Wednesday, August 23, 2017

"From Here To Eternity”


"From Here To Eternity”
©David A. Ziser

LaDawn and I headed down to Nashville, Tennessee on Monday and had great fun photographing the Great American Eclipse.  You can read the entire story below. The experience was not without it’s pitfalls and dramas but in the very brief 71 seconds of “Totality”  I managed to pull off a few good images.

In the photograph above, I tweaked the original image in Lightroom CC to bring out the sun’s corona more predominantly. Even with the high ISO I was using Lightroom saved the day with it’s marvelous noise reduction capabilities. Lot’s more images below.

Camera specs: Canon 7D Mark II fitted with Sigma 150-600mm lens and Sigma’s 1.4X tele-extender giving me at an effective focal length of 1366mm, F14 @1/250 second, ISO 3200.  Enjoy!  -David

It’s Eclipse Time! Photographing The Great American Eclipse.

Good Morning Everybody,

I’m pretty darn excited about my post today. The topic is completely different from anything I've blogged about before.  Why, because today I'm blogging about a once in a lifetime event.  That's right, today I'm writing about the Great American Eclipse!

What happens if you take this…


and place it in front of this…


You get this… the Great American Eclipse!


First, The Back Story

About 6 weeks ago news about the first Solar eclipse to cross the US in years was really starting to intrigue me. On August 21, 2017 the epicenter of the eclipse was going to be pass over Hopkinsville, KY, just about 3 1/2 hours down the road from us. Nashville was only about an hour more and it seemed that it offered a lot more to experience so we decided that we would head to Nashville, TN to check out the eclipse.

Eclipse Path

Now the challenges of photographing the eclipse began to appear. Hotels throughout the eclipse's path were all but sold out but we did manage to secure a suite at Embassy Suites  very close to downtown Nashville - a very nice property BTW.

Next, where should we view the eclipse? A check with the Nashville website gave many suggestions - we opted for the beautiful Cheekwood Estate and Gardens, the old Maxwell Coffee estate and now a beautiful arboretum and museum, about 8 miles outside the city.

Sigma-150-600_thumb2And finally what gear should I use to capture the best images. I had just picked up Sigma's new 150-600mm Contemporary lens which I just previously blogged about here on my blog [link]. With my 1.4x tele-extender and the 1.6 magnification factor of the lens and tell-extender on my Canon 7D Mark 2 I would have an effective maximum focal length of over 1350 mm - practically a small telescope - and that should do the trick. Check out my hands-on review of this lens right here [link].

Those of you who have read this blog regularly know I'm not a big fan of tripods in most cases but in this case it was absolutely a necessity. I dug out my old Gitzo tripod of years past, prepped it for the shoot, and re-familiarize myself with using a tripod.  I know that sounds crazy for a professional photographer to say but after about an hour of trial and error I thought I had developed a satisfactory eclipse routine with my tripod.

We had our approved eyeglasses but oh no… what was I forgetting? The eclipse filter so I could actually photograph the sun. Heck, I didn't want to take a chance on going blind during this adventure. After a little research I ordered and 8x8 filter from Thousand Oaks Optical and a 95mm UV filter. I simply cut the Mylar to fit my UV glass filter and secured, with a few drops of glue, one to the other and I was good-to-go.

Thousand Oaks Optical also sells a 95mm solar filter for about $80 but they were out of stock by the time I got around to ordering one - it would have been a better choice. OK! I think that's good for the back story - let's head to Nashville for the Great American Eclipse!

Heading Down the Road

We were up and packing about 4:45 a.m. Monday mourning - we had commitments all day Sunday which prevented us from leaving the day before.  Besides, we were hoping our later departure would help us avoid the dreaded traffic jams predicted by all the news stations.

Well, as they say the best laid plans....  Just 15 minutes into our trip Google Maps alerts us of a major traffic jam just north of Louisville, KY and directs us down to Lexington, KY and then west to the I-65 corridor adding about 25 minutes to our drive time.  No problem, it was still a beautiful drive through the horse farms in central Kentucky.

IMG_4594We were nearly to the on ramp for I-65 when Google Maps alerted us of a 22 minute delay just to progress onto the road - more darn construction - the upside - as we crawled along we passed a awe inspiring field of sunflowers. Our very slow progress allowed LaDawn time to retrieve one of our favorite vacation cameras, the Canon SX-60, and began firing away.  She managed a very nice collection of sunflower images in our 15 minute drive by.

Shorty after that delay we were finally southbound and down…. 10-4 Good Buddy - we were on our way albeit about 55 minutes behind schedule. We would still arrive about an hour before the start of the eclipse so no problem.

