The Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop 2022 Video (Podcast 786)

The Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop 2022 Video (Podcast 786)


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Following on from the previous post about creating a slideshow using Boinx Software’s FotoMagico, although I was taken out of action for two days following my fourth COVID vaccination, I spent several additional days creating the background music for my slideshow, as I mentioned in that previous post. Slideshow music can be difficult because you don’t want it to be too prominent, but at the same time, it needs to compliment the images and content, so it takes more thought than simply sitting down to make a track just for the sake of it.

I’m not going to go into much detail, as this post is really at this point to point you to the video. Still, as the video starts, you’ll notice some simple Kalimba music, which is an African instrument that I have in one of my many plugins. I then spent some time finding chords that matched the subject matter, slightly sad sounding in places, mainly because of the feeling from the deserted diamond mines, and then I make it a little lighter with some flurries when necessary. We drop back to the Kalimba several times to break up the piano. After the initial Kolmanskop piano accompaniment, I switched to a hybrid traditional piano and electric piano played together. My wife thinks the flurries with the hybrid piano sound a little 70s or 80s, and she’s probably right because I was thinking Blade Runner as some of the notes and feeling of the music started to form.

Here is a screenshot of the final score in Ableton Live before I exported the music to embed into FotoMagico. If you click on the image, you’ll be able to see more detail if you are interested. Note that I designed the dark-teal theme for Ableton, as I don’t like the look of any of the actual themes provided with the software. The only additional thing to mention is that I also added some orchestral strings with brass and horns at various places, again, to add a little variation while changing the way I played some of the chords, hopefully making it a little less monotonous without having to compose and play each bar individually. This is to both save time and because too much variation can also get in the way of the slideshow if it starts to take the viewer’s attention.

Namibia 2022 Slideshow Score
Namibia 2022 Slideshow Score

I changed the timing a little, so although I’d say this would be around 18 minutes, the final video is 16 minutes and 30 seconds, which is still very long for a slideshow. This essentially represents most of my “keepers” from the trip, as the slideshow is designed to show you how much can be achieved during my 17-day Complete Namibia Tours. If you have time, do try to watch to the end, but I doubt with the number of images, it will be a video you’ll rewatch many times. Either way, though, if I can get my message across, that’s great. I hope you enjoy this. You can see this and over 100 other videos on my Vimeo Channel.


Show Notes

See the video on Vimeo here: https://vimeo.com/737475715

Check out my Vimeo Channel here: https://vimeo.com/martinbailey

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Rick Andrews – Tour Participant Feature (Podcast 467)

Rick Andrews – Tour Participant Feature (Podcast 467)

Today I feature Rick Andrews, a wildlife photographer from Alberta, Canada, who joined the first of my two Japan Winter Wildlife Tours for 2015.

I always do my tour updates with my own photography, but I thought it would make a nice change to see the tour from a participants perspective. Rick and I had discussed how photographers market tours with their best images from multiple tours, but as Rick says towards the end of our discussion, this is a great way to see what is possible from one tour, and what is essentially for many, the first chance to shoot in the locations visited.

Rick also gives me a wonderful endorsement at the end, for which I’m humbly grateful. I would also like to point out too that although our 2016 Winter Wonderland Tours are sold out, we do maintain a cancellation list, and are often able to bring people onboard through cancellations, so drop me a line and let me know if you’d like to be added to the list.

Of course, these tours are a yearly event, so there is always 2017 or later too, and I have a bunch of other tours throughout the year, and you can find details of all of these on our Tours & Workshops page.

If you’d like to check out Rick’s beautiful work, you can find him at www.rickandrewsphotography.com.

Here is the video, and below that are the 24 images that Rick showed us from the trip.

Here are Rick’s photos. Click on a thumbnail to start to browse.


Show Notes

Rick’s Web site: www.rickandrewsphotography.com

MBP Tours & Workshops


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.


Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido 2015 Tour #2 Part 1 (Podcast 461)

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido 2015 Tour #2 Part 1 (Podcast 461)

This week is the first of a two part series to walk you through a selection of photos from my second Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tour for 2015. These tours are in many ways the highlight of my year, so I’m sad to see them finished, but the resulting photos will keep me going for a while as I now start to work into my year.

The itinerary for this tour is identical to Tour #1 that we discussed in the previous two episodes, but of course it was a different group, and different photographs, and the weather presented its challenges again, although it was slightly more manageable than the first wildlife tour for this year.

