Monthly Archives: August 2008

Darwin and MyLife 2.0

Darwin, Centennial Park, Park trees against the light “G’day mate and welcome home!” says the Aussie stewardess to me with a big smile. All I said was “hello” with that “hallooww” Aussie twist to it. I should have been an actor. But thanks! Good to be home. I live at least 3 different simultaneous lives and it means I am usually home somewhere in the world. Good thing I do multi-tasking.

It is very good to be “home” again. I have spent almost a full year of my life in Australia so it qualifies as life no. 2 I should say. I touched down in Darwin 4am Friday morning; looked at my watch and counted 30 hours since I left my other life. Has to be hard to be worth it.

Darwin is a bit of a love or hate it affair but like Cairns – the more I’m here the more I love it. A cosmopolitan multi-cultural energetic tropical town with emphasis on town. It still is very much an outback town with some weird and crazy territorians even if there are now big flashy hotels and lots of new construction as Darwin is undergoing a rapid expansion. Weird and crazy. I fit in completely. I forget how much I love the tropics. It’s life reduced to a pair of thongs; shorts and t-shirts and 4wd trucks. It’s about 33-34 degrees tropical melting heat during the day and probably 25 degrees at night. It’s even hotter here than last year, the build to the buildup to the wet season must have started early as we do have some clouds and higher humidity. The heat, the sunrays are pure energy for a cold-blooded reptile like myself who depend on the sun to heat us and energize us. Why do we even attempt to live elsewhere but the tropics?

Darwin, Harbour cloudscape Darwin is I reckon the most multi-cultural city in Australia and you meet some raw but very friendly and charming characters. Darwin was completely erased twice, first by 350 Japanese bombs in World War II then by Cyclone Tracy. Erased from existence but rebuilt and I think this pioneering self-reliant strong spirit carries on in Darwin. As nice as the tropics and Darwin is; it helps of course that Darwin is the gateway to nature at it’s very best as there is not that much to do or photograph in Darwin itself. Kakadu National Park is to the East; Kimberleys to the South-West and my exploring starts Wednesdays!

There’s only a 7½ hour time difference at the moment from MyLife 1.0 to 2.0 but add 30 hours of getting here and land at 4am and it adds up to serious jetlag. This time it’s been at it’s paranoid best and especially bad, causing 2 sleepless nights so far. Seems to get worse with age; like stuff getting stuck in your teeth. I calculate I am still about 10 hours behind on sleep since Wednesday. It has to be hard to be worth it. Sleepless nights are hard. Paranoid twilight-zone experiences like The Machinist with Christian Bale. The things that get written in my notebook during paranoid sleepless nights read awfully strange in the morning. Fortunately I’ve learned a lesson from the last 2 trips and have nothing booked for the first days here; need some days to normalise.

Darwin, Centennial Park, Palms at Dusk So I’ve basically been tired all day for two days and just relaxed under palm trees in Centennial Park. Yes my friends I admit it’s not all work (I try and convince friends that photography is work). Work starts Wednesday! Which is why the only thing I’ve photographed so far is sunsets in the park; as seen in my 3 fairly ordinary photos to the right of extraordinary tropical colours.

I want to get up and run to Kakadu (all 300 kilometers) to get some landscapes but all good things to those who wait. Need energy back first; then we create art!

I know you’re itching to get the last part of the metal detector saga but nothing happened in Singapore. Not a single beep. Disappointing. Means that alien abduction implants can easily be smuggled through Singapore airport!

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen PhotographyHawk Dreaming brochure PS. Visiting the brilliant Tourism Top End information center it was cool to find the Aussie Adventure Hawk Dreaming brochure – with my photo (see left) the front cover (see right). I knew it was used in the brochure but still cool to see it live. I think it’s the best brochure in the territory; I’m not even biased! Making my mark in the territory one brochure at a time!


In Transit. Where am I? What am I doing here?

Still shot from movie CACTUS Airports are small to large multi-cultural cities stuck in a time warp in another galaxy where life as we know it has ceased to exist. In no language does the expression “as beautiful as an airport” exist. Nor is the suggestion “let’s go hang out at the airport” heard very often unless one is actually flying somewhere! The best one can hope for is good coffee and free internet. I also managed to meet the most beautiful woman in the universe and get searched twice by security!

