Friday, February 23, 2018

Diffused Light Vs. Diffuser + Flash Vs. Flash + Reflector- Building Lighting Tools for Success



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How to crash your drone while taking photos (and maybe how to avoid it)

I’ve been happily flying my DJI Phantom 4 for a while now, and it’s been mostly smooth sailing; controlling the drone has never been a problem for me. I configured the controller to match my gaming controls, and took to it like a fish to water. My skills flying virtual helicopters transferred remarkably well. I was a leaf on the wind. Perhaps, looking back, this was part of my problem—maybe I got cocky. Maybe I ran into some bad luck. Maybe I’m just not as good as I think I am. In any case, I’ve crashed my drone three times now while taking photos, and am here to share my crashing tips so that you don’t repeat my mistakes.

Harvest by Michael Tighe on 500px.com

1. By flying directly into the only tree in sight

The first time I crashed my drone was a couple of months after I first picked up my Phantom 4. I was flying out in the county at my aunt and uncle’s, getting nice shots of combines at work, farm houses, and grain silos. As you can imagine, it’s mostly open space without many obstacles to worry about. As I brought my drone back to the house, I thought I would come in quick and fly around a bit to show off the drone to my family and their kids. In the process, I managed to clip the only tree in sight. My drone got caught in a branch and couldn’t escape. I had no choice but to power it down and hope for the best.

It bounced off of a few branches and came to rest about halfway down the tree. Never one to pass up an excuse to climb a tree, I got up there and managed to shake it out, with my cousin waiting to catch it on the ground. It had a few dents and some green stains, but otherwise it was still in perfect working order. Phew.

Windsor Spitfires by Michael Tighe on 500px.com

So, what happened?
I was in perfect control, or so I thought. As I flew back, I noticed that I was a little low and below the top of the tree, and my drone started to drift a bit towards it. No problem. I pushed the stick to move away, and…the drone flew directly into the tree. I had spun the craft around somewhere along the way and had lost track of its orientation.

Rocky Mountains by Michael Tighe on 500px.com

There are a few things I could have done to avoid this:

  • Don’t try to show off with your drone. This is actually very hard to resist (at least for me).
  • If you aren’t explicitly (and carefully) getting a low shot, always fly above the treeline.
  • If you’re in this sort of trouble, your instinct should be to go up, not sideways.
  • If your drone has something like a “course lock” mode, use it. Course lock will lock the orientation of your controller, meaning that no matter which direction your drone is facing, it will always move in the direction you push your stick.

On the Road by Michael Tighe on 500px.com

2. By clipping a tree while flying backwards down a road

The second time I crashed my drone, I was: flying backwards along a street lined with trees; just a few meters above the ground; trying to stay ahead of a sports car; flying with no clear visual on the craft. Now, I know what you’re thinking: that sounds awesome, and I don’t see what’s wrong with it at all. Well, you might be surprised to learn that this ended poorly, and I consider it in retrospect to have been incredibly stupid. Who knew?

The drone drifted to the side of the street (it can be quite hard to keep it flying straight back purely from the video feed), clipped a tree branch, and flew sideways at high speed directly into the ground. I am very lucky that it didn’t fly directly into someone’s window, or worse. Miraculously, although my poor drone looked a bit worse for wear, there was no serious damage.

Le Mont Saint-Michel by Michael Tighe on 500px.com

The lessons from this crash seem fairly obvious, but let’s run through them:

  • Always have a good visual on your drone. Using the video feed is great for setting up a shot, but if you’re in a tricky situation, you need to be looking directly at the drone while you fly. You can always check the recording afterward to make sure you got the shot.
  • Do a few low-speed practice runs first, to make sure you have the movements down and have a better understanding of what could go wrong.
  • Fly slower, and speed the shot up a bit in post if you need to.
  • Don’t try to capture a tracking video shot of a car driving towards the drone, at all. It’s one thing to put your drone in danger of destruction, but I could have easily caused damage to someone’s property, or even injured someone accidentally. It’s simply not worth it.