We started the tour on February 16, a Monday morning, as always, and headed out on our chartered bus to Nagano for the first three days, to photograph the adorable snow monkeys. This first photograph that I want to take a look at (below), is pretty much a regular scene at the snow monkeys, as they bathe and groom each other, while sitting in the hot spring bath that has been made their own.

Grooming Snow Monkeys

Grooming Snow Monkeys

I’ve selected this photograph to start with for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I just like the relaxed atmosphere, with the youngsters sitting close to mum on the right, and the older of the two grooming her. Then there’s the two adults on the left grooming too.

The other reason I chose this photo is to talk you through a point about the mist on the pool, that can often ruin your photos if you aren’t careful. As you photograph the snow monkeys, quite often, there is a lot of steam coming off the hot water in the pool, and that can greatly reduce the contrast in your images, but it often comes in waves, and can be used to good effect with a little bit of attention as well as luck.

For this shot, you can see that there is mist in the background, that reduces the visibility of the background, and cleans it up to a degree. Not quite so easy to see if a little mist in the foreground too. Essentially you need to compose your shots, and wait for pockets of clarity, and hope that your subjects don’t move before you are able to get your shots. In this case, the clearing in the steam that lasted literally less than a second, is almost like a portal through to the snow monkeys, and it opened up just enough to see the groups of monkeys clearly, but making the surrounding image bright and minimal, almost like a lightened vignette, which I thought works well.

After an afternoon in the Monkey Park on the first day, we spend the first of two nights in a beautiful traditional Japanese hotel in the area, with great food, and wonderful warm staff, and then make our way back into the park for a full day on day two. The park can get very crowded, but most people go to the pool, especially the thirty minute tourist groups, and then they leave. This leaves certain areas like down by the river and the snow covered sides of the valley for us photographers, and I’m happy to shoot there, with scenes such as this one (below) to be photographed.

Family Unit

Family Unit

Again, here we have a family group, with mum and two kids, possibly even the same family. The young monkeys always look like boys to me, but there’s no telling, at least when they’re sitting down. This feels like mum grooming the little brother or sister though, and the older brother sitting by, as they do, quietly, getting less attention than their younger sibling.

As we see in this next shot from the second day (below), the monkeys aren’t always just sitting around getting groomed. Here I caught a youngster at full pelt as he raced through the snow on the valley wall. I have shot both of these tours almost exclusively with the new 7D Mark II camera, to try to get the most out of it’s auto-focus system, and although it has one major weakness, which I’ve just about overcome now, it has held up very well indeed, even compared to the Canon EOS 1D X, which is four times the price. I’ll be reporting on this again in a few weeks, so stay tuned if you’re interested.

Flying Monkey

Flying Monkey

I shot this at 200mm with the new 100-400mm lens from Canon, and was cutting it pretty fine here as I gradually zoomed out while tracking this little monkey along the snow. This is un-cropped, but you can see I almost lost his hand out of the bottom of the frame, so I’m pleased to have got this particular shot.

On the last of our three days with the snow monkeys, we were lucky enough to get a bit of falling snow, which always makes a big difference. In this photograph for example (below), the snow settling on the monkey had mostly melted, but left little beads of water on the monkey’s fur, as it relaxed in the pool.

The Philosopher

The Philosopher

Of course, the way I’ve framed this, I wanted to make this guy look like a philosopher, deep in thought. I have a few different angles of this monkey, from the left and right sides as well, but I like this one that is straight on. Had the eyes been open, I’d have focused on them, but then, if the eyes had been open, I may not have even shot this. I just like the deep thoughtful expression here, and this is probably one of my favourite photos from the trip.

After the snow monkeys, on day four of the tour, we fly up to Hokkaido, the northern-most island of Japan, for our first two days with the most elegant birds on the planet, in my opinion, the Japanese Red-Crowned Crane. Here we see two cranes doing their mating song, as they strut through the snow (below). These birds grow up to 158cm tall, which is only a bit shorter than my wife, so they’re big birds, and as you can see here, the female is generally a little shorter than the male.

Snow Song

Snow Song

There are so many cranes, that it’s often quite difficult to get a good clear shot of just two cranes when they dance or call like this. For this photograph, I had zoomed my 200-400mm with the 1.4X Extender engaged, right out to 560mm, which on the 7D Mark II is the equivalent of almost 900mm, but still, I had to crop this down a little to remove a third crane on the right of the frame.

