Spring Break

Green PeacockLast week was spring break for the kids. We got out and explored parts of Atlanta. I was able to capture this image of a peacock. I like how he seems to flow across the frame like a colorful wave. The image was captured around mid-day and the lighting was simply terrible. I was able to introduce enough contrast in post to save the image. Adobe Lightroom is such an incredible and easy to use tool. If you have not used it, I would highly recommend downloading the demo and giving it a try. It simplifies your workflow in so many ways. For me it makes working in post almost fun. You can see more of my images on my site at http://tobygant.com.

A New Project

My search for the perfect osprey shot has obviously been placed on hold due to my new geographic situation. I have found a new mission to keep myself occupied. The perfect cardinal (Cardinalidae) shot. Granted, the cardinal is by no means an incredible fishing raptor. But hey, it is very colorful and can be found literally in my back yard. In between work and semi-frequent trips to the Georgia state parks, I think it will have its own rewards. This particular cardinal and it’s mate can be found in trees out back every day. They are also both camera-shy. I’m taking on the project. This image was captured with my 70-200mm VR II and 2x teleconverter. More of my wildlife images can be found on my website at http://www.tobygant.com/wild. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Springtime

Dogwood Tree in BloomI ventured out into world this morning. I got up early and visited Amicalola Falls State Park. I was able to watch the sunrise in Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. It was a perfect morning. Springtime has brought back the foliage and many different flowers. Dogwood trees are among my favorites. I captured this image using my trusty 105mm Micro VR tripod mounted. You can find more images of my morning adventure on my website at http://www.tobygant.com/amicalola. I hope everyone else makes an opportunity to get out and enjoy this wonderful weather.

Lower Desoto Falls – Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest

We ventured back out into the Blue Ridge Mountains this weekend. We stopped at the Desoto Falls Recreation Area in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest near Cleveland, GA. It is a relatively short hike to the lower falls. (Only 0.25 mile.) The falls are very nice and well worth the short hike. I captured this image with my 16-35mm f/4. I am already looking forward to this weekend. I already have some ideas where I would like to go. I just know that it can’t get here soon enough. As always you can see this image and more on my website at http://www.tobygant.com/chattahoochee.

Wolf Creek Falls

Wolf CreekIt was another crazy week at work. I called my boss Thursday night and let him know I needed a personal day on Friday. I got up before the sun and my supportive wife packed a snack to help me prepare for my well deserved adventure. I went back to Vogel State Park to visit Wolf Creek Falls. They are actually known by several names: Wolf Creek Falls, Trahlyta Lake Falls, and Trahlyta Falls. By whatever name you chose to call them, they are well worth a visit if you find yourself near Blairsville, Georgia. The falls are short hike from the main park along the side of Trahlyta Lake. I arrived as the park opened and shot until late morning and was not interrupted by a single person. The isolation was just what I needed. There was no phone, no chaos, no corporate stuff. It was just me and my camera in a beautiful and tranquil place. I have to find a way to go more often. This image was captured with my  105mm VR micro lens. I know macro or micro lenses are designed for close-up photography. But, at the 105 mm focal length, I challenge you to find a sharper lens. You can find more images of Wolf Creek Falls at my website: http://www.tobygant.com/vogel.

Sweetwater Creek State Park – Georgia

Sweetwater Creek State ParkAdventure was the order of the day this weekend. The weather channel was calling for thunderstorms in the area and we decided to try to beat the weather. We visited Sweetwater Creek State Park in Lithia Springs, GA. There are ruins of a textile mill that was burned by Union troops during the Civil War. The trails are marked and maintained well. We were able to make it to the end of our trail just as the showers came. The mile hike back to the car in the rain was still fun. It definitely made it a memorable trip. This image of Sweetwater creek can be found on my site at http://www.tobygant.com/sweetwater#h1c5e86b8.

Unicoi State Park and Anna Ruby Falls

I woke early this morning looking for an adventure. I revisited Unicoi State Park and Anna Ruby Falls. It’s been a few years since my last trip. Since then my equipment and my abilities have improved. It really showed when I pulled them up in Lightroom. I had several captures that I am extremely happy with. As, a matter of fact one is already framed and on the wall. (An honor normally given to only those captures that stand the test of time with me.) The rain held out while I was in the park. I truly do not remember ever having more fun with my camera than I did today. The tumblers all fell in place. I knew which shots would be the best when I squeezed the shutter. You can see this shot and more on my site at http://www.tobygant.com/unicoi. One of the shots in the folder was taken with my trusty old Nikon D80. If you stop by the site, you’ll probably be able to tell which one it is just looking at the thumbnails. (Although I love the composition, the quality is just not quite the same.)

