Robert OToole Photography
  • Jul21

    Photographing Coastal Brown Bears in June

    After finishing up my first two bear tours of the season, I am glad to report that June and early July were really good with a surprising number of bears at both Kukak and Hallo bay. I feel lucky to have been able to lead tours to locations like this with so many bears in mostly good weather with tons of action, so thanks to my trip participants for making this possible.

    Example

    Mother bear at Hallo with lupine in the background. Katmai NP Alaska, NIKON D500 and SIGMA 18-300mm Contemporary lens @ 120mm, 1/500 sec at f/14, manual mode, ISO 500. EV, -0.7. Image Copyright 2016 Robert OToole Photography.

    As soon as mother bear stopped and looked up I grabbed a Sigma 18-300 C travel and stopped down to f/14 to extend the depth of field for sharp Lupines and mountains in the background.

    The Weather
    June can be a little slow after a harsh winter and spring but this year that was definitely not the case with so many bears and cubs out in force. Technically June, July, August are about equal in terms of rain but this June was a little wetter than normal this year with one tour losing a couple of days two to non-stop rain before recovering with beautiful cloudy skies and lots of great shooting.

    Example

    Yearlings spending their morning sparring. Katmai NP Alaska, NIKON D500 and SIGMA 120-300 mm f/2.8 Sports lens @ 300mm, 1/1250 sec at f/3.5, manual mode, ISO 320. Image Copyright 2016 Robert OToole Photography.

    Cloudy overcast mornings are typical for June in Katmai and as you can see in the image above not only is this kind of light not a problem with modern DSLRs but these conditions are preferred. Water droplets create lots of nice details with saturated colors and the cool temperatures mean more bear activity. Full sun on the other hand creates lots of issues with sharpness due to heat waves and dry chalky glacial mud everywhere and the heat in the middle of the day really slows the bears down.


    Example

    Two yearlings having breakfast in the meadow. Katmai NP Alaska, NIKON D500 and SIGMA 120-300 mm f/2.8 Sports lens @ 300mm, 1/800 sec at f/4, manual mode, ISO 280. Image Copyright 2016 Robert OToole Photography.

    The Bears

    The number of bears and mothers with cubs around this year was just fantastic. At Hallo we had at least five mothers with cubs, Kukak had 12 bears around one morning. For some reason spring cubs were not around early this summer but there were lots of yearlings to keep the photographers really busy.

    Example

    Two yearling cubs from different mothers rough-housing. Katmai NP Alaska, NIKON D500 and SIGMA 120-300 mm f/2.8 Sports lens @ 240mm, 1/1250 sec at f/4, manual mode, ISO 400. Image Copyright 2016 Robert OToole Photography.

    At Hallo we had the pleasure to see three mothers with adopted cubs. I have seen this before in years past but no this many at once. It was reported that there was a total of 5 mothers with adopted cubs this year a Hallo! This is always really interesting behavior to see and photograph.

    Example

    Cub hopping over driftwood. Katmai NP Alaska, NIKON D500 and SIGMA 150-600 mm Sports lens @ 190mm, 1/1250 sec at f/8, manual mode, ISO 280, EV, -0.7. Image Copyright 2016 Robert OToole Photography.
    When this cub started running at me and I wanted to record that exact moment it would be in the air over the logs in the foreground so I locked on to the bear’s head with 3D AF and carefully placed the mountains in the top of the frame and D500 and 150-600 sigma sports lens precisely tracked the bear perfectly.

    The D500+150-600 S is one serious image maker with the best Image quality I have seen from a crop sensor body. I even managed to make a few frames up to ISO 5500 that looked fine without any noise reduction. The Nikon D810 is still my favorite overall camera but the D500 really makes a lot of sense for wildlife photography. Now that the D500 is out the D4 or D5 pro bodies slide further down my recommended equipment list for wildlife photography. For the price of a new D5 you can pick up a D810, D500 and a new Sigma 150-600 sports lens and still have money leftover for some new memory cards.

    Example

    Chubby cub and mother bear. Hallo bay, Katmai NP Alaska, NIKON D500 and SIGMA 120-300 mm f/2.8 Sports lens @ 160mm, 1/1000 sec at f/4, manual mode, ISO 400. Image Copyright 2016 Robert OToole Photography.

    This year my bear tour schedule was split into 3 separate weeks in June, July and August and so far my experiment is really paying off.

    Example

    Tour size is limited to 4 participants so there will always be plenty of time for personal assistance and instruction from the leader.Each and every day I will strive to put you in the right place to make the very best images possible. Your image making will always be a priority over my own. My second goal is to make sure you return home safe and sound with images that are better than expected.
    Mother and cub bonding. Kukak, Katmai NP Alaska, NIKON D500 and SIGMA 120-300 mm f/2.8 Sports lens @ 170mm, 1/500 sec at f/3.5, manual mode, ISO 900, EV -0.3. Image Copyright 2016 Robert OToole Photography.

