Archive for the ‘Photography Tips’ Category

The Best Headlamp for Photographers Saturday, April 9th, 2016

As many of you know, I’ve been doing night photography almost exclusively for the past year and a half.  This has entailed a lot of time, money and testing of lights to properly light my subjects and create the effect I want, but being out in the middle of the night also requires good lighting for hiking in the dark.  In the past 2 years I’ve tried 3 models of Black Diamond headlamps, 2 models of Petzl headlamps, and a variety of other types of lights. I recently discovered a headlamp that is a clear winner over all the others.

A few personal beliefs:  1)  Red lights for night work are over-rated.  They do, in fact, impact the digital image, and 2) they are just a really poor light.  3)  I believe 200 lumens is the minimum power for safe route-finding in the dark.

Meet the Nitecore HC 30, 1000 lumens coupled with the longest-lasting batteries currently available and the lightest headgear package.  This ingenious design has every desirable characteristic for photography:

  1.  Infinitely dimmable down to 1%!  The most difficult property to find in night photography lights is a source that will go dim enough for long exposures.
  2.  Incredible run time!  My old Black Diamond 200 lumen lamp lasted about 4.5 hours on one set of 4 AA batteries.  This often necessitated a new set of batteries each night.  I could never go more than 2 nights on a set.  The manufacturer-claimed run time on the HC 30 at 210 lumens is over 7 hours and 1 hour at 1000 lumens.  In my first test of it at 1000 lumens it ran nearly 2 hours.
  3.  Incredible engineering.  The glass and reflector are so precision engineered and manufactured that there is near-perfect light dispersion; there are no hot spots or “shadows”.
  4. Design:  The design of the attachment device to the headwear allows for quick, easy detachment in case you need it to be free-standing for lighting a subject.
  5. Price!  Priced below $80 makes this a steal.

The only negative I have with this lamp is it’s Kelvin tempertature.  At 6200-7000 Kelvin it’s far too white for direct use in night photography.  Since most of my night work is in the desert southwest, I find I can aim it at a rock source that will reflect light to where I want it and that will temper the Kelvin down to about 4000.  Problem solved.  A better fix would be if Nightcore would offer an optional glass lens that would produce a lower Kelvin light.

HC30_EN_17 HC30_EN_14 HC30_EN_16

The Entire NIK Software Collection is now available Free! Saturday, March 26th, 2016

Seriously!  No tricks.  I use NIK all the time.  It’s sharpeners, noise reduction and B&W conversions are the best in the industry.  Here is the download link:  http://www.mirrorlessrumors.com/the-full-nik-software-collection-is-now-available-for-free/

 

 

 

ISO Invariance Monday, October 26th, 2015

I just read an article on ISO invariance.  This is a concept that applies primarily to Fuji and Nikon shooters.  It apparently doesn’t work on Sony or Canon units.

The concept is that if you shoot night scenes at a low ISO, say 100 or 200, and then bring up the exposure level in Photoshop, the results will be the same as if you had shot the image at, say, 1600 or 3200.  Why is this a benefit?  Because you can be selective about which areas you brighten.  Areas that don’t need much brightening will be much more noise free.  I’m looking forward to trying this out!

Here is a comparison of a Nikon to a Canon shot at high and low ISO:

iso-invariance-test-small

Here is a list of the results of many volunteers testing their own cameras:

Cameras that are ISO Invariant

  • Sony A7RII (Much better highlight detail from shooting at base and brightening later, but lose a a slight amount of shadow detail.  I might even dare say that noise is handled JUST A TINY TINY bit BETTER on the brightened picture than on the high-ISO shot.)
  • Fuji XT1 (This is my personal camera.  I switched from Nikon to Fuji.  It’s probably the most iso-less camera out of all those that I tested.)
  • Fuji X100
  • Fuji XE1
  • Nikon D810 (Relying on data from DPReview.  The Sony A7R uses the same sensor, so I would ASSUME that it is as well.)
  • Nikon D750 (Only did one test with this, but appears to be entirely ISO invariant.  Would like to test more)
  • Nikon D7100 (Tested only at base vs ISO 800, but the noise pattern is identical)
  • Nikon D5500 (I did not personally test this one.  Relying on data from DPReview)
  • Pentax K5 (At ISO 800 vs base ISO, you can’t tell any difference.  Very high ISOs not tested)

