Monthly Archives: July 2008

Perfecting your stitched panoramas

Earlier this year I wrote a blog post about stitched panoramas that focused mostly on all the little tricks you need to remember when you are shooting the soon to be stitched photos in the field. The shooting part is still essential. Get everything right in the field and you’ll be laughing come stitching time!

This post focuses on stitching the shots and is a tutorial showing you how I get from these 4 developed RAW files:

Sydney Panorama 4 tiff files

to this final photo as seen in my previous post:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Sydney Skyline at Sunset Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

It’s a long tutorial, so I split this post in two; click the “Keep reading” link to, well, keep reading!

Continue reading

An Observer’s view of Sydney

I sometimes feel claustrophobic and stressed walking around Sydney. Not enough sense of space not enough  breathing room. Too many people. It is too big a city for me to actually be in; as always I am much more comfortable photographing and observing from a distance. In every city I instantly need to find spots with few people where I can see the horizon and observe from a distance.

Fortunately Sydney provides some very good spots to escape from the chaos and shoot some photos of one of most beautiful and picturesque harbours in the world. The Botanic Gardens is a perfect spot to escape and get a nice view; Kirribilli is another. Sitting directly opposite the city watching the sun rise or set is a lovely peaceful experience and a perfect place for Observers like me. And one of the best views of Sydney you will find and this is where we get to a panorama I recently dug out of the archives and stitched together:

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Sydney Skyline at Sunset Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

This panorama is stitched in PTgui from 4 horizontal raw files developed in Rawshooter; then polished in Photoshop. I had originally planned for this post to feature a complete and detailed run through of how I take the above panorama from 4 separate raw files to a final stitched panorama in PTgui and then apply the finishing touches in Photoshop.

Alas; not enough time in my world this particular Friday. So for now enjoy this view of Sydney and my next article will feature the Observer’s stitching tutorial!

Sunnies for your lenses

‘Sunnies’ is of course short for sunglasses but who can be bothered to pronounce such a long word? Certainly no Aussies I know!

A polarizer filter is the equivalent of sunnies for your lens and I still believe it is very much an essential tool in a photographers bag of tricks. You can certainly saturate the colours till your eyes bleed in Photoshop no problem there. But you simply can’t replicate the effect of a polarizer filter on maximum effect – especially if there’s water or foliage in your composition. The polarizer filter can remove glare from water and foliage and greatly enhance colours and detail. It can also remove reflections allowing you to shoot straight through the water or shoot through a window in a plane or helicopter with no reflections.

A recently developed RAW file of mine is a very simple (perhaps too simple, what do you think?) shot of the extremely gorgeous beaches found on the West Coast of Australia. It’s somewhere around Yanchep north of Perth and the pearly white sand and bluer than blue sky of WA is in itself mind blowing. Add to that a polarizer filter and your inner colour space is certainly in need of expansion:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Colours of Indian Ocean Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I am not entirely convinced this image really works, it’s a very simple sky/ocean/beach composition but the colours are magnificent and it serves as a good example here. It does also look very lifelike and impressive at large size. The polarizer filter removes all glare and reflection so the colours are very pure and saturated. The ocean is a greenish tone because all reflection of the sky into the ocean are removed by the polarizer and you’re seeing through the water.

You need a high quality polarizer and they can be slightly expensive but it’s no use putting low quality filters on an expensive lens. It takes a bit of practice to use this filter, you rotate it to achieve desired effect and it can be hard to see in the view finder. Polarized light is strongest at a 90 degree angle to the sun and the filter is best used in the middle of the day (and is actually also a big help for black and white images!). With a wide angle lens you do run the risk of getting a wildly uneven sky so practice and make sure you shoot different versions. As much as a polarizer can help it can also ruin your sky like nothing else and you certainly don’t want to use a polarizer in stitched panoramas – your sky will never blend! Watch your exposure as well, a polarizer can eat at least a stop of light. Experience is the teacher here.

The final example is a much better photo, this time from 75 Mile Beach on Fraser Island in Australia:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

75 Mile Beach
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Notice how dark the sky has become, how much more defined the clouds are and how there is no glare and no reflections in the sand and water greatly enhancing colour purity and saturation. It’s all from the magic of ‘sunnies’ on the lens!

Field of Dreams

I grew up on a farm so I have a strong nostalgic affection for any farm related landscape photos. I do miss country living and if my family still owned our farm I would shoot an awful lot of “Harvest in Sunset Light” panoramas every year in August. It is certain that my love of wide open remote desolate fields and landscapes grew out of living on a farm and then found heaven in the Australian outback where the sense of space is never ending.

Denmark is a densely populated country so finding landscape views not ruined by bitumen roads or power lines is a struggle. Me and my mate Markus managed to do so on a bit of a road trip into the Danish “outback” last week. The result is this Field of Dreams:

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Wheat Field of Dreams Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

With an incoming rain storm the clouds looked spectacular and the light had that super soft “just before the storm” extra charged quality that looks so good in photos. This is shot digitally and stitched in PTgui from 5 vertical images. I also shot a few rolls with the Fuji G617 so it’ll be interesting to compare the two once I get the slides scanned. This shot received a fair bit of post production, the wheat field was much greener but I like it golden so I warmed the colour and changed the hue. The clouds were a blue tone that didn’t go too well with the gold so what do you do, you warm the clouds as well! I love the digital darkroom and I am sure Ansel Adams would have too. A relatively strong vignette put the finishing touch on my Field of Dreams.

