Sea kayak photography

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Mark R
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Sea kayak photography

Post by Mark R » Mon Sep 23, 2002 10:13 pm

I've never managed to take any photos whilst sea paddling that are even half decent. The problems are, I'm not keen to get my SLR out in saltwater/ sandy conditions, it's hard to take shots from the water, there is rarely anything to photograph out at sea anyway, sea kayaks don't fit into shots very well!

Any thoughts on this? Anyone else tried their hand at photographing sea paddlers and the scenery?

I have in mind to write a guide (for paddling press) on the local coast, and I was hoping to accompany it with a portfolio of worthwhile shots.


-----------Mark Rainsley

David P
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Re: Sea kayak photography

Post by David P » Mon Sep 23, 2002 11:52 pm

I fear you've put your finger on most of the problems! Waterproof cameras seem a necessity, and rarely seem to yield as good a result. Distant scenery is rarely as appealing. And getting paddlers to the right sort of place in the foreground is a vexed business too! In other words, no magic answers - a Canon A1 will sort of do the business, but a relatively wide angle lens may not be best, you've got to get close enough that the pattern of the scenery shows up adeqately. You do have the advantage of some stunning rock formations all along the coast.

My one and only memorable shot - along by White Nothe - is at www.cscc.demon.co.uk/images/07.jpg (thumbnail size, anyway) - though the original had to be fairly heavily fiddled with to avoid the sky/rocks bleaching out vis a vis the foreground.

David P.

Mike Buckley
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Sea kayak photography

Post by Mike Buckley » Tue Sep 24, 2002 12:20 am

Minolta's Vectis Weathermatic might be worth considering - waterproof and with a zoom from 38 - 63 (35mm equivalent). APS (which has upsides and downsides of course) but does make for easy loading and the panoramic setting works well for sea paddling.

Photo quality is reasonably good too.

Mike.

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Re: Sea kayak photography

Post by Steve B » Tue Sep 24, 2002 11:06 am

I've recently upgraded my digital camera. It's more than a compact but not a full SLR, and as such it's still much smaller and lighter than my EOS. And with a 6x optical zoom, equivalent to something like 35-210 in 35 mm terms, there's no need to carry any spare lenses. Image quality is superb. It has a screeen on the back with means you don't need to hold it up to your eye - I imagine that could be handy when it's in a waterproof case. And LBBNML is the memory upgrade which allows me to store (for example) 200 pics at 2048 x 1536 and 'fine' quality. So no changing 'film' while out at sea. There is a higher resolution, 6M, but I don't usually use it, and there's a more aggressive compression setting which fits twice as many pics on the card if you really need to.

I don't have a waterproof case, so this is something of an educated guess, but I could imagine it would be ideal.

£700 and it's yours. Oh yeah plus a small fortune for a case.

SB.

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Jim
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Re: Sea kayak photography

Post by Jim » Tue Sep 24, 2002 11:33 am

I totally agree with Mark and David here (sorry Mike!). Since I got the SLR at Easter my photos have improved dramatically, I already knew about composition and such, but it can be difficult to get right with a compact. What I didn't realise before was just how far out of focus pictures taken on the old waterproof really are. I knew about the shots with water on the lens of course but overall the picture quality from the waterproof is crap. My waterproof is the Minolta Weathermatic 35DL - the forerunner of the new APS thing, so probably equivilent specs, except the APS negative is never going to be up to much.

I took several rolls of film on the SLR on the Raasay trip, none of them at sea for the reasons Mark discussed and there are only so many shots of boats on the beach and people picknicking or camping that you can really stomach (my forte was sunsets of course but that's another story!).

There may be solutions, but again you need to be brave! There are flexible plastic underwater housings available (like a drybag for an SLR), and I may well find the confidence to try one sometime. This would be the best bet for sea kayaking. There are also specialist underwater housings, but only for the really expensive SLRs, and they are designed to be used underwater held in front of a diver using the remote controls on the handles - just not appropriate for kayaking. The other solution, assuming you can keep your pelicase somewhere handy (I have a sea cockpit and I can't get it between my legs through the space available, goes fine in playboat!) is to raft up with someone and just take it out of the box! The other person can worry about keeping you upright, hand you the towel, watch the pelicase etc. while you worry about taking the pictures.

