My Blog is undergoing some site changes, revisions and maintenance over the next few days to bring the overall look and feel of the blog more in line with my primary gallery website at www.jholko.com. There may be some older posts that require some re-formatting and/or other parts of the site that don’t look or work quite right during this period. Apologies in advance for any such problems – they should be rectified shortly. A big thank you to Luke Hall who has undertaken the development of the custom CSS for the Blog. Luke your print will soon be in the mail!
Adobe Lightroom’s Product Manager Tom Hogarty has very kindly posted a You Tube video of some of the new Lens Correction features in Adobe’s Camera RAW 6 and the yet to be released full version of Lightroom 3. These new capabilities are very exciting and I am eagerly looking forward to Lightroom 3.0’s official release. Unfortunately there is still no word on wether Soft-proofing will be included in Lightroom 3 (But I have my fingers crossed!)
I had a chance today with the Anzac day public holiday to get out and do some photography. I had been itching to try out the new LEE ‘Big Stopper‘ 10 stop Neutral Density filter I purchased a few days ago and today was my first opportunity. I set my alarm for 5:00am, crawled out of bed, grabbed my gear and headed out to the Yarra Valley in the hopes of a good sunrise and some Autumn/Fall colour. The golden colours in the leaves are just starting to peak in certain parts of the Yarra Valley at the moment (in particular in the many vineyards) and I was hoping to be able to capture a little bit of it.
There was a thick fog as dawn broke and unfortunately no sign of colour in the sky. Normally, I get quite excited when we have a fog as the photographic opportunities are usually wonderful. However, this time the fog was thick and was obscuring the colour I was looking for. I have not been able to crack a really good Autumn sunrise recently despite several attempts (I will just have to keep trying, and it gives me a reason to go back). Thankfully, the dawn fog quickly burned off in the morning sun whilst I enjoyed a cafe lat’e in one of the many Yarra Glenn Cafe’s. With the fog gone the morning had developed into a glorious sunny day with some lovely high cloud that was very photogenic.
These two photographs were shot about an hour and a half after sunrise at the Yarrawood winery (actually its the same photograph with a different crop as I could not decide which I prefer?). I scouted this location more than a year ago and had kept it in the back of my mind for its beautiful lake with the old rowing boat set against the vine yards. I used my 24mm lens in combination with the LEE Big Stopper to give me a 13.0 second exposure in bright sunlight at F8/ ISO 100. Contrary to how it might appear I did not use a polariser. The long exposure has captured the clouds streaking across the sky and has added a good deal of drama to the image. Metering with this new filter is quite easy in the field. Just meter the scene as normal without the Big Stopper in place, then slide the filter into place and consult the handy LEE exposure chart to determine the corrected exposure. Switch the camera to Manual or Bulb, set the exposure accordingly and the exposure will be correct. Its a little more fiddly than just pressing the shutter, but after a half dozen frames or so I pretty much had it nailed and could do it quite quickly. The soft mount system of the Big Stopper is very effective in keeping out extraneous light and the fit is firm and feels good in the filter holder.
One of the first tests I did with the new filter was to shoot exactly the same scene with and without the Big Stopper in place so that I could compare them side by side in Lightroom for any noticeable flaws such as a colour cast. I am happy to report as expected that there is no noticeable colour cast with this filter in place (as is the case with all of LEE’s ND and Grad ND filters). Overall I am very pleased with this new ‘Big Stopper’ filter. It provides the ability to keep shooting long after sunrise and still create dramatic photographs in the right conditions. This filter is now a permanent addition to my photographic kit and I suspect will see quite a bit of use in shoots to come.
It appears the iPad may have more use as an ‘in the field’ photography tool than I first thought. With the use of a USB SD card reader adapter the iPad can read all the normal RAW files that Mac OSX, iPhoto and Aperture can handle. This makes it potentially an extremely useful tool for reviewing work in the field. The large iPad screen would be a welcome review tool in the field compared to the cameras small LCD display and is a far better alternative to luging around a full size laptop. A demonstration of the process for ingesting RAW files into the iPad is in the You Tube Video below. Although you can inport photos directly from the card into the iPad the usefuleness as an editor for me personally is still extremley limited because the iPad wont run Adobe’s Lightroom. However, the ability to store RAW files does also make the iPad an effective back up tool when working in the field.
I decided after my recent shoot at the Pinnacles at Cape Woolamai that I needed and wanted the ability to have more than 6 stops of neutral density available to me in the field. Up until now I have stacked a couple of graduated .09 3 stop filters in my Lee filter holder when I have needed to slow down the shutter speed, or used a polariser in combination with a grad filter. Sometimes however, 6 stops just isn’t enough and I want and need more. This was the case at Cape Woolamai where I could easily have used more neutral density to slow shutter speeds even further to give me the desired effect of milky waves and ocean swells.
Thankfully LEE filters have a new product called amusingly enough ‘The Big Stopper‘. The Big Stopper is a 10 stop (expensive at $203 Australian) neutral density filter that is now part of my photographic kit for landscape work. Use in combination with a graduated neutral density filter this is going to give me up to 13 stops of neutral density; and that should be heaps!
Unlike LEE’s graduatued neutral density filters the Big Stopper is glass and not resin. It is exceptionally well designed with a soft mount system that prevents light leakage around the edges when in the filter holder. For this reason the Big Stopper must be positioned in the very first filter holder in the LEE system. Graduated flters can then be added in front of it as desired. The Big Stopper comes with a useful exposure compensation chart to help in calculating exposure times with the 10 stop filter in place. Its a simple matter of metering the scene wthout the Big Stopper, consulting the exposure chart, placing the filter in place and adjusting the exposure accordingly.
Ten stops might sound like a lot at first blush, but in reality its extremely useful for landscape photography. In both of the photographs posted below from Cape Woolamai I used a 3 stop graduated filter to both darken the sky and slow shutter speeds. The addition of a ten stop filter would have allowed the ocean and waves to go even more milky and whispy. Or, would have allowed me to open up the lens’s aperture more to an optimum aperture like F8, rather than shooting at F16 or even F22 where diffraction can play its ugly hand resulting in overly soft images. I am looking forward to trying this new filter on my next shoot.
This was one of my final frames during the sunset shoot at the Pinnacles. Although I prefer the photograph below for the lovely bit of warm light in the foreground this shot does actually show the Pinnacles in all their glory – they truly are remarkable. Technically, it was a very difficult photograph to make because the sun was setting directly behind the rock formations silhouetting the Pinnacles. There was very little in the way of overhead cloud to reflect light back onto the rocks; which meant deep dark shadows. I used a 3-stop soft graduated neutral density filter to pull back the sky and exposed the scene for the secondary highlights allowing the shadows to fall where they may. I let the very brightest part of the setting sun clip and then pulled it back in Lightroom with the recovery slider. I new I would be able to get away with this as it would only clip in the red channel making recovery a cinch. This approach allowed me to capture pretty much the entire dynamic range on the Canon 1DS MK3. I used a cable release with mirror lock-up and timed my shots to the incoming waves. Post processing in Lightroom allowed me to add some fill light and tone curve adjustments to brighten up the dark shadows and otherwise correct the image. The end result is a photograph I am very pleased with. A higher resolution version is on my website at www.jholko.com in the Australian Portfolio.
A short video from the Pinnacles twenty minutes after a very banal sunrise on Saturday morning. Apologies for the poor quality video and audio – this was shot on my pocket Canon S90 point and shoot; which was resting on a convenient boulder. The sound of the ocean overwhelms pretty much everything else, including my voice, but it gives you an overall impression of the spectacular granite rock formations and their photogenic nature. Fortunately the sunset shoot in the evening was more conducive to still photography with some great light and I got several images I am very pleased with – including the one below.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6RcRW_I3B4]
A photography visit to the Pinnacles at Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island Victoria has been on my radar and agenda for a long time. I have never photographed or even visited The Pinnacles at Cape Woolamai before, but I have seen and heard enough about them to know they were well worth a visit. I have come close to visiting and photographing the area about two years ago. I drove the two odd hours from Melbourne with my cousin riding shotgun and the full intention of photographing them, but we bailed out in the car park a mere hours walk from our destination because it was forty plus degrees celsius… and well…. a beer in the pub was more appealing.
I finally got another opportunity yesterday with another very good photographer friend of mine and we made the two hour journey from Melbourne; this time to completion. We parked at the Cape Woolamai surf rescue club after a leisurely lunch in San Remo and walked the hour or so into the Pinnacles along the beach and through the Mutton Bird rookeries in the early afternoon. The skies were clear and the sun was shinning and it was a glorious Autumn afternoon. It was one of those ‘life doesnt get any better’ moments. We arrived a full three hours ahead of sunset and set about scrambling over the rocks in search of the ideal composition. Mother nature is a fickle mistress however, and as the sun began to set we quickly realised that all our preparations were for naught and that the best solution was to go with the flow and chase the light. This photograph, with the volcanic pink granite illuminated by the setting sun was taken looking East; away from the Pinnacles. It is the composition and frame that offered the best light and for me best captures the feeling that the Pinnacles evokes. Its a truly ‘Jurassic’ location lost in time and I look forward to going back.
I was reminded this evening after downloading my most recent images from a shoot at the Pinnacles at Cape Woolamai on the Victorian coastline that it was time to clean my camera’s sensor. Those pesky dust bunnies were starting to show up in photographs at anything over F8 and at F22 it was less than pretty. Sure, its only a few clicks in Lightroom to get rid of them; but it does start to get monotonous pretty quickly and there are only so many spots you can ’sync’ between images. Sensor cleaning is a task I all to often put off and regularly procrastinate over – usually justifying to myself that I rarely shoot fully stopped down so the few dust spots that show up at F8 or so are not really that big of an issue.
Well, I was also reminded this evening of how easy and what a joy to use the Arctic Butterfly is from Visible Dust for sensor cleaning. This battery powered sensor brush complete with LED light is a wonder. And in less than five minutes and a few careful strokes of the brush my sensor is again spotless. I will try and bare this in mind the next time I consider putting off cleaning my cameras sensors.
This made me laugh – A polar bear protecting its privacy has run off with a photographer’s tripod as a group was taking pictures in the Arctic. I would have loved to see the Gitzo repair man’s face when the customer sent in their ‘bear damaged’ carbon fibre tripod for repair. Full Story
Kaikoura is a gorgeous little fishing village is located about midway between Christchurch and Picton in the South Island of New Zealand. Its a wonderful location for landscape photography and offers spectacular sunrises with its north western arch cloud formations and snow capped mountains. The combination of ocean and mountains offers stunning coastal alpine scenery that is unique in my experience. This first photograph from Kaikoura was taken after sunset and although it features neither the snow capped mountains or the northwestern arch clouds in full sunrise colour it is nevertheless one of my favourites from the few days I spent there. I used 3 stop hard graduated neutral density filter to darken the sky and a slow shutter speed to blur the racing clouds and outgoing tide. The outgoing tide and the soft blurred clouds in this photograph add a sense of dynamic movement that greatly appeals to me.
Swankolab have the darkroom of yesterday for today. From their website: “Introducing SwankoLab, a brand new darkroom kit from the makers of Hipstamatic. It’s a loving recreation of the pre-digital era classic. Choose chemicals, process photos, and experiment!”
I haven’t tried it (and probably wont) but it did make me laugh and I guess if you are feeling nostalgic and missing the old days of mixing chemicals in a dark room this could well be the application for you.
I was having coffee with a keen, but affectionately ‘green’ photographer friend the other day and we were discussing long exposures and how we both really appreciate the softness of both clouds and water that is so often introduced by long exposure photography. He asked me: ‘Since I do virtually all of my landscape photography pre-dawn and post sunset how I expose for longer than 30 seconds with my Canon 1DS MK3 camera?’ A fair question for someone new to the game since Canon digital cameras limit the maximum exposure time to 30 seconds in every mode (except Bulb). Which means without a light meter or a mathematical brain you can be in a spot of bother for working out the exposure of a given scene.
Well, I don’t carry a separate light meter, which is the obvious answer. Its not that I dont like them or know how to use one, its just that it would be yet another peice of ancillary equipment in my already over laden and overweight camera bag. As it happens, I don’t carry an exposure chart either (I am done with charts after my Scuba diving days), and since crunching numbers is not my strong point I found a more appealing solution in the form of an iPhone application called innovatively enough ‘PhotoBuddy‘. Is there no limit to the usefulness of iPhone applications?
What is PhotoBuddy and How do I use it for calculating exposure times?
PhotoBuddy is a user pays iPhone application that offers a suite of different features; one of which is an exposure calculator. Since this is not intended to be a full feature review of PhotoBuddy I am not going to delve into everything this little application offers or is capable of. Instead I am going to focus on its exposure calculator; which is at the crux of determining exposure times of longer than 30 seconds for Canon digital cameras.
