Thursday, October 8, 2009

Talking to Clementine - working an idea

Yesterday I was out working on some ideas and shooting for a photo challenge. The challenge is shooting horses at 50mm which is just a hideous focal length for horses. I thought I would share a little of my process for two reasons. First of all, photography is work. Nobody makes a masterpiece in 15 minutes on the first try. And, second of all, is the fun I have communicating with horses. It never ceases to delight me.

The creative process has four stages: preparation, incubation, insight and verification. The way I work is to come up with some ideas by looking at existing work, reading and frequently Googling (preparation). Next I start brainstorming, I think of all the ways I can imagine to shoot horses at 50mm so I don't just go out there without a thought in my head (incubation).

Next, I go out there and try some stuff. I see how the light looks in the pasture, look for cool scenes or interesting colors. I see how the horses are acting. I am hoping for insight!
Insight is the subjective experience of having the idea or “aha” moment when you are seized by something that you think will work and be cool.

After the shoot I come back to my computer and look at my shots and evaluate. This is the verification of the completed idea. Does it suck? Is it fantastic? How can I improve on the insight?

Most of the time, we shoot more than once. Work it, baby!

Okay, so I went out to the horse pasture with my 50mm ideas. Here is a story of one shot that I like pretty well. And, here comes the horse communication part of the story.

This is Clementine. She is a horse friend of mine. I love shooting her because she is so beautiful and has a really fun draft horse attitude. She is totally calm yet still intelligent and opinionated. She was just standing out in her field. This is 50mm. What a hideous and crappy snapshot, right?

I was wandering around and there is a big sycamore along the fence line that looked like it had some pretty light. So, I went over and tried a test shot at 50mm to see if it might be promising. I thought it could be cool if Clem would stand under the tree for me.

Lots of times I find that simply asking the horse by speaking out loud works. So I said "Clem, it would be great if you would come stand right here under this tree." I am sure you think this is insanity but somehow verbalizing your intention helps communicate it and crystallize it. Clem came wandering over and I guided her under the lowest hanging limbs. Here is the first shot. Looks like she is saying "Is this where you want me?"

The starburst was one of my ideas for 50mm. Because the focal length is so short, I could get away with a small aperture of f/16 which makes the starburst from a ray of sunlight.

And, here was the original image I had in mind when I first saw the tree.

Am I done? No. I don't like the fly mask. I will go back and work the scene again and see what I can do with it. But, I think the insight is good. Its an idea worth working on.

Learn To Take Photos

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What's in Your Camera Bag?

Laura and I decided it would be fun to find out what you all have in your camera bags. We'll begin by listing our stuff.

Christina Handley's camera bag:

Nikon D3
Nikon D2X
Nikon D200 transformed into an infrared camera.
AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED VR lenses (x2)
AF-S Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D lens
AF-S DX Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G IF ED lens
AF-DX Nikkor fisheye10.5mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens
AF Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D macro lens
AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D lens
AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II
Nikkor MC-30 cable release
SB-800 Speedlight
Lots of Sandisk 8 gig and 4 gig Extreme III compact flash cards
Pocket Wizards
Manfroto monopod, model # 334B
Manfroto tripod, model # 190QCB
Manfroto tripod head, model # 322RC2

On Christina's wish list:

Nikon D700
Nikon AF-S 200-400mm f/4G IF-ED VR lens

Laura Cotterman's camera bag:

Nikon D3
Canon 5D
Canon G10
Canon Camcorder Vixia HF100
Sony Camcorder HVR-V1U

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
Canon Telephoto EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro
Canon 1.4 Teleconverter
Canon 77mm 500D Close-up Lens
Canon 580EX Flash
Canon cable release

Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED VR lens
Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S DX VR Lens
Nikon Super Wide Angle AF 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF AF-S DX
Wide Angle AF Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di LD
AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II
Nikkor MC-30 cable release
Nikon SB-800 Speedlight
Lensbaby Composer with macro and super wide angle
Kenko extension tubes

