Terlingua Creek Sunrise, Terlingua, Texas, gateway to Big Bend National Park. Shot with a Sony a900 and a Sony SAL 20mm lens. Image exposed at ISO 100 at f8.0 for 1/30th of a second.
Hi everyone and welcome to today’s post. This image is from a recent workshop I attended at Big Bend National Park. The landscape specific workshop was taught by Craig Tanner and Marti Jeffers of The Mindful Eye, with assistance from TJ Avery. I have known Craig for many years and I would highly recommend any of his workshops. It is an intensive, week long, photography immersion that includes two shooting sessions a day, assignments, concept lectures, and critiques. It has been a number of years, probably over 10 to be exact, where I have participated in a workshop. I came away feeling energized about my work and with a host of new friends which is just a small part of the benefits. Additionally I was able to spend time in one of the great national parks in the lower 48 states. Many of us, myself included, spend so much time alone shooting in the field and forget that one of the great pleasures is sharing our work with other photographers who can provide other perspectives and ideas. Craig’s teaching methods, critiques, and assignments are all aimed at improving our technical and artistic abilities. Assignments such as limiting your equipment to one lens, composition challenges, shooting in varied lighting conditions, shooting macro, or for me, the dreaded portrait, can push you to new challenges. No matter where you are along the path of photography, new challenges can push us towards expanding our creative possibilities. I would encourage you to visit The Mindful Eye website for more information on Craig and Marti’s workshops.
For those of you who visit my blog on a regular basis you might think this looks fairly typical of my work. And while that may be true it does represent an exploratory departure for me in terms of workflow. For many years I shot with a 4 x 5 and enjoyed the incredible depth of field I could achieve through the cameras tilt and shift movements. These movements are not available for modern day 35mm cameras except through expensive perspective control lenses. And even so it is very difficult to use them to get the same foreground to background focus. At the workshop each of us had to select a concept area to work in and I choose “depth of field”. To assist in this challenge Craig introduced me to Helicon Focus and the concepts of “focus bracketing”. Focus bracketing is where you take a series of exposures, all at the same shutter speed and aperture, where you adjust the focus with each exposure. With the composition above I focused on the closest foreground point I could see in the viewfinder and then looked at the numbers on the focus ring. I would then divide that number to the infinity mark into a series of brackets. I would make the first shot, rotate the focus slightly, shoot again, and continue in this way till I reach infinity. What you are doing is overlapping the focus zones with each shot. In general most of my shots use anywhere from three to five separate exposures. Now comes the magic. The Helicon Focus software will take each of the focus brackets and combine them into one file blending the focus zones together and creating an image with near to far sharpness. The RAW files can be imported straight into the software. The process also allows you to shoot at lower f-stops virtually eliminating lens defraction. Now what about wind and moving clouds? With moving clouds there can be an issue with overlap but the software allows you to retouch by using the last layer as a reference. You simply paint away the blur to reveal the clouds in a stationary position. It is more of a challenge in windy conditions and usually it is best to resort to hyper focusing over focus bracketing. The saved file can be opened in Photoshop and put through your normal workflow.
Over the next few months I will be posting more images using this workflow. I want to thank you for stopping by today. Don’t forget to consider a workshop.