Jim Smith

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Photo Tips to Shorten Your Learning Curve

American Bison (Buffalo)
What you need for quality photos

 Do not buy anything less than 5 MP today 10 MP is best.
 Compact Cameras 3-10 MP $100.00-$200.00
 Entry Level D-SLR Digital Single Lens Reflex $500.00-$1,000.00
 Advanced D-SLR $1,000.00-$2,000.00 (body only-NO lens)

Pixels vs. Resolution
Pixel is defined as an abbreviation of the expression “picture element”.
 1 pixel = 1 dot, one color. 1-pixel = 3 “Bytes” of storage (Red, Green, Blue)
 3 Mpixels + 3,000,000 pixels = 128 Mbyte card
 3 Mpixel camera - 9,000,000 Bytes of Storage = 14 photos

 An image of 150 ppi for an image size of 8”x 10” would be written:
    8”x 10” @ 150ppi, which is 1200 pixels x 1500 pixels
 An image of 300 ppi for an image size of 8”x 10” would be written:
    8”x 10” @ 300 ppi, which is 2400 pixels x 3000 pixels

 Thus the 8”x 10” @ 300 ppi will have a higher resolution than 8”x 10” @ 150 ppi
    Also 8x10 @ 150ppi will not be a lower resolution than a 4x5 @300ppi
    They are exactly the same: They both have a file size of 5.16 megabytes (5.6 Mb)
Standard resolution of images for press printing (magazine format) is 300 dpi (dots per inch) this is similar to ppi (pixels per inch)
Many monitor screens are set for 800 x 600 or 1024 x 768 measured in pixels.
Normal resolution for Emails is 72 ppi. Emails will normally compress JPEG files to this resolution.

File Sizes are measured in kilobytes (Kb), megabytes (Mb) or occasionally gigabytes (GB)
8 bits make 1 byte;
1024 bytes make one kilobyte;
1000 kilobytes make one megabyte; (one million bytes make 1 MB)
1000 megabytes make one gigabyte; (one thousand million bytes make 1GB)

Card sizes: This depends on two settings within your camera Large, Medium, Small for pixels and aprox. Value for compression Superfine, Fine, Normal

128 MB you’ll get aprox.              14 photos
256 MB you’ll get approx.            53 photos
2.0 GB                                       438 photos
4.0 GB                                       877 photos
8.0, 16.0, 32.0, 64.0 cards are now available

Photographic Images
For printing a good image you should have a minimum of 1MB from that image.

Photo                Minimum               Recommended                  Professional level cameras
Size                   Megapixels           Megapixels                                     Megapixels

Point and shoot cameras
5 x 7                      1 MP                  2MP
8 x 10                    3 MP                  4 MP
11 x 14                  4 MP                  5 MP
12 x 18                  4 MP                  6 MP This is the standard image size for competitions
From here up you are looking at midrange DSLR cameras
13 x 19                                                                                                             8 MP
16 x 20                                                                                                             10 MP
                                                                                    Canon 40D
20 x 30                   6 MP                  8 MP                                                       12 MP
30 x 40                                                                         Canon 50D, 7D            15 - 18 MP
At this point you get into the full frame cameras/advanced DSLR
Over 30 x 40                                                                                                     21 - 24 MP
Medium Format 30 – 60 MP

Hope this helps.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Opening comments

Coopers Hawk
Hello Visitor(s)
Welcome to my blog. For openers, I am going to just give you a little background on how I ever got here. I had lived in Denver since 1956 when I came to University of Denver.  I hunted and fished much of my free time.  I belonged to the Lone Tree Photo Club for a short time before we retired and moved to Arizona. I have been an outdoor writer since 1992.  Quite a bit of my photography was photo support for my articles.
I joined the Grand Photos Camera Club in Sun City Grand.  I have learned a great deal about photography and understand thoroughly I have a great deal more to learn.  I am by no means, an expert.  I feel like I can assist the newer levels of photographers in creating better photographs.  I primarily shoot wildlife.  This is a rather specialized phase of photography.  With my hunting background I know where to go and how to get much closer for those "full frame" images.  I intend to compose each of my blogs around specific topics to assist you.   I hope you will return often.  I also hope you will correspond with me should you have any questions.  I know Colorado quite well and I am gaining on Arizona nuances.  If I don't have an answer to some of your more technical questions I have a wonderful reference of about 450 members in our photo club.  I'll get you an answer to almost anything.
Again Welcome!  I hope you enjoy what I am doing.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Jim's Portfolio

Arizona Wildlife Views is a publicatiohn of the Arizona Game & Fish Depaermrnt.  It is a monthly publication. 

