Travel Photography VS Photography While Traveling

Travel Photography vs Photography While Traveling. What is it that you do? Well, for me, it’s photography while traveling. I’m no “travel photographer.” I’m just a guy that likes to take photos and I especially love to do it while traveling with my family. I’m not talking about pulling out my phone and snapping off shots nearly indiscriminately. I like to put a little thought into it. I don’t mean creating some elaborate plan and setup, but just a little thought.

Travel photography is a discipline in and of itself and good travel photographers are an amazing lot; talented, observant and dedicated.

But you don’t have to adopt the approach of a dedicated travel photographer to make images while traveling that are taken to the next level beyond snapping pics of the family, Mt. Rushmore or whatever. Just put a little thought into it and, preferably, get those with whom you are traveling to get on board; especially if it’s family, and you can make pics that are a bit beyond “snapshots.”

In August of this summer we traveled to central Idaho where I was born and raised. We love going there to visit family and to take in the amazing scenery. One day we took one of our favorite drives going through the rugged wild country of the Salmon River. We drove through McCall, over the mountains and down onto the main Salmon River and finally to a little town called Riggins. Amazing, wild country. After driving over the mountains and landing on the river we wanted to find a spot on the river to soak our feet, eat a picnic and just hang out. Of course, me always traveling with a rudimentary lighting setup: a couple of speed lights, stand and umbrella, I set up a bare speed light on a stand got my wife to hold still for a bit.

Travel Photography VS Photography While Traveling Woman on the Salmon River

Anna On The River: ISO 100, 50mm, f2.8, 1/200 sec

I threw on a 3 stop neutral density filter so I could stop up to get some blurry background, popped off the flash to fill in the shadows a bit and got this. I love this shot because it really captures the whole day, the wild country and, well my wife. There’s always that.

A couple of weeks earlier we were in driving around on the central California coast; perusing the Pacific Coast Highway. We visited a wine tasting establishment in Cambria, California and met some amazing people and had a great visit. Think about it, driving around, hitting the wine tasting joints, meeting new and amazing people.

Because I almost always have my camera with me, I got this shot:

Travel Photography VS Photography While Traveling Fun with wine tasting

Wine People: ISO 800, 50mm, f1.8, 1/160 sec

No, this isn’t some awesome composition. It’s noisy and not technically perfect. So what. It tells a story and captures a really great memory for me. I like it because it shows my wife and son having a great time. But for someone looking at who wasn’t even there, it still shows story which takes it to a level beyond a snap shot.

This photo, from the same trip is from the Sand Dunes near Pismo Beach, California.

Travel Photography VS Photography While Traveling Beautiful woman standing in sand dunes

Dunes: ISO 640, 50mm, f3.5, 1/2500 sec

Again, this isn’t technically perfect as I forgot to check my camera and needlessly shot it at ISO 640. But I definitely feel that this is a far better shot than just taking pics of this awesome place. Keep in mind that I’m talking travel/vacation pics. A good landscape photographer would have a hay day at this place. But for family travel, this is the kind of shot I’m talking about. I just asked my wife to “stand there, look there,” snap a pic and call it good.

The point in all of this is that just the most minimal of effort and forethought can, I think, lead to travel/vacation photos that are a bit above and beyond.

Little Sahara And Family Time

This past weekend my wife and I took a drive out to the Little Sahara Recreation Area here in Utah. The purpose really was to scout out some locations for future photo shoots. We’d never been out there and I had been meaning to check it out for some time.

Man, what an amazing place for photography. Whether you’re looking for landscapes or portrait shots, it really is an amazing place.

Little Sahara is a Utah hot spot for dune buggies, motor bikes and other off road vehicles, so there are generally a lot of people flying around. However they have designated several hundred acres of area in which it’s foot traffic only. That’s where we stuck to.

My photo ventures are by and large excuses to get out and about as a family. I rope my wife into posing for pics and I rope my son into being my assistant. Either way we end up spending much of the day in various locations.

Above is a pic of “the crew.” Well, to be fair, it’s really my son and wife. But the point is that we get out, hang out, bond as a family, etc., and the whole time the “purpose” is to take pics. That’s the great part because taking pics really isn’t the purpose at all. It’s simply a pretext to getting out. That being said, my wife and son will tell you that I’m pretty adamant about having everything I need to take a ton of pics. Generally my son holds lights, moves lights or whatever I need him to do. On this day, however, he was simply the goat as exemplified by the backpack full of crap.

