Thursday, October 29, 2015

Photographing the World Rally Championship (WRC) in Barcelona, Spain last week

If you are following along on Facebook or Instagram, you probably know that I was in Barcelona last week. Part of the time that I was there, I was photographing the World Rally Championship. I have numerous blog posts coming up from Spain, with this first post dedicated to the rally photos.

I have photographed 4 of these rallies before, but this is the first time that I was able to capture the ceremonial start in any type of light. This was a real treat, since the last 3 rallies all started well after the sun had gone down, and this venue was beautiful.

I took this wide photo to include not only the rally car, but also the amazing architecture and the moon in the late afternoon sky.

I moved to numerous shooting positions to get different vantage points of the cars racing through the streets of the city. I was using my Canon 5D Mark III with the Canon 28-300mm lens. This lens gives me the ability to capture a wide zoom range without changing lenses.

This is what I refer to as a "safe shot".  The camera was set to servo focus and I froze the action at 1/200th sec.

After capturing a bunch of safe shots, I then switched to a slower shutter speed (1/40th sec) and panned along with the cars. My take rate is lower with this slower shutter speed, but the photos show more motion and are generally more interesting.

A good pan shot will have the car perfectly clear while the foreground and background show the motion, as you see here.

As the light dropped, I did something I usually do not do. I grabbed my Gitzo tripod and set up for a night sports shot. I changed the ISO to 2000 and had a shutter speed of 1/80 sec. Normally this would not freeze the action, but because I was using a flash on the camera, that froze the action for me.

The next day I made a visit to the WRC service park. This is where the cars come in for a short (timed) repair and servicing stop before heading off on the next stage of the rally.

I was positioned by the VW area and photographed the drivers during this break in the action.

I saw Andreas Mikkelsen showing his nephews his car. I asked him if I could get some photos of him and the kids.

Too cute.

And then it was off the races again, on the following day.

Unlike the previous rallies that I have covered, most of this rally was on asphalt, making it much less interesting to photograph. I like it better when there is dirt and debris flying from under the tires.  I did catch this car catching air after cutting the turn a little too close.

You can see a little more action here with the driver locking up his brakes and drifting through the turn.

I was shooting from this spot when I heard a loud crash not too far off.

I hesitated for a couple of seconds, trying to decided if I should make a run for it and try to photograph the accident. After 5 long seconds, I hopped the wall and made a run for it. I was able to grab 3 or 4 shots before the police and security came and moved us away.

Then I went back to photographing the rally from a different position, once again panning with the cars at a slow shutter speed (this time at 1/20 sec since the cars were slowing down to enter the turn).

I really like this motion pan shot because the slow shutter speed shows how the back wheels are locked up and the front ones are moving fast to whip the car around the upcoming turn.

As you can see, I move positions quite often to get a variety of looks.

This photos was a bit of a happy accident. I had turned the shutter speed down to 1/15th sec to try and show even more motion in the cars. In this photo I happened to zoom the 28-300mm lens during that 1/15th exposure. This created a pretty cool effect. Not planned, but pretty cool.

As I was leaving this part of the rally, I turned back and saw this shot of all the photographers. This shows you a little bit of the "behind the scenes" of the rally.

On my third day of shooting the WRC, I positioned myself high up on a hill to grab photos of the cars coming down an "S curve".  I thought that I would use a faster shutter speed from this vantage point, but as it turned out, I liked the slow panning shots here too.

I took a variety of photos, from very wide (28mm) to a tighter zoom (200mm).

Like the other happy accident, this last shot was not planned. I was panning along with this rally car when it went behind the trees in front of me. Most of the time, I stopper shooting as the cars entered the tree covered area. But this time, I kept shooting. I really like the effect. I was really impressed that the Canon 5D Mark III held focus on the car even with all the distractions coming between me and my subject.

The upcoming blog posts will show you different parts of the city of Barcelona. Stay tuned for those!


If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. I would really appreciate that.

And also, remember that you and your friends can enter your email address at the top right of this blog to get an email any time I write a new blog post or send my monthly newsletter.


Friday, October 16, 2015

San Francisco at night - A photo I have wanted for a long time!

