Markus Jais Photography Markus Jais Photography Wed, 25 Dec 2013 10:14:57 +0000 de-DE hourly 1 Book review: Digital capture after dark Wed, 25 Dec 2013 10:05:24 +0000 Photography at night has become very popular. Modern cameras with sensors that deliver great quality even at high ISO settings offer many new possibilities.

But photography after dark is no piece of cake. If you are new to this a good book can be of great help. “Digital capture after dark” by Amanda Quintenz-Fiedler and Philipp Scholz Rittermann is such a book.

In this easy to read book the authors explains the basics of photographing at night incl. equipment like cameras, flash, etc and also how to use it to get properly exposed images. They also explain how to use tripods, cable releases, etc to get sharp pictures.

The book has many great pictures, mostly if cities, people and landscapes at night. It does not cover photographing wildlife at night.
Many of the tips in the book also apply to wildlife but if you are looking for a book that teaches wildlife photography at night (e.g. owls, nocturnal mammals, etc), I recommend you look somewhere else. This is not your book.

The book also covers photography at dusk and dawn, how to photography movements, atmospheric conditions like fog and it has a chapter called “Light painting” which I particularly liked.

The explanations are clear and easy to read and I have not found any bad advice (which I cannot say for every photography book!)

Many pictures in the book are in black-and-white which is particularly suited to night photography. But fans of color photography won’t be disappointed as there are also some very good color photography in the book and most things for black-and-white photography also apply to color photography (e.g. how to get sharp pictures).

Overall I liked the booked, it was a nice introduction and also had ideas for people who have already been photographing for quite a while but may not yet have taken many shots at night.
If you are already and advanced night photographer you probably won’t get much out of this book but if you are new or have just started you will definitely learn something.

Recommended for beginners and intermediate photographers who want to photograph people, cities or landscapes at night.

More information about the book at the publishers website:

Digital Capture After Dark

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Choosing a lens for macro and close-up photography Wed, 11 Dec 2013 20:26:08 +0000
Note: This is the latest version of this article. Latest update: December 12th 2013.
This article is about choosing the right lens for close-up and macro photography in nature. There is no simple advice as there are many choices available. The most obvious one would be to buy a dedicated macro lens like a Canon EF 2.8/100L IS  Macro or a Nikon 2.8/105 Micro VR. But a Macro lens is not the only solution. If you are only starting to get into macro photography, you may not want to buy a macro lens immediately, but use your existing lens. If you have a zoom lens like a 28-105mm or a 17-85mm (or similar), the chances are good that those lenses allow you to do some close-up photography. Many of those lenses give you a magnification ratio of up to 1:4. This is enough for a lot of subjects like many flowers, mushrooms, leaves and even big insects like dragonflies. If the 1:4 ratio is not enough, you can get even closer with extension tubes. Other options are diopter lenses or bellows.In this article I focus on lenses and describe the various options you have. For serious macro photography I think a dedicated macro lens is your best choice. They normally give a a magnification ratio up to 1:1 and are designed to perform optically superb at close distance.

EOS 40D, EF 3.5/180L Macro

Close-up or macro lenses normally come in three different ranges. The first group has a focal length of about 50mm (some have 60mm). The second group has a focal lens of 100mm (some have 90mm, Nikon and Sigma offer lenses with 105mm). The third group usually has 180mm (Canon, Sigma, Tamron) or 200mm (for example Nikon).
After describing the different macro lenses, I also describe how a wide angle, a telephoto zoom or even a super telephoto lens can make a good lens for close-up photography.



EOS 10D, EF 2.8/100 Macro

35mm macro lens

Canon and Nikon do not offer 35mm macro lenses but other companies like Olympus, Tokina or Pentax do. This are normally designed for sensors with a 1.5, 1.6 or 2x crop factor. If you own such a camera, such a lens might make sense, but I think 35mm is often to short for shooting close-ups in nature. See the next section about 50mm to learn more about the limitations of a short focal length in macro lenses.

