Passenger: recommendations to photograph in the highway

lonely vertical

Lonely vertical

I travel by bus; planes are expensive and I’m not in a hurry. I know the highlands, the valleys, deserts, the coast, and a bit of the jungle. I like to take snapshots of the landscape and I’ve a method that could be useful to you.

Ready to go
caution a

Caution

In first place you need to see. To observe requires you enjoying the view from the window. Otherwise is the camera the one travelling and not you. Of course this suggestion is valid if you are like me, a guy that enjoys to travel, if you are a photographer then you can skip them. This is because there are two kind of persons, the ones that take photographs of the travels they enjoy and the other a person that travels to get photographs in a portfolio to show/sell. Rarely you can be both at the same time.

You can use any camera, just try to turn off any flash in your camera so you are not going to take photos of its reflection against the window. The problems you are going to find and their solutions are the following:

  • Reflections in the window: Reduce them with a polarizer filter
rocky castle

Rocky castle

If you see the photograph in the blue sky and the top of the rock you can see reflections of the opposite windows of the bus. They could have been even worse but the polarizer helped to reduce to the maximum any reflection.

little cloud

Little cloud

In this photograph instead the polarizer got rid of any reflection.

  • Color casts from the window: use software to correct it
Towers hill

Towers Hill

The colors across the windows are going to be a bit twisted and sometimes funny. To correct them you can use editing software with white balance correction, there are both free and paid programs. Usually you can pick an object known to be white (a painted wall, a sign, a cloud) and it automatically correct it. Nevertheless still the colors can end different because windows aren’t made to be optical elements but protection and source of light. A raw file is easier to correct than the common jpeg file.

One thing you can do is accept that fact and take advantage of the differences in colors.

  • Poles and obstacles: take quickly a second photograph
a scream in the sky

A scream in the sky

When you are traveling the car can be on the road at high speeds. So there is no way to carefully design a composition. Some like to use bracketing, I don’t like to do that, I prefer to preview in my mind how is going to change the perspective, wait until it and shot like a Jabusame (a Japanese archer on a running horse) but it’s possible that the mind reacts by instinct when there is something in the landscape. I take a photograph to discover a pole or a sign, so quickly I shot it again.

  • Blown highlights: use a graduated filter
summoning clouds

Summoning clouds

You can take a photograph and suddenly you see that this happened: the land is according to your eyes but the sky is almost white and without detail. In these cases a graduated filter is mandatory, of course you can recover in software (specially with the last cameras) but the less time you live in front of a computer the better.

  • Discover stories: observe the highway
Waiting for the driver

Waiting with loyalty

Along the highway there are evidences of stories. The most of them have not an obvious explanation because people in the countryside is always different. What happened to that car? Is the dog a watcher or is just resting? the scars of sun and rain in the textiles give a sense of time too. A story for a detective.

  • Dirty windows give flares: take advantage of them!
Beyond the ground a luminous place

Beyond the ground a luminous place

I love flares! If you don’t like them then a lens hood could help you. In my case I like how the dirty windows (they’re always dirty) transform the light and get a diffuse and low contrast image.

  • Difficulty in taking photographs at twilight and night: get the most of those hours
glazing eye

Glazing eye

It doesn’t matter if you have a cell phone or a giant camera: in broad day they can get nice pictures. The problem is with low light, the most basic the camera the blinder it is to low light scenaries. In those circunstances a tripod and a long exposure would be the option but in a car in movement that is just impossible. In this moment technology matters and the best camera is going to give you more useable photographs. To this first photograph I used a Fujifilm X-E1 camera and a fast 1.4 fujinon lens.

If you can get a camera with a big sensor then the night is going to be open to you. Quality films have usually low sensivity to light so they aren’t suitable for these dark hours.

Somebody else in the highway

Somebody else in the highway

In this photograph I used my Sony R1, it has a big sensor but it’s quite old so it’s a bit blind to the night. So I used a long exposure to get the lights of the passing cars. I knew I couldn’t get a sharp photograph but I could get photographs with movement.

