Next week many people will have a little extra time off for the holidays and hopefully be enjoying family, friends and some seriously good food. Just remember one thing…take a few photos during the break! Use some of that free time to go to your local park and just photograph what appeals to you. No rules, no end use, no right or wrongs, just shoot. Who cares if you throw them all out? When I’m working in the office I regularly take a few hour break and take one camera/lens, and go out and shoot. Just going through the motions, thinking in a creative space, practicing camera craft…this a good thing. As I say on all my workshops, the process is as important as the end result. You might get a great shot, or nothing at all. But your creative self is excercised for a few hours, and this will help your photography down the road. Happy Holidays!
Tis the season to be shopping! Many companies are offering sales right now, here are just a few to help with your shopping for the holidays!
Elinchrom. I use Elinchrom lighting gear all over the globe on shoots, and it performs perfectly. I love the new ELC lights…and they are on sale!
KelbyOne. These guys are great, and they are the leader in photography training videos. A new video ever week will keep you busy during the winter months!
Lensbaby. I have been using a Lensbaby from the earliest versions, and they are just plain cool! These days I find myself using the Composer Pro with Edge 80 optic. I love the miniature effect!
Lowepro; My favorite travel photography backpack is still the Flipside Sport 20L. This pack can carry all my gear, has a great suspension system, and has room for my Macbook Air. The rain cover keeps things dry when it get nasty out. Many of their packs are on sale now.
Manfrotto. My lighting gear wouldn’t be complete without Manfrotto. And if you are looking for a new tripod, check out these deals.
Nikon. Yep, you can never own enough Nikon gear. They just keep coming out with great cameras and lenses. Lucky us, they have great sales right now on lots of gear, check it out!
Really Right Stuff. I counted on a recent workshop how many participants were using RRS plates and head; 75 percent of the group. Need I say more.
Singh-Ray Filters. I always have Singh-Ray filters in my bag, especially a polarizer and a 10 stop ND filter. These filters have resulted in some of my best landscape images. Great gift idea.
On my recent road trip I had a chance to stop by one of my favorite places to photograph birds, Bosque Del Apache. 40,000 Snow and Ross’s Geese, 10,000 Sandhill cranes, and countless waterfowl are currently at the refuge. What makes Bosque so special is in addition to the concentrations of birds, photographers have incredible access and New Mexico flaming sunsets to boot.
The refuge is accessed by driving a dike road around the various ponds and fields. The birds are used to photographers, so you can photograph them right along side the road. These birds winter here before heading north in the spring.
One of the special moments at Bosque is when the birds erupt in the morning and take off to feed and roost in other areas. It is hard to describe the sight and sound of thousands of waterfowl flying across a crimson sunrise.
Next December I am teaching a workshop there with ANPW. In addition to Bosque we will visit White Sands for a few days of landscape shooting. Come join me for some of the best New Mexico has to offer, this trip is sure to fill up.
Star trails are just plain cool, and with the incredible noise performance of today’s cameras, all you have to do is point and shoot. One technique involves shooting around ISO 3200, 25 seconds at F4…this should put you close to the correct exposure without any star movement if you are using a wide angle lens.
The other technique is to shoot a long exposure, 45 minutes or longer, and create star trails. I like to locate the north star as a rotation point, and also include the landscape in my image to create a more interesting composition. There are two ways to shoot the long shot; one long exposure or stacking shorter exposures to create a similar effect. The advantage of the long exposure is all you do is lock open your shutter using the ‘bulb’ setting and a cable release. Turn on your long exposure noise reduction and take the shot. With in camera noise reduction set, your camera will process the image as long as the exposure…so a one hour shot will process for an hour (two hours before you get to see the image). With the incredible noise performance of cameras, you should get a great image.
The second technique is shooting multiple short exposures and stacking them together in photoshop or using third party software. The advantage is you have less noise in these images, and you can also do some cool processing techniques when you stack the images together. The image above was stacked using Advanced Stacker Plus in photoshop, using the ‘Comet’ method. This adds a comet effect to the final image. The mountains were illuminated by the lights of Las Vegas.
I just returned from a 2600 mile road trip with some fantastic photography. I spent most of my time in Red Rocks near Las Vegas photographing rock climbing. I’ve been rock climbing for 35 years, and it is still my favorite sport. Both my wife and I used to guide climbing, and now our son is tearing it up…nice to have a rock climbing model on hand 24/7!
Since climbing is rough on camera gear, a question came up at the crags which is one I hear often; do you use a UV or Skylite filter to protect the front element of your lens? The short answer is it depends. The issue is how much image quality is lost using a $50 dollar filter in front of a $1000 lens? Honestly I think this is minimal for many images, except those like sun stars where the front filter can cause flare. I normally shoot without a protective filter unless I feel like my lens is going to get some rough treatment and I always have my lens hood on to help protect my lens. I’ve seen many lenses saved on workshops because the photographer had a protective filter on their lens.
