Thursday, 3 October 2013

Photo Composition - Landscape Photography

Do not forget the foreground in a landscape photo... the best way to capture the whole photo is to focus 1/3 of the way up from the bottom of the photo and use an f-stop of f/16 to bring as much into focus as possible.

To learn more about composition check out our workshops at  

Thursday, 5 September 2013

How to photograph the Northern Lights

Photo courtesy of Tessa McIntosh, my partner in Northern Canada

The spectacle known as the northern lights is something I promise you will never forget, and if you are prepared to photograph them, you will be able come home and share your photos you are proud of with friends and family.

The Aurora Borealis occurs in the Northern hemisphere.  It can be experienced in locations further from the Arctic circles, but to improve your chances of seeing them you need to spend some time on or near the activity zones. Iceland, Norway, Yukon and Alaska are just some of the places famous for the Aurora Borealis in the Northern hemisphere.

How to Photograph the northern lights

A good sturdy tripod.
A remote trigger so you don't have to touch the camera.
The camera should be a 35mm SLR camera with manual focus (set to just shy of "infinity"), which works well for Northern Lights photography. Or an DSLR camera with the capability of  BULB mode so you can manually control exposure times.
Digital cameras will need to have to be manually adjustable focus with ISO ranges up to 1600

Beyond the basic photography equipment, you should bring the following gear for great results:
A wide-angle zoom lens, f2.8 (or lower numbers), will give great results photographing the Northern Lights.
If you have a prime lens (with fixed focal length) for your camera, bring it as well. If you notice the photo above, Tessa used a fisheye lens.

You generally will not be able to take good pictures of the Northern Lights with short exposure times. Good exposure times for this are 20-40 seconds per picture (the tripod will help you eliminate shaking of the camera - you can't hold the camera by hand.)

A sample exposure time for ISO 800 with an aperture of f/2.8 would be 20 to 30 seconds depending on the brightness of the lights.

It can be hard to predict the Northern Lights so you may be in for a few hours of waiting during a cold night.

The best times generally are after midnight and range from October to the end of April each year.

You should head out of the city and get away from light pollution to obtain maximum quality of photos.

1.Batteries don't last as long in cold nights. Bring spare batteries.
2.Try lots of different exposure settings; night photography is challenging. Test your setup first.
3.Include a part of the landscape to make the photos more attractive and as a visual reference for size.
4.Do not use any filters, as they tend to distort the beauty of the Northern Lights and degrade the image.
5.Turn on "noise reduction" and the white balance can be set to 5000K or set to auto on digital cameras.

To increase your chance of a successful aurora hunt, you need to be aware of the weather.  If it is cloudy, your chances of seeing the aurora grow weaker.  If you have a clear sky you have a much better chance.

You also need to check the space weather for the northern lights forecast. Please not, even if the space weather forecast is weak, it may still be worth venturing out if you are up north in the areas that I previously mentioned… Iceland, Norway, Alaska and the Yukon.

So you are in an active zone and you have a clear sky and the space weather is a bit uncertain. You can increase your chances again by eliminating light pollution. 

The moon can also work against you.  If you are planning a trip to an Aurora zone, try to book it as I do when there is a new moon.

Get your camera set up so that it is easy to handle. Using a flash light make sure your cable is connected, your lens is set just short of infinity and the camera is level to the ground. Then turn off the flash light and let your eyes adjust to the darkness.

You can use the waiting time constructively.  You can practice with your bulb and find a good composition.  Set your camera to f/2.8 (or as wide as possible) iso 800 and take some test shots for 30 seconds.  Do this in all directions but mainly due north (Aurora Borealis).  You may start to see a green hue on your pictures near the horizon. This is a good sign and this is the part of the sky you need to watch.

As the aurora starts to get brighter you need to start adjusting your settings accordingly.  Start by bringing down your iso. 

Important note… Always check the brightness of your image on the histogram and never rely on the camera preview screen.  Your eyes have adjusted to the dark so an underexposed image will look fine – until you get it home! Speaking from experience… the back lit LCD screen in the dark makes photos look brighter than they actually are.

If the whole sky explodes and the Aurora casts a shadow, you need to be quick to adjust your exposure times.  The best Aurora shots occur during these brief moments.  A faster shutter of 8-20 seconds will preserve some of the details of the light display that separates the great photo from the average photo.

Star trails
The added bonus… Sometimes you cannot avoid star trails if you don't trust iso 800 and your lens stops at f/4. If this is the case, you might be exposing for 2 minutes with a weak aurora.  Generally it is preferred to expose for less than 30 seconds to prevent noticeable star trails.  Stars begin to move over 20 seconds… so if you want fixed stars you will have to increase ISO to 1600 or 3200 and keep exposure times under 20 seconds… but, sometimes star movement adds an element to the images you take.

Please join me in 2014 as I travel to northern Canada two different times.

Yukon - April 2014 for northern lights and mountain landscapes

Northwest Territories - September 2014 for fall colors, landscapes and northern lights.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Northern Lights and Mountain Landscapes Photography Workshop in the Yukon

March 29th, 2014
We'll welcome you at the airport and transfer you to the hotel in downtown Whitehorse and we will get you checked in.

March 30th, 2014
Over breakfast we will go over the itinerary over a group setting. There, we will present a slide show and give you tips on photographing in the environments that we are about to shoot in.

After lunch we will head out into rural Yukon and show you the mountain ranges, pristine lakes and make frequent stops along the way to let you enjoy the sights through your lens.

