The Wild and Domesticated Photographer
“There is a love of wild nature in everybody, an ancient mother-love showing itself whether recognized or no, and however covered by cares and duties”
- John Muir
Friday, May 12th 2017
Sometimes viewing and seeing something is far better than "getting the shot". As photographers, we often spend a lot of time trying to get a better shot. But, end of the day what's that gonna get us? A greater and greater accumulation of photos...
I've often imagined jumping out of a plane and we decided to go with a parachute on this occasion.
The wife organised this for my 30th birthday recently and we were treated to beautiful skies, zero wind, and 360 degree views to the horizon! I had considered getting footage of the jump, but without being too cliche I think it's nice being happy to live 'in the moment' for what it is.
Look at me go - Not thinking about photos or cameras for at least 45 seconds...
Posted by Sturt Jasher at 12:31 PM
Thursday, August 25th 2016
Curiously, the mention of the word "Photoshop" seems to initiate a rather interesting, almost disdainful response, especially for those who are not involved in the weird and wonderful world of photography. Now, any photographer shooting digital files would understand that photo-editing software is an essential part of creating your final product. Perhaps one might wonder if it's fair to edit photos as it "alters reality". Fact is, you can alter reality in any way you see fit, in photography and in life - explains why you run around like a madman tidying up the house to impress your guests when that mess has been sitting there for days. I'd like to respond with a positive approach and highlight three ways you can "alter reality" in order to improve your photographs - without the use of Photoshop (PS) - or any other editing tool for that matter.
Firstly, here's my RAW and final image side by side. There's a clean benchtop with six potatoes loosely arranged on a dark piece of natural wood. Here's how it's done.
1. Clean up the bench
Pretty simple really. If what your shooting is messy, it will look messy in the photo. Duh. So, alter the reality by cleaning up a bit.
2. Arrange your potatoes
Again, not a difficult concept. If the potatoes are left in dissaray around the benchtop, it will be a rather difficult task to rearrange them using photoshop. I'm not saying you can't, but why wait until you're on the computer to get those spuds sorted. Alter the reality by creating the scene if necessary.
3. Move your feet.
OK, so the dishes weren't done when I was taking this picture and Step 1 wasn't completed properly before shooting the photo. Now I wouldn't want to show the messy kitchen for two reasons. Firstly, it would ruin the nice clean image. Secondly, you'd see my messy kitchen. Change your perspective to hide the reality.
Once that's all done, then by all means go and spend copious hours learning to master a piece of photoediting software so that you can truly alter reality.
FWIW, here's where it starts getting even more fun - a quick sample of a recent image that took a touch longer in PS. Loxley was a bit crazy whilst blowing the dandelion so getting the final image required a touch of cloning and rearranging in PS.
Posted by Sturt Jasher at 11:19 PM
Saturday, April 30th 2016
Have you ever been pushed for time and can't get outside during a beautiful evening sunset? Or is getting up early for a sunrise (especially during summer) simply not your cup of tea?
Golden hour light often lends itself easily to all kinds of photography, landscapes included. I often find myself waiting and in anticipation for the amazing colours, tones and shadows that are brought on with the beautiful and soft directional lighting around sunset and sunrise times. However, those times are often the most likely to clash with other activities including dinner, children's bedtimes, and morning sleeps.
I have often been left frustrated and left without a satisfactory image, but once you've overcome the obstacle behind the lens there are ways to overcome the obstacles in front of the lens. Keeping things simple is the key. It comes back to the old basics again here, but these are my three best ideas for what to think about during your daytimes landscape shoots!
1. Broader Composition
Have a look at the three images above and try to identify the key compositional features constructed from lines and shapes. The top one is probably the most complex and yet there are still only a few key features. Keep your compositions simple. Don't stress about the "rules" but if you're starting out, get familiar with a few common guides to help structure your composition.
