A Grey Afternoon (Jodie Randall)

Speeding towards the horizon, the overcast sky and silvery-green water looked as though it streched on forever. We scanned all around. We were close now, but so far there was still no sign of the creatures that we had come here looking for. There were four of us in the boat: me, my sister and two friends. My sister and I had been invited out in their RIB (Rigid inflatable boat) which resembles a speed boat, in the hope of seeing grey seals.

Paralleled by the mainland on one side and an island on the other, we were heading to the newly uncovered sandbanks revealed by the receeding tide.

Flecks of salty sea spray spattered my face. A flock of turnstones raced along with the boat beating their striped wings at top speed.

I’m unsure who first spotted the ashen face moving through the murky water, but the alarm was sounded and the engine quickly turned off. Excited mutterings echoed around the boat. The seal was stilll quite a way off, when our friend behind the wheel began singing a high pitched, out of tune song. ‘Opera’ I was informed was the way to make the seal come closer. I am unsure whether there is any truth in this theory, but on this occasion his eccentric ploy payed off. There we were in the little boat bobbing up and down in the current listening to our friends’ shrill song ringing out over the waves, eyes all fixed on the seal. I lined my lens up as best I could. Inexperienced at shooting on water, I pressed the shutter whenever the seal came into frame. We were moving, the seal was moving and the water was moving. Needless to say, success rates were low and I was beginning to feel slightly sick. Another snout and two more glossy black eyes appeared above the surface, coming to investigate the strange sounds emitting from our boat.

The one closest lifted its head and shoulders from the water looking over towards the land, then disappeared head first, allowing us a glimpse of its arching back and slate grey flippers.

As they departed we went to investigate the sandbanks. Three large mottled bodies lay spralled out on the banks. It was hard to believe that they were the same creatures that I had seen only moments earlier in their element, blending with the waves.


NBPS Flickr Contest (Image by Evan Pagano)


Shake It Off, originally uploaded by Evan 49.

yet again Evan, great job!
I love this moment you captured here. and that you got a couple water droplets in mid-air. The slightly disheveled look the bird has is fabulous, sometimes we see too many shots of the bird in flight, or looking clean and neat. This does the opposite and made for a great capture. The colors and depth of field work well in this image too, by having the image blurred in the background the viewers eye focuses more on the subject; and the natural subtle colors of the bird are very pleasing to the eye.

thanks Evan, keep shooting!

-Emma Canfield

Gabby on the Road to Amazonia

Dear Friends,

I am writing to let you know that I have left on a 10-month journey through Southeastern Peru on a U.S. Fulbright Scholarship. I am working as a photographer with the Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica as they create a corridor of protected lands around the newly constructed Interoceanic Highway, which stretches across Peru and Brazil. Using images and video, I will tell the story of conservation efforts around the highway.

My journey begins in the high Andes and will continue in the lowland Amazon, as I traverse the corridor from Manu National Park, Peru, to Madidi National Park, Bolivia. I will be staying in accommodations that will range from hut floors to bunks in research stations, traveling by canoe, car, and plane to my destinations.
If you are interested in keeping up with my journey, you can visit my trip website: http://www.roadtoamazonia.com. I’ll be posting pictures, stories, videos, and audio journals from the field as I tell the story of conservation in this beautiful and globally important region. You can subscribe to the blog using the RSS Feed Link on the website. —All the best to you in the coming year! Gabby Salazar

PS. Send in your Flickr shots and keep watching for students’ work and ideas that is scheduled to be featured on Nature’s Best Photography Students blog run by the Nature’s Best Team and student correspondents. Check out the newest NBP Students Online edition. The next two issues are also in the works now.

FOLLOW GABBY in South America: http://www.roadtoamazonia.com
Email: gabby.r.salazar@gmail.com; Website: http://www.gabbysalazar.com

NBPS Flickr Contest (Image by Tucker Lutter)


Tarantula!, originally uploaded by BackpackingBirder.

