Jun 222011

A hippo did this!

For the second year running I had an exciting few days on the Zambezi river, canoeing through the beautiful Mana Pools National Park.

For those of you that have been following the blog, you’ll remember that last year a hippo decided to bite the canoe that was ahead of me.

This year it was my turn to be hit!

Before I tell you the story, let me give you some background…..

A bee-eater, one of the many birds that we saw on the Zambezi river

Mana Pools National Park is a World Heritage Site and has excellent populations of elephant and hippopotamus, there are also around four denning sites of the elusive African wild dog.

Our goal was to canoe through the national park for four days. In the mornings we went on game drives and also headed in to the bush with Nick, our guide (who was armed). In the afternoons we travelled around 25km down the Zambezi. For the first two nights we stayed at the Vundu Camp lodge and for the second two nights we camped at two different campsites.

Canoeing is a great way to see birds, crocs, monitor lizards, elephants and of course hippos.

Two bull hippos deciding which one is the most dominant.

Each canoe has a guide who paddles and we sat at the front enjoying the scenery and taking photos. There are times when we followed narrow channels and sometimes these channels would have pods of hippos that had to be negotiated. Hippos are nervous of people and their instinct is to enter the water, dive and hide. Personally, I would be happier if they stayed on the land where we could see them! Hippos also sleep in the water and many hippo accidents have happened when a hippo rises from the bottom underneath an unsuspecting canoe. To prevent this, our guides bang their paddles loudly on the side of the canoe so that the hippos know where we are.

On our third day we where paddling down the main river and we were about 100 metres from the shore. My guide for the day was Danni, a 22 year old who was spending her first year as a guide. It was a holiday weekend and her parents were visiting the camp from Harare. They were driving along the river and witnessed the hippo capsize us.

A close up of the damage by the hippo

As we floated down the river in the last canoe we discussing how tame the Zambezi would be if it wasn’t for the excitement of dodging hippos. Suddenly, the canoe was capsized by a bull hippo that had deliberately swum the 100m from it’s pod! In an instant I was under the water. I had been holding my Nikon D3S with 70-200mm lens on my lap. My instinctive  reaction was to thrust the camera up and hope for the best.

I swam to the surface where I saw Danni calmly hanging on to our overturned canoe and she told me to hang on to it and stay still (because of the crocs) whilst the others paddled back to us. I looked at my D3S and it still worked! A few minutes later I was in another canoe and we rafted ours to the shore. I was obviously shocked but after a cup of tea and changing in to my fleece I was happy to carry on.

The hippo had put a hole in it so we had to call the base and get another sent to us. The rest of my group couldn’t believe what had happened and for the next 2 days everyone was on edge whenever we came to close to hippos.

Nick, the main guide simply could not believe that I had kept my camera dry and shook my hand. I’m sure I couldn’t repeat that feat again!

Jun 152011

A male Cheetah on the lookout for his next meal

Without a doubt, Botswana has completely surpassed my expectations.

On the drive from the airstrip to our camp we saw; lion, cheetah, elephants, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest and a huge number of birds.

It very quickly became apparent that our guide, Brian had a great deal of skill in getting us very close to the animals and I was soon wondering if I was going to need my 600mm lens!

An Impala jumping through the grass at Moremi.

On the first evening we rescued another vehicle at a river crossing and photographed two male cheetah at sunset. It was an incredible birthday and the week just got better.

Throughout our stay in Botswana, Brian was superb. He has guided several photography safaris for Andy Biggs and Theo Allofs, so he knew exactly what our needs and expectations were and always had us on the correct side of the animals.

During our 3 days at Moremi we saw wild dogs (the rarest predator in Africa), cheetah on several locations, ostrich, eagle owls, crocodiles, a huge variety of birds, a python, a variety of antelopes and probably a bunch of things that I’ve already forgotten!

A very upset Vervet monkey makes an alarm as one of his buddies is stalked by a leopard.

We had the camp and Brian exclusively to ourselves and as I promised, we had plenty of room in the vehicle as we had a complete row to ourselves and we could quickly move from one side to the other depending on where the action was and action was plentiful!

Following our fabulous 3 nights in Moremi, we moved to the Khwai Concession. During the move we came incredibly close to a leopard. We heard and saw a vervet monkey making alarm calls and he kept looking at a nearby tree so we went to investigate. We searched the trees but could not see the leopard.

