My Photo Journey around Wales
A lot of people I speak to feel that there is no point in bothering to use filters because "You can do it aferwards in photoshop, can't you? " The short answer to that is NO! There are lots of times that having a neutral graduated filter can save a complete disaster, for example at sunrise the sky is so much brighter that the land that either you burn out the sky so badly that it can't be saved or have the foreground so dark that it takes ages trying to correct it.The filter works by darkening bright areas to balance land and sky as the sky is nearly always a few stops lighter.
I use Lee filters mainly because the the quality is excellent. Over the years I have tried four or five different brands some very cheap, some a little more expensive. The real issue for me is the colour cast which can be almost impossible to sort out. The other problem is the optical quality, there is no point having a decent lens with a poor filter in front, the image is only ever as good as the lowest spec element in your set-up.
The other reason I feel it pays to use filters is that if used properly they can lift an image from a holiday snap to a fine art print. My favorite filter is the Big Stopper, for those who have not tried this filter I can highly recommend giving it a try. The main advantage is being able to use really long exposure even during fairly strong light, this allows me to photograph running water on up to a 30 second shutterspeed. This changes water to a milky satin ribbon, and clouds to soft streaks across the sky.
It isn't a cure for poor lighting or days with harsh contrast, but it can make an ordinary shot look quite beautiful. It is worth mentioning that you still need to work on the basics like composition and exposure, it won't make a bad shot great, but with imagination can be a useful tool. Give it a try you might surprise youself.
It sounds obvious but if you don't take the right kit in your bag it will probably lead to an irritating waste of time. I have done this so many times over the years that I now keep almost all my kit packed ready and just change a couple of lenses. My main lenses that go almost everywhere with me, are my Nikon 50mm prime and my 10-24 wide-angle also Nikon. They are both attached to a Nikon D5300 body so I don't have to change my lens much when out and about, this is because I am paranoid about getting dirt on the sensor.
If I am looking for wildlife I may swap the 50mm for the 70-300mm zoom, by thinking ahead I can usually more or less get my rucksack to fit all the kit I need. Because I mainly work outdoors carrying everything can be a pain, so it is really important for me to take only what I really need, not every lense I own. It may seem as though I could upgrade some of my equipment, but there is a very good reason for not buying a bigger professional body, I have a lot of joint issues so weight is important. I don't let this stop me, it just means a bit of thought has to go into what I buy.
I try to use my camera creatively to get the best out of what I can carry, so sometimes my Nikon 105mm macro lense gets used for isolating sections of landscape. It's all about knowing your kit inside out so you can adapt, for example using a 50mm prime indoors is great if no flash is permitted, or outdoors in low light or equally well can be fantastic for portraits. For the same reason I stick to using two identical bodies I don't have to stop and adapt, I know my settings and have both cameras on manual with all other functions matching.
Choosing what you keep in your camera bag is very personal, but it's worth some serious thought, no-one likes to waste money on a useless item. At the end of the day what is important is not spending the most, it's getting the functions you need. Having fantastic video funtions is not much use if you only shoot stills. I used to use Canon before I went SLR my bridge camera had a flip out screen. For me was one of the best features, its very useful for low level shots,especially if the tripod is in the sea. Unfortunatly the model of Canon I had in mind had a standard screen so I defected to Nikon, it's all about finding your perfect match.
Falling leaves, nights getting longer, got it in one, autumn is almost here. I love the change, crisp mornings, mist, golden light and seasonal flood tides, who could ask for more. This is probably one of the best times of year for me, the light is much softer, its still warm and the colours can be amazing. Later sunrise also means not so many early starts, I am also very lucky in my area, having the coast nearly on the doorstep means if the weather changes I can get there qiuckly.
I have a little routine for getting the best out of my day, if I plan properly it increases my chances of getting some decent shots. Firstly I check exact sunrise and sunset times, then the weather forecast,there are lots of apps to choose from, I mainly use BBC weather and Tides Near Me, both are free. It is really useful to know the high tide times, not only for safety, but from a compostitional point of view it can make or break the shot. I have used the Met Office for the weather but found I couldn't always get the range of places I need, it does make a surprising amount of difference especially in coastal areas. My tide time table gives me not only sunrise and set but also tide heights and times as well as moon information. The one drawback is not being able to look more than a week in advance, for this I use The Photographers Ephemeris which gives me the chance to plan well in advance for exact angle of sunrise or sunset.
All this planning still doesn't by any means guarantee sucess, things go wrong all the time but at least if I drop my filter in the sea or something else really stupid, chances are the weather is perfect!
Once we get past spring it gets much more difficult for me to get good light for my photography, sunrise is so early and the days are so bright and harshly lit. I know there are people who feel you can shoot in any light, but very few who can make it work effectively. If the light and weather are against you there are two options, either take a chance and continue with your plans, or find a more productive use of the time. I personally prefer the second option, summer for me is a time for catching up with all the editing that has piled up from earlier in the year.
As I don't deal very well with the heat or pollen I spend a lot of my time indoors, it can be frustrating and I don't like not getting out and about as much. There are a few advantages, it gives me the time to make plans for the autumn and do some research for my September break. This year I am returning to Yorkshire for the first time since I took up photography seriously, the first week we are staying right next to a waterfall, so I will be very upset if I don't come back with some decent water shots. I have a list of local churches and abbeys to visit as well as plenty of landscape locations. Weather permitting I plan to visit Brimham Rocks, Malham Tarn and as many other on my list as I can fit in. The second week we will be a little further east which will give me even more possibilities.
With all this planned I need to clear the decks and get my files in order. I also enter more competitions through the summer, many organisations run small local ones, usually aimed at holiday makers. It is a good way of getting you work noticed, even if you don't win a lot of the work is viewed online and it's free publicity. So although I don't apear very busy, in some ways I work as hard if not harder during the summer months, and at least I start the autumn with a clean slate.
I have spent a lot of time in the last month looking into the details of how to get started selling my work. Being able to take a decent photography is only half the story, the other half is having the knowlege and confidence to deal with the business side. Joining a local craft organisation may help, they are a useful way of finding events and not to expensive to join. Public liability insurance is a must, but again is not too much money, I found one that covers independant market traders for about £50.00 for the year.
Doing a bit of research pays off, if you can find out what is already on sale you can avoid trying to sell the same sort of images. Being able to see things from your own perspective makes your work stand out. It is also useful to have an idea on what sort of prices are being charged, making sure that you don't sell yourself short and are at least making a profit.
Because I am in the position to semi-retire I can work to suit my family commitments, and with a plan in mind would be happy to make enough money to cover the expenses for the more experimental work. This is probably not for everyone, but it is all about finding the best way to balancing finding time to follow your dreams with other aspects of you life. There are many people who just manage to get their cameras out on days off from their day jobs. If this is the only way to manage, it's still better than giving up. In some ways being made redundant has made me re-evaluate my life and given me the chance to take the plunge.