Concerned Moose

Last weekend I spent a bit of time playing with the Nikon SB-600 external flash. I’ve had it for a few years now, but rarely bring it along when I shoot. I experimented with some of the different settings and with a range of lighting angles and had some great results. My subject, of course, was the Moose. She sat still, but looked very concerned throughout.

The Moose-8
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More on my photography site.

Seagull – Photography Archives

I’ve recently begun going back through photos I’ve taken over the past ten years and carefully editing some of my favorites. Many of them are shots that I previously reviewed as part of a batch, and at the time didn’t give any one particular photo a meaningful amount of attention.

In doing this, I’ve also begun building a portfolio at Shutterstock, one of the more popular stock photography websites. I view it as a bit of a challenge, as their technical requirements and standards are quite difficult to meet. Historically I’ve taken a more artistic approach to photo shooting and editing, and as I first submitted shots, most were rejected. Gradually I’m learning what I need to do to get them accepted, which has been rewarding.

It’s been some time since I’ve written on this blog, and view this as an opportunity to share some of the photos I’ve been editing.

The first is a picture of a seagull I took in Chicago in June of 2009:

Samuel Kornstein: Photography Archives &emdash; Seagull

I’ve also included the Lightroom Preset available for download: Seagull

Zion National Park

Laura and I had the opportunity to spend a couple days in Zion after CES. It’s actually a great place to visit in the Winter. The park was practically empty, places to stay were cheap, and it was perfect hiking weather.

Angels Landing, with its steep narrow final stretch, was definitely a highlight. Quite a few people on the trail had turned back before reaching the end (and the signs continuously remind you that quite a few people have fallen off and died), so I was actually expecting it to be more narrow than it is. When I got to the end, I didn’t realize I was there because I was expecting to hit a point where I questioned whether I’d continue. Not to say it isn’t intense.

Here are a few shots, first from the West Rim Trail hike on the way to Angels Landing:

Samuel Kornstein: Zion National Park &emdash; Zion_National_Park-1

Samuel Kornstein: Zion National Park &emdash; Zion_National_Park-2

Samuel Kornstein: Zion National Park &emdash; Zion_National_Park-3

And here’s the final stretch:

Samuel Kornstein: Zion National Park &emdash; Zion_National_Park-4

Samuel Kornstein: Zion National Park &emdash; Zion_National_Park-5

Samuel Kornstein: Zion National Park &emdash; Zion_National_Park-6

Samuel Kornstein: Zion National Park &emdash; Zion_National_Park-7

Samuel Kornstein: Zion National Park &emdash; Zion_National_Park-9

Samuel Kornstein: Zion National Park &emdash; Zion_National_Park-10

It actually felt steeper on the way down:

Samuel Kornstein: Zion National Park &emdash; Zion_National_Park-11

We drove around and had some good views, mostly in the evening and the following morning:

Samuel Kornstein: Zion National Park &emdash; Zion_National_Park-15

Samuel Kornstein: Zion National Park &emdash; Zion_National_Park-17

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Samuel Kornstein: Zion National Park &emdash; Zion_National_Park-26

Another highlight was the Watchman Trail, where we saw a bunch of mule deer:

Samuel Kornstein: Zion National Park &emdash; Zion_National_Park-28

And the view at the top:

Samuel Kornstein: Zion National Park &emdash; Zion_National_Park-29

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Samuel Kornstein: Zion National Park &emdash; Zion_National_Park-32

Lightroom 5 Preset: Highland

It’s been over a year since I’ve added a new Lightroom 5 Preset. I’ve actually got quite a few new ones in the works, and over the next few months will plan to post them. Here’s my thirteenth preset: Highland. It’s a vintage looking filter, with nice oranges, reds, and browns. I’ve found that it’s often helpful to adjust highlights and exposure after using it. Below are some examples. Hope you enjoy, and thanks for all the support.

