Sunday, 28 December 2008

A belated Christmas Greeting

I have been trying to take some time off over the Christmas period so that is why this Christmas greeting is coming a little late. But anyway Happy Christmas to you all and here's to hoping you all have a great and prosperous New Year filled with photographic goodness. Read more...

Monday, 22 December 2008

Great Ocean Road Landscape Workshop

We are pleased to announce the details for our latest addition to the Field Workshop Series, the Great Ocean Road Landscape Field Workshop. Quite a mouthful but this adventure, to one of the most scenic regions of the world is going to be a fantastic opportunity to develop your camera and digital darkroom skills. We will spend most of our time out in the field shooting the coast and cliff lines of the Ship Wreck Coast and the forests and waterfalls of the Otway Ranges learning the skills needed to capture professional looking images and when we are not shooting we will be looking at how to process the images in the digital darkroom to maximise the quality of your prints.
For more details have a look here

Great Ocean Road Field Workshop

or download the PDF brochure

If you are keen you had better be quick as there are only five places left, and this is the first public announcement! Hope to see you there. Read more...

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Nikon D3x

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last 24 hours you will no doubt be aware that Nikon has released details of the new D3x, a 24MP upgrade to the fantastic D3. Already I have had a number of emails asking "Should I get a D3?" This is a question I cannot answer as I do not know if it will fit in with your style of shooting and workflow. Will I be getting one? Well I am not sure. Regular readers of this blog and workshop participants will know that I place the amount of mega pixels well down the list of desired features of a camera. First comes quality of pixels, which I am sure will be very high quality pixels in the D3x, that is why we had to wait for so long. Next comes other features like FPS, good (low) noise at high ISO, both which are not as good as the D3 and last is the amount of MP. If everthing else was equal I would choose the higher MP camera but before that the other factors are more important for me and my shooting. The advantage of the 24 MP D3x is in the detail. Having all that resolution means I can crop panoramas from a single frame image and easily print them one meter wide and as for high resolution stitched panoramas, well they will be killer when stitching six images together and printing them one meter high! So will I get one? Possibly. The D3is awesome. The file quality at high ISOs has opened a whole new world of photographic possibilities and the higher resolution of the D3x will open more doors too. I won't get a chance to get my hands on one until after Christmas but will let you know what I think (and if I will keep it) once I do. Read more...

Monday, 1 December 2008

More tips on selecting a tripod and head

Further on my two previous posts on choosing a tripod, How to Save Money When Buying a Tripod and More on Tripods here are a few more suggestions on models currently and easily available in Australia. Personally I love my Gitzo 3540XLS and the BH-55 head but not everyone has over a grand to spend on a camera support. Fortunately you can achieve similar results with half the cash. Remembering that the important things to look for in a tripod and head setup are that it extends to head height and gets close to the cround for macro work. And that it is easy to use and light enough that you will take it with you. So here are a few suggestions...


  • Manftotto 055. There are Five different versions of the same set of legs differing in materials used for construction and centre column set up. Have a look at the 055XB (Aluminium) or 055MF4 (Mag Fibre).
  • The MT 8271 from Giotto is a remarkable carbon fibre tripod offering simliar features to the Gitzo in a not quite as nicely finished package. It is amazingly cheep but I don't know how well they will last 3 or 4 years down the line like the Manfrotto and Gitzo counterparts.
  • My favourite is the BH-55 from Really Right Stuff but if you aren't looking to support four kilograms of camera and glass the little brother the BH-40 is a great alternative.
  • Manfrotto offer a couple of alternatives. The Hydrostatic range is superb and will support anything you care to throw at it. You can chose an arca-swiss compatable plate for it or purchase a Wimberly or RRS plate to use if you wish to use acra swiss plates (and you should)
  • The MIDI ballhead range (Not to be confused with the MINI, which is no good for our applications) is a good cheaper lighter alternative to the Hydrostatic heads. I don't like the camera attachment plates on this range and they cannot be changed to an Arca-Swiss plate but it is a good alternative especially if you don't have and never plan on getting any lenses with tripod mounts. If you do or ever will get lenses with tripod mounts then you should consider getting an Arca-Swiss compatable head.
Hope this helps a bit

Craig

Friday, 14 November 2008

Cloning a Wing Tip in Photoshop

We went through this technique at the last workshop but it wasn't in the notes so here it is. A quick and easy way to fix an image of a bird in flight when you have cropped the tip of one wing. This same technique (the first half of the video) can be used to reposition the subject in the frame to make a more pleasing composition.


Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Little Desert Field Workshop

Well I made it back from the Little Desert Field Workshop and what a good weekend we had. 12 brave folk got up a 5am both mornings to dubious weather. With brave faces we headed out regardless and the gods smiled upon our tenacity and made for some fantastic shooting conditions with amazing clouds, fantastic light and great landscapes. We shot a variety of subjects from old wrecks (above) to landscapes, flowers and birds. Everyone involved getting into the spirit of things and doing their up most to improve their photographic skills and vision. Druing lunch and after dinner we headed back to the lodge for some digital darkroom lessons with a few brave souls staying with me til 11pm knowing that in a few short hours they had to get up and do it all again.

All in all we had a great weekend. I learnt a thing or two myself (isn't photography great) and made a bunch of new friends and caught up with a few old friends from previous courses.

We are in the process of finalising the dates for a few courses next year so stay tuned over the next couple of weeks.

Thanks to those how came along and hope to see you at another event soon.



Photo info - D3, 14-24mm f2.8 finished in Nik Colour Efex Read more...

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Little Desert Workshop, one opening...

I just received an email an email from one of the participants from this weekends Little Desert National Park Field Workshop telling me that they are sick and not going to be able to make it this weekend. I have left messages with those on the waiting list but not heard back so here you go, your chance to come along and develop your skills and photographic vision. The Little Desert National Park is looking great at the moment with flowers, grasses and wildlife a plenty. I was there a few weeks ago scouting locations for the workshop and really excited about this weekend.Here is a link for the details of the trip and if you are keen then email me a to reserve your spot. It’s first come, first serve so be quick. Hope you can join us! Read more...

Spring Photography Madness

Well things haven't eased up around here. Spring has been going crazy with interesting projects taking me allover the country, shooting loads of interesting and different subjects.

From cityscapes here in Adelaide.

The wet(ish) spring has been great for the native flower populations all over the country. Orchids have had an especially good year including the exciting King Spider Orchid

As well as mammals and birds galore.

It has been a hectic season for me with well over a 100GB of new images added to the library, plenty of new experiences and loads of new friends made out in the field. Both the people I have been working with, workshop participants and folk I have met out in the field have all added to a wonderful spring.

Things won't be easing up too soon either, with the next few weeks full of workshops, shoots and deadlines I will be pretty busy but loving every minute of it. Hope you spring has been as fun and successful and I will return in a few weeks to share some of the things I have learnt over the last few months. Read more...

Monday, 29 September 2008

Spring Nirvana for Photographers

I love spring, best time of year to be a photographer. The birds are concentrating on breading and the flowers are coming into bloom in their thousands. We haven't had as good a year as this for wildflowers in a long time now too, which gives us more reason to celebrate. So time to dust of the camera and tripod and head for the hills.

We are working on a few projects at the moment including capturing some rare and endangered orchids in the Adelaide Hills region that I am sure some of you will be interested in. I will post s few pics from those shoot soon.

Both photos taken with D3, 60mm Micro with 36mm extension in natural light. Read more...

Thursday, 18 September 2008

New Photography Workshops Announced

We are very pleased to announce the dates for our 2009 Broome Bird Observatory Field Workshop. We will be based at the Observatory from the 29th of September to the 2nd of October 2009 (That's next year folks!) and focusing on all that the BBO has to offer, namely birds. And with over 300 species on record we stand to have quite a good trip. We have already announced this to previous workshop participants so we only have five spaces left of a maximum 12, so be quick.

For more information click here.

I am heading up two Broome next week to scope out some locations for the workshop next year. Really looking forward to going to one of Australia's best shorebird photography locales that is for sure. With a little help of some of the locals we will have all the inside knowledge on the best locations and the best light to pass on to you when you join us next year.

