FINE ART ATELIER: 13 Jokulsarlon Bergletts

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There is a rule in landscape photography that should never be forgotten: don't put off taking a photograph now, hoping it will still be there later on. In Iceland, I asked a number of photographers if they wanted to walk down the lagoon to see what we could find. Our plan was to stay at the lagoon overnight as it wasn't going to be completely dark at any stage and we had a near-full moon. So we had plenty of time, but no one was interested. I walked down by myself and this is what I found.

We returned to the lagoon a couple of days later and, after seeing a rough edit of this photo, everyone wanted to walk down the lagoon. Unfortunately, when we reached this spot, the wind had shifted and the berglettes had drifted away. So, I was lucky, but it reinforced my view that we shouldn't put off until tomorrow what we know we should do today!


FINE ART ATELIER: 13 | Western Macdonnells

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The Western Macdonnells lies west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, Australia. We were staying at Glen Helen Gorge on a very hot December day and while the best place to be was inside with the air conditioning turned on, I found myself outside with Bruce Pottinger looking for images. Despite the heat and the blue sky to the east, there was a storm brewing in the west. It passed through quite quickly, but only after soaking Bruce and me! However, the light that followed was quite amazing... 

What you are seeing in this movie is a series of steps from the basic capture to the final rendering. The steps are not necessarily the quickest way to create the image, rather they follow the thought process of discovering the image through colour, contrast and exposure. Two quite separate processes are involved: that of pre-visualising the image, and that of rendering it in Photoshop.


KNOWLEDGE: 13 | Composition - Part I

What Will You Photograph?

While there are some basic rules of composition we can all follow, to improve our photographs, composition takes time and experience to learn. It's as much about feelings and emotions as position and size. It's also about breaking the rules to create something even better, but it's certainly best to know the rules first. Photographers who break the rules without knowing them usually create photographs that are just plain boring!
One of the best ways you can learn composition is to 'program' good compositions into your subconscious. You do this by reviewing lots and lots of good photographs so that when you're looking at a scene, it will prompt a response. This is not the same as 'copying' another photographer's work, but taking inspiration.
There are lots of great books and website about landscape photography, so look around and discover work that you like. Most serious landscape photographers have their own websites displaying their best work. Spend time analysing why you like some photos and dislike others. Sometimes it will be the subject that appeals to you, in other cases it's the lighting. However, move past these aspects and take a look at where the subject is positioned in the frame, how the various 'compositional elements' are placed in relation to each other, and how the photographer has used compositional lines, shapes, patterns and colour to make the photograph more striking.

Content Selection

While not strictly a compositional element, content selection is an incredibly important step in the creative process. This is not to say one subject will create a better photograph than another, but that some photographers will interact better with particular subjects.
One photographer might be unable to make a brick wall look interesting, while another will create a masterpiece with the same subject. It's not so much about the subject itself (the content), as it is about the way the photographer interacts with the subject.
There are two suggestions for selecting your content. The first is to photograph a subject that interests you. There might be a particular area near your home or an exotic location overseas that would make wonderful landscape photographs. Or you might love sunsets or rainy weather - your subject could be different locations at sunset or landscapes on rainy days.
If you pick a subject that you are passionate about, it will show in your photographs. You'll also enjoy spending time taking the photographs and the results will speak for themselves.
However, not everyone will share your passion. This is when you have to make a decision about whether your photography is for you or to share with others.
For instance, most Australian's love Italian landscapes, perhaps with an old hill town sitting on top of a picturesque ridge. For Australian's, the romance of Europe and its historical connection with medieval times makes the photograph that much more interesting and appealing. It's different from the scenes Australians are used to seeing. However, for the Italians who drive past the same location everyday on their way to work, the hill town has minimal appeal.
Now show the same Italian audience a photograph of outback Australia or perhaps the Sydney Opera House at sunset with the Harbour Bridge behind. The Italians will respond more positively than someone who passes the Opera House in the ferry everyday on his way to work.
If you wish to share your photographs with others, it's important to choose subjects that will interest them. If this isn't possible (perhaps you're not travelling for a while), then you need to photograph common subjects in unusual ways that will interest others.
People are inundated everyday with hundreds and hundreds of photographs. They watch television and interact on social media with thousands more images. If you want people to respond positively to your landscape photographs, you have to put the odds in your favour by selecting appealing subject matter, or photographing more common scenes in an appealing way.
Not everyone wants to impress their friends and family with their photographs. Some photographers are quite happy shooting images for themselves - and there's nothing wrong with this approach. Shoot whatever you wish, but shoot so you are happy with your results.
Which ever approach you take, think carefully about your subject matter.


