Off On My Utah Trip..

29 06 2009

This morning I get the IV tubes out of my arm (thank goodness) and then straight to the airport for the USA.  I’ve got a conference for the first couple of days, then the photographic part of the trip begins.  The focus of this trip is to shoot the incredible landscapes of Utah at night.  I’m going to be using Moab as my base and while I’m there I’ll be catching up with Chris Conrad (who’s large format B&W night work I love) as well as Chad from The Night Writerz blog / podcast (if you love night work, then subscribe to this one).  With a bit of luck I might even catch up with Stu Jenks who does some kick-ass night work (depends if he can get a couple of days off to join us).  Here’s where I am going…

My key areas of focus for my 2009 SouthWest trip

My key areas of focus for my 2009 SouthWest trip

From Moab I’ll focus on Arches and Dead Horse State Park, then I’ll head down to Island-in-the-sky in Canyonlands for some dawn/dusk panos.  Then I’m going to treck up to a little known place called Fantasy Canyon near Vernal Utah.  It has the most bizzare rock formations I have ever seen.  I really want to try to do some B&W fine art light paintings as part of my trip and Fantasy Canyon may be perfect for that.

Then I’ll head down to Goblin Sate park which also has some pretty bizarre rock formations that should be good to light paint.

If I get time I’ll also drive down to Devils Garden near Escalante which has got some great rock structures for night work.

While I am away I am planning to make some videos that are aimed at photographers wishing to travel to these areas…. kind of behind-the-scenes stuff that will appeal to any photographer who would like to shoot Utah.  I’m not getting across to Bryce and Zion as I have done Bryce before and I’d rather spend my 9 days in an area of the SouthWest that I haven’t been to.  From a landscape perspective  Arches & Canyonlands is more what I am after as opposed to Zion.

Wow.. so many gorgeous places to photograph over there and I’m not even going to cross down into Arizona.

I’m taking my camera gear, a few clothes, my swag, camp burner , satellite phone and epirb (the sat phone and emergency beacon is to keep my wife happy… because I’m going to be in some pretty remote areas on my own photographing, this way I have a couple of different ways of getting help if I get bitten by a snake or have some other accident.  I always keep remembering that story about the guy who had to amputate his own arm when it became trapped in a rock…. not for me… no sir!)   I’m going to have a 4WD while I am there, so I hope to really get off the beaten track into some of the lovely 4WD tracks in these wonderful parks.

Leaving now for the airport… stay tuned.



Christian Fletcher’s Rock Star East Coast Tour

26 06 2009

Well this week saw the Christian Fletcher roadshow pull into Sydney.  I was under strict instructions from Mr. Eastway to take Christian out on some pretty wild and dodgy seascape shoots.    I made this short video which shows some of the locations I took him to.   However it became apparent that our photographers from the West aren’t quite used to the waves and rocks we have on the East Coast.    Enjoy


Filters for Seascape Photography (Part 3 of 3) Which Filters Create Colour Casts?

20 06 2009

colourchecker2Warning.. this post is very geeky and only for photography nerds.  If your not into techy geeky stuff, close the browser now!!!  As for you techy geeks… you’ll probably get a kick out of this

OK, this is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now. I’ve always wondered whether Singh Ray and Lee filters are truly Neutral or whether they have a colour cast in them.   Some of you may have seen this interesting experiment with Cokin “Neutral Density” filters that displayed a terrible colour cast and forced me to take the filter back and replace it with Lee Filters.  So anyway I wanted to do some controlled test to see if I could measure any colour casts that filters introduce.  So here’s my geeky write-up of the experiment.

Aim: To determine whether Sing Ray and Lee filters introduce colour casts when used separately or together, and what sort of correction curves I need to apply in Photoshop to fix any colour casts.

Method: I photographed a Macbeth Colour checker under a controlled 5000K fluoro light with the following filter combinations

  1. No filters (control image)
  2. 3 stop Singh Ray GND filter
  3. 3 stop Lee GND filter
  4. 3 stop Singh Ray GND filter + 3 stop Lee ND filter
  5. 3 stop Lee GND filter + 3 stop Lee ND filter


I used the control image to set my white balance settings in Light room and then copied these settings to the other images and opened them in Photoshop.