We are also looking for expressions of interest for an exciting adventure a little later in 09. We are planning on running a Himalayan Photography Trek in partnership with DCXP hosted by myself.

This trip will be structured as a ‘Travel Photography Workshop’ concentrating on the stunning landscape surrounding you, as well as people photography and documenting local culture, customs and history.

It is intended that this will be a small group to enable the participants to get personal instruction in photography. We will offer customised assistance on camera equipment choice for the trip if needed. The aim will be to help participants with their equipment choice so they are not burdened with tonnes of camera gear but have the right equipment for what they want to achieve. As with all DCXP treks, the group will be superbly supported by wonderful local staff, so that each day participants need only carry a day pack, and can concentrate on improving their photographic skills.

The inspiring environment you will be trekking through almost begs to be recorded, so it will up to you to look and learn and do justice to the panoramas laid out in front of you!

We are currently looking at expressions of interest for this one, so please contact us if this looks like your next adventure! This trek is tentatively planned for October 2009.
If you would like more information contact me or DCXP direct on +61 8 8232 4433 or




Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Sharpening Digital Images

Never has there been a better time to be a photographer. We are spoilt for choice when it come to cool tools to create our images and just recently we have been bombarded with new and exciting equipment. From the amazing D700 and D90, Canons new 50D a bunch of new lenses and tripods and now an update for my favourite way to sharpen images. Nik Software has just released an update to it's Sharpener plug-in for Photoshop and Aperture, Nik Sharpener 3.0. To call it an update is an understatement with version 3 bringing not only better sharpening but also Nik's own U Point technology. U Point controls allow you to precisely control sharpness and detail selectively within an image without the need for complicated selections or layer masks, making my job easier and leaving me with less time in front of the compute and more time to shoot. Great! Read more...

Back to Gluepot

Just back from teaching again at Gluepot Reserve. The Nature Photo course was a blast with a bunch of great folk eager to learn. We all had a fun time, learnt loads and came away with a few nice pictures to share. Even managed to get a few images of birds on a couple of participants target list. Off to teach the macro course this weekend. This course teaches participant how to make the most of their time in the field when shooting the world in close up with loads of information on how to maximise the quality of your shots, equipment tips and a few trick to get great macro images. There are two places left if you are quick. For more info have a look at the brochure here or contact me directly (leave a comment if you wish) to book your place.

The photo above is of a critically endangered Green Hood Orchid found only in a few small locations in the Hindmarsh Valley, South Australia. Orchids are renowned for being difficult to photograph. Small, very three dimensional flowers on long thin stems, located in dark undergrowth. With a little knowledge and a couple of cheap accessories photographing orchids is easy. This image was taken using a diffuser and a reflector to modify the light, A tripod that can be set up at ground level to get the angle, a Wimberley Plamp to hold the flower steady in the breeze without damaging it. And a 200mm micro on a D3 to capture the image. All easy when you know how. Read more...

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Nikon Treats - Or - What is better than the D90

The folk at Nikon have unleashed a bunch of new tools for us to ply our photographic trade most of which you would have already heard of. Notably a couple of new cameras (goodbye D300 hello D700) and some new glass. This has been bandied about the press and internet but my favourite new release is getting less attention. The GP-1 is a GPS unit that automatically tags all images with the GPS location (Geotag) in the EXIF data. I have been geotaging images for a while now but this has made it even easier. It even works as a pass through for a cable release (it connects using the 10 pin remote) which is better than the current system I am using. I have my order in already! Read more...

Thursday, 31 July 2008

More Lightroom Shortcuts

Everyone knows how much I like keyboard shortcuts. They speed things up so I can spend less time in front of the computer and moire time shooting. Well I found this great link to all the keybord shortcuts available in Lightroom (versions one and two). This is a great resource provided by Victoria Bampton that any user of LR should check out. Read more...

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Straightening Horizons Part II

Well it has taken us quite a while to sort out the second part of this video on how to straighten horizons but we weren't happy with the quality of the last one and spent a while trying a few recording techniques and are finally happy with the results so here it is. This time we show you how to straighten horizons with Lightroom and Camera Raw. Both are much faster and more elegant than Photoshop I think you will agree. Anyway hope you enjoy and more to come.


