Lindblad Expeditions / National Geographic
EXPLORATIONS – A Lindblad Expeditions Blog

Photography

Tips for Photographing the Solar Eclipse

By Ralph Lee Hopkins, National Geographic Photographer and Director of Expedition Photography

Image courtesy of NASA.

Where will you be during the upcoming solar eclipse? It’s certainly an exciting time to be on planet Earth! Photographing the solar eclipse requires some advance thought and preparation, so here are a few tips to get the most from the experience.

1. Location, Location, Location – From Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina there are many great locations to view the eclipse along the 70-mile wide path of totality when the moon passes between the Earth and the Sun. How wild is that! Everywhere in the US will experience at least a partial eclipse, so finding a location with clear skies to enjoy the show is key.

2. Special Equipment – To safely and successfully photograph the eclipse (Do NOT look directly at the sun with your naked eye!), there are few items you will need that are not already in your camera bag. Most important are special Eclipse Glasses, that enable you to look directly at the sun, and also a Solar Filter for your lens. Research the use of the Solar Filter, as it’s necessary to remove at totality, then re-attach as the sun returns.

3. Think Composition – You can bet that everyone and their brother will be taking telephoto shots of the eclipse, stacking them into a single image, or shooting time-lapse to create a sequence. You may also want to do that (consider working with two cameras), but to make your images unique think about composing an image that includes an interesting foreground or a scenic aspect of the landscape will create. If possible, scout your location in advance to track the path of the sun across the sky and find the best composition.

4. Luck favors the Prepared – To avoid fumbling with your equipment during the event, be sure to practice with your gear. In addition to the special Eclipse Glasses and Solar Filter, essential items include the camera and lens combination of your choice, a sturdy tripod, cable release or remote trigger, fully charged camera batteries, and extra memory cards. And don’t forget about or iPhone, which has a built in time-lapse feature.

5. Be in the Moment – If you’re reading this you’ve probably already made your plans. Wherever you are, and however you plan to experience the event, be observant of everything around you. Of special interest is how will the plants and animals around you react to the darkened sky? Will the birds stop singing and become silent? Will frogs start croaking? About what about the fire flies? Three of our ships will be plying the waters of the Inside Passage in Alaska. Will whales become more active feeding on fish and plankton that rise to the surface at night? The California Academy of Sciences is soliciting citizen scientists to record their observations of plant and animal behavior during the event on their iNaturalist app available on the App Store or Google Play.

Peek Inside A Photo Instructor’s Expedition Kit

By Rich Kirchner

I’m very lucky to work for Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic on a number of different expeditions around the world. As a Lindblad-National Geographic certified photo instructor on these voyages it is a big part of my job to give advice to guests on all aspects of digital photography, including what gear I use for traveling on board our ships! Even though there are slight variations in what I travel with, depending on which itinerary I’m on, most of my gear remains fairly consistent.

I am a “wildlife” photographer, so here is a quick overview of what I normally travel with!

Two DSLR bodies, one full size sensor, and the other a smaller APS sensor. Also, I’ve started bringing either a mirrorless camera along, and or a good point-and-shoot, so I don’t always have to carry a larger body on shore!

An add-on vertical release battery pack, several extra batteries and charger, and a number of additional memory cards. What I have found over the many years of doing these trips is that many guests don’t bring an extra battery, or any at all (very necessary, they do fail), forget their charger, or forget both because they plugged them into charge and then neglected to pack them!

Several ranges of zoom lenses, 200-500mm, 70-200mm, plus a compatible 1.4 tele converter, and a wide angle of 18-35mm.

Often I’ll also bring either a 16mm fisheye, and or a 60mm macro, depending on where I’m headed!

I try to bring my medium sized camera pack whenever possible, but sometimes it is my large one that gets pressed into service, as well as a smaller one that can hold a single body and telephoto zoom. This is for carrying on shore and will fit into my dry-bag (backpack) for coming back-and-forth to shore on Zodiacs (very important). It can also be used to protect equipment while on shore in inclement weather, or while kayaking!

