Diary of a Shooting #1 – Hailouto-January 2009

After almost two months of an annoying mixture of snow/rain/ice the weather finally changed to the better and something blue showed up above us. Yesterdays shooting feels still fresh, and at least one strong image came out of it. As the forecast for today was promising me and a buddy of mine decided to head out again.

Last night was clear, which usually means that it get’s cold and the wind is adding some extra chill to the real minus 17 degrees. The plan is to head out to the island of Hailuoto, which is not too far away. But since island also means ferry, the naturally slow transfer on the boat adds another 30min to the tight schedule with the sun disappearing already around 14.30.

The ferry is scheduled for 12 o’clock and from there to our planned destination on the other side of the island it’s roughly another 20min. We should be at location around 13 o’clock, leaving us enough time to explore the scenery. I have been there last time during summer and have a rough idea what to expect there now. In winter things are of course a lot different, but I have a few shots in mind, which with any luck, might work out in this weather.

But plans are made to fail it seems. Usually there should be two ferries going to the island, but for some reason today it’s only one. The other one just lies in front of us in the harbour. Maybe it’s damaged, or the schedule just wasn’t right. Either way, we’re waiting.

In the distance we can see the other boat arriving and we are now already behind our schedule and with a delay of 40min we finally arrive on the ferry to our destination. The sky is blue and the permanently low sun at this time of the year lights the scene with a warm light. What worries me a little is that layer of clouds on the horizon, and I’m fearing that they might end our shooting earlier than expected.


The ferry docks at the island and after another half an hour ride in the car, we arrive at our location. At first sight it seems that all comes together nicely: the sun is coming from the right direction for the image that I have in mind, the baltic sea is frozen as I hoped, but there’s still the layer of clouds slowly creeping around the horizon and directly into the wrong direction….straight into the sun. Now I’m sure that these clouds are going to finish our shooting earlier than expected. Trying to make the most of it, we head out of the car and off to the beach.

The heavy storm on New Years eve seems to have pushed a lot of the ice from the sea straight onto the beach and has formed a rather bizarre wall of ice. Some parts of this wall are man high and make it a little difficult to get past them. The sun is luckily not yet behind the clouds and throws a nice warm light on this wall, turning the ice in a slightly orangy tone.


Behind this wall, the sea has frozen again and since there was no snow afterwards, the surface is plain, perfect for skating, and on some other place it’s visible how plates of ice have been thrown together and frozen to each other. The whole scenery feels surreal.


But the time is ticking. The sun is getting slowly nearer to the clouds, and we have not much time to explore the scene. Attaching and adjusting the filters in these conditions is a rather painful experience, but after a some practicing I get better doing that with gloves. The remote shutter release starts to behave a little odd right now, and get’s stuck. Maybe it’s frozen and after warming it up a little in my pocket it starts to work again.

I get some interesting frames of the structures on the ice, but then sun disappears behind the clouds, and with it, the nice warm evening light. The ice which was bathed a few minutes ago in the warm sunlight turned now to a boring, dirty looking grey.

With the feeling that there would have more to explore out there we return to the car and a warm cup of coffee. But I already know that there are at least a few nice images waiting on the memory card the winter will last a few more months here, so there will be other possibilities.

On Ice

The guest-blogging-me

Today I have a little announcement to make:

Photographer and blogger Martin Gommel from the german blog Kwerfeldein.de, asked me a few weeks ago if I would like to contribute an article for his blog. It goes without saying that I agreed immediately, since it offered me the possibility to write something in Deutsch again. Something that I haven’t done much during the last few years.

I’m proud to tell you that the first of two articles had gone live today.

So, for those of you who read Deutsch and are interested in my translation of my article on GND filters, please head over to Martin’s blog and have a look. And for those who are not so interested in the article, because you read it already here, please go there anyway, because it’s a good blog.

Also I would like to use the opportunity to send my gratulations and best wishes to Martin and his family.

Update: The second post is now also online.

New Series: The Shooting Diary

It has been a little silent on this blog here in the last few weeks. My life outside this blog caught up and kept me kind of busy. But still that doesn’t mean that I’m running out of ideas and therefore I would like to introduce a new, little ongoing series on this blog, the Shooting Diary Photojournal.

