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All posts for the month June, 2012

Finland is not known for its lovely summers and great weather. If you’re a tropical person, you have no business in this country, really. But it’s good for photography. There are four actual seasons here. Fall is by far the most colorful. Summer typically is actually quite boring, except if you’re a bug person and you like to “shoot” mosquitoes. Then you’re going to have a 3-month field day.
Anyway… summer here comes with a good amount of rain and a bit of sun every now and again. And that every now and again makes for a good opportunity, provided you’re in the right place at the right time. Fortune (coincidence?) wills that there were two days in a row that I was in the right place at the right time.

The first day I was at home (which is definitely the right place ;) ). I’d been working on pictures for the whole afternoon and the whole afternoon the sky had been ominous and near-black. Rain had come down on and off and around 6pm the sky really ripped open (let out a fart, actually, too) and water came down like I’ve seen only a few times before. But as the saying goes “After rain comes sunshine”, it also did here. The sunshine actually came already during the rain, which made for this stunning urban scene:

Rainbow over Helsinki

D800, ISO100, 1/180 sec @ f/8, Nikkor 14-24mm

This image was stitched from three wide-angle images, so what you see is about… 140 degrees I’d say.
Funny detail in this image… Another saying / myth tells us there’s a pot of gold to be found at the end of the rainbow. The building on the left, where the rainbow crashes into… it’s the recycling center :D

The next day I had agreed to go shoot with a friend of mine, if the weather was right. I drove to him, virtually in the middle of nowhere, straight after work. A really beautiful part of the larger capital Helsinki area. Also this day it had been raining on and off, and when I was almost at his place, I stopped on the side of the road to take this picture.

Stormy sky

D800, ISO100, 1/180 sec @ f/13, Nikkor 50mm

This is also a stitch from three images. Very foreboding, and not promising many good things. We ended up just chatting the first hour (and a half) or so, but in the end it did clear up and we took off into the forest and country side to do some shooting (more of those in a next blog post).
Then in the evening when I left it started raining again and already when I left from my friend’s place I could see the rainbow already. I drove up the street to a little red shed where there was a small opening in the trees and I could oversee the whole field including rainbow, where I took this stunning view. It was truly awesome. I took a number of pictures (this is also a three-image wide-angle stitch) and then stood there just looking at it in silence. I don’t know if the image itself does it to you, but it was absolutely magnificent. You do sometimes see a rainbow in these parts of the world, but never so complete and never really this clear.
And that two days in a row!

Rainbow over a field

D800, ISO100, 1/180 sec @ f/4, Nikkor 14-24mm

With this particular (second) rainbow I was also surprised that it stayed visible for such a long time. Usually when the rainbow appears it’s just when the rain stops and the sun breaks through and it’s maybe 5-10 minutes when you see it, but this one stayed on (not as complete, but still very clearly visible) for at least 45 minutes.

Which is why I still had more opportunities to shoot some. This was another one on my way home.

Rainbow next to a house

D800, ISO100, 1/125 sec @ f/2.8, Nikkor 70-200mm

I remember when I started being serious about photography (quite some time ago already) there were a couple of things that I had to re-read in order to understand the technique behind it. DoF, Depth of Field that is, was one of them. I thought I could do a little write up about it including an example of DoF with different aperture settings.

So what is Depth of Field, really?
If you google the term a recurring definition you’ll find is “the amount of distance between the nearest and farthest objects that appear in acceptably sharp focus in a photograph”. That doesn’t tell you much, does it? It didn’t tell me much back in the day when I had to look it up in a book (you know, those rectangular shaped things with this funny stuff called paper inside on which text and pictures are printed ;) ).
What this definition told me was that it had something to do with the distance between the objects in your picture. It does, kind of, but that’s not really the point.
For me DoF bluntly means: part of your image is in focus and the rest is not in focus. And it’s done on purpose ;) The more blurred or out of focus the picture is, and the less of your designated object is in focus, the narrower (or shallower, or smaller, these are all terms used to indicate) the DoF.