Maybe we are all just a bunch of wusses - Derek Hutchinson talks about filming Glaciers in greenland whilst being towed backwards holding his cine camera, there's even a photo of him doing it and he isn't rafted up!
Perhaps the secret is learning how to use the camera in manual mode, and then go out and buy a cheap second hand manual SLR that won't matter too much if it gets a bit wet from time to time.

As for composition and technical aspects of sea kayaking pictures, things to consider are:
Lens types: a wideangle zoom will be good for huge sweeping areas of coastline, or getting the entire length of a sea kayak in when close up, a Telephoto zoom will be essential for getting nice shots of much smaller features (and seals, birds etc.) whilst keeping a safe distance away. I have a 28-80 wideangle/standard zoom which is useful for sweeping landscapes etc. and a 70-300 telephoto zoom which works well for getting a close-up feel from the riverbank, for sea stuff it would probably be necessary to use extension tubes or teleconvertors to efectively double that (600mm lenses cost a small fortune!). You are probably thinking, those are just the lenses that came with my camera, which is true to a certain extent, although I did find out first what lengths would be useful and then chose an outfit that included them...
Filters: You might think filtering is cheating, rubbish! The film can't cope with the light as well as the eyes so you need to help it out a bit. A Polariser (circular for autofocus lenses) is the most essential piece of kit for the sea. It's main purpose is to reduce reflection and stray light, which you have a lot of at sea. Put a polariser on and rotate it to see how the sparkliness of the waves alters at different settings. They can also make the sky look bluer if shooting at right angles to the sun which can be useful where the sky would otherwise look washed out in the final photo. Lastly they reduce the light by up to 2 stops so you can use it in place of neutral density filter to darken the scene and give you more choices over exposure settings. Graduated filters are also useful, often used in landscapes to make the sky darker so that it exposes to a similar density on film as the land, you could also use the dark area over the sea when photographing dark cliffs to darken the sea, thus reducing the contrast and allowing the detail of the cliffs to come out in the photo.
Stability: A mini tripod is probably going to be too small to help in the boat, and a full size too big and heavy although you might find something useful out there. A monopod might be more useful. You will probably want to use fast shutter speeds most of the time anyway because the boat will always be moving even if you can brace against it (to avoid camera shake shutter should be about 1/lens length). Probably the most practical solution would be to go for image stabilising lenses, which have a gyro to cut out wobble (designed for wildlife photographers and the like using big telephotos and hand holding to track their "prey") - these are incredibly expensive though.

Of course I will still carry my waterproof compact often because I can whip it out and get pictures in situations no one could get an SLR to!

Good luck if you have the guts to experiment!

JIM

Mike Buckley
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Sea kayak photography

Post by Mike Buckley » Tue Sep 24, 2002 1:48 pm

Fair points - a "point and click" can't compete with an SLR but then you can't keep an SLR under the deck bungees ready for those moody shots of kayaks, sea and hills!

Have a look at www.wavelengthmagazine.com/index.php and download the free pdf which is devoted to paddling photography, as it happens!

As to Mr Hutchison - perhaps he had a secret fin keel? Personally I find nothing more wobble inducing than putting a camera to my eye (and that's just on land!)

As to camera storage, Pelicases are a pain me thinks. Many people just seem to use a drybag and towel but what other solutions are there? Perhaps a drybag with a minicell foam insert with cut-outs for a camera and spare lens would be a solution?

A few moisture absorbing gel bags thrown inside would help protect it.

Water drops on lenses can be prevented if you spit on the lens and rub it over it with your finger. Works.

Several hundred quids worth of fancy SLR is a LOT to risk in a sea environment though so I'll continue to leave mine at home.

Mike.


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Jim
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Re: Sea kayak photography

Post by Jim » Tue Sep 24, 2002 7:11 pm

Good link, I'll read that in a bit!

I think I made the same point about keeping my waterproof compact somewhere handy, it is also excellent in deep steep sided river canyons where it is not possible to jump out and set up :-)

Hutchinson mentions designing the Umnak to have more stability than the Baidarka Explorer for using his camera, but the line of most interest is about the later Ice Floe:
"As an illustration of the Ice Floe's stability, a great deal of my Cine filming of the expedition to Alaska's Prince William Sound (not Greenland as I earlier said) in 1978 was done whilst being towed backwards in quite choppy seas".
Obviously it's a much bigger part of his life, so he has therefore developed the appropriate techniques! Now to see if the photo is in this edition... Ah yes, plate 5, "The Author, Alaska, loading cine film" not actually him being towed as I thought but nevertheless still an impressive display of confidence! Oh wait, plate 16 is Derek stationary filming a Glacier surrounded by pack ice.... Of course whoever took these, and many of the other pictures must have been using their camera from their kayak too, and I guess from the quality and dates that they would have been using SLRs!

