Tag Archives: North of 49 Photography

How come I never got that picture?

Hello everybody!

It has been quite a while since I have wrote a blog on here so I figured it was time to spark things up again. Today I wanted to talk about what the average photographer will miss while they are at a travel destination. While we were out running a workshop this summer in Nova Scotia we were crossing the ferry coming back from a whale watching tour. I noticed the sun was on a very low angle and if we could find something fast to photograph we would be rewarded with a fireball sky over the Bay of Fundy. It just so happened that there was a light house right out on the point across the straight from us. So we stopped the car and waited for the magic to happen. Now this is what I mean by how people can miss a picture that is right in front of them. This is an image of what caught my eye.

Chris Pepper,photography workshops, Canadian photography workshops

So you can see that we were quite a distance from our subject. The landscape looked nice but it needed something more to help the image along. Hmmmm I thought to myself what can we do here?? Because of the time of the day the tide was rising and the flow of water was quite fast. The clouds were moving a little bit to the right so I thought hey lets tell the clients to try out there ND filters. So I helped everybody get set up and we started to take a few pictures. The results turned out just awesome I though, the motion was captured as to be expected and it gave the image a totally different look.

Chirs Pepper, long exposure, Northof49photography, canadain photography workshops

So reviewing the image above, I cropped out a bit of the sky to just keep in the colour and remove some of the blue. I kept the foreground as I thought the motion captured from the water helped give a sense of movement in the image. After helping the clients out with there images I had another idea! I told the clients we should put on a larger lens so we could isolate the lighthouse and frame it on our left. This way we could try to make the image look more appealing with proper rules of composition. Now do remember that rules are meant to be broken! So here was our first image we took with our larger lenses.

Chris Pepper, North of 49 photography, Boars island lighthouse, Canadain photography workshops, Nova Scotia,

This image was taken @ 420mm, you can now see that the sun is nothing more then a fireball behind our subject (the light house) and the shadow on the rocks has now become a complete silhouette due to exposing for the sky. Isolation from the telephoto lens has created a completely new perspective of this scene now. It removed a large body of water and a large portion sky to keep us right on target to what we were looking to achieve. Now I wont say I like this image more than the others, but it is a completely different look that I’m sure many people would never have captured. Last I wanted to add another edit of the same crop with my telephoto but in black and white.

Chris Pepper, North of 49 photography, Lighthouse photography workshop, Nova Scotia

Although I do like the black and white image as it offers a balance of dark blacks and light whites. But in all honesty do you think it tells a story the way the colour pictures do? I think when you size it up to the photo above it totally lots its oomph.

So let’s wrap up today on a note about perspective. Most photographers that are beginning have lots to learn in the means of being creative. Let’s face it, there are those who have a huge creative side to themselves and pic up a camera and never skip a beat. Then there is the other half of the people that think photography would be a fun hobby. These people buy a camera and struggle because they only take pictures and don’t make pictures. This blog is a classic example of how 4 pictures can look so different but yet be taken from the exact same location. And when I say location I mean my tripod never moved from the same spot. I used 3 different focal lengths, 3 different edits and one long exposure. While your out photographing the rest of the summer try to step back and think outside of the box. Nobody can ridicule you for trying something new, being creative is what makes us all different. If you are a landscape photographer and you are trying to to get noticed you really need to sit back and think what will make my picture look totally different then everybody else?

Happy shooting and thanks for taking the time to read my blog today!

Posted in Behind the scenes, Workshops Also tagged , , , , |

10 Items you might be missing in your camera bag

Many people have had that moment when they get out to the field and realize they either forgot something or wished they would of brought something. So today I’m offering my top 10 ten list of what I make sure to keep in my bag to be prepared. Sometimes we run in to the unexpected out there and nothing ruins your day more than having to leave because you forgot something or you are forced to leave.

