The power of exposure blending and image blending and compositing

As camera’s become better and have more dynamic range we are able to capture more detail then before. But still today the advanced sensors in our camera’s are far away of capturing the incredible richness of color and detail that is hidden within a scene. Our RAW files often do not contain enough pixel information to show that detail when we import our images in photoshop. That is why I use a technique called exposure blending. 

Exposure blending is simply explained as blending different exposures from one scene into 1 blended image. When I photograph a landscape I always photograph one correct exposure, one 2-stop under exposed image and one 2-stop over exposed image. In photoshop I then blend those 3 exposures together with gives me much more information in the contrast , shadows, mid-tones and highlights. The result is a very balanced and rich photograph that displays an incredible amount of dynamic range of light. Closer to what we can see with the human eye. 

The RAW image SOOC correctly exposed - Image by Larry Simpson

The RAW image SOOC correctly exposed - Image by Larry Simpson

The RAW Image SOOC 2 stops under exposed - Image by Larry Simpson

The RAW Image SOOC 2 stops under exposed - Image by Larry Simpson

The RAW image SOOC 2 stop over exposed - Image by Larry Simpson

The RAW image SOOC 2 stop over exposed - Image by Larry Simpson

Sometimes I photograph 5 or even 9 different exposures to make sure I have captured the necessary information in the darkest and brightest part of the scene. When bracketing correctly your overexposed images should contain all the information of the darkest part of the scene and your underexposed images should contain all the information of the brightest part of the scene. Your correct exposed images should contain all the information for the mid-tones. 

When you have captured the necessary exposures to cover the dynamic range of the scene it is time to take them in to photoshop and blend them together.

Blended Exposure in photoshop - Image by Larry Simpson - Blend by Bart de Gols

Blended Exposure in photoshop - Image by Larry Simpson - Blend by Bart de Gols

In my workflow I not only blend the different exposure of one scene at one time of day but I will blend multiple exposures of multiple times of day to create a very dramatic artistic image. If the sky in the mornings or not good enough I will often stay and wait till the evening to capture that moment and then blend those together. If I don't have the luck of having dramatic skies I will blend skies that I have previously photograph with the current scene.

I use Adobe Bridge and photoshop to blend my exposures together. 

I use Adobe Bridge and photoshop to blend my exposures together. 

 I use adobe Bridge and phototoshop to blend my exposures together. I will select my images in Adobe bridge, then go to tools, photoshop and select Merge to HDR PRO

Make sure you select the 32 bit option on the right panel!

Make sure you select the 32 bit option on the right panel!

Photoshop will start opening your RAW files and come up with a new dialog, make sure you select 32 bit option in the right panel. Then click TONE in ACR (Adobe Camera RAW) and now you can tweak the image like you would a normal RAW file except you are working in 32 bit with contains much more color and contrast information. 

When I am done with that I will copy that layer that photoshop just created, I will rasterize it (right click - rasterize) and will then convert my image back to 16 bit. By copying and rasterizing the layer before converting it back to 16 bit, photoshop actually will remain containing almost all the color information from the 32 bit layer and produces a lot cleaner file. After the I will start my edit. 

The next step is blending in my sky if I want to and create my image as I visually intended. Below the final result. 

The Final edited image is rich and full of drama. 

The Final edited image is rich and full of drama. 

10 Tips to Improve your Portrait Photography

A great expression makes for a great image!

A great expression makes for a great image!

People like my portrait work and the signature look I have created.Most photographers like portraits but shy away of creating them because they believe that you either need very expensive equipment, a big studio or they believe they just don't have the talent for it. 

Although it takes some basic understanding on how a camera works and some fundamental knowledge about light, when mastered creating beautiful portrait isn’t rocket science. 

Here are some tips to never shy away from taking a beautiful portrait. 

1. Subject

If there is one most important parts to a beautiful portrait it is the expression of your subject. A gaze that connects with the viewer and shows emotion.

An unnatural pose doesn’t have the same impact as as a natural real expression. 

2. Lens choice

200 mm Headshot of my Friend Larry - Look at the difference and how much more flatering this is!

200 mm Headshot of my Friend Larry - Look at the difference and how much more flatering this is!