I can sort of see your point about Pelicases, but there is no way my SLR is taking a battering in a dry bag whilst I take a beating at sea or batter down some rocky river. Also dry bags are much more easily punctured than Pelicases especially when packed in amongst other gear (my stove goes next to the Pelicase) or on deck for your paddles or fishing tackle to snag on! As for Silica Gel, I use that in my pelicase as an extra precaution - sometimes it has to be opened in moist air or rain.

I have become quite good at getting rid of water drops on my lens (as you say by spitting and dunking), but it still takes the crispness off the photo, maybe not noticeable with 5x4 prints but I use slide film and it does notice on the big screen!

If you have space for a Pelicase there is no reason to leave your SLR at home and it can still get good shots from the beach! I am seriously considering getting an old manual (focus and exposure and wind on) body that I don't mind abusing a little, the only problem is that I can either risk my nice autofocus lenses on it (actually not because they have no aperture ring so won't work on a manual exposure body) or buy different lenses too. I used a mechanical compact for years which got damp or dunked quite a lot without suffering any ill effects (just always remember to dry it out) - in fresh water, salt water would be a bit different. Be careful not to get the film soaking wet though, it would be possible to dissolve the gelatin that keeps the silver halides in place....

I guess it all depends how important the photographs are to your paddling (post paddling) experience, and or professional or commercial requirements you may have attached, if for example you agreed to write some articles on commission or were trying to run the premier kayaking website for the UK....

JIM

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Re: Sea kayak photography

Post by David P » Tue Sep 24, 2002 10:53 pm

There's a complicated collection of issues here, I suspect - and I briefly hinted at them last night.

Hardware: some cameras just seem to take better pictures than others! My Nikon L35AWAF (fine little waterproof compact, long since out of production) has a good lens, and takes good pictures - all things being equal. But in canoeing terms, all things rarely seem to be equal! Difficult exposures, tricky lighting, that kind of thing. I'd not normally accuse it of "out of focus" pix. Plus the fixed focal length lens (leaving to one side all the "water on the lens" issues). I've seen some *very* nice canoeing pix taken on it (by no means all by me - I get too enthusiastic and/or rushed, and it gets too wet or misted up in the winter!). But far too many average or poor pix - not the camera's fault as such, limitations of spec, conditions or "usage"!

I have a sneaky suspicion that my SLR produces far better results for the reverse of these reasons - and it's always nice to have the time to revert to that from the "point'n'shoot" stuff I tend to do. Better metering - better exposure. Better autofocus - pin sharp results. Better zoom - better cropping, hence better exposure too. Things like UV and polarising filters routinely. Oh - and the need to handle a little more delicately, and set things up, means a more "considered" and hence better result too!

I've massive admiration for current digital cameras; I've a 3 megapixel Olympus thing (and currently have a second one I've bought for an organisation I sort of work for in my "spare" time), and it's routinely capable of excellent results. I've not got a waterproof housing for it (yet) - though the LCD screen seems unlikely to be that much use in relatively bright conditions (as ever). I have tried it in an Aquapac case with *very* mixed results...

But I think that Mark's problems also hint at the wider difficulties of good, convincing (and in particular, "publisable") sea paddling pictures. It's just not that easy to get the right kind of views - it's all too big and/or too far away, much of the time, and or too "thin" - the foreground or sky rarely helps in a good composition. Thinking further about this, many of Stuart Fisher's Canoeist guides have featured coastal or estuarial sections; and I can think of few pictures he used there, that were other than relatively featureless. Of course, Mark does have the advantage of a coastline that of itself is hardly featureless - but I think it's a problem nonetheless. I'll give it some further thought and see what I can come up with!!

Cheers. Another interesting and thought provoking thread!!

David P.

