Archive for January, 2012

The Wildebeest Crossing the Mara

Posted in Instructional Photo Tours with tags , on January 27, 2012 by roamin with roman

My tour to Tanzania had to be the highlight of the 2011 schedule.  That trip allowed me to realize a childhood dream of witnessing the crossing of the Mara River by the wildebeest.  Many of you will recognize the image above as it was my favorite of 2011!  That spectacle left such an impression on me that I am dividing my Tanzania tour report into three sections starting with just images of the crossing!!!    The group and I were fortunate enough to witness 5 crossings, each lasting about an hour or more!  Trying to capture the true feeling of the crossing proved to be quite challenging because the mass of bodies was truly astounding.  We started out just seeing the herd on the Kenya side and watched them gather in huge numbers…..in the thousands…..milling around on the far shore.  Once one brave/foolish soul jumped in (there were crocs in there!) the herd followed and didn’t stop!  Below are a few images that typify some of the action.  Deciding where to compose is probably the hardest and where the Sigma 300-800 really shined!

We had opportunities both at sunrise and at sunset.  On a few occasions I tried to isolate them against the darker backgrounds but always when they wer leaping!

Watching the herd struggle across the deep water is just mind-boggling!  Given all the danger in the water, with the crocks lurking and the possibility of getting caught in rocks, I just wondered what compelled them to cross back and forth?  The grass and rains looked like they were on the other side……so I don’t think it was a case of the “grass is greener on the other side of the fence”.  I’m not sure they figured out why, but it is  breathtaking to watch unfold!

One thing I didn’t realize was that there were so many Hippo’s in the Mara River!  We actually saw a wildebeest pushed into a hippo and fortunately, hippo’s are vegetarian!  I tried my hand at a few pan blurs as the herd headed down the banks just for a bit of variety.  As I work on new ones in the coming weeks, I will post them.

I’ll be posting some more Tanzania tour images in the next few weeks showing some of the diversity of animals and birds.  You can e-mail me: rkurywczak@gmail.com  if you want to be put on the list for the 2013 tour.

Free HDR Photo Contest

Posted in Instructional Photo Tours on January 20, 2012 by roamin with roman

Great friend and photographer Susan Candelario and I are pleased to announce a free HDR photography contest.  We are looking for your one best and most creative image using any software to convert your HDR image and you can also use additional software to further refine the image.  Anything goes!!!  The image can be natural to over the top. You can find all the rules here or on the link on the menu to the right.

The image at the top will give you one idea of what we are looking for.  I used Unified Color’s HDR Express to convert the 3 image HDR using the grunge style.  I then took it into Photoshop CS5 to restore back her naturally processed face and hands.  You can find more HDR examples on my website gallery. During the final judging, we will be looking for images with not only the best HDR processing but also images where the makers applied some creativity to further enhance the final image.  The top 3 winners will be announced by us, here on my blog, on April 13th.

If you don’t have HDR software you can download Unified Color Technologies HDR Express for a free 30 day trial.  It has full functionality on the trial version.  If you decide to purchase the software, don’t forget to use the code SDCPHOTOGRAPHY to receive a discount.  Susan does not receive compensation for promoting this product but has opted instead to offer you a better discount when using the promotional code.

The first place prize is being provided by Roamin’ with Roman Photo Tours and SDC Photography.  The winner gets to choose either the ½ day HDR Gillette Castle workshop on April 14th in East Haddam, CT, the ½ day Macro workshop on May 20th in Kennett Square, PA, or a ½ day High Speed Water Drop workshop on November 17th in Secaucus, NJ.  Prize is valued at $150 – $195.

The 2nd place prize is a Think Tank Speed Demon V2.0 bag provided by Gary Farber of Hunt’s Photo and Video valued at $140

The 3rd place winner will receive a copy of Unified Color Technologies HDR Express valued at $100.

All entries must be e-mailed to me by midnight, March 31st, at: rkurywczak@gmail.com and check the complete rules for sizing and other restrictions.

Good luck to all who participate!

Yellowstone/Grand Tetons Tour Report

Posted in Instructional Photo Tours with tags , , , , on January 13, 2012 by roamin with roman

As I look back and review the year that has just passed, I have to say that besides my Tanzania tour, the tour to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons was my most memorable!  The group was fun, energetic, sometimes out of control, and just a blast to be around!  The energy level just seemed to be very high even though I drove them mercilessly photographically.  The major reason for such a big push was that we encountered some of the most volatile weather that I have ever experienced there and given all the times that I have been to the Tetons and Yellowstone, that says a lot!  We started out in the Tetons in the upper 70’s and as the image above shows, Oxbow Bend was at its finest it has been in years.  The storm clouds that passed through were constantly changing and giving the group and myself some very dramatic skies the entire trip as you can see in all of the images below. 

Even though the crowds are constantly growing at the Mormon Row Barns, it still is a must visit on every tour because you never know what you will encounter weather wise!  The image below is a good example of that as we ran across a buffalo herd near the barn as a storm was passing over head.  We were also fortunate enough to have a clear night there so we had a few chances at the barns at night with the Milky Way rising overhead.

Because my group sizes are so small, only 4 on my US tours, I have the luxury to experiment and try creative things with the group.  The in camera blurs below represent some examples of what I am willing to teach when we have a bit of down time or conditions are a bit slow.  I know that they are not everyone’s cup of tea (Pura doesn’t like them often!) but it is just another tool for you to have in your bag and I am glad to share them with my clients, who are often excited to try new things as I am to show them.