    There are two islands that I know of where shy mother bears take cubs to live for extended periods. This always works out great for photography and this year was especially good on one island that ended up with two mothers with cubs!

    Example

    Mother and cub stare down right before the pounce. Katmai NP Alaska, NIKON D500 and SIGMA 120-300 mm f/2.8 Sports lens @ 160mm, 1/1000 sec at f/3.5, manual mode, ISO 1000, EV -0.3. Image Copyright 2016 Robert OToole Photography.

    In Katmai biggest source of stress for a mother bear with a cub large adult male bears so an island is a solution that offers sanctuary from other bears and at the same time creates and ideal set up for photography.

    Example

    Cubs having fun being cubs on bear island. Katmai NP Alaska, NIKON D500 and SIGMA 120-300 mm f/2.8 Sports lens @ 250mm, 1/1000 sec at f/2.8, manual mode, ISO 360. Image Copyright 2016 Robert OToole Photography.

    My 2017 small group photo tour dates are available with spots still available on all tours, for more information follow the link
    here: http://www.robertotoole.com/workshop/brown-bears/

    Shoot me an email, Robert at Robert OToole Photography.com,  if you have any questions.

  • Apr22

    Unforgettable Experiences

    This season of eagle photography in Alaska, my 11th straight year, was full of amazing experiences and opportunities I will never be able to forget. My tour participants really made it all possible so a big thanks to everyone that joined me in Alaska this year.

    The Weather
    The weather really has been a big issue world wide over the last couple years and in Alaska things have really been affected by climate change with a lot less cold days and a lot more unusually warm days but the amazing thing is that the eagles could care less. Actually it seems like there are more eagles and this year it seemed like there were more sub-adult eagles than ever. Lots of eagles, pleasant weather, beautiful habitats and five other keen photographers in your group, what more could you ask for?

    Example

    Storm clouds and perfect morning light is exceptional combination and a dream opportunity for a photographer, Kenai Peninsula Alaska, NIKON D810 and SIGMA 120-300 mm f/2.8 Sports lens @ 240mm, 1/2000 sec at F5.6, manual mode, ISO 500. Image Copyright 2016 Robert OToole Photography.

    Thanks to the constantly changing weather in this part of the world the five days of the tour will usually offer shooting conditions from clouds, to rain, to sun and everything is between, sometimes all in one day! This year the only weather phenomenon we missed was a snow storm, otherwise the weather couldn’t have been better.

    The Eagles

    Example

    Flared eagle, Kenai Peninsula Alaska, NIKON D810 and SIGMA 120-300 mm f/2.8 Sports lens @ 250mm, 1/2000 sec at F4, manual mode, ISO 1000. Image Copyright 2016 Robert OToole Photography.

    We had an great number of eagles this year for each tour. Even after all these years I still find it amusing when first timers on my tour cant hardly believe their eyes when the eagles just show up when we arrive, going from 2 to 25 in a few minutes and up to 50-75 or even more within an hour of arriving.

    Example

    Inverted dive, Kenai Peninsula Alaska, NIKON D810 and SIGMA 120-300 mm f/2.8 Sports lens @ 240mm, 1/2500 sec at F5.6, manual mode, ISO 400. Image Copyright 2016 Robert OToole Photography.

    The first day of the eagle tour can be really hard for new people as there can be so many eagles coming from all directions that concentrating on getting a good image can be difficult. But after the shock of the first day the amount of quality images increases exponentially! After a few days you will learn to recognize and predict the eagles actions, like the inversion above, and things really start to get easy.

    Example

    Eagle rock, Kenai Peninsula Alaska, NIKON D810 and SIGMA 120-300 mm f/2.8 Sports lens @ 300mm, 1/2000 sec at F5.6, manual mode, ISO 1000. Image Copyright 2016 Robert OToole Photography.

    Two participants were able to bring the new Nikon D5 on the tour and I was able to try them out a couple of times. I think the auto AF fine tuning and touch screen were useful, the additional speed and high ISO capabilities at least for eagles were also nice but nothing groundbreaking over the D4S as far as I am concerned.

    Example

    Hard bank Kenai Peninsula Alaska, NIKON D810 and SIGMA 120-300 mm f/2.8 Sports lens @ 250mm, 1/2500 sec at F5.6, manual mode, ISO 400. Image Copyright 2016 Robert OToole Photography.
    The Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 Sports lens was the perfect lens for the action again this year. After a few years with this lens I don’t really see myself going back to a prime 300/2.8 again. The flexibility of the zoom with the speed of a prime lens are just too good to be true making it one of the best low light wildlife lenses out there.

    Example

    Eagle paradise, Kenai Peninsula Alaska, NIKON D810 and SIGMA 120-300 mm f/2.8 Sports lens @ 160mm, 1/1000 sec at F4, manual mode, ISO 400. Image Copyright 2016 Robert OToole Photography.
    There are not that many places out for wildlife photographers that offer almost unlimited opportunities that are not degrading over time with almost no pressure from crowds. I feel lucky that I have been able to visit a place like this to share it with other photographers thanks to my tour participants for making it possible. If you have ever dreamed about shooting eagles in a natural environment think about joining my tour, you wont regret it. I strive to put you in the right place to make the very best images possible and your image making will always be a priority over my own.

