mikeojohnson photography: Blog https://www.mojphoto.com/blog en-us (C)mikeojohnson photography | All rights reserved. mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Tue, 23 May 2023 12:55:00 GMT Tue, 23 May 2023 12:55:00 GMT https://www.mojphoto.com/img/s/v-12/u416772552-o1050450323-50.jpg mikeojohnson photography: Blog https://www.mojphoto.com/blog 80 120 The Last Tiger https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2023/5/the-last-tiger IMG_3847IMG_3847

Well, it is our last day on Safari.  We have been to two national parks and are on our 8th tiger safari.  We are currently in Kanha NP.  The previous two days have been a bust....no tiger sightings.  But, with our usual positive wildlife photographer attitude, we are optimistic that our trip to Kanha will bear fruit.  A female tiger had been sighted the previous day and we knew where to look.

So, here we are at 5:19am, anxious to get into the park.

7R501120-Edit7R501120-Edit Today, we have a full day permit.  It gives us permission to move to any of the park zones and stay all day.  This means the morning day group will leave the park around 11 am and not be able to return until after 4pm.  This gives us a 5 hour window with only a couple of other trucks in the park.  Our hope is the tiger will move during this window.  

So, we are headed to the tiger through the forest.

7R501129-HDR7R501129-HDR And we are in luck.  There is an old female sleeping in the weeds.  Our guides know who she is and report that she has two young cubs hidden somewhere nearby.  

A1A09735A1A09735 IMG_3856IMG_3856 So, we take a break for lunch.  


And when we return the day folks have left and we have the area to ourselves.  Of course, our hope is she will get up and move.


With the other two trucks positioned near the sleeping cat, our guide suggests that she will exit the tall grass and walk across the more open area so we position here.


It is now hours later and the afternoon crowd shows up.

A1B09056-EditA1B09056-Edit IMG_3867IMG_3867 And then it rains...

IMG_3857IMG_3857 The guides are not happy.  The rain will reduce the probability that the cat will leave as she will be cooled off and less in need of water.  We are hoping she will need to attend to her hidden cubs.  Always optimistic!

We know she is still sleeping.  Occasionally, she will raise up and give everyone hope that action will follow.


Now we are getting nervous.  No one can understand why she has been there all day and it is getting late.  We are 45 minutes from the gate and have to be out of the park by 6:45pm.  Time is short.

A1B09068-EditA1B09068-Edit Abbi, our trip guide is smiling but you can tell he is nervous.  

Alas, the time comes and we need to leave.  We exit the park and our safari ends unfulfilled.  Such is the life of a wildlife photographer.

The jungle setting of India coupled with the single subject focus of our trip provided one of the most challenging photo experiences I've ever had.

As an aside, we learned that there is quite a bit of documentation about the tigers in Kanha.  So, I go home with this information about T-65.





mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) india kahna national park safari tiger https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2023/5/the-last-tiger Mon, 22 May 2023 20:44:25 GMT
The Tiger Story https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2023/5/the-tiger-story On a recent trip to India to photograph Royal Bengal Tigers, we had a unique experience that I would like to share.

We were traveling around Bandhavgarh National Park looking for tigers to photograph.  Luckily for me, our driver was also a photographer.  We had been having problems with some of the drivers positioning the truck for a good photo.  But not Hersch.

As we were driving around (you stay on the dirt roads in the park)  Hersch stopped the vehicle.  He said "See that faint furrow across the road and into the bush?  That is where a tiger dragged a kill into the bushes.  And I know she is still there because the crows are up in those trees over there.  If she was gone they would be eating the prey."

Note:  I highlighted the path.


Then, in a moment I will never forget as a wildlife photographer he said "She will finish eating and then I believe she will emerge from the bush over there.  We will reposition the truck so she will walk right past us on her way to the pond.  After they eat, they go to water to drink and cool off.  She will spend some time there and then move on."

And, she did!

First, emerging from the bush:


Then, my favorite photo:



Time in the water:

A1A07675-Edit-2A1A07675-Edit-2 A1A07638-EditA1A07638-Edit

And another favorite - the Leap

A1B08849-Edit-2A1B08849-Edit-2 A1B08850-EditA1B08850-Edit

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Biggs India Tiger Tigers https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2023/5/the-tiger-story Sun, 21 May 2023 14:44:58 GMT
Barred Owls with Sony 200-600 https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2019/10/barred-owls-with-sony-200-600 I spent a morning on Blue Cypress lake with Ron Bielefeld of Whistling Wings shooting Barred Owls.  It turned out to be a very special experience with several owls and great light.  We were shooting from Ron's customized pontoon boat.  Just a word about Ron.  He knows the photo ops in the area!  Before sunrise we pulled up to a tree, put out a speaker to call the birds and said when the sun hit the horizon he would call the birds.  Then he pointed to the branch it would land on and told us to get ready.  There were four of us on the boat and everyone raised their lenses.  The sun hit the tree, the speaker called the owls, the owls answered and shortly flew right to the branch.  I would have thought this was luck but he repeated it two more times in different locations.

Here are a few of my favorites from my gallery:

_A9A4877_A9A4877 _A9A4909_A9A4909 _74A0682_74A0682 _74A0684_74A0684 _74A0685_74A0685 _74A0681_74A0681 And here are a few flight shots with the 200-600:

_A9A5264_A9A5264 _A9A5265_A9A5265 _A9A5267_A9A5267 _A9A5270_A9A5270 Finally, here is some video taken with the A9 and 200-600.


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Barred Owls Birds Blue Cypress Lake Owls Whistling Wings https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2019/10/barred-owls-with-sony-200-600 Sat, 19 Oct 2019 11:03:43 GMT
Looking Back https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2019/1/looking-back It has been a long time since the last blog post.  A lot has transpired photographically since then.  I have committed almost exclusively to Sony gear.  With the release of the A9 and the 400mm f/2.0 lens, a credible kit for wildlife can be assembled.  I still maintain an Olympus kit, but mostly because I already have the lenses.  If weight is the main concern, micro 4/3rd is a great alternative to full frame.  Because the sensor is small the lenses are a fraction of the size and weight as full frame lenses.

So, 2018 has come and gone.  It was a busy year for travel and photography.

First up, with two great friends, I joined a Shoot the Light workshop in Yellowstone NP in February.  In addition to the serenity of Yellowstone in Winter, the stunning landscapes and a great group, we were fortunate to spend time with a large pack of wolves.  While, perhaps, not the best photo ops, they were an incredible experience to witness.  The drama of watching a pair of buffalo parents around an injured calf, while the wolf pack just waited was palpable.


Then, a highlight of my life and big check off the bucket list, was a family trip to Africa.  I have been wanting to take my children and grandchildren to Africa for a long time.  It just seemed like the right time as I just turned 72.  We visited Rwanda for three gorilla treks, Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwe side and then were joined by my wife and the grandkids for 5 nights at Makanyi Lodge in South Africa.  Everyone had a camera and I spent the entire time with a warm fuzzy feeling inside as I watched their love for the wild grow.


Then, a river cruise in France in July.  We joined Viking Cruises in Paris for a trip along the Seine river to the Normandy beaches.  We were with two other couples with whom we have traveled all over the world.  It had been a few years since the "six pack" had been on an adventure and it was great to travel together again, share old times and experience some of the incredible experiences of France.  The World War II D day beaches were a humbling and somber experience and I was glad to get to see them.


Finally, if those three adventures weren't enough for a year, my wife and I went on an expedition to Antarctica.  Our goal was to visit the Emperor Penguin colony on Snow Hill island, located in the Weddell Sea.  Thirteen days on a Russian icebreaker chartered by Quark Expeditions, the Kapitan Khlebnikov, provided a unique journey to this remote place and three days of experiencing these amazing birds.  The last time Quark ran the trip was 2010!

A Composite Chick in Pouch with a Colony ImageA Composite Chick in Pouch with a Colony ImageEmperor Penguin Colony, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. When I got the original chick in the pouch shot which I call Peek A Boo, there was a lot of clutter. Since this was one of the main images I was looking for I decided to make a composite. Getting chicks in the pouches is a pretty cool experience.  

Rounding out the photo experiences were our usual visits to places around Florida to photograph birds and this year, I spent some time learning about focus stacking using my orchid garden as a subject.  Finally, the grandkids and I had some fun with a "green screen" making some music videos to share with their friends.



mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) adventure Africa Antarctica France landscape shoot the light wildlife Yellowstone https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2019/1/looking-back Sun, 27 Jan 2019 18:27:08 GMT
In Search of the Holy Grail https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2017/2/in-search-of-the-holy-grail I recently had an email exchange with a friend and fellow Canon shooter about acquiring a Sony AR7M2 for landscape shooting.  I spent some time thinking about it as it is also related to my "search for the holy grail" of high image quality with significantly less weight.  As some of you know I have Canon big glass and pro bodies in my kit as I travel the world photographing wildlife.  Here is the email:

"Hi Steve,
I got your question on messenger and thought I would give it a longer response.

I own the AR7II and an A6500 along with several lenses.  Here are my thoughts:
I think Sony sensors are excellent.  I believe they are generally regarded as industry leading and I would subscribe to that view.  The 42MP’s in the AR7II produce stunning files.

Here are the reasons I have some Sony gear.
Image quality - check.
Weight - with f/4 lenses - check.  With the newer Gmaster f/2.8 lenses the kit is similar to Canon, which while it makes sense was disappointing.  
Camera and menus - the mirrorless cameras are ahead of the mainline manufacturers with innovative features, but lag them in the user interface.  I find the Sony’s to be not as easy to learn or remember.
EVF vs Optical viewfinder - The added information (like real time exposure and histogram) along with improved resolution overcome my preference for an optical viewfinder.  The new ones are very good and I have come to like them.
Action photography - fail.  When the mirror goes away the sensor must provide the data for focusing.  While this has improved dramatically in the past couple of generations they aren’t close to my 1dx2, in my opinion.  And, the other factor that is frustrating is the fact that while the data is being read from the sensor the viewfinder goes black.  This is another area that has improved significantly but isn’t yet at the pro DSLR level.  Easy to lose a fast moving subject.  As you know, the Canons burst so fast you hardly notice the mirror going up and down.  
Landscape - Perfect.


So, for a landscape only shoot the Sony system is great.  I would bring the 16-35 f/4, the 24-70 f/2.8 and the 70-200 f/4.
If it was mixed shooting, wildlife and landscape, I would either bring two systems or my Canon gear.  Usually, the latter.
As you probably know, you can buy a metabones adaptor to connect your canon lenses to the Sony body.  Works great for the shorter lenses, up to say, 70-200.  A good way to get into Sony to see if you like it.

As an aside, weight was a big factor for me in looking for an alternate system to either replace my Canon or supplement it.  I thought Sony would be that but it isn’t. In addition to the above thoughts, they are lacking the long lenses.
So, I have been trying the micro 4/3’s from Olympus and Panasonic.  The bodies and lenses are interchangeable.  The new OMD EM1M2 from Olympus is getting high marks from reviewers.  I haven’t tried one but will be.
And, the cost of pro level M4/3 gear is a fraction of Canon or Nikon.  
To give you a feeling for the magnitude of the difference, a typical kit for Canon, like you or I would have taken to see the spirit bears, for example, fits in a Gura Gear bag and weighs 32 pounds.  An equivalent M4/3’s kit with the same focal lengths and speed of lenses fits in a medium size camera bag and weighs 12 pounds.   At this point, I would still take my Canon kit to the Spirit Bears, but maybe not with the next generation of mirrorless.  We did a 10 day  Baltic cruise last summer and I carried Panasonic GX8’s with a few lenses, carried two bodies in pouches everywhere and am very pleased with the images. 
One final thought.  The smaller sensors are getting really good.  When I think that the biggest print I ever make is 16x24, and most of the images go on the web, I’m not sure that having better image quality in the files actually makes a practical difference.   I don’t think my photography will be celebrated in the library of congress so maybe other factors like fun, comfort, etc.  should bear more weight in the decision making than the web reviewers give credit.

So, I think the world is changing and old farts like me with bad backs will be able to extend our adventures a few more years.
Hope this is helpful.  If you have any other questions, let me know.


PS:  I know, I suffer from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome).  I have come to believe it is untreatable so have just accepted…."

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Camera Systems Canon Olympus Panasonic Sony Weight https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2017/2/in-search-of-the-holy-grail Sun, 26 Feb 2017 13:40:21 GMT
Aurora Borealis Time Lapse https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2016/10/aurora-borealis-time-lapse In order to show the incredible changing light of the Aurora Borealis, I recorded 50 time lapse images and assembled them into a video.  The exposures were 30 seconds each which covered about 15 minutes of the display.  In the video, each frame displays for 1 second so everything is compressed into about 1:40.

The sound track is a pack of wolves who spent several minutes howling near our lodge.  That by itself was an incredible experience.

Best viewed full screen.



mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Aurora Borealis Hudson Bay Nanuk Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge Northern Lights Shoot the light https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2016/10/aurora-borealis-time-lapse Sat, 08 Oct 2016 17:21:33 GMT
Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge with Shoot the Light https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2016/10/nanuk-polar-bear-lodge-with-shoot-the-light I sometimes get asked what it is like to go on a photo tour or workshop to a remote area.  Below is a trip log from my recent trip with Chas Glatzer and 5 other photographers to a remote lodge on the coast of Hudson Bay in northern Manitoba Province, Canada.  We spent four nights at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, one of a group of remote lodges in the area owned by a family company named Churchill Wild.

Trip log - Nanuk STL



Travel to Mn.

Overnight at Molly’s

To the airport on 9/25 

Fly to Winnipeg.

Overnight at the Grand Hotel.  

Dinner with group at hotel with folks from Churchill Wild.

Met Don Tilton, my roommate for the trip.


6:30 flight to Churchill.

45 minutes into a 1 1/2 hour flight the captain comes on and says there is a maintenance issue and since there are no maintenance employees in Churchill we need to return to Winnipeg.


After about a 45 minute delay we load up again and take off.  We arrive in Churchill at noon.  Because we were late, one of the bush planes scheduled to take us to the lodge was sent somewhere else.  This meant it would be two trips to the lodge.


We were on the first one, but we needed to wait for the second to arrive before we could go out looking for photography subjects.  Result, no photography on day 1.  Cloudy skies so no northern lights. 34 frames.



Woke up early to get out on safari at first light.  Just before 7am we wandered into a pack of wild wolves.  Had to jack the camera iso to 13k to get an exposure.  There were about a dozen members of the pack of which I saw 8 or 9.  This was incredible experience, though perhaps not a great photo op.  I have wanted to see and photograph a pack of wolves in the wild since I got my first shot of a couple of wolves interacting in Yellowstone years ago.

Timberwolf PackTimberwolf PackPack of wolves in the distance. Early light. Exciting to observe.

As it turned out that would be it for the morning.  Back at the lodge by 10am.


Lunch and then out in the Rhino’s around 2pm.


There were a lot of Canadian and Snow Geese getting ready to migrate south and the skies were sometimes filled with waves of birds.  Not much in the way of photo ops.  The blast offs seemed to all take off away from us.  I don’t recall any noteworthy flight shots, but did notice a lot of “happy clicks” since there wasn’t much else to shoot.  (“happy click” is one of those moments when you have to hit the shutter, even knowing the image will go to the trash)


Around 4pm we pulled into a place moose were known to visit and our guide, Alfred, tried to call one in.  No luck.  Returned to the lodge around 5:30.  


From inside the lodge compound a black bear sow with two cubs was spotted walking by.  Got a few shots through the fence but they were skittish and once there were several photographers they quickly moved on.  Nice to see, not much photography.


Spent the time around sunset working the pond in front of our lodge.  Worked on starburst and in camera HDR’s.  Happy with a couple.

Sunset on our PondSunset on our PondThe pond outside our room.


After sunset the pack of wolves visited the lodge.  Quite an experience listening to them communicate with their howls.  Took a lot of pictures but the light was lousy.  Shot my first picture at 102,400 iso.  Didn’t think I would ever use this setting.  It was quite noisy but made a great image and memory.  Wolves are a fascinating subject. Timberwolf in the YardTimberwolf in the YardA curious wolf checking out the lodge.


Stopped shooting around 8pm as there was no light.  Was able to record a minute or two of the pack howling.


No Aurora photos tonight.  Cloudy sky.


9/28 Day 3

First light.   Out with the Rhinos early.  Wolves on the runway at 7am.  Photos from 7:08 until 7:11, when they went into the brush.  Was able to expose 50 frames.  Maybe one or two picks.  Great start to the day!


Set up at the bend in a river waiting for moose.  Stayed for an hour with no luck.  Got a call on the radio that the other Rhino were on a moose.  Not too far away.  We packed up and headed over there.  Took my first shot at 10:05 and last at 10:12.  It was a big moose with a great rack in a beautiful setting and good light.  A first for all of the elements!  May have my “moose photo of the trip” in this bunch. Big Moose IIBig Moose IIWe had a brief encounter with this moose in both a good setting and good light. in both a good setting and good light.


Back to the lodge for lunch.


