India.  Nagaland. Aoleang Monyu festival. Wakching Village. Naga tribe. Young boys in front of Murong. 2008

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II     Canon IS 24-105 mm (58mm)    
Camera Setting: 1/125 sec. f/10         ISO 400    
 

I have the good fortune of traveling to a myriad of remarkable places in the world. And, India certainly has its share of remarkable places and cultures!.

I have been to Nagaland in the far northeast, near the Myanmar border, a number of times. In 2008 I visited the northern area of the Mon Nagas during their festival period. In addition to visiting the communal tribal festival gathering in town of Mon, of course, I traveled to the villages.

At Wakching I spied two boys in their traditional festival garb wearing Spiderman masks. I beckoned to them to stand up near the traditional Naga murong (meeting place for the men of the tribe) that is decorated with carved wooden creatures.

I always ask myself before clicking the shutter. “What is the problem?” There is always a problem that might require removing a piece of trash, or adjusting my position to eliminate a disruptive element in the background, or … oh there are so many possibilities. In this case, the light was even because of a subtle fog but that meant the sky was bright white. Since the eye is attracted to the lightest thing in an image it was important to incorporate the white sky as an effective design element.

I motioned for the two boys to move slightly over so that the left most boy was fully in the white sky helping to tone down its predominance. I wanted the right boy to maintain a presence in the murong so that they were bodily connected.

I was acutely aware of the pattern that the wood and sky were creating. It was clear to me that the composition had to be impeccable. Obviously the boy’s facial expressions were not important, it was their total body language that had to convey impact. I noted that their legs were separated and arm positions were natural. They were definitely confident and willing to be photographed. But one always has to work fast with young boys; they can bolt at any moment! So all of this happened very quickly in my mind.

But it had to right in the frame because I do not crop or change any content in my images!

This photograph became part of an exhibit/book work-in-progress called Outer India. I had a showing of its first phrase at the Verve Gallery in Santa Fe NM in 2010 (I have another show coming up at the Zia Gallery  in Chicago this coming September 7 – October 13, 2012.) I decided when I began printing for the show that some of the Northeast images would be selectively de-saturated. This is a gritty, tribal area and a more muted look suited the area. I did a mockup in Lightroom as a guideline then started from scratch in Photoshop—layer by adjustment layer (sometimes over 40 layers), to sculpt the image. It was a painstaking process but I am very pleased with the prints for the series. And, I especially love this one.

Printed in my studio with the HP Z3200 printer on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Baryta paper.

Any questions?

Good idea Candance!

Here’s the color image with a minimal of work in Lightroom.

I was in Bangkok in December when I received an email from Adobe asking if I wanted to be in promotional video for the new Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 premiere. Of course! Lightroom has helped my digital workflow in so many ways: editing, cataloging, RAW processing, web pages, and now creating books and maps.

Adobe had also featured me in 2008 on the Adobe website for another Lightroom launch; and it was so much fun to work with them. Naturally, I was extremely honored that they considered me for the latest promo. I am one of Lightroom’s biggest fans and teach Lightroom weekend seminars, when possible, for Jerry Courvoiser’s weekend Lightroom workshops www.lightroomworkshops.com

I returned to Santa Fe a week before the fabulous crew from eMotion Studios arrived in January to film in my “cozy” 2-storey Santa Fe pyramid. Winter is not the loveliest time of the year in Santa Fe but at least it didn’t storm and howl, too much, for the two days they were filming. They interviewed me in my house, and my “Grayroom” (where I do all my digital work… yes the walls are 18% gray), and also on location at Tesuque Glassworks.

I am honored to be on the Adobe website and I hope all of you visit it and, natch, upgrade or begin using LIGHTROOM 4. Remember, Lightroom is only in its adolescence, so it behooves you to stay up to date. You may moan that it doesn’t have “this” or why did they do “that”, however it is a GREAT program. Have patience Grasshopper, it is evolving. LR4 is still cheaper than Photoshop and it is designed for you.. the photographer. Embrace the wonderful evolving world of digital photography! It is so exciting!

