Robert OToole Photography
  • Apr2

    Epic 12 Days of Eagle Photography

    Over the last 9 years of leading eagle tours in Alaska the photo opportunities have been getting better and better but this year the opportunities were unprecedented.  In the first week my first tour group were really lucky to see all kinds of weather conditions over five days from snow flurries to a blizzard and finally sunny conditions but the she second and third groups were able to enjoy something I have never seen before in all of time leading tours, 12 days of sun with light to non existent winds. The winds were what bird photographer dreams are made of, SE wind in the morning and SW wind in the afternoon, which are ideal. We had superb action in gorgeous light with perfect winds for 12 straight days, unbelievable!

    Example
    Eagle mid strike in late afternoon light. Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S @ 290mm, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/2000th s at f/5.6, ISO 640, handheld.

    The location for the image above is easily one of my favorites in Alaska. This is a protected tidal pool with distant spruce trees and snow covered mountain tops in the background and offshore winds in the afternoon.

    For most of the time this year light levels were high enough to allow ISO levels in the hundreds (not in the thousands) with plenty of shutter speed.

    Example
    Bank landing on the beach in warm early morning light. Sigma 50-500mm OS HSM  @ 340mm, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/2000th s at f/8.0, ISO 640, handheld.

    As a display of aggression some eagles when landing near a group of others with bank hard and call when landing. I try to listen for and single out these individuals whenever I hear  and eagle calling.

    Example
    Full spread landing. Sigma 50-500mm OS HSM @ 340mm, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/2000th s at f/8.0, ISO 640, handheld.

    Eagles usually prefer to land on something above ground level like this driftwood log on the beach for example so preparation and patience always pay off with images like this.

    One of the best things about my eagle tour, something most people can’t believe, is that you don’t need 500-600 or 800mm lens. My favorite images made on the tour this year were from 90mm to about 350mm on a full frame camera. My favorite lens this year by far was the Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S. For lots of people, me included, a 300 prime lens can be great birds in flight lens but for shooting conditions on this trip a 300mm prime can definitely be too much so a 120-300 f/2.8 zoom or 70-200 with a 1.4X are just about ideal.

    Example

    Inverted bank before diving in perfect late afternoon light. Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S @ 300mm, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/4000th s at f/4.0, ISO 400, handheld.

    Eagles really seem to enjoy radical maneuvers in flight, like this upside down flip right before a dive.

    One afternoon my group was treated to an air-show when a sub-adult eagle blasted barrel roll after barrel roll miles above the tree line. It left everyone speechless.

    Example
    Eagle hovering with talons out in late afternoon light. Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S @ 170mm, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/4000th s at f/4, ISO 320, handheld.

    With stiff offshore winds, perfect late afternoon light and 50 eagles in the air your available memory card space seems to evaporate into the cold air.

    A stiff breeze will keep eagles up in the air hovering then when they want to dive they stick out their talons, flare their wings and tail out slamming on the air-brakes before they pitch forward into a dive. This is the split second of maximum stall right before the dive. This is something I will never get tired of seeing in the viewfinder!

    Example
    Eagle roost. Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S @ 300mm, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/4000th s at f/4.0, ISO 400, handheld.

    Soft light and lots of eagle roosting, this is exactly what you want to see when you arrive at a photography location first thing in the morning.

    2015 dates have been confirmed so if you would like to join me next year contact me as soon as possible to avoid being disappointed since the 2013 and 2014 tours were sold-out. For more info:

    http://www.robertotoole.com/workshop/bald-eagles/

    Eagle Photo Tour Series 2015
    Mar 14th –  18th,  2015, 5 days $3900. Deposit $1950.  5 photographers maximum.
    Mar 20th- 24th,  2015, 5 days $3900. Deposit $1950. 5 photographers maximum.
    Mar 26th – Mar 30,  2015, 5 days $3900. Deposit $1950. 5 photographers maximum.
    Tour leader: Robert OToole

    March 14th – 18th,  2015, 5 days $3900. Deposit $1950.  5 photographers maximum.

