Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How To Add Depth To Flat Landscape Images

Here's a quick tip for the day:

  So I was driving out to L.A. from Albuquerque, New Mexico​ the other day and I wanted my son to see the Meteor crater-because he is fascinated with all things space-related, and because I am a geologist who also finds it fascinating.  We get there in the middle of the afternoon, the sun is high, and there is not a cloud in the sky...worst photography situation possible.  So what can you do to make a decent photo from crappy conditions? Since the lighting was as flat as possible, I shot the same-that is, I shot to capture as much dynamic range as possible (leaving the image looking very flat and dull) in order to be able to bring detail back in post.  I then concentrated on adding depth to the image.  I look for all of the shadow areas of the rocks and cliffs, and add some adjustment layers to give them more depth.  Of course I did some other things as well, more general adjustments like clarity, exposure, highlight reduction, shadow lift, luminance and saturation shifts, etc., but these are normal, and minor.  The main focus is on bringing that sense of depth back.  Because when you see the words Meteor Crater, you have an image in your head, and the image that you make with your camera should try to match that grandeur, even if you have less-than-desirable lighting conditions as I had; Photoshop is a wonderful thing.

Before and After

One more tip concerning situations like this.  So I went to Meteor Crater...a seriously big tourist destination.  One bad thing about places like this is that people most often will take the same pictures, from the same places, at the same angles as everyone else.  Google images of meteor crater, and other popular places like half dome in Yosemite, Grand Canyon, etc., and you will see many of the same-looking images from the same places.  This is from a lack of thought concerning composition.  Try to find even just a slightly different angle, add a person (landscapes with people for presence, emotion, and scale are always better).   Even a slight adjustment to composition and framing can make a big difference in the overall feeling of the image. 

Here's the typical shot, from the typical spot at the top observation deck, from the typical angle, with minimal editing...quite boring and mundane.

Here's one from the same spot, but with a slightly different angle and with a person added for emotional feeling and scale.

And here is one from another popular spot near the lower observation deck, but again, from a slightly different angle with a different perspective:

And here is a lizard for sheer randomness and enjoyment-I saw it as I was walking away from the lower observation deck:

That quick tip ended up being not so quick, though hopefully still informative and enjoyable.  

Here is a link to the Facebook post I did on this with the images and descriptions:

Don't forget to follow me on Facebook and Instagram to see more of my daily adventures and get more awesome info and quick tips like this! 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

How I Got the Shot: Telephoto Panoramas

Since I am often on assignments where I am primarily shooting with telephoto lenses, I have become very adept at using them for what some might call "non-traditional" things, i.e. using them for types of shots not typically associated with long lenses.  In this case, that would be landscapes.  I have always maintained that telephoto lenses can make great landscape images—if you have good technique and a keen eye for composition.  But don’t let that discourage you, because those things can be easily taught and learned! 

The shot above was created with a Canon 300mm f/4L IS on a 5D3 body.  It was a compilation of 5 vertical shots that were stitched together in Photoshop. 

The image above was created with the Canon 300mm f/4L IS on a 5D3 body.  It was a compilation of 11 vertical shots that were stitched together in Photoshop.  While it is wider than the first image, it is also more shots, and had I done fewer shots, but taken them horizontally, I would have lost most of the sky above the clouds.

 Most people will intuitively want to shoot a panorama with the camera in the horizontal position, because the goal of a pano is to get a wider image than you can with a single shot.  This is fine, if that’s the specific look you are going for, but there is a trick that most overlook or just don’t think about: turn it vertical.  The problem arises when you start stitching multiple horizontal shots together you will drastically increase the length to height ratio, which is not always pleasing—especially when viewing the image on mobile or smaller screens, as many do these days.  That makes it harder to see the detail you packed into the pano.  To get around this, turn the camera vertical to take the individual shots, then when you stitch them in post, they will add up to a more normal width to height ratio.  This is especially helpful when you are working with a longer focal length, such as I was here with the 300mm.   Another benefit—if shot correctly—is that the resulting image will have much more detail than if you were to have just slapped a wider lens on to get the same shot; and I really like detail in my landscapes!

I hope this tip helps you to remember that next time you find yourself out and about with your telephoto and see an epic landscape opportunity that you can still get that shot!  Just remember to always think outside the traditional frame.  If you want to know more, or have any questions regarding this post, feel free to leave a comment or email me any time.

Video tutorial Here