Dragging the shutter

Drawing shutter, Slow Shutter Speed

By slowing down your shutter speed (1/15sec) you can get some very interesting motion into otherwise static images

 

 

While in Washington DC last week I was able to get out one morning with my tripod for some early morning photography as the city came to life. I am increasingly drawn to longish exposures. For at least the last year or more I have been shooting all my moving water images with ND filters to draw out the exposure time and interject movement into the images. I experimented quite a bit this morning in DC with the same idea. Lengthen the time of the exposure with the tripod there to hold the majority of the scene crisp and sharp, while a small element within moved and created a sense of activity that would otherwise be lacking. This is one of my favorited from the day.

Filters Matter! or Why you need a good polarizer

Vu Filters, Circular Polarizer, VSCPOL77

Vu Circular polarizer removed the vast majority of the glare from the surface of the Canvas Gallery Wraps.

Every photographer should have a circular polarizer. It removes glare from reflective surfaces such as water, glass and canvas. In the examples above and below I adjusted the polarizer to maximum effect, then turned it until there was little or no effect. The difference is substantial. The glare in the image below would be very difficult/impossible to address in post processing.

Polarizer

Without the benefit of polarization, the glare on the surface of these canvas gallery wraps is quite distracting.

When buying filters you want to look for a well crafted product with a sturdy but minimal filter ring. It doesn’t take much for a filter to extend into the field of view and cause vignetting. The filters for Vu are constructed from German shott glass with beautifully machined threads in low-profile housings.

The effect is clearly visible through the camera, so you know when you have the filter properly oriented. Polarization works optimally at 90 degrees to the light source. So if you are shooting straight ahead and the sun is to your right at 90 degrees you should be able to get substantial polarizing effect. As you recompose moving more in line with the sun the effectiveness of polarizing will decrease. By the time you are aimed directly in-line with the sunbathe effectiveness is almost gone completely. If you have ever tried to polarize on overcast days, you probably noticed that no matter how you turned the adjusting ring, there was little or no change. cause polarization is so dependent upon the directionality of the light, overcast conditions result in the light being diffused or scattered to such an extent that there is no directional light to be polarized.

Nikon D4, iPhone 6Plus

Behind the scenes…how I was able to capture video that gave you the photographers eye view of the Vu Polarizer in action.

Some days it helps to be a MAC Group dealer. I needed to hold several different devices steady safely at one time. The laptop sits on a Kupo Laptop Table. The Nikon D4 is on a Induro BHL3s Ball Head mated to an Induro GLT304 Stealth Carbon Fiber Tripod equipped with a MCG23 geared center column. The iPhone 6+ is being supported by a Induro BHL2s paired with an Induro CT505 Carbon Fiber Trpod also with a geared center column. I thought it was an ingenious way to shoot video from the photographer’s point of view.

 

 

 

 

Want to shoot at the Prison where Shawshank Redemption was filmed?

Photo opportunities at the Mansfield Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio

The movie Shawshank redemption was filmed in Mansfield, Ohio in the Mansfield Reformatory.

Last year I made two trips to Mansfield, Ohio to photograph the reformatory where Shawshank redemption was filmed. It is such an interesting place. As a reformatory it was chartered to educate and teach new skills to the inmates in an effort to help them find legitimate work once they were released. Inmates had the opportunity to learn carpentry in the furniture shop, masonry, and numerous other life skills. The prison closed in 1990 and has since been used in numerous movies, most notably Shawshank Redemption in 1994. A small part of Air Force One with Harrison Ford was filmed there in 1997.
HDR image of Ohio Reformatory

Access way “behind the cells” to allow for maintenance of the mechanical systems.

