I have had multiple requests from friends and customers asking how I get the effects you see in my photographs. The process of capturing and editing photos can be a lot of fun if you are prepared. Here are a few recommendations and tutorials on my current workflow:
First, lets list the basic needs of most landscape photographers:
- Digital single-lens reflex cameras (also named digital SLR or DSLR). I recently upgraded from a Canon 50D to a 5D MKII.
- Sturdy tripod and head that does not move in low wind conditions. I have seen and used weak tripods and they usually shake when the camera is taking multiple exposures (bracketing).
- Wide Angle Lens for my Canon 50D I use the Sigma 10-20.
- Multi-use Zoom Lens (Canon 24-105 mm). This is my favorite lens for everyday shooting! It is wide enough for most shots and can zoom in for quality close-ups.
- Circular Polarizer that fits on the front of your lens. This will reflect the light off water and usually turn bright sky into blue. Invest about $100 on a quality polarizer. I have used many but the B&W 77mm is my favorite. Make sure you buy the filter that matches your lens dimensions. Basic lenses are usually 58mm and the ones mentioned above are 77mm.
- Camera bag (seriously, get a camera bag). The bag will cost $30-$40 and can keep your camera, batteries, memory cards, micro fiber cloths, and polarizers clean and out of the environment until it is time for use. The camera bag I use is a heavy duty back pack that is made by Lowepro. It is an awesome bag that holds all my equipment, tripod, and laptop! Check it out… Lowepro Trekker 400AW
Second, let discuss the mental preparation of a planned photo excursion:
- Landscape Photographers capture their best photos in morning and evening light. This means you have to wake up and be at your location before the sunrise. Evening time means you need to be on location around two hours before the sunset.
- Have some ideas about what you want to capture. Okinawa is surrounded by water and is usually a great location for sunrises/sunsets. 90% of my photos have water in them and were taken during that sweet light. Castles, Events, and Landmarks are also good spots for photo ideas.
- Know what type of photography you want to capture (ie: landscape, portrait, weddings, food, vehicles, etc.) and try to master it. Understand your settings for the type of photography you choose.
- Okinawa tides! This can work in your favor because water reflections in a pool surrounded by reef are usually perfect for photographs. When the tide is high, there is minimal texture in your photograph unless you can get that awesome foreground or an amazing cloud formation.
Third, lets discuss my computer and software recommendations:
- PC vs. MAC: I use a PC because I can upgrade the RAM, Hard Drive, Graphics Card, etc.. where it is very difficult to do so on a MAC. A lot of pro photographers use MAC computers and they love it! Just be ready to spend about $2000 for a good desktop regardless of your choice. Remember, the more RAM you have in your computer, the faster it will manage your photo files and software.
- Photoshop: I use Photoshop with almost everyone of my photos. The main purpose for Photoshop in my workflow is to remove dust spots, clone-stamp unwanted objects, re-size images, printing, etc. If you are interested in downloading Photoshop CS6 here is a link to Amazon which lets you download instantly. Adobe Photoshop CS6
- Lightroom: This software is amazing. Current version is Lightroom 4 and I am sure next year there will be a 5 but just purchase the most current version and don’t worry about the next. I used Lightroom 2 before I upgraded to 4 so it is not necessary. This software will allow you to upload RAW images (highly recommended photos taken from your camera) and edit the colors, saturation, contrast, sharpening, and convert to JPG for upload into Facebook, e-mail, etc… Lightroom will also help you categorize your collection of photos. The default should be set to “date” which makes a new folder for every day the set of pictures were taken. This is currently my desired workflow. I also rate my photos from 1-5 and this will help me find the good ones later very easy. If further edits are necessary then I can “right-click” the photo and export it straight to Photoshop, Photomatix, email, desktop, etc… If you are interested in downloading Lightroom 4 here is a link to Amazon which lets you download instantly.
- Photomatix: This is where I complete the High Dynamic Range (HDR) edits to my photographs. The current version is Photomatix Pro 4.2 and like the others, it is not necessary to continue purchasing an upgrade. The trick to a good HDR image in Photomatix is to play with the sliders until you get the desired effect. Do not allow halo’s, grainy sky, or black clouds and you should be good to go. See below for my HDR workflow. If you are interested in purchasing Photomatix Pro 4 here is a link for an easy download. Photomatix Pro 4. Use Coupon code “KAIUMI” for a 15% discount.
Pretty much every single photo on this site is processed with Photomatix. I recommend this $99 piece of gold to anyone! Seriously, if you want beautiful colors and stunning images then this software is perfect. Here is a link to download a copy of Photomatix: Windows users or MAC users. Enter the discount code “KAIUMI” for 15% off!
Here is a brief breakdown of how HDR works:
- Quality Digital Camera and lens that can take at least 3 bracketed photos. I use a Canon 5D MKII and a Canon 24-105 lens.
- Steady tripod. I use the Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro Tripod with a Manfrotto head.
- Capture three photos with 1 or 2 stop difference in exposures. This is called bracketing. -1, 0, +1 or (-2, 0, +2)
- Upload the 3 bracketed photos to your computer using Lightroom.
- Select the three bracketed photos and export them to Photomatix Pro 4.
- Slightly edit and process the images in Photomatix then process and watch them reappear in Lightroom.
- Conduct enhancement edits using Lightroom.
- If needed, you can send to Photoshop for further edits.
If you want to learn the HDR bracketing process please check out the Videos page or click HERE.