Photography On Location

Angle of view

January 10th, 2017

Cuba

Cuba


One question that recently came up on a trip to Cuba was how to deal with busy street scenes. Or, in other terms, how to clean up the shot. One simple answer to this question is change your angle of view. But what does that really mean? Imagine this scenario. You want to photograph part of a old car on a busy street in Cuba, but the background and sides are busy with daily street life. You could just zoom in from your position, but this would change the size of the subject. A better solution is move your position by walking back or forward. This will change your angle of view, but you can keep you subject size the same.

24a
Here are a series of images to illustrate this concept. The image above was taken with a 24mm lens at F4. With this wide angle I am getting all sorts of clutter in the background and to the sides.

50
Here is what happens when I move approximately twice the distance (I moved from 5 feet to 10 feet away) from the subject and shoot at 50mm at F4. The subject is basically the same size, but I have narrowed my background down and changed the bokeh quality.

105
Next I put on my 105mm, roughly twice the focal length of my 50mm, and moved to approximately 20 feet away. Once again the subject is the same size, but the background in more narrow and more blurred.

300
Finally I put on my 300mm and shot at F4 even further away, but with the subject size the same. Now the angle of view is very narrow and the bokeh quality very different. Going back to the car on the street, by moving my position I can control how much of my background is in the image by narrowing the angle of view. And I can affect the bokeh quality as well. It is easy to stand at your tripod or zoom from your position, but don’t forget basic camera craft. Move your position to change your angle of view and bokeh.

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When to use Auto ISO

January 9th, 2017

Bosque Del Apache, NM

Bosque Del Apache, NM


I know I have said this before, but new camera technology continues to give photographers more tools than ever to ‘getting the shot.’ I shot film bodies for years, and honestly, not much changed. Frame rates got better, metering slowly improved and films evolved. I mean it was a big deal when Fuji introduced Velvia in 1990. The colors were amazing, rich and saturated, and all was well for landscape shooters. But at ISO 50, can you imagine shooting that today? I roll through my ISO settings continuously during my shoots. ISO used to be the set variable, and exposure was affected more by aperture and shutter speed. Now all three play equal parts in the exposure triangle. Why? Because high ISO performance has gotten so good. Most cameras can easily shoot at ISO 1600 with excellent results. And I regularly shoot at 3200 and higher with publishable results.

One camera setting that has gotten popular with better ISO performance is Auto ISO. Basically, you go into your camera menu, set the maximum ISO and minimum shutter speed values, and let the camera adjust the settings based on your aperture and shutter speed. Auto ISO works great for wildlife shooting when you want to keep a certain shutter speed, say 1/1000, to freeze the action. Here are the times I like to use Auto ISO:
-fast action wildlife shooting
-fast action adventure sports
-fast moving travel photography..i.e. walking through a contrasty market.
-handheld shooting to maintain a certain shutter speed.

Just to clarify, these are the times I turn Auto ISO on in my camera. Normally I shoot in Aperture mode and manually select my ISO. But why not use Auto ISO all the time? You could use it a lot, but here are some reasons to consider not using it all the time.
-using flash; Auto ISO tries to compensate for exposure shifts you want to make, and causes a lot of confusion in lighting classes. When you want manual control of your exposure, turn off Auto ISO
-deep shadows; noise shows up in shadows and dark skies more than anywhere else, and these are scenarios you may want exact control over your ISO, especially scenes that are not fast moving.
-on a tripod; I will set my ISO at my default setting, usually ISO 100, for many of my landscapes. It may be very low light, and Auto ISO might choose a higher ISO for the shot which isn’t necessary and could produce more noise.

The good news is that we have great images using ISO 1600 and higher. Whether you choose to use Auto ISO or manually select the ISO in the field, we get great results. Consider trying out Auto ISO on your next wildlife shoot. I just returned from Bosque Del Apache, and Auto ISO worked great with the changing light.

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Live view composition

December 23rd, 2016

hatss
Here is a quick travel photography tip: you don’t have to look through the viewfinder to take a picture. How many times have you walked through a market browsing the goods and taken a few snapshots. And that is what they are, snapshots (I’m done it many times!). Instead, look at the objects on the table, and try to figure out the most graphic angle. Many times this can be achieved by holding your camera directly above the objects. If you have a tilt LCD screen, then you could use Liveview to help compose the shot. If you don’t, just use a wide angle lens and shoot numerous images holding your camera over the objects. Autofocus should work fine, and one image will look good.