    March 20th – 24th,  2015, 5 days $3900. Deposit $1950. 5 photographers maximum.

    March 26th – Mar 30,  2015, 5 days $3900. Deposit $1950. 5 photographers maximum.

    Tour leader: Robert OToole

    Any questions or comments? Leave a question below or send me an email.

    All content (including text, design, photos, layout, and graphics) are copyright © 2015 Robert OToole.  All rights reserved.

  • Mar19

    Part One – Sunny with a Chance of a Blizzard

    Over this past week my first tour group and I have been super lucky to see everything Alaska has to offer in terms of photographic possibilities and some of the most challenging shooting conditions I have seen up here. Over 5 days we have seen everything from a full blizzard to perfect sunny conditions and almost everything in between. For only the second time since 2005 I had to cancel a shoot in Alaska due to a blizzard that slammed into the area with 45 mph winds, 10 foot waves and snow and ice coming down sideways just as we were gearing up to leave for a shooting session.

    Example
    Eagle inverted right before a dive, Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM @ 340mm, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/1600th s at f/8, ISO 400, Manual mode, handheld.

    Eagles seem to enjoy aerial acrobatic flying. They will often throw themselves into an upside down position at the top of a climb, as you can see above, to redirect straight down into a steep dive. Sometimes if you are lucky to be close enough you can hear the wind rush off their wings in a low roar as they shoot by. Sometimes you can actually feel this rush of wind if are right below them.

    Over the next few days after the blizzard we had great opportunities with clouds, snow, wind and even beautiful sunny conditions on the last day of the tour. On the last shooting session of the tour the participants had enough of shooting and literally called it quits completely worn out by all the continuous action over the last couple of days. The group all had huge smiles on their tired faces as we headed back on the last session of the tour.

    Example
    Eagle wing up threat pose, Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM @ 500mm, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/500th s at f/8, ISO 500, Manual mode, handheld.

    When an individual eagle lands near a group they sometimes land with wings straight up, beating only the tops or tips of their wings while calling. This threat pose is always great to see but can be very hard to catch unless you are looking out specifically for this pose. After years and years photographing eagles I have only been able to capture this behavior a half a dozen times or so I was really happy to see this opportunity for my group.

    Example
    Eagle inverted, Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM @ 210mm, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/40th s at f/8, ISO 100, Manual mode, handheld.

    Low light levels and deep dark backgrounds makes for great opportunities for speed blurs. The low light makes it possible to use low ISO levels and the dark background in the image above makes details in the eagle really stand out. 1/40th of a second gives you just enough blur to show the speed of the subject.

    Example
    Eagle inverted, Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 OS HSM @ 270mm, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/2000th s at f/5.6, ISO 640, Manual mode, handheld.

    Even though I have shot this for what seems like the millionth time, I still love the fully extended wings forward eagle bank. For this session the cloudy sky gave us super soft light and nice soft backgrounds.

    More images and details coming soon in the second part of this report including 2015 tour dates!

    Any questions or comments? Leave a question below or send me an email.

    All content (including text, design, photos, layout, and graphics) are copyright © 2014 Robert OToole.  All rights reserved.

  • Mar5

    Photographing in the field in contrasty harsh light is something every photographer has to deal with. This is a technique that I use for those difficult high contrast situations. For a more natural looking image you need to take control of the light to handle the light and dark tones in a high contrast image.
    It is important to understand the problem with high contrast scenes. Exposing for the light tones will cause the darker tones to underexpose and exposing for the darks will result in blown out highlights.

    Over this past weekend on the first and second of March a giant swell slammed into Southern California triggering a high surf advisory for the area. Due to an unusually low storm track the swell was focused on Southern California creating giant waves at my local beach in South Los Angeles County. These are some of my favorites from the weekend, click on an image to see a larger version in a new window.

