Tag Archives: sunset

Blog For Peace

“Why, if we can love, appreciate and respect the many colors in nature, can we not feel the same about the simple black and white of humanity.”

Hanalei Bay Moving Light

Hanalei Bay Sunrise

Above the image of Hanalei Bay, is the Mission Statement I have used for my website, since it was created almost five years ago. More than any social media appreciation I have been fortunate to receive and more than image print and media sales, this is the most important goal I continue to wish for and work toward.

Gates of Moonlight

Yosemite National Park’s Valley View by moonlight

If you have watched a political debate recently, you may have heard a candidate claim that America is great, or America is the greatest nation in the world. I believe that verbiage would be more accurate if the word “is” were changed to “could be.” While there is so much good about America, there is also too much suffering and wrongdoing, to make the claim that this is the greatest nation, today.

What America does have an abundance of, is great natural beauty. Now, more than ever, I strive to be one of many photographers, not only in America, but all over the world that through our images of nature, show humanity that this world is a truly beautiful place.

If all people, no matter what color, religion or beliefs make an effort to be better to each other, every day, it is possible that we will start to see the world for how beautiful it is, and never again ask the question of the Mission Statement posted at the beginning of this writing.

Lake Tahoe Summer Sunrise

Lake Tahoe Summer Sunrise

 

 

 

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Ingredients for Long Exposure Photography

One of my favorite ways to share my work and express my passion, is through Long Exposure photography. With this medium, it is possible to enhance color and fading light in a scene, where to the human eye; both color and light would normally appear to have all but disappeared.

I especially like to use this effect for color photography; however this technique can produce fantastic looking effects to Black and White images. In either format, images can take on a surreal look, especially when the motion of moving water is transformed in to a sheet of silk, or clouds are turned in to streaks of light.

The ingredients (or elements) needed to produce these effects, can vary according to each scene. However, below is a list of ingredients I used to capture the image featured in this blog.

1. Tripod  Really? Dare I mention the obvious? An exposure of 300 seconds was used to take the image accompanying this post, so a steady hand just would not do it.

2. Cable Release  Keeping your hands off your camera during a long exposure is critical, to avoid camera shake that would result in image blur.

3. Pro or Advanced Level Camera  A camera with the ability to be set to record exposures upwards of 30 seconds.

4. Neutral Density Filter  When attached to the front of your lens, or placed into a filter holder, this filter will allow increased exposure times. The strength of this filter is measured in stops. The highest stop value will allow the longest exposure times. There are several companies that make ND filters. The brand I use are circular glass screw on filters, and are made by B+W. I own two 10-Stop filters; to accommodate both 67mm and 77mm lens thread sizes. This filter is often used in combination with a Neutral Density Graduated Filter. A 10-stop ND filter is also great for long exposure photography, during the daytime.

5. Colorful Sky  Even well after sunset, color can be recorded and enhanced with a long exposure.

6. Clouds  If you want to create a streaking clouds effect. A sky with both cloudy and clear patches is ideal to obtain an effective surreal look.

7. Water  Water in motion such as ocean waves, usually yields the greatest effect. The longer the exposure, the smoother the water. Thirty seconds may be enough; however an often used exposure to create the most surreal effect is around 240 seconds.

8. Wristwatch or Stopwatch  To obtain an accurate desired exposure time. An alternative is to buy a cable release that can be electronically programmed to shoot chosen exposure times. These are called intervalometers, or timer remote releases.

9. Patience  Like most things, obtaining the desired result can take patience. Having an understanding of how light works, and how light will effect the scene you are attempting to shoot is very important. Practice is often needed to perfect not only each ingredient of the shoot, but to also strike the right balance between them.

Choose the right scene, exposure, aperture and timing, and you just may find that you will develop quite an appetite for this form of photography.

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Swiftcurrent Lake, Montana

The above image was taken 30 minutes after sunset. The exposure used was 300 seconds, at f/11.

