Winter Wonderland Workshop 2009 #3 (Podcast 182)

Winter Wonderland Workshop 2009 #3 (Podcast 182)

Today we are going to continue to our multi-episode look at the results of the 2009 Hokkaido photography tour, affectionately known as the Winter Wonderland Workshop. As I recap, I lead a tour around central and eastern Hokkaido, the northern-most island of Japan, from February 16th to the 24th, 2009. If you’re new to the show, but would like to catch up before we move on, go back and listen to episodes 178 and 179 of this Podcast before listening to this one. We pick up the trail on the morning of the 19th of February, which is the fourth day, having made our way over to the small fishing town of Rausu, on the eastern side of the Shiretoko Peninsula, which is a Unesco Registered Natural Heritage site and national park.

As I said at the end of the last episode in this series, after the dawn shoot on the third morning, at Bihoro Pass, we took a steady drive over to the Shiretoko Peninsula. This is the horn shaped peninsula that you can see jutting out heading slightly upwards, from the eastern side of the island of Hokkaido. The eastern tip of the peninsula is the most eastern point in all of the Japanese islands. The area is rich in wildlife, due to the plankton which feeds on nutrients carried down by the ice floe from the Sea of Okhotsk on the Russian coast. On the other side of the peninsula is the town of Utoro, where we’d be heading later in the day, and they often have ice floe coming in right to the shore and sometimes have large chunks of ice washed up along the beach. On The Rausu side, the ice floe is less pervasive. I have been to Rausu when the ice was in so far it almost filled the harbor, but generally, that doesn’t happen for very long spells. Even at Utoro, you can have ice up to the beach on day, and none in site the next. It comes in and goes out very quickly.

The eagles that we were here to photograph need the ice floe to perch on to feed. They make the eastern side of the peninsula their home, because its warmer this side, as the cold air from Siberia buffets the western, Utoro side, taking away a lot of its strength. Also though, because the port does not get frozen solid for very long, the fisherman are active much more than the other side of the peninsula, and that means rich pickings for the eagles. On the day we planned to go out to photograph them, the fisherman were all having a day off, which means that the only fish the eagles were going to be handed from humans, would come from us. This was going to work in our favour. Last year, the ice had been too far up the coast, and it was bad weather. This meant that the eagles would not be able to see us up near the ice, and therefore would not fly out to us to get some fish. As the organizer of the tour, having driven up the coast with the skipper, while the tour participants were shooting back in town, it was a painful but necessary decision not to put out last year. There was no point. This year though, based on weather conditions, the skipper had devised a plan to take us to the ice floe that they knew had rounded the tip of the peninsula, and if we left later than planned, it would be clear, so the eagles would be able to see us. Because we were going to go pretty fast to get out there, and because of the distance, we teamed up with a second boat, for safety, and headed out at 8:30AM.

The conditions were excellent. The light was pretty much constant, though I sometimes had to ask the skipper to come around so that we had the light falling on the birds more favourably, but in general, it was perfect. The skipper, Hasegawa-san, is very good at his job. He know most of the time what we want, and how to maneuver a pretty big boat around with unbelievable precision, to get us to the best positions. We don’t bait the birds heavily. We just throw out enough to get them interested. If you throw out a whole palette of fish, you just cause a frenzy, and it’s not good photographically. They hand throw small numbers of fish into strategic positions on the ice flow, and that helps to get small numbers of birds in some shots, and keeps others flying around, looking for their opportunity to grab some tucker.

Although I have some very nice straight portraits of Steller’s Sea Eagles from this location, let’s jump straight into looking at something a little more dynamic. First let’s look at image number 2155. Here we can see an Eagle perched on the ice tucking into his fish, and another with wings spread out, looking almost shocked that the other eagle has some fish. Finding and shooting moments with movement like this will take your shots to another level. Some of the guys came back with shots of the eagles with the fishes in mid air, as the eagles toss them up into their mouths, which I have to admit, I didn’t even see, and was pretty envious. This is part of the fun of it all mind. You have to have the camera up at your eye, and always be searching for something interesting, and luck will often be the major factor in deciding whether or not you get the shot. Of course, no amount of luck can make sure your exposure is set and you are focused correctly, and that you press the shutter button at the right time, but looking in the right direction when something happens really helps. It can be tough going physically as well. Most of us had long lenses. I shot with the 300mm F2.8 with the 1.4X extender fitted for most of the time, as I did here. I had my ISO set to 200, for a faster shutter speed, which was 1/1600th of a second at F5.6. It can be tough to hold the camera up to your eye, or at least close to it, for a good two hours, which is how long we were shooting. You have to do this though, waiting for the right moment. If you try to raise the camera after something happens, you are often too late.

Oh My God, You're Eating a Fish!

Oh My God, You’re Eating a Fish!

I also used the 70-200mm F2.8 for a lot of shots too. Sometimes the birds come in so close to the boat that you need a wider focal length just to fit them in to the frame, but also, I wanted to get some shots, with the birds in their environment. In image number 2156, we can see a bunch of Steller’s Sea Eagles and White Tailed Eagles mostly sitting on the ice floe, but the Shiretoko peninsula in the background. This was shot at 190mm, again at F5.6 for 1/1600th of a second. This means the mountains are slightly soft, but I’m not too worried about that. At this point, I was more concerned about keeping my camera set up to capture action closer by, filling the frame with an eagle, and so had left the camera at F5.6. Note too that I timed this so that there is a Steller’s Sea Eagle in flight, just coming into the scene. I feel that something like this is necessary to give interest to an otherwise pretty boring shot. The birds on the ice alone would not be that interesting, but with this bird in flight, it makes the image worth looking at, in my opinion.

