New Educational Project in the Works

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I haven't been blogging lately for two reasons:

1 - the internet in my hotel is slooooooooow;

2 - I am working on an exciting new educational project in the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Here's a shot from day 1 of the project. Stay tuned for more info on the project . . . and on landscape photography.

This shot: HDR, Canon 5D Mark III, 15mm lens.

Explore the light,
Rick

The Very Best Plug-in Offer for Creatives

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There is no doubt about it: For only $149.00 you can get the entire - yes entire - Nik Collection by Google. That includes: HDR Efex Pro2, Silver Efex Pro2, Color Efex Pro 4, Viveza 2, Sharpener Pro 3 and Define 2. Play with plug-ins and awaken the artist within. Today.

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If you need some Nik creative inspiration and have an extra buck to spare, check out my 50+ Nik Tips for Color Efex Pro app on My Apps page. And . . . check out my new Route 66 Gallery here on my site to see how I used several of the Nik filters. I created the image above using Nik HDR Efex Pro, and then added an border with the Image Border filter in Nik Color Efex Pro.

Explore the light,
Rick

Today's Guest Blogger: Mark Theriot

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Rick, a special thanks once again for allowing me to share some of my photographic passion with your audience. 

Let’s try something a little different this time!

With the weather in the northern hemisphere starting to gradually warm up, more photo opportunities start to emerge. 

For many of us, finding time to shoot has to fit around work and family commitments – so – why not combine shooting with some of your family time?  If you’re looking for a good family fun event that also provides a great photo experience, checkout your local air shows.

Never photographed an airshow before?  No worries, these quick tips will get you up and started in no time!

It’s a fact of airshows, they almost always occur at midday – so you just have to make due with the available lighting conditions.  There are some tricks to help even up the odds a bit.

Shoot close.  Even with aerial shots, start to zoom in closer as you become more comfortable.  Look for arrivals (morning) and departures (evening).   Most of the aircraft will not be based at that particular airport – so they have to arrive and leave, including aircraft that will just be on display and not scheduled to fly.  Some great opportunities here with better light!  Dusk or night shows.  Some shows will have a special twilight or night performance the Friday before the main show.  This is a great time to get creative with some really cool shots!

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Practice your panning techniques.  The main show area (called “the box”) will have most of the acts crossing right in front of you so panning is critical.  Keep these tips in mind:

Panning with most things is not consistent.  The apparent speed of the approaching aircraft appears to be slow, but will quickly increase as it approaches your center point.  Prepare for this or the plane will start to exit the front of your frame before you realize it.  Once you know the direction of a run, point your torso in the direction of the last picture you expect to make in that series.  Now turn at the waist to the starting point.  This will allow your waist to return to a natural front-facing posture as the aircraft exits.  This will also make it easier to keep up with the apparent speed increase mentioned above.

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Camera settings are pretty straight forward, but here are a couple tips to get started: Shooting modes are a personal preference, but I’ll shoot on shutter priority (or manual) as I want to match my shutter to the type of aircraft (more on that in a minute)  Don’t shoot with too low of an aperture setting, especially if you are photographing multiple aircraft at once.  f/8 is my absolute minimum and I prefer f/11.  You’ll need the depth of field.  “Hold the hammer down.”  Set your camera to continuous focus and multiple shots.

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An airshow doesn’t mean all you have to shoot is aircraft.  Make sure to get some behind the scene shots, especially of the pilots and demonstration teams.  I love the expression on the Golden Knight parachutist in the image above as he interacts with his fans!

It may not always be easy, but see about special photographer access.

Many shows will have “photo pits” available and these are usually located right up front at show center.  Especially at the smaller shows, inquire about any needs they may have for event photography.  It never hurts to ask – and won’t you be surprised if you end up in air with one of the performing acts!

Leave the plane “room to fly in to”.  Just as with other types of photography, try not to butt the subject up against the frame in the direction of its motion – give it some space.

Make sure you have some “prop blur” on propeller driven aircraft.  A propeller that is “frozen” makes the aircraft look frozen.

This is a hard technique to nail down as your stability and panning technique needs to be almost perfect, but the outcome is worth the effort.  Generally speaking, some of the smaller acrobatic planes will start to pickup some good blur around 1/500th of a second (1/350th is better).  Larger or more powerful aircraft are harder, 1/250th is needed to begin to pickup good prop blur and 1/90th of a second will get you that “perfect” 360 degree prop blur.  The Mustang above was shot at 1/160th of a second – traveling at over 300 MPH!

