The Race is on

For the fans of bicycle races out there my village in the Barossa Valley (South Australia) became the centre for the international bike race “Santos Tour Down Under”. We had the luck of hosting the men’s event Stage 1 on the 19th January and the previous day we also hosted the women’s event stage 3 as they raced around the southern Barossa. As a photographer an event like this was one not to be missed, as you all can expect the village was packed solid for the 3 lap circuit which saw them clocking up 130 Km as they hit the finish line. The bikes were only in view for seconds so this was a good opportunity to try out the sports mode capability of my Canon EOS 760D. Standing at the barrier with an 18-135mm lens attached gave me a good viewing choice but the speed that these bikes were travelling demanded more control than judgement. I set the camera to sports mode, the drive mode to continuous and the autofocus to AI Servo, this meant that once a bike rider was chosen the lens auto tracked him while the camera recorded 5 frames a second as long as I kept him in the viewing pane. I was quiet pleased with the results and have attached a couple for your comments. Even though I’m predominantly a landscape photographer I’m still trying out new functions on this camera as the opportunity arises.

Santos Tour Down Under

Santos Tour Down Under

Santos Tour Down Under

Santos Tour Down Under

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Camera HDR Feature

After much debate, (in reality convincing myself that I needed it) I’ve finally bought myself a new camera, its the Canon EOS 760D and will replace my trusty Canon 550D which has done great service up to now. So why the change, well the increase from 18 to 24 Megapixels was a big decider plus a swivel screen and a host of new features which I wont bother everyone here today with, for the techies the specs are easy enough to look up. One of the interesting features however is a Special Scene selector which incorporates HDR backlight control.

HDR is to quote Wikipedia “High-dynamic-range imaging (HDRI or HDR) is a technique used in imaging and photography to reproduce a greater dynamic range of luminosity than is possible with standard digital imaging or photographic techniques. The aim is to present the human eye with a similar range of luminance as that which, through the visual system, is familiar in everyday life.” If you want to look it up the link is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-dynamic-range_imaging

The HDR technique is something I’d read about but never tried so was pleased to find the capability within the camera which takes then combines 3 shots at 3 exposures to improve highlight/shadow detail.

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Having found it I had to try it out, the attached shot was taken on a beach in Queensland in late evening light where deep shadows on the beach competed with bright patches in the sky, (ISO 100, f22, 1/10 sec), often the camera doesn’t capture what the eye sees but I was pleased with the final result, the image height has been cropped slightly for presentation. Now I need to try this again in a few more locations, anyone else tried HDR? open for comments.

Favourites

No matter what you do everyone has a favourite, with me and photography its no different, of the thousands of images in my archives there are some that I keep going back to over and over again, the ones I show when people ask me what I’m up to, the ones I choose the pc background from, the ones I print and frame for display. The more I get into this the larger the collection becomes and better cameras don’t necessarily make it easier as I still include images that I took with my first DSLRs.

So what makes a particular image a favourite?, well sometimes its the time of day, that occasion when the lighting is just right and the image comes out just as I imagined it and you know that the odds are very high against ever being able to take it again. For others it could be the amount of work that I put in afterwards to create a mood that didn’t exist at the time, that took so many steps in editing that I’d lost track of what I’d done yet I remained pleased with the final result. Whatever the reason these are the images that I copy into a separate file so I can access them immediately, if you haven’t then I can only recommend you start one.

Wind driven water pump

Wind driven water pump

I’ve attached two favourites, the first of the water vane in the wheat field brings back memories of how it was taken, the position I’d chosen was the home of hundreds of persistent flies that I had to ignore until I’d achieved the image then run to chase them off, so glad the final result was worth it.

Return from Patrol

Return from Patrol

The second Return from Patrol was a lot of work considering the subject, I knew what I wanted and it took so long editing to get it there, there are lots more on display in the Favourite Photographs Gallery, take some time and look around…

Mixing it up

Sometimes I have images that in themselves are pretty straightforward but always look as though something is missing. Looking through my files I came across this image of part of the Roman arena in Verona Italy that I had taken on holiday.

Original

Original

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Final Image

The subject was interesting enough however there was nothing distinct about it that would make it stand out (ref the original image). I then stripped all the background from it, darkened the remains to resemble a night scene and changed the structure of the stonework to give a very grainy effect. Behind the image I added the moon with a blue tint and lined up the two, in all I was quite pleased with the final effect, open to comment.

The second image was treated similarly using another part of the same arena stonework, in this case the arches once cut out gave a window effect so I added the sunset taken at Verona that evening behind the arches and gave a hue to the stonework to match.

