Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Joy of Wildlife Photography

The Joy of Wildlife (Bird) Photography
March 17, 2020

During the past few years, I have added to my photographic experience bird photography.  I love birds whether they are stationary or in flight.  I particularly get my greatest thrill out of photographing birds in flight (BIF).

To accomplish this I now own a Nikon D500 along with the Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 lens.  As a retire photographer and non-professional on a tight budget, this camera and the lens help to accomplish a lot of what far more expensive cameras and lenses can achieve.  A big, heavy, fast f2.8 or f4 lens is outside my price range, but in decent light and even less the perfect light, the 200-500mm f5.6 performs quite well for this hobbyist.

It takes a lot of continual practice going to places where birds can be seen.  This effort includes going to nature centers, bird sanctuaries, wildlife refuges, zoos, back yards, as well as being on the look out in most any place where birds may be like a local pond or open field. 

To practice, it requires getting familiar with your camera and how to set it up to achieve the best success.  In my case (everyone's camera will have similar controls, but with some different terms, locations and quality specific to their make and model) it requires learning the camera, how to hold the camera and the big lens, as well as learning how to use a tripod and gimbal.  Become so familiar with the controls that you can find and use them quickly. 

In either case, practicing requires that the camera Shutter Release mode be set to Continuous High speed (CH), Auto Focus to AF-C, and Dynamic Area of Auto  Focus be selected depending on size and distance of the birds.  That means fewer focus points are required for larger and closer birds while, smaller and more distance birds will require more focus points.  Meter based on angle of light.  Spot metering will usually be most effective so that exposure is based on the bird and not the surrounding area. 

If hand holding, have Vibration Reduction (VR) turned on and if a tripod and gimbal are used turn of VR.  Maintain Shutter Speed above 1/1000s or higher.  For most birds in flight, I opt to usually lock my camera's minimum shutter speed to 1/1600s in order to ensure a sharp capture and manage Aperture pretty wide open between f/5.6 and f/8 depending on the light and relationships to the background.  I seek the lowest ISO possible, but elect by locking the shutter speed to set the ISO to Automatic and let the camera determine the lowest possible ISO dependent on Aperture selected with the shutter speed.  I almost always shoot Aperture Priority.

I shoot exclusively in RAW and use Auto White Balance so that I can edit my bird images based on the Exposure results. I use Lightroom and Photoshop to adjust for highlights and shadows, color and tonal variations, clarity, sharpness and noise that can occur in changing light and environmental condition.

Practice, Practice and Practice!  Here are few of my image that I am delight in:

I hope you enjoy this blog offering about my love of bird photography.

John D. Roach
March 17, 2020

Monday, February 27, 2017

Interview at New York Institute of Photography
and Update on what I have been doing
February 27, 2016

Several years ago I graduated from New York Institute of Photography.  I recommend this photography school. Recently I was asked by Michelle Echer of the School, as a former student, to comment about my life in photography. I am honored to be included among the School's Success Stories. Here is the article found at nyip.edu in their Success Stories among various Photography articles:


During 2016, I have done a variety of images while visiting Portugal (see my last blog post as well as more experiments in Infrared Photography and my trips to the Upper Peninsula Michigan and out west to the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Badlands and areas in between....here are few image & links.

Big Horn Sheep in Yellowstone (Monochrome)

Mysteries of the Dark Lagoon (Faux Color Infrared)

Grand Tetons in Fall

The Badlands (Infrared Monochrome)

Mackinac Bridge

Tehquamenon Falls

Sunset - North of Aruba

More can be seen at my website,  Fine Art America and Hotshoe:




Copywrite 2016
John D. Roach

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Portugal -- May 2016 Trip

Three highlights of the our recent trip to Portugal were our visits to Fatima, Alcobaca and Coimbra.

While our trip started in Lisbon where we spent several days exploring the city and ended in Porto and Duro Valley wine country, the visits we made to Fatima, Alcobaca and Coimbra were particularly special.  Here is why along with some images....

Fatima, Portugal -  

Our Lady of Fatima is the Roman Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary based on appears or apparitions that are said to have occurred starting May 13, 1917 by three shepherd children at the small village o Fatima, Portugal. The three children were Lucia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco.
Pope Pius XII approved to the veneration of the image enshrined at the Chapel on 13 May 1946. The reported apparitions at Fátima were officially declared worthy of belief by the Catholic Church, which commemorates the event on the same date. The events at Fátima gained fame due partly to elements of the secrets, prophecy and revelations about the end of times, particularly with regard to the World War Two and global wars in the future. Chief among these is also the alleged urgent need for the Consecration of Russian to the Blessed Virgin.  Throughout the year this is pilgrimage site for Roman Catholics around the world and especially for the Portuguese who often travel hundreds of mile on foot to visit the Basilica that now exists in Fatima.  Indeed, on our visit on May 13, 2016, we witnessed tens of thousands visitors within the Basilica which is larger than St. Peters in Rome commemorate the 99th anniversary of that first apparition.  It is even purported that the shooting of Pope Paul II was foretold in the apparitions that occurred later.