Sea Eagles with Shiretoko in Back

Sea Eagles with Shiretoko in Back

In the next shot mind, which is number 2157, I decided to adjust the aperture, to try and get a little more depth-of-field. Firstly, because I had the mental bandwidth at this point to make the changes. I risked not being able to go to a narrower DOF quickly if I needed to, but I also changed the aperture because the main subject was a little closer than in the last image. I also wanted to get the Kuril Islands, or Kunashiritou, as the Japanese call it, into the shot. We can see that large snow capped volcano on the island in the background, which is actually part of Russia. The Japanese have been trying to get the Russians to give these islands back to them for years, but there are a lot of politics behind all that, which I don’t pretend to understand. Having stopped down to F11, I now needed a shutter speed of 1/320th of a second, still at ISO 200. Another thing to note here is that many of my best shots at this location had sea gulls in them, often very close to the boat, and very annoying. More often than not, I had a series of shots where you can see the scene building until the point where I was going to be right on the money, and then a gull flew right across the middle of the frame, just at the worst possible time. This shot was no exception. The bottom part of the large chunk of ice in this shot is from the previous frame. That whole shot was OK, but I prefer the wing positions in this shot, so I took them both into Photoshop as layers in the same image, which is one of the edit options in Lightroom, then I just made the second layer a mask, and painted the ice with no gull into this shot.

Steller's Sea Eagle with Kuril Island

Steller’s Sea Eagle with Kuril Island

I was in two minds whether to do something similar in the next shot too, but didn’t. In image number 2160, we see a Steller’s Sea Eagle feeding, with a White-Tailed Eagle trying to get in on the action. I kind of like the totally indifferent look on the second Steller’s face as he looks the other way, but in one of my other frames of this, he’s looking right into the scene. I thought about merging that with this one, for a much better overall composition, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. Maybe he’s too big in the frame, and I’m not that brave yet. Maybe someday I’ll come back to it, but for now, this is exactly as shot. I was using the 300mm F2.8 with the 1.4X extender again for this, with the aperture set to F5.6 for 1/2000th of a second.

Don't Even Think About It!!

Don’t Even Think About It!!

A good example of behavior to make your shots a little more interesting can be seen in image number 2161, where we can see a Steller’s Sea Eagle dancing with his shadow. We can see the eagle with wings spread, and his right foot up in the air, almost like a Native American doing some sort of a ritualistic dance. The shadow of the right wing also reminds me a little of Native American art. The shadow is clipped off slightly on the right side, but that doesn’t worry me. Overall I’m very happy with this one, shot at F6.3 for 1/2000th of a second, at ISO 200. The fast shutter speed of course helping to freeze that kicked up snow, which adds a lot of impact to the shot, and it’s totally tack sharp where it needs to be. To top it off, there’s a nice catch-light the eye, which improves wildlife photography no end.

Shadow Dancing

Shadow Dancing

We can see another nice catch-light a little more closer up in image number 2162. This is a juvenile White-Tailed Eagle, flying very close to the boat. I’d been tracking this one, and didn’t expect it to come so close, but shot the image anyway. The White Tailed Eagle as an adult has a wing span of up to 238cm, so it’s really quite a treat when these birds come up close. The Steller’s Sea Eagles that we looked at earlier have a wing span of up to 241cm, which is about 8 feet, so I’m sure that you can appreciate how amazing it is to be this close to these huge birds. Despite having cut off the wings and tail with this tight crop, I’m happy with it because I think it makes a nice animal portrait, as I say, with that nice catch-light, and we have the torso in close, with lots of detail in the feathers and the yellow feet, tucked in to the body and tail to the right of the frame. Again, shot at F6.3 for 1/2000th of a second, there is nice separation from the sky, which is slightly out of focus making a nice background.

Juvenile White-Tailed Eagle

Juvenile White-Tailed Eagle

Another action shot in image number 2166, as this Steller’s Sea Eagle pounces on a frozen fish. Again, tack sharp, with light in the eyes and wonderful detail in entire bird. This is another where I couldn’t help but rescue an otherwise good shot from an intruding sea gull. This is the best of a short series of shots, and a sea gull stuck his fat head in the bottom left corner, which I had to clone out. I didn’t want to waste this one. I had opened up the aperture just marginally here to F5.6, and adjusted the shutter speed to 1/2500th of a second, still at ISO 200. Not only can you tell that it was pretty bright, you can probably also appreciate how much we are helped by the light reflecting back of the snow on the ice floe, to fill in any shadows that we might otherwise get from the very bright sunlight bathing this scene.

Hunting Frozen Fish

Hunting Frozen Fish

We spend a good couple of hours out on the boat shooting these wonderful birds, and there are a bunch of other shots from this shoot on my Web site. I’ll put a link to display all the images from the trip into the show-notes again, so take a look if you’re interested. After the eagle shoot, on request from some of the participants, we took a little more time to shoot in the Rausu harbor again, before starting our drive to the other side of the Shiretoko peninsula. In the summer time, it’s a leisurely drive across the mountains to the other side, but in winter, the road is impassable, so we have to drive down to the base of the peninsula, and up the other side, taking about three hours. It’s a beautiful drive mind through some wonderful scenery. As we started up the Western coast, we saw that the ice floe was right up to the shore here, and it was amazing to see how the sea undulated and swelled under the ice, lifting tons of crushed ice, as the waves made their way to the shore. I have some still shots of this in my gallery, but it’s difficult to capture without being able to see the motion. I waited for some of the waves to crash against the shore spraying up into the air to show this, but we won’t look at the images today because they’re not that great. I did shoot some video with the 5D Mark II mind, but I haven’t really checked it out yet. As I feared, right now, it still isn’t something that I have totally gotten my head around. I am looking forward to checking out the video clips that I took back at some point, but it doesn’t excite me so much that I prioritize it over other things that I’m doing right now.