2. Interesting Shapes
Do you ever want to capture everything you set your eyes upon? Simplify your field of view just for a moment and you'll find that your beautiful scene is filled with numerous smaller points of interest. Simplify the scene by picking one with some interesting shapes, colours, or features. Sometimes this can end up falling into the abstract category, but hey it might be a cracker of an image!
3. Lighting Conditions
Exploit the available lighting conditions. This could mean waiting, seizing a moment, changing position/perspective, or maximising the use of equipment (such as zoom, filter, tripod etc - whatever it takes). Look to see how and where the light is falling and focus your attention and thought on only one aspect. Again, simplicity is key!
If in doubt, return to ye olde K.I.S.S. priciple and recite it over and over in your head - Keep It Simple Stupid
Posted by Sturt Jasher at 11:15 AM
Saturday, February 27th 2016
Sometimes the stars simply align and events fit together in a magical and mysterious manner.
The story behind this beautiful piece of work is incredibly fortuitous to the point of unbelievable. Now don't get me wrong, experience and many hours of hard work went into it's creation, but that has nothing on its background story. There was an unusually high number of coincidences - more importantly the nature of these coincidences was simply inexplicable.
This is actually an abridged version, but here are SIX key points in the story.
1. *Alice (psuedonym) scattered her father's ashes on the eve of the full moon amongst the rocks in Old Dunsbourough. The specific site was of special meaning to the family and it was her late father's wish that some of his ashes be returned to the ocean upon his passing. The moonlight etched a beautiful stairway to heaven as his ashes came to rest in the water.
2. Although she had often attended the markets on a regular basis, for unknown reasons Alice had decided not to attend for some time. Fast forward to 13th December, 2015 which coincides closely with the final new moon of the year. This was happened to be the very first time I had ever brought my work to market. We met, she liked my work, and she told me her story; however, I didn't have an exact photo that resonated with her specific experience. It just so happens that we were planning a trip down south and were camping less than 15 minutes from the site, so I said I'd see what I could do.
3. The dates for our trip south had been confirmed months prior, so it was by pure coincidence I realised that we would be camping down south at exactly the time of the first full moon of the new year . Already by this point, I could now hardly believe the sequence of events that had fallen so perfectly in place.
4. I decided that I would attempt a shot on the eve of the full moon as it held potential for optimal moon elevation with the evening sky (I will add at this point I was completely ignorant of the fact that the ashes were scattered on the eve of the full moon. Catching a good moon/sun rise or set is always unpredictable and down south is finicky at best when there are so many cloud banks around. I will often wait on location until well after the best conditions have passed - as I thought I had done on this occasion. I had finished shooting, felt I got some decent shots, and was actually cleaning out my tripod to stow in the car when my wife prompted me to go and grab one last shot - this was it. My wife never prompts me to get 'one last shot' - not with two kids still awake at 8 PM!!
5. The photo went to print and I built the frame (the grain of which matched near to PERFECT in all four corners - that rarely happens!). I arranged to show Alice and her husband the finished piece at the most suitable opportunity which coincidentally fell on Tuesday the 23rd of February, 2016. Click HERE to see what we saw when we all sat down for dinner that evening. My mind was blown.
6. I had previously warned Alice that the piece would be large, but assumed it would easily fit in the back of their Navara. By now I should not have been surprised when it slid in with millimeters to spare on all four sides!
Why? I don't know, but I am honoured to be part of the story and it's an experience I am unlikely to ever forget.
Posted by Sturt Jasher at 08:14 PM
Tuesday, February 9th 2016
Do you like black and white photos? Some people rave over black and white images. I've heard loads of comments about how black and white is truer to photography than colour and other rather nostalgic concepts. I even saw a quote the other day that stated
"Colour photography captures a person's clothes, but black and white photography captures their soul."
What a ridiculous sentiment! As much as I adore a good monochrome image, this is gone way too far. Anyway, thought I'd chat about black and white because it's not always what it seems, especially when you have B&W filters on your instagram account or iPhone that will accomplish the task in 2 seconds.