A highland cow, which inspired the preset:
Samuel Kornstein: Lightroom Preset Examples &emdash; Highland-3

An old Porsche that was parked outside my brother’s Vancouver apartment when I visited:
Samuel Kornstein: Lightroom Preset Examples &emdash; Highland-2

A couple Mariachi’s waiting for the bus in Meixco City:
Samuel Kornstein: Lightroom Preset Examples &emdash; Highland-4

And a few produce traders in New Delhi:
Samuel Kornstein: Lightroom Preset Examples &emdash; Highland-1

Here’s the download: Lightroom 5 Preset: Highland

To install it in Lightroom, simply right click any preset, select import, and then select the downloaded preset file.

Dogs on the Beach

I spent the holiday in Narragansett with Laura’s family, and we took a long walk on the beach on Christmas day. The weather was perfect for this time of year – almost sixty degrees – and the light in the late afternoon was even better. I hadn’t taken my camera out since the late Summer, and it was great to spend the afternoon shooting.

Here are a few action shots I took of Bella playing with some other dogs in the water:

Samuel Kornstein: Christmas 2014 &emdash; Christmas_2014-66

Samuel Kornstein: Christmas 2014 &emdash; Christmas_2014-39

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Samuel Kornstein: Christmas 2014 &emdash; Christmas_2014-43

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Samuel Kornstein: Christmas 2014 &emdash; Christmas_2014-47

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Samuel Kornstein: Christmas 2014 &emdash; Christmas_2014-66

The Center of People

Via Joost Bonsen, whose Development Ventures Class in the MIT Media Lab was among the best course decisions I made in grad school, a graphic that’s trending on reddit showing the world’s population by longitude and latitude:

From the graphic alone, I would have guessed this was in northwest India, but after looking up the coordinates, it turns out the center of people is just over the border in Pakistan:

cop

Coincidentally, as a direct result of Joost’s course, I ended up conducting some research on food waste in India right by the border, just 100 miles from the above coordinates in Pakistan. Here’s what it looks like:

Samuel Kornstein: India &emdash; Haryana Cow

First Impressions of the iPhone 6 Camera: Callahan State Park

I’ve had my iPhone 6 for almost a month now, but hadn’t really tested out the camera in a meaningful way until today. With all the warm weather we’ve had this week, Laura and I decided to head out to Framingham to meet up with my Mom and take Bella for a walk in Callahan State Park. In rained for the first part of the walk, but the sun broke out right around the time we got to Eagle Pond. The light was perfect.

I’d read the camera was a big step up from my previous iPhone 5, and after looking at a handful of shots on a big screen, I’m very impressed. The hardware is great, but I also love the auto HDR feature much more than I expected. I took a bunch of similar shots with and without it on, and found that it was extremely effective at capturing cloud contrast. When I had it off, I’d often be stuck with white washed skies. Taking the same picture with it on completely solved the problem.

All of these were taken on my phone, and edited right in Apple’s Camera app:

Samuel Kornstein: Mobile Photography &emdash; IMG_0221.JPG

Samuel Kornstein: Mobile Photography &emdash; IMG_0223.JPG

Samuel Kornstein: Mobile Photography &emdash; IMG_0225.JPG

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Samuel Kornstein: Mobile Photography &emdash; IMG_0228.JPG

Samuel Kornstein: Mobile Photography &emdash; IMG_0216.JPG

Samuel Kornstein: Mobile Photography &emdash; IMG_0232.JPG

Samuel Kornstein: Mobile Photography &emdash; IMG_0234.JPG

 

I also played with slo-mo. More on that soon.

A Few Thoughts on Rhinos

I just learned that yesterday was World Rhino Day, an annual initiative to raise awareness about Africa’s big poaching problem. National Geographic has a nice series of pictures and history, including a picture that’s clearly from a very different time of a zookeeper feeding peas to a rhino while it’s carrying a woman on its back.

