I really didn't mean to piss of so many people when I put out the as below. All I wanted to to was to make an entry into the market place for teaching photography in Okinawa. Nobody objected to me doing that. What lit the fuse was the fact that I was (and still am) offering a beginner course at no charge.
What got other photographers upset was the fact that I wasn't charing for the course and in offering it for free, I was destroying the market. Point taken, but I disagree. If I were offering anything more than a few tips over drinks and finger foods, yes, I would be devaluing the market. But I'm not. what I'm doing is trying to reach out to the people who might be interested in taking a real-deal photography course, but haven't made up their minds yet. Offering a no-commitment intro might give me the chance to meet some new people, offer them a few pointers, and hopefully sell them some real training.
Honestly, it took me a while to get up my courage before I offered this or any photo course. You see, Okinawa is home to quite a few truly amazing photographers. First, there's Pete Leong, the undisputed king of the wedding photography heap in Okinawa. Pete's work outside of weddings never fails to disappoint either. Then there's Shawn Miller, wildlife photographer extraordinaire. Sponsored by Canon to shoot for National Geographic, few can hold a candle to his mind-blowing shots of crabs, frogs, snakes and all the other natural wonders of the Okinawa. And don't forget Mark Thorpe, well rounded photographer of everything from waterfalls to starscapes to family portraits. He's got a way of making every day people look like celebrities. Next is Chris Wilson, the go-to guy on this island for distinctive portraits shot in a style all his own. I could go on, but I need to do more in this post than just list off awesome photographers.
My point is, who the hell do I think I am coming here and offering to teach photography in the shadows of these great men? My inability to answer this question stopped me from offering courses any sooner and seriously made me think twice before offering a course even now.
What made me decide to do it? First of all, there seemed to be lots of interest. People I know want me to teach them how to get the results I've been getting... and who am I to turn them down? Second, there's the fact that I've seen courses offered by "professional" photographers far less experience and I dare say less skilled than me. If they can do it, why can't I?
So, here I am, doing it.
But I'm truly at a disadvantage, since few people know me as a photography teacher. And worse than that, there are only a handful of people interested in the day-long or weekend-long courses that seem to be popular here, especially at the prices being asked. That's not to say the prices are too high. I'm just saying that people might need to be eased into the kind of courses they have to pay for. I need some way of identifying these people, meeting them, whetting their appetites and finally offering them something they might be interested in paying for at this stage of their learning..
Personally, I feel this will help everyone down the road because it has the potential to expand the market. By using the world 'free' to reach out to people who may not have even considered taking a workshop, I'm bringing people into the community. These people might take my up on my paid course offerings, They will very l likely take advantage of the offerings of other photographers who do things I don't, like trips to Iriomote Island or weekend-long off-camera flash workshops.
To the other photographers of Okinawa who feel threatened by my free offering, I say this. Send me your promotional material and I'll see that every single student who comes to my free "teaser" course gets a copy. Send me links to your courses and I'll post them right on my Facebook page. We're stronger if we cooperate and work together to make the pie bigger.
Respectful comments are more than welcome, even if they are highly critical of me. Thank you for reading.
Night shooting with long exposures involves a whole lot of photographic challenges, but when you get it right, the reward is more than worth the effort.
This picture was taken long after sunset at Cape Zanpa in Okinawa Japan. This might be one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world, so getting a truly original picture takes a bit of forethought... and ideally a full frame camera with a decent kit of lenses. Don't get me wrong. It's possible to get some very good long exposure shots with a point and shoot on manual settings, but it really helps to have a camera capable of shooting at relatively high ISO settings, a full frame sensor to collect as much light as possible and lenses like the 14mm f/2.8 prime I used to take the photo above.
This is really a simple shot. I opened the aperture to its widest setting, framed the shot, then guessed based on experience what ISO and shutter speed to use, settling on 800 and 15 seconds respectively. That worked like a charm. If it didn't, I'd just shoot again until I got it right.
