Camera support manufacturer, Really Right Stuff (RRS) has a clever photo contest going this year. The theme is fire; I thought about the theme, and tried to come up with a unique play on photographing fire. I live in eastern Ontario, Canada. I don't live near volcanoes or geysers of naturally-occurring flames, so my fire, I realized, would have to be contrived. My lower back had gone out quite badly at the time (and is still wonky), so my fire activities would be limited to light-duty types of activities, no hiking to mountain-tops to photograph my flames.
Since the contest involves the use of tripods and camera supports, long, timed exposure-captures of the fire was the obvious tactic. Fifteen, twenty and thirty second captures of flames would result in artistic blurs and effects, so as I pondered flames and motion combined, fire juggling came to mind. If I could capture flames in motion at night over a the period of a 15-30 second timed exposure, I might be able to create the effect of symbols of the Chinese Constellation. This would create an interesting (to me anyways) theme, with unique interplay of fire using the full-moon night sky as the backdrop.
The four symbols of the Chinese Constellation are the mythical guardians of the cardinal compass points. The Azure (green) Dragon guarding the east, the Vermilion (red) Bird guarding the south, the White Tiger of the West and the Black Tortoise guarding the north. My limitations, in addition to having a hard time finding willing dragons to pose for a photograph, was that the contest only allows two photos to be submitted.
As I thought about it, I wanted to include the full moon in my exposures. A full moon in a cloudless sky will create a dynamic feeling of energy with the creation of a "moon star". By using the smallest aperture setting on my Sigma 35 mm "art" lens, the principles of light refraction are shown when light refracts off the aperture diaphragm blades, to create light bleeds off intense light sources, such as the sun and the moon. However, sun and moon stars in my opinion are easily overdone. They're spectacular when used very sparingly as a background garnish, but like wide angle lens photography, if that's all you ever do, this becomes tired, quickly. So, I hoped that I would have one night with a full moon and a clear sky to get moon stars, and a second night of the full moon with clouds, so that the moon could back light the clouds, like the Creator's own soft box, and create that unique imagery of silver-lined clouds that only a full moon seems to produce.
From the time I learned of the contest, I only had two full moons to take advantage of; one in September, and one in October. This would mean two evening sessions, taking timed exposures of fire, using my Really Right Stuff equipment to take said pictures.
I searched the 'net for fire juggling devices, all the while thinking of using a ball that I could attach to a chain or wire. This would be ideal to set in motion to become my creature in the sky, making "paint-strokes" with the flame by batting the tethered ball around with my gloved hand, in front of my tripod-mounted camera while on timed exposure.
I soon found a Kevlar juggling ball, which is a weighted ball that looks just like a tennis ball. The Kevlar material allows this to be set on fire for the specific purpose of fire juggling. Next, I looked for something to color the flames to get my colored mythical creatures, and found dyes (from fire juggling supplier House of Poi) made specially to color the flames of fire-juggling equipment. If you look long enough, you'll find just about anything on the internet.
Since I'd be working on my own, I came up with an idea to suspend the fire-juggling ball in mid air. By doing so safely, I could saturate the ball with dyed methyl hydrate, set it on fire, then set in in motion with a light push, and by framing the full moon in the background, I could do a timed exposure that would create a nice moon star in the background thanks to the blade-diaphragm design of my Sigma 35 mm art lens. And then once the clouds moved in, do a similar technique of moving the flaming ball around.
I've included two photos of my setup in daytime, which includes:
1. A heavy string, pulled guitar-string taut to run parallel to the ground, about 8' in height, over a distance of about 40 feet;
2. A non-flammable wire, hanging down from the string, to which the ball would be attached;
3. A heavy steel hook to attach the ball to the wire;
4. Garden hose, turned on and ready to fight fire;
5. A set of heavy leather gloves for handling and extinguishing the ball once it was set aflame;
6. A headlight to allow me to operate in the darkness between shots;
7. A ladder to stack fuel, lighter, gloves, etc on during the process.
8. The fireproof juggling ball, carefully saturated over and over again with dyed methyl hydrate in between shots.
Once the full moon on September 19th came out, I was ready. I had put up my horizontal string in the daytime, hung the vertical wire that would suspend my juggling ball, used duct tape to keep the vertical wire from sliding all over the place once in motion, mixed my fuel (methyl hydrate and flame coloring from the House of Poi) after reading the safety instructions several times, got my garden hose ready to go, and set up my Canon 7D on my Really Right Stuff TV-34L tripod, which wears a RRS leveling base, RRS center column extender and a RRS BH-55 ball head.
