Tag Archives dave williams

You need a drone…right?

It’s that time of week again! #HybridDaveTuesdays, on #TravelTuesday, right here on ScottKelby.com—boom! So, I caught you with that bait title and now I need to deliver the goods. Let’s do this!

 

Old Harry Rocks in Dorset, UK, shot from my Mavic Pro

I’ll start by offering you a view of Old Harry (the little rock at the end closest to the lens) as seen from 69 metres up. It’s a view that would have cost the price of renting a helicopter or airplane, gambling with the risk of weather, and far less flexibility in maneuvering and fine-tuning.

The market for consumer and prosumer drones is growing like you wouldn’t believe. DJI, manufacturers of the Phantom and Mavic among others, are now the worlds largest aircraft manufacturer AND the worlds largest camera manufacturer. So what does that mean for us photographers?

Well, for me as a travel photographer, it’s all about two things:

  1. Capturing familiar places from unseen angles.
  2. Finding brand new places with no previously seen view.

That means using a drone, which can travel the world with me and can demonstrate an optical performance, which maintains the aesthetics of my portfolio. Mavic, if you were wondering. But, this post isn’t about why I need a drone, it’s about why you need one!

Number one: It’s the best toy ever! The number of times I’m flying and some passer-by sees me with a controller in my hand and immediately stops in their tracks, craning their neck skyward, trying to nonchalantly spot my drone soaring high; or the yell of a child upon noticing the whirr of the rotors, exclaiming to their parents, “Look, a drone!” It’s a fantastic attention-grabber and this translates to the commercial world of a subscribed audience—for example, the fascination of guests and couples when I’ve pulled out a drone whilst shooting weddings is a great marketing tool, not to mention the awesome perspective the paying couple will get for their album.

 

Somewhere in the Black Forest in Germany, shot from my Mavic Pro

Next up, it opens up a whole world when it comes to water. A lot of drone work we see includes water, and that’s because it’s an entirely new world which, short of hiring a helicopter or a boat, wasn’t possible before drones. We can get low and shoot long, get a bit of altitude and throw in some 45-degree views, or go straight up and shoot bird’s eye view, just as a few from many possibilities. Water is, as we all know, the carpet to two-thirds of our planet, and the amount of action going on there carries an intimate captivity, which lends itself to so many awesome views.

 

The Pacific Ocean, off the California coast, shot with my Phantom 3

 

Malibu Farm Pier, CA, shot with my Phantom 3

Drone flying is just impressive. People are fascinated by flight, and by cool new views of things, and the fact that you have a toy (/weapon) in your backpack that can launch—that’s right I said launch—is just intrinsically cool! Drones are one of the most impressive pieces of commercially available kit to hit the ground (see what I did there?) in the last few years, and with just a little practice, you can get some awesome photos and videos to share and boost both your portfolio and your reputation. Also, when you talk about your drone, you get to use words like “velocity” and “attitude,” which makes me wet myself a little bit. ;)

The dot next to the rental is me, shot in Arizona with my Phantom 3

The cost: It’s cheaper than you think! My first drone experience involved a lot of money. And a crash. That memory echoed through me every time I looked at getting another drone, in particular, the cost of replacing it if I killed another one. Well, the advances that have been made in drone tech are astounding. Two particular examples that stand out to me in terms of the automatic features, which DJI spent many, many hours perfecting in order to stop me from crashing my drone, are these:

I was driving through the USA. Nevada, I think. I was making my way along a valley and noticed the awesome mountain changing beside me. It was near Navajo Rock and bore colours not dissimilar to it, so I had to get the drone up and get the shot. Winds were steady and high, but out came the DJI Phantom 3. I took off and the wind caught the Phantom, taking it sideways toward a rock face. The thing was nearly on its side in the air, but the GPS and all the other gadgets built into it kept it flying steady, albeit practically on its side. My better judgment told me to land it, but the demonstration of its stability was incredible, and the awesome tech flew by itself to keep in position.