We stopped again at the Oshin Koshin Falls, and I decided to try something a little different to what I’ve done until now, as we can see in image number 2170. There was a tree with some brown leaves still on the twigs, which I thought would make a nice focal point. I still took some straight shots of the falls, but thought this would be different. I used the Singh-Ray Variable ND filter to dial-in some darkness for a 1/4 second exposure at F11. I had reduced the ISO to 100 and was using the 70-200mm F2.8 lens at 200mm. For the composition here, I was conscious of the position of the right most branch, so that I kept it over the white water, making it stand out more, and was also keeping my eye on those three balls in the top left. Also the position of the water itself was difficult as I was trying to keep the snow at the edges of the falls out of the right and left sides. I do have some creeping into the bottom there, behind the leaves, which I don’t like, but couldn’t really avoid. Also notice that the tree takes above two thirds of the image, with mostly water making up the last third. All of these things I was keeping in mind while thinking how to compose this shot.

Tree at Oshin Koshin Falls

Tree at Oshin Koshin Falls

As the sun got close to the horizon, we got back on the bus, and drove a little further down the coast towards Utoro, to the two rocks that we can see in image number 2173. These rocks are not that well known, but I’ve shot them a number of times over the years. In the summer time, you can shoot the sunset through the rocks, but in the winter, the angle is much more acute. We were literally running from where we parked the bus to get to a position far enough along the coast to be able to see the sun, and as we crowded into a space about 6 feet across lining up our shots, I noticed a sea gull flying in towards the sun. I got one shot, as it came across from the left to right, then another as it turned, and the third, which is this one, as the gull crossed right across the front of the sun between the rocks. I was kind of willing it to do so, and it did. Very small in the Web version and if you are looking on an iPhone or iPod you might as well forget it, but this looks great in a print, so I am really happy we made it here in time and I was lucky enough to shoot this.

Gull Sunset

Gull Sunset

So, the sun had gone down on the fourth day, so we headed back to the hotel, for a night in probably the best hotel that we stay in, the Shiretoko Daichi Hotel. This is a beautiful hotel with an amazing buffet. I got a few shots this year, to use in the marketing material for next year, but it really is a great place. We would say good bye to Forrest and Joerg, two participants that were only with us for the first leg, so we pushed the boat out a little bit further than usual, ordering one or two bottles of sake more than we probably should have done, but we had a good time.

Ezo-Shika

Ezo-Shika

The following morning we visited the Shiretoko Nature Center, and had a work through the woods and out to the coast. As we turned the corner, two wonderful stags were walking right towards us, and I managed to capture them as we can see in image number 2174. I blew the snow out a little bit here, as although I’d just set my exposure moments earlier, they were in the open, with just a light covering of bear branches above, so I was a little out. 14bit RAW files helps though, so I was able to bring the snow under control and retain plenty of detail in Lightroom. The exposure for the stags was perfect though, at 1/160th of a second at F4, ISO 100, so I’m happy with the results. I shot a few frames as they walked towards us but most like this one, with the stags in almost the same pose, with the horns on either side of the frame. They walked off into the woods to the right of the frame here, and we walked back and shot them in another opening for a while too, standing up to our knees in snow. The results weren’t that great though, so I didn’t upload any of these shots. The walk through the woods and over through the reserve into the park was nice, and we had a pleasant morning in general. We shot some more deer and a lighthouse on the hill, and then steadily made our way back to the bus.

After a brief stop at the souvenir shop, we had to be back on the bus by 11AM to go to the airport to drop the two guys that would leave us off. On the bus on the way over, we recorded a comment or two from each of the guys, which I’ll play you now before we finish today’s episode.

So, that ended the first leg of the tour. We were to go on to concentrate more on landscape photography in the central part of the island. There was a storm brewing though, and as we made our way over to the hotel between Utoro and the Daisetsu-zan mountain range, we were caught in a pretty nasty snow storm. We made it to our hotel though after an afternoon’s drive, and settled in for the evening. The following day we would drive to Mount Asahi, and were hoping to go to the top of the mountain in the cable car to shoot the highest peak in Hokkaido, in the middle of winter. Tune in again next week to see how we got on, as we start the second leg of the tour. For now though, you just have a great week, whatever you’re doing. Bye-bye.


Show Notes

For details of the workshop itself, including next year’s workshop once the site it updated, please check out my workshops Web site here: Tours & Workshops

The music in this Podcast was created and produced by UniqueTracks.


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Bokeh! Pronunciation, Meaning and Practical Use (Podcast 181)

Bokeh! Pronunciation, Meaning and Practical Use (Podcast 181)

I’m tired of hearing people mispronounce the Japanese word Bokeh, meaning the out of focus part of a photograph.

As the master of bokeh in my photography, and having lived in Japan and speaking the language for the last 18 years, I thought I’d put the record straight once and for all, and tell you how the Japanese actually pronounce it, and give you a little background on the meaning of the word.

The correct pronunciation is Bokeh. With roman alphabetic characters, it is spelt “Boke”, or “Bokeh” with an H on the end, which joined with the E helps us to pronounce it Bokeh, and not boak, which would be the natural way to pronounce a vowel, followed by a single consonant, then another vowel, like “poke” for example, in the English language.

One way to think about the pronunciation is to say the first syllable “bo” as the first syllable in the word “bottle”. If you feel the urge to pronounce the word bottle with an A, like “battle” you are probably American. This in itself is not a problem, but it will help you on this occasion to learn to prounounce bottle in the mother tongue. The “ke” part of the word is pronounced like the “ke” in “kettle”. A utensil used for boiling water, a container to hold fish. So think of “bottle” and “kettle” and you are almost there. Just put the “bo” and the “ke” together, to make “boke”.

