Like many folks I often ‘lose myself’ when I’m exploring, camera in hand. How and why certain things catch my eye is something I’ve never questioned. Trusting my creative impulses adds to the adventure. My wife and I spent a week exploring the Saanich Peninsula in British Columbia in early April. This article shares some of the eclectic collection of images captured during our meanderings, as well as some of the techniques used to create the photographs in this article.
Flowers seem to catch my eye frequently and its one of the reasons that I always pack a set of extension tubes and a 1 Nikon 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 zoom lens when I travel. One never knows when the opportunity for some close up photography may present itself. I often like to position flowers entering the frame from a corner to add some drama to an image.
Finding man-made objects and working them into landscape compositions is something that I enjoy. Especially if I can take advantage of their angles and lines where possible. In this case I used the arm of the chair to create a corner exit.
I enjoy walking on shorelines and specifically looking for driftwood, rock formations, shore erosion and other elements that can add some character to a photograph.
This revolving merry-go-round intrigued me and I wanted to combine the feelings of motion and stability in an image. Since I had left my tripod in the car I propped myself up against a pillar in the building so I could shoot at a shutter speed of 1/2 second to create some blurred motion. Stopping my lens down to f/16 also helped achieve a slow shutter speed. With the main portion of the photograph being a motion blur I wasn’t overly concerned about getting some image softening from diffraction. I set my single AF point on the fencing on the right hand side of the frame to create this photograph.
Often an overcast day can be a blessing as it diffuses light and helps to accentuate colours in a scene. The moss and lichen on the branches in this image really reminded me of some of the rainforests on the South Island of New Zealand. I actually took some saturation out of the photograph above in post. The green hues were so bright naturally…that they almost looked unnatural!
My eye often sees geometric shapes, like the triangle in the image above, long before I actually recognize what is in an image that I’m composing. Dark clouds never deter me from going out with my camera as I love how skies like this can help define an image and add some visual interest.
Here’s what you get when you combine a bug, a banana, a glass display case, and some extension tubes.
I loved the beautiful lighting in this display area at the British Columbia Legislature building. It did a wonderful job accentuating the formal, elegant feeling of the room. I captured this image hand-held with a shutter speed of 1/25 at ISO-3200 with a Nikon 1 J5. I used some perspective control adjustments in OpticsPro 11 to correct some of the angles in the image. As is often the case when in public buildings I had to wait for other visitors to leave the room, or be hidden behind pillars or displays, before capturing my images.
At times some of the most intriguing images can be found by looking up. I pointed my J5 straight up and flipped the rear screen out 180-degrees to compose this photograph. Rather than risk falling backwards over a handrail and dropping 30 feet or so, I settled for a less-than-symmetrical image.
The harbour in Victoria British Columbia is a plethora of different colours and shapes. Capturing this image while positioning myself partially up a stairway to elevate my camera gave me the stacked and compressed perspectives I wanted to create in the photograph above.
I wouldn’t normally choose to capture an image of a moving object with a camera like a Nikon 1 J5 that doesn’t have an EVF. As the old saying goes, ‘the best camera is the one you have with you’ and in this instance the J5 did the trick for me.
Small details regularly catch my attention, like the lock in the photograph above. This was fastened to some bars on the entry gate to the legislative chamber at the British Columbia Legislature building. Not having a tripod with me, I knelt on one knee and balanced my Nikon 1 J5 on my thigh to capture this image at 1/20 of a second at ISO-3200.
Complimenting and contrasting lines in a jumble of driftwood can catch my eye, enticing me to climb about looking for a particular feeling of balance within the randomness. Working with ‘curves’ in CS6 in post helped to bring out more of the subtle colour differentiation with the various pieces of driftwood.
My wife and I often visit public parks and gardens as we enjoy strolling along garden and forest paths. The pathways can create good leading lines in compositions and I always look for something interesting to act as a corner anchor.
Whale-watching in a small boat is always a hit-or-miss proposition as one can never predict nature. Being able to capture an image of a mother Orca and her calf swimming by was a special moment. Shooting in AF-C with subject tracking at 10fps with my Nikon 1 V3 allowed me to capture the Orcas in a good position in the frame. Since the Orcas were swimming at a leisurely pace I didn’t bother to shoot my Nikon 1 V3 in AF-C with subject tracking at 20fps. I straightened the horizon with the tool in OpticsPro 11.
I simply could not resist capturing the tree image above. I love the smooth sweeping motion of the branch exiting the top left corner, coupled with the interesting bark texture and colour. The lopped-off tree limb on the right-hand side of the image was a bonus character feature.
