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So far Andy Aungthwin has created 26 blog entries.

The Light in Sicily

Sicily on a budget with kids and a compact camera.

One of the best things about living in Europe these days is just how cheap/affordable it is to travel by air to places that you would otherwise not be able to afford.

A flight to the city of Catania in Sicily for 25€ would have been unheard of 10 years ago. Of course it’s not quite that simple if you are living in say Bohinj. First, you need to drive down to the airport in Venice, and second, it’s an early flight to Catania and a late flight back to Venice. However, these are just details.

The thing about family vacations is that the number 1 rule to remember is that everything is based around the kids. Where and what they want to eat, how long they are willing to walk in the sun, and of course where exactly are the toilets stops that you will make every 30 minutes or so.

And whilst I maybe the best dad in the world I am also a photographer, so I need to plan a camera or two into the trip.

My camera of choice for holidays is the Nikon 1”-sensor with the 6.7-13mm lens. But for the kids I packed the Sony NEX-5 and a waterproof case. This way they can be kept busy for a few hours at a time and I can also have some fun (whilst the wife likes to sunbath and read a book).

For vacation photography all I need is a lens that is wide enough and that the camera is fairly decent in low light.

I am happy to say that I got some decent shots. But most importantly, I spent a lot of quality time with the kids and of course, the good wife.

Oh, maybe for next time I might bring a super long lens. I almost bumped into Richard Gere who’s photo below is not mine. It was from one of the paparazzi who were hanging around his hotel in Taormina.

By | July 8th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

The plane boss, the plane

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In the 70’s popular TV series Fantasy Island the opening always starts with a midget saying “The plane boss, the plane”.

Well, if you are a photographer the plane is the boss, whether or not you are a midget.

But this is not about airplanes. I’m talking about focal planes. And focus stacking.

One of the least used techniques in photography, probably, is that of focus stacking. Certainly, I don’t use it often and in most cases the technique is not even needed.

So, what is it and why it is something worth doing sometimes?

Focus stacking is a technique where a number of images are overlaid to produce just one image where there are sharp focus areas in places where it is not possible with just one image.

For the majority of landscape images, especially for wide angled shots, focus stacking is just not needed since there is plenty of depth of field already because of the nature of wide angled lenses.

However, when you are dealing with close-up shots and the depth of field is shallow, it may not be possible to get all the things you want to have good or acceptable focus with just one shot.

To get the final shot (image 3) below it was necessary to get good focus on the bees to the left as well as bees to the right.

But before you can shoot a composition like this you need to know a few things:

  1. Focus point vs focal plane
  2. Stopping down vs raising ISO
  3. Focus breathing
  4. Image scaling
  5. Brushes
  1. A focus point is of course just where the camera focuses in an image. The focal plane, however is everything that is in focus along a two dimensional plane. For example, if you were looking straight-on at a wall and you lock your camera to focus in the centre of that wall, then everything that is hanging on the wall will be captured as being in focus. However, if you rotate that wall say 30 degrees to the left or right, then only things that are directly above or below your centre point will be in focus.
  2. One way to achieve more focus on all the bees is to stop down the aperture so say f22 so that they will appear to be acceptably in focus. The problems, however, are two fold. First, at f22 you are going to get some pretty ugly background blur or at least very unpleasant bokeh. The second problem is that bees are moving quite fast and if you want to have them looking sharp you need a fast shutter speed. That’s why the images were shot at a higher ISO (to keep a fast shutter speed) and reasonably large aperture to keep a nice smooth background.
  3. Focus breathing is where a lens changes the image frame as you focus in or out. For example, if you have two people in the frame and you focus on one person and then change focus to the other, the position of one person in the frame will move slightly. This is normally only a problem in movies where when the focus in a scene changes from one person to the other it doesn’t look so good if the framing changes. Some people complain about focus breathing in camera lenses but there are no perfect lenses. Just about every lens designed for photography has this problem.
  4. Because lenses suffer from number 3 above, when you stack multiple images you can’t just brush in or brush out elements in the images. You must first scale the images so that they all line up nicely on top of each other.
  5. Brushing in or out is the easiest and final part. In Photoshop you just set the opacity so that you can see the layers above and below. Usually, this is around 30%.

And these are the camera details of the shots:

  • D800 with 200mm f4 AIS. The 200mm f4 is a superb but really cheap lens. You can get one for around 120€.
  • f11 and 1/640 sec, ISO 1600. You need a high shutter speed to “freeze” the bees in flight. Usually, f11 is considered to be a very small aperture but at 200mm and close shooting the background will be plenty smooth.