Human-Wildlife Interactions
(Formerly Human-Wildlife Conflicts) a publication of the Jack H. Berryman Institute.   It is a peer-reviewed journal published by the Utah State University in cooperation with Mississippi State University.  There were over 40-pages of detailed submission guidelines.  This was by far my most difficult writting assignment.  However, once completed it was a pleasure to see my article in print.                                                                                            
Sporting Clays Magazine was a fun magazine to write for.  Most of the time I wrote about happenings with my Thursday shooting group and about Ben Avery Clay Target Center. I had shot trap most of my shooting career and occassional skeet.  When we moved to Arizona I joined the Peoria Gun Club close by here.  Here I got my first experience with sporting clays.  Peoria Gun Club lost their lease 

Boar Hunter Magazine Every once in a whild I get a bug to do something different.  I had hunted feral hogs in Orlando, Florida a few years back. So I decided I would do a feral hog survey of the lower 48 states.  I discovered there was a major problem with feral hogs. Boar Hunter magazine was the only major publication on hunting hogs.  
Grand Times is our communitie's monthly publication.  I had put together a college of cactus flowers and the editor liked it so well it ended up as a cover.  From there, I have written short articles on events within the community.  There have been articles about shooting at Ben Avery, Fishing Club activities, Photo Club activities and even a Birding article or two.

MUSKIE Magazine published my first article in October 1990. I soon became a Field Editor and in August of 2003 was appointed Managing Editor of MUSKIE Magazine. Shortly there after I was appointed Advertising Manager, both positions I held until I retired in November 2007.
MUSKIE Magazine was a 40+ page monthly publication with a circulation of around 5,500 copies.
During my career I imagine I have writer and had published over 1,000 articles on muskies and muskie fishing. In October 2007 I received the distinction of Editor Emertus.  There have oinly been two others so honored in our 40 year history.

Pike & Muskie magazine was started by a fellow back east who wanted to get into the magazine publishing business.  He had a lot of trouble as I imagin he was undercapitalized for a start-up business.  He came out with a new magazine title BIG FISH magazine. 

TRAP SHOOTING USA  is a recent publication originating in the United Kingdom.  It is a very upscale publication.  There are loads of articles and information and most of the bigger competitions from all over the country.  They were good to me and published everything I sent them.  I have enjoyed writing for them.                      

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Competition Photos

 Deeks Out
This was an interesting photo.  My son and I were up on this lake (as I recall it was Jackson Reservoir)  I do recall it was just above Centennial (Goodrich) where that movie was filmed.  A friend of mine owned a duck club on Jackson with a very nice free standing residence and all the luxuries of home and then some.  I took this photo as the sun was coming up and the sky was as you can see.  We had pitched the decoys out and were waiting for the early flights to appear.

Mallards landing
Needless to say I love the ducks.  To see them pass overhead and then return and drop from the sky into the water just makes your heart skip a few beats.  I got lucky with my timing pressing  the shutter button.  I wasn't sure what I had until they came up on the LCD Monitor.  I didn't have to do very much in Elements.  I like optimizing my camera so I can do just a little sharpening and adjust the lighting a bit.  My shutter speed was just enough to stop the wings.

 Steller's Jay
I really loved this photo and have entered it into competitions.  The judges don't see it the way I do.  That hap[pens occasionally.  I am not going to give up.  I am going to rework the head a bit and see what else I can do to influence the judging panel.  I may try a little dodge and burn of the background to make the jay stand out better.