POST PRODUCTION: 13 | Sharpening in Photoshop

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Sharpening your photographs is something that is part art, par science. This movie will show you the basics of image sharpening, explain the science sharpening (so you know how it works), and then give you some suggestions as to how to best sharpen your image files.



LOCATION SURVEY: 13 | Papua New Guinea

Looking across to Rabaul's volcano from Kokopo.

It's late. After midnight. I'm half asleep and there's a huge racket going on downstairs. It sounds like the hotel staff are moving heavy furniture around and I can feel it gently shaking my bed. Why can't people be more considerate I wonder as I drift back to sleep…
The next morning my Kokopo guide picks me up to transport me to the international mask festival down the road. "Did you feel the volcano rumbling last night", she asks?
Papua New Guinea is unlike any place I have visited before. It has elements of many other destinations including active volcanoes and brightly painted tribal dancers, but in addition there's a colour, an excitement and a rawness that I haven't found elsewhere.
Many years ago now, I visited PNG with the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority. I began by attending a travel information night for PNG when I saw some of David Kirkland's wonderful travel photographs and was hooked. I couldn't wait to go.
What I saw of PNG through photographs and videos was a bizarre land of amazing colours, supernatural landscapes and a culture that continues relatively unchanged from ancient times.
The volcano, Rabaul (near Kokopo)

Isn't PNG Dangerous?

Is PNG safe to visit? What is security like? Is the water safe to drink? Is the accommodation clean? What about internet and hot tubs?
You'll find all the modern conveniences in Port Moresby's hotels, but my reason for visiting Papua New Guinea was to get away from modern life and experience something much more exciting and 'real'. As long as the accommodation is clean, that's all that worries me.
And it was! In fact, when I stayed at Butia Lodge in the Trobriand Islands, I returned one afternoon to find all of my clothes carefully folded and pressed, even my dirty ones! If you're looking for a sanitised hotel room that looks exactly the same as a room in Paris or Los Angeles, PNG isn't for you. But if you have a sense of adventure, then you can choose clean and simple, or even roughing it by staying with the locals in one of their village huts!
Tuk Tuk - Papua New Guineans in tribal dress, Rabaul, PNG
People fear for their safety when they think of PNG and I think it's wise to be aware of your surroundings and the people you meet. However, at no stage did I feel threatened or uneasy. In comparison, if I am visiting cities like London, New York or Las Vegas, there are parts that are 'no go' areas for the average tourist and Port Moresby is no different. I'm sure there have been times in the past when it has been unsafe to travel in parts of PNG, but on my visit there were no signs of any problems.
Away from larger centres, the people I met were all friendly and helpful, but by the same token I was also respectful and polite. When travelling I think it's important that Westerners such as most of our readers don't impose their values on other people or treat them with disrespect. I wouldn't just walk into a village or stick my camera in someone's face without first introducing myself or asking permission.
If you are a little concerned about travelling to Papua New Guinea, make your first trip with a group. In many ways, this is exactly how I travelled, except it was a private group of just me and, for the Trobriands, my friend from PNG Tourism Authority, Leith Isaac. Another option is to join an expedition cruise and see PNG by ship.
Peter Eastway on location, Rabaul. Don't leave your camera bag on the ground like this
without zipping it up, the fine volcanic dust is murder for your cameras!