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Jim
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Re: Sea kayak photography

Post by Jim » Wed Sep 25, 2002 1:09 am

To be perfectly honest David, I was happy with my waterproof Minolta until I got my SLR! What the eye doesn't see the heart doesn't grieve over and all that! Finally getting a projector so I can see the photos at proper magnification hasn't helped the compact either :-(

From the reviews I've seen there are some fantastic digital cameras about, both compact types and digital SLRs (expect to pay thousands for these) but my thoughts for a camera that is going to get wet sometimes is to try and ditch the electronics! I've used mechanical compacts in the past, and I'm sure purely mechanical SLRs are a really viable option if you buy second hand, the thing is learning to use them!

Modern fully electronic SLRs are really very complex. We discovered with my Nikon that it can expose contrasty whitewater/rocks photos really well with it's inbuilt software, and that actually applying the sort of exposure corrections (1/2 to 1 stop) that conventional wisdom suggests when metering off a fairly white subject gave over exposed photo's. So you can being lazy and/or uninitiated get excellent photo's. However I think the real strength is that you can use the built in meter in auto or manual modes to learn how to work out your settings and therefore teach yourself to use a manual SLR with these modern beasts - which means you can then get an old mechanical body, some lenses, a light meter and with a little work get some much better photo's than with a compact.

Again it all comes down to what you need/want. I have had pictures from my waterproof published (thanks Jay) but viewing them on a big screen makes me cringe a bit. I can still take awful pictures with the SLR, but when I get it right I stand open mouthed gawping at the screen - even after viewing them several times before!

Look at adverts and articles that really catch your attention and see if you could take those photo's on a compact. Some of the Pyranha ones where you have a boat boofing a fall and you can clearly see the logo on the bottom of the hull are just beyond the scope of a waterproof compact, although it would take a nice photo for your own album.

You're right, many sea kayaking photo's in the canoeist guides are unappealing, because they are simply taken, perhaps with some thought as to technical aspects but little to the creativity, oe maybe there was thought but the hardware didn't permit.... That long stretch of grey coastline with a lighthouse on the intersection of the thirds may be OK, but would you get a better picture if you could fill the frame with the lighthouse, and capture the spray of the waves breaking on the rocks below it? Using graduates to darken the sea and seemingly lighten the dull cliffs could also be useful as could using a polariser to control how much sparkle you get from the waves (I know, I've experimented with this quite a bit) - you "can" use filters with compacts but it's better if you can actually see the end result, especially with graduates and polarisers!

Digitals are a genuine way forward, and another possibility is using digital video cameras from which you can get very good stills too. One advantage of this is that for Sony's at least you can get very good waterproof sports housings which make leaving the thing on deck fairly viable (and you see through the lens and can attach filters properly with the appropriate kits).

Obviously I'm just rediscovering film photography with my SLR and I'm using a variety of slide film (for much more vibrant colours than print film or digital stuff I've seen) and even black and white print film - you can get some really moody photo's especially if you print your own! Maybe one day I'll get a medium format camera and be blown away by that too :-)

Some photographers seen to think UV and or skylight filters are really useful, and some think they are a waste of time. I guess for sea kayaking using a UV filter is a good idea, if it really does cut down haze then thats a bonus (when isn't the sea hazy at long range?) and even if it doesn't, stopping the saltwater getting to the actual lens element is a bloody good idea!

Just some more of my thoughts.......

JIM

dave miller
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Nikonos waterproof cameras

Post by dave miller » Wed Sep 25, 2002 1:26 pm

Consider a second hand mk 4A, aperture priority, otherwise manual, viewfinder, not zoom, die cast metal body (not SLR) and stunning quality. A bit heavy.
Need to be washed in fresh water to avoid corrosion.

These are often relatively cheap, divers prefer the mk3 or the mk5.
Watch out for bad corrosion and check it hasn't been flooded.

I've had one since 1984.

David P
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Re: Nikonos waterproof cameras

Post by David P » Wed Sep 25, 2002 9:27 pm

Don't start me!! I've had a Nik III since about 1978 (it's *very* manual, no electronics, no meter, no nothing), and I also have a Nik V. [My background is in diving at least as much as canoeing!] Though frankly, for all sorts of reasons, including size, weight and value they've had little use in any canoeing context. Certainly, the Nik V metering ought to be better than a typical compact (it's effectively the then Nikon EM SLR), and manual focusing helps - though a fixed lens doesn't help (I do also have the Nik 80mm lens though it's rather limiting)

[OK, I do rather collect cameras, or have been doing so for decades - and in several cases, such as the Nik V body, have often done so by picking up bargains opportunistically - their secondhand value tends to be ar lower than the potential value to me - I was into photography before most other things, and still tend to regard canoeing, fiving or whatever as a means to get places and do things with a camera. Leading in turn to video which these days I tend to prefer to stills! It's just rather tedious that one gets sucked into leading trips various rather too usually, and this makes it harder to indulge in anything much more than point and shoot cameras etc.]

