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Eilean Donan Castle, Kyle of LochalshI think you've already sussed what's not quite there with this one Tracy. However I can sympathise with you over the weather. I live 17 miles from the castle so have the luxury of visiting when I think conditions will be suitable, and I take photographers there regularly.

I absolutely agree that it needed to be taken earlier while there was still enough light in the sky to give those wonderful blues that complement the flood lighting. The small turret really gets blown out by that floodlight beneath it though. One of these days I'm going to sneak over there and block off some of that light! (Okay, probably not.) However, as you're shooting long exposure on a tripod, it's easy enough to take an exposure you can use to fix that blown highlight later in processing, so try that when you next visit.

The causeway was better lit a couple of years ago but it's a bit disappointing these days. Perhaps it will be better lit again in the future. At the moment, however, the only way I've found to get the causeway lighting to work better is to move more towards the end of it so you're closer and the light that is on it seems brighter, but that compromises the composition. Another shot is from the other side of the water, just over the bridge as you head towards Kyle. You're a bit farther away but that can allow you to make use of more background, and if the tide is in and it's a calm evening, the reflection from there can be stunning.

I would generally use 100 ISO for this, and certainly keep your lens short of its maximum aperture. Yes, you could go smaller than f14 I suspect and not be far from your lens's sweet spot, but unless you really need that extra DOF, why would you? If you had something really close in the foreground that you wanted to be sharp, that would be a good reason. And shoot RAW files - that really helps in handling exposure difficulties.

You obviously have the shot you want in your head so I hope you get back and manage to capture it. Maybe try over the winter - snow on the mountains and no midges!

David. (p.s. I always carry midge head-nets in my camera bag at this time of year!)
20/08/2014 - 4:00 PM

Freedom 2

Freedom 2I used to shoot equestrian events professionally, covering everyone from pony club riders to multiple Olympic gold medalllists, so I hope some of what I'm going to say here will help. I especially enjoyed XC.

Comparing this with your previous version, it's a huge improvement in the processing. It won't be an option for you here as I see you shot this as a jpeg image, but if you'd shot in RAW you could have handled the shadow area around the horse's neck far better in the RAW conversion. That said, the shadow area is not too much of a distraction and you've caught a little bit of side lighting on the head which helps to lift the shot. I like your composition with the horse and rider filling most of the height of the image and being positioned left of centre, so there's a good dynamic feeling of them moving forward into the open space. Everything that should be straight and level IS, and it's well exposed. Nice white balance too.

I found it was always difficult to select fences where the horse and rider were well lit front on. I came to the conclusion that course designers must try to avoid having riders jumping towards the sun rather than pander to my photographic needs Tongue However, I always walked the course and selected the fences to shoot based on a combination of how the lighting would be at the time of day when the fences would be in use, and how attractive or spectacular the fences looked. Fence designers also have a habit of decorating the side of the fence facing the approaching horse and rider, and not the other side, so a three-quarter rear shot such as yours is often the one which gives the best view of the fence itself.

The timing of your shot is just a fraction off. A tenth of a second later and you'd have had much better extension in the rear legs and, with luck, the fore legs would have been in a better tuck position. Certainly that's the shot we were always striving to capture, and it takes considerable practice to get the timing right so don't feel bad. I found I tended to slightly anticipate the shot, just as you have done, and so I would try to take 2 or 3 frames. (My camera took 10fps.) My 2nd frame was almost always spot on. Your camera can take 6fps so you might find that the next frame on motor drive would be a fraction too late. It's surprising how much moves in a tenth of a second. You could, of course, practice on other riders before your fiance reaches you to find what timing works best for you Smile

On the technical side, I notice you've used shutter priority and set it to 1/1600th sec. Certainly you'd want 1/1000th minimum for this type of shot if that's possible, and 1/1600th should give good results. However, by using shutter priority, you have less direct control over aperture. Counter-intuitive as it might sound, I preferred to use aperture priority for my action shots. I had a couple of reasons for that. First, I like to have a short depth of field to blur the background more, which helps to focus attention on the main subject. That said, a blurred background is harder to achieve when shooting from farther away using a telephoto but with your f2.8 lens, you could have afforded to go with a wider aperture. Secondly, if the light changed a lot (as it often did) I'd not find that I completely missed shots because the fast shutter speed I'd set could simply not be achieved. If the light suddenly drops and the shutter speed remains fast, it might be that the aperture goes as wide as your lens allows but you still can't get a good exposure, so you can end up greatly under-exposing or the camera might even refuse to take the shot at all - not good. So, to summarise, aperture priority, wide aperture (that depends very much on your lens of course), and let the camera select the shutter speed. always keep one eye on the shutter speed and if it starts to drop too low, increase ISO. (Keep ISO as low as is practical though). A lot of experienced sports photographers prefer this method.

