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Wednesday
Nov072012

On route to New York City!

Hello everyone,

I am writing this while sitting in my parents house in Germany. Tomorrow morning, I am off to New York City, where I will be a guest presenter at a very exclusive New York Architectural photography workshop organized and lead by my good friend Joel Tjintjelaar along with Sharon Tenenbaum and Armand Dijcks.

Only a week after the terrible storm 'Sandy' hit the city, and in the wake of yet another, smaller, storm forecasted for later today, I am excited but also hopeful for the weekend ahead. As I am sure many of you have done also, I've been following the news in the aftermath of the hurricane. I have many friends in New York, most of them photographers, and my thoughts and best wishes for a quick recovery and clean-up have been with them during all of past week.

Checking in with Joel, I know that the workshop, scheduled for November 10-13 has not been affected, and will go ahead as planned. According to the latest news, there is still one seat left available, so if you can make this happen on short notice head on over here for more information.

For today's image, I have looked through my archive and found an image I photographed in New York in 2009:

To capture this image, I used a Mamiya 7 medium format film camera with a 43mm lens. Film stock was Fuji Across. Exposure, as I recall, was about 8 minutes with 16 stops of ND filtration.

The Mamiya 7 is an excellent camera for long exposure work. Lenses are small but very sharp, and I especially love the rangefinder which let's me keep the ND filters mounted to the lens at all times while composing and focusing using the rangefinder. I still have this camera, and anyone interested in using film for long exposure work, should take a closer look at one of these.

I scanned the film, which was in native 6cm x 7cm format, using an Imacon virtual drum-scanner. The resulting file, crpped to square format, is over 400 megabytes in size (something I cannot even achieve using my digital back).

This was shot on Times Square, with the camera mounted on a fence pointed straight up into the sky. New York is notorious for not letting you use tripods out on the streets (unless you have a permit of course), and I remember vividly being chased by a security guard when I initially set this up. Luckily, I had one of those small Gorilla Pods with me. This flexible tripod was able to be mounted to the top of a fence, and the strongest version they sell was strong enough to hold my camera easily. The security guard looked at me, and let me continue without further disruptions. Pretty cool.

I am excited to return to New York and do a lot more shooting this coming week. If you take a look at what Joel has planned, you cannot help but be impressed by the detailed routes and information he has provided. New York is one of the top destination for architectural photographers, and I am sure everyone will not only have a ton of fun, but also come home with some amazing images.

In an effort to pack 'light', which is something I am actually very terrible at, I have left the Mamiya at home this time and instead brought my Cambo WDS along. I have written about this rare camera earlier on this blog, it's the same one I used during my trip to Iceland in May of this year. It's a specialized camera for architecture, so I think it will fit the bill perfectly.

I will be posting images from New York so please stay tuned and check the blog for updates!

Hope to see you out there this weekend,

Marc

Sunday
Oct212012

Brier Island Lighthouse!

Hello everyone,

I took this image of the Brier Island Lighthouse on my trip to Nova Scotia (Canada) late last Fall. 

It's been 'sitting' on my harddrive as a RAW file for over 10 months, until this week, when I finally had time to work on it.

I photographed this lighthouse with a Phase One IQ140 Digital Back using the Phase One Camera and a 45mm lens. On this camera, that 45mm lens is the equivalent to about a 29mm lens on 'full frame' 35mm camera.

This image is part of my still emerging lighthouse series. I had 5 days to photograph in Nova Scotia, and drove from Halifax to Yarmouth and back to Halifax, visiting a large umber of lighthouses along the way.

I remember that I almost didn't make it to Brier Island. It was a far trip. With 2 small ferries to catch it took practically an entire day but once I looked through my viewfinder to compose the image, I knew the travel was worth it!

Below is a map to show you the location this image was taken:

Google maps is a great and very valuable resource. If you know of any geographical location that you're interested in photographing at, this can show you exactly where to go. I use their 'street view', when available, to see the immediate surroundings and get a better idea of what a location might look like before I even get close to it. I also put together my driving maps/directions for entire trips, and save locations in custom maps.