Take the hats at the top of this post. In Cuba a few weeks ago I was walking through a market and saw these classic hats. The round shape and repeating pattern was best illustrated by shooting directly from above the hats. Try this technique out, and remember, you don’t have to be looking throughout he viewfinder to take a shot.

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Holiday gift ideas!

December 16th, 2016

valleyv
Hard to believe but this is the last weekend to holiday shop, or order online and still get your gift in time. I have been using some great new accessories that would make a perfect gift for the photographer on your list, so here are five photo gift ideas. Some inexpensive and others expensive. But your photographer will be happy!

1. Singh-Ray Mor-Slo 10 stop ND filter. The image at top was taken with this filter. This ND filter is about slowing down moving clouds during the day, or slowing water down as well. What is nice is you just order the size that fits your wide angle lens, and call it good. You can shoot at 1 1/2 minutes in bright sun, and much longer when the storm clouds roll in. Or imagine slowing down moving people and cars on your next European trip. $350.

cigar-copy
2. Rogue Flashbender 2 XL Pro Lighting System. This handy reflector doubles as a soft box with a diffusion attachment, a snoot or a bounce card. Also, a strip grid is included (see my recent video for Rogue on their website) to control the light with portraits. A great item for any photographer. I used my snoot for travel (see cigar photo) and the softbox for portraits. $99

3. Nikon SB5000. I have used almost every flash Nikon has introduced for the last 20 years, and their latest speedlight, the SB5000, is incredible. Compared to the SB910, this flash is smaller, more powerful, faster (recycling) and can use a radio wireless signal from the D500/D5 (and no doubt future cameras). The SB5000 is compatible with other Nikon cameras like the D810 using an optical wireless signal. I have been using these lights extensively; they are excellent…but not cheap. $600

4. Streamlight Stylus. Here is a great stocking stuffer. This little flashlight is the perfect tool for light painting portraits and small objects. The Stylus comes is a variety of colors, and you hardly know it is in your photo pack. Imagine light painting that fishing buoy on the beach, or the flowers in your hotel room. $14

5. 50mm prime lens. If you want to experience all the benefits of using a prime lens, but don’t want to pay a fortune, then but a 50mm F1.8 prime lens for your camera. These lenses cost around $200, a great value with excellent performance. I bring my Nikon 50mm F1.8 with me on ever trip. It is very lightweight, offers incredible bokeh shooting wide open, and is a terrific street lens. Try a few portraits at F1.8 to see what the beautiful bokeh background prime lenses offer. If you already have the 50mm, consider an 85mm. My favorite portrait lens is my 85 F1.4, and the 85mm F1.8 is also excellent and a lot cheaper.

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Polaroid Revival; Lomo’Instant camera

December 15th, 2016

pol
The holiday season is here, and there is a great option for the travel photographer on your list; an updated version of the venerable instant Polariod camera. Why go retro? Have you ever seen how touching it is watching a remote villager see their own photo for the first time? Or how excited kids get when you give them a shot of them with their best friends? Being able to give instant pictures to people in your travels is a great ice breaker, a kind gesture, and you might get some incredible images when they see their shot.

lomo
There are numerous instant cameras and mini-printers on the market. I wanted a camera, not a mini-printer, and after some research, I went with the Lomo’Instant. Unlike many of the competitors, this camera had a lot of features I wanted. First, it had flash, which you will need for shooting in low light situations. Next, the camera has exposure comp. If your image is too dark or light, you can manually use exposure comp to get the right exposure. Focus is simple, you are either moving the lens for a close shot (less than a meter), or you are shooting for everything else. You can adjust aperture from f16 (the default) to F8 using the wide angle lens. The camera also offers a long exposure Bulb setting, multiple exposure for creative effects, and a small selfie mirror on the front. The Lomo uses Fuji Instax Mini film, better quality than some other instant films on the market. The camera produces a credit card sized print. You can also buy accessory lenses and gels. The camera sells for around $100.

A few notes on using the camera. If you shoot in cold weather, it will take the instant film 3-5 minutes to fully develop. The flash can miss exposure in bright daylight, I just used available light. And one more point…you need to hand check the film at airports or it will streak if it goes through an X-ray machine.