At 8.30 PM we depart for our first of many Aurora hunts. Hot drinks and snacks are provided

Breakfast and dinner included

March 31st, 2014
After lunch we will depart for Kluane National Park for landscape photographic opportunities of the Yukon Mountains and lakes. On the way we stop regularly to allow you the opportunity to take photos of the beautiful landscape. Once we reach Kluane we can go for a short hike. Dinner will be in Haines Junction. After dinner we will position ourselves for a sunset photo opportunity before we drive to our nightly Aurora viewing location.

The 22 000 square kilometre Kluane National Park is set like a jewel in the southwestern corner of the Yukon between northeastern British Columbia and the tidewaters of the Alaskan panhandle. Much of the park's 129 kilometre northern boundary is made up of the Alaska Highway and the Haines Road. The Alsek River, known for its big water rapids created by the tremendous volume of water it drains from the St. Elias Mountains, is so swift it appears that native people have entirely avoided using it for travel or trade routes.

Lunch and Dinner included

April 1st, 2014
Sleep in or a morning at your leisure and go for one of your own day trips. We will group together for lunch and spend a few hours going through your images. After an early dinner we will grab our camera gear for another night with the Aurora Borealis. Again, if the lights are dancing, we will stay out taking photos for as long as the group wants.

Lunch and dinner included

April 2nd, 2014
Sleep in because we may have been out to the wee hours of the morning shooting northern lights. After lunch we will head west for a journey down the Alaskan highway. Through the mountain ranges we will venture and make frequent stops at lakes such as Squanga lake and Little Teslin Lake as we search for the perfect mountain vista, moose and other resident wildlife.

After an early dinner we will grab our camera gear one last time for our last night with the Aurora Borealis. We will depart at 8:30pm and have you back at your hotel by 1:30am so you can get some sleep and catch one of two flights home the next day.

Lunch and dinner included

April 3rd, 2014
We will transfer to the airport for your flight home. There are two flight options. A 6:00am flight and a 12:50pm flight bound for Vancouver.

Price of Workshop:
$2487USD for a maximum of 5 people
Single Supplement is $250
Airport pickup and drop

Airport pick-up and drop-off
Lunch and Dinner on day 2, 3, 4 and 5
Daily transportation via an 8 passenger Suburban or equivalent. Hot drinks and snacks during aurora viewing nights.

Not Included
Alcoholic beverages
International flights
Items of personal nature
Items not listed as included

Deposit Required:
Balance due before January 15th, 2014.  


Monday, 19 August 2013

Species Spotlight - The Great Northern Loon

The Great Northern Loon is one of the five loon species. Its closest relative is the other large black-headed species, the Yellow-billed Loon or White-billed Diver.

Adults can range from 61 to 100 cm (24–40 inches) in length with a 122–152 cm (4–5-foot) wingspan, slightly smaller than the similar Yellow-billed Loon (or "White-billed Diver"). The weight can vary from 1.6 to 8 kg (3.6 to 17.6 lbs). On average a Great Northern Loon is about 81 cm (32 inches) long, has a wingspan of 136 cm (54 inches), and weighs about 4.1 kg (9 lbs).

Breeding adults have a black head, white underparts, and a checkered black-and-white mantle. Non-breeding plumage is brownish, with the chin and foreneck white. The bill is black-blue and held horizontally. The bill colour and angle distinguish this species from the similar Yellow-billed Loon.

Bone structure contains a number of solid bones (unlike normally hollow avian bones), which add weight but help in diving.

Distribution and habitat

The Great Northern Loon breeds in North America, Greenland, Iceland, and Great Britain. This species winters on sea coasts or on large lakes of south Europe and the United States, and south to northwestern areas of Africa.


Chicks will ride on their parents' backs

This species, like all divers, is a specialist fish-eater, catching its prey underwater, diving as deep as 60 m (200 ft). Freshwater diets consist of pike, perch, sunfish, trout, and bass; salt-water diets consist of rock fish, flounder, sea trout, and herring.

The bird needs a long distance to gain momentum for take-off, and is ungainly on landing. Its clumsiness on land is due to the legs being positioned at the rear of the body: this is ideal for diving but not well-suited for walking. When the birds land on water, they skim along on their bellies to slow down, rather than on their feet, as these are set too far back. The loon swims gracefully on the surface, dives as well as any flying bird, and flies competently for hundreds of kilometers in migration. It flies with its neck outstretched, usually calling a particular tremolo that can be used to identify a flying loon. Its flying speed is about 120 km/h (75 mph) during migration. Its call has been alternately called "haunting," "beautiful," "thrilling," "mystical", and "enchanting."

Great Northern Loon nests are usually placed on islands, where ground-based predators cannot normally access them. However, eggs and nestlings have been taken by gulls, raccoons, skunks, minks, foxes, snapping turtles, and large fish. Adults are not regularly preyed upon, but have been taken by sea otters (when wintering) and Bald Eagles. Ospreys have been observed harassing divers, more likely out of kleptoparasitism than predation.  When approached by a predator of either its nest or itself, divers sometimes attack the predator by rushing at it and attempting to impale it through the abdomen or the back of the head or neck.


The female lays 1 to 3 eggs on a hollowed-out mound of dirt and vegetation very close to water. Both parents build the nest, sit on the egg or eggs, and feed the young.

