Usually when sequels to movies come out they are rarely good ones. There are some exceptions like the Godfather 2 and others.
Well hold on to your hats! Macro and More is BACK!!! (Though for now only one day–read on)
First, let me say that I don’t like the word Macro for a few reasons. Macro photography normally means 1:1 shooting with a macro lens. I rather the term “CLOSE UP” Photography be used. I make a lot of decent images with other lenses, rather than just macro lenses …. just my $0.02. Continue reading The Return of MACRO and MORE !→
CUBA 2013 !!!! Yes it’s going to happen. Details and itineraries will be published in about a week or so. Dates are Feb 8-15th 2013. Email me email@example.com for information.
MORE in 2013—I’ll be formally announcing Utah (Zion area) in October 2013. Guy Tal (www.guytal.com ) and I are working on a joint workshop in…………. CAPITAL REEF National Park sometime in April 2013—STAY TUNED!!!!
My 2013 workshop schedule is coming into shape. You can view it here. Another trek to Iceland is planned for July with an additional 9 day excursion to beautiful (and quite warm & pleasant and under photographed) Greenland. I’ll be back in NE Ohio in October for fall color and once again a full day(including a private Amish dinner) with my Amish friends on their farm in Sugarcreek Ohio. I’ll be teaming up with my good friend, world class photographer and teacher Bill Fortney(www.billfortney.com) for a workshop you will not want to miss! I’ll also be announcing a workshop in late October 2013 in the red rock country (including Zion National Park) very soon. Details on these and more can be found here: http://www.jackgrahamphoto.com/2013-photography-workshop-schedule
I received requests to link the webinar I conducted for NIK SOFTWARE , back in March, entitled, “Keeping it Simple .You can view it here: ( if you purchase any or all of the NIK Software package… enter code JGRAHAM and receive a 15% discount!!!
WHICH ONE WORKS? …. #8 The Palouse Region of Eastern Washington
In this series of articles, I discuss and compare images and talk about why I like one over the other.
Choosing one image over other similar images is one that we all deal with in our digital darkroom.
I suggest to you, as well as my workshop attendees to work the subject while in the field, make final decisions on your monitors at home.
The final image is important for whatever project it’s being used for, and spending time determining which image works vs. another is well worth it. In many case the slightest difference in composition, light etc. makes all the difference, Most of the time it is very clear which one is better for your individual needs than others, sometimes it’s not.
Often we may take many frames of a subject in different light and different angles. Each frame can evoke a different feeling to the subject.
Always remember that you need a good subject and acceptable light, or your final image will probably be less than desirable.
Your comments, as always are more than welcome.—JG
LOCATION: THE PALOUSE region of Eastern Washington
As a photographer I visit many locations while conducting workshops as well as on my own photo excursions. There are two locations that are diametrically opposed but in many ways are photographically similar. I visit Death Valley National Park at least twice each year. Death Valley offers challenges to even the seasoned photographer. Unlike many of the National Parks, there are few icons. One must be on his or hers “A” game or making successful images in Death Valley will be difficult to impossible. Photographers are there to depict the vastness and sometimes emptiness of the park. We go there to photograph the patterns and textures found within the rock formations. There is little green unless the winter rains produce some vegetation. In the Palouse region of Eastern Washington things could not be more different. If a country, Whitman County Washington, in the heart of the Palouse would be the third largest producer of Wheat in the world. What is more interesting is there is no real irrigation. The wheat that grows here is the result of the rain. What Death Valley and the Palouse have in common however is interesting. Both areas are extremely vast. From the vistas, overlooks and the many rural roads in the Palouse, we can see wheat fields almost to the horizon. In Death Valley, we can look down for miles at the dried playa, rock and sand features, all making up this expanse of dryness. We photographers go the Palouse, just as we go to Death Valley to photograph the patterns and textures, not in rock or salt playa, but in the wheat fields and farmland.
Usually the first two weeks of June allow photographers to capture images depicting the patterns and textures of the wheat fields. Again in August, at harvest time many photographers travel to small towns like Colfax, Oakesdale, Dusty and Steptoe to make images in the light produced by the dust created by the harvest machinery.