We then concentrated on photographing the upset vervet monkeys when suddenly a vervet monkey fell about 3 metres behind us. It had obviously just been slain by the leopard! We looked and looked but still we couldn’t see the leopard.

We backed away and kept watching but to no avail. Brian was really frustrated as he loves leopards and really wanted us to get some close up photos but this one got away.

We continued on our way to Khwai and stopped at Khwai village and were shown some of the houses that have walls built from empty beer and pop cans. We then headed in to the Khwai concession and the first thing that Brian showed us was a hyena den and outside were two very young hyenas playing!

Two young hyenas playing in front of their den.

At Khwai we saw a lot more lions than we had at Moremi and these included two very young cubs that were still nursing. On one evening we had the pleasure of watching them being moved by their mom.

At Khwai we also saw a large number of elephants plus honey badgers, a variety of eagles and vultures, different antelopes, two types of mongoose but still no leopards!

I paid for my own spot on this photo tour but despite the expense it has been very worthwhile and we still have five days to go!

Tonight we watched the total eclipse of the moon and tomorrow we’ll be exploring Victoria Falls town before heading to Mana Pools National Park on Friday. The next blog update will be on June 23rd, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here are a few more photos.

A young male lion watches us through the grass

A lioness moves one of her cubs to a new hiding spot.

A giraffe, just after sunset at Moremi.

Jun 072011

Downtown Johannesburg

After two overnight flights (Calgary – London and London – Johannesburg) I’m finally in Africa at the start of our photo safari. The flight arrived very early but fortunately the hotel had our rooms ready and we were relaxing by 8am.

As we had the whole day here we decided to catch up with some sleep and in the afternoon and had a fascinating tour of Soweto with Modeno who was a fun and informative guide.

Our first stop was downtown Jo’burg and we visited a traditional medicine shop. Dried roots filled shelves; drums, spears and other ceremonial regalia were around the walls and lots of animal products such as hooves hung from the ceilings.

Modeno told us how many of the products were used, including a rather graphic description as to how to use a spear; I’ll save you the details!

A sign of the times. An old apartheid sign in downtown Johannesburg.

Before arriving in Soweto we drove past the ‘Kalabash’ soccer stadium that was used for the main events in the 2010 soccer world cup and then went to the cooling towers at the old Orlando power station in Soweto.

The cooling towers have incredible art painted all around them which was done by scaffold, as you can imagine the middle was difficult due to the concave shape of the towers. The towers are connected by cables with a bungy jumping platform in between them.

One of the two painted Soweto cooling towers

A family lives here. No electricity, running water or sanitation.

I was expecting Soweto to be full of depressing shanty houses. It certainly has many of those but some areas are surprisingly affluent. Winnie Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other prominent South Africans still live in Soweto. There are still a lot of shanty areas that have incredibly small houses made of corrugated steel with no electricity, running water or sanitation. The government is slowly rebuilding Soweto but it is taking a very long time, which must be frustrating for the inhabitants when they see the infrastructure improvements that were made for the soccer world cup.

Our final stop was to the Hector Pieterson museum in Soweto. Hector was killed when black children protested against being educated in the Afrikaans language on June 16th, 1976. It was the police’s reaction to this protest that drew condemnation from around the world. Although Hector was not the only child killed, he became an icon of the struggle against apartheid due to a photograph of him being carried from the scene. It shows the power that photography has as a medium.

Tomorrow we head to Botswana and start our safari in the Okavango delta. Look out for the next blog post on June 16th which will be from Victoria Falls.

Nov 232010

One problem with running a photography business is that it’s easy to get distracted!

Photography is very diverse and offers different ways to make a living. I started my business six years ago and in that time I’ve done commercial, stock, travel and fine art photography, I’ve even done some portrait work.

It is difficult to focus when you have to make enough money to pay the bills and you’re offered a huge variety of ways to do so.

I find that it is difficult to achieve long term goals when I juggling many, unrelated projects at the same time.

A few months ago I decided to sit down and think about what was important, what was preventing me from doing those important activities and create a way so that I could concentrate on what I really wanted to do, yet pay the bills!

To solve the problem I come up with three goals and a road map to achieve those goals.

