More Fresh Moose

Photograph of a mooseOne year old Shiras Bull Moose – Red Feather Lakes, CO

Memorial Day weekend and I am enjoying the excellent Spring weather here in Northern Colorado. The typical pattern is clear blue skies in the morning and scattered clouds in the afternoon. If it isn’t raining non-stop. Fortunately, here in Red Feathers we are not suffering from the mild to moderate drought the rest of the state is experiencing. And that means the forest fire situation up here shouldn’t be a major issue, but all it takes is one dumb camper to change that.

A moose calf is technically a baby moose who is still under the supervision of its mother. The Cow moose will keep the calve(s) with them until they birth a new calf. Sometimes yearly, sometimes not. Once a cow births a new calf, the older one is chased off to fend for his/her self.

This calf has just been cut loose by its mother. As moose go, this little guy isn’t very large. Another clue of its youth is the presence of buttons for antlers. More mature bulls will have more growth this time of year.

Still, he’s doing pretty good. He looks healthy and knows where to browse for food. With other bulls in the area, he’ll get his moose training on the job, just like all the others. If he can survive on his own for a year or two, he’ll be fine.

The weekend crowd is out in force today. Campers, hikers, weekenders are all gathered in and around the village to kick off summer in the high country. I tend to not try working on these holiday weekends or any weekend for that matter. I’ll be back out amongst the green trees and mountain lakes once the hub-bub has subsided.

Enjoy your weekend and please, be safe and happy.

The Consumerization of Photography

The best photographs tell a story.

I’ve been working with digital imaging since the early 1980’s. Before digital photography began, newspapers and magazines were the pioneers in the move away from analog (film.) The advancement of radio transmission opened new doors for newspapers. Microwave radio and satellite communications were at the leading edge of this move to new imaging techniques. Newspapers that wished to publish nation wide or world wide found that it was cheaper to transmit their images via radio frequency than it was to produce mass quantities of film and fly or truck that film to their printing operations.

During the early days of digital imaging, there was no mass consumer attraction to gigabytes and megapixels. Photography for the average Joe out there was either amateurs who found the combination of art and technical enticing, a dedicated art form practiced in niches and commercial advertising work or photojournalism for promoting products. By the late 1990’s, digital cameras began appearing on the market as mass produced consumer products and with that came the proliferation of the Internet photography related web sites.

Here we are now in 2018 and photography has moved into the future. Film is still used in many commercial settings but digital image files are the predominant product format. The technology that was in use at the start of digital imaging still exists, but commercial use of satellite and the older microwave links has morphed to the internet over TCP-IP high speed data links. It’s still a matter of costs for those producing photography filled product.

As the Internet grew in popularity, so did the number of websites devoted to the new technology. Today the primary medium for displaying photography is the computer and most of the photographs we see are on the internet. Photography as become a major consumer market and the art aspect has been drowned in a sea of mediocre photographs of common popular scenes and subjects and post processing techniques.

The other side of the coin is the morphing of Internet websites devoted to consumer reviews of equipment and accessories, splattered with fun filled experts cavorting around waving their expensive equipment at us to convince us they are somehow important to the art and article.

So what’s wrong with that? Nothing, if that’s what the masses want to see and what today’s photographer wants to get from their photography. Sharing the experience. It all really boils down to drawing the attention of consumers to sell something.

Where this approach is lacking, in my opinion, is that everything has morphed into consumerism and the attainment of new toys. Consumerism in photography has driven the serious photographers away. It’s driven the story tellers to find something different.

Photography as always been a magnet for the technically inclined. That’s how I got in to the business. I was an engineer and learning the technical aspects of digital imaging was paramount to my doing my job. Cameras and lenses and darkroom equipment were the tools of the craft and have always been attractive to the technical hobbyist.

Now that our thinking has been embedded into the internet photography age, consumerism has taken over. The days of the paying gig are becoming farther and fewer between. So much so, the running joke is “what’s the difference between a photographer and a large pizza? A large pizza can feed a family of four.” There is more truth to that joke than you may imagine.

Newspapers, once a staple profession for photographers, are cutting or have cut their photography staff to the bone. Some have eliminated photojournalists from their ranks completely, preferring to simply have their journalists use their iPhone camera. Television news is a wasteland for professional photographers. Everything is crowd sourced now. Turn on the local news and you’ll see lots of mediocre photographs sent in from viewers substituting for what the photojournalist used to do.

Where does this leave someone who wants to pursue photography as a profession? Disappointment I’m afraid is the most likely destination. It goes back to the old theory of supply and demand. When the supply of photographers goes up, the demand goes down for any one individual photographer. The market is booming for photographic equipment, but the market for good photographs is decreasing. The most skilled photographers have to compete with everyone who owns a camera. The potential client is going to think economics for their wedding or event or art and look for the best bang for the buck. Talented amateurs can compete with professionals by giving their work away. A professional has to charge for their service. The amateur working for free can always find a welcome clientele when the product is given for free. When I hear of a photographer working for “exposure” it’s all I can do to not break out laughing. Getting a lot of “likes” on Facebook isn’t really going to earn you much money. That exposure is roughly the equivalent of being a plastic bottle floating around in a large blob of plastic debris in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. For a working professional, finding a source of income in photography is becoming more and more problematic.

