Monday, August 8, 2016

Simplicity


click to enlarge



Sometimes simple is more powerful than complex


I'm going to leave that sentence out there for a bit.  Go ahead, read it again.

In this fast paced world with ever increasing noise, the general trend is to ratchet up the wow factor in the pursuit of eyeballs.  Whether in advertising, news,  politics, and even photography, there is a general trend to create more WOW so that it will cut through the crowded landscape and loud noise.  

I have found that as the noise has increased and the over-the-top wow factor in images has gone through the roof, I am moving further and further away from that and seeking more serenity, more simplicity and an inner strength in my images through the use of stronger compositions and more insightful translation of my subject. 

In the above image, a seemingly very "simple" shot from the Oregon coast, I find that it can be incredibly strong and even more impactful than some crazy light from the latest hot destination.   Simple beauty, expertly composed and crafted brings a deeper sense of connection to the subject, can bring more peace and serenity to the viewer, and challenges the artist to "do more with less"

For those that can slow down and look at a simple image, you can see that things can be anything but simple.  And, many times, it's these seemingly simple images that can be the hardest to create.  The wind had been blowing all day and if there were any ripples in the water in the pool, the image would not work.  Betting on the wind dying down while there is still sunlight in the sky took timing.  Putting the subject smack dab in the middle of the frame, typically a photographic no-no, works exceptionally well in this shot because of the simplicity and weight of the rock.  The "right" positioning to frame up the shot was a very thoughtful process.  Trying to get the best angle for the curve of the pool, then couple that with the shape of the rock...those two elements needed to be in harmony for the shot to work.  All which then tie in to the river of water leading from the pond to the ocean, giving the viewers eye an easy path to the back of the image.  The height of the tripod played a role in this composition too.  If the tripod was too low, the river of water would have been cut off by the rock and the angle on the pool/rock combination wouldn't highlight them to their best.  If set any higher, the angle starts to feel unnatural to the viewer.  Shot just below eye height allows the viewer to feel as if they are part of the scene.      Then of course, there is the in-camera technical execution of the image which has to be spot on.  As you can see, these seemingly "simple" compositions are anything but simple to execute just right to convey the voice of the photographer.  

In this age of constant shouting, ever increasing assaults on our senses, sometimes the voice that speaks softest and most poignantly is the one that gets heard.  

Thursday, April 14, 2016

2015 Image Collection

Each year I make a point to set aside some time to wrap up the previous year of photography.   This usually starts in the winter months and may stretch in to the spring depending on how much work there is to do.

The first thing that I do is review each folder and set of images that I shot for the year.  I often times do not process all of the "keepers" from a location during the year, so this is the time that I will go through and bring to light some of the gems that I've left hidden on my desktop.  

I've found too that letting some images sit and "age" a bit gives me perspective when I go to process them.   Coming back from a particularly productive shoot, of course there is excitement and I want to share what I've done.  I may do that right after I return, share an image or two, but I usually don't work the images too much nor do I want to share the full breadth of the shoot.  I do like to let the excitement subside a bit so that I can review and judge the images with as clear perspective as I can.  I may like an image when I first get back home, remembering what it felt like to be there or the sights/sounds, but upon some aging and perspective, that image may not stand up in the final cut. That's why I like to let them ferment a bit.

Once I've processed my images, then comes the harder task.  Curating my processed images for the year and condensing them in to a concise portfolio of work.  Without a doubt I am my own worst critic!  I am constantly striving to improve my photography, my vision, my "voice".....so that makes me a harsh critic when it comes to reviewing my images.  Usually during this process I also take some time to lift out of the actual images and look across the body of work and try to identify trends in my photography or look for areas that I've grown in, and, look for areas that I'd like to improve upon in the coming year.  It's all very introspective and can be insightful for me in my constant quest to improve.

Once I've culled the images down to what I think is a worthy set of images, I then create a book of my images.  I started doing this 5-6 years ago as a way to chronicle my growth, realize my photography in a hard copy format (instead of having tons of prints lying around) and be able to share with friends and family. And with an eye towards the future, I can look back at my work and see what I did and follow my photographic journey through time.

