Friday, June 25, 2010
So I realized yesterday that seeing an image taken in the middle of the winter may not be the most appropriate thing to post at the beginning of the summer, so I decided to send you all off to your weekend with a nice beach shot. That’s actually a totally garbage anecdote, I just needed a way to start off today’s post, other than just saying “Hello, everyone!” Hope you enjoyed it.
Yes, this is another shot from my Jamaican vacation a little while ago. I’ve still got a ton of pics left from that trip, but I’ve basically covered all the major themes. (I’ve got a beach shot, a beach shot with a boat, a sunset shot, a sunset shot with a boat.. you get the idea.) But, as long as I space them out a bit, I figure it’s ok.
Now, for the meaty part of the post. I believe I’ve mentioned at least once or twice before how useful a polarizing filter can be. (In fact, I think I said something along the lines of “If you go to the beach without one I’ll hunt you down and say derogatory things to you until your self-esteem is significantly worse than it was before.”) So it turns out that, while I was in Jamaica, I was playing around a bit with the video feature on my current SLR (Canon T1i), and I took a couple movies with the polarizer on there, so you can see what it actually does for you. It’s one thing to talk about it, but it’s another thing entirely to actually SEE it. In case you’ve never seen or used one before, a circular polarizer is a filter that you screw on to the front of your lens like any other filter. However, unlike most filters, it’s actually comprised of two pieces, such that the actual glass part of the filter can freely rotate on your lens, because the polarizer does different things depending on the angle of the light. In practice, this changes the effect of the filter from being almost negligible (well, it basically changes it just into a neutral density filter, which has the effect of just dimming the light, like sunglasses, without affecting the color at all) to being full-on polarized. Thus, when using one, you rotate the filter to get the effect you want, then you take the picture. So, in the video below, that’s what I was doing, just rotating the filter while recording the video. This doesn’t really require explanation if you actually watch the video, but watch what it does to the water, and you’ll understand why you should never go to the Caribbean without one.
Right, on that note.. Have a great weekend!
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens with circular polarizer. 1/200s, f/9.0, ISO 100. Focal length: 50mm, cropped.
Friday, May 28, 2010
It seems like every other day I’m posting a sunset pic from my Jamaica trip. But I’ve got a lot of good ones, so I don’t know what else to do! This was taken from Negril Beach, which is at the very western end of the island. I.. umm.. don’t really know what else to say here.
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Quantaray 70-300mm lens. 1/200s, f/8.0, ISO 200. Focal length: 300mm.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Here’s yet another Jamaica picture. As promised, I’m dribbling them out to you guys one at a time. The last part of that sentence is actually not very interesting, as ALL of the pictures I toss out to you guys are “one at a time”. In fact, unless your eyes are ambidextrous, you would probably have difficultly digesting them more than one at a time, even if I put two of them right next to each other. So… umm. Right. Here’s another Jamaica picture.
I’m not gonna lie – you will probably see other pictures that are REALLY REALLY similar to the ones you’ve already seen at some point. I still haven’t had a chance to actually go through all the pictures I took on the trip (it’s a lack of motivation thing, not a lack of time thing), so I don’t actually know with any confidence that this is the “best” glass-bottom-boat-and-water picture got. All I know is that it’s “a” glass-bottom-boat-and-water picture. So, don’t be surprised. That’s all.
As you’ve probably been able to surmise by reading the, I don’t know, title of the page, this was taken on the 7 mile beach in Negril, Jamaica. As I’ve mentioned, it’s as beautiful as you would expect a Caribbean white-sand beach to be. Yes, the water really is that color. There’s also a reef a ways off shore, and a lot of folks have these little glass bottom boats that they use to take you out to the reef on a snorkel tour. I actually went on a couple of them, although neither one was done by this guy. (I went with “Famous Vincent” both times – if you’re in the area, ask around for him, he’s cool.) But, this guy’s got a cool looking boat, so… he wins. The snorkeling itself is great. It’s a nice shallow reef, lots of fish, all that goodness. I’m hardly a snorkeling connoisseur, so as far as I know it may really suck compared to other places, whatever. My guess is that it’s probably not “world class”, as in someplace you have to see before you die if you’re a hardcore snorkeler, but it’s probably right up there with lots of other “great” spots that you’ll find throughout the Caribbean. For what it’s worth, the BEST snorkeling I’ve ever done was on a boat tour of the British Virgin Islands on my honeymoon. We stopped at these weird finger-shaped rocks poking out of the water off some island, and there was just a huge wall of coral that we swam around. I have never seen such vivid colors before or since. It was helped by the fact that the water had an unreal clarity around then. I don’t know if that’s just due to the time of year (it was late June) or what, but it was truly fantastic. (In Jamaica, the water was definitely clear enough, but not as clear as on our honeymoon. As mentioned, that was June, whereas Jamaica was late March.)
