Archive for the Instruction Category

Basic Tilt and Shift Movements

Posted in Instruction, Photography Gear, TCBlog, Techniques, Videos with tags , , , , , , on July 21, 2011 by Darwin

Anyone who follows my work knows I am a huge fan of Tilt and Shift lenses. These lenses open up so many possibilities for landscape photographers. I am currently working on an eBook that will highlight all the methods to use for creative photography using Tilt-Shift lenses. For now here is a ‘teaser’ video showing the basic movements of a Tilt Shift lens. Before you can use a Tilt Shift lens you need to know the mechanics of the movements. The theory and practical uses of the movements will follow in subsequent videos and in the detailed eBook.

Keeping Your Equipment Safe – by Les Picker

Posted in Articles about Photography, Instruction, Photography Gear, Techniques with tags , , , , , , on July 16, 2011 by Darwin

Keeping Your Equipment Safe

By Les Picker

www.lesterpickerphoto.com

Whether you’re a pro or amateur photographer, traveling any distance with photo equipment today is a major hassle. If you’re crazy enough to put delicate camera equipment through checked baggage; well, good luck. If you take it aboard as carry-on, today’s onerous weight and size restrictions take a major bite out of what you’ll be able to pack (see my blog on packing photo gear: http://blog.lesterpickerphoto.com/2009/05/25/transporting-your-gear/).

For a moment, though, let’s assume you’ve managed to cart your camera, lenses and accessories with you on vacation to Europe (or perhaps to Asia or Latin America). For the first three days all is well as you walk along the streets of Paris, Budapest or Florence, snapping image after glorious image. Then, one of the following disasters occurs:

A. You come back from dinner and find your camera, lens and laptop gone from your room;

B. You are sitting in a restaurant, hang your camera on your chair and when you get up to leave, the camera is mysteriously gone;

C. You are walking down a narrow, crowded street, someone walks by, you feel a slight bump and shove, and a moment later notice that your camera is no longer on your shoulder;

D. A group of adorable children walk up to you, engage you in greetings and then your camera is yanked off your shoulder, sending you sprawling, with bruises to your head and arm.

Actually, every one of the above incidents has happened to my colleagues, all of them experienced photojournalists, savvy in urban environments. With the downturn in the worldwide economy, fewer police on patrol and a ready Internet market for stolen goods, the theft of tourist valuables has become a going business. The question is, what can you do to protect your valuables from theft while abroad?

©Lester Picker

I’m a believer in proper planning, which I believe can go a long way to minimizing the chances that you‘ll end up being a victim. As a seasoned traveler and professional photojournalist, here are my top ten safety travel tips to protect your valuable photo investment. My thanks to Darwin for having me share this with you.

1. Research. Before I leave home on assignment I thoroughly research the areas I will visit. I check the U.S. State Department’s website (http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_4965.html) or  Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (http://www.voyage.gc.ca/countries_pays/menu-eng.asp) for alerts in every area I plan to visit. I also check Trip Advisor (www.tripadvisor.com) for recent incident reports, as well as do a Google search for the city name combined with “crime,” “safety issues,” and other descriptors.

2. Take a checklist. I always keep an updated list of my photo equipment, serial numbers and copy of my receipts with me both in hard copy and on my iPod, in case I have to file a theft report with local police and my insurer.

3. No designer labels. I’m not sure why people do this, but camera bags advertising Nikon, Canon and other high-end brands are neon signs to would-be thieves. Use a bag without the designer name or cut off the one that’s on it.

4. Bag the vest. I no longer wear photo vests in foreign urban areas. Instead I’ve switched to products by ScotteVest (www.scottevest.com) which feature hidden inside pockets, or else I use shirts and pants with multiple pockets to store accessories. Disclosure: I am a monthly photography columnist for ScotteVest, but am not paid to endorse their products.

