Sunday, June 23, 2013

Why you should shot RAW. Save a Image that other wise would have been done with JPG.

Why is shooting in RAW format so important? Cause it gives you the chance to save the image that you were able to capture but might have not had the right settings, or missed exposed cause you were in Aperture mode like i was. RAW will let you have some leeway with editing and save an image that would normally be a ruined one if it was taken in JPG format. Let me explain how I got from one image to the other.
The edited photo. taken into light room 5
The original photo
   So I was out at the Brews & Blues Festival this year in Reno, NV.  I was out taking some Photos with my D7000 and my 35mm 1.8(My street Photography set up) the same set up I used in South Korea street photography(click here to see that post) I was walking around and partaking in some adult beverages while I was trying not to run into people left and right. Also, I was trying to snap some photos when I could get a seen that captures "the moment".   I was in line waiting to get a refill and I looked up and saw Clouds. Yes, I said clouds. Living in Nevada, you will learn real fast that in the summer you will have only about 6 days out of a 5 month time frame that clouds are in the sky. Most of the time is a great blue sky with maybe 1-2 clouds.  So I pointed my Camera up and snapped a photo of this nice part of the silver legacy building with the clouds and sky in the back ground and then I went on my way. When I got a chance to take a look at the camera, I realized that my framing was right on what I wanted but I was about 3 stops under exposed. I mean I really screwed this one up. Either way, the clouds are gone and me going back and waiting in line was not going to happen again. I just had to hope that I could fix it when I get home.

I imported the photo into Light Room when I got home and played with it till you can see the final image. As you can see that Light Room does a really good job of bring back all of the details that you lost in the photo, it's a tool that every "photographer" should have in their bag to tricks. Check out the video to see my work flow on an image like this.  Here are some other images of what I took that day.

Converted to Black & White, Sharpen, and cropped to fix.

Same as Above, 35mm was to short so had to crop a lot more. however you cant tell with all the editing done.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Photographing Yosemite on a budget with $300 and 48 hours, Plus the MUST Photograph spots of the park!

Our Goal. Travel to Yosemite national park, stay within a reasonable driving distance and photograph the sights of the park under a $300 budget that includes Gas, lodging, food, and park entrance fee for 2 people. Will and can this be done? that is what my wife and i set out to do this last weekend. To travel and see one of the last untouched places of the North America without taking out a small loan to do so. So lets break it down for you and show how we did it and where are the must see places!
we used this book to help us out!
List of places
  1. Tioga pass
  2. Tenaya lake
  3. Tuolumne grove of Giant Sequoias
  4. Bridal veil falls
  5. Yosemite Falls
  6. El Capitan
  7. Cathedral rock
  8. Mirror Lake
  9. Tunnel Point
  10. Glacier Point
  11. Half dome

How we spent the money
  • Gas $90
  • Yosemite entry fee $20
  • Hotel $166
  • Walmart $24

DAY1: Getting to the park!
Getting to Yosemite can be a challenge depending on where you are coming from. Lucky for my wife and I that we are coming from Reno NV area. It is a simple 4 hour drive down to the Valley floor. we went through the Tioga pass (Hwy 120) that is right outside of Lee Vining that is on Hwy 395. If you are wanting to see every thing, this is one of the must see! And this is the first spot where you need to spend money. It's $20 for a 7-Day pass to Yosemite. (take a note this pass is closed in the winter, Click here to see the open and close dates) This is home to some of the must amazing sights of the park besides the valley floor. We got to see Tuolumne meadows, Tioga lake, and Tenaya lake. All of which are in a 30 min drive of each other. We stopped at each one but enjoyed the Tenaya lake the most. One of the down sides at this lake is that bug spray is a MUST! Well... another thing is that the Hwy is a 35 MPH zone.
Tenaya lake, looking north while standing on the south shore.
 After a short stay, we got back on the road and headed down the Hwy to come along our next stop, Tuolumne grove of Giant Sequoias. If you have seen one tree, you have seen them all, right? Well, no you have not. A Giant Sequoia tree can be thousand of years old and hundreds of feet tall. When you get to the parking lot, make sure you use the restroom and grab some water. it's a mile long hike down hill on a paved road to the path of the Giants. Key word there.... DOWN HILL! so you will be hiking your butt back up the hill when it's all done. When you get there you will see some small trees here and there (+100 feet) and then you will find a Giant tree. If you don't have a wide angle lens like a 11-16 tokina, good luck then, cause you will not get it all in the photo.