By way of example, If I have arrived at my chosen photographic location pre dawn and have my camera set up on the tripod ready to shoot and my cameras meter is telling me that I need an exposure longer than 30 seconds at my chosen F-stop of F8, then all I do is open up the aperture (or increase the ISO) until I get a correct exposure reading – in this case lets say its F5 to give me a 30 second exposure in Aperture Priority. Then I just launch PhotoBuddy on the iPhone, click the exposure option, input the F-Stop that will give me a correct exposure at 30 seconds (F5 in this case). Then select the shutter speed as the value you wish to calculate and adjust the aperture accordingly to F8 or your desired aperture. PhotoBuddy automatically recalculates the new shutter speed for you – 80 seconds in this example. Switch the camera over to Bulb mode, set the aperture at F8, open the shutter for 80 seconds with a cable release and voila – a correctly exposed image – which can be quickly checked on the cameras LCD histogram. PhotoBuddy even has a built in ‘Bulb timer’, which is really just a glorified stopwatch; but it works well and even gives you a 3 second audible warning countdown for closing the shutter. Pretty neat stuff. Now if someone could just figure out a way for the iPhone to connect to the camera and automatically close the shutter for me! (perhaps the next version!)
PhotoBuddy also includes a Depth of Field Calculator, Sunrise and Sunset times, Moon phases, a Diffraction calculator and a bunch more useful features for photographers. A full PDF manual of all PhotoBuddy’s features is available online. Perhaps best of all the application only costs $2.49 Australian ($1.99 US), making it one of the most useful and cheapest photographic tools that I know of. And since my iPhone accompanies me pretty much everywhere I always have it handy and ready. There are other applications that offer this exposure feature as well and some of them may even be free; but it just so happens I like the user interface of PhotoBuddy.
By way of full disclosure: I have no affiliation whatsoever with the developers of this application. I don’t even know who they are. I purchased it with my own money after trying several other options and have not or would not accept any form of payment or gratuity from its makers for my op ed opinion piece. I just think its a very cool, easy to use application for calculating long exposures. Go forth and shoot!
In the three days we stayed at Mount Cook in the plush accommodations of the Mount Cook lodge we were up before dawn every morning to capture the best light of day. We were rewarded every morning with crisp clear cold mornings and stunning transparent alpine light. This photograph is one of my favourites from our time at Mount Cook and was taken looking into the Tasman Valley just as the sun was rising behind the mountains. Reflecting back on the time we spent photographing this area I have to smile to myself about how easy this was to photograph and how lucky we were to have such consistently clear mornings in the dead of winter. This location was quite literally by the side of the road and no more than a minutes scramble down the side of the road to the river. It just doesn’t get any better or easier. Although it is quite hard to see in this small compressed jpeg on screen, the crescent moon almost directly at the top and centre of frame adds that wonderful dimension of the transitional period between night and day. A higher resolution version is on my website in the New Zealand Portfolio.
The Canon 17mm TSE lens is one of my favourite lens’s for landscape photography. The ultra-wide angle of view combined with the benefits of a Tilt Shift lens makes for a great combination and allows for some very unique images. The big drawback from a landscape photographers perspective of the Canon 17mm TSE is that you cant use filters with it – or can you?
Well, not yet, but LEE Filters are developing a new Holder System specifically designed for use on super wide angle lenses. The SW150 Filter Holder has been designed to initially fit the Nikon 14-24mm lens, but will also be adapted to fit on other super wide lenses after its initial launch. Hopefully LEE make an adaptor for the Canon 17mm TSE; although it remains unclear if it will be possible because of the extremely bulbous front element.
The SW150 has two filter slots that take either 150 x 150mm standard filters or 150 x 170mm graduated filters. The holder also rotates, allowing greater control on the positioning of any graduated filters. There are currently no plans for a polariser for the SW150, due to the fact that the polarisation effect is too difficult to control on lenses which such a wide field of view.
The SW150 will attach to the lens via a purpose built collar. Each lens will have a collar attachment specifically designed for that lens. Custom fittings based around standard LEE adaptors ring sizes will also be a future part of the System enabling the SW150 to be used with other lenses.
I have had only very limited success hand holding LEE graduated filters in front of the 17mm TSE because of its fish eye like front element. Extraneous light and reflection is often a problem because its impossible to get the filter close enough to the front element to keep out unwanted light. Hopefully the new LEE filter holder solves this problem.
The SW150 is currently in production and should be available from LEE Filters dealers from June 2010.
As a short Addendum – Although it is possible to shoot multiple exposures in the field and then combine them for a HDR image during post processing this is not the sort of photography that I do or frankly that interests me. I prefer to try and get my exposure right in the field when I release the shutter; which means I am almost always using graduated neutral density filters in order to tame the dynamic range of nature.
This photograph was taken during the same chartered helicopter flight as my previous Mount Cook photograph. In many ways I actually prefer this shot. It has languished in my Lightroom library for nearly a year – neglected and unloved, for no other (or good) reason than it was shot at ISO1600 on my 1DSMK3. I am almost always shooting at ISO100 on a tripod, so am very used to having no noise issues to deal with during post-processing. I finally got around to processing it this evening and I am very pleased with the result. It was one of the last frames I shot that captured a truly wonderful example of Alpine Glow at its best. Seconds later the light faded and the show was over. Because of the combination of very low light levels, lack of tripod, vibration from the helicopter, and the strong buffeting winds without the doors I was forced to pump up the ISO to ensure I had a fast enough shutter speed to avoid any camera shake. The fast shutter speed ensured a good sharp capture, but with the inherent luminance grain of a high ISO photograph. I probably could have got away with ISO800 and a shutter speed of around 1/500th of a second, but I wanted to make sure there was no camera shake. The luminance noise reduction slider in Lightroom has done a very good job of cleaning up the grain. Other than a little ‘clarity’ and a curve tweak this is very much a straight photograph. A higher resolution version is my website in the New Zealand Portfolio.
This is really starting to bite deeply for me as I sit here at my desk staring at the mountain of paperwork I am supposed to be working through – Get me out of here please! With another three months or so to go before I leave for Iceland I am growing green with envy at some amazing photography being done of the Volcanic Eruption by photographers already on location. Steini Fjall has just posted his most recent shots from the eruption and there are some spectacular images for sure; both from ground level and aerial. This is other world photography in the land of fire and ice. Where is my passport…..?
The more time I spend doing wildlife photography the more I enjoy it – even when it is at the Zoo. Photographing animals in the Zoo is not as romantic or as exciting as an expedition to the Okavango Delta or the Serengeti, but it is still quite challenging and a lot of fun. The real trick with photographing wildlife regardless of wether the animals are in a Zoo or in the wild is trying to capture a special or unique moment with them. Most of the time they just lie around and frankly make for very boring photographs.
Wildlife photography in my experience is a combination of patience and luck (not necessarily in that order). You can increase your chances by shooting at times of the day when the animals are most active, by ensuring you are in the right sort of locations and of course having your camera at the ready. Ultimately however, you need a little bit of luck and just a lot of patience. Although this photograph looks as though it was taken somewhere in Africa, it was in fact taken at the Melbourne Zoo. A good trick to bare in mind when photographing animals in cages is to press your lens hard up against the wire and use a wide open aperture – this will throw the wire or bars completely out of focus and will make them disappear from the shot as is the case here. I used a 300mm F2.8L Image Stabilised lens hand held and wide open, pushed up against the wire fence for this photograph. A disagreement had broken out between the lions which ignited a brief brawl lasting only a few seconds. I had my camera ready and was lucky enough to be in the right location to capture the scene. Out of the half dozen frames I took this is my favourite. Its a unique moment between four male lions.
I think just about every landscape and nature photographer worth his or her salt is wishing they were in Iceland at the moment – me included. The recent eruption has and is providing some wonderful photographic opportunities. Each day amazing new photographs are being posted to the internet by local and visiting photographers. Christopher Lund has posted some of his recent photographs on his website that are well worth a look at this amazing natural phenomenon. There are also numerous workshops that have sprung up overnight inviting photographers to travel to Iceland to photograph the eruption including one by Seth Resnick which sounds great. Were it not for work commitments and the fact that I am already headed to Iceland in July for three weeks I would be very tempted to jump on the next plane and join in the experience. I have no idea how long this eruption is expected to continue – I am sure it is wishful thinking to hope that it is still erupting in another three months. Fingers crossed!