As many of you know I work as a captain on a fishingboat from Norway and quite a lot of my photographic work is made when I am out at sea.
To some extent taking photo’s while out at sea have been just as much a way to practise techniques as it’s been a desire to document the life we have out there on the ocean.
It’s been a while since I made a post on the blog and I wanted to show some of the photo’s I have taken over the past two years during fishing and some very new work taken the past week.
I consider it a work in progress that I possibly never finish but that doesn’t mean its not possible to share it during the making, so I hope you will enjoy this little brief look into the life what we are doing on the Leif Roald when we are out at sea…
I get asked about North light quite a lot so decided I wanted to make a guide on how to capture it and hopefully show some nice images of it to boot!
Edit 19 03 2013:
Watched a very big aurora display on the 17th of march and made this video:
Its real time footage and I hope it give a sense of how fast its moving and how big the light was on this event. Shot out at sea on 64.40 N 008.30 E, around 50 nautical miles west of the Norwegian city Trondheim.
The video clip above is from a 2 hour run in Tufjord, far north Norway, each photo is 2 second exposure and its less than 3 seconds between each frame, so should give you an idea about how fast the aurora can move.
North light is one of natures wonders, and it require luck and preparation to see and capture it with a camera. First of all you need to be at the right place, which for most of us mean that we need to travel to the north and cold parts of Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, Canada etc etc. Then when you are at the right spot it need to be dark and the skies have to be clear and finally you need to luck out with auroral activity, and getting both clear skies and decent auroral activity is, at least for me, something of a rarity…
Taken in Alta in the north of Norway, the north light color the skies green but this wasnt a night for auroral sightings…
If you click on any image you can see larger versions in a gallery view.
Another thing that make it challenging is that the activity changes all the time, so you can look for it and there is nothing and then 2 minutes later the skies are full of north light. Or you can see it and before you are ready to take pictures the north light is gone again. So the most important thing when you want to take pictures and are on the right location is to be ready and prepared in terms of having interesting foreground for your pictures…
When it comes to camera and gear this is where it might get tricky…
First of all you need a good tripod, this is nighttime and long exposure photography so you need a way to fix the camera during exposures. How big and sturdy it have to be depend on the camera you are using, but when I am asked I usually tell people that this is one of the cases where you dont want to save money, because if your tripod isn’t sturdy enough its useless.
Your camera need to have the ability to set exposure and aperture manually, at least thats what I recommend. North light moves much more than you think so to freeze the aurora and get it fairly defined you need a rather short shuttertime, I try to keep it around 2 seconds, which with my f/2.8 lens mean I have to use ISO 1600-3200. In the end you need to live with the limitations of your gear, if your camera is to noisy above ISO 800 or your lens is f/4 then extent the shuttertime accordingly, but having a fast ultra wide is a good idea.
If you are going and want to rent or buy gear for this specifically my recommended gear is to get a camera that can take fairly clean ISO 1600, which mean most modern DSLR or mirror less and a fast wide-angle, f/2.8 or faster if possible and as wide as possible, although I wont recommend a fisheye, but wide in the 15 to 24mm range should be fine on a full frame camera.
Working as a fishermen means I get to see north light during the trips at sea, but since its useless to use a tripod on a rolling ship I have to handhold the camera and to get a shutter time that is short enough to have a decent chance to avoid shake I use a f/1.4 lens and ISO 6400 which usually is fine with a shuttertime of 1/15-1/8 seconds.
Handheld image taken while sailing north of Norway.
To avoid wasting time I use manual fokus and set it to infinity, but some lenses dont have a distance scale and in that situation you need to find a way to get proper focus and then change it to manual fokus after. Another thing to keep in mind is that you often will shoot in cold weather, and if its very cold your batteries will loose a lot of its efficiency, when its really cold they can loose as much as 90% of the charge just by being cold, so have a spare or two and keep them close to your body so they are nice and warm. When you take the camera back into a warm environment indoor you risk to fog the lens and camera up by condensation so usually I take the memory cards out of the camera before and let the camera aclimate inside the bag.
When you are very far north the north light can be south of you, this shot was taken towards the south west, note the red colors…
Finally and perhaps the most important advise I can give is that you should make sure you take the time to enjoy it yourself, its an experience like none other that at least for me gives a form of peace of mind that is difficult to explain with words, you need to try it yourself in a quiet place.
