Almost Weekly Photo

The Green Is Evil!

Laguna Verde, BoliviaPhase One A-Series 150MP, 23mm Alpagon lens, f11…

Looking For Foregrounds

Evening Storm on the road to Copacabana, BoliviaPhase One A-Series…

Did You See The Noise? Didn't Think So!

Street Scene, Tiquina, BoliviaFujifilm X-T2, Fujifilm Fujinon XF8-16mmF2.8 R LM…

Eastway & Momento Pro Win Benny Award!

Sydney based printer, Momento Pro, has attained the ultimate graphic…

Evening Storm on the road to Copacabana, Bolivia
Phase One A-Series 150MP, 23mm Alpagon lens, f11 @ 1/400 second, ISO 50

I find it happens quite a lot - the inverse square rule for great skies! You're driving along and you watch the sky change, the light drop and the atmosphere build. The heavens look fantastic, but there's nothing in the foreground and, the better the sky, the worse the foreground!

On our trip through Bolivia recently, we were up on the Altiplano heading towards Lake Titicaca and the real Copacabana. Over the distant ranges were some wonderful storm clouds, the crystal clear light was mesmerising, but we struggled to find an interesting foreground. Looking at the map on my phone (I use Guru Maps), I could see our road was about to turn away from both the mountains and the clouds - and then we'd have nothing! So we stopped the bus and bundled out.

We had two options. The first was to shoot the sky and add it to a sky library, not worrying about the foreground. If you're wondering how to drop in new skies to existing landscapes, go and check out Luminar 4 as it does it for you automatically. And I did exactly this as a safety step. Might as well capture it!

The second option is to look more carefully and think about how you can simplify the foreground. The side of the road had lots of busy little fields, which created a really messy foreground, but by walking a couple of hundred metres out, I found a cleared field with a cairn of rocks in the middle. The field wasn't big, but by using a wide-angle lens and getting in close to the cairn, the foreground was easily simplified. And simple is best.

Whether you're capturing photos for competitions or just for pleasure, thinking through your options at the time you're 'on location' makes a lot of sense. By all means take a few safety shots you can play with later on in post-production, but if you can nail a good composition in camera, so much the better!

Laguna Verde, Bolivia
Phase One A-Series 150MP, 23mm Alpagon lens, f11 @ 1/125 second, ISO 50

That green is real! And it's not very nice. Laguna Verde up on Bolivia's dramatic Altiplano is full of arsenic and hence, I'm told, its green colour. Laguna Blanca just next door is blue and the flamingos happily wade there, but not in Laguna Verde.

When we arrived, low cloud was skirting the Licancabur volcano on the Chilean border and the wind was howling, creating an acrid spume on the shore. It made a great foreground, although it left the legs of my tripod covered in a salty residue! The technique used to capture this image is a combination of focus stacking and a time exposure.

To ensure the foreground and background are tack sharp, I focused on four points in the foreground (the bottom half of the image), with an aperture of f11 so there's already a lot of depth-of-field keeping things sharp. I then focused on infinity and took a safety shot at the same exposure, but then switched into time exposure mode. On the Phase One IQ4, it's the exposure averaging feature, but you can achieve the same result with a neutral density filter. The exposure is the equivalent of 15 seconds for this one, although I experimented. As the clouds were moving so quickly, I didn't need such a long exposure to achieve a suitable blur.

It's interesting to note how with changes in technology, new ways of shooting are opening up, but at the end of the day, we still need a strong, simple compositions - at least, that's my view!

Street Scene, Tiquina, Bolivia
Fujifilm X-T2, Fujifilm Fujinon XF8-16mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/30 second @ f2.8, ISO 3200

I think it's about time we stopped worrying about noise in photographs. All the new mirrorless and DSLR cameras do a superb job and, while there are undoubtedly differences in how far different sensors can be pushed, for what most of us shoot most of the time, we have enough 'speed'.

This photo is taken on the street early in the night - meaning there's a hint of blue light in the sky which most photographers like, rather than a jet black sky. But down on terra firma, we're shooting with just two street lights and a little stray illumination from the surrounding retail outlets. And the exposure is 1/30 second at f2.8 - so fast enough to carefully hand-hold and shooting at the lens's maximum aperture. 

I've also set my camera to Auto ISO with a limit at ISO 3200. When digital photography first began, ISO 3200 would have produced unworthy results, but today, the results are excellent. I'll bet you wouldn't have thought twice about image noise had I not mentioned it in the heading! Looking at my photos from Bolivia, I have a hundreds of images that are shot at ISO 3200 because of what I was shooting - low light, wildlife action and night scenes. It is such a liberating way to shoot.

So, the technique? I shoot in aperture-priority mode so I can control my depth-of-field. However, I also know that to get the fastest shutter speed possible, I simply open up my lens to the maximum aperture - f2.8 for this lens. Then, as changing light conditions dictate, I let the Auto ISO feature push the ISO up as high as is necessary to maintain correct exposure.

On the Fujifilm X-T3, there are three Auto ISO custom settings, which I have set at 'up to ISO 3200' for 1/30, 1/60 and 1/500 second. I'd like the 1/500 second to be 1/1000 or 1/2000 if the Fujifilm engineers are reading. Then, depending on the subject I'm shooting, I determine the minimum shutter speed.

For street photography, I'm happy to have a little bit of movement if it makes it real, so 1/30 second is fine. Most cameras have an Auto ISO function these days, so it might be worth a little read of your instruction manual!

And another shot from my walk around Tiquina on the way to Copacabana.

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