patience, and a good helping of luck. People generally get out of the first day so excited about seeing the birds, but then as they start to take objective scans through their images, realize that they haven’t got quite as many of the photographs that they thought they had. Apart from the fact that I could look at these birds every day for a month and not get bored of them, this is why I schedule more time shooting cranes on the second day, before we move on. Everyone agreed later in the day, that it was a good decision to go back to the Akan Crane center. A decision that we made collectively as a group by the way, as they had all become accustomed to shooting the cranes on the first day, and most people felt that they had probably gotten some better shots than the first day too.

I want to take a look at one of my shots before we move on, and that is image number 2129. Here we see a Red-Crowned Crane flying almost straight towards me. It is relatively easy to get shots of these birds from the side, as they fly in to the crane center. You have to keep shooting these, because sometimes, you get things just that little bit better than the average shot, and your collection of crane shots start to become slightly more elevated than other peoples. It is not as easy though to get the cranes coming straight for you like this. I was lucky to notice a group of birds coming in at a different angle than usual, and caught this guy in this beautiful position, with his wings up at full stretch. I also like the fact that there was some light snow fall at the time, meaning that I not only got some in the shot, but also that the light was not that harsh. We can see some beautiful tones in the white on the bird’s body. The focus here actually falls along the back side of the bird, so we have a beautifully pronounced tail, with the wings and legs really, really sharp. Unfortunately, the head is coming out of the depth-of-field slightly, and I would have liked it to be a bit sharper, but I still think it is worth keeping this image in the collection. I was shooting at F5.6, for 1/1000th of a second. F5.6 should have been enough for a slightly sharper head, even with the size of these birds, so I’m thinking that the AI Servo focusing had not kept up here, or had simply locks on the back of the bird, rather than the front. Still, as I say, I really like this shot, and intend to keep it in the collection.

Soft Arched Wings

Soft Arched Wings

So, we’d had no frost or mist at the bridge, which was a disappointment, but we’d figured out how to get more crane shots, and everyone was happy. We left the crane center before the feeding today, to head over to the Kussharo Lake, to shoot the Whooper Swans. You can imagine my shock when we got there, and the lake was not frozen. I’ll be sure to figure out a way to check this next year, but in my mind, there was no chance of the lake not being frozen. Surely enough though, as we got closer to our location, we could see that there was no ice on the lake. This would mean that the whole place would be different. The birds would not take off in their usual flight path, along the small strip of water at the edge of the lake, where the hot springs that flow into the lake stop it from freezing and give the swans a strip of water to take off from. This was to be our panning afternoon, but that was not going to happen now.

In shock, we ate at the restaurant at the lake, and I asked the waiter how long the lake had been thawed, only to be more shocked to hear that it had only frozen for one morning the whole winter, and that thawed by noon. We decided to make the most of the situation, and get what photographs we could, and as we came back to the lake with our gear after lunch, I noticed an elderly gentlemen that I’d spent time with on my first winter photography tour here some five years ago. I was pleased to hear that he remembered me too, and he told me that he’d visited this place every year for twenty years, and never known it to not be frozen. I was starting to feel a little bit down, with the few strokes of bad luck we were having.

In image number 2137, you can see that the swans were flying, but you can also see that apart from a small piece of ice in the bottom left of this shot, the lake was most positively liquid. I had stopped my aperture down to F16, with a shutter speed of 1/80th of a second, in preparation for some panning shots. Ideally we needed to be down to under 1/50th of a second, to get movement in the wings of the swans, but it was too bright, as you can see. I could have gone to ISO 50, for 1/40th of a second, but as the birds were not flying in their usual pattern, there seemed little point.

Kussharo Lake Whooper Swans

Kussharo Lake Whooper Swans

Not giving up that easily though, we kept shooting, and got some images that were worth the effort. Another of mine from here is number 2138, as a group of swans took flight, at a different angle than usual, but that in itself made for a nice image, with the mountains on the far side of the lake in the frame. It was cold though. The wind was coming off the lake straight at us, almost like it was slapping us in the face, rubbing in the stretch of bad luck we’d had already today, and making our eyes water with the cold. Once everyone had grown tired of shooting with the somewhat limited opportunities with the frozen lake, we went to the hotel a little early. This in itself was not a bad thing, as they are long days when you are up and out ready to shoot at 5AM.

