Photo: The World on Fire

#PhotographyDiscussion #TheExperienceProject #Photography 

What lessons have YOU learned from experience?

Nature is breathtakingly beautiful. She lulls you into feeling safe and calm. But she can turn dangerous in an instant.

I am pretty darn careful out there - but sometimes Nature reminds me that being careful isn't always enough.

Damaged gear? Drowned cameras? Injuries? Accidents? Share your stories, and the lessons you've learned! Here are a few of mine!


1. Never let go of your camera or tripod when you are shooting in very windy conditions. My 10-22mm was badly damaged when it took a bad fall in high winds in Iceland, and the same thing happened to my 180mm macro and my 50D when +Jay Patel was shooting with them on a beach in California.

2. If at all possible, leave your bag high and dry if you are shooting on a beach. Jay ended up underwater with ALL his gear when a rogue wave grabbed his bag and threw him off balance in Iceland. Luckily, his Loka backpack from f-stop kept everything dry... except for the tripod and camera he was holding in his hand.

3. Don't assume that because you've done it before, you'll be ok doing it again. I ended up falling hard on my butt in the middle of a stream in Montana when I jumped onto a dry rock thinking it wouldn't be slippery. I'd done it carefully moments before - testing the rocks to make sure they were rough and easy to stand on. But this dry rock was slippery. The camera and tripod survived the fall. My butt was pretty muddy, though. ;)

4. Logs and other buoyant objects that are floating in the ocean or sitting on the beach can be deadly. I was photographing small icebergs on a beach in Iceland, when a rogue wave came up and picked up a bunch of bergs. They slid smoothly past me, and then turned and raced back to the ocean. I was hit by at least four of them. It felt like being hit by a car.

I'm sure there are many more... but that's what comes to mind for now. ;) Just be careful out there. Nature isn't friendly. She's breathakingly beautiful, she lulls you into feeling safe and calm, and she can kill you in an instant.
Photo: Photographing Star Trails

#Photography #naturephotography 

While we were in Utah last week, +Jay Patel and I had mostly clear skies. Not so great for daytime photography - but awesome if you are hoping to shoot stars or the moon at night.

On this night, we set up our cameras near Balanced Rock in Arches National Park for a nice, long evening shooting star trails. It was relatively warm out there - though after a while, the wind really picked up. We hid out in the lee of a giant rock nearby, but got kinda chilly anyway. Ah well. It was awesome fun.

There's a lot to think about when you are shooting something like this - exposure, digital noise, the location of the north star, what time the moon rises, cloud cover, stabilizing your camera, light from passing planes, blending in post-processing... the list goes on.

I am putting together a blog post that will include as many details as I can think of, and I'll post the link when it goes live. Maybe it will help someone who is interested in trying something similar. Meanwhile, I have a couple more shots that I'm working on as well. Time to get back to work!
Photo: Beaming

Careful planning in the field - and complicated post-processing. This one wasn't easy!

So - how do you capture a scene like this one? This is one of the more difficult situations to work with. First, the range of light is extreme - dark shadows and blinding highlights mean I can't capture the entire dynamic range in a single exposure. And since the light beams reach below the horizon line and the dark trees stretch above it, a Graduated Neutral Density filter will cause as many problems as it solves.

The solution? Bracketing. I took three exposures to capture most of the dynamic range. One shot exposed for the darkest shadows. One for the mid-tones. And one for the highlights. I let the brightest area inside the sun remain over exposed, since we can't see details there in reality and reducing the brightness of the sun would create a very odd, unnatural look.

Once I had those three images, I needed to blend them as smoothly as possible. I processed each image carefully for the area it would represent. I used the mid-tone image for most of the sky, and used the other two images to bring out details in the trees and foreground... and of course, the bright areas around the sun. Then, using layers and very careful masks in Photoshop, I blended the three images. I use the "iHDR" manual blending technique that +Jay Patel and I have developed over the years. It's much more effective than your standard HDR software because it allows us to apply blending only where it's really needed.

When blending was finished, I removed a bit of lens flare (which is often a problem when you are shooting directly into the sun).

Is it perfect? Almost certainly not... but it does represent the scene as I remember it. What do you think? Does the scene feel natural and real to you? Does it evoke an emotional response?
Photo: Another beautiful day in Iceland!

Here's a like to our blog post for Day 6:
http://www.photographybyvarina.com/photography/blog/iceland-day-6-2

#PhotographyTips

I took this shot of Skógafoss with a 70-200mm lens, a circular polarizer, and a neutral density filter. I needed a longish shutter speed to blue the surface of the water in bright conditions, so that the rainbow would stand out against a smooth background. The neutral density filter helped with that - and the polarizer allowed me to increase the shutter speed even more, while also helping to bring out the brilliant colors in the rainbow. With both filters, I could reduce the shutter speed to .6 seconds at f/11. Just enough to smooth the water to my liking.

This was such a beautiful location - but the climb was steep. After my little run-in with the icebergs the day before, I couldn't climb the hill... so I stayed behind. At first I planned to just sit back and enjoy the beautiful sunshine while I waited, but the more I looked at the falls, the more I wanted to shoot it. The view from below wasn't very exciting... I wanted something a little different. And this is the result. This was the best weather of the entire trip, too. Warm and sunny! Such pleasure after yesterdays difficulties!
Photo: iHDR Overview

Wondering how +Jay Patel and I blend images with a very broad dynamic range? Our latest blog post gives you an overview.

Here's the link: http://www.photographybyvarina.com/photography/blog/ihdr-workflow-overview

Please feel free to share!

So, what is iHDR? It stands for Intelligent High Dynamic Range - and it's our manual blending technique for images with a very broad range of light... like the one you see here.

This is what I'll be doing with some of the images I brought back from Glacier National Park. I can't wait to get crackin'! :)
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Beaming

Careful planning in the field - and complicated post-processing. This one wasn't easy!

So - how do you capture a scene like this one? This is one of the more difficult situations to work with. First, the range of light is extreme - dark shadows and blinding highlights mean I can't capture the entire dynamic range in a single exposure. And since the light beams reach below the horizon line and the dark trees stretch above it, a Graduated Neutral Density filter will cause as many problems as it solves.

The solution? Bracketing. I took three exposures to capture most of the dynamic range. One shot exposed for the darkest shadows. One for the mid-tones. And one for the highlights. I let the brightest area inside the sun remain over exposed, since we can't see details there in reality and reducing the brightness of the sun would create a very odd, unnatural look.

Once I had those three images, I needed to blend them as smoothly as possible. I processed each image carefully for the area it would represent. I used the mid-tone image for most of the sky, and used the other two images to bring out details in the trees and foreground... and of course, the bright areas around the sun. Then, using layers and very careful masks in Photoshop, I blended the three images. I use the "iHDR" manual blending technique that +Jay Patel and I have developed over the years. It's much more effective than your standard HDR software because it allows us to apply blending only where it's really needed.

When blending was finished, I removed a bit of lens flare (which is often a problem when you are shooting directly into the sun).

Is it perfect? Almost certainly not... but it does represent the scene as I remember it. What do you think? Does the scene feel natural and real to you? Does it evoke an emotional response?

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