Another tip here though, is to not forget to flip your camera into portrait mode for shots like this. Not only is that more aesthetically pleasing, with the tall birds and plenty of room above their heads to see the falling snow, but it also helps to remove other birds either side, due to the narrower aspect.

At the end of the fourth day, we visited a different location where I know there are often a lot of cranes that fly out to their roost at the end of the day as the light drops. This is great for getting slow shutter panning shots, like this one (below). For panning shots, sometimes I like to get the head sharp, as we’ll see later, but sometimes, just getting everything blurred in this way can also work, as I believe it does here.

Crane Entering Warp Speed

Crane Entering Warp Speed

I won’t pretend that I have a magic formula to get one style of photograph over the other. Honestly, I generally just slow my shutter speed down to between 1/25 of a second and 1/40, and try my best to pan smoothly with the birds as they fly. When taking off though, the speed of the bird is somewhat erratic, as is the up and down motion, so most of the time it comes down to just shooting a lot, and then picking out the best shots from your bursts.

The following morning we went to the bridge where we have a view of the cranes roosting in the river, but it wasn’t cold enough for the hoar frost to form on the trees, so although we got a few fly-outs, I don’t really have anything to show you here.

We went back to the crane centre after breakfast though, and as usual were treated with the White-Tailed Eagles and Black Kites at 2pm when they feed fish to the cranes, but again, I’ve showed you shots of that so many times, I’m going to skip that for today.

The great thing about this tour, is that we had snow falling on and off for much of the scheduled two days with the cranes. In this next photo the snow was lighter than the first crane shot for today, but still adds a beautiful sense of atmosphere to images like this (below).

Cranes' Dance

Cranes’ Dance

I’ve select this shot to show you, again, because I like it, but also to point out that the cranes’ tails are white. When you see photos like the first one of the cranes calling together, it’s easy to think that their tails are black, but it’s actually a line of black feathers along the back edge of their wings, which they fluff up and use for decoration when they call like that. As you can see though, when they lift their wings, their tails are totally white.

Quite often, after the cranes are fed their fish, and the eagles and kites steal most of them, we move on to another location, like the one for panning on the previous day. Because we’d not had much blue sky during our two days though, I decided to keep the group in the Akan Crane Centre for a few more hours on this second day there, and it paid off, as we see here (below).

Cranes' Flight

Cranes’ Flight

We had a number of beautiful fly-outs, but it’s always nice when we can get one with a nice textured sky in the background, like this. I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of blue skies, especially in landscape photography, but as a backdrop for a pair of beautiful birds like this, I can put up with it. 🙂

On days six and seven, we spend time with the Whooper Swans over at Kussharo Lake, as well as do an afternoon workshop session at the hotel, before going back out to do more panning, with the swans this time, as we see in this photograph (below).

Neck and Neck Whooper Swans

Neck and Neck Whooper Swans

As I mentioned earlier, I like to do panning shots between 1/25 and 1/40 of a second shutter speed. At 1/40, my percentage of sharp heads goes up dramatically, as in this shot. I love it when I can get two birds, both with sharp heads, and different wing positions, like this. The frozen lake makes for a nice background too.

As we’ll see in the first shot that we’ll look at in the next episode, the last shot of the Whooper Swans, most of the time they actually take off on water in front of this ice, and that can give some interesting effects to a panning shot too.

Although the weather stopped us from going to Bihoro Pass for a landscape shoot on this second tour again, we were able to go back to Kussharo Lake for their fly-in just after dawn on day seven of the tour. I have a handful of quite dramatic shots with the frozen lake in the foreground, but preferring the minimalist approach, my favourite is probably this shot, with the swans and just the tips of the mountains on the other side of the lake just showing through the low cloud (below).

Whooper Swans with Misty Mountains

Whooper Swans with Misty Mountains

As we walked back to the bus across from where we’d held our dawn shoot, I heard a knocking coming from the woods behind the carpark, and found this fellow doing his thing, stripping the bark off a tree and looking for breakfast (below).

White-Backed Woodpecker

White-Backed Woodpecker

I shot this with the 200-400mm and internal 1.4X Extender, at ISO 1600. I was shooting hand-held, because we had to get back to the hotel to get our breakfast before they stopped serving it, but it was lovely to see this little White-Backed Woodpecker, as I haven’t seen one with the group for a few years now.

