Field Techniques

From Photography to Filmmaking: Stories in Motion

A Snowy Plover sits among the dunes on a Florida beach in front of one of many condominiums.

A Snowy Plover sits among the dunes on a Florida beach in front of one of many condominiums.

This is the second entry in the From Photography to Filmmaking monthly column by Drew Fulton.  To see the previous posts, visit the archives.

When I first started to dabble in the world of the moving image, I didn’t think much about the storytelling side of things. I simply started shooting what was essentially a moving photograph rather than a video clip. What do I mean? Basically, I took all of my experience as a photographer and applied that to making video. I didn’t make any changes to the way I composed or created images. I simply did what I had always done except now I was making videos! I won’t say that this was totally wrong, but it sure was far from right. Let’s take a few minutes to really think about how our audience watches video and the fundamental differences between watching video and looking at a photograph.

Read the rest of this entry »

Photographing Water in Motion by Jennifer Wu

 

Iceland waterfall - vertical

Iceland waterfall: Canon 5D mark II, 24-70 mm lens at 24 mm, f/16, Shutter speed .6, ISO 100. I used a polarizing filter. Smooth effect. © Jennifer Wu

Text and photos © Jennifer Wu

Photographing moving water at varying shutter speeds produces different looks, from a silky effect to frozen detail. When photographing the ocean surf, waterfalls, streams or any moving water, I often bracket the shutter speeds to create a variety of results.

In the vertical waterfall image in Iceland, above, the water appears smooth and gauzy. The horizontal image of the same waterfall, below, presents more detail, permitting more shape with enough blur to endow the shot with a sense of motion. I like both effects, so I vary the shutter speed to get more or less detail. When bracketing the shutter speeds, review each image on view screen to judge the results.  If you see silky water with no detail where it is all white, move to a faster shutter speed. If there is too much detail where the water looks like ice, use a slower shutter to add enough blur for a velvety water effect.

Iceland waterfall - horizontal
Iceland waterfall: Canon 5D mark II, 24-70 mm lens at 24 mm, f/16, Shutter speed 1/10, ISO 100. I used a polarizing filter.
More detail in the water with a faster shutter speed. © Jennifer Wu

 

Shutter Speed Choice:

How fast or slow the water is moving is a factor to help decided shutter speed for the amount of blur or detail. A slow versus fast moving stream will have different effects at the same shutter speed. In addition, wider-angle lenses show less apparent motion compared to a telephoto from the same distance.

Several factors to help decide the shutter speed:

  • The flow rate of the water – slower shutter for more blur with slow moving streams
  • The amount of blur or detail you want – slower shutter for more blur
  • Distance to the subject – the water flow appears faster the closer you are
  • Focal length of the lens – slower shutter for wide-angle lenses for more blur

Waterfalls all fall at the same rate weather they are a faint stream or large waterfall. They gain momentum with the distance. The air resistance is the only factor that will effect the rate of water falling.

I photographed the waterfall in Iceland while leading a photography tour with Jim Martin. In the horizontal image, I used a .6 second shutter speed for a satiny effect, while the vertical image has a 1/10 shutter speed to show more detail.

waterfall detail with rainbow
Yosemite waterfall with rainbow. Using 1/125 of a second or faster with a medium telephoto lens helps stop the action on a waterfall and give it some detail. Photographed with the 70-300mm lens at 244mm, f/11, 1/250 second, ISO 200.
Polarizer used to enhance the rainbow. Be careful as you can make the rainbow disappear when completely polarized. © Jennifer Wu

 

In Yosemite, 1/125 of a second contributed some detail in the fast moving waterfalls. By contrast, I prefer 1/15to 1/30 of a second to smooth the slower moving water on the floor of water the valley.

Use a really fast shutter speed to stop the action of moving water. For waves at the ocean, I use around a 1/1000 of a second to get the detail in the splash.  Each droplet freezes.

In the next examples, the ocean images have a 10 to 13 second exposure to blur the water, transforming the surf into a fog.

Morro Bay rocks and surf, 10 second exposure.
Morro Bay rocks and surf, Canon 5D mark II, 24-70 mm lens at 24 mm, f/16, 10 seconds, ISO 100.
I used a 3-stop neutral density filter and a polarizer to smooth out the ocean surf. © Jennifer Wu

 

Tripod: Using a STURDY tripod will be necessary for the slow shutter speeds. They are still a good idea for higher shutter speeds as they aid in fine-tuning the final composition. Keep in mind it is often windy at the base of a waterfall or around the ocean surf. Weigh down the tripod if necessary to avoid vibration or tipping.