We wandered around a bit exploring and you can see why it’s called Little Sahara. It’s literally thousands of acres of sand dunes punctuated by some brush and juniper trees, but largely just a barren landscape. We only had to walk about 50 yards from the road we were parked to be in almost complete isolation. It was a bit chilly since it is November so we decided to get down to business and get the photo thing over with pretty quick. One thing to keep in mind if you make the trip is that it’s sandy. I mean REAL sandy. It’s windy so it’s blowing sand around a lot hence the dunes. I can’t say this strongly enough.

It’s SANDY. I’m still finding sand in places that I never even thought were exposed. Keep that in mind with regards to your camera gear.

Anyway, we fired off a few shots and this is the keeper that I’m happy with:

Little Sahara, Utah

Sahara: ISO 100, 50mm, f2.8, 1/2000 sec

Though I’m pretty happy with this pic, in hindsight I wish I’d shot this with a smaller aperture to make the background sharp. The blur is OK, but it should either be sharp or a lot more blurry. I even thought about doing it in post production. I still might.

We were in a bit of a hurry because it was too cold for summer attire, so we wrapped it up pretty quickly.

Anyway, for those of you in Utah, Little Sahara is an amazing place for photography. I highly recommend making the trip.

Reality May Not Be The Goal

That’s right. Reality may not be the goal when it comes to photos. Of course it depends on what you’re after, but for me I’m generally not interested in a photo being a completely accurate representation of what I photographed.

Opinions on this vary a lot; some people who call themselves “purists” or whatever else can be hardcore stuck on the notion that what landed on their camera sensor is what should be shown. There can be something said for that in some photographic disciplines for sure. I’m thinking photo journalists as an example. Or stock photos for reference manuals, etc. I mean there are people out there that if a single post production slider has been touched in any way they’ll cry foul.

Personally I don’t give that notion much stock; especially if you’re shooting RAW. If you’re not shooting raw and opting to shoot in JPEG, what comes out of camera isn’t untouched. You’ve simply opted to let your camera’s algorithm do it for you. Back in the day when you took your pics and sent them off to the photo lab to get them developed, the lab didn’t simply develop the images without any post processing work. There’s always some post processing work done to some degree or another. For those processing their own film, post production work was the norm. Even Ansel Adams was a master of post production work.

Then there is the other side of the spectrum in which people combine photography and “digital art” to create some pretty astounding works of art that make so called “purists” scream bloody murder. I’m talking artists like Erik Johansson. It’s pretty amazing stuff; absolutely surreal and obviously not straight out of camera. Though not my thing personally there is no denying that it’s truly amazing work which displays huge talent. I mean look at his work. Amazing.

I’m finding that I fall somewhere in between the two extremes with a huge lean to the so called purist approach. What I mean by that is that I’m not interested in creating stark surreal works of digital art with dolphins sporting wings and flying through vast landscapes, but I’m generally not interested in creating exact replicas of a scene or moment. I have the feeling that most photographers fall somewhere in the same place. And, to be honest, I’m all over the place. Sometimes I’ll take a photo with the goal of trying to get as much right in camera as possible with the goal of doing as little post production work as possible. Sometimes, even though I’ve nailed the exposure correctly for what I’m trying to shoot, the result I look at when I get it on my computer is not the same as what I photographed. I’ll make adjustments to bring it to where it more closely resembles what I shot.

Other times I’ll take a photo with the express intention of doing something to it in post production to achieve a specific goal or look.

Either way, it is generally never straight out of camera; whether it’s getting rid of mosquito bites, correcting skin tone, fiddling with contrast, cloning out a light stand or adding texture to clouds because they just look cool. Sometimes it’s just my mood.

And a little ADHD doesn’t help.

As I gain more experience with post production I find myself experimenting with different techniques along the way. For example I’ve really been dipping my feet into the whole concept of color grading. I find it amazing how color grading a photo can alter the mood and ambiance. I get the feeling that many photographers find their post production niche; a look or style that they really like and then they develop that style and learn how to use the tools to replicate it and pretty much stay right there. There’s nothing wrong with that; finding the “style” and then getting it down pat. To do a limited number of things or a single thing very well is not a bad thing.

