Articles

This page hosts photography related articles covering subjects such as photographic technique, in-depth trip reports, equipment reviews and other items of interest to photographers.

Bracketing for exposure blending

I have not used graduated neutral density filters to help control contrast in my landscape photographs since switching to digital 15 years ago. Instead I prefer to shoot a series of different exposures to capture the full dynamic range of the scene and then either blend them using layers in Photoshop CC or, if possible, by using the merge to HDR function in Lightroom CC. 

As I always shoot in manual exposure mode it's easy to determine how many exposures are necessary to capture the full range of tones in a scene simply by viewing the live histogram. However, there is a trick that makes this even easier if you use a Canon camera body.

1.Make sure exposure bracketing is set to -0+ in the menu. This means the sequence will begin with the darkest exposure for the highlights and finish with the lightest exposure for the shadows. * 2.Set your bracketing sequence to 3, 5 or 7 shots, depending upon the amount of contrast in the scene. ** 3.Set bracketing to either 1/3rd, 2/3rd or 1 stop increments. *** 4.Turn on Live View and bring up the live histogram. **** 5.Set ISO and the aperture you need for sufficient depth...

Read more...

Remote releases

Over the past fifteen years of running photography workshops one of the most frequent equipment issues that my clients suffer from is malfunctioning remote releases. It quickly became apparent that it was almost exclusively the aftermarket brands that were effected, particularly those originating from China. The most common problem is that they can cause the camera to lock up - the solution to this is normally to remove the remote release and all will be fine. However, on occasion attaching the remote release in the first place has shorted the electronics and caused more terminal issues. On several occasions this has required expensive repairs at a Canon service centre to get the camera body working again.

My advice to clients is always to buy the genuine Canon or Nikon (although they tend to be less affected) remote releases. Unfortunately these are very expensive for what they are. My solution is to buy used ones on eBay where, for some reason, there always seems to be a constant supply! I tend to buy several at a time so that I always have spares (I'm often dangling them in rock pools and the like!). The RRP for a...

Read more...

Which Neutral Density Filters?

I don't use graduated neutral density filters for my landscape photography. I do, however, use solid neutral density filters quite often to help control exposure times. As I don't use grads I have no use for a system filter holder, so I prefer to use high quality glass screw-in filters. These are quick to use, robust and provide a good seal around the lens when working in wet environments (no having to remove the filter from the holder to wipe the water off both sides!).

Over the years I have tried many brands of ND filter but for the last few years I have stuck with Heliopan, which I consider to be the best option for landscape photography. When buying filters you should consider these points in the following order of importance:

Image quality - there's no point buying an expensive and well-designed lens only to put a poor quality piece of glass in front of it! Heliopan filters use very high quality Schott glass and I have never noticed any significant degradation in image quality when using them.

Durability - Filters are there to be used and should be...

Read more...

21st Century business cards!

I was recently supplied with some excellent new flash drives by USB Memory Direct. Many designs are available but I chose a credit card sized flash drive to maximise space for images. I was also able to include all my contact details, so the drives double up very nicely as business cards.

"Flash Drives sponsored by USB Memory Direct"

I'm now using these drives during workshops to store clients images on once I've demonstrated techniques in Lightroom and Photoshop, as a reference for when they get home and start processing their own images. With a capacity from 256MB to 64GB the drives can have space for plenty of image files.

This drive design is called "Card Flip" and I think it's the best choice for photographers in particular. The quality of the drive seems to be very good and the print quality is also decent. The drive itself is only very slightly thicker than a credit card, so it is easily stored in a wallet. I have been very impressed with them - far more useful than a standard business card and much less likely...

Read more...

Summer in Bulgaria trip report

In June 2014 Cat and I headed to the wilds of Bulgaria to photograph as wide a variety of wildlife as possible over a seven day trip. With the expert guidance of local wildlife photographer Emil Enchev we managed to find a host of interesting subjects during what seemed a bit like a European safari! We lost only half a day due to wet weather during our tour around the eastern parts of the country.

My macro and close-up images were taken using a variety of equipment including 180mm macro, 100mm macro, 300mm f4 and 600mm f4 lenses (the latter two often with extenders). I didn't use artificial light at all and relied upon reflectors to balance the lighting.

Bulgaria consists of around 75% wild land and still has acres of traditional wildflower meadows that are a fantastic habitat for a range of interesting flora and fauna. We were both keen to photograph insects and wildflowers and we certainly weren't disappointed as there were fields full of orchids, butterflies and much more everywhere we went! Many of the insect species I had never photographed before.<...

Read more...

Telephoto lens support

I like to use my long telephoto lenses as much as possible, especially for landscape photography. However, it can be a real challenge to get sharp images in certain conditions. The problem is wind-induced vibrations, which becomes all too apparent when using lenses with a focal length in excess of 300mm (especially large fast aperture lenses).

The main cause of this problem is normally an inadequate tripod collar. These lenses haven't really been designed to take landscape images using relatively long exposure times from a tripod, and consequently their tripod collars just aren't up to the job. Once attached to a tripod you can normally feel and see the amount of play in the tripod collar. As the whole weight of the camera and lens are supported from this single point, any movement is bound to cause and amplify vibrations as soon as the wind blows. Using the image stabiliser can help to reduce this problem, but only up to a point. The stabiliser can't be used in combination with long exposure times, as the image will drift during the exposure, causing even more image softness. Using mirror lock-up and a remote...

Read more...