Click ‘Keep Reading’ link for all the details!

Continue reading

A month in upside-down country

I am just a few hours away from jumping on the Metro train to the airport and initiating the rather long line of events that will eventually see me touch down in Darwin, Australia on Friday!  I am spending 3½ weeks in the Kimberley area of Western Australia and Kakadu National Park in Northern Territory. Ending the trip with 5 days of holiday in Sydney with friends.

Here’s an old panorama of mine from the Kimberleys 10 years ago, I am very much looking forward to revisiting. Last time was during the wet season and a lot was flooded so it was hard to get anywhere; it was 50+ degrees some days and mozzies ruled the world! This time I’ll see much more and mozzies and weather will be slightly more humane!

Manning Gorge

Manning Gorge in Kimberleys, Western Australia
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I will blog as many travel tales as possible while I travel but I probably won’t be posting more than a few photos from the trip until I get back. I posted a lot of photos last year and it just turned out to be far too much work. Not enough hours in the day to shoot, write, sort through hundreds of RAW files every day, then develop and upload the photos and then publish them on my blog. I will concentrate on shooting and blogging; the developing of RAW files is much better done at home.

See ya on the other side!

My gear for a photo trip

EDIT July 2010: This article is rather old and much equipment has been updated. I shall write a new blog post soon

I always travel light. There’s no point in travelling to the finest landscapes in the world only to be weighed down by so much gear I can’t be bothered to hike that extra kilometer or stay out that extra hour. I once managed to go to Australia checking in only 12 kilos of luggage (no laptop and a lot less photo gear though).

Leaving for Australia tomorrow I am presently packing my gear and I am getting fairly good at it, I know exactly what setup I need. This is what I’m bringing (well this and a t-shirt or two). Click to see large:

FBJ Photo Gear Australia 2008-800pix text

I have my trusty Canon EOS 5D as main camera of course and an old EOS 20D as backup camera (in case my 5D gets eaten by a Kimberley crocodile). I only take 3 lenses, Canon 17-40 f/4.0 L, 24-105mm f/4.0 L and 70-200mm f/4.0 L. All reasonably lightweight L lenses compared to the f/2.8 versions. My Gitzo carbon fibre tripod is only 1,2 kilos with ballhead.

I bring about 40 gigs of compact flash cards, and don’t erase CF cards until I have at least 3 copies. My trusty Asus V6V slim lightweight laptop still works great, I use an external WD drive for backup and I also burn copies of image files to blank DVDs – Murphy Law is universal! In the field where I can’t bring my laptop I backup to a Hyperdrive Colorspace. The Arctic Butterfly keeps my sensors clean and Ipod Touch and Sennheiser headphones keeps my ears grooving! My Moleskine notebooks keeps my brilliant (cough) observations – and everything fits in the build-as-tank and very comfortable Kata R103 laptop+camera backpack that fits as carry-on. Kata makes security gear for special forces and now also camera gear so of course I use their gear. It’ll serve as protection from the crocs I will be battling soon!

It is lightweight and I am happy travelling with this configuration; I know it works great day in and out for months. I will get the Canon 5D mkII when it’s out and a new laptop someday; but for now this is great a travel setup!

Return of the Two Toned World

I recently wrote about black and white conversions in the Two Toned World post and I have since continued my test of different techniques. Selling five 70x100cm prints in black and white recently for a client taught me a thing or two about black and white conversions and printing them!

Another advantage of black and white photos – besides being able to shoot in the middle of the day – is when it’s raining cats and dogs you can escape into Photoshop and go through old shots and try them in black and white. This Saturday it rained non-stop so I spent the day gathering and checking all my gear before takeoff this Wednesday to Australia – and toying with black and white conversions in Photoshop. With no colours in the world on a gray rainy Saturday I thought it only appropriate to work in glorious black and white:

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Nambung National Park in Western Australia
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Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Copenhagen’s Lake Peblinge in duotone
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Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Duotone Tree in Fog
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The first two shots were converted using Alien Skin Exposure2 plugin which I have found to be by far the best way to convert to black and white. The level of control is incredible and the results are perfect. No posterisation or any problems at all in the converted files; they’re gorgeous and will print big with no visible pixel problems. The last shot of the Tree in Fog was converted directly in Lightroom 2.0; also a good way to convert. All 3 of them are in duotone where the shadows are pure black, but highlights have a slightly warm sepia tone. This lends the photo a bit of warmth while steel keeping it in stark mono.

