Ten days ago, I was biking in the Everglades National Park, working hard to get some photographs of the Great Egrets and Great Blue Heron in flight. I write to you today from my desk in Pennsylvania, because my efforts paid off and I have more images to share!
For you photographers out there, I had to use ISO 2500 in order to freeze motion with a shutter speed of 1/1000 and keep the aperture wide enough to achieve enough depth of field that the heron would not fly out of my focus zone too quickly. My camera is the Nikon D800, with the Nikon 70-200 mm lens, handheld. When birds take flight, it is a challenge to keep them sharp in the final image.
The success of this image reminds me of why I prefer still photography to video: with a print, one can freeze this moment to enjoy forever. All of these camera settings worked to create an image you can enjoy as a 10″ x 10″ print, available on my website.
There are times when we travel across the globe only to be hugely disappointed that the monument of our dreams is covered in scaffolding. The U. S. Capitol building in Washington D.C.? The Trevi Fountain in Rome? Well, this time it was Lindisfarne Castle on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in England. I had admired photos of Lindisfarne Castle online with brilliant colors of sunrise or sunset and high tide surrounding the sky high castle. I had even bought a book on photography in the region.
Fortunately, the castle was reopened to the public on April 1, and I was able to walk the interior. A local shopkeeper told me the scaffolding is much less intrusive than it has been. This old castle gets quite a bit of wind and rain damage from its perch right on the North Sea.
With a footnote that the above true photo was altered in Photoshop, here is my edited image. It helps us to imagine the site without scaffolding. The timing of my visit was 3pm.
In the age of iPhone photography, most people seem to think that shooting a photo is all there is to it. Well, first you have to see the image, that is pre-visualize it as an interesting two dimensional image. Next, you have to have a camera or iPhone with you. Third, you need to compose the image and click. Then, many will share the image instantly on social media. Done.
Often you will get pretty cool results with that workflow, but professionals know there is much more to image making. Much expertise goes into lens choice, camera settings for depth of field, selective focus, and then processing. My workflow includes processing first in Adobe Lightroom, then Photoshop, and sometimes even a third application such as Topaz or Nik/Google applications. The impact of this tulip image is the result of my experience with shooting choices as well as processing choices.
A non-photographer will often ask the question, “Is that photoshopped?” as if the question were really, “is it real?” I like to explain that processing a digital photo with image editing software like Lightroom and Photoshop is an essential part of the creative process. I MAKE an image. I don’t just TAKE and image. Using Photoshop to process images is, in fact, my job.
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.