In Photoshop I applied a curve adjustment layer and  used the black, white and grey eye droppers to white balance the control image and then saved this curve adjustment and applied it to my other images to ensure consistency.

I then created a second curve adjustment on each image that was shot through ND filters and again created a curve that was auto-adjusted using black, white & grey eye droppers.  It was the result of this adjustment that showed me whether there was any colour cast.  These curves have been saved so that I can see the impact of applying them to real-world images.

Results:  When only one GND filter was used, The Lee filters were very neutral, however the Singh Ray filter had a definite bue cast (which surprised me a bit because they are significantly more expensive than the Lee filters).  However when I used a GND filter together with a straight ND filter I DID get some minor colour casts as shown below.

Lee 3 Stop GND filter on it’s own
This first adjustment layer is for the Lee 3 stop GND filter used by itself.   You can see that the RGB channels are pretty much right on top of eachother which means that besides the tonal adjustments, the curve didn’t need to adjust the colour mix.

Lee 3 stop GND

Lee 3 stop GND filter - You can see that the RGB channels were all pretty much on top of eachother. No colour cast.

Singh Ray 3 Stop GND Filter
The curve below shows the correction required to fix the colour cast introduced by the Singh Ray filter.  There seems to be a blue / cyan cast added with Photoshop having to add more red and a touch of green to make the image neutral.

SR 3 stop GND
Lee 3 stop GND coupled with the Lee 3 Stop ND filter
You can see that there is a slight yellow cast here as Photoshop has had to add more blue in the mid-tones to correct it.
Lee3 plus Lee ND
Singh Ray 3 Stop GND coupled with Lee 3 Stop ND Filter
This shows a blue cast introduced by the two filters.
SR3 plus Lee3ND
If anybody would like copies of these adjustment curves, just drop me an email stating which filter combination you shoot with and I’ll send you back the saved curves file that you can apply in Photoshop.  I hope this gives the techy geeks their fix for the week.

First Seascape Workshop Ran Last Weekend

17 06 2009

SeaSchool-7365Last weekend I ran my first seascape workshop in Sydney’s Northern Beaches.  The workshop was sold out and limited to 10 participants only.  Now these 10 photographers have to go down as being unbelievably lucky when it comes to shooting conditions.

We started on Saturday at Mona Vale Community Center where we went through some information about equipment, how and where to research for a seascape shoot as well as the capture techniques that I use when I take my seascape shots.  We had a range of skill levels from beginners to more hard core seascapers.

When we headed off to Turimetta Beach for our Dusk shoot, the conditions were absolutely perfect… and I mean PERFECT.  It was one of the most gorgeous sunsets that I have seen for a long time.  When you combine that with the fact that Turimetta is looking absolutely stunning after the recent storm… it wasn’t hard to predict that many of the students would forget about the task I had given them to shoot (don’t shoot any more than two compositions)…. and instead many of them entered a state of heightened frenzy as they darted around capturing the gorgeous light that was changing by the second.


Once darkness had descended, we had a debriefing session on the beach and looked at the lessons learned from the shoot.  Those that were in “frenzy mode” recognised it and vowed to slow down for the next morning’s dawn shoot.

The next morning a small group of hard-core seascapers departed for the rock shelf on North Turimetta, while my old man and I worked closely with the newer students on the finer points of seascape capture.  The sunrise was to die for….  Probably one of the best sunrises I have seen in the last 6 months!   All the students slowed down and focused on capturing a couple of “perfect shots” rather than racing around to get as many compositions as they could.  They all seemed to be applying the theory well and had ear-to-ear grins on their faces as they watched mother nature put on an incredible sunrise.

SeaSchool-7378Then it was time for a big breakfast to refuel before the post processing session.  We set up all the computers and started working through a detailed post-processing workflow.  I realised after a couple of hours that we were moving too slow as a group and we would never get through all of the processing in the time allowed in the hands-on format, so unfortunately about half way through I had to turn it into more of an instructor-led training for the remainder of the day.   Getting a phone call from my wife to say that one of my sons was in an ambulance en-route to Sydney Childrens hospital with suspected spinal injuries from his rugby game didn’t exactly help my concentration for the last part of the course (son turned out OK).

