Lightroom

The Chapel Of The Transfiguration

This year, our Winter In The Tetons Workshop group didn't experience anywhere near the volume of snow that the area normally gets.  The advantage to that is we could get a lot more places to shoot.  One of those places was The Chapel Of The Transfiguration. 

This little chapel was built in 1925 and still holds Sunday Services in the summertime.  Each chaplain at the church serves for one month each summer.  It is also a popular spot for small weddings.  Let's not forget the view...it has one of the best views of any small church I've ever seen.

Although I have visited the church many times, I haven't photographed it very much.  Inside the church is a tough scene to deal with, exposure wise.  You have a dimly lit church on the inside and a big, bright window that looks out onto the mountains.  There is such a big exposure difference the best way to handle it is to bracket your exposures for HDR.  That is exactly what I did.  I took seven separate exposures to ensure I had detail covered from the brights to the darks.  Then I merged them as a HDR inside Lightroom Classic CC.  After I had the merged HDR photo I decided to process it in black and white.  I really like the feel of it as a black and white, too.

Aperture-priority, f/16, ISO 100, 7 varied exposures

I made this image with my Canon 5D IV and Tamron 28-300mm lens.  Since I shot for HDR I did use my Sirui Tripod and ballhead.

That Lens Isn't Wide Enough

This past weekend, I met up with a small group of friends to do some waterfall photography in the back woods of North Georgia.  I am always up for waterfall photography!  When you throw in nice weather conditions and a waterfall I've never visited before, I will be even more excited.

I wanted to make sure I was traveling light for the trip, so I only took the Canon 5D IV and the new Tamron 24-70mm G2 Lens.  This was my second chance to try out the new Tamron Lens.  I have no idea how they did it, but they managed to make it even better than the previous 24-70, which I used more than any other lens in my arsenal. 

One of the falls we visited was Crow Creek Falls.  It has two parts, an Upper Crow Creek Falls and a Lower Crow Creek Falls.  I enjoyed the upper falls much more and spent more time photographing it. 

Did I mention that I only brought my 24-70mm lens?  When I typically shoot these water scenes, I like to use a wide angle lens and anchor the foreground with something.  In my experience going with a wider lens, like a 15-30mm is usually too wide for these scenes.  It also presents a bit of another problem in the fact that you will absolutely need a circular polarizer for these scenes...and although I have the polarizer setup for that lens, it is bulky and takes a bit of work to assemble.  I went the lazy route and stuck with the 24-70mm lens and its easy peasy, screw on polarizer.

Aperture-priority, 2.5 sec, f/16, ISO 100, 24mm

I wanted to use this group of rocks and small cascade as my foreground anchor, but when I tried that at 24mm I was losing the main waterfall in my composition.  I need to be wider!  Crap, I was lazy and didn't bring my wider lens.  What did I do?  I took two shots.  One for the foreground, then another including the main waterfall in the background overlapping the scene by about 30%.  In Lightroom I used the Photo Merge feature to create a panoramic out of the two images.  I got the composition I wanted and I could still be a little lazy by only bringing one lens...winner winner chicken dinner!

Image made with Canon 5D IV, Tamron 24-70mm G2 Lens and Sirui Circular Polarizer.  Gear supported by a Sirui W-2204 Tripod and K-20x Ballhead.

Important, Overlooked Items For Waterfall Photography

Yesterday, I headed to Southern Tennessee to do some waterfall photography.  The places I went I had visited several times in the past, but these are also places that could never get old.

When I left the house it was steadily sprinkling rain and had been for several hours.  Perfect weather!  When I got out to start photographing, of course the rain got heavier.  However, I was prepared.

Aside from all of the critically important things, like a solid tripod and circular polarizing filter, there are several things that often get overlooked that can make you leave happier.  First, a lens cloth.  I took several yesterday, and needed them all.  Even if it isn't raining steadily, a lens cloth can be used to wipe water spots off the front of your filter.  I tend to create wide angle compositions and put my lens really close to a cascade.  I place this cascade in the foreground to anchor the image.  Even it is isn't raining, splash from the cascade finds it's way onto the front of my filter.  The lens cloth saves the day!  There isn't much worse than getting home and finding blobs all over your image.  Another important item is a shower cap.  Although keeping my hair looking stellar is of utmost importance, I am using the shower cap to keep my camera and lens dry.  It is cheap, and works remarkably well.  I have a weather sealed camera body and lens, but I still throw the shower cap on as added protection.  It's not a bad idea to have one even if it isn't raining, too.  It can keep those splashes off of the camera.  A good item to keep in the camera bag is a terry cloth.  Typically if I am putting my camera in the bag and it is even a little wet, I will wrap it in the terry cloth and let the cloth absorb any moisture.  I never "wipe" the camera.  This could force moisture into tiny cracks and crevasses.  The best method is the dab the areas, or just wrap it up and let the cloth do the work.  Silica Gel is another item I keep in the camera bag.  You know those little packets you get in packages that come with the "do not eat" warning.  Those are designed to absorb moisture.  They can be purchased cheap online, or you can just save them from any packages you receive.  I typically keep a few pouches in my camera bag at all times, but I especially make sure I have them in there if I am going to be shooting near water.  A few last things to consider are bath towels and a change of clothes.  These items can save you from a long, soaked, cold ride home.  

