A lot of my work involves traveling to foreign countries and living in remote places. My job is to become invisible and get close to people and wildlife, so I can bring their stories to life. It’s no different being in my home state of Montana than it is being in a country ten thousand miles away. For me, the intimate moments always matter the most.
Photography has been my passport to meeting people, learning, and experiencing new cultures. I want to talk about the methods and sensibilities I use to bring back powerful, story-telling images without getting hurt in the process. Here are the top ten rules that I live by.
Read everything you can about the place you’ll be visiting, especially local newspapers and social media. Local stories that may not reach the large international papers give me clues about what’s really happening in a place. Establish relationships before you even get on the plane. Make a point of befriending other photographers and sources. Nothing is as valuable as another photographer who has been there. I like to use social media to meet people, or through websites such as lightstalkers.org, where there’s a forum to connect and ask questions.
In this case, the story was about China releasing the first female giant panda back into the wild. With careful planning, we were given access to create a more powerful story that showed humanity’s relationship to the Giant Panda. With some thinking ahead and planning, I acquired a more unique image.
Photographing a meteor shower is more like photographing a time-lapse than traditional still photos. You can never anticipate where or when a meteor is going to streak across the sky. In order to catch them you have to set up and take as many photos as you can throughout the night with a wide angle lens on the camera. If you leave the camera in the same position you can use the resulting images for a short time-lapse clip in addition to the still images you can capture.
On May 24, 2014 and through Memorial Day weekend, we are about to pass through a brand new comet tail. Not much is known about this meteor shower, but we do know the debris was created by a comet passing through this area of space in the 1800s. The best viewing will be in the Northern Hemisphere (Southern Canada and the continental US). As with all meteor showers it could be a dud or it could be great. The meteors will be radiating from the north in the constellation Camelopardalis and should be visible all night in the northern hemisphere.
10 tips for photographing meteor showers:
Find a location that is far away from the light pollution of major cities and towns. You can use this handy website to see at a glance where the dark skies are. Use this site as a general guide, and keep in mind that there are things like oil rigs and mining operations that don’t show up on these maps.
Get set up as fast as you can, the more time your shutter is open and taking photos the more chances you have of capturing a meteor.
Use a good sturdy tripod in order to get a sharp photo of a meteors.
Focus to infinity. This can be somewhat tricky in the dark, so a good way is to pre-focus the lens when the sun is up and tape the focus ring with gaffer’s or duct tape so it won’t move while you are moving around and setting up shots. You can also focus on the moon (if present) or a bright star, or use your camera’s live-view function. Obtaining accurate infinity focus is critical.
You will need a wired cable release (just a simple cord with a locking shutter release button). Set your camera to the
Make Way GITZO… Induro introduces the Grand Series of tripods!
A new chapter has begun for nature photographers around the world. Induro Grand Series of tripods are for those seeking the highest level of stability, durability, rock solid performance and affordability. As Induro CT-414 carbon fiber tripod user, this announcement brings excitement!
8X Carbon Fiber
Newly designed Spider Flat-Top Plate
No center column
Accepts other Induro Accessories including a leveling base
Ratchet style top-plate locking lever
Three independent leg positions
Extra-large top plate hook for backpacks and other accessories
Deluxe backpack style carrying case (will hold a gimbal style head attached)
Tool kit included
Other models available
Induro CT404 Grand Series – Ideal for up to an 800mm f/5.6 lens with a pro-body and flash system mounted.
New Spider flat-top Plate Design:
The new Induro CT404 carbon fiber tripod includes a new spider flat-top plate designed to create more stability and solid performance for those using long lenses. The flat-top base also includes a new ratchet style locking mechanism which allows you to secure the top plate with ease. The top plate can be remove and replaced with Induro’s new leveling base if you wish. I personally don’t use it but is good to have the option available.
Key Specs: (Full specs below)
Induro’s maximum load weight recommendation for the CT404 is at an amazing 61.7 lbs. which is plenty of support for most wildlife photographers and videographers. My Canon 800mm f/5.6 L IS lens attached to a 1D MKIV, Flash Brackets and Gimbal feels stable and rock solid without sacrificing height.
The CT404 comes at a maximum height of 67.9 inches and weighs 5.9 lbs. almost a half-a-pound lighter than my current CT-414. The tripod also folds down to 25.4 inches which can be easily carry on a domestic airliner.
You can shave even more weight by replacing the new socket-style feet which I’m not a big fan of, not to mention they are heavier compared to the older style feet which I like. I simply grabbed my older CT-414’s feet and installed them on the new CT404. It’s a direct fit and is easy to replace. If you don’t have an older Induro tripod laying around, you can purchase these parts separately. The tripod also accepts Induro’s stainless steel spikes. I highly recommend replacing them.
