The Challenge of Mid-day Photography At the Beach

I have a rule about photography at the beach.  I make it a point to be there either at dawn before the sun rises or in the late afternoon just before sunset  I seldom, if ever, drive to the oceanfront during the balance of the day, but, of course, there are exceptions.  One came this past weekend. My wife was going to a noontime reunion of her cousins at Pine Knoll Shores, one the small beach towns on the Bogue Banks.  “Want to ride along,” she asked.  “Sure,” I said, knowing full well that the worst time for photography at the beach is mid-day, but the beach is the beach and I was weary of taking pictures of cotton and tobacco rows.  It’s not a long ride to the ocean from our farm, 45 minuits or so and we arrived a few minutes after noon.  Of course, it was blazing hot and the glare from the sun directly overhead was retina frying.  So what to do.

This is my usual routine. First,  I make certain I’m shooting in the RAW format.  RAW is essentially a digital negative.  It records everything the camera sees. Jpegs are compressed images. RAW files are not.   Every DSLR has a RAW setting though the camera makers use different names for their version.  Nikon RAW files are called “NEF.”   The big disadvantage to shooting in RAW is that the files are huge, they eat up a lot of storage space.  To me, it’s worth it.  RAW allows me to change the White Balance and make other adjustments to the image in processing that are not possible with Jpeg.  To my mind, it is essential for photography at any time and particularly so for mid-day shooting.  Next, I dial the ISO down to the very lowest setting. For me that is 1.0.  Third,  I closed down the lens. to about f/22.  I  used center weight metering.  The histograms on each shot looked okay,  so I decided to leave well enough alone.


Had I not been pressed for time,  I probably would have taken a few additional shots of each scene using spot metering but doing so requires rechecking the exposure after every shot and I was in a hurry.  In order to preserve domestic tranquility, I needed to get back to the cottage to mingle before lunch time.  Anyway, not too shabby for shooting at high noon in high heat.

An aside.  I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to continue with this blog.  WordPress, the host site, notified me Monday morning that they had frozen my account because my password had been corrupted.  They sent me a password reset code to my hotmail site, but for some reason it did not show up. It took me two days to learn that microsoft’s hotmail email service, for some reason I cannot fathom,  sometimes blocks transactional emails  such as the  reset code for changing my password.   After figuring this out, WordPress then sent me a code which apparently bypassed Hotmail allowing me to directly reset my password.  As you might guess, I am in the process of changing the email service I have registered with Wordpres..   All’s well that ends well but at my age, I don’t have two days to waste!  Thanks for the look.  Comments are certainly welcome.  See you next time.

Surprise Spring

Is it real?  Nature seems to think the time is right.  A handful of 80 degree days has sent Eastern North Carolina into a frenzy of blooms.  From daffodils to Japanese Quince to Bradford Pear Blooms, the annual infusion of color is underway.

I used a 20 year old Nikon 70-210mm f/4-5.6 D lens on all of these shots.  The “D” lenses have no vibration reduction built into them but the auto focus is as fast as any lens Nikon makes today and obviously, it is very sharp.   BTW, The “D” means the lens communicates distance information to the camera in matrix metering mode. More proof you do not need to spend buckets of money to pick up a good lens. Happy Shooting.  See you next time.

Back To the Future

Several years ago, I sold my Nikon D 700 camera to buy its successor, the D 750. I was caught up in the megapixel race in those days. The 700 had just over 12, the 750 doubled that to just over 24. It is a wonderful camera. Overall, one of the best I’ve ever owned but I missed the 700. It was a tank, like Nikon’s legendary film cameras: magnesium body, water resistant, dust resistant, and it was fast: 8 frames per second. But what I missed most was its ability to capture the subtle phasing of tones in low light capabilities.  Those megapixels are like little stars. It’s the space around them that makes them beautiful. The full frame D 700 had lots of space around its pixels.  It’s what gave it those marvelous low light capabilities.  I went through my archives like someone flipping through the family scrapbook, looking at the thousands of shots I had taken with the D700. Landscapes, birds, flowers. I missed its subtlety.

I’d think of those every time I scrolled through the used camera offerings at B and H in New York, or MPB or Adorama or the other big dealers. Every now and then one would pop up and tug at my sleeve. Nah, I would think; I’m camera poor and why buy someone elses problem. Then yesterday afternoon, I was scrolling through the used digital camera offerings at B and H and there it was, a D 700 in like new condition with only 8 thousand shutter snaps. And the price was right. I pulled the trigger. It will arrive this coming Wednesday. I hope the weather clears by then because we are going to have a grand reunion. Thanks for the visit. See you next time.

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.

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.

Photo Of The Day: Return Engagement

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Sunrise along the Southern Outer Banks.

Ever wonder just how many times you have snapped the shutter on your camera? If you shoot in the jpeg format, each picture you shoot has the total number of  shutter activations included in the exif data that accompanies each picture.  Scroll down toward the bottom of the list and you will see it.   I shoot in the RAW format and when I convert it to jpeg for printing or posting, it’s not included in the exif data.  Yesterday I snapped one jpeg picture on each camera so I could find out just where I was shutter-wise.   My trusty D600 led the pack with more than 22,000 shutter snaps.  The D800e had only just over above 6 thousand and the D7100 just over 12 thousand.  In truth the D600 really only has about 12-15 thousand snaps on it.  The camera had a bug in the shutter that splattered little drops of oil on the sensor.  Nikon recalled it and installed a brand new, improved shutter which essentially made the D600 a D610.  What they didn’t do is rotate the number of shutter snaps back to 0 so,  the exif data shows 22 thousand plus. I doubt I ever swap it in on a newer model.  The shutter is tested to 150,000 activations.  I’m now 70.  I suspect I’ll wear out before the shutter does.

Have a great Sunday.  See you next time.

Photo Of The Day: A Rural Perspective

A Rural Perspective Posted to Flickr October 30, 2014

I’m addicted to Sunrises. I’m up just about every morning checking the pre-dawn sky and if I see a few clouds, I’m on it.  I had noticed the high grass along one of the paths to the field beyond and I knew the sun would come up right in line with it so that’s where set up my tripod and Nikon D800E Camera.  I used a Nikon 24-120mm lens set at 31mm.  f/22 which gives the sun the star effect; exposure was 1/80th which for me anyway requires a tripod. I’m pretty steady up to 1/60th but beyond that, gotta use the SLIK tripod.  Manual exposure setting using spot metering.  I take my reading on the bright section of sky away from the sun and lock the exposure;frame up the shot and shoot it.  ISO was 400 with Auto white balance.  Nikon cameras do very well in my opinion using the auto white balance.  I was pleased with the results.  A perfect example I think of the Sun making a shot.  It even makes the weeds look good.

For all of you stateside, have a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday.  And for everbody, have a great weekend.  See you soon on most of this same blog.