Pre-setting your camera for likely images

Pre-setting your camera for likely images

My photographic origins in the underwater world have taught me the importance of thinking through the photographic objectives for a shoot (dive), and pre-setting your camera.

In underwater photography one key mantra is to get close – minimising the amount of water between subject and your camera1.

For this reason, and the fact that lenses cannot be changed underwater2, most UW photo situations revolve around one of a small number of basic setups.

  1. Wide angle lenses that allow the photographer to get close to large subjects.
  2. Close up lenses that get the photographer close to small subjects.
  3. Macro lenses that allow images to be made of small to extremely small subjects.

In reality a good macro lens is also a very capable close up lens, further reducing the number of setups to just two.

Before a dive I spend time setting up my camera rig for the setup – not just the lens and ports, but also choosing strobe (flash) arms and getting everything about right for the dive. I make sure that I have a formatted

As I became a more experienced UW photographer it dawned on me that I could extend the preparedness concept to include camera settings. In each different style of photography I could reasonably anticipate the settings, and then prepare accordingly, saving the need to fiddle with adjustments underwater. The following table shows some examples of common pre-sets that I use:

Macro Close-Up W/A – Reef/People Big Fish, Moving Fast
Lens 30mm 30mm 7-14mm zoom 7-14mm zoom
Port Flat Flat Dome Dome
Strobes 1-2 1-2 1-2 0-2
Arms Short Short-Medium Long Long
Camera Mode A A A S
Likely Aperture f/16-f/22 f/11-f/16 f/5.6-f/11 N/A
Likely Shutter Speed N/A N/A N/A 1/125–1/500
ISO 200 200 200-400 200-400
Strobe Power ¼-½ ¼-½ ¼-½ ½–Full

Before I enter the water with a close up / macro right, then I will likely preset as follows:
– Shutter mode: Aperture Priority (A)
– Aperture: f/16
– ISO: 200
– Strobes: ½ power

Chromodoris lochi on the march by Des Paroz on 500px.com

With this setup, any changes for the first subject scene I come across are likely only to be a click or two on a dial or two. I have similar checklists for my wide angle photo scenes.

The concepts extends to my topside photography:

Landscape Seascape Street
Lens 12-60mm 8-18mm 20mm
Mode A A A
Starting Aperture f/8 f/11 f/6
ISO 200 200 400
Image Stabilisation 3 Off Off On

Obviously the above table can (and should) be extended to different lighting situations – blue hour, golden hour, daylight, night, etc.

I hope this post seeks to provide some insight into how I think about my photography before a shoot. There are variations to the above, and equipment, shooting genre, artistic style, etc, should all influence how you pre-set.

In any case, thinking ahead and creating simple checklists including these settings and perhaps a reminder to have a formatted memory card, fresh battery and even to check the camera’s date and time settings, can help to allow you to focus on your photography when on a shoot.


  1. Water filters light, removes colour and refracts light in a way that causes a subject to lose sharpness and colour, as well as adding gunk (technical) terms that further kills the quality of an image. 
  2. There are some low quality or super-expensive rigs that do allow changing of lenses, but the majority of setups do not. 
  3. For landscape and seascapes I am generally shooting on a tripod or clamp, so stabilisation should be off, while shooting handheld (i.e. street) stabilisation should be on. 
Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands

I love spending time around the Downtown Core area of Singapore whenever I visit the exotic Asian city.

The island nation has developed a unique combination of the old and the new, of Asian and western and of formal and casual.

Photographically, the Downtown Core is a dream. There are many buildings, bridges, and other structures to make images of and the waters of Marina Bay provide a delicate balance to the formations and the sky.

This image was made mid-afternoon, so a polarizing filter helped to reduce the glare.

Singapore is a great destination in its own right and is a comfortable stopover for travellers flying between other Asia-Pacific destinations and Europe. Well worth a visit, and for photographers, there are some great camera stores to be found with reasonable prices.

Image Data

C: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7
L: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO
E: Lightroom CC Classic, Luminar 2018

View this image on 500px or Flickr

My Mirrorless Experience

My Mirrorless Experience

I made the switch from DSLR cameras to the Micro Four Thirds (m43) based interchangeable lens system in about 2014. My last dSLR was a Nikon D200, and I switched to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 that I am still using.1

IMG 1170

The switch to m43 has been awesome.

My personal photography revolves around underwater, seascapes, landscapes and travel photography. For all of these genres a balanced and lightweight rig provides an a lot of advantages for me.

Advantages of m43

Travel is getting more restrictive, and there is a clear move by airlines and security agencies to increasingly limit the amount of gear we can travel with, particularly carry on. Many of the destinations I go to are accessed by small aircraft, placing even greater restrictions on the kit that can be carried.