    Example
    Alex Gray on the face of a wave setting up for a barrel, Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM @ 460mm, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/8, ISO 1250, Auto-ISO, +0.7 EV, handheld.

    Not only is Alex Gray an LA local but he is one of the leading barrel and big wave riders in the world so it was really nice to see him charge the biggest waves this weekend at his home break. Alex is fearless in big waves and always a pleasure to watch and shoot especially when the waves are huge.

    Example
    Empty wave in black in white, LA County, Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM @ 380mm, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/8, ISO 1100, Auto-ISO, +0.7 EV, handheld.

    By the time the weekend was over the  power of this swell took its toll with lots of snapped surfboard leashes, broken surfboards and injured surfers (one had to be taken away by ambulance) including my friend Jim broke his foot on Sunday dropping into a huge wave!

    Example
    Conor Beatty charging, LA County, Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM @ 500mm, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/8, ISO 1250, Auto-ISO, +0.7 EV, handheld.

    Conor is another South Bay local and his experience surfing the South Bay really showed this weekend as he caught some of the best and biggest of this swell.

    Example
    Empty right, Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM @ 460mm, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/8, ISO 640, Auto-ISO, +0.7 EV, handheld.

    Empty offshore barrels like this wave are one of the reasons I love living in the South Bay.

    Example
    Tim Reyes hitting the eject button, Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM @ 500mm, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/8, ISO 1250, Auto-ISO, +0.7 EV, handheld.

    Example
    Tim Reyes pulling into a tube, Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM @ 500mm, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/8, ISO 280, Auto-ISO, -0.3 EV, handheld.

    This is a single frame from a 20 shot sequence of Tim made with the Sigma 50-500. Tim Reyes has always been one of my favorite surfers so it was awesome to see him show up at my local surf break.

    Any questions or comments? Leave a question below or send me an email.

    All content (including text, design, photos, layout, and graphics) are copyright © 2013 Robert OToole.  All rights reserved.

  • Jan28

    EFSC: Why it’s Amazing, and Why You Need to be Using it

    Chances are have probably never heard of Electronic First Shutter Curtain or EFSC for short, but don’t worry, most people that have it don’t even know anything about it. Here’s the important thing to understand about EFSC: it can make a major difference in image quality by completely eliminating image blur due to shutter vibration. After using EFSC for a couple of months now I have one word to describe it, amazing!

    The reason you haven’t heard about EFSC is that Canon and Sony promote it as a feature that reduces shutter noise and not about shutter vibration reduction. Popular sites like DPReview and imaging-resource only discuss the noise reduction aspect of the EFSC and don’t even mention the elimination of shutter vibration and the resulting benefit in image quality.

    EFSC Comparison Set-Up

    To fine out exactly how much difference EFSC can make in improving image sharpness take a look at the results of a comparison test below.

    I set up a coin with my a Canon 70D and MP-E 65mm lens at 3X with Live View and EFSC enabled equipped with a remote release. I shot the images at 1/15th sec, f/4, ISO 100 manual mode, lit by an LED ring-light with a diffuser.

    The image below shows the entire frame as shot at 3X below that are 100% crops of the area indicated below in red. The first crop was shot as normal with live view and EFSC enabled, next with LV but with EFSC disabled. In the third crop the shutter and mirror operate as normal and in the last crop the camera is set up with mirror lock and self timer.

    The image below is one of the  frames shot at 3X with the 100% crop area indicated in red. Be sure to click on the image below to see a larger version in a new window.

    Example

    EFSC Comparison Results

    The first crop was shot as I would normal shoot with live view and EFSC enabled, below that is an image with LV on but with EFSC disabled. In the third crop the shutter and mirror operate with no LV and no EFSC, and in the last crop the camera is set up with mirror lock and 2 second self timer shutter delay.

    Again be sure to click on the image below to see a larger version in a new window. As you can see in these 100% crops its clear that EFSC does an excellent job here eliminating any vibration and bringing out every last bit of sharpness the sensor can produce. With EFSC you now longer need mirror lock-up + self timer.

