Celebrating All Things Moose from North Country Magazine

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Celebrating All Things Moose from North Country Magazine – A reprint from the Spring 2013 Issue of North Country: The Journal of Maine. Shelia Talbot is a talented freelance writer and regularly contributes to North Country Magazine. She resides in the Moosehead Lake Region of Maine. North Country: The Journal of Maine is published bi-monthly and features all that is Maine.

Many people come to Maine with the hope of seeing one of the most amazing creatures, the mighty moose, or as it is technically known Alces alces, the largest member of the deer family. This amazing creature, which can seem as large as a house when encountered on foot, saunters gracefully through the woods in spite of its size, and in the case of the male, its ungainly rack of antlers. They are like no other animal; to some they look like they’ve been constructed out of spare parts by Mother Nature – an almost droopy cow-like nose, narrow hips, long, long legs and a tiny snip of tail. In spring they move out of the deep woods and into boggy places on lakes and ponds to enjoy the fresh plant life growing nearby or underwater. That’s the best place to catch sight of them. And, if you’re very fortunate, you might be treated to a Mama moose with one or two fuzzy little ones. It’s a lifetime experience for sure – one you’ll never forget. Hopefully you have your camera ready!

If not, you still can find your moose, magnificently photographed by the folks at MOOSE PRINTS GALLERY AND GIFTS in Millinocket. This July, owners Mark Picard and Anita Mueller will celebrate the third anniversary of their business. They are both talented photographers and, as our good fortune would have it, also have a passion for the North Woods of Maine and the creatures that live there. Mark’s work has graced the cover of North Country Magazine many times. His photographs are like paintings, the brilliant shot of a fox on the last edition of North Country and the antlered moose in snowfall published prior to that, are two examples.

It takes infinite patience and time, not to mention a deep understanding of the animal’s behavior to capture images like these. Mark’s quiet way has been such an asset and he is now known worldwide for his extraordinary digital presentation of moose. His portfolio of more than 150,000 quality nature images has been featured in numerous national and international publications, books, and calendars including Audubon, Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, Vermont Magazine, Yankee, Defenders of Wildlife and Birder’s World, and Ranger Rick, (just to name a few) as well as North Country.

While photographing at a wildlife sanctuary he met Anita, a talented free lance interior designer, who as a hobbyist, photographed birds. She shares Mark’s passion for the natural world and, with her eye for design as well as photography, designed Moose Prints Gallery as a perfect foil for their work.

“This space reflects my long-time love affair with the Katahdin region and its wildlife,” Mark observed. “Much like a walk in nature, you need to expect the unexpected. Anita has created this gallery in such a way that the walls are filled with creatures, landscapes and gift items both great and small.”

Anita smiled. “Mark has been photographing in Maine for over 30 years now,” she said. “Then, a little over 10 years ago, LL Bean hired him to lead one of their Photography Outdoor Discovery Schools. It seemed like such a good idea we continued to promote the workshops in the Katahdin Region, which have attracted visitors from around the world. However, the few short months we spent in Maine for the workshops was never enough so we re-located permanently to Millinocket three years ago and opened MOOSEPRINTS GALLERY & GIFTS.”

Not long ago Mark was honored to have his Moose images used in rendering the Maine State Postal Stamp and last year he was selected as the Maine Sportsman Artist of the Year. “Most recently, the Turnpike Authority has used his images on one of the large-scale banners that hang in the visitor centers,” Anita said. “We have several large canvases on loan to the Maine Tourism Association to greet visitors at the Kittery Visitors Center. The center attracts thousands of visitors each year. And, who does not want to see a Moose when they visit Maine?” For most, it’s at the top of their list and the banner and canvases are dramatic invitations to spot your own.

Picard’s canvases, with the photograph stretched around the frame are impressive, especially the ones featuring the adult bull moose, a creature who can weigh in at around 1200 pounds and stand over seven feet tall! No less spectacular are the panoramic landscape images of Mt Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain which are photographed in such a way as to make the viewer feel as though they are standing right there. The image transferred to canvas gives it a more “painterly” look and can be a centerpiece that commands a whole wall.

