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Competition winners capture UK at its best

Competition winners capture UK at its best

October 25, 2021

In partnership with cottages.com

Earlier this year we ran a major competition with cottages.com, the UK’s leading provider of self-catering holiday properties and luxury homes, to win one of five fantastic UK breaks up to the value of £2,500 and a GoPro bundle.

The competition, called Viewfinder, featured five categories – Classic Countryside, City Break Sights, Capturing the Coast, Sunscape Scenes and Wild Walks – which gave fans of landscape and scenic photography a lot of creative scope.

The judging panel comprised AP editor Nigel Atherton, well-known travel writer and broadcaster Simon Calder and Paul Evans from cottages.com. The results are now in – see below for full details of the category winners.


Classic Countryside

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Andrew Kennedy from Northampton wins this category with an image of  Stevington Windmill, located outside Bedford.

“We never get to see the Milky Way in this part of the UK, but with the right settings on the camera, you can just make it out,” he explains.

“I used the PhotoPills app to locate the Milky Way but it was going to be hours before it was positioned where I wanted it. I used the time by taking some light paintings of the windmill, then everything was showing just where I wanted. I tried a number of shutter speeds and ISO settings to see which setting brought out the Milky Way.” Andrew adds: “I submitted this photo because it tells me that no matter your location, the impossible is possible. I just needed to research, plan and execute.”

Editing the image
The editing process consisted of using 20 images of the Milky Way and three light-painted images of the windmill. ‘I loaded the 20 images into Sequator, which helps to align the stars and stacks them. Once it had rendered the final shot, I opened the image in Photoshop before making the final touches in Lightroom.”
Nikon Z 50 With 16-50mm lens


City Break Sights

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Matt Henderson from Kelbrook wins with an image of the Natural History Museum in London, reflected in a puddle. “Visiting London during very rainy, changeable weather, I took many shots of famous landmarks reflected in puddles,” he explains. “The overhanging tree, height of the tower and the angle of the building leading you in gives this image a symmetry and clarity which made it stand out from the other shots I took that day.”

Editing the image
“The conditions were pretty perfect, with a hot sunny hot spell following very heavy rain, so I did some small adjustments in Lightroom,” Matt explains.
iPhone 12.


Capturing the Coast

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The winner of this category is Aoife Crawford-Bonner from Loughton, with an image from Smalls Beach at Salcombe in Devon. “This photo represents typical great British summer weather!” Aoife explains. “Grey skies and a little chilly, but this couldn’t dampen the fun of the little ones. We spent hours on the beach, building sandcastles, rivers and dens, all overlooking the beautiful backdrop of Salcombe. Having just been through lockdown and home schooling, this photo felt like pure paradise and freedom.”

Editing the image
“I edited this photo very slightly in Lightroom Mobile,” Aoife adds. “As it was an overcast day I adjusted slightly for shadow/ highlights and straightened it up. Other than that the scene in front of me did all the hard work to look so picture perfect.”
Nikon D750 with Tamron 24-70mm lens


Sunscape Scenes

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Jason Louis from Taunton wins with an image of Bamburgh Beach. “My wife Sarah, dog Bert and I stopped at the beach on the way home from touring Scotland.” Says Jason. “We had no idea how beautiful the Northumberland coast was and were treated to a stunning sunset, with the light changing by the minute.

“I love how the joyful movement in the photo, with Bert’s tail wagging and Sarah holding her shoes aloft, is reflected in the water… and how the eye is drawn to them near the point where the line of waves and sunlit clouds converge.”
The image did not require any editing.
Huawei P30 Lite, f/2.4 ultra-wide angle (13mm equivalent)


Wild Walks

Competition winners capture UK at its best 5

Last but not least, Francis Wilson from Huddersfield bags this category with an image of Storthes Hall in West Yorkshire. “My intention was to shoot some treescapes in this ancient woodland but it quickly came to my attention that the wood was a popular dog-walking spot,” says Francis.

“So when I spotted this gentleman walking towards me it was just a matter of waiting for him to walk into the composition. This image stood out to me because it shouts ‘autumn.’ I also like the soft bokeh effect on the surrounding foliage which adds an almost ‘dreamy’ feel.”

Editing the image
“I upped the vibrance in Lightroom Classic then lowered the saturation a touch. After this, I dropped the texture and clarity down but then brushed it back in selectively. I sharpened the subject whilst also adding a touch more clarity. Next, I upped the saturation of the reds, oranges and yellows, whilst moving the colour calibration slider over – so I brought the whole image closer to orange.