50mm/60mm macro lens

Those lenses are the smallest of the macro lenses. That makes them very easy to carry in the field due to their low weight. But even despite this advantage I do not recommend a 50mm or 60mm macro lens. For insects, you often have to get very close for a frame filling picture. And even if you have a camera with a crop factor (for example using Nikons 60mm Micro with a Nikon D300s will give you a 90mm lens), you will have a hard time to get close to many insects without disturbing them and scaring them, and leaving you behind without a picture. The other huge disadvantage is, that a 50mm lens makes it much more difficult to get a calm background, due to its wider angle of view. A calm background is crucial in many macro photographs and it is much harder to achieve this with a 50mm lens than with a longer lens.

100mm/105mm macro lens


EOS 7D, EF 2.8/100 Macro

A 100mm lens (Nikon and Sigma offer 105mm, Tamron 90mm) is very popular among many nature photographers. Many books recommend this as your first lens. In comparison with a 50mm lens, it allows you to work at a greater working distance (especially important for insects) and also makes it easier to get a calmer background due to it’s narrower angle of view.
Imagine photographing a beautiful red flower against a green background with a 50mm lens. Behind the red flower are many white flowers. Including an unsharp white flower in the image would normally distract the viewer from the red flower. Sometimes, you can get rid of the white flower with changing the position of the camera. But this is not always possible and you might just add another white flower somewhere else in the picture.
If you now change your lens to a 100mm lens you have a much narrower angle of view than with the 50mm lens. That makes it a lot easier to get rid of the white flowers in the background.
A 100mm macro lens is also quite light and small (compared to a 180mm) and easily fits into your bag or backpack.
The Nikon 2.8/105 Micro VR has image stabilization (VR = vibration reduction).

Canon offers 2 choices here. The older EF 2.8/100 Macro USM is a great lens and I used it for years. I have now replaced it with the newer EF 2.8/100L IS Macro USM. The new lens is more expensive but offers IS, better weather sealing and even better sharpness. It is one of the sharpest lenses out there. The optical quality is simply stunning. But the older, non-IS version is also a very good choice and it is several hundred Euros/Dollars cheaper. That said, if you want the best sharpness, get the EF 2.8/100L IS Macro USM (if you shoot Canon). For macro-shots IS/VR can be helpful when shooting hand held images.
The 100/105mm macro lenses are also great lenses for shooting portraits of animals and people.
A 100mm macro lens also has an advantage over a 180mm or 200 mm lens when you are photographing top-down as I did in the picture of the pine needles and buds on the right. In situations like this, the focal length of a 180mm or 200mm lens might be too much.

180mm/200mm macro lens


EOS 10D, EF 3.5/180L Macro

As just explained under the last paragraph about the 100mm lens, the longer the lens, the easier it is to get a calm background. This is the reason why my favorite macro lens is my Canon EF 3.5/180L Macro. The exact focal lenght of those lenses may vary a little among manufacturers. For example, Nikon offers a 4/200mm Macro lens. Sigma and Tamron offer a 180mm macro lens. Check the lenses available for your camera brand.
With the 180mm lens mounted on a tripod head (I recommend the Manfrotto 410 head) it is pure joy to compose an image of a flower or any other subject. The very narrow angle of view allows you to set the subject apart from the background. The longer focal length is also great for insects. If 180mm is still not enough, you can add a 1.4x extender (or even a 2x) to get even more focal length. This disadvantage of the 180mm (or 200mm) lenses are the higher price and the bigger weight. They all come with a tripod collar as they are too heavy for mounting the camera on the tripod. But if you are doing a lot of close-ups, especially if want to photograph insects, you definitely should consider buying such a lens. If the Canon and Nikon lenses are too expensive for you, check out the Sigma and Tamron 180mm macro lenses. They are very popular, very sharp and they got great reviews.
Sigma also offers a 150mm macro lens with is smaller and lighter than the 180mm version and might be a good soluation if you can’t decide whether to get a 100mm or 180mm lens.

The Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro

This is a unique lens and I don’t know anything similar from Nikon or other companies. This lens can only be used for macro shots and it only focuses within the limit of a 1x-5x magnification. This range is suitable for extreme close-ups like portraits of insects or details of flowers. The huge magnification rate will result in only limited depth of field.
You will also need flash in many (or most) situations with this lens.
The lens is extremely sharp and delivers great results. If you are doing a lot of macro photography with a magnification rate larger than 1:1, this lens might just be what you are looking for.
Hopefully, Nikon will introduce something similar in the future for Nikon photographers.

Wide Angle Lens


EOS 40D, EF 4/17-40L

Wide angle lenses can offer interesting possibilities for close-ups. For example, you can get pretty close to a flower and also show it’s habitat. This is normally not possible with a telephoto lens like a 180mm macro lens. A wide angle lens is not very well suited for high magnification rate like 1:1 as you would have to get very close to the subject. Still, it is worth putting a wide angle lens in your camera bag when going out for close-ups. After you’ve taken a shot from a subject like a flower with a macro lens, also try to see if it also works well when shot with a wide-angle lens. Which wide-angle lens you choose depends on your camera. If you are using a full frame camera like Nikon’s D3 or Canon’s 5D and 1K Mark III, you will probably own a “normal” wide-angle zoom like a 16-35 or similar. If you are using a camera with a smaller sensor like Nikons D300s or Canon’s EOS 7D you may want to get a wide-angle lens especially designed for those cameras. Nikon offers a 4/12-24, Canon a 3.5-4.5/10-22 to give you real wide-angle with such cameras.

70-200 lens


EOS 40D, EF 4/70-200L IS

Canon offers a wonderful 4/70-200 zoom lenses. It comes in two versions, one with IS, one without IS. I have the version with IS and absolutely love it. The lens is extremely sharp and IS works very well. Also, the lens is very light (much lighter than a 2.8/70-200). That lens also make an interesting close-up lens, as a zoom often is more flexible than a prime like a 180mm macro lens. The lens offers a magnification rate of about 1:4,8 according to Canon. I like using that lens for flowers and mushrooms when I don’t have to get too close. I also like using it with a Canon EF 25mm II extension tube. It is not a replacement for a real macro lens, but when you already own that lens, try using it with an extension tube. Nikon also offers a 4/70-200 lens and a 2.8/70-200 (both with VR and excellent sharpness). Again, the f4 version is much lighter and has a better minimum focusing distance.
Getting a new 70-200 just for close-ups might be “overkill”, but if you already have one, try using it. The 4/70-200L lenses from Canon and Nikon are also wonderful for landscape photography.
Nikon also offered a 70-180 macro zoom, but as far a I know, that lens is no longer available. You may want to check if you can get a used one. This lens was designed for macro work and has a much smaller close focusing distance than Canon’s and Nikon’s 4/70-200L.

100-400mm lens / 80-400 /  200-400mm lens


EOS 10D, EF 4.5-5.6/100-400L IS

Canon offers a 4.5-5.6/100-400 and Nikon and Sigma offer a similar lenses (all with image stabilization). The Canon has a magnification rate of about 1:5 at 400mm. This is interesting for flowers and also for many dragonflies. I prefer the 4/300L from Canon as it is lighter and also sharper. The 100-400mm is a great lens, though. And for a zoom it is very sharp. I made some very sharp close-ups with that lens. When photographing subjects that are moving but you can’t change your position, the zoom can be a great advantage.

Nikon offers a new 4.5-5.6/80-400 VR lens with fantastic optics and a magnification ration of 1:5. This is enough for larger flowers and insects. One a crop camera like a Nikon D7100 this is even better. Add an extension tube or two and you have a fantastic lens for flowers, insects and landscape photography (and also for birds and mammals that aren’t too shy).