So click on this link and watch the 3-minute video!

http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop-lightroom.html

Here is a short interview for Pictureline blog

Sorry I haven’t had any new entries on my blog in the last few months, but I’ve been working on a new book and traveling…as always!

Enjoy!

Happy New Year from Bangkok!  I wish all of us a creative 2012!  Raise a toast “For the Love of Art!” nevada

New Year in Bangkok

 

That Luang Festival. Vientiane, Laos 2002

Canon EOS 1V     17-35mm f/2.8L (Actual focal length Unknown)    Camera Setting: Unknown     Media: Kodak Ektachrome SW    ISO 100 pushed to 200     Canon 550EX Flash

Although this image was made in the long ago days of film, it highlights a number of technical considerations that are still relevant and important. First off, I would like to give a Shout Out to those of us who learned how to make exact exposures on celluloid! I was consistently in a state of Exposure Angst while photographing in difficult light. If the exposure wasn’t within 2/3 stop, the image was too light or too dark. So, my images had to be double-perfect coming out of the camera: the composition and content had to be impeccable (you couldn’t crop slide film unless you brought out the scissors or gaffers tape) and the exposure had to be spot-on with the intended saturation.

And, guess what? It is still critical to make the correct exposure in low-light situations. Although noise reduction is getting better and better in new cameras, if your image is underexposed and taken at a high ISO, you are going to have problems when you begin brightening it in your editing program. Noise is inherent in all shadows, especially if you are using a lower-end camera with a small sensor, and is more pronounced at high ISOs and long exposures. As you move those brightening sliders you will begin to see discolored pixels that makes your image look grainy and odd. Film has plump pleasing grain; digital has square slovenly pixels that are best hidden in the shadows.

And, another Shout Out to Spot Metering! Although most of the time I use Evaluative Metering (Matrix, Segmented, etc. to non Canon users), high-contrast situations beg for the more precise Spot Metering. I have always used the in-camera meters; I find them very accurate. There is no reason to carry more gear than necessary.

So circling back to the above image: I was in Vientiane, Laos photographing the magnificent That Luang Festival. Many of the festival events take place during the day but my favorite time to photograph was in the late evening when people circumambulated the lit That Luang Stupa holding candles. Since I was using Kodak Ektachrome SW transparency film ISO 100, pushed to 200, there was not enough light to stop the action without panning or using a flash. I decided on the later since I wanted the beautiful That Luang Stupa sharp in the background. I put my camera on a tripod in the vertical position, set my meter to Spot Metering (2% coverage on the Canon 1V) and aimed the focusing/meter point at the stupa. I don’t know what exposure I used but I am guessing that it was about one second, maybe longer. Although people were carrying candles there wasn’t much ambient light in the foreground, plus the That Luang was so bright that the rest of the frame was bound to go dark (slide film only has a latitude of approximately 4-5 stops exposure range).

I can’t remember if I put the Canon flash directly on the hot shoe or was holding it with a TTL wire; either way would be a very similar result since I would not have held it too far out. I powered down the intensity of the flash output probably to – 2 EV. Finally I added a Lumiquest FX diffuser with an amber gel.

I took a couple of frames and (vision of light bulb going on) I realized that my flash was set to Front Curtain Sync (1st Curtain Sync), which meant that the flash was going off at the beginning of the exposure. At a fast shutter speed that doesn’t matter but at the slow 1 – 2 second exposure it meant that the flash (about 1/800th sec) would illuminate the people but then the shutter will remain open for the rest of the exposure. The stupa would have the correct exposure but, the bright candle flames would show up as a trail of light in front of the people. That would look strange; the candlelight needed to trail behind. So I set the flash to Rear Curtain sync (2nd Curtain Sync) to correct this problem. Of course that created, yet another, problem. I had judge when to click the shutter when a person would be in the right position in the frame when the flash went off. That wasn’t so easy. I would see a likely looking person; click the shutter to begin the exposure;  then, they would stop to talk to someone and no one was in front of the camera when the flash went off. Or, they would slow down or speed up, or someone would pass them at exactly the wrong moment, or… so many possibilities for a bad image! Since it wasn’t possible to review the images in a film camera (ah bless the digital LCD screen), I had absolutely no idea if I was getting a useable image. So I just kept at it. I learned early on, in difficult situations, click deliberately and copiously! It is still true

When I got home to my light table I reviewed the images and most ended up immediately in the trash. (I just loved tossing slides away, so cathartic!). Finally I found this image of a young child looking up at the camera at eye-level. I was thrilled. Notice the candle flames neatly trailing behind. And, it was a perfect exposure as well as a compelling frame.

