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...