Peter Eastway writes an almost weekly newsletter from his Better Photography website (www.betterphotography.com). These are some of the more recent posts.
Mullimburra Point, NSW (Preliminary edit)
Phase One XT 150MP, 28mm Rodenstock, f11 @ 30 seconds (frame averaging), ISO 100
There are two schools of thought when it comes to travel and photography. One school says let's go somewhere new, somewhere different, somewhere exciting. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it's a flop, but the experience of travelling into the unknown can be addictive.
The second school says that travelling photographers can't understand a location and experience it properly with a single, short trip. Especially if we're trophy photographers, it's unreasonable of us to expect the amazing light and climactic conditions we've seen in the hero photos of a location. Sure, we can be lucky from time to time, but statistics indicate that to get great light and conditions we need to allocate more time. Time improves our chances and that's why I'm a boomerang photographer. I'm always happy to return to a location that I like and see what's there.
Mullimburra Point is north of Narooma which is a popular base for seascape photographers. While I have surfed up and down the NSW coast, my first trip to this area as a photographer was with the Focus Photographers (www.focusphotographers.org). And every time I visit, I find something new. My most recent trip was with a mate and our primary focus was surfing, but there was so little surf, I convinced him to let me take some photos. I even flew my drone a few times (no crashes so far).
In terms of post-production, I was a little late to capture the sun on the rock, so in post-production I have used an adapted luminosity mask to select the rock and lighten it up, and I've also warmed up the colours so they contrast with the cooler, blue background. And the image is stitched as well - two frames with the XT being shifted left to right to get a wider angle-of-view of what is in reality a very small beach.
Is it better than my other shots of the same location? Hmmm, does it have to be better? Today I think it's better, but tomorrow I might not. Perhaps more important is the fact I enjoyed taking and processing the photo - and that's enough.
A small reminder that my updated How To Win Photo Competitions program is now available with a $50 discount (and yes, the coupon code is now working) - use COMPETITOR to purchase for $79 (full price $129).
Sue and her employees, Middlehurst, NZ
Fujifilm X-T3, 200mm lens, f2.5 @ 1/2400 second, ISO 400
This is Sue. Sue and Willy own Middlehurst in New Zealand where Tony Hewitt and I run our annual art photography experience. And I did take 343 frames to get this one, but I probably have 150 frames that are also pretty good.
Sue was out rustling sheep. Okay, so that's the wrong term, but it makes a better blog post! Each year at Middlehurst, Sue, Willy and their employees (dogs and horses) encourage a flock of sheep to run over some beautiful countryside towards our cameras. One of the shots you may be familiar with - the black and white blur of sheep as the dogs round them up. And every year there is something different: the weather, the clothing, where Sue or Willy stand or ride. It's never about just photographing the sheep. Yes, we're there to shoot the sheep, but as photographers it's also important to keep our eyes open for other opportunities.
Here I'm using the shallow depth-of-field of a 200mm lens (equivalent to a 300mm lens on a full-frame sensor) to throw the background out of focus. While blurred, there's enough information to tell you what it is like, but it's sufficiently muted to ensure the subject of the photo - Sue and her employees - stand out. The wider the aperture, the shallower the depth-of-field, but even at f8 or f11, the background would still be pretty blurred with this focal length. Depth-of-field reduces not only with longer focal lengths, but also the closer your focused subject is.
And note how the snow-covered hill in the background surrounds Sue and her horse. By being aware of the background at the time of capture, you can move yourself or your subject into position. Many of the other 343 frames don't have as successful a background - and that's why I was happy to shoot LOTS of frames, allowing me to choose the best one later.
We have now confirmed the second program at Middlehurst this July and have two places left for the 12-18 July week if you're interested, or possibly one in the 19-26 week. It doesn't look like Australians and New Zealanders will be travelling too far afield this year - and with a location like Middlehurst so accessible, it doesn't really matter! You can read all about the Middlehurst experience here. Or visit www.betterphotography.com, of course!
Pages from the Looking Down Notebook, a personal project of aerial photos.
Printed on Eggshell paper and spiral bound by Momento Pro.
I love the printed photograph. Originally, it was something printed in a darkroom or using an offset press. Today it is using an inkjet printer or an on-demand press. And if I'm honest, the quality I'm getting today is so much better than anything I produced in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Next week, I'm travelling. Just a small step from NSW to the Northern Territory where I'm running a number of workshops and photo tours with the AIPP. On the itinerary is an aerial workshop for an afternoon a little north of Darwin. When it comes to aerials, I have a preference for the 'squarial', the almost abstract pattern shots that are created by looking directly down from the aircraft and excluding the horizon.