Taunted Again

OspreyWhile visiting Merritt Island last week I observed osprey after osprey. I must have seen at least a dozen of these incredible animals and yet the shot I am looking for still eludes me. This particular osprey was feeding on top of the lights in a parking lot. Not exactly a “nature” shot. Even though it is natural to see them perched on street lights and overhead street signs. I think I am going to have to take some time away from my day job and camp by the river to get my shot. I’m simply not going to get the shot any other way. If anyone has suggestions for capturing an image of an osprey catching its lunch, I am open to suggestions. I captured this image using my 70-200mm f/2.8 and 2x teleconverter. You can see more images of osprey and other wildlife at my site. http://www.tobygant.com/wild

Little Black Ducks

Little Black DucksOn a recent trip to Orlando, FL, I took the long way home via Merritt Island. Black Point Wildlife Drive has simply never disappointed me. Time after time there is always something new and exciting. They are now charging a fee to enter the park. If you stop by make sure you have five US dollars in your pocket. If you live close by or frequent the area I would suggest the annual pass. There was abundant wildlife throughout the park. This time we saw the herons, egrets, ducks, osprey, american alligators and butterflies. I still have yet to see any otters. I guess I will have to continue to visit until I see them. The image on this post is of some “little black ducks.” It reminds me of Daffy from the Loony Tunes cartoons. I’m not that familiar with ducks. If anyone out there knows what type of duck this is, please let me know. I am interested and can’t find them online. This image was captured with my 70-200, f/2.8 with a 2x teleconverter. As always you can see more images from this trip on my website: http://www.tobygant.com/blackptwildlifedr.

Blue Spring State Park – Florida

Great Blue Heron by Toby GantAs stated in my last post, my trip to Blue Spring State Park was a success. I walked away with several images that I was happy with. I captured the images from the St. Johns River Cruises and Tours narrated nature and ecological cruise. It was a great time. Shooting from the moving motor-powered platform provides its own set of challenges. I’ll  definitely increase my shutter speeds and my active VR if I make the journey again. But, the amount and variety of wildlife we were able to observe would not have been possible shooting from the shore. Recalling the days events, I think I will need to take another day off work soon. Maybe I’ll take 2 next time.

This image of the Great Blue Heron was captured using my 70-200 f2.8 and 2x teleconverter. You can see more of my images of Blue Spring State Park at my site. http://www.tobygant.com/bluespring

My Day Off

Blue SpringI took the day off work Friday. The long hours and stress are wearing me down like never before. I woke about 4:30 am and drove down to Blue Spring State Park with a friend. They have a wonderful boat tour that takes you along the St. Johns River. They basically take you in search of wildlife for a little over 2 hours. The trip did not disappoint. There was wildlife everywhere. I’ve already begun going through my captures for the morning and I can see now that I will be busy in my off time posting images. I have several captures that I already love and I have not even taken the images off the other card. It was a wonderful day for shooting. I hope everyone else has a great day behind the glass as well.

Day at the Beach

Coral and ShellsSo, we went to the beach over the weekend. It was the middle of the day and the lighting was extremely harsh as you would expect. Harsh lighting will work to capture family snapshots for the photo album. But, with camera in hand, I always want to grab a gallery image for my website. Looking around, I saw an opportunity to get an interesting macro shot. But, how could I possibly get a gallery shot with the impossible lighting and all of my “assistants” looking for shells and shark’s teeth? Easy. I simply sat down in the sand between my subjects and the mid-day sun. My shadow allowed me to shoot in nice even light without using a stand and diffuser. I was able to get several shots for the photo album and some interesting shots for my website. A very successful afternoon. This shot was captured using my 105mm VR micro lens handheld. As always, you can see more of my macro images on my website at http://www.tobygant.com/macros#h2772249a.

St. Johns River

The St. Johns RiverLeaving work the other day, I stopped by the river to enjoy a bit of serenity. It was a beautiful afternoon on the St. Johns. Other than a few squirrels and a shorebird there was no wildlife to be seen. But, it was an interesting sky and I enjoy the Spanish moss and cypress trees. I tend to avoid sepia images. But, in this case I think it works well. I am not in love with the composition of this image. But, I do find it to be an interesting image all the same and feel that it “works”. Please share your thoughts. The image was captured with my 16-35mm f/4 VR lens tripod mounted. I used a 10x ND filter to smooth the water. You can see more of my landscape images at http://www.tobygant.com/landscapes.

