Like so many photographers I was caught caught up in the HDR (high dynamic range) craze a few years ago. From time to time I made “grunge” photos and “artistic” images. Now, my goal is to use HDR tools less frequently, favoring selective image adjustment utilities in Photoshop and Lightroom. In the past couple of years the dynamic range of single images has become so good that one shot will do it.
© Paul Mozell
For those of us lucky to live in a part of the country where October’s burst of foliage color is most intense, it is hard to resist the urge to photograph the 2 or 3 week parade of orange, yellow, and red hues. There is always a compelling image just around the bend.
When is the best time for “leaf peeping”?
Although the PR folks who help fill the country inns and bed & breakfasts in Vermont and New Hampshire would like you to believe that Northern New England has the best fall color, they may be short-selling the rest of the East Coast. As a non-native New Englander I can testify to the brilliance of the trees in the Mid-Atlantic where I grew up. In fact, the foliage show extends all the way down to the Great Smokey Mountains. What does set the Northeastern states apart are the
Red Maples and Sugar Maples that show off the most brilliant reds and intense yellows. The tall white church steeples of classic New England villages, help punctuate and isolate the changing colors. In the hilly or mountainous terrain of the region the highest elevations have the earliest color, while the valley levels below are still green. Our Rocky Mountain friends would argue that the hillsides of bright yellow Aspen leaves set against deep blue skies of the Teton or Wind River Ranges are equally impressive.
The first color shows up in Northern Maine and the Adirondacks in late September, with the fully developed trees making their statement during the first week of October. Peak color hits The New York/New Jersey area in mid to late October, and even later in the Smokies. It seems that global warming has delayed foliage time by as much as a week in some regions. If you have the time, plan a 2 or 3 week trip following the progression of peak color South. You’ll return home with a large portfolio of colorful images. Beware the websites that offer what appear to be authoritative reports on fall color. I’ve found very few that are accurate.
Cloudy days, sunny days
If you are not blessed with dry, sunny days do not despair; a hazy or cloudy day has its merits. Shooting in the woods on a sunny day is often a prescription for blown out highlights and noisey shadows. Instead, find middle distance forest scenics or closeup shots of leaves, water, and bright berries that benefit from the soft light of a cloudy day. Use a tripod as often as you can and take care to select shutter speeds that won’t blur the windblown leaves and ferns in your composition.
You may prefer to use a polarizing filter to darken the blue sky, reduce reflections and increase contrast. But if the light is variable you may find yourself wanting to remove that filter to regain a stop and a half every time the sun is blocked by a cloud.
Finding strong compositional elements
As much as we are captivated by the autumn color,
colors alone do not make good photographs. Put buildings, people, tree trunks, boulders and water in your compositions. Use foreground and middle ground objects to build perspective into your images. If the landscape is flat, exploit the two dimensional quality by using a long lens to isolate objects and patterns. Grey Birches (the species with the smooth white bark) will often be the defining element of a fall photograph. Use still green trees to counter the brighter colors of nearby trees. And always, always, look for reflections in still or moving bodies of water.
As the most colorful season draws to a close, photographic opportunities remain. The oaks whose colors are not as rich as those of the maple, remain on their branches after most of the beech, birch, and hickory leaves have fallen. Bright berries remain, and the shrub plants of Viburnam, Fireweed, Virginia Creeper, and Blueberry may still be bright red as well. Golden brown branches, grasses and cattails are warmed by late afternoon sun. Once you get past the cliched photograph of the covered bridge over the perfect Vermont river, Autumn photography has many secrets to reveal.
I guess I’ve not been paying attention to all my mail because I just learned that a magazine I’ve subscribed to for at least 30 years—Popular Photography—has ended publication. As some writers have asserted, this is just a sign of the times, while others insist that the publishers could have done more to keep the content current and engaging. Either way, I’m sad to see it go. I’ll especially miss the product reviews and lab tests which helped guide my camera shopping for a long, long time.
From: Eric Zinczenko
Date: Mon, Mar 6, 2017 at 2:25 PM
Subject: [notifycorporate] Popular Photography and American Photo
To: Notify Corporate <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This afternoon, Gregory Gatto, VP, Publishing Director of the Lifestyle Group, and Anthony Licata, Editorial Director of the Lifestyle Group, made the difficult announcement to our employees in New York that we have decided to cease all media operations for Popular Photography and American Photo, effective today.