Four neighborrs

Four neighbors

End of the travel
Follow the line

Follow the line

So the travel ends, usually when the night is closer. Time to rest and be ready for the next trip…

last bus to the city

Last bus to the city

Fill flash

Ruins after the night

Fill flash at 1/2000 of second

Fill flash is a technique to use the flash in your camera in broad daylight to illuminate the shadows of objects closer to the camera. Because, you know, photography is about the light. It’s quite useful in the beach and other places where the sun is intense and the camera register almost black shadows (never forget: the camera cannot see what your eyes see) For example in the photograph above the shadows of the midday hide the textures and colors of the rocks, the fill flash allowed me to laugh about the problem ;-) you can see the rocks in the distance, how the shadows are just a black void.

But… Is it not easier to use software?

Nop, here an example. The following photograph was shot in midday without fill flash:

No processed

Shot without fill flash, the wall in under the shadow

The photograph has no processing and the colors aren’t the ones of the reality because I programmed my camera to have the less contrast and saturation possible to process in home (but that is post for another day). Let’s try to correct the shadows in software with this file and the best we get is this:

Processed

The same photograph but modified in software

Shadows tend to be blue so I warmed the image and illuminated the sadows, incremented the saturation the closer to the natural tones and tried to give it more life. Better but know let’s see the same scene with fill flash:

Behind the wall

Processed photograph

Can you notice the change? It has more life, the colors are shining, there is more happiness and it’s closer to what our minds see, because the brain compensate when there are strong shadows. As you can see the flash effect is sublte because it hasn’t erase the shadows but just illuminate them enough to show the colors and details.

To say it in a few words I use this technic to give life to the photographs. I use flash at day and never at night. See the apple and the marble:

alone in the Andean plateau

 

I love apples :P Fill flash is great for portraits because it gives light to the eyes… the same with this apple. Let’s see what happens with a bit of flash:

red sun in marble cliff

The flash illuminates marble and apple in a natural way

With software (HDR for example) it couldn’t end in a natural way.

Speaking of eyes, I have not one from somebody else that gave me an authorization so I’m using a selfie. See, the flash gives a spark to my eyes, it helps a lot to give the impression of life, it’s in the beach and also helps to reduce the shadows:

fill flash example

See the eyes *_*

But there is a catch: you cannot use a camera with interchangeable lenses… they have a nature that make them slow with flashes. The first photograph was shot at 1/2000 of second, the most of cameras with interchangeable lenses just can get until 1/250 of second which is far from the needed speeds at midday or sunny day, I think they need special external flashes to accomplish high speeds. If you have a compact camera as I do you are not going to have problem using the flash in any moment of the day.

These are some more photographs with fill flash:

A river of white light

The boat was under the shadow… although the flash was quite strong with the foreground

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A flower in the Titicaca, otherwhise I could got a black flower or a white sky

flash

I avoided a silhouette, The flash illuminated the foreground

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

here the flash perhaps is a bit hars, you can use a diffuser

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I used the flash to illuminate and at the same time give sparks to the metalic surface

Survivor trcrawling to  the water

Without the flash the camera would just got a black mess…

And that’s all, I hope it helps you.

How to post your Flickr photographs on WordPress

little man

Little Man

(2019 update. Flickr was adquired by another company and free accounts are limited to 1000 photographs. They are very reasonable about the reasons. But in relation to the photographes I posted… I had to get time to resize them and using the storage of WordPress. I could leave one thousand photographs here and in Flickr but it would not be a good idea in the long term. I am leaving online this method if you want to use this method for your WordPress)

WordPress gives you 3GB of storage to upload photographs. Sounds a lot but it’s not, I don’t have time to resize my thousands of photographs and I post a photograph every day, and one day a week I post longer articles with several photographs to illustrate travels or ideas. Today I’ve in Flickr 32GB of photographs. I can’t consider to purchase a professional WordPress to get more storage because it’s just a hobby and it would horrible if some year I couldn’t pay the annual fee and suddenly my readers just would see black images.

My solution: storage my photographs in Flickr (it makes it for free) and share the links here.

The result: after more than five hundreds posts I’ve only used 17MB of my 3GB. Almost nothing.