Here’s a few tips on the conversion and printing process:

  • Viewing reflected light off a print compared to direct light from a monitor (calibrated of course!) are two different beasts. With no colours, a black and white print may appear somewhat darker than the image on screen so experiment to find just the right conversion. You may need to do an image that onscreen appears slightly too bright to achieve the print you want.
  • You want a full range of tones from black through all shades of gray to white. Don’t leave big areas of pure black or white though; they look less satisfying in print. Make sure you have shadow detail, don’t burn any highlights. Use shadows and highlight tool in Photoshop for this. White on paper in a black and white print just means no ink is used; so you’re just seeing the paper colour.
  • Create contrast and more contrast than you would in a colour photo – or the print looks a bit dull. Remember though; no burned highlights and no big black areas, always have some detail. Create different layers for shadows and highlights adjustments and blend them manually using masks to ensure contrast but also have detail.
  • Black and white prints can hold a lot more sharpening than colour prints but still you must watch out for unsharp mask halos. They are very visible in big prints.
  • It’s very easy to overdo the conversion and create posterized areas; usually the sky is the first to suffer. This may look alright on screen but is to avoided like the plague once you’ve seen it on a print! You may be tempted to do something like +140% red channel, -50% in the blue channel but it will severely posterize your sky and ruin your print.

After a lot of work I feel I have finally learned how to do satisfying black and white (well duotoned) digital files, something which I have previously found almost impossible and one area where I used to think film was so much better. With some clever techniques; a digital Ansel Adams style print is possible (now if only I had his eye for compositions).

Deserts! How not to die! – and similar tutorials

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

If you find yourself in a helicopter, on a boat photographing a whale or attempting to shoot photos in a desert without dying – what do you do?
You go to my Tutorials page of course!

I love to share my knowledge (as limited and useless it may be!) about photography and learn from other photographers; I try and inject a bit of my experiences and how I work in every post. I do sometimes write straight tutorials, and to make these posts easier to find I created a Tutorials page for you.

Just click Tutorials in the menu and enjoy!

Clouds I could touch

Foggy conditions are magic for landscape photographers; hard to predict but when you’re lucky enough to catch it in just the right place and with just the right place you know you have struck gold. Fog adds an otherworldly sense of mystery and beauty to an otherwise mundane everyday setting. It is like being inside a dream; with a cloud that you can touch.

Visiting family in the countryside this weekend I woke up at 5.45am and peered out the window. Not only was the fog as thick as pea soup and shrouding most of the landscape, there was also a full moon glowing brightly just before the sunrise. I donned shoes and camera; this was too good to miss. With little time left before sunrise I quickly captured these great exercises in simplicity:

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Trees in the Fog
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Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Full Moon in Fog
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Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Solitary Tree in Fog
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Shooting in fog is fairly straight forward but watch your exposure. The fog can trick the light meter and cause underexposure. On the other hand you definitely do not want to burn out any of the delicate highlights so watch your histogram closely, don’t overexpose any of the channels. You also need to work fast as this sort of fog will very quickly be burned away by the rising sun. This shooting session lasted only 15 minutes.

As the sun was rising I ended with a panorama showing the whole scene. I like it for the light and atmosphere but the composition I find a bit lacking. I would normally never ever include power lines in a shot as I hate anything man made in my landscape shots, but here they’re below the horizon and they sort of walk across the scene disappearing into the fog and horizon nicely so I left them in.

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

Remember to type image title!
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“It’s a fake” – the digital art version

Finally; after processing these I wondered what I would get if I took the Solitary Tree in Fog photo and “borrowed” the moon from the Full Moon shot. The result is this rather nice composite photo.

