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Upcoming nature photography workshop – Point Reyes, September 27-29th

If you are local to the SF Bay Area and are just getting started with nature photography, Bobby will be co-instructing a workshop hosted by the Western Chapter of the Wildlife Society on September 27th and 29th: Click here for registration. This workshop will focus on a variety of nature photography subjects targeted towards the serious beginner. Workshops are the fastest way to learn a lot of skills in a condensed period of time, and they are always a lot of fun. Bobby will be presenting on a number of topics including action/bird photography and print making along with co-hosts Sarah Bettleheim and Brian Freirmuth

Brown pelican

Protecting Your Photography Gear from Moisture and Fungus

If you live or travel somewhere hot, humid, or downright moist, you may be wondering how you can prevent fungus spores from settling into your equipment. These little creatures can wind up taking residence inside of your lenses, eventually spreading and wreaking havoc within. Taking a few precautions will greatly reduce the likelihood of this occurring:

Sometimes you just have to shoot in the rain…
  • Regularly wipe off any moisture from your camera body or lens. This is good general practice, as even “weather-sealed” cameras have been known to succumb to the elements under tough conditions. Focusing and zooming will present opportunities for the lens to breathe, allowing moisture to be sucked in. Regularly keeping your camera free from drops of moisture, especially before a lens change, dramatically reduces the risk of water coming into contact with electronic components. 
  • Cover your camera. There are some waterproof cases designed to keep water off of your camera and lenses. While these seem like a good idea in theory, they make it very difficult to use the camera’s buttons so they can be of limited utility. We have also tried the clear plastic bag route. While it might be fine in colder rain, in hot and humid environments the plastic will stick to your face, which can be less than comfortable. 
  • Carry a dry bag or waterproof cover for your bag, so you will be able to protect your gear if it starts to rain heavily. 
  • At the end of each day, leave your lens caps off and place your equipment in a dry bag (or sealed confined space) with some silicone gel packets. We like to use “rechargeable” ones so that we can reduce the weight of carrying them and because it’s less wasteful. These packets will help suck out any moisture that has made its way within your equipment, and will turn red when they are filled with moisture. 
  • If you have access to one, a dry box (sealed container with a heat source such as an incandescent bulb can serve the same purpose as the dry bag and silica packets. 
  • When cleaning your camera and lens, use a rocket blower if you need to blow away dust. The air in your breath could contain bacteria and fungal matter. 

When moving a lens quickly from a very dry to humid environment, it may start to fog up, resulting in cloudy images. This has happened to me a few times when I keep lenses in a dry bag in my backpack all day and forget to open it. To prevent this issue, allow the lens some time to adjust to the humidity gradually, if possible (for instance, take the lens out of a dry bag and let it sit inside for while before taking it outside). If this does occur, make sure to pay special attention to removing moisture from that lens when you get a chance to dry it out. 

Since fungus is happy to settle into your lens regardless of how new or expensive it is, it is a good idea to keep your gear dry when traveling to hot and humid areas. Following these steps should help prevent fungus from settling in, reducing the need for costly repairs.

Long-term Review of the Olympus E-M1X: A Wildlife Photographer’s Perspective

A Question of Size

For some, the E-M1X might seem like a bit of an enigma. For many years, Olympus and Panasonic championed the compact form factor of their micro four-thirds series cameras and the advantages that they offer in terms of portability over a DSLR. Over the past couple of years, Olympus has shifted its focus away from ultra compact lenses and bodies and  towards larger bodies and lenses for working professional and serious enthusiast photographers. Panasonic seems to be leaning this direction as well, if the release of the GH5 and G9 micro four-thirds flagship cameras and their recently released 10-25mm F/1.7 zoom lens are any indication. That brings us to the E-M1X, which is a clear deviation from Olympus’s compact micro-four thirds heritage. Is it worth considering with today’s full-frame craze?