“We have enjoyed living and doing business in Maine” Anita said. “We have accomplished a great deal in a few short years.” Looking forward and new for 2013, in addition to Mark’s group photography workshops they have added Maine Woods Photography Workshops for Women led by Anita which are scheduled during prime viewing times of June and September. It is quite a trick to photograph a sometimes fast-moving subject, and with her special eye for birds, Anita has the knowledge and technique to assist photographers of all levels of experience. She knows her subjects well, and can anticipate movement and patterns of animal behavior. As is true for all their workshops a heavy emphasis is placed on learning how to operate a digital camera for consistent results.

On your way to Katahdin or Baxter State Park, be sure to include enough time for a stop in Millinocket and a leisurely visit to MOOSEPRINTS GALLERY & GIFTS where you can bag your own moose souvenir. You will find a rich assortment of Mark and Anita’s work, including Mark’s popular moose wall calendar, greeting cards and photographs of all sizes. You can also find works by other gifted artisans, including nature-themed jewelry, candles, cd sound tracks, moose antler sheds, and locally authored books.

MOOSEPRINTS GALLERY & GIFTS is located on 58 Central Street (Routes 11 and 157) at the intersection of Congress Street and just down the road from a picturesque stretch of Millinocket Stream, adjacent to Key Bank. Call Mark or Anita for information regarding workshops and presentations at 207/447-6906 or visit their excellent website at www.markpicard.com or e-mail them at mark@markpicard.com

Reprinted by permission North Country Magazine

A Few Wildlife Photography Tips

Twin Moose CalvesA few wildlife photography tips or “pointers” you might consider when photographing Moose and other wildlife.

The most important wildlife photography tip I can suggest is to always focus the camera on the eye (or the head) of any wildlife photography subject. If the eye area is not in sharp focus, the general impact of the photograph will be lost.

The second most important wildlife photography tip (unless you want extra work in Photoshop), is try to maintain a level horizon line in the background of your photographs. Refer to actual horizon lines such as a shoreline, a tree line, or another point of reference to help you achieve this.

Third wildlife photography tip –  don’t be afraid to rotate your camera and shoot photographs vertically! In many instances the photo’s composition would benefit greatly from shooting it vertical, especially when photographing wildlife such as a moose from head on.

Fourth important wildlife photography tip –  try to avoid cropping out or “cutting” off the Moose’s limbs when possible. If you must crop, try to crop above the joints (such as the ankle and knee joints). Sometimes, as in photographing close-up portraits, some cropping will be necessary. If you are including all of the Moose’s body and legs, always include the “virtual” area hidden below (as in grasses or water, for instance) where the feet would normally show as well.

Fifth wildlife photography tip –  leave room in the photo on the sides and try to lead the moose or any wildlife subject into the space around it in the direction it’s headed, while leaving some “space” for the Moose or subject to go. This tip usually lends itself to a more pleasing composition in general.

A final wildlife photography tip –  don’t be afraid to take several images at different focal lengths (such as with a zoom lens). Include images that show the Moose or subject’s environment as well. Some of the best photographs that have the most impact are taken with the Moose or main subject occupying only a small portion of the overall photo. This method supplies the viewer with a ton of information! Of course, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t get that frame-filling portrait of a massive bull moose adorned with a huge rack! Try to be diverse and capture both images when time and conditions makes it possible!

We hope you found these wildlife photography tips helpful. Good luck, and we hope to see you at an upcoming Maine wildlife photography workshop!

A Few Basic Digital Camera Tips

Get to know the innermost workings of your camera so it’s like second nature. Learn all the dials and switches on your camera so well that you can work them without looking at them. Don’t get stuck fumbling around trying to locate and change the settings while something great is happening right in front of you and you can’t pull off the shot! I just had to say that……. There, now that I feel better, let’s move on!

