The blog will be suspended for a while since we’re overseas on the communist odyssey. Yes it is a trip for photography so I will have heaps of images when I come back on Feb 11th. I look forward to catching up with everyone then.
Archive for January, 2012
While I’m overseas for the next month, a new competition is running. To celebrate the launch of a brand new product, you have not one but three chances to win a framed print. These are glass free, lightweight frames featuring a metallic finish paper print. Prints are 10″ x 15″ (25 cm x 38 xm) and available for $120. All ready to hang. So what do you do?
Go to the Purely Pilbara Facebook page and Like the page. Then go to the Photo Albumn called Comp Feb 2012. You’ll see 5 images. Vote for which image you’d like to win as a Framed print. Feel free to vote for 2 images but no more. Vote for the image by Liking it. Each person who votes goes into a random draw. Three winners will be drawn – that’s right you have 3 chances (regardless of whether you vote once or twice)!
The winners will be drawn on Feb 11th and Newman winners can pick up their prints from the markets at the Rec Centre on Feb 12th. Winners from outside Newman will have their frames posted to them. Winners must have liked the Purely Pilbara Facebook page to be eligible.
The term HDR is being thrown around alot so here’s my attempt at explaining what exactly it is. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. OK, range of what? The range refers to brightness. Think about digital cameras – they capture everything as digital data. The brightness, the colours, everything is converted to numbers. A very bright object like the sun, has a high value for brightness while a dark corner would have a low value for brightness.
Imagine if every single piece of data in an image was graphed on a histogram i.e. brightness value on the x axis and number of pieces of data with that brightness value on the y axis. That’s the histogram that many cameras can display. The example histogram below shows that the image has a lot of dark areas and a very small area that is an “average” brightness. The triangle says that some areas are too bright or too dark to record any information at all. Infact this is an image of fireworks. The dark areas are the night sky and it’s perfectly OK to have areas where information is lost (data that falls off the x axis).
But let’s say you have a bright Pilbara sky (think middle of the day, no cyclone!), some light spinifex and a very dark cave in a rock wall. This scene has a big difference between the brightest and darkest things – the dynamic range is large. If you look at the scene, you can see everything with your eye. But you can’t capture it in a single exposure. Your eye can see a greater range of brightness than the camera can capture. For those that know what an F stop is, a typical DSLR can capture 9 F stops while your eye can see around 27 F stops (assuming it moves about and adapts to the scene). So two thirds of the things you can see in this type of scene, you can’t capture in a single shot.
If the dynamic range of a scene is more than the camera can capture, it is called High Dynamic Range. Techniques to deal with HDR are trying to generate an image that has a greater dynamic range than the camera can capture. There are a few techniques that are sometimes called HDR. A simple one involves shooting two exposures – one for the bright areas and one for the dark areas. The 2 images are loaded into software like Photoshop and combined using masks. This produces a single image made up of the bright areas from one image and the dark areas from another. If you do the maths, this technique doesn’t necessarily cover the entire range and can give some very unreal looking results.
In the last 5 years, software has been written that allows something called tonemapping. The photographer takes a series of exposures by changing the shutter speed that covers the entire range of the scene. It might be 2 images, it might be 5, whatever is needed. Within that series of exposures, there is a correctly exposed image for every part of the scene. What the tonemapping software does is squashes all of that data from those images into a smaller dynamic range and produces a single image (with data that doesn’t fall off the histogram). It’s very clever maths and getting a result you’re happy with is harder than it sounds. Like Photoshop, there’s lots of options of how to process the HDR image, it’s not automatically spat out of the other end.
Here’s an example – a rocky outcrop with a cave. The first 3 images show what is captured in a single exposure and the fourth is the HDR image.
When I first started using HDR software, the popular brand was Photomatix which I enjoyed using but sometimes got that psychedelic effect that gave HDR a very bad name. Nowadays I use HDR Efex Pro which is a Photoshop plugin written by Nik software. This software is promoted by Peter Eastway – possibly the most respected landscape photographer in Australia. It is very easy to use and the results are great. Personally, when I use the term HDR, I mean multiple exposures that have been tonemapped in software. It’s great for the high contrast we have in the Pilbara and even more necessary for the churches I shoot while overseas (think of the dynamic range of a poorly lit church with light coming in through the windows).
Hope that is helpful and hasn’t confused people even more!!
After the huge amount of overseas travel I did last year (think Phillipines, Thailand, Singapore, France, Italy, UAE and Prague), I’m getting smarter about travelling with photography gear. Here’s some lessons I’ve learnt the hard way which will hopefully save someone some heartache.
The most useful thing I can do when travelling for photography is plan, plan and plan!! Have a good idea of what sort of photography you’re likely to be doing and only take equipment that you really can’t live without. I do a mix of interior, handheld work, landscape and street photography. For the interiors I need a light, prime, wide angle lens (20mm) and for cityscapes, I often need a zoom. But I can live without say a 300mm prime and most of the mid range zooms.
I can’t live without a tripod but I don’t take my normal heavy duty Pilbara tripod. I have a special, lightweight one that folds down small enough to fit into my suitcase. If you’re after one, look for carbon fiber if you have lots of money, or a 4 section (the norm is 3 section) tripod if you’ve not won lotto! By 4 section, that’s how many bits the legs fold into which determines how small it packs down. I choose to not take a flash as I mainly shoot HDR and really don’t need a flash.
When flying, I never check in camera bodies or lenses – they stay with me as hand luggage. As an extra precaution, I do have camera insurance that covers me anywhere in the world and is not as expensive as I thought it would be (only a couple hundred $). No, I wouldn’t get it if I didn’t have the business but it’s always an option.
