Brad’s Quick Travel Tip #2 – Avoiding Long Flights

The inspiration for this post comes from my father.  In a recent conversation, my father said that he would never visit Australia, simply because he never wanted another 15 hour flight.  I showed him how you can get to Australia without any flight over 8 hours.

The secret for USA to Australia and New Zealand?  Hawaii.  From anywhere in the USA, you can get a ~6 hour flight to the West Coast (LA, San Fran, Seattle, etc), where it is a ~6 hour flight to Honolulu (HNL) Hawaii.  Auckland, New Zealand (AKL) or Sydney, Australia (SYD) are a relatively inexpensive 7-8 hr flight from HNL.  Or if you’d prefer, Denver (DEN) to Honolulu (HNL) is about 8 hours.

Alternatively, HNL to Japan’s Tokyo Narita (NRT) is about 8 hours as well.  Although this is probably not worth the effort, as NYC (JFK) to NRT is about 12 hours and Seattle (SEA) to NRT is about 10 hours.

On the other side of things, a person living in Sydney Australia can get to Europe without any flight over 8 hours.  This person would go SYD to HNL (many airlines, including QANTAS, Jet Star, Hawaiian), HNL to SEA (Hawaiian or Alaskan), SEA to KEF (Keflavik, Iceland on Icelandair), then finally KEF to anywhere in Europe.

This tip likely works best for Americans.  Due to flight schedules, there may be a 24-48 hour layover in Hawaii, which is such a terrible thing.  I am aware that most non-Americans do not like doing international transfers through the USA.  But no matter who you are, it is an option.  And if you do not like the long haul flights, this is an option to avoid them for a large portion of the world.

Until next time-
-Brad

Brad’s Quick Travel Tip #1 – American Airlines

I recently traveled on American Airlines and I discovered something interesting.

I live in Seattle, and as a result, I have a Frequent Flyer card for Alaska Airlines.  Alaska and American have a new partnership.

As a result of this partnership, having an Alaska Airlines MVP number, grants you early boarding on American Airlines.  I have the base status on Alaska, but, I was still able to board the plane before about half of the rest of the plane.  American boarded their higher tier frequent flyer, high tier people in the OneWorld frequent flyer plans, and First/Business class before me, but I boarded before the people who purchased regular tickets, with the AAdvantage ‘Gold’ status members or OneWorld ‘Ruby’ status members.  See here – https://www.aa.com/i18n/travel-info/boarding-process.jsp

So, if you are traveling in coach, do not otherwise have any airline status, do not intend to build miles on American or OneWorld airlines, and are not flying in business/first, you can sign up for the Alaska MVP program and board before most people.  It doesn’t cost anything, and it does not even require you to have ever flown on Alaska Airlines.

Enjoy!
-Brad

The Math of the F/Stop Progression

As a quick post, I’m going to mention something that everyone seems to have difficulty with.  This is a little math-heavy and I’ll try to simplify it.

F/stop progressions.  Why do I have to double my shutter speed when going from F/2.0 to F/2.8?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to double my shutter speed when I go from F/2.0 to F/4.0?

The F/stop is related to the diameter of the aperture of the lens, or the width of the circle of light that shines on the sensor or film.  The key word here is ‘circle’.

Everyone remembers that the area of a circle is area = pi * r^2.  The number in the F/stop is related to the Diameter, which is 2 * radius.  If you want to cut the area of the circle in half, you need to divide the diameter (and thus the radius) by the squareroot of 2.  The squareroot of 2 is 1.4142136 … but for our purposes, 1.4 is good enough.

This is why the F/stop progression is 2.0, 2.8, 4.0, 5.6, etc.  Each of these numbers are about 1.4 apart (2 * 1.4 = 2.8, 2.8 * 1.4 = 2 * (1.4 * 1.4) = 2 * 2 = 4).  Each stop is the same as increasing the diameter/radius by 1.4, and doubling the size of the opening.