 Great Horned Owl  I have been lucky in that I have had a few to these beautiful creatures visit my back  yard.   I love
photographing owls and hawks.  Most of the time they'll hang around almost all day waiting for a dove, quail or grackle to swing by.  Soon enough they're enjoying a fresh meal.  The 1st owl that visited me was on Christmas Day 2006.  He had chased a quail under a bush and ended up with a thorn in his eye.  I didn't notice it until I blew it up on my computer.
I don't know what I could have done about it.  I sure wasn't going to try and catch it.  I don't think he has been back either.                                                                           

 Rock Lake Loons      This has been my favorite  photos ever since it won a "acceptance" in a International Competition.  I had a feeling that it was going to do well and I wasn't disappointed.  My good friend Steve Budnik and I were pounding the water for muskies.  Fortunately I had my camera along to shoot photos around the lake.  It was that late afternoon  light that we all love to see.   
I had my 100-400 mm telephoto lens on and I nailed it on the depth of field.  Not bad for hand held in a gently in a rocking boat.                                                                                  
 Desert Bighorn Ram This is now my very favorite photo.  My wife and  took a trip to Boulder City, NV to shoot some sheep.  When I printed this ram last weekend I just about fell over.  In my opinion he is just perfect.  I haven't entered him in any competitions yet.  There is something to be said here.  Although I enter a few competitions 2-club, 2-state and 4-5 International competitions.  However, my biggest thrill comes from what I am satisfied with.  I'll admit sometimes you get lucky, but the more I shoot the better I do.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tracking a moving subject made easier

Soaring Bald Eagle

Xtend-A-Sight™ Plus offers photographers a new approach to shooting moving subjects.

There’s no question, attempting to photograph flying birds or attempting to catch up with a fleeting antelope is difficult at best. Maybe even impossible. Using your view finder it is hard to anticipate what the flight path of a bird is going to be. Some of us may recall the “sports sight” on some of our older cameras. This was just a wider view of your shooting area, but it went away. Now using a simple BSA Red Dot RD30 scope with the new and improved Xtend-A-Sight Plus you will be able to pick up your subject quicker and follow it for multiple exposures.

Both of these products, the Xtend-A-Site Plus sells for $26.95 retail while the Red Dot RD30 scope varies somewhat pricewise but retails for $26.95. This scope plate slides into your hot shoe on most any camera. After you attach it to the scope, you will only have one piece of equipment to handle.

This unit works very well. However, here are a few techniques to simplify your life.

• Be sure you place the camera strap over your head and brace the camera by holding it out in front of you to steady it. Make sure the strap is pulling against your neck-no slack.

• The “gold standard” for focusing when shooting wildlife has been to set your metering mode (Focus) to a dot or spot metering. I would suggest that you set it to a “center weighted” or evaluative” mode. Here is my reasoning. On your moving subjects, I would suggest aiming for the head as opposed to aiming for the eye.

• I would also suggest that you do not make the focus on your subject so tight that you do not leave enough room to edit and crop.

• Keep in mind that in preparation for shooting f/stop is a critical nuisance as far as a focus is concerned.

• For large animals I’ll typically use Aperture priority at f/5.6 – 8.0. I’ll change that whenever I am shooting birds. Within that range is the sweet spot for my lens, where I can expect reasonably good sharpness. However, when in doubt, shoot Program mode with attention to the ISO and insure the speed is equal (or nearly so) to the stated focal length of the lens.

• I might also suggest you use the #5 position on your scope for the laser intensity. I seem to be able to find it easier than the lower numbers and I just like it better.

• This part is a bit more difficult to explain. The auto focus on most digital cameras has modes; One Shot, Al Focus, and Al Servo. I shot a Canon and this is their terminology. The Nikon cameras refer to these modes as: Single Servo AF [S], Continuous Servo AF [C]. What is going on here is that your lens automatically tracks the subject in the frames, keeping it in focus. I try and keep my camera on the Al Servo focus so that there is one less thing to remember.

a. You may want to use a shutter speed of 1/1000 per second in order to freeze the action.

b. I want my camera programed to AEB (bracketing) and/or Sports mode so that I can shoot continuous multiple images by holding the shutter button down. High Continuous shooting.

c. Follow me here, if you are a shotgun shooter, especially shooting skeet or sporting clays, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about. When you attempt to shoot a moving target, especially a crossing shot. You want to be in a stance ultimately, pointing at where in your swing should intersect your target. In other words a “Sweet spot”. So it is the same with the camera. Point the camera to where the subject currently is and pan ahead to where you think you should begin shooting your photos. Now move your feet (and body) to face this position. This way you will not be all twisted and unstable as you press the shutter release.

d. Be sure to continue to follow your subject and pressing on the shutter button. This is an important step, don’t stop your swing…follow through!