There are public tours of the reformatory available, but tripods are not allowed. Private group tours however are available and tripods are allowed during private tours. I strongly encourage you to find a private tour directed toward photographers and join in. You will have much smaller crowds to deal with and the use of a tripod is paramount if you want to walk away with really great images. I have arranged for just such a private tour on Monday, March 14th from 11am to 4pm. Most people make it a same-day round trip excursion from metro-Detroit area. You can join in for $75. IF you have a friend or spouse that wants to attend but not take pictures they may do so for $12 (cash the day of the tour). Contact us to reserve a spot (248) 608-8563 or Info@GetShotByBob.com

Solitary, HDR

This image was shot in the deep recesses of the prison, where I am told you never wanted to end up.

All of the images in this posting were shot as multiple captures and then later blended to gather to create the highly detailed images you see here. This technique is designed to allow a photographer to capture a broader “dynamic range” than one could with a single exposure. High Dynamic Range (HDR) is a contentious subject among many photographers. Mostly because it can lead to very surrealistic images depending upon the software and personal choices made during the post-processing portion of the job. I personally love to shoot and process HDR images because I can create images that simply would not be possible without the technique.

Ornamental metal stairway, HDR image

All metal staircase found in the private areas of the prison where the warden and his family would have lived.

Most cameras will allow you to capture a 3 frame “bracket” of images that will later be processed down into a single image using software. The darkest image should have no overexposed highlights and the brightest image should have good detail the deep shadows. Occasionally it is helpful to have 5, 7 or even more images in the bracket to fully capture the full range of brightness within a scene. The greater the range of brightness, the more beneficial it is to have additional frames in the bracket. If you camera only captures a 3 frame bracket, there is a handy app called Photo Buddy that can aid you in properly capturing larger brackets.

Grungy wall, peeling paint

Newspapers or other reading matter is not permitted

 

The value of experimentation (Get out and play!)

_ND44842_AuroraHDR_HDR

Three frame HDR captured hand-held in the woods near West Branch, Michigan

I spent much of the past few days in the woods in West Branch Michigan with the Mud Chuggers 4×4 club at their Annual Sno Blind event. I have been attending and photographing the event for several years. The main attraction to off-roading for me is the opportunity to get out the woods and experience the more remote areas. This weekend provided plenty of opportunity to do just that. I am very pleased with how the final image came out. It conveys much of what draws me into the woods repeatedly.

_ND44815

Sun and Shadows in the woods.

_ND44808

Pine in Deep Snow

I am also pleased with the two images above, for similar reasons. They take me back to the moment I created them.

I was riding along with a few other people in a Jeep Grand Cherokee and didn’t have the time or room to haul a tripod, nor did the group have the patience for me to be seeing up and breaking down a tripod repeatedly, so I was shooting hand-held. After being out in the woods for a while I started to experiment with some longer exposure times. I wanted to capture a different look and feel to the images.

Driving by at 1/15th of a second.

Driving by at 1/15th of a second.

Did I mention it was around -15 degrees much of the day, so shooting from inside the Jeep was preferred much of the time. These next series of images were the result of playing with different shutter speeds and techniques.
Upward sweeping motion at 1/4 of a second.

Upward sweeping motion at 1/4 of a second.

I did some while turning the camera almost like you would a steering wheel.
Rotational capture at 1/10th of a second.

Rotational capture at 1/10th of a second.

My point being in all of this is that playing and experimenting can take you places that you may never have gone otherwise. I previously had tried similar techniques during night photography, but not during the day out in the woods. Make no mistake, I tossed out more images than I kept. The “hit” rate isn’t always great, but I am really excited about several of the images that resulted from this experiment.

271 Seconds – Streaking Clouds

I have been experimenting with extreme time exposures.

This image was shot in early October while driving to Drummond Island.

I used a 10 stop neutral density filter and the resulting exposure worked out to be 271 seconds. The extremely long duration allowed time for the clouds to “streak” across the image. The tree also managed to wobble quite a bit during the exposure thus the unique shaky look.

This Winter I will be hosting a “filter” workshop. The factory rep from Vü Filters will be on-hand to assist and we will have a full selection of filters available for purchase at special rates for workshop participants. Stay tuned!

