mikeojohnson photography: Blog https://www.mojphoto.com/blog en-us (C)mikeojohnson photography | All rights reserved. mikeojohnson@me.com (mikeojohnson photography) Sun, 26 Feb 2017 13:40:00 GMT Sun, 26 Feb 2017 13:40:00 GMT https://www.mojphoto.com/img/s/v-5/u416772552-o1050450323-50.jpg mikeojohnson photography: Blog https://www.mojphoto.com/blog 80 120 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 HoleOkavanga Delta, Botswana



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