Am standing as far away as i can and i still can't get it all in view.
This tree was over 20 feet tall at the base and over 300 feet long.
 After a nice long walk back up the hill, it was time to get in the car and head to our hotel room down in the city of Merced.  So the prices for staying inside the park can range from camping spots that will run you $20 a night, all the way up to $300 plus for the Yosemite lodge. If you want to stay in the park, well get ready to bust out the check book and you better have that place booked a year in advance. Am not joking either. Any place out side of the park like  El potal, Midpines, Mariposa you are still looking at $160 a night or more. So we took the extra 30 min drive down to Merced CA. Granted its a 1 1/2 hour drive from the park but we save $200 a night and you probably will not find a room with a week notice. We got a room at the Holiday inn express for under $73 +tax a night with a coupon. So right now am down a tank of gas $52, park pass fee $20, and now 2 nights at the Holiday Inn for $166.  

52+20+166= $234  $66 left for food and gas.

one of the reason we stayed at the Holiday inn was the free breakfast in the morning. Not just a bagel and milk but eggs, sausage, pancakes, breads, and much more. After all of this hiking and traveling we relaxed in the hot tub and the swimming pool that night before heading to bed.

DAY 2: The Adventure!
We woke up at 7:00am to  get some breakfast and be on the road before 8am to we can get to the park before 10am.  We arrived at 10:15am to start off the day. First spot was...

-Its a easy hike to get to. Only 1,000 feet of paved road to walk on that leads up to a spot that is only a few hundred feet from the base of the falls. This is must do for every one.

off to the next spot

Yosemite falls
-Yosemite falls are made up of 3 different falls. The lower one that everyone can get to is a very short hike on a paved road to the viewing point. Beware that you will be there with about 3 billion other people. If you want to get to a different spot to see the falls, try the upper falls. The upper falls Trail head is located at Camp 4. Park in the parking lot there and head up the hill. It should take you about 1 hour to get to a spot to see the falls. If you want to get to the top its a 3 hour long hike to the top. we did not do that but we felt like we got what we wanted.
Left side is Lower Yosemite falls, Right side is Upper Yosemite Falls.
This was shot along to Trail to the upper Yosemite falls. You can see the Upper falls and Half dome in the distance.
El Capitan and Cathedral rock
-This is a spot that will make you feel small, VERY SMALL in fact. You can park along the side of the road and get out and wonder in the field. It's just simple amazing how large everything is and how small you are. On one side you have El Capitan rock face that soars up thousands of feet and on the other side you have Cathedral Rock that does the same. If you can manage to get to this point near sun set, you can have the sun touching the tops and sides of the rocks to give it a golden look. this might be one of my favorite spots in the whole park!
In the grass field between both the rocks.
Cathedral rock.

This time we took a break to get some late lunch. Since we are on a budget we packed a lunch that we got at the local store before heading up to the park. However, if you don't want to do this, you can get some food at the park but it will run you from $10-$15 a plate. Now after the money we spent for water and food at Walmart, we are down to $40 left.

Mirror Lake
-Drive down to Curry campground and park down on the side of the road. From there you will follow the road north as the signs keep you on the right path. It's 1 mile to mirror lake and it's all paved. As you get closer, you will see the water start to back up and make some sort of a lake. Since the park has stop dredging the sand out of the lake, the lake now looks like a little pond. it is also a seasonal lake so it might be almost nothing if you go in the late part of the summer.

-This spot is heading out of the valley right before you enter wawona tunnel. You can't miss this spot cause like the Lower Yosemite falls EVERY ONE is here. This is the spot that everyone wants to see and take a photo at. You can see El Capitan and Cathedral rock and Bridal veil falls on the left hand side with Half dome in the distance with the valley floor leading up to it. Sunset is the best time but you can't go wrong with any time. Don't miss out cause this is a "get out of the car and snap away" spot. Less than a 50 foot walk to a killer view!

