December 11th, 2013

Colorful Beauty

Common Kingfisher

Last weekend I went out to shoot at a bird-sanctuary near Zürich. Anette Mossbacher from BPN accompanied me.
Star of the afternoon was the Common Kingfisher. We sat in a hide, overlooking a part of the lake. Most of the lake was frozen and the kingfisher was mostly hovering around an open patch in the ice. Now and then the kingfisher crossed to the other part of the lake and twice she positioned herself on a reed-stem in gorgeous afternoon light. Even with the 600mm lens with a 2x converter it was still quite a distance.

October 13th, 2013

Save the Rhino Petition at Avaaz.org


white-rhino-family_jock50d_26-09-2009_img_8405

Save the Rhino

John Varty, filmmaker and owner of Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa, wrote an open letter to Cyril Ramaphosa, now Vice President of the ANC in South Africa. John basically wants these poachers, mainly form Mozambique, be treated as invaders.

The whole issue with Rhino horn is that the horn is made of keratin, the same material as our finger nails. If keratin has medicinal value (it hasn’t), biting your nails will have the same effect. Leave these animals alone !

Please join the efforts to stop this slaughter. As we speak, nearly 800 Rhino have been killed this year alone. Goto the link below and sign the petition. Avaaz has a good record of creating awareness on political levels with encouraging results.

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Stop_Rhino_Poaching_in_South_Africa_1

Below is the actual letter that John Varty sent to the South African government:

Dear Sir,

Having recently personally purchased for R18 million a buffalo bull, I know you are someone who cares about our wildlife and heritage.

My problem is this, in September 2011, I implored the President, Jacob Zuma to treat the invasion of Mozambicans who are killing our rhino as an invasion of our country.

I feel the President, like President Ian Khama of Botswana, should be at the forefront of this rhino crisis.

As from my attached letter, you will see that the war is intensifying into the private game reserves. In desperation, I have written a letter to the Minister of Defense, but I have had no response.

I find the ANC Government aloof and non-communicative with its citizens.

Can you urge the Minister of Defense to commit troops to crush this poaching once and for all.

Could you as Vice President of ANC, take this crisis into your own hands and play the role that President Ian Khama is playing. This involves appearing on TV, motivating and inspiring us who are trying to combat the poaching. We desperately need leadership!

The fire that you displayed when you were leading the unions against the big mining companies during apartheid, is needed now!

Please reply to jv@jvbigcats.co.za
Cell number: 083 6511 600

Tread Lightly on the Earth
John Varty
Co-owner of Londolozi Game Reserve
Founder of Tiger Canyons

This letter is copied to the following:
1) President of South Africa – Jacob Zuma – president@po.gov.za
2) Min Defence and Military Veterans – Ms Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula – siphiwe.dlamini@dod.mil.za
3) Min Justice and Constitutional Development – Mr Jeff Radebe – Mediaenquiries@justice.gov.za
4) Min Police – Nathi Mthethwa – zwelim@saps.org.za
5) Min Tourism – Marthinus van Schalkwyk – mbloem@tourism.gov.za
6) Min Water and Environmental Affairs – Edna Molewa amodise@environment.gov.za
7) Premier Mpumalanga – Mr David Dabede Mabuza premier@prem.mpu.gov.za
8) Premier Eastern Cape – Ms Noxolo Kiviet – nolwando.stofile@otp.ecprov.gov.za
9) Leader DA – Helen Zille leader@da.org.za
10) Cyril Ramaphosa – vice president ANC – sngubane@anc.org.za

August 12th, 2013

Macro Day

Rösti Rasp Reflection in Olive Oil

Yesterday we went to a macro workshop, organised by Markus Bissig. Markus is a gifted photographer and he also has a passion for cooking. Spending a lot of time in the kitchen, he ‘saw’ how simple objects could be used as great subjects for photography: in a macro kind of way. He uses an industrial studio in Uster, where some well-known kitchen tools are collected to be used in this great workshop. He, as he says it, has a fetish for the Rösti Rasp. With light, composition and a macro lens you can come to some surprising results. My favorite of yesterday was a setup whereby I positioned some olive oil drops on a mirror and reflected a red-lit rasp above the mirror. The images are somehow a bit abstract but there is a lot of fun involved making these kind of images. The result is shown above. More of the kitchen-macro images can be found here…

July 29th, 2013

Fract Mills

Fractalius Mills of Kinderdijk

This weekend I have been playing with the new fractalius plugin for Photoshop-Elements. I have been experimenting a lot with birds and with buildings and this one came out quite well. Perhaps I find some setting that might even work for people, although revealing the eyes on humans is looking a bit weird :).

This image from the Kinderdijk windmills was created during our Netherlands tulip tour.
The original image is displayed below.

Early morning Kinderdijk
July 27th, 2013

Patience

Fractalius Swan

After much debate, I finally decided to take the route I should have gone long ago: get a fractalius plugin. But since I am a MAC user, this plugin is not available for a MAC installed copy of Photoshop. What I do have is a VMWare installed copy of Windows XP, where I occasionally use Breeze Browser to get some additional information from an image.
Today I purchased a copy of Photoshop Elements V11 and a license for the Fractalius plugin.
There has been much debate on the net as to why the developer of Fractalius does not release a copy of this plugin for the MAC community. However, I can relate the motivation(s) not to.

