Thursday, 30 October 2014


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Mount Washington Hotel 9068 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dan Beauvais   
Wednesday, 29 October 2014 21:30

In Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," we experience a concoction of music and breathless primal sounds that swirl around the room, building a dizzying ecstatic sonic orgy via masterful audio mixing.  Envision the producer running the audio mixing board, sweeping the guitar pick scrapes left and right in the stereo mix, over the escalating grunts and moans, then bringing up the level of the drums for the thunderous climax.  Love it or hate it, he precisely mixes, matches, and places the raw ingredients of a multi-track recording into a stereo mix, assembling his vision, and taking us for one hell of a ride.

Photographers too have such tools on their workbench.  Not every song should be as ambitious as "Whole Lotta Love," nor should every photograph be worked with such vigor.  But I often pre-visualize an image as an assemblage of raw ingredients to be mixed into a final product.  This photo of the Mount Washington Resort Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire is such an assemblage.

I deliberately wanted the streaks of the car headlights on the windy road.  That's easy to obtain at night.  But I also wanted detail in the hotel facade and roof, separation between the layers of mountains, detail in the mountain surfaces, and good separation between the mountains and the sky.  All available only  during the day.  I also wanted an indigo sky - not daylight blue or nighttime black.  No combination graduated neutral density filters would isolate the tones of the sky, mountains, roof, siding, window lights, headlight streaks, street lamps, and foreground greenery to map their tones all in a single exposure.  The image I had in mind demanded multiple exposures made at different times of the day. 

I set up on a good sturdy tripod, in a place where I could leave it undisturbed for hours.  That way, I could make my multiple exposures, all in registration, analogous to different instruments on their own audio tracks.

I started shooting exposures at 3:30 on this chilly October afternoon, before the sun went behind the mountains at my back.  This recorded detail in the hotel and mountains.  More shots at dusk recorded the wispy clouds over the mountains and the indigo sky.  As soon as cars started using headlights, I added a 10 stop neutral density filter.  This allowed me to record streaks of headlights a few minutes long, even though the scene was still relatively bright.  As it got darker, I removed the neutral density filter, and continued making exposures.  Lights appeared at various times in the hotel windows.  I recorded several combinations of lit windows.  With all the pre-planned types of exposures recorded, I stopped shooting at 8:15pm.  I'd made more than 100 individual photos, my raw ingredients.

In the digital darkroom, I assembled selected elements of many of these photos by layering them, and masking off the parts where I did not want a contribution from that layer.  For example, I wanted the indigo sky from dusk, so I masked off the bright sky from the mid afternoon images.  Further, I made extensive use of a "lighten" layer blending mode which took only the brightest, unmasked point from each layer.  That built up multiple headlight streaks, and collected all the lit windows from all the frames I used.

In all, this image was made from a selection of about 10 individual photos, layered, masked, and blended to give me the results I had envisioned.

The scene is the Mount Washington Resort Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. Mount Jefferson looms in the background, with the slope of Mount Washington to the right of the frame.  Click here for info about obtaining prints or gifts with this image, or to instantly license and download it.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 October 2014 00:03
New Hampshire in Infrared PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dan Beauvais   
Sunday, 26 October 2014 17:06

Many of us are familiar with dog whistles.  These whistles seem to produce no sound when we blow into them.  Actually, the emit a sound that is at a frequency higher than what humans perceive.  A dog's hearing range extends beyond the highest frequencies that we can hear.  Our canine friends can be trained to respond to this whistle which they hear clearly, but does not annoy us humans.

Like sound, light extends beyond frequencies that our human eyes can perceive.  And in the infrared range, just outside our perception, it causes some cool effects.  With the help of machines, we can record its effects for our enjoyment.

I had a digital camera modified by http://lifepixel.com to largely block visible light, and instead record light in the infrared spectrum. This produces a very distinct look, in which broad-leaf foliage takes on a white, glowing, ethereal look, and clear skies turn very dark.  This is not a new photographic effect.  Very similar results have been available for decades by shooting with black & white infrared film.