Many things can affect the DoF, but the the DoF is mainly controlled by the aperture setting on your camera.
That was another thing that I just couldn’t remember: the larger the aperture, as in the smaller the number indicated for the F-stop, the larger the hole in your lens through which light is let through to the sensor. So larger aperture – smaller F number – larger opening in the lens to let light through. Without this getting completely technical, I’m trying to keep it simple, let’s suffice with saying that things with a small aperture are more in focus because the rays of light that are coming into your lens are less diffused, scattered if you will, by the small hole in the lens before they reach the sensor. The bigger hole with the later aperture allows for the rays to basically go all over the place and thus can’t create the sharp image on the sensor.

Do note that if you change the aperture, you will have to equally adjust the exposure time. A picture taken with f/8 and 1/500 sec exposure time will render the same result in terms of exposure as a picture taken with f/11 and 1/250 sec exposure time. If you stop down the aperture with one stop, you’ll have to open up the exposure time with one stop and vice versa.

Below is a series of images in which you can see what happens when you start with a large aperture and end with a small aperture.

Example of how DoF works

From top left to top right the camera settings were:

1/15 sec @ f/3.5; 1/15 sec @ f/4.8 (I didn’t adjust the exposure time, which shows in the image: it’s slightly darker than the first one); 1/8 sec @ f/6.7; 1/4 sec @ f/9.5;

From bottom left to bottom right the camera settings were:

1/2 sec @ f/13; 1 sec @ f/19; 2 sec @ f/27; 4 sec @ f/38.

I subscribed to the magazine in the past, and since a year or so I’ve been subscribing again. I really like the magazine, it’s got great articles and it’s got magnificent images. And they even allow you to submit your images for possible inclusion in the magazine. They have this “Picture of the Month” going on every month and if you get to be it (or your image, that is), you can win amazing prizes and you get to be published in the magazine. It would be a great thing for your portfolio to be featured in the magazine. I would like to, in any case.

So off I went, to the website of National Geographic, where I’m instantly prompted to subscribe. That is, sign up, give all my information (which, if you read the terms and conditions, you swear to be up to date and correct). And, paranoid as I am (and I’m probably one of the very few who actually reads these terms and conditions), I quickly scroll through the text and come to a full stop at point five. I blink. It must be lack of sleep. I blink again. The text is still there.
Actually, to be honest, this happened already quite awhile ago, and I’m not quite sure why I write about this only now, but anyway… I wrote them a mail several times in which I ask to clarify the terms set out on their website, but I didn’t get any reply. Any sign of life. Not even an automated response with “thanks for your mail, we will ignore you like the plague”.

I re-read the text, just to make sure I read what I read. I quote point five to you below (courtesy of the Terms and Conditions on http://www.nationalgeographic.com/community/terms/

For clarity, you retain all of your ownership rights in material you upload, comments you post, or other content you provide to the Site (“User Content”). By uploading User Content, you grant National Geographic (which includes its subsidiaries, affiliates, joint venturers, and licensees) the following rights: a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual license to display, distribute, reproduce, and create derivatives of the User Content, in whole or in part, without further review or participation from you, in any medium now existing or subsequently developed, in editorial, commercial, promotional, and trade uses in connection with NG Products. National Geographic may license or sublicense, in whole or in part, to third parties rights in User Content as appropriate to distribute, market, or promote such NG Products. An NG Product is defined as “a product of National Geographic, a subsidiary, affiliate, joint venturer, or licensee of National Geographic, in any language, over which National Geographic has “Editorial Control.” For the purposes of this Agreement, “Editorial Control” means the right to review, consult regarding, formulate standards for, or to exercise a veto over the appearance, text, use, or promotion of the NG Product. You also agree that National Geographic may make User Content available to users of the Site who may display and redistribute it in the same way that National Geographic makes all other Content available.

So… In any case I retain all of my ownership rights in material that I upload. But…
And it’s a big But (big bones, can’t help it!):
Upon accepting the Terms and Conditions I grant National Geographic (which includes its subsidiaries, affiliates, joint venturers, and licensees) the following rights: a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual license to display, distribute, reproduce, and create derivatives of the User Content, in whole or in part, without further review or participation from you, in any medium now existing or subsequently developed, in editorial, commercial, promotional, and trade uses in connection with NG Products.

And the following sentence, equally disturbing:
Upon accepting the Terms and Conditions I allow National Geographic to license or sublicense, in whole or in part, to third parties rights in User Content as appropriate to distribute, market, or promote such NG Products.

