Search Nature Photography Blog

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Email Format



Photography Workshops by Canon Northern Explorer of Light Christopher Dodds


Christopher Dodds Nature Photographer | Promote Your Page Too

Entries in Ontario (24)


Cold Weather Clothing Tips for Photographers

 Snowy Owl Stance (Bubo scandiacus, Harfang des neiges, SNOW) Ontario. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DsMKIII, 500mm F4 IS, Tripod with Tripod & Jobu Jr. 3 with Think-Tank Photo Hydrophobia 300-600. ISO 400, F6.3 1/1,600s Manual mode. CLICK HERE TO ORDER A PRINT OR LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION.

Winter Owl Report

Just wanted to pass on my thoughts about the coming winter owl season. There's been good movements of our favorite winter owls so far and they have already started to establish their winter feeding grounds. All of the indications are pointing to a great winter owl season. I still have some limited space available on my Snowy Winter Owl Prowl Photo Safari / Workshops.

Cold Weather Clothing Tips for Photographers

Photography in the winter often entails staying warm while staying still in the freezing cold for long periods of time and foregoing any warmth from physical exertion. In the deep cold, when you are not exerting yourself, what you want is loft and insulation; remember that loose fitting clothing offers much more insulation and warmth than tight fitting layers that are so compressed that they actually loose the ability to keep you warm. Synthetics wick chilling moisture away from your skin, are light for travel and dry much quicker than any natural fabrics (Just remember: Cotton Kills!).

Tops: I start with a base layer Double Wicked Lite T Long Sleeve Shirt (remember that cotton traps moisture next to your skin, but synthetics wick moisture away from your skin), followed by a good mid weight fleece Zip Neck Sweater .

Bottoms: Full Length Base Layer with either Nylon zip-off pants or Microchill Fleece Pant if it’s really cold.

Outer wear: Expedition weight bib Gore-tex pants and Canada Goose Parka for the woods (extremely durable and branch resistant), or Expedition weight Down Parka (Really warm and light – perfect for travel).

Feet: As I’ve already mentioned, nature photographers spend a huge amount of time waiting for the image, so it’s extremely important to understand that boot manufacturers rate their boots with the assumption of moderate activity; there is a huge difference in just how warm a boot is when walking or standing for any length of time. I start with a good pair of Warm Socks and add a loose fitting Sorel Boot (I’ve tried so many winter boots, and there’s nothing like the durability and warmth of my Sorels). MICROspikes Pocket Traction System prevent accidental (and sometimes expensive and damaging) wipeouts.

Hands: Keeping your hands warm is quite a challenge; here’s my secret: I start with a loose fitting pair of Thin Liner Gloves which never come off my hands. I place Hand Warmers into the palm of the liner gloves, and when it’s really, really cold, I slip another into the wristband which warms the blood as it travels to my fingers. My choice for outer layer is the Black Diamond Mercury Mitts; be sure to buy a size, or two, larger than normal; this allows you to move your fingers around inside the gloves. The extra room, and fine leather palm of the Mercury Mitts allows me to use most of my camera’s buttons and dials – it takes a little practice, and seems clumsy, but better a little awkward than frozen.

Head: Remember that most heat loss occurs through your head and get a warm Beanie hat (or Touque as we say in Canada) . I often use a Balaclava when it’s really cold to protect my face from the the cold and windchill.

Camera: As for your camera gear, you should pack rain protection in case you are blessed with wet snow, or rain. I am thrilled with my Think-Tank Photo Hydrophobia 70-200 Flash and my Think-Tank Photo Hydrophobia 300-600 V2.0. Unlike the old days, little precaution is required before for your newer generation digital camera bodies are exposed to arctic conditions. Today’s pro camera bodies easily handle the cold weather and recent advances in battery technology easily allow a full day of photography on one charged battery. Consumer and prosumer cameras will also work well, but you should have an extra battery, or two, tucked away in an inside pocket keeping warm. Moving between extreme cold and warm temperatures when going indoors, or out, does cause some condensation; just leave your camera in it’s bag for a couple of hours while it comes to room temperature. Although I won’t remove a lens until my camera warms to room temperature, I don’t fuss much with my professional, sealed cameras; they’ve been from warm to cold and back again thousands of times. It’s good practice to remove the memory card when you are finished shooting and put it in a safe and zippered pocket; this prevents any warm moist air from entering your camera when you get home (or to your hotel), and keeps your images safe if your camera is stolen from you vehicle if you stop for coffee, hot chocolate or to warm-up at a restaurant.