5. Airport security. How do you safeguard from theft those camera accessories that you might need to store in your checked bags? I use PacSafe products (www.pacsafe.com), which are lined with slashproof Exomesh titanium and also come with a long wire and lock. I put my camera accessories into the PacSafe bag(s) and lock them to the interior rollbar. Since I’ve used these bags I’ve not had a single theft from my luggage (I have had six previous checked luggage theft incidents all over the world).

©Lester Picker

6. Hotel security. Always lock your photo equipment in your hotel safe, even if out of your room for a few minutes. If the hotel does not have a safe or you have too much equipment to fit into the typically micro-sized safes, invest in a PacSafe 140 or PacSafe 85. These titanium mesh bags fit over your luggage and then you secure the luggage and bag with the provided lock to any solid surface. Hotel room tip: I advise against securing a bag to the bed frame, since frames can be easily disassembled, or to the leg of a desk, which can be quickly sawed or broken. Instead, use your PacSafe wire and lock to wrap around the toilet bowl. By my reckoning, any thief who goes through the trouble of turning off the water supply, unhooking the toilet tank from the bowl and making off with my luggage is a deserving thief, indeed.

7. Insurance. Make sure your equipment is insured and updated.

8. Distribute your memory cards. As a pro I’m paranoid about this, but then again I have to come home with the goods. Whether pro or amateur, make backup copies of your memory cards and distribute them separate from your camera equipment. It’s one thing to lose your camera. It’s another thing to lose vacation memories. Buy a cheap portable backup drive for less than $100, back up to your laptop each night, or upload to a favorite photo-sharing site (see my blog on backing up your images: http://blog.lesterpickerphoto.com/2009/06/02/backing-up-your-digital-images/).

9. Be street savvy. Brush up on local scams, such as the cut-the-camera-strap-and-run, motorcycle-pull-and-drive, cute-little-kids scam, and bag-lady-on-bus scam or whatever the latest ones happen to be. Don’t leave your camera on a table, chair or counter. Use a camera strap reinforced with wire.

10.  Don’t be heroic. This is injury- or life-saving advice. If thieves confront you, remember that your equipment is not worth injury or death. Give it up and file a police report immediately, then contact your insurer.

Les Picker is a professional photographer whose work has appeared in National Geographic books and magazines and dozens of other major magazines and newspapers. He travels widely throughout the world. His blog is: http://blog.lesterpickerphoto.com


©Lester Picker

What’s in my F-Stop Bag? (a landscape photographer’s bag of goodies)

Posted in Camera Review, Filter, Good News, Instruction, Photography Gear, TCBlog, Videos, VWBlog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 5, 2011 by Darwin

Note: To see all future reviews please note this blog is no longer active, please visit me over at oopoomoo.com

One of the most common questions I get is about what gear I use and why. Of course, it does not matter too much about the gear. I get the same kind of photos whether I use my Canon G11, Canon Rebel or Canon 1ds Mark III; the only difference is in the quality of the files and the ergonomics and speed of the camera; the Mark III files can be enlarged to a greater size and is the fastest camera I own.

I have numerous other cameras and I use the one that offers the controls and features that I need based on what I want to shoot. I might use a Holga for mid-day ‘arty’ snaps in the city, the Canon Rebel for backpack trips, the Mark III for action, or a camera phone for everyday happy snaps. There is no perfect camera, just as long as you have one with you!

The same thing goes for camera bags and backpacks. I have numerous bags each one designed to do a different job. I use a different bag when I am biking, hiking or car touring. But over the last month or so I have standardized my  ‘landscape’ photo system into one bag that I am loving whether I use it for car-based shooting, short hikes or overnight back-country trips. My new bag of choice if the F-Stop Sartori EXP. This bag is the big gun of the F-Stop line and is touted as their ‘expedition bag’. For me it’s not too big but definitely can handle a lot of gear from my full landscape kit’ to everything I need for a couple of nights in the back-country.

