Archive for night photography

Inspirations – Weerapong Chaipuck

Posted in Inspirations with tags , , , on October 16, 2011 by sabrina

© Weerapong Chaipuck

D300 Sigma 10-20mm at 10mm. F3.5 ISO 800 for 30 secs plus a bit of painting in the foreground

I did multiple shots (about 20-50 shots depending on what you want – long or short trails of the stars). Then I stacked all pictures using freeware startrail.exe. The advantage of this process is that it won’t burn much of your sensor and if you are running out of batteries during the procedure you only lose only one shot compared to one long exposure shot which you will lose entirely and in addition, you get much less noise. The disadvantage of this procedure is that if it is a cloudy night, you will get not so good-looking clouds while a one-long shot obtains a better visual sense of moving clouds.

I also did a bit of blending process in PS to get heads of all the stars. ~ Weeapong Chaipuck


Inspirations – Fireflies by Keith Burns

Posted in Inspirations with tags , , on July 10, 2011 by sabrina

© LlewellynTheFist

I was sitting on my back deck eating dinner and watching the fireflies dancing across my yard. Having done many images of star trails and using stacking software, I got the idea I could stack many images together and create an impression of the whole field as it is filled with these glowing streaks. I ran out in the field and set up the tripod with an angle so the setting sun was giving just enough light to provide a silhouette of a cherry tree and still have a dark background of the forest to show the light of the fireflies.

I used an intervalometer to fire the exposures on a Nikon D90 @ 18mm. 422 – 3 sec exp, f3.5, iso 500, stacked with Starmax, masked out stacked sky (star trails & planes) and then stacked again over one exposure to create a clear sky. ~ Keith Burns

Inspirations – Cristiano Xavier

Posted in Inspirations with tags , , , , on June 26, 2011 by sabrina

© Cristiano Xavier

Canon 5DII , 24-105 IS L , 6 minutes at f/8 ISO 320 lightpainted

This shoot was made in the north of Minas Gerais state – Brazil. This region is almost a desert in driest season of the year (from July to October) when the trees lost all the foliage (more of these trees on my website). It’s part of a series named Sertão em Movimento (something like “moving desert”). The trees are static elements in front a moving sky. The picture gets a bit of moonlight and artificial light. The post process is all about LR with a little bit of desaturation and split toning to give that blue cast, no PS here, no layers, no HDR. It’s important in this particular work to have most of the process done in camera, since other images in this series were made on film. ~ Cristiano Xavier

Photographer of the Month – Denis Smith

Posted in Art of Photography, Inspirations, Photographer of the Month, Techniques with tags , , , , , on May 17, 2011 by sabrina

© Denis Smith

Darwin: Denis, your Ball of Light movie is incredibly inspiring. Many people feel anxious and trapped by the the pressures of society. And for many of us photography and especially nature photography is one of the ways we connect with our spiritual sides. But you chose light-painting and night photography – why? What is it about this particular genre of photography that appeals to you most?

Denis: When I first picked up a camera a couple of years ago I found myself on an incredibly steep learning curve having no formal training at all. I discovered light painting early on and found it stretched me, forcing me to think way outside the square. This was a time in my life when the time alone, exploring at night gave me space to work on myself. The amount of time I spend waiting for the light, the moon, or for the shutter to close is spent relaxing and learning more about myself. I certainly have become a more spiritual person. In the dark, looking up, you learn very quickly how massive everything is, and how small we are.

Light painting is a form of photography that has massive creative scope. But I think the real appeal to light painting was the ability to stretch myself constantly, and it is a pretty niche space too.

Darwin: Your movie documents well how the ball of light came to be and how it is an outgrowth of your inner world. Do you think that symbolically the subjects we photograph, and the types of compositions we make are really just external expressions of our needs, wants and turmoils in life? If so what does the ball of light symbolize for you?

Denis: The Ball of Light has become an extension of my emotions. In so many ways it represents the freedom I now have in my life. The amazing array of locations I visit to shoot the Ball of Light have opened my eyes to the wonderful world we live in. My photography grew from a basic desire to be alone to work on myself as a human. I felt like I just wanted to walk, explore and experience the freedom that offers. The freedom was addictive, I quickly was looking for more extreme and distant places to be. Bringing the Ball of Light into the mix took it to another level. The images I enjoy the most are the open spaces where the Ball of Light seems free to just be!

My wife often remarks how the Ball of Light reflects how I am at the time. If I am in a relaxed mood and feeling chilled, the outcome reflects this. If I am a bit wound up, or feeling a bit crazy we end up with some weird locations surrounded by chaos!