#10 A plastic bag Think of all the reasons why or how you can use a plastic bag. Let me share a few from my past experiences. One time I was out along a river in the winter and the snow was not that deep but it was super cold out. I managed to be standing on a shelf of ice and guess what……. Yep my foot broke through the ice. Most people in -15c would likely call it a day at this point. Well not me, it was a sunny day and I was out of the wind so I took my shoe and sock off and dried off my foot. Then I hobbled over to a tree ringed my sock out and hung it up to air dry in the sun. I then reached into my camera bag and guess what I used on my foot?? A plastic bag, then I put my shoe back on and although it was a little damp and cold my foot was dry. By the time I moved on my sock was semi dry and I just slipped it on over my plastic bag. See I’m not just a pretty face after all 😉 You can also use a bag to put clothes in if it get’s to warm or wrap your camera in if it rains or even to wrap around your camera if its super cold. This way when you bring your camera inside your house you can let it adjust to the climate and you wont get moisture spots on your sensor.

#9 Spare batteries Now batteries will add some extra weight to your pack but you wont be mad about that extra weight when you need one. I always have 4 camera batteries, a pack of double AA and a pack of AAA in my bag as well. I have a spare battery grip insert for my camera that if my camera batteries die I can always switch over to double A batteries. Or for my external flash as we all have experienced batteries go dead with them. Plus if it happens that a friends battery dies you always look like the hero.

#8 Pills Now what kind of fun is it to go out photographing stuff without pills. I’m just kidding by the way! I’m most likely the last person you will see to take a pill as I have tried to avoid them my whole life. But there will always be that moment where you will be in the middle of nowhere and think “dam I wish I had something for that” So let me list off a few things I have just encase a friend or myself needs something. And don’t laugh because my brother say’s I’m a walking drug store. I have Ibuprofen if somebody has a headache or hurts themselves. I have Advil cold and flu cause you just never know when a colds gonna kick you in the A**. I keep Reactine for people who suffer from allergies like myself and just can’t stop sneezing and snorting because you fell into a big weed patch. I have Tums for those days when lunch is just not sitting well and you have a little heartburn. I have Pepto bismol tablets because as the commercial says upset stomach diarrhea! You just never know when your traveling if you will pick up a bug or eat something a little off. Better to be bunged up like an older person who ate too much cheese then to be running off like a Kenyan in the Boston marathon looking for a bathroom.

#7 Spare memory cards There is nothing like getting out to a shoot and realizing you have half of a card full of pictures you forgot to upload. I have seen people missing “the moment” so many times because they are siting there deleting bad photos to make room for some keepers. Let me tell you, if you ever hear the words come out of my mouth that I have no more cards to use then I have been shooting a tone! I carry 2×64 gig cards, 2×32 gig cards and 2×16 gig cards. I don’t like to run out of space if I don’t have to. And again you sure look like the hero when you say to your friend “here use this one I don’t mind” So it’s always better to error on the side of caution with extra cards.

#6 Multipurpose tool We have all had a moment or will have more moments where something comes loose on our gear and we could use a tool to tighten something. Or that moment when you could of used a knife to cut something or open something up. Don’t be the idiot standing there trying to improvise with some random item from your pocket. Be the man or handy lady that makes Macgyver proud that you had the tool for the job.

#5 Camera remote Don’t try to fool yourself that you can take long exposures without a remote. Just avoid the possibility of camera shake and care about the end quality of your images. Most cameras have a budget model of remote that has a hold feature for bulb mode. At the most it will be 30-40 dollars for a low end remote that will make you look more professional at your hobby or carrier.

#4 Micro fiber cloth Lint free cloths are a great way to help clean any unwanted dust or water spots off of your lens. As long as you keep them clean they will work wonders for you. Try to find something to keep you cloth in as putting it in your pant pocket is usually a lint disaster for a cloth. A plastic bag or a pouch always keeps your cloth free from the elements.

#3 Spare camera Now some people may not be able to afford a spare camera. But if you are traveling or you are a professional photographer 2 cameras is a must. You have way to much to loose if something goes wrong with your camera. One you will look like an idiot in front of your client if your are portraying yourself as a professional. Or if you plan to travel to a destination to take pictures and something happens you will be so upset that your lost that picture of a moment in time. Even if you have a small point and shoot it’s better then not having a second camera at all.