After breakfast, we came back to the lake at a different spot, and did some studies of the swans as they just hung out on the snow covered frozen lake. I have a whole series of these, mostly pairs of birds, but this is one of my favourites (below). I love the way this Whooper Swan was all fluffed up as they preened themselves, and you’ve just got to love those big goofy feet and short legs on these otherwise amazingly beautiful birds.

Whooper Swan Preening

Whooper Swan Preening

There was a layer of mist behind the birds here, giving the light a beautiful soft quality that really lent itself to this kind of study. I’ll probably share a few more shots in a portfolio or other publications, but we’ll leave it there for today, as we’re up to our 12 photos for this episode.

2016 Japan Winter Wonderland Tours

Note that we have been taking bookings for the 2016 tours for a little while now, and both tours are already almost full, so if you would like to join us, check out the 2016 Tour page, and sign up sooner rather than later, to secure your place on a Japan Winter Wildlife Tour of a lifetime.

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tours


Show Notes

See Details of 2016 Tours here: https://mbp.ac/ww2016

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

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Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tour #2 2014 Part 1 (Podcast 412)

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tour #2 2014 Part 1 (Podcast 412)

Today I’m going to walk you through 10 photos from my second Winter Wonderland Tour for 2014, in the first of what will be a two part series. Although we didn’t have much snow in Hokkaido at the start of Tour #1, record snow falls in Nagano got us off to a slow start, but as usual, we made the most of the situation and ended up with some photos that we probably wouldn’t have got otherwise.

The cold that usually sets in further north seems to have made it’s way much further south across the globe this year. Literally the day after we got back from Tour #1 we had the heaviest snow fall in Tokyo for more than 40 years, which was ironic because there had been much less snow than usual in Hokkaido while we were there.

As I prepared for Tour #2 though a week later, the forecast was for more snow, though they’d initially said it would not be as heavy as the big snow fall we’d had the previous weekend. They were wrong. Record levels of snow fell over the weekend, and by the Sunday as participants arrived to get started all of the roads to Nagano where we start our tour photographing the snow monkeys became impassable.

With four feet of snow falling in some areas in just one night, the military were out trying to dig people out from their cars, as they’d become trapped in sections of the highway. As participants arrived for our pre-tour dinner, I had to keep them waiting for 15 minutes or so as I talked through our options with our tour operator, the company that I outsource the logistics to.

There wasn’t much we could do other than wait and see if the roads would be cleared in time for us to get over to the Snow Monkeys before we would fly to Hokkaido in three days time. I spent an hour on the phone with our tour operator the following morning again, and we decided to make our way over to Nagano on the bullet train, which had just started running again.

This in itself was a bit of a nightmare as everyone that needed to get to Nagano were on these early bullet trains, because of course all of the roads were blocked. Still, the group were patient and we made our way across Tokyo on the train system, and they were all at least able to get a seat on the bullet train. I took one for the team and stood at the back of the carriage with the luggage that we couldn’t keep with the group. The bullet train isn’t designed for people with a lot of luggage, so there was no other option.

We usually go into the Monkey Park on the first afternoon, but the local trains that would get us closer to the town in which we usually stay were also not running, so it took us most of the day just to get to our hotel. Still, we were there, and we had a nice walk around the town for an hour or so before dinner.

The next problem that we had to deal with though, is that the track to the monkey park was still covered in very deep snow. The owners of the park had asked us not to go in until the afternoon, to give them time to clear the path.

One Happy Monkey

One Happy Monkey

As we’d already missed our first afternoon though, and there was a good chance that we’d have to forfeit our third morning with the snow monkeys too, I decided to ignore that request, and we walked into the park. The track was actually better than I’d expected, so everyone made it in, even though it did take a little longer than usual.

After apologizing to the park owner for ignoring his request, we started our photography. The next problem that we ran into was that the pipeline for the hot water that fills the pool that the monkeys usually bath in had ruptured, so there were no monkeys in the pool.

This was a bit of a shame, as people love to get their shots of the monkeys in the pool, but this meant that the monkeys were doing things that they didn’t usually do. Most of the troop for example were down in the valley by the river, and the large amount of snow put them in a beautiful environment, and we were presented with photos such as this one (right) of a snow monkey sitting in the snow just lapping up the warm sun.

The monkeys are so human-like, that we can easily relate to their poses and give them feelings that they may not actually have, at least in the way we feel them, but this monkey just looks so happy to be sitting in its little chair of snow soaking up the sun. This area is often just brown rocks and dirt, and the background is usually a rocky too, so things weren’t too bad, and the participants were enjoying their time with the monkeys.