St Malo by Michael Tighe on 500px.com

3. By flying directly into a centuries-old city fortress at high speed

The third time I crashed my drone was directly into the stone wall surrounding the city of Saint Malo, in France. I was a bit nervous to fly here in the first place, but couldn’t resist the opportunity. Nevertheless, I tried my best to avoid my drone being noticed. I took off from a large platform area along the top of the wall. After getting some lovely shots of the city from above, it was time to make my return. Rather than slowly come down from directly above and potentially attract a lot of attention, I thought I would come down over the water, fly up to the wall, and quickly come up and over to a landing. No big deal.

I brought down my altitude, and started heading quickly towards my position atop the wall. I had switched my drone into high-speed “sport” mode while getting into position, and flipped it back into normal mode to slow down a bit and re-enable forward collision detection. Or so I thought. To complicate things, it was very sunny and so I had a jacket over my head to be able to see my tablet screen, so I didn’t have a direct visual on my drone.

Low tide by Michael Tighe on 500px.com

“Uh, you just flew right into the wall,” my brother solemnly informed me.

“Ha, no I didn’t, I’m looking at the wall right now on my screen — wait, now it says connection lost… uh…”, I replied, also solemnly.

How did we end up here?
When I thought I switched out of “sport” mode, I… well, I hadn’t. So I was hurtling towards the wall much faster than I thought, and with collision detection disabled. It’s hard to tell from the video feed exactly how fast you’re moving, and I had no visual of my drone since I had a jacket over my head to block the sun. A few short seconds later, my drone unsuccessfully attempted to breach the walls of Saint Malo. Luckily, it landed on a ledge at the foot of the wall, rather than directly in the ocean, and I was able to recover it.

The props were obviously destroyed, my ND filter was smashed, and the gimbal motor took a bit of damage. Somehow, it was still partially operational and capable of some rather unsteady-looking flight, but it definitely needed work. Luckily, it was nothing my local drone repair shop couldn’t fix.

The house between two rocks by Michael Tighe on 500px.com

So, what did we learn?

  • Always have a visual on your drone. More specifically, if you are coming down for a landing, especially at low altitude, you should be looking directly at your drone at all times, not at the video feed. If you need to be watching your feed to nail a shot, have a friend keep an eye on your drone to watch out for trouble.
  • Don’t fly while distracted. As I was sending my drone hurtling toward its early demise, I was trying to get a jacket off of my head. Speaking of which, get a hood for your phone or tablet so you can see your screen in bright sunlight.
  • Double-check which mode you’re in. At least on the Phantom controller, it can be fairly easy to lose track of whether you are flying in normal or sport mode. Double-check it.
  • Take off and landing should be slow, controlled affairs. If you are in a situation where you think you will need to rush, or want to avoid being noticed while landing, this is a great sign that you should not fly from that location. Alternatively, being noticed while slowly landing your drone is a lot better than being noticed while attempting to use it as a battering ram.

Scarborough Bluffs Park by Michael Tighe on 500px.com

The moral of the story

The common themes across all of these incidents are probably overconfidence and impatience. Take your time, take precautions, and don’t do anything stupid. I’m not saying you can’t fly your drone under that picturesque footbridge for a great shot; after all, this is why we love to fly drones in the first place. I’m saying take your time to set up the shot, make sure you have a perfect visual on your craft, make use of the features of your drone like collision detection and course locking, and do a few low-speed practice runs first. And don’t get cocky.

Sunset swim by Michael Tighe on 500px.com



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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Welcome to MacKenzie Country, New Zealand

Mt Cook, Canterbury, New Zealand. FWT Magazine.