Your shot was 1/1600th at f8 with ISO 500. I would have set a wider aperture, probably f4 to avoid using the lens's most extreme setting, and a lower ISO. The camera would still have selected a fast enough shutter speed. Assuming it was okay to do so without getting in the way, moving closer to the fence and using a shorter focal length would have allowed a similar composition. With your focus point being relatively closer, you could have pushed the background a little more out of focus.

I noticed your exposure compensation was set at minus 1/3. That's a good idea because in processing images we can handle under-exposure much more easily than over-exposure. I would always aim to err on the side of under-exposure.

You've got a good shot there which is not far off being excellent. Although I've written a lot, that's not meant to suggest you've got a lot wrong. You haven't. I'm just giving advice and some alternative approaches which I hope will help you to get a real stunner next time.
21/06/2008 - 10:38 PM

Back Off!

Back Off!Great shot, beautifully timed. I'd agree with the earlier comment about a square crop though. As an image to stand on its own, I'd lose most of the space on the left. However, if it was to be used in a publication and some text was to overlay the image, it would be absolutely perfect as is.

The only other thing I can think of that you could possibly have done to improve this shot would have been some fill-in flash to light the inside of the.... actually what do you call it... mouth? beak? throat? Well, I'm sure you know what I mean. I'm not a fan of flash but having seen the result for a similar shot (of a puffin) by a photographer whose work I greatly admire, it's made me think. I stil don't carry a flash though, LOL!

All in all, an excellent shot and my comments are in no way meant to criticise it. I'm impressed.
21/06/2008 - 12:23 PM

who you looking at

who you looking atI wasn't sure from your comment if you are a beginner in photography or a beginner in bird/wildlife photography. Either way you've produce a very competent image, well exposed and nicely lit, in spite of it being a sunny day. (I say "in spite of" because harsh sunlight can make things difficult - the low sun at either end of the day usually gives more pleasing results.) You have caught a highlight in the eye, which is often regarded as important to have, and certainly is for a head shot such as this. Also you've used a wide aperture which means the background is nicely out of focus, a very good thing on all but rare occasions.

I'd agree with phillips' comment about cropping it a little at the left. Your composition is a bit too central for comfort. A very good photographer once said to me, "It's not just what you put in your photograph that's important, it's also what you leave out" and that's excellent advice. It also pays to cast your eye quickly around the very edge of the shot to see what's in, out, or half in or out :o) In most cases, try not to put the main subject smack in the middle - that's seldom as interesting to look at as when the subject is offset.

As pamelajean has said, it IS simply a photograph of the head of a goose and, however competent, will be looked upon as a "record" shot. (That dreaded phrase, "It's a good record shot" - how many times have we heard that and gnashed our teeth?) Often what is meant by calling something a record shot is that it is technically good but lacks that "X-factor" to give it a bit more interest. It is inevitably much harder to get those X-factor shots and they generally require a large amount of time and patience to find. In the case of bird photography it might mean catching the bird(s) during a mating ritual, or feeding their chicks, or something that bit more unusual. However, that's pretty advanced stuff, and believe me, most if not all photographers who eventually achieve that will have started with something very much like your shot, so do not be at all discouraged!

If you are trying to produce a wildlife or nature shot, do not fall into the trap that some do of over-sharpening it or applying some kind of Photoshop filter. Leave that sort of thing for fine art images. If that's what you prefer to do then fine, go for it, but for true wildife photography you want to make it look as natural as possible and to give an impression of the proper surroundings, just as you have done. Note I said "an impression": that does not mean showing the surroundings in utter clarity. What it does mean is that the bird appears to be in its natural surroundings, preferably with those surroundings outside the range of sharp focus produced by your lens. That way the bird (for example) is in sharp focus and its surroundings are blurry, so attention is on the bird. Also it would mean that the bird is sat on a twig, on the ground, or, if you're being more adventurous, is flying, rather than sitting on a bird feeder.