 

Image 1
Bees in focus on the left side. You will note that the plane of focus is all the bees on the left side plus the ones going into their house. The bees to the right are out of focus since they are not on the same focal plane.

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Image 2
Bees in focus on the right side plus a few in the middle. The ones in the middle are on the same focal plane as those on the right side.

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Image 3
All the bees are pretty much in focus.

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You might think that this is all too hard but actually it is nothing compared to say learning the violin or something. This technique is fairly straight forward once you get the hang of it. The most important and difficult thing is really to know when and where to shoot these bees. This is something that you need us to help you with. We will be more than happy to help you out but you need to come.

Come to Bohinj!

 

By | May 11th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

The night in Bohinj

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There are a lot of excellent professional photographers in Slovenia, of course, but what makes Iztok Medja different is that he also happens to be an outstanding nighttime photographer.

Last night, I went on a workshop run by Iztok, and it showed me a whole new world that is possible in Bohinj. That’s right, “The Night in Bohinj”.

I wish I had come up with this term but I must give credit to Miha Gantar (who was also there) from Slotrips who came up with it. But I digress.

The workshop was arranged by Aleš and we all first met at the Triglav National Park headquarters for some theory. Iztok did this by explaining how certain images that he had taken from around the globe were created. We were also given an overview of his workflow in Lightroom and Photoshop.

We then headed up into the Pokljuka high plains and through a series of practical shooting examples, Iztok showed just the tip of his knowledge. Back lighting, side lighting, strobes and flashes. You name it Iztok did it. I think that originally some star trail shots were planned for but since the sky was totally overcast, Iztok had to improvise and reorganize the exercises which he did with great effect.

So, if you are interested in nighttime photography or have something specific that is beyond the usual and “ordinary” styles of shooting, Aleš and I highly recommend Iztok’s services.

 

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Don’t Rush (in Bohinj)

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Normally, I take things pretty easy here. But today was such a rush.

Being a Monday means quite a number of activities for the kids after school.

After getting on top of the usual daily chores I noticed that the fog was starting to lift. With some seriously good snowfall over the previous two days I knew that there was going to be some good shots around.

The problem was that daughter had an appointment that I had to take her to, so I rushed down to the Lake and grabbed a handful of snaps. I then rushed over to another location but found that I needed to be there about an hour or so later. I waited as long as I could but the shot just wouldn’t come.

I must have been on an adrenalin rush so I popped into a bar for a hit of caffeine.  Then I remembered that we were out of milk so I ran into the shop to get some. Of course the checkout queue was a mile long.

As I headed out the door I saw a friend that I hadn’t seen in ages. I was just about to stop and say hi, but I was in a hurry, right?

Got to the school to pick up daughter and she says “Oh daddy, that appointment has been cancelled”.

So, next time I will remember to do what I tell others: “Don’t rush in Bohinj”. And don’t forget to say hi to your friends. You just never know when you will see them next.

Five minutes, just for you

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I saw a photo of a bee-house on the internet a couple of weeks back and knew instantly that it would make for a good shot if the conditions were right. (This version is not quite perfect but I will be back when there is better snow cover.)

In the shot I recognised the mountain range in the background so had a good idea of roughly where it was. When I went to look for the bee-house I met a woman who was walking her horse. I asked her if she knew where the bee-house was. She said that she did and would show me the trail leading to it.

The woman said that she lived nearby and that she was walking, rather than riding her horse because it was still too young to be ridden.

After a few minutes she showed me where the bee-house was and said that she was going in a different direction. I wanted to ask her to join me but felt that it was probably inappropriate.

In the famed book The Alchemist, author Paulo Coelho writes “If you talk to someone long enough they will help you to find your destiny”. Maybe the woman was there to help me find my destiny or maybe I would have helped her find hers.

It is in these 5 minutes of chance meetings that can shape and change your life entirely.

Every now and then the universe will “conspire” for you to meet someone and hold time still for a few moments. It doesn’t happen often but when it does it reminds you of how amazing and short your life is.

By | January 16th, 2015|Categories: Landscapes, Uncategorized|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Happy New Year

Aleš and I would like to wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year. We would also like to thank everyone for visiting our site.

We have a lot of exciting things planned for this year, so please pop in from time to time to check us out.

2015 has started out in spectacular form with soft powdery snow as well as sunshine. What a great combination!

Some of you may know of course that the village of Studor is world renown for those mighty double hayracks, which BTW are unique to Slovenia. And today they were in their finest form.

What some people may not know however, is that Studor is a great place for a winter getaway whether you are single, a couple, a family or even two wonderful sisters traveling together from the Netherlands.