May 8th, 2014 by Gary J. Barragan | Photography - Blog
A few weeks ago, Adobe delighted the photography world with Lightroom Mobile. Having been introduced to a new tool for my digital darkroom I rushed to download the app to my iPad 4 and update my LR cloud to v.5.4. Much to my delight, this initial process was pretty smooth and went fairly quick, so within about 30 minutes I was creating new “test” collections and syncing them to the iPad. Now I’m sure we’ve all, at one time or another, dealt with syncing information with various devices and the frustrations that come along with it… but let me tell you, this process is seamless. Just create a collection, add the images you want in it, then click the sync box and you can literally watch them appear on your iPad via Smart Previews as the process runs. Also, whatever edits you have done in the desktop LR transfers over to LR Mobile and vice versa. So if you import your RAW files into LR with presets such as a lens correction or image enhancement, that processing will carry over to the collection on your iPad and you are essentially ready to go… essentially. From here you have two routes to go about mobile editing, you will either need to be connected to a Wi-Fi network or enable offline editing option to work on your images. Once you get past that part the fun begins.
Upon getting into the workings of this powerful little app I found that this is pretty much Lightroom Lite, and by that I mean the tools you have access to are limited… good and essential to editing, but still limited. You have an opening page with your collections listed and a few minor options, such as renaming collection or adding images from your camera roll. From there you enter the scrolling gallery then you select an image you wish
In my last post, I shared photographer David Ward’s take on making evocative images; how we should do more than just describe the landscape. We need to let others see what we think about a place, subject, or a moment in time. How to go about doing this leads to all sorts of questions, including whether it’s possible in a single photograph. Perhaps an approach that considers our mindset, goals, and what we bring to this creative process is worth considering.
Connection and Instincts
One of the things I slowly realized when I started photographing the landscape was that there was an instinctual response inside. In other words, there were conditions that just felt right to me; the light, or mood, vivid colors, or a particular subject that gave me a sense of beauty, or truthfulness about what I was experiencing. In short, I could not imagine being anywhere else at that moment. I had a deep connection, and that seemed a good reason to press the shutter. Now of course there’s more to it than just pressing the shutter—there’s the important question of how to compose the image, carefully considering what to include and what to exclude.
That is one of the most critical decisions in any landscape photograph. The more we include in the composition, the harder it gets to create balance and harmony in the picture, and hence the amount of expression it provides. This makes it difficult for the viewer to get a true sense of that connection I mentioned before. Thinking in musical terms, the degree of harmony we imbue can always be unbalanced with dissonance, or tension. That often creates mystery, or a sense of incompleteness that allows the viewer to develop their own feelings about a picture.
For example, I often use areas of deep shadow or bright highlights to add tension to an image. In other images, I try and exclude as much as possible without losing the essence of the moment, whether that’s the vastness of a grand landscape, or the feel of a dramatic sky. There’s a certain amount of ambiguity, not to be confused with vagueness, that helps move an image forward in the imagination.
There are times when you encounter a product that changes your assumptions about how things work in this world. They can be simple, like intermittent windshield wipers. I’m old enough to remember the first time I saw them in action. Such a simple solution to something that anyone who drives in the rain has to face.
At the risk of hyperbole, the MindShift rotation180° Panorama is that kind of product. I look at this pack and I remember shooting at Mesquite Dunes in Death Valley, and trying to change a lens. You learn quickly the first time you set your pack down on those dunes that the last place you want to open your pack is down low, with all that blowing sand. There’s just no way to keep the sand out of your bag. The only way to keep your gear sand-free is to keep it a few feet off the ground. But the contortions I had to go through in order to change a lens without setting my old bag down looked (and were) ridiculous. I also remember shooting in the surf in Big Sur. You’d best not set that bag down, even if you think it’s far enough back to stay dry, because there’s just no telling when a giant wave is going to come crashing onto shore. Or maybe you’re on a steep slope where you risk it all rolling downhill.
This is a bag you never have to set down in order to access your gear. Ever. And yes, the magic of keeping sand out of your pack in Death Valley or keeping it dry and safe in Big Sur is awesome. But the daily use of this pack even in “safe” places to set your pack down is the thing that’s going to change the way you shoot.
This is the second pack of this basic design from Mindshift. They took a core concept from Think Tank’s rotation pack and rethought and improved the design. Their first bag in this line is the rotation180° Professional. The Pro is the bag that I’ve watched Marc and Andy fall in love with. The thing that kept me from jumping on board was the size. The Pro version will be the perfect size for
DISCLOSURE- For the record I am a member of the Gura Gear Pro Team, and do receive bags for testing and review. However, I purchased all of my GG bags before my association began, and would happily do so for a future model.This post is not sponsored by GG. I like to keep things up front and honest, and I always suggest use what works best for you, that’s what matters most.