Two nights ago, I made a trip up to San Francisco for the official launch party for the Light camera. I brought along my best friend, Glenn, since he is into photography as well.

We got up to the city a little early and made our way over to Treasure Island, which is located halfway between the two spans of the Bay Bridge. I knew that sunset was set for 6:30pm, and we arrived at 6pm to give us time to hike into shooting position.

Before we hiked to the spot where I wanted to get my post sunset shot, I saw the sun setting near Coit Tower and grabbed these shots.

If you have watched any of my teaching videos, you know that I always encourage people to take photographs different ways to get a variety of compositions. Practicing what I preach, I shot both horizontal and vertical photos. I have included both here, because I like them both. do you have a favorite composition between these two?

I have photographed from this island before, but there are certain restrictions which make it difficult to get the shot that I have been coveting for quite some time. For one thing, there is no parking up by the bridge, and there are no sidewalks leading from the parking area up the hill to the best shooting location. So Glenn and I started walking up the hill (on the side of the road) and then had to hop the side rail and find a path down the side of the hillside. 

After a little investigating, we found a trail which lead down to a nice spot. This was the view I was looking for, with a view of the city under the Bay Bridge.  Notice how bland the lighting is at this moment (6:38pm - 8 minutes after sunset). This meant that we had to wait for the darker blue sky.

Glenn took a photo of me and my setup, just as I was posting an iPhone shot to Instagram and Facebook. I was shooting with my Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 28-300mm lens. These were mounted on my Gitzo GT2532 tripod with the Acratech ballhead.

And then at 6:56pm I started getting the light and the shot I was hoping for! It is at this point where the lights of the city and bridge blend well with the night sky.

This shot was taken 3 minutes later (6:59pm) with my camera set to -0.3 stops to darken the scene a bit.

Since it was getting dark and we had to climb back up the hillside, I packed up my gear and started heading up from my original spot. At this point I looked over and saw Glenn taking one last shot. I set up my tripod again and asked him to stay as still as possible for this silhouette shot.

And then as we were climbing up the hill a little more, I turned back and could not help myself. The light was so good and the view so amazing, I had to set up for another photo. For those of you wondering how I got all the starbursts in the lights, it is not a Photoshop trick. I set my camera to f/14 which creates this starburst effect. This is my favorite photo of them all and is now safely added to my "All Time Favorites" collection.  The settings for this photo were: lens at 50mm, ISO 400, f/14, 5 second exposure, -0.3 exposure comp).

When we got towards the top of the hillside I noticed the crescent moon (which had been blocked by the bridge in my previous shots). Again, I set up the tripod to get this photo. See a pattern here? I get so excited at times like these that I just go crazy shooting photo after photo.

As we walked back down the road, we were constantly presented with different amazing views of San Francisco.

The moon was setting quickly, but positioned perfectly over the San Francisco skyline for this shot.

This last shot was taken right by my parked car. It was 7:23pm and the end of our night shooting. We had lost all of the deep blue skies, but I loved the sliver of a moon over Coit Tower. Because the tower is so bright, I had to set the camera to -2 stops of exposure compensation, so that the tower was not blown out (too bright). But this darker setting helps accentuate the tower and the moon, keeping everything else dark.

Overall, it was an amazing hour of shooting! Not only was it fun to share this experience with my best friend (and college roommate), but I also came away with a new "money shot". I did not get home until 11pm, but could not wait to get on my computer to download and edit the images.

I hope you enjoy viewing these as much as I did taking them!


If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. I would really appreciate that.

And also, remember that you and your friends can enter your email address at the top right of this blog to get an email any time I write a new blog post or send my monthly newsletter.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

A perfect day to take photographs in Seattle

This week, I was up north in Seattle, Washington for the PIX2015 photo show. I flew up on Monday afternoon and checked into my hotel. I had to head over to the show for some logistics, so I dumped my stuff (except for my camera of course) and walked over to Seattle Center. was a spectacular day, so I walked the long way!

As I approached the Seattle Center, I saw this very cool building from a distance and headed straight for it. I was using my trusty Canon 5D Mark III with the 24-105mm lens. People often ask me why I use this lens so often. I carry the 24-105mm lens because it is really sharp and a great focal range for shooting both wide shots and reasonably tight zooms.