I want to take this opportunity to share this news with the entire company and the reasons behind our decision. In our most recent Town Hall, I spoke of how the pace of disruption through digital and technological advancements is unprecedented. Unfortunately, the photo industry is an example of where this disruption has forever altered the market. The rise of smartphone-camera technology and its increasing ability to capture quality photos and video and instantly share them socially has dealt the photo industry formidable challenges. For our brands, these industry challenges have left us with insurmountable losses in advertising and audience support. Despite the extraordinary efforts of our committed colleagues at Popular Photography and American Photo, as well as our best attempts corporately to find a sustainable path forward, we are simply unable to overcome these market forces.
We would like to thank Miriam Leuchter and her team for their commitment not only to their industry, but to Bonnier as well. Since 2009, Miriam and team have consistently produced best-in-class content, giving their audience of photo enthusiasts industry-leading product reviews, smart service journalism and, of course, terrific photography. They have done everything possible to make these brands thrive; unfortunately, the challenges in the photography industry are just too great.
I also mentioned last time we were together that our executive group will never waiver in making the difficult decisions that protect our company and our greater group here, and keep us on our path to long-term sustainability. While this decision is far from pleasant, it reinforces our commitment to channel Bonnier Corp.’s precious resources to healthy industry verticals and our category-leading brands to drive asset value of Bonnier’s U.S. portfolio.
We have a fiduciary responsibility to constantly evaluate our portfolio of brands as part of our ongoing transformation, but I want everyone to know there are no plans on the horizon to cease operations of other brands; if there were, we would have announced those today as well.
Please join me in thanking our colleagues at Popular Photography and American Photo for their contributions and to wish them the very best. We are also grateful to all of you for your continued resilience, dedication and endurance as we continue on our strategic path forward.
This compelling title describes photographs by Sandy Alpert and Arthur Griffin, showing until November 27 at the Griffin Museum at the Stoneham Theatre. Today I made my first visit to this satellite location of the Griffin, whose main location is in nearby Winchester, MA. The images are shadowy, mysterious and yes, ghostlike. Visit and let me know what you think!
© Paul Mozell
As a lifelong photographer and hiker I am on a never-ending quest to find the ultimate lightweight, customizable backpack to carry both my hiking and my camera gear. With the release of the Photo Sport BP 300 AW II ($172.99), Lowepro shows that it is possible to accommodate the needs of adventure, outdoor, travel, and sports photographers who require nimble and flexible equipment.
Employees of the New York-based electronics store filed a petition Tuesday to vote on joining the United Steelworkers union after complaining of unsafe conditions.
© Paul Mozell 2015
I just registered several thousand new images with the US Copyright Office and was pleased to discover that the process has been streamlined.
Although the interface is still archaic and 1990’s-looking, an announcement states that as of January 2015 they have tuned things up. A few years ago I found the online process so frustrating that I resorted to burning images onto a DVD and mailing them. Today, for a $55.00 fee you can register a nearly unlimited number of images. The system will time out after one hour but you can log in again to the same job and continue uploading.
What, you’re not registering your photographs? As I learned after reading and reviewing “The Photographers’ Survival Manual,” watermarking your images does not actually protect your photographs when you are taking legal action against an unauthorized user of your photography.
My workflow is pretty straightforward. I start in Adobe Lightroom where I identify a date range of images I want to copyright. The easiest way to do this is to make a Collection. Next, using a preset, I export the selected photographs at 72 dpi with a maximum dimension of 800 pixels, and a JPEG compression of “5”. The files just have to be large enough to be identifiable in court or an online search of the Copyright archives.
One of the changes they have made is to increase the maximum size of uploadable files to 500 meg. Using the zipping/archiving utility Stuffit I make zipped packages that each contain several hundred tiny files. I haven’t read anything stating that there is a limit to the number of files you can send, but I envision that there is a live human being somewhere at the other end who has to acknowledge receipt, decompress, and register my work. Currently, about 8 months will pass before you receive a printed certificate in the mail acknowledge your registration. If you US mail the files on a disk, it will take much longer.
It is easier than ever to stitch two or more images together into a panorama. Many cameras have a pano function built-in and there are plenty of utilities and plugins on the market that can do the job. I’m still relying on Photoshop’s ever-improving pano function. Regardless of which tool you use, there are a few common guidelines that will help you get consistent and predictable results.
- Level the camera — If your camera has a built-in level or artificial horizon, great. If not you can use an accessory spirit level that slides into the camera’s hotshoe. Alternatively, use a level in the tripod head or base. Photoshop can correct horizons that are not level, but only within limits. If your pano image sequence is out of whack you’ll have to crop more of the image in the final pass; assuming that you want an image that is a clean rectangle.
- Lock in your exposure and white balance or else the transitions between images will not be smooth. You can use your camera’s preset buttons to accomplish this, or do as I do, and keep everything on manual.
