The guest-blogging-me

Today I have a little announcement to make:

Photographer and blogger Martin Gommel from the german blog Kwerfeldein.de, asked me a few weeks ago if I would like to contribute an article for his blog. It goes without saying that I agreed immediately, since it offered me the possibility to write something in Deutsch again. Something that I haven’t done much during the last few years.

I’m proud to tell you that the first of two articles had gone live today.

So, for those of you who read Deutsch and are interested in my translation of my article on GND filters, please head over to Martin’s blog and have a look. And for those who are not so interested in the article, because you read it already here, please go there anyway, because it’s a good blog.

Also I would like to use the opportunity to send my gratulations and best wishes to Martin and his family.

Update: The second post is now also online.

New Series: The Shooting Diary

It has been a little silent on this blog here in the last few weeks. My life outside this blog caught up and kept me kind of busy. But still that doesn’t mean that I’m running out of ideas and therefore I would like to introduce a new, little ongoing series on this blog, the Shooting Diary Photojournal.


Why have something like this since I already run my photoblog where I already post some sort of story to the image?
The answer is easy…. On my photoblog I tend to post only those images, which I consider to be the ones that I would like to hang on my wall, or put into a book. The most “artsy” ones so to say. But sometimes during a shoot I capture images that not necessarily fall into this category, but they kind of show somehow the beauty of the situation, capture the excitement of the moment, and/or provide some sort of background information to the shooting. There are simply sometimes eventful shootings where I have the feeling it could be nice to give some more info. Consider this a little Behind the Scenes.

These posts might include posts from my Twitter account, or with any luck some video (I’m not promising that, but the idea is there), or whatever comes to mind. I also will use these posts to inspire and motivate myself to explore more places. Surely I will not accompany every single image that I post to my blog with an essay, only when it kind of makes sense.

So stay tuned for upcoming stories with the first one coming up during this weekend (well hopefully).

Using GND Filters on a Digital Camera: Part 3

In the previous two posts on using the GND filters, I wrote about what is needed, what they look like and how they are actually attached to the lens. In this post I will try to explain how they are actually used.

So, let’s have a look at my image “Being There” first and I then try to explain what I did there.

I took this image just before sunset with the last bit of the sun still being around the horizon. The dynamic range of the scene was naturally rather big and as almost always I used my filters to hold back the exposure on the sky. But how to decide, which filters to use? Here comes in the metering.

How to meter the scene?

Of course the more you work with filters, the more you get a feeling which filters to use. When I’m in a hurry I start off immediately with a 2 or 3 stop filter and then check the histogram. But to be precise it’s still best though to do a quick meter reading. Since I have no external lightmeter yet, I proceed like this:

  1. I switch to “Center Weighted” metering mode and set the camera to TV mode (not sure right now what’s that on Nikon right now, I think S)
  2. Then I point the camera/lens to the darker part of the scene (usually the foreground) and adjust the shutter speed so, that it equals for example f4. I prefer to set it to f4 since from there it’s at least for me easier to count the f-stops (4; 5.6; 8;11;16;22).
  3. Then I point the camera to the brighter part of the scene (usually, and in this case the sky) and count the difference in stops compared to f4 and there you go. If the camera now shows now for example f16, there is a difference of 4 stops. So a four stop filter should be best to use. Of course I could do the same in AV-mode but in that case the shutter speed and not the aperture is changing, and that somehow is too much math for me 😉

After that I switch back to AV or M mode and attach the filters and frame the shot. When I then take the image, I usually switch back to Evaluation Metering mode, and most of the time that works fine. In case of doubt, I do a meter reading from the foreground before attaching the filters and shoot manual then.

Where to place which filters:

Which filters to choose is a little dependent on the scene. A scene with an uneven horizon, such as mountains or hills, tree tops etc. ideally requires graduated soft filters, whereas a straight horizon, like in this example, it’s better to use GND hard filters. (If these doesn’t mean anything to you, please check back on my previous post here).

Application in practice:

In this particular image I used two GND hard filters with together 5 stops to compensate for the bright sky (Disclaimer: I took this image quiet a while ago but I think it was something like this) and moved them down around to the horizon, then focused manually (I usually do), checked the DOF preview and took the shot. Checked the histogram and bracketed a little and took another image. And that’s it.