Back out after 1pm.  Bad news.  Our Rhino blew a wheel bearing and was unable to limp back to camp.  So all of us got into other vehicles and the entire group had to return to camp.  A few words about the Rhinos.  They are custom made all terrain vehicles and in some ways a marvel of engineering.  The allow us to easily go through terrain and cross streams, function on the muddy tidal flats and give us a good shooting platform.  But, when they break the whole show comes to a grinding halt.  Since there are normally bears in the area, safety dictates that there be no risk of anyone being left out at night so they don’t take a chance.  There is enough transportation on each excursion that if one vehicle breaks down everyone can get back to camp.

The Bad BearingThe Bad BearingThis broken wheel bearing cost us a day of shooting. Nanuk Lodge, Canada. BreakdownBreakdownThe Rhino blew a wheel bearing.


So, we returned to the lodge and a couple of guys went back with parts to repair the wounded Rhino.  The result - no photography that afternoon.


Back at the lodge, we fooled around, had dinner and were preparing for bed with the expectation that we might get awakened at 2am for northern lights as the skies had finally cleared.  But there was a big surprise:  The aurora borealis came early.  All the lights in the lodge were extinguished around 830 and we witnessed one of the more incredible sights I have ever seen.  Everyone was on the decks and eventually out on the runway for the next couple of hours witnessing and composing images.  The colors were spectacular, the intensity was high and the movement mesmerizing as they danced across the sky.  This was one of the highlights of photography for me.  Since we were frustrated for the afternoon, it picked up everyone’s spirits. 75 frames. Light Show SpectacularLight Show SpectacularAurora Borealis, Nanuk Lodge, Hudson Bay, Canada



9/29 -

This is our last full day of photography.


The Rhino wasn’t repaired over night and didn’t show up until late morning.  So, we hung around the lodge.  Basically another half day lost.


In the afternoon the repaired Rhino returned and we went out.  Our group set up in a meadow for a couple of hours looking for moose, with no luck.  On the way back we were able to shoot a pretty cool sunset with the sun melting into the earth.  Got back around 7pm and cleaned up for dinner.


You may have noticed by now that I haven’t mentioned polar bears yet.  That is because we didn’t see any.  At this point, there were a number of folks in the group who had never seen a polar bear and they spent the afternoon driving 15+ kilometers from the lodge and were able to see one bear, sleeping on the beach.  I’m glad I didn’t go as it would have been a lot of effort for not much reward.  Luckily, I have a lot of good polar bear images.  Of course, the guides said” “You should have been here last week.  We had bears by the lodge every day”  This seems to be a standard refrain around the world when the wildlife isn’t cooperating.  It wasn’t that there weren’t bears along the coast, they were just too far to get to.  I’ll say more about this when I summarize my thoughts about the trip.


This was another spectacular night with the northern lights.  They started again around 8:30 and we got a few shots at the lodge.  But tonight, the guides piled us all in the Rhinos and we drove out to a spot at the river with a lot of rocks to create both a different scene that the night before but also some cool foregrounds.  We returned to the lodge around 9:30 and I continued to work the lights from our deck.  At 10:30 I got tired, but at Chas’ suggestion I set up the camera to do automatic Time lapse shots and over the next half hour recorded around sixty frames that will become a video which will show the motion of the lights. Photographing the Northern LightsPhotographing the Northern LightsNear Nanuk Lodge, near Hudson Bay, Canada. Can you see the big dipper? The shooting star? Northern Lights IINorthern Lights IIAurora Borealis, Nanuk Lodge, Hudson Bay, Canada



9/30 - travel day.


Today we had a few hours before the bush planes came to take us back to Churchill.  A bunch of folks went looking for bears in the Rhinos, and three of us opted to get on a trailer attached to a four wheeler and see if we could find a moose near the lodge.


Turned out to be better than that.

As we left the lodge there was a black/grey timber wolf on the runway in beautiful side light.  He gave us a few frames and moved on, and so did we. Wolf Passing ByWolf Passing ByWolf walks right by not seeming to pay attention to us....but he was.


Our guide had a meadow that he said frequently saw moose, so we headed over there.  As we were setting up and Alfred was going to start calling for the moose, another wolf (I think the same one we saw before) walked right by us.  Pretty thrilling to be ten feet away from a wild wolf!


Then, right after this, as my heart was slowing back down, a moose showed up and presented himself.  He was smaller than the other one and had a smaller rack, but walked right by giving us a great photo op in a good setting. Moose in the WoodsMoose in the Woods


We returned to camp around 8:30 to complete our packing for the ride back to Churchill.


Along the way to Churchill we saw a number of polar bears from the air, along with caribou.


We spent the afternoon in Churchill killing time until our flight to Winnipeg at around 9pm.  We arrived in Winnipeg around 10:30 and I got to bed around 11 with a wake up at 3:45 to begin the flight home - Winnipeg to Minneapolis to Ft. Myers.  The travel went without a hitch and Jan picked me up around 1:30.  The dog was glad to see me and we had a wonderful dinner with friends before packing it in.


Thoughts about this trip:

Mick Jagger sang 

“No you can’t always get what you want

You can’t always get what you want

You can’t always get what you want

But if you try sometime you find

You get what you need”


This verse kind of sums up my thoughts about this particular trip.  There are two dimensions worth commenting on.  First, it was billed as a photography trip.  To make a good or great photo you need at least three elements:  Good light, good background and an interesting subject.  This trip was particularly frustrating because most of the time we had two of the elements but not the third.  Unfortunately, the missing element was most often the subject.  I exposed by far fewer images on this trip than any other trip of this kind.


Now, part of the reason for this is that there isn’t an abundance of subjects - if they are moose, wolves and polar bears.  So, you really need to work hard and exhibit a lot of patience to get a good shot.  We also had mechanical issues that caused us to lose almost two days of scheduled shooting opportunities.  I said I would talk about the bears since the lodge is named Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge.  We saw no bears on this trip.  The reason was that the bears move quite a bit and apparently had moved out of the range of the lodge in the previous week.  We know there are bears in the area as we saw many on the flight from the lodge to Churchill.  Just not within range of the Rhinos.  In this way, wildlife is a lot like fishing.  You can buy the best gear, hire the best guide and go to a proven location, but sometimes the fish aren’t there or won’t bite.  


The second dimension worth mentioning is that we did get several once in a lifetime experiences.  We saw a pack of wolves in the wild.  My guess is very few folks have had such an experience.  We were able to get a few photos for memories.  We also had two nights (at a reasonable hour I might add) of Aurora Borealis image making, some of which are of portfolio grade.  Also, another thing not seen by many.  So, with the glass half full, I am satisfied that the trip was worth the effort.  


Gallery Here

Waiting for the MooseWaiting for the MooseWhich didn't show up. Wildlife photography has a lot of waiting...


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Bear Chas Glatzer Churchill Wild Glatzer Moose Nanuk Nanuk Lodge Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge Shootthelight Wolf mikeojohnson mikeojohnson photography,Timberwolf https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2016/10/nanuk-polar-bear-lodge-with-shoot-the-light Fri, 07 Oct 2016 14:08:13 GMT
Galapagos Adventure https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2016/6/galapagos-adventure In June, 2016, my wife Jan and I went to the Galapagos Islands on a photography trip organized by Andy Biggs.

It was a great adventure with 14 other folks from all over the world.  Our transportation was the Majestic, a boat built to tour the islands.

Our tour covered excursions to six different islands.  For me, it was a great photography experience because there were so many animals and birds I had never seen before in the wild.

Here is a map of our journey:

Galapagos ItineraryGalapagos Itinerary

You can find my images HERE.

Here is a short slide show of some of my favorites:

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Andy Biggs Birds Galapagos iguana snorkel https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2016/6/galapagos-adventure Sun, 12 Jun 2016 15:48:43 GMT
Phantom 4 video https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2016/6/phantom-4-video I brought my DJI Pantom 4 drone up to Minnesota to give to my son, who is in the creative field and will use it to make money....as opposed to me for which it is fun.  While there, I gave it one last flight, filming my daughter, Molly, and grandson, Noah as they were on a nearby lake with paddleboard and kayak.

Totally personal experience, but it seems somehow soothing so I thought I would post it.  Expand to full screen for a high def. experience.

Molly and Noah Paddle from Mike Johnson on Vimeo.

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) kayak paddle board phantom video https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2016/6/phantom-4-video Sun, 12 Jun 2016 15:39:06 GMT
Spirit Bear Video https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2016/6/spirit-bear-video Last year I went to British Columbia with Charles Glatzer of Shoot the Light to primarily photograph Spirit Bears.  The galleries are here.

Here is the YouTube Video.  I briefly appear at 3:52, 5:42, 7:30 and 7:53.

This was a great adventure and I, for one, am glad there is an effort to preserve these somewhat rare wildlife opportunities.

Here is the gallery write up:  

Bears in British ColumbiaIn September, 2015, I joined Charles Glatzer (Shoot the Light) and five other photographers for a week on the Ocean Light II, a beautifully maintained 71 ft. ketch rigged sailboat. Our objective was to spend five days photographing bears in the incredibly beautiful Great Bear Rainforest. Primarily, we were interested in seeing and photographing Spirit Bears.

The Kermode bear (Ursus americanus kermodei), also known as the "spirit bear" (particularly in British Columbia), is a subspecies of the American Black Bear living in the Central and North Coast regions of British Columbia, Canada. It is noted for about 1⁄10 of their population having white or cream-colored coats. This color is due to a double recessive gene unique in the subspecies.

The Kermode bear was named after Francis Kermode, former director of the Royal B.C. Museum, who researched the subspecies. The name is pronounced Ker-MODE.
A male Kermode bear can reach 225 kg (500 lb) or more, females are much smaller with a maximum weight of 135 kg (300 lb). Straight up, it stands 180 cm (5' 11") tall.

Fewer than 400 Kermode bears are estimated to exist in the coast area that stretches from southeast Alaska southwards to the northern tip of Vancouver Island; about 120 inhabit the large Princess Royal Island. The largest concentration of the white bears inhabits 80-square-mile Gribbell Island.

We spent 4 days along the shoreline of two rivers on Gribbell Island. As is true to the article, for the first two days we saw no “white” bears. But on days 3 and 4 we experienced a female who spent most of the time wandering up and down the river from our two viewing locations.

The spirit bear experience is special, primarily because the subject is rare, but also because the setting and the bears themselves are beautiful. The native “First Nation” inhabitants of Gribbell Island control the viewing and have constructed a rough trail and viewing locations. You must obtain a permit from them to enter the habitat. While the viewing experience is somewhat commercial, the actual time a bear is in front of your lens is very special. The Great Bear Rainforest, as they call the area, is a surreal landscape, very lush and green with flowing streams and lots of moss on the foliage.


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) British Columbia Canada Glatzer bear shoot the light spirit bear wildlife https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2016/6/spirit-bear-video Sat, 04 Jun 2016 18:38:59 GMT
Polar Bear Jail https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2015/11/polar-bear-jail Up on the southwestern shore of Hudson Bay, near the town of Churchill, you will find one of the few places on earth to experience polar bears in the wild, up close and personal.  You may have heard there is a polar bear jail in Churchill, and there is!  I recently ran across an article in the Churchill Wild blog that explains the origination and operation.

Click for the entire blog post..

I also was able to record the "release" of one of the inmates on my way home from Seal River Heritage Lodge back in 2011.

My gallery from that adventure is HERE.

Or, a slideshow of it:


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Churchill Churchill Wild Polar Bear polar bear polar bear jail https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2015/11/polar-bear-jail Mon, 02 Nov 2015 17:00:14 GMT
Exposure tip https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2015/10/exposure-tip Here is a useful tip for Canon owners (at least the 1DX and 7D2) courtesy of Chas Glatzer of Shoot the Light.

If you have a variable aperture lens, such as the 70-300L or the new 100-400L this tip is pretty cool.

The idea is you set up the exposure for the images you are going to make.  Let's say, for example, you want to use f/4.5 because it gives you a 1000th shutter speed at ISO 800.  Because it is an action shot, you want to maintain the 1000th shutter speed, but as you zoom into a close up of the subject the f/stop changes to 5.6.  In the past, I would set up the shot at 5.6 and use a higher iso.  But, there is a custom function in the Canon bodies that you can set to keep the shutter speed constant as the lens changes the f-stop.  The camera automatically adjusts the iso to keep the exposure constant.  

on a 1DX it is in the custom function 6 menu.

When you select the "Same expo. for new aperture" item you get these choices:

Since your goal is to keep the shutter speed up and the aperture is changing by itself as you zoom the lens, if you select "ISO speed" in this menu, the camera will automatically raise the iso to offset the smaller aperture.  Now, this isn't a big idea, but if you are like me and would have made that adjustment manually, having the camera do it automatically is one less thing to worry about.  The key is the result which is the same overall exposure at the same shutter speed.


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) aperture custom function iso shutter speed https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2015/10/exposure-tip Sat, 31 Oct 2015 18:04:10 GMT
They aren't all for the gallery https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2015/9/they-all-arent-for-the-gallery Under the heading of what photography means to me.....

I try to go to interesting places and make interesting photographs that, hopefully, others also find interesting.  But, many times I'm in places that are interesting, but the photography doesn't turn me on.  Very often, particularly if the experience is unique, I will make images and/or short videos just to capture the experience.  I really don't care about the technical or even the artistic quality, just documenting the experience.  Recently, a good example of this part of my photography occurred.  We were traveling out west visiting friends in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Now, each year a special event occurs and our friends took us to experience the Burning of Zozobra.  We stood out in the rain on Labor Day weekend for the Burning which kicks off a fiesta in Santa Fe that started in 1712.

Over 40,000 people attend the burning.  One of ideas behind the whole thing is to come to the burning with a piece of paper on which you have written all the things that caused you gloom in the past year.  They are all collected before the ceremony and placed at the base of the effigy, to be burned with it.  After the ceremony there is no more gloom in Santa Fe.  A great way to start clean for the future.

Here is my recording of the event:

All of the images and video were shot with the Sony RX100M4, which I think is the best point and shoot camera available.  Various settings were used but most of the time the camera was in manual mode at iso 3200.


And, a short video showing the different stages of the action:

Finally, here is an excerpt from Wikipedia describing the event and its history:  "

Zozobra ("Old Man Gloom") is a giant marionette effigy that is built and burned every autumn during Fiestas de Santa Fe in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As his name suggests, he embodies gloom; by burning him, people destroy the worries and troubles of the previous year in the flames.[1] Anyone with an excess of gloom is encouraged to write down the nature of his or her gloom on a slip of paper and leave it in the "gloom box" found in the offices of the Santa Fe Reporterin the weeks leading up to the burn. Many people put legal papers in the gloom box as well. At the festival the papers from the gloom box are placed at Zozobra's feet to be burned alongside him.

Fiestas de Santa Fe has been held since 1712 to celebrate the Spanish retaking of the city in 1692 by Don Diego de Vargas from the Pueblo tribes who had occupied the city since the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The burning of Zozobra dates from 1924. Santa Fe artist and marionette maker Gustave Baumann came up with the idea of creating the effigy,[2] also called Old Man Gloom, and the ritual burning; and then conspired with his friend William Howard Shuster, Jr. to burn the first Zozobra. Zozobra means "anxiety" in Spanish. Baumann's idea might have been influenced by Mexican cartonería (papier-mâché sculpture), especially the effigies exploded during the burning of Judas that takes place on Holy Saturday or New Year's Eve, as a way of ridding oneself or one's community of evil.

Today in Santa Fe more than 50,000 people go to watch Zozobra, who stands fifty feet tall. His burning marks the start of three days of celebration that includes traditional mass at St. Francis Cathedral; a reenactment of the Entrada, when Don Diego de Vargas returned to the city; a Children's Pet Parade; and the Historical/Hysterical Parade. The Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe builds Zozobra and burns the effigy at Fort Marcy Park."


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Burning Zozobra Burning of Zozobra Festival Fiesta de Santa Fe New Mexico Santa Fe Sony RX100 Zozobra Zozobra Burning gloom" no more gloom https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2015/9/they-all-arent-for-the-gallery Wed, 09 Sep 2015 16:32:11 GMT
Another New Camera https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2015/8/another-new-camera Updates:

9/18-EJ Pieker, over at Naturescapes.net has posted a pretty comprehensive field report of his impressions of the A7R2 HERE

9/18-Also, if you have a Metabones4 adaptor for Canon lenses, on 9/18, Metabones released new firmware that enables phase detect auto focus with Canon lenses.  Should improve AF performance.  You can get it HERE.  

Original post:

As many of you know, I am a long-time Canon shooter.  I have all the gear from 11mm all the way up to 800mm.  My main bodies are the 1DX and 5D3.  I love the images the gear makes but have a problem.  As I age, lugging a bag full of heavy gear is getting increasingly difficult, let alone annoying.  When I add the fact that most of the photo tours I go on require a couple of days to get to and from and the problem becomes more than annoying.

So, I have been searching for a high quality, smaller and lighter solution.  For travel (read family vacations) I acquired a Panasonic micro 4/3's system.  I love the weight, there is a good selection of high quality lenses and the image quality is ok.  But it is a mirrorless system and for my ability doesn't do well with high speed action like birds in flight.  The other complaint I have is that very often, when traveling, we visit some great landscape opportunities.  In this situation, and this is my personal opinion, a 16 megapixel sensor doesn't produce enough image detail to render the scene the way I like it, lots of fine detail.