I’m too damned scattered to do that. I like goofing around with different things at different times.

But, like I said, I’ve been on a color grading kick in an attempt to convey a preconceived idea of how I envision the end result. This led to some photos that I took recently this fall. I wanted to take the autumn palette and bump it up to 10 so to speak. Especially those warm tones that come with a long autumn and what we call an Indian Summer.

The straight out of camera pics look pretty good, but not what I had in mind. Here is an example of the original pic. It’s straight out of camera with the exception of white balance and enabling a camera profile in Lightroom:

Indian Summer before retouching

ISO 100, 66mm, f4.0, 1/800 sec

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This isn’t bad; usual flatness of RAW, the face a little bright, the shirt a bit over saturated. And actually, it looks pretty close to when we were there. I could maybe bump up the clarity a little bit, drop the saturation in the shirt, bring up the vibrancy in the foliage and it would look almost exactly as it was.

But, like I said, I’m not interested in replicating it like it was. I want it to be how I envision it. So, I goofed off and came up with this:

Indian Summer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vastly different. This image is a result of 19 layers in Photoshop. 17 of them are adjustment layers dealing with everything from curves on specific color channels to a color lookup. Two of the layers are specifically to address some skin blemishes and lint on the shirt.

I like how it turned out. It more conveys an emotion rather than simply what was. It’s not reality. No, it’s not so far out as to depict a blue planet with rings being orbited by dogs, or whatever. It conveys a completely different visceral response than the original. It’s not so far removed from reality that most people wouldn’t think it’s “as shot” for the most part, but I know it’s not as it was shot.

Well, so do you now.

At the end of the day, for me, reality is not the goal.

 

Being Ready To Take Photos At A Moment’s Notice

A lot of photography is simply being ready to take photos at a moment’s notice. Over the years there have been many times in which I’ve said to myself, “Man, I wish I had a camera right now.” Sure, more often than not I’ve probably had my phone with me which has a camera, but it’s not the same. Yes, the best camera is the camera you have with you, but there are many instances in which even with today’s current technology, a phone camera isn’t going to cut it.

Take this photo for example:

Sunset Cowgirl

ISO 100, 50mm, f3.2, 1/100 sec

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s no way a phone could have produced this pic. Not without a bunch of post production work anyway.

My wife and I were driving along some back roads in Idaho this summer. This year it was quite smokey due to the many wildfires in that part of the country which offered up some pretty amazing sunsets. At this moment, at this place everything was just perfect; the setting sun bleeding through the haze was looking great with amazing colors. But it was setting fast.

I wanted to do a pic, but we had to hurry. Because I wanted a portrait with the setting sun in the background, I knew it was going to require flash to do it right. So I pulled over, set up a bare speed light on a stand, pulled out the camera and started shooting. It took no more than a couple of minutes from the time we stopped to when I was taking pics.

I’ve been practicing doing just this; quickly setting up and just firing off some shots. But the key is being prepared to do just this at a moment’s notice. Part of being prepared is of course practicing, but the other part is just having the gear with you. You don’t need to have a lot of gear either. When we go out and about, I typically have at least one speed light and a single stand along with a shoot-through umbrella. But often times I don’t even use the umbrella. In fact most of the time I don’t even use the flash setup. But when you need or want flash it’s awesome to have it

So, basically, I’m traveling with a small case containing my camera, a couple lenses and a couple of flash triggers. Along with that, one stand, one speed light and one shoot-through umbrella. I can carry it with one hand if I stuff the stand and umbrella under my arm. No, I don’t want to walk around/hike with it, but we’re talking driving around.

I suggest putting together a simple setup that you can use in almost any setting. That will require the use of flash. A flash isn’t required if you don’t mind limiting yourself a bit, but it definitely expands the settings in which you can take photos. Then practice with it. Practice setting it up and dialing it in quickly. Then take it with you when traveling around. Then when you’re driving around and you come across that perfect time, place and moment, you’ll be ready.

Wide Gamut Color Shifts Driving You Mad?

Wide gamut color shifts. Are you seeing it? Do you know what I’m talking about? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. Let me explain. But before I do, let me point out that this post is from the standpoint of using your images for displaying on the WWW and computer/device displays. It is not intended for a CMYK/ ad printing flow.

