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Sister Islands Curly-tailed Lizard_8421

This post will take us back to my February trip to Cayman Brac in the Cayman Islands. The two smaller, of the three islands, in the Cayman Islands  are called Little Cayman and Cayman Brac and are often referred to as the Sister Islands. On the grounds at the villa that I had rented for my two week stay there were numerous lizards to be found. The most common was the Curly-tailed Lizard. These lizards reach a length of about 10 inches, from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail. During the afternoon they were difficult to approach, but early in the morning was a completely different story. Reptiles are often easier to photograph early in the day when they are too cool to really run away. Being cold-blooded critters they need to warm up in the sun before becoming active. Each of the Curly-tailed Lizards in today’s blog post were photographed at daybreak, using the Live View feature of the Nikon D800, while zooming in on the eyes to manually fine tune the focusing of my Nikon 80-400mm VR lens. The camera and lens were supported by a Manfrotto BeFree Tripod. To read my review of this perfect travel companion and how well it is designed for such use please click here.

Please click on each of the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

Sister Islands Curly-tailed Lizard_7502

Johnstone's Whistling Frog with HighLight Warnings

Johnstone’s Whistling Frog with HighLight Warnings

Above you see a photo of a Johnstone’s Whistling Frog that I created in Port Antonio, Jamaica. This was the first image that I created of these lovely little frogs during my stay in Jamaica. Being excited at photographing a new species I forgot to check my camera settings before clicking the shutter. When I scrolled back through a couple of the frames to confirm my exposures were correct I realized my error and immediately dialed in the correct settings but the frog jumped away. I was left with this image, which on the camera’s LCD screen was showing what appeared to be blown-out highlights (note that in the above image I made adjustments in ACR to mimic what I was seeing on the camera’s LCD screen – the highlight warnings on the camera would have been black instead of red as shown above).

Directly below is the same image as it opened in ACR. You can see that the highlights are not too bad after all. The red highlight warnings seen here red here are the flash generated spectral highlights, which are indeed blown-out with no detail whatsoever.

Johnstone's Whistling Frog in ACR inter-face

Johnstone’s Whistling Frog in ACR inter-face

Now look at the optimized image file below. After making the required slider adjustments in ACR I was able to recover a great deal of detail in what the camera originally indicated was blown-out and lacking detail. I then opened the image in Photoshop and using a series of Quick Masks and Clone Stamp Tool applications addressing the flash generated highlights.

Johnstone's Whistling Frog, Port Antonio, Jamaica

Johnstone’s Whistling Frog, Port Antonio, Jamaica

This is why I do not delete photos, in the field, as seen on the camera’s LCD screen. I always wait until I am editing a trip’s images when back home at the computer.

Please click on the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

It was in bright, afternoon sunlight that I found myself along the shore of Lake Superior at the mouth of the Coldwater River in Ontario’s Lake Superior Provincial Park, during my trip to the park in September of 2013. I knew that I wanted to create an image whereby the waves on the lake would be blurred to a smooth texture so that they would not compete with the other elements within the composition. But the light was too bright to obtain a slow enough shutter speed to allow for this vision. At the last minute before departing for Lake Superior I decided to throw the B&W 10-stop Neutral Density Filter in my gear bag.I was glad I did. After attaching the filter to the lens I had the extended exposure that was needed for this composition. The above images was the result of a 15 second exposure that blurred the wave action on the lake and captured the passage of the swiftly moving cotton clouds.

For folks planning to attend the upcoming Long Point Workshop I will have this filter on hand for anyone that may wish to give it a try. If you missed the Long Point Workshop announcement you can find it by clicking here for more information.

Please remember to click on the image to see the larger, sharper version.

Long Point, Lake Erie, Ontario, Canada

Long Point, Lake Erie, Ontario, Canada

Join me on Saturday May 31st for my inaugural and unique workshop / photo tour, being sponsored by WorkCabin, to the tip of the Long Point Peninsula on Lake Erie. Long Point is a 40 kilometre sandspit that extends far out into Lake Erie and remains one of the last most remote wild places in Ontario, only accessible by boat. It was designated a UNESCO World Biosphere in 1986. The Long Point peninsula is of international significance and comprises one of the most important wetland complexes in southern Canada. Many threatened and endangered species call Long Point home. The typical terrain at the tip of Long Point is one of sand dunes with some wetland habitat in close proximity to the lighthouse.

We will plan to arrive on the tip at 7:30 am and will remain there until 11:30 am at which time we will assemble for the return trip. This means that we will meet the boat captain at approximately 6:00 am at Pier 67 Restaurant at the Turkey Point Marina to sign waiver forms and be given a full orientation on safety before boarding the vessel. The boat that will take us across Lake Erie is a 24 foot Zodiac, previously used by the Canadian Coast Guard as a rescue vessel in the North Atlantic Ocean. This vessel is fast, but smooth and is designed to ride over top of the waves, absorbing them. The boat also meets the strict regulations of transport Canada’s small vessel registry, and is a registered commercial small vessel. Our boat captain is very experienced and knowledgeable on Lake Erie (one of his great ancestors was the second lighthouse keeper back in 1844) and will ensure our safe travel to the tip. Lake Erie is known for its changing weather conditions. If it is not safe for us to cross to Long Point on the morning of the workshop he will inform us, and if he anticipates approaching weather conditions that are adverse while we are on the tip he may need to assemble the group earlier than planned to ensure our safety and return to the mainland. Do keep in mind that we will be more than halfway across Lake Erie and the Long Point Peninsula contains the largest collection of shipwrecks on the Great Lakes. This is simply the nature of visiting such a remote photographic destination.