As I stood up by the pool again, I had one of those moments where something happened so quickly that I wasn’t able to photograph it, and have ended up with an image in my mind that will haunt me until I can capture something similar. The heavy snow was in banks up on the valley wall behind the pool that the monkeys usually bath in, and as I turned having heard a screech from an adult monkey, the monkey burst through the bank of snow having been bullied by another monkey. The snow went everywhere and the expression the monkey’s face was classic. I’m not sure if there’ll ever be enough snow to get a second chance to make a photograph, but I’ll be trying, that’s for sure.

As I watched though, there was another adult monkey further around the bank of snow, and it seemed to have gotten into a position where climbing back up the bank would be more difficult than jumping across to this side, so I watched for a while, and was rewarded with this photograph (below).

Leaping Snow Monkey

Leaping Snow Monkey

Because I was shooting in Manual mode as usual, I already had my exposure locked in, and had zoomed to 280mm with my 70-200mm lens with the 1.4X Extender fitted, and luckily the auto-focus was able to lock in on the face of the monkey at just the right point as he leaped. The shutter speed of 1/400 of a second was fast enough to freeze the monkey in mid-air, and capture all of the falling snow showing the dynamism of the action unfolding, so I was pretty pleased with this one.

All in all it turned out to be a great day, and the group had some great snow monkey shots to show for their effort. Now we had to deal with the problem of getting back to Tokyo. There were still over 200 people trapped in their cars on the highways as we enjoyed our photography, and that felt pretty bad in some ways, because there had unfortunately been a number of fatalities.

Things were starting to look up for our tour though. The bus that we should have come out to Nagano on was able to take a detour around on a different highway that had now been cleared of snow, so Yukiko our tour conductor and I went to the hotel that our bus driver had just arrived in after we’d taken the group back to the hotel, and we worked on our strategy for getting back to Tokyo.

The road that we usually used was still blocked, but by this time all other roads were now open, so we decided to forfeit the last morning with the monkeys, opting to start our journey back to Tokyo after breakfast. As it happened, our usual road also cleared on the morning that we left, but there was still a good chance that we’d end up in heavy traffic and we couldn’t risk being late back to Tokyo, as that would put the rest of the trip in jeopardy. We had a flight to catch to Hokkaido the next morning.

We ended up getting back quite smoothly, and so with a couple of extra hours, we drove around to Odaiba, a small beach with a view of the Rainbow Bridge, and I worked with the group on some long exposure techniques, resulting in some nice shots for the group, but I didn’t have time to get a shot of my own, so I’ve got nothing to show you.

On the morning of February 20 we got our flight to Hokkaido without issue, and by mid-morning we were out on the snow photographing the Red-Crowned Cranes, grus japonensis. As I’ve mentioned before though, one of the highlights of photographing the cranes, is feeding time at 2pm, when fish are thrown out for the cranes, but most of them are stolen by opportunistic Black Kites, White-Tailed Eagles, and the occasional Steller’s Sea Eagle. Here we see a White-Tailed Eagle flying over the cranes with his “catch”.

White-Tailed Eagle with Catch

White-Tailed Eagle with Catch

I shot this with the new 200-400mm lens with the built in 1.4X Extender engaged and fully zoomed in to 560mm. I love it when we get this fine snow fall like this too, which I brought out some with some heavier than usual use of the Clarity slider in Lightroom, taking it up to 38.

As I mentioned a couple of episodes ago, I’m loving being able to actually zoom with this lens, as I’ve been doing my wildlife work with prime lenses for many years now. Still though, I’m really enjoying shooting eagle detail shots with their wings clipped, as we see in this image. I disengaged the 1.4X Extender for this, and zoomed out slightly to 315mm, but still got in really close as I like it.

Fuselage

Fuselage

This shows you just how close the eagles get though. This was really almost directly overhead, as the White-Tailed Eagle banked around for another pass at the fish that had been thrown out on the snow.

There are still times though when a second camera with a wider lens helps, so I had been keeping a 5D Mark III with a 70-200mm lens sitting on my camera bag between my tripod legs, and reached for it when this family of cranes flew in from behind me. This was shot at 85mm, so almost zoomed completely out.

