Depth of Real Photography | Blog

My Experiences, Challenges & Projects

Twin Falls

August 03, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

My coworkers and I ended up visiting this place twice.  On the first visit, we had stopped by Snoqualmie Falls before making our way to Twin Falls.  After running into some other trail goers and finding out how much further it was to reach the falls, we decided to save the trek for another day since it was approaching nightfall.  Instead, we explored the river, bounding from rock to slippery rock - injury-free!

It was just a couple days later when we revisited.  We quickly made our way through the first path we traveled, then we made it to the "moderate" part of the hike.  Paths were becoming narrow with steep drop-offs.  Although we were steadily climbing, certain areas would take us down significant slopes, which then, of course, would seemingly ramp back up at a higher grade.  This repeated several times, but the gargantuan fir trees provided some spectacular views, especially with the golden beams of light peering through.

We had come across a photographer making his way out of the lower falls, and I was asking him if he was able to find some good vantage points and take long exposures.  He said he was able to get 30 second exposures, but with a nine-stop neutral density filter.  That was still encouraging even though I only had a 3-stop ND filter.  After what seemed like an endless rollercoaster of trails, we finallly made it to the bridge that crossed a little bit upstream from the crest of the lower falls, and provided a picturesque view of the much smaller upper falls.  I just stood and watched the water for a bit - simply breathtaking.

Upper Falls

A few moments later I quickly set up my tripod as sundown was just around the corner.  I put both my circular polarizer and ND filters on, composed a shot, and released the shutter...about six seconds later, I previewed the shot only to see either bad focus or motion blur.  I know my tripod has seen better days, but then I realized I felt the bridge swaying with the people walking across it.  I patiently waited until it was just me on the bridge.  I experimented with shots as short as two seconds and as long as fifteen seconds.  I metered off the water, switched to aperture priority, set my ISO to 100, and knocked down water reflections with the polarizer.  From there, I tweaked my shutter and aperture in manual mode.  In the end, I opted for exposures around two seconds.  As fast as these waters were moving, I didn't need that much time to smooth it out.  I might have to revisit and seek out other vantage points!

Down the Lower Falls

Snoqualmie Falls

July 25, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Earlier this week I had gotten back from Seattle, WA on business.  I had actually not gone downtown as much as I thought I would.  Instead, I went on hikes to scope out the local waterfalls.  The conditions were excellent, since it was the nicest part of the year in this region, and we would always arrive at the trail head during the golden hour(s).

The first stop was Snoqualmie Falls.  After parking in the nicely paved lot, we walked just tens of yards on the sidewalk to the observation deck that provided a panoramic view of the curtain-form waterfall.  The water roared 268' down into the Snoqualmie River.  There were two decks, and from the slightly lower one, a rainbow revealed itself through the spray.  I had my polarizer on and it took me a minute to realize I had to turn it until the rainbow made its way through the lens.  The challenge was finding a balanced exposure between the waterfall and the mountainside.  With the sun at a low angle, it directly illuminated the scene, and the luminance between the waterfall and its surroundings was larger than I thought it would be; it's nice that a D-SLR can provide immediate feedback.  My original approach was to spot meter the mountainside at +0.5EV, ISO 200, and 1/125s in shutter priority mode.  After evaluating that shot, I switched to manual and stopped down the aperture from F5.6 to F8.0 to "soak" in more detail from the waterfall.  Although the white water was still a little more "washed out" for my liking, I experimented with a ±2 stop high dynamic range image (HDRI), stabilized on my tripod.  Rather than using an HDR technique to create something surreal, I typically use it to capture the subtle details that the camera sometimes fails to capture.  Those subtleties oftentimes complete the photo.  Next hike...Twin Falls!

Peru Missions Trip

July 19, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Just over a month ago, my wife and I traveled to Peru to help out some missionaries for a couple weeks.  The geography is completely different than what I'm used to seeing in the states, and the people are very friendly; they also have an unorthodox method of constructing buildings!

The travel spanned nearly two days for both the arrival and departure.  During our stay, we helped promote and run a medical and dental campain for three days.  There were lots of visitors, and a couple of our team made nearly one million balloon animals of all sorts for the kids while they waited.  Another team member entertained as a break-dancing cuy (guinea pig)!  One of the unique occurrences at the medical clinic was the speaking of three different languages - a Quechua-speaking patient that was interpreted for our Spanish-speaking pastor, who interpreted for our English-speaking chiropractor.  I think the Quechua-Spanish interpreter happened to be in the right place at the right time; praise God for allowing the patient to receive effective treatment! 