For architecture like this, I usually move around and look through the camera to find a pleasing composition. Luckily, I also packed my Tiffen Digital HT Circular Polarizing filter. This was a key accessory for the day, as the sun was out and I had a great blue sky as my background. I adjusted the polarizing filter to block some of the reflections, but wanted to keep some of the reflecting light in the photo.

When I got to the back of this building I was presented with this awesome wall of color. I moved into a good position, with the sun reflecting directly off the side of the building

Exploring this scene a little more, I noticed that the Space Needle was reflecting into the side of the building. I turned the camera at an angle to get this photo. Again, having the Tiffen HT Circular Polarizing filter really helped me to increase the contrast in the sky and clouds.

As I walked further in Seattle Center, I came across the Chihuly Glass Exhibit. And outside the exhibit were these cool sculptures. I walked to a point where I could see the Space Needle in between the three pieces of art and got this photo. This photo is a great example of having a strong foreground element to add interest the the shot. I saw too many people photographing the Space Needle by itself.

And here is another take from the same general area. This shows how just moving a little bit, changes the composition completely.

And then I made my way into the Chihuly Glass Exhibit. The entrance fee is $23, which is a fair price to pay to see this amazing glasswork.

This is one of the first pieces that I saw as I walked into the exhibit. This is part of the sea life room. I framed this shot to avoid all the distractions (ceiling lights and doorways). I did take some other photos which included people, to show the scale of this piece, but felt that this one was still stronger.

This "Persian Ceiling" room was really cool with all the colors in the ceiling and the same colors being reflected on the walls and floor. I waited for all the people to leave the area and shot this. Would this have been stronger with some people in the room? Maybe.

Here is a shot looking straight up at the ceiling.

Here is a large collection of glass in varying colors, which is entitled "Mille Fiori".

This photo is of the same collection as the preceding image, except that I went around to the far side of the art. I tilted the camera so that I could include as much of the piece as possible. I also waited for someone to enter the far doorway to give this scale.

With all this amazing artwork, it is easy to get focused on the entirety of the pieces. But I also liked looking closer at the details of each piece and taking photos of individual elements of the art. What attracted me to this composition was the contrast of colors and the balance of the two curved pieces against the background.

I really liked the color and lines of this one piece of blown glass. So simple and yet so elegant.

I really loved the "Ikebana and Float Boat" room, with these vibrant colored glass balls set up a reflective black surface.

And, of course, I worked this subject from many different angles.

Two of my favorites things...bright colors and reflections!

The next room was called "Chandeliers" and as the name would imply, this artwork was hanging from the ceiling. Once again, I moved to a place where all the ceiling lights were either out of the frame or directly behind the piece. I love the way that this photo goes from light at the top of the frame to darkness at the bottom.

Half of the exhibit is inside and the other is placed outside in the garden, which I really loved. This was made especially good with the perfect weather. I was looking for interesting photos, when I noticed the Space Needle reflecting in this glass ball.

And then I started looking for different colored glass balls reflecting the iconic tower.

This piece is suspended from the ceiling in the "Glasshouse". I framed this shot to include the Space Needle coming out of the glasswork.

This last shot is my favorite of the day. As I walked around Seattle Center, I came across the big fountain and loved the way it looked. I saw a huge group of people shooting photos of the fountain, but they were facing away from the needle! I kept walking around and was happy to see this shot with the Space Needle and fall colors in the background. And, of course, what really makes this photo work is the perfect clouds accenting nice blue sky.

This is another example of how a Polarizing filter can help make a photo. In this case, the filter helped accentuate the blue sky and clouds, but also cut down the light coming into my lens, helping me get a slower shutter speed in bright sunlight. I wanted to have a slow shutter speed to blur the water. With the help of the filter, I was able to achieve a slow shutter speed of 1/8 sec (at ISO 100 and f/22).

It was a pretty quick trip to Seattle, but I look forward to coming back soon.


If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. I would really appreciate that.

And also, remember that you and your friends can enter your email address at the top right of this blog to get an email any time I write a new blog post or send my monthly newsletter.