Martin Bailey Photography Martin Bailey is a Tokyo based nature & wildlife photographer, educator, podcaster and international workshop leader. He’s a Craft & Vision author and Arcanum master, sharing a wealth of photography information. 2017-03-24T00:09:04Z https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com/feed/ WordPress https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/cropped-MBP_Logo_512px-32x32.png Martin Bailey https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com <![CDATA[2017 Japan Winter Wildlife Photography Tour 2 Travelogue #2 (Podcast 565)]]> https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com/?p=34364 2017-03-20T09:05:42Z 2017-03-20T08:42:05Z This week we continue our travelogue series to walk you through the second of my Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido, Japan Winter Wildlife tours...

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This week we continue our travelogue series to walk you through the second of my Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido, Japan Winter Wildlife tours for 2017, with a few more crane shots, then moving on to the Whooper Swans, Sea Eagles and Foxes.

We pick up the trail on day five of the tour, when the wind was whipping up a snow devil at the Akan Crane Center, as we can see in this first image for this episode (below). The cranes get somewhat excited when the wind gets up, and they lean into it, and spread their wings, and jump up and down a bit. I got various photographs from this few minutes, but the snow was not so apparent in many of them, so I selected this one where the snow really stands out and the left side crane still has it’s wings splayed out, seemingly enjoying the moment.

Revere the Drifting Snow

Revere the Drifting Snow

Part of the reason that I like this, is because the drifting snow hides part of the background, and helps to take our attention away from the heavily textured foreground, which I don’t like. I also ran a gradual layer up to the bottom of the crane’s legs in Capture One Pro, and then lowered the clarity to reduce the texture in the snow along the bottom of the frame. My settings for this image where 1/1000 of a second shutter speed at f/11, ISO 320 at 560mm with my 200-400mm lens with the built-in Extender engaged.

Cranes Gradually Returning

The following morning, we went back to the bridge in Tsurui, for our second chance at some mist and hoar frost. On the previous day, there had been snow on the trees, which was nice, but it wasn’t cold enough for the hoar frost, and that requires mist too. So, I was pleased to see that it was a few degrees colder as we left the hotel, and sure enough, as the sun started to rise, a bit of mist formed, and started to stick to the trees on either side of the river, forming the hoar frost (below).

Dawn Conductor

Dawn Conductor

There were around twice as many cranes on this day as the previous day, following the irresponsible and selfish acts of the Korean photographers on Feb 19, as I explained in Episode 564. We waited for quite a while hoping for a little more action, but the cranes weren’t very active. This is probably my favorite image from this second morning, with the crane in the back right of the scene flapping its wings, almost looking like an orchestra conductor, although the rest of the cranes don’t look very interested in his actions.

Panning with Whooper Swans

After breakfast we checked out of our hotel, and moved over to the Kussharo Lake area, where we’d photograph the Whooper Swans for a couple of days. We stopped at Lake Mashuu on the way, and then Kotan, a small corner of the lake, before we went to Sunayu, the place where we do panning shots as the light drops, and you can see an example of that in this next photograph (below).

Whooper Swan Duet

Whooper Swan Duet

As you can see, there was still a little sunlight catching the wings of the swans in this image, which I like, but the contrast is much greater when the birds are in sunlight, so I generally like to do this after the sun has gone behind the mountains. I do like the detail caught in the wings of the foreground bird though, and I often like to try and get at least two swans in the frame at once, mainly because I already have so many shots of single swans, I just like to see what I can do with more. My settings for this image were 1/40 of a second at f/16, ISO 200, at 100mm with my 100-400mm Mark II lens.

Hoping for Sharp Heads

I went a bit crazy with the multiple swans thing for this next image (below) getting three and a half of them in the frame. I considered cloning out the half swan on the right, but not only would that be too much work, I really don’t mind him showing that there are more birds out of frame. We also get a hint of that from the footprints in the foreground, from a bird that has already left the frame.

Swan Frenzy

Swan Frenzy

My settings for this were again, 1/40 of a second shutter speed, at f/16, but now the sun has gone well behind the mountains, maybe even below the horizon, so my ISO was up at 1250 at this point, and again, I was at 100mm. As I select my favorites from these panning shots, I’m generally looking for at least one sharp head. The reality is that at these shutter speeds, most frame look like the heads on the other three birds, but we usually get a few images with heads sharp, and that for me is what this is all about.

Looking for Extremes

Once I get a sharp head, I’m then looking at the wing position. Sometimes the wings look better than others, and sometimes the wings almost disappear, and that doesn’t look good at all. In this next image, I was happy to see the foreground swan’s wings at full extent upwards, and the second swan’s wings are at full extend downwards. Extremes like this are often nice, as long as the head is sharp.

Wings Up Down

Wings Up Down

There are times when I will work with these swan photos when the head isn’t sharp, if the shapes and form of the bird is pleasing enough, but I generally find myself weeding these images out of my selection as I try to get my numbers down. I guess I’m just a bit of a traditionalist in this respect. The settings for this were the same as the previous image.

Apocalyptic Fumaroles

After we spend two days photographing the Whooper Swans, we move on to Rausu to photograph the sea eagles and foxes. On the way out of town, we stop at Iouzan, or “Sulphur Mountain” to do a group shot with the steaming geothermal vents in the background, and go up to the fumaroles for a while to capture scenes like this one (below).

Light Through Steam

Light Through Steam

Although this is a location that I’ve shot to death, it’s still nice to capture with the group. I never get tired of seeing what the steam and wind will present us with. Here I waited for a bit of a tunnel of light through the steam, between some of the main fumaroles. I also decided to add a bit of a vignette to this image in Capture One Pro, to emphasize this tunnel of steam. My settings for this image were 1/320 of a second shutter speed at f/11, ISO 100 at 80mm, with my 24-105mm Mark II lens.

No Ural Owls in Hokkaido!

As usual, we stopped to see if we could find any Ural Owls at the nests I know, but there are none to be found this year. They all disappeared last December, and I believe this is because of the actions of some of the East Asian photographers visiting the nests. I’ve heard reports of them throwing things at the nests to get the owls to open their eyes or to fly, and this has probably caused the owls to retreat further back into the woods, away from the reach of humans.

Oil Drum Fox

Oil Drum Fox

So, once again they’ve screwed it up for everyone. The sooner they understand the wildlife that they are trying to photograph, and treat it with the respect it deserves, the better things will be for everyone that would like to photograph the animals, and of course, most importantly, for the sake of the wildlife itself.

As I mentioned last week though, when something gets taken away from us, we generally gain something else, and this year was an incredible year for the Northern Red Fox, as you can see in this image, of this cute guy sitting on an old rusty oil drum.

The snow melted quickly this year, so we were treated with a number of environments to photograph these beautiful animals in. On tour #1 we had them on top of the fishing nets, and again here on oil drums. A nice white snowy background is great too, but it’s nice to shake it up a little bit.

My settings here were 1/800 of a second exposure at f/10, ISO 320 at 560mm, which is my 200-400mm lens at full reach with the built-in 1.4X Extender engaged.

The following morning, we had our first trip out on a boat to photograph the sea eagles. For the first time in four tours, we actually had sea ice, which works well for some shots, but my favorite image from this first morning is this one of a White-Tailed Eagle catching a fish from the open water. I’d asked the skipper to go to open water towards the end of our time out at sea, so that we could get some shots like this, as opposed to over the ice.

The Catch

The Catch

I have of course cropped this down some, from the top, to make it a 1:2 ratio, as I didn’t think the top of the image was adding anything to the scene. I’m really pleased that the head of the eagle is sharp here too. With the autofocus settings I use the camera does a great job of locking on to the body of the eagle and staying with it, even as the wings move across the eagle. And of course there’s a certain amount of skill involved in just framing and focusing on the bird at high speed, and with the low frame rate of the Canon EOS 5Ds R camera, I have to be very careful about when I release the shutter to capture the action. My settings here were 1/1000 of a second at f/10, ISO 800 and a focal length of 330mm.

Foxy Faceoff

Later this day, we went back out to the Notsuke Peninsula, to photograph the foxes again. The pair that you can see in this image have been hanging out together the whole season, probably brothers, and here (below) you can see them comparing mouth sizes. I actually missed the optimal moment here, as I had lowered my camera for a second, and on this occasion was too slow to raise it again as I saw them do this.

Foxy Faceoff

Foxy Faceoff

Still, I’m happy enough with this image, although the light was on the wrong side of the foxes. Luckily the sliders and curves in Capture One Pro enable me to bring out a lot of detail in the shadow side of the animals, so I still photograph them, especially when they are interacting like this. My settings were  a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second at f/11, ISO 1000, at 340mm.

A few minutes later I shot one of these guys stretching and yawning at the same time, as we can see in this final photograph for this episode (below). Again, the light is coming from the wrong side, but that’s not a big deal. I love the relaxed posture of this fox, and the texture of the fur in this shot is beautiful. I also like how we can see his claws sticking out of his furry feet.

Foxes Yawny Stretch

Foxes Yawny Stretch

These are a truly beautiful animal and I’m really pleased that we had such a good year with them this year. I hope that they stick around for next year’s tours too. My settings for this shot was the same as the previous image.

We’ll wrap it up there for this week. Next week I’ll be back with the third and final part of this travelogue, as we cover the next two days with the sea eagles, then our final bit of landscape work before heading back to Tokyo to complete the tour. We’ll also hear from the participants next week, with our usual recording of their kind comments.

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tours 2019

Because our 2018 tours have now filled, we’ve started to take bookings for 2019, so if you are interested, please check the details and book at http://mbp.ac/ww2019. If you’d like to be added to the wait list for 2018, please drop us a line. Note though that the 2018 wait list is getting a bit long now, so if you want to secure a place, 2019 is a safer bet.

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tour 2019

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tour 2019


Show Notes

Check out details of the 2019 tours here: http://mbp.ac/ww2019

Contact us to be added to the 2018 wait list: http://mbp.ac/contact

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunesSubscribe 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.


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Martin Bailey https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com <![CDATA[2017 Japan Winter Wildlife Photography Tour 2 Travelogue #1 (Podcast 564)]]> https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com/?p=34291 2017-03-13T09:26:37Z 2017-03-13T09:25:04Z Having completed the second of my two Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido, Japan Winter Wildlife tours for 2017 recently, today we start a travelogue series...

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Having completed the second of my two Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido, Japan Winter Wildlife tours for 2017 recently, today we start a travelogue series to walk you through our adventures with a selection of photographs to illustrate.

As this tour is a repeat of the first tour, and we do this every year, I’m going to skip over some of the details, and we will work through these images as quickly as possible. I’ve selected 30 shots to share, so this will be a three part series. We start with our visit to Nagano, four hours north-west of Tokyo, to photograph the adorable Snow Monkeys.

Snow Monkeys

On our first afternoon the snow was getting a bit old, with lots of texture from footprints, and there wasn’t much action in the hot spring pool, so I concentrated on getting behavior shots, like this one (below). I enjoy photographing these little groups of huddling monkeys, especially when they have a relatively clear background like this.

Monkey Ball

Monkey Ball

The monkeys look relatively static in a single frame of course, but the truth is they are moving around quite a lot while in these huddles, so it’s always necessary to try and capture a moment when you can see lots of faces with good angles. I have about six shots of this group that I like, but I chose this to share because the smaller monkeys all look relatively relaxed, and the main adult looks to be tolerating the photographers around them. In most of the other frames, he looks a little bit tense.

I shot this with a 1/250 of a second shutter speed at f/14, ISO 1000 at 227mm. I stopped down to f/14 so that I could get most of the faces acceptably sharp. Even at f/14 the monkey on the far right’s face is starting to go a little soft, but it’s sharp enough. For all of these snow monkey images I was using my 100-400mm Mark II lens from Canon.

Tough Life for a Snow Monkey

Tough Life for a Snow Monkey

The following day, we were blessed with a ton of snow to change up our opportunities. We walked in to the park before they opened, and were kept waiting for a while as the park owners cleared some of the heavy snow on the paths, but once we got in, we had a ball for a while as the snow continued to fall.

As you can see, the Snow Monkeys were living up to their names, absolutely covered in snow. As you can perhaps see from the posture of this monkey, she was shivering from the cold. The snow was still driving across the frame, and although you might wonder why they just didn’t get into the pool to warm up, they actually don’t get in when it’s very cold, as it was on this day.

You might be able to see that the face isn’t quite sharp for this shot, but that’s intentional in this case. Here I wanted to highlight the snow on the monkey, and that driving across the frame and across the face, and I feel this works better in this case.

There wasn’t a lot of light because of the sky still heavy with snow, so I needed to increase my ISO to 2000 for a 1/250 of a second shutter speed at f/10, 241mm.

Snow Monkey Cuddle

Snow Monkey Cuddle

For this next photo (right) I went back to f/14, because there were two faces, and I wanted them both pretty sharp.

Here once again we can see and almost feel the harshness of the environment that these monkeys live in. It’s easy to think of this adult monkey cuddling the youngster to keep it warm, but there is as much an element of the adult using the youngster like a hot water bottle too. I’m sure there are mutual benefits.

I have a few frames with the adult monkey’s eyes closed as well, and in many ways, I like these more, but on this occasion, I do like the direct contact, the connection with those piercing eyes in both monkeys here.

Having stopped down to f/14 for this, I needed an ISO of 4000 for a shutter speed of 1/160 of a second, at 255mm. As I mentioned recently, it’s often better to increase your ISO and continue to expose to the right, than it is to shoot a darker image with a lower ISO and then amplify the grain in post.

As the snow stopped falling, I started to simply watch the monkeys going about their business, and just looking for an action or mannerism that adds a touch more interest to the photo. This monkey was just picking the grain that’s thrown out for them from the snow, when they shook the snow from their fur, by rotating the head around (below) as you’ll have seen dogs do when they shake off water.

Shaking Off Snow

Shaking Off Snow

There’s still plenty of snow stuck to the monkey here, which adds a little extra element of interest and of course the head isn’t totally sharp as it shakes around, but I had increased my shutter speed to 1/640 of a second, in preparation for some possible action, so it’s sharp enough and the blur that is left just helps to show the movement. My other settings were f/11, and the light had increased now to the point that I was able to reduce my ISO to 800, and my focal length was 248mm.

Furry Cocoon

Furry Cocoon

After lunch, I went down by the river in the valley, as there really wasn’t a lot happening around the pool, and there was a mother sitting with a baby, as we can see in this photo (right).

For this shot, I selected an image with the mother’s eyes closed, to help direct our eyes down to the youngster. The thing I like about this shot more than anything is that arch in the mother’s soft fur around the youngster’s head. That just looks so comfortable and warm.

Another decision I made is to leave my aperture at f/11, and allow the mother’s face to go a little soft, but again, that’s so that our eyes are guided more quickly to the youngsters face and that arch of fur.

It’s important to use the aperture to control the depth of field to help guide how the viewer sees the image. You probably won’t be able to appreciate this in the web version, but in the larger image this is a very subtle but an effective touch to help polish the photo, in my opinion.

My other settings were 1/500 of a second, ISO 500 with a focal length of 158mm.

Silver Lining

As I travel on my tours, we often run into other groups, and I generally know their leader, and enjoy catching up and hearing what other people are up to. One thing I’ve noticed though, is that most of them have something to complain about. A popular one right now is that the Akan Crane Center where we spend most of the first two days in Hokkaido, have stopped feeding live fish to the cranes at two o’clock, because they don’t want to attract the sea eagles that could bring avian flu to the cranes.

Sure, the sea eagles at the cranes has always been a highlight of the day. A lot of the locals buy season tickets, and only turn up for the eagles, then leave as soon as the feeding frenzy is over. It’s easy to see why other leaders would complain about this, but when I first heard of this decision this year, I punched the air and gave out a little woot! Why? Because the lack of feeding is not only stopping the eagles coming, but it’s reduced the number of cranes at the center too.

Calling Cranes

Calling Cranes

So, you probably wonder why that’s a good thing too, right? When I first started to photograph the cranes more than ten years ago now, there were not so many of them.

Of course, the birds increasing numbers is a great thing, but photographically, when there are so many of them, it can be very difficult to get a photo of the cranes doing something without a lot of other cranes in the foreground and/or background.

It’s been a number of years since I was able to get a shot like this one (right), with just two cranes calling together, without lots of other cranes in the frame.

It’s so easy to focus on what we lose, but whenever we lose something, we generally gain something else, so I was not disappointed to hear about the lack of feeding this year, as I generally pretty quickly find the silver lining in every situation.

I was really happy to capture this shot, the first for a number of years, especially as there was a fine snow falling, adding those tiny specks across the dark top half of the image.

My settings for this photo were 1/1000 of a second shutter speed at f/14, with an ISO of 1600, at 560mm with my 200-400mm lens with the built-in 1.4X Extender engaged.

Crane Preening

Crane Preening

Another thing that gets easier when the cranes are fewer in numbers, is this kind of photographic study (right).

I’ve been doing these for many years now, and find it a great way to kill time between the more dynamic action that we sometimes see. I enjoy just watching for cranes that are preening themselves, for example, and trying to capture a moment when we can see something that isn’t always visible, like the inside of the bird’s wings here.

I’m also attracted to the two black rims of the crane’s eyes that we can see on either side of its head. Most of all though I just love the detail in the underside of the wings, and the contrast between the black and white, and again, the fact that there are no other cranes messing up the shot.

I also like that it’s still snowing lightly, adding those little white specks across the dark wing feathers.

My settings for this were 1/1000 of a second shutter speed, at f/14, with the ISO set to 1600, and a focal length of 473mm.

After a steady first day at the cranes, I took the group to a location where I know there are cranes that fly out across some dark background trees as the light drops at the end of the day, so it’s a great place to do slow shutter speed panning shots, like this next image (below).

Into the Snow

Into the Snow

The crane’s heads move quite a lot as they fly, so they aren’t an easy bird to pan with, but if you shoot enough, some of the frames have heads sharp enough to make the photograph work. For this image I also like how the falling snow has once again left it’s mark on the image, with long streaks this time, thanks to my 1/40 of a second shutter speed.

With the light as low as it was by this time, we don’t need any neutral density filters. In fact, even to get a 1/40 of a second shutter speed, I had at ISO 3200 at f/11, with a focal length of 300mm.

Too Few Cranes

Although I was happy to get a few less cranes at the Akan Crane Center, I was disturbed to see so few at river from the Otowabashi (bridge) on our second day in Hokkaido. There are just 19 cranes in this photograph (below) although I actually counted 25 in total.

Snowy Morning at Setsuri River

Snowy Morning at Setsuri River

Although it was too warm to get the hoar frost on the trees, we’d been lucky to get some fine snow that had stuck to all of the trees, making them go white anyway, so the scene was not a total throwaway. The warm dawn light reflected on the river was nice too, but I’m sharing this photo more to raise a very concerning issue that has to be stopped.

Photographers Lacking Respect for Wildlife

The night before, the owner of the hotel that we stay in had told me about something despicable that happened on February 19th, five days before I shot this photograph. It turns out that a group of Korean photographers had dressed as workmen, and forged passes pretending to have permission to walk 200 meters down the river towards the cranes, with the intention of photographing them from a different location to where all others safely shoot from.

This of course startled the cranes, and most of them flew away unnaturally. In the photos that I shared with you in Episode 561, I can count approximately 120 cranes at this same location. These numbers were before any of them had flown from this location on both mornings.

The river where these birds roost is their safe haven. They sleep in the river, because unfrozen water is warmer than the cold air. Water also provides protection from predetors, both physically and by alerting the cranes to anything approaching through the sound of footsteps in the water. They have gradually moved further down the river, away from the bridge from which we photograph them, probably because of the sheer number of photographers at this location each morning now, many of whom lack the respect to even keep their voices down as we all work.

To forge passes and dress up like workmen just to get a photo that is “different” from everyone else, has caused these birds to change their behavior. There were almost one fifth the number of cranes when we visited five days after this incident. The following morning when we went back, I counted approximate 60 cranes, so they are gradually coming back, but still only around half of the group size compared to three weeks previous to this incident.

Height of Selfishness

These Korean photographers should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. They not only changed the dynamic of the scene itself for all other photographers, but much more importantly, they caused an endangered species to change their behavior, which can have a knock on effect to perhaps even result in fewer chicks born this year.

The Red-Crowned Crane is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. How can anyone believe that it’s OK to upset their natural habitat for a photograph!? I will be doing everything I can to increase exposure of this kind of act, and hopefully find ways to help educate photographers on the need to treat wildlife with respect.

Educating Photographers

Before we move on, I do want to point out that I know that this is not only about Korean and other Asian photographers, although there is a disproportionate number of Asian photographers that lack respect for wildlife. I have of course seen Western visitors lacking in due respect, so this isn’t necessarily about the origin of the photographer, but something has to be done to educate people, and I’m going to do what I can to help, starting with highlighting this issue here, and there will be more to come.

