Sunday, February 27, 2011

KPS photography workshop in Mt Buller Part 3

Here are some new insights I have gained from the workshop. These are also notes to myself.

1. There are basically three techniques to shoot landscape: a) available light, using filters when necessary. Ian Rolfe is fond of using 81B warming filter for his landscapes.; b) Underexpose for the sky and then use a fill-in flash to light up the foreground; c) Use HDR technique.

2. Not all countries are good for landscape photography. The quality of light is supremely important in photography, and countries closer to the equator (35 deg latitude and less) do not have much warm light and lengthy shadows. In Malaysia, the sun is already very bright and contrasty within minutes after sunrise. Even Ian Rolfe finds it hard to shoot in the tropics. Now I know why I should not try to shoot the type of landscape photographs I see in the temperate countries.

3. The ideal aperture setting for landscape photography is 3 stops below the highest aperture setting in my lens. For a full frame camera, this frequently works out to be F11, but for my APS-C sensor (1.5x crop factor), it works out to be F8. I have often assumed (and being told) I should use F11! Finally, shoot in Aperture Priority, because the hyperfocal distance is dependent on the aperture setting. When focused on the hyperfocal distance, the image is sharpest from a third of the distance before the subject, and to infinity.

4. Realistic HDR requires 9 images taken from -2.0 to +2.5 in 0.5 F-stop increments. My last foray into HDR photography was years ago, when it was popular to take 3 images for merging into one HDR image. The resulting image looked unrealistic, and so I dropped my interest in HDR. Ian Rolfe showed how we can use 9 images instead to make a realistic image that takes advantage of the HDR technology. He says Photoshop CS5 has the best HDR capability because it can even remove ghosting for seascape HDR! (HDR normally requires the image to be perfectly still; the sea has moving waves).

5. I now have a new appreciation for some of the seldom used features in my D90. For one, the multi-shot feature is not only for action photography and model shoots; I can also use it for shooting multiple images for HDR. Next, I can also use the exposure bracketing in combination with multi-shot, to quickly shoot 9 images in succession.

6. Ian Rolfe says the AE button is the second most important button in the camera, after the shutter button. And I did got to use it a lot this time. Moreover, Ian says the camera's metering can be mislead if there is a predominance of certain colours. Hence it is necessary to manually compensate up or down using the AE button. This is especially important when shooting macro of flowers. Now I understand why I had problems with shooting red roses and not yellow ones! (Red is a classic example of hard-to-shoot colour)

7. Tips for midday photography. Experienced photographers will try to avoid shooting in midday, but sometimes it is necessary. Ian Rolfe gave these tips: crop the sky; wait for passing cloud; move in close; use fill flash; watch for bad weather (makes good images); work in shadows; consider monochrome; carry a reflector.

8. Ian Rolfe is a firm believer that there is no right or wrong exposure. This has taken a weight off my back, as I have always been trying to get the "right" exposure. His tip: expose for the subject of interest, and for the mood you want to achieve.

9. Ian Rolfe shows a technique he uses for improvising waterfall shots. I don't know if it is original, but it is the first time I have come across this. Instead of either shooting at high shutter speed to freeze the motion, or at very low speed to create a silky effect, he shoots multiple images on one frame at an midway shutter speed to give a different look to the water. Yes, my Nikon has multiple exposure feature, although limited to just 3 shots.

I won't reproduce all the notes I have taken in this workshop. I think the above covers the key lessons I have learned from this workshop.

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