PHOTOGRAPHING PUPPIES!

By Vickie Uthe

Photographing puppies is like photographing kids, don’t waste time and plan on doing it later because they grow up TOO FAST and there IS no later.

In 2016 my granddaughter got a Dorky. A mix of a Yorkshire Terrier and a Dachshund. A Dorky, cute, right? The puppy lives at Akacia’s dad’s house which means we rarely see her so I KNEW, on this visit, I’d spend a lot of the time shooting and capturing that adorable puppiness before it was all gone.

Plan on this shoot being handheld as I doubt a puppy will stay in shot of a tripod mount. Set you ISO at 400 in good light with the shutter speed at 500 or above. Get as close down to the animal’s level as possible, in other words, don’t stand and shoot from above. Make a sound in hopes they will cock their head, lift their ears and look at you and not run straight at you. It’s a delicate situation.

In this series, she was preoccupied with her leash. You want to try to focus on the eyes, which isn’t always easy as they keep moving. Be sure your camera is set on burst mode and fire away.

What you’re trying to capture is expression and personality.

Another concept I think is important in photography is to add a human to show scale. These images show how really little this puppy is.

They also tucker out pretty quickly so take advantage of their stillness to grab some more cuteness.

And there she is, surveying the situation on her first big hike in Kachina Village.

Take your camera to a friends house who has a new puppy and practice. The other nice thing is these images make great gifts over the years as the puppy moves through life and ages.

Happy shooting!

Vicki Uthe is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

 

MACRO VS. CLOSE-UP PHOTOGRAPHY

By Vicki Uthe

Something became clear to me recently. I realized the difference between macro and close-up photography and concluded that I’m really more of a close-up photographer than a macro person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the main difference as I understand it: With macro, you need a tripod, a non-moving subject, a lot of patience and you get in SO close to a subject that many times you need a caption to tell you what it is. With close-up, you can shoot it with most lenses, you get very close to your subject with a zoom or by walking closer but can still tell what it is without question and you can do it successfully with a moving subject.

The two images above, shot in Costa Rica in 2012, were taken with the 100 mm Canon macro lens. At the time I was SURE I was shooting macro. I even set the lens for it. Turns out these are really just close-ups. If it were a true macro image a single water drop would nearly fill the frame as would only a few of these frog eggs. (I think they are frog eggs).

I decided to dive into my archive and pull up all images shot with my two macro lenses. The first one was a Canon 100mm, f/2.8. I loved that lens and it worked well for me but in pulling up the images I began to realize I mostly shot close-ups in macro mode or not in macro mode at all but at 100mm. My other lens is the Olympus 60mm, f/2.8 that I got when I switched to the mirrorless micro four-thirds format camera a couple of years ago. Same thing. Most of my images are either close-ups in macro mode or just shooting at 60mm.

I pulled up over 8700 images shot with those two lenses and precious few could be considered truly macro. My minimalist, photograph as you go shooting style does not lend itself to true macro photography. I like to travel light with as little gear as possible.

At the very LEAST a good macro image requires a tripod and a subject that is very still. A macro lens will reduce the depth of field (the space in your image that is in focus) to the width of a credit card. This means that you must be very precise as to what you are focussing on. The slightest breeze or movement will put a flower or insect out of focus.

If you are truly interested in exploring the world of macro photography I have a resource for you. My good friend, Amy Horn, recently wrote a book with Bruce Taubert, a retired wildlife biologist, on this very subject. You can check out their book and order it here: The Art of Macro Photography

The head of this praying mantis is one of the few images I have that could truly be considered macro. It is handheld and my subject was standing very still.

I’m not sure where the line actually is between close-up and macro. This image shows how small the depth of field (the area in focus) is. His eye is about the only thing that is sharp. Always focus on the eyes.

Right? Close-up or Macro? All I know is I should have used a tripod.

I would for sure consider this one just a close-up. And it didn’t jump on me so I was happy about that. Not sure how much closer I would have been willing to get…

This little red frog was pretty tiny sitting on someone’s finger but I would still classify it as a close-up.

I really liked this image to show the shallow depth of field when your lens is in macro mode. This is rusted barbed wire wrapped around more wire. If you look close one strand is in focus while the one right next to it, and a little back, is not. I can not stress enough how crazy shallow the area in focus is with macro shooting. To the point where there is now software that allows you to focus stack. You take many images and continually adjust the focus only to “stack” them later to create an image where the whole subject is in focus. Check it out, it’s in Amy and Bruce’s book. Pretty fascinating.

Well, that’s all I have for macro. In writing this I’ve learned that macro is not my area of focus, so to speak, in photography. It is a fascinating avenue to explore, however, if you are interested.

Happy Shooting!!

Vicki Uthe is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

TAHOE AND THE WEATHER

By Vicki Uthe

This blog is being written to showcase the extreme difference a day can make in the weather. It is also being shared to encourage you to go out in it, the weather I mean, and take advantage of nature’s drama unfolding before you.