Relationship with humans

These birds have disappeared from some lakes in eastern North America due to the effects of acid rain and pollution, as well as lead poisoning from fishing sinkers and mercury contamination from industrial waste. Artificial floating nesting platforms have been provided for loons in some lakes to reduce the impact of changing water levels due to dams and other human activities.

This diver is well known in Canada, appearing on the one-dollar "loonie" coin and the previous series of $20 bill, and is the provincial bird of Ontario. Also, it is the state bird of Minnesota.

The voice and appearance of the Great Northern Loon has made it prominent in several Native American tales. These include a story of a loon which created the world in a Chippewa story; a Micmac saga describes Kwee-moo, the loon who was a special messenger of Glooscap (Glu-skap), the tribal hero; native tribes of British Columbia believed that an excess of calls from this bird predicted rain, and even brought it; and the tale of the loon's necklace was handed down in many versions among Pacific Coast peoples. Folk names include big loon, black-billed loon, call-up-a-storm, ember-goose,

We often see Loons on our workshops and have experience anticipating their movement to offer you the best opportunity to photograph them in the environment.

Please check out our workshops and come photograph some Loons.


Sunday, 18 August 2013

Canadian Photography Workshop Series

I have had the pleasure of travelling to some fantastic places... Africa, France, Mongolia, Eastern Europe, South America... and no matter where I go, and who I meet, I always get asked about Canada, my home.

I guess its the expansive nature of our country. The draw of the Rocky Mountains, the expansive prairies, the eclectic economic center of Ontario and Quebec, and the iconic eastern provinces on the Atlantic Ocean... and definately not to be left out, our territories to the north, and their allure of untamed lands and wildlife...

Over the past year I have been mulling an idea that would bring International Photographers to Canada. A friend of mine, Tim Vollmer, brings photographers from around the world to Iceland and hosts amazing trips that can be found nowhere else on earth...

Canada also has that diverse and unique offering, and frankly, I think better opportunities than Iceland, (sorry Tim... LOL)

So in July of 2013, North of 49 Photography was launched. North of 49 refers to the latitude line of our border with the USA. So all workshops and tours that this new company will conduct, will be north of the 49th latitude line.

Our Canadian instructors and guides have knowledge of the lands and the wildlife that we will be photographing to ensure that you have the best experience possible. These Canadian instructors and guides will also support the International Photographers that visit Canada with their friends and clients. So, you get two professional photographers to help you when you come to Canada. This offers a great ratio and increases your learning time.

Currently we have a variety of workshops and tours that focus on the very photogenic Pacific coast in Tofino, British Columbia, a few workshops centred around thousands of migratory bald eagles, Northwest Territories for landscape and Northern Lights, and as well, a workshop up in Algonquin Park and the Kawartha region of Ontario.

All of these workshops can be found at

In the coming months we will also be adding a few polar bear workshops in Nunavut and an east coast lighthouse workshop along the Atlantic coastline.

I hope you will bookmark the site and refer back to it often. We will be constantly updating the workshops and the blog will be filling up with all the information you will ever need on Canada, its people, its regions and where we will be travelling to.

I wanted to thank you all for your support with the Photographers Lounge. That company will continue to operate our International Workshops and local one day workshops under



Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Canadian Species Spotlight - The Osprey

The Osprey sometimes known as the sea hawk, fish eagle, or fish hawk, is a fish-eating bird of prey. It is a large raptor, reaching more than 60 cm (24 in) in length and 180 cm (71 in) across the wings. It is brown on the upperparts and predominantly greyish on the head and underparts, with a black eye patch and wings. In 1994, the osprey was declared the provincial bird of Nova Scotia, Canada

The Osprey tolerates a wide variety of habitats, nesting in any location near a body of water providing an adequate food supply. It is found on all continents except Antarctica, although in South America it occurs only as a non-breeding migrant.

As its other common name suggests, the Osprey's diet consists almost exclusively of fish. It possesses specialized physical characteristics and exhibits unique behavior to assist in hunting and catching prey. As a result of these unique characteristics, it has been given its own family.

The Osprey is the second most widely distributed raptor species, after the Peregrine Falcon. It has a worldwide distribution and is found in temperate and tropical regions of all continents except Antarctica. In North America it breeds from Alaska and Newfoundland south to the Gulf Coast and Florida, wintering further south from the southern United States through to Argentina.

The Osprey breeds near freshwater lakes, and sometimes on coastal brackish waters. The nest is a large heap of sticks, driftwood and seaweed built in forks of trees, rocky outcrops, utility poles, artificial platforms or offshore islets. Generally, Ospreys reach sexual maturity and begin breeding around the age of three to four, though in some regions with high Osprey densities, they may not start breeding until five to seven years old, and there may be a shortage of suitable tall structures. If there are no nesting sites available, young Ospreys may be forced to delay breeding. To ease this problem, posts are sometimes erected to provide more sites suitable for nest building.

Ospreys usually mate for life. Rarely, polyandry has been recorded. The breeding season varies according to latitude. In spring the pair begins a five-month period of partnership to raise their young. The female lays two to four eggs within a month, and relies on the size of the nest to conserve heat. The eggs are whitish with bold splotches of reddish-brown and are about 6.2 by 4.5 cm (2.4 by 1.8 in) and weigh about 65 g (2.3 oz). The eggs are incubated for about 5 weeks to hatching.