While working on my lighthouse series, I also used the website 'Lighthouse Friends' a lot, and they deserve a 'shout-out' and whole hearted 'thank you' here!

That website lists pretty much all lighthouses in many, many countries around the world. What I appreciate the most is the 'map view', shown below:

The above map shows you *all* lighthouse of Nova Scotia. Seems like 5 days won't even make a dent so the biggest challenge on my trip was actually to set my priorities and make the very hard decision of where to, and where NOT to go.

Lighthouse Friends helps you decide as you can click on any of the lighthouses on the map and get to a dedicated page that not only shows pictures of the lighthouse, but also includes helpful information like the history, driving directions, etc

I cannot say enough good things about how much this website service has helped me. Please be sure to visit them!

As I was reseraching Brier island, the image(s) posted on Lighthouse Friends peaked my interest initially.

I also use 'google image serach' as a second step to see many images of any location, once I have made the firm decision to go and visit.

This is just a very simple search, but it gives you a pretty good idea of what the photographic opportunities are.

When evaluating the images above, I am not trying to 'copy' or emulate any of them. Rather, I am looking for some help to let me visualize what it would be like standing there with my camera, even before I get to actually visit.

I remember that I got to the lighthouse about 3 hours before sunset. Perfect timing. I spend photographing the lighthouse until well after the sun had gone down, and left in the dark.

The location was even better than what I had anticipated based on my research. I brought a pick-nick dinner, and enjoyed watching the sun go down while several exposures were made.

Once I opened the image on my computer, I was real happy to see that the image did very well conveying how I felt while taking it.

Before I go here's an image showing a screenshot of using Nik's Silver Efex 2 to convert this images to black and white from the original RAW file:

When working on this image, I thought I'd give it a try and see if I can finish it using Silver Efex Pro alone. As you can see from the screenshot above, I was using a *lot* of control points to make selective adjustments of brightness, contrast and structure.

I usually do not use structure, or shapening adjustments, on clouds that have been blurred in a long exposure, but in this case it brought out a lot of drama and created the feel in the image I was looking for.

There are still many, many lighthouse left to explore. Thank you for reading!

More to come...

Sunday
Sep302012

From RAW to Final: Small Lighthouse on PEI!

Hello everyone,

I've been travelling this past week. Started the trip off in Quebec City, where I met up with a photo workshop for a day and a half. Last time I was in Quebec is a good 10 years ago, so I was excited to visit again and even better, have time for some photography this time around. I do have an image to share from that visit, but it will have to wait a bit longer..

Today, I would like to share an image I took less than 10 hours ago on Prince Edward Island (PEI). This is Canada's smallest province, both in area as well as in population.

I am working on my lighthouse series, and apart from the fact that I had never been to PEI before (it's crossed of the 'list' now) this island also has lots of lighthouses dotting its shores. It also gave me an opportunity to photograph its link to the rest of Canada, the 'Confederation Bridge'. But more on that later.

I got up real early this morning and started going out to shoot. It rained hard yesterday, and the weather report was calling for approximately 4 hours of dryness - my window to go out and shoot! I was heading for the Confederation Bridge when I saw what looked like a small lighthouse on a picturesque cliff above the ocean. On a whim, I decided to try and find an access road to it. It took me a while, driving down a few dead-end roads, turning around and giving the next road a try. I finally found access to a beach from which I could see the lighthouse in the distance. It was a nice hike down that beach, and a small climb up and across a field. When I reached the lighthouse I was surprised how truly small it was. At less than 10 feet in height, this easily makes for the smallest lighthouse I have photographed for this still emerging series.

Above is the black and white version of this PEI lighthouse. Exposure was 420 seconds, F11 @ ISO 50. 12 stops of ND filtration. Shot on my Cambo Wide with 35mm lens and Phase One P25+ Digital Back.