    Example

    What You Can Do with EFSC and Why It’s so Great

    Keep in mind this comparison is only at 3X but higher magnifications would benefit even more. EFSC will not only give you an advantage in your  macro work but you can see the same kind of benefit when shooting with a super telephoto on a tripod for example.

    How does EFSC work?

    When you press the shutter button to take a picture the electronic first curtain shutter uses a high-speed scanning system that mimics a mechanical first curtain shutter operation then synchronizes with a mechanical second curtain shutter to cover the sensor and end the exposure. Any vibration caused by the second curtain shutter happens after exposure has ended.

    When you press the shutter button to take a picture with EFSC disabled or with a camera without EFSC a mechanical first curtain shutter uncovers the sensor and the second curtain follows along to form a slot to expose the sensor. The mechanical first curtain causes vibrations to occur throughout the exposure. This can lead to image blurring with high magnification macro or telephoto work.

    How to Enable EFSC

    Setting up EFSC on the 70D couldn’t be easier. First turn on live view: Menu > Live View Shooting Settings > Live View Shooting > Enable. Silent Mode/EFSC is enabled by default on the 70D when LV is enabled, on Canon bodies you want this setting on Mode 1. To check the Silent Live View/ EFSC setting on your camera go to: Menu > Live View Shooting Settings > Silent LV Shooting > Mode 1.

    EFSC Notes

    You have to enable Live View to use EFSC / Silent Live View on Canon cameras. Menu > Live View Shooting Settings > Live View Shooting > Enable.

    Use of a Canon flash will disable EFSC / Silent Live View.

    If you use a non Canon flash, EFSC / Silent Live View will not be disabled but the flash will not fire since flash uses the first shutter curtain to sync.

    On the Canon 70D (and some other Canon bodies) EFSC is enabled by default when you enable live view.

    What Cameras Have EFSC?

    Canon DSLRs: Canon 5DII, 5DIII, 7D, 6D, 40D, 50D, 70D, and entry level models (rebels in the US) have EFSC. The 60D has EFSC but it does not reduce vibration. None of the 1D series has EFSC except for the 1DX.

    Sony A and E mount cameras. There is a big issue right now with the new Sony A7/A7R. It turns out that while the A7 has EFSC the A7R does not.

    Panasonic MFT cameras with EFSC or silent mode are limited to a few bodies.

    Nikon: Only a single Nikon camera, the Nikon 1, has EFSC (actually the Nikon 1 has a full electronic shutter). Its hard to believe that Nikon doesn’t offer a single DSLR with EFSC!

    For more information on EFSC, including comments from Chuck Westfall, see Charles Krebs site: http://www.krebsmicro.com/Canon_EFSC/

    This is just a short excerpt from my upcoming Macro e-book coming out later this year. Send me an email with any EFSC questions or comments and I will be glad to help. If you’ve found any great things EFSC can do that aren’t mentioned here, be sure to share ‘em in the comment section below or send me an email. Thanks.

    All content (including text, design, photos, layout, and graphics) are copyright © 2014 Robert OToole.  All rights reserved.

  • Dec4

    Example
    Backlit crane landing at the north crane pool, Bosque del Apache NWR. Nikon D800E, AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR and AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II, 1/1250th s, f/5.6 at ISO 6400! Manual mode, +.7 EV. Jobu Jr3 Gimbal head. Image copyright 2013 Robert OToole Photography.

    Shooting in backlit conditions is a favorite of mine when the light is just right as long as you are careful to avoid too much side light which will ruin the pleasing soft light. The D800E continues to impress me to the point that I find myself making excuses to keep my D4.

    Bosque Bosque Bosque

    This place never fails to amaze and surprise. This was my tenth year photographing and leading tours at the refuge and it was my favorite year yet. Take a look at some of my favorite images below to get an idea of what this year was like.