The newly hatched chicks weigh only 50–60 g (1.8–2.1 oz), but fledge in 8–10 weeks. When food is scarce, the first chicks to hatch are most likely to survive. The typical lifespan is 7–10 years, though rarely individuals can grow to as old as 20–25 years. The oldest European wild osprey on record lived to be over thirty years of age. In North America Bubo owls and Bald Eagles (and possibly other eagles of comparable size) are the only major predators of both nests and sub adults.

You can often find Osprey flying around and fishing in many of the lakes and streams we visit on our workshops with North of 49 Photography.

Please check out our workshops and contact us if you see anything that interests you.


Monday, 5 August 2013

Social Media Workshop for Photographers

As a small photography business owner that has a limited budget for traditional marketing efforts, social media and the internet should be playing huge role in helping you gain new clients and grow your business.

While many of us have entered the social media space, there is always room for improvement and definitely ways to streamline the work load, while increasing your conversation ratios of casual followers to paying clients.

Does these statements sound familiar?

I have a website, Why do I need Social Media?

I am ready to use the internet and social media in a smart and meaningful way–without taking time from your primary business?

I want to reach and engage prospects directly instead of wasting time and money on passive advertising?

I want to create a community of advocates who promote and support your business for you?

Is there a special connection to customers that you've heard others have–but you're missing?

Does the ever-changing information about social media confuse you?

And–maybe you'd like some expert guidance to help you understand and use all that social media has to offer?

Some Quick Facts about Social Media That We Will Address

Facebook has 1 billion users, twitter has about 500 million. How many of those users do you think could be potential customers?

Social media increases your online presence, making your company easier to find through searches and organically.

Posting on Social Media increases your brands exposure, and who wouldn't want more exposure?

Social Media gives you a free platform where you can have conversations directly with customers that may otherwise never hear of your company!

Complaints happen. Addressing public customer complaints quickly and efficiently can contain the spread of negative feedback, and can also help create new raving fans.

Our Social Media Workshop is a great way to help you and your staff identify your target audience and establish a strong message you'd like to deliver through a number of social media outlets. We will help you identify the best social media platforms for your business, because what's right for some isn't right for all. We will make sure you and your staff become comfortable communicating with your customers and creating meaningful conversations online.

It's a great way to align your marketing strategies with your online media initiatives, and make social media work for you.

About Your Instructor
Kevin Pepper has over 12 years working in the Internet industry for large multi-national organizations and some of Canada’s largest media companies. Companies such as Canwest, Sun Media and Trader Classified Media.

From managing one of the world’s largest internet business targeting used car buyers to teaching small to medium sized businesses on maximizing the power of the Internet, Kevin’s social media and internet experience is extensive.

Having changed his career in 2011, Kevin now operates two companies that offer local and international photography workshops for enthusiastic photographers.

Pulling from all his past learnings, Kevin now offers other professional the insights he has learned so that you can benefit from this knowledge and grow your own business, not matter what budget you have for marketing.

Here is a breakdown of the workshop:
January, 25th, 2014 - 6 hours long (we begin at 9:00am to Noon, and then resume at 1:30pm and go till 4:30pm
Part I
Part II
Overview of Social Media Choices
Who does it?
How often?
Options & Costs
Best Practices
How to measure success

Our sessions include brainstorming and interactive feedback and everyone takes away the maximum amount of knowledge specific for photographers.

Location is in Cambridge, Ontario

Cost is $150 plus HST/ per person (payment due at time of registration, non-refundable) - first 20 registrations for $69.00

We will send you a form for your employees to fill out prior to the workshop to make sure we are all prepared and we can completely customize the workshop to your needs and goals

We will follow up with our written recommendations for your company

Contact Information:
(phone) 519 620 9185

Once you contact me to register you will receive a questionnaire to better help me understand your business situation and your specific needs. This will help me address your specific concerns and maximize the personal feedback you receive after the workshop.

I look forward to seeing you at our next social media workshop.


Friday, 2 August 2013

Species Spotlight - Canadian Moose

I have started a new blog that is dedicated to highlighting animals, destinations and photography destinations in Canada... the blog on this website can be found here...

Today I am highlighting the Canadian Moose... I hope you learn something about this huge animal after reading the post.


Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Photography Workshop Options

This photo workshop is centered on a convergence of thousands of bald eagles in the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Your instructor(s) for this workshop will guide you to the best locations for photographing the eagles in the Fraser Valley that is surrounded by the Cascade Mountain range, including a private boat tour up the river within meters of the eagles. You will be provide detailed instruction on how to capture your perfect landscape photo and eagle shots by your instructors .

Dates: November 30 - December 4, 2013
Price; $2950

The winter of 2014 is supposed to be a spectacular year for viewing northern lights. In February I will be headed to one of the best places on earth to view the northern lights, Iceland.

Dates: February 5th to February 10th
Price: $3895

And back we go again to Tanzania to bear witness to the great wildebeest migration through the Serengeti. Please join me as we head back to Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti plains to photograph some of earths most amazing landscapes and animals in their natural habitat.

Dates:  April 28th to May 7th
Price: $4780

This ten day workshop will see us visiting northern Newfoundland and Labrador during the beginning of summer. That magical time when whales migrate north through iceberg alley as the crystal palaces float south.

Dates: June 1st to June 10th
Price: $4250

I hope you consider joining us on one of our workshops or photo tours. There are many more in the last half of 2014 that have been recently announced. You can check out those workshops and photo tours on and

Have you ever been to the extreme west coast of Canada? The unique location where you can enjoy the sights of a rainforest one day and be photographing black bears, bald eagles and whales the next... then switch things up and turn inland to photograph snow covered mountains?