-If there is a spot that you can not miss, then this is the one. It's a 16 miles drive out side of the valley floor but since the driving speed it 35 MPH, it takes almost 40 mins to get to it. so plan ahead! If you don't do this at sunset, you are missing out on something. Yes, you can do this any time but sunset is just amazing! There is sometimes a park ranger up there giving some sort of talk about the park and some of the other things that happened in the past. Prepare your self! This is a spot that everyone and there uncle is trying to see it at sunset also. From this spot you can see Yosemite falls on the far left, then the valley floor, Half dome on the right side, then Nevada Falls on the far right side. It's a view that just amazing!
End of Day 2.
-So in the 48 hours in since we left our house, we have seen 11 spots in total. All with-in walking distance and only two of them are more than a 10 min walk. (upper Yosemite falls/mirror lake) We have only spent all of our money except for $40 which will fill the rest of our tank that will put us right at or near $300. we have a free breakfast in the morning and a 5 hour drive home. We did this on a Friday thru Sunday, spending a full day on Saturday at the park. So get out and explore!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Capturing the Milky way 101

So you are looking around the web and you keep seeing the photos of the Milky Way. The first thing that goes past my mind is "How, How in the hell did they get that?" Well this last week I set a goal for my self to see if I could get a photo of this. I looked all over the Internet trying to find out what is the best time, best settings, and what part of the sky to look for it. After looking High and low for it I found a few sites that were able to help me out. First thing is first, what you need!
Shot with a Kit lens. 18mm at F3.5, 20 secs, ISO 4000

What you need!

  • Forget what people tell you about having to have a full frame camera like the D800 or 5D Mark 3. You can do this with a crop sensor camera like my D7000 or a 50D. It can be done!

  • A kit lens will get the job done! You can use a lens with a faster aperture like a 35mm 1.8. But just as long as you have a wide-angle lens with a F3.5 at a min.

  • Tripod, Tripod, Tripod! If you don't have one, Get one! A tripod is something that you buy once and don't buy again. If you go cheap you will end up buying one every year like clockwork. Don't skimp on this item!

Taken with a Canon 50D and a 11-16 lens
This image above was taken by Skip Reeves. He is a amazing Photographer and you should follow him on Facebook and check out his website Silver state Photography
The fail-safe settings. (ISO 3200/F2.8/20 secs)

  • ISO 3200. You are going to need a camera that can do High ISO. The higher the better. (This is why a Full Frame are better) it still can be done with any camera that can get to ISO 6400. It might not be museum quality. But it will work! 

  • Lowest F-stop. You want to let in the must light as possible. F1.8 or F2.8 are best but it will work with the Kit Lens F3.5.

  • Long Shutter speeds. 20 Secs is a good starting point cause you need to open the shutter to let more light in for a longer time. Play with this till you find the right spot. 

  • ISO 3200/F2.8/20 secs. This is a setting you can’t go wrong with to start the night with. Am not saying this is going to be the setting every time and be the right one for you. It will help you one the road to get to the right now. You might start with it and find out you need a faster shutter speed cause you are getting blurry stars. Either way it’s a great way to start.

Finding a Spot 

Well am not going to say that you cant get a milky way shot in the city but I doubt it. You need to be in a dark.... Dark...DARK spot. You need it to be dark so your camera can only pick up the lights of the stars and the Milky Way. If you have a city lights near by it will bleed over and ruin your photos. So use Dark Sky Finder

Where to look 

Some people use Stellarium. However if you are like me. I use StarTracker HD for my Ipad. It works like a charm and its well worth the money, but it does go for free some times. Either way it going to be late at night. So plan ahead and make sure you have a spot in mind.

Ok with that being said. Find a spot. You have the camera and lens combo, and the settings are in. now take a test shot!  Then plays with it tell you get the right settings. Once you got it down. Then start snapping away till you get what you want!

As you see below I took 9 images to get all of the milky way in and then I photo merge it in Photoshop CS6 and then edited it in Light Room 4.

9 shots taken with a D7000/35mm 1.8/ISO 2500/ 10 Secs
Head on over to my 500PX to see the full res image. follow me on Facebook at Heath Smith Photography.
When it’s all done you end up with a final image of this. Hope you enjoy this post. I hope you go out and try this at your neck of the woods. So go out and try it. Work on it, and challenge your self to getting great images!!!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Cheap Yongnuo RF-603 Wireless Flash Trigger Get the Job Done!!

So you are looking to get your flash off your camera but you don't want to shell out the few hundred dollars for pocket wizards. Well i was in the same boat when i was wanting to start my adventure into off camera flash.

