Monday, June 10, 2019

Europe 2019



It started with a bike trip to Slovenia. Lida Clauser, who ran great bike trips to the Czech Republic, had expanded to Slovenia, so, of course, we had to go.

Then, on a whim, I decided why not see a bit of Venice on the way? It is so close. So, our first stop was Venice, "City of Falling Angels."
Turns out, it was city of falling rain, which became a bit of a theme for much of the trip.
Venice has a lot of tourists. Too many for its own good. Many Venetians have found it unlivable, or at least unaffordable.
It's a highly unlikely town, especially with rising sea levels. Already, the water is too high for many of the ancient buildings hovering in the canals. The streets are severely narrow. Very charming, but very narrow. So narrow that two umbrellas don't really easily pass each other, and Europeans use umbrellas. Anyone can buy one on the streets of Venice for 5 Euros. Our first rainy, windy day wasn't close to over when we began to notice all the trash receptacles were filled with umbrellas. Turns out, one gets what one pays for, and 5 Euros isn't much of an umbrella.
Venice is fascinating, and I'd like to return in February.

Slovenia is a very small country that has only been Slovenia since 1991. It has a complex history and a variety of seemingly wonderful people living in an amazingly beautiful place. Mountains and rivers and lakes and waterfalls, most of which aren't crowded, at least at the end of May. Of course, the bicycle part is a critical factor. Everything is more intimate from a bike, and bike trips generally include the best of a country. We were in and out and around Triglav National Park, with the Julian Alps defining the terrain. We had snow-covered peaks for much of the trip, but as we approached the Adriatic coast, we noticed palm trees thriving in small towns.
No real lack of rain in Slovenia either, but rain can just add another dimension to a bike trip. We were staying in lovely inns, so being wet was at most a temporary occurrence. It was a good way to test waterproof gear. A backpack that can handle a couple of loaves of fresh-baked bread through a downpour as we ride will be a pack I will use again. (And the Matador packable pack packed down to the size of a water bottle and weighed essentially nothing.)

From Slovenia, we drove to Croatia in a rented car. The car gave us the freedom to make choices about our destinations, but was its own aggravation. Croatia is beautiful too, but less spectacular than Slovenia, at least based on the parts we saw. It's most popular national park, Plitvice Lakes, is amazing, but way overrun with tourists. Way overrun. the Venetian crowds had nothing on the boardwalks of Plitvice.
The phenomenon of the limestone and the crystal clear water of the lakes as they pour into each other via waterfalls is worth experiencing, but maybe there's another way? Winter? Earlier in the day would work if one could enter the park then. Management clearly hasn't caught up with the demand.
Running in the predawn from the tiny village of Korana was soothing and inspiring and a great look at the countryside, likely in a way that the busloads of tourists in Plitvice will never see.
The Adriatic coast to Rovinj was beautiful and calming. Rovinj, at least in May, was great. One could walk into restaurants and have great food and stroll along the shore or through the streets of the oldest part of town. Rain was a factor here too. Golden light was not really to be had.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Still Learning Nikon's Settings

I've been using digital Nikon cameras since the D70 and, for the most part, have been a serious student of the controls. Still, as I became more and more used to the settings, and each camera wasn't that different from the last, I've definitely let the finer points slip, especially if I wasn't using that setting much.
Enter "Auto ISO." I read Steve Perry's excellent book about Nikon autofocus and listened to his video  extolling the virtues of auto ISO with manual exposure, but it wan't until Arthur Morris, having plunged into a Nikon setup only recently mentioned the sticky setting of exposure compensation that I decided to look into this combo a bit deeper. I could find nowhere in Nikon's documentation where it was stated what actually happened with Auto ISO and exposure compensation, and no one writing on the web had clearly spelled it out. So, I decided it really isn't that hard to figure it out. All I needed was a few minutes with my own D850 and adjusting the settings while in manual plus auto ISO.
Here's the thing: Auto ISO and manual exposure adjusts the ISO to give a standard histogram, within the limits that it can, based on the upper and lower limits the user sets. If exposure compensation is dialed in, the the ISO is adjusted upward or downward to match that instruction. shutter speed and aperture are as set in the manual settings, but ISO varies not just to maintain a normal histogram, but also to allow for the extra brightness or darkness dialed in by "exposure compensation.
I remain cautious about auto ISO and manual. Certainly it can be useful for rapidly changing light when I really need to keep a minimum shutter speed for moving targets. However, it may negate some interesting light features that manual setting allows me to accentuate. If I add the "exposure compensation," auto becomes even more "auto." I's rare that this is actually contributing to whatever unique quality of light I was seeking.
Granted, this is coming from a photographer torn between landscapes and wildlife. If I ever figure out that I should just stick with one or the other, then perhaps these dilemmas will be resolved. On the other hand, great light is great light, and I may never really want it "compensated."

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Trouble with Lightroom Mobile

Lightroom mobile is a great idea. Photographs made on the iPhone automatically connect with desktop Lightroom, in theory. This is especially desirable since the new iPhone 7, via Lightroom, can make photos in DNG format.
I've read everything I could find from Adobe and LR gurus about the process, but I couldn't get the upload to happen with my system. Every instruction was followed precisely, repeatedly checked. Nothing.
Turns out, a Google search reveals lots of people with this problem. Lots of advice that doesn't produce the desired result.
The problem is bandwidth, folks. The upload doesn't happen directly to one's desktop or iPad. It is all processed via the cloud. If it doesn't get to Adobe's cloud site, it doesn't get to the desktop, even if the desktop is sitting next to the phone. It's easy to send photos directly via Airdrop, but the photos are first converted to jpg. If one has a slow internet connection, as I do with DSL, the phone always says it's syncing, but it never syncs. A reasonable broadband connection, via cable, and magically it happens, just like all the instructions say. But they never tell you it won't work without adequate bandwidth.
So, I live in a rather remote spot. Remote enough that the cable companies aren't interested, and DSL is the best I can do. The only way I can get the transfers to work is to visit friends with better internet. This considerably blunts the convenience of using the phone as a camera. For me, the process is way easier if I just use a camera and transfer the files via memory card.