A monopod, rather than a tripod, seems to work better for using telephotos from a crowded bow on board ship, or doing walks and longer hikes on land! Many modern zoom telephotos can be hand-held however using the vibration reduction technology, and a faster shutter speed!

One of the most important tools in my bag always is a really good pair of binoculars, used to spot and observe wildlife movements.

Lastly, having several good microfiber cleaning cloths along, and accessible, for cleaning lenses, as well as a “Rocket Blower,” or similar tool, to clean particles off of your sensors, is very important to take care of your equipment under “outside” environmental conditions!

One last thing I’d like to talk about is the advantage of traveling by ship for photography. Often we are visiting places in remote locations worldwide that can only be accessed by ship. Ships can access extreme sea ice conditions in the Arctic and Antarctic for observing, and photographing, elusive or dangerous critters like polar bears, walrus, and other pinnipeds or whales! The other great advantage is our fleet of Zodiacs that can safely get guests to and from shore in very remote places, plus can get you an incredible close encounter with many elusive animals around the world! It’s a great way to travel, and can be an incredibly rewarding photo experience!

Galápagos in 360, By a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow

Each year exceptional teachers from around the country apply to be Grosvenor Teacher Fellows and join us for expeditions to the Arctic, Galapagos, and more. The teachers selected participate in the Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Program, named in honor of Gilbert M. Grosvenor, Chairman Emeritus, National Geographic Society and Education Foundation. The program is designed to give teachers and educators the opportunity to extend Grosvenor’s legacy of excellence in geographic education, in this case through firsthand experience that they can bring back to their classroom and beyond.

One of those teachers, Jesse Lowes, joined us in Galapagos with a small Ricoh Theta camera, which is capable of shooting 360-degree photos. He put together a virtual map of his expedition that allows you to see and interact with some of the places we explore as well as our ship, the 96-guest National Geographic Endeavour.

He said, “I had a lot of fun working with the 360 camera that I used during my Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship. I am still floored by the opportunity to join on the expedition and it continues to be a life and profession changing experience!”

Check out the 360 photos. A bit on navigating: use the yellow arrows in the spheres to move, and you’ll find the white icons link to online readings, video, or video spheres. Also, if you hit the 3D icon on a device you can pan around the sphere, and if you hit the Cardboard icon and drop your phone in a Google Cardboard viewer for the full VR experience.

The 10 Best Drone Gifts for Christmas 2014

By Kike Calvo, Photographer and National Geographic Expert

Shopping for a “drone-obsessed” friend or family member? Christmas is almost upon us, and I have decided to think of a general guide to choose a gift that will make happy anyone interested in cool gadgets, quadcopters and Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Catch them off guard with gifts that will put a smile on their faces. I recommend you to read my Drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Series before buying any aerial platforms.

1. ($$$) DJI Inspire 1: A complete ready-to-fly system, the Inspire 1 is complete ready-to-fly system. Carbon fiber arms give you the strength to maneuver in the air and they transform, moving out of the camera’s way at the flick of a switch. With a full 360⁰ unobstructed view, you now have the freedom to capture shots independent of the direction you are flying. Learn more about the DJI Inspire 1.

 

 

DJI Inspire 1

2. ($$$) For the Unfettered Adventurer: DSLRPros Expedition Series P2 Aerial Kit has been specially designed for artists and thrill seekers who refuse to have their creativity limited. The bullet modified motors and ESCs make repairs and replacements easy to perform while on the go. Experience super long range video reception tested up to 1.2 miles with the new DSLRPros video Rx Antenna. The included Travel Backpack comfortably fits all that you need to take your aerial kit to the remote locations you never thought possible. You can also consider buying a DJI Phantom or a DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ Quadcopter if your budget is limited.

BUY: DSLRPros Expedition Series P2 Aerial Kit

3. ($$) Automatic Mission Planning: Powered by 3DR’s world famous autopilot, the new 3d Robotics Iris+ Multicopter is a robot that will automatically fly itself where you tell it to go, while keeping a camera dead steady with two-axis gimbal stabilization. Using the free DroidPlanner app, IRIS+ users can plan flights by simply drawing a flight plan on any Android tablet or phone. Check the Iris+ Multicopter now.

BUY: 3d Robotics Iris+ Multicopter 915 Mhz 3DR IRIS+

4. ($$) Fat Shark Predator V2 FPV RTF Headset System Video Goggle GLASS CAMERA: Experience your radio-controlled vehicle from the pilot’s view point. Commonly it is used to pilot an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), an onboard camera, fed wirelessly to video goggles or a video monitor.

BUY: Fat Shark FATSHARK Predator V2 FPV RTF Headset System Video Goggle GLASS CAMERA

5. ($$) Jumping Sumo with FPV: The Parrot MiniDrone Jumping Sum jumps over 2.5 feet high and always falls back on its wheels. Its equipped with a wide angle camera that streams live immersive views on the piloting screen. I am sure the Parrot MiniDrone Jumping Sumo will bring lots of fun to your home.

formation

BUY: Parrot MiniDrone Jumping Sumo

6. ($$) Backpack Bag for your Phantom: With Extremely light weight, this Backpack Bag fits the DJI Phantom 1, DJI Phantom 2 Vision, DJI Phantom 2 Vision+, DJI Phantom 2 + Gimbal or DJI Phantom FC40, Fits Extra Accessories GoPro Cameras and Laptop. You can also check other backpacks available in the market.

formation

BUY: Backpack Bag for DJI Phantom (fits all models) / Check all models

7. ($$) Pebble Smartwatch for iPhone and Android: Hands-free aerial camera control is now a reality. Using a device with a built-in GPS and OTG (on the go) technology and a DroidPlanner app, the new 3d Robotics Iris+ will follow our Pebble Smartwatch for iPhone and Android (Black). DroidPlanner will work with all these devices.

formation

BUY: Pebble Smartwatch for iPhone and Android (Black)

8. ($) A Tripod for FPV Pilots: The Manfrotto Compact Tripod is perfect to support small monitors for those who enjoy First Person View flying.

BUY: Manfrotto Compact Tripod

9. ($) The Hubsan X4, an Old Time Favorite: Along with the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Quadricopter, this 4 Channel 2.4GHz RC Quadcopter helped me polished my flying skills on my early beginnings. Need some skills? Get a Hubsan X4 today.

BUY: Hubsan X4 / Parrot AR.Drone 2.0

10. ($) Buy a Book: As Maurice Sendak once said, “There’s so much more to a book than just the reading.” Here are some suggestions or just check my Cool Stuff List for Drone and Unmanned Vehicle enthusiasts.

Drone / UAV Dictionary: Includes 300 Commercial UAV Applications

Cool stuff for Drone and Unmanned Vehicle enthusiasts

Drone Entrepreneurship: 30 Businesses You Can Start

Small Unmanned Aircraft: Theory and Practice

Drone University

The beginner’s guide to Fpv (B&W)

GoPro Cameras For Dummies

Drones For Dummies (For Dummies (Computer/Tech))

10+1. ($) Kike Calvo’s Drone Gifts:

Inspired by my passion for flying sUAV, I have developed a product collection, that include baseball hats, mugs, mouse pads, key chains, T-Shirts and many other items that will make your loved ones smile.

9 Tips For Better Expedition Photos

By Cristina Veresan, Grosvenor Teacher Fellow & Middle School Science Teacher at Star of the Sea School in Honolulu, Hawaii.

2014-07-01-ng_ex_arctic.jpg

Whenever I open up an issue of National Geographic magazine, I immediately flip though the pages to preview the photographs. Though I later return to each article to read the text, the images are most powerful in telling the stories. One of the most exciting aspects of the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship is the opportunity to learn from the expert photographers associated with National Geographic.