Darwin: What about the practical aspects of the commerce of art? You now sell limited edition prints of your work. Is this endeavour enjoyable to you, or does it drag you away from the creative aspects of your work?

Denis: Selling limited edition prints just seemed a natural progression for me. There was no structured plan to make the Ball of Light a commercial project. I was asked to do a couple of local markets so I prepared some small prints, A3, for this. The reaction form the public was really amazing. I became addicted to watching peoples faces as they realised what they were looking at was real, and not some photoshopped mish mash. Explaining the process of creating the Ball of Light became an automatic part of interaction with people. The quicker people understood the process of creating the Ball of Light they could immediately enjoy the piece.

I made the conscious decision to try and make the Ball of Light available as easily as possible, and priced everything accordingly. So doing the large format prints was easy. I thoroughly enjoy seeing my work large. I now realize that I have not really seen an image until it is printed in large format. On the computer you simply do not see the colours or richness. I sit and stare at them myself, for ages! I now take large format prints to shows with me, and they create a real stir. I just did a 3 day show here in Adelaide and the thrill I get watching people enjoy the work is only amplified having the large prints there.

Managing this side of the business certainly does not detract from the creative side. But I now think a bit more about the shot with printing and size in mind. This has benefited the work considerably though. I think more about composition. I have “learned” more about photography since selling work and am just really excited about people sharing the work. Experiencing and feeling it.

Darwin: You and your work have become ‘famous’. Does this fame and attention risk putting you in the same position that you were in before or does the ‘success’ open more doors for you to do more of what you love?

Denis: Famous? That sounds really strange, but sits pretty easily with me. What I am realising is that in the Ball of Light film we have created a short film that has inspired people to look at themselves and what they are doing. I hope it has inspired others to realise that internal happiness is so much more important than external things. I get constant feedback that my photography has inspired others to stretch themselves creatively and try something outside their comfort zone. If these two things results in some type of “fame” then so be it.

I will never return to the place I was in. One of the biggest changes I have made in my life is living within my means financially. We live a humble, and much happier, life now. What this means is that if my photography really takes off I will simply be able to do more of what I have grown to love. Travel, learn, experiment and share. Any “success” my photography has will not be wasted on the frivolous and excessive things I did on the past.

I still dream of packing a bag and heading to locations outside of Australia.

Darwin: Because your work is fairly well-defined by a unique technique, does it worry you that others will simply learn your technique and replicate your ideas and soon flood the world with clones of the ‘ball of light’?

Denis: Since the Ball of Light project really took off, and especially since the release of the film there has been a massive influx of “orbs” on Flickr. I am also inundated with questions of  “the how do you do it” type. In the beginning I was quite protective of the process. I am still a little cagey about the “rig” I use as this is the result of long nights at the end of a soldering iron. But I have really embraced the influx of people having a crack at it. I think it is wonderful that others are making the effort to stretch themselves with the camera. It is interesting though how many people have come back to me after realising how difficult it is to create the “bigger picture” with all of the elements in one shot. A tight orb combined with a killer location and good exposure control takes a bit of practice.

I often think to myself, if I have encouraged one teenager to get of the couch, turn off the playstation and get outside into the air and run around exploring like a fool there is nothing more exciting than that. There are some pretty amazing results coming from some corners of the globe. One of the nice things about the Light Painting community is there is plenty of sharing and recognition. I had a young guy and his mate come and see me at the show I did this weekend. They were so excited showing me an Orb they had created. These guys would have been about 18, and they had their girlfriends out with them, and in the photos. It felt amazing that I might have encouraged them to do this.

From a commercial point of view I do keep an eye on people using the term Ball of Light, but this doesnt come up very often. I also think to myself, Peter Lik makes millions of dollars a year taking photos of trees and water. What make his images special? He just makes water and trees look incredible. I have many projects, and ideas on the boil but The Ball of Light will always be a project close to my heart. And I really want to take it further with more amazing locations.

You can find Denis on the web here and see more of his images on Flickr.

© Denis Smith

© Denis Smith

© Denis Smith

© Denis Smith

© Denis Smith

© Denis Smith

© Denis Smith

Photographer of the Month – Harold Davis

Posted in Art of Photography, Artistic Development, Books about Photography, eBooks, Photographer of the Month, Techniques with tags , , , , , , , on February 15, 2011 by sabrina

© Harold Davis

Darwin: You have left a record of your work as digital photographer on the net showing your progression and evolution from your first posts on your blog in 2005.  Many photographers want to leave an impression that they only ever created amazing stuff. Showing some early misses takes courage in my opinion and shows someone secure in who they are. But do you ever feel ‘exposed’ at times when people see your earlier work, work that may not meet your standards of today?

