Zodiacal Light – Now is the Time!

Author: Beth Ruggiero-York

Just after full twilight has passed about 90 minutes after sunset, look to the west in a dark place in the Northern Hemisphere, and you will see a glowing pyramid of white light rising from the horizon. You may dismiss it as city light pollution, but don’t turn your back on it! It’s time to start shooting.

zodiacal_light

This is what is called the zodiacal light, only visible for about an hour after the end of astronomical twilight (about 90 minutes after sunset) during February, March, and April in the mid-northern latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere at this time of year, you can see it before sunrise. The pattern reverses itself in August through October.

So what is this mysterious “zodiacal” light? Simply put, it is sunlight reflecting off of dust particles in the atmosphere along what is called the ‘zodiac’. The origin of the horoscope you may think of, the zodiac is the circle of 12 divisions (the signs of the horoscope) that roughly defines the path of the Sun in our galaxy through the year. The dust creates a disc-like cloud in the Solar System, which is called the ‘zodiacal cloud’. So, at these times of the year, the dust, the Sun, the Earth, and the zodiac all line up to produce the amazing zodiacal light.

To photograph this remarkable and beautiful phenomenon, you need to be in a dark sky location free from much light pollution in the mid-northern latitudes as I mentioned above. Then, mount your fastest wide lens on your camera, and mount your camera on a sturdy tripod. Establish infinity focus, compose the shot, and start shooting! If you have not done night photography before, an easy rule of thumb.

To learn more about night photography, check out my book, Fun in the Dark: A Guide to Successful Night Photography, available for purchase at www.funinthedark.net.

Beth Ruggiero-York is a photography instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.  You can see her bio and more of her work at www.ruggiero.images.com.

 

Is The Mirrorless Honeymoon Over?

Author:  Joel Wolfson

I shot this with the Sony A7 II while conducting my Villages of Tuscany workshop in Italy. 240mm f11 1/250 sec. ISO 125

I shot this with the Sony A7 II while conducting my Villages of Tuscany workshop in Italy. 240mm f11 1/250 sec. ISO 125

My last mirrorless post was about my “Wow!” moment with the A7R II and why I switched to mirrorless after decades of using DSLRs. It’s been about a year and now that the honeymoon is over, do I still like using my mirrorless system? Short answer: Yes. Like any successful relationship, there are challenges along the way but I still enjoy day to day life with my Sony A7 system. I recognize the flaws but overall the pros outweigh the cons.

Now that I’ve been using the Sony A7 full frame system for nearly a year (A7 II and A7R II) and using a variety of lenses (3 Zeiss, 1 Sony) it’s a good time to point out the pros and cons. Because I’ve owned both Canon and Nikon DSLR systems they are my basis for comparison. Your own mileage may vary.

 Pros:

 Lightweight and compact: This was a major factor for me, particularly because I travel a lot and it’s really nice not to have to carry as much weight and bulk around. In spite of the small size and weight you still get a full frame 42MP sensor with spectacular dynamic range and low light capabilities.

 No chimping required: The eye level electronic viewfinder (EVF) essentially allows you to see a preview of your final image before you fire the shutter. Yes, you can use live view on your Canon or Nikon but you have to pull the camera away from your eye yielding an unsteady grip or necessitating a tripod and it’s very slow and clunky.

If your exposure or other settings are incorrect, even way off on your DSLR, you won’t know it until you take it away from your eye and look at the review image on the LCD (aka “chimping”). In the ideal world we should check our settings every time we pick up the camera. But in the real world we sometimes see something cool, grab the camera and shoot before we realize we had the exposure compensation, white balance, ISO or something else set for a completely different situation from the last time we used the camera.

 Depth of field preview: Although you can allegedly “preview” depth of field on many DSLRs the viewfinder can get very dark as you stop down, especially if you’re in low light. With an EVF you can see it all through a bright viewfinder and previewing depth of field is much easier.

 Low light: Although some DSLRs are spectacular performers at high ISO in low light, it can be difficult to see through the viewfinder, especially if you’re using a slower lens (eg. Canon 24-105 f4.0 L or Nikon 24-120 f4.0G). The EVF on the Sony allows you to see in the dark with a bright viewfinder even in very low light. Add to that trying to see the effect of depth of field with the lens stopped down and a DSLR viewfinder becomes useless.

