News and Views from Dave Wilson

Archive for June, 2010

Nature on your doorstep

by on Jun.27, 2010, under Photography

I love wildlife photography and am in awe of the work done by people like Matt & Will Burrard-Lucas and Moose Peterson but it’s not something I ever reckon I’ll be particularly successful at since (a) the most interesting wildlife always seems to be an expensive airline ride away and (b) I can’t afford the kind of lenses that you need to take that really great picture of a lion without running the significant risk of ending up as its breakfast.

Wildlife, however, need not only involve wildebeest roaming the savannah or grizzly bears in Alaska. If you look around you, there are likely to be lots of exciting examples of wildlife to photograph as long as you think smaller. Bugs and insects are everywhere and as long as you have a lens with the ability to focus close (or close-up filters or extension tubes) and a flash you most likely can get some great wildlife shots within feet of your front door.

Take this shot, for example. I was finishing cleaning out our chicken coop (a highly nasty job requiring a face mask in the summer) and went to get some hay for their nesting box only to find a large (by Texas standards) scorpion having lunch on a piece of wood next to the hay bale. I raced inside to get the camera, macro lens and flash and shot a few images before he decided to hide from me. The lighting isn’t perfect but the shot definitely captured the moment. I took several more after this using a reflector to reduce the shadows and generally make the image look more natural but, by that time, the scorpion had moved and the composition wasn’t as good.

Next time you decide that you couldn’t possibly be a wildlife photographer, think small and see what you can find.

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International HDR Day

by on Jun.26, 2010, under Photography

June 26th has been declared “International HDR Day” by well-known HDR photographers Rick Sammon and Trey Ratcliff so, in the spirit of the celebration, I had to take an HDR shot today and post it on all 3 of the sites I post photos to (here, Flickr and my photoblog).

This rather odd shot was taken at the Barsana Dham Hindu temple in Austin. The boys and I headed over there this morning to pick peaches in their orchard and took a wander around the temple afterwards. I didn’t have a lot of time since we were all thirsty after our fruit picking but got one image that I feel is worthy of posting.

If you haven’t tried shooting HDR and like “arty pictures,” give it a shot. It’s really pretty straighforward to do and you’ll have a lot of fun playing with the enormous number of possible variations you can create with each picture. You’ll find my HDR tutorial over on the photoblog and, if you prefer hands-on instruction, I’ll be giving another offering of my HDR workshop on a Saturday in either September or October this year.

By the way, in case anyone clicks through to the “About” page on DPExperience, I’m not that Dave Wilson. I appear to have an evil twin on Rick Sammon’s staff 🙂

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A Nest Full of Barn Swallows

by on Jun.25, 2010, under Photography

The Barn Swallow nest in our garage is creaking from the weight of this summer’s new brood. I strongly suspect they will be taking flight some time in the next few days since they’ve definitely outgrown the available space!

This year’s experience with the swallows has been rather confusing. A pair arrived pretty early and hatched a brood of 3 chicks. Shortly thereafter, the male disappeared but the female kept feeding the young. Unfortunately one fell out the nest very early and didn’t survive and a second broke a wing presumably when trying to take flight for the first time. Around this time, however, another pair of swallows appears and were extremely agitated to find the next occupied.

We’re not sure, obviously, but our guess is that this as the original pair that build the nest and the first pair this year were interlopers. Regardless, the remaining check from the first brood took flight and the second pair took up residence and raised this fine group of chicks.

Some people complain about the mess a swallow’s nest generates and, yes, they do create quite a pile of guano to deal with but I consider that a minor inconvenience compared to the joy of watching these master aviators up close and the excitement of seeing the chicks grow up and take their initial flights.

My fingers are crossed for these guys this week!

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PhotoNetCast #47 – Photo Mags, Lightroom 3 & iPhone 4

by on Jun.21, 2010, under Photography

The latest episode of PhotoNetCast is now available – “The Value of Photography Magazines”. This episode includes discussion of the role photography magazines play in today’s media landscape and also talk of the new Lightroom 3.0 release and the upcoming iPhone 4.0. Two new guests joined the discussion this week.

Sean Galbraith is from Toronto and specialises in urban decay photography. He is also co-presenter of the TV show “PhotoXplorers” which covers the exploits of Sean and his colleagues hunting for shots in abandoned buildings. I’ve included a short documentary about his “DK Photogroup” at the end of this post. You can also watch the first PhotoXplorers episode on YouTube.

The second guest is Achim Runnebaum, a photographer now based in Nagoya, Japan and editor of RAN magazine.

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HDR Workshop

by on Jun.20, 2010, under Photography

HDR Workshop Group

HDR Workshop Group, originally uploaded by DaveWilsonPhotography.

Yesterday was the long-awaited HDR Workshop. This had been organised to coincide with the show and was held in the classroom at the gallery. We spent an hour or so discussing HDR background and how to shoot for HDR then headed down to the Capitol for a couple of hours of taking pictures. After lunch, we returned to the gallery and spent the rest of the day processing and looking at the results.

The folks who took part (click through the image for the list) did great work and produced some super images, some of which you will no doubt find on Flickr fairly soon.

After this class, I already have enough people interested to justify doing another so I’m planning on holding a second workshop some time in September or October. If you are interested, use the contact page and drop me a line.

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Exhibition Report

by on Jun.20, 2010, under Photography

Dave Wilson at Dragonfly Gallery
Image (c) Rusty Jackson. Used by permission.

The first part of my exhibition at Dragonfly Gallery at Rosedale is almost over. On Monday, part of the show will be taken down to be replaced by student photos from April’s workshop led by Raul Touzon. This was my first serious, themed show in a “real” gallery and it was a great pleasure and honour to hang my pictures in such a wonderful space. Thanks to owner Nina Mihm for the opportunity!

