Sunlit Wings: The Story Behind the Photo

By Chandra Brooks

Sunlit Wings Chandra Brooks (1/2500, f/8.0, ISO 800, Sony A9, 100-400 GM)

I had the opportunity to go on the James River in Virginia where osprey and bald eagles are frequent visitors. I wanted to be sure I’d catch them in flight, so before we got on the boat, I had my camera settings locked in. Most cameras allow specific settings to be mapped to a custom button enabling an effortless change of settings. My shutter speed was 1/2500. (It should
be at least 1/1600 to 1/2000 for most birds in flight). Aperture was set at f/8.0 for a good depth of field on the bird but less detail in the background. ISO was set at 800 since we had good morning light. I also made sure my camera was set to Continuous AF, wide-area tracking, and its highest frame rate.

Photographing birds in flight is always a challenge. I was surprised at just how fast these amazing creatures really are. When they spot a fish and tuck their wings to drop to the water, it’s a challenge to even keep them in the frame. The key is to lock focus and start tracking the birds as soon as possible. I use back button focus, so I would pick a target bird, hold focus, and track them until I saw a flight position I liked. Then I would start to shoot and follow the action.

Often multiple birds are making hunting passes and there really isn’t any time to fuss with settings. It helps to know your camera, be able to change settings without looking, know how its AF system works, understand the behavior of your species, and just practice. If you’re interested in osprey, Mark Smith has a YouTube channel with some fantastic videos.

Slam Dunk: The Story Behind the Photo

By Nancy Abby

boy sitting on rim of hoop holding basketball
Slam Dunk Nancy Abby (Sony 7R III, f/4, 1/100, ISO 320, 65mm)

Getting unique poses for boys is extremely difficult. Finding the ‘different’ for senior pictures is an ongoing challenge. I think this fit the square for unique.

This photograph was taken on an indoor half-court gym in a barn—humidity controlled, wood floor, the works. No external flash was used. We leaned a ladder up against the backboard and he climbed on. Nothing was Photoshopped in or out. (We moved the ladder, so there he sat!)

To get the background more consistent in color, I used an adjustment layer with the kid masked off. Then I used the eye dropper to force the background white, reduced opacity to make it realistic, added another adjustment layer and did a 70% mask black to hide 70% of the forced white on the goal to bring back some green for depth and realism.

Looking for Nectar: The Story Behind the Photo

By Dick Dodds

Looking for Nectar by Dick Dodds (ISO 100, 1/800, f/4.0, 105mm)

My wife and I were in Vail, Colorado, in August 2020 escaping the Texas heat for a couple of weeks. We were walking along the main street of Vail village among a blaze of colorful flowers. All of a sudden, my wife spotted a beautiful hummingbird near one of the flowers.

I had my Canon 6D set on aperture priority for taking street scenes. I immediately switched it to shutter priority and set the speed to 1/800th. I wanted to freeze the body of the bird but still have some blur on the wings to show motion. I was already in burst mode and Auto ISO. I zoomed in to 105mm, and I was able to shoot 30 images in about four seconds. The bird then flew away after 30 seconds!

Skeleton Grin: The Story Behind the Photo

By Larry Marx

Skeleton Grin photo of spider in web by Larry Marx

Skeleton Grin by Larry Marx (Canon EOS 5D Mark III, f6.3, 1/250, ISO 800, 300 mm)

I was in East Texas with family walking through the woods. I never would have seen these little guys if my sister-in-law, an A&M grad and school district science coordinator, hadn’t followed a slender spider thread to a tiny spider hanging between trees. It looked like an armored smiling jewel or shield. (They are called the Spiny Orb Weaver or spiked spider.)

Once one was discovered, it was fun finding others in several different colors, including bright orange.

Photographing one successfully was difficult. They are so small that auto focus doesn’t see them, and manual focus was pretty hard hand-hold. They tend to move in the breeze, and it’s hard to stand still enough to get one in focus.

I’m looking forward to returning in a few weeks to the family farm with some better equipment to take closeup photos. I may see how many color varieties I can capture!

Momma Moose with Baby: The Story Behind the Photo

By Lynne Rogers Harris

photograph of momma moose and her baby

Momma Moose with Baby by Lynne Rogers Harris (ISO 200, f4.0, 1/320)

I have a friend that has a cabin in Colorado near Rocky Mountain National Park. Three of us girls took a weeklong trip up there to get away and also do some wildlife photography. We were able to social distance quite nicely (well, except the plane ride, which really wasn’t bad at all).

The cabin is near a small lake so moose can often be seen around it, but this particular day we decided to go into the park and do a small hike. Lucky for us, we saw this momma moose and her baby crossing the creek directly in front of our parked car just after arriving. Of course, this was the highlight of the day.

When you have a momma and baby, you take the opportunity to shoot continuously and then later delete 95% of your images. One thing to always be careful of is that you want something — a tree or car or big bush or anything — between you and the moose; and you really don’t want to be too close. We were probably less than 50 feet from these two, but we had several cars and trees we could get behind.

The Best of Spring: The Story Behind the Photo

By Lynne Rogers Harris

photo of pink and purple flowers on a white background by Lynne Rogers Harris

The Best of Spring by Lynne Rogers Harris (ISO 200, f5.6, 1/2000)

Recently, I met a fellow photographer at River Legacy Park in Arlington, Texas, to try a new technique.

Another Trinity Arts Photography Club (TAPC) member had shared a video on how to shoot and process high-key images. This isn’t exactly high key, but the method used was about the same. I took a white board and placed it behind the flowers and shot a little over-exposed. This made it much easier to turn the background a nice white when editing in Photoshop.