A really amazing lens is the 4/200-400 VR from Nikon. That lens is especially popular with bird and wildlife photographers as it offers a very interesting zoom range and superb image quality. The lens is as sharp as a prime. It also has a very interesting close focusing distance of 2 meters. This is much better than most 400mm prime lenses. The magnification rate is about 1:3.7. which is normally enough for many big insects and flowers. The Nikon 4/200-400 VR is unfortunately a very expensive and also quite heavy lens (much heavier than the 4.5-5.6/80-400 VR from Nikon). But if you can afford it, it might be a very interesting addition to your Nikon lens collection.
The Nikon 4/200-400VR also delivers good results with the Nikon 1.4x and 1.7x extender.

The most expensive – and most impressive lens – in this category is the new Canon EF 4/200-400L IS 1.4x. It has a built-in 1.4x extender which makes is very versatile, particularly for birds and mammals. That lens offers a magnification of 0.15x at 400mm and of 0.21x with the built-in extender at 560mm. With an extension tube you can get even closer. I have been using the lens for a few month now but only for birds and mammals. Next spring and summer I will try it for larger flowers and insects. The optics are spectacular and second to none in that range (it beats the Nikon) and the built-in extender offers great flexibility and speed when you need to switch it on quickly. No more removing the lens, adding the extender and attaching the lens again.
Getting the Canon EF 4/200-400L IS 1.4x only for flowers and insects is for sure overkill and way too expensive but if you get the lens anyway for mammals and birds, give it a try for flowers and shy insects.

300mm lens


EOS 40D, EF 4/300L IS

I own a Canon EF 4/300L IS. It is great for flowers, mushrooms and large insects. About the size of a my EF 3.5/180L Macro, it is not too heavy to carry over long distances and is also easy to hand hold (only when necessary, I prefer to use a tripod whenever possible). It gives a magnification rate of about 1:4 (the Nikon 4/300 gives you even 1:3.7) and when used with a 1.4x extender or an extension tube it allows you to get even closer. You can also combine the extender and the extension tube.
The long focal length will allow you to get shots of shy insects like some butterfly or dragonfly species which are sometimes hard to approach with a shorter focal length.
The 4/300 has a much narrower angle of view than a 180mm lens and therefore will help you to get calmer backgrounds. I highly recommend a 4/300 for any photographer seriously interested in close-up photography of flowers, large insects or similar subjects.
A 2.8/300 can also be used, but due to it’s much higher weight is not so well suited for close-ups. Also the 2.8/300 lenses often do not focus as closely as the 4/300 lenses and are much more expensive.

Super Telephoto Lenses


EOS 40D, EF 4/500L IS

At first it may seem strange to use a super telephoto lens like a 4/500 for close-ups. The magnification ratio of my former Canon EF 4/500L IS is only 1:8, which does not make this lens very suitable for close-ups. The newer version, the Canon EF 4/500L IS II offers a magnification ratio of  1:6.6. I have replaced my older 4/500L IS with the new EF 4/600L IS II for the extra reach.  The new Canon telephoto lenses are a lot lighter than the older models and the new 600 II only weighs about the same as my former 500mm lens. Like the 500 II is has a magnification ratio of  1:6.6. When you do not want to get too close that lens can offer some interesting possibilities. Also keep in mind that you can add an extension tube and an extender to the lens which increases the magnification ratio. The 4/500 and 4/600 lenses (both old and new models) can be interesting for very shy insects like some dragonfly species. Also you cannot always get as close to a flower as you want to. There maybe be an obstacle between you and the flower (like a deep creek). Or imagine you are walking on a trail and see a flower several meters away from the trails. You don’t want to leave the trail because you do not want to trample down other flowers to get the shot (The well being of other flowers should always be more important than a good photograph!!!). In some areas (like some national parks) it may also be forbidden to leave the trails. In those cases a 4/500 may save the day. Due to it’s very narrow angle of view, a super telephoto lens also makes it very easy to isolate a subject against a calm background.
I do not suggest you should spend thousands of Euros or Dollars for a big lens just to photograph flowers. That would be overkill, but if you already have such a lens (maybe because you are photographing birds and other wildlife), think about using it from time to time for flowers and insects.


