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Creating A Composite Image – Total Lunar Eclipse

Creating A Composite Image – Total Lunar Eclipse

Creating A Composite Image - Total Lunar Eclipse
A 36-shot composite of an entire Total Lunar Eclipse

Creating A Composite Image – Total Lunar Eclipse

This article is about the ‘How To’ of Creating A Composite Image – Total Lunar Eclipse.

December 2011. A friend suggested we shoot the entire Lunar Eclipse against a heritage backdrop. He was connected and was able to manage the relevant permissions required to shoot after hours at the famed Qutub Minar. It was going to be a total eclipse and I realised we would be discovering a thing or two during the shoot and the post processing. So, I readily agreed.

We did the venue recce a couple of days before the actual shoot to assess the light conditions, monument illumination, vantage for the shoot and how cold we are likely to feel (December = Winters in Northern Hemisphere). After the recce, I studied some more – mainly about the changes in light conditions during the duration of the eclipse and the trajectory of moon during that duration.

On the D-Day, we arrived at the venue before moonrise and realised the monument illumination had been altered (they have multiple spots lighting up the minaret and they decided to switch on the ones that were not switched on during our recce). While this did pose some issues, we quickly re-assessed, selected a new vantage and hastily rigged up our gear.

The Set-up

I mounted an EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 lens on my Canon EOS 60D (a cropped frame camera body, and hence the effective focal length I got at 10mm was 16mm). Camera was secured on tripod and I attached the remote to the camera body to minimise any shake.

I settled on shooting in portrait orientation since I knew the moon would be rising fairly high up in the sky by the time the eclipse was over. I naturally didn’t want to run out of sky in the frame at the final stages of the eclipse.

I fired a few test shots to get a fix on the right settings at the start. The Exif I started off with was:

ISO: 100
Aperture: f/3.5
Shutter Speed: 1.3 secs

I made the choice of staying at the widest open aperture since the foreground – the arch in the Qutub Minar complex – was quite far. In fact, it was much farther than the hyper-focal distance of 1.53 metres necessary at these settings to get a focus till infinity. This ensured that the shutter was not open for too long and that would mean reduced noise. The ISO of 100 was also selected for the same reason of reducing noise.

The Shoot

Soon enough, at around 7 pm, the moon peeped out from behind the arch and I fired the first shot. Since I wanted to play safe and ensure crispness of the final composite, I took a couple of backup shots too. Then on, every 5 minutes, I would click 2-3 images.

In about 30-35 minutes, the sky had considerably darkened. It was time to stop down since the moon was now relatively brighter and would cause a burnout if I continued shooting with the starting settings. I halved the shutter speed to halve the light that entered the camera. This is where I realised it would have been smarter to shoot with my camera tethered to my laptop and control this process of stopping-down through the computer to completely eliminate the marginal camera shake.

But the deed was done and here I was – shooting untethered. I knew that would mean an extra step of aligning these images perfectly during the post processing to ensure crispness of the foreground monuments. Learning: Do a tethered shoot whenever you plan a composite.

From then on, the process of stopping down was repeated every 30-40 minutes (or after every 7-8 shots). My final images were shot around 10 pm. By then, I had stopped down around 6 stops from my settings at the start of the shoot. From a shutter speed of 1.3 secs, I had come down to a shutter speed of 1/50 of a sec.

This meant the monument will get increasingly underexposed in each subsequent stop-down. But that was expected and I knew that the right blending during composite-creation would take care of the underexposed areas of the shot.

Over these three hours, I had shot 36 unique frames (excluding the back-ups). And I knew that I would need some sophisticated post-processing to get the exposures right for every frame before I embark on the task of creating the composite image.

The Post-Processing

I imported the entire set of images into a Lightroom catalogue and commenced the tricky task of creating my composite. Upon review, it came to light that even during the total Lunar Eclipse, the moon is not completely invisible, but turns red when the sunlight gets completely blocked by earth.

