Happy #TravelTuesday one and all! I’m Dave Williams and I’m here on ScottKelby.com with some top tips for you.
What I’m sharing today is something I’ve seen time and again on Facebook groups – people asking how to focus in the dark for night time landscapes and astrophotography. It just so happens that this features in my new book about the Northern Lights, so in my experience shooting the Aurora I’m quite well versed in how to focus when you can’t see anything and I have three methods to share with you.
Method 1 – Focus on the brightest thing
This is the best way, hence sticking it up at number 1 on the list. It’s far better using Mirrorless cameras, but can still be done on DSLR’s. First up, get Live View up and running. Using the + key on your camera, zoom in on the brightest object in the distance (perhaps by moving the camera to face another direction.) When you’re zoomed in, manually focus until the object is tack sharp, then lock off the focus by keeping it on Manual Focus mode. The bright object could be the moon, a bright star, or a lit farm or building in the distance.
Method 2 – Focus while it’s light
This method requires planning and preparation – but it works if you can do it. Before you lose the light, focus on something in the distance which is compatible with the focus you’ll want when you’re shooting in the dark, then lock off that focus by switching to Manual focus. You can take it up a step and, to ensure that focus doesn’t accidentally get knocked off-point, taping the focussing ring to the barrel of the lens with some gaffer-tape.
Method 3 – Focus on infinity
This doesn’t mean twisting the focussing ring as far as it goes – it means hitting that sweet spot. Take a look at the markings and there’ll be a particular point at which the lens is focussed on infinity – usually either the centre of the infinity symbol, or a line demarcated next to the infinity symbol. This tip requires light, which obviously kind of defeats the object of being able to focus in the dark, so remember that when you create your own light to use this method, be courteous to other photographers around and don’t flash bright lights all over the place and, where possible, use a red light to maintain your own night-visibility that your eyes will have adjusted to.
I hope these three methods are useful to you, and if you haven’t had a go at photography in the dark you really should give it a go!
If you’re in or around London, UK, this Sunday it’d be cool to see you. I’m holding a photographer meet-up and you’re invited.
#TravelTuesday has come round again, and I’m here on ScottKelby.com. I’m Dave Williams and this week, I want to start by saying, “well done” to all the walk leaders of events around the globe as part of Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk®! Great work, team! To everyone who attended a walk, I hope you had a fantastic time and made some great, new friends! Don’t forget to enter the contests as there are some top-notch prizes on offer across all the categories!
The thing I want to address in today’s post is about photography on social media. Specifically, how to deal with a problem I recently encountered. You know those interactive panoramas on Facebook? Well, there’s a piece of code that figures out whether your image is suitable by checking whether or not it’s a panorama when you upload. It checks the height vs width ratio of your image as one factor, but this isn’t the deciding factor as to whether your image is posted as an interactive panorama or a 360° photo. I learned this to my frustration recently with this post.
When I was in Iceland last week I saw the most spectacular show Mother Nature has to offer—the Northern Lights were filling the entire sky, all night long, owing to a geomagnetic storm. I set up my tripod on the road at the top of a mountain pass in north-east Iceland, far away from civilisation, and shot 16 exposures over-lapped, covering an entire circle around my position. I used Adobe Photoshop to stitch the exposures together as a panorama when I got home, using Merge to Panorama.
I shot the images using my Nikon Z6 (remember this for a second). When I went to upload the panorama to Facebook, it was looking just like this: –
I wanted the image to be an interactive panorama, but the code in Facebook wasn’t picking up that it was a panorama for some reason, and I couldn’t work out why. I tried uploading from my computer and from my phone, but it just wasn’t making a difference.
I was reading about how Facebook decides whether a photo is a panorama, and whether it’s solely the aspect ratio. As I said already, it turned out this wasn’t the only deciding factor. The camera used to take a panorama is also a factor, so I had to manipulate Facebook and trick it into making my panorama one of those cool, interactive ones, just like I wanted. Here’s how: –
Facebook recognises images of a certain aspect ratio taken on a phone as being an interactive panorama, or a 360° photo, however, we know my image was shot on the Nikon Z6, not on a phone. I had to make Facebook think it was a phone shot, but how? Well, it’s quite simple: If you use an EXIF editor, you can change all manner of details about an image. One such thing is the make and model of camera used to take the shot. By simply uploading the image at theXifer.net and changing the EXIF data to show that the image was taken on an Apple iPhone, rather than a Nikon Z6, this was sufficient for Facebook to accept the uploaded file as a 360° photo, and allowed my social media followers to get a sense of what I was seeing at 2 a.m. on the top of a mountain pass in Iceland. Simple!