Join Kevin and Ellen on another "North of 49 Photography" photo workshop to this unique land. August is a magical time of year in Tofino; "fog"ust as it is referred to creates spectacular images along the expansive shoreline in the morning hours, animals like black bears, sea lions and yes, even whales are a frequent part of the day’s activities in the Tofino area.

Dates: August 10 to 17, 2014
Price: $1295USD

Over the course of the five days & nights at the lodge, your leaders will cover topics on macro-photography, long exposure night photography, bird and wildlife photography. This area offers a wide variety of plants, many of which will be brightly colored in September and lay upon the landscape like a blanket.  This is also a great time of year to capture northern lights (aurora borealis), migratory wildlife & birds, including possible bear sightings, fox, tundra swans, eagles, owls and falcons.     

Dates: September 20 to 27, 2014
Price: $5500USD

I hope you consider joining me and my fellow workshop leaders,


Monday, 29 July 2013

Learning exposure compensation to help get better photos with your digital camera

Exposure compensation is function that allows you, the photographer, the ability to fine tune exposure to compensate for situations where your camera's metering system does a poor job.

This would be something that you would want to use to make adjustments for contrasting light when highlight detail would otherwise be lost, or when photographing snowy landscapes or other tricky scenes. This photo that accompanies this post is a good example of a real life situation.. the crashing water was extremely bright, and the kayaker had a helmet on that casts a very dark shadow across his face. I had to use my exposure compensation to ensure that I did not either blow out the water, or make his face black. It took a few photos to get the right setting, but it was worth the effort.

Cameras are programmed to just aim for the middle of the grey scale… A camera exposes for the middle luminance value of the scene (middle grey, 12-18% reflectance or 50% luminance), and your cameras different metering modes are just different ways of placing this mid value by weighting where the camera meters from.

EV Compensation helps to fix this by telling the camera to expose at a higher or lower setting than it thinks is right. For very bright settings (like the snow or beach), set an EV value as a positive number (+1/3, +1 etc). For very dark scenes, choose a negative EV number.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – that doesn’t make sense! If the subject is very bright, don’t I need to set a lower EV (negative number) to make sure the image is exposed correctly?

Well, no. It’s the opposite. It helps to think of what the resulting image will look like. In the snow, where there are lots of bright areas, the camera will choose a mid point in the bright area, so the snow will look gray in the resulting image. To fix that and make the snow white (as it should be), we need to brighten the image. Thus we need to increase the exposure and use a positive number.

You would need to consider using exposure compensation in the following situations:

Landscape photography in bright, sunny conditions - Landscapes are usually shot at wider angles (zoomed out) and often includes bright skies and dark shadows. Your camera's estimate of the mid value in such contrasty situations can often result in important highlight details being be lost in the sky because of that orange ball of bright light, aka the sun. To remedy this, you would darken the image slightly by reducing exposure, usually by two or 3 stops. This will lighten the shadows and bring those awesome colours back in the sky that drew you to the image in the first place.

Snowy scenes - Snowy scenes are unusually white, and your camera will think this is supposed to be more towards mid grey. Without an adjustment your white fluffy snow comes out this pale blue… sound familiar? To remedy this, you would lighten the image by increasing exposure by 1 or 1 1/3rd EV.

Most cameras will have an EV display (in the viewfinder or on-screen). The zero in the centre is where no EV compensation is applied; to the left we have -EV and to the right we have +EV, with 1/3rd EV steps between.

Depending on your camera and display settings, the EV display may only show when in use, or when compensation has been applied.

In Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or Programmed Auto

Locate your camera's EV button (marked EV or +/- ), hold it down and scroll the relevant command wheel either +right or -left depending whether you wish to increase or reduce exposure (lighten or darken the image). As you scroll, the marker will move to the corresponding value on the scaled display, or the value will simply update on the single type display.

Remember to set the EV back to zero once you've finished taking exposure compensated shots.

Manual Exposure

In fully manual, you set the shutter speed and aperture values, and the EV display tells you how much this may differ from what the camera's metering suggests. The EV button isn't used, but the effect on exposure is the same.

The advantage with manually applied exposure is that you don't have to remember to reset compensation. You do, however, have to set exposure yourself for each shot.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Newfoundland and Labrador Workshop - whales, icebergs, lighthouses, Gros Morne Natonal Park and more

We begin our time together as we live the life of a lighthouse keeper overlooking “Iceberg Alley”.

Hear the Killer Whales’ call echoing off massive icebergs in our own private cove and hopefully awaken to the sounds of the Humpbacks calling you across vast stretches of the North Atlantic. From this location we will explore the rugged landscape made famous in “The Shipping News”, the Pulitzer prize-winning novel and Kevin Spacey movie.

Imagine the feel the salt spray in your face as you journey out to remote Quirpon Island amidst the dolphins and whales. As you land in the cove, imagine you are returning home to the sod huts, thousands of years old, which lay undisturbed here. Forge a link with ancient humans as you stand in the remains of their huts overlooking the cove and picture the tiny beach coming to like as it was eons ago.

This is your home for the next few days. It lies atop the cliffs at the northern tip of this deserted island. The contrast of the rugged beauty of the island and the cosy luxury of Quirpon Lighthouse Inn will bring back your childhood feelings of laying by the fire as a storm raged outside. Imperceptibly your priorities in life will shift as you become part of the primal connection between humans and the remote reaches of the sea.

