Last installment of the series on Ultra Wide Angle (UWA) lenses, dedicated to panoramic compositions, perhaps one of the most common uses of UWA lenses. As in the previous examples, “filling the frame” with foreground, middle ground and background elements remains one key aspect of a successful composition. The images below were taken with Canon’s EF-S 10-22mm UWA lens on EOS 40D and EOS 7D cameras and the EF-16-35mm on the EOS 5DIII camera.
Ultra Wide Angle lenses are not for portraiture. But they can deliver excellent images documenting people and wildlife in their environment. Here a few examples using Canon’s EF-S 10-22mm, EF 24mm L f/1.4 and EF 16-35mm L f/2.8 II UWA lenses.
Part III of the UWA series. Here dedicated to the effect of strong lines in the composition. The examples below have all in common the presence of strong lines guiding the eye towards a point of interest. Sometimes they are just crossing through, inviting the viewer to step inside. The images below were taken with Canon’s EF-S 10-22mm and EF 24mm L f/1.4 UWA lenses on EOS 40D, EOS 7D and EOS 5DMarkIII cameras.
Part II of the series on Ultra Wide Angle lenses. UWA lenses will allow for lots of things to find room in the composition. The challenge then becomes to fill the frame with interesting things. To attempt the capture a vast expanse of sand, sea and sky in an open beach is one of the most common misuses of UWAs. The result will be huge white and blue surfaces with no detail and nothing for the eye to latch onto, and with all likelihood make a dull composition. A strong UWA composition of a landscape requires striking objects in the foreground, an interesting middle ground and drama in the background (e.g. interesting skies or clouds). But there are no rules in creative photography, and breaking the accepted rules can sometimes yield an even more striking effect. All images below were taken with Canon’s EF-S10-22mm UWA lens on a EOS 7D camera. These examples illustrate how a UWA composition can be strengthened from an interplay between foreground, middleground and background elements.
Kicking off a new series on Ultra Wide Angle (UWA) photography. For this series, we will consider as UWA anything from 10mm to 24mm. UWA photography is wonderful but can be challenging. Exaggerated perspective, distorted edges and weird relationships between foreground and background objects are some of the features that can play for or against the composition. UWA lenses will exaggerate the depth of field, making background objects appear further from foreground ones than they actually are. That’s why UWAs don’t make good portrait lenses, as they exaggerate noses and foreheads. On the other hand, they are ideal to picture people in their environment. UWA lenses add drama to the images and can tell stories more forcefully due to their exaggeration of perspective. The images below were taken with Canon’s EF-S 10-22mm UWA lens on EOS 40D and EOS 7D cameras. These examples illustrate the use of UWA to emphasise perspective in a composition.
his last installment of the photo series on Tasmania is about its dramatic coastline. Here are some images taken in Tasman Peninsula, with spectacular views across to Cape Pillar, Cape Raoul, a late night shot of the famous Remarkable Cave and a view of Crescent Bay and its beautiful beach from above Mt. Brown.
The first two shots used a Galen Rowell’s Graduated Neutral Density Filter (3 stops, soft edge) from Singh Ray to tame sky highlights and balance the foreground. The Remarkable Cave shot was taken late at dusk and needed a 6 sec exposure on a tripod to get enough light and, at the same time, soften the texture of the waters coming into the cave.
This is truly a gorgeous place, with endless opportunities for landscape photography. Not very crowded, as you can see. Highy recommended!
Tasmania is truly a photography paradise. The Mount Field National Park offers endless opportunities with amazing greenery and breathtaking waterfalls. Here a few examples, starting with the iconic Russell Falls.
An exposure of 0.5 to 1.0 seconds, like those shown here, makes the falling water silky smooth, strengthening the sense of movement. In plain daylight, however, such exposures would clearly result in a totally blown-out image. A neutral density (ND) filter can be used to diminish the light getting into the camera and so allow longer exposures in bright natural light. The Vari-N-Duo from Singh-Ray combines a neutral density filter adjustable from 2 to 8 f/ stops and a warming/polarizer in a compact and convenient design. The desired amount of density can be dialed to achieve a proper exposure. The combined warming/polarizer reduces glare from sky, water, wet rocks, and other reflective surfaces and enhances color saturation for added drama. Polarization can be easily controlled by rotating the ring just behind the min/max ND ring. A sturdy tripod is a must, obviously.