Crane in Flight

On a lighter note, let’s get back to us photographing the cranes, with one last image to finish with for today. After breakfast, we headed back over to the Akan Crane Center for our second day there, and I shot this image of a Red-Crowned Crane in flight (below).

Crane in Flight

Crane in Flight

I’m happy with this shot, because of the positioning of the bird in the top third intersection, also with the cloud nicely positioned below. I’m particularly happy with this though because of the incredible sharpness and great catchlight in the eye of the crane. Due to the angle of the light, it’s often not possible to get a good catchlight, so this is a great added bonus. This is not cropped at all, so at 50 megapixels, when you zoom in and check out the detail, it makes the hair on the back of my head stand up. I shot this at 1/1000 of a second at f/11, with the ISO set to 320, and a focal length of 442mm.

We’ll pick up the trail next week with two last crane shots before moving on to the whooper swans, eagles and foxes.

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tours 2019

Because our 2018 tours have now filled, we’ve started to take bookings for 2019, so if you are interested, please check the details and book at http://mbp.ac/ww2019. If you’d like to be added to the wait list for 2018, please drop us a line.

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tour 2019

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tour 2019


Show Notes

Check out details of the 2019 tours here: http://mbp.ac/ww2019

Contact us to be added to the 2018 wait list: http://mbp.ac/contact

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunesSubscribe 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.


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Martin Bailey https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com <![CDATA[2017 Japan Winter Wildlife Photography Tour 1 Travelogue #3 (Podcast 563)]]> https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com/?p=34096 2017-03-06T09:02:53Z 2017-03-06T09:01:24Z Having completed my two Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido, Japan Winter Wildlife tours for 2017, today we conclude our travelogue series for tour one with a...

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Having completed my two Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido, Japan Winter Wildlife tours for 2017, today we conclude our travelogue series for tour one with a condensed walkthrough of our last four days over on the Shiretoko Peninsula.

We spend three days in Rausu, where we photograph the sea eagles, and in the afternoon, we generally head down the Notsuke Peninsula, to photograph the deer and northern red foxes. On the way over to Rausu we visit a number of Ural Owl nests that I know of, but none of the owls are on their nests this year.

I have spoken to a guide friend in Hokkaido and apparently they all disappeared at the end of last year. This is probably due to some of the Asian country visitors throwing things at the nests to make the owls open their eyes or fly. The problem of Asian visitors treating the wildlife with total disrespect is a growing issue in Hokkaido, which needs action to be taken. I will be talking more about this in the coming weeks, as something absolutely despicable happened at the cranes the day before we arrived to photograph them on tour two.

Paying Respect

Elderly Stag

Elderly Stag

Anyway, on our way over to Rausu on our first afternoon, we paid our first visit to the Notsuke Peninsula, and had an encounter with the oldest Ezo Deer stag I’ve ever seen (right).

Artistically I prefer this photo, but I have a second from the side which shows the stags antlers better, and they are so big that the aging stag can no longer fully grow them with them becoming misshaped.

I was in two minds as to whether or not to include this image, but I decided to, because on tour two we found this old guy laying by the road almost dead. He looked in such a bad way that I felt sure he’d be bead before we revisited the peninsula the following day, but he had moved about 20 meters and was actually eating while laying down when we went back.

On the third day that we visited there was some blood and fur on the group where he had been, so we think that he had probably died and the park wardens removed his body, as the foxes had started to eat him. I’m not sure if that’s what happened, and I’m not sure that I agree to depriving the foxes of a good meal either, but that’s what we saw.

I shot this image with my 200-400mm lens with the 1.4X Extender engaged, for a focal length of 506mm and a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second at f/9 with the ISO set to 2000. I could have gone a little slower on the shutter speed as he wasn’t moving much, but I was shooting hand-held with this long lens, so it’s better to speed it up a little.

Northern Red Foxes

On the same afternoon, we were able to photograph a lot of northern red foxes. More than I’ve seen on the Notsuke Peninsula before, and some of them were in pairs, like the ones in this photo (below). Here this pair were comparing the size of their mouths, which is something I believe they do to establish their pecking order, or to threaten the other fox.

Foxes Comparing Mouth Size

Foxes Comparing Mouth Size

Although I love to photograph the foxes on the snow, it was nice for a change to find them on top of these fishing nets. These nets too are usually under snow anyway, but we’ve had a warm winter in Hokkaido again this year. I shot this image with the same settings as the previous image, but with a focal length of 461mm.

Sea Eagles

The following morning, at the start of day nine, we went out for our first voyage to shoot the sea eagles. I have literally hundreds of photos of the eagles from this trip, so it was difficult to whittle down my selection to represent these majestic birds in this single episode, but I’ve tried to give you a good cross section as we progress today.

Most of the time the eagles are swooping down parallel to our boat, so the majority of our shots are naturally from the side, but occasionally they swoop towards us, as we see in this first photo of a Steller’s Sea Eagle (below).

Wrong Time and Plaice

Wrong Time and Plaice

There was no sea ice again for this first tour, which made it the third tour in a row now, as we didn’t get ice on either tour last year. I actually prefer it is many ways when there is no ice, as we now just through fish into the sea, so it looks more natural than the eagles taking fish from the top of the ice. Of course, the chances of an eagle catching a plaice from the surface of the water are almost zero, but we’ll have to overlook that.

I shot this image at f/10 with a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second at ISO 800. For all of the eagle shots from the boat I used my 100-400mm Mark II lens.

Another shot that I wanted to share from this first eagle shoot is this one, of a White-Tailed Eagle. I have many shots of the eagles nicely framed, but something that I like to do is to get in so close that I purposefully crop off the wings to get a more intimate look at the bird, as I did here (below).

Intimate Eagle

Intimate Eagle

Of course I can pull back and get the entire bird in, but I just like doing this, even though it drives some people crazy. It gives us a better look at the details of the bird and the water droplets left by the catch. I shot this at 1/1000 of a second at ISO 400, with an aperture of f/10 at 400mm.

Canon EOS 5Ds R for Wildlife

In case you didn’t catch my mentioning this last year, you might want to note that I am shooting all of my images with a Canon EOS 5Ds R, including these very fast past wildlife shots. The autofocus is definitely up to the task, and with good technique you can certainly work with the slow frame rate. Rather than shooting long bursts though, you have to time your exposures perfectly.

I generally wait until the eagle sticks out its talons now before starting to release the shutter, and this usually gives me one frame with the talons forward, sometimes one with the bird looking like it’s standing straight up in the water standing on the fish, and a second or third frame of the bird pulling the fish out of the water. With just two to three frames per swoop, I don’t have to look through so many images, and I feel that this technique has helped to make me a better photographer.

After lunch we drove back down the Notsuke Peninsula, and were able to capture a number of northern red fox images again, but we got better images on our visit from the last day, so we’ll skip those today. Next up is a shot from the following morning with the eagles, as an example of my first frame of a burst, where a Steller’s Sea Eagle has his talons out forward, reaching for a fish (below).

Steller's Sea Eagle with Talons Out

Steller’s Sea Eagle with Talons Out

As you may be able to see, we had some light snow on this second morning with the eagles, which adds some nice atmosphere. It was heavily overcast though, so I was shooting with ISO 4000 at this point, at 1/1000 of a second, with an aperture of f/9.

Push the ISO Not the Image

Using high ISOs still scares many people, but if you take control of your exposure and ensure that you are exposing to the right, so that the image data is close to the right side of the histogram, you really don’t see any grain, even with the super-high resolution of the 5Ds R body. That’s another myth that people like to use as an excuse to not like this camera by the way. I’ve taken great pride in blowing these myths out of the water over the last two years.

High ISOs on most modern DSLR cameras are only a problem if you allow them to intimidate you. Most people are scared to increase the ISO so they shoot a darker image and then try to lighten it up in post processing, but this causes the image to be recorded in the middle of the histogram, where you do start to see more grain, so when you push the image in post you amplify the grain. Then people feel thankful that they didn’t push the ISO further, adding more grain, but the reverse is true.

It’s much better to push up your ISO in the camera rather than push the image in post. Yes, I know all about ISO Invariance, but that only works if you can keep your base image at ISO 100, and when there is as little light as there was on some of these shoots, that’s not possible. I discussed how I tested the ISO invariance of my 5Ds R in episode 520 if you’d like to take a look.

At the end of our second eagle shoot, we spent 15 minutes photographing the eagles over the harbor wall. Because the wall has snow on it, it bounces beautiful diffused light back up onto the underside of the eagles, as you can see in this shot (below).

Steller's Sea Eagle Over Harbor Wall

Steller’s Sea Eagle Over Harbor Wall

It was still snowing, adding that second level of atmosphere over the eagle, but also along the bottom of the image where the sky was slightly darker, making the snow stand out a little more. Pretty much all of the images that we’ve looked at so far are totally un-cropped, so the level of detail in these 50 megapixel files is absolutely incredible.

My Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-4000 printer has been sitting dormant for the last two months as I’ve travelled, but I’m looking forward, now that I’ve actually finished all three tours, to getting caught up on other work, then having a mad printing session, and this is one of the images that I can’t wait to print out pretty big and explore the detail in the print. Of course, I can see the detail on the screen, especially now that I’m using the new BenQ 4K display, but there’s nothing like poring over a nice big print to appreciate the detail in an image.

Frolicking Fox

After lunch, we visited the Notsuke Peninsula again, and encountered a number of foxes that seemed bent on providing us with some more excellent photographic opportunities, as we can see here (below). This young fox was playing with a piece of fur, perhaps from a coat or other garment. It doesn’t look like natural fur, not to me at least.

Frolicking Fox

Frolicking Fox

Although the fur isn’t natural, I still quite like this image, showing the playful nature of these beautiful animals, despite them braving some pretty harsh weather through the winter out of the peninsula. He threw this fur up into the air and caught it, then shook it around as dogs often do, so it was fun to watch as well as photograph. My settings were 1/1000 of a second at f/11, ISO 1600.

Here’s another shot of a fox from the same afternoon, as one got up and stretched on top of another fishing net, this time black, providing some nice contrast. It’s snowing again, adding the atmosphere that I like, and the sea in the background adds extra context (below).

Ezo Fox Stretch

Ezo Fox Stretch

I make good use of the digital level in the viewfinder of the 5Ds R, to help me ensure that things like the horizon in this shot are straight right in camera, even when hand-holding. This helps me to keep as many pixels as possible for big prints. I’ll crop an image if necessary, but generally I like to avoid it, even just by the small amount required to rotate an image to straighten a wonky horizon. I shot this at 1/500 of a second at f/9, with ISO 3200.

For the first two days that we ventured out to photograph the eagles it had been overcast, so there was no dawn shoot, but on the third morning we were due to go out, it was going to be clear, so we set out before the sun came up, and this allowed us to photograph the eagles in the warm dawn light, as you can see in this next image (below).

Steller's Catch

Steller’s Catch

I’ve included this shot not only to illustrate the warm light, but also because I like the water frozen in time as the Steller’s Sea Eagle whisks his frozen fish from the water. We were also lucky on this day that the wind direction had changed, now blowing in from the open sea, which meant that the birds had the sun of their faces more often, as they flew into the wind. I shot this at f/8 with a shutter speed of 1/1250 of a second at ISO 1600.

Another shot from this morning that I really like is this one of a Steller’s Sea Eagle breaking free from the water (below). He had taken a large wave and sunk down until the water came over his head, and I have a shot of that too, but he doesn’t look overly majestic, but then in this frame with all that water behind him he looks every bit as magnificent as these birds are.

Breaking Free

Breaking Free

This image is cropped a little bit from the top right corner, as it happened a little bit far away, and I was at the full reach of my 100-400mm lens. My settings were f/8 with a shutter speed of 1/1250 of a second at ISO 1600.

I still have to go back and further cull my eagle shots from this first Japan wildlife tour for 2017, but it was an incredibly productive trip. The great thing about shooting when it’s clear at Rausu is that you can get beautiful views of Mount Rausu behind the town, so I capitalized on that a little as I saw this eagle doing some acrobatics in this photograph that we’ll finish our eagle shots with (below).

Eagle Acrobatics Before Mount Rausu

Eagle Acrobatics Before Mount Rausu

If I had planned this, I would probably have stopped my aperture down to f/14, to get just a little bit more definition in the mountain, but I like the separation that the eagle being totally sharp affords us, so it doesn’t bother me too much. I shot this at f/10, with a 1/1250 of a second shutter speed at ISO 800.

ICM (Intentional Camera Movement)

After our eagle shoot we checked out of our hotel and headed around the base of the Shiretoko Peninsula heading for Utoro, and on the way we stopped for our birch tree intentional camera movement shoot, which has become tradition as we start to wind down after our hectic tour (below). To get this effect, I simply set the shutter speed to 1/25 of a second then move the camera downwards quickly, and release the shutter just as the bottom of the trees starts to enter the frame.

Sinister Birch

Sinister Birch

I shot the light side of the road first, as I’ve done for many years, then also walked across the road to a spot where we can get a very dark background caused by some pine trees behind a front line of birch. I have started to prefer this scene to the white one, although I do find this comes across a little more sinister, especially compared to the light, airy version.

After our birch tree shoot, we continued our drive to the Utoro side of the Shiretoko Peninsula. As is often the case, as we reached the coast, we were greeted by sea ice, covering the water as far as the eye could see. It just doesn’t always make its way around the tip of the peninsula and down into Rausu. We spent some time photographing the Oshinkoshin Falls and visited the Shiretoko National Park at the end of our eleventh day, and on the morning of the last day.

In the park I lead a group to look for some woodpeckers and other birds, and Yukiko our tour conductor lead a second group down to the end of the valley for a bit of landscape work, and just a nice walk really. I got a few shots of a great spotted woodpecker and a nuthatch, but they aren’t special enough to share here, so we’ll wrap this up for today, and conclude this series.

Before we actually close though, I’d like to play you the recording that I made on the bus on our last morning, to get some wonderful comments from our great tour group.

[Please listen to the audio with the player above to hear what the group said about the tour]

It’s always nice to hear the voices of the participants like this, especially as I’ve now also finished tour two as I prepare this episode. In three or four weeks as I complete the travelogue for tour two, it will be nice to hear from my second wildlife group for 2017 as well. A special bond is formed with many of the members of my tour groups, so I treasure these recordings, as well as the group photos that I make on each trip.

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tours 2019

Because our 2018 tours have now filled, we’ve now started to take bookings for 2019, so if you might be interested, please check the details and book at http://mbp.ac/ww2019. If you’d like to be added to the wait list for 2018, please drop us a line.

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tour 2019

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tour 2019

 


Show Notes

Check out details of the 2019 tours here: http://mbp.ac/ww2019

Contact us to be added to the 2018 wait list: http://mbp.ac/contact

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunesSubscribe 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.


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Martin Bailey https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com <![CDATA[2017 Japan Winter Wildlife Photography Tour 1 Travelogue #2 (Podcast 562)]]> https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com/?p=34089 2017-02-27T09:58:02Z 2017-02-27T09:58:02Z Having completed the first of my two Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido, Japan Winter Wildlife tours for 2017, today we continue our travelogue series to...

The post 2017 Japan Winter Wildlife Photography Tour 1 Travelogue #2 (Podcast 562) appeared first on Martin Bailey Photography.

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Having completed the first of my two Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido, Japan Winter Wildlife tours for 2017, today we continue our travelogue series to walk you through our adventures along with a selection of photographs.

We pick up the trail today on day six. Last week we’d completed our last visit to the bridge to photograph the Red-Crowned Cranes in their idillic misty river surroundings, and after breakfast we drove over to Lake Kussharo to photograph the Whooper Swans there.

We first stopped in a corner of the lake called Kotan, then, after lunch, seeing how the group were obviously flagging from our early starts over the last three days, we went to the hotel to check in early, but then came back out as the sun went down to do some panning. This first shot for today is from that panning session (below).

Whooper Swan Over Frozen Lake

Whooper Swan Over Frozen Lake

The lake was thawing a little in places, which doesn’t always look great in a regular photograph, but in this panning image with the way it causes streak on the background I’m actually quite happy with this. It adds a bit of texture to the background that we don’t usually have.

On the morning of day seven, we went back to the beach at the lake in the hope of getting some fly-ins. It was quite cold on this morning though, so as with the cranes, the swans will stay in their roost longer when it’s cold. We also found that a lot of them just swam in from nearby thawed patches, so we only got a few opportunities to photograph them in flight on this first morning.

One shot from this session that I’m half happy with is this one (below) where three Whooper Swans did fly in with the mountains around the lake in the background. The main thing that I don’t like about this image is the blue sky. I’m really not a fan of blue skies. They just don’t appeal to me, except occasionally when a bird is almost full frame with a blue sky behind it, and even then, just plain blue bugs me.

Swans and Mountains

Swans and Mountains

You’ll notice also that I cropped this down to a 1:2 ratio, and I did that for two reasons. The first reason is that the focus points on the 5Ds R are all quite close to the center of the frame, so by default if I have autofocus engaged I’ll end up with the subject inside that focussing frame. The other thing is that I didn’t want to include much of the lake, as it wasn’t fully frozen and therefore overly textured. Both of these reasons resulted in me including too much of that crappy blue sky, so I cropped most of it away. I was at f/11 for 1/1000 of a second at ISO 400 for this shot.

After breakfast, we went back to Kotan, the place we’d visited first the previous day, and we basically just hung out with the swans, nice and intimate on the edge of the lake. At one point, we were too intimate for my 100-400mm lens, so when this Whooper Swan fully stretched out his wings right in front of me they went clean out of the edge of the frame.

Display of Wings

Display of Wings

I’m not against cropping the wings off of birds, in fact I do it quite a lot, but in this case it was unintentional and an awkward crop. Luckily this first frame is also pretty cool, as we can see all the lovely detail in the underside of the backlit wings, and you lose that when they are fully spread, so all is good. For this I was at f/8 for 1/800 of a second at ISO 125.

This spot is generally very relaxing, once you put out of mind the occasional group of annoying tourists that appear from time to time to destroy the tranquility, and I generally just really like sitting in the snow, and watching the swans do their thing. While we were there, a small group of swans walked to the unfrozen pool in the lake from our right, and I shot this next photo (below) where one of the swans was just looking straight at me, as though he was wondering what we were doing there.

Yeah!?

Yeah!?

I like the intimate low angle for this shot. I sometimes use the Canon Angle Finder C for this kind of low handheld work, but there wasn’t time to put that on, so I literally just rolled over on the ice looking into the camera vertically, as though in portrait orientation from my perspective, and used the digital level in the viewfinder to get the horizon pretty much straight. My settings were f/8 for a 1/800 of a second at ISO 200.

We went back to the hotel for lunch, and did a 90 minute workshop session in the afternoon, then headed back out for another panning session as the sun went down. I got my usual sort of panning shots, so I won’t share one today, but I do have some cool shots from our last morning with the swans to share now.

Whooper Swan Fly-ins Galore!

We arrived back at the lake the following morning having had an early breakfast and checking out, and unlike the previous day, when we didn’t really get any fly-ins, this morning was pretty amazing. A group arrived as we did, before anyone was ready to shoot them, but then we were presented with some beautiful fly-ins over the hour or so that we were there.

Although only two swans, one of my favorite shots from this morning session, was this one (below). I love the tonal qualities in this image, with the soft diffused light from the overcast sky on the swans, and look at that lovely grey, textured sky. To me this is worlds better than that yucky blue sky in the photo from the previous day.

Whooper Swans Fly In

Whooper Swans Fly In

I also really like it when we can include a beautiful background like this, with the mountains on the far side of the lake below the clouds. This really puts the animals in their environment, which always feels nice to me. There is actually a third location on this lake where there are lots of swans, but I don’t take the group there, because it’s not very pretty. For me, the background at this location is what really makes the images when it comes together.

I was also happy that the underside of these swans was clean. If you noticed the yellow belly on the swan in the previous photo, this comes from the bottom of the lake, as some of the places they rest has very shallow water, and because they forage on the lake bed, they kick up all sorts of mess. These guys didn’t have that on them, so that’s great. I shot this at f/10 for a 1/500 of a second shutter speed, at ISO 2500.

A larger group of swans flew in for this next image (below) which I called Nine Whooper Swans. You can probably only count seven in the photo, but there are two more swans in the distance, to the right, over the dark patch on the mountain. Sometimes I like to play with the title of my images, to lead the viewer to find something that they may not find otherwise.

