Thessaloniki 2011

During my three-week stay in Thessaloniki in February 2011, Thessaloniki caused me to take by far the greatest number of photographs I have ever taken in a major city. This album features visions which, I think, make Thessaloniki unique. All of my photographs have been taken with a very simple Fujifilm Finepix E550.

During the three weeks of my stay in Thessaloniki in February 2011, Thessaloniki, caused me to take, by far the largest number of photos I've taken a great city. This album features dreams, which I think makes Thessaloniki unique.

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8 creative tips for shooting waterfalls

8 Tips For Shooting Waterfalls

Photographing waterfalls can be a tricky endeavor – especially when shooting in conditions where the light can change drastically depending upon the weather conditions. If you've ever struggled to get the waterfall shot you envisioned, you've come to the right place. This article will cover everything from basic tips to more advanced techniques to make shooting waterfalls a breeze.

Choose the Right Gear for the Job

The most important piece of gear that you will need beyond a camera and lens is a sturdy tripod. This is an absolute must when shooting longer exposures. Here's a list of a few more important pieces of gear that will come in handy in the field:

  • Tripod: Any time you're shooting long exposures a tripod is a must
  • Selection of lenses: I generally try to cover a focal range of 16mm to 300mm to give myself a number of options in the field

  • ND filter: I typically don't use ND filters as I generally shoot fairly short exposures, but they can come in handy depending upon the lighting conditions and the type of water texture you hope to achieve

  • CPL: I always use a circular polarizer when shooting waterfalls as it can really help give the vegetation more 'pop' – the above image is an example of where a CPL can make big difference in terms of how the foliage appears in your photo and it can also help enhance the appearance of wet rocks and reflections in the water

  • Remote Shutter Release: This isn't a necessity but it certainly can make shooting waterfalls a bit easier

  • Rocket Air Blaster and Lens Cleaning Cloths: Let's face it; you're going to get wet. Using these two products, plus a waterproof housing (or zip lock baggies) can help to keep your lens and camera dry while shooting

  • Bag of Rice: You never know when disaster may strike, so I always bring a large bag or canister of rice with me in the event that my camera decides to take a dip  

Shoot in Diffused Light

If you've ever tried to shoot a waterfall in direct sunlight then you'll know how difficult it can be. Shooting with an ND filter can help to resolve some of these issues but shooting in diffused light is the best solution to the problem. When planning a waterfall shooting trip I always take a look at the weather forecast and check sunrise/sunset times before heading out to a location.

In general, I've found that shooting during the hours just after sunrise offers the best results as morning light can provide some impressive shooting conditions. The image you see here was shot about 3 hours after sunrise at Metlako Falls in the Columbia River Gorge, OR.

Choose the Shutter Speed

It seems like it was only a few years ago that using extremely slow shutter speeds while shooting waterfalls was all the rage, but lately I find myself using shorter shutter speeds to really capture the texture in the water. The rate at which the water is falling dictates how quick or slow of a shutter speed you will need to use when shooting in lower light conditions. To give you an idea, the above image (Panther Creek Falls, WA) was shot at a shutter speed of 1/4 second to freeze the water and capture some of the texture as it cascaded down the rock face.

Choosing a longer shutter speed will soften up the water a great deal and in some cases that's just what the scene calls for. It really all comes down to personal taste. Experiment with the shutter speed while you're out in the field – the more options you have the better!

Save the Foliage

If you've ever shot a waterfall on a breezy day you know that it's nearly impossible to utilize slower shutter speeds while simultaneously 'freezing' the foliage in the frame. You almost always see motion blur in the vegetation surrounding the waterfall.

To solve this problem I always take at least two exposures: one for the waterfall at your favorite shutter speed to obtain the right amount of water texture, and an additional exposure taken at a much faster shutter speed to freeze the foliage in place. In the above example I blended two exposures together to get sharp foliage along with the amount of water movement I was trying to achieve with the longer exposure.

Choose Your Composition Carefully

Choosing a strong composition can be challenging when shooting waterfalls. Here are a few of the key guidelines that I follow when shooting images like the one you see above:

  • Find a leading line or an 'S' to work with in your composition
  • Let the water flow guide you to the focal point
  • Shoot downstream of the waterfall to add depth
  • Utilize rocks and other elements in the scene to guide your eye to the focal point
  • Don't be afraid to try out several variations – I always shoot at least 3 or 4 compositions at any given location

Think Outside of the Box

One of my favorite things to do while shooting waterfalls is to think outside of the box in regards to composition. Taking an abstract approach to shooting a waterfall can lead to some really fun results. Use different focal lengths and experiment with tighter compositions that may only show a small portion of the waterfall.

I always try to shoot at least a handful of abstract shots while I'm in the field because let's face it: it's just plain fun to get the creative juices flowing!

Adjust Your Exposure

Getting the exposure right can be a tricky business when shooting waterfalls. When using longer shutter speeds it's very important to constantly meter your exposure to make sure that you aren't losing detail in the water by clipping your highlights. Check the histogram to make sure that you are staying to the left or dead center in your exposure. As the light changes you will have to do this quite often so definitely keep an eye on it!