Early morning in Fairlie Basin, MacKenzie Country

It’s early morning in New Zealand’s Fairlie basin. Farmer Angie Taylor lies in bed. Drat, she thinks. It’s bucketing down outside – and has been for hours. There’s a herd of 800 dairy cows to feed, a mob of pregnant ewes to tend and a coach load of international tourists due for a three-course lunch in just a few hours – provided Highway 79 doesn’t wash out. Without taking her head off the pillow, Angie’s got a pretty good idea of how this sodden, winter’s day on Morelea Farm will play out.

She and husband Stan have farmed their 320-hectare property for more than 20 years. They’ve raised three children, Mitchell, Ben and Julia, here. Before that they were newlywed farmers in Cromwell. Before that, they were a couple of fourth (Angie) and third (Stan) generation farm kids growing up on the Canterbury plains – Stan in Ashburton with Angie just 50 kilometres down the road.

So today’s relentless, icy rain doesn’t bother the couple too much. Stan will say there’s no use getting upset about these things. You’ve just got to work around it. Angie reckons storms are all part of their story. Today it’s rain, with the likelihood of flooding. In a few months’ time the temperatures will reach 30 degrees and there’ll be drought. And, anyway, it’ll have nothing on the horrendous blizzards of 1992 and 2006 – or even last week’s storm, which dumped 300mm of snow on their doorstep and took out the power for four days straight.

Tekapo, New Zealand. FWT Magazine.

Lake Alexandrina, Tekapo. (c) PureNZ

Welcome to MacKenzie Country

Welcome to MacKenzie Country – a 7,300 square kilometre inland plain region 180 kilometres southwest of Christchurch that sits pretty much at the centre of New Zealand’s South Island. This is rugged, isolated country where scenery dominates, large country sheep stations have been the norm for more than a century and very few people live. There are not quite 4,000 people scattered among the region’s five main centres – Mt Cook (on the western-most edge at the base of the Southern Alps), Twizel, Omarama, Lake Tekapō and Fairlie.

New Zealand. FWT Magazine.

Aoraki Mount Cook (3754m) and Lake Pukaki in winter. MacKenzie District, New Zealand. (c) Rob Suisted / http://www.naturespic.co.nz.

Most MacKenzie people farm (sheep, beef and, more recently, dairy) or work in the hydro-electricity industry, which produces a large portion of the country’s energy supply. Increasingly, locals like Stan and Angie make at least some of their living from the region’s well-established tourism industry.

Arriving in Fairlie today, though, it’s hard to pick why more than 900,000 people visit the MacKenzie every year. A thick grey mist has muscled out all obvious clues. We’re told the skies of nearby Tekapō are a big attraction. Most days these skies are blue. Infinite. Joyous, even. At night, they are said to be so clear, so unpolluted they’ve become a protected International Dark Sky Reserve – the largest such reserve of only four in the world and ideal for stargazing.

#Tekapo in #MacKenzieCountry is home to a protected International Dark Sky Reserve – and some of the world’s best #stargazing. Here’s more on why to visit #pure #NewZealandClick To Tweet

MacKenzie Country. New Zealand. FWT Magazine.

Sky gazing, Lake Tekapo, MacKenzie Country (c) Vaughan Brookfield

You wouldn’t know it today. But the Taylor’s farm is usually a plum spot year-round for relaxing on the front lawn and taking in the skyline ridges of Mount Dobson, Two Thumb Range and Fox Peak. Angie knows our group will have to wait for today’s storm to pass to enjoy a moment like that. By then, we’ll be in Dunedin or Queenstown and another AAT Kings Southern Spectacular coach tour will be headed her way.

So the afternoon we arrive, Angie and Stan opt to change things up. Ushering us off the bus, shoes on, into their single-storey stucco home, the couple welcome us inside for a chat and a sit-down lunch by the fire. There’s homegrown beef steak, sausages and lamb chops on the go. There’s salad from the garden, minted peas and home baked bread. Angie’s pavlova topped with cream and kiwifruit will finish us off.