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A strong sense of motion helps whenever possible, so keep your shutter speed as low as you feel comfortable with, even on jets.  The more motion you can pickup around the aircraft (clouds, trees, buildings, other airplanes) the better your image will appear.

Static displays.  All shows that are airport based will have plenty of aircraft on display.  These are great photo opportunities and usually include some interior opportunities – a great time for a little hand held HDR!

Know what’s coming next, and from where.  All shows will give you the radio frequency of the “air boss” and the show teams.  This allows you to know which part of the act is up next and from which direction it will be approaching.  Don’t have a radio setup?  No problem, most shows will let you rent them for the day.

One of the things I love best about photography is the ability to combine it with just about any other interest my family has.  It’s a great way to spend time with friends and family while still indulging your photographic gene!

Stay in focus, and visit with me on: Soaringart.com.

Mark

• • • • •

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Today's Guest Blogger: Tim Breaseale

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Thank you, Rick, for the opportunity to be a guest blogger! It's good to be here.

• • • • •

Have you ever wanted your images to stand out? Have you ever wondered how to light a person and get that dramatic look?  One of the best ways to answer these questions is to take that flash off your camera.

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Once you move your flash off camera, your portraits will start to pop. Controlling the flash output and working with the ambient light (the light around you), you will be able to create a naturally lit portrait or a dramatic lit portrait.  

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To get your flash off camera, you will need a simple radio trigger set to fire the flash.  There are many on the market, but be sure your equipment is compatible with the radio system you choose.  Now you will need a way to hold that flash off to the side.  I use two methods--handhold  the flash to the side or mount the flash on a small light stand.  Most of my speedlite portraits happen at public events.  If I know it will be very crowded with not much space to work, then I will handhold the flash.  If I know there will be a little more room, like an outdoor event, then I will use a small light stand.  The diagram shows the basic placement of the light to camera position.  It does not matter whether it’s placed on your right or left side.  

A general flash position will be about a 45 degree angle from the camera position.  For a more dramatic effect, try a 90 degree position.  The height of the flash will vary depending on the look you are trying to achieve. 

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My secret formula: I will use the camera’s evaluative meter system and underexpose up to a stop and a half.  This underexposing depends on how dramatic I want the portrait to be with the amount of ambient light in the area.  I then set the flash on the manual setting and dial the power to reach the f-stop and distance I want.  I start with a setting of about f/5.6 for 5-6 feet.  I will move the flash closer or further away from the subject depending on how much light I need or to compensate with the background (like when shooting on a bright sunny day and having the subject in a very dark shadow area, you balance the light for the subject to match the background for proper exposure).  

My camera will be in the manual setting--that way I have total control.  The ISO is usually set between 100-400.  The shutter and f/stop varies.  I like to stay around f/2.8, but the shutter speed is dependent on the sync of the flash, which will help determine the f/stop.  Most of these images shown are shot around 1/8th to 1/30h of a second, because I was either indoors(dimly lit) or outdoors(night time) during an event.  Shooting events at dark or indoors is usually easier, because I’m not worried about the flash sync.  These images shown were also shot in RAW and processed with Lightroom to tweak color, contrast and add a vignette.  If you shoot faster than the flash sync, then black bars will show up within your image, which is actually the shutter being captured.

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Lately, I have been using the Radio Popper JrX radio triggering system.  It is easy to use and also has the ability to control your flash from camera position (works with newer Canon and Nikon flashes).  Being able to control your flash from the camera makes it so much faster to work in busy, crowded areas.  You don’t have to move your flash back and forth to compensate the light, just adjust the power from the transmitter on the camera.  If you want to get a little more control from your flash, then try using a Strobies grid attachment.  The Strobie grid will focus the flash into a beam of concentrated light.  I use these quite often for macro work.

Now here is a big tip: practice, practice, practice.  Practice on family members and get comfortable with the way your flash works in different lighting conditions.  Another tip: learn your equipment.  You should know the limitations for your camera and flash combination.  Last tip: most people are shy about going up to strangers and asking to take their photograph.  If you attend special events where people dress up, this is an open invitation to help build confidence by approaching other people to ask to take their picture.

Blue skies,
Tim Breaseale

To see more of my work or to see what I am up to, check out my sites:

www.timbreaseale.com  Web
www.tbphotoblog.com
 Blog
http://goo.gl/v5Qkf
 Google+