Lightroom 2

Adobe has finally released Lightroom 2 after an extended beta testing period. My guess was early August, not too bad really and the new version is greatly improved. A wealth of information on the new version is available here and a list of updates from the beta version is over here. After a few hours use I can say that this is a great improvement over LR 1.4 and well worth the upgrade price. It also supports Raw files shot with the new D700. There is also an update to the Camera Raw plug-in for Photoshop that offers many (not all) of the features in LR2 improving compatibility between the two aplications. We will have to wait for Photoshop Next (CS4) before full compatibility is offered. Read more...

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

And the tips are...

Following on from the last post, I thought I would list the tips that Deke McClelland offers in his little ditty for those that cannot understand all he says (or put up with him for the entire song). There are some good shortcuts both old and new. I wrote a couple down and stuck them to my monitor for reference. I love keyboard shortcuts.

Here you go

  1. Ctrl + J = copy layer
  2. Ctrl = command key (the one with the apple on it)
  3. Ctrl + Shit + N = New Layer
  4. Delete layer = Select move tool hit delete
  5. Every letter selects a tool except
  6. F = Full screen
  7. Q = Quickmask
  8. D = Default colours
  9. X = Switch foreground/background colours
  10. Numbers change opacity (in tens)
  11. Two (or three) numbers for exact control
  12. Shift + to advance blend mode
  13. Shift - to back up blend mode
  14. Shift and Alt + letter for specific mode (eg Shift+ Alt +s=screen, Shift+ Alt +c = colour)
  15. Mac folk Alt means Option
  16. Ctrl + zooms in
  17. Ctrl - zooms out
  18. Spacebar = hand (H)
  19. Ctrl + Spacebar = in
  20. Alt + Spacebar = out
  21. Ctrl + Spacebar Drag to zoom to selected
  22. Ctrl + Z = Undo
  23. Ctrl + Alt + Z = Backstep
  24. Ctrl + Shift + C = step forward
  25. Ctrl + Shift + F fades and edit
  26. f12 reverts
  27. reverting is an undoable operation
  28. Ctrl X cuts
  29. Ctrl C copies
  30. Ctrl V pastes
  31. Ctrl Alt I = Image size
  32. Ctrl Alt C = canvas size
  33. Ctrl F = repeat last filter
  34. Ctrl Alt F = repeat last filter with options
  35. When using selection tools, drag to start new selection (outside selection)
  36. or move selection outline (inside selection)
  37. Shift adds to selection
  38. Alt deletes
  39. Shift and Alt find iner section
  40. Spacebar moves selection on the fly
  41. Ctrl A = select all
  42. Ctrl D = Deselect
  43. Ctrl Shift I = invert selection
  44. Ctrl Alt R = Refine edge
  45. Alt Click with lasoo to draw straight lines
  46. Shift click with brush to paint straight lines
  47. Alt with th brusr for colour picker
  48. Ctrl with brush for the move tool
  49. Ctrl H = Hide selection
  50. Crtl 1 = Red Channel
  51. Ctrl 2 = Green Channel
  52. Ctrl 3 = Blue Channel
  53. Crtl ~ full colour composite (RGB)
  54. Ctrl L = Levels
  55. Ctrl M = Curves
  56. Ctrl B = Colour balance (Just like sharpen this is bad don't use it)
  57. Ctrl U = Hue Saturation
  58. add Alt to the above to bring up the last settings
  59. Mash your fist on Ctrl Alt Shit B = Black and White
  60. Alt drag white slider in levels and curves to preview highlight clipping
  61. Alt drag black slider for shadow clipping
  62. Duplicate image click create new document from current state in the history pannel
  63. Ctrl W to close image
  64. Y to save changes (Yes)
  65. N not to (No)
  66. on the mac it is S and D (Save, Discard)
  67. Esc = cancel
  68. Ctrl T = Free Transform
  69. enter = apply changes
  70. esc = discard changes
  71. Ctrl Alt T = Transform Copy
  72. Ctrl Shift T = Repeat last transformation
  73. Ctlt Shift Alt T plays transformation sequence
  74. Square bracket change the brush size
  75. Shift Square brackes changes the hardness
  76. Caps lock = precise cursors
  77. Alt switches Burn to Dodge and vice versa
  78. , and . cycle through gradients
  79. The Sharpen too is worthless
  80. Ctrl Click thumbnail in the layers, channels or paths pannel to load selection
  81. / lock layer transparency
  82. ~ hide image while viewing a mask
  83. \ view layermask
  84. Ctrl Backspace fill with background colour
  85. Alt Backspace Fill with foreground
  86. add Shift to fill just opaque pixels
  87. Shift backspace to bring up the fill dialogue
  88. Ctrl [] brings layers forward and back
  89. Ctrl Shift [] send to top or bottom
  90. Alt [] select layer up or down
  91. add Shift to select multiple layers
  92. Ctrl Alt A = select all layers
  93. Ctrl G = group layers in a folder
  94. Ctrl E = Merge selected layers
  95. Ctrl Shift E = Merge visible layers
  96. Ctrl Alt E = Merge down
  97. Ctrl Shift Alt E = merge all onto new layer
  98. Ctrl Shift C = Copy merged
  99. Ctrl Shift V = Paste into selection
  100. Alt Click on mask to view
  101. Alt Click inside dialogue to reset
  102. Alt Click trash can to apply without dialogue
  103. Alt Click colour bar to select background colour
  104. Alt Click view in layers pannel to hide all other layers
  105. Alt Click inbetween layers to create clipping mask
  106. Alt Click in swatches to create new swatch
and now we are finished. Oh wait up ...

