Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Press Release: Canadian Photographer Secures International Partnerships

KPep Photography
... Photography is a journey where you learn to capture the world one frame at a time.
100 Barrie Street
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
N1S 3A9

Press Release
Contact: Kevin Pepper
Phone: 226.989.8848
1 PM EDT, October 31, 2012

Local Photographer Secures International Partnerships
The Photographer’s Lounge of Waterloo Region has secured International partnerships with global tour operators that will now benefit Canadian photographers. As a result of these new partnerships, Canadian photographers will have the opportunity to travel to “bucket list” locations at reduced cost to desirable global destinations. As the economy still struggles to rebound Kevin was quoted saying, “People are still watching their pennies but have a stronger need to decompress and focus on their hobbies. These new partnerships have allowed me to negotiate prices that photographers, and other travellers, the opportunity to travel and keep an eye on their pocket book.”

He further says, “These partnerships are not just about saving pennies either. They are about consumer protection. By securing these partnerships I have ensured that all my trips and workshops are TICO compliant. My clients will now have the piece of mind to know that their trips are insured and they are protected. Many other photographers in Ontario collect the money from their clients and are acting as travel agents. That is in direct conflict with the TICO regulations that protect consumers in Ontario that travel.”

A full list of exotic locations and trips can be seen online at the Photographers Lounge website. Destinations such as the Serengeti, Namibia, Venezuela, Provence, Paris, Iceland, and Mongolia are just a few of the locations that are now being offered by the Photographer’s Lounge.

In addition to reduced cost for travel, the Photographer’s Lounge has also partnered with some of the premier Professional Photographers in North America to co-lead these Photography Workshops. Rick Sammon, Denise Ippolito, Jim Zuckerman and Tim Vollmer have all agreed to run trips for the Photographers Lounge over the next two years. More photographers are being added all the time.  As Kevin believes, these photographers also believe that quality instruction and an economical investment is what photographers deserve.

For a full list of photo tours please visit
For a full list of workshops please visit


KPep Photography is owned and operated by Kevin Pepper. Kevin is a professional photographer based in Cambridge, Ontario. KPep Photography also operates the Photographer's Lounge in Waterloo Region. “The Lounge” is dedicated to providing digital photographers with access to the world’s top destinations, the opportunity to talk one-on-one with the world’s best photography minds, and we strive to make sure our clients are aware of the latest photographic techniques and gear available today.

At the Lounge we believe that each photographer is on their own personal journey, and as such, will learn at their own pace, and their own budget. For this reason structured programs are designed to meet photographer’s individual needs, at their speed. To achieve this, the Lounge has structured the following programs to help photographers achieve their personal goals:

A blog that offers photography tutorials on different photography techniques and also highlights our tours and information on the destinations we are hired to travel to.  See the Photographer's Lounge blog here.

Travel tours are scheduled locally, domestically and internationally at places familiar to us. All tours are designed by the tours companies that employ us with the photographer in mind. You will accompany other photographers on tours with a minimum of one professional photographer and a local English speaking tour guide. The tour companies that hire us are only accredited tour operators to ensure your piece of mind and safety while you are travelling.

Photography workshops are available for amateur photographers in a one-on-one basis, but also in group environments. These workshops cover composition, social media, techniques and camera operation. To see these workshops please visit our workshop area of our website.

To see the photos from our elite list of tour leaders please visit the photo gallery page.

Group workshops are also available. These are designed to cover a topic in totality in one session. Each workshop will have both an in-class and hands on learning component. These workshops are created so that you have as much face time with a professional photographer in order to maximize your learning.    

Once a year we bring in the “Top” photographers from around the world to run seminars. These photographers are chosen because they are teachers in addition to photographers. Their philosophy mirrors ours, “Photography knowledge is to be shared”

We also co-host a bi-weekly podcast. This podcast was created to inform local photographers in Ontario about possible locations to photograph, discusses photography tips and also informs amateur photographers of learning opportunities they can take advantage of in their local area. To see more information about this podcast please visit,


Saturday, 20 October 2012

Why Does a Zebra have stripes?