Nine Whooper Swans

Nine Whooper Swans

If this was printed large on a wall, it would probably be easy enough to find these swans without help from the title, but if you click on the image on the blog and have a look at it at the larger size, you will probably be able to see them. So what? You might think, and you’d be right. It’s just a bit of fun. I like it when images have an “Easter Egg” for you to find if you look hard enough, that’s all. As the sun got higher in the sky behind the clouds I had now decreased my ISO to 1600, at a 1/500 of a second exposure at f/10.

Cloudy Morning Panning

We had arranged it with the owners of the restaurant that are charged with throwing out grain for the swans, so that we would feed them instead on this morning. That gave us one last opportunity to do some panning, because we can throw the grain to the birds at the other end of the beach, which means those that aren’t already there, will fly past us to get their share. Here is one of my single swan panning shots from that session (below).

Panned and Panned

Panned and Panned

The problem with panning with the birds at the end of the day, as we’d done the previous evening, is that depending on the wind direction, the light is sometimes coming from the left as the birds fly to the right, which means their backs are brighter than their heads and undersides. What I loved about this is that there is beautiful soft diffused light from the overcast sky, and the sun is coming from behind us in the morning, which gives us a beautiful look for the birds. I shot this at a 1/40 of a second at f/10, ISO 100.

As we waited for our tour conductor, come bird feeder, to walk around the back of the car park, to pop up at the other end of the beach to make the swans fly for a fourth and last time, another large group of swans flew in, as you can see in this photograph (below). We saw them a way out, so I could have changed my settings back to a fast shutter speed, but I decided to see what it would look like with the 1/40 of a second that I had set.

Whooper Swan Slow Fly In

Whooper Swan Slow Fly In

I actually quite like the results. A number of the swans have sharp heads, and the blur of the wings on most of them is a look that I enjoy working with, so this works for me. My settings were the same except that I’d now changed my aperture from f/10 to f/11.

This last shot of the swans is a bit crazy, but I like it, so I thought I’d include this too. We did one last feeding of the swans to get them to fly past the group again, for a final panning frenzy, and this is one of the shots I got (below).

Serious Panning

Serious Panning

I like to try and get multiple swans in the frame when possible, and I was doing that here, but managed to get the foreground swans almost filling the bottom of the frame, with a relatively sharp head. This is uncropped, and pretty much straight out of the camera. I might remove that third swan’s butt from the bottom right corner later, but for now I thought I’d share this as it is. This was a 1/30 of a second exposure at f/11, ISO 100.

After the swans, we paid our usual brief visit to Iouzan or Sulphur Mountain, partly because I like to do our group shot there, but also because it’s just a really whacky place to shoot, as you can see in this final photo for today (below). As one of the participants in this group said, although you see fumaroles in volcanic areas, I’ve really not seen any that are built up the way these are, so it makes for a cool subject.

Sulphur Mountain Fumaroles

Sulphur Mountain Fumaroles

If you recall my images of this place from previous years, and if you have a really good memory, you may recall that I used to process these images in Color Efex Pro. I actually stopped doing that, just like I’ve stopped using Silver Efex Pro, since I jumped ship to Capture One Pro. I was actually wondering how this would turn out, but I continue to really like the look I can get with Capture One.

Our Applications Drive Our Processing Decisions

This looks much more natural to me than my Color Efex Pro versions. I liked the old Color Efex images when I was doing them, although I was always aware that they were a bit heavy on the processing. What I’m now come to understand though is just how much the application really drives the decisions we make during the processing of our images. I can take my images just as far in Capture One if I want to, but now it feels totally over done when I do.

Having used Capture One for eight months now, I really feel as though it has improved my work in many ways, and although I was never really unhappy with Lightroom, I feel that my workflow is now much faster in Capture One Pro. One of the main reasons I can get through my images more quickly, is because I can copy the modifications and adjustment that I make on an image to the clipboard, and then just paste them back on to other images, one at a time, or in batch if I have a lot of similar images.

In Lightroom to do that I had to create a Develop preset then apply it to each image, and although that’s easy enough, it’s a few more steps, and requires the mouse rather than a keyboard shortcut, so this has turned out to be another of Capture One Pro’s many strengths.

OK, so we’ll leave it there for this week. I still have 99 images left in my collection of photos to talk about for this trip, so I’ll try to get them down to one last episode, so that we can move on to Tour #2 when I get back. We’ll see how that goes, but either way, by the time I get to that, I’ll be back from the second of these tours, which I’ll be half way through on the day that I release this episode.

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tours 2019

Because our 2018 tours have now filled, we’ve now started to take bookings for 2019, so if you might be interested, please check the details and book at http://mbp.ac/ww2019. If you’d like to be added to the wait list for 2018, please drop us a line.

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tour 2019

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tour 2019


Show Notes

Check out details of the 2019 tours here: http://mbp.ac/ww2019

Contact us to be added to the 2018 wait list: http://mbp.ac/contact

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunesSubscribe 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.


The post 2017 Japan Winter Wildlife Photography Tour 1 Travelogue #2 (Podcast 562) appeared first on Martin Bailey Photography.

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Martin Bailey https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com <![CDATA[2017 Japan Winter Wildlife Photography Tour 1 Travelogue #1 (Podcast 561)]]> https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com/?p=34007 2017-03-10T07:56:07Z 2017-02-19T01:33:39Z Last week we completed the first of my two Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido, Japan Winter Wildlife tours for 2017. Today I’m starting...

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Last week we completed the first of my two Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido, Japan Winter Wildlife tours for 2017. Today I’m starting a travelogue series to walk you through our adventures via a selection of my photographs.

As usual the tour was a lot of fun, and very productive. I was able to keep up with my initial selection of photographs each day as the tour progressed, and I ended up shooting just under 6,000 images, which isn’t a lot for a wildlife trip, but I’m shooting with 5Ds R bodies which are slow, and I’ve been to the locations we visit so many times I can be more selective than the participants.

Image Selection

At the end of each day, I went through and deleted any obvious mistakes and images where I missed focus etc. and put a 3 star rating against any of the images that I wanted to look at again. I created a Smart Album in Capture One Pro to automatically pick up all 3 star or higher images so that I could easily go back in and review my selection. Whenever I had some spare time, I’d go back in and remove images that I didn’t feel so strongly about and came home with around 880 images that still had a three star rating.

Over the last week, in between catching up with other tasks that I need to complete before starting the second tour on February 19, when I release this first travelogue episode, I’ve continued to go back in and whittle down my selection to currently 320 images. I’ve run out of time to get down to my final selection, so to start preparing for this episode I’ve gone through my selection and marked all of the images that I want to talk about, and I’m currently at 120, which would take three months to talk about, so I obviously have to get that number down further.

As a record of this first selection, I changed the star rating to 4 for all but a few which were just for illustration purposes. I really would like to talk about this trip is just three episodes, four at most, so at 10 images per episode we’re talking 30 to 40 images or just a little more. As I’m running out of time, I’m going to steam through and select the images that I feel I absolutely must talk about, and see where that leads.

Great Weather for Most of the Trip

The weather was very cooperative, giving us two great mornings with hoar frost on the river with the Japanese Red-Crowned cranes, which is always a treat, but we didn’t get any falling snow while we were with the cranes. We still had a great time though, and got some beautiful photos, as you’ll see as we progress through this travelogue.

We started the tour with an optional dinner at a hotel in Tokyo, before meeting to start the tour officially the following morning to head out to Nagano for our first three days to photograph the adorable snow monkeys. I was very happy to see that we had a lot of snow in the valley as we walked in, as last year there had been very little snow.

We spent our first afternoon with the monkeys, getting the group accustomed to photographing in the snow, and getting used to shooting in Manual mode to get the best possible results in these winter wonderland conditions. I had some nice shots from the first afternoon, but although there was lots of snow on the ground, it wasn’t fresh and it didn’t snow while we were there.

The following morning though, we awoke to a good covering of fresh snow, that was still falling, so when we arrived in the monkey park when they opened at 9am, the snow on the valley walls was still untouched, and that’s a bit of a treat to work with. The first photo that I want to share is this one of a female snow monkey making her way through the fresh snow (below).

Snow Monkey Forging Through Deep Snow

Snow Monkey Forging Through Deep Snow

On the previous day this snow had been chunky and nasty from a thousand snow monkey footprints, but with the fresh snow it was transformed. It was also very soft, almost powder snow, so it looked great as the monkeys walked through it, and of course, it stuck to their fur, which helps to illustrate the harshness of the conditions that they live in.

I shot this at f/10 at ISO 800 for a shutter speed of 1/400 of a second. That’s about as slow as I like to go for a moving subject, and I generally try to speed this up as the light increases. It worked here though, because the monkey wasn’t running at speed.

As the monkeys got more active, running around, often in confrontation, I increased my shutter speed to 1/1000 of a second by increasing my ISO to 1250 and reducing my aperture to f/8 for this next photograph (below). Here we see a young snow monkey retaliated as another monkey showed aggression towards him.

Snow Monkey's Arrest

Snow Monkey’s Arrest

Fur Coat

Fur Coat

Again, the soft snow was sticking to the monkeys as they ran around, and this always adds a nice extra element to improve the photographs, and another of the reasons why I love it when we have fresh snow.

Also, although I am often happy to just capture a quiet moment, more like a portrait than a wildlife shot, I do like it when I can capture some dynamic movement and a different expression like this. It takes a bit more patience as you need to be watching constantly, but that’s the biggest part of the fun of wildlife photography.

This next image (right) is more in the other camp, the quiet portrait, although the timing was still pretty critical. This little guy with a huge coat of fur was just chilling out, and was actually wide awake, but to get a more peaceful looking image, I released the shutter when he had his eyes closed for a few moments, as I much prefer this kind of image if the monkey is just sitting around.

For this image I had also dropped my shutter speed back down to 1/800 of a second at f/8 with ISO 800. This is my ready for action zone. It’s fast enough to capture some moderately fast action, but of course that also works for static subjects like this little guy.

I tweaked my Manual settings again, as the light changed, so I increased my shutter speed to 1/1000 of a second and reduced my ISO to 640, at the same aperture of f/8, for this next crazy image (below). It looks like this monkey is laughing maniacally while looking directly at the camera. The reality is that she’s retaliating to aggression in the group, and for a moment looked at me.

Haa!

Haa!

I have a second frame where she looks like the joker from Batman, but we’ll move on as I try to keep the number of images down to ten for today. A word on the cropping before we do move on though. I shot this in landscape orientation, with the monkey on the left third, and I have cropped down to a square removing the right third of the image, as I feel it suits the image better, with the monkey looking straight at the camera.

I left the second image of this laughing monkey uncropped though, because she was looking to the right of the frame, and therefore the image looked better with some space for her to look into.

This last image from the snow monkeys (below) shows another relatively young monkey walking down the valley wall in the fresh snow. This is another reward for being patient and aware, as well as a bit of luck. The fresh snow around the hot spring pool was starting to get trodden down, except for a patch on the top left. I recalled that monkeys often climb down the mountain and walk through this point, so I started to watch for some coming down.

Shoulder High Snow

Shoulder High Snow

Only a few moments later, I could see two monkeys way up on the mountain side, and sure enough, they made their way through to this point, so I was able to photograph them coming through the fresh snow. This is actually the second one. The one that actually broke the snow first got so buried in it the photograph was a bit of a mess, so this is the better of the two, again with lots of snow on the monkeys fur, showing the harshness of their environment.

Red-Crowned Cranes

We came back into the park for a third day, just for a few hours before heading back to Tokyo for the night, then we set off for Hokkaido bright and early on the fourth morning, with our first stop being to photograph the beautiful and graceful Red-Crowned Cranes.

On the first day, we got lots of great photos of the cranes flying overhead. I have many with just one crane, which are nice, but they often feel a little bit documentary, so I thought I’d share this one, with six adult cranes flying together, which I quite like (below).

Six Adult Cranes in Flight

Six Adult Cranes in Flight

I always find it interesting that some of the cranes fly with their legs tucked in when it’s cold, rather than letting them hang out to the back like the others in this group. They leave their legs tucked away like that sometimes until literally just before they land, as though they are lowering the landing gear.

No Fish Fed to the Cranes

During this trip the crane center that we visit had been forced to stop feeding the cranes live fish, as this attracts the sea eagles. Although that’s become one of the main attractions in addition to photographing the cranes, the eagles travel further distances and therefore risk bring avian flu to the group, so there was no feeding at two o’clock and subsequently no eagles. Apparently after a meeting with the government bodies on February 14 they are now feeding fish to the cranes again, but not at 2pm, which has become too well know by the eagles, so this year, there are no eagles here. Luckily for my group we spend three quality days with the eagles anyway later in the trip.

Sublime Hoar Frost

As I mentioned earlier, we had some beautiful hoar frost at the river, giving us some sublime photography opportunities on our second morning in Hokkaido, day five of the tour. The temperatures got down to around -25° C (-13° F) for a while, which was great, because we need it to be cold with no wind for the hoar frost to form, but when it’s this cold the mist can be a little too thick. We patiently waited though, and as the mist sometimes thinned we were rewarded with photos such as this one (below).

Cranes in River Mist at Dawn

Cranes in River Mist at Dawn

The cranes are still mostly asleep as it needs to warm up a little more for them to become active, and they are also roosting further down the river than usual this year, but I still love this scene. The sunlight was by this point directly hitting the trees to the right, and just catching the top of the mist in places, but what makes this shot for me is the layers of wispy mist flowing over the back of the scene, at the top of my frame here.

At the severe risk of sounding conceited here, when I came back to this photo a few days later, as it popped up on my screen the soft layers of mist and overall color palette felt very much like a Turner painting to me. There’s just something so ethereal and calming about this that really appeals to me.

I’m going to resist showing you another photo from this first morning of hoar frost, because as I’ve worked through my selection I’m now close to being able to finish the cranes in this first episode, and I have something slightly better from the second morning, so we’ll press on and look at a couple of photos from the second day with the cranes.

As I’d mentioned, we didn’t have any falling snow with the cranes, so I tended to concentrate on birds in the air, because the snow is a little too chunky and contrasty for my liking. Of course, for first time participants they’ll still get great shots, but I can be a bit more picky having visited so many times.

Also still trying to avoid showing just cranes with a blue sky background, this photo (below) has become a bit of a favorite because of the trees in the background, that add a lot more texture and detail than my usual images at the crane center.

Crane in Front of Trees

Crane in Front of Trees

I shot this with my 200-400mm lens with the 1.4X Extender engaged, but pulled back to 420mm. At f/10 though, at this focal length, the background gets relatively nicely blurred, while still keeping this large bird fully in focus, so there’s some nice separation and the snow on the distant hills is nice and soft, almost looking like clouds, apart from the bit of detail in the top left corner.

At the end of our second day with the cranes, I took the group to a location where there are usually a few cranes that fly out as it gets dark, giving us an opportunity to shoot a few panning shots before it does actually get dark. With no control over where the birds fly, most of them on this day flew over the top of the snow, rather than climbing a little higher to get a dark background, and white on white doesn’t look quite as good with the cranes. Instead, I thought I’d share this image (below) of three cranes starting to run as they took off, to fly to the river where they’d roost for the night.

Three Cranes Taking Off

Three Cranes Taking Off

For panning shots like this I generally select a shutter speed between 1/25 and 1/50 of a second, or perhaps a little bit faster, but not much. For this image I was using 1/30 of a second shutter speed at f/11 with the ISO set to 800. This gave me plenty of movement in the wings so I’m relatively happy with this, although I do prefer it when the birds are actually in flight and over a dark background.

OK, so as I’ve worked through this, selecting the images that I want to share with you, I’m at the point where we can finish the Snow Monkeys and Cranes with just three more images from the last morning at the bridge with the hoar frost, so we’ll push this episode to twelve images, then move on to Whooper Swans next week. We’ll probably be able to finish in three episodes then, so we’re doing well here.

Otowa Bridge

As I’ve mentioned in previous years, the bridge from where we photograph the cranes on the river is called “Otowasbashi” where “bashi” or “hashi” just means bridge, but I love the fact that “Otowa” in Japanese means “the sound of wings”. The name of the town is “Tsurui” which means “Cranes are Here”, and I also find that very cool. To top it all, the bridge on which the photographers stand is actually a second bridge built just for photographers, to keep them off the main road which runs parallel to it.

This image was shot at 7:22, about 30 minutes after the sun had risen, so there was still a bit of warmth in the light hitting the scene, and I love the shape that the mist forms in this photograph. The cranes were waking up slowly because it was almost but not quite as cold as the previous day at around -23° C (-9° F). This is perfect for the mist. It was thick for a while, but not too thick, as you can see (below).

Cranes Call in Mist

Cranes Call in Mist

Basically as the scene unfolds and the mist forms pleasing patterns, we stand and wait with our fingers crossed for the birds to do something to add a little more interest to the scene. For me here that was the two cranes that were singing to the right. I pulled my 200-400mm lens with the 1.4X Extender engaged back to 480mm so that I could get both banks of the river in too, which I often like to do. My shutter speed here was 1/500 of a second at f/14, ISO 800.

The cold kept the birds from really waking up though, until 7:55. My group were getting cold and wanted to go back to the hotel for breakfast, but knowing the potential of the scene and the fact that the birds would eventually all wake up, we gave it a little more time, and then most of them started to dance and sing, for one last frenzy of shutters from the bridge.

When all of the cranes are dancing together, it can actually be a bit messy as a scene so my favorite at the moment is this shot (below) there are two birds dancing just left of center, with good clearance through to the background, and there are also a few other birds dancing in the right side, though less obvious. You can also see that the light has cooled down a lot by this point, partly because it had clouded over a little, but also because the sun was now higher in the sky, and the mist had also died down considerably.

Dancing at Dawn

Dancing at Dawn

After grabbing lots of shots of the dancing frenzy, I switched to video and got thirty-seconds of footage of the entire group dancing, which is really quite special, so I’ll be inserting that into a slideshow or other video at some point.

For this final photo (below) from the bridge and for today, shot about 20 minutes later, just before we left, there was a small group of cranes that had warmed up enough to fly out, probably heading over to the crane center that we’d photographed them at for the last two days.

Cranes Take Flight at River

Cranes Take Flight at River

The cranes quickly climbed and flew over the trees to the right of the frame here, but I’m happy with this shot, where they are all still in a clear patch, making it easy to understand what we’re looking at. For this shot I zoomed in just a little to 490mm and shot this at f/14 for a 1/500 of a second at ISO 1600, which incidentally was the same for the previous image as well.

We’ll leave it there for this week, as we left the cranes for this tour, to move on and shoot the Whooper Swans, which we’ll pick up next week.

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tours 2019

Because our 2018 tours have now filled, we’ve now started to take bookings for 2019, so if you might be interested, please check the details and book at http://mbp.ac/ww2019. If you’d like to be added to the wait list for 2018, please drop us a line.

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tour 2019

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tour 2019

CP+ 2017 Canon Large Format Printer Booth

One other piece of housekeeping before we finish, I’m proud and thrilled to tell you that Canon will be using five of my images at their large format printer booth at the CP+ show in Yokohama Japan, from February 23 to 26, 2017. One of the image will be printed at B0 (zero) size, which is 40 x 56 inches, and the other four will be trimmed to approximately one meter wide and 2.5 meters high, to show the capabilities of both the 5Ds R camera and the new imagePROGRAF PRO line of printers.

If you will be visiting the show, please do stop by the Canon large format printer booth and take a look. If you get a chance to take a photo too, please do and send me a copy, because I can’t go myself. I’ll be on the second of these tours while the show is on.


Show Notes

Check out details of the 2019 tours here: http://mbp.ac/ww2019

Contact us to be added to the 2018 wait list: http://mbp.ac/contact

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunesSubscribe 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.


The post 2017 Japan Winter Wildlife Photography Tour 1 Travelogue #1 (Podcast 561) appeared first on Martin Bailey Photography.

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Martin Bailey https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com <![CDATA[Hokkaido Winter Landscape Tour 2017 Travelogue #4 Saroma (Podcast 560)]]> https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com/?p=33526 2017-02-15T05:42:57Z 2017-02-13T08:03:01Z In this concluding episode of a four part series covering my Hokkaido Winter Photography Adventure tour for 2017, we visit the Sawaki fishing port at...

The post Hokkaido Winter Landscape Tour 2017 Travelogue #4 Saroma (Podcast 560) appeared first on Martin Bailey Photography.

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In this concluding episode of a four part series covering my Hokkaido Winter Photography Adventure tour for 2017, we visit the Sawaki fishing port at Ohmu, go inland for some detail abstractions, and finish our tour with two days at Lake Saroma.

We pick up the trail at the start of day nine, when we returned to the Sawaki Fishing Port to photograph the rocky beach and tetrapods, that you can see in this first image for today (below). I really like the high vantage point, from the wall above the port, that we saw in the last image of episode 559, but with the sea calmer now, it was nice to be able to not only get down on the beach, but also lower my tripod for this low, more intimate perspective.