Pulling Into Nashville - It's Almost Eclipse Time!

About three hours later we're pulling into Nashville. It's almost eclipse time and we are fired up.  You could tell this was an "eclipse town" by the messaging on the signs over the expressway - "No Parking during eclipse". 


I have to say, I've never seen anything like that before! We followed Google Maps directions to Cheekwood Estate and Gardens and were soon slowed again by the fellow "eclipse watchers" heading to the arboretum   But in a short time we arrived, parked our car and made our way to Reception to pick up our tickets.  The place was a buzz with fellow eclipse enthusiasts of all sizes, shapes, and ages.

It's Eclipse Time!

IMG_6198We walked the short distance to what looked to be a good viewing area and I began to set up tripods, cameras, long lenses, and filters. Another gentleman  was already set up with a nice looking setup.  We introduced ourselves to each other and I quickly struck up a conversation.  It turns out that he was a professor of Physics at NC State.  And boy, was he helpful - he had recently attended a local astronomy club meeting and picked up a "ton" of info on how to photograph the eclipse from beginning to end.  His info was invaluable and sure added to the success of our shoot.

Michael and I kept checking our time - the eclipse was due to begin in just a few short minutes.  Everyone was excited!  The moon was to touch the sun at 11:58 a.m. I was looking through my viewfinder and in just seconds I was witnessing the beginning of the Great American Eclipse – Wow! It was cool!  LaDawn was using our little Canon SX-60 camera fitted with its own eclipse filter.  Both of our camera setups gave both of us effective focal lengths of over 1300mm – plenty to witness the eclipse.

We were ready and the crowd of our fellow eclipse watchers were ready too.


But alarmingly clouds began to float in over the sun – horrors of horrors – were we going to miss the eclipse!!!??? The clouds kept coming and were getting thicker – we were all a bit panicked but could do nothing about it except hope and pray that they would surely pass. We did have time on our side.  The full eclipse was not scheduled to happen until 1:27 p.m. – we had plenty of time for the clouds to clear and the clouds were relatively scattered in the sky above. Check out the two photos below – YIKES!!!



As luck would have it the clouds did clear and I got some great images as the moon made its way across the disk of the sun. Check out the next image below I was seeing something nobody else saw if there were wearing their eclipse glasses – Sunspots – three of them right in a row just next to the moon’s disc. Way Cool! Check out the next two images. You can really see them clearly.



The image below is a quick HDR I made in-camera on my Canon 7D Mark 2. I think it looks kind of cool with the halo around the sun.


As the eclipse progressed I continued to shoot. The eclipse went from looking like Ms. Packman to a banana and beyond – it really was amazing to watch the progression. You could feel the temperature drop significantly too.



We were getting close now.  With just a few minutes from totality…. and then – I couldn’t believe it, nobody could!  We were just seconds from totality and then it happened - we ran out of luck again!!! Those friggin’ clouds rolled back in just as we were about to hit totality.  Was the Great American Eclipse over for us? Were we all going to miss our-once-in-a-lifetime event? It sure was looking that way. Check out the next two photos and you can easily understand our panic and disappointment.


I kept shooting anyway, shooting through the clouds hoping all the time that the clouds would somehow pass quickly and we could still at least capture a few seconds of the total eclipse. In this next photo, even through the clouds you can make out the beginning of the Baily Beads effect, those sparkling little specks at about 7 o,clock on the disk, morphing from the Diamond ring effect. Darn, if those clouds would just disappear!!!


Luck of all luck – the clouds finally dissipated just a few seconds later just as the moon totally covered the sun and hit eclipse totality.  A loud cheer went up from the 2500 eclipse watchers – the it was – our first total solar eclipse – amazing!!! The image below clearly shows the Baily Beads twinkling near the bottom of the disk.


We were almost there – the Baily Beads were going to disappear in only seconds…


And then it  happened – a total eclipse of the sun – WOW!!! The picture below shows the full eclipse with Lightroom tweaks to bring out the sun’s corona.  Sure looks like a National Geographic photo to me ;~)


But wait a second, what else was I seeing?  What were those specs at about 3 o,clock and 5 o,clock on the eclipse disk?  They look like eruptions of some kind.  They were – they were solar prominences!!!  Check out the next image – you will see them quite clearly in the cropped image.  I’ve only seen this type of phenomena in magazines or on PBS Nova series.  To see them in person was quite a treat! They can shoot out from the sun’s surface up to 500,000 miles!


During those few moment of totality the world around you is eerily different – something special was happening and you probably would never experience it again in your life.  You felt as if you were communing with the universe!