Another note of interest: when I was walking along the beach on the day I took this shot (I had just finished my 2nd snorkel tour, and I asked Vincent to drop me off up the beach a ways from our hotel) I was walking at about the same pace as this lady. I kept passing her, but then she’d pass me when I stopped to take some pics. We struck up conversations a couple times, and she mentioned that she was a travel-planner type person, based in Kingston. (She said she herself was just out in Negril for a weekend holiday.) I felt that this was mildly interesting, and told her so. But then she decided to share her opinion that the best time to get pictures was either just after sunrise or just before sunset, that at the time that I was currently taking pictures (about 11am), I would most likely not get good pictures. I thought this was a very subtly rude thing to say. Basically “I see you trying really hard, it’s kind of sad that your pictures will all suck.” I explained to her that, under normal circumstances, yes, she was right. Normally noon-time light drains all the color out of stuff, and makes super harsh shadows. However, I explained to her, I had found from my own personal experience that at sunset, with the sun behind the water, all you could see was the orange from the sun, you couldn’t see the white sand or the turquoise water, which is sort of the whole point of being in Negril. In the early morning it’s also not ideal, and not just because I’d still be sleeping. In this particular case, the sun being directly overhead led to the best results, because that really lit up the sand underneath the water, which is exactly where the turquoise color comes from. That, combined with a polarizer filter to remove glare from the surface, I had found to be the best combination to get the picture that *I was going for*. I tried to illustrate for her exactly what I was talking about, showing her both the images that I was currently taking, as well as pictures that I had taken the previous day just before sunset. She shrugged me off as CLEARLY an amateur, and reiterated that, no, the best pictures cannot be taken at noon. And that was that. So I said thanks for the tip, and we resumed our similar pace down the beach. That wasn’t awkward at all.
What am I trying to say here? Not sure. Maybe this is just yet another example of the fact that there are no hard and fast rules in photography. Every rule is meant to be broken. Really, it’s all just guidelines. To get the most out of anything you learn about photography, you need to actually *understand* the rule, not just follow it. You have to know *why* it tends to be helpful, so that you can break it most effectively. That’s right everybody, listen to me, because I am awesome. Wooo!
Oh, one more thing, just to reiterate: don’t go NEAR a beach without a circular polarizer! I’m serious!
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens w/ circular polarizer. 1/200s, f/10.0, ISO 100. Focal length: 50mm.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
I realized yesterday that I’ve been seriously slacking in posting more pictures from my recent Jamaican vacation. I posted one the day after I got back, but that’s been it. So last night I tossed a couple more online, and snagged this one for today’s post.
The island of Jamaica is kind of oval shaped, much longer east to west than north to south. Negril, the town where we stayed, is on the far western point. The main attraction of Negril is the famed 7-mile beach, which is really beautiful. White sand, turquoise water, all that good stuff. It’s fully developed though, so if you’re looking for privacy or calm, you should look elsewhere. But if beaches are your thing, and you don’t mind sharing with a few hundred of your closest friends, you can almost surely find a great deal on a place to stay. That’s not all Negril has to offer though. There’s also “the cliffs”, just up the road. My understanding is that Jamaica is primarily composed of volcanic rock, and that’s exactly what you’ll find up the road from the beach. There are a bunch of hotels that sit up on the rocky shoreline, anywhere from ten to I-don’t-know-maybe-50 feet or so above the water. It seems like most of them have combos of stairways and ladders to get you right in the water, so it’s not like you’re giving up that part of the vacation. If you need your sand, look elsewhere, but if you want sun, water, and quiet, the cliffs are definitely a great choice. (And they have the added bonus that there’s fantastic snorkeling and diving to be had right outside your room.) We stayed at the Rockhouse, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Fantastic place. Also, that’s where I took today’s picture.
