Calling all young photographers: Last 2 Days to enter!

Start an entry by 11:59 pm EST on Thursday, May 31th, 2012.

START AN ENTRY NOW and your best image may make the journey from the wild to the walls of the Smithsonian. Winners in each category and a selection of Highly Honored photographs will be displayed in the annual exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, one of the most respected and highly visited museums in the world. All winning images will be published in the 2012 Fall-Winter Collectors’ Edition of Nature’s Best Photography magazine.
Start an entry by 11:59 pm EST on Thursday, May 31th, and we will make sure you can finish your uploads. Thank you to everyone who already started and completed your entry on time, you will be judged first starting on June 1. BEST OF LUCK!

Macro Photograph with a Diffuser

Clematis with Diffuser

Macro photography can be very tough, but also very rewarding when you get a pleasing image. I have been doing a lot of experimenting with using diffusers to improve my macro photography. Here I have the same image, except one was shot with a diffuser and the other wasn’t. As you could probably tell, the above image was the one shot with the diffuser. The light is much softer and the shadows are much less pronounced.

You can see that the image shot without a diffuser has very harsh shadows and is glaring to the eye. So what’s the best thing about using a diffuser? The fact that you can shoot in any kind of light and still get a pleasing image!

To view more of my work, please visit my galleries by clicking here.

Calling all young photographers: ENTER NOW!

The annual Windland Awards deadline has been extended to May 30th.
CLICK HERE for a chance to be displayed at the Smithsonian exhibition.
The good news is that due to the large volume of calls and emails we received on the day of our original deadline we have decided to extend the closing of competition entries. May 30th is the final date, so please prepare and enter your images soon. Follow the guidelines PDF on the entry form and let us know if you need help.

JUDGING BEGINS JUNE 1: We will still be judging the entries in the order they were submitted, i.e. the first 10 entry submissions we received this year will be the first 10 entrants judged and so on until we reach the very last entry submitted. So, if you entered earlier you will be reviewed earlier.

Best of luck for this year, maybe your image will make the journey from the wild to the walls of the Smithsonian, one of the most respected and highly visited museums on Earth. Check out this year’s Awards HD video (below) for a selection of images from the 2011 competition and give it a thumbs up! At the end, there are cute polar bear cubs filmed by Thomas D. Mangelsen, the Conservation Photographer of the Year.

Steve Freligh, Director
Windland Smith Rice Awards

Photographing in Vancouver, BC, Canada

For many city-dwellers like myself, our knowledge of birds extends only to the sounds of invisible birds calling and commonly seen pigeons and ravens. I spent the weekend photographing with Connor Stefanison and Jess Findlay, two photographers from Vancouver, Canada whose keen eyes and understanding of wildlife allows them to spot numerous hidden birds populating our world.

    On the trip, we focused predominately on photographing owls. This was my first encounter with wild owls, and the experience was unreal. We photographed snowy owls in the purplish, early morning light and short-eared owls hunting in the setting sun at Boundary Bay. On the last day, we had a truly extraordinary experience. While hiking along a mountain, a barred owl responded to a call Jess made. The owl continued to follow and call back to us on the hour-long hike. It even perched close enough to photograph. Because of the decrease in spotted owls over the years from logging, barred owls have filled the void. Barred owls are more aggressive for food and space. They are thriving and taking over the habitat of the endangered Spotted Owl through “bullying” techniques, like stealing nests and using their 20 percent larger size difference to intimidate. Much controversy surrounds the appropriate handling of the spotted owl restoration.

    Initially, the US Fish and Wildlife Federation talked of taking human intervention by killing some barred owls to help the spotted owl numbers, but many questioned whether it was right to kill one species to help another.  As for now, action is on hold.  Although the spotted owls are returning to their habitat, it is still not at a healthy rate.  According to an article on spotted owls published in Smithsonian Magazine “In 1990, barred owls in a forest west of Corvallis, Oregon occupied less than 2 percent of spotted owl sites; today, barred owls nest in 50 percent of the them.”