**CAUTION** Using methyl hydrate as a fuel works best, since it burns clean and the fuel additive coloring works best. However, methyl hydrate is extremely flammable, and the flame cannot be seen in daytime, making it a very dangerous substance to play with. If you try these things at home, have a ready source of water to extinguish things, realize that this stuff burns tenaciously, and is not so easily extinguished. If you attempt to add fuel to a juggling prop that still has a tiny (difficult to see) little flame alive on it, you're going to create a fireball and immolate yourself. In color. So respect this stuff.
OK, back to the setup.
With my Canon 7D set up on its tripod, using my Sigma 35 mm prime lens, I framed the shot to encompass the fireball in the foreground and the full moon in the background. I would generally pre-focus on the ball as it hung motionless before being set on fire, with an aperture suitable for decent depth of field. Since the moon, clouds and ball would all be in motion and slightly blurry no matter what, I figured that by having the ball in acceptable sharp focus, with a suitable (tight) aperture to both reduce light and allow for longer exposures, as well as better depth of field, was the way to go. Once I had the ball in focus (I wore a headlight to work in the dark and to illuminate my ball for focus purposes), I would turn off the auto-focus, otherwise your lens' auto-focus will just hunt for a target for the whole 30 second exposure. Once the ball was set on fire, I gave it a light tap in the direction that I thought would result in the image-painting I envisaged from the camera's perspective, and using a shutter release cable, fired the exposure, occasionally batting the ball with my hand during the exposure to effect the result I was after.
Experimentation with shutter speeds, apertures and position was tempered by the fact that the moon was always changing position, and the flaming ball required constant attention. I had pre-soaked the area of lawn and overhead string with water to retard fire, but the burning juggling ball needed to be tended to and kept in motion during the exposures. Too much motion and it swung out of frame, not enough and the flame burned too intensely creating imbalances in brightness throughout the exposure. Since I kept my exposures between 15-30 seconds, the flame would burn out over the course of several exposures. Re-fueling the ball meant putting on a pair of wet, heavy leather work gloves and physically smothering the small flames. I would clench my hands around the ball for 10-15 seconds to kill the flames, and be surprised to find that when I pulled my hands away, the ball burst back into flames. Again, very dangerous stuff to handle. Once I re-saturated the juggling ball, I'd get my camera all ready to go,
I was kept very busy altering settings (low ISO to reduce digital noise and to increase the length of shutter speed for maximum movement capture, tight apertures to maximize the moon star effect, etc) while simultaneously moving the flaming ball. Physics dictates that if you hang an object and give it a tap in normal gravity, it will begin to swing in a specific repeating pattern. If you photograph that from the ground facing upwards to the light source, you'll get that classic figure 8 Spirograph. I did this (see the photo at the top of this post) using a Rokinon fish eye lens to capture the Spirograph as well as other light shapes, constructed by tapping the flaming ball with my hand to set it in various directions.
To get my dragon and bird, I needed to try and orchestrate the movement of the swinging, flaming ball, to create the image of a creature flying through the night sky. This meant many deleted frames, and a full liter (.25 gallon) of dyed methyl hydrate for each evening's shoot.
I did the whole setup over again on October 18th, when the full moon came around again. This time, I used the green dye, and after lots and lots of exposures, got a few that look (to me and hopefully to the judges of this contest) like a green dragon rampant through the night sky.
So that's it!
I think fire juggling props and fuels have the potential for some really amazing photos. I was limited by working alone, having a low-back injury, and by trying to operate within the constraints of a very specific theme, but in the future, I plan to do some more elaborate shots of a skilled juggler tossing fire around in the night. The fire becomes the brush, the night sky is the canvass, and you get to create some interesting and unique art with this medium. Working at a beach would be ideal for safety purposes. This type of photography is rife with risk. No need to start a terrible fire in the attempt of getting some cool pictures.