Now you may be thinking to yourself, “self, this makes it look like the numbers are in reverse order”.  The piece to understanding the order is in how the F/stop is normally stylized, F/2.8, F/4.0, etc.  The / in math means divided by.  It means the aperture is set to the focal length divided by the number represented in the F/stop.  For example, on a 120mm lens, at F/4.0, the aperture is 120mm/4.0 or 30mm.  If we stop down to F/8.0, the aperture is 15mm.  A circle with a 30mm diameter has an area 4 times the size of a circle with a 15mm diameter, thus, F/8.0 lets through one quarter the light of F/4.0, and is a change of ‘2 stops’.

I hope this helps understand everyone understand one of the less obvious parts of photography.

-Brad

Useful Tips : Photographing Fireworks and Getting a Result

Happy New Year everyone! This is going to be a quick post about photographing fireworks, and making the best of what you get. It also includes some tips for people who just want to go to bed early.

Tip #1 – Arrive early. In most places, there will be a lot of competition for places to view and photograph the fireworks. If the fireworks are starting “when it gets dark enough”, like the 4th of July in the USA, you want to arrive about 2-3 hours before dark and set up. If it is at midnight, like New Years Eve, you want to be in place at least 3 hours ahead of time, depending on how popular the spot is.

However, if you are photographing from a place you own or rent, you are fine. I like to use my apartment window because #1 – I can set up during the daylight, and #2 – January is cold, and I want to sip my champagne in peace.

Tip #2 – Fireworks are a big light source. This light will bounce around and can create reflections or illuminate things you don’t want seen. If you are shooting through a window, the fireworks can light up your room and cause reflections in the glass. Use a black cloth to eliminate this reflection as much as possible. I like to tape the cloth around the lens and to the glass, if possible. If you don’t have something that is black, use the darkest color available.

Tip #3 – Find your settings early. My go-to is iso200, F/8, 3 seconds. I like 3 second exposures.

Tip #4 – If you can leave your camera, use a self timer. I prefer to use the internal timer when possible (my D800 and D750 both have internal self timers). My older cameras do not. So I set the camera to iso200, F/8, 3 seconds, and set the self timer to start a 35 minute exposure starting at about 11:55 and ending around 12:30. The camera thinks the shutter is being held down and takes back-to-back 3 second exposures, and I get to enjoy the fireworks or sleep. In general, I like my self timers for purposes like this (they also work great with sunsets when you want to photograph them and watch them – this lets you enjoy the event with your significant other). Self timers are also great when you can set things up early, then enjoy some adult beverages which may otherwise prevent you from taking the images.

Tip #5 – If you are trying to take the lazy aproach, be prepared to work with what you get.

Expanding on Tip #5, 2 years ago I set everything up on a self timer, taped a dark cloth to the window, and went to bed. When I woke up, I had about 300 photos, only 100 of which had fireworks. But, the tape I was using didn’t hold, so the 100 fireworks images all looked like this.

Crap.

While it was disappointing, the right half of the image turned out, so there was hope. Since I knew that the D800 has a crazy high resolution, and I can make big prints from even a vertical crop of a horizontal image, I did just that.

This cropping was able to save my image

I like the results. Especially considering the non-ideal situation that caused these to be my only options. I am setting up one of my cameras for the fireworks this year to try to get something similar.

As I write this, there is about 9 hours remaining in the year. I’m going to spend the next few hours getting 3-4 cameras set up and ready, then probably sit down for a relaxing day. Once the cameras are set up, I’ll make a post on Instagram with what the setup looks like.

Happy New Year! And best of luck in 2017.

-Brad

A Quick Update

Hello!

I realize I haven’t been very good lately at updating this blog.  I’m hoping that changes in 2017 and for the remainder of 2016.

In short, I’ve been crazy busy and have barely made time for what needs to be done here.  I also recently took a 4 week trip to Australia and New Zealand, and I am still working through the photos from this trip.  There is always so much to do that I am not finding the time to do things.  I’m sure there’s a few posts in here somewhere.

Anyways, going to try to get better updates in the future.  So, let’s see what happens.

-B

Photographing the Grand Canyon – Matkatamiba Canyon

I was recently fortunate enough to be able to travel down the Colorado river and photograph the Grand Canyon.

One of the lunch stops on this trip was at Matkatamiba Canyon, which is at mile 148, just before the Matkatamiba Rapids. Our goal was to make it up to one of the waterfalls in the slot canyon and photograph it. Due to how this canyon winds around, it can support a lot of photographers at once at most locations.

