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Sometimes when the light doesn't cooperate we have to look for alternatives. At the recent Landscape Photography Workshop in the Hunter Valley with David Oliver, our group had a beautiful late afternoon shoot followed by some exquisite morning mist, but when the helicopter turned up, the clouds came across and the light went flat.
The hills around David's farm, over towards Dungog, are picture-postcard. They look great from the road and even better from the air. Currently, it's tending towards the dry side and the grass is dying off as we near the end of winter. It creates a weird, desolate type of landscape and one that works well, to my mind, as an abstract of patterns and shapes.
In some ways the flat light was a pity, but in others it created new opportunities. And if you like my lith film effect on these aerials, it reinforces the need for all of us to research and extend our fields of influence. Having a background of experience filled with lots of different techniques and approaches, I was able to stretch back to my lith printing days when you'd wait for several minutes with your print in the developer, inspecting it under a dim red light, and snatching it out quickly when the chemical reaction reached a threshold. If you left the print in too long, the whole print seemed to go black and all your efforts were wasted.
Of course, using software like Capture One, Lightroom and Photoshop, it's a lot easier. These photographs were essentially processed in Capture One, using the Contrast, Highlight and Shadow sliders pushed to their maximums. The colour was removed, a split tone added (blue and orange) and a little Clarity added in. In Photoshop, I clipped the black and white points just fractionally.
To view one of the original images and two more versions, click here or visit www.betterphotography.com.
If you're interested in learning more about landscape photography, I'm holding an Advanced Landscape workshop in Dee Why at the end of August, followed by a Landscape Photography Business workshop on the Sunday. Spaces are still available for both events.Click here for details.
And here's one of the files straight out of the raw processor before editing.
Yellow? Am I colour blind? Well, no, but Photoshop is! There's no doubt my memory of the grass plains below Torres del Paine is yellow. We drove past these flat lands each day, to and from our hotel, and I was just hoping we would have time to stop and play. I had in mind a photo much like this, using a low camera angle with a telephoto to throw the foreground grasses out of focus. In the image above, the grasses almost look sharp, but they were definitely blowing in the wind - furiously! A low-pass filter with a radius of around 40 pixels on a copy layer set to soft light blend mode and masked for just the grass was used to give this area more definition.
The colour comes from building up the contrast in the image using a curves adjustment layer, so I haven't intentionally created the rich oranges, they have just happened as a result of the mathematics in Photoshop. The only hue/saturation adjustment layer used in this image removed some of the blue in the background mountains.
That afternoon was blowing a gale. In the distance was a herd of horses which we chased unsuccessfully. I fired off a few frames with the horses looking rather small and insignificant against the towering mountains, but the photos weren't as strong as this angle which looks a little further to the east where the horns of Torres del Paine are more visible.
I've seen this type of weather pattern several times over Torres del Paine now. It seems that the mountains create their own weather system, acting as a magnet or a gate for the systems that pass across Patagonia.
If you're interested in learning more about landscape photography, I'm holding an Advanced Landscape workshop in Dee Why at the end of August, followed by a Landscape Photography Business workshop on the Sunday. Spaces are still available for all events.Click here for details.
Arctic weather is just that, arctic! Joshua Holko and I were on Aurora nearly a year ago, sailing up Scoresby Sund into the furthest reaches of Nordvest Fjord. It was an amazing day that began with silky smooth water reflections and giant icebergs, only to finish with a clearing storm and some amazing theatrics in the heavens.
I'm no meteorologist, but I know the weather changed from low overcast cloud to brilliant sunshine and that this was the edge of the weather system. We often associate great light with approaching storms, but clearing weather in this case was really dramatic. I haven't seen cloud like this very often, and I can't remember being lucky enough to have my camera with me at the same time.
I took a series of exposures as the cloud gradually melted away. I was using a 110mm Schneider, which is a slight telephoto, like a 70mm on a full-frame DSLR. I would have liked to use something wider, but the shutter was sticking on my wide-angle at the time, and so I looked out two shots taken one after the other with slightly different angles of view, and joined them together. It just extends the view by 15 -20 per cent, but gives the landscape a little more breathing space. I like space in a composition.
The raw file, being a raw file (and shown below), was a little flatter than my memory of the experience, so I have made a series of minor curves, hue/saturation and selective colour adjustments to the file, bringing the clouds to life and subduing the foreground. I hope you like it!
One of the good things about winter is you don't have to get up so early for sunrise! Usually when doing our walk up to Passage Peak on the Hamilton Island 'Away - The Art of Photography' workshop, we're up around 4.30 a.m. so we have time to walk the 2.7 kilometres up to the top. We usually allow an hour as different people have different walking speeds. This year the workshop was held mid July and so the sun was rising a little later. We didn't leave until 5.15. Luxury!
The Hamilton Island workshop happens annually and is sponsored by Nikon and Hamilton Island itself. This was its 12th year and it offers amazing value for money, including four presenters (I was joined by David Oliver, Clare Oliver and Bruce Pottinger), a helicopter shoot, a boat trip out to the amazing Whitehaven Beach and the best morning and afternoon teas!
Sunrise was at 6:40 a.m. and we arrived on top of the Peak shortly after 6.00 a.m.. There was already a hint of colour in the sky and I could see a low cloud clinging to the top of Pentecost Island. Unfortunately, there was a thick bank of cloud on top of the horizon where the sun was rising, so we weren't going to get the first rays of light as hoped for. However, shortly after 7.00 a.m., the sun cleared the cloud bank and kissed the top of Pentecost Island and the cloud on top.