    Example
    3 Crane sunset, north crane pool, Bosque del Apache NWR. Nikon D800E, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24G ED VR @ 19mm, 1/125th s, f/8 at ISO 900. Manual mode, Auto-ISO Jobu Jr3 Gimbal head. Image copyright 2013 Robert OToole Photography.
    Bosque is the place to go for unforgettable skies filled with unbelievable colors.

    Every year is different at Bosque and while the conditions this year were not the best ever, the new refugee staff and management are very open to improving the photographic opportunities so I am sure that the shooting there will improve a lot over the next few years.

    This year the intermittent road is open again, this time in a clockwise direction. The road will also be open this weekend so be sure to check it out if you are in town as there were lots of opportunities on the road this year.

    Example
    Sandhill crane coming in to roost at the north crane pool, Bosque del Apache NWR. Nikon D800E, AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR and AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II, 1/30th s, f/5.6 at ISO 800. Manual mode, +.3 EV. Jobu Jr3 Gimbal head. Image copyright 2013 Robert OToole Photography.
    I cannot deny I love to make speed blur images and this is my favorite from this year. The out of focus blurred cranes filling the bottom of the frame are an interesting element.

    We were lucky to experience a couple of days of snow this year which is always a lot of fun. We also had a few cloudy days with south winds that are the magic ingredients for great opportunities for birds in flight.

    Even though not all of the traditional go to spots were good this year there were plenty of opportunities for blast offs, close ups, flight photography and plenty of action overall including some chances for coyotes taking birds and cranes taking rodents. We were also lucky to have a few days of excellent colorful skies that Bosque is known for.

    Example
    South wind landing, farm fields, Bosque del Apache NWR. Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR and AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II, 1/30th s, f/5.6 at ISO 800. Manual mode, +.3 EV. Jobu Jr3 Gimbal head. Image copyright 2013 Robert OToole Photography.
    With south wind and soft light the farm loop can be a gold mind for cranes in flight.

    Example
    Crane with new mud boots, Bosque del Apache NWR. Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR and AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II, 1/1250th s, f/5.6 at ISO 640. Manual mode, +.3 EV. Jobu Jr3 Gimbal head. Image copyright 2013 Robert OToole Photography.
    This crane was definitely heavier on take off with what looks like 5 pounds of mud stuck to its feet.

    Thanks

    Thanks to generous support by Sigma USA I was able to donate time to this year at the Festival of the Cranes to give two talks and lead four workshops for the Friends of the Bosque during the festival. This was an opportunity for me to give something back for all the hard work and time the Friends of the Bosque have done over the years with education and volunteering and more.

    Thank you to everyone that attended a show or workshop this year . I feel lucky to have been able to meet so many nice new people and share amazing experiences on the reserve with my friends and tour participants.

    Example
    Sandhill crane painting with light at 1/20th of a sec, Bosque del Apache NWR. Nikon D800E, AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR and AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II, 1/20th s, f/5.6 at ISO 450. Manual mode, +.3 EV. Jobu Jr3 Gimbal head. Image copyright 2013 Robert OToole Photography.

    This crane made the image possible by painting with its wings while my shutter was open, I just pointed my camera and squeezed the trigger, the crane did all the work.

    Example
    South crane pool take off in early morning light, Bosque del Apache NWR. Nikon D800E, AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR and AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II, 1/1250th s, f/5.6 at ISO 720, Auto -ISO. Jobu Jr3 Gimbal head. Image copyright 2013 Robert OToole Photography.

    All alone at the crane pool, just my tour group and a few cranes. When most of the photographers and cranes leave the crane pool the real magic and fun can start.

    Example
    Late afternoon arrival at the north crane pool, Bosque del Apache NWR. Nikon D800E, AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR and AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II, 1/500th s, f/5.6 at ISO 2800, Auto-ISO. Manual mode. Jobu Jr3 Gimbal head. Image copyright 2013 Robert OToole Photography.

    When the light is too low to continue to make stop action images I switch to doing speed blurs. Then when the light level is even too low for blurs I prefer to shoot crane silhouettes against the last areas of color left in the sky before darkness.

