Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Different Take on Photographing Fireworks

Are you going out New Year's Eve?  If there will be fireworks you might want to take your camera, tripod, and cable release and try your hand at taking fireworks photos.  There's lots of information on the web on how to take pictures of fireworks so I won't try to tell you what others have already done.  

Here's a technique you may not find on the web.  I saw this earlier this year and tried it out back on Independence Day. Try zooming in or out while taking fireworks shots.  It effect can be very interesting or at least different from the millions of other fireworks photos out there. 

Here's some basic guidelines

  1. Use a tripod.   You'll want it to be fairly stable.  Figure out where the fireworks are exploding, aim your camera at that general areas.
  2. Use a zoom lens wide enough to capture the largest display but able to zoom in to fill the frame with the fireworks.
  3. Set your exposure to around 2 seconds. ISO 400, and about f/11.  
  4. Place one hand on the shutter release and the other on the lens zoom ring.
  5. When the explosion goes off click the shutter and slowly zoom using a smooth and steady motion.  Try to move the camera as little as possible.   
  6. Experiment with zooming in and zooming out.  Try zooming through the entire 2 seconds or just and the end or beginning of the exposure.   Change your setup to get a longer exposure.  Then change to a shorter one.  Experiment and have fun.  There are no hard and fast rules for this.

Try this out and let me know how it comes out.  Have fun.  It's New Year's Eve after all.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pitfalls of traveling with camera gear

June and I take at least one big trip a year that involves checking luggage with the airlines.   I will put my tripod in one of the suitcases that get checked, along with hiking poles.   This almost always results in the bags getting searched.   This has never been a problem for me since my luggage eventually gets to our destination.   I never check my camera gear.  I don't trust the bag slingers to not break something, or worse in the case of this traveling photographer

Photographer Has $2,000 in Camera Gear Go Missing After a JetBlue Flight

Earlier this year I purchased a second DSLR camera body and now travel with:
  • Canon 5D Mark ii
  • Canon 7D
  • 17-40mm zoom
  • 28-105mm zoom
  • 100mm macro lens
  • 80-400mm (big and heavy) zoom
  • flash, extra camera and flash batteries, filters, memory card pouches, cables, tele-converter,  and a bunch of other odds and ends.
This is too much for my old faithful backpack so this past summer I added a Think Tank Airport Commuter Backpack to my collection.   I can put all that gear in the Think Tank bag.  Best of all, it fits in the overhead bins or under the seat on the airlines!   Even on those little commuter planes that fly out of Tri-Cities Airport.

I highly recommend Think Tank bags.   Many of their bags are designed to fit in airline carry on bins or under seats.   Plus, the build quality is excellent.

As you can see from the list above, my collection of gear has grown over the past few years.   This means I've got a good bit of money tied up in camera gear.   If the something should get broken, lost or stolen on our travels I'd hate to have to replace any one of these pieces of equipment.  In most cases, home owner insurance is not going cover lost or damaged camera gear.  I have now insured my gear through a special policy with my insurance company.    This has given me peace of mind knowing that if I slip and drop a camera or someone breaks in to the car I'm going to be able to get my gear replaced.

So, if you have a reasonable sized investment in your gear and/or travel with your gear, I recommend investing in good quality camera bag and some added insurance.   Don't let the loss of some material things ruin your travels.

Image at right is Rainbow Falls in Jones Gap State Park, South Carolina.   June and I hiked there after a overnight trip to Greenville SC this year.   There are a number of state parks, waterfalls, and great hikes in South Carolina between Greenville and the NC state line.  We plan to go back several more times to explore as much as possible.   And I won't have to worry about losing or breaking camera gear while we are out hiking.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Best 12 of 2012

The year of 2012 is drawing to a close and despite fears in some parts of society, the world did not come to an end last week.   The last couple weeks of the year is time to go through the images I've shot over the past 12 months and pick out my favorites. 

These may not be the best, and may not be the most popular images, but they are the ones I like the best.   I tried to pick a variety of subjects but in the end 10 of the 12 are landscapes.   I enjoy photographing other subjects but I still come back to landscape and nature as my favorite subjects.

Some of these photos floated to the top of my list because they bring back memories of fun times out shooting with June or with friends.

The best way to view these is to click on the first image.  That should bring up another window where you can page forward and backward through larger versions of the images.  Enjoy!  Oh, and let me know what you think.  I want to hear from you.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Looking Past The Obvious

When June and I are planning a trip I like to get books to help me plan out where to go, where to stay, where to eat and what to make sure we see.  If I can find one, I also get a book on photographing the area.  These books, written by photographers, provide information on where to go and what time to be there to get "the shot".   My first photography book was "Photographing The Canadian Rockies by Darwin Wiggett.  I learned a lot from this little book and found some interesting places to shoot that were not in any of the traditional guide books.   However, I ran into other photographers who also had his book and were looking for the same shots.  

When we were in Glacier National Park earlier this year we stopped and took "The Shot" of Lake St. Mary and Wild Goose Island.  It's a popular shot taken by most people from the same spot.  The day we stopped I had to wait for other photographers to clear out before I could take my shot.  We had pretty nice conditions with blue sky, clouds over the mountains and an unobstructed view of the island in the lake.  I was able to take advantage of those rules (guidelines) to photography - having foreground, middle ground, and background elements to give the photo a sense of depth and the rule of thirds.

The problem with this photo is it's one of hundreds just like it taken that day.   In a year there will be thousands taken from this spot.   Just google wild goose island and you'll see what I mean.  It's just not special.

Not far away in Glacier National Park is McDonald Creek.  You won't find as many images of McDonald Creek.   It's a pretty place and most people will stop at the over look pull offs and check out the creek before jumping back in the car and heading up the road.   We spent part of two days exploring the creek and taking pictures of the various subjects (photos of McDonald Creek and Lake in my gallery).  On one of those days we stopped to sit by the creek and just enjoy the scenery and sounds of the water flowing over the rocks.  The water was low enough that I was able to wade into the creek and discover the creek bed was covered with smooth multicolored stones.   I had an idea - take a picture looking straight down at the stones with a fast shutter speed to capture the ripples in the water.

This is not something that you would find in the guidebooks or photography guides for Glacier NP.  I suspect few people come back from visiting Glacier National Park with a picture of the stones in the creek.   It's not the grand vista or one of "the shots".  Funny thing is it's one of my favorite photos from the trip.  It is one of the photos on my 2013 calendar and when people flip though the pages this is the one they stop on and say "wow!".

Sometimes we need to slow down and look around.  Take all of creation in.  Sometimes the prettiest picture is right under our feet!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Little Dry Spell

Fall is past and we're in the part of winter where it is difficult to make myself get out a shoot.   There are no flowers, little color, and just not a lot growing around here.   I did see some confused blooming Rhododendrons in Kingsport yesterday, but I suspect those buds froze last night.   Winter can be a magical time with many opportunities for photography when it snows, but we're not there yet.  Given the recent weather patterns I don't know if we will see much in the way of snow this year.  As a result, I haven't taken any landscape, nature, or outdoor photos.

Without new materials I've gone back to some photos taken earlier in the year.   This one was taken on July 4, but it really could be any time of year.   What do you think of when you look at this photo?   Wonder where the door goes?  What about that mysterious foggy scene outside the window?  Do you think about how old the weathered wood and hardware seem to be?

Because I was there I know the answers to all these questions, but I think the photo is better not explained.  Sometimes we need a little mystery and don't need to know everything.

"Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand."   Neil Armstrong