What I like best about F-Stop bags is that they are convertible and you can put as much or as little camera gear in the packs as you need simply by swapping out the ICU’s (internal camera units). I use a small ICU for backpacking and take my Rebel and one or two lenses; the rest of the pack is filled with essential back-country camping gear. For everyday use I use a large ICU in the Sartori to hold my complete landscape photography kit with room left over for essential snacks, clothes and other useful items necessary for short hikes and messing around in nature close to the road.

If you want to see more neat features and other reviews of F-Stop bags check out these links: F-Stop Bags – High and Dry and Ben Horton’s Review.

For me F-stop bags are the most comfortable and well-designed packs for the active outdoor and nature photographer. I highly recommend them. The only complaint I have about F-stop packs are that they are designed for people with average to longish backs. Most women and shorter guys (under 5’6″) may find the shoulder straps and belt system too long to sit properly on the body. Samantha found this out the hard way when she tried to steal my F-Stop bag only to discover that even for a taller woman like her (5’7″) the strap system is too long. Sam also tried out a Loka and a Tipola pack and tested it on other woman and all the F-Stop packs had the same short-coming — the torso of the bag was too long for most women.

So… F-Stop needs to make some packs in smaller versions for the torsally challenged photographer! Or, at least make a series of packs with an adjustable harness. For me I am happy because all the F-stop bags fit me perfectly (and so I got to keep all the bags Sam tried to steal!). Seriously though,  if you are short or a woman I would hesitate at his point to order an F-Stop bag. But for all you average-backed and long-backed dudes, you’ll likely love this or any of the F-stop packs. For now this a guy’s dream outdoor and nature pack (the perfect purse for the rugged boy in us all!).

Note: F-stop is one of my sponsors; I get to tell it like it is and F-stop in no way influenced this review. I love the packs, Samantha wants to love them but they just don’t fit most women.

UPDATE: Good news, I just heard back from F-Stop and the good news is they plan to release a short torso version of the Loka pack this fall! Also the F-stop packs have really filled a niche and everyone loves them so supplies are a bit short at the moment because the bags sold even more briskly than anticipated!

To learn more about the Sartori Pack and to see every piece of camera gear I use for landscape photography watch the video below:

(warning, in the video I called my cable release a ‘polarizer’ — the mind is the first thing to go — always wear a helmet, the brain is a delicate organ!)

A list of the camera gear harmed in the making of this video:

Canon EOS-1ds Mark III

Canon 24mm TS-E Mark II

Canon 17mm TS-E

Canon 45mm TS-E

Canon 90mm TS-E

Sigma 120-400mm lens

Cokin Z-Pro Filter Holder

Singh-Ray Filters

The Lee Big Stopper

F-stop bags

If you are in the USA and buy from B+H Photo you are supporting this blog with tiny bits of coffee money (I might even buy an occasional beer on special days!). If you are in Canada please buy from The Camera Store simply because they are the best store in the country!

Darwin at the Columbia Icefield with an F-Stop Sartori EXP pack

The Weekly Photo – July 4, 2011

Posted in Art of Photography, Image Processing and Software, Instruction, TCBlog, VWBlog with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2011 by Darwin

The image below was taken on the Spring Photo Tour in the Canadian Rockies – this is of Abraham Lake from Windy point with a rain storm over Kiska Peak. I used a Canon 24mm TS-E lens tilted to give max apparent DOF. Lately I have been processing my colour images with the B+W conversion program Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. First I process the RAW image the way I want it to look in Camera RAW using Photoshop CS-5 (see original image in this post). Then I convert the image to a pleasing B+W using Silver Efex watching carefully to get the tones in the image exactly the way I want them. I layer the original processed colour image over the converted Silver Efex B+W image in Photoshop and then change the blending mode of the colour layer to “Color”. The result is an image with the contrast of the processed B+W but with the colours of the original file. Remember you can get 15% off of Silver Efex using my name for the discount code at checkout  – darwin (not darren!). In a future post I will have a step-by-step ‘recipe’ of how to make funky colour images using Silver Efex Pro 2. Of course, some people will prefer the original, some will like the conversion – but knowing how to use the tools given to you, you’ll be able to produce images that please your eye (and in the end that is all that matters).