While on a two week photo trip to my native New England this fall, I got my first experiences making infrared images, including these five.

Prints or gifts with these images are available by clicking the photo or its title. You may also license an image for your own project.

Fourth Iron Bridge, Crawford Notch 1046

The Fourth Iron Bridge, in Hart's Location, Crawford Notch, New Hampshire was built in 1906. It is one of three identical bridges in the Crawford Notch area, and is actually made of steel, not iron. It served the Maine Central Railroad Mountain Division, on a line connecting Portland, Maine to St. Johnsbury, Vermont. It is now used by the Conway Scenic Railway.

Saco Lake and Mt. Jackson 0922

Saco Lake and Mt. Jackson, along US 302 in Crawford Notch State Park in New Hampshire.

Mount Washington Summit 1235

The rocky summit of Mt. Washington and the Sherman Adams Summit Building. Deer's Hair Sedge, Alpine Azalea, Diapensia, Dwarf Cinquefoil, lichens, and mosses, grow among and over the rocks above the treeline.

Mts. Jefferson, Adams, and Madison from the Top of Mt. Washington 1252

Mounts Jefferson, Adams, and Madison, as seen from the top of Mount Washington, all part of the Presidential Range of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The Mount Washington Cog Railway (front) and Mount Washington Auto Road (rear) cut across Washington's landscape.

Crawford Notch 0911

The gateway to Crawford Notch State Park, along US 302 in New Hampshire, as recorded with a camera sensitive to infrared, rather than visible light.

Last Updated on Sunday, 26 October 2014 18:36
Autumn in New Hampshire PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dan Beauvais   
Saturday, 25 October 2014 16:30

As a kid, my family spent spring, summer, and fall weekends at a lake shadowed by Mount Chocorua in New Hampshire.  Although I now live on the wonderful shore of North Carolina, come fall, I miss my native New England.  This year, I was able to return for a two week solo photo trip.  It was a pleasure to revisit these familiar grounds, and to explore and share them photographically.

Please enjoy these ten images.  Prints or gifts with these images are available by clicking the photo or its title.  You may also license an image for your own project.

Little Lake Foliage 0515

Colorful foliage of red maples and white birch at the edge of Little Lake in near Mount Chocorua in Tamworth, New Hampshire.

Diana's Baths 8815

A view of one of the falls of Diana's Baths, along Lucy Brook, in Bartlett, NH.

Sabbaday Falls 8896

The upper section of Sabbaday Falls, off the Kancamaugus Highway in New Hampshire.

Falls Pond and Bear Mountain 0642

A still autumn morning at Falls Pond, above Rocky Gorge along the Kancamaugus Highway in New Hampshire. Bear Mountain is reflected in the pond.

Red Leaf, Lichen 8797

A red maple leaf on a lichen-covered tree trunk, Bartlett, New Hampshire.

Fall Colors 8743

A riot of colorful autumn leaves surround a white birch trunk on a hillside near Willey House, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire.

Saco River Bridge, Conway, NH 8942

The Saco River Bridge, in Conway, New Hampshire, is reflected in the chilly Saco River on a gorgeous autumn day. This bridge was built in 1890.

Crawford Notch 8738

A colorful autumn view along US Highway 302 thru Crawford Notch in northern New Hampshire.

The Basin, Franconia Notch 0111

The Basin is a 20 foot diameter pothole, scrubbed out by the Pemigewasset River in Franconia Notch State Park in New Hampshire.

Mount Chocorua in Fog 0398

Dawn at Mt. Chocorua, as fog lifts off Chocorua Lake. Chocorua, New Hampshire.