Keep in mind that I’m writing this from a relative newbie point of view. I’m not an expert color guy. I don’t have a background in the science of color, display profiling, color management and calibration etc. I’m just a photographer who wants his photos to show on various displays reasonably close to what I produce in my photo editing software of choice. That software is Photoshop and Lightroom.  That’s why I got a wide gamut monitor and a calibrating/profiling device. Note I said reasonably close not exactly. That’s because, unless they are all calibrated and profiled exactly, no two displays on two different computers are going to display an image exactly the same. So, if you post your favorite pic on a website, the colors on that pic are going to vary a bit from person to person depending on what they’re using to view it.

A fellow photographer may be viewing that image on an accurately profiled wide gamut display of their own. The schmo down the street may be looking at it on a computer/monitor that has never been nor never will be calibrated and that is only capable of displaying sRGB. The kid on the other street may be looking at it on a smart phone that may or may not be wide gamut. You get the idea.

What’s the difference between a wide gamut display and a sRGB display? I’m not going to get into all of that, but basically, a wide gamut aRGB display is going to be able to display a broader range of colors than a sRGB display. A good place to begin getting a basic understanding is here. If you really want to dive headlong into the whole color thing, go here  and have at it.

But that isn’t what this post is about. This post is about the very basic head scratching things you experience when you first acquire a wide gamut monitor and for some reason it’s so damned difficult to get answers for. One shouldn’t have to become a rocket scientist to get their head around basic stuff and, indeed, you do not need to become a color management expert. Besides, I’m a photographer, not a freaking color management professional.

Which then brings me to the whole wide gamut thing and the headaches it produced and the struggle I’ve had getting my head around it. I’ve visited various forums, asked various questions, etc. And the one thing that I found out is that people that really know what they’re talking about rarely have a clue as to how to dumb it down to the essentials needed to get from point A to point B. OK, I have my fancy new car, what are the directions to the local grocery store? Do I really need to know how an internal combustion engine works from the ground up?

No.

Which is what this post is about. For color management gurus, this post is ridiculous. For those of you who just got a wide gamut monitor AND properly calibrated it, here you go.

My photos look all wonky when I look at them in xxx!

That’s because what you’re looking at them with is not color managed. Usually they will seem wildly over saturated. The reason being is that, in a nutshell, the non color managed app–like Windows 10 Photos App–will simply incorporate your display’s gamut into the image without any consideration of your calibration or the ICC profile you embedded into the photo when you saved it (you are embedding the profile, right?). However, if you view the image in an sRGB/standard gamut display in the Windows 10 Photos App, it will most likely be largely the same as when you view it in the color managed program you used to edit it; say Photoshop or Lightroom.

If you’re trying to look at an image on a wide gamut monitor in an app that is not color managed, it will look like crap; over saturated crap.

To add to the misery, some browsers are color managed, some are not and some are sort of. For example, Internet Explorer and Edge, from what I can tell, are not color managed at all. I’ve heard that Safari is color managed. Firefox on the other hand is color managed if  you enable it in the settings. Chrome, however, is sort of color managed. What I mean by that is that if you access an image with an embedded ICC profile (You are embedding a profile, right?) it will display correctly. However–this is where the sort of part comes in–if it’s not embedded, it will display the image like Internet Explorer and Edge do; displaying over saturated crap (remember this is if you’re using a wide gamut monitor). Keep in mind that, currently, Chrome has something like 74% of the market share in browsers. That’s a lot. You may think that it’s no big deal because you’re embedding the ICC profile, but there’s a catch. Some websites that you upload your photos to will strip the ICC profile from the image for the sake of saving space. For example, 500px does this. If you have a wide gamut monitor and you’ve spent hours editing a photo to where it looks just right, you save it in sRGB with an embedded ICC profile, and then upload it to, say, Flickr, facebook, and 500px then visit those sites in Chrome to check out your pic, you’ll notice that Flickr and facebook will display as you edited it. But on 500px, it will look like unholy hell. That’s because 500px removed the ICC profile and Chrome chokes. At first glance you might want to rag on 500px for stripping the ICC profile–and I kind of agree–but the issue is really Chrome. Google needs to fix Chrome to behave as a fully color managed browser. A fully color managed browser will default to sRGB when the ICC profile is not present.