Sunset Curtain Call at Seljalandsfoss, Iceland

Tutorial: Blending Two Images

Due to the heavily debated preference between users of HDR software and On Camera Grad Filters, a third very useful option is often overlooked. Whatever your current preference, the blending option described below is easy to use, effective and can produce images that portray a very accurate rendition of the actual scene. This method was used (in Photoshop) to create the image featured above; “Sunset Curtain Call at Seljalandsfoss.”

The Scenario: Attempting to capture this scene from behind the waterfall, was extremely difficult, due to the heavy spray shooting straight back to where I had my tripod set up. All I could do was take several different exposures, quickly replacing the lens cap in-between each shot. I was honestly amazed to find that there was not one drop of water on my lens after completing the shoot.

Blending the Images: Choosing not to use my preferred method of an On Camera Grad Filter, I discovered that I was left with captured images that were either well overexposed or underexposed. The following workflow was used to make the final image of the falls.

1. First, open both the overexposed and underexposed images in Photoshop. Viewing the images side by side you will see that one image is lighter, displaying a well exposed foreground; however the highlights in the sky are too bright. The second image retains good detail in the sky; however the foreground is too dark.

2. The next step is to place one image directly on top of the other. To do this, click on one of the images. For this example, I selected the darker image. In Photoshop, go to Select>All then Edit>Copy. Then click on the lighter image to make it active, and go to Edit>Paste. You will notice that the two images now appear in the Layers Palette. The images should be perfectly aligned which can be verified by setting the top layer to about 50%, so the lower image is visible.

3. Once you are satisfied with image alignment, look at the tools palette to confirm that the front layer box is black, and the back layer box is white. If not, simply click on each box to set the color.

4. Now you will add a Layer Mask to the top layer. To do this, click on the top layer to highlight it, and then click the New Layer Mask Icon found at the bottom of the Layers Palette. The highlighted top layer will now have a white Layer Mask next to the image icon in the Layers Palette.

5. This is where you will begin to paint on the mask, using the Brush Tool. Select the Brush Tool, and set the Brush Diameter. Choose a large brush for areas with no defined lines, such as horizons to quickly paint areas of light in. Use a small Brush for areas where better control and care is needed. With black selected as the front layer box, you will be simply painting light in. By clicking X on your keyboard or the double arrow in the Tools window, you can switch between the white and black layer boxes, which can be useful if you need to remove areas of light.

Using the Paintbrush, you are literally revealing the lighter bottom layer with each Brush stroke. By setting the Brush Opacity command located in the toolbar above your image, you can modify the strength of the effect. This is a great way to experiment, giving the effect of using lighter brush strokes. Using a lower Brush Opacity is also a good way to fine tune your strokes in areas that require more accuracy.

As with any method you choose to process an image with, the technical aspect can take a back seat to an individuals artistic impression. Using the image blending mode, one can choose to produce images that are very natural, or to add individual artistic impression. One other thing about the image blending mode is unlike HDR or On Camera Filters, it is not an extra expense. This process can be completed with almost any software program that facilitates the use of layers.

Mono Lake Symphony

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“Being a Landscape Photographer is not just about standing around for hours taking pictures. It’s about standing around for hours waiting for a moment.”

Moments

Two hours earlier: There I was again, wondering if all my planning and scene envisioning was going to come to nothing. On this occasion, I was standing in the pouring rain at Mono Lake, looking up to the sky trying to decide whether to laugh or cry. I just stood there for probably 30 minutes, when all of a sudden my attention was drawn to the western skies. For it was there that I could see that the storm was coming from, and it was from the West that I could now see some patches of blue beginning to form.

As sunset drew closer, I determined which area of the sky would provide the best chance for drama and color, and then set up my tripod and camera so I could capture the unfolding moments.

Even though there were other potentially good views worth shooting, I decided to concentrate on this one scene. I shot different exposures, to capture the scene in various ways while the changing light painted it’s colorful brush strokes. I used a 240 second exposure for this particular image, to extract as much color and drama as possible from the scene.