Family Unit in Flight

Family Unit in Flight

These photos were from our second day with the cranes, and I reached for the 70-200mm again a few hours later, as a crane took off and flew almost directly over my head. I shot this next image at 70mm, so you can see just how close the cranes sometimes get (below).

Overhead

Overhead

To ensure that you can get shots like this when using two cameras in Manual mode, you do have to keep adjusting the exposure on your second camera when you change the main camera. Especially on days like this, as you can see, when there’s patchy cloud. You generally find that you have to switch between two different settings, one for cloudy and one for clear.

This is still easier than working with Aperture Priority and Exposure Compensation though, as there is just not enough time to change the compensation as the birds move from a white background to a blue sky, or even darker background, as we saw with the earlier eagle shot. This change in background throws your exposure all over the place if you use an automatic mode, and this is why Manual makes so much more sense here.

In the ten years that I’ve been photographing the cranes, probably the only time that I could have safely used Aperture Priority was for this next shot, when the sky was almost a perfect 18% grey, almost as though someone had held up a huge grey card for me. Here there was heavy snow cloud moving in, but the cranes were still brightly lit with sunlight through a clearing in the clouds, and I thought the play on contrast was quite interesting.

Cranes on Grey

Cranes on Grey

Soon it was feeding time on the second day though, and we were treated to another incredible display from the kites and eagles, as we can see in this photo of a White-Tailed Eagle bank around again, almost seemingly showing off his beautiful wings. This was shot at 560mm, and actually cropped slightly along the top and right for better composition.

Prowess

Prowess

After feeding time we went over to a different sanctuary for the red-crowned cranes for a few more hours, before heading back to the hotel.

This is the location of course where we also get up early and go to the Otowa Bridge in the hope of getting some mist on the river and hoar frost on the trees, as we had one day on the first tour this year. This hadn’t happened on our first visit on this tour, but it almost came together on our second morning, as you can see in this image.

Cranes at Roost

Cranes at Roost

This was one of my first shots, as the trees went white, and a little bit of mist formed over the river in the background. This was actually a 10 second exposure, so I felt that a black and white conversion suited it better, with the flowing water and sleeping cranes still almost all motionless. Unfortunately though, the mist didn’t really get any better than this. It was still quite beautiful and better than nothing for sure, but not the best conditions. Still, that’s nature for you. Nothing is guaranteed. All we can do is be there at the best time of year for this to happen, and keep our fingers crossed.

After breakfast on this third day in Hokkaido we took a steady drive over to Kussharo Lake, where we’d start to photograph the Whooper Swans for two days. When we got to Kotan, a small corner of the lake that we usually visit first the wind was high blowing snow across the scene, and the ice was thick enough for us to walk out on to, and set up our long lenses for shots like this, of a swan stretching its wings.

Angel Wings

Angel Wings

This is probably one of my favorite shots of the trip this year. I love it when you can see the air due to mist, snow, rain or just about anything that gives you a sense of the air in the photo. This was shot with the 200-400mm again, right out at 560mm with the Extender engaged, and is totally un-cropped. This is one time when of course clipping the wings would have ruined the photo, so I was happy to get this.

I had also opened my aperture up to f/5.6 for a shallow depth-of-field, and so the snappy focus of this lens was very welcome too. Although my tests have shown that the 200-400mm is quite sluggish with the 5D Mark III for birds in flight, here it was snappy enough to focus on the swan as I noticed him rear up and start to stretch.

After Kotan, we went further along the lake to Sunayu where we did our customary panning shoot, which is a lot of fun, but we’re up to our 10 photos for this episode, so we’ll leave it there for today, and start the second part of this travelogue with a panning shot before moving on with the rest of the tour.

Join us in 2015!

Note that we are already taking bookings for the 2015 Winter Wonderland Tours, so if you’d like to join us, go and register at https://mbp.ac/ww2015 or click on the image below for details.


Show Notes

Details of the 2015 Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido tours: https://mbp.ac/ww2015

Music from Music Alley: http://www.musicalley.com/


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.


Selecting My 2013 Top Ten Favorite Photos (Podcast 404)

Selecting My 2013 Top Ten Favorite Photos (Podcast 404)

Now into 2014, I thought I’d carry on my tradition of selecting my favorite ten photos from the previous year, and I found the process so difficult this year, that this is what we’ll discuss today, as I believe this is something that we can all learn from, especially if you decide to do this with your own images too.