100. Tab = Hide all pallets
101. Shift Tab = Hide right hand pallets

The end.

Hope this helps a few folk decypher Deke's rant and for my favourite Photoshop shortcuts have a look at Speeding Up Photoshop Workflow.

Happy Clicking

101 Photoshop Tips in Five Minutes

Well who thought it could be done? 101 Photoshop tips in five minutes and in quite an entertaining way too. Deke McClelland infamous Photoshop guru and educator has published an interesting and informative video clip of tips to speed up your PS workflow. I am sure some folk will find this insanely annoying but I did find myself laughing out loud at times. My favourite tip, 78 "See this tool, (Sharpen) worthless, look at this, you want this? Worthless. Yes that's a tip. Don't use the tool." And he is right too. Check it out.


Saturday, 14 June 2008

Wimberley Equipment Sales

We have had a bunch of inquiries recently about Wimberley equipment, in particular the Wimberley Head MKII and The Plamp. Yes we are still dealers for the entire Wimberley line and have wide range of gear in stock. As far as I know we are the only dealers of the wimberley range in Australia. Soon you will be able to buy directly from the new website when it goes live but if you are interested in purchasing in the mean time then please get in contact for current prices and stock availability.

We are also making available the excellent Digital Pro 4 data asset management software. We use this on a day to day basis to edit, sort, file and find images. It is the best way I have found to easily keep track of my large and expanding image library. Download the 30 day trail version here and give it a go, you won't look back.

So if you are looking for any of the above then give us a holler. Read more...

Friday, 13 June 2008

Don't Forget to Pack...

When heading off on a trip I always stress about what to take and if I have packed everything I need. I look a the huge pile of gear on the table and worry about how I am going to get it all on the plane and if I have the right equipment for the job at hand. Working out what you will need comes with practice and researching your project correctly but remembering what to take and what you have packed is easy. I have made a bunch of lists for the gear needed for specific jobs. These lists are flexible for the job at hand but are a great starting point as to what gear I need to make sure goes in the bag for a specific job. I have one spreadsheet that has different titles, birds, mammals, macro, landscape etc. and each contains a different list of equipment that I most commonly use for the situation. This way I can be sure to remember what I need to pack. I even have on list for extended trips that details not only camera and computer equipment but goes right down to what trousers, tent and toilet paper to take.

I am off shooting critically endangered orchids today and here is the list that I used to pack the Dryzone. I am using the Dryzone today instead of my favourite medium sized pack the Vertex 200 as the approach to the site necessitates an hour long walk wading down a river. Wish it didn't rain so much last night!

