Go For It: Pixels are Free

One of my favorite expressions with digital photography is "pixels are free."  With no cost, photographers should enjoy complete freedom to experiment and play.  If you have an idea for a shot, go for it.  If it works, great.  Take what you did and make it a part of your photography. 

If it does not work out, no big deal.  But use the results as a completely free learning experience. Go to school and figure out what was the issue/s.  Can you make a small adjustment or do you need to go back to the drawing board and plan again. 

I recently found myself in a situation where I honestly did not know how the results would turn out.  I wanted to shoot a series of images for a landscape panorama in rapidly falling light levels.  I had the Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L on my 5K Mk II; a combination not often used for panoramas.  To make matters worse I was on the back of a moving boat.  Not only was it moving forward and slowly rocking side to side but we were in a regular ocean swell so we were slowly heaving (up and down.)

Not the best situation but pixels are free so I went for it.  The results from the 42 shots are shown below. 


This is the panorama after the stitching process.  If you follow the bottom (or top) you will notice a nice sine wave pattern.  That is the boat going up and down with the ocean swell.  My camera support was rock solid (RRS TVC-33 and PG-02) but the boat was out of my control. 

At this point I had a nicely stitched panorama even though it is somewhat ugly in terms of how everything lined up.  But it worked and did not cost a thing. 


After a little cleanup, I had a usable, huge panorama to optimize.  For a free experiment, I will take it.

Fiat Lux!

When Boring Photos Attack!

A boring, uninteresting aurora shot.  Destined for the Recycle Bin.|
Just because it is a big stitched pano, does not make it interesting.

I am sure it would never happen to our readers here but every now and again I run across the dreaded "Boring Photos of Interesting Things" phenomenon. 

The more I think about it, it probably happens to everyone at some time in their photographic journey.  You have perhaps traveled around the world to an exotic location or maybe just stepped outside your front door to an amazing scene.  During the capture process, it seemed like everything went right.  We had the equipment, we knew the technique, and had a great subject in front of the lens.  After the fact looking at the images in Lightroom or Photoshop, something just is not right. 

When this happens there are a couple of great takeaways or lessons to be learned.  First and most important, go back to the basics and fundamentals of what makes a great image.  Where does the pop, the impact, or the wow factor really come from.  Strong composition and exposure will always start you off on the right track.  Ask yourself if you took the shot or if you made an image.

Second, try to remove yourself from the experience itself and concentrate on just the image.   Examine your effort with a critical eye and look at the image from a detached observer perspective.  We often have an emotional connection to our shots that do not allow this type of examination.  Pull back and view the image as if you were not the one who shot it.  Would you still be interested? 

Third, if possible, get rid of the image or at least bury it.  I understand that sometimes these images are all we have to remind us of a particular event, trip, or experience.  If I do not have a better capture, I will keep some of these around as mementos.  Most of the time, I just let them go.  I will learn from the experience and next time I will make an image.  

Off to the trash.

Here I have attached two recent unbelievably boring pictures of a really cool thing.  Like so many others I've shot, here are two bad aurora images.  It was great to experience but the images, for lack of a better word, suck.  As described above, I went back to the basics; both of these images have no real subject, no anchor, no foreground element, no real composition, no flow.  From a detached observer perspective, they are not interesting.

So these two shots make their debut and finale all at the same time. You'll find these images here and in my Recycle Bin for another few minutes before they go bye-bye.

Fiat Lux!

The Ultimate Pano - Gimbal Head

The ultimate panorama and gimbal head is shipping very soon.  The PG-02 from Really Right Stuff is awesome.  I had the opportunity to test the PG-02 prototype during my yacht-based photo tour to Alaska this past spring.


The PG-02 prototype with Canon EOS 7D and EF  800mm f/5.6L

In addition there is a RRS long lens stabilization kit attached. 

As many of you know I do not beat around the bush with most of my opinions and recommendations.  So in a quick few sentences here you go.

Image from PG-02 mounted Canon 1D Mk III with EF 400mm f/2.8L

Image from PG-02 mounted Canon 1D Mk III with EF 400mm f/2.8L

For the long lens action shooters, this is the best gimbal head available.  I compared head to head with the other industry leading options, in the field, with big bodies/long lenses (Canon 1D series and up to the EF 800mm f/5.6L,) shooting high-speed, high track crossing rate action, and from a moving (forward, roll, pitch, and heave) platform.  There is no comparison.  The Really Right Stuff PG-02 is the best.  Well balanced, smooth, and silky the PG-02 was incredible.

For the panorama shooter, the PG-02 is a multi-axis pano head.  Equivalent performance to the Really Right Stuff Omni Pivot Pro Pano Kit.  Shooters can easily locate their no parallax point/entrance pupil and align it with the axes of rotation.  As a pano shooter, this is great gear since it not only performs equal to other RRS pano gear but does triple duty: pano, gimbal, and video.

For the video shooter, the PG-02 is the smoothest, silkiest pan you will experience.  Moreover, the pan glides perfectly regardless of the overall tension on the head.  Whether loose or tight, you will not experience any kind of jerking or sloppy pan.

For audio or additional gear, there is another threaded screw on top of the vertical arm that accepts equipment directly or even another ballhead.  In the field, we mounted another ballhead as well as small, point and shoot cameras to capture action as we worked the main body/lens.


Image from PG-02 with Canon 7D and EF 800mm f/5.6L

As you know, I always give full disclosure.  Really Right Stuff does not pay me to endorse their gear.  I use it because it is the best.

Check out the PG-02 at the following link.


I will demonstrate the PG-02 at the California Photo Festival next week.  There are still spots available so join us 

California Photo Fest


Fiat Lux!