For another three days, a childrens' orphanage was painted, and the kids even choreographed a dance to show their appreciation.  One of the hardest days involved half a dozen of us literally "working the land".  It's just that the land was on the side of a mountain.  It was physically challenging because of the altitude, and also became a mental challenge towards the end; nevertheless, we were helping out a friend in need, and they showed their gratitude by preparing a meal for us which we all ate together further up the mountain.  It was the ultimate Peruvian experience, and was just another chance to show God's love by our actions.

During the final three days, another team of missionaries from Lima, Peru came to host a kid's fair, which included a three-story inflatable slide, games, and the chance to hear the gospel.  The news had spread fast and many families came.  Balloon animals continued to be a hit, and the rather large inflatable slide tested the physical and mental capacity of those that broke it down and put it up multiple times.

In the mix of all this, we had the opportunity to visit Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world.  I took a few photos.  Lastly, we also got to negotiate with the vendors at the market.  The whole 13 days was a memorable experience.  "Love God.  Love Others." is the statement that the church, El Refugio, lives by.  I will never forget.

Perhaps we'll get into some of the photographic details.  For capturing moments during the various activities, I used shutter priority and switched between partial and spot metering.  A few times, I've had to focus track people with full time AF servo, and I have also swapped the functions of my shutter release and exposure lock (custom function on a T1i); it's just what works for me 99% of the time.  I treat landscapes and cityscapes a little differently - aperture priority.  I typically chose between F8 and F16 and focused at the hyperfocal distance for maximum depth of field.  I'll choose the smaller aperture at night if I want point sources of lights to become starbursts.  That is it, in a nutshell - focus, meter, compose, shoot!

A Better Understanding, and Another Assimilated

October 02, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Lately, I have been honing my skills at one-shot photography, which simply means to get the shot right the first time, from an exposure and compositional standpoint.  I'm guessing film users did the same thing, perhaps to save money, but most of all, to capture that infinitesimal window of time that has drawn their attention.  I was recently watching a Disney on Ice show, and was sitting close enough for my 250mm to track the figure skaters.  I chose shutter priority, left my ISO on automatic, and chose my focus point with evaluative metering.  Lastly, I activated AI Servo for focus tracking.

I had +2/3 exposure compensation for the semi-brightly-lit skaters.  At first, I was confused, because I was constantly overexposing.  It didn't make any sense!  My focus dots were always on track with the skaters, and with evaluative metering, that area of the scene is metered based on the active AF point.  It wasn't until later that it clicked in my head that the skater represented a smaller percentage compared to the rest of the frame; the larger, dimmer part of the scene was brightened, bringing the skater to a higher exposure value than I wanted.  In the end, -1 exposure compensation gave the results I wanted, with consistency.  Lesson-learned?  Keep the entire scene in mind!

Something else that has really helped me is the Zone System, established by Ansel Adams.  Earlier this year, I had bought one of his books, "The Negative".  He has essentially divided the visible spectrum into ten zones, from pure black (shadow, Zone I) to pure white (highlight, Zone X).  Zone V is right in the middle, also known as 18% gray.  Zone III and Zone VII are the zones where textural detail becomes significant.  That could be why the ±2 exposure compensation bar reads no more and no less.  It's given the photographer plenty of latitude to expose the scene as he desires.  Being able to accurately identify zones in a scene is something that only lots of experience can teach, and with photography, the experiences are timeless!

Lastly, another night shooting session is in order, and we have another fresh recruit!  Let's see what happens.

Barn Door Tracker Opportunities

March 06, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Being in the Land of Enchantment once again, I've decided to tote my barn door tracker, with hopes to capture the winter Milky Way.  The problem is, the moon sets when I would like to be sleeping, for the next string of early work days.  I had three opportunities to capture our amazing galaxy.  I also didn't realize it was just as bright and colorful as it was in the summer night sky.  Near Hondo, New Mexico, the Milky Way spanned North-South...a slightly different orientation compared to summer time - truly amazing, even with my unaided eyes.  During the first night, unfortunately, the wind was very strong, and it took a long time to find a calm spot.  But even the "calm" place I did find was too windy.  I tracked for just over two minutes, and immediately, I saw the benefits of using a tracker, as it let the camera soak in more of our galaxy's beauty...with far less noise in contrast to how I've traditionally captured the galaxy.  All the color I had hoped for was there, but the results were blurry due to the motion blur from the high winds.  This was typical for the other two nights I had.  Apparently, it is the region's windy season.  So, I was hit with both the moon, and the wind.  However, I was finally able to get some nice photos of Sierra Blanca at night, under the stars.  Typically in the daytime, the trees on either side of the highway are several shades darker compared to the mountain, making the shot technically difficult.  But at night, when everything's the same shade, and illuminated by a waxing gibbous moon, the landscape turns out beautifully.  Photos to be posted soon!

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