Greetings everyone …… I have been a member of the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) almost since inception. As a current NANPA board member, I wrestled with the idea of posting this on my blog since it’s sort of an advertisement. However, because I consider this to be in everyone’s best interest, I decided to post this announcement.
Every other year NANPA conducts its Nature Photography Summit (down the road I hope it can be every year). This event is a place for aspiring photographers and pros to share time together, stories and life lessons. It is a place for immense education … where you can take part in presentations and enjoy lectures by some of the world’s most renowned photographers. In the coming weeks we’ll be announcing a who’s who of speakers, breakout sessions and a list of events that will not only help you grow as a photographer but guide you on the path to learning and growing as a nature photographer. (I’ll provide links for this information on my blog when it becomes available). For those of you who know me well, you know I try to be as honest and forthright as possible … especially when it comes to spending hard earned money that could be better spent elsewhere. This event, in my opinion, is well worth every penny.
Please join me in San Diego, February 19-22, 2015 at the Nature Photography Summit. The common thread I’ve heard from folks who have been to many, if not all of the NANPA summits, is that “Once you go to one … you’ll always come back.” This is absolutely the truth … please consider joining us!
In addition, I am conducting a workshop in Death Valley the week after. If you attend the NANPA SUMMIT you will receive a 10% discount … and if you register before Jan 1, 2015, you’ll receive another 10% discount! My return attendees receive another 10% – THAT’S 30% for those who qualify!! I hope you can make it! Thanks for your consideration … and please come see us in San Diego.
“My first thought is always of Light” ……Galen Rowell Filters are a hot topic – sometimes quite controversial. Which is best to use? Which is the best value? And on … and on. Please note the opinions stated in this article are entirely mine. They come from years of experience and observation. I expect to receive a lot of emails with varying opinions, and that’s fine. Please remember these are my opinions. Below I talk about the filters I carry and use the most, though I only use filters when absolutely necessary. Here we go! Before beginning to talk about filters allow me to discuss filter quality. Yes there is a difference. Would you put retread tires on a Lamborghini? Probably not. Why put a low quality $25 filter on a $3,000 lens? It happens more often than not. There is a reason professional photographers use the filters they do and stay far away from others. Think about that when selecting filters for yourselves. Remember these factors when thinking about using filters: • Use filters only when necessary • Never stack filters on lenses • Buy the thinnest filters available. Wide angle lenses need thin filters to reduce any potential vignette • Make sure they are clean before each use • Understand the benefits and drawbacks of using filters There are many filter manufacturers out there. Almost without question, you get what you pay for. But how do you know which manufacturer makes the best filters available? After each category, I’ll give you my recommendation on what to buy.
Polarizing filters are the most commonly used filter for any landscape photographer. These filters simply reduce the amount of reflected light passing onto the camera sensor.
Just like wearing polarizing sunglasses, polarizers can enhance color, especially in the sky, making the sky a deep blue. These filters also reduce glare and reflections off of water and other bright surfaces. Polarizers also increase color saturation in foliage. When rotating these filters and looking through your viewfinder, one can see the variable effect of a polarizing filter. The direction your camera is pointing directly affects the effect of this filter. Polarizing filters work their best at a 180 degree viewpoint from the sun.
Be careful. Even without these filters on our wide angle lens, skies can be uneven when not at 180 degrees. Using a polarizing filter will enhance this unnatural look making the image unbalanced and unrealistic. In this image on the left the sky is darker on the left than on the right. I did not need to polarize this image. Sometimes we want the color reflected on or below water to be viewable. Polarizing filters counteract this and can reduce the color and reflection. Be careful and analytical when using these filters. Your light can be reduced up to 2 or sometimes 3 stops.
Handholding with slow shutter speeds can be a problem when using polarizing filters. Never use a non-circular polarizer. Though less expensive, these non-circular filters affect metering and autofocus, making them useless. BENEFITS: Reduces glare on water and foliage; Darkens skies; Enhances color. DRAWBACKS: Can remove color off water; Uneven darkening if not used correctly; Can decrease light by 2-3 stops. RECOMMENDATION: The best available is SINGH-RAY or B+W; Schneider is the next best; High end (brass ring) Hoya next tier but good; Tiffen, Cokin and all others are last choice.
NEUTRAL DENSITY FILTERS
Neutral Density Filters, often called NDs, reduce the amount of light reaching the camera’s sensor and therefore increase the length of the opening of the shutter. These filters are used most often when photographing long exposures and when your ISO is at its lowest setting. Attaining smooth, silky water and using blur to convey motion are the two most common reasons for using these filters. These filters will allow you to use a shallow depth of field in very bright light. (For information on making long exposures, please read this article.)