Taking Flight

Taking Flight

The following morning was another early start, as we were to drive to the Bihoro Pass for a morning Landscape shoot. Although the first five days of the tour are mainly wildlife photography, we do some landscape work, and this is the highlight of Landscape locations for this section, weather allowing of course. I was really hoping for some better luck with the weather today, as Mother Nature had dealt us a few blows on the second day. It was quite dark as we started to walk from the bus to the top of the mountain to look down on Kussharo Lake, but the sun was starting to brighten the sky, enough to walk by, and to start to get a feel for how clear it was. There was lots of cloud and mist in the valley to our left, but the sky was mostly clear at this point. There was a crescent moon helping to light our way too, and it was really quite a nice walk to the top, despite it being well be freezing.

As we reached our vantage point, and set up our tripods, the sun was lighting the sky up beautifully, and went straight for the 14mm F2.8 lens to capture image number 2140. You can see the moon here looking very small at this focal length, but also because of the 14mm being so wide, it gives us a huge depth-of-field. I stopped down to F11 here, though wider would have sufficed, and I have everything from the snow, a few feet in front of the lens, right to the mountains in the distance in sharp focus. At 100% you can see the reflection in the water of the line of trees on the bank of the island in the middle of the lake. I shot this with ISO 100 for 3.2 seconds by the way, so you can tell that there still was not a lot of available light. Notice too that I did not correct the white balance. I prefer this cold blue, as the daylight preset rendered the scene. This is pretty much the correct white balance for the horizon with it’s warm reds, but it’s a stark contrast to the cold blue world who’s white balance the sun was about to correct.

Moon Over Kussharo Lake at Dawn

Moon Over Kussharo Lake at Dawn

Sunrise over Kussharo Lake

Sunrise over Kussharo Lake

This image was shot at 5:49AM, with the sun still 29 minutes from the horizon. Now, I just love this shot, and don’t know if I would have gotten anything better on this day, but the colour on the horizon faded very fast. I was pleased that we’d made an early start, because about five minutes from this point, the clouds that had been sitting in the valley, warmed as the sun got closer, and then engulfed the scene. We were able to shoot a little more, but the shots had been for no more than five minutes when we first got to our vantage point. Another shot from here as the mist cleared just slightly after this, is shot number 2143. This was shot at 6:31, forty minutes or so after the last one we looked at. The sun is well and truly up now, and occasionally burned through the cloud like this. I did have to play with the black levels and tone curve a little mind, even to bring out this much detail. Still, it’s a pleasing enough shot in my opinion.

Just for fun, let’s look at image number 2144. This is the frost that had formed on my tripod in just one hour at this location. I took my watch off to try and measure the air temperature, as it has a thermometer built in, but it got stuck at -7 degrees. It dropped to that temperature pretty quickly, and I know it was colder, but I couldn’t measure the actual temperature. I’d say it was probably around -15, and there was no real wind-chill to factor in, so it remained relatively pleasant. We decided to walk back down the hill slightly as we know that there are some nice trees down there that make great shots, especially when there’s frost like this around, and the scene over the lake was now pretty much impossible to shoot, let alone improve on our shots from an hour ago.

Hoar Frosted Tripod!

Hoar Frosted Tripod!

Of my original selection of tree shots from this morning, let’s take a look at image number 2146. Here we can see how the hoar frost has formed on the tree, painting it a beautiful white. The sky also has a very pale blue tint to it here, as the cloud thinned. The clouds kept coming back in, and light was changing quickly, but it was beautiful light no matter what. Almost like a huge light box, and hard to shoot a bad photograph under. I shot this at F8 for 1/250th of a second at ISO 100 by the way.

Hoar Frost Tree

Hoar Frost Tree

Now, I mention my original selection, because there was one image that I’d culled out from this part of the trip, that kept haunting me. It was crying out to me from my two stars batch, which basically means I was once selected, but now I’m not in the final batch. The photo was there, but it was a little pale, and I’d not spent the time to pull out some detail in post processing. I knew that was all that was necessary though, so it kept coming back to me. Finally, last week, I decided to take the image into Photoshop and see if I could make it work. I spent a couple of hours working on two images actually, and that’s a lot of time for me to spend in Photoshop. I like the program, and that’s why I keep upgrading, but I don’t like to spend very long on any individual image. I did get the image that had been haunting me very close to what I wanted, but it was a little too dreamy for my liking. I decided to sleep on it, as it was getting late.