 Manual focusing: Because the A7RII has focus peaking indicators and instant magnification in the viewfinder you can manually focus easily, precisely and in low light compared to DSLRs which are more difficult to focus manually through the viewfinder. The focus peaking indicators aren’t super accurate though still useful.

 Rendering quality of Zeiss lenses: Sony has had a long relationship with Zeiss and many of the lenses made for Sony cameras are Zeiss. Of course the technical performance of Zeiss lenses is stellar but there’s also a quality or look to how they render on the A7R II that is beautiful. Interestingly that distinctive rendering isn’t as obvious on the A7 II body. I can’t explain that but it may be due to the fact that the A7R II has no anti-aliasing filter and the A7 II does. The standout favorite of my Zeiss lenses is the Batis 85mm f1.8. Not only does it render beautifully but is one of the sharpest lenses I’ve ever used (Nikon’s 85 1.8G is comparable technically but doesn’t have the distinctive rendering)

I’m not privy to Zeiss’s influence on Sony’s own designs and manufacturing but the Sony lenses I’ve used also have very nice rendering on the A7R II. In my mind, photographic equipment is merely a set of tools to communicate something meaningful to me as an artist and also to the viewer. So although not as tangible as features or specs the rendering can be an extra tool of communication, particularly when trying to convey a sense of something more subtle (but still very important) like beauty or warmth.

Other pros: In-body 5 axis stabilization means you still get stabilization with non-stabilized lenses. There are also numerous lens adapters so you can use your Canon, Leica, and other lenses on the A7 bodies. Although I no longer have my Canon gear, the Metabones EF adapter is highly regarded because it allows full autofocus capabilities with Canon lenses.

Not a deal breaker but the built in wi-fi and corresponding smartphone apps make it very easy to transfer images to my iPhone from the camera so I can send off a lower res version right away. I can also use my iPhone to control the camera.

Sony A7 II and Zeiss Sonnar 35mm f2.8 lens. The rendering is still classic Zeiss and beautiful but the Zeiss lenses render even nicer when used on the A7R II. 1/250 f9.0 ISO 100

Sony A7 II and Zeiss Sonnar 35mm f2.8 lens. The rendering is still classic Zeiss and beautiful but the Zeiss lenses render even nicer when used on the A7R II. 1/250 f9.0 ISO 100

 Cons:

 Menus: They are kind of a mess with little logic to the order or access. Especially annoying is placement of the format option which I use frequently. Also no place (eg. “My Menu”) to store frequently used options. It’s possible Sony will update this via firmware as they’ve made other significant upgrades this way.

 Autofocus Tracking: Although much better in the A7R II than previous models, if your main interest is sports then don’t give up your Nikon D4/D5 or Canon 1Dx. Granted these are very different cameras but one camera can’t do everything and the Sony A7 bodies are simply not made for super fast AF tracking.

 Battery life: There are settings you can use to help conserve battery power (eg. turn on “Airplane” mode) but in general the battery life is poor compared to Canon or Nikon DSLRs. It’s not a huge deal but still annoying because it requires more frequent changing of batteries.

 Eye sensor: There is a built-in sensor in the eyepiece that switches from the LCD display on the back to the viewfinder when you put your eye up to the camera. It’s handy but too sensitive with no way to reduce the sensitivity enough. If you are using the handy flip-up LCD to shoot video, for instance, your image blacks out every time you get the camera close to your body because it trips the sensor. This may not affect many people but I find this to be an oversight on Sony’s part.

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Sony A7R II from a helicopter at 80mm f8.0 1/400 sec. ISO 400 with polarizing filter.

After using the Sony A7 system in a variety of situations for a year or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that I still like using the system for the reasons cited above under “Pros” and in my previous article. I continue to keep my eye on developments in camera technology but there would have to be pretty compelling reasons for me to switch systems at this point.

Happy Shooting Everyone!

Joel Wolfson is an Arizona Highways Photo Workshop instructor/photographer. Here is Joel’s bio.

Subscribe to Joel’s email list and Be The First to Get the Latest on his workshops, articles, blog posts, tips, and more

Joel’s blog has additional articles about photography and travel.

