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FIRST LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY ONLINE NEWSLETTER

DECEMBER 2017

BALD EAGLE RECAP

The sweet symphony that used to float over Haines, Alaska, with several thousand eagles soaring overhead and pulling salmon out of the Chilkat River is once again singing a sweet refrain. After a several year decline in numbers, activity and flow of the river, things are getting back to normal after a great trip there the week before Thanksgiving. The one thing that was down was the number of photographers lined up along the banks. Many regulars bypassed the area this year along with a bunch of workshop leaders due to the decline in activity. That was their loss as it was once again great eagle photography. As with all wildlife and nature photography you never know what it's going to be like but this trend should continue for awhile.

The one thing that didn't change was the snow holding off for later in November. I remember when I first started doing this trip in the mid-90s you could go the first week of November and count on snow covering the gravel bars in the river. Now, you have to push it back as far as you can before Thanksgiving to make sure you have snow. While shooting can be done without snow, the contrast for your images is so much better if there is a nice blanket of white. This year, the snow came about three days before we arrived and was there the whole week. Our last day also saw another dump that meant the snow is on the ground for the rest of the year. While snow can make for contrasty exposures when the eagles change from a background of sky to trees to snow, it just makes everything seem right with these beautiful birds with a white backdrop. One day of clear blue skies made for some harsh lighting conditions, but if the eagles were situated in the right direction it also made for some beautiful shots as shown below.

gentoo penguin jumping out of water
Bald eagle coming in for a landing: 1/3200th sec, +1/3 EV, 2000 ISO, f/7.1, 9 point expanded focus

gentoo penguin jumping out of water
Protecting a meal: 1/1600th sec, +2/3 EV, 800 ISO, f/7.1, 9 point expanded focus


Activity was fairly brisk for this time of year and with lots of salmon still heading up the river to spawn the eagles were more than willing to do their part and pull the spawned out fish from the water for a meal. They would gorge themselves with the meat and had such a full crop they could only sit around to wait for food to digest a bit. As always, there were some interesting confrontations as one eagle would swoop in to want the fish another eagle was eating on rather than the full fish sitting several feet away. We even had a few opportunities of mid-air chases as one eagle would grab a large chunk from the ground and take flight with another one in pursuit.

What's fun to see from the participants is their excitement of seeing so many eagles the first and second time out and shutter buttons flying and the pace slow down a bit each day and by the end of the week it's just another eagle sitting in a tree. It's always great to see lots of our national symbol and when you've never seen so many in one area before you become more selective with your shots as time goes on. When you realize you've taken 2,000 images your first day out the number is going to drop when you know how much editing lies ahead, especially with a lot of deleting with flight shots getting out of focus and wings getting clipped or shadows are too tough to work with.

One day we had a special treat. On our one morning of heading out to Chilkoot Lake we came across a young brown bear on the far bank of the river. In all of my November visits here, this was the first bear sighting I've had. There wasn't a lot of light but bumping up the ISO a good bit allowed for enough shutter speed to get some good shots. The one person with a Canon body got to put his crop body on my 600mm and come away with some very tight shots. The Sitka spruce also had more eagles sitting in them than usual and when the sun first came up it put some nice light on the tops of the peaks behind the lake. It ended up being a very nice trip out to that spot.

Here's a recent comment from one of the participants he posted on Facebook - Just want to say thank you for a great trip to the Chilkat. With your help I captured some fantastic shots. Trip of a lifetime (so far). I would recommend you to anyone.

The 2018 trip is set on and my website so sign up if you are interested.

gentoo penguin jumping out of water
Flying in: 1/3000th sec, +2/3 EV, 2000 ISO, f/7.1, 9 point expanded focus


HUNT'S PHOTO SPECIALS

Hunt's Photo is offering a bunch of specials for the Christmas season. Instead of providing a straight-forward list, because sales items are changing, they are providing a link to a page with their ever-changing specials. Click here to access the page. Be sure to check this several times to see if what you want is on there as they will change on a regular basis. When you place an order by phone be sure to mention me as a reference. You can call Alan Samiljan at 781-462-2383 to place your orders.

NEW THINK TANK ROLLER BAG

Think Tank Photo’s new Airport Advantage Plus rolling camera bag is specifically designed for traveling photographers. By complying with international carry-on requirements, photographers can keep their most valuable gear safe and near them when they fly. The roller’s ultra-lightweight design at 6.9 lbs. (3.1 kg) helps meet weight restrictions, yet features the same level of protection for which Think Tank is known.  Its dedicated laptop pocket fits up to a 17” laptop in a padded sleeve. The Airport Advantage Pus holds one gripped DSLR with lens attached, one ungripped DSLR with lens attached, plus five to eight additional lenses, and a 17” laptop. Or, it can hold two gripped DSLRs with lenses detached, plus five to seven lenses. For Mirrorless users, the roller can fit two bodies with a crazy amount of lenses. It can hold up to a 200–400 f/4 detached (hood reversed) lens. Visit https://www.thinktankphoto.com/collections/airport-series/products/airport-advantage-plus?rfsn=141129.92f796 to take a look and order yours. Remember, all purchases through the First Light link also gets a freee gift plus free shipping.

CANON BODY FOR SALE

I am going to be upgrading one of my camera bodies by the end of the year so if you're interested in either a Canon 5D Mark III or a 1Dx please contact me. Both will be available for a reasonable price and both are in very good condition. Right now I'm leaning towards upgrading the 5D III due to some issues I've read about concerning the 1Dx II. My 5D III will go for $1,950 and the 1Dx can be had for $2,800. Shipping costs are extra based on how you want it shipped. Call if you have questions.