If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments or send me an email.
Looking straight up into the sky here with the aurora moving very fast.
Another look straight up into the corona.
I just made a facebook photography page, click like if you want to see my images there on a regular basis!
I use these resources to see when the aurora activity is expected to be at its highest:
http://www.solarham.net/index.htm is my favorite, I use thier facebook page ( search for Solarham ) where he updates it often and since I am on facebook fairly often its a good way to get to know when things are at peak.
http://www.spaceweather.com Is another good source.
http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast/ Was the best a year ago, now it doesnt seem that up to date except when there are really big events.
http://www.storm.no/nordlys/ Norwegian site, good to check current activity.
It’s been to long since I last wrote here on the blog. Been busy with this and that, but I am working on several things that you will notice in the coming month or so here on the blog.
One of the things I am working on is writing a guide to shooting north light images, I get asked about that quite often so figured I would write a little guide, but I hope I get a chance for a few more photos first.
Here is a few shots from the last weeks taken during fishing in the barrents sea north of Norway, enjoy!
Some months ago while we where fishing saithe on Halten bank, west of Tronheim in the norwegian sea we had a few days where we had company by several killer whale families, that like the saithe we try to catch are hunting the heerings while they spawn.
Its one of the reasons why I love being a fisherman, its far from a daily thing that we see these, but they are so graceful and spectacular to watch and somethings they even give me the chance to shoot some great images!
The above image is without a doubt the one image that have given me the biggest YES!!! I nailed it moment. I have probably watched killer whales 30+ times but never seen them jump until a couple of days before this shot and the first time it did catch it with the camera but it was blurred and out of focus and I was pretty bummed by this, so when I actually caught this one I was really happy. You really can´t predict where they come up so its a matter of scanning the water and be fast to point the camera and yank some shots off and pretty much hope for the best…
A few days later I was contacted on Flickr by someone from a non profit organization http://www.wdcs.org the whale and dolphin conservation society asking if they could use the image to show how killer whales looks when they are out in the wild, reason being they had a project with a killer whale in capture they tried to make some fuss about…
Some time later they asked if they could use it in thier magazine as well:
Feels good to see you photo in a magazine and its the first time I have a double page like this
My brother helped one of he´s friends with a homepage and he asked me if I could help her and make some image´s to use for the homepage.
Since I recently saw Don Gianetti teaching a workshop on Creative live on still photography and it had peaked my interest I said yes and I have to say that it was quite a fun thing to shoot.
The thing with photographing still life, like this sort of is, is that you can go about in your own little world and tweak and try to improve the images, and small subtle changes can really make a big impact so this will be something to spend the time on on those winter nights where being inside is nice!
My brother did the “art directing” and wanted more instead of less in the shots, not sure I agreed on he´s aesthetics, but he was paying for the ingredients!
Florence offers one of the best cityscape opportunities I have experienced and since we stayed at the camping 5 minutes walk away it was easy to go there and get this shot.
Its been quiet here on the blog for a while, I have been in Italy with my family for two weeks followed by a week in Denmark, but finally its time to update the blog and I have some good things to show and tell!
Just before I went to the photo workshop (previous blog post) I bought the new Olympus OM-D E-M5, who makes those names by the way!, and before we went to Italy I bought 3 lenses to add to the 12-50 kit lens that came with the camera.
So I decided to only bring the E-M5, leave my Canon gear at home and try it out in what I thought would be the perfect setting and in retrospect that was the right choice. I have never been afraid of lugging a big kit around for days if I felt it would give me better images, including 10 kg of camera gear on a long hike in Scotland and many a walk with big lenses and extra DSLR and tripod because I felt it was required to get the best image quality, but I admit it have felt encumbered often, so I was looking forward to see if my expectations of a small camera with “good enough” image quality would be correct.
The thing with vacation photography is that you rarely get the chance to pick the time of day or scout the scenes so where I often shoot my landscapes early or late I just didn’t have that option in Italy since thats just how it ended up like being in Venice from 10 AM to 4 PM in harsh direct light that isn’t really the most flattering to take photo’s in. The thing is that with the E-M5 I found that the dynamic range was so big that even in very dark shadow areas it was possible to get detail in both the sky and in the shadow areas and thats something that really impressed me.