Me at work in the field as captured by Master Photographer Markus Hornum-Stenz This road trip and Field of Dreams (one too many movie references you think?) reminded me that it’s possible to shoot some alright landscapes here in Denmark and I thoroughly enjoyed working in the wheat field. Doesn’t always have to be me standing in the most secluded secret sacred spot in Australia having battled snakes and crocs to get there, this shot may lead the way for more landscapes from home. Still love the snakes and crocs though!

I found my long lost Devils Marbles!

Time for another trip back in time and another old travel story. This time we travel back to January 1998 and to a place where I finally found my long lost Marbles; lost by me sometime in the early eighties I believe! I found my marbles at a weird and wonderful place in the middle of the red centre of Australia.

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Devils Marbles
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

It’s a large area of huge granite boulders precariously balanced on top of one another and is known as Devils Marbles. The Warrumungu name is Karlwe Karlwe and is a sacred site for aboriginals believing it to be the eggs of a rainbow serpent. I don’t know where the “Devils” name originated from, but I prefer the aboriginal story, a giant serpents egg is food for the imagination as you’re running around this big playground of massive boulders! The Rainbow Serpents Eggs as I like to call them are easy to find. On one hand they’re in the middle of absolutely nowhere but on the other hand they’re right next to the only road going through central Australia – the Stuart Highway! 400 km north of Alice Springs, 100km south of Tennant Creek and you almost run straight into this surreal landscape:

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Devils Marbles Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

The boulders are on average 3-4 meters tall and there are thousands of them spread over a large area. We arrived late afternoon and setup bush camp. This is an interesting experience and basically involves driving tent pegs into metal! The soil is red and hard as nails from the rusting metal and hammering tent pegs into this takes some force! After a lot of hammering we started exploring the ‘marbleous’ marbles.

The colours, shapes and shadows are a photographers dream and you have endless fun running around finding an endless supply of compositions! I have a weird love relationship with desolate places featuring red rocks so I was a man possessed as I climbed the boulders shooting photos constantly. Just remember it’s a lot easier to climb up than down! I got stuck on top of more than one 4 meter tall boulder not quite sure how I managed to get up and very unsure of how to get down (well there’s gravity but that’s a bit rough)!

As the sun sets the rocks turns a burning deep red colour and you get some great and funny contre-jour opportunities:

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Sunset at Devils Marbles Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

 

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The face of Devils Marbles
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

These old photos are like an old invaluable treasure chest of memories for me and I love how I now have high quality digital archival versions of these faded slides. The 3 photos here were shot on Fujichrome with a Canon EOS1000 SLR and scanned on a Konica Minolta slide scanner. They’re basically snapshots as I was just beginning to get into photography in 98 and learning the ropes and shot an awful lot of crappy photos with an awful lot of bulls-eye compositions! Every once in a while I would get a good shot and wonder how on earth I managed that! Fortunately experience is a good teacher.

If you have lost your marbles (means having lost your mind, being slightly mad and crazy) like me – anyone who knows me would agree – then I certainly recommend looking for them amongst the Rainbow Serpents Eggs at Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve!

Two Toned World

I love black and white photos and Ansel Adams is one of my heroes. I don’t convert a lot of my own stuff to black and white though, my own photographic eye is very much triggered by light quality and colour so I don’t actually shoot that much material that does well in black and white. Colours are a big part of my composition and style. But this week allowed me to seriously sink my teeth into black and white conversions and come up with photos like this one:

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Kakadu Pandanus Palm in duotone
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I am working on a project for a company, where I am to deliver 5 photos, 100cm wide, framed and in black and white. The client asked me to put together a cityscape and landscape portfolio in black and white so they have a small selection of the best to choose from. This meant going through my whole photo library and picking out 24 shots in all, 12 for each portfolio, that would do well at 100cm wide converted to black and white. The above is not actually part of the portfolio, just something I toyed with a few days ago. Will be interesting to see the finished project and I’ll post when we get there.

To work as a black and white photo you need a strong composition with strong leading lines and full tones going from shadow to highlights and some nice contrasts in the photo. A typical golden hour or dusk photo relies heavily on colours for all of this, so they often become dull in black and white.  Ansel Adams actually shot many of his photos in the middle of the day. The photo above is from Kakadu National Park in Australia and was shot around noon, the worst possible time for colour photography but check out how much better it fares when converted to black and white!

There are as many ways to convert a colour file to black and white as there are Photoshop experts. Photoshop CS3 now has a very good black and white adjustment layers that gives you a lot of control. I have tried a lot of conversions the past week and I found that I prefer the results I get from using the Alien Skin Exposure2 Film Simulator plugin. It comes with a truckload of colour and black and white film preset settings (like Kodak T-Max P3200 pushed 2 stops) and you can then change settings to achieve your desired effect. It’s a bit expensive but the results are so good I think I will end up purchasing it for this project.

070831-IMG_3068-01 colourThe black and white converted photo above is actually duotoned, or split-toned not just black and white. This is a great effect where you keep the highlights in a  slight sepia tone and shadows are kept in pure black and white. It also helps a lot when printing! On the left is the original colour version of the photo, shot with a polarizer filter in very ordinary noon light but this light actually works well in black and white. This means if you like black and white you can shoot colour early and late in the day and then black and white in the middle of the day. No time for siesta anymore you can shoot all day long!