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Looking Back Post 74 Pomegranate Still Life
Okay, so I totally needed a break from the Ecuador trip. I really need to regroup on that one and come up with a plan for how I’m going to finish that set of photographs as I really don’t want be posting those photos for another month.
Today I was experimenting and the fruit bowl was subject to my will. I’ve been learning about various HDR techniques and wanted to see if I could improve on the HDR images I have created in the past. I get pretty frustrated with the HDR programmes as there are so many controls and, honestly, the names of the sliders probably makes sense once you know what they do, but geez louise, I really struggle with them.
To help with that I’ve been reading an e-book by Scott Bourne and Rich Harrington on HDR and thought I’d try again today. I tried this image with two different programmes - HDR Photomatix and HDR Efex Pro 2. Now, you would think that it should be pretty straight forward to create an HDR image and it should be pretty easy to create similar results regardless of the tool used to do it. Maybe that’s possible with a more thorough understanding of the tools, but for me, today, no way.
I had purchased HDR Photomatix last year and tried it a few times and gave up on it as a) couldn’t get my head around all the different processing options and b) whatever I created looked either plain boring or ultra nasty.
I had the same experience with it again today. Might be time to sit down and struggle through some online videos on how to use it.
HDR Efex Pro 2, on the other hand provided this very pleasing result. Still not really what I was thinking of when I went in, but definitely an improvement over the HDR images I have been creating until now.
From a technical point of view I created a 5 image bracket of -2, -1, 0, +1 and +2 EV. I was working on a tripod to get the image set in perfect register, used a polarising filter to kill the glare from the window light to my right and flagged the back ground to kill a refection off the shiny pomegranate that was really distracting.
I’m not going to go into what I did in HDR Efex Pro 2 as that’s the secret sauce to the whole thing. Oh alright, I’m not telling you because I don’t remember. Still a lot to learn.
Looking Back Post 73 Marine Iguanas
After leaving Isla Genovesa, we had a long sail around to the western most and youngest island in the Galapagos Archipelago, Isla Fernandina.
Fernandina is a truly wondrous island. Being the youngest of the islands, it has the least vegetation and is very raw. Plenty of exposed lava and no sandy beaches.
Fernandina is also home to the rather peculiar flightless cormorant. I’ll talk more about that creature in another post. Today it’s marine iguana time.
I’ll probably share a couple more marine iguanas before I’m done with the Galapagos as they are everywhere in the Galapagos. On Isla Fernandina, however, they were piled up massively, one upon another. We had arrived early in the morning to catch them clustered together for warmth.
Interesting characters these guys. Being cold blooded they have to rely on external heat sources to warm back up, so after a hard hunting session in the ocean they climb back out to laze in the sun to recover. All the while snorting and spitting out salt snot. Yeah, you gotta be a bit careful around them that you don’t get salt spit all over your camera. Kinda funny though.
And like most of the creatures of the Galapagos, they don’t run away, so you get to really take your time with them.
This characteristic of Galapagos Island fauna is both blessing and curse. Blessing because you can really take your time watching them and composing your photograph. Curse because you can really take your time… and spend ALL your landing time in one spot and miss out on what else there is to see.
Careful observance of time and rationing time is highly recommended.
Looking Back Post 72 Waved Albatross
One of the main attractions for the climb up Prince Phillip’s Steps to the top of Isla Genovesa are the Storm Petrels. The interesting thing about Storm Petrels in the Galapagos is that they are active during the day rather than being nocturnal as they are in the rest world.
The thing about photographing Storm Petrels is that a) they are small, b) they are fast fliers and c) they are abundant. Unfortunately, I was attracted to the waved albatross soaring around more than the storm petrels and thus missed my chance to photograph them. Sure, they appear in some of my images. Mostly as a swarm of gnats surrounding an albatross.
Though, truthfully, even if I had been trying to make some images of the storm petrels, they wouldn’t have been much to look at as they were too small for the 200mm lens I had with me, even if I could have kept up to them.
Instead, I have this rather cool panning blur image of a waved albatross. Technically, it should probably be a throw-away image, but I just love all the panning lines and the not quite perfect albatross.
Looking Back Post 71 Nazca Boobies
After spending the morning in Darwin Bay we climbed Prince Phillip’s Steps to the top of Genovesa Island to see the storm petrels. Interesting thing about storm petrels. They are nocturnal. Except in the Galapagos. Without predators, the Galapagos storm petrels have adapted their behaviour.
