Peter Eastway writes an almost weekly newsletter from his Better Photography website (www.betterphotography.com). These are some of the more recent posts.

Composing In Camera

November 05, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death ValleyMesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death ValleyOne of the skills we can all learn is to compose in camera. For some photographers, this means composing the content of the photograph in a pleasing manner within the frame provided by the camera. And this is a great starting point.

But hopefully it’s not your end point. The idea behind composing in camera is, surely, to have in mind a final outcome. So, whether you are thinking of a square or a panorama, the idea begins when you look through the viewfinder. There is no law that states your creativity must be confined to the format of your digital sensor (or film).

Looking through the viewfinder at Mesquite earlier this year, I loved the ‘S’ shape of the dunes, but for the composition to work, I needed a little more space either side. If you click the ‘Read More’ you can see the first image, plus the two shots used to stitch a wider view.

With a zoom lens, I could have zoomed out a little wide and cropped top and bottom. With a fixed 240mm lens (like a 150mm on a full frame DSLR), I could change to a 110mm (my next widest lens), or swing the camera left and right.

The takeaway is that the best time to consider framing and frame shapes is when you are taking the photograph. You might also make cropping decisions later on in post-production, but sometimes by then it’s too late, so another suggestion I make on workshops is to shoot a scene like this with a wider lens as well – which will allow you to consider your final composition at a later time while working in Capture One, Lightroom or Photoshop.

READ MORE: COMPOSING IN CAMERA

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley

Phase One XF 100MP, 240mm Schneider, stitch, f11 @ 1/160 second, ISO 50

 

One of the skills we can all learn is to compose in camera. For some photographers, this means composing the content of the photograph in a pleasing manner within the frame provided by the camera. And this is a great starting point.

 

But hopefully it’s not your end point. The idea behind composing in camera is, surely, to have in mind a final outcome. So, whether you are thinking of a square or a panorama, the idea begins when you look through the viewfinder. There is no law that states your creativity must be confined to the format of your digital sensor (or film).

 

Looking through the viewfinder at Mesquite earlier this year, I loved the ‘S’ shape of the dunes, but for the composition to work, I needed a little more space either side. If you click the ‘Read More’ you can see the first image, plus the two shots used to stitch a wider view.

 

With a zoom lens, I could have zoomed out a little wide and cropped top and bottom. With a fixed 240mm lens (like a 150mm on a full frame DSLR), I could change to a 110mm (my next widest lens), or swing the camera left and right.

 

The takeaway is that the best time to consider framing and frame shapes is when you are taking the photograph. You might also make cropping decisions later on in post-production, but sometimes by then it’s too late, so another suggestion I make on workshops is to shoot a scene like this with a wider lens as well – which will allow you to consider your final composition at a later time while working in Capture One, Lightroom or Photoshop.

 

The view with the 240mm wasn't quite wide enough for the sense of space desired.

The angle to the right includes unwanted foliage, but this can be removed in Photoshop or Lightroom.

The angle to the left is problem free! Note, the final stitch has also been 'squished'.

 

 

And if you're interested in a photography workshop in the next 12 months or so, I have places left on trips going to Bhutan, South West USA, Antarctica and the Svalbard. Full details on the Better Photography website!

 


Can You Plan The Weather?

October 25, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Mount Runde, BanffMount Runde, BanffCan You Plan The Weather?
Banff, Canada.
Phase One XF 100MP, 240mm Schneider lens, f11 @ 30 seconds, ISO 50, 10X ND filter.


The obvious answer is no, but on a recent PODAS (Phase One Digital Art Series) workshop to Canada with Tony Hewitt, no planning was needed. After a few days of blue-bird sunshine, I was thinking the Rockies in Canada were chocolate-box sweet and the weather balmy and warm.

However as our group was saddling up for a horse ride, I changed my mind on two counts. First, I decided that two hours in the saddle wasn’t for me. Half an hour maybe, one hour if I had to, but two hours was going to do my bum in, so I let my daughter go and Tony Hewitt as well.

