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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Shoot For The Stars

Good Night Sky • When The World Is Flat • Staking A Clamp Or Plamp

Labels: How-ToColumnTech Tips
When The World Is Flat

Q My wife and I will be vacationing in Scotland next May. Do you have tips for producing "quality" photos in flat overcast days?
M. Fiumara
Via email

A Start with a good DSLR, several quality lenses and a medium-powered flash. As you note, some areas of the British Isles are known for their abundant rainfall and long stretches of misty, dull weather, and these conditions pose both challenges and opportunities for photography.

If you shoot JPEGs, you can set your in-camera controls to slightly increase contrast and saturation at capture. I say "slightly" because if you go too far in the camera, it's hard to pull it back in your image-editing software. As you're shooting in Scotland, look for bright colors; you'll have plenty of bright green, but look for other key colors to enhance the composition. Try to minimize the amount of gray sky you include in the scene. People and gardens and interesting midrange shots with the 70-200mm zoom will eliminate the sky. Do a lot of close-ups. Be sure to use that flash in a fill-light capacity occasionally to brighten up the colors of closer subjects. I shouldn't need to mention that sharp and well-exposed images will always help the end result. But remember also that flat light in itself can be very nice; it renders a soft look and can convey a mood or spirit of the place. At times, you should go with it! And don't count out shooting during or right after rain, when moisture helps saturate the colors and darkens geological features.

In the digital era, you have the advantage of mitigating some undesirable photographic conditions by increasing contrast and saturation in postprocessing. Some people hate to spend time in front of a computer; for those photographers, I'd say shoot in JPEG and set the controls in the camera to eliminate as much postprocessing as possible. For those wanting the very best results, shoot RAW files, edit your images down to the best ones, and spend some time in either Adobe Elements, Lightroom or Photoshop. The cropping and color-control capabilities will improve your images to a whole new level.

Staking A Clamp Or Plamp

Q I need some way to hold my subject steady and in the position I want it. Another hand to hold a reflector also could be helpful. Do you have any suggestions?
K. Monty
At a workshop

A I used to have two extra hands; then my son grew up and went out on his own. Now I use a couple of photo accessories that find their way into my bag for both studio and field photography. One that has been around for awhile is the Plamp made by Wimberley (www.tripodhead.com). One end clamps to the tripod or other support and from there you have 20 inches of large interconnecting plastic "pop-bead" connectors (my description) that allow you to position the other end where you want it. That end has a small jaw that opens to about three-quarters of an inch and holds your subject or a small reflector/diffuser. The Plamp runs $36.95. To extend the reach, you can purchase an additional 12 inches of "pop-beads" for $5.

Thompson Photographic Accessories (www.fmsmacrosystems.com) has come up with a similar tool, but with a twist. One end of the "pop-beads" has a no-twist stake to push into the ground for fieldwork, and the other end has a clip better designed for holding a reflector/diffuser. This can be a great help when working wildflowers close to the ground. The conversion kit (two new ends for your Plamp) costs $19.95. Add in the 24-inch "pop-beads" and the price is $29.95.

I think you need both the Plamp and the conversion kit from Thompson to give you a lot of versatility with the tripod clamp, ground stake, subject clamp and reflector clamp.

For information about upcoming seminars and digital-imaging workshops, visit www.georgelepp.com. If you have any tips or questions, address them to: OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHER, Dept. TT, George Lepp, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025-1176 or online at www.georgelepp.com.


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