Lots of Sandisk 8gig Extreme III compact flash cards and some Sandisk 4 gig cards as well
Pocket Wizards
Manfrotto monopod, model #562B for video
Manfrotto tripod, model # 3021BPRO with a 501 HDV fluid head for video
Manfrotto 055MF4 with Kirk ball head
Another Manfrotto monopod

Quantum Turbo 2x2 Battery
Quantum Qflash

On Laura's wish list:

Nikon D700
Nikon AF-S 200-400mm f/4G IF-ED VR lens
AF-S Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D lens
Canon 7D

So .... what's in your camera bag?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Artsy Fartsy Birch Trees

I went out last night to take a few new photos for our Artistic Interpretations class starting today and I got stuck on these birch trees. I'm not sure why they fascinated me as much as they did but I couldn't seem to concentrate much on anything else.

I tried a new technique on them which I am quite happy with. They look like cyclones! This is completely done in camera, not Photoshop.

Nikon D3 - 17-35 f/2.8 lens - ISO 100 - 1/5 second - f/5.6
Manual Exposure mode

Nikon D3 - 17-35 f/2.8 lens - ISO 200 - 1/3 second - f/5.6
Manual Exposure mode

Nikon D3 - 17-35 f/2.8 lens - ISO 100 - 1/2.5 second - f/5.6
Manual Exposure mode

Nikon D3 - 17-35 f/2.8 lens - ISO 100 - 1/4 second - f/5.6
Manual Exposure mode

Nikon D3 - 17-35 f/2.8 lens - ISO 100 - 1/5 second - f/5.6
Manual Exposure mode

Nikon D3 - 17-35 f/2.8 lens - ISO 100 - 1/2 second - f/5.6
Manual Exposure mode

Let me know which one you like the best. I am leaning towards the first one.

Learn To Take Photos

Artistic Plowing Photos

My husband has been working up more land this fall and I love to hang around and take photos. I take them for a couple of different reasons, one is to document the event and the second reason is take them for myself. My husband likes, no loves to look at my photos of our farm and our animals and I love taking the photos. I've been taking photos of this for years so I usually try to do something different or creative each time.

I always start with the expected shots, the ones that show the scene and the job being done, these are very important for the documentation part of it. Of course, these are the ones my husband appreciates the most.

Then I take some detail shots, I love using leading lines in my work and what could be better than a freshly plowed field for leading lines.

Then I get really creative and go nuts! lol. The last bunch were taken with slow shutter speeds to give a sense of motion. I think this one might be my favorite.

Nikon D3 - 70-200mm lens - ISO 100 - 1/5 second - f/22

For this panning photo, I shot on Continuous Servo mode and continuous high speed shutter release. I put my focus point on the tractor part and shot like crazy when he went by. I began shooting when the tractor was about 45 degrees to my left and ended when the tractor was about 45 degrees to my right or if the buffer filled sooner than that. I shoot and shoot and shoot. Some photos are blurry and some turn out like this. It's all worth it when you get a good one.

Nikon D3 - 70-200mm lens - ISO 100 - 1/13 second - f/10

I zoomed my lens while taking the last two shots to achieve that funky look.

Nikon D3 - 70-200mm lens - ISO 100 - 1/13 second - f/18

Nikon D3 - 70-200mm lens - ISO 100 - 1/13 second - f/14

Learn To Take Photos

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fun With Wide Angle!

I recently purchased the Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 wide angle lens.
Nikon Website

  • Fast, ultra-wideangle zoom lens with Silent Wave Motor
  • Features two types of aspherical lens (two molded-glass and one hybrid) and two ED glass elements
  • 0.28m closest focusing throughout zoom range
  • M/A mode for quick switching between autofocus and manual focus operation
  • Nine-blade rounded diaphragm

This is a sweet lens, it is fast and sharp! It is an FX lens, designed for a full frame sensor. It is super for shooting landscapes and helping you step out of your comfort zone and break the rules a wee bit when shooting subjects that would normally require a long focal length such as when photographing horses or other animals.

Wide angle lenses distort things by making objects nearest to the camera look bigger and objects farther from the camera look smaller.

But, when you can put all the "rules" aside and just focus on having fun and being creative ... well the possibilities are endless. All of these photos were shot at 17mm.