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The Moon & The Tree – digital art
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I usually don’t add or remove major content from my photos; this image is digital art and not a photo and an exception to my general rule. In this case I had to see the composite result and I must admit I find it slightly magical. It was 15 minutes of magic. 15 minutes inside a dream!

PS. I slept another hour after this shoot and had a nightmare that I was in Perth and my memory card was erased due to the camera getting wet. It was vivid enough to make me check the camera as I woke up. I reckon it’s safe to say you’re passionate about photography when nightmares involves hero shots getting deleted!

Simplicity equals Longevity

I am a firm believer in keeping it simple in just about every aspect of life and living. Simple solutions are my preferred choice and photographic composition is no exception. It’s what you leave out that makes the difference.

Shooting landscapes with a wide angle lens it’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of a big sprawling beautiful landscape and attempt to include everything. I believe it is much better to leave almost everything out. Nature can be quite chaotic and messy and I find it makes for a much better photo if you can isolate just a few elements in a strong composition. You would be forgiven for thinking that simple isolated strong compositions are the easiest to shoot. They’re not. They demand an eye for simple composition, an eye you have to constantly train. It is much easier to point your wide angle lens at everything or shoot a stitched panorama with a huge viewing angle. Much harder to isolate and pick out the best composition from the chaos.

I will present 3 landscapes from my Australia 2007 trip as examples of keeping it simple. These are subtle and simple photos and I didn’t pay them much attention at first among the many thousands of RAW files from the trip. Obvious shots jump at you when sorting the RAW files but obvious quickly becomes boring. Simplicity has staying power. The magic revealed itself later and I now consider these among my very favourite and best shots. For me all 3 of them have a special quality that somehow defies definition.

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

Uluru and tree in the desert
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

A few but key elements make up this composition. A dead tree in the hot dry arid red centre of Australia is the main subject, Uluru and a deep blue polarized sky serve as a powerful background and colourful contrast to the monochrome tree. Almost every element is placed on a “golden mean”, a “thirds” position. The sky and Uluru divide the photo and create a balance. Something about the photo feels otherworldly to the viewer.

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

Pandanus Palm and Termite Mounds at Hawk Dreaming
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

A few Pandanus Palm trees and Termite Mounds are the subjects and are balanced by the view of wide open space at Hawk Dreaming. The soft light at dusk lends a tranquil quality to the emotional impact. Most people will also feel the exotic subjects of Pandanus and Termite mound creates an otherworldly alien feel.

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

Hawk Dreaming Savannah View
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

The cleanest and simplest of compositions, only 3 elements. The sky, the trees, the foreground. To create the dramatic wide angle composition and have the trees line up on the horizontal dividing line, I simply lay down in the grass and almost had the camera on the ground. The clouds create a strong sense of movement balanced by the detailed motionless foreground.

Simplicity demands an effort

I have found that it takes practice and effort to shoot simple. It’s easy to slip and include too much meaning you loose having a simple single focus point in the picture. Next time you compose a photo think about every elements you choose to include. Do they add to the photo? Do they subtract? Study the scene in your viewfinder, try different compositions – and keep it simple!

Good night Sun, Good evening Moon

Charles Baudelaire once wrote:

“This life is a hospital where every patient is possessed with the desire to change beds; one man would like to suffer in front of the stove, and another believes that he would recover his health beside the window.
It always seems to me that I should feel well in the place where I am not, and this question of removal is one which I discuss incessantly with my soul.”

Being eternally restless I have this ongoing conversation with my soul and it appears I need to change hospital beds with increasing rate. I am aching to go to on my next photo trip. Back to the heat, the outback, the dust and the untouched magical landscapes. I live for capturing those moments. Copenhagen is familiar and thus boring presently but can fortunately still surprise me. Friday night Nature the Artist treated me to this special sunset and moonrise, click to see large size:

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

Moonrise & Sunset at Lake Peblinge
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This Moonrise & Sunset was a bit of a lucky punch but then luck favours the prepared. Circling the lake half an hour before sunset listening to music with my head in the clouds; suddenly all the elements in the composition come together and my internal “photo!” critical event is trapped (perhaps I’ve worked in IT for too long). I setup shop and hope the clouds stay around, pick up colour and please do not block the moon. Nature was kind to me letting all the elements stay in place and gently lit the scene with delicate soft light and dusty colours. The composition is my classic style ‘I shoot landscapes even in a city; I ignore that they are buildings instead of rocks’.