Here is one of the images I made yesterday at Short Springs Natural Area in Tullahoma, TN.  This is such a great area to visit if you are nearby and love photographing water.  

Aperture-priority, 6 sec, f/16, ISO 100

This image was made using my Canon 5D IV, Tamron 24-70 G2 Lens, Sirui Circular Polarizer and Sirui W-2204 Tripod.

I'm Not An Artist

Like the title says, I'm not an artist.  

I've never considered myself to be an artist.  I've never painted anything (but I did watch Bob Ross).  I've never sketched anything.  I'm horrible with sidewalk chalk.  I've never even seen a pottery wheel.  Hell, I can't even draw a straight line with an old school, number 2 pencil.  You want to know what I consider myself?  A regular, overweight guy in his 40's from Alabama.  Well, there's nothing too special about that, you say.  You are right.  I'm just that.  

I do not delve deep into my connection with the arts to explain a photo I took, or justify why it is fabulous.  I don't include some strange quote, that the person being quoted probably doesn't even understand, with an image to help you connect to it.  I do not have any magical connection with the rock, or stream, or mountains.  I am not responsible for creating any kind of "magic" light at sunrise or sunset.  I simply put myself in a place at those times and what happens happens.  It's always great to see another one, I'll tell you that.  I am only hoping to create an image I like, and hopefully others will, too.

Despite being from an IT background, when it comes to cameras, I'm about as technical as an animal...you can pick the animal.  I think they are pretty much all on a level playing field technologically.  If you've ever heard one of my talks, or been to a class, you've probably heard words like "dumaflachy" or "do-dad".  If you got real lucky you may have even heard "dohickey".  

I first picked up a "real" camera about 10 years ago.  It was, at that point, I immersed myself in every piece of literature, every video (we still had these weird DVD things back then), every piece of online content I could find concerning photography.   I could care less about the super technicals...or the mechanicals.  I just wanted to know the basics of exposure and what creative controls I had.  I quickly learned about the exposure triangle, I learned how things like your aperture selection could help you tell a story.  I learned how shutter speed effects an image and can give it different feelings.  I also learned that there is usually more than one way to get somewhere, you just have to find the way that works the best for you.  I skipped the parts about learning how many millimeters the opening is at aperture F/8 of a certain lens (yes, I've been asked that).  I also skipped the parts about the processes of sensor production.   I simply wanted to take a nice photo and know how to repeat that process.  If you are new to this, my advice to you is do not get caught up in the technicals.  It will frustrate you, unless you are an engineer.  If you are an engineer, then dive deep into the technicals.  The point is knowing how many millimeters the opening is at F/8 on your lens is never going to help you.  Ever.

I am very grateful to photography.  It has allowed me to see and appreciate many things in this world I never knew existed.  When I was growing up, my family never went on vacation to The Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore.  Our "vacations" were to the Dairy Queen and then we continued onto Guntersville Lake.  They lasted the afternoon and then we were back home.  I never knew a world outside of the state I lived in.  Photography has allowed me to see phenomenal scenes all across this great country of ours.  It's allowed me to make some great friends, too.  Seeing these things makes me want my children to see them.  I want them to know how things outside of Huntsville, AL look and feel.

The whole point of this post was just to tell you how incredibly ordinary I am and I'll not try to be somebody that I am not.  I wanted to capture good sports shots of my son when he was growing up, so I bought a camera.  Next I learned how to operate it, which some may argue I still haven't learned.  Then I wanted to shoot waterfalls, and wildlife, and mountains, and flowers, and birds....

If this average, overweight, forty-something, donut loving, nontechnical ginger can figure this whole thing out....So.  Can.  You.  Don't be discouraged or intimidated.  Don't be afraid to take a short class, or workshop (with anyone...not just me, although that would be kinda great).

I guess I should share an image now, right?

Aperture-priority, 4 sec, f/16, ISO 100, Compensation: -1/3, 24 mm

This is an image I went back and re-processed from Portland Head Light in Portland, ME.  If you hover over the image with your mouse, you will see my camera settings, or metadata, for this shot.  I always try to include this information for a few reasons.  First, if I don't then it's the first question I get asked.  Second, was part of my initial learning process.  Many people will tell you that metadata is pointless because you would need to be in that exact same light and conditions in order for you to be able to use it and recreate the image.  I could not agree with that more, however, when I was first learning, I would look at this information and see what the shutter speed was and what effect it had on the image.  I would look at the aperture someone choose and see how it effected depth of field.  So, even though I knew I would most likely never be in those exact same conditions or light, I was still using the metadata to learn about photography.  Hopefully, my sharing this information helps you learn a little, too.