How to do it:

1.-To the photographs previously updated left click in the arrow, that’s the button to get the links

how to post (0)

 

2.- In the menu that is going to be displayed select BBCode and the size you want to publish on WordPress

how to post (1)

 

3.- Grab just a part of the resulting link. Otherwise you’re not going to get option to add caption and a link

how to post (2)

 

For example. The complete link would be: [url=https://flic.kr/p/u1g4TS][img]https://farm1.staticflickr.com/350/18380922274_862f6b4119_b.jpg[/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/u1g4TS]How to post c[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/people/12349353@N03/]Francis. R[/url], on Flickr

You have to paste just the highlighted part. I call it the second body of the link. Flickr doesn’t support an easier way to share (as I want) photographs to WordPress so I had to use several trial and errors until get this method.

4.- Open the option to add photographs in WordPress

how to post (3)

 

5.- Paste the fragment of the link I indicated and fill the optional data if you wish

how to post (4)

 

Sometimes when there are several photographs I type the captions to each photograph. When the caption is the title then I leave it in blank. Optionally you can add a link so you can direct the photograph to the full screen version in Flickr. If you don’t want to do it then this is your last step. If you want to do it then see the next steps.

6.- To set a link to the photograph first in Flickr make it full screen and copy the link of the web browser

how to post (5)

 

7.- Paste the link in the post and end clicking “Insert in post” option

how to post (6)

 

And that’s all! I hope this little manual can serve you ;-)

84.5mm medium reversed Graduated ND Square Filter Review

Emerging rock

Filter applied to reproduce the tones of sunset. The darker part coincide with the lower part of the sky.

(Disclaimer: I’m not related to 84.5mm, this review is not sponsored and I bought the filters with my own money)

Continuing my series of reviews today I present my thoughts about a reverse graduated filter manufactured by 84.5mm in Slovakia. Their filters have great quality at an accessible price, but first some basic data:

  • What is a Reverse Graduated ND Square Filter? Is a filter that can be made of glass or resin with a half part totally clear and the other half darkened, this dark half usually is darker in the top and less dark in the end of its half, but in a reversed filter the darker part is at the bottom. It’s square so it needs a holder to put in front of the lens; ND stands for neutral density so it shouldn’t deform the colors of your scene. In short it’s like put a shadow in part of the front of your lens.
  • Do I need a Reverse Graduated ND Filter? If you shot landscapes, sunsets, sunrises… yes! Because the camera cannot see what your eyes can see in terms of highlights and shadows. If your camera is old then absolutely, but if you have a camera manufactured in 2014 or 2015 with a big sensor then not so much, you can simulate more or less successfully the effect with any modern raw converter.
  • Which one to buy? The cheapest you get is probably to be unusable for you. The cheapest ones have magenta casts. There are brands like Lee that sells them but they are expensive to my budget so I canont say much about them, the only problem with the most of companies that make them is that they are mostly made of resin and they always get scratches. I can say that 84.5mm’s filters are of quite good quality with a great price but they’re also made of resin (optical glass) and recently Chinese companies have real glass reverse graduated filters that I want to try next to reduce the costs to be buying one new every year.
  • Why you don’t use a soft or strong graduated ND filter? I can use my reverse filter to replace those filters, I’ll explain it with more detail.

The filter in the camera

845mm medium reversed nd mounted in camera

84.5mm medium reversed ND mounted in camera. It’s attached via a Cokin type “P” holder, it allows me to rotate it to any position I want.

How it looks with lens in mode tele

The filter is unfocused here, but it shows the effect. The sky under the “shadow” of the filter get the tones I see with my eyes and the the clear part is crystal clear.

THE 84.5mm REVERSE GRADUATED FILTER IS IDEAL FOR ME TO
SUNSETS AND SUNRISES
Ilo's Magic Sun

The darker part of the filter in the lens in mode tele coincides with the position of the sun rendering perfectly with the subtle warm tones.

I don’t use soft or hard graduated filters because they are darker in the upper part, and the sun never is going to be in the upper part in sunsets and sunrises.

Also I prefer to use graduated filters over digital techniques like HDR because in that part of the day usually there is wind or movement. And it feels more honest, of course every photograph here was shot in RAW and processed, but with the goal to get a photograph closer to what my eyes saw.

mars countryside

Stitched image with three photographs. The filter helped to get the field illuminated and the colors in the mountains show the highlights perfectly rendered, without it either the fields had been dark or the sky almost white.