It is not boke, that rhymes with poke, or bokah, that rhymes with poker, or “bouquet” or any other similarly mutated word, it’s bokeh.

The word “bokeh” comes from the Japanese word meaning to be senile, suffer from dementia, or to be fuzzy or blurred.

As an intransitive verb “Bokeru” means to become fuzzy, or to become forgetful with age, become senile, go gaga or to go soft in the head. “Boketto miru” means to gawk and “Boketto suru” means to look spaced out.

As a transitive verb, “Bokasu” can mean to refuse to come out and say something, or to hide the truth. It means to obfuscate or to befog. In a visual sense it means make opaque, to gradate, to smudge or to make blurry.

As an adjective “boketa” or “boketiru” mean to be foolish, dippy or scatterbrained. It also means senile or used to describe someone suffering from dementia.

An example use in the original sense would be something like “Obaachan ga bokete shimatta”, meaning my grandmother has gone senile.
By the way, to confuse things further, there is also a type of flower called a boke, which translates as the Japanese quince.
There are few swear words or bad language in Japanese. Rather the Japanese use the same words with different stress or inflections. A friend might request another to “bokenaide”, which means “don’t be silly”. On the other hand, you might see a scene in a yakuza (Japanese mafia) movie, where some Chimpira (hoodlum) is kicking another man in the head with his arms flailing while shouting, “Nametennoka? Bokeh!!”. This has a significantly stronger meaning, something along the lines of “Don’t mess with me, you @sshole!”.

So, next time someone tries to tell you intelligently and often most convincingly how to pronounce the word Bokeh, you can wag your index finger at them, tut loudly, then tell them exactly how it’s pronounced, and you could go on to explain the background of the word, if you want to really impress. If you still fail to convince them, just send them a link to this post or Podcast. Finally, to show true mastery of the word, you could even call them a “Bokeh” yourself, meaning, as you now know, you idiot or fool, or @asshole, depending on your intonation.


Show Notes
Music from Music Alley: www.musicalley.com/


Audio

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Posted on behalf of Martin by Michael Rammell, a Wedding Photographer based in Berkshire, England. Michael also has a long-standing passion for Nature & Landscape photography. To catch up with Michael, visit his Web site, and follow him on the following social networking services.

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Flowers, flowers, flowers! (Podcast 83)

Flowers, flowers, flowers! (Podcast 83)

Last Saturday, which was April the 14th, 2007 for those of you that will be catching up on the archive later, I visited the Hitachi (Seaside) Park in the Ibaraki Prefecture, about 90 minutes from my home in Tokyo. Now, before you start thinking that the Japanese electrical appliance manufacturer Hitachi are into the Park and Garden business, the name actually comes from the name of the City that houses the park, which is called Hitachinaka. Also, the English translation of the name having “Seaside” in it might lead you believe that this is a beach park, but in reality, this park is just by the sea, and only a part of it is like, a sandy-beachy type recreation area. It’s a really huge place though, and I only concentrated on a number of the flower gardens, and that took me a full day from the moment they opened until shortly before they closed. I got a load of great flower shots though, and today I’m going to focus on some of my favourites.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I rely on photography location magazines quite a lot to get ideas of where to go to shoot, and I found this location in the same way. On Friday night, I spent a couple of hours going through my magazines and noticed this park that I’d not come across before, and found that the tulips and daffodils were going to be blooming right now. I checked the Web site to see that they were saying the daffodils were in full bloom, and the tulips were about 30% open. This turned out to be a bit misleading, and I’m starting to understand more how these places calculate what they call best conditions, or fully blooming. What I think they are doing is counting the percentage of flower heads that are open, regardless of how close they are to dropping off. For example, the daffodils were almost all open, and they were marked as being in full bloom, but 80% of them had been open so long waiting for the last 20% that they were almost dead. This gives an overall really tired look to most of the garden, and to be honest, I almost didn’t venture much further into the daffodil area having seen the first parts. Of course, we photographer’s don’t get our shots by giving in easily though, and I’m very glad I didn’t too, as we’ll see later. I looked at the Web site again yesterday, two days after I visited, and saw that the daffodil area was no longer marked as in best condition too, so the information is definitely being kept up to date.

Anyway, the other part of this percentage of blooming flowers thing is, that the tulips, of which only 30% of the flowers were open, were still very fresh, and on the whole in very good condition. When I made my mind up to go here I was thinking that I might have to go back the following weekend to shoot again, once the tulips were out in force. I won’t be going back so soon though, as I found them to be just perfect for what I wanted, just as they were. Had I waited until the tulips were supposed to be at 100% open, many of the flowers I shot there today would have be well past their sell by dates, so I’m glad I didn’t wait. One other area that we’ll take a look at that was also at 30% was a man made hill on which the park has planted 4 million Nemophila or Baby Blue Eyes flowers. This probably would have been better on the whole in a few weeks time, but still, the flowers that were blooming were all nice and fresh, so I made the most of what was currently blooming, getting in nice and close, and one nice wide angle, which we’ll look at too.

Having given you a bit of background, we’ve got a lot to get through today, so I’m not going to dwell on each shot too much, and just try to plough through them pretty quickly. I’m going to try to look at twelve images, which is two more than the usual maximum, but this is actually exactly one third of the 36 shots I’ve posted from the day. I’ve put a link in the show-notes to display all 36, and if you want to view them in the order shot, remember to click the last number of the bottom right of the thumbnail page, then click the last image, and then use the left arrow key to work your way back through the images. Of course, I’m going to call out the numbers of the images as we go through them as usual, so you can either enter that number into the field on the top page or the Podcasts page at martinbaileyphotography.com to jump to each shot, or you can view the images by clicking the thumbnails for this episode on the Podcasts page, or of course you can follow on your iPod or in iTunes if you’d prefer.

