Friday, March 30, 2007

Split ND Filters vs Photoshop Correction

I have been asked why I use split ND filters instead of just combing highlight and shadow exposures in Photoshop. The response is that I use both techniques, however I have found that it can be very difficult to get a natural looking transition when a darker sky is combined with a light foreground in Photoshop. Split ND filters are used to hold back the exposure of the sky while allowing more light to reach the foreground. I use the Lee filter system, which fits on my medium format lenses. There are many brands made of split ND filters. Most common are the 1,2 and 3 stop split ND’s (sometimes designated as
        0.3, 0.6, and 0.9 respectively). I find that I use the 3 stop (.9) ND the most - when I need a split ND at sunset or sunrise I really need to darken the sky in order to get good light on the foreground. If I use a split ND filter I have to do much less post processing in photoshop. It can be difficult to combine a foreground exposure with a sky exposure in Photoshop and not end up with the tell tale pixel fringe between the 2 areas. Below is an example of an image that I used a split ND filter on. You can see that the trees are slightly darker in the areas that were behind the shaded part of the filter, but it is not too difficult to lighten this in Photoshop. It would have been much more difficult to insert a darker sky from a different exposure - the tree that extends into the sky would have been difficult to lighten up or to mask without fringing. If you have questions about the basics of split ND use a quick google search on the topic will find many helpful articles. I highly recommend  them for landscape photography, even with digital cameras. Be sure to experiment with them to become familiar with how to get the best results for your images. You don't want to have a great image ruined by improper use of a split ND filter.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Handholding an H3D & Tripods

I have had a few questions posed about handholding the Hasselblad H3D. The mirror slap of this camera is very noticeable when the shutter is released without first using the mirror lock up feature. It is very difficult to hand hold the camera when using mirror lock up, so I do not engage that feature when taking hand held shots, because you lose sight and framing of your subject. I usually bump up the ISO to about 200 to get a faster shutter speed. I try to get as fast a shutter speed as possible while keeping the aperture at f8 or higher to get the best depth of field. I try to use at least 1/100 of a second shutter speed with anything up to a 100 mm lens. Higher than that I go for at least 1/focal length of the lens (i.e. 1/200 for a 200 mm lens). I have been pleased with the results of my last attempt at handholding. I took the clearing storm image in the H3D image portfolio hand-held, and found that the sharpness was acceptable for this image when printed as a large 30" print. I think that it would have been better to use a monopod at least, so in the future I will try to carry a monopod in situations where a tripod is too bulky - usually skiing or mountain biking to a location.  I think  a tripod  is always preferable if conditions permit, I use a gitzo Carbon Fiber 1348 with a Really Right Stuff BH-55 LR Ballhead - It has a lever clamp that makes it easy to use with the Really Right Stuff L Bracket , which is designed for the H1 but I  find that it works fine on my H3D. The great thing about this L plate is that it allows the camera to be mounted to the tripod in both vertical and horizontal positions. I had this ballhead fail in the field last autumn - the quick release lever system came apart but I was able to fix it with a paper clip temporarily until I could send it in for repairs. The RRS company repaired it with no hassles, but I was not happy about potentially losing the use of my tripod on a remote photo shoot. I do not carry an extra ballhead but will in the future on automobile supported trips where weight is not an issue. I do like the ease of use and fairly light weight of this ballhead. The repaired lever seems to be sturdier than the one it originally came with. Tomorrow I will post some thoughts on the use of Split ND filters vs. combining exposures in Photoshop.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tahoe Powder Day! and PS CS3 Release

We had a beautiful powder morning here in Truckee, CA. We had about 1 foot of new snow last night, a few days before we had 65+ degree temps! My husband Olof got this shot of me getting some turns in the freshies with his Canon 5D. We can have powder days into May around here, you just have to be patient some years.

In other news... Adobe announced Photoshop CS 3 today - relevant info is at this link: CS3 for Photographers .

I have been using the CS3 Beta version for a while and think the Camera Raw interface is greatly improved, with very good features for adding fill light, recovering highlights, and adding very natural looking color vibrance. I also like the B&W conversion options in the Raw dialog, they are incredible and will revolutionize B&W digital. The refine edge tool and the Auto blend layers tools will also be very useful for photographers. I will be getting the upgrade as soon as it ships.