Zebras are wild animals, and one of the core meanings for life is to ensure the survival of the species. To do that they have to protect their young. They older members of the herd will sacrifice themselves by putting themselves on the outside of the heard in harms way to protect the young.

One train of thought is that the stripes, when moving as a heard in unison, give the predators a hard time with focusing on one animal. The stripes are an evolutionary way of protecting and helping ensure the survival of the species....

Now who wouldn't wanna protect these two cute lil things... LOL

Come to Africa with me next year as we will be photographing the zebra in the Serengeti. Check that tour out here...

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Mastering the Exposure Triangle

I am going to apologize for the length of this BLOG entry up front... this is a longer, fairly detailed explaination of what you need to think about while mastering the exposure triangle. But I would bookmark it and refer back to it as you do some real world implimentation of the techniques I discuss.

“Exposure” – is what photography is all about.

Photo courtesy of "Exposure Guide"... a great photography resource for you

Photography means writing with light in Greek, and exposure is the combination of three factors that determine what the light writes… this is called the Exposure Triangle. Those three elements are: ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed.

The exposure triangle or photographic triangle refers to the inter-connected relationship of the 3 elements that make up an exposure or image. Aperture can be explained as the width of the lens opening which lets light into the camera, the wider this opening the more quickly light is allowed in to the camera and onto its sensor (or film). Shutter Speed is the amount of time which the shutter remains open to let light onto your sensor, it is measured in time ranging from 30 seconds or more to 1/8000th of a second or less. ISO is your sensors (or films) sensitivity to light. It determines how quickly your sensor can gather light.

The alchemical combination of these three elements then results in a given subject’s exposure value (EV). What is important to remember is that any change in any one of these elements will an effect on the other and consequently impact the final image (i.e. by changing the Aperture, you change depth of field; by changing ISO rating, you change the amount of light required to obtain an image, and by changing the Shutter Speed, you effect how motion is captured). Such that you will never be able to independently control a given element, because you have to take into account how the other two elements will interact for the final exposure.

Fortunately, the mathematics of photography happens to work in such a way that each element in the Exposure Triangle has a relative “stop of light” value. Such that if you increase the light by one stop by reducing the Shutter Speed, you can regain the original Exposure Value by either decreasing the Aperture by the same stop value and/or adjusting the ISO rating accordingly.

Here’s a real world example; I’m at the beach with the kids and the sun is going down, and I want to get a shot of their smiling faces. I take out my camera, do a quick meter reading with the shutter set 1/60th and get a EV on her face of f/4. I set the aperture to f/4 and take my photo. I look at the image on the display screen, and while I love the way the colored light dances on her face, I don’t like the depth of field – I can see too much of the background (the other people, etc.). I want as shallow a DOF as possible, which means I need to increase my aperture setting. I open the lens wide open, to f/1.8. This is a 3-stop difference, which lets in 8x as much light as I had with f/4. To compensate, to get back to the same EV that gave me such a pleasing image, I would need to increase the shutter speed by 3-stops – so I crank it up to 1/500th. I quickly take the picture again (that sun is going down)… and viola! I have my photo with the EV that gives me that amazing quality of light AND with the shallow DOF so you can’t make out what’s behind my girlfriend.

Shutter Speed is measured in fractions of a second and it determines how fast the shutter opens and closes, thereby controlling the key element in photography – light; specifically the time-frame in which light registers on the image sensor . The Shutter Speed captures the world in split seconds, but it can also be slowed down to a few seconds (or remain open longer at the photographer’s discretion). This enables all sorts of possibilities in determining what is actually recorded to the image sensor.

Aperture is the opening in the lens that determines the amount of focused light that reaches the image sensor. It’s measured in f-stops. The beauty of the f/stop arithmetic is that regardless of a lens’ focal length, the f/stop measures the same amount of light; such that f/4 on a 50mm lets in the same amount of light as f/4 on a 120mm. The opening’s diameter may differ, but the amount of light is the same because the length of the lens is different.