Keep in mind, that for those viewing the images on 500px via a non wide gamut monitor will see pretty much what they’re supposed to see in Chrome (or any other browser). It’s just for those who are using a wide gamut monitor.

The takeaway is that the use of wide gamut monitors is mostly the realm of photographers and graphic designers. Such a demographic will most assuredly view images within color managed applications.

Firefox

Firefox, by default, is not set to be color managed. Why is that? Hell, I have no idea. But to set Firefox to full on color managed glory do the following:

  1. Open up Firefox and type: “about:config” without the quotation marks into the URL address bar. Hit enter.
  2. Read the warning and proceed.
  3. In Filter List, type in “gfx.color” again sans quotation marks.
  4. Double click “gfx.color_management.mode”.
  5. Enter 1 in the pop up. Close and confirm.
  6. Restart Firefox.

You now have a fully color managed browser. When using your wide gamut monitor to view images on the WWW, you’ll see them in their color managed glory even if they are without an ICC profile, say on 500px.

Remember, this is IF you’re using a wide gamut monitor. Otherwise don’t worry about it.

The big takeaway

If you’re using a wide gamut monitor:

Calibrate it.

Give yourself access to a fully color managed browser and applications (presumably your photo editing software will be color managed. For example, both Photoshop and Lightroom are color managed).

When saving images, ALWAYS embed an ICC profile.

At that point, don’t worry about it because:

Those viewing your images on a standard gamut sRGB monitor are likely to see mostly what you’ve created no matter what. Beyond that you have zero control over what others are going to use to view your images with.

As I write this, the vast majority of images will be viewed on standard gamut sRGB displays. Save your images to sRGB and then don’t worry about it.

See, it’s not really that complex.

Photographer Shootout

PetaPixel has a throwaway piece advertised as a photographer shootout. OK, maybe not a shootout, but it’s interesting in that they take one model and have four different hugely popular photographers photograph her and put their own twist on it.

The twists really aren’t that much different at first glance; natural light outdoors. As I perused through the results I was struck by something though. All of them except one are post processing fiends. I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way, though.

The one photog’s photos that really stood out for me, though, were the ones that seemingly had the least amount of post production; those of Joey L. I mean, the dude just kills it. His shots are simple, human, somehow surprisingly meaningful given the circumstances. The others are, like one commenter hysterically yet accurately put it: “His (Joey L.) photos humanized her (at least slightly given the type of shoot) while many of the others seem to just use her as a prop for post-processing.”

Bingo!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing the others, hell, they have gazillions of followers on Instagram.

Exposure Triangle

Not much brings out pedantic dickheads like a discussion regarding the so called exposure triangle. Wait, did I use the term “dickheads”? Yes, I did. And I mean it. For an example of what I’m talking about go read this at PetaPixel. It’s a great article that explains the exposure triangle and how it’s a tool to demonstrate three aspects of exposure in digital photography; shutter speed, aperture size and, yes, ISO.

After reading the article, if you peruse through the comments, you’ll begin to see what I’m talking about with comments like:

There is a very good reason to hate the triangle. It not only confuses people but its pure nonsense. ISO is not part of exposure. ISO is only applied after the exposure.

Increasing ISO reduces noise in most cases

No. Changing ISO does not change sensitivity.

This guy is actually saying that ISO plays no part of exposure.

That’s just simply incorrect.

Tony Northrup chimed in as well with:

Came here to say this. Great article, but I hate the triangle metaphor. It only confuses people.

Tony Northrup sort of has a point with regards to how this guy presents the exposure triangle, but generally speaking, for people just starting with digital photography, the exposure triangle is a rock solid way of understanding how exposure works vis a vis digital photography. By the way, if you’re starting out, perusing his site would be advisable. He and his wife Chelsea do a very good job of presenting helpful information.

You can visit just about any photography forum and when the subject of ISO and exposure comes up; especially when incorporating the exposure triangle, the dickheads come out en mass to bray that ISO has NOTHING to do with exposure.

Bullshit. If you hear someone say that, disregard them. They are incorrect. They are wrong. They are being pedantic dickheads.

Hell, even Nikon’s website says otherwise:

Aperture + Shutter Speed + ISO = Exposure

The three variables that make up a photographic exposure are shutter speed (how much time it takes to make the exposure), aperture (how big the hole is that lets light through the lens, and into the camera) and ISO (how sensitive the digital image sensor or film is to light).