Monday, March 26, 2007

TriTone and Color Combo Technique

The New Photoshop CS3 which will be formally announced tomorrow has some really good new B&W adjustments. Once you convert an image to grayscale (instead of RGB) you can access tritones and quadtones via the Image:Mode menu. Then, using the Load option on the Duotone Options dialog, you can navigate to the Presets folder, open the Duotones Folder and find some nice presets for both tritones and quadtones. They are very well hidden. I found that I liked working with the tritones to get a nice light sepia look to the grayscale image. Once I had done the tritone conversion, I then converted the image back to RGB, placed the original color image over the tritone as a layer, and reduced the opacity to allow a little color to show through. This gave the image a nice tint of color, almost a hand-tinted look. I like this effect with the images I took from Venice. It was nice to have these images be less "literal" - I think it gives them a more timeless feel. You can see all the images I have used this technique on in the Venice Images Photo Album on the right. They are also in the Venice portfolio at


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Hasselblad H3D

I have recently upgraded my camera system to a Hasselbald H3D, which has a 39 megapixel digital back. I previously had a Hasselblad H1 with a 22 megapixel digital back. The main difference with new H3D is that I can now shoot to a CF card that inserts in the back, and no longer have to connect the back to an external imagebank via a cord. This makes the camera system lighter and easier to hand hold. In addition, the high resolution of the 39 megapixels allows me to create 30x22" sized prints with no upsampling of the original image file. Paired with the high quality Hasselblad lenses, I think this system represents the current state of the art in single capture digital photography. I have posted a few recent images taken with the H3D in the photo gallery. I have enlarged the Winter Sunset shot to make a 40x60" canvas print with no loss of image detail or clarity. I have reached the maximum size my Epson 9800 can print, and am looking forward to their introduction of a 60" wide printer in the future. I currently think that I have no real need to ever increase beyond 39 megapixels for fine art printing purposes. In the future I think digital capture can improve in the areas of light sensitivity of the sensor. It would be great to dial in an 800 ISO setting and get the same image quality that I currently get from 50 ISO. This would allow me to use higher shutter speeds and still keep the aperture setting optimized for maximum depth of field. This would allow freedom from constant use of a tripod. I have dialed up to ISO 200 and handheld shots with the new H3D - the Clearing Winter Storm image was handheld in soft morning light since I had to ski to this location and did not want to lug my tripod. The clarity of the large print is great, so I am pleased with the results even though I had to do a little noise removal from the higher ISO setting. I am considering just taking a light monopod in the future if I do not want to lug a tripod when I am on foot or on my mountain bike. There are new ones out that have 3 little tripod feet that pop out of the bottom to give more stability. If anyone has found one they like please let me know.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Google Earth as a Photography Tool

I know I am late to the party on this one, but Google Earth is really cool. I have an upcoming photo shoot for the Trust for Public Land ( in Northern California, and needed to get instructions for specific locations on the property where photographs were needed. The client was able to email me a snapshot from Google Earth and pinpoint locations on the property where I should go. Google Earth is available as a download from Once you install the software you have access to aerial photos from the entire planet. You can then save specific snapshots of an area and email them. Here is a Google Earth file that shows  the location of our  gallery in Truckee. If you pan to the west you can see the wild country of the high Sierra, and to the  south you can see Lake Tahoe.

Download carmel_gallery.kmz

Friday, March 23, 2007

Brilliant Waters Presentations

This past week I gave 2 presentations about about the process of self-publishing my book "Brilliant Waters". The first was at the event called "Shooting the West" in Winnemucca Nevada
This was a very well attended event, thanks to all the hard work done by the event coordinator Linda Dunferrena and her associates.

This event draws ranchers and photographers from all over the area, and is well worth attending if you love photographing the American West. I also enjoyed meeting all the people who attended my presentation at the Professional Photographers of America Sacramento Chapter meeting. The PPA has an excellent program of print competitions which start at the local levels. I was invited to be a guest judge and had the opportunity to review some wonderful work from Sacramento photographers.

I have a powerpoint presentation on the process of self-publishing my book, and I am happy to make arrangements to speak at meetings if they fit into my schedule. Please contact me directly if you have a group that would be interested in hosting my presentation. I usually combine presentations with sales and signing of my book.


Article in Outdoor Photographer

This month's April issue of Outdoor Photographer features an article about my work titled "Mountain Digital". It can be viewed online at


This is my first post in the blogosphere. I get inquiries from many people around the world who are interested in my photography techniques, equipment, and general philosophy on the art of photography. This blog is a way for me to stay in touch with the community of people interested in my work and life, and to share information with everyone. I plan to share my insights about equipment, techniques, locations, software, events, books, and life in general. I welcome questions via email - I will post responses via this blog since it is difficult for me to respond to a lot of email inquiries individually. I hope to be  able to post daily updates to  this site, and look forward to receiving your  comments. Please check back here daily to  see what's new.

A complete portfolio of my work is online at My husband Olof is a photographer also, his work can be viewed at We have a new gallery of our work in Truckee, California. The gallery is located in Historic Downtown Truckee at 10035 Church Street. More information on location and hours are available at