We just returned from a month of travel, first giving 2 seminars in the UK (England and Scotland), and then vacationing in Southern Ireland (EU, not UK). The light was poor to average; it rained a lot, and I did the best I could with the six total minutes of good light I had. :-)
Lots of pictures to share and lessons regarding those pictures. I'll be as brief as I can.
1. Overcoming Lightroom's Small Slider Range
|Do Jewish Scotsmen get a Kilty conscience?|
An overcast sky can provide nice soft light for portraiture (as long as the sky isn't in the shot), but pretty awful conditions for landscapes. Here shooting RAW is essential for its expanded dynamic range compared to jpg. BUT, programs like Lightroom may not allow you to slide the controls enough to do all the correcting you need.
|The "Highlights" slider in both Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw (part of Photoshop) can be used to recover some of the nearly-blown-out highlights in the sky. But as you can see, it doesn't slide to the left far enough.|
Fortunately, Photoshop has a feature that lets you apply the same controls multiple times until you get what you need. Just go to FILTER --> CAMERA RAW FILTER... and voila! The same set of import controls pop up again, allowing you (in this case) to slide the "highlights" slider to the left for even more correction. I had to reduce the highlights 3 times in order to get the sky dark enough in the Scotsman looking through Binoculars shot (see right example, two images earlier).
This technique was also used in the image below, photographing an amazingly huge public artwork sculpture called "The Kelpies" in Scotland:
|I really hate overcast skies, for it can sometimes lead to blah (and therefore unlicensable) images. Shooting RAW can often allow you to recover the highlights that get blown out in the .jpg.|
2. B&W Can Often Save RBL
|The Forth bridge (on the left) might be an engineering marvel for its day - the longest cantilever bridge span in the world – a title it held for 27 years. But it's hard to be impressed with bad light.|
|That's a bit better.|
3. Lush Landscapes Require Underexposure
This one's not intuitive. Most shots you take in the forest, of mountainscapes, and of vegetation in general will come out overexposed, no matter what brand of camera you shoot with. Why? Because your camera's built-in exposure meter is assuming that your subject is reflecting back 18% of the light that hits it. (Your average subject has 18% reflectivity. It thinks you're shooting something average. And by definition, most of the time, you are.)
|The dark rocks and moss reflect back MUCH less than 18% of the light that hits it. Your camera's meter says, "I need to let in more light in order for the average brightness to look like an average scene!" And so it looks washed out.|
|Setting your Exposure Compensation to -1 will usually make it look the same way it looked to your eye.|
Anyway, forests, mountains, and landscapes in general (discounting the sky) tend to reflect back much less, and so your camera says "OMG! I have to let in more light to make this look average!" and so it does. This is why I set my exposure compensation to -1 when I’m out in the field like this – it corrects for it in the camera. Many of you might look at the 2nd image and say "That's a little dark for my taste"; however it was an overcast and dark day and these pictures accurately depict how it looked to my eye.
|Underexpose by one stop. That's how it looked to me.|
4. Forcing the Blue Hour using White Balance
I'm a big fan of twilight shots take at "the blue hour", like the two examples below:
|The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. Wait for the sky to darken and the subject to lighten, and when the two are close, that's the best time to shoot.|
|The Sydney Opera House image from 2015.|
These are the kinds of shots I had envisioned when we returned to the Kelpies to shoot the sculptures at night. But sometimes the sky doesn't turn blue after sunset, instead turning a yuckky grey-blue to which nobody will say "Wow!":
It's OK; but not what I had pre-visualized. So I decided to try changing the camera's White Balance to "Tungsten", which applies an overall bluish tint to the entire image. It worked!
Normally this is a dangerous technique, since it also casts a blue cast over your subject as well. But the illumination at this particular moment was an incandescent yellow, which I knew would cancel the blue cast, making the subject appear white. There were about a dozen other photographers out there that night; I'm pretty confident none of them got a shot that looked like this.
5. Always have a camera with you!
At 10:00 PM after a good day of driving we checked into the hotel and went downstairs to have dinner. When I saw this rainbow outside shortly thereafter there was no time to run back to the room and grab my camera (which was charging at the time); so I whipped out my trusty RX-100 V and got two pretty awesome establishing shots. This is why God created the RX-100. :-)
More images after a few announcements.
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The last Friedman Archives High-Impact Photography Seminar for the year will take place in Tacoma, Washington, the last weekend in August. Come join us! (And if you can't, there's always the streaming version...)
Taking suggestions on where to hold seminars in 2017. Let me know if your photo club would like to host! My seminar can bring all members to the same level and challenge the common misconceptions that the older folks still hold dear. Your club will be abuzz for months.
[BTW, I can't help but share this email I received from one of the Manchester attendees shortly after the event!]
There was a huge rush to release titles before the trip began; a whopping 7 titles, including the Fujifilm X-100F, X-T20, X-T2 epub format, and Sony A99 II, A6500 epub format, RX-100 V in French, and A6300 in Spanish and in French.
This month there are two new updates to the Fujifilm X-Pro2 and and X-T2 ebooks by Tony Phillips, covering new features introduced with the most recent firmware updates.
Also, YES, I'll be working on a book for the Sony A9 in the next couple of months, and Tony Phillips is working on the Olympus E-M1 II ebook at the same time. Send me an email (Gary at Friedman Archives dot com) if you'd like to be added to the notification list for either of these titles!
|Not a "Wow!" shot, but still licensable.|
|A couple relaxing to the view of the Falls of Clyde. No model releases needed.|
|The UK was hit by radioactive rain after the Chernobyl meltdown back in 1986; producing contaminated grass that the sheep grazed upon. I am told that the sheep simply will not graze anywhere else, and it is estimated to take about 30 years for the radioactivity to dissipate. In the meantime, the sheep are being bred and systematically killed until such time as they can once again be used for food. More info here.|
|The fantasy of running your own Bed and Breakfast...|
|... and the reality.|
|This is how big the Kelpies sculptures are. Carol is standing at the base, wearing a pink jacket.|
|Some of the Seminar attendees having fun. The Scotland seminar was held in a 1400's-era castle.|
|Shipwrecks on the Isle of Mull|
|On the uninhabited island of Staffa, in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, reside hundreds of Puffins. Here are just two shots.|
|A snapshot showing just how many puffins there were on this island!|
|The Kelso Abbey, founded in the 12th century.|
|It happened a lot.|
|A Highland Cow. Even the females have horns. At birth.|
|St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin|
|Grey subject on a grey day? Find some color and compose accordingly.|
|A little bit of good light.|
|There were about 200 cows overtaking the road.|
|Happy cows come from Ireland.|
|Generic Irish landscape.|
|Mizen Head - The Southern tip of Ireland.|
|Cliffs of Moher on a miserable day. Tried to save the shot by including some color in the foreground. 10 minutes after I took this picture, it started pouring for the rest of the day.|
|A friend of mine I haven't seen since 1985 was in Ireland competing in an Irish Dance competition the same time we were. How could we not re-arrange our trip to see her? Here she is, winning an award.|
|Subtle Irish sunset.|
Until next time,
Yours Truly, Gary Friedman
My most memorable evening in Scotland - enjoying real folk music made by a circle of friends (not some tourist performance). I promised a compilation of the music, and here it is -- shot in 4K no less with my trusty RX-100. David Kilpatrick sings and plays at the end.