Friday, 23 April 2010

Lest We Forget - Anzac Day Photography Tips

Image by Danielle Lancaster

With Anzac Day now drawing near we thought it would be a good idea to look at how we should be considering approaching our photography on the day.

ANZAC was the name given to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps soldiers who landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey early on the morning of 25 April 1915 during the First World War (1914-1918).

As a result, on this one day each year (25th April) the whole of Australia ‘stops’ in a sign of gratitude and national pride. These solemn ANZAC ceremonies of remembrance are our way of saying thank you to ALL of the men, women and children (so many were under the age of 18) who have fought and died in the name of War.

It’s a wonderful opportunity to capture memorable images and practise photo documentary styles of photography.

Here’s a few tips for your Anzac Day Photography:

Research about Anzac Day and the associated wars. It gives an insight into the men and women, conditions etc so you can appreciate what some of the people you are likely to photograph are experiencing on this day. It will also allow you to have a more interesting and involved experience on the day.

Stimulate your own creativity by seeking inspiration from other photographers in books, magazines and on the internet.

Know the route of the march, times, places, best spot to park etc and do a rec trip.

Observe closely – there will be little things happening in every crowd. A tear wiped, a child holding a placard, hands being held etc.

Make sure you get your exposure right! You may be photographing in a variety of lighting conditions and matrix metering may not always be the best.

Tell a story with your images.

Composition, composition, composition! 

Keep pressing the big button as often as possible!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Bluedog Photography Heads to Injune and Carnarvon Gorge - Day 5 - 7

Better late than never and we are still before 12 midnight:

We returned to ‘Cobbadah’ homestead last night after two days in Carnarvon Gorge and of course ‘out of contact’. Before we left for our trip to Carnarvon the Bluedog truck had to go through a wash down to rid it of any Parthenium – a weed of national significance that has invaded much of the country side here. Unfortunately it looks a lot like Baby Breath and therefore often picked by tourists and easily transported to other regions.

Then a quick stop at Injune to stock up on necessitates such as chocolate, picnic bars, yes a little fruit and easy snacks to carry for our hikes we then headed further north into the Central Queensland Sandstone Belt.

Our first stop on the way was to a site on the Dawson River where Aboriginals sat hundreds of years ago sharpening their axes and spears. Imprinted in the rocks alongside the river the ancient grooves were readily recognisable.

We obviously forgot to tell Jake the bit about the ancient part as he was very excited to look at buying his Dad an axe from the ‘axe factory’ and after a 15 minute walk into the site and his comment, ‘so will they be open now?’, we realised we maybe could have explained this better.

We also explored a ‘possumer’s’ cave used during the depression when local men would hunt possums for their skins. These caves built within the sandstone under hangs were used to dry skins by using cyanide when the season was officially closed. Protected by the elements of weather the man made caves looked like they had been built yesterday.

Onto Carnarvon we went with Jake all the time learning more and more Australian history and eagerly listening to Puddy who had joined us telling many stories of life on the land. We were also joined by Darren Mansfield who had done the photography workshop and just returned from Cambodia doing volunteer work.

Over the next two days we explored Carnavon Gorge and all its wonders: the Moss Garden, the amphitheatre, saw ancient palms, giant King Ferns, numerous birds, whip tail wallabies, a very fat green tree snake and Darren was disappointed to find the walk to Aljon Falls, one of his favourite child hood Carnarvon haunts, near Wards Canyon now closed.

It was almost sunset when we emerged from the gorge yesterday afternoon and the air was already taking on the coolness of early autumn. The drive back to the property took us almost two hours of dodging roos, missing cattle by a hair and whisker and more eager chatter amongst us all.

We bid Puddy and Daggy farewell this morning and headed into Roma to the fat cattle sale as my travelling companions had never been to a cattle sale before. Therese went hunting for hectares in earnest and I for candid character portraits. Once again cameras were clicking away by all of us.

As we head home today we are reminiscing on our trip: the highlights outweigh the negatives – actually there are no negatives. Therese has taken the wheel so I can finish our blog and is steering the Bluedog truck on a course due east.

I have trialled a new tripod – the first day cursing and swearing at it and nearly throwing it into the next paddock until I realised what it could do. The first on the market designed by a women and I’m keen to put it through more paces. We tested 2 Lowpro bags – one may yet stay in the kit.

Jake has had a steep learning curve in rural life and Australian history. He now knows what a Birdsville is, that Bourke and Wills have done more than make swags, and there is life beyond the Sunshine Coast hinterland. He has taken the sledging on board and given plenty himself. And while we do give him heaps he is an enthusiastic student and I am proud of my choice in he and Augustine – they will indeed make a formidable team.

