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Check out my new blog post on the B&H InDepth Blog! Enjoy!
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?
I returned a few weeks ago from five weeks in India leading a National Geographic Expedition photo group to Rajasthan (great fun, great group!) and then I was photographing tribal groups in Orissa and Chattisgarh for three weeks. I wore my neck brace 24/7 (see this post). I felt like a robot since I had to turn my entire body whenever I needed to look to the side; but interestingly, only a few people ever commented on it. I think most tribals thought the brace was a fashion statement (and I was accessorizing with a buff and scarves).
Well, as I wrote in the previous post, I never found a suitable lightweight photo vest for tropical weather, so I tested travel vests and decided on the Magellan Travel Vest. It failed “the photo vest test”. In its defense, the Magellan travel vest is not meant to be a photo vest. However, it also failed “the travel vest test”. I love the fabric and cut of the vest. Yet for the pockets to be truly useable they really do need to be bigger (and there is room). I did wear the vest a few times when I didn’t want to carry my Eagle Creek Departure waist pouch (see this post) but needed a place to hide money in an interior pocket and stow my sunglasses. Otherwise the vest was not that useful and since it was hot in India I abandoned it most of the time.
Now the good news! I love the Lowepro Street and Field system. It was perfect for walking around markets and in villages. I brought all my gear over in my trusty Lowepro Orion AW bag (I may have to mount a campaign for Lowepro to resurrect this great camera bag from its discontinued status, join me!) but it was primarily a vessel for my equipment and stayed in the car most of the time. Honestly I usually only needed two lenses: the 16-35m f/2.8 and usually the 24-70mm. Occasionally I also carried the 24mm f/ 1.6 (I love it, so sharp!). I think I only walked around with my 100-400mm f/4.5 a couple of times.
So I had 2-3 pouches on the waist belt for the 1-2 lenses and one pouch for flash accessories. I also carried my Garmin GPS and Canon S95 on the belt. In addition, I usually had my converted Canon 5D infrared camera in an older TopLoad Zoom (it is not as bulky as the new ones) slung over a shoulder to my left side. So I still looked armed and dangerous (well, not so dangerous) but all the weight was off my shoulders and my neck. It really was just perfect.
I also found that I could slip my Canon 580EX flash into one of the pockets with the Rogue Flashbender – Small Positionable Reflector or LumiQuest FX diffuser and have a workable off-camera flash when I was kneeling and photographing upwards. The new Pocket Wizards Flex TT5 and Mini TT1 Radio Slave for Canon function so much better than the Canon wireless transmitter.
Now I’m on my way to Myanmar and am taking the same setup with me. I have some suggestions for Lowepro about the pouches but generally I am really happy with the gear.
I have graduated to a soft collar and am beginning to get some movement back in my neck. Bless the healing power of bones, and bless seat belts!
I am going to have to design a photo vest though.
Friday, July 9th was the premier of my new show OUTER INDIA. Twenty-eight images from a work-in-progress on the lesser-known tribal regions of India is at the Verve Gallery of Photography in Santa Fe, NM July 9 – August 29th, 2010. Over 400 people attended the opening!! And some of my wonderful friends came from out of town. I am so thrilled. Excelsior!
Check out this post I wrote for the Singh-Ray blog!
“Traveling the back roads and narrow trails of Asia, Africa and South America for hours at a time to reach the world’s most remote tribal areas and cultures gives National Geographic photographerNevada Wier plenty of time to think about the gear she takes with her… what stuff is important and what might not be. “Believe me, my filters are important. In particular three kinds of Singh-Ray filters go with me everywhere. There’s a Hi-Lux filter on each of my lenses, and I also carry a 77mm LB Warming Polarizer and a 77mm Vari-ND filter. Each one of these filters is essential and fits neatly in my camera bag that I have to carry around all day.
“I keep a Hi-Lux UV filter on each lens because I want the best possible glass between my lens and the world. I photograph in extreme elemental conditions — rain, snow, fog, hot days, cold nights… you name it. I’ve learned the importance of protecting my valuable lenses. However, I do not want a filter that degrades my image quality so I always go with the Hi-Lux.
To read the rest go to … http://singhray.blogspot.com/2010/06/on-narrowest-trails-in-most-faraway.html
Chattisgarh. India 2009
I’m back in blogging mode. I looked at the comments people made in my poll “I would like you write more about…” and it is time to answer your questions. The overwhelming category in which you are most interested is Creative Photography. I’m thrilled about that because creativity is the heart and soul of photography. It is not enough to just aim the camera at a spectacular subject and click the shutter; anyone can do that. You have reach in and grab the essential moment in a personal and creative way. So I’m going to continue to address this over the summer months.
Also, in the comments section, a number of you asked me to write about The Editing Process. I think learning how to edit your images goes hand-in-hand with being a a Virtuoso of Seeing. Recently I was having a critique session with a photographer whose photographic method mostly meant aiming the camera at an interesting subject, then cropping it into an interesting photograph during editing, and then saturating the heck out of it! I was amazed (and horrified to be honest) at this process. It seemed bass-ackwards to me. If you have taken a workshop with me you know that I’m all about “Get it all in the frame and get it right”. Since I evolved from world of slide film and picky editors, I learned very early on that I had to have it perfect in that slender piece of celluloid–no cropping and no changing of content (of course that wasn’t possible in the pre-Photoshop era).