I then brought the image into Photoshop to accentuate the shadows and highlights with a few curve layers. Last but not least, I finished with a bit of sharpening using a high-pass filter.”
Nikon D3500 with Nikkor 35mm lens.


The judges’ comments on the winners

Paul Evans (cottages.com)
“Our aim when launching Viewfinder was to give people the chance to preserve a moment in time during what will forever be remembered as the year of the staycation, and boy, did they deliver! Every single corner of these fantastic isles seems to have been captured as part of this competition and it just goes to show why the UK continues to be such an attractive holiday destination – particularly for those of us fortunate enough to already live here!”

Simon Calder
“Judging this photographic competition was a huge pleasure. The overall standard was incredibly high and it was lovely to be taken on a tour of the UK through so many high-quality images. It really reminds us that an award-winning picture does not need to be taken some place that is foreign or exotic; if you can skilfully combine and catch light, subject matter and atmosphere, you can take a great photo in your back yard, down the road or in your local park. I hope this competition becomes an annual opportunity for everyone.”

Nigel Atherton
“I am involved in judging a lot of competitions and the quality of images submitted to Viewfinder was really outstanding. Entrants captured the sheer variety of the British Isles and showed lots of creativity and imagination. It was a hard task to draw up a shortlist, but the category winners are superb. Everyone who entered Viewfinder should be applauded for their photographic skill, however, and I am sure this competition will only get bigger and bigger in the future.’


With more than 20,000 unique places to stay, you can discover breathtaking Britain for yourself with cottages.com


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5 Reasons to Choose Capture One Over Adobe Lightroom

5 Reasons to Choose Capture One Over Adobe Lightroom

If you’re not a fan of Adobe’s subscription plans or find that editing your photos isn’t quite as quick as you’d like, you might want to consider checking out Capture One. Here are five reasons to make the move and five more reasons to stick with Lightroom.

Justin McDonough of Dunna Did It has put together all of the reasons why he switched from Lightroom to Capture One, and it makes a pretty compelling list. If you’re pondering what the competition is like, keep in mind that you can try Capture One for 30 days, and you don’t need to submit any payment details in order to get started. There’s also Capture One Express, a free version with fewer features designed specifically for use with Fujifilm or Sony cameras.

The ability to create layers in Capture One gives you a lot more power and control, though Lightroom is about to catch up by introducing some layering options of its own in an update that’s due to go live on October 26. Some would argue that this upgrade is long overdue, and it will be interesting to see how Adobe’s new features compare.

Which do you prefer and why? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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How to Capture In-Action Portraits with a Wide-Angle Lens

How to Capture In-Action Portraits with a Wide-Angle Lens

One of my favorite engagement photography techniques is getting up close to the subjects with a wide-angle lens. The resulting images feel alive and immersive. In this article and video, I’ll be demonstrating the difference a wide-angle and a telephoto lens can make when capturing action.

I’ll be using the Canon EOS R5 paired with the RF 28-70mm f/2 as well as the RF 70-200 f/2.8. My couple today is Jacob and Ravena — be sure to give them a follow on Instagram. Let’s jump in!

Photographing From Far Away

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In order to get the right composition, I photographed my couple from quite far away.

How to Capture In-Action Portraits with a Wide-Angle Lens 7

Check out the shots. I love the depth created by the long focal length. However, I notice the lack of foreground and the entire image feels far away. It’s difficult to feel the excitement in the images. Let’s switch it up by trying the same shot with the wide-angle lens.

Getting In the Action

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The 24mm and 35mm primes are perfect lenses for this technique. If not, a good wide-angle zoom will work.

How to Capture In-Action Portraits with a Wide-Angle Lens 9

To get a similar composition, I had to move up close to my subjects. Already, the scene looks dramatically better.

How to Capture In-Action Portraits with a Wide-Angle Lens 10

I directed Ravena to lead Jacob in order to create a sense of direction in the movement as well as depth. Be sure to exercise caution as shooting with a wide lens will require you to walk backwards with your subjects.

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Here are the images using the wide-angle lens.

