Shooting Nature in a Crowd

copyright Karen Ulvestad
This photograph was taken in the tulip fields during the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. There were hundreds of people in the fields on this day.

Event provide a great opportunity to photograph nature, though they can be very crowded with people.  There are a few techniques that can be used to create the photograph that shows the elements the photographer wants his/her view to enjoy.

First, it is important to control the aperture or depth of field (DOF).  Many times, a person in the background can disappear with a shallower depth of field.  They become another shape or color without definition.  In the photo above, the DOF is shallow enough to blur the tulips in the background.

copyright Karen Ulvestad
This is one of my favorite photographs of the tulips that I took on this shoot. Unfortunately, there are people in the background. To use this for retail, I would need to get a model release from the people, or remove them from the image.

Second, take the time to look at all the elements in the photograph.  In the picture above, I missed the two women at the bottom of the picture.  During the event, people were suppose to stay out of the field, but everyone wanted their picture taken with the tulips.  In this instance, I should have waited until they left the field.

Third, selectively crop the photograph before taking the picture.  At a crowded venue, it is important to take time to visualize the photographic image before taking the picture.  This is where the elements of composition can help the photographer select what goes into the photo.  This concept is shown in the image below.

copyright Karen Ulvestad
Selective cropping of the photograph in the camera can eliminate people from the photograph.

Fourth, it is important to consider your perspective of the scene or point of view.  Often times, the chosen perspective can naturally crop-out unwanted elements from a photograph.  In the top image, the perspective eliminates the people and buildings from the photograph.  In the third image, the perspective includes all of the different colors of tulips in the garden, while eliminating people, structures and the road from the photograph.

Also, it is important to experiment when composing a photograph in a crowded area.

Have a great photographic outing soon. . .Karen

Catching a Defining Moment. . .

copyright Karen Ulvestad
I watched this Osprey hunting for food, and this was his second dive. Exposure: 100 ISO, F5.6, 1/250.

Photography is the art medium that “catches” a moment in time, through the use of a camera and the photographer’s creativity/knowledge.  Correct exposure means going beyond the Auto functions of the camera, and controlling the exposure through manual, aperture priority or shutter priority.  It also includes use white balance, ISO, bracketing (depending on subject), flash and other functions.

Pre-setting exposure is a great way to prepare for shooting subjects like birds.  This blog is focused on Osprey, and they are a fast-moving bird.  I always pre-set my exposure before shooting birds.  This pre-setting phase includes selecting an auto-focus point, as a starting point.

copyright Karen Ulvestad
This is one of a series of images from the Osprey in the water to flying past me with his fish. Exposure: ISO 100, F5.6, 1/250.

Planning or visualizing the image is essential for bird/wildlife photographs.  This simply means know your subject, study it and anticipate the next series of events.  It’s good to go out on a shoot knowing what subject you are planning to photograph.  For locations I know, I usually have a broad subject such as birds.  For unknown locations, I do some research before going on the shoot.  This allows me to know what type of landscape I will be shooting in, and what kinds of subjects are usually at the location.

The second part of planning is deciding what equipment will be necessary for the subject.  For birds, I always use my 100-400mm IS lens.  I take my tri-pod for shooting video.  In addition, I carry extra memory cards, an extra battery and lens cleaning cloth.  Usually, my flash is included in my bag too.

For the complete Osprey hunting sequence, visit my video at

Have a great day shooting. . .Karen

copyright Karen Ulvestad
Often, I see Osprey flying and hunting at a beach I frequent. This day, the Osprey was flying over-head. Exposure: ISO 100, F5.6, 1/500.


Sitka Center: Of the Land, Sea & Air: A Coastal Photographic Adventure

Black Oyster CatcherHere is the information on my upcoming workshop on the Oregon Coast.  It is on June 30th and July 1st.  It would be great to see you there, and feel free to pass this on to other interested people.

Thank, and have a great day. . .

Sitka Center: Of the Land, Sea & Air: A Coastal Photographic Adventure.

Wildlife and Lighting

copyright Karen UlvestadFrom birds to mammals, the lighting is very important for a good photograph.  Light in the eyes gives a depth to the eyes, and attracts the viewer.  It is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and it is one of the first places we look in a photograph.

The best lighting has the sunlight on the side of the subject or behind the photographer.  Light behind the subject requires adding light via reflector or flash.  Natural light on the subject gives it shape, and gives dimension to the photograph.

In the photograph with the gulls, the light reflects in the eyes of the gulls.  The shadows on their bodies give the birds shape.  On sunny days, it is easy to get this effect.copyright Karen Ulvestad

On overcast days, the shadows and highlights become subtle.  Contrast is less, and the scene in front of the camera becomes flatter, as shown in the photograph of the racoon.  This photograph lacks the dark shadows and the bright highlights.  The sky washes-out to white and light gray.

In both these situations, a polarizer filter will cut the glare off of surfaces, and bring more color into the photograph.