The top image here was taken by local photographer friend Rusty Jackson who arrived with a camera and kindly took a few shots. I also had my camera there so I grabbed an image of Rusty in return but this was one of only about 4 exposures I took that evening since I was rather busy talking to guests instead. By the way, if you have not seen Rusty’s work, I would strongly recommend a trip to his site where you will find some of the best examples of travel photography you are likely to find anywhere.

To all who came to see the show over the last couple of weeks, many thanks. If you’ve not seen it yet, please drop by the gallery between now and July 8th since you will still be able to view the best images along with a collection of other outstanding pictures from the workshop.
Rusty Jackson

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Standing Out From The Crowd

by on Jun.15, 2010, under Photography

Disney World is both a wonderful place and a terrible place to take photographs. On the wonderful side, there’s the fact that no-one even batted an eye at me for lugging a large tripod and a backpack full of gear (no New York-style security guard hassle here) and also that there are just so many iconic images to be taken. This second point is also why it can be a terrible place to take pictures too.

Take Cinderella’s Castle, for example. The world and his wife (or husband depending upon your viewpoint) has the cliched picture of the castle taken from Main Street USA (I posted one that almost qualifies over on the photoblog earlier this week). Pretty much every really photogenic scene inside the park has been shot so many times that it can be really tricky finding anything new and making your pictures stand out from the other 10,000 of the same scene.

One approach is to look for different angles on the subjects but, again, this is tricky since there are so darn many great photographers who have been there before. Most of the good angles have already been found. I decided, however, to take a different approach with this shot. Why not change the feel of the typical shot instead of changing the basic content of the shot itself?

I was shooting a night just as the park people closed off the area immediately in front of the castle in preparation for the firework show. This gave me a great opportunity to get images of the castle with no-one in the frame. As you may know, the lighting on the castle cycles through several different colours and one of them was cool blue. I waited for this to come up and shot a series of images for an HDR with the castle bathed in cool light. After a bit of work in Photomatix and Lightroom, the resulting image is more reminiscent of a Dracula movie than Cinderella – not a hint of pink princesses, tiaras and sequins left at all (though the sign on the right giving times to the next Mickey Mouse show is a bit of a give-away).

Next time you are visiting some hugely overphotographed location, try to think of different things you can do to make your image stand out from the pack. Either try to find a different composition or, if that’s tricky, think of different ways you can present the subject.

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High ISO and Noise Reduction

by on Jun.11, 2010, under Photography

As you’re probably aware, I’m currently enjoying my honeymoon period with the new Nikon D700. One of the most promising features of the new camera is its ability to shoot at amazingly high ISO settings. The basic sensitivity settings go to 6400 ISO with a couple of “Hi” options taking you all the way up to 25600 ISO.

Shooting at up to 6400 looks fabulous. This image was taken at 3200 and has had no processing other than a crop (Click here for the original sized image). If I ran some minimal noise reduction on it, it would definitely be as good as any 800 ISO image from the D90.

Electric Parade Cast Member

How does the camera cope at the stupidly high settings, though?

To try this out, I set the sensitvity at Hi02 (25600 ISO) and shot some tests inside some of the darker Disney rides. The following image illustrates the results both straight out of the camera (top left) and after a run through Imagenomics excellent Noiseware Pro (bottom right). You can’t really see the effect in the small image here but take a look at the original to see just how well the noise reduction worked. The result is a bit posterised but still definitely usable for small prints or emergency use.

Example - High ISO with Noise Reduction

I don’t know about you, but I’m stunned at how well both the camera and the software do on these images. The camera gives me at least 2 stops more usable sensitivity than the D90 and Noiseware probably adds another 2 stops to this allowing me to shoot comfortably at 6400 ISO and not have to worry about significant noise. In an emergency, I can take it all the way up to 25600 ISO and still be confident of ending up with something usable in low resolution applications. Wow!

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Happy Blog Birthday to me

by on Jun.10, 2010, under Photography

Today is the 7th anniversary of the first post to this blog. Back in June 2003, I imagined the blog purely as a way to keep the rest of my far-flung family up to date on news but in the following years, it’s morphed more towards photography than news (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing).

Moving forward, expect more photography articles and tutorials (these are definitely the most popular posts on the site) along with the usual collection of images, background technical information and general chit-chat.

Thanks to everyone who reads the blog – I know you’re out there even if you don’t comment a lot 🙂

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PhotoNetCast #46 – Cameras in the mouths of lions, etc.

by on Jun.02, 2010, under Photography

The latest episode of PhotoNetCast is now out and can be listened to either on the web site or via iTunes. I was honoured to have a chance to talk to Will Burrard-Lucas who was also a guest on this show and a photographer whose blog I have followed for quite some time now.

Will and his brother Matt are outstanding wildlife photographers from the UK who have gained fame recently through their adventures with the “Beetlecam”, a remote controlled car with a camera and a couple of flashes mounted on it. The vehicle gained fame not only for the amazing close-up photos of African wildlife Matt & Will captured with it but also for the fact that it was abducted by a lion at one point. Read more over on Matt & Will’s blog.

BeetleCam Project Teaser from Will & Matt Burrard-Lucas on Vimeo.

After the Beetlecam discussion, we wander around for the remainder of the hour talking about copyright registration, film processing chemicals, how cool the iPad is and whether or not photographers should be removing Flash from their web sites. This was all very well but, after talking about one of the coolest techy photo projects of the year, it was rather downhill from there as far as I was concerned 🙂

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