Over President’s Day weekend this last February I had the good fortune of being  a part of a family retreat in South Lake Tahoe. I had never been there and was really looking forward to it. I was half expecting snow covered ground but realized they were probably getting similar weather patterns to Flagstaff, where I live, and on Saturday, our first full day there, the sun was shining, the water was calm and in the sun it was a lovely temperature.

Here’s a wide shot of the swimming hole created by the docks right below our cabin. The water was SO clear and the water had slight ripples on it from a light breeze.

The shoreline felt like a small pond, not a 23 mile long lake. My wife and I decided this would be a GREAT place to bring our stand up paddle boards back to and do some exploring.

Literally the calm before the storm. We kayak and SUP a lot on Lake Powell and usually  can only experience  calm waters like this early in the morning. We call it glass. The water is like glass and it is SO beautiful and serene to paddle board on.

Here is a nice image of my cousin and her family sitting on the corner of the pier enjoying the warm afternoon temperatures.

Vessels like this paddle wheel can only float on calm waters. These kinds of boats were not made for the waves that would come the next day.

We spent a lot of time on those docks that first day. It was so pretty and warm. I’ve never seen a seaplane land on Lake Powell! I’ve only seen them near ocean towns so this was a real treat. But again, it could only do it on calm waters.

By Saturday afternoon the winds were beginning to pick up. Here you can see the difference in the chop of the water.

By Sunday the winds were gusting at over 50 miles per hour. This brave, or foolish, soul was braving the waves on the once serene dock. Due to the spray I stayed back with my camera gear so as not to get soaked.

The once calm shoreline turned into angry ocean size waves. It was spectacular to be out it. I had to really set my stance so as to not get knocked over by the wind.

The waves did this thing where they would start at one end of the dock and move to the other end. It was really cool to watch.

This is that calm corner of the pier that my cousin and her family were sitting and calmly visiting just 12 hours before. This wave would have sent them swimming!

I highly encourage you to go out in weather and shoot. But be smart! Don’t go out when lightning is close and be sure to protect your camera gear from the elements.

Happy Shooting!

Vicki Uthe is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

Boots

By Vicki Uthe

As a kid I was a collector. You name it, I collected it. In hindsight I’m not positive how much the collections were because of things I was interested in or because I inherited them from family members. I also think I collected a couple of things that my mom got me into like dolls from foreign lands and glass blown figurines. These things cost money and required dusting. I look at my minimalist lifestyle now and think YUCK! I also collected postcards, matchbook covers, coins, stamps, and of course rocks. All required management of STUFF.
As I was going through images the other day hoping to be inspired for my next blog post it occurred to me that I still collect. But now I collect images. My taste is eclectic, I’ll shoot anything in front of me. I love people and details but am not lost on grand landscapes.
In my archive diving I discovered I apparently have an affinity for cowboy/girl boots. They are a work of art and as it turns out I’ve acquired quite a collection. The other thing I love about boots is the stories they could tell. They have such character. And the beauty of it all? I don’t have to store them or manage the care of the leather! Ha!

This is a great image of boots with chaps and spurs. I was a trip leader on an Arizona Highways Photo Workshop a couple of years ago in Sedona and we went on a jeep tour into the backcountry. The guides were fully dressed in old western wear.

This pair of boots was line dancing on the floor of a school gymnasium. Boots come in all sizes and these little ones were adorable. I love the scuff marks on the toes.

I captured these boots on a high school senior photo shoot. I love that even the bottoms of the boot are red, white and blue.

On a trip to Santa Fe we found a boot shop where there were walls of boots on shelves much like you’d find books on shelves in a book store. Even brand new they have amazing character.

This example, for me, highlights the fact that the artistry goes beyond the color of the material. That even in black and white the details of the boots shine through.

Maybe some day I’ll narrow my scope down to what I’m truly passionate about shooting but right now…it’s EVERYTHING!

Last summer, just north of Flagstaff, I went to the Babbitt Ranches colt sale. This was a GREAT place to capture real” cowboy/girl boots that have seen some real action.

Another pair of flag boots and the ones on the right, I love the teal color.

Black and white or color, the boots on the corral fence are a classic.

I never realized how popular the flag pattern is for boots. Who knew?

Checkout the bottom of that right boot, there’s a HOLE in it! I’d love to hear the stories…

On another trip to White Sands National Monument with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops I spent an afternoon in El Paso. These boots were for sale on the street.
So there you go, still collecting. I encourage you to go through your photo archives and see if any themes” emerge of things you are collecting but maybe never even realized. It’s kinda fun!
Happy Shooting!
Vicki Uthe is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

LEE’S FERRY WITHOUT A BOAT

By Vicki Uthe

In November 2016 we loaded our mountain bikes and tent and headed to Lee’s Ferry for a three-day campout over Veteran’s Day. The weather was spectacular. The ferry is generally the fist thing you think of when launching a Colorado River trip through Grand Canyon but this time we didn’t bring boats, we brought bikes and hiking boots.