The moon continued it path across the sun and soon we could see the Baily Beads and Diamond Ring effect clearly this time without the clouds distracting from the scene. The image below is just 32 seconds past the image above.


The moon continued its journey across the disk of the sun for another 90 minutes and I continued to shoot to the end still trying to soak up and appreciate what just happened.















IMG_4689Wow! It was over! It sure was exciting! You just couldn’t help but to keep thinking back on what you experienced first hand and what just happened.  The crowds started to disperse. A few folks walking past noticed my camera setup and stopped by and asked if I got any good photos.  I showed the back of my camera – then they began asking if they could buy my eclipse photos – they would pay any price some told me! 

I was amazed – more people wandered up to see what the others were viewing on the back of my camera – they wanted to buy photos too!  Wow! If I had only known I would have brought my Square card reader ;~)

IMG_4692Many even asked if they could snap a photo with their cell phones – I gladly obliged.






So that was our eclipse adventure and what an adventure it was. We had to deal with the drama of cloud cover two times but all worked out perfectly. We were able to see and capture so many cool eclipse images including sunspots, solar prominences, Baily’s Beads and the Diamond Ring effect, and we met a lot of really friendly eclipse watchers too.

Again, my thanks goes out to Michael, for filling me in on so many eclipse photo tips that I wasn’t aware of that really helped make our shoot such a success. Also my thanks for all the folks that stopped by to look through my camera and snap a few of the images off my LCD screen.

DAZNOTE: For all those interested, I really don’t care if you “right-click” on any of the images above and keep them as a souvenir of that special day – August 21, 2017.

Camera Exposure and Shooting Details

Before I leave let me give you a few details about how I handled the shooting session.  I was originally going to shoot everything on manual but that strategy quickly went south as the clouds started rolling in.  I switched to “Program” mode until I was just shooting the final crescents of the sun. Then I switched to “Manual” mode. Typical exposures were F11 at 1/250 second.  All the images above from the first two crescents forward were all shot on “Manual” mode

Here was the kicker though.  My Thousand Oaks filter were extremely dense which necessitated that I shoot at an ISO of 3200.  I know that sounds high and it was. My friend Michael was shooting a ND 5 filter and was using an ISO of only 400.  Nevertheless, I had to go with what I had - I’ll have to check into alternatives in the future.

With my camera, lens, tele-extender combo gave me a maximum aperture of only F9.0 – I wish I could have closed down more than F11 but the density of the filter prevented me from doing so and still shoot at an acceptable shutter speed. And speaking of shutter speeds, the camera sure was bouncing around a lot so I kept “image stabilization” switched on even though it’s recommended not to do so.

So there you have it, my experience photographing the Great American Eclipse.

Oh, BTW, the next “Once In a Lifetime” Great American Eclipse rolls around on April 8, 2024 [link].

2024 Eclipse

That’s just 7 years from now and tracks right up through Indianapolis, just two hours from where we live. It seems to me that these “Once In a Lifetime” events happen more often than you think ;~)


Hey Gang, that’s it for today.  I hope you enjoyed the post and if I met you in Nashville, I sure hope you will leave a comment. LaDawn and I are spending the few days in Panama City, Florida just soaking up unobstructed rays of the sun before heading back home.

Cheers everybody and Adios for now,


Saturday, July 29, 2017

Happy Days Are Here Again!!! Sigma’s 150-600mm Contemporary Lens; Safari Update; and Eclipse Photography


Good Afternoon Everybody,DAZ-New-LR-PR-Pic_thumb3

Actually the Happy Days have never really left – Life is good! I sure hope you are having a great summer.  I have a great post for you today featuring some lens testing I’m excited to share with you, my 2018 African Safari Update,  and some recent wedding work. On a personal note, LaDawn and I have been busy as usual with some studio work, travels, cruises, and a seminar now and then.  All in all, life is great! On top of that LaDawn has become a grandmother for the second time and she is over the moon! 0001_DZ723829-Edit-Edit_thumb3Here is a quick photo of BIG Malcolm 90 minutes after he was born – yes, 90 minutes – look at those eyes!

Even though we have slowed things down a bit we’re still pretty busy with client work, album designs, family portraits, and extensive travel planning which will result in over 40,000 images later this year. That said, let’s get right into today’s post.

Check Out My New Eclipse/Safari Lens – Sigma 150-600mm, Fantastic!

Sigma-150-600_thumb2Earlier this Spring, in preparation for our upcoming 2018 African Photo Safari I contacted my friends up at Sigma and asked if I could test-drive one of their longer telephoto zoom lens. I had been hearing a lot about the lighter weight Sigma 150-600 Contemporary lens – it’s getting some great reviews over at B&H as well as Amazon -  and asked if I could give it a try. A few days later it arrived on my doorstep and I was fired up to run the lens through it’s paces.