    Tour size is limited to 4 participants so there will always be plenty of time for personal assistance and instruction from the leader.Each and every day I will strive to put you in the right place to make the very best images possible. Your image making will always be a priority over my own. My second goal is to make sure you return home safe and sound with images that are better than expected.
    Tour size is limited to 4 participants so there will always be plenty of time for personal assistance and instruction from the leader.

    The 2017 workshop details have available here: http://www.robertotoole.com/workshop/bald-eagles/.

    Shoot me an  email, Robert at Robert OToole Photography.com,  if you have any questions.

  • Mar13

    Example

    Mother and baby enjoying some peace and quiet in late afternoon light at the green pool at the Jigokudani snow monkey park. This is a smaller hot spring fed pool far away from the main pool and rarely visited by photographers. Only a few people from my tour group were present when this photo was taken but at the same time there were 50 plus people jockeying for position at the main pool. Sigma 150-600 sports lens @ 600mm and Nikon D810, 1/500s, f/8, ISO 1400, EV + .0, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld. Click on the photo to launch a new larger version of the photo.

    Winter wildlife hotspots in Japan

    In winter time there are 4 main wildlife photography hotspots in Japan. First and foremost we find the snow monkeys in the northern Japanese alps on the west side of main island at the snow monkey park. On the northern island of Hokkaido there is the Shiretoko peninsula where we target Steller’s sea eagles, Lake Kussharo for whopper swan and finally the Kushiro area for Japanese red-crowned crane.

    Example

    Finally a snow flurry at the monkey park. Sigma 150-600 sports lens @ 440mm and Nikon D810, 1/500s, f/11, ISO 5000, EV + 1.0, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld. Click on the photo to launch a new larger version of the photo.

    Snow Monkey Park

    This year the Nagano area of Japan had one of the lowest snow fall totals ever recorded for this area of Japan. This area sees an average of 22 days of snowfall in February so when I saw bare ground and zero snow on our first of 3 days at the monkey parked I was a little shocked. Mother nature came through on the second and third day giving us plenty of snow flurries and a big drop in temperatures. Three days of scheduled photography at Jigokudani on my tour just about guarantees we see at least one day of snow each year. Without snow and with warmer temperatures the monkeys act a bit differently and tend not to gather together, instead they spread out giving photographers less opportunities.

    Example

    Thankfully this little one took a break from cuddling to give us a look. Sigma 150-600 sports lens @ 600mm and Nikon D810, 1/250s, f/11, ISO 2500, EV + 0, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld. Click on the photo to launch a new larger version of the photo.

    When shooting close and tight like this always try to stop down to f/11 or f/16 to try to keep as much as possible in focus. If you like shallow depth of field f/4 or f/5.6 at this distance will give you a very narrow band of focus.

    The photography at the monkey park this year was just excellent. Even though it was crowded and the weather was not ideal our entire stay it was an amazing experience once again.

    Example

    Fluffy young monkey looking a lot like a teddy bear. Sigma 150-600 sports lens @ 460mm and Nikon D810, 1/500s, f/8, ISO 800, EV + .3, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld. Click on the photo to launch a new larger version of the photo.

    It really pays off to get away from other photographers at the monkey park. Every afternoon a group of young male snow monkeys would gather at the top of the hill to climb trees and roll in the snow together. This was just a short walk away from the main pool but most photographers and tour groups would just stay at the main pool and shoot the very same image they shot all morning. For best results at the park, take a break, take a walk and look for new fresh angles, backgrounds and action.

    Sea Eagles and Fox

    In far west Hokkaido we visited the hot spot Rausu on the Shiretoko peninsula for Sea eagles.

    Example

    Steller’s banking in early morning light, Rausu, Japan. Sigma 150-600 sports lens @ 600mm and Nikon D810, 1/1250s, f/8, ISO 720, EV + .3, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld. Click on the photo to launch a new larger version of the photo.

    The biggest news this year was a the lack of sea ice in the sea of Okhotsk and the Nemuro Strait. Even though the conditions were not ideal the eagle photography opportunities at Rausu were still amazing. The steller’s eagles were out in full force all over Hokkaido.

    Example

    Steller’s sea eagle chasing a white-tailed eagle for a free breakfast. Sigma 150-600 sports lens @ 600mm and Nikon D810, 1/2000s, f/8, ISO 640, EV + .3, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld. Click on the photo to launch a new larger version of the photo.


    During our 3 days photographing at Rausu we enjoyed the full range of very good weather and thankfully the weather never became an issue thanks to careful planning. We dodged a blizzard on our last day by cutting the eagle photography short to get out of town before a huge storm hit.