Black and white ain't black and white. It's actually all about the colour (ok, and contrast). Let me explain my point using the below RAW image...
It looks a little flat (as RAW files do) and there are a few items I would prefer to exclude for my photo. So, here's one with a quick curve and crop applied...
Now I selected this photo because I like the photo and it works well for illustration purposes. We could go ahead and now apply the standard 'default' B&W filter which might look perfectly good in your eyes.
To me, this still looks a bit flat. This is because out 'default' filter has not considered the colours in the image. It's time to start fiddling with the colour channels here. We have a very good red/green separation so using the red channel will give us something that I find a bit more punchy and appealing. Hopefully we don't overdo it now and so blend back a little of the tones in the skin and we are DONE!
Without consideration for colour, this B&W rendition it wouldn't have quite the same effect. Keep in mind that the 'default' setting is basically a mix of colour channels that works reasonably well for most images and it might be the perfect one for your photo.
Save and close.
Posted by Sturt Jasher at 12:45 PM
Tuesday, February 2nd 2016
Before I embark on this post, I must preceed it with a few quick disclaimers. Firstly, every person is likely to have a slightly different way of shooting and as such will shoot a sunrise in a different way. Secondly, none of these tips are ground-breakingly new ideas or novel concepts and have probably been around for a long while. Thirdly, this post is largely aimed at an enthusiast level photographer, so pros will likely get bored at points.
Now, this post will be making reference to the following photo I recently captured at Sugarloaf Rock, Western Australia. I will then be breaking my process down into what I think are the most important steps.
Step 1: Wake Up
Now, this might sound rather obvious or elementary but it is a critically important part of getting a sunrise shot. Whether you set an alarm or simply rely on your boyd clock to get you out of bed, get up early.
Do not sleep in. Do not hit the snooze button for 5 mins (three times). Do not cut it fine by rocking up to your location at sunrise. If you do any of these things, chances are you've already missed the best light. All good if you want to be a tourist, by all means go for it - it has its own benefits including a chilled out brunch (with smashed avocado) beforehand, but it doesn't usually involve getting your best landscape shots.
For this photo, my feet were on the floor by 4:15 AM.
Step 2: Assess the Location
Once you are on your way (driving, walking, riding or camel-back) you must be paying attention to your environment. For the above photo, I had actually planned to shoot into the sunrise (East) in a location about 20 kilometers away. However, as I was driving I could see that the east sky wasn't great so I starting thinking of other options and ultimately chose this west-facing spot. On location, it's important to hunt for a spot that attracts you. Here, I spent about 5 minutes [awkwardly] clambering over rocks to position myself and simply find a spot that I really liked.
Perspective is very important at this stage in the game - small changes in viewing angle can have large impacts to your photo!
Step 3: Get the Shot
If you have done everything else right, this step should actually be a relatively small part of the story and yet it can be the part that appears daunting if you are unfamiliar with your camera etc. First, get yourself set up for the shot, namely tripod levels but this can also refer to body position etc especially in unstable or precarious positions. This can get a bit tricky sometimes especially if the surface is slippery or liable to move. I will then get my shot framed how I want it to look before moving onto my settings by thinking what I want to include/exclude in my frame.
Settings - we are now simply talking about exposure. Without going into the excessive detail, exposure is comprised of three three aspects - ISO, shutter speed, and aperture (there are websites like Cambridge in Colour that do an excellent job at the technical side of things!). I most often use ISO 100 for landscapes because it gives me the best image quality, as was the case here. Although it was already pre-dawn and I had shut down my aperture a fair bit, I also used additional full and graduated ND filters to block down the light levels further; this essentially created quite a dark scene for me so I could use a 13 second capture. I will often stitch my photos to create my final product, so for this Sugarloaf shot I ensured my sturdy tripod was levelled correctly and took 6 vertical shots (making sure I gave each shot sufficient overlap). A final note here on tripping the shutter - it's best to use a remote method to reduce camera movement such as a cable/remote release.
