News and Views from Dave Wilson

Archive for April, 2010

Nature By Numbers

by on Apr.29, 2010, under Photography

I’ve been fascinated by Fibonacci series and the Golden Ratio since attending a special mathematics course while in high school. The regional mathematics adviser came and gave a fabulous presentation on how Fibonacci numbers keep popping up in nature (as a side note, he could do this amazing thing where he would draw an almost perfect circle on a roller blackboard by moving the chalk left to right with one hand and rolling the board up and down with the other – very cool party trick). Aside from the lecture delivery being extremely entertaining, it was, I think, the first time I had seen mathematics tied so intimitely with nature and it probably went a long way towards convincing me to study physics at university.

Reading Trey Ratcliff’s blog today, therefore, I was delighted to see the following video. It’s beautifully done. Take a look and see if you agree. I recommend viewing full screen.

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Twenty Mule Team Canyon, Death Valley National Park

by on Apr.26, 2010, under Photography

With Raul Touzon’s Austin workshop behind us, I figured a post containing one of the panoramas I shot during the trip he led back in February would be appropriate.

I’m still working through the Zion/Bryce/Death Valley pictures and only processed this shot last week. It’s a 10 image panorama shot from the top of a small hill overlooking Twenty Mule Team Canyon in Death Valley National Park. It was getting towards sunset and the light was great.

The individual shots comprising the panorama were taken in portrait orientation and the whole thing was stitched in Photoshop. It doesn’t look particularly impressive at this size but take a look at the original and see the level of detail contained in the image. (For some reason Flickr is showing a broken image link on the original size image page for this panorama. Clicking the “Download” button does seem to get you the image, however).

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Which Version of Level Would You Like?

by on Apr.18, 2010, under Photography

I’m pretty much a slave to vertical and horizontal. I’ll tilt the camera up and down and change it’s height but seldom do I take a shot where the image is not oriented either directly horizontally or vertically. For the mostpart, this works but I’ve seen loads of really creative compositions taken with the camera tilted at some bizarre angle so have been playing with this recently.

Here’s an example from the San Francisco trip. This was taken from a tripod but I framed the shot to keep the Golden Gate’s supporting cables horizontal rather than keeping the horizon where it should be. It makes for an interesting, if slightly confusing variation on the normal version of this view.

This kind of thing falls squarely into the category of thinking outside the box and can be a useful trick in your arsenal of “creativity enhancing” exercises. Next time you are out shooting, give up the bubble level for a while and see what you can come up with.

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Who Says HDRs Have To Be Colourful?

by on Apr.16, 2010, under Photography

So much of the HDR-derived imagery you see (or, at least, so much of it that you notice) is colour that people tend to associate HDR in general with gaudy, oversaturated pictures. That’s definitely not the way it has to be, however – HDR techniques can be used to generate fabulous monochrome images too.

A couple of my all-time favourite pictures fall into this category (my Chevron Tower shot and one of the first stage engines on a Saturn V) and here’s another from last week’s trip to California that I am also very pleased with.

Next time you are processing an image that is strongly geometric or which works predominantly due to shapes and textures in the composition rather than colours, try doing a monochrome version and see how it turns out. You can either move the Photomatix Saturation slider all the way to the left while tone mapping or, probably better, tone map as normal then use Lightroom or Photoshop to generate a monochrome version of the result (they offer far more flexible options for downmixing a colour image to a black-and-white one).

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Unbeatable Workshop Opportunity in Austin

by on Apr.13, 2010, under Photography

National Geographic Photographer Raul Touzon

National Geographic Photographer Raul Touzon

If you are in Austin at the end of next week you may be interested in taking advantage of an outstanding photography opportunity that has just arisen. National Geographic photographer Raul Touzon is offering to hold a 3 day workshop for the bargain basement price of $200 per head. The class will be “Sharpen Your Photo Skills” and will cover composition, working the image, on- and off-camera flash, effective metering and mixing light sources among other topics. It starts on the evening of Thursday April 22nd and ends at lunchtime on the following Sunday.

If you are interested, drop me a line using the contact form linked above. So far, I have 2 definites and 1 possible and I’ve spammed all my local photographer buddies. This class normally costs somewhere in the region of $700 but is being offered cheaply after Raul ended up with non-refundable tickets to Austin and no job booked for next weekend.

Having spent a week shooting with Raul back in February, I am 100% sure that this class will be every bit as inspirational as my Utah trip was.

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San Francisco Skyline at Dusk

by on Apr.10, 2010, under Photography

I visited Santa Clara on Wednesday this week for a training session I was presenting at and, unusually, actually managed to race up to San Francisco in time for sunset. I reckoned this may be possible so I lugged 40 pounds of camera gear with me and was delighted when my aching back was rewarded with gorgeous clear weather and some great views.

I visited the Marin Headlands just north of the Golden Gate Bridge rather briefly then headed back into the city to Twin Peaks which I had read offered some spectacular views of the downtown skyline.

Prior to the visit, I had emailed Jim Goldstein, photographer, blogger, tweeter and host of PhotoNetCast to see if he would be available to get together for dinner. He was so he came up to Twin Peaks and graciously hung around for an hour or so in a stiff, cold breeze while I waited for the light to be right for this picture.

All-in-all, it was a great visit. A successful training session followed by a very exciting photography trip into a city that I love and an opportunity to meet someone I’ve known online for a couple of years but have never got together with before.

By the way, this is an HDR shot using the technique I used for various other similar shots. You can find this described here.

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HDR Workshop, Austin, Saturday June 19th, 2010

by on Apr.04, 2010, under Photography

After mulling over the idea for a while, I’m now setting up for my first HDR workshop in Austin. I’ve been giving training classes for years as part of my “day job” so when several people asked if I would consider an HDR class, it seemed a reasonable thing to do. After I also promised to put together an online training course for another local photography business(more of which later once this is closer to becoming a reality) and discovered that a friend’s new gallery had a classroom in need of classes, it seemed that all the pieces were falling into place nicely so here it is!

On Saturday June 19th, I will be offering a full day of hands-on High Dynamic Range photography training at the soon-to-open Dragonfly Gallery in Austin. You can find it about 2 blocks north of Precision Camera, just opposite Central Market. The day will include lectures, shooting on location in downtown Austin, processing images and a show-and-tell. I’m limiting the attendance to 8 photographers to ensure that I can try to help folks as much as possible.

Although I already have an online HDR tutorial, this workshop should offer people a chance to get up to speed quickly since it will cover the whole process from theory to final images and will give folks a chance to ask questions and get help right away.

If you are interested in learning HDR and can find your way around your DSLR’s exposure modes without too much trouble, please consider joining us. You can find more details including the agenda and cost over on my new workshops page.

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