    Example

    Steller’s against the sun. Sigma 150-600 sports lens @ 400mm and Nikon D810, 1/1250s, f/8, ISO 125, EV +0, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld. Click on the photo to launch a new larger version of the photo.

    This year the mild weather meant that there was lots of time to explore in beautiful afternoon light to seek out deer and fox along the shore. One afternoon were able to watch deer eat kelp right on the beach!

    Example

    This friendly Hokkaido fox followed us to the beach giving us a beautiful blue background. The water behind the fox is the strait between the sea of Okhotsk and the pacific. Sigma 150-600 sports lens @ 600mm and Nikon D810, 1/500s, f/8, ISO 280, EV + .3, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld. Click on the photo to launch a new larger version of the photo.

    The fox on Hokkaido are a different sub-species than the Japanese fox found elsewhere in Japan.  During February you see lots of roadside fox sometimes we see a dozen individuals a day and sometimes groups of 3 or 4. Seeing a group of together is really rare in places like Alaska, but not on Hokkaido since this is the peak of the mating season.

    Cranes in Kushiro

    Example

    -18 degrees C (-.4 degrees F) at the Otowa Bridge and a pair of cranes bathed in the pink early morning mist. Sigma 150-600 sports lens @ 600mm and Nikon D810, 1/400s, f/7.1, ISO 3200 EV +0.3, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld. Click on the photo to launch a new larger version of the photo.

    For the second year in a row we left our eagle location Rausu early to avoided getting snowed in by a blizzard. The timing was perfect as we safely made it to Kushiro just in time to experience snow for the next two days.

    Example

    Clean landing at Akan. Sigma 150-600 sports lens @ 400mm and Nikon D810, 1/2000s, f/8, ISO 360, EV +0.3, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld. Click on the photo to launch a new larger version of the photo.

    Overall the number of cranes was down this year due to the unusually mild winter, but the photographic opportunities were still excellent. This year the Akan International Crane Centre still had a good amount of cranes and all the action you could ask for, dancing, displaying, copulation attempts, interaction with fox, raptors and even deer. Actually this year, the lower than normal numbers of cranes made for cleaner backgrounds so the only problem was trying to be selective and keep from shooting too much!

    Example

    Crane pair in mid dance at Akan. Clean and clear backgrounds like this were easy this year! Sigma 150-600 sports lens @ 600mm and Nikon D810, 1/2000s, f/8, ISO 400, EV +0.7, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld. Click on the photo to launch a new larger version of the photo.

    The good news is that there were a lot less swans being a nuisance at Akan.  The staff was doing a good job chasing whooper swans out of the park but there were less swans in Japan overall. I was told that the whoopers were leaving Japan on migration about a month earlier than normal due to the warmer winter.

    The mild weather this year in Japan really created some big challenges for crane photography around Kushiro. The biggest factor was that the birds were leaving the crane parks and sanctuaries to visit thawed out farm fields for food. The cranes had a very low feeding drive, so much so that the Akan center stopped feeding the cranes fish 5 days early on Feb 29th. I watched the center staff feed the cranes live trout only to have the birds walk over and then turn around and walk away. Normally there would be a feeding frenzy and battles over the same fish in colder weather.

    Example

    Display jump caught in midair at Akan. Sigma 150-600 sports lens @ 370mm and Nikon D810, 1/2000s, f/8, ISO 500, EV +0.3, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld. Click on the photo to launch a new larger version of the photo.

    Unlike Akan, the Tsurui Ito crane sanctuary was a big disappointment this year. Even before I arrived to Japan I was told there were bare muddy snow-less spots at the Tsurui sanctuary, something I had never seen in all of my visits in Japan. Thankfully the blizzard on our first day in Kushiro buried those bare spots with a few feet of snow. If things weren’t bad enough at Tsurui one of the best features of Tsurui, a large tree that sits in the center of the field, has had main limb hacked off without any regards for aesthetics leaving a big old ugly stump. The missing tree branch was really disappointing for me since this used to be my favorite spot for cranes. Also it looked like the maintenance staff at Tsurui took the summer off since the main area was filled with ugly tall brown grass. We basically avoided Tsurui this year not for lack of trying but each visit there we found very low numbers of cranes at Tsurui compared to Akan.

    Tokyo City Tour

    Right before the start of my wildlife tour, my group and I spent a few days having a lot of fun spending time photographing at some of the very best spots in Tokyo. This tour is a good introduction for first time visitors and I will be leading the same Tokyo pre-tour including the best camera shops and the museums of Nikon, Fuji, and JCII (Japan Camera Industry Institute).

    For more information on the 2017 tour to Japan visit this link: http://www.robertotoole.com/workshop/hokkaido-japan/

    Here are a few of my favorites images from Tokyo.

    Example

    Pagoda and mount Fuji. Sigma 24-105 art lens @ 24mm and Nikon D810, 1/500s, f/8, ISO 200, EV +1.0, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld. Click on the photo to launch a new larger version of the photo.

