Thursday, August 2, 2018

How To Photograph Lightning!

So it's monsoon season in the southwest, which means lightning!!!  I recently shot a few timelapses and stills of lightning, and they went viral.  Then of course, I got many requests for a lightning tutorial, so here it is!



And for those who don't want the video, here's a written version with the breakdown:
How to photograph lightning: Cheat Sheet
*Remember, this is NOT the perfect settings for every lightning scenario, it’s meant as a starting point and general guideline!
Before you go:
·         Check the weather, look for smaller storm cells if possible
·         Check the lightning strike map
·         Fill your gas tank
·         Bring RAIN GEAR
·         Water and snacks
·         Extra batteries
Once you’re there:
·         Try to stay 5 – 15 miles away from the cell
·         Pay attention to direction the storm is moving.
·         Staying BEHIND or to the side opposite cell movement is good for your health
·         If in front of cell, be prepared to move quickly
·         Lens hoods can help keep some rain off, especially if you don’t point the lens up at an angle (this only works with no filters or round filters of the same diameter)
Camera settings
·         Shoot in Manual mode
·         Your ideal shutter starting place should usually be between 1-10 sec (longer if super dark out).
·         If it’s daytime, use an ND Filter. Here are some different options for both round and square filters, for all budgets:  *Square filters require a filter holder; make sure you get the right one for which ever system you choose! (I will have more videos about square filters soon.  Here’s a very short video I did about a cheap square filter system
o   Round 3 stop (you can stack filters too if needed)
o   High End Square 10 Stop (also comes in 6 and 15 stop versions)
o   Here’s a video about ND and Polarizer Filters I did a while back
o   Here’s a video about How to use filters with phones
·         Aim for an exposure that’s a little UNDEREXPOSED (1-2stops), especially in daytime conditions; this will help ensure the lightning is not drowned out in the ambient light, and that the lightning will not be overexposed if it’s dark out.
·         Start with a low ISO ~100
·         Set your Aperture to whatever it needs to be to accommodate the ideal shutter and ISO (and remember to err on the side of slightly underexposed)
·          Set your focus and then lock it down to manual focus (using live view and zooming in to nail infinity is a great way to do this)
·         The longer your focal length, the shorter you’ll want your shutter speed, to help reduce camera shake, e.g., if using a big telephoto, like 200+mm, then you’ll want to keep it around 1-2 seconds tops, shorter if you’re greater than 200mm.  The most I tried, with varying success was 300mm at 1 sec, and 400mm at 0.5 sec (400mm at 1 sec produced a couple of useable shots, but not many) Take wind in to consideration too, especially for longer shutter speeds. 
·         Have a solid, steady tripod
o   Add weight to it by hanging your gear bag or a bag of sand/rocks/anything with significant weight, or hold it down if necessary
For timelapses:
·         Get an intervalometer if your camera does not have a built in one.
o   Here are a few that I recommend:
§  Cheap Intervalometer (make sure to get one that works with your camera)
§  Alpine Labs Spark (my secondary choice)
§  Alpine Labs Pulse (My main controller)
§  There are many many others out there; these are just what I use.
·         Set your intervals to 1-2 seconds LONGER than your actual shutter time, e.g. if your shutter is 5 sec then set your interval time to 6-7 seconds.  This is important!
·         For a solid timelapse you want at bare minimum 150-200 shots, I usually do 300 or more, but that’s just me…I love timelapses, and they are my business.
BONUS: Editing multiple lightning images
Here is the link for my tutorial on this.  It’s VERY EASY!
That’s about it!  You should be totally ready go chase Thor down and capture some EPIC lightning images!
Be sure to follow me on Instagram and Facebook to see more of my lightning images, and everything else I’m up to!  And tag me on Instagram @lightbendersvisuals if you get some awesome shots, I’d love to see them!  Thanks for making it this far, and good luck shooting lightning…don’t get zapped…

Friday, April 27, 2018

Photographing The Stars With A Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

So I've done a few videos on the cameras and photography abilities of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and S9 Plus on my YouTube channel and I keep getting comments and requests to do a video about if they can shoot the night sky.  Well I finally went out the other night to test it and made a little video about it.

Here's the video if you'd rather watch than read:


So I went into it thinking that it would be pretty bad and that the phone image just wouldn't work out or hold up at all.  Well, I was kind of wrong.  First off, I didn't have good conditions for shooting stars, since the moon was out and 80% full, and the Milky Way wasn't scheduled to show above the horizon until after midnight, and I couldn't stay out that late that night.  Barring those two issues, I was surprised at how well the phone did, despite its limitations.  The biggest limitation I was bummed about is the fact that even in Pro Mode, the S9 Plus only has a max shutter speed of 10 sec.  There's absolutely no reason for that.  They could have easily set it to 30 sec, which would have made this a much more capable and desirable night shooting phone. The other limitation is the S9 Plus only has a max ISO of 800.  I mean, you really wouldn't want to max out a phone's ISO anyways, the sensor is just so small and it would look absolutely horrible.

So just for fun, I decided to compare my phone to my Canon 5D4 and 1DX2.  I think we all know which came out on top for that one, but I'll post the images anyways.  For the comparison, I set both cameras to roughly the same settings.  



Galaxy S9 Plus image (above) settings: Pro Mode, f/1.5, 10 sec, ISO 200, manual white balance, and manual focus.  


