Author Archives: Shawn Thompson

Cloverland Community Center

After first seeing images from Nate Lindstrom of the abandoned Cloverland Community Club nearly a year ago I finally got out there yesterday. Another local photographer, Justin Sinks joined me on the exploration. A couple locals stopped by to see what we were up to. Unfortunately over the last year or two, people have vandalized the building and removed many of it’s articles. Apparently up until a couple of years ago everything was pretty well in tact, including all of the dishes, school books, chalkboards, etc.. were all there. It is unfortunate.

Here are some of my images.

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Every Never is Now Tour – P.O.S, Dessa, Astronautalis and Plain Ole Bill – Pizza Luce Duluth, MN

Below is a selection of images from the last show of the Every Never is Now Tour.

P.O.S, Dessa, Astronautalis and Plain Ole Bill performed in front of a nearly sold out crowd at Pizza Luce in Duluth, MN. It was an amazing, high energy show with a lot of content. If you ever get a chance to catch one of these acts in your area, do yourself a favor and grab some tickets ASAP. Or, if you are looking for new Music, buy some of their albums, You won’t be disappointed.

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Lunchtime Walk – Icebergs and Art

Lunchtime Icebergs and Art
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Landscapes, How to Achieve “that look”.

Chances are, if you have ever attempted landscape photography you have had trouble capturing the view that you saw. You set your camera on a tripod, find your composition, take the shot and then what happens? The sky is partially or completely washed out, right? This is because the Camera’s sensor cannot handle the entire dynamic range that the eye sees.
So why are some photographers able to capture that dynamic range? There are several ways, but here I want to talk about Graduated Neutral density Filters a.k.a Grad ND’s. Grad ND’s are Neutral Density filters that fade from dark on the top side to clear on the bottom side. The reason for this is to keep detail in the sky while balancing that with the rest of the scene.
Grad ND’s come in several flavors and brands. You can buy circular filters which screw into the end of your lens or you can buy Rectangular filters that can be used with a holder or hand held in front of the lens.
I am a big fan of the Hitech brand 4×5 (4” wide x 5” long) grad ND filters. I am not a fan of the circular, screw in type for two reasons. Reason one, you have little to no ability to place the graduated line within the scene. Reason #2, with wide angle lenses, you get a fair amount of vignetting from the filter ring.
Here is an example shot I took covering half of my Canon 17-40mm lens (lens was set at 17mm) with a
3 stop Hitech brand grad ND filter. You can see the side that isn’t covered with the filter has much less dynamic range and the sky is fairly blown out, while the right side that is covered is much more balanced and has much more dynamic range.

Grad ND’s come in several strengths, a great place to start is with a 2 stop Soft Edge Rectangular grad ND filter.

Now, let’s say you do not have the money for a $60 filter but still want to try this technique. You are in luck. Chances are you have access to the materials in your house.

For this exposure I used my black glove as a grad ND. Believe it or not this technique works awesome.  A black piece of card stock will work as well.

Basically I just placed my glove in front of the lens blocking the sky and highlight areas in the mid ground for the majority of the long exposure. For last 1/3rd to 1/4th of the exposure duration I removed my glove so it would expose the sky and highlight areas. You will have to experiment with this to determine how long you need to block the bright areas of the image.

The key to this is to keep the glove moving, essentially feathering the “Grad ND” line so the transition is smooth. Also, you will want to make sure to not bump or move the lens.

Without using this technique or a Grad ND the exposure would look like this.

This animated gif will give you an idea of how I was moving my glove back and forth. Click on the picture to see the animation.

so how long an exposure would i need to be able to try to black glove a sunrise? so that i could expose a darker foreground with the sunrise

so how long an exposure would i need to be able to try to black glove a sunrise? so that i could expose a darker foreground with the sunrise

You want to use the black glove on the sky portion of the scene. Anywhere from 1 second or longer seems to work well. the shorter the duration, the quicker you need to be with removing your hand or black card.

A big help for trying this technique is to let the camera meter take a reading, then lock that reading. After the exposure has been locked, put your hand in front of the lens, position it to cover the sky, click the shutter and start feathering your hand or black card. Remember to keep your glove or card moving and get it out of the way before shutter closes.

Experiment with different durations. Let say your exposure time is 6 seconds, you may want to use this technique for 3-5 seconds of that exposure.

I hope this write-up has been informative. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions and I will try my best to answer them.

Please also read this Awesome post on Neutral density Filters by Andy Stockwell. It is chock full of valuable information and is a great read.
http://newschoolofphotography.com/content/128-gnd-thread.html

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A quick guide for “Exposing to the Right”

Exposing to the right

First off we need to learn about the camera’s histogram and what it represents. “The Histogram is a tonal representation of the dynamic range within an image”, at least that is what Wikipedia says. In simpler terms it is a graphic representation of the image you took. The histogram shows all of the data within the photo.When looking at your histogram, keep in mind the left side represents the shadows (Blacks/darks) and the right side represents the highlights (brights/whites) .
Why is this important? If you overexpose the image like the image below,, all of your highlight information is gone, it is unrecoverable.

