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Behind the Shot

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Behind the Scenes from P-Town Cross

Shooting the P-Town Cross race was a great experiment for me. I wanted to see what I could capture over the course of one hour. I was pretty pleased with the results. I thought I would give you a little insight into how I was able to get all the footage.

To accomplish all this I loaded up my Clik Elite Contrejour with the following gear:

My strategy was pretty simple: cover the first 20 minutes with aerial footage, then break out the DSLR and slider for the rest of the race. I think it's really amazing that I can carry everything for aerial coverage, a DSLR, four lenses, a meter long slider, and a tripod. It wasn't even that bad to carry. This is why I love lightweight equipment. It helps me carry an amazing kit and I can even hike in to more remote locations with everything I need.

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Behind the Shot: Stormy Mountain Biking

24mm 1/1000 f/4 ISO 800

When I headed out for this shoot I knew it would either be incredible conditions or terrible, rainy conditions, but in times like that you have to head out because there is a chance you will come back with amazing shots. It started to rain on us on the way up to our shoot location and I got worried that we would have to bag the shoot. Luckily it stopped raining and we were able to shoot for a while before the downpour started up.

To get the really moody storm clouds I underexposed the background by a few stops. In order to light the rider I used an off camera flash across the trail from where I was shooting. I really love my lithium powered flash. It is more powerful than the TTL flash I used to use and it still has high speed sync.

Using an off camera flash in situations like this can produce some amazing results with great detail in storm clouds.

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Behind the Shot: Slopes of Timpanogos

The slopes of Mt. Timpanogos at first light

ISO 200 f/8 1/40s at 82mm

I set out in the morning with a shot similar to this in mind. As I drove along the road that I had in mind the shot was not coming together but I saw a mountain that I could hike up to get a good shot. As I started hiking through the trees I found a small game trail to follow up the mountain. I was scrambling up the mountain and I was running out of time to find a good position, but luckily I found this spot just as the first rays were hitting the top of the mountain.

This was shot with my 70-200mm lens and a 3 stop LEE graduated filter.

 

The slope I set my tripod up on.

The slope I set my tripod up on.

My trusty Subaru from where I was shooting from

My trusty Subaru from where I was shooting from

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How to get a sunburst in your images

Sunburst at Sunset in the Tetons

ISO 100   f/18  1/10

I have had a few people ask how I get this sunburst effect in my pictures. It's really a pretty simple technique. If you use a very small aperture, something like f/16 or higher usually you can create this effect.

The thing you have to be careful of is metering your exposure. If you use evaluative metering, this means the camera will take an overall average of the light in the scene to pick the exposure, the camera will usually over expose the image. When I'm trying to do this I will usually use spot metering or shoot in manual mode and then bracket the exposures. 

One other thing to keep in mind is that if you are trying to do this just as the sun dips below the horizon or just as it comes up you will have very little time to get your shot. So go out and practice so you can get the technique down. 

If you get some great results I'd love to see them. Post a link in the comments. 

 

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The Watchman

ISO: 100  Focal Length: 15mm 

Aperture: f/6.3  Shutter Speed: 1/50

Filter: Lee 0.9 GND Soft Edge

Shooting the Watchman with the Virgin River is one of Zion's iconic shots. I didn't want to make my shot like what most people were doing so instead of shooting from the road I wandered down the Pa'rus trail a little bit until I found this spot. It was nice because I was the only photographer there and when I walked back to the road there were probably 15-20 photographers cleaning up. I used a little lower aperture number than I would normally use because I didn't like how my shots were turning out with the water blurred. The Lee GND was key for this shot and it really helped balance the exposure between the foreground and the sky. Lining up a GND is pretty easy. I handhold my filters. To start I hold the filter against the lens with the dark part of the filter completely out of the frame and then while looking through the viewfinder I slide the filter down until the transition between light and dark is against the horizon.

When I got this shot into the computer I still thought the exposure wasn't balanced like I wanted it to be. So I loaded the single RAW file into HDR Efex Pro and tone mapped it. At first the result was WAY too strong so I dialed back the settings by about half in order to get a realistic result. I came away being very pleased with the shot. 


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Oceanside Pier 2

ISO: 100  Focal Length: 11mm 

Aperture: f/22  Shutter Speed: 5 seconds

The Shot

Piers present a lot of opportunities for shooting. The texture of the sky and the pier along with all the strong lines made me immediately think of doing this shot in black and white. In order to make it seem like there weren't very many people on the pier I used a long shutter speed. When you do this you can make very crowded places seem almost empty. So to do this I put my polarizer on to cut down some light and then used the smallest aperture I could. I also decided not to make the image symmetric because I thought the clouds on the right side of the shot were too interesting to cut out.

Post Processing

When I got the image onto the computer all I really had to do was convert it to black and white with Nik Silver Efex Pro and then sharpen it.

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Holbrook Canyon

ISO: 100  Focal Length: 13mm

Aperture: f/13  Shutter Speed: 2.5 seconds

Exposure Compensation: +1.33

It was a very cold morning when I got up to shoot this. When I arrived at Holbrook Canyon it was snowing. Luckily, I had an umbrella in the car so I could avoid getting snow on the front of the lens. After walking down into the canyon I made my way to the creek and worked through a few compositions before I finally arrived at this one.

