E.J. Peiker, Nature Photographer


Newsletter of E.J. Peiker, Nature Photographer and www.EJPhoto.com

All contents ©2006 E.J. Peiker



 Winter 2006/2007 

(Vol  5, Issue  1)


Welcome to the quarterly update from E.J. Peiker Nature Photography.  In this quarterly email publication, I will keep you all posted on upcoming workshops including the DuckShop Series as well as sharing some photos and experiences with you.  I will also give you brief impressions on any new equipment that I get the opportunity to use and any other general information in the world of digital nature photography.  Please feel free to forward this along to other photographers and interested parties.  If you would like to be added or deleted to the mailing list or if you would like copies of past issues, just send me an email message at ejpeiker@cox.net. 


Star Trails
One of my favorite photographic endeavors is shooting at night.  One of the rewarding types of night shots is taking Star Trail photos.  I recently wrote an article on this for Naturescapes.net.  The complete article can be found here:  http://www.naturescapes.net/112006/ej1106.htm
Here is an excerpt from the article to get you started but I do recommend reading the full article:
Preparation can make the difference between a successful shot and a lot of wasted time and loss of sleep.  Picking the spot for a star trail shot is best done during the day.  The best star trail shots have an interesting foreground element and a view of the sky from the East through North through west in the Northern Hemisphere and from the east through south through west in the southern hemisphere.  The location should also be away from artificial light.  In general I recommend 150 miles from a major metropolitan area of 1 million plus, 125 miles from cities of 100,000 to 1,000,000, 75 miles from cities in the 50,000 range, 50 miles from a 25,000 people area, and 25 miles from a very small town.  Nothing can ruin a star trail image faster than light pollution so this also means staying well away from any roadways or any other source of light. Man made light is your enemy.  Use your lens hood as an additional precaution.  High elevation areas will reveal more stars than low elevation areas.
Check the weather forecast – you are looking for a totally clear night.  While checking this, also check sunrise and sunset times as well as moonrise and moon set times.  Check the moon phase.  This will be important for exposure (to be covered later).  If it’s a full moon, you might want to wait a few days as the full moon provides too much illumination in most cases.  The new moon phase is also not very conducive but is better than a full moon – it is easier to add light to your foreground than it is dealing with too much light
Make sure you dress appropriately for the night-time conditions.  As temperatures can drop dramatically, especially in the early morning hours after midnight, be prepared for the worst.  Plan to shoot after 11:00PM to avoid airplanes, start at least 2 hours after sunset and finish 2 hours before sunrise
Here are a few more preparation items that are important
-          Locate hyperfocal setting of lens at f/4 and note the setting on the lens’ distance scale or mark on lens if foreground object is relatively close.  It is almost impossible to accurately determine the hyperfocal setting in the dark.
-          Turn off image stabilization/vibration reduction, not only will it drain the battery faster but it will cause some image drift if left on for really long exposures
-          Turn on Long Exposure Noise Reduction – this will eliminate most or all pixel problems due to the very long exposures.
-          Remove camera straps or anything that can blow around or vibrate the camera/tripod set-up should a wind be present or come up