Archway

Archway

These are just examples of what can be achieved with a little effort so never delete shots just because they don’t look interesting, just mix it up a little.

Camera Canon EOS  550D with EFs 18-135 IS lens. More images  can be found in this sites galleries as well as high definition versions available through my online shops.

Flowers

Flowers just ask to be photographed, I’ll bet that there is no-one who has bought a camera who has not taken a photograph of a flower at some time. Although you can take them outdoors on the plant itself I find that setting them in a studio type environment works much better, to start with there is not all that background clutter of other plants, fences etc and they are not always in the best position to be photographed or lit and of course you would need to get down on your knees in the flower bed. I did say studio environment but this doesn’t mean you need a studio.

I use sheets of black or coloured mounting card as a backdrop and natural daylight, often on the patio. With the flower in a suitable holder it can be rotated to achieve the effect, the backdrop is far enough away that the card doesn’t come in focus and the composition can be better displayed to suit.

Floral display

Floral display

Carnation

Carnation

I’ve attached examples of flowers using the black background as examples.

More flower images can be found in this sites galleries as well as high definition versions available through my online shops.

Night Shooting

Night is a fantastic time to take photographs however choosing the correct time is as important as choosing the location. My favourite is the short period of time between the sunset ending and the darkness of night being absolute when there is still some light left in the sky, sometimes the eye cannot see it but the camera will record it when taking long exposures. After this time the sky becomes a black mass and only the subject is lit.

Somewhere in the above I said long exposures, with not much light around and wanting the keep the same depth of field without increasing the ISO with its inherent noise means that you can no longer hand hold exposures, certainly not greater than 1/30 second. The obvious solution is a tripod which once set up can give exposures for as long as you need. But what if you don’t have one with you at the time, well any stable platform will do, a stone wall, a bridge parapet and I’ve even used the top of a rubbish bin (and once in a graveyard the flat stone of a tomb). In short anywhere safe where the camera cannot be moved during its exposure time.

Enjoying the Singapore night life

Enjoying the Singapore night life

I’ve attached a couple of images, the Singapore shot was taken from the bridge parapet (with my hand through the camera strap in case of an accident) and the shot in Verona of the arena was actually taken with a monopod (a single pole tripod). For the techies Singapore was ISO 100, F8 for 8 seconds and Verona ISO 100, F9 for 3.2 seconds.

Night at the Arena in Verona

Night at the Arena in Verona

Taking long exposures with a monopod can be done though it needs a little more thought. Set the camera to time delay (to give the camera time to settle once you have pressed the button) and find something to hold the monopod against ( a railing, signpost, anything). Frame and focus the image, press the button and hold the monopod in place, the countdown beeping should start, giving you time to get settled, the results can be reasonable, who said taking photographs wasn’t fun.

More images can be found in this sites galleries as well as high definition versions available through my online shops at the bottom of the page, please visit if only to view and comment.

Take the Moon

It’s a clear night and there’s a full moon just staring down at you. Ever tried to take a photo of the moon, you have a camera right so of course you have and what do you get, a white dot in a sea of black. It’s pretty tricky right, it’s very bright and the shot looked straight forward until I took it and looked at the result.

What was obvious was that for me to get a reasonable image in the frame I needed a telephoto lens and ideally a tripod. I tried a few shots with my 250mm telephoto resting on a beanbag, left the lens on AF and achieved big patches of white blur, not good. So moved to manual focus, and started bracketing shots and achieved some reasonable (though still small) images, great if I just wanted to add a moon to a landscape.

Moon example1

Moon Example

Then I managed to get hold of a small telescope (1200 mm) and with the camera attached for once managed to fill the frame and yes I had to use a tripod but the telescope spotting scope helped as the image was being viewed using the camera preview and without the spotter I would have found searching the blackness for that elusive bright patch really frustrating. Adding to this the fact that for all long lenses the slightest movement to the tripod this end caused big movement the other didn’t help.

The end result after a lot of shots was passable but it was great fun trying to work it out not forgetting of course that the moon is moving all the time so a few minutes after I put it in the frame it was out again. I’ve attached an image showing the result and an image of the cats that I thought would work using the moon as a silhouette.

Togetherness

Togetherness

I’m certain better images can be achieved so no doubt will try again soon.

More images can be found in this sites galleries as well as high definition versions available through my online shop.