I've said rather a lot but I hope some of it will be of use and perhaps also have given you some ideas you'd like to try. My apologies if you already knew all this stuff! Most importantly though, get out there and have a go, as that's how we all started!
20/06/2008 - 11:11 PM

2x Extender

2x ExtenderI have both the 1.5x and 2x Kenko extenders, and even though I've used both quite a bit, and have even tried doubling them up to make things as horrible as possible, the jury is still out on whether I'm satisfied (as opposed to happy) with them. In some circumstances I've achieved fairly sharp images (I'm very fussy about sharpness) but in others I've found the results to be unacceptably soft. I think, sometimes, it might be a DoF or focal plane issue, though it might simply be the longer focal length making it harder to keep the camera steady enough. However, I often shoot at very high shutter speeds (1/2000th or faster) so I don't believe it's camera shake.

There is no doubt whatsoever that an extender does dull the ultimate sharpness - I don't think anyone experienced would argue about that. That being so, the better the bare lens is, the better chance of you getting an acceptable result with an extender. I've seen absolutely cracking pin-sharp results with a 2x extender on a Canon 500/f4 lens (though admittedly it was the Canon extender).

I'd expect contrast to be affected but that's usually easily recoverable in PS later so you can safely ignore that. Looking closely at your results, I can't see anything so severe I'd worry about it. The head looks just a little short of pin-sharp but there's some nice sharp-looking detail in the plumage. Judging by the rock below, I'd say you've got a very short DoF with the focal plane perhaps just an inch or two too close to camera to have got the head absolutely pin-sharp. That's how it looks to me anyway.

By the way, please ignore some of the rubbish that is spewed out by people about extenders turning, for example, an f4 lens into an f8. They do not!!! Let me explain. What they actually do is to lose you about 2 stops of light (for a 2x extender). Now, that could be two exposure stops but it could equally be 2 shutter speed stops. Both reduce the amount of light reaching the camera sensor by about 2 stops, and that's the important factor. The characteristics of the lens remain unaltered. The extender is little more than a slightly sophisitcated magnifying glass that sits between the lens and the camera body. The image that the lens produces (complete with the effect of the f-stop you've used) is magnified before it lands on the camera's sensor (or film, for those who remember the stuff). Assuming that you do not alter the aperture, the distance over which the image is in sharp focus will remain as it was for the lens before the extender was inserted.

Now, I daresay some optical physicist will roll up and tell me I'm talking rubbish!!!

I hope that's been of some help and reassurance.
20/06/2008 - 10:24 PM

Rally Clinic

Rally ClinicHaving seen your other rally post first, I had to have a close look at this one too :o)

This time you seem to have the focus (or what we'll call the "panning-point" for lack of a better phrase) at the front of the car. Is that better than on the windscreen & driver? I don't know, maybe that's a personal preference thing. Both work well in conveying a sense of movement and speed, and your shutter speed looks good from the point of view of successfully getting motion blur into the background.

As regards framing, i'd have liked to have seen just a little more space at the rear of the car, though not much - you wouldn't be able to get much more at that angle anyway! The slightly elavated shooting position has given a nice set of diagonals - road & car - and transformed it from being a rather more boring "straight side-on" shot.

Overall I like it, and if I were you I'd not be too discouraged about trying some more, though a venue with something a bit more dramatic in the way of corners or jumps would certainly spice things up a bit :o)
20/06/2008 - 10:14 PM

Dusty

DustyI've thought about it further and I think I'm getting my head around krimage's comment now. Although, physically, the whole car is moving at the same speed, because the car is moving both across and towards you, those parts closer to you will cover a large distance in the 2-dimensional plane than the parts that are further away (in much the same way that objects closer appear larger than objects farther away). However, i'd think that you must have been on quite a slow shutter speed for that to become obvious. If your 70-200 is the IS version then perhaps you've been able to eliminate camera shake with the IS at a slower shutter speed, hence the motion blur. Having said that, your panning technique must be very good indeed to have got shut a pin-sharp image at any point on the car, so although you might be disappointed with some aspects of the shot, you ought to be pleased with the panning at least!

Aside from ALL that, I do like the effect! It certainly has managed to convey a sense of speed and movement, and because the most important part of the car is sharp, this works well. Perhaps you ought to make this a speciality, a personal style if you like!!!