Using the “Dutch Angle”

How to Capture In-Action Portraits with a Wide-Angle Lens 12
Images by Lin & Jirsa

The “Dutch Angle” is a technique that’s often overused or cliche. however, I believe it has its place in composition. A slight tilt to the photo helps create an organic and spontaneous feeling. This helps emphasize the feeling of action when photographing your couple.

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Check out the images I got using the “Dutch Angle.”

Comparison

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Check out the final image compared to where we first began. The difference is massive. The final images with the wide lens feel so much more in-the-moment and spontaneous. The wider view of the background also helps immerse us more into the action.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this article/video. Next time you’re photographing a couple, give this technique a try! See the difference when you capture your portraits with a wide-angle lens.


P.S. For a full course on photographing couples, check out Engagement Photography 101, available over on SLR Lounge Premium. In addition, check out Visual Flow for intuitive lighting based presets such as the Modern Pack, which we used for our final images.


About the author: Pye Jirsa is a wedding photographer based in Southern California and the co-founder of SLR Lounge. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Jirsa’s work on Instagram.

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Capture In-Action Portraits Using a Wide Angle Lens

Capture In-Action Portraits Using a Wide Angle Lens

Photographing a couple from up close can drastically change the way your image feels. Getting up close with a wide angle lens creates a sense of action and aliveness that draws the viewer in.

Today, I’ll be photographing Jacob and Ravena using the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2 and the RF 70-200mm f/2.8 on the Canon EOS R5 to show you the differences in storytelling between both of these lenses. This is one of my favorite techniques when photographing engagements, so let’s dive into how to put it into action.

From Far Away With a Telephoto Lens

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To get my composition, I had to be quite far away, and I instructed Jacob and Ravena to walk in my direction.

Capture In-Action Portraits Using a Wide Angle Lens 16

I love the depth from the focal length and aperture. However, these images just feel too far away. I don’t feel the excitement in these images. Let’s switch it up by using the wide angle lens instead.

Up Close With a Wide Lens

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A 24mm or 35mm prime is perfect for this technique. If not, a good wide angle zoom will do the trick.

Capture In-Action Portraits Using a Wide Angle Lens 18

To get the same composition, I got up close to Jacob and Ravena. The scene already looks better.

Capture In-Action Portraits Using a Wide Angle Lens 19

I asked Ravena to lead Jacob to create depth and direction in the movement. I recommend using Face Detect if your camera includes that feature to help with staying in focus.

Capture In-Action Portraits Using a Wide Angle Lens 20

Here are some of the images with the wide angle lens.

The Dutch Angle

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Image by Lin & Jirsa

The Dutch Angle can be cliché and overused, but if used properly, it can help emphasize the organic and spontaneous feeling we’re trying to achieve here. The slight slant to the photos helps make the image feel like it was captured on a whim and emphasizes the sense of authenticity.

Capture In-Action Portraits Using a Wide Angle Lens 22

Here are the final images using the Dutch Angle.

Comparison

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Check out our final shot compared to where we first started. Notice how much more alive the image feels. That’s the power of a wide angle lens.

Conclusion

Next time you’re with a couple, try out this technique and see for yourself the massive difference in how the image captures the action when you’re up close with a wide angle lens! For a full course on photographing couples, check out Engagement Photography 101, available on SLR Lounge Premium. In addition, check out Visual Flow for intuitive lighting-based presets such as the Modern Pack, which we used for our final images. Thanks for joining us this week, and we’ll see you next time!

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How to Capture Sharp Landscape Photos Handheld

How to Capture Sharp Landscape Photos Handheld

When it comes to landscape photography, tripods are normally the tool of choice, but there are plenty of situations in which you might be without a tripod or when using one is too much work. That does not mean you can’t get sharp photos, though, and this helpful video tutorial will give you a range of tips to show you how.

Coming to you from Andrew Marr, this awesome video tutorial will show you how to shoot sharp handheld landscape photos. Tripods are typically a tool every landscape photographer carries, but if you are anything like me, you hate the tedium involved with unpacking them, setting them up, taking the shot, tearing them down, and repacking them to move to the next location. When I am out for a hike, I just want to take a decent photo and move on. Thankfully, with the image stabilization capabilities of modern cameras and lenses and their high-ISO performance, if you employ a bit of solid technique, you often get what you need without a tripod. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Marr. 

And if you really want to dive into landscape photography, check out “Photographing The World 1: Landscape Photography and Post-Processing with Elia Locardi.” 

