|This composite panorama of images in Denali National Park & Preserve at dawn is alive because of the content and color. Being at the right place at the right time of day is what brings life to landscapes.|
Landscapes Don't Move?
Q I live in the suburbs of New York City, and I recently approached a gallery owner in a small town I work in about displaying a photo or two. At first he seemed very friendly and interested in my photography. But the mood changed immediately when he realized I focus on landscapes. "Landscapes are dead," he said. "They don't move." How true is this, and does location make a difference (e.g., New York vs. Colorado)? Are weddings and portraits the only realistic way for photographers to make a living these days, leaving landscapes to the hobbyists?
Via the Internet
A I feel your pain. But don't give up on the landscape photography you love quite yet. Just look at the walls of the homes and offices you visit. The predominant choice for images people live and work with is a landscape photograph or other fine-art medium. One of the most successful photographic artists I know is Tom Mangelsen (www.mangelsen.com). He has beautiful, inspiring galleries around the country, filled with photographs of landscapes and wildlife in beautiful environments. Would you rather contemplate one of his magnificent scenics day to day, or would you choose an edgy commercial or editorial photograph?
That said, there are a lot of "dead" landscape images out there. A significant landscape image is alive due to the content, light, color, or a dramatic feature. In today's digital age where lots of people are traveling widely and capturing a lot of images of beautiful places with good equipment, it can be hard to get that standout shot. So apply your best technical skills, watch for unusual interpretations due to the light or weather, be meticulous in your composition, and edit your work seriously. Then look for other galleries where your work will stand out, and remember that the gallery owner wants every square inch of his space to be profitable! That may mean that images of nearby locations are the best sellers. People like to look at spectacular images that have personal meaning to them, so a New Yorker might love a cityscape more than a fall color grandscape from the Rocky Mountains. Above all, make sure your images are "alive" and that they say to the viewer, "Take me home!"
Q I would love to be able to afford a printer with multiple ink cartridges and varying shades of black and gray, but money is tight. Any suggestions on what's available for under $300?
Via the Internet
A Most photo printers in the $300 range will give you acceptable black-and-white prints, but with only one black cartridge you're not going to get a great tonal range, and that's what makes a black-and-white image special.
High-quality black-and-white printing doesn't come cheap, and finding a printer with multiple blacks won't happen in the $300 range. If black-and-white is really your thing, spend just a little more and get excellent results with multiple black and gray cartridges that enable a wide range of black-and-white tones.
Examples are the Epson Stylus Photo R2880 (13-inch width) at about $500. This printer features Photo Black, Light Black and Light Light Black inks. Canon's Pixma Pro9500 Mark II at approximately $800 (13-inch width) has 10 inks that include Photo Black and Gray. Canon's new Pixma Pro-1 (13-inch width) comes in at under $1,000 and has 12 inks that include Photo Black, Dark Gray and Light Gray.
Specialty Cameras For Unique Results
Q Is it still necessary to have a completely separate camera to take infrared pictures? Is there any possibility of having the EOS 5D Mark II customized with a switch that will enable you to flip between visible light and infrared modes? If one is shooting primarily landscapes, is there enough advantage to moving into medium-format digital to make it worth it (a subjective question, I know)? Pentax recently released the 40 MP 645D for about $9,400. It might eliminate some of the need to stitch panoramas together and give one the flexibility of capturing everything on a single frame. It's a BIG investment—although much less than comparable Hasselblads, and really not much more than the top-end Canons and Nikons.
Via the Internet A
Converting a camera to IR capture isn't simple. The IR cut-off filter (also known as the hot mirror filter) needs to be removed and replaced with an IR-only filter. To accomplish this by way of a switch is an interesting idea, but that camera doesn't exist. If you want to use the same camera for IR and traditional color photography, you can place an IR filter over the lens, allowing only IR light to get to the sensor. Two available external IR filters are the Hoya R72 and the Singh-Ray I-Ray. The problem is that over time the cut-off filters in the cameras have been improved to the extent that very little IR light gets through to the sensor (this is necessary for improved digital color). So even with an external IR filter in place, very little IR light gets through to make an image, and the exposures are excessively long. A converted IR camera like the ones I've had done by LifePixel (www.lifepixel.com) usually will give an excellent exposure at 1⁄125 sec. at ƒ/11 using ISO 400. Using a normal camera with an IR filter in front of the lens, the same image would require approximately 2 sec. at ƒ/11. You need the small ƒ-stop to compensate for the slight focus shift found in IR light. No handholding of the camera here. Also keep in mind that you won't be able to see through the DSLR camera when the external filter is in place due to its density. So while it's possible to use an IR filter on a regular DSLR camera, it sure isn't ideal.
Choosing a cost-effective digital camera format for landscape photography depends on how you plan to use the images. If you have the need, and I presume the market, for very high-resolution landscapes, medium format might be the ticket. As you note, the investment (more than just dollars) is high for these cameras. The lenses are expensive, as well as other accessories. The available lenses and accessories are limited compared to DSLR cameras, the weight of the system is greater, and the amount of resolution gained isn't in proportion to the cost and other factors compared to the high-end cameras from Canon, Nikon and Sony. Keep in mind that this is my opinion based on mainly using the DSLRs vs. medium-format digital cameras. One of the solutions for those having DSLRs and wanting more resolution is to do composites. They can be as simple as capturing a series from the tripod to going all out using a GigaPan system. The end result is far more resolution than even a large-format digital capture can offer.
RAW or JPEG, Once More
I continue to get a lot of questions about RAW vs. JPEG shooting. Common concerns are whether to shoot RAW + JPEG, whether JPEG is limited to 8 bits per channel, how large are full-resolution RAW files, and how many will fit on a memory card. These are good questions, and they merit revisiting as technology evolves and new gear emerges.
The decision of which format to save images in your DSLR at capture depends upon how you plan to use the images. Most pros use the RAW format so that all options are available for postprocessing in Photoshop. The 12- or 16-bit RAW file contains a lot more data when you later need to pull info out of the shadows. Those who don't want to spend a lot of time in front of a computer might choose JPEG capture, which allows you to preset some of the processing in the camera. You can automatically apply a little internal sharpening, and possibly additional saturation and contrast, and the resulting image is processed before you ever see it. An obvious advantage of JPEG capture is that the image files take up very little space on the capture media. I use JPEG files when I'm doing time-lapse photography because the file doesn't need to be large (as it would for a big print or for my agencies) and I need to put a lot of images on a single card.
Some photographers who have the capability will photograph using both RAW and JPEG at the same time. The RAW file is used to process the best image possible in Photoshop, while the JPEG is available for immediate use in slideshows or web applications without any needed conversion. A number of newspapers and news magazines have their photographers use the RAW + JPEG settings so their photo editors can quickly edit a large group of photographs from their JPEGs, and then they use the RAW files to get the best possible image for publication.
How many RAW files on a 16 GB CF card? It depends on the images, as each will vary a bit, and different cameras have different compression rates on their RAW formats. My Canon EOS 5D Mark II says that I can get approximately 568 RAW images on a 16 GB card.
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