I took a bunch of brackets at different ISO settings and shutter speeds to get different cloud patterns. Too short and the sky is underexposed. Too long and the cloud streaks turn into haze and the stars turn into lines. This is the shot from this series I liked best.
Post processing of this shot was a simple matter of using a brush tool in Lightroom to bring up the foreground exposure slightly, then using a gradient filter on the sky to bring up the contrast. Shooting raw, I set the while balance in post to match the color temperature of the light house so that the sky behind it would be a deep blue. I used the blue HSL slider to further increase the saturation of the sky, but only at a very conservative setting, or the stars and wispy clouds would disappear.
The next shot presented more of a post processing challenge.
This image was lit with moonlight. This is a 60 second exposure on ISO 1,000 using a 24-70mm lens at its widest setting. This (intentionally) produced an image that was overexposed by about 1.5 stops. I brought it down in Lightroom using the Exposure slider, the applied a gradient filter to the sky to increase contrast. I also used a gradient filter on the foreground to reduce exposure, since the full moon was so bright.
I also straightened this image to make the lighthouse and the monument vertical, since the distortion produced by the 24mm lens made them both lean in toward the centre. This meant that the bottom corners of the image got cut off at an angle, so to compensate, I used photoshop to fill them in using the content aware setting. The bushes and ground are the kind of patters that reproduce easily, and the corners at the bottom did not contain key information, so I don't call this "cheating."
In next image, I got to have a bit of fun.
My friend went looking for a tighter frame of the lighthouse and I decided to take a shot of him taking his shot. Luckily for me, and airplane was on approach to Naha airport to the south. On a 30 second exposure, he made it all the way out of the frame and left me with a wonderful streak across my photo. The truth is we waited for the plane to enter the frame thinking it would only make it part way across, but it was moving faster than we thought. The effect is truly dazzling!
Then my friend's wife showed up with curry for both of us and started doing yoga behind us. I suggested that she do some poses in the frame and she happily agreed. We waited for another aircraft, and this was the amazing result.
The thing every photographer needs to remember about night shooting is that the magic doesn't always happen. The clouds, the moon and the wind direction all came together to make these shots possible. Equipment is helpful, skill is important, patience is essential... and luck is indispensable!
Thank you for reading! Contact me here.
On a whim, my wife and I decided to drive to Yomitan and check out a famous Okinawan historical site we'd never seen before. Zakimi castle is only about a 20 minute drive from our apartment, so we thought we'd go there on the way to the farmers market. I'm glad we did, because in spite of the bright sun and haze, it gave me a chance to get a few great pics.
The first I liked was a wide shot of the upper part of the castle, facing the sea looking into the sun. It was about 3pm in the afternoon and the shadows were starting to get a bit longer, but I was able to take a picture that demonstrated the scale of the castle and show how high it was up on the hill.
The haze came close to obscuring the shore below and the backlight scenery under a strong sun looked washed out even to the naked eye, so if detail in the background was important, it was necessary to shoot hot and try to dial back the highlights in post.. This is a reason why I love shooting raw, since it allows for a lot of flexibility in post processing. The result was quite acceptable, although the horizon was far from clear and thanks to the haze, the shore came out looking quite blue. I processed the shot by boosting the blue chroma only slightly, but dialing back the blue luminance. The almost cloudless sky offered little of interest, but the ocean horizon came out alright.
The next shot was deep field, narrow focus shot, taken on an 18-55 zoom close to it's widest setting. I shot a couple of stops down from wide open (which would have been f3.5) in order to preserve enough depth of field to keep most of the leaves in the foreground in focus, while still allowing the background to become soft.
The effect is that the castle's shape, texture and gray colour make for an interesting background, while the green of the leaves stands out in contrast. I dialed back the luminance of the sky a bit, but much more fiddling would have introduced a nasty aliasing artifact, an unfortunate reality of shooting on an entry-level canon Rebel DSLR from 2006. But it's a poor craftsman that blames his tools, so rather that lament what could have been, I'll focus on how happy I am with the shot over all.
And on that happy note, I'll take my leave.
My simple blog about the art and science of photography.