Now, technically speaking, ISO may not be exposure. A lot of the pedantic dickheads will point out that exposure is the amount of time and light that is allowed to make contact with the sensor. So what. For all practical purposes, in the real world, exposure results in how the image will look; darker or brighter. That is determined by aperture size, shutter speed and ISO. Period. End. Of. Story. Don’t believe me? Try the following.

Get out your camera and set it on a tripod. Adjust the settings for optimal exposure. First set your ISO for, say 400. Perhaps your optimal exposure is then 1/250 f4.5 and the ISO has been set to 400. Take the pic. Look at it. It’s probably pretty close to optimal if your in camera meter shows the little mark at 0. Now, leave everything the same, but this time drop the ISO down to 100. Look at the camera’s internal meter. You’ll see that it is now left of 0; optimal exposure. Take a pic and look at it. You’ll notice that it’s underexposed compared to the first one. Now, do the same thing, but this time bump up the ISO to, say, 1600. You’ll see that the internal meter will show the little dot way to the right, and the resulting picture will be much brighter.

Furthermore, if you set it back to optimal, you can then increase the shutter speed and you’ll notice that the little meter dot is displaying an underexposed setting. You can then bump up your ISO to get the little dot back to 0. You can even take a pic if you like and verify it. You can do the same thing with the aperture as well.

The bottom line is that exposure is comprised of three variables: Shutter speed, aperture size AND ISO in every practical sense. This is why the “triangle” is such a good way to present it. If you make an adjustment to one you HAVE to make an adjustment to one of the other two (if your goal is to be close to optimal exposure). When some pedantic dickhead brays that ISO has NOTHING to do with exposure, then don’t believe your lying eyes. Do the steps above and you’ll see otherwise.

To address the pedantic nonsense that “technically” speaking, exposure is only the amount of time and amount of light coming in contact with the sensor, lets use this metaphor:

Many decades ago, in the US, we stopped using the gold standard. What this means is that our paper and minted money is no longer backed by gold. It used to be that gold was the thing of value that the paper and minted money represented. Without it, it was just paper and metal. Since the paper and metal is no longer backed by gold, technically speaking that crisp $20 bill in my wallet has no real value. It’s simply just paper, cloth and ink. Technically speaking it has no real value.

Except it does. If I can use it to purchase goods of value it has value even if technically it’s nothing more than paper, cloth and ink.

The same applies to ISO. It absolutely plays a part in how bright or dark (among other things) your image is. For all practical purposes, that is going to be interpreted as exposure.

So, who are you going to believe, some pedantic dickhead or your lying eyes and what every digital camera manufacture says?

The exposure triangle. Learn it, know it and embrace it.

ISO Invariance

ISO invariance. What is it? Since I’m just barely beginning to scratch the surface of the whole concept of ISO invariance, I don’t feel qualified to tell go into details as to what it is. To begin to get an understanding I recommend going here. In a nutshell, ISO invariance is the concept that the quality of today’s camera sensors are beginning to approach the point in which ISO is not as important as it once was. Basically, in many cameras, you can keep it at the base ISO, under expose, and then in post bump up the exposure or shadows as needed and you won’t take a hit with noise any more than had you used the “proper” ISO to begin with.

OK, so then why does this make ISO invariance something cool? There are a couple of reasons that come to my mind: Preserving highlights and selectively brightening photos in post to effectively increase dynamic range far beyond what your camera’s sensor can do on its own while still maintaining relative control over the noise that’s introduced which pushing shadows and/or exposure. Again, I’m far, far from being an expert in ISO invariance. Hell, at this point I’ve barely got a rudimentary understanding. I’d recommend checking out the link above for sure.

What I can do is show you an example of what I’m talking about. Keep in mind that my current camera, a Nikon D5200 is only somewhat ISO invariant. If you’d like to find out how ISO invariant your camera is, this is a good place to look at. Just go there and select your camera from the list on the right. The more level the line the more ISO invariant the camera is. For example, the Nikon D5200 is fairly ISO invariant; closely on par with the D610, not as much as the D7200, and it completely smokes the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. But the Mark III smokes it in native ISO performance for sure. But that’s another topic.

