Water under the Bridge

Here we are, ready to bid farewell to yet another year. Around the same time last December, I remember reminiscing back at 2013 and being horribly disappointed about how the year had turned out – both economy-wise and at a personal level. It certainly was an all-time low but the eternal optimist in me always knew that once you hit rock bottom, things can only get better.

Thankfully they did. For me, 2014 was certainly a much better year. It was a year of self reflection and new beginnings – both personally and professionally. I’ve managed to fulfill one of my life long dreams by driving across the US and I’ve made an important career move, which will present me with new challenges and opportunities in the new year. Most important of all, both my family and I are in good health. That’s certainly all one can ask for.

So let me take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, full of happiness and health for you and your loved ones. If 2014 didn’t treat you as well, then cheer up, aim high and let this year’s bad memories flow away, like water under the bridge. See you all in 2015!

Water under the bridge - 1920c

Shot with my tripod mounted Canon 60D and my Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 DC HSM lens, at ISO 100, F13, at 2.5 secs using my B+W ND 3.0 filter.

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Long Exposure – First attempt

This past weekend, Daria and I decided to spend the weekend in Pafos. I thought this would be a great opportunity to head to Petra tou Romiou (the famous birthplace of Aphrodite), photograph some rocks and give the “Long Exposure” technique a try. I wasn’t planning on getting any great shots – if anything, this was going to be an educational trial run to figure out how to properly use my 10-stop ND filter.

For anyone not into the photography technical jargon, the purpose of a solid ND filter is to slow down the camera’s shutter speed, allowing the photographer to capture movement. So if your camera’s speed reading is for example 1/100 sec, placing a 10-stop filter on the front of the lens (which looks like a black piece of glass), allows you to slow down your speed by 2^10, giving your therefore a 10 sec exposure for the same aperture.

Below is the result of my first attempt. In this case I managed to get a 40 sec exposure time, which ended up completely blurring the water to the point where it came out looking like mist. I can’t say I am ecstatic with the picture content-wise (afterall this was a technical exercise and less so a creative one), but if anything I have some key takeaways for next time I give this a try:

  1. You must have patience…and a lot of it! Since this particular filter is a solid black piece of glass, the only way to dial in the right camera settings, it to manually focus before putting on the filter, take a reading, do some math to figure out the final shutter speed and then screw on the filter.
  2. You need to have a lot of motion going on to make this worthwhile. Unfortunately the weather was pretty good (yeah photographers are weird this way), so there were no clouds in the sky. Moving clouds and water make great elements to photograph using this technique.
  3. If you have someone with you, make sure they are patient too! Yeap, enough said about Daria! 🙂
  4. Watch out for the waves! That might sound like common sense, but I am almost fell for that one! I placed my tripod really low in a dry area on the pebbles, but at some point a huge wave came out and almost swept my gear. I managed to get my feet completely soaked, but at least the camera and tripod get to see another day.

Needless to say I will give this technique another go. Anyone know where I can find a pier or a lighthouse here in Cyprus?

Long Exposure 1st attempt - 1920c

Taken with my tripod mounted Canon 60D and Canon F2.8L lens at ISO 100, F22, 40 sec exposure (with B+W ND 3.0 solid filter).

Kalopanagiotis Bridge

This past weekend, I decided to take a break from scuba diving (that has more or less consumed every one of my weekends for the last 4 months), and headed up to the mountains for a change of scenery. Nothing beats going up to my family cottage with the company of good friends, and spending 2 days of playing board games, watching movies, walking the nature trails and cooking loads of food.

This is a picture of an old bridge taken near the well known sulphur springs of Kalopanagiotis. I mounted both my ND2 and my ND4 filter on my Sigma 18-200 lens, to slow down my shutter speed and capture the flow of water. Taken with my tripod-mounted Canon 60D camera at F22, ISO 100 at 2 seconds.

Sea Caves

The most frequently photographed scenery on the eastern part of the island of Cyprus is without a doubt Cavo Greco. As a teenager I remember visiting the nearby Sea Caves with my friends, always competing to prove our manhood by jumping off the 20 meter cliff straight into the crystal clear waters. An exhilarating adrenaline pumping (and relatively stupid) act, but the bragging rights that followed made it all worthwhile!

This weekend, I had a chance to visit the Caves again but this time with a different agenda in mind. This time around I wanted to capture the scenery with my camera in a way that is different from all the “I love Cyprus” postcards you can buy at your local souvenir shop.

I got there about an hour before sunset and started scouting the area for a good vantage point. I “worked the scene” so to speak for a good 40 minutes, took a dozen pictures but to my dismay nothing seemed to pop out at me. I was just about to give up when I turned around and saw the following scene. I literally had to place my tripod inches from the edge of the cliff. I kneeled down and screwed on my ND4 filter, allowing me to slow down my shutter speed to almost 2 secs.

Taken with my Canon 60D and my Sigma 18-200 F3.5-6.3 IS lens at 18mm, F22 (for max depth of field), ISO 100 and bracketed at -2/0/+2.

This is a good opportunity for me to share 3 tips that I find invaluable when taking pictures with a tripod-mounted camera in low light conditions:

1) If your lens supports Image Stabilization (a.k.a. Vibration Reduction or Optical Stabilisation) then you must turn it OFF. That feature is helpful in low light conditions when the camera is hand-held. When tripod mounted, the mechanism in fact introduces vibration as it tries to compensate for the non-existing vibrations that it assumes there might be.

2) If your camera allows you to lock your mirror, then go ahead and do so. The mirror is a moving part during shutter release and it does introduce vibration! Enabling Live View mode automatically locks the mirror too, otherwise you will need to disable it manually from the function settings.

3) Always, always use a remote cable release. If you don’t have one, then try setting the timer on your camera, press the button and move back.