Before lunch is served, Angie explains she and Stan will tend 3,000 sheep this summer once the lambs are born. In January, the four-month-old lambs will be sold live to the meat works in Timaru. Until then, their flock will enjoy fresh farm air, water from mountain-fed streams, mum’s milk and green grass. It’s a similar story for the cattle, says Stan, although only a third will be killed for beef. The rest are dairy grazing stock and will return, well-fed and pregnant, to three nearby dairy farmers.

“For Kiwis, our story is quite typical I suppose. But for people from the big international cities of Asia and Europe, it’s something quite different,” says Stan. “People love it when I come in from the tractor, with a bit of my knee out of my trousers, string trailing from my back pocket. They can see this is a real working farm and we’re real-life farmers.”

Change arrives in MacKenzie Country

Perhaps what isn’t so obvious to tourists passing through Morelea is the fact that life is on the change in this part of the world just like it is everywhere.

Stan says, “Having the bottom fall out of the meat and wool industry in the 1990s had a major impact on us. You’ll see there’s a lot more corporate dairy farming in the MacKenzie these days and more pressure on farmers to convert to dairying. We won’t do it. But our son Mitchell who is taking over the farm may do so.”

The change has disrupted the social fabric of towns like Fairlie too, says Stan. There are more absentee farmers – business people who own or have shares in a dairy farm but don’t live locally, choosing instead to have a manager run the farm on their behalf. Yet, says Stan, there’s not much use worrying about it and there’s still a wonderful high country lifestyle to enjoy.

Most summers he and Angie take their jet boat out on Lake Ophua where the trout and salmon fishing is good. One summer was extra special with daughter Julia coming home to get married at Lake Tekapō. Later in the year, they’ll follow the Fairlie rugby team. Stan was president of the club for several years and now Mitchell has taken over. Often in winter, on a Sunday afternoon, Angie and Stan will rug up, grab a bottle of whisky and head to Tekapō for a couple of hours’ curling with friends – either at the new artificial ice complex or at their own homemade rink dug out at a secret spot about six years ago. The wives drive, so the men can play.

Stan says the competition starts out tough among the 25 teams who turn up each season. But, as each good stone is rewarded with a swig of Scotch, the game becomes more of a test of one’s constitution than one’s sporting ability. An old outdoor farm broom is the makeshift tournament trophy – and Stan’s pretty keen to win it this year.

Another draw card of the MacKenzie is its close-knit community, says Angie. Neighbours know one another well, socialise regularly and help each other out in tough times. And, while Angie regularly heads off to Timaru for the weekend farmer’s market or to Christchurch for some shopping, Stan leaves the farm only when he has to. In many ways, he says, it’s all right here at their fingertips. And, anyway, why not stay put and let the world come to you?

Church of the Good Shepherd, FWT Magazine.

Lake Tekapo, Church of the Good Shepherd, MacKenzie Country (c) Julian Apse.

MacKenzie Country, what’s in a name?

MacKenzie Country is named after a Scottish shepherd and would-be farmer named James MacKenzie who allegedly pinched sheep from a large sheep run back in the 1850s. Said to be stronger than most and admired for escaping captivity three times, MacKenzie maintained his innocence, eventually becoming local folk hero.

Keen to check out the extraordinary landscapes of #MacKenzieCountry with #AATKings? Here’s all you need to know. #PureNZ Click To Tweet

If You Go

AAT Kings six-day Southern Spectacular Tour starts in Christchurch, travels to Twizel, Dunedin, Te Anau and finishes in Queenstown. It takes in several historic sites, including a stop-off on Pioneer Drive at The Church of the Good Shepherd, a small stone church on the shores of Lake Tekapō. The church was the first of its kind to be built in the MacKenzie Basin in 1935. Today it serves as a South Canterbury memorial, commemorating the original European settlers of the area and their ability to brave the harsh alpine environment and establish high country sheep runs. The writer travelled to the MacKenzie care of AAT Kings.

Aoraki Lake Pukaki. New Zealand. FWT Magazine.