Sunset shots are an interesting topic. It’s pretty cool that such an otherworldly, beautiful experience happens basically every day. They’re a natural thing to want to take pictures of. Unfortunately, a lot of the time something that is truly awe-inspiring when witnessed in person can turn out pretty blah and uninteresting in the resulting picture. (This happens a lot with big panoramic viewpoints too, for what it’s worth.) Why is that? Well, here’s a couple possibilities. First, when you’re living through a sunset, the sunset is all around you. The entire sky is aflame with color. Everything around you soaks in the deep orange glow. It assaults all of your senses. It’s really BIG! And, just as important, there’s DEPTH. There’s always a challenge when you try to capture a “moment” in a picture, but in inherently emotional times like these, it can be particularly difficult. Pictures are small. Pictures are flat. Pictures aren’t a whole-body experience. So a scene that can be powerful in its simplicity can be.. kind of boring in a 4×6 print.
So, what does that mean? Well, it means that to get a cool sunset picture, you may have to spice it up a bit. How? Well, there’s a lot of different ways. One is to just add some depth. Put something in the foreground, that’s a neat trick that almost always works in just about any situation. If the viewer can see depth, it’s easier for them to put themselves in the scene. Another option? Add extra drama. Having a ton of color can sometimes work, but even better is to have contrasting colors. Clouds can be great for this, since they turn all sorts of crazy shades just before the sun goes down. (Clouds can be great for adding depth too.) Essentially, sunset pictures seem to work better for me if there’s something going on in there other than just the sunset. Although, to be fair, that’s not always possible. If you’re looking at a sunset over the water, and there’s no clouds, and there’s no boats, all you’ve got to work with is an orange ball and a horizon.. well.. I guess you’ve just got to work with whatever’s there. (Then again, it could be argued that half of what goes into making the perfect image is just dumb luck, being there at the right time to capture something cool. You win some, you lose some.)
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens. 1/800s, f/4.5, ISO 200. Focal length: 26mm.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Aaaaaaaand we’re back. Sucks, right? For me, definitely. Sigh. I had a great trip though, it’s always nice to get away. And man, I got away, let me tell you. Key West, Fort Lauderdale, and two different spots around Negril, Jamaica. I learned, among other things, that if some dude comes up to you on the beach and tells you he’s a farmer, he’s not just making small talk about his vocation.
Since I just got back late last night, I obviously haven’t had a chance to go through all my pictures yet. (I got about 16 gigs worth to trudge through!) So, I just grabbed one that looked good enough to use for today’s post, just because it wouldn’t be right to come home from Jamaica and not use a Jamaican picture, right? So, here you go.
This was taken at the Negril Craft Market, which is a place where all the taxis dump tourists so they can “interact with” the locals. It’s a bunch of charmingly dilapidated shacks, each containing the same dubious merchandise as the next, where Jamaican natives take serious advantage of the fact that Americans have no clue how to barter. If you’re looking for a cheaply-made t-shirt, an “original painting”, or a “unique” wood carving, and you’ve got a pile of US dollars burning a hole in your pocket, this is the place for you. While we were there, most of the shops were closed (we asked why, and the answer we kept getting was “uhh, because it’s Monday?”, in the same tone that you would get if you asked why most of the mall was closed on christmas here in the states), but there were still plenty of them open for us to see the basic selection of trinkets available and have a perfectly mediocre time. But there were a few bright spots. For one, we did eventually leave the craft market (although our cab fare mysteriously jumped from 10 bucks to 35 because we asked to stop at the atm on the way home). And also, at the end of one of the rows was a nice little entrance to the famous Negril beach. (Albeit a section that had enough garbage to rival the best efforts of apathy and neglect that you’ll find anywhere.) As you can tell, the beach is absolutely gorgeous, even the parts where nobody cares enough to keep it nice.
Anyway, I’m sure you’ll be seeing plenty of pics from the area over the next several months, so get comfortable!
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens w/circular polarizer. 1/160s, f/7.1, ISO 100. Focal length, 20mm.