In my photography, I tend to move around a lot, and the smaller rig allows me to more easily carry all my kit in one bag.

I can also use a smaller, lighter tripod to stabilise my rig – important in my photography.

The m43 gear also tends to be ahead of the curve, compared to most DSLR gear, in terms of introducing new tech.

This is not an exhaustive list, but some of the key things that work well for me.

Disadvantages and Mitigations of m43

IMG 1081

Clearly the smaller sensor size (compared to the misnamed ‘full frame’ cameras) means lower resolution. My GX7 is 16 megapixel2, and to be honest I’ve never found a scenario where I have wished for more. For most photographers, anything upwards of 12 megapixel will be more than enough.

Autofocus on (most) mirrorless cameras is slower. If I were to be shooting high speed subjects (e.g. sports) this would be a concern. For my shooting, not so much.

Bokeh is more difficult on smaller sensors. I won’t go into the maths, but the depth-of-field is actually greater for the same f-stop, so you need a bigger aperture to achieve the same result3. To meet this requirement, some manufacturers are now making super fast lenses for m43 and other mirrorless cameras. One of my favourite lenses is the Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7, and there are at least a half dozen lenses with a maximum aperture in the order of 0.95.

Final Thoughts

IMG 1475

The move to mirrorless has been the right move for me. I am glad I started down this path, and will stay the course with m43. If I was starting over I would happily choose m43 again, although would consider the Fuji mirrorless system.

I also find that I make more photos, more regularly, because I really have fun shooting mirrorless.

I am not advocating m43 (or other mirrorless) cameras as the perfect solution for all photographers, but for landscape, travel and underwater photographers there are many reasons mirrorless should be considered.

What is certain is that we are in an exciting time for photography when we can choose a wide range of cameras and accessories to make wonderful images.


  1. I am in the process of upgrading to the Panasonic Lumix DC-G9, but will keep my GX7 as a backup and second scene camera. 
  2. My upcoming G9 will be 20 megapixel. With some smart hardware/software magic 80 megapixel images can be made. 
  3. On the flip, the mirrorless depth-of-field is outstanding for my macro photographs. 
Wangi Falls

Wangi Falls

Wangi Falls in Litchfield National Park is a spectacular place to visit for great photography opportunities. During the Top End’s dry season it is also a great place to swim and enjoy cool, clear water.1

Waterfalls provide an interesting range of shooting opportunities, with my preference being for silky smooth water as seen in this image.

This image was created in the middle of a bright, cloudless day, so to achieve the silken look I used a Lee Big Stopper 10-stop ND filter. This resulted in a 25-second shutter speed at f/8.0. This slow shutter speed also resulted in a smooth surface on the lagoon, and enhanced the reflection of the waterfall.

View this image on 500px or Flickr.

Image Data

  • C: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7
  • L: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO
  • E: Lightroom CC Classic, Luminar 2018, Photoshop
  • F: Lee Filters Seven5 Big Stopper; Lee Filters Seven5 Polarizing Filter.

  1. Always check and heed signage at all swimming spots in Litchfield – dangerous undertows can be present, and this is an area where saltwater crocodiles are regularly seen in the Wet Season, resulting in the lagoon being (sensibly) closed to swimmers. 
Crowds and Clouds

Crowds and Clouds

Late Autumn is a great time to visit Rome as the crowds are much smaller than they would be during the Summer months.

This image was created from the Spanish Steps, with a perspective down Via dei Condotti, an upmarket shopping street in city’s centre. The presence of the crowds gives some indication of what the city might be like in the busier months. I am glad we visited when we did.

It was an overcast day, but the use of filters and some image editing in Luminar helped to bring out the detail in the sky. The final image is much closer to the way I saw the sky on the day.

Take a look at my Italy 2017 Photo Gallery.

View this image on 500px or Flickr

Image Data

  • C: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7
  • L: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO
  • E: Lightroom CC Classic, Luminar 2018
The Temple of Castor and Pollux

The Temple of Castor and Pollux

Temple of Castor and Pollux by Des Paroz on 500px.com

The Temple of Castor and Pollux is one of the ancient ruined buildings in the Roman Forum.

Today the temple consists of three marble pillars, some foundational structure and little more. It can be seen from a variety of vantage points from around the Forum.

I composed this image to get maximal sky between the columns, providing what I feel is the strongest image.

A polarising filter was an important addition to my kit for this shoot, allowing me to minimise glare.

