Tag Archives: ptgui

This Desert Life

The Southwest of USA had a tendency to take my breath away every day. No I was not crossing the continent in Forrest Gump style. I am not so much a running fool more a walk in the desert fool. Rather, I was short on breath from the incredible landscapes leaving me speechless and awestruck in the presence of ancient dramatic masterpieces by Mother Nature. One such masterpiece named Death Valley is a complete otherworldly experience where the expression "wide open space" falls short and new words are needed.

I have posted a few images from the Valley of Death previously and today I present a vast view of the valley. Well, it is only part of the valley actually as it is some incredible 150 kilometers long. It is a hazy view during a sand storm just before sunset. Tell me if this view makes me feel as I do, that you are visiting something else than Earth as we know it.

vast valley of death - blog 

Whilst I love this view and the memories of Death Valley that it triggers I must admit to not being quite sure what to do with it. Is it an image or more a memorabilia? Is it a fine art image I want in my collection? Is it something anyone would wish to purchase? What do you think? It is awfully wide, more than 5 to 1 in width height ratio making it rather unpractical. This is of course a stitched panorama, around 19-20 vertical images from my 100-400mm Canon L lens set at 300mm. The final file is 27,000 pixels wide, quite detailed although fine details suffer from the dust storm. It will support prints almost as big as the real thing. Actually; with a few cheesy titles this is the intro to some 70s sci-fi show!

Even if it is just a memory, I may print this one at many meters wide and stick it on the wall of whatever future home I settle in. It will be my window to my home planet. Vast Valley of Death for some, home for me and I can escape here. In the words of Guilliaume Nery, into "one pure instant of eternity" where the vastness and emptiness draws and humbles me. This Desert Life and we shall take it Further and Further.

Big Australian Rock in Heaps’a Water

Sugarloaf Rock. It is a famous rock on the beautiful Southwest coast of Western Australia. Australia has a great tradition of very uninspired place names – Mount Bruce, Mount Sheila, Lake Disappointment and I could go on all night. With this tradition in mind, Sugarloaf Rock is actually not too bad. I would have expected it to be called ‘Big Rock In heaps’a Water’. That reminds me, I still have to write the Places With Wrong Names To Be Renamed list to the Australian government (Kakadu, Nourlangie, Alligator river etc). So much work!

I got a couple of scoops of Sugarloaf back in February. We met up with True North Mark and he took us to the Big Rock In Heaps’a Water. Christian Fletcher we had met earlier, but he was unable to come out and play that night, something about having sold his house and car for a Phase One camera.

Big Rock In… really is a big rock. Images do not do it justice as it really is much bigger than it looks and it is a really gorgeous location for a sunset shoot. Mark being Mark, he naturally climbs the highest and hardest to get to rock straight away and sets up shop for his shot, then iphone browses while he waits. I climb around a bit, try a few locations but having never been here before I end up searching too much and do not really find my sweet spot. My best image from the first night is this dusk panorama, shot while escaping mossies on the way back to the carpark:

Sugarloaf in dusk light - blog

We went back the night after and the light was completely different and I created this panorama that I quite like. A dark and moody Sugarloaf is going to sleep image:

Sugarloaf night - blog

Both images are stitched panoramas from about 3-4 horizontal images. It is easier with less images when you have moving water. Long exposures using stacked Lee filters made stitching fairly easy. I export all the layers to Photoshop from PTgui so I can manually mask and blend them and get the waves looking natural, also I can choose the best wave from each image.

Looking at both of them it is clear I did not nail it, did not get the job done. In both images I feel I am too far away from the scene, feels too passive, not enough drama or motion. I want to be down in the water with the rock towering in front of me and the waves crashing into me. Something I have learned about seascapes, the ones I like have action and drama and needs to be shot standing in the water basically. I look forward to tackling Big Rock… again some day, see you down there mates!

