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Winter is coming people!

It’s that time again, I’m back to share my weekly dose of photographic wisdom under the lovingly crafted hashtag – #HybridDaveTuesdays

This week it’s something I feel I have a good standing to talk about due to my love of cold places. I’m going to tell you about shooting in the cold in the form of a list. If the internet has taught me only one thing it’s that everybody loves a list, right? By the way, I realise that winter is only approaching in the northern hemisphere and I’m kinda excluding half of the population of the entire world, but I’m finding peace from that with the knowledge that you southerners are about to have your Christmas BBQ’s fired up!

So here goes!

 

Here’s some snow…… it’s authentic Finnish

 

Tip #1 – Never delete anything in camera!

Snow is a funny old thing. It tricks our cameras as well as our eyes. There WILL be shots you look at of snowy scenes on the back of your camera that look terrible, but then when you get them up in Lightroom or Camera Raw they’ll look amazing following a tweak or two.

 

Tip #2 – Keep your gear cold

When you take your gear from cold to warm (like in and out of a hotel or rental car) it puts a strain on it. Once it’s cold, keep it cold. It can short out the electrics if condensation forms inside the camera. The worst thing you can do is to actively try and warm your gear up or try to make it warm near the heat vent or under your ski jacket. Furthermore, if you see that shot and pull out your camera but it instantly fogs you’ll have nothing to show your friends! I remember shooting in Finnish Lapland where I visited the Wild Spirit Animal park and just after meeting Romeo the wooly pig and before meeting Spike the Husky I was taken into a small, round cabin with a fire burning inside for a hot drink to warm me up. I left my camera outside on a pile of wood so it stayed cold and was ready to shoot again as soon as I was back out.

 

Cold enough for an Arctic Fox

 

Tip #3 – Except your batteries. Keep them warm!

There’s some science here. I mean, I don’t know what it is, but it’s here! So basically, if your batteries are exposed to the cold they’ll lose power quicker. I’ve experienced this first hand, it definitely happens. I was shooting the northern lights in the Icelandic Westfjords up on top of a mountain. I couldn’t feel my face, it was that cold. Whatever was happening to my batteries due to the cold happened pretty quick. The power was just going. What I discovered is that if I kept my batteries in my inside pockets my body heat kept them going for longer.

 

Tip #4 – Then warm your gear back up slowly!

I learned this the hard way! Kirkjufellsfoss, shown below, is an iconic Icelandic waterfall with it’s namesake mountain right behind it. Take a look here though – I have a nice wide lens mounted on my Nikon D810 but the middle of the shot is all hazy and soft. This is a direct result of having moisture build up inside the lens. It’s virtually impossible to remove in post because it ruins a whole portion of the image. Bottom line is to consider ways to warm your gear up slowly. Put it in the boot of the rental car where it’s that little bit colder and far from the heating, and put it inside your bag (closed) when you take it indoors so that it gradually adjust to the new, warmer climate. If your camera does get moist for any reason, keep it somewhere dry and of a consistent temperature, and leave ALL of the ports wide open to give the moisture an easy escape.

 

Kirkjufellsfoss, with Kirkjufell in the background – Iceland

 

Tip #5 – Overexpose for white snow

What our eyes see as pure, white snow filling the landscape, our camera sees as overexposed and so brings your camera down a notch or two. To combat this, it’s a wise idea to shoot a little over. It’s the number one tip you’ll always see on advice for shooting snow but it’s easily overcome so just be mindful of it and shoot over – you can always bring things back down in Photoshop if you’re way too bright. On a sidetone, your Auto White Balance will often change things a little towards to blue end – another thing to bear in mind. If you’re the type to use a grey card or a light meter then fine, but I’m not and I consider it all in post.

 

Some snowy bushes in Iceland

 

Tip #6 – Don’t concentrate only on snow

There’s so much more going on and snowy scenes are in themselves very romantic, I find. This shot below is of a couple stood alone outside the beautiful House of the Roundheads in Riga and although they’re only a tiny feature of the images, they add to it just enough. As with everything you shoot, snow has a tendency to get very ‘samey’ and breaking it up with details, much like you would when shooting a wedding, you’re giving it a new perspective and engaging your audience and lifting interest.

