Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Garden Birds

The weather has taken a turn to the warmer and with a little sunshine it seams to have given a lift to the birds in my garden So I grabbed the camera and took some pictures of the birds for … Continue reading


portrait photographers

Lakeside, Singapore (Archived)

I was looking through my old photos of Singapore when I realized there were some shots of Lakeside that I hadn't uploaded. These photographs were taken from Lakeside in April 2011, during my summer break.

A stretch of condominiums by the lake... It must be a beautiful view for the residents living in there!

Can you spot the MRTs (trains)?

A random shot of the wide canal along which I walked home.

Oh God, I just miss Singapore! :(
Anyway, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, everyone!


wildlife photography course

On Assignment: Dude for LumiQuest

I shot the original ad for the LumiQuest Soft Box III back in 2008, using a pre-production sample. I love that light mod, and use it all of the time.

So when Quest Couch asked me to shoot a second version for the bigger LTp and left the subject matter up to me, I eagerly started looking for a subject. Read more �


free photography competitions

Dining with Devils

Few places feel as remote and wild as the Australian island of Tasmania; mile upon mile of sandy beaches and jagged rocks stretch for as far as the eye can see, whilst ancient forests full of giant ferns cover much of the interior. The island is frequently battered by stormy seas and howling winds [...]


jobs photography

Snake in the Tank

This has occurred several times: A rat snake hunting for fish and frogs, gets caught in the net covering the fish tank (pond) outdoors. Many a times, the snake eventually dies of suffocation! However, this time, after much twisting and turning within the net, the snake managed to free itself and slithered straight into the water.

Here he is, peeking up from the water, checking if the coast is clear, to escape.

He tried many times to launch himself up and out of the water but the slippery tiles of the tank sent him back.

Finally, after much waiting and trying, he manages to escape from the tank, and slither away quick into the bushes.

Anyway, just letting you guys know that my exams are drawing near, and I might not be blogging for quite a while. But don't worry, I'll be back with those posts soon!


photography for beginners

Pet Photo Contest 2012

The first competition in our 2012 photo contest series is now open for entries! The theme is ?Pets?. We are looking for striking and original photographs of your beloved dogs, cats and other pets. For some inspiration, checkout the results of last year’s Pet Photo Contest. The deadline for this contest is 31st March [...]


photography school

Landscape Photo Competition Results

Here are the results of our 2011 Landscape Photo Competition. With around 6,500 entries, judging this contest was another difficult task! The standard of images entered was better than ever and we enjoyed exploring the world through your pictures. Thank you to everyone who entered and congratulations to all of the fantastic photographers who have [...]


jobs photography

Play the Seasons and Learn


You can't fight it, you have to go with the flow. Let the salmon go up river to their death, struggling to survive, but as a photographer - learn the seasons, research the places, scout them, make friends, make visits, and over time get to know places and what works best.

I guess in a nut shell that's what I've been doing for a few years or more. Traveling mostly a hundred miles this way or that way, and when it works well either learning about a location or getting some good and new images - and on the really good days both. A day with learning but no stand out images, that's still got to be counted as a success.

Cape May New Jersey is sort of my new favorite place. Last year I went a couple times, but this year I am even more in to it.

Cooper's Hawk resting for a moment at the beach

Having gone to spots here and there at Cape May and tried sunrise or sunset at a few spots I now have more info and more local knowledge. The folks that live nearby, or visit lots, they know what's up - and it can largely be a matter of asking, and also trial and error.

The hawk landed on that fence post - I was just 20 feet away, and when I moved the camera over and started to shoot he saw me and flew off a moment later. That brief encounter, what it really highlighted for me was - hawks will do anything and land and then scan the area - IF they aren't spooked off to begin with. I was there already, but when I moved and focused on him, THAT bother him.

So, that was a couple weekends ago. What happened a few minutes later was a group of ~15 birders came up to the spot near me, and walked up and started looking around. Needless to say, no more hawks landed on the fence.

A week later I was back and it was like ground-hog-day, but I had just a little more info. I was at a similar spot along the dune and the hawks were all over the place, and migrating, and flying mostly south.

What I tried differently was to not be in a spot so often traveled by people. It was still pretty close to the beach, at a dunes spot, and basically equally good for hawks.

