I have been putting off a post on the Eiffel Tower for some time because it is such a landmark that it is hard to photograph differently or say anything original. I have decided to do a series of posts instead, showcasing some of the new tools and techniques that I have recently learned. We live just a couple of blocks away from the Eiffel Tower and it is very convenient to use it as a subject. The picture above is my first effort at High Dynamic Range imaging (HDR). Since this my first try, I probably will change my workflow in the future, but you have to see the dramatic improvement compared to my previous outdoor pictures which you can find on the blog.
This was made with a Lumix G5 camera with a 14mm f/2.5 G aspherical lens on a Gitzo tripod. The camera was chosen because it is small, and the lenses are small, perfect for traveling. The tripod is necessary because the camera cannot move between pictures. The picture is the sum of 7 pictures (really too many) with a technique called bracketing in which the f-stop (inverse of the diameter of the aperture of the lens) is changed by 1 stop between each of the separate pictures. The pictures were assembled using a computer program called Photomatrix (the most popular HDR program). Even though my camera has built in HDR, it doesn’t compare to this method. If you look carefully at the top image, you will see some distortion at the edges, I also have a new program to fix that called DXO Optics which I will discuss in a future post.
I have been a fan of Trey Ratcliff for just about forever, he was part of my inspiration to start a travel blog and to get into photography in the first place. You might know him better as the author of Stuck in Customs, if you have never visited the blog…you should, beautiful pictures of many things including cathedrals in Europe. If you want to know more about HDR, a great place to start is with his tutorials. Another place to look is Rick Sammon who has an IPad app, iHDR, and gives workshops around the country.
Another technology that I am working with is time-lapse photography. Traditionally, time lapse video has been a labor intensive endeavor, requiring assembly of hundreds of individual photos. The IPhone has changed all of that, I made the time-lapse above with an IPhone app called iMotion. I assembled the actual video with iMovie. This is easy enough that I can promise more time-lapse in the future.
Portable phones have revolutionized photography and the newer models are getting similar “megapixels” to low end cameras. The problem with “point and shoot” cameras and phones are the lenses. That too is changing with little lenses that can be attached to the IPhone like the Olloclip, shown above, for $69.99. That is a huge savings compared to a camera like mine and infinitely more portable. Even more important, phones don’t have huge manuals and arcane controls like cameras. Phones have simple controls, conveniently located, with touch screens that actually work (unlike camera touch screens). If you don’t like the way the phone works, for a few dollars you can buy a new app.
You can even get a telephoto lens for the IPhone called the Photojojo that will give you 8-12X zoom for only $35. That is better than most point and shoot cameras. Just as a comparison, the 14mm prime lens I shot the HDR picture with cost me $400, although the price has gone down lately. I still love that lens, it is the lens I leave on most of the time because it is tiny, fast (that means really good in low light, like museums) and the optics are hard to beat.
By the way, another piece of advice that will save you money and travel weight, never buy a mid-zoom lens. I bought the beautiful f2.8 (fast) lens pictured above for $1300 (the camera only cost $500). While I was impressed by the optics, it is huge compared to my fixed 14mm lens and you can always move forward or backward for the relatively small zoom capability of the lens. I bought it for museum pictures in natural light. Don’t make my mistake yourself, anyone want a good deal on this white elephant?
Of course, if you want to do time-lapse photography or HDR, you will need to stabilize the phone. The Glif is a little rubber camera holder that actually fits on your keyring. I used it to make the time lapse video along with a tiny little tripod that fits in my pocket. Although there are other products, I like this the best because it interferes the least with my access to the screen.
If you want a little nicer tiny tripod, consider the Gorillapod from Joby. They have a range of little tripods that wrap around poles, railings and even trees. I personally hate lugging even my very light tripod around and I try to get away with a tiny tripod, gorilla pod or monopod most of the time. It is surprising how little you will miss the tripod if you have a little imagination.
So in summary, I am constantly on the lookout for new technology that will make taking great pictures easier, lighter for travel and better overall. As more stuff comes up on the radar, I will share it with you. I think we will see a smartphone powered camera very soon, probably with an Android Operating System, possibly this year or next. Try not to buy any expensive camera equipment right now because I and many others think the entire camera industry is due for a shakeup. All those giant Nikon and Canon cameras and lenses will become obsolete almost overnight. In fact, the Panasonic micro-4/3 camera that I have has already made converts of many pro camera enthusiasts and you definitely don’t see as many camera shops catering to the old equipment. I hope you have enjoyed this peek behind the scenes at Travel to Eat, as always please send me your questions and comments. I hope I have given you some ideas for your own photography and I promise to have many more HDR photos in the blog from now on.
Stuck in Customs Tutorial: http://www.stuckincustoms.com/hdr-tutorial/
Stuck in Customs: http://www.stuckincustoms.com/
Rick Sammon: http://ricksammon.com/
Rick Sammon Workshops: http://ricksammon.com/2013-workshops/