The other example is when I took the photo up top of Old Harry Rocks in Dorset, a couple of miles from my parent’s home. I stood on a cliff top and the winds were gusting something unreal—the air was still, then felt about 50 MPH, then back to still, then back to 50 in seconds. I had my DJI Mavic Pro on the ground all ready to go. When you launch a drone, it’s good practice to hold a low hover for a short time as a kind of systems-check, and in the case of the Mavic, it takes that opportunity to use two ground-facing cameras to take a snapshot of its take-off point, so it can auto-land back in the exact spot. Whilst I held this hover, the intermittent, wild wind made my poor Mavic flap. My drone was literally wobbling in the air as if it were Homer Simpson on one of those fat shakers. The sound of the motors working hard with fine changes to deal with the deflected air buffeting the cliff below was a sad, sad sound, but it held itself with no control input from me, keeping its cool and just dealing with it until I gave it enough altitude to get out of the situation. Kudos, DJI.

But, what I was actually talking about was the price. That Phantom 3 is around $500, and the Mavic is around $1000. For what you get it’s totally worth the investment. By the way, never say anything like “I digress.” All that does is remind people that you’re digressing. ;)

 

A shot from a wedding taken with my Phantom 3

The photos and videos you can make can be absolutely stunning. Interesting at worst. I don’t need to explain this point in depth, as it pretty much speaks for itself. Drone laws are surprisingly relaxed. In the USA, stay below 400 feet, don’t fly within 5 miles of an airport (unless you’ve contacted the tower for permission), don’t fly over the Super Bowl—it’s basically all common sense. Just don’t risk being one of those drone pilots who makes the evening news and screws up my and Terry White‘s fun!

 

The Alpine foothills on the Austrian/German border, shot with my Mavic Pro

So, what about commercial use? Well my buddy J.R. (who can be seen here on Instagram) has photos plastered on his pickup advertising his successful photography business, and occupying a third of the back portion is a shot of his DJI Phantom 4. It’s there for good reason, and the reason is that the perspective offered by drones brings a whole new lease on life into real estate photography. (Lease. Get it? Real estate… catch up!) Not only that, but tennis clubs, golf clubs, marinas, country houses, aerial surveys—they are all potential earners for your photo/video business if you have a drone.

 

Soaring above Simi Valley, taken by J.R Maddox with his Phantom 4

 

By J.R Maddox with his Phantom 4

 

So, in summary, if you’re thinking of getting a drone, you probably should! It’s a decision you won’t regret!

 

Much love,

Dave

 

A Gator in Florida shot on my Phantom 3

Take a deep breath in…hold it…now exhale….

Mindfulness is filling our world right now. Our world is hectic, ever digital, shorter-scheduled, higher-pressured, and it creates angst. Perhaps the cause is right there in that sentence, but whatever it is we’re constantly looking for ways out. Yoga seems the most popular, but for me it’s photography. No matter the stress caused by taking photos or retouching them, the rewards are ever greater, but is there any scientific basis here or is it just me? And perhaps, more importantly, how do we keep photography fun and not let it become ‘labour’ in terms of mindfulness? It’s this specific point I’ll try to address.

My friend Mimo Meidany seems happy enough to escape with a camera here in Portugal

Simply holding a camera can induce mindfulness—having it in your hand and being ready, being aware. Scanning the environment around you for that great shot, and singling out the good qualities of the world into one scene. Photography, in this sense, isn’t just about having your ‘main camera,’ though, it’s also about recognising when you’ve chanced upon something beautiful and reaching for your phone to document it, supporting the awareness of the immediate experience and bringing it focus, alongside creativity, rather than putting it aside. It’s often the case, in fact, that the memory of taking the photo is echoed every time you see it. Take this photo:

I love this photo. I took it in Norway, not too far from Odda. It wasn’t deliberate at all. My intention was a day hiking to Trolltunga, but when I arrived at the start of the signposted route, and was met with busloads of tourists and a car park packed full of people with much the same intention as me, I decided that perhaps it wasn’t going to be the idyllic, desolate walk I’d anticipated and my attention turned elsewhere. If I hadn’t met that thought, I would never have taken this shot and regardless of its eventual use or its technical constitution, it remains one of my favourite photos. The photo is underlined, twice, with mindfulness. It’s making the best of the bad situation—finding beauty elsewhere, focussing my attention, and aligning my mindset.