Website: www.joelwolfson.com

Email Joel info@joelwolfson.com

 

Photo tips for Bearizona

Author: Amy Horn02_16 Bearizona-6900

Imagine driving your car through a forest in Northern Arizona and viewing wolves,bear, bison, donkey and many more animals. This unique experience is what you will find at Bearizona Park in Williams, Arizona. The park is divided into two main areas, the drive thru park and “Fort Bearizona” where you can stroll through winding walkways to view more bear, fox, bobcat and other North American animals. It you are thinking of visiting Bearizona, here are three tips to better photos.

  1. Upon entry to the park, most cars head straight to the drive through area. In this area, you drive from habitat to habitat looking for wildlife. Hopefully you can spot all 13 bear! A long lens with a focal length of 200mm or larger is your best chance at capturing a great photo. On occasion, animals are on the road, but most often they are off eating, sleeping or walking in the wooded areas so a long lens is crucial. Drive slowly and if you pull off to take photos make sure you leave room for cars to pass you. Something you might not think about is the impact your tinted windows will have on your photographs (for safety, windows remain closed). I found my window tinting gave me an underexposed image by more than one stop. To compensate for this boost your ISO or open your aperture to add more light. Vehicles can repeat the loop as many times as desired to capture the animals in their different behavioral activities.

02_16 Bearizona-6920

  1. At the end of the drive thru area is a parking lot for Fort Bearizona. Fort Bearizona is a small area of animal habitats including multiple bear enclosures, javelina, bobcats, a raptor flight (March – Nov only), petting zoo and several more species. At these enclosures you can take advantage of the close proximity to the animals and use shorter lenses. I recommend focal lengths from 50-300mm to capture these critters. The bear enclosures separate the bear by age and those juvenile bear love to climb the trees. If you don’t see any bear, be sure to look up!
  1. Three times daily the “Wild Ride Bus Tour” loops through the park. In case you were busy driving the loop earlier, riding the bus will give you a chance to photograph the animals. The best seats are closest to the driver and, of course, by a window. The reason seats by the driver are best is that the driver will feed some animals and they trot right on over to the bus.

So, if you are up for a unique experience with wildlife, check out Bearizona Park in Williams, AZ and don’t forget your long lens.

Amy Horn is a professor of photography at Northern Arizona University and an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.  Join her in the upcoming zoo workshops at Wildlife World Zoo and Arizona Sonora Desert Museum or view her current schedule at ahpw.org or horndesigns.com.

Circles of Confusion and Sweet Spots — Part One

Author: Sara Goodnick

Circles of confusion? Sounds like the start of a joke, doesn’t it?

According to Wikipedia: “In optics, a circle of confusion is an optical spot caused by a cone of light rays from a lens not coming to a perfect focus when imaging a point source.”

Whoa! OK, I’m going to try to really simplify this so you can understand and use it to improve your photography. This is closely related to depth of field. For those of you new to photography, depth of field refers to how much of your image has acceptable sharpness at a given distance. This can be very short, or extremely long.

Camera lenses work by allowing a certain amount of light to pass through them and onto a sensor. The lens elements bend the light rays to place them onto the sensor. We focus the light rays by moving the focus ring on the camera to put our subject into focus.

The aperture, or hole the light rays pass through before reaching the sensor, is measured by what we call an f-stop. The numbers related to f-stops are actually measurements of the size of the hole-but they are in fractions. So, f/2.8 is a larger hole than f/22. Think of it like this: wouldn’t you want 1/2.8th of a piece of chocolate cake more than a minuscule 1/22nd size piece?

Stopping down, or making the aperture (f-stop) smaller, gives a greater depth of field. Like when you squint your eyes to see better. It means more will be in focus front to back than with a larger aperture.

So, for instance, if you want your subject, such as someone’s face to be in focus, but not the area behind that person, you would focus on the eyes, and use a large aperture, such as f/2.8. If you were standing close enough to the person, the background would be out of focus if it were far enough away.

Conversely, for a landscape photograph, you probably would want everything in focus, from the boulders and bushes 30 feet in front of you to the horizon. In this case you would want a smaller aperture, f/11 or 16. There’s more to it than just this, but this is one element of increasing depth of field.

So, why not go for the f/22? Wouldn’t that include even more? Well, sometimes you might notice that stopping way down does not improve the sharpness, it actually makes the image softer in some areas.

This has to do with your particular camera sensor and lens combination. As the aperture gets smaller, the light rays are forced closer together and begin to interfere with each other, cause diffraction. This will result in a loss of sharpness in your image.