KODIAK BEARS - 1 SPOT LEFT

As mentioned previously, this bear trip in July will fill up. Right now there is just one spot remaining so if you have any interest in this at all look at signing up as soon as you can because this trip will fill up. The photo opportunities will amaze you.

SECOND FLORIDA BIRDS WORKSHOP ADDED

Because the Birds of Florida workshop filled up a bit early, I have added a second session for this trip. Dates for this session will be April 23 - 29. This is a great trip that has been updated to include a second boat ride on a lake that has tones of osprey nests in cypress trees - an incredible opportunity. Add this to the other spots we regularly fisit and this is a great bird photography trip where you will learn lots of things to help with this endeavor.

black skimmer fishing

 

SPECIAL EAGLE WORKSHOP - DUTCH HARBOR

Want to get the best shots possible for bald eagles hitting the water to snag a fish? For those who have heard me talk about how special of a place Dutch Harbor is for eagle photography, I'm looking at adding a trip here July 8-12, just before my Kodiak Bear workshop. Right now the info on the trip is only being put out here in the newsletter to see what kind of interest there might be. The cost would be around $2,800. Be aware that the cost of your flight from Anchorage to Dutch Harbor is about $1,150. The cost is well worth it as you are guaranteed getting shots of eagles snagging a fish out of the water. Please let me know as soon as possible if you are interested in this trip and I'll start working to fully put it together. Right now the pricing is with just three people signing up. If I get more I can drop the price a bit.

fall color abstract

BUCKET LIST

Send me the items on your photography bucket list. I will get this put out at some point in the coming months and it may well give others some ideas as to some things they might want to do. This could include photo destinations, getting a cover shots, publishing a book, getting some special equipment or anything photo related. We all have our own list but let's see if we can get a large list put together for everyone to start dreaming and seeing what all they can accomplish.

DIGITAL CORNER - BUYING A NEW CAMERA - THE INS AND OUTS

So you're thinking of upgrading your equipment and want to get a new camera body. Do you just go ahead and get the upgrade to the body you currently have because it's the latest and greatest? Do you spend hours upon hours digging and researching the features of a new body? Do you ask other photographers who have already made the upgrade their thoughts about it? These are extremes that are going to have a lot of people at every extreme in that category.

When I purchased my 5D Mark III it was done after speaking with a couple of photographers and then getting a loaner from Canon to test it our after a little bit more reading, but not hours upon hours of research. It will be the same way with my next purchase. I've already talked with a noted night and landscape photographer to see what his thoughts were on the body. But first, I've already asked myself several questions to get me on the right road towards getting the right camera body. These are some questions everyone should ask themselves when getting a new body.

1. What type of shooting am I likely to do more of in the coming year(s)? If it's wildlife, then you need the faster shutter rates (frames per second), durability and a good autofocus system and possibly a crop sensor. A high quality sensor can allow for a lot of cropping to offset the crop. If doing more landscape and nature work, you'll be more concerned about dynamic range, low light capabilities, high ISO handling if doing much night shooting, and how it handles noise.

2. What are you doing with your images? If just posting online, you don't need the extreme high megapixel sensors as a computer only shows at a certain resolution. If doing large prints (16X24 and larger), you need a camera with a very good sensor. Today, 20mp is not uncommon and there are some that go as high as 36mp and even higher. These are great for extra large prints. I commonly do 20X30, 16X24 and 13X19 so a decent sensor is required. If sending material to publications, a good sensor will help your image stand out compared to someone with a lower end body. Under equal conditions, a camera with a larger sensor produces better results than a camera with a smaller sensor. Many stock agencies keep upping the requirements for file size as well.

3. How much can I spend? Whether your budget is just $500 or you can spend $6,000 makes a big difference in the camera bodies you can get. Always spend as much as you can. Keep in mind that it's better to spend more on your lenses as you'll keep these a lot longer than you do a body because of the updates to the bodies every couple of years. Evenso, you want to spend as much as you're comfortable with as the more you spend the higher the quality of the equipment. Remember that equipment depreciates fairly quicky, especially bodies when they get two versions or more older. Look at the comparisons of what I'm offering my two bodies for. Some hold their value better than others. A good equipment expense ratio to keep in mind is about 30% for bodies and 70% for lenses in your arsenal.

4. Is your current camera holding you back? When I switched to the 5D III, what I was using for night photography was not keeping up with what I was doing so a major change was needed. Today, the technology is always improving so the quality of work produced is even better. ISO capabilities, dynamic range, noise and more are good reasons to think about getting a new body along with frame rate and autofocus. The return of investment of your old body if you plan to sell again should be considered with this question.

5. Do you need high end video capabilities? The latest round of bodies have extremely powerful video options. I never shoot video (maybe one day) but those who do should look at what the cameras out now have to offer. This could be the one feature that drives people to a new body, no matter what the price range.

6. Is camera size and weight important? Many people are switching over to the micro 4/3 bodies because of this. The size of the equipment bag is much smaller for these users than of those with a DSLR. No, great wildlife photography won't be a major component of their shooting, but landscape, nature and people shooting can be done with these lighter bodies. Also, some DSLR bodies weigh more than others. I know some peopple who cut back on lenses and bodies just because of the weight.

7. What features do I need? There is a big list of features camera bodies are coming out with today that make shooting so much easier. The list includes: easy manual override, built-in intervalometer, multiple exposure, advanced focus modes, type of memory cards, in-camera HDR, GPS, WiFi, High ISO, video, flash options, how the camera feels, button placement, low light capabilities. There are more than this but this gives you an idea of some things to look for if you want them.

8. DO YOU NEED IT? Is this a want or need purchase? If your current body works fine for what you do, you don't make a living off of your camera and need somewhat new equipment and having to have the latest technology is not that important, then you've answered your question. Compare what's available and make the best decision for you and your situation.