Second Annual Photo Geek Christmas Party

I have just visited to Hudson Village Theater to do a pre show audio & video test and am thrilled to be presenting at such an awesome venue! There is still limited space available, be sure not to miss this show and support such a worthy cause!

Our sponsors have dug deep and collectivly offered thousands of dollars of prizes for this great event! Jobu Designs (makers of my favorite Gimbal Head - the Jobu Jr. 3), FirstPass Image downloader & Editor, Think-Tank Photo, Cotton Carrier, DigiMarc for Images and Tiffen have all jumped on-board and offered tons of prizes to show their suppoort for my Second Annual Photo Geek Christmas Party.

It's not too late to join me, Canadian nature photographer Christopher Dodds, on November 30, 2011 at 7:30 PM at the Hudson Village Theatre (28 Wharf Road, Hudson, QC   J0P 1H0) for an hour and a half long slideshow presentation to benefit this great cause which is so close to my heart. The show is designed to be entertaining and informative to all; nature lovers and photographers alike. Stories of adventure, natural history facts and information are all on the menu and this show is designed to offer helpful tips & techniques sure to improve your photography efforts with everything from a camera phone, point & shoot camera or professional SLR camera system. Over one hundred of my images will be projected, many unseen.  Everyone is welcome!
Hurry! Only 148 seats. Tickets are only $15.00 each and are available for advance purchase only - every penny is collected by, and goes to Le Nichoir. Please call or email Le Nichoir ( 450-458-2809) to secure your tickets, or make a donation if you can't make it (be sure to tell them it's on behalf of Chris' Photo Geek Christmas Party) Major credit cards and cheques accepted. Finger food and hors d'oeuvres are included and there will be a cash bar (please drink responsibly).
There will be ample time to mingle, meet my friends and contacts and share some of your images with others, so feel free to bring prints, iPads or laptops with your favourite images to share. I hope to see you there and PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD!

Read more about it HERE


White-Tailed Deer Buck in Velvet & Spider Holster Review

Eastern White-tailed Deer Buck in velvet (Odocoileus virginianus, Cerf de Virginie) Amherst Island, Ontario, Canada. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, 500mm F4, 1.4X II Tele-converter Tripod and Wimberley Head II. ISO 400, F5.6 1/40s Manual mode. BUY A PRINT OR LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION HERE.

Eastern White-tailed Deer Buck in velvet (Odocoileus virginianus, Cerf de Virginie) Amherst Island, Ontario, Canada. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, 500mm F4, 1.4X II Tele-converter Tripod and Wimberley Head II. ISO 400, F5.6 1/60s Manual mode. BUY A PRINT OR LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION HERE.

Eastern White-tailed Deer Buck in velvet (Odocoileus virginianus, Cerf de Virginie) Amherst Island, Ontario, Canada. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, 500mm F4, 1.4X II Tele-converter Tripod and Wimberley Head II. ISO 400, F5.6 1/640s Manual mode. BUY A PRINT OR LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION HERE.

SpiderPro Holster Review

I've been hanging my heavy 1D Mark IV with 70-200F2.8 IS II lens over my shoulder, or around my neck for years, and with a bad neck and back; I've had enough. I set out on a quest; find a simple, but efficient way to hold my second camera while working with a tripod mounted primary long lens. Let’s face it; we all spend a lot of time waiting for the right “moment”, and don’t want anything in our way when it presents itself.

Shai Eynav just sent me a review sample of the SpiderPro System, and I love it; in fact, this may be my favorite new photography accessory. The SpiderPro System is a remarkable new way to carry your camera. I got the whole kit and caboodle; a nylon belt (Spider Holster Belt) with a holster shaped flap  (Spider pad) to protect your camera from any metal studs in your jeans, and provide a little comfort cushion between your hip and your camera. The belt buckle even requires two hands to release, making it impossible to accidentally come undone. When secured around your waist, with the holster shaped flap (Spider pad) on your side, there's an ingenious cast aluminum/stainless steel slotted holder (SpiderPro) which receives the metal pin (Spider pin) that attaches to the Spider plate, which, in turn, is securely fastened to your camera. There’s even a safety latch, which you decide weather to engage, or not. The unique design ensures the camera and lens stay in the horizontal position; this keeps the lens from touching the ground when crouching or kneeling, as it would if the lens was pointing down. Shai has thought of everything; he's even placed four threaded holes in the Spider plate for easy quick-release plate attachment.

