Weekly Photo Challenge: Details

pink_water_lily_close_up_5948

To capture the details it pays to get close.

Among the many water lilies covering the waters surface I knew this was the one. Since It was raining the morning I took this I knew I wanted to get close in order to capture not only the detail in the flower, but to accentuate the raindrops on each petal.

For this shot I had to wade out into the water almost waist deep, not an uncommon occurance, and set up my camera and tripod directly over and looking down on the flower.

Then came what may be the most difficult part of photographing water lilies up close and personal like this. And that is standing still, very still. Because even the slightest movement on my part would cause ripples on the waters surface which would then impart movement in the flower.

For this shot I use my Canon 5D MkIII with the Canon 70-200 F/2.8L IS II with a 25mm extension tube between the camera and lens, which allowed me to achieve a much closer focus than I otherwise would using just the camera and lens.

Camera Settings: F/16, 175mm, ISO 400 for 1/50 sec.

Click here to see more Weekly Photo Challenge: Details

Weekly Photo Challenge: Numbers

monster_energy_capco_contractors_top_fuel_cars_3647

Lets start with 10,000

top_fuel_engine_3464-Edit

Thats the amount of horsepower put out by the engine in a top fuel car. During the course of each 1,000 foot,  run a top fuel car consumes roughly 22 gallons of nitro-methane fuel.

Each run is less than 4 seconds long.

300+

finish_line_times_3877

A top fuel car can go from zero to ever 330 MPH in as little as 3.7 seconds. Due to weather conditions, which can greatly affect the performance of these cars, those speed weren’t quite reached the day I was at the track. But they came close.

Two.

Top fuel cars come in two flavors.

Funny Cars,

jdr_racing_funny_car_3727

and Dragsters.

army_vs_sandvik_dragsters_3605

Both cars use the same monstrous engines, but the dragsters are slightly quicker due to aerodynamics and engine placement. The dragsters, having the engine behind the driver places more weight on the rear wheel providing better traction for the launch.

 One.

While there are a large number of people on a top fuel cars pit crew, it’s up to the driver to win the race.

brittany_force_3489

This is Brittany Force, she is one of those drivers.

Not who many of you would expect to see behind the wheel of one of these enormously powerful cars. You might be surprised just how many women drivers there are.

This is Brittany’s car.

(also seen leaving the starting line in the first photo)

britanny_force_monster_dragster_3493-Edit

And One Filter To Rule Them All

The One Filter You Can’t Live Without.

The Weekly Photo Challenge topic is Landscape, so rather than simply share a few landscape photos I’m going to talk about the one filter that should be in every nature and landscape photographers camera bag.

The one filter that cannot be duplicated in the computer, and the one filter I never leave home without.

mad_river_cascade_not_polarized_SOC_0411

Straight out of camera, without polarizer.

 

That filter is the Circular Polarizer.

You can duplicate graduated neutral density filters all day long in Lightroom.

You can even simulate the effect of a straight neutral density filter simply by photographing in lower light, using smaller apertures, or lower ISO settings, thus allowing you to get longer exposure times.

However when it comes to removing the glare on shiny reflective surfaces like wet rocks and leaves, or the reflections on the surface of a flowing stream to reveal the stream bed below, there is only one way to do it. And that is with a good quality Circular Polarizer filter, or CPL for short.

mad_river_cascade_polarized_SOC_0418

Same scene and camera settings, this time using a polarizer.

What does a Circular Polarizer do?

A circular polarizer is a filter that attaches to the front of your lens, usually by screwing onto the front filter threads. (Now you know why those threads are there😉 )

What does a CPL do?

Notice how in the first image the colors are much less saturated and the details below the waters surface are much less visible. The is cause by glare. Notice how in the second image, shot using the same exposure settings,* the colors are richer, more saturated, and there is more visible detail under the water.

While a CPL can also help increase contrast and saturation in a photo,  both of these can be duplicated in the computer, glare and reflection removal can’t.

*Note: The second image is darker due to the ability of the Circular Polarizer to reduce the amount of light by as much as 2-stops. This is an added benefit when trying to use longer exposure times to capture flowing water with that silky smooth look.

The Benefits Continue Into The Final Image.

The better the image you get straight out of the camera the better the final image will be after post processing. The following are the above two images, processed as identically as I could. While this is totally subjective on my part the second image, the one where the circular polarizer was used, is the better final image.

mad_river_cascade_not_polarized_0411-Edit-Edit

Final enhanced image using the RAW file captured without the use of a CPL

mad_river_cascade_polarized_0418-Edit-Edit

Final enhanced image using the RAW file captured using a CPL

Tips On Buying And Using A Circular Polarizer.

1 – Buy the best you can afford. 

Cheap CPL filters can cause image softness as well as impart a color cast on your photo. I’ve used CPLs from B+W, Lee, and Singh Ray with excellent results. Be forewarned, good filters are not inexpensive, though in my opinion you get what you pay for. For more budget friendly CPL filters, check out Tiffen, or Hoya. I have no experience with the latter two, but I have read good things about their line of filters.

2 – Avoid using a CPL when photographing wide scenes.

One thing polarizers do very well is darken blue sky. Too well if you over adjust the filter. BUT, and it’s a big but, the effect of a CPL is greatest at 90° to the light source, for a landscape photographer this is likely the sun. The effect is reduced more and more as the angle to the sun changes. This is a big problem when photographing wide scenic landscapes with a lot of sky. The result will be part of the sky will be noticeably darker when gradually fading across the frame. This is a royal pain in the backside – by that I mean darn near impossible –  to correct in the computer.

