Sunday, March 29, 2015

Project Feline - (Part 1 - "The Shot! or Shots!")

Here we go with another installment of "The Shot", "The Shoot & The Gear," and "The Post."

The background goes something like mother-in-law wanted some photos of our babies (i.e., our fur babies).  My wife went out and found a frame with 3 4x6 slots in a portrait format, which was perfect as we have 3 cats. So now I had 2 options, 1) scour my Lightroom catalog for existing photos, or 2) shoot new photos.

I did take a look through Lightroom, but I didn't see anything in a portrait format that had any consistency between the three; all of the backgrounds were different and I shot a lot of them in landscape orientation. So it was option 2...shoot new photos!

Stay tuned for Part 2 - "The Shoot & The Gear," where I'll review the lighting set-up among others things.



Monday, March 16, 2015

In the Nick of Time!

You have less than 2 minutes to capture a perfect sunset...don't screw it up! 

Sometimes you see a gorgeous sunset, and it’s always slowly slipping away. This was the case for this image…and I almost missed it! 

My wife and I recently vacationed in Maui. On this day we had just returned from visiting Pearl Harbor on O’ahu and were driving back from the airport. We were heading west along highway 30 and the sun was slowly going down. We were on the twisty turny section of road between Maalaea and Lahaina and there was not really a safe place to pull over.

We continued to watch the sun going down and I was getting a bit anxious because I wanted to pull over and grab a few shots before it left for the day. We had just come out of the twisting section of road, and just as the sun was almost touching the horizon a left turn lane presented itself…like it was saying here’s your chance take it or leave it! 

Now for the record, being safe should always be paramount to getting a photo. I mean there is a sunset every night so it’s not worth causing an accident. However, judging by the way others were driving some just don’t care about safety…sigh!

So we pulled off (safely) and I scrambled out of the car, grabbed my camera from my bag in the back seat, and moved quickly to find a spot (by the way the sound silencers on the Think Tank Photo Retro 7 make it easy to get into your bag quickly). By this time the bottom of the sun had already started to drop below the horizon. Just to give you sense of timing my first shot was at 6:23:36 pm and my last shot after sun dropped below the horizon was 6:25:25 pm, so less than 2 minutes. This shot was taken right in the middle at 6:24:38 pm.

I was shooting with a Nikon D810 with the 28-300mm lens. I really didn’t check all of my settings because I was moving pretty quickly. But I do remember doing 3 things…on the run…AF switch on, check (it can get moved going in and out of the bag), VR on, check (shooting handheld with 300mm lens), and I also switched off bracketing mode that I was using earlier. 

I began shooting and made a couple of exposure adjustments on the fly. But I totally forgot to check my ISO so it was still at 100. Aperture was at f6.3 and I had dropped the EV Comp by 1/3 of a stop. When all was said and done I realized that I got away with 1/400th shutter speed…whew! This shot was racked out at 300mm so having turned the VR on earlier was helpful for additional stabilization.

Sometimes you have to move quickly and make adjustments on the fly, and then hope that you made the critical choices. I was lucky that I got away with it…this time!



Monday, March 2, 2015

Ghost Town - Nelson, Nevada (Part 3 "The Post")

The third, and final part in this series is the "The Post." The following video tutorial walks through how I created the final image. It goes from Lightroom to HDR Efex Pro 2 over into Photoshop CC, and back into Lightroom.



Monday, February 2, 2015

Ghost Town - Nelson, Nevada (Part 2 - "The Shoot & The Gear")

Following up from my previous post "The Shot" (above). This time I'll walk through the "The Shoot and The Gear."

After we arrived and got checked in at Nelson this was the first spot I saw that I wanted to shoot. It might have been the big Coca~Cola sign that drew my attention, it may have also been the overall shape of the barn. As soon as I looked at it I saw a very simple composition.

I knew I wanted to put the peak of the roof in the upper left hand third, which meant positioning myself on the right. I started with my tripod in it's full height position, but after trying a few test shots I lowered it by about a third. This gave me a bit of an upward looking view, which put the peak of the roof where I wanted it in the frame.

It was just past 6:00 pm so the light was beginning to fade, so it was a great time of day to shoot. I knew even before coming to Nelson that I was going to be bracketing every shot and have a little HDR'fest. Even if I wasn't going to do any HDR, but just single exposures, I still would have bracketed multiple shots. I didn't know when I was going to be back so getting a range of exposures provides some latitude to play around with in post.

As you can see from the above image I shot a 7 bracket set (-3, -2, -1, 0, +1, +2, +3) and I've highlighted the exposure value for each image. You'll also notice that these are NEF's so I was shooting in RAW, which provides for maximum flexibility in post. Again, I didn't know when I'd be back so I wanted to give myself the best chance for the best outcome in post.

You can also see that the +2 and +3 images are really blown out, but look closely inside the open door of the barn. In the other exposures there is no detail to be found, but at the high end I was able to get some of that interior detail. Also, check out the sky in the -3 shot. This has a nice natural gradient as the light was fading. So basically I chose 7 shots because I thought that would give me enough range to grab all of the detail from the shadows and highlights.

There's so much really cool stuff to shoot there that I could have stayed a lot longer, but it was getting dark, and our stomachs told us it time to feed them! ;)

The Gear - I was shooting with a Nikon D810 fitted with a Nikon 16-35mm f4. Shot in aperture mode, 16mm @ f6.3. This was my first real outing with the D810 and I'm very happy with how it performs.

Stay tuned for Part 3 - "The Post", where I'll walk through how I mashed all 7 exposures together to create the final image.