#2 Camera and lens cleaning kit There is nothing more of a pain then to look at your picture in your viewfinder and see a bunch of spots on your image. I always carry a sensor cleaning kit with me that is above and beyond the norm. Here is what I keep in my kit, Arctic Butterfly for clearing unwanted dust, a Quasar loupe which is a magnify glass with lights on it to see more than the naked eye, Giotto’s rocket air blower again used to remove dust. last sensor cleaning tool are swabs from Visibledust, remember to make sure you buy the right size swabs for your camera sensor size.

#1 Tape No matter the case a man can temporarily repair anything with enough tape. Plus you have an option to choose your weapon, duct tape, electrical tape, gaffers tape or all of the above. Many times we may damage something out in the field and need a quick repair. For all of us with large strong hands tiny pieces of plastic can be easily broken by accident. There are many reasons for tape and if you don’t have it in your bag you will never learn how to be creative with it.

So there you have it, this is my top 10 list of items you should keep in your camera bag. Now I’m sure most of you will think I don’t need all of that as it will just create extra weight. But when something happens out in the field just remember my face saying “I told you so!”
Have a great weekend everybody and enjoy the sun and warmer weather we are due for.

Posted in Product reviews and testing Also tagged , , , , , , |

Behind the scenes of what goes on in the Raptors in Flight Workshop

Today’s blog is on behind the scenes of the Raptors in flight workshop.Raptors in flight workshop, photography workshops, photographing bald eagles, photographing golden eagles, photographing owls, canadian photography workshops, Ontario photography workshops, Chris Pepper Photography, Chris Pepper People have many questions when they contact me about this workshop, so I wanted to help clarify some information for you. First thing is who is this workshop designed for? This workshop is designed for anybody and everybody with all different skill levels. There is no need to be a superstar photographer to attend this workshop. You don’t need a big fancy 600mm lens or have to ware camo clothes to attend, but if you know me I will likely have some type of camo on. :) So let’s take a little walk through on how to be prepared for the Raptors in flight workshop. 1 month before we start our workshop I will send all the attendees my first email.Birds in flight workshop, photographing raptors, canadian photography workshops, Ontario photography workshops, photographing owls, photographing eagles, photographing hawks, Chris Pepper Photography, Chris Pepper This email will contain some tips and tricks to settings and how to photograph birds in flight. As well some encouragement to get out and practice before we meet up so you feel somewhat comfortable once we attend. I also encourage people to contact me if they are having any troubles with there practice sessions so we can work out as many bugs before hand if possible. 1 week prior I will again contact all the attendees to make sure they have all there gear ready with a list of what to bring and how to dress for the occasion. I like to make sure everybody is prepared as much as possible once we get out to our location.

The morning of our workshop I will be on location waiting for your arrival 30 minutes before our session starts. During this time we can relax and get to meet each other and go over some details about our day together. I will walk you over to the fields we will be photographing in to show you some great spots to shoot from and explain the direction of the raptors flight paths and what way the sun will be coming from. Together throughout the day we will work out what ever bugs you may be having. My attendance is to make sure you are having fun and getting all the shots you desire. During our shoot we also have the chance to ask our falconer (James) any questions we would like to about the raptors we will be photographing. This will also help you with identifying raptors out in our local fields by learning colours and feather patterns, or just the characteristics of the flight that these raptors have. Some of the raptors we could be photographing are the Harris’ Hawk, Red Tailed Hawk, Broad-winged hawk, Great Horned Owl, Barn Owl, Golden Eagle and Bald Eagle. Static birds could include an Eurasian Eagle Owl, Swainson’s Hawk, Peregrine, Aplomado Falcon, Great Grey Owl and a Snowy Owl. Because all of these raptors fly a little different we will be working on your placement to ensure you get different angles and backgrounds for the shots you want.Raptors in flight workshop, Chris pepper photography, canadian photography workshops, Ontario photography workshops, During these periods when we move around we can work on placement according to what lens size you are working with. If you want to use a wide angle and be feet away from a Bald Eagle coming straight at you that can be arranged. If you would like a Great Horned Owl to fly right over top of you that can be done to. It’s all about being creative and using the lens you have with these well trained raptors. Raptors in flight workshop, Ontario photography workshops, canadian photography workshops, North of 49 photography, Chris Pepper Photography, As well throughout the day we will be bringing out some birds that are for just static shots. We will place them in environment type settings to give you the most natural setting pictures possible. This also allows people who are struggling with some flight pictures to take there time and get a proper compositional static photo to make a big canvass of one day.

