Photo Tours + 4×4

I am not endorsing any of the business’s below.  My research is only intended to provide a stepping stone for the readers of this blog.

For those of you who have a little time and money stored up, and want to photograph the world but are nervous about going it alone, there are a large supply of companies willing to help you out.

Joe Van Os Photo Safaris came to my mind first. They have served travelers and particularly photographers for years. Joe himself is a photographer, so you know he has you in mind.  His tours cover the world including Chile, Tanzania, Asia, and closer locales like Yellowstone N.P.  Among his tour leaders are renowned photographer Jeff Foott, photography team Joe and Mary Ann McDonald, and the great John Shaw.

How would you like to take a photo tour with a National Geographic photographer?   Nat Geo has their own tour and workshop business and they will guide you to almost every corner of the world. You may want to check out National Geographic Expeditions and Workshops

For you Americans who might want something closer, and love the photos you have seen from the red rock country of southeastern Utah and southwestern Colorado, Moab Photo Tours may be for you. I have been to Moab, and I have been to most of the locations that they cover. This is a dream area for any landscape photographer no matter where in the world you live.  Canyonlands and Arches N.P.s are just down the road.  Photographer Jon Fuller leads the tours.

For a lot of photographers the photo tour is a great way to go.  Much of your trip is planned out and handled for you.  There are experienced travel leaders to keep you safer than you might be when going it alone, and help you with your photography as a bonus.  It takes away a little of the fear of traveling the world, or of hiking into the American wilderness.  You will have others to share your experience with.

For me personally this was never an option. I am too stubborn and want to do things my way.  I would always want to turn right when the group was turning left. The tours/workshops do however provide a service for those who want the group experience.

People are traveling at a rate never even dreamed of a few years ago.  This is resulting in a world that is becoming culturally cloned from one nation to the other.  One might want to travel now while some uniqueness can still be experienced.

Today’s photo talk includes four sets of four images, or 4×4.

Ghost Birds  Anytime you use electronic flash combined with daylight and slow shutter speeds, and do so when your subjects are moving, you will wind up with ghost images.  When you have enough ambient light to create images independent of artificial light like flash, but your camera shutter speed is too slow to stop action in that light, and you add flash, ghosting is the normal result.

In my years of auto racing photography many events that I covered were night races.  That is somewhat of a misnomer because there was racing to photograph in broad daylight, at dusk, and in the dead of night.  We photographed in the sunshine with cameras only.  At night there were of course stadium lights in use, but the light they provided was not strong enough (usually) to shoot without flash.  You would get tight, sharp images with electronic flash despite a flash shutter sync speed of only 1/60th of a second and cars traveling at a high rate of speed.  The flash actually provided all of the light for the subjects and the flash duration was as fast as 1/50,000th of a second.

Then there was dusk.  At dusk there is usually enough daylight to create an image of a race car without flash, but only if it is slowly crawling along. Race cars usually aren’t crawling.  You could use flash to create your image but with a 1/60th sec. shutter/sync speed, you would get one or more fuzzy images from the ambient light, and one sharp one from the flash.  Ghosting. The problem was solved (mostly) when camera manufacturers increased shutter/flash sync speeds to 1/250th sec.  That speed of 1/250 was enough (usually) to make sharp action shots.  Combined with the flash our mission could be accomplished.

The Barn Swallow pictures you see below contain ghosting. Even inside the open sided picnic shelter that these swallows were nesting in, there was enough natural light to make a picture.  Usually a blurry picture due to slow shutter speeds. Enough to make a picture, but not to stop movement.  The answer was to add flash.  The problem is that when the light is bright enough, and it was, you have to take a meter reading without flash and then fill.  That meant my shutter speeds were in the 1/15th– 1/30th sec. area. Combined with the faster speed of the flash, that meant ghosting. I solved that problem by opening my lens up (less depth of field) substantially and therefore achieving a faster ambient light shutter speed and then adding flash. After I initially realized the ghosting problem, I decided to “go with the flow” for a while and let the ghosts fly wherever they wanted. So to speak. Below are three of those images. The final picture is what happens when the bird isn’t moving during the exposure.  I screwed up and made a totally sharp image. TSwal 053bTSwal 056bTSwal 061bTSwal 011b

Don’t Stop, You’re Not Done  I have recently shown repeated examples of why I always keep making portraits of stationary wildlife subjects.  Those slight differences of pose and posture create different moods and pictures that vary a lot. I also almost always make a variety of compositions of landscape subjects.  You can always delete them.

We had a nice snowfall during the night and I could not wait until morning to grab my cameras and explore.  When I left the house I could see that almost all of the snow had already fallen of the trees.  I finally found this one little pocket of white blanketed branches.  The sky was overcast.  I love making single tree images in autumn in the color saturating light of a cloudy day, but I usually prefer blue skies in back of my snow-covered trees. I make those cloudy day fall images with no sky in my photos and I make those sunny winter scenes with the sky showing.  Any photographer needs to be versatile and I will switch those habits around whenever necessary. I spent a very brief period of time at that location but I still managed to find a few compositions from this very tiny bit of winter.  I was attracted mainly to the crossing lines and conflicting tones within these few trees.  We are the composers of our imagery and it can be both fun and fulfilling to gently take these more abstract subjects and move them around until we are satisfied.  I was interested in settling the conflict that was in front of me.

DSC_0012DSC_0010DSC_0005DSC_0014 (2)

Patience Much of your success with wildlife comes from having a working knowledge of the habits and personalities of your subjects.  The best way to possess that knowledge is to accumulate experience.

Many shorebirds feed in groups. One wrong move from the photographer will spook a single bird and then they will all fly.  The good news is photographic patience can win the day.  If they were having any success finding food where they were, they will return.  Be patient and sit still and you will eventually have them within feet of your camera.

The white & black birds below are winter plumage Sanderlings, our speckled friend is a Spotted Sandpiper with the final shot is that of a Ruddy Turnstone.  All of these images were made at what once was the best place I have ever seen to make close-up pictures of shorebirds.  They were made here in my hometown of Racine along the shores of Lake Michigan just south of Wind Point Light.  A good spring or fall would bring you four different habitats along a narrow shoreline where the birds would forage within a few feet of you.  My last trip here was a few years ago and the shoreline had disappeared along with the birds.DSC_1638DSC_1704DSC_8432DSC_8063

Good Medicine  Many years ago I was at Hawthorn Hollow Nature Sanctuary standing around waiting for the participants of a fall workshop to show up.  I have never been very good at waiting, when I know I have a job to do.  I had the beginning of the workshop organized in my head so I decided to poke around with a camera.  I had dedicated about three minutes to my photography when the first three participants arrived and I put my camera away. I rarely took pictures during a workshop that I was conducting.

I have many times spoken of and written about the therapeutic values of getting out in nature and exploring with a camera.  It can deliver you from the confining business of all of those other things that occupy your mind. Even when the job at hand is guiding a photography workshop, taking some time for myself and creating images brought forth the relaxation needed to talk about the very subject that I was using as a sedative.

I was attracted to this first shot by the wonderful play of autumn light on and around the building.DSC_3096DSC_3105

This is how I celebrate sunshine on an autumn day.


Getting out in nature with your camera and letting your creative juices flow, is “good medicine” as far as I am concerned.  Even if it you don’t make a picture, your observance of the natural world will both heal and reinvigorate you.  When you do make pictures you have a memorial of what you experienced. With the right attitude it really does work.

Stop back soon,                                                                                                                                     Wayne

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s