I am a totally inexperienced photographer myself and, armed with a hand-me-down Canon Power Shot, was determined to gain some skills. At our pre-voyage workshop in April, naturalists and Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic-certified photo instructors Michael S. Nolan and CT Ticknor presented a session on expedition photography that was very inspiring. I was fortunate enough to have both Michael and CT on my Lindblad-National Geographic expedition through Svalbard, where I continued my learning. They both have the technical skill to help the most sophisticated photographers but also the heart to help novices like me.

These following expedition photography tips are not my own and must be credited to Michael and CT. However, I will provide my interpretation and examples of my own photos taken on the expedition. Still daunted by settings and white balance, I shot in Auto mode but I did try and pay attention to composition and create images that would help me tell a story.

1. Take an establishing shot.
Each landing we made, I tried to take a photo that broadly captured a sense of place—usually with the ship in the background. The establishing shot provided useful context for the other photos. This is a shot of the beautiful isthmus at our last landing. The white sky and muted colors were otherworldly.
2014-07-01-huff_1.jpg

2. Leave space in the frame.
With the polar bears, it was temping just to zoom in and bulls-eye the animal in every frame. However, when I pulled back and left some space, I got powerful images of the bear in its vast landscape of pack ice.
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3. Rule of thirds.
When shooting landscapes, think of the frame as divided in horizontal thirds and group elements by thirds instead of halves. So, in this shot of water and sky, instead of half water and half ice, I aimed for two-thirds water and one-third sky.
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4. Light sets the mood.
Both the midnight sun and the silvery light in the high latitudes were like nothing I have ever seen. I looked for reflections and shadows. I tried to get up at different times, like this shot at 2 a.m., to capture the mood.
2014-07-01-huff_4.jpg

5. Get in close.
Though I did not have a powerful zoom lens, I did try and get in close where I could. One of the ways I could reasonably do this was by taking macro shots of the vegetation. I often lay down on the spongy tundra to get at ground level. Another way was to zoom in on a glacier face to capture the ice texture.
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6. Use continuous shot to capture action.
Get to know your continuous shot setting! When capturing action, it is a great way to ensure you don’t miss the look of the arctic fox, the take-off of the guillemot, or in this case, the yawn of the polar bear!
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7. Consider the angle of your shot.
I tried to get the ship itself and other guests in some of my shots not only for scale and to establish the scene but to find new angles. During a visit by a curious polar bear, I went up a deck to get this shot.
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8. Layer your images.
I would often hear CT remind us of this when we were on hikes ashore. One easy way to accomplish this is to place something dominant in the foreground with an interesting background like this whale vertebra with hikers and the ship behind it.
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9. Get a sense of scale.
It can be much more powerful to know how big or how small a subject. After photographing tiny vegetation for several days, it finally occurred to me to occasionally put my finger in the shot for scale! Another example: I took a lot of shots of the bird cliff but this one with the Zodiac in it offers scale.
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10. “Don’t Point and Shoot — Aim and Create”
This is a motto that Michael and CT shared at our April meeting that resonated for me while on my expedition. I did not want to come back having snapped thousands of pictures but not really capturing the landscape, the wildlife, and my shipmates in a creative way. I am definitely more mindful of how to aim and create interesting images that tell a story. I am inspired to continue my own journey with photography. And one of these days, with a successful Arctic expedition behind me, I might even venture out of Auto mode.
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Sunrise on South Georgia Island

Yesterday’s dawn found our guests aboard National Geographic Explorer landing at St. Andrew’s Bay on South Georgia Island. Our Director of Expedition Photography Ralph Lee Hopkins sent back this shot of a welcoming committee of king penguins greeting our guests. Right now, Explorer is landing at South Orkney Island, an impromptu stop taking advantage of conditions. If South Georgia Island is on your list, we’ll be returning March 2014—and there are still cabins available.