Everybody I would like you to meet James,James James is our falconer that will be working with us all day. During our selection period for finding a falconer his resume stood out with his many years of experience and extensive devotion to his raptors. Besides providing these photography workshops for us he is very involved in the raptor industry. James owns one of the largest captive breeding projects in the world. He has over 200 captive-bred birds at his facility. He regularly breeds over 15 different species each year. Many are endangered species and some of their offspring are sent back into the wild through organized release projects around the world. All of his birds that he use for our workshops are captive-bred. So on top of working with his breeding project James also is involved in caring for sick and injured birds of prey that have come from wild populations. They work very closely with veterinarians to assess injuries and try, if at all possible, to return the birds back to the wild. He typically takes in over 50 birds per year into his rehab program. Most people would think that sounds like a full time job on it’s own but he still does more. James and his crew use trained Birds of Prey to scare and remove unwanted bird species from a pre-determined place. This is accomplished by relying on the natural predator-prey relationship that exists between raptors and other bird species. This natural bird control method is environmentally friendly in that it does not rely upon killing the pest species; instead it relies on scare tactics, which is more effective as the pest species learns to avoid the given area. This Bird Control Method is applied at landfill sites, airports and industrial sites.

As we wrap up our day together we will go over any questions anybody may still have for myself or James. During this time we can talk briefly on some tips for editing so your new pictures can pop off the computer at you. I also encourage people to contact me if they are having any editing issues as I would be happy to help you. So there you have it this is my behind the scenes of the Raptors in Flight workshop.

It would be great if you could join us for my next May 16th workshop as I still have some spots available for both AM or PM classes.
Half day workshops are 149 plus HST and full day workshops are 249 plus HST

For more information please Email me at chrispepperphotography@gmail.com

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The new Sigma 150-600 Sport Review

Today’s blog is about the new Sigma 150-600 Sport.Sigma-150-600mm-DG-OS-HSM I must admit for the past 4 years now I have switched over some of my lenses to sigma and it has not been a disappointing decision. My first purchase was the sigma 120-400 lens and for me it was all about the cost for focal length. This lens did more then I expected for the price I paid and still to this day wish I had it as a back up for how light of a lens it was. Selling my 120-400 to buy the 120-300 f2.8 sport was another great decision to stay faithful to the sigma line up. This lens continues to blow me away with sharp optics and a fast HSM to keep up with moving subjects. Now before I bought this lens I kept reading reviews before it come to the market about why would you buy a lens that has to come with a docking station to tune your lens. It should be perfect quality right out of the box and never need to be adjusted. So I got to try out the lens for a weekend before I bought it and without docking it I had great out of the box pictures. Over the first month of owning my lens, two firmware updates come out for it I thought oh no now whats wrong with my lens. No nothing was wrong with it, Sigma found through a series of testings different ways to optimize different functions of my lens. With each update my lens kept getting better and better, different Af speeds that I can customize and have a switch on my lens that I can change on the fly. Better sharpness at certain increments through out the whole focal length! Most people don’t realize that zoom lenses tend to have best optical quality from the first 1/4 to the last 3/4 of the lens.sigma docking station Before or after these area’s most lenses tend to be a little soft. Well after a few tweaks on my dock station I have not a worry about any part of the range on my lens. Now this docking station cost me something like 75 dollars? So really was it worth it? Every dam penny I say!! Here is another reason why I like it that steps a little above and beyond.

