Category Archives: equipment review

The Pink Meanie of Panama


Like all photographers, I love my toys. And like most of you, I too have a couple gopro cameras that I tote around with me to play with. While on a recent trip to Panama, I hooked up my new Knekt 6″ dome housing to my gopro and attached the whole thing on a scuba diving selfie stick. The dome port allows me to push the waterline away from the lens of the GoPro camera and photograph split level, or over / under, photos. We were out on a boat up in the mangroves photographing sloths, when we spotted this massive pine meanie jelly fish. Dangling over the side of the boat, I was able to reach out with the selfie stick (which I brought along for this very reason) and capture this shot with my GoPro.

You can check out the dome port I used here:

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Fishing Bears with the Nikon D5


There is definitely something exhilarating about watching a 400lb sow brown bear come charging straight at you through the water. Of course, that feeling would be a little different if it wasn’t for the fact that you were confident she was intent on the salmon fighting their way up through the shallow delta at low tide. I think the feeling otherwise would be more like the realization you need new underwear.

With Nikon’s release of their new D5, I uncharacteristically jumped on board pretty quick. Normally I wait things out a while. Give it a year for bugs to be worked out and ghosts to be exercised from the machine. But the litany of upgrades that the D5 brought over my D4 was just too much for me to pass up. So far I have loved this camera. But to be honest, I really haven’t put it use in high ISO situations. That is, until I landed on the beach along Cook Inlet Alaska in a little Cessna.

This photograph was shot before sunrise at ISO 5000 in order to bring my shutter up to 1/1000. High shutter speeds are necessary for this sort of action and when there is so little light like this, there is only one way to achieve a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second.

Overall I am quite pleased with the noise of this camera at such high ISO. I realize that Nikon marketed this thing as having insanely high ISO capabilities. But really though, who the hell is going to shoot at a million ISO? What I wanted to see was solid usable results from the 4000 – 10,000 range. And so far, this camera has delivered!

Also posted in Wildlife Photography

Westcott Apollo micro Softbox review


I recently spent 10 days down in Panama bouncing around the islands of the Bocas del Toro area chasing poison dart frogs. If you have ever seen a poison frog then you know they are small – like really small. There are a few species that are a bit larger, but the particular species that I was chasing after, the strawberry poison frog (Oophaga pumilio), are extremely small. Photographing frogs is always going to be the realm of macro, but these guys are really going to test your reserve!

Photographing macro subjects in the tropics means that you will be using flash – like it or not. The light is just way too low in 99% of the sscenariosthat you are going to find subjects. With multilayered canopies towering upwards of 100 feet overhead, a bright overcast day is reduced to the equivalence of candle light inside of the rainforest. Flash is what is going to allow you to photograph in these conditions, period. But the problem with flash in close quarters, especially when everything is wet and shiny like it is in these tropical forests, is that the light from our flash bounces and sparkles off of everything give our compositions a decidedly “flashed” look. Photographing birds at 50 feet away, using a touch of fill flash is not going to be a problem. But shiny subjects like frogs on the other hand can really cause some problems for you.

In order to overcome these issues we need to diffuse the light. Diffusing the light means that we scatter the light around instead of concentrating it. By scattering it, we are not only eliminating a lot of the contrast of a scene (both good and bad depending upon what you are going for) but we are also reducing the intensity of the flash enough to eliminate the sheen of these frogs. You flash probably comes with some sort of drop down diffuser. Many even come with a little plastic cap that you can stick over the flash to cut light even more. However, if you really want to be able to control the light in your macro photography then you need to move in the the realm of softboxes.

I have used a variety of different softboxes over the years – both really big ones for commercial shoots as well as little tiny ones for macro work. The rainforest is no place for a full sized softbox you would see on a portrait shoot. But it is perfect for something like the Westcott Apollo micro softbox. Measuring just 5 x 8 inches, this thing is the ideal size for in the field macro work.

Basically the micro softbox attaches over your speed light (flash) via a couple of strips of velcro that come supplied with the softbox. If you a shooting in TTL then you can just adjust and shoot as normal. If you are shooting manual this is going to reduce your flash output by about 1 stop.

The results are phenomenal. These softboxes are without a doubt the best I have ever used. Westcott is a top of the line company trusted by professionals throughout all walks of photography – not just macro work. The build and construction is second to none, and the whole things folds flat so I can slip it just about anywhere in my photo backpack while trekking through some pretty gnarly terrain or bouncing between islands by boat. If one of these can hold up to the abuse that I put it through when in the tropics, then they will endure just about anything.

The price is more than reasonable coming it at right around $30 usd.

Below are a few photos that I made in Panama while use this micro softbox.

poisonfrog9 poisonfrog8 poisonfrog6 poisonfrog4 poisonfrog3


Also posted in Technical Skills, Travel, Wildlife Photography

Nikon D610 Review – Part II


After spending just over a month of shooting with this camera body in Yellowstone for the winter I can honestly say that I am impressed with certain aspects of this little camera. First and foremost I think that if you are at all considering the Nikon D7100 you should take a look at this camera instead.
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Also posted in Uncategorized, Wildlife Photography

Nikon D610 report – Part 1

As many already know I rented a Nikon D610 to bring along with me to test out in the climate extremes of winter in Yellowstone. If you want to test a piece of equipment for its ability to handle weather and for how well it is sealed, there is no better place in the continental US than right here! Blinding snow showers, howling winds, temps that dropped to minus 30… Yep, this place will push your equipment to the limit.
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Also posted in Technical Skills