Have you ever wondered what a flamingo’s foot looks like? I can’t say that I ever consciously contemplated the answer to this question – but I was mesmerized with its appearance and details, capturing a few images.
I initially saw this image as a white triangle with contrasting dark vertical lines. The splashes of pink colour in mid-frame pulled me into the scene and helped to create a strong right to left downward flow in the photograph…at least to my eye.
Returning from holidays, it can sometimes be difficult to assess ‘photographic success’. For me this has mainly been defined by the amount of variation of subject matter in my photographs and by the number of composition approaches used (more of both = success). If I happen to have a sufficient number of images to create a photography e-book based on the trip it’s a bonus!
All photographs in this article were captured hand-held using a Nikon 1 equipment as per the EXIF data. All images in the article were produced from RAW files using my standard process of OpticsPro 11, CS6 and the Nik Collection. All photographs in this article are displayed as 100% captures without any cropping.
Article and all images Copyright 2017 Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, adaptation or reproduction of any kind including electronic or digital is allowed without written consent. Photography Life is the only approved user of this article. If you see it reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use. Readers who call out offending websites that steal intellectual property by posting comments on those offending websites are always appreciated!
I am amazed at the amount of detail, DR and low noise you can get out of the NIKON 1 J5.
I feel my FF pics pale in comparison. :-D
Thank you for your positive comment! I’m glad you enjoyed the images.
I am humbled by your very generous comment – thank you.
Your compositions are as close to perfect as possible! In the third image(the shoreline) the depth, color contrast and the lines leading precisely into the bottom corners are a true inspiration. I’m also impressed by the dynamic range and IQ of your trusty Nikon 1’s. I appreciate your dedication, your “heart” for photography really shines in between the lines. I don’t mean to gush so much, but quality work like this needs to be recognized! Thank you!
Thank you for showcasing my town. I’ll give you a free tour guide for your next visit, and tag along with my D750. Perhaps I’ll learn a thing or two from you.
You’re welcome Tieu! My wife and I certainly enjoyed our visit! I have no idea if we’ll make it back out to the area…so many places still remain on our mutual bucket lists!
Those all look pretty darn good to me. Nice punchy colors. I have an older version of DxO OpticsPro 9 but I’m thinking of switching to LR so I can use Topaz an NIK plug ins
You can use all of those programs in combination just like I do. I start my files in DxO OpticsPro, then export a DNG file into CS6 (you could export into LR), then I can use Topaz and Nik as required.
Thanks so much Tom. The precision comment was miss-directed in one sense, as I did not realize the very high resolution you are working with until I looked at your camera specs on the Nikon site…very impressive. That said, smaller photo-sites are also more sensitive to camera movement, and given that it sounds like the majority of your work is hand-held, it makes the sharpness of the photos more impressive to me. Again – thank you for sharing. I need to make time to do the same someday. Very Best, Mark
It is always great to exchange some ideas! I never really thought about the potential impact of high resolution sensors and smaller photo-sites being more sensitive to camera movement.
Great article as usual, and photos to go with it. I enjoyed reading your process, what you see initially, and what you do to take the image you want. Reading how you go about taking images will surely make me think more about seeing and visualizing and help me take better photos also.
Thanks for your comment Vinnie! It is very important to me to understand if how I am presenting images and commentary in my articles is helpful to readers!
You know how to make your photographs interesting, no matter what subject you are shooting–very inspiring. Victoria BC is one of my favorite places; hope you left a few photos for me to shoot. = :- )
LOL…not a problem Art!
While we spent a week exploring the Saanich Peninsula, my wife and I only spent a total of 2 hours in the city of Victoria. I captured a few images around the harbour and at the BC Legislature building during that limited time. The rest of the week was spent on other areas of the Saanich Peninsula. I’m really not much of a ‘city person’ at all and I tend to avoid cities as much as I can when on holidays. The only reason we went to Victoria at all was because my wife wanted to see a bit of it.
Beautiful photographs capturing a range of different subjects; thank you for your explanation of your thought processes behind them.
You’re welcome Peter! I’m glad you enjoyed them!
I too enjoyed reading about your process because it helps me think more about my own…like noticing small details. I’ll also look into OpticsPro 11 as I never heard of this editing software. I always read Photography Life articles b/c they hold my interest on all levels. Thanks.
I’ve been using DxO OpticsPro for a number of years as my main RAW processor. The software doesn’t have as many spot adjustments available as other programs like Lightroom or Photoshop do, so many folks use OpticsPro as part of an overall process.