“Everything has to matter in an image.” I always say.

 

Canon 5DMarkII     24-70mm f/2.8L (40mm)    1/4 sec. at f/14     ISO 100     Canon 580EXII 

Welcome to my world of Bad Light Photography. I’m constantly photographing great situations in mid-day contrasty light (bright highlights, dark shadows). I internally tear at my mind pondering,  “What can I do? Think creatively!” I believe in the ancient Chinese proverb: Crisis = Opportunity.

A couple of years ago I was traveling in the lesser-known state of Chattisgarh in India, photographing some of the numerous tribal groups. I stopped at Kangrapada village to make images of the Godaba Tribe’s fast-moving Dhemsa dance. It was a cloudless day at the stark hour of 2pm. They were outside, ready to dance, under big trees. The first thing I always do when I see a situation that I’m interested in photographing is to ask myself, “What is the problem?” Well, this problem was very evident: the light was mottled bright light and deep shadow, beyond the contrast range of my sensor (about half the range of the human eye). They were dancing under the shade of the trees, but it was an inconsistent pattern of light and shade and beyond the dancers was a glaring background. “What can I do? Think creatively!” Eureka, an idea: Pan and Flash!

I set my Canon 5DMark II camera at ISO 100. Then made an exposure for the lowest shutter speed possible of the dancers when they were the shade. That was ¼ sec. at f/14. Perfecto! My starting point for thinking about panning is 1/15 sec., but the slower the shutter speed the more dramatic the background blur. However, the problem with panning people at very slow shutter speeds is that the feet (and the hands) move at a much faster speed than the torso, so they can “ghost out”, disappear completely, and you are left with an image of a footless, handless torso drifting through space.

This is when using direct, bright flash is very helpful (I was using a Canon 580EXII, but a pop-up would work great in this situation). A flash burst is about 1/800th sec., so it will accentuate and freeze that moment within the blur. So it gives an illusion of sharpness with a blur. I always expect mistakes and misses so I “panned and flashed”for dozens of frames. I experimented from 1/15th sec. to ¼ sec. shutter speeds (aperture was not important). I was standing a bit away from the dancers and I needed a bright burst to make an impact, so I probably was on + 1.7 EV with the flash pointed directly at the dancers without a diffuser.

I had a number of interesting images to choose from but this frame I liked the most. The troublesome, splotchy light was smoothed  into lines that mimicked the stripes in the women’s dresses. The multiple feet are not a problem as they enhance the feeling of the dance. If you look carefully you can see how the use of flash sharpened the toes and heels. The background of people, bushes, bicycles blurred into patterns of color.

I actually love it when there are problems because then I’m forced to think of a creative solution. Most of my initial photographic ideas are ones that are familiar to me and come easily. As the brilliant Leonardo da Vinci wrote in his diary:

“Life is pretty simple: you do some stuff.

Most fails. Some works.

You do more of what works.

If it works big, others quickly copy it.

Then you do something else.

The trick is to do something else.”


© nevada wier Bagan, Myanmar

The first photography magazine I read religiously was Outdoor Photographer. I bet I bought its inaugural issue in 1985. There was nothing like it on the newsstands for avid photographers. I poured over the magazine, tearing out pages about technical and creative tips that inspired me. I learned so much and was riveted by spectacular images.

I was first featured in the November 1993 issue (photos from my first book Land of Nine Dragons: Vietnam Today). I was ecstatic! I continued to be featured over the years in various articles: Landscape & People, India’s Himayalas, an article about my National Geographic Blue Nile expedition, an article I wrote on flash “Flash on the Go” — are ones that come to mind. OP also supported Visual Journeys, a nationwide lecture series with Lisl Dennis and myself, that was on the road from 1995 – 1997. I owe many thanks to Steve Werner, the Publisher/Editor in Chief.