Dandelion with Visitor

Dandelion with Visitor

So moving right along, let’s take a look at the first picture which is number 1373. I was actually walking up to the entrance of the park when I noticed a few dandelions on a lawn, and got down with my 100mm macro lens to shoot them. I positioned myself so that I could get really close on one of the flowers, and have two other flowers way out of focus in the background, forming some nice large blotches of yellow. I uploaded on shot just like this, but lady-luck smiled on me as I was shooting the flowers, and a small wasp just happened to buzz by and land right in front of my lens. I had to refocus quickly and raise myself up a little more to get more of the visitor in, but the result was a nice pleasing shot and I kept the blotches of yellow in the background. I was shooting at F4 for 1/1000th of a second at ISO 100, so you can tell it was a nice clear day with lots of available light.

The park unfortunately doesn’t open until 9:30AM, but we’d arrived at 8:30. To get out of Tokyo before the traffic really starts to build up, barring the days when an accident occurs stopping the traffic at any time of day, I usually aim to get on the road before 7AM. If I leave home after seven, I can pretty much guarantee it’ll it at least another hour or two to my journey, and a lot more stress. Basically though, with leaving early, I was here in time to have some breakfast in the car and take a steady walk to the gates. I bought my ticket and then picked up a map from beside the ticket machine and started to get my bearings and figure out how to make my way through the park. My plan was to shoot the tulips hand-held quickly, and then make my way to the hill of Baby Blue Eyes then check out the daffodils before coming back to the tulips. The tulips is literally just a few minutes from the gate in an area called the “Egg Forest Flower Garden”. It’s called the Egg Forest because there are large eggs with holes in for kids to climb around in scattered throughout the area. This is a great idea I think for making this a totally family area. I didn’t shoot the eggs myself, concentrating on the flowers.

Hitachi Park #03

Hitachi Park #03

The image I want to look at from this first batch of tulip shots is number 1376. Here we can see a simple composition, that’s strength comes really from the striking colours. I focussed on the single tulip that was facing me from this batch and the wide aperture of F2.8 allowed the flowers in the background to get gradually more and more out of focus. The light was really beautiful, still coming through the trees at an angle, despite the having risen almost four hours earlier. I was shooting in Manual mode again for control, and using my EOS 5D and the 70-200mm F2.8 lens, with a shutter speed of 1/1250th of a second. It actually took me a long time to select the 12 shots for this episode from the 36 I uploaded, and the reason I couldn’t drop this one, despite me also having another vertical all tulip shot to look at later is just the overall power of the shot. I feel this simple composition becomes so strong because of the deep greens with those amazing reds throughout.

I shot a whole bunch of other shots during this first session in the Egg Forest, but then quickly made my way to the Baby Blue Eyes hill, and still shooting hand-held, I started to make my way up the hill looking for nice spots to single out. The flowers as I said earlier were only about 30% open, but this here too I’m sure meant that the flowers that were open were much fresher and more photogenic than they probably would be in a week or so when the hill is in full bloom. I had found a few nice patches and have actually uploaded a total of seven shots of these flowers, but we’ll just look at two here. The first one is 1387. Here you can see that I’d found a tall flower that made a change from the blue flowers. I spent a little time sitting on the dirt path at the edge of the flower trying to parallel the tall flower with the highest blue flower on the right. It took some doing but I just about pulled it off. I’m not 100% sure about the red-ish line of colour across the top of this shot, but it seems nicer than the ones without it. I feel as though it makes a nice target for the taller flower to reach for. I shot this again with my 70-200mm F2.8 at F4 for 1/2000th of a second at ISO 100.

Hitachi Park #14

Hitachi Park #14

I made my way up to the top of the hill and joined up with the missus who’d got tired of waiting for me and gone ahead. We knew there was a view of the see from the top of the hill, but was a little disappointed to see that it was basically some kind of harbour wall with cranes and tankers scattered around. Not very photogenic, though I wasn’t really hoping for anything here, but a slightly nicer view would have been better, and made the small climb a little more rewarding. It’s surprising how colourless the park was from here too. You can look across the entire area, but as just about the whole place is covered with trees, all you can see is the canopy, and almost none of the flowers. Still, the flowers look great with the trees intermingled, so I wouldn’t like to have seen this any other way.

Image number 1388 was shot about half way down the hill, looking back up it. The sky had been clouding over and then clearing again for the last 30 minutes or so, and was now showing an interesting face, so I decided to go for the super wide angle to emphasise the expanse of blue flowers against the blue sky. I used a circular polarizer to bring out the blue a little as it was getting a little hazy, and it worked out OK I think. I made a bunch of exposures here as people moved around and wanted to choose the right one later when I got home. I chose this with a few people sort of standing around taking photos and a kid in a white shirt throwing his arms around as he ran around all excited. I’d used Jonathan Sachs’ DOF, a depth-of-field and hyper focal distance calculator on my Pocket PC phone to figure out what the hyper focal distance was for my lens at 16mm at F16. This is actually just 50cms, so if I focus my lens at 50cms at F16, everything from 33cms from the cameras sensor to infinity will be in focus. So I set my focus looking at the scale on the lens barrel and forgot about the focus, then fine tuned my composition. The thing I love about working with really wide angle lenses is the perspective you get, especially when looking up at something like this. I think the people add to the scale and perspective of the shot, so I was quite happy there were a few people wandering around up there.