You are now in the best spot on earth to visit with whales and icebergs. At dawn, be certain to introduce yourself to your only neighbours – the whales migrating past your doorstep. An abandoned fishing village near the lighthouse is your hiking destination today. Learn of the tragic but romantic mass murder and suicide that inevitably lead to its demise.

View the “vast cathedrals of ice”. On sunny days they appear lit from inside. On dull days other senses take over as they seem to grow in size. Their chilling effect spreads to your mind and you feel a timeless empathy for sailors who have dreaded these giants for millennia.

Europeans first arrived in North America 500 years before Columbus. These Vikings settled in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of L’anse aux Meadows. As you visit, one question will fill your mind- Why here? Be sure to ask resident Vikings who work here today. Join them in their huts and sample cuisine from ten centuries ago.

From here we will sail to Labrador where a 12 year old child was lovingly laid to rest in North America’s oldest grave – 8,000 years ago. Visit Basque whaling site where a boat from the 1500’s raised from the frigid waters shows how little technology has changed in 500 years. A photogenic location at any time of day and your photos, chronicle history very few ever visit.

Heading south along the Viking Trail you might experience time travel visiting isolated fishing villages which have hosted civilizations for thousands of years, capturing lighthouses during golden hours and at the Port au Choix National Historic Site, learn how little we differ from our ancient forbearers. Take time to linger and photograph the memorable sights along the seaside… because you will be busy spotting the thousands of moose and caribou in Gros Morne National Park amidst some of the most breathtaking scenery the east coast of Canada has to offer.

If you think the shoreline to this point has been spectacular, wait until your boat tour of Western Brook Pond in Gros Morne. This landlocked fjord was left as a slash in the cliffs when the last ice age ended. 2000 vertical faces slowly come together as your journey on the purest lake in the world. This voyage is guaranteed to give you memories to savour back in the real world. Afterwards, stretch your legs on a valley of ancient earth’s mantle that has made this park a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The landscape evokes images of the moon more than the earth, but this geological wonder has its own charms. You will enjoy it from sun up to sun down through the lens.

Before our trip together ends, you can have the choice of completing our odyssey with a taste of other experiences unique to out corner of the globe. Kayak with the bergs and whales or hike into a falls for another photography walk to capture the golden light landscapes and local wildlife.

Dates of Workshop:  June 1, 2014 to June 10, 2014

Price of Workshop:  $3890USD is your price ($4250 on my website) – shared accommodation

Photographic Leader(s):  Kevin Pepper

Maximum Number of attendees: max 5, min 4 (2 spots already taken)

Deposit to secure space in workshop:  $750USD

What is Included: 9 nights’ shared accommodation (including 4 at Quirpon Lighthouse Inn). 6 breakfasts, 2 lunches, daily snacks, juice and water, 5 suppers (including 1 dinner theatre). Western Brook Pond boat tour. Ferry to Labrador. All park and site passes. Transportation. Minimum of three editing sessions

What is not included: anything not mentioned as included, items of personal nature, travel insurance.
More details on the locations

We will be staying in a reclaimed lighthouse, Quirpon lighthouse on a private island, and in some hotels.

We will be spending time whale watching, photographing icebergs, photographing lighthouses on the northern shores of Newfoundland and Labrador and spending a fair bit of time in Gros Morne National Park on the North West coast of Newfoundland.

We will also head over to Labrador to see the original settlement of Vikings in North America, do some shoots along the seaside and visit some of the oldest fishing villages in Eastern Canada.

You will be shooting seascapes, lighthouses, old fishing villages, hopefully some of the tens of thousands of caribou and moose in Gros Morne (if we can see them), some migratory birds, landscapes, whales and icebergs




Saturday, 20 July 2013

The Sunny 16 Rule for Photography

The Sunny 16 Rule is a way to meter for correct exposure during daylight without using the camera’s meter.

The basic rule of thumb is that if you have a clear, sunny day and your aperture is at f/16, whatever ISO you are using, your shutter speed will be the reciprocal value of that ISO value

So for example, if your ISO is 200 at f/16, then your shutter speed will be 1/200 seconds. If your ISO is 100, then your shutter speed will be 1/100 seconds.

The Sunny 16 Rule is a good way to check if your camera is spot on with exposure or does it consistently under or over expose. Some cameras have a tendency to slightly under expose, and this is a good way to test your camera.

Additionally, unlike the camera metering system, the Sunny 16 Rule is based on incident light instead of reflected light, which means that it’s based on the brightness of the light only, and not how the light that is being reflected off the subject and into the camera.

Go ahead… try it and see how your camera performs…

Monday, 15 July 2013

Sigma 120-300 f2.8 DG HSM OS spends time in Mongolia and takes first place at the Naadam Festival

This is not your Dad’s Sigma lens. Long gone are the days of the rough coated plastic feeling Sigma lens that rolled off the production line to satisfy people’s needs for more lenses at an affordable price. This lens screams quality from the first view out of the box. The lens is finished in matte black and is dust and splash resistant. Then, when you realize that each lens is tested before it leaves the factory, not just the random sampling, you begin to truly understand that Sigma listened to what photographers wanted in a lens of this caliber and delivered tenfold.