The rain was on its way, and the sky was thick with clouds. I was drawn to the position of the lighthouse, as it was perched high above yet very close to the edge of the cliff. It looks like private property, and I haven't been able to figure out its name based on the lighthouse maps I am working with.

This photograph reminded and re-taught me an important lesson. As important it is to have a plan, pre-scout and research your shooting areas, it can be even more rewarding to follow your instincts (even if those deviate from a well-formed plan). it would have been easy just to keep driving down that road. I had a plan. Making the turn left me wondering if it was truly 'worth it' to search for this lighthouse I only saw briefly. In fact, I almost got stuck in the mud along the beach access road, but standing on that cliff after a nice hike made it all worth it!

The rain held off, and I even got to take a few quick shots of the Confederation Bridge before it started. But then it rained hard, all day.

Oh, and while I was working on this image tonight I couldn't resist but include a color version as well. This one was edited in Exposure 4 Plugin (by Alienskin Software). Take a look and leave me a comment below as to what you think about both versions. As always, your feedback is very much appreciated!

The above image has been adjusted slightly more compared to the black and white version above. I had some fun trying out some presets. Not sure if i willl keep the frame, but for now I wanted to experiment with it so let me know what you think.

Ok so now let's take a look at making this image from the beginning.

Below you can see my shooting setup. Image shot on my iPhone.

And here is the original RAW file, cropped to a 2:1 aspect ratio. I made basic exposure adjustments in Adobe Camera RAW, then opened the file in Adobe Photoshop.

Here's the Photoshop file, including all layers and adjustments I made to-date. I am working on my MacBook Air while on this trip, so I keep my post production as 'light' as possible. I will likely re-visit this image once I am back home in Vancouver, and if I do, I will add an update to this post.

Note that the above file contains both, the black and white as well as the color version.

As you can see, it didn't take much adjustments to get to my final results posted above. I know many photographers claiming they spend up to 100 hours and even more on their images, utilizing up to 100 layers in the process. Obviously, I get the job done with a lot less :-). Well there certainly are some areas in the image that could be adjusted further, but I do belief that I am almost there.

Let me know what you think. And please stay tuned as I will be posting more images from this recent trip very soon.

Thank you for reading!

Marc

Saturday
Sep222012

Nikon D600 versus D800E - Review and Long Exposure Test!

Hello everyone,

earlier this week, I got offered to take the brand new Nikon D600 out for an afternoon. Better yet, the good folks at Beau Photo, the local camera store I deal with a lot, even included a D800e so I could do a direct comparison.

This should make for an interesting afternoon I thought. Without further delay, I got ready and headed downtown to take some pictures.

Above, you can see both the Nikon D800e and D600.

Although the size of both cameras is very similar (don't be fooled by the larger lens installed on the D600 in the image above) there are important differences you should be aware about:

  • Weight. The D600 is about 250 grams lighter than the D800. That's nice if you're planning to carry this camera all day.
  • Flash Sync Speed. The D600’s maximum flash sync speed is 1/200sec, while the D800’s is 1/250sec. While this may make a difference for some users, it's really very minor and I do not agree with reviewers, like strobist David Hobby, who argue that this diference alone makes it worth it to avoid the D600 altogether.
  • Fastest Shutter Speed. The D600’s top shutter speed is 1/4000sec, where the D800’s is 1/8000sec. As long exposure photographers, you may not care about this difference at all. While out shooting I did get a bit anoid that I couldn't shoot my Nikon 24mm f1.4 lens at its maximum aperture of 1.4. In full sunlight, the best I could do was to get to F2.2. Not a huge deal to most, but if you paid good money for such a fast lens, chances are you want to be shooting it wide open. For most landscape, architecture and long exposure photography this makes no difference at all though, as 'working apertures' are closer the F8 or F11.
  • Price. The D600 is about $1200 cheaper than the D800e, and still about $900 cheaper compared to the D800. You can buy a D600 with a very good lens for the price of the D800.
  • Megapixel. This one is obvious. Check out the image comparisons below and you will see that 12 extra megapixels on the d800e do make a difference. Is that difference important to you? Will it make a difference for your photography? Well that question isn't answered that easily. Unless you make large prints and/or crop extensively, you will very likely not see the difference. 24 megapixel has been called the 'ideal' resolution for 35mm and I agree that for the great majority of users, this number already exceeds what they need. 
  • Mode Dial and Scene Modes. The D800 has a less shooting modes available compared to the D600. On the D800 you'll find Program AE, Aperture priority, Shutter priority and Manual modes accessed by a Mode button and the rear command dial. In contrast to that, the D600 has full Auto 'green' mode, Scene modes and 'U1' and 'U2' user modes. I actually really like the user modes on the D600, as they are faster and more intuitive to use compared to the D800's custom menu banks settings. 
  • ISO Range and Noise. The range of ISO is the same on both camera models, but the lower resolution on the D600 suggests that the quality of images should be slightly higher (due to larger photosites on the D600). This point would be very important to us long exposure shooters, as we are always looking for low noise levels.
  • Autofocus System. The D600 has a 39-point AF system first seen on the D7000. The D800 uses an 51-point AF system so it seems to have an edge. Since I do most of my shooting in manual mode, and manual focus, this doesn't make a huge real life difference to me.
  • Continuous Shooting Speed. The D800’s higher resolution results in a continuous shooting speed of 4fps, while the D600 can shoot much faster at 5.5fps. Buffer capacity for RAW files is the same, however. In my opinion, both of these camera's aren't for sport and action shooters, but the D600 is certainly fast enough to take a series of 'action' shots of your family and kids every once in a while. Remember that if you want to get the highest quality out of these cameras, you should be using a tripod (especially with the high resolution of the D800 and D800e).
  • Construction. The D600 has a similar design to the D7000, using magnesium alloy for the top and back panels but polycarbonate elsewhere. The D800, by contrast, has an all-metal chassis, so we can expect it to last longer and also be better protected against the elements.
  • Memory Cards. This one is tricky and actually rather important. Both cameras have 2 memory card slots, but while the D600 uses 2 SD cards, the D800 has one SD and one CF card slot. I personally strongly prefer CF cards for their greater speed and increased durability, but both of these points are solely based on my personal experience and observation. I do like that my new apple laptop has a built-in SD card reader as well as the fact that with a D600 I would have to carry just one type of card if I wanted to use both memory card slots at once -:)

Ok so now that we talked about some of the differences between both cameras, let's take a closer look at how the D600 performs at long exposures.

The following image is a 15 minute long exposure (900 seconds). Noise reduction in-camera was turned off. The following observations can be made:

  • Ambient temperature was about 18 degrees Celsius (last day of summer)
  • Image is very clean with very low noise
  • Noise levels are especially low in shadow areas, where noise usually is high
  • It appears that there is no need to use the in-camera noise reduction feature on the D600

With the D800 lots of people, including several of my students and readers of this blog, have been complaining about increased noise levels and 'hot' pixels in particular. This seems especially true when photographing on warm days/nights. When I tested the D800 in early Spring, I managed to shoot a 35 minute exposure which was essentially free of noise (similar to the image below), BUT I had long exposure noise reduction turned on in the camera, and being early spring the temperature was just below 10 degrees Celsius.

It appears that the D800 needs this NR feature turned on in order to produce low levels of noise in long exposure images. The image below suggest that D600 owners can omit using this feature, and therefore can rejoice in the fact that they do not have to wait for the camera to process the image after each and every frame. A definate win for the D600 here.

Next, let's take a look at sharpness and resolution. With 12 additional megapixels, the D800 should come out as the clear winner in both categories. What is more, The D800e should add even more critical sharpness.

The following 2 images (well, 4 images actually) were shot with both cameras using the same lens (Nikon 24mm F1.4 prime) and exposure settings (ISO 100 and F8).

The cameras were setup on a tripod and the shutter was released using mirror-up and a cable release. This was done to get the utmost sharpness by eliminating potential camera shake and vibration.