We must thank the people of Injune – your fabulous hospitality will see us return to your wonderful country town and thanks to everyone that has followed our blog. Next week another trip is planned to.......

Roma Sale Yard Character Portrait
By Danielle Lancaster

The Amphitheatre
By Danielle Lancaster

We bid farewell to ‘Cobbadah’
Photo by Puddy Chandler

A micro section of the Moss Gardens.
Photo by Danielle Lancaster

And how did this get in?
On the track through Carnarvon with Darren Mansfield in background.
Photo by Jake Campbell

Monday, 19 April 2010

Bluedog Photography Heads to Injune and Carnarvon Gorge - Day 4

Day four started before sunrise as we saw sprays of pink sunrays expand from the horizon we eagerly pulled on our boots, grabbed cameras and tripods and headed out on foot. Unfortunately the clouds gathered and quickly dashed our hopes for a magnificent sunrise. However, there is plenty around the homestead to keep any happy snapper occupied.

Puddy as usual dished up a huge country breakfast before Daggy tethered Danielle and tightened her girth adding another two holes to her belt - at least now we don’t have to continually watch her hitching her jeans up all day.

Then into Injune we headed for another day of workshops with another eager group of photography students. Today Danielle skilled them up on Photoshop so they can make those awesome images they now know how to take, really pop.

Not long after arriving back at the homestead the next door neighbour arrived in his mustering chopper - a huge attraction for Jake who would have said three times, ‘It’s a helicopter!’ Yes Jake we know what a helicopter looks like.

The highlight for the day was a sunset drive up to one of the hills on the property where we are staying, ‘Cobbadah’; an Aboriginal word meaning high place. Our early morning rise and good day’s work was eventually rewarded with a brilliant sunset over the undulating foothills of the Carnarvon Ranges. Naturally, we had a bottle of red at hand to salute Mother Nature at her finest.

Danielle thinks she has created a monster with Therese continuing her night long exposures each night late into the evening. Her swearing at Jake walking through her image with his head lamp on would have made the most hardened of shearers blush. Anyone who may think Therese is sweet and innocent let us tell you otherwise.

Our night is ending with some bird watching. Daggy’s bird book is out, and we have spotted a Tawny Frogmouth (for those that do not know these are not owls) perched on a gum tree branch near our tin abode and Therese is unfortunately not adding another lifer to her list to night. For Jake though it is another first, no doubt not the last for this trip.

Tomorrow we head to Carnarvon Gorge for two days. For the first time in a long time the river and waterfalls are flowing so we look forward to our visit to this iconic Queensland attraction. But...we may not have service there so our daily blog may be delayed for a day or two till our return to ‘Cobbadah’.

Sunset this arvo on ‘Cobbadah’
Photo by Danielle Lancaster

Homestead Lanterns Swinging
Photo by Therese Lilis

Daggy tightens Danielle's girth.
Photo by Jake Campbell

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Bluedog Photography Heads to Injune and Carnarvon Gorge - Day 3

Day 3 started for us at the end of Day 2 as we saw midnight come and go sitting under the stars on a nearby hill - yes we could hear the dingoes. The shooting star count was won by Therese who also discovered a new essential to take on any star trail shoot you do. As you may already know a bottle of fine red is a fundamental; we'll now add to that a requirment to wear red clothing - the stains from Therese spilling more than what went in her mouth are a testament to this.

Jake learnt photographers do long hours and the teen who needs so much sleep has now done a day with less than four hours sleep. It has been worth it as Jake nailed his first star trail and he keeps telling us, ‘it’s totally sick’. He’s on a steep learning curve: he now knows what the Southern Cross looks like, how to wash dishes (we hope his Mum is proud), how to resize images for the blog, and that cattle here are bred for meat not milk.

The countryside around Injune is the prettiest I have ever seen it. The rolling hills carpeted in an endless green of waving long grasses that reach upwards and nearly hide the cattle growing fat in their rich pastures. A heavy band of cloud hid Mount Hutton when we awoke this morning threatening more rain may be on the way. In fact, as we headed out of Injune a few rain drops splattered across the windscreen.

One of our main subjects today for photography was road kill and we can now add a Wedge Tail Eagle and Dingo to our list of road kill images and a wedgy feather now adorns the vent inside the Bluedog Discovery.

A highlight today for Therese was checking out the local ‘talent’ at the Injune Hotel. She found two hopefuls (see below!) but I took the opportunity to decline any offers.

We are now settled back at the homestead With Daggy and Puddy now back from their sojourn to Brisbane and yes we have a wine in our hands and are ready for another adventure tomorrow.

