Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Abandoned Village at Al Nuway Oman

Abandoned Village at Al Nuway Omman-5

This is the last in my series of posts featuring the fort and abandoned village in Al Nuway Oman.  My last post in the series “Fort at Al Nuway Oman” focused on the fort while this post feature photography of the abandoned village immediately adjacent to the fort.

Abandoned Village at Al Nuway Omman

The five photographs featured in this post share two things in common aside from the subject matter.  Each is an HDR photograph, and each composition was made from a direction having the sun in the background.  Unless you are trying to compose a silhouette, shooting into the sun is not a recommended practice.

Abandoned Village at Al Nuway Omman-1

The results of shooting into the sun usually end up with one of two results; a) your subject is exposed well, but the background is completely blown out (over exposed), or b) the background is properly exposed and your subject is under exposed.  With such a dramatic contrast in light levels, it is quite difficult to get a balanced exposure when shooting into the sun.

Abandoned Village at Al Nuway Omman-2

By using HDR techniques (post processing combination of multiple exposures with shots a couple of stops under exposed, and over exposed) you can overcome the exposure balance limitations inherent in shooting into the sun.  When you look at a scene with the sun in the background, your eye is able to adapt to the harsh light differences – your camera is not as sensitive and cannot do so in a single exposure.

Abandoned Village at Al Nuway Omman-3

I hope you have enjoyed this trip to Al Nuway and along the way picked up a couple useful applications of HDR photography.

Have fun and go make some great photography.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Deepening Understanding in a Blur

Times Square-6-2
Most photography you see is crystal clear and tack sharp (a favorite term for photography geeks).  In fact, with the advent and exponential advances of digital photography, it seems like we are mistakenly in pursuit of perfect focus, resolution that would allow one to dissect Cindy Crawford’s mole from a crowd shot at a L.A. Lakers basketball game (does she even like basketball?), and sharpness sufficient to cut diamonds.
In my opinion, we are obsessed, and missing the point.  Art does not require all these harsh terms and equally harsh outcomes.  Often, art moves you in exactly the opposite direction.  In like manner, telling a story through photography can often push you away from the edge of the sharpness cliff. 
A very simple example is something I learned taking photographs about 25 years ago.  I was a young Ensign on a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter and wanted to photograph helicopter operations.  A couple of months after taking the shots, finishing the patrol, sending the role to the lab, etc. (yes, a bit different than today’s instant feedback) I could see a helicopter miraculously floating over the deck with rotors perfectly still.  It did not look right…rotors have to spin for a helicopter to fly.  The next patrol, I went about the same process of photographing helo ops, but this time I closed the aperture and slowed the shutter speed.  the result was still a helicopter in air over the ship’s deck, but the rotors were a spinning blur.  Visually, this made sense.
Times Square-5
The photographs featured in this post speak exactly to these combined components of sharpness (or lack thereof) in context and forgetting the obsession to have a razor sharp photograph (as a general rule/obsession).  Both shots come from Time’s Square, NY.  This is one of the most energetic places on the planet.  There is constant motion, noise, activity, and the entire world coming together in one place.  A photograph of Time’s square should attempt to capture this energy.  I chose to do so by letting the energy flow through the blurred motion combined with some intentionally overblown lights.
Have fun, and go make some great photography!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fort at Al Nuway Oman

Fort at Al Nuway Omman-1
In February of this year, I posted two entries featuring a trip I made with my good friend Steve to Oman (Oman - a Fort, A Wadi, and Falaj, and Oman Part II - Al Nuway and Khutwa).  Since posting these entries, I recently spent a bit of time processing more of the photographs and even taking a second look at some of the first few I processed.
Fort at Al Nuway Omman-2
The photographs in this post all feature the fort at Al Nuway.  I tried doing a quick bit of research on the fort, but when googling it, the first articles that came up, were my previous posts on the subject.  Obviously not terribly helpful in shedding new light.
Fort at Al Nuway Omman-3
But here is what I can say through observation; the fort likely served the purpose of collecting customs duties as well as defense.  In this part of the world, the wadis (dry river bed) often form part of the network of ancient trade routes.  I’m guessing the reason for this is that they are generally more level and easily passable than the surrounding terrain and also provide an occasional source of water in a very dry region.  I may be completely wrong, but wadis appear to be the path of least resistance when traveling.
Fort at Al Nuway Omman-4
If you take the time to compare the processing of these photos with the original posts (Oman - a Fort, A Wadi, and Falaj, and Oman Part II - Al Nuway and Khutwa) you will see a dramatic difference.  In each case, the photos are HDR photography.  The difference is that my taste and experience with HDR photography has matured quite a bit since the original posts.  I have learned that unless I am intentionally going for a particularly dramatic look and feel (see Bridgespot Collection 1, and Bridge Spot Collection 2), it is best to apply the tone mapping tools of HDR processing judiciously.
Fort at Al Nuway Omman-5
I hope you enjoyed the return trip to the Fort at Al Nuway Oman.  If you or a friend happen to know more about the fort, it’s history, and purpose, please send me a note at craigcorl@yahoo.com.  I would be happy to share more information about this beautiful location.
Have fun, and go make some great photography.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Taking My Own Advice – Commitment to 50mm