Which brings me to the next evolution - Sony.  I have been shooting the RX100 series point and shoots since the first generation and have been impressed with the images from such a small package.  So, with a lot of interest, I have been following Sony which has jumped into full frame mirrorless in a big way.  The latest generation of their flagship body, the A7R2 was released last week.  I picked one up as the potential "bridge" to solve my problems.  Here is a very light body with fairly high iso capability that, if you use f/4 lenses, produces a package at any given focal length that weighs about half of my Canon gear.  

The camera came this week and I have been giving it a workout.  Here are my observations:

First, there are a lot of videos on youtube that show an unboxing, explain the camera and make recommendations as to how to set it up.  I recommend that you visit them as it will save you time.  There are a lot of menu items to make choices about and many aren't glaringly obvious as to the best set up.

Having some experience with the RX100's, at least pushing buttons and navigating the menus was somewhat familiar.

My intent would be to use this body as a replacement for my 5D3 and the wide angle Canon lenses.  I have a Sony 16-35 and 24-70 and 70-200, all f/4.   And this arrangement will save several pounds in the bag.  Since longer lenses  are generally used with the 1DX's for wildlife they will continue to go on these adventures.  As an aside, I have noticed that I increasingly bring the 200-400 instead of the 600 on these trips.  Maybe it is because I'm shooting more wildlife in nature vs. portraits, and....maybe it is the weight.

The other interesting feature with the A7 series is the ability to buy an adaptor and attach Canon lenses to the body.  I picked up a Metabones IV adaptor and can report that Canon lenses work with the A7R2.  Auto focus works fairly quickly, and is more than useable for more static subjects, like landscapes.  This is particularly useful as a lens like the 11-24 Canon wide angle zoom is able to make images with interesting perspectives because it is so wide at 11mm.  

The highlight features of this camera that interest me are the full frame, 42 megapixel sensor, a new design, the in body image stabilization which is particularly helpful for 3rd party lenses and, of course the size.

While it is still a challenge to get used to an electronic view finder, they are getting very good and I'm pretty much over my objections.

All in all, I think this is a second major step for me, at least, to the world of mirrorless.  It will be interesting to see if the Sony replaces the M4/3 system for travel photography.

Here are a few images taken in my neighborhood with the A7R2, the metabones adapter and the Canon 11-24.

11mm,iso200, 1/160 @ f/5.6; processed in Lightroom and OnOne Perfect effects, bottom crop to pano


11-24 @ 16mm, iso 200, 1/80th @ f/8, Lightroom and OnOne Perfect Effects, Full frame


11-24 @ 11mm, iso 200, 1/80th @ f/8, Lightroom and OnOne Perfect Effects, Full frame



mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) A7R2 Canon on Sony Impressions Metabones Sony landscape https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2015/8/another-new-camera Sat, 08 Aug 2015 13:11:56 GMT
Award Winner https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2015/7/award-winner I am in Svalbard, north of Norway, waiting to board the Stockholm for a week of sailing to the arctic ice pack.  There are ten other photographers on the trip and our goal is to photograph polar bears in this unique setting.  I have always wanted to photograph a polar bear floating by the boat on a small piece of ice, in great light and with a polar background.  I came close to my ideal image in 2013, but am back to see if one last time it can happen.

To my surprise, as I am traveling, I received an email from the expedition company in Australia, Aurora Expeditions notifying me that an image I submitted to their annual contest was selected as first prize.  The contest comprises entries from all the expeditions they run during a calendar year.  It happened to be one of my favorites from South Georgia Island:

Penguin ShadowsPenguin ShadowsSt. Andrews Bay, South Georgia Island With the Polar Pioneer way in the background it is an early morning image of a bunch of king penguins as they approach the sea for their morning fishing.  The shadows captured my eye and I liked the early morning story it tells.

Here is the announcement from Aurora"

"The overall winning image went to Michael Johnson’s “Penguin Shadows” taken at St. Andrews Bay, South Georgia in November 2014.  Michael has won AU$1000 worth of photography vouchers for his winning image. This is what our judge, James Ostinga, had to say about the photo:

“There's something about the grouping of the penguins in this image that tells a story. It's as if the little guy on the right is off doing his own thing – a dance perhaps? – while the central group looks on with a mix of curiosity and, maybe, a touch of disapproval. The lighting is interesting too. Shooting into the sun can be a great way to give your images a different look and it's an effective technique here. I love the penguins' shadows in this image. It might be worth experimenting with a tighter crop to emphasize the penguins and their shadows.”


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Aurora Expeditions King Penguin Penguin South Georgia South Georgia Island https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2015/7/award-winner Wed, 08 Jul 2015 14:11:49 GMT
Blue Cypress Lake Visit 2015 https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2015/5/blue-cypress-lake-visit-2015 Four of us made our way over to the east coast of Florida in late April for our annual morning on Blue Cypress Lake.  Located near Vero Beach, Blue Cypress is a pristine, very undeveloped lake with a unique attraction:  there are over 200 nesting pairs of Osprey populating the Cypress trees growing along the western shore of the lake.

Our trip begins with a three hour drive from Estero, Fl, where we live.  We usually go the day before our morning shoot.  Booking a room at a hotel near the freeway by Vero Beach puts us less than a half hour from the lake.  In the past few years we have gotten there early enough to take a run up to the Viera Wetlands about an hour's drive north.  If you go, be sure to visit both the Rich Grissom Memorial Wetlands and the nearby Dan Click Ponds.  Both are accessible by car.  Some years we have had a great late afternoon shoot, but this year it was pretty sparse.  I think I only added a few images to my Viera gallery.  

After checking into our hotel and finding dinner in Vero Beach we pack it in.  We get up early to be able to be at the Middleton's Fish Camp to connect with our pontoons.  Our experience has been that renting a pontoon including a captain makes for more and better photo ops for us.  Middleton's is a step back into old Florida.  Basically, the only commercial venture on the lake, there are cabins for rent and, it is a popular gathering place.  Joe Middleton passed away last year but his wife, Jean, has kept the operation going with what appear to be a steady group of locals.  In any event, they are nice folks and interesting to visit with.

This year, our experience was different than the past.  It was an overcast day with heavy rains forecast.  We usually rent a boat for three hours but this year were only able to use about two of them.  At one point along the way the captain said the rains are coming and we need to get back.  The first drops came down as we were docking the boat.

Photographically, the light was not as exciting as the low morning sun of previous years.  If you peruse the gallery you will notice quite a difference.  The early morning and overcast sky caused a lot of high ISO images.  I spent a lot of time at 3200 and 6400 ISO to get the 1600th to 2000th shutter speeds I like.  Remember, you are on a randomly moving boat photographing from long distances and very often fast moving subjects.  Faster shutter speeds are necessary.

This year the environmental images also looked dramatically different with the blue cast of the sky emphasizing the greenery.  

After packing up the gear, we drove home in the rain.  This is an annual trip for us and I am looking forward to next year.  Here is a slide show with this year's images:

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Birds Blue Cypress Lake Cypress Cypress Trees Florida Middleton's Middleton's Fish Camp Nature Nesting Osprey Osprey Osprey Chicks Osprey Flight Photography https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2015/5/blue-cypress-lake-visit-2015 Sat, 02 May 2015 12:09:44 GMT
Inspire1 in 4k https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2015/3/inspire1-in-4k I have been practicing with my new DJI Inspire1 UAV (Drone).  This is the third generation of these quadcopters from the Chinese company DJI.


Each generation has advanced the technology.  This model bridges between their entry level Phantom series and their professional level S-1000 series.

I have owned a couple of the Phantoms and now own the Inspire.  Here are the features that I value enough to upgrade from a $1,500 investment to a $3,000 investment.

This is a more serious photography/videography tool.  It has a built-in camera that can record 4k video and 12 megapixel still images.

The controller has been redesigned and now includes most of the controls that you need for a photography flight.

The DJI Lightbridge technology that transmits high definition video from the camera to the controller and then is displayed on a smartphone or pad, is built in.  This makes flying it much easier as well as composing the images.

The flight characteristics are superior.  The camera is dedicated and the design integrated with the copter.  The DJI gimbal technology insures a steady image, even in quite windy conditions.

The landing gear retracts, which allows the camera to rotate 360 degrees of unobstructed views.

The copter is much heavier, consequently has more powerful motors, larger propellers and a larger battery.  The good news is the larger battery provides for between 15 and 20 minutes of flight time.  This may not seem like much, but when the drone is in the air it is quite a long time.  When you couple the fact that you can control the making of images and videos from the controller with a real time view of what the camera is seeing, you get a more than adequate flight experience.  For folks who fly them for commercial jobs it may be a negative, but for the small videos I expect to be making it will work fine.

I am using an iPad mini for the monitor.  It took some time after the Inspire was shipping for the iOS app to become available, but it is fully featured, providing all the information you need to configure the equipment, monitor the flights and manage the photography.

One of the things I don't like is that the camera is a fixed aperture.  I'm sure this made for a simpler design, but it is f/2.8 which means to get smooth video during bright days you need to screw on an ND filter.  One is supplied, but I would have preferred having the option to adjust the aperture.

All in all, this generation of DJI UAV's fulfills all the issues I used to think about when flying the earlier generations.





The videos below were recorded in 4k, rendered in 4k (very big files!) and uploaded to my site.  Zenfolio reformats them to regular HD so they aren't as awesome in this blog as they are on my monitor.



mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2015/3/inspire1-in-4k Sun, 22 Mar 2015 16:45:33 GMT
Travel Tip https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2015/3/travel-tip If you are like me when you go on a photo trip, you are scrambling to save every ounce and cubic inch you can.  Heck, it might mean one more lens will fit in the bag.  Here is a tip I picked up from a video by David Hobby.


DSC00008_1DSC00008_1 DSC00010-2DSC00010-2 DSC00011-2DSC00011-2

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) charger cords eliminate cords photography tip https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2015/3/travel-tip Sat, 21 Mar 2015 14:47:44 GMT
Antarctic Adventure https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2015/3/test In November, 2014, I went on what would turn out to be an incredible adventure aboard the Polar Pioneer.

I have blogged about this trip previously and the galleries are here.

As we pulled out of the harbor in Ushuaia, Argentina,

Big and LittleBig and LittleUshuaia, Argentina

Our little ship seemed very small considering the journey ahead.

Leaving UshuaiaLeaving UshuaiaPolar Pioneer, Aurora Expedition

But off we went, and it was one of the best adventures I have had.

The reason for this post is to show you a video that Antony Watson made that captures a lot of the experiences.  He must have shot hundreds of gigabytes of video over the course of the 21 day adventure.  Here is an embedded youtube video.  It is over 30 minutes long.  If you are interested, I suggest you watch it in full screen and high def.

Credits due:  

The trip was organized by Aurora Expeditions, located in Australia.

The two photography leaders were Joshua Holko and Andy Biggs.

Joshua runs his trips from this website.

And, Antony's work can be found here.


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Andy Biggs Falkland Islands Falklands Joshua Holko South Georgia South Georgia Island antarctica orca penguins photography seals whales https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2015/3/test Sat, 21 Mar 2015 14:19:01 GMT
Bosque del Apache https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/12/bosque-del-apache Bosque del Apache is a national wildlife preserve located in New Mexico.  It is famous photographically for the large numbers of migrating Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese that spend the winter.  Being close to Albuquerque it is quite accessible and there are typically a lot of photo opportunities.  Late December is right in the middle of the time to be there.  I didn't go this year, but a friend, Clemens Vanderwerf just posted a trip report to his blog.  He also includes a lot of great images.  To read his blog go HERE.

My gallery from several years ago is HERE.

Bosques SunsetBosques SunsetDigital Creation - Cranes inserted into sunrise image

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/12/bosque-del-apache Mon, 29 Dec 2014 12:30:19 GMT
Published Again! https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/12/published-again The Times of London published one of my Antarctic Expedition images on Saturday, 12/13/2014.

Here is a snap from the paper:

London Times PhotoLondon Times Photo

The image was taken at Fortuna Bay in South Georgia Island.  Here is the actual image from the gallery:

Follow MeFollow MeFortuna Bay, South Georgia Island


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) King Penguin London Times Times Times of London penguin published https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/12/published-again Mon, 15 Dec 2014 16:22:22 GMT
I'm Published! https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/12/im-published Article on the London Daily Mail website about my Antarctic Expedition.


I guess that makes me an Internationally Published Photographer!  Don't worry, my wife will stick a pin in my big head.

Here are the galleries if you are interested.


Photographers Shooting the ChannelPhotographers Shooting the ChannelLemaire Channel, Antarctica


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/12/im-published Mon, 15 Dec 2014 01:09:52 GMT
First Impressions - Canon 100-400 II (Kind of)-Updated 2/26/2015 https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/12/first-impressions---canon-100-400-ii UPDATE:  I am updating this post with information from my trip to Botswana in January, 2015.  

Here are some statistics from the trip.  As of the date of this writing I have posted 159 images to the galleries.

Here is a summary of images by camera and lens:



As you can see, from my selects, 31% were taken with the 7d mark II.  And of the total images (159) taken with all bodies, 36% were taken with the 100-400.  I also found it interesting that of my 7d markII images, 28% were with the 100-400 and 72% used the 200-400.

Here are two examples:


Cubs at the Water HoleCubs at the Water HoleVumbura Plains Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana


Lion Paws are HugeLion Paws are Huge

My conclusions:  Both the 100-400 and 200-400 will stay in my kit.  I will choose the lens primarily based on anticipated light and amount of weight I want to carry.  Image sharpness is outstanding on both lenses.

I will also keep the 7d mark II in my kit.  While I feel the 1dx images are more pleasing, there is nothing wrong with the 7dII, particularly when more "reach" is needed.  I feel very comfortable with this body and either lens up to 1600 iso.


Begin original post:

First of all, this is NOT a lens or camera review.  Canon has "completed" their lens lineup, at least so far as I am concerned for the photography I do. In the past few years, they have released the 200-400 and, recently, an updated 100-400.  So, I have looked at both of these lenses in the context of how I shoot and thinking about the subjects I shoot.  So, for me, the comparison is the 200-400 on a 1DX and the 100-400 on the new 7D mark 2.

Understanding that we are comparing gear that lists for $18,598 vs. $3,998 I still think it is worthwhile for the following reasons:  First, the 200-400/1dX weighs 12 pounds on my trusty postal scale compared to 7 pounds for the 100-400/7d2.  Five pounds might not seem like a lot, but it is, particularly for hand held.  Second, the focal length ranges are roughly comparable.  The 200-400/1dx gets out to 560mm with the built in teleconverter and has a maximum aperture of f/5.6.  The 100-400/7d2 get out to 640mm at a maximum aperture of f/5.6.  So, from a light gathering and reach perspective they are reasonably close.  Third, I owned the old 100-400 and didn't like the sharpness after about 350mm so I sold it.  Lately my go to hand held is the 70-300, which the new 100-400 seems to be of similar design.


So, in order to decide when I will use one vs the other I took my trusty moving subject, Darby the Wonder Dog, out for training this morning and made some images of her retrieving.  

One other factor that is important to me is the higher ISO performance.  I have no qualms about setting the ISO to 1600 on the 1dx and usually don't have to apply any noise reduction.  I will even go higher if I need to for the image but then noise reduction comes in.  On my old 7d I wouldn't go above 800, which is one of the reasons I sold it.  It seems that the places I go and images I make often require the higher ISO to get the DOF and shutter speed I want.

So, having said all this, what are my impressions.  First, both cameras are wonderful operationally.  Twelve FPS on the 1dx and 10 FPS on the 7d2 with auto focus that is more than adequate for my needs on both cameras.  Image quality is better, I believe, on the 1dx, particularly at 1600 ISO and above.  It seems like noise reduction will be required on the 7d2 at 1600 and above.  Having said that, the weight difference makes it easier to hand hold the 100-400/7d2.  So, my conclusion is that the 100-400/7d2 will find its way into my bag on most of the trips I go on.  Another advantage is that the 7d2 will also go on the 200-400, giving me almost 900mm.

I thought it was interesting that in his blog Scott Kelby called the 100-400 a "daytime" lens due to the maximum aperture.  I would call the combo a daytime combo if you want to shoot at 800 ISO or less.

We are going to Botswana in January.  I will be leaving the 600 at home and bring both the 200-400 and 100-400, along with the two bodies.

Here are a couple of images illustrating my points above:

Darby with the 100-400/7d2


Darby with the 200-400/1dx and internal 1.4 t/c:


Lightroom screen grab comparing both images at 100%:

7d2 on the left.


I'm not sure you can see how great the difference is in this post, but the noise, particularly on the dummies and background is quite noticeable.  I applied a small amount of noise reduction in Lightroom but there is still a difference.

Back the original title of this post.  The 100-400 appears to be a significant upgrade.  It works similar to my 70-300 with the twist zoom.  It seems to be very sharp and focuses quickly with the bodies I own.  I expect the 200-400/1dx on a bean bag will be my most used combo in Africa, but I'll have a more informed opinion when I get back at the end of January. The 100-400 will likely replace the 70-300 for travel and my intermediate carry zoom on my photo adventures.  It is heavier, but the extra 100mm of reach offsets that in my mind.  I'm still not set yet on the 200-400 as my longest lens, but will be giving it a good workout with the 7d2.  For what I shoot, 900 mm is usually more than I need.