Most people go to the camera store with big piles of cash bz1125-cashor a never never card ( that’s what my Mom called a credit card :) ) and expect to buy a top of the line lens for their camera and think it’s going to create great pictures. And I will admit for the most part you will get great results, but that camera and lens are not perfectly matched and here is why. I read this once and it made perfect sense as to why you never have a perfect match. Let’s say you are the camera and your vision is not 100 % at birth. lets say if 0 was perfect and you had 98% vision at birth your new score was -5 and then you got bumped around and knocked a few times by your older stronger but not better looking brother. With a few years on the old body now your at a -10 and you decide I need a new set of glasses, so you buy a new lens to put on your body and this lens was made so good that it’s optics were +5 so even better then perfect. You put that lens on your body and holy cow I can see again. The optical quality is amazing!! But in all reality you don’t have a perfect vision because a 0 body and a 0 lens makes 100% optics. I once read that a brand new camera and body can be out of match by approximately 10% right out of the factory. So when you are dealing with a game of inches, centimeters and millimeters to getting the quality you expect for that 1 in a million picture your about to take I would hope your gear is at 100%lens align So basically we can fix this issue in camera with an alignment tool set at a certain distance with a certain aperture to achieve a 100% match with your lens and body. Now there is a big downfall here to having a zoom lens. When you make this adjustment in camera you can only make one adjustment, so for fixed focal lenses or prime lenses ie. 100mm, 200mm, 300mm ect this will be just fine but if you buy a zoom lens you have to make a few attempts at different focal distances and average out your adjustment. Well for me that’s not good enough, I want perfect all the way through. So with the docking station I can adjust my lens to do exactly what I want at different increments through my focal range. Now that skeptical piece of equipment called a docking station just made my day for 75 dollars!!

Now let’s get back on track to the purpose of the blog, the 150-600 Sport. This lens was tested while at a workshop that was put on by Len Silvester and Kevin Pepper(K2) through North of 49 Photography, a great winter experience for photographing snowy owls. First notes of the lens was that the zoom felt a little stiff to me? Well two options come to mind that could effect this and here they are. One the lens come fresh out of the box and I would expect that a new lens would feel a little tight, plus the new water proof seals may of had something to do with it. Second possible reason could be that it was -27 degrees out in the middle of a field shooting snowy owls. Sigma 150-600, sigma 150-600 review, Chris Pepper Photography, snowy owl workshops So is it normally a stiff lens I’m not to sure as I only had 8 hours to use it. Second observation was that the foot or lens mount was a little to small for me to hold with my big hands and gloves on. For people who have normal hands this should not be a problem 😉 To be honest these are the only two complaints I have about this lens, as the rest was a very positive experience. Having this lens to test on a day like that one sure allowed me to put it through the ropes. Like I mentioned it was -27c in the middle of a windy field and this lens trooped thought the whole day with out one hiccup. The Af stayed just as fast from the minute I took it out into the field to when we were done for the day. Testing it at all different apertures between F5.6 and F11 allowed me to track and have a fast enough AF to stop a Snowy owl dead in its flight path.Sigma 150-600, Snowy owl Sigma 150-600, Chris Pepper Photography Another feature I really liked about it was the three different focal limits the lens has. So for people who don’t know what focal limits are I will quickly explain this for you. So for example this lens has a limit of 2.8 meters to 10 meters or 10 meters to infinity or full. Full allows the lens to focus all through the focal distance at any distance, but the advantage to having the other two setting are so the AF system can be super fast when it’s limited. So if your subject is 2.8 – 10 meters away constantly you would want to switch to this feature so the lens could be noticeable faster then on full. Only downfall is if your subject is out of this distance the lens says nope sorry bud I’m gonna relax and wait before that thing comes back into my set focal distance before I can focus again. So the function can suck at times, but for this particular shoot it was awesome! I also flipped around the factory AF speed setting and found the lens had no issues keeping up with the snowys.Sigma 150-600, Snowy Owl Sigma150-600, Photography workshops, Chris Pepper Photogaphy