During my travels I have absolutely no desire to document everything in front of me. I am wandering about enjoying myself waiting for that spark of synchronicity with a subject (whether it be animate or inanimate). When I find a subject that touches me then it up to me to interpret it creativity and honestly. Sometimes it is just one click of the shutter, but other times there is time to work it. Usually I am looking for not just one interpretation, but many. Many, many, many if I can. If it is a great subject, then keep evaluating and sensing and thinking until the moment is over, or the person is gone, or it just feels over.
I want to come home and look through a lot of good images and find A Great One. Click and keep on reading, it’s good stuff!
I’m back from my travels in Northern Thailand (more on that later). My re-entry day involves A Day of Autism … which might mean going for a long walk, but usually means just watching TV or going to the movies. Today I watched the Olympics and reveled in what it means to be a virtuoso of the body and senses (a distant cousin to being a travel photographer).
I decided to take a break from the exhausting physical exertion of the Olympics to watch The Hurt Locker.
The first words on screen are “War is a Drug“.
I gasped; stopped the movie and thought about this. I was dangerously close to becoming a current event photographer. But I was scared. No, not of combat or unknown harsh humanity; but of the potential addiction to feeling “acutely aware on the razor edge of death”. I was a climber, kayaker, and mountaineer…so this was an obvious allure–a kind of photographic Olympics to the next deadly level. I pulled back from the allure of those intense endorphins. Yet, the thought still makes me gasp.
So it begs the question: Are photojournalist/war photographers in two categories? Ones who want to make a difference (but do they have the skills to survive)? Or, ones who thrive on risk yet have the skills to survive brutal adversity (but still need the empathy?). Or, as I believe, the best possess it all, and then they must also be maestros of photography.
Downhill skiing seems much simpler at this moment.
Back to the The Hurt Locker.. and it is only a movie… but it brings up very real feelings.
My last post was about how I unpacked my gear. Well, I’ve packed it all up again and am now in Bangkok on my way to Northern Thailand to photograph a few of the hill tribe New Year celebrations. You can refer back to older posts about how I pack my gear (and in a future post I’ll post some more photos about how I pack my camera bag, but I just can’t at the moment as I’m about ready to get on a flight to Chiang Mai.).
So what is the most important photo item that I packed besides my camera and CF cards (duh!). Drum roll — Advil! For all the gear I carry.
Aside from that, here is a short list of favorites:
Favorite camera: Canon 5D MarkII (my 1Ds Mark III is my backup)
Favorite lens: 16-35mm f/2.8 (2nd choice 24-70 f/2.8)
Favorite CF card: 16GB Sandisk Extreme IV
Favorite camera bag: Lowepro Orion AW (but I’m also taking a belt with lens pouches to go light)
Favorite new compact camera: Canon S90
Favorite flash accessory: LumiQuest FX
Favorite beer: Singha (okay, I have to edit this and be honest… Singha in Thailand but Negro Modelo in the Universe)
And here is a favorite IR image from a recent assignment in Orissa, India
© nevada wier Orissa, India
I’m in Yangon and, shock of all shocks, I have wireless at the Trader’s Hotel. I’ve been traveling here since 1986 … this is first. I don’t know why… but it means that I can tell you this tale:
I’m at lovely Shwedagon Pagoda, as the full moon begins the wane, I’m staring through star candle lanterns at the spire, photographing and reveling in the joy of the moment, and I hear a voice, “you aren’t just looking at the light, you are absorbing it”. I turn and there is a young Burmese monk with a friend, of gentle demeanor, yet sharp eyes. I say “Yes, it is tasty!”. And we proceed to converse. “Where are you from?”, they ask. “USA. New Mexico”, I reply. “Ah, yes … Land of Enchantment”, says the rakish friend with a baseball cap. “How did you know that!”, I exclaim. He says dryly, “It is on your license plate.” “Well, I know that, but how do you?” “I read it in a book.” And, we continue to have a wonderful conversation ending with me saying thank you in Burmese and he said “Da Nada”. I love to travel!
I’m mid-flight from New Delhi to Bangkok, and then tomorrow I’m on my way to Myanmar. I have just enough time to reflect a smidgeon on the photography tour I just led for National Geographic to Rajasthan. One of many things I love about National Geographic tours is that they are so international in nature; there were avid photographers from the US, Canada, Hong Kong, Thailand, and France. It was a group of singular synchronicity and fun.
We had many lively discussions. They had very thought provoking questions for me as we went bumping along in our magical bus through the desert of Rajasthan, such as “What is the element that is most important for a photograph?” What makes a photograph great? I’m sure all of you will have your own answer but here is mine, quite simplied.
Those of you who have taken workshops with me know that I talk about how photographs have the possibility of great Color, Light, Action (large in your face action or just a twinkle in the eye), or Pattern (or you could say Composition). CLAP, if you need an acronym.
You need two of these elements to create a photograph but to make a memorial one, one that SINGS… you need an added factor. It could be a punctuation of another element (as I discussed in an earlier blog post). However, I think it is more than that…it is when there is a harmonic convergence of the emotion of the photographer with the emotion of the moment (even if it is inanimate). In a way it is a photographic epiphany. These are rare, but it what all virtuosos of light aim for in their art.
And, because they are rare, this is why I continue to photograph. I don’t expect to reach my photographic Everest; I just love the journey through the ups and downs and many plateaus.
© nevada wier India, Jodphur. Evening Street Scene.
© nevada wier India, Rajasthan. Early morning Pushkar Fair.
© nevada wier India, Agra. Taj Mahal.