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) 100-400 200-400 Canon impression lens https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/12/first-impressions---canon-100-400-ii Sat, 13 Dec 2014 16:54:32 GMT
Antarctica Trip Report https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/11/antarctica-trip-report What I have seen.  What I have heard.  What I have smelled.  I have been searching for the words to describe my November, 2014 three week trip on the Polar Pioneer.  I travelled with 49 other photographers and a crew of 22 on an ice strengthened ship constructed in Finland in 1982.  Our destinations were the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island and the Antarctic Peninsula.  

Our journey covered over 3,400 nautical miles and as you can see entailed many stops. Where Did We Go?Where Did We Go?Sailed a long distance in three weeks. The primary purpose of the expedition was photography.  Two professional photographers, Andy Biggs from the U.S. and Joshua Holko from Australia, chartered the ship and, it seemed filled about 2/3 of the group, with the remaining travelers booking the trip through the operator, Aurora Expeditions.  I chose this expedition for a couple of reasons.  First, Antarctica was the last continent that I had yet to visit.  And second, my experience in the arctic a year before convinced me that a smaller ship was more productive for photography.  The Polar Pioneer is one of the last "small" ships running these expeditions.

The ship, constructed in 1982 as a research vessel was refitted for touring in 2000.  The crew was entirely composed of Russians.  Apparently, they are the acknowledged masters of navigating the ice.  I must say, the trip was run in a very professional, comfortable but not fancy, and safe manner. As with my experience in Svalbard in 2013, a big part of a successful expedition is due to the expedition leader.  In our case, Judd Hill from Australia, was tireless in planning for the daily journey.  Along with our experienced captain Yuri, they adjusted, seemingly on an hourly basis to keep us out of bad weather and into good light and great photo opportunities.  And a special tip of the hat to Eric Gronningsaeter, the voyages naturalist who was always willing to sit down and help me identify birds and animals.  Not only did he know his stuff, but he is a pretty good photographer, as well.

As I mentioned in the opening, I have been struggling with how to describe this vast part of the globe.  I thought it was interesting that when in the arctic, we were able to sail beyond the 82nd parallel north.  You are considered to be in Antarctica when you pass the 60th parallel south and we only got below the 65th parallel.  The Antarctic continent is huge.

In order to add some color to the photographs I have included a number of short video clips.  Non professional, for sure, I hope they capture some of the context and sounds of the incredible things I experienced.  Unfortunately, I couldn't think of how to present the smell of penguin poop, but perhaps that is good for you.

I have organized the galleries around the five major parts of the trip:  Our gathering and departing Ushuaia, Argentina, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island, the Antarctic and the journey home over the Drake Passage.  The galleries can be found HERE.

If you click on one of the galleries, you can then click on the slideshow button in the upper right corner and it will play the photos and videos in full screen mode.  Best if you have a decent internet connection.  Otherwise you can browse the thumbnails or click through each photo/video as you wish.

I hope you enjoy the show, and more importantly, I hope you come away with an appreciation of what may be the last pristine part of the planet.

Monochrome ImpressionMonochrome ImpressionMelchior Islands, Antarctica

Follow MeFollow MeFortuna Bay, South Georgia Island

Photographers Shooting the ChannelPhotographers Shooting the ChannelLemaire Channel, Antarctica And, finally, I used my gps logger most of the time.  For those times when it was on, here are the locations of the images in the galleries:

Photo LocationsPhoto LocationsWhere did the gallery images come from?

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Antarctica photography https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/11/antarctica-trip-report Thu, 27 Nov 2014 21:37:21 GMT
Bag Man https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/9/bag-man No, I’m not referring to one of the accomplices in a robbery.  And, I’m not talking about the fellow who puts your groceries in the bag (which doesn’t happen as much these days).


I’m talking about photo bags.  You know, those necessary accessories you need to carry gear all over the world.  Now, I became seriously interested in photography with the advent of digital.  In the early days you couldn’t get a digital SLR and, of course, bags were not a big deal.  But then Canon came out with the D30 which, I believe, was three megapixels.  Then, came lenses.  Then, came bags.  


I have come to know that I am a bagaholic.  As I travel around making photographs I have discovered that I am not unique.  There are many like me.  So, here is my story:


As many do, back in the day, I started with LowePro.  A great line of bags and a reputable company.  I started small and eventually ended up with a rolling backpack.  But then airlines started getting stingy with baggage, both by adding cost and by restricting size and weight.


Around the same time, the idea of carrying gear on a belt on my hips, saving my back, led me to  Kinesis, a custom designed, almost hand made line of pouches, belts, packs and just about anything you can think of.  So now, I am going down two paths.  I need a big bag to travel with and a belt system to work out of.  This kept me busy for some years. 


Fortunately for me, a small group of avid photographers created the company ThinkTank.  When I discovered their line of bags I thought I had finally found the solution.  First, a big ThinkTank roller.  Then, they made a smaller one for regional and international flights.  Then, the shoulder bags for more gear and laptops.  As my laptop grew to 17 inches, so did my Urban Design collection.  Then, they created an innovative belt system with pouches called Skins.  These were, of course, must haves.  I have finally found the solution.  


But still, the rollers were heavy.  I kept thinking if this was lighter I could bring another lens.  Then later, as I aged, the thoughts went to lifting it into the overhead.


One day, several years ago, I was on safari in Africa with my friend Andy Biggs and he showed us a bag he had designed.  He called it a Kiboko, and boy, it was only 4 pounds light!  It also had some innovative features for safari photography and I said to myself, I finally have found the solution.  Andy said he had started a bag company which came to be known as Gura Gear to make an entire line.  Just think, an entire line….


And now, here I sit with a closet full of bags.  But, I can now carry the extra lens. 


The story isn’t over.  I’m getting too old to carry the big lenses and camera bodies.  And, along come mirrorless cameras.  I have invested in a small kit to see if the transition can be made and still get the killer images.  But all this gear is much smaller than the 35mm stuff.  Ah, I need more bags.  So, I discovered an old bag company with small lightweight bags, Tenba.  But only a small backpack and laptop bag.  I now have control.


Bottom line for this bagaholic.  I now use the Gura Bataflae bag to transport gear, a Kinesis belt with ThinkTank Skins pouches to work out of and the closet has overflowed into dresser drawers.  But, I think I have finally found the solution…


....I wonder what LowePro is up to?......

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Gura bagaholic camera bag gura gear lowepro photo bag tenba thinktank https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/9/bag-man Sat, 20 Sep 2014 20:51:37 GMT
Vietnam Pilgrimage https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/7/vietnam-pilgrimage Note:  After reading this post, you may wonder why it is in a photography website.  Well, one of my purposes for creating this website is not about the photography.  It is about the wonders of the world, the creation of memories for places I have been and incredible sights I have seen.  This blog post documents the closure of an emotional wound in our family that goes back to 1969....

Vietnam pilgrimage


Jan and I, along with 14 other friends, went to Vietnam in the fall of 2013 with an Overseas Adventure Tour (OAT) tour.  We spent almost three weeks touring Vietnam and a part of Cambodia.  This note is about an afternoon in which Pat and Jeanne Riley joined Jan and me to visit our past.  This note is about our reflection on my wife Jan’s brother, John Kim Vogelsang, who was killed in Vietnam on June 6, 1969.  Everyone called him Kim and he was my best friend in high school.  We worked together in the grocery department at Target.  I bagged groceries and he worked in the grocery pick up area.


Kim was born in October, 1945, making him about 5 months older than I was.  But, he always looked older.  He was a star athlete growing up, playing football, baseball and basketball.  While we lived in the same community, I really didn’t get to know Kim until we both attended Benilde High School in St. Louis Park.  Along with Gerry Babcock, who lived near Kim, the three of us became close friends.  We were to be separated early in life.  Gerry was also a good athlete and one of the smartest people I have known.  He went to Creighton University on a scholarship.  He got a PhD at the University of California in Berkley, which I will come back to later.  To complete the story, in addition to being the best man at my wedding, he became a famous chemistry professor at Michigan State University and unfortunately, died of brain cancer in 2000 T the age of 54.


But this story is about Kim and how his life ended.  


After Kim graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1968, he got a job at an insurance company and got married to his high school sweetheart.  You need to remember that at that time we were at the height of the Vietnam war and had a draft that was taking tens of thousands of folks per month.  Unfortunately, Kim’s number came up and he entered the army on December 9, 1968.  My recollection is he was offered the opportunity to go to officer training school but turned it down so he could return home sooner.  After basic training, he was sent to Vietnam on May 22, 1969.  He died on June 6th, and I believe we buried him on June 17th.  


Here is where my part of the story comes in.  I had dropped out of the University of Minnesota and joined the Air Force after the first quarter of my sophomore year.  I wasn’t doing too well, needed to work in order to attend college, and generally wasn’t mature enough to balance all the commitments successfully.  The Air Force had a “placement” test which I scored well on and thought it might be a good opportunity to learn about electronics or computers, which seemed to be the future.  This was my first “lesson in life” presented by the air force as, after basic training, they sent me to technical school to learn how to refuel aircraft.  What a disappointment.  But, it turned out to be a blessing as it caused me to grow up and get serious about my future.  In lesson number 2, instead of going to Vietnam, I was then sent to Fairbanks, Alaska, where it is very cold and very dark for a lot of the year.  The university of Alaska offered classes on campus and I was able to complete over a year of credits during my 18 month tour.  Then, lesson number 3.  I had volunteered to extend my enlistment if they would send me to Europe, but I ended up getting sent to Yuba City, California, in the farm country north of Sacramento.  Fortunately, the extension was cancelled and off I went.  I was there for another 18 months or so and was able to get another year of college done during that tour.  


This brings two of the three of us together again.  Gerry was doing his post graduate work at Cal at Berkley, which was less than a two hour drive from base.  I had a car at this time and would go down on the weekends.  During this period of time, Berkley was a hotbed of anti war demonstrations and frequently made the national news.  It was actually a very exciting time to be there.  So, how do these dots connect?


I was “home” in the barracks one day and the communal phone rang.  Someone answered it and yelled down the hall as it was for me.  Turns out Gerry was on the other end of the line.  He said, “Johnse, I have bad news.  Kim is dead.”  That was all he said.  The next thing I heard was a loud crash and after a short time one of his roommates came on the phone and said Gerry had just thrown a chair through the apartment window.  


With this news I called home for more details.  Kim was going to come home through Travis Air Force base near San Francisco.  As I was inquiring about the possibility of a leave, one of the admin folks told me that if the family made a request to the army I could be given orders to escort the casket from Travis back to Minnesota where he would be buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.  I called Kim’s dad, Jack, and he made the request.  So, off to San Francisco for the honor of escorting the casket back home.  There was a formal ceremony as the casket was loaded on the commercial flight and then I got on board.  I remember when we arrived, a lieutenant in the army reserve met us.  He had been assigned to represent the army during the funeral proceedings.  Kim was buried with all the honors on June 17th and in one of life’s more dark ironies, his daughter, Kimberly was born the day before.



Back to Vietnam. 


Ah, where to begin.  As you might expect, the loss of a brother and best friend has not settled in our family, particularly in a war that seemed to accomplish nothing.  Also, we really had no details of how Kim was killed, what it was like where he was, and all the multitude of feelings that go with such a sad loss.  So, when we agreed to go to Vietnam on this tour, in the back of our minds we hoped to be able to find some closure by experiencing the place where he died. 


Back home, before we flew to Vietnam, Jan searched all our records to see if we could identify the location where Kim was killed.  The best we could do was extract this from the Army’s notification of Kim’s posthumous award of the Bronze Star Medal For Heroism:  “For heroism,….in connection with military operations against a hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam.  Private First Class Vogelsang distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous action on 6 June 1969, while serving as a rifleman with Company A, 2d Battalion (Airmobile), 5th Cavalry during a forward operation base in Tay Ninh Province…”


When our group first met in Vietnam with our guide Lee, we talked about the three families with Vietnam War experiences and how we might make some side trips to places that had significance to each family.  Armed only with the information Tay Ninh Province, Lee gave it some thought and said that the main activity in Tay Minh took place on and near a place called the Black Virgin or Black Lady Mountain.

Black Virgin MountainBlack Virgin Mountain


There is a long historical story about this place, which today is a Buddhist  shrine.  He said we could do a day trip when we were in the area and we agreed.  The Riley's, who had also done a day trip to the location where Pat flew helicopters agreed to go with us.  So, on September 28th, while the others continued on the tour, we hopped in a car with a driver and headed off for the Black Virgin Mountain.  


As we arrived, it was clear that this was a very active location for tourists and religious pilgrims.  There is a very well organized park in which you take a tram to the location of the gondola ride which takes you about half way up the mountain to the location of the Buddhist temple complex.  As we were riding up the mountain, I looked out and said to Jan, we don’t know exactly where Kim died, but let’s agree that we are overlooking the place as we ride up.”  She agreed, and for us, this ended one of the open questions. 

The Countryside PanoThe Countryside PanoWe talked about Kim was probably killed somwhere in this scene. At least, that is what we decided to believe.

As we walked up the hill towards the temple I was struck by the beauty and solemnity of the place.  This sure seemed like a great place to pay our respects and, perhaps, put some closure to this open wound. 


We had a local guide, who explained all the different parts of the complex.  After his explanations, our first stop was the fence at the edge of the complex.  Here we looked over the valley.  Jan had purchased a bunch of flowers and she took the petals off and tossed them over the fence.  They gently flew away into the countryside. 

Jan Sends Her Flowers to the WindJan Sends Her Flowers to the Wind ConnectionConnection

Then, our guide obviously had done this before as he pulled stuff out of his pack and explained that it is a Buddhist tradition to burn tokens of life as offerings to our ancestors.  As he laid out play money (to represent wealth) and incense he gave Jan and Jeanne a piece of paper to write Kim’s name on.  Then we took them to the stove where the coals smoldered.  He stoked the fire and then Jan and Jean put the name slips in followed by the money.  It was a moving moment for me, bringing tears to my eyes.

John KimJohn Kim Note to KimNote to KimBurning tokens of life for the attention of our ancestors.  


Finally, we went into the temple where Jan and Jeanne lit a candle and made an offering.  When you do that the monk strikes a bell which seems to resonate for a long time.  Another inward feeling of peace.

Light a CandleLight a Candle Monk Rings the BellMonk Rings the Bell


The drive home was quiet, and quite adventurous.  I don’t think a lot of tourists travel the roads we were on.  We even witnessed a motor scooter crash with both occupants thrown off.  They cursed the person who struck them and got back on.  Vietnam is an amazing place!


To end this story with another of life’s ironies, Jan and I were married 42 years ago and have two wonderful adult children and five grandchildren.  I think the war is now behind us.


Here is a slide show from our visit:

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Black Virgin Mountain Vietnam https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/7/vietnam-pilgrimage Sat, 26 Jul 2014 00:45:06 GMT
North to Alaska, I'm Going North the Rush is On...(Johnny Horton).. https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/7/north-to-alaska-im-going-north-the-rush-is-on-johnny-horton I'm leaving on the 4th of July for my fourth visit for photography in Alaska.  This trip will take me to Lake Clark National Park where hopefully, I will encounter Brown (Grizzly) bears with cubs.  This will be my third time with the bears, in three different places.

Grizzled GrizzlyGrizzled GrizzlyAlaska

I will be spending a week with several other photographers and Chas Glatzer on a Shoot the Light workshop.  I'm looking forward to a productive week with the bears.

Sow with Spring CubSow with Spring CubThe sows protect the young cubs as the boars will kill them if they can.

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Alaska bear bears brown bear grizzly bear lake clark lake clark NP lake clark national park mikeojohnson photography mojphoto photography shoot the light https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/7/north-to-alaska-im-going-north-the-rush-is-on-johnny-horton Fri, 04 Jul 2014 13:03:43 GMT
Uncooperative Monitors https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/5/uncooperative-monitors My new monitors didn't want to cooperate with my new MacPro.  So, after several exchanges with NEC support, and a series of adjustments, I was able to get them to cooperate.  Here is the story:

How to make your NEC Spectraview monitor sleep and wake up with your 2013 MacPro.


I have a new MacPro.  It replaced a 5 year old MacPro with dual 30” cinema displays.  My configuration, for those with the technical itch is:  6 cores, 64 gigs of OWC memory, 1 TB SSD and dual video cards.  It connects to several drives via thunderbolt for data storage.  At this point I have a little over 6 TB of data.  The main drive is a Promise R2 8 bay raid unit with 32 TB of storage.  It is configured in raid 5 so effectively there is 28 TB available.  The primary data backup unit is a Promise R6 with 20 TB of raid 5 capacity.  I use Synchronize Pro X to manage my backups.  


I purchased two 27” NEC multi sync PA272W monitors with the spectra view II profilers.  I really like the color and detail of the monitors and, with the included colorimeters and software, updating a monitor profile amounts to a couple of clicks.


But, describing my system isn’t the reason for this post.  I have been bugged by a problem since the new Mac arrived.  That is, no matter what I tried, I couldn’t get the monitors to sleep and wake up as they should.  So, I sent a request to NEC support.  Their first response was that it is a known problem with Mavericks, and their technical folks were working with Apple to determine the fix.  OK, I can understand and was willing to wait since the inconvenience amounted to turning the power on every day or leaving it on all the time.  