I’ll be in my light room

I must admit I much prefer shooting the images to processing them. For one thing, when I shoot them I am out in nature and loving it. When I post process, as much creative fun as that is, I am still inside staring at a screen. I was able to process some of my images along the way on my 6 months on the road, but I am now digging into 3,500 raw images from the 2 months in USA. Can get a bit overwhelming. All images to be revealed in good time, but here’s a tiny glimpse (sticky beak for you Aussies) into what I am working on:

usa lightroom - blog

I process such a large number of images using a recursive approach. I close Firefox (too distracting), put on headphones and fire up some tunes and enjoy a brew (coffee). I run through all images in Adobe Lightroom picking my ‘picks’ and dividing picks into groups using stars, 5, 4 ,3 etc. I repeat, honing the selection. I do some quick processing along the way to try out things. This is where Lightroom shines, I quickly play with many creative variations of an image. I do 80% of my work in Lightroom as it is so intuitive and much more fun and geared towards photographers than Photoshop. Photoshop is for my pixel level editing, selective editing using masks and sharpening etc. When I have the ‘hero’ shots narrowed down I develop them using an iterative ‘juggling many things at a time’ process. Not necessarily the most efficient way but this being my brain works. I cannot work on just one image, for me it is more like sculpturing. I work on an image some, feel I get stuck, switch to another image, sculpt that for a while and then onto the third and then perhaps back again to the first as a new idea strikes me. This repeats itself until I feel the image is good enough, for some images 5 minutes, some 5 days. I then mark this image ‘done’ in Lightroom with colour label green to tell my brain ‘It is done…stop tinkering!". Panos are then stitched in PTgui, editing is finished in Photoshop.

A small look into my light room. Not terribly exciting. I will persevere to write something better next time, I promise. Follow me on Twitter for more image previews as I get them developed.

What is your preferred tools and work method?

Field of Dreams in Laos

Clichéd title. Probably even used it before. No matter! My writing will not make me rich and famous anyway, might as well recycle my own clichés! Anyway to become a cliché it has to be extremely good. Or popular. Wish I could become a cliché!

This particular Field of Dreams is a rice field in the mountains of East Laos, driving towards the village of Nonghat close to the Vietnam border. After one day in the capital Vientiane – awful touristy place, more on that later, whoever rebuilt this city ruined it – we flew to the remote town of Phonsavan and met our car, driver and guide. We drive up the mountains on curvy small roads snaking their way through gorgeous landscapes and charming villages with nothing but wooden huts, smiling villagers and simple country living. I never want to leave. As the sun starts setting and golden hour is upon us we start scouting for a nice location. Being me I want a big wide open space, not easy to find in mountains. But suddenly this beautiful flat dry brown rice field appears as if someone heard my request. Perfect timing, perfect location. Perfect colours as the dry orange rice crops really pick up the colour of the setting sun. Perfect moment that I captured this way:

Laos Field of Dreams. Flemming Bo Jensen

You are not really supposed to walk off road or off path. Laos is still home to so many unexploded bombs dropped by USA during the Vietnam war. US Airforce used Laos as a garbage bin, you don’t want to land with bombs on your plane so if the pilots had any leftovers returning from raids in Vietnam, it was dumped unexploded on Laos before returning to base. Thanks USA! So any step off track could be your last. Here, it is a rice field though so plenty of footsteps before me and I was careful to only walk on the paths.

This is a stitched panorama of 7 or 8 images, developed in Lightroom and stitched in PTgui. Images like these are easy. Nature is the artist. I merely composed, shot stitched, colour balanced and also painted a bit with light to enhance the hut. But Mother Nature is the artist here, love her to bits!

Field of Dreams in Laos was truly beautiful. Stay tuned for the sequels, Solitary Tree in Laos and Outback Road in Laos. I warned you I am a cliché!