Like Death Valley, we must prepare, and slow down to study the scene before pressing the shutter. These two areas are so different in many ways, yet so alike in others.
HE STORY: On the last morning of my recent workshop in the Palouse, I decided, based on the light and weather conditions to revisit a barn I photographed a few days before the workshop started. This barn is on Highway 26 about 15 miles west of Colfax. For many years, I used this location to turn around to drive back east to the Colfax area. It’s a simple structure, not bright red like many of the barns in the Palouse. It’s located I a field that offers no other structures of any kind. By going there I wanted to send a message to my attendees of simplicity. If photographed correctly this location offers a simple but yet powerful subject. Upon arrival, I sensed from my attendees that they were not impressed with my location choice. The barn was not red; there was no foreground or apparent patterns. Why were we here? By the time we left all were happy and got the message. One attendee actually said this was his favorite location of the weekend. After we took our time and understood the subject everything became clear.
The title of this image is “Turnaround” based on my prior stops at this location. The resulting images were made within a few minutes of each other. I was pleased with one much more than the other two.
TECH DATA: All images made using my Nikon D700, Gitzo 3541 tripod and Really Right Stuff BH55 Ball Head de images were taken using aNikon 80-200mm 2.8 lens, ISO 800, Shutter speed of 1/1000 sec at F11.. The ISO was high as was the shutter as the wind was blowing the wheat in the foreground. I wanted no movement showing.
PROCESSING: All images were processed in Adobe Lightroom camera RAW As always I used NIK SOFTWARE to complete my processing. I added some structure and fine tuning using Nik’s Viveza. With Color Efex Pro 4 I added some detail, brilliance and warmth, pro contrast, foliage enhancement and the Darken /Lighten Center filter. (I recommend NIK PRODUCTS without hesitation. You can receive a 15% discount by using my code JGRAHAM when ordering at www.niksoftware.com) .Nik’s output Sharpener was used to sharpen the final images. A final curve adjustment , level adjustment and Nik’s Define program (noise reduction).completed the processing.
IMAGE #1 is more of a study of the barn. It shows the structure in its surroundings. It’s technically done well buy nothing I would put up on my wall. It is kind of a postcard I image. Without taking time to work the scene these type of images are ones often photographed. They do not convey the sense of place.
IMAGE # 2
Image two begins to convey what I was trying to depict in this scene. I used the foreground of the wheat in conjunction with the background to tell the story. The single barn in the field made this fairly minimalistic scene strong. The single cloud on the left also added some drama to the scene. I would have liked a bit more cloud showing and not running out of the scene.
IMAGE #3 After waiting for a few minutes to see if some more clouds appeared, I was rewarded with a scene that was what I was looking for. I reduced the amount of foreground from Image # 2 as I determined that the amount of foreground was overwhelming the image. I also made this wider ythan the previous image in order to further depict the vastness of the area.
FINAL DECISION. Image #1 is a postcard image. Image #2 has too much foreground, not enough open space to tell the story I was attempting. The final image (IMAGE #3) is exactly what I wanted to capture in this scene. After about ½ hour in one location the clouds along with the adjustments made #3 my image of choice. It really tells the story of the Palouse with a minimalist, yet powerful scene I tried to convey. Image #3, to me is much more powerful than the other two images.
During the process of making these images and explaining my thought to my workshop attendees, I indicated that there in the field, I know this would become a monochrome image. I processed the image using Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro . I really feel that the monochrome image is even stronger than the color rendition. When in the field I recommend you have , in your mind , the final result you are seeking. How we will process images is important to think about at the time the image is made.
What do you think?
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It’s been quite a long time since my last posting. I have been busy away with my 2012 workshop schedule. I’ve spent about 6 weeks in the southwest, and 4 corners region (Navajo and red rock country) then up on Whidbey Island doing a great workshop for the Pacific Northwest Art School (more on that later) then over to Olympic National Park for a week.
