Saturday, 24 October 2015

The extra 1%

Why I am not a landscape photographer...

As Chris Newham, the guest speaker on Thursday at the MPS intimated, there is a myth among some that landscape photography is easy. After all landscapes do not move, you don't need fast, long lenses and nor does the scene change rapidly so rapid continuous auto focus is not required.

All you need is a camera, a location and a few minutes to snap away.

There is some truth in that, but in all things it only goes so far. As the speaker able demonstrated, the difficulty is not taking landscape photos but that final 1% to get an outstanding landscape shot.

That means getting to your location 1 hour before dawn on a winters day (probably after a good 3 or 4 hour journey, since the best locations are almost always a long way from population centres), standing in an icy stream for hours in the hope the weather gods will be kind to you and the light will arrive and hope that while you are taking your long exposure no one walks in your frame.. Then Repeat this 10 times until you have the right shot.

Landscapes are also one of the areas where glass and mega-pixel count make a huge difference to the final image. If you want to be a top landscape photographer you do need that 30-40 MP camera, plus the lenses to do it justice. Interestingly Chris has moved from Nikon to a Sony A7RII, which confirmed my suspicion that whatever Nikon and Canonistsas say, Sony is making big inroads into the top end camera market.

Another interesting snippet was that rather than filters, most of his work is done in camera, or post production. For example, instead of ND filters to smooth water out, he uses in-camera multiple exposures. He says that this is better because it maintains some structure to the water.

Even once you have the photo, the job does not stop there. Landscape photos can be tweaked to death. It is that quest to find the extra 1% to make your photo outstanding. Whether it is bringing out the highlights in the clouds, playing with graduated filters in photoshop, or just putting a white border round your print to emphasis the whites in the photo to judges. Again repeat this  x 1000 because that is how many images you took. All this to get the best out of your shot.

 I realised this sometime ago and decided that landscape photography was not going to be for me, at least for now. I just do not have the time or equipment to do it justice. Nor to be fair do I have the dedication to get up before the dawn on a winter day.

Despite that you can learn a lot from watching the experts go through there work-flow.

From the use of the black and white point sliders (which generally I have ignored) , to the use of other raw processing techniques to get the best out of the initial image, it all goes to making your images that little bit better.

It was also interesting watching him use the Nik collection of plugins.  I have known about these for a while, but Chris showed how best to use them and they make more sense now. The other problem with them was that up to know I had assumed you needed the latest Adobe Photoshop products to use them, but I found out that my photo processing weapon of choice, Zoner photo, supports them as well (but only the 32bit version).

This opens a whole new area of possibilities (and expense), so for that reason alone it was a useful and interesting night.

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