Doing this, and maintaining positivity in photography, is so, so important. Photography is pretty unique as it stands in a gray area, somewhere between occupation and hobby. As we all know, monotony and tedium will push through to varying extents in any job we do. If photography is our job, we need to be aware of this, and take control of this negativity and maintain our ‘happy place’ in our mind when practicing. If it starts to become tedious, or the fire and passion that made photography so attractive to us start to dwindle, then an assertive drive to rekindle it must begin. See something new, find some beautiful light, do something fresh, and reflect on exactly why you take photos. For me, it’s about sharing what I see in the way I see it. That’s why, if you take a look on my social media channels, you’ll see the phrase, ‘Let me show you what I see’.

Me in my happy place

Try this: The next time you chance upon something and your reaction is to raise a camera and capture it, try to bring yourself into that moment. Immerse in what it is that made you do that and just be present. Everybody loses track of things once in a while, feels like throwing down their camera and forgetting it all, and that’s fine. Just don’t make it permanent. If you picked up a camera in the first place, there’s a creativity flowing through you which expresses who you are and what you see, and it takes hold of your soul and makes you who you are. Bring yourself back into the moment and remind yourself why you’re doing it all.

Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.

mindfulness

ˈmʌɪn(d)f(ʊ)lnəs/

Noun

1.
a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings,
thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

#Love #Me—two of the current top three hashtags on Instagram. Perhaps that follows suit with what many of the population think of hashtags being overused as narcissistic, vain, attention-grabbing props, but let me tell you that that isn’t (always) the case and the correct use of hashtags can boost your performance and reach on Instagram. Your chances of tantalizing and captivating new followers, collecting likes, inducing comments, and generally increasing engagement are vastly increased with the correct use of hashtags.

Here’s how they work: 

Every post on Instagram can be accompanied by a caption and up to 30 hashtags. It’s down to these hashtags, along with geolocation data, that photos are discovered by non-followers and potentially appear in the Explore section. Basically, if you want to achieve maximum reach and target a specific, active audience in order to grow, then you need to wise up to hashtag use (coupled with posting things that people actually want to engage with).

The problem is this: Let’s say you’re a travel photographer, like me. If I post a photo, I could hit the caption with the hashtag #travel and expose it to Instagrammers, searching among the approximately 205,296,724 (give or take) photos bearing that tag, and the audience that comes with it. To help with the point I’m going to make, in the time it took to write that last sentence, and progress to this one, there are now 205,296,962 posts with the #travel tag—138 photos posted with one tag within the space of fewer than 30 seconds. So, before the lesson, here’s the point: if you post using a popular tag, you potentially open yourself up to a massive audience, but that audience is very, very quickly lost because that photo of yours shoots straight down the Most Recent feed, constantly replaced by other posts. There are 205,297,745 now—another 783, as well as our initial 138, since I typed out the first number! So, in the time it’s taken me to compose this one paragraph, there have been nearly 1,000 posts onto Instagram with the #travel hashtag, and if we also use it, we’ll likely just get lost in the feed. Let’s beat that!

The trick is this (and there is a trick!): if we want to beat the system, and keep our posts in a place where they are more likely to be seen by people searching tags, then we need to use a less-common tag, but one still appropriate to our post. How about this for an idea to get started: let’s say that our post fits the Travel category and that photo is this one.

I took this shot last November in Eastern Iceland.

This photo could be accompanied by #snow or #reindeer, just as a couple of examples of tags which fit the content. But, in order to get maximum exposure to the people who search the category, we could also use #IcelandTravel #VisitIceland #BestOfIceland, which span between the categories of Iceland and Travel, or get more specific and go for something like #MyStopover, which is a hashtag drawn up specifically for photos of Iceland as a marketing campaign by IcelandAir.

Keeping up? So, if we use a less-common hashtag, we’re still hitting an active, searching audience, but that audience will see our photo for a longer time in the feed than one we post in #travel. If we were to take a moment when posting to consider hashtags and use #ig_iceland or #absoluteiceland, instead of #travel, we’d really open up our reach and our opportunities.

Here are a few more examples:


Rather than #Instafood, how about #CleanEating?

 


Rather than #Instatravel, how about #Italian_Vacations?

 


Rather than #DogsOfInstagram, how about #SquishyFaceCrew? (Credit to Kaylee Greer —with permission.) 

The more specific the hashtag, the more engaged the users are! Let me know how you get on, and go check out my Instagram feed to see my tactics—I’m @HybridDave.