Harold: I have made a conscious decision to leave my original photos and stories up on the Internet from the time I began as a digital photographer in 2005 (by the way, this was a return to photography for me). As your question suggests, this was not entirely an easy decision because some of my early digital work is definitely not up to my current standards. Here’s my thinking about why I have left this work up.

First, in my role as an educator—both as a writer and workshop leader—it is important to me to give aspiring photographers a sense of hope. It serves a great educational role to let people know that some of my earliest digital work wasn’t as good as it might have been, and that I’ve managed to get a great deal better. If I can improve, so then can they.

Actually, when I look back at the early work in my blog I see a lot to like. Even with the pieces that don’t stand the  test of time so well, I can see what I was trying to achieve, and I understand why I was trying to achieve it. Generally, I fall in and out of love with my own work. You can’t make a photo unless you are infatuated  with your pre-visualization of it, otherwise why bother? But looking at the image later, I’ll find myself not so happy with it. A while later again, I reach a synthesis—and can begin to evaluate my work more objectively.

The truth is that no one is good all the time, this goes for the great masters of photography as well as anyone else. No matter how good a photographer is, if you look at some of their early or minor work, it may not be as great as some more mature work, so I am in good company.

The minute I start believing that everything I do is great is the minute I’ll lose it as an artist—because that is an expectation that is impossible, makes one not want to experiment, and is grandiose. If I see a large body of consistent work from a photographer without any examples that are wild and wacky and don’t quite work, then I think that this is someone who is talented but who hasn’t experimented or played enough. Some of my best and most innovative work comes from failed experiments.

I’m not concerned with always doing great work every time, as much as learning how to get better.

I think of my blog stories—and I have written several a week every week since 2005—as my artistic journal, or Daybook in the sense that Edward Weston kept a Daybook but updated for the electronic era. Not everything in a journal is going to be great art, but it will show my progress and thinking.

I believe that digital photography is an entirely new art form, perhaps as different from film photography as film photography was from realistic painting. We are only at the very beginning of this new medium, and only beginning to grapple with the questions, techniques, methodologies, philosophic issues, and image-making possibilities that this new medium brings to the table. The images in my blog, along with the broader spectrum of images in my Flickr photostream, are a record of my coming to terms with these issues—and even if my attitude has changed, and my technical astuteness has improved since my first attempts to grapple with them, I don’t want to delete the account of my journey to where I am now.

At the end of the day, my work, like all visual art, must speak for itself. If someone “gets” what my work is about, then I don’t think the fact that I’ve included shots of my family, out-takes from assignments, and early experiments on my blog will detract from it. My model of professionalism is to include some of my personal story, and not to pretend that the two are entirely separate.

Darwin: You have developed a technique you call ‘HDR by Hand’ where you process a single RAW file with various settings and combine the resulting images into a single finished image. The results are unique and impressive. Can you give us a quick overview of your workflow for HDR by Hand? Do you have a book or eBook people can go to to learn more details?

Harold: Another great question, but there is some confusion in the way it is put. Let me try to clarify things. I use the term multi-RAW processing to describe processing a single RAW file multiple times with various different exposure settings to effectively expand the dynamic, or exposure, range of the final processed image. Some people consider this technique a form of HDR—or High Dynamic Range—photography, because it certainly produces an expanded dynamic range compared to the JPEG that your camera makes. However, I believe that true HDR begins when you combine multiple captures of the same subject that have been bracketed for exposure.

With automated HDR software such as Photomatix, Photoshop’s Merge to HDR Pro, or the new Nik HDR tool, these bracketed exposures are blended together, and a tone curve is applied. In contrast, what I do is to manually inspect the captures made at different exposures, and then choose the parts of each one that I want, and combine the “good bits” in Photoshop. For example, I might want the dark part of an image from the capture shot at 1/10 of a second (to lighten dark areas) and the light part of an image from the capture shot at 1/200 of a second (to darken the light areas), assuming all other settings were the same.

With both techniques—multi-RAW and hand-HDR—I put together the different versions as layers in Photoshop using layer masks, the Gradient Tool, and the Brush Tool to combine the different capture and/or RAW conversions. Sometimes I’ll use different blending modes to emphasize the impact of a particular exposure shift.

As with all HDR shots, it does tend to work better if your camera and subject don’t move between the different captures.

As a practical matter, many of my final images are created using a combination of the multi-RAW and hand-HDR techniques. I might make two or three different interpretations of a single RAW file, then blend these versions with interpretations from one or more other RAW files.