    Example

    Tuna being cut to order at Tsukiji market using a long Maguro bōchō or Tuna Knife. Sigma 24-105 art lens @ 48mm and Nikon D810, 1/60s, f/4, ISO 140, EV +0.0, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld. Click on the photo to launch a new larger version of the photo.


    2016 is the last year you will be able to visit and photograph at the original Tsukiji market opened in 1935. Tsukiji is the largest wholesale fish market in the world and will move to a new modern facility in November.

    Example

    Tsukiji and Akihabara. All with Sigma 24-105 art lens and Nikon D810. Click on the photo to launch a new larger version of the photo.

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

  • Jan4

    Example

    Reversing a wide angle lens is always a great way to reach larger than life-size magnification with your DSLR. This wide angle reverse technique is quick and uncomplicated so its easy way to get close, really close!  With the Sigma 24mm Art lens Reversed on a Nikon D810 as seen above I was seeing 5x or five times life-size using only the 77mm to F-mount adapter.

    Larger than life-size can really open up a new world, this wrapping paper below looks almost unrecognizable at 5x.

    Be sure to click on the photos below to open in a new window at 1600 pixels.

    Example

    Red glitter made with a Sigma 24mm Art lens on a D810 with a single flash at 5X or five times life-size.

    Example

    The same gift paper at a more normal size, or about 0.5x or 1/2 life-size.

    Why a wide angle lens?

    When mounted in reverse a wide angle lens plane of focus much farther away from the sensor than when mounted normally so this means the lens is working with more extension and more extension means more magnification. A simple rule is that the shorter the focal length of a lens the more magnification you will see when you reverse it.

    Example

    Pencils with Sigma 24mm Art lens on a D810 with a single flash at 5X or five times life-size.

    Example

    Getting the lens reversed.


    Mounting a reversed lens on a DSRL is easy. First you will need to a reverse adapter with your camera mount on the back and male threads that match your lenses filter threads on the front. This item should cost about $20 in shops or less than $10 on ebay from an overseas seller. Adapters are so reasonable and easy to get avoid the temptation to use tape to mount the lens or even worse to free-hold, or hold the lens backwards without being mounted.

    Example

    This is the 77mm to Nikon F mount Reverse adapter and a Fotodix Iris control adapter I used to make the images in this post. The Jobu extra long quick release plate was also important since I use it to clamp a flash bracket.

    Example

    Front and rear views of the Sigma 24mm Art lens with the two adapters.

    Example

    Reverse adapters male 77mm threads on the left and the F-mount rear on the right.

    Aperture control

    When you reverse the a lens you will lose automatic aperture control. If you are using F-mount, the lens iris will close, if you are using an electronic iris like the EF mount or Sony E-Mount the iris will open. You will want to shoot at a couple stops down from maximum so you will need to control the iris if you are not using a lens with a aperture ring.

    Nikon F-mount

    Sigma Art lenses for F-mount are all G-type lenses so you will have to use an adapter to have control over the f-stop since there is no aperture ring.

    There is a way to set the aperture with an F-mount lens reversed without an adapter by holding the lens iris control tab open with a finger or piece of tape. With this method the actual f-stop is really hard to set consistently so I prefer spending the couple of bucks for an adapter although it does work in an emergency.

    To make the images in this post I used a Fotodix Aperture Control 52mm Filter unit. These run about $25 or so.

    Example

    Fotodix F-mount iris control adapter gives you an F-mount at the rear and at the front it has 52mm filter threads that could be used to mount a hood, diffuser or even a flash.

    Example

    This is the pin that pushes the lenses iris control tab to open and closes the lens iris.

    Canon EF mount and Sony E-mount

    When you reverse am electronic iris equipped lens like an EF mount or E-mount you will lose automatic aperture control. There are electronic iris control adapters out there in addition to manual control and I will both these methods in the next post.

    Lighting

    This is the key to success with any close up photo so I always use a single flash with a diffuser in the field. Also you can work with ambient light in the studio but make sure to diffuse the light for pleasing results.

    Focus Stacking

    The closer your subject the less depth of field you have to work with. At magnifications greater than life-size your ability to stop the lens down to increase depth of field depth of field is limited by the effects of diffraction which can destroy the sharpness of the image.

    For the images in this post I used a technique called focus stacking where I made multiple images at a sharp aperture then assembled the images using special software called stacking software. This technique really works wonders! I use Zerene Stacker software from Zerene Systems. Visit the site for a free demo version or if you would like to learn more:zerenesystems.com/cms/stacker

    Flare

    Since lenses were not designed to be used backwards a lot of lenses will flare when reversed so its important to shade the front of the lens. A Nikon BR-3 ring seem here works great and also give the lens 52mm threads for accessories.

    Example

    Bougainvillea flower close up at about 0.33x or 1/3rd life-size.

    Example

    Bougainvillea flower at 5X.

    Example

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

  • Oct15

    Example


    PhotoPlus Expo 2015
    Join me in NYC next week at Javits Convention Center for PhotoPlus Expo. You can find me at the Sigma Corporation of America​ Booth. So be sure to stop by and check out the all the new gear and I will giving two images presentations each day. Hope to see you there!


