Last weekend I attended a retreat at Camp of the Cascades, near Yelm Washington. It was a short event where we arrived at 6pm on Friday evening, then departed by 3pm the next day, but I still brought my camera to see if I might be able to capture a few pics of the area. On Saturday morning, I woke up before dawn and went on a quick 40 minute jog around the lake. I brought along a Nikon D7000 with an 18-105mm kit lens and took off into the darkness with my head lamp. Along the way, I photographed the morning sky and the trees along the lake.
Although the shots from the morning adventure might not be the best I’ve ever taken, the experience was visceral. Before the morning light opened up detail in the shadows, I could hear loons rapidly flying by in the darkness. As they landed on the water, their whoosh made an eerie sound that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. A few minutes later, as I was running the perimeter of the lake, my headlamp highlighted the leg of a freshly killed deer on the trail. There was hair and blood all over the place and it was clear that a mountain lion had taken this deer within the last few hours. If the hair on my neck wasn’t standing up on end earlier, then it sure was now! My eyes darted to the left and right trying to figure out if I was in immediate danger. I found nothing so I continued on my journey while adrenaline caused my heart to race.
I never found the mountain lion, nor did I capture any shots of the loons, but I did get a chance to experience creation through my camera that morning. For me, that’s a big part of what photography is all about.
A few nights ago I had just finished up running two weeks of photo workshops in Florida and I was craving an old-fashioned American hamburger. I found this place called the Moonlight Diner near Fort Lauderdale and figured they ought to have some big ol’ greasy burgers. I’m happy to say, their double-patty cheese and bacon burger hit the spot. The waitresses were all running around with “Got Shakes?” t-shirts and spoke in the unique diner language of “honey” “sweets” and “what kin I git fur ya?”
After the burger and fries, I decided I had to immortalize my experience with an HDR image. Since I had my Nikon D700 and 24-70mm f2.8 with me, I bracketed a sequence of 7 exposures. This shot was about 45 minutes after sunset, so there was just a little bit of blue left in the sky. My goal was to include the real crescent moon in the sky, but it was hidden by the evening cloud cover. Oh well, I’ll have to come back some day and try it all over again!
Took a trip to Seattle today on the Bremerton – Seattle ferry. Had a great time with a Nikon D700 and a few lenses while taking a group tour of the Seattle Mariner’s stadium. Walking the streets was fun and capturing the iconic city locations from different perspectives was a great challenge. Here are some pics.
Do you aspire to get the photo as close to perfect in the camera or do you wonder how that photo might look if you continued processing it in software? It is an interesting dilemma and one that can never be truly answered for everyone. Many people state, “I’m a purist. What I see in front of me is what I strive to represent in the camera.” Others will say, “I’m an artist and the end product is more important than what I see in front of me.”
Regardless of your feelings on this matter, I want to encourage you to “think in Photoshop.” What I mean by this is that I want you to imagine what your photo might look like after some additional work in Photoshop or Lightroom or Nikon Capture NX2. Might it look better in black and white? How about a sepia tone? What if you simply improved the color balance just a little bit and added some contrast?
Look through the images below to see what I mean. Each photo is a different rendition of the same image. The first one is what the image looked like directly out of my camera.
My point is that you can often arrive at a much better or more interesting image after working on the file in Photoshop or Nikon Capture NX2. The simple act of playing with your images in software can open up whole new worlds of creativity for you. Don’t hesitate to think in Photoshop.
I love the sky in Tanzania. The daily afternoon thunderstorms almost alway guarantee some type of dynamic light that begs to be captured by your camera. It is easy to point your camera towards the heavens, but the challenge is to find a way to juxtapose wildlife or an austere landscape underneath those dramatic skies. This combination of amazing sky and wildlife/landscape is one of my reoccurring photo goals each time I travel to Tanzania.
Here are some attempts from our last photo safari with the Nikonians Academy.
The new Nikon D7000 camera keeps on impressing me. There are a lot of little improvements in the software that really benefit photographers trying to get the most performance out of their gear. One of these is being able to shoot a bracketed HDR burst while also using Mirror Lock-up.
Let me explain why you’d do this, then explain how to do it.
High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography involves taking a series of photos at different exposures and then blending the series together in software. Each photo is exposed at a different brightness level and therefore contains exposure data for certain parts of the scene. For example, the darkest photos in the sequence will contain data for the bright sky/clouds, while the brightest photos in the sequence will contain data for the shadows.