Looking at the image above, we can see that the D800e indeed produced the sharper image. You can also see the gain in resolution as the 100% view is larger. It is important to note that dynamic range, or the ability of the camera to record tonal ranges, seems very comparable. When I first shot with the D800 back in the spring, I was actually very surprised by the dynamic range it was able to capture. As most of you know, I am used to shooting with a Phase One Digital Back, so to see a 35mm digital SLR approach image quality that can be obtained with a digital back nearly 10 times the costs is pretty exciting. Good times for photographers! And no, I won't be selling my digital back (just yet).

 In this second image, we can see once again that the D800e has an edge over the D600 when it comes to overall sharpness, detail rendition and resolution.

Please note that in both cases, I compared the in-camera jpg's (neutral, highest resolution and quality, Adobe RGB). I was able to open the D600 RAW files in Nikon Capture NX, but in the interest of time I decided to make this post using jpg's only. As I will have opportunities to be shooting with the D600 more, I will be updating everyone should I discover any changes working with RAW files instead.

So is the D600 worth it and a valuable alternative to the more expensive D800 (D800e)? For me it boils down to this:

  • Resolution. Despite the fact that the D800 (and D800e in particular) produces images with more megapixel and sharpness, I would argue that only very few photographers actually need and will notice such differences. As mentioned above, unless you are planning on making huge prints or crop and enlarge parts of your original images, 24 megapixels will be more than enough for you. If you're looking to stepping up from a crop sensor body, like the D7000 or D300, you will notice a huge difference in quality. As far as the balance of resolution, price and overall performance goes, I think the D600 is the winner here. The D800 and D800e are really specialized cameras aimed at experienced photographers looking to get the utmost details in their images, at the expense of slower shooting speeds (both auto focus and continuous shooting).
  • Price. At just over $2000 I belief the D600 is one of the best values out there.
  • Long Exposure Capabilities. Overall, the D600 seems to beat the D800 once again. Lower resolution results in reduced noise although it is possible to 'downsample' the D800 files to match the lower resolution of the D600 and by doing that noise levels can be expected to be lower. The fact that in-camera noise reduction appears to not be needed when shooting the D600 also makes it a better choice for long exposure photographers (at least those in a hurry).

For me, the D600 is the camera I am more likely to purchase. Some of you know that I have sold my D800 in May, after shooting with it for a few months.

The reason for selling wasn't the quality or performance, it was the fact that I don't want to make a big investment in *any* 35mm digital system since I am already heavily invested in medium format digital.

Still, with my Phase One being a very specialized camera, it makes sense to have a capable 35mm system for when I need to be able to use zoom lenses, shoot at high ISO, or simply cannot bring my bigger medium format system. I would not expect that 35mm system to deliver equal quality compared to my Phase One, and that is why I am more likely to purchase a D600, and use the savings to get a nice lens with it.

If this camera is your primary shooter, and you are looking for the utmost quality in terms of resolution ad sharpness, and you have the funds available, the D800 and particularly the D800e are among the finest 35mm cameras you can purchase today. If you're stepping up from smaller sensor digital cameras, don;t need the extra resolution, or are on a tighter budget, the D600 is a great choice.

Thanks for reading and please leave your comments below!

More tk...

Sunday
Sep092012

From RAW to Final: Lighthouse near Halifax!

Hello everyone,

so here's another 'From RAW to Final' image.

Today, I want to share an image I took near Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada). I took this during a workshop I taught there in June of this year. It was a beautiful calm day, and I was out until after sunset, being amazed at the colors and peace and quiet that I found at this location.

The lighthouse structure itself is much less 'impressive' compared to the nearby "Peggy's Cove" Lighthouse, which is the most photographed Lighthouse in all of Canada. But being there at sunset let me capture this scene in beautiful light and color.

My 'real' camera, a Phase One, was in the shop getting fixed so I took advantage of the opportunity and travelled much lighter on this trip.