Rocky Beach and Tetrapods

Rocky Beach and Tetrapods

I don’t subscribe to the school of thought that says every image needs a good foreground. In fact, I’ve now seen way too many images that have a really uninteresting over-accentuated foreground, simply because people have had this drilled into them.

There are times however, when the foreground does have enough interest to warrant getting down low and showing the details, and I believe these wet black rocks fall into this category. I also like how the sun catches the wet rock more to the right side, and this gradually decreases over towards the left side of the frame.

The other so-called rule that I’m breaking with this image is that I put the horizon line almost along the center of the frame. This was of course done on purpose, as I like the balance afforded to the image by including almost as much sky as foreground, especially here because there is plenty of texture and detail in the sky. If the sky was just grey I would have pointed the camera down more.

Capture One Diffraction Correction

Another thing that I’d like to mention about this image is that I stopped down the aperture to f/16, which you’ll probably recall is a third of a stop smaller than my usual landscape aperture of f/14. I did this partly because I wanted a slower shutter speed, but also because I wanted good focus from the nearest foreground to the distant objects, but it does start to introduce just a slight amount of diffraction, which is what happens when light passes through a small hole, causing the image to become slightly softer, despite the deeper depth of field.

It’s not a huge issue at f/16, and I am usually more concerned about this at f/22 if I have to go there for some reason. One thing that I’d been looking forward to testing though, is the new Diffraction Correction feature in Capture One Pro version 10, that was released recently. I turned this on under the Lens Correction tool panel, and did notice that the foreground rocks became slightly sharper, so this seems to be working nicely. I’ll try again soon when I have to stop down further, but for now I’m happy that this new checkbox does something useful.

My other settings for this image were a focal length of 13mm with my 11-24mm f/4 lens, ISO 100 for a 0.6 second exposure.

Looking for Image Sets

After a morning photographing in the port, we went for lunch, then headed in-land, to see if we could find some nice landscapes. We did shoot some landscape work, with one image that I like with various patterns in the different types of trees, but from the same location I wanted to quickly share the next set of three images.

I first noticed this batch of twigs sticking out of the snow just off the road, and framed them up in a place that enabled me to surround the twigs with only snow, and nothing distracting sticking in or out of the side of the frame. If you click on the image to view it larger, you might be able to see the very fine tendrils on the ends of the twigs, which I thought made nice graphic elements for this abstraction.

Winter Twigs

Winter Twigs

Once I’d found the first image though, I decided to look for more, to see if I couldn’t create a mini set of images. A little further along the bank there was another group of twigs that I found somewhat pleasing, as we can see in this image (below). I actually prefer this to the first image, as there are less cut-off twigs, and more of those tendrils on most of these.

Cheerleader Twigs

Cheerleader Twigs

With two images in my set now though, I set out to find a third. Two is just a pair, but three is a set of images. Not finding anything initially, I crossed the road and started walking along, and as the patches of twigs started to run out, I found this last image to complete my set (below).

An Intimate Audience

An Intimate Audience

The major difference between this and the first two images is that there is no crossing of the twigs. None of them overlap. I feel as though this one is almost like a dancer on the right, with a small, very intimate audience, watching from the left.

I shot all three images at ISO 100 for 1/20 of a second at f/14. They were already almost black and white, but I did convert these images to black and white in Capture One Pro, and although you won’t really be able to see in the web version, the texture throughout the snow looks almost like that seen in textured fine art media, like Breathing Color’s Pura Bagasse Textured. Because of that, printing on a textured media would probably not work so well, but I’m looking forward to getting some time later in the year to print these out of a beautiful smooth matte paper.

After our in-land shoot, we started our drive south to Lake Saroma, where we’d spend the last two nights of the tour, in a beautiful hotel overlooking the frozen lake. Our first shoot the following morning was at the Toetoko Fishing Port. For my first shot from this location, I was photographing straight down between two lines of fishing boats (below).

Toetoko Fishing Boats with Footprints

Toetoko Fishing Boats with Footprints

There are line after line of fishing boats like this, but this is the only one that had relatively undisturbed snow between them, apart from the old footprints, which I feel actually add to this image, mostly because they are smoothed over a little. If these had been fresh prints it wouldn’t have worked. We had a great sky though, especially that small patch of detail at the vanishing point, so I was happy with how this turned out.

You will have already guessed that I shot this at f/14 with the ISO set to 100, and the shutter speed was 1/50 of a second. My focal length was 27mm with my new 24-105mm Mark II lens.

Video Coming Soon

As we started to photograph these boats, Rob Bampton, the incredibly talented videographer that I took along to cover this trip for us, flew his drone about a foot over our heads and straight down the middle of this line of boats. We laughed as the participant next to me felt the wind on her head as we got “buzzed”.

The footage that Rob captured here and throughout the trip is really quite amazing, and enables the viewer to really experience this tour first hand, so I can’t wait to share that with you, probably in March when I’ve completed all of my winter tours for this year.

Going wide for the previous shot enabled me to tell the bigger story of the multiple lines of boats, but I went a little narrower to 43mm for this image (below) so that I could show more of the details of these beautiful, rugged fishing boats, that have been brought up on land for the winter, to avoid them being crushed by the sea ice.

Toetoko Fishing Boat Sterns

Toetoko Fishing Boat Sterns

The sun was coming from camera right, so the texture is the snow is beautifully accentuated and the backs of the boats lit with a lovely soft, diffused light from the somewhat overcast sky. I have a tendency to try to include all of my subject, so I sometimes find it difficult to crop off the top of the rigging on these boats to the left of this image, but I’d have had to go much to wide to include that, and that would have taken away the detail that we have in this final image. Sometimes you just have to make a decision, and cut off certain features of your subject for the greater good. Again, I shot this at f/14, ISO 100, with a shutter speed of 1/60 of a second.

To my back as I shot the last few images, there was a line of larger boats, that we can see in this image (below). I was attracted to this line because of the way the snow has drifted forming ridges between the boats, but also because the larger boats gave us a better look at the screws and rudders, which I thought added something to this image over the previous ones.

Toetoko Fishing Boat Screws (Neutral)

Toetoko Fishing Boat Screws (Neutral)

Making Use of Color Channels

The bottom of each of these boats is actually a different color, with some being red, and some being blue. It can sometimes feel a little wasteful to throw out this color information, but I personally just much prefer to see these images in black and white.

This doesn’t mean that we simply ignore color in our black and white images though. In the above image, I left the color channels neutral, but in this next image, I reduced the red channel to -35 and increased the blue channel to +25, to give me this version of the same image (below).

Toetoko Fishing Boat Screws (Red Dark, Blue Bright)

Toetoko Fishing Boat Screws (Red Dark, Blue Bright)

Not only will you notice that the second boat from the right now looks a little lighter than the first and third boats from the right, you will also see that this new version now has much more contrast between the rightmost screw and its background, which was the red underside of the boat behind it. Part of my intension with this photo was to highlight the boat screws, so this interpretation enables me to do that much more effectively.

In the afternoon, we went in land to a location where there are some nice copses on hills, and first of all, I shot the next image (below) which I like for its simplicity. The trees are relatively sparse, and I like the fence that lines the top of the hill, then starts to work its way down the right edge in the heavy snow.

Copse and Fence

Copse and Fence

There was a slightly darker sky which I think works well here, and then a patch of snow in the foreground which is much steeper than the rest of the hill, giving the snow an area of slight variation too. This scene is quite a distance from the road on private land, so we can’t climb up to it, but with my 100-400mm Mark II lens I was able to get this framing that I’m happy with.

As we approached this location this year, I noticed an angle that I’d not seen before, so we went there after the previous shoot, and I created a number of new images, including this next panorama which is five 5Ds R images stitched together in Photoshop (below). I’ve made the web version of this image wider than usual, so open up your browser window nice and wide and click on the image to view it in more detail. Remember too that if you want to stop the images from automatically advancing, just place your mouse over the image.

Copses Near and Far

Copses Near and Far

I was attracted to the idea of two separate copses on nearby hills, and how the fences seem to punctuate the hillside, in some ways almost stitching them together. This series of images were shot at 255mm, f/14 at 1/20 of a second, with ISO 100.

The following morning we visited a tree that I have shot many times now. There was a little less snow than usual this year though, so the grasses around the tree weren’t as buried as they usually are. This added a little complexity to our compositional decisions, but I was happy with the few photos that I got. This one (below) appeals to me because I was able to get a little patch of clear snow in front of the grasses, but also place these two tall grasses along the left side of the frame.

Lake Saroma Tree with Grasses

Lake Saroma Tree with Grasses

The main thing that I try to do when composing an image like this, is to find a place where I can get as few objects leading to the edge of the frame as possible. There are a few grass stems going out of the frame in the middle band, but the foreground was quite clear here. Also, this angle enabled me to place the sun behind the tree, so the bright area of the sky around the sun became easier to manage, and it gave more pleasing shadows, as they seem to radiate out from the tree. This was an 11mm focal length at f/14, 1/125 of a second at ISO 100.

The previous day we’d visited the Toetoko Fishing Port in the morning, so on this day we went back in the afternoon for some slightly different light. I had a photo to share with you from that session, but I chose to include the second example of using the color channels earlier, so we’ll skip that one.

The following morning, we basically have a couple of hours to shoot as we head to the airport, so we visited Cape Notoro, and photographed the lighthouse there. It was a little disappointing aesthetically to see that they’ve now put solar panels on the roof of the lighthouse and built a steel fence around it, so my best angle was this image with the foreground grasses hiding most of that (below).

Notoro Light House

Notoro Light House

This was also the first day of the trip where we had mostly clear skies, which I’m not usually a fan of, but as we had to fly back to Tokyo in the afternoon, this was probably better than a snow storm, which could have resulted in a delay return, so all was good. I shot this at 35mm with an aperture of f/14 for 1/160 of a second at ISO 100.

Again, all of the images that we’ve looked at today were converted to black and white in Capture One Pro, my new raw processing and image management software of choice. If you’d like to try it, you can download a fully functional trial version and if you choose to buy it, use the code AMBP for a 10% discount.

Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure 2018

We’ll wrap it up there for this concluding episode in this four part travelogue. I hope you’ve enjoyed joining us vicariously as we circumnavigate the northern part of Hokkaido in this true winter wonderland minimalist tour and workshop. If you are perhaps interested in joining us on a future tour, please do take a look at the details on the tour page at http://mbp.ac/hlpa, and if you have any questions at all, please drop me a line via our contact page.

Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure 2018


Show Notes

See details of the tour and sign up for next year here: http://mbp.ac/hlpa

Download Capture One Pro here: http://mbp.ac/c1download

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunesSubscribe 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.


The post Hokkaido Winter Landscape Tour 2017 Travelogue #4 Saroma (Podcast 560) appeared first on Martin Bailey Photography.

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Martin Bailey https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com <![CDATA[Hokkaido Winter Landscape Tour 2017 Travelogue #3 Wakkanai (Podcast 559)]]> https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com/?p=33524 2017-02-06T08:18:32Z 2017-02-06T08:18:32Z My Hokkaido Winter Photography Adventure tour for 2017 was a huge success and incredibly productive. This is part three of a travelogue series...

The post Hokkaido Winter Landscape Tour 2017 Travelogue #3 Wakkanai (Podcast 559) appeared first on Martin Bailey Photography.

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My Hokkaido Winter Photography Adventure tour for 2017 was a huge success and incredibly productive. This is part three of a travelogue series to share with you the locations we visited including a selection of photographs to illustrate our progress.

At the start of day eight, we got up early and headed back to one of my favorite spots on this winter landscape tour, the boat graveyard. This is where nine boats have been abandoned on the ground beside a fishing port, and in the winter, the snow enshrouds them, forming what I consider to be one of the most beautiful subjects I’ve photographed.

I mentioned last week that we seemed to be constantly on the edge of a weather system that brought us sunshine one moment, then heavy snow the next, and this pretty much always presents us with awesome skies as backdrops for our photos, or in the case of this image, the sky can become a major part of the photograph (below).

Boat Graveyard with Big Sky

Boat Graveyard with Big Sky

As detailed and complicated as the sky can get here, I love the simplicity also provided by the fact that there is nothing behind the boats but a narrow strip of beach, and the sea. I shot this at 16mm with my 11-24mm f/4 lens, but if you go much wider that this, or go further along and turn your camera back to the right, you actually start to get the edge of the fishing port in the right side of the frame, and I generally like to avoid that.  My shutter speed for this image was 1/30 of a second, at f/14, ISO 100.

Not Seeing Issues with the 24-105mm Mark II

In addition to these wide shots, which I do enjoy shooting at this location, I also like to go long, as I did in this next image (below) which I shot with my new 24-105mm Mark II lens, at 93mm. A number of people have emailed me asking about the 24-105mm lens, as there have been some not-so-favorable reviews published. All I can say is that I am not seeing any of the issues described in these reviews with my copy of this lens. It’s as sharp as it was in my initial tests at all focal lengths and in all shooting conditions, and I’m still very happy with it.

Most of all, I am really enjoying photographing without a gap in my focal lengths. For a tour like this, and even now for most international tours when I don’t want to take my 200-400mm lens along, I’m shooting with the 11-24mm, the 24-105mm, and my 100-400mm lenses. This along with two Canon EOS 5Ds R bodies is like the holy grail of camera gear for me, and I’ve never been happier with my kit.

Seen Better Days

Seen Better Days

Anyway, back to this photograph, as you can see, the 93mm focal length from a bit of a distance enables me to zoom in on a smaller portion of the boats, also making the waves in the distance a little larger, adding to the story of the harsh conditions in which these subjects sit. This focal length also enables us to enjoy more subtle details, like the texture of the snow and the fishing net draped over the bow of the boat. I shot this at 1/20 of a second, at f/14, with ISO 100.

Just ten minutes after the previous image, the snow was back with a vengeance and I made this photograph (below). You can see that I was still at pretty much the same angle as the previous image, but I pulled back to 32mm so that I could capture the snow driving through the air. The snow cloud had made the sky very dark, although I have enhanced the sky in these images with my black and white conversion in Capture One Pro. I’ve also added an Adjustment layer over the sky to make it darker still and bring out the detail in the snow.

Boat Graveyard in Driving Snow

Boat Graveyard in Driving Snow

There is more to the port at this location, but I rarely shoot it, because every time I start to walk away, the weather changes, presenting yet another opportunity, so I just keep going back and shooting some more. On this occasion, I did go through to the port and shoot a few images, but my boat graveyard remains a firm favorite, so we’ll skip those photos and move on to the later shoot.

Before going to lunch, we visited the fish drying frames in Wakkanai, and with permission of the owners, had a good walk around them and made photographs like this (below). I used a ten stop neutral density filter to give me a 40 second exposure here, which makes the sea in the distance smooth over, and the clouds which were moving from right to left also smoothed over.

Fish Drying Frames

Fish Drying Frames

I was actually happy that the nettings used to keep the birds off the fish that’s drying in the frames has also blurred on the top, making it less obvious. The netting on the sides is still visible, but the top has smoothed over considerably as it was catching the wind and moving more. The wind was a challenge with the long exposure, but I found that if I placed myself between the wind and the camera, and pushed down on the top of the tripod legs, I was able to get a nice sharp image. I’m sure by now you can guess my other settings, but for good measure, this was shot at f/14, ISO 100.

After lunch, we spent the rest of the afternoon in one of the fishing ports in Wakkanai. This is a nice spot, with lots of boats in various locations and formations. The boats are brought up on land like this over the winter to stop them getting crushed, as the sea ice works its way down from Siberia and often fills these fishing ports. In this shot (below) I was attracted by the foreground boat on the ground, but with five bigger boats lined up behind it, almost like a kid playing on the ground with his big brothers looking over him.

Noshappu Fishing Boats

Noshappu Fishing Boats

As you can see the sky was a very uniform gray, and therefore in some respects not as interesting as I’d have liked, but in black and white I like how this makes both the boats and the sky look almost the same tone, and this also in my mind helps us to concentrate more on the form of the boats and the Japanese writing on them. As there wasn’t much to smooth over, I shot this without a neutral density filter for 1/6 of a second exposure at f/14, ISO 100.

Noshappu Fishing Boat

Noshappu Fishing Boat

Running with the gray sky, I found this boat without any distracting elements in the background, and photographed it in portrait orientation (right).

The almost milky feel of the bow of the boat with that uniform gray sky for some reason really appeals to me, and this has turned out to be one of my favorite images from the trip.

I was initially a little distracted by that large chunk of wood dangling from the boat on the left side of the photograph, but for some reason, even that now appeals to me.

Maybe it’s because it makes the image just a little asymmetrical, despite my tendency to line up a shot like this so that the center of the boat runs perfectly down the middle of the frame.

I shot this also at f/14 for a 1/6 of a second at ISO 100.

As the day drew to an end, with the heavy overcast sky blocking out most of the light from the sun, I found myself with a small problem to overcome as I shot the next photograph (below).

Because there were a lot of grasses that had not been buried by the snow, I decided to pull back a little for this next image and include them, but the wind was blowing them around quite a lot, and I was down to more than a second exposure at ISO 100, so I decided to increase the ISO to 400, for a shutter speed of 0.3 seconds. I then used my cable release so that I could start my exposure when I saw the wind die down, so that it wouldn’t blow the grasses around too much.

Noshappu Fishing Boats

Noshappu Fishing Boats

There is still a little bit of movement in some of the heads of the grass, but that amount I’m happy to leave in, as it shows the dynamic nature of the foreground, but much more than this, and I feel it can come across more as a distraction. I actually went on to shoot some more images at ISO 800 and 1600 to get the grass perfectly still, but I preferred this version with that touch of movement.

The following morning, we left Wakkanai, and started our drive to Soya, the northern-most tip of Japan, where we’d stop at a couple more fishing ports before heading down the coast to our new home for the next two nights. We stopped first at a smaller port with a single line of boats, and I made this photograph (below).

Fishing Boats in Snow

Fishing Boats in Snow

Here I was working mostly with the snow drift and texture in the snow. I also used a ten stop neutral density filter for a 25 second exposure, this time at f/16. I probably should have gone back to my favorite f/14 for a 30 second exposure, but I honestly can’t remember why I didn’t do that. At this point I’d managed to catch a cold that was going around the group, and was running on auto-pilot for most of the day. I was actually relieved that it was a drive day, so that I could get a bit of a rest of the bus. I think the group generally enjoys the drive days too, as we are full on for the rest of the time, when we don’t have to drive far to our locations.

A little further along the road, we stopped again at Soya Fishing Port, and I was a little disappointed to see that there wasn’t good snow cover in front of my favorite line of boats, that I usually shoot there, and there was something piled up near the end of the line too, so that shot wasn’t to be this year. I do quite like this photo though, from the other end of the port, with a line of smaller boats that were up on the land, and I included just the back of a larger fishing boat to add scale (below).

Soya Port Fishing Boats and Ship

Soya Port Fishing Boats and Ship

I also did a few long exposures of this scene, but I ended up preferring this image at 1/40 of a second instead. I just like the detail in the clouds for this one, so my long exposures didn’t make the cut. Another element that I like, but you probably won’t be able to really see in the web version, is some fox footprints that run up the snow a little way in from the right side of the photo. I was back to f/14 for this image, at ISO 100.

We took our group photo after this, at the monument marking the actual northern-most tip of Japan, and beneath the clouds we could actually see the Russian island of Sakhalin in the distance, which was a nice bonus for the group. We continued on for an hour before lunch, then had another couple of hours drive down towards Monbetsu where we’d spend the next two nights.

We did have just 20 minutes of light left though, as we passed the port at Sawaki, so we finished the day with a short but very exciting shoot of the waves at high tide that were washing right the way up to the harbor wall next to the road, as you can see in this image (below).

Sawaki Fishing Port at High Tide

Sawaki Fishing Port at High Tide

Even as we started shooting the light was so low that without neutral density filters we were getting shutter speeds of more than a second at f/14. My favorite photo from this session was a two-second exposure at ISO 200. You actually get a different effect in the waves depending on wether the waves are rolling in or drawing out. Most of the time for this look, I prefer to capture the waves when they are drawing out, leaving these beautiful streaks around the rocks and tetrapods in the sea.

Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure 2018

We’ll wrap it up there for this third travelogue, and conclude this series next week, picking up the trail at the start of day nine. I have now updated the tour page and started taking bookings for the 2018 Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure tour and workshop, so if you think you might be interested, please do take a look. You can find the page at http://mbp.ac/hlpa, and if you have any questions at all, please drop me a line via our contact page.

Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure 2018


Show Notes

See details of the tour and sign up for next year here: http://mbp.ac/hlpa

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunesSubscribe 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.


