Revisiting a Memorable Moment

It is amazing what a difference a few years makes. Photography, like any craft or art, is a growth. Look at the works of any famous photographer, painter, or musician and you will see history remembers them in phases.

And while I don't dare compare myself to the greats, I can still see huge evolution in my own photography. I spend more time looking at the light, looking for 'moments' and waiting for something special than I did before. I have a better understanding of the capabilities of my cameras and how to generate incredible results from them. And I have a more refined understanding of light.

All of this translates in my photographs, and I recently revisited a place where I took a photograph that was very special to me and attempted to elevate it. 

The location? Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia. In 2013, I visited the park and made a photograph that would later win the honors for the 2014 Vincent Versace Award for Photographic Excellence. As a result, that location has been a special spot for me, but I had not been back since. I recently felt like I had grown enough as a photographer to revisit the location and wanted to see what sort of image I could create now. This is the result.

In a future blog post I'll break down this photograph and deconstruct making it - because it is actually a panorama of five images that took nearly 30 minutes of on-scene shooting with my Leica SL to create. Everything in the image is authentic - including the swirl of water - and required the full extent of my photographic know-how to accomplish. I'm very proud of the revised image, and hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed creating it.

Insanely Huge Film

I have shot a lot of film, and I consistently prefer large film sizes and the resulting large negatives over the smaller (35mm) formats. There's something awesome about holding huge negatives and seeing your images come to life in such large formats.....

Until I got the Ebony RSW45 film camera, I wasn't able to use any custom film backs for large format cameras, but the Ebony allows for the addition of an accessory from Shen Hao that allows for the capture of 6x17 panorama images. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, that's okay too..... just enjoy the photos!

Anyway, I've been doing some local test shooting and development of demo rolls to ensure I know how to use the equipment before taking it on location. While these photos practically come out of my back yard, the aspect ratio and insanely huge size of them makes them a real treat for the eyes. So today I'm presenting some insanely huge film..... if you are interested in the way I shot these, stay tuned for an eventual review and discussion of how I make these images. And yes, this is all one long piece of film - no fancy Photoshop tricks here!

Click on any photo for a full size preview!

Quick Shot: Desert Panorama

I don't shoot a ton of panoramas, but if the location is right and I'm in the mood, I'll compile the odd panorama image. In this case, I had climbed a cliff in Wadi Rum, Jordan to enjoy sunset over the desert and happened to have a tripod handy, so I fired away.

The resulting image is 111 megapixels..... it's the composite of nearly 20 images, and the detail is phenomenal. In the full sized image, you can zoom way in and see a guy riding a horse out in the desert. Of course the full sized image is also 700 megabytes, which is a bit much for sharing on the internet! So you're seeing a compressed and smaller version here, but be sure to click on the image to maximize it to the full screen view. I'm glad I made this panorama - I can print it to wallpaper size and really let myself get absorbed in the experience of standing atop that cliff. I hope this view helps you experience what it would have been like to enjoy that sunset by my side.

Shot with the Leica Camera SL & Leica 24-90mm lens using a 3 Legged Things tripod.

Ngorongoro Sunrise

Good morning! Sunrise in Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania was extremely photographic as the sun peeked through the dense cloud cover that settled overnight. To get this photograph, I stitched eight individual images together into a single mosaic. Shot on the Nikon D610 with Nikon 80-400mm lens.

Quick Shot: Yellow

One of the best parts of living in another country is getting the opportunity to see the different seasons - at this point I've seen all four of England's seasons and spring may be my favorite. Why? Just look!

For a short time every spring, the farmlands around England turn florescent bright yellow with this flower before returning to their natural (normal) green color. I've had friends tell me this was coming, but nothing compares to seeing it in real life. Everywhere around my house is neon yellow! So I didn't have to go far to get this shot- the trick was capturing the expanse of yellow!

To help give the sense of the brilliant yellow, I took a panorama of six images and stitched them together.  And I certainly did not need to do any work in Photoshop to further enhance the yellow.... that's all natural baby!

Quick Shots: Cinque Terre Trio

One of the stops I was most excited for during our travel through Italy was to see the five coastal towns that make up the Cinque Terre region. Cinque Terre is world famous for several things - olives, pesto, and beauty. The region is very hilly and residents have learned to live on nearly vertical cliffs by building clever farming systems. Most of the residents live near the water and have built their houses up the steep cliffs. Adding to the beauty is the bright color that every house and building is painted - you can't find a ugly thing in the area!

This makes it very easy to photograph! Everywhere you point your camera is a photo opportunity begging to be photographed. It's actually so easy that it's hard - I have to capture so much more than bright colors and hills - I have to capture that feeling of beauty that I felt being there in person.