I am currently in southern California where I’ll be at the Temecula Balloon and Wine Festival http://www.tvbwf.com/ starting this Friday through Sunday afternoon. I return to Oregon on Tuesday morning and begin my Columbia Gorge workshop Wednesday night and another in the Palouse Region in Eastern Washington the following week. I am so fortunate to be able to get to these places at the best times of the year.
After the workshop I usually take a look at the few images I make (I am there for my customers, not for my own shooting opportunities!). I have had very few acceptable images, this year since workshops have been quite full and my time is spent with my attendees. However this image I made waking back t my truck on the Olympic Peninsula is one I am quite pleased with. I had a metal print made of this which I will get to see tomorrow. This is the Sol Duc River between Forks and Port Angeles in a secret spot I know about.
Tech Data 012:05:18 16:34:00 Nikon D700 80-200mm F 2.8 @ 100mm
My 2013 workshop schedule is coming into shape. You can view it here. Another trek to Iceland is planned for July with an additional 9 day excursion to beautiful ( and quite warm & pleasant and under photographed) Greenland. I’ll be back in NE Ohio in October for fall color and once again a full day(including a private Amish dinner) with my Amish friends on their farm in Sugarcreek Ohio. I’ll be teaming up with my good friend, world class photographer and teacher Bill Fortney(www.billfortney.com) for a workshop you will not want to miss! I’ll also be announcing a workshop in late October 2013 in the red rock country (including Zion National Park) very soon. Details on these and more can be found here: http://www.jackgrahamphoto.com/2013-photography-workshop-schedule
I received requests to link the webinar I conducted for NIK SOFTWARE , back in March, entitled, “Keeping it Simple .You can view it here: ( if you purchase any or all of the NIK Software package… enter code JGRAHAM and receive a 15% discount!!!
If you have viewed the movie “Snow Falling on Cedars”, 2009, you might remember this house. It is the historic Ferry House at Ebey’s Landing. The Ferry House was in the movie for only about 30 seconds so have to look quick. This house is owned by the US Park Service and is one of the historic places. The house even has its own Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Ferry-House-on-Whidbey-Island/332890913105
One of the oldest residential buildings in the state of Washington, the Ferry House was built in 1860 by Winfield Scott Ebey as an Inn to provide financial stability for his brother’s children, who were orphaned when Isaac Ebey was brutally murdered and beheaded by Canadian natives. Once completed and opened for business, the building was named The Ebey Inn. With no other nearby accommodations, the Inn — which housed a post office, a tavern, and rooms for overnight guests — quickly became an important place for sailors and other travelers to rest before continuing their journeys to other towns on Whidbey Island the nearby mainland and points further north. Travelers and locals could also purchase merchandise and groceries at the Inn, which served ferry traffic to and from Port Townsend The house stayed in the Ebey family for 57 years, until Isaac Ebey’s grandson sold the old Inn in 1917.
The old Inn is currently owned by the National Park Service. The Ferry House became part of the 17,500-acre (71 km2) Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve created in 1978 to protect the rural working landscape and community on Central Whidbey Island.
THE STORY: Every time I visit Whidbey Island, be it for a workshop or when I am there photographing, I always visit this beautiful location. These three images were made on separate days in different light. These are three of my favorite images, but only one will stand out enough to me to be my favorite image of the Ferry House. I was initially attracted to the location by the look of the old house against the background of cedars. The challenge was how to work the rather large foreground into the scene. In many cases a rock tree, etc. can serve as an anchor for the image, making for an interesting photograph, In this case, using the building in and of itself would have been acceptable, but I wanted to use the beautiful field of barley and the green to serve as my foreground. This was not as easy a task as I thought it might be. This location is best photographed in the morning. The light can be challenging to say the least. Often extremely windy conditions are present due to the proximity to the sound and the ocean. Returning many times is essential.
To create a successful landscape photograph I believe you should learn as much about a location as possible. Learn the conditions such as weather and light, and how they affect the scene and prepare yourself properly. Being at the right place at the right time is rarely by luck. Be sure your camera setting are what you want to make the most of the photograph. Imagine these images taken at F4! When the lights “happening” it usually lasts for only a few minutes. You’ll need to work quick and know how to access your equipment. Not knowing where things are in your camera bag can cost you a great shot.
