31 Dec 2013

4 Steps to Improve your Christmas Light Photography

At this time of the year many towns have beautiful Christmas light displays and as photographers we naturally want to capture these as best we can. However, because the light is low it is not always possible to just go and shoot away on auto because the camera never gets the scene to look quite the way we really remember it at the time because human eyes are light years ahead of camera sensors and so what we see and what the camera captures is often less than satisfactory.

A lot of people will shoot bracketed shots and blend them in software to increase the range, but very often HDR images look really unnatural to me and not pleasing to the eye. There is also the problem of people walking around in the shot and causing multiple "ghosting". So what to do?

Well, the picture above was a single shot photograph and by following a few simple steps I managed to get the scene exactly the way I wanted.

1.) Be patient and wait for the light. Photography should never be rushed anyway, but it becomes even more important when we want to capture the light perfectly. I generally do not like to go out on a shoot together with anyone else because I always feel obligated and pressured to keep to a schedule when I am in a group. Photography is not a team sport! Wait until the light from the sky is balanced as closely as possible to the electric lights on the street in front of you for the best results. I normally find that I get the light I'm after about 20-30 minutes or so after sunset.

2.) Always use a tripod. As steady as you think you can handhold your camera, and as wonderful as your systems image stabilisation may be, you still cannot beat a tripod. Most folks just pump up the ISO and hand hold anyway, but even the best modern cameras will show noise of some sort or the other at even moderate settings. The best performance will always be at base ISO so why not go for the best? While you are at it you may as well get a decent sturdy tripod that will not shake in the wind.

3.) Shoot in RAW. The cameras RAW files always contain a LOT more information than shooting in jpeg and hoping for the best. Don't listen to the "internet experts" who claim that real photographers "get the settings right in camera" and therefore don't need to shoot RAW. I have news for them, real photographers do shoot RAW and for good reason. The dynamic range of light captured when using RAW is much greater than any jpeg can capture. Shoot RAW, you'll never be sorry that you did!

4.) Hone your post processing skills. In the days of film we would shoot away and then hand over our film to an expert at the processing lab who would do all the important stuff behind the scenes for us. In the digital age we have to become expert at every aspect of the photographic process unless we have the budget to hire someone to do the post processing for us. I generally recommend purchasing a decent program like DxO Optics Pro or Adobe Lightroom as they offer great options to extract the best from your RAW file and produce the kind of results that professionals the world over would be satisfied with. Then practice, practice, practice... and then practice some more. Maybe take a course, even an on-line course. Then practice some more. Decent post processing skills will take your photographs a large step further.

I hope that this short bit of advice will help you when you step out to capture all the pretty lights down town during this holiday season.

Here's wishing you great light, and a wonderful 2014!


30 Dec 2013

In the Aftermath of Storm Sven

Storm Sven swept through Southern Sweden at the beginning of December and the damage can still be seen along the coastline.

27 Dec 2013

Discarded Blue Rope

...because old, worn and decaying can be beautiful!

Landskrona Citadel Panorama - Stitched with MS ICE

I decided to use Microsoft's Image Composite Editor (ICE) program to create a panorama of the Landskrona Citadel and if the first attempt is anything to go by then it is a very competent panorama stitching program. It is simple and just works, but fortunately has all the needed adjustment tools to get the final image just the way you want it.

It's also free. Nothing beats free. You can download it HERE.

And it's free...

13 Dec 2013

NEWS: Photographer Wins $1.2 Million Lawsuit Over Images Taken From Twitter

From Mashable.com:

Photographer Wins $1.2 Million Lawsuit Over Images Taken From Twitter

With an endless amount of photos floating around on Twitter, it's easy to find images of almost anything. But this large social-media bank of seemingly free-to-share photos can also lead to issues regarding ownership and copyright infringement.

A New York jury delivered a landmark decision on Friday when it sided with freelance photographer Daniel Morel after he sued Getty Images and Agence France-Presse for using photos that he posted on Twitter without his permission. Morel won $1.2 million for the unauthorized use of his images.

Click here to read more.

6 Dec 2013

Hamba Kahle Tata Madiba

For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
- Nelson Mandela