Bells Gorge – with falling water

I am on record for not being a big fan of photos of waterfalls. I very often find them quite boring and there are too many ordinary waterfall photos in galleries around the world for my taste. A long exposure close-up photo of a waterfall is a winner with most customers and viewers but not for me; I have little fascination with water. I am a desert man. An interesting waterfall shot has to at least place the waterfall into context and show the surroundings. Ken Duncan and his incredible eye for composition is very good at this as demonstrated in his Mitchell Plateu shot. With no surroundings it is simply water falling; it is gravity at work!

During my recent photo trip to Australia I shot one composition that included a waterfall – even though the Kimberley has quite a few waterfalls. I love The Kimberley, but it’s the landscape and not the falling water that does it for me. I have promised several people to post this one waterfall image and as I’m always a man of my words here is magnificent Bells Gorge from Kimberley, Western Australia, complete with falling water:

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

Bells Gorge Panorama 
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Bells Gorge and composition

Bells Gorge is one of the many impressive Kimberley gorges cutting through the rocky and dry landscape. I’m no Ken Duncan but I have certainly placed the waterfall into context here. To the extent of the waterfall almost disappearing in this small web sized image; but at full size I quite like dramatic wide angle view in this shot. When I return I will work on improving composition though by climbing some more rocks! It is great fun and a great challenge climbing the rocks in these Kimberley gorges seeking the perfect composition. When viewing my shots later I often think ‘oh I should been standing there’. It’s the great skill challenge of composition and finding the most effective viewpoint (without falling down and killing yourself) and in the Kimberley gorges you can certainly sharpen these skills! If you study the photo you’ll see little travellers by the pool. It’s possible to climb much further; all the way down the the rocks on the left side and access a lower part of the gorge way out of this frame. You have to be a mountain goat though but I hear the results are worth it so I’ll attempt it next time!

This image is a stitched panorama and I deliberately went for a dusty and hot arid look here. Bells Gorge in mid September was a nice warm spot with 40+ degrees in the sun and the special Kimberley light. I remember exactly what it was like but then again I don’t. You can’t remember this; you have to experience it. Nothing but the desert would prepare you for these fantastic conditions in the Kimberley. It is incredibly hot; the light is blindingly bright and the sun rays cuts like lasers. As impossible as it is; I want to replicate these conditions in my photo; make you feel the Kimberley and these great gorges!

This is my one Kimberley waterfall shot but who knows – after my next Kimberley trip you may actually see waterfall image no. 2 from me. Start a trend!

The quintessential Outback Australia photo

One of my photographic quests is to capture the perfect Outback Australia image. My perfect Outback Australia image that is.

Outback Australia is a million different things; but for me in my perfect image in my head there are some elements that must be present: Red rock and earth, a few gum trees, spinifex grass, all bathed in golden light on a huge wide open desolate desert-like plain with a blue sky of outback clouds (you’ll know when you see them). A morning in the Kimberley area of Western Australia presented a very special moment with many of my elements present:

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

Silent Grove Sunrise Panorama
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Unless you’re as obsessed with the outback as I am (is there anyone else?) I don’t know if this panorama means much but I am extremely happy with it. It is not my perfect outback image of course; but I feel it really expresses the desolate beautiful nature of the outback and has a lot of the elements I love (you see what I mean by outback clouds?). I do not like any man-made objects in my photos, but here I picked the middle of the dirt road to have a strong leading line into the image. I shot this as 8 vertical images and stitched in PTgui. Silent Grove is just the name of the camp close to Bell Gorge on the Gibb River Road; and this is basically just me having run about a kilometer down the dirt road finding an open place. The hardest part was finding a spot where I could hide the shadow of me and my tripod!