Rock climbing qualifies for rough treatment, and I didn’t have a front filter on….yep, I scratched the front element of my trusty 24-120mm lens. When you are dangling around on ropes, it is hard not to bump into the rock face while shooting. I’m not too distraught, I’ll keep using the lens despite the little nick. Eventually I’ll have Nikon replace the front element. In the end you have to decide; in my book it depends on the shooting situation.
Just returned from a great trip to Yosemite with the Mentor Series. The valley had great fall color, mild weather and no crowds. And I was reminded of a journalism truth…always have your camera ready.
I stepped out of my room one day and ran right into a bobcat. Close enough I could have touched him with my extended Gitzo tripod. I’ve searched for bobcats high and low, found a few, but never had one out in midday right before me. I sprinted back to my room, grabbed my camera and was able to get a few shots before he wandered off into the woods. Keep the camera handy, you never know what you will encounter in your travels.
I just returned from photographing eagles in Haines Alaska on a ANPW trip. We saw a variety of conditions and hundreds of eagles. The eagles continually flew by and fought over fish creating some great action images. But the challenge was autofocus, especially on birds flying past. I shot a lot of 9 point dynamic autofocus with my D4 with good results. But if you own a D810 or D4s, you better try out group-area auto focus. This mode beat all others in acquiring and focusing on moving birds.
This mode works by activating 5 spots in a diamond pattern inside the viewfinder. Simultaneously all points try to acquire a moving subject, giving you a larger area for acquiring the subject. The results were stunning..eagles flying head on right at you were tack sharp. I’m hopeful other Nikon bodies will use this mode down the road, very useful for the sports or wildlife photographer.
Carrying a large lens like the 500mm is always a challenge. They come in bulky hard cases that aren’t the best choice to check at the airport. Most photographers like to carry their camera gear with them onto the plane, so that presents a challenge; what to do with the big lens? I’ve seen homemade PVC tubes with foam used to pack the lens, and then putting it into your suitcase to check as normal luggage. On the flip side I have seen photographers just hand carry their big glass right through the airport, and put it below their seat on the plane. Many roller bags like the LowePro X200 can hold the 500mm and can be stored in the overhead compartment (this gets heavy). After many experiments, this is how I carry big glass onto the plane.
First, I pack my camera gear into my LowePro X100. This has been my trusty bag for travel all over the globe. If I am not taking big glass I often take out the padded insert and put my Flipside 400 inside loaded with gear. Nice to have wheels through the airport, and then just open it up and pull out the Flipside for a terrific photo backpack at my location. With my camera gear packed in the X100, I put my 500mm in an Osprey Torque carry bag. This is a padded shoulder bag that holds the 500mm F4 perfectly. The advantage of this system is first I can easily store the Torque/500mm under my seat if overhead space is tight. Or in a worse scenario I have to gate check my roller I can still carry the 500mm with me onto the plane…it easily fits in small regional jets. This has happened frequently, and I have not had a problem gate checking my roller, plenty of protection and a lighter bag…so the bag guys don’t have to ‘throw’ it up onto the belt. Splitting the weight up also makes it easier getting my roller into the overhead, about 9 pounds lighter without the lens.
Clamshell lighting is very popular for beauty lighting, and with good reason. Models appear luminescent and glowing, and shadows are minimal if visible at all. One way of producing clamshell lighting is using a large soft box above your model, and a reflector below your model to bounce the light back up. But not all reflectors are the same. I use a Lastolite Trilite Reflector for my clamshell lighting.
The Trilite is made up of 3 separate reflectors (silver or white) that bounce light back onto your model’s face. This unique reflector creates three bright highlights in the eyes for a very specular look. Recently I had the chance to photograph Olivia, a high school student, during one of my wife’s photography classes. Olivia’s beautiful skin tone glowed with this reflective light, creating the soft mood in the portrait at the top of this post.
I recently returned from a spectacular week of shooting in Sedona teaching on a ANPW workshop. Everyday brought amazing light, rosy sunsets and stunning clouds. I have shot a lot in Sedona, so I decided this trip I would endure the 50mm exercise. What is this you say?
When I taught college photography classes, I loved the fact that I had the students all semester. This meant we had time to really explore concepts, techniques and creative styles. One of the first exercises I had the students do is shoot with a fixed 50mm for one week. This assignment was met with groans of displeasure; how could they get anything good with a 50mm? No zooms, super wide angles or fisheyes, just a simple 50mm to record the scene.
If you have journalism roots like I do, you know fixed lenses have ruled the profession for years. Award winning images are shot on fixed lenses like the 50mm. So really what happens when you only use the 50mm is you have to change how you shoot, and try different things. Perfect! That is how you develop your creativity…try something new, not doing something you do all the time.
I roamed the desert looking for angles with my 50mm. I had to walk right up to some subjects; try photographing people with the 50mm. You have to make contact, establish report, and hopefully record an honest moment the 50mm interaction creates. I found shots in Oak Creek I had never seen before when I used my zoom lens. I’m not leaving all my beautiful zoom lenses behind, but using the 50mm got me thinking outside the box in a familiar location. Try the 50mm exercise on your next shoot, you might just get an image you never imagined.