Your lens choice has a big impact on how your portrait is going to look. Wide angle lenses tend to add a very unnatural distorted look while Longer Telephoto lenses give a more compressed and flattering look.  Short telephoto lenses like 85mm - 105mm and 135mm are a very popular choice amongst portrait and headshot photographers. Not surprising as these lensed produce a very natural flattering and distortion free image. When shopping around for a portrait lens I recommend a lens with a wide aperture, a fast lens, like my Nikon 85mm 1.4. It allows you to create very dreamy and smooth background and allows you to separate your subject from a messy background. When stopped down to say f2.8 they create incredible sharp images. 

14mm Super Wide Angle portrait of my Friend Larry - Look at the distortion 

14mm Super Wide Angle portrait of my Friend Larry - Look at the distortion 

Another favorite of mine is my 70-200mm f2.8. Although not as fast as my 85mm it gives me a lot of flexibility when shooting on location. The focal range between 70-200mm is ideal for portrait work and headshot and the f2.8 aperture still allows me to separate my subject from the back ground and create a beautiful blurred background. When I use both lenses in the studio my aperture value is around f7.2 - f8 which creates optimal sharpness in both lenses. Also because of the short distance between my subject and my camera it allows for critical depth of field to make sure both eyes are in focus. 

Both Nikon and Canon have a great selection of portrait lenses. Recently Sigma and Tamron have produced some amazing alternatives to the brand names. According to some test at DXO Mark even better. 

3. Composition

As for every image we want to portrait the most attractive (important) part of our photograph. Guide the view to that oh so important detail. For a portrait in 99 percent of the cases that would be the eyes. Applying the rules of third smart and playing with DOF (Depth of Field) can help us create a compelling photograph. 

For people that don’t know what the Rule of Thirds is, it is a basic but essential composing technique. Basically it breaks down the image into thirds, both on the horizontal axis as the vertical axis ending up with 9 equal parts and 4 intersect points in the mid part of the image. It is those intersecting points that are important. Placing your subject (or the most important part of your subject) close to one of those point will make a better photograph. 

The Rules of Third are a great start to get a pleasing composition.

The Rules of Third are a great start to get a pleasing composition.

However the Rule of Thirds is a rule of Thumb, meant to be broken and just a guideline to help you in the process of composing visual compelling imagery. 

The other important part in finding the right composition is Depth of Field. By carefully choosing our Aperture we will be able to bring more or less background in focus. Playing with DOF allows us to separate our subject from the background or to include the background in the photograph if it is a contributing aspect of the image, in case of an environmental portrait. If the background is not so interesting or it does not contribute anything to the photograph a shallow DOF allows us to distract the viewer from this background and focus on the our subject. 

4. Lighting

Much can be said about lighting as it is a complex topic. It deserve an article on its own. No matter if you photograph outdoors and use natural light or indoors and use strobes, the direction of light is one of the most important things to pay attention to. In nature, light comes from above. Depending on the season or time of year the sun is always above us, sometime higher sometimes lower, but always above.  

Shooting outdoors and putting your subject straight into the sun, will not give you the most flattering light, often harsh and direct when photographing on a midday with summer sun.

Better is to have the sun either at a 90 degree angle in relationship to your subject or behind the subject. Finding open shade is even a better choice. 

One rule that is rather important is shooting at the right time of day. Not all light has the same quality. The light quality of the sun varies quite a bit. Golden hour is called“Golden Hour” for a reason. Its the time of day were the natural light is at his best. The sun is angled perfectly about on hour before sunset and allows the entire sky to act as one big diffuser, a very giant soft box. Almost all the “WOW” images you see, wether it be a gorgeous landscape or portrait were the light is just beautiful are in 99 percent of the cases photograph around Golden Hour. So if you can plan your shoot accordingly. 

Having the sun behind the model and the reflector at 90 degrees high creates a beautiful and natural look

Having the sun behind the model and the reflector at 90 degrees high creates a beautiful and natural look

Adding a reflector to your bag is a cheap way to improve the lighting in your images. A reflector is a great tool to open up the shadows in your image. See it as an extra light source.When you don't have a reflector try to find a natural one or an existing one. When shooting in the city maybe you can find a light wall or one of those white delivery vans were you can shoot close to. Make sure that when you use walls are other object as reflectors they don't contain any cool, for example a red wall will cast a red tint on your subject that is very hard to remove in post. 