The above image is rendered with a glow100 filter, from the image below.
In an additional layer mask I revealed the eye and the bill from the below layer.
Shoot me an email if you have questions about the installation of VMWare, PS Elements or Fractalius on your MAC.

NB:

  • a license for VMWare for MAC is €50
  • a license for PS Elements V11 for Windows is €100
  • a license for Fractalius is $40
June 13th, 2013

Flamingoes of the Camargue

On our way to Spain, we made a stopover in the Camargue, at the Rhone Delta west of Marseille.
The images below are from two afternoon sessions. Click on a thumbnail to get a larger version of the image.

December 5th, 2012

I Wish

Normally I glance over advertisements, but tonight Triodos Bank grabbed my attention with a TV commercial. A simple question: “what do you want to change ?”. A simple question. And I yelled: “I wish that rhino-horn becomes worthless”. The commercial appealed to go to their website and express your wish. I did and it was posted. I have no ties to this bank, but I was moved by their question and motivated to wish and do something.

Asian medicine is still convinced that rhino horn powder cures a wide variety of diseases and today their horn is valued more than gold. The animals are slaughtered in the African bush at an alarming rate. In South Africa alone, the number of animals wasted this year is somewhere near 600. To cure what ?

I wish that future generations can still watch this:

White Rhino, photographed in 2008 in Kruger National Park, South Africa
August 30th, 2011

Give and Take: tale of a leaf

Galapagos: tale of a leaf

On the morning of 7 July we had a panga ride through a mangrove forest. The atmosphere was magical. In the background the sound of the sea and in the channel system a serene peace.

When peddling through the channels, you can sort of imagine how buccaneers and pirates went through these channels some hundred years ago. A number of animal species also use the peace of the mangrove-forest for security and for regaining strength: turtles, rays and numerous species of fish were spotted.

Our knowledgeable guide Juan pointed us to a particular feature of the mangrove trees: since they are completely submerged in the seawater they are designed and forced to deal with the salt water. The tree evolved to have a very efficient filter to get rid of the salt, as salt is not contributing to the growth of the tree: the mangrove tree is able to filter 99% of the salt out of the seawater.

The last percent needs to be dealt with too and the tree does this by sacrificing one leaf of each cluster of four. So what you’ll see is a green tree with lots of yellow leaves: the tree accumulates the salt from the filtered seawater in one leaf and will discard this leaf. The leaf will drop to the water, sinks to the bottom, ferments and rots away to then provide the necessary minerals for next generations of trees or other plants of the forest.

The image above portrayed this cycle of life quite nicely: the dying leaf, hanging above the water is about to be handed over to the sea, containing the last bits of salt, showing this remarkable relationship between tree and sea.

March 25th, 2011

Creative Photography with Pelicans

The whole week in Greece the weather was the only disappointment. It was cold and the light was subdued: although photographing in overcast is not always bad, certainly in midday hours. Whilst I was photographing with my new and amazing zoom lens (the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L) I started playing with some other lighting technique: using flash as main light. Ambient light was bad but I set my camera to receive even less, going to a setting of EV-2. If I would take an image with this setting without flash, the image would practically turn black.

These two Dalmatian Pelicans were photographed with my new Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens at 105mm, mounted on my favorite Canon EOS 1D Mark IV: camera set at 1/200 @ f7.1 and ISO50, using a metering compensation of EV-2. On top, the Canon Speedlite 580EX II set at 0.

We used fish from the local fishermen to attract the pelicans and getting them close was not difficult. In fact, once close, they would put up quite a fight right in front of us. The image below was created by hand holding the camera just over the water’s edge.

This image was created using the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens at 28mm with the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV and the Canon Speedlite 580EX II set at 0.
Like the image above, the camera settings were 1/200 @ f/7.1 and ISO50, metering compensation set at EV-2.

Finally, when using a deliberate low shutter speed, somewhere in the range from 1/4 to 1/10 of a second, one can always try and create images with movement blurs.

As soon as a fish was thrown in the middle of a waiting group of pelicans, all of them would try and catch the fish, by jumping up high. This image was created with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens and the Canon 1.4x EF Extender II at 280mm. The exposure was set at 1/10s @ f/13 and ISO50.
Find more images from the Greece IPT here.
March 22nd, 2011

My Cold Greek Week

When preparing for the photographic tour with Arthur Morris and Robert O’Toole to Greece I was sort of anticipating for a bit more warmth: where I live in Switzerland the fields were still covered in snow since end of November so I hoped for a break. How wrong I was and I didn’t pack the right clothes. It was freezing and I was freezing in Greece. Daily temperatures were hardly ever getting over 5 degrees. How these Dalmatian Pelicans managed the cold was actually a mystery to me as they are more or less a subtropic species. The pelicans find a good winter home on Lake Kerkini because they are supported by local fishermen: whatever they cannot sell on local markets is tossed to them. This has been practiced ever since Lake Kerkini was created by men in the 1930’s: a dam was built to stow water for local agricultural irrigation.

This pelican was photographed with my new Canon 70-200mm II lens at 75mm. The pelicans were following the boat as we returned to shore and tossed fish to them.

A small island in the middle of the lake was used by the birds to rest and preen. As long as we approached the island carefully, the birds would stay and let us get some very close images.

Goto the Greece photo gallery here to see more images of my stay in Greece