3 – Don’t for get to readjust when you recompose.

You can adjust the amount of polarization on the image by rotating the filter. As mentioned above the greatest effect is at 90° to the sun. So once you adjust the amount of polarization you want in an image and then move the camera for another composition, don’t forget to readjust the filter. I find it to be much easier to see the effect in live view rather than looking thru the viewfinder, but that could just be my aging eyes.

4 – You only need one.  

Some of you may be thinking, “I have more than one lens that I use for landscape/waterfalls. Do I need a filter for each lens?” The answer is no.

Buy a filter that will fit the lens you own with the largest diameter filter threads. The buy inexpensive step-down rings to fit the filter to all of your other lenses.

 

Dance

Color In The Waves, Autumn Color Reflected On The Swift River

To the soft sweet music of the forest the water shall dance.

Chasing Vibrant Sky

Walk To The Sun

In landscape photography no matter how beautiful the scenery being photographed, having a dramatic and vibrant sky can be the difference between a so-so and a So Good! photograph.

Forget about clear skies.

For the most dramatic skies with the most vibrant colors you need clouds. Not just a few little wisps of clouds either, you need enough clouds in the sky to capture the fiery light of the rising sun.

The down side to chasing vibrant, dramatic skies like in these photos is quite often I come away with nothing.

Let me explain.

When chasing vibrant sky I pay close attention to the weather and incoming/outgoing weather fronts. Living on the east coast of the U.S. I look for passing storm fronts that are moving out over the ocean around sunrise, my hope being that the sun, or at least some of its glowing light, will reach the distant horizon before the leading edge of the storm does. If all goes as I hope I may come away with photos filled with beautiful scenery and vibrant fiery sky.

sunrise_at_new_castle_0746-Edit

All doesn’t always go as planned though. In fact I would have to say that I have lost my gamble with the weather more often than I have won. Sometimes the clouds beat the sun to the horizon, dashing any hopes of a colorfully vibrant sky, and the times the forecast is wrong and the clouds or storm passes leaving me with clear blue, and rather boring to my taste, sky.

However when I do get lucky and win, I often win big with skies like the ones seen in the accompanying images.

lone_tree_new_castle_commons_0724

Tips and tools for capturing your own vibrant sky.

1 – Get an alarm clock and use it! You’re going to need to get out of bed early, very early depending on how far you are from your chosen destination. I plan to be on location at least 30 minutes prior to actual sunrise. Some of the most dramatic light you’ll capture happens well before the sun actually peeks over the horizon, and there’s nothing worse than watching that glorious color materialize, and subsequently disappear, while you’re still in your car.

2 – Be set up and ready. Weather fronts can pass quickly giving you a very small window of opportunity to capture what can often be fleeting. Sometimes you may have 5-10 minutes or more of the most spectacular sky you’ve ever seen. Other times you’ll be lucky if it lasts 2. If you’re still fumbling around setting up your camera and tripod it could be over before you’re ready.

3 – Filters are your friend. There is likely to be quite a bit of contrast between the brightness of the sky and the brightness of the foreground. There are two ways to deal with this. One is to take multiple photos with one exposed for the sky and one exposed for the foreground then blending them in Photoshop. The other, and my preferred method is the use of graduated neutral density filters (GNDs) while in the field. My two favorite, both from Singh-Ray, are a 3-stop soft edge GND and a Daryl Benson 3-stop reverse GND. Of those two the reverse GND gets the most use because I photograph seascapes so often.

With GND filters you can more closely balance the exposure across the scene which in turn lessens the amount of post processing time per image. Basically, the more right you get in camera the less fixing and fiddling you need to do in the computer.

If you’d like to see more Vibrant, click HERE to see what everyone else is doing for the Weekly Photo Challenge.

The Last Train, Long Ago.

No more calls to board,

The last tickets to ride have long ago been sold,

Even the rails no longer pass,

Broken in spirit,

Yet not ready to succumb,

Maplewood Depot, Bethlehem, New Hampshire

Forces Of Nature

Long exposure image of The Basin, Franconia, NH

Patience

 Nature has a design known only to her,

Slowly revealing her artistic intent with the passing of ages.

As the river flows, sculpting the landscape,

To the Forces of Nature even the granite succumbs.

*   *   *

Rocky Gorge, Autumn Fog.

And Now, By Popular Demand.

Over the last few years I’ve often been asked if I offer workshops. The answer has always been, “Some day.”

I’m pleased to announce that “Some Day” has finally arrived!

Whether you’re looking for a private one-on-one or a small group experience, I can taylor a workshop to your needs.

Seascapes, both morning and evening, along the rugged New Hampshire seacoast, I do that.

Or is photographing the historic charm of a classic New England seacoast town more to your liking? Let me be your guide as we walk around the Portsmouth, NH area in search of iconic New England architecture.

Waterfalls, waterfalls, waterfalls. The White Mountains of New Hampshire has some of the most picturesque waterfalls to be found anywhere.

From roadside to secluded, my June 19-21 White Mountain Waterfalls workshop and photo tour may be just the thing for you.

And then there’s Autumn.

Fall in New Hampshire is a sight to behold, with its vibrant color and mountain views, you’ll experience the spectacular beauty only autumn in New Hampshire can provide. From October 4th to the 6th I’ll be hosting a small group of photographers and helping them capture some of the beautiful color people come from the world over to witness.

For more information on rates or to reserve either a spot on one of my scheduled workshops or a private one-on-one experience, please visit my Workshop page.

As always, don’t hesitate to Contact me.