Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Outer Banks 2009

The Outer Banks are a group of barrier reef islands located off the east coast of North Carolina just south of the Virginia - North Carolina border. Cape Hatteras National Seashore occupies a large portion of the land.

As usual, our resident expert for this workshop was Steve Alterman. He and his wife Lynn live on the Outer Banks and he has a wonderful book on the islands called Outer Banks Edge.
The weather for the workshop was unbelievable, sunny and warm each day. It was also Bike Week on the Outer Banks and there were motorcycles everywhere. Except for the occasional difficultly with outside conversations, the bikes weren’t really a problem.
The Outer Banks are famous for the their lighthouses and we visited all four available ones. As an added bonus, each one was sporting fresh paint for the upcoming summer season.

After the obvious lighthouse images, I started looking for some that were a little harder to find and different.

The Outer Banks also has many sand dunes with fantastic designs and patterns for photos. Jockey Ridge State Park sports some of the best dunes found any where.

Because of the narrow strip of land that defines the Banks, sunrises and sunsets over water are both available, using the ocean to the east and the sound to the west.

We also encountered many species of birds during our weekend.

This year’s workshop offered outstanding images each day and had the best weather of any workshop at the Outer Banks so far.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Northern Arizona 2009

Over the years, the Northern Arizona workshop has been one of our favorites. Visits to the Grand Canyon, the slot canyon of Page, Monument Valley, and Sedona prove to be very popular with all our students. In spite of less than cooperative weather at times, this year’s workshop provided some wonderful photo opportunities. It seemed we were always wanting less clouds in the sky, but when we were lucky enough to get good light, no matter for how long, we were able to make dynamic images.

I found myself concentrating on techniques that gave me something different from the normal image. For many years, I have owned a 16 mm fish eye lens. Until recently, since I started shooting digitally, I have used cameras with a sensor smaller than a 35 mm image. These had a multiplier effect on my lens, making them act more telephoto, so that the fish eye effect was not available. In December, I bought my first digital camera with a 35 mm size sensor, so the fish eye was back. I rediscovered how much fun this lens could be.

I have been interested in panoramic images for many years, first using a Fuji 617 camera, and more recently stitching digital images together. This trip seemed to provide more of these opportunities than normal, so I shot many during the trip. For the easy stitches, I use Arcsoft Panorama Maker software. This inexpensive software generally does a fine, quick job handling the stitching. Occasionally this software will stitch incorrectly and then I fall back on Panavue Image Assembler. This software give you much more control of the process and never fails to provide a wonderfully stitched image.

High contrast scenes have always been a problem in photography. In the past, I used split neutral density filters to help control the contrast and make the scene more average. For the past year or so, I have hardly used those filters at all. I now use HDR (High Dynamic Range) software to help eliminate the high contrast dilemma. In high contrast situations, I now shoot five images, each one stop apart in exposure, and let computer software combine them to provide one image with details in all tonal areas. Photomatix is my choice of software and it generally provides a much improved image over one you could have obtained with one image.

The Northern Arizona workshop this year had less good light and weather conditions than past years, but we still had ample opportunities to make many "keeper"images. I will only be home for a couple days this time and then I am off to Outer Banks of North Carolina.