I chose these three photos to tell the story - each was taken at another stop in Cinque Terre, but they each show a slightly different perspective on one of the towns. This is one place I can't wait to go back and visit!

Quick Shot: Venice Sunrise

After over three weeks of traveling through Italy, France, Spain, Greece and Turkey, I'm finally back home and busy editing all the pictures. It was an incredible trip, and I'm excited to start sharing the photos, beginning with one of the first images I took during the trip.

Our arrival in Venice, Italy was greeted with a lot of rain. San Marco Square was completely flooded and the rain continued for several days. While this made it less pleasant to walk around, the rain did keep people inside - meaning I had some of the busiest parts of Venice all to myself. 

We woke up very early one morning to head to San Marco Square so I could shoot sunrise. I knew I wanted the photo to just scream Venice, and there is nothing more quintessential to Venice than the gondolas. With the gondolas in the foreground, I lined up and started shooting a wide panorama. I intentionally shot at shutter speeds around 2 seconds so that I could get a little blur to the gondolas that were bobbing peacefully in the water.

The resulting sunrise photo is actually seven images stitched together to create one monster panorama. The final full resolution image is over 500MB in size..... a whopping 93 megapixels! I am really excited to print this photograph in full size, because there is such incredible detail. The image was taken with the Nikon D800 and 50mm lens. 

Quick Shot: Super Resolution Cliffs of Dover

One of the challenges facing photographers is capturing a grand vista on a small sensor - even with a wide angle lens, you can never fully re-create what your eyes capture. To tackle that challenge, I sometimes create wide angle panorama composite photographs that capture a huge scene in great detail.

The White Cliffs of Dover presented a wonderful opportunity to make a wide angle composite image; the cliffs and surrounding area are a spectacular sight difficult to capture in a single image. Creating one of these composite photos requires a good deal of pre-planning. You have to know exactly what you want the final product to look like and do the calculations to determine the number of photographs required to stitch together in post-processing. It also helps to have some specialized equipment - I use a 50mm lens with a tripod, leveling base, and nodal point to create distortion free composites.

This particular image required 10 separate photos to create. There are two "rows" of five photos stitched together and then edited to create a final image that is over 94 megapixels. I actually stitch three times - once for each row (creating a file I call "Top.tiff" and "Bottom.tiff"). I then stitch the top and bottom files into the image you see here. It could also be made into a monster print without any loss in quality! Of course, the final image is also 300MB in size, so what you see here is a significantly compressed version of the photo - but click on it to see it full size!

Shot with the Nikon D800 + Nikon 50mm lens using a Gitzo carbon fiber tripod + leveling head + nodal point. Post processing and stitching performed in Adobe Photoshop CC.

This image is a composite of 10 photos stitched together into a final image that is almost 100 megapixels!

Pro Tip: Hands Up

I was doing a real estate photo shoot for a friend this weekend (they are selling a nice place in Alexandria, VA). During the middle of the shoot, I realized there are some handy tricks that I use on an almost daily basis in my photography that alot of people haven't seen... and that are certainly crude enough that you don't see them in photography books! I figured I should start a periodical blog post with these Pro Tips to help you get the most out of your photography. 

Today's Pro Tip is called "hands up" and is a great technique that I use constantly. For instance, at the recent real estate shoot, I was using a flash to evenly light some smaller rooms and tight spaces (like a shower stall). Very few people can get their flash placement right on the first try - we usually tinker around until we get the right settings. However, when you get back to edit your photos later, it can often be very tricky to tell when you got the setting dialed in and stopped tinkering and started being serious with the framing. This technique is very simple - after you have checked that he camera settings are correct, stick your hand out in front of your camera and take a quick shot of your hand.

It'll be ugly. That's okay.

After that, proceed to properly frame and expose your image with the settings you just identified. 

When you get back to Photoshop later, you'll be able to go through your shots and quickly find the hand shot. The images immediately following your hand shot will be the ones you took after getting the settings dialed in.

Another great application for this technique is when you're taking a panorama. Take a hand shot before you start and another at the end. When you are editing later, you can quickly grab the shots that were taken in sequence as part of your panorama.  

The hands up trick is very handy and I use it all the time in landscape and nature photography because I rarely delete a photo in camera, but this lets me create a bookmark without depending on my memory! If you edit hours or days after a shoot, this technique will save you tons of time! 

It's an ugly photo (you can see where the flash was placed, although I aimed the camera to cut the flash out in the next shot), but you can quickly pick out the hand shot and find your way to the good stuff immediately! 

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