Upon arrival, we found the entranceway had deeper water than there was in previous years.

This was not off to a good start. We had to cross a neck deep path with camera gear. While I may have been able to make it, some of the shorter members of the group would not, or at least their camera gear would not.

The solution was to use some of the folding tables as a bridge.

Some of the other people in the group decided to climb the rocks and make it over. Being taller, I took the option of holding my camera gear over my head and wading through the creek.

After passing through this creek, there were two waterfalls to climb. While this first one doesn’t look like much, the right side was extremely slippery, and, at least two people fell. One person managed to have their camera call into the water, but, it was an older Canon 1D series, so it was fine after it dried out a bit.

After this waterfall, there was a chest deep section, followed by a waist deep section, followed by another waterfall to climb. I do not have any pictures of this last waterfall, because there were a bunch of people trying to photograph it, and I wanted to get out of their frames as fast as possible.

At this last waterfall, the slot canyon narrows greatly. I was able to take a quick stop about 1/3rd of the way up to take this photo. There was a small pool here where I could take a small break from the climb.

I was now at a point where only a handful of people would try to venture. Once I got to the top of the stream, I took a look around the corner.

This looked quite nice, and very well could have been my shot. I decided to set up and take a few shots while deciding how much further I wanted to go.

As I was debating whether to continue up or turn back, some other members of my group showed up. One of them climbed up and let us know we were about as far as you could go. I decided if I was almost there, I might as well go to the top. So I did.

About the time I got to the top, a few people were ready to leave. The guides then showed up, having taken a goat trail to get there. They helped a few members of my group get out and head up the trail. A few members of my group decided to start to venture back down the creek. I then had it all to myself.

Since I had all of my camera gear, and a great little spot all to myself, I decided not to waste it, and, carefully set up my camera. At the bottom of the area, there is place to put bags down and keep them mostly dry. Here, there was no such spot.

The pink duct tape on the camera serves a few purposes. #1 – Identification – by the first day, everyone knew that Pink Duct Tape was mine. #2 – Dust Protection – the Grand Canyon has very fine dust that gets everywhere. The duct tape helped keep this dust out of the sensitive parts of the camera. #3 – Pink = Professional. My other camera was marked with Star Wars Duct Tape, so I could tell them apart at a distance.

And here, after all of that story, is the final image. It only took about an hour in Photoshop to get to this point.

Matkatamiba Top

The top of Matkatamiba

Until next time
-Brad

Blogo Ate My Posts!

I was very close to having a great post tonight about my recent trip to the Grand Canyon.

However, I use the software called ‘Blogo’ to write my posts.  It had an incident, and, it ate the post I had spend close to 2 hours working on.  So it will be a bit longer before I have the post ready.

Also, while attempting to write this post using the software, it refused to give me a box to type in.  I had been quite happy with the software before, but after tonight, I think I’m done with it.

Using GPX Data in LightRoom

Background

  • This will allow you to add a Latitude/Longitude (aka GPS Coordinates) to your photos after the fact, and without needing to use a GPS receiver on your camera.
  • This allows for a trip where only 1 person carries the GPS recorder, but everyone can benefit.
  • These features have been available since Lightroom 4.
  • The screenshots below are from Lightroom CC 2015, on Mac OS X.

Lightroom Instructions

Terry from Adobe talks about Geotagging – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-9kSbLk26M

Important things to know: The Timezone offset means the difference in the camera’s clock vs your computer’s clock. If your camera’s clock is set to PDT (Pacific Daylight Savings) and your computer is set to EDT (Eastern Daylight Savings), you want to use -3 as your timezone offset. The computer needs to know the difference between your computer and your camera’s clock.

An easy alternative to this is to reset your computer’s clock to the timezone your camera’s clock was set to before using the Geotagging data.

Before We Begin-

Things to Know – Lightroom remembers the location of the .gpx file. It is recommended that you create a folder inside of your [My] Documents folder for GPX logs.

Without full information, Lightroom will guess. If there is a jump in the data, it will pick one side or the other and not try to calculate where you may have been on a straight line. Knowing this behavior, when capturing the GPS logs, I recommend turning off your GPS when you will be stationary for an extended period of time, and turning it back on when you move.