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Canon Unveils the RF 5.2mm f/2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens For VR Capture

Canon Unveils the RF 5.2mm f/2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens For VR Capture

Canon Unveils the RF 5.2mm f/2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens For VR Capture 24

Canon has announced what it describes as its first product for virtual reality capture: the RF 5.2mm f/2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens. It is capable of enabling stereoscopic 3D 180-degree virtual reality (VR) shooting to a single image sensor.

It appears the rumors of the dual fisheye lens were true and Canon is making its foray into the virtual reality hardware space.

The new lens is designed to work on Canon RF camera systems as part of what the company is calling the EOS VR System. It will also come with a firmware update for the EOS R5 camera that will support the new lens along with new VR capture functions. Additionally, the company will release new software that will convert and process the footage for viewing on VR devices. Canon mentions that a compatible VR headset is recommended for use, and specifically calls out the Oculus Quest 2.

Canon says that the lens is the first interchangeable dual fisheye lens capable of capturing stereoscopic 3D 180-degree VR imagery onto a single image sensor and hopes that it will make the complexities of virtual reality production more streamlined for both professionals and newcomers.

Canon Unveils the RF 5.2mm f/2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens For VR Capture 25

The lens uses Canon’s high-quality L-series optics that are engineered with an interpupillary distance — the space between two eyes — of 60mm to deliver 3D imagery in VR with what it calls natural parallax that closely resembles human vision. The lenses are capable of shooting with a 190-degree field of view captured from two separate optical systems, which it says is perfect for finishing 180-degree VR footage.

Canon says that the lens has subwavelength coating technology that offers “impressive” flare control even in backlit conditions which will enable VR creators can have the freedom to shoot regardless of the time of day or position of the sun.

The lens has a set of electronically controlled apertures with a range of f/2.8 through f/16. It also features dust and water-resistant sealing as well as fluorine coating that, when paired with the R5, allows it to operate in even challenging weather conditions. Canon says that from an operation perspective, the dual fisheye lens works just like any other RF lens. Canon’s free Camera Connect app and Canon’s EOS Utility program both will be updated in the future to offer remote-control live view functionality for monitoring purposes as well.

The lens has a close focusing distance of 7.87-inches/0.2m and a maximum magnification of 0.03x. It also features a built-in Gelatin Filter Holder which allows ND gel filters to be used in bright environments without needing to stop down the lens.

Canon Unveils the RF 5.2mm f/2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens For VR Capture 26

Canon says that the EOS VR System’s workflow is particularly impressive and because it can record left and right fisheye images to a single full-frame image sensor and therefore bypasses the common challenges of stitching and synching since the footage is output to a single image file.

Canon is currently developing two paid subscription-based software solutions for completing the post-production process. Canon’s EOS VR Utility will offer the ability to convert clips from dual fisheye images to equirectangular and make quick edits, as well as select the resolution and file format before export. With the EOS VR Plug-In for Adobe Premiere Pro, creators will be able to automatically convert the footage to equirectangular and edit as they would normal footage from there.

Canon Unveils the RF 5.2mm f/2.8 L Dual Fisheye Lens For VR Capture 27

The Canon RF 5.2mm f/2.8 L Dual Fisheye lens is scheduled to be available in late December 2021 for $1,999. Both of Canon’s EOS VR Software solutions (EOS VR Utility and the EOS VR Plug-in for Adobe Premiere Pro) are currently scheduled to be available in late December 2021 with pricing to be revealed later, but they will be, as mentioned, based on a subscription model.

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The Equipment Used to Capture the Best Astronomy Photos Since 2019

The Equipment Used to Capture the Best Astronomy Photos Since 2019

The Equipment Used to Capture the Best Astronomy Photos Since 2019 28

Skies and Scopes has released the findings of its study which analyzed the equipment used to capture the photos that made it to the final shortlist for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition over the past three years.

The study analyzed almost 400 images across three categories: 138 landscape astrophotography images, 126 deep-sky images, and 112 planetary images. All of these had made it to the shortlist of the Royal Museums Greenwich’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition, one of the most prestigious competitions in the space. The study covered images from the 2019, 2020, and 2021 competitions; the latter announced winners earlier this month.

Although the study is not scientific and does contain minor anomalies in the results — such as unclear equipment details for some images or completely missing equipment information — it still aims to shed a brief insight into the type of cameras used to shoot astronomy images that get recognized by the competition.

