Welcome to (The Occasional) Photo Tip of the Day! Please also visit my main site jeffwignall.com. Text and photographs Copyright 2014 Jeff Wignall.

"Winter is not a season, it's an occupation."

Sinclair Lewis

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Neck Banding Geese: What do you think?

I posted this photo on Facebook a few days ago just to show what a banded Canada goose looks like and there was an immediate firestorm about the way the goose has been tagged. Ornithologists and other environmental scientists use bands/collars like this so that they can spot and record the goose at great distances, so that they don't have to capture or even get close to the bird. In that respect it is a good thing for the goose.

But many Facebook readers thought this method of tagging was cruel to the goose--even though it's been in use for decades. What do you think?

Banding is used to track geese and other birds so that scientists can study their movements, habits and habitats. By knowing more about where the birds travel and when, they are better able to know which habitats need the most immediate protection--a good thing. But still, many bird lovers are apparently very upset at the method used to mark these geese.

And I'm sure that the geese (who feed on grains and small bits of plant matter, not fish) are able to eat and drink normally. I have no idea if the collars hurt the geese in any way. As one reader pointed out, the collar may not be as tight as it seems: geese (and all birds) puff up their feathers a lot in cold weather to stay warm and so the collar may look tighter than it really is. There are many types of banding on birds (this goose also has a small leg band on its right leg--look closely) and they are all authorized by this organization.

Leave a comment if you have an opinion or if you know something about banding/tagging of birds and geese. And, by the way, friend me on Facebook if you want, always happy to have more friends. Please be sure also to visit my main site. (Photo made with a Nikon D90 and an 80-300mm Nikkor lens.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Frozen Long Island Sound

These photos were taken from the shore of Long Island Sound (in Connecticut) on Sunday. I've lived near the Sound for a long time and have never seen it this frozen before. As much as I dislike the cold, I'm finding that frozen waters of the Housatonic River (see previous posts) and the Sound are just beautiful. And the colors in the sunsets have been amazing too. Below is a shot of the dunes against the twilight sky.

Friday, February 20, 2015

More photos of the frozen Housatonic River

Here are some more views from the frozen Housatonic River in Stratford, Connecticut shot earlier this week. The show above was taken from the shore looking town the marshes in the town of Milford. The river at this point is probably at least a quarter mile wide and that thin sliver of water you see in the center is the channel--just barely wide enough for a single fishing boat to get through the ice.

This is the view from Bond's Dock, the local fishing dock. It's about 100 yards (just a guess) back to the shore and it's frozen solid. Normally it's water right up to that bank of rocks you see in the center top of the shot. 

And this is the view looking from shore back to the dock where the shot above was taken from.

I've learned something very interesting through this very harsh and brutal winter and this is that getting out and shooting it, just tossing the camera's in the van and being a part of it makes it a lot more tolerable than simply hiding from it. My temptation is always to turn up the heat, make tea and hide indoors, but I'm actually enjoying this winter a lot more because I'm out there photographing it. Also, the birding has been phenomenal on the river this winter because so much of New England is frozen solid that the birds are heading to areas of open water (like the mouth of this river) to find food and company (and yes, birds do seek out the company of other birds, especially in harsh weather).

Please do me a favor and share this blog. I've been doing it for five years now and I'd like to see the numbers grow a bit. All the info here is free, so pass it along.  And you can sign up at right to get the blog in your email (and there are no ads of any kind in the emails).

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

When rivers freeze...the mighty Housatonic River

We've been having a very brutal winter here in New England as you probably know if you're been watching the news and certainly know if you live here. I live near the Housatonic River, a major New England river that starts in western Massachusetts and flows about 150 miles to Long Island Sound. I've lived here most of my life and I have never seen it this frozen before. The channel that you see in the middle photo (immediately above) was cut early this morning by a fishing boat heading to work in the Sound (I shot these later in the day). In order to get out of the river, it was using a crane to bang a large metal cage on the ice and break a path.