Baby Blue Eyes Hill

Baby Blue Eyes Hill

One other thing to note before we move on is that I was pleasantly surprised to see that new 16-35mm F2.8 lens from Canon has no vignetting at all, even when shooting at 16mm with a small aperture, with two filters attached. Now, before you take that statement too literally, note that the manual for this lens says it supports one filter, and if you were to use two big fat rimmed filters, you may well have problems. With a UV come protector filter and a polarizer, both from Kenko, and both made especially for wide angle lenses, I couldn’t see anything. The down side of this new lens though is that I now have to carry more circular polarizer filters around with me. Until now, for the last year or so since buying the 5D, all my lenses have taken either 77mm or 52mm filters. Now though, the 16-35mm has jumped to an 82mm filter size, so I not only had to pick up an additional filter, and they aren’t that cheap, I now have to carry a 52mm, a 77mm and an 82mm polarizer with me. I’m still considering whether or not to get an 82mm neutral density filter. I’m thinking I’ll wait until I know I’m going to need one, but that probably won’t be long, as I’m hoping to get out shooting some waterfalls again soon. Anyway, remember that if you are buying thin banded filters, you can probably also get away with two and no vignetting with the new 16-35mm lens.

Watercolour Daffodil - Hitachi Park #18

Watercolour Daffodil – Hitachi Park #18

The next shot, number 1392, is one of my favourites from the day. Sometimes the excitement of the day can affect the way you feel about the resulting photographs, and that’s why I try not to get too excited for a few weeks, but if I’m still saying this in a few weeks time, this may well end up being one of my favourites of my own photos of all time. I printed it out on 13×19″ fine art paper last night and it blew me away. The lighting was perfect, with a bright, yet colourful background and a whole bunch of little purple flowers scattered throughout the scene, and nice large patch of yellow that I positioned behind the daffodil’s head to form a halo. This was enhanced because the foreground flowers were in shade, increasing the contrast between them and the background. Holding the print in my hand last night, it felt more like a water colour than a photo! I hope this doesn’t where off, because right now I’m really excited about this shot and so glad that I ventured into the daffodil area of the park, despite the patches of flowers either side of the path leading in there looking decidedly tired. I shot this at F3.5 for 1/250th of a second by the way, with my 70-200mm F2.8 at full stretch.

Next let’s look at image number 1393 which I shot just a few paces down the path from the last one. For this shot, to the embarrassment of my other half, I was sitting on the path, leaning back on my camera bag, kind of like I was sitting in a reclining armchair. I rarely feel self-conscious when getting in weird positions to take photos, but I must admit, I felt the eyes of a few passers-by while shooting this one. Not to the point of embarrassment but I knew they were looking. Anyway, I basically wanted to get down low enough to be able to shoot this pair of daffodils through some other flower heads, to form these large patches of white blur, or what I tend to call foreground bokeh. These guys are maybe kind of comical, looking a little like they’re standing back to back, and about to walk 10 paces away from each other then turn and fire in some kind of a floral duel. I shot this at F3.2, just one click off wide open, for 1/160th of a second. This and the last shot were hand-held by the way.

Hitachi Park #19

Hitachi Park #19

Hitachi Park #22

Hitachi Park #22

Let’s move on to image number 1396. Here, every so often a breeze got up and caught the heads of all these daffodils, so I fitted an ND8 neutral density filter to my 70-200, and dropped the ISO down to 50, and selected an aperture of F22 to get a nice long shutter speed of 6/10th of a second. This was long enough to catch a lot of movement in the flower heads. Some of the flower heads stayed stationary long enough to register a little more in the photo, giving us something more to latch onto while being thrown around the shot by the other movement. The tree trunk place in the top right and the line of almost stationary yellow daffodils along the top of the frame also help to keep some order in the mayhem of the majority of the shot. This is another example I guess of staying open to ideas as we hunt for photo opportunities.

After this, we had some lunch, and then made our way back around to the tulips in the Egg Forest Garden, and from here, I’d like to look next at image number 1397. Here we see a sea of red, with most of the screen occupied by incredibly powerful red tulips. Again, I’ve chose the black face of the tulip looking at me to focus on, but selected an aperture of F16 this time to give me more depth-of-field so that we can make out more of the different coloured tulips that run across the top of the frame. I’ve also included that tree trunk up there in the right third to and a second tree trunk in the top right corner to stop our eye from running right off the frame having been taken up there by the larger tree trunk. I’d moved the ISO back to 100, and the shutter speed was down to 1/60th of a second now at F16, so I was using a tripod again.

Hitachi Park #23

Hitachi Park #23

Let’s look next at a grab shot from the middle of the afternoon’s shooting which is number 1399. As I made my way through the garden I noticed a woman in a beautiful silver grey kimono setting up her camera for a photo with hubby, so I dropped my camera down, still on the tripod and levelled it waiting for the scene to develop. As I waited, really just a few seconds, a little boy ran across the shot as the farther in the middle squatted down to photograph his little boy, and just released the shutter a few times. This was my favourite as the little boy reaches the edge of the shot to the right and the lady in the kimono stood up having set the camera’s timer running again to make her way back over to her partner for the next frame. I’d quickly selected an aperture of F4.5 because I didn’t want much more of the scene than the center band with the activity to be in focus. This photo to me though really gives us a feel of the mood of the afternoon. There were lots of families there in the park enjoying the warm weather and each others’ company.