David P.
[Gosh I still prefer newsgroups - the ability to read stuff and compose replies off-line is still nicer than this on-the-fly on-line web based stuff! And I can't archive some fo the immensely valuable stuff this board comes up with!]

Mike Buckley
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Nikonos waterproof cameras

Post by Mike Buckley » Wed Sep 25, 2002 11:19 pm

I think I've seen one of these things "in action" - is this the one with umpteen rubber sealing rings?

The inimitable Laurie Ford, of Tasmanian sail-kayaking fame and waht appears to be a robust line in opinion has some thoughts on waterproof cameras.

www.tassie.net.au/~lford/photgear.htm

He quite likes the Weathermatics.

Mike.


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Re: Nikonos waterproof cameras

Post by David P » Wed Sep 25, 2002 11:44 pm

Er ... whilst all Nik (aka Nikonos) models *do* have lots of seals, there are only two or three that matter - apart from a tiny O-ring on the flash connector, there are chunky O-rings on the (exchangeable - though, as Nikon are keen to emphasise, *not* underwater!!) lens, one on the body. Both are (for the Nik III and Nik V) straightforward and robust. The Nik IVA was reported as having rather more problems, in part 'cos (from memory) it used a far more complex, shaped O-ring on the body seal. The Nik III was near indestructible - all made from fine, stainless steel or alloy, and reputedly, even if/when one did flood in the field, you just washed it in very clean water, and dried it carefully with a hairdryer if you couldn't get it properly checked etc! The Nik V has had a very good reputation as far as I'm aware. It's relatively compact, with an orange or green rubberised body, but weighs a fair bit. Lovely jobs to any connoiseur of manufacturing. Great shame that Nikon have (finally) ceased production of the Nik V - the last in a long and honourable line. [New prices have however always been relatively prohibitive - say £600-£700 with lens?]

But - returning to the theme - as I said before, I'm far from sure that any of these are a substantial help with sea kayak photography. I incline towards either (I) a good quality waterproof compact, or (b) a relatively inexpensive SLR, kept in a Pelican case and brought out when reasonably stable, for proper scenic stuff! [As an interesting theme to which I'm far from sure I know the answers, I'll do some more experimenting as soon as I get the chance :-) ]

Oh - final thought - no one has yet mentioned the Pentax 105WR, reputed to be the best compromise in terms of water resistant compact cameras. 35-105mm zoom lens, a mere £250 in my Jessops catalogue! Very desirable for someone buying afresh - though Mark's solution (SLR + Canon A1, from memory) is probably the best, and certainly better value!

DP.
Edited by: David P at: 9/25/02 11:49:45 pm

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Mark R
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Re: Nikonos waterproof cameras

Post by Mark R » Thu Sep 26, 2002 12:02 am

David P - 'Mark's solution (SLR + Canon A1, from memory) is probably the best, and certainly better value!'

The Canon A1 is a non-event for sea paddling shots, other than a few wet shots of paddlers close up, messing around, etc. On rivers, it is only used in shaky eddies for one-handed nobody-will-believe-that-last-rapid shots. It can take goodish shots if dried and used properly on the bank...but of course, this defeats the object. It is of course, utterly indestructible and runs waterfalls well unaided.

My SLR is the cheapest and lightest automatic SLR available (Minolta 303si) and seems to do okay, as long as the light is good. Otherwise it struggles.

I guess I'll just have to carefully get it out on the sea some calm day soon and see if it instantly corrodes away or not.


-----------Mark Rainsley

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Paddling photos

Post by Mark R » Thu Sep 26, 2002 12:13 am

Just an aside...I read an article in CKUK mag which suggested the rule of thirds...basically if the object of a shot is a third of the way across the picture horizontally and vertically, it will usually make for a better shot than one where the object is centralised.

I have been doing a bit of playing around with this, using some of my Norway shots. In shot A here the paddler (Dave Musgrove) was just in the centre:

www.guidebook.free-online...avemuz.jpg

In shot B below this paddler (Liz Bell) was taken same place, same shot really. But I cropped it so that she is a third of the way into the shot vertically and horizontally, rather than in the centre...

www.guidebook.free-online...aaliz2.jpg

...so, do you think this rule of thirds works? I like the effect, but I honestly can't explain why.