I’ll be sharing a lot more detailed info on the Northern Lights really soon, so stay tuned if you want to know more.
#TravelTuesday sure does come round quick! That means I, Dave Williams, am here to impart a little nugget for you right here on ScottKelby.com and today I want to touch on something worth considering – Which camera settings really matter?
When we first get a new camera, be it as a newbie or a pro, there are settings abound which we try to work out from the get go and often we can be overwhelmed with what’s really worth giving most of our attention to. It’s worth learning how to properly set up your camera, both in the first instance and when setting up individual shots. That way you’ll be more likely to get the shots you want.
One of the best ways to learn about how camera settings affect your photo is to switch into any other mode than Auto. In Auto mode your camera is making all the decisions for you, which means you aren’t likely to be learning anything. What we need to understand at this level is how Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. Learn how to quickly change these settings as well as how they relate and intertwine with each other both technically and creatively, and you’re off to a great start.
There are some great resources out there to learn about ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture, including from KelbyOne, but as well as that it’s important to understand and learn how to quickly control Metering and Exposure. Experiment with these as well by trying the focussing modes and metering modes, learning what works best in a variety of situations so that when you’re in a situation of elevated intensity it can become second nature to change to the right settings.
Having a good understanding of what results come from changing various settings, and being able to change those settings without looking really are two very important things in photography, particularly in fields which are fast-paced such as wedding or pet photography. If you don’t have these two things nailed, make it your priority!
I’m here for any questions as always, and you can find me on Facebook and Instagram if you want to get in touch.
#TravelTuesday and ScottKelby.com combine means one thing – I’m here! I’m Dave Williams and each week I step in to give Scott a little break and offer you something from the world off Photoshop, Photography, Travel or Life. Today it’s about life, and I want to share three little quirky incidents from the past couple of weeks while I was in Utah, Arizona and Nevada following an epic Photoshop World Conference.
Story #1 – the Area 51 thing
So, towards the end of the trip I was in Hurricane, UT, not far from Zion National Park, and throughout the entire trip I was with Siân Elizabeth. We were in the car at about 11:30pm and driving west towards our classy hotel, the Days Inn, and something strange happened. Straight in front of us, high up in the sky, a bright, white light moved from way high on the left, straight down to the Earth on the bottom right. We both saw it and a moment of silence in the car was broken by us both saying, “did you see that?!”
The strange light in the sky was too slow and long for a shooting star, too fast for a plane, and too coincidentally directly above Area 51 (some 150 miles straight in front of us) to be anything other than Paul. That’s right, I made a movie reference to an alien – because it must have been, right?
If you’ve seen the incredible work of Erik Kuna you’ll know that space is humungous and personally I don’t think there’s any where we’re alone here. This was cool, but it put me on edge a little, wondering if it had seen me see it, and I watched my back for a few days!
Story #2 – for the gram
So, back-track a few days and we were in Monument Valley. The place is phenomenal – a truly exquisite work of art by Mother Nature. I’d seen Monument Valley by night but now, having spent a couple of days exploring, I can honestly say it is a magical place that captivated my pants off. One evening whilst on the Monument Valley Loop Drive shooting the area at sunset and into twilight and beyond we came across a pull-out with a rather large rock in the middle of it, roughly the size of an ambulance and perhaps a little bit taller.
As we approached the rock there was a car parked tight up against it and a little flashing light from a cell phone atop it. Wondering whether I was about to be lured into a trap (then remembering where I was, so likely not) I tentatively pulled up close by and rolled down the window and shouted out to see if all was ok. Turns out all was not ok and a young girl was stranded on top of the rock with her mother in the car beside it and they’d been there a good few hours because the girl wanted to get up on top to shoot a little video ‘for the gram.’ The video, I’m sure, went really well and she probably got lots of likes, but she was now stuck!
Being the gentleman that I am I was now in a position where I had to rescue the poor girl. I had her sit down and shimmy down the side of the rock until her feet landed on my shoulders before dramatically swooping her to the safety of terra firma, then exchanged a quick few pleasantries before getting back on with shooting the dramatic landscape, not quite sure what had just happened. All in a days work for a travel photographer, right?