To give the presentation, I thought it would be nice to share some of my work in the printed format, so I put together around 90 images and sent them off to Momento Pro for printing on their Indigo press. I'll also take a few prints made on my Epson SC-906, printed on Canson Rag Photographique. Are there differences? Of course! When you read your paper edition of Better Photography, as good as the reproduction is (also printed by Momento on an Indigo press), a four or six colour device can't match the 10 inks in an Epson printer. And Momento itself offers a premium printing service where it also uses exactly the same types of Epson printers photographers do to print the pages.
What I love about the printed image is being able to linger on the image, to see the detail just by moving my eyes, rather than enlarging and scrolling around. If you don't have your own printer, there's nothing stopping you from having some of your best images printed by someone like Created for Life or Brilliant Prints. Send them a digital file and they'll send back a physical print.
Ignacio Palacios and I are doing a short photo and printing workshop at Sydney's Blue Mountains at the end of June if you're interested in knowing more (here's the link), and while the Darwin workshops are all sold out, there's an evening talk on Tuesday 18 which has seats available (see https://aipp.com.au/events/ for details).
Below are a few more spreads from my Looking Down Notebook. And I hope I've encouraged you to make a few prints!
Snow Hill, Weddell Sea, Antarctica
Phase One XF 150MP, 55mm Schneider lens, f10 @ 1/125 second, ISO 100, tripod mounted.
It may seem a little unusual to read 'tripod mounted' on a voyage to Antarctica, but there are many occasions we get to land. Last year on my first voyage, being late in the season, we were able to enter the Weddell Sea and travel south to the remote Snow Hill. I remember listening to the exhibition crew as we slipped through mirror-smooth waters, dodging icebergs and straining to see through low cloud on the horizon. They all had their fingers crossed that we would reach Snow Hill because there's usually too much ice, remembering that this is the general area in which Shackleton and his men were icebound on the Endurance, until it was eventually crushed and they footed it out, dragging their life boats behind them. It was not something we wanted to happen to us, naturally!
However, the weather gods smiled and we reached our destination. I think we were all a little surprised at how brown and ice-free the location was. Even though it was late in the season (March) and you'd expect the snows to have melted, the shadow of global warming had us thinking.
Towards the end of our short time ashore, I came across this wonderful line of ice on the shore. I guess you'd call them 'growlers', being the term for small 'icebergs', but really they are just shards of broken ice washed up on the beach by the tides and the winds. However, as a photographer, what I loved most was the shape of the ice as it receded into the distance. The classic 'ess' composition. The light was very flat, so a little remedial work was required in Capture One to resurrect the file.
I'm using this file to demonstrate Capture One and its 'adjustment layers' for an online event this Friday and Saturday, hosted by the AIPP. Called AIPP TV Level Up, there is a huge line up of great presenters - you can find details about the event at: https://aipp.com.au/event/aipp-tv-level-up-post-production/ - it is open to both members and non-members.
Monk, Mongar Dzong, East Bhutan
Phase One XF IQ4 150MP, 110mm Schneider, f2.8 @ 1/125 second, ISO 1600
Black and white strips out reality. It's a bold statement perhaps, given the history of photography itself begins with monochrome (and the photo above isn't strictly speaking black and white, rather a sepia tone). However, most of us see in full colour and so when we look at colour photographs, there's an element of expectation involved.
In the photograph above, colour would completely change the myth and mystery surrounding the portrait. The bright, gaudy yellow tent we are in is throwing sunshine colours all around, the monks are dressed in brilliant crimson, the ornamentation in the ceiling has every colour of the rainbow. The scene is festive, exciting and alive, yet amongst it all, the monk is poised pensively, quietly looking past the photographer (me) at something behind. Some of the other monks are looking too.
To concentrate on the monk and his expression, I felt that I needed to remove the colour. I wanted to reduce the image to just the key points, but without removing the context. Black and white does a lot of this. Darkening the surrounding figures and blurring them slightly helps as well, but it is the monochromatic rendition that does most of the work.
Fingers crossed we can get our tour to Bhutan happening next year - it's a wonderful place to visit.
Glasshouse Rocks, Narooma
Phase One XT 150MP with 32mm Rodenstock lens, f8 @ 1/30 second, ISO 50, frame averaging for 30 second, two-frame stitch.
Reading the technical details up above, I can imagine a few readers scratching their heads and wondering what I put in my coffee this morning! Let me explain!