For further information here are the websites; http://www.photosolve.com/

The Red Dot Mounting Sight is http://swfa.comk/BSA-Red-Dot-30mm-Scope-P46653.aspx

# # #

Side Bar: Another item you may want to invest in is a Polaroid Stabilizing Video/Camera Shoulder Mount. This unit fits to your chest making your shoulders and chest the “tripod”. The unit retails for about $50.00 but if you shop you should find it for under $40.00. This unit would definitely create a steadier platform than the camera strap around your neck.

For Information: http://www.polariodstabilizingshouldermount.com/.com

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tips on Photographing Wildlife

Burrowing Owls
1.                  Best times of the day
a.       Early morning-sunrise to about 9:00 am
b.      Evening from about 7:00 pm, especially the last hour of daylight.
c.       Other times overcast or drizzly days-not normally in heavy rain.
However, just before and just after a storm are good times. Pay close attention to your light or lack thereof.
2.                  Know habits of your species and study/read all you can.
a. Small animals, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, hummingbirds, etc are all neighborhood species and normally can be attracted with feeders.  NOTE: seed blocks may not be allowed in your neighborhood.
a.       Contact local DNR folks and talk with a biologist specializing in your subject, i.e. elk or hawks
I.                   Obtain specific locations for observation
II.                Obtain land owner permission to set-up on his property
III.             Purchase topographical map(s) of the area and have biologist and/or other knowledgeable parties mark spots of interest.
IV.             Carry a hand held GPS and mark waypoints.
3.                  Watch your seasons, especially breeding and calving times.  This will give you an advantage of getting remarkably closer without spooking the animal.
a.       Plan trips around rut (mating season) fall-September/October
b.      Plan trips during migration for waterfowl-Thanksgiving until after New Year.
I.  Teal, wood ducks in September/October
II. Ducks and geese are usually available all year long to photograph on golf courses.  Have a child or your spouse get them up for flight.  (no harassing)
III. Doves late August to early September
IV.Turkeys in spring-April/May.  Locate turkeys at night with loud noise, clapping, crow call, car horn to locate roost tree.
c.       Purchase calls and learn to use to call subjects within range.
d.      Consider camouflage, including camo material wrapped around camera.
4.                  Consider the animals.  Ethics is a very important part of your responsibility,
especially in National Parks and Wildlife Preserves.