If you're interested in learning more about landscape photography, I'm holding an Advanced Landscape workshop in Dee Why at the end of August, or if you can't wait until then, David Oliver and I also have a Landscape Photography weekend up at his farm - including a helicopter shoot. Click here for details.
The winner of the 2013 Photograph of the Year competition run by Better Photography magazine was Mario Cardenas. Who will win this year's competition? Entries close 31 August 2014.
As you will know if you've read my book How To Win Photo Competitions, the top prizes are a combination of skill, artistry and luck. I know it can seem awkward to include 'luck' in a competition's results, but when it comes to something subjective like art or photography, that's how it is. The luck comes from the judge liking or relating to your photograph just that bit better than someone else's.
However, luck alone won't win you a photography competition. You still have to present an image which is visually strong and commanding. The judges assume it will be corrected exposed and focused, so what they are looking for is light, composition, interesting subjects and an emotion or story.
Mario Cardenas won the competition and the portrait category last year with his photograph of a camel herder. The herder on his own is very photogenic, especially for a competition based in Australia with Australian judges: we don't see camel herders dressed like this here.
However, Mario has done more. Not only has he included a camel in his portrait, but two almost silhouetted camels in the background. The repetition of shapes, the carefully framed image and the strong side-lighting all work to create a portrait with a difference.
Wrote Mario shortly after winning the award, "The photo was taken during the Al Dhafrah Camel Festival in Madinat Zayed at Western Region, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The event was under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and organised by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH). Its main aim is to showcase the rich Arab culture and heritage, and is dedicated to preserve the traditional camels in the region.
"The photo is about the unspoken loyalty and dedication between man and his camels. The camels and the herder have gone through a lot of hardships and pain, living in the harsh and extreme conditions of the desert. Hopefully the photo has captured this fidelity and connection, that one cannot live without the other.
"What's great about this moment is that the natural light seems to shine on the subjects at a perfect place and time, the gentle luminosity creating an expression of serenity and peace, amidst their very simple life in the desert.
"I usually attend festivals in the region due to their marvellous display of authentic culture and tradition. I am an expatriate here in the UAE and these festivals always fascinate me as I discover and learn more about this amazing country. The Al Dhafra Camel Festival is one of the most celebrated festivals in the UAE."
Mario used a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 1/800 second @ f2.8, ISO 100. Post-production was minimal, with Mario using minor levels and curves adjustment, a little bit of colour desaturation and some final image sharpening.
Added Mario, "Thank you very much for this wonderful and unforgettable award. More power to Better Photography Magazine"!
The 2014 competition is now open and entry is $20 a photo or five entries for $80. Each entry will receive a short critique as well.
Visit the competition website by clicking here. And thanks to our great sponsors!
How do you work on your photographs? Assuming you're using a program like Lightroom or Photoshop, there are times when you need to draw over your photograph or outline an area. Are you still using a mouse to do so?
If you are, perhaps it's time to think about a pen and tablet solution because these days, they are very sophisticated. The Wacom Intuos system begins with its Grip Pen, providing 2,048 levels of pen pressure sensitivity and a single gram of starting pressure.
A tilt recognition feature allows you to edit your images with the accuracy and precision of real brushes and pens (except you're still a photographer, don't forget!), whilst improved multi-touch gestures enable you to position and navigate around your images intuitively.
To make using the Intuos system easier, the tablets include customisable ExpressKeys and a Touch Ring control to streamline workflow and increase productivity. They mean you don't always have to revert to the computer keyboard, providing commonly used shortcuts and modifiers at your fingertips.
Express View, the Heads-Up-Display (HUD) feature, displays current settings on-screen and fades within a few seconds so as not to disrupt the creative process. Additionally, a personalised Radial Menu enables you to quickly access regularly used functions through a hierarchical menu display. All this can be set up and customised for the way you work, and it's easy to do.
The ambidextrous and ergonomic shape of the Intuos Pro is designed so you can work comfortably for long hours and the included wireless accessory kit means the tablet doesn't need to be physically attached to the computer, allowing you to work from up to 10 metres (30 feet) away.
The Intuos Pro comes in four Pen & Touch models – small , medium and large , as well as the clean and stylish Intuos Pro Special Edition (medium) with a silver frame. Once you've used a pen and tablet system, it's hard to imagine working on your images any other way. It will take a little while to completely acclimatise, but once you have, you will never look back.
For more information visit www.wacom.com/en/au/
This is quite a different presentation, aimed at photographers who want to understand the theory and practice of capturing high quality digital files from which they can produce amazing landscape images.
The program begins with an informal shoot at sunrise, moves to a local cafe for breakfast and then down to Dee Why RSL Boardroom for the seminar. The program covers everything from testing apertures and setting infinity focus, to stitching and focus stacking, exposure control and long exposures. The seminar finishes with a critique and feedback session of students' work.
The cost is $395 including lunch. For more information, visit the Better Photography website - click here.
There are no guarantees you will make your millions as a landscape photographer, but if you're interested in turning your photography into a part-time or fulltime profession, there are some things you simply must know.
This isn't an accounting seminar, rather practical advice from a professional photographer who also happens to have qualifications as a CPA. The seminar will include copies of the Powerpoint presentations including a number of checklists.
The cost is $395 including lunch. For more information, visit the Better Photography website - click here.
Photographers love a portfolio or a photobook of their work, so if you've got 10 or 20 great images, why not be proud and turn them into a printed publication?
Peter Eastway brings his knowledge of magazine publishing and graphic design in to an introductory seminar on the essentials of book production, that will ensure your book looks as good as your photos. We'll cover the essentials of design, planning the book and there's time for any questions you may have.
The cost is $49. For more information, visit the Moment event website - click here.