Having just been to South Africa last month, where over 80% of the 26,000 rhinos in Africa live, I thought I’d share some of what we saw and learned. Previous posts on South Africa are here and here.

While I had known that poaching has historically been and continues to be a huge issue, I hadn’t appreciated the extent of it. Over 1,000 rhinos were poached in South Africa 2013, the largest number in recent history, and this year it looks like the number might be even higher. That’s almost 5% of the population poached, every year, and doesn’t include rhinos that die of old age and other natural causes.

I had also always assumed that poaching was most prevalent in less populated areas with few tourists and little infrastructure — somewhere deep in the bush away from conservation areas and managed parks/reserves. That couldn’t be more wrong. Most of the poaching happens in Kruger National Park, the largest and arguably most well-known and visited park in South Africa. Despite the fact that it’s only open from 6am-6pm, has a team of dedicated anti-poaching police, and that the entry/exit points appear regulated with only a handful of well guarded gates and frequent car searches, rhinos in Kruger aren’t well protected at all. About one per day is poached.

In some ways it seems the parks and reserves just need to do more of what they are doing — searches and dedicated anti-poaching patrol — and maybe be a bit more tactical about it. The first very small private reserve we visited had four rhinos as recently as a year ago. Now there are three — poachers cut through the fence in the middle of the night, killed one, and cut off his horns. We saw the bones, which the reserve kept in place to raise awareness.

Apparently at the time it was well-known that the anti-poaching police weren’t on duty from about midnight to the early morning, which in many ways defeats the purpose of having them for the other ~20 hours per day. Obviously more resources are needed. But making the hours and routes less predicable would seem to help. However, my understanding of the context is limited to a few conversations, so I’m hesitant to assume too much about which aspects of protection failed.

In the parks, our car was searched a few times, but not every time, despite the fact that we were stopped for five minutes or so at each entry or exit point. There didn’t seem to be any reason why the guards couldn’t have quickly looked in our trunk each time. Maybe they were profiling us as tourists, but they seemed more interested in finding out whether we had alcohol than guns. And given the recent arrest of some park employees for walking around with a hunting rifle, it sounds as though guns coming in and out of the park should be a focus.

At many of the parks, we did notice a culture of secrecy around the rhinos. We often asked rangers and guides how many rhinos were in parks we were visiting, and the most common answer was that they don’t disclose the information. Also, many of the parks had boards at the visitor areas where people can mark recent sightings of elusive animals such as lions, leopards, elephants, hyenas, wild dogs, etc. Rhinos would have been an obvious addition to that list, but we never saw their locations marked.

Maybe this already happens on a limited scale, or is more challenging than I appreciate, but it would seem to me that anti-poaching efforts could be improved with a bit of technology. I’ve read about parks using motion sensors. But what about adding some cameras along key roads, maybe even streaming them to the web, and crowd sourcing the monitoring. People from all over the world could check out various parts of the parks, and report anything that appears suspicious. There’s clearly a large global network of people who care. When we visited the Tembe Elephant Reserve, we learned that they have a very popular 24/7 webcam covering one of the watering holes, and there’s something similar in popular spots in Kruger. Why not take this exact model and replicate it a few hundred times over using satellite internet in different parks? I suppose there’s risk of poachers using the cameras to locate rhinos, but I think the added monitoring of the areas would more than compensate.

We also learned of some innovative approaches to reducing demand for rhino horns that have been tested on a limited basis and sound promising. One example is to inject poison and pink dye into the horns — a practice that doesn’t harm the rhinos, but would be apparent to poachers and would make anyone consuming the horn fairly sick. This sounds like a promising approach, but it would likely have to be expanded on a much larger basis before it could really reduce demand rather than shift poaching to different areas. Time will tell — hopefully it helps.

I’ve included some shots of some of the rhinos we saw below.