Overcast days are also very good to shoot in. The clouds act as a giant soft box and will eliminate any harsh shadows. When shooting on overcast days you often create very smooth milky shadows. When mastering exposure and having the correct white balance these images are often really good and very pleasing for the eye. 

5. Location

Using the background smart can contribute the the overall quality of the photograph

Using the background smart can contribute the the overall quality of the photograph

Location, location, location! Location does matter and can contribute to the wow factor of your portrait. When you don't own a fast lens and have a lens with for example a widest aperture of f5.6, Bluring out the background can be a challenge. So choosing a stunning location can help improve the overall look of your portrait. 

But even then we need the Watch the Background. It may seem very logical that a road sign or post directly behind your subjects head is distracting, when looking trough the viewfinder we often forget to pay attention to these important details. Scanning the frame when looking in the viewfinder can help you seeing that telephone pool that is destroying your image. Try to look for interesting background. Walls can have some great textures that can turn these into an excellent backdrop. Think of very old buildings etc. 

5. Focus

When you have a the right subject, The right lens choice, the right location, great composition and great light we now need to nail our focus. When we look at someone and / or have a conversation with someone the eye contact is very important. It creates engagement between us. When photographing people the eyes are in most cases the most important feature. It is the ideal focal point. When you look at various portraits and the eyes are out of focus, no matter how good the other elements of the photograph are, that image suddenly is mediocre or even bad. 

5.1 Focal point and Focus Re-compose

A good practice is when you find your composition is to try to select your cameras focal point on the eye closest to camera. We always want to eye closest to camera to be tack sharp. If for any reason your composition does not allow you to select a focal point, using the center focal point and using the “Focus Recompose” technique might be a good way to go. 

5.2 Back Button Focusing

When focussing I like to use back button focus. When we use are camera in most cases pressing the shutter button half way allows the camera’s auto focus system to focus. When we then press the shutter button completely the shutter mechanism is activated and a picture is taken. With back button focus the camera does not focus when the shutter release is pressed half. The focus system and shutter mechanism are now on completely separate buttons which allows for much more control. The best use for back button focus is for the focus recompose technique. Another example to use back button focus is for wildlife photograph or when we need to track our subject. 

Here is a link on how to find the back button Focus Function for both Canon and Nikon cameras

http://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-use-back-button-focus-on-your-dslr/

6. Colors

One of the most forgotten aspect in all photography is Color theory. Complementary colors are key in creating a compelling photograph, wether it be a landscape or portrait. Choosing the right background and clothing can make a huge difference in how an image looks. Also applying post process color grading can either improve or when done wrong destroy an image. 

Since I started using a color wheel I made huge steps forward in my image quality. By paying attention to closing that complements skin color and backgrounds that complement both will make your images harmonic and balanced and your subject stand out. 

Choosing complementary colors will enhance your photograph

Choosing complementary colors will enhance your photograph

Adobe has a free Color tool that I use almost in every image.. You can find it here:

http://color.adobe.com/create/color-wheel/

7. Camera Settings

To often I have people ask me what were your camera settings? What was your light ratio in case I am using strobes? What was the power setting on your flash? Those questions are ridiculous and anyone that dares to answer you with these are the perfect settings talks utter nonsense. Settings will vary from day to day, from one scene to the other. Yes here are some basic guidelines and rules of thumb but even then most of the time those rules don't apply. 

For example when I photograph a model in the studio in most cases my shutter speed is 1/125 of second as determined by the maximum sync speed of my studio strobes. My aperture value is in most cases around f8 and my ISO set to 64. When people ask me the power settings of my strobes they also need to know the exact power capacity of those strobes and the exact modifier used and the exact distance between that strobe and the subject. If you don't know one of these variables asking that question is utter nonsense. 

The same when photographing outdoors. The tip that I have for people starting in portrait work is not to focus on a technically perfect portrait but rather an interesting and compelling photograph. Most of us are not interesting is a technically perfect photograph as many of them I find actually very boring! 