If you're still awake after reading all of this, send me an e-mail and I'll meet you at a local Ottawa coffee shop of your choice and buy you a coffee.
'Till the next time, take care and always be safe out there.
These are my two contest photos for the Really Right Stuff photo contest. Since I do not live near natural sources of fire, such as volcanoes or fire-spewing geysers, I have tried to meet the spirit of the contest by capturing the inner spiritual note that fire plays in our hearts. Asking myself what sort of fire I could create that would inspire passions, I wanted to incorporate movement with the fire, to add a dynamic edge. Shooting at night, it occurred to me that I could try to create representations of two of the Four Symbols of the Chinese Constellation, here being the Azure (green) Dragon and the Vermilion (red) Bird. I staged my shooting around the two full moons that I had access to in September and October, since the full moon can be used to create a moon star in the background (cloudless sky) or to create the feel of a sky-wide soft box, illuminated from behind (clouded sky). I am providing an example of each type of sky in these two photos.
A complete explanation of the shoot, the materials used, how I did it and why I chose characters from the Chinese Constellation to create flame images can be seen in the blog entry just prior to this one. In keeping with the contest rules, only two photos can be entered, so the two photos seen in this blog entry constitute my submissions for the contest. The previous blog entry has many more fire shots, as well as a great deal more details on the hows and whys if anyone is interested.
Photo # 1: Azure Dragon in Night Sky (image 4943).
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, October 18, 2013 by Chris Kiez
Equipment: Canon 7D, with Sigma 35 mm lens. RRS TV34-L tripod, RRS center column, RRS leveling base, RRS BH-55 ball head.
Exposure info: 25 seconds @ f/16, ISO 100. Post production Light Room 5; crop, very slight tweaks in exposure, saturation and noise reduction.
Photo # 2: Vermilion Bird in Night Sky (image 2812)
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, September 19th, 2013, by Chris Kiez
Equipment: Canon 7D, with Sigma 35 mm lens. RRS TV34-L tripod, RRS center column, RRS leveling base, RRS BH-55 ball head.
Exposure info: 25 seconds @ f/16, ISO 100. Post production Light Room 5; crop, very slight tweaks to exposure, saturation and noise reduction.
The hot, humid weather of summer here in Eastern Ontario is the Time of the Dragons! I love all kinds of dragonflies, damsel flies, and the like. Their flying is unique, owing to a hind wing and a fore-wing of different sizes. They fly in amazing patterns, they manifest amazing colors, and they eat mosquitoes and deer-fly, so whats not to like?
My advice to students on photographing these winged beauties:
1. Bring a long lens if you can. I find students often fall into the mindset that since these are insects, you should be using a macro lens only. By all means, try using that macro lens. However, if you get too close to a dragonfly--if you can get close--your shadow, your presence, your movement will send them flying off. I like to use a long lens (Canon 100-400 mm lens) and shoot as close as that lens will let me focus.
2. I mount my Canon 7D and Canon 100-400 mm lens on a Carry Speed strap, which goes right onto my Really Right Stuff mono pod head and mono pod. This set up allows me to carry a heavy leans and camera setup for many long hours on what is sure to be a very hot, very humid day. After the first five kilometers, I appreciate the strap setup to allow me to carry the heavy camera, mono pod extended, ready to go from walk and carry to stop and shoot supported in seconds for the best, blur-free shots.
3. You have to go where the dragonflies are. My favorite spot locally is a dam spillway off the Ottawa River, where a nature conservancy has groomed and not-so-groomed trails for a day long hunt. Once you hit the woods and shade, I find the species choice and volume of species drops by 80%. You have to stay in the hot sun, so sunscreen, hats and bug spray are big parts of my day. And you have to be near water and/or swamps generally. So yuo'll want bug spray, at least I do........
4. On the topic of bug spray! Be so very cautious! The active ingredient, DEET, will adversely affect and degrade the delicate plastics and even the carbon fiber of expensive tripods. I am extremely cautious and mindful as to spraying myself once I arrive at the site, with all my camera kit in the car while I stand 20 feet from the car spraying legs, arms, etc. I wear a Columbia hot hat, a baseball style cap that wicks and cools. I like this over the floppy sun hats, because when I go to take a shot, I can spin the cap so the bill doesn't hit the camera, kinda like watching the German U-boat commanders twirling their caps as they pressed their faces to the periscope in the late night WWII movies.