Set up your tripod, camera/lens, and cable release.  Make sure the camera is in bulb mode.  Set the lens to f/4.  Use your flash light if needed to illuminate the foreground and make sure the foreground object’s distance is within the depth of field of the lens at the hyperfocal setting.  If the foreground object is effectively at infinity for your lens, you can auto focus on the moon and then turn off autofocus.  Just be sure not to bump the focus setting.  Use your head lamp to check your camera set-up and your bubble level to make sure that the shot is level.  If you are planning on a polar-aligned shot, make sure that the center of rotation for the star trail (North Star Polaris in the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Cross in the Southern Hemisphere) is in the right place in the frame.  I usually shoot these types of shots in vertical mode however you can let your creativity run wild here.
At this point you are ready to take the shot.  There is just one thing left to be decided.  What exposure time should I use?  After doing many of these types of shots I have come-up with values that almost always work:
-          Full Moon – not recommended as exposure times are too short for effective star trails.  Lowering the ISO to lengthen the shot generally makes the star trails a bit too faint unless at high altitude and an exceptionally clear night
-          Half Moon – 15-25 minutes f/4, ISO 200
-          Quarter Moon – 30-40 minutes f/4, ISO 200
-          1/8 Moon – 45-60 minutes f/4, ISO 200
-          New Moon – 60-120 minutes f/4, ISO 200
Wood Ducks - DuckShop 2007 off to a Great Start
The 2007 DuckShop season got off to a great start in New Mexico with a special session whose focus was on North America’s most beautiful duck - the Wood Duck.  We had unusually warm temperatures and excellent conditions and came away with many great shots.  This species of tree nesting duck is uncommonly beautiful among waterfowl species.  While not quite as gaudy as its close Eastern Hemisphere cousin, the Mandarin Duck, it is a very colorful species in its own right.  The female wood duck is in fact very similar to the female Mandarin duck and the two are often misidentified in the Western Hemisphere.  The female American Wood duck is differentiated from the Mandarin female in several ways.  The most notable is the eye patch and eye ring.  The Wood Duck female has a white eye patch with a thin yellow eye ring.  The Mandarin has a white eye ring, and does not have the large white patch but rather a long thin white streak emanating from the eye and sweeping toward the posterior of the head.  Otherwise there are many similarities in the body of female Wood Ducks and Mandarin Ducks.  The bill of the wood duck female is also significantly darker with a dark nail compared to the white nail on a Mandarin female.  Wood Duck males are significantly distinguished from it close Mandarin Duck cousin.  Male Wood Ducks in breeding plumage have a red bill with a whitish vertical stripe along the top of the bill and a black nail.  The wood ducks head is composed primarily of iridescent green and purple markings with black cheeks and an ornate white neck line.  A bright red eye encircled by a yellow eye ring adds to the exquisite beauty of the male wood duck.  The body is dark along the upper surfaces including the wings and tail and a beautiful golden color along the sides. The belly is white and the brown with light spotted breast is separated from the flanks by a white and black stripe.  Male wood ducks have a bluish speculum while females have a greenish speculum.
The wood ducks mating plumage arrives early in fall and is also early to reach eclipse in spring.  Once the eggs are laid, the female incubates the eggs and the males take care of the surroundings and help in bringing food.  The female is responsible for rearing for 1 to 2 months before young Woodies strike it out on their own.  Wood Ducks are the only North American waterfowl that regularly have more than one brood per year – especially those that stay in southern climes.  They are very communal birds and where there is one, there are often many.  Their favorite food source is fruits and nuts.  There are migrating wood ducks that travel from the central parts of the North American Pacific Coast, Upper American Midwest and Canadian plains and New England to the southern US and then there are many Wood Ducks that remain in the central Atlantic and Pacific regions year round.  They prefer shallow waters with plenty of trees nearby for nesting areas – preferably ones with nest holes.  Wood Ducks have been known to nest in Chimneys near water – anything with a hole big enough to squeeze into and in relative close proximity (within a mile or so) of shallow water.  Wood Ducks made a phenomenal comeback in the 20th century after dwindling to near extinction in the late 19th century and early 20th century due to loss of habitat.  The nest box program established in 1918 and their complete protection for a quarter century in the first half of the 1900’s allowed the remarkable recover to today’s levels of about 3 million – they are however again on the decline having dropped nearly a half million in the last 40 years due to habitat loss.
Photographing Wood Ducks can be challenging.  Capturing the different hues of color in the head while not blowing out the lighter parts of the bird can be difficult.  Overcast or early/late light is best and getting the exposure exactly right is key.  I do not recommend photographing Wood Ducks in an automatic exposure mode as the amount of dark area that the meter sees is constantly changing resulting in wildly varying exposures.  Slide film has great difficulty capturing the full exposure range of wood ducks in any light.  Newer digital cameras with their 7 to 9 stop dynamic range are a much better bet.  Typically in sunlight, a sunny 16 exposure -1 stop in manual mode works well.  In other lighting conditions, taking a test shot and evaluating the histogram and adjusting so that the whites just barely touch the right of the histogram will generally give you a proper exposure.  Females can generally be photographed with a metered exposure – 1/3 stop unless the water is dark in which case a -2/3 compensation works well.
ood Duck (EOS 1D Mark IIn, 500mm, 1.4x)
Adobe Camera Raw Profiles for Canon Cameras – New Models Added
As reported in the last issue of Quack, accurate and repeatable colors even between different model Canon camera bodies is now possible with Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) when used in conjunction with color profile calibration values.  The list of Canon DSLR’s that these profiles are available for are listed below.  These are certified for Photoshop CS2 but not the CS3 Beta as I am reluctant to certify them for unreleased software even though they should work in theory.  Updates if necessary will become available after Adobe releases Photoshop CS3.  For complete details visit:  http://www.ejphoto.com/acr_order_page.htm
Profiles Available:
Canon EOS 10D
Canon EOS 20D
Canon EOS 30D
Canon EOS 5D
Canon EOS 1D
Canon EOS 1Ds
Canon EOS 1D Mark II
Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II
EOS 400D/Digital Rebel XTi
2007 Plans
2007 promises to bring more exciting photographic opportunities.  After finishing this year’s DuckShops, my current plans include a trip to South Texas in pursuit of some bird species that are not often photographed.  April takes me to the southern part of South America to photograph the breathtaking landscapes of Patagonia in Chile and Argentina.  I am also hoping on finally getting to two spots that I have now tried to go to several times but was stymied by weather, airport closures, or other things that got in the way -  Glacier National Park in Montana and Western South Dakota.
A host of new and exciting equipment is due in 2007 and you can be sure I will give you my unbiased opinions on how they really perform in the field.  This includes all new tripods from Gitzo and the much anticipated new camera bodies from Canon.  And as always I’ll be on the lookout for products that make our photographic lives easier.
Happy Holidays to All!

© 2006 - E.J. Peiker, Nature Photographer. 

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