The following evening I revisited the image and decided that I really didn’t want to take it that far, and so I decided to have a go at correcting it with the curves in Lightroom instead. Probably helped by the playing I’d done in Photoshop the previous night, in about a minute, I had arrived at what I posted as image number 2246. I love this shot, and am so pleased that it kept calling me back. I actually now can’t understand why I culled it in the first place, because the original is not that bad. Actually, this is probably because many people are waiting to see these images when I get back from these trips, so there’s a certain amount of pressure to complete my selection quickly, and get them posted. I probably just couldn’t commit the time to do just a little bit of post processing during my original selection. I actually posted the original image, my overly dreamy Photoshop version and this final image in the forum for all to see. If you are interested I’ll put a link to the post into the show notes, so you can take a look.

Line of Trees

Line of Trees

Finally, to give you a sense of place, let’s look at image number 2149. Here we can see one of the participants of the workshop making his way down from where we’d been shooting the trees. You can see the cloud in the valley to the left, and if that wasn’t there, you’d be able to see the Kussharo Lake down there. It’s a wonderful location that I have visited many times, and always look forward to revisiting. I think this photo gives a sense of this, and it definitely helps to bring back memories of one of the best parts of this year’s trip in my opinion.

Bihoro Pass

Bihoro Pass

After the dawn shoot at Bihoro Pass, we went back to the Kussharo Prince Hotel for breakfast, and then started our long drive over to Rausu. We did some more shooting on the way into town, as we found a lot of White-Tailed Eagles and Steller’s Sea Eagles perched in the trees. These were more insurance shots that anything, as there was still no guarantee that the boat would go out the following day, which is why we’d come to Rausu in the first place. Last year, the boat did not go out, due to bad weather and the fact that the ice floe had not come far enough down from the tip of the Shiretoko pensinsula for the eagles to see us out there. If the ice is far away but it’s a clear day, it’s still worth going, as the eagles can see us, and that for them means free fish. If they can’t see us though, they won’t come, so it’s a waste of time. We ended our second day with a bit of shooting in the port etc. While we were there, the boat that we would board came into port, so I had a chat with Hasegawa-san, the skipper, to see what our chances of putting out the following day were. It was looking good, but we had to wait until the evening for the weather reports to see if we could really get out there this year. Join us again next week to see how we got on. For now, you have a great week, whatever you’re doing. Bye bye.


Show Notes

For details of the workshop itself, including next year’s workshop once the site it updated, please check out my workshops Web site here: Tours & Workshops

The music in this Podcast was created and produced by UniqueTracks.


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes for Enhanced Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

Download this Podcast in Enhanced Podcast M4A format. This requires Apple iTunes or Quicktime to view/listen.



Winter Wonderland Workshop 2009 #1 (Podcast 178)

Winter Wonderland Workshop 2009 #1 (Podcast 178)

This week we start a multiple episodes series to walk you through the February 2009 Hokkaido Workshop and Photography Tour. As I mentioned last week, the workshop went very well again, with a few things that didn’t go according to plan, but most which did were great fun and everyone got a whole bunch of great photos. Let’s jump right into it and take a look at 10 images from the first day.

Now, I don’t intend to do one episode for all nine days of the tour, so don’t worry about that. Some days though just warrant a single episode because there were so many things to shoot and to talk about. The first day was February the 16th, 2009, and we met at Haneda Airport in Tokyo to head out to Hokkaido to start shooting for the first day. It seems that as much as I try, the first day in Hokkaido for me often winds up with me doing something silly or hurting myself. I won’t go into details to save time, but this time, as soon as I got on the plane, and went to put my bag in the overhead compartment, I caught the weight of it a bit funnily, and briefly dislocated my thumb. Luckily, as soon as I felt it pop out, I took the weight off it, and it popped straight back in again, but there was some damage done. It swelled up a little, but I put some cold pads on it for the first few nights and it was OK after that. It still hurts even now though, three weeks later, so I definitely tore something. Kind of relieved that my jinxed first day injury was out of the way now, I settled down for the flight with the other participants.