As they mounted their horses, the second change happened - with the weather. Dark clouds raced down the valley and the winds blew so strongly that the horses all stopped and put their rears into the wind! I figured if the horses don’t like it, it must be pretty grim.

Instead of riding a horse, I and most of the other people who were taking this journey to a dinner location, sat on the back of a cart dragged along by two magnificent beasts. We also got a little wet, but we were under cover and under blankets as the heavens opened up.

And I laughed! Boy, had I dodged a bullet!
READ MORE: CAN YOU PLAN THE WEATHER?

Banff, Canada. 
Phase One XF 100MP, 240mm Schneider lens, f11 @ 30 seconds, ISO 50, 10X ND filter.

 

The obvious answer is no, but on a recent PODAS (Phase One Digital Art Series) workshop to Canada with Tony Hewitt, no planning was needed. After a few days of blue-bird sunshine, I was thinking the Rockies in Canada were chocolate-box sweet and the weather balmy and warm.

 

However as our group was saddling up for a horse ride, I changed my mind on two counts. First, I decided that two hours in the saddle wasn’t for me. Half an hour maybe, one hour if I had to, but two hours was going to do my bum in, so I let my daughter go and Tony Hewitt as well.

 

As they mounted their horses, the second change happened - with the weather. Dark clouds raced down the valley and the winds blew so strongly that the horses all stopped and put their rears into the wind! I figured if the horses don’t like it, it must be pretty grim.

 

Instead of riding a horse, I and most of the other people who were taking this journey to a dinner location, sat on the back of a cart dragged along by two magnificent beasts. We also got a little wet, but we were under cover and under blankets as the heavens opened up.

 

And I laughed! Boy, had I dodged a bullet!

 

Of course, both Tony and my daughter had a wonderful and somewhat soggy time and they said the ride back was much better. In fact, the ride back was spectacular because the storm passed through to reveal snowfall on the peaks and patches of sunlight igniting low clouds.

 

When people travel, they often wish for good weather, but photographers generally want something a little more interesting and a passing storm will do that for you.

 

This 30 second exposure was taken just as the sun was setting, looking up at the towering peaks surrounding Banff. While the clouds already looked spectacular as they flowed over the cliffs, by blurring them their movement became that much more obvious.

 

It wasn’t a bad start to a week of amazing light and locations. My thanks to Phase One for inviting me along.

 

PHOTO FEEDBACK: I am looking for some more material for my Photo Feedback section. If you will give me permission to run your photo in this blog and potentially in an eBook in the future, without attribution (anonymously), please send me a JPG, 2000 px on the long edge. Feel free to send me an unedited JPG and your edit, with a few notes about what you’re trying to do. I’ll pick some examples that I feel I can improve or help, so if your photos are too good, I may not use them! Please send them toeastway@betterphotography.com with PHOTO FEEDBACK in the subject line.


BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR!

September 03, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Near Paradise Bay, Antarctica.
55mm lens, Phase One XF 100MP, 1/1250 second @ f8, ISO 100

 

Naturally when I packed up my four prints for APPA this year (the AIPP's Australian Professional Photography Awards) I was hoping for four Golds. I didn't send Silvers down in my case, that's for sure, but that's how they came back - four Silvers With Distinction (which means 85 or higher). Now, some readers will be tuning out, thinking Eastway is a loser with only four Silvers. Others will think he's boasting and a bit of a w*&^er since that means all four images were in the top 20% - but does all this matter?

 

No!

 

Entering competitions is about pushing yourself and learning. The benefits are already made by the time you send your entries off because of what you have learned in the process - and you're always learning and re-learning.

In this case, it was all about the use of clarity and contrast.