Therese chatting up the talent at the Injune Hotel.
'On the Tune'.
Photo by Jake Campbell.

Jake taking the oppurtunity to get a photo of
a sleeping birdie.
Photo by Danielle Lancaster.

Doggie having a nanna nap - we have to stop Jake writing captions.
Photo by Jake Campbell.

Jakes first star trail.
Photo by Jake Campbell.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Bluedog Photography Heads to Injune and Carnarvon Gorge - Day 2

I’ve just come in and 8 working dogs have been let off for a run, fed and either tied up or are back in their cages. The moon, a mere crescent, hangs low in the sky and from a nearby hill we can hear the dingoes howling.
All part and parcel of our caretaking on the property we are staying on west of Injune.

Coming back to Injune has meant catching up with friends and making new acquaintances at a Bluedog Beginner Workshop today. Any workshop at Injune is always accompanied by a great selection of home-baked goodies - these ladies know how to cook and keep our tummies full - many thanks!

Lunch seems to be a pub tradition and we headed for the Injune Hotel where Kay and Jodie looked after us all. This historic pub always has ringers, farmers and locals around ready for a friendly chat and to spin a yarn.

The workshop was challenging - no two cameras were the same. However that did not allow anyone the chance not to participate with the sparklers, as always being a huge hit - even for Therese.

For the first time during an Injune workshop we had an outing to the newly opened Henrick’s Park. The sandstone sculptures carved by locals mimic that of the surrounding Central Queensland Sandstone Belt including Carnarvon Gorge. This has to be a tourism feather in Injune’s growing crown. If you pass this way don’t miss stopping and having a look.

So what other highlights have we had today? For Jake as usual it is the food - he continually grazes and I am threatening to place him on a strict diet and exercise routine on our return. We restrained him from his pledge this morning of ‘going mental in the Spar’ (the local food store).

Therese and Jake continue their teenage bantering - a compliment for Therese who seems to relish in coming back with something quirkier then Jake each time. It’s a healthy competition I see gaining more momentum till our last leg of this journey.

The biggest highlight would have to be the wildlife. Huge wedge tailed eagles, roos and wallabies (we narrowly missed one this morning travelling into town) a bustard at the front gate and many more birds.

And tonight more wildlife awaits as we head to a nearby hill where we can hear the dingoes howling for a series of night photography shots. Of course us ‘big girls’ have a bottle of red ready to sample as it is a fundamental equipment requirement for any night shoot and yes Jake has a bag of food packed.

All photos by Therese Lillis

Danielle doing what she does best.
(shes not telling a joke)
Photo by Therese Lillis

And they tell us they are working!
Hanging with the locals.
Relaxing after a hard day at the homestead.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Bluedog Photography Heads to Injune and Carnarvon Gorge - Day 1

Our first day on the road has been a big one! We left the mountain with the Bluedog truck not quiet packed to capacity a little before 5.30am. This was an hour after we had scheduled, and for that we can thank Miss Augustine and maybe a bottle or two of fine red while packing last night - am still wondering what clothes I may have packed.

The run down the highway was uneventful except for Therese and I rating the tradies on their way to work - she’s a tough one on that! Then it was up the range to Toowoomba and beyond onto the long open roads and westward bound into the wide open spaces.

It’s been a day of new discoveries and new photography adventures for my travelling companions. Jake and Therese ventured into the water Steve Parish style photographing a water lily now extinct in its natural habitat at Chinaman’s Lagoon in Miles.

“This was sick. I would never have done this if Danielle had not ‘pushed’ me to do it. If I went there I would normally put my big lens on and just shoot from the bank and by going in I could try different angles and get a better shot,” said Jake.

Jake saw his first eagle in the wild, we photographed grass trees on a sandy remote track north of Roma, spotted camels and no doubt Therese and I have educated our junior travelling companion in many topics of interest outside of photography.

We are now settled on a 30,000 acre property north west of Injune at the foot of the magnificent Central Queensland Sandstone Belt. Our abode for the night is the “Tin Hilton’ (the shearer’s quarters) Mt Moffett looms high behind us, the dingoes are howling and the stars are twinkling so we are set for some star trails later tonight. Check you all tomorrow!

Please note: all images are being shot in RAW and jpeg but we are not editing on the road so only unedited jpegs are being loaded.

Jake  goes "Steve Parish' style to capture a rare water lily.

Therese does not hesitate and hits the cool water to photograph the rare lilies.
(If Therese had not done this we may have had to push Jake!)

The Bluedog vehicle along the Graften Terrace Track north of Roma in Queensland.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Image Stabilisation – in lens or in camera – is it worth it?

