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Better Photography magazine's blog is written mainly by its editor and publisher, Peter Eastway. Here you'll find a wealth of comments, ideas and, hopefully, you'll like some of the photographs as well. If a blog doesn't sit neatly into one of the other categories, then generally you'll find it here!

Click on the blog titles to read.

Astrolabe Island

Astrolabe Island, Antarctica.
Canon EOS 5DSR, EF11-24mm f/4L USM lens, 1/320 second @ f7.1, ISO 100

 

Astrolabe Island was just being released from the ice when we visited in December. There are lots of islands around the Antarctic Peninsula and the ones you visit are often determined by the weather as much as anything else. And while Deception Island is a favourite, my time at Astrolabe Island was quite fruitful.

 

The accompanying photos show how an ultra wide-angle lens can create a great sense of depth and perspective, especially when you have something of interest in the foreground. All these photos are taken from a zodiac, an inflatable dingy. I'm seated and leaning over the edge, so my camera is maybe 30 centimetres above the water for most of them. I'm filling the frame with the detail of the foreground.

 

At the same time, the ultra wide-angle lens turns towering peaks into relatively small, insignificant landmarks on the horizon. Photographers have a love-hate relationship with ultra wide-angles because in order to fit everything in (to create that amazing perspective), they have to shrink everything and so you are at risk of losing the grandeur of many locations.

 

To bring out the texture in the ice and water, I use contrast. Sometimes it's just a contrasty curve adjustment layer, but I also use clarity in Capture One (or Lightroom), and the high pass filter technique with a soft or hard light blend mode in Photoshop. However, I generally add this contrast in locally - meaning I brush it in over the foreground, but don't touch the background (or if I do, I use a different setting for the background as normally I don't want it to be as contrasty and strong as the foreground).

 

And for those fortunate enough to be thinking about it, I have a photo tour going to Antarctica in December 2018 (back for Christmas) with Aurora Expeditions. And there's a 15% discount offer on some berths if you book before 31 August this year, so if this is sounding like you, visit the website and have a look here.

 

And here are a few more photos from Astrolabe Island... 

 

Read more: Astrolabe Island

Penguin Parts

Young King Penguin, Gold Harbour, South Georgia.
Canon EOS 5DSR, EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXT, 1/400 second @ f5.6, ISO 100

 

When you travel to Antarctica and South Georgia, one guarantee can be made: you will see penguins and lots of them!

 

In terms of photography, a rookery of penguins makes a great composition because of the incredible repetition of shapes. Standing, on nests, young near old - there are lots of variations and all you really need is a standard lens to capture it.

 

However, whether penguins or giraffes, there's a part of me that likes to photograph parts of animals. Sometimes they make interesting geometric shapes, sometimes it's just a tail or some wing feathers that make the photograph.

 

The lead image is the back of a young King Penguin. The tiny white feathers are possibly not from this penguin, but picked up from others. There have been occasions in Antarctica when it looked like it was snowing there were so many feathers in the air.

 

To take these photos, you need a long telephoto lens. A lot of these were taken with a 560mm or 600mm lens and both Sigma and Tamron make super zooms that reach out to 600mm for not too much money. Canon, Nikon and Fujifilm all have 100-400mm zooms which are reasonably priced when you compare them with the f2.8 and f4 super telephoto lenses. So, there are ways to get super telephoto performance without super high prices.

 

If I were going to Antarctica, I'd take the longest zoom I could, just for photos like these!

 

And funny I should mention that because I have a photo tour going to Antarctica in December 2018 (back for Christmas) with Aurora Expeditions. And there's a 15% discount offer on some berths if you book before 31 August this year, so if this is sounding like you, visit the website and have a look here.


And here are a few more penguin parts…

 

Read more: Penguin Parts

Printing At Middlehurst

Aerial, Middlehurst, New Zealand. June 2017 - Preliminary Edit
Phase One XF 100MP, 80mm Schneider, f4.5 @ 1/2500 second, ISO 200

 

"Plane or helicopter, sir?" Our Art Photography Workshop at the end of June was full of surprises. A fresh dusting of snow followed by a little warm weather, and then another dusting created amazing patterns and textures on the mountains that surround Middlehurst Station.