Cameras that are Somewhat ISO Invariant

  • Olympus OMD-EM1 (Tough call.  Detail and contrast are definitely lost when brightening in post, but noise appears to be reduced quite a bit on the brightened image.  I’d like to do more testing.)
  • Olympus OMD-EM5 II (Difference is indistinguishable when zoomed out, but when you zoom in, the higher ISO photo is VERY VERY slightly better in terms of noise and contrast.  The 40mp mode brings the contest even closer.)
  • Sony A7S (I was interested to see this one.  The noise pattern on the brightened image is close to the high ISO shot.  However, the brightened image lost a SURPRISING amount of contrast).
  • Sony Nex 7 (This one is really close to being ISO invariant.  The noise is about the same, but contrast is lost on the brightened image.  Very close to being ISO-less.)

Cameras that are NOT ISO Invariant

  • Canon 5D Mark III (Not even CLOSE!  Nick Page tested this one for us and it looks really bad when you shoot low and brighten later.)
  • Canon 6D (Not even close, and the camera did a horrible job of selecting the white balance in the under-exposed shot.)
  • Canon 70D and Canon 60D (Not too bad, but it’s still much better to shoot at the higher ISO.  Horrible white balance in the underexposed shot.)
  • Canon 7D (Not nearly as bad as the 5DIII, and you can’t tell the difference with the naked eye at ISO1600, but when you zoom in it’s obvious that the higher ISO shot is cleaner.  White balance not good in the underexposed photo.)
Photographing Pika in Rocky Mountain National Park Saturday, January 31st, 2015

One of my favorite critters to photograph is the Pika. It’s a tiny, CUTE rodent that lives at high elevations. These were shot along Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park at an elevation around 12,000′. They’re difficult to photograph. They move fast and seldom stand still. The trick is to shoot with a high ISO, zoom out so that you are capturing a much larger field than you want, and hold the camera still, rapid-firing while the guy runs through your field. These guys were fairly far away, so shooting with the Nikon D800e with 36 mpx helped, but I’ll often go to my D4 for wildlife because the rapid-fire is considerably faster.

Pika2

Pika

Topaz Labs new Glow software Monday, January 12th, 2015

Topaz Labs recently introduced Glow, a new approach to posterizing images.  Here is an image I shot at the National Western Stock Show last week that I experimented with.

 

Original:

Stock-Show-2

 

After processing with Glow:

Stock-Show-2GLOW

It’s The Little Things…. from the Denver Botanical Gardens Friday, September 12th, 2014

It’s the little things. The first image is one shot Sunday, the second was shot Tuesday. Sunday was bright and sunny, Tuesday was a bit more cloudy and I waited until a thin cloud was filtering the sun. To me, though, the greatest difference is in the appearance of the water. Tuesday’s shot has much clearer water. Why? Even if you click on them to blow them up you won’t quite be able to see that in the first image there are HUNDREDS of white dots on the surface of the water. These indistinct dots are debris. For the second image I spent almost 2 hours removing over 600 of these debris specs from the file. I only give this kind of attention to pieces that I’ve decided to commit to printing and mounting!

 

Boat-w-multi-colored-balls-2

 

Printable-Boat24x36

Free onOne Software!!! Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

My photo tour company, Colorado Plateau Photo Tours is sponsored by onOne Software.  onOne has allowed me a one-time opportunity to offer a FREE download of Perfect Effects 8, Premium Edition to my clients.  They haven’t told me what the deadline is on this other than to state it is “for a short time”, so don’t delay.  There are no strings attached!  To take advantage of this go to:

http://www.ononesoftware.com/landing/pe8offer/

Good luck and Great shooting!