Way underexposed. ISO 100, 18mm, f22, 1/60 sec

Anyway, in this photo, it was taken substantially underexposed. -2EV to be precise. I’m not sure why I did that, but I did. It makes a good photo to test ISO invariance, though:
You can see that this photo is quite underexposed. For the sky it’s not so bad because those clouds are awesome and it’s nice to keep the details without blowing out the highlights. But, if you brought up the exposure to get the sky just right, you’re still going to be pretty off in the rest of the photo; especially the shadows. So, what I did with this in Lightroom was brought up the exposure by 1 stop. That was perfect for the sky and clouds. But the rest of the pic. To address that I used the Mask tool in Lightroom to selectively bump up the exposure of the foreground by another stop; painting it in. After that, I pushed the shadows a bit–actually quite a bit. +71. The highlights I pulled -70. I then tweaked the blacks and whites to just below the clipping level.

I then moved it over to Photoshop and did some color grading with curve adjustment layers, did some noise suppression with Dfine 2 and added some contrast and detail with Topaz Clarity because, well, clouds. All of this a pretty light though. There wasn’t much noise to contend with. I also brought down the global saturation a bit as well.

This is what I came up with:

There was a ton of detail hidden in those shadows that was completely recoverable. Granted, I’m dealing with the D5200. It ain’t no Sony ar7ii or Nikon D750, but for this little crop sensor entry level camera, it’s not bad at all.

One thing that I’ll point out, though, is that even with as little noise as there is here, I think that there would be even less had I exposed ETTR, peaking the highlights and bringing it down. Sort of an opposite approach. But I suspect that there is a real risk of clipping some highlights in the clouds to the point of not being recoverable. Whereas this approach has no risk of clipped highlights. The slight noise is an acceptable trade off in my opinion.

Permits To Photograph On Public Lands

When I say permits to photograph on public lands I’m talking about federal lands. To be more specific in this instance, BLM land.

As you know, I’ve been doing my Girl In A Skirt sort of kind of project. It’s basically me taking pictures of my wife in various settings while she’s wearing a skirt. Pretty basic, huh? I started it out on a whim when we were in Arches National Park. While there early last spring we thought it would be cool to have her wearing a funky skirt and pose for some shots. It was then that the Girl In A Skirt was born. We’ve got all kinds of plans for the Girl In A Skirt. Those first few shots were very impromptu, but it got me to thinking that it sure would look cool to do some of these shots with a studio strobe. Flash makes everything better.

Plus, my wife is willing. I’m lucky. She’s tall; 5’11” and fit. It’s a perfect learning opportunity with a willing awesome model.

So, then we did some flash shots on the hill just above our house. Like this one:

Girl in a skirt on a mountain top with flash photography

ISO 100, 35mm, f14, 1/200 sec

This one’s pretty cool. Although I used a speed light it was still spur of the moment. We walked up the hill, set up the speed light and popped off some cool shots. Now, keep in mind, I have no intention of selling any photos that I’ve taken. It hasn’t been something that I’ve even thought about. Sure, if someone offered to pay me some cold hard cash to take some photos, yeah, I’d do it. But it’s not even on my radar. Well, to be entirely honest, it would be nice for someone to see enough value in what I do to pay. Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he? Frankly, I don’t think I’m good enough. Yet. I take photos because I love it.

Then we got to talking about different locations and the Bonneville Salt Flats came up. Although neither one of us had been out to the Flats before, we both instantly though, Oh, yeah. That would be cool. I did some research and checked out some photos that others had done out there. Yeah, baby. We’re heading to the Bonneville Salt Flats. I talked about that shot a bit on a previous post. I discussed how we set up a 300ws strobe, put out a gear box for my wife to sit on and cooked off some shots. They turned out pretty freakin’ good.

Girl In A Skirt

ISO 100, 50mm, f16, 1/200 sec

At least I like it.

I posted them up on my Flickr page and didn’t really think much more about it. They did get a lot of favs and views which, admittedly is cool. But that’s about it. Remember, I’m just a rank amateur using photography as one means to hang out with my wife and son.

Then in one of the comments on one of the photos, a person mentioned that I may want to look into the permitting requirements vis a vis permits to photograph on public lands. What??? A permit? Permission to take photos on public land? Surely you jest. But then I did some research on it, specifically regarding BLM land and, yes, you do in some circumstances need to purchase a permit to photograph on public lands. Was I crossing into the realm of activity that would require a permit? Looking at the BLM permitting website, and utilizing basic comprehension of the English language, it appears as though I may have done just that. I started a discussion on a photography forum and a few people poo pooed the notion, stating that permits are only required for commercial/professional photographers. But, from the website:

Casual-use activities (i.e., noncommercial activities occurring on an occasional or irregular basis that result in little or no impact to public lands) involving still photography or recreational videotaping do not require a permit.