20171126 Vestal Temple
The Temple of Vesta is also a key feature in the Roman Forum, and from this vantage point we can see that there is another view of the Temple of Castor and Pollux.

This one also has reasonable sky, but there is a bit more clutter. Both are interesting images, but for my liking the featured image, with less clutter, is the better perspective.

Regardless of your preference, exploring a site and getting multiple image of a subject from a variety of vantage points gives maximum chance of getting a ‘keeper’.

Image Data

C: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7
L: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO
E: Lightroom CC Classic, Luminar 2018

Check out my Italy 2017 Photo Gallery.

View this image on 500px or Flickr.

Boats on Sanur Beach

Boats on Sanur Beach

Sanur is considered the original upmarket tourist destination on the Indonesian island of Bali, and remains a photographically spectacular place today.

The long beach looks over towards Nusa Penida island (which can be seen in the background of this image).

I only had a couple of days in Bali on this trip as I was visiting for a seminar, so didn’t have the flexibility to shoot at the times that would have better suited. That said, I did enjoy the chance to explore the beach, and really liked the traditional fishing boats all along.

The challenge here was isolating the subject. The beaches are busy, and there is a lot going on. I managed to isolate the image nicely and using a polariser I reduced the glare of the mid-morning sun.

View this image on 500px or Flickr

Apps for Photography

Apps for Photography

My iPhone, and to an extent my iPad, are really important parts of my seascape, landscape and urban photography.

PhotoMenuThe iPhone itself makes for a good scouting camera, a good camera for a sneaky pano and a tool for making images of my image making. Its true power, however, lies in its abilities to assist in planning, managing, editing and sharing photos.

I thought I’d share some of the apps I use, and how I use them in my photography adventures.

Planning

  • Modern Atlas is a wonderful app that allows you to explore an area ahead of time with a map based interface that pulls in data from Wikipedia and other sources. It also features a lot of photography of an area, so it is a good planning tool.
  • 500px and Flickr are two apps that allow you to pre-explore an area to see what other photographers have done. Its a good source of ideas for image making starting points in a destination.
    TPE
  • The Photographers Ephemeris is perhaps my most used planning tool. Once I get an idea of where I want to shoot from TPE allows me to work out optimal times for shooting, noting sun angles and elevations, as well as timings for sunrise/set, golden hour and blue hour.
  • Weather Apps are an important planning tool to know whether it is worth planning to get up early, and what you can expect as far as temperatures. At home in Australia I use WillyWeather, and when travelling internationally I tend to use the native iOS Weather app. Rain Parrot is a great tool for providing me with alerts if rain is expected.
  • Maps – While I use Apple Maps at home and when I have good 4G coverage, I really like Maps.me when travelling internationally where I might not have good data coverage, or very limited data allowance. Maps.me is a superb tool for planning and then locating a photo location, even when coverage is unavailable. I am also playing around with what3words as a very interesting concept for planning and tracking locations.
  • Bear is my place for logging my ideas for both writing and photography. It provides a cool interface on macOS and iOS for notes using a modified Markdown format.

Shooting

  • Geotag Photos Pro 2 is a tool I use to do GPS logging for my images.
  • Panasonic Image App is a remote app for shooting with Panasonic Lumix cameras.
  • MiOPS is a tool to integrate with my MiOPS smart triggers.
  • LEE Filters – Stopper Exposure – I use Lee Filters Little Stopper (6 f-stop) and Big Stopper (10 f-stop) filters for many of my images, and this app allows me to quickly calculate the shutter speed I will need for a given aperture.

Managing

  • Photos – used mainly for supporting images taken on my iPhone. Getting more and more powerful with every release.
  • Adobe Lightroom CC – I do most of my digital asset management (DAM) on my Mac, but the new version of Lightroom CC allows me to do some of this work on the go.1

Editing

  • Affinity Photo – I do most of my editing in Luminar 2018 on my Mac, but when I do need to do stuff on the go, Affinity Photo is a very capable editor on iOS.
  • Plotagraph+ Photo Animator – I love still images, but adding some movement to a still is a different way of enjoying photography. Plotagraph+ is a fun and easy tool to do just that.
  • When I am editing in Luminar 2018 on my MacBook Pro, and I don’t have a Wacom tablet with me, I use Astropad Studio on my iPad with an Apple Pencil to bring graphics tablet functionality to the table. This is very on the go.

Miscellaneous

  • Lenstag is a great tool to allow me to track my camera and lens equipment.