Digital Cameras

Digital cameras, don’t you just love them, I was a sceptic at first where the best image was 6mp and couldn’t stand against 35mm when printed above 6 x 4 (that’s 150mm x 100 mm for the metric fraternity). I was still old school, 35mm colour and black and white negatives plus 35mm slide film, a fairly expensive hobby where you couldn’t see your results until you spent time in the darkroom. Being expensive and limited (max 36 shots to a roll) also meant that you thought a lot more about the shot before you took it, there wasn’t a wide margin for error.

My first digital camera was a 3mp compact (a Ricoh Caplio G4 wide) and at the time considered a toy against my 35mm Olympus SLRs but the advantage it did have straight away was the ability to view the image and if necessary take it again. Image quantity was limited to the space on the SD card and given the choice then of taking hundreds of low quality images or a few high quality images the choice was clear, high quality every time, if I took a shot then I wanted the best I could get, there wouldn’t necessarily be the opportunity to take it again, after all I could always get another memory card or just dump it to a computer file. It became a great little camera to carry around in the car and given it was early days still for digitals it did produce some really nice images at 2048 x 1536 pixels.

Cable Car in the Blue Mountains

Cable Car in the Blue Mountains

That digital camera was only the first of many (attached is an image taken on it in the Blue Mountains New South Wales) and I still have it to remind me. Currently I have a Canon 550D digital SLR and wouldn’t trade back to the roll film version for anything, these modern cameras are serious tools. This one is 18 mp giving 5184 x 3456 pixels and I’ll probably upgrade again one day but we all have to work within our abilities and for the moment this works really well for me.

More images can be found in this sites galleries as well as high definition versions available through my online shop.

The Right Light

There’s a lot to be said for choosing the right time of day to take your photos, your decision determines the mood of the final image. Previously I mentioned taking photographs on a bright sunny day, everyone’s favourite time, how often have you looked at your final result and thought that the images were flat, or in high contrast (very dark areas and very bright ones), how often have you looked at the result and thought that it looked ‘washed out’?  This is because what your eye sees is not what your camera sees, the eye will compensate rapidly for changes in lighting levels as you look around, the camera of course tries to record what it monitors in that fraction of a second the image is taken and is often fooled by the sky or the sun or reflective surfaces, even those with multiple sensors embedded.

Of course we don’t always have a choice when the shot can be taken, it greatly depends on where we are at the time but when you do have a choice you can of course help by choosing not to take in the middle of the day. At this time the sun is directly overhead so there are few shadows and therefore little sculpturing to give depth and shape to objects, trees or hills and images become flat as objects blend into each other and colours fade. You will have noticed how in late afternoon when the sun is across the subject that the shadows give objects that depth and shape and also observed that the colour of the light changes from being bright and harsh in the middle of the day to becoming warmer and softer as the day progresses.

Midday landscape example

Midday landscape example

Given a choice I’d choose mid to late afternoon every time for that warm effect and about an hour before sunset when I really want to add some soft enhanced colour into a landscape shot. The first image was taken at midday, the sun is high, shadows short and the scene is flat.

Late sunshine in the Barossa

Late sunshine in the Barossa

The second shows a mid afternoon image and already sculpturing is taking effect in the tree trunk.

The third image gives an idea of how the colour changes as the day progresses towards evening with the colour of the vines changing from light brown to a warm golden brown.

More Landscape images can be found in this sites gallery ‘Australia in View’ as well as available through my online shop.

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Australian Winter

Winter, even here in Australia just the thought of the word conjures up cold wet days, dull gloomy outlooks and evenings where we all prefer to rug up. There is another side of course, there are days where the air is so bright and clear that the colours jump out at you, where clouds in the sky add texture to what is normally a wide blue empty space all summer and where your mind screams at you to get out there and enjoy it.

Snow on the mountainside in Victoria

Snow on the mountainside in Victoria

Recently I had the advantage of being on a mountain during the winter with days of bright sunshine, clear blue skies and deep snow, ideal conditions to get away from the crowds and take those shots that you wouldn’t normally find. Just remember when photographing on snow that the light hits the snow and is reflected back, this will fool your camera into thinking that the image is brighter than it actually is and the result will be a dull grey picture. You can compensate for this by adjusting your camera compensation by a stop or two but this will vary by the day so bracket your shots, at least with digital cameras you can see what you have achieved and adjust to suit.

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The weather closes in

The beautiful days on arrival couldn’t last of course with a snowstorm arriving a few days later but not to worry, just more opportunities right…………..

More images of the Australian Winter can be found in this sites gallery Australia in View’ as well as available through my online shop.