The ending sunset

As in the previous photograph the fields are not black despite the sun has gone and the sky shows detail in the clouds. Notice how the tree look like a silhouette but it’s the natural way we looked we our eyes.

CLOUDY DAYS
colina insinuada

Without the filter the detail of the fog and clouds hadn’t be so well rendered.

cloudy morning

This photograph could look not so amazing but the detail I got in the shining parts of the morning is amazing, without the filter that white line would be just something empty.

I made my road with nocturnal fire

The clouds have such a drama… the filter allowed to make it possible, for me it’s vital to landscapes, its effect is quite subtle in comparison to using only digital tools, at least in older cameras.

 

TO BE CREATIVE
azulado

I darkened the top of the hills, so the silhouette could make them more impressive.

If you use this filter just to avoid clipped highlights then you’re using it just mechanically, you are not exploding the creative opportunities this filter opens for you. You can add drama shadowing parts of the scene, highlighting other parts. It can helps you not just to reproduce an scene but to say what you want to mean.

errant

I darkened the part of the distant city, it was so shiny and my goal was to highlight the errant animal, its loneliness.

Walking into the sea

The darkest part of the filter coincides with the crashing waves in the foreground, so they could conserve their details, another benefit is that the stones are silhouettes so they contrast better with the clear water.

I CAN USE IT AS A SOFT FILTER
frozen time

I used a reverse filter with this landscape and I didn’t need a soft graduated filter (another thing in the bag, nah!)

What happens when you use a reverse grad on a landscape that is not flat? usually something unnatural like this:

with 845mm medium reversed nd

The darkest part literally is cutting the hills, in this case it doesn’t look natural so except for an artistic interpretation try to avoid this.

For comparison this is the same lanscape without the filter. More natural… but now the clouds are overblown. In this case you need a graudated soft filter:

without 845mm medium reversed nd

Without the filter. As you can see for the lost highlights in the clouds a graduated filter still would be necessary.

The trick is quite simple: buy a reverse graduated filter whose dark part is bigger than the diameter of your lens so you can invert the filter and align the middle (the darkest part) with the top of your lens and the top (the less dark part) with the bottom. Then it would be similar to another filter called attenuator. That way I make photographs in landscapes with hills.

forgotten empire

Using my method I can use the reverse gnd like a soft filter.

THIS FILTER (OR ANY SIMILAR) IS NOT FANTASTIC FOR
QUITE IRREGULAR SHAPES
across the hill a gold land

I loved the clouds in the part illuminated by the sunset so I used the filter despite annulling the hills.

A shape in “V” is quite complicated to resolve with graduated filters. Perhaps HDR could be useful but that’s another complication I don’t want to introduce into my shots.

WIDE ANGLE LENSES
remember the future

See the tree in the right. It’s noticeable the line of the shadow of the filter. I cropped it to dissimulated it a bit but you can see it.

In wide angle lenses the line of these filters is more noticeable, a way to reduce it is reducing the aperture to f8 for example. Here I admit that a soft gnd would be ideal, but I can live without it (2019 update: I ended getting a soft gnd from 84.5mm hehe, they are useful /n\).

CONCLUSIONS
PROS
  • High quality filter with no color casts.
  • Very affordable prices with regular promotions.
  • They send worldwide (I live in Peru)
  • Several lines for cokin P size and professional size.
  • Resistance to flares.
  • Durable considering the material.
CONS
  • They’re made of resin, durable but they scratch anyway. These days Chinese have lines in high quality glass.
  • They don’t sell a box to storage them, in their package they scratch with the time and to the size I choose, taller than the square Cokin P filters but with 84.5mm of width hence the name, there is no box were to reduce the damage.
VERDICT

They are the best alternative in relation quality/price I got. So I bought one the last year and another one this year. But this is a hobby to me so I cannot justify to buy every year again and again, in my personal case I’m going to buy a Chinese one, a bit pricier but not so much. If you are used to resin filters I can recommend warmly these filters for you.