5. Carry ready to shoot. My method is to carry my Canon 7D with my Really Right Stuff mono pod and mono pod head attached to the base plate of my Canon 100-400 mm lens. This is attached to me with a Carry Speed strap (neoprene is super comfortable and the Carry Speed system allows you to transition from tripod to mono pod to free carry in seconds). As I walk, my mono pod is extended, the lens and camera riding the head of the mono pod, and the strap allows me to quickly bring the mono pod and camera to the shooting position, since the dragonflies move around like jeweled rockets and you have to be ready to position, focus, frame and shoot in an instant.
Other than that, since you'll be shooting in bright sun on hot summer days, bring the usual sunscreen and water. I generally carry a knapsack for day long outings and stow snacks, as much water as I can carry and extra camera kit. Here are the results. Thanks for reading.
We're well into summer, so if you live in Canada, chances are as a photographer, you're taking full advantage of the conditions to get out often with your camera. For this post, I want to quickly cover three main areas of outdoor work:
1. General landscapes.
3. General flora and fauna
So, my general rule is, if you're not outside in the heat, the bugs and all that nature offers, you won't get the photos you hope to. Shots like the flying osprey (opposite) aren't captured sitting in front of my laptop. My rule is to try and capture one picture that I like once a day. Obviously our lives are busy and priorities must and all that, but without impinging on your responsibilities in life, try and get out as opposed to thinking that getting out won't be worth the effort.
(i). Use the best lens you can afford for the purpose. For landscape, this means generally wide angle, with higher quality optics than are found in the basic kit-lens level . If you want to make landscapes your priority, consider spending a bit more scratch and getting at least a Canon 17-40 mm L series, which is sub-$1000 and not outrageously expensive in the lens world. For birds, I use the Canon 100-400mm zoom. Used properly, this lens gives amazing results. When I was researching this lens, I read some comments that the review had bought a "soft copy" and was upset. Further research almost always reveals user error. I can take stunning shots and horrible soft shots in the same morning with this lens. Not because of the lens, but because of the mechanics of telephoto zoom lenses. Tripods are a must to prevent minute shake, otherwise you'll end up relying on the image stabilizer and wide apertures to get faster shutter speeds to compensate. The result will be less pleasant images. Big lenses are really hard to hold still to get sharp images of birds at tree tops, so a solid, solid tripod is a must.
For general flora and fauna, I stay within the 24-105 mm focal range, with a macro lens handy for those amazing close ups of flowers and insects. Again, with macro work, a mono pod or tripod is key. Stable platforms = clear images. When you try to skimp on using a tripod, you try to increase shutter speed to avoid blur by increasing the ISO (and increasing your digital noise and distortion) and opening the aperture too wide, changing depth of fields in unwelcome ways.
(ii). Dawn and dusk. If you want those beautiful photos that seem to have that intangible quality, you really need to head out at dawn and dusk. The summer light for me between say 09:00 am to 7:00 pm is just too harsh, too bright. That isn't to say that you can't get keeper shots at high noon. Its just my experience that my best shots are caught at the soft edges of dusk and dawn. Birds are out, and my best bird shots are always at dusk and dawn. Even grass and leaves look better bejeweled with dew.
(iii). Consider filters. I use a wide array of filters. These include filters to pick up different color in the ambient light out there (http://www.singh-ray.com/goldnblue.html). I often stack filters, using a Singh Ray Blu n' Gold at the base of the stack in a Cokin P sized filter, with a Singh Ray Color Intensifier and followed by a Singh Ray Graduated Neutral Density Filter (half clear, half dark to block out the bright sun, with the neutral density reducing the amount of light coming into the camera without changing the color of the light). This effect of using multiple filters in landscape work can have very pleasing results.