This image was captured using a Canon 5D Mark III with a Nikon 24mm Tilt Shift lens (using an adapter).

Exposure time was 1235 seconds (just over 20 minutes).

It's rare that my exposure time is this long, but the light was fading fast at this point so I decided to double the exposure I initially metered for. The resulting image is still underexposed (by over 1 stop) and it speaks for the quality of the camera that noise levels were still relatively minimal.

Above you can see the 'setup' shot with my iphone. I spent more than 4 hours at this location, searching for the best 'viewpoint' and camera position. Weather conditions were great, with full clouds that I knew would make for interesting skies during long exposures.

I kept this image fairly dark throughout my post processing. I like the dramatic clouds and highlights near the tower. The final image is a stitch from 2 images, cropped to a 2:1 ratio panorama.

I liked the color in the sky, and used Alien Skin's Exposure 4 plugin to fine-tune it even further.

Photoshop CS6 was used to desaturate, and add selective sharpness and tonality to the rocks and lighthouse structure.

Hope you enjoyed! More tk...

Sunday
Sep022012

Fine-Art Long Exposure Online Course Starts October 8th, 2012!

Hello everyone,

my Fine-Art Long Exposure Photography Online Course starts again on Monday October 8th, 2012.

Get 10 weeks of learning, five assignments, and most importantly, personalized feedback on your images.

There are still a few spots left available.

For more information, and to sign up online, click this link.

Thank you!

Marc

 

Saturday
Aug112012

From RAW to FINAL: Old Barn near Calgary

Hello everyone,

So I just announced a new Fine-Art Long Exposure Workshop that will be held in Calgary (Alberta, Canada) on October 20th and 21st, 2012.

I have taught a similar workshop in Calgary last year, and the image below shows our workshop group at one of the shooting locations, including photo assistants Hajo (My Dad) and Richard. And I am in there as well.

We had students travel from as far as Scottsdale, San Francisco and Winnipeg. A big thanks again to everyone who came out! It was great meeting so many nice and enthusiastic photographers!

For today’s ‘From RAW to FINAL’, I wanted to share how I worked on one image I took during the workshop, and how I gave it its final look.

Calgary Long Exposure Workshop with Marc Koegel - Final Image: 'Old Barn'

Above you can see the final image: ‘Old Barn’.

Exposure time was 512 seconds, @ F11 ISO 50.

I used a total of 16 stops of ND filtration to allow me to get such a long exposure in bright day-light. Here’s a link to one of the filters I used.

Now let’s take a look at how I arrived at this final image:

The image above shows my ‘setup’ for taking the shot of an old barn. I used a Phase One medium format digital back. The final image was a panorama assembled from 2 images and then cropped to a ‘double square’ aspect ratio of 1:2. I liked the old barn but also wanted to incorporate the winding road, whch made for an interesting leading line.

The image above shows how I merged multiple images to a single Panorama using Autopano Pro Software.

Next, I am cropping the panorama that Autopano Pro generated to my desired aspect ratio of 1:2 or the ‘double square’. The resulting image has over 45 megapixel, thanks to using the Phase One Camera. I can make huge prints from this file!

I use Silver Efex Pro 2 Software to convert to black and white. This can be done in Photoshop as well, but I get amazing results in much less time with Silver Efex. Above you can see how the ‘simple’ black and white above was transformed into a more dramatic black and white image using the tools available in Silver Efex 2 Software.

You can download a free trial and if you’re doing lots of black and white conversions I am convinced you will love this software!

For my workflow I like tweaking what Silver Efex generates in Photoshop. This let’s me have ultimate control and fine-tune my images even more.

There you have it. Let me know what you think and don’t be shy to ask questions about the workflow above.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

For those of you near Calgary, here is the link with all the workshop information. Thank you for visiting!

Marc

 

Monday
Jul232012

From RAW to Final: Icelandic Rock - The Video!

Hello everyone,

I've been finally able to track down a fast internet connection here in Spain so I could upload my behind-the-scenes video.