Macro load-out list
200mm micro
sb-800 x2
flash diffuser
30cm Reflector
120cm Diffuser
Nikon 5t
Nikon 6t
cable release
3540 tripod
SD-8a battery pack
spare batteries camera
spare batteries AA
head torch
plamp x2
Compactflash cards
Wimberley Macro Flash arm

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Nikon 24mm PC-E one month on.

Well I have had the 24mm PC-E for over a month now and it is awesome. As I noted before it is a specialised lens but the more I use it the more uses I find for the tilt/shift functions. I originally got the lens for my super wide panoramics where I stitch 6 or 8 images from two rows together to create a fantastic field of view. I shift the lens up to shoot one row and down to shoot the next to get a larger vertical field of view. I did have to get a longer nodal plate, this lens is huge, but I needed a longer plate for the huger (is that a word?) 14-24mm. The plate I chose was the MPR-CL II nodal slide from Really Right Stuff. The most sturdy nodal plate around.

Of course it is great for shooting city scapes and as a 24mm lens it is amazing. Tack sharp and handles flare and backlighting better than any other lens I have used.

The one thing that does keep surprising me is how often I am using it for my landscape work. I am reaching for it now all the time for adding a little tilt for extra depth of field and a little shift to straighten converging trees, no more looking up at waterfalls and as for wildflowers, well roll on spring.

This has gone from being what I thought would be a seldom used exotic lens for panoramas to a must have lens for all my landscape work. I love it.

Now to the bad bits. Well there is only one and that is the knobs and levers to adjust the lens are way small. almost impossible to use with glove on and we have been out shooting on some cold mornings lately. I am looking at a way to glue on a small lever to the locking knob and enlarging the adjustment screw to make my life a little easier in the cold. I will report back if I manage to find a solution.

And one piece of advice when it come to using this lens, a little movement goes a long way!

Bye for now.

All photos take with D3 and 24mm PC-E
Top an eight frame pano
Middle screen shot showing the 8 frames to be merged in PS
Bottom a little tilt goes a long way, focused from 24cm to infinity with 3 degrees tilt.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Adelaide Camera Club Follow Up

Well I went along to the ACC last night and had a great time. I showed a bunch of images and gave a few tips on how to capture better birds images. It was a good evening with a big crowd full of interesting people all keen to learn about photography and improve their imagery. It was great talking to the people there and answering their questions about nature photography and what it is like to be a full time shooter. I hope that everyone there enjoyed it as much as I did and hope to be invited back in the future to share some more images and ideas or help out in any way I can.

If anyone there last night is reading thanks for having me and see you soon.


Craig

Monday, 26 May 2008

Adelaide Camera Club - Guest Speaker

I have been graciously invited to speak at the Adelaide Camera Club tomorrow night (Tuesday the 27th of May). I will be discussing the art of bird photography and what it takes to create stunning avian images. Should be good fun.

If you are already a member come along and say hi. If you are thinking of joining a club and are Adelaide based then head along tomorrow night for a look see. More info on the ACC can be found at

See you there!

Friday, 23 May 2008

Macro Workshop

Off to Gluepot again today to teach the macro workshop. If you want to learn how to make the mast of your macro equipment and explore the magnificent close up world then come along next time. More information can be found here. Read more...

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

10 books to improve your photos

I am back from the latest workshop and although the weather gods didn't smile upon us we all had a great time and learnt a bunch. One of the many questions that came up was what books did I recommend? Well there are heaps, my bookshelves are overflowing with books on photography. When I am not out shooting I am reading about photography and how to make my images better. So here is a quick list of some of my favourite photography related books (in no particular order).

Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape, by Galen Rowell
A fantastic book by a fantastic photographer who is sadly missed after his unfornunate death in 2002. This book goes beyond photography and equipment into the philosophy of images.

The Making of Landscape Photographs: A Practical Guide to the Art and Techniques by Charlie Waite
One of the first photography books I ever bought back in 1993 and now looking a bit dog eared after repeated reading the book shows a true master of light at work and the length one must go to to capture fine art landscape images.

The Art of Bird Photography II by Arthur Morris
A fantastic work on everything one needs to know to take great bird images. Unfortunately this is only available on CD but it does keep the cost down.