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Martin Bailey https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com <![CDATA[Hokkaido Winter Landscape Tour 2017 Travelogue #2 Haboro (Podcast 558)]]> https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com/?p=33520 2017-01-29T09:10:57Z 2017-01-29T09:10:57Z Today we continue with part two of my travelogue series on my recent Hokkaido Winter Photography Adventure tour for 2017. This was an...

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Today we continue with part two of my travelogue series on my recent Hokkaido Winter Photography Adventure tour for 2017. This was an amazing trip with a group of very talented and enthusiastic photographers, and probably the most productive of my Hokkaido Landscape tours so far, thanks to the incredible weather conditions we were presented with.

When I talk about good weather conditions though, you might think I’m talking about beautiful blue skies, but that is totally the other end of the scale. For this tour we need gray skies and lots of snow. Day four of this tour was perhaps a little too extreme though, even for my liking. As we made our way from Biei over to the West coast, a cold weather front that was slamming down on Hokkaido had blocked roads going south, but luckily we were heading north, and our excellent driver was able to battle through to Haboro where we’d spend the next two nights.

We had to abandon a couple of locations that I was hoping to shoot, for today at least, as high winds and spray from the sea would have made them pointless, but before we went to the hotel, we did get to spend a good chunk of time at the Konpira Shrine Torii, which is a Shinto Gate in the sea, that you can see in this photograph (below).

Konpira Shrine Torii in Storm

Konpira Shrine Torii in Storm

This was a real battle with the elements, as the wind was so strong, even my sturdy Really Right Stuff tripod was shuddering during these 1/15 of a second exposures. I wanted to do a little longer to capture more wave movement, but they just weren’t working even with my pushing down hard on the tripod to keep it from moving, but this shutter speed just about worked.

I’m happy with the position of these waves, and think this photo at least partially conveys how harsh the weather was. I was shooting at f/11 and an ISO of 400 to maintain that 1/15 of a second shutter speed, and was happy to have come away with at least a few shots that were actually sharp in these conditions.

The following morning, we drove back down the coast to the first location that we’d abandoned the previous day, and when we arrived, there was a patch of heavy snow, so we went with our driver to turn the bus around, and as we got back, we actually had a pleasant clear patch that lasted the time we were there, but still gave us some beautiful dark skies while highlighting the texture in the snow quite beautifully, as you can see in this photo (below).

Tetrapods Near and Far

Tetrapods Near and Far

The sun was also catching the distant set of tetrapods in the sea, giving a nice highlight on them too, which I thought was nice. The rough sea was still causing a lot of white water though, and this time I chose to smooth that over to a degree with a two minute shutter speed. I used a 10 stop and a 3 stop neutral density filter nested, for 13 stops of additional darkness, which was perfect for these lighting conditions. I was back to my old faithful aperture of f/14 and my ISO was set to 100.

I was continuing to use my new Mark II 24-105mm lens for much of my work, as it’s wonderfully sharp and very versatile with that wide zoom range, but it wasn’t quite wide enough for the next photo (below) which I shot at 14mm with my 11-24mm f/4 lens.

Driftwood Under Snow

Driftwood Under Snow

For this photo I wanted to include the full arch of driftwood under the snow on the beach, but also include that expanse of sky with the stratocumulus clouds just above the horizon, but also that wispy bank of snow cloud that might be classed as cirrus clouds in the foreground. I love it when various weather conditions are this close together, because the sky changes so quickly and gives us lots of various opportunities. I was also here still playing with that beautiful texture in the snow. I shot this at 1/80 of a second at f/14, ISO 100.

As we drove back up the coast to the second location that we’d skipped the previous day, the snow set in again for a while, and I couldn’t help thinking once again that we were getting the exact types of weather for each scene that we shot as and when we needed it. It really was uncanny.

As we walked down to the beach where I wanted to photograph the tetrapods, we were presented with this scene, that once again plays not only on the snow texture, but the bright sun also caused this wonderful shadow which is obviously a major part of this image (below).

Snow Beach Fence

Snow Beach Fence

Once again, it was also great that we had a nice dramatic sky in the background, rather than clear blue, that you might expect to see with the foreground being so bright. For this I also used a total of thirteen stops of neutral density for a one minute thirty-second exposure at f/14, with ISO 100.

As I’ve mentioned before, all of these images were converted to black and white in Capture One Pro, and because the new Mark II 24-105mm f/4 lens is still not supported for Lens Correction, I am still manually selecting the old 24-105mm to fix the slight bowing that is easy to see on the horizon on a photograph like this. My 11-24mm lens is now supported, which is great, although it actually has much less distortion than the 24-105mm Mark II anyway, so I’m hoping that Phase One get to this soon.

Once we had all photographed this scene in our various ways, all different and all unique, we trampled through this pristine snow down to the beach, and went over to a group of tetrapods that I know of that are half buried in the sand. We found that there was a rope and a lot of old fishing net tangled around a tree trunk that was washed up on the tetrapods, so I got a large knife from our bus, and cut most of that away, and proceeded to shoot this photograph (below).

Obira Tetrapods with Tree Trunk

Obira Tetrapods with Tree Trunk

When photographing the sea, especially when there are some good waves, I sometimes like to use a shutter speed of 1 second, which enables me to capture a good amount of movement in the sea without smoothing it completely over. I also often use a two-second timer when shooting landscapes, so that I can take my hand away from the camera before the exposure, which reduces the risk of me introducing vibration through my hands.

In cases like this though, when I want more control over the actual moment at which the exposure starts, I do still use a cable release, and turn off the two-second timer. This enabled me to perfectly time this image as a large wave washed up well past the tetrapods and tree trunk, and merge with a stream of water that was running down to the sea from the right to the left of this frame. This caused some beautiful swirls in the water, and I think my one-second shutter speed captured this perfectly on this occasion.

I also dropped on my large ND filters again, for another shot of the same scene, but for a three minute exposure this time. I like both photographs, but you can see that they are although obviously the same subject, the scene is depicted very differently by increasing the shutter speed from one to 180 seconds, allowing the sea, which was still quite rough, to smooth over to create this much more silky and surreal look (below).

Tetrapods and Driftwood

Tetrapods and Driftwood

We can still see a trace of how the sea water washes up past the tetrapods, and merges with the stream flowing from right to left, and causing the trail of the water to flow around the tetrapods and back to the sea. Both of these images were shot at f/14 with ISO 100, and a focal length of 43mm, although I did compose them slightly differently.

We went for lunch after this session, and then went back to the Konpira Shrine with the Torii gate in the sea that we visited at the end of the previous day. With the storm now gone, we didn’t have to battle with the wind, but the sea often takes an extra day or so to calm down, so we still had some great waves that we could now photograph with much slower shutter speeds, such as the 50 seconds that I used for this photograph (below).

Konpira Shrine Torii and Icy Beach

Konpira Shrine Torii and Icy Beach

Again, I was using my cable release, and timing my shots so that they started when higher than usual waves washed the foreground, but then at 50 seconds, the sea continued to wash up high and smooth over the gaps between the rocks. I like this shot mostly because there is a patch of highly textured foreground in the bottom right corner that is covered in snow and partly frozen, which I think adds a nice additional element of interest. I also like how the rough sea makes the line of tetrapods to the right slightly less defined than the Torii gate and the foreground. This gives a sense of depth to the image.

The following day, we were to drive a few hours further North to Wakkanai, where we’d spend another two nights. On the way, there’s a spot that I’ve found where there are a number of different types of tetrapods. Technically, only a certain type of wave breakers with four legs, are called Tetrapods. Using the word tetrapod to simply mean a wave breaker, this spot offers nice varied layers of them, which I love photographing when they are covered in snow, as we see in this photograph (below).

Practice Golfballs and Ice Monsters

Practice Golfballs and Ice Monsters

What attracts me to this particular image is that I was able to place these large balls that look like those plastic practice golf balls, completely covered by snow, all along the foreground. On this trip, I’d invited a talented videographer named Rob Bampton to video this tour, and I will be sharing the results of that probably in March, when we’ve had a chance to edit the video.

Rob asked me at this location though, why I hadn’t included the horizon in my composition. I actually had been shooting both, and will share another in a moment. My reason for not including the horizon in some of these images though, is because it enables me to simplify the shot a little more. Here I think just having the three distinct layers works well, and enables us to view each layer and appreciate the entire composition for its simplicity and minimalism.

In this next shot (below) I’d taken a few steps forward, to reveal an extra layer of golf-ball tetrapods down in the water, and an extra layer of tetrapods in the sea to the right. Here I feel that the additional layers make the shot intrinsically more complicated, and the wider focal length and more acute angle also makes the horizon closer to the top right corner of the tetrapods, so I think including the distant horizon works better for this composition.

Tetrapod Layers

Tetrapod Layers

I guess the point I want to make here though, is that I don’t think we necessarily need to include a horizon, just because it’s there, just out of frame. I think we should include or exclude any element only when it adds to the composition, as I feel it does in this second image from this location. Another reason I think it works in this second image, is because of the acute angle, the horizon helps to cap off and rebalance the image.

In the previous image, the top layer of tetrapods is already almost straight, and doesn’t necessarily need to be rebalanced. Both images were physically perfectly level by the way. I always use the digital level in my camera, and unless I have a creative reason to photograph a screen skewed, I generally have it straight.

A little further on our journey, we stopped for a toilet break at a place in the middle of nowhere, were there is a huge line of wind turbines, harvesting the wind to create electricity. The line of turbines that you see in this image is actually only about half of them. There is a similar number to my back as I shot this photograph (below).

Wind Farm

Wind Farm

We were in a bit of a snow storm again, with high winds and snow blowing across the scene, so we just grabbed some shots from a snow bank before moving on, but I like this shot enough to share it with you. This is also coming back somewhat to something that I mentioned in my 2016 top ten images podcast a few weeks ago, which is that I am tending more and more to add a human element to many of my photographs.

Thinking about it, that may well be a tendency I’m developing more through running this tour, as much of what we do after the first three days is about man made objects in the landscape, such as the tetrapods, the Shinto Torii gate, this wind farm, or the boat graveyard that we visited after this. Because we were shooting hand-held, I increased my ISO to 200, to give me a 1/100 of a second exposure at f/14, my go-to aperture for landscape work.

After our rest-room break, we forged along the coast, to one of my favorite spots on this tour, the boat graveyard. We would come back to this location the following day, but this is my favorite shot from the end of day six (below). Once again we found ourselves on the edge of a weather front, with flurries of snow, sometimes quite heavy, giving way to breaks in the clouds that made for some quite dramatic skies.

Breaking Snow Storm

Breaking Snow Storm

I shot this at f/14 with a 1/8 of a second shutter speed, at ISO 100, so you can probably appreciate once again that the available light levels were quite low for a daytime photograph. This is partly what makes these locations so special though. We have some crazy skies in the next few images that I’ll share from this location in next week’s episode, so I hope you’ll stay tuned for that.

Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure 2018

We’ll wrap it up there for this second travelogue, and pick up the trail again next week at the start of day seven. I have now updated the tour page and started taking bookings for the 2018 Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure tour and workshop, so if you think you might be interested, please do take a look. You can find the page at http://mbp.ac/hlpa, and if you have any questions at all, please drop me a line via our contact page.

Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure 2018


Show Notes

See details of the tour and sign up for next year here: http://mbp.ac/hlpa

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunesSubscribe 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.


The post Hokkaido Winter Landscape Tour 2017 Travelogue #2 Haboro (Podcast 558) appeared first on Martin Bailey Photography.

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Martin Bailey https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com <![CDATA[Hokkaido Winter Landscape Tour 2017 Travelogue #1 Biei (Podcast 557)]]> https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com/?p=33374 2017-01-25T01:28:27Z 2017-01-23T09:39:14Z Having just completed my Hokkaido Winter Photography Adventure tour for 2017, and having whittled down my final selection of images, today we...

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Having just completed my Hokkaido Winter Photography Adventure tour for 2017, and having whittled down my final selection of images, today we start a four part travelogue series to walk you through the locations we visited, illustrated with twelve photographs.

Having met and had dinner with the group on the Sunday night, we got up bright and early on the first Monday morning to fly from Tokyo to Hokkaido. We spend the first three days of this tour in Biei, a beautiful inland area of Hokkaido, that I’ve been visiting for more than ten years now.

All About the Weather

This tour is all about minimalist winter landscapes, and therefore depends on not only a good covering of snow, but often falling snow to complete the scenes for us. There has been no shortage of snow in Hokkaido this year, although high winds have caused it to blow off the hills making the vegetation show through in some areas. The hills in Biei were mostly covered with snow though, which is a great start.

To kick off the tour we initially headed over to a tree that officially has no name, unlike many of trees in Biei, but I affectionately and selfishly call this Martin’s Tree (below). The small bushes and vegetation around my tree are getting a little tall, and don’t make for as beautiful a photo as it has in the past, but I still love to visit this tree first, almost like paying respect at the start of our tour each year.

Biei Tree 2017

Biei Tree 2017

The snow wasn’t falling as we photographed this tree on the first visit, but the following day, when we returned, the snow fell quite heavily for a few spells, as we’ll see, but to keep the number of images that we look at down, I’ll only share this one of my tree. I shot this at f/14 for a 1/60 of a second, ISO 100. Just in case you didn’t know, you can click on the images to view them larger, and if you want to stop them from auto-progressing, just place your mouse over the image.

After lunch, we drove over to Hanazono where I’d hope we could photograph the lone tree on the hill with a fence that I used in as the main marketing image for this year’s tour, but unfortunately it wasn’t there. There was a very strong typhoon in Hokkaido last year, and we saw a number of trees that had been blown down, so I imagine that was the fate of the Hanazono tree as well.

As we drove down the hill to that tree though, we saw the tree in the next photograph through an opening, so we drove back to this. It’s sad that the original tree is no more, but nice to have found another tree close by. As you can see in this photo (below) the snow was being whipped up a little, forming a small snow devil to the right of the tree, and I feel that adds to the sense of harshness while maintaining the minimalist appeal of this image, for me at least.

Tree with Little Snow Devil

Tree with Little Snow Devil

I’m really attracted to this kind of scene, with the highly graphic elements of the tree with just its white hill of snow and a simple gray sky. I have converted this to black and white in Capture One Pro, but the scene without this is already close to a black and white. I shot this at f/14, with a shutter speed of 1/20 of a second at ISO 100, so you can tell that there wasn’t really a lot of available light for a shot in the middle of the afternoon.

Hoping for some snow fall, we headed over to Takushinkan, the gallery and museum of Shinzo Maeda, the gentleman that put Biei on the map photographically, and as with last year, we had our bus driver drop us off a few kilometers away and walked back photographing the beautiful hills and trees. Towards the end of the walk there are a few copses on the slopes that I also love to shoot.

Although it wasn’t snowing, it was totally cloudy and gray, which is necessary to block the view of the distant mountains behind this copse (below). I know this might sound strange, but if you share my appreciation for minimalist work, you’ll hopefully understand that when you can see all the scenery behind this copse, there simply isn’t a photo here.

Copse on Hill

Copse on Hill

In this form, we are able to appreciate the line of trees, dissected by the foreground hill close to their base. The slightly darker gray sky makes a beautiful background in my opinion. I shot this at f/14 with a 0.2 second exposure, at ISO 100, so again, you can appreciate how little light there was under that heavy sky. It must have been full of snow, just waiting to fall, but it was also at this point close to sundown, so shortly after this we made our way back to the hotel for our first night in Hokkaido.

Making the Most of Weather Opportunities

The following morning, still hoping for some heavy snow, we headed back to the road that we’d walked down the previous afternoon, and had our driver drop us by the huts and tree that you can see in this next image (below) because the sky had opened up just enough to form these beautiful crepuscular rays or god rays, as they are sometimes called.

Huts and Tree in Crepuscular Rays

Huts and Tree in Crepuscular Rays

Unlike the first two images, this is quite heavily processed in Capture One, making the sky much darker to accentuate the sunbeams, and because I was exposing quite dark to stop the highlights in the clouds from blowing out, I also brightened up the foreground snow quite a lot.

We rushed to set up, as these conditions rarely last long, but on this occasion it actually seemed to last a very long time, so we continued to shoot to bag lots of options for our processing and final selection. I have a number of images of these scene left in my final selection. This was shot at f/14, my go-to landscape aperture, and a shutter speed of 1/125 of a second at ISO 100.

Compositional Restrictions

As we continued down the hill, there is a lone tree just above the copse that we looked at a few moments ago, which I usually shoot from a different angle, but this year there was a beautiful pattern caused by the drifting snow a little bit further up the hill, as we see in this photo (below).

Tree with Snow Drift

Tree with Snow Drift

Although I am happy with this composition, I kind of had my hands tied by another tree and some scrappy vegetation just to the left of this scene. Ideally I’d have liked more compositional freedom, but it doesn’t always work that way in nature. When we are presented with something like this snow drift though, it’s nice to have something like the tree in the shot to give us something to work with. I shot this at f/14, for a 1/40 of a second, at ISO 100.

As I photographed the tree and snow drift, it started to snow a little, so I moved around to get a few shots of the same tree from a different angle, and then moved on to the copse in the photo I shared earlier from the previous day. Then, just across the road from that was another copse that I absolutely love to shoot in heavy snow, as we see in this photo (below).

Trees Pencil Sketch

Trees Pencil Sketch

This is pretty much a repeat of a photo I made in 2015, but I couldn’t resist this. It feels just like a pencil sketch with the horizontal lines of the snow brushing across the front of the trees, and I adore that beautiful faint line made by the hill and shadows of the trees against the very slightly brighter sky. Shot at f/14, the shutter speed here was 1/25 of a second at ISO 100. To leave the streaks of snow like this I generally shoot between 1/15 and a 1/40 of a second.

The other subject that really relies on falling snow is the line of trees behind the Takushinkan gallery that I mentioned earlier, so we rushed back there, but in the three minutes it takes to walk down the street, as heavy at it had been, the snow stopped. Partly because it’s not a bad photo, but mainly to show you the difference, here is a photo of the trees with the big sky as the snow eased (below).

Takushinkan Trees with Big Sky

Takushinkan Trees with Big Sky

When it’s clear, with a mainly blue sky, I don’t even shoot this scene, mostly because it’s boring, but also because you can see distant trees and mountains behind the right-most trees, and I don’t like that. Here the sky had a bit of interest and was still blocking out the distant mountains.

Snow on Demand

Pretty sure that the snow wasn’t far away, we took this opportunity to go inside the gallery and admire the work of it’s founder, the late Shinzo Maeda. The group was very excited to see Biei in other seasons, and just enjoyed looking at the beautiful work. As I’d hoped though, as we drew to a natural end of our viewing session, the snow started to fall again.

We went back to the bus, grabbed our camera and tripods, and went back to the line of trees to make this photo (below). Less than an hour after the previous image, I think this will help you to appreciate just how important the falling snow is to our images here in Biei. You can see that the snow has not only completely whited out the sky, but there is now no sign of the top of hill that runs directly behind the trees.

Takushinkan Trees in Snow

Takushinkan Trees in Snow

I also simply love it when you can view the image large and see countless snowflakes in the image. I’ve just started using BenQ’s new 32 inch 4K display and viewing all of the detail in these images full screen is an incredible experience, almost like being there again, but without needing to wrap up warm. This was a 1/50 of a second exposure at f/14, ISO 100.

I was using my Canon 11-24mm f/4 lens for this shot, as my 24-105mm isn’t quite wide enough, and this means that I had that big bulbous front element of the 11-24mm pointing directly into the snow for this shot. In relatively light snow, I generally just use my rocket blower to keep the front element clean while shooting, but when the snow gets this heavy, I use a lens cloth to wipe it off between shots, but then I keep the cloth over the front of the lens as I move around to the back of the camera, and then only take it away as my two second timer ends and the exposure is made.

Man Made Patterns in Nature

After this we headed for lunch, and passed a spot with another tree on a hill with a nice line of vegetation to its right. I have some shots of that which I like, but to the right of the tree, a spell of sunlight caught the ridges in the snow caused by the plough lines on the hill, as you can see in this photo (below).

Plough Lines Under Snow

Plough Lines Under Snow

Just a day and a half into this year’s tour, I was starting to feel as though we were in control of the weather. It was almost snowing on demand, but when the sun would help us to define patterns like this, or simply provide more texture in the fallen snow, it would pop out for us from behind the clouds. As the tour progressed this continued to an almost uncanny degree.

Mount Asahi

On the morning of day three, we drove around to Mount Asahi, and walked up the ski slopes there a little way, to photograph the beautiful mix of evergreen and deciduous trees in their winter coats. One of my favorite images from 2016 was shot here, but I found that a crucial foreground tree had been removed, so last year’s image of that particular scene remains my favorite.