-----------Mark Rainsley

Mike Buckley
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Paddling photos

Post by Mike Buckley » Thu Sep 26, 2002 9:12 am

It does work and not just for photos. It's called the "golden ??" if my memory of reading about this concept somewhere is accurate.

It's all the do with ratios and relationship between them. Certain objects have a pleasing shape, usually rectangular, and when analysised, the "thirds / golden ??" is usually present. Apparantly part of the appeal of smoking is that the shape of a fag packet conforms to this and thus makes it an attractive item in its own right.

Mike.


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Re: Paddling photos

Post by Jim » Thu Sep 26, 2002 10:50 am

The rule of thirds is only one aspect, mostly it is good, sometimes other compositions are better.

Looking at shot 1, notice that although Dave is in the centre he is pretty insignificant and your eye is drawn more to the scale and beauty of the fall. Look again, the fall horizon is about 2/3 from the base and the separation of the rocks and water on the left is about 1/3 in. It may not be your focal point but you have put the landscape elements on the thirds! Come to think of it the green V on the right is also about 1/3 in from that edge although slightly lower in the frame, the V along with the diagonal line of the stopper lead your eye into the picture towards the wee boat in the middle, which is also important. The boulder on the left is distracting, I bet the picture would loook better if you cropped it out but still retained the balance of other features, if possible.

The shot of Liz has the object (Liz) at the junction of the thirds, but looking again, you still have some landscape features on the other junctions and third lines, and some very strong diagonals leading into the picture.

Yes the rule of thirds does work, and is even working in the photo of Dave, the problems with that photo are that he is so insignificant (which is nice to portray sometimes) and there is too much around the edges that is just distraction. At least Dave is slightly right of centre. so although you don't get the full dynamics, you also don't get the impression he is just leaving the shot as you would if he was just to the left!

Not all shots need it though, sometimes just zooming right in and filling the frame with action works better. I like to get some shots that show the whole rapid (not on the sea perhaps) but often the best shots are the close ups which could be taken anywhere, my messageboard photo for example - although I had to crop it a bit to get it to fit, the basic composition is the same as the way Mark took it, me dead centre not too much depth of field so I appear completely surrounded by wild whitwater but the details of the surroundings don't grab the attention. Fortunately the technical bits that cause this in a photo can be had by fitting a telephoto lens and choosing the sports program on the camera, so anyone can acheive it without really understanding the technical side (like when you get soemone else to point the camera)! Unfortunately it means that if you leave on the sports program and zoom right back for a sweeping vista most of it will probably be out of focus :-)

The experts strongly advise against half and half compositions, but every now and then it works quite well - like when taking something and its reflection, or placing a waterfall head on in the centre of the frame (you'll probably put the top 1/3 down!). The reason being that each part seems to have equal importance and your brain isn't sure what it's supposed to be drawn to.

Sometimes you really want to fit in 2 elements and their relationship, which might mean the subject elements end up away in the edges of the photo rather than in the midle or at the thirds, and it may or may not work!

Another thing to consider is framing. Are there features which you can align in a way to make a border round your photo? Maybe you are stuck between trees - 1 either side of the shot will help give the photo some kind of location. Maybe there is a rock face on one side that looks unbalanced and by searching around you can fit in another rock face or tree trunk on the opposite side to form a frame? If shooting off a beach, maybe the beach could be a lower boundary and the sky an upper one (assuming it's not the main feature).

Does getting your own kayak in the shot ruin the photo? Not necessarily, if for example you can get it on a diagonal (rather than just sticking up into the bottom) it will lead the eye into the shot, or provide a sense of scale, or even just let the viewer know you were in a kayak at the time!

Anyway, yes thirds is good for dynamic placing of objects, and for balancing landscapes, but not the only way to take pictures. Look through a load of photo's and decide which ones you like and then why! And of course experiment with the ones you take.

JIM

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Re: Paddling photos

Post by Steve B » Thu Sep 26, 2002 12:26 pm

The rule of thirds does work, no question about it, but it's just one aspect of composition. Take your second picture for example. What is the subject? Is it the paddler, or is it the place she's heading into? I think this is a picture of a waterfall with a paddler heading into it, and on that basis your subject is bang in the middle of the frame. And it works. Take a look at a few classical portrait paintings. The leading (usually right) eye is more often than not in the horizontal centre of the frame.

