Friday, October 29, 2010

Pre-production Software

As a landscape photographer I presently have two pieces of software I use as part of the
composition process. The main one is “The Photographer's Ephemeris”
(also know as “TPE”) the other, “Stellarium”. Both of these programs are
available for Linux, Mac and Windows OS’s and are free to download.

The Photographer’s Ephemeris is a free application developed by Stephen Trainor designed
for landscape photographers. Among other things TPE can be used to track the time and
direction of the rising and setting sun and moon. As well it also outlines the times of the civil,
nautical and astron. twilights on any given day. At least these as the features I use.
I use it all the time and often will cycle through it (adjusting the calendar) to see when
the sun or moon would line up with various landscape or cityscape features I want to photograph.

For example TPE helped me plan this shot. I expectantly waited, with nd grads in hand,
and enjoyed the show!

Morning Has Broken at Petty Harbour

Morning Has Broken at Petty Harbour

After using TPE for about two years I now have a general idea of the suns movement in my
area, rising and setting, as we move from season to season. If I want to capture a sunrise
or sunset in a certain area I can easily plan in advance what would be the best time to
shoot it. I have found this has allowed me to be more proactive and prepared and has
increased my chances of a successful shoot. This gives us an even greater opportunity to
“chase the light”!

Another example of a photograph I was able to capture because I planned ahead was
“Heading out this Morning”. As well as knowing exactly where and when the sun would
rise I also knew the fishing boats were going to be going out to the fishing grounds. All I
needed now was a little luck for the right weather. As I stood there all prepared, the show
began right on time, cool!

Heading out this Morning

Heading out this Morning

The other program, which I use to a much lesser extent is Stellarium.

Stellarium is a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a detailed
rendition of the sky, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope.
I might use it when I want to include a planet in a shot. With all the news about Jupiter
these days it was an obvious subject!

Journey to Jupiter

Journey to Jupiter

I have found that simply just browsing around these programs gives me ideas and options
for future photo shoots. Always great to have a plan and sometimes it even works out the
way I hoped!

Thanks for dropping by and having a read. If you got any software applications you’d
like to share, it sure would be great to hear form you!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tripods, what will they think of next?

I am a big advocate of tripods. I will use one unless it gets in the way. Tripods for me are not
an accessory but an essential tool for all types of photography!

Let me put my landscape photographer’s hat on.
Tripods are more than a form of image stabilization. It is a platform on which you can place
your camera to help you compose and arrange the elements in your photograph. I do find my
compositions evolve and as I work I can systematically position the camera to get the
composition I want. To me not using one would be like a painter trying to paint a landscape
without an easel! It’s easier with the right equipment!

I also have several other reasons to use a tripod. I think of a tripod as a third hand, a
place I can safely leave my camera for a minute when I have other things to tend to.
All of the long exposure photography I do is impossible without a tripod, impossible.

I also think of a tripod as a form of protection if needed. I have come across a few shady
characters during my wanderings over the years and there is also the possibly of being
confronted by an aggressive dog or wild animal. If I had to I could immediately snap the
quick release removing my camera and wield a mighty weapon. Hope to never have to do that.

The Great Outdoors
As a lover of the Great Outdoors I also have a fascination with great adventure stories.
The tales of Ernest Shackleton and Heinrich Harrer are two of my favourites. It is through
this fascination combined with my new found love for foreign films that I came across the
Akira Kurosawa film “Dersu Uzala”.

Dersu Uzala is based on the book “Dersu the Trapper” published in 1923 (it was out of print
for 50 years).The author V. K. Arseniev tells of his travels in the eastern reaches of
Siberia with Dersu, a native hunter who acted as a guide for Arsenyev's surveying crew
from 1902 to 1907, saving them from starvation and cold. Arseniev was amazed, as many
who watch the movie or read the book are, by this man’s resourcefulness and connection
with nature.

Dersu’s Den
Upon watching the movie I was stuck by “the Blizzard on the Lake” scene. Arseniev and Dersu
head out to explore a lake, expecting to be back to camp by evening they travelled lightly.
A snow storm arises and they become lost and their lives are in peril. Dersu in his ingenuity
constructs a shelter using a surveyor’s tripod saving both of their lives.

Dersu Den
This is a shot I captured from the movie. Unfortunately the book provides very little
detail and no picture of the construction!

I had a chat will a local man a while back who was telling me he went for a hike with
some friends on a local trail recently. The trail was said to be a one day hike and they
were delayed and had to night over and weren’t prepared. Fortunately it was a mild time
of year and they made it out safely.