TECH DATA: All images made using my Nikon D700, Gitzo 3541 tripod and Really Right Stuff BH55 Ball Head.
The key to processing is knowing what I want out of the image in the field as I am making the photograph, then applying the processing technique in my studio. I make initial processing
adjustments in cam RAW using Adobe Lightroom. I use NIK SOFTWARE’S “DEFINE” to reduce any noise. I adjust the image further using NIK”S VIVEZA and Color Efex Pro. I used some layer adjustments in Adobe Photoshop to increase contrast. Final sharpening was done using NIK’S Output Sharpener.
All three of these images were processed relatively the same. What makes them different is
1) Composition 2) Light conditions 3) Use of the subject with the foreground
THE EDIT: There are three very different images and each conveys a different feeling. It is always important to define the subject before making the image. Obviously the subject is the Ferry House. Like all images, weather they be photographs or paintings, how the subject is handled is crucial. The house is depicted in three completely different ways in these images.
This image was taken about 2 months before the others and the green barley field was really nice in green. I think if I was trying to show the house and not the environment, I would select this image, The adjacent fields and close by water adds something to the image. There are some lines in the field that sort of lead into the subject which I like. The house is sharp and the background fairly clean. Depending on the use, this image works quite nicely. The light was really good this day. It was overcast, quite cool and windy. That is why I set my ISO to 1250. I did not want blurriness in the grasses as the wind was very strong. The house in this image is for my taste is balanced, but too centered. As you can see in the other images there are parts of the environment that I did not want to include in this image. By not including them I came up with this one dimensional image. It’s a nice image but to me somewhat boring.
IMAGE # 2
I went back after the 1st image and arrived at the location early in the morning, during the sweet light, to make this another images of the Ferry House. This time I wanted to use the driveway and pathway, leading to the back of the adjacent property to tell more of the story of where this old house is located. After walking around for quite a while, I selected this spot, while the light remained quite nice. The early morning light really did a nice job on the background. I still to this day cannot decide if I like this driveway or not. Sometimes I think is add something, something I think it draws my eye to the end of the driveway and away from the subject. I also don’t like how the light handled the green barley field. The light though good everywhere else really didn’t work on the grass. Perhaps if I was sold on this composition I could go back into my software and play with the luminosity etc. and adjust the grass a bit, but since I am really not sold on this image, I think I’ll wait until I am, if ever.
Again this image was taken in the early morning. This day featured a cloudless sky and though not bad, the poorest morning light of the three images. I like the house placement and the green barley field a lot in this composition. This time of year the yellow mustard field in back of the property was in full bloom. I used the blue of the Puget Sound along with the complimentary yellow of the mustard field to work to enhance the image. The light was not quite as good on the house as in image 1 or 2 but not terrible. The biggest drawback for me in this image is the sky. There is no drama here. However we photographers sometime have to work with what we have.
My final decision is to go back and do this photograph again. What I am after is the composition of IMAGE $3 with some dramatic sky’s or some drama caused by weather. Snow would be great. Fog would be interesting as well.
All three images are nothing I would hang on a wall. Image one might be good to use for editorial purposes. I can’t come to a firm decision regard the composition of IMAGE2. Until I do I will pass on this composition. IMAGE 3 is more of what I call a post card image. Yes, the composition is somewhat different from what I’ve seen before, but after a few seconds it is just a nice image, not exciting.
Many that I did not want to include in this image. By not including them I came up with this one dimensional image. It’s a nice image but to me somewhat boring.
Many times, viewers look at some of the better images I have and ask “How did you get that great light “ or “How did you ever get an image looking like that” They wait for a technical answer, thinking I must have a great camera or lenses. My answer always is that I try and go back to a location many times, and you I might be there when everything works.