Although I packed it along for our travels through Florida in April and even took it with me on a 2 week Caribbean cruise all the way to South America, I never really encountered any “wild” animals to speak of out on the Caribbean Sea or any of the exotic stops along the way. But…

After we arrived home we decided the best place to find wild animals was the world famous Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens so off we went. I wanted to discover three main things about the lens:

1. Was it sharp?

2. How Close could I go?

3. How is the image stabilization? Here we go.

1. Was it sharp?

The quick answer is VERY SHARP! Because I was hand-holding for all of these images most of my images were taken at the higher shutter speeds but mostly wide open at F6.3. Check out these photos below.


This image of the famous Cincinnati Zoo white tiger was shot  maxed out at 600mm F6.3 @ 1/800 sec at 1250 ISO. It sure looked good to me.


This image of this rhino was also shot nearly maxed out at 468mm F6.3 @ 1/640 sec at 800 ISO.  We printed up six of the images to 24x36 prints and they looked fabulous even upon close inspection.

2. How Close Could I Go?

Pretty darn close. I have to tell you, my inclination was to zoom in as much as I could but I found myself racking out slightly because the 600mm range really was too close for many of the animals I was photographing. The main reason -  was the fact that I was shooting with my Canon 7D Mk2 which added the 1.6x magnification factor to the actual zoom length. Hence the 600mm length stated above was really 960mm – that’s a pretty darn good zoom.  Check out the two images below.


This image of the orangutan is one of my favorites. It too was taken with the lens racked out to 600mm or effectively 960mm on my Canon 7D Mk2. Photo specs were 1/640 sec @ F7.1, ISO 4000. This is actually a slightly cropped image but you still see it is really sharp.


The image of the cute little meerkat again verified the sharpness of the lens. It too was taken with a shorter 310mm or effectively 578mm on my Canon 7D Mk2. Photo specs were 1/640 sec @ F6.3, ISO 250.

So how close could I go – I’d say about as close as I wanted to. Consider this, the Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary ships with a 1.4 tele-extender included…. at least mind did. That means that with the lens racked out to 600mm with the 1.4 tele-extender would give me an effective 840mm focal length. Now add that combo to my Canon 7D Mk2 with it’s 1.6x magnification factor and you get a whopping 1344mm effective focal length!

3. How is the image stabilization?

Those of you who have followed my blog over the years know I am very keen on image stabilization for my photography - seldom to never using a tripod. I was really curious about the IS properties of this lone telephoto lens. Check out the following photo.


This image was taken at 1/60 second hand-held @ F5.6 at 8000 ISO with focal length set to 293mm or effectively 469mm on my Canon 7D Mk2.  Folks, that’s nearly a 500mm optic hand-held at a super slow 1/60 second and still coming out pleasantly sharp for this experience!

A Few More Thoughts…

All in all I found this lens to be a fun lens to shoot.  It’s not the lightest optic weighing in at 4.3 pounds but still lighter than other options available. With  the shoulder strap that is included, it would be fine for carrying around a few hours.

One thing I really loved about the lens was it’s very fast auto-focusing.  The lens just snapped into focus easily even at the longer focal lengths.

This is not a lens for wedding photography – it’s just too long a focal length for that kind of shooting but it is a perfect lens for wildlife and bird-watching. Yes, this is the lens I’ll be traveling with on our upcoming 2018 Photo Safari – hope to see you there.

2018 10 Day African Photo Safari Update

Hey gang we still have a number of seats for our February 22 – March 4, 2018 Ten Day African Photo Safari [link].  Our first Safari sold out in 48 hours so we added a second set of dates to accommodate all who want to join us on this once in a lifetime adventure.


This adventure is absolutely First Class all the way and at a cost that will not break the bank - like so many other safaris. The cost for this safari is about 50% less than many safaris you see advertised and is ALL-INCLUSIVE!  That means accommodations, all meals, beverages – wine, beer, soft drinks, and water are all included. Air travel is still on your own but exploring departure cities and booking flights early will definitely save you money.


 A few comments from recent adventurers:

…Your safari was the most amazing trip ever! I have been to a safari lodge in Kenya and one in Uganda and they don’t compare .?

…The best safari and Lodge experience ….(LOVED !) the wonderful staff . And the wildlife was definitely the most prolific I have seen! Ps.. Got amazing shots that are canvases hanging in my home. The food was fabulous the people in our group were wonderful .. Making lifelong friendships.