Composition

HCanyonSmall.jpg

I composed the image this way mainly because of two things. The ice and cascade provide a definite focal point for the image and the way the creek meanders around the snowy outcropping creates great leading lines that create depth. Notice how the eye immediately goes to the cascade and then will generally follow the stream. The use of curves like this is an excellent way to make a stronger composition.

Post Processing

Once I got the image on the computer I took down the highlights some to bring some texture back into the snow. I sharpened the image and added some definition to make the ice pop out even more.

When shooting snow you will usually have to overexpose the image. If I did not use a +1.33 exposure compensation the snow would have shown up as a grey color.

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Oceanside Pier

ISO: 100  Focal Length: 13mm 

Aperture: f/22  Shutter Speed: 1 second

Filter: Lee 0.9 GND Soft Edge

The Shot

It was a beautiful night at the Oceanside Pier. There are so many good shots to be had around a pier. For this shot I wanted the reflection of the pier to be my foreground element so I had to wait for the moment when the waves were out. I moved about 100ft to the side of the pier until I liked the diagonal it was making in the frame. One of the things I like most about the composition is all the leading lines. The pier, clouds and colors of the sunset make great leading lines to the end of the pier where the sun adds more visual weight to the end of the pier. 

One of the real keys for this shot was the Lee graduated neutral density filter. By placing the filter transition correctly you can balance the light between the sky and the foreground. It made it so I could retain great details in the bright sky as well as the foreground.

Post Processing

In order to make the image more like the scene I remembered at the pier I boosted the saturation up to 1.8, adjusted the black point to 37, and then reduced the luminance of the blue channel slightly. The final step was to add edge sharpening and I decided to add a vignette. 

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Shooting the Stars in Joshua Tree

ISO: 1600  Focal Length: 11mm 

Aperture: f/2.8  Shutter Speed: 30 seconds

You don't have to stop shooting when the sun goes down. To get great pictures of the stars you will need a few things.

  1. A very dark place away from the city. In this picture from Joshua Tree you can see some light pollution from the city of 29 Palms even though the city was 15-20 miles away.
  2. Little or no moon. To have the best view of the stars shoot when there is no moon or the moon is just a sliver.
  3. A DSLR with long exposure noise reduction turned on. Long exposure noise reduction will essentially create a second black exposure of the same length as the original shot to see where the noisy spots are and then it will subtract them from your shot.
  4. A sturdy tripod. It is VERY important to have a good tripod when you are doing long exposures like this. I use the Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro Tripod .

You will need to shoot at a high ISO and at a very wide aperture. Notice that I shot at ISO 1600 and f/2.8.

When you are shooting the stars, remember your normal composition rules. You still want a foreground element to add interest to your shot. When framing the shot I like to hold my headlamp in one hand while I look through the viewfinder. This way I can put enough light on the scene to compose the image properly. The foreground was lit with our campfire and the moon. You can also light paint the scene with a flash light. In the image below you can see the stars better but there is no foreground element to add interest to the image.

ISO: 1600  Focal Length: 11mm   Aperture: f/2.8  Shutter Speed: 30 seconds

ISO: 1600  Focal Length: 11mm 

Aperture: f/2.8  Shutter Speed: 30 seconds

A few notes on post processing. I really didn't do much for post processing in the first image, I tried to bring more detail out with some curve adjustments but it made the foreground too bright. In the second image I raised the exposure and adjusted the black point to keep the sky black.

One last tip. If you want to avoid star trails follow the 600 rule. Divide 600 by the 35mm effective focal length and that will give you the length of the exposure you can make. For example I shot at 11mm on an APSC sized sensor so the 35mm equivalent would be 16mm. So I take 600/16 and I get 37. So I could have made a 37 second exposure.

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Provo Portraits

ISO: 100  Focal Length: 50mm 

Aperture: f/4  Shutter Speed: 1/200

Flash at 1/4 Power

Last week I was shooting some for my good friends. They were looking for some shots for a Christmas card. We headed to downtown Provo for the shoot. There are some great older buildings to use as a backdrop for portraits. For this shot I used a flash that fired off camera to the right. The flash fired through a translucent umbrella to spread it out more so the light would be very soft.

Here is a diagram of how it was set up:

Lighting.png

Lighting Diagram from www.lightingdiagrams.com

Light is the key to photography. Using the off camera flash with an umbrella makes the light directional but there aren't harsh shadows because the light is diffused. With my flash off camera I can only shoot at a 1/200s shutter speed so I adjusted my aperture accordingly and fired a few test shots to make sure everything was dialed in. 

For post processing I sharpened the raw file, and adjusted the shadows and highlights just a little bit to get the exposure just how I wanted it. The final step was removing almost all of the saturation, I decided not to do a full black and white process. I kept just a little bit of the color because in this case I thought it was more interesting than straight black and white.

If you want to learn how to shoot with an off camera flash I will cover how to do that in an upcoming post.

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