Much love,

Dave

My genre is travel, and I’ve spent years perfecting travel photography and learning the best ways to shoot travel. This week, I’m not going to share my killer tips with you on how to take better travel photos, but I’ll tell you how to take the best travel photos! There’s no point holding back, let’s get it done!

Think about the light

The easiest way to make your subject appeal to the complex, little, biological device that is the human eye is to think about the light. It’s the beautiful light that makes the image over the subject. Take this example:

In this photo above, we have an indistinct field of sunflowers. It’s in Germany, but it doesn’t matter where it is, and I’ll bet the farmer who owns this field wouldn’t even recognise it in the photo. The next photo is of one of the world’s most recognisable places, but the light makes it much less attractive despite our brains being wired to like familiar things. The difference that the right light can make is amazing. Consider the time of day, and the position of the sun (or other light source). Trust me in saying there’s no time like sunrise—people are still in bed, the atmosphere tends to be calm, the colours (not colors) tend to really pop, and for the photographer, the resulting image can be a huge reward and a great start to the day.

 

Redesign familiarity

Let’s take the Eiffel Tower, again. Google it, and you’ll find 61.5m results, most of which look pretty similar to one another. That’s the crowd, and you need to stand out among it! It’s a pretty big challenge and to overcome it, we absolutely must be original. That means be creative with our perspective, our content, composition, light, focus point, everything! If we can capture a place along with a person and/or a thing, then we stand a half decent chance of changing things and even becoming the rose (British reference. Go team!) among the thorns. Here’s what I mean…

This is a shot I took (which Scott stole—he must’ve read Glyn Dewis’ book) in Paris a few years ago, giving a different view of the Eiffel Tower.

Twist into portrait

Taking a tall photo, rather than a landscape one, will work wonders with many scenes and gain much more attention in today’s smartphone-oriented world. The days where most people look at photos in landscape mode on a desktop or laptop computer screen are passing, and now it’s far more likely that your photo, when viewed online, will be portrait-oriented on the screen of a phone or tablet. And, if you want to go so far, let’s not forget that magazine covers are set that way, too. When we scroll through Instagram, we are far more likely to engage and react to a photo which fills the screen, for example.

Emphasise the person

When you take a portrait, make sure it really is a portrait. Capture the person and make sure the photo is all about them in any and every way you can. If you choose to reflect their character, their location, their emotion, make sure their personality comes with it and that the photo evokes thought about the subject with your viewer. If you present someone in your photo and the viewer goes away wondering about their back story, then you’re winning.

Think about your composition

Look, then think, then look, then think—just make sure you’ve really nailed the composition. Take a look around, suck in what surrounds you, look for leading lines, look for foreground elements, break things up into threes or into spirals. If you give yourself a second to think about what’s going on and being more deliberate about your composition, your photo stands a much higher chance of catching people’s eye.

Research hard!

When you go somewhere new, and most of the places we go when shooting travel are new, it’s a very, very good idea to put in the time to research where you’re going. Learn the local stories, the specialties, the history, and find the best spots for your photos. Two of my preferred (and tried and tested) ways to do this are to get on Pinterest and Google Maps. There is a LOT of information out there from people who have been before, so make the most of their experiences and use their information. You’re doing it right now! On Pinterest, we find a whole variety of photos, articles, and tips on locations simply by searching the right keywords. We can save our favourite bits and pieces straight to our own board and build a plan from there. Once we know where we’re going, or at least where we think we’re going, we can save the destinations on Google Maps and even download an offline version of the area just in case our cell phone loses data while we’re there roaming. Put in the legwork beforehand, and be armed with knowledge, and don’t forget that there’s a reason they say “failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

And that, my friends, is how to be the BEST travel photographer! Now that you’ve taken the photos, show them to the world!

You’re welcome ;)

Much love,

Dave

Hello internets! It’s that time of week again! #TravelTuesday here on ScottKelby.com is #HybridDaveTuesdays, where I’ll share some top tips on photography and Photoshop from my background in travel photography. Thanks for your feedback from last week—I love hearing from you, keep it up!

Now for this week, let’s have a look at a common theme on Instagram right now. Take a look around and it’s clear to see that a distinct winner among the top photos in the explore section is photos with crushed blacks. That’s to say that the black point isn’t quite black. You only have to check out the likes of @MrWhisper (well worth a follow, a fellow Londonite) to see that the popularity of this technique is standing head and shoulders above the rest.