The GPS log will not be 100% accurate, but it will generally be close enough. In many situations, the GPS receiver can have trouble locking on to the location. For the most part, accuracy is within 30m/100ft. In the difficult areas, accuracy is within about 0.1 miles. There are some places, it does look like this-

If you see something like this, it is just due to the age of the GPS chips and the limited accuracy of that location. If you use a piece of software to edit the GPX file, you can just delete this section.

It is also HIGHLY recommended that you perform this on ~5 test files that you have not yet worked on. See “Removing Geolocation Data” below. If you had a device that was geotagging, it is HIGHLY recommended that you do not try to tag a tagged photo.

Let’s Begin
Step 1 – Open the Map Module of Lightroom
Step 2 – Click on the box at the bottom that looks like a line graph (to the right of the Padlock Icon). We will call this the ‘Tracklog Icon’

Step 3 – Choose “Load Tracklog”

Step 4 – Navigate to where the log was stored, press ‘Choose’

This should now load the entire track

Step 5 – Click on the Tracklog Icon, select “Set Time Zone Offset”

Step 6
See “Things to Know” at the start of this section. You will be presented with a dialog box asking you for the timezone offset. This is the difference between your computer’s timezone and your camera’s timezone. If they are both set to the same, choose 0.0.

Note: This assumes that your camera’s clock had at the minutes set correctly. If your camera’s clock was set completely wrong, you can adjust the offset by .1 hours (6 minutes). Good luck! And set your clock right next time.

After setting the offset, press OK.
Step 7 – Using the filmstrip area, choose the photos you wish to tag.

Step 8 – Hit the Tracklog Icon Again, choose “Auto Tag X Photos”

The first time you do this, you may see a pop up about doing reverse location info. This sends the GPS coordinates to Google to fill in the city/state/country/region information for where you were. Turn this on if you’d like. I leave it turned off.

Step 9 – Assuming your test went smoothly; perform the same task on the rest of your files.

Step 10 – Enjoy your map

If you click on one of the numbers, then switch back to your Library View, those photos that were in that area will be selected.

To find files that do or do not have location info, you can go into your Library and do a ‘Metadata Search’.

You can add a new column for ‘GPS Data’, which will let you search for files that do or do not have GPS Data.

I have been geotagging since 2010. If you continue to geotag over time, your map could eventually look like this:


Removing Geolocation Data-

Under the Photo Menu, choose “Delete GPS Coordinates”

GPS data is stored in the .xmp of a photo and in your .lrcat file itself.

If you overwrote a location from a photo that was already tagged (for examply, 1 camera has GPS tagging built in), the only way I know to get the location back is to remove the file from your catalogue, delete the .xmp file (if there is one), then import the file again. Sorry.

If you wish to hide the location data during export, check the “Remove Location Info” box.


Alternative method – Jeffrey’s GeoTagging Plugin

A more feature-full GeoTagging Option is the one from Jeffrey Friedl of regex.info (http://regex.info/blog/lightroom-goodies/gps. This plugin has a lot of options and can guess where you were a lot better than Lightroom’s out of the box functionality. If you want to go down this route, the author’s web page has a fantastic step-by-step guide.

Resources
Terry from Adobe Talks about Geotagging – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-9kSbLk26M
Jeffrey’s GeoTagging Plugin – http://regex.info/blog/lightroom-goodies/gps

-Brad

Compressed RAW Files

This post is my thoughts on this well intended, but slightly misguided, post on Digital Photography School.  NOTE – this post was written in June of 2016, if something changes, updates will be noted here.

Personally, I always shoot at 14-bit Compressed RAW.  For me, it is better to shoot at 14 vs 12.  While using 14-bit does create larger files, for me, this is not an issue.  But, I do not work weddings or sports where shooting 14-bit may clog down the system due to processing large numbers of large files.

Now, I like math.  I like math a lot.  I also understand light and electronics.  Here are my thoughts.

14 bit raw does not buy you much except when it does.  To fully explain what it buys, I have to explain how your eye works vs how an image sensor works.  I’m going to use an example.