 

House of the Roundheads – Riga, Latvia

 

Tip #7 – Shoot the fauna

Even if it’s hard to find some! There are two animals which epitomise Iceland – horses and puffins – and here’s 50% of that combo! Shooting animals helps give a sense of their hardiness to the testing climates they find themselves in and if you get it right, showing their character, it can give the viewer an intense connection!

 

An Icelandic Horse

 

Tip #8 – And the flora

Good luck finding some! Much like the animals, showing the hardiness of the plant life can create a connection between the viewer and the image. It mixes up and breaks up the images of snow scene after snow scene too!

 

Lapland

 

Tip #9 – Capture the festivities

There’s a 50% chance (hemispherically) that winter means it’s Christmas! Alongside this, there’s so much going on and it all tends to give contrast to the cold. Warm fires, hot chocolates and fairground rides – it’s all beautiful, especially when you capture it right. Going to a Christmas market with a camera can yield some awesome results.

 

One of many Christmas markets in Berlin, Germany

So there’s 9 tips for shooting in the cold, I hope you can use them! Right now I’m in Tromsø, Norway, way up in the Arctic Circle (oh the power of the internet!) and you can check my progress on my Instagram story or on Facebook to see the snow I’m seeing :)

 

Until next time!

Much love

Dave

 

 

Hey hey! It’s #TravelTuesday again here on ScottKelby.com and that means it’s time for this weeks #HybridDaveTuesdays post! This week I want to talk to you about my prior aversions to auto-ISO and how I overcame them.

ISO stands for International Standards Organisation, and it’s a standardised scale for measuring sensitivity to light. That’s boring though. It pertains in todays world to how sensitive a sensor is, but was obviously used in its same scale for measuring the sensitivity of film. It’s one of the three elements of exposure, alongside Aperture and Shutter Speed, but although these two are commonly understood it seems that ISO is the link in the chain which causes the most confusion.

I won’t make this a lesson on ISO, more of a glimpse of why I have switched to auto-ISO. And it was a bit of a big deal for me because I like to retain absolute control with my camera and basically not let it think for itself….. here’s what happened:-

ISO at higher sensitivity always used to mean grainy exposures. Noisy images and a lack of quality. Well looking at recent developments in the quality of higher ISO performance it’s certainly fair to say that it’s no longer as relevant as it used to be. I’ve shot fully manual for as long as I can remember, but it’s because of one situation very recently that I realised that perhaps auto-ISO is the way forward. Here’s the shot:-

 

The Mechanic – An old mechanic in his workshop in Marrakech

 

So I was hunting for candid portraits all day in Marrakech with Scott, his brother Jeff, and good friend Mike. We found one thing universally characteristic of Moroccans – the aversion to having their photo taken! Finding our candids was no easy task so everything had to be set up exactly right for the moments which presented themselves, which were not at all prevalent. To get this shot which I’d seen from the minivan we were cruising Marrakech in I had to ask the driver to go around (which I wasn’t doing for the first time that day) to get another glimpse through the open door into this mechanics garage. Upon stepping, at the 200mm end of my lens, across to shoot this the old gent raised his hands and lowered his head. It was a split second, but knowing exactly what I wanted from my shutter and my aperture I was able to use auto ISO to get the right exposure.

What I’ve discovered is that contrary to my previous fear of raising the ISO, I’ve now swung the other way and would much rather have a well exposed image even if it does have a little grain. Nobody ever really looked at a well exposed and well composed image and turned their nose up at the noise caused by a high ISO. In fact there are many, many tutorials telling you how to add noise to your images. Furthermore, removing a thought process and giving the camera the decision with regards to ISO makes the whole process a whole lot easier unless there’s a specific reason why I need to retake control. I’ve found it a really rewarding experience to concentrate more on the image and less on the settings, particularly when I can’t afford so much time on a shot.

So in essence I’m telling you this:-

Have a read of your camera manual, learn about auto ISO (and what I’ll call semi-auto, whereby you set limits) and give it a try. You might love it just as much as I do.

Much love

Dave

 

(By the way, the picture I’ve shown you is actually two photos. The old man’s reactions were far quicker than mine – they really don’t like having their photo taken! One shot has a clear view of his face with a huge chunk of trailer in the way blocking parts of the workshop. If you think you can spot the major changes feel free to get in touch and I’ll tell you if you’re right! You can find me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram)

 

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

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