The Phase One XT is a wonderful camera, but requires completely manual focus and manual exposure control. There are no creature comforts, but for photographers who have been around for a while (such as myself), there's a certain enjoyment to be found in doing things slowly and methodically, a little like we used to use 'view cameras' in the days of film. It's not a camera for all occasions, but the image quality is beautiful.
There were two features I used to capture this image. The first was frame averaging, which is like using a neutral density filter. Frame averaging continuously takes the same exposure over and over again, for as long as you desire. I used a shutter speed of 1/30 second continuously over a period of 30 seconds, because this was enough to blur the water and produce some slight movement in the clouds. I could have used a neutral density filter to achieve the same effect - so frame averaging is a time saver in that I don't have to worry about putting my filters on.
However, frame averaging at shutter speeds (times) shorter than around 1/3 second can produce 'steps' in the exposure. This is because with short shutter speeds, there is an interval between exposures during which nothing is recorded. If you do frame averaging for four seconds at 1/30 second, you might take 12 shots and if you look carefully at the file, you will see 12 outlines of a breaking wave as it moves across the frame. Cloud movement is harder to see because it's movement is so slow. Compare this with a 30 second period where there are hundreds of exposures at 1/30 second and the wave and water movement gets so jumbled up, it produces a soft blur, just like an ND filter. So, for long exposure of 15 seconds or longer, frame averaging is perfect, but for exposures of 1/8 to 15 seconds, I think neutral density filters still have their place for the XT system.
The second feature I used is the back shift. The XT provides vertical and horizontal shift, so I can correct converging verticals (e.g. for architecture) or stitch two images together to create a panorama - and a wider angle-of-view. To fit the two Glasshouse rocks into the frame with my 32mm lens, horizontal stitching was required to provide a little breathing space around the outside of the composition.
And yes, this is taken on the same morning as a photo posted a couple of weeks ago. Still working my way through a productive morning!
Glass House Rocks, Narooma, NSW
Phase One XT 150MP with 32mm Rodenstock, f8 @ 1/5 second, ISO 50, frame averaging for 60 seconds.
If nothing else, these are interesting rocks! And regular readers may recognise them as I have certainly photographed them before - but never quite like this. Different times, different weather, different thought-processes - it always surprises me just how much you can find to photograph if you stop to look. Of course, you're right to point out that I visited the wonderful South Coast of NSW, but my point is that things that have become commonplace to us can nevertheless be rediscovered with the right attitude?
Am I sounding a little philosophical? It's possibly because I've been teaching with Len Metcalf and his art-based approach to photography has had an effect. Some photo tours and workshops are mainly practical, others have a greater classroom content and while our program was reasonably adaptable, we spent around half our time listening, commenting, processing - and printing!
Both Len and I are strong printing advocates. A photograph isn't really a photograph if you're just looking at it on a small screen. The best way to present a photograph is in a printed form - such as a print, a book or even a card. As Len pointed out, a digital image is just an electrical current passing across a screen, while a print is a separate physical object. It has an existence of its own. It is tangible.
So, two suggestions. Firstly, Narooma is a great destination and there are lots of places within striking distance to photograph.
Second, print your photographs! The Epson SC-P906 I took delivery of last week worked flawlessly, producing beautiful prints that all our participants loved and enjoyed. Thanks to Epson and Canson for providing ink and paper.
Above, Sue (left) and Julie discuss Sue's beautiful photo at Glasshouse Rocks with Len Metcalf. As you can see, the Epson SC-P906 printer is very small and it fit easily into the boot of my car for transport. We had a pack of the larger A2 Canson Rag Photographique to play with and there's no doubt that size does matter. With our modern cameras capturing so many pixels, there really isn't a reason not to print to A2 from time to time and, interestingly, I can see that Kayell has the Epson P906 printer on its website for $1695. You don't need to purchase one of the larger pro printers because these smaller models produce prints of exactly the same quality - and that print quality is second to none.
Little Island, Lord Howe Island
Alpa TC, Phase One IQ180, 23mm Rodenstock lens, 1/8 and 30 second exposures, f8 @ ISO 35
Last week, I realised my personal website (www.petereastway.com) was missing some of my earlier work and the above photo of Little Island shot on Lord Howe Island (off the NSW coast in Australia) was one of them.
Lord Howe Island itself is quite magical, what you'd want in a 'desert island' if you had to be marooned somewhere. It's big enough so you'll never be bored, small enough to easily get around, and there are some very special locations, such as Little Island down the bottom of the trek up to Mount Gower.
