The Golden Spiral

Im sure you have heard of the “rule of thirds”  when you are composing your images, but

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The Golden Spiral composition grid

did you know that there are other composition grids. In Lightroom with the crop tool selected by hitting the letter “O” (not a zero) you can cycle through the other grid layouts. Also by hitting Shift – O you can cycle through rotating the grid.DSC_6785The image above of a woodcock is a great example of the Golden Spiral. Notice how the eye of the bird is placed in the center of the spiral.
Check out some of the other grids in Lightroom, learn the rules of compostion, but don’t be afraid to break the rules.

So pick up that camera and get out there and shoot images and experiment with other rules of composition.

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The Power of Red

The color red has a unique effect over any other color. This is the reason why the color red is the most common color used for things like company logos, stop signs and emergency vehicles. The color grabs our attention. DSC_2042

In this image our eyes are immediately drawn to the red eye if the Night Heron and the red buds of the maple tree act as a natural frame and accent the eye of the bird.

So keep shooting and look for the color red to add some extra pizzazz to your image.

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Photographing Antelope Canyons

Photography Tips for Antelope Canyonsdsc_4696-edit

If you are interested in taking quality images in the slotted canyons at Page, Arizona, there are two things you must do: First, schedule photography tours. Though these will cost more, but they’re totally worth the investment. Secondly, visit the area in the off-season. During the summer so many people visit these locations it’s impossible to experience the freedom necessary to shoot the vastness of the canyons. You should note that on the photography tours, you will be required to have a sturdy tripod and a DSLR camera, no point-and-shoots.

Equipment:

  • DSLR camera
  • Tripod: You will need a very stable tripod, as it very dark in most areas of these canyons. Exposures ranging from 2 seconds to as many as 20 seconds are needed to capture the beautiful colors.
  • Wide angle lens: These canyons are very narrow, so the use of a wide angle lens is a must; for example, a 14mm on a cropped sensor. I was shooting with the Nikon D750 full frame at 24mm, but in many places it would have been preferable to go wider.
  • Remote shutter release: Because it is necessary to shoot with very slow shutter speeds, triggering with a remote will help avoid any camera movement. If you don’t have a remote, use your camera’s timer to release the shutter hands-free.dsc_4676

Camera settings

Shooting in the canyons is very fast paced, so be very familiar with all your camera settings.

  1.  I highly recommend shooting in RAW. It’s not a must, but you will need all the dynamic range you can get for post.
  2. Shoot in manual mode. The lighting in these canyons can be very tricky and deceiving… Don’t trust your camera to choose the right exposure. More about exposures is covered below.
  3. Aperture: In very low lighting, your first instinct might be to shoot wide open, but in the long, narrow canyon passage ways you will want all the depth of field you can get. Try somewhere between f/8 and f/10.
  4.  ISO: Shoot at your lower ISOs, such as ISO 100, as these will help keep your images from becoming grainy while shooting in extremely low light. And, believe me, you are going to be surprised how dark it gets in these slotted canyons!
  5. White balance: I tried two different settings here, daylight and cloudy, but if you are shooting in RAW this can be adjusted in post.

Determining Exposure

Setting up your exposure options is the tricky part. Two things I recommend:

  1. Use your histogram: if you are not familiar with using your camera’s histogram, practice using it before you go out on a canyon shoot. And as you are shooting, check the histogram. The key here is to avoid clipping either end, but most importantly in the highlight (the right side) some areas of the canyons can be very contrasting.
  2. Bracket your exposures: After getting your exposure as close as you can by looking at the histogram, bracket your exposures to make sure you have an exposure that will bring out the most detail and color. The more contrast in the scene, the more exposures you’ll want to bracket for. This may come in handy later in case you want to try using HDR in post to improve the dynamic range of your image.

The canyons are very narrow in many places, so I recommend leaving your backpack in the car and just carry in your camera, tripod and a cleaning cloth for your lens. Don’t take any extra lenses, because the canyons are so dusty there is no way you should even try to switch out your lens there. Most of the guides in the canyons are very knowledgeable about camera gear, so if you have problems, they might be able to help you. dsc_4707-hdr-edit

So if you ever find yourself anywhere close to Page, Arizona, take the opportunity to photograph Antelope Canyons.