I tried to demonstrate how I place the filter in the following image:

On my way home I already knew there was a nice image waiting for me on the memory card, which is a very good feeling to have.

Of course the filters don’t have to be placed horizontally like in this image. On the image “Autumn Rocks” I placed a GND soft filter diagonally across the frame like you can see in the following image:

Resume

With filters it is possible to achieve amazing results and to get the shot in the camera, which is something that I prefer. There are of course situations where it’s more useful to blend multiple exposures together in Photoshop, or do a HDR. But for me, the use filters has improved my photography a lot. I will definitely invest in some more filters. This time though ND filters. But I think that should then complete my set.

If you have any questions or comments about these posts, feel free to leave a not in the comments.

Backpacking and camera gear or trying to solve a problem

As the days are getting shorter and shorter up here, I use the time to plan next years phototrips. I have some plans to maybe explore the south west coast of England and also planning a little hike in the border area between Finland, Norway and Sweden during the next summer.

While the when and where and how-to get there is one issue, the how-to carry the gear will be another issue.
Since the pupose of these is trips is to take pictures, I can’t leave any of my gear at home, besides the flash maybe. This sums up to this:

  • 5d
  • 17-40
  • 24-105
  • 70-200
  • Lee Filtersystem
  • Tripod
  • Remote Release and other small things

So this is what has to go, plus of course clothing and other necessary things for the trip to England and additionally food and sleeping bag for the trip to Lapland.
The trips will be most likely to be organized such that, at least in England, I’m going to travel/hike during the day time and find a spot (hotel or whatever) to stay for the night as a “base” and then go out shooting. Same idea I have in mind for the Lapland trip.
So using the backpack also as camera bag seems to be unreasonable, because that way I would need to carry around the whole bag when I go shooting. But carrying two bags doesn’t seem to be wisest of all ideas either.
Another side effect would be that I have to check in the whole bag, including the camera gear, at the airport. This thought alone makes me shiver.

How to solve this problem?

If any of you has a better idea you’re welcome to leave me a comment or drop me an email, but my plan is to get me a real good hiking backpack which is big enough to fit the MiniTrekker into it. This way I should be able to get some clothing and so on into the bottom of the back and the camera on top. When I then fly or go out shooting on location I simply can take out the MiniTrekker and go on lightweight.
I also considered packing the gear into lens-pouches etc., which would make it a lot easier, but then again I would need to carry the whole bag around when I go shooting, or take another one with me to carry the gear to location.
I know that there are some camera bags, which have a camera compartment and another one for other stuff, such as the Primus AW, which is one of the many bags that I own, but at least that one is too small for a longer trip like this.
For the time being I will stick to my plan using two bags, knowing that’s it’s not going to be the wisest one, but maybe someone of you has experience with that or some ideas, then you’re more than welcome to share it in the comments.
I will keep you posted about the progress and maybe post a little video, once I figured out how to do that.

Image reviewed on Lens-Flare

Fellow photographer and german blogger Steffen Göthling from Lens-Flare.de has new series on his blog, where he gives comments or a review of images. This week he was so kind to review/comment on my image “Being There“.

For those interested and who read german please head over to his article on his blog.

Big thanks from the now already a little chilly north and this also reminds me that I’m long behind with my blogroll which will hopefully be up one day soon.

Using GND filters on a Digital Camera: Part 2

In the first post in this series I wrote a little introduction to Graduated Neutral Density filters what they do and how they look like. In this post, I’m going to show you what you actually will need in order to use them.

My biggest confusion when ordering my first filter set, was, what I would actually need, or what I will get and/or how it looks like. So here I have put together what all is necessary hoping to make it a little easier for others.

What do you need?

The filter set consists of three parts:

a) The filter holder:

This filter holder is equipped with filter slots for two filters.

b) The adaptor ring:

The wide angle version of a 77mm ring:

And this a 67mm version:

The difference between the wide angle and the basic version is the thickness. The wide angle one is smaller in order to prevent vignetting on wide angle lenses.

c) The filters, well obviously:

The GND filters come in strengths from 1 to 3 stops in both hard and soft transitions. 4 stop filters are available as a special order. For anything stronger it’s recommended to use two filters together.

I’m using the Lee Filter System, which you also see here. Things might be a little different in different systems.