I did some initial minor editing in Lightroom. This included cutting down the highlights to address the glow around the moon, some split toning to get the colours right and some luminosity correction to address the much-dreaded noise that invariably creeps in during any low-light shoot.

Then, I selected these 36 images and took them into Photoshop as layers by right clicking and choosing ‘Edit In>Open as layers in Photoshop’ (this also ensured that I did not land up with a locked background layer). The further steps involved in creating the composite in Photoshop were as under:

  1. Choose Select > All Layers
  2. Choose Edit > Auto-Align Layers and select ‘Auto’ as the alignment option. (In extreme cases, you may need to resort to the ‘Reposition’ option here.)
  3. Choose Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object.
  4. Choose Layer > Smart Objects > Stack Mode and select ‘Maximum’ from the submenu.

These steps helped create the composite image. I saved it as a tiff file (without saving the layers since that would have increased the file size inordinately). Subsequently, I imported this tiff file into Lightroom for final minor touch ups. And then created this Black & White version of that final image in Silver FX Pro. So, this was the process I followed for Creating Composite Image – Total Lunar Eclipse!

The next total Lunar Eclipse that would be visible in Delhi (you may want to check the exact date for your city by doing an Internet search) is still about 20 months away (31st January 2018) but you may want to save the date and try capturing it using the method outlined here. I hope you get similar, if not better, results.

In case you have any further technical queries regarding such captures, please leave a comment and I will be happy to address your query to the best of my ability. Thanks.

Creating A Composite Image - Total Lunar Eclipse

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Using Lightroom – A Simple Workflow

Using Lightroom – A Simple Workflow

Using Lightroom - A Simple Workflow

Lightroom – A simple, yet overwhelming tool for many of us!

Lightroom, with its multiple modules and huge number of options, could leave people in a state of “Oh-fuck!-What-should-I-do-with-these-numerous-sliders-and-controls!” I am attempting to de-mystify this tool in a way that most images that are decently exposed could get tackled by using this post. The process outlined here will work with Lightroom Ver. 5.0 or later. The process has been defined for Mac users.

ONE CAVEAT: PLEASE SHOOT IN RAW FORMAT AND NOT IN JPG FORMAT. THAT WILL ENSURE THAT YOUR CAMERA DOESN’T APPLY ARBITRARY IN-CAMERA PROCESSING TO YOUR IMAGE.

Library Module

To make life easy, start importing your images through Lightroom. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT JUST COPY IMAGES FROM THE CAMERA CARD TO YOUR HARD DISK. USE LIGHTROOM TO IMPORT IMAGES. This will take the hassle out of cataloguing the images. It entails the following steps:

Using Lightroom - A Simple Workflow
Create a NEW catalogue
  1. Open Lightroom and from the ‘FILE’ menu, click ‘New Catalogue’. Give it a name and a location (could be the computer’s native hard disk or an external hard disk)
  2. Lightroom will close whichever catalogue was open and will reopen with a brand new empty catalogue

    Using Lightroom - A Simple Workflow
    Library Module (Top red arrow) and Import Button (Bottom red arrow)
  3. Click on ‘Import’ button (bottom left of the ‘Left Panel’). A new panel will open that will cover most of the Lightroom window. Let’s call it Panel B.

    Using Lightroom - A Simple Workflow
    Select a source for import
  4. Make sure you have chosen the correct source from the list of sources stacked above the import button
  5. Then, go to the right panel and create a new folder at a destination of your choice.

    Using Lightroom - A Simple Workflow
    Choose a destination folder or create a new one
  6. Click ‘Import’ (bottom right of the Panel B).
  7. Panel B will close and you’ll see a status bar above the ‘Source’ panel, next to Lr logo that will show the progress of import. The images will start appearing in the library module as they get imported.

Develop Module

Here are the basic steps to follow for most edits (some images could be more tricky and for those, I could run a MasterClass).