©Darwin Wiggett - Silver Efex Pro 2 conversion

©Darwin Wiggett - original colour image

Photo of the Week – June 19, 2011

Posted in Art of Photography, Filter, Instruction, Photography Gear, TCBlog, Techniques, VWBlog, Weekly Photo on June 20, 2011 by Darwin

This image is from the recent spring photo tour in the Canadian Rockies. We we lucky to get great light one morning at Upper Waterfowl Lake in Banff National Park. Here I used my Canon 24mm TS-E lens tilted so the plane of focus gave maximum sharpness. I used a Singh-Ray 2-stop hard-edge grad to hold back the brightness in the upper part of the scene. As well, I used a Lee Big Stopper 10-stop ND filter to give a long 233-second exposure at f9 to show motion in the clouds. To see a larger version click on the photo.

 

©Darwin Wiggett

Some new interview links

Posted in Art of Photography, Articles about Photography, Artistic Development, Controversy, Good News, Humor, Instruction, Photography Gear, Techniques, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2011 by Darwin

Sam and I were lucky enough to be invited to a cool photography podcast based out of Calgary called I am Aduro. This podcast is run by Al Del Degan of Aduro Phorography and Andrew Bolton of Zombie Darkroom. We had a great time chatting and laughing with Al and Andrew. Check it out (click on the Listen Now button on the bottom of the link page) and learn what Sam really thinks of Peter Lik’s photography and why I have little respect for most Leica photographers! As well you’ll learn what it really takes to make a living at photography and the underlying theme for the show is fine art nude photography plus there are lots of cool and interesting links.

Speaking of Fine Art Nude work, check out an interview just posted where Sam and I talk about our upcoming Gaia Nudes, Nudes in the Landscape photo workshop. Click here for more.

©Darwin Wiggett

The Weekly Photo – June 6 – Tilt Shift Magic

Posted in Art of Photography, Articles about Photography, eBooks, Good News, Image Processing and Software, Instruction, Photography Gear, TCBlog, Techniques, VWBlog, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2011 by Darwin

©Darwin Wiggett

The photo above was taken on the Spring Photo Tour in the Canadian Rockies. I shot this image at sunset at the Kootenay Plains Reflecting Pools (my unofficial name for the place – click on the photo to see it larger). I used a Canon 24mm Tilt-Shift lens for three distinct advantages:

 

First, I used the shift feature to correct the perspective in the scene. With a normal 24mm lens the camera would be pointed down to take in the foreground deer skeleton and the trees in the background would distort and look like they are falling into the frame – yech! With the shift feature on the 24 TS-E lens, I simply leveled the camera back so that it was parallel to the trees and then shifted the lens down to take in the deer skeleton. The result are straight trees in the background with no distortion.

Second,  I  also used the shift feature to give me a wider field of view than a 24mm lens can give. In a single frame I could just get the skeleton and the tops of the mountain in the scene, nothing more. I wanted more sky than the 24mm lens could take in, so I shifted the lens up and took a second photo which was easily merged into a wider rectangle using Photo Merge in Photoshop CS5.

Finally, I used the tilt feature for enhanced depth-of-field. With tilt I got everything sharply focused from near to far by tilting into the plane of focus (see scheimpflug rule). Tilt can give you depth-of-filed from inches from the lens to infinity – very cool!

If you don’t know the advantages and creative power of Tilt Shift lenses for landscape photography and if you want to try out and learn how to use Tilt Shift lenses (Canon or Nikon) then be sure to come out to a seminar and field workshop by Samantha and I entitled: The Tilt-Shift Lens Advantage for Outdoor and Nature Photographers where we will demystify these powerful tools and show how they can be used in an easy to understand way. This hands on session is limited to 15 spots and we’ll have lenses on hand or bring your own lenses. The session is held in Calgary, June 11 1-4PM – see this link or email seminars@thecamerastore.com or call 403-234-9935 for more information.