Exposure: when taking a photograph, I decide whether the shutter speed or f/stop is the most important and set that first. Normally, I use manual mode and set the shutter speed first, followed by the f/stop.  Next, I set ISO, ideally the native ISO for the camera, such as ISO 100 for Canon, or 200 for Nikon. Native resolution produces the least noise.  If the shutter speed is too slow, I raise the ISO to the proper exposure.  Finally, I add a filter, as discussed below.

Shutter Speed:  In order to get slow shutter speeds for the satiny effect, try photographing in low light conditions since full sun may demand too fast a shutter speed for slow motion. For example: photograph at low light near sunrise or sunset on sunny days, with the subject catching the first or last rays of light. Exposure it easier when he water is in the shade; be aware that your color temperature will change, shifting toward blue. Overcast conditions work well most of the time.

Filters: Using a polarizer will reduce your shutter speed time by about two f-stops. Turn the polarizer to see the effect on shiny rock surfaces and note how the reduced glare reveals detail and form. However, be careful when using a polarizer so as not to take out desired colorful reflections. Neutral density filters (not graduated neutral density filters), grey in color, will reduce the light to the sensor, allowing for a slower shutter speed.

Morro Bay sunset, 13 second exposure
Morro Bay sunset: Canon 5D mark II, F/16, 13 seconds, ISO 100.
I used a 5-stop neutral density filter to obtain the softness of the waves. © Jennifer Wu

 

Ideas: Water in all its forms is a dynamic subject open to many approaches. I like photographing streams in the shade with green leaves reflected onto streams in the afternoon (Yosemite’s Fern Spring is good for that). Photographing along Yosemite’s Merced River at sunrise provides the opportunity to capture the warm reflections of the mountains in the river. Fall colors, the leaves lit with sun and the water in shade reflect leaves, is a perennial favorite.

Tips for keeping the lens dry:Use a lens hood to keep spray off the lens. Carry a hand towel or pack towel to dry the camera and tripod when you return to the car from the shoot.Use a chamois cloth to wipe the droplets off the lens. Chamois are used to wipe cars dry and it works just as well on the lens. If you are in heavy spray from waterfalls, the ocean or from rain, it is helpful to carry a small sized soft absorbent pack towel to wipe the lens of most of the water, then use the chamois as it will otherwise get soaked too fast and become useless.

Tips for cleaning sea spray: First, use an air blower (not canned air) to remove any bits of sand or dust that might scratch the lens.

Next, wipe down your camera and lenses with a damp cloth to clean off the salt from the sea spray. Do this as soon as possible.

If you do get sea spray on the front element of the lens, use some lens cleaning fluid on a wipe or tissue and use that to remove it. Use lens cleaning solution and do not use abrasive or solvents. Wipe in a circular motion from the center outward. Do not put fluid directly on the lens. If it is very misty, bring the fluid and wipes with you to the ocean.

Another option is using a UV filter when at the ocean to protect the front element of the lens from the salt in the sea spray and you can clean the filter after the shoot in the same way as mentioned above.

Clean the camera eye-piece in the same way if it is needed.

Have fun photographing moving water and creating inspiring images!

Smooth Wave, Morro Bay, 0.4 second exposure

Smooth Wave, Morro Bay, California: Canon 5D mark II, 70-300 mm f/4-5.6 at 135 mm, f/22, 0.4 second, ISO 100. © Jennifer Wu

 

Jennifer Wu, a professional photographer since 1992, is best known for her nature, landscape and night photography. Jennifer was named by Canon USA to the elite group of photographers, The Explorers of Light. View more of her work and check out her book and workshop offerings at www.jenniferwu.com

Jennifer will speak on “Nature’s Elusive Beauty” in one of the breakout sessions at the 2015 NANPA Summit taking place in San Diego, California from February 19th – 22nd. To learn more about the Summit and to register for this exciting and inspirational event, please visit www.naturephotographysummit.com 

Dance of the Spirits by Gordon and Cathy Illg

North America, USA, Alaska, Chena Hot Springs, aurora borealis and stars. © Cathy & Gordon Illg

North America, USA, Alaska, Chena Hot Springs, aurora borealis and stars. © Cathy & Gordon Illg

Images and Text by Gordon and Cathy Illg

It’s not that one or two things or even a hundred things are beautiful – every single aspect of the natural world is beautiful, even the very air around us. Using high-energy particles from the sun as brushes and electrons orbiting atoms in our upper atmosphere as a canvas, impossible abstracts are painted across the night sky in neon colors. Of all the astral phenomena that draw our eyes to the heavens, the aurora is the most spectacular. And, it requires no special equipment to view it, only a willingness to stay out when most people are asleep (and to endure some cold temperatures).