I found that if I shot with the sun directly on the flowers, I had to do some maneuvering to get rid of the dark shadows. I actually shot several flowers that I thought turned out pretty good. I processed this with the white background, did a little cloning to take out
‘ junk,’ and voila — I had my image.

This photo is actually a composite of two shots. I thought these type of images with flowers made nice little cards, so I’ve printed several of them.

Surprise: The Story Behind the Photo

By Laura Richards

Surprise, a photo of an egret and a ... by Laura Richards

Surprise by Laura Richards (f/11, 1/500, auto ISO 400, 300mm)

Several years ago, my husband and I took a trip to several countries in southern Africa, including Botswana where we visited Chobe National Park. Driving through the park, we saw a wide range of animals and birds. On this particular photo, I was focusing on the egret. It was quite a distance away, so I wasn’t sure what kind of image I would get.

When I got home, I uploaded all my photos onto the computer. As I looked at this one, I wasn’t impressed with the egret, but then I realized there was a crocodile right next to the bird. The shape of the crocodile mimicked the curve of the grass so I never saw it while I was taking the photo. Ironically, the crocodile was in better focus than the egret, and I never knew he was there. The other thing that surprised me was the proximity of the two. I would think the egret would be a good snack for the crocodile, but there doesn’t seem to be any friction between them.

A lot of times I delete photos that I don’t think are great before I upload them, but I am finding out that there are hidden things in photos that actually make an interesting story, and you don’t see them until you enlarge the photo. I normally would crop this image, so the viewer would see the crocodile right away, but I wanted to show how easily you can miss things if you aren’t careful.

Anole’s Lunch: The Story Behind the Photo

By Lynne Rogers Harris

photograph of a lizard eating a butterfly by Lynne Rogers Harris

Anole’s Lunch by Lynne Rogers Harris (Olympus M1 Mark III, ISO 200, SS 1/200, f2.8)

This was the first year back for the Butterflies in the Garden exhibit at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. As most of us know, the conservatory was in need of repair so we have missed this event the last few years. It was a cloudy day and I was expecting the conservatory to be dark inside and the butterflies hiding. I was pleasantly surprised to see just how much light was coming through the windows.

After arriving, we were told new butterflies had just been released into the conservatory. They were everywhere. After shooting a while and talking with other photographers, I was about ready to leave when someone pointed out this anole lizard. He was a little camouflaged, but I finally saw him and he had a butterfly in his mouth. Of course, I couldn’t resist taking a photo. I took a few shots, and he soon crawled away with the butterfly still in his mouth. Later, I learned that the lizards eat the butterfly bodies but
not the wings.

Please join your fellow photographers when they post outings on Facebook. It’s always fun to shoot and learn with others; and you never know when you’ll get that one shot that makes the trip all worthwhile.

Barred Owl In Flight: The Story Behind the Photo

By David Roberts

Barred Owl In Flight by David Roberts

Barred Owl In Flight by David Roberts (324mm, f 5.6, 1/2000, auto ISO 2500)

One of the primary activities practiced at the Colleyville Nature Center (CNC) is photography, and the primary subject being photographed is wildlife, particularly birds. By far the most popular birds at CNC are the Barred Owls, with the spring mating season and subsequent arrival of the baby owls (owlets) being the peak time of activity for the year.

I was fortunate on a recent visit to find the ‘West Side’ female owl sunning herself in the
opening of the iconic ‘Owl Tree.’ After posing for some static shots in great light with awesome catchlights in her eyes, she decided to stretch her wings and take flight. I had witnessed this exact scenario many times before, as this is my third owl season at CNC. I knew there was a good chance she would fly instead of returning to inside the tree, so I was prepared with the proper camera settings. As with many things, timing is everything. Even though you know its coming, its amazing how easy it is to be distracted by conversation with a fellow photographer or simply removing the camera from your eye to scratch your nose. There is certainly an element of luck involved here, and luck was on my side.

This image was captured on March 5, 2020, at 10:10 a.m. with a Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 contemporary lens.

Exploded Deli Club: The Story Behind the Photo

By Bill Webb

Final image of Exploded Deli Clubphotograph by Bill Webb

Exploded Deli Club by Bill Webb (f 4.5, 1/10, ISO 400)

For our recent ‘Food’ topic, I chose to try one of those exploded shots we see sometimes. Folks have since asked if it was a bunch of Photoshop layers. The answer is ‘no.’

Here’s how I did it.

lights, wires, and stands for setting up Exploding Sandwich photo by Bill Webb

Photo 1 – Exploding sandwich photograph setup

Photo 1 shows my lights and supports set-up in the kitchen. I set up two stands and ran solid wire between them to make the ‘shelves’ onto which I would place the sandwich makings. I had an LED panel as main light positioned at camera left and a small LED fill (about 15 percent power) on top of the camera.

Sandwich layers attached to wires for Exploding Deli Club photo by Bill Webb

Photo 2 – Exploding sandwich layers attached to wires

When that was all set up, I disassembled my Jason’s sandwich and carefully positioned the pieces on the layers of wire as you see in Photo 2. I checked exposure and lighting to get the background dark and the sandwich well-lit. I took the shot.

Final image of Exploded Deli Clubphotograph by Bill Webb

Photo 3 – Exploded Deli Club final image

Then in Photoshop, I used spot healing and cloning to remove the wires. Voilà – an exploded sandwich (Photo 3).

The last step was to reassemble the sandwich and have lunch!