British landscape photographer and YouTuber Thomas Heaton recently produced an interesting video about looking after your camera gear.
What is cool about the video is that while Thomas stresses excellent care procedures and suitable cleaning techniques (who can forget “always blow before you go”), he puts just as much emphasis on not getting too precious about your gear.
As landscape photographers we should be out in the elements and we should be exposing ourselves and our kit to horrific conditions like wind, rain, sand, ash, dust, dirt… Because that’s how we make the images. If you’re only going out in perfect conditions you’re never going to have the chance to capture those truly compeling images.
I have to agree with Thomas’ thinking — there is an inverse relationship between great images and great conditions. Being out in inclement weather and in rainy, windy, sandy or dusty environments provides opportunities for great images.
I see my landscape and underwater photography as being participative photography. As a photographer I am not passively observing the environment that I am capturing – I am part of it. The story is my story, not someone else’s.
I don’t see my story as being that guy who only goes out when it is perfect. I go out and enjoy the experiences life has to offer, and often my camera goes with me. Yes, I have to clean and look after my gear, sometimes it needs to be repaired, and occassionally I have lost or damaged equipment. But it is worth it.
As Thomas said:
Get out there in the elements and take photographs, because that ultimately is what it’s all about.
At least above water. For underwater images good conditions make your life much better–not just for the actual image, but also for the shooting ;-). That said, some of my best images were made in poor viz. ↩
Importantly there is a threshold somewhere where this inverse relationship stops, and you’d better take shelter. Your personal safety must never be comprimised for the sake of an image. Don’t be out in the midst of a cyclone or in close proximity to lightning storms just to get a shot. ↩
I think I borrowed, or at least adapted, that term from the late Galen Rowell. ↩
Made during our recent trip to Singapore, this image shows two of the iconic sights around the Downtown Core of this beautiful city.
On the left is the Singapore Flyer, the second largest ferris wheel in the world.
On the right is the fabulous ArtScience Museum, which was built to resemble the shape of a lotus flower. While we were there we particularly enjoyed the ‘NASA: A Human Journey’ exhibition.
The ArtScience Museum is part of the beautiful Marina Bay Sands area. In many ways the ArtScience Museum visually and functionally represents Singapore itself – a unique blend of modern science and traditional culture.
This image was made in the mid-afternoon, and a circular polariser was a key part of creating it.
Singapore is an incredibly photogenic city, with so many interesting sites to see and capture.
One great area to spend time is around the Marina Bay area. The architecture here is spectacular, with some of the more interesting examples including the Marina Bay Sands complex (the three buildings ‘connected’ by a ‘ship’ on the roof, and the famous Double Helix pedestrian bridge, seen in this image.
Marina Bay itself is fascinating, with the entire bay having been dammed and converted into a freshwater reservoir, providing an important alternative freshwater source for the city-state.
As a key part of the Singapore ‘downtown core’ area, Marina Bay is an area worth exploring for the travelling photographer.
This image was created in the late afternoon, as I was scouting around for angles for sunset/golden hour/blue hour imagery. With the use of a polariser and ND filters, and some minor post processing in Luminar, I am very happy with the image.
With a full moon in early January, Darwin experienced some of the largest tidal exchanges of our time here – not as big as in early December, but up there. This provided an excellent opportunity to capture a time-lapse video.
Friday 13 January was a great time to capture a time-lapse, which I commenced shortly after the load tide of 0.57m at 12:52pm, and ran until just after the peak high of 7.86m at 7:27pm, a tidal exchange of some 7.29m! With the sun having set at 7:19pm, the end of the timelapse corresponded nicely with blue hour, a great time to shoot.
A good place to really notice the change is with the barge pictured in the lower right – it starts off resting on mud, but by the end is moving around in the water as you’d expect from a vessel tied off to a wharf and in no way touching the bottom.
The massive tidal change is one of the key features of Darwin Harbour, and a great way to tell this story is with the use of time-lapse photography.
I captured one image every 10 seconds over the period on my Panasonic Lumix GX7, using a MIOPS Smart Trigger to control the intervals. I then compiled the images on my laptop using ON1 Photo RAW to pre-process the images, then the Time-Lapse app for macOS to compile the time lapse sequence, before completing the movie in iMovie.
I love the art and process of still photography, but can’t deny that movement draws the eye and the ability to add movement to an image presents an exciting opportunity to add a new dimension to the still photographer’s toolkit.
I first heard about Plotagraph Pro from a tweet or newsletter by Trey Ratcliff (can’t remember which), and have seen a small number of other photographers posting images they have enhanced with the tool.
Plotagraph Pro is a web based tool that works on all modern web browsers1, thus making it a tool that works on both macOS and Windows. On the flip side, this means that you can only use the tool when online, something that the travelling photographer can’t always achieve.
So far I’ve played around with a couple of my images, and I am quite happy with the potential.
The above image (The Surface from Below) was a single RAW image created on my Nikon D200 during a trip to Papua New Guinea. It is thus not a new image. It took a bit of playing around to get just the surface water to move, but once I worked out how to achieve this, I think the result is quite good.
This image was created last year near the spectacular Mont Saint-Michel in France. This took a bit of work to get just the clouds to move, and while I like this image, I want to get a bit more smoothness in the cloud movement.
Plotagraph Pro is currently in beta, and I am certainly impressed with the quality of the output. I will look forward to seeing some fine tuning of the user interface to get to the end result.
Personally I am very interested to see how Plotagraph develops, and how it spurns a new generation of photo editing applications. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll stick with this tool in this incarnation – it is very expensive2 for a tool that effectively performs one trick, especially when it is a trick that you might use on a small percentage of your images.
Trey Ratcliff has posted a good tutorial about using Plotagraph on his YouTube channel.
As an aside this is the first post I’ve made using Ulysses posting directly to my WordPress site. I’ve used Byword in the past, but there is a lot to love about Ulysses.
I have found that Plotagraph Pro works much better in Chrome than in Safari. ↩
US$299 as a special offer for the beta program. For us in Australia this means software that costs over $400. ↩