Is Landscape Photography Political?

Short answer from my hero, Robin Morgan: "There is no atom that is not political."
Longer answer: when the planet is in danger from climate change, and when the post powerful man on earth can detonate nuclear winter, of course it is. Especially when we have overwhelming evidence that that man has the emotional maturity of a 12 year old boy.
How can we care about our beautiful places, lit by the best of special light, without concern that they, and we, are in grave danger?
Is there anything we can do, living in a "democracy" where only some votes count?
Is it enough to photograph the special places?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Tablet Challenges

I've used a pen tablet by Wacom for years for my photo processing. It makes everything more precise. My old tablet lacked features of the current models, so I got a new Intuous Pro model for Christmas.
It seemed to work as I gradually learned the features and customizable keys, but I was not convinced that the pen pressure sensitivity was working, supposedly a default characteristic when using Photoshop. Then, one day, the lights defining the perimeters and keys no longer stayed on.
A call to Wacom was an exercise in frustration. While the tech support representative agreed that something wasn't right, she had no idea how to sort it out or solve it. Send it in for repair, she said, a feat made more difficult by the fact that I never got the follow-up email with instructions to do so. For a product that was malfunctioning 2 weeks after being unboxed, I could only wish there were another maker of tablets that had any credibility.
Amazon seemed the easiest route to return, but I decided to give a software approach another look. I uninstalled and re-installed the same current driver. It's working properly now, and I'll give it another couple of weeks to prove itself functional. Failing that, it's back to Amazon and a quest to find another company with real support. Does such a thing exist?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

                                                              Night Photography

My latest effort is to work on night photography. Everyone seems to have a slightly different take on the best practices, with some common themes.
1. Darkness is essential. In general, this may take a bit longer than one would hope. If you're after stars, wait until it's really dark.
2. Some daytime work is also essential. It's just too hard to come upon a good plan when the world is pitch-black. Plan the photo in the day. Make the photo in the night.
3. Care and deliberation are essential. Recently, I did the first 2 photos of the night sky with my lens cap on. That didn't work so well. Take time setting up. This involves knowing the location ahead of time, bringing a headlamp, going slowly (it's dark).
4. Composition is just as important at night as in the day. This goes back to the daytime work and the planning. Think foreground.
5. Equipment:
1. tripod with good head. My preferred tripod is currently a Feisol carbon fiber. I recently upgraded by ballhead to a RRS BH-55, and I couldn't be more pleased with the ease of use and steadiness.
2. camera that has decent high ISO results. I'm currently using a Nikon D800E.
3. Cable release is most helpful, although a timer or shutter delay will work for photos that have less than a 30 second duration.
4. Headlamp. It is really helpful to set up and take down and check your level and get back to your car without tripping.
Settings:
1. f-stop of 2.8 allows shutter speeds of 20 seconds. Longer times will result in obvious star movement. If you want pinpoints, stay under 20 seconds. And, that varies with focal length.
2. Wide angles give a more expansive sky and show less movement. I'm using 14mm currently.
Lenses are not created equal. Some expensive lenses still show a distorted star. This is known as coma. It is an optical imperfection related to certain lens designs. I'm using a Rokinon 14mm manual focus lens, which is quite inexpensive. Nikon makes a 14-24mm f2.8 lens that is widely felt to be the best wide angle lens available for the 35mm format. Neither of these lenses demonstrate coma.
3. ISO of at least 3200 and up to 6400 is needed generally to get the dimmer stars without movement blur. This is why the good high ISO performance of the camera matters. There is a way of getting around this, which is another subject, but it involves the use of a tracker which electronically moves the camera with the stars, allowing much longer exposures.

Here's a look at the sky on September 20th around 10 p.m. in McCall, Idaho.
And, here's a link to the gallery with more night shots:
http://www.bearbasinphotography.com/Recent-Work/Night-Sky/i-MCFp54R


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Polarizing

Polarizing filters are used routinely in landscape photography. There are many examples of how much they can contribute to a scene, by removing reflections, intensifying colors, and darkening skies.
Light coming from the sun is vibrating in multiple directions. The filter basically blocks light in one direction, allowing parallel beams of light to get through in the other direction. This is called "polarization by transmission," and is described further here: http://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/light/u12l1e.cfm
To complicate matters, light is actually polarized by reflecting off water, and the interaction of the two kinds of polarization can be interesting. By rotating the circular polarizing filter, one can see the different effects of the light altering characteristics of the filter in any given direction. Some of the most dramatic variations can be seen by rotating the filter while pointing the camera at a rainbow. It can become much more intense or almost invisible. Here, we're again dealing with light polarized by more than one factor.

Sometimes, the polarizing effects can negate some of the benefit of the scene.
Example: After a long hot hike to a mountain lake, facing about 90  degrees from the sun, I might assume that a polarized photo is the one I want, particularly if I'm wearing my own polarizing filters in the form of sunglasses when I make that decision.
One problem with that thought is that it is usually wise to consider all options when making a landscape composition. The view isn't likely to fly away after all.
Here's the photo without a polarizing filter:


and with the filter:








The critical difference here is the lack of reflections of the partially snow-covered mountains and the trees in the water, making a photo that has much less impact. Same location, camera and lens.