Day in the Park

Day in the Park

Let’s move on to image number 1400. In this shot I like the less formal effect given by the scattered tulips in the foreground, with the other groups in the background behind the trees, rather than the somewhat stiff lines and shapes in some of the other shots. The previous day when I selected the location while looking through a magazine, I found later on looking through my final selection of images that my other half was really not all that impressed. She’d thought it would be too formal and that she didn’t think we’d have a very good or productive day. The shots in the magazine that although portrayed the park very nicely, were all shot at like f32, totally sharp from front to back, and very documentary. There’s nothing wrong of course with documenting a scene in that way and I made a few similar images from the day too although I’d like to think they are nowhere near as stiff. I find it much better to section out areas of the garden to emphasise the part of the scene that has captured my imagination. This is just another example of that. I also found that I really gained an appreciation for the skill of the architects that designed this space. They positioned trees at just the right places to bring out the best in the scene, quite often from multiple, if not all angles of view. They really are masters of their trade. This one by the way was shot at F4 with a shutter speed of 1/200th of a second, again at ISO 100.

Hitachi Park #25

Hitachi Park #25

Let’s look at image number 1401 now, which is hopefully a good example of how, rather than avoiding the straight lines of a somewhat formal garden, we can use them to our advantage for some graphically pleasing images. Again, observation is very important. Surveying the scene for areas that work is a must. Here I’d found a view in which the patches of tulips and the angle of the ground, complimented again by the position of the trees, all comes together to along with the light and dark from the angled sunlight making its way through the trees, to make a pretty pleasing shot. I selected a wide aperture of F4 and shutter speed of 1/640th of a second, and focussed on the yellow band of tulips in the top third of the image. I’d tried focusing on a number of other patches of flowers, and also really liked the one in which I’d focussed on the foreground patch of yellow, but decided to go with this one. I tried focusing on the line of red closer to the top of the frame too, but that didn’t really work at all. Note too that the angle that brings out the best in the subject is not only gained from where you stand, or the angle of view of any given focal length of your lens, but from the height of the camera. For pretty much all of the images today I was either crouching, sitting or lying down, or had my camera on my tripod at some height other than eye level. I also had to be pretty patient here, as there were people walking through the scene all the time. I basically had to wait for a few minutes each time for the scene to clear of people before snapping of a few frames before the next back of folks walked in.

Hitachi Park #26

Hitachi Park #26

Hitachi Park #28

Hitachi Park #28

I want to finish with one more shot of all red tulips, which is image number 1403. This scene caught my eye because of the light catching just a few heads of these tulips, but they all seem to be looking in the same direction towards the sun. As I metered for the brightest flowers, this threw the other flowers into shadow, and made for quite a moody shot I though. I love the solidarity of all these flowers just standing there, gaining the last few hours of warmth as the sun drops lower and lower in the sky. I shot this at again at F4 for 1/500th of a second. I’d been shooting in Manual mode the whole day, really wanting to in control of the exposure, stopping these bright reds and yellows from clipping, which keeping them as close to the right side of the histogram as possible for maximum punch.

We headed around through the small fairground area after this and took a few shots in a small field of rape flowers before heading for the car to make our way home. All in all it was a great day, very productive and very exciting. I know that most of you will never come to Japan, and if you did, you’d more than likely not make your way over to places like this, but if you have gardens like this near you, I hope some of the angles or shooting techniques I’ve shown you today will give you some hints on ways to make the most of them.

That’s it for today. Yesterday I closed the Simplicity Assignment for uploads, and turned on the voting system. Please do come by to the mbpgalleries.com Web site and take a look at the album half way down the top page, and please do take a moment to register if you are not already a member and vote for your favourite image. There are some really amazing shots in there, and I’m really looking forward to see what you guys choose. Thanks as usual to all those that took part. If you do register to be able to vote, remember to also sign up at the main martinbaileyphotography.com Web site with the same user name and email address so that I can keep tabs on who’s who when, or if I do eventually get around to linking these two sites. Voting will continue until the end of Sunday the 29th of April when we’ll find out who the winner of an original print of one of my photos is, and more importantly, who will take the annual grand prize based on all of the accumulated votes, which this year is going to be an amazing Lowepro Stealth Reporter D650 AW camera bag.

Other than that, have a great week, whatever you have planned. Bye-bye.


Show Notes
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Composition – Foreground “Boke” or Blur (Podcast 6)

Composition – Foreground “Boke” or Blur (Podcast 6)

Learn how to use Boke or out of focus area of an image to add a dreamy feel to your shots. Plus something to try beforehand to lessen the shock of loosing extra zoom when switching to a full size sensor DSLR with no crop factor, such as the Canon EOS 5D.

Welcome to this week’s Podcast, which will be episode 6. Before I get started today I wanted thank all of those who’ve contacted me with feedback and questions. I really appreciate it. Kind of as a follow on from my Canon EOS 5D review from episode 5 I wanted to share with you my reply to Nigel Byde from Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire in England, who had a couple of questions regarding switching to the 5D from his current camera, the 20D.

Nigel wrote, “I enjoyed your show on the 5D, but was wondering if the 3 frames per second has been an issue at all in certain situations. I use a 20D at the moment to shoot my local football league side from the touchline using the 5fps and benefit of the 1.6 factor. The frame rate on the 20D is a big factor for me but the full frame sensor is also tempting, although I’d loose focal length on my 70/200 f2.8 IS lens.”

Well Nigel, for landscape and most wildlife I don’t suspect the 3 frames per second will be a problem, but when shooting Japanese Red-Crowned Cranes in the past with a 10D which is also 3 fps I found it somewhat stressful. Actually one of the reason’s I bought the 20D was because of the fps so I am a little worried about this. Conversely though, I shoot only RAW, and when shooting fast moving wildlife the drop from 9 to 6 continuous RAW shots after I upgraded to the 20D from the 10D was probably even more stressful.