Moose Peterson's Guide to Wildlife Photography: Conventional and Digital Techniques by (you guessed it) Moose Peterson
A great volume on the technical aspects of wildlife photography. Although it is a fairly generalised book it is a good starting place for those starting out with wildlife photography.

John Shaw's Closeups in Nature by John Shaw
One of the oldest books on the list this is still a great book on macro photography.

Working The Light: Landscape Photography Masterclass by Eddie Ephraums
An interesting book with three great landscape photographer critiquing each others images. An great way to see how different images appeal to different people and why.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Portfolio (all of them)
How can one not be inspired after having a look through the BBC Wildlife Photgrapher of the Year images. Published yearly it showcases some of the best photographers in the world.

The World's Top Photographers Wildlife: And the Stories Behind Their Greatest Images
This book is similar to the above but has the back story behind how and why the images were created.

Photoshop Artistry by Barry Haynes, Wendy Crumpler and Seán Duggan
This is a technical manual on how to do just about anything in Photoshop. Possibly too in depth but if you are ever struggling on how to get something done in PS this book has it.

Photoshop CS3 for Nature Photographers by Ellen Anon and Tim Grey
If you are looking for a PS book that is tailored to the outdoor photog, then this is it. It details everything from bridge to print with everything that you do need to know and nothing that you don't!


Monday, 19 May 2008

The Art of Digital Startrails

Back in the dark distant past when we shot film, startrails were easy to shoot. You pointed your camera up, at night, and opened the shutter and that was about it. Job done. It isn’t quite that easy with digital but with a digital pokery we can make fantastic digital startrails above and beyond what we could do with film.

First we need to set up our camera. Automatic modes won’t do too well in the dark so we need to switch the exposure mode and focus to manual and set the focus at infinity. Select a White Balance setting, Daylight works well, then attach your cable release to the camera and the camera to the tripod. To set the exposure you need to decide on how bright you want the trails to be, on a really starry night you will need a lower ISO (200) and smaller aperture (f4). On nights with fewer stars when the moon is up select a faster ISO (400) and a wider aperture (f2.8). Shutter speed will depend on your approach with your cable release. I prefer to use a cable release with an intervolometer setting the camera to bulb. I can use this to set a 4 minute exposure and set the number of exposures. If you don’t have such a release you can cheat by selecting a 30 second exposure and setting the camera to continuous release, when you lock the cable release on the camera will continue to take 30 second exposure until you release the cable.

Now to taking the images. It is easier to frame the shot before sunset so you can see your foreground subject. Once you have decided to on what to shoot comes the easy part, trigger the release and sit back to start you captures. You need to get at least 60mins of total exposure with 90mins or more being preferable.

Once you have your exposures you need to merge them to create the trail. Batch the images so they all have the same settings, you can use the Raw files from within Bridge but I recommend saving them as JPEG files if you are using 30second exposures.

To merge the files first you need to download and install the free Photoshop script Dr Brown’s Services from . Select the images in Bridge and click Tools > Dr Brown’s Services > Dr Brown’s Stack-a-Matic. This will bring up the Stack-a-Matic dialogue. In this window we need to select Create Stack and Maximum from the drop down list, we do not need to select Align Images as all the images should be aligned due to the fact they were shot from a tripod.

And that is that, Photoshop will do the heavy lifting for you so you can go and make a cup of tea while the image is being created, this will take quite a while if you have used 30 second exposures due to the number of frames to merge together.

For those of you who do not have Photoshop there are a few free programs around cabable of doing a similar job, my favourite is Startralis.exe found at


Thursday, 8 May 2008

Nikon 24mm PC-E lens

Well I have been lucky enough to get my hands on one of the first 24mm PC-E lenses in the country and boy am I pleased. It is another amazing lens, the folk at Nikon have really been pulling out the stops recently with the D3, the 14-24 and 24-70 zooms and now the 24mm PC-E. What does PC-E mean well from the post on nomenclature here you will remember that the PC stands for perspective control where we can adjust the effects of perspective in an image by shifting the lens in relation to the sensor. With this new PC lens we can not only shift the lens (up and down/left and right) like on earlier PC lenses we can also swing the lens to adjust where the plane of focus lies. This is similar to the 85mm PC lens but in a much more usable length for landscape photographers. Now the E part of the name refers to the Electromagnetic Diaphragm. This clever bit of electronics allows the lens to close down the aperture automatically once the lens has been shifted. In older lenses you had to manually closed down the lens and work in full manual mode as the lens is literally broken in two pieces when you sift. The entire lens is on one side of the tilt shit mechanism than the camera body not allowing for any electronic or mechanical connection. Very good for slow folk like me who always forgot to shut down on the 28mm PC lens.