The sunrise itself was out of this world fantastic by the way; albeit a more ordinary image for me personally. I woke up at camp before dawn; saw the clouds, rolled out of my swag, grabbed my gear and sprinted down the road to find a spot. This is just me standing on the dirt road pointing the 17mm lens at the sunrise, standing next to the tripod with cable release in hand, shooting and enjoying the spectacle of nature:

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

Outback Kimberley Sunrise 
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Like any quest for perfection it is futile and will never end; the perfect outback image exists only in my head (although Ken Duncan sometimes comes very close with his brilliant outback work). I will just have to keep coming back to the outback and enjoy many fun and frustrating experiences chasing perfection!

Capturing Australian tropical sunrises

As a follow up to Where Sunrises Rule The World I will take you back to Hawk Dreaming and the edge of the crocodile and mosquito rich river. I will share my sunrise shooting experience with two new panoramas from this morning.

I am back in Hawk Dreaming on the edge of the river. I have arrived early to capture the dawn light and greet the mosquitoes. I have chosen my composition, setup my gear and applied a full can of mossie repellent. It is an astoundingly beautiful morning; it is already more than 25 degrees but the air still has a crisp and fresh morning feel and smell. As the very first dawn light appears I capture the first panorama while it is still quite dark:

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

East Alligator River at Dawn
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Ten minutes later and it is already close to daylight and the light has warmed considerably. I make small adjustments to the composition and exposure and shoot our second panorama in this series:

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

East Alligator River at Sunrise
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I could have wished for a few more clouds (the appeared later as seen here) and a stronger composition. But the colours and the light are gorgeous and a true representation of sunrise at this river, and at large size you can see the lovely thick layer of mist on the floodplains. Let us examine in detail how to capture this light and these colours.

Shooting the tropical sun rising

Walk softly and always carry mosquito repellent! The composition in these panoramas is dictated by the mosquitoes. Ideally I would have been lower and closer to the water; making the river (a finger of the East Alligator River) seem bigger with more colour reflection in the water. No go mate. I have never experienced a wall of a million mosquitoes quite like this! There was no choice but to step back 7-8 meters from the edge of the river and still I was getting eaten. Without mossie repellent you won’t get these shots so arm yourself. This is Where Mosquitoes Rule The World!

Be prepared; be quick! Coming from a cold dark non-tropical place you will be surprised by how quickly the sun rises in the tropics. You have very little time to work in before the sun basically jumps to the top of the sky and is at full force. So be prepared, arrive early and find your composition before the light show begins. The very best light is usually at dawn so no sleeping in! You should basically be setting up in complete darkness.

Use ND graduated filters! I used a Cokin 2-stop ND grad filter to even out the exposure between sky and ground but learned that this is nowhere near enough to tame the tropical sun rising. I needed a 4-stop and even a 6-stop in my kit as the difference in light level especially at dawn is incredible. Still a 2-stop is better than nothing and without an ND grad filter you would either blow out the sky or capture a pitch black foreground.

Do not blow the red channel! The red channel will be at least a couple of stops brighter than the other channels, so do not trust the luminance histogram on your camera. A blown red channel will ruin a tropical sunrise or sunset, creating ugly yellows and greens where there should be orange and red! Study your RGB histogram carefully if you have one, or bracket your exposures.

Finally…enjoy! Do not get so caught up in shooting, checking histograms, looking through the viewfinder, levelling the tripod, setting exposure, focus and aperture etc. that you completely forget to enjoy the spectacle! Step back once in a while and take it all in. We shoot landscapes because we love nature so don’t let the camera get in the way all the time. Enjoy!

Where Sunrises Rule the World

People who used to work with me when I did IT full time will testify I am not a morning person. I don’t function well in an office before I’ve had countless coffees and an hour of sulking. The solution? Change your job to shooting sunrises!

