Aligning the stars

Last weekend I managed to take the 150km drive out to Lake Bumbunga with a view to astro photography given that the forecast was for clear skies. Before going out for a milky way shoot, I check to see what kind of conditions I can expect with respect to :

1. Cloud cover and temperature : If there is plenty of cloud cover around I will usually head out later in hope that a good dawn might eventuate . Any of the sites for forecasts will be sufficient. I usually go with weatherzone.com.au

2. Moonrise /Moonset /Sunrise: It’s always useful to know approximately what time twilight will start when doing astro photography since particularly around the March and September solstice periods interesting zodiac light can light up the milky way from beneath the horizon. If I’m planning for a clear milky way I’ll aim for when the moon is absent. If I’m planning to shoot interesting landscapes with stars as a feature, I’ll try to coincide the shoot with the rising or setting moon. Many apps can be helpful in this regard including the photographer’s ephemeris (http://www.photoephemeris.com/) , or photopills (http://www.photopills.com/)

3. Milky way position: There are many apps to plan this but I usually use stellarium at home on my PC (http://www.stellarium.org/). Once at the scene on a clear night, we are lucky in South Australia to have areas of dark enough skies to see areas of the milky way with the naked eye.

Lake Bumbunga is flanked on its western side by a main highway. Therefore any star images without light pollution need to take this into account lest a road train blaze its way into the frame. On this occasion, I knew that the galactic core (approximately where Sagittarius is located) would be in the northwest pre-dawn hence I had to walk a significant distance into the lake in order to minimise the impact of the highway. Thankfully after a dry summer, the lake was dry all the way to its heart. I could see the milky way arising vertically and set up the camera to compose a vertical panorama with me in the image to give the stars massive scale. I found that at about 20m from the camera at 16mm gave me the dimensions that I needed in order to give this feel. The lighting was done with a dim flickering electric candle which you can buy at any store like Kmart or Target. The image was triggered with a wireless remote on 2 seconds delay which gave me time to put away the remote and stand in statue mode for the 25 second exposure. I took three separate images panning up and at an angle as the corner sharpness and distortion of the 16-35mm F2.8II always comes back to bite me if I just take single frames!

The three frames of the vertorama

The three frames of the vertorama

Final result

Final result

 

Thereafter, as the sun was starting to make its appearance I had some fun taking more images of the twilight followed by an exploration of the salt patterns before the light became too harsh.

A horizontal representation of the predawn milky way

A horizontal representation of the predawn milky way

I hope you enjoyed this quick post and we hope that we will be able to write up some tips for shooting Karijini once we are back from our trip in early April!

-D

Salt folds in the earth

Salt folds in the earth

Dedication to a distractible direction

Recently, Marianne and I have contemplated getting more involved with landscape photography in terms of making it part of our ‘working’ lives instead of being purely recreational. Part of this process involved a review of what we would offer to paying clients and customers if we were to make that leap. In keeping with this, we asked ourselves what makes anything about ‘everlook photography’ any different to the cascades of quality photographers online these days. It was a hard question to answer and one which has prompted critical self review. It is hard not to be influenced by the growing influence of social media, popularity races (aka 500px) and conversely, a group of reactionary dissenters who have taken the polar opposite stance to popularity.

The first set of review questions relates to our portfolio of images. By portfolio, I mean what we choose to display on our primary website (www.everlookphotography.com) as opposed to social media platforms.

  • Is our portfolio a group of images already well shot by other photographers and does this matter? On review it feels that there’s a diversity of images which are of locations frequently shot and those from which few images have been taken. Given a choice and the freedom of travel, we would dearly love to find our way to locations that are unique and from which we have to create rather than emulate. What we have chosen instead is to travel predominantly with family which leaves us the option of attempting to create from locations which have already been extensively photographed. Marianne is the one who does not engage in photographic social media and I believe is therefore more likely to create original images uninfluenced by the flux of images already on view.

Marianne’s unbiased presentation of the three sisters at Tongaporutu

An attempt at originality from Waitomo caves

  • Is our style derivative of popular styles and does that matter? Both Marianne and I favour the traditional use of wide angle perspectives to give images a sense of grandeur and depth through its inherent distortions of a scene. We do also take images to emphasise background elements with longer focal lengths and we often attempt to take both sorts of images at the same scene. Personally speaking, I am one of those people who at any given scene, changes composition frequently, mixes up focal lengths and shutter speeds with varying filter setups.  It may seem to an onlooker that I do not know what I want to do but my ‘mission’ at a scene is simple. I see a given moment, I imagine an end result and try to make it happen there and then. I very rarely go to a scene with a premeditated vision in mind such that for the whole of pre or post dawn I am taking different exposures of the exact same scene with a view to compositing then together in an epic blend of light, dark and elements which represent hours at a scene rather than moments. I don’t feel any desire to criticise the people who take this approach but by the reverse I feel that there has been criticism made at this particular style of shooting lately. With the example below of Taranaki , would I really have benefitted had I just stayed in the one spot for the whole shoot?
Varying focal lengths and compositions

Varying focal lengths and compositions

The next set of questions relates to social media and its use. In this day and age, attention spans are falling, commitments are looser and distractions rain havoc on any individual’s concentration.  Apply this to photography and you can expect that your images only have   small window of time to ‘grab attention’ before they are forever lost in the ether, overwhelmed by the surge of newer images.