Key points here are...
● Secure the camera and frame the shot
● Set your exposure - use filters if necessary (or multiple exposures)
● Trip the shutter remotely
The natural beauty of the environment will do the rest for you. If it's a beautiful location, you have suddenly increased your chances at getting stunning results.
Step 4: Wait
I cannot count the number of times I have seen crazy light come along at unexpected moments. Whilst there is a certain level of predictability lighting conditions are changing almost constantly at this time of day.
Wait...something cool might happen. Being aware of new lighting developments lets you make the most of the crazy that might happen in front of you, but keep an eye on your levels or you'll get stung with irretrieveably bad exposures.
Step 5: Edit the Captures
My editing process on this image looked roughly like this...
● Edit RAW files in Adobe Bridge (yes shooting RAW is important) to adjust general contrast, colours, and brightness.
● Stitch files using Photoshop automatic function
● Make a coffee [Depending on file sizes and subsequent processing time]...
● Rectify anomalies and artefacts created by stitching process, rotate and crop if necessary.
● Apply adjustment layers to part or whole of image to taste
●Export high-res file as TIFF. This Sugarloaf image has a final size over 25MP. Coming from a camera with a 10MP sensor, this isn't too shabby.
If there are any terms you don't understand, get researching and find some good websites that can help understand new terminology.
Now go set your alarm clock!
Posted by Sturt Jasher at 08:29 AM
Thursday, December 17th 2015
Last week I wrote about three reasons you DON'T need the latest, greatest, and fanciest DSLR (or film SLR for that matter). Do you sometimes feel that the old iPhone is simply restricting you too much or you cannot quite get the quality you need? Perhaps then you might relate better to these three reasons you DO need that expensive DSLR.
1. Best manual control
Whether you are a landscape photographer looking to smooth out those waves into those beautiful creamy swirls or an event shooter who only has milliseconds to capture certain moments, you simply can't trust the camera phone to get your settings right. Your high-end cameras have better control over more settings (including control of lighting setups) and most will provide ergonomic ways to change them quickly which can sometimes explain the large size of the camera.
2. Best lenses
Yes, this can cost you an arm and a leg, but a good lens can be difficult to beat for quality. Camera phones will almost always be tailored to the needs of the general public and hence will optimised to produce wide-angle that are images sharp throughout so you can easily snap your selfies in a split second without concern for focussing distance or composition. As well as getting sharp photos with minimal distortion and flare etc, good lenses are essential to maximising things like selective focus, low-light quality, and telephoto ability. Again, it boils down to choice and control. If you care about these things, the ability to choose your lens opens many photographic opportunities.
3. Best Image Quality
Now here I'm not talking about your composition, lighting, or subject choice. From a purely technological perspective, the digital sensors and processors that come inside your high-end cameras still perform far better that those in your camera phone, especially in less-than-ideal circumstances such as nighttime and other low-light scenarios. I see this remaining the case for a while yet because many of the high-end DSLR cameras will continue to be targeted at working professional photographers who always want state-of-the-art performance.
You could probably come up with thirteen extra reasons, but that's my top three for today!
Posted by Sturt Jasher at 12:38 PM
Thursday, December 10th 2015
With so much cool technology around these days, it's certainly tempting to grab a bargain for a new camera because that's what you do right? But, do you really need the latest DSLR? Here's three quick reasons why you do not.
1. Too Heavy
Yes, even those cool mirrorless systems. You'll will need a dedicated camera bag and certainly cannot fit these things in your pocket. For most applications, is it not easier to simply grab your phone? I find this to be the case and plan on utilising my phone more!
2. Too Costly
If you have a camera-phone already or even a little digicam, you would likely be going out to spend a good $500 or more for a cheapy DSLR on a Christmas special. Aside from the issue of image quality, manual control etc, the truth is that high-end cameras cost a lot of money. Unless you are going to utilise these to their full potential, why bother when this is cash you could have spent on bills?