I would advise folks to bring along a plastic bag to protect their photographic equipment from wave and wind conditions while traveling across the lake and a warm weather resistant jacket as well. Temperatures on the point can be cooler than on the mainland. Once we arrive at the tip it we will have a wet landing so folks should plan to wear rubber boats, I will be wearing my hip waders.

My brother Gregg McLachlan is the founder of WorkCabin.ca, Canada’s largest conservation-focused environmental job board, and is also a nature photographer who lives near Long Point. He will be assisting me with this workshop.

The cost of this workshop is $250+HST, which includes the zodiac trip to the tip. We will need a minimum of 4 participants for this workshop to run and it is open to a maximum of 9 participants. Folks interested in attending this workshop should shoot me an email for further info to my personal address: mclachlan@bell.net in case I am away from the office or out in the field.

Hope you will join us to this remote destination.

Long Point sand dunes

Long Point Sand Dunes

Long Point Sand Dunes

Long Point Sand Dunes

Cuban Treefrog, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Cuban Treefrog (adult), Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

For those folks who missed the quiz please read the early blog post here. So what lens did I use? Edith Levy was closest with her answer of the 70-200mm lens. I actually used my Nikon 80-400mm VR lens to created all of my Cuban Treefrog photos that were created on the island of Cayman Brac in the Cayman Islands. Do note that this is the earlier version of the Nikon 80-400mm VR lens (yes the lens that folks like to trash in their on-line reviews). This lens has a minimum focusing distance of roughly 7 feet, so how was I able to create close-up images of adult and juvenile Cuban Treefrogs? To find out how please follow this link to my most recent article in  the Creative Photography e-mini Magazine, which is published and available for free each month by friend, colleague, and highly talented Denise Ippolito. I have learned a ton of creative stuff from Denise, and you can too by simply following along on her blog and the articles that are feature in the eMini Magazine every month by many creative and talented folks.

Hatchery Falls, Muskoka, Ontario, Canada

Hatchery Falls, Muskoka, Ontario, Canada

This morning I awoke at 5:00 a.m. to begin my journey north to Ontario’s Muskoka region to meet up with fellow photographer / friend Kyle McDougall. Do take a moment to check out Kyle’s work as he is a very talented photographer.The plan was to visit several of the areas secluded, woodland waterfalls. The weather forecast was for cloudy conditions with temperatures hovering around 2-3 degrees Celsius. Perfect weather for a comfortable day photographing winter waterfalls.

Ontario’s Muskoka region has been hit hard this winter with tons of snowfall. There is roughly four feet of snow on the ground and significant ice formation at some of the waterfalls, due to the brutal cold temperatures encountered this winter. At each of  the destinations it was somewhat tricky getting into position for some of the images as I would often sink to my waist in deep snow along the riverbanks. My lower back problems did not appreciate this very much and are now getting even with me for heading off without my snowshoes.

Potts Creek, Muskoka, Ontario, Canada

Potts Creek, Muskoka, Ontario, Canada (10-stop Neutral Density Filter Used)

On today’s waterfall excursion I experimented with some new techniques, gear, and camera features. In the image that opens this blog post I used the focus stacking technique, whereby I created three separate images with each focused at a different point from foreground to horizon and then assembled them in photoshop to create one image file. In the above image at Potts Creek I was very disappointed to see lots of foam floating in the creek below the falls, but I noted that it was floating around in a circular motion. By attaching a B&W 10-stop Neutral Density Filter to the lens I was able to create an image with a 30 second exposure that would record the circular motion making it a pleasing element within the composition.

Skeleton Falls, Muskoka, Ontario, Canada

Skeleton Falls, Muskoka, Ontario, Canada (in-camera HDR)

The final experiment I tried was setting my Nikon D800 to it’s in-camera HDR function. By doing so the camera would create a natural-looking TIFF file of 100 MB. I was quite pleased with the in-camera HDR results and will use this mode often. For winter imagery I found it opened up the shadowed areas nicely and brought out the greens in the cedar trees well too. While optimizing these images I chose to add a touch of Nik / Google’s Detail Extractor filter from Color Efex 4 to bring out the fine details in the snow.

Please click on each of the images to see the larger, sharper version.

Optimized Version of Cuban Treefrog on Cayman Brac

Optimized Version of Cuban Treefrog on Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

I have just spent the last hour optimizing the above photograph of a juvenile Cuban Treefrog. During my trip to Cayman Brac in the Cayman Islands. Each night I would leave the villa and go for a night-time stroll in search of some night-life. The Cuban Treefrogs were plentiful and I spent many enjoyable hours creating numerous images of them. In the original RAW capture below you do not need to look too closely to identify many of the issue.

Original RAW Capture - Cuban Treefrog

Original RAW Capture – Cuban Treefrog

First and foremost I was not holding the camera square with the world, there are two unsightly, tiny stones on the frog’s lip and if you click on the images to see the larger, sharper version you will see a lot of flash generated spectral highlights. To optimize this image I first rotated until I felt that froggie was square with the world and then using both a series of quick masks and clone stamp tool I painstakingly worked on the image at 400% to effectively evict each of the spectral highlights. The nice thing about the massive image files created by the Nikon D800 is that you can afford to lose a few pixels when rotating and cropping such as this with no degradation to the image quality.

Now for the quiz: to photograph the Cuban Treefrog I used a Nikon D800 and what lens? The frog measured about an inch in length. I will reveal the answer in 2-3 days.

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