Last Updated on Sunday, 26 October 2014 16:54
Mother Black Bear and Three Cubs 7006 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dan Beauvais   
Thursday, 31 July 2014 20:31

While grazing in this field, the mother black bear noted another bear that had entered their safe zone.  After quickly assessing the situation, Momma hustled her three cubs to the safety of the woods.  Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, Dare County, NC, near the Outer Banks.

Prints, gifts, instant downloads, and licensing of this image are available here.

Ace Hardware, Manteo 6851 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dan Beauvais   
Thursday, 24 July 2014 19:37

Art deco styled Ace Hardware store in Manteo, NC, on the Outer Banks

This funky art deco Ace Hardware, on the Outer Banks in Manteo, NC, demanded an equally funky presentation.  While a departure from my usual photographic style, this painterly treatment, fading to soft white, just feels right.

Click for more info.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 July 2014 20:11
Neutral Density Exposures the Easy Way! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dan Beauvais   
Tuesday, 24 June 2014 21:29

Artistically blurring moving elements in a photograph can offer a new way to represent familiar scenes.  A ten stop neutral density (ND) filter renders a wonderful softness to waves, waterfalls, and moving clouds.  It's also effective with tall grasses blowing in the breeze.  Car lights passing in a busy street scene are transformed into glowing lines slicing through your composition.

Avalon Pier 5641

As its name implies, ten stop ND filter will reduce the light exposing your image by ten stops.  So, for example, working at dawn, if the proper exposure without the filter is 1/4 second, it'll require an additional ten stops of exposure with the filter.  That's 4 minutes at the same aperture and ISO.  There's a phenomenal difference in the look of an image at 1/4 second and that at 4 minutes.

But using this filter presents some challenges.

If you hold a ten stop neutral density filter to your eye, you will not see through it.  Same problem when you put it on your lens.

Using a solid tripod is a must.  Not only must you hold the camera steady during long exposures, you'll find it necessary to hold the composition stable as you work with the filter.  A shutter release cable will permit you to hold open the shutter without shaking the camera.

Work in manual mode while the ND filter is attached.  In most cases, your camera's meter will not get enough light to meter properly, so your exposure automation will not be reliable.

Since you can't see anything through the filter, neither you nor the camera will be able so focus.  The trick is to focus without the filter on the lens.  After obtaining focus, switch off auto-focusing so the camera does not try to refocus.  Work carefully so you do not upset the sharp focus you just obtained.  If you accidentally shift the focus, remove the filter, refocus, and again disable auto-focus.

Before you attach the ND filter, you must decide how to determine the exposure.  Here's three ways.  Two are cumbersome, one is super easy.

Cumbersome Way #1 - Calculate it in your head
Determine your exposure without the ND filter.  You can do this either with exposure automation on, or in manual exposure mode via the meter in your camera, or by making test exposures and checking your histogram.  Insure that you aren't clipping any important highlights, and have as many of the shadows as possible inside the histogram range.  Once you are satisfied with the exposure, note the shutter speed.  Switch to manual exposure.  Carefully attach the ND filter, being careful not to upset the focus.  Now, multiply the shutter speed, in decimal seconds, by 1024.  (1024 is 2 to the 10th power, for math geeks.  Ten stops!)  Multiplying by 1000 instead of 1024 is close enough.  Set that for your shutter speed.  You may have to go to bulb setting. 

Using our previous example, 1/4 of a second is 0.25 seconds (in decimals notation), multiply that by 1000, and you get 250 seconds, or 4 minutes and 10 seconds.  (We have a little rounding-off error here.  A ten second discrepancy in four minutes is not noticeable.)  Yes, it works.  But you may get brain blisters from all the math.

Cumbersome Way #2 - Use a Neutral Density Calculator App
Determine the correct exposure as above.  Switch to manual exposure.  Carefully attach the ND filter, being careful not to upset the focus.  Use an ND Calculator smartphone app, enter the exposure, the number of stops in your ND filter (we've been discussing 10, but there are other densities available), and read out the new shutter speed for when you use the ND filter.  Apps include ND Filter and ND Filter Calculator for Android, or ND Filter Calculator and LongTime for iPhone.  Not as cumbersome.  But there's an easier way.