Photographer’s Ethics

1.     First and foremost, view wildlife from a safe distance for both you and them. Respect their spatial needs. If the animal interrupts its behavior (resting, feeding, etc.), then you are too close and must distance yourself.
2.     Never force an action. Be patient! The most beautiful photographs result from natural action.
3.     Never come between a parent and its offspring. I've seen tiny bear cubs distressed, treed then separated from their mother by a throng of tourists eager for a closer look. This is unacceptable behavior.
4.     Never crowd, pursue, prevent escape, make deliberate noises to distract, startle or harass wildlife. This is stressful and wastes valuable energy in needless flight. The impact is cumulative. Consider that you may be the 65th person to yell "hey moose" at that animal that day while it's attempting to tend to its young.
5.     Never feed or leave food (baiting) for wildlife. Habituation due to handouts can result in disease or even death of that animal and injury to you.
6.     Never encroach on nests or dens as certain species will abandon their young.
7.     Never interfere with animals engaged in breeding, nesting, or caring for young.
8.     Learn to recognize wildlife alarm signals and never forget that these animals are NOT tame no matter how docile or cuddly they appear. No one would argue that you should not try to pet a bull yet there have been numerous instances where a tourist attempted to have his/her photo taken next to a bison with disastrous consequences.
9.     Do not damage or remove any plant, life form or natural object. Do pack out trash.
10.  Acquaint yourself with and respect the behaviors and ecosystems of the wildlife you may encounter. By doing so, you will enrich your experience tremendously.
11.  Finally, and most significant, remember that the welfare of the subject and habitat are irrefutably more important than the photograph.
Copyright 2004 Deborah Siminski Tappan. All rights reserved
All hunting magazines need lots of huntable species photography.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
  1. Never harass wildlife: abide by the Code of Ethics for nature and wildlife photography and viewing.
  2. Always be alert. Know what’s around you and educate yourself on what safety precautions you may need to take.
  3. Know your camera. If you have to search and fiddle with the controls, you’ll miss the shot. If your camera has manual features, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the difference it makes using them instead of its automatic ones.
  4. Remember that compact digital cameras have a lag time between the depressing of the shutter-release button and the actual release of the shutter. Work around this unique challenge by practicing on moving subjects and anticipating the action. Another approach, if you have burst mode, is to simply hold down the shutter-release button, taking a series of shots. With luck you’ll have captured the action you wanted.
  5. When you get to a location, really look at what’s around you. Though you may have stopped for that heron you saw earlier, there may be a magnificently colored centipede at your feet. Yes indeed, centipedes are wildlife too!
  6. Wait for natural action. Be very patient and you’ll be rewarded with stunning opportunities.
  7. Take advantage of the optical zoom capabilities of your compact digital camera but IGNORE the digital zoom feature which merely enlarges pixels turning them into unsightly "boulders."
  8. Don’t use flash. If you’re far from your subject, the flash won’t be of any use. If you’re too close to your subject, you risk startling it and being injured yourself.
  9. Don’t feel compelled to have your subject fill your frame. Instead include components of the animal’s habitat thereby adding another layer of interest to the story your photograph will tell.
  10. Focus on the animal’s eyes when possible. If they are sharp, then the entire image is more pleasant to view.
  11. If possible, select your shutter speed manually rather than using automatic mode. You’ll want to be flexible. A running herd shot with a slower shutter speed made while panning produces breathtaking results. (Yep, you’ll want to use a tripod for this.)
  12. Experiment with depth-of-field. An equally powerful statement can be made using a deep depth-of-focus as with a short depth-of-focus. It’s entirely dependent on what elements you’ve framed in your foreground, midground and background.
  13. Animals are not unlike high-energy toddlers...neither stay in one place for very long so be prepared. Never chase them but move cautiously, slowly and smoothly. ALWAYS stay the recommended distance from any wildlife (as specified by the National Park Service or other expert).
  14. Become familiar with the habits of different species. Enrich your understanding of what they are doing and where you might look for them.
  15. Shoot when the sun’s angle isn’t straight overhead and harsh. Morning and early evening light are much more pleasant and reveal more of the subject’s texture.
  16. Try to be level with the critter. This may require a bit more athleticism than you expected, particularly if you’re photographing that centipede. Remember, dirt is your pal!
  17. Finally, go out on “bad” weather days. Some of the most interesting images are captured during inclement weather.
Happy exploring and have a memorable time!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Trail Cameras Developing New Technology