Stretching out time

Extreme Time Exposure

Want to improve? Get out there and play.

Photographed during a Night Photography workshop held in Denver, Colorado.

Oysters . . . Seafood in neon!

I teach numerous people in a variety of different ways. I often hear “there is so much to remember…how do you do it”?

The same way you manage to drive your car everyday without incident (hopefully). You do it repeatedly until muscle memory takes over. Have you ever rented a different car when you travel? The initial few minutes behind the wheel are a little awkward while you are finding and familiarizing yourself with all the controls, but once you do all is well.

Strolling a vibrant downtown with a camera is one of my favorite activities.

Clock Tower as seen from the Downtown Denver walking mall.

If you have to look for each setting on your camera every time you want to make a change, that tells me that you simply need more time playing…developing that muscle memory. I’m afraid there simply isn’t any shortcut. It come with time and experimentation.

The images in this post were shot during a Night Photography workshop I instructed a few weeks back in Denver, Colorado. It was the night of the Mayweather – Pacquiao boxing match. The weather was cooperating nicely and the city was bustling. Many of the women were still donning their Kentucky Derby hats from earlier in the day. All in all, it was a superb evening to be out and playing with a camera. Most of the workshop participants had never attempted night photos and were constantly delighting themselves with the images they were able to create.

Caribou Coffee along the Denver walking mall.

Coffee shop at night

You can read every photography magazine printed and watch youtube channels until your eyes bleed, but your photography skills won’t improve until you actually get the camera out and work it. Join in on my photo walks, or register for a workshop that piques your interest. Playing and experimenting are simply the only way you will develop the familiarity required to make you feel comfortable with your camera. Even more amazing, is that once you really learn your camera, you will be able to pick up any camera and very quickly acquaint yourself with the controls (just like a rental car) and make beautiful images.

Photography Contests harmless fun, or something sinister?

Bright Pink Water Lily

Colorful water lily on a serene pond

Time was when you could enter an occasional photography contest, share your work publicly and have an opportunity to win a little something at the same time.

Nowadays there is a little good news / bad news scenario surrounding photo contests. The good news is there are still some nice opportunities to participate in photo contests without having your images stolen out from under you. The bad news is, you have to be careful because many of these so called “contests” are simply image grabs designed to yield the promoter a nice cache of stock images.

Before entering any photo contest carefully review the fine print. More and more of them are now stating that any entry becomes the sole exclusive property of the contest sponsor! Some even have the nerve to charge an entry fee, while taking ownership of your images. It is not just the “winners” that they claim right to, but all entries.

If you live in Metro-Detroit, The Six Rivers Land Conservancy is sponsoring a good contest in the area. Their rules clearly state that you, the photographer, retain ownership of your intellectual property. That is a very good thing. Even better, they do not charge an entry fee. You can learn more about the contest here.

Shawshank Redemption Movie Site

Shawshank Trip

Mansfield State Reformatory – Location where the Shawshank Redemption was filmed.

I had the opportunity to visit Mansfield, Ohio and spend 5 hours inside the Mansfield Reformatory. The reformatory was the site of the 1994 film “The Shawshank Redmption”. You also see remnants of studio props from “Air Force One”. I had so much fun wandering around this incredible facility. I walked away with a camera full of amazing images.

The reformatory has been closed since 1990 and apparently suffered from several years of neglect. Now in the hands of a conservation group, the Reformatory is available to tour, but if you want to photograph the facility and really get a sense of the space it is best to go with a dedicated photo tour instead of trying to snap the occasional shot during the public tour.

I have made arrangements to return April 17th, 2015 to host just such a photo tour. The group will have access from 11am until 4pm. Price per person will be $75. When I went, we arrived in town early enough to stop in at the Mansfield Coney Island Diner for a bite to eat prior to heading in to the prison. The only food available on-site at the prison is a vending machine of soft drinks, so you want to be sure to eat before arriving, so you can focus on photography for the entire time without getting hangry.

