Sunday, January 27, 2008

February Viewfinder

In this Issue

Winter Birds
Flying with Batteries
Ask Tim Grey
Scott Kelby Training

Winter Birds

Mike and I have Phantom Parties. Clues in the morning tell us we were party animals last night. Empty Pizza boxes and a bill on our pay per view are a sure sign. Mike and I tend to hit the sack early and who knows what time the party begins? Last night I must have been late or the first party guy was early but we met in the kitchen. His name is Jon and he had been to Swan Lake Ice fishing all day. He told me Eagles were stealing fish and flying just over their heads. Sounds like a great photo. Next time he will call me.

Birds in the Yard

Feeder photography brings the subject to you and allows you to control the lighting, composition and background. The convenience of photography at home decreases your time commitment as you can do it on shot notice. I can wander out on my deck or backyard for a short time when the birds are feeding.

What do birds want?

If you're new to feeding birds, you might wonder what to offer. In short, offer seeds and water. Many of the birds we see in winter are seedeaters. They have to be: insects are hard to come by in Maine winters. However, the trees, grasses, and wild flowers have just finished their yearly production of seeds, and this is the main kind of food our wintering birds live on.

By setting up a bird feeding station, you're taking your cue from nature, offering the kind of nourishment that the birds are adapted to. You provide a generous, reliable, source of food, and the birds gladly come and help themselves, up close, where it's convenient for you to watch them.

Where to feed them for photos?

It is good to have the feeders out in the open making it quite easy to “separate” the bird and its stand from the background by using a minimum depth-of-field. Using selective depth-of-focus makes the bird appear to “jump out of the frame. Make a plan for the time of day you will be shooting and set up the feeders for the light.

Think Hollywood

I set up sets. I found a great piece of driftwood that I took the chainsaw too. Without much skill I was able to make an out of sight hole to place the seed in. My plan is have the birds land in a pre-focused spot and then get their feed. (I hope the birds are reading this.) I also do this with evergreen branches. The birds are suppose to land on the perch first and then jump to the feeder.

New Fridge

When I started this I had a big refrigerator box for blind that I fastened to the deck. I now have a little portable tent/blind from Len Rue. I try to put it out before I plan to shoot so the birds are use to it.

What lens

I’m using a 200-400 zoom telephoto lens, which seems to be ideal for the job. A shorter focal length would require me to move closer to the birds, which might disturb them but with a blind they are not too nervous The birds often spread their wings or turn around on their perches, and it’s easier to shorten the zoom than to shift position. Good nature photography demands that you not “clip off” bits of the subject with the image frame.

Pre Focus.

Set your lens for manual focus and pre focus on a perch you ‘want the bird to land on. Or Modern auto focus makes this kind of photography much easier. Using “back button” focus control means I won’t be forced to re-focus each time I depress the shutter release button after changing my composition or when the bird has moved slightly.


A polarizing filter on the front of the lens reduces or eliminates bright reflections on leaves in the background woods. On bright sunny days, these reflections can cause the de-focused leaves to appear almost like round “doughnuts” in the background, an effect similar to the ones caused by mirror lenses.


I’m using a tripod, not only for sharper shots, but also to permit me to hold my flash on an extension cable over my camera while I’m using a shutter-release cable to fire the camera. A flash is useful for filling in shadows on a bright day and providing those necessary highlights in the eyes on a dark Grey Mine winter days.


I’ve already discovered that using on-camera flash will cause “red-eye” in my bird photos. The flash is set for -1 f-stop of compensation, so that whatever the ambient light might be, the flash provides less light. One hazard, of course, is that on bright days, I might end up with two highlights in the eyes. No doubt about it; dark days provide the perfect light for this kind of photography and gives us something to shoot on grey days

Flying with Batteries

Effective January 1, 2008, you may not pack spare lithium batteries in your checked baggage – that is, the baggage you give to the airline for handling.

  • Spare batteries are the batteries you carry separately from the devices they power. When batteries are installed in a device, they are not considered spare batteries.
  • You may not pack a spare lithium battery in your checked baggage
  • You may pack spare lithium batteries in carry-on baggage – see our spare battery tipshow-to sections to find out how to pack spare batteries safely! and
For personal use, there is generally no restriction on the number of spare batteries allowed in carry-on baggage. That includes cell phone batteries, “hearing aid” button cells, and AA/AAA batteries available in retail stores, as well as almost all standard laptop computer batteries. However, you may carry no more than two larger batteries, in the range of 100 – 300 watt hour rating. These include some extended life laptop computer batteries, such as the “universal” lithium ion battery.

From Tim Gray

Tim Grey's Digital Darkroom Questions email has been providing answers to reader questions for the last six years. Send him your email to receive the free email.

Tim Gray
What's the best way to share photos with friends and family? I know there are a number of web sites but I am looking for ways for friends and family to look at pictures and slide shows and maybe decide to have printed what they want. It needs to be simple for not really computer literate people to access and use. We have a family website that can be used or we could use a commercial site.


In a general sense, I think the best method of sharing images with friends and family is indeed via one of the many websites available for this purpose. This assumes, of course, that all those you intend to share the images with are on email and comfortable going to a website to view images (I know this is something we take for granted, but there are many people who aren't comfortable with these technologies yet).

When it comes to selecting a particular site, I can assure you there are many to choose from. In my mind the key things you need are a good user experience, strong track record of providing good service, and options for your friends and family to purchase their own prints (or other photo-emblazoned items) directly.

In terms of a specific solution that I can recommend, I would suggest Shutterfly ( ). I've been using them for years, and have been very happy with the features they offer along with the ease-of-use for those who aren't particularly comfortable using a computer. I think you'll find it to be an excellent service. There are certainly others out there, but this is one I've used extensively and can strongly recommend.

Tried this online training

I read Photoshop how to books written by Scott Kelby. He has a fun way of making a dry subject have humor. From one of his books I learned about this Online training and gave it a try for free. Just passing along what I found.

Kelby Online Training

1) The Instructors

It all starts there. Our philosophy is this: hire the best instructors in the world and you'll get the best online training courses in the world. Go ahead and look through our instructor list and you'll see all of the top names are training for Kelby Training. This means you get the absolute best training out there.

2) The Content

Clear, concise, and real-world. That's what our courses deliver. And once you've got the best teachers in the world, that content comes naturally. See, our instructors aren't just the best at what they do on the computer or in the field. They're also the best at teaching it to you in an accessible way. This means that it doesn't take 8 hours of your day to learn from our courses. If you only have 5 minutes we guarantee you'll find plenty of 5 minute lessons to jump into, learn a thing or two, and get back to work.

3) The Students

That's you - our customers. We concentrate on one philosophy when it comes to our customers. Treat people like we like to be treated. We want you to learn what you need to learn in the amount of time you have to learn it. If you succeed in that, then we all succeed in the end.

Give it a test drive (free trial).

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