Speaking of Samantha, she has just published an article for those unsure of using Social Media in photography – To Tweet or not to Tweet – check it out to see if you are a tweeter or not. So far I haven’t taken the plunge into the the twittery world….

And those of you who are fans of eBooks and like to promote the ones you find useful to friends and colleagues we are happy to announce that both Visual Wilderness (VW) and How to Photograph the Canadian Rockies (HTPTCR) websites now offer affiliate programs so that you get a percentage of any referrals you make. Help us spread the word and get paid and buy new camera goodies!

VW Affliate Program

HTPTCR Affliate Program

Finally, Here is one more sample of how to use the shift feature on Tilt Shift lenses to create megapixel wide scenes:

I took these three photos below with the lens shifted up, in the center position and then shifted down. In Photoshop all three images overlapped perfectly and Photo Merge in Photoshop CS5 aligned them perfectly into the final image (the fourth one below – from the Kootenay Plains Reflecting Pool – click to see the photo larger).

Lens shifted up

Center image - no shift

Lens shifted down

Final Image

Why I’ll Never Be an Actor

Posted in eBooks, Filter, Good News, Humor, Instruction, Photography Gear, Techniques, Videos, VWBlog with tags , , , , , on May 26, 2011 by Darwin

Note: To see all future reviews please note this blog is no longer active, please visit us over at oopoomoo.com

Some of you may have seen the goofy video that Samantha and I made called “Six Silly Uses of the UV Filter“.  That video is below if you haven’t  suffered through it yet. You wouldn’t believe hard hard it was for me to make that video (or if you know me, you might not be surprised at all). It seems I just couldn’t and still can’t memorize lines. So much for my acting career…. Oh well, check out the blooper video below and watch me stumble over and over and over again. I may not be able to act but at least I am having fun – I think. Be aware there is a bit of cursing involved (I seem to remember how to say those words perfectly well!). And of course Samantha was flawless (well almost).

The Weekly Photo and Jasper eBook Release – May 16, 2011

Posted in Articles about Photography, eBooks, Good News, Instruction, TCBlog, Techniques with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2011 by Darwin

The photo below is from one of the iconic photography locations in Jasper National Park. This image was taken from Patricia Lake looking towards Pyramid Mountain at sunrise. I used a Canon 24mm tilt-shift lens and shifted the lens to the left and then to the right to make two photos which I then merged into one panoramic image using photo merge in Photoshop. I also used a Singh-Ray LB warming polarizer to darken the sky and saturate colours and a Singh-Ray 2-stop hard-edge grad to hold back exposure in the peaks and the sky. Click on the photo for a larger image.

©Darwin Wiggett

I am also happy to announce that my latest eBook, Jasper National Park – All Four Seasons from the How to Photograph the Canadian Rockies website is now ready for download. This eBook is an updated and expanded version of the Jasper National Park chapter in my printed book How to Photograph the Canadian Rockies. The new eBook is 181 pages long with detailed descriptions of 60 locations and illustrated with 114 images. If you want to get to the best locations in the right light in any seasons in Jasper, then this eBook is the perfect solution! Thanks to Stephen Desroches for his fine work designing the eBook and to Samantha Chrysanthou for her careful editing.

And stay tuned for another release coming up very soon: The Icefields Parkway – Wildlife Edition by John Marriott

Painting with Time

Posted in Art of Photography, Articles about Photography, Good News, Inspirations, Instruction, Photography Gear, TCBlog, Techniques with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2011 by Darwin

Samantha and I have a new article up on the Singh-Ray blog about using ND filters to “Paint with Time“. Check it out if you are interested in creating images with swirls and blurs of motion. Click on the photo to see a larger version of the image.

©Darwin Wiggett

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