As a rule of thumb to set our shutter speed we can inverse the focal length of our lens and use that as our minimum shutter speed. For example, when shooting with a 85mm lens I would choose a shutter speed of 1/85s or the closest to that. In this case either 1/80s or /100s. Of course with today’s modern lens technology with Vibration Reduction we can use slower shutter speed. As I said this is a rule of thumb.

7.1 Sunny f16 Rule, the loony f11 rule, the shady f8 rule and the open shade at sunset f4 rule

In photography there are many rules, rules of thumb that can help us finding answers in a particular problem. The Sunny f16 rule, the loony f11 rule (wen shoot, the shade f8 rule and the open shade f4 rule are all methods to finding the right daylight exposure without the use of a light meter. 

These rules are based on incident light and not on reflected light. The reflected light measurement method is used by most of our camera’s light metering system, which is based on an average correct meter reading of 18% grey. In the incident metering system very bright and very dark subjects are compensated for. 

The general sunny f16 rules says that when you set your aperture value of your camera to f16 the shutter speed will be the inverse of you ISO setting. 

I.e. ISO is 100 - Aperture is set to f16, the inverse of 100 is 1/100 so our shutter speed will be 1/100s. 

the same rule applies for all other. The loony f11 used when its slightly overcast. 

I.e. ISO is 100 - Aperture is set to f11, the inverse of 100 is 1/100 so our shutter speed will be 1/100s. 

Example for the Shady f8 rule. When we are in Overcast conditions we can apply this rule

I.e. ISO is 200 - Aperture is set to f8, the inverse of 200 is 1/200 so our shutter speed will be 1/200s

And the same for the Open Shade at Sunset rule f4

 Example for thef4 rule. When we are in Open Shade Sunset conditions we can apply this rule

I.e. ISO is 400 - Aperture is set to f4, the inverse of 400 is 1/400 so our shutter speed will be 1/400s.

As with all rules, rule don't determine our creativity. What is the mood of our image? Do we want a shallow DOF or do we want to include our background into the image. Remember that your camera is a technical instrument and can not make that creative decision for you!

8. Use a grey card or Color Card

XRITE Color Checker Passport Grey Card

XRITE Color Checker Passport Grey Card

With changing lighting conditions the color of the light is also changing. Having the correct white balance will dramatically improve the correct color reproduction in your images. Of course we could use the camera’s build in auto white balance but I find to more then often working against me then for me. When I shoot outdoor and in the studio the first shot I take is my grey card and color card. I use a xrite color checker passport. With this I can easily fix the white balance and color in post production if I shoot in RAW. 

http://xritephoto.com/colorchecker-passport-photo

I can however set a custom white balance in camera. I am a Nikon shooter and the steps that I am describing now will only work on Nikon camera’s. I know Canon and other manufactures have the same possibility, please check your user manual on how to to that. 

8.1 Setting Custom White Balance for Nikon

  • Press the MENU button
  • Highlight White Balance in the shooting menu and press the multi selector button to the right to display the White Balance options. 
  • Highlight Preset Manual and press the multi selector to the right
  • Highlight MEASURE and press the multi selector to the right
  • A menu will pop up now
  • Press YES and then press OK
  • The camera will now enter preset measurement mode
  • PRE will now be flashing in the view finder
  • Now frame the white card in the view finder and press the shutter half way
  • No need to take a photo. The camera is able to measure for white balance. If the process was done ok “Gd” will appear in the view finder. Your all set now
  • If the camera was not able to take a reading “no Gd” will appear. Try again..

9. Shoot in RAW

This is probably the best and most general applicable tip for ALL photography! SHOOT RAW!!!

Shooting raw is the same as shooting a film camera with film. See the RAW file as your negative. When you have your negative available you can make a decision how to develop it. There are many different ways in developing a negative in the film world, there are even more possibilities in the digital realm. .When you shoot JPG the allow your camera the make all the development decisions for you. Also you just halved the image quality. My Nikon D810 is capable of photographing 14.7 bit RAW files and allows me to process it as a 16bit image in Adobe Camera RAW, a JPG can maximum contain 8 bit of information. And that is a big difference! 

9.1 8 bit versus 16 bit versus 32 bit

What does that mean? And what is a bit? In the digital world 1 bit has a value of 2. When you go beyond 1 bit we can find the value with a simple mathematical equation of 2 to the exponent. 