The Volcano

In 1994, the volcano at Rabaul erupted and effectively covered the city with pumice and ash. Today, a much smaller population remains, including the small village of Matupit which remains under the volcanic clouds of the crater. The old airport is buried below compressed black ash and while the eruption was devastating for the locals, it's an amazing location for portrait and landscape photography.
My guides were used to taking photographers and film crews around to the volcano. A rope fence allows a gatekeeper to charge an entrance fee ($2.50) for access to a hot spring that runs into the bay that surrounds the craters.
The experience is eerie. Above, huge clouds of steam waft and billow, their shadows dancing over the black, hard-packed ground. Torrential tropical rain has worn cracks and fissures into the soft material, with patches of iridescent green grass seemingly the only life that has managed to reclaim an existence nearby. Yet it is the constant growling of the volcano that I remember, a giant cauldron boiling dangerously, its sound ebbing and flowing with the wind coming across the sea.
You could be forgiven for thinking this desolate landscape was the end of the earth, and then you'll see white smiles of young Papua New Guineans, laughing and playing, hitching a ride to wherever you're going. While this particular landscape seems harsh, the people living here have adapted and to the casual observer, seem to be happy and content.
Canoe on remote Trobriand island - all hand-made! 

The Trobriand Islands

Anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski made the Trobriand Islands famous when he was sent there during World War I. He studied the people and wrote three books, including one titled The Sexual Life of Savages in North Western Melanesia which today is the reason the Trobriands are also known as the Islands of Love.
And I did love these islands. Two flights a week visit Kiriwina Island, the largest in the archipelago and there are just two lodges which host the small number of tourists. I stayed in Butia Lodge in a small cabin with an on-suite bathroom. The generator was turned on between the hours of 6.00 p.m. and 10.00 p.m., there were no street lights, only a couple of shops near the airstrip and lots of small villages every kilometre or so.
I really felt I had stepped back in time, but the next day I was to travel back another 100 years more when we chartered a small 'banana' boat and crew and motored out to Kaduaga Island. Here they didn't have shops or power, although there was a church in the main village. The small thatched huts were all built on stilts along the beachfront, safe from tidal surges and storm waves. Dugout canoes were pulled up on the sands or lifted onto wooden frames, and while some of the locals' clothing was modern, life otherwise appeared to pass as it has for hundreds if not thousands of years.
Whether I'm romanticising my experience doesn't really bother me. I loved it! A small boy had built a toy outrigger with a sail and was was letting the wind take it to a friend on the other side of a rock pool. The toy was completely handmade and no doubt his pride and joy, so I felt a pang of sorrow for him when several hours later on our homeward voyage I saw this toy outrigger sailing along a couple of kilometres out to sea.
From the air, the colour of the waters surrounding the Trobiands is amazing. Deep ultramarine greens and blues light up the sea, but my visit was mainly overcast. Nevertheless, the light was great for photographing people and their villages. In fact, looking back on it, the light was perfect for people photography and so it was just a matter of adapting to what you found. I felt that I came home with images that could have been taken on a movie set. They had an 'authentic' feeling to them, whatever that means. Certainly the Trobriands were not a tourist hub and this in itself was an incredible attraction.

Visiting PNG

If I were going there for the first time, I would link up with a tour operator and a local person to take you around. While in places like Kokopo you can hire a car and travel around yourself, it's not that expensive to have a local guide and driver.
Of course, it's not always possible to drive from one location to another, so flights and cruises are another way to get around PNG, or there are a few 'resorts' which look like being worth a stay. Note a 'resort' in PNG is something that is comfortable, rather than luxurious, but if you've read the article this far, you'll be looking forward to the adventure.


PHOTO ADVICE: 13 | Critique Session

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During the production of the Landscape Photography MasterClass, some of our early subscribers kindly provided some images for critique and review. This has turned into a very popular part of each MasterClass and we have received many complimentary comments about how useful the Critique Session is.

Of course, there are no absolutes in photography and so what you view in this movie is really just one photographer's opinion about another photographer's work. However, hopefully the advice and observations can be helpful in improving your own photography.


BUSINESS ACUMEN: 13 | Print Sizes and Surfaces

When printing a landscape, what are you looking for? How big should the print be? How big can it be without the image quality breaking up? What limits do your files have?
Producing a good quality landscape print in Photoshop is one thing, choosing how to print it is another. And while huge prints have been made from very small files, there are some limits to keep in mind.