If you take a room with 1 lit candle, then add 1 more lit candle, your eye will really notice the difference.  If you take a room with 1000 lit candles, then light one more, your eye will not notice this at all.  This is because your eye works on relative brightness.  Doubling the light is very different vs an increase of 0.1%.  However, a camera works off of absolute brightness, which means that both examples are the same increase in brightness, or an increase of 1 candle.  Minute Physics has an explanation of this.

With the Gamma Curve, and relative brightness levels, what does the bit-ness mean and what does it give you?

The simplest answer – the bit-ness matters in the shadows and the shadow detail.  If you have a well lit scene with very little shadow detail, there will likely be no easily discernible difference in 12 vs 14 bit.  There will certainly be differences between 12 and 14 bit RAWs, but they are mostly in the file size and the after capture flexibility.  The less you want to push the shadows in the final image (vs at capture) the less 14 bit matters.  If you shoot HDR or shoot brackets for some kind of HDR usage, you should be fine with 12 bit.

In this part, I do not disagree with the DPS post.

Where I do severely disagree with the post is in compression.  This part of the discussion shows where the author lacks computer science skills.

Side note – this is about lossless compression only, and is based on my experience with Nikon cameras.  This does not cover lossy RAW, which is available on Nikon and Sony cameras.  Nor does it talk about sRAW files.

Much like how in photography every choice you make is a trade-off, compression is the same.  But in compression, the trade-off is more interesting.

Let’s take a file that is 100MB.  In this situation, the file can be compressed to 60MB with 1 additional second for processing time.  This file can be uncompressed with a modern CPU in half a second.  The question very quickly becomes — does compression make sense?  The next question is, how long does it take to compress the file, and is the storage system able to handle uncompressed vs compressed faster.  For storing the file, if you can transfer 20MB/sec, the 100MB file takes 5 seconds to transfer and the compressed file takes 1 second to compress and 3 seconds to transfer, for a savings of 1 second.  If you can transfer 100MB/sec, the larger file transfers in 1 second, and the smaller file transfers in 1.6 seconds.

If you shoot compressed RAW, opening the file on a computer later could take slightly longer (due to needing to decompress the file).  But a computer normally is fast enough that this doesn’t matter.  You may not notice a difference in the compressed file vs the uncompressed, especially if you have a SSD and a CPU from the last 3-4 years.

Compression may shorten the battery life on your camera.  The longer the camera CPU and sensor are idle, the better your battery life.  Transferring and compressing both use power.  With a relatively new camera, this is unlikely to make a difference of more than 5% change in the number of images per charge.  My DSLRs can shoot nearly 1000 images on a single charge, so +/-50 isn’t a huge deal.  With a modern camera and a slower memory card, it is more likely that you notice that images save faster if you use compression.  Only once you hit the fastest of the fast for memory cards (say, a latest generation QXD card) would compression increase the time required to save a RAW to the memory card.  I am not saying you should buy cheaper cards, but I am saying that most people will not need the fastest generation of cards, and would be better off buying 2-3 of the previous generation of cards for the same price.  Also, if you compress your files, they will take up around 30% less space on the card, making those 3 64GB last gen cards even better than the 1 128GB current gen card.

In short, the math proves that for the vast majority of people, compressed RAWs will be a benefit.  I will be happy to edit/append this post if I am wrong within the next 2-3 years (note, the year this post was written or updated).

-Brad

Site Changes

I’ve been making some changes around the site.  The two biggest are my name changes and the switch to https.  The switch to secure just makes sense, given all of the current news.  Google searches also now prioritize secure sites over non secure.

However, with my switch to secure, I wanted to make sure that all old links worked.  So I’ve added a rewrite rule in my .htaccess file

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
RewriteRule (.*) https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [R,L]

</IfModule>

What this does is simple – if you visit via http, it immediately redirects you to the https version of that url.

The other change is the branding.  This really only relates to having an extra domain name pointing to the same pages.  I’m a little uncomfortable giving any personal details out over the internet, but, I think this will change over time.  There will be a bigger change as well in the near future, but, this will deserve its own post.  The new domain name was step 1 of the bigger post.  Ch-ch-ch-changes.