Deer in the Fog
When posting recommendations to improve your photography, I feel compelled to follow my own advice.  Following one’s own advice is not always as easy as it sounds; there is often room for a notable gap between what we intellectually know to be true and our actions.  When it comes to photography, I try to keep my practice and advice closely aligned.  Either offering the benefit of my experience, or setting out to practice what I believe to be a sound approach.
Barn in the Fog
In my last post “Improving Your Photography Through a Committed Relationship” I recommended snapping on a fixed focal length (prime) lens, and challenge yourself to develop a committed relationship to that lens.  Don’t “cheat” on that lens.  In other words, leave it on your camera, resist the temptation to use another lens, and fully explore the capabilities of that lens before returning to your normal practice.
Road in the Woods
Upon posting my last entry, I remained true to my advice and attached my 50mm f/1.8 II lens to my Canon 5D and committed to leaving it there until I am comfortable that I have fully explored this lens.  This morning I continued to put this into practice and made some landscape photography with the 50mm.  This was a useful exercise, because the 50mm is not my normal choice for landscape photography.  I would normally use a much shorter focal length (i.e. 24mm or less).
Hay Bails in a Foggy field
I am happy with the resulting photographs featured in this post.  The 50mm is a super sharp lens and even though I was generally shooting landscape scenes with plenty of fog, the sharpness is clear and offers some nice contrast with the softness introduced by the fog.
Each of the photographs featured here are from Saint Mary’s County Maryland and are three shot HDR images.
Have fun, and enjoy your committed relationship.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Improving Your Photography Through a Committed Relationship

Paper bikes
So you want to improve your photography?  Here is a tip; your photography will improve through a committed relationship!  The relationship I am talking about is not a relationship with your wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend, but a relationship with your camera, and more specifically with a particular lens.
Green Suits
Many of us have a camera and several lenses.  There is a good chance that our lens kit includes more zoom lenses than prime lens (fixed focal length like a 50mm).  Continuing with the metaphor of a relationship with another person, zoom lenses can offer a good relationship, but there is some focal length in the range of that zoom that feels as though it is dealing with a cheating partner.  In other words, if you are shooting with a 24-105mm lens, 85mm feels cheated as you zip around between the very attractive 24mm and the cozy 105mm.  In the mean time, you have not fully realized all the benefits of a close and enduring relationship with 85mm.
Abu Dhabi Bike
My recommendation is to stop cheating…at least for a while.  Snapping on a prime lens, and leaving it there, is the best way to keep yourself from cheating and develop a committed relationship.  The idea is to stick to one lens (and one focal length) until you have mastered it.  By sticking to a single lens and focal length, and experimenting with it at the extremes of it’s capability, you will more quickly advance your skills.
Toeing the Line
While any prime lens will yield the same advances, I recommend a 50mm.  A 50mm lens is about the closest representation of what you actually see and makes critiquing your work a simpler task.  If you don’t have a 50mm lens, go get one.  For Canon shooters, this is about as cheap as it gets.  A new 50mm f1.8 II goes for under $100 and can be found used for as low as $50.  And by the way, this is a super sharp lens, is not imposing to your subjects (particularly if they are the eating, breathing, sleeping type).
During your period of monogamy, don’t take the 50mm off your camera even though the temptation may seem unbearable.  You will benefit from your committed relationship.
The photographs featured in this post are some street photography from Abu Dhabi, UAE.  All were taken with the Canon 50mm f1.8 II mounted to a Canon 5D.  The second shot, of the gardeners, was the most fun.  As I walked along the Corniche in Abu Dhabi, they were sitting on a bench relaxing and telling stories.  I asked if I could take a photograph, and they became very excited.  Sometimes just asking is all it takes.  They were very pleased to see themselves on the display screen of my camera.  The photograph also adds to the story I have been telling regarding immigrant labor in the UAE.  Click on the tags at the right to see more.
Have fun, and go make some great photography.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Blogging From my iPhone

So this is hopefully the final test of blogging from my iPhone. I hope you enjoy this photo from Sapo Falls Venezuela.

Finding Ways to Increase My Production

Regrettably, I have not had time to maintain my normal pace of posting over the last couple of weeks.  Not seeing myself regain much control of my time in the near term, I decided to look into alternate ways to improve the frequency of posting.  I first asked myself..."self, when do you have time to get up a short post if you had the means to do so?"  It did not take long to determine that I have unproductive downtime waiting...at the airport, waiting for my luggage, in line at the DMV, waiting to join friends for a glass of cheer, and so on.

The one thing in common with most of these situations is that I don't have my computer or it is not convenient to use it.  The one tool I always have with me, is my iPhone.  So after a small bit of research I found that Blogger has a feature that allows you to post blog entries via e-mail.  So I ran a successful test and am now posting for real via e-mail.  This one is coming from my laptop, but will run the final test shortly with another entry from my iPhone.

The photo featured here is of my nephew - Air Parker.  On a recent trip to Michigan for my sister's wedding, I had some great fun taking some action photography of my nephews around the pool.

Stand by for more posts!

Have fun and go make some great photography!

fine photography, stories, and thoughts on photography

Test of Mail to Blogger

This is a test of mail to blogger with a photograph.
fine photography, stories, and thoughts on photography