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So You Wanna Be A Wildlife Photographer...

June 24th, 2016

So You Wanna Be A Wildlife Photographer...

Congratulations! You are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, a journey that is at once fascinating, frustrating, exciting, and most of all…educational. Maybe you’ve seen some amazing photos in National Geographic or some other publication. Perhaps you’ve been inspired, as I was, by nature films and images of far off places. It doesn’t matter how or when inspiration hits you but my advice is to just jump in with both feet. Do it! Life is too short to not explore new interests and activities and if wildlife photography isn’t for you, well, you’ll find out soon enough. But you can at least say you did it. Before you get started there are a few things you should know.

MINE IS BIGGER


Most people getting started in photography get too caught up in what equipment they should have. How many megapixels they should have, how big of a lens they should have, full frame or crop sensor, etc. etc. I’ll leave the camera advice to others as everybody has an opinion and everybody will tell you something different. At the end of the day they all do the same thing…they capture light. Everything else is all bells and whistles in my opinion. Get what you can afford and go from there. If you can swing a DSLR then I’d go for it as you will have more control over your images. Whether you get a DSLR in the beginning or not your main focus (see what I did there?) should be learning the proper technique. By that I mean the basics of composition and framing, lighting, and learning your camera from the inside out. Once you’re familiar with your camera and have moved past the basics take it off manual. The sooner the better. Why? Because learning to work on manual mode gives you more control over your photographs and forces you to think about the shot rather than letting the camera make decisions for you. The only function I keep on auto is focus and sometimes I even focus manually if I have the time. In the beginning though its fine and often desirable to use some auto functions rather than missing a shot.

I’d also recommend picking up the book “Understanding Exposure” by Bryan Peterson. It’s written in an easy to understand format and covers most of the things you need to know as you’re starting out and is a great reference later on. The “For Dummies” books are also great resources and an easy read before moving on to the more advanced topics. This dummy is a big fan. For apps I highly recommend the Images for Conservation Fund Photo Guide to Nature & Travel Photography by Bill Gozansky. One of the great features of this app is that an internet connection is not required making it a true field guide and a great resource in the field.

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The Search for the Swamp Queen

June 24th, 2016

The Search for the Swamp Queen

Deep in the wetlands of the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge one evening, I heard the distinct sounds of baby alligators chirping. My heart beat with excitement with just a touch of fear sprinkled in. A heady mix. And I love that feeling. I knew with baby alligators around that the mother would not be far off and would fiercely guard her young, even to the point of attacking any intruder that gets too close for her comfort. I froze in place and listened carefully trying to determine the exact location of the sounds. They were close by and off to the side so I retreated and walked around the path and then there they were.

Ft. Lauderdale by Night

May 4th, 2014

Ft. Lauderdale by Night

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Last Friday night I ventured out to explore the city streets of my hometown, Ft. Lauderdale to see the sights and photograph it up close and personal. I've said this before but I think it's important to expand your horizons and try different things. I had the idea to do a black and white series and with camera in hand I drove to downtown Ft. Lauderdale. I grew up in Ft. Lauderdale and have spent a great deal of time there but it had been awhile since I really explored the Riverwalk area. Years ago I used to rollerblade down the boardwalk before any of the development was there including the River House high rise.

One of the first things I noticed upon approaching the area was a homeless man sleeping on the ground in a small park area. I found it ironic that he was sleeping in the shadow of the River House, one of the most exclusive residences in Ft. Lauderdale. The photo above is actually a three shot panorama accomplished with a tilt-shift lens. I love how it came out and it also tells a story…a very important element when it comes to photography IMHO.

The next shot is the view from the Broward Center for the Performing Arts looking east towards the Riverwalk area. This is actually a blend of three different exposures, one long exposure for the water, another for the skyline, and another for the sky. Blending them together creates a dynamic range that is nearly impossible with a single exposure. This technique is very effective but a tripod must be used to ensure the field of view doesn't change.

It was very interesting to see the city after hours and I would love to get out there again since I didn't have time to venture down Las Olas. Even though I don't like the weather here in South Florida, I must admit that Ft. Lauderdale has a certain vibe to it that I don't feel in any other city. Perhaps it's the waterways, with the water taxis and yachts cruising down the restaurants along the New River, maybe it's the vibrant nightlife or the world famous Las Olas Blvd with it's many shops, restaurants, and art galleries. Whatever it is I know that wherever I move to Ft. Lauderdale will always have a place in my heart.

If any of you got the chance to check out "Florida Untamed: Gator Country" on NatGeo Wild last Sunday night I can tell you which footage of mine they used. Most of the gator vs. turtle footage was mine (including the final shot of the gator crunching down on the turtle as seen above), a few shots of the big gator at Wakodahatchee Wetlands, the grasshopper on top of the alligators head, a shot of a gator lunging for a Great Blue Heron was used, and George made national television yet again as he lunged at another gator from under the water and a few more bits here and there were used as well. It was really cool to see my work on NatGeo Wild and hopefully this will generate some more interest as "Birth of a Predator" moves forward.

In site news I've finally found a decent gallery plugin to link with my photo stream on Flickr. You can now view my photos in one place by visiting the gallery page. There is one bug with the feature though, when you click on an image to view a larger size and select the "back" button on your browser you will be directed to the last page you visited even if it's the last website you came from. To go back to the gallery page from the image you're viewing you must refresh it to return to the main gallery page. Very annoying and I've emailed the developer so hopefully that will be fixed soon. In the meantime it's better than nothing so there you go.

That's it for this week…the weather is not cooperating today so guess I'll catch up on some editing and other stuff. But wherever you are I hope you're having a great weekend and check back soon! Also check out my new Facebook page The Alligator Outpost and also my main Facebook page Mark Andrew Thomas Photography . Check 'em both out and like if you do and feedback is always welcome…would love to hear from you!

Later,

-Mark

New Adventures In Old Florida

March 24th, 2014

New Adventures In Old Florida

Located off U.S. Highway 27 in Florida sits the ruins of the old Everglades Gatorland, an old roadside attraction and tourist destination. Opened in 1959 by J.C. Bowen and his wife Mary Lou, it started as a gas station and then expanded to include a souvenir shop, food, and live alligators and other wildlife native to the area (and some that weren't). Tourists would come by the busload to see the advertised live alligators and other animals. The first nail in the coffin was the enforcement of stricter regulations in 1967 regarding the care and maintenance of animals which in turn forced many of the small mom and pop roadside zoos out of the picture. The attraction stayed strong through the 1980's until the theme parks and other Florida attractions became the must-see places to visit in Florida. By the 1990's, with the alligators gone the Bowens, now in their seventies were looking to sell the establishment as business had dwindled to the occasional tourist stopping by…probably more interested in directions or using the restroom than buying souvenirs. Ten years later the Everglades Gatorland had fallen into ruins and still stands to this day although the land is now for sale. Sadly, this means that this piece of Florida history is probably on borrowed time and will end up being demolished like so many other historic sites that are becoming increasingly hard to find. Click on "read more" below to read the full article and see a photo of Gatorland in it's 1960's heyday. I'll also tell you how I got the night shot of this historic ruin.