There were perhaps 2 to 3 time number of folks behind me

The Interior Chapel in the Basilica

Pilgrims coming in the rain

Outdoor Altar and Ceremonial Stage

Pilgrims of all ages and nationalities

After the events of the morning a break for lunch

Alcobaca, Portugal --

The Alcobaça Monastery is one of the first foundations of the Cistercian Order in Portugal. It was founded in 1153 as a gift to Bernard of Clairvaux, shortly before his death, from the first Portuguese King, Alfonso Henriques, to commemorate his victory over the Moors at Santarem in March 1147. The foundation of the monastery was part of the strategy by Afonso Henriques to consolidate his authority in the new kingdom and promote the colonisation of areas recently taken from Moors hands during re-conquest of Spain and Portugal.
The building of the monastery began in 1178, some 25 years after the arrival of the Cistercian monks in this region of Portugal. Initially, the monks lived in wooden houses, and only moved to the new stone monastery buildings in 1223. The church was completed in 1252. The finished church and monastery were the first truly Gothic buildings in Portugal, and the church was the largest in Portugal. Its cloister was completed in the late 13th century.
The monks lived in silence and spent their lives in religious meditation and creating manuscripts that kept the Catholic Religion alive in Portugal. The monks from the monastery produced an early history of Portugal in the books they wrote. The Library in Alcobaça was one of the largest Portuguese mediaeval libraries, but was pillaged by the invading French in 1810, and many items were stolen in an anti-clerical riot in 1834, when the religious orders in Portugal were dissolved. Later, the property was turned over to the state and then eventually back to the local church.  The remnants of the monastery library, including hundreds of mediaeval manuscripts, are kept today in the National Library in Lisbon.  However, here we can see much of how the monks lived and worked for centuries.

A beautiful day at the Monastery

The Entrance to the Monastery and Church

The Interior of the Church

Gothic Architecture Revealed

One of the Interior walking areas

In the church there are sculptured tombs and one can learn the tragic story of Ines de Castro and King Pedro I from the 14th century.  Ines and Pedro were lovers and the Pedro's father King Afonso disapproved of the relationship.

Tomb of Ines

Detail on King Pedro's Tomb

Coimbra Portugal --

Coimbra is a city in Portugal with a population of around 140,000 people.  This city dates back to Roman times and one of the most pictureques cities in Portugal.  It is the 4th largest city in Portugal.
There are many archaeological structures dating back to the roman era,  Coimbra was the settlement of Amennium.  It has a well aqueduct system. For a time Coimbra was the Capital of Portugal with many of its buildings still existing from that period from the period when Coimbra was the capital of Portugal between 1131 and 1255. During the late middle ages, with its decline as the political center of Portugal which moves to Lisbon, Coimbra began to evolve into a more of a key cultural centre. This was in large part helped by the establishment the University of Coimbra in 1290, the oldest academic institution in the in the Portuguese world and one of the oldest in Europe. The University, then and now, attracts many European and international students.   The university as well as Coimbra is visited by many tourists to see the many monuments and experience its history. Its historical buildings are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  When that occurred, UNESCO stated that "Coimbra offers an outstanding example of an integrated university city with a specific urban typology as well as its own ceremonial and cultural traditions that have been kept alive through the ages."

One of Coimbra's main streets

Part of the Old University of Coimbra

View of Coimbra from University Hill

One of the walls that date back to Roman times

King Joao III who permanently set the University in Coimbra

Coimbra is a marvelous example of Medieval Europe with steep winding streets and a mix of old and new architecture.  The University sits above the city on a hill which runs along a major river.

Next up some images of Lisbon

June 29, 2016

by John D. Roach

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Image Making Post Processing with Topaz Impressions

By John D. Roach

During the past few months, I have been experimenting with more and more post processing techniques.  One of those techniques involves the use of Topaz Impression a software created by Topaz Labs that offers photographers the opportunity to create images that go beyond the usual camera capture and tonal renderings achieved within the camera or in more traditional post processing techniques.  

Topaz Impressions gives the photographer an opportunity to make painterly images with a set of adjustable presets that can make an image look like a pencil sketch, water color, pastel or a variation of a famous master such as Cezanne, Turner, Hopper, O'Keefe, Degas, and many more.   Sometimes I see an opportunity to create a "new" and creative look from an image I have previously created as a quite good traditional photograph.  Additionally, I have also found Topaz a useful post processing tool to occasionally create an alternative image for an image that had rather lackluster exposure or tonality into a photographic work of art.

Here are some examples:

Afternoon at the Lagoon (Original Infrared Image)

Afternoon at the Lagoon (in the Style of Van Gogh)

Chicago (HDR)

Chicago (Pencil Sketch)

Chicago (Original Exposure)

Chicago (Watercolor)

Hyacinth and Lily (Original)

Hyacinth and Lily (Watercolor)

Driftwood (Original)

Diftwood (Pastel)

There are option!  It is fun to discover possibilities and create something new.  So grab your camera, capture some images and then take a look at software options to create your digital dark room!

Copyright August, 2015

John D. Roach