If you love exploring old relics, then this is one for the bucket list. Fans of HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography will have their hands full in Mansfield. The prison lends itself to big bracketed shots, and you will love working the post processing to pull out all the incredible details.

If you want to join in the fun you must pre-register. Call the studio to reserve your spot!

 

How to buy a tripod

Tripods come is a dizzying array of colors, sizes, materials, and price points. This is the first in a series of articles intended to aid in the process of choosing the right tripod for you.

Tripod, Carbon Fiber, Induro

Carbon Fiber Leg set

How do you begin to wade through all the choices? I would start by giving consideration to your budget. A good tripod will most likely outlast even the most active photographer, so think about this being a once-and-done type of purchase.

Think about how you plan to use your tripod:

  • What gear do you currently own;
  • What gear do you think you will eventually acquire;
  • Will you be hiking long distances;
  • will you be shooting outdoors in cold climates;
  • Will you want to shoot at ground level, or mostly standing;
  • How tall are you

How you answer each of the questions posed above has an impact on your decision. The list above is not all inclusive, but let’s get started by discussing why I posed those questions.

Night Photography at the Birmingham Carnival

Without a stable tripod, this time exposure of a spinning ferris wheel wouldn’t work.

When you start to research tripods you will find all serious brands provide load rating data as part of their specifications. You want to buy a tripod with sufficient design to properly hold your valuable equipment. The load ratings typically start around 15lbs and can range upwards of 80lbs. They are best viewed in relationship to each other rather than as absolutes. If you have a consumer DSLR like a Canon Rebel or Nikon 3000/5000 series camera with the kit lenses then your gear is relatively light. A entry level tripod will most likely meet your needs. But, do you have your eye on that next level camera and a few more lenses? If you think you are eventually liable to move up to a larger camera and lenses I would buy more tripod than you need today, and plan to grow into it.

Once you decide on a load range that you feel is right for you, the next consideration is material. Aluminum is most common. I have owned several wonderful aluminum tripods over the years. On the plus side, aluminum is relatively light weight and inexpensive. On the down side, it transmits vibration more readily than other materials, and it can get quite cold in winter climates. Conversely, carbon fiber is superior at dampening vibration, is extremely light weight, doesn’t get as cold if you will be working outdoors in winter conditions, but it can run 3x the cost of a comparable aluminum tripod.

Fountain in Birmingham, Michigan

Shooting from a steady tripod makes this long exposure possible.

The last item we will tackle in this first posting is height. A properly fit tripod should be a comfortable working height without having to raise the center column. A significant part of the benefit of using a tripod stems from the stability provide by those three legs. As soon as you raise that center column you loose much of that stability. Just like load rating data, most tripod manufacturers provide specifications on their websites. Be sure you are reading the information correctly. Often times the maximum height specification s with the column UP. Look for the height with the column in the down position. The other two considerations to keep in mind when reviewing height data is the closed height, and the minimum height. Closed height can be important if you plan to travel by plane and want to know if it will fit in your luggage. The minimum height specification will let you know how close to the ground you would be able to work. Watch for part II.

Note: I am now an authorized MeFoto and Induro retailer. Feel free to contact me if you would like to schedule a personal tripod consultation. We price match B&H!

Got some cool publicity from a Pro-Bono job I did last year

Blocks on window sill

Detail shot from Pro Bono job

So last year I volunteered to photograph a women shelter to document all the amazing work done by the designers, and recognize the assorted suppliers for their generous donations.

In the months following the shoot, I have received numerous thank you calls and notes from many of the people associated with the project. It has been a very nice experience. The designers submitted the project to the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) National Association and won 1st place, they credited much of their success to the images.

So today I received this link to Sherwin Williams website. They donated much of the paint used in the project, and the article describes how the colors were chosen.  The article explains the process of transforming the shelter and mentions many of the principles involved in making it happen. I am very glad I was fortunate enough to be a small part of this very amazing project.