Bob Maynard
Louisville National Juried Photography Show
Colorado Plateau Photo Tours
www.coloradoplteauphototours.com

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

I spent 31 of the last 36 days on the road teaching photography workshops in Colorado, Utah and Arizona.  It feels REALLY good to be home!  No more travelling for awhile.  One of the first stops was Moab, where I updated my images of Mesa Arch.  Finally added one of the sunrise at Mesa Arch (photographers call it “sun crack”) even though I’m not fond of it from a photographer’s perspective.  This is one of the iconic images of Canyonlands.  As recently as 5 years ago I would see 1 to 3 other photographers there in the morning.  Beginning last year I started seeing 10 to 15 people AND THEN the Chinese tours started.  Now, there will be 10-15 photographers lined up waiting in the dark to get the shot and just when it’s time to start shooting a tour bus with 35-50 Chinese pulls up and dumps their load of people onto the trail.  These people have little sense of personal space and it’s become a battle to preserve your spot as they crawl under tripods, rest their cameras on your shoulder, push their way in between, etc.  On top of all that, some idiot posted on Trip Advisor that you need to get there 2 hours before sunrise to secure a spot (there is only room for about 12 photographers).  This has never been true, BUT IT’S TRUE NOW because this guy posted it.  Another great photography site loved to death!

 

To Get There:  From Moab go north on Hwy 191 about 8 miles and turn left on Hwy 313.  This turn is well signed.  Continue about 30 miles into Canyonlands National Park and continue past the visitor’s center until you come to a brown sign indicating the Mesa Arch parking lot on the left.  You’ll need a headlamp, of course.  The walk in is easy and takes about 15 minutes.  There are two primary spots to shoot from.  One is slightly left of the center of the arch and the other is from the right corner, shooting low.  If shooting from the right corner be sure you include the Washer Woman formation in your composition!

 

Mesa Arch Scene

 

Mesa-Arch-2013-Sunburst Mesa-Arch-2013

Is Photography the Best Job in the World? Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

A few weeks ago I was guiding in Rocky Mountain National Park for a client from the UK.  We’d hiked into Dream Lake in the dark, photographed the usual spectacular sunrise and were walking out when he said “Bob, you’ve figured out the best job in the world!”.  He repeated that about 3 time more during the day.

Many people have similar thoughts about what I do.  So… here is what you need to know before you think about doing something similar in photography:

1.  This is not a healthy lifestyle.  As I write this on September 11 I’m booked solid with photo tours in Colorado or Utah through November 2.  Think about that.  Nearly every day for the next 7 weeks I’ll be getting up at 3:00 AM to round up my clients and get them setup somewhere in time for sunrise.  If I’m working in Utah I also need to be out at the end of the day shooting sunsets.  This can lead to 18 hours days in the long days of summer.  If it were REALLY every day my body would acclimate, but it’s not EVERY day.  There are drive days to get back and forth from Colorado (Rocky Mountain National Park) to Utah (Moab, Arches, Canyonlands and Cedar Mesa) and about 4 off days in there.  At the age of 65 I can’t just take a nap or sleep in for a day and recover from the grind, which leads me to number 2:

2.  Get used to sleep deprivation.  Get comfortable with being tired.

3.  This is not a relationship-friendly occupation.  See numbers 1 and 2 above.

4.  This is not a healthy lifestyle, take 2:  I really don’t get that much exercise.  One or two 1 mile hikes a day does not constitute exercise in my book.  The hikes are typically done at a slow pace with people who aren’t acclimated and who also don’t get that much exercise.  Before photography I prided myself on still being able to mountain bike right along with the 20 and 30 year olds.  Not any more.

5.  Know how to make a vehicle last.  I drive 25,000 to 30,000 miles a year and some of it is not on nice roads.  I can’t charge enough for my services to include the depreciation on new vehicles in my business plan.  I just bought a 2012 Honda Pilot that replaced my 2002 Honda Odyssey that had 250,000 miles on it.  I have to make this vehicle last as long as that one did.

6.  Running photo tours is often perceived as a no-overhead business.  It’s far from that.  This business has a lot of hidden costs.  I have to buy government permits for each different park, national forest and BLM area I work in.  To get those permits I have to have the same insurance on my vehicle as does the company running large tour buses.  For each tour there are fuel costs, food costs, entry fees and special taxes.  Did I mention vehicle expenses?

If you’ve read this and still think doing photo tours may be right for you, call me!  🙂

 

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Join me tonight at the Muse Gallery in Longmont for my talk: 
What’s the Camera Got To Do With It?
OR
Perfect 90% of the Time
356 Main Street, Longmont!
I’ll be displaying images shot from cameras that cost between a few hundred and several thousand dollars…. see if you can tell which came from which camera!
Fun!

Big Horn Sheep 2