Creative vacatons

Creative vacatons

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Fisheye Schizophrenia

Every time I pull out my fisheye lens my mind goes into schizophrenia. One part says: "This will be great!" and, another part says: "Fisheyes are overused, the images look cheesy and lensy and the effect is cheap and over-used!"

My teacher at Concordia University Mark Ruwedel, a distiguished landskape photographer and a fantastic teacher, didn't like images that looked "lensy." 

Sorry Mark. Sometimes I must be allowed... 

Or do you prefer this one that is shot with the narrower 14mm lens? 

Monday, 26 November 2018

Will there be colours?

There will be colours!

«Will there be colours?» 
or variations like
«Will there be more colours?»
«When will there be colours?»
Is one of the most common questions.

And, as tempting as it is to say:
«There are only colours on the VIP-tours,»
and then move on.  But I’ll try to go into it. 

We have all seen these pictures of the Aurora where the green is super-green and, there is red and magenta and pink and purple and yellow. And then the elderly lady from India who is sitting inside the bus because it is so cold outside finally puts down the iPad and comes out to see the Aurora can only see a white cloud looking thing in the sky. 

Colours in the Aurora

There are different colours in the Aurora. Green is the most common and it's caused by plasma (gazes and particles from the sun) hitting oxygen 100 km to 200 km from the surface of the earth. Red is second most common and, is also caused by oxygen, only higher up in the atmosphere. Pink is caused by nitrogen below 100 km. And, lastly the most rare is blue caused by nitrogen ions above 100 km.  

Human Eyes Are Bad at Seeing in the Dark. 

The first thing that we lose is the colour vision. There are two light sensitive organs, photoreceptors, in the back of our eyes: Rods and cones.  Shortly one can say that the rods are do not see colours but, give us night vision and side vision. Cones gives us colour vision and senter vision. The result is that we cannot see colours that well in the dark even if they (the colours) are there. This is manifested in proverbs in several languages:
Norwegian: «I mørket er alle katter grå.»
German: «Nachts sind alle Katze grau.» 
Spanish: «De noche todos los gatos son pardos.»

Even if we CAN see in the dark it takes time to get used to it. There is a muscle in our eyes called the iris sphincter muscle that has to relax and open up so that the light can come through the iris and into the rods and cones so that we can see the little light that is out there. 

As a photography student, I spent a large portion of my time at university in the darkroom. I remember how it would take at least 30 minutes to really  get used to the dark. And the only thing that helps is being in the dark.

On top of that we also know that the night vision gets worse as we age. 

A Camera Sees the Colours That Are There

Different cameras have different sensors and records colours differently 
Different brands and, different models within the same brand will record the same scene with different colours. 
As a Canon user for many years I know that Canons are particularly sensitive to red. So much that I often have to reduce the saturation of red when I take photos of other things, like people. (Especially sunburned Northern-Norwegians). Red is also the first colour that we lose in the dark. 

Then there is the question of white balance.

If you take your photos in jpeg and auto white balance, you still have to make choices of which picture style to choose. So it is not so easy as to «just take a photo of what you see and, not changing it in the computer after.»

To illustrate my point I will show two photographs in three different versions. I will not post a photograph to illustrate «this is what we saw with our eyes.» The reason for this is that peoples night vision varies. And, I don't know what screen you are using to read this blogpost. For example if you are using a Samsung phone, the colours will be stronger and more saturated than they are on my Eizo computer screen. 

This is straight out of the camera.

This is how I interpreted the scene. 

These are the basic changes that I made. Most importantly changing the white balance a little compared to how I shot it. Then I added some contrast by making the darkest tones darker (lowering Black) And I also reduced the saturation.

The «biggest sinner» in post production is probably Dehaze.

Here is a version of the same photo where I've only pulled the Dehaze.

Dehazed in Lightroom. This is NOT what it looks like!

As you can see colours like purple, magenta or red is popping out. 
If this is what you are expecting you will be disappointed. 

Corona example
This is straight out of the camera.
This is how I interpreted the scene. 

As you can see the changes I've made are quite similar. I've increased the contrast in the same way. The saturation is decreased only in two colours.
Dehazed and added saturation in Lightroom. This is NOT what it looks like!

As photographers and humans we like to impress. We mostly show photos from the nights with the strongest Aurora. It can be tempting to overdo it in Lightroom. Sometimes the Aurora is strong and YES we can see many colours. Sometimes she is shy and doesn't want to show herself much. People are different. Some see colours where others don't. 

Take photos in RAW and don’t overdo it in the post processing.
Stay out in the dark without looking at any light sources for a long time. 
Be happy with the Aurora you can see. 
Eat Silvia’s vegetable soup to get those carrots that are so good for your eyes. 


There is another theory about why we cannot see the colours. Ask me about it on your next tour with Creative Vacations.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Panoramas: Lightroom Trouble and Solution

Last post I talked about Lightroom giving me warped images and how to fix it.

Here are photos that shows the whole process.
See last post for how to create panoramas in Lightroom.

First try: Lightroom gives me a panorama that is completely warped. It looks like it's beyond repair.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Panorama - one hack at the time

In frustration over not having a wide enough lens to capture the Aurora, I started doing panorama photography. 