Mount Kinabalu lies in the Malaysian province of Sabah in the island of Borneo. At 4,095.2 meters over sea level, its summit on Low’s Peak is believed to be the highest peak in South East Asia.
It does not require specialized skills or equipment to climb Kinabalu, as I did on May 5 this year of 2011. A good physical condition and a bit of psychological preparation will do. A guide is assigned to the climber(s) when these enter the national park. This could be avoided, I gather. My guide, a young boy from the village, was pretty useless, primarily because of his limited (or non-existing) knowledge of English. He limited himself to walk a distance behind me texting with his girlfriend on his mobile phone. It is important to climb with a light luggage and there is fine balance between having the right amount of extra cloth and carrying a really heavy backpack. After gathering some information on the web I opted for a set up that proved very good. A light water-proofed jacket is a must. Mine was from Patagonia and could be squeezed down to almost nothing. I had with me a pair of convertible trousers, two t-shirts (one long-sleeved), long under trousers, two pairs of gloves (regular sturdy gloves and liner gloves), a cotton high-neck sweater, a skiing hat and good and sturdy hiking shoes with hiking socks. I started the climb on shorts and a t-shirt. I put on my jacket when a shower came. Also important to have is a head-lamp (you’ll really need it for the final climb!). I also packed with me 6 energy bars and a bunch of nut/fruit bars as well. A half-liter (at least) bottle for water is also necessary. It can be refilled along the way. All this, plus my gripped EOS7D with the EF-S 10-22mm wide angle zoom lens found room in the 200AW slingshot from Lowepro. The set up was perfect, as I later found out.
The climb from the entrance at Timpohon gate to the Laban Rata guest house is a 6km hike ascending from 1866m to 3272m. A photo gallery HERE will give a good idea of the ascent and what came afterwards. It took me 4 hours of non-stop climbing to get to Laban Rata… those endless steps…! The path has different levels of difficulty, vegetation changes with altitude. Lots of different plants and flowers. I arrived shortly after 1PM and took a nap at Pendant Hut, just above Laban Rata, before dinner at 4.30PM. I booked a via ferrata descent, so the training session in Pendant Hut happened just after dinner. I was in bed at 6.30PM. Aspirins are recommended to avoid headaches from altitude sickness. I got badly bitten by bed bugs, so perhaps insect repellent would have helped here. I got up at 2.30AM for the final ascent to the summit. Warm cloth on, here is where the head-lamp, hat and sturdy gloves came to good use. It was not particularly cold, and soon enough I was shedding off the sweater. Climbing on slippery rock in complete darkness is quite something. I conquered the summit at 5AM, after a 2.5h hike of 2.7km from 3272m to 4095m. The idea was to catch the sunrise at the top, but I was 45 min too early and fog and clouds were coming in, so I decided to come down ahead of the pack behind me, after the obligatory summit photograph. Sunlight appeared on my way down bringing incredible views of the mountain. A high ISO and a steady hand was needed to photograph what really looked like another world. Truly beautiful rock!
Two hours later, I was back at Sayat-Sayat for my first ever experience with via ferrata. It turn out much better than I expected and it is highly recommended. I was alone with my ferrate guide, who unlike the climbing guide, was a real professional, very helpful and knowledgeable. Very pleasant descent with astonishing views from the mountain and the valley. My legs turned into jelly during the final descent from Laban-Rata to the entrance of the national park, which again took some 4 hours of non-stop walking. The Carlson waterfall, at the end of the trail, was a refreshing sight with which to end two amazing days.
Scenes with very high dynamic range (containing very bright and very dark sections) are difficult to capture in a single shot without either blowing out the highlights or underexposing the shadows. Although common sensors in current DSLRs have 7 to 8 stops of dynamic range, many natural scenes would normally have a much greater dynamic range, too large to be captured accurately, even though they would look perfectly normal to our eyes. This is because each photoreceptor in the retina can adjust its gain independently (or almost independently) of each other, while an ISO setting in the camera applies equally to all pixels in the sensor. HDR imaging is a way to extend the dynamic range of a capture by taking sequential exposures of the same scene with bracketed settings. High-end DSLR cameras can do this automatically after dialing in the desired bracketing sequence and interval. Typically one shot is taken at the “correct” exposure indicated by the metring system, while additional shots are taken above (say +1, +2 or +3 EV) and below (say -1, -2 or -3 EV). The trick is to get all highlights and shadows correctly exposed in at least one of the exposures in the series. The images in the series are then combined to generate an HDR image using specialized software. Later editions of Adobe Photoshop can do this. Dedicated HDR software, such as Photomatix, is however easier to handle and yields very nice results.