During this time of inspiration, I thought about all the hours and moments spent while pursuing my passion for being an ambassador of nature. My thoughts led me to the quote I have written directly below this image. As for the long hours spent waiting, I concluded that moments like this make it all worth it.

Seljalandsfoss Siren Sunset

The result of location planning, and a little cooperation from Mother Nature.

New Gear vs. New Travel

A while ago I found myself having to make an important decision. I had a choice; both options being great; however which one should I choose?

My new website had now generated enough sales in order for me to upgrade to a new camera. With great anticipation, I logged onto the B&H Photo website, and began the process of buying a new Nikon D800 camera body. However, just as I was about to confirm my purchase, a thought ran across my mind. Instead of new gear; why not consider travel to a place I had never been to.

After some thought, I feel that my decision really was a simple choice. While I would love to shoot with a new Nikon D800 camera, I realized that it was not a priority for me to own all the best gear; however it was a much bigger goal for me to visit as many beautiful locations as possible. It may sound cliche, but when it comes to camera gear and landscape photography; no matter how much gear you have, beautiful images can only be captured while visiting beautiful places.

Traveling, especially far away places still requires plenty of research and preparation. Even then, bad or unexpected weather can lead to disappointment. One thing I learned from my recent trip was no matter how difficult, try not to have the highest of expectations. My biggest recommendation is if you are not traveling with an organized group, do as much research on your travel destination as possible. During my preplanning I selected the  exact locations I wanted to visit, time of visit, length of stay and knew my options for overnight accommodation while at each location.

Even though some bad weather resulted in my trip being far from perfect, I have absolutely no regrets. I feel that photographing new vistas has increased my knowledge of my trade, by making me more aware of light and composition than ever before. I also have a renewed desire to be a better photographer, and a passion to embark on new travel again in the near future.

My decision to travel to Iceland resulted in an unforgettable adventure!

Bolinas Ridge Sunset

How to Capture a High Contrast Scene:

I did not originally intend to shoot this scene to include the sun. However, upon arriving to this view, I realized that I was about 2 to 4 weeks late to capture the pleasing light green vivid spring grasses, that are part of the scene. Therefore, I decided to improvise. I chose to wait until the sun was low enough so it could be framed nicely into the image, as well as including rays from the sun. To be able to capture this scene with moderate success, usually requires one of two methods.  One method of pulling this off, would be in post-processing. This is where high dynamic range software or HDR, really shines. However, after using HDR to process several images, I find that the results can be unnatural. This method is still a viable option, and one that is widely used.

My preference for capturing this image, is with the use of on-camera filters. The filters I used to properly expose this image are called neutral density graduated filters. There are many companies that make these filters; however the most popular brands with the pros are Singh-Ray and Lee. My preference is the former, which are attached to the front of my lenses using the Cokin Filter System.

Very rarely do I attach two filters to my lens at the same time; however the high contrast of this particular scene required that I use two filters in this instance. My go-to filter is the Singh-Ray 3-stop soft edge filter. Soft edge refers to how sharply the dark part of the filter transitions to light, while 3-stop refers to how much loss of light there will be, and how much the exposure will need to be increased.

While my go-to filter was used to balance out the normal contrast between the sky and foreground, I also used a Daryl Benson 3-stop reverse grad, which is also part of the Singh-Ray catalog of filters. This filter was required to keep the area of sky where the sun was setting from being over-exposed. This filter can also require practice to line correctly in the Cokin holder. It was necessary for me to adjust the position of this filter several times before I obtained a satisfactory result.

When it comes to either using software or on-camera filters to correctly expose and process your images, my best advise is to not be intimidated. Just get out there and shoot. Practice, practice, practice…Sooner or lately, you will be glad you did.

Technical Information:

  • Nikon D7000
  • Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5 at 45mm
  • 0.3 Seconds
  • f/16
  • ISO 125
  • Singh-Ray ND Grad
  • Daryl Benson Reverse ND Grad

Helpful Links:

http://singh-ray.com/grndgrads.html

http://www.2filter.com/cokin/cokin.html

http://www.hdrsoft.com/