Story #3 – the growler
This one shook me, I’ll be honest.
Siân and I were shooting the Red Reef Trail of Red Cliffs Recreation Area in Utah, also known as Cottonwood Canyon, when we came up against a little hurdle. It was all going really well – I’d found a cool cave to shoot out of for great framing, but unfortunately it was so hot that the river had dried up and there were just a few puddles left where the waterfalls had previously cascaded. The tier system of the canyon was cool to shoot anyway so we trekked further and further up the gorge. We reached a section which had a rope attached to the canyon walls so that people could climb up to the next stage and I went up there, with Siân instead electing to stay down at the previous stage and shoot the little frogs around the water.
I was up safely and walking along the canyon about 1/4 mile from where I’d left Siân and reached a fork. The left section stretched off into the distance, and the right section quickly turned a corner and out of sight. At the fork there was a cool depression in the ground containing the driftwood that had been carried down the now dry river, so I got myself all set-up to shoot it as the foreground of what would’ve undoubtedly turned into an awesome composition. I’ll never know what that photo turned out to look like however, as when I was bent over getting my camera ready I heard a few thuds on the slope up the canyon walls immediately to my left where the canyon was shallower and covered in boulders and bushes.
The thuds, perhaps 3 or 4 of them, immediately grabbed my attention in the silence of the canyon and I stood and turned to face the direction they’d come from. I saw nothing among the terrain but a few seconds later were two more thuds, one accompanied by what I can only describe as a grunt, as if something had accidentally engaged it’s vocal chords and exhaled upon landing.
The entire time we were on the road trip there was talk of what we may see in the wilderness, from snakes and scorpions to bears and cougars. The cougar, or mountain lion, is what I saw in my mind when I heard the grunt, and I kept my eyes focussed on the slope of the canyon wall while gathering my things and walking slowly but purposefully back the way I had come from. Concerned about being followed, and more concerned about alarming Siân, I got back to her and told her it was time to leave. I obviously wasn’t very discrete while I was walking behind her and kept checking my back because she soon figured out that something was up, but we got out of there pretty sharpish!
My three little stories of strange happenings whilst in the States are all part of the experience (and fortunately I wasn’t cat meat, nor did I get probed) and part of the reason why I love travel. From travel I get so many awesome experiences that I wouldn’t otherwise get.
Some people say that I’m lucky, but in response to that I think that luck is a what happens when preparation meets opportunity. I prepare and I search for opportunities, and I strongly urge you all to do likewise because when that luck strikes it’s a fulfilling, inspiring experience that often results.
#TravelTuesday with Dave sure comes around quick, doesn’t it! I’m back!
From time to time we may need to remind ourselves about why we work so hard at photography and don’t seem to get anywhere, be it for any number of reasons ranging from being stuck in a rut or for trying to achieve something time after time that fails. Like me, trying to get a shot of a lighthouse in front of a huge chalk cliff and failing several times in my efforts before finally getting the shot!
It took me three attempts to get that shot, and I even got capsized in my kayak in the process. But anyway, the point is this: –
Make your big goals more manageable by breaking them into smaller tasks.
Remind yourself why you’re doing it.
Remember the good feelings.
Use your strengths.
Decide to take action.
That’s it, that’s the list!
Okay, I’ll explain. If we have a big goal, it’s harder to achieve it. If we have a setback, it’s likely to put us off altogether if our goal is big. Whereas, if we break up our big goal into smaller, more manageable tasks we’re far more likely to succeed because those small tasks are accomplishments that together lead to achieving our big goal. If we fail at one of the small tasks, we’re far more likely to keep trying to overcome the problem because of number three—the good feelings.
The good feelings we get when we achieve something stick with us, but in moments where we feel that perhaps we aren’t hitting our targets or realising our goals, taking a moment to remind ourselves of the good feelings will help to spur us on even further. Taking that feeling and reminding ourselves why we’re doing something is valuable. That reminder as to why can often be enough to pick us up when we feel like we aren’t getting anywhere, and perhaps it’s that one occasion when we remind ourselves that we suddenly make progress where we weren’t before.
Pushing to number four (because this is obviously in order from the above list), we need to use our strengths, and in order for that to happen effectively, we need to recognise them—and our weaknesses! Knowing comprehensibly what our strengths are will help us to achieve goals, but knowing what our weaknesses are will help as well.
