Travel

Shooting at Night with the Fuji X100

November 29, 20120 Comments

I’m currently on vacation on the island of Maui.  Each time I come to the Islands I hope to get a chance to shoot the Milky Way from atop Haleakala, weather and moon permitting.  Well once again, it hasn’t worked out because I’m here during a full moon phase.  I decided to make the best of it and head down to a relatively dark area near the water hoping I could at least get a glimpse of the Milky Way.  I set the ISO to 5000 on the D700 and tried a few long exposure shots to see if I could locate it.  No luck, the moon was just too bright.  I had my Fuji X100 along, so I decided to try some long exposure shots.

I usually have the ISO set to auto on the Fuji X100 and aperture priority mode.  So I needed to change the settings to force it to ISO200 and also set the shutter dial to “T” so I could adjust the length of exposure.   The other issue came when I tried to focus.  Because it was relatively dark, there wasn’t enough contrast to focus on anything.  The Moon was at my back so I turned and focused on the Moon then set the switch on the side to manual focus so it would basically stay at infinity.  Since I don’t have a remote shutter release yet, I set the camera to a 2 second timer release and set it on the tripod and fired away.  This is the first shot.  I was impressed.  The noise is manageable and rather quite impressive for a small camera.  You can see it almost looks like daylight.  The Moon was very bright.

Maui Beach at Night

Here is the second shot, I had the aperture wide open.  There was a little path light just behind the camera on the right that was helping to illuminate the kayaks.

Kayaks Maui

And the final shot taken with the Fuji X100 sitting on a fence rail.  I set the ISO back to AUTO and this was taken at ISO 1600, 20 second exposure.  It had a lot of noise.  I used Topaz DeNoise to help reduce the effect.  I would recommend forcing the camera to the lowest ISO possible, which is always a good idea for long exposure images, especially if you are using a camera with a smaller sensor.  This is something I can get away with on my Nikon with its full frame sensor.

Maui Beach at Night

I’ve been very impressed with the capabilities, features and ease of use of the Fuji X100 and will definitely use it when I don’t want to lug around the larger camera and all the lenses.  I’ll have more examples in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned.

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My Visit to Antelope Canyon

November 10, 20120 Comments

Lower Antelope Canyon

A few years ago I took a photography workshop by LeRoy DeJolie.  LeRoy is a native Navajo indian and creates wonderful images, mostly with large format cameras.  Since then a friend and I have hired LeRoy on a private basis to take us to places most people can’t get to, or at least not easily.  The highlight of the workshop for me was the visit to lower Antelope Canyon.  It’s truly an amazing place, pictures and words don’t begin to describe it.   The Canyons are on Navajo land so you have to pay to get access.  I believe the cost back then was around $25.  We weren’t part of a tour and I think we were limited to 3 hours in the canyon.  I understand now they ask if you have a mirrorless camera and if not, you have to take one of the tours.  I’m not quite sure what the logic is, but I assume it has something to do with having a “professional” camera.   There can be lots of people in the canyon, so be prepared to wait to get your shot.  You definitely need a tripod and I would recommend something to cover your camera, because it can get quite dusty down there.  I wouldn’t recommend changing lenses while in the Canyon.   Lower Antelope Canyon is about a quarter of a mile long.  The entrance is a sloping stroll and then once you’re in the canyon is fairly easy to get around, though there are some very tight squeezes in some sections.  The exit at the far end is a very steep ladder, or you can turn around and go back to the entrance.

There are a plethora of shots to be had in the Canyon.  I can’t imagine any two shots being the same.    You’ll want to visit the Canyon sometime in late morning to early afternoon so the sun illuminates the upper part of the Canyon depending on the time of year.  I probably took about a hundred photos and I kept about a third of those.  I had so many it was difficult to pick my favorite, but after reviewing the images a few years later, I think this is my favorite.   I really like the contrast and the wonderful colors.

If you are looking for a great workshop, I highly recommend photography workshops led by LeRoy.  You can find his workshops on the Arizona Highways site, or dejolie.com.

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Guest Post – Linda I’Anson

February 8, 20120 Comments

Guest post by Linda I’Anson. Linda’s avid photography interests include street photography, landscapes and travel photography.

My Yosemite Visit
El CapitainEvery time I’m in the Fresno area I make Yosemite a mandatory stop before going home. I used to hate this place. I thought it was overrated and was so sick of hearing about Ansel Adams this Ansel Adams that.

Coming to Yosemite in the winter changed my mind. Freshly fallen snow on the trees and mountains is breathtakingly beautiful. The crowds are gone and the wildlife are plentiful, even near the roads.

Yosemite is a two hour drive east from Fresno. You take Route 41 for the first hour to the park entrance. Then another hour to get to the meat and potatoes of the park. When you come out from the park’s tunnel you are struck in the face with the most grand awesome landscape in the world.

I have been coming to Yosemite 4-5 times a year now. Typically, the two parking lots for Tunnel View are full. This last weekend there were about 3 cars in the parking lot. And when I left the Park, zero! Unfortunately, this winter has been particularly warm and dry. I was hoping to get a shot of tufts of grass in the snow and the the stream iced over.

The easiest thing to do is park the car along the north or south roads, walk off into the woods, and you will find heaps of photographic opportunities. Every time I go, I find something new. I won’t go hiking in the mountains unless my husband joins me (to carry all my gear).

