Tag Archives: exposure

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:

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

Trees in the Fog
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

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

Full Moon in Fog
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

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.

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

The Moon & The Tree – digital art
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

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!

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:

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

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!

Chasing and photographing a Snow Storm

A scene from the life of a stormchaser / photographer…

“Did you catch anything today? by the way why are you soaking wet?”
“I caught myself a storm, about thiiiiiiiiis big! And…caught a bit of snow as well”

Stormchasing is something I could get seriously addicted to, it’s quite an adrenaline thrill! I reckon someday I’ll have to try a tour with Storm Chasing Tours! But this week I didn’t have to go far to chase a storm. Tuesday afternoon just as the sun was setting; Copenhagen was hit by a huge violent and short-lived snow storm. I noticed the very dark clouds building up on the horizon and jumped on my bicycle and pedaled like a Tour de France rider towards the lakes in central Copenhagen (only about 4 Kilometers away from my home so I beat the storm). The Lake Peblinge and Sortedam are my favourite places in Copenhagen and also the best spot for shooting storms or any cloudscape. I have a 360 degree open view of the sky and can quickly find the best composition when a storm is approaching.

The snow storm arrived quickly and it was over just as fast, I reckon I had the good light for 10 minutes or maybe less. The light you get with a combined storm and setting sun is so alien, so otherworldly and so special. In this case the setting sun lit up the storm clouds from underneath and the storm clouds themselves were very dramatic. This created an incredible contrast in colours and light between the dark and brooding clouds and the yellow orange tint of the setting sun.

A word of advice, when shooting this sort of scene do underexpose by about 2/3 to 1 stop even if you spot measure using the bright clouds – the bright parts of the clouds are indeed very bright and you don’t want to burn out the highlights. Also underexposing increases the contrast and colour of the clouds and I wasn’t looking for details in the buildings anyway, the storm is the subject here. A final tip: carry a camera bag that’s water proof or very water resistant. You need to keep shooting until the storm arrives so you and your gear are likely to get a good shower! (all part of the stormchaser experience)

Here are my shots from this particular storm. click to see them fullsize:

Click to see large size on my gallery!

Click to see large size on my gallery!

Click to see large size on my gallery!

Your 3-legged friend the Tripod

Tripod is not only a very funny Australian comedy trio but it’s also an essential tool for getting the best out of your camera and lenses. Of course you need a tripod for long exposures (unless you have bionic arms and can lock the motors) but every single shot you do should be made from a tripod with a cable release if you want ultimate quality from your gear. The difference really is very noticeable! Here’s an 8 second exposure from just after dusk at Lake Peblinge in Copenhagen today (one of the bloody angry Swans at the lake almost attacked me during this shoot!).  At this size you can’t tell but it is a perfect tack sharp shot due to tripod, mirror lock-up and cable release. I did a 30 second exposure at iso50, also super sharp but this 8 second one had the best reflection on a windy afternoon. Click to see larger:

Click to see large size on my gallery!

Every hand held shot suffers from camera shake, it’s just a matter of degree. In broad daylight shooting handheld at 1/500 you still have camera shake. To make matters worse, on a SLR camera you also have the slap from the mirror adding even more camera shake! Stick your camera on a tripod with a quality lens, use mirror lock-up function (very important!) to avoid mirror slap and a cable release – and you get tack sharp images you won’t believe!

Having said that I used to hate shooting with tripods and I just owned a cheap heavy Manfrotto (still use the bag!) that I didn’t use much. Takes the fun out of it, I like to jump around, shoot all sorts of angles (like an artist doing sketches) and have freedom. And sometimes there’s no time, I have maybe 20 minutes of good sunset and dusk light and want to bring as much data home, get as many different compositions as possible. This requires me running around the scene like a man obsessed with a big smile on my face (you should’ve seen me at Hawk Dreaming)

gitzo Having seen the difference in image quality and gone professional I realize now there’s no substitute – I need shots on tripod, mirror lock-up and with cable release to get max image quality and be able to deliver the fine art images I strive for.  So courtesy of the great guys at my favorite shop in Copenhagen Photografica – I now own the amazing Gitzo carbon tripod (with Gitzo ballhead) shown on the right! It is actually so light I have no problem bringing it everywhere. The tripod including ball head weighs only 1.5 kilos! (my camera bag with Canon 5D + lenses is the problem and what’s killing my shoulder, must be 5 kilos at least)

I’m still not a big fan of tripod shooting but at least I now have a fantastic Gitzo. Until I can get those bionic arms, this carbon tripod is now a part of me!

EDIT: Forgot to add that this means I can also get started on my Copenhagen By Night photo project!

One desert for me please!