 

The image above has next to no clarity. It is intentionally high key, trying to emphasise the 'whiteness' of the southern continent. One of my earlier edits (which you can see below on the website), has a bucket-load of clarity. It looks quite 'interesting' at a small size, but I can assure you that when it was printed out, it looked horrible! 

With a bit of luck, I'll get another crack at this location in December 2018 (Aurora Expeditions has extended its 15% discount offer until the end of September - see the links on this page), and I'll know what to do! However, check out the other version here.... 

 

An unsatisfactory result.

 

Apart from the fact it is a bit darker, the main difference is in the three-dimensional nature of the ice. The high contrast certainly has an effect and at this size, it's a bit overdone, but on a print, it simply screams 'awful'.

One of my suggestions when it comes to workflow is to leave the clarity slider and mid-tone contast operations until last. This certainly applies to producing prints (with rare exceptions). However, when working in Capture One or Lightroom and outputting files for the web or social media, I ignore this advice as the clarity (and dehaze) sliders certainly give small photos a lot of presence.

 

But presence on screen doesn't always translate to a good quality print on paper, so be careful what you wish for!

And if you're interested in a photography workshop in the next 12 months or so, I have places left on trips going to Bhutan, South West USA, Antarctica and the Silk Road. Full details on the Better Photography website!

 


ASTROLABE ISLAND

July 23, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Astrolabe Island, Antarctica.
Canon EOS 5DSR, EF11-24mm f/4L USM lens, 1/320 second @ f7.1, ISO 100

 

Astrolabe Island was just being released from the ice when we visited in December. There are lots of islands around the Antarctic Peninsula and the ones you visit are often determined by the weather as much as anything else. And while Deception Island is a favourite, my time at Astrolabe Island was quite fruitful.

 

The accompanying photos show how an ultra wide-angle lens can create a great sense of depth and perspective, especially when you have something of interest in the foreground. All these photos are taken from a zodiac, an inflatable dingy. I'm seated and leaning over the edge, so my camera is maybe 30 centimetres above the water for most of them. I'm filling the frame with the detail of the foreground.

 

At the same time, the ultra wide-angle lens turns towering peaks into relatively small, insignificant landmarks on the horizon. Photographers have a love-hate relationship with ultra wide-angles because in order to fit everything in (to create that amazing perspective), they have to shrink everything and so you are at risk of losing the grandeur of many locations.

 

To bring out the texture in the ice and water, I use contrast. Sometimes it's just a contrasty curve adjustment layer, but I also use clarity in Capture One (or Lightroom), and the high pass filter technique with a soft or hard light blend mode in Photoshop. However, I generally add this contrast in locally - meaning I brush it in over the foreground, but don't touch the background (or if I do, I use a different setting for the background as normally I don't want it to be as contrasty and strong as the foreground).

 

And for those fortunate enough to be thinking about it, I have a photo tour going to Antarctica in December 2018 (back for Christmas) with Aurora Expeditions. And there's a 15% discount offer on some berths if you book before 30 September this year, so if this is sounding like you, visit the website and have a look here.

 

And here are a few more photos from Astrolabe Island... 

 

More views of Astrolabe Island.

 

And if you're interested in a photography workshop in the next 12 months or so, I have places left on trips going to Bhutan, South West USA and the Silk Road. Full details on the Better Photography website!

 


PENGUIN PARTS

July 16, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Young King Penguin, Gold Harbour, South Georgia.
Canon EOS 5DSR, EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXT, 1/400 second @ f5.6, ISO 100

 

When you travel to Antarctica and South Georgia, one guarantee can be made: you will see penguins and lots of them!

 

In terms of photography, a rookery of penguins makes a great composition because of the incredible repetition of shapes. Standing, on nests, young near old - there are lots of variations and all you really need is a standard lens to capture it.

 

However, whether penguins or giraffes, there's a part of me that likes to photograph parts of animals. Sometimes they make interesting geometric shapes, sometimes it's just a tail or some wing feathers that make the photograph.