The Cree called it the “Dance of the Spirits,” and in the Middle Ages it was regarded as a sign from God. Today we call it aurora borealis after the Roman goddess of the dawn and the Greek name for the north wind. Its most basic form is a static green band, usually stretching across the northern horizon. As it becomes more active, pink, red and even violet are added to the palette. These colors can fall down in curtains or dance across the heavens in twisting waves, as if responding to music we cannot hear. A photographer could point a lens at the same spot all night, taking one photo after another, and never repeat an image. Read the rest of this entry »

Interpretive Nature Photography: Art and Nature

by Jamie Konarski Davidson

Multiple exposure of fern in spin

Ferns – Multiple exposure with spin to highlight patterns and texture.

What does interpretive nature photography mean? Nature is nature, art is art, and never the two shall meet, right? For some, perhaps this is true. But only for those who have never walked in the woods, sat in a flower garden or watched the sun meet the day or settle in for the night. Or for those who have never stopped long enough to explore a dandelion or to watch a butterfly break free of its chrysalis. Nature IS art, in its finest and purest form. Capturing this essence is what nature photographers live for. It is what makes us unable to imagine doing anything else. It is what brings me peace, healing and joy. It is what pushes me as an individual to be present in the moment and to slow down long enough to see and feel and connect.

So, how do we do this and what do the results look like? Most of us begin our photographic journey with our eyes, hands and mind — seeing something, grabbing the camera and figuring out how to set the camera correctly. This is natural, as we need to see our subjects and to learn how to use our equipment to capture the moment. The sticky piece in this equation is “correctly.” True, technical knowledge is necessary. What is missing, and what makes our work express the “art in nature” is vision and heart. When we see and connect at the heart level, our work begins to shine, and what we share with the world resonates at a deeper level than a pretty picture. Read the rest of this entry »

When Color Doesn’t Cut It by Lee Hoy

American Bison by Lee Hoy

American Bison by Lee Hoy

Text and Images by Lee Hoy

As a wildlife and landscape photographer, I am constantly amazed at the plethora of colors that even a tiny damselfly can exhibit. It is capturing the palette of nature’s colors that often lures us out of bed early each morning, but what do we do when color just doesn’t cut it? What about when we are trying to communicate texture, form, grandeur, or movement and color becomes a distraction?

As a young boy, my parents would take me to the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma where I was captivated by a giant woolly beast that embodied the American west. I have photographed the American bison on many occasions and often find color images to be disappointing. It was only after I bought Silver Effex Pro 2.0 and began to learn its capabilities that I realized black-and-white images were the ticket to revealing to others what drew me to bison in the first place. The deep crevices in the shaggy coat, the splintering of the tips of the horns, the soulfulness of the eyes, and the jagged wrinkles in their hindquarters were expertly represented through black-and-white. Read the rest of this entry »

Balancing Flash and Ambient Light by Charles Glatzer

Image by Charles Glatzer

Image by Charles Glatzer

Text and photographs by Charles Glatzer

When I hear someone say, “I hate flash images,” it typically tells me they feel uncomfortable or do not fully comprehend how to use flash effectively.  Many people state that they can always tell when flash is used as the images have a “flashed” look to them. By this they mean that the subject appears overly bright and unnaturally lit within the image. By applying varying levels of flash output, we are able control the degree of subject illumination independent of the ambient light. Keeping the flash and ambient exposure separate in your mind will help you better achieve your goal.

The image of the heron on the nest (above) is a good example of how I use flash to balance ambient light. Here are the steps I took to make this image using flash.

1. First, I used my in-camera spot meter to check the yellow background highlight and I set my exposure 1.3 stops above the mid tone (in this case, my exposure was 1/250 sec at f/8 at ISO 200).