Canon 5D4 image (above) settings: f/4, 10 sec, ISO 200


Canon 1DX2 image (above) settings: f/2.8, 10 sec, ISO 200

Obviously, the DSLRs win on everything, but I was surprised the S9 Plus image didn't look too bad.  Another thing to note here is the lenses, I didn't have the same lenses for the DSLRs, and obviously the phone's camera lens is much less quality than the real lenses.  So this was in no way a scientific test at all, it was just for fun. So you can actually get some night shots with a smartphone.  I plan on going back out and trying again during the new moon and when the milky way is up, so be on the lookout for that video and blog!  Oh and if you like this kind of stuff and want to see more, then definitely go check out my YouTube channel and subscribe there, because I post at least 2 videos every week and there's a lot more content.  I try to keep the blog going and updated, but sometimes it falls behind.  So go subscribe to my YouTube and follow me on Instagram for more daily stuff! 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

3 Easy Ways to Correct Color Casting From ND Filters

There are a lot of optically decent ND filters out there that still suffer from color cast (or shift), but there a few very quick and easy ways to fix them in post.  Here is a video I tutorial I made to show you how to do it.



Sunday, December 3, 2017

My Favorite Photography Accessories

Gear can be expensive and overwhelming...and I often say that creativity and experiences are more important than gear.  This is totally true, but with that being said, there are a few little things-photography accessories-that I always take with me, and that help increase my efficacy, functionality, and creativity.

So let's get right to it:  (I made a VIDEO of this if you'd rather watch than read.  It's also embedded at the end of this post).

1). The Rocket Blower - Living in New Mexico, and travelling to and shooting in all kinds of intense places around the globe, I need this.  I mean, every photographer needs this...but I REALLY need it. Any kind of air blower will do.  There are a variety of types and brands out there, but they all do the same thing: blow dust and debris off your gear.

2). The Camera Strap - This is not just a regular strap.  The best things about this strap is that it's way more comfortable and padded, and it has clippy things that let you quickly and easily detach the strap for those times when you need to put it on a tripod or other support equipment, or for when you just don't want a strap.  The other reason I like this one is because it's plain.  I travel a LOT, and often to or through some very sketchy places where having a nice shiny Canon strap that has bright red and white stripes and the name of my camera body on it is begging for a robbery in some places.  So the subtlety and lower profile of the strap is nice.  

3). The PocketPod - I always seem to find use for a little tripod, whether it's because I'm travelling super light and don't want to carry a big one, or I need to mount some lights, audio gear, phone, monitor, or something else, or if I need a makeshift handle for a vlogging setup.  I use this Benro one a lot, but I also like the Joby Gorilla Pods too. You never know when you'll find an unexpected waterfall or awesome night scene or long exposure scenario where you wish you had a tripod! 

4). ND Filters for your Smartphone - These things are super cheap, and very handy to have.  Like I mentioned above, you never know when you might stumble upon a cool waterfall or perfect long exposure scene, and you might not have your big boy camera with you, but if you have these little filters and a pocket tripod and your phone, then you're all set! Mobile photography is getting better every year with all these new phones with better and better cameras coming out, so why not use them!  The best camera is the one you have on you.

5). Circular Polarizer - If you can only have one filter for your dslr or mirror-less camera, make it a circular polarizer!  These things are super handy, and unlike other types of filters, a CP's effects can't all be emulated in post editing.  A CP will help cut through glare from reflecting surfaces such as water and glass, and it will also help boost your saturation a bit (this part can obviously be done in post, but the glare reduction can't). If you can have 2 filters, then I definitely recommend a proper ND Filter. These will help you get that silky smooth water or clouds, as well as let you shoot wide open in bright light to get that beautiful shallow depth of field. I suggest at least getting a 3 stop, which is the one I listed, but if you want really long exposures, you'll need a 10 stop filter or higher.

6). Lume Cubes - These are probably the coolest little lights I've ever had.  I use them for so much more than photography.  They pack a whopping 1500 lumens, which given their size, is quite impressive.  They are waterproof, which opens up all kinds of creative doors, and have a bunch of their own available accessories, such as filters, diffusers, gels, magnetic cages, and more, and they're usb rechargeable! 

7). The Pulse Camera Controller - My most FAVORITE accessory of all time! This thing is beyond fantastic.  It is a Bluetooth controller, intervalometer, and trigger.  The app that controls it is great, and its features are wonderful.  With the Pulse, you can do timelapses, environmental selfies, HDR, long exposures, and more. This will open up the possibilities for unleashing your creativity to a whole new level!  It also makes things a lot easier when you want to do things like take a picture of yourself or a group photo with you in it, and not have to find someone else to do it for you. It's just a wonderful device to have all around.  That being said, any remote trigger and/or intervalometer will work, but they won't all do everything this does, and not all wrapped in one device. 




Thanks for checking out my blog, and be sure to follow my on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook for more!  

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Alpine Labs Pulse Review: The Best Camera Controller For Canon and Nikon Cameras

So I've had my Alpine Labs Pulse for about 9 months now, and after using it with 4 different cameras, and in just about every timelapse and adventure photo shoot I've done in that time, I have enough confidence to say that this is the Best camera controller I've ever seen. 


I think most people will think of this as mainly an intervalometer, which it is, but it also does a lot more than that. The Pulse has some other great features that I've really enjoyed using, such as the HDR mode, self-trigger, and especially the long exposure mode. So I finally went out and did a proper review of it, where I go over all of its main features, a couple of very small downsides, and show you how I use it to up my creativity.  Check out the video here, and don't forget to like, comment, and SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube Channel for more reviews like this, tutorials, adventure vlogs, and more!