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Ean
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For general advice on taking pictures, or more technical advice on cameras, lenses and pretty much any photo accessory; I'd highly recommend www.kenrockwell.com

 

One warning, he's a Nikon user, which is going to put a few people off, but to be honest a lot of what he has to say applies to any brand of camera. Certainly for people wanting background info or advice on setting up a DLSR, taking pictures or reviews of equipment it's one of the most accessible and yet technically detailed sites I've found. There is a great How to... section which explains various techniques step by step

 

Of the free hosting sites, www.photobucket.com is pretty good, but I much prefer www.flickr.com (my example) - these are both free and have thousands of regular users. If you want to set up your own website, there are plenty of sites but you could do worse than look at www.wix.com , www.smugmug.com or www.wordpress.org

 

And now a word from the sponsor.... www.babbphotography.com with a selection of Manx landscape scenes, portraits, various flora and fauna plus some bike racing images.

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Not keen on a lot of what Ken Rockwell says personally (nothing to do with being a canon user! :P), but I've found his reviews inconsistent on a few times with basically what the rest of the world says about specific kit, and he rants a bit much from what I can recall (says me!).

 

Your site looks really nicely set up by the way Steve.

Edited by Cret
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I agree with you both that he can be very blunt in his comments, but as an absolute beginner, I found his explanations on camera set up and various technical terms to be really useful. Plus he had an iphone app that explained the various set up options for my camera which I found very handy to carry around with me and double check as I was using the camera.

 

I admit I disagree with him completely on his insistence to only use P mode instead of A/S or M, but once I had learned enough to disagree with him I wasn't relying on his advice any more.

 

 

 

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I concur I think. Sure I recall as a beginner thinking his site had useful info, but as I progressed realising that there's a lot of downright bullcrap on there.

 

It's things like this that make him sound pretty dumb as far as I'm concerned:-

 

Re' grad filters:

"Geeks love the square and rectangular filters because they love to move them up and down.

I hate these, because by the time I get the filter and filter holder put together, my light has changed."

 

Then:

"Screw-In Grad Filters

I use these. They screw in and rotate just like a polarizer.

No, you can't adjust them up and down, but you don't need to. Since the filters are usually smoothly graduated from clear to gray, their exact vertical position doesn't matter."

 

So it doesn't matter about not being able to move a grad filter vertically eh? Absolute crap. With a soft grad there's some room for it not being in quite the right place but not with a hard edge one.

Aside from that, these circular grads tend to be a 50/50 split between upper and lower half of the filter. So this means the rule of thirds gets flushed down the toilet if you use those unless you want to use the grad inappropriately and have it cover not just the sky but the land/sea you're trying to balance it against. I know you can crop etc, and that you shouldn't follow rule of thirds that blindly and so on, yadda, but in general this sort of stuff he's spouting is nonsense.

 

As for complaining that square filters take too long and make him miss the shot, just about any photographer knows to try and arrive somewhere early and be prepared. It takes seconds to use these things so he must be a bumbling oaf if they're that much trouble.

 

 

Maybe he uses jpegs because every image he does is picture perfect first time, and never ever needs to have a run through any sort of editing. With memory/storage so cheap these days, is there any downside to shooting in RAW?

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i can definitely see the point of using graduated filters with film - but what is the point of using them when shooting digital RAW ? Surely it is better to achieve the same result with greater flexibility in Lightroom or Aperture using the dedicated tools - especially since any filter would necessarily degrade image quality ?

 

ND filters I can see the point of to slow down an exposure.

 

ETA: I find KR's site quite useful sometimes. Especially when looking up old lenses etc. It's a bit like Wikipedia sometimes - in so much as i might not take it as gospel but it is often a good place to start.

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You can't necessarily achieve the same effect digitally as using an ND grad in terms of exposure balance unless you combine separate exposures. That's kind of swings & roundabouts in terms of faffing around.

 

Maybe to a slight degree by adjusting the exposure setting on a raw file as three or more separate files then using HDR or combining layers to get a balance overall exposure, but you can only do that to a limited extent dependent on the level of contrast or dynamic range in the shot. Raw is good but you can only get away with so much, ie if your shot has a burnt out sky then nothing can get that detail back afterwards since it wasn't captured in the first place. If you use a grad though there's a much better chance of the whole pic being a balanced exposure with detail in all areas of the image.

 

Yes there's alternative ways but it's down to preference as there are pros & cons to each. I prefer to use ND grads (not all the time obviously), and to sometimes bracket to get the best of both worlds.

 

The only grads I use are ND ones, so I'm only really talking about those here, but you are right that simple colour grads can easily be added in afterwards in post.

Edited by Cret
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do you use Lightroom ?

 

ETA: It has a graduated filter control which can be used, for example, to adjust the exposure +/- up to 3 stops vertically or horizontally (or even diagonally) across the frame. Just like a graduated ND. 3 stops of adjustment is well within the safe limits of a well exposed RAW file. No need to combine frames.

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I have used that yes, but I find Lightroom a bit of a faff & prefer photoshop.

 

You can do the same thing in photoshop too. But as I say if the raw file doesn't contain the info to start with the those functions won't help.

It's one thing to say that a "well exposed" image will be ok with that, and that's definitely right to a point, but frequently there's just way too much dynamic range to get away with that.

 

In particular with the like of sunsets/golden hour the land can be very dark from no direct light (depending where you are), but the sky still very bright, and no way in a lot of cases you can capture all of that in detail from a single exposure without using an ND grad. That's why I like them so much.

 

Sorry if I'm not explaining it well or something. I know what i mean. :)

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I understand exactly what you are saying. I know what you mean too :) How many stops (at the darkest edge) is the graduated ND filter you would be using for the shot you are talking about such that you avoid either blowing the highlights (more than about 1 stop) or clipping the shadows ?

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My weapon of choice is a Formatt/Hitech 150x100mm 4 stop (ND1.2) soft grad. I've tried a lot of different ones but that's the one I use the most.

Sometimes I still end up using bracketed shots because even with this there's too much difference at times, but it brings things a lot closer to being what I want in most cases. Other times I don't use one at all.

I kind of just like using them but I do find it a very very useful piece of kit.

Edited by Cret
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