You will need to test your own camera and lens combinations to learn their specific limits.

Look at the examples below. It is hard to see at this resolution, but if you look at the tip of the cactus in the center you will see that the needles are clearer in the middle photograph, shot at f/8.0. At the opposite ends of the spectrum, f/2.8 and f/22, the needles appear soft.All images were with a Nikon D700 on a tripod, set for aperture priority, lens 70-200 set at 70mm.

f-2.8

f-2.8

f-8.0

f-8.0

f-22

f-22

Sara Goodnick is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Cool New Plug-in from Topaz Texture Effects- Quick Look Review

Author: Joel Wolfson

©JWolfson_AmbroAged_500px_01

In addition to a Basic Adjustment layer I used Edge Exposure, Dust/Scratches, and Texture layers within Texture Effects to create this vintage look reminiscent of a tintype. It only took a few minutes. Historically tintypes and early methods of creating round bales of hay do overlap. I’m not entirely sure the hay bales looked exactly like this but I like the timeless feel I was able to achieve in Texture Effects.

Texture Effects, Topaz’s latest plug-in (also operates stand-alone) is the easiest way to add textures and a whole lot more to your images. It’s a huge time saver over creating textures in most other programs. In addition to hundreds of fantastic presets, you can also customize them or make your own.

One of the nicer aspects of Texture Effects are the hundreds of presets that come with it. You can use them to spark ideas or as a starting point. In this case I used the “Color Burst” preset to accentuate my image of these tiled stairs and rail. The image was already colorful and the wall textured but it needed a little punch. Although I tried changing various adjustments I liked the preset as is and was able to get what you see above with just one click.

One of the nicer aspects of Texture Effects are the hundreds of presets that come with it. You can use them to spark ideas or as a starting point. In this case I used the “Color Burst” preset to accentuate my image of these tiled stairs and rail. The image was already colorful and the wall textured but it needed a little punch. Although I tried changing various adjustments I liked the preset as is and was able to get what you see above with just one click.

It has a great interface that builds on the innovation they showed in Glow and Impression. It’s really easy to add adjustments and effects via layers, each with its own mask. You can add as many layers of adjustments or effects as you want and save off any combination as your own preset.

Here's a before (left) and after (right). I started in Topaz ReStyle. In ReStyle you can choose your color palette so I used it to get vivid purple and yellow. Then I hopped into Texture Effects and used a Texture layer to create the corrugated metal look for the wall and a Light Leak layer to make it look like a spot of sun is reflected on the wall. I used the masking (available in each layer) to isolate the "sun" reflection. In the end I used only two layers plus a Basic Adjustment layer and a few minutes of my time to make this image.

Here’s a before (left) and after (right). I started in Topaz ReStyle. In ReStyle you can choose your color palette so I used it to get vivid purple and yellow. Then I hopped into Texture Effects and used a Texture layer to create the corrugated metal look for the wall and a Light Leak layer to make it look like a spot of sun is reflected on the wall. I used the masking (available in each layer) to isolate the “sun” reflection. In the end I used only two layers plus a Basic Adjustment layer and a few minutes of my time to make this image.

Topaz has also set up a community cloud that allows you to share or download presets with the click of a button right within the program.

Here I was going for a Polaroid transfer look. I used a Texture layer for the overall mottled look and a Dust/Scratches layer for the peeling marks. I was even able to add the bluish tint of the peel marks right within the layer. Then a little Edge Exposure for good measure. I'm really impressed by the intuitive interface.

Here I was going for a Polaroid transfer look. I used a Texture layer for the overall mottled look and a Dust/Scratches layer for the peeling marks. I was even able to add the bluish tint of the peel marks right within the layer. Then a little Edge Exposure for good measure. I’m really impressed by the intuitive interface.

Topaz obviously worked very hard to come up with a really intuitive interface. This combined with the hundreds of presets that come with Texture Effects and thousands more via the Topaz Community cloud, really makes it easy and quick to produce great results with your images. Not to mention a lot of fun!

Hope you enjoyed this quick review.

Note: For a more in depth look at how I created these images go to my workshop page, scroll down to “Free Webinars” and click on “Travel Through Time with Texture Effects” for a link to the webinar.

Happy Shooting!
Joel Wolfson is an Arizona Highways Photo Workshop instructor/photographer. Here is Joel’s bio.