Please drop me a line to me personally at with your contact info and I’ll fill you in on all the details. I would love to hear from you. Or you can contact Kevin Dooley, whom I’m working with directly on this trip, directly at his cell: 505-401-2988. Kevin is an award wining photographer and certified African guide and has been conducting these Safaris for over 18 years – he can give you the complete details.

So… How About That Famous Eclipse Coming to America on August 21, 2017

What would be the optimum focal length for that once in a life-time event? Funny you should ask. LaDawn and I are heading to Nashville, TN – one of the optimum viewing cities for the eclipse. Weather permitting, I plan to take a few “Eclipse” pics of the event.

I’ve been doing a little research on the event so we can come back with some great images.  Regarding the best focal length lens for this very rare event – B&H Photo and Video has a great article on how to photograph the upcoming eclipse right here [link].

In their very informed discussion the subject of best focal length to use comes up.  In fact they posted a chart showing the varying focal lengths cropping effects on the eclipse.  Here is is below.


You know what that tells me don’t you? My brand new Sigma 150-600mm at 600mm with 1.4x tele-extender on my Canon 7D Mk2 should put me right in the ball park with  my resulting 1344mm optics.  I can’t wait.  I promise I’ll do a posting after so you can check out my results.


Hey gang,

That’s going to be it for me today.  Hope you enjoyed the post today and I hope to see you down the road - hopefully in Africa ;~)

Cheers for now,


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Just Checking In–Only 7 Days To Go!

Hi Gang,

LaDawn and I just returned from a wonderful 9-day trip to New Orleans celebrating St. Patrick's Day/Weekend with fun parades, colorful characters, good friends, and great food!

We then headed down to the French Quarter for a photography conference with some of the top pros in the industry - talk about an inspiring experience - WOW!

We're in town this week and then it's off to Orlando next Tuesday (March 28th) where I'll be presenting a new and exciting program for the Legends of Photography Tour which after a short break is traveling the country as we speak.  I'm excited and looking forward to seeing everybody again so I really hope you'll stop in to see me. Hey, for $20 bucks with code below - it's a steal of a deal! See all the details below.

Also, don't forget my Geek Tip Of The Week at the end of this quick newsletter.


See You In Orlando Next Week! 

Hey Gang, you can catch me in Orlando on March 28, 2017 for the brand new Legends of Photography Tour [link].  I've got a few new program surprises in store for you and as always, we will have Door Prize Time!

You can reach the hotel, aLoft Orlando in downtown Orlando, at 407.380.3500. Doors open at 4:00 p.m. and the program wraps up at 10:30 p.m. Plan to stick around and let's have an adult beverage together after the program.

Need more details about all the speakers - just hit any of the links or the image above. Registration has been reduced to only $20 with my secret code - Secret Code: DZ20 Like I said, you'll find me in Orlando on Tuesday March 28, 2017. I hope to see you there!


Maybe Just Four Seats Left! February 22 - March 4, 2018

We still have just a few seats available for our African Safari [link] for February 22 - March 4, 2018. This is a 10 Day/9 Night All Inclusive Safari - yes, beautiful lodge accommodations, meals, and safari excursions are ALL included for only $7999 for two people! (airfare not included)

If you have priced Safaris, you know this is a steal of a deal! Please give Kevin a call at 505-345-6322 or his cell at 505-401-2988 for all the exciting details so you don't miss out - it's going to be a great trip!


After All These Years In Wedding Photography, I'm On Cloud 9! Well, Amazon Cloud Drive - Which Is Close

I have so much "stuff" stashed on computers, hard drives, tablets, and phones for the studio and my personal images it's getting crazy to back everything up. I decided to do something about it. I signed up for Amazon's Cloud Drive.

Sure, I've been a big fan of Dropbox for years but it's just too expensive for large backups. That's where Amazon Cloud Drive comes in - unlimited all-you-can-eat backup for only $59/yr.! You can even try it FREE for 30 days.

Amazon just added the "Sync Folder" feature which now puts it on par with Dropbox too - pretty cool. OK, I will admit, uploads can take a while with a slow internet connect but even with our moderate speeds at the studio it's still a great solution for our client's finished images. I'm still "playing" with it but things are really looking promising. Once we hit the higher speeds, I'm sending everything up to the "cloud".

DAZ NOTE; No, I don't receive commissions from the referral but I do own a few shares of Amazon stock so if you do decide to check it out my stock may rise a few pennies and help my retirement package ;~)


Hey Everybody,

That's it for me today. I hope you have a great rest of the week and I look forward to seeing you next week in Orlando.

Adios for now, David