Saturday, 18 July 2009

Whale Photography

The Humpbacks are here!
How and where is the best way to capture these giants of the deep?

Along the coast of Queensland the mighty humpbacks are playing! They have come earlier this year and the numbers are way up! It’s the best year on record since before 1940 to photograph them.

(C) Nick lancaster

Still listed as ‘vulnerable’ under the Queensland Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 1994, these giants of the deep are fighting back! Their population declined from more than 10,000 in the 1940’s to approximately 400 in the 1980’s and today is it estimated more than 5,000 humpback whales will make the annual breeding migration from Antarctica to the warm waters of Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef.

Photography of humpback whales is best from a water vessel. Any photography from a moving vessel provides challenges – a tripod is out as it will pick up the vibrations of the motor. A bigger boat is better.

Shutter Speed: Use a high shutter speed. We prefer 800-1000 as both we and the whale are moving.

Lens: Long is great – above 100-300, or 400 mm lens. If you can hand hold a 500 great!
We always carry a wide in case the whale comes close to the boat.

(c) Rolf Winkler

ISO: Work on 400 ISO for those fast shutter speeds required.

Mode: Shutter Speed Priority or Manual.

Focus: Generally auto focus though we sometimes switch to manual.

Use a polariser

Patience: You’ll need this. Mother Nature does not work to your timetable and these are creatures in the wild. It’s great if you can plan extra time.

Never delete on the field!

Photographs for identification: Humpbacks are identified using photographs of the undersides (ventral side) of their fluke (tail) which have unique pigmentation and trailing edge patterns. So the ideal photograph of a humpback whale would be taken as the animal is headed away from you at the moment when the whale has lifted its fluke, and you can see the full shape of the fluke in your viewfinder.
If you want to send your image on for identification purposes it will need: The date and time taken, location (GPS coordinates), the photographers name and the vessel name. Many cameras can be set to give you the first two.

Where’s the best place to photograph whales?
Our favourite place to photograph humpback whales is in the sheltered waters of Fraser Island’s Platypus Bay. It generally allows us calmer waters and the whales rest here in good numbers for up to 5 days per group.
For one of the best tours for photographing whales in Queensland visit:

(C) Danielle Lancaster

All images copyright.
Image 1: Nick Lancaster; Image 2 Rolf Winkler; Image 3 Danielle Lancaster

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Digital Vs Film

With our first poll about to close in 19 hours its time to look digital versus film.
The Effort: Undoubtedly one of the biggest benefits of digital is there are no rolls of film to take down to the lab or process in the darkroom. And for dark room users the wait for negatives to dry, then make proof sheets, print and........ Our most expensive digital photograph was the first one we took! The cost per image has been drastically reduced and allows us to experiment and improve our photographic techniques quicker with the meta data supplied. This ease ways strongly for digital but.....

The Delete Button: Are some of us pressing it too early while still on camera or on the computer? Photography is part of history recording and we no longer end up with those shoe boxes of negatives under our bed and even more worrying is that many don’t understand JPEG lossy compression.

Seeing Before Clicking & Reviewing Afterwards: We can now exactly see the composition and take the time to compose our shots with digital – yes we could do that to some extent beforehand but its heaps easier with digital. After we’ve pressed that shutter button we can instantly review the image and information through the histogram and then reshoot to perfect our composition and exposure (means less to do in your photo editing software and more time shooting).

ISO Before You Go: Now this is one of the best things with digital for me. I can change the ISO from one image to the next and not have to load another roll of film or lose the photographs before I change the ISO ratting on the camera for film. Plus on higher end cameras we are now getting a much higher rating ISO then offered on film. On the negative, many digital cameras over 400 ISO in low light produce far too much noise – an improvement I think we’ll see in the not so far distance future driven by consumer demand.

Let’s All Share: Digital has made the sharing of images so much easier and quicker – someone across the other side of the world can view an image you have uploaded almost immediately. Yes you can scan images and do the same so this is not just a benefit of digital cameras but rather the technology. But hey, let’s be honest, scanning is just another job to do in our every busy life.