Final thoughts on this lens sigma 150-600Ok here we go, I thought for the price this lens was valued around a average market value of 2499 It was worth every penny. It provided what I would consider good clear optical quality right out of the box and not adjusted to my camera. If I had the time to dock the sucker and then rip it again I’m sure that would improve as I noticed a big difference with my 120-300 once it was done. The fact that this lens is compatible with a 1.4x teleconverter is incredible with the possible focal distance of 840mm you can achieve with still having your AF at a aperture of F8. I did notice that that creamy bokeh was just not quite there when shooting a subject at a far distance at F6.3 but once the subject was closer to me it seemed to improve. With this lens having a close minimum focal distance it will allow you the best look while shooting subjects close up. Another mention would be some vignetting noticed in my images while processing, this cleared up perfectly once my camera corrections were used in photoshop. All in all this lens is a heavy one, the 150-600 contemporary version is to be the same weight as the Tamron 150-600 but the sport is heavier weighing in at 6.3 pounds. So if you have the arm to hand hold this beast or a tripod to mount it to you will definitely have people looking at you with lens envy. I hope you enjoyed my review on this lens and learned a little bit about calibrating lenses to cameras. My goal is to inform you based on my opinion of what I think about this lens and I would have to say I like it. In my opinion it’s one of the best telephotos compared to the canon 100-400 the nikon 80-400 or the previous sigma 150-500. I think once these lenses are finally released to the public it’s going to be a hot item on the market.

Thanks you reading today’s Blog, I will add a few links at the bottom of the page for your interests. One to Sigma’s page about the 150-600 lens another to a good alignment tool I use, one to BJ photo labs for there price and another link to our snowy owl workshops.

Sigma 150-600 link

lens alignment tool link


Today’s Blog is called RTFM, so if you don’t know what RTFM stands for then pay attention. Read The Fricken Manual or in some cases Fricken can be replace with another word :) So why would I write a Blog called RTFM? Well I have many people that come to my workshops that decide their camera can take pictures for them. Well in a sense a camera can take the picture but you still have to tell it what to do. So today I’m going to tell you what parts of the manual to read and what parts you can skip over. So are you ready???? The first part you can skip over in your manual is …… none of it!! If you don’t know how your camera works how do you expect to use it?

So let’s go over some important part’s of the manual that you should know and these are the very basics for photography. First will be the mode dials so Shutter speed ISO and Aperture these are very important to understand. If you don’t understand how to use them you will never be able to understand the exposure triangle.exposure-triangle If you don’t know what the exposure triangle is that’s a discussion or blog for another day. But these key dials or buttons are very important so please understand how they work.

White balance is a good one to understand as well. Sure you can shoot in Auto white balance and expect that you can adjust it later in photoshop or lightroom. But you should still make an attempt to adjust it before you shoot as it will bring the tones of the proper colours.white_balance_symbols Or another one to know is how to manually set your white balance with a grey or white card this will ensure your colour balance will be correct under different lights.

Metering seems to be a big one people struggle with, even people who shoot for a long time.index Understanding what metering mode is the right one for you to use in a particular scene can be the difference of coming home with a picture that’s a keeper or one that’s no good because its under or over exposed.

Camera_tips_AF_mode.94_set3AF modes are a very important piece of the puzzle that people struggle with. Each brand of camera has a different name for the AF modes so understand what one is the best for your situation, weather it’s a moving subject or a stationary subject these modes will be different.

AF points are something that people always have trouble with, using the proper amount of AF points can make a big difference between shooting landscape and shooting a fast moving bird in flight.

I really can’t stress enough about how important it is to know your camera and how it works. There are so many hidden tools in your camera to help you in your journey to photography. For example most cameras have a histogram to allow you to view how much your exposure is under or over exposed.histogram_en Or a virtual horizon tool to help make sure your camera is almost level when you take your picture. Or a live view grid to make sure you have a scene set up in proper composition. Take a look in your menus for all these hidden functions to help Aid in your photography.

So I hope after reading this Blog nobody looks at you and says RTFM! Cause the difference between a ok photographer and a good photographer is one that knows every little function and how it works. The rest of it all comes with experience in the field so don’t get to perplexed.