So what to do ? It depends all on your needs (and on how much money you want to spend). I use many of the options above and this works very well for me.
If you get only one lens I suggest to invest in a 180mm (or 200mm) macro lens (Sigma also offers a 150mm lens which is quite interesting). If you want to buy more lenses an interesting combination would be a 100mm macro and a 4/300 telephoto lens (consider adding an extension tube and 1.4x extender).
In the end you must decide on your own what is best for you.
If you are new to photography and have not yet decided which camera brand you choose, I recommend getting camera for which many different lenses (like the ones mentioned above) are available. For example, even if you don’t plan on getting a 180mm macro lens right now, make sure there is one available for your future camera. If you later decide to get a 180mm macro lens, you will feel very sorry if there is no such lens for your camera.
I always recommend getting Canon or Nikon cameras as they offer the largest selection of lenses and build the best cameras.I hope this article helps you to decide which lens to get for close-up and macro photography.

What do I use?

I currently use mostly the following three lenses for macro photography (all Canon):

EF 2.8/100L IS Macro
EF 3.5/180L Macro
EF 4/300L IS

Sometimes I use my EF 4/70-200L IS or EF 2.8/24-70L II and in rare cases the EF 4/17-40L or even rarer my EF 4/600L IS II. Next year I plan to try the EF 4/200-400L IS 1.4x for flowers and dragonflies.





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Currently under redesign Sat, 07 Dec 2013 21:04:36 +0000 This website is currently undergoing redisign. This can lead to some problems with some articles, galleries and pictures.
Update will be complete soon.

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Book review: Success with wildlife photography by Steve and Ann Toon Sat, 11 Aug 2012 08:35:44 +0000 I love Otters and when I saw the cover of this book I immediately was interested. For less than 15 Euros, there was not much too loose and I always get some inspiration out of wildlife and nature photography books.
After finishing the book, I was not disappointed. It really is a good book. It is aimed (in my opinion) mostly at beginning and intermediate nature photographers who are serious about learning about their craft.

In every nature photography book I look at the pictures first to see how good the photographer is. Here I can say that Steve and Ann Toon are very skilled photographers and the pictures alone are an inspiration.
Having been in South Africa this year for the first time, I was happy to see so many pictures from that place. In fact most pictures in the book are either from South Africa or the UK. But don’t let that bother you, all the things you can learn from the book can also be applied to all the other great places like Yellowstone or a Tiger reserve in India.

The book covers equipment, how to use a camera and other technical gear, composition, wildlife photography in the field and a little about the digital darkroom. At the end of the book, the authors even have some tips on how to become a professional photographer.
Of course the authors can’t go into every detail in a 175 page book, particularly not when it comes to the digital darkroom but it gives the reader an idea on what the authors do at the computer.

The main subjects in the book are mammals, often large ones like Lions or Elephants, followed by birds and a few insects. Macro photography (e.g. of insects) is only covered a little and you will definitely need more literature about this fascinating area of nature photography.

The writing in the book is easy to follow and always interesting when the authors write about their personal experience.

If you are an advanced wildlife photographer, you probably won’t get much out of the text but the pictures can still be a fantastic inspiration.
If you are a beginning or intermediate wildlife photographer, then I highly recommend this book!

Buy from amazon
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Book review: Digital Flower Photography by Sue Bishop Sun, 11 Apr 2010 20:59:40 +0000 This book is a basic introduction into digital flower photography. On a little more than 140 pages it covers the basics of flower photography with a digital SLR camera.
After an overview of necessary equipment like cameras or lenses the book covers exposure, depth of field, light, colour, choosing the right background, composition and digital image processing. It also has two case studies, one about cherry blossoms, the other about crocuses. All this is illustrated with many pictures taken by the author.