  1. Select the image you wish to process/edit and click on DEVELOP module (see image below for reference). My starting image was Exhibit A.

    Using Lightroom - A Simple Workflow
    Develop Module

    Using Lightroom - A Simple Workflow
    Exhibit A
  2. Choose the crop overlay and use the ‘bent double-headed arrow’ to straighten the horizon (see Exhibit B and C below)
    Using Lightroom - A Simple Workflow
    Exhibit B: Horizon straightened

    Using Lightroom - A Simple Workflow
    Exhibit C: Crop Overlay tool highlighted in red.
  3. Go down to the ‘Lens Corrections’ sub-panel in the right panel.

    Using Lightroom - A Simple Workflow
    Exhibit D: Apply Lens Corrections
  4. Click on ‘Enable Profile Corrections’ and ‘Remove Chromatic Aberration’ check boxes (See red arrows in Exhibit D). You will see the lens distortion getting addressed in the image. It is starkly visible if the lens has tremendous distortion (This also helps you understand how good/bad your lens is). If there is no visible change, click the ‘Profile’ tab in the lens correction sub-panel (See Yellow Arrow in Exhibit D) and check if profile correction has got applied. If it isn’t, manually select the manufacturer and lens model from the drop downs there. If your lens profile is not there, google for your specific lens profile and add it to Lightroom so you may get to use it all the time in future.
  5. Go to ‘Basic’ sub-panel in the right panel (It is the topmost sub-panel).
  6. In ‘Tone’ section of this sub-panel, pull back the ‘Highlights’ slider to -100 and the ‘Shadow’ slider to +100. The image will change tremendously and may not yet be likeable (Exhibit E). Doing this cuts down extra brightness in highlights area of the image and brings out details in the dark areas of the image.

    Using Lightroom - A Simple Workflow
    Exhibit E: Cut highlights and bring out details in shadow areas
  7. Next, press the ‘Alt’ key and start moving the ‘Whites’ slider to the RIGHT. Do that till the entirely BLACK image starts to show some spots of colour. Similarly, press the ‘Alt’ key and start moving the ‘Blacks’ slider to the LEFT till the entirely white image starts to show some colour/blacks. This step helps cut down haze and starts to add some life to the image.
  8. Now move to the ‘Presence’ section of this sub-panel. Here, use the clarity slider and move it to RIGHT (~ +20). This helps add contrast to the mid-tones (not to the whole image).
    DO NOT USE THE CONTRAST SLIDER AS IT WILL NULLIFY YOUR ATTEMPT TO CUT HIGHLIGHTS OR RECOVER SHADOWS. YOU ONLY WANT TO BRING OUT CONTRAST IN THE MIDTONES AND NOT THE WHOLE IMAGE.

    Using Lightroom - A Simple Workflow
    Exhibit F: After adding Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation
  9. Similarly, take the ‘Vibrance’ slider to the RIGHT to about +30 and ‘Saturation’ slider to about +10. Vibrance ups the subtle hues, while the saturation slider ups the colour in the entire image. See Exhibit F above for ‘Before-After’ comparison.
  10. By now, your image is already starting to look striking. But if you click and see it at 1:1 size, you may notice some noise or grains. To address this, go to the ‘Noise Reduction’ section of the ‘Details’ sub-panel. Here, just add a +40 to Luminosity. This should ideally take care of the grains.