These filters, more than others, can add a color cast to the image when they are used. Some are better than others. Singh Rays are the best I have found. Singh Ray makes NDs in 5, 10, and 15 stops as well as a 2-8 stop Variable ND.
For water you do not need more than a few seconds, if even that, to get the best shot. That’s where the Variable ND comes in handy.
BENEFITS: Increases exposure time; Great for long exposures on water and moving clouds. DRAWBACKS: Good understanding on usage necessary; Color shift when using low quality ND’s. RECOMMENDATION: SINGH-RAY is the best available, hands down. Most others I’ve seen have lots of color shift.
GRADUATED NEUTRAL DENSITY FILTERS
First … avoid the screw-in type filters. They do not allow you to move the filters transition line! Cameras are limited in recording what we call ‘dynamic range’. Often, either the darker areas of the scene will be underexposed, or the brighter parts will be overexposed.
Graduated ND filters are clear on the bottom and slightly darker, depending on the strength, on the top, with either an abrupt or a gradual shift in the middle. They are used to darken the brighter part of a scene so it appears natural taking into account the dynamic range of the camera.
These filters are made to equalize light from overly light areas to normal or even dark areas. They are commonly sold in increments of 2, 3, or 4 stops. They gradually, from top to bottom, start out at their darkest and blend into clear. Though one could take 2 images and blend them together, getting it right with a GND is my choice. When combining images often noise is introduced into the image. Also when the light is changing fast, blending images can produce some interesting but unwelcomed effects. A good article talking about using these filters can be found HERE
It is important to select the proper GND for each scene. I rarely use hard edge GND’s. Learning to place the blend in the proper location takes some practice. I suggest using a tripod and a filter holder to increase your precision. BENEFITS: Equalizes light. DRAWBACKS: Using too strong a filter when it’s not needed can make the image look unnatural; Inexpensive filters tend not to have the proper gradation (blending). RECOMMENDATION: Once again, SINGH-RAY is the best available, hands down; LEE is a distant second; New version Cokins are better than before but still third choice; Most other brands I’ve seen have lots of color shift.
UV HAZE FILTERS
Most folks I meet tell me they use these filters to protect their lenses. Really? Think about this. If you drop your lens on hard surface most of the time a filter is not going to save it. A lens hood would probably be better protection. There is little UV around sea level. As the altitude increases so does the UV. However, modern digital camera sensors are much less sensitive to UV than film is, so the need is much less. UV filters introduce the chance to adversely affect image quality, introduce lens flare and add color cast. Again, today’s digital sensors are less sensitive to UV making them irrelevant. So why use them? For protection? Perhaps … if your lens is expensive enough. But to me, the negatives outweigh the positives. BENEFITS: Can improve clarity when using film, especially at higher altitudes; Protects lens from blowing sand, dust, etc. DRAWBACKS: Inexpensive UV filters can diminish clarity, add color cast and lens flare. RECOMMENDATION: Don’t really know … I don’t use them … but I would avoid cheap filters! The material and images contained in this writing above may not be reproduced in any form.
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I am really humbled (truly an understatement) to be a member of a group of professional landscape photographers comprised of friends and acquaintances from around the world. It’s a very small group, consisting of some of the finest professional landscape shooters anywhere in our universe. We are all connected by our love of the land and share the inspiration we take from it.
I am very pleased to announce the publication of “The Insightful Landscape,” a collection of over 150 landscape photographs, both in black and white and color. It is a very high quality book, printed on ProLine Pearl paper.
Beside a few of mine, images contained in this book come from some amazing photographers, the likes of … Guy Tal, Alister Benn, David duChemin, Michael Gordon, Jim Goldstein, Andy Biggs, Floris van Breugel, Gary Crabbe, Richard Wong, Lon Overacker, Tim Parkin, Colleen Miniuk-Sperry, Bill Chambers, Chuck Kimmerle, Joseph Kayne … and others. Just being asked to be part of this group and project is an honor!
This book is available for sale by clicking here. It can also be ordered for eBook or in Apple iPad format.
This project is one of love, not money, and none of us are benefiting financially. We have added a few dollars to the cost of each book, of which 100% will be donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, in honor of a participating photographer’s son who is fighting the disease.