It took me a surprisingly long time to solve a balancing act of creating a new and steady revenue source, having quality time at home and enjoying my photography. However, with a road map in place I am suddenly more productive, more focused and enjoying myself.

I’ll not be announcing what changes are coming just yet but I will be concentrating my business on teaching photography and taking more nature photographs. It will probably take me one to three years to achieve two of the three goals but what I’ll be doing in that time promises to be a lot of fun and spiritually rewarding.

If you’re lacking focus and keep getting distracted, then spend some time creating goals and decide how you’ll achieve those goals. Read the goals often and you’ll be surprised at how productive you become.

Hopefully, they’ll be few detours on the way!

Nov 012010

In May 2012 I will be returning to the Galapagos Islands for another photo tour.

The dates are May 4th to May 14th (Galapagos and Otavalo) or May 4th to May 20th for Galapagos, Otavalo and Napo Lodge (Amazon Basin).

The itinerary is new and our luxury yacht will be going to some exciting new locations!

The price for the trip will be announced early in 2011 but for now pencil the dates in your 2012 calendar!

In the meantime I will be doing a talk at the Canmore Library at 7:30pm on Monday, November 8th. Some of the photos and stories will be from my 2010 photo tour to the Galapagos Islands.

Oct 132010

Golden larches at Sunshine Meadows

This year’s Canadian Rockies Tour went beyond my wildest expectations! We had tremendous weather, incredible fall colours, which, combined with high water volume at most waterfalls has given breathtaking results.

The first full day started in Canmore and of course we had to go to Mount Yamnuska where the poplar’s were in their full fall glory. I was inspired to take my first Yamnuska panorama.

Later that morning we moved to Lake Louise, via the Bow Valley Parkway and photographed bull Elk and poplars. The next morning started at Herbert Lake. We had dramatic clouds, some pink light and mist; an awesome combination!

Fall panorama of Mount Yamnuska

Golden light reflected off a small creek in Jasper National Park

Then we went to Sunshine, met our hiking guide Joel and went up to Sunshine Meadows. This was my first fall visit to Sunshine Meadows and I wasn’t disappointed. Joel is a very knowledgeable, friendly guide who told us about the area as we walked from one location to another. If you need a guide in the Lake Louise or Banff area then contact Joel and Nadine at Great Divide Nature Interpretation. At each photo stop I showed the group some tricks with solid neutral density filters as well as the benefit of polarizing filters.

The following day was wet and I spent the morning teaching everyone how to take panoramas and gave some tips on using Lightroom. In the afternoon we had a ‘show and tell’ in the lounge at the Post Hotel. The weather cleared up and we dashed off to Takakkaw Falls and the Kicking Horse river for the afternoon light.

Medicine Lake at sunset

The following day we went to Moraine Lake for sunrise and then left Lake Louise and had a leisurely drive up the Icefield’s Parkway to Jasper, the weather was stunning and perfect for this magnificent drive. During our stay in Jasper, we saw rutting Elk just outside the town and photographed some beautiful sunrises and sunsets at a variety of places in the area.

It was another fun photo tour for me and my last of the year. I’ve decided to run the trip again in 2011, so stay tuned for more details!

Sep 282010

Mount Yamnuska at sunrise. Photo by Shirley Davis.

With fresh snow on the mountains and lots of fall colours, conditions the Nature Photography workshop looked promising, unfortunately the weather forecast was calling for rain!

This was the first workshop to be held in my new office so I was interested to see how it would work out.

As always, the Friday evening was spent checking that everyone’s camera gear was ready for the weekend; then I gave a lecture about using filters, understanding histograms, exposure compensation and using aperture priority mode.

Saturday morning was clear, cold and there were some dramatic clouds around the mountains. My plan was to head to the Bow River to photograph the Three Sisters and Mount Lawrence Grassi but unfortunately, there was so much mist coming off the river that the mountains were obscured from the valley floor.

Goat Mountain and poplar's. Photo by Richard Dettbarn.

Instead, we headed to Mount Yamnuska to get away from the river. It looked very promising, the mountain towered over the misty valley bottom and we walked to a small body of water at the foot of the mountain. As we reached the lake, the mist again obscured our view so we retreated to higher ground and had a beautiful sunrise with the fall colours in the foreground.

After sunrise we returned to the office for breakfast and stopped to photograph a large group of Rocky Mountain sheep.  After breakfast we had a variety of  lectures, critiques and discussions before breaking up for dinner. In the evening we headed out again looking for wildlife.