(iv). Tripods! If you can use a tripod, you'll generally get much clearer shots. Especially at dusk and dawn, the prime shooting times, light is lower and the temptation to use higher ISO levels and wide apertures will adversely affect your shot. Too low a shutter speed, and you lose sharpness to hand-held blur. If you try to compensate with a super wide aperture, you may have enough light for a hand held shot, but the wide aperture may give a very shallow depth of field, which is anathema to wide-vista landscape shots. Use a tripod, meter the scene in various areas, and if you have to shoot a t 1/3rd of a second at f/18 and at an ISO of 100 for lots of nice, creamy detail in RAW, then you can. Image stabilization just doesn't do it all the time.
When shooting birds with big, long lenses, you need a tripod. Without argument. The tripod allows you to properly steady the lens since your bird will often be a speck in your frame, even out to 400 mm. You can't hold a lens steady to avoid blur at that range. Think you can?
Try holding a laser pointer aimed at a wall 6 inches from you. The laser dot looks pretty stable. This is you shooting hand held at a close subject using a short focal length lens.
Try holding that laser dot fixed at 100 meters now. What happens to the steadiest of hands? The laser dot is jumping all over the place. Similarly, when you try and hand hold a long lens that's stretched out to its max focal length to capture a distant bird or fox, the lens shake at your hand of millimeters translates into much greater shake at the distance of your subject, just like that laser dot jumping around at 100 meters. So use a tripod! And if you have the luxury with a still animal like a great blue heron, use the live view feature of your camera to get perfect focus, then shut off the auto focus, shut off the live view and snap the picture.
Not to flog a product, and I receive nothing from the company in exchange for this this, but I have made the ultimate tripod commitment and went with Really Right Stuff (http://reallyrightstuff.com/Index.aspx?code=46&key=fr). They are an all-American company, with all of their product, "down to the tiniest screw" as they say, made in the USA. You can always reach a customer service rep there by phone or e-mail, with outstanding results. There are definately less expensive options out there, but I cringe when I have students come out with me using $70.00 tripods with maybe a 8-10 lb load rating, using their $2000 DSLR and commensurately expensive lenses. Like putting tires guaranteed to blow out at load on a $100,000 Lamborghini.
But let me say this, with emphasis; When you buy from RRS, you only pay once!
Let me explain; I have a DSLR and expensive 100-400 mm Canon lens that ride on my RRS ball head and tripod set up. When I'm in the field trying to get the perfect bird shot, I carry my camera on my tripod, extended, so I'm ready to shoot supported (critical with long lenses) at a second's notice, which is all the birds, foxes, and other critters give you. Once I'm done and its back to camp, I'll pack the tripod and camera away in my camera knapsack. The point it is, RRS can guarantee that if I properly set up and regularly check my tripod, I can carry my camera over my shoulder all day in complete confidence. My last monopod head disconnected without warning from the body of the monopod when the cheap brass connector screw just sheared off without warning. If that happens on safari or on a trip, you're out your expensive camera and lens while traveling on a long-planned, expensive trip where you plan to take a lot of photos. Imagine.
So, I chose to pay once for a lifetime tripod and ball head setup, get excellent customer service and then proceed to work the shit out of my tripod in the field, in rain, snow, heat and hills, without one scintilla of concern that my tripod will let me down.
Use the best lens for the task that you can afford. Get out early (I mean crack of dawn!) or at dusk for the really amazing light. Try to use filters on your landscape work, experimenting with the less expensive options on EBay before moving to the more expensive pro-grades like Lee and Singh Ray. Finally, use a tripod as often as you can. I also have a Really Right Stuff monopod for my long lens when birding, on days that I don't feel like lugging the full monty tripod when its brutally hot and humid. Any support--like a monopod--is better than no support. Tripod is best however. And as often as possible You'll be surprised.
And get out there! You don't get good shots sitting in front of the television!
Best of luck, I welcome questions and dialogue comments on this blog.
Some pictures of my California trip that I missed and had not yet posted. Coronado is a beautiful spot, and for my last night in California, was worth being there for the sunset.
I used (over used) my Singh Ray filters, creating color, contrast and light separation. The Blu 'n Gold filter creates blues and golds, the A13 adds a bit of red-pink warmth, the Sunset Strip adds a layer of gold-pink to the clouds and sky, the split neutral density filters hold back some of the sky brightness to keep the darker foreground and the brighter sky in better balance, and the color intensifier ups the earth tones.