    I will be leading multiple tours next year at Bosque and will post more information here as soon as it is available. If you would like to join me in 2014 at Bosque please email me.

    I will be posting more images from Bosque this year made with Sigma lenses on the Sigma website soon.

    Be sure to share a comment or question below.

    All content (including text, design, photos, layout, and graphics) are copyright © 2013 Robert OToole.  All rights reserved.

  • Oct14

    Photographing in the field in contrasty harsh light is something every photographer has to deal with. This is a technique that I use for those difficult high contrast situations. For a more natural looking image you need to take control of the light to handle the light and dark tones in a high contrast image.
    It is important to understand the problem with high contrast scenes. Exposing for the light tones will cause the darker tones to underexpose and exposing for the darks will result in blown out highlights.

    Photographing in the field in contrasty harsh light is something every photographer has to deal with. This is a technique that I use for those difficult high contrast situations. For a more natural looking image you need to take control of the light to handle the light and dark tones in a high contrast image.

    It is important to understand the problem with high contrast scenes. Exposing for the light tones will cause the darker tones to underexpose and exposing for the darks will result in blown out highlights.

    Example
    Sigma 105mm f/2.8 OS macro lens, Manual mode 1/125th s at f22, ISO 100

    Exposing for the whites in the image above works okay for the flower but the background looks really ugly and dark. Trying to lighten this background on the computer will create lots of noise and the image will end up looking unnatural.

    Example
    Sigma 105mm f/2.8 OS macro lens, Manual mode 1/125th s at f8, ISO 100

    Exposing for the background gives me a much more natural looking green but now the whites are blown out. So exposure changes alone are not the way to solve the contrast issue in this case.

    Example
    Sigma 105mm f/2.8 OS macro lens, Manual mode 1/125th s at f8, ISO 100

    The light hitting the flower needs to be controlled to balance the scene. Here I used a 12 inch round translucent diffuser to block the sunlight. If you don’t have a diffuser handy you can use anything available to shade the subject, even your own camera or body part.

    Example
    Sigma 105mm f/2.8 OS macro lens, Manual mode 1/125th s at f5.6, ISO 100

    Since the amount of light hitting the flower has been reduced the exposure has to be increased to properly expose the white flower. The flower looks just about right but now the background is way overexposed. This is because there is still too much contrast between the subject and background. The flower only needs a little more light to balance with the green background.

    Example
    Sigma 105mm f/2.8 OS macro lens, Manual mode 1/125th s at f8, ISO 100, flash in manual mode at 1/4 power

    Fill flash works well in situations like this. With a properly exposed background and flash lighting the subject we now have a balanced image. Notice that the flash also brings out a lot more detail than the flat light in the previous image and eliminates the dark shadows seen in the first image. If you don’t have a flash handy you can use any kind of reflector, even a white shirt can help light the subject.

    This is just one way to control light and use flash to balance a high contrast scene. I am not trying to encourage anyone to go out and shoot flowers in full sun. My best advice for an extreme contrast situation is always to stop photographing, maybe take a lunch break, and return when there is less contrast. But if you do find yourself photographing a scene with too much contrast at least you know one way to quickly handle the situation.

    I use this technique all the time for macro photography. In the image below I used a 12 inch round translucent diffuser held in place with a plastic clamp attached to my tripod and used a small wireless flash with flash diffuser to light the subject. The green background was lit by full sun.

    Example
    Female crab spider on Cosmos. South Coast Botanical Gardens, RPV, California. Nikon D800E, Sigma 105mm f/2.8 OS macro lens, 1/200 s, f/8 at ISO 200. Monopod and Jobu tilt head. Nikon SB-R200 Wireless Speedlight in manual mode 1/5 power with diffuser.

    Any questions or comments? Leave a question below or send me an email.

    All content (including text, design, photos, layout, and graphics) are copyright © 2013 Robert OToole.  All rights reserved.