I’d asked everyone to come for the flight dressed for the day, as we spent a little too long getting everyone changed at the start of the 2008 trip, and so after one more mishap where someone left their passport in the luggage cart at the airport, and us going back to find it still there, we hit the snow in the middle of the morning, between around 10:30 to 11AM. With there always being so much to shoot on this workshop, we don’t really get time to do any practical study in the field. It’s difficult to get everyone in one place for one, and even if I start to talk about something that I want to impart on the participants, something happens, and everyone jumps straight back to their gear to continue shooting. Because of this, I prepare everyone for the shoot on the bus on the way to the location, then we build on this as necessary with each individual in the field. I generally set up my gear too, so that I can not only get into the zone, as they say, as well as getting some pictures myself of course, but I also need to be shooting to understand the conditions and make myself aware of anything that I need to let the participants know so that they can get the best possible shots while there too.

On this first day, the most apparent thing was that the patchy cloud was making exposure difficult. Aperture Priority or shutter priority simply don’t work with the cranes, because they move from a pure white background to a very dark almost totally black background and any split of the two, very quickly, and very often. Trying to keep up with exposure compensation in conditions like this is pretty much impossible, so I get the group shooting in manual mode as soon as possible. Both this year and last year it took some time for the necessity for this to sink in, but usually after the first day or so, everyone is in agreement that it is the only way to go. Basically, if you are not in manual mode, every time the white cranes jump up in the air or fly, and the brightness of the background changes, the camera’s meter will get all confused and over-expose the cranes considerably. I’ve spoken about this a number of times over the years, so if you still don’t understand why, either listen to the previous related Podcasts or sign up for next year’s workshop. I’ll be releasing details on how to do so very soon.

Anyway, to get back to what I was talking about, on this first day, there was a lot of patchy cloud, which means that although manual is still the only way to go, you have to keep your eye on the light conditions constantly. When the sun was fully out, we were shooting at around 1/1250th to 1/1600th of a second at F5.6 with ISO 100, but then when the sun went behind the cloud, we’d have to reduce the shutter speed to around 1/640th or even 1/500th of a second. This means there was around one and a third of a stop difference in amount of the light we were shooting with. So, we had to constantly keep our minds on the whether the sun was behind the clouds or not and keep switching between the two extremes of exposure. The good thing is that the two extremes were pretty predictable for most of the day, but still, it posed some difficulties. One option is to simply shoot them all a little underexposed and bump up the exposure in post processing, but I personally don’t subscribe to that way of shooting. If you do this you’ll end up with muddy and grainy blacks that look pretty horrible. The mantra of getting it right in camera will pretty much always help you to get the best results, even if you have to constantly keep your eye on your exposure. You do sometimes blow out the odd highlight, or something turns out a little dark, because you didn’t notice the light shift, or it happened right in the middle of a piece of action, but in those cases, as long as you are shooting RAW, you can usually rescue the image. This will result in lower quality images of course, but if something is worth saving then go for it. Aiming for the best you can is the most important thing, and we can fall back on the technology as necessary when things don’t go as well as they might.

Let’s take a look at some images now though, to see what we were shooting and what I mean about the exposure. First let’s look at image number 2107. This is a pair of cranes coming in to land at the Akan International Crane Center. You can see here that I have perfect, bright whites, still though with lots of detail in the dark, black feathers around the crane’s neck and along the back side of their wings. If I was to rely on brightening the images back up, and not shooting to the right shoulder of the histogram, this detail would simply not be there in the blacks. I’d be able to pull some detail out, but it would end up grainy and muddy. I like the overall symmetry here, with the back crane in almost the same post as the foreground crane. I shot this at 1/2000th of a second at F4.5 with ISO 100. I was using the 600mm F4 lens for this, as the cranes were at a distance. It’s important when shooting the cranes and the eagles later in the week, to have two camera bodies with you, one with your long lens on, and another with a wider lens.

Syncronized Landing

Syncronized Landing

I find that the 70-200mm range is perfect for the wider lens at these places, and we can see why in image number 2111. As the cranes flight out of the crane center, they sometimes fly right over your head, as this one did, and they are very close. This image was shot at 70mm, which is of course the widest end of the 70-200mm F2.8 lens. Now, this is one of those shots that I just could not throw out, because of the perfect detail in the underside of the bird, and when you zoom in, there is actually a bit of a catch-light in the eye, that you can just see. The exposure was perfect too, as I was keeping on top of that, but I actually cropped this very close to the end of the birds beak in camera. There was a slightly better framed shot before this, but it was a bit soft as I probably wasn’t panning with the bird as smoothly as I needed to, basically because I was panning upwards and had my back craned right over by this time, no pun intended, so I was simply at my extreme physically. It is just too good a shot to throw out though, so I increased the size of the canvas by around 15% along the top, and cloned the sky in from the top edge, to fill the canvas. I probably wouldn’t have done this a few years ago, but I’m kind of OK with doing this now, to save something that I just can’t bring myself to throw out.