Find the button on your camera that looks like this
[+/-] This is the Exposure Compensation button.
The exposure compensation button can be used when your camera is in any Creative Exposure Mode. For example, you can use it while the mode dial is on P (for program), S (Nikon shutter priority), TV (Canon shutter priority), A or AV (aperture priority) modes.
Take your initial exposure, look at your histogram and adjust based on that information.
Hold the +/- button down while turning the main dial. (usually located by the shutter button)
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So, lets say your histogram looks like this, the image is “Underexposed”
You want to expose longer to fill that histogram and get the data as close to the right without touching the right side.
The histogram is broken up into 5 sections. This is how I gauge how much compensation to add. In this case, the under exposed histogram above would appear to be near 2 stops underexposed.
I would then add +1.5 stops holding in the Exposure Compensation Button and moving the shutter speed dial until the top LCD shows +1.5.Now take another image and watch the histogram. You should be very close if not right on. By exposing to the right you are ensuring that you get the most data from that scene without over exposing.

If you “over expose” like the image seen below, simply add negative exposure compensation and shoot again.
You may be thrown off with how light  the image looks when reviewing in Camera. This is Okay, you will have more leeway to make adjustments when you post process the file, especially if you are shooting in RAW.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your histogram will look different from scene to scene but this is a good starting point.

for instance a scene shot in heavy fog may yeild a single spike of data in the middle of the histogram. there isn’t much of anything you can do about it in a situation like that, which is Okay. The reason for this is, there are no highlights and there are no shadows in the scene.

The same thing goes with taking a picture of a pile of coal, the histogram is going to be pushed very far to the left, simply because there are no highlights in the scene.

After some simple photoshop tweaks, you should end up with a nice, clean image.

For more detailed information on exposing to the right, visit  HERE

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A Cold Morning on Stoney Point

A Productive -15°F (feels like -33F) Morning on Lake Superior

I arrived at Stoney Point thirty minutes before sunrise on 1-2-2010. I had checked the weather reports the night before and saw the temperature would be sub zero.  It may sound crazy, but I had been waiting for weather like this for a while. When the air temperature is much colder than the surface temperature of the water, you get a lot of steam. I was very happy to see this when I arrived. Because of the low cloud bank on the horizon I was able to shoot well past sunrise.

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Cold Canal Park – Duluth, MN

I decided to try and capture some images before work today. The temps were around -10F and the Steam was whipping through the Canal. At times the lighthouses were not visible, which meant I had to be patient and wait for the right moments. I love shooting in semi-extreme weather conditions like this, it really adds that extra element and interest to the scene.
Here are a couple square crops from this morning.


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Jay Cooke State Park

It has been a few weeks since I shot some landscapes and it was really driving me crazy. We had some pretty strong winds all day and I decided to head to Jay Cooke to see if I could find anything new and interesting. Because of the ice, I was able to get out to some rock ribs that are usually not accessible in the spring and summer months.
These rocks are huge and are billions of years old.

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Revisiting old, overlooked images

Recently I became bored at home and decided to look through some images from a couple months ago and see if there was anything I had missed.
this was taken at Split Rock state Park, from Pebble Beach. I was out shooting with Brian Rauvala
that day and we stopped in here on our way to Tettegouche State Park to hike up to shovel point and scout the area.
As i was looking through the images from that day, I found this one. I shot it with a Heavy Neutral density Filter (9 stop Hoya) to get a 47 second exposure in the mid morning light.
the long exposure time captured the movement in the sky and made the water look glassed over and calm. I love the ominous feel I get from this image and cannot wait to print it.

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the following was done in Post Production

Sensor Dust removal

Contrast adjustment/levels adjustments

Dodging and burning

Approximately 90% De-saturation to leave a slight blue tone.

Sharpening

So, if you shoot often, don’t be afraid to go back to those old images, you might be surprised with what you left behind.

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Shooting With My New Canon Gear

All images in this post were captured with a Canon 5D and Canon 17-40 F/4

Exif information is intact for all of you technical geeks.

I got the gear today, took the afternoon off, charged the battery and Set out to shoot. As I got close to Stoney Point, the clouds were looking interesting and thankfully they stayed that way. The colors started coming out 45 minutes before the sun set but faded to blues by fast.

For those that aren’t sure what is happening here, I decided to sell off my Pentax gear to fund a move over to Canon Gear. I bought their Canon 5D, which is a Full Frame camera. What this means is the camera’s sensor is the same size as a 35mm negative. Most digital cameras are 1.5 to 1.6 crop sensors.
Please visit here to see the advantages of full frame cameras over crop sensor cameras.

Enough rambling and on to the pictures.

First impressions of the Canon 5D : the AF is great, fast and precise coming from the Pentax lineup, 17mm is Suuuper WIIIIIIDE and just plain awesome.
The quality of the files this camera produces are amazing.

All I am asking myself is, Why didn’t I switch earlier?

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