I settled on using the Blurb company to produce my books.  There are tons of print on demand companies out there, this is the one that i chose.  I chose it based upon overall print quality, the ability to print larger sized books, the variety of templates, the control and customizations available for what I want to do.  They are not the cheapest, nor are they the most expensive.  Very good quality at what I feel is a fair price.

I've finished my book for 2015 and here is a short excerpt from it....


Monday, April 11, 2016

The Final Piece

Fujifilm has released the final piece of their wonderful mirrorless puzzle.....a super telephoto lens.


The  FUJINON XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR is out on the market now and it is, arguably of course, one of the finest super telephoto lenses available from any manufacturer.   Visit the Fujifilm site HERE    I've only had the chance to shoot with this lens a couple of times and so far, I'll say that Fuji has a real winner on it's hands!   

The build quality of this lens is amazing and on par with any Canon L lens that I've owned.  Metal body construction means that this lens is not light, but by no means is it abnormally heavy.  The weight helps to bring a solidness to the lens that just exudes quality.  

The large grippy zoom and focus rings fall easily to hand and you can make fast adjustments on the fly, or, micro adjustments of focus to nail the shot you are going for.  

The lens has a telescoping barrel which helps keep the overall length down to a size that can fit in a backpack with the full Fuji_X system.  I no longer have to carry a separate backpack when I want to take out the "big gun".  

For me, the two biggest factors that I obsess over is image quality and then the built in stabilization.  Fuji has hit it out of the park on both of these.  The IQ is simply amazing for a lens with this focal range!!!!  It beats my Canon 100-400mm hand down.  Everything is tack sharp from corner to corner; no distortion or random artifacts at all.   Below is an image from the Olympic National Park, shooting across the river.  Only a slight crop for compositional needs.   Click on the pic to see it larger!   


f/13 220mm ISO 320 

The above was shot on a tripod, however, the fantastic image stabilization on this lens is so good, I am able to handhold 1-2 stops slower than I am with my Canon system.  Well done Fuji!  







The beauty now too is that Fuji has released their 1.4x teleconverter which works with the 100-400mm.  Putting this in the signal path has not resulted in any loss of image quality at all.  Fuji did a tremendous job providing magnification and no noticeable IQ loss, distortion or any other of the nasties you typically experience putting another piece of glass in the system.    And the best part, it turns your 100-400mm into a 140mm - 560mm super combo.  And, putting that on the X-T1 with it's sensor size, all told, you get an incredible reach of almost 800mm with incredible image quality!!!   

f/8 1/320 ISO 1250  560mm


f/8 1/320 ISO 640  560mm


f/11  1/320 ISO 200  350mm

If you're a Funi_X shooter, this is a must have lens.  The IQ is incredible, the build quality fantastic and the performance is on par with the best super-telex out there.  Kudos to Fujifilm for this fantastic piece of kit! 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8

I've been shooting the Fujifilm system for about 1 1/2 years now, full time for the last 9 months (I still have my Canon system, but that's for another time)

When I got my Fuji X-t1, it came with a "kit" lens, an 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens.  This lens was getting some great reviews (for being a kit lens) and as I started to shoot the Fuji, seeing the results from this lens, I really liked the results and didn't see a reason to change.  It was small, lightweight and produced some amazing shots.  This focal length on the Fuji is my "go to" length for most anything so this lens gets a lot of use.  

Fast forward to this year....I've been shooting the Fuji full time now and looking to extract every last bit of performance from the system that I can.  As I'm looking at my equipment, the "kit" lens seemed to keep popping up as something that I could improve.

Enter, the Fujifilm 16-55mm f/2.8. I had been looking at this lens for a while now and seeing others shoot this lens with outstanding results.  However, the reviews I was reading didn't show it as a clear winner over the kit lens.  Sure it was an improvement and everyone loved it who shot it, but it just wasn't a "no brainer" for me.  Check it out HERE

There are a couple of reasons why I hesitated to pick up this lens....1) It's heavy, weighing somewhere north of 2 lbs (compared to a little over 1/2 lb)  2) it's expensive, costing north of $1000 and 3) it doesn't come with image stabilization.   