The Easy Way - The ISO 6400 trick
Be sure you are in manual mode.  Attach your ND filter, being careful not to bump the focus.  You are going to do the exposure determination and the final shoot both with the ND filter attached.  For exposure testing purposes only, turn your ISO up to 6400, and determine the correct exposure by making test shots and checking the histogram.  Note the shutter speed in seconds.  At ISO 6400, these photos will be noisy, not what we want for a final image.  Turn the ISO down to 100.  The shutter speed you noted in seconds at ISO 6400 is the shutter speed in minutes at ISO 100! Set that shutter speed in minutes, possibly needing to use the bulb setting, and make your final exposure.  Under the lighting conditions of our example, with a ten stop neutral density filter attached, and ISO at 6400, the shutter speed would be 4 seconds.  Turn the ISO to 100, and the correct shutter speed is 4 minutes. 

If you are going to make a mistake here, it will probably be forgetting to turn the ISO to 100 before making your "real" shot with the ND filter, so pay attention to that.

You may be tempted to use exposure automation to make the ISO 6400 exposure determination.  I've found that the meter is less accurate with such severely subdued light coming thru the lens because of the ND filter.  If you get your ISO 6400 exposure in any way that relies on the meter, you may find that your final exposure is off.  And since ND exposures can range into minutes in some cases, you don't want to take more of those than necessary trying to dial it in.  If you use test shots and check the histogram, it's WYSIWYG - what you see is what you get!  You are determining exposure by what the camera actually recorded, rather than by what the meter thinks the camera will record.

Note that this ISO 6400 trick is completely independent of the ten stop density of the filter we're discussing.  It can be used with any strength ND filter, even a variable ND filter.  It has nothing at all to do with the filter!  In fact, this trick is just as useful for any low light exposure determination.  The key is the relationship between ISO 100 and ISO 6400, and between minutes and seconds.  The difference between ISO 100 and 6400 is six stops (100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400 - six steps.)  The difference between 1 second and 1 minute is also six stops (1 sec, 2 sec, 4 sec, 8 sec, 15 sec, 30 sec, 60 sec - six steps.)  So, holding aperture constant, the correct exposure in seconds at ISO 6400 is also a correct exposure in minutes at ISO 100.

What if your camera only goes down to ISO 200?  Figure the exposure at ISO 100, and use one half that time at ISO 200.  That's double the ISO sensitivity, one half the amount of time to expose.  A one stop change of each.  Again using our example, at ISO 200 the shutter speed would be 2 minutes.

Try a strong neutral density filter, such as a ten stop ND, to open exciting creative possibilities.  Find new ways to record moving items, turning the movement itself into compositional elements.  And use the easy, fail-proof ISO 6400 trick to determine the exposure through that nearly opaque, but magical piece of glass.

Thank you to Boston-based photographer Paul Treseler http://paul-treseler.artistwebsites.com/ for sharing this technique with me.

The photo accompanying this article was made about 10 minutes before sunrise, using a ten stop ND filter.  Using the ISO 6400 trick, I determined that the ISO 100 exposure at f/16 would be 25 minutes.  With the sun about the break the horizon, the light was changing too quickly to allow a 25 minute exposure.  So I bumped the ISO by three stops to ISO 800, and shortened the shutter speed by three stops to 3 minutes.  This rendered the sky and water perfectly.  However, the underside of the pier was far too dark.  The range of tones in the scene exceeded the sensor's ability.  So, I made a few bracketed exposures at the same ISO and aperture, but without the ND filter.  The underside of the pier was nicely recorded at 1/2 second, but it blew out the water and sky.  I combined the images in the digital darkroom to create the image as I saw it in my mind.  Avalon Pier, Kill Devil Hills, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 June 2014 18:36
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