Subscribe to Joel’s email list and Be The First to Get the Latest on his workshops, articles, blog posts, tips, and more.
Joel’s blog has additional articles about photography and travel.
Website: www.joelwolfson.com
Email Joel info@joelwolfson.com

The Photographer’s Guide to the Grand Canyon

Larry Mason
Author & Image Copyright

The Grand Canyon is one of the most iconic landscapes in the United States and is, of course, a favorite destination of many photographers. Although there are endless amazing photographic opportunities at the Grand Canyon, some planning is needed to get the most out of your trip, and in this guide we’ll take a detailed look at Grand Canyon in a way that will help you to get the most out of your time there.

Two of the main reasons why it is so important to plan ahead are the massive size of the canyon and its surrounding areas, and the seasonal changes that take place at this area of Arizona. The canyon itself is 277 miles long and up to 18 miles wide. Much of the area around the canyon is a part of Grand Canyon National Park. Many of the popular locations at and around the Grand Canyon are actually quite spread out, and driving from one area to another (such as the north rim to the south rim) can take a considerable amount of time. With this is mind, you’ll want to know exactly what spots and locations are most important so you can plan accordingly. Likewise, the weather is also a factor that will impact your visit and it should be accounted for. The north rim is closed for the winter.

Mather Point Photo of Mather Point during the Winter Jan 2016

BEST PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATIONS AT THE GRAND CANYON SOUTH RIM
Landscape photographers can find beauty just about anywhere at the Grand Canyon, but some spots are more popular than others. While it is a good idea to get off of the main roads and trails to get more unique and interesting views, here is a look at some of the locations you may want to consider in your planning.

SOUTH RIM VIEWPOINTS

YAVAPAI POINT
Yavaipai Point
Yavapai Point is near the south entrance of the park and provides a spectacular view of the canyon. Because of the panoramic view it is a good location for both sunrise and sunset.

MATHER POINT
When entering Grand Canyon National Park from the south entrance, Mather Point is one of the first viewpoints. It is also the location of the visitor’s center and starting point for the shuttle buses. From Mather point you have a view of Vishnu Temple.

Mather PointTo the east of the Grand Canyon Village is Desert View Drive, which is the main road that extends for 25 miles and includes several major viewpoints. This road is open to private vehicles, and shuttles are also available. The five viewpoints listed below are located on Desert View Drive.

SHOSHONE POINT
Shoshone point
Shoshone Point is not one of the major viewpoints, and that is part of the reason I recommend it. It is not marked on the road or on most maps, but it is not all that hard to find. It is about 2 miles southeast of Yaki Point. There is an unpaved road that leads to it, but most of the time that road is gated off and closed to vehicles. You’ll have to hike about one mile from the parking lot to reach Shoshone Point. You can park on the north side of the road around mile marker 245 where there is a small parking lot.
This is a good location for sunset photos, partly because you won’t have to deal with many other people. When I was there for sunset there were about 5 other people in the general area. If you do go for sunset be sure to bring a flashlight for the hike back to the parking lot.Shoshone Point is sometimes used for private events, including weddings, so there is a chance you will run in to that, but I have no idea how often that would be.

YAKI POINT
Yaki Point
Yaki Point is also a little bit off the main road, and during the summer you will need to take the shuttle to reach it, as the road is closed to cars for the busy season. Yaki Point is also the location of the South Kaibab Trail, one of the main trails in the park. Hiking down the trail, even just part way, gives you the opportunity to view the canyon from a different perspective as compared to the viewpoints at the rim. If you’re looking for unique photos this is a great way to do it.

GRANDVIEW POINT
Grandview Point is one of the major viewpoints on Desert View Drive and is also the starting point of the Grandview Trail. The trail is very steep.

NAVAJO POINT
Navajo Point

Navajo Point is just a few minutes drive west of the Desert View Watchtower and it provides a nice view of the tower, and of the canyon itself. Navajo point is the highest point on the south rim (aside from the top of the watchtower).

DESERT VIEW WATCHTOWER
Desert Watch Tower
At the far east end of the south rim of the canyon is a the Desert View Watchtower, a 70 foot tower that overlooks the canyon and the surrounding desert. The tower itself is an excellent subject for photos, and it also provides views for photos of the surrounding area. The tower is easily accessed by the main road from Grand Canyon Village, but it is a 20 mile drive. As you go east from the village there are many different viewpoints and trails, and the tower is at the last of the major stops.