Aoraki Lake Pukaki, MacKenzie Country, South Island, New Zealand (c) Will Patino.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

8 landscapes that’ll make you want to get outside, stat

Natural landscapes are a universal source of inspiration, but it isn’t easy to convey a physical sense of awe with a photo.

For our Landscapes Quest, we challenged the 500px community to submit top-tier photos of awe-inspiring landscapes and scenery. The settings ranged from larger-than-life mountains (a 500px favorite) to winding roads and textured fields, but all of the finalists stopped us in our tracks.

The winner, The Spire by Simeon Pratt, caught the judge’s eye with thoughtful composition.

The Spire by Simeon Pratt on 500px.com

Here’s what Simeon had to say about the shot:

“I took this photograph a few hours after my arrival in Iceland. This was the first time flying my drone after I experienced some nearly-catastrophic battery failure, so this flight was mostly a test to see if my gear was still working. I was very lucky that all systems were still working, and that the very volatile Icelandic weather let up long enough for me to capture this gloomy, but striking, landscape.”

Get inspired with the finalists’ outstanding landscapes:

Scoresbysund Morning Light by Hans-Peter Deutsch on 500px.com

Patagonia dream by Luka Vunduk on 500px.com

Notre Dame de la Garde by A|L Photography on 500px.com

The train to the top by Yuyang Wang on 500px.com

Rainbow at Stokksnes by Saptashaw Chakraborty on 500px.com

Cannon Beach Redux by Nathaniel Merz on 500px.com

Dreaming of Tuscany by Crystal Stephens on 500px.com



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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

MY STORY- Sleeping in Cars, Running in Underwear...How I Made it as a Professional Photographer



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Why 2018 is the Year to Visit Jordan

Jordanian coffee

Jordan was never on my bucket list, but returning to Jordan is now on that list. Heck, before my trip there, I would not have been able to find Jordan on a globe. But after 10 days exploring this simply amazing country, I cannot only tell you where Jordan is, but also where its major cities and best tourist attractions are.

There’s really never been a better time to visit the country. Jordan tourism has decreased due to the conflicts in the region, which means there are fewer tourists so you can really enjoy and explore the sites. But tourism is rebounding as the government has worked hard to send a message that the country is safe and stable, and definitely open for business.

camels in the desert for Jordan tourism

Camels are the Uber of the Wadi Rum desert; (c) Beth Graham

Here are Jordan’s Do-Not-Miss Experiences

1. Petra 

It goes without saying that this UNESCO World Heritage site, dating back to 300 BC, is one of the world’s most iconic sites and one of the highlights of Jordan tourism. What’s most amazing is that Petra was hidden in Jordan for thousands of years until it was (re)discovered in 1812.

You’ll want to spend a full day exploring as your journey starts with a walk down the Siq, a narrow gorge, that leads to Petra. You’ll walk between towering pink sandstone cliffs, dotted with facades of ancient temples, tombs and residences. But you’ll lose your breath as you round the corner and come face to face with The Treasury, a massive 43-meter tall Greek-style temple carved into the sandstone. (Be sure to watch ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ before your trip to fully appreciate this iconic site.)

But this is only the beginning of Petra. There are many many more marvels of this ancient city to explore. I highly recommend hiring a guide as there’s so much history and many hidden features you’ll miss if you visit on your own. If you’re not too weary from a day of exploring, go back to Petra at night – it will be one of your most memorable night time excursions as you walk the pitch black Siq to experience a special ceremony at The Treasury, lit up by luminaries.

Where to stay: The Petra Marriott Hotel is the perfect base for your visit. After a long day of walking, treat yourself to a Hammam in the hotel’s spa before you relax in your well-appointed room.  

Jordan tourism experience riding donkeys in Petra. FWT Magazine.

Riding donkeys up to The Treasury in Petra; (c) Beth Graham.