Of course there is often much more to a good photograph than a single subject, and how the contents of an image relate to one another is very important. You can often analyse these things by understanding how the brain takes in complex scenes. Our eyes dart about the image focusing on the bits we perceive as important - high contrast, movement, things which are recognised/familiar, faces of course. If there is some structure to these - the important elements of an image following a line or curve in the simplest case - then the image will be easier to take in and 'pleasing' to the eye.

The brain also anticipates what will happen, and for this reason the area ahead of the action is much more important than than behind it. Very rarely are we interested in where the subject came from, although no doubt we could come up with examples - these are guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules. In the case of your first picture, the green jet behind the paddler adds little to the image - because it's no longer of interest.

Steve B.

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Mark R
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Re: Paddling photos

Post by Mark R » Sun Oct 06, 2002 8:27 pm

Another irritating question...!

Went for a potter at Kimmeridge with my wife today, to look at the reefs in a really low tide with gloriously clear water. Did the rockpool thing with our kayaks and ogled various undersea wriggly things, all of which my wife could name and all of which since I've forgotten the names of.

Anyway, I tried to take a few photos through the water surface but doubt this will work, even though the water was only inches deep. Any thoughts on this? How do you remove the glare?


-----------Mark Rainsley

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Jim
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Re: Paddling photos

Post by Jim » Sun Oct 06, 2002 9:44 pm

Get a polarising filter for your lens (probably about 30-40 pounds depending on the size of the filter ring on your lens). You lenses will require a circular polariser rather than a linear one (linear will mess up autofocus) and you will soon realise that if your lenses are different sizes you need several filters :-(
An alternative is to get a filter holder which attaches to your lens via adapter rings and a circular polariser to fit in it - that way you can use the same expensive polariser with some cheap bits to fit it to the lens - I of course bought screw in polarisers first and then a filter holder when I started using grads and stuff - Doh!

Once you have the filter you need to know how it works. Well the physics are simple it reduces light from a certain direction, or perhaps that should be in a certain plane? So what you really want to know is how to use it. Best option is to point the lens at your underwater subject in a way that it is angled at about 45 degrees to the water surface (it will probably work from about 30 -70 but 45 is best) and then rotate the filter until the reflections disappear and you can see underwater even better than you could with your eyes! Also works with glass or any non-metallic reflective surface.

Other uses:
At sea, or in whitewater, light sparkles off the waves and makes the surface very white in photos, you can use the polariser to reduce this - again rotate to get the exact amount of sparkle you require.
When photographing a wishy washy blue sky, position yourself at around 90 degrees to the sun and rotate the filter to see how the sky gets much darker - the result can be deep blue sky like you see in holiday brochures. The technical jargon is increased saturation of colours, so you can actually use the filter whenever the colours are going to be washed out to improve them a bit - the position of the sun affects it though.
You also lose a couple of stops of exposure, so it's just like putting sunglasses on your camera in really bright conditions to get the settings you want.

Good luck!

JIM

Steve B
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Re: Paddling photos

Post by Steve B » Sun Oct 06, 2002 11:19 pm

Jim wrote: "... Well the physics are simple ..."

I was just about to point out that you possibly should have said the physics IS simple when I remembered that most people don't actually find wave theory all that simple. So I didn't.

;-SB)

PaulC
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sea photography

Post by PaulC » Thu Oct 24, 2002 4:52 pm

Hi

The annual SCA Touring Photo Competition was voted on at last weekends Scottish Paddlesport Festival (by vistors).

The results are now on the website at www.scot-canoe.org/touring/comp2002.htm in case you would like to see them.

Me thinks that the winner of the Arduaine Trophy (photo taken from water as opposed to land) is an excellent pic. Lots of feeling in it. Best viewed enlarged (click on image to enlarge). Shame the nose is chopped if I am being picky!

Any comments from the floor? Can you do better!

Following on from this thread perhaps it would be good in future to get details of camera type and print media for photos.

PS entry forms for the 2003 competition will be out soon.......!