HERMIT ROAD
Hopi PointHermit Road runs along the west end of the Grand Canyon Village at the south rim and it includes several viewpoints like Maricopa Point, Powell Point, Hopi Point, Mojave Point, the Abyss, Pima Point, and Hermit’s Rest. Hermit’s Rest is the last point (at the far west end) and is about 7 miles from the village. Hermit Road is closed to cars except in the months of December, January, and February. The rest of the year it can be reached by the shuttle buses, on foot, or by bike.
The Rim Trail follows the rim of the canyon along the road and if you are up for some short hikes you can easily walk between the viewpoints. In some areas the trail is paved and in other areas it is just a dirt trail.

GETTING AROUND:  CAR AND SHUTTLE
The park areas are accessible by private vehicle in most places. Hermit Road, to the west of Grand Canyon Village at the south rim, is closed to private vehicles except in December, January, and February. The shuttles are free and make it easy to get the the various viewpoints along Hermit Road, and if you’d like you can also walk on the trail for the 7 mile road.

Desert View Drive, to the east of Grand Canyon Village at the south rim, is accessible by private vehicle except for a small stretch that leads to Yaki Point. To get to Yaki Point you’ll need to take the shuttle. The shuttle does not run to the far east end of Desert View Drive, to the watchtower, so you will need to drive or have other transportation to get there.

HIKING
In order to get the shots that you want you will most likely need to do at least a little bit of hiking. The park is full of trails, and in many areas you can simply walk away from the viewpoints to get a different view and to avoid a crowd.
The South Kaibab Trial is one of the major trails and is easily accessible at the popular south rim. If you plan to hike all the way to the bottom you will need to plan to camp overnight. You can easily hike down part way and then hike back up during the same day. In order to reach the trail head you will need to take the shuttle bus to Yaki Point.

TIPS FOR PHOTOGRAPHING THE GRAND CANYON
So now that we have looked at some of the best locations, when to visit, and how to get around, let’s look at some general tips to get the most out of your time photographing the Grand Canyon.

1. PLAN AHEAD
Plan ahead and pick out the locations that are most important to you, and the difficulty of getting to each place will also factor in. One of the nice things about the south rim, even though it is popular and can be crowded, you can still easily access many different viewpoints and trails and pack a lot into a short visit.
2. RESEARCH
Part of the planning process involves research, and hopefully this article has helped with that research. You can find plenty of forum threads and blog posts where people list their favorite spots at the canyon, and that’s how I found out about the unmarked Shoshone Point.
3. GET AWAY FROM THE MAJOR VIEWPOINTS
At the south the vast majority of visitors will be at the main viewpoints where the shuttles stop and with the biggest parking lots. If you find some less popular, but often equally amazing, spots you can have photos that most visitors will never be able to get. Most visitors congregate at the area by the parking lot or shuttle bus stop, but at most viewpoints you can explore a little (be careful because the only safety rails will be at the viewpoint) and get some very unique views and have some space to yourself.
4. CHANGE YOUR VANTAGE POINT
Most photographs of the Grand Canyon are taken from the rim. Changing your vantage point, even if it is only a little, can make a big difference. As you hike down one of the trails you get different views all the way down. You can also change your vantage point by getting higher, either at the Desert View Watchtower, or on a helicopter or airplane.
5. USE FOREGROUND ELEMENTS
Some of the most captivating photos of the Grand Canyon, and landscapes in general, involve a foreground element. Look for opportunities to use rocks, trees, plants, and even people as foreground elements to add interest to your compositions.
6. GET PERSPECTIVE BY INCLUDING PEOPLE IN YOUR COMPOSITIONS
The Grand Canyon is an amazing sight and capturing the size is very difficult to do with a photograph. One of the ways you can achieve perspective and to show the size of the canyon is to include people in your composition.
7. PAY ATTENTION TO THE WEATHER
The weather can be a major factor when visiting and photographing the Grand Canyon. Even in the summer the temperature can change drastically in the evening, and then if you factor in the elevation changes temperature can vary even more. Storms can provide excellent opportunities for beautiful photos at the canyon, but always take safety precautions. This is especially true if you are hiking or camping or visiting one of the more remote locations. Winter, of course, brings its own challenges.
8. LOOK FOR DETAILS
One of the challenges of photographing the Grand Canyon is knowing what to include in your composition and what you want to accomplish with the photo. Just about everywhere you look there are amazing views and the sheer size of it can be overwhelming. One of the best ways to get great photos is to focus on specific details. It could be objects at the rim or textures and patterns at the bottom of the canyon.