2. Next, I focused my lens on the subject and read the distance scale on my lens (in this example, 10 ft). Since my flash was on the camera, the flash-to-subject distance was the same as the lens-to-subject distance (10 ft).

 

Where to check the focusing distance on your lens.

Where to check the focusing distance on your lens.

3. Then, I set my flash to manual mode, which allows me to control the flash output independent of the exposure. I used the Select button on the back of the flash, turning the dial to place the black bar even with the subject distance. (Note: Strobes will vary by manufacturer. Some use buttons, others wheels, or a combination of both to alter the flash output.) Altering the flash output moves the distance scale, and that is what you are concerned with at this point. Do not be concerned if the scale says 1:1 or 1/128. Just make sure the distance appearing on the scale (10 ft in this example) is the same as the focus distance on your lens (10 ft).

 

Where to look for the focusing distance on your flash.

A few examples of where to find the focusing distance on your flash. Flashes set to manual.

TIP: When you zoom to alter your lens focal length, the flash will also zoom to evenly illuminate the field of view. If you take a given quantity of light and squeeze it into a narrower or wider area, the output of the flash (known as the guide number) will vary. Thus, you will need to adjust the flash power each time you change the focal length of your lens. I suggest you manually fix the flash zoom to the widest focal length you plan on using. No worries if you are shooing a fixed lens.

If all other factors remain constant (f/stop. shutter speed, ISO and background illumination), both the background and the subject will be perfectly illuminated.

If you want to get a firm grasp on how to use flash effectively, consider taking Charles (Chas) Glatzer’s STL Tech Series Flash Seminar. Chas’ work has been celebrated internationally with over 40 prestigious awards for superior photographic competence demonstrated through photographic competition, advanced education, and service to the profession. His images are recognized internationally for their lighting, composition, and attention to detail and have appeared in many publications worldwide including National Geographic, Outdoor Photographer, Popular Photography, National Parks, Discover Diving, Smithsonian, Professional Photographer, Birder’s World, Birding, Nature Photographer, EOS, Digital PhotoPro, and many more.

Visit http://www.shootthelight.com/ to learn more. 

Photographing the Nighttime Landscape by Roman Kurywczak

by Roman Kurywczak

night photo of Park Avenue, Arches National Park

Moonlit Night at Park Avenue, Arches National Park. Sigma 12-24mm lens @ 12mm, f/4.5, ISO 100, exposed for just over an hour. Photo by Roman M. Kurywczak

I have been photographing nighttime landscapes for about 20 years now, capturing images of star trails like the one pictured above with good success (even in the film days). The arrival of digital cameras and their high ISO capabilities has allowed me to push the boundaries of nighttime landscape photography and allowed me to capture the milky way and stars just as we see them. I released my e-book on that subject in February 2011 but wanted to revisit some of the images I had captured with the Sigma 12-24mm lens. The above image is the newest version of my cover shot, but this time the illumination you see is from just the moon. A rock solid tripod and ballhead are a must for this genre of photography. A wide-angle lens is also a must; the Sigma 12-24mm lens is now my lens of choice for my Canon 1D Mark III bodies. For those of you with crop sensors, the 10-20mm F3.5 EX DC HSM should be your go to lens, but keep in mind that any wide angle lens will work (Tip: you should be around 20mm max on a full frame sensor with the settings I will be providing). Read the rest of this entry »

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE – Story and photographs by F.M. Kearney

It’s fun to look back on some of the things we used to do in the past. Out-of-fashion hairstyles and clothing are always good for a laugh. Old photographs can reveal poor techniques or embarrassing mistakes. I’m sometimes surprised at what I used to consider quality photography. Comparing my early work with what I shoot today can be like comparing night to day. Sometimes, however, the changes are less drastic.

Years ago, for example, I read a weekly article in the Sunday paper called, “Then and Now.” It was a photo feature comparing a random street scene from the turn of the century to a modern-day capture shot from the exact same perspective. It was amazing to see just how foreign some of the most familiar areas of town used to look. Buildings, unless designated historical landmarks, can go through drastic changes over the years. Read the rest of this entry »

Water in Motion by David DesRochers

Ausable Rapids

Ausable Rapids by David DesRochers

Text and photography by David DesRochers

Ever since I was a young boy growing up in New Jersey, I loved being around water. Whether I was exploring the Rahway River near my home in Union or playing on the beach in Seaside Heights, I was fascinated with the power of moving water. It is only natural that I am still drawn to rivers, lakes, and oceans as inspiration for my photography.