Cityscapes at Night

Downtown Jacksonville, FL at NightAlthough my first choice is nature and landscape photography, I must say being captive in a city does present opportunities for creative photography. The cityscape at night brings challenges not faced while enjoying the outdoors. Mostly due to overzealous security guards and local police. Living in a post 911 world, you obviously must be a terrorist if you have camera and are photographing such things as bridges, buildings or traffic. I could go into more detail, but the stories would probably require a book instead of a blog. I first saw this image after being asked to leave a public parking garage by a security guard that he was calling local authorities. It took me multiple attempts before the stars aligned, weather conditions were right, and I was able to avoid the guard. I captured the exact image I had in my mind for weeks. The image was captured with my 10.5mm DX fisheye lens. You can see more of my night photography and cityscapes on my website at http://www.tobygant.com/cityscapes#h334e0abe.

Treaty Oak

Treaty OakI’ve still had no success with my “osprey shot”. I though it would be easier to shoot something with less variables. A tree is a nice stationary subject. So, hear it is. I only had a limited window of time to shoot as usual and this day the lighting was horrible. I managed to get a usable result thanks to the power Lightroom 3 affords us. Treaty Oak is estimated to be between 150 and 250 years old depending on who you ask. There is an interesting story behind how it acquired its name. If you are a historian, researcher or just curious, you might want to look it up. The tree is located in downtown Jacksonville just off the east bank of the St. Johns river. Beware of the homeless man that is guarding the tree. He was screaming at me for several minutes. But, he moved on when he saw I was not going to move. (I had to get my image after all.) This image was captured using my 10.5mm DX Fisheye lens. You can see this image and many more on my website at http://www.tobygant.com/jax#h360771c0.

Little River Road – Smoky Mountains

Life has been keeping me away from my photography. I want nothing more than to grab my camera and get some shots of anything. Other obligations have to come first for now. Even though I am unable to get away, I can go back in my Lightroom catalog and search for gems from old adventures. I found a gem tonight from our last trip up to the Smokies. The image is beautiful in full color. However, after all the time that has passed when I captured it, I still recall visualizing the shot in black & white. The instant I converted it I knew I had made the right choice. It is stunning. I dare say one of my favorite black and white images to date. And it’s been sitting on my harddrive simply waiting to be rediscovered. Should you find yourself unable to get away for new adventures, take a look in your catalog. You just might have some adventure exploring the past. Image captured with my 16-35mm f/4. You can see more of my images of the Smokies at http://www.tobygant.com/gsmnp.

Elusive Osprey Shot

Osprey Spring Park - Toby GantSo, I have found myself searching for the perfect osprey shot this summer. As the summer closes out, I have not reached my goal. I have had precious little time to try to achieve my objective. I had hoped that luck my help me along. Well, luck and the shot have both evaded me for the season. I won’t quit. I know the stars will eventually align and the shot will be there. I hope so anyway. But, I will say it has been a very rewarding adventure all the same. I’ve had the opportunity to observe these incredible creatures. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been stalking this adolescent osprey. He is currently not the most adept fisherman. (Far from it.) But, I plan to keep my eyes on him. I plan to be there with my camera as soon as he refines his technique. Image was captured with my 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII and TC-20E III 2x teleconverter.

Black Point Wildlife Drive (again)

Black Point Wildlife Drive in B&WI am still working through my captures from my last visit to Black Point Wildlife Drive. The drive now has a gate that opens itself. ( I’m not certain what triggers it’s opening. It opened at a random time well after the sun had risen.) While I was not so patiently waiting for entry, I got out of the Suby to watch the sunrise. I was able to capture this image. Not a bad way to start the day. The image was captured with my 16-35mm f/4 and converted to black & white using Adobe Lightroom 3. Minor adjustments were made using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. More of my images from Black Point can be seen on my site http://www.tobygant.com/blackptwildlifedr.

Black Point in HDR

Here’s a view of Merritt Island as seen from Black Point Wildlife Drive. I used the LREnfuse plugin to combine 4 separate exposures of the same image. After making some minor changes to temperature and contrast in Lightroom, this is my final result. The appearance is almost identical to what I saw looking through my eyes. HDR is an amazing tool when applied with some restraint. Please share your thoughts. Do you think this image is overstated or natural? Hope to hear from you.

Black Point Wildlife Drive in Black & White

Black Point Wildlife DriveI took the day off work today and an went back down to Black Point Wildlife Drive. It was an incredibly beautiful morning. The water is higher than I have seen it. As always, it did not disappoint. I arrived well before sunlight to find that the gate would not open until well after sunrise. That aside the lighting was incredible early on. It inspired me to stay with my black and white theme. I have yet to look at all of my captures from today. But, this was the first one I wanted to look at. It is just as I visualized it when I squeezed the shutter. I hope everyone gets a chance to get outside this weekend and grab a few captures of their own.