I know that I’ll be repeating myself to a degree here, as I do this every year, but I always learn so much from the process, that I like to share it with you. Unlike other years though, this time, I’m going to concentrate much more on the selection process, and then just include the top ten for you to look at, rather than explaining about each image, as I’ve already spoken about these images in earlier episodes from 2013.

If you recall from previous episodes, I always copy what I can my Finals, or my final selects, to a new folder for each year, so as the years go by, I can always go back and look at what I thought was my best work for each year. Because I do all of my initial rating in my original RAW file folders, I can also go back to my library and select a year, and show only 5 star images, and automatically get the same set of images. How you do this will depend on how you archive your own images of course.

My New Rating System

I should also clarify that my Finals folder contains images that although aren’t necessarily portfolio class, I consider them good enough to show people or put forward to be considered for inclusion in my Offset stock library now. Until now I’ve marked these images with 5 stars, not because they’re amazing, it’s just been my system so far.

From 2014, I’m going to change this so that my Finals are now four stars, and my portfolio images will be five star. Three stars are now images that I need to keep in my Finals folder, but that are not necessarily images that I want to show people. Two star images are my originals. For example, if I take an image into Silver Efex Pro and create a black and white version, I mark the original RAW file with two stars now, and keep it with the Final copy. One star images are images that I initially selected after my shoot, but then decided not to use.

For example I might have had five or six similar images, and just needed to mark them initially until I drill down to a finer selection, which I do by filtering on the higher star number, and then demoting the images by reducing the star rating removes them from my view. I call this now one star rating my “once great” images, and just like to leave the stars there so that I can go back and see what I though were good enough to at least think about including at one point. All other images have no stars assigned.

Selecting my Top Ten

So, to start the process of selecting my 2013 top ten images, I go to my Finals folder for 2013, I start my first pass. I know that throwing in too many images is going just make the process longer, so I’m very critical as I go through the folder. I create a collection in Lightroom called “2013 Top Ten First Pass”, and make that the Target Selection, so all I have to do is hit the “B” key to add an image to the collection. My 2013 Finals folder contains 359 images that I was happy to show people. From those after my first pass my selection stood at 40 images, which we see here in this screenshot (below).

2013 First Pass 40 Images

2013 First Pass 40 Images

Once I had this selection of 40 images, the next thing I did was to start to reduce the selection down in groups. For example, I had 2 sand dune shots from Namibia that were similar, so I chose which of the two I preferred. I also decided to remove all three snow monkey shots. I wanted to consider them, so I added them to my initial selection, but with a total of forty in that initial selection, I knew they weren’t going to make the cut, as they definitely aren’t my best snow monkey shots when compared with previous years.

Once you get to this point, and you already have a fresh understanding of what’s in the selection, it’s not hard to reduce the selection to around half based on just knowing that the image you are looking at simply doesn’t excite you as much as some of the others. In two more quick passes I was able to reduce the 40 to the 21 images that we see here (below).

2013 Second Pass 21 Images

2013 Second Pass 21 Images

It’s from this point that the process starts to get really hard. For me at least I can get a year of images down to this shortlist relatively quickly, but this last part really takes a lot of time. Every image in this last 21 is very special to me for one reason or another.

Emotional Roller-Coaster

I’m still relatively happy with my other selected images, but to be honest, even though I try to be very selective after a trip or shoot to only add the very best shots to my Finals, and I always give it some time for the initial excitement to die down, I find that I really like my images for a month or two after the trip or shoot, but then once a few months have passed I start to think that some of the images aren’t that special after all.

I think the thing is that for me, the gap between the excitement I feel about new work and work that is a few months old is so great that I sometimes even feel as though I dislike some of my images for a while. The strange thing is though that after that dip, I often start to like the images again, so I don’t remove shots from my final selections even if I don’t like them that much for a while. If I don’t come back around, I sometimes remove images after six months or a year or so, but I’m on a bit of an emotional roller-coaster with regards to how I feel about my images until that point.

Reflection on 2013

So, after getting down to my 21 images over the weekend, and not being able to reduce past that after a few more looks through the selection on Sunday evening, I left this final stage until the morning of the day that I have to record and release this Podcast episode.

As I write this I literally just sat at my desk and watched the images in a slideshow on my iMac screen, and suddenly I’m sitting here once again thinking how fortunate I am to be living this life. I was able to visit two of my bucket list countries last year, and now I’m faced with having to cut this 21 images more than half to just 10! It’s a wonderful problem to have, and this reflection on the previous year is another reason that I love to go through this exercise.