I like this book but it could have been better. The text is very basic and mostly targeted at beginners. If you are already an experienced photographer, you won’t find much new information. Also, the text does not go into too much detail and often a beginner might want more information. For example, the text on choosing a macro lens is not even half a page and is very basic. It mentions that a longer focal length has different benefits but the book does not explain the advantages and disadvantages of the different telephoto macro lens. For example a Nikon photographer might wonder if it is better to buy the 105mm or the 200mm macro lens from Nikon. The book does not mention that most manufactures have telephoto macro lenses in those ranges (Canon has 100mm and 180mm) and what are the advantages and disadvantages (See my article Choosing a lens for macro and close-up photography for a much more detailed explanation).
Similar the chapter on flashes. Nikon and Canon offer a large selection of flashes incl. specialised macro flashes. After reading the book you won’t know what to buy!

The chapters on colour, light and composition are better and although not as detailed as in other books, they offer many useful tips for the beginning and intermediate photographer.

For me the best part of the book are the awesome images. Sue Bishop is a world class flower photographer and the fantastic images are a clear proof of that. The images are a great inspiration for every flower and nature photographer, no matter your skill level and I enjoy browsing through the images and looking for inspiration for my own flower photographs.

Overall I think the text could have been better (and much more detailed, especially when it comes to technique and equipment), but the pictures alone may be worth the price of the book for many photographers – it definitely was worth it for me.

So, if you are mostly looking for detailed technical explanations for flower photography, look elsewhere but if you want a beautifully illustrated book with fantastic flower photographs as a inspiration for your own photography, this book is a good investment.

Buy the book from amazon:

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Book review: The Ultimate Guide to Digital Nature Photography Sun, 04 Apr 2010 07:03:34 +0000 I just finished reading the The Ultimate Guide to Digital Nature Photography published by the Mountain Trail Photo Team. I really like this book. It may not be “ultimate” but no book can be. For example, you could write a whole book only on bird or butterfly photography and fill more pages than this book has (192). So, not everything is covered in great detail (for example photographing birds in flight or how to best use a hide to photograph shy animals).
But there is a lot to like in this book. First of all are the absolutely stunning pictures from various photographers. I’ve read many nature photography book but this one belongs to the top 5 when it’s comes to the quality of the images presented. The printing quality is stunning and it is just a joy watching all those amazing photographs and become inspired by them. The pictures alone are worth the price of the book.
The text is mostly written for beginning and intermediate nature photographers. It covers equipment, exposure or how to use light. The chapter on composition is one of the best treatments of this subject I’ve read. It may not be as detailed as in some other books but has many clear explanations illustrated with awesome images and it also covers stuff not found in many other books like using triangles, S- and C-cuvers or Zig-Zags.
One chapter covers special effects like using HDR, multiple exposures, night exposures are using flash. Here more details, especially for using flash would have been great but there is still a lot of useful information to be found. The HDR information is also only basic but given that this is such a big subject, the reader will probably have to buy a separate book on HDR anyway.
In the chapter “Making magical images” the reader can find many tips on how to improve his photography organised by various subjects like landscape, macro or wildlife.
The chapter on digital workflow covers the basics of how to work with your images in the digital darkroom. Given that topics like Lightroom or Photoshop are very complex, again, here only the basics are presented and you will need more detailed books covering those topics.
At the end there is one page with some thoughts on turning pro, a photographic calendar covering interesting locations in North America and some small tutorials on specific topics like photographing autumn color, waterfalls or birds in flight (as I wrote above, the coverage here is basic for some topics. 5 small paragraphs on how to photograph birds in flight are a good start but won’t be enough to make you an expert – but becoming an expert in birds in flight photography can only be done with lots of practice, anyway.

Overall I liked the book a lot. The text is great for beginning and intermediate nature photographers and the pictures are so good that even advanced and professional nature photographers can learn something from them or become inspired by them.

Highly recommended!

