Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My first try to freeze lightning

There was a sudden thunderstorm over Bued River a few nights ago, and I took the opportunity to practice my first lightning shots. Being a newbie at this subject, I initially dialed in exposure parameters of f/11 (for more DOF), ISO 100 (for least noise) and 30 sec (to cast a wider exposure net), thinking that lightning was supposed to be blindingly bright. 

However, the lightning bolts were registering too dark in my first attempts even down to f/5.6, and I had to open up to f/4 to get the sky exposure I want. In the image below, focus was on the cement silos - luckily, the near gravel mound and the lightning bolts in the far distance turned out to be decently sharp at the pixel level, kudos to the amazing optics of the EF 16-35 f/4 L IS.

To give us a sense of scale, the three cement silos are over 20 meters high from the ground (6 storeys high), not including the lightning arrester.

Imaging this heavenly phenomenon simply involves framing the dark scene consistent with good composition, and leaving enough space for the sky which becomes the blank canvas for the lightning formation. Then,  the shutter is opened over a 30 second period, with the fervent hope that something very interesting happens within that time window.

Similar to what Forrest Gump said, lightning photography is like a box of chocolates - you'll never know what you'll get, at least until you can review the shot through the camera's LCD. For the vast majority of the frames I took, there was no lightning captured, only dark skies.

Looks like I'm getting hooked on this thing and might be inspired enough to chase thunderstorms more often (with better foreground) in the future.


Shooting info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, August 17, 2015, Canon 5D MIII + EF 16-35 f/4 L IS, 16 mm, f/4, ISO 100, 30 sec,
manual exposure in available light, tripod/gear head, near full frame resized to 800 x 533 pixels.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Building a highway under the moonlight

I was observing the production of concrete at Ten-Four’s ultra-modern batching plant in  Rosario, La Union (Philippines) recently, as it supplies the basic building material to the on-going construction of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX).
 
(Incidentally, my handle in various photo forums is “liquidstone” and this has reference to my field of expertise before I retired. Concrete of course behaves as a liquid when fresh and flowable, thus it can be easily molded into any size and shape of structure. When set and cured, it becomes as hard as stone and is extremely durable to last for many decades and even centuries.)
 
At about half past 7 in the early evening,  the moon rose in  the east beyond a hill. I thought the moonlit sky above the cement silos, coupled with the dynamism of heavy equipment in full operation at night, would provide a photogenic moment.
 
I quickly set up my 5D MIII + EF 16-35 f4 L IS on top of a tripod and gear head and took several frames with long exposures. The image posted below is my favorite of the bunch. I chose a Tv of 30 seconds to capture light trails and equipment motion blur, as well as to properly expose the darkish areas of the scene. An Av of f/9 assured enough DOF to render near and far objects sharp, while an ISO of 100 gave me optimum dynamic range and least noise.
 
I do most of my photography in the supertelephoto realm, but its amazing sharpness from edge-to-edge is quickly turning the EF 16-35 f4 L IS into one of my favorite lenses.
 
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Shooting info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, July 31, 2015, Canon 5D MIII + EF 16-35 f/4 L IS, 16 mm, f/11, ISO 100, 30 sec,
manual exposure in available light, tripod/gear head, AWB, near full frame resized to 800 x 533 pixels.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Bued River in golden light

Noticing the interesting formation of clouds over Bued River* late this afternoon, I took a walk along its bank with my 5D MIII and EF 16-35 f4 L IS in hand. I was hoping that the last golden rays of the setting sun would somehow find a way to pierce through a gap in the clouds and illuminate the environment.
 
Sure enough, at about 6:05 pm, a soft burst of golden photons managed to shine through, and a good photo opportunity materialized. I didn't bring my tripod with me, as such would slow me down while trekking over the slippery boulders along the bank.  I had to shoot this one hand held at a shutter speed of 1/6 sec - slow enough to smoothen the flowing water and render the turbulence with a painterly touch, yet fast enough to have a chance of freezing the static elements in the frame.
 
While holding the camera just above the water surface, I framed the scene using Live View and the display grid. It was pure luck that I got a shot with a level horizon, without the need to do some corrective rotation in post process. I find it amazing too that camera shake was tamed well by the lens's Image Stabilizer (IS) system - tiny details are sharp across the frame even at actual pixel view (aka 100% crop).

 
*Bued River originates from the city of Baguio and winds down towards the South China Sea, in the process separating the provinces of La Union and Pangasinan with a natural boundary.

Shooting info - Bued River, Rosario, La Union, Philippines, July 30, 2015, Canon 5D MIII + EF 16-35 f/4 L IS, 16 mm, f/11, ISO 100, 1/6 sec,
manual exposure in available light, hand held/IS engaged, AWB, uncropped full frame resized to 1575 x 1050 pixels.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Hungry White-eyes after Typhoon "Egay"

After more than 24 hours of strong winds and torrential rains brought by Typhoon "Egay" (international name - Linfa ), Lowland White-eyes converged like starving bees at a fruiting tree in my mother's backyard at Bacnotan, La Union. The tiny birds feasted like there's no tomorrow on whatever berry-like fruits that survived the onslaught of the howler.
 
I braved the light rains and wind of the typhoon's tail-end and enjoyed a prolonged shooting session. I had to wrap my birding combo in a plastic sheet to protect it from moisture. The overcast lighting made exposures easier to tame.
 
Again, the 400 2.8 IS + 2x TC II's IQ and AF accuracy didn't disappoint (the DOF is super thin at 800 mm and 3 - 5 meters shooting distance).

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Lowland White-eye (Zosterops meyeni, a near Philippine endemic)

Habitat - Second growth, scrub and gardens. 
 
Shooting info - Bacnotan, La Union, Philippines, July 6, 2015, Canon 5D MIII + 400 2.8 IS + Canon 2x TC II, 800 mm,
f/5.6, ISO 1600, 1/250 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Not the prettiest bird in our islands

This bird is perhaps not the best looking feathered creature in our islands, but it certainly has one of the most impressive avian eyes I've seen (colored blood red, according to the Kennedy Guide). It is a common noisy resident, and can be found in many areas in the lowlands. Its total length is about 8 inches. The adult is glossy black, while the immature (featured here) has a more interesting range of colors.

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Asian Glossy Starling (Aplonis panayensis, sub-adult)

Habitat - Lowlands from second growth to downtown in cities. 
 
 
Shooting info - Bacnotan, La Union, Philippines, June 28, 2015, Canon 5D MIII + 400 2.8 IS + Canon 2x TC II, 800 mm,
f/5.6, ISO 1250, 1/500 sec, 475B/516 support, manual exposure in available light, near full frame resized to 800 x 533.

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