Not only will the looks of this lens impress both you and anyone around you, but it performs beautifully in a range of situations, some that you would not think it would excel in. When I took the lens to Mongolia I had journalists, amateurs and police that lined the crowd all looking through the lens and taking photos… it created quite the spectacle… LOL

OK… now, let’s just get this out of the way… the lens is heavy… there is no other way to put it. It is 6.5lbs and is almost 12 inches long…  but this is a step into the realm of professional lenses that has now shown me through extensive use, produces professional results. The size of this lens can be attributed to the constant aperture of f2.8, and for the outdoor situations I was just in, was extremely appreciated.
For a week I used this lens on a monopod and hand held shooting a variety of photos in the sports category, I panned with the camera and I did some portrait photos. Each time I looked at the results, I was impressed.

Here is what I liked about the lens…

The 120-300mm has a focus limiter to offer an adjusted range of auto focusing, you can choose from 0 to 10meters, 10 meters to infinity and the full range of focus.  including a faster auto focus speed. You can also, as mentioned above, fine-tune this with the USB Dock to your precise specifications.

The image quality produced from this lens is really great. Though it is not the absolute sharpest lens I have ever shot with (that is reserved for the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 that I had in May), it performed beyond my expectations. I found a few sweet spots with the best aperture to use around f7.1, but nowhere was I disappointed with the lens.

Everywhere from f/2.8 through f/22 was sharp, with some minor abbreviations occurring at f/22. Generally though, the sharpness was consistent across the aperture range which, for me, is extremely impressive.

The USB dock took a stock lens from the shelf and allowed me to make micro adjustments, making this a custom lens for my style of shooting on my camera bodies.

The variable focal range… I truly appreciated the range when shooting action. Whether the 1.4 teleconverter was attached, or not, the ease at which you can go from 120mm to 300mm was appreciated.

For those of you who were waiting for Sigma to up their game, your wait has ended. The affordable professional lens for the sports shooter has landed… it is the Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 and is now available in stores across North America.

I would recommend this lens to anyone that asks… if you don’t at least consider this lens you are doing yourself a disservice.

Species Spotlight - Snowy Owl

The Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) is a large owl of the typical owl family Strigidae. Until recently, it was regarded as the sole member of a distinct genus, but data now shows that it is very closely related to the horned owls.

This yellow-eyed, black-beaked white bird is easily recognizable. It is 52–71 centimetres (20–28 in) long, with a 125–150 centimetres (49–59 in) wingspan. Also, these birds can weigh anywhere from 1.6 to 3 kilograms (3.5 to 6.6 lb). It is one of the largest species of owl and, in North America, is on average the heaviest owl species. The adult male is virtually pure white, but females and young birds have some dark scalloping; the young are heavily barred, and dark spotting may even predominate. Its thick plumage, heavily feathered taloned feet, and colouration render the Snowy Owl well-adapted for life north of the Arctic Circle.

Snowy Owl calls are varied, but the alarm call is a barking, almost quacking krek-krek; the female also has a softer mewling pyee-pyee or prek-prek. The song is a deep repeated gahw. They may also clap their beak in response to threats or annoyances. While called clapping, it is believed this sound may actually be a clicking of the tongue, not the beak.

Young owl on the tundra at Barrow Alaska. Snowy Owls lose their black feathers with age, though particular females retain some.

The Snowy Owl is typically found in the northern circumpolar region, where it makes its summer home north of latitude 60 degrees north. However, it is a particularly nomadic bird, and because population fluctuations in its prey species can force it to relocate, it has been known to breed at more southerly latitudes.

This species of owl nests on the ground, building a scrape on top of a mound or boulder. A site with
good visibility such as the top of mound with ready access to hunting areas, and a lack of snow is chosen. Gravel bars and abandoned eagle nests may be used. The female scrapes a small hollow before laying the eggs. Breeding occurs in May to June, and depending on the amount of prey available, clutch sizes range from 5 to 14 eggs, which are laid singly, approximately every other day over the course of several days. Hatching takes place approximately five weeks after laying, and the pure white young are cared for by both parents. Although the young hatch asynchronously, with the largest in the brood sometimes 10 to 15 times as heavy as the smallest, there is little sibling conflict and no evidence of siblicide. Both the male and the female defend the nest and their young from predators, sometimes by distraction displays. Males may mate with two females which may nest about a kilometre apart.[3] Some individuals stay on the breeding grounds while others migrate.

Snowy Owls nest in the Arctic tundra of the northermost stretches of Alaska, Canada, and Eurasia. They winter south through Canada and northern Eurasia, with irruptions occurring further south in some years. Snowy Owls are attracted to open areas like coastal dunes and prairies that appear somewhat similar to tundra. They have been reported as far south as the American states of Texas, Georgia, the American Gulf states, southernmost Russia, and northern China.

In January 2009, a Snowy Owl appeared in Spring Hill, Tennessee, the first reported sighting in the state since 1987. More notable is the huge mass southern migration in the winter of 2011/2012, when thousands of Snowy Owls were spotted in various locations across the United States.

This powerful bird relies primarily on lemmings and other small rodents for food during the breeding season, but at times of low prey density, or during the ptarmigan nesting period, they may switch to favoring juvenile ptarmigan. They are opportunistic hunters and prey species may vary considerably, especially in winter. They feed on a wide variety of small mammals such as meadow voles and deer mice, but will take advantage of larger prey, frequently following traplines to find food. Some of the larger mammal prey includes hares, muskrats, marmots, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, prairie dogs, rats, moles, and smaller birds entrapped furbearers. Birds preyed upon include ptarmigan, other ducks, geese, shorebirds, pheasants, grouse, coots, grebes, gulls, songbirds, and even other raptors, including other owl species. Most of the owls' hunting is done in the "sit and wait" style; prey may be captured on the ground, in the air or fish may be snatched off the surface of bodies of water using their sharp talons. Each bird must capture roughly 7 to 12 mice per day to meet its food requirement and can eat more than 1,600 lemmings per year.