    Expo info: http://www.photoplusexpo.com/


    Special thanks to Sigma.

    Example

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

  • Sep22

    Example

    Late afternoon light with mother and cub in bear paradise. Sigma 150-600 sports lens @ 600mm and Nikon D810, 1/1250s, f/8, ISO 1000, EV + .3, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld.

    Amazing opportunities and experiences

    My time in August with my tour participants was unforgettable. Its really difficult to put some experiences into words. One of my most memorable experiences was one morning my group and I were out alone and at one point we had six brown bear mothers with cubs all around us fishing and not paying any attention to us. Not one other tour group even bothered to turn up that day. On another day a second year cub really surprised everyone by repeatedly catching salmon just like a pro, without help from it’s mother!

    Example

    Second year cub playing with a salmon. Sigma 150-600 sports lens @ 290mm and Nikon D810, 1/500s, f/14, ISO 1000, EV – .7, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld.

    At Hallo we had a cross fox spend at least 40 minutes hanging around showing off in front of us. The funny thing was that we had a mother bear with two second year cubs close by but all lenses were focused on the fox!

    Example

    Portrait of Mr Cross Fox with fireweed background. Sigma 150-600 sports lens @ 600mm and Nikon D810, 1/1250s, f/8, ISO 1000, EV + .3, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld.

    Over our two weeks we split out time between Hallo and Geo with lots of strategic landings at selected spots in between. At some of the usual spots like Geographic we did have lots of other groups on the river at the same time, it is the peak time after all, but if you know your way around Katmai you know there even better locations.

    Example

    Pink salmon just waiting to make a break for it. Sigma 150-600 sports lens @ 360mm and Nikon D810, 1/500s, f/11, ISO 2800, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld.

    The conditions this year were very very good with lots of salmon at all the spots and we had just enough rain to increase the river flows but not so much that it was a problem for photography. Our timing could not have been better since the first winter storm warning of the year was issued the very next day after the last day of the tour and Alaska got slammed.

    Example

    For a photographer it doesn’t get much better than Hallo bay in the late afternoon. Sigma 150-600 sports lens @ 600mm and Nikon D810, 1/2000s, f/7.1, ISO 720, EV + .3, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld.

    All new this year

    This year I tried something completely new reducing my tour group size to just four photographers while most other bear tour groups are increasing group sizes to make more profit. The two biggest advantages of a smaller tour group size is much less pressure and less effect on the bears when you are on the move. Also a smaller group will spend lots less time getting ready, moving and setting up so this a smaller group will always be more agile and efficient to be able to in the right spot when the conditions all come together.

    Example

    Spring cubs on the lookout for mother bear. Sigma 150-600 sports lens @ 600mm and Nikon D810, 1/500s, f/7.1, ISO 500, EV + .3, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld.

    Smaller is better

    Small tour group sizes are the way to go judging by the feedback I received this year. For 2016 I have scheduled three of these exclusive tours, two are already sold out even before I announce them. I will post more information about the new tours later this week but if you are interested email me right away. Right now I have 2016, 2017 and 2018 tour dates available if you are interested let me know right away.

    Example

    Where else in the world can you come across a bear gnawed whale vertebra on a beach walk?

    Thanks

    A big thanks to all of my awesome tour participants this summer, and special thanks to all of those that have re-signed for next year!

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

  • Aug4

    Example

    A couple of weeks ago I picked up a mint Schneider Kreuznach macro V-mount lens setup. FYI, the SK V-mount gear is designed for the industrial machine vision market so the gear is very solid and very easy to set up and use.
    The gear was in great condition but was missing the hood that interestingly mounts on the front or rear of the lens depending if you are using the lens in reverse or forward orientation for the best performance under different magnification ratios.

    Apple Repair Extension Program

    Example

    On Monday I dropped Schneider-Optics west coast office an email asking if they could help with the availability and price for the missing hood. They replied on the same day and told me that not only did they have the hood I needed but they would send it for no charge if I paid for the shipping. The package arrived on Wednesday and to my surprise not only did they send the hood but they sent a matching lens cap!

    Now that is customer service!

    Example

    FYI Schneider Kreuznach owns the US subsidiary Schneider Optics and is best known as the owner of B+W Filters, Rollei Fototechnic, and Century Optics.

    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.

  • Jul31

    Video Issues and Logic Board FailureExample

    The Problem

    Owners of 2011 to early 2013, 15 and 17 inch MacBook Pros need to be aware of any issues that causes video problems like freezes, distorted screen, black or gray screens and restarts. My 17 inch MBP would show green strips and restart on its own and boot to a black, blue or gray screen! This issue is solved with a new logic board replaced under warranty. This repair would cost $600+ if you have to cover the cost of the repair.