3. Too Confusing
So now you own this whopping great titanically awesome camera...
What now? From my experience, most people will be chucking this expensive mammoth blob onto auto and firing away. Yes, chances are that they will get some good shots and likely better shots than your average digicam. However, my point is this: your high-end DSLR will get complicated very quickly as soon as you move it off auto. If you love fiddling with dials and learning what certain controls do, go for yuor life - it's fun! But if you know it will remain on A and the hot-shoe (you do know what a hot-shoe is right?) is never gonna get scratched, perhaps the DSLR is not for you.
Next week, Three Reasons you DO need a DSLR!
Posted by Sturt Jasher at 4:18 PM
Friday, October 16th 2015
You decide to get photographing or upgrade your iPhone snapper, but chances are you will soon realise there exists an extensive choice in the matter. When every camera manufacturer is selling the flashiest and fanciest piece of gear since sliced bread, what are the key points for choosing the best one? Well, just yesterday, I was chatting with someone regarding some ideas for a new camera so why not put them into writing.
First a disclaimer on the topic - I don't often talk gear because I believe there are often more important things than equipment (however, I do have a not-so-secret fetish for drooling over cool camera gear). Photography always has and always will be somewhat reliant on good technology, so we might as well get some good ideas for what to use.
With an infinite budget, you could always walk out and purchase top shelf body and optics but reality will prove that money is almost always a pretty key factor. In my experience, there are some excellent deals to be had in pre-loved goods.
The SH market can be a bit scarier than buying new because there seems to be more factors involved and could be messy if you get a lemon. So, how do you sort out the bargains from the dodgy deals?
Here's my top five tips for navigating the second-hand market!
1. Know Your Needs
Get yourself organised with what you actually want to get from your photography - this will help you identify the gems amongst the mess. Different gear is targeted at different users. For cameras, I like to categorise them as small, medium, and big.
SMALL, think pocket-sized like Canon Powershot or GoPro (I love the GoPro concept), but don't bother with anything that doesn't give you a one-up on your smartphone!
MEDIUM, think mirrorless. There are even heaps of pros who have gone with this option due to their reduced weight, size, and price. Excellent photos can be had with these, but downsides include short battery life and poor ergonomics (especially for large hands).
BIG, think full DSLR. These days, if you're doing this you might as well get as good as you can afford. i.e. full-frame or medium format. These cameras should be getting you the best image quality (IQ), more lens choices, and better control ergonomics for image settings. Downsides are price and weight.
2. Gauge the Seller
Who would really trust a fella like this?
"Choose your dealer before you choose your car" is the slogon for a local Perth car dealership franchise. This also applies to photo gear - you don't have to know much about photography to judge a person's character. If a person is creepy, dodgy, or in any way untrustworthy, why would you trust their gear? In extreme cases, it's simply not worth the hassles if you are found to be in possession of stolen goods.
Also, don't bother with postage unless you are going through a reasonably reputable site such as eBay - this is particularly true with Gumtree and Facebook. Go see the item in person if possible, or purchase in the new market.
3. Ask Good Questions
Ask questions that relate to the use of the camera or lens etc. You want to know its history, how it's been treated, how old it is, how often it has been used. Good lenses can last a long time, so if they have been treated well they should outlast your camera body. Ask about shutter count/actuations - this is relative to shutter expectancy for model. Nikon stores this on file EXIF data, Canon requires software, Olympus is found in secret menu - short story, ask!
Steer away from items that have been dropped, had heavy or professional useage, used [extensively] in adverse conditions such as tropical climates, deserts (dust and sand), beach (sand), or has unknown history.
4. Examine the Product
This can be the most daunting aspect of buying SH gear, especially if you don't feel confident about identifying a lemon.
Look for signs of dirt, excessive dust, wear & tear, or areas that might indicate lack of care such as scratches or small dents. Moveable parts should be smoothly operational. Lenses should be clean and free of mould or internal dust.