Continue reading “Long-term Review of the Olympus E-M1X: A Wildlife Photographer’s Perspective”

FotoPro EGL-65 Eagle Series Carbon Fiber Tripod and E-6H Gimbal Review – A Lightweight Option for Wildlife and Landscape Travelers

Fotopro EGL-65 with E-6H Gimbal (Olympus E-M1X mounted)

Preface

Tripods are one of those pieces of photography equipment I tried to avoid buying for a long time. In part, it’s because I’ve benefited from the excellent built-in image stabilization provided by the micro-four thirds cameras that I have used over the years, but I also never liked carrying extra weight when I didn’t have to. Still, there are times when I have found that a tripod is an indispensable tool. This includes situations where I must be patient and wait for a wildlife subject to appear, or when shooting macro subjects where maximum stability is required. Holding a camera with a telephoto lens at your eye for long periods of time can be extremely fatiguing, and not having a tripod near the correct position at the right moment could lead to missed or blurry shots. Tripods are also exceptionally useful for stabilizing video.

Continue reading “FotoPro EGL-65 Eagle Series Carbon Fiber Tripod and E-6H Gimbal Review – A Lightweight Option for Wildlife and Landscape Travelers”

Dodging Dust on Safari! A Guide to Keeping Your Photography Gear Safe in Dusty Environments

When getting ready for our first safari trip, we were repeatedly warned to be prepared for lots of dust. Although we knew to expect it, we were still impressed by the amount of dust that made its way into our safari vehicle each day, pouring in through the pop up top and windows. In spite of our best efforts, it was a constant companion in our vehicle. In Tanzania, the dust is very fine, and makes its way onto everything. Thankfully, taking a few steps to protect our camera gear kept it safe. 

Focusing and zooming draw air into your lenses, presenting an opportunity for dust to work its way inside. This is especially true for lenses with a moving front lens element, like a Nikon 200-500 F/5.6 or a Canon 100-400 F4.5-5.6. Most of the time the issue will not be noticeable in your photos, however it may have an effect over time as more and more dust accumulates. On your camera, dust can cause irritating effects if it settles on your sensor, creating dark spots in your images. It can also work its way into the mirror box of a DSLR, which can be distracting. 

A lioness chases a wildebeest through a thick cloud of dust.

If you work outside, some dust in your lenses or in your DSLR’s viewfinder is inevitable. If you are in a dusty environment, a few tools can be useful for keeping dust off of your gear:

  • A rocket blower can be used to push dust off of cameras and lenses throughout the day
  • A lens brush can be used to wipe dust off of the front lens element throughout the day
  • A small cloth can be used to regularly wipe any dust that settles on the extended part of any zoom lens, so that dust is not retracted into the inside of the lens. 
  • A piece of cloth (such as a pillowcase) can be used to wrap around any gear not in use, so it does not get dusty while stored
  • Be prepared to roll the windows up when a car passes by
  • Thoroughly cleaning the body and lenses with moist towelettes at the end of each day should be sufficient to get the remaining grime off so it does not settle in
  • When in a humid environment, or if using something moist to clean equipment, you can store your equipment with silica gel packets overnight to ensure that the moisture is wicked away. 

When cleaning your equipment, be very careful not to touch anything fragile, such as your camera sensor. Keeping your gear clean throughout the day should keep dust at bay so everything continues to look and function as expected.

Better beamer – better wildlife photos?

What’s a Better Beamer? It’s not a hot-rodded BMW. It’s essentially a plastic fresnel lens that’s placed in front of your flash to concentrate the light beam using age-old lighthouse technology and physics.

Anna’s Hummingbird

A Fresnel lens projects the light beam farther then your flash can accomplish on its own. It does this by bending parallel light beams that would otherwise diffuse towards a concentrated point.

Many wildlife photographers find this type of flash setup useful for illuminating wildlife under forested cover and less-than-ideal lighting conditions. It also provides a nice catchlight in the eye, which helps bring subjects to life.

This photo was captured with the Sony A9, 100-400 GM lens, flash, and a Better Beamer.

Crater lake landscapes

Earlier this year we made it up to Crater Lake in Oregon – and I just got around to processing this photo from the trip. It was a clear day with nice reflections. This photo was shot with the Sony A9 and the 24-105 G OSS lens. I’ve been renting and testing out different mirrorless camera setups, and the Sony offers impressive autofocus performance and good image quality – even though it’s not particularly known to be a “landscape camera”. The truth is, most mid-level to professional cameras are capable of excellent results, and it mainly comes down to personal preference.