  • Are we posting too frequently on social media? Marianne would say yes. Dylan says perhaps. But we agree to disagree. To answer this question one has to examine the reasons for posting. I’ll admit that it’s ego stoking to have tons of likes on images as someone who has battled with self esteem (like many other photographers) I actually don’t see this as a negative IF that is not the sole aim of photography. I will continue to post images on facebook with a conversational style of description to fulfil a few purposes.; to generate ongoing interest, to generate amicable discussion and as a ‘reveal’ all type of page where we make a statement about what was recorded and what was presented. The other main site we post to is 500px. Let’s not hold back the punches here, we all know what that page is about . It’s not necessarily about quality yet there many high quality images posted there. It’s not all about originality yet many strikingly original images do well there. It’s not about critique yet there are still some very interesting discussions generated. We see all the hate directed at 500px but I don’t see the need for it. I think that how the site has been designed and evolved makes it clear that the producers intend it to be a site that’s almost all about popularity. Is there actually any doubt that that’s the case? The other aspect about 500px is that due to its use and growing stature, many editors from magazines trawl the site looking for images. This being the state of play, I use 500px for what I think it’s worth. My aim in 500px is to get images popular and to be seen. If I don’t have the time to write to magazines for publication, how nice is it when one approaches us without us doing more than posting an image online? I do not confuse the fact that many of the images on our 500px stream would not have any special meaning to us but  why does photography have to be all about me? Isn’t part of photography giving something to the wider audience to appreciate? Why do we have to be selective and pretend that it’s only to an artistic, nuanced audience that we cater for. We have many images which are our favourites on our website which have either bombed on 500px or sit on our website exclusively. There are even more images which have reached the hallowed front page of 500px which I would not even consider putting on our web site.  My approach is to post what I think other people will want to see on sites such as 500px while posting personal favourites and valued images on our web page and more ‘artist’ directed sites such as whytake.net .  Our direction is to maximise our ability to create an image with popular value while having the tools and discretion to create images with lasting personal value in conjunction not exclusion.

One of our most popular images on 500px. We are still not quite sure why #everlooktrollpost

One of our most popular images on 500px. We are still not quite sure why #everlooktrollpost

Abstract from Wreck Beach on the Ocean Road. It has personal value to me, I wouldn’t expect this to be a 500px hit though.

  • How will we ‘give back’ to the landscape community? The teaching element of photography is also one we would like to explore further. As a physician, we have opportunities for publication and for education aside from our usual clinical role. Publication wins you tangible praise, CV entry updates and gives something back to the institution. For some it becomes a glory seeking exercise. Education is often thankless with verbal praise, very little CV enhancements but gives much to those seeking to enter your profession (which you hopefully love). The frame of mind of educators is usually far less glory oriented (with individual exceptions of course).  We hope to bring the ‘educator’ frame of mind to the photography world and if there happen to be accolades and publications along the way, that’s a bonus. As an educator in photography, it demands an ongoing level of production that is of high standard otherwise who would want our services as a teacher? Keep an eye out for a release of some post processing tutorials after our  Karijini week in April this year.

We hope to teach methods such as bringing out local contrast in a scene

How do we feel about conforming to popular trends in photography?

  • As mentioned before we love a wide angled perspective with foreground interest leading to a background subject. On the whole though, we haven’t really delved into the level of perspective change that results in daisies looking steroid pumped with flexed petals filling the lower third of the frame. Those images have great appeal but it’s not a direction I see that either of us want to be heading. It’s not a protest, it’s just a simple preference. Besides, lots of other people are already doing it so well !

Probably as ‘in your face’ as we will get with our images : Marianne’s shot of Motukiekie

  • What about more detailed ‘intimate’ landscapes? These will always have a place for each scene and give Marianne and I great satisfaction to produce. They do not however, give us more satisfaction merely for being different. In many posts I have recently read where photographers have stated their personal preference for intimate landscapes over fine detail, I have actually preferred the wider version of the scene they have used as examples. Marianne and I are on the whole more ‘big landscape’ appreciators hence that’s what we predominantly aim to shoot .If an opportunity for an abstract arises then we are constantly on the lookout for those images too. To us, they are of the same value if they are of the same quality. They do not earn an inherent increase in personal value proportionate to the focal length at which they were photographed.