2. Bedouin Experience at Feynan Ecolodge

As we exited our tour bus and boarded a few older model and well-traveled Toyota pickup trucks, I wasn’t sure what we were in for. We bumped and tumbled across the desert passing a few Bedouin camps as our keffiyeh-scarfed driver navigated the rough and dusty path.

We arrived at Feynan Ecolodge, built in 2005 and the first of its kind for Jordan tourism. Clearly, there are no power lines so the lodge is completely solar-powered with open-air rooms that provide natural ventilation with fresh spring water pumped in.

At night, the entire complex is lit by candlelight. The expansive terrace doubles as the dining room where vegetarian meals are served looking out over the rugged desert terrain. The 26 guest rooms are minimalist, designed to represent those of a caravanserai, a roadside inn where travelers, in this case Bedouins, would stop for the night along their journey. As if experiencing the tranquility of the desert far away from daily life was not enough, guests can spend their days hiking the nearby desert trails followed by a sunset stroll into the mountains to enjoy a pot of tea with sage, brewed over an open flame.

The lodge’s guide will also invite you to experience the Bedouin life with a visit to a nearby family where you can join them in a cup of Jordanian coffee with cardamom and learn to make kohl (Bedouin eyeliner). The darkness of night brings on the most magical stargazing experience of your life as you lie on the rooftop of Feynan Ecolodge and enjoy a curated talk about the constellations.

Feynan Ecolodge in Jordan. FWT Magazine.

Feynan Ecolodge in Jordan; (c) Beth Graham.

3. Dead Sea 

We drove by the Dead Sea on one of our first cross country drives and my first impression was the serenity and peacefulness of the long, narrow waterway. But I was also surprised to find a number of luxury resorts dotting the coastline.

No trip to this region would be complete without experiencing the magical feeling of complete buoyancy in the Dead Sea. Just don your swimsuit, walk into the thick salty water, lift your legs, and you’ll instantly float. It’s a strange feeling but definitely worth the experience. After floating, it’s time for a little au naturale spa treatment. Find one of the urns filled with Dead Sea mud and slather it all over your body. It will harden in the bright sun, rinse it off in the outdoor shower and you’ll be surprised how soft your skin is.

Where to stay: The Dead Sea Marriott Resort & Spa is a luxury resort with breathtaking views. From the resort’s multi-leveled pool deck to the spacious, well-appointed guest rooms to multiple dining options, this is where you’ll want to experience the Dead Sea.

luxury hotel in Jordan. FWT Magazine.

The luxury Dead Sea Marriott in Jordan; (c) Beth Graham

4. Jerash  

In my opinion, one of the country’s, if not the world’s, most underrated sites is Jerash. An ancient city that was another modern day discovery just 70 years ago, Jerash was a walled Greek-Roman city from the Bronze Age. The site is now generally acknowledged to be one of the best-preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. From the city center’s grand columns to hilltop temples to outdoor theatres, it’s worth a full day of exploration.

5. Wadi Rum Desert

When I heard we were riding 4x4s in the desert, I thought to myself, “I’m more of a luxury resort spa girl. Do I have to?” Well, I’m here to tell you it was one of the most awesome experiences. We climbed into the bed of pickup trucks and set out across the desert landscape that felt a bit otherworldly. We raced other 4x4s, stopped often for photos and just marveled at this vast and magical destination.

Our afternoon of dusty trevails ended with a beautiful sunset, surrounded by luminaries, against the backdrop of desert landscape. We headed back to our Bedouin campsite but the next day held promise for an even more exhilarating desert experience.

In the darkness of the (very) early morning, we boarded, not 4x4s, but camels to head out over the eerily still Wadi Rum desert to catch the morning sunrise led by our Bedouin guides. Sunrise and sunset in the desert is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Where to stay: There are over 100 camp sites in the desert. We stayed at Rahayeb Desert Camp, a remote yet authentic Bedouin-style retreat.

Wadi Rum desert adventure. FWT Magazine.

Riding 4x4s in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan; (c) Beth Graham.

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