I have to admit that my subscription lapsed as I became more adept in photography. I moved on their pro digital magazine Digital Photo Pro. [And, there was that article I promised to write years ago that I never did. Editor extraordinaire, the extremely witty Christopher Robinson, I think has forgiven me. Please?]

Generously, they just profiled me in the recent November 2011 issue People in Color. I heard it was out so I bought the magazine a couple of days ago and think it is a well written article. Aside from this bit of vanity, I still love OP! [And, shout out to them for putting a watermark on the photo, not just a credit in the text.]

However, I don’t need another printed magazine subscription; I can barely get through the four I have: Photo District News, Digital Photo Pro, National Geographic, and Mac World. I love printed books, newspapers, and magazines. I like flipping pages. However, I like even better not toting all this heavy printed matter on my travels (that’s when I read them). So, I do have an increasing number of digital subscriptions: NY Times, Wired, National Geographic Traveler, The New Yorker, and I’m sure more will come. I love to read. And, now I have a digital subscription to OP! I didn’t know it existed until a few hours when I was researching for this post. I get to see more great images on my ipad!

So, please read the article and think about subscribing. In fact continue to subscribe to magazines, printed or digital. I got my start in professional photography being published in magazines. I wish that for today’s emerging photographers. Hopefully, once this awkward period of publishing is over, photographers might be able to make a reasonable living again in editorial magazines.

What’s your favorite photography magazine? Printed or Digital version?

Peru. Lampa. Nighttime on Plaza.

5DMarkII    24mm f/1.4    1/40sec at f/1.4     ISO 1250

I am starting a new section call Anatomy of a Photo. I’ll post different images (mostly recent) and explain the inner workings of how they were made. Enjoy!

I was in Peru a couple of months ago; I hadn’t there for five years and I really loved it. We went to Lampa, a lovely small town, north of Julicaca. I enjoyed photographing in the late afternoon when the shadows were deep and long, however I knew that plaza would be lovely just after the sun set and the artificial lights appeared. Lampa is 15 degrees south of the equator so the dusk does not linger. The sun set at 5:35pm on July 11th. I figured there would be 10 – 15 minutes of “dull” light before the ambient artificial light glowed with the same intensity as the lingering blue in the sky. Then there would only be 10 to 15 minutes, maximum, to photograph before the sky turned too dark.

The first evening I brought my 5DMarkII with a 24mm f/1.4 lens and photographed hand holding, occasionally with an off-camera flash with a 1/2CTO gel. It was fine and I got some reasonable images. However, the church was a dominating presence and it begged to be sharp. The next evening I returned with my tripod and set up near a food stall and waited for people to cross into my frame. It is not a busy plaza, even on a Saturday night. I felt very lucky to have this confluence of activity. I only had ONE opportunity, and ONE click of the shutter when the spacing between the subjects was perfect. 

It was taken on 7/11/2011 at 5:53 PM. A couple of minutes later the sky was too dark. 

So why did I use such a shallow depth of field since I was on a tripod? Because I needed a relatively fast shutter speed so that my subjects would not ghost out. I did want a bit of motion blur but not too much; the subjects had to be recognizable. The church was at “infinity” and I almost parallel to it so I know it would be sharp even at the very shallow f/stop of 1.4. (You get what you pay for… the Canon 24mm f/1.4 fast lens is expensive but sharp). I kept my White Balance on Daylight to preserve the Kelvin temperature of the various mixed lighting. ISO 1250 was as high as I wanted to go with this camera.

Any other questions?

Hola everyone!