And, finally, take action! There are a lot of people out there doing nothing much aside from telling other people how they should be doing things. Don’t be that person—the person who says it can’t be done is usually interrupted by the person doing it.
So, if you have a shot in mind that’s particularly challenging, don’t give up on it! Persist, come up with a game plan, and keep trying. Pick yourself up when you fail, dust yourself off, and get it done.
The thing that motivated me to write this is the shot above. I was researching shots of Beachy Head Light in the UK and noticed they’re all very much alike. I wanted to be different. I knew the topography of the area was such that the enormous white, chalk cliff was essentially a hill, tapering off on either side of the lighthouse, and I wanted to feature that in my shot. I tried three times to get the shot, capsizing in a kayak and sliding all the way down the hill on my behind, but I didn’t let these things put me off and I got my shot.
Don’t give up. If something fails, try something else. And, then something else. Remind yourself why you did it, identify which of your strengths will help you, break down the task, remember the good feelings, and take action.
P.S. My Sunrise Challengehas just one week left – get your entries in for a chance to win big!
#TravelTuesday with Dave has come around again, you lucky, lucky people!
I’ve just returned home from a trip to Valensole in Provence, France, where I’ve been shooting lavender, sunflowers, mountains, and all manner of French fancies. I hope you were following along on my usual Instagram Story but if you weren’t, here’s a little glimpse at what I was doing: –
I have a tiny, itsy-bitsy secret…. The lavender season was pretty much over and there were just a few fields of lavender left un-harvested! What this means for you isn’t much, but what it means for me is a fair amount of Photoshop action.
In other news, my Sunrise Challenge starts today! I’ve teamed up with KelbyOne, Drobo, Platypod, Litra, and BlackRapid, and they’ve very kindly donated some amazing prizes which are up for grabs to you lucky people! In fact, the total prize haul is worth in excess of $1,000!!!!
For your chance to win check out the full details right here, but basically I want you to set your alarm clock bright and early and go shoot a sunrise. Here’s why: –
Sunrise and sunset are the best times of day to go and make photos. There’s a golden hour while the sun’s up, and a blue hour while the sun’s below the horizon. Take a look around and notice how many of the awesome landscape photos you see in everyday life are taken at sunrise and sunset. The thing is though, sunrise totally beats sunset! Sunrise is a magical time of day where the world around you is just waking up. The summer sky is generally filled with haze, however at sunrise this haze tends to be absent. Sunset has colour scattered across the sky, whereas sunrise tends to focus the colour around the sun itself.
At sunset our eyes are tired from the brightness of the day, but at sunrise we are adapted to the dark and notice the colours and brightness so much more vividly. With these factoids in mind, there’s one further thing that steps sunrise up a gear over sunset – the change in view! Sunset shots are far more common than sunrise, so if we shoot sunrise we’re able to get a more unique perspective by changing our focus in the opposite direction to the more commonly seen angles of famous subjects.
On the whole we, as a species, don’t like to be up early enough to shoot sunrise. Not regularly, anyway! While it’s more ‘normal’ for us to sleep in a little and spend our energy shooting throughout the day and into sunset, the rewards of shooting a sunrise range from being set up to an awesome day ahead, through to potentially capturing the best photos we’ve ever gotten. Oh, and if you’re not so much of a people-person, their absence in at sunrise will be great for you!
Moving away from the photography, and with absolutely nothing to back this up, I swear that breathing the morning air is good for your health! Just as an added extra!
Moving back to Provence, if you ever get the opportunity to visit, take that opportunity! The vibe across most of rural France is pretty good. There’s a rustic charm and a generally laid back mood, but the past few days I’ve been exploring whilst making the launch image for the Sunrise Challenge have genuinely been amazing. I found myself racing across the countryside trying to capture as many views as possible at golden hour. To my surprise, having been immersed in views of the famous lavender fields of Valensole for the past month or so, there were barely any photographers taking advantage of the beautiful light. All day whilst driving around there were hordes of people shooting in the harsh, direct sunlight, but at dawn and dusk I found myself completely alone as if the whole plateau had been abandoned. During the days there were tourists walking the fields, but there were also couples and small groups with changes of clothing doing their ‘Instagram shoots’ in totally the wrong light. I felt like telling them to relax and come back later, but there were just too many people!
As for Valensole, there’ll be more on the story over on my blog in the next few days, but for now I urge you to get out and shoot that sunrise!