So what is correct exposure? That’s mainly subjective, but we can agree that it is when the camera effectively reproduces a subject on the image sensor where the most uniform amount of picture information is visible in the highlights, midtones and shadows. How do you determine the specific exposure you want? All dSLRs have an EV meter in the viewfinder that provides an EV on the subject that you are metering.

An effective way of ensuring a correct exposure is to employ Exposure Bracketing. This is a technique in which you’ll be taking from 3 exposures to 7 exposures– one at the designated exposure value (EV), and from one to three images 1/3 of an f/stop above, and from one to three images at 1/3 of an f/stop below.

On some robust cameras, you set the ISO, f-stop and shutter to acquire an exposure value (provided by the TTL meter), and press the shutter release. The camera will automatically shoot the upper and lower bracketed exposure. When you review the bracketed exposures, you’ll be able to see subtle, but key differences in the images – most specifically if there is any over- or underexposure. Professionals bracket all the time to make sure they get the best possible negative (film or digital neg) for later.

What exactly is under- and overexposure? It’s when there is excessive loss of image information within the highlights and shadows. There is typically no way of “finding” that lost image information with digital photography in particular (i.e. when the subject emits so much light that the image sensor is overwhelmed, it records that section of the image as zero; and the same thing is true when the subject emits so little light that image sensor believes there is nothing there). No matter how much tweaking you may try with a post processing software in the digital darkroom, there’s no recorded information to be discovered.

So how do you avoid under- or overexposing your pictures, before you master the art and craft of photography? You can use the Automatic Exposure Lock or AE Lock that’s available on most dSLRs. AE-Lock is a feature that, when you have the camera set to one of the automatic modes (i.e. Shutter-priority, Aperture-priority), it enables you to lock the EV and take continuous photos without have to resample the lighting in a given scene.

The Key to mastering the Triangle

The key to mastering the triangle is to understand what effect each element has on your pictures and to be able to prioritise what’s important for that particular image.

Most of my work for example is landscapes and for me picture quality is the most important thing because I sometimes make large prints to sell. Therefore I very rarely increase the ISO on my camera above 100. The only times I do so are when I wish to take a shot at a certain shutter speed (perhaps to capture the movement of water in a certain way or to ensure I freeze grass being blown about in strong winds.) and am unable to increase my aperture because it would result in a loss of depth of field.

Being a landscape photographer means most of my images are shot at apertures of f/8-f/16 to try and maximise depth of field. I do this by focusing one third up from the bottom of the image. When you look at my priorities when making images you can see that aperture is my first concern, followed by keeping as low an ISO as possible. It is only when moving elements are contained within a scene that I give much thought to shutter speed so this is the setting that is altered most freely when trying to create correct exposures.

A Wildlife photographer would no doubt replace my priority of aperture to one of shutter speed. This is because they need to be able to freeze moving subjects which requires the use of fast shutter speeds. Aperture will still have to be considered to ensure that enough of the subject is still in focus. ISO will therefore be the setting that is most free to alter in order to obtain a correct exposure. This is why pro sports and wildlife photographers really appreciate high ISO performance because it enables them to use faster shutter speeds in poor light.

If you are able to determine what your priorities are when capturing a shot then you will be able to make informed choices about which settings to use and which to alter to enable you to expose your photos correctly.

The wonderful thing about digital photography is that you can continue to experiment at no cost to you as you learn and master the three elements of the Exposure Triangle, going from semi-automatic to full manual. It takes a certain amount of practice and storing a great deal of information in your head… but you can master this.

I hope this helps you better master the exposure triangle,


Monday, 15 October 2012

Mongolia - a country of historical culture and unsurpassed beauty

If you could take a martini shaker and add a dash of vast landscapes of the Gobi, sprinkle in a twist of the snow capped mountains of Bayan-Ölgi and the dramatic gorges and lakes of Khovsgol and then add in the Ger tents of the nomad and the cry of a soaring golden eagle. Shake it all up and top it off with some of the oldest Buddhist temples and ruins, abundant wildlife and legendary hospitality… you come up with a recipe for one of the most inviting and beautiful countries in the world.