The study found that there is a close split of 55-percent of DSLR or mirrorless cameras and 45-percent of dedicated astronomy cameras used. This is further broken down and findings show that DLSR cameras, in particular, are the most likely to be used in shortlisted images with 39-percent, followed by 24-percent of CMOS sensor cameras, CCD with 21-percent, mirrorless with 15-percent, and a small portion of smartphone and tablet users at 2-percent.

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When it comes to brands, Canon and Nikon marked the top two brands used, with Sony in fourth place. The rest are manufacturers of dedicated astronomy cameras, such as ZWO, SBIG, FLI, and others.

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The Canon EOS 6D was the most popular model used overall with 10-percent of shortlisted images taken with it. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV came third, while Nikons’ D750 and D850 both were at 4-percent each and stood in fifth and sixth place, respectively.

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Out of dedicated astronomy cameras, ZWO ASI174MM and ZWO ASI1600MM were the most popular, while none of the mirrorless models made it to the top six.

However, when it comes to landscape astrophotography images in particular, the Sony a7 III crept up to fourth place with the two Nikon and Canon DSLRs ahead of it, as shown in the table below.

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Skies and Scopes also reports that mirrorless cameras are growing in popularity and are used more frequently for astrophotography now than in previous years. In 2019, 12-percent of shortlisted images were shot with a mirrorless, followed by 16-percent in 2020, and 17-percent this year.

Unsurprisingly, Sony is the dominating brand for mirrorless cameras in the competition and takes up a 67-percent share, while 14-percent of photographers used Nikon mirrorless — with Nikon Z6 as the most popular Nikon model — and 11-percent used Canon, with Canon EOS R as the favorite.

The Equipment Used to Capture the Best Astronomy Photos Since 2019 33

Planetary astrophotography, in the table below, and deep-sky astrophotography primarily saw dedicated camera brands take the lead, with ZWO in particular, however, Canon EOS 6D made its way into both categories and represented the DSLR brands more than any other non-astronomy camera make.

The Equipment Used to Capture the Best Astronomy Photos Since 2019 34

The study also detailed the most popular telescopes, mount manufacturers, and star trackers with all sections broken down further.

Although the study aimed to provide a good insight into what astrophotography gear has excelled in the past three years, Skies and Scopes notes that the most frequently used gear doesn’t necessarily mean it is “better.” Instead, it should be noted that it can simply reflect what equipment is affordable and within reach for most people.

A full breakdown of the study can be found on Skies and Scopes.


Image credits: Featured image licensed via Depositphotos.

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Capture One Update Brings Back the Exporter, Adds More Capabilities

Capture One Update Brings Back the Exporter, Adds More Capabilities

Capture One Update Brings Back the Exporter, Adds More Capabilities 35

Capture one has announced update 14.4 which it says brings new capabilities, updates, and camera and lens support. More than that though, it updates the exporter workflow experience that is based on user feedback.

On July 22, Capture One released an update that made a fundamental change to how some users were working with the application. Digital techs, in particular, were affected and reported that the changes “broke” their workflow. Specifically, the “output” tab as well as “batch output” were replaced by the exporter, and the tokens “job name” and “sub name” were removed, making it so that final file naming would have to be process specific.

Capture One admits that during the last release (14.3.0) in July, the Capture One team changed the Exporter, and redesigned the experience to “increase functionality and reduce complexity across varied workflows.”

“This adjustment required alterations to the workflows of certain users who preferred and relied upon the original formula,” Capture One says in an emailed statement. “As Capture One stands committed to ensuring our software develops in a way that includes the functionality critical to the workflow of many professional photographers, we are pleased to restore that functionality that many asked to return.”

The company says that user feedback is important to it, and as a result has brought all the tools from the Exporter to the main window of Capture One.

“They can be added as a pre-made Export Tool Tab by right-clicking the Tool Tab bar and selecting Add Tool Tab and then Export,” Capture One says. “All Export tools can also be individually added to any Tool Tab or dragged out as floating tools, allowing a fully flexible workspace. Further details on the Exporter changes can be found in the attached document below. Please note that the Export Tool Tab is not default and must be added manually.”

A full description of the changes can be read in the PDF below:

In addition to this change, Capture One now supports the Fujifilm GFX 50S II, Nikon Z fc, Olympus Pen E-P7, and curiously the Pentax 645Z, a camera that was originally released in 2014. The application also supports three new Sigma lenses and the new Canon 70-200mm f/2.8.

