Month: April 2017

Life on Life’s terms continues

Well it’s been 3 weeks and the “Beast” (our affectionate term for our 5th wheel) is still in the shop, currently we are waiting for a new compressor for the refrigerator to come in so we can finally get back on the road. We have spent a moment or two sulking and complaining about our current situation but more often than not we are just making the best of it, being grateful for family that has hosted us these past three weeks without a single complaint or “hey when the heck are you leaving?” and finding photo opportunities where ever we can.

We made a few visits to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, we purchased the yearly photographer’s pass for $89.95 which allows us access to the rookery at 8 am and the ability to stay until sunset, in addition to supporting the good work of the Alligator Farm. We came at a great time as it’s baby season at the rookery, so cute and so much fun to photograph and observe.

The rookery poses quite a few challenges for photographers, to start with it is relatively small and even during the photography pass holders only hours it can get quite crowded.

There’s so much activity going on that you need to learn as a photographer to focus on a subject and not get distracted by all the activity, and at the same time be aware of your surroundings and be prepared to make a quick change so as not to miss a wonderful opportunity for an image, no easy task to master.

Another challenge you will encounter is very distracting backgrounds and foregrounds. The rookery area as mentioned is fairly small and does not provide easy opportunities for soft compressed backgrounds that as nature photographers we like very much. It requires constant vigilance in checking your camera angle, your backgrounds, scanning the image area for distracting elements and making adjustments.  

In the image above of the Snowy Egret the background was darkened in post production using NIK/Google filters. I used Viveza and selected several control points and decreased the brightness of the background, in doing this I lost some of the fine feathers on top so when I brought the image back into PS I added a layer mask to the Viveza layer, chose a soft brush, changed the opacity to about 30% and painted the fine detail of those feathers back in.

The blue sky created a pleasing background for Roseate spoonbill below, just as he landed on the perch.

For the family of Great Egrets a tight crop was chosen to minimize some of the distractions and an aperture of f8 to keep all 4 eyes in focus and at the same time adding as little depth of field to the background as possible.

One of the things we love about nature photography is all it’s challenges, it’s never the same and there are so many aspects of it that as photographers we have no control over. We don’t control our subject, the light, the backgrounds or foregrounds. We can only control how we as artists can create the images we want under the circumstances nature gives us and boy is it fun.
In addition to visits to the Alligator Farm we’ve had some backyard fun in Live Oak with a few beautiful Red-headed woodpeckers.

Wildlife photography is kind of like life; make the absolute best of what you’ve been given. Spend more time enjoying and conquering the challenges and less time complaining about them and things have a way of ending up new and beautiful.

Life on Life’s Terms

Life doesn’t always go the way you plan it,  almost 3 weeks ago we set out in our Montana 5th wheel to begin our lives as full time RV’ers. We made it to Live Oak Florida and stopped to visit Bill’s sister Vicki, she was kind enough to let us park our trailer on her 5 acre property and she hooked us up with water and electricity for a week while we got ourselves organized. Well the week went by fast and it was time to say goodbye and move a bit further south, not gonna happen, we were all set to leave and we noticed the slides on the Montana were not closing properly and the more we opened and closed them the worse it got. We made the first appointment we could get, 5 days later, then another week and a half passed before we were able to get our warranty company to approve the repair and now it will be at least another week for parts to  come in and repairs to be made. Not exactly as we had envisioned our first few weeks of life on the road, but life is best lived on life’s terms otherwise you will be disappointed most of your days.

So what is there to photograph in the Live Oak area? We found a few subjects: In this image below Bill decided to photograph this boat and palm tree as an HDR combining 3 images and then I processed it with a bit of a edge to it to add to the feel of the boat.
On our way back to Bill’s sisters house we passed this house and Bill knew he had to go back at good light and photograph it, again he chose HDR to create the image he had envisioned when he first saw the house.

Inside was just as interesting and also processed as an HDR
One last look at the house; Bill decided to use a compositional tool called framing to add additional interest to his subject, I think it worked really well, it’s my favorite image from this series.
And of course we found some wildlife to photograph as well. This barred owl was difficult to photograph as the background was very bright and the owl was in the deep shade of the forest, so I exposed for the owl, the more important element, and let the background overexpose and then toned it down a bit in post production.

We will continue to look for subjects while we are stranded in Live Oak Florida and continue to be grateful for relatives like Bill’s sister Vicki who graciously put us up while we wait on repairs. Photography is a lot like life, of course location and subject matter play their parts but your perspective is what will make or break you.