Serious photographers have taken to the Internet to promote themselves. I’ve been doing this for years myself. I’ve written technical and interest stories and published them. Some have been widely successful, other articles have not fared so well.  I have enough material for a couple of books. But who needs another book saying the same thing that’s been said again and again?

The meaningful content hasn’t much changed, just the person writing about it. Today’s Internet photography website has drifted away from the art form and towards consumerism to make money. Photographers looking for income on the Internet have consumerized their websites with advertisements for the consumer photography industry to the point that they really don’t have much of interest to say about the art, it’s more about buying your next camera or lens from their link so they can get a cut of the sale.

Many a photographer has had to change their business model to find a vein of income and that reality has changed the content character of photography related websites. Dwindling are the days of informative articles on technique and subject. Instead, consumerism has taken over as the driving force.

The staple websites on the Internet now feel more like sub-contractors for gear sales. In a manner similar to the heyday of audiophile, appreciation of photography as an art form isn’t what it’s about now. It’s about megapixels, dynamic range, lens sharpness, sensor technology, glazed over technical facts that substitute for information devoted to the creation of compelling art and how to market that art, in much the same way that music reproduction became a consumer study in total harmonic distortion, wow and flutter, noise reduction and high fidelity. People were convinced to spend thousands of dollars on obtaining the ultimate in audio reproduction quality. Never mind the art, it’s about the equipment and selling it. Today’s audiophile is now stuck with digitized mp3 or low quality audio streaming on equipment that has the technical performance of an abandoned car. I would even argue that the quality of music as an art form has suffered as a result of technical burnout. The industry arced and cheap plastic junk is now used to reproduce the same music that the consumer wants to hear over and over again. The innovation peaked and the interest waned until the consumer aspect became what it was all about.

The photography related situation on the internet has almost become comical. I’ll give you a few examples. Now, I don’t know these people and I’m sure they are just trying to make a buck like everyone else, but consider the thought.

Over the years, one of my favorite “online” photography website hosts was Thom Hogan. His primary fixation, was for a long time confined primarily to  Nikon users. Okay, great. If you wanted to know about Nikon gear, he was and still is an expert. As a photographer, he’s above average, but as a source of information concerning photography as it related to Nikon equipment he was informative and accurate. But what happened to Thom? For the past few years he seems to be mailing it in. He’s gone off into the world of camera manufacturing economics and business commentary. I used to work for The Wall Street Journal, so I understand business news and the people targeted by that content. For the last few years, he’s had to change his business model to find better ways to make money. It’s been a subtle change, keeping the same general look and feel but his content is now focused on financial reports and speculations on how one camera manufacturer is competing in a market. He’s broadened his scope to increase his content, now including business speculations on Canon, Sony and other camera brands. What he’s not writing about to any great extent is photography. It’s mostly writing to support marketing and consumerism. Sorry Thom, but that’s my view of the road. I’ve yet to find anything useful in understanding Nikon or Canon’s quarterly results when I’m in the field looking for moose. The man needs to write, that much is certain, but what’s the point? Is this his path or his destination?

Another well known Internet expert is Ken Rockwell. He may be the king of marketing camera equipment, but his published technical and art related subject matter is now hard to find in his current string of published articles. His technical reviews have fallen into a cookie cutter approach, using what looks like form letter reviews where a few facts and images are inserted into some kind of default review article. His articles now are little more than sales pitches and raving about things he’d like you to buy from a link on his website. As a source of knowledge, he looks like he’s “jumped the shark” from my view of the road.

We have the bigger, heavily consumerized websites too. DPReview being the elephant in the room. What began as a nice informational website has now become a marketing blitz and the content is now focused on consumerism. They’ve attempted to keep up with the technical and gear issues, which has a place, but it all feels like they are pointing you towards a purchase. This to me is the reincarnation of consumer audiophile world based on technical specifications of the gear with a spattering of “look at me” stories from their staff and around the web. When you dig deeper, what you’ll find is a very limited set of actual technical reports and reviews on lenses and cameras that seldom identify functional flaws or problems. Heck, they didn’t even publish an in depth review of the Nikon D810 until shortly before the camera was replaced by the Nikon D850. I’m sorry, but technical reviews of obsolete equipment that are aimed at consumers are not that interesting to me.

There are examples of websites that seem to have stuck to their original theme of presenting interesting and informative information on the art of photography. The Luminous Landscape comes to mind and there are still many others. Founded by the now deceased Michael Reichman, his colleagues have continued to present photography articles that are strongly related to the art of photography. They too have to make a buck, so you’ll find advertisements there as well, but they’ve never come across as trying to talk you into making your next purchase based on a veiled product placement in content designed for the consumer. If you want the good stuff though, you’ll have to pay a modest subscription fee. That’s okay, they need to cover their costs. But it’s not obnoxious and doesn’t come across as perfunctory like many of the big sites do.

