When you least expect it!

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Morning blues, Lake Jonsvatnet, Trondheim, Norway. Nov 23. 2014.

This autumn has been long and warm here in Norway. Until this weekend there has been no snow or ice in the Trondheim-area where I live. However, the last days have sported sub-zero temperatures, at least at night. The days are now very short with sunrise at around 9 and sunset around 15 PM. Due to the very low angle of the sun, the blue “hour” last for at least two hours in the morning and ditto in the afternoon. Furthermore, daylight is “golden hour” quality all day long! So… life is good for a landscape-photographer!

At this time of year, the aurora borealis is also at its most intense, even though we don’t have very much of it as far south as in Trondheim. Early yesterday morning I drove to the Swedish border, a couple of hours away, to capture some night-time mountainscapes, starry skies and maybe even some aurora. When I reached my destination at around 6 am, conditions were nice. Frost in the trees, clear skies and intense stars. I worked there through the morning and well into the day before I returned home. I got a couple of nice images, and was fairly happy. Due to a long trip yesterday I decided to work locally today. Skies were grey and dull, no stars and the temperature was rapidly increasing and removing all traces of rime in grass and trees. I was a little disappointed and decided to head back home to catch breakfast with my family. I drove pass a lake on my way back and noticed some ice on the shore. I stopped my car and climbed down to the water only to realize that the skies cleared a little to the south-east, making room for a colorful sunrise. I started to work along the shore at around 8:20 am with exposure times of 30 sec at an iso of 1600 and f 5.6. Pretty dark in other words. But the little light that was there had a wonderful blue-pinkish hue and the long exposures managed to capture the colors in the skies even better than my eyes. I worked there for an hour and by then daylight was there and the magic was gone. I have processed a few of todays images and I’m pretty happy with the one above. Maybe the surprise of getting this light on an initially dull day and finding ice at the lake added to my satisfaction? After all, this was not what I expected at all…. Hope you like it, have a super week!

Dag Ole

Enchanted forest

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Enchanted forest. Bavaria, Germany, october 2014.

Enchanted forest. Bavaria, october 2014.

Driving from Garmisch-Partenkirchen towards Ammersee one day early in october, I was continuously scanning the landscape for interesting scenes. The skies were overcast and there was light rain in the air, perfect conditions for photography in the forests. After a quick lunch I passed a small but dense forest. I stopped on a small turnout and headed into the woods. On my way back the car, these wonderful twisted backlit trees caught my attention. Hope you like my image, have a wonderful weekend!

This is a new release in my gallery nordhaugphotography.com

Dag Ole

How it was made…

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Dawn, Frosta. Norway, november 2014.

 

 

Ok, so this may seem a little basic to some of you, but I’ll take my chances and post it anyway. I just wanted to share this image and how it was made.

Images of coastal landscapes are very popular. Just have a look at 500px, google+ or any other photography-site and you are likely to find hundreds of captivating, wonderful seascapes. Furthermore, it is something about the moon that adds an element of mystery or tranquility to a scene and I think the combination of long exposure seascapes with the moon often work out very well.  If you are planning to create such an image, be sure to find a good location well in time before the capture. In my opinion, important elements are a low horizon or a horizon with an interesting focal point (e.g. a mountain peak). The foreground is equally important. Be sure to include som nice rocks, a beach with sand-patterns or anything with lines leading the eye towards the sea. When you have found an interesting location, use “the photographer’s ephemeris” (iPhone app) or other programs that describe the moon’s location and phase at different dates. Find the ideal date when the moon is in the right phase and at the right place. This image features an almost full moon, which in my opinion, is not ideal. I think that either a 100% full moon or a thin crescent works best. Also, notice when sunrise or sunset is. As in any landscape-capture, the most important element of the image is the light. You want to be working at dusk or dawn when the sun is just under the horizon. At that time, the exposure differential between the landscape and the moon is not very big, and you avoid getting a pitch black landscape and a burnt out moon. At the same time the skies are still somewhat dark so that the moon stands out. These times also open the possibility for longer exposures without filters, so you can work with different exposure times to capture the movement in the water. When you have found a nice location and the ideal date and time of day to photograph, you want check the weather-forecast. If skies are totally overcast, plan for a different shot. For an image like this, ideal skies are partly cloudy, so that the emerging sun has something to enlighten. Strong winds are also ideal as it produces wonderful waves that adds to the foreground.

