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Free Infrared Lightroom Preset

July 19th, 2022

I’ve been doing a lot of infrared photography recently and it has been great fun. In my most recent video, you can see how I edited my infrared images.

The first stage is all in Lightroom and you can see my step by step process in the video. To make things quicker, I’m also giving away a preset of all the settings for this first stage. Just download the file with the link below.

After that you’ll need to take the file into Photoshop to complete the next stage. All the information is in the video though.

Infrared photography is a perfect genre for the harsh light of the summer months, so get out there and have some fun with it. Remember to stay cool though!


Setting up the Nikon D500 for Bird Photography

June 27th, 2022

The Nikon D500 has long been regarded as one of the best cameras around for bird and wildlife photography. Although it was released all the way back in 2016, it’s still the best Nikon DSLR for this genre of photography.

In my recent video I was at Bempton Cliffs, photographing seabirds such as Gannets, Herring Gulls, Razerbills and Puffins. Along the way I shared all of the settings I use when photographing birds with this camera.

You can watch the video above, and for clarity I’ve also included all of the settings below.

Shooting Mode / ISO Settings

I use aperture priority mode for bird photography (almost all my photography actually). Considering how important shutter speed is for birds, this may seem counterintuitive, but actually works really well. The trick is to set your lens to its widest aperture and use manual ISO settings. Then keep an eye on your shutter speed while adjusting your ISO. This method ensures that you’re always using the lowest ISO possible for the shutter speed you require.

Release Mode

Setting the camera to Ch (Continuous high speed) will mean that you capture more shots of your subject as it flies by. Often, some of the shots in your burst won’t be in focus, so the more you can capture the better. It also increases the chances of freezing the bird in an interesting pose. The D500 can process up to 10 shots a second.

Autofocus settings

Obviously manual focus is not going to be an option for fast moving subjects such as birds, so we have to rely on our cameras’ autofocus settings. I always use the AF-C focus mode, this is continuous autofocus meaning the camera will attempt to continually refocus on a moving subject. When it comes to AF area modes I usually choose the 72-point Dynamic-area setting. This will use a cluster of 72 autofocus points of which the center point is used to acquire initial focus on the subject. From here, if the subject moves away from the initial point of focus, the camera will determine where to focus from the surrounding focus points. If my subject is moving around a lot, I may choose 153-point Dynamic-area, but it’s generally better to use fewer focus points where possible, as it gives the camera less decisions to make and can therefore operate quicker. In most situations I fine 72 points the best compromise. In certain circumstances, when my subject is particularly erratic, I will opt for the 3D tracking mode which activates all focus points and attempts to automatically focus on and track the subject.

Back-Button Focus

Instead of half-pressing the shutter release button to acquire focus, I have instead assigned the AF-ON button on the back of the camera to perform this function. I must admit, it took me a long time to realise the benefits of this technique, but I now find it essential for bird photography. If I’m tracking a subject, I will keep my thumb on the AF-ON button to maintain focus, but should I find a stationary subject, I can focus once and let go of the AF-ON button. Now I can use the shutter release button without the camera refocusing. It’s like having AF-C and AF-S rolled into one!

Metering

The vast majority of the time I will set the D500 to use its Matrix Metering mode. This usually does a good job of producing a balanced exposure without blowing out the highlights. Occasionally I will be photographing a scene with a lot of dynamic range (a dark coloured bird against a bright sky for example) and in these situations I will use spot metering. This can help prevent your subject becoming a silhouette.

Exposure Compensation

In general I don’t find it necessary to use this feature. However, if I’m getting a lot of blown out highlights, I may dial down the compensation a bit to bring the detail back in those areas.

White Balance

I always set White Balance to auto. Since I’m shooting in RAW format, I can simply adjust this setting in Lightroom. I do find, however, that the D500 usually does a good job of automatically setting the white balance to begin with.


Sunrise or Sunset for Landscape Photography?

May 19th, 2022
Winnats Pass at sunrise by Robert Bishop

If you’re a landscape photographer, you probably already know that the best time to get out and shoot is during golden hour – the hour just after and just before the sun rises and sets. This is the time when the sun is low in the sky, lighting up our scene with warm, soft light and often creating spectacular colours in the sky.

As we move into the summer months, days become longer and waking up early to get out for some sunrise landscape photography can become more difficult! So should we just forget about sunrise during summer and concentrate on sunsets? Is there a difference between golden hour in the morning and in the evening? Here are my thoughts on sunrise vs sunset for landscape photography.


Why Are Sunrises Better for Landscape Photography?

One of the main benefits of getting up when it’s dark and trekking out to your location is that there will be fewer people around. Most people don’t want a 4am start and a walk up a mountain in the dark, so a lot of the time you’ll have your location all to yourself. This is particularly helpful at popular or touristy spots. If you’ve got a really early start and there isn’t much moonlight, a head torch can be handy to light up the way while keeping your hands free.

Another benefit of getting your shot in the morning is that there is more chance of fog and mist. This can add a lot of atmosphere to your photos and take an image from good to great!

Remember, some locations have to be shot at sunrise in order to get the optimal direction of light. The sun always rises in the east, so make sure you plan ahead to find out what direction the sunlight will be landing on your scene. Apps like PhotoPills and The Photographer’s Ephemeris can help with this.


Why Are Sunsets Better for Landscape Photography?

Getting your shot later in the day can be better when you need to scout out your location first, or if you have a big hike to get there. Don’t forget though, you will need to return in the dark, so either plan to camp at your destination, or make sure you have a torch and enough warm clothing and food/drink for your return journey. It’s also a good idea to let someone know where you’re going.

If you’re facing west to get your photo, sunset will often be better than sunrise. Again, plan ahead and check the exact direction of the sun at the time you want to get your shot.

Finally, you can have a bit longer in bed!


Try to Keep a Good Balance

Good light is a fundamental part of landscape photography and a scene will look different in the morning compared to evening and at different times of the year. Personally I recommend mixing it up and capturing your photo at both sunrise and sunset throughout the year. You can learn a lot about a location by seeing it in different light and this will help you to perfect your image.

Of course it’s more difficult to wake up early, and if you really need the sleep, this might make sunset the right time for you. I always find sunrises more rewarding though, and once I’ve made that effort to get up and out, I’m usually more motivated to get my shot.

It’s also much easier to make a video when I have a location to myself! Here are a couple of videos; one at sunrise and one at sunset.

Video captured at sunrise
Video captured at sunset

How to grow a Youtube channel

April 23rd, 2022

I was recently asked the same question by two different subscribers to my YouTube channel. The question was; “how do you grow a YouTube channel?”

I was a little surprised to be asked this. Although at the time of writing, I’m just over the 3,000 subscriber mark on my channel, and I’m immensely grateful and proud of that, I’m hardly in Peter McKinnon territory just yet!

Nevertheless, my channel does seem to be growing at a steady rate and I thought I’d attempt to answer the question and at least share what seems to have worked for me so far.

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What is Straight Photography?

March 13th, 2022

I was reading recently reading an article on the PetaPixel website in which an argument by Marc Levoy, a computational photography pioneer, is put forward to suggest that “straight photography” is a myth.

I had never heard of the term before, but it refers to creating a photograph of a scene with sharp focus, with lots of detail, by a camera. Sometimes referred to as “pure photography”, the technique, in theory, stands apart from other methods of capturing a scene, such as drawing or painting, in that it is “true to life” and “realistic”.

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