 

The lead image is the back of a young King Penguin. The tiny white feathers are possibly not from this penguin, but picked up from others. There have been occasions in Antarctica when it looked like it was snowing there were so many feathers in the air.

 

To take these photos, you need a long telephoto lens. A lot of these were taken with a 560mm or 600mm lens and both Sigma and Tamron make super zooms that reach out to 600mm for not too much money. Canon, Nikon and Fujifilm all have 100-400mm zooms which are reasonably priced when you compare them with the f2.8 and f4 super telephoto lenses. So, there are ways to get super telephoto performance without super high prices.

 

If I were going to Antarctica, I'd take the longest zoom I could, just for photos like these!

 

And funny I should mention that because I have a photo tour going to Antarctica in December 2018 (back for Christmas) with Aurora Expeditions. And there's a 15% discount offer on some berths if you book before 30 September this year, so if this is sounding like you, visit the website and have a look here.


And here are a few more penguin parts…

 

Some additional penguin parts.

 

And if you're interested in a photography workshop in the next 12 months or so, I have places left on trips going to Bhutan, South West USA and the Silk Road. Full details on the Better Photography website!

 


THE PROBLEM WITH SHEEP

July 09, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

The Cabin, Middlehurst Station, New Zealand
Phase One A-Series 100MP, 23mm Alpagon, 1/10 second @ f5.6, ISO 50

 

After our Middlehurst Photo Art workshop last year, we shot (err, photographed) sheep again this year, but I haven't processed the blurred shots as yet. However, what we did discover was this wonderful old shack.

 

We arrived just on dusk while doing a quick reccy of the east part of the station (it took three hours). Willy and Sue, the station owners, take turns to drive us around as neither Tony nor I are up to the task of navigating the changing river beds and narrow tracks. In fact, we stand up the back of the ute (our photography guests are warm inside) and marvel at how deftly the locals drive their vehicles. Lots of experience.

 

While the photographers were busy exploring the area around the shack, Willie grabbed his dog and practiced his own art. Now, I'm not quite sure what you call sheep herding with sheep dogs, but the way the dogs control the sheep and respond to Willy's instructions is amazing.

 

I noticed Willy herding a half a dozen sheep around and asked if he could place them in front of the shack. At the time, I couldn't get quite the wide-angle composition I wanted because of an overhanging tree (just out of frame), but looking at my frames now, I'm quite happy with the composition. Just maybe I should pick up the lone dog and move him a little further to the left?

 

Here's my Photoshop tip:

 

Even at this hour, the sky was significantly brighter than the foreground. To solve this little challenge, I processed the file out of Capture One and loaded it into Photoshop. I then used the ADPpanel+Pro to select the highlight tones in the sky (this is a luminosity masking plugin), and adjusted the resulting mask a little manually. This allowed me to darken down the sky along the horizon.

 

You'll find the ADPpanel+Pro at http://www.aarondowlingphotography.com/luminosity-action-panel/

This approach works really well, but when you have little bits of scrub and bushes along the horizon line, there are always little problem areas where the mask doesn't travel. They appear as white halo lines. My solution is to flatten the image (or copy up all the layers to a new layer) and use the healing brush, set to Darken blend mode. In this example, I sample the sky (which is lighter than the mountain) and then with a small brush size, paint over the white areas. Because the blend mode is set to darken, the brush doesn't touch the mountainside, only the white haloes.

 

Our Middlehurst workshop for 2018 appears to be fully booked, but if you would like to be waitlisted or put on the list for 2019, please touch base with Kim at kim@betterphotography.com. We are just finalizing the details for 2019 now and are thinking about July so there's a bit more snow - maybe!

 

Another view of The Cabin, Middlehurst Station, New Zealand
Phase One A-Series 100MP, 23mm Alpagon, 1/4 second @ f5.6, ISO 50

 

The River next to The Cabin, Middlehurst Station, New Zealand
Phase One A-Series 100MP, 23mm Alpagon, 1/15 second @ f5.6, ISO 50

 

And if you're interested in a photography workshop in the next 12 months, I have places left on trips going to Canada, SW USA, Bhutan and Antarctica. Full details on the Better Photography website!