We finished the workshop including printing one of the students images to show how to take your images all the way to print.

While I am going to make some changes to the post-processing session for day 2 in my next workshop I think the participants really enjoyed the course.  If you would like to see what one of the participants thought of the workshop, check out his blog post here.  I just hope that the July workshop group gets shooting conditions as good as that of last weekend.

Here’s just a couple of the participant’s images from the weekend.

Turimetta Dawn by Donna Oakley

Tim Wratie photo

Great New Night Photography Blog Site

15 06 2009

Hey for all you guys (and gals) that are interested in nocturnal photography, I want to put in a plug for The Night Writerz.  This is an awesome site with podcasted interviews and some great info.  I just listened to the fantastic interview with Moab B&W large format photographer Chris Conrad.  I’ve dropped Chris a note and hope to meet up with him or do a night shoot with him on my trip to Utah in July.  Anyway, if you are into night photography, do yourself a favor and check out Night Writerz.


Filters For Seascape Photography (Part 2 of 3)

3 06 2009

Four Tips & Tricks When Using Creative Filters

This is the second article of three on using filters on your camera for seascape work.  Here’s a link to the first posting on which filters to buy for seascape work.  I thought it might be worth sharing 4 little Tips/tricks that I have found useful as I’ve been working with creative filters.

Tip # 1 – Carrying your filters

IMG_5035I spent about a year trying to find the best way to carry my filters.  At first I left them in my camera bag, but found it slightly cumbersome rummaging around for filters when you need to swap them quickly. I also lost one of my Singh Ray GND filters while on a dawn shoot at Turimetta (expensive loss). Anyway  I ended up going to an army disposal shop and purchasing an army hip belt.  This is absolutely perfect for carrying creative filters for a few reasons:

  • The pouch holds all 7 of my filters as well as the creative filter holder
  • The dimensions perfectly hold my grad ND filters inside their padded protection cases
  • I know that my filters are always with me even if I put my camera bag down on a rock somewhere
  • Now I grab the pouch and I know I have my entire filter kit with me (rather than spreading filters around pockets in a photo vest for example)


So if you are looking for a better way of carrying your filters you might want to consider a belt pouch like this one.

Tip # 2 – Remove one filter slot from your creative holder

If you enjoy shooting with ultra-wide lenses, then even with the ZPro holder (100mm) you will probably find that you get some vignetting when you are zoomed right out.  I reckon on my D700 I get a bit of vignetting if I am any wider than about 19mm.  One way you can cut down the vignetting slightly is to remove the third row from the filter holder.  This leaves you with two slots instead of three.   In this configuration I can still put my circular polariser in the holder, then add an ND filter as well as a graduated ND filter.  I have found that I never use the third slot.  So if you don’t need three…. simply unscrew the four screws and take the outer slot off.

Tip# 3 – If you do need to go ultra-wide, reverse your holder

Reversed holder gives one slot in front of lens and two slots now behind the lens

Reversed holder gives one slot in front of lens and two slots now behind the lens

I’m not sure if you can do this with Lee holders, but you can definitely do it with Cokin filter holders.  If you are just using 1 filter (like a grad ND) and you really want to shoot as wide as possible,  you can reverse your creative filter holder and shoot ultra-wide without vignetting.


Tip # 4 – Keep two lens clothes to remove the salt.

If there is a lot of salt spray in the air, your filters will get coated fairly quickly.  You will need to clean them regularly.  Microfibre cloths can quickly become smeary if they get damp with seawater, so I keep two lens cleaning clothes in my pocket,  a chamois one that does a good job of absorbing all the moisture and drying my filter well, then I give it a final polish with a dry micro fibre cloth fora streak-free finish.

If anybody else has any tricks or tips for using creative filters, I’d love to hear about them.

In my final article, I’m going to try and do some experiments around understanding and quantifying the colour casts that various filters create on your images.