Ok, so you have found your location, the exact date and time of day to capture the scene, and forecasts are promising. Lucky you! Be sure to arrive at the location at least half an hour before ideal conditions and plan the details of your shot. Scrutinize the foreground elements and find the best possible composition. A wide-angle lens is ideal to emphasize the foreground, but this is a trade-off as the moon gets very small at the widest angles. Use a focal length that balances this. I have found that 24-50 mm (on full format) often work well. You definitely need a sturdy tripod and a cable release. Many use the self-timer set to 2 sec delay instead, but for capturing waves at the exact right time, that technique is not ideal. Set you tripod fairly low close to the surf to underline the foreground and the waves and use a small aperture  such as f16 or f22 to get enough depth of field. Focus on the hyperfocal point or about 1/3 into the depth of the image. Play around with different ISO’s to vary the shutter-speed as this captures different moods in the waves. This image was taken at a shutter speed of 5 sec because I wanted to blur the waves totally to add to the tranquil feeling of the scene. A shorter shutter-speed would have frozen the movement of the waves to a larger degree, and would have given a more energetic feeling to the image. If you use shutter-speeds longer than ca. 10 seconds, be aware that the moon moves and may become blurred. To get a five second exposure in this image, I used a 2 step neutral density filter. In addition, I used a 2 step graded neutral density filter to minimize exposure differential between the foreground and the sky and moon.

If you are totally unfamiliar with these techniques, be sure to practice before the ideal date and time!

Also, there are numerous digital techniques to help you in creating images like this. Most obvious is of course adding a moon to a nice landscape in Photoshop by merging two files. Many (including me) find that such images may look very unnatural, so be aware. I have used this technique from time to time, but always pasted a moon from another image taken at the same time and location on top of the moon that was there in the original file! This may be to minimize exposure differential or to enlarge the moon slightly. But as mentioned, be aware that this may look very un-natural and awkward if not done very carefully and subtle. Also, techniques of focus-stacking to get infinite depth-of-field or HDR techniques to minimize exposure differential may be employed. However, if you choose to use digital techniques like this, remember that this does not compensate for bad originals. I think it is always best to get the original as good as possible even though this may involve some compromises e.g. size of the moon etc. This image is made from one single raw-file and only minimally adjusted. I hope you like it, and feel free to comment and follow me if you like my work. Have a super weekend!

Dag Ole

Wallpaper, anyone?

Morning shores

 

This image was captured the same morning as the image in a previous posting, “perspectives”. I specifically composed this image for wallpaper-use on my new iPhone 6. The wallpaper-version is cropped slightly different from the image above, and optimized for the iPhone 6 screen-resolution, but is otherwise basically identical. In my humble opinion, it worked out quite well on the phone. So now I’m considering making a gallery on my homepage with this one and a few other images that I think could work well as wallpapers. For a limited time, I’m planning to give them away as free downloads. What do you think? Is this a good idea, would you consider downloading this? I’ll give it a thought for a few days, then we’ll see. In the meantime, I hope you like my image, have a splendid weekend! I will soon be back with more posts, so stay tuned!

 

Dag Ole

Landscapephotography with the “nifty-fifty”

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Evening light, Riessersee. An example of my “straight” style. Shot from eye-level at a “normal-range” focal length.

As I described in my last posting, I tend to compose most of my images “straight” without a deep dominant foreground or other striking perspectives. When I am at a location, I like to use long time to study the subject and investigate different angles and views, as well as light and other elements, but I most often find myself composing the image straight forward without any awkward perspective. Furthermore, I have turned more and more towards shooting in the “normal range” of focal lengths, from 35-ish to about 70mm.