    Using Lightroom - A Simple Workflow
    Split Toning Sub-panel
  11. Next, go to ‘Split Toning’ sub-panel and click on the box next to ‘Highlights’. A colour palette will open and your cursor will become a dropper. Depending on whether the image has less yellow (this reflects sunshine) or blue (this is about the colour of sky/water), you may bring the dropper on to this palette and place it on the desired area. If you place it on blue, you could start from bottom up and choose the correct blueness in the image highlights. Moving this up or down increases or decreases blue. Moving it left or right increase green or red respectively. Your eye will be the best judge to ascertain which tone you should go with in your image highlights. Once done, click ok. Next, do the same by clicking the box next to ‘Shadows’ and add the desired colour to simulate sunlight (yellow) or deeper blues in the clouds.
  12. With these steps, now you would see that you have managed to transform your image. Try and bring the image as close to what you saw rather than over-processing and making it look unnatural.
  13. You may now export the processed image. Ideally export it as .jpg (sRGB) since WordPress plugins screw up the colours of .jpg (AdobeRGB or ProPhoto RGB) images.
Using Lightroom - A Simple Workflow
Final Image

The edit/processing steps outlined above basically are to get around the limitations of the camera and lenses we use. And these edits are a must for your images to leap off the page/screen.

In case of further queries, please leave a comment and I’ll be happy to clarify.

Happy Lightroom-ing!

Using Lightroom - A Simple Workflow

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Zoom Burst Photography

Zoom Burst Photography

This article has appeared in the current issue (March 2016 issue) of JetWings, the in-flight magazine of Jet Airways!

The Zoom Burst Photography technique can infuse photographs with a burst of energy or dynamism; lend them an abstract, artistic quality or a sense of mystique; or create a focus or strong leading lines that draw the viewer’s eyes to the core subject. It involves zooming in or out as you click an image, which will make the subject ‘burst’ forth from the centre of the frame, blur the sides of the frame and create dramatic streaks. One does not need any specialised equipment to achieve stunning images through this technique—a DSLR camera, a zoom lens and a tripod is enough.

City slicker:
Zoom Burst Photography
City Slicker

Exif: f/2.8 | 2.5 sec | ISO 100 | 70 mm zoomed out to 24 mm

While Bangkok’s skyline offers interesting detail around the waterfront and near the Grand Palace, the general cityscape is quite ordinary. I chose an imposing high-rise as my centrepiece, zoomed in to accommodate a part of it in the frame, adjusted the exposure, pressed the trigger, and then zoomed out as smoothly as possible to achieve this futuristic-looking frame.

Festive flair:
Zoom Burst Photography
Festive Flair

Exif: f/13 | 3.2 sec | ISO 200 | 70 mm zoomed out to 25 mm

Not too long ago, I set out to photograph the Diwali festivities around Gurgaon, but only came across isolated islands of illumination that offered little visual interest on their own. Since I was on the road with scant access to any dramatic vantage, I resorted to the zoom burst photography technique to add some much-needed sparkle.

In a daze:
Zoom Burst Photography
In a daze

Exif: f/2.8 | 4 sec | ISO 160 | 70 mm zoomed out to 24 mm

A little patience and a touch of zoom burst was all it took to add a soft, dreamy, romantic feel to an ordinary subject.

Framed:
Zoom Burst Photography
Framed

Exif: f/13 | 2.5 sec | ISO 100 | 200 mm zoomed out to 70 mm

While these frames displayed on a rustic wall had a charm of their own, a photograph of them would not have been very inspiring to a viewer. To add a touch of the abstract, I captured this interesting decor element through zoom burst photography.

Lighten up:
Zoom Burst Photography
Lighten Up

Exif: f/13 | 2 sec | ISO 200 | 70 mm zoomed out to 27 mm

Strings of colourful LED lights were draped around trees as decorations. No matter what angle I chose, they did not provide enough body to the photographic frame. In a sudden burst of inspiration, I decided to use the zoom burst photography technique, which did the trick.

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The Making of an Image – Image Tech

The Making of an Image – Image Tech

The Making of an Image - Image Tech

All India Photographic Trade and Industry Association (AIPTIA) has launched a new magazine – Classic Imaging. I have been commissioned to contribute regularly in their ‘Image Tech’ section that is a deep dive into how an image was created. The above double-spread is my contribution in their inaugural issue (January 2016 issue).