There are also a host of bug fixes and workflow enhancements that have been made, the full details of which can be read in the Capture One 14.4 release notes.

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How to capture the red deer rut

red deer fighting

September 29, 2021

Wildlife photographer Ben Hall shows you how to capture one of Britain’s most exciting and fierce autumn wildlife spectacles, the Red Deer rut.


Your guide: Ben Hall

portrait of ben hall
Ben Hall is one of the UK’s leading wildlife photographers with many international awards to his name. His images are widely published throughout the world, he has co-authored two books and runs photo workshops in the UK and overseas.
Visit www.benhallphotography.com.

Each autumn during rutting season, red deer stags will battle rival males in a bid to win a harem of hinds. The red deer rut is one of Britain’s most exciting wildlife spectacles, and throughout October, can provide endless dramatic photo opportunities. Witnessing a stand-off between two fully grown stags is an unforgettable experience but keep an eye out for other interesting behaviour, too.

Stags will often dig at the ground with their antlers, sometimes ending up with interesting headgear made up of grass or bracken! They will be strutting their stuff, expending energy herding the females together, and bellowing out vocal threats to rivals. This is an action-packed photographic opportunity not to be missed.

red deer fighting

The combination of the setting sun and stormy clouds produced some dramatic lighting. The fighting stags were placed on the horizon and metered from the sky to create this stunning silhouette. Canon EOS-1D Mark II, 500mm, 1/1250sec at f/5.6, ISO 50

Know your location

As with any type of wildlife photography, it is important to familiarise yourself with your location and build up an understanding of the place, as well as your intended subjects. Pick a site that is local enough to allow you to visit several times, as the more time you spend there, the more you will learn about your subject’s movements and behavioural patterns.

You should also pay close attention to the light and how it affects the surroundings. Is it possible to shoot against a background cloaked in shadow for a dramatic effect, for instance? Try to visualise the type of images that you would like to take, and note down any patterns you observe, so you are better armed for your next visit.

red deer rut stag roar

As soon as you see a stag’s head lift to let out an almighty roar, fire off a burst of shots to maximise your chances of capturing a pin-sharp shot/ Canon EOS-1D X, 500mm, 1/200sec at f/4, ISO 1600

Fieldcraft

Most deer, even in parklands, remain wary of people so you will need to think carefully about your approach. Deer possess very acute senses: their eyesight, smell and hearing far exceed ours. When tackling completely wild deer, you will need to stalk them carefully, always keeping low and ensuring your outline does not break the horizon.

Always be sure to stay downwind and pause if the deer look alert, continuing only when they appear relaxed. Deer that inhabit parklands up and down the country tend to be more accustomed to people, and as such are more tolerant and a little bit easier to approach.

All deer have a fear circle, however, and you will still need to keep a close eye on their behaviour and watch for any signs of unease. The key is to avoid surprising the deer with your presence. Patience, as always, is a virtue. Walk slowly, stopping and waiting at regular intervals until the deer begin to gain your trust and appear to be relaxed in your company.

red deer rut stag

The golden hour

Most activity will occur during the first and last two hours of sunlight, so it pays to arrive at your location early. During the golden hour, the wavelengths of light are much longer, creating a warmth and richness in the light that is completely absent at any other time. This is your opportunity to capture some atmospheric images.

Take time to search out the most aesthetic backgrounds and avoid any that are too obtrusive and distracting. Use the warmth of the light to your advantage and seek out autumnal colours in the surroundings to enhance the rich hues.

Backlighting

Due to the intensity of sunlight, backlighting your subject is best done at dawn or dusk when the sun is very low in the sky. One byproduct of contre-jour photography is rim lighting. This is where a halo of light will appear around the outline of your subject, and it can be an effective way of accentuating a subject’s shape and form. For such images, exposure can be critical.

red deer rut stag roar

Make a habit of checking the histogram regularly to ensure that you are not losing important highlight detail and compensate for this accordingly. Experimenting with exposure, especially under backlit conditions, can be a great way of capturing drama. By searching out a shadowy background and purposely underexposing by up to 3 stops, you will find only the rim lighting is visible, with the rest of the image falling to black. Images such as these add an air of mystery and a strong graphic element.