Why have something like this since I already run my photoblog where I already post some sort of story to the image?
The answer is easy…. On my photoblog I tend to post only those images, which I consider to be the ones that I would like to hang on my wall, or put into a book. The most “artsy” ones so to say. But sometimes during a shoot I capture images that not necessarily fall into this category, but they kind of show somehow the beauty of the situation, capture the excitement of the moment, and/or provide some sort of background information to the shooting. There are simply sometimes eventful shootings where I have the feeling it could be nice to give some more info. Consider this a little Behind the Scenes.

These posts might include posts from my Twitter account, or with any luck some video (I’m not promising that, but the idea is there), or whatever comes to mind. I also will use these posts to inspire and motivate myself to explore more places. Surely I will not accompany every single image that I post to my blog with an essay, only when it kind of makes sense.

So stay tuned for upcoming stories with the first one coming up during this weekend (well hopefully).

The Flow

After two months of desperately bad weather it finally changed and I had the chance to go out shooting again. What a relief! I had the chance to go out already the day before christmas, but that shooting ended abruptly due to the fact that I cracked into the ice and got myself some very wet feet, which is not really what I like at something like minus 10 degrees. Luckily today it turned out better.

It came all together quiet nicely. We had good light, the moon was just rising and me and a friend drove out to Koitelinkoski again to get some images. There were quiet many photographers out there at the current temperature of minus 17 degrees and at the end we had a nice coffee at the fire. Wouldn’t it be nice, if it could be like this every day?!

This is a panorama stitched together out of six different shots, processed in Lightroom and Photoshop. Photoshop is doing a fantastic job with stitching these images together. Almost like magic. I actually cropped a little out of it, to get a panoramic format of 1:3. I totally dig this format, and will experiment more with it in the future.

I hope you like it and thanks for visiting.

Camera Make: Canon
Camera Model: Canon EOS 5D
Aperture: F16
Exposure Time: 0.8 sec
Focal Length: 40.0 mm
ISO: 100
Exposure Bias: 0
Shooting Mode: Manual
Flash: Flash did not fire, auto
Metering Mode: Multi-segment

Using GND Filters on a Digital Camera: Part 3

In the previous two posts on using the GND filters, I wrote about what is needed, what they look like and how they are actually attached to the lens. In this post I will try to explain how they are actually used.

So, let’s have a look at my image “Being There” first and I then try to explain what I did there.

I took this image just before sunset with the last bit of the sun still being around the horizon. The dynamic range of the scene was naturally rather big and as almost always I used my filters to hold back the exposure on the sky. But how to decide, which filters to use? Here comes in the metering.

How to meter the scene?

Of course the more you work with filters, the more you get a feeling which filters to use. When I’m in a hurry I start off immediately with a 2 or 3 stop filter and then check the histogram. But to be precise it’s still best though to do a quick meter reading. Since I have no external lightmeter yet, I proceed like this:

  1. I switch to “Center Weighted” metering mode and set the camera to TV mode (not sure right now what’s that on Nikon right now, I think S)
  2. Then I point the camera/lens to the darker part of the scene (usually the foreground) and adjust the shutter speed so, that it equals for example f4. I prefer to set it to f4 since from there it’s at least for me easier to count the f-stops (4; 5.6; 8;11;16;22).
  3. Then I point the camera to the brighter part of the scene (usually, and in this case the sky) and count the difference in stops compared to f4 and there you go. If the camera now shows now for example f16, there is a difference of 4 stops. So a four stop filter should be best to use. Of course I could do the same in AV-mode but in that case the shutter speed and not the aperture is changing, and that somehow is too much math for me ;-)

After that I switch back to AV or M mode and attach the filters and frame the shot. When I then take the image, I usually switch back to Evaluation Metering mode, and most of the time that works fine. In case of doubt, I do a meter reading from the foreground before attaching the filters and shoot manual then.