The dynamic range in a photo like this shot at noon in very harsh light is just plain impressive for a small pocketable camera.
So as you probably have guessed I am impressed with the E-M5, I really think that Olympus hit a home run this time and while the mirrorless market is very competitive with all the big players in it now, that Canon entered it as well, the thing is that micro 4/3 with the E-M5 not only have the best lens map but also have a camera that offers image quality in the ballpark of my Canon 5D II, but in a small package and with great lenses available.
Street shot from Venice with the 12-50mm
As I typed initially I had bought 3 lenses before the vacation and I had expected to be using especially the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 and Olympus Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 lenses almost exclusively, the third lens was a Samyang 7.5mm fisheye, but I actually ended up using the 12-50 kit lens almost all the time simply because of convenience and because as long as there is enough light its a really great lens that offers the versatility that is great when you are in crowded tourist spots where its not always convenient to zoom with your feet, or as was the case in Venice where I took many shots from the canal ferries and having a zoom was great. That it also is a decent macro lens and have the motor zoom for video just makes it even more of a bargain.
Macro shot with the 12-50mm lens in macro mode. Handheld ISO 800
One of the disadvantages of a big DSLR is that many people shy away when you stuff a big camera in front of them with a big lens on it, thats a lot more unobtrusive with the E-M5, but I have to admit that I am far from confident as a street shooter.
ISO 6400 f/1.7 shot right after Spain scored to 3-0 against Italy in the Euro 2012 final.
As impressed I am with this camera I have a few negative sides with it, first of all its the first camera in the house that my wife and daughter are envious on and I have a feeling that I can’t be sure to have it available all the time!
On a more serious note, using a non standard USB cable is annoying, why not use the standard cable just like they did with the E-5? Continuous autofocus have always been a weak point of Olympus camera’s and its still really bad, how hard can it be Olympus?
Speaking of autofocus the Normal non C-AF mode is just plain brilliant and paired with the AF assist light I really haven’t had any situations where I could not get AF fast, thats a very big improvement over the E-PL1 where AF inside in ISO 1600 light was pretty much impossible.
Some random shots from Italy all shot with the E-M5, note that if you click on any of the images then you start a gallery of all the images displayed in this post.
Thats it for now, I am very happy with this little camera and will add another post or two about it in the near future.
By the way, we had a great vacation in Italy!
All the images where shot in raw and processed in Lightroom 4.1 and some of them in Nik Silverefex or color efex pro.
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Lørdag den 23. juni kl 08.00 ringede klokken for at signalere at nu var der morgenmad. På rigtig højskole manér stod vi i kø og tog hvad vi nu lystede og satte os ned til et bord. Snakken gik lystigt, ja man skulle næsten tro det var et bord fuld af mennesker der havde en lang historie og venskab bag sig.
Sådan var det dog ikke, dette var sidste måltid efter et intenst fotokursus på grundtvigs højskole i Hillerød der startede søndag eftermiddag og sluttede 5 1/2 døgn senere. Men jeg synes det meget godt beskriver den følelse jeg sidder med her et par dage efter og skal forsøge at sætte ord og tanker på hvordan min oplevelse var af dette kursus, og ikke mindst de menneskelige relationer og bekendtskaber der blev opbygget på så kort tid.
Jeg blev selv opmærksom på kurset en gang i foråret da min fotoven René Bang linkede til det på Facebook og fortalte da jeg spurgte, at han skulle afsted igen og havde været på det i 2011 og havde været meget inspireret af dette. Så jeg havde store forventninger og de blev ikke gjort til skamme.
Vi startede med at ankomme søndag eftermiddag, hvorefter der var fællesfoto, aftensmad og introduktion efterfulgt af en dum fodboldkamp på tv!
De følgende 5 dage var der så fuldt program på, op kl 08.00 til morgenmad, 08.45 var der morgensamling og kl 09.15 dagens første foredrag, og efterfølgende blev der stillet en opgave (mandag, tirsdag og torsdag )som skulle udføres rent praktisk efter middagsmaden og relaterede til formiddagens foredrag.
Mine to billeder til opgaven hvor man skulle gå hen til en fremmed og få lov til at tage et billede, det var en udfordring jeg ikke var helt tilfreds med resultatet af, men der var andre på kurset der fik fremragende resultater ud af det.