I have the honor of being listed in the recent issue of Photo District News as one of thirteen top workshop instructors. You can read the article here: PDN article    And an interview with me: PDN Interview

PDN Reader Survey: The Best Workshop Instructors. August 03, 2011

2-Day “Hands On” Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3.0 Workshop

Dallas/Ft Worth        Saturday, September 17, 2011 – Sunday, September 18, 2011

The cost for both days is $295.00 with an early registration $100 discount. Early Discount is applied to all registrations before the start date of the scheduled.  For registration www.lightroomworkshops.com

Flash and Low-Light Photography  w/Nevada Wier & Carlan Tapp

Santa Fe Photographic Workshops    Santa Fe, NM     October 5 – 8, 2011  For more information: www.santafewworkshops.com 

Low-light, late evening, and nighttime photography are challenging and rewarding aspects of travel photography that are often overlooked. This action-packed, four-day workshop delves into long exposures; work with on-camera and off-camera small strobes, and painting with light. Geared to the traveling photographer who desires to photograph hand-held in low light, we work with accessories that are easily carried in your camera bag. No big heavy cases in this workshop! Nevada and Carlan use a lively blend of lectures, discussions, and assignments to support the challenges of tackling low-light photography with a digital camera. Their emphasis is on expanding your creative vision in the realm of low-light photography in order to elevate your travel photography beyond the ordinary. The historic town of Santa Fe is a perfect backdrop for our photographic forays. In addition, the workshop coincides with the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which provides abundant and exciting opportunities for late-evening or early-morning photography. The workshop includes group and individual critiques and personal assignments. Those who want to explore the creative possibilities of low-light photography, and don’t mind staying up late, are encouraged to attend.

The Dream Team Travel Photography Workshop

San Cristobal de Las Casa, Mexico    January 13 – 21, 2012  For more information: www.pixelchrome.com   Field Instructors: Nevada Wier, Brenda Tharp & Holly Wilmeth   Logistics: Jeremy Woodhouse & Ita Gelada

You are not going to want to miss this opportunity to photograph with four of America’s active travel and nature photographers – all together for six days in the wonderful colonial town of San Cristóbal de las Casas in the southern state of Chiapas, Mexico. This town is still remarkably “Mexican” and does not boast the crush of expat winter residents that many other colonial towns in Mexico do – on the other hand it is still well set up to take care of visitors who choose to travel beyond their comfort zones.

There are a maximum of 18 places on this instructional tour together with the 3 field instructors (and since it is billed as an instructional tour, the instructors are encouraged to photograph). Participants will be divided into 3 groups of 6 people and each group of 6 will be assigned an instructor for the day. The instructor will rotate every second day so that during the 6-day tour each participant will have the opportunity to work with each instructor for two days, giving them the opportunity to experience distinct photographic styles. Each instructor will make a presentation during one of the late-morning sessions. These sessions will include audio-visual presentations and there will be plenty of time for interaction with the instructors – they alone will be worth the price of admission!

CREATIVITY WITH LIGHT 

Nevada Wier and Dan Westergren, Photography Editor for National Geographic Traveler Magazine, presenting a one-day seminar on LIGHT!

Have you ever anticipated getting to a beautiful location you want to photograph only to arrive and find yourself thinking, “The light’s not right, now what?”  Whether it’s a once in a lifetime vacation to a remote location or an important magazine assignment, you know you have to get the picture.  Join National Geographic Traveler senior photo editor Dan Westergren and world-renowned travel photographer, Nevada Wier as they demonstrate how to find great light and what to do when it’s “not quite right”.

Dallas    Sunday, September 25, 2011   Richland College, Fannin Hall Performance Center

San Francisco   Sunday, October 2, 2011   Fort Mason Conference Center

Philadelphia   Sunday, October 16, 2011   Moore College of Art & Design

$195.00 per person (includes lunch)      Sessions will run from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

For information and registration:  www.ngtravelerseminars.com/light/ 

Hola everyone: I’m sorry for the long absence from this blog. I had a heck of year  — car accident, boiler burst in my house, then a robbery, then I broke my foot, my mother died… so I did what any sane person would do … I went traveling! I have been to India, Myanmar, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, and just recently Sri Lanka. I’m happy to report that I am healed, although my neck does have restricted movement. I’m still doing different therapies and hope for more progress. My house is back together, looking better than before! No current tragedies and I plan on keeping it that way!

I will never be a one-a-day blog person (even one a week is pushing it) but I do plan on more consistent posts. So stay tuned!

Excelsior! Nevada

© nevada wier               Thimpu, Bhutan

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