Monthly Archives: October 2016
One of the great things about shooting with a wide-angle lens is that you can incorporate more of the scene into the photograph.
Landscape photographers, in particular, make use of that added real estate to create dramatic, sweeping photos of their subjects.
Yet, wide-angle lenses can be a tough cookie to master…
Well, it’s the same reason as why they’re so great. Because wide-angle lenses incorporate so much of the scene, it’s easy to get a shot in which there really isn’t a strong subject.
Without a strong subject, the composition suffers and what results is a wide shot of a whole bunch of details, but without anything to necessarily grab the viewer’s attention.
With that in mind, consider these tips to help you take better wide-angle shots.
Have a Strong Subject
This one is a no-brainer!
Given what we discussed above, a prime solution to the wide-angle problem is to simply incorporate a strong subject into the shot.
No matter if you’re shooting a landscape, a portrait, or a street scene like the one pictured above, having a strong subject will anchor the shot, provide an area of interest to draw the viewer’s attention, and act as a leaping point for investigating the rest of the image as well.
In the image above, the rock formations provide the visual detail necessary to draw the eye inward. The archway, in particular, grabs the viewer’s attention, while the right-to-left appearance of the rocks pushes the eye toward the sea and the sunset beyond.
Get in Close
Though wide-angle lenses are great for getting an image that surveys the larger scene, don’t be afraid to use it to get up close and personal with a subject.
The beauty of an up-close shot with a wide-angle lens is that you get the strong subject you need as discussed above, but because of the angle of view, you can still incorporate some of the surroundings into the shot.
For example, note how in the image above that the chain in the foreground adds tons of visual interest. Not only is it a great leading line to move your eye to the left towards the Golden Gate Bridge, but the texture of the chain adds some depth to the shot as well.
Ask any landscape photographer when their favorite time to shoot is, and they’ll most likely say Golden Hour.
Golden Hour light is unparalleled in that it’s soft yet vibrant, warm yet even.
And man, does it do wonders for showing off the features of a landscape!
But taking a high-quality landscape photo during Golden Hour requires more than just pointing the camera toward the sunset and pressing the shutter.
I’ve put together a collection of nine spectacular sunset shots to inspire your work, and I’ve included a few tips and tricks along with them.
Let’s see just what you need to do to improve your Golden Hour photos in order to create masterpieces like the photos below.
When shooting a sunset, many photographers will make the sky the focal point of the image. And while that works in many instances due to the gorgeous coloring of the sky, sometimes the image works better if the sunset takes a backseat to another element. In this shot, Kevin McNeal uses the beautiful waterfall as a focal point, which plays perfectly into the photo. The bright white of the water really pops while the visual weight of the waterfall balances out the layering of the cliffs that dominate the right side of the image.
Using water in the foreground of a sunset shot is a great way to improve the exposure. By reflecting the brightness of the sky in the water, the photographer, Steve Kossack, was able to open up the foreground and help prevent it from becoming a dark, shadowy weight that brings the photo down. Better still, the water reflects the gorgeous colors of the sunset, adding additional pop to an already gorgeous image.
In this image, Rick Sandford highlights the value of having a perfectly level horizon. Though it’s easy to be taken in by the beauty of the scene, it’s imperative that when you’re photographing a sunset with a clearly defined landscape like this one that you pay close attention to the framing of the shot. If the horizon is off just a little, it will be plainly visible and ruin an otherwise breathtaking photo.
In this gorgeous Golden Hour photo, Loscar Numael capture golden tones as the sun illuminates the distant mountains. When photographing sunsets, you can enhance these golden tones by switching your white balance to the “shade” setting. Because the shade setting is intended to warm up bluish tones, it adds red and orange tones to the shot. That means that when it’s used on golden tones, it makes those red and orange tones that much more prevalent.
When photographing a sunset, don’t be afraid to extend the length of the exposure to show the movement of the clouds. As we can see in this shot by Jason Odell, the clouds take on a dreamy quality with the blurriness that’s induced by the long shutter speed. Paired with the explosion of color from the setting sun, the movement of the clouds gives this image a greater level of depth and interest.
Even though Golden Hour is a prime time to show off the sky, again, we see the value of incorporating foreground interest into the shot. In this case, Joe Rossbach has framed the shot perfectly with the rocks in the foreground serving as an anchor for the photo. The rocks also give our eye something to follow deeper into the scene, giving it a greater sense of dimension. The cool tones of the rocks act as a nice balancing point to the bright, warm colors of the sunset as well.
In another beautiful example of a long exposure, Edwin Martinez pairs the harsh lines and shapes of the rocks in the foreground with the soft, smooth surface of the water. In the background, the fog acts like a giant diffuser, helping to spread out the rays of the setting sun in a way that makes the fog glow. In looking at the differences in the colors between the foreground and background, we also see how you can use color to help achieve improved visual balance from front to back.
Gary Hart demonstrates with his photo above how not all sunset photos have to be taken after the sun actually sets. When photographing a landscape before the sun has hit the horizon, it’s a good idea to work in aperture priority mode so you can make quick changes to the exposure settings as they rapidly change with the movement of the sun. Then, once the sun dips below the horizon, switch to manual mode so you have greater creative control over your camera’s settings.
