Some Photographers are Magicians (yet not in a good way)

31 Mar
Some Photographers are Magicians (yet not in a good way)

GND Filter by Chris Mullins - all rights reserved

Ever seen exquisite photographs and wanted to see if you could create something similar but never known what settings to use? Photographers can sometimes be like magicians – they know all the tricks of the trade and dazzle you with their craft but refuse to share any of the secrets. For people new to the hobby, it’s increasingly frustrating trying to work out what to do and how to do it.

While I understand their hesitancy to reveal how they create beautiful images, for a beginner wanting to stretch their wings, it has become more and more difficult to gain simple and easy to understand articles that explain step by step what you need to do and why. Partly this is because photography is such an enormous subject that the moment you embark upon learning it, you are immediately overcome by the sheer enormity of information available and don’t know how to prioritise it. But another big reason is because professional photographers are struggling more now, than ever before. With so many cameras available cheaply, everybody is a photographer now and this eats into their already-saturated industry. However, recently I read a wonderful article about how to re-create a beautiful landscape image taken by New Zealand photographer Chris Gin. There are several reasons why this article is so important.

Firstly, it explains in layperson’s terms exactly how this shot was taken. Even down to standing in the water and keeping the lens clean between shoots. Secondly, it outlines precisely the list of equipment you need to take this type of photo. And finally, it details specific techniques used in Photoshop to perfect the image.By showing us the Photoshop techniques used, Chris has also emphasised the importance of completing an image with post processing. In the days of film, every photograph was individually processed in a dark room. Nowadays people tend to forget about the importance of post processing but it is still vital that you do it. Photoshop and Lightroom are now considered our digital darkroom.

The equipment list in Chris’ article mentions is particularly useful. Every photographers bag  holds the arsenal they need to capture the perfect shot. As a beginner photographer, it can be confusing trying to work out what is a ‘must-have’ and what is just a ‘want-it’.  It is so easy to spend a fortune on camera paraphenalia that you may never use, so knowing the essential items is crucial. Chris uses GND filters. GND means Graduated Neutral Density. These are attachable filters that you place in front of the lens and can make a remarkable difference to your images, particularly landscape photography. You can see an example of the difference GND filters can make to your photos above, because they reduce the light difference from sky to ground. There are three main type of GND filters available, but the 0.6 hard grad (2 stop) is considered the better choice for your first filter purchase due to price point and scene flexibility. Some filters will screw into your existing lens whilst others slide into a frame. It is generally accepted that the ones the slide into a frame are more reliable because they won’t twist as you focus your lens. Whenever you use a GND filter, it is really important that you have your camera on a tripod to ensure the filter is positioned correctly.

Chris also mentions the 10-20 Sigma lens. This is a wide angle lens, which helps to create stunning landscapes, although Flickr has a group showing this lens being used for just about everything, from the paws of a cat to a car interior! However, traditionally, this 2005 lens is considered a lens important to those who love landscapes. The lens size is also available in other brands like Canon, Nikon and Tokina but the Sigma often receives high praise because of its price, reliability and precision.

I’d like to congratulate Chris on lifting the veil of secrecy for how photos are composed and taken. When you read the article he has written, you realise that he has taken many shots to achieve that perfect one, and even then it involved blending two almost identical shots together to make one “just right”. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem quite so impossible to achieve. Also, he details the process involved in composing the shot and how long it took before he was able to find a scene that he liked. This is important for beginner photographers to know. Getting the right composition takes time. It takes effort. And it takes practice. Photography is a learning curve and so long as we keep the information simple, and flowing, just like in Chris’ article, we can continue to learn and grow in our skill and passion.

Image by Chris Mullins. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Posted by on March 31, 2011 in Composition, Software


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5 responses to “Some Photographers are Magicians (yet not in a good way)

  1. Chris Gin

    March 31, 2011 at 6:12 am

    Thanks for the mention and glad you enjoyed the article 🙂

    • December

      March 31, 2011 at 7:07 am

      I certainly did Chris! You are welcome to write a guest article for this blog anytime! I’m sure many of us beginner photographers could really learn from you!

  2. Scott

    April 13, 2011 at 11:44 am

    There are so many images on the Web. How can you know whether an image is original or has been edited by Photoshop? Check it out using Photoshopped Image Killer. Specify your image’s URL and the site will do analysis for you automatically.

    • December

      April 19, 2011 at 5:29 pm

      Scott, I appreciate you sharing the link, but as Photoshop is the equivalent of a digital darkroom, why would this site even be necessary? Every photo should be photoshopped before being placed on the web: firstly to ensure web optimisation but also to complete any post processing like curves and level alterations. A site showing whether or not an image has been Photoshopped, (when ALL images should have been photoshopped before being uploaded) is like having an unneccessary kitchen contraption that tells you if there is any milk in dairy products.

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