But then something you don’t see everyday happened.  I got another email from Cody at NEC support with some instructions to try in the monitor settings controls.  I set them the way they specified and it didn’t solve the problem.  So, the next day they gave me one more setting to change and, to my surprise, it worked.  Now they behave the way they should, sleeping when instructed to and waking up when I wake the Mac up.


So, in case you are interested, here are the instructions:









mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) MacPro Monitor NEC setup sleep wake https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/5/uncooperative-monitors Wed, 21 May 2014 16:15:58 GMT
Blue Cypress Lake https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/5/blue-cypress-lake A group of seven eager photographers made our annual journey to Blue Cypress Lake to photograph nesting Osprey.  The lake is a very special and unique place.  It has very little development and, consequently very little activity.  What it does have is a western shoreline that contains hundreds of beautiful Blue Cypress Trees growing into its shallow shoreline.  It also has a slice of old Florida:  Middleton's Fish Camp.  They run a fishing camp and there are trailer/cabins that you can rent if you want to stay on the lake.  There are is also a small community of permanent residents in the area.  I don't know how it started, but Middleton's also has a very active pontoon boat rental business, with or without a pilot.  You rent the pontoon boat and go out on the lake to experience one of the very special Florida bird photography opportunities.  Nesting in the Cypress trees you will find about 250 nesting pairs of Osprey, one of my favorite birds.  If you go in late April, your odds of finding a lot of nests with chicks of various ages increases.  This year was no exception.  When the nests have chicks, the parents have to fly to get food, and there are a lot of flight opportunities.

This year, our little band of friends was joined by Charles Glatzer and Dave Kelly, of Shoot the Light.  Chas and Dave were in the area getting ready for the annual birding festival up in St. Augustine.  We were happy to have them with us.  With seven photographers we hired two boats with pilots for two morning shoots.  It turned out to be a good thing to go two mornings as the light was significantly better on the second day.

So, where is Blue Cypress Lake?  It is about a half hour west of Vero Beach Florida.  Middleton's is located at the GPS coordinates:  27°43'34" N 80°46'36" W.



Here is a short slide show with some of my favorite images from this year:


Here is a map showing the location of my gallery images from this year:


Finally, here is my gallery with images from the past few years.

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) :Blue Birds Cypress Florida Lake""birds Osprey feeding""flight nesting Osprey shots" https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/5/blue-cypress-lake Sat, 03 May 2014 20:46:21 GMT
Gatorland Rocks! https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/4/gatorland-rocks We spent a few hours at Gatorland on 4/24.  It had been a couple of years since I had been there and I had forgotten what a cool, "old Florida" place it is.  Inside of the park is a bird rookery that provides excellent photographic opportunities.  There is a boardwalk along one side of a very large Alligator breeding pond surrounded by foliage chuck full of bird nests.  If you go in April, you have a great opportunity to see many nests, birds in their most colorful plumage, nests with eggs, nests with chicks and a whole variety of behaviors.  In fact, there are so many birds in a very concentrated space you find it difficult sometimes to compose your images.

Here is an image of the site from a previous visit:

20100303-MJ-_16C685920100303-MJ-_16C6859Gatorland, Florida

This year there were more Great White Egrets than I remember and fewer of the darker birds.  I didn't see a Great Blue Heron, and in past years there were many.  But the photo ops were plentiful.  Here is a short slide show from this year's favorites:

 And, here is a link to my Gatorland gallery.

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Florida Gatorland Orlando alligator birds egret egrets gator https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/4/gatorland-rocks Sat, 26 Apr 2014 17:58:57 GMT
Augusta National Golf Club https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/4/augusta-national-golf-club Did you watch Bubba win his second green jacket?  It sure was an exciting Masters this year, with a bunch of new names making their way into the top echelons of golf, a few old hands hanging in there and many of the big names missing in action.

I have been fortunate to be able to attend the tournament twice, but more fortunate to be able to play the course.  Back in 2001, I went with another fellow from work and we were hosted for two days in March, just before the 2001 tournament.  We had the whole Augusta experience.  We stayed on the property at one of the member's "cabins", ate at the club restaurant, and got to play both the course and the par three course.  I still remember a  lot of detail about the experience.

Back in 2001, I brought along a little Olympus point and shoot digital camera.  They didn't seem to have any issues with making pictures during our visit so I made a lot of them.  

Thinking about this experience caused me to go back in the archives and find the images.  I thought it might be fun to put a small slide show together and show you some of the inside that we don't see on the TV.

So, if you are a golf fan, here you go:


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Augusta Augusta National Augusta National Golf Club Bobby Jones Golf Masters https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/4/augusta-national-golf-club Wed, 16 Apr 2014 18:50:53 GMT
Blood Moon https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/4/blood-moon This morning we experienced a total eclipse of the moon, commonly referred to as a "blood moon".  The moon falls entirely in the shadow of the earth and the light refracting through the earth's atmosphere produces a reddish tint to the moon.  The origin of the name blood moon is thought to be religious.

As interesting, this is the first of four total eclipses, called a tetrad,  which will occur on 10/8 this year and 4/4 and 9/28 next.

I got up and made a couple of images last night:

Blood Moon 4/15/2014Blood Moon 4/15/2014Rare Blood Moon caused by the moon entering the earth's shadow.

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Moon blood moon tetrad https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/4/blood-moon Tue, 15 Apr 2014 17:08:38 GMT
GoPro rocks https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/4/gopro-rocks I have been playing with the GoPro Hero 3+ for some months now.  My first real exposure is with the DJI Phantom Drone.  Here is some early practice footage: 

GoPro Sunset Test 12-22 from Mike Johnson on Vimeo.

Recently, I went skiing in Colorado with old friends.  I think we have been doing this for over 20 years.  We had a couple year hiatus but were back at it again this year.  The conditions were incredible, some of the best we have ever had.  This year I brought the GoPro and wore it on my helmut for a couple of days:


While it looks a little funny, you forget it is on.  The only issues I had were in turning the video on and off.  The beeps aren't very loud and hard to hear outdoors.  But, with help, we were able to keep it recording while we skied.

When I got home, I put the following video together to share with our group.  I continue to be impressed with the quality of the images.  I think it does give you a feeling of what it is like to be there.

Breckenridge Ski Trip 2014 from Mike Johnson on Vimeo.

Clearly, video is not a competency of mine.  In fact, I find it quite time consuming compared to still photography.  But, I do try to shoot short sequences when I go someplace cool as the addition of motion over time shows an aspect of a place or subject not possible with still photography.


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Breckenridge Colorado GoPro Ski Skiing Video https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/4/gopro-rocks Fri, 11 Apr 2014 15:48:15 GMT
Passport Portfolio https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/3/passport-portfolio Since I am interested in photographing animals that exist in far away places, I travel a lot.  In the past ten years I have been many places to photograph all varieties of animals and landscapes.  So, recently, my passport was about to expire.  Now, as a traveler you don't think much about your passport, other than making sure you have it with you and it has all the requisite stamps.  And, did you know, you can have the state department add pages as it fills up? But you can only do it two times.  With all the travel my passbook was maxed out with pages and when I replaced it almost totally full of visas and entrance/exit stamps.  So, as I was paging through it one day, thinking about all the incredible places I have been lucky to visit, the idea of trying to do something photographically came to mind.  What if I could create a collage that reflected the variety of places represented in my passport?   Well, something like this:

SW_PassportCollage_FIN3-EditPassport CollageImages of visa, entrance and exit stamps from my expired passport

So, I set about making photos of each page.  I used my 5D3 with 100MM macro lens and the Canon ring light flash, hand held.  Then I tried to assemble a collage myself.  While it turned out sort of like I was imagining, my Photoshop skills didn't allow me to get the professional look.  So, I called my trusty web consultant, Shari Warren.  She accepted the assignment and 33 photoshop layers later I had this image.

With the image in my files, I have now had some fun thinking about how to use it.  First, of course, I will print it and see if it might look good on the wall.  Then, I think it would make a great opening slide for a slide show to a photo club.  


And then, I came up with the idea of my Passport Portfolio. Here is one example:

SW_PassportCollage_MusketeersPassport Portfolio - the MusketeersThree intrepid photographers on an adventure some place wild.

I think it might be fun to create composites like this with all the folks who were on the journeys represented in my passport.  And, of course, it is always fun to look at the image and recall some of these special places.

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Passport blog post collage mojphoto https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2014/3/passport-portfolio Wed, 19 Mar 2014 17:04:09 GMT
Gadgets https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/12/gadgets Most photographers I know are into gadgets.  Most photographers I know well would say I am into gadgets more than most.  I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite gadgets.  Some of these items will be photography related and some not.  But, all will be, for me, useful and/or fun.

One last thought before beginning:  I do not represent any of the gadgets I will talk about as the "best" example of the item.  I don't do extensive research, but I do some.  When I find a product that meets my needs I tend to stick with it.  A good example will be my first gadget.

Flying.  In recent years I have travelled a lot, seeking the great photo ops.  Last year I flew over 100,000 miles.  Even at 600 m.p.h. that's a lot of hours in travel mode.  Throw in the wait time at airports and it becomes hundreds of hours.  To pass the time I like to do two things:  read books and watch videos.  For this purpose I have settled on an iPad mini with retina display.  But that is a gadget for another post.  Today, I am writing about noise canceling headphones.  

For years I have used Bose headphones.  I tried the on the ear (QC3) model, the around-the-ears (QC15) model and the in-the-ear models.  Until recently the in-the-ear model wasn't noise canceling and so for the past 5 years, or so, I have travelled with the QC15's.  I really like the way the around-the-ear style shuts out all the noise going on around me and when the noise canceling circuits are activated the feeling of quiet is palpable. And, the sound of music is excellent.  My only complaint has been the bulk.  While not heavy, they take up a lot of space in the bag, space I would rather devote to photo gear.

Enter the QC20i.

Here is a photo of the two units, side by side:



So, what is unique about the QC20's?  First, they are the first in the ear headphones I have been able to insert and they stay.  Second, they seem to have all the sound quality of the QC15's and you forget you are wearing them, which is very valuable on long flights.  Then, the battery that powers the circuitry is rechargeable, utilizing a USB 2.0 cable and standard charging sources, like the iPad charger or your laptop.  Finally, they fit in a pouch and can be stuffed anywhere.  The i model also includes an inline mic and iphone controller.


_S5P0058_S5P0058 So, there you have it.  My favorite headphones.

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Bose QC20 gadget headphone headphones noise canceling https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/12/gadgets Sun, 29 Dec 2013 18:00:59 GMT
Drones https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/12/drones You would have had to have your head in the sand to not be aware of the rapid emergence of high tech drones in the world today.  Starting with war (where much new technology seems to be developed), drones are starting to be seriously thought of as useful tools in the rest of the world.  There has been an absolute plethora of new drones in every shape, size, capability, etc.  Jeff Bezos made a splash with his recent 60 Minutes interview, showing a prototype Amazon delivery system based on small remote control drones.  While perhaps years into the future, there is a "now" element of drone technology that is selling like hotcakes.  That is, small quad through octo-copters with relatively light payload capabilities, currently being sold mostly to hobbyists (another place where new technology is fostered).  

Trying to maintain an element of childhood curiosity as I age (some would say I have many other elements of childishness in tact) I became interested in these machines a couple of years ago and purchased a Parrot A.R. Drone, then the 2.0.  It was a very light quadcopter with a built in camera that you controlled with a wifi connection to your iPhone.  One of its greatest attractions was that it is ready to fly, right out of the box.  The 2.0 version also has more advanced control capabilities so you can easily fly it.  But with limited range due to wifi it remained a fun little toy to play with and start to understand how these devices might be used.  Then, enter the DJI Phantom.



This is a more serious entry into the remote control drone field for hobbyists.  It is controlled by a radio, has much more range, can carry a heavier payload (which is where this gets interesting), can be controlled using gps and has some fail safe features that are attractive.  Of course, it costs more than the Parrot.  

So, following the development of this technology, it was easy to zero in on this as the next upgrade.  In continuing research I came upon a hobby store on the web located in Atlanta, Ga.  It is called Atlanta Hobby (how original) and the fellow to know is Cliff.  So, what do they bring to the table? More in a minute.  But first, if the goal is photography, you need a camera.  Since these drones don't carry much weight it becomes a fairly important decision.  Enter GoPro.  

GoPro is an interesting camera.  It has only one real purpose and it excels at that:  take stills and video of action, up close and personal to give the viewer a real feeling of what the activity might be like.  It was invented by a surfer and caught on big time with the extreme sports crowd.  When I have been on photo safaris I have noticed an increase in the number of folks who carry these little cameras.  At first I thought of them as toys, but then I got one, and now I am hooked.  Put it on your head and it records your experience the way you saw it.  With the advent of the 3rd generation, called GoPro Hero 3+ the camera has evolved into a more serious tool.  It has two characteristics that make it an important part of my story:  the image quality is very high and it is very small and light.  In short, it is a perfect camera to fly on the Phantom.

So, the last piece of the puzzle  that, in my opinion, makes the phantom become much more than a toy is the Zenmuse H3-2D gyroscopic stabilizer. it mounts on the drone and the camera attaches to it.  A couple of the early issues in mounting cameras to these drones were vibration and stability.  Because the drones are so small, it doesn't take much wind to have them rock back and forth and up and down.  The the first solution was to mount the camera with rubber grommets, which tended to reduce the vibration but left the shaky video from the drone movement.  The stabilizer fixes this problem and also adds the feature of being able to control the vertical orientation of the camera.  This is helpful in leveling horizons or, generally, getting more from the experience.  Here is a video with installation instructions, but go to 2:11 in the video to see it work.

Now, to bring it all together:  the phantom (now 2), the zenmuse, the GoPro and Atlanta Hobby.  If you are interested in this technology and aren't an experienced R/C hobbyist, Atlanta Hobby (remember Cliff) provides a turnkey solution.  They will put all the pieces together and ship it to you tested and ready-to-fly.  As you might expect, as these more sophisticated capabilities are added, the price goes up.  From a few hundred dollars to get started, it is pretty easy to get to a couple of thousand by adding all above and throwing in a video downlink.  But there are several steps along the way that cost less and may meet your needs.  

So far, so good.  The drone is a lot of fun to fly.  I have had several inquiries about using it for commercial purposes, such as promoting real estate, or providing overviews of particular places.  I have to admit, this capability adds another dimension to the experience of photography.  One of my hopes is that it can come on safari with me to some of the more wild places.  (One note:  the FAA regulates things that fly in the sky.  They have not issued regulations about this level of drone, so be careful if you have one.  Here is a link to an article that attempts to report the current legal state for drones.  Tip of the hat to Andy Biggs for passing on the link)

So, I have been making videos as I learn how to fly the Phantom.  Here is a recent one in which it flies out of sight to take some video at sunset, here in southwest Florida.  If you play it in HD and full screen you can get the best experience.

I know I have a long way to go in getting competent with this new tool, but for sure, it is a tool in my photo tool box that will be here for awhile.

In a future post I will talk about my experience in learning to process video...it ain't pretty.

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) DJI Phantom DKI Drone GoPro GoPro Black GoPro Hero GoPro Hero3+ Phantom Quadcopter Video drone photography photography https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/12/drones Thu, 26 Dec 2013 16:00:18 GMT
Plan Ahead https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/11/plan-ahead 2013 was a busy travel year with photo trips and family vacations filling parts of many months.  

Photo Travel MapPhoto Travel Map

Starting in December, 2012, I went to the Falkland Islands for 17 days.

Then, in March, my son in law and I attended a workshop in Montana at Triple D where we were able to photograph captive snow leopards and mountain lions among others.

In June, my wife and I along with two other couples spent a week in Tanzania, and then a friend and I transferred to Kenya for a photo safari.

In August, I traveled to Svalbard, a group of islands north of Norway for another photo safari looking for polar bears on the ice pack.

In September, we traveled to Viet Nam with 12 other friends on an Overseas Adventure Travel tour.

We are getting ready, as I write this to join our entire family during Thanksgiving week for a Disney cruise followed by Disneyworld and then Thanksgiving at our house.  


While I still have many galleries to publish from this year, 2013 is almost gone.  It is time to think about 2014.  This is starting out to be a more quiet year.  But, I do have a couple of exciting plans reserved.

First, in July, I will be joining Chas Glatzer for what I believe will be my 19th Shoot the Light workshop.  We will be going to Lake Clark National Park in Alaska to photograph Coastal Brown (Grizzly) bears.  This will be my fourth photo trip to Alaska and my third to photograph bears.  So, why did I decide to go again?  There are several reasons.  First, I have found that repetition for a subject yields increasingly interesting images.  Second, each of the trips has been in a different location, yielding different settings even though the subjects may be the same.  Third, with some luck we will see many more bears with cubs than I have seen in the past.  This may be the most important reason as the cubs yield fun photos.  Finally, I enjoy Chas and his workshops.  All the hard work is done for you:  scouting and booking the place, picking the right time of the year, gathering a like minded group of folks and finally, putting you in front of high quality subjects.  While you may pay more than a self guided tour I believe the extra cost creates the value of more high quality photo opportunities.  And, of course, you get all the experience and insight of Chas!  So, Alaska it is, one more time.