Since the fall of communism, Mongolia has done just about everything in its power to open itself up to the world. While the old traditions survive and the wild nature is still mostly intact for the adventurous traveller, Mongolia has also reached out to the West for economic and cultural ties.

Mongolia is one of the only legitimate democracies in Asia. Democracy has given foreign investors enough confidence to stick with Mongolia during hard biggest mining companies in the world. Tourism, along with mining and cashmere, has become a key feature of the economy. The poor infrastructure and short travel season have kept receipts small, but a growing network of ger camps cater to travellers seeking ecotourism adventures. Without fences or private property to restrict a traveller’s movement, Mongolia is a perfect destination for horse trekking, long-distance cycling or hiking, or more leisurely activities such as fly-fishing, yak carting or camping out under a sprawling mass of stars.

Like us, most travellers come for Naadam, the two-day summer sports festival that brings the city of Ulaanbattar to a standstill. But a trip to capture Mongolia’s unique charm will always lie in the countryside where, rather than being a spectator to the wrestling, you may find yourself making up the numbers! Outside the villages it’s easy to meet nomad families whose relentless sense of hospitality can at times be nothing short of overwhelming.

As a travel destination, Mongolia is a special place for people who enjoy culture, the outdoors and adventure. Immersing oneself in the Naadam festival and the urban culture and then heading out on the vast plains, riding horses and camping with nomad families, Mongolia offers the chance to step back in time to a simpler way of life. It is an invigorating and exhilarating place to visit, and remains one of the last unspoiled travel destinations in Asia.

For this reason I have decided to visit the country twice in the next two years. In 2013 we will be participating in the Naadam Festival and journeying out into the countryside. In 2014 we will be once again returning to participate in the Golden Eagle festival and see the Gobi desert.

To see more information on these trips please check out the itineraries.

Naadam Festival

Golden Eagle Festival

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Whats new from Canon... talks, rumours, product

I have read that a couple of sources have finally surfaced to discuss that Canon is bringing out a camera with a higher pixel count. While an announcement is forthcoming in 2012, nothing has been said to be in deveolpment yet.

So... stay tuned... I am sure there will be some announcements in the coming months.

I made mention of it last month and I hear now that the new EOS 7D Mark II is rumored to be announced some time in January, 2013. The camera would take the place of the 7D and 60D. The spec list I read was minimal. But its said to have a 20+ megapixel sensor and the ability to shoot 10fps. I am thinking the fps rate is what they want to market and pull in birders and sports photograpehrs.

I do think that the price is going to have to be geed. With the D600 from Nikon EOS 6D priced at just over $2000 the smaller sensors are goign to sit on teh shelves a lot longer than in years past...

So, lets wait and see what Canon comes up with...

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The autumn colors are in full bloom

the season doesn't last long... so make the time to get out before they are gone. The autumn colors are the best I have seen in the last three years here in Ontario.

Here is a shot taken just after sunrise as the sun kissed the tree line to make the colors pop. I had an ND filter on that eliminated 2 stops, set the camera to capture vivid colors and pu tthe camera on aperture mode. I focused just below the curve in the waterfall, put the aperture on f20, set the ISO on 100 and set the camera to bracket 5 photos.

The exposure times were approximately all between 1.5 seconds and 2.5 seconds. I then blended them in photomatix and then brought the final image back into photoshop and cleaned up the imperfections and fixed some ghosting and sharpness.

Here is another photo taken just as the sun came up. The exposure times were longer because the sun had not hit the tree line yet, but all other settings were the same

I hope you get the chance to get out and take some fall color photos... its a long dreary fall season here in Ontario once the leaves fall! :-))


Monday, 8 October 2012

Rick Sammon Workshop in Toronto - One Day Only

Introducing my good friend, Rick Sammon

Rick Sammon, a Canon Explorer of Light, is one of the most active photographers on the planet. The dude just can’t sit still!