You never know when you’ll need a tripod!

Can you think of any other reasons to use a tripod? Love to hear them!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The “Photographers Disease”

Do you have the “Photographers Disease”? You know where that great photograph is always
one equipment purchase away. Don’t fret actually it’s not an official disease you’ve
probably just been swooned by all the marketing hype we all experience these days!


I was in the car with my daughter a while back and I told her about a new lens I’d like
to get. She told me that she was talking to a friend who is also a photographer and he
said that photographers always in want of equipment, ``its like a disease``. Got to
agree I sometimes wondered about this myself. I was thinking about the new
Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS II USM lens. Pinch, pinch, back to reality!

My Opinion

Case in point the 10 stop ND filter. There’s been a storm to buy these over the last
couple of years. I’ve even seen some comments on-line saying that because of the large
demand in these filters supply is low. Sounds like two reasons not to buy one!:-)
In light of this I am surprised to find that I have not seen one, in my opinion, “great”
colour photograph taken with these filters. Now, perhaps surprisingly(?), I have seen
many great black and white photographs taken using these filters. Take for example my
friend Joel Tjintjelaar's work. Excellent!

Besides on many occasions I use Mother Nature as my neutral density filter. Thanks Mom!

Rhythm and Blues

If someone knows of a “great” colour photograph taken with this filter can you post the
link here so we can all have a look? There has got to be some out there, I’d love to see one!

Ironically just yesterday I was thinking of a possible use for this filter. I want to make
an image based on a verse from a “Police” song, “Spirits in the material world”.
I visualize a shot of people meandering about in a shopping district. I want the commercial
district distinct and the moving people, ghost like. I think a shutter speed of perhaps
1/10 of a second would be a starting point. Then again depending on the ambient light I
might be able to stack a couple of polarizer’s to get what I need. I already got those!

Oh and if you think a Lens Baby or HDR is the path to great photography, good luck your
going to need it! Unfortunately these things often take a person away from focusing on what
makes a good photographer/photograph, technique, composition and lighting!


Equipment should be put in perspective. If you just want to have some fun and make some great
images then many of the compact cameras will do. Some even have great macro and video
features included!

Personally the last print I sold to our provincial art gallery was taken with a Canon Powershot.
Not one of my fancy and expensive DSLR’s!

The End of the Line

For a professional who does landscapes, portraits or weddings a good body with a 24-70 2.8
and a 70-200 2.8 would be great tools to get you just about everything you need and leave
lots of room for the creative process! In the real world it’s not going to make any difference
if you use a Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM lens or the new Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS II USM lens.

It’s not about the equipment, it’s about you! Enjoy your photography!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bulb Based Exposure

The techniques for taking long exposures can vary depending on what you’re
photographing or the effect you want to create. For example I tell people when they are
photographing stars, whether it is star-trails or astro-photography, “the exposure is in the
aperture”. This is what I would call an “aperture based exposure”. More on that later.

Another type of long exposure photography that is popular involves using light-trails as
an image element. In this case I will be discussing using the light trails from cars and
trucks on our roadways.

If you want the vehicles light to “write out” a certain trail or pattern it is often difficult to
select the necessary shutter speed to match exactly what is needed. The world is a
dynamic place and the pace of things change. Maybe you would like to have the light-
trail extend throughout the frame or last for a portion of the exposure. In these instances
you may not be able to use a set shutter speed, personally these days I use bulb. So the
exposure constants are aperture and iso. I call this “Bulb Based Exposure”. Bulb based
exposure has been for me an evolution in my practice of long exposure photography.

Deconstructing "History ..."

Take for example this image, “History Repeats Itself”.

History Repeats Itself

I had two unknown time variables in regard to how long the shutter must be open. One, I
wanted to walk into the frame and using my flash manually fire it to illuminate each flag.
This meant 6 firings. Fortunately I was using a flash with a fresh set of nimh batteries and
was getting recharged in less than 4 seconds. The second variable, I wanted the lights from
the cars to travel throughout the frame, writing a serpentine reversed “s” in the frame.

Exposure 32 seconds, f22, iso50 with 6 manual flash firings at full power. In this case the
exposure would be to bottom out the iso, close down the aperture and open the shutter for
as long as you need to. It did take me 4 or 5 attempts to get this and bulb helped me get
what I wanted.

If you want to see “me” in the shot check out the image on my Flickr stream!