The three photographs below -taken during a recent visit to Pompei- were shot at 1/125, 1/500 and 1/2000 sec, respectively, on the EOS 40D with EF-S 10-22mm lens at 15mm, ISO400, f/11.0 (always apperture priority for HDR). The corresponding histograms are shown under each image:
Detail in the shadows is totally lost in the first image, but all highlights are inside the histogram and the sky exposed correctly. The opposite aplies to the far right image: shadows are now resolved but highlights are completely blown out. The middle image is the “normal” exposure, what one would have been left with from this scene had one not decided to take bracketed images.
Below is the HDR image produced by Photomatix from the three photographs:
A well exposed, nice image, with detail in the highlights and the shadows, just like my eyes saw it! Incidentally, the marked diagonals add to enhance the composition here. Very pleased with this one!
I am often asked why I shoot my photographs in RAW format. RAW capture refers to the direct transfer of the information acquired by the sensor of a digital camera to the memory card without any in-camera processing. In the 18-megapixel Canon EOS 7D, this translates into files of 25MB, compared to the 6MB of a high-resolution JPG-compressed file. Why would one like to shoot RAW files? The RAW format contains all the information captured by the sensor and is therefore most amenable to corrections of exposure, saturation, chromatic aberrations and noise during post-processing. Compressed JPG files contain a reduced amount of information and so are much more limited to adjust during post-processing. Why would someone want to adjust a photograph? Shown below are three examples taken during a recent trip to the Otavalo valley in Northern Ecuador. In all cases, the top image is straight-out-of-camera, while the lower image is after conversion in Adobe CS4 Camera Raw (no Photoshop in any of these examples!).
With the early afternoon sun blazing over these beautiful mountains at the feet of the Imbabura and a very bright sky, the top image straight-out-of-camera is flat and lacks clarity and contrast. The sky is overexposed, detail in the clouds is lost, the different tones of greens in the foregorund do not come out as they looked in reality. There is also uneven exposure across the frame. In the second image, all this is corrected. This picture has vibrant colors, even exposure in foreground and background and detail in the clouds. Comparison of the histograms before (left) and after (right) also reveals these differences:
The highlights are clipped (outside of range) in the first histogram but tamed in the second, which also has a more even distribution of tones.
This awesome wide-angle view of the flooded crater of Cuicocha was taken at the wide end of a 10-22mm EF-S lens aided with a circular polarizer B+W filter. The filter did a good job at taming reflections on the lake, giving a deep beautiful blue color to the water. But the top image lacks pop, the clouds are overexposed, and the greens in the foreground are wahsed out. The lower image shows the lake in all its glory, even under such an intense midday sun. A comparison of the histograms before (left) and after (right) tells the story:
Highlights are now better resolved (although some clipping persists) and the tones show a much nicer dynamic range.
This last image was taken at the Cascada del Peguche, a small but very beautiful waterfall near Otavalo. (But… you ought to watch out for those tiny mosquitoes; they are truly deadly!) Here, some small rapids downstream the river called for a long exposure to show off the flowing water. The photograph was taken handheld with a Canon EOS 7D and the100mm 2.8 IS L macro lens at 1/5 second and f/25 (barely open!). At 1/5 sec exposure, image stabilization came really in handy here! The shadows on the left image have no detail, it can barely be made up what’s below those stones on the upper left and bottom right. Neither the grass or the water shine as they should (and did!). On the right, the water is pure silk and the shadows have detail and pop. Much better contrast as well. OBS! no polarizer was used here. (I still need to get a 67mm polarizer for this new lens.) The compressed shadows of the original show very clearly in the left histogram:
All those clipped dark pixels (left) are now back and resolved very nicely (right).
Why capturing RAW? The conversions shown here would have been much more difficult to obtain from in-camera JPG files. On the other hand, the disadvantages are larger files, hence the requirement of bigger memory cards and disk space, and post-processing time at the computer. As the examples above illustrate, the results are well worth the extra effort.