Rick has published 36 paper books, including Secrets of HDR Photography, Exploring the Light, and Digital Photography Secrets. Rick’s book, Flying Flowers won the coveted Golden Light Award, and his book Hide and See Under the Sea won the Ben Franklin Award.

He is also a leader in iPad and iPhone photography apps. His apps include:
• Rick Sammon’s Light It! – a collection of live-action movies that show Rick’s basic lighting techniques.
• Rick Sammon’s iHDR – an interactive iPad app that shows the user the wonders of HDR photography.
• Rick Sammon’s 24/7 Photo Buffet – an e-book that offers 24/7 access to Rick’s best photo tips, tricks and techniques. iPhone and iPad versions available.

Rick, who has photographed in almost 100 countries around the world, gives more than two-dozen photography workshops (including private workshops) and presentations around the world each year.

He co-founded the Digital Photography Experience podcast ( with Juan Pons and also hosts several shows on and has a three-day class on

Rick has been nominated for the Photoshop Hall of Fame, is considered one of today’s top digital -imaging experts, cutting through lots of Photoshop “speak,” making it fun, easy and rewarding to work and play in the digital darkroom.

When asked about his photo specialty, Rick says, “My specialty is not specializing.”

See for more information about Rick.  

 Friday, August 9, 2013 – two field workshops
All attendees will receive directions to our shoot location and further details closer to the event. You are also invitied to roam the junk yard for the two hours that you are not involved in Kevin and Rick's 2 hour field workshop. For example, you are in the first two hours field workshop and can remain and wander the 25 acre junk yard for the next two hours before returning for our classroom session on editing.

Group One Field Photo Shoot from 7:30am till 9:30am
Group Two Field Photo Shoot from 9:30am till 11:30am

We will be headed out for a morning HDR shoot on Friday morning. Join Kevin and Rick, author of the iPad app, Rick Sammon iHDR and the book, HDR Secrets, on thsi one day only HDR workshop to a 25 acre junk yard.

Rick will help you capture the entire dynamic range of the scenes. He'll also help you with composition and stand shoulder to shoulder helping you take photographs.

You will have the chance to shoot strictly HDR shots or work with a model as she poses at various locations through out the junk yard.  

Friday, August 9, 2013 -12:00pm till 3:00pm

In the afternoon, the learning does not stop there. We will head back to the classroom at a local hotel and Rick will walk you through editing your photos we took on the workshop.

What to bring on Friday: a laptop for editing or notepad for taking notes during the editing session. In the morning bring your camera, tripod, flashes, gels, lenses, reflectors, and appropriate clothing.

To pay by check please make check payable to KPep Photography and mail to:
KPep Photography
100 Barrie Street,
Cambridge, Ontario

Once we receive your payment by mail and your check has cleared we will send you back a receipt and ticket. Please bring that receipt and ticket to gain entrance into that event.

For PayPal payments you will receive a receipt immediately upon accepted payment. Please bring that receipt with you to gain entrance to the event.

Please contact me to book or visit

For cancellations prior to 14 days before the event you will receive a full refund less $5 handling charge. For any cancellations less than 30 days or mor ethan 14 days prior to the event we will retain 50% of the fee. Any cancellations less than 14 days prior to the event there is no refund offered.

The fee for this workshop is $129 plus HST and we are limiting the attendees to maximum of 15 per field photography session.

To read about how people felt about our last workshop at this location please read this blog from one of our students at the last workshop.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Taking photos at a wildlife park

Aperture F4.0, shutter speed 1/250 sec, ISO 200

So I secured a very cool corporate shoot…  It wasn’t just any corporate shoot; it was to retake all the photos for African Lion Safari. The cool part is the way they exhibit animals is completely different from the traditional approach; that is, the visitor is caged in the car, and the animals roam in 2 to 20 hectare (5 to 50 acre) reserves. They first opened the gates to the public in 1969 with 40 lions in 3 reserves; today the park houses in excess of 1,000 animals comprised of over 100 species including Asian Elephants, Lions, Cheetah, White Rhino, Rothschild Giraffe and numerous other animals from Africa, Asia and North America. I got to ride in the staff vehicles and get up close and personal with many of the animals that generally stay back from the visitors...