The text of the same has been reproduced below:

The Making of an Image – Image Tech

Equipment:      EOS 5D Mark III    TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II    Marumi 2-400 Variable ND Filter

EXIF:                 24mm    f /13.0    0.6Sec    ISO 100

Photo Title: Colours of Vagator

During my 30-odd visits to Goa, the grey sea and the usual orange sunset held little excitement for me. I wanted to capture colour, dramatic colour. During my recent trip there, I decided to take a chance of making a picture on a particularly cloudy evening, hoping the elements may paint a mesmerising image.

I decided to use the ‘Shift’ feature of my ‘Tilt-Shift’ lens to get significantly close to the not-so-gentle waves rushing towards the golden sands of Vagator. To further enhance the drama, I decided to slow down the shutter speed. For this, I narrowed the aperture to f/13, set the ISO to 100 and got to 1/320. That was not good enough. So, the decision was to use the 2-400 Variable ND Filter. That helped me stop down ~8 stops and I got to 0.6sec shutter speed.

After setting up the camera on the tripod and manually focussing at the hyper focal distance, I patiently waited. Soon enough, a brilliant turquoise sky produced a vibrant mix of white, yellow and orange clouds, while its reflection in water turned a cool blue and shades of peach. The clouds were also providing nice leading lines. Suddenly, one wave decided to swirl up to the tripod providing perfect mirror-image leading lines to the dreamy, smoky water (thanks to my slow shutter speed) and I clicked. And, once I saw the result, an hour-and-fifteen-minute wait for a 0.6sec exposure seemed well worth it!

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Ice Needles at Tso Moriri

Ice Needles at Tso Moriri

Ice Needles, Tso Moriri 2

 

Equipment:      EOS 5D Mark III   EF17-40mm f/4.0L USM

EXIF:                 17mm   f/16   1/125   ISO 50

This shot appeared in my Ladakh Photo Story in Aug 2014 issue of ‘Smart Photography’, India’s leading photography magazine.

Ice Needles at Tso Moriri

End of May 2013. For us in plains, it was peak summers. In Ladakh, spring was still in the air. Tso Moriri (Lake Moriri) was in the melt and closer to its edge, there was a thick honeycomb of pristine white ice needles. Some unseen undercurrent was creating a clear curved divide giving the surface of the lake 2 brilliantly differing hues of turquoise and purple. At the far end of the lake, on the horizon, were the hallmark barren beige mountains of Ladakh. Dense cumulus clouds, seemingly made of fluffy cotton, were gently wafting over the horizon. The challenge was to capture it all.

I decided to go ultra-wide (17mm) with an ultra narrow aperture (f/16). Even with ISO 50, I still was on 1/125 shutter speed. These settings gave me a depth of field till infinity. I knew that the ultra wide lens would also give greater prominence to the beautiful foreground element (the ice needles) while keeping all the background elements in sharp focus. Since the shutter speed was way faster than the necessary ‘inverse of focal length’ requirement, I decided to shoot hand-held. I kneeled, just about a metre or so away from the ice needles (as the hyperfocal distance at 17mm is less than a metre – 0.6 metres, to be precise), focused on those, used the bottom 1/3rd of the frame to exaggerate the foreground and shot. The result was this piece of beauty.

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Getting More With Less in Travel Photography

Getting More With Less in Travel Photography

Getting More With Less in Travel Photography
Gum Departmental Store – its facade is 242 metres across!

Canon India had provided me an EOS 5D SR body and an EF11-24mm f/4L USM lens for review during my Moscow visit. This combination added tremendous firepower to my arsenal. Before we see how, let’s take a look at some of the truly useful features/specifications of this camera body and lens (In case you find any of this too technical, please leave a comment and I’ll be happy to resolve the tech-query for you).

Canon EOS 5D SR:

While EOS 5D SR is a hugely competent camera with its features and settings manual running into 532 pages, I’ll focus on just a few useful features/specifications of this recent entrant to the Canon stable.