Overhead

Overhead

As the number of cranes gradually grows, which is a good thing of course as they almost died out in Hokkaido a number of decades ago, one problem that we face when shooting them is that it’s difficult to get a clear shot of just one or two cranes. The cranes sometimes start honking and do a mating dance with their partner, and sometimes just do a dance with their family, including the young from the previous year, and also sometimes in a foursome, with two pairs honking together. It can though be really tough getting a shot of this from where you are set up. As you need a leveled, pretty long lens, and because there are only so many free spaces along the edge of the viewing area, it’s not always practical to move to a better spot either.

Honking Dance

Honking Dance

Sometimes though, you do get a clear, what I call a “through-shot”, so let’s take a look at some of mine that I was quite pleased with. The first one is image number 2115. I followed these two birds as they maneuvered through the crowd of birds. In fact, I won’t include the image, but you can see that I got another shot of these birds 15 seconds earlier, as they started to honk in unison, with their backs to me. That in itself is a nice shot, but as I tracked their movement, they turned to each others, and started to cross over each other from my perspective. This is one of my favourite crane photos as it shows both the tufted tail of the crane on the right of the frame, but also shows the wings on the left bird raised upwards, showing us that what usually looks like a black tufted tail is actually not a tail at all, but the back edge of the crane’s wings. We can see here that the Japanese Red-Crowned Crane’s tail is actually pure white. I’ve tested Japanese people on this, asking them what colour they think the crane’s tails are, and they all say black, because that’s how they appear with the wings contracted. We also just see the shape of the birds body very well in this image, and one other thing that I have tried to capture many times, is the breath of the bird, slightly white against the dark background. For me, everything works in this image, so I was really pleased that I got a clear shot of just the two birds.

Courtship Dance

Courtship Dance

I continued to shoot, as the crossed over, and got another that I was happy with, which is image number 2116. Overall, I prefer the last shot, but in this image, we have that wonderful symmetry in the legs, and the almost symmetrical pose, both with necks arched backwards, making a kind of wine-glass shape. Both of these images were shot at F5.6 with ISO 100, and a shutter speed of 1/640th of a second. I was using the 600mm F4 lens.

Let’s move on to a more documentary shot, which is image number 2118. Here you can see at least seven cranes in the background of this one eating a fish that has just been thrown out for the cranes. This shows just how crowded the place is with cranes, and hopefully helps you to appreciate how difficult it is to get a nice clear shot of just a single pair. It also shows that the cranes are fed fish for a few reasons. One reason is to help the cranes feed themselves. The cranes were dwindling in numbers due to human encroachment into their breeding and feeding grounds for many years, until a few organizations and individuals started to set land aside for them and feed them. They don’t feed them much. If you watch, I’d say they only throw out 1 fish for every five or six cranes, so they don’t all get a belly full at feeding time. That brings us to the other reason for them feeding, which is really to ensure that the cranes come back to this same spot, not just because it’s a safe place for them to be, but also because it helps to attract another, not so rare species, call the photographer. Photographers, particularly the sub-species with latin names like wildolifus or naturalis photografius, thrive on images of rare and beautiful creatures like the majestic red-crowned crane, so it’s kind of a symbiotic relationship.