There was some beautiful snow to the left of the trees in that earlier shot, but without a discernible main subject when zooming in close to the scene, I decided to go a little wider, and include the cable car, the cables of which I had painstakingly removed from my shot from last year. As you can see in this photo (below) I had also hidden the tower to the right, behind the right of the two foreground trees in last year’s image.

Mount Asahi Cable Car

Mount Asahi Cable Car

I kind of like this shot still. It helped me to show the patterns in the snow to the left, and I think the cable car gives us a little bit of perspective, after all, this is a ski ground. I didn’t increase my shutter speed, because the cable car itself doesn’t move fast, so I shot this again at f/14, for a 1/40 of a second at ISO 100.

Winter Wonderland

Back down the hill, near the end of the ski slopes, a stream cuts it’s way through the snow, making some beautiful leading lines. The stream itself is actually quite ugly, so I didn’t want to include it, but as I looked at the scene, it was the trough in the snow that appealed to me, not the stream, so I searched for a composition that would work, and this is what I came up with (below).

Magical Woods

Magical Woods

If i recall there was a tree in the foreground just to the right of this scene that I was trying to keep out too, and this feels perhaps a little cramped without a little more space below those two branches sticking out of the snow in the foreground, but I’m still pretty happy with the results. I shot this at f/14 for 1/50 of a second at ISO 100.

Shirahige Falls

On the morning of day four, we would leave Biei, and drive most of the morning over to the west coast of Hokkaido from where we’d start to circumnavigate the northern tip of the island. Because we’d be on the bus all morning, before breakfast on this last day we go for one last Biei shoot behind the hotel, where the beautiful Shirahige Falls flows in her beautiful blue tones (below).

Shirahige Falls 2017

Shirahige Falls 2017

This and one other shot of these falls would end up being the only two images from the 120 final selects from this trip that I would leave in color. I actually have a third black and white image from the falls, but I wanted to share this color version today. We visit before the sun comes up, because the light is naturally bluer at this time, but there is a lot of blue already in the water, from the mineral content, and I only increased the saturation a little to bring it out a little bit more for this image. This was shot at ISO 400 for a 3.2 second exposure at f/14. I didn’t need to use a neutral density filter, as it was still a while before sunrise so the light was naturally low.

Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure 2018

We’ll wrap it up there for this first travelogue, and pick up the trail again next week. I have just updated the tour page to start taking bookings for the 2018 Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure tour and workshop, so if you think you might be interested, please do take a look. You can find the page at http://mbp.ac/hlpa, and if you have any questions at all, please drop me a line via our contact page.

Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure 2018


Show Notes

See details of the tour and sign up for next year here: http://mbp.ac/hlpa

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunesSubscribe 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.


The post Hokkaido Winter Landscape Tour 2017 Travelogue #1 Biei (Podcast 557) appeared first on Martin Bailey Photography.

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Martin Bailey https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com <![CDATA[Martin’s 2016 Personal Top Ten Photographs (Podcast 556)]]> https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com/?p=33267 2017-01-08T03:30:21Z 2017-01-08T03:30:21Z Having shared my thought process and selection workflow last week, today I share my personal top ten photographs from 2016. Since I started...

The post Martin’s 2016 Personal Top Ten Photographs (Podcast 556) appeared first on Martin Bailey Photography.

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Having shared my thought process and selection workflow last week, today I share my personal top ten photographs from 2016. Since I started doing this in 2007 it has become a yearly tradition and although it’s an invaluable learning experience in itself, over the years it becomes a wonderful record of our progress as photographers.

If you are interested in the process of selection including workflow tips for Capture One Pro, please do also check out last week’s episode. For now though, let’s jump in and take a look at my top ten from 2016. Do keep in mind that this isn’t so much about my images, as the thought process behind the making and processing, in the hope that it helps you with your own photography. Note too that I’m going to work through these images in chronological order, so this isn’t a top ten countdown as such.

I started the year with a visit to Hokkaido with my landscape photography tour group. Being the northern-most island of Japan, Hokkaido gets huge amounts of snow from Siberia each winter, making for some beautiful winter scenes. When weather permits, I like to take the group up the mountain roads to Mount Asahi, and we simply have a walk up the ski slopes there, being careful not get in the way of the skiers, and make photographs like this one (below).

Mount Asahi Trees

Mount Asahi Trees

The nice thing about this location is that there is a mixture of evergreen and deciduous trees which hold the snow in different ways, making for a varied and what I consider to be a quite beautiful scene. If you followed my transition to Capture One Pro from Lightroom, you might remember that this was one of the first images that I tested to see if I could create black and white images that I am happy with. I never really did black and white in Lightroom, rather I was using Silver Efex Pro, but I have not had to use Silver Efex once since switching, and I’ve continued to do a lot of black and white. This image was shot at f/14 with a 1/125 second shutter speed, ISO 100 at 30mm

As I’m now using a 1.92TB SSD to store my Final selects and current years original raw files, I’m also hoping that not having to save lots of TIFF files from Silver Efex is going to help me to keep my entire year of raw files plus my Finals folders in this single drive. For 2016, with lots of TIFF from the first half of the year, I would have been a few hundred gigabytes over.

If I do ended up filling this 1.92TB, hopefully by the time I need to add a second the price will have dropped, but I would still prefer to keep all of this on one drive for traveling. I’ll be talking more about this drive and how much I love it in an update of my traveling photographers digital workflow post, that I have already started to plan.

The next image (below) is also from my Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure tour, from a small harbor on the West coast of the northern tip of Hokkaido. I actually had a shot from this spot in last year’s top ten too, so it obviously holds a special place in my heart.

Boat Graveyard in Heavy Snow

Boat Graveyard in Heavy Snow

I remember rushing back to this location as the snow was falling, because I think when you can capture something that makes the air more visible it adds atmosphere to an image. This also reminds me much more of the actual feeling of being out in the elements, with the snow crunching under my feet and the brisk air, and often having to blow snow off the front of my lens between shots.

Again I converted this to black and white in Capture One Pro, but I did that just this week, as I prepared for this episode, because I really wanted to complete as much of my 2016 work in Capture One as possible. I was still referencing my old Silver Efex TIFF during the selection process. This version is slightly different, not quite as punchy, but a little more subtle. This image was shot at f/14 with a 1/125 second shutter speed, ISO 100 at 24mm.

My third pick (below) is from a location that I’ve now seen much more on western TV programs. It’s shot from a bridge built specifically for photographers over the river at a town called Tsurui in Hokkaido. The town’s name Tsurui literally means “cranes are here” and the name of the bridge “Otowabashi” means “the sound of wings”. When I think of things like this it makes me feel so happy and fortunate to have been able to adopt Japan and my home.

Distant Dance 2016

Distant Dance 2016

I called this image Distant Dance 2016, because of course, of the two cranes dancing in the distance, but I added the 2016 to differentiate this from my original Distant Dance shot from this location in 2008. The hoar frost that makes this scene so beautiful doesn’t perform like this every time we go, and some years we aren’t lucky any of the days we visit, so it literally took me eight years before I got something at this spot that I was happy to name the same as my old favorite image from this location.

This was shot at f/11 with a 1/500 second shutter speed, ISO 640 at 420mm. There isn’t really any special processing on this, except a little bit of lightening on the bottom left corner to balance the toning of that foreground bank of snow and take its edge off a little.

The Steller’s Sea Eagle (below) is one of the world’s largest eagles, with a wing span of up to 2.5 meters, so again, I always feel so fortunate to be able to visit and photograph these magnificent birds each year, and the light and the pose of the bird in this image make this a definite favorite from 2016.

Steller's Sea Eagle Making a Fist

Steller’s Sea Eagle Making a Fist

We had moved close to the harbor wall at the end of our two hours on a boat photographing the eagles, and the covering of snow on top of the harbor wall was reflecting light back up onto the underside of the birds, giving them a beautiful glow in addition to the sunlight, but the thing I really like about this shot is the fact that this incredibly powerful bird seems to be making a fist, as though he’s about to swoop down and punch someone.

I’m not a violent person, but I love it when I capture a trait in an animal that is associate with us humans, and that fist and the pensive look makes me think of someone like Client Eastwood as he walks into a bar to lay down the law in his somewhat unorthodox ways. This was shot at f/10 with a shutter speed of 1/1000 second to freeze the action, and the ISO set to 400 at 234mm.

The next photo (below) is from my Greenland Tour in August 2016. As we left the bay at Tasiilaq, this beautiful iceberg was sitting in the channel out to the open ocean, so we sailed around it a few times making detail shots. This is one of my favorites, as it shows the texture of the ice on the tip of the iceberg and the dark sky above.

Iceberg Details

Iceberg Details

People often ask if the ice really is this blue, and I have to admit that it isn’t “this” blue, but I don’t change the color of my images, I just enhance it, bringing out the detail that is already there and showing the texture better. I used to do this in Color Efex Pro, but I processed all of my Greenland tour images in Capture One Pro.

It was actually the first time I’d processed a large number of images in Capture One since jumping ship, so I was still learning, but it was really easy to get the results I was looking for. This was shot at f/10, 1/400 second shutter speed, at ISO 500 and a 164mm focal length. Even though the subject wasn’t really moving, it’s important to keep a fast shutter speed when shooting from a moving boat, to avoid camera shake.

The next photograph (below) is a bit of a dream come true for me. I’ve seen whales breaching in the past, but always at a distance, and it happens so quick that so far I’d not been able to photograph them. As we finished a day of shooting in Greenland and we were sailing back to Tasiilaq, we saw a pair of Humpback Whales breaching in the distance.

Breaching Humpback Whale - Side View

Breaching Humpback Whale – Side View

Our Inuit driver started to speed towards them initially, then stopped the boat as he realized they were heading straight towards us, at speed. We only had to wait a minute or so before they were right in front of our boat, and I got a shot of one heading straight for the camera. Then, a moment later they went right past our boat, breaching as they went. As excited as a kid in a candy store, I was so happy to have captured this photograph too, from the side. These images are now very special to me now.

The settings were f/10, 1/1600 shutter speed, ISO 800 at 400mm. Again, shooting from a boat requires a fast shutter speed, but with an animal this size moving at the speed it was, you need at least 1/1600 of a second, if not faster to get a sharp shot.

Landmannalaugar in Iceland is one of the most beautiful locations on the planet, and I really struggled with my decision not to include a shot of the main valley in this year’s selection, but for me, this shot (below) probably sums up this year’s visit a little better. We had beautiful skies again, and the light was just stunning for most of the day.

Breathing Mountains

Breathing Mountains

As we led my group across the lava fields, I turned back and photographed this scene with the geothermal steam seeping out of the mountain, almost looking as though the mountain was breathing misty breath on this brisk autumn afternoon. Especially when you are climbing with heavy camera gear it’s tempting to just keep your head down and get to the next ridge, but I also think it’s important to look back at the scene behind you from time to time. If I hadn’t I could have missed what I consider to be a beautiful scene.

This was shot at f/14, 1/100 of a second, ISO 200 with a focal length of 28mm. I always think that an image is greatly improved when you find some element that makes the air “visible” as this steam does here, and the snow does in the second shot we looked at today. Here I think the steam adds a little dynamism and life to a still photograph.

As we started to pack up to leave Skógafoss, one of my favorite waterfalls in Iceland, a man walked up to the falls barefooted with an umbrella, and stood in the edge of the water to pose for a photograph. Being a bit of an opportunist, I captured my own version, and this has become one of my favorite photos of the year (below).

Umbrella Man at Skógafoss

Umbrella Man at Skógafoss

I shot this at f/13, a half second exposure, ISO 160 at 24mm. I used an ND filter on the front of my lens to slow down the shutter speed to a half a second so that I could make the water appear silky like this. Luckily the man stood still for this time, so he’s perfectly sharp. When I first started doing black and white conversions in Capture one Pro I didn’t think I was going to be able to get this really dark looming look in my Iceland waterfall images, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s not only possible, but really quite easy to get this look.

Another shot from September 2016 in Iceland made it to my top ten, and that’s this shot that I call Sapphires and Telegraph Lines. Ice carving from the glacier at Jokulsarlon floats out to the open ocean, then tides and sea currents push some bits back on the beach. While we were there this year, the beach was totally strewn with ice, as you can see (below) so I capitalized on the opportunity to show the entire beach, and included the telegraph poles in the distance to add a human element.

Sapphires and Telegraph Lines

Sapphires and Telegraph Lines

I used to try and avoid the human element in my landscape work, but sometimes I think it adds to the story, showing our effects on this beautiful planet we call home. This was shot at f/14, with a shutter speed of 40 seconds, ISO 100 at 24mm. I used a 10 stop ND filter to get a 40 second exposure, which caused the rough sea to smooth over a lot, and allows a bit of movement in the clouds.

The final image of my 2016 top ten is from a December visit to England to spend Christmas with family for the first time in four years. While there I visited this beautiful lighthouse in the sea at Dovercourt, near Harwich in Essex. I learned of this subject from an incredibly talented photographer and member of my Arcanum cohort, Phil Newberry. Phil has a stunning photograph of this lighthouse, so I’d wanted to visit for a long time.

Dovercourt Low Lighthouse at Dawn

Dovercourt Low Lighthouse at Dawn

The problem with photographing something that you’ve already seen in a photograph is that you have a very strong visual seed planted in you mind that you have to try to dismiss when shooting, and Phil’s image is so strong it was very difficult to do that. But, what I always do in this situation is I don’t search out or look at photos of places that I’ll visit once I’ve decided to go. This way you have a better chance of clearing your memory and allowing your own creativity to get to work.

This goes for any location that I shoot. Once I know where I’m going, the only other research I might do is the sunrise and sunset time, and roughly where the sun will be in the sky in relation to the scene while I expect to be there. If you go online and look for lots of images from your upcoming location you will arrive and spend your whole time searching for those shots, and your own creativity gets stifled, even paralyzed by this, so I just don’t do it.

With something as iconic as this lighthouse on stilts out on the sea it’s difficult to make a photograph that isn’t similar, but I chose this color version from dawn, as I like the colors and the glow of the sun reflected on the sea under the lighthouse. I have some black and white shots from the previous day that I also like a lot, but they are much more like Phil’s photo and quite rarely for me, I actually really like this warm, color version. It was shot at f/14, with a two minute exposure, ISO 100 at 95mm. I used a 10 stop ND and I think also a 3 stop ND filter for a two minute exposure to smooth over the water and clouds to for this somewhat surreal look. I was also pretty happy that two seagulls decided to sit on the lighthouse and were almost totally still for two minutes, which was great.

Learn from the Process

I really enjoy going through this exercise each year, as I mentioned last week, because it really helps us to build our image editing skills. I don’t mean the editing of each image, I’m talking about the skill of editing a large number of images down to a finite number.

We become attached to images for various reasons, and generally include a lot for irrational, emotion based reasons, but as you start to drill down and remove lesser images you are always faced with hard decisions about what to leave in. If you are totally honest with yourself and try to keep images in your selection based on their merit as a photograph, it should end up being a very authentic record of your very best work for the year.

The Evolution of the Photographer

What’s more, it builds into a yearly record of our work, that will hopefully show how we grow as photographers. I have done this almost every year since 2007, missing only 2010 as I left my old job and incorporated Martin Bailey Photography, and I sat down with my wife earlier today and we went through nine of the last ten years. We came to the conclusion that my work took a few leaps forward with my visits to Antarctica and most of all with my first visit to Iceland in 2013.

As I mentioned a couple of years ago in my Evolution of the Photographer post, I believe that our experiences become part of us. People sometimes get discouraged because it’s hard to beat work that we do at amazing locations, but these amazing places and opportunities elevate us as photographers, and we don’t lose that. We get ratcheted up, and take our new self to future shoots, and the effects should be visible in all of our work. It’s not automatic. You have to work at it of course, but the opportunity to level up like this is a very real one when visiting beautiful places, especially in a workshop environment like my Iceland Tours.

Our Work-in-Progress Legacy

So, even if this is the first year that you try this process, keep in mind that it will build into a legacy of your work. I was so proud to be able to go back and look through nine of the last ten year’s of images, that I’ve decided that as soon as I can make time, I’m going to go back and select my 2010 top ten as well, just to complete the decade.

I know I’m not the best photographer in the world by a very long shot, and as I mentioned, this isn’t about me, it’s about all of us, and we certainly aren’t comparing ourselves to each other here. Your worst image might be as good as my best, but I still truly believe that you’ll learn from this exercise, and enjoy building on it over the years.

Share Your Top Ten!

And please do drop a link to your own top ten into the comments below if you do this. I love to see what you came up with for the year, and really enjoy seeing new work from those of you that post a link each year.


Show Notes

Previous Top Ten posts: https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com/tag/top-ten/

Check out my tours and workshops here: http://mbp.ac/workshops

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunesSubscribe 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.


The post Martin’s 2016 Personal Top Ten Photographs (Podcast 556) appeared first on Martin Bailey Photography.

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Martin Bailey https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com <![CDATA[Yearly Top Ten Photographs Selection Process (Podcast 555)]]> https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com/?p=33233 2017-01-05T07:51:07Z 2017-01-03T12:36:42Z As we enter a new year, I’m completing my yearly task of selecting my favorite photos from the previous year, so today...

The post Yearly Top Ten Photographs Selection Process (Podcast 555) appeared first on Martin Bailey Photography.

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As we enter a new year, I’m completing my yearly task of selecting my favorite photos from the previous year, so today I’m going to walk you through my process in Capture One Pro, literally blow by blow as I whittle down my initial selection.

I have actually just got back from a two week break in the UK to visit family, which was great, but I’m a little behind now catching up on business before I start traveling with my first Japan winter tour which starts next Sunday. I was able to photograph a few things that I wanted to get to while I was in the UK, and I wanted to finish processing those images first, before I completed this selection, so I’m a day late with this week’s episode.

Another reason this process took more time than usual is because I had to reprocess a number of images from the first half of 2016 because I switched to Capture One Pro in the summer, and really wanted to complete this task entirely in Capture One. Still though, I’ve started writing this on the morning of January 3, the morning after completing my first pass, so let’s look at my process in Capture One Pro.

First Pass

Over the years I’ve completed this process many times, and so far have shared details of that process in Lightroom, but since I’ve jumped ship to Capture One, this year I’ll use Capture One references, in the hope that it will help Capture One users as well. If you are a Lightroom user, or any other program for that matter, much of what I say today will be easily transferable to your chosen application.

As always though, I have used Collections to drill down to my personal top ten photographs. In Capture One, to start this process, I right clicked User Collections, and created a Group called Drill Down Groups, and I then right clicked that and created an Album called First Pass. I then right clicked my First Pass Album and selected “Set as Selects Collection”.

Once you have your First Pass album ready and set as your Selects Collection, you can go through your selects for the year, and hit your keyboard shortcut to add any image that you want to look at again to the Collection. I had my shortcut set to CMD + J initially, but as I did this many times yesterday, I found it a pain to hit a two key combination, so I changed my keyboard shortcuts in Capture One to make the letter Q add images to my Selects Collection. I used Q because on the keyboard it kind of looks like a line going into a zero, which you could think of as a diagram for putting something into a jar. It works for me anyway.

I ended up with 973 images in my Finals folder for 2016, which includes a number of images from the first half of the year which were duplicated as TIFF files, because I was using Silver Efex Pro and Color Efex Pro on some of my work, and I keep both the final TIFF and the original raw file when I did this. For the second half of the year, I’ve not used Silver Efex and I only have a few images that I had to edit in Photoshop, so this probably makes 2016 one of my most productive years. The only year that I’ve got more Final Selects than this before now is 2012, when I did three consecutive Antarctica Expeditions, so I had 994 Finals that year, but the chance are more of those were original raw files and a TIFF or Photoshop file, so I’ve probably had my best crop so far this year.

First Pass 140 Images

First Pass 140 Images

The Pain of the Cull

After my first pass, I found myself with 140 images in my Collection (above) which is of course 14 times more than I need, so this is where the struggle begins to start and reduce my selection down to just ten. It’s always best to break processes up a little, I created a second Album under my Drill Down Groups called Second Pass.

Create Second Pass Collection

Create Second Pass Collection

Before I created this new album I hit CMD + A to select all of my 140 images, and I turned on the “Add selected images after creation” checkbox (right) so that my images were automatically added to this new Collection.

From this point, instead of adding images, it becomes a case of removing them, with the delete key. When you are in a Collection, the delete key just removes images from the Collection. It doesn’t actually delete them.

