Photographed on the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II in the Daintree at ISO 3200. Just switch the camera to auto ISO and let it run!
As we head towards the Olympics, sport photographers will be pushing their new Nikon D5 and Canon EOS-1D X Mark II bodies to new limits. Both cameras have dramatically lifted their ISO settings higher, so when Canon dropped its Mark II body down for testing, I was intrigued to see how far it would go.
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
As you will see on the accompanying photos, the results are quite remarkable. Yes, I am starting my comparison from a 'film' base when (in the old days) shooting higher than ISO 100 was a real treat, so to see ISO 6400 files which are almost as clear and clean as ISO 100 is an amazing feat. To push the files even further to ISO 51,200 is simply wild.
What do you think of these files, purposely shot in stress lighting conditions?
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II - ISO 51,200
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II - ISO 6400
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II - ISO 100
Okay, I showed the ISO 51,200 first because, at this size it is very acceptable. As you look closer, the ISO 100 file has less contrast and is smoother (but not just because it's a 1.3 second exposure).
But most photographs taken at the Olympics will be shown online, on screens. Few will be printed to massive sizes. But still I want to know: what does ISO 51,200 look like up close and personal? In good lighting conditions, the files are remarkably clean. You wouldn't notice it was shot at such a high ISO setting, but in low light conditions - how does it fare?
These are the enlarged files:
Mount Sorrow from the Daintree Research Observatory.
110mm lens on Phase One XF 100MP, 50 seconds @ f7.1, ISO 50.
I'm just back from an engrossing week in the Daintree Rainforest, spent with Australian professor and doctor of photography, Les Walkling. And I mustn't forget Les's workshop partners, John and Pam de Rooy who host Les's famous Orpheus Island printing workshop, and assisting photographer Andrey Walkling.
The week was spent with 12 photographers and our own chefs and support crew at the Daintree Research Observatory, just out of telephone signal range and built to host university researchers. There was an expansive seminar and work room for our deliberations, a hospitality area that was well frequented and comfortable dormitory style accommodation. And within a half an hour drive was a host of different photography locations, from crocodile cruises, mangrove walks, ocean beaches and the rainforest itself. There's even a crane for providing a unique bird's eye view of the rainforest canopy.
However, this workshop was different. Instead of spending most of our time taking photographs, we talked about them. Instead of spending most of our time learning how to apply a curve in Photoshop, we learnt when and why to apply them. While technique was definitely an important component, the priority was to take participants to the next stage in their journey as photographers.
It was the art of photography.
And it lasted for seven, information packed days and while I was a co-presenter, I had one of the best educational experiences of my life. Les was in fine form, taking us from modernism to formalism and beyond, explaining how the contemporary art world sees photography and how the best exponents work. We received exclusive insights into both theory and technique, but in a practical way that allowed us to return with concepts and ideas that we can put into practice. I have a notebook full of ideas to work on and directions to take in the future.
The photograph above features the enigmatic Mount Sorrow which was shrouded in low cloud for much of our workshop. We could sit and watch it while eating our meals and I am sure everyone photographed and took videos of it as the clouds curled around its upper reaches.
This is a 50 second exposure during which time the tree-covered mountain was gently blurred by the swaying leaves. It uses a few technical aspects picked up at the workshop (some luminosity compensatory layers) and some ideas gleaned from the world of art.
But I hope the most important thought that participants took away was that it's very difficult to make everyone in the world happy with your photography, so really the best approach is to make yourself happy first. Of course, this doesn't mean working in isolation or disregarding other disciplines and genres, rather acknowledging that photography as an art form is personal - and that means it's up to you!
If you'd like to join Tony Hewitt and I on an exclusive five day photography art workshop next month (15-20 June) in New Zealand, there is just one place left - meaning a maximum of four students and two AIPP Grand Masters of Photography as leaders.Check out our Middlehurst brochure here.
1st Place Head On Landscape Prize 2016 - David Chancellor 'The Fallen'
Congratulations to David Chancellor for his first place in the Head On Landscape Prize this year. It is a highly emotive image and has stirred a lot of discussion.
But is it a landscape photograph? Funnily enough given the title of this blog, I think it is! It is not this photograph that perplexed me as I walked around the Head On Landscape Prize at NSW Parliament House's Fountain Court Gallery. Forty finalists were elegantly printed and displayed - and it's a great exhibition. Head On is beginning to develop a flavour and a style all of its own and that is to be applauded, but three or four prints were to my mind more social documentary than landscape.
