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Cinemagraphs of nature

I came across this technique back in 2013. I was blown away by how mesmerizing the effect was. For the next few years, I would take stationary video footage, knowing that one day I would give this a try. To see how these are made, watch the video at the bottom of this post. 

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We get at least three hummingbirds to come to our backyard every summer. I try to spoil them by always having fresh nectar in the feeder. This little guy held still for me on an unusually cold day.

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If you’ve looked through my photos, you’ll recognize these falls. Every summer someone builds a dam at the base of the falls and it makes a really nice swimming hole. Just don’t jump off. My friend Billy broke his ankle trying that stunt.

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Here is a sunset at one of my favorite places, Cayuga Lake.

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Did I mention that the sunsets at Cayuga lake are stunning?

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No two sunsets are alike. Each evening brings something different.

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Sometimes the lake isn’t so calm and serene.

If you are interested in trying this out for yourself, all you need is Adobe Photoshop and some stable video footage. Check out this great tutorial.

Steve Ollice bird photography video 2015

Here is a video of some of my best bird photos. While some photos were taken in various locations in the eastern part of the country, most were captured in my backyard. I’ve found that attracting birds is much easier than chasing them with a big lens. My set up is a nice bird feeder, close to a window or a door. I like to take photos from an open door because sometimes you can get reflections through a window. I have a patio table with a hole in the middle for an umbrella. I placed a somewhat attractive, leafless tree branch into the hole, and keep the table close to the feeder. The longer you leave this set-up, the better. The birds become confident with a perch that is close to the feeder, and you may get more birds as a result.

ECU vs. Tulane

At the beginning of the 2014 East Carolina football season, Todd Owens of purplepirateplunder.com asked me if I would photograph on the sidelines of an ECU football game and get some images for his blog. So, I emailed a few people who knew a few people and managed to procure media credentials for the November 22nd game against the Tulane Green Wave.

This game was Military Appreciation Day and the festivities started with two skydivers, one with a giant American flag and the other with the game ball, landing on the 50 yard line. Emerging from a giant pirate skull filled with purple smoke and Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” blasting over the loud speakers, the team is preceded onto the field by Steve Whetzel, a professional pirate actor, who raises his cutlass and sword to signal the procession. First, head coach Ruffin McNeil comes out, followed by flag wielding players. Now with the crowd worked into a frenzy, we are ready for some football!

The entire first half of the game was spent paying very close attention to one player, Justin Hardy. Justin started the game only needing 4 catches to break the FBS record of Ryan Broyles’ 349 career receptions. After Justin, #2, caught the 3rd pass, I positioned myself to take the photo that is the feature image for the article. Out of all the shots that I missed or were out of focus, I am so glad that I was prepared and ready for this shot. It’s truly a historic moment, considering that ECU still has two more games left in the season, not to mention a possible bowl appearance. Hardy is well on his way to setting a reception record that will stand for a long time to come.

The rest of the game was spent trying to catch as many moments as I could. I spent most of my time behind the end zone or at the line of scrimmage. I found that the end zone was the best spot to photograph players facing you. The side lines were more difficult because you couldn’t photograph near the center of the field, only the 20 yard line or less. If a play was along your side of the field, often you weren’t able to even see the action, mostly because of the officials or players and coaches standing along the sides.

Another highlight of the evening was right after the game, when the players were walking off the field. I saw Breon Allen and Jimmy Williams walking together and asked if I could take their photo. I was taking a few shots when a few more players jumped in. Before I knew it, Isaiah Jones, Jordan Williams, Jacen Murphy, Davon Grayson, Fred Presley and Detric Allen jumped in and started hamming it up. What a perfect game. ECU 34, Tulane 6.

Blood Moon Eclipse

Blood Moon Eclipse

This morning I woke up in time to photograph the lunar eclipse. This lunar eclipse was special because it was simultaneous with the sunrise. The event, called a selenelion, is incredibly rare as the sun and moon have to be exactly 180 degrees apart. I caught the eclipse about 15 minutes after it started and watched it until the sun came up, which was as close to perfectly eclipsed as was possible. However, the sun was brightening the sky and the moon fell below the horizon before the eclipse was absolutely perfect.