Most of the time we were there, Little Island wasn't, but I imagine with big swells and tides, the water laps around it and hence its description. The challenge was finding an angle that included both its shape and location. Standard angles-of-view which included both sides of the island and a clearly defined shape were interesting, but I found this more closely cropped and squished composition to be stronger. Then it was a matter of ensuring sufficient detail in the island itself and dropping in a second exposure (taken from the same angle using a locked off tripod) with blurred water and clouds.
Why two exposures of the same scene? It was windy and the small bushes at the top of the island blurred during the long exposure. As photographers, we don't need a reason other than to say it was my preference to have the bushes sharply resolved with the shorter exposure.
When playing with exposure, the landscape can reveal all sorts of secrets and I love the discovery of the deep red rocks, almost buried in the middle of the island. By drawing out and enhancing the colour, you can almost imagine this a wound, a metaphor for what we're doing to the Earth in so many places. However, the main reason I drew out the colour was to create a point of interest in the composition and, as we all know, it's points of interest that make photographs engaging for our viewers, allowing them to apply their own interpretations and responses.
I hope you enjoy it.
This week, I am down in Narooma with Len Metcalf and a group of photographers on my first photo workshop in many months. I've taken an Epson SC-P906 A2 printer (I've actually purchased this for myself from Kayell, although as an Epson Ambassador, Epson would certainly have lent me one). We also have some great sample Epson Signature Hot and Cold Press papers, and also Canson's Rag Photographique, Platine and Aquarelle (I'm also a Canson Ambassador). Our plan is to shoot, process and print and, given the weather forecast, I think we will be having a little 'inside' time for plenty of printing!
Fingers crossed the world continues to open up and the vaccine does its magic.
In the meantime, don't forget my Landscape Photography MasterClass has been fully updated and you can read all about it and see a great little audio visual at www.betterphotographyeducation.com.
Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, Bhutan
Phase One XF 150MP, 240mm Schneider Kreuznach lens, f5.6 @ 1/2500 second, ISO 125, hand-held.
I've been talking about my three books on Bhutan for some months now. They are still in production and it's interesting how I am putting off pressing the button, sending the files off to Momento Pro for printing. Sure, they are three large books to be inkjet printed and hand-bound, so they aren't inexpensive, but I'm actually enjoying the process of slowly working through the images and ensuring they are all exactly as I want them. I'm even proofing every image onto Canson Rag Photographique using my Epson SC 10070 down at the office (although I have just taken delivery of an Epson SC-P906 for home, so that might speed me up).
This photograph is from the Bhutan - Myth volume. It was taken late one afternoon from the road. Featured is the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong and the small village cascading down the slope below. It's one of those photos that works best with a telephoto because you're looking directly into the sun and you don't really want all the foreground and surroundings - just the silhouettes. And if you have a friend with a hat to shade the lens, so much the better.
As I work through the photos of Bhutan, I keep pinching myself that this is a real place. When you're there, it all seems 'sorta normal', but as I process the photographs and relive the experiences, I realise just how special it is. The benefits of travel aren't just in the photos we take - in fact, the photos are secondary to the experiences that become a part of us.
I have put together a little audio visual of my Bhutan - Myth series on YouTube which I thought you might enjoy viewing - the link is https://youtu.be/C9W5k3DJeBE.
And I would be remiss if I didn't remind everyone that the Landscape Photography MasterClass has been fully updated and you can purchase it with 10 easy payments. Details on the www.betterphotographyeducation.com website.
From a Squarial Series, Wendover, Utah, USA
Phase One XT 150MP, 80mm Schneider lens, f5 @ 1/3200 second, ISO 100
It's interesting to note how an image changes the more it is enlarged, the closer you get. One of the reasons I love prints is that you can move in physically closer to explore and experience the fine detail of the subject - and as long as your camera technique and processing skills are up to it, your viewers will not be disappointed.
Depending on where and how you are reading this, you may be able to click on the images below and they will open in a page that will allow you to enlarge the original file to 100 per cent.
If you're reading it as part of my weekly newsletter or on Facebook etc, use this link: CLICK HERE
Have a look around, enjoy the detail in the files, note how distressed the pixels have become at 100% in order to produce the visual effects at lower magnifications. I know for some photographers the manipulation of the detail and colour will be more than they are comfortable with, but I confess I greatly enjoyed the process of taking an aerial and pushing the file as far as I wanted to.
There's no rule that says we should only follow one genre of photography. Take a deep breath, look around and maybe you'll find some ideas to push your own work along!
And just a reminder that my Landscape Photography MasterClass has been fully updated and includes sections on aerial photography and my techniques for enhancing colour and contrast. For more information, click here.