Great Horned Owl
If you haven’t heard about a trail camera, here is some good information for you.  If you have; you’ll enjoy reading more about them and some of the latest options. 
Trail cameras are simply a camera (film or digital) mounted on a tree, along a recognized game trail to photograph animals in the vicinity and using that particular game trail.  There are many names for trail cameras, deer cams, game cams, scouting cameras, however, no matter what you call them they are all about photographing animals, birds, or anything along the trail that moves.  Trail cameras have evolved from the 35mm film to today’s 6.0 MP digital technologies.  This has evolved over the past twenty years. 
Typically these trail cameras are associated with big game hunters, especially deer and elk.  Although the lions share of trail cam sales are to the hunting fraternity, there are a number of us outdoor photographer types who have recognized the value for photographing everything in nature. From a security standpoint, they also may have a place protecting your home while you’re away on a trip or vacation.  Begin to think outside the box.  There can be many uses for this equipment.
Some folks are making their own cameras in an effort to reduce the initial cost. Check out:http://www.shomeoutdoors.com/Trailcam.htm  if you are interested in building your own. Costs vary considerably.  Store bought trail cams can range from a moderate $100.00 up to $300-$400.00 or more.  The film cameras cost less than the digital cameras.  There are advantages to both, however the advantages favor the digitals and the disadvantages appear less with the digital technology. Much of the price depends on the “bells and whistles” you want or need.  As an example: flash units increase the cost, then you can have no flash, a normal white light flash or an infrared flash.  Solar powered units add big costs. If you really want to pursue this type of hobby, you can go to video scouting systems that range up to $900.00.
Some of the accessories you may wish to consider are metal safety housings which secure your camera by anchoring the housing to a tree or post to prevent a person stealing your equipment or the heavy-duty housing to save your equipment from a bear mauling.  If you are concerned about theft, you’ll need to look seriously at the more expensive cameras or ones that can be contained within a secure metal housings to discourage theft and/or bear maulings.  Obviously, if you leave your equipment out for a couple of weeks at a time, someone may notice it and relieve you of your valuable equipment.  Should this happen, typically this equipment will be covered under your personal homeowners insurance policy.  Check with your insurance agent to verify this. Your agent may suggest scheduling your equipment, especially if it was expensive to purchase.
If you purchase a digital camera, most likely you’ll want a card reader.  This way you’ll be able to read a printout of what has transpired over the past couple of weeks and conceivably move locations, if there is nothing on your card.  There are a zillion manufacturers and most of them have numerous models.  I am going to limit my discussion here to two of the popular brands, the Cuddeback and the Moultrie and not get into who makes the best, as I know everyone has their opinion and this is no small business. 
Something to remember when purchasing your equipment is if you have decided upon digital, then be sure you have the appropriate connections to your computer.  One other advantage to the digital is the software may be free!  I have Picasa2 to download my digital camera to.  You can find it at www.picasa2.com and it is free software.
Just for the fun of it, set your camera up in your own back yard.  You may be amazed at the wildlife that lives in and around your neighborhood.  All the way from rabbits, squirrels, an occasional skunk, raccoons, coyotes, owls, etc.  If you are close to water, there will be an additional menu of wildlife to photograph.  The really nice thing about a trail camera is you won’t have to stay up all night waiting for something to come around and let you photograph it.  All the photography is being done while you sleep.  Normally, you will be leaving your trail camera out for a couple of weeks at a time.  Check it shortly after you first locate it and make sure there is some sort of activity in the area you are attempting to photograph.  This is the advantage of having the digital camera as you can either substitute a fresh memory card or read your card with another digital camera or card reader. 
Choose a location to set-up your camera along a popular game trail.  By popular, I would be looking for multiple tracks, droppings, chomped down grasses, leaves, shelled acorns, tree rubs, areas of scrapes, beds, etc.
Another great location would be a pond or overlooking a water hole.  An animal stopping for a drink will linger long enough for a good photograph.
Before you leave your camera in the field, be sure you wipe it down or spray it with some scent (don’t get it on the lens).  Anything you touch will leave a telltale scent to spook any animal.  Spray scent around the bait area, as you want your target animal to remain long enough to trigger the camera.  If it is sniffing the ground, bushes and/or trees it should be there when the camera goes off.
Baiting (corn, apples, birdseed blocks, table scraps or salt licks) are always good attractants.  HOWEVER – PLEASE DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL GAME & FISH DEPARTMENT TO BE SURE YOU ARE NOT DOING SOMETHING ILLEGAL!  Make sure you talk with the folks at your state wildlife offices and in particular the Law Enforcement Office.  On occasion a law will get changed in a recent commission meeting and may not actually be in a printed regulation.  It is your responsibility to make sure you are not in violation.  I should tell you also that this might also apply to the use of scents and scent dispensers.
Let’s discuss location and mounting of your camera for this event.  I would suggest mounting around 3’-0” to 4’-0” above the ground.  Assuming you’ll be mounting it on a tree or wood post.    Most cameras will use bungee cords for attaching. 
Now, where to place the bait in front of the camera.  I would suggest placing the bait between 10’-0” and 20’-0” in front of the camera.   Point the camera and focus it on the bait before attaching it to the tree.   Be sure to check before you leave your site to be sure everything is, as you would want it to be.  Be sure you aim the camera away from the sun.  You want the sun behind your camera.  Game appears just prior to sun down and will be in the area around at sun-up.
The most dependable batteries are Rayovac or Duracell batteries.  These are generally your best choice.  Depending on the temperature your batteries should last for about 60 days. For flash cards/memory cards I would suggest you stay with the better-known products and a type I or a type II.  I would stay away from off brand or after market products.

Websites of interest: