Author Archives: Wyman Meinzer

Texas State Photographer Helps Ford, King Ranch Celebrate Successful 15-Year Partnership

The introduction of the new Ford F-150, F-Series Super Duty and Expedition King Ranch® models celebrates an association with the iconic Texas ranch that spans 15 years. To mark the 15th anniversary of the relationship, a special photo shoot at the King Ranch was undertaken by Texas State Photographer Wyman Meinzer.

The trio of King Ranch vehicles, together for the first time, and Meinzer’s unique collection of photos are making their debut at a special exhibit during the 2014 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which runs from March 4-23.

“King Ranch is a legacy. It’s one of the best in Texas, if not America,” Meinzer said. “These Ford vehicles wear the King Ranch ‘Running W’ brand because they are proven to be legitimate and authentic, in the heritage of both Ford and the King Ranch.”

The three King Ranch edition vehicles, all 2015 models that go on sale later this year, are designed with unique interior and exterior trim, an enhanced level of standard equipment and special wheels, all to reflect the authentic character of the ranch and the premium quality of its products.

Meinzer, who was named State Photographer of Texas by George W. Bush in 1997, was raised as a cowboy on a ranch near Benjamin, Texas, and understands the life of ranching. This experience helped guide his Ford King Ranch photo shoot, making it as authentic as possible.

“King Ranch vehicles are made to kick butt, to get in the brush and dunes and mud holes,” Meinzer explained. “We tried to present them in the conditions you’d actually see on a ranch.”

More than 4,000 images were taken during the four-day shoot. Visitors to Ford.com will be able to view a gallery of these images that tie the story of the King Ranch to the F-150, F-Series Super Duty and Expedition that bear the ranch’s famed “Running W” brand. All three are new for model year 2015.

Aileen Barraza, Ford color and materials designer, has visited the King Ranch many times to get a true sense of what it expresses. “It’s a very majestic place that makes you feel at home no matter where you’re from,” Barraza said. “You can’t help but be comfortable right away with genuine luxury that is earned through hard work.”

Barraza translates that King Ranch feeling to the Ford vehicles she helps design. “The King Ranch models evoke luxury that is earned,” Barraza said. “It’s a reward for hard work, which is what has made the ranch so successful.”

The new King Ranch exterior colors for 2015 are Caribou, Bronze Fire, Guard and Ruby Red Metallic Clearcoat. Caribou will be offered as a monotone; the other colors will have Caribou as an accent color. All King Ranch vehicles now come as either a monotone or two-tone appearance, giving customers additional appearance flexibility. Premium Mesa Brown is the new interior leather, and only available on King Ranch editions.

Ford’s relationship with the King Ranch began in 1999, when Ford recognized the King Ranch represented the same philosophies it designs and engineers into its trucks: toughness, authenticity, integrity and quality.

Ford realized the best way to celebrate the partnership was to produce a King Ranch edition of the F-150, beginning with the 2001 model year. The success of that model launched the expansion of King Ranch editions to include Super Duty (model year 2003) and Expedition (model year 2005).

“King Ranch editions aren’t merely trim levels,” said Robert Underbrink, King Ranch chief executive officer. “They are representations of an authentic American story that parallels that of Ford Motor Company.”

The King Ranch was founded in 1853 by Richard King and is located in Kingsville, Texas, approximately 40 miles southwest of Corpus Christi. The ranch’s operations in Texas consist of four divisions that total 825,000 acres (1,289 square miles), making the ranch larger than the state of Rhode Island. King Ranch has additional locations in Florida, New Mexico and South Carolina and currently runs a fleet of more than 350 Ford vehicles.

The success of Ford’s association with the King Ranch is reflected in sales, especially in Texas. Forty percent of all F-Series Super Duty King Ranch editions are sold in Texas.

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Winter In The Rolling Plains Of Texas

Wyman Meinzer - Horses In Snow
Canon 1DX and Canon 70-200mm f2.8L at ISO 100 and hand held.

Winter in the rolling plains of Texas can sometimes present itself in full cloak by way of icy wind and a healthy offering of heavy snow. In this photo, horses on the famed 6666 Ranch seem playful if not thankful for this thick blanket of white that assures the land of life giving moisture, a catalyst for the resurgence of native grass in the coming spring season.

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Fog: An Element of Intrigue

A thin layer of fog hung over the river bottom as I headed for the airport in Knox City. Usually a pilots nightmare, I knew that today the fog was spotted and mostly restricted to the lower riparian areas along the Brazos so flying would not be hampered by the conditions. Placing my camera in the back seat of the little Aeronca Champ, I taxied to the end of the tarmac and did my run up. Satisfied that the little plane was hitting on all cylinders and the controls functioning correctly I slid the throttle forward and nosed the craft upward through a thin veil of fog and into the bright morning sky.

Metering directly into the fog gave this image a near perfect exposure of the Brazos River in fog cover. Canon F1N and Canon 80-200mm f4.0 lens, Kodachrome 64 film. Shot from the open door of an Aeronca Champ while directing the plane with my knees on either side of the control stick.

 

Fog is a weather phenomenon of intrigue to those of us who appreciate mood in our photographic creations. Although a bit challenging when overcast skies above the fog layer suppresses sunlight to the extreme, I always welcome this ephemeral wall of mist when shooting here in the rolling plains of Texas, a region that experiences these conditions only marginally throughout the year.

Back lit fog in the Chihuahuan desert of the Big Bend. Canon F1N and Canon 80-200mm f4.0 lens, Velvia 50 ISO film. Handheld.

 

My favorite fog shoots include a clear sky at sunrise above the misty layer giving the scene a surreal if not ghostly aura of mystique. Many neophyte photographers might think that metering in these conditions is difficult but, on the contrary, is quite simple. When using the wonderfully accurate matrix system of metering in cameras today, simply pointing into the average lighted areas of the fog will result in stunningly accurate exposures. A suggestion to those seeking the more creative angles would be to work your subjects with backlight when fog presents itself. You will be delightfully surprised!

Back lit fog of these two hunters in early morning adds an air of mystery. Canon F1N and Canon 80-200mm f4.0 lens with Velvia 50 ISO film and handheld.

 

Whether shooting wildlife, people, landscape or ranch work, the mysterious if not beautiful aspect of this weather condition will always add an interesting element to the final image.

 

Good luck and safe travels!!

Canadian geese rising at sunrise through a veil of fog. Canon F1N and Canon 500mm f4.5L lens and Velvia 50 ISO film, handheld.
An autumn sunrise over the riparian area along the Brazos. Canon F1N and Canon 80-200mm f4.0 lens, Velvia 50 ISO and handheld.
Fog over this Hill Country landscape almost silhouettes these trees near Austin, Texas. Hasselbald 501 and Zeiss 150mm lens. Velvia 50 ISO with camera on a Manfrotto tripod.
Strong side light over these badlands ridges in Knox County accentuates the density of the fog cover further enhancing the mystique of this rugged land. Shot from the open door of an Aeronca Chief with Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 24-105mm f4.0L lens. ISO 100.
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Photographing In Big Ranch Country

 

As a professional photographer I may have a more unusual backgrounds than most people engaged in this line of work. Having been raised on a moderate sized ranch here in Texas, I grew up as a cowboy, enjoying a life beneath the open sky while working cattle in a beautiful land and engaging in hunting during the time I was not riding horseback. After graduating from Texas Tech University with a BS in Wildlife Management in 1974, I became a professional predator hunter and engaged in this line of work for some five years, all the while hunting on the big ranches that define the rolling plains of Knox, King and Dickens counties.

 

In my last two years at Tech I became interested in photography and worked on perfecting the craft for the next seven years before I was finally published. Following my first publication  my career took  a turn in the direction quite different than what my upbringing had dictated. Or did it?

 

Although my experience in working with magazines over the years required that I learn almost all aspects of artificial lighting and working with all type of people in and around the state, my specialty and favorite interests deals in the outdoors and includes landscape, sky scape, wildlife and a multitude of other subjects.

 

In reviewing the years spent on the ranch it has now become apparent that my entire life was a wonderful training mission for what I do today, whether its dealing with the natural fauna of our land or dodging horses and cowboys as they carry on the work of day to day life on the big ranches across our state.

Whenever possible it is advisable to remain distant from action where cattle and men are in close proximity. Here the cowboys are cutting the herd and the last thing they need is a photographer standing among the action. A great way to get run over by a wild bovine! Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 70-200mm f2.8L lens. ISO 100 and handheld.

 

Along with my background in wildlife behavior, one of the most significant attributes of having spent my life in the Big Empty is understanding the way of ranch life and documenting the work therein. Having photographed three books on big ranch life and currently working on another, being able to predict impending action and making appropriate preparation while respecting the duties of working cowboys is a must that assures the possibility of further photo efforts in and around these very independent souls. I like to say that I can speak the language of these fine ranch people and invariably have a wonderful rapport with all whether we are sitting at the chuck wagon or out working cattle in the corrals. And as an extra, if the need arises, I am comfortable in  the saddle even while clutching camera gear! In other words, my past experiences allows me to become one of the tribe at any time.

In this case it would be easy to get knocked down by a horse as the heeler is pulling the calves to the flankers. Big ranches might brand 400 head of calves before noon so they don’t like to dodge people who are not in the actual process of helping them. Nimble on the feet is helpful in this situation. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 70-200 f2.8L at ISO 100 and handheld.

 

When photographing on these big Texas ranches my main goal is to document the real life scenario that defines the life way on these ranching empires. This, of course, puts me quite often in the mix of things during the work process. An excellent example is when branding season is in session it is common for me to be in close proximity to a dozen or more cowboys within the enclosure of a set of corrals. There might be two men horseback (heelers) and two crews of flankers not to mention a select few who castrate and vaccinate the downed calves. Congestion is easy here and to have a photographer in the midst of action can be disconcerting for all involved. Thus comes the benefit of having grown up in this lifestyle and reading the impending action correctly. I always reassure the men on site that if I get in the way it is cool to knock me down or run over me with the horse. If it happens then I deserve it. Thus far I have been fortunate to not have been overrun and in the process obtained most of the images that I sought. Respecting the men at work while photographing them in close proximity is a balancing act that is essential when trying to document the real life scenario of ranch life. Asking questions and following instructions will get you consideration from these men who are trying to do a tough job without compromising  the process for just your benefit.

 

Hope you enjoy the following images and accompanying comments! And remember….courtesy will get you almost everywhere!

Working around the chuck wagon allows more time to communicate with the cooks and select angles for the best composition. Generally, these men are good natured and most helpful. Be nice and you might get an extra dip of cobbler!! Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 24-105mm f4.0L lens at ISO 100 and handheld.
Remaining discreet and analyzing the work process is essential in remaining a welcome guest at these big ranches. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 24-105mm f4.0L at ISO 100 and handheld.
Once the work is done you might talk some of the men to hang around the wagon for some extra shots. Here the cowboys chat around the fire at sunset. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 24mm f3.5L Tilt Shift lens at ISO 100 and on a Manfrotto tripod.
Timing is often the winning element. Here, only one mile from the wagon, these men are caught in an autumn rain while pushing the remuda to the campsite. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 300mm f4.0L lens at ISO 100 and resting the combo over the window sill.
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Selecting the Right Lens for the Job

 

When I was an adjunct instructor at Texas Tech University a dilemma that always seemed to arise was the students lack of knowledge in the selection of certain lenses to achieve images with a stronger presence. Of course I easily recalled my own years as a college student and the ever present lack of funds to get what I needed so I was understanding when the ownership of multiple lenses was not possible, but continued to stress the positive aspects of having this luxury if at all possible.

 

Three major category of lenses are basically what I am talking about here and they include the wide angle, normal  and the telephoto lenses. Of course there are lots of in betweens but for simplicity sake lets address them under these three headings and what each one of them brings to the table.

 

Most neophyte photographers visualize that being a pro means a constant diet of standing around the side lines of a football game or in a national park with bazooka sized lenses attached to the camera throughout the day. For some people this can be a major segment of their shooting porfolio as their subjects require the use of great magnification and thus the scenario described above. But for many of us a days shoot might require a much more varied selection of glass hanging at our side and it is important that we be fluent in the application of these lenses to create an image with significant monetary and visual value. Lets take a look at some of this glass and see how they might influence the power of our photos.

 

Perhaps the most difficult lens to use properly is the wide angle. They don’t look too impressive hanging there on the camera body as most are only a few inches long and for the most part quite diminutive. However, I can assure you that this little fella can be a lens that can make or break a shoot, depending on the photographers knowledge of when to apply its use and the proper use of such.

In this image taken with a Canon 24-105 f4.0L lens and Canon 5D Mark II, the proper use of essential elements and the placement thereof can be seen in the yucca plants actually creating a pathway through the frame. Depth of field is achieved by a high f stop selection such as f16 or f22. By this method all essential elements in the frame from the yucca to the mountain top are in focus.

 

Lenses of this genre are generally in the 17mm to 35mm range and very useful in my line of work. I use them for landscape, sky scape, ranch work and architecture to name a few and would not dare venture out without a couple of them in my equipment bag. As their name indicates, they are lenses that allow a wide area to be seen in the viewfinder  thus enabling the shooter to stand closer to the subject(s) to gain the desired perspective.

 

Wide angle lenses also require some thought regarding composition as not to create an excess of void within the photo. This is an area that I call “the twilight zone” and effectively reduces the overall impact of the image. Placement of subject elements within the frame is very important when using this genre of lenses. Another feature of wide angle lenses is that some distortion is realized when using these lenses in the extreme. Although sometimes not a negative feature, I for one try to avoid extreme distortion as I prefer to show lines as they are in reality.

To avoid the open foreground look and the subsequent “twilight zone” effect that is so easily done with a wide angle lens I used the cracks in the mud to create an interesting pattern to carry the viewers eye to the machine that is digging mud from the dried stock tank. The raccoon tracks are an added interest point in the dried mud and actually carries the viewers eye to the action included in the image. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 17mm f4.0L Tilt Shift Lens. ISO 100 and handheld.

 

Normal lenses are those such as the 45mm to about 60mm and show approximately the angle of view that the naked eye can see. I believe it is established that the 45mm is the one that fits this description the closest. The only time that I use these lens extensively is when I am shooting panoramas and stitching a number of photos to create the old time wide look. Unlike wide angle glass, f stop selection must be controlled carefully as to determine those elements to be properly in focus.

An excellent example of using the normal focal length in producing a panorama image by stitching about 7 images together in photoshop. Images shot vertical for correct perspective and exposed with a Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 45mm f4.0L Tilt Shift lens at ISO 100 on a Manfrotto tripod and pano head.

 

I categorize telephoto lenses into a couple of basic types which are medium and super telephoto. Medium are those in the 100 to 300mm length, super telephoto are 400mm and up. I have had extensive experience in using all lengths up to 1000mm and find a use for all sizes although 99% of my work can be achieved with the 400 or 500mm.

 

Effective wildlife or sports photography requires the use of these longer lenses although the glass of choice is often dependent on the mobility required by the photographer. As the focal lengths become longer so does the lens length and weight thus minimizing the photographers ability to move effectively for good angles. In sports work where the basketball or football arena provides a confined area in which the photographer will work, mobility is not as important. However, in regard to wildlife work, when going after truly wild animals outside of a controlled environment, mobility is one of the most important factors to consider. Because of this I have found that the Canon 400mm f5.6L lens fits the bill perfectly for me due to its extremely light weight and overall small configuration.

 

Some neophyte shooters do not realize the importance of long lenses in landscape and sky photography. Although I mostly use the wide angle glass for my sky and landscape work I like long lenses for its characteristic compression effect that causes hills to look larger and closer together. Basically they offer a dramatizing effect on the scene that is often quite powerful. In sky work I often see wonderful skyscapes that offer the best effect through the isolation of only a part of the overall scene. Thus I can slap on a long lens and effectively isolate that portion of the sky for maximum impact.

In this image only one portion of the sky presented a rich and saturated color that I desired. I used a Canon EOS 1N and Canon 400mm f5.6L lens to isolate this portion of the sky for impact.

 

As I have mentioned earlier in the post, many beginning shooters cannot justify the purchase of multiple lenses but luckily, camera manufacturers today offer a selection of zoom focal lengths that are not targeted at the pro market and can be purchased for a minimal amount. Focal length of 28-300mm and others similar are quite popular and make the choice easy for those shooters working on a smaller budget.

In this image I used a 400mm telephoto lens to enhance the height of the background landscape and make it appear to be closer than it really was. In this way the bison were isolated and forces the viewer to focus immediate attention on the animals. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 400 f5.6L lens at ISO 100 and handheld.
By laying at eye level with the bull frog and using a 400mm lens with 1.4 extender I was able to totally diminish any identifiable subjects in the background and actually enhance the impact of this mere frog which is covered in mud. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 400mm f5.6L with Canon 1.4 tele extender. ISO 100 and rested on a sandbag.
This was an unusual case where a short telephoto became an effective wildlife lens. I was caught without a super telephoto lens when the three bucks came over the horizon at sunset. Had I used any other lens but the 24-105mm at hand I could not have created this image. It was a perfect setup. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 25-105mm f4.0L at 100 ISO and handheld.
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Shooting the Big Ranch Experience

 

Living in the big ranch country of the Texas plains region was a wonderful time for my brother and me during the 1950’s and into our early adulthood. Our dad, Pate Meinzer, was the foreman on a moderate sized ranch, 27,000 acres, along the Brazos river in Knox County so from early childhood and until I drove away to attend college at Texas Tech University life was an emersion of cowboying, hunting and being privy to working around some of the great cowboys that defined our region of Texas. Without doubt this rural upbringing played a huge roll in my own view of the land, the people as well as a decent work ethic in general.

A big branding on the 6666 ranch in early spring. Dust, smoke and fast work define a mornings work on big outfits in Texas. Canon 1D Mark II N and Canon 16-35mm f2.8L at 100 ISO.

 

Although I did not pursue the cowboy life as my livelihood, I never lost my love and appreciation for this genre of upbringing that set the stage for the life that I enjoy at the latter age of 61 years. I can never give enough credit to my parents and those old time Texans whose bent and bowed legs told a story of a lifetime in the saddle and on the big cattle ranges of our great state.

On big outfits like the Waggoner, 6666 and Pitchfork, the branding requires two draggers and two sets of flankers. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 70-200 f2.8L lens at 100 ISO and handheld.

 

While studying Wildlife Management at Texas Tech, working as a professional predator hunter and finally becoming a photographer/author, I have never lost the appreciation for  the smell of sweating horseflesh and the clatter of cattle hooves on the rough badlands that described so much of my home country along the Brazos and Wichita. Thus when I had the opportunity to document the workings on some of our historical ranches of these plains I felt excitement in knowing that I was finally heading back home for a revisit to a life and memories of long ago. With camera in hand and an understanding of what I really wanted to communicate through my photographic images, I embarked in this endeavor to communicate a realistic view of ranch life today and not some reenactment of ones imagination of what it should have been.

Herefords are becoming a breed of the past in favor of the angus crosses. The former exhibits a tendency for pink eye and cancer eye which reduces the worth of sold beef. But I will have to say that there is something special about having hundreds of head of cattle in the herd sporting a set of horns. Canon F1N and Canon 80-200mm F4.0 lens and ISO 50 Velvia film handheld.

 

Take a moment to study these images and know that they are moments in a days work of men who represent a lifeway that is dying just a little with each passing year. It is the Big Ranch Experience of our Texas in real time!

The “hood” or wagon cooks helper washes dishes and gathers firewood for the cooking chores. Here we see a pail of dishwater being dispensed just as the sun breaks over the horizon in early morning. Nikon FN and Leitz Telyt 400mm f6.8 lens. Velvia 50 ISO film and handheld.
In early morning after breakfast is fed the cooks on a wagon are busy readying for the noon meal. Here I caught the goings and  comings of these two men at a Waggoner Ranch camp site as they busy themselves for the big noon meal. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 24mm f3.5L Tilt Shift lens. 100 ISO and handheld.
Cowboying is a labor of love and here on the Waggoner, Jimbo Glover, the wagon boss, cuts cattle before the branding begins. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 70-200mm f2.8L at 100 ISO and handheld.
Here a herd of cattle on the 100,000 acre 6666 ranch at Borger, Texas walk the fence line during a windy period of the day. Canon 5D and Canon 400mm f5.6L lens at 100 ISO and hand held.
Shipping time on the big outfits is a period of intense work. Here on the massive Waggoner ranch these cattle trucks line up to be loaded for transportation of the yearlings. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 24-105mm f4.0L lens at 100 ISO and handheld. Shot from a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter.
Before the rise of a mornings sun the wagon boss tosses his loop many times to catch the mounts for all cowboys and the mornings work. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 70-200mm lens at 100 ISO and handheld.

 

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Hunting Experience And Photography Combines For Success In The Field

 

46 years ago I sat on a hilltop in Knox County and called up my first coyote. On October 17 of 1965 at 2:15 pm that epiphany occurred and my life was never the same, in a very good way.

For over four decades the very basis for my life revolved around hunting and experiencing the positive influence of connecting with a life way that has defined our lives as Americans since the earliest times. Hunting, exploring and just possessing an inquisitive personality has been the main ingredients that formed my entire personality since childhood.

It is amazing how, at times, our activities in youth are exercises in preparation for the careers that we eventually choose in adulthood. My life is no exception in this respect and I have enjoyed an unparalleled richness in experiences because of it.

Hunting has been a rich and long lived heritage that defines the American way. Some of the most successful wildlife photographers have been or are hunters. Adeptness in the handling of a rifle, shotgun or pistol often makes for a steady hand when using super telephoto lenses while understanding the way of a hunter is a plus when seeking out truly wild creatures for photo subjects.

This past weekend we hosted a photo workshop that revolved around predator photography and the art of calling. Of course this was an extension of my hunting years only this time a camera was in hand instead of a rifle. Throughout the weekend my participants were amazed at seeing coyotes by the dozens trot to our position, presenting themselves for the camera ready and camo clad “shooters”. Although I have taken almost 3,000 coyotes in my lifetime as a rifleman, I was overjoyed to see the coyotes answer the call and then trot away unscathed and alive. It is a good way to view and appreciate our wild fauna in a non-consumptive way.

There was a time when the crosshairs of a rifle scope would have settled on this coyote. This weekend the concentration was on focus and correct exposure as we celebrated the wonderful heritage that is our wild Texas fauna.

We called in 36 coyotes in some 11 hours of work and hundreds of images were taken home. All critters lived to hunt another day and the participants were elated. When night settled over the land, cameras were stashed safely away and the wine flowed freely, I mentioned to the group that this was a weekend of a lifetime. Thanks to our luck with having great weather combined with some 46 years of hardcore experience as a predator hunter, we all could toast to one of the most successful workshops I have ever had. Its nice being a little good but I will take a dose of luck to help me out any day!! Enjoy!!

Hunting experience is essential in being successful with wild predator photography. Concealment and stealth is necessary in attaining high quality images.
In place of a highly accurate rifle is a fine camera lens. An optimum focal length is this Canon 400mm f4.0L DO lens.
Knowing when to move and when not to move is a function of being an effective  hunter. This is an essential trait for good wildlife photographers.
Follow focus or “panning” is a practice more easily learned when the photographer has had experience with shooting a rifle or shotgun.
Effective use of a camera lens under low light levels comes easier to those who have shot extensively with pistols or rifles.

 

 

 

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ACTION PHOTOGRAPHY: SHOOTING FOR THAT DEFINING MOMENT

 

The sun had yet risen over the haze of this south Texas landscape when the handsome whitetail buck decided that the figure of this crouched human was all that he could take. Busting into full flight with head held high I was appalled that he had made my location before the light was adequate for good photo light. Swinging on his running form in the dim light with my Canon 500mm f4.5L lens and Canon F1N camera, I noted that the exposure was a dismal 1/8 of a second and as I was handholding the camera and lens I realized instantly that chances of a sharp photo was out of the question. My only hope was that I could come up with an “artsy” look of fluid motion so continued with my manual focusing job and shot a couple of frames.

Here is a fine example of that art of "panning" and is achieved by carefully swinging the camera and lens at the same speed of the running subjects while using a relatively slow shutter speed to obtain the fluid look of motion. Focal point is on the center of the group. Shallow depth of field is realized by using a medium telephoto lens at a short distance from the subjects. Canon F1N and Canon 80-200mm f4.0 lens. ISO 50 Velvia film and hand held.

 

Since those days of ISO 50 film and manual cameras, good photography results have been made much easier through improved light meter systems and auto focus capabilities. I sometimes gripe about the loss of the “good ole days” but when its time for hard core action photos I smile and turn that beautiful autofocus to the “on” position and start tapping the shutter! LOL!

In this case my intent was to not only show the kayaker in motion but also the water in the foreground. By using a super wide angle lens that offered an extensive area throughout the field of view and shooting at 1/30 of a second while panning, my intent was realized. In these cases one must also maintain some consciousness of the overall composition such as the ratio of sky to foreground. Canon EOS 1N and Canon 17-35mm f2.8 lens. ISO 50 Velvia film.

 

Without doubt auto focus technology has made action work easier to achieve for neophyte shooters but its still hard core photography experience coupled with the electronic capabilities that produce the really dynamite photos that stand the test of time. Like being effective in the game of poker,  possessing the knowledge of knowing when to hold or when to fold is like a photographer understanding the nuances of shutter speed, f stop, lens selection and having the natural talent to “follow through” at the correct instant. It takes practice and at least some skill to be consistently productive in the craft.

A very difficult action shot just as this wild free ranging whitetail breaking for cover. In these cases tripods are totally useless as such moments are the result of a stalk with spontaneity being the order of the day. Visualizing the finished image before the action begins is an added help. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 400mm f5.6L and handheld. ISO 100.

 

Hope you will enjoy some images here that define some pretty good examples of action photography in the wild world. Perhaps my  captions will help you to understand the technique that was applied in order to realize the results shown herein.

Here a wild coyote lopes past me on a dimly lit winter morning. This was in the days before autofocus so total concentration and at least some good hand to eye coordnation is necessary to realize these types of results. Again, this effective panning at about 125th of a second at f4.5 with a Canon F1N and Canon 500mm f4.5L lens and handheld. ISO 50 film.
Beautiful light and a handsome whitetail buck pairs to make this photo special. Also, the reaction time in capturing the deer in mid jump really sets this image apart from less dynamic action work. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 400mm f5.6L at ISO 100. Hand held.
Timing is essential in these cases and I was fortunate to have tripped the shutter at just the right moment. Shutter speed was around 500th of a second to stop the action. Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 400mm f5.6L. ISO 100 and handheld.
Dynamic backlight with dust and insects floating in the air really dramatizes the impact of these horses being driven to the chuck wagon. Also an elevated position from which to shoot kept a lens flare from being a distracting element in the photo. Horses were running at me so panning was not necessary and I focused on the middle of the herd for impact. Canon F1N and Canon 300mm f2.8 L lens using Velvia 50 ISO film and hand held.
Here my wolf dog runs gleefully along the lake shore late today near Benjamin. Using the AI Servo mode on my Canon 5D Mark II the predictive focusing system stayed on point with the wolf even when it was running quite fast directly at me. Remember that auto focus cameras rely on contrast for focusing accuracy so pinpointing a spot on the animals face that exhibits contrast is essential in getting a well focused subject. Canon 400mm f5.6 L lens at 100 ISO and handheld.
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Safety First: Photographing Dangerous Subjects

Handling dangerous creatures for any purpose is a practice to be taken seriously. Throughout my six decades of rummaging around on this earth I have observed and been a participant in working with wild or untamed creatures that can hurt you. From breaking horses as a youngster on the ranch where I was raised, trapping predators and ear tagging for research purposes and even handling venomous reptiles and arachnids, some care must be taken to minimize the danger of being a victim to careless behavior in the process.

Perhaps the most dangerous and aggressive rattler that I have ever photographed. Safety was essential in handling this big boy and as a result both of us was none the worse for wear. I sold this photo twice to National Geographic Television.

 

One aspect of human behavior that I will never understand is the “macho” syndrome that seems to possess some people when handling or being in the presence of venomous snakes, ie. rattlesnakes, moccasins, copper heads, coral snakes, etc. I once photographed a popular snake roundup and was appalled at the casual behavior of individuals around a creature that can either kill you or at least render a person immobile for some time. The bravado that I have seen through the years sometimes disgusts me.

When I start getting sloppy around these creatures I recall the weaponry that they possess. It is then that I rethink my actions.

 

Another dangerous trait that I cannot understand is the extreme fear that some people possess for some critters, either crawlers, walkers or flyers. It is my opinion that a healthy respect is in order for most questionable species but to have a deathly fear is most unhealthy if not preposterous.

This big diamondback is not happy about being the subject of a photo shoot but the handler is using good judgement in keeping the snake at a safe distance.

 

I was reared in strong snake country and dealt with rattlers all of my life. We kiddos were taught to always watch for snakes and steer clear of them if encountered. Growing up with this attitude was a good thing and has been an asset in my professional field of work.

 

A rule that I have in handling poisonous species is one that I totally adhere to and that is to NEVER handle one of these snakes with my bare hands. Using a set of specially designed tongs will basically remove essentially all of the chances of being bitten in the process of the handling process. These devices are great in moving the snake to good photo locations and then to prepare the reptile for some compositional alterations. Safety is first and foremost and then possessing a healthy respect, but not fear, for your dangerous subjects should be a criterion for all photographers dealing with critters who can fight back…and win in some instances.

Big snakes are strong so total concentration is advised during the handling process.
A big rattler disappears beneath an old barn where the shade will protect it from the mid day heat.
Here a rattler is shown in the skin shedding process. One of my favorite lenses for snake work is the Canon 70-200mm f2.8L. It pulls the snake in for detail shots and then pulled back to a shorter focal length for depth of field and field of view.
A western diamondback tests his options via temperature check with his tongue. Canon F1N and Canon 80-200mm f4.0 lens. Kodachrome 64 film.
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