This video is in full HD (1920x1080) and almost 40 minutes long!

In it, I go over the following topics using the example of my 'Icelandic Rock' image:

  • Preparing for a photo shoot (photo trips), including several advance research methods
  • Composition choice(s) and long exposure technique
  • Camera equipment used for the 'Icelandic Rock' image
  • Camera shooting techniques (i.e. using shift movements, stitching multiple images)
  • Post Production techniques using Adobe Photoshop, NIK Multimedia Color Efex Pro 4 etc

I hope you'll enjoy the video and pick up a tip (or two!). Any and all comments, as well as questions, are not only welcomed but highly encouraged!

 

Sunday
Jul152012

From RAW to Final: Icelandic Rock!

UPDATE: Due to an unreliable internet connection here in Spain, I will have to post the video showing my workflow for this image in a separate post later this week. Thank you for your patience. Marc

Hello everyone,

a huge 'thank you' to all of you who have emailed, left a comment on the blog here, on facebook, google+ etc.

Encouraged by your response, here is the behind-the-scenes write-up AND video of my 'Icelandic Rock' image (original blog about it is below):

Here is the final image as a repost:

Before the image was even photographed: The importance of doing your research!

This image started forming in my minds eye long before I sat foot on the beach right in front of it. When planning my Iceland trip, I did a lot of research as to where to shoot.

Tools I use are google earth, maps, but also web sites like flickr, 500px and even general google image searches.

When I was looking around, I came across this location on flickr:

When looking at the above images, it is important to understand that this is NOT about copying any or anyone. It's about learning how a place looks, and what photographic opportunities exists.

I also paid attention to things like water level (tides) and possible camera angles (shoot from up high or lower from the beach). I also use a small app that shows me direction of sunlight, as well as sunrise and sunset times for any shooting location I am interested in.

In summary, here is what you should know about a location even before you get there:

  • Best time to visit
  • Sunrise and sunset times
  • Angle of the sun at different times of the day
  • Tides and times. Is it better to visit at high or low tide?
  • Best shooting angle(s) and camera position
  • Anticipated choice of camera and specific lens

Obviously, sometimes we simply cannot gather all this information ahead of our shoot but it is good to at least try and be aware of this list. It will make your photography much more enjoyable and almost guarantees the highest quality results.

Finally, from the images above I already knew that I wanted to make sure to expose in such a way that allowed me to have detail in the rock as well as the background sky. I also knew I wanted to visit at high tide, when the rock was fully submerged in water. I wanted to visit at sunrise, because the angle of the sun was helping to light up the detail on the rock, eliminating the need for extended bracketing and HDR type exposure. Finally, a low angle, from the beach, gave me a better view of the rock compared to shooting from high up on the cliffs.

The Camera:

I photographed this image with my Cambo Wide DS Camera, which is essentially a shift camera particularly useful with wide-angle lenses.

The camera offers generous lens shifts, as well as rear shifts that are great when what you're looking for is being able to stitch panoramas from several images.

Let's take a look at the camera and it's movements:

For this image, I used the rear shift so that I could stitch two separate exposures. Note that I did not need to move the camera itself, I only had to shift the rear.

Compositionally, I really wanted to include a lot of negative space around 'the rock'. I only had one lens, a fixed 35mm wide-angle equivalent to about a 21mm wide-angle on 35mm full-frame digital cameras. It was a wide view, but not wide enough. The panorama helped to include significantly more negative space in my composition, and later in Photoshop I increased it even more by using the 'content aware scale' feature. More details on that later in this post.

The Shoot: Arriving at the location

I arrived a bit later than what I had been hoping for. About 3 hours before sunset. There weren't many signs, and during my entire stay I did not see any other visitors. I packed my gear and headed for the beach, taking comfort in the fact that my cell phone indeed had reception. I also packed a small snack and a water bottle, so I could stay down on the beach for as long as I needed.