For me, learning that I could multi-RAW process a file, and then extending these techniques to bracketed HDR files, was a huge revelation. If you look on my blog, you’ll find that I began experimenting with multi-RAW in mid 2006. By August 2007, I’d come “to the conclusion that combining images and image variants is something that humans do better than software (at least for the time being),” and around the same time I began experimenting with hand-HDR to move beyond natural-looking landscapes with an extended tonal range to special hand-HDR effects such as creating a transparent, high-key effect.

My discovery of multi-RAW and hand-HDR caused a real shift in the way I think about shooting, because very often each shot becomes a piece of the final image rather than the image itself. It’s also powerful to realize that you can change other things besides exposure—such as White Balance and Saturation—when you process separate versions. I don’t think I could go back to single-shot photography, and I really don’t want to rely on software to make the decisions for me about how to process and blend the pixels.

My two Photoshop books, The Photoshop Darkroom: Creative Digital Processing and The Photoshop Darkroom 2: Creative Digital Transformations (both from Focal Press) detail both multi-RAW and hand-HDR techniques. Since this process is so integral to my photography, you’ll find it explained at some level in almost all my recent books. The forthcoming Creative Lighting: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley) explains how to apply multi-RAW and hand-HDR to change the apparent lighting in a photo, and my Creative Landscapes (also from Wiley, due out in June 2011) will explain these techniques in the context of landscape photography.

Darwin: You are an author of numerous books on photography. What was your first book and how did you manage to get the book contract?  Your books have great reviews on Amazon. What does it take to make a book that resonates with photographers?

Harold: When people I don’t know ask me what I do for a living, I tell them that I am a professional photographer and a writer. I have written books on many diverse topics other than photography, and had a good reputation as a writer long before I took up digital photography in 2005. The first photography book I wrote came about because of my reputation as a writer about technology, not as a photographer. In fact, I had to overcome a certain suspicion in the publishing industry about whether I could really be a good professional photographer in addition to my skills as a technologist.

A good book agent is an invaluable ally in the publishing industry, and Matt Wagner has played that role for me. We’ve worked together for many years. Another secret weapon is my wife, Phyllis Davis. She is an excellent professional book designer, and we work together on most projects, so we deliver finished InDesign files to the publisher rather than going through a normal edit and design workflow and production process.

I listen with a great deal of respect to my readers, and have an affirmative commitment to responding to every email that is about photography. I greatly appreciate questions from readers because they are a signal to me that I may not have been clear enough about something, or that there is additional subject matter that should be included in one of my books.

Ultimately, my photography books are valuable to an audience if readers can learn from them and apply what they learn to their own work. I am dedicated to the idea that my books primarily play an educational role. I also believe that one largely learns about photography and image making by looking at images and analyzing how and why they were made. So this is the thought process that I try to encourage in my books, and I try to provide imagery that is inspirational so that people actually want to take the steps that are involved in making comparable photos.

Darwin: Given the rise of eBooks on the internet, do you think that traditional photo books will slowly disappear? Given that photographers can make 100% profit on eBooks why should a photographer deal with a publisher to create a hard copy book and get maybe only 10% royalties?

Harold: I think eBooks are a great development. I’ve been experimenting with reading books on the Kindle and the iPad, and will be releasing some electronic publications in 2011 and beyond. However, I do not believe that printed and published photography books will disappear, nor do I think the economics and business issues are as cut-and-dried as the 100% profit versus 10% royalties in your question would seem to make it. Let me elaborate.

It doesn’t make much sense to me to read a color photography book on black-and-white Kindle reader. There are also formatting issues, mostly having to do with eBook photo and caption placement. This kind of thing will get ironed out eventually, particularly if readers start insisting on decent design in their e-Books. But personally, I still prefer a printed book, particularly if images are involved. Image placement is exactly the way the author intended, I can take it anywhere, and I don’t have to worry about connectivity. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean one should do it, and I don’t think it really makes sense to view photos on small screens. The iPad is the first device that really comes close for me, but there really aren’t authoring tools available that let me translate my vision easily to this medium. The bottom line: books that are like manuals and just there to provide information will gravitate to electronic form. There has to be an added value to be worth making a physical book, but for the foreseeable future I expect there to be a viable place for visually-oriented books that are about more than which menu item one should click.

The profit from an eBook is not 100% if you sell it through Amazon, iTunes, or an eBook publisher. For that matter, there is cost involved in setting up one’s own shopping cart and distribution mechanism. On the other side, the royalty on a printed book can be substantially greater than 10%.