    Apple Repair Extension Program

    Apple Repair Extension Program

    This program was set up earlier this year after consumers discovered that the problem was widespread. The page on Apple’s support site on this issue has 5 million views:
    https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4766577. My 17 MBP failed a Apple diagnostic test at the service center so they offered to replace the logic board at no charge and under warranty. I decided to order a new top case or unibody case which includes a new keyboard and touchpad since the laptop was being serviced anyway. My shop had my MBP back in my hands in less than two full days for a grand total of $319 ($219 for the top case alone). This shop is an independent Apple repair center called AMS and is located in Torrance California http://www.amsus.com/

    The program covers affected MacBook Pro models until February 27, 2016 or three years from its original date of sale, my computer thankfully  failed in the last couple of months of the coverage and t
    hankfully there were no issues with OWC aftermarket SSD drives (two) and RAM effecting the warranty process.

    Need more info, see Apple’s support page: https://www.apple.com/support/macbookpro-videoissues/

    Example

    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.

  • Jul29

    Trip Report : Tour One

    Overall this tour was just about perfect. Even though I managed to step on and break my Maui Jim sunglasses in half on the first day of the trip and later having my old faithful MacBook Pro suffering a RAM failure and logic board failure didn’t seem to really matter to me since I was working with such a great group of people including my hard working co-leader Mark Comon from Paul’s Photo. The Photographic opportunities were fantastic from the first few minutes and seemed to get better and better up until the last minutes of the final shoot of the trip. This tour, in a partnership with Paul’s Photo in Torrance California was the first in a series we are doing together in the future including Japan in 2016.

    Example
    Plus size mother blonde bear checking out our group. Sigma 24-105 Art  lens and Nikon D810, 1/1000s, f/5.6, 75mm, ISO 640, EV + .7, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld.

    The first few minutes after stepping off our floatplane I was faced with a tough decision, we had two bears (and later a wolf) fighting on top of a dead fin whale carcass, but the rest of our group was due to arrive in an hour or two. For the first couple of hours the harsh light made the dark bears on a white carcass unattractive so the decision was easy but after a 3 hour flight delay wait the light improved to the point where I decided to have the present half of the group suit up to take advantage of the scene in front of us. But before we could finish suiting up the rest of the group with Mark showed up, 3.5 hours late but just in time for the soft late afternoon light!

    Example
    Lone bear morning walk at Hallo Bay. Sigma 150-600 Sports lens and Nikon D810, 1/500s, f/7.1, 360mm, ISO 280, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, Uniqball UBH 45X on tripod.

    The Weather

    July in Alaska always seems to deliver with a great balance of long hours of good light and good weather and this year was no exception. We had a single rain delay due in the entire seven day tour!

    The Locations

    This tour, the first of a series of three, was aimed at bears, their behavior and interactions mostly in Hallo Bay. The second and third tours this year that are taking place in August are targeting bears hunting for salmon at a spot down the coast called Geographic Harbor.

    Hallo had just started to show a limited salmon run when we were there and had good numbers of bear and cubs. Kuliak had tons of pinks getting ready to run (and the dead whale) but Kukak seemed pretty slow but it still provided a hugh number, almost unbelievable number of eagles and eaglets, one nest had three good looking young ones!

    Example
    Taking a break from eating a whale lunch to size up our group. Sigma 150-600 Sports lens and Nikon D810, 1/1250s, f/8, 500mm, ISO 450, EV -0.3, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld.

    Equipment

    This year I went with the same lenses that performed so well on my Japan tour, the Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 (+1.4X), Sigma 150-600 sports, and a Sigma 24-105 all in my F-stop backpack / roller system. The 120-300 f2/8 sports lens was my go to lens for low light conditions, the 150-600 was my main lens the rest of the time. For bodies I brought a two Nikon D810s. The ability to go into CX mode with 6 fps and a 1.2X crop and DX mode with 7 fps and 1.5X crop with the increase in buffer size was great.

    This year I brought three sets of waders, a convertible chest wader from Orvis, wading pants from Patagonia and a convertible thigh wader from Chota, all the ultra light Patagonia boots. The Chotas are good for warm afternoons since they pull down to boot level to keep cool.

    Example

    Mother bear enjoying a roll in the warm sun and fresh sedge. Moments later the cub ran over to join her. Sigma 150-600 Sports lens and Nikon D810, 1/500s, f/7.1 600mm, ISO 3600, EV + 0.7, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, Uniqball UBH 45X on tripod.

    The entire tour delivered lots of great opportunities up the final minutes of the tour when we had a surprise! I knew the area were scouting was great for red fox in years past but I was even surprised when Mark spotted a fox sunning on a patch of grass in perfect light. We motored closer and closer to what seemed like a few feet past the end of my legs that were hanging off the front of the skiff. Before our boat hit a rock and scared the fox away my lens EXIF reported a seven foot shooting distance.

    Example
    Red fox taking a hunting break to enjoy the sun. Sigma 150-600 Sports lens and Nikon D810, 1/1250s, f/8, 550mm, ISO 900, EV + 0.3, Manual mode, Auto-ISO, handheld.

