Tonight I feel a bit like a mad scientist. For some unknown reason I got an itch to try something totally new in Lightroom and Photoshop. I made this image of bison grazing in the meadow at Mormon Row in the Tetons while there a couple weeks ago. Straight out of the camera the image wasn’t terribly exciting but I felt it had potential. Those of you who are familiar with my work know that my images are generally pretty straightforward. I don’t apply creative effects and I process the images to look more or less like the scene did when I photographed it. A little tweak of contrast here, add some saturation there, darken a sky now and again and do a little dodge and burning – voila, the final image appears. I have nothing at all against images that have been heavily manipulated. Photography is an art and we should feel free to create our art on our own terms.
Now, I have obviously taken some serious creative liberties with this image. For starters, my camera doesn’t make square photos. I used a fairly heavy digital grad filter to darken the sky with a heavy dose of clarity to give more separation in the clouds, added some global negative vibrance to mute the colors, made a curves adjustment to increase contrast, dodged the bison to make them stand out a bit more from the meadow, added a vignette and some “grain” – all in Lightroom 3. I exported the image to Photoshop CS4 and experimented with different blurs using the gradient tool to keep the bison sharp-ish while blurring out the background. I didn’t like the results of any of those efforts. What to do? Hmmm…
You can click on Royce's images for a larger view.
I’m mainly a landscape photographer, and I’ve been using High Dynamic Range (HDR) techniques in my work for about 5 years now. During that time I’ve used HDR on many images. In fact, I’d venture to say that HDR has become nearly indispensable to my way of working. I don’t use it for everything, and it’s not the only tool in my toolbox, but it’s a very important part of my process.
I’ve done some thinking about HDR and photography, and written about it as well as discussed it with people. I’ve also read quite a bit written by others, both pro and con. It’s now clear to me that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who love HDR, and everyone else.
(Side note – okay, okay. Really, there are two kinds of people: those who think there are two kinds of people, and everyone else. But this is about HDR and photography, not some kind of social studies. And I needed a controversial-seeming opening line.)
Elliott Peak At First Light, White Goat Lakes
When I show my images or prints and disclose something about the part that HDR plays, those who know about digital photography or post-processing frequently have a reaction like “Wow, that doesn’t look like HDR, it looks natural!” Hmm. First, thanks very much – it’s a gratifying comment to receive. It’s my intention to present art, not artifice, and I don’t want my use of technique to be very front-and-center to the visual experience. The main point should be the image itself, not the processing.
But second, there’s something else going on with this interaction. Maybe there’s an implication that my images don’t look like HDR because HDR must look “unnatural”. Just maybe there’s a feeling that there’s a little something different to my images even though they still look kind of “normal”. There are definitely some assumptions about what a “natural” or “normal” photograph is. What’s up with this?
Perhaps a few of those who know that HDR exists and don’t love it simply don’t understand it the way I do. That’s right – HDR isn’t bad, it’s just misunderstood! I don’t want to try to convince anybody to adopt something they don’t need;
This summer, I traveled with my family on a camping trip to the Bandon area of the Oregon coast. It was cold and windy, which is not unusual there but it was a refreshing break from the heat where I live. On the first evening after setting up camp, we were eating dinner in town. A thick fog had rolled in along the Coquille River, and I noticed these pier pilings mysteriously appearing and disappearing in the mist. After dinner, I spent nearly an hour photographing these piers.
Pier Pilings, Coquille River, Bandon, Oregon 2010
When composing this image, I wanted to show both the ethereal foggy mood and the depth of the posts fading out into the mist. I shuffled my camera position until I found a good rhythm of spaces between each line. This spacing accentuates the fascinating graphic structure because each space defines a post, and avoids the merging of that shape. For this image, I used the Singh Ray Vari-ND to lengthen the exposure. This technique does a great job of simplifying the overall image since the blurring “washes away” the textures of the water. To me, this heightens a feeling of the piers floating in space.
Some call me obsessive, others call me compulsive and I admit to both. Over the last decade I visited Yellowstone National Park at least a dozen times. Each time, while driving through the park, I passed a forest of ghostly trees whose trunks were bleached and faded from acidic hot spring runoff and intense alpine sun. Each time I thought, “Hey, that’s a really cool location and one day you should stop and see about making an image of the place.” I’ve had this image in the back of my head since my first visit almost ten years ago. It has gnawed at my brain for damn near a decade. Finally, a couple months ago, I decided to do something about it.
Early June, 2010 I decided to pack up my truck and head north for a two week road trip in the greater Yellowstone area. This was my opportunity to make the image I’d been visualizing all those years. It would require an overcast day, ideally some mist or fog, and a little luck in finding a successful composition. Why luck? This forest is literally right off the road. The shoulder is about a foot wide, then it drops a couple feet into a meadow that is filled with runoff from hot springs where the rangers and common sense tell us we shouldn’t walk. If you’ve ever been to Yellowstone you know that any person with a camera on a tripod attracts the attention of motorists, many of whom are driving rented RV’s that they aren’t used to driving. When your butt is hanging over the fog line and you’re peering through the viewfinder with cars and RVs speeding by, you’ve got to be a little bit lucky to find a composition and avoid becoming roadkill.
Juan Pons of DPExperience , Scott Elowitz of LensCoat products and I arranged the shoot of this rare monster lens. It's been the most popular post on our blog, and we thought we would repost it so new readers could check it out.
We get a lot of fantastic images posted to our Flickr group, so we thought we would spotlight our Flickr Fabulous Five each month. We'll pick out five great images from the postings for the previous month, and highlight them here on our blog. (Images may have been captured at another time, but they were posted to our Flickr group this past month).
Here are our Fabulous Five for August. Click on each image to go to the original photo page, where you can learn more about the photographer and see more of their images.
Have fun browsing, and post some images to the group–your image may appear here next month!
"The last thing a fish sees…" by Elizabeth Council.
"Sands of Time–Antelope Slot Canyon" by Eric Brown
"Trees of the Canyon–Yellowstone National Park" by Justin Reznick
"Tufted Coquette" by Glen Bartley
"Hudsonville Fair–Hudsonville Michigan" by Joe Poventz
This is the second part of my “Recording audio with your video DSLR” post from a few days ago.
Let's pick up where we left off…
In the original article I talked about lavaliere (or lapel), microphones as well as the microphone built into the Zoom H4n. However there is one other microphone that I use specially when shooting wildlife and that is the Rode VideoMic, this is a shotgun type microphone. These types of microphones are highly directional and are used when you want to isolate the sound that is right in front while minimizing sound coming in from the sides and rear.
In the short time I have been shooting video seriously I have very quickly learned that sound is often more important than the video itself.
To that end, I have talked to many folks about how to best record sound when shooting with a Video DSLR, and have experimented quite a bit as well. In this article I will share with you the system that I am now using and which I find is producing great results for me.
If you’ve ever studied some of the better macro images out there, you’ll see those nice clean solid color backgrounds that allow a subject to stand out, with no distractions to pull your eye away. This presentation just doesn’t happen by accident, it’s carefully planned, and not all that hard to do. Most people that sign up for my Macro Boot Camps tend to be flower shooters, so we'll use flowers as our subject matter for this post.
In the image below you see a nice patch of Dame’s Rocket flowers. When approaching a patch like this, I see so many photographers that head right to the middle of the patch to find a flower to shoot. With all the congestion of flowers, stems, leaves, this approach will only lead to a distracting background and make it impossible to get that clean shot.
For a clean shot, you'll need to concentrate your attention to the flowers at the perimeter of the patch. By finding those isolated flowers at the edges, and shooting at an angle where the background is the farthest away, you'll be able to get those nice solid color backgrounds.
Cherry Mountain and the distant Presidential Range as seen from Pondicherry National Wildlife Refuge in New Hampshire's White Mountains.
I am currently spending a few days in New Hampshire's White Mountains thanks to a couple of speaking engagements. The White Mountains are the place where I became hooked on nature photography 20 years ago. Marcy and I had just moved to Boston and for some reason we decided to give hiking a try even though it wasn't something either one of us grew up with. I still remember our first two hikes like they were yesterday – an easy valley walk into Zealand Falls followed the next day by an above-treeline adventure on Mount Jefferson. To say these hikes changed our lives is a bit of an understatement. At the time, we lived and worked in the city, Marcy in human resources and me in computer programming. Going to live music clubs and Fenway Park were our usual forms of entertainment, but after glimpsing the vast Pemgiwasset Wilderness and the world of glaical cirques and alpine wildflowers so close to home, we quickly converted to weekend backpackers and peak baggers. Within a year, I met Galen Rowell at a book signing and I suddenly knew I had a new calling in life. It took another decade to hone my skills and shake the chains of the programming cubicle, but it was worth the wait.