Camera Set-up – Initially, let’s start by discussing how to properly set up your DSLR camera internally. Shoot in RAW whenever possible – RAW contains the most file information and range of colors available, with no compression as is the case when you choose JPEG. JPEGs are “compressed” in the camera, which means that many of the similarly colored pixels are discarded in favor of a smaller file size, reducing overall image quality, somewhat. If you need to have JPEGs, select both RAW and JPEG in your camera settings and it will record both for you. Simply store away your RAW files to use later if you intend to print. Set your color space to Adobe RGB, (not sRGB) which will match the Adobe PhotoShop 1998 setting. Adobe RGB contains millions more color variations than sRGB, and you can convert the image to sRGB later if needed.

White Balance – When shooting in raw, I personally set my white balance (the color temperature of the light in the image) to 5560 Kelvin in the camera, which simulates the old film days where the true color of the light in the early or late light turns warm. This setting does not affect the actual raw file, only the view colors on your camera’s rear monitor. If you cannot set your camera’s white balance to 5560, set it to the “Flash” setting (5500) which is only a little off from the 5560 Kelvin setting. Automatic white balance (where the camera determines the correct white balance) also works quite well in most situations. All these white balance settings can be corrected later on in an editing software such as PhotoShop CS, Elements, Lightroom, etc. in raw format, but not so easily in  the jpeg setting. It is more important to get your jpeg white balance settings more accurate than in the raw format.

Histogram – Use your Histogram! This tool is invaluable and is your exposure’s best friend! Keep the histogram graph favoring the right side but  don’t let it “hit” (this is called “clipping”) either left or the right side of the graph on the screen. This will result in a good exposure with nothing blown out in the highlights, while keeping as much detail as possible in the shadows or dark areas (left side of the histogram) of the image. I also use my “blinky” which is a highlight overexposure setting on the camera that blinks black and white on the monitor if an area in the photo is over-exposed (in conjunction with the histogram).

In Camera Sharpening – I don’t do any sharpening in the camera. PhotoShop and other editing programs (Lightroom, Elements, Aperture, etc.) do a much better job of this after the fact. Besides, this is the last thing you do to your image based on size output and resolution before you save and actually use the image.

Post Processing Digital Image Tips

Before you begin post Processing digital images, you must calibrate your computer’s monitor! There are no exceptions! If you don’t calibrate your monitor, the colors and exposures in your final image will not be accurate. Companies such as Color Vision and Colormunki make excellent calibration software. I personally own Color Vision’s Spyder Elite 3 software.
Post processing digital images – I use Adobe PhotoShop CS6 for all my image editing and workflow, plus I use PhotoShop CS6 Bridge for my cataloging, filing and sorting of all my images. There are other companies that also perform these tasks pretty much with the same results, including ACDC, Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Elements (very similar to PhotoShop CS, but much cheaper, around $100.), Aperture, and IView, to name a few. This is just a matter of personal preference.

Camera RAW – First thing to do when post processing digital images is to open your image in your chosen camera RAW converter software. I use PhotoShop Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). Make Exposure, White Balance, Color Adjustments, etc., until you’re happy with the results. Adobe Elements  opens in RAW automatically, as does PhotoShop, once you’ve checked off that box in the Preferences dialog box.

PhotoShop – Then open the image in PhotoShop (or another program) and select Image>Duplicate. Once the dupe image opens, close out the original image so as to save it in its’ original form by clicking on “No” when it asks you if you want to save the changes to the original. This is an important step! (Elements  automatically saves your original).Then click on Image>Adjustments>Shadow/Highlights on the duplicate image.

Here are the default settings I use for Shadows/Highlights that seem to work 90% of the time:
Shadows: Amount 50% Tonal Width 19% Radius 300 pix
Highlights: Amount 22% Tonal width 50% Radius 101 pix
Adjustments: Color Correction +20
Midtone contrast 0
Black clip 0.01%
White clip 0.01%
In Elements 6, click on Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Shadow/Highlights, move sliders to suit your tastes.