Image made with my Canon 5D III and Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 Di VC USD (A007) Lens.  My equipment was steadied by my Sirui W-2204 waterproof, carbon fiber tripod and K-20 Ballhead.

More From the Hotel

Here's another shot from the Old Shelby Hotel.  This is looking down the hall as soon as you walk in the front door. 

Here I simply got my tripod in a really low angle, almost to ground level, and used a super wide angle lens to take in the whole scene.

ISO 100, 17mm, F/11 @ 6 bracketed shutter speeds

Hover over the image to see the camera settings used.  Click the image to view it larger.

This image was processed exactly the same as yesterday's image, only this time I used a different preset within On1 Effects to get started.  This time I used a preset called "Just Enough Darkness".  I've found that preset gives a great starting point for creating a great mood in these types of shots.

Image made with my Sony A7R II, Metabones Adapter and Tamron 15-30mm Lens.  All mounted on my Sirui W-2204 Tripod and K-20 Ballhead.

The Old Shelby Hotel

Over this past weekend I took a trip with a friend of mine, Brad Lackey with Lookout Mountain Photography, to visit an abandoned building known as The Old Shelby Hotel.   

This hotel has quite the history.  It was said to be the first building in Alabama to have running water and electric lights.  It also played an important role in The Civil War as it served as a hospital and also training grounds for soldiers at different points during the war.  Today it is merely a shell of what used to be...but that's the kind of thing us photographers live for, right?

ISO 100, 15mm, F/11 and 6 bracketed shutter speeds

This is an HDR image.  If you want to capture all of the highlight and shadow detail in a scene like this you really have no other choice than HDR.  In a room that is dark with  bright light coming into the windows, there is no way to pull all of that detail out of one RAW file.  

Here I took 6 shots bracketed from -3 all the way to +2 at 1 stop apart.  Then I merged them using Lightroom's HDR Photo Merge feature.  After tweaking a bit inside Lightroom, I jumped over to On1 Perfect Effects to finish this image.  I used one of my favorite presets for this kind of stuff.  It's called Kryptonite.  It gives a pretty strong effect, but you are able to dial the opacity slider back to your amount that suits your taste...just like you would in Photoshop.

This image was made with my Sony A7R II, Metabones Adapter and Tamron 15-30mm Lens.  All of this was mounted on my Sirui W-2204 tripod and K-20 Ballhead.

Favorites of 2015

I've had a few months absence from posting to the blog.  I really took the last few months of 2015 to chill out and hang with the fam.

I see the "in" thing now seems to be everyone posting  their "best" or "favorites" from the year of 2015, so I thought I'd follow suit here.  Many of these photos are special to me for various reasons.  It's mostly the memories made more then the photographs made.  Spending time with friends, stories we will talk about for years to come, some killer breakfasts after sunrise, I could go on and on...the point is, I probably like these for reasons that wouldn't make much sense to many of you, but that's one of the aspects of photography that I enjoy the most; friends and memories.

I hope you enjoy!  I included 15 images, since it was well...2015.

You can click on each image to view it larger.


Not Your Paw Paw's Point and Shoot

On the days we just strolled around the quaint little town of Apalachicola during our workshop I usually left everything at the car except for my Sony RX-100 II point and shoot camera.  It wasn't at all because I wasn't taking my photography seriously.  Even though I heard things like "You're only taking the little camera?" or "This must not be very good if you aren't taking a real camera.".  It was just that I wanted to walk around comfortably, with the ability to just tuck the entire camera in my pocket when I wasn't using it.

Now, if you know anything about the Sony RX-100 series of cameras, you know they aren't your paw paw's point and shoot.  They have complete manual controls and shoot RAW.  This allowed me to shoot in Aperture Priority Mode.  I shoot in this mode 95% of the time when I'm using any camera so with this camera having that ability, I felt right at home.

Here's a scene that I came across as we were walking to have breakfast one morning.  It is a local seafood processing factory.  It happened to have the great breezeway that was back lit causing everything between in it to be silhouetted.  The scene itself made it very easy to capture.  

By the end of the workshop the things I was hearing were more like "I'm going to have to look into getting one of those little cameras.".

ISO 100, 37mm, F/4.9 @ 1/80th second

After I got home, I processed the RAW file in Lightroom.  Basically, all I did was convert it to black and white, then bump the contrast and lower the blacks.

Long Lens & DOF

Today I wanted to share with you an image I created during our Gibbs Garden Workshops a few weeks ago.  