So after looking around for a few days, i found this brand called "Yougnuo". So i went ahead and got a pair of  Yongnuo RF-603 Wireless Flash Trigger from amazon. They got shipped from Hong Kong (yes, that is where Yougnuo is from) it took about 2 weeks to get to my house in Nevada. So what do you get in a box. you get the 2x RF-603 transceivers units, 1x N3 shutter release cord
The Yongnuo RF-603 Wireless Flash Trigger takes 2 AAA battery's in each units(total of 4). Toss in the battery's and attach them to to a flash and your camera and you are off and running! I used them with my D7000 and my Yongnuo 560 ii speed light and it works just amazing. It fires 97 out of 100 times out of a test that i preformed. Plus the 3 times it might have been my fault cause of recycle time of the flash. I did this test after a few reviews i seen on amazon talking about how it was "hit and miss" of firing. They are RF(radio frequency) so you do not have to use line of sight to use them. They will work in different rooms have, in a soft box, or even hundreds of feet away down a street. Yongnuo say that the sync speed can reach 1/320. Then Yongnuo say "depending on the situation it may reach to 1/250 or less". On my D7000 and 560 ii speed light. I can only get to 1/200 before i start to get the black line showing up on the bottom of the photo. When i had this on my old D3100. I was only able to get to 1/160. Either way you are not going to get any High Speed Sync out of them. You are going to be around the 1/200 range which is normal for must cameras.

The following photos are with the flash off to the left at 45 deg.  The only thing that changes is the shutter speed. Aperture and ISO stayed the same

When i use my 560 ii speed light mounted on my camera i was able to get to 1/320. The flash is on camera and pointed towards the wall on the right and bouncing back at the frog. Same thing as before only thing that changes is shutter speed. Aperture and ISO stayed the same

The next few images are from me at the distance of over 0.2 miles away.... YES, I said 0.2 MILES away. That is just over 320 Meters. that is Double of what it says it can do on the box!

I got on my Iphone and Google maps where i had set up the flash. and the red dot is where the flash is and the blue/green dot is where i am standing when i took the photos above.

The build of it seems to be a little bit toyish or fake plastic like but when you really look at it, they are build really good for the price that you paid for. They are really sturdy plastic and work can handle a lot of things. Just don't go out tossing them in the mud or dropping them off a 2 floor house and expect them to not break. Either way its a $20-$30 for a set of Yongnuo RF-603 Wireless Flash Trigger that actually work! There is some pro's and con's to getting this set of Yongnuo Wireless triggers.  They can also used as a wireless shutter release too.

Just take one of the Yongnuo RF-603 and attach it to the camera. Then plug in the N3 shutter release cord to the input on the side of the camera. Make sure they are in all the way on both and then it works like the ML-L3 remote for my D7000. So good case in point. on my old D3100. It did not have a IR sensor on the D3100 so there was no way to use the ML-L3 on that camera body. So this is a good item to save the day when you are in a jam.  However you cant use TTL with them. They are simple unit that just tells each other "hey, the shutter went off, you go off also".

  • Price: cost only a fraction of what Pocket wizards cost
  • Reliability: they work almost every time. 97 out of 100 times fired. they just work.
  • AAA Battery's: not like some of the other units out there. they use AAA battery's so getting replacement  battery's are as simple as getting some from a local store.
  • Universal units: they both work as a sending unit or a receiving unit.
  • Shutter Release: its a wireless shutter release that doubles as a trigger. need i say more?

  • Build Quality: Toyish when comparing pocket wizards or camera like the D7000 or higher. but its $25 for Wireless Triggers! you cant go wrong!!!!
  • On/Off switch: when hooked up to a flash/speed light it covers the switch. its a pain in the butt to turn on once attached to a flash but just turn on before attaching.
  • Shutter speed range: varies with camera body. only 1/200 with my d7000 and 1/160 on D3100
  • No TTL: does not support it. bummer :(

So the bottom line is if you are looking for a pair of inexpensive remote triggers for doing off camera flash or even trying to have a remote for a camera that does not have a IR sensor. This is the item for you! They are cheap, they work, and they just get the job done. I would recommend this to any amateur photographer or a hobbyist that is wanting to do more. Make some dynamic lighting photos!!!! I would NOT recommend this to any one that is doing a HIGH paying job. I would not go out and do a $3,000 wedding and use the Yongnuo RF-603 Wireless Flash Trigger and have them fail on at the time you need them the most. Either way try them out, use them, and have fun cause for the $25 bucks you spend on them. Its something that will not hurt you if they fail.