Buy the book from amazon:

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E-book Review: Alan Murphy’s “Guide to Songbird Set-up Photography” Tue, 16 Mar 2010 22:14:06 +0000 I recently had the change to read Alan Murphy’s “Guide to Songbird Set-up Photography”, an E-book written by Alan Murphy, one of the best bird photographers in the world and published by Arthur Morris’ Birds as Art Store.
Alan Murphy has become famous for all his amazing pictures of song birds and other species which he attracts to prepared perches.
This book, which is only available on CD, covers in detail how Alan does create his fantastic images. The only focus of the book is on how to create the perfect set-ups for attracting and photographing birds. It is not a beginners guide to bird photography. You should know how to handle a DSLR and a telephoto lens.

The title is not entirely correct as the book does not only cover song birds but also some other groups like hummingbirds, woodpeckers, ducks or grouse.

A few topics covered in the book are:
– Hummingbirds in flight
– photographing woodpeckers
– birds in a cactus
– photographing Bluebirds
– attracting birds to feeders
– using water or fruits to attract birds
– how to choose the right perches
– ground birds on stumps
– owls
– kingfishers
– water birds
– birds in flight

Every topic is explained in detail with pictures of the set-ups Alan uses and what he does to get the perfect shot. This all is illustrated with many of the best bird pictures ever published in a book about nature photography.

The writing style is very easy to follow and very inspiring.

On a little more than 100 pages, the book contains more practical tips than most other books on nature photography.
Don’t worry if you don’t live in North America. The tips and tricks can be applied everywhere in the world. I try to use a lot of Alan’s tips during this spring and summer and I already found a few places where I will create my own set-ups.
I live in southern Germany and there we don’t have all the species described in the books. But what works for Bluebirds in North America can also work for a European Robin, a Song Thrush or a Blue Tit.

Alan’s Book is one of the best publications on bird photography I’ve read. I highly recommend this outstanding E-book to every bird and nature photographer, no matter how experienced you are. You will definitely learn something from Alan.

More information:
Product Description at the Birds as Art store

Alan Murphy’s website. Be sure to visit. The Website has many amazing images and a very interesting blog. Alan also offers workshops where you can learn from the master himself.

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Book review: Digital Landscape Photography by John and Barbara Gerlach Sun, 07 Mar 2010 19:59:03 +0000 A while ago, I published a review about the book Digital Nature Photography: The Art and the Science by John and Barbara Gerlach. I really liked their book and found that it was one of the best books on digital nature photography available.
Recently I bought and read John and Barbara’s new book, called Digital Landscape Photography, which is simply fantastic.
The book has about 200 pages and is full of great information for the digital landscape photographer.
The book covers many topics, including:

  • Cameras, lenses and accessories
  • Exposure
  • Getting sharp images
  • Light and composition
  • HDR and panoramas

Everything is explained in great detail. The book contains a lot more text than many other books on landscape photography. Especially interesting was the chapter on getting sharp images. I often wonder when I meet photographers in the field with expensive cameras and lenses but not using a tripod or other techniques to get sharp images. This book tells you how to get the sharpest image possible and the author’s advice works!

The chapters on light and composition are equally interesting. Although I’ve read many books on those subjects already, I always learn something new in a good book. This is because every photographer works different and also composes his or here photographs in a different way.

The text is easy to follow and never gets boring. I finished the book in 3 days.

The images in the book are simply fantastic and a great inspiration. I always judge photography books by the quality of their images. How could you believe the text if the images are bad? In this book, every shot is stunning and perfectly executed. The authors really know how to take great landscape photographs.

There is nothing in the book I don’t like. It would have been interesting to know the technical details of the images (focal length, f-stop), but where really necessary, the authors mention those details.

I highly recommend this book to everyone nature and landscape photographer!