For example 

4 bit would be 2 to the exponent of 4 = 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 which equals 16

8 bit would be 2 to the exponent of 8 = 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 which equals 256

You may have heard about 256 shades of grey. Well this comes from a black and white jpg image which is a 8 bit image. 

Our camera sensors captures and image in RGB. 3 separate channels RED GREEN and BLUE. An image is made up form multiple shade of Red Green and Blue. The more shades of each color the have to work with the better the color representation and the more colors you can create. 

So in an 8 bit file we have 256 shades of RED, 256 shades of Green and 256 shades of Blue which equals 16.8 million colors. WOW that is a lot you may think but is actually very limited.

A 16 bit files gives us 65.536 shades for each color. 

That is 65,536 shades of Red X 65,536 shades of Green X 65,536 shades of Blue equals 281 TRILLION possible colors. 

So when it comes to developing your negatives you want as many shades as possible. 

Sometime I bracket my images and blend 2 or 3 exposures together. The reason why I do that is not that my camera is unable to photograph a scene but to allow me to capture more detail and color information. It allows me to work in Photoshop in 32 bit. 

A 32 bit file give us 4,294,967,296 shades of RED, 4,294,967,296 shades of GREEN and 4,294,967,296 shades of BLUE which equals a number so great I can't even pronounce it! 

Did you ever see color banding in some images, that is because those images were either captured in 8 bit or processed in 8 bit and JPG’s are 8 bit. So if you want to improve your image quality start shooting in RAW in the highest BIT rate your camera system allows. 

10 Practice

The last tip is easy! Practice, practice, practice! They say practice makes perfect but it true! The more you do it, the better you will become. 

4 Important Tips to Improve your Moon Landscape Photography

One of the most photographed Astral objects is the Moon. Many of us have always been fascinated with our lunar sphere, especially when the moon is full. There is something special about a full moon and some even believe in Mysterious powers of the full moon. Animals act different, some say even people act different. Mythological stories talk about werewolf and other creatures that roam the earth when the moon is at its biggest. Others are more attracted to the romance of the full moon and the beautiful light it cast on the landscapes. Count me a member of the last group. 

I love the photograph a beautiful moonlight kissed landscape and in occasion when we have an extra “special” full moon phase I photograph the moon as the main subject. 

Photographing moon lit landscapes aren't the easiest thing to to, so here are some tips to “Improve your moon lit Landscape photography”

1 Planning

One of the most important things I have learned in photographing Astrophotography, Moon lit landscapes, the moon or the Milky Way is planning my shot. Make a decision wether you are going to photograph the moon as your main subject or a moon lit landscape. This decision will determine the gear you will be taking along. 

When planning my shots I take advantage of todays technology in determining what the sky will look like, the phase and angle of the moon. I use an iPhone and the Apps I use to help me in this process are: 

Sky Guide:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sky-guide-view-stars-night-or-day/id576588894?mt=8

The Photographer's Ephemeris (VERY AWESOME!)

http://photoephemeris.com/

Google Maps

Super Blood Moon Photographed at Diege Peak at Mt. Rainier

Super Blood Moon Photographed at Diege Peak at Mt. Rainier

When planning make sure you scout your locations before the shoot. So many photographers just show up and hope for the best. In my experience that only leads to disappointment and often a poor photograph. By scouting you will get familiar with the location and you can “try-out” different compositions. By doing that you come will prepared and do not need to lose time looking for a shot.

Here are the dates of the Full Moons in 2017    

Feb. 10     Snow Moon                Aug. 7             Sturgeon Moon    

Mar. 12     Worm Moon                Sept. 6             Harvest Moon    

Apr. 11        Pink Moon                Oct. 5             Hunter's Moon        

May 10     Flower Moon              Nov. 4             Beaver Moon    

June 9      Strawberry Moon       Dec. 3             Cold Moon

 

2 Composition

There are many variables determining the “Best Possible” composition for moon lit photographs. Things to consider is wether you have a clear sky, a cloudy sky or a night full with Atmospheric Turbulence. Are you going to photograph a landscape or just the moon as the main subject. Which moon phase are you photographing, a crescent moon or full moon? 