Opgave 2 var bil, hvordan var helt op til os selv, dette var mit billede.
Torsdagens opgave var at tage et billede med en mobil telefon, jeg deltog ikke da jeg faldt i en lang snak aftenen før der vist mest gik ud på at drikke en masse rødvin!
Der var så gennemgang af billederne taget i forbindelse med opgaven i grupper efterfulgt af aftensmad kl 18.00 og dagens program sluttede med foredrag ind til kl ca 22.30
Men derfor var dagen ikke slut for de fleste, der blev brugt meget tid i fælleslokalerne til fotosnak, portfolie gennemgang og bare ganske almindeligt samværd, og det er morsomt som sådan en fælles interesse som foto kan få ung som gammel, bankmand, programmør, pædagog, fisker, fotograf, studerende, pensionist osv osv til at samles og hygge sig.
Efter Steve McCurry var vi på bar, og fik vist at vi ikke lige kom til at gå ned på udstyret!
Der var mange fantastiske foredrag på kurset, både af etablerede og upcoming, men jeg vil tillade mig at fremhæve Martin Lehmanns fortælling om hans to personlige projekter, Svale som han lavede en bog om og har fulgt i over 10 år gennem Svale´s op og nedture som misbruger ( og personlig ven ) og så fortalte han om en familie der får et barn med en hjertefejl og i forbindelse med den tredie operation som ca 3 år gammel får en svær hjerneskade, og han har filmet hele forløbet.
Martin Lehmann fortalte om to meget stærke og følelsesladede personlige projekter han havde lavet, enormt inspirerende.
Jeg vil gerne sige tak til Grundtvigs højskole og Lars, Ulrik og Carsten fra Das Büro for et fantastisk kursus, og hvis du læser dette fordi du tænker om det evt var noget for dig så kan jeg kun anbefale at tage afsted, jeg ved i hvert fald at hvis det overhovedet er muligt så er jeg selv tilstede når kurset afholdes i 2013.
Bent´s barnebarn er Parkour udøver og en af de andre deltagere tog dette billede og printede det ud til ham
Flere billeder fra ugen:
Disclaimer: Sorry to my english readers, but since this workshop was held in Denmark and the language was/is danish I felt it was rather moot to write this post in english, but enjoy the photo´s!
Photography is all about light, when it gets really basic all a camera does is to capture light, and our goal with a camera is to capture light when it looks the best!
I admit it, I am a sucker for sunrise and sunsets, the light and colors are just great and its hard to pass up on it, but a while ago I read that you should always turn around 180 degrees and look when the light is good.
The two pictures above was shot within a minute or two, but in opposite direction and while the light on the second shot isn’t as spectacular its still really nice and makes the shot.
This example was shot in Spain within a few minutes and from pretty much the same spot.
So next time you see this sunset or sunrise or just nice light, try and turn your back to it and see if it doesn’t make sense to shoot the opposite way as well, its all about the light anyway!
Will most likely be quiet here on the blog for a couple of weeks, no internet where we are sailing ( up to Shetland again ) and busy times with work. In two weeks I will go to a week long photo workshop in Denmark, I will almost promise that you will notice that here on the blog!
Been quiet here on the blog for a while, we are fishing west of the Shetland islands right now, so no internet access and I have been busy with fishing and not taking photo’s all that much, gotta pay the bills after all!
Here is a few shots I uploaded while I was eating my scottish breakfast at the fishermen’s mission in Scrabster this morning.
More to come in a few days when I get access to more reliable internet.
Ever since Nikon introduced the new D800 its been the big talk of town in photography circles, and while there is no doubt that its a great camera its just mind boggling how many have fallen head over heals and even have or are considering to change system because of it.
Yes its a new camera and yes it is really great how they have increased both the dynamic range and the pixel count, but things evolve and the competition is fierce so did you expect Nikon to bend over and say thank you to Canon after being left in the dust by the 5D II?, which introduced video you could use professionally and 21 mega pixels compared to the D700 with 12 mega pixels and no video.
I printed this picture thats cropped a bit in the foreground but normal width of 5600+ pixels, its printed on 34″x17″ paper, around 86cmx43cm and it can stand scrutiny with a looking glass.