Yellow Fin Snack

Yellow Fin Snack

The fish also attract other birds, such as the White-Tailed Eagle and the Steller’s Sea Eagle, and we can see a White-Tailed Eagle making off with one of the fish in image number 2120. I cropped this across the top and bottom a little, to narrow the path of the bird out of the image a little, which I thought worked, probably partly because of the shape of the snowy bank in the trees in the background of the image as well as the arch made by the eagle’s wings, kind of like a boomerang in this shot. To capture the action, I’d changed to ISO 200 now and was shooting with a shutter speed of 1/1600th of a second, still at F5.6

White-Tail with Fish

White-Tail with Fish

Let’s move on to image number 2121 now. After the feeding, the cranes start to make their way out of the crane center, sometimes in pretty large numbers, as we can see here. Again I’ve cropped this image a little to keep focus on the birds, as the top and bottom of the shot really don’t add much. I think I cropped the left side a little too, to balance it out with a similar amount of space as the right side. This again is another reason to have a second body, with a wider lens on, or you would simply miss these shots. I got this with the 5D Mark II and the 70-200mm F2.8 IS lens, shooting at 200mm. Still at ISO 200, I was shooting with a shutter speed of 1/800th of a second now due to the cloudy sky, and I was still at F5.6. The birds are heading off to the nearby river to roost, which is where we were hoping to shoot the birds in the mist the following day. There is a location about 30 minutes or so from the Akan Crane Center, where a kindly farm owner has set aside a field for the cranes to stop off at, and an area for photographer’s to set up their gear and photograph the cranes flying overhead. Shortly after shooting this image, that is where we were headed.

Nine Cranes

Nine Cranes

Before we go though, let’s take a look at one last shot from the Crane Center for today, which is image number 2122. Another animal that makes his way to the center at feeding time is the fox, as we see here. The crows are everywhere in Japan, so can often just be a nuisance, but here I kind of like the play with the sharp fox, with the cranes behind him, and the crow in front, with the fox firmly focused on it. I know that some of the cranes heads are cut off, but they are also out of focus and really just providing some context, so I’m not too worried about that. I kind of like the way the fox is staring at the crow though, so thought I’d stick this one into the collection for good measure. The foxes are there of course to get a piece of the fish action when they can, but at great risk, because the 160cm tall cranes have little patience for the eagles and foxes and other things that try to steal “their” fish, as we saw in one of my shots from last year, where a juvenile crane was stomping down pretty hard on a distressed White-Tailed Eagle.

Regards

Regards

Over at the Kichuchi Farm now, to shoot the flyover as the cranes make their way to the roost, I shot image number 2123. This shot is very much something that I could have shot at the last location, but you’ll notice that there is much warmer light on the underside of the crane’s wings here, as the sun is now almost on the horizon at the end of the day. It also makes for that stunning, almost shocking blue sky, as a backdrop for this image. Shot at ISO 200, I was still at F5.6 with a shutter speed of 1/320th of a second now, as the light dies at the end of the day.

Dusk Cranes

Dusk Cranes

Finally for today, we have a slightly played with shot to finish, which is image number 2124. So, getting very experimental here for me, and in the spirit of being totally open about what I’m doing, there are a few things that I wanted to talk about. Firstly, I got two shots of this scene, with the cranes in this position in relation to the trees, which I quite liked. The first shot, had the trees slightly blurred, as I panned with the cranes, but the cranes were a little too blurred. The second shot had really sharp cranes, but the trees were too blurred. Basically, what I did was opened them both as layers in Photoshop, which is now one of the edit options in Lightroom by the way, and grafted the sharper birds from the second shot into the first shot, with the sharper trees. Again this is something that I would never have done years ago, but I’m pushing the boat out a little here these days. The second thing that I did was to add a coloured gradation filter to warm up the bottom half of the shot for that after sunset red glow in the sky. Here I was thinking of my film days, when I would sometimes drop a warm red or orange graduated filter over my lens to get exactly this effect, and figured, well, if I could do it with film, why not. I quite like the end results, so I thought I’d finish with this for today.

Cranes Fly to Roost

Cranes Fly to Roost

So, that was the first day of the Winter Wonderland Workshop from February 16th to the 24th, 2009. As I said earlier, I don’t intend to take an entire episode for every day, but some days just seem to warrant it. Join me again next week, as we pick up the trail at the beginning of the second day, when were were hoping for calm weather, with temperatures of -15 degrees Celsius or below, so that we could get the frosty trees and mist on the river, like we did on the second day of the 2008 trip. See how that turned out next week. For now, you have a great week, whatever you’re doing. Bye bye.


Show Notes

For details of the workshop itself, including next year’s workshop once the site it updated, please check out my workshops Web site here: Tours & Workshops

Music by UniqueTracks.


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes for Enhanced Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

Download this Podcast in Enhanced Podcast M4A format. This requires Apple iTunes or Quicktime to view/listen.