When describing this look, it’s common to hear ‘retro,’ ‘vintage,’ ‘milky blacks,’ or ‘crushed blacks.’ In Adobe Photoshop, there’s no button labelled ‘vintage,’ but I’ll show you the basics behind this look, so you can apply it to your own images. It’s worth noting that there’s not one right way to do it, but there are a number of techniques which all achieve similar results, depending on the look of your initial image. To put it in it’s simplest terms, it’s basically the opposite of HDR. Instead of increasing the dynamic range of our image, we decrease it. It may seem a little counterintuitive, in fact, because we’ve been rewarded by our favourite camera companies with some fantastic technological advances, which have allowed us to capture a much broader dynamic range, and we’re post processing to reduce it! We have the ability to make the blacks true black in post, then we go and brighten the blacks! This low-contrast look is popular, but it doesn’t always fit, so it’s important to know the right time to use it.

Here’s a straightforward technique that I use in Photoshop’s Curves panel:

We’ll deliberately introduce some clipping to our image using the Curves panel. For the dark areas, bring the left point of the line slightly up, which raises the brightness of the darkest areas of the image, and slightly to the right, which will reduce the detail. To bring the highlights down, do the opposite on the top right of the line.

The Curves adjustment tool can seem pretty intimidating, but if you play around with it to understand what’s happening, it can be very useful and powerful! It represents a histogram of the image, depicting the dark areas of the image on the left and the light areas on the right. The diagonal line is used to manipulate the brightness of different areas of the image.

So there you have it! Tones made simple—a top tip they don’t tell you! Show me how you get on, as you always do.

Much love,

Dave

Hello, everybody! It’s that time of the week again, right here on ScottKelby.com, where the blog moves across the pond to London, UK, where I will share with you another of my pearls of wisdom from the world of travel photography. Thank you all for your comments and feedback from my previous posts, I really appreciate it and love to hear from you on #HybridDaveTuesdays. Today, I’m actually in Germany’s Black Forest looking for castles to shoot—you can keep up with my progress through my social links down at the bottom of the page.

This week’s post draws from a nifty trick I like to use in landscapes, and it’s all because when I travel I often find myself with too many scenes I want to shoot and not enough golden hours to shoot them all! The suggestion of landscape photography casts fear into the minds of a whole host of photographers. The art of landscape photography requires skill, patience, dedication, and usually long and unsocial hours. Composing, selecting the scene, the time of day, the lighting conditions, it can all seem a little too much of an overload for some, but you can improve almost any scene with this little hack.

I like to portray my photos as my vision of what I see at the time in my mind’s eye. The phrase I match to this, which I think represents the idea quite well is “lend me your eyes and I’ll show you what I see.” Essentially, I want people to see my memory of the scene, and I want that memory to be epic! If I see highlights or spots of light in the scene, I want to portray that in the final image.

This quick tip will arm you with the skills to draw the viewer’s eye to exactly the parts of the image you want them to be drawn to, it will add a depth to your image, and it will add somewhat of a romantic element to the lighting in most cases, as well. It’s a technique I use a lot, and it can be applied in Adobe Camera Raw and Adobe Lightroom alike.

When you process your photo, consider painting in some extra light with the Adjustment Brush. It’s as simple as selecting the Adjustment Brush, pumping the Exposure slider up from anywhere between 0.5 and 2 over, depending on what fits your shot, and drawing over selective areas of your image. When I use it, I quite often use the Clarity slider, as well, to add a little edge to the retouched areas, drawing the viewer’s eye in further. It’s a technique I use all the time, and if you don’t already, I strongly implore you to consider it and try it out!

Here’s a relatively plain shot, from somewhere in the middle of Arizona, to show the results of just a little tweak with this method in Adobe Camera Raw.

1before
This is straight out of my camera.

2firstpp
This is after the first retouch with sliders.

3final
This is after painting in some light on the cactus and dotting around in the foreground.

For this edit, I had my Adjustment Brush set to +0.95 Exposure and +44 Clarity.

I hope this tip is valuable to you—I posted about it because it’s such a valuable element of my process. Let me know how you get on!

Much love,

Dave

Close