I’ve yet to make up my mind fully, but most of my shots will probably benefit more from the full-size sensor than from the faster fps of the 20D.

The drop from 1.6 crop factor to 1:1 focal length for your football shots will be a big factor. My advice, and anyone that is concerned about this can try this, is limit yourself to the shorter focal length and see how it feels. In Nigel’s case the maximum focal length that he’s currently getting with his 70-200mm lens on a 20D is 320mm. On the 5D 200mm is 200mm, so you can simulate this on the 20D by limiting himself to 125mm, which is 200mm including the crop factor.

Try and find some tape that will not leave a mark on your lens when you take it off, and tape the lens at 125mm for a while, if possible for the length of the game to see how restricting this is. You can try to just not go above 125mm if you can resist the temptation to, you know, just for that one shot when you really need it. This is important because once you put that 70-200mm lens on a 5D you won’t be able to get any closer.

One other thing to bear in mind is that in the situations where I really would like to have the 20D crop factor, the way I see it, I can just crop the center 8Mega pixels from a 5D shot, and although I haven’t calculated it exactly yet, I imagine that would give you an image size comparable to that which I’d get from a 20D. So you’d have the best of both worlds.

Anyway, please do let us know how you get on Nigel. It’ll be interesting to hear what you decide to do.

So, moving on to today’s topic, which is going to be a relatively quick one. In Episode 5 last week I mentioned the Japanese word boke that in recent years I’ve noticed more and more people using in reference to the out of focus area of an image.

Well, boke in itself is a very big subject. Different lenses produce a different type of boke, some pleasing and some not so pleasing. It differs based on a lot of factors, such as how many leaves there are in the apertures diaphragm, and some lenses such as the new 24-105mm F4L IS lens that I mentioned last week, have a truly circular aperture, making for a very pleasing boke.

If you want to read up on the technical side of Boke, there is an excellent essay called Understanding Boke by Harold M. Merklinger on Michael Reichmann’s Web site, the Luminous Landscape. You can look for Bokeh in the “Understanding Series” menu, and I also put the address in this Podcast’s summary: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/bokeh.shtml

Now, many people tend to think of the boke, or blurred area of the photograph as the background and what I wanted to talk about today is using boke extensively in the foreground for effective images.

This is not a difficult technique but can produce shots with a nice dreamy feel to them when used correctly.

First, choose your subject. As I take a lot of flowers and leaves, I like to use this technique with these subjects from time to time. Your subject will hopefully have something of interest buried deep inside a bunch of other objects of a similar colour, though you could probably have success with this technique using contrasting or complement, but different colours. Compose your shot so that the main subject or most interesting part of the image, usually the thing that caught your eye in the first place, is off center. You might have success with the main subject smack in the middle of the frame, but I wouldn’t advice moving it off center, or maybe using the rule of thirds. Position the main subject either on one of the four points where the lines dividing the frame into thirds intersect or along one of the imaginary lines itself will work well.

You’ll want to choose a wide aperture to get a shallow enough depth of field to create the blurred effect or boke that we’re looking for. Depending on your lens, the widest aperture will probably be anything from F1.4 to F4 or F5.6. The smaller the number, the wider the aperture, and the shallower the depth of field will be. As the depth of field also gets shallower at the same aperture as the subject gets closer to the lens, you have to be careful not to select too wide and aperture if your subject is very close. You might want to use the depth of field preview button if your camera has one, just to stop down the aperture to see just how deep your depth of field is.

Once you have your shot composed with a number of objects closer to the lens than the main subject, you should be setup to take the shot. The closer the foreground objects are to the lens the more out of focus they will be, adding to the dreamy effect of the image.

I’ve attached four shots to this episode for you to take a look at. To briefly describe them, the first shot, which is number 559 is some Japanese maple leaves when they are red in autumn, that I captured at the end of the day when the sun was low in the sky. This added warmth to the shot and also a patch of light behind a leaf in the top left hand side of the image that is almost like a halo throwing the leaf into silhouette. This shot was taken last year, and will be the sort of leaves most people in the northern hemisphere will be able to see around this time of year, so you can probably try this technique in a similar way yourself pretty soon.

Autumn Leaves

By the way, if you are listening on an iPod while out and about, you’ll only be able to see this first shot. If you are listening in iTunes you’ll be able to click the thumbnail in the bottom left corner to see the shot full size, and also if you click the little arrows above the thumbnail, you’ll be able to move through the other shots, and click the thumbnail to view it full size too. Remember, to click the center button on the toolbar to toggle between the actual size and over sized, as the oversized shot will appear grainy.

You can also view all the shots by clicking on the thumbnails that accompany this episode on my Web site, martinbaileyphotography.com. From the top page jump to the Podcasts page and look for Episode 6 in the list. And of course you can enter the photo number into the field on the Podcasts page or the top page of my site and jump directly there.

The second shot is of a small yellow blossom. This is shot number 590 and here I chose to really iscolate just the one flower with lots of large blotches of yellow.

02_YellowBlossom_7555

The third shot though, number 644 of a white hydrangea flower has a bunch of subjects in focus, but with lots and lots of white flowers out of focus in both the foreground and background adding the that dreamy effect.

03_White_Hydrangea_8150

The last shot is number 673 was taken in Hokkaido, the northern most island of Japan in June this year. It was actually at the Tomita Farm in Furano, which is a bit of a tourist trap, but has a few fields of early flowering lavender species, so was a good chance to capture another dreamy shot. You can see that in all shots I have used a shallow depth of field and composed with lots of other flowers or leaves in the foreground to create a nice boke and hopefully, some successful images. I hope you agree.

04_Early_Flowering_Lavender_8891


Show Notes

Music by William Cushman © 2005, used with kind permission.


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