First of all its not at all the technological quantum jump that you almost get to think it is if you read some of the forums on the internet, its progress and it have firmly put a stop to the conundrum about megapixels being bad for noise and high ISO performance, and the numbers look really good. But..
Many say, Whoa look at that dynamic range, I simply can’t live without that, or they say, Whoa look at all those megapixels, I need this but, the camera they are using now already have the dynamic range needed or they only use their pictures for the internet and are just in love with a new gadget.
And because of these data its all of sudden been like a camera as the Canon 5D mk II that I shoot is restricted in dynamic range and makes terrible pictures?, at least thats how what I read on the internet forums, how its noisy in the shadows and lack dynamic range….
So while I was working on this post I was looking for a picture that really suffered from a “small” dynamic range and found this picture that I shot in the Pyrenees last fall where the shadows where deep and the sun pretty bright, btw the place is called Cirque du Gavernie and was incredibly beautiful!
First is the raw file as it looks unedited, next is the file after finishing in LR4 and finally I added the tonal contrast preset in Niks color efex pro
As always, click on a picture to see it in a larger size in lightbox.
Let me make one thing clear before I continue, I think the D800 is marvelous and its great for every camera lover that something like this comes out and raise the bar of what is possible, because now Canon and others are hard at work to make something even better, but its “only” technology and I don’t expect a camera guru will come and reinvent the camera business similar to what Apple did with smartphones, so if you already have lenses, flashes and other accessories to one system think twice before you sell it all and change system.
To me there are two things recently released that are far more interesting and potentially useful.
Adobe recently released a new version of Lightroom, version 4 that have basically blown me away. I think of myself as fairly accomplished in post processing and felt that LR3 was getting most if not all out of the raw files, but with the new version its like gaining a lot more headroom in the raw files and since LR4 launched in beta I keep going back and redo old raw files.
Here is an example of a shot I took last year that I just could not get as I wanted, but with LR4 ( and tonal contrast in color efex pro ) I really get the image I had in my mind when I took it…
After LR4 and Colorefex pro
And while I love new toys its pretty darn awesome to all of a sudden have a toy that give many old photo’s a new life because improved software to process it.
Adobe also released a well working beta of the new creative suite version 6, using the same raw engine as LR4 and adding quite a bunch of new features, I have worked with it a little so far and while most of my work is done in LR, the new photoshop have some really nice features and while I want to get things right in camera we now have some tools that means we can do things like never before and thats worth taking into consideration when out shooting.
The second thing that really have me up and running is the new mirror less camera’s from Fuji and Olympus, the X1 pro and OM-D E-M5 (who thought of that name!), The Fuji is no doubt high quality, but I bet it have the same thing as the X100 where its either love or hate at first sight, but with 3 high quality lenses available from launch and a sensor that have a lot of promising potential this is one very interesting camera.
The OM-D E-M5 is sort of the same deal as the Fuji where its either love or hate, I am a former Olympus user and still own the E-PL1 mirror less which in its own right is a great little and cheap camera but with so many flaws that it to me was useless for serious photography. The AF was not good, and in low light like where you use ISO 1600 it simply could not focus at all and the 12.3 Mpix sensor was just to outdated compared to todays standard in terms of noise and performance in low light. The E-M5 have from the reports and reviews I have read so far fixed this to a large extent and its really got me up very interested because it seems that now I have the option of buying a small camera that have fantastic optics and a sensor that within its limits will perform far better than the best digital camera you could buy just a few years ago.
As much as I love the extra Umpf LR4 have added to the Canon 5D II files its a different story when it comes to the files from my Olympus E-5, or any of the other Olympus camera’s I have used for that matter, because with these files they basically fall to pieces very quickly when you start to fiddle with them, but its not like those camera’s can’t produce nice shots anyway, even in difficult conditions. Here is two examples from mid december 2010 just after the E-5 was released, first one taken between Lofoten and Tromsø above the polar circle and the second one is taken at the pier in Tromsø of my father where I used the on camera flash for fill to get the colors in the sky.
I have lately started to go with far less gear, like choosing just 1 prime for a walk and I really like the idea that you can take a small but very competent camera like the OM-D and a couple of fast primes like the Panasonic / Leica 25mm f/1.4 and Olympus 45mm f/1.8 and just know that you don’t get encumbered by the bulk of camera gear and at the same time come home with potentially high quality images.