*UPDATE: You can see the official page of 84.5mm with the e-shop here.

so many kinds of light

perfect landscape

Tablet vs APS-C Camera

steps color blood

Steps color blood (Samsung Galaxy Tab P7500)

Twilight of blue, white and red

Twilight of blue, white and red (Sony R1, aps-c camera)

As I wrote the past week these comparisons are not meant to declare winners, they aren’t technical images but curiosity about the difference among the use of different cameras. If something I’ve learned is that the best is to just use one camera.

I like both images, but the first from the tablet required more edition to match what I saw with my eyes because the colors were dull, the white balance quite warm and the sky a bit washed out. There is one minute of difference between these photographs.

Which one is more closer to reality? The one with the old Sony R1. The sky had that blue, the light in the wall was soft and not harsh as the tablet version could suggest. Despite that I think the tablet version ended quite expressive.

Which one is more convenient to use? In this case the tablet was easier to use. The Sony needed a tripod (it has a bad high iso response) with little freedom to shoot. The tablet was just point and shoot. I know there is noise but I don’t see nothing wrong or bad in that.

Fight!: Photographing the same subject with different types of cameras – A

Film versus Digital
autumn void film

FILM: Canon EF film camera with Canon FD 50mm F1.8 and expired roll of Kodak Proimage 200

autumn void digital

Digital: Sony R1, APS-C camera. Processed in Capture One and vignetting artificially added to match film rendering.

I shot these ones in closer moments at twilight, when the light change so fast. As my goal is not to do technically perfect photographs but learn from other mediums, in this case 35mm film, to apply to my main digital camera I added vignetting and modified the saturation to the digital file. In so little light, both are long exposures, I couldn’t see how would be the depth of field and certainly the 1.8 in the canon lens has much thinner depth of field compared to the zoom lens in an aps-c camera.

I processed the photograph to match the one I liked more.

Modern APS-C Digital Camera (Fujifilm X-E1) versus Old APS-C Digital Camera (Sony R1)
curviline x-e1

Modern APS-C camera. Fujifilm X-E1 with Fujinon F1.4 R lens.

curvinline r1 version

Old APS-C camera. Sony R1 with fixed Carl Zeiss lens set to match the Fujinon lens focal length.

I’m happy with both versions. I processed the RAW files of both cameras to match colors and cropped both for aesthetical reasons. The Fujifilm has more pixels, the lens seems sharper and with more contrast but with the Sony I can get great results too, at least at day.

Film versus cheap Cellphone
time and nature eating the old city

Film. Canon EF camera and Canon FD 50mm F1.8 lens with expired roll agfaphoto 200.

trees of ayavirir

Cellphone camera. 2 mpx. and focal length equivalent to 35mm in 35mm format. Cropped slightly to match better the film version.

In this point the bad quality of an expired roll of film and the poor lens and the tiny sensor of the camera makes obligatory I think the use of digital filters to compensate. But that’s for my personal taste. I edited the cell phone camera so much time ago, I know that today I could get it closer to the film one.

***

Is there a winner?

Nope, shot anything you want, use any tool which you feel comfortable, have fun, stop to read this blog turn off your tablet or computer and get out, any camera of today can record memories. Life is shorter to live it according to the thoughts of others.

I shoot with different cameras for curiosity and the bigger I printed is A3 (what is little to my architectural projects that can go beyond A0) Personally I just want comfort in a camera and composition in my mind, any camera today is good for that task ;-)

Haida Slim Pro II MC ND1000 Review

spirit of wayra

Exposure of 25 seconds

Today I’ll continue my reviews of the filters I lost. In this occasion is the turn of  the Haida ND1000. Let’s begin with general questions:

  • What is a ND 1000 filter? Is a dark or Neutral Density filter that reduces the light forcing the camera to take longer time exposures capturing the motion; indeed it forces the camera by a factor of 1000 (one thousand or ten f-stops) so if your camera normally would take a photograph in 1/1000 of second with this filter will take the same scene in one second, if normally it requires 1/250 of second with the filter it will need 4 seconds.
  • Do I need a ND filter? It depends, if you like to photograph the motion of people, wind, or water then it could be quite useful to you, otherwise it could end forgotten in a bag.
  • Which one to buy? You get what you pay for. They aren’t specially expensive but, if your lens can accept filters, I suggest you to play with the cheapest filter you can find and if you like the effect then buy one of the highest quality. This kind of filter is easy to introduce color casts in your images that are hard to edit even in raw so a good filter as Haida pays its price quickly with the security to shot more outside than be in from of a boring screen.