If you were to talk to many of my workshop attendees and they will tellyou there are a few things I really espouse throughout the workshop, hopefully not to the point that its information overload. One of these techniques is DEPTH of FIELD. Some of of my attendees did not know what depth of field is, let alone how to achieve it. Some didn’t understand it and others thought it too complicated and therefore have never mastered the techniques. Well, it’s not complicated at all, once you understand it, and perhaps this essay will help explain it to you in as easy terms possible. I will state that Depth of Field is essential in every form of photography and must be understood and applied.
So, what exactly is depth of field? Simply, it is the amount of detail, within the image that is in focus. You, the photographer must decide on how much depth of field (DOF) is desired. Do you want the entire image in focus? Do you want the background out of focus ( often referred to as blown out—-I don’t really like that term as “blown out” might refer to overexposed, not out of focus).
Once you make the decision on how much of the image you want in focus, you must understand the technique that must be used to achieve your goals.
Decisions on setting to attain Depth of field are
1) The F-Stop (see below) chosen to make the image
2) The focal length of the lens
3) Subject size (the depth of field decreases as you decrease the lens/subject distance
4) How far away is the subject?
Choosing a lens will have a dramatic effect on your depth of field. Lenses below the 60mm range are capable of attaining a large depth of field. (wide angle lenses) The DOF affect attained with lenses above 60mm will be less and when combining a 160mm+ lens on a DSLR, perfect Depth of field is virtually impossible. This is a principle of physics.
After reading this article, when in the field, try attaining a sharp image front to back with a 200mm lens on a DSLR. You will quickly see that it is impossible, due to the way the plane of the lens lies on the camera. It’s nothing you did wrong as long as the majority of the image is in focus. I’ll discuss options to attain DOF when using long lenses later.
I’ll try making this as simple as possible, but you need to understand exactly what aperture is, in order to be successful attaining proper Depth of field.
The aperture setting refers to the hole that the light passes through when the shutter opens, similar to the iris in our eyes. You can change this setting in camera. These settings are referred to as F stops. F-stop is the focal length divided by the diameter of the lens. F stops are typically written as F/4 etc.. meaning focal-length over 4 or focal-length divided by four.
Each F stop one lets in 1/2 as much light as the previous one. The progression of F-stops, 1 – 1.4 – 2 – 2.8 – 4 – 5.6 – 8 – 11 – 16 – 22 – 32, are powers of the square root of 2.
In the field, you decide on how you want your image to appear. Do you want the image to be sharp front to back or do you want a sharp subject and less sharp background. If you make the decision to make the background less sharp, to accentuate the subject, what level of “unsharpened” do you want the background to be? (This is why we need to think when we photograph… slow down and calculate what you are trying to attain in each image).
Think about this…Not all great landscape images are shot at F22 !
Aperture setting dictates what shutter speed you have. F8 at a 125th sec is exactly the same exposure as… F at 11/ 60th … or … F5.6 at 250th sec… however the aperture (F stop settings) determine the depth of field.
Which do you like?.. It’s really up to you!
1) On a windy day, shooting at F16 or F22 can you attain a shutter speed high enough to freeze the blowing grasses?
2) If a scene is too dark and you need a large Depth of field (F22) meter open enough to focus, then adjust the shutter speed for the aperture you want.
The rule of thumb is, the larger the F stop (F16), the smaller the aperture, and the more Depth of field you have. Conversely, the smaller the F stop (F4), the larger the aperture, and the less depth of field. Yes, there are counterintuitive to our thinking but you’ll get used to how these setting work pretty quickly.
SETTING THE DEPTH OF FIELD
I strongly recommend that nature photographers use only two modes to make photographs on their camera. These are the manual mode or aperture priority mode
I strongly recommend that if you do not have a camera with a depth of field preview button, look to upgrade to one that does. This button is invaluable… What it does is that it stops the lens down to the shooting aperture and shows you, through the viewfinder how the depth of field will appear in the photograph. Without this button , when looking through your lens you’re looking at the widest aperture the lens will provide, not the depth of field that the aperture setting you’ve chosen will represent.