View Larger Map

I really like to photograph big cats in the wild.  On my list for a long time have been Jaguars.  The premier place in the world to photograph Jaguars, along with a fairly long list of other exotic creatures, is the Pantanal area in Brazil.  I will be going with Joe and Mary Ann McDonald, a couple who have been leading trips to this area for years.  Joe actually won an Image of the Year award in the big BBC contest with an image he took last year.  One of the more interesting places I'm looking forward to is the Flotel, 10 room floating hotel located on the river we will be exploring.



mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Africa Falkland Islands Kenya Svalbard Tanzania Triple D Vietnam photography shoot the light travel https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/11/plan-ahead Sat, 16 Nov 2013 15:05:30 GMT
Circle of Life https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/7/circle-of-life One of the events you witness several times if you are on safari is a predator at its kill.  In this sequence, four brother Lions have killed a Cape Buffalo, we think the previous night.

Lion Eating

Each will eat until he is bloated.

While watching is not a pretty sight:

Lion Eats In this case it was also instructive.  As the top of the food chain is eating, the next layers down are gathering for what is left.  In this situation, we encountered Jackals and Vultures that had begun to gather.  Obviously, they won't get in the way of the king when he is eating, but they flit about looking for scraps.  And then, all the brothers left suddenly to chase another Lion.  One of our trucks chased the chase, but we decided to stay put.  So, after the coast is clear,

Food Chain Eats a Jackal and Vulture come in to eat.  Then, suddenly,

Jackal Watching the Jackal is on alert as,

Galloping Lion the Lion returns to finish his dinner.

We drove by this site the next day, and there was nothing left of the Cape Buffalo.  Nothing goes to waste.

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) buffalo cape buffalo eat jackal kill lion vulture https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/7/circle-of-life Wed, 03 Jul 2013 21:35:18 GMT
Tanzania Camp Life https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/7/tanzania-camp-life In May, 2013, my wife and I, joined with two other couples and journeyed to Tanzania for a week with the Singita Safari folks.  Andy Biggs organized the trip and there were a total of 12 of us, including Andy.  

Our destination was the Grumeti Reserve area which is a private concession contiguous to the Serengeti National Park.  I prefer private concessions as it is possible to take the safari vehicles off road, meaning we get closer to the wildlife.  In this week we stayed at two locations:  the Singita Explore tented camp, and Singita Faru Faru.  


This post is a short description of our Singita Explore experience and some photos and videos to give you a flavor for the experience.  Given the number of avid photographers in this party, there wasn't as much time in camp as might be expected in a less "photographic" group.  A typical day would go as follows:  Up at 5:30 a.m.  Dressed and at the lounge by 6.  A quick breakfast, a cup of coffee and then in the trucks so we can be on safari for first light.  Searching for interesting encounters until around 10 at which time we stop for coffee.  Back on safari until lunch time.  Back to camp if we are near, or lunch in the bush if not.  A couple of hours of downtime and then back on safari around 3:30.  We stop for sundowners at, you guessed it, sundown, which is usually a spectacular sight in Africa.  Back to camp to clean up, enjoy conversation around the fire and dinner.  In bed around 9 or 10 and do it all again tomorrow.

Here are some images from our camp followed by a video of the camp staff entertaining the group with local songs and dances on our last night in camp.  (Note:  if you are viewing this on a pad or phone, you may need to swipe through the slide show)

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) africa andy biggs camp camp life safari tanzania https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/7/tanzania-camp-life Tue, 02 Jul 2013 21:39:26 GMT
Cheetah Story https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/6/cheetah-story One of the most thrilling experiences in Africa is watching one of the big cats hunting.  The climax, of course, is the kill.  At first, you feel uneasy about watching one animal kill another.  But, after you have been in Africa long enough, you realize that it is merely the circle of life acting out in front of you.  In our "civilized" world, these activities also take place on a massive scale, but we are sheltered from the actual act.  So, having this understanding, watching the hunt and experiencing the expertise and instincts of both predator and prey is one of the most thrilling and interesting things to observe in Africa.  It really is a wild place at its base level.

On this day in Kenya, we were following a Cheetah mother and her older cub as they were scouting for dinner.  We had an idea that they would hunt as the guides thought they hadn't eaten in a couple of days.

OK, Let's Pose They would stop on higher patches of land, survey the landscape looking for prey they could catch and kill and then move on.

This went on for some time until, all of a sudden the mother makes a noise for the cub to stay put and takes off down the hill headed towards the river.

I See the Prey This is where the challenge of safari in Africa, particularly the Serengeti, shows up.  It is a very big place.  Daniel, our guide, indicated that the Cheetah had seen a baby Impala on the other side of the river and was running to get it.  How he knew this is beyond me, but he demonstrated this skill many times in the week we were with him.  So, he says, we need to cross the river to see the end of the story.  The only problem is we have do drive down the river to find a crossing spot.  So, off we go at full speed, bouncing around the truck.

Just as we get to the other side of the river, Daniel points back to where we were and the two Cheetahs are running up the hill, looking back to see if anyone was chasing them.  They were empty handed.  Daniel says, "there must have been a Leopard on the other side who took the kill away."  I think he knew this because of the radio and someone on the other side...but I'm not sure.

We continue down the other side of the river and come to some thick brush.  Daniel says there is a Leopard in the bushes and to see if we can find it.  Of course, our expert at finding stuff before anyone else, Tony, sees the Leopard in the bush, and sure enough he has the baby Impala.

But the Prey is Stolen by a Leopard Being photographers, we are looking for a good angle and this was the best we had.  Suddenly, the Leopard starts moving behind the bush and finds an open spot.

To the Tree He burst into the open and crossed over to a tree in which he deposited the kill.  He was a shy one for sure.  This picture was a grab shot.  It is out of focus, shows the rear end and generally isn't a great photo.  But, I love it because it brings back the memory of this small, exciting adventure in Africa.  It will help me remember and help me tell the story to the grandkids.  And, to me, this is a more important part of photography than the "perfect" image.


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Cheetah Cheetah Kill Hunt Hunting Impala Kill Leopard https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/6/cheetah-story Wed, 19 Jun 2013 18:08:23 GMT
Cape Buffalo Encounter https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/6/my-first-africa-story I have been to various countries in Africa seven times.  This past trip included a most scary incident that has never come close to happening before.

We were in the 5th day of our week in Tanzania, operating out of the Singita Faru Faru lodge.  The day was like many on safari.  We were ending our afternoon safari and happened upon a lone Cape Buffalo standing in the long grass.  He was a stray male that our guide thought had been ejected from a breeding herd and was in the Serengeti as a lone bachelor.  It seemed like a nice photo op.  The light was good as it was approaching 6 p.m. in the evening.  He was staring at us in the grass, covered with mud, with a nice green bush for a background element.

Mean Cape Buffalo Now, to put some perspective into the story, I was using a 500mm telephoto lens and we were not that close to him.  After a few shots a lilac breasted roller flew by and landed in a tree some distance in the front of us.  So, we parted ways.  He took off to our left and we headed for the tree.  After we had gone, I don't know, maybe 50 yards, my friend Tony looked to his left and yelled out to Anthony, our driver:  "Go, Go!  He is chasing us.!  I looked to the left and not 25 yards away was this HUGE buffalo charging at us full speed.  Anthony threw it into gear and floored it.  We went a short distance and hit a log which caused the truck to bounce.  My wife Jan and I bounced with it and I hit my head on the bar above me.  I was momentarily stunned.  Jan caught her sunglasses on a post, which subsequently resulted in a big shiner!.  The truck jumped out of gear and the engine raced.  Anthony was able to get it back into gear and moving a few feet forward when a couple of thousand pounds of buffalo hit us in the left rear.  So, we all bounced forward again and my 1DX with 70-300mm lens bounced off the seat and onto the floor.  Amazingly, it still worked after that.  Thanks Canon for building a sturdy camera.

After striking us, the buffalo took off and didn't look back.  We waited a few minutes and then got out to survey the damage.

Annotated Truck image When I looked at the charging beast it looked like it was headed right over the rear wheel, right between Tony and me.  But, when Anthony moved the truck it couldn't correct its course and hit the rear fender, the 2 inch steel pipe bracing the passenger compartment and the rack holding our cooler, which was destroyed.  

Luckily, no one was seriously injured, and Jan had a great story to tell about how she got her shiner.


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Cape Buffalo Grumeti Tanzania buffalo charge https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/6/my-first-africa-story Mon, 17 Jun 2013 22:01:24 GMT
Africa 2013 https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/6/africa-2013 I have recently returned from two weeks in Africa.  Week one was at two camps run by Singita in the Grumeti Reserve area of Tanzania.  It was a private safari arranged by Andy Biggs for a small group of 11 folks.  My wife and I along with two other couples who are friends of ours made up half the group and Andy's past safari participants made up the rest.  As you can see from the link above, the Grumeti Reserves area has a very unique history and story.  For the safari traveler it is particularly nice because this very large conservation area has been restored to its natural state and, since the land is contiguous with the Serengeti National Park, the wildlife has returned.  The safari company that runs the two camps we stayed at runs this concession as a non-profit enterprise.  They have four camps and employ around 700 of the local village folks.  All the profits are put back into continuing the conservation efforts.  We were even taken to an area where a couple of Black Rhino's had been reintroduced.  The hope is that they will again roam the plains after being wiped out by poachers.  They have a unique solution to poaching:  they hired the poachers to patrol the area and apprehend poachers.  Now, apparently, there is very little if any poaching.  The two camps we stayed at were the Singita Explore Tented Camp and Faru Faru.  I will say that these are not budget accomodations.  Since my wife was joining me I felt it was important to add a little to the budget and get comfortable accomodations.  As it turned out, she was very happy.  And, as the saying goes:  happy wife, happy life.

Week two was in Kenya.  One of the couples, my wife and friend Tony's wife left us in Arusha and flew home.  Tony and I went on to Nairobi to connect with another group, this one dedicated to photography in the Mara Plains area, near the Masai Mara National Park.  Two of my favorite tour leaders, Andy Biggs and Charles Glatzer were running a joint photo safari workshop.  We stayed at Mara Plains Toto Camp, part of the Great Plains organization.  This also is in a private conservation area contiguous with Masai Mara National Park.

Trip photo locations

There are two primary advantages of staying in private conservation areas in Africa:  first, there are fewer vehicles chasing the wildlife viewing opportunities.  The camps pay a fee to the land owners for concessions to build and operate.  They limit the number of camps, hence fewer vehicles.  Second, the vehicles are able to drive "off road" to get much closer, in some instances, to the wildlife.  In the national parks you are restricted to staying on the roads.  While they are plentiful, it can still be quite a distance to the high value viewing opportunities.  What this means to photographers is more and better opportunities.  Shorter lenses, moving the vehicles to get the best vantage point with no other vehicles in the frame, etc. all are advantages worth seeking, in my opinion.

So, with this post as the framework to describe my trip, I will add posts to describe many of the opportunities we encountered.

Tanzania photos in Gallery.

tanzania photo locations overview

Kenya photos in Gallery.

Kenya photo map overview

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Africa Kenya Photography Tanzania https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/6/africa-2013 Mon, 17 Jun 2013 21:36:17 GMT
Unboxing the Canon 200-400 https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/6/unboxing-the-canon-200-400 Update 6/18/2013:  Here are a few thoughts after shooting the lens in my backyard.  

1.  It is more hand holdable than originally thought.  While it weighs more than the 500, it is more compact and seems to balance well with the 1dx. Now, I don't mean hand holding for long periods of time, but for tracking a bird in flight throughout the scene, with a break in between, it should work well.

2.  The focal length range is very useful.  As I pan around our pond and imagine the migrating birds that come here in the winter, this lens will be a one stop shop.  

3.  The built in teleconverter is a brilliant idea and works flawlessly.  It is almost magical to see the image come closer at the flick of the lever.  I can't wait to get back to Africa and laugh at the dust.  The lens will never have to come off the body.



I've been waiting for Canon to release a 200-400 zoom lens ever since I was able to try the Nikon version several years ago.  So, for several years.  Then, in early 2011, Canon announced the development of the lens, and it had a twist:  an innovative feature of a built-in 1.4x teleconverter that could be activated by moving a lever.  For a wildlife shooter, this meant that I could cover the range of 200mm to 560mm without having to change a lens or add a teleconverter.  It seemed like a particularly well suited lens for a lot of the stuff I photograph, bears, African wildlife, etc.

So, after a more than two year wait, it came.  I thought I would share the experience of unboxing it and created this video while I opened the box.


I'm sure I will have more posts about this lens.  If it realizes the quality indicated by early reviews it will probably become my most used lens.

It will also mean that I can sell my 300 and 500mm lenses.  This will make the pack smaller and lighter, which is not insignificant as I get older.


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) 200-400 Canon Canon 200-400 Lens https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/6/unboxing-the-canon-200-400 Mon, 17 Jun 2013 16:08:54 GMT
Video https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/5/video When I travel, I usually shoot short video segments to document some of the interesting places I have been.  I have recently started to put some into the galleries here.


One you might like to check out, if you are interested in photographing Grizzly Bears in Katmai, Alaska is here.  Note, I don't represent these as high quality productions.  Most often they are short captures with a point and shoot.  Just trying to capture the flavor of the location.

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Alaska Bears Video brown bears grizzly bears shoot the light https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/5/video Sun, 05 May 2013 23:31:58 GMT
Trip Report - Blue Cypress Lake https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/4/trip-report---blue-cypress-lake There are many beautiful and productive places to photograph in Florida.  Being a resident, I try to get to a few each year.  One of my favorite places is Blue Cypress Lake.  The combination of a beautiful shoreline full of Blue Cypress trees growing into the lake and several hundred Osprey nests in these trees makes an incredible photo experience.

First of all, I must confess, I love the big raptors.  I've been to Alaska to photograph Bald Eagles.  While we have some eagles in Florida, it is nothing like the homer area of Alaska.  But, what we do have are Ospreys.  They migrate down here and can be seen flying over our lakes watching for the opportunity to swoop in and catch a fish.  It is an incredible sight.

Majestic Osprey

Located about a half hour west of Vero Beach, Florida, is another Osprey experience that isn't to be missed if you like these majestic birds.  The location is Blue Cypress Lake.  It is a large lake with very little developed shoreline.  On the lake are hundreds of beautiful cypress trees that create a perfect nesting environment for Osprey.

Cypress Scenery In the branches of these surreal looking trees are hundreds of Osprey nests.

Osprey Nest with Chicks If you pick the right time, usually late April or early May, you will find all of these nests full of young chicks.  This creates a flying frenzy as the adults shuttle back and forth from the nest bringing fish that they catch to feed the young.  There are so many flight shot possibilities that it is difficult to pick the bird to photograph.  

See My Fish I like to go with a couple of friends and rent a pontoon boat from Middleton's Fish Camp.  We usually travel to Vero Beach the day before so we can get up and be at the fish camp at first light.  It is a leisurely cruise along the western shore stopping when we encounter an interesting photo op.  

Long lenses in the 500-600mm range are helpful but there are many opportunities in the 200-300mm range.  I even find that wide angle scenics present themselves as we move along.

Here is a short slide show of some of this year's images:

For me, about three hours in the early morning and you have covered the part of the lake with the trees and birds.  I usually only go one day and then drive home, being home for dinner.

I should note that several professional photographers lead workshops to this area and it is very easy to hire a guide to drive the pontoon.  In fact, I recommend it if you are going for your first time.

We stay at a hotel near Highway 95 near Vero Beach.  A great, old Florida, seaside restaurant is the Ocean Grille, right on the beach.  Highly recommended.

And, HERE is the gallery from the past three years of visits to this magical place.


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Birds Blue Cypress Lake Florida Osprey Wildlife https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/4/trip-report---blue-cypress-lake Tue, 30 Apr 2013 19:22:46 GMT
Focus Stacking https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/4/focus-stacking  

No, it is not a pile of focus.


A subject the macro guys and some landscape folks know a lot about is called focus stacking.  You see, when you focus on a particular point in space the depth of field related to the physics of the camera and lens dictates that a certain distance in front of the focus point and a certain distance behind the focus point will appear to be in focus.  Actually, there is only one truly “in focus” point which represents the plane parallel to the sensor at the point of focus.  Enough technical stuff.


What this means is if you are trying to render a three dimensional subject in focus in your image, you need to understand what the depth of field is.  There are numerous apps that help you do this.  A popular one is DOF Master.



But, that isn’t my subject.  This post describes a technique for getting all of the subject in the image in focus per your artistic desires.  It is called Focus Stacking.


The technique requires several things to be successful:  even light, a static subject, a good tripod, manual focus on the lens and manual mode for exposure.  It also requires a software solution in post production.


So, as you decide to capture a subject and you have it composed with the camera and lens you think will do the best job, the first step is to see what kind of depth of field you have available.  I will use an example of an orchid flowering in my garden.  I want to shoot it from a distance of 4 feet with a full frame body, a 100mm lens and I would like to use f/8 for an aperture.  Looking this up in the calculator shows me that I have about 2 1/2 inches of depth of field.  Since the distance between the front and back of the orchid plant that I want in focus is 12 inches I would have to shoot around 8 images to get each part of the subject in focus.  I have found it better to shoot more images and make sure the depth of field overlaps.  So, in this case I would shoot 10-12 images.