Keeping it simple, you're assessing the overall condition of the item. If you're not happy with anything or don't know how something works, ask the seller.
5. Compare to Grey
Finally, you should compare your item to what is referred to as the 'grey market'. This is a rather vague term that refers to online sellers who provide new items for much less than reputable dealers and authorised resellers. You might find what you are after here and get an excellent deal.
Downsides are that there is usually no warranty or brand product support with these items. Some people are happy to regularly buy from certain dealers, however there are also plenty of stories where people have receieved faulty and even fake products.
Posted by Sturt Jasher at 12:31 PM
Sunday, September 20th 2015
Most flowers in the bush are springing to life this month in colour and in scent. Many trees are now beautifully green and give home to an array of wildlife. Some areas will not be so fortunate this year after a controlled burn recently got away on organisers.
Where do you go to see wildflowers when they're all burned to a crisp? To the wildflower show of course!
...enter Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show
Whilst there will be a huge variety of species within a few steps of one another, there are a few unique challenges to overcome. Namely, this is about making the environment look slightly less artificial.
Ravy Wildflower Show hosted 600+ species of flowers this year, regularly exhibits flora from around the area, and holds a variety of other festive events and evening activities each year. Big kudos to the organisers of the display as immense number of flowers there were well-presented and maintained!
Posted by Sturt Jasher at 9:54 PM
Tuesday, September 8th 2015
With spring under way and the bushland in bloom, chances are you might get out hunting for wildflowers. You are lucky enough to find some stunners - great, but how are you going to photograph these beauties so they can be enjoyed once they are long since gone?
You won't need the fanciest camera on the market with billions of megapixels, but you might appreciate a few tips to improve the way you shoot.
1. Get Low
By this, I mean very low. These little fellas aren't really built for basketball and many won't even get past the top of your shoe, which means you're gonna need to get down in order to get close - quite possibly on your elbows and knees. Whilst you're at it, try not to squash a dozen other delicate little blossoms as you awkwardly try to get in position.
2. Go early
This will help for a number of reasons. There is a good reason why golden hour is famous for its magical feel - it is beautiful if you can make the most of that gorgeously soft and side-on lighting. Blossoms will be opening as the light arrives rather than closing for the evening. You are also more likely to catch some nice dew drops on your flowers if you go early. The early bird catches the worm - so if you are at a popular wildflower location, going early means you can experience the beautiful bushland before the crowds arrive.
3. Vary your lighting
If you go in peak season, there are often plenty of flower samples to choose from within the same species. Look at which direction each blossom is facing and choose your shots according to the way light is falling on them. Get some frontlight, some backlit, and don't be afraid to augment the lighting situation by bringing your own.
4. Look at the details
A suitable background will bring about massive improvement to an average shot. So many times I have come away from a location thinking I had some great shots in the bag only to later realise they were destroyed by poor background attention. Unless you are a fascist for the purest photojournalism, it might help to remove unwanted sticks and leaves from the surrounds prior to your shot. Yes, even carefully scraping off those precious silky spider threads from your bloom will make it look better - on this note, please remember to minimise your disturbance of the area so that others can enjoy the flora!
5. Compose tightly
Making a composition tighter generally means moving key elements of the photo closer to one another. For some species like many spider orchids this can be difficult, especially if there are multiple flowers on the one stem. Don't be scared to crop close (either in camera or in post) even if that means excluding portions of the bloom.
Posted by Sturt Jasher at 5:42 PM
Tuesday, September 1st 2015
Spring is here and the garden is bursting to life. Even the succulents have a flower or two here and there!
Greens, reds, mauves, and shades of in between. In tiny nooks and crannies or hiding underneath greener foliage. The succulents seem to thrive on neglect and create stunning features.
They are all vigorous in their quest for life and existence. There are enough species and variations in plant life to make Attenborough proud - enough beauty to inspire Monet.
All this in the back yard!
Posted by Sturt Jasher at 5:42 PM