Paria Canyon meets the river here and created this riffle. There were other buildings near the put-in that housed the ferry company back in the day. I did not include them here but they are fun to explore and photograph as well.

We parked the cars for the weekend and took the bikes all over. We road out to Highway 89 and down the road to this dirt road that seemed to go on forever.

That’s Navajo Bridge in the background, the only way over the canyon for hundreds of miles. We also had a great view of the river below.

We ran across this hogan, a traditional Dine’ dwelling, out on a dirt road with the beautiful Vermillion Cliffs in the background.

This is just a fun low angle shot I took while out on the bike ride. I had with me my Canon S120 point and shoot because it was easy to slip in and out of my pocket. It is also an easy camera to shoot one handed.

I like shadows.

Shooting while riding…NOT recommended.

This is the gate to the local cemetery that tells a very sad story. There are several children buried here that all seemed to pass in the span of a year. Not sure what the illness was but it ravaged this family.

We parked our bikes at the opening to the Lonely Dell Ranch like they were horses. This property had several buildings and an orchard. It was a great place to shoot.

Heading down Cathedral Wash, this was the trickiest part. The hike was beautiful but nothing compared to what we got to see at the bottom, our beloved Colorado River!

Mud patterns and reflections

This rock looks like a turtle head!

We found a great beach to hang out on and enjoy the roar of the river. Beach time in Northern Arizona!

Go explore, bring your camera and document your adventures. It’s fun to go back and relive them through photographs.

Happy Shooting!

Vicki Uthe is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

PLATEAU POINT, GRAND CANYON

By Vicki Uthe

We (my wife and I) live in Flagstaff, AZ which means Grand Canyon’s South Rim is a little over an hour away and makes for a glorious day of hiking. We like to go to the canyon for training hikes to get in shape for longer hikes.

One such day found us at the South Rim heading down Bright Angel Trail toward Indian Garden, which you can see in this image as the splash of green on the right side in the smaller canyon, then out to Plateau Point. We did it with full 25# packs. It is six miles down which means six miles back up…12 total.

Here’s another image of Indian Gardens but showing the switchback of trail heading down. My constant dilemma when doing activities such as this is…WHICH CAMERA DO I BRING?!?  Weight is almost always the first concern. I believe strongly in the “Less is More” philosophy so I only own three camera bodies, two of which are identical. I have a mirrorless Lumix Gx8 times two with four lenses and a Canon S120 point and shoot that shoots RAW images.

These images, however, were taken before I switched my setup to something lighter and easier to travel with. These images were taken with a Canon 40D and 35-70mm lens. Far heavier than I am willing to travel with these days. This is the view from Plateau Point, a 1.5 mile jaunt from Indian Gardens, to the river below. If you look closely you can see a river raft parked at the large beach on the left.

Here’s the thing about this blog: I focus on  taking images when most travelers would be shooting, during the day. In a perfect world I would be here at sunrise and/or sunset, but in a traveler’s life, that is not realistic. Time is short and many things and places are crammed into a short period of time so it is my intent to show that, even though conditions are not ideal, it is still beneficial to bring your camera and snap some pictures.

The canyon had some wildflowers  in May when we hiked. Wildflowers are always worth a stop and a shot. Here I played with a wide open F/stop to blur the canyon in the background.

The Prickly Pear cactus were in bloom as well as the cactus below. The splashes of color on the hike were wonderful to see.

So take a camera, even on long hikes. Be aware of weight so you bring the correct one and don’t regret hauling it around. And then don’t forget to take it out and shoot with it!!!

Happy shooting!

Vicki Uthe is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

Arizona Snowbowl

By Vicki Uthe

Hard to believe but ski/snowboard season is just around the corner. If this is your thing and you like to photograph I have a  little something for you to do on those long rides up the chair lift. Take your camera! I shot the following with my trusty Canon S120 point and shoot. You could just as easily do it with a phone. But here’s the trick…don’t drop the camera!! It’s easy to do as you’re fiddling with ski poles, gloves, pocket zippers and handling a camera with cold hands. Just be very mindful.

These images were taken the morning after Northern Arizona had a storm. The trees were encased in snow and ice. It was beautiful. I took these heading up chair two at Arizona Snow Bowl.

That blue sky is for real. I did nothing in post processing to make it that blue. Wow, right? And look at those trees! A pocket camera is perfect for this. These two were not taken from the chairlift but from the ski runs. My poor friend had to keep stopping so I could shoot.

 I was digging the shadows on the snow as well.

This is a chairlift shot of the San Francisco Peaks in all of their frozen glory.

These two were also taken from the chair. They are essentially the same shot but the bottom one had a skier inter the frame with a red jacket! What LUCK!

One of the fortunes of living in Flagstaff is having access to this kind of beauty immediately following a snowstorm.

The ice tipped trees didn’t seem real.
Today’s lesson? Keep your camera with you always and…dress warm!!
Happy Shooting!!
Vicki Uthe is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes