Archive for the ‘kayak’ Tag

Friday Foto Talk: Keepin’ it Fresh   5 comments

Fog over the Forest, Rocky Mtn. foothills, Montana.

Fog over the Forest, Rocky Mtn. foothills, Montana.

It happens to all of us, and we’re usually in deep before we even realize it.  I’m talking about stagnation, burnout.  It happens in life and it happens in photography.  You’re comfortable, producing some nice shots, even a few great ones.  You got this down, right?

Not so fast!  One day you wake up and realize you’ve been in your comfort zone for way too long.  Maybe you’re not strictly bored with photography.  But you’re not happy with where you are either.  You’re simply not growing as a photographer.  If you’re not growing you’re stagnant.  And that stinks.

This is where I’ve found myself lately.  Too many landscapes.  Not too much nature, but too many similar images of nature.  I’ve been trying to get more wildlife images, and that has helped.  But it’s not often enough.  Getting back into shooting macro has also helped.  But that feels too familiar.  I needed a real shake-up.  To find out what I did, go to the end of the post for an ‘Extra’.

A duck does some early-morning grooming at Hosmer Lake, Oregon Cascade Range.

A duck does some early-morning grooming at Hosmer Lake, Oregon Cascade Range.  Shot from kayak w/600 mm. lens, 1/640 sec. @ f/8, ISO 400.

What I call a semi-abstract, this type of picture is a way to straddle the boundary (and thus break it down) between two types of photography.  I like "semi-candid" portraits too.

Shot the other day at Devil’s Lake, Oregon, this “semi-abstract” is a way to straddle the boundary (and thus break it down) between two types of photography. I like “semi-candid” portraits too.  90 mm., 1/60 sec. @ f/10, ISO 400.

So has your image-making become staid or even boring?  Here are a few ways to fight that tendency:

  • Keep Learning:  The most obvious strategy is to keep learning about all aspects of photography.  Especially if you’re still a relative novice, this is a sure-fire way to stay interested.  But again, it shouldn’t be about spending a lot of money.  So be careful of workshops that might be more about going to a beautiful place than really learning something.

 

  • Practice another Type of Photography:  If you’ve been doing mainly landscapes, corral someone to act as a model and do some portraits.  You can do a lot with natural light, so don’t think you need to buy or rent artificial lighting.  On the other hand, if you want to learn about artificial lighting techniques, renting is a great option.  In fact, this weekend I’m going to shoot some senior portraits of a friend’s son.
Another friend's son, but this one has a ways to go before his senior pictures.

Another friend’s son, but he has quite a ways to go before his senior pictures.

 

  • Practice with Different Exposure, etc:  If you’re a nature photographer and haven’t gotten into it yet, macro (close-up) photography is a gimme.  You can do it without buying an expensive new (macro) lens.  Just get a Canon 500D close-up filter that fits a lens you already have (it works best with telephoto zooms, such as 70-200 mm.).  Or get a set of extension tubes.  If you haven’t done any very long exposure photography, get a neutral density filter or two and go for it!  If you’ve mostly done standard portraits at long focal lengths, practice environmental portraiture, where you get up close with a wide-angle lens and emphasize backgrounds more.

A water lily in the same lake as the above duck, shot from boat hand-held: 100 mm. macro lens, 1/800 sec. @ f/14, ISO 500.

 

  • Practice another Style:  If you already have a well-developed style of your own, dive into another one or two that you admire.  But if you aren’t confident of your style I don’t recommend this.  You don’t want to be an imitator after all.  You can stretch both your capture and post-processing skills this way.

 

  • Go Mono:  Shooting in monochrome (black and white) is a simple way to fight boredom.  Set your camera to display what you shoot in B&W for a session or two.  You can still shoot in RAW so that the capture is in color, but your LCD shows each picture in black and white.  If you instead shoot Jpeg, you’ll end up with only black and white photographs.

 

This old lookout at Cape Perpetua on the Oregon Coast was built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) in the 1930s as part of Franklin Roosevelt's jobs program.  21 mm., 1/80 sec. @ f/11, ISO 200.

This old lookout at Cape Perpetua on the Oregon Coast was built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) in the 1930s as part of Franklin Roosevelt’s jobs program. 21 mm., 1/80 sec. @ f/11, ISO 200.

  • Teach Someone:  If you know a budding photographer volunteer to take them out shooting.  Follow up later and help them to evaluate & process their images.  Playing off a newbie’s enthusiasm is a tried and true way to get jazzed back up.

I’m sure you can come up with other ways to stretch your skills and freshen up your photography.  Please don’t be shy about sharing them in the comments below.  Have a fantastic weekend and happy shooting!

EXTRA: MY SOLUTION

I recently purchased a waterproof housing for my camera, plus a kayak.  The kayak is also great for wildlife, along with fishing and just plain fun!  I bought both the housing and kayak used; both can be quite spendy!

But a caveat: mine may not be the best example in one respect: money.  Although freshening up your photography is very worthwhile, both for personal growth and for the diversity of your portfolio, it is most definitely not about spending a lot of money on new gear.  Still, depending on your particular solution to burnout, a purchase or two may be necessary.  For me, taking it under water has been playing on my mind off and on for a couple years.

A verdant alcove in OIympic National Park hosts Merriman Falls.  Wonder what it'd be like to shoot it from underneath!

A verdant alcove in OIympic National Park hosts Merriman Falls. Wonder what it’d be like to shoot it from underneath!

Now I’m not talking here of shooting clownfish and coral while on vacation.  Although I’d love to combine scuba diving with photography at some point, images from warm ocean environments are just too common.  Standard scuba photography may not be a new enough thing to be a burnout-buster, and I can’t afford tropical getaways right now anyway.

What I plan to do is snorkel and free dive in fresh water ecosystems closer to home: clear lakes and rivers.  Getting good images of unusual subjects under water promises to be difficult.  But that’s the point.  If it were too easy it wouldn’t be challenging enough.  Stay tuned.  Soon you’ll see my trials, errors and (hopefully) successes right here!

A paddle then a sunset at Lost Lake, Oregon.  21 mm., 5 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50, tripod.

A paddle then a sunset at Lost Lake, Oregon. 21 mm., 5 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50, tripod.

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Friday Foto Talk: Noise, ISO and Your Camera   11 comments

A clear, quiet morning at Bench Lake, Mt. Rainier National Park. 30 mm., 1/60 sec. @ f/11, ISO 320, handheld.

Camera makers have been providing ever higher quality images, with lower noise at higher ISOs.  No, I’ve not become a cheerleader for big corporations.  But this little factoid is true nonetheless.  By the way, a rule of thumb:  the larger the sensor in your camera, the less noise you’ll have when shooting at high ISO.  It’s one reason that cameras with full-frame sensors have become so popular.  Size isn’t the only thing affecting noise, but it’s an important factor.

Besides sensor size, camera makers have been improving noise performance across the board, even on crop-frame sensors.  It’s especially true with high ISOs, but noise has also improved for very long exposures.  My last post focused on ways you can shoot without a tripod, the easiest way being to simply raise ISO.  This post will cover some tips on balancing noise and ISO with your exposure needs.

A hoary marmot is getting ready to chow down on some lupine high up on Mt. Rainier, Washington.  100 mm., 1/500 sec. @ f/2.8, ISO 500, handheld.

A hoary marmot is getting ready to chow down on some lupine high up on Mt. Rainier, Washington. 100 mm., 1/500 sec. @ f/2.8, ISO 500, handheld.

The Oregon Coast Range.   135 mm., 0.8 sec. @ f/9, ISO 100, tripod.

The Oregon Coast Range. 135 mm., 0.8 sec. @ f/9, ISO 100, tripod.