Then adjust Contrast, Brightness, Cropping, Saturation, etc., to your liking. (In Elements , click on Enhance>Adjust Lighting or Adjust Color> gives you contrast, brightness, and saturation adjustments). Cropping the image is basically the same in either Photoshop or Elements.
Once you’re happy with the final result, give it a name and save it as a TIFF file. Do not sharpen this file yet. Each output (internet, digital slide show, or printing) will require a different amount of sharpening. Each time you wish to use the image for either the internet, digital slide programs, or final printing, for example, simply open the file , create a duplicate (click Image>Duplicate), give it a name and close out the original TIFF with no changes to preserve it. Now you can work on the dupe without working on the original RAW image or the revised TIFF.

Image Sizing – After you decide how and where you want to use the image, open the duplicate TIFF image in your editing software, and re-size as needed (such as for the internet).
For the internet, click on Image>Mode>8 bit. Then click on EDIT> Convert To Profile>Destination Space Profile>sRGB IEC61966-2.1>OK. .).(In Elements, click on Edit>Color Settings>Allow me to chose.). Then click on IMAGE>Image Size>Resolution>72 Pixels>then set the pixels to  800 pixels or less  on the longest side, for a nice size for viewing on the internet. Photoshop also has a “save for web” dialog box to automate your settings for saving as a jpeg for the web, and is a time saver.

Sharpening to output – Now you can open Filter>Sharpen> Smart Sharpen and adjust sharpening to suit. I set amount to somewhere around 50-70% usually, with the Radius set to 1 pixel and set to: Remove Lens blur. (In Elements, go to Enhance>Adjust Sharpness). Once this is all accomplished, and you’re happy with the overall look of the image, save it as a smaller resolution file (JPEG), anywhere from 100 pixels to 800 pixels on the long side total (at around or below 500 KB’s resolution), so it loads quicker for fast viewing on the internet.

Re-sizing for a digital slide show is very similar to the internet, except that the sizes will be different in that for the slide show, the resolution will be set at 100 dpi, with pixels on the width of the image not to exceed 1024 pixels (most current digital projector’s native resolution), while the height should not exceed 768 pixels. This is the standard settings for most digital projectors. Sharpen basically just like you did for the internet, then save as a JPEG in sRGB at 8 bits and maximum resolution. Basically, these numbers and settings are good starting points for both the internet and digital slide shows, and normally your own settings will fall within these suggested numbers. Sometimes you’ll need to tweak the settings even more, but that is quite normal to have to do.

For actually printing your images, again make another duplicate image from your original TIFF file, close out the original TIFF, open Image>Size>, set dpi to somewhere between 200 and 360 dpi (normally 240 or 300 dpi for prints). Leave the Adobe RGB setting for color space, and set the bit setting to 8 bits. This will produce the best color rendition and clarity in your final print. After you set the resolution and the actual size of the print in inches you’ve chosen, open the Smart Sharpen dialog box and view the image at 100% on the monitor, then sharpen until the final image looks good and sharp without any sharpening “halos” around the main subject. Sharpening for printing is a completely different animal, in that the image will require even more sharpening, sometimes going as far as 2 or 3 on the Radius, and 200-250% on the Amount. When you’re happy with the image, click “O.K.”, then save again (“Save As”) using the final size and given name in the title (such as “Great Gray Owl Portrait, 11”x14”) as a TIFF so that it is easily found later on when you decide to either print it yourself (another workshop!), or have someone else print it for you. I put all my final print TIFFs in a separate folder in the computer and on external hard drives named TIFF PRINTS where I can easily find them later on.

Conclusion – I know this all sounds complicated, and to some extent it is, but once you’ve learned your image editing software and become familiar with it, you should be able to perform all these tasks in five minutes or less per image. As a final note, back up your images! Computer internal hard drives fail! External portable hard drives fail! All brands, all models! I have four external hard drives that redundantly contain all my images. I keep one hard drive out of the house in case of fire or theft. I back them up regularly. Besides, it’s one of the most inexpensive file storage systems you can buy. Today, a 500 gigabyte hard drive (thousands and thousands of images) of storage space costs around $100.