My Selection Reasoning

As I was adding my images, I knew that there were a number of images that were very similar, and that not all of them could be included in the final top ten, but I didn’t want to make the decision at that point. There are two reasons for this, and the first is simply paying respect to some of the images that I like. It’s not a logical way to add images, but there are images from the year that I have come back to a number of times, and I simply cannot start this process without including them, even though I know I’ll remove them later.

The second and more logical reason for adding these images is because the first cull has to be relatively quick. This is how I generally edit down any selection of images from a shoot for example. My first pass is just throwing images that I like into the pot so that I can take more time making my decisions later. That’s where I am at this point after my first pass.

Work in Groups

What I start to do now is look for those groups of similar images, and start to whittle them down to the strongest image. For example, there’s no way I’m going to include more than one sea eagle photograph, so I selected all shots of Steller’s Sea Eagles with their talons forward, and started on these first.

One of those little things that I don’t like about Capture One Pro, but I put up with for the greater good, is that you can only select up to 12 images to view and compare in the Viewer at any one time. I would have liked to view all of my eagle shots at one time, but it’s not possible. Having said that, it’s better practice to work in smaller groups, so this is fine, but annoying that I don’t have that extra control.

You can remove single images from a Collection while in the Viewer pane in Capture One Pro, by selecting the image and hitting the delete key, but ensure that you have “Edit Primary” selected, rather than “Edit All Selected Variants” first. You can toggle between these modes with the icon with the three stacked rectangles, or from the Edit menu. If you leave this set to Edit All Selected Variants, when you hit the delete key, they will all be removed from the Collection.

After whittling down my first batch of Steller’s Sea Eagle shots, I selected pretty much the rest of them, and removed another ten or so, until I got down to the one that I probably knew all along that I would not be able to remove. I think it’s important to compare though, as you learn about your images as you go through the process.

I also knew that I was not going to be able to have many eagle shots, so I quickly went through, and with the single Steller’s Sea Eagle shot in mind, it was easy to remove a bunch of other eagle images, although I had to leave in one White Tailed Eagle and one Black Eared Kite shot that I really like, for now at least.

Giving Them the Bird

I still had a lot of bird shots though, so I started to work through small groups of other types of birds too. I removed some Ural Owl shots, to leave just one, and then got rid of most of my Japanese Red-Crowned Crane shots too. I had lots of crane shots this year of them in flight, but these are really quite common photos, so it wasn’t too hard to remove lots of these too as I became more ruthless.

I ended up with my favorite shot of the cranes at the famous Otowa Bridge in Tsurui, as we’d been fortunate to get beautiful hoar frost for a number of mornings on my 2016 tours, and the one I left had a lot of story to it, with various groups of cranes doing different things, and some pintail ducks in the foreground, so it has remained a favorite throughout the year.

Whoop, Whoop!

We also had a great year for Whooper Swans, so I had found myself with a whopping 21 photos of these magnificent birds to wade through. Again, I started to break them down into similar groups. I had a lot of them flying against a beautiful softbox-like background, so I worked on these first, then the similar flight shots etc.

I found that a few times I wanted to view the images at full size, but in Multi View that isn’t possible, because when you double click on an image, it zooms in on the image in its small window. This is great for say checking critical sharpness on a certain area of multiple images, but not much use for this exercise. So I found myself flicking back and forth between Multi View and Primary View, with the four rectangles and single rectangle icons in the top left of the Viewer, or under Viewer Mode in the View menu.

Feel the Images

You can make a certain number of decisions when looking at the images in Multi View, but when you look at the images large on your display, you can “feel” the images much more, and I find this really helps with my culling process. Remember that all of the images I am looking at are already favorites from the year, but as some of them flick up on my screen, I get a little flutter of excitement. This clearly tells me that I’m looking at the image that I should be selecting from the current group.

This is also why I think it’s important to work in groups. At the end of the day, I like to create a balanced, representative set of images, almost like a mini-portfolio of my work for the year. I might for example prefer ten swan shots over everything else, but it wouldn’t represent my year very well, when you consider all of the varied subjects that I’ve photographed in 2016.

Sometimes as I feel that excitement, I go back to the last few images and quickly remove them. Sometimes after doing that, the image after the one that just excited me excites me even more, but these feelings just really help with the process. There is also sometimes a sinking feeling after the excitement, telling me that as much as I like the image, I don’t like it as much as the previous image, and this of course is another indication that it’s time to hit the delete button.

Down now to just three swan shots, I started to block, so I moved on. I’m not going to explain every step, but I gradually worked through groups of images, until I got to the end of my Collection again.

Portfolio of 2016 Work

By the time I’d gone through a second time, my Collection contained 70 images, exactly half the images that I started with. This is actually a really nice number for a slideshow, so I made a coffee, kicked my feet up, and hit the slideshow button.

Here are my thumbnails as I started my third pass (below). In Capture One you can view more than 12 images by selecting Hide Viewer from the View menu, and then just use the zoom slider in the Browser Toolbar to change the size of the thumbnails. You can also toggle the display of file name and star ratings under the images by turning Browser Labels off until the View menu.

Collection After Second Pass

Collection After Second Pass

Another Capture One Quirk

I really wish there was an option to view or hide the image crop on the thumbnails, but unfortunately this ins’t possible, so images that I have cropped appear smaller than others, and offset a little, which I find annoying. This really should be an option, not the default and only thumbnail view.

I have fed this kind of request back to the Phase One team but they have so far been pretty bad at implementing any of the ideas I’ve sent over. Hopefully it’s just a case of them trying to steer a rather large ship, and these things are just taking time, rather than simply being ignored.

Third Pass

I repeated the process of creating a new album and copied the 70 images from my second pass into a Third Pass Collection. Yet another quirk with Capture One is that it always sets the default sort of a new album to Name, so images are sorted by filename. This means I have to go in each time and change this to Date, so that I can see my images in the order they were captured. I don’t know if it’s just me, but that seems to make much more sense than sorting by name as the default.

Anyway, as you can see I still have a few groups of images that I can work on, so now it’s time to get really ruthless. I still have to remove 60 images, so this is really going to hurt. I only have room for one snow monkey shot, so two of those have to go. I remove the middle one in the previous screenshot (above) but I like the remaining two about the same, so my final decision is based on the orientation. Landscape is better for computer screens than portrait.

Jeez This is Hard!

I have a lot of Winter Trees left, so I go to work on those too. Jeez this is heartbreaking! My boat graveyard in Hokkaido holds a very special place in my heart, but at this point I have to get these shots down to just one, so three of them go. And there are still three shots of lines of boats, so at least two of these have to go too. Aargh!

As much as I love my raptor images, the White-Tailed Eagle and Black-Eared Kite also have to go. They just aren’t special enough to compete with the other images. I’m still struggling with my swan shots too. I was able to remove one of the three that were left, but limped on to remove the Pipe Dreams shot that I’d snuck in. This wasn’t a difficult decision because it really doesn’t match the rest of the set.

I trimmed the Greenland icebergs and glacier shots down a bunch, then moved on to Iceland, and removed my beloved ultra-wide angle shot of Landmannalaugar, as I feel the 63mm shot is a more natural perspective and shows the natural beauty of the valley better.

I also removed two of my ice on the beach shots from Iceland, and kind of surprised myself with my decision to remove the one with the waves crashing over the ice and leave the one with the distant telegraph poles. I love the totally natural scene, but I’m finding myself more and more attracted to images that contain a trace of man, and what we do to our beautiful planet.

Hard Decisions

After a few more hard decisions, I found myself down to twenty-seven images. I’m hours into the process, and I really need to get this job completed, and release this podcast too, so that I can move on to a few other important jobs that are waiting for me. Ideally at this point, I’d be able to walk away for a day or so, and come back later for the final push, but I don’t have that luxury right now.

Just 27 Images Left!

Just 27 Images Left!

This in itself is good practice at editing a selection towards to tight deadline. One of the reasons I think this is such an important thing to do each year, is because it gets us accustomed to whittle down images to a very tight selection. I’ve mentioned before that I hate to sit through hundreds of peoples images. It doesn’t matter how good someone is, I never want to view the entire contents of their memory card after a shoot.

A Professional Skill

In a professional environment, we are often asked to provide a very small number of images for a specific project, so developing the skills to drill down to these small sets is a vital part of being a professional photographer, and sometimes that happens with very little time to sit back and wait for the set to define itself.

Final Pass

So, here we go. It’s time to make the hardest decisions so far, and remove almost one in three of my most favorite images from the year. If you look at the last three in the previous screenshot, you’ll see that these are very recent photographs from my visit to the UK. One is the Radcliffe-on-Soar Power Station, that I grew up in the shadow of. I’ve been hoping to do some nice photos of this for years, so that’s staying.

The second is a Lighthouse in Dovercourt, near Harwich in Essex. I found out about this place from a member of my Arcanum cohort Phil Newberry, an excellent photographer from the UK. Phil has an amazing photograph of this spot, so I’ve wanted to visit here for a while too. I really like my black and white shot from this spot, as well as my color version from sunrise the next morning, but I’m going to go for the color version, mostly because Phil’s is a beautiful black and white, so I want to keep them different.

I still had five images from my January Hokkaido Landscape Photography tour, which is obviously disproportionate to the year, so I removed the one of the Shinto Gate in the sea and the fish drying frames. I love both of these shots, but need to keep trimming down the set.

I hate to remove my two flying swans, but I think the two swans flapping on the ice has a very slight edge. The fox is really cute, but has to go too. I like the Bluie East Two shots with the old military vehicles in Greenland, but that situation isn’t ideal, and I’m not a political activist, so I’ll remove that too. I like the boat on the grass shot from Iceland a lot, but I think that can go too.

It breaks my heart again to do this, but if I have to remove one of the two Iceland beach ice shots, I think I’ll leave the wider scene. I also love my shot from my first visit to Gullfoss (whoops! I meant Godafoss) but it’s not as good as much of the other work in my opinion.

Don’t Cut Yourself Some Slack

OK, so now I’m really struggling. I am at eighteen images, and this is the point where many people start to say things like, “Well maybe I can just limit myself to 1.5 images per month and just go with this” but that defeats the object. It’s these last few selections that really hurt, so please don’t give in to the temptation to cut yourself some slack.

OK, so the owl is gone, with it’s beautifully cute upwards gaze, and if it comes to this, I guess I can say goodbye to my frolicking swans, as well as the shot of the waves drawing out at the harbor at Ohmu, Hokkaido. The view of the distant mountains in Greenland is starting to feel just a little bit out of place, and in the scheme of things, I think I need to give in to the temptation to include my shot of the power station. I like the shot but it’s probably elevated in my evaluation at this point because of its relative newness.

Aargh, Just Three More!

With just three more images to remove, and the sun having gone down almost an hour ago, I think I’m going to have to remove the aerial photo of the glacier from above, as it is perhaps symbolically more beautiful than it is aesthetically beautiful. I’ve shared the classic Landmannalaugar valley images before, so I’m going to remove that one too, leaving the breathing mountains shot.

At this point, I’m looking at remove one of three images, to get to my final top ten. I think if I’m totally honest with myself, it’s the sheer cuteness of the snow monkeys that is responsible for them being in the set, so as much as it breaks my heart, I think it’s time to say goodbye to them.

One of Three

One of Three

All Done!

So, with that, I have my 2016 Top Ten images selected. I can now rename my Final Pass album to 2016 Top Ten, and drag it to my Top Ten Collections Group. I’d say that this took a little bit longer than it used to take me in Lightroom, because of some of the Capture One Pro quirks, but six months after I jumped ship, I’m still very happy to work around these quirks for the ultimate quality of the images.

Martin's 2016 Top Ten

Martin’s 2016 Top Ten

Next week I’ll release a follow-up episode in which I walk you through each image, sharing my thoughts on the process of creating each of them. I hope you enjoyed walking through this process with me today, and that you’ll enjoy my walkthrough of the final ten next week.

Share Your Top Ten

Whether you are one of the folks that now also does this each year, or someone new to this tradition, please share a link to your top ten in the comments below. I love to see your work, and for those that have been doing this for a while, it’s always great to see how you are growing as a photographer. If this is your first time, you will not regret doing this. I fully believe it makes us better at editing our images down to a finite selection, and these yearly top ten collections build into an invaluable series of mini portfolios that help us to review our work from year to year, and hopefully help us to see how we are growing as photographers.

We’ll leave it there for this week, but to finish, I’d like to wish you a Happy New Year! May 2017 be an amazing year for you, and if things don’t go as well as you’d like, I wish you the strength and good fortune required to overcome any hardships that you might face and move on to better things.


Show Notes

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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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.


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Martin Bailey https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com <![CDATA[Workaround and Troubleshooting Print Profile Issues (Podcast 554)]]> https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com/?p=33151 2016-12-19T06:41:21Z 2016-12-19T06:41:21Z As I mentioned last week, I found a workaround for an issue with my Canon PRO-4000 not correctly using the selected ICC profile...

The post Workaround and Troubleshooting Print Profile Issues (Podcast 554) appeared first on Martin Bailey Photography.

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As I mentioned last week, I found a workaround for an issue with my Canon PRO-4000 not correctly using the selected ICC profile when printing from Capture One Pro and I believe also Lightroom, so today I’m going to talk you through the issue and my workaround.

This really only applies to Mac users, and is also just a good way to troubleshoot ICC profile issues, so it could be useful for any Mac user that is having trouble getting good prints. If you are a Windows user, sit back and giggle at the fun and games us Mac users sometimes have to go through in our printing workflow.

To be totally honest, I’m a little bit uncomfortable putting this out there right now, because there are a number of unanswered questions, but I am traveling for a few weeks and I didn’t want to wait until I get back, partly because I want to potentially correct a statement that I made in my review of the Canon PRO-4000 large format printer.

Basically, I was seeing nasty crunched up gradations and transitions between a few colors in one of the photographs that I printed on matte fine art paper. What confuses matters is that the bright yellows in the image I printed are way out of gamut, so the printer shouldn’t really be able to print them anyway. But, my old imagePROGRAF iPF6350 used to print the same image pretty well, so it was a good test to compare these two printers.

During my tests, I tried printing with Capture One Pro initially, then to help me troubleshoot the issue I was seeing, I also tried Lightroom and I think also Photoshop, and I got the same results from each application. Since then, all of these products have been updated, and the Mac OS has been updated to Sierra too, so I’m not confident in saying that this issue is still occurring in all of these applications, although I did try from Lightroom again, and the print looked like it was still displaying this issue.

My main tests were with Capture One Pro though, as I printed some images out for last week’s review of the new media from Breathing Color, Signa Smooth 270. After a few prints that looked a bit iffy, I printed a black and white image that was supposed to be totally neutral, with no color toning, yet it came out of the printer with a strong brown cast.

Here’s a photograph of the brown print on the left, with the photograph that I printed after figuring out my workaround on the right (below). I actually quite like the toning of the brown print, but that was not intentional, so I set about finding out what was going wrong.

Brown Incorrect Print with Neutral Correct Print

Brown Incorrect Print with Neutral Correct Print

I’ve been printing photographs and working with fine art media for around 15 years now, so I recognize this kind of unexpected toning as a sign that the ICC profile that I specified for my paper and printer combination is not being correctly applied to my print. This sometimes happens after a major upgrade of the operating system, so I’m kind of suspecting Sierra, but my PRO-4000 review was created before that, so maybe things just got worse with Sierra. It’s hard to say without rolling things back and I don’t have time to do that right now.

Specifying Your ICC Profiles for Best Results

Anyway, if you print yourself, I hope you already know that the best way to get great color and neutral black and white prints is to create your own ICC profile for each type of paper that you print to. You have to do this on your own printer for best results. Failing that, you can often download an ICC profile for your printer from your paper manufacturer. If you print with a printer from a maker that also produces paper, you will sometimes find that the printer driver installation also installs a number of ICC profiles to your system as well.

Then, when you are ready to print, for best results, you will tell your software to not leave color management to the printer, and specify your own ICC profile. In this screenshot (below) from Capture One Pro, you simply need to select your ICC profile under the Color Profile pulldown on the Print screen. This generally works well even if you specify the manufacturer’s profile at this stage, and turn off color management via the printer drivers.

Printing with ICC Profile

Printing with ICC Profile

To check that you have turned off Color Management by the printer driver, you check that ColorSync is grayed out in the Color Matching screen before you send the print to the printer.

Test and Workaround

This is usually the way to get great prints, but during my recent tests, it just wasn’t working, so I tried a trick that I learned a few years ago, to test for problems with the use of the ICC profile during printing. Basically, you leave Color Management to the printer, which in Capture One Pro terms means selecting Managed by Printer under Color Profile on the Print screen (below).

Specify ICC Profile in Driver

Specify ICC Profile in Driver

Then, under the Color Matching screen in the printer driver, you will notice that ColorSync is not grayed out, and the pulldown below it is active. You then just need to select your ICC profile from that pulldown. If necessary, select “Other profiles” from the bottom of the pulldown, to see custom profiles that you’ve created or installed on your system.

Print and See

This is really all you have to do differently to either workaround the current issue that I’m seeing when printing to my PRO-4000, but as I say, this is a useful trick to remember as a way to troubleshoot profile issues in the software from which you are printing. This is how I was able to print my recent test images, and get a nice neutral black and white print of my Skogafoss Umbrella Man shot (below).

Brown Incorrect Print with Neutral Correct Print

Brown Incorrect Print with Neutral Correct Print

Of course, this is just a troubleshooting trick, and a workaround to try when for some reason your ICC profile is not being applied correctly when printing. The next step is to report the problem to either your printer manufacturer, and/or the company that makes the software from which you are printing. It may also be an Apple issue to fix, but generally the printer or imaging software manufacturer will work with Apple if necessary.

Correcting My PRO-4000 Review Statement

As I mentioned earlier, wondering if this was partly if not totally the cause of the issues I was having printing to matte media during my tests of the PRO-4000 when it first arrived, I also tried a quick print of my yellow poppies shot that was giving me trouble.

As you can see in this photo (below) the smaller print on the right has some very harsh transitions in the gradations around the balls of bokeh. The yellows in this photo are way out of gamut anyway, so I thought the PRO-4000 was just handling this worse than the iPF6350 did for some reason, but when I tried the print again using the workaround that I explained today, the print was much, much better, as you can see in the print on the left in this photo.

Yellow Poppies Looking Good!

Yellow Poppies Looking Good!

I was thinking that this issue was only affecting matte media, which was also strange, and to be honest, I’m still puzzled as to why everything looked great in my gloss test prints, but gloss paper has a much wider gamut than matte, so it was probably just able to get by without things looking out of wack, where as the smaller gamut of matte paper couldn’t hide the problem.

Check for Comments and Updates

As I also mentioned earlier, this issue is still somewhat up in the air. I don’t know yet which company needs to fix this, and I also haven’t got time right now to fully retest Lightroom and Photoshop in addition to Capture One Pro. I have confirmed that Canon’s Print Studio Pro does not have an issue, which kind of points to a problem when printing from third party imaging software, but I don’t want to speculate too much at this point.

The best thing I can recommend at this point is if you are here following a search to see what’s going on with your printer, check the comments below, or look for updates to this post, which I usually add as an [UPDATE: In square brackets], often in red if it’s a really important update.

So, a relatively quick episode today, but I wanted to get this out there, rather than sitting on this for a few more weeks as I travel. I hope you find this useful. If you learn anything about this or similar issues that you want to comment on, please do so below.

Also, before we finish, my next episode will probably be shortly before the New Year, if not January, so Happy Holidays!


Show Notes

Original PRO-4000 Review: http://mbp.ac/536

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunesSubscribe 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.


The post Workaround and Troubleshooting Print Profile Issues (Podcast 554) appeared first on Martin Bailey Photography.

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Martin Bailey https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com <![CDATA[Breathing Color Signa Smooth 270 Fine Art Paper (Podcast 553)]]> https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com/?p=33135 2016-12-12T08:01:48Z 2016-12-12T08:01:48Z I recently got hold of a roll of Signa Smooth 270, a new supple and smooth fine art paper, and today we’re going to...

The post Breathing Color Signa Smooth 270 Fine Art Paper (Podcast 553) appeared first on Martin Bailey Photography.

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I recently got hold of a roll of Signa Smooth 270, a new supple and smooth fine art paper, and today we’re going to take a look at this beautiful new offering from my friends at Breathing Color.

It seems like Breathing Color are releasing new paper on a very quick cycle these days, and that can be considered a good thing, and a bad thing, but the bad thing mind-set is a somewhat selfish one, and I’m talking about my self here too. Why? Because I love being in a place where I’m happy with my decisions regarding options available to me. I like to decide on something, then run with it for a long while. There is a relaxing beauty in contentment.

So, when something new comes along, you have to rethink strategies, and decide whether to embrace it, or push it aside. With my cameras, I’m often asked why I don’t shoot mirrorless, and although I’ve given it a lot of thought, I’m still with my big Canon camera gear, because I’m totally happy with it. It’s like being in a good marriage. You don’t have an affair if you are totally happy with your own spouse.