Please leave comments, be great to hear from you!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

High Speed Sync

Digital photography in itself offers many new possibilities for photographers that film users never had. The simple ability to review an image immediately after taking it has revolutionized photography. The learning  process has become exponentially quicker.

Other new advances in technology offer the possibility to break new ground in imagery. With new technologies like “High Speed Sync” flash users have another new creative outlet. I would even suggest users have the chance to create images never before conceived. It’s a very exciting time.

Not to long ago flash exposure was limited or constrained by a shutter speed of about 1/60 a second or so. On some systems you might be able to go to 1/250 of a second. The flash fired when the shutter was full open, when the film or sensor was fully exposed. This is commonly known as X-sync. We were very limited to a slow shutter speed but not any more.

These days using High Speed Sync flash we can use our flash at speeds such as 1/6000 or 1/8000 of a second. Rather than firing once the flash strobes, synchronized with the shutter opening. In this case only part of the sensor or film is exposed, a slit, the flash strobes to ensure a consistent exposure throughout the frame. There is a trade off here, the faster the shutter speed the more the flash has to strobe to ensure exposure throughout the frame resulting in a reduced effective range. Following is one example of my use of HSS flash.

Anatomy of a street portrait, flash at 1/6000 second.

“Steve” is a busker who plays classical guitar in the streets of downtown St John’s Newfoundland Canada. When I decided to photograph Steve the first thing I had to consider was that he looks down a lot which meant that if I wanted to capture his face I had to get on the ground, yeah lay on the sidewalk downtown during a busy lunch hour. :-(

This meant I had to use the sky as a backdrop. So I (in camera) metered at the chosen aperture (f5.6) and had to go all the way to a shutter speed of 1/6000 of a second in order to keep the sky. My camera was set at iso200 and I was using of camera flash with a homemade diffuser

I must say I am very happy with the exposure and love all the diverging lines. It was worth taking the chance of being stepped on. :-)

Yeah it’s a very exciting time indeed.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Dept of Field – The Truth in Focus

When I first got serious about photography many years ago I read every thing I could
find on the subject. Back around 1990 I bought a book called “The Ins and Outs of Focus”
which challenged many of the conceived ideas about dept of field and sharpness and inspired
me to dig deeply into many of the concepts of photography.

These days you don’t even have to buy this book, the author, Harold M. Merklinger,
has made it available on line free of charge. If you like the book, a payment of $5
is requested.

This book later ran as a subsequent series of articles in Shutterbug Magazine back in
the 1990's!

Harold’s book“The INs and OUTs of FOCUS” as well as his book “FOCUSING the VIEW CAMERA”
can be downloaded by clicking Here

All the Best
Brian Carey
Brian Carey Photography

Friday, June 18, 2010

“Taking a Dip with the Duckies” (or don’t try this with your Speedlight!)

We went to a local park last evening to do a photoshoot for a local couple. It was at
Bowring Park, a lovely park, the largest in the city. I decided it would be nice to get
a few shots down by the river.

We were setting up and as I was telling the couple where I wanted them I heard something
fall behind me. I won’t go into the details but as I turned around I almost wet myself
as my new Canon 580EXII Speedlite bounced on the river bank and then, “PLUNK”! It was
in the Waterford River with the ducks, sinking out of sight!

I lay down my camera and crawled down the river bank on my knees, the flash rose to the
surface and I pulled it from the water. I figured it was bye bye Speedlite. I could see
water in the flash head and the LCD display was half filled with water. I immediately
removed the batteries. There was no water in the battery compartment!

Modus Operandi

I immediately wiped down the flash removing all the water from the outside. Upon arriving
home I took a small precision philips screwdriver removed the base and two screws on the
head as well as two screws on the body, under the head.

I did not take the flash apart. I tried to repair a broken Vivitar flash before and I
found those ratcheting heads can be almost impossible to reassemble. I opened up gaps in
the unit and attempted to shake what water I could out of it! I would insert the the
catchlight and wide angle panels, shake the flash and extend both panels and wipe the
water from the panels. I would then reinsert the panels and complete the process until
water no longer showed up on the panels. I also shook the flash with the panels extended
to remove water. Water was still evident in the display and in the flash head and I left
the unit upright all night hoping more water would drain from it! In the morning most of
the water was gone, a few small spots remained in the display and head.

Later on that morning at the suggestion of a friend, with the screws still removed I
placed the flash in an airtight bag with some desiccant hoping the desiccant would remove
the remaining moisture. An inspection four hours later showed three small spots of
condensation in the display. The flash looked much better than I ever though it would and
I decided to fire it up and I’m happy to say it is working perfectly!