Most photographers tend to play it safe and have a tendency to center the subject. A very safe approach but a little boring in my opinion. Its been done a million of times and the chance your photograph in going to be any different is small. Change it up a little, photograph the moon and turn it 90 degrees in photoshop or Lightroom. Don't limit yourself to just one perspective, imagine yourself in a spaceship flying around the moon, highlight and shadows will vary according to your position, so turn that big cheese wheel around and come up with something different. 

When photographing the moon as part of a landscape, the rule of thirds is a safe and good way to start. However don’t limit yourself to rules and try different artistic perspectives and angles. But when you do, know the rules, my starting points:

  1. I use the rule of Thirds ( and then break them later)
  2. I use a building, tree, plants or rock to frame the scene
  3. I make sure I have a point of interest in the foreground, mid ground and background 
  4. I try to create a vanishing point
  5. I try to make usage of diagonal lines. 
Seattle Under Full Moon Light - Blended image of Foreground and moon

Seattle Under Full Moon Light - Blended image of Foreground and moon

In the western hemisphere we read from left to right. When composing an image keep that in mind. Our natural tendency is to look at something from left to right. Also we are drawn to the lightest part on image first. Knowing those two things we can help our composition. 

Playing with your composition can give you different images..

Playing with your composition can give you different images..

3 Gear

Lens Choice

Most of today’s digital camera’s will do, the body you use is not that important. The lens choice is. When photographing landscapes I prefer to use a wide angle lens, anything from 35mm all the way up to 14mm. The wider the lens, the more of the scene you will be able to capture but also the smaller the moon will be. Imagine how big the moon looks to you when seen with the naked eye. This is very similar to a 50mm lenson a full frame camera (35mm equivalent). When you want to photograph the moon bigger you will need a zoom lens, a super telephoto. I usually shoot my moon shots with a 600mm lens with a 2 times tele converter with a cropped sensor, that give men the equivalent of a 1600mm lens. That way I can see some detail in the moon surface. 

My lens choice:

Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 ED Zoom

Nikon AF-S FX 600mm F/4 G ED VR

Nikon FX TC-20EIII 2 times Teleconverter with Auto Focus

One of my favorite things to do is blending my landscape photographs and my moon photographs together. It creates this surreal image which is true to my creative identity. 

Tripod

A good and steady tripod are essential. Without it your photographs aren't going to be that great. One could say that with todays modern camera’s and stabilized lenses we could boost the ISO but a practice that still is a lot below the image quality compared when using a tripod 

When using lenses beyond 200 mm in my opinion a tripod is a necessity.

My tripod of choice:

Manfrotto 058B (Very heavy!)

Dedge Peak Journalistic approach of the Blood moon

Dedge Peak Journalistic approach of the Blood moon

Remote Shutter Release

Minimizing Camera shakeis the most important thing. A remote camera trigger is an important tool and cheap to help reducing that. 

I use a Phottix TR-90

4 Exposure and Camera settings

In all landscape and astrophotography eliminating camera shake is crucial, any small movement or vibration can result in a soft (unsharp) image. That’s why I use a remote shutter or sometimes in case I forgot it I use the self timer function on the camera which I set to a 3 - 5 second delay. 

Mirror Lock-up

Next important setting is Mirror lock-up. Many, not all, of today’s cameras allow you to lockup the mirror. This is a feature that allow you to reduce vibration induced motion blur during the exposure. In the normal camera modus when the shutter is pressed the mirror goes out of the way of the shutter mechanism. (Without this mirror we would not be able to see anything in our view finder) This action causes vibration, enough to cause a soft image. With mirror lock-up the mirror is already out of the way of the shutter. I use mirror lockup in all my landscape images. 

Exposure Settings

The moon is a very fast moving object that moves around our planet with a speed of around 2290Mph. Pretty fast, but because of its distance from the earth it doesn't appear that fast. But it is still a moving subject and when photographing the moon with a low shutter speed, motion blur will be introduced. I photograph the moon with around a 1/160 of a second minimum. That way I am sure that motion blur will not be a cause of an unsharp or soft result. 

When is comes to my aperture settings I always shoot at the “Sweet Spot” of my lens. As a rule of thumb that is about 3 stop above the widest aperture settings. With my f/2.8 lens the sweet spot is around f8. 