Buy the book from amazon:

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Book review: Creative Bird Photography by Bill Coster Sat, 20 Feb 2010 20:05:51 +0000 Birds are among the most popular subjects among nature photographers. But taking good pictures is not easy, one reason among many is that birds are often hard to approach.
Because of this, some people think that creativity is only for landscape or flow close-up photography but for birds it’s enough to get a sharp, correctly exposed and frame filling picture of a species.
But good pictures of birds can be as creative as landscape or close-up photographs. They can be art as well.
Bill Coster, a famous bird photographer from the UK, has recently published a great new book called “Create Bird Photography”. This is not another book that explains in detail what lens you need, how f-stops work or that a DSLR is better than a compact camera. True, there is a small chapter on technical requirements like cameras, telephoto lenses or tripod heads but all the rest of the book is devoted on how to make amazing bird pictures that are more than just sharp and correctly exposed.
The book covers the various aspects of bird photography and the daily life of birds and how to create good pictures in those situations. Topics covered are birds in flight, the life cycle of birds, action, behaviour, food and drink or taking shots during dusk and dawn.
In each chapter, the author shows many stunning pictures from birds around the world and explains the story behind the shot: Where is was taken, what equipment was used, which decisions the photographer made while taking the picture, why he used a certain technique, shutter speed, composition, etc.
For some pictures the author also explains what could be better. This is a great help, especially for beginning photographers.

For me, the pictures alone are a great inspiration but with the text next to the pictures the book becomes even more valuable and you can get many ideas for you own shots, whether you are on safari in Africa or photographing song birds in your backyard.

For me, this was one of the best books on bird photography I’ve read.

Highly recommended for bird photographers of all levels!

Buy the book from amazon:

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Book Review: Michael Freeman’s Top Digital Photography Tips Sat, 25 Jul 2009 11:59:04 +0000 There are many books on the market that offer a collection of tips for the digital photographer. Not all of them are worth reading. The book reviewed here is different and I think is one of the better tip collections on the market.

This is not a book for the complete beginner. You should at least know some basic terms like aperture, ISO or shutter speed.

The book is divided into 9 chapters.

Chapter one covers the basics. Some of the advice here may seam trivial like to shoot RAW or to just shoot when you see something interesting – instead of waiting and missing the shot. But it’s worth reading through the tips as the author has good arguments in most tips.

Chapter two covers exposure, something many photographers have problems with. The author covers important topics here like dynamic range and how to find out what the dynamic range of your camera is or how to judge the dynamic range of your subject. I also liked the tips on histograms and how to shoot for the highlights.

Chapter three covers color with topics like how to make white balance simple, color contrast, hot to shoot for black-and-white and more.

Chapter four is about technical details. Here, Michael Freeman explains how to best check for dust on your sensor, how to clean it or how to check if a picture is sharp. He also explains proper hand holding techniques. Many beginning and intermediate photographers may think they already know how to handhold a camera but I definitely learned something new here. Wrong hand holding technique probably leads to more out of focus pictures than anything else. Other tips are how to weather proof your camera or how to handle your camera in cold weather.

Chapter five covers composition. Composition is complex and easily a topic for a whole book alone. So in this chapter it is not possible to completely cover photographic position. But the author manages to explain many important points like how to look for rhythm or how to apply verticals or curves.

Chapter six is a rather specific chapter and it covers stitching. The author explains what possibilities are there for stitching and how to photograph a scene to get the most out of the stitching process. If you plan to do a lot of stitching, you will find great advice here. If you haven’t considered stitching an option so far, this chapter may give you some interesting new ideas.

Chapter seven explains how to use multiple shoots to get the best out of one picture, for example by blending exposures or using HDR technique to increase the dynamic range or to get rid of noise.

Chapter eight covers photography in low light and how to best deal with and avoid noise.

The last chapter covers some basic digital processing techniques. Of course this is not a complete Photoshop or Lightroom manual but has some great ideas in it.

I like the book and I although I already know many of the topics covered in the book, I nonetheless learned a lot and also got some new ideas for topics I thought I had already understood completely.
The images throughout the book are great for explaining the theory in the text and are always beautiful to look at. But Michael Freeman is not only a very skilled photographer but also a great writer. The text is always interesting to read and easy to follow.
I highly recommend this book to beginning and intermediate photographers and I think even professionals can find something interesting in the book.

Buy the book from amazon:
(The book has different coves in Europe and the US but it is the same book)

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