Misty mornings are perfect for backlighting, too. Hanging mist creates an ethereal atmosphere, whilst the mist diffuses the light allowing you to shoot towards the sun for longer. Watch the forecast closely, as mist at dawn usually occurs following a cold but clear night. On particularly cold mornings, look for a dark background to shoot towards – the strong backlighting will help to highlight the deer’s breath, adding a wonderful, evocative atmosphere.

Capture the action

During the rut, action can be fast-paced so you will need to set up your camera in advance. Switch to high-speed drive mode to enable you to fire a sequence of images; this is especially important for fighting and bellowing stags. A minimum shutter speed of 1/800sec will be necessary to freeze the movement of a roaring stag, so keep a careful eye on your settings and raise the ISO if you need to.

red deer rut stags fighting

As a stag bellows, it will lift its head back and let out a gut-wrenching roar, so your best chance of a sharp image is to capture it at its peak, when the head is back all the way and no longer moving. As soon as you see the head start to lift, fire a burst of images to capture a sequence – this is your best chance of securing a pin-sharp image.

Battles between rival stags are one of the most exciting parts of the rut. Often, two stags will commence in a parallel walk to size each other up before suddenly turning and clashing antlers – this is your sign to get ready to fire. Keep your angle low for a more intimate view, and this will also help your background to become more distant and diffused. Use a small focusing area, either single point, or a small group, and focus on the eyes, moving your focus point if necessary.


Ben’s Top Tips for capturing the deer rut

Include the foreground

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Use the foreground to add depth to your composition and lead the eye through the frame to your subject. Select a wide aperture to create a shallow depth of field, as this will help to blow the foreground out of focus and eliminate any distracting elements.

Eyes are key

red deer stag

Always focus on the eye. Choose single-focus point and move the point around the frame so that it is always on the eye of your subject when you fire the shutter. If your camera has face detection or even better, Eye AF mode, the hard work is done for you.

Experiment with panning

young deer running

During the rut, stags are often chasing hinds, so why not experiment with movement by selecting a slow shutter speed and panning? Set your camera to shutter priority and try out a variety of speeds. Somewhere between 1/30 and 1/60sec is a good place to start.

Go wide

group of deer

Instead of always focusing on individual portraits, try composing wider shots and including a whole harem and their surrounding environment. Capturing a wide array of images will help you to build up an in-depth coverage of red deer rut behaviour.

Extreme weather

red deer stags with snowflakes

Capture an element of weather by venturing out when it is raining, stormy, or if you are very lucky, snowing! Photographing in adverse weather can be an effective way of capturing atmosphere and revealing a sense of place. It will add an extra element to your images.


Why it works

Although this image doesn’t depict any dramatic behaviour, it is always worth watching out for opportunities to capture arresting portraits. When first coming across this lone stag, I was immediately struck by the subtle but beautiful light. Dusk was fast approaching, and the wooded background was in deep shadow.

red deer stag portrait

The deer stood in a patch of warm light, isolated wonderfully against the darker surroundings. I used a 500mm lens and a wide aperture to blow the background out of focus. The leaves and tree trunks are still obvious, however, which hints at the deer’s habitat.

I used single-point focus and moved the point onto the eye, letting the shallow depth of field gently blur the foreground grasses. The deer looked directly down the lens for just a few seconds, making that all-important connection.


Ben’s simple steps for shooting silhouettes

1. Seek out a suitable location and think about your shooting position. Look for an area that will allow you to shoot upwards towards the sky.

2. Watch the weather closely and pick a day when there is some interest and colour in the sky. I prefer a sky with at least some clouds as they add interest and can be used to convey mood and atmosphere.

3. I usually opt for a slightly shorter lens than usual when photographing silhouettes because I like plenty of space around my subject. A tele-zoom in the range of 100-400mm is ideal.

4. Use single-point autofocus and move the focus point towards the bottom of the frame. I often place the subject on one of the bottom intersecting thirds, leaving at least two-thirds sky for an effective composition.

5. Switch to spot metering mode and aim the metering point at a bright area of the sky. This way the sky will be correctly exposed, and the subject will naturally fall into silhouette.

 stag silhouette

The most successful silhouette shots are taken when there’s some interest in the sky. Make sure you’re positioned down low so you can shoot up towards the sky. Canon EOS-1D X, 500mm, 1/5000sec at f/5.6, ISO 250

6. When metering for the sky, you may find you need to add a small amount of positive exposure, so check the histogram and make sure that the graph is nudging towards the right-hand side.