  1. Full frame, with flexibility to become an APS-H (crop factor of 1:1.3 as in Canon EOS 1D Mark IV) or APS-C (crop factor of 1:1.6 as in Canon EOS 7D Mark II) sized sensor
  2. Maximum resolution: 50.3 Mega Pixels or 8688 x 5792 pixels; at APS-H crop – 6768×4512 pixels (30.5 MP); at APS-C crop – 5424×3616 pixels (19.6 MP)
  3. ISO Sensitivity – Auto, 100-6400 (Extended Mode: 50-12800)
  4. Continuous Shooting – up to 5 fps
  5. Besides the usual picture styles (Auto, Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful and Monochrome), an additional picture style – Fine Detail – has been added.

Canon EF11-24mm f/4L USM:

  1. The lens’ effective Field of View (FOV) in landscape mode at 11mm is 117.1° (as against 73.7° for 24mm); and in portrait mode, it is 95° at 11mm (as against 53.1° at 24mm)
    Getting More With Less in Travel Photography
    In Portrait orientation, 11mm lens offered an extra 78% FOV

    Getting More With Less in Travel Photography
    In Landscape orientation, 11mm lens offered an extra 58% FOV
  2. 11mm also allows you the leeway to shoot handheld till slow shutter speed of 1/10 secs (inverse of focal length rule)

I went around shooting in Moscow, a city well-known for its large, tall, wide buildings, unique onion domes and startling brickwork and masonry. I will now be delving into the mishmash of advantages this unique combination provided to me.

  1. I did not have to carry my TS-E (Tilt-Shift) 24mm lens as the FOV provided by 11-24mm was 1.58 times the FOV provided by a 24mm lens in landscape orientation. Let’s see what that translates to. Capturing a tall structure like the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (103 metres tall) normally would lead me to use the TS-E, as tilting the camera up would lead to an unavoidable distortion of parallels converging towards the top of the building. The 58% increase in the coverage angle helped me keep the camera parallel to the ground and still capture these tall structures without distortion.

    Getting More With Less in Travel Photography
    Cathedral of Christ the Saviour – this 103-metre high cathedral is the tallest Orthodox Christian Church in the world!
  2. I did not have to stitch panoramas of extremely wide structures like Gum Departmental Store or the State Historical Museum in Red Square as it all fitted into the wide FOV provided by the magical 11-24mm lens while retaining textural details. To give you some idea of what fitting Gum Departmental Store in a single frame meant – the facade of this classic structure is 242 metres from left to right and I was shooting it from 60 metres away. It still fitted the frame! Now, that’s one heck of a FOV!
    Getting More With Less in Travel Photography
    Gum Departmental Store
    Getting More With Less in Travel Photography
    State Historical Museum at the Red Square

    Getting More With Less in Travel Photography
    State Historical Museum at the Red Square – 100% crop of the above shot. Please note how the textural details are intact.
  3. The small ISO sensitivity range of 100-6400 was deceptively effective. Normally, in my Canon 5D Mark III (ISO Sensitivity: 100-102400), I would play it safe and seldom go beyond ISO 1600 to avoid noise (way below the upper limit of 102400). In 5D SR, I shot hand-held at ISO 1000 and discovered there was no noise. I shot with a shutter speed of 1/30 and since this shutter speed was faster than the usual ‘inverse of focal length’ rule, there was no camera shake either.
    Getting More With Less in Travel Photography
    Red Square

    Getting More With Less in Travel Photography
    The above shot at 100% crop
  4. While shooting St Basil’s Cathedral from close quarters, I realised I could only fit it into the frame in a distortion-free manner if I tuck it in top left corner of the frame while keeping the camera parallel to the ground or if I tilted the camera upwards (latter would have led to distortion). I preferred tucking it into the top left corner. This was possible as the lens gave me a 78% extra FOV and the high resolution offered by EOS 5D SR allowed for a fair degree of cropping, while still giving me extremely hi-resolution cropped frame (see St Basil’s Cathedral uncropped and cropped image below).
    Getting More With Less in Travel Photography
    St Basil’s Cathedral – Uncropped

