I see green grass out my window today, but it’s starting to snow, and the blustery wind blew my hair up and in every direction. I was so cold, I had to come inside and take a hot shower! I’m reminded on this photo I took six years ago today after a fresh snow fall.
I used a textured brush tool in Photoshop to reveal the image through a layer of solid white for a notecard. It almost looks like I have scraped the fresh snow off my window.
With my husband and photography friends having departed, I woke up on my own in Maui this morning, but my productive photography workshop with Gary Hart gave me a tip to start my morning in a unique way. On a rainy afternoon in Hana (on Maui) this week Gary shared his methods for moonlit, full moon, and star photography. Then, last evening I remembered that this morning was just one day after the best day of the month for shooting a moonset — still close enough to capture something. Yesterday would have been better, but it was cloudy in Hana. On the second morning after a full moon, the moon (waning but 97% full) will set two hours after sunrise, when the landscape will be gently lit to balance the light of the moon. AND, as fate would have it, my room at Napili Shores opens on the Pacific Ocean, facing west where I saw the sunset last night. I looked up the time of the sunrise and moonset on my Focalware app, and set my alarm. It would only take me five minutes to put my clothes on, grab my camera and set up my tripod outside.
About 30 minutes after sunrise, when the full moon was about 20 degrees above the horizon was my best opportunity for an image. I was able to frame the moon with the silhouette of a palm tree, and the sky would only get brighter in the next 30 minutes, making it harder to separate the brightness of the moon from the brighter sky.
I did venture down on the lava rocks by the ocean in an effort to capture the moon sinking into the ocean, but clouds got between us (the moon and me), and that view didn’t happen. (Daily reminder: Mother Nature does whatever she wants. Cooperation is not in Her vocabulary.) I did capture some other cool images that I will share in future blogs, though. A vivid rainbow appeared for a few fleeting moments, and I captured that. Stay tuned to this nature photography blog…now is great time to subscribe by entering your email address. I’m posting some other cool Maui and Hawaii images on Instagram. Follow me there at @cathykellyphotography.
Sometimes you just have to respond to a magnificent view by making a stitched panorama with your camera — not just an instant one with your iPhone. I was so inspired after hiking to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica Dome in Rome, and inside St. Peter’s under the central dome.
Here are some best practices for shooting for a successful panorama.
If practical, use a tripod and make sure your camera is level. Realistically, you aren’t going to hike all day in the summer heat with a tripod in one hand, so if you don’t have a tripod handy, just do your best to hold the camera level as you shoot a series of images from left to right or low to high. Some locations don’t allow tripods — such as St. Peter’s (and most Major League baseball and football stadiums in the U.S.).
With your camera set to Program, Aperture Preferred Mode or Shutter Preferred Mode, determine your best average exposure setting. Especially outside, looking in one direction may be brighter than another, but you are going to need to choose one exposure setting for your camera, and then set it on Manual.When I shot these panoramas in Rome, I had a 24/70 lens on my camera, so I used the zoom level of 24mm and the aperture of f/2.8. That aperture is wide open, but I knew the whole scene would be in focus, so it worked. I chose an ISO level and shutter speed that worked (fast enough to eliminate camera shake blur), and set the camera on Manual, so these values would not change as I pointed the camera in different directions along my axis.
I also reduced the variables by making sure that my focus was constant (manual/turn off auto), and white balance was set manually, not auto. One last variable to eliminate: don’t use a circular polarizer filter, as this will change the color of your sky.
Now you are ready to shoot. Overlap each frame by at least one third. This way, Photoshop will have an easy time stitching the frames together and eliminating lens distortion.
Back at home, open all your files in the series in Photoshop and run the Panorama action. Crop and resize your finished file. You will be rewarded with a large file, that might enjoy printing as large as possible at a lab. My panorama of St. Peter’s Dome would make a print 18″ wide by 38″ tall with an ideal resolution of 300 dpi. That’s a powerful print!Interested in buying these or other images from Italy? Visit the Italy gallery on my website.
I continue to experiment with ICM (Intentional Camera Movement). A good subject is one with strong contrast and strong vertical, horizontal or circular lines — any lines that can be accentuated with camera movement. Last time, I used a vertical subject, trees reflected in a pond, and this time I used the strong colors of sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
I like the peace and serenity of the selective blur. I also find myself studying longer the colors and lines and the blend of hues. Here you can compare the the ICM image with the still photo. Do you find the ICM image more moody? Which image do you prefer to look at longer?
I did minimal processing to the ICM image: just some tweaking of the contrast, clarity, vibrance and highlights and some spot removal. The streaking effect was achieved by moving the camera during a .6 second exposure. To lengthen the exposure, I lowered the ISO to 100 and closed the aperture down to f/22.
Experimenting rewards my desire to create, because every image is different. Will I find a market for this genre?
My camera settings were ready to capture this graceful Great Egret in flight when he lifted off. You need a fast shutter speed, the bird in focus, and a proper exposure (difficult when the bright sky is the background). I was really excited to see this egret with two wing positions and water dripping off his feet.
Since the sky was cloudy, I had my ISO set to 400. My Nikon 70-200 lens was extended to 200 to isolate the bird without moving too close to disturb him. I had my Nikon D800 set to Aperture Mode and set the aperture to f/5.6 to keep the bird in focus if he moved a bit closer or farther from me. This setting gave me the balance between wide depth of field and enough light to yield a fast shutter speed (1/1,000) to freeze action. I also employed the fast continuous shutter mode, so my camera would shoot multiple exposures with one long depression of the shutter button. Of course, you have to make these choices ahead of time, so when the bird takes off, you can pan and press the shutter button.
Yesterday in a Florida swamp, I recognized an opportunity to try a new style (new to me): Intentional Camera Movement (ICM). It was late afternoon, and the sun was behind me as I gazed across a pond at a placid scene of trees and brush reflected in the still pond. Admiring the sunlight on the vertical lines of the trees, elongated into their reflections, I suddenly realized that I could make an interesting graphic by moving the camera vertically while exposing as long as possible.
Since I had been working on shooting a bird and some otters across the pond, I had the equivalent* of a 300mm f/ 2.8 lens mounted on my D800. This was a good choice to switch to ICM, because, as you may know, it is pretty easy to blur a shot made with this lens if you are shooting handheld! I set my camera aperture as small as possible (f/32) in order to generate a slow the shutter speed (1/6th second) in Aperture Priority mode. This would set the shutter to be open long enough to create a vertical blur as I moved the camera. I recalled that I should begin the camera movement before pressing the shutter and keep an even movement speed. I experimented with about 6 images, and of course each one was a little different.
This one was my favorite for a few reasons: 1) Camera movement was truly vertical so the vertical lines of the trees are emphasized. 2) I like the color palette of blue, green, white, yellow and brown. 3) I like the tonal contrast and the mirror effect created by the shoreline. 4) My overall impression is that I would not tire of looking at this image. I think it would look cool in a home or office — especially as a metal print. Do you?
*Nikon 70-200mm lens with Nikon 1.5 teleconverter.