On the plus side, it has a constant aperture of f/2.8 and it's weather resistant.  Both of which are very important for landscape folks shooting in the PNW.  And, it's optics are outstanding, edging out the kit lens in IQ in every test.

With the pros and cons outlined and measured, I made my decision.  I acquired the new lens and I couldn't be happier.  Sure it's bigger and heavier than the kit lens, which sort of defeats one of the arguments that mirrorless cameras are smaller, but i don't mind.  I've got a great pack to carry it in and the extra size/weight don't bother me.  

Will I "miss" image stabilization?  I feel confident in saying "no I won't".  I expect that I will use this lens almost exclusively on a tripod (where I turn off IS anyways), so not having it won't be missed and it might actually be a benefit in longer battery life (no IS draining batteries)

For my travels, I will keep the 18-55 f/2.8-4.  It's an outstanding lens and so light!  Seriously, traveling with that lens and the 55-200, I don't need to bring anything else.  Super small and lightweight package.  

I haven't had an opportunity to get out in the field and use this lens, but i do have an upcoming outing planned for the Gorge in a couple weeks. 

No regrets and only happiness as I fill out my bag and plant both feet in the Fujifilm world.  





Sunday, February 14, 2016

Singh-Ray Vario-ND Filter

I recently made an addition to my photographic "toolbox" when my new Sing-Ray Vario-ND filter arrived.  Over the years I have been constantly tweaking my tools and setup and this filter is something that I've had on my list for a while now to add to my gear.

If you haven't heard of Singh-Ray before, they produce the finest filters for photographic use (IMO)   Based out of Florida, they have been in business since 1962 and have collaborated with some of the photographic greats to produce a variety of filters for photography. 

Why use a filter you ask?  In this day and age of post processing and fantastic tools available in the digital realm, why lug around a bag of filters?  Well, the answer is two-fold.   1) There are some things that you cannot do in post processing, such as blurring water or clouds.  Yes you can add some "motion blur" in photoshop, but it doesn't look realistic.  and 2) getting the shot "right" in camera means that you have a better file to work with and you can spend less time in front of the computer "fixing" your image.

The Vario-ND filter is a Neutral Density filter that reduces the amount of light entering the camera, thereby allowing for longer shutter speeds.  The longer shutter speeds is what produces the blurred effect in images.   it is made with machined aluminum  surrounding optically correct ND glass.  Simply rotate the ring to provide between 2 and 8 stops of ND filtration.  Dial it in to the exact density you want to produce the amount of motion blur that you are wanting for your composition.  The filter is offered in a "regular" and "thin" version and the difference between the two is in the aluminum surround, one being thinner than the other. I chose the "thin" version because it reduces the possibility of vignetting when shooting wide angles.  You may still get some vignetting when shooting ultra-wide, but this is the price to pay for putting filters on the end of a lens.   Check out the Sing-Ray page HERE




In the past, I have carried a variety of different strength filters, everything from a 2-10 stop ND filter. In the field, this meant that I had to change filters when I wanted different densities of ND filtration.  Now with this filter, I don't have to change and can achieve almost everything that I want in the field.  There may be some times when I want more ND filter, so I think I will keep my 10 stop and may add a 15 stop ND filter to my bag. 

Living in the Pacific Northwest, I typically use an ND filter to blur water.  I shoot a lot of streams and waterfalls and having that silky smooth effect is what I like.  Also, I shoot a lot at the beach and blurring the water motion of the ocean can produce an ethereal effect for a more creative shot.  

Having the right tools in your photographic toolbox, and knowing how to use them, will help you bring home more creative and inspiring images from your outings.




New Social Experiment

At the urging of a fellow photographer, who I have to say is much younger than I and is from a more electronic generation, I am now taking some initial steps into the video realm, producing videos and posting to YouTube.   

It's been a steep learning curve at first.  Getting the right software and hardware together, then, the simple fact of organizing my thoughts in a way that flows nicely, then the actual act of producing a video.  Numerous takes and constant editing is the norm for me at this early stage.