    Getting More With Less in Travel Photography
    St Basil’s Cathedral – Final Shot after cropping
  5. The picture style of Fine Detail helped me get the textural details of Church of the Theotokos Icon – Joy of All who Sorrow – at the MONIKI-Research Institute Hospital, in its full glory (see the image below and its 100% crop)
    Getting More With Less in Travel Photography
    Church of the Theotokos Icon – Joy of All who Sorrow – at the MONIKI-Research Institute Hospital

    Getting More With Less in Travel Photography
    Church of the Theotokos Icon – Joy of All who Sorrow – at the MONIKI-Research Institute Hospital – 100% crop
  6. Its fast fps (frames per second) helped me capture this heart-warming action on the streets of Moscow.

    Getting More With Less in Travel Photography
    Russian ISKCON devotees on Arbat Street

For me, what this body-and-lens combination offered was invaluable as it delivered quality results, accorded me the freedom to carry lesser gear and still capture crisp images.

It truly was the case of getting more with less in Travel Photography. So, should one procure this combination? My counter-question to that is – Do I really need to answer this?

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A Zoom-Burst of Bangkok Skyline

A Zoom-Burst of Bangkok Skyline

A Zoom-Burst of Bangkok Skyline

Exif: ISO 100 | Shutter Speed 2.5″ | Aperture f/2.8 | Focal Length 70mm to 24mm

A Zoom-Burst of Bangkok Skyline

A quick zooming out from 70mm to 24mm during a 2.5″ shot helped create this frame. Sometimes, zoom-burst works. Do try it selectively!

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Travel Photography Essence of a City

Travel Photography Essence of a City

Travel Photography Essence of a CityEquipment: EOS 5D Mark III   EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM

EXIF: 25mm   f/10   1/400sec   ISO 100

Travel Photography – Essence of a City

This shot appeared as my ‘Gold Shot’ in my article on ‘Working the Scene’ (an article on Street photography) in ‘Learning’ section of Smart Photography in their October 2012 Issue.

Summing up London

I had an image of London that was mainly based on Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Shakespeare’s plays, Charles Dickens’ novels, PG Wodehouse’s humour and some 20th Century Fox movies. Additionally, even in the Eastman Color and Technicolor Bollywood movies I saw in the childhood, the Films Division documentaries shown then were mostly in B&W, and were mostly about London. So, even before my visit to London, I was determined to capture the colours of the city in B&W.

One evening, while on Westminster Bridge, I sensed that I could have a shot that could sum up London in its entirety. To me, this location offered it all. It had diverse people walking by; it had Big Ben as the backdrop; it had period lamppost depicting the history and heritage of London; the skies were cloudy with a dodgy sun – all of it, typically London. To top it, the shadows and the road markings were providing excellent leading lines to get viewers’ eye straight to the subject!

But since I was shooting against the light (a massive dynamic range challenge) and I wanted a greater depth of field to get people and the backdrop in sharp focus, I narrowed the aperture to f/10 and exposed with a clear eye on recovering dynamic range extremes of bright and dark areas in post-processing. Here is the result of that effort.

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Travel Photography Waterscape

Travel Photography Waterscape

Travel Photography WaterscapeEquipment:      EOS 5D Mark III   TS-E 24mm   f/3.5L II   2-400 Variable ND Filter

EXIF:               24mm   f /13.0   0.6Sec   ISO 100

Travel Photography Waterscape – Colours of Vagator

During my 30-odd visits to Goa, the grey sea and the usual orange sunset held little excitement for me. I wanted to capture colour, dramatic colour. During my recent trip there, I decided to take a chance of making a picture on a particularly cloudy evening, hoping the elements may paint a mesmerising scene.