One Picture: Baja California at Sunrise

by Ralph Lee Hopkins, Director of Expedition Photography

Canon 5D MkIII, 16-35mm @ f/22, 2 seconds, SinghRay 2-stop Soft-step Grad ND, Induro Tripod and Ballhead

For everyone who attended this year’s Baja Land & Sea Photo Retreat they will never forget the sunrise along the wild shores of the Sea of Cortez. Even those that slept through it heard about it. It had all the potential of just another cliché sunrise. But with each passing moment it became more and more unreal, until it was over the top.

My eye was drawn to the reflections on the wet rocks and motion of the surf. I set up my tripod as close to the rocks that I dared. The sturdy Induro tripod and ballhead made it easy to stabilize the camera in a tenuous situation. I’m after foreground that adds a sense of place, depth, or drama to the image. Sometimes the motion is too much, the water lost in the cotton-candy look. Other times not enough, looking stiff and streaky. To get it just right takes practice and experimentation. Even then it’s in the eye of the beholder.

I shot through a sequence of exposures varying my f/stops from f/2.8 to f/22 to alter the depth-of-field, changing ISO to control shutter speeds between 1/4 and 2 seconds, with a neutral-density filter used to hold back the intense sky. Sometimes we get seduced by the filters when software might achieve a better result, so always shoot with and without filters so you can make the choice later.

The high-ISO capability of the Canon 5D MKIII is superb. I always use the lowest ISO possible for the desired result, but I don’t hesitate cranking it up to 1600 ISO, if that what it takes to get the shot. The RAW image was processed in Lightroom for color balance and saturation, which was held back because of the naturally intense colors. Noise reduction was applied to the final image. The selected frame had the best reflections combined with the velvety motion of the water.

What I love about nature photography is that it forces you to be in the moment out in the wilds – to be mindful enough to wait for the light, fine-tune the composition, and anticipate the action. The magic is when it all comes together in the viewfinder, then “click.” We filled our memory cards with memories that will last forever…

Click here for information about the January 11-18, 2014 Baja Land & Sea Photo Retreat with Flip NIcklin and our friends from B&H Photo.

Explorations Cover: Circle of Love

The cover photo of our fall Explorations brochure was shot by Jill Wharton, who won the Orion Expeditions (now Lindblad Expeditions) 2013 photo contest. Jill shot the photo of a mother orangutan who had fashioned an umbrella of leaves to protect her head and her child’s head from the sun at Camp Leakey in Borneo. We’ll return to Camp Leakey aboard National Geographic Orion in 2014 on our new Wild Encounters: Borneo to Bali expedition.

The Last Paradise

A Dispatch from the Galápagos Islands
by Ralph Lee Hopkins, Director of Expedition Photography at Lindblad Expedition-National Geographic

Here in the new Galápagos airport on Baltra Island I’m reminded just how remote the Galápagos Islands really are. I’m returning from a series of photography expeditions with Lindblad Expeditions on board the National Geographic Endeavour. Even in this modern age it takes time and effort to travel this far off the beaten path—a pilgrimage to one of the last places on Earth that is totally wild and pristine.

Straddling the Equator, it’s hard to imagine a place on earth with a higher percentage of endemic species, including the famous Darwin’s finches, playful Galápagos sea lions, and the world’s only marine iguanas. What separates the Galápagos Islands from other places in the world is that 97% of the land is protected within the Galápagos Island National Park, and the islands are surrounded by one of the largest and most successful marine protected areas in the world. My hope is that it will always be this way.

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Shooting National Geographic Explorer in Greenland’s Ice

Our Director of Expedition Photography, Ralph Lee Hopkins gets the “doors off” shot of National Geographic Explorer navigating through Greenland’s ice. He was joined aboard the hired helicopter by video chronicler Jim Napoli as they flew over Disko Bay and got the shots among the towering icebergs.

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