By Mel Sinclair (One Stop Photo Workshops tutor for Brisbane)
“How lucky are you right now?” my alter ego spoke to me in disbelief.
“Seriously! Shake your head, bat your eyelids, yes kiddo, this is real, you are really standing at the edge of a glacial lagoon on the other side of the world!”
There has to be something said for consciousness when, as a landscape photographer, you’re standing in front of a scene like this. A little over a year ago, I was standing at the foot of the 25km-round Jokulsarlon lagoon in southern Iceland at sunrise. I was 15,873km from home and 11 days into a 21-day trip of a lifetime.
Let me take you back to this morning. Despite it being ‘autumn’ in Iceland, it was remarkably cold for a Queenslander such as myself! Average daily maximum was about 10 degrees, colder with wind chill. Sunrise took, on average, about an hour or two to complete – it was slow and graceful like a ballerina, with the colours and flare to match. The beauty was a welcome distraction from the fact that, despite my 3-4 layers of clothing, I still could not feel my hands or toes. Thank goodness for remote releases!
Depending on the month, in Iceland the sun never sets. In September however, we had “normal” (as defined by Australian sunrise/sunset times for winter) sunrise times, but they lasted longer due to the country’s proximity to the Arctic Circle. We had about a 2-3 hour sunrise, with the best of the light happening about an hour into the rise when the sky turned pink and reflected beautifully over the lagoon.
In a location such as this, where you’re the tourist in a far and foreign land, taking as many exposures as possible becomes something of a habit. Bracketing to 3 or 5 stops, depending on the location, was a necessity. Three stops required -1, 0, +1 and 5 stops required -2, -1, 0, +1, +2 to ensure I had accounted for all light situations. Combined with the power of shooting RAW, I have a great depth of choice when it comes to the post-processing.
You don’t have the chance to go back and re-take the shot – all the ice changes day to day. This composition wouldn’t have been there even an hour or two after I took it. That’s the intricate beauty of Jokulsarlon, it’s ever-changing.
So what have I done to this image to get it in its current state?
First things first, in Lightroom I cleaned up any dust bunnies and made sure that the image was straight and the horizon was level. I recovered any outstanding highlights to make sure the image was within acceptable ranges of exposure. I then took it into some third-party plugin software, Nik Viveza 2, where I did spot adjustments to different parts of the image. Typical adjustments are different from what you’d get in Photoshop or even lightroom. A spot adjustment in Nik Viveza 2 is about playing with 10 different sliders: – Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Structure, Shadow, Warmth, Red, Green, Blue and Hue. Depending on where you drop the point, the effects are different. You can add so much drama to a scene, but beware of the noise! I’d love to show you one day the dramatic difference that this program can make to an image!
I love the things I am capable of doing in the Nik suite, and count it as a must-have for any serious landscape photographer. Because this was an individual adjustment, there is no hard-and-fast recipe. It relies on your keen sense of what’s right for an image – and yes, you can go overboard, it’s up to you ;)
For me, Iceland was the trip that changed my photography. It changed me for the better, it (seemed) to put me on the map. I learnt so much about myself and my style of image taking in those 3 weeks. It was a trip that didn’t come cheaply, but it was worth every cent after all.
It took 3 days of flying to get there. I had 20 days on the ground with fellow photographer and friend, Josh Robertson.
Be guaranteed that I’m going back in 2014. Bigger, better, and well equipped.Continue reading
By Ricardo Da Cunha (One Stop Photo Workshops tutor for Melbourne)
For a long time the vast majority of my images came as a result of planning. They were born from a pre-visualisation in my head and patience for the right conditions to come together. However these days I must admit I do very little planning prior to a shoot. I now prefer to walk into a scene without my subconscious being influenced by images I had previously imagined and instead I now like images to naturally present themselves to me. This way I don’t worry too much about waiting for the right tide to align with the right lighting, etc. Definitely makes life much easier, that’s for sure! ;-)
This occasion was an example of my new approach. I arrived at Miners Beach in Port Macquarie on NSW’s rugged mid-north coast an hour prior to sunset hopeful of some dramatic light with the fast moving storm front. Without having done any planning whatsoever I was content to just stroll along the beach and wait for an image to present itself to me.
In the image above, the water rushing out around the foreground rock immediately caught my interest, and together with the sun setting directly behind me and hopefully lighting up the storm-clad sky, I was hopeful of making a strong image. Using a wide angle lens on a full-frame DSLR at 16mm focal length, I composed the image so that the foreground rock is balanced with another rock further away to the right-hand-side. To get set up, I positioned the tripod-mounted camera very low and close to the foreground rock in order to help place emphasis on it and make it appear bigger than it actually is. I also ensured that I really pressed the tripod down firmly in the sand as tripod legs have a habit of moving gradually in the wet sand – a problem I have experienced one too many times! I then focused on the hyperfocal distance point using an aperture of f11 by zooming into 100% magnification in Live View, a great feature of most current dSLR’s that allows you to get the best possible focus in a single frame. It was then just a case of capturing exposures with the water rushing out over the foreground rock to see which shutter speed would give me the optimum water movement and preserve just the right amount of texture in the water.