I think one thing that might have helped was the homemade diffuser I use.
This helped seal the head a little more and also helped to absorb the shock of the fall.

Does a Canon 580EXII Speedlite bounce? Yep!
Does a Canon 580EXII Speedlite float? Thankfully!

Now while I got one damaged umbrella my flash seems to be working perfectly!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

“What is the best ISO”?

I came across a question on several forums on the internet and I thought I’d have my say! The question, “What is the best ISO”?

I think the question can be best put in context by using the phrase “The Exposure Triangle”. The first time I heard this phrase was on a podcast featuring Syl Arena from . The relationship between shutter speed, aperture and iso has been an issue serious photographers have been dealing with as long as there have been cameras. Personally I never had a name for it until now.

Like so many aspects of photography I think it’s all relative. Relative to what effect or look you want to achieve. When I shot weddings with film years ago I carried two 35mm cameras, one loaded with iso100 and the other with 400. I also had with me a Mamiya with two backs one with iso100 and the other with 400. I’d shoot iso100 if I could but if I needed a faster shutter speed or a little more dept of field then I went to the 400.

I do agree that the best iso is the lowest but you have to go with the iso that gets you the shot! Take for example,

Harbour Twilight

I had to increase the iso on my 5D2 until I got the shutter speed I needed to still the boats. Had to go to iso2000 and got it with a 0.5 sec ss. I did bracket and tried lower iso’s but this combination of iso and ss worked best. I’ve been down this road before and don’t want to be making the same mistakes of using the lowest iso available. I used to be like that but thankfully I’ve changed.

Here’s another example of setting the iso to give me the shutter speed I need!

the Singer

This was at an indoor show where the lighting was constantly changing and using flash out of the question! I had to go to iso3200 and shoot wide in order to get the shot. I needed a shutter speed to ensure the image was sharp and not blurred. I went with 1/125 second.

In my opinion the best iso is the (lowest) one you can use and get the shot!

All the Best
Brian Carey
Brian Carey Photography

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Best Photo Op.

While many people think you have to go to exotic places for great photographic opportunities you may find there may be lots of opportunities in your very own neighborhood.

With this in mind I thought I’d put together a video of 12 photographs I’ve taken over the last 2 years within a 15 minute drive from my home. I call the video “In My Neighborhood”! Hope you enjoy.

As Chase Jarvis says “the best camera is the one that’s with you” then perhaps the best photo opportunity may lie just around the corner! All you have to do is discover!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Anal Photographer

For most of my photographic life when taking pictures of people (or any other subject for that matter) I've said I never use direct on-camera flash, especially un-diffused on-camera flash. I mean why would I, it is to harsh and makes the subject look flat. And what about the unsightly shadows or the possibility of red-eye. But I've changed my point of view on this. I've been reading Joe McNally's "Hot Shoe Diaries" and I must admit now I can see myself using straight on camera flash. I still don't think I would use it for a formal portrait or when shooting a wedding but perhaps at -1 or -2 it can be used as a fill or to create edge or drama. So now I can't wait to try it and experiment!

Another rule I've lived by for years was to use the lowest iso possible. Perhaps this stems from shooting Ektar 25 print film in my Mamiya 2 1/4. I do/did consider myself a landscape photographer and I always believed your safer with the low speed film if you want enlargements. This low iso rule has it's place but I found I was kind of hung-up on it so much so that I would rely on it perhaps in lieu of common sense, I mean consider this photograph.

Horses in Bonavista

I'm taking pictures of slow moving grazing horses and I'm using a shutter speed of 1/8 second. I mean I'm using a good tripod and ball head I should (might) be able to get "the shot". Not this time, movement detected. Here I am at iso 100, if I had to go to iso 400 I'm up to 1/32 of a second and bingo I got it. Or maybe iso 800 and 1/60 second. I am happy to say at least I learned something and that should keep me from making the same mistake again.

I think it is important to remember that all of these "rules" have their place. But photography is such a broad subject and is changing so rapidly that our concepts and ideas have to change. Sometimes in the heat of the moment when a great photographic opportunity raises it's head they might get you that great shot but sometimes it might get in the way. Well in the least if we don't get THE shot hopefully we will learn something and be more open next time.

I am amazed at how many photographers are so ingrained in doing things one way and one way only. Even people who need a lot of help!

Do you have rules you used to go by and changed? If so can you share with us and lets us know why you did change?

All the best and don't forget to break your own rules!
Brian Carey