Rocky Mountain sheep. Photo by Ron Baker.

We saw a female moose and her calf but unfortunately, not much else! On Sunday it was dark and gloomy but the group did a great job of creating abstract landscape photographs before the rain set in.

Sunday was spent with more lectures and critiques. Throughout the weekend, the group had some excellent questions which led to some interesting discussions about techniques, equipment and composition.

It was another very enjoyable weekend for me and a treat to meet a group of talented and enthusiastic photographers. Here are some of their photographs and comments…..

“I truly enjoyed the weekend and learned a lot. I came away with a better understanding of how it all comes together to achieve a pleasing photo and I also learned to enjoy my camera and equipment versus wondering what I was doing wrong all the time. I will definitely be taking other courses that you offer in the future.” – Monica Ritter

Goat Mountain shortly after sunrise. Photo by Monica Ritter.

Bow River abstract. Photo by Norma Gursky.

“Thank you very much for all of the ideas and knowledge that you shared with us last week.  I really enjoyed myself and learned a lot about both my camera and photography in general.” – Ron Baker.

Smut's creek abstract. Photo by Paul Murphy.

The beauty of fall. Photo by Tamara Carter.

Backlighting at sunrise. Photo by Erin Baer

Sep 212010

Photoshop Elements 9 was announced today! See below for a list of the important new features. Use the link below to visit the Adobe website to get your mail in rebate of $20!

Announcing Adobe Photoshop Elements 9. Easily edit, create, organize, and share your digital photos. Buy now.

Here’s what’s new:

  • Layer masks have been added – they were only available for adjustment layers in Elements 8.
  • Better RAW processing capabilities
  • Greater choice of photograph styles and it’s easier to apply the style of one photograph to other photographs.
  • Photomerge has been improved with better blending (this is used to create panoramas)
  • Easier to share photos and videos on Facebook.
  • Ability to easily create and print calendars, cards and photo books at home.
Sep 102010

The BIg Sister and the Bow River. Photo by Heather Donauer

Last week’s Tradition to Technology workshop was another great success.

This workshop now sells out months in advance and it’s one of my favourites to teach.

As the week progresses, it is very rewarding to see the dramatic change in the skill and confidence of each participant.

In this year’s class we had four spectacular sunrises and everyone took some incredible photographs.

Here is selection of photographs from the week, one from each person.

I’d like to thank Anne Van Allen who was a tremendous help with the food and logistics.

As well as dramatic sunrises, we had some fun evening trips and watched a grizzly bear eating berries from the safety of our cars.

Grizzly bear takes a break from eating berries. Photo by Ian McIntosh.

Here’s some of the early feedback about the week.

“Richard is a great teacher – very patient, extremely experienced and knowledgeable.  He shared lots with us about both the artistic and technical aspects of digital photography.

Canmore Wall and the Canmore reservoir at sunrise. Photo by Lorna Zaback

Although getting up every morning at 5:30 to set up for a sunrise shoot was difficult at first, the effort definitely was worth it – Richard took us to so many beautiful, inspiring places – and that early morning light is like nothing else!!  Under Richard’s guidance, it was easy to feel motivated to work hard and push our limits, and it was amazing how much everyone’s skill and confidence grew over such a short time.” – Lorna Zaback – Ontario

“My mind is still running with all of my new learnings from the week and the sight of such beautiful locations….. I’m looking forward to loads of practicing and playing and then taking the next workshop! I’m positively vibrating with new information and new excitement.” – Heather Donauer, Calgary

I recently had the pleasure to complete Richard’s Tradition To Technology photography adventure in Canmore, Alberta.  This was my second workshop (I participated in the Nature Photography workshop in April of 2010) with Richard, and I thoroughly enjoyed both sessions. Richard is very easy to work with. He presents the course material very effectively and efficiently with a good deal of humor to lighten the learning curve.  I really feel that my photographic skills have significantly improved along with my understanding of how my camera works.  Richard makes sure to offer constructive criticism in a non-threatening way.  I always felt comfortable discussing his take on the pictures that I made.  He has an extensive repertoire of stories, photographs and knowledge to enhance the experience.  If you are looking for a forum to develop your interest and/or skills in photography I would highly recommend Richard’s Photography Workshops. Ian D. McIntosh, Alberta