Image Size 

Most experts agree that the human eye can see detail at 360 dots per inch, but if the resolution of the file is higher than this, no more detail will be perceived. Of course, this also depends on the 'human eye'. People who wear glasses may not perceive as much detail as people with hawk-like vision, but in general terms, keep 360 dpi in mind.
Let's assume you want to make a 10 inch (25 cm) print. You have a 12-megapixel sensor which produces 4000 x 3000 pixel files, so this means you can create a 10-inch print at greater than 360 dpi (it calculates out at 400 dpi). In fact, at this size, we have more pixels than we need.
However, what happens when we try to make a 20 inch (50 cm) print from the same file? Resolution is now 200 dpi which is less than the human eye is capable of perceiving.
Does this mean the print is sub-standard? Many professional photography labs around the world print used to print at 200 dpi on conventional photographic paper. A lab I have an involvement with (The Edge Photo Imaging in Melbourne) prints on a Lambda machine at either 200 or 400 dpi. Yes, you can see more fine detail in the 400 dpi print, but the prints at 200 dpi are still excellent. They are still professional quality.
If 200 dpi is sufficient, then why do some inkjet printers output at 720, 1440, 2880 or even 5000+ dpi?
Okay, so now we have to clarify the difference between dpi and ppi. Dots per inch generally refers to how many dots of ink a printer can reproduce, while pixels per inch is how many pixels are used per inch. So, strictly speaking, we are sizing our 20-inch image file at 200 ppi; the Lambda will output it at 200 dpi while an inkjet printer may output the file at 720 or 1440 dpi. The printer takes each pixel and divides it into the required number of dots.

Big Print Compromise

These days with 20- to 150-megapixel sensors, we have few problems making small to medium size prints, from postcards to A2. However, when we stretch the pixels further apart, we can end up with fewer pixels per inch than is optimum.
The principle is: the larger your capture file (the more pixels you have), the larger you can print. 

So, what are the limits? This depends on many things. A billboard, for instance, is printed at around 30 ppi, but because a billboard is viewed from such a great distance, it isn't an issue.
On the other hand, what's the first thing a photographer does when he views a print (women photographers don't suffer from this as much as men)? The photographer walks up to the print to view it from a few centimetres away.
One of the reasons photographers like Ken Duncan and Peter Lik are so successful with their landscape print sales is the image quality. When shooting with film cameras, they used large format and panorama cameras to maximise image quality. Today when shooting with digital cameras, they are using 150-megapixel backs for the same reason.
Maximum print quality produces a positive impact on people viewing your work.
A 60-megapixel back produces a file 8984 x 6732 pixels in size, so rounding the numbers to 10,000 pixels at 360 ppi, you can make a 30-inch print a near maximum image quality. Similarly, you can produce a 60-inch print at around 180 ppi. If you don't have a 60-megapixel sensor, you can stitch (join) files together so you can make large prints with maximum image quality.
However, most of us don't need maximum image quality. Optimum image quality can be enough and so a setting of 150 ppi will often produce very serviceable results. You can make a very good 40-inch print with a 25-megapixel sensor.

Paper Surface 

A smooth, glossy surface produces wonderful depth and colour, revealing all the fine details and textures in the image. It also shows up any deficiencies in the file and so your camera and post-production techniques need to be excellent. In comparison, printing on a matte surface paper means you can probably get away with fewer pixels or make a larger print.

These days, I aim for at least 180 ppi for my prints when making larger sizes. For prints up to A2, I just output the full resolution file and let the printer work with all the pixels, using what is needed. This is not necessarily considered the 'optimum' way to print, but it's what I do.

Sometimes I get orders for older photographs that were shot on small resolution files and so I might print with as few as 100 ppi. And there are apps and programs that will up-size your files and I have used these with variable results.
Of course, the decision about what paper surface to print with should be made based on the aesthetics of the image, not how big you want to print it. Nevertheless, the mathematics isn't going to change - thank heavens for modern sensors with lots of pixels!