Keeping It For Ever: Do you archive your digital files or are you someone who has the last 6 months of shooting sitting on the card in the camera? This is still a new technology and I have had hard drive, CD, DVD, memory stick and card failures. Back up devices such as hard drives are cheap – do it and make that digital shoe box! It’s smaller than a garage which is what it would take to store those digital images on film and don’t forget if you can, to enter keywords, it makes it so much easier to search for an image.

So what’s Best? They both have their advantages and disadvantages and we have not sold off our film cameras and do not intend too. What we want from digital is the equivalent of what we got from transparency (slide) film and I believe that is sooner rather than later.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Holiday Photo Fun with Children

Got the kids around and all you want to do is a little photography? Why not involve them? Here’s a couple of simple projects that could get them in the mood and sort your family folder out at the same time!

Make a Family Tree: This can be as extensive or not as you like – if you have little ones just do your immediate family. Let them sort through your files (with you in attendance of course) copy and paste them into a working folder to protect those that are jpegs; resize and print.
Grab a sheet of cardboard form the local newsagent or office supply shop and stick them on drawing the tree – it’s good to get a bit creative here and believe us colouring in can give you some more free time!

Have you got teenagers you need to spend time with? Why not look at a photo collage for their bedroom wall? Let’s admit it, we most probably if we were allowed, love having posters up on our wall and teenagers today all seem to have a never ending supply of digital images on hand.

Get ready for Christmas! Did we forget to tell you it’s only next week? No seriously, why not look at preparing some items for Christmas. Easy to make are bookmarks with photographs printed on photographic material; ‘I love You’ albums of your year to date – great for grandparents and yes hate to say this year is more than half over; what about photography gift vouchers such as a photo of one of the kids washing the car (or thinking of it) and a gift voucher for Dad to wash his car during the year. Let the imagination go wild with this one and you’ll have loads of fun with the kids, no matter what age they are.

Have fun with your children over the holidays and keep that shutter finger moving!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Photography, the Internet and the Privacy of Children.

The digital age is here to stay and photographs are used widely on the internet – it’s easy to see why: they sell, attract attention and contain information just for starters.

What about publishing photographs of children on the internet:
can we or can’t we?

In many countries it is a criminal offence to; take, make, allow to take, distribute, show, possess with intent to distribute, or advertise indecent photos or pseudo-photographs of children under the age of 18 years old. And this can mean a long stint in jail!

What is an illegal image? It’s an image/s of a child or children involved in sexual activity or posed to be sexually provocative and includes images depicting erotic posing, with no sexual activity.

It is our responsibility to protect children, NO MATTER WHAT! However, what about photographers wanting to build up folios and show examples of their work in fields such as portraiture? These photographers are mostly good people, does this affect them?

Well unfortunately images can be manipulated and this is a growing concern from parents, communities, social groups and government bodies. There is the potential for abuse of any image placed on the internet. This could be by cutting and pasting images, editing images or changing the context within which the images are viewed. Changing images digitally in this way is sometimes called ‘morphing’.

For photographers wanting to display images of children here are a few things to consider:
1. Never publish a child’s name and never ever their last name or any personal information for example a street address as the home or even a letter box number in the image.

2. Talk with the parents and gain a signed form with both parents signatures that you can use the images for self promotion including your web site.

3. Make you images small so they cannot be copied and enlarged. Try saving them in a format not suitable for printing before posting.

4. Enter all your file info including copyright.

5. Consider watermarking your images.

6. Activate Right Click Disable – this stops the ability of people to “Save Picture As”of your image. Unfortunately there are ways around this but it will stop the novice.

7. Shrink Wrap your image – this puts a transparent image over the image so when they save it they save a picture of nothing.

8. Use a private gallery viewing on networking sites. Interesting enough from recent research the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia, United States of America, ‘found no evidence of sexual solicitations based on photos of children or information they posted at social networking sites.

9. Always follow the grandma rule: Ask yourself if you would be embarrassed if grandma saw the photo.

10. If someone contacts you asking for more details about the child inform the appropriate authorities immediately.

Regrettably none of these suggestions will stop the war against those out there that use images of children the wrong way and for those of us that want to develop our folios it is going to get harder and harder. Please if you have any further advice I’m sure many of us would love to hear from you.