Here is the technique.  Set up the camera on a tripod, frame the subject and lock it down.  Set the lens to manual focus.  Set the f-stop to 8 and determine the shutter speed for the correct exposure.  These settings will not change.



Next, manually focus on the nearest point on the subject.  I like to put my hand in front of the lens and fire a shot to establish the beginning of the sequence.  Then take 10-12 images moving the focus ring very slightly.  When you see the back of the subject is in focus you are done.  Click off another image with your hand in front of the lens to mark the end.


Next, we need to have a software solution that is going to align all the images and pick out the “in focus” elements in each image, combining them into a finished image.  Photoshop will do this.  There are several other stand alone solutions.  I like one call Zerene Stacker


My workflow is to import the images into Lightroom, apply a preset to all of them in a batch and export them as full res tiffs to a folder I call Focus Stacks.  Fire up Zerene Stacker, drag the tiffs into the input window, click on the type of stacking you wish and let it do its thing.  I then save the resulting tiff back into the Lightroom folder with the original images and import it into Lightroom.  I then apply develop settings in Lightroom or, more probably, take it into photoshop where I clean it up, apply some NIK plugins to get the look I want and then send it back to Lightroom.  From there, I might do a final crop and then send it to a collection for posting, emailing or printing.



The finished product:


Orchids in My Garden



mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Focus Stacking photography technique tips https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/4/focus-stacking Sat, 20 Apr 2013 21:47:45 GMT
Shoot the Light Tech Session - Triple D Game Farm https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/3/shoot-the-light-tech-session I have been to many workshops hosted by Charles (Chas) Glatzer of Shoot the Light.  My most recent adventure has a family twist to it.  

As I age, the prospect of lugging many pounds of gear around the world is becoming increasingly less attractive.  So, I have a plan.  I have a son and son-in-law who like photography.  So, my plan goes like this:  Take them to a couple of exotic locations, bring them to a couple of photography workshops and hope the fire lights so I can get one or both of them to come along and lug my gear!  Brilliant, huh?  So, what is the catch?  Only that they are both married with young children so getting their time is proving to be difficult.  With grandma Johnson reminding me of their commitments fairly regularly, the task is harder still.

But, with some luck and good planning, I was able to bring my son-in-law to a recent Tech session put on by Shoot the Light in Montana.  This particular workshop took place at the Triple D Game Farm, near Kalispell.   It was a four day session that covered all aspects of wildlife photography from envisioning the image to the final steps of post processing.  Chas is a master photographer and a gifted teacher.  What I like most about him is his enthusiasm and willingness, or, more accurately, his passion, for sharing his knowledge.  It is hard to attend one of his sessions and not be fired up with the possibilities for your own vision and photography.

But, back to my story.  My son-in-law seemed to absorb the material and immediately apply it.  Each evening, after the days downloads, he would share a few of his favorites from the day.  Each day, the images shown improved from the day before.  I guess that is the plan behind the workshop.

A few words about Triple D.  When I first heard of the location, while intent on going to work on my overall support objective, I wasn't too excited by the prospect of photographing trained wild animals.  I had this image in my head of someone posing a bobcat on a rock and the photogs firing away.  Wrong.  While there was some posing, there was a lot of action and some of the photography quite challenging.  The keys to this exceeding my expectations boiled down to two:  First, I got to photograph rare wild animals in a natural setting.  I don' think i will be able to find an Amur leopard in the wild, and I know I won't be going to the Himalayas to photograph a snow leopard.  But, there they were right in front of my 70-200 lens.  Also, I can't say enough about the folks at Triple D.  They were energetic, knowledgeable and really seemed to care that we got the shot.  The owner even had our group over for dinner one night.  Now, that's western hospitality.

After four days, a combination of in the field experiences with a dozen different species and classroom tech sessions, I was worn out.  But son-in-law seemed energized.  My plan is working....

The gallery is here, and here is a slide show of a few of my favorites:

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Animals Charles Glatzer Shoot the light Triple D Triple D Game Farm Wildlife photography https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/3/shoot-the-light-tech-session Mon, 25 Mar 2013 22:32:44 GMT
So God Made A Photographer https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/2/so-god-made-a-photographer The folks at Santa Fe Workshops made a video about being a photographer that is a take off from the Farmer commercial from the Super Bowl.

A couple of minutes that I found interesting.


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) God Made a Photographer Santa Fe Workshop photographer https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/2/so-god-made-a-photographer Fri, 15 Feb 2013 15:41:10 GMT
Getty Images connection with Flickr https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/1/getty-images-connection-with-flickr A while back I got a notice from Getty Images, one of the old, established stock photo houses, that they were interested in putting several of my images into their inventory for sale and license.  It turns out, they have an active group soliciting images from the Flickr photo sharing service.  So, I went through the steps of signing a contract to give them basically unlimited rights for two years, uploading high res image files and filling out details about the images.  They picked five to start with.  Then a few months ago I got a notice that one of the images would be published in a magazine and I receive $110.  Hooray!  Then nothing happened until I noticed recently that they had requested that I submit four more images, which I did.

Some background.  I do this photography thing for my own satisfaction.  I have had a number of images sell over the years to different folks.  One group of gorilla images from Rwanda was licensed to a coffee company in California for labels on "Mountain Gorilla Coffee".  Two different fellows from England have licensed images to paint.  Many have been donated and sold at charity auctions, and for a year or so I had images at a gallery in Stillwater, Mn.  If I add up all the revenue it probably doesn't cover a new telephoto lens, so I'm surely not it it for the money.

But, it is fun to have others like your images.  I get a kick out of seeing prints on the walls of friends and family.  And, every situation has created a story that has been fun to live and retell.  

The point of this post is to let you know that, unless you are a pro with a specific product and following, you never know where an interest in your work may come from.  So, I make a point of periodically posting to Flickr, 500px, google+, and to photo forums I follow for feedback.

So, who knows, if you get enough stuff out there, maybe someone will discover it.

Here are the images at Getty for sale:

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Getty Getty images for sale publish https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/1/getty-images-connection-with-flickr Sat, 26 Jan 2013 21:34:37 GMT
New equipment https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/1/new-equipment Curious I have been a Canon shooter since the original D30 digital slr.  Off and on I have tried other systems, buying some Nikon gear a couple of times.  But due to the investment in super teles in Canon, I have always come back.  This was particularly frustrating when Canon was suffering through the well publicized problems with the 1D mark III and Nikon was coming out with significantly better bodies.

But, my feelings have changed pretty significantly with the release of an upgraded line of supertele's, converters and, most importantly, the 1DX.  I used all new generation lenses and two 1DX bodies on my recent trip to the Falkland islands.

If you are a wildlife shooter I refer you to this user review of the 1DX, which I think was the best one I have read.  You can find it here.  It is written primarily for bird shooters, but the fast moving, flying birds represent a good bogey for wildlife shooters.

My personal experiences on this recent trip included the daily observation that this is the best gear I have ever used.  Typically, one of the 1DX bodies was attached to a series II 500mm super tele.  Sometimes alone, and frequently with the 1.4x teleconverter.    Compared to the old days with the previous generation, I noticed no slow down in the focus acquisition capability of this combination.  And, it might be my imagination, but there seemed to be a much higher percentage of very sharp images.  I know I captured some flying penguin images in the Falklands that would have been blurry with my previous gear.  I even felt comfortable putting the 2x on occasionally, something I never did with the previous generation.  The other body shared time with the new 24-70 f/2.8II and the 70-200 II, again with and without converters.  I also used the 16-35 wide angle and 15mm fisheye.

The Rig

All of this gear was micro focus adjusted using the Reikan Focal software which I recommend highly.  I also have the unscientific feeling that the adjusted lens/body combinations worked better.

So, while the gear for a wildlife kit is large and HEAVY, It seems to me that it is the only way I can get the images that I seek when traveling half way around the world.

I have also become a big fan of the Gura Gear line of bags to carry my gear.  Along with a Kata trolley, moving 50 lbs of gear through airports is easy.

Oh, and one more thing, I would be remiss if I didn't mention my little Sony RX100 point and shoot.  This is an incredible camera.  Total manual control, shoots raw, bigger sensor and 20 megapixels.  Easy to use.  All of the video I am using to intro or exit my galleries in the Falklands was shot using this tool.  It sure looks to me like Sony has the lead in sensor design.  

As an aside, I am building a Panasonic micro 4/3 system which I hope will have sufficient image quality for primary use in my travel photography.  I used this gear in our Argentina/Chile tour in 2011 and at the time was unhappy with the electronic view finders.  But, the quality of these cameras has been steadily improving.  With the new 12-35 and 35-70 f/2.8 zooms and the soon to be available GH3 pro body, I am hoping a great quality, light weight travel rig will materialize.  More on that later.


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) 1dx Canon Falkland islands Falklands lens new lenses https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/1/new-equipment Sun, 13 Jan 2013 01:11:35 GMT
Falkland Islands Trip Report https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/1/falkland-islands-trip-report I have recently returned from a 17 day adventure to the Falkland Islands.  Located in the south Atlantic ocean, a few hundred miles off the coast of south america, the Falklands offer photographers a rich diversity of subjects and settings.  Although several species of penguins will provide the greatest number of photo ops, there are elephant seals, sea lions, dolphins, orcas and a wide variety of other birds.  

I attended a Shoot the Light workshop run by Charles Glatzer.  I have been on many of his trips and this one continued the tradition of a well run trip, a great group of fellow photographers and a wide variety of interesting subjects to photograph.

As you might imagine, getting to the Falklands takes some doing.  It is even more complicated because Argentina fought a war with England over the Falklands 30 years ago and they don't allow regular flights from their country.  So, to get there from south Florida, where I live, entailed:  flight to Atlanta.  Then, a 10 hour flight to Santiago, Chile.  Overnight at the Radisson in Santiago.  Then a 5 hour flight with a stop to Stanley on the main island in the Falklands.  Basically, 2 1/2 days of travel.  Reverse it for the return.  So, is it worth it?

Well, if you like photographing wild birds and animals, many of which are not afraid of man, so you can get full frame portraits with a wide angle lens, and if you like to do this in a setting that has comfortable accommodations, but you are still in the sparsely inhabited wild, and you like the subjects, then a strong YES.

While the galleries are organized around the places we stayed, I thought it would be helpful to share an abbreviated itinerary with you.

We flew to Santiago, Chile, which is a 10 hour flight from Atlanta.  Overnight in Santiago and then fly to the Falklands, stopping in Punta Arenas.  All in all, about 2 1/2 days to get there.  We landed in Stanley and spent two nights at the Malvina House Hotel, rated #1 in Stanley by Trip Advisor.  After a walk about town and a good night's rest we went to Volunteer point on day 2.  I should note that there aren't a lot of roads in the Falklands.  Consequently, there are a lot of Land Rovers and a lot of off roading to get to the photo ops.  This was a 2 1/2 hour adventure.  There are a lot of dirt tracks where others have gone before, but it wasn't unusual to make a new one.  There is also a lot of boggy landscape so the guides needed to be wary of getting stuck in the mud.

Then we flew to Bleaker Island and stayed at the settlement.  I think there might be four residents on the island.  Here I learned that folks actually owned the islands.  The owners were on the island when we were there and the accommodations were comfortable and the food satisfying.  

My biggest weather impression of all of the islands was WINDY.  In all but two days the wind blew incessantly.  And, it was strong.  Since many of the photo ops were on or near beaches, it was a constant battle to protect cameras and lenses from the blowing sand.  I was glad I brought LensCoat rain covers for all the lenses.  There were only a couple of days in which they weren't necessary.  Even then, each night we had to brush and blow the gear.  As an aside, only a couple of folks brought brushes.  So, we raided a local grocery store and bought out their stock of basting brushes.  I'm sure they were surprised to see that transaction.  But, they worked well and mine is still in my kit.  Generally, the weather was chilly.  It was the beginning of their summer.  Highs were in the forties and low fifties and lows in the high thirties.  But remember, Windy!

From Bleaker, we flew to Sea Lion Island, where we stayed at the Sea Lion Lodge.  Again, comfortable accommodations and good food.  Sea Lion is a larger island and while there were a lot of photo ops within walking distance, the lodge owners lent us a Land Rover so we good get to some of the more distant points.  I saw my first elephant seal here.  It was too bad that the breeding adults had left the island for the sea by the time we got there but there were a lot of pups and subadults to photograph.  There was a film crew from Discovery Channel making a documentary about the islands and reported Orcas attacking the seal pups one day.  We watched for a repeat performance, but didn't see them while we were there.  It was fun here to get very, very close to Gentoo penguin colonies with wide angle lenses.  Throughout the islands, the birds were sitting on eggs or nurturing chicks.  We saw everything from new born to immature penguins.

From Sea Lion, we flew to Saunders Island.  The highlight was three nights at the Neck.  Another 2 hour off road adventure to get to the Neck and then we stayed in a three room building.  Since there were 3 females and 5 males, the sleeping rooms were split 3 and 5.  I ended up with a mattress on the floor.  But, the travel agency sent a huge box of pre packaged and pre cooked food so we had plenty to eat.  The building was tight and comfortable.  The days are very long at this time of the year so you spend a lot of time outside.  My thoughts were always, I spent a lot of time and effort to get here, might as well take advantage of the long days.

From Saunders, back to Stanley with a short trip out to volunteer point and our final night in the islands at the Malvina House.  The next day we flew back to Chile, a night in Santiago (plane was late and we got to our hotel at 3 a.m.) and then back to the states the following night.  17 days.

One final note, at all the places we stayed, except Saunders, we had wifi internet access.  It was quite expensive and fairly slow, but considering where we were, I found it amazing.

Quite a place, the Falkland Islands.

Here are a few of my favorite images from the trip.

And, here are a few images from the different places we stayed.

And, of course, the galleries are here


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Bleaker Falkland Islands Falklands Gentoo Macaroni Penguin Rockhopper Saunders Sea Lion Stanley birds elephant seal shoot the light wildlife https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/1/falkland-islands-trip-report Sun, 06 Jan 2013 14:34:09 GMT
Photo of the day award winner https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/1/photo-of-the-day-award-winner I had my third photo of the day award at the Imaging Resource website.  You can see it here

White Tailed Sea Eagle in Flight

It is from my Japan photo trip in January, 2012.  You can see the image in the gallery here




mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Hokaido Japan award bird eagle sea eagle shoot the light white tailed sea eagle https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2013/1/photo-of-the-day-award-winner Wed, 02 Jan 2013 02:38:16 GMT
Headed to the Falkland Islands https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/11/headed-to-the-falkland-islands 11/30-I'm in Santiago, Chile, after an 18 hour travel day.  We fly to Stanley, the Falklands tomorrow.  Even though the Falklands are very close to the coast of Argentina, you can't fly there from Argentina due to the territorial dispute between Argentina and England.


11/28-I'm headed out tomorrow to spend a couple of weeks with Shoot the Light in the Falkland Islands.  Do you know where the Falkland Islands are?  


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Falkland Falkland Islands Shoot the Light Travel https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/11/headed-to-the-falkland-islands Fri, 30 Nov 2012 20:05:09 GMT
Tour of Turkey https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/10/tour-of-turkey I really had no idea.  Jan and I, along with 11 other friends, had signed up to go on a tour with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT), a small group travel company.  Our tour would be titled "Turkey's Magical Hideaways".  Little did I know we would travel by plane, bus, boat, and foot across about half of the country over a 17 day span.  

Oat trip map

Our trip broke into four main parts:  Three days in Istanbul, then fly to Cappadocia for three nights, then bus to Antalya for two nights and cruise the Turqoise Coast on a Turkish Gulet for four nights, and finally, bus to Ephesus for two nights.  I have created a Turkey Collection with galleries for each of these sections here.

I had no idea.  Officially known as the Republic of Turkey, the country has a population of about 75 million people.  Most of the folks are Turkish in heritage with a sizable minority of Kurds.  The country is quite large, roughly 1,000 by 500 miles in dimensions.  It is a temperate mediterranean climate and is the only country in the world located on two continents: Europe and Asia.

The geography is varied and our tour reflected much of it.  

The biggest aspect of a trip to Turkey is history.  The area has been at the center of three empires over time, the Greeks, the Romans and the Ottoman.  Before these started, there were folks living on the Anatolian peninsula, being one of the oldest known population centers in history.  In fact, much of ancient history has taken place in this area of the world.  According to our guide, there are more greek ruins in Turkey than there are in Greece, and more Roman ruins than there are in Italy.  Much of our tour encompassed visits to some of the most famous.

Turkey is a secular republic, but also a muslim country.  It appears to me that due to the foresight of their founding leader in the early 1920's, Mustaphe Attaturk (the George Washington of Turkey), the country has been able to make the transition to the modern world while still retaining its strong ties to Islam.  Much of the culture we experienced found its roots in the almost monolithic presence of Islam.  Having said that, there were many of the most important Christian sites in the world located in Turkey and we were able to visit a number of them.  

I had no idea.  When I went to Turkey, my image was of a middle east/arab based country.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It is a modern country with a key role to play in the region and centuries of history to call upon for knowledge.  I for one, am glad they are one of our allies in the region.  

