October 26, 2015 2:09 pm
Being in the moment – It’s March in the Pilbarra, Western Australia and day time temperatures are still hitting 35 degrees plus. Meanwhile cutely named Kermit’s Pool lies deep in the shadows, in the cool depths of the Hancock gorge system. I’d been down there the previous day but got there too late as hard shadows were climbing down the walls and creating too much contrast. So I noted the time and made plans to climb down much earlier the following day. Like many images we want to photograph, its one that I’d seen before in my research and wanted to not just photograph but also to experience and see it. Why wouldn’t you? For me that’s an important factor. The “experience ” is in many ways more important than the photograph. Taking a little time to fully appreciate the place will temper the excitement that can often force or rush the photograph. I remember being there, sitting in the cooler air listening to the sound of the water pouring over the red stone lip into the emerald pool and just pondering how this place had come to be. The more we look, the more we see. This can reveal and also present more “good ideas” when it comes to composing and also visualising the final image. Once settled, I went about taking the images from about 3 different positions at various heights. Once satisfied, I loaded my dry bag and swam across to the light on the other side. I unpacked the dry bag again and took a couple more exposures in both directions taking my time to get everything right. It is a truly remarkable place and one that rests in my memory all the better for just taking the time to watch, look and listen. The more times I visit a place then often the better the result. We become calmer and the expectation and pressure we put on ourselves is less. Then we tend to think and see more clearly, using that energy for more creative purposes. That’s my theory at least. Nikon D800E Nikon 16-35mm F4 VR lens at 24mm f13 @ 5 seconds 100 ISO Gitzo Tripod.
October 26, 2015 2:08 pm
Time to get your feet wet at Jokulsarlon – One the most exciting and productive places to photograph, the black beach at Jokulsarlon, can be quite overwhelming. New patterns and ice sculptures are created each day. After exploring the beach for interesting subjects, of which there are many, I visualised an image in my head and set about creating the photograph. To capture the dynamic of the water rushing up the beach and consuming the ice I needed to get close. Very close. If you want to see something that interests you thats what you do. Don’t stand back – get close to the action and capture it close up! With a 16 -35mm lens set at 25mm and prefocused at the hyper focal point, my exposure was pre determined ( in manual as always) at f11 @ 1.6* seconds. I attached a cable release to time the critical moment of firing the shutter and dropped the tripod to around 8 inches from the sand ( I remove the centre extension so I can always get it almost flat). With one hand on the shutter release and the other gripped firmly on the camera body strap, I quickly compose the image with a bare beach empty of surf. Then I wait for a wave sequence to appear. It’s hit and miss. But luckily if your sharp and quick you can anticipate the moment, fire the shutter and then just as the water hits your boots, pull up and step back up the beach. Without falling over. Wet feet I can live with but a wet Nikon I can’t, so as long as I’m confident and I know what I’m doing it usually comes off. Dont’t push your luck and watch out for tripping hazards behind you. Leave your camera bag 10 meters or so back behind you. I always make a point of telling my clients to get in close and low to interesting foregrounds when shooting with a wide field of view. Push the lens’ closest focusing distance to it’s limits and present the viewer with a perspective that they don’t normally see. This creates a dynamic and wow factor that will grab their attention. *1.6 seconds, this is not a random time but one that’s carefully chosen to create the right effect and movement of the water and not too long to render me knee deep in sea water. Always experiment with times to get a variety of effects on water, sometimes all you need is a quarter of a second. With practice comes experience of knowing what works and what doesn’t. Stay safe and stay dry!
October 26, 2015 10:33 am
A long shot: Spoilt for choice in Tuscany – Standing at the roadside in Tuscany early April, I could have taken a dozen exposures within 360 degrees without moving from the spot. Every image would have been a successful portrait of Tuscany. I love my Nikon 70 – 200mm f2.8 VR telephoto lens , its very sharp, quiet and it lets me hand pick the best parts out of the bigger picture. In most of my landscape work the work horse lens is usually a much wider focal length. That’s just my preference. I like detail and getting close. In the rolling hills of Tuscany it’s a different story. The twisting, rolling roads may lead you to the villages and towns perched high on the hilltops and ridges but it’s the unfolding vistas and distant villas on the far horizons that make you hit the brakes! Nothing seems close or easly reachable in rural Tuscany.So more often than not the telephoto gets left on the camera in the stop / start world of landscape photography in Tuscany. Compressing the landscape and presenting a series of subtle, tonal layers rather than creating compositions with depth and distorted perspective (as you would get with the wide glass) is the order of the day. The natural magnification of the telephoto also brings the distant villa or farm to you and the viewer, but still allows the surrounding landscape to compete for your attention if you don’t compose or crop too tight. There is no depth of field when you focus past 12 meters or so. Everything appears to be focused at infinity. Therefore the lenses aperture sweet spot can be utilised at every opportunity. Usually, in my experience 2 and a half stops up from wide open. So a f2.8 lens would have the most efficient aperture with minimal aberrations or softening at f5.8 or F6.3. With that much light entering the camera the resultant shutter speed will be higher which is preferable for hand held shooting from those awkward roadside pull ups. Its a win win. Although I do advocate a tripod at every opportunity if time allows. So that’s how it was on my first solo photography adventure in Tuscany. For my Tuscany photo tour clients the following year it seemed to be the same pattern. Picking out the best of the vistas dotted with buildings , shaded earth and grass. The landscape was often bathed in soft light as it brushed across the valley. The telephoto lens was the ideal tool for stealing a composition that combined the land, its man made features and the wonderful Tuscan light. In each direction there was an opportunity, such is the incredible beauty of this special place.