 


BIG YELLOW TAXI, IRAN

June 25, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Hamadan Taxi Driver, Iran.
Canon EOS 5DSR, 70-200mm lens @ 200mm, 1/400 second @ f2.8, ISO 100

 

New York is known for its yellow taxi cabs and no doubt they are prevalent in many other cities around the world, but I'd suggest few cities have as many yellow taxis as Hamadan in Iran. On our photo tour, Nuran Zorlu and I spent a few hours loitering in the Hamadan's busy centre with our band of adventurous photographers. The Imam Khomeini square boasts a rich but decaying circumference of elegant building facades, with a hurried, bustling congestion below. Crossing the road to the park in the centre of the square was not without its challenges!


Nuran had suggested that Imam Khomeini square was a great place to sit down and observe life, but we weren't sitting very long before we found ourselves the centre of attention, with plenty of opportunities to photograph the people.


What struck me was the number of taxis, either in transit as a laneless melee around the park, or waiting in long lines for fares. The challenge was to capture them as a part of daily life. For the street scenes, I found a wide-angle lens allowed me to get close to the taxis as they whizzed past, placing them in the foreground and retaining the building facades behind.

 

As I stood on the roadside, I noticed how every taxi had its own sub-plot inside, the life of the driver and maybe his passengers, so I switched to a 70-200mm zoom and lowered my camera height. This let me look across the road into the taxis and at the driver.


On occasion I was discovered by the drivers, but never castigated. Perhaps it was because I was obviously a foreigner and somewhat of a novelty in a country that has recently re-opened its borders for general tourism.

 

There's no doubt this taxi driver knew I was there!

 

 


BACK FROM PHOTOGENIC IRAN

June 18, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

One of the side residences at the Golestan Palace, Tehran.
Canon EOS 5DSR, 11-24mm @ 11mm, 1/40 second @ f5, ISO 3200

 

At a smart new vegetarian restaurant next to an art gallery in Tehran, we were seated opposite three well-dressed women. A beautiful strawberry flan, large enough to feed a dozen people, was delivered to their table - rich, red strawberries with what appeared to be a suitably thin, crispy base, just the way I like it.

 

One of the women observed me looking at their flan. She laughed and made a couple of comments to her friends. Had I been a little obvious?

 

I asked our waitress if we could order a strawberry flan for our table, only to discover that the flan was not on the menu. My language skills didn't allow her to elaborate, but I guessed the women had brought it with them for a special occasion.

 

After we finished our main meal some time later, the strawberry flan appeared at our table. Three small slices had been consumed, leaving a generous gift from the women.

 

This gesture was to epitomise the friendly disposition of the Iranian people we met throughout our trip. Persia of antiquity was known for its luxury and entertainment and perhaps it is this generosity of spirit that has been handed down over the generations. Wherever we travelled, we'd meet people who would say, "Welcome to my country".

 

We had a little conversation with the three women. It was a birthday for one of them and when I asked her if she was 21, she looked offended and said she was only 18! I wondered if we'd be this hospitable in Australia if the roles were reversed. I'd like to think I would be, at least now.

 

Nuran Zorlu and I are just back from a remarkable journey through Iran. From a photographic perspective, it was simply exceptional. We were joined by nine photographers who also appeared to enjoy what we found. There will be more about Iran in future newsletters as I work through my files. Nuran is looking to take a group back to Iran in March/April next year, and I'd be keen to join him again in 2019.

 

Yes, there are political tensions involved, but on the ground with the 'average' Iranians, when you're walking through a market or across a field, I haven't visited a more friendly country.