The 24mm is a better focal length for my style of shooting and although a very specialized lens there is room for it in my bag. Not only can you use it to create images with no perspective distortion and extended depth of field you can use it to create huge panoramas mimicking the field of view of the human eye by creating panos with more height. 'Standard' panos are wide but the human eye has a big vertical field of view as well normally missing on panoramic images. Using the 24mm PC-E to create a top and bottom row of images for the panorama we can create a taller image more natural and pleasing to the eye. (examples to follow)

Below is an example of the tilt used to extend the depth of field(DOF). What we are doing when tilting the lens is changing the direction that the DOF (technically the Plane of Focus) extends from the camera. Normally the DOF is parallel to the camera body but shifting the lens changes the angle alowing us to get more of a flat object in focus.

In the above image we have about 4cm of sharp focus, the lens was set wide open at f3.5 and focused on the 60cm mark. Thats not fair you say, stop down. Okay.
Here the lens is stopped down to f16, the DOF extend from the front of the shot to about th 43cm mark. The first lens cap is acceptably sharp but not tack sharp. Not bad with our focus at the 60cm mark again set at 35cm on the lens.

But look now, back at f3.5 we have sharpness from the 67cm mark well beyond the second lens cap at the 30cm mark. Great for extending depth of field while keeping up shutter speeds, awesome for shooting scenic wild flower fields in the breeze. Cannot wait for spring.

Catch you soon.


All images captured with D3 and 24mm PC-E lens Read more...

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Straighten that Horizon (PT 1)

Well here we go with our first attempt at a video tutorial post. In the first video I show how to straighten a wonky horizon in Photoshop CS3 and in the second (coming soon) will show how to do the same in Camera Raw and Lightroom, currently my preferred way of sorting out a wonky horizon.

As you are probably aware I prefer to get things right in camera rather than fixing them later. Most of the time when shooting landscapes and wildlife I have a bubble level in the hotshoe. This isn't so easy to use when shooting action or dangleing from a rope but I am loving the virtual horizon in the D3 and D300. With one press of a button I can see in the viewfinder if the camera is tilted and which way I need to rotate it to get it straight. Awesome... Read more...

Friday, 14 March 2008

What's in the bag? Part 2

Now on to the big bag. The definitely not the lightweight bag. My new favorite big bag is the Airport Security from Think Tank Photo. It is large enough to fit two large bodies, two flashes, and lenses covering 14mm to 600mm with room for teleconverters, filters, remotes, cables, diffusers, the lot. The added advantage to this bag is that is has wheels! I can tote it around airports, to and from cars without breaking my back. These wheels are great for smooth surfaces but not so good for rough terrain. When I do need to carry a lot of gear over rough ground I resort to my old faithful Lowepro Pro Trekker. For the majority of the time I work from near enough to my car to leave the bag behind with a long tripod mounted lens (200-400 or 600mm) on my shoulder, a second camera body with a tele- zoom (70-200 or 24-70) round my neck and a wide zoom (14-24 or 24-70 depending on the circumstances) in my pocket or bumbag.

You can see here the Airport Security's main compartment with the majority of the gear. The bag is so deep that you can easily store equipment stacked together with padding in between.

Inside the lid there are four see through pockets for storing accessories like filters and cables. There are two more pockets on the outside where I place AA batteries, CF cards, note books, pens, passport and an external hard drive for backing up the laptop. All of this fits neatly in this non assuming black bag that doesn't scream out 'expensive camera equipment inside'. Which is great for drawing attention from theives and airport attendants. And did I mention I don't have to pick it up, it has wheels! Read more...