- Do not use a polarizing filter! As you are probably aware, the polarizing effect varies with the angle of the lens to the sun. The blue sky will often come out blotchy and unnatural-looking in the final composite file.
- Use a tripod. These days this is no longer an absolute as the software gets better and better along with big improvements in vibration reduction, but a tripod will give you better control of the composition, as well as sharper images.
- Position the camera vertically or in portrait mode — but only if your intent is to create a very large file. The pano in this article was made with about four images shot in landscape orientation because I knew that I wanted a long aspect ratio.
- Wide angle lenses make more distortion. This is especially noticeable in panoramas of architecture when you need to be assured of getting straight lines and accurate perspective. Often a 50mm focal length with its “normal” angle to view is the best way to go.
- Shoot a blank or dark frame before and after your pano sequence. This will give you a handy reference mark when you’re editing images.
- Overlap images by 1/4 or 1/3. This gives the software more to work with.
I was inspired to write this post yesterday during a visit to The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA where some of the work of photographer James Balog was on display. Among his many accomplishments, Balog has created dramatic images of some of the world’s largest, incredible trees. One huge photograph of a giant sequoia was assembled from over 400 separate files. The files are not blended into one seamless image. Rather, one sees a stack of imperfectly aligned images, which artfully give dimension to the final composition.
The first panoramas I created were the result of a laborious process. As I recall, Photoshop 1.0 did not have a stitching tool. Or, I may been using Corel Draw. Either way, the first step was to scan three 35mm slides. Next, the edges of each file had to be gently feathered. Finally, after much trial and error, the 3 files were fit together. Before there were any digital options the feathering was in the darkroom using layered film masks. We have come a long way.
The other day, I discovered why portrait subjects shot with Nikon Commander mode so often have their eyes shut!
On the surface, Commander mode is a great tool. You can remotely control the all the settings on one or more Nikon Speedlights directly from a Nikon DSLR. Menu settings on a cameras like the D7100, D610, etc allow you to designate off-camera flash units as part of a flash group, then change the output setting of each group. The settings are transmitted to the speedlights through the little built-in flash on the camera, which sends control pulses invisible to the naked eye. This of course means that the camera and flash have to be able to “see” each other through line of sight, otherwise it doesn’t work.
Prior to traveling to a portrait shoot I decided to test my lighting setup and gear and put up two speedlights, umbrellas, and stands. I stood in as the model, and triggered the setup with a wireless remote. In every frame my eyes were closed. There is a considerable delay between the time the on-camera flash fires and when the speedlights pop. During that interval my eyes blinked every time. The solution was to set up a true wireless flash trigger; in this case I used a RadioPopper. You can use a PocketWizard or any of the discount setups available on eBay with good results. You models will blink after the main flash has fired. Commander mode is still a useful, but I’ll never use it for portrait work again.
© Paul Mozell 2014
After you have built a responsive website that works on all devices, created a strong social media presence, implemented SEO and bought Adwords you might think you’re done with marketing. Well no… you’re not…especially if your clients are primarily in the business community. You still have to talk directly to people, on the phone and at business and social events. Here are some pointers put together by a photographer who spent many years in B2B sales, selling to large and small businesses and decision-makers at all management levels.
Taking photographs of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is a constitutional right – and that includes federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties. Unfortunately, there is a widespread, continuing pattern of law enforcement officers ordering people to stop taking photographs from public places, and harassing, detaining and arresting those who fail to comply.
To show a sequence of several frames follow these steps:
- Fire away a sequence of continuous shots. If you can capture the sequence without moving the camera, you’ll save work in the next step. Otherwise, pan carefully, doing your best not to tilt the camera
- In Adobe Lightroom, select several of the best frames. Ensure that they all have the same exposure and color temperature values, as best you can.
- Open those frames as layers in Photoshop. Now you have to manually align the frames. Turn off the visibility on all but the top and bottom layer.
- Using Photoshop’s auto-align function may not work well because it is going to attempt to align the diver (or your key subject) when what you want is to align the background. Select the top layer and reduce the opacity to 40 or 50%. Then, grab that layer and move it until the backgrounds line up. If you remember rangefinder cameras this will be a bit like lining up the split image in those classics of the film era. Restore the opacity to 100%
- Turn off the top layer and turn on the next layer beneath it and repeat the alignment. Continue down the stack of images.
- With all the layers turned on create a layer mask for the top layer. Select a paintbrush tip with no feathering and paint away part of the top image to reveal the (diver) below. Switch the paint color back and forth between White and Black to paint in, or paint out the image.
- Work your way down through the stack of images turning layers on and off to check your work.
With a little practice you’ll get the hang of it.