Image stabilisation (IS) is not a new technology, however due to marketing a lot of confusion has been generated to the benefits of IS in both lenses and those digital cameras which feature IS in-camera.
To firstly understand what IS does and why you may need a lens/camera with the IS feature it is important to understand what actually causes blurred images.

  1. Camera Shake
    Camera shake is caused by pressing the shutter release button and moving the camera during the exposure. Every time we press the shutter we cause some amount of movement. This may be ever so slight and depending on how steady you are, blurriness can go unnoticed.

    There are other factors that contribute to each person’s level of ‘steadiness’ such as age, medication, sleep deprivation, sugar levels etc. Even if you have ‘sniper-steady’ hands there are shutter speeds you will not be able to hand hold without causing blur.

    The likelihood of camera shake increases as the focal length used increases. As focal length increases, the slight movement of the camera get magnified and therefore the chance of blurred images increases. (See previous blog ‘Reciprocal of Focal Length Rule of Thumb’.
  2. Subject Movement
    Caused when your subject moves during the exposure, that is: while the shutter is open and the camera is recording the scene.

Also called Anti-Shake, Vibration Reduction, IS may be optical (in lens) or image sensor based (in-camera) and counters the effect of camera shake ONLY. It makes no difference to your exposure settings. The technology, and in jumps the physics of photography, ‘moves either a lens element (optical image stabilization or O.I.S. or simply IS) or the image sensor (CCD Shift) to compensate for camera shake. In doing so, it eliminates, or reduces the likelihood of obtaining blurred images due to camera shake. It helps to ‘steady’ the image projected back in camera by the use of a ‘floating’ optical element. Canon IS stabilised lenses have as a IS suffix after their name, Nikon uses the VR "Vibration Reduction" suffix on their image stabilised Nikkor lenses.
So let’s return to the original question: Image Stabilisation – in lens or in camera – is it worth it?
Once again there are positives and negatives to both options and even to having IS at all. It basically gets down to the environment you are shooting in and your subject.
One could try and argue that all you have to do to counter balance low shutter speeds and camera shake is to increase the ISO, however in all but the higher end professional bodies shooting at high ISO ratings produces noise. Fine if all you wish to produce is 6”x4” prints or web based images but high ISO also produces a decrease in image quality. Even for the keen enthusiast this combination quickly becomes unacceptable.
Take this example: You are using a 60mm lens, the reciprocal of focal length rule of thumb says we need to use a shutter speed of 1/60th or faster to eliminate camera shake. But the light is low, you don’t want to increase your ISO for the reasons outlined above and you are either using your maximum aperture or require a certain depth of field at the aperture you have chosen, and you need to use a slower shutter speed such as 1/15th to gain a correctly exposed image. If a tripod is not an option then you cannot hand hold the camera without there being blur from camera shake. Using IS allows us to take our exposure 2-3 stops below that required so now with this scenario we are able to hand hold without worrying about camera shake. If the light drops another 2 stops and say we require a shutter speed of ¼ the IS will not eliminate it totally but it will reduce it.
There are a few situations this becomes advantageous:
Adventure Traveller/Photographer:  No one can argue - 2 stops from IS is 2 stops worth of advantage and carrying a tripod, no matter how light they are now being produced, can be cumbersome especially if you are trekking, kayaking, biking etc.
Those that need to use long focal length lenses: Such as nature, wildlife and sports photographers who need to use long focal length lenses and hand hold these 2 stops are invaluable.
In-low situations where the subject may be moving: and this includes breathing where you either don’t want to use flash or flash is not an option. This is particularly of assistance to portrait and wedding photographers.
Image stabilised lenses and cameras are heavier. Yes, some may be only 100 grams but when carrying all your gear e very gram adds up in the pack or on the back.
IS also means a new set of components or moving parts. This is now another thing that can breakdown and need repair. If it’s the lens that contains IS then the lens needs to be sent away, if it’s the camera then you need to be aware you may lose the body for 1-2 weeks (or more).  If I had the choice I know which one I would prefer to be without.
It is also reported IS lenses do not last as long although there is no concrete evidence we can find on this. For most photographers lenses are a longer-term investment than camera bodies – they will spend more money on good glass. If IS lenses do in fact have a shorter life span I feel many will not notice it due to the time between the purchase  and the ‘breakdown’.
IS lenses are more expensive than those that don’t have it. There has to be something added on for R&D. If you are a landscape photographer who uses a tripod it is useless, in fact you need to have it turned off! If you are shooting outdoors in bright sunny conditions or in a studio under controlled lighting it also would be of little benefit as the shutter speed being used would be appropriate for the focal length of the lens being used.
With in-camera IS, users have the advantage of having IS available with almost any lens they wish to use – sometimes a big bonus.
In fact, we could say in some cases IS is almost a virtual tripod.
Both in-camera and lens IS have their advantages and disadvantages. For general interest shooters there is an obvious benefit with in-body IS. Individually we all have to make an informed judgement for ourselves. Will the leaders of the photography pack, Canon and Nikon be introducing in-body IS in their higher end SLR digital in the future?  Only time will tell.
 Thanks to Michelle Waller for kindly allowing us to use these two images taken during a Bluedog Beginner Photography Workshop.