These exposures are exactly as my camera captured them, except for a few images that were slightly tweaked. My camera is a Nikon D7000 with a Sigma 150-500mm zoom lens. The exposure changed dramatically as the dark side of the moon became red. I really had to crank up the ISO to capture the very faint image. That is why the red images look so grainy. Click on the image above to see a larger image.

Cell phone wallpapers

Once I found out that my Facebook friends were using my photos as wallpaper to their cellphones, I decided to optimize a few to make sure they looked as I intended. Feel free to download these to your phone. Update: I’ve disabled right clicking on my site, but if you want one of these, email me and I’ll send it your way. 

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Photographing Hummingbirds

As you might be able to tell, I love animals and the outdoors. The gardens in my yard are filled with flowers that attract all kinds of birds. One of my favorite birds that visit my flowers are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. When I first moved to my house, I caught a glimpse of one and that next day I hung a feeder next to my kitchen back window. The hummers didn’t take long to discover it and have been entertaining my family every since.

This summer I bought a SB-700 speedlight for my Nikon camera and decided to put it through it’s paces. Photographing hummingbirds is a great way to teach yourself the finer nuances of flash photography. The challenge I posed to myself was to capture images with the little hummer’s wings frozen in mid flight. It’s a challenge just to catch a photo of these quick little birds. But it takes many tries to get just one good photo.

I tried lots of different techniques and camera settings to get the wings and feathers just right. I finally found a good mix of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO to give me a pleasant mix of stopped action and depth of field. The next step for me will be to get a couple more flashes and better reflectors.

For now, I just wanted to share what I’ve been able to capture. I have my favorites but think the collection really shows the personality of these very fast flyers.

Cayuga Clouds Timelapse

Cayuga Clouds from Steve Ollice on Vimeo.

Using the intervalometer on my Nikon D7000, I captured a timelapse of an incoming rain shower crossing the north end of Cayuga lake. With 800 or more frames into a 999 set, I had to bring my equipment in out of the rain. I used a Tokina 11-16mm lens to show as much of the northern shoreline as possible. Also, this lens has a great lens flare that brings out the rays of the sun.

Summer Storm

A beautiful electric storm blows across Cayuga Lake in Upstate New York.

Farley's Storm

I love a good summer storm… from a distance. Here is a series of photos that I placed in an animation. I was trying to capture a lightning strikes, but when I viewed the photos in succession, it made for a compelling movie.

Great Gully Photos

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The Great Gully is a creek that flows into Cayuga Lake, one of the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York. Every creek that flows into one of these lakes has some sort of waterfall. Some falls are more spectacular than others. They were all formed in the same way and at the same time as America’s most famous waterfall, Niagra Falls. At the last ice age, the ice here was over a mile thick. It carved out these narrow yet deep lakes that we now call the Finger Lakes.

The Great Gully has two sets of falls. The lower set drops around seven feet into a huge pool. The upper falls drop about eighteen feet into a deep yet smaller pool. At the upper falls, there is a hard layer of rock that covers a softer layer of rock, creating a dramatic overhang. In the cliff walls you can find fossils of small clam shells. We have even found trilobites, an ancient arthropod, which date the rocks anywhere between 526 million to 250 million years old.

These falls have always been a favorite place to take my camera. Through tons of experimentation, the best times to go up there is on dark and cloudy days. The low light allows for long camera exposures. Long exposures give the effect of smoothing the water into soft, silky ribbons.

These photos were taken with my trusty old Canon G3. It’s a digital camera about ten years old and only 4MB, but it has always taken decent photos. I like using this camera because if I drop it into the water, I can feel like I got my money’s worth!

After taking over 100 photos, I download and pick out my favorites for processing. Since I take photos like these in the RAW format, I have a huge range of effects to use without degrading the image. For this series, I choose to create black and white images. Photoshop Raw gives me many tools for complete control over the tonal quality. I select which parts of the image are bright and which are dark. Each image took at least an hour to process. Most of the time was spent experimenting and reflecting on the quality of the scene.