Snowy Owls, like many other birds, swallow their small prey whole. Strong stomach juices digest the flesh, while the indigestible bones, teeth, fur, and feathers are compacted into oval pellets that the bird regurgitates 18 to 24 hours after feeding. Regurgitation often takes place at regular perches, where dozens of pellets may be found. Biologists frequently examine these pellets to determine the quantity and types of prey the birds have eaten. When large prey are eaten in small pieces, pellets will not be produced.

Though Snowy Owls have few predators, the adults are very watchful and are equipped to defend against any kind of threat towards them or their offspring. During the nesting season, the owls regularly defend their nests against arctic foxes, corvids and swift-flying jaegers; as well as dogs, gray wolves and avian predators. Males defend the nest by standing guard nearby while the female incubates the eggs and broods the young. Both sexes attack approaching predators, dive-bombing them and engaging in distraction displays to draw the predator away from a nest. They also compete directly for lemmings and other prey with several predators, including Rough-legged Hawks, Golden Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Gyrfalcons, jaegers, Glaucous Gulls, Short-eared Owls, Great Horned Owls, Eurasian Eagle Owls, Common Ravens, wolves, arctic foxes, and ermine. They are normally dominant over other raptors although may (sometimes fatally) lose in conflicts to large raptors such as other Bubo owls, Golden Eagles and the smaller but much faster Peregrine Falcons. Some species nesting near Snowy Owl nests, such as the Snow Goose, seem to benefit from the incidental protection of snowy owls that drive competing predators out of the area.

Info courtesy of Wikipedia

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Mongolia ~ virtually untouched and waiting for you to experience it through your lens.

After the breakdown of communist regimes in Eastern Europe in late 1989, Mongolia had its Democratic Revolution in early 1990. This then led to a multi-party democratic system, a brand new constitution in 1992, followed by the transition to a market economy. A Democratic nation in Asia was born…

Democracy has given foreign investors enough confidence to stick with Mongolia during the hard times in the last 20 years. Attractive investment laws have lured some huge investors from the mining world but despite their progression, Mongolia still faces enormous economic and social challenges and remains one of the poorest countries in Asia.

Since the fall of communism, Mongolia has done just about everything in its power to open itself up to the world to show that what is truly unique about this gem of Asia. It is not often you can visit a country where ancient traditions survive and the unbridled nature is still mostly intact and extremely accessible.

Tourism, along with mining and cashmere, have become a key feature of the economy. Unfortunately the poor infrastructure and short travel season have kept vacation revenues small. But a growing network of ger camps that cater to travellers seeking ecotourism adventures is growing and gives hope for tourism dollars.

Without the presence of private property to restrict a traveller’s movement, Mongolia is a perfect destination for photographers, horse trekking, long-distance cycling and hiking, and especially for camping out under a sprawling mass of stars. With such minimal light pollution, one feels like they can reach out and touch stars that, until a visit here, they never knew existed.

Most travellers come for Naadam, the two-day summer sports festival that brought me there earlier this month. The Naadam festival is held in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar during the National Holiday from July 11 – 13. Naadam begins with an elaborate ceremony featuring dancers, athletes, horse riders, and musicians dressed in traditional ware. After the ceremony, the competitions begin.

Naadam is believed to have existed for centuries in one fashion or another. Its origin in the activities, such as military parades and sporting competitions such as archery, horse riding and wrestling originated in the beginning of the 13th century when the Yuan Dynasty was established.

As early as 1206, Genghis Khan held big gatherings on the grassland in order to inspect his army and to maintain and allocate the properties. The chief leaders of all the tribes were assembled, and the gatherings were held as a sign of solidarity and hope for an abundant harvest.

I brought a group here to spend 8 days in Mongolia. We are currently visiting numerous areas in the countryside and thoroughly enjoying the sights and the people before we head back to enjoy the Naadam festival. With special passes to allow us down on the floor where the athletes are, we are sure to capture some spectacular images.

But Mongolia’s unique charm will always lie in the countryside where, rather than being a spectator to the wrestling, you may find yourself in a vast expansive land, void of travellers, in the awe of an untouched landscape. One cannot help but feel humbled!

Outside the villages nomad families still roam and their relentless sense of hospitality can at times be nothing short of overwhelming. And it is genuine… and as uncomfortable as it may make some people, the generosity and decent human spirit is refreshing for someone like me that has travelled to many parts of this world.

Think of Mongolia as an Ice Cream Sunday made up of everything you want a photographic adventure… “Mix together the vast landscapes of one of the greatest deserts on earth with the dramatic gorges and sparkling fresh water lakes of Khövsgöl, apply the topping of the snow-capped mountains of Bayan-Olgi and sprinkle the ger tents and nomads with the odd cry of a Golden Eagle and you have a recipe that you will not ever forget. “

I am sorry you couldn’t make it this July for the 2013 Naadam festival… but I am headed back in 2014. Jim Zuckerman and I will be leading a group of photographer’s on a workshop to witness the Golden Eagle Festival and the Gobi Desert… Please join us on our Photography Workshop on September 30, 2014. To learn more please click here.