   Two of the most important photography lessons I learned on this trip were composition and understanding the mechanics of the camera. First, don’t be afraid to take a little longer to compose your image before you fire off the shutter.  It is so easy to get excited when we come across wildlife and to just start shooting. Taking a couple of seconds to check the edges of frame through your viewfinder can really take an image to the next level. Think of your viewfinder making a “Z” formation: top left corner, top right corner, diagonal across the frame to the bottom left corner, and bottom right corner, checking at each spot.  Once you have adjusted your position, by either moving your feet or tripod, so that the subject is not too close to the edge and that there are no distracting shrubs or bright spots in the foreground or background, start shooting.  Second, try to learn the mechanics of your camera.

    Experiment with your settings when you shoot so that you know how fast your shutter speed should be to get a sharp image.  Once you know that, you can go into any lighting and adjust your aperture and ISO accordingly.  There is nothing worse than not getting a sharp image because the shutter speed wasn’t fast enough. Again, patience plays a role. If you take time before setting off the shutter to make sure your settings are correct for the situation, your images will come out sharper and be taken to the next level.

A lot of times it is easy to think that there is very little wildlife in your area, but try exploring local parks, looking high and low, to see what you find. Nature can be surprising sometimes and  which with patience and creativity can create great images.

Thank you for reading,

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

www.kathrynboydbatstone.com

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Sources: Welch, Craig. “Smithsonian.com.” Smithsonian Magazine. 31 Dec. 2009. Web. 02 Apr. 2012. <http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/The-Spotted-Owls-New-Nemesis.html?c=y&gt;.

Revealing the Hidden Ones

I’m often in a hurry to get to the images I know are good once they have been uploaded to the computer. More often than not, I miss those hidden good ones. So what I do is go back and take a look at the whole folder. I have always found one or two images that call for processing, and many of them make it to my gallery. The images in this blog post were just edited today from a trip to Florida back in 2010. My editing skills have gotten much better, and allowed me to take advantage of all the file had to offer.

I encourage you to go back and look at your old files. You will be surprised at what is hiding in the files!

Using a Circular Polarizer

Taken With A Circular Polarizer

Taken With a Circular Polarizer

As a landscape photographer, one of the most important tools in my bag is the Circular Polarizer. This tool can make a world of difference in pretty much every situation. Its main use is to take reduce the amount of glare on water, leaves, or just about any other surface that reflects the glare. (Note: it will not have any effect on metal.) Although not the intended use, it can be used to make blue skies even bluer.

Taken Without a Circular Polarizer

Taken Without a Circular Polarizer

In the two images provided in this blog post, you can see the difference the polarizer makes. I highly recommend the Nikon 77mm Circular Polarizer II Thin Ring Multi-Coated Filter. It has a thin ring which allows you to track the filter without applying any vignetting. Overall, a great tool to have in your bag.

To view more of my work, please visit my renovated galleries by clicking here!

Winter walks

This year in the southeast of England we have had a particularly warm winter. Around two weeks ago however, the clouds cleared leaving crystal clear skies. The resulting drop in temperature meant we got the first proper frost of the winter. Walking across a field in the first rays of light, my breath coming out in pink clouds, the grass crunched under my feet. Every tiny blade was fringed with frost.  I was making my way to a local disused quarry. The land around it has been left wild and although it is a regular haunt of dog walkers the quarry is also a great place to photograph wild plants. Stone parsleys, with their black seeds, are perhaps my favourites in winter. I also love the rose hips. They brighten up the otherwise bleak hedgerows with dashes of brilliant red. Sloe berries, a fruit of the blackthorn bush and a rich chalky blue also add a splash of colour here and there along with the blood red berries of the hawthorn bush. Birds fluttered among the monochrome branches; mostly blue tits and great tits along with the odd blackbird. The  only audible birdsong was that of a lone robin ringing out across the fields, as crisp as the frost itself.

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