But the point remains valid that electronic publishing can disintermediate the entire chain of book agents, publishers, printers, book distribution companies, and brick-and-mortar bookstores—with a greater percentage of the proceeds going to the individuals who created the product. However, my books are distributed in a way that eBooks are not—for example, to Barnes & Nobles—and translated into languages all over the world. In other words, there’s a much bigger pie to split.

There’s nothing like the aesthetic pleasure of holding a book one has created—and there is considerable professional validation in publication through traditional trade houses.

Darwin: You seem to be able to photograph any subject and do it extremely creatively. You have your own vision and style which comes through in your photos. Any tips on ‘developing a personal style’ that you learned over the years?

Harold: Inspiration is not a “tame lion.” There’s no single magic bullet that will change someone into being a creative photographer. In fact, working too hard at being creative can be a good way to thwart one’s own creative drives. After all, photography is wonderfully fun—and it is important not to lose your sense of fun about it.

It’s good to sneak up on the creative process—I often find that my best work is not in the direction that I expected when I started a project, and part of being creative is learning to be open to serendipity and unexpected directions.

Experiment! Experiment! It is a big mistake to take oneself too seriously. Not everything you do has to be worthy of museum placement.

Specialization is overrated. Having a good eye, some interesting things to say, and understanding the craft of photography are the most important aspects of any kind of photography. These kinds of traits carry across subject matter. After all, no one would complain that Edward Weston was spreading himself too thin because he photographed still life subjects as well as nudes.

I appreciate assignments and projects that stretch my limits. A number of times I’ve accepted assignments, and there was a fear factor, meaning I wondered for a while whether I could really complete the creative work because it was something I hadn’t done before. A little fear is good, and helps stimulate my creative juices. Each of these projects turned out to point me in a new direction, and helped me add to my skill set. So if you don’t have the outside stimulus that comes from commissioned work, then I suggest that you self-assign. These self assignments should stretch your boundaries and make you work in areas and directions that are new to you.

© Harold Davis

© Harold Davis

© Harold Davis

© Harold Davis

© Harold Davis

© Harold Davis

© Harold Davis

© Harold Davis

© Harold Davis

Inspirations – Kevin McElheran

Posted in Art of Photography, Articles about Photography, eBooks, Inspirations, Instruction, Monthly Photo Contest, Techniques with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2010 by Darwin

Check out this awesome photo by Kevin McElheran of the recent eclipse. Kevin has been doing some amazing night photography and light-painting.  Go check out his night photography and light-painting gallery and see why I absolutely love his unique style and vision–you’ll be blown away! This is one guy to watch–he is taking night photography to the next level. Kevin always does really well in the photo contests hosted here and over at Visual Wilderness (hurry, deadline to enter is Dec 31 at midnight eastern time). If you want to learn the basics of light-painting go here. Below the photo is Kevin’s description of how he made the photo.

©Kevin McElheran


The Painful Stuff: It was stupid cold and I didn’t have gloves with me(!!) which equaled frozen fingers @ 15 seconds holding the remote cable. My eyes watered up, then my eye lashes froze into little icicles, which fogged up my glasses leaving me unable to see and fingers too far gone to wipe my glasses clean. After getting this shot, it was all I could do to grab the tripod and run blindly for the car which had the heater running…(my next problem).

Entering that nice hot climate of the interior of my car sent pain so terrible into my fingers I would have preferred slaming them in the car door so I just sat there, all alone, crying and whinning trying to believe it was worth it!

The Other Technical Info: 5dMII, 24 – 70 2.8, ISO 3200, 15 seconds, remote cable, full lunar eclipse.


Travel Photo Contest – Jingyi Wang

Posted in Monthly Photo Contest with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 21, 2010 by Darwin
Jingyi Wang

©Jingyi Wang

On July 4th of last year, I went to San Francisco with a friend to take pictures of the fireworks. After the fireworks ended I took one last picture of the Golden Gate Bridge, and I was blown away by what I saw. The same bridge looked so different just 1 hour ago! This was a huge revelation for me because it was this moment that I showed me how much of a difference light can make. Even though my original goal was pictures of fireworks, I learned that sometimes the unexpected can reward you with so much more.

Travel Photo Contest – Kevin McElheran

Posted in Monthly Photo Contest with tags , , , , , , , on July 20, 2010 by Darwin

Kevin McElheran

©Kevin McElheran

My “out and about” takes me to Morley just 40 minutes west of Calgary, Alberta visiting the McDougall United Memorial Church which stands as a memory of the past. With an incredible view during the day of the Rocky Mountains looking west… at night the skies are wide and bright with the Milkyway Galaxy. It’s an incredible place to relax in the quite of the moment at any time.