So, whether you get the Starter Kit  or the Foundation Kit for the Lee Filter system you always will need an adaptor ring, suitable for the lens or lenses that you plan to use it with.

How does this come together?

Attaching the filter system is very easy. First you screw the adaptor ring to the lens:

Then you clip on the filter holder to the adaptor ring:

And finally you can slide in the filter(s):

This is basically all that you need in order to use them.

It is possible to upgrade this filter holder via the “Upgrade Kit”. Using that, you can use 4 filters together.

Are there other filters available?

The benefit of this filter system is, that you can also get all kinds of filters for it. There are Neutral Density filters available, warming filters, graduated colored filters, black and white filters and so on.

Also there are special Polarizer Filters available which can be attached to filter holder via an adaptor. I don’t have any of these yet, but I’m looking forward to expand my filter collection a bit in the future.

I think that’s it for this post. I hope it has shown clearly what is needed in order to use these filters. In the next post I will try to show some examples on how I used them of several of my images.

If you have any further questions or if something is wrong or unclear, you’re welcome to leave a comment.

Disclaimer: I’m not affiliated with Lee Filters in any way, I just use it and I hope everything I wrote here is correct. Just to make sure.

Using GND filters on a Digital Camera: Part 1

I have received several questions on my blog about the use of Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filters, or better what these actually are. So I decided to come up with a little series of posts in three parts, trying to explain what these actually are, and what is required and how I use them.

Why do I use them?

From the moment I started to become more seriously interested in photography I was fascinated about the technical aspect of getting a “proper” exposure. Since landscapes had been my main interest from the beginning, I quickly learned about the limitations of digital sensors. Whatever I tried to achieve, my images were never nowhere near (besides a few exceptions of course) to those images that I saw and liked in magazines, books or one the web.

It was frankly a little frustrating, but I tried to figure out the reason why my images looked so much different. Besides the amount of Photoshop, the most significant difference was that I realized that all my favorite images captured the whole, or at least a wider dynamic range of the scene than my images did. No blown out skies, dark foregrounds or just overall boring exposures.

I learned about HDR then and experimented with that for a while and came much closer to the look that I wanted to achieve. Also I learned about the possibilities to blend two or more exposures in Photoshop. Whereas these techniques are great and actually provide more flexibility it didn’t feel right for me, since the first time I could then see the final image was after the post-processing. For me it feels just better if I would get the shot right in camera first.

The more I investigated in this, it did strike me was that a lot of my favorite photographers used all kinds of filters, most notably so called Graduated Neutral Density Filters, which at least at that time felt a little old fashioned to me in this digital age. But the more I learned about the purpose, benefits and also weaknesses of these filters the more interested I became. I looked up information everywhere on the web and I decided to get some.

As easy as that may sound, it’s a little confusing if you have no store nearby where you can go an have a look at them, or check out what you actually need to start with. There are holders, slots, adaptor rings and so on. And even though I did some research, what to get first and so on, I was still a little confused by all the possibilities. Most of the time I just read a description, but I never saw an image of what I actually would get and need.

I thought that this might occur to other people as well and want to bring a little clarity into this by writing a little series of blog posts related to this.

Sounds cool, but how do they look like and what do they do?

 

On this image you see a 3 stop hard Graduated Neutral Density filter from Lee Filters. As you can see the upper part of the filter is dark, while the lower part is clear. That means the dark part is exactly three stops darker and the transition from is hard. These filters are also available with a soft graduation, where the graduation process encompasses a wider area, like you can see in the following example:

The purpose is to make one part of the image a certain amount darker than the other part in order to take away the exposure from the brighter part of the image. This usually is the sky, but can also be another part of course like bright reflections in a lake/river, snow etc. In a upcoming post I will then explain why there are hard and soft filters.

The color used on these particular filters is neutral gray, which will be invisible on the image and should not create any color cast, which are said to be created by filters which are just using a gray tone.

Assuming you attach the filter to the lens, whatever you will shoot, the top part will be three stops darker than the lower part. In other words, if the sky in your image is three stops brighter than the foreground, and you use this filter, the whole dynamic range of the scene should be correctly exposed. So the foreground wouldn’t be too dark, or the sky just a blown-out white all done in camera. Isn’t that great!

In part two of the series I will post, what you will need to have, in order to attach these filters to the lens.