This book is available for sale by clicking here. You’ll love this collection! —-Thank you for your support.—Jack
Things we need to know – think we do know – but sometimes forget … A refresher in the Essentials of Basic Composition
(This is an excerpt from the Spring 2014 issue of Insights in Photography)
Not long ago, most of my workshop attendees were lacking many of the skills needed to make an interesting photograph. But in a few short years, with the advent of digital cameras and the computer technology that has come with them, this has really changed. With the current superb camera equipment available at a reasonable cost, many amateurs are today making images that were only possible by professionals a short time ago.
I encounter many people who think buying the latest state-of-the-art camera, lens and other modern equipment will automatically allow them to make an interesting photograph. But it takes a lot more than that in making a good image. I always tell them to keep the technical part of photography as a means to an end, not as the end all, in which you’ll make good images. Having great equipment just gives you the chance to make a great photograph. The technical part of photography is just part of the process. There are no technical discussions in this essay … just a discussion of some of the more overlooked aspects of creating good images.
I would like to take this opportunity to again thank all of my good friends, my workshop attendees, sponsors and supporters for making 2013 a truly memorable year. I spent about 200 nights on the road conducting over 20 workshops plus the 2 we did in Iceland. It looks like 2014 will be even more interesting with new locations and new opportunities.
I was quite amazed to see that I actually made very few images compared to other years. Maybe I’m getting really picky? In 2014 I am going to try and do a bit more photography for myself on the days when I can. My fellow (successful) workshop leaders know all too well that office time is plentiful and gets in the way of being out in the field. One of the myths of being a pro photographer is that you will shoot more images.
What makes me anticipate this year is the pleasure I derive in teaching people to appreciate where they are, slow down and enjoy the journey, as well as make some great images. I am gassed up and ready to get on with another year!
Again, thank you all for your support. There comes a time in everyone’s life where making a living, though important, is secondary to having so many good friends and acquaintances. I have reached that part of my life.
I would especially like to thank my wife Linda for understanding this lifestyle and putting up with the away time. Being gone so much isn’t easy. I could not be gone and do what I love without her support. Quite frequently I’ll bring home other photographers and perhaps a workshop attendee or two to stay the night. There’s always food ready and a comfortable place for me (us) to come home to. Those of you who have been here know. Last Saturday I received a call from a photographer I know who just happened to be in Portland. I asked him if he needed a place to stay and he did. Having heard the phone ring in my office Linda knew something might be up. When I went downstairs, she looked at me and asked “How long do I have?” … Enough said.
WHAT’S AHEAD IN 2014
WE’RE MOVING —- Yes … Jack Graham Photography World Headquarters will be relocating. Sometime in February we’ll be moving a bit north of where we currently are (the Portland, Oregon area) to Puyallup, Washington. Fortunately, we are still in the great Pacific Northwest and will be in a really beautiful location. Stay Tuned!
For many years I have been a loyal Nikon owner and in no way am I saying that Nikon, Canon etc. don’t make great cameras, because they do.
Last spring I began to really enjoy using a Fuji X100S. This is a cool looking, retro camera with a 16mp sensor and a fixed 23mm (35mm in full frame) lens. I was astounded with how this camera performs. –ASTOUNDED!
1)Without a mirror or shutter mechanism, a mirrorless camera body can be smaller than a DSLR.
2)High-end DSLRs use very large sensors called “full frame” sensors that have given them an edge at the high end. The recent offerings by Fuji, Olympus, Sony and Panasonic have closed the quality gap between DSLR & mirrorless, even in some high-performance cameras.
3)DOWNFALL—Power. Mirrorless cameras use a lot more battery power than the average DSLR. I am sure the mirrorless folks will figure that out too.
HERE is an excellent article written by Thom Hogan comparing mirrorless to DSLR. He has NO dog in the hunt and knows his stuff.
After many months of pondering the mirrorless systems, and having the chance to use many of them to compare, I have decided to go that route. I recently began using the new Fuji XE-2 mirrorless camera. It comes with a flat-out tack-sharp 18-55 mm lens (27-84mm in full frame). The 55-200 F 3/5/4.8 is equally sharp and the 14mm F2.8 is one I would compare to any lens in the market for sharpness. There is also a recently announced 10-14mm on the way. There is an adaptor that allows me to use Nikon lenses if I want. My 200mm macro on this camera is just plain amazing.
Digital noise in this camera is almost nonexistent even up to ISO 3200. I made images in the XE2 as well as the X100S at 6400 ISO that show little if no noise at all. Do the homework, you’ll see!