Less is more and vertical stitching

This is one of those shoots where Nature did all the work. The RAW files are perfect, I only set the white balance I wanted and added some slight saturation. I developed the RAW files in Lightroom 2.0 and used my normal PTgui stitching workflow for this – see tutorial – with one difference. This photo is 4 horizontal shots stitched vertically so for projection you must choose ‘Transverse Cylindrical”. I lightened the shadows slightly in Photoshop and created a vignette.

Attempting to attract the eyes of people & potential customers on the web using small images on a web page means most of us are sometimes guilty of over saturating shots. Colours are the easiest way to attract eyes to a small thumbnail so we sometimes go to 11 with the colour volume. In this case I wanted to preserve the very delicate soft subtle light and colours so I kept the volume down so to speak. It may appear understated on screen but in a large print this is a gorgeous look. Super saturated sRGB colours do not always transfer well or look natural in CMYK so it’s a good idea to keep the volume down a bit. Sometimes more is more but often less is more!

…17 days to take off…

Return of the 617

I find I am developing a strong love/hate relationship with the Fuji G617 panorama camera…

I hate the size and weight of the camera, hate dragging it around Copenhagen…I absolutely love the view through the viewfinder, love the bright panorama in-camera wide view. There’s nothing like it…I hate that I can’t see and work on the results straight away…I love the big 617 transparencies, they’re magic…I hate that it’s a fixed lens…I love the viewfinder view…I hate that it’s 4 shots per roll and then I have to change film…I love the viewfinder…I hate there’s no built in light meter…Viewfinder! Me love it!…I hate that I have to wait for results to get processed by the lab, then I have to scan them…Finally…I love the view when looking through the viewfinder!

I am continuing my test of the 617 format; previous articles are here and here.  I am getting more comfortable exposing and composing with it, and I have a few new results that I found good enough to scan, click to see large:

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

Copenhagen Summer Skyline Contre-Jour Panorama
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An against the light test at sunset in Copenhagen, this displays the gorgeous colours of Velvia on a Summer night and that it handles contre-jour fairly well. I have warmed the white balance, as the built in daylight white balance of Velvia is much too cold at sunset. This photo displays one of the advantages of the 617 camera compared to digital stitching – there is no distortion of any kind resulting in straight lines horizontal and vertical and that is very noticeable on cityscapes. This was a fun shoot with a bit of a crowd of very interested fans (okay so they were strangers passing by). The 617 certainly can draw a crowd!

The next shots are interesting as I shot digital as well allowing for a direct comparison:

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

Velvia Field of Dreams II Panorama
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Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Velvia Field of Dreams Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Again, white balance has been warmed in Photoshop. Compare the last photo to the digital stitched photo of the same shot, from the same position:

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

Wheat Field of Dreams Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

The digital version has different colours, contrast etc. due to my post processing (read here). The 617 shot is not post processed at all apart from warming the colours. But if you compare the view it is quite similar and shows you can certainly replicate the 617 format with digital stitching. I was zoomed out a bit more when shooting digital and I chose to include more of the sky and foreground when I cropped the final photo. This is one of the advantages of digital, more creative options in post processing in the digital dark room. I do find the 617 shot to have a more realistic natural “human eyes” perspective due to very little distortion where as the digital version has some wide angle barrel distortion.

Lastly, have a look at how gorgeous the large 617 transparencies are – pictured next to a box of matches and backlit by the sun.

080718-IMG_6236 copy

080718-IMG_6239 copy

The gorgeous transparencies and looking through the big wide 617 viewfinder is magic. Pure magic. I just hate hate hate that it’s not digital and I haven’t yet shot a 617 photo where I wouldn’t rather have been shooting digital. I shot perhaps my best 617 shots last night but presently the rolls are next to the Ketchup in my fridge! Have to get them developed and then scanned, far too slow a process for me! So my love/hate relationship with this metal monster will continue with more results to come!