As winter approaches, the skies become awesome again.
Not that clear blue skies with endless sunshine over summer isn’t awesome – it’s just that autumn and winter do sunsets better.
I was on the roof at the weekend, clearing out the guttering, as you do (well, as we do here in Australia – the gutters are stupidly designed and can’t cope with the rainfall we have) and I spotted that the sky was looking pretty interesting out over the ocean (which I can see from the top of my roof!) so I packed up the ladder and headed out to the beach.
I took the little Fuji X100T because I hadn’t done any impressionist shots with it and I wanted to see what it could do. Sure, I could have use the Nikon and the 30mil or even the 10-20 for some crazy arsed curves in the landscapes, but I’d been there and done that.
So, little Fuji with your manual controls and easy exposure settings, ya did good.
First, the regular shots. Obviously the fixed focus lens leaves something to be desired for landscapes, but it’s very easy to get lovely pictures without any trouble – even in low light. The light weight of the camera means it’s possible to handhold at 1sec shutter speeds, but honestly, the high ISO performance of the camera is so good that I actually shouldn’t have bothered trying to keep the noise low – the camera does that all by itself up to about ISO 6400.
Now for the impressions. Taken by moving the camera during the shot, so to smooth out the landscape into a feeling of what it was like to be there. Combines colour and movement and turns the landscape into emotion.
How do I do this? It’s dead easy. You need a camera where you can adjust the exposure manually, or at least allows you to set the aperture to control the shutter speed. Fully auto cameras will struggle..
1. Set the exposure manually for a neutral point on the horizon in the landscape – not too near the sunny or dark ends of the sky. You want to pick an average, not one of the extremes. This is so easy to do in the X100T by using the viewfinder or LCD back display. It’s easy to add a little exposure compensation with the top dial as the light changes too, without having to flick around with the aperture or shutter speed settings.
2. Make sure the aperture is reasonably small – you want the camera to capture all the details in the water and sky
3. Adjust the settings until you have a shutter speed of about 1 second or so – being precise doesn’t matter. Longer shutter speeds need more camera motion and you end up with a smoother picture, shorter shutter speeds and shorter motion mean you retain something of the detail of the landscape.
4. Pan the camera left to right (or right to left – doesn’t matter) and press the shutter as you do it. Better to swing on a horizontal arc level with the horizon – swing, shoot, carry on swinging – you want the shot to be in the middle of your smooth movement. If the shutter is 1sec, make the swing 3 secs – one, shoot three. no stopping in the middle
5. Repeat. change the amount of sky you have in the shot compared to water – get the sand in. Pick up glints on the waves. Use the reflections as the water washes on to the beach. Use different shutter speeds – move slow, move fast – play.
When you get back, you’ll need to play a little with the images – more colour balance and levels to ensure the range of tones and contrasts are correct – the camera doesn’t get the best chance to do this at the time and something like Lightroom or even iPhoto will be fine to bring the tones back. White balance can be a little off depending where you start the shot and how much of that initial tone is in the rest of the image, but the skewed balance can create some gorgeous tonal varieties from greens to blues so don’t sweat it too much!
So go try this – you don’t even need vivid colours in the sky – here’s some very neutral tonal palette images from a very ordinary evening that I took ages ago and really love.
check out my flickr album too http://www.flickr.com/photos/r_charlie_w/sets/72157618885149218