The first two are from Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park, where we saw about 15-20 different rhinos throughout our day-long self-drive. I didn’t notice at the time, but after reviewing the pictures closely, it’s clear this rhino has large wounds on both sides. It’s difficult to be sure, but they look like gunshot wounds (especially the one on its left in the first picture) suggesting he or she may have escaped an attempted poaching:
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;

A couple others from the same park:
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;

And here are a couple more from a reserve near Hluhluwe:
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;

If you’re interested in donating to anti-poaching efforts, I found that savetherhino.org has a bunch of great programs across Africa, including one at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park.

 

African Cat Rehabilitation Center

Continued from my previous post here. On our second day in South Africa, we took a ride about 10 miles up the road from our lodge to the Emdoneni Lodge Cat Rehabilitation Center. The center takes in injured and orphaned cheetahs, servals, African wild cats, and caracals, and provides care for them, generally with the hope of releasing them back into the wild. In some cases the cats become too tame and comfortable around humans and can not be safely released, so these guys live out their days at the center.

Somewhat surprisingly, after speaking with one of the center’s staff members, we learned much of the funding for these centers comes from hunting organizations. My understanding was that they typically want to help support sustainable population levels, across many species, such that “responsible hunting” does not pose a risk. These are obviously longer term objectives for currently threatened animals, and the dynamic seems nuanced and complex, but it felt a bit odd knowing a lot of the support for a great animal protection program had these underlying motivations.

Fascinating all around. With that, I’ve included a few highlights below.

Here’s an African wild cat:

Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;

Shots of well-timed yawns always look viscous. They resemble house cats, and apparently house cats were bred from domesticated African wild cat ancestors beginning about 10,000 years ago, but these guys are just a bit more dangerous.

Here’s a caracal, named Bar One:

Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;

Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;

A cheetah:
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;

Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;

And finally a serval:
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;

We were able to go into the fenced enclosures and walk right up to the all of animals. The cheetahs actually weren’t the most dangerous — apparently the caracals are most unpredictable and prone attacking if threatened. The guide wouldn’t let any children into the caracal area, and said that if Bar One started running around everyone’s legs, we should just remain still and let him do his thing as we wouldn’t want to see his reaction to fast movements.

First Few Days in South Africa

Laura and I recently returned from a visit in South Africa, planned around a package we “accidentally” won in a charity auction. The Auction was for Girls’ Leap, an amazing organization Laura volunteers with that provides self defense and empowerment training to girls and young women in the Boston area. By “accidentally,” I mean that we weren’t the high bidders and didn’t necessarily intend to win, as it was clear the other bidders were more enthusiastic. But once the highest bidder won, the auctioneer had a “surprise” for us. She happened to have more than one package on hand and conveniently offered it to us — in front of 200 or so other people — for our bid. It’s obviously a great cause, was a great deal, was the price we bid, (and was a great auctioneer technique), so quite unexpectedly and without much thought, we were going to South Africa.

We planned the trip around the package, but took the opportunity to rent a car and explore the country a bit. Our first few days were in KwaZulu-Natal and Zululand, near Hluhluwe (pronounced shlushluwee) at a private reserve and lodge that were part of the package. We then traveled in and around St. Lucia and iSimangaliso Wetland Park, spent a day in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, then drove through Swaziland up to Kruger National Park.

The entire trip was incredible, especially for shooting, and it’s taken me over a month to sort through and edit my photos. Below I’ve included the first batch from the first few days. I’ll likely have some new presets to post as well, as I definitely came up with a few good combinations editing these.

Here was a sunset on the first night from our room:
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;

The private reserve at our lodge was small compared with the national parks, but still had some incredible wildlife and landscapes:
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;

On the second day we “spotted” one of the cheetahs in the reserve, along with her cub:
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;

Apparently elephants keep cool in the afternoon by filling their trunks with dirt and spaying it over their backs:
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;
Samuel Kornstein: South Africa & Swaziland &emdash;

More to come soon.