Continuing to work in groups, I had three sea-eagle shots, so I removed two, leaving just one. I also had multiple Namibia wildlife shots, so I initially removed the Springbok shot, as although I like it, the Cheetah shot wins out. I left the elephant’s ass shot in for now, as I love the mood of that sepia image. The Milky-Way shot went too. There were two whooper swan shots left, so I removed one of them.

At this point, I still had seven shots from Iceland left, so I got these seven up in Survey view and started to think of which ones of my children I was going to shoot. An obvious first place to look was which of the two similar waterfall shots I’d remove. After that though, I was stumped for a while. As much as I love the Aurora shot too, it was in the selection more because it represents the realization of a childhood dream rather than artistic merit, so it had to go.

Iceland Shortlist

Iceland Shortlist

Now at 14, I’m still struggling with my Iceland selection. I started to look at the two black and white landscapes, and although I wanted to go with the abandoned farmhouse, the surfboard on the beach shot just grabs me by the heart, so the decision was made. At 13, I decided to remove the Namibia sand dune shot, which took me to 12 images. Jeez this is hard!

2013 Top Twelve

2013 Top Twelve

At this point, I went back to my slideshow mode. I use the Lightroom Slideshow a lot when trying to whittle down my selection of Final images from a shoot too. At this point, I’m looking for a slight change in how I feel as the slides progress. If the next image comes up and I feel a dip, it’s an indication that the image isn’t as good as the last, and therefore should be considered for removal. Conversely, if I feel more excited about the next image, the previous one may have to go.

With this, I removed the image of the copse of trees on the hill from Hokkaido, and the last one, which was a long exposure of Mount Fuji from Hakone. I love both shots, but I dipped slightly as these came on the screen, compared to the rest, so I now have my 2013 top ten. I’ll add them at the end of this post for you to take a look at.

I hope you enjoy looking at the images, and hearing about my selection process. I know that a lot of listeners have started to do this each year with your own work, and I always enjoy looking at your shots when people let me know that they’ve done this. If you go through this process, do post a link in the comments of the blog post, so that we can all check out each others images. Also let me know if you learned anything by doing this, as it is such a valuable process.

What Did I Learn?

In addition to being incredibly thankful for being able to make these images in the first place, selecting my top ten really helps me to understand which images really work better for me. It also shows me that I seem to have appreciated my Namibia and Iceland work more than my Snow Monkey and Hokkaido work this year. That’s not surprising, as I have been traveling to the Snow Monkeys and Hokkaido for much longer, and I already have in the most part much better shots from previous years. Namibia and Iceland were totally new experiences. That does make me happy too though, that I was able to be productive in totally new environments.

This also tells me though, that I am probably making my Snow Monkey and Hokkaido selections based on this years images, wanting to select something because I made the images, but I’m not really adding to much to my portfolio if I don’t rate the resulting images over my existing work. More images would make say a 40 image portfolio of course, but under these restrictions, they don’t make the grade, and that’s important to know.

What that makes me want to do is not only be more critical with this year’s work, but also to try harder to come home with some images that beat what I already have. This of course depends very much on weather conditions and the wildlife that we encounter, but there’s a fire in my heart now, so I want to see what I can do with that.

OK, so here are my top ten images for 2013–remember to click on the images to view them larger than the embedded images, and you can navigate around with your mouse or keyboard arrow keys.

My 2013 Top Ten!

Pensive Power

Pensive Power

Seven Swans

Seven Swans

Quiver Tree Sunrise (with Moon)

Quiver Tree Sunrise (with Moon)

Deadvlei Silhouettes

Deadvlei Silhouettes

Relaxed Cheetah

Relaxed Cheetah

Elephant's Ass

Elephant’s Ass

Gullfoss (Falls)

Gullfoss (Falls)

Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar

Surfboard

Surfboard

Vík í Mýrdal Church

Vík í Mýrdal Church

Housekeeping

Before we finish I wanted to quickly mention that if you missed our old Podcasts page that I took down over Christmas and the New Year, it’s now back. I’ve created a redirect so your old link will work, but the new page, now under the Links menu above, has much of the functionality of the old one, but I’ve added a few different new views, and it’s all under this WordPress blog, so the look and feel is much more consistent now too.


Show Notes

The new Podcasts archive page with a  number of new views:
https://martinbaileyphotography.com/podcasts/

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