Where to place which filters:

Which filters to choose is a little dependent on the scene. A scene with an uneven horizon, such as mountains or hills, tree tops etc. ideally requires graduated soft filters, whereas a straight horizon, like in this example, it’s better to use GND hard filters. (If these doesn’t mean anything to you, please check back on my previous post here).

Application in practice:

In this particular image I used two GND hard filters with together 5 stops to compensate for the bright sky (Disclaimer: I took this image quiet a while ago but I think it was something like this) and moved them down around to the horizon, then focused manually (I usually do), checked the DOF preview and took the shot. Checked the histogram and bracketed a little and took another image. And that’s it.

I tried to demonstrate how I place the filter in the following image:

On my way home I already knew there was a nice image waiting for me on the memory card, which is a very good feeling to have.

Of course the filters don’t have to be placed horizontally like in this image. On the image “Autumn Rocks” I placed a GND soft filter diagonally across the frame like you can see in the following image:


With filters it is possible to achieve amazing results and to get the shot in the camera, which is something that I prefer. There are of course situations where it’s more useful to blend multiple exposures together in Photoshop, or do a HDR. But for me, the use filters has improved my photography a lot. I will definitely invest in some more filters. This time though ND filters. But I think that should then complete my set.

If you have any questions or comments about these posts, feel free to leave a not in the comments.

Winter Birch Trees

I decided to escape the frustration of being unable to do some winter landscapes, due to the current uninviting weather conditions, and at least play around a little with the panning technique in the forest. By excluding the sky and blurring the image I tried to at least create something nice, in this otherwise not so nice current conditions. I tried to find the trees from this image again, but unfortunately couldn’t.

As for the processing, this has only seen Lightroom and some final level adjustments in PS.

I hope you like it and thanks for visiting.

Type Exif
Camera Make Canon
Camera Model Canon EOS 5D
Aperture F14
Exposure Time 1 sec
Focal Length 40.0 mm
ISO 50
Exposure Bias 0
Shooting Mode Aperture priority
Flash Flash did not fire, auto
Metering Mode Multi-segment

Backpacking and camera gear or trying to solve a problem

As the days are getting shorter and shorter up here, I use the time to plan next years phototrips. I have some plans to maybe explore the south west coast of England and also planning a little hike in the border area between Finland, Norway and Sweden during the next summer.

While the when and where and how-to get there is one issue, the how-to carry the gear will be another issue.
Since the pupose of these is trips is to take pictures, I can’t leave any of my gear at home, besides the flash maybe. This sums up to this:

  • 5d
  • 17-40
  • 24-105
  • 70-200
  • Lee Filtersystem
  • Tripod
  • Remote Release and other small things

So this is what has to go, plus of course clothing and other necessary things for the trip to England and additionally food and sleeping bag for the trip to Lapland.
The trips will be most likely to be organized such that, at least in England, I’m going to travel/hike during the day time and find a spot (hotel or whatever) to stay for the night as a “base” and then go out shooting. Same idea I have in mind for the Lapland trip.
So using the backpack also as camera bag seems to be unreasonable, because that way I would need to carry around the whole bag when I go shooting. But carrying two bags doesn’t seem to be wisest of all ideas either.
Another side effect would be that I have to check in the whole bag, including the camera gear, at the airport. This thought alone makes me shiver.

How to solve this problem?

If any of you has a better idea you’re welcome to leave me a comment or drop me an email, but my plan is to get me a real good hiking backpack which is big enough to fit the MiniTrekker into it. This way I should be able to get some clothing and so on into the bottom of the back and the camera on top. When I then fly or go out shooting on location I simply can take out the MiniTrekker and go on lightweight.
I also considered packing the gear into lens-pouches etc., which would make it a lot easier, but then again I would need to carry the whole bag around when I go shooting, or take another one with me to carry the gear to location.
I know that there are some camera bags, which have a camera compartment and another one for other stuff, such as the Primus AW, which is one of the many bags that I own, but at least that one is too small for a longer trip like this.
For the time being I will stick to my plan using two bags, knowing that’s it’s not going to be the wisest one, but maybe someone of you has experience with that or some ideas, then you’re more than welcome to share it in the comments.
I will keep you posted about the progress and maybe post a little video, once I figured out how to do that.