I know, I know. You can use too much makeup, right? Ahh, it was the last night of my first ever photo trip/visit to California, and I perhaps got carried away.
Use a tripod, the sun will set quickly and long shutter speeds will be required.
Thanks for looking,
A simple technique, where you hang a flashlight from the ceiling, and set up your camera on a tripod or flat on the floor beneath. Using a shutter release cable and shooting on Bulb Mode (so I could do an exposure longer than the pre-set of 30 seconds on other modes), you set the flashlight swinging, and hold the shutter open with the shutter release cable for about 60 seconds. The swinging light will record as a spirograph. Different light colors require different shutter speeds, so you have to experiment a bit.
I visited Southern California recently, and stayed with a friend who lives just outside of San Diego. The reason for the trip, which had been put off for several years, was an article I read in Popular Photography magazine, where the photos of Jon Cornforth and the spring wildflower blooms in Anza-Boreggo State Park. My friend, also an avid photographer, told me that he lived within a reasonable commute to Anza-Boreggo, and that we should make the trip.
I only had six days available, so we visited the Pacific shoreline near Imperial Beach after I arrived on Sunday afternoon, Balboa Park on the Monday, Anza-Boreggo at dawn on Tuesday, Joshua Tree National Park on Wednesday, day off Thursday, and Cabrillo National Monument and the tidal pools on Friday.
My goal was to get some very unique shots of the desert, and since our travels took us to three types of desert (Sonora, Colorado and Mojave deserts), I had the opportunity to hit a wide range of images.
Things I learned:
1. Dress for the desert. Even in March, even in a "dry" heat, you need serious hydration for a day on your feet. Sunscreen and a very light, very floppy sun hat are key.
2. Spend time in advance of the trip doing your reconnaissance of where you want to shoot. As I said to one park ranger, I flew 5000 kilometers to be there, and had one sunset in Joshua Tree National Park to get the images I wanted. You can't be improvising when time is so short. We checked on-line resources, so as to have exact spots in mind for our shots, then made sure we were in position about 30 minutes ahead of sunrise and sunset. We checked out potential sites during the heat of the day when it was too bright and too hot to be rock hopping, and made sure that our spots provided opportunities for sunset shots facing west to the horizon, as well as structure such as mountain or hills opposite (east) that would provide opportunities of sun-drenched geography as the sun set. Once that sun starts to set, your opportunities change by the second.
3. Bring polarizing filters. The sun is incredibly bright from about 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the spring. We were in place to photograph key geographical sites at sunrise, then went for breakfast, then back to the desert to hike and shoot until lunch, keeping out of the sun until about 3:00 p.m.
4. Bring your lens hoods. One for every lens. If you don't usually use a lens hood--and you should--you really need to bring them for desert daytime shots. The flare you'll get in some shots will kill your photos without lens hoods. I like to take the occasional timed exposure using my Singh Ray Infra Red filter. Its a 77 mm filter and its so opaque, it requires a 2-3 minute exposure even in broad daylight. Any shot that long without a lens hood will be toast. Even shot exposures of the ocean will be affected if you don't use your hood.
5. Tripod. I brought my traveling rig, a Gitzo 1542T with a Really Right Stuff BH-30 ball-head. Its not got the height I'd like, but its light and rigid and provides an excellent platform for dawn and dusk shots. Its light enough to backpack all day in the heat. You really don't want to travel great distances only to come home with blurry shots. Use the tripod.
6. Backpack. You need a means to tote all your camera, lens, tripod and other bits here, there and everywhere. I used my Thinktank Streetwalker (yeah....nice name....) knapsack; its not as rugged as an F-stop Mountain Series, but it does extremely well in both urban and back-country settings. Its well-made and well-designed, with straps that remain comfortable and fits as carry-on (critical!) luggage so that my camera and lenses are always with me when flying, This is a very solid, very comfortable pack. My only gripes are that the base doesn't have a waterproof membrane like a Hypalon material, and there's no designated spot for a water bladder. Small points. The bag is highly recommended as it is very well-designed and made.