The lens I use most for my landscape-work is the Nikkor 24-70 f.2.8. Big and heavy, yes, but very solid. It is also very sharp compared to most other normal-zooms. However, when I sometimes have photographed the same subject with one of my other favorite lenses, either the Nikkor 14-24 or the Nikkor 70-200, I just can’t help myself in thinking that these two latter lenses give an image that is just a tad crisper. At least when pixel-peeping. Now – for most pictures this is not a problem, but since 80 % of my work is done with the 24-70, I started to look for an alternative that was even sharper. I used to have some primes that were nice and crisp, but as the hikes got longer and longer, I  switched to zooms some time ago to minimize the gear. Primes does however almost always have an advantage over zooms when it comes to resolution, so I decided to investigate some primes further. For my shooting style a 50mm would be ideal. There are lots of primes in the marked in this range, mostly lightweight and good, but most have a flaw in some feature. When the first rumors about the Zeiss Otus 55mm 1.4 started about a year ago, I thought that I had found my holy grail. I was about to pull the trigger on the Otus this spring when I first heard about the new Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art. As the reviews of the Sigma 35mm Art had been fantastic, especially for resolution, I decided to wait and see what the reviews said about the 50mm Art. It turned out that most reviews were extremely positive, and of course at less than one-third of the price of the Otus ($950 vs $3000), this was a lens to seriously consider. After all, one can have a lot of fun for the $2000 difference…. Also, the Sigma has autofocus, the Otus doesn’t. Maybe not very important for landscape-work, but nice to have.

I bought the Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art a couple of months ago and have used it a lot. The first thing that struck me was how solid it is built. It gives a real heavy-duty impression and is on par with my professional-grade nikkors. However, it is not weather-sealed, a definite disadvantage for me. Furthermore, it is very big and heavy, at least for a 50 mm prime, but it is a little smaller than the Zeiss Otus.  But the sharpness….wow. A photography buddy of mine stated that the images were so crisp that it almost hurt his eyes! And I will not argue. Even wide open, the sharpness, both centre and corner, is extremely good. From f4 it is amazing. I think this is the first lens I have had that really takes out the full potential of the 36mp sensor in my d800’s. Bokeh is smooth and nice for landscape work, vignetting and distortion negligible. Fringing is less of a problem than with my zooms, and is easily removed in postprocessing. I have not tried the Otus, but I doubt that I will look any further for a go-to normal prime. For landscape-work (at least in dry conditions, and if you like to shoot “straight”) this lens comes highly recommended from me! By the way, I have no affiliation with Sigma.

Thanks for visiting and reading, have a nice week!

Dag Ole

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At 8.5 x 10 cm and 815g the SIgma 50mm 1.4 Art is a real chunk of gear. But it gives amazingly crisp images!

Perspectives….

Receding storm and sunrise

Receding storm and sunrise. Trondheim, november 2014.

To many, landscape-photography is synonymous with a wide-angle, low perspective, a dominant dramatic foreground and an interesting backdrop. If you look at photography-sites like 1x.com, 500px and photo-forums on google+ you will probably find that a huge share of landscape-photos are made after this recipe. And in many cases the result is astonishing! But not always. Unfortunately, I believe that the concept to some extent has been subject to inflation. My own portfolios are no longer dominated by such images. It may be my 40 years old knees talking, but I find that as the years has gone by, I shoot more and more from normal, upright eye-level. And my mostly used focal lengths are in the range of 35-70mm. I even use my 70-200 a lot for landscape-work! This yields more “formal” or “straight” landscape-images, and I tend to like that more and more. If you look at the wonderful portfolios of amazing photographers like Charles Cramer, Guy Tal and G. Dan Mitchell, you will see what I mean. So – what am I trying to say? Well, I believe that the image should first and foremost be about the subject matter and how it affects the artist, not about the photographers position or choice of focal length. If I don’t get any connection or emotional response from the landscape, the image seldom gets any better if I lie down on my belly. In my opinion, choice of lens and perspective are merely integral parts of the composition and should not alone be the dominant feature of the image. The perspective alone doesn’t make a bad image good. However, if the foreground is an important part of what I am trying to convey, I have no problem with mounting my 14-24 and lie down on my belly. Like this morning, when the image above was captured. According to the forecast, sunrise was to coincide with a receding storm and a high tide. Wonderful, energetic waves, crashing against the rocky beach dominated the scene when I arrived this morning, and of course I had to enhance that! Hope you like it! Did I get wet? You bet…! And my knees still hurt…

You may consider this post about perspective, focal lengths and “formal eye-level shooting” as an introduction to my next post. I will discuss this a little more and as part of that discussion I will give some details about one of my new lenses, the Sigma 50mm f.1.4 Art. Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

PS: this image will soon be released in my gallery at nordhaugphotography.com

Dag Ole