And the one that’s screaming injustice in my face:
Upon accepting the Terms and Conditions I also agree that National Geographic may make User Content available to users of the Site who may display and redistribute it in the same way that National Geographic makes all other Content available.

So summarized: I’m fucked if I agree to the Terms and Conditions, because regardless of the fact that they let me retain all my ownership to what I upload, National Geographic can do whatever the hell they please with my stuff, but National Geographic makes me agree that they allow Users of the Site to do whatever the hell they please with my stuff. That’s in any case how I read the “may make User Content available to users of the site who may display and redistribute it in the same way that National Geographic makes all other Content available”.
So National Geographic may sell User Content as prints or stock (of which profits the User in question doesn’t see a penny of commission), but since National Geographic makes Content available in this way users of the Site may also sell that same Content according to the rules stated by National Geographic.

So how does that sound fair to you? It kinda means that I now co-own my images with National Geographic and every other user of the National Geographic website.
I invite everyone, National Geographic employees included, to explain to me how and where -if I am- I am misunderstanding these rules.

Beautiful day, the whole day. But then when we went to town things started getting overcast and very gloomy. Luckily rain waited until almost at the end of the concerts.
We saw a few songs of Happo Radio still, and then The Rasmus and Chisu.
Great performances. And guess what? I had a whole backpack full of camera gear AND hauled around my tripod and they didn’t even blink at the entrance of the concert area. The girls had to open their purses for a random search and I even asked them “should I open my pack”, but the guy said “no need, go on in”.
We didn’t get all the way to the front, but with the 70-200mm and the 1,4x teleconverter I got a long way.
Tip of the day: don’t try to do video hand-held above your head with a D800 / Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 for 3-4 minutes. Unless you didn’t go to the gym for a work-out.

Helsinki Day - The Rasmus

D800, ISO100, 1/250 sec @ f/2.8, Nikkor 70-200mm

Helsinki Day - Chisu

D800, ISO1600, 1/350 sec @ f/4, Nikkor 70-200mm, 1.4x teleconverter

Helsinki Day - Chisu

D800, ISO1600, 1/350 sec @ f/4, Nikkor 70-200mm, 1.4x teleconverter

Helsinki Day - Chisu

D800, ISO1600, 1/350 sec @ f/4, Nikkor 70-200mm, 1.4x teleconverter

Helsinki Day - Chisu

D800, ISO1600, 1/250 sec @ f/4, Nikkor 70-200mm, 1.4x teleconverter

And just because I thought it was a fun picture (have you noticed, that whenever you are out and about shooting pictures, there ALWAYS  at some point someone or something in the picture that you don’t want to just at the moment you press the shutter?) ;)

Helsinki Day

D800, ISO800, 1/180 sec @ f/5.6, Nikkor 70-200mm

 

I can never get enough from cross-processing images (or HDR images, for that matter). I’ve done a focus-stacking mini-tutorial before, and I know there’s only so many times you can do a tutorial, so I won’t explain everything in detail again, but I still wanted to show this example with another subject/object than a flower.

A week or so ago I posted some pictures of a water tap with a droplet falling. I took a good number of shots, and I thought it’d be a nice one to do a focus stacking with. The nice thing about that image -I think- was the narrow DoF, and that was at the same time the pain in the ass, because it made focusing really critical. Since with a subject like this it’s impossible to get everything in focus in one shot, I took a series of shots and put them together in Photoshop (CS6, I upgraded! And loving it! :) ).

Here are the originals:

Focus stacking originals

D800, ISO1600-ISO3200, 1/350 sec @ f/3.8-4.5, Tamron 90mm macro, 2x off-camera SB-800

I messed around with it a bit. Typically you *should* keep the settings the same and just refocus (and basically the whole thing is underexposed with 1,5-2 stops, but well… New camera, great low-light performance, etc. etc. Need to do some testing every now and again.

Brought them all into Photoshop and after it (the focus stacking) and I (the necessary exposure, contrast and color adjustments) did the work, the layer palette looked like this:

Layer palette for focus stacking

The layer palette in Photoshop CS6

And the final result; quite a bit different, I can say, isn’t it?

Focus stacking mini tutorial

The end result after all the hard work