The Haida ND1000 got great reviews in internet compared with the best brands but with a more affordable price so I purchased one online, I wouldn’t guess that it would be a filter I would use so much. My lens starts with 24mm (equivalent to aps-c sensors) and as I usually stack it with a polarizer I got the slim version to don’t end with heavy vignettings in my photographs.

This is how it looks in the field:

portrait of a fujifilm x-e1

 

As you can see it’s like a black hole in the camera :D With longer exposures a tripod is a must so I have a lightweight tripod. Well, enough of technical details: let’s go to the pics!

THE HAIDA SLIM PRO II MC ND1000 WAS FANTASTIC FOR ME TO:
Capturing the motion of water
A light that shines in the dark forest

Exposure of 30 seconds

Longer exposures renders the water in an almost dreamy way, it emphasize the gentle movement. Usually used with waterfalls it can get a nice effect in any body of flowing water.

sinking hand

without filter: exposure of 1/2000 of second

subtle fingers

With filter, same scene exposure of 4 seconds. I reduced the aperture to get a longer exposure. There is no color cast but I set warmer white balance to get a warm atmosphere.

I like both photographs, simply they have different composition, one works with surfaces and the other isolate an static element in middle of the flow of the water.

Avoiding color casts
Tree thinking about the river

ten seconds exposure

If you want to know if your filter is of low quality you can discover it seeing if your photographs look like shot under the red Sun of Krypton. The magenta cast is synonym of cheap and besides artistic intentions you shouldn’t use it in your lenses. Said that the Haida are definitively excellent considering that ND 1000 filters usually have color casts, even the ones from the big names. You just need to be aware to do one thing: Set your white balance to auto. Manually I didn’t get nice results and took a bit more time to edit. Despite that there is a minimal cast, although it’s so little that sometimes I don’t see the need to correct it.

Singer stream

without filter, exposure of 1/125 of second

Bow my branches to the sound of the water

with filter. Exposure of eight seconds. Note how the clouds are less prone to clipped highlights. The color is intentionally warmer

I like both photographs but after shooting the first one I noticed that despite the use of the polarizers the elements under the stream weren’t highlighted as I wanted so I used the filter to allow me to “erase” details to the stream.

Capturing the wind and time
akapana wayra

Exposure of five seconds and a windy day

I'll wait for you an eternity and one day more

Exposure of 30 seconds

Other uses are to reduce people in touristic places but I didn’t get a chance to try that option.

WHEN THIS (OR OTHER SIMILAR) FILTER IS NOT FANTASTIC
When the light is poor
old port

8 seconds exposure

Actually at twilight the filter can take several seconds or minutes but that’s overkill, you could get the same effect with a ND filter of less intensity. The photograph above was quite dark so the next ones needed much more time.

When stacking with another filters
don't go

30 seconds exposure stacked with circular polarizer to give some transparency to the water

In this photograph I stacked the Haida filter with my also lost Marumi circular polarizer, I can see a little of vignetting. I tried with a graduated filter but it was tough to position it in the composition because the ND 1000 is black. You can set the focus manually and with care set the graduation of the circular polarizer but with a square graduated filter you are better serviced with a square ND 1000 filter, so you can put in position the filters and after that slide in the ND 1000 filter.

CONCLUSIONS
Pros
  • High quality filter.
  • Almost no color cast setting in auto white balance.
  • Affordable price.
  • It has a square version too both made of great glass.
  • Good presentation.
  • The coatings work.
Cons
  • The ring has no texture so it could be hard to separate if is attached to another filters.
VERDICT

This filter allowed me to photograph movement so I could say this is an essential filter. It has characteristics of the famous brands so if you are an amateur like me this is probably your best choice. Now I’m going to try a brand called H&Y so I’ll tell you if that is an option too. A pair more from the Haida meanwhile ;-)

difussed and quite light in the remains of an empire

Exposure of 2.6 seconds

Blended sky and earth

1.6 seconds of exposure under an intense sun and the landscape turned with more contrast and definition :-)