I caught the nature photography bug on a trip to Glacier National Park in the year 2000. I returned home with only a few “keepers” but I knew that exploring our natural world was going to be part of my life for as long as I could hold a camera.

Early on, I photographed popular subjects such as water falls and sunsets over the ocean and tried to emulate photos I had seen. I was pleased with my result but my image looked a bit cliché. I began reading photography “how to” books and looking at photos by the masters of nature photography such as the late Galen Rowell, Art Wolfe, and David Muench, just to name a few. One lesson I learned was to slow down and spend time seeing the landscape before trying to capture its beauty. This approach helped me go beyond the obvious and I began capturing images of the “hidden beauty” within the landscape that most photographers were passing by.

Rivers and Streams

I use this approach when I photograph landscapes that include moving water. A common approach to photographing rivers, streams and waterfalls is to include the entire landscape. Wisely using the elements of composition, this approach can result in compelling photos. But, don’t stop there. After you’ve taken your standard waterfall shot, look closely at small areas within the water fall and stream. As the water tumbles over the rocks and boulders, interesting lines and shapes will begin to reveal themselves as shown in the image of the Ausable River in the Adirondacks.

My goal is to try to capture as much detail in moving water and it’s easy to lose that detail by exposing too long resulting in featureless blown out areas in your image. To get that soft flowing look that still has detail, I find that ¼ of a second shutter speed is a good starting point. The photo of the Ausable River Rapids (above) was shot at f/18, 1/5 of a second, ISO 100. Of course, the lighting conditions may require you to adjust your settings. Review your first few images and change your shutter speed as needed to get the result that you are looking for.

Oceans

The next time you visit a scenic coast line or even one not so scenic, consider passing up the temptation to compose a typical sunrise or sunset photo and take a closer look at the ever changing artistic designs created by the approaching waves. The giant waves of Hawaii offer one option (see the work of Clark Little for some real inspiration) but even the quiet waves of Cape May, New Jersey can result in a unique image.   Position yourself on a jetty or in the water and pan along with the waves as they approach the beach. The Wave photographed at sunset in Cape May, New Jersey was capture from a jetty using my Canon 7D and a 28-135 MM lens set at 95 MM and f/6.3, I found that a shutter speed of 1/8 of a second provided a nice balance of sharpness and motion blur.

The Wave

The Wave by David DesRochers

If you are blessed with an intriguing ocean side composition with great light, try using the receding surf to add your own leading lines. Select a wide angle lens and set your tripod as low as possible. The waves should move past your position (yes, it’s OK to get wet). As the water begins to recede back into the ocean, push your shutter release. A shutter speed of 1 to 4 seconds, depending on available light and the speed of water will create streaks that will lead the viewer’s eye to the center of interest in your composition. A 4 or 6 stop neutral density filter may be required to achieve the desired results. The image from Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park was taken with a 1 second exposure at f/16, ISO 100. A word of caution, make sure you keep an eye on the approaching waves and be prepared to lift your tripod in the event that a unexpected large wave attempts to knock you and your camera over.

Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach by David DesRochers

Be Safe and Be Inspired

The most important thing to remember is to be careful when photographing water. I discovered on more than on occasion that my lenses and cameras do not perform very well after following me into a local river. Wet rocks are a real danger so move slowly and carefully. Keen Sandals are comfortable during the hike to your location and they provide traction as you walk across rivers and streams. Worried about getting wet? Don’t be. Just bring a change of clothes and a towel and dry off when you return to the car.

Photography is a very personal endeavor and each of us must develop our own vision and style. The ever changing nature of water can provide inspiration and you will find endless opportunities to create those unique images you can truly call your own.

See more of David’s work at www.desrochersphotography.com. David also conducts photography workshops at New Jersey Audubon’s Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary.

NATURE’S VIEW: Capturing a sense of place – Story and photographs by Jim Clark

re-Berwind Lake Wildlife Management Area-McDowell County- Jim Clark_01Part I: The elusive “it” factor in nature photography

On a recent photo shoot in West Virginia I was reminded of how, as nature photographers, we strive to seek that elusive characteristic in our landscape photography: a sense of place. After all, it is the “it” factor in landscape photography to have our viewers feel the moment of the scene we photograph. Read the rest of this entry »

© 2013 - North American Nature Photography Association
Wordpress Themes