Glow worm abstract from Waitomo caves. Should it be praised just because it’s different?

  • Another area of contention is post processing style. A list of the trends that I have seen rubbished lately include – sky swapping, warping elements of a scene, shifting colour hues, introducing artificial light (light bleeding) , orton effects, and the list goes on. Because there are a few very popular videos circulating around at the moment, there appears to be many attempts at reproducing the exact same look of for example, that of Ryan Dyar. I think that while it’s important to know about all of those tools for selective use, ‘premeditated’ cart blanche use of these tools on every image presented results in a same-ness of appearance of given scenes. Those who follow Australian cricket may liken this to a ‘Glen Maxwell’ approach to post processing – going for the maximum every ball without playing each on merit. (actually, I’m a more of a Maxwell fan than detractor and believe that criticisms about him are a tad harsh but it’s a common opinion and you might see the correlation here between cricket and certain ‘Maxwellian’ photographers) For this reason, we have resisted watching these videos but prefer to investigate how to achieve a certain effect for a scene as the need arises. The need arose frequently earlier in our photographic lives but thankfully that need has since abated somewhat as we have become more comfortable with what we are trying to achieve and having the tools do to so.

A ‘Maxwellian’ post processing approach to this scene of Ecola State Forest

  • How much should we disclose about image manipulation? Probably one of the hotter topics going around photographic circles at the moment. Our personal viewpoint (Marianne’s even more so than Dylan) is that we try to represent scenes as they were experienced not as they were extrapolated. Marianne always gives me some flak for excessive warping, doing milky way twilight images (or milky way images at all!), moving skies or introducing new skies, creating light sources. We know that there is a group of people out there waiting to jump on any opportunity to criticise image fakery so we counter this by stating up front any image that is not more than a simple exposure blend. This approach has meant that we have almost never had to deal with responding to statements regarding fakery. Dealing with this results in unnecessary angst and wastes time! We don’t feel it’s possible to provide ‘full disclosure’ about all images but are happy to provide information when requested. To finish this discussion, Marianne and I have coined a new term to discuss manipulated images: the ‘Artograph’. In the various discussions regarding image manipulation people constantly argue what is truly a photograph these days and what is digital art. I don’t have an answer to that question and my answer, I suspect, is going to be different to every next debater in this topic. For the images that straddle the wide boundary between faithful reproduction of a scene and unabashed illustrative art, let’s call them artographs. Aspects of traditional technical photography mixed with the art of producing an image.

Palouse Falls: Sky moved 90 degrees and taken 30 minutes after the foreground. Let’s call it an artograph and call it quits ;)

That was quite a long read but I hope it stimulated some thought with regard to what you might consider personally important for photography. Our closing #dotpoints attempt to  summarise the directions of our photography in a few lines: Thanks to http://www.jakeanderson-photography.com/ for suggesting this a blog post topic too !

#ifitaintbrokedontfixit : We don’t want to veer off the style that our premise for photography was based upon. That is, the presentation of reality in a hyper-real fashion. We may not be ‘fixing’ unbroken things but there’s no reason why we can’t continue to develop them.

#artographs: We produce many artographs, we admire even more artographs but we feel people should be open an honest about when a photograph has transformed into an artograph.

#keepthepeace: We already don’t accept each other’s religion, political alliances and musical preferences. Instead of fighting over artistic differences, why don’t we just accept each other’s opposing viewpoints and agree that F-stop wars ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awq90APEVgw ) in an attempt to convert each other’s viewpoint are a futile exercise. (though immensely entertaining on social media #everlooktrollposts )

#payitback : We would like to thank everyone who has followed our work and hope that the images (or artographs) we produce continue to provide a level of appreciation and inspiration to get out into the natural world. The teaching element is strong on our agenda so watch this space .

Our only shoot for 2015 thus far leaning toward abstract.

Our only shoot for 2015 thus far leaning toward abstract.

Of Theft and Serendipity

As a photographer , how many times do you think your images have been stolen and paraded online without appropriate credit? Do you feel ripped off, that that particular image has benefited another while you have not reaped the rewards of said image? We know of many such images belonging to us that have been posted on other sites without so much as a link back or credit let alone permission to do so. The ones we know of have usually been reported to us by others who have happened to stumble across the image by chance. I suspect that this may be the tip of the iceberg. There was a time when we would name and shame every single one of these sites, demand a take-down or create polite but quasi-threatening emails. Then we grew tired, others would say complacent, to the point where these days we usually shrug our shoulders and simply join the site in an effort to control content. Is this a little too relaxed a viewpoint? I’d like to share a story which perhaps has changed our point of view slightly.