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Add Impact by Finding a New Perspectives

When approaching a scene it is so easy just to stand there and put your camera to your eye and snap a shot. But often the most impact can be made from a different angle. When looking to photograph a scene, look for a new angle that can completely change your image and make a common scene into a image with impact.

Try an angle such as worm’s eye view, shoot straight up, shoot from the hip, shoot from a high vantage point or with a tilt to give your image impact.

Shooting from different angles can also often help you reduce distracting objects in the background.

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Image captured standing: The image has some nice lines, but there is too much empty space on the left side of the image and some distracting objects on the right side.

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Image captured about knee high from the ground: By lowing the camera the fence fills the empty area on the left and the objects on the right are completely gone. The fence now creates a leading line to draw the viewers eye into the image.

So get out there and shoot, looking for new perspective to make an impact.

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Attention Grabber

In the image below,  “Reflections of the Sycamore” I captured the reflection of  several sycamores in the ruffles of a wind-blown lake. But when viewing the image, the refection appears to run off the bottom of the photo. This causes the viewer’s eye to wander out of the image.

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Since the image is basically an abstract, in the image below I simply turned the original photo 180 which creates a base that keeps the viewer’s eye engaged with the image longer. When you are creating abstracts, try to keep objects from leaving the bottom of the image. This simple trick will help you create more pleasing abstract photos.

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Eagle Facts

Many of my photographer friends and I have enjoyed photographing Bald Eagles this winter. I’d like to share a few facts I’ve learned about these majestic birds in a Q & A format.

Q. When do Bald Eagles get their white heads?
A. Bald Eagles do not get their white feathers (head and tail) until they are 4 to 5 years old.

Q. How many eggs do eagles lay each year?
A. Usually 1 to 3, but according to some stats only about 50% will live to fledgling.

Q. How long do eagles live?
A. Eagles have been known to live up to 20 years in the wild and as long as 50 years in captivity.

Q. Why are Bald Eagles called Bald when they obviously have white feathers on their heads and are not bald.

A: The name actually comes from an old English word which meant “white headed” rather than hairless.

Q. How can you tell a female eagle from a male?
A. The easiest way to tell the difference is by size. The female eagle is about 30% larger than the male.

Q. What if you don’t see a nesting pair together?

A. There are a few other more subtle ways to tell the difference:

  •  The feathers on the male eagle’s head are usually very bright white, while the female’s head may some darker feathers mixed in.
  • Female eagles also have gray feathers around their eyes that resembles gray eye shadow. Male eagles have a black liner around their eyes.
  • Females also have a very distinguished brow, with eyes inset deeper than males.
  • Males have brighter orange beaks than the females. 
    Male Bald Eagle

    Male Bald Eagle: Notice the bright white feathers on the head and the black liner around the eyes.

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    Female Bald Eagles: Notice the gray eye shadow around the eye and the distinguished brow.

 

Also see my articles for DPS at http://digital-photography-school.com/author/brucewunderlich/

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Let’s Get Creative

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This image of an eagle in flight was created using a slower shutter speed as well as panning the camera to match the flight speed of the eagle. Experimentation and practice are keys to success. If done correctly, the head of the eagle will remain sharp while the wings will have motion blur. The main objective is get sharp eyes as the part that is sharp is the first area the viewer focuses on when they look at a photo. Choosing the right shutter speed to freeze the wings of an eagle in flight I like to use a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second or faster. However, this time I wanted the wings to be blurry to give the image some motion so I chose a shutter speed of 1/60 of a second.

Deciding what shutter speed to use

  • Determine your distance from the bird in flight. The farther away from your subject you are the slower the shutter speed you need to blur motion. If the eagle had been flying closer, a shutter speed of 1/125 of a second would have created the same effect or even better. ·
  • Flying speed and speed of the wing movement are other factors. A duck which has a much faster wing speed will not need as slow of a shutter speed to create motion blur.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different shutter speeds until you get the hang of it.

Also see my articles for DPS at http://digital-photography-school.com/author/brucewunderlich/

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