  • Aug20

    Example
    Young brown bear with a pink or humpy salmon, Geographic harbour, Katmai Alaska. Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR and AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II, 1/1250 s, f/5.6 at ISO 4500. EV +.7. Manual mode. Jobu Jr3 Gimbal head. Image copyright 2013 Robert OToole Photography

    Katmai Bear Tour Report

    Alaska never fails to amaze and surprise each year. This year was very different from anything I have ever seen in all of my years of leading groups there. This year there were major challenges with the weather, specifically weather changes that effected the bears and our photo opportunities. Being boat based and able to relocate and stay overnight right in front of the action was a huge advantage for us.

    Example
    Brown bear backlit by the very last rays of daylight, Geographic Harbor, Katmai Alaska. Nikon D4 with Sigma 50-500mm APO DG OS HSM @ 460mm, 1/1250 s at f8 ISO 500, handheld, manual metering, – EV. Image copyright 2013 Robert OToole Photography. This warm golden edge glow is created at a certain spot at Geographic that will give you this amazing backlight effect right before the sun disappears below the mountains.

    As usual at Hallo Bay we had lots of excellent opportunities for bears with cubs the first week. This was not a surprise since Hallo in July is usually consistently good for bears and bears with cubs. On the second tour though we had almost no chances with cubs. This was disappointing for some in the second group as they were hoping to photograph bears with cubs while some in the first group had enough of cubs by the end of the second day. Some guides I spoke with felt that this sudden change in numbers had something to do with an unusually good, maybe all time, Salmon berry season. The unusual berry abundance and the overly warm weather may have caused the bears to move away from the coastal area and seek higher, cooler, berry feeding grounds.

    The biggest challenge this year really was without a doubt the weather. The first group had 5 days of full sun and completely cloudless skies, the second had almost nothing but clouds, fog and rain! Our guide with 30 years of experience in Alaska told me he had never seen weather like that before. Full sun in Alaska is really harsh for photography and even worse it creates issues with the bear’s activity level since they overheat easily. On the other hand rain and fog on the other hand are great for the bears but it can really makes photography a challenge, my ISO sensitivity never went below 1600 on the second tour!

    Example
    Young brown bear and mother, Geographic harbor, Katmai Alaska. Nikon D800E, AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR and AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II, 1/800 s, f/5.6 at ISO 250. Manual mode. Jobu Jr3 Gimbal head. Image copyright 2013 Robert OToole Photography.
    Brown bear interaction is always fascinating. As soon as this cub noticed it’s mother laid down to take a break, it ran over to play.  I knew this ahead of time and was able to tell our group that we were about to have a great opportunity. Mother and cub interaction changes when they lose cubs. Melissa (this bear has a name) started out with 3 cubs in June but by the time we arrived in July there was only this single cub left. In this case the mother will accept the role of a play partner that it would never accept with 2 or more cubs.

    Example
    Brown bear cub portrait, Hallo Bay Alaska. Nikon D800E with Sigma 50-500mm APO DG OS HSM @ 340mm, 1/1000 s at f8 ISO 720, handheld, manual metering. Image copyright 2013 Robert OToole Photography. There are not many times where the bears move too close but it does happen. Not only is it not the safest situation but its almost impossible to keep your own shadow off of the bears. This situation made me glad I carried a backup 50-500 all day.

    Example
    Young brown bear with a spawned-out pink salmon, Geographic harbour, Katmai Alaska. Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR, 1/500 s, f/4 at ISO 5000. EV +.7. Manual mode. Tripod and Jobu Jr3 Gimbal head.  Image copyright 2013 Robert OToole Photography. This pink salmon female is at its last and final stage of life having already spawned upstream and will not live another season. Due to the poor condition these spawned-out fish are not ideal for photos but sometimes they still have lots of character if they are not in too bad of shape. Trips too late in the season, September for example, usually only have these spawned-out or worse, completely dead salmon to photograph.