With the Spider Holster, my camera now hangs comfortably by my side ready for action. There’s no better way to get the weight of my neck, shoulders and back than this! When the “moment” presents, I’m ready; thanks to Shai Eynav and his marvelous invention, the Spider Holster. In the wilds of Alaska or Tanzania, at a press event in the city, or in the home studio, the Spider Holster will prove invaluable to any photographer. Find out more, or order yours at


The Business of Photography: The Business Plan

Red Fox Vulpes vulvas (renard roux). Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DsMKII, 70-200mm F2.8 IS @ 70mm Hand-held. ISO 500, F3.2 @ 1/125s Manual mode. Ambient exposure using  Sekonic L-358 Flash Master Light Meter. Full Frame. CLICK HERE TO BUY A PRINT OR LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION.

The Business Plan

One of the biggest mistakes many people starting a business make is not having a business plan. A business plan can be as simple as a Mission Statement and as complicated as you feel necessary. Think of a business plan as a roadmap; Where are you going?, How are you getting there? Are you headed in the right direction? and what to do if you make a wrong turn. A well written business plan is also a great tool to measure your successes and failures as a business person if reviewed periodically.

I don’t want to deceive you, so I’ll make it clear to you now that I don’t know any other photographers that actually have a business plan. I am asked, quite often, how to get into Nature or Wildlife Photography as a profession. I also have regular conversations with other successful photographer friends (Jewelry and studio photographers) about how they plan on getting to the next level; both as a photographer and as a business person. A well written business plan will help you see where you want to go, and how to get there.

I’m sure you all have a plan and have though about where you want to be in five or ten years. All I’m suggesting is putting it in writing and making it an annual event to review and modify things. How often have you had a great plan or idea, only to forget it within a short period of time?

Here’s some simple steps to a successful Business Plan:

Define who you are as a photographer and identify key strengths and weaknesses. Review your photography and identify a specialty and or passion. What makes your clients choose you and why are you different than a stock agency or other photographer? Create an executive summary, or mission statement, that will become the first part of your business plan. This need only be a few sentences long and it is essentially a summary of your findings.

Define your market as a photographer. In what area of photography do you see yourself fitting best? Who are your potential clients? Do you want to sell image rights for publication? or sell fine art prints to collectors? or both? What age group and gender are those clients. If you want to sell images to magazines for publication, who works for the magazines, and who buys those magazines? This section is a summary of your product, your service and your target clients.

Define your Competition. Now you know who you are, what product, or service you offer and who is your likely client. It’s time to think about who else is out there doing the same thing as you, and why you are a better, more logical choice for your client. What do you offer that your competitors don’t?

The last section deals with finances. Identify how much money you need to make to keep your head above water without falling into debt. Essentially a spreadsheet with a list of your expenses that should include: Living expenses like food, clothing, housing (mortgage, insurance, taxes and repairs), Utilities (heat, air conditioning, electricity, gas, water, etc) Transportation (Car payment, Insurance, fuel and repair) and health / disability insurance. Don't forget contributions to an emergency fund; you never know when you have to replace a roof or have a sudden financial crisis. Make a list of the monthly costs and multiply by 12 to figure out just how much money you need (after taxes) to survive a year without falling into debt.

Once you establish how much you need, it’s time to figure out how, or if, you can get there. How much do you sell your product, or service for?, and how much does it cost to produce? If you are a wildlife photographer, then you should make a list of your overhead expenses like photography equipment (cameras, lens, etc.), Office, or production, equipment (computers, printers, etc.), travel (transportation, lodging and food) expenses, professional services (like accounting), business liability & equipment insurance, equipment repair and rental, advertising and promotion costs, office supplies and communications (telephone, internet and mobile phone). You get the picture.

Now add your annual personal expenses (plus income tax) to your annual professional expenses. Do you think it is feasible to sell enough product or service to cover these expenses? Let’s say you sell fine art prints for $100.00 each. You determine your material cost to be $32.00 (ink and paper). You have a gross profit of $68.00. How many prints (think $68.00) do you need to keep yourself afloat? how many do you need to sell to put some savings aside for a bad year (or two) or a catastrophic medical or mental event? (laugh, but most business people suffer one, or the other, at some point in their career) oh, did you think about retirement savings? ... Perhaps a few more than you initially thought - but you knew that, right? (smile).