Everyone knows about the Lake and probably the ski resort of Vogel (8km) but what is not so well known is the local ski station of Senožeta which is just down the road. There, you can ski – alpine or cross country, snowboard, sled or if you are ski-challenged like me, there are some really nice snowshoeing routes.

So, come to Bohinj for your next winter vacation, and if you a serious shooter, Aleš and I would be delighted to show you all the great spots.

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By | January 1st, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Old warhorses never die

Mostnica is the most well-known gorge in Bohinj. It is a great place to visit with the whole family since the trail is very easy and there are numerous spots of interest that are quite safe.

To photograph some of the more difficult places, however, you need to bring at least one long lens.  Wide angled lenses are well, too wide for some shots. The problem is that professional-grade lenses are big and heavy, and since you will be shooting with small apertures there is thus no need for a ‘Pro’ lens.

This is where the old warhorses come in. One of the most famous old-timer is the Nikon 75-150mm f3.5 Series E lens. This lens was made famous by the late Galen Rowell who used it to make the iconic Rainbow over the Potala Palace shot.

As well regarded as this lens is, it is a difficult old beast to use. First, it has that zoom creep signature and secondly the focus ring is loose as a goose. To get the most out of this lens you need to put a rubber band around the barrel to stop it creeping. Otherwise, as soon as the camera is angled downwards the lens will creep down to 70mm. All shots then need to be composed using Live View and at its maximum aperture of f3.5. When you get the focus right, only then do you stop down to the aperture that you want to shoot with.

But hey, the results are worth the effort. So, don’t even think of retiring those old warhorses. Like me, they just need that extra touch of TLC (Tender Loving Care) to get the best out of.

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By | October 24th, 2014|Categories: Tips|Tags: , |0 Comments

The Blue Zone

Aleš mentioned to me some time ago that Slovenia’s most famous photograher – Arne Hodalič – refers to the light around dusk as “Blue Light”.

This is when there is a perfect match between light above and light at ground level.

However, this is not what I am interested in here. I am interested in the period that I call the Blue Zone. This is about 15 minutes after the Blue Light period and there is now only a trace of light in the sky and the ground is almost dark. What I want to capture is some brilliance in the sky but man-made lights on the ground, and to work with deep shadows.

So, here are the tips:

1. get to the location at least 30 minutes before sunset and work the composition
2. fix the focus point now as later on it will be too dark for the camera to lock focus
3. put on a 3 stop ND filter (or 2 stop ND or CPL) and attach remote shutter release that can lock
4. switch to M-mode and biggest aperture (f2.8) and make sure ISO is 100
5. check metering and adjust shutter speed as required until correct reading is 13 seconds
6. you are now in the Blue Zone
7. change aperture to f11 and shutter speed to Blub
8. release shutter for 300 seconds
9. if you find that you didn’t get enough lights on the ground try again with a 2-stop ND but use 600 seconds
10. you are now out of the Blue Zone
11. wait until it is completely dark to capture the stars or go home

Easy right? No. Come on a tour of the night sky with Aleš and I, and we will take you through the steps slowly.

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By | October 22nd, 2014|Categories: Tips|Tags: , , |0 Comments

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun

OK, so I don’t have a mistress or something like that in case you are wondering. It’s from a song by Sting (Sister moon).

Anyways, Photography is full of seductions and one of them is the challenge of shooting into the sun. There’s nothing else quite like it. You can get some great results or some really bad ones.

There are a number of ways to include the sun in the shot. For example, here is a shot from Aleš:

Pokljuka forest

However, when you don’t want the sun in the image you want to avoid direct light hitting the lens.

One simple technique to deal with problems when the sun just hits your lens is to place a hat at an angle to the camera so that the lens doesn’t take a direct hit from the sun. This also works with other light sources such as street lamps or car headlights.

You can see in the shots below how much of a difference it makes. If you want more tips like this, then you are invited to a workshop run by Aleš in Pokljuka this Saturday (18.10.2014).

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Leave the mistress behind and bring a small umbrella instead. Aleš will show you how much more useful it can be.

 

By | October 16th, 2014|Categories: Workshops|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

Infinity and beyond

A couple of weeks ago I went to one of my favorite gorges and was somewhat disappointed with what was available to shoot. Not too bad, but the water was just a tad low.

Today I went back after some good overnight rain and now it is cream-De-la-cream. Beyond words!

Now is the time to come to Bohinj to see and photograph the gorges. In a few weeks time everything will be too red for my taste.

Aleš and I would be happy to suggest to you when and where to shoot. Of course if you want to learn what is needed to create such images we would be even more happy to run private tours especially tailored to your needs.

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And if you are a Zen Master like my friend Davorin Zalokar, you can take a dip in the secret infinity pool below. A word of warning though, the water is seriously cold!

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