Breathing Color All the Way!

One of the few areas that I can safely say though, that I am generally always happy to be forced to rethink my current state of contentment, is fine art printing media. Actually, let me add to that—here’s the thing—I’m totally happy with my decision to, in general, only use Breathing Color media.

Breathing Color has over the last six years (from my own perspective) continued to provide options for absolutely everything that I need in inkjet media, so I’m not generally out there looking for other manufacturers. If something incredible came along, I might be tempted, but I’m generally just not even looking.

When it comes to my chosen fine art printing media, I’m in a state of contentment, but continue to remain open to new solutions, probably because of my trust in Breathing Color. I was totally happy with Optica One, although that did contain OBAs or Optical Brightening Agents, which I wasn’t so sold on. Then along came OBA free Pura Smooth. I still had some Optica One stock left, but decided to change to Pura Smooth as I ran my stock down.

Just as I’d hung my hat on Pura Smooth, Pura Bagasse Smooth came along, and had a nice Eco Friendly appeal to it, being made from sugar cane waste product, in addition to being brighter white, and Archival, so as my Pura Smooth ran out, I transitioned to Pura Bagasse Smooth, which I’m still very happy with. So, when Breathing Color contacted me about Signa Smooth last week, my knee jerk reaction was “not again!”

Printing Profile Patch Sheet - Canon PRO-4000

Printing Profile Patch Sheet – Canon PRO-4000

But, that feeling lasted about 15 seconds, as my trust for this great company made me realize that I should at least take a look. After all, there was the promise of even whiter paper, no OBAs still and incredibly wide gamut, and no printer worth their salt will ever pass up a chance to increase their printing gamut.

So, a few days later, I’m profiling a roll of Signs Smooth 270, and almost 30 feet of test prints later, I’m really happy to find a place for this new media in my printing, and to share my findings and reasoning with you today.

Incredible Detail and Gamut

Landmannalaugar Winding River

Landmannalaugar Winding River

Let’s start with the premise that most matte fine art paper isn’t ideal for high resolution photo prints, but as we’ll see, Signa Smooth breaks that mold, and does it in style. It has stunning details and an incredibly wide gamut for a fine art matte paper. One of the best tests of a paper’s gamut is seeing how it prints vibrant greens and yellows, so for this test I picked a photo from this year’s Iceland Tour, as you can see here (Above).

That’s the web version, but here (below) is a photograph of the printed image, and I’m sure you’ll agree that the color reproduction is absolutely incredible. I’m really blown away with this media, especially when you consider that it’s a matte fine art paper.

Iceland Photo on Signa Smooth

Iceland Photo on Signa Smooth

When you look at the photo of the print, keep in mind that I shot this under window light, so it gets darker towards the left side, and I purposefully didn’t correct the image at all, so that you see what I saw, via my camera.

I also shot a closeup of a portion of the print (below) to help you to see the detail. It wasn’t that light in my studio today, so I had to keep a relatively large aperture, as I was hand-holding the camera, trying to get stuck into the preparation for this episode, but I think you’ll still be able to appreciate just how much detail this paper provides.

Closeup of Iceland Print on Signa Smooth

Closeup of Iceland Print on Signa Smooth

OBA Free

As I mentioned, this paper is OBA-Free yet still bright white. Breathing Color have continuously improved on the whiteness of their paper even after they moved away from including Optical Brightening Agents, to make the surface of the paper appear more white. As a very quick recap, OBAs are added to some paper to make it react to ultraviolet light, so that it glows, like white shirt collars used to do at discos, and under normal light, this makes the paper appear whiter.

The problem with OBAs is that they can make the paper unstable, and break down over time, so although you still get archival paper that contains OBAs, it’s generally considered to be a bad thing, and should be avoided when possible.

Beautiful Black and White

Printing Man with Umbrella Photo

Printing Man with Umbrella Photo

I also printed this black and white photo from Iceland, to see how Signa Smooth handles these deep almost black grays, and I was again very impressed. As you can see in this close-up photograph of the Umbrella Man, there is no pooling of the black ink whatsoever (below) even in the very darkest areas.

Close Up of Man with Umbrella Print

Close Up of Man with Umbrella Print

By the way, all of my test prints are 18 x 24 inches. I was using a 24 inch wide roll, and I just like this size. It’s not huge, but it’s plenty big enough to really appreciate the detail in the images. It’s also a standard paper size ARCH C and I have some large Itoya Art Folios to store these prints in (as I mentioned in Episode 499) so I tend to go with this when testing, although it isn’t the cheapest way to go about this.

Beautiful Subtle Whites

Of course, the ability of a paper to hold lots of ink is one thing, but we also need to be able to differentiate between very subtle light tones, so I also printed this photo of a tree on a hill from my Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure tour this year (below).

Hokkaido Tree Print on Signa Smooth

Hokkaido Tree Print on Signa Smooth

Look at how well this media handles that subtle difference between the brow of the snow covered hill and the white sky above it. This is of course also a tribute to the PRO-4000, which is an amazing printer. Note too that although in my review of the PRO-4000 I mentioned that printing on matte media did not produce as good results as my old iPF6350, during these tests, I’ve figured out how to work around that.

I don’t yet know if it’s a problem with the printer, its software, or how third party tools like Capture One Pro and Lightroom interact with it, but I’ve figured it out. I’ll provide a report and the workaround for this as soon as I can in a future episode, next week if I can pull it in before I start traveling in a few days.

The Translucency of Gloss Paper

Matte paper, because of its quality of being non-reflective, often can seem a little lackluster, so one of the last images that I chose to test with, is this image of the blue ice on the beach in Iceland. I chose this, because I wanted to see how well the translucent feel of the ice came across in Signa Smooth (below).

Sapphires on Beach Print on Signa Smooth

Sapphires on Beach Print on Signa Smooth

Again, I’m sure you can appreciate from this photograph that I’m very happy with the results. There is a translucency about this image that you’d normally associate with luster or gloss media. Of course, other paper comes close, and I’d love to show you this on Pura Bagasse Smooth as well, but I’m afraid I just used up the last of my stock doing some tests prints for a meeting with five engineers from Canon last week, to talk about the new PRO-4000.

Plus, with my finding out about the workaround that I mentioned earlier, I’m not really confident enough in my original matte prints from the PRO-4000, so I can’t just print the same photo as I did before for comparison either.

Spec Comparison with Pura Bagasse Smooth

What I do want to do though, is compare the specs with Pura Bagasse Smooth, to also enable me to place Signa Smooth in my printing process.

Firstly, Signa is 17 mil thick and weighs in at 270 gsm. Compared to my standard fine art matte paper, Pura Bagasse Smooth, which is 20 mil thick and 320 gsm, it’s a little bit lighter, and this might not be what you are looking for in terms of a heavyweight fine art media. I urge you to not simply rule out this new offering based on its weight though, as I’ll explain.

Signa is $100 for a 24 inch x 50 feet roll, compared to Pura Bagasse Smooth at $159 for a 24 inch x 40 feet roll, so Signa is more cost effective. You could use Signa as a somewhat cheaper alternative for personal or test prints if you absolutely must have a very heavy weight paper for customers.

Honestly though, the weight at 270 gsm is still nice, and from this comes a beautiful suppleness when handling Signa. It’s much less rigid than Pura Bagasse, yet has a very smooth feel to it, while still providing a rich, quality experience.

Impossible to Ignore!

I still haven’t made up my mind on how I will use Signa Smooth in my product line up, but I know already that I am going to be ordering another roll for use in my personal printing. It is less heavy to store in my Itoya Art Folios and beautiful to the touch, and with this level of detail and gamut, it’s just impossible to ignore.

Archival Certification

I haven’t heard how close this media is to achieving archival certification, or even if it’s actually being sought, but from previous new releases, I’d imagine that the Breathing Color team are working towards this, and will add an Archival Quality Certificate at some point. Right now, this paper is not archival certified, so keep that in mind as you consider how you might use it.

For myself, I’m going to continue to use Signa as my personal printing favorite and probably as a very high quality product to use for printing educational purposes, and I’ll gradually work it into my product line as the archival certification is reached. It’s just too beautiful and rich to push aside just because it’s not certified.

A Bit Dusty (to say the least!)

It’s not all great news though. There was one downside to Signa Smooth that I feel I should tell you about, and that is that this paper creates a lot of dust when cut, and I mean a LOT! After printing 28 feet of this paper during my tests, the floor around my printer was covered in white flecks from the cutting of the paper, as was the table where I placed the prints.

The good thing is that this doesn’t seem to adhere to the face of the paper, at least not with the Canon PRO-4000, which now feeds paper upside-down, partly to avoid this kind of issue, as it’s hard for dust to settle on the media now.

If you do get dust on the face of the paper and then print on it, of course you apply the ink to the dust, and that then later falls off, leaving a white mark on the photo, because no ink was applied. I did not see this with Signa, but I’d say there may be risk of this happening depending on your printer.

Conclusion – Thumbs Up!

So, in conclusion, as you might already guess, despite the dustiness and lack of archival certification, I give a huge thumbs-up for Breathing Color’s new Signa Smooth 270 matte fine art paper. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t think I needed this paper, until I saw it, and now, it’s a part of my printing to stay, or at least until it’s replaced by something better. 🙂

Himba Girl Print on Signa Smooth

Himba Girl Print on Signa Smooth

You can buy Breathing Color Signa Smooth 270 here: https://www.breathingcolor.com/signa-smooth-270

And don’t forget, if you are new to Breathing Color, you can use our voucher MBP20 to save $20 off your order. Using this code also let’s Breathing Color that I sent you, so please do use it if you heard about this product from me.


Show Notes

Breathing Color Signa Smooth 270: https://www.breathingcolor.com/signa-smooth-270

Canon PRO-4000 Printer: http://mbp.ac/pro4000

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunesSubscribe 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.


The post Breathing Color Signa Smooth 270 Fine Art Paper (Podcast 553) appeared first on Martin Bailey Photography.

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Martin Bailey https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com <![CDATA[Capture One Pro Simple Adjustment Guide #1 (Podcast 552)]]> https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com/?p=32969 2016-12-05T02:58:04Z 2016-12-05T02:58:04Z I recently put together a Simple Adjustment Guide for Capture One Pro from Phase One, which I’m releasing as this weeks Podcast to celebrate...

The post Capture One Pro Simple Adjustment Guide #1 (Podcast 552) appeared first on Martin Bailey Photography.

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I recently put together a Simple Adjustment Guide for Capture One Pro from Phase One, which I’m releasing as this weeks Podcast to celebrate the release of version 10 of this incredible raw image processing software.

In this guide I explain how I take the background in a photograph of a lotus flower, to almost full black, at the same time as bringing out some beautiful detail in what started as a relatively mediocre photograph.

I’ve embedded the video below, but you can view mine and a host of other Simple Adjustment Guides on the Phase One Web site with the below link. You can also download the raw file that I work on to try the techniques explained for yourself using my photograph.

https://www.phaseone.com/en/Products/Software/Capture-One-Pro/Learning-Hub.aspx

This is only a 10 minute video, but I hope you find it useful!

I will be creating more of these guides as time allows, so I hope you enjoy these. If you have a particular technique that you’d like me to describe in a future guide, do let me know if the comments below.

Save 10% on Capture One Pro!

If you don’t yet use Capture One Pro, now is a great time to give it a try. You can download Capture One Pro here and give it a try for a full 30 days to see if it’s for you before you take the plunge. Be warned though, once you’ve seen your images at their full potential, it will be hard to walk away from this. 🙂

Then, if you decide to buy a perpetual license for enter the code AMBP when you checkout on the Phase One web site to claim a 10% discount.


Show Notes

View this and other Simple Adjustment Guides on the Phase One Web site and download my raw file here: https://www.phaseone.com/en/Products/Software/Capture-One-Pro/Learning-Hub.aspx

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunesSubscribe 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.


The post Capture One Pro Simple Adjustment Guide #1 (Podcast 552) appeared first on Martin Bailey Photography.

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Martin Bailey https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com <![CDATA[Traveling Smart with Tenba Messenger Camera Bags (Podcast 551)]]> https://www.martinbaileyphotography.com/?p=33049 2016-11-28T08:33:14Z 2016-11-28T08:33:14Z I gave some thought to my travel strategy recently and made a few purchase decisions—one of which indicates a firm thumbs-up for the...

The post Traveling Smart with Tenba Messenger Camera Bags (Podcast 551) appeared first on Martin Bailey Photography.

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I gave some thought to my travel strategy recently and made a few purchase decisions—one of which indicates a firm thumbs-up for the Tenba Messenger line of camera bags—so today I am going to talk about the reason for my decisions along with a review of my Tenba bags.

Most of my purchases are based on trying to solve a problem, and the problem I was facing is that it’s becoming more and more difficult to board flights with a second bag, in addition to my camera gear. Some airlines don’t even allow a second bag for a laptop now, so I ended up traveling to Namibia last year with my 15″ MacBook Pro sticking out of my photography vest pocket. We also had a really hard time taking second bags on helicopter flights in Greenland this year, so I figured it was time to totally rethink my travel strategy.

Smaller Laptop

My 15 inch MacBook Pro is three years old in January (2017) which means from a business perspective, the value of my current laptop is fully depreciated in the next couple of months. With that, I decided to pick up a new 2016 13″ MacBook Pro, which will fit nicely in the laptop compartment of my 18L Bataflae camera backpack.

Since I’ve been able to downsize most of my camera gear to three lenses and two bodies, I’m now traveling with the 18L Bataflae most of the time, and when I have to use my larger Bataflae bags, when necessary I can put the MacBook Pro under the front flap. I always put a plastic cover on my laptop when I travel, so it won’t be damaged by doing this, and the covers are like ten bucks, so I can replace it easily when it gets too scratched.

Rearrange After Flights

I don’t necessarily want to keep my laptop in my camera bag for the duration of my journey though, so I figured that most of the time I can take a messenger style bag with me in my luggage, and put the laptop in the messenger after I arrive at my destination. It’s also nice to be able to keep card readers and other cables with the laptop, so having a dedicated bag once on location is nice.

I started to look around for a good messenger style bag that was a good fit for the new 13″ MacBook Pro, and no matter how hard I looked, I kept coming back to the Tenba Messenger Mini. The reason for my attachment to this bag is because I have been using a Tenba Messenger Large for my 17″ then 15″ MacBook Pros for much of the last five years, and I absolutely love the design. I actually didn’t even know that Tenba made a Messenger Mini until I started looking, but once I knew it existed, I couldn’t get away from it.

Comparison of Small and Mini

Here’s a photo of both my old Messenger Large along with the Mini (below) so that you can see the size difference. You’ll also notice that the design is pretty much the same, although as you explore the bags the Mini has a few less pockets than the Large.

Tenba Messenger Large and Mini

Tenba Messenger Large and Mini

The Large version comes with a removable photo gear insert that can be quickly pulled out to convert the messenger to a regular bag. The Mini version comes with partitions that can easily be removed as well. In this photo (below) I’ve removed the photo insert from the Large Messenger and laid the Mini down so that you can see the partitions inside.

Tenba Messenger Large and Mini Camera Inserts

Tenba Messenger Large and Mini Camera Inserts

A Camera and Laptop Bag

Both bags will fit a camera with lens attached pointing downwards and a couple of other lenses. As you can see in this next image (below) I can actually fit my 5Ds R camera without the battery grip, attached to a 24-105 or 24-70mm lens, my 11-24mm lens, and my 100-400mm lens. The 13″ MacBook Pro is also nice and snug there in the back laptop compartment.

Tenba Messenger Mini with Gear and MacBook Pro 13" (2016)

Tenba Messenger Mini with Gear and MacBook Pro 13″ (2016)

You can also see the business card holder in the back there, for owner identification. I will put a business card inside that holder, in the hope that if I was to leave the bag somewhere, it might help someone to return the bag to me. Believe it or not, there is actually a good chance of that here in Japan. Some bags have these card holders on the outside, which I don’t like, because people sitting on a train for example could see your personal details, and that’s not good, especially when you look like you’re traveling to the airport and going to be away from home for a few days.

Messenger Mini Padding Stops it Going Flat

As you can see in this photo (below) when you remove the camera inserts from the Messenger Large, it becomes quite flat, so it can easily be packed into my check-in luggage. One of the problems with buying online though, is that I couldn’t tell that the Mini is actually padded, to provide protection for camera gear, because it comes with partition dividers and not a modular camera insert. This means that it doesn’t go as flat as the Large.

Tenba Messenger Large and Mini Without Photo Inserts

Tenba Messenger Large and Mini Without Photo Inserts

For this photo, I put a camera on top of the Mini to hold it as flat as it will go, and it’s still about twice as wide as the Large. The upside to this though, is that because the camera inserts for the Mini are so light at just 50 grams, I will probably just pack them as well, and that way I can still use the Messenger Mini as a camera bag if necessary. Say if I get the opportunity to do a bit of street photography while I’m traveling. It’s much less conspicuous than a full blown camera backpack.

With the photo gear inserts inside the Messenger Large weighs 2.97 lbs (1,035 g) and the Mini weighs just 2.4 lb (1,016 g). Note that the published weight for the Mini is just 800 grams, so I don’t know where that came from. Mine’s certainly heavier.

Why the Tenba Messenger?

Let me explain the main reasons that I really like the Tenba Messenger bags. First of all, the design is just really appealing to me. I think the bag just suits me. I’m not overly concerned about how I look, but I do like to use items that I think suit me as a person. I also like the fact that this bag doesn’t scream laptop bag, or camera bag for that matter. It just looks like a regular bag, so that makes it less of a target.

I also really like the feel of the carrying handle. It is padded, and coated with the same fabric as the rest of the bag, so it is really comfortable to carry. The shoulder strap is also really well designed and has great padding for comfort, and it doesn’t slip off your shoulders easily.

Pockets that Make Sense

The number and arrangement of pockets on the Messengers make a lot of sense. I like the two pockets in the front flap for keeping my business cards and other things that I need quick access to. The pockets on the front of the bag, underneath the the front flap, as you can see in this photo (below) are great for keeping things in that you don’t necessarily need hyper-quick access too, but don’t want to put away in the internal zipped pockets.

Tenba Messenger as Laptop Bag

Tenba Messenger as Laptop Bag

To be totally honest, I actually wouldn’t put a hard disk in these front pockets, as I’ve done here for illustration. With the top flap fastened down securely they would probably be fine, but I prefer to keep items that are as important as a hard disk further down in the main compartment, or zipped into the inside pockets.

The laptop section is inside the bag, as you can see, and I really like this. It is well padded on all sides for protection, and has a flap over the top to stop the laptop slipping out if the bag should get flipped over without the top flap fastened down. You do have to open the top flap to get the laptop out, unless you want to drag the laptop along the top zipper, but I like that added security.

There is also a large pocket on the back of the bag which is useful for carrying travel documents etc. as you can see in this photo (below). That’s a page of A4 paper here for illustration, but of course a US Letter sized document would also fit in this back pocket.

Tenba Messenger Mini Back Pocket

Tenba Messenger Mini Back Pocket

Waterproof Bottom

The last nice feature that I’ve found myself inadvertently relying on a lot over the years is the waterproof bottom of the bag, as you can see in this photo (below). I have used my Large Messenger a lot on my winter tours, and the snow on my boots invariably melts creating a puddle of water on the floor at my seat, and I generally have my bag down there on the floor too. I then realize later that the bottom of the bag is wet, but the water has never made it’s way into the bag to wet my gear or paperwork that I keep in the back pocket.

Tenba Messenger Mini Waterproof Bottom

Tenba Messenger Mini Waterproof Bottom

Conclusion

So, a quick episode this week, but to wrap this up, I’d just like to say once again that I really do like these little bags, as you can tell by the fact that I voted with my dollars (or Yen) to pick up a second for my new laptop, and I’m really looking forward to my upcoming flights now that I’ll be able to travel with just one carry-on. I could of course carry on both my Bataflae backpack and either of these Tenba Messenger bags on some flights, but I really just don’t want to any more.

I’ve put links to these bags on Amazon.com and B&H Photo in the show notes (below) so if you decide to pick one up yourself, please use these links to support the podcast and help to keep our weekly content coming. With the three sizes available, including the Small which I didn’t mention, you can probably find a good match for yourself, or that special significant other as a Christmas or birthday gift.


Show Notes

B&H Photo Links for Messenger: Large | Small | Mini

Amazon.com Links for Messenger: Large | Small | Mini

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunesSubscribe 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.


The post Traveling Smart with Tenba Messenger Camera Bags (Podcast 551) appeared first on Martin Bailey Photography.

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