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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

Best photography tours – Julian Alps and Triglav National Park – part 1

There are a lot of spectecular places on the Planet Earth that are also great for landscape photography. But I doubt that there are many places on Earth that are so easily accessible, so remarkably beautiful and have so many opportunities to do amazing landscape photography as Julian Alps and Triglav National Park in Slovenia.

20150319-IMG_6200Hayracks and Špik mountain group, Julian Alps, Slovenia

From Ljubljana Airpot is less than one hour drive to the nereast valleys, high plateus and peaks of Julian Alps and Triglav National Park. Most beautiful parts of the area are all accessible with a car and short walks.

20150319-IMG_6212Koritnica valley under mount Mangart

Julian Alps and Triglav National Park can be visited in all four seasons. The area is divided in two parts that have dramatically different characters. The south part of Julian Alps and Triglav National Park lies close to the Adriatic see and has more pleasant wheather but also more narrow valleys and wild mountains. The area is best known by emerald river Soča.

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Cultural landscape of the area reflects the simplicity of lives that people live in remote parts of Julian Alps.

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When you’ll get close to the mountains you’ll be protected by the face of the girl called “Ajdovska deklica”.

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In just one day you’ll capture landscape photos of a lifetime and experience so many things that you’ll want to stay in the area of Julian Alps and Triglav National park for a week. And than your journey will begin. An unfforgetable jouney.

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Stay tuned for part 2.

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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Why is Bohinj lake so special

Everyone who has ever been to Bohinj knows that the light here is special and gorgeus. And if you are a photographer then you know that this place is something unique. Why?

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In the last few days I did a small comparison between lakes in the whole area of Alps. After a couple of hours on Google Earth I realized that Bohinj lake is really something special and can’t be compared to any of lakes in Alpine valleys across Europe. From a photographic point of view Bohinj lake is special and different because of the reasons listed below:

  • the lake is oriented exactly E-W – not many lakes in Alps are oriented that way. Orientation of the lake and the course of the sun have great influences on light conditions and photo composition. The sun is setting behind a horseshoe-shaped mountain range in a way that is perfect for compositions;
  • the lake lies on a low altitude and is surrounded by forest which is good for contrast photos (blue, green, …)
  • the lake is “opened” (no mountains) towards east;
  • immediate surrounding of the lake is not steep so the lake has a feeling of openness;
  • the lake is closed by a horseshoe shaped mountain range from the south, west and north. Such specific geomorphology can’t be found elsewhere. Geomorphology has a big influence on the quality of light and on the direction of sun rays falling on lake and surroundings;
  • the lake lies close to the Adriatic sea. The Adriatic sea has a big influence on the weather and air masses around Bohinj. A mixture of Alpine and Adriatic climate creates special effects;
  • the lake lies in a unique shaped glacier valley which is totally closed with mountains from three sides. Closed valleys causes the occurrence of low fog at certain times of the year. From photographic point of view low fog is great for moody compositions.
  • surrounding of the lake is formed by limestone which is white and gray and makes good contrast with water (blue), forest (green). Majority of the Alps is formed from more dark rocks.
  • the lake is not too big which is also good for compositions;

E-W orientation of the lake
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Special geomorphology with horseshoe shaped mountain range closing the valley
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Lakes in Austria; without high mountains, different orientation and geomorphology
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Lakes in Italy are totally different, they are big and oriented SW-NE
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Lakes around Salzburg are oriented S-N and they don’t have mountain ranges around them
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Lakes on the north part of the Alps are different, bigger
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I have visited some of the lakes in the Alps and I must say that none has such great light and such a “soul” than Bohinj lake. Come and see for yourself. You’ll be amazed!

And this is just from the past few days.

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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