I had to make a business trip to Portland, Oregon. So of course the camera bag came along. This shot was from the 20th floor room of the hotel. Those clouds were awesome! One trick I learned to help reduce reflections when shooting through a window: Place your lens hood or filter rim right on the glass. It blocks reflected light from inside the building.
ISO: This photo turned out okay, but because I was walking around hand-holding shots, and had left my tripod in my car, the increased ISO made things a bit fuzzier than I would like. Under the trees and behind tall buildings in the middle of the city it was darker earlier than I expected. Unprepared!
Focal Lengths: I’ve been paying attention to the focal lengths of the lenses I use when shooting. I don’t even think about it when I’m taking the photo, but choose the zoom position by feel. I usually use the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS lens, as I did above, for a “walk-around lens”. In other words, the lens you usually have attached to your camera, and only switch when you need something different.
A couple points to make here. First, using such a wide lens means I have to be careful about choosing my compositions. You can easily put everything in front of you into the photo, but then the focal point or subject can become lost to the viewer. I zoomed to 35mm to frame in the “PORTLAND” sign and the cool glass building beyond. Shooting the entire street at 16mm just wouldn’t have been as strong a composition. I use 16mm a lot, but it doesn’t work for every photo.
Next, I might be able to get slightly better image quality by having a 16mm, 21mm, and 35mm fast prime lenses in my bag. But that’s very expensive, I’d have to carry a bigger, heavier bag, and changing lenses increases the risk of getting dust on your sensor. It’s exposed every time you take a lens off. Since I’m not a pro, having one $1,000 zoom to cover those focal lengths is easier to justify. And because I mainly do landscapes, f/4 is fast enough for me. I could always change my mind down the road.
One last comment: I’m using a Canon lens on a Sony body via a Sigma MC-11 mount adapter. The AF isn’t blazing fast, but it’s accurate. I just switched from a Canon body to a Sony camera, and all of the sudden I realize that my lenses are actually better than I thought they were. The Sony body actually focuses them more accurately than the Canon body did. “Wow! I didn’t know they were that sharp!” And the Sony backside illuminated sensor really shows off their capabilities!
Post processing: Shooting is just the first stage of modern, digital photography as an art, just like shooting was just the first stage with film photography. Next comes the artist’s interpretation of the image. That may be extremely realistic with minimal enhancement, or it may be something far closer to fantasy.
Right now I am using Capture One to “develop” the Sony RAW files, then exporting as a TIFF file to be processed further in Luminar. I’m new to Capture One, so I’m using it for basic sharpening and tonal adjustments to get the RAW photo to look more like what I saw with my eyes. Then Luminar adds the color adjustments and other enhancements. For this photo I used Luminar’s “Micro-structure” to make the bricks and side walk texture show up better. I like to use “Split-Color Warmth” to control warm and cool colors separately.
For me, it takes a lot of experimentation and watching YouTube tutorials to figure out how to get the look I want in photo software. But it’s like any skill, and once you push past the initial learning curve, you can do some pretty cool things you couldn’t do before. In photography, that time you spend in research and practice can mean the difference between dull and truly alive photographs.