Here's the spot I picked and how I setup with some cover. Having shot a few places where I just made the seemingly minor choice of picking some cover to try to blend in with, it really made a difference.

The thing about shooting raptors flying by close and fast though is that shooting from a tripod - that's not so good. I couldn't move around and adjust fast enough. I wound up hand holding most of the time. I'd rest the camera and lens on the tripod, and then when something was approaching I'd hand hold the camera and get ready...

What actually happened next THREE TIMES though was I was too hidden, I blended in too much for my own good. Last year I got a camo coat, and hat, and have wrapped my lens in camo too. So, THREE times at this *other* spot a hawk landed on the fence post, so close that by the time I reached for the camera and began to adjust and move to just begin to PREPARE to take a shot, the hawk was so spooked by my new found presence that it took off before I even came CLOSE to getting a shot. Three times. Once the hawk was just on right of that tall grass perched on the fence maybe 4 feet from me and the camera.


So, I tried to learn from that, expect things, and plan and move around differently... It didn't quite work out, but I think if I had done what I did later during the earlier encounters, it could have worked. So, for me, I learned and will try new things next time.


One of the great things about this time of year and Cape May also is that there are so many knowledgeable and friendly people there. In just a few visits this year, I really learned a bunch already. I will still basically say much of the bird IDs I tell people are "guesses" because I know I have so much more to learn, but, with hundreds of raptors passing by, often per hour, I kind of feel like I know more every day of every visit I'm there.

Taking time to blend in, dress right, move slowly, and predict things is something I've picked up more in the past 2 years I'd say. It's like being a hunter... The input influences the output. If you don't know what you're doing the best you can hope for is being lucky. But there more you know, the more you can predict, the more you can steer chance in your own favor.......

Find spots and go with the seasons, learn the lay of the land, patterns, and NEVER be afraid to get info from a local or fellow visitor.

-Jon / Jon


photography portfolio

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

There's a Peacock in my Backyard!

Yep, like the title says, there was a peacock in my backyard! I was sitting down on my balcony when I noticed a large bird walking through my backyard. I initially thought it was my neighbor's pet turkey, but no, it was a peacock!

I ran after the big bird with my camera. Pity I wasn't holding on to my zoom lens, so I couldn't manage to snap any decent shots. The peacock started running off upon seeing me, and I got a mug shot of it flying up on to the top of my neighbor's house.

I was extremely surprised to have seen a peacock (this one is probably a female; peahen) in my area. Well yes, the peacock is the national bird of India, but they were never found in these areas. But upon asking my parents, I figured out that this particular individual was probably one that sneaked out from the nearby Hindu temple, where they grow peacocks. So you can't really call it 'wild'!


wildlife photography course

120 Matchbox Pinhole Project - Part 6


120 Matchbox Pinhole Project

As I stated in my earlier posts,…

…one of my to-do projects for WPPD - 2012 is to build a working 120-pinhole camera from a large kitchen matchbox.

To date, I have finished the light proofing on the back portion. I have also added a film gate, designed a film advance and hopefully made the front light baffles so that they will also be light tight.

For this post, I am going to add the pinhole and create a shutter mechanism.

Image 1 - Prepare the pinhole as shown here:  Pinhole Project - The Pinhole Aperture - Part 4

 Image 2 - Here I have marked off the center of the camera front by making an X. Simply use a straight edge from corner to corner and mark the center.

Image 3 - Cut out a square in the box front that will be smaller than your piece of tin. (aluminum can material or brass shim stock).

Image 4 - The pinhole should be blackened on one side with a black marker. This will prevent reflections inside the camera.

Image 5 - Place the pinhole with the blackened side down on the front surface as shown.

Image 6 - Cut a piece of black paper card stock that is approximately 1 3/4" x 3 1/2". Fold it in half and punch a hole in the center that goes through both halves. I used several punches to make the hole a bit larger.

Image 7  and 8 - Add glue to one side of the folded paper and adhere it to the front of the box with the flap fold at the bottom as shown. The punched holes should both be positioned over the pinhole.

Image 9 - Here I have cut out a piece of felt to act as a light trap. A hole is cut to expose the pinhole and the felt is glued in place on top of the glued down paper.

Image 10 - Fold the second half of the black paper back down. This will become the guide for our shutter.