Not all sunset photos have to include the sun or even need to be taken in the direction of the sunset. In this image by Steve Kossack, the setting sun bathes the rock formations in an orange glow, giving us a better sense of the texture of the rocks and the size and scale of the landscape. The lesson here is the value in turning around. Often, as spectacular as the setting sun might be, there very well could be an equally beautiful view behind you!
These photos show what’s possible when you put in the time and effort to find an interesting vantage point, incorporate foreground interest, use the appropriate camera settings, and so forth.
Another crucial aspect of creating images like those seen above is to use high-quality filters that boost colors, help you blur movement, and control the dynamic range of the scene at sunset.
Singh-Ray makes some of the best filters around, including polarizers, solid neutral density filters, and graduated neutral density filters. They even have reverse neutral density filters that are perfect for sunrise and sunset shooting because they are darkest in the center of the filter with clear glass on the bottom and graduated from dark to light above the horizon line.
That’s beneficial because at sunset, the brightest part of the sky is along the horizon. By filtering out some of that light, the reverse neutral density filter helps you control the dynamic range of the shot by lightening the foreground and gradually controlling the brightness of the sky.
The benefit to you is that you get all those effects with a single filter. No more long post-processing sessions!
I shoot with Singh-Ray filters because I feel they are the best on the market. If you want to take your photos to the next level, I suggest you check them out.
If you’re like me, you enjoy a good timelapse video now and then.
Fortunately for us, timelapse videos are everywhere these days, from Instagram to YouTube, Vimeo to Twitter.
And the more ubiquitous they become, the more us regular photographers want to jump into the world of timelapse and create awesome videos of our own.
Of course, it’s not quite that simple! To create a timelapse video (a good one, anyway), you’ll need a few bits of gear to make it possible.
In this quick gear guide, I offer a list of all the equipment you’ll need to start creating timelapses that are worthy of sharing and will get other people to exclaim, “Wow, that was an awesome timelapse!”
Obviously, you’ll need a camera to create a timelapse video. And though you can create timelapses on even your mobile phone, to get the best results, a DSLR system is in order.
It’s simple: resolution and file type.
A DSLR camera will get you individual images that are in much higher resolution that your mobile phone. Essentially, the higher the resolution, the greater the leeway you have in post-processing in terms of cropping as well as programming zooms, pans, and tilts into the shot sequence in post.
What’s more, these systems allow you to shoot in RAW format, which gives you access to all the data the camera collects for tweaking when you edit the photos.
Additionally, DSLR systems give you plenty of in-camera controls that address things like exposure, white balance, focusing, and the like, that are simply impossible (or very difficult) to do with lesser cameras. If you want the best results, a solid DSLR like the Nikon D5 is the way to go.
You’ll also need a solid tripod to give your camera an absolutely stable base. Without a tripod that resists the effects of wind, your timelapse images will turn out a blurry mess.
Fortunately, the ideal tripod for a timelapse shoot is an old, metal one.
These can be found on the cheap because few people want to carry around such a heavy beast anymore. But, all that weight works in your favor, because the more weight, the more apt the tripod is to stand up to the effects of wind.
Of course, you can go with something newer and lighter, and simply improve its stability by adding weight to it yourself. Look for a model with a center column hook from which you can hang your camera bag, a bag of sand, or a bag of rocks.
That weight will pull the tripod down, thus planting its feet more securely into the ground. It’s also a good idea to remove the strap from your camera, that way there’s one less thing to catch the wind and cause vibrations.
Neutral Density Filter
Unless you want to be relegated to tackling timelapse photography at night, you’ll need a good neutral density filter. These filters come in a variety of stops that allow you to extend your shutter speeds from fractions of a second to seconds-long or even minutes-long exposures.
But, buyer beware – filters are like lenses in that you definitely get what you pay for. Don’t opt for a cheapo neutral density filter. If you will use it, spend money on a top-shelf filter so it works with the quality of your lens rather than against it.
At the very heart of timelapse photography is the camera remote.
This little guy is what allows you to program your camera to take photos at exact intervals and determine the duration of each shot, that way you have the best assets with which to make the gorgeous timelapse video you have in your mind.
But not all camera remotes are made equal.
For years, timelapse photographers have used intervalometers, but these devices are somewhat limited in their functionality in that you can control little more than the intervals between shots and the duration of each photo.
However, there’s a new gadget on the market – Pulse by Alpine Laboratories – that takes the camera remote to a whole new level.
Pulse gives you wireless control over your camera right from your phone. Rather than relying on a tiny screen and a few buttons like a traditional intervalometer, Pulse gives you a slick mobile app that gives you access to your camera’s settings. Control aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, manage your HDR settings, and even dial in – with just a few touches – basic or advanced timelapse photography settings.
Even better, Pulse gives you image previews as you work, so if need be, you can make adjustments to your camera settings right then and there.
And, because it gives you control over exposure settings, you can create timelapse videos that show the transition from day to night with perfectly exposed images. All you have to do is plug Pulse into your camera’s USB port, attach it to the hot-shoe mount, and you can operate your camera wirelessly from up to 100 feet away.
So, as complicated as timelapse videos appear to be, it’s really just a matter of equipping yourself properly such that you can get the shots you need. A good camera and tripod, a high-quality neutral density filter, and a feature-packed camera remote like Pulse will get you well on your way to becoming a master of timelapse video.