GEAR FOR PHOTOGRAPHING THE GRAND CANYON:

1. LIGHTWEIGHT TRIPOD
To get the best shots you’ll need to do some hiking or walking, and you’ll want your tripod to be as light was possible. Hiking up the canyon trails is challenging enough without the tripod and your gear, so the last thing you want is a heavy, bulky tripod. Tripods from Manfrotto, Gitzo, Really Right Stuff, Oben, Slik, Benro, and Vanguard tend to be excellent choices.

2. WIDE ANGLE LENS
A wide angle lens will help you to capture the vastness of the canyon. Canon’s EF 17-40mm f/4L USM and Nikon’s AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G are good options.

3. TELEPHOTO LENS
Don’t forget a telephoto lens for capturing detail of items within the canyon. The Sigma 150 – 600 (for Canon and for Nikon) will give you plenty capability.

4. GRADUATED NEUTRAL DENSITY FILTERS
Lighting can be a challenge at the grand canyon. The canyon walls cast a lot of shadows and you are likely to need graduated neutral density filters to for shots where the sky is drastically brighter than the foreground. Filters from Lee Filters, Cokin, Hoya, B&W and Singh-Ray are all excellent options.

5. FLASHLIGHT
Sunset and sunrise are great times to be photographing the canyon, but many of the best locations are not right next to a parking lot where you can quickly jump back into your car after the sun sets. To get the shots that you want there is a good chance you will need to walk or hike before sunrise or after sunset. Be sure to have a flashlight and some spare batteries in your bag.

6. CIRCULAR POLARIZER
A polarizer can help to enhance the skies of your photos, and at the Grand Canyon the skies can often play a significant role in your compositions. B+W, Hoya, Tiffen, Lee Filters, and Singh-Ray produce quality polarizers.

7. LENS WIPESwipes
With all of the dust in and around the canyon you will want to have some lens wipes, like Zeiss pre-moistened lens wipes, to keep your gear clean.

8. WATER
While it is not photography gear, having water with you is essential. In the summer the heat can quickly take a tool, and throughout the year if you are hiking you are sure to need water. Water is not available in all locations, so be sure to always have some with you. In the village there are some water stations where you can fill up your own bottle.

Larry Mason is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

LIGHTROOM CC 2015.4/6.4 released- New Pano Feature

Author: Suzanne Mathia

Adobe CCLightroom CC 2015.4 and Lightroom 6.4 are now available on Adobe.com.

This release provides additional camera raw support, lens profile support and address bugs that were introduced in previous releases of Lightroom.

This release also includes a new Boundary Warp feature for Creative Cloud members.

Introducing Boundary Warp

Stitched panoramas often have non-rectangular boundaries. There are several ways to handle irregular boundaries.

  1. Apply a rectangular crop. quick and simple, but important image details near the edges may be lost due to cropping.
  2. Content Aware Fill (in Photoshop) to fill in the transparent areas outside the boundary. This can be effective, but may require multiple attempts to obtain a pleasing result.
  3. Warping – in Photoshop can be complex and you may end up with odd results
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Raw images to be stitched

This new feature provides another approach to handling the irregular boundary of panoramas. The feature analyzes the boundary and warps the image so that its edges fit a rectangular frame.  In other words, its all done for you on the fly…quick easy and effective.  ONCE AGAIN THANK YOU LIGHTROOM!

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Merged Images

 

Boundary Warp Applied

Boundary Warp Applied

Processed DNG Pano with Boundary Warp

Processed DNG Pano with Boundary Warp

New Camera Support in Lightroom CC 2015.4 / 6.4
  • Fujifilm X70
  • Fujifilm X-E2S
  • Fujifilm X-Pro2
  • Leica M (Typ 262)
  • Leica X-U (Typ 113)
  • Panasonic DMC-ZS60 (DMC-TZ80, DMC-TZ81, DMC-TZ85)
  • Phase One IQ150
  • Sony ILCA-68 (A68)
Additional Updates in Lightroom CC 2015.4 / 6.4

Suzanne Mathia is an instructor/photographer with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.