So, what's the difference? And where do you draw the line, given photography is such a subjective art?
Herein lies the challenge: what exactly is a landscape photograph? I've had long discussions with Joshua Holko in the past about whether a landscape should be imaginary or real. I suggested we should look more widely at the definition of landscape photography, and yet here I am today, questioning the breadth of some of the Head On entries.
This is the problem: We can probably all agree on what a landscape definitely is: Ansel Adam's Moonrise over Hernandez. No one will argue that (surely)!
What about Ansel's Church and Road, Bodega, California - a dirt road leading to a stately white church at the top of the frame. No trouble! Having a building in a photo doesn't stop it from being a landscape. Nor does including a person or people.
Okay, how about Henri Cartier-Bresson and the man jumping over the puddle in Paris (Place de l'Europe. Gare Saint Lazare)? Compositionally, it's just like Ansel's church with a building up the top and a leading foreground. I wouldn't call it a landscape photograph, but I guess I could.
Technically, Henri's photograph contains an urban landscape. How can we argue that it is not a landscape, except to say it is better described as social documentary? But it's also a landscape...
So, within the Head On Landscape Prize are some photographs that I would call better described as social documentary or even portraiture. In fact, they would have looked great in the Head On Portrait Prize - because a good photograph is a good photograph and does it really matter what we call it?
But don't take my word for it. Go along and check it out for yourself - it's on at NSW Parliament House until 9 June, but only open week days.
For more information, visit www.headon.com.au
Photograph by Simon Harsent from his exhibition GBH, opening this Friday in Sydney. And no I don't know if the sitter is a hooligan - you'll have to attend the exhibition to find out!
Is it me, or does this gentleman look like a football supporter? I think it's in his eyes. Having read the press release, I know the photo is part of an exhibition featuring Great Britain's leading hooligans, but his white woollen jumper is somewhat incongruous. However, I am intrigued enough to tag along and, after all, anything that Simon Harsent shoots is worth looking at.
These days, advertising and art photographer Simon Harsent splits his working time between Australia, the USA and UK. Better Photography magazine featured his Melt exhibition of icebergs a number of years ago now and I remember Simon explaining it was challenging as a successful advertising photographer to be accepted within the contemporary art world.
For some people (but certainly not all), you need to struggle and starve for your art, so too much fiduciary success is seen as an anathema to true creativity. Simon's view back then was by self-funding his art, he was free of all financial constraints as he didn't need to sell his work nor fulfill the conditions of an art grant. Surely this was an equally pure approach?
Winter Trees #2, Yosemite Valley, USA.
Phase One XF with IQ180 back, 240mm lens, 1/13 second @ f11, ISO 35
Last week I explained my basic technique for shooting tree details in easy light - in 'hero' conditions. This photo is taken in tough light - in the middle of the day with bright, harsh sunshine. Interestingly, there had been a bush fire through this area a few months before, so the tree trunks were very dark and a lot of the finer branches were bleached and white.
The composition is similar to last week's photo - strong vertical lines created by the tree trunks, surrounded by wonderful detail and patterns created by the branches. There is no sky, no foreground. A telephoto lens is used to isolate the subject. Focus is kept on the important branches near the front. Add to this the strong highlights on the tops of all the horizontal branches and you have a very problematic lighting position.
If you've ever watched fashion photographers like Peter Coulson work, the trick to their outdoor portraits is ensuring the highlight values on the skin are not clipped. This is where many photographers make a mistake, going for an exposure that looks okay on the back of the LCD screen, rather than using their histogram and 'placing' their tonal values correctly. The trick is: don't clip your exposure.
In this case, it was hard not to clip the exposure. The shiny tree branches are reflecting so much light that I really had to darken down the exposure to avoid as much clipping as possible. However, even so, there is some clipping of the highlights, but the highlights don't 'bleed' into the lighter values. They are controlled (well, at least I feel they are controlled) and this keeps the image together.
In post-production, I first set the exposure so the highlights were just white, but not clipping unnecessarily. Then I adjusted my contrast and here's what you might find interesting: the contrast slider is moved right down to its minimum setting. I'm using Capture One, not Lightroom, but the principle is the same: low contrast post-production for a high contrast lighting situation.
So which do you prefer - this week or last week? This to my mind is a more challenging image with its strong contrast, but I'm thinking the 'easy' shot is a little quiet in comparison? Let me think on this for a week or so...
I'm presenting an advanced Photoshop workshop in Sydney on Sunday 5 June. Click here for details.