The 14mm lens was not wide enough and, the fish-eye lens was too distorted. So in an attempt to solve this problem, I started doing panorama stitching. The newest version of Adobe Lightroom had made it possible to do panorama stitching and, still be working on RAW images. (There will be more on stitching in Lightroom later in this post)
How to do it in Lightroom is explained here:

Panoramas are photos that are wide. The hight/width ratio is often 1/3. There are no rules. They just have to have a hight/width ratio that is wider than a standard photo frame. The angle of view is often wider than most images. 120 to 140 or, even 180 degrees or more are common. 

Although I was very much intrigued by the panorama format when I was a young photographer I haven’t done very much panorama work. I did a project where I collaborated with dancers and made a sort of panorama. (This was done when we used film in the camera and, printed in the darkroom. I haven’t digitalized these images.) I used to dream about owning a Linhof or a Fuji 6X17 roll film camera, or even a Horizon 35mm camera. However my budget never allowed me to get them so I just forgot about it. Until last year. 

The panorama is a very nice format. It resembles the way we humans see with our eyes. It is also a great problem solver. A photo-technical hack. 

Friday, 29 January 2016

34 things you need to know about dressing for the cold (or 8 if you're in a hurry)

Short Version

  1. Dress in layers - many layers - 3 or more.
  2. Wool closest to your body.
  3. All the layers have to be loose.
  4. Change your woolen socks frequently. 
  5. Warm hat and warm boots.
  6. Mittens, not gloves.
  7. Use hand and feet warmers if you need. 
  8. Be nice to the planet and the animals on it. 

Full version

Three layers is the basic for dressing in the cold.
The three layers are:

  1. a thin layer next to your skin, called underwear. 
  2. an insulating layer, thicker than the first layer.
  3. an outside layer that protects against wind, rain and snow.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Creativity on a Cloudy Night

Tonight was very very cloudy. Luckily for me it was my night off. My good colleagues drove far far away and found the Aurora behind the clouds. We did a little Christmas shopping, and a little Christmas cleaning and it was when I was outside doing a little Christmas snow shovelling that I saw the motiv of tonight.

 The wind had stopped, the rain had stopped. Everything was quiet. And monochrome.
I could not resist being a little creative. Aurora is not the only motiv that exist at night. Beauty is everywhere.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

One Night, Four Photographs, Four Settings: White Balance and Aurora Borealis Photography

What is the correct white balance for Aurora photography?

Like almost all answers to questions about photography it starts with "It depends."
First of all there is hardly any such thing as "correct white balance" in any photograph. It is an esthetic choice. What do you want to communicate? What kind of mood do you want? and, what feels right to you? Two photographers may very well interpret the same situation and scene differently. To learn more about white balance visit this article on how to get it right.

2 things I go for 

1 - I want the photograph to look close to what I saw in the nature.
2 - I want the photograph to feel as how I felt it. In the winter that mostly means "cold."

The night it got complicated

Saturday March 7, things got more complicated than usual. 
My normal standards are  4000 Kelvin in moonlight, and 3200 Kelvin on nights without moonlight. Or tungsten/incandescent setting for no moon, and fluorescent setting for moonlight.  

Now that we have reached March the days are much longer than January and February. That means that in the beginning of the night there is still a lot of daylight. The sun sat at 17:08 that night. But, here in the north the sun sets at such an angle that it takes a long time from it sets until it gets really dark. Astro twilight lasted until 20:37 that night. So when we got out of the studio at 19:00 it was still twilight. There was also another type of light: Northern Light. The photo below is shot from the field across the road from the studio on Håkøya.
Aurora showing up early at night, late in the season. Photo taken at 19:05.
The white balance settings are very different from twilight to night. The twilight is also called "The blue hour."

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Full moon or no moon. What is best?

One of the most common questions that I get is about the moon.

Normally it goes like this:

"It's best to avoid the moon to se the Aurora. Right?"
"I read on the Internet that it's best to avoid the full moon."
"We booked our plane tickets so that we avoided the moon. At least we got that right. Right?"

Not right! To ask what is best, no moon or full moon is like asking what is best, coffee or tea. 

Full moon and Aurora.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

The Lighthouse

There is a lighthouse just south of the island of Tromsø.
I've been thinking of it and wanting to take a picture of it for a long time. I've driven by it, seen it, imagined it , for a year. The problem is that most of the time when I go out to take Aurora photos, I'm not alone, I'm with a group of people. The places I choose are chosen because there can be a bunch of us together and we can take photos without us actually being in each other's photos.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Update! two new versions. New Music! Epic night and timelapse video

Sometimes it is nice to be flexible. Actually most of the time it's nice to be flexible. The weather turned out pretty bad on Monday and on top of that the newspaper called me to shoot video of the prime minister of Norway who was meeting local heroes from World War 2. After e-mailing the clients we decided to go on Tuesday instead. I got my time with the prime minister.

Tuesday night turned out to be the best night so far this season, one of the best shows that I've ever seen.

I'm first and foremost a photographer. I'm definitely not a musician. After having the video out there for a few days I've gotten some feedback about the music. Some like it others don't, and I've had some suggestions about what to put instead. Please tell me what you think.