Sharing

  • I’ve mentioned before that I use 500px and Flickr to plan, but they remain great ways to share my best images.
  • Micro.blog is a great, relatively new, platform for owning your own content, but sharing with a social layer. I am finding this to be a great way of sharing my images and photography thoughts not only to the Micro.Blog platform, but also to Twitter and Facebook (if I want to). Find me on Micro.Blog

New Additions

  • Really Good Photo Spots is a social based photo location sharing and planning tool. It has potential, but I haven’t used it enough, yet, to incorporate it into my standard workflow.

Conclusion

The biggest challenge with much photography, particularly landscape photography, is the challenge of time. It is a limited resource, and good planning and execution makes the job of making photos simpler and more fun.

The above apps have made my life easier. I’d be interested to hear other’s experiences, and also any suggestions on other apps worth considering.


  1. I haven’t emotionally committed to Lightroom at this time – still waiting to see what the upcoming DAM features in Luminar will look like. 
Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

Perhaps the world’s most famous fountain (and certainly the most famous in Rome), the Trevi Fountain is a spectacular baroque masterpiece not far from the Pantheon in the city’s centre.

In my other Rome images I have discussed my preference for the pre-dawn blue hour as an opportunity to get nice light and few people. This image was made after sunrise, but before the crowds.

The image was created with a very wide angle of 7mm (14mm in ‘full frame’). A little bit of straightening was done with DxO ViewPoint, and basic editing in Luminar.

20171125 Trevi CrowdsThe small image to the right was shot in the middle of the day a couple of days before the post’s featured image in the middle of the day. You can see the significant crowds (noting it was late November), and the harsher mid-day light.

It really is worth getting up early for sunrise photography, and waiting around until the later evening for evening blue hour. In the European winter this is a little easier given the shorter days!

Check out my Italy 2017 Photo Gallery.

View this image on 500px or Flickr

Image Data

(For the featured image)

  • C: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7
  • L: Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4
  • E: Lightroom CC Classic, Luminar 2018, DxO ViewPoint 3
Stormy Forum

Stormy Forum

Stormy Forum by Des Paroz on 500px.com

After shooting the Roman Forum one dawn, we visited the site, easily spending a good half day exploring the various Roman ruins.

Spectacular.

It was a brilliant Rome day, with beautiful weather, but some fairly ominous clouds came over the site, providing quite a spectacular sky.

I found a composition that I liked with the column and dome.

As shot, the image had some distortion with the straight lines of the column and the building on the right leaning inwards. I fixed the image with DxO ViewPoint 3.

Check out my Italy 2017 Photo Gallery.

View this image on 500px or Flickr

Image Data

I’m borrowing an idea I picked up on the interwebs — I think from Brian Matiash — to include some basic image data in these blog posts. So I will experiment with including camera (C), lens (L) and editing (E) details in brief. I might also add in data such as other accessories (filters, lights, etc).

C: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7
L: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO
E: Lightroom, Luminar 2018, DxO ViewPoint 3

Vatican Night

Vatican Night

This is the third in a series of photos made of the Vatican, from Rome’s Ponte Umberto I, down the Tiber River and across the Ponte Sant’Angelo.

After staking out a good vantage point , I stayed in place from golden hour, through the sunset and into the late blue hour, when this shot was made. As can be seen a single composition can deliver very different results with the changing light.

This image shows about the point in the late blue hour where I normally call it quits. The darks of foliage are really blacks.

In this case, the golden hue from the lights contrasts nicely with the blues of the water and sky, with wonderful reflections on the river.

The point is, work a scene. Don’t quit too soon and take your time to get a range of images.

View my Italy 2017 Image Gallery

View this image on 500px or Flickr

Castel and Bridge

Castel and Bridge

Castel Sant’Angelo represents the uniqueness of old old Rome.

Built originally as a mausoleum by Emperor Hadrian in around 123-139CE, the complex was later used as a Papal residence and fortress and then a prison. It is still in use today as a museum and tourist attraction.

In researching Rome photography using 500px, Flickr and the Modern Atlas app I realised that Castel Sant’Angelo would present a range of shooting opportunities. This was backed up in Elia Locardi’s Photographing the World Part 3 tutorials that utilised this site as one of the featured shots for a tutorial.

My preferred image is with the bridge on the left (Bridge of Angels), and drawing the eye left to right to the Castel.

In some respects the featured image on this post gives more prominence to the castle, and the starbursts of the lights on the bridge work well in this composition. So it was worth shooting from several different angles.

20171126 Bridge to CastelAnother angle, the smaller one to the right, shows the bridge in full daylight, with people crossing the old bridge between the castle and the city.

For me telling the story of a photographic subject is an important part of the experience. And it gives you a better chance of getting a unique image.

Please visit my Italy 2017 Photo Gallery.

View this image on 500px or Flickr