The quality of the Fuji glass has always been well known. The color rendition (Fuji uses a slightly different sensor from what we are used to—but Fuji understands color!) produces amazingly sharp images and has really made me want to get out and take photographs more than ever. My friend Tony Sweet reminded me of a famous Jay Maisel quote in one of his recent blogs. “The more you carry, the less you want to shoot.”
I compared the Fuji to the Olympus new OMD-M1. The Olympus is a really great camera and it’s almost a toss up between it and the Fuji. The Olympus felt really good in my hand and I was pleased with the results. I could not tell the difference between it and my Nikon D700! I (my personal opinion) really think that now the APS-C sensor Fuji offers is better than the 4/3rds sensor on the Olympus. Also, to me, today’s Fuji glass is better and has more offerings in the focal lengths I like with a lot more to come this year. (For years many of the world’s greatest large format photographers have used Fuji lenses. They have a reputation right up there with Zeiss). You can do no wrong going with the Olympus system.
Sony has recently brought out a few great mirrorless (and full framed as well) cameras … great cameras. The menu system in the Sony was, to me, somewhat confusing .. maybe because I was used to the Fuji X100S. Nonetheless, it’s a great camera. Once they get their lens offerings up to snuff, look out.
Honestly I did not play with the Panasonic at all. However, I have seen results from that system from some workshop attendees and it’s impressive.
What about the Nikon DF? I love the body, features and retro look. It’s a lot heavier and probably will, like most DSLRs, take more abuse than the average mirrorless cameras will. It has a D4 sensor in it—absolutely fantastic. However at $3000 it’s a bit pricey. (However the D4 sensor is amazing!) Also, you still have to use your heavy Nikon lenses. It kind of defeats the purpose of having the mirrorless system … doesn’t it? If I had some extra bucks laying around I probably wouldn’t mind having one just to play with.
Canon … I honestly did see them and looked into them. Canon is just not there yet with mirrorless. My view is both Nikon and Canon better get with the program and realize the technology of mirrorless (and other aspects that Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic and Sony) are developing or else they will be in deeper trouble than they are now. Read THIS if you think I’m kidding.
Not only that …The Really Right Stuff makes “L brackets for these cameras! How good is that?
I see so many folks in workshops get caught up in gear, thinking if they have all the gear they will make better images … wrong! It ain’t the camera … It’s the photographer. Having a good camera gives you the CHANCE to make a good photograph.
Listen, there are still needs for Nikon D800’s, Canon 5DMKIII etc. — don’t get me wrong. And for some events and locations, I’ll still shoot my Nikon. But the Fuji XE-2 mirrorless will (for me) be more than I need for about 80% of my work … and now my camera bag is almost the same weight as my tripod and ball head!
2013 has been a rather interesting year. I put in about 50,000 miles on the road and over 200 nights. I was lucky enough to travel from the desert southwest to Iceland (twice!). It was a very good year!
I was so fortunate to make many new friends and reconnect with many more. I finally retired my old trusty Ford Explorer for a new Toyota Tacoma TRD that will no doubt get me through the next few years.
One of the highlights of my photographic year was finally working with my dear friend and world class photographer Bill Fortney again. Bill and I always stayed in touch and told each other when he retired from Nikon we would do some workshops together. We did one in Death Valley and one in NE Ohio … both memorable. We will be doing four in 2014!
Another highlight was again working with master photographer and writer Guy Tal in the Eastern Sierras of California. 2014 will be my 20th year conducting a workshop in the Eastern Sierra. Again, Guy and I will co-lead this workshop. In addition, we are offering a comprehensive Master Class right after the regular workshop ends.
You can check my 2014 schedule out HERE. New locations this year include Acadia National Park in Maine, Ireland, China and the ghost towns and red rocks of Nevada. I’ll be doing a workshop on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound for the Pacific Northwest Art School, in Ireland with Strabo Tours and in China (September).
Though I have not retired my trusty Nikons, I am using my new Fuji XE-2 more and more these days. I’ll get more into this in a few days.
The biggest news is that my wife Linda, and Duke and Roscoe (our 2 dogs) are moving up to the Seattle area in February after I return from my 2 weeks in Iceland. We are looking forward to our new home between Seattle and Mt. Rainier National Park.
Below are a few of the images that were meaningful to me taken in 2013. You can see more images from 2013 HERE
It’s always good to reflect on the past, but always growing and embracing what’s ahead. Past every turn is another adventure and opportunity.