When it comes to ISO there is no general setting, it depends on how bright the scene is and/or the moon. I use my camera’s metering system to determine the “correct setting. When shooting landscapes I usually set my camera at a Matrix Metering, when photographing the moon as my main subject I use a spot metering setting. 

Bracketing

Depending on the dynamic range of my scene and the dynamic range capabilities of my camera I will bracket my exposures. In most cases I will take 3 exposures from every scene. 1 Normal exposure as metered by my camera, 1 stop under and 1 stop over.  In some cases I will go and shoot 9 exposures when the scene is complex and has a lot of detail in it and where the dynamic range is very high. In photoshop I then blend those image together into a 32bit file.

Focus

In most cases I use manual focus to get the proper exports, however its very ease to use the auto focus function on a full moon. There is enough contrast in the moon to allow the camera’s autofocus system to grab prober exposure.

So here you have it my basic workflow that I use when photographing Moon lit landscapes or the moon itself. Leave me comment if you have a question or just want to say hi. 

Bart de Gols

No-One Cares about your photography!

In today’s oversaturated world of photography billions of new photographs are posted every week on the various social media platforms. The brutal honest truth is that no one really cares about your photography no matter how many images you publish. As a matter of fact in almost any case the only person who cares is yourself. We post our imagery to seek confirmation about the feeling and joy we get from our own photographs. We are in this selfish journey trying to collect pats on the back. The truth is you really shouldn’t give a shit. 

Personally I don’t care if people like my photography or not, that is of course my personal work and not the work I shoot on assignment for clients. The difference is that the photographs I make for clients are often influenced by their vision and is not 100% my own creativity. In that case I do care that I did a good job so I can keep feeding my family. When it comes to my personal photographs I don’t care. The most important thing is that I like it. As photographers we are so worried that our friends, family and random people love what we do in which we actually limit our creative freedom and loose our creative identity

I love making composites and many people also love what I do and I have an equal amount of people that don’t like what I do because my imagery is false, its not real, its not a photograph. In my article “Digital Art vs Photography” I talk about that more in depth. But I honestly don’t care what people think. I did in the past a lot and what I have found is that by caring to much I was limiting myself to much. I was limiting my creativity and loosing my identity as an artist. And that is what we all should be, Artists! My main goal is to please my artistic self first and than others. Me the artist comes in first place, then pleasing others. This might sound harsh but in truth it is a mentality that sets your creative artistic spirit free. Don’t get me wrong, I too try to make a difference with my imagery, stand out of the crowd and trying to produce meaningful photographs. I get a kick when my audience love what I do and am selfishly very happy when that happens, but its not my main driver. Its a special reward when that happens. Its that moment when your art is understood and your identity as an artist is confirmed without that its been manipulated by others opinion. 

Tetons_HDR2WEB.jpg

Please keep collecting thumbs up, stars and hearts and as many likes and shares possible. When you do try to do it with imaging that are true to you that are a part of you and your creative identity. When you do so I promise your imagery will be better. 

Photo Thieves are real, should you Watermark or not?

With the overwhelming amount of digital images we are surrounded with on a daily basis standing out with "WOW" photographs is very important for photographer. On instagram alone around 52 million  photos are uploaded daily. Many of them are selfies and mediocre snapshot but some of them are extraordinary photos who have that "wow" factor. If you are one of those photographers, wanting to protect your images and protect your brand is a very natural and instinctive thing. But in today's digital world is watermarking the best solution to protect your photograph or does watermarking have the opposite effect of what you want?

What are the two sides and what are the advantages for both of them? Should you watermark or not?

The most obvious reason to place a watermark on your images is to protect them and to create free advertising and promotion of your name as a photographer. When people see your images they will see your name. You are guaranteed of receiving the right credit for the image. Although that is true the placement of your watermark over the entire photograph will negatively impact the viewer experience. It will obstruct the viewers ability to completely enjoy the photograph. I see you many photographers out there are using big vector images or logo's all over their imagery. Others put their name of themselves or their business multiple times across the photograph. A practice that in my mind only damages you as the experience of viewing your imagery will be rather negative then pleasant. 

Bad Watermark use. It very much obstruct the viewer and creates a Negative Experience!

Bad Watermark use. It very much obstruct the viewer and creates a Negative Experience!