This is a really great shot. Despite the fact that the tarantula is centralized in the frame, it is really powerful. I love how the tarantula looks as though it is lit from below as well as above. The only thing I would change about this image is in lower left corner: this area seems a bit lighter than the rest of the image (darken it maybe to match the others,) and the light bits around the abdomen look a bit over-exposed. If you shot this in raw (or even if not, but you get a better outcome if you do), there is a great tool (called “recovery” in photoshop) that brings back details in the hot spots in a non-destructive way (instead of using the burn tool.) If you use the adjustment brush in camera raw, you can also bring back details and darken it up a bit to make it uniform with the rest of the image. I also like the almost monochromatic take to this image!

Thanks for the great image, and keep up the good work!
-Emma Canfield

NEW Online Edition

See the new Nature’s Best Photography Students Online Edition for September 2010 with features by young photographers Connor Stefanison and Jess Findlay, Johan Doornenbal, Timothy Brooks, and Tyler Benjamin. Be sure to check out the videos and websites.

Let us know how you like the issue by sending an email to: Brianna@naturesbestphotography.com.

Recent shot (connor stefanison)

Having just started school again, I’ve been pretty busy. I figure I’ll just do a quick post about a recent shot I took, which I really like. This is a Long-Billed Dowitcher, which I took at Burnaby Lake. Burnaby Lake is very close by, so it makes for a very easy place to go to for some decent shots. For this shot I used hip waiters and a frying pan tripod (panpod), to achieve the low angle.  I also used mountain biking arm pads to save my arms from being chewed up by gravel. Overall, if you haven’t tried shooting at eye level for shorebirds shorebirds, I would highly recommend trying it. A low angle can give a more intimate look and a nice looking background to an image.

On a final note: I just got my Canon 1D Mark3 camera back from being repaired at Canon. IT TOOK FOUR MONTHS!

NBPS Flickr Contest (Image by Timothy Brooks)


Flower, originally uploaded by timilini.

I really enjoy this image; I love the fact that you did a great job keeping the flower in focus and you were able to have the line from the stem flow in the same direction as the subtle strokes in the background of the greens and browns.
The luminance of the contrasting colors of the flower being lighter and standing out in comparison of the more muted colors in the background are great too.
Great job and keep shooting!

Autumn tides (Jodie Randall)

In the time since my last post things have changed somewhat for me. The biggest change of all was the unexpected death of my mother three weeks ago. Consequently, and due to other reasons which I will not enter into here, I have been staying with my eldest sister in the little cottage surrounded by rolling corn fields that I mentioned previously on this blog. I am writing this in the cool shade of a small apple tree listening to the cooing of two collared doves. Starlings and sparrows are chattering away, while a blackbird and a robin (which I have become very fond of) provide the more melodious tones in the background. Every now and then they are interrupted by the short, sharp chirps of a grasshopper.
My mother was the core of the household, someone who kept everything in order and looked after us well. Now the axis has shifted and we all have to get used to the new way of things. In the rare, quiet moments snatched amid the mayhem that ensues after a death we spend our time in the garden. We have taken to laying out here late at night staring up at the star scattered sky watching shooting stars and satellites. It reminds me of a theater. A few meters above us, the intense amber glow of an outdoor light catches the underside of a myriad of moths. The headline acts are undoubtedly the two resident bats careering around the garden with magnificent dexterity. They appear slightly curious, flying within inches of our faces as if to inspect us.On the day of my Mother’s funeral I walked down to the banks of my local river. I stood on a natural jetty of large stones and watched the tide come in. The water lapped at the shore creating frothy bubbles as it advanced slowly towards my brown leather shoes. I felt comforted by it.
Returning home to the cottage a lone swallow swooped low across a nearby corn field showing no signs of a need for a rest before its long journey south. In the garden, a dragonfly was soaking up the warm rays of the sun, and the robin chirped from a hawthorn bush crimson with berries.
It is only now that I have begun to want to pick up my camera again. Instead I have been writing everything down in some sort of attempt to make sense of it all. At the moment, things feel like a loose jigsaw puzzle that I hope one day to piece together. I think nature holds many answers. Death is a part of life and a never ending cycle that has taken place since life began. At the very least, it never fails to lift my spirits.