I had to take 2 images to create this image and then do a little Photoshop work, but it was so simple it's crazy.  The reason I had to do this is because I had an object in the foreground I wanted in focus and an object in the background I wanted in focus.  I was shooting with my Tamron 150-600mm Lens @ 600mm.  Shooting lenses that long, your Depth of Field decreases drastically.  I shot these images at an aperture of F/11, which you would normally think would be great enough to cover your entire scene.  It would, if I was using a wider lens, but like I mentioned the depth of field is so shallow with these longer lenses, even at F/11, I had more shallow a depth of field than I wanted.  Let me show you what I mean.

ISO 100, 600mm, F/11 @ 1/50th second

In the above image you can see I focused on the frog in the background and it is in sharp focus, but the foreground frog is pretty soft.  That's due to our limited DOF with the long lens.

ISO 100, 600mm, F/11 @ 1/50th second

Now in this image you can see the exact opposite.  I had focused on the foreground frog and it is in sharp focus, but we've lost the background frog.

How do I remedy this?  I take those two images you see above, I highlight them both in Lightroom, right click and choose "Edit In" and then choose "open as layers in Photoshop".  Then after they are loaded into Photoshop.  I highlight both layers, then go to the Edit menu and choose "Auto-Align Layers".  Once that is done, I choose one of the images, it really doesn't matter which one, then I create a "layer mask".  Then I can take my brush tool and using the opposite color of my layer mask (if my layer mask is white, I would use a black brush and vice versa) I can simply brush the out of focus frog into focus.  The resulting image is below.

You can see that both frogs are in sharp focus here in the final image.

You might ask why I wouldn't just crank up my aperture and take one shot.  Well, in this case, I was shooting at F/11 and had a shutter speed of 1/50th second.  I didn't want to slow my shutter speed any more.  If I had and one of the frogs moved, I would have had a blurry photo of a frog, with nothing I could do about it.  

Another thing to mention is that you need to shoot both images on a sturdy tripod so your camera doesn't move.   I would also advise you use a tripod @ 600mm and 1/50th second ;) I've started using Sirui Tripods and camera support equipment.  I couldn't be more happy with these tripods. 

Houston at Dusk

So, I got to do a few things last week.  I got to travel to Houston and I got to travel with a new to me product that I've been playing with over the last several weeks, the Sirui T-2205X Tripod and Sirui G20-X Ballhead combo.

This combo was a delight to travel with.  The whole shebang folds down to a whooping 14.6" making it very easy to fit in a carry on.  Its also very easy to attach to the side of your camera bag and forget about if you are making a hike into the woods.  It has a maximum height of 56.9", which is more than adequate for my travels.  It also holds up to 26.5lbs, so it holds my Sony A7R and Tamron 24-70 (my favorite combo) without any trouble at all.  It's one of the best travel setups I have ever used.  I've also been using some of their other products recently and their ballheads are an exceptional value.  I couldn't believe the retail price on them after I discovered their quality.

Back to Houston...I've been to Houston many, many times.  However, I usually don't get a lot of shooting time while I am there.  This time, however I had almost an entire day to wonder about.  I also squeezed an extra evening after dinner to head downtown into Eleanor Tinsley Park.  I've shot from the park a few years back and it made for a fantastic scene of downtown.  I'm a creature of habit, so I went back to the exact same spot.  Only this time I had my Tamron 24-70 Lens.  This time I wasn't prepared for the huge amount of people at the park in the summer...or the 15 parking spots that were available.  So, I thought I was getting there very early, but after finally parking I had about 3 minutes to spare.

I photographed this scene from a pedestrian bridge that crosses Allen Parkway.  This is the same bridge I had photographed this scene from before.  The last time I had a smaller lens, so I could jab it through the chain link fence and shoot without worry.  So, I was a little concerned that I might not be able to get through the fence with the 24-70.  As luck would have it, some kind soul had already cut a hole in the fence for me.  That concern vanished.

ISO 100, 24mm, F/16 @ 13 seconds

If you want to shoot "night" scenes like this, it's best to do it right after the sun goes down, right before dark.  It's dark enough for the lights to be on in the buildings, cars are using their head/tail lights, but the sky isn't black, so it has a lot more definition and not as much noise.

As you might suspect, there was plenty of traffic coming out of downtown in the evening, but not very much going into town.  I wanted to balance that part of the image as much as I could.  There was a stop light behind me about an 1/8 of a mile or so.  I'd watch that stop light.  As it turned green, I'd wait for the cars to get right beneath the bridge I was shooting from and open the shutter.  This gave me the most amount of taillights I could get.  I also stopped down to F/16 and shoot at ISO 100 to give me a bit of a longer shutter speed, too.

As I mentioned before, I shot this with my Sony A7R, LA-EA3 Lens Adapter and Tamron 24-70 Lens.  All of this rested atop the Sirui T-2205X Tripod and G-20X Ballhead.