As for me, I’m content with keeping my photography web sites about photography as it relates to my world. I share my experiences, I share my photos and I’ve found a way to make money doing it without selling out to Amazon or B&H Photo. I don’t have the following that the large consumer websites enjoy and I don’t have to feel like a car salesman when I post something. I’m quite happy telling a story. It doesn’t matter who is listening so long as someone does.

Your mileage may vary.

Wapiti Wednesday

wildlife photography
Bull Elk – Colorado Rocky Mountains

Wapiti is a Native American word for elk.

This photo was taken in Rocky Mountain National Park.

During the annual Autumn rut, elk become infused with hormones and will do a lot of strange things to impress a girl. I found this guy next to a small tree honing his antlers on the trunk and he took his sweet time doing it.

Stop And Smell The Roses

Colorado Landscape Photographer
Livermore, Colorado

As we approach the opening of moose photography season here in Colorado, the weather has been a mixed bag as usual.

The saying is “Springtime in the Rockies”, which is commonly used to describe the drastic changes in weather patterns. It’s not uncommon to have Summer weather one day and four inches of snow the next. And that’s what’s been happening this year.

I’ll probably be offline for a few days as we make our annual trek to Red Feather Lakes to get our cabin opened for the season.

This photo was taken a couple of Summers ago. I’ve begun to explore my own backyard for landscape scenes that I’ve previously taken for granted. When one drives through an area often enough, it’s easy to forget to see things. I drive by scenes like this all the time in Northern Colorado, so now, this year, I intend to stop and smell the roses.

This Year’s Moose Photography Kit

Moose photography by Gary Gray
Moose in Red Feather Lakes

I spent my day assembling my camera gear for the start of moose photography season. Here’s what I’ll be shooting with this summer.

Nikon D810 Full frame DSLR

Nikon D750 Full frame DSLR

Nikon D7200 Crop body DSLR (my teleconverter)

Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6 VR

Nikkor 70-200mm f/4 VR

Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VR

Nikkor 20mm f/2.8 prime

Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 prime

External flash, spare memory chips, adapters, laptop, cleaning kits, flashlight, tools and other misc stuff to fill the pockets in the pack. The whole thing weighs less than 40 lbs.

I’ve retired the Nikon D800 this year.

This three body, five lens kit will get it done. All in one pack with room to spare. None of this gear costs a fortune and the image quality will be excellent.

I’ll probably start with the 200-500mm on the D810. I’m not inclined to upgrade it to the D850 yet and the fact that it’s still on back-order some 6 months after being released sorta sealed the deal for this year. I’ll wait a couple of years and pick one up used at a much cheaper price.

Why no D500?

Don’t need it. The image quality of the D7200 is superior and 10 frames per second isn’t needed for large ungulates. I won’t be upgrading the D7200 for a D7500 either as the D7200 has the best image quality of any crop sensor body ever made and specs out roughly identical to the full frame Canon EOS 5D Mk III.

I’ve never been someone who rushes out to buy the latest greatest camera. I shot with the Canon EOS 1Ds MK II for 8 years. My Canon 7D fired over 100,000 shots and is still to this day the camera that has made me the most money with wildlife photography. So all these latest/greatest bodies are very nice, but the truth is, you can pick up most of what’s in my kit used and save a fortune

Your mileage may vary.

 

It’s A Way Of Life

A Large Shiras bull moose in Northern Colorado
A large Shiras bull moose in Northern Colorado

It’s that time of year.

The moose are moving to lower elevations in search for food. The cows are birthing their calves. The antlers are beginning to grow again.

This time each year I begin my moose photography season by opening up my cabin in Northern Colorado. We normally get a dozen or so moose in the area early in the season so hunting them down early is a top priority.

In the mountains above 9,000 feet, the lakes are still frozen and many will remain that way until early July. The bulls and the cows are not together right now, but will begin associating as the weather and forage improves.

At the end of September, the bulls will start shedding velvet and the rut is on.

I live each year in anticipation of getting out with my family, friends and clients. It’s a way of life.

Wednesday’s Photograph

Sunset on the windows section of arches national park
Arches National Park, Utah

I’m still holed up in my office working on Internet stuff but this warm weather is calling me to get outside.

I’ve started a new project helping a blind friend build a website and that to me seems more important at the moment than more photos of Blue Heron.  I have photos of Blue Heron.

I’ll be patient until spring is in full swing.

 

Rainy Moose Monday

Moose Photography in Colorado
Shiras Moose Cow – Northern Colorado

It is raining here in Denver this morning so I abandoned any thought of going to the tree in the lake. The weather should be improving this week.

Opportunities will improve.

Here’s a moose photo for Moose Monday. Taken on July 15th, 2015 during one of my scouting trips in North Park.  Canon EOS 7D 1/800, f/8, ISO 1000, 300mm.