In the top photo, everything you see that is frozen is normally river--and a tidal river at that. If you look carefully to the right, you can see the bank and the frozen marsh grass. The shot below is a field of broken ice (probably created by the fishing boats) and some of those shards are big enough to stand on. I don't like cold weather much, but I have to admit that getting out there and being in it and photographing it is a lot more fun (and encouraging) that hiding from it. I used plus-1 stops of exposure compensation to keep the snow from underexposing and I shot all of these without a tripod, which is unusual for me--there simply was no safe place to plant a tripod.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Officially sick of winter!

I've lived in New England all of my life, I know what winter is and what enduring a long one can be like. But this winter is one to beat the band: too much snow, too cold (with wind chills going to -35F in parts of Connecticut tonight) and just never-ending. Every one here is officially sick of winter. That's my street, by the way, and the guy in red is a neighbor who actually seems to enjoy the snow. I've been busy covering almost every window in my house with towels and blankets just to try to keep in some of the heat! Thirty-four days to spring! Can't wait!!!

Oh, by the way, this is supposed to be about photography, so here's the tip, lol: See if you can find a nice primary color, like red, to shoot against all of that white stuff. As you can see, the red really pops when it's surrounded by snow. And keep your camera in a ziplock when you're not shooting--mine got covered in snow while I was shooting these!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Simple Steps for Creating Bold Silhouettes

Silhouettes are very striking because they reduce your subject to a bold shape set against a plain (and hopefully attractive) background and they leave no doubt about your creative intentions. Creating silhouettes is simple and in most cases your auto-expsoure system will create good silhouettes for you if you just set up the right conditions for the shot. Here are some tips for creating interesting silhouettes:
  • Silhouettes are created by placing an opaque (non-transparent) subject in front of a bright background, so look for bold solid subjects set against a bright surface--water in the case of the shot shown here.
  • Look for colorful backgrounds. To make the shot here, I was stalking the shores of a river at dawn while the golden light of the rising sun turned the surface of the river a pretty pastel yellow. Sunset and sunrise skies also work well, but so do brightly colored walls, a sunlit field of grass (picture a rusting tractor against a field of yellow hay) or even a sandy beach (a palm tree against bright white sand, for example).
  • Keep the background as simple as possible. If you're photographing a boat in silhouette against the sunset, for example, try to keep the background completely plain--just the sky. 
  • Avoid "merges" where the primary subject might merge into a dark part of the background. Again, in the shot above, while I used some rocks as secondary shapes, the heron is positioned against a plain colorful background--you can easily trace the contour of the heron and even some of its feathers.
  • Set the exposure for the background. That's the big secret of shooting silhouettes: placing a dark subject against a bright background and exposing for the bright area. Just let your camera set the exposure and don't try to compensate in any way for the foreground and you'll get a crisp silhouette without any effort. You can always enhance the contrast a bit using simple editing software. 
Exposure info: The heron was shot with a Nikon D90 body mounted with a Nikkor 70-300mm zoom lens and exposure (in the RAW format) was: 1/60 second at f/8 at ISO 640. The camera was mounted on a Manfrotto tripod. Scroll down to some other recent postings to see more examples of silhouettes.

Please take a few minutes to look at my main site--you'll find info about my latest books and other projects.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Joseph Linaschke: The Panasonic "Master Series" Interview on Pro Photo Daily

My latest interview for the Pro Photo Daily "Master Series," an interview with photographer Joseph Linaschke, has gone live. While most photographers today tend to specialize in just a few subjects, Linaschke loves shooting just one primary subject: the next one. He photographs an incredibly broad range of subjects that includes portraits, live music, sports, journalism--you name it, he's shot it. Among his more fascinating projects is a series of portraits of women battling breast cancer.  If you've ever wondered how a photographer earns a living photographing a very wide range of subjects, this is a very fun and informative interview. This ongoing series is sponsored by Panasonic and Linaschke is a Lumix Luminary.