Mt Lawrence Grassi reflection. Photo by Jo-Anne Gardner

“The Tradition to Technology Course was an awesome experience for me.  Richard taught some specialized techniques, like how to use graduated neutral filters and polarizers to obtain “5 star” photos.  By the end of the week I was reviewing my camera’s histograms, utilizing exposure compensation, experimenting with aperture and shutter speed priority modes and scouting out locations for the best compositions.  After daily sunrise/sunset field trips, Richard held “critiquing sessions” which were very valuable.  Not only did we learn and improve from our photography, but also saw different views and learned tips from the other participants.  I came into this course with very restricted Lightroom and Photoshop skills.  We were all provided with our own designated computer with software installed to perform editing

The Three Sisters and Mt Lawrence at sunrise. Photo by Carrie Bradley.

exercises and to apply transitions to our photographs.  As soon as I arrived home, I was utilizing the skills taught with zest and confidence.  Richard does not hold back on his tips and wealth of information.  He provides a list of “recommended readings” and informative websites.   Although the course was intense and demanding, Richard help provide a relaxing and enjoyable atmosphere.  He would drive us out to prime locations frequented by wildlife for memorable shots.  Breakfast/lunch/coffee breaks were enjoyed in a group setting.  Not to mention time out for a fun evening out for beer and fish & chips!  This course is not to be missed!!” Carrie Bradley – London, Ontario

The participants were all a lot of fun and we certainly had a fun week! Most people had little or no Lightroom experience and learning to use Lightroom’s Develop and Library modules was a popular part of the week.

Grizzly bear amongst berries. Photo by Ottmar Philipp.

“The Tradition to Technology workshop offers both the novice and experienced photographer a unique, comfortable and rewarding opportunity to take their pastime to a new level. This is accomplished through sharing in a lively classroom setting and applying the teaching during ‘shoots’ in the field, all guided by Richard Berry.” – Neil Coutts – Mississauga, Ontario

I certainly had a great week and I’m looking forward to teaching the next ‘Tradition to Technology’ workshop in a year’s time.

In the meantime, there will be the new ‘Path to Profit’ workshop which is essentially a Tradition to Technology part 2 workshop.

Three Sisters at sunrise. Photo by Neil Coutts.

This new photography workshop will look at how to take professional quality photographs, how to market yourself and will offer a variety of ways to make money from photography. Whether you want to become a full time professional photographer or simply make some extra money from your photographs, the new ‘Path to Profit’ workshop will offer in-depth advice on how to realise your dreams.

Aug 222010

HDR photograph of Kilmore church on Mull. Processed by Photomatix Pro

I recently wrote a blog article about Photoshop CS5’s new “Merge to HDR Pro”. In that article I mentioned that the recent improvements with HDR software will mean that I will start to do more HDR photography in the future.

However, before committing to doing HDR with Photoshop CS5, I thought that I would do some more tests. The ultimate HDR test for me is how easy is it to create a HDR panorama?

Whilst in Scotland, I made a handheld panorama at Tobermory. The light was harsh, so it was a great opportunity to try HDR at the same time.

I first tried to process the HDR in Lightroom and Photoshop CS5. The result was good but I couldn’t find an easy way of batch processing all the segments of the panorama in one step. In this case there are 10 different segments with 3 exposures per segment.

Click on the photo to see more of this hand held HDR panorama of Tobermory.

With Photoshop CS5’s ‘Merge to HDR Pro’ I had to process each frame separately and stitch the HDR frames.

I then tried to do the same task with Photomatix Pro. Photomatix has a Lightroom plugin, when the plugin is combined with Photomatix Pro’s batch processing, it is easy to select ALL the photographs for a panorama (in this case 30) and process them together. It can achieve this because you can tell Photomatix Pro that you want it to do the HDR processing in steps of 3 (in this case).

If you photographed a HDR panorama with 8 segments and had 5 exposures per segment then you would select all 40 photographs in Lightroom, export them to Photomatix Pro and tell Photomatix Pro to do the HDR processing in steps of 5. It’s that simple!

I’ve been so impressed with Photomatix Pro that I contacted the developers (HDRsoft) and have got a 15% coupon code. If you want to buy Photomatix then click here and type ‘RBERRYPHOTO’ as the coupon code and you’ll save money!