Paul

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Jim
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Re: sea photography

Post by Jim » Thu Oct 24, 2002 5:39 pm

I spotted these today too! You are so right about the arduaine winner, it is an incredibly atmospheric shot despite the missing bow. The colours are really vibrant suggesting to me that slide film and/or a polariser was used. What I can't work out is how I missed the stand at the show (especially as someone told me where to find it).

The second place, "ripples" is also a really nice shot, I reckon if the sky had done anything other than what it did that day it could well have gone to first place. Either stormy or sunny would have added that little bit more colour that the photo seems to need, bland grey is such a shame given the reflections and ripples!

JIM

Mike B
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sea photography

Post by Mike B » Thu Oct 24, 2002 5:59 pm

I think the "missing" bow actually adds to the shot - it conjures up an image of something outside the shot, of journeying, of hidden mystery and the unknown.

(And other such tosh.)

Its also the vibrancy of the waves, the paddlers expression, the sky glowering over everything - there is a dynamism inherent in it that's attractive.

But then Mr Kerr is hardly "yer average point-and-click man" now, is he and I somehow doubt that this was taken with the sort of camera I keep on the deck.

Equipment, film, settings and media would all be useful additions.

Mike.

PaulC
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re photography

Post by PaulC » Thu Oct 24, 2002 6:10 pm

Mike

I suspect it was the Pentax WR (90 or 105) which I use too, though no so effectively! Tis waterproof and I think mentioned earlier in the thread. Will try to find out though.

<But then Mr Kerr is hardly "yer average point-and-click man" now, is he and I somehow doubt that this was taken with the sort of camera I keep on the deck.>

Paul

David P
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Re: re photography

Post by David P » Thu Oct 24, 2002 8:01 pm

Some nice pix - though they look distinctly "blotchy" - on the index page and on the full size page - not sure what the SCA have done to them ...!

David P.

PaulC
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photographs

Post by PaulC » Fri Oct 25, 2002 9:41 am

Hi Dave

Hmmm they do look blotchy or dotty! I put them on the website.....duh! They were originaly in gif format and were changed them into JPG format so perhaps this has lost the sharpness. Will see if I can get them scanned again direct into JPG for comparison.

Paul


dave miller
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Through surface shots

Post by dave miller » Fri Oct 25, 2002 10:41 am

Polarisers are great if the surface is calm.
If you want to do rock pool stuff, try floating a clear glass or plastic dish or jar on the surface and photograph through the bottom.
Choose one that has an even and flat bottom to reduce distortion.
Could be used for squirt boaters?

Steve B
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Re: photographs

Post by Steve B » Fri Oct 25, 2002 10:59 am

GIF format is almost always the death of a continuous tone image, and converting it to jpeg gives you the worst of both.

Do you have (or have access to) a copy of Photoshop? Here's the formula I use to good effect:

Don't make a low resolution scan even if the picture is destined to be used at low res on the web. Instead, make a high resolution scan, and save that in TIFF format for future us. What resolution? Big question, probably too far off topic to go into detail, but something big enough to print well. If you need to adjust contrast, brightness etc., now is the time to do it.

Then, downsample to the size you want for the web site using Photoshop's 'Image Size' dialog. This will make the image go soft, so the next step is to sharpen using 'Unsharp Mask'. Try not to overdo it, you'll need to experiment as the best setting varies a lot from one image to another. Sometimes I find that the downsampled image needs slightly different brighness/contrast/gamma settings, so do that if necessary.

Finally, when the image is exactly how you want it, make your jpeg using 'Save for Web'. This gives better results than 'Save As...JPEG', in my experience. Try to save the image once only. If you edit and re-save a jpeg there is a deterioration in quality, so try to do all the editing first then save the final image.

If you need a thumbnail, make it now. Quality is much less important so just downsample again, sharpen, then 'Save for Web' using (probably) a lower quality setting to get the smallest file you can get away with.

If you don't have Photoshop, the same basic routine can be adapted for other packages: make a high resolution TIFF - edit as needed - save - downsample - sharpen - save for web.

Steve B.

David P
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Re: photographs

Post by David P » Fri Oct 25, 2002 11:40 am

PaulC: As others have said, .gif (256 colours only, designed for line art) is the problem - .jpg for pix! That explains the "blotchiness" (lack of colours...)

SteveB: I endorse entirely your approach; near identical to what I tend to do (though us public servants can't afford (or need) Photoshop and make do with PaintShop Pro instead!!

Cheers.

David P.
[*Working* at home, before anyone asks!]

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