Image 11 - Cut out a second piece of black paper card stock that is approximately 5 1/2" long. Fold one end as shown. This will work as a stop for your shutter. Punch out a hole that is approximately 1 1/4" from the folded end.

Image 12 - Place this strip between the folded card stock you glued to the front of the box.

Image 13 - Tape the flap down so that the strip is free to move back and forth. If done correctly, the pinhole can easily be covered and uncovered by pushing and pulling on the unfolded end of the strip.

Image 14 - The shutter should slide easily into either position.

All we have to do now is load the film, calculate the exposure and shoot our subjects!

You might want to go back to the last few posts to read more about this project.

120 Matchbox Pinhole Project - Part 1

120 Matchbox Pinhole Project - Part 2

120 Matchbox Pinhole Project - Part 3

Pinhole Project - The Pinhole Aperture - Part 4

120 Matchbox Pinhole Project - Part 5


Find out more about Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day:

WPPD - 2012








Please read more of my posts regarding Digital and Analog Photography on Pixiq.

 And buy my book as a great holiday gift!

The Library Journal named it a Best Book for 2011. Best Books 2011: Rethinking Digital Photography

"Rethinking Digital Photography - Making & Using Traditional & Contemporary Photo Tools"

BUY the book at AmazonBarnes and Noble in the USA, Chapters/Indigo in Canada and other fine book stores in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and other countries worldwide.









photography forum

Cape Ivy on the Rivas Canyon Trail

Cape Ivy on the Rivas Canyon Trail

Did the Will Rogers - Temescal Loop this morning from the End of Reseda. It had been more than a month since we'd had measureable rain in Los Angeles and it was great to be out in the Santa Monica Mountains after a rainstorm, dodging a few mud puddles and enjoying the good running weather!

A key segment of the 21 mile loop is the Rivas Canyon Trail, which connects Will Rogers State Historic Park to Temescal Gateway Park. Each time I run the trail I'm blown away by the oceans of Cape ivy in Rivas Canyon. Having grown up in the Southeastern U.S. it reminds me of kudzu.

Both are introduced perennial climbing vines -- kudzu from Japan and Cape ivy from South Africa. Both are prolific and can cause severe negative impacts to native plants and other vegetation.

More information about Cape ivy (Delairea odorata) can be obtained on the California Invasive Plant Council web site.

Related post: Christmas Eve Trail Run Copyright 2006-2012 Gary Valle. All Rights Reserved.


photography sites

Picking an Alaska Bear Photo Tour

Photos from past Alaska bear tours. I’m offering two Alaska bear photo tours next summer; my August tour is full and I only have two spots left for my June tour.� You can get all the details here:� Alaska bear photography tour.� If you haven’t been up close to these magnificent animals,� you are in [...]


photography courses bristol

Layer Slayer Dave Hill Peels the Onion at Valio Con

More than a few of you can kiss your productivity goodbye for the next hour. From a tech/creative conference last summer comes this long-form video of a presentation by LA-based photographer Dave Hill.

It's a straight video grab from the conference room, so there is no contrast in the images. But still, great stuff. In the full-length vid after the jump, Dave talks about bootstrapping, five-finger optical discounts at prop shops, hand drawing curly beards on dudes in Photoshop and even his very first composite portrait. Read more �


photography careers

More Creative Ways to Sell Your Photos

Start thinking about selling your photos and your first thoughts are likely to be of prints and licenses. A myriad of options from Buy Now buttons on websites and photo-sharing platforms to garage sales and galleries let photographers offer framed versions of their art. Microstock?s open policy means that anyone can now upload and hope [...]


photography gifts

Chincoteague NWR, VA pt2


What's neat about shooting at Chincoteague is getting to see some new behavior.

On a previous trip I was watching the herons and egrets and noticed how the gulls group up with them. The gulls don't seem to bother the herons and egrets much but they do key off of them - some times stealing their catch. What was interesting to watch though was how the gulls imitate the snowy egrets. The egrets will use their feet to stir up the bottom and get critters to reveal themselves. I saw a gull using its feet in the same way, it had to have learned it from the herons and egrets.

Shooting across from the visitors center out near the beach is surprisingly good. I would have thought the traffic or other visitors might detract, but it worked well.

I have this low LL Bean chair, it sits about 4 inches off the ground and makes for a nice seat to use and stay low, and off the sometimes wet/muddy ground.