I barely made it for sunset at Valley View. When I arrived, a Japanese photography workshop was there. Thankfully, they didn’t go to my favorite tripod spot, to the right, at the base of a fallen tree trunk. But quite a few in the group were smoking and I had to yell at them in my best Japanese. SMOKING IN YOSEMITE???? Anyway, the sunset was brilliant. The sun hit the face of El Capitan in a gorgeous orange glow. Another photographer showed up afterwards and I told him he missed out on the most glorious sunset. I then showed him what I shot. Lesson learned the hard way, show up on time! My husband is laughing at me right now, as he reads this because I’m not a morning person and hate waking up for sunrise shots. He is always chastising me for not being a “true” photographer and calls me the “lazy faux-tographer”. Continue Reading »

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My Trip to the Palouse

January 15, 20122 Comments

 

Palouse MorningI’m just getting around to looking at some of the places I was fortunate enough to visit in 2011 and the great photography opportunities that happened as a result.  This photo of the Palouse, in Eastern Washington really stands out for me.

A couple of my photography friends from L.A.  (Linda I’Anson, Scott Stulberg and Holly Kehrt) met me in the small town of Colfax, Washington where we set up our base.  By the way, check out their web sites, they are all very accomplished photographers (http://www.iansonphotography.com/, http://asa100.com and http://hollykehrt.com).  We wandered the numerous paved and unpaved roads that cross the countryside looking for barns, old farm equipment and of course, the great rolling fields that the Palouse is known for.

On this particular day, we left the hotel before dawn in hopes of a sunrise shot of the fields of the Palouse from Steptoe Butte.  As you can see from the photo we were greeted with low hanging clouds, but we made the best of the situation and I think we all came back with some great shots.  There is so much to photograph in the Palouse, it’s almost hard not to get a few great shots.  Just an amazing landscape!

I highly recommend a visit to the Palouse in the late Spring when the fields are green, or in the Fall when everything is being harvested.  You won’t regret it.

I processed this in Lightroom and Photoshop using Nik Color Efex.

Jim

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Catching a Moment in Time

November 9, 20101 Comment

I recently attended a photography workshop in Death Valley lead by Scott Stulberg http://asa100.com and Jennifer Wu http://jenniferwu.com/.

On Saturday evening,  just before we were going to head out to Rhyolite, a ghost town near the Nevada border, a thunderstorm rolled in.  Of course being photographers we saw lots of photo opportunities, one of them capturing lightning, not exactly an easy thing to do.  You never know when it is going to occur where it will be in the sky.  We all ran off to our rooms to grab our cameras and tripods and set up in a line outside our rooms.  I’m sure the other guests thought we wacky, but we were excited and having a good time.

I shoot with a Nikon and I used the following exposure settings in manual mode; ISO200, 15 second shutter speed at f9.  I also used auto white balance.  I set up the intervalometer on the camera to pause for 2 seconds between shots.  If you have a Canon or another brand, you may need to use a remote shutter release/intervalometer.  I got lucky!  I captured a wonderful lightning bolt, even the framing was perfect.

Lightening - Death Valley

Thanks for reading! – Jim

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Panoramas

July 21, 20090 Comments

Certain places just beg to be reproduced panoramically.    You just can’t do some scenes justice with a normal single frame photograph.  I’ve always been interested in panoramas, something about them mesmerizes me.  I guess it makes me feel like I’m experiencing the scene like I did when I was there.

There are a number of methods for taking the shots and probably just as many more methods of stitching the photos together.

You can take panoramas handheld, with a level tripod or with a special tripod head designed specifically for panorama photography.  Nodal Ninja and Really Right Stuff both make panorama heads and I’m sure there are numerous others.  These can be expensive, as with most camera equipment, but produce superb results.  The advantage is the camera can be set up perfectly level and the nodal point, optical center of the lens, can be set.  The Really Right Stuff site has a good explanation (http://reallyrightstuff.com/pano/05.html).  Currently, I take my panoramas with a tripod and a hot shoe bubble level, it seems to work fairly well, but I will eventually purchase one of the panorama heads.

I’ve used several panorama stitching software applications including PTGui and Photoshop.  My favorite is a free program developed by Microsoft Research named Microsoft ICE (Image Composite Editor).  You can download the program at he Microsoft Research site (http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/redmond/groups/ivm/ICE/). I recently used this program to stitch together a handheld panorama of Lake Powell down in Arizona.  The panorama was a total of 6 photos, 2 rows of 3.   I took the pictures fairly quickly as we were about to head back into town.  I didn’t really think it would turn out as well as it did.  As a test of ICE I renamed each photo and opened them out of order just to see if the program could figure out which photo went where.  A couple of minutes of processing later and out came a perfect panorama.

You can see a larger version here.

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Until next time!

Jim

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Focus – Hyperfocal

May 8, 20090 Comments

At a recent photography workshop I attended in Northern Arizona, I learned something I hadn’t really paid much attention to in the past, Hyperfocal distance.

LeRoy DeJolie, our workshop instructor and amazing  photographer, showed us a simple way of dealing with Hyperfocal Distance without whipping out a range finder, tape measure, or just plain trying to guess.  I’m not a hyperfocal distance expert, but I basically think of it as a point where everything in the image is in focus (maximum depth of field).  This is important in landscape photography because it is common to have something in the foreground (rock, plant, tree branch, etc.) and of course the main subject of your photo which may be an extended distance from the foreground object.  It’s really great to have everything in focus rather than the foreground or background slightly out of focus.

DOF is determined by the focal length of the lens and aperture.  For landscape photography, if you want everything in focus in your image, you typically use a wider angle lens and a smaller aperture (larger f-stop number).  I normally try to use f11 or f16, this gives me sharp images without diffraction which would cause the image to appear not so sharp.

If I came across this situation in the past, I would try to focus on something about a third of the way into my composition.  This actually works fairly well, but not perfect.  The little trick that LeRoy taught us was to set the camera to manual focus, focus on the far subject, then adjust the focus so the near subject is perfectly in focus and then split the difference.  This has worked very very well for me and I used this method in the following image taken near Page, Arizona.

Hoodoo near Page, Arizona.

Take care! – Jim

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