 

One of the most important aspects of aerial photography is to maintain a fast shutter speed to avoid blur (most of it vibration in the aircraft, but also the speed at which you're travelling). However, this has to be balanced with a reasonable aperture so you have edge-to-edge sharpness (sometimes the edges of the image aren't as sharp as the centre when shooting at the maximum aperture), and not too high an ISO setting (as noise can interfere with the fine detail of the landscape). Some photographers use shutter-priority exposure mode, locking in a fast shutter speed like 1/2000 second, and letting the aperture and ISO fall where they may. This is a good starting point, but personally I like to keep an eye on all my settings, adjusting them to suit the situation and maximise my image quality.

 

Tony Hewitt and I entertained just three photographers this year (we take up to six) in one of New Zealand's most remote and picturesque landscapes. Most of the stations in this part of the world are privately owned (access requires permission) and while Middlehurst itself is huge, our plane and helicopter flights took in an even wider flight path, including the coastal fringe and the interior ranges.

Epson SureColor P800 - on duty in Middlehurst

 

However, this is an art photography workshop and we allocate a lot of time to post-production and printing. Back on terra firma, our focus is on tranforming the raw captures into works of art, ably assisted by a high quality photo printer. Epson kindly lent us its A2-size SureColor P800, along with some Epson Hot Press Bright and Velvet Fine Art. We also had some Canson Platine, Rag Photographique and Aquarelle. And lots of ink!

 

Shooting from the air into mountainous terrain is always a little challenging because of the deep shadows and bright highlights. It's also a great opportunity to play with light and, using Lightroom, Capture One or Photoshop, remap the tones to create a stronger composition.

 

Read more: Printing At Middlehurst

The Problem With Sheep

The Cabin, Middlehurst Station, New Zealand
Phase One A-Series 100MP, 23mm Alpagon, 1/10 second @ f5.6, ISO 50

 

After our Middlehurst Photo Art workshop last year, we shot (err, photographed) sheep again this year, but I haven't processed the blurred shots as yet. However, what we did discover was this wonderful old shack.

 

We arrived just on dusk while doing a quick reccy of the east part of the station (it took three hours). Willy and Sue, the station owners, take turns to drive us around as neither Tony nor I are up to the task of navigating the changing river beds and narrow tracks. In fact, we stand up the back of the ute (our photography guests are warm inside) and marvel at how deftly the locals drive their vehicles. Lots of experience.

 

While the photographers were busy exploring the area around the shack, Willie grabbed his dog and practiced his own art. Now, I'm not quite sure what you call sheep herding with sheep dogs, but the way the dogs control the sheep and respond to Willy's instructions is amazing.

 

I noticed Willy herding a half a dozen sheep around and asked if he could place them in front of the shack. At the time, I couldn't get quite the wide-angle composition I wanted because of an overhanging tree (just out of frame), but looking at my frames now, I'm quite happy with the composition. Just maybe I should pick up the lone dog and move him a little further to the left?

 

Here's my Photoshop tip:

Read more: The Problem With Sheep

Big Yellow Taxi, Iran

Hamadan Taxi Driver, Iran.
Canon EOS 5DSR, 70-200mm lens @ 200mm, 1/400 second @ f2.8, ISO 100

 

New York is known for its yellow taxi cabs and no doubt they are prevalent in many other cities around the world, but I'd suggest few cities have as many yellow taxis as Hamadan in Iran. On our photo tour, Nuran Zorlu and I spent a few hours loitering in the Hamadan's busy centre with our band of adventurous photographers. The Imam Khomeini square boasts a rich but decaying circumference of elegant building facades, with a hurried, bustling congestion below. Crossing the road to the park in the centre of the square was not without its challenges!


Nuran had suggested that Imam Khomeini square was a great place to sit down and observe life, but we weren't sitting very long before we found ourselves the centre of attention, with plenty of opportunities to photograph the people.


What struck me was the number of taxis, either in transit as a laneless melee around the park, or waiting in long lines for fares. The challenge was to capture them as a part of daily life. For the street scenes, I found a wide-angle lens allowed me to get close to the taxis as they whizzed past, placing them in the foreground and retaining the building facades behind.

 

As I stood on the roadside, I noticed how every taxi had its own sub-plot inside, the life of the driver and maybe his passengers, so I switched to a 70-200mm zoom and lowered my camera height. This let me look across the road into the taxis and at the driver.


On occasion I was discovered by the drivers, but never castigated. Perhaps it was because I was obviously a foreigner and somewhat of a novelty in a country that has recently re-opened its borders for general tourism.

 

There's no doubt this taxi driver knew I was there!

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