 

The photo above gives you a glimpse of the opulence presented by some of the historical architecture. Iran - or Persia - goes back three or four thousand years and while some buildings have been restored in recent years, you're continually picking your jaw up off the ground as you gape in amazement at the building interiors. The walls and ceiling of this ballroom (I'm assuming) were covered in finely shaped and decorated mirrors. A remarkable space.

 

A portfolio of my Iranian photos will be up on my personal website shortly - viewwww.petereastway.com.

 

 


WHEN LANGUAGE DOESN'T MATTER

May 28, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

 

Matriarch. Areni Village, Armenia
Fujifilm X-Pro1, 16mm lens, 1/4400 second @ f1.4, ISO 200

 

I'm known as a landscape photography, but I'm also a closet people photographer. This doesn't mean I photograph them from a closet, which boggles the mind when I think what could mean. Rather I like to engage with people and, if I am brave enough, take their portrait.

 

And sometimes not speaking the language is a huge benefit. It's not like photography is a secret science anymore. And taking a photograph no longer means stealing someone's spirit or soul! So, walking up to someone, smiling, saying one or two words in their language and then pointing at your camera usually gets the question across.

 

In Georgia and Armenia last month, we stopped off in a few little villages just to take a walk around. In this village we also stopped to have lunch, so I figured the locals were used to tourists, if not photo tour tourists! Sometimes I walked around with the women on my tour because they seemed to be much better at striking up a conversation than me. On other occasions, I struck out on my own with mixed success.

 

But I enjoy the process. Very much!

 

This photograph of an ageing matriarch came about as a result of an introduction. A few of the other photographers had discovered her before lunch, so we made up an excuse to return to her home to see if the rest of us could take a photograph. I think it made her day. During the 60 seconds or so I crouched in front of her, she moved her stick here and there, but I like it best outstretched as you see it here. And I love the look she is giving her daughter behind me - "What the hell are these people doing here!"

 

We placed her on her verandah in shade and then sat back and conversed with sign language. Mehmet our guide and the matriarch's daughter managed to converse a little and she also seemed to enjoy the visit. I'm not sure they'd want a horde of photographers there every week, but I am certain it brightened up their day and will give them something to talk about with their neighbours.

 

Chances are they experienced something similar!


IS PHOTOGRAPHY IN RELIGIOUS PLACES OKAY?

May 21, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

 

Prayer in Sioni Cathedral, Tbilisi, Georgia.
Fujifilm X-Pro2, 16mm lens, 1/45 second @ f1.4, ISO 400

 

Should we take photographs inside churches, mosques and temples? And if we do, should we take photographs of people at prayer? I'm actually a little apprehensive about the different viewpoints people will have, but hopefully I can summarise my response as follows: It's okay if it is allowed and if you show respect.

 

This is Sioni Cathedral in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. I will post another photograph of the incredible paintings and artworks that decorate the walls and ceilings in another post - it is a magic place in which to take photographs. There is a sign outside saying no flash photography and I think that's a good thing because flash would indeed be intrusive on the parishioners. And of course, flash will generally kill the mood which I like to think I have captured in this image with available light.

 

On one of our visits, a member of the clergy came out and said since they were about to take holy communion, would we mind stepping outside for a while, but we would be welcome back again in half an hour. A similar approach was taken in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul when I was there a few years ago. I think this is very reasonable and I'm happy to comply.

 

Many of the more popular churches and cathedrals around the world don't allow any photography and in terms of crowd control and their priority for the parishioners, I can understand why. I think it's a pity, but as one priest explained, his church gets more complaints when they allow photography from their parishioners, than from photographers complaining they can't take photos.

 

So, if you get a chance to photograph in religious places, I suggest you be discrete. Don't interfere with other people and respect their privacy. Most of my photos do not show faces, although I'm not sure Cartier-Bresson would agree with me there. But unless I'm invited to photograph someone at prayer, there's something telling me to leave them in peace.

 

Perhaps I'm more sensitive than I thought!