More later. . .Karen

Snowy Owls at Boundary Bay

copyright Karen UlvestadThere were at least 22 Snowy Owls at Boundary Bay in Canada earlier this week.  The owls were roosting close enough to the dike to photograph with them with a 400 mm lens, and get good photos.  Many birders and photographers are visiting the area to observe and/or photograph the white owls.

In this area, weather is an important factor to a successful photo shoot of the owls.  The landscape is reminiscent of the tundra, and is wet.  The best and driest viewing area is from the dike.

Equipment for the shoot should include a tripod and long lens.  The minimum lens length would be a 100 – 400 mm.  Many photographers use a 600 to 800 mm lens for this type of shoot.

Visitors can get within 30 to 50 feet of the owls without disturbing them.  During the day, the owls are sleeping and/or resting, which makes them easier to photograph.  They do startle easily by people coming to close to them.  The rules of the area indicate that the owls should not be disturbed, and need to conserve their energy for the long migration back to the arctic.

The owls will be migrating back soon.

Also, the area is teaming with Bald Eagles, Hawks and other raptors.

More later. . .Karen

Photographing at Dusk

copyright Karen Ulvestad - All Rights Reserved.Dusk is the time of day when the sunset is most brilliant.  It is the time many animals and some birds come out to hunt and feed.  Modern digital cameras offer us choices in exposure and flash to make the most of these opportunities.

This photograph of a barred owl was taken around sunset under the tree canopy.  There was little light to work with, so the exposure for this image is ISO 2500, Shutter 1/80 and Aperture F5.6.  I was using my 100-400mm lens at 400mm.  This shot is not cropped, and is a full-frame sensor camera.  The original file is shot in RAW.

I could have used a fill-flash in this situation, which would have allowed me to shoot with a lower ISO.  It would have added light into the scene, and lit the owl.  When I mention fill-flash, I am talking about adding a little light.  Adding too much light in this situation would startle the owl, create shadows, and possibly over-expose parts of the scene.

On this photo, I did adjust the color and luminescent to reflect less noise, and desaturate the color to fit the time of day.

When photographing the sunset at dusk, the exposure is different.  Usually, there is open space before the sunset, and it has more light.copyright Karen Ulvestad - All Rights Reserved.

This photo of the mountains at dusk shows the dynamic colors in the sky, which is reflected into the water.  The hills and mountains become shades of blue-grey in the photo.  The birds feeding in the water and on the mud flats become silhouettes against the reflected colors.  The exposure on this image was ISO 100, Shutter 1/60 and Aperture F8.  I was using my 100-400mm lens again at 400mm.

On this photo, I adjusted color and contrast.

More Later. . .Karen

Nature’s Light & Time of Day

copyright Karen UlvestadDaylight changes through-out the day.  The harshest light is mid-day, where the sunlight travels through less atmosphere.  The warmest light is in the morning or evening.  The photography shown here was taken in the evening, as the sun was setting.

The orange and pink of the sunlight reflect on the water’s surface, and the warm light baths the birds in flight.  The blue is the reflection of the blue sky.

If this was taken during mid-day, the colors would be “washed-out”, and the light would appear to be hard or harsh.

The best time of day to shoot photography is before 10 am and after 2 pm.  The sunlight travels through more of the Earth’s atmosphere, and it is less harsh.  Colors are more apparent either earlier or later in the day.  The colors of the subject will be warmer, and more vibrant.

More Later. . .Karen

Small Things in a Big Way. . .

copyright Karen UlvestadMacro is taking something very tiny, and composing a complete photographic image from the subject.  I love macro.  It helps change my perspective of all the “big” things that I photograph, such as birds, people, landscapes and. . .

Macros are mini landscapes.  The composition comes from the lines, shapes, colors and textures.  It becomes a focus on the minute.

The idea of exposure changes.  The photograph shown here has a large depth of field (DOF).  I used F32.  The reason for the large DOF is that the closeness of the lens to the subject.

The most important tool for macro is a good tripod to hold the camera steady.  This shot at a long shutter speed, and could not be hand-held.  Also, a slight blur is more noticeable in macro due to the magnification of the subject.

More later. . .Karen


Quality of Light

copyright Karen Ulvestad
This photo was shot indoors under tungsten/incandescent light. The background was a window, backlight with daylight. I shot this with my camera set on incandescent WB.

The quality of light will affect the colors in a photograph.  Our eyes adapt to the light without us knowing it.  We see sunlight and artificial light as similar, when they are very different on the color spectrum.

Our cameras are programmed to see light as daylight.  In the film world, we needed to purchase daylight film or tungsten film.  It depended on our needs.  So, what is the difference?

Put simply, tungsten/incandescent film or setting on the camera color correct the photograph for this artificial light.  Used in daylight, it turns the photograph a beautiful blue.  Under tungsten/incandescent light, it color correct the photograph to the colors our eyes see.  By the same idea, daylight film or setting on the camera sees tungsten/incandescent light with a yellow-orange cast.

Our digital cameras allow us to shoot on AUTO or select a White Balance (WB).  By knowing how the settings will affect the photograph, the photographer can enhance the colors in their images.

More later. . .Karen

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