If you were to go to a park like this the first question you should consider is "What equipment should you use for a shoot like this?"
1) Lenses - In my experience, a long zoom lens is required to take good photographs at the zoo. By a long zoom lens, I am referring to one in the range of 100mm, to 400mm in focal length. In a lot of cases, you’ll find yourself shooting within the 200 – 300mm focal length.
2) Use a tripod or monopod? - Whether or not to use a tripod or monopod is often a grey area when it comes to wildlife park photography. Yes, it’s true that animals in darker enclosures may need a slower shutter speed to allow more light into the shot, therefore requiring extra stability. Personally in these cases, I prefer to increase the ISO to a higher number, for example 800 to 1600.
3) Use a lens hood - Lens hoods come in handy for times when you have no choice as to the angle from which to shoot. Often you may need to shoot into the sun. Lens hoods may be useful for stopping sun flares in these situations.
Aperture F10, Shutter Speed 1/80, ISO 160

As for the shooting tips, listed below are some tips for taking good photographs at a zoo or wildlife park.
1) Animals are constantly on the move and aren’t going to sit and pose on cue. I like to keep my camera settings on shutter priority mode with a fast shutter, an appropriate ISO and an aperture around f3.5 to f5.6.  Some photographers will set the aperture at f2.8 to maximize the wide open iris, but for those less experienced shooters, the narrow depth of field with an f2.8 will lend itself to more missed shots than keepers.
2) Get in close, and then crop the images even closer. When you arrive at the zoo or animal park, take time to look through the shop and take notice of the posters and postcards being sold. You’ll soon learn that tightly cropped faces and body parts have more impact than those with ample surroundings. This allows you to capture details otherwise not seen.
3) Focus on the eyes. As with all living subjects, if the eyes aren’t sharp, you lose the connection between the animal and the viewer.
4) Have patience. Give yourself ample time to get the right shot. I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked away from an animal, to find they yawned or did that unique expression.
5) Eliminate backgrounds where possible. Nothing is more distracting in a zoo photo than a fence in the background, or a feeding bucket. I often do this by repositioning myself so the distracting object isn’t in view, or using aperture mode (set to a small F number) to nicely smooth the background.
6) When you get your photos home and you are editing, don’t be confined to the traditional sized image, try something new and crop your photos in a way that gives the subject more impact.

I hope I gave you some things to think about… and if you want to come with Rick and I to photograph these animals in their natural habitat, we are headed to Tanzania in April of 2013. Check out the details of this awesome trip here.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

How to photograph fall colours

It’s that magical time of year in the Northern Hemisphere.  Cool mornings with lakes producing fog, warm afternoons creating a wonderful opportunity to get out and enjoy nature’s last stand before winter and warm afternoons. 

The trees are changing colour and photographers everywhere are trying to capture the color palettes of one of nature’s most spectacular displays.

Most people use point and shoot digital cameras with tiny sensors and say they cannot get the true fall colours. I’m a professional photographer, not a scientist, so I don’t really know why fall colours taken with a point and shoot camera look so much worse than those taken with a professional DSLR, and even those don't look as good as film, but I’ve learned a few tricks for making my fall photography look better regardless of which camera I'm using. 

Try the effects of the polarizer, but be careful if you're using a wide-angle lens and the sky is blue. With very wide lenses, you may see differing amounts of saturation in the sky across the frame which looks unnatural. It occurs because the sky isn't evenly polarized. With a long lens (and a corresponding small angle of view), this effect is much less noticeable.

Shoot in the shade.  Your eyes are so much more sensitive to colour range than your camera. You are tricked into thinking you see a good photo just because you see a pleasing view.  When the leaves are sunlit, they are often so bright that the sensor cannot record the subtle colours and instead records washed-out highlights.  The reason is that the colours reflect the light and all the sensor sees is a bright light. In the shade, natures colours – be it spring flowers or autumn leaves – are revealed to the sensor in a much more manageable hue.  Those cloudy days or shady hillsides often result in better photos.