7. Plan ahead. I looked at sites we would be visiting online, and spent a lot of time before traveling determining what kind of pictures I would like to take. The desert sunrise pictures meant bringing specific filters (Singh Ray Sunset filter, Singh Ray A13 filter, split neutral density filters, Singh Ray Blu 'n Gold filter, Singh Ray Color Intensifier), as well as my tripod, shutter release cable, lots of memory cards....you get the idea. Look at pictures of where you are planning to visit, determine in advance what unique or original shots you want to take, and plan to bring the necessary equipment. Planning is key, because once you're there and that sun is rising, you don't have time to improvise.
So that's it. I took about 1500 images in 6 days. I trimmed a great deal of fat once I got home and started putting all my workflow through Light Room 4, but better to take the shot and see how it looks once you get home. I don't travel at this time with a laptop and all the accoutrements, so I wait until I get home to process my shots. My memory cards stay on my person at all times when traveling (get a Domke Photog Vest!!! Its like wearing an extra suitcase!).
Winter is a great time for photography; the sunrises and sunsets are better now in my opinion than at any other time of the year. On the really cold, dry days, I find that the quality of the light is amazing. There is less humidity in the air, so there's less water vapor present to refract light, resulting in a clarity and special quality that only the really cold days of winter can bring.Winter Shooting Pros:
Winter Shooting Cons:
- Amazing light quality on really cold days. Your sunrise and sunset shots will be, in my opinion, more crisp, vivid and sharp;
- No bugs!
- You get very interesting results in images with blowing snow on the really cold, sunny, windy days;
- I find you can get better pictures at all times of the day in winter, as opposed to really having to hit dawn and dusk only come the long days of summer, replete with washed-out humid skies and slower, less-dramatic transitions at dawn and dusk.
Overall:(1). Plan your outings on winter shoots. If I have to hike a distance to get to the scene (mountain tops, etc), I'll dress in layers of Under Armor, so that I stay reasonably warm and dry on the long, active excursions.
- Its winter, so it can be really cold. Cold is hard on you, and on your equipment;
- Did I mention the cold? Batteries fade more quickly in the cold, and your camera is more prone to electronic hissy fits when the mercury drops below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Things will stop working, shutter release cables go from supple and functional to rigid and malfunctioning, auto focus on lenses quits, and your camera will freeze up from the frozen condensation formed by your breath when its painfully cold;
- I have yet to find a pair of gloves that work to keep your hands warm and allow control of camera functions.
I will also use my Cotton Carrier (http://buy.cottoncarrier.com/cotton-carrier-camera-vest-p/635rtl-s.htm) on the winter treks; listen, its hard walking in snow, and even with snow shoes you're likely to fall if you're hands are always balancing a heavy DSLR. Invest in a Cotton Carrier, and you can walk hands free with your DSLR on your chest. Cotton Carrier also sell excellent little lens bags, which are perfect for day trips where you'll be humping in the snow on your snowshoes; they hold a decent sized lens, plus a bunch of filters, car keys, whatever you need on a day trip.(2). Boots that are warm enough do not exist, not when you stop for extended periods to try and capture shots of wildlife, or take timed exposures of northern lights or sunrise/sunset shots. If you stand long enough, even the warmest boots on the planet will leave you with cold feet. So I use those air-activated hand/foot warmers on the really cold days. Worth their weight in gold.(3). If you're not going to be active, i.e. you have all your kit in your car, and you're stopping on quiet country roads to take timed exposures at dawn, dusk or at night, you're going to get cold standing around. I overdress, wearing my "hell-froze-over-and-I'm-warm" Canada Goose parka and hat. You can always unzip and let heat out if you overdress, but if the wind's up or the temps are below 0 Fahrenheit, you can't seem to get warm when standing around doing timed exposures.
I suggest you overdress.In conclusion, winter shooting poses a lot of challenges. Its difficult to get from here to there because you have to walk through snow; its cold, and you and your equipment really don't like to be out when it gets below 0F/-32C.
Everything takes longer to do, lenses frost up, electronics pack in and stop working or misbehave, and have you tried setting up a lighting scenario in snow? That all said, I love shooting in the winter. I like the cold if I'm dressed for it, I love the air quality as it relates to photos, and I love the special feel of a photo taken at dawn or dusk on a blistering cold day. It just looks so beautiful. So get out and shoot the winter! Life is short, photos last.Best,Chris