Provide a Sense of Scale

Waterfalls come in all shapes and sizes, but it's often difficult to provide a sense of scale while shooting them. Adding a human element to your photo can really bring a whole new sense of wonder and scale to your image. Special thanks to Max Foster for snapping this photo of me at Spirit Falls, WA.  

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New technology alters perspective in selfies, generates 3D images, and more

A team of researchers from Princeton University and Adobe Research have detailed a new project in which they use a 3D computer model of a head and a virtual 'full perspective' camera to manipulate the perspective of a single portrait. The manipulations simulate various shooting distances and the warps typically seen at those depths, potentially allowing software adjustments that create selfies with corrected perspective distortion.

A demo system (currently in beta) on lead researcher Ohad Fried's website allows you to upload your own images to explore the technology.

The front-facing lenses found in smartphones cameras are often wide-angle, fixed focal length, to make them as flexible as possible, but the close-up nature of selfies tends to show distortions such as large noses or sloping foreheads. Interestingly, these distortions can change how the individuals are perceived; the subjects in portraits taken at close distances are often described in ways that include ‘approachable’ and ‘peaceful’ while subjects in portraits taken at longer distances are more often described as ‘smart,’ ‘strong,’ and ‘attractive.’

While it might be beneficial to take selfies at longer distances and longer focal lengths to eliminate the distortion, there is no practical way to do so with present phone technology. This newly developed technology could change that, however, with the researchers explaining: 'our framework allows one to simulate a distant camera when the original shot was a selfie, and vice versa, in order to achieve various artistic goals.'

The researchers based their method on existing approaches to manipulating images, including the type of technology used in face-swapping apps. The key difference was using a 'full perspective' virtual camera model rather than a more simplistic, 'weak perspective' model, enabling them to compensate for the wider range of perspective adjustments needed for portraits taken at very close distances. This new method is able to estimate the camera distance and edit the perceived camera distance. Its modeling of depth also allows slight changes in the position of the virtual camera, allowing the photos to be slightly 're-posed'.

The technology promises than just correcting selfie perspective. The ability to slightly correct perspective and map facial features to a 3D model allows the creation of stereo pairs of images (3D anaglyphs) from a single image, or could make it possible to animate changes in facial expressions.

Video explains Kubrick's use of innovative camera tech when shooting Barry Lyndon

Legendary director Stanley Kubrick was known to be obsessed with cameras and pushing the limits of cinematic technology, with much of his technical awareness stemming from his days as a stills photographer. A new video essay by the British Film Institute now explains his use of different lenses to create the movie Barry Lyndon, which won an Oscar for its cinematography.

We've written before about the famous Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm F0.7 lens (originally developed for NASA) that he used, but the BFI essay also discusses how he used it. It also looks at his use of zoom shots and the meanings he hoped to convey with them.

Many scenes in the movie were shot in natural light and very dim candlelight to authentically portray the look and feel of the 18th century. In the very low light conditions Kubrick had to shoot with the superfast F0.7 lens' aperture fully open, resulting in an extremely shallow depth-of-field. This required re-thinking the way such scenes were staged and demanded reduced actor movement, to avoid mis-focus, but the director felt this helped convey the stilted 18th century atmosphere.

The video essay can be viewed on the British Film Institute's Facebook page.

LensRentals details its top ten favorite products from the past decade

Ten years have passed since our friends at LensRentals first launched as a small business operating out of a garage. The company has seen many changes over those years, both in its own operation and in the spheres of photography and videography, and it has highlighted some of those changes in a new blog post. The LensRentals team has detailed their top ten favorite products from the last decade.

'What we’ve found, is that there is no right piece of gear for everyone,' they say, 'and we all have varying tastes and expectations when it comes to gear.'

The products, which aren’t listed in any particular order, run the gamut from cameras to lenses and a few different accessories. Most notably, Canon products took four of the ten slots, with both the 5D Mark II and 5D Mark III making the list, as well as its EF 400mm F4 DO IS II and 11-24mm F4L lenses. 

Pentax, Leica, Freefly, Profoto, Sony, and Sigma products fill out the remaining six slots, though as LensRentals notes: 'the photography and videography industries have changed faster than ever before, so some pieces of gear had to be left out on our list.' It’s a somewhat long read, but the LensRentals team takes the time to explain why each product earned it place on the list, and it's well worth giving it a look.

Ricoh releases THETA+ Video app for Android

Ricoh's Theta series S 360° cameras come with several accompanying apps. While the Theta S app is used for shooting and reviewing 360° images and video, the Theta+ and Theta+ Video apps were developed for editing images and video respectively. The Theta+ Video app for iPhone was released last year, now Ricoh has launched an Android version as well.

Like the iPhone variant, Theta+ Video for Android allows you to edit 360° standard and time-lapse videos. Functions include trimming, color adjustment, cropping and the insertion of music tracks. Users can also select from from four types of view formats: Mirror Ball, Little Planet, Equirectangular, and Rectilinear.

As usual, edited videos can be shared to a range of social networks. On Facebook and YouTube they can be viewed in their full 360° glory while on some other platforms cropping is required. Theta + Video for Android is available as a free download from the Google Play Store now. 

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