Now that you have a plan in writing, it's much easier to stay on track. If you make the small effort to review and ammend your plan from time to time, you have a much better understanding of where you have come from, where you are and where you are going.


Basic Exposure Theory: The Sunny F/16 Rule Explained

Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus (Harfang des neiges) Casselman, Ontario. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DsMKII, 500mm F4 IS ISO 400, F5.6 1/1600s Manual mode. Full Frame. The chart below (in the cloudy bright column) shows the correct exposure to be ISO 400 F/11 @ 1/400s. I chose to stop the action by using a higher shutter speed, so I used the equivalent exposure of ISO 400 F/5.6 @ 1/1600 second. I also knew to expect less detail in the snow and white feathers, because there are no shadows to help define them.

What you shooting at there, Dodds?” echoed across the landscape as I set-up to photograph Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes in New Mexico about a year ago. “What exposure you at Dodds?” was the question asked by the same gifted photographer just recently. I don’t want to embarrass anyone, so I won’t mention any names here. I truly do think that he is a gifted and talented photographer. He’s widely published and is also the first person to admit that he doesn't really know all the “techie” stuff.....and he was much closer to my exposure this year, than last. 

The single most important skill a photographer should have is a basic understanding of the fundamentals of photography. The most important tool, and the least understood aspect of photography is exposure theory. I learned photography with a totally manual camera and used slide film (seems like so long ago), so a basic understanding was necessary to make successful images.

 Q: Why bother when I can just keep things simple and take a picture, check the histogram and make any adjustments necessary? 

 A: Because having an intimate knowledge of exposure theory and your cameras functions and controls helps you grow and improve as a photographer, make better decisions and better images as a result.

In it’s simplest form, the Sunny 16 rule (or Sunny F/16 rule) states: On a bright, sunny day, the correct exposure for any middle tone subject is F/16 at the shutter speed nearest to the reciprocal of the film speed. For example:

ISO 100 = 1/100 second @ F/16

ISO 200 = 1/200 second @ F/16

ISO 400 = 1/400 second @ F/16

ISO 800 = 1/800 second @ F/16

Now we have established the correct exposure, it’s time to decide if we need more depth of field or shutter speed. Each step up, or down, of one variable represents a doubling, or halving, of any other variable. If you need more shutter speed than 1/100 second @ F/16 (ISO 100), then an equivalent exposure would be ISO 100 1/1600 second @ F/4.


This chart illustrates the equivalent exposures for ISO 100 and 200. Each setting above will allow the same amount of light to fall on your digital cameras sensor, or film cameras film. The exposure is the same, with the only difference being either your shutter speed (to freeze or blur action) or the depth of field (very narrow to blur the background, or very large to capture an entire grand landscape sharp).

But wait! It got cloudy. Now what? The Sunny F/16 rule is actually the correct ambient exposure for an average subject under bright sunny conditions. If the sun goes behind a cloud, then the light falling onto your subject is decreased and you must make an adjustment to your basic exposure settings. Here are some aperture settings for some different daylight situations:

This is intended as a starting point, so there are exceptions. Backlight or sidelight both require adjustments to reach the correct exposure. It’s a good idea to expose to the right with your digital camera; 50% of the recorded data is recorded on the right fifth (or 20%) of your digital cameras histogram. With very light subjects in very bright conditions, I routinely subtract light so as not to clip the highlights. With very dark or black subjects, I tend to add light to maximize the recorded detail. Notice the technicals for the Snowy Owl in my previous post; ISO 200 F9 1/1600 second = ISO 200 F22 1/1250 second (or Sunny F/16 rule for light sand or snow) minus 1/3 stop to preserve all of the details in the whites without clipping (or loosing) any data.

Sounds complicated, but if you spend some time digesting and thinking about everything here; you'll be able to get that once in a lifetime shot accurately and consistently with confidence. Not to mention how much you will impress the boys (or girls) when you are all standing around waiting for the shot or talking shop.

If you own an iPhone or iPod touch, there's a great application available for $1.99 called Exposure Calc. I just found it while writing this blog entry and think it is a great learning aid and pocket reference.

If you don't get it, and need to take a test shot, check the histogram, make adjustments, take another test shot; that's okay too, as long as you're having fun and making the odd good image to keep you interested.

Comments welcome & appreciated.

Page 1 2 3