After you take the images, it is common to use a software program to merge the series together into one photo. Programs like Nik HDR Efex Pro take the best-exposed parts of each picture and then create one final image that has detail in the shadows, highlights and everywhere in-between.
Ok, now that you understand HDR, let’s talk about the process of taking the photos. Since the software will be merging many images to create one final image, it is important that the camera remains steady during the burst of shots. You can imagine that the photo might look weird if the camera physically moved between shots, since the software might have a difficult time properly lining up elements of the scene.
For the very best HDR photos, it is generally best to:
1. Use a tripod
2. Use a cable release
3. Use mirror lock-up
The third item in the list presents a challenge to photographers. This is because it can take a long time to shoot a series of photos while also using mirror lock up. As many of you know, mirror lock up requires you to press the shutter release (or cable release) two times for each exposure. The first push lifts the mirror and the second push trips the shutter.
Normally when you are shooting an HDR sequence, you want to set the camera to take a fast burst of photos, so elements in the scene don’t move from shot to shot. For example, if you were photographing a landscape with clouds in the sky, the clouds can actually move quite a bit from the first shot to the last shot if you don’t rapidly take the photos. In this example, the software will have a difficult time with ghosting in the clouds, creating an odd look to the image.
Enter the Nikon D7000! In Nikon’s newest prosumer SLR camera, they now allow you to shoot a bracketed HDR burst while simultaneously using mirror lock-up. This means that the camera will automatically take the entire bracketed sequence while also activating mirror lock-up before each photograph. Awesome!
The result is a fast sequence for the bracketed burst, and a stable camera as a result of mirror lock-up.
If want to automate the process, or just make it faster, then do this:
1. Set camera for M-Up (found on the shooting mode dial)
2. Activate bracketing on your camera by pressing the BKT button and rotating your command dials. You’ll want to set it so it reads 3F 2.0.
3. Press Menu button. Navigate to Shooting Menu (camera icon)
4. Choose Interval Timer Shooting
5. Set up interval timer to take one interval and three shots per interval (1×3).
6. Choose “On”
The instant you press OK, the camera will start taking the bracketed sequence, so you’ll want to already have your composition and focus set. The camera will then quickly take all three frames in rapid sequence while locking the mirror up for each one.
After you’ve completed the HDR sequence, the next step is to bring the photos into your favorite HDR program to process the HDR image. My favorite program is Nik HDR Efex Pro. It allows me to create realistic HDR images like the one immediately below, or surreal HDR images as shown at the end of this post.
In summary, I really like how Nikon keeps innovating new ideas. Even if the ideas are fairly small in the grand scheme of things, Nikon is always looking for ways to make our photography better. Allowing us to lock our mirrors up during the HDR burst is a perfect example of Nikon listening to feedback and implementing that feedback in the real world!
Below are some recent HDR pics I’ve taken with the D7000.
Took a trip down to Bend Oregon a few days ago for a family wedding. While there, our extended family went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant in the Old Mill District. The Old Mill District is a great place to take photographs and I enjoyed capturing the buildings during the evening/dusk hours. All these images were taken with the Nikon D7000 and 18-105mm kit lens – a great little setup for travel. I’m loving the image quality from the 16.2 MP D7000.
I’m really having a good time with Nik Software’s new Silver Efex Pro 2 and HDR Efex Pro. I’m loving how the software renders scenes so beautifully and with so little effort on my part. The original color photo was processed from three exposures in HDR Efex Pro. Then, I converted the image to black and white in the beta version of Silver Efex Pro 2.
I took the image a few months ago on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, USA. There is a really neat tide pool area called Tongue Point, about an 45 minutes out of Port Angeles, WA. The afternoon light was absolutely beautiful and the clouds just amazing.
I’m just about to step onto the plane for Africa but wanted to post the link for our November 2010 newsletter. Follow the link to learn about:
– Free Camera Bag Giveaway for November
– October GOAL Assignment: Shoot at Night with Ambient Light
– November GOAL Assignment: Less is More
– Digital Tidbits: Panorama Merge to Single Image HDR
– Workshop Updates
Follow the link to read our October, 2010 Out There Images, Inc. Newsletter.