Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Night time aerials of Miami

I have been waiting for almost a month and a half to do some night time helicopter shots of Miami. Unfortunately, the weather hasn't cooperated, and thunderstorms kept moving in to spoil my trip. Two nights ago I caught a break. There were some thunderhead clouds on the horizon, but enough clear sky for the sun to break through to fill the sky with color. I had planned to do strickly night photos, but with such I beautifully colored sky, chose to depart ten minutes earlier, just after the sun set, to capture the color in the sky. Miami isn't like New York. It is not filled with as many discriptive buildings. Consequently, I felt it needed and earlier timing for a night shot to preserve color and detail in the water, which enhanced the shape of the city.

My technique for shooting night time aerials hand held from a helicopter is to set the ISO to Auto, open the lens to full aperture, and control the shutter speed manually. I then vary the exposure when necessary by adjusting the +/- exposure control on the camera. I try to keep the ISO as low as I can, which often means using low shutter speeds in the 1/60 - 1/125 range. I am usually using wide angle lenses, and this helps to allow the slower speeds. Nonetheless, helicopters, especially with the doors off, are vibrating quite a lot. To protect myself against motion blur, I choose a high frame rate and keep the shutter pressed for a long time to guarantee that at least one of the shots will be steady enough. Kind of a crazy techniques, but it works most of the time.

I usually try to use wide aperture primes of f/1.4 whenever I can. This helps keep the ISO down. On this occasion I was shooting Miami from the air for the first time and didn't know what to expect so I packed short zooms with their f/2.8 apertures on my cameras. This gave me a range of about 24-70mm focal lengths, but caused the ISO to get up in the 3200-6400 range -- not where I usually like to be.  Had I used my f/1.4 primes, I could have knocked two stops off the ISO by working at 800-1600 maximum instead. This makes a huge difference in image quality and sharpness.

My thanks to FlyNYon Miami for helping to arrange the scheduling for this flight. I have used their services in NYC and now am using them again in Florida.

On September 9th, I will be conducting an "Over Miami - Aerial Photography Workshop" for the Leica Academie. If you'd like to join me, you can check out the details here.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Working out a new style

Since moving to Florida, I continually find myself searching for new ways to interpret the landscape. The dramatic tropical plant life entices me to create strong, graphic interpretations of the tropics. This time around I explored a variety of techniques in Photoshop to achieve my results.

All the photos were taken with a Fuji Pro2 with the original Fuji 18-55mm zoom. I often use this compact and lightweight outfit when I want to have a camera with me, but don't have any specific plan to use it.  For these photos I was visiting a friend and found the tropical plants near their home. All were taken around sunset. For these images the Fuji film modes didn't come into play, as I did all of the variations of color work in Photoshop, mostly using gradient adjustment layers.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Fireworks by the Sea - 4k video test with the Fuji X-T2

We watched a 4th of July fireworks last night from a beach in Delray, Florida. There was something quite mystical in hearing the sound of the ocean nearby and the fireworks off in the distance.  I had decided to do a 4K video of the fireworks with a Fuji X-T2 and the Fuji 55-200mm zoom. The variable aperture wasn't a problem because fireworks usually requires a fairly stopped down aperture.

When shooting fireworks, I always work in manual mode and make adjustments on the fly while monitoring the results in the LCD screen. The intensity of the fireworks varies tremendously during a display and can often wash out as smoke builds up. For most of the shooting, I kept the aperture and shutter speed set and varied the exposure by changing the ISO up or down. The ISO varied from 200-1600 at different times, but the average was around 400.

Below is a one of the sample videos along with some stills of the night time ocean I took before the event, along with some other stills I took of the fireworks themselves.