February Meeting Recap
Dug Threewitt presented Creativity through Experimentation at the February, 2017 meeting. He started us off with a quote from author Neil Gaiman which sums up Dug’s philosophy: “Go and make interesting mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.” To that end, Dug talked about shooting multiple exposures, long exposures, using camera movement, spray and pray, night shots and light painting. He also showed us some of the devices he has improvised to use in the field, and discussed options for making magic in post-processing.
Some DSLR’s have built in HDR (high dynamic range) and multiple exposure capability. If your camera doesn’t have this function there are quick ways to create multiple exposures in Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or GIMP ((GNU Image Manipulation Program). Dug shared some sunflower shots he created using multiple exposures. For instance, he took three or more shots while repositioning the camera a bit each time, thereby placing images of sunflowers within the disk of a larger sunflower. Sometimes these experiments don’t work out very well, but as Dug pointed out, digital photography makes it easy to do and, unlike in the days of film you don’t have to pay for your frames.
You can do create double exposure portraits. Although it may seem to be a bit of a cliché, it’s good practice for multiple exposure work. Take a profile shot of a person with a very bright (high key) background, like the sky. Then, shoot some trees, mountains, flowers or anything else with texture and try to frame it within the subject’s silhouette. It’s fun and provides good experience. You can then use it with nature images, superimposing one natural element over another for interesting effects, as Dug did with a tall pine tree and colorful fall deciduous leaves.
There are a lot of possibilities when you experiment with long exposures, such as shooting waterfalls and rivers. Remember to work your subjects and try to shoot them from different perspectives. There are plenty of other things you can do with long exposures, such as moving the camera, zooming in or out, or panning while you are taking the photograph. Dug showed different images of the same scenes using varying amounts of camera movement. He set up his camera with a 70-200 lens on a tripod. He left the tripod collar loose, and then just kept tapping the lens hood while shooting some dead trees at Castlewood State Park. This provided enough vibration to create some wonderful abstract effects. You can also set up your tripod and zoom through the exposure or, as in one case, Dug spun the camera body in the loose tripod collar. Long exposures can be very effective with moving animals, such as large flocks of snow geese or eagles or pelicans in flight. Dug suggests trying different shutter speeds, as he did with thousands of snow geese to see how the image changes as you lower the shutter speed.
Spray and Pray:
There are lots of times when Dug shoots in burst mode or “spray and pray”. Most people use this technique for wildlife and birds, but Dug uses it with hand held macro shots and portraits as well. He captured an amazing shot of a bald eagle in flight with its sharp head seen through its primary flight feathers. It took a burst of six shots to land this one incredible image.
For macro, he uses bursts if he’s holding the camera by hand or if it’s windy. He shared examples of a very close-up view of a coneflower head that was shot in spray and pray mode. Although not all images worked, he got a few that were quite crisp and interesting.
This technique also comes in handy for group portraits, especially if you are not using off camera lighting or if the flash is not able to recharge quickly. This increases your chances of capturing everyone in the group with their eyes open on one of the bursts. If not, Dug is adept at changing out eyes from one picture to the next in post-processing.
Dug also talked about things he has fashioned to make equipment that works well without spending a lot of money. He has created a fake macro lens, or “facro”, as he calls it. One of these “lenses” is a body cap with a hole cut in it and a 50mm reverse mounted lens.
When in a blind shooting seabirds on an island off the coast of Maine, Dug’s lenses were too long for the razorbill auks that were just about 4-5 feet away from him. He had a 400mm f/5.6 lens and an 800mm f/5.6 lens. The 400 had a minimum focus distance of just under 12 feet. The 800’s minimum focus distance is just under 20 feet. Despite that, Dug was able to get a sharp shot of the razorbill using his 800mm by stacking every extension tube he had between the camera and the lens.
He has used his inventiveness to save money by creating light boxes, a slave for a flash, an LED light panel, a feathered owl decoy, and other similarly clever items. He created a light painting brush for night photography using PVC plumbing pipe, an inexpensive LED flashlight, and black gaffers tape.
During the third segment of his program, Dug talked about one his great passions, night photography. One of the first times he saw a star trail image was on Art Wolfe’s Travels to the Edge website. Since then, Dug has been shooting nightscapes with star trails. Like Dan Zarlenga, who presented on night photography at a recent meeting, Dug likes to stack multiple images rather than take a single long exposure of the night sky. He prefers to be able to control how long his star trails are, add whatever creative touches he wants, and avoid having an overexposed foreground because of light pollution, moonlight, or anything else that his eyes don’t notice in the dark, but the camera picks up. He showed various sets of stacked images of individual 20-second exposures. We were able to compare 100, 200, and 484 stacked exposures and thereby see 33 minutes, 66 minutes and 162 minutes of star trails.
Dug also loves to photograph the Milky Way and showed us some of the fantastic images he has captured of that galaxy, often using light painting to provide some details of the landscape around him. He shared examples of light painting of other night scenes as well as flowers and other close-up subjects. He explained his process and provided us with examples of many of the tools he uses, including: big flashlights, a detachable flash, an LED light stand he built, small flashlights, cell phone, candles and other items that give off light. He showed examples of the techniques he uses and the effects of these different types of lights on the terrestrial foreground subjects.
For the final part of his program, Dug talked about post-processing images in creative ways with Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and GIMP, a program for Windows (www.gimp.org). He emphasized that he never throws any images away, finding opportunities to merge elements from one image with another when creatively rendering his artistic vision. He also merged two images to recreate what his eye saw but his camera was unable to capture.
Post-processing star trails:
Dug said there are multiple standalone programs to stack star trails. StarStax and Startrails.de are a couple of them. However, Dug prefers using a script in Photoshop. It’s Waguila Star Stacker.
Dug left us with this piece of advice: “Remember to have fun and try something new and goof around!!!” We thank Dug for providing some inspiration to shoot creatively and see what we can come up with.
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