    Thanks

    Thanks to all of this year’s tour participants. I feel lucky to have such incredible opportunities and to share all of the amazing experiences with friends and colleagues. If you were not able to join us this year, you should join us for 2014.  I normally have lots of repeat clients each year, this year we had someone on a 3rd trip and another on a 4th tour!

    Example
    Brown bear nursing, Hallo bay, Katmai Alaska. Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR and AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II, 1/800 s, f/8 at ISO 640. EV +.7. Manual mode. Jobu Jr3 Gimbal head.  Image copyright 2013 Robert OToole Photography. This mother bear with dark and light cubs was one of the best bears that I have ever had the pleasure to photograph. It always seemed so confident, calm and at ease in it’s environment.

    For more images and information on 2014 bear tour follow this link: http://www.robertotoole.com/workshop/brown-bears/

    If you would like to join my tour in 2014 please email me to be placed on the registration list.

    Please let me know right away if you have any questions or would like register for next year.

    All content (including text, design, photos, layout, and graphics) are copyright © 2013 Robert OToole.  All rights reserved.

  • Jul9

    Example

    On Saturday July 13 in Torrance California I will be leading a macro photography workshop with Pauls Photo and Sigma USA

    Learn how to work with close-up subjects shooting handheld and with a tripod or monopod and special focus techniques and equipment.
    Robert will show you how to balance flash and natural light with different natural backgrounds to make creative images with visual variety, even with the same subject. We’ll discuss the best ways to overcome the technical challenges associated with macro photography, as well as the latest types of equipment and techniques you should use and why.
    Learn how to work with close-up subjects shooting handheld and with a tripod or monopod and special focus techniques and equipment. The lastest Sigma macro lenses will be available for test drives thanks to Sigma USA.
    Learn how to balance flash and natural light with different natural backgrounds to make creative images with visual variety, even with the same subject. We’ll discuss the best ways to overcome the technical challenges associated with macro photography, as well as the latest types of equipment and techniques you should use and why.

    Follow this link for a flyer: http://paulsphoto.com/files/522-macrootoole2013.pdf

    See Pauls Photo site for more info: http://paulsphoto.com/macro-photography.html
    Update: This workshop is now sold out but there will be additional macro workshops announced here soon.

    All content (including text, design, photos, layout, and graphics) are copyright © 2013 Robert OToole.  All rights reserved.

  • Jun27

    Example

    If you are in the Las Vegas area this weekend stop by the South Point Hotel for the Cam 2 Cam Expo: http://www.camera2cameraexpo.com/ There will be lots of educational presentations, shooting workshops and equipment vendor displays at the show.

    Thanks to Sigma USA I will be presenting image slideshows on friday and Saturday so I hope to see you there.

    Example

    Nevada is under a Excessive Heat Warning this weekend with record setting temps at 117 or more are expected in Las Vegas Saturday. So this weekend should be an interesting, maybe even record setting!

    All content (including text, design, photos, layout, and graphics) are copyright © 2013 Robert OToole.  All rights reserved.

  • Jun24

    Example

    Bloomberg Businessweek Cover

    Bloomberg Businessweek magazine editors chose to run one of my eagle images on the cover of this weeks issue. This magazine has close to 1,000,000 copy circulation so although not my first cover it is my biggest circulation cover so far.

    The image was made with a Sigma 50-500mm f/4-6.3 EX HSM APO lens at 500mm with my NIKON D700 in manual mode, 1/1600 s F/8, ISO 1000.

    Its interesting to see the image selection process by the editors in the cover trail breakdown on the table of contents page of the magazine. Personally I prefer the dark on white or dark on blue versions that did not make the final cut. Check it out if you see it on the newsstand.

    PMA@CES, reflecting its rescheduling to coincide with International CES, a major annual consumer electronics trade show also held in Las Vegas.
    The PMA International Convention and Trade Show is frequently the occasion for the public introduction of important imaging product

    All content (including text, design, photos, layout, and graphics) are copyright © 2013 Robert OToole.  All rights reserved.