Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Photographing The 2019 Super Blood Wolf Moon Lunar Eclipse

(If you don't like reading, or want to see more, there's a vlog episode I did at the end of this)

Well that was definitely an interesting adventure. As per my usual, things did not go according to plans, lol. Mostly due to the fact that the weather, both outside, and on the radar, told us that it would be mostly cloudy all night. So we spent a long time trying to hunt down places that we thought might have some breaks in the clouds and finally settled on Rockhound State Park, just south of Deming, NM. It was pretty cloudy when we showed up, but we went ahead and hiked out to try and find a composition anyway. I would definitely have preferred to have more time when scouting for a composition, but work with what you got right. So after a short hike around the moonlit desert, we found this spot and a somewhat interesting foreground with the big cactus and then with the mountain in the background. Once we got set up and started taking some test images and figuring out exposures and compositions for where the moon was actually going to be in 2 hours, I realized it would be a bit harder than the previous times I've shot eclipses. This was to due the moon's altitude and azimuth being much higher than I had hoped. I was also bored with just straight close up telephoto shots, as I have done that for the past few times and it's pretty much the same shot every time. So this time I wanted to do a wider shot and include some landscape and a human element for a more compelling and interesting image. I found two spots to try this, the first with a big cactus, and then I put Brittany behind it, in the middle of the image, and the second on a trail that was leading up to the mountain and in the right direction of where the moon would be at full eclipse. For this one I put myself in there and held up a light right under the moon. All the while all of this was going on, I had another camera with a longer (but not too long) lens set up and was getting some slightly closer shots of the eclipse as it went through the first half. This was so that I could put those together for the composite to show the sequence and path of the eclipse over the wider landscape image I got. I had to do some exposure blending to get everything looking right, and I was going to do some focus stacking, but I forgot. Probably because my mind was too busy trying to vlog also, and just doing too many things at once. In the end though, I think it came out alright. I might like my images from last year a bit better, but I'm not sure yet. Either way, it was still a great experience to be lucky enough to watch and capture, and even if I didn't come home with anything I'm still stoked to have been out for it.

Monday, October 22, 2018

My Top 5 Favorite Features In The New Photoshop CC 2019 Update

So Adobe just released their new updates for the Creative Suite, and of course I jumped right in to Photoshop to see all the new features.  There were a lot of them in this update, though some were quite minor, and overall there was nothing completely game changing; however there's still plenty of things to get excited about in the new update.

Here's the video I made about my top 5 favorite updates, and how I use them.

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.