Still Photography. Public land visitors and recreational, professional and amateur photographers do NOT need a permit to take still photographs unless they will:

  • Use models, sets or props that are not part of the site’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities;
  • Take place where members of the public are generally not allowed; or
  • Take place at a location where additional administrative costs are likely.

Here is how I interpret it. Did I use a model? Well, what is the definition of “model”? Well, this definition in part says:

  • a person or thing that serves as a subject for an artist, sculptor,writer, etc.
  • a person whose profession is posing for artists or photographers.

Now, granted, I’m not paying my wife. Modeling is not her profession. So, in that regard, we may well not be meeting the definition.

However, the sets or props that are not part of the site’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities is what has me thinking. Technically, the light stand used for the strobe and the box on which my wife sits are props as would be a tripod if I had used one; which I do occasionally.

So, a reasonable reading of the language in the permit guidelines clearly indicates that I would need to get a permit to photograph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in the manner that I did. That may not be the reality, though. Clearly, a phone call to the BLM local field office is in order which is exactly what I did. But, in the middle of the day, there was no answer. I let it ring 50 times and no answer. I’ll keep trying because I want to get clarification.

So, you may wonder what I will do if in fact I will be required to attain a permit to shoot photos in the manner I did out on the Flats.

That answer is easy. Screw them. I’ll shoot photos as I please and NOT buy a permit. If I get written up, I’ll cross that bridge, but there is no way in hell that I’m buying a permit to shoot photos of my wife for fun.

However, if, by chance, someone were to offer me money to take some cool pics of them on BLM land (I can only dream) then, yes, I would buy a permit even though being required to buy permits to photograph on public lands is, in my opinion, bullshit.

Cinematic Looking Photos

Cinematic looking photos that look as if they’re a still from an actual film are pretty cool. Kitschy? Yeah, a tad, but still cool.

If you’ve paid attention to movies you’ll notice that they seem to have a pretty unique color grading scheme; usually a kind of teal and orange pallette. In fact if you haven’t noticed it before, now that I’ve brought it to your attention, you’ll notice it enough to where it might drive you a little nuts. There are all kinds of ideas as to why films predominantly use a teal and orange color grading.

The ones that I think seem to make the most sense is that:

1) colors in the yellow/orange/red spectrum contrast nicely with colors that are in the blue/green spectrum. In my observation this is true. Complementary colors contrast nicely and add a vividness without hashing the saturation. You’ll notice that often times movies tend to be a bit desaturated yet still pop. I think it’s because of the use of complementary colors. I say often times; keep in mind that if you’re watching a Michael Bay flick, all bets are off. Everything, including the color grading seems to be turned up to 10. Anyway, human beings no matter their ethnicity tend to have skin that falls into that yellow/orange spectrum. The orange teal grading makes actors stand out.

2) this is, I think, a biggy. The orange and teal pallette tends to replicate so called golden hour lighting quite nicely and golden hour lighting pretty much rocks.

Here is a photo that I’ve sort of given the “cinematic” treatment.

Anna With A Rifle

Anna With A Rifle ISO 100, 35mm, f16, 1/125 sec

Granted, it’s not full on “cinematic” in that I’ve kept it a bit brighter than you might usually see. Actual movies tend to have the blacks and shadows crushed a bit more than my attempt. Also, perhaps the skin could have been just a touch more orange. The reason I chose this image is because I think it looks intriguing from the get-go. It looks like a slice of a bigger story; perfect for a faux movie still. By the way, this photo was taken using off camera flash; 300ws strobe camera left with a 22″ beauty dish.

For more information regarding giving your photos a full blown cinematic treatment I recommend first checking this tutorial out. It’s a great tutorial that even if you don’t want to do the cinematic thing it’s full of great information regarding curves and general color grading. Then, to add that extra cinema touch, this tutorial goes into adding the black bars to the image, and explains the aspect ratios of movies. I mean, if you’re going to go cinema, you may as well do it right.