One thing that I try to avoid is shooting from head high, tripod high, for no reason. Often I will collapse the legs on my tripod to the shortest height and then sit down, or I will extend the legs just slightly and kneel or crouch. I've only gone in to a full horizontal shooting stance a few times, but getting that low makes a difference. The two main things are the angle is more intimate, being closer to the subject, and the other thing it does is makes me less imposing - so I am not towering over a 1 feet subject standing 6 feet tall. Staying low can make a big difference like this. A couple of trips about at Chincoteague I slid closer to a group of herons and got within 20 or 25 feet of them. THey knew I was there but over time I slowly got closer and didn't trigger their fear and they stayed put, hunting, unbothered. When I was done shooting and stood up - every bird flew away. Many came back as I walked away, but that just shows the contrast of standing vs. sitting and the way birds might respond.

This Redish Egret had just caught and ate a crab - and then proceeded to stick its head underwater so it could slowly look for the other bits (legs and claws). It was neat to see and the undisturbed water made for some nice reflections...

Chincoteague NWR, VA / Jon


photography books

Snake in the Tank

This has occurred several times: A rat snake hunting for fish and frogs, gets caught in the net covering the fish tank (pond) outdoors. Many a times, the snake eventually dies of suffocation! However, this time, after much twisting and turning within the net, the snake managed to free itself and slithered straight into the water.

Here he is, peeking up from the water, checking if the coast is clear, to escape.

He tried many times to launch himself up and out of the water but the slippery tiles of the tank sent him back.

Finally, after much waiting and trying, he manages to escape from the tank, and slither away quick into the bushes.

Anyway, just letting you guys know that my exams are drawing near, and I might not be blogging for quite a while. But don't worry, I'll be back with those posts soon!


bird photography

Monday, 27 February 2012

3 New Skills Every Photographer Will Need

Old school photographers might have experience, contacts and a bag full of equipment built up over the years, but young photographers now have an important advantage. While shooters who picked up their first camera more than a decade ago may be a dab hand in a darkroom that?s now been turned back into a closet, [...]


wildlife nature photography

Tiny Froglets

I spotted these tiny frogs one wet morning on the leaves of the plant where I had released the green tree frog. I believe they are young frogs that just lost their tails as they were that tiny!

A few had a slightly different pattern and colour.

I thought that perhaps it was possible for these froglets to be the young of the Malabar Flying Frog I had released here. But there wasn't any water body nearby. Whatever they are, or wherever they came from, I was glad I could spot and photograph such tiny and cute frogs in front of my house.


colour photographers

A special owl on a special day

Remember a few posts back when I showed you a cute, tiny owl? I said I could have taken it home in my pocket, and estimated that it was smaller in size than my head.

A captive Northern Saw-whet Owl who is part of the educational display for the Back to the Wild wildlife rehabilitation center.

This past Friday, I finally got a chance to meet one of these little cuties up close. But let's back up a little bit.

I had never even heard of Saw-whet Owls until last spring. It was at the ODNR's annual Wildlife Diversity conference that I heard a presentation about Saw-whet Owls given by Kelly Williams-Sieg, an Ohio University grad student and licensed bird bander. The presentation detailed her work with Project Owlnet and how she's been banding and researching Saw-whets (and other birds) since 2004 at Earl H. Barnhart Buzzards Roost Nature Preserve in Chillicothe, Ohio. As her presentation wrapped up, I jotted down some notes and thought, "Wow, wouldn't it be cool to attend one of these banding sessions?" I left it at that, thinking it a purely whimsical notion at the time. Fast forward 6 months or so to an event at Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, where Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalists met for a weekend of pure nature bliss, full of learning about and looking at birds, butterflies, flowers and beetles. It was here that I met Bob Scott Placer, a licensed bird bander, who also happens to live practically down the street from me. Bob has been helping Kelly band owls at Buzzards Roost from day one. After some discussions with Bob, I went out to Buzzards Roost once last year to check out the banding operation, but we struck out. It was early December, and they hadn't seen any Saw-whets for a week or so. Bob advised that we come in early November the next year for better luck.

And so we did just that. There was no pressure to see an owl or anything. It just so happened to be my birthday on the day that I chose for our owling adventure.