If anything in here is wrong, or if you have any questions or further comments you’re welcome to leave me a comment.

Panning Still Objects

I got the inspiration for this technique while reading an article about photographer Ted Leeming and his interesting landscape photography. Intrigued but these these images I tried to reverse engineer this technique and have been experimenting with this a little during the last weekend and here’s what I figured out.

Camera settings:

Basically these images are just long-exposures with motion blur created by panning the camera through the scene/frame. So, I dialed in the lowest ISO on my camera (ISO 50) and since I have been shooting at daytime, I used the highest f-stop on my lens, f32 (ironically this also happens to be my sharpest lens) until I had a shutter speed of 1.3 seconds. If it’s too bright outside a ND-Filter will help to set up that shutter speed.

From my little testing I received the best results, at a shutter speed around one second. If it’s too long, the frame get’s too blurry for my taste and in case of tree trunks, just some streaks in the image. If it’s too fast on the other hand, the image just looks out-of-focus and unintended. Around 1 second though, it get’s blurry while still catching some of the detail.

Technique:

Now that I had my camera settings ready, I framed the image how I wanted it to turn out, then turned the camera up and then down again while releasing the shutter and slowly moved back to my intended framing. Best result I got, when I moved the lens down, before I pressed the shutter, so the camera was already in motion. It goes without saying, that this involves some practicing.

So far it worked the best for me, to move the camera/lens in the same direction as the subject. So in case of the tree trunk, from up to down, whereas in this flower.example I moved the camera in a little circular movement. Just experiment with different movements, it’s fun.

Subjects:

I chose subjects with clear lines and shapes and some color contrast to the background, such as these, tree trunks and flowers. I tried the same with different shapes as houses, boats etc, but the results I achieved where very unsatisfying, looked un-intended and just out-of-focus. For images like that, I could imagine a soft focus technique or the Orton-Effect to be much more effective.

Post processing:

Post processing these images, was a rather unspectacular act. Some WB adjustments, curves, clarity and vibrance and minor cropping in Lightroom and finally a some more color adjustments in LAB mode using Photoshop.

Conclusion:

I don’t see myself shooting like this all the time, but it’s a welcome edition to my growing repertoire of techniques. It’s a interesting and easy approach, gives some new ideas and is a good technique to use on otherwise those uninspiring, dull, boring and overcast days. On a side effect, it seems to make normal shots, look even sharper. But that might just be me.

I hope you like this little tutorial, and if you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to leave a comment or drop me a mail.

In the comments of my image “Forest in Pastels” photoblogger Jacques Bron posted links to his images, which he has done using this kind of technique (look here, here or here).

Have you been experimenting with this technique or have any suggestions, questions? Feel free to leave a note in the comments.

Photography Podcasts

As I wrote on an earlier post I like to listen to podcasts. I have always some on my iPod/Phone with me. Usually I listen them on my way to a location, or while I wait for the light to change, or when writing this post.

I surely don’t have to mention all the information I get out of there. Especially I enjoy episodes which do not deal with technical topics, but more with the philosophical aspects of photography, on how photographers approach their work, think about it etc. If you are interested in that, you will find some very good information in these podcasts.

I’m constantly trying to expand my list, but my three favorites at the moment are PhotoNetCast (hosts: Antonio Marques, Martin Gommel, Jim Goldstein and Brian Auer), Exif And Beyond (host: Jim Goldstein) and This Week In Photography (hosts: Alex Lindsey, Scott Bourne et.al). I have some podcasts which I haven’t checked out yet, but once I have done that I will mention them here.

Here are the links if you don’t know them already:

If you have some podcasts to recommend feel free to leave a note in the comments or drop me a mail or a tweet.

On a site note I will ad a blog roll soon to the sidebar, and you will find some more links there also.

Road trip to Ii

Ever since I got more interested into photography I was exploring the area around me with my bike. Whereas this is a great thing, the range is rather limited.

On Sunday I convinced a very good friend of mine, to go together with me in his car to the city of of Ii. We were rather late and arrived just a few minutes before the sun actually set, but still, we quickly found a little bay, where we were able to get some nice shots. The light was just great, and the sky was almost purple at one point.

We will go back there as soon as we have the chance to do so.

I’m still working on those images, but I guess that at the end of the week, I will be able to post one of the first images. Just a little teaser 😉