My goal is to share my thoughts on different aspects of photography, perhaps more of the subjective thoughts around compositions, technique, etc.  What I don't want to do is be another "me too" on YouTube.  There are lots of great photographers on there sharing their knowledge and I don't want to duplicate what they are doing.  The trick in a crowded field is to find your niche and stand out from the rest.

This is a grand experiment into another avenue of social media.  I've found some renewed energy to publicize my work more on Instagram and YouTube in the hopes that one day I could turn this in to my next career.

Please visit my Channel on YouTube HERE or search for John Pedersen Photography

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A test in the Hoh



Click on the above image if you haven't done so already.  Go ahead, I'll wait.  

This was shot in the middle of winter in the Hoh Rainforest in the Olympic National Park.  The Hoh is officially the wettest place in the continental US and it was raining the day i took this.  The image is a 4 shot vertical panorama taken near the Hall of Mosses.   I wanted to take a shot that conveyed a bit of what it was like being "in" the forest and everything that's going on.

Shooting in a forest is generally not easy, and shooting in a rain forest is even harder.  It's so very difficult to get a clean composition without a million things intruding in the image or distracting from the scene.  Especially in this shot, there is SO MUCH going on in this part of the forest, how do you distill the composition to create a pleasing image....that was the test for me.

I spent about 5 minutes just looking at this scene, trying to compose and visualize what the final image might look like.  I scanned left and right and back again stitching a pano in my head and looking at the composition, the balance, distracting elements, noting what I need to do in the camera to capture the scene.  

Once I finally put down my tripod, it took me another 5 minutes at least to get the right positioning for my camera.   One of the lessons that my good friend Jack Graham preaches to his students is "space".  Specifically, having space between elements in the image and leaving enough space between elements and the edge of the image.  This lessons is so true and one that i've practiced for many years.  One of the key parts of me composing a shot is not looking at how pretty the scene is, or my camera settings.....I'm looking if I have the right amount of space in my image and if there are any distracting elements.    In setting up this shot, I repositioned my tripod no less than 6 times, trying to create space between the tree trunks so they don't overlap.  I found a spot that had the minimal amount of overlap and maximum space between the trees, so that's where I left my tripod.  

Even though it was overcast and raining, there was still a lot of light in the sky.  Underneath the forest canopy, it is fairly dark with lots of shadows or areas where i could lose detail in the shot.  So, the next thing i knew is that I did not want any of the sky showing in this shot.  This would reduce the dynamic range needed, and, would allow more accurate metering of the forest scene.  Sky = no no for this image.

Once i put my camera on the tripod and got everything level, I put my eye to the eyecup and panned left to right several times, slowly, looking for how the image flowed left to right, AND, looking for distracting elements or things that didn't quite fit. How far should I go left to right would dictate how many shots I would need to take.  I really liked the HUGE tree on the left and decided to anchor the left side of the frame with that tree.  There are a couple of really cool tree trunks just right of center and then to the far right, I liked the quality of light that I was seeing so I was able to pick an end point for the right side.  

One area of the image that bothered me was the immediate foreground.  There wasn't anything super cool about it and it was fairly messy with lots of dead branches, leaves and other forest debris.  I made the decision that I would exclude a portion of the foreground.   So a this point I knew that I didn't want the sky, and, I didn't want a portion of the foreground....i knew how much of the scene I wanted to capture and that in itself dictated what focal length I should use to capture the image.

The rest is really just the technical aspects of the shot. I metered the scene in several different places and decided on the correct shutter speed for my aperture.  Then started shooting from left to right, overlapping each image enough so the stitching software would have the information it needs.   I only shot one pano series for this, no backup in case I did something wrong.   

Once home, I stitched the images together in Lightroom then took the image in to Photoshop.  Once there, I used several Nik products as well as worked several layers of luminosity masks to bring out certain areas of the image.  When i was done, this file was over 1gb!!!!!   

i don't shoot a lot of panos in general, but I do like them in specific situations and they can do a wonderful job of conveying a sense of presence to  your viewers.