Note:—if your camera is set in the AUTO FOCUS mode——your camera will negate all your hard work setting the DOF manually. A while ago, I was conducting a workshop and a participant asked why when he focus correctly, and uses his Depthof Field Button (DOF) to check his DOF and his images still turn out blurry. Well he had his camera set to auto focus, and when he pressed down on the shutter release the lens went into auto focus mode, thus canceling out all the work he did manually to create the image he wanted.
Here is an easy technique to make images sharp from front to back, (remember this is a discussion when using lenses under 60mm!)
“OK, AT F16 my viewfinder is so dark when the DOF button is pressed that I can’ t see the image, let alone the adjust of the depth of field”
At small apertures like F11, F16 the viewfinder does becomes too dark while depressing the DOF preview button. Here how to make it work!
1) Set your aperture to F8 or to a setting you can see the image through the viewfinder while depressing the DOF Preview button.
2) Focus just above the 1/3 of the way up from the bottom of the frame on a subject closest to you, and then fine tune the focus, looking into the image itself, checking the background for depth of field.
3) If this area is in focus, you have a great chance of the entire image being in focus when resetting the aperture to F16, or even F22
4) Having done that accurately, I the reset my aperture to F16 or higher and make the photograph
5) Some cameras have a zoom capability in playback. Zoom in, using the LCD on the back of the camera on the background to check for sharpness.
To make a photograph using a subject that is sharp with an unsharp background you must
1) Use your depth of field preview button to focus on the subject
2) Set your aperture where you want it to attain the desired background, probably less than n F8
To me this technique is a bit easier than having the entire image in sharp focus. I love photographing wildflowers with a long lens (300mm) to really make the flower the subject stand out, and make the background unfocused.( the longer the focal length lens, the more you can really make the background blurred out.).
OTHER HELPFUL HINTS to ATTAIN PROPER DOF
1) There is a program available called Helicon Focus. Helicon Focus is a program that creates one completely focused image from several partially focused images by combining the images (you can use an unlimited amount of images) into one focused image. The program is designed for macro photography, micro photography and hyper focal landscape photography to cope with the shallow depth-of-field problem. Helicon Focus also aligns images as objects often change their size and position from shot to shot. This function is especially important for macro photography but works quite well in certain conditions in landscape photography as well. I am very impressed on how easy the software is to use. The software can be downloaded right off the web site www.heliconsoft.com.
It’s been my experience that you really need to know in advance, in the field if you will be shooting using the HF program. Not all images will lend themselves for Helicon Focus. Any movement at all will ruin the otherwise great results. This is a good tool to use when using longer focal length lenses, however all lenses qualify if the criteria of: 1) light not changing and 2) the subject matter is not moving is met.
2) Not too long ago, lens manufacturers used to include depth of field guide marks on their lenses… but not any more. If you would like a handy little replacement for these marks, something that will let you can download Depth of Field calculators and determine the settings and effects of different focal lengths and aperture settings via the web and smart phone’s. I do not use these.(I’ll explain later)
3) I’ve seen folks with a depth of field calculator. I don‘t know who makes it but it’s a wheel that after you put in your aperture & shutter speeds, it will tell you how many feet out you need to focus. Again unnecessary.
Why do I think # 2 & 3 are unnecessary? Probably sometimes when the light is constant and you do have the time to figure these applications out they might be useful. Consider these 2 factors; 1) are you capable of gauging exactly how far, say 23 feet is from your camera? I don’t think I can. I may be at 24 or 22 feet or even further away from the target. 2) More importantly, during sunrise, sunset, the light is changing, you don’t have time to be there holding your smart phone, changing the aperture with the light, seeing out a reading that you probably can’t be accurate on anyway. You’ll miss the shot, or get it wrong. Try the method of focusing 1/3rd up from the bottom, it will work very accurately, once you get used to it.
4) Look into shooting large format cameras. These cameras, because of how their lenses work in relationship to the camera, and some other factors, will attain a large amount of depth of field using longer focal lengths.
Understanding and using these techniques are primary in your ability to make images the way you desire. Like anything else it takes practice and understanding of the concepts.