Don’t fixate on how high ISO can be set on your particular camera model.  That’s pretty well meaningless.  Just because you can set your ISO over 25,000 doesn’t mean you’ll be able to shoot a decent picture at anywhere near that ISO.  Think of the max ISO advertised for a given camera as a general guide to ISO performance.  Real-world shooting is the only way to see how high the ISO can be set for a given situation, and still allow a fairly sharp image to be captured with low levels of noise.

So Heres a TIP:  Fairly soon after buying a new camera, learn how high you can raise ISO and still capture an image with manageable amounts of noise.  Manageable noise is noise that you can handle with the software you have.  Lightroom does a very good job with noise, but there are plug-ins (like the great Topaz DeNoise) that can reduce or even eliminate high levels of noise.  It’s going to take some practice with both your camera and your software.

I got a kayak!  Here it is 1st time on saltwater on a bay at the Oregon Coast.  Handheld shot.

I got a kayak! Here it is 1st time on saltwater on a bay at the Oregon Coast. Handheld shot with polarizer.

While you’re figuring out what that ISO ‘tipping point’ is, remember these two caveats:

  • Caveat 1:  As I’ve mentioned in several prior posts, the longer your focal length, the faster your shutter speed needs to be for sharp pictures.  This also means, assuming you’re off-tripod, that you’ll need to raise ISO more for shots with longer focal lengths.  Obviously you’ll need to raise ISO more for dimly lighted subjects as well.
  • Caveat 2:  This one is more subtle and refers to the shadowed or dark areas in your image.  If you anticipate later filling (brightening) those areas on the computer, you will have increased noise in those areas (but not so much in brighter areas). The more brightening you need to do in post-processing, the more noise you’ll need to handle.  But it’s area-specific.
Precious rain, Oregon.  100 mm. macro lens, 1/40 sec. @ f/13, ISO 400, tripod.  ISO raised for faster shutter b/c of breeze.

Precious rain, Oregon. 100 mm. macro lens, 1/40 sec. @ f/13, ISO 400, tripod.

This guy l ives along Coldwater Lake, Mt. St. Helens.  100 mm. macro, 1/40 sec. @ f/2.8, ISO 1250, hand-held.

This little guy lives along Coldwater Lake, Mt. St. Helens. 100 mm. macro, 1/40 sec. @ f/2.8, ISO 1250, hand-held & braced against a rock.

This relationship between the variable brightness of your scene and noise means, in effect, that you can get away with raising ISO more for overall higher-key (brighter) images that have fairly even illumination than you can for lower-key (darker) images that have a lot of dynamic range (contrasting illumination) across the frame.  Of course, if you anticipate leaving shadowed areas fairly dark, you don’t have to worry so much about noise; it won’t be visible.  That was true for the dark face of that marmot above, for example.

This leads inevitably to the differences among different camera makers.  The big two, Canon and Nikon, have been competing in both the low-noise/high ISO arena and the resolution (megapixel) arena.  Meantime, Sony has been working a lot on dynamic range, along with (more recently) ISO/noise.  I could say a lot more about this but it won’t really help you take better pictures, so I won’t.  Remember, this is not the blog for specific gear recommendations.

A  monkey flower at Mt. Rainier.  100 mm. macro, 1/250 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 1250, hand-held & small breeze.

A monkey flower at Mt. Rainier. 100 mm. macro, 1/250 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 1250, hand-held & small breeze.

The important thing is to use the camera you have in your hands to its limits.  Don’t hold back.  Practice with it in the dark, on moving platforms (boats, etc.), in situations where it really isn’t made to produce perfect photos.  It’s not your job to exactly match your gear’s supposed capabilities, and it’s senseless to wish for something with more megapixels, or more dynamic range.  Rather it’s your job to stretch the capabilities of your gear.  If you really work at this, you’ll invariably miss on a lot of shots.  But those you hit on will shine!

Have a wonderful weekend, and happy shooting!

Back home!  Sunset in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon.  50 mm., 6 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50, tripod.

Back home! Sunset in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon. 50 mm., 6 sec. @ f/11, ISO 50, tripod.

 

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