Photography Class on Saturday

Quite a few people have asked me if I will still teach photography classes before I leave for South Africa end of May.

Yes, I will 🙂
There are still a few places available in the class this Saturday (from 9:00a.m. to 1:00p.m.). Here is the link in case you would like to book:

There is one more class scheduled before I leave:

Animal Art Photography II on 5/19/2012

Starting in June Amiee Stubbs, the Official Nashville Zoo Photographer, will start teaching the classes and private lessons at the Nashville Zoo.

Thanks a lot & Photo Class Schedule at Nashville Zoo at Grassmere

Thanks a lot for the over 200 congratulation message for my upcoming move to South Africa.

Quite a few people have asked my what classes I will teach at the Nashville Zoo in the time before I leave on May 28. Here they are:

Kids Photography Class (KPC) – Wed 4-Apr –
Teen Photography Class (TPC) – Thu 5-Apr
Adult Photography Class (AAP1) – Sat 14-Apr
Advanced Adult Photography Class II (AAP2) – Sat 19-May
Adult Photography Class (AAP1) – Tue 22-May
Advanced Adult Photography Class II (AAP2) – Wed 23-May

You can book the classes directly at


EYES images (ICT #2)

Image Creation Technique #2

One of my favorite methods to turn a realistic and natural image into a more “artsy” object is by turning it into an EYES portrait.

My definition of an EYES portrait is a picture where the eyes were left in the original color and the rest of the images is turned into a black and white image.

Here are the steps I usually use to accomplish this (this can be done in Photoshop, Paintshop Pro and many other image editing programs).

1. Crop the image to your liking and save it under a new name (This is to ensure that you do to overwrite the original image 🙂
2. Copy the complete image onto the windows clipboard
3. Create a new top layer (raster) and switch to that new top layer
4. Paste you complete image to the top layer
5. Hide the top layer
6. Switch to the background layer and adjust brightness and contrast so the eyes are as you want them
7. Unhide the top layer and switch to that layer
8. Turn the top layer into a black&white image (also adjust contrast and brightness to your liking)
9. Create a new masking layer
10. Unmask the eyes with the eraser tool (which will bring out the color from the background layer)
11. Save your image (and produce a JPG or other format as required)

These EYES images look particularly well on canvas or on metallic paper.

Here is a link to some of my EYES pictures:

Please feel free to make comments or ask any questions (either as comments on the blog message or as emails to

Note: Photography Classes or Private Photography Lessons with Christian Sperka are available at Nashville Zoo at Grassmere –

Information about the two images used in this blog:
The Leopard image was taken at Londolozi Private Game Reserve in South Africa (during heavy rain :-).
The Boehlen’s Python images was taken in Nashville, Tennessee, USA (she is part of a private collection).

Green Hills News Today

Today a two page article about me and my work has been published in the Green Hills News and seven other local newspapers in Nashville, Tennessee, USA.

If you would like to read the article go to pages 20 and 21 of the online version of the paper at

The article was written by Brenda Batey, Social Editor for The News.

Wildlife Photography – Rules – That’s It

Wildlife Photography – Nine Basic Rules

In last few days I have posted my nine rules of wildlife photography.
Click here to view them all!

I am convinced that if you observe these rules you can take some great animal pictures. They work in the wild, in zoos and with your pets.

If you have any animal photography related question please post it as a comment to this blog message. I will try to answer all inquiries with a special Wildlife Photography Q&A blog message.

Wildlife Photography – Rule Number 9 – Eliminate fences

Wildlife Photography – Rule Number 9 – Eliminate fences

When you deal with a fence between you and your subject get as close to the fence as possible without touching it (legal moves only, please :-). Extend your zoom to the largest tele setting and open the aperture full. The ideal situation is for your subject to be in the middle between the front fence and back

No Fence?
Yellow-billed Hornbill at Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, Nashville, Tennessee, USA

Wildlife Photography – Rule Number 8 – Avoid flash – use a flash-light!

Wildlife Photography – Rule Number 8 – Avoid flash – use a flash-light!

I do not like flash pictures. They are mostly flat and have no depth. In wildlife photography you have seldom the time for good flash setup (with multiple flashes). I’d rather use higher ISO and try my luck without a flash. A standard, handheld flash-light can help producing a glint in the eye of an animal and lighten up a dark corner.

Leopard Girl!
Small female Leopard at Londolozi Private Game Reserve, South Africa

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 7 – Get down there!

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 7 – Get down there!

If you want tension in your pictures you need to get on eye level of your subject or even below. I find myself often laying flat on the floor when shooting in zoos. Many exhibits are below the observer. Good for observing, bad for photography!

Eye Level!
Corn Snake or Red Rat Snake (Pantherophis guttatus) from a private collection. Nashville, Tennessee, USA

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 6 – Higher ISO – a friend?

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 6 – Higher ISO – a friend?

With animals you need short exposure times. I very rarely use a tripod, sometimes a monopod. Most of the time I shoot without any support with fairly long lenses (300-500mm) – animals move – so we need to as well!

Short exposure times are crucial.  With full aperture set, I am not afraid of using higher ISO (800-1600 or even above). Especially in decent light conditions the results with modern digital SLRs are not bad. Better to have an image with a little more noise than a picture out of focus.

Hunting Mode
Lioness hunting at dusk. This picture was taken with a setting of ISO 3200 at Phinda Private Game Reserve, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa.

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 5 – Learn how to over- and under-expose with your camera!

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 5 – Learn how to over- and under-expose with your camera!

Your camera is smart, but not smart enough. Once you have your standard settings only concentrate on one adjustment while you are shooting. If the object you are interested in is much darker than the surrounding you have to over-expose. If the object is much lighter,  you will need to under-expose. This takes training; so get out there, make some exposure mistakes and learn from them.

An African Elephant bull waking in a straight line towards a waterhole.
This picture was taken at Etosha National Park, Namibia.