Initially I found the shutter speed to be too fast and so I used a 3 stop neutral density (ND) filter to extend the exposure time to around 1 second. Had my exposure been too long I could have reduced it by increasing the ISO. With a strong ND filter combined with the power of ISO you can achieve just about any shutter speed you like! Using the optimum shutter speed I then captured several different exposures of the water flowing around the rock with the camera set to burst shooting mode and using a remote cable release. Whilst doing all of this, I was lucky to have a rainbow appear to add some interest so I also captured another separate (and slightly darker) exposure for the sky.
Having multiple exposures at my disposal once in front of the computer, I selected the best two images for the foreground that had the best water flow/movement and then I selected another for the sky. Using masks on separate layers in Photoshop I manually blended all three separate images together. I then added some local contrast improvements and a warm colour cast to help amplify the warm tones of sunset, before finishing the image by adding some vignetting to the edges to help draw the eye in.
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Please share these tips with your friends or family or anyone else who might benefit from them. For even more tips and information and to receive exclusive offers on private courses and hear of new workshop tours, sign-up to the One Stop Photo Workshops mailing list! We provide one-on-one photography courses in the following locations: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, Gold Coast, Newcastle, Sunshine Coast and the Central Coast of NSW.Continue reading
by Bob Simpson (One Stop Photo Workshops tutor for the Sunshine Coast)
Over the coming months we plan to highlight the work of our photography workshop tutors by posting behind-the-scenes looks at some of their favourite images. Every image we create as photographers is the result of a series of practical, technical and artistic decisions we make along the way – some of these decisions are compromises forced upon us by the conditions at the time, many of them reflect our individual approaches to composition and photography in general. I’ve always found it enlightening to understand why a photographer has approached an image in a particular way, and what difficulties they overcame in creating the image. It makes us think about our own approaches to image-making, and that can only help us grow as photographers.
I’ll kick it off with a look at the making of my image of Granite Bay in Noosa National Park. This area is part of my home patch so I’ve had the good fortune of being able to visit and photograph it in a range of different weather and tidal conditions. The short beach is a little unusual for east coast Australia in that it faces north rather than east, so it is relatively protected from the south-easterly swells and winds that affect most of our beaches.
I arrived at the car park and entrance to the National Park at 4:30 on an October morning last year. This can be a busy place many mornings as walkers and surfers hit the walking tracks, but at 4:30am it tends to be pretty quiet! The coastal track is easy to follow by torchlight, taking you past Tea Tree Bay and Dolphin Point before it branches off to lead down to the beach at Granite Bay.
With a good half hour until sunrise, I spent some time exploring along the shore looking for interesting shapes and scenes. I’d timed my visit to coincide with a low tide so there was plenty of sand exposed – at high tide the waves push right up among the rocks and boulders that line the shore. One thing I was very mindful of was to avoid spoiling the smooth sand with my footprints, so I kept to the rocks wherever I could.
I was immediately attracted to the composition in the photograph by the bold, smooth shapes of the rocks that roughly mirrored the shape of the headland and formed a strong triangular pattern in the foreground. They were also nicely spaced apart so there was plenty of smooth sand to convey the feeling of an untouched beach. I took a few test shots in the half light and decided this composition would work, so set about fine-tuning the composition and choosing camera settings.
Wide angle shots work well when you get right up close to the foreground interest so you can see the intricate detail of rocks, sand, grass, or whatever your foreground comprises. For this composition I had to back off by about 1.5 metres to fit the rocks in and leave a little space around them so the image didn’t look too cramped. I also played around with camera height and settled on about 1 metre – this kept the front of my lens as close as possible to the rocks and maintained a good separation between the midground rocks and the headland in the background.
With aperture set at f14 for good front-to-back sharpness, and ISO on 100 for maximum quality, I took another test shot. The increasing light levels gave me a shutter speed a little faster than I wanted in order to soften the waves in keeping with the smooth rocks, sand and clouds, so I attached a 3-stop neutral density filter to slow things down a little.
The last part of the jigsaw fell into place just before the sun rose over the headland, when the low grey cloud on the left drifted into place. To my eye, it provided the ideal counter-balance to the rock in the left foreground and made the composition feel more complete. The contrast in the scene had increased by now so I captured three bracketed shots (-2, 0, +2 stops) to cover the full dynamic range of the scene. I later blended two of these together in Photoshop, a 0.6 second exposure for the sky and a 2.5 second exposure for the foreground, to balance the light levels across the image.
That’s about it! It may not be an award winner, but it captures a mood of Granite Bay I’ve had in mind for some time and it reminds me why I love going back there. This spot is one of the many options to visit if you enrol in one of my one-on-one photography lessons through One Stop Photo Workshops. I look forward to showing you around Granite Bay.
You can see more of my images at www.bobsimpsonlandscapephotography.com.
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Please share these tips with your friends or family or anyone else who might benefit from them.
For even more tips and information and to receive exclusive offers on private courses and hear of new workshop tours, sign-up to the One Stop Photo Workshops mailing list! We provide one-on-one photography courses in the following locations: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, Gold Coast, Newcastle, Sunshine Coast and the Central Coast of NSW.