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Kamping with Kota & Kuma volume 2

Well its time to pee on our post again; or as you two leggeds call it posting to the blog. On March 25, 2017 we finally pulled out of the driveway in our new doghouse on wheels, we thought Mom and Dad would never be ready, but with a lot of barking and growling from us they got it done and our adventure began. Now we’re not sure why this blog is called Kamping with Kota & Kuma cause we’ve been gone almost two weeks and we haven’t seen a single campground; we suspect that since they don’t know how to spell camping, (Kamping) they also don’t know what it is, BOL!. We’ve stayed at two Motel 6’s on the way down to Florida and since we’ve gotten to Florida we’ve been parked in Aunt Vicki’s backyard, now it’s a real nice backyard and we like Aunt Vicki a lot but this ain’t camping. Here we are destroying her balls, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do with them, BOL!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
It’s been an interesting 13 days, Dad got the big dog house on wheels stuck a few times, wasn’t his fault bad directions, we helped him back out of a few tight spots and it all worked out OK. We got to stop at lots of new places to stretch our legs and do our business, so many great smells, don’t know why Mom and Dad were in such a rush to get back on the road all the time, we could have stayed a week in New Jersey just smelling everything. Here we are in front of our new dog house on wheels, we love it.

Now we’re not complaining but some of the beds we slept in on the way down were a bit small for our liking, we thought Mom & Dad would be considerate and sleep on the floor but alas they did not, humans!

We met this very strange animal in Aunt Vicki’s backyard, have no idea what it is but it sure is funny looking. It has no legs or paws, we can’t figure out how it got away from us so fast. And the dogs here in Florida; they are so big, must be the water down here that grows them that way. The cats, at least, seem to be normal so far.


We are getting used to the new doghouse on wheels, it’s very comfortable and so is our truck, all though for some reason we are not allowed in the front, doesn’t seem fair to us. Tomorrow we take the big doghouse on wheels into the shop for some repairs we hope it doesn’t take too long we hate to wait, humans are so slow.


Well that’s about it for now, we’ll keep you updated on all the fun we’re having and all the silly things our humans do. Until then never bite when a growl will do the trick.

Love Kota & Kuma

It Just Clicked – Exposure The Foundation of Good Photography

Sorry it’s been so long since our last blog, we’ve spent the last few months preparing to sell our house and get our Montana 5th wheel ready to be our new home on wheels for the next few years. What an undertaking it has been, over 30 years of living in the same home it was at times overwhelming deciding what to sell, what to keep, what to donate and what just needed to be thrown away. The hardest part of this whole new phase of our lives, was by far, saying goodbye to dear friends, neighbors and family. But as one good friend pointed out it’s not goodbye it’s just see you later.
So enough about us; lets get back to some photography.

In our last issue we were speaking about getting the exposure right; understanding the relationship between iso, aperture and shutter speed and how important that relationship is in allowing the photographer to make creative choices in how their images are presented. Today we are going to discuss how do we determine a correct exposure in the first place.

Contrary to some popular beliefs one of the first things we want you to do to learn how to determine a proper exposure is to take your camera off all those program modes and put it in manual. If you learn how to use your camera in manual than you will be able to fully utilize your various program modes. Many people think its the other  way around, I’ll use program and automatic modes and then I’ll learn manual. Trust us, put your camera in manual mode and lets get a proper exposure.

So we’re in manual and our image is composed the way we want it, our meter is set to spot (at at the moment this is a somewhat arbitrary choice – we’ll talk about metering modes in another post) so what’s next. Well the first thing we need to do is understand how our camera’s meter works. All meters in cameras are reflective meters, meaning that they measure the light reflected off our subjects and they want to make everything 18% gray or neutral, the problem with that is that most things do not reflect light at 18% gray and different colors reflect more or less light – so by nature our cameras will over expose blacks and under expose whites and we certainly don’t want that, so what do we do? Well we have to make adjustments by adding or subtracting light based on the understanding of our reflective meter. So lets say we have an image of a black or dark bird, if we null the meter (set in in the middle 18% gray) then as we mentioned before our meter will, in trying try to make the bird 18% gray, over expose the blacks. So knowing this we now need to subtract light (to compensate for our reflective meter over exposing or adding light) by one of our 3 variables in the exposure triangle, (iso, aperture or shutter speed). How much light will depend on the subject. Look at your histogram (image below shows where you will should see the blacks, shadows, mid-tones, highlights and whites represented) and see where the blacks and shadows are recorded in your image, are they to the left side of your histogram yet not climbing up the wall? If not  adjust your exposure by a 1/3 of a stop (either adding or subtracting depending on where you started) and then look again continue to do this until your shadows have detail. Once you practice enough you will be able to look at a scene and know approximately how much light you will need to add or subtract to properly expose your image, you will of course tweak it  to get the exact exposure you desire.

Looking at the photo above we can see that by subtracting light (in this case a stop and a half) from our meter’s null or zero point we have created a properly exposed image of a dark bird. The dark/black colors are to the left on our histogram without clipping rendering us an image with details in it.


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In our next issue: Some more exposure tips
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