But this isn’t a post about storm petrels. Or, at least, it wasn’t meant to be. This here is a mating pair of Nazca Boobies. Boobies have a pretty cool mating ritual involving a funny little dance routine. These two were putting on quite a show, but my images don’t show it. Regardless, this moment in time during their dance just screams for attention in my archives.
I was half way through the post processing on this when I realised it was a gorgeous image in black and white. Love, love, love how this turned out. I debated retouching the spider on the left booby’s breast (is that weird sounding or what? It’s like a double breast, or saying the booby’s booby! LOL) but then decided to leave it there. It makes me smile.
Okay, here’s an interesting bit of Nazca Booby trivia for you. Nazca Boobies practice siblicide. Yes, murder of siblings. Nazca Boobies lay two eggs a few days apart. The first egg hatches and starts the whole “gimme food” business. A few days to a week later, the second egg hatches and the first baby booby kicks the second out of the nest and refuses to let the parents rescue the reject. Told ya it was interesting!
Apparently the Masked Booby exhibit this behaviour too, though I have been unable to ascertain if the Blue Footed and Red Footed Boobies do this.
Well, there you go.
Looking Back Post 70 Darwin Bay, Genovesa Island
Landscape photography in the Galapagos Islands can be a really tough gig. Or, at least, it was a tough gig the first time I went there. Could be that it was simply overwhelming to my photography skills at the time. It will be interesting to see it through my eyes now, these many years later.
Jen and I are each exhibiting artwork in a look gallery this spring. Jen, her landscape art quilts and me, my photography. At our opening last week I was asked about how long it took to develop my skills as a photographer. The unspoken part of that question “current skills as a photographer”. I have so much more to learn and develop, I feel as though I have barely scratched the surface.
It was a fair question though. I’ve had a camera since my Granddad gave me his old Practica film camera when I was a lad. I experimented a bit, but never really got anywhere. Before I knew it, I was a starving student, and had other priorities than film. In about 2000, the quality and affordability curves finally intersected with my income situation and I purchased a digital camera. I never looked back.
But wow, did I produce a lot of crap. I didn’t really realise it was crap though. I would call Jen to the computer - check this out, isn’t it great. And I could see right away, though, what she thought of it. For years, this happened. And then things started to come together. A little bit. Still mostly crap, but usually when I called Jen to have a look at something she would be impressed.
From that point, probably about 6 or 7 years ago, my win rate started to improve pretty rapidly. This trip to the Galapagos was at the beginning of “The Curve of Improvement”. A workshop 4 years ago with Freeman Patterson was a watershed moment for me. After that point, I really started being able to see.
Now, I will still take quite a few images of a given subject, but it’s because I’m refining the image, getting it just right, because I can see what I want to capture and its just a matter of tweaking it.
What’s my point? Dunno, just telling a tale, I suppose, that for me, it’s taken a lot of time and effort to get where I am photographically. People see my photographs and say really nice things, sometimes they even say wow you have a gift. But it’s not a gift. It’s just the fruits of a lot of work.
I’m both enjoy this trip back through my archives and finding it very frustrating. I look at some of the images I made in the Galapagos and just shake my head and wonder what on earth I was doing shooting like that. Why didn’t I do this? Or why didn’t I do that? And I have to remind myself that I’m looking at photographs from 5 years ago through my eyes of today.
And then I wonder, if I could do it again, would the images be any different? I would like to think so. I sure hope so. But maybe, I get off the boat and go into crazed bird photographer mode and forget to look around and take in all the other beauty around me.
That said, and back to the start of this article, I remember the Galapagos landscape as a particularly challenging landscape to photograph. This photograph gives you a bit of an idea, though, of what Genovesa Island looks like and the Galapagos in general. As a geologically young landscape, there isn’t a huge variety. The challenge is in seeing the details that make it so unique and highlighting them.
And that, I think, is where a return visit would be different. I see differently now. How fun would that be? And maybe it’s a race against time. When we were there 5 years ago, there was talk of further increasing the restrictions on visitors. It’s a tough balance for the Galapagos and Ecuador as the Islands are a huge tourism draw. But the ecology is terribly fragile and has been beaten up pretty badly by the past couple centuries of abuse. There’s lots of work going into turning things around though.
On family day, my parents asked if I wanted to join them for a snowshoe in the woods up the street. I asked them if I could create a film at the same time. Of course. Perfect.
I had a lot of fun with this project and it fits really nicely into my sports portraiture and filmmaking that I’ve been building over the past year.
Rather than wax on about the process and everything I learned, like how HARD it is to choose a soundtrack!!!!, here’s the film. I hope you enjoy, and please – provide your feedback! What do you think?
© Houlden Studios- blog by intothedarkroom