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Speedlight lighting in Austin

December 14th, 2016

austin_2017_2_300x250
A number of folks have asked me if I teach lighting classes, and the answer is yes! My scheduled lighting class will be in Austin Texas in March with the Mentor Series. These classes focus on speed lights, and are loaded with class sessions, critiques and shoots with models. The techniques you learn apply across many styles of photography including travel, portraits and landscape photography. Check out this fun workshop here!

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Everyone is a photographer with camera in hand.

December 1st, 2016

Tucson, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona


Recently Scott Kelby came to Denver to do a full day talk, “Shoot Like a Pro, Reloaded”. Naturally I decided to go visit and heckle Scott from the back row. I do training videos for KelbyOne, and have had some fun times shooting with Scott. Sitting in the audience it was a pleasure to see how polished Scott’s presentation was; he had the audience fully engaged for hours. I always love watching other educators do their presentations to see what tips I can pick up.

Scott said one thing during the presentation that really made sense to me. We all know photography has both creative and technical aspects, but it often seems today the technical might overshadow the creative. Everyone likes to talk gear, editing, histograms, apps…these are things that help us achieve our creative goals. But Scott said “when you pick up a camera, it doesn’t matter what your profession is, you are now a photographer, an artist.” Forget about that other stuff, use the LCD preview to see your PHOTOGRAPH. Don’t get caught up in all the technical. His statement reminded me of something I mention during my composition class; “Don’t let the technical inhibit the creative.” Or as Pablo Picasso said, “The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.” Go out and shoot, develop your creativity, and focus on the photograph.

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Rogue Flashbender 2

December 1st, 2016

Fort Collins, CO. mad hatter portrait.

Fort Collins, CO. mad hatter portrait.


I have been focusing on speed lights recently, especially with the release of the radio wireless SB5000 (incredible flash). I have been using a lot of Rogue flash accessories to create my images, especially the Flashbender 2 XL. This is a very versatile accessory; you can bounce flash off it, add a diffusion panel to make a soft box, roll it into a snoot, or even use it to flag unwanted light. Take a look at the their instructional videos here.

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Cyber Monday deals

November 27th, 2016

ssingh-ray

If you are looking for some good deals on photography gear and software, start shopping now. This weekend and Monday numerous companies are having great deals. One item I noticed was Singh-Ray filters. If you haven’t tried shooting with a 10 or 15 stop ND filter on your last trip, you don’t know what you are missing. Imagine fast moving clouds during the day shot at 4 minutes. This is easily accomplished using this filter, and the effects are incredible. Numerous software companies are offering their suite of applications at huge discounts. Interesting in some photography or Lightroom training. KelbyOne is offering big discounts. If you are shopping for yourself or a photographer on your list, don’t miss all the deals that are being offered right now!

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Portraits in the snow

November 18th, 2016

e2smmm
The last thing most photographers want to do is go out in the snow in a howling snowstorm. Not only are you going to be frozen, but your gear is going to get wet, and if you are photographing models, they probably aren’t going to have a great time. If you are shooting adventure sports, then no problem, that is the norm for many shoots. But what about a model in a dress standing in a blizzard. That is another story.

Yesterday we had our first snowstorm of the season, and that was what motivated me to do an urban shot in downtown. I’ve found that the more reasons I come up with not to go out and shoot, chances are good the photo is going to be great. Why? Because no one else is doing it, and I probably don’t have many images similar to the one I would create. For this image I used two important items. First, my lens was the incredible 35mm f1.4. This lens is my favorite street and environmental portrait lens. And shooting at 1.4 always gives me incredible bokeh. The only trick is don’t put your subject to close to an edge where distortion at 35mm might stretch out the features of the your model. Second, since we were moving around a lot to avoid the wind and heavy snow, my lighting setup consisted of a SB5000 and 1 large (32″) umbrella. I attached my flash and umbrella to a Lastolite Triflash bracket, and used this to hold my light. I shot in TTL mode with my flash, and after dialing the flash down 2/3 stop, I got good exposures the rest of the shoot.

The snow adds a terrific atmospheric effect. The flash pops the snowflakes, making them more apparent and adding to the tension in the shot. The model, Ester, was a rock star. Despite standing in the howling snow at 25 degrees in a light dress, she acted like it was a summer day. Gotta love those tough Colorado kids.

The next time you see snow in the forecast, start planning your shoot. Whether it is landscape, adventure sports or portraits, snows adds a dynamic element to your image.

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