The planning is not only going to save you weight on the flight (and most international flights are down to 23kgs total if you need more checkin baggage then Emirates have 30kg limit on economy) but also time once you’re at your destination. There’s never enough time at the exciting new location so it’s really important to know where you want to go. I like churches and also night cityscapes so I read travel guides to identify where I want to go. And then I have a look at images online to see what appeals. My upcoming trip to Russia is a good example. I’ve never shot in snow so I had a good look at what sort of images, how to shoot them, what time of day, etc. And I plan my day around the golden hours (sunrise and sunset) so that I’m always at a great location for photography when the light is awesome.
I am sensitive that some countries do not allow photography in places we take for granted. Likely candidates are military or government installations and until recently, even the metro in some places. Usually airports are no shoot zones (including parts of Perth International in case you didn’t know!). And socially, certain people are off limits. Be careful if you’re a male shooting women in some muslim countries. Conversely, be aware of shooting children in countries like America. Asking first will avoid these problems of course!
One of the most frustrating things is to arrive a great place (church or museum often) only to find that photography is not allowed. Or tripods are not allowed and I’ve lugged a tripod around the city all day for nothing. Most palces have websites that detail restrictions around photography (unless it’s Italy where rules are simply signs to be ignored hafl the time!). In some places, St Petersburg is one, you have to buy a permit for photography at the ticket office before entering.
Being in the Pilbara, we’re all aware of issues around shooting in hot weather. Cold weather presents different problems. Batteries go flat extremely quickly so I’m taking extra batteries on this trip. Also got a “do it yourself” set up for keeping the camera dry using a plastic bag and some laccie bands. And I’ve bought some very good quality lightweight gloves that give lots of movement but still keep my fingers warm. (Learnt that the hard way during my days as a survey assistant. Metal objects get really cold and make you even colder when you have to hold them!).
Special shooting techniques might be required. When shooting in snow, the camera’s light meter will often give a false reading resulting in dark images or blue casts. Using the histogram becomes vitally important. Being consciously aware of the “palette” has been helpful for me. The colour palette of the Pilbara is generally red, red, yellow and a bit more red. In Prague it was all pale green domes and orange roofs. Paris/Rome interiors had endless gilt giving it a yellow palette. I’m looking forward to St Petersburg having a very neutral (white/grey/black) palette when it’s snowed. Conversely I can’t wait for the Bladerunner feel of Hong Kong especially the flouro lights around The Escalator.
Happy travels and happy shooting!
Firstly, the best tip anyone can give you as a developing photographer is to practise every second you can. Nothing beats shooting and processing as a way to develop. And of course no-one has reached the pinnacle so everyone is either improving or stagnating!
After a period of time shooting, I found I fell into a bit of a rut. A great exercise to help you move forward is to step outside of your comfort zone. My comfort zone is wide angle landscape shots during golden hour. So yesterday I took out the white lens (a 70 – 300 mm zoom) and forced myself to only use that lens. It taught me a great lesson. Often I shoot at 24 mm and crop which means I’ve been a bit lazy with my composition. I was very surprised to find many compositions with the white lens. I don’t need the entire 24mm or I haven’t moved in close enough to the subject.
So if you usually shoot in Av mode, use manual. If you usually have water as a subject, shoot some rocks. I met a photographer recently who always shot at a very high ISO so their challenge could be to only shoot at 100ISO. If you never use a tripod, grab one and see how much it affects your image composition. If you’re mainly shooting portraits, try some macro or sports shots. If you mainly compose horizontal shots, shoot only vertical. The possibilities are endless. Happy shooting!
Here’s my detailed shot.
An obvious difference between landscape and say portrait photography is that portrait photographers are usually manipulating the light or creating a new lighting environment with lights, reflectors, diffusers and other introduced doodads. Landscape photographers generally have to live with the lighting conditions of the moment. This means, I’m often getting up very early or going out shooting at very inconvenient times of the day and night. I’m also revisiting locations time and again waiting for the right light – very time consuming.
So you have to be adaptable depending on the light. Today is a great example. The sky is overcast giving very soft light. Ironically most of my photography relies on the burn of the sun and the awesome colours it produces. For today I decided to use the soft light to my advantage and do a portrait shoot of my dogs. Soft light is great for natural light portraits.It’s very flattering (for both humans and doggies) compared to the high contrast, washed out look of strong sun.
So here is with Hobi and Kaylee enjoying the dog’s life. Yes Kaylee is eating grass, I swear she thinks she’s a sheep!
There are several ways to get rid of images on memory cards including erasing images in camera, erasing images via computer and formatting the card. It’s recommended to format any card in camera before use and then to format regularly while using. By format, I mean put the card in the camera, find the format option in the menus and format the card. This is different to erasing or deleting images.
When images are erased (either in camera or by a computer), the directory structure is left in place. Formatting recreates all of the file structure. So formatting regularly can speed up the performance of a memory card.
Out of interest, I always use a card reader to download images from my card rather than plugging the card direclty into my laptop. Again for reasons of speed.
Here’s a gratuitous pet shot. First rule of photography – don’t mistake your love of the subject (Kaylee the border collie) for a good image. But rules are made to be broken!! I really am fascinated by the texture in Kaylee’s coat. During our roam at Mt Newman yesterday, there was a breeze which was quite unusual at sunrise. The breeze does a great job of highlighting the feathery nature of her coat. Yes she is wearing doggy booties but not for fashion reasons. She had lots of paw and leg injuries when we first started going bush apparently caused by running flat out on rocky ground. As she’s grown up wearing them, she just waits eagerly in the car for me to put them on and then springs like a lamb with happiness. Note the swishy tail which means she is having a ball!
By the way, I’ve just noticed that one of my older images of Kaylee is being used on the banner for Waggle who supply her booties. Kaylee is famous (sort of!).