How do I protect my imagery?

I use watermarks in some of my images too. When I do so I use a small font and place the watermark either in the right or left bottom corner of my images. I then reduce the opacity of my so it is barely visible and has a minimal negative impact on my viewers experience. 

The other thing I do is make sure my "Meta Data" on all my images are filled in. EXIF Copyright information is the simplest way in adding protection to your photographs. As all modern digital camera's today have the ability to store the owners and makers name and to add copyright information its a very easy way to more secure your files. 

Great Choice of Watermark Usage. It minimizes the negative effects and does not obstruct the viewer's experience. 

Great Choice of Watermark Usage. It minimizes the negative effects and does not obstruct the viewer's experience. 

One other practice I use is to only upload lower resolution files to social media. This has two benefits. The most obvious is that low resolution images are more difficult to print and if done so the end result will be poor. The other advantage is, most Social Media platform compress your images anyway. When you upload your photographs in high resolution to in example facebook, they will be compressed and the end result is not that great. Uploading a photograph that almost matches social platforms used resolution will result in less compression by the platform and in a better representation of your image. My rule of thumb is to size my photograph at 1250 pixels on the long side with a JPG compression embedding my color profile and converted to SRGB for internet. 

Sometimes I will upload images without a watermark when I think that even my low opacity small watermark will obstruct the viewer experience. 

I am not afraid that my images get stolen?

Sure, there is always a risk that your images get saved and used on someone else's profile or maybe even posted by them. Some of my photographs are shared on various platforms without that the people have asked permission to do so. In my opinion I have more benefit of people seeing my images as one way or the other they eventually will come across my profile or website and will see the real ownership of the photograph. I do not really care when John or Jane doe does so as long as my name is not being trashed and the photograph is used in a decent matter. It's great free marketing and exposure. When companies use my photograph, well thats another matter. I will write them and tell them they are using my images without permission and need to remove or pay me the usage right. If they don't respond or comply I will press charges against them. I have copyright insurance for that. 

So using a watermark or not is a personal choice. There isn't really a perfect answer weather you should use them or not. Let me know your opinion about the use of watermark in a comment below and share your experience in using them or not.

Digital Art vs Photography

In my latest work "Sunset in Neah Bay" I incorporated a composited element. I added birds to the scene that in real life were not there. When I photographed the scene I had however the "end result" already seen in my head. I knew before I took the photograph what the visual end result was going to be. Whenever I post a photograph like that I always get really good critiques and comments, the "wow" factor gets people emotionally involved in my imagery. However I get a few people that gets offended as now my "photograph" is an illusion, its not real, it turned into digital art. 

When it comes to photography for me in my image making photoshop has become a true extension of my photography and it has changed and even defined how I take photographs today. It plays a really big role in my creative process and my image making. For me it is a tool that helps me realizing my visual ideas I have in my head and projecting them via my photographs. 

The way I make my images is very simple, Its a matter of a combination of "the light" that I like, textures and subject that inspire me or that I have an emotional connection with and a visualization of what I am attracted to in general. I often find that parts of the things that moved me as a child or in my upbringing often finds a place in my imagery. Things that moved me in the past I often recognize them back in my today's photographs. That defines my visual and creative identity. 

In my opinion and regardless what many "purist" think, there are NO limits for photography. No boundaries need to be set to your creative freedom . Just follow your instinct and visual ideas and your artists mind. Incorporating elements from other photographs and compositing them into a single image only enhances the virtues of photography, it does not negatively influence them. Neither does manipulation of color tones, saturation or dodging and burning. In the "Old Days" Ansel Adams added a Ton of Darkroom manipulation before he had the finished product. They even added skies for other photographs to get the end result. He often blended images together in the dark room. In many peoples minds Ansel Adams would NOT be a good photographer. 

The best and most paid photographers out there use photoshop and photo manipulation all the time, giving them a call and telling them they are actually not photographers would indeed be very funny.

So were do we draw the line, when does photography turn into digital art. Well in my opinion when you stop using photographs and only use digital Illustration and drawings and CGI. But no matter how you feel about this try not to be a definition freak. Try not to be stuck on a word and definition about what photography is, should be, could be or need to be. Go out there and make beautiful images.

But please share with me what do you think in a comment below...