7. Opting for cloudy white balance will further warm up and enhance the colours of a nice sunrise or sunset.

8. A stag roaring in silhouette can look particularly dramatic so be ready to fire at all times and keep your camera set to high-speed drive to capture the peak of the action.

9. If you are using a tripod, turn off image stabilisation. On a completely solid platform, the image stabiliser can cause movement.

10. If you decide to show a small amount of detail in your subject, rather than a solid silhouette, lift the shadows in your post-processing software. This can often add a little bit of depth to an otherwise flat image.


Before and after

stag roar before

Before

This image is too cluttered. Even though I was using a wide aperture, I was not close enough to the deer to sufficiently blow the surroundings out of focus. The logs behind the deer pull the eye away from the subject, and the grass in the foreground is too detailed, giving the image an overall lack of depth.

After

By slowly managing to creep closer to the deer, I have managed to reduce the depth of field significantly, even though this was shot using the same lens at the same aperture. The foreground grass is now blown out of focus, appearing as a diffused foreground, and the logs in the background no longer distract the eye from the roaring stag.

 stag roar after


Kit list

Telephoto lenses

Even for park deer, a long focal length will be necessary for frame-filling shots, as well as achieving soft backgrounds. A tele-zoom will offer more versatility when it comes to framing options.

Tripod or monopod

For lenses of 500mm upwards, a tripod will be required, but for shorter lenses in the range of 100mm to 400mm, a monopod is my preferred choice of support.

Waterproof walking boots

When photographing the red deer rut you may find yourself covering long distances on foot, often over uneven and wet ground. It’s important that you remain comfortable at all times, so sturdy, waterproof footwear is essential.

Gimbal head

When shooting on a tripod with a long lens, a gimbal head will allow quick movements to be made, whilst remaining completely solid. This is especially useful when following moving subjects such as hinds or stags running.


Further reading

Get great autumn wildlife shots

How to take award-winning wildlife shots

Best lenses for wildlife and nature photography

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How To Capture Motion In Your Images With These Top Tips For Beginners

How To Capture Motion In Your Images With These Top Tips For Beginners

Here are our easy to follow top tips on capturing a sense of motion in your shots.

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Sports and Action

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One aspect of photography that is often misunderstood is that when you take a picture you are not capturing an instant but rather a period in time. During this period things happen and the choices you make when taking your picture will fundamentally change the results you get. Movement in photographs should be captured deliberately, making sure that it looks like that was the plan. A picture that is just a little blurred will usually look just that, a little blurred. 

Any camera can capture movement but the amount of control you have will determine the amount of movement that you are able to show. The longer the shutter speed the more movement can be captured. Consider the best camera modes to use for your situation. 

For most pictures featuring movement, you should use a tripod but there will be times when just shooting plenty of pictures hand-held will be a better strategy.
 

1. Techniques to adopt

The technique you need to adopt will depend upon what you are trying to say. Digitally you can shoot and review what is happening and if the movement is too much use a faster speed; if they are too ‘static’ use a slower speed. Typically you should try shooting at about 1/15th or 1/30th with a reasonably fast subject. Panning can be done on a tripod, but the results will be quite different. It is essential if using a tripod (or monopod) that the camera should be able to follow the action accurately if the moving action is at an angle to the camera movement you will struggle to get usable pictures. 

 

How To Capture Motion In Your Images With These Top Tips For Beginners 372. Blur can be good

However, this doesn’t mean you have to keep the subject sharp. In this shot of the Tour de France, nothing is really sharp, but there is a clear difference between the blurriness of the crowd and the slightly sharper rider and this makes the picture more dynamic. 
 

3. But does the camera need to move?

Sometimes it is not necessary for the camera to be moving at all. Fixing the camera on a tripod and letting the subject move will give an altogether different result. This same technique can be used at night to get car lights on the roads which can be a very effective way of showing movement. Machinery is also a good source of subject as they often look much more interesting in action than at rest – or frozen with flash. Panning can help you to keep the subject sharp.

In some situations, flash can be used though; if you set the camera to slow-sync you can have the combination of a blurred image with a sharp one overlaid on it. If possible set the camera to ‘rear’ or ‘second curtain’ sync or the subject will appear to be moving backwards.

Whatever you approach, though, try and make the movement you capture to say something about the subject – that is what will make the picture work.
   

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