One of the things I rely on daily, whether heading to my local coffee shop to write, or flying to a workshop or event, is a good travel bag. In it I carry those extra but important things that help me stay sane or help me get a particular task done. A camera, a moleskine notebook, a MacBook Pro or iPad, my “never leave home without” noise cancelling headphones, maybe even a few 8.5×11 prints – you never know who you’ll run into.
Until recently I used a variety of travel bags, many of which have logged thousands of miles of travel. None has ever passed the “long-term” test for some reason or another, until I started using a Gura Gear Chobe.
Let me start by saying that I love the Chobe. Period. It’s an over the shoulder travel bag that’s light, comfortable, loaded with cool pockets, and is made of the same black sailcloth material other GG bags use.
But my favorite feature is that it can carry your camera gear in a dedicated insert if you need it, OR the insert can be removed for general laptop/business type use. The size of the bag can be adjusted to match what you carry, and this makes it adapt to your needs. Via a wrap-around zipper, it be expanded from 19 liter capacity to 24 liter capacity – hence the name.
To me that makes it so versatile, whether you want to carry a DLSR with extra lenses, a smaller mirror-less camera with lenses, or just a laptop and notebook. But for the mirror-less users out there, you can fit a complete kit in a bag that looks very inconspicuous and is easy to access, especially when you don’t need a backpack.
Just got the new Westcott 43″ Apollo Orb octabox for speedlights and I have to say it is one sweet light mod. Since there are already several good reviews of the Orb out there, instead of doing a review of just of the Orb, I decided to do a comparison of the Orb with its closest competitor, the Photek Softlighter II. Both are really nice lighting modifiers and while they have many similarities, there are a few noticeable differences as well. Let’s check ‘em out…
First off, in looking at the two side by side (please note, the pics are NOT to scale), you’ll notice that the Orb is significantly deeper than the Softlighter but the Softlighter is actually an inch or so bigger in diameter. The Orb’s face is 43″ while the Softlighter is 46″. The only benefit I can see from having a deeper box is that you might be able to get a better selection of different sized lights inside of it, but since the construction of the two are different, that doesn’t appear to be the case because the Softlighter takes the light on the front of the box while the Orb takes it on the inside, thus any light seems to work with both equally well. I also thought that maybe the quality of light would be different due to the depth of the Orb over the Softlighter, but after shooting with both, I really couldn’t see that much of a noticeable difference, however, maybe you can.
In the portraits below, you can see the effect of both mods on the subject. Both portraits were taken at f/5.6 @ 1/250 sec ISO 200 and the face of each modifier is the same distance from the subject (roughly 36 inches) and angled the same way. Both modifiers create a really nice, soft wrapping light, but the Orb appears to be much more efficient (uses less light) than the Softlighter.
To my eyes, the Orb seems to create a slightly softer light, judging this by the shadows under the model’s chin on the right side, but just marginally. However, notice the power settings. To get the exposure with the Orb, I had my
Ice Patterns, Hudson River / Olympus OM-D E-M1 , f/4 @1/60 sec, ISO 200, 40mm (effective)
“Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field.” - Peter Adams
Processing Images With Vision
A great print relies on proper processing and interpretation to achieve good tonal separation, rich gradations, sharpness, and what I like to call emotional impact. Every photograph you capture needs your interpretation, otherwise they just become a record of what you saw, not what you felt.
For instance let’s imagine you’re enjoying a serene moment at Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The light is soft and magical and the forest floor is carpeted with beautiful wildflowers of all shapes and colors, all wet with a rain shower that has saturated their colors and created a great opportunity for photography. And most importantly, you feel like this is where you want to be—you’re inspired and in the flow, distracting thoughts all but non-existent.
The camera will capture the light that hits the sensor, but that doesn’t contain your feelings and opinions about the subject. Without proper interpretation of the Raw file, how do we know what inspired you? The rain, the setting, the colors of the flower or flowers, or something else that makes you who you are? Was this just a walk through the woods and you snapped what you saw, or did you study each flower, appreciate its beauty, enjoying the wonderful gift of nature? That’s what interpretation is all about, and every great photographer from the past to the present has interpreted his/her images in a similar way.
Think Processing Instead of Post-Processing
Developing your images in Lightroom or other Raw developer is part of the creative workflow, and should not be detached or separated from the original inspiration. When we think of this as “post-processing”, I think it detaches it from the creative side of our brains, and puts the focus on the tools—in this case the software—and whether or not we’re making adjustments that are correct and/or routine. This is the main reason why I avoid presets and formulaic approaches to editing. Plus it becomes all too easy to reach for that preset and get predictable results instead of letting the image guide you intuitively.
We should really be looking at each photograph as a unique expression, and then deciding how the