A few words about OAT.  This was our second trip with them.  The first was Argentina/Chile last year.  It is a well run organization.  They attract outstanding people to be their in country guides.  We were fortunate to have the most senior guide in Turkey, Ahmet Memis, with 24 years of guiding experience.  He was a veritable encyclopedia of knowledge of all the layers of history and culture in all the areas we visited.  One of the hallmarks of Oat is that their groups are always small. We had 13 folks.  It was especially nice that we were all friends and there was a lot of laughter throughout the trip.  Another aspect of OAT is that they "go off the beaten path" and there is generally quite a bit of exercise.  On this trip we hiked on trails that had been a trail continuously since 2000 b.c.  What a feeling you have knowing how many different generations have placed their feet in the same place over such a long period of time.  Finally, in my opinion, OAT provides their tours with great value.  We stay in 3 star hotels, which I like as they represent the local charm of each place.  We even spent a night in a local village home, breaking up a long bus ride.  The trips are well organized and exceed my expectations.  They add a lot of small touches: we went to a Turkish bath and had a shave and haircut in a Turkish barber shop.  And, the logistics seem to go without a hitch.  The guide and support people do a great job of making sure the participants get the value they expect.

A few words about the galleries.  I have organized them around the four different experiences we had:


View from Dinner The Cappadocia region:

Balloons Over Uchisar Antalya and the Turquoise Coast

Sunset on the Mediterranean

And, Ephesus

Library of Celsus

A note about travel photography.

Normally, I wouldn't post over 500 images for a trip.  But, this trip had so much action, so many activities crammed into each day, that I felt it necessary to show you all the different things we did, and in so doing, give you a good flavor for Turkey.

Mike 10/2012


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Antalya Blog Cappadocia Ephesus Gullet Istanbul Travel Trip Turkey Turqouise Coast https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/10/tour-of-turkey Wed, 10 Oct 2012 00:11:27 GMT
2012 Western Trip https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/8/2012-western-trip Again this year, we traveled with another couple on a driving trip through the western United States.  This trip went from Denver to Banff, in Canada.  Along the way we stopped at Rocky Mountain National Park, Aspen (Maroon Bells), Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park and the Banff area.  We also spent a night in Rock Springs, Wyoming where, by happenstance, we attended the National High School Rodeo Championships.

We covered 2,933 miles and encountered many wonderful vistas, people and places.  Even though the parks are located along the Rocky Mountains, each is unique in its attractions and landscapes.

Ed and I rose early on many mornings to catch the first light.  The trip gallery is here.

Here are a few of my favorite images from the trip:

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Drive Landscape Trip national park https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/8/2012-western-trip Thu, 16 Aug 2012 19:01:18 GMT
Heading Out https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/7/heading-out I'm on the road with wife and friends for a driving trip from Denver to Banf.  We will be spending time at Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton, Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks and also a few days in the Banf/Lake Louise area in Canada.

Photographically exciting will be spending time with both the Canon 5D mark 3 and the new Canon 1DX, which showed up at home a couple of days before we left.

Hopefully, I will have some observations and images to share.


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/7/heading-out Thu, 12 Jul 2012 00:53:18 GMT
Western Driving Trip Posted https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/7/western-driving-trip-posted Last year we took a drive with two other couples through the American Southwest, stopping at all the national parks along the route.  From Pikes Peak, Ouray and Engineer Pass in Colorado, west to San Diego and then north to the Avenue of the Giants in northern California.

National Parks visited included:  Arches, Canyonlands, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Bryce, Zion, Monument Valley, Sequoia, and Yosemite.  Other interesting places were:  Ouray and Silverton, Colorado, Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah, San Diego and the coastal redwoods along the Avenue of the Giants.

The gallery can be found here.

Here is some video of our jeep ride adventure to Engineer Pass in Colorado.


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) .Redwoods Arches California Canyonlands Drive National Parks San Diego Sequoia Utah Yosemite https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/7/western-driving-trip-posted Sun, 01 Jul 2012 13:40:48 GMT
Underwater video with Canon 5D3 https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/5/underwater-video-with-canon-5d3 Check out this cool video, most of which was shot with a 5D3.


Pretty cool stuff.  You can read about the photographer's experience here.

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) 5D3 Canon Canon 5D3 Canon 5DIII Underwater Video https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/5/underwater-video-with-canon-5d3 Fri, 25 May 2012 22:13:59 GMT
New York, New York......pt. 2 https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/5/new-york-new-york-pt-2 We filled our last day in NYC with more activity that I haven't experienced before.  While Central Park, going to a Broadway play and local eateries is very New York, I think this was even more so. 

First, we took a subway to the SoHo area.  After a brief walk we climbed up some steps to hike along along a gentrified piece of abandoned railroad track known as the High Line.  Seems like a really cool use of abandoned resources, providing a place of green and plants and a wandering path to allow the residents of New York to "rise above" the daily life on the streets.

Sight Along the High Line Bent Building Wavy Wall View from the High Line Statue of Liberty From the High Line

A beer in a local neighborhood bar and dinner at a very eclectic Thai fusion restaurant.


Entwire Window IMG_0499

White Horse Tavern Bleeker Street Records Local Markets are Everywhere The New World Trade Center Rises

Then, onto a New York legend, the Blue Note.  I can't remember how many great jazz records I have heard over the years with the Blue Note label.  This night, the Duke Ellington Orchestra performed with Brian McKnight, a very talented singer and musician.  

Duke Ellington Orchestra at the Blue Note Brian McKnight at the Blue Note The Toilet Plunger Sounds Great! Duke Ellington Orchestra at the Blue Note


Then, after midnight (way past my bedtime) it is back on the subway for the ride back to the upper west side.  We even had to change trains.


Dublin Bar Sign at Night

Even though this trip wasn't a "photo trip" I was very pleased with the Panasonic GX-1 and Canon S100 cameras I brought along.  Small point and shoot cameras provide the ability to take reasonable street photographs without disturbing those around you.  And, the image quality has really improved in recent years.  The Blue Note photos were taken with the S100 at ISO 3200!.


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Blue Note Brian McKnight Duke Ellington Orchestra High Line New York New York City Tourist https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/5/new-york-new-york-pt-2 Sat, 19 May 2012 21:45:20 GMT
New York, New York... https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/5/new-york-new-york Spending a few vacation days in New York.  Enjoy the ambience, great food and catch a show.

Yesterday, we got a backstage tour after the matinee performance of Lion King.

Miskoff Theatre


Backstage at the Lion King

Backstage at the Lion King Backstage at the Lion King Backstage at the Lion King IMG_0431 Backstage at the Lion King Backstage at the Lion King

We learned from out tour guide that Lion King is the most profitable asset that Disney owns.  There are 14 touring companies of the play worldwide.  I was impressed with the amount of detailed organization of all the costumes and props backstage.  Everything had a specific place and everything was in its place.  I am amazed at how these seemingly toylike puppets, when worn and manipulated by talented actors can bring this wonderful story to life.  As we were waiting at the stage door for our tour, the performance was ending and the patrons were exiting the theatre.  Almost everyone had a smile on their face.

Of course, a visit to New York wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Glass Cube Apple store.

New York Apple Store This is an amazing place.  It must be 5 times larger than our store in Estero, Florida.  But, it looks the same and is just as busy.  Who would have thought that computers and stuff from one company could be sold in a high end retail store given the internet shopping trends?  I guess, Steve Jobs did.  

Last night we went to see the play War Horse.  A world war one drama with incredible puppets that tell the story of the war through the eyes of a special horse.  Broadway plays are a highlight of our occasional visits.

Times Square

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Broadway Horse" King""War New York New York City Play""Lion vacation,travel,play, https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/5/new-york-new-york Thu, 17 May 2012 15:20:51 GMT
St. Augustine Alligator Farm https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/5/st-augustine-alligator-farm Sunday, a friend and I went up to St. Augustine, or more accurately, over to St. Augustine.  Our purpose was to spend a day with Charles Glatzer in his Shoot the Light Technical Workshop session on post production.  If you don't know Chas and want to become a better photographer check out Shoot the Light.  Ansel Adams was quoted as saying, using an analogy to the music creative process,  "the negative is the score and the print is the performance".  In digital photography terms the technical side of capturing the raw file equates to creating the negative.  There certainly is a lot to know in order to produce a high quality file.  But the work is only partially done.  The post production process really creates the final image.  There are many photographers who shoot jpeg files and put them up on the web.  But if you want to produce high quality images you need to know almost as much about computers, software, printers, monitors, etc. as you do about cameras, lenses, flashes, etc.  

Since Chas consistently produces images with impact, and since he is constantly looking for new ways to enhance and simplify the post production process, it pays to check him out from time to time.  Lately, the focus of his workflow, which used to be almost exclusively Photoshop, now includes Lightroom and his latest fascination, NIK plug-in filters.  But enough on this.  My purpose for this journal entry is to talk about the photographic opportunities at the Alligator Farm.  Every year he puts on a four day technical workshop covering all aspects of the photographic process.  The last day is on post processing, which is why we went.  It is also scheduled so there are a lot of practice opportunities at the Alligator Farm. 

Located on the eastern side of St. Augustine, the Alligator Farm has been around since 1893.  They have hundred of alligators, crocodiles and a variety of other animals and birds in a very "old Florida" setting.

While spending time touring the park is fun and interesting, particularly for children, the Native Bird Rookery is quite an experience for photographers.  The link has a very good description of what happens at the rookery during the year.  Right now there are hundreds of Egrets (of all kinds), Wood Storks, Herons, Roseate Spoonbills and others on nests.  Many have eggs, many have young chicks and many have chicks about to fledge.  It is quite a visual and aural site to walk along the boardwalk and see all of this just a few feet from the deck.  Oh, and if you look over the railing, you will see lot's of gators.

If you go, you really only need a medium range zoom.  You will see many photographers with elaborate rigs but they really only get the close ups and portraits.  Something in the 70-200 or 70-300mm range will do just fine.  If you have a flash, bring it since even in bright light a lot of the nests are in fairly dark shade.  As with all wildlife it seems, the best times to go are early in the morning and late in the afternoon.  They have a photographer pass available that allows you into the park an hour before and after the regular crowds are in.

St. Augustine Alligator Farm, another Florida tradition.  St. Augustine is also the oldest city in the United States and a day or two being a tourist there is also a worthwhile vacation experience.

Th full size gallery from our visit is here.


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Alligator Alligator Farm Birds Boardwalk Egret Heron Rookery Spoonbill St. Augustine Tourist bird photography photography https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/5/st-augustine-alligator-farm Tue, 08 May 2012 20:37:55 GMT
Folder Structure https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/4/folder-structure One of the things you have to wrestle with when creating a photo web site is the structure of the galleries.  Since the metaphor for a gallery is a folder in computer speak, you need to decide on the folder structure. 

Zenfolio allows groups, galleries and collections.  This is a pretty flexible structure.  A group holds one or more gallery folders and/or collection folders.  A gallery folder is where the actual images are stored.  A collection allows you to create different groupings of images that are located in one or more galleries.  Got it?  

So, for this site, since it is a travel, landscape and nature site and since I have been to several places more than once, I decided that my "groups" would be a place, such as Africa or American Southwest.  Under each group will be the actual place and year of the trip.  For example, Africa 2010, or Moab, 2007.  This will keep things organized similar to my structure in Lightroom.  While it is mostly time based, the place is also part of the structure.  Then, if I want to create a different view, such as National Parks, all I have to do is create a collection folder for each park and point images from the various trip folders to it.  Pretty cool as it allows viewers to follow one of my trips, which family and friends tend to do, or see my images of a particular subject.  It could be a place, like Arches NP, or an animal, like Leopards, etc.  Well, you get the picture.  This is a significant improvement over my last website in terms of flexibility.

Now, in order to efficiently manage what will be a couple thousand images when done, Jeffry Friedl has written a publish interface from Lightroom to Zenfolio.  If you use Lightroom and don't know about Jeffry Friedl, head on over to his site and check out the variety of plug-ins for Lightroom.  They are a real time saver.  In any case, all I have to do is create the folder structure I desire in the Zenfolio editor and then "synch" it with my Lightroom plug-in.  Drag some images to the correct folder and click publish and the plug-in uploads all the images to the proper gallery in Zenfolio.  Very cool.

Then, if I want to add/change/or delete images in the Zenfolio gallery, I just make the changes in the plug-in and click republish.  Very cool again.

So, hopefully, you will find this post helpful if you are a Zenfolio customer, and informative as to how the site is laid out if you are just a visitor.


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) design site structure web web design web site web site design https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/4/folder-structure Mon, 30 Apr 2012 14:44:22 GMT
Sometimes you need help https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/4/sometimes-you-need-help In the process of switching to Zenfolio as my photography site hosting service, I ran into some confusing situations and the Zenfolio documentation wasn't clear.  I had a look in mind that I wanted to achieve but couldn't figure out how to do it.  Enter Shari Warren of Warren Creative Design.  I found Shari on one of the Zenfolio forums, sent her an email, received a proposal and a few days later I'm a happy customer.  So, should you need design and/or consulting services with your Zenfolio site (or I would guess any other) I recommend her highly.  You can find her website here.

I think her results speak for themselves.  Just check out this site.  It has to be one of the coolest on Zenfolio.


mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Warren Warren Creative Design Zenfolio website website design website design assistance https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/4/sometimes-you-need-help Wed, 25 Apr 2012 23:51:15 GMT
Amazing time lapse photography https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/4/amazing-time-lapse-photography Here is a video made by a fellow named Shawn Reeder.  I don't know Shawn but am blown away by this piece of photography.

Simply Amazing!


Be sure to watch it in full screen mode.

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) landscape photography reeder time lapse https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/4/amazing-time-lapse-photography Tue, 24 Apr 2012 19:20:25 GMT
Alafia Banks Audubon Sanctuary https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/4/alafia-banks-audubon-sanctuary Roseate Spoonbill_D4B2730 We travelled up to the Tampa area to photograph Roseate Spoonbills at the Alafia Banks Audubon Sanctuary (27°50'46" N 82°25'5" W)

I think this was my fourth time in this pretty special place.  Located not to far from a phosphate plant are a few Mangrove islands in the town of Gibsonton, Florida.  Here, hundreds or more likely, thousands of birds nest during the winter.  My favorite bird to photograph is the Roseate Spoonbill. They are large birds with great colors and an interesting physique.

Today, we saw a lot of birds but not so many Spoonies.  But, standing in the bay with waders on and the big glass mounted on the tripod is a wonderful experience in Florida.

We will be back again next year.



Roseate Spoonbill_D4B2758







Roseate Spoonbill_D4B2821-Edit

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Birds Florida Roseate Spoonbill Spoonbill https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/4/alafia-banks-audubon-sanctuary Mon, 16 Apr 2012 22:15:19 GMT
New Site https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/4/new-site I have redirected my www.mojphoto.com url from my GoDaddy hosted site to Zenfolio.  Over the next few weeks I will be moving and converting content.  

My GoDaddy site was developed with the Apple iWeb program, which is now unsupported.  After looking around, it appears that Zenfolio has all the features I desire.  I am finding it somewhat confusing to configure, but am working my way through the issues.

I am very impressed with the Flash slideshow on the home page and the way in which the site navigates on my iPhone and iPad.  

Even though sales are not a primary purpose with my photography, the added ability for folks to purchase a variety of items with a couple of clicks will be interesting to watch.  



mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) New Website Switching Web Hosts www.mojphoto.com https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/4/new-site Mon, 16 Apr 2012 01:27:02 GMT
Japan https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/4/japan Mother and Child Portrait In February, I joined Charles Glatzer and five other photographers in Japan for a Shoot the Light workshop. (www.shootthelight.com)

Our subjects were Snow Monkeys (Japanese Macaque), Stellar and White Tailed Sea Eagles, Whooper Swans and Japanese Red Crowned Cranes.  

We arrived at Tokyo after a very long flight from Fort Myers to Atlanta to Tokyo.  Our local guide met us and we transferred by bus to our hotel.  We spent the next day touring the Meiji Jingu Shrine and photographing Mandarin Ducks in a pond on the grounds.

The next day we bussed to the Jigokudani Monkey Park which is located in the Nagano Prefecture.  We had a partial day of photography and the next two days.

Then, off to the airport where we flew to Kushiro on the island of Hokkaido.  We stayed in the town of Rausu at a charming place called the Canadian Log House.  It was a mixture of traditional Japanese and western accommodations (read sleep on a bed or on a futon on the floor).



That afternoon and the next two mornings we headed by bus to the harbor where we boarded a tourist boat that would take us out to the pack ice to feed the eagles.  

The Stellar and White Tailed sea eagles were spectacular.  There were hundreds of them and we were able to photograph many varied behaviors.

A Bunch of Eagles












Next, we stopped at Lake Kusharo and photographed Whooper Swans.  We were on our way to photograph the Japanese Red Headed Cranes.  We spent the next three days at the Akan International Crane Center and a couple of other places nearby.  Mating Dance











Life over the 11 days was full of activity.  We were up early and all of the waking hours were full of travel, eating or photography.  The food in rural Japan is quite varied with an emphasis on rice and seafood.  I got pretty good at using chopsticks as the trip wore on.  

Our group was quite experienced, both as travelers and photographers.  Everyone was congenial and I felt the group chemistry was good.  

mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Eagle Japan Japanese Crane Red Crowned Crane Shoot the Light Snow Monkey Stellar Eagle White Tailed Eagle https://www.mojphoto.com/blog/2012/4/japan Thu, 12 Apr 2012 16:53:29 GMT