A group of folks from the Scioto Valley Bird and Nature Club was already there by the time we arrived around 8:15 pm. Kelly, Bob and Lisa, our banders for the evening, made several checks of the mist nets between 8:30 and 10:15, each time coming up empty-handed. By 10:30 all the bird club folks had headed home, so Dave and I were the only onlookers left. Around 10:45 the nets were checked, and still there was nothing. Bob said that during previous banding sessions so far this season the owls had been showing up pretty late, so we all hung in there for one more net check at 11:15. Lo and behold, Kelly checked a net and said she had an owl. I let out a small squeal of delight and rushed down to see for myself. Kelly deftly but gently untangled the owl from the net. It clacked its beak several times, a sound of warning. We heard plenty more of that as our time with the owl went on.

Kelly Williams-Sieg and Bob Scott Placier prepare to collect data from a Northern Saw-whet Owl.

Once the owl was freed from the mist netting, we brought it inside to band it and collect various data, such as wing and tail length, weight, and amount of fat observed.

Kelly blows the owl's feathers out of the way so she can look for fat deposits under its skin. This bird showed no fat deposits, which is typical of a bird that is in the middle of migration. Kelly also showed me how she feels along either side of the breast bone for fat, and let me feel for myself.

Kelly demonstrates how a Saw-whet bite doesn't hurt. That hooked beak looks intimidating, but that's mainly a tool for ripping the flesh of its prey. The real danger on this little predator is its talons, which Kelly experienced first-hand several times over the course of several minutes.

Normally docile and seemingly tame in the hand, this Saw-whet was an exception to the rule. She was feisty right from the start, complete with lots of bill snapping and much kicking and grabbing with those talons. Here Lisa gives the owl a momentary distraction of a pencil to hang on to while Kelly tries to reposition her for more data collection.

Taking the tail measurement. I think the owl has a most displeased expression here.

For those of you wondering how you weigh an owl (or any other small bird), this is how it's done. They go head-first into some kind of tube, which keeps them from wiggling around too much. This Saw-whet weighed in at 98.2 grams, which Kelly said was on the high side for this species. The weight, combined with tail and wing measurements suggests that this owl is a female (typically, female owls are larger than the males).

A black light is used to help age the bird. There is a certain pigment in the owls flight feathers that show up in varying degrees of pink, depending on its age. This photo doesn't do the test justice because the whole bird shows up as pink, which is not what we really saw. Based on the amount of pink we saw, and how bright the pink was, Kelly determined that this owl was born this year. That's called a hatch-year bird. So we had ourselves a fiesty, hatch-year female.

Now that we've got her vitals, let enjoy her cuteness, shall we?

Rock, paper, scissors, owl! Just kidding. Kelly's showing me how to hold my fingers as I prepare to get the best birthday present a birder could ask for...

... A loving gaze from a teeny, tiny owl. Say it with me everyone: Awwwwwwwwww.

Despite all the attitude and the feistyness, this little ball of fluff could not resist the power of a good head rub. I have read about this phenomenon from others, and she did indeed just keep pushing her head back farther and farther as I ran my finger down her head and back. She did show some signs of resistance though, as she simultaneously pushed into the head rub while snapping her bill half-heartedly. The theory behind what seems to be the owl's enjoyment of this action is that it reminds them of mutual grooming and preening that they do in the wild (especially mother with owlet).

One last pose with "my" owl before we took her outside to be released.

It took a few minutes for us to walk down to the spot where we released her, which gave her eyes time to adjust to the dark enough so that she could see to fly off to a nearby perch. Kelly placed her on my arm, and I had a feeling it wouldn't take her too long to fly off, given all the attitude she had given us while in our care. Sure enough, she took off within 5 seconds, wooshing over my head into a tree just behind me. Luckily I was able to turn around fast enough to see her outstretched wings back-lit against a sky brightened by a waning moon just before she landed.

All in all, I'd say that experience was a pretty cool birthday present. Thank you Kelly, Bob and Lisa. And thank you, little owl. I was very honored to meet you.

But wait, don't go away yet! Please be sure to check out THIS ARTICLE from the October 2008 issue of Ohio Magazine that goes into a little more detail about the Saw-whet banding project. And to see the banding process in action, watch THIS VIDEO by ODNR's Division of Wildlife.


photography courses london