I got up at 5am for about 3 weeks in Australia. Didn’t need an alarm clock as when you’re bush camping and dawn approaches, my internal “time to shoot” alarm simply goes off in sync with nature and I wake up. Well; you also wake up as it’s getting stinking hot and all the birds, mossies and flies wake you up as I was sleeping outside with no tent. It still feels so bloody early but as soon as I’m out there you realise it is the best time of the day. It’s the time for capturing spectacular scenes like this one:

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

Hawk Dreaming Sunrise Cloudscape Panorama
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Standing at the East Alligator River (with no alligators; just crocs) at 6am watching this light show is simply mindblowing. Imagine it is 6am, 25 degrees and Mother Nature rules the world. Every single sound (apart from my camera) is orchestrated by nature; every single light ray is controlled by nature. No people, no buildings, no power lines, nothing to distract. Just 100% pure humbling power of nature taking you back to When Dinosaurs Ruled The World. Sometimes scenes are so beautiful you just want to forget about the camera, sit down wishing you could live here and hoping the future never comes. 
(oh yes there was a million mosquitoes as well, all part of the nature experience)

This is a simple stitch; it is only two very wide horizontal images shot at 17mm stitched. It is a technique I use sometimes as I feel it better preserves the extreme 17mm wide angle look compared to shooting say 8 vertical shots but the stitch still gives me a wider view than 17mm. Nature did all the work as I did very little post processing of this. I set the white balance and added a vignette and a bit of shadow detail recovery and we’re done.

I recommend getting up for every single sunrise, especially in tropical Australia. Often in the tropical bush the heat and haze of the day mixed with smoke from bushfires can result in a muted sunset. Sunrise on the other hand gets the fresh clean morning air to work with. Here; the sunrises rule the world.

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
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

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…

Nature the Artist

Studying clouds and attempting to predict the weather is a full time job for any outdoor photographer. It is how we try and increase our changes of getting that special shot. It is also incredibly fascinating. Clouds are for dreamers and I never tire of observing or shooting nature’s big canvas known as the sky.

On a warm Summer night you will often get some high level cirrus clouds that looks like Nature the Artist did a few lazy and casual soft brush strokes here and there. Usually these clouds disappear before sunset but occasionally they stick around and when they do the colours are quite spectacular. Wednesday night was a good example of cirrus clouds here in Copenhagen and I was in place to capture this panorama:

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

Copenhagen Harbour Summer Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

This is a 170 degree view of Copenhagen shot directly into the sunset across the harbour. It is a good spot for getting as much sky as possible and the same spot as this Harbour Storm panorama. It was in the middle of a warm Summer week here in Copenhagen with temperatures above 30 degrees creating cirrus clouds. Everything is relative someone once said and what we call heat wave is a cold day in the Northern Territory! Nevertheless a super lovely day and sunset.

Tech specs and oh the horizon, the horizon

This panorama is 7 vertical images stitched in PTgui (PTgui really had to save me this time, more about that later). Shot with 17-40mm L  lens at 20mm, f/22.0 using 1.3 second exposure with a Cokin neutral density filter attached. RAW files were developed in Lightroom 2.0 and the final stitch received very little post production in Photoshop. Nature the Artist did all the work here, I just painted a bit more light into the shadows to show more of the buildings and added a vignette. The horizon is straight in this final version. It may appear slightly curved due to the wide 170 degree view but it’s straight. It wasn’t always so…

FBJ-crooked-horizon I have an uncanny ability to spot anything crooked, any horizon not straight even if it’s off by just half a degree. I use this super hero power to “help” other photographers straighten their horizon by politely pointing it out on their blogs; normally with some level of sarcasm. Well the photography gods are not without humour! When shooting the above panorama my head was in the clouds. I levelled the tripod and then moved it forward to the edge of the pier resting the front leg on a raised edge. Guess what. It’s not level anymore!

My tripod should carry a sign saying “I’m with Stupid!”

With my head in the clouds and also slightly trying to look cool because there are several interested people next to me on the pier I shoot away – and don’t even look into the viewfinder because hey! I have super powers. Thank the maker that PTgui is so good at stitching because on the right is the leftmost shot of the original files. Super powers indeed Human Spirit Level Man. Oh the horizon!