    If you are interested in joining a 2016, 2017, or 2018 tour email me to be placed on the interest list.  I should have solid dates by the end of August. Right now it looks like a tour at the end of June for bears and cubs and two August tours for bears fishing for salmon.

    Sunday February 21st – Saturday March 5th, 2016, 14 Days: $8200. Deposit $3000.
    Maximum 6 photographers + Leader Robert OToole and co-leader.

    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.

  • Apr17

    Example
    Eagle Launching into a superman pose. Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 Sports lens and Nikon D4s, 1/4000s, f/5.6, 140mm, ISO 400, EV + 1.3, Manual mode, Handheld.

    2015 has the distinction my being my tenth year leading eagle workshops in Alaska. Its a privilege to have such wonderful tour participants that made all the 4 tours a big success, a special thanks to all of this years participants.

    Example
    Redirection against spruce trees with cones. Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 Sports lens and Nikon D810, 1/2500s, f/4, 300mm, ISO 400, Manual mode, Handheld.

    The Weather

    The biggest news this March had to be the weather. My first group had unusually low temperatures hitting  -5 F all the way down to -15 with lots of wind and only one short period of snow. The next three groups saw much warmer temperatures but no major rain or snow.

    The warmer weather we have had over the last couple of years did create one benefit this year. The stress of the warm weather caused a bumper crop of mature spruce cones.  They really add a nice touch of color  in an otherwise monochromatic spruce background.

    The Usual Subjects and Locations

    The sheer numbers of eagles at our locations this year was just great, the opportunities have been getting better and better over the last few years. In all four of my groups we had magical shoots that made all the expense, time and effort to get to Alaska worth it.

    Example
    Launching in soft light. Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 Sports lens and Nikon D4s, 1/2500s, f/5.6, 155mm, ISO 1250, EV + 1.3, Manual mode, Handheld.

    Equipment

    This year I went with the same lenses as my Japan tour, with Sigma 120-300 f/2.8, Sigma 150-600 sports, and a Sigma 24-105 all in my new F-stop backpack system. For bodies I brought a Nikon D810 and D4s for backup. My old faithful 120-300 f2/8 sigma lens was my favorite lens again this year. This lens has to be just about the perfect lens for eagle photography.

    The D810 AF system worked very well, maybe even better than my D800E. The ability to go into CX mode with 6 fps and a 1.2X crop and DX mode with 7 fps and 1.5X crop on the D810 was useful when the D4s was not around. The D4s was my choice for low light and when I expected some heavy flight action.

    This year with the addition of my new Bama boot socks my arctic sport Muck boots kept me warm and toasty even on the coldest mornings. Why didn’t I know about these before?

    Example
    Eagle island Kachemak Bay. Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 Sports lens and Nikon D4s, 1/2500s, f/5.6, 145mm, ISO 500, EV + 1.3, Manual mode, Handheld.

    Temperatures

    The higher than normal temps over the last couple of years has a huge influence on the eagles behavior. This can make action at certain spots inconsistent and at others better than ever. Some of the areas that are normally very productive were unusually quiet this year but since there are so many spots available we worked alternate locations that offered amazing opportunities.

    Example
    One twentieth speed blur. Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 Sports lens and Nikon D810, 1/4000s, f/13, 270mm, ISO 100, EV + 1.3, Manual mode, Handheld.
    Example
    Eagle posing next to cone topped bonsai like spruce. Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 Sports lens and Nikon D810, 1/500s, f/4, 300mm, ISO 500, EV + 1.3, Manual mode, Handheld.

    Example
    Super close up approach. Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 Sports lens and Nikon D4s, 1/2500s, f/7.1, 220mm, ISO 1250, EV + 1.3, Manual mode, Handheld.

    Example
    Bank and spruce trees. Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 Sports lens and Nikon D4s, 1/2500s, f/4, 250mm, ISO 800, EV + 1.3, Manual mode, Handheld.

    Example
    Eagle over Mt Augustine. Sigma 150-600 Sports lens and Nikon D4s, 1/2000s, f/7.2, 600mm, ISO 1000, EV + 1.3, Manual mode, Handheld.

    The weather this year was not the best due to the lack of snow and warm temps but each and every group was able to experience amazing dream like eagle shooting sessions that made everyone more than happy so my rating for this year is an A+.

    If you would like to join us next year my 2016 dates are available but act quickly so you are not disappointed.

    Eagle Photo Tour Series 2016

    March 15 – 19th,  2016, 5 days $3900. Deposit $1950.
    March 22 – 26th,  2016, 5 days $3900. Deposit $1950.
    March 28th – April 1,  2016, 5 days $3900. Deposit $1950.

    Maximum of 5 photographers + Leader Robert OToole and co-leader.

    For more tour info follow this link: http://www.robertotoole.com/workshop/bald-eagles/

    Sunday February 21st – Saturday March 5th, 2016, 14 Days: $8200. Deposit $3000.
    Maximum 6 photographers + Leader Robert OToole and co-leader.

    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.