When photographing landscapes and including a bright source of light like the Sun, we often end up getting quite a bit of ghosting and flare in images. Although seeing lens flare is quite normal in both images and video (in fact, videographers and movie makers often purposefully add ghosting and flare to their footage to make the scene look more natural), sometimes the effect can heavily harm images. Since every lens reacts differently to bright sources of light, with some having special coatings and optical optimizations in place to reduce such effects, the effect of ghosting and flare and its damage are not something that can be easily predicted – there are too many variables involved, like focal length, optical design, coating, light source angle and even dust within the lens. So what do you do when you have a beautiful sunrise / sunset moment and you want to capture it with the sun in the frame without traces of ghosting / flare? I have been using a “finger the sun” technique for many years and today I want to explain how this technique works and how you can use it to create stunning, dramatic landscape images.
In my photography classes I often get asked, “What is a long exposure?” Many beginning photographers want me to give them a definitive shutter speed with my explanation. However, long exposures are not only subject driven, they are largely based on the artistic vision you have for your photograph. Panning, light painting and night photography all make use of long exposures. However, these techniques are subjects of a future article. Today I would like to discuss “really” long exposures, exposures in excess of several minutes. These types of exposures create surreal, dreamlike images. They use neutral density filters (think sunglasses for your lens) to extend exposure times far in excess of what could be achieved by simply decreasing ISO and stopping down your aperture.
I never intended for it to be this long between the two articles, but life got in the way. I have been busy with trying to sell our photography at various fairs and craft shows, when you have a day job as well it ends up taking up all your spare time. I don’t like disclaimers or fine print, but here is mine: “What I do, works for me, the information here is designed to be honest from my perspective and maybe useful to some readers. Take from it what you can and find your own path along the way…”
In this final installment to this series, I have chosen to discuss one of my favorite topics in photography: close-ups. My goals with this article are to provide a basic understanding of light and exposure when photographing a subject at close range, the rationale for exposure loss during magnification, and guidance on how to correct for this exposure loss. To illustrate these principles, I will share my own empiric observations, review the pertinent calculations that govern magnification and exposure loss compensation, and discuss select photographs that I have made at close range. Hopefully, this article will help beginning and advanced photographers grasp the physics of light at close range and take command and control of magnification and exposure compensation. Although I crafted this article from the framework of a photographer using traditional close-up and macro equipment (i.e., bellows, extension tubes), the use of an external light meter (i.e., non-TTL metering), and continuous lighting (e.g., natural light, lamps), the tenets and technical considerations for close-up exposure compensation are still relevant to those photographers who prefer automation, TTL metering, and electronic flash. Finally, I will wrap up the discussion by sharing some thoughts on the use of film as a tool for learning the visualization process.
In this fourth installment to this series, I have selected a series of photographs that I made with long exposures on three film stocks to share in the context of a discussion of film reciprocity departure and the use of filters in color film photography. Although I had originally intended to include a discussion of exposure corrections for close-ups in Part IV, in the interest of brevity I decided to defer this topic to a final Part V to this series. Of note, reciprocity departure and filtration in color film photography are complex and interesting topics. This article is not meant to be a comprehensive treatment of both topics, but rather an introduction that I may expand upon in future articles.
Famous scenes — landscapes, wildlife, buildings — are famous for a reason: they are spectacular, and often easy to access. You have seen these photographs, undoubtedly: a sepia-toned photograph of the Eiffel Tower, perhaps, or a dusty herd of wildebeest in the sun. Glacier Point at sunset, and Mesa Arch at sunrise. These are some of the most incredible sights on the planet, and it is no wonder that photographers flock to them; in many cases, photographers are the very reason that these sights are on the map in the first place. I have nothing against photographers who focus on these beautiful scenes, and I wholeheartedly admire those who photograph them well. Indeed, as photographers, we too often get caught in the idea of taking unique photographs at a famous location, when the most beautiful scene may be the one staring us in the face.
I am getting a little nervous writing articles, seems like it puts a target on your forehead for criticism, some just, some un-warranted. So let me start this article by telling you what I am intending to convey in this article and that is the following: I took a 12 day wildlife trip (self-organized) to Alaska to photograph moose, I have done many self-organized wildlife trips before to other places. When I do these trips, what do I bring and why do I bring it? This is what I bring and what I do, and it works well for me, take from it what might be useful to you and leave behind whatever you find non-informative. After many small trips to shoot wildlife, we have developed a bit of a standard packing and gear list we bring. It changes slightly depending on the trip, but generally we bring three bags, two are camera gear, one is clothes :)
In this third installment to this series on visualization and film photography, I have selected a sample of photographs (mostly made in the 35mm format) to share and discuss. Although I heavily focused on technical aspects in film photography in Part I and Part II of this series, my goal with this article is to provide a more aesthetic description and simplified approach to the construction of photographs. I thought it would be of interest to beginning 35mm photographers to briefly discuss some of the film choices available. Although the choices of film stocks have dwindled over the years, fortunately there remain a plethora of excellent professional and consumer 35mm films from which to choose and enjoy. Even though I have used many – but not all – of the available film stocks, I cannot possibly discuss all of them here. For one particular film stock, I am delighted to share a pair of interviews with more experienced photographers that readers might find interesting and helpful. Of note, Photography Life contributor Vaibhav Tripathi has previously shared his experiences and beautiful photographs made on 35mm with Fuji’s Velvia 50 and Kodak’s Portra stocks in his inspiring photo essays on Acadia National Park, landscape photography, and Waterfalls of New England series that may also be of interest.
If you have read any of my previous articles, then you would know I have two Nikkor super telephoto lenses and I often use them in wildlife photography. I also often mention that reach is important in wildlife photography and getting highly detailed and crisp images. Two of the super telephoto lenses I have are the 600mm f/4 prime and the 800mm f/5.6 prime and they are amazing lenses that give me amazing reach for wildlife, but this reach can also be a problem when multiple eyes are involved (ie: several animals in same frame).
Lets take a look at a nightmare photo to get with a 600mm lens at optimal distance requiring minimal cropping:
In this second installment to this series on visualization and film photography, I have selected two photographs, “Gravida” and “Pyramis” (both architecture), to share and discuss. As in Part I to this series, I will provide a detailed description of the thought process behind the construction of the photographs, the choice of tools, and the technical considerations involved.