Part pretty pictures, part information, part what’s going on in the photographer’s mind. I like David Noton’s witty take on photography, and he condenses several decades of photographic know-how into this easy-to-ready book.
David Noton: The Vision analyses, in a detailed and logical progression, the ways in which a successful photograph comes to be, from the formation of an idea to the moment of exposure. The way in which a photographer uses their eyes is fundamental and provides the core message of this book, with heavy emphasis on perception, composition and colour. David Noton: The Vision explains how a photographer can translate an idea into reality by using their vision, imagination and understanding. This focus on vision means that the actual cameras and hardware used are not important. The technical information and advice is delivered with David’s characteristic wit and charm and is accompanied by beautiful images and context from David’s travels around the globe. This makes the book both a useful and entertaining read.
I’m a huge fan of the Nik Collection of plugins — I especially like Color Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro and HDR Efex Pro.
The other day Kat wanted to buy a copy as a gift for someone and I knew that there must be a coupon code for the collection out there somewhere. After a lot of trial and error I finally found a coupon code that gave a whopping 15% off the price of the plugins. Give that I’d had such a hard time finding a working code I thought I’d share it here:
The other night I got to witness bioluminescent plankton doing its stuff. It truly was an amazing sight. It turned waves and ripples into a shimmering electric blue, and if you looked closely at the rocks or the shore, you could see tiny sapphire pinpricks glowing away.
It was amazing.
But it was also challenging to photograph.
I do a lot of night photography so I knew I’d need a wide aperture (I went for F2.8), a show shutter speed (I was working between 8 seconds and 20 seconds) and an ISO high enough to catch the plankton glow but low enough not to give me noise problems (the Canon 5D MkIII was happy at around 3200 to 4000 ISO).
However, trouble came when it came to focusing. Normally I shoot wide at night, but I wanted to get in close to the action with this so I shot with a Canon 70 – 200mm lens, and so I didn’t just have the option to set the focus on infinity and fire away. I had to be more specific, but that isn’t easy when you’re trying to focus in the dark on tiny glowing things.
I took three different approaches to focusing:
- Just eyeball the distance, set the focus on the lens to that distance, and hope for the best. This worked pretty well.
- Shine a light on an object and auto focus on it. Again, this worked pretty well.
- Manually focus on the plankton. This was trickier to do as the viewfinder and live view was dim.
Oh, and as always, I shot a lot, and checked the image on the live view to see what I got. I knew I might not get a chance to see this again, so I wanted to make sure that I got the shots I wanted in the can before calling it a night.
“Looks like a good place for a shot,” says Kat. I’ve learned to ignore her advice at my peril because she has a good eye for the changing landscape, and can spot subtleties that I miss.
There’s no one behind us so I slam on the brakes and come to a rapid stop in a small pull-in on the side of the road. I’m probably no supposed to park there, but I’m not in anyone’s way, and there’s a chance of a good shot, so I park up and pull out the camera.
Somewhere off in the distance I hear the distinctive two-toned call of a cuckoo, a sound that fills me with conflicting feelings. It’s a beautiful, unique sound, but as a kid I was bought up with the idea that cuckoos are evil things that chuck out the eggs of other birds. This clashed with my childhood Disneyesque views of how nature was supposed to be, but now I just see it as part of a whole.
I get the camera and tripod set up and then I notice that the sun has dipped behind the mountains and is splashing golden rays across Snowdon, the tallest of the Welsh peaks. Each second sees the scene change, as the sun continues towards the horizon and the clouds move across the sky.
I shoot and shoot and shoot, catching the rapidly changing vista before me. I know I’m going to have a lot of work ahead of me in Lightroom just finding the best shots, but I’d rather overshoot and catch some good stuff than be stingy and miss a good shot. I’m also bracketing shots too, causing the files to grow geometrically.
I remind myself to remind me of this later when I’m sorting through hundreds of shots looking for “the one.”
Mama Nature is pulling out all the stops. The light is perfect, the cuckoo is cuckooing away, and the clouds are adding just the right amount of drama to the shot.
It doesn’t get much better than this.
As I get ready to leave a splinter group from the herd of cows in the field have climbed up the steep hill to see what I’m doing, and in the process they’re snapping branches off the nearby trees. Hey cows, you’re destroying foreground interest there!
And I’m here catching this because Kat said it would be a good place to pull over.
So, what’s the moral of this tale? To be honest, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s listen to others, or perhaps it is that sometimes you can catch awesome shots from the roadside without having to travel to foreign parts or hike for miles, or maybe it’s that we shouldn’t base nature on Disney films.
Nah, scratch that last one.
I’m gonna keep this post brief and allow you to save your time to read Moose Peterson’s color psychology post.
Great read! Thanks Moose!
You can do a lot in Lightroom or Photoshop, but even with tools such as the Shake Reduction filter it is still nigh on impossible to recover a shakey photo. But by following one simple rule you can dramatically reduce on the number of shakey shots you capture.
The rule is a simple one – take a look at the focal length of the lens you are shooting with then use one over this number as the minimum shutter speed. So, for example, if you are shooting at 50mm, then you minimum shutter speed should be 1/50th of a second. If you are shooting with a 500mm long lens then the shutter speed should be no slower than 1/500th of a second. At the other end of the spectrum, if you are shooting with a 15mm fisheye then you can go as low as 1/15th of a second.
To hit these minimums you would adjust your f-stop and ISO accordingly.
I find this rule worth following when using a tripod if it’s windy.
The longer the focal length the faster the shutter should be. This is because the more you zoom in on an image, the more any shake or vibration shows up.
Some take this rule further and say that the minimum shutter speed should be one over twice the focal length. Now if you are shooting at 50mm the shutter speed should be no lower than 1/100th of a second, and at 500mm it would be no slower than 1/1000th of a second. A 15mm fisheye would need 1/30th of a second on the shutter if following this rule. This should give you an even sharper image, but it is harder to achieve under suboptimal conditions.
Again, to hit these minimums you would adjust your f-stop and ISO accordingly. If you find holding the camera steady tricky, then shortening the shutter speed will help tremendously.
Do you always have to follow this rule? Of course not! If you’re good at holding a camera then you might have no problems shooting with a 500mm lens at 1/250th of a second (learn to brace the camera into your body and face rather than just holding it, and press the shutter button smoothly rather than jabbing at it). Also, if you have a tripod or a lens with vibration reduction/image stabilization then you can also put the envelope of these rules.
Ideally I’d like nothing better than to be sat somewhere with dramatic scenery to catch every sunrise and sunset, and to then be on call 24/7 to record every visually awesome thing that Mama Nature delivers – if you know of a job opening like that, let me know! – but as it stands I have to be happy with catching what I can, when I can. And sometimes, things happen so fast that you have to rush to grab the camera and set up before that cool thing vanishes.
This is exactly what happened last night. I’d just come back from a walk – without the camera; sometimes it’s good to exercise the mind’s camera – and given how few clouds there were I decided to just sit back and watch the sunset.
And then Kat pointed out sun pillar. A sun pillar (you can also get a moon pillar, and even pillars created by artificial light sources) is an atmospheric optical phenomenon resulting from the reflection of the light by ice crystals present in the Earth’s atmosphere. So I run back and grab my camera bag, return, and then set up for some shots.
I had to work quick, as these sorts of things don’t hang about for long, so I chose to shoot a panorama consisting of four vertical shots. I wanted to capture the way the sun pillar dwarfed the Skerries lighthouse both in terms of size and power, and I also wanted to capture the sheer majesty of the sky and how the color of the clouds varied rapidly across the sky. It’s amazing how rapidly everything changes at either end of the day, and this is where knowing your kit comes into play – you don’t have time to be fumbling with your kit.
The individual shots were taken at F8.0 – the sweet spot for most lenses, and ideal for this since I didn’t want either enormous depth of field nor bokeh – at 98mm, ISO 100. Despite the setting sun these settings when combined with my Canon F2.8 70-200mm plus x1.4 convertor gave me a reasonable shutter speed of 1/60th of a second. I used my 3 Legged Thing tripod (which as a dodgy leg at present which I’m hoping to get fixed next week) to hold the camera rather than doing that manually as that gave me the best chance of success (there was no going back for a second set of shots if things went wrong).
I pre-processed the images in Lightroom 5 (basically busting dust spots, and enabling profile corrections and chromatic aberration removal) before exporting them into Photoshop CC to create the pano. The pan distortion was removed in Photoshop CC using the adaptive wide angle filter (it was a little tricky to get the horizon straight, but it has to be done because if it’s out by less than a degree the eye still picks it up), and I tweaked the image using luminosity mask techniques.