If you are shooting in sunlight, catch the "golden light" in the mornings and evening. Direct sunlight in the middle of the day gives overly harsh, high contrast images. The air is clearest in the morning and after rain, so these can be really good times to shoot.

Crop other colours into the frame.  Cameras and the human eye have one thing in common: colour is relative, not absolute.  When you include other colours in the frame, it changes how the sensor and the viewer’s eye records or perceives the colour. Think of it this way, too much of a good thing can be too much eye candy in one photo.

Include compositional elements, not just the leaves. Including singular evergreens amidst a forest of leaves, small meadows, a stream, or even a road or trail in the frame can often help your camera record a memory and an emotion rather than a just a photograph. Don’t take the photo, make it!

Don't be afraid to use a telephoto lens to pick out detail in the landscape as well as wide angle lenses when there is a lot of color

If the sky is grey and overcast you can still get good foliage shots, but you may want to minimize the amount of sky you show. Zoom in on the trees and save the sky shots for days which have clear blue skies.
If your camera allows you to adjust saturation, you might want to increase it slightly to richen the colors.

If your camera supports a "vivid" color mode (most cameras do), then try that to punch up the colors.

As I prepare for my next workshop up near Algonquin Park to get my own fall colours, I hope you enjoy getting out there on your own and capturing the autumn colours.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Modern sports photography techniques applied to ancient festival

We all like a good action photo and, in particular, if your kids play sports, you want to remember the moments by capturing them with your camera.

However, quality sports shots are somewhat difficult to come by. Most people have limited access to events to photograph, the further away you are from the event, the harder it becomes to capture the event in a pleasing manner and sports are an event where crowd control is important, not only for the crowd's safety, but for the players also.

Location, Location, Location!

You can only photograph things you can see. The closer you are to someone, the better you can see them… and sports are no different. You have to get as close to what you are shooting as you can.

Typically, for a photographer with a press pass, you can get to the sidelines or other similar locations. You generally will not be permitted on the playing field. Depending on the sport, you most likely will be limited to designated locations. For instance, at most football games, the media cannot shoot between the two 35 yard markers. For most people, the situation is even worse. You probably don't have press access and are stuck in the stands for your shots. But to get the shot get as close as possible

You also have to be familiar with the sport to be able to capture the moment. This means knowing where to position yourself for the best action. This is critical because of angular momentum that will be discussed in the section on freezing action. Not only does it matter with the subject, but the background. Look at what is going to be behind your subject.  So you need to position your self where the background is the most pleasing.

The Decisive Moment

Sports and Action photography is all about timing. It’s about reacting and its about being in the right place at the right time and being able to execute.

Each sport has predictable and unpredictable moments. For instance, in basketball, you will have opportunities to photograph layups, jump shots, free throws, etc. Understanding the timing of these predictable actions allows you to capture the peak moment, when the action is most dramatic.

By knowing these moments you can anticipate the action. This helps in two ways, one it helps you with focus, and secondly it helps you snap the shutter at the right time. The saying goes "If you see the action you missed it." This basically means if you wait for the soccer player to head the ball then press the shutter release, the ball most likely will be sailing out of the frame. You have to push the button before the action so that the mirror has time to flip out of the way and the shutter open and close. There is a delay between the image hitting your optical nerve and the shutter closing. You have to, through experience, learn what that time is and adjust for it.

Required Equipment

I always preach, "Its not the equipment but the photographer who makes the picture"  However with sports and action photography, having the wrong equipment means not getting the shots you want or need. The further away, the longer the lens is needed to capture the same image in the frame. Different sports require different lens lengths. For instance, basketball is generally shot from the baseline or sidelines near the baseline. You generally can get good results with an 100mm lens in this situation. However, by the time the players are at mid court, you need a 200mm to capture them. If they are playing under the far goal, a 300-400mm lens is needed to fill the frame well, yet for shooting a soccer game, a 300-400mm lens is needed for just about anything useful.
Generally, for a full frame camera, each 100mm in lens focal length gets you about 10 yards in coverage. This coverage means that on a vertical format photo, a normal human will fill the frame fairly well. Thus, if you are shooting Football from the 30 yard line with a 300mm lens, you will be able to get tight shots in an arc from the goal line to mid-field to the other 40 yard marker. As players get closer, your lens may be too long. Many photographers will carry two bodies with two different length lenses for this reason.
Lens speed is also a critical factor. The faster the lens, the faster the shutter speed you can use, which as the lens grows longer, this becomes even more important.

