Shooting a Panorama from a Moving Vehicle

I’ve always wanted to take a shot or two from the Carter Langston Bridge which connects Swansboro, North Carolina to Emerald Isle on the Bogue Banks in southeastern North Carolina but I seldom, if ever,  have anyone with me on the trip from the farm;  and driving across a long bridge that takes you some 200 feet in the air requires both hands on the wheel.  And did I mention, there is no stopping on the bridge. This weekend though, I had a driver.  My wife Jeri  was heading to a reunion with cousins on the island and of course, I agreed to tag along provided I could sneak out for an hour or so to take a few shots along the beach.  This is one of more than 30 shots I took with my Nikon D800E camera while we traveled across the bridge.   So how did I do it.

First it helps to have a tripod for shooting from a vehicle.  Many camera makers offer them as well as many of the tripod makers.  All have a special padded clamp that fits on the top of a vehicle window that is almost rolled all the way down.  Girls, you will have to sacrifice your hair- do. Mine is made by Nikon.  It has an adjustable head like the typical tripod.  You attach the camera plate to the bottom of your camera and simply lock it onto the window mounted tripod.  If I remember correctly, I paid about 30 bucks and change for it at B and H Photo Video in New York.  Monfrotto also makes a model but its pricey, almost 90 bucks. I’ve also seen them at outdoor outfitter shops.

I had my camera all set up before we drove onto the bridge.  I used shutter priority; set the shutter speed at 1/500th of a second,  metered the light while sitting at a stop light just before the bridge, using spot metering and locked the setting.  I also switched on the lens shake reduction -vibration control on Nikons.   Jeri slowed down to about 30 miles an hour when we got to the high point of the bridge and I snapped about three dozen shots using auto focus.   I’ve cropped this one quite heavily in order to remove the power lines that were in the middle of the shot.  I’ll go back and zap them in Post.

So another gizmo for your camera bag and unlike a lot of the stuff you see out there,  this one is worth the money.  Thanks for the visit. See you next time.

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Down East Sunrise

This sunrise shot on the beach along the Southern Bogue Banks of North Carolina is without question the best I have taken here since I first started coming down here ten years ago. Suffice to say, it was a keeper and I went to my usual lengths to make sure I held on to it.

If you’ve ever had a memory card get corrupted, and I have, you quickly learn not to take chances.  I learned a long time ago to always format memory cards in the camera I’m going to use.  It’s probably overkill, but I even go  a bit further.  I dedicate memory cards to specific cameras even though all are Nikons.  One set lives with the D750, another set with the D800e,  and a third with the D7100.  If you shoot with more than one brand of camera, and these days it’s not unusual to see a Sony or a Fujifilm in the same bag, do yourself a favor and always reformat the card for the specific camera you are going to use. There is no bigger bummer than to spend an entire day shooting and wind up with a corrupted card and nothing to show for the effort.

Thanks for the visit.  See you next time!

When The Sky Is The Subject……..

……..And there’s nothing much to write home about at ground level, zero in on the big show in the sky!   That was the case this past week in the farm fields of Eastern North Carolina. The crops are in the ground but they’re months away from showing their stuff.  The soothing green foliage provides a nice foreground base but it doesn’t make for a very interesting picture.  I always go to spot metering in situations like this.  When this mode is selected, the camera meters a circle 3.5 mm (.14 in.) or approximately 2.5% of the frame with the circle centered on the focus point.  This makes it possible to meter off center subjects ensuring that the focal point will be exposed correctly even when the background is much darker or much brighter.  The result can be spectacular.

The trick is to remember to re-meter as the sky changes which, of course, it is constantly doing.  When the sun enters the equation (when it rises above the horizon)  be sure to take your meter point away from it.  This will ensure a proper exposure.

You’ll probably need to do a little work in post,  particularly if you shoot in RAW as I always do.  It allows me to change white balance and other aspects of the data to suit me.  As one who always under-exposes, I often have to boost shadows and tweak color curves.  Be careful with the clarity button in Camera Raw though.  Boosting it too much will result in a halo at the horizon. Sharpen the frame and you’re in business.  A final tip.  Photoshop (Elements etc..) offers a haze reduction button in the editing mode which often works quite well.  It’s worth a try.  Like so many things, I find digital DSLR’s and processing software at first to be overly complicated to the point of being obtuse but then spend every day thereafter being amazed at what they can do.  Have a good week ahead. See you next time.

Summer’s Autumn: The Changing Color of Hydrangeas

With July, we enter what I’ve always called the second phase of Summer; the start of the high heat in North Carolina.  Nowhere is that more evident that in the Hydrangea beds.  The vivid initial blooms came in late May and early June.  I should point out here that in Eastern North Carolina, Summer really begins in early May. It’s when the warmer temperatures set in and the blooms emerge in their deepest hues.

With the coming of July, the blooms begin their color change, going from deep blue in this case to lighter blue.


As July ripens, the blooms slowly turn to a pale blue and light yellow, then slowly begin to dry out.

For cut flower purposes, hydrangea blooms are harvested here during each phase. Many are selected for drying.

It’s the PH of the soil that determines Hydrangea color.  Blue requires an acidic soil of 5.5. or lowers.  Pink demands neutral to alkaline soil or a PH of 5.5 to 6.5.  For Purple blooms, plant in a mix of acidic and alkaline soil of 5.5 and 6.5.  If you want more control over the color, plant them in containers.

As for shooting them, I usually use a 60 mm Micro lens.  Micro is Nikon speak for Macro.  I prefer to shoot in the shade and I seldom use a polarizer because in the shade, glare is seldom a problem.  And use a tripod.  It’s my experience that floral shots like these seldom score well in the social media whirl of likes and loves and such but the are fun to shoot and who knows, you might even sell one or two.  Thanks for the look and the read and have a good week.  See you next time.

 

A Rant About Ready-made Frame Sizes

Looking to frame your digital photograph.

…….Don’t bother with all those ready-made frames you see in all the stores.  They won’t work for you unless you first crop your picture!  Read on.

 

It’s been 42 years since an Eastman Kodak Engineer named Steve Sasson invented the first digital camera;  and 18 years since Nikon came out with the first DSLR body designed from scratch by a single manufacturer: the 2.7 megapixel D1. Now digital cameras are everywhere from phones to drones,  yet for some reason the people who make all those frames you see at the big drugstores, craft stores, big box stores, etc…have never adopted digital photograph frame sizes.  They still base all of their frames on photograph sizes from the film era; 8 X10 or 11X14. Even a lot of the digital photo organizer software out there still offer only the standard analog photo print sizes that were set way back in the days of the Kodak Instamatic.  It forces you to  crop every digital photo you print so it will fit into those outdated,  ready-made frames you find on the store shelves. You’ll have to go online to find photo labs that will print digital sized photographs. Be sure to search for  “digital sizes” because they also print the old film sizes.

Once you do that, you’ll have, for example, a 12 X 16 print instead of a cropped 11 X 14 but you’ll have to have it custom framed or frame it yourself because the ready-made frames won’t fit. You’d think, after 18 years of commercial digital photography, the ready-made frame business would have caught on.  You’d think!

Thanks for the read, and look. See you next time. Oh, and have a great Holiday Weekend.