The above image was taken with the lens Image Stabilisation on and camera mounted on tripod.
The only difference in the image below is IS was turned off.

Photography by Michelle Waller

Saturday, 10 April 2010

‘Reciprocal of Focal Length’ Rule of Thumb

Is a simple photography ‘rule’ that to be able to handhold a camera without noticeable camera shake in the image the shutter speed should be at least the reciprocal of the focal length of the lens being used.
As we said it’s simple: use a 50mm lens you would need a shutter speed of /50th sec or faster to obtain an image without noticeable camera shake. With zooms this applies through the range: 70-200mm is 1/70th sec at 70mm and at 200mm you should be using 1/200th sec.
This is NOT the same as image stabilisation. (See next Blog)
There are 3 ways to increase the shutter speed and make it faster:
  1. Open up the aperture.
  2. Increase the ISO.
  3. Use flash
If these are not an option then it’s onto a tripod for the only way to get that shot.
This is also why it is so important to stand properly when photographing and hold your camera correctly. With you left leg forward you have a much more stable position over the ground. With your hand under the lens barrel you support it and there is no chance of pushing the barrel, even ever so slightly during the pressing of the shutter (another downward movement).
This may effectively give those who are a little more ‘stable’ another stop exposure. Some people should be enlisted as sniper’s, they are so steady, while there are some who can’t hand hold at all due to medical conditions but this should not stop them enjoying photography. There are ways around this.
Never rely on your cameras preview image to assess your camera shake – unless it’s blindingly obvious. This is a preview screen and when you get back and look at the image on your computer any signs of image shake will be more apparent.
There are factors to consider like wind causing camera strap movement and even tripod movement that can contribute to camera shake. Even the photographers own lifestyle can play a part: are you on medication, had enough sleep, eaten today, dehydrated, cold, consumed alcohol recently, drunk much coffee, coke and the list goes on.
Some images can be pulled into acceptable ‘sharpness’ by using digital editing options such as the High Pass Filter in Photoshop. This increases the contrast of pixels of differing colours and therefore apparently making the images look sharper to the naked eye (as in the image below) and allow it to be acceptable for print. However, these modern day dark room options will NOT fix a completely blurred image as processing programs do have limitations so let’s try and get it right in camera first. 
Reciprocal of Focal Length Rule of Thumb is a handy and easy ‘rule’ of photography and at least with photography we are allowed to break the rules!
Image by Danielle Lancaster

Saturday, 3 April 2010

National Geographic - Photographs to Inspire

With the passing of the first April don’t be a complete fool and miss out picking up one of the best mags on the shelves for photography: National Geographic.

While the ever important to many, exposure settings for the images contained within the glossy pages are not given away, it is always full of inspiration and the March edition is no different.

The main feature on wolves is good, the images exceptional captures of wildlife taken wild. But there is far more.

It has me pulling out a world map trying to work out how I can trail bike ride from Asia to Africa and visit the tribes in Ethiopia, claimed to be Africa’s last frontier. Since they have discovered red bras time is of an essence.

Or will first be a trip to Peru and hiring a chopper with of course, no doors or a light aircraft that I can have the doors both sides open to photograph the ancient Nasca lines. I concede; it has to be a chopper and maybe the bike ride should be first.

The image of Beijing’s glass and titanium National Centre, gleaming like an out of space egg, has me wondering why I didn’t see it when in Beijing last year – what happened China Tourism and Helen Wong Tours? What an amazing structure!

The slithering Texas Coral Snakes, a double exposure, first has me examining it for digital editing before reading the caption.

The ‘Fatal Attraction’ images of carnivorous plants cannot be missed. Fabulous macro and lighting techniques combined with the use of contrast and colour for composition can be observed with all images undertaken in the on-location studios. This would have been an interesting experience to be involved in with images from many countries in the world, including my home state Queensland, Australia.

Thanks National Geographic! I have been reading you and admiring the images now for too many years that I wish to claim here publicly and they are always of a superb standard and fire my inspiration into gear. I am sure others would be the same. Don’t ever compromise – you are the best and we eagerly await April’s edition to hit the shelves!