NBPS Flickr Contest (Image by Matt Sullivan)

Imperial Moth Caterpillar (2), originally uploaded by MattSullivan.

This is such an interesting image – it really grabbed my eye! I love the close-up and the detail. Great job Matt! If I could do one thing to improve it, I might shift the color temperature just a tad to cool it off – it is very yellow.

Shorebird Photography in Vancouver, British Columbia (Jess Findlay)

It’s that time of year again when summer is coming to an end. A sad time of year for many. Definitely not for bird photographers though!

Fall migration has started up again and there are good numbers of shorebirds filtering through the Vancouver area. Many different species of sandpipers, plovers and other large waders stage at a great location only a half hour or so away from my home. Boundary Bay has become my favourite place in British Columbia to shoot shorebirds. Endless sandy beaches and vibrant green grass tusseks provide great habitat and shooting opportunities.

Shorebird photography is quite a challenge at times. Many are relatively small birds and therefore have numerous predators. That coupled with the fact that many of the juvenile birds migrating south for the first time have had little to no contact with humans can make for some frustrating moments. On the flip side, the skittish nature of these critters make the photographs that much more satisfying to achieve. Here are a few tips for photographing birds such as these….

First off, it is important to go out and shoot very often as different species migrate sooner than others. A slow and unthreatening approach works best for the most part, if you’re into it, crawling army style on your belly can lead to being only a few feet away from cooperative birds. Another tip that is surprisingly effective, is glancing at the bird(s) now and then to make sure they haven’t spooked but for the most part avoid eye contact as this can be seen as threatening behavior. I find low angles particularly effective for shooting shorebirds, as well as many other birds and wildlife. It is said that eye level angles produce the most intimate and pleasing images. Not only do you get up close and personal with the subject and it’s surroundings, more often than not the background will become adequately muted. Unfortunately to achieve these angles you have to get down and dirty in habitats not suited for expensive camera equipment…or wimpy photographers for that matter! There are some ways of making your visit with the sand and surf and little easier though. I employ the use of a “pan pod” whenever shooting shorebirds. This is a cool contraption that I first found on Glenn Bartley’s website. Glenn is a fantastic avian photographer from Victoria, B.C. (glennbartley.com) Basically the pan pod consists of an 8″ frying pad (without the handle) with a bolt that has the same thread pitch/count as the tripod head you’ll be using to mount your lens or camera to. Ballheads tend to work better as they are inexpensive, lightweight and allow you to achieve a lower angle. The bolt feeds through the underside of the frying pan and threads into your tripod head. I typically put a piece of bicycle inner tube in between the tripod head and pan to eliminate any abrasion. If the bolt is a little too long simply space it out with some washers on the underside of the pan. And there you have it a perfectly affordable, perfectly stable tripod substitute that is free to get as filthy as need be. Definitely better than having to clean and potentially damage an expensive carbon tripod! Another piece of equipment I always have on me are extension tubes. These allow your lens to focus closer than it’s assigned minimum distance, plus they boost your focal length as well. This is particularly helpful while shooting smaller peeps or head shots of larger species. The only downside to them is that they eliminate your lens’ ability to focus at unlimited. This usually doesn’t bother me as I am typically only concentrating on birds in my focus range at that time. My set which is made by Kenko has 3 sizes 12-20 and 36mm. The larger the size the more drastic the change in focus range and the longer your focal length. They can be combined as well for extreme situations. They lack glass so they don’t effect clarity or brightness, unlike teleconverters where your aperture is decreased depending on the size. They are super handy, very light and relatively cheap. If you’re into shooting smaller species of birds I’d definitely recommend picking up a set…(great for macro too!)

Below are some of my images from the 2010 fall migration, hopefully this has helped and motivates you to get out there and shoot…Good luck!

Jess Findlay


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