Most consumer grade long lenses and zooms have variable apertures, but most are F5.6 at the long end of the lens. F5.6 is good for outdoor day time shots, but becomes very inhibiting for night games and indoor action. Most people use lenses that are F2.8 or faster. These lenses are very expensive. A 400mm F2.8 sells for over $8000 US. They are also very heavy and bulky. Using a monopod is a life saver with these big lenses.

Besides these long lenses, you need a camera that can drive them. Today, most new cameras are auto focus. Auto focus makes this easier on us, but the AF systems are not fool proof. However AF comes in handy for a few sports. Hockey and Soccer involve many subject to camera distance changes. Motion is less predictable and these sports are some what harder to manual focus. Football, Basketball, and Baseball are quite easy to manual focus.

 When we are in Mongolia next year shooting the Naadam festival games I will be bringing my 50-200mm F2.8 and my 2x teleconverter for one body and I will also be bringing my 100-400mm F4.0 to F5.6 for my other camera body.

We will be filming, with a press pass, traditional Naadam festival events of wrestling, archery and horse racing, each very predictable sports in an enclosed stadium.


512 or 1024 wrestlers meet in a single-elimination tournament that lasts nine or ten rounds. Mongolian traditional wrestling is an untimed competition in which wrestlers lose if they touch the ground with any part of their body other than their feet or hand. When picking pairs, the wrestler with the greatest fame has the privilege to choose his own opponent. Wrestlers wear two-piece costumes consisting of a tight shoulder vest (zodog) and shorts (shuudag). Only men are allowed to participate. Each wrestler has an "encourager" called a zasuul. The zasuul sings a song of praise for the winning wrestler after rounds 3, 5, and 7. Winners of the 7th or 8th stage (depending on whether the competition features 512 or 1024 wrestlers) earn the title of zaan, "elephant". The winner of the 9th or 10th stage, is called arslan, "lion". In the final competition, all the "zasuuls" drop in the wake of each wrestler as they take steps toward each other. Two time arslans are called the titans / giants.

Horse racing

Unlike Western horse racing, which consists of short sprints generally not much longer than 2 km, Mongolian horse racing as featured in Naadam is a cross-country event, with races 15–30 km long. The length of each race is determined by age class. For example, two-year-old horses race for ten miles and seven-year-olds for seventeen miles. Up to 1000 horses from any part of Mongolia can be chosen to participate. Race horses are fed a special diet.

Children from 5 to 13 are chosen as jockeys who train in the months preceding the races. While jockeys are an important component, the main purpose of the races is to test the skill of the horses.

Before the races begin, the audience sings traditional songs and the jockeys sing a song called Gingo. Prizes are awarded to horses and jockeys. The top five horses in each class earn the title of airgiyn tav and the top three are given gold, silver, and bronze medals. Also the winning jockey is praised with the title of tumny ekh or leader of ten thousand. The horse that finishes last in the Daaga race (two-year-old horses race) is called bayan khodood (meaning "full stomach"). A song is sung to the Bayan khodood wishing him luck to be next year's winner.



Mongolian archery is unique for having not only one target, but hundreds of beadrs or surs on a huge wall. In this competition both men and women participate. It is played by ten-men/women teams who are given four arrows each; the team has to hit 33 "surs". Men fire their arrows from 75 meters away while women fire theirs from 65 meters away. When the archer hits the target the judge says uuhai which means "hooray". The winners of the contest are granted the titles of "national marksman" and "national markswoman".

To join us at this fantastic festival in July of 2013, but to also visit some of the oldest Buddhist Monasteries in the world, please check out the photography tour we have put together here.