It all started in August last year. An email from the editor of 500px blog contacted us with regard to writing one of those ‘A day in the life of…X…photographer’ features. We were excited. We weren’t going to be paid but heck, guys like Marc Adamus were doing this for 500px so I figured , what could we lose? I then clicked on a few examples to see how people had framed their discussion. After a while, I realised that it was just the same theme with varying levels of epic photographs thrown in and varying levels of discomfort and hardship reported with doing the ‘landscape-photographer’ gig. You know what I mean, got up 3am , drove 2 hours with coffee on board, froze ass off at 5am waiting for light, nearly got disappointed , had epiphany when light BLAZED , ate at super secret awesome breakfast place only I know about close by, slept during day, did similar thing for sunset etc. We all know these hardships even if the general public doesn’t. We landscape photographers can all relate to it but did we, as ‘everlook photography’  really need to saturate the viewpoint any further?

I wrote back to the editor with a simple question. “Why don’t I just write something about photographing with kids instead?” Several days passed and I thought perhaps the idea was too frivolous but started writing the article anyway as something to post on our blog. Finally the email returned stating that they would love that article to go live and so the story had its birth.  The original article in the link below received a reasonable reception in terms of blog responses but we were glad that we had sent a message out there that may inspire parents to take their kids out rather than feel trapped at home.

https://iso.500px.com/photo-taking-tips-for-photographer-parents/

500px article

After a week or so, this article outlived its social media half life as it was ultimately forced off the front page with newer and undoubtedly more original content. It was interesting to note that many of the images on the 500px article were lifted from our other sites which we assumed they had screen-shotted. I didn’t bother making an issue of it. Then , out of the blue after returning from our New Zealand trip in November we received a ‘nonymous’ facebook tip-off from a friend that a site called ‘bored panda’ had republished the article. Having not heard of bored panda before , we navigated to the site with some difficulty and found that it had received an extraordinary amount of views. Then came email after email. Most of them requested free use of the article, oh wait, the compensation was ‘exposure’. We had assumed that ‘bored panda’ had lifted the article from 500px without permission , the original article of which already had lifted content. Can you ask for recompense for using and reposting a stolen article with already unauthorised content?? We had given the original article for free to 500px so our initial responses were that they could use the same images from the original article providing they had asked 500px. A few more of these articles appeared in the same format with the same lifted images in low resolution which then spawned even more inquiries. I doubt any of those sites, including Huffington Post, bothered to ask 500px.  Heck it even spawned a tweet from Captain America!

http://www.boredpanda.com/parents-landscape-photography-dylan-toh-marianne-lim/

bored panda article

evans tweet

Then there were emails from press agencies. Having had no experience we turned to an awesome source of advice. Not wiki, but facebook! Lincoln Harrison was able to give us some advice about how to approach this and off we dived into the deep end. We provided a rehashed version of the article with high resolution images to ‘rex features’ exclusively on the proviso that we receive 60% of the profits. Only time would tell as to how this would all end so we waited somewhat hopefully for the article to be sold. Our first known hit appeared soon afterward in Daily Mail UK! As an aside, we now can empathise at least a little with celebrities who deal with misquotes and misinformation. Much of the content was either fabricated or modified heavily and our children miraculously aged up by a year or two! Interesting to be called ‘Toh’ ; I haven’t been called that by anyone since my militant high school teachers!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-2869907/Now-s-family-holiday-Photographer-couple-travel-world-taking-incredible-shots-two-children-strapped-backs.html

daily mail article

Our first royalty statement appeared last month for the princely sum of $23. Curious as to why an article sold to Daily Mail would only net us $23 profit, we googled ‘everlook photography rex features’. The links extend well past 5 pages of results. If the royalty statements continue to be as low as our first, there will be some serious questions asked regarding the going rate of an article with numerous high resolution images!

rex

How has this impacted on our general activity and exposure? To  be honest, we have had no additional print sales and perhaps a handful of inquiries regarding workshops and tutorials which we may not have otherwise had. How does this relate to the original question asked about image /article theft? It seems that on this occasion , the original theft from bored panda led to an explosion of exposure for us. This doesn’t mean that I condone those who steal images from photographers but it does make me wonder if the occasional ‘free act’ may actually benefit one’s business. There’s no substitute for creating quality images  but the time involved with achieving adequate exposure for those images to sing their own song in the wider world continues to be problematic and time consuming. In the interest of limited time available on any given day, I wonder if the time spent policing stolen images might be better spent on sending those images on their social media voyage of their own accord. The feeling of angst and outrage is being replaced slowly by apathy and acceptance. At least I’m calmer, but the bastard thieves out there are getting away with it!!!

What are your thoughts?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 237 other followers