I travelled in Oz years ago with a Swiss woman who always got the words “desert” and “dessert” mixed up. So in a restaurant we would be having “desert” and we would be camping in the Australian “dessert”. I love Swiss people, they’re crazy and they’re funny. I smile at their use of English, they laugh at my German 😀 I know her well (hi Susan if you read this!) so I’m sure she won’t mind me telling the story of how she once couldn’t recall the word “waitress” and instead made up “woman who gives desert around”. Not dessert of the cake or ice-cream variety mind you, no it was “desert” passed around the table! Whenever I visit a desert I smile and shout “dessert” and ignore the “now he’s bloody lost the plot!” look of the others!

Click to see large size on my gallery!

I love the desert and after my Australia 2007 trip I like them even more, it is one of my favourite places to photograph. What most people see as “just a lot of bloody sand” I see as a magical mysterious otherworldly place. No man is an island wrote John Donne so apparently I cannot be an island but I can be a desert! (not dessert). Pictured above (click to see large) is one of my shots from the Pinnacles desert in Western Australia, the Pinnacles is one of the nominees for New 7 Wonders of Nature. (Would have been a better shot later in the day with long shadows but we couldn’t stay.)

“What a desolate place this is” says C-3PO disheartened when they crash land on the desert planet Tatooine in Star Wars, the robot clearly not liking the sight of the huge sand dunes. Me? I would love the desolate sandy deserts of Tatooine! My favourite shot in Star Wars: Luke Skywalker standing outside his uncle’s farm at dusk staring into infinity across the desert at the two (two! no wonder it’s a desert) setting suns of Tatooine. Magic.

So how do you capture this magical feeling in a camera? Not an easy task. Presenting something so large and so desolate on a small photo is difficult indeed, you want to make people “feel” the heat, the remoteness, the bright sunlight and arid sand of the desert in your photo. In Australia I played with different compositions and now I am toying with different post production techniques to try and bring the desert to you and here’s my tips so far for shooting in a desert:

  • Bring water! It’s called a desert for a reason. It’s bloody hot and dry (except at night where it’s really cold…so remember warm stuff if you’re camping out!). Bring sunscreen as well.
  • Use an ultra-wide angle lens to capture the big sweeping sand dunes of the desert…
  • …but remember to have some sort of subject (maybe a lone tree or rock) and have some fore-, middle and background or everything will be so small and far away and flat that interest is lost for everyone but you (we tend to like our own shots, they’re connected with the experience of being there and shooting them…other viewers don’t have this experience).
  • Use a polarizer filter, this is a must!
  • As always – shoot early or late, seek shade in the middle of the day. Deserts may have little in the way of big subjects so the shadows are a very important part – and sand ripples and dunes create magnificent shadows!
  • The sunlight is so bright, the reflections even brighter – that it is a good idea to underexpose by 1/3 or 1/2 of a stop to avoid blown highlights in that lovely sand…
  • …but actually your problem if you use automatic metering will be too much underexposure by your camera due to the very bright scene. It’s a topic for a long and separate article about the matrix metering system but your camera’s light meter doesn’t know it’s sand or snow you’re pointing it at – it’s just trying to find the 18% gray value and since there’s nothing dark in the photo to contrast the brightness it underexposes.
  • Maybe you want to use manual exposure and just use the “sunny-16” rule: f/16 at 1/160, f/11 at 1/250 and f/8 at 1/500 and then just underexpose that by about 1/2 of a stop. Remember when calculating this that the polarizer cuts up to 1 full f-stop!
  • If all you can see is sand and you have no rocks or anything to put in the foreground of your composition – then get down really to the ground and use the grain of the sand and the sand ripples as your foreground.
  • Watch your step. It may look desolate but lot’s of wildlife live in the desert. Don’t step into holes, don’t stick your hand in holes (they’re called Death Adders for a reason these snakes mate!)
  • If you change lenses shield your camera! Desert dust create a lot of specks on your sensor (trust me I know!).

Here’s a few of my photos from desert experiences so far:

Click to see large size on my gallery!

Sand dunes at Lancelin
(technically not in a desert, but an example of using sand with side lighting)

Click to see large size on my gallery!

Uluru and tree in the desert
(Polarizer and max contrast to create the feeling of bright, hot desert)

Click to see large size on my gallery!

Uluru and in the middle of the vast desert
(At sunset and at 24mm the long shadows of Uluru and the sand dunes expresses the remoteness and size of the rock and the desert)

Click to see large size on my gallery!

Gibson Desert, Western Australia
(Driving into the Gibson Desert we are reminded of the dangers of crossing a desert)

My next photo trip is definitely going to include somewhere hot, dry and sandy – one desert for me please! The sand dunes and deserts of Namibia, Death Valley in USA, Morocco, Simpson Desert in Australia and of course Tatooine are at the top of on my list of next destinations.

“What a desolate place this is”. Indeed C-3PO – wouldn’t want it any other way!