I decided to use the ‘Shift’ feature of my ‘Tilt-Shift’ lens to get dramatically close to the not-so-gentle waves rushing towards the golden sands of Vagator.

To further enhance the drama, I decided to slow down the shutter speed. For this, I narrowed the aperture to f/13 (narrower than that would have led to diffraction), set the ISO to 100 and got to 1/320. That was not good enough. So, the decision was to use the 2-400 Variable ND Filter. That helped me stop down ~8 stops and I got to 0.6sec shutter speed.

After setting up the camera on the tripod and manually focussing at the hyper focal distance, I patiently waited. Soon enough, a brilliant turquoise sky produced a vibrant mix of white, yellow and orange clouds, while its reflection in water turned a cool blue and shades of peach. The clouds were also providing nice leading lines.

Suddenly, one wave decided to swirl up to the tripod providing perfect mirror-image leading lines to the dreamy, smoky water (thanks to my slow shutter speed) and I clicked. And, once I saw the result, an hour-and-fifteen-minute wait for a 0.6sec exposure seemed well worth it.

What are your tricks for getting a good waterscape?

Want to see more Dreamy Water images? Click here.

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Travel Photography Nightscape

Travel Photography Nightscape

Travel Photography NightscapeEquipment: EOS 60D  EF-S10-22mm  f/3.5-4.5 USM

EXIF: 12mm  f/3.5  10sec  ISO 100

Travel Photography Nightscape – Sydney

In Travel Photography, nightscape is a desirable shot. Many-a-times, for lack of a vantage or opportunity, it doesn’t work out so well. Not so for my visit to Sydney. Even before booking a hotel, I went to Google Maps and figured out a hotel with a great vantage, as being there would surely accord me the opportunity. Shangri-La passed muster and that’s where I went.

Here’s a 10-sec exposure, shot from the 33rd floor of Shangri-La that gave a superb view of both, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House (How I got a room on the 33rd floor is another story and you may read it here). I opted for long exposure since I wanted the ISO to be at 100 (the least). Additionally, I was clear that long light trails of traffic on the Harbour Bridge are a must!

ISO – The Dilemma

It is always a dilemma you face – to increase the length of exposure by keeping ISO low or to reduce the length of the exposure by pumping up the ISO, depending on which is likely to give you lesser noise. There are no easy answers. You just need to shoot and figure it out. Though personally, I veer more towards keeping the ISO low, you may take your own call.

Any suggestions that you may have on the ISO issue, are welcome!

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Travel Photography – Wildlife

Travel Photography – Wildlife

Travel Photography - Wildlife
One-eyed Rhino

Equipment:      EOS 60D  EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM

EXIF:              200mm  f/4.5  1/40sec  ISO 250

Capturing wildlife requires a lot of patience and some amount of quick thinking. While you can get a lot of snapshots once you spot an animal, you need to think on your feet to figure out what you wish to highlight, and that’s what I would call ‘making a shot’.

While covering Times Passion Trail in Kaziranga, we came across a fully-grown male rhino in the thick of the forest – he had ostensibly lost an eye in one of the battles of territory or claim over female. Now that we had figured that out, the task was to capture an image ensuring the lost eye is clearly visible. Sunlight was coming from his left while the lost eye was his right one. Naturally, he was not going to pose for us!

So, Let’s See How I Made The Shot (Travel Photography – Wildlife):

So, I kept aside the full-frame Canon 5D Mark III body, pulled out my Canon 60D APSC body (so my 70-200mm lens would actually act as 112-320mm), cranked up the ISO (parts of jungle can be really dark even in broad daylight), narrowed the aperture to f/4.5 as I wanted some focus on the habitat too, and waited for the right moment when the ambient light would illuminate the right side of his face. While grazing, he gave us a short window when the ambient light lit up the right of his face. And that’s when this shot was made.

This post is meant to provide an insight on Travel Photography – Wildlife for Travel/Wildlife enthusiasts.

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