As usual in Yellowstone and the Tetons, you are constantly changing gear as situations change from landscape to animal and back often within a matter of minutes.  Needless to say we had a few gear “fire drills” when a bear crossed the road or one afternoon when we spent chasing rainbows and other animals.  We were following a group of pronghorns on one such occasion when a calf began to nurse.  While I don’t shoot in back lit conditions, the light was low enough to allow me to have enough detail in the shadow side and give the pronghorn nice rim lighting.

As we headed to Yellowstone, the stormy weather followed but the warm temperatures took a plunge.  I am always excited for snow in Yellowstone as it provides some unique photo opportunities.  The first afternoon I created the image below in the falling snow.  I was hoping for a few more inches for the morning, but as luck would have it, we didn’t get much snow but instead we got an ice storm that closed the park!  That doesn’t happen often, so we gathered our laptops and met in the pool room for an impromptu Photoshop session for processing night images.  I don’t often do Photoshop lessons on my tours but as the park was closed, decided it was a good option for the morning hours.  A few hours later they re-opened the park and we were allowed to roam the park once more.

The snow melted quickly but the dramatic clouds continued offering us windows of light for creating some dramatic images.  The images of Mammoth Hot Springs and Yellowstone Falls are great examples of the storm clouds we encountered. 

I am already looking forward to returning later this year to see what drama Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons have in store for me and my group.  If you would like to join me this year, check out the dates on my schedule and make note that I only have 2 slots remaining.  As usual, you can e-mail me at: rkurywczak@gmail.com for any more information or questions.

Arches/Monument Valley Tour Report

Posted in Instructional Photo Tours on January 6, 2012 by roamin with roman

Over the years I have visited south east Utah area more than any other.  The areas I visit include Arches National Park, Canyonlands NP, as well as Monument Valley, the Slot Canyons, and sometimes even Horseshoe Bend.  I never get tired of the scenery there and often revisit the same location over the years as light conditions are never the same.  Some of you will recognize the image above from the Green River Overlook in Canyonlands NP.  It is one of my favorite images of 2011 and that is due mostly to the fact that this had to be the best sunset opportunity I ever had there!  Re-visiting locations you have photographed before allows you the opportunity to improve on the images you already have.

I’ve spent over 100 days photographing in these areas so my collection of images from those parks is quite extensive. This is another perk of going back to the same areas and allows me to explore some lesser visited spots.  While I have been to the Castle Valley area pictured in the image above, on the scenic byway that runs beside Arches NP, the conditions and light came together and presented a unique opportunity.  The image below of the area near the LaSal Mountains was from a few minutes later as my group & I chased the setting sun.   

During the drive time to change locations from Arches and Canyonlands to Monument Valley, I try to include some HDR photo-ops to break up the trip.  One of my favorite locations that I visited on my April tour had gotten rid of the old cars that were on their property. It appeared they were doing renovations, so I hope they bring them back!  As we passed my other favorite location, some ominous storm clouds were quickly moving in.  The first image below shows the 5 image HDR that I did this past October tour. The image below that is from my April tour and shows a different angle of that same car.  That image was a 7 image HDR stitch and I also replaced the sky and top of the pole with one of my “sky files”.  My “sky files” are images of interesting cloud filled skies I use mainly for my macro backgrounds or when I want to replace a boring sky in an HDR image. 

The drive to Monument Valley brings us through the Painted Desert on our way to our motel in Mexican Hat.  The area always reminds me of Georgia O’Keefe and I was always looking to capture an image that would honor her amazing painting of the area.  As the storm clouds continued to follow us as we made our way there, I wasn’t too optimistic.  The last few hours before sunset we checked out some other lesser know areas chasing a few rainbows and even getting caught in a bit of a downpour.  As the storm clouds cleared, they gave way to some sweet light on Mexican Hat with the Painted Desert as a fitting backdrop.  The image below is from a few minutes of that light before it dipped behind another low lying cloud bank.

No tour of mine to that area would be complete without some night-time shooting.  I love sharing the tips and tricks from my book with my clients but as they have now experienced for themselves, often we are not the only ones out there!  The first night out, we encountered another group who was doing a horrible job of “painting” Balanced Rock in Arches NP.  They were trying to paint at the same time I was painting for my group so the efforts that night were quite unsuccessful and we decided to return another night.  When we returned a few nights later, we headed out to Skyline Arch with the intent to return to Balanced Rock later in the evening and hopefully avoid any crowds.  As we got out of the truck a few hours later, my heart sank as I noticed someone painting Balanced Rock.  We decided to head over anyway and as we neared their area, we shouted out to ask if we could join them.  Much to my relief, they invited us to join them. As the group was setting up, I introduced myself to the couple.  Imagine my surprise when the wife asked me if I was “the Roman” who wrote the night guide that they had just purchased!  I told them that indeed it was me and invited them to join us as I painted Balanced Rock for my group to which they readily accepted.  I spent some time showing the group some tricks on light painting and the grateful couple was thrilled as they were headed out the next night to try it on Delicate Arch the next night. The image below is of one of our those attempts at Balanced Rock and the one Below that is of Turret Arch even later that night.

I hope you can see how much I love the desert southwest and perhaps join me on one of my tours out to Arches/Canyonlands.  usual, I take only 4 participants. As of this writing, I only have 2 slots left for my tour in March and you can find more information here.  Remember that my price includes lodging (based on Double occupancy) and transportation after you arrive at the departure point of Salt Lake City Airport and as always, feel free to e-mail me at: rkurywczak@gmail.com with any questions that you may have.

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