It didn't take long to reach the beach, but the climb down the cliffs was a bit difficult while carrying camera gear and a tripod. As mentioned, I was happy to know my cell had some reception. I sat up my camera and started taking pictures within minutes of standing on the beach. One of the benefits of doing my research ahead of time!

The RAW files and merge to Panorama:

Here are my RAW files, which I merged to a single panoramic images in Photoshop CS5. To do this, simply select both files in Bridge and choose Tools --> Photoshop --> Photomerge.

Above, you can see the results of my panoramic stitch. If you've never tried it, I am sure you'll be surprised by how easy it really is to make panoramas. Be it using Photoshop or, my first choice, Autopano Pro Panoramic Software.

Above you can see the final composition after I have applied the 'content aware scale' command in Photoshop. Note that now the sky area has been enlarged, and I have also moved the rock off the center and the horizon line is moved down, giving emphasize to the sky.

What needs to be worked on is the sky. Unfortunetely, there were no clouds that day. But Photoshop will come to the rescue!

I have to point out, though, that I MUCH rather shoot in the right conditions than resort to Photoshop. It's much more fun to me to photograph in the right light, and this will keep my post production to a minimum as well. But in this case, it was too hard to re-visit so I had to make use of photoshop to 'enhance' the sky (and was aware of this even before I pressed the shutter).

Above you can see the image after I changed the sky, using one from another capture that was done elsewhere in Iceland.

My behind-the-scenes video will show you exactly how I did change the sky. It's a matter of making a selection and then copying in a sky from any other image files.

Compositionally, I think that this sky complements the image very well. It adds some drama, and the highlights right behind the rock makes the viewers eye travel there and stay there.

Above you can see the final Photoshop file, complete with all 8 layers. Note that this file also includes an alternate sky, as well as an alternate color treatment. All of this makes the file size explode to almost 2 gigabyte.

I used Nik Multimedia's Color Efex Pro 4 to create the color treatment above. The vignette was important to further help keep the viewers eye inside my composition. Furthermore, I used a slight blur effect that was only removed selectively on the rock, as I wanted to preserve the sharp detail there.

With this final image, I belief I have done everything to draw the viewers attention to the rock itself. The surface is very sharp, and the high amount of negative space enhances its impact within the overall composition. Finally, the false color treatment that is biased on the 'dark' side adds moods and mystery to the image. Exactly what I wanted.

Before I close, I also wanted to share my alternate color treatment for this image.

This was achieved using Alien Skin's Exposure 4 Plugin. I have been using Alien Skin products for as long as I have Nik Multimedia. If you haven't tried it yet, they do have a free trial version ready for download.

This version was actually the favorite of my wife. Everyone else around the studio preferred the first, including myself. This version is a bit brighter, not as dark and mystical.

I hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look. Thank you for reading!

More tk..

Thursday
Jul122012

Fine-Art Long Exposure ONLINE COURSE!

Hello everyone,

I wanted to take the opportunity this week and tell you all about my upcoming Fine-Art Long Exposure Online Course which is starting again next Monday, July 16th, 2012.

Since January of this year I have been offering my popular Fine-Art Long Exposure Workshop in this new online format.

Within the past 6 months, I have had over 100 students already! It has been a lot of work to get this organized and delivered, but I am thrilled by the incredible feedback I have gotten. I have met some wonderful people and photographers this way, and look forward to a lot more!

This online course is 10 weeks in length, with 5 assignments given. You will receive personalized critique and feedback on your images, along with learning resources both in written and audio and video formats.

The course is offered through my workshop company, Vancouver Photo Workshops. Here's a screen-shot and a link so you can get more information:

Long Exposure Photography 10 Week Online Course

Direct link is here:

http://www.vancouverphotoworkshops.com/workshops/Long_Exposure_10week_Online_Course.php

I have been teaching my fine-art long exposure workshops and courses since late 2006. I have welcomed students from as far from away from Vancouver as Norway and New Zealand. With technology opening up new avenues for communication and teaching, it is time to expand into the online 'realm'.