My Adventures in NepalRead More
Ever since I finished the John Muir Trail two years ago, I was dreaming of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Well, I just finished 1500 mile walk, starting at Mexican border and finishing at Southern Washington border at the Bridge of the Gods (I had to skip High Sierra section due to extremely dangerous river crossings). The reason I had to stop at the Bridge of gods is because I have to photograph a wedding in two weeks. As always, photography is very important to me. So I carried 7 pounds of camera equipment on this walk. To anyone who does backpacking, it is obviously very heavy luxury item. To me, it was a necessity. Here are just a few photographs from my trip:
My Trip of the Lifetime! Ever since I finished backpacking John Muir trail in 2015, I wanted to spend more time in the wilderness, sleep under the stars, hike to remote lakes, rivers and mountaintops, meet total strangers and become best friends. Another way of saying this: to simplify and enrich my life.
Anyone who has followed me on FB probably guessed it- this dream is about to happen. On April 7th, I will start my long hike: from Mexican border to Canadian border. Yes, the Pacific Crest Trail. I am coming back to civilization in September.
So, if anyone needs my photographic skills for child/family photography or headshots, I am available till March 15th. After that everything goes to storage and or be sold (except camera equipment)! I know it’s hard to think about Holiday Photography so far in advance, but…since I will only be available during September-November this year; my schedule will be crazy when I return. If you wish to schedule a photo session, you can have your pick of the dates now.
And finally: I am selling digital files from family photo sessions and weddings I photographed over the last 10 years to raise funds for the trip. The older the files, the cheaper they will go. Right now they are all on hard-drives connected to my computer and easily accessible. I have no idea how accessible they will be when I come back. This is your best and maybe last chance to purchase them.
I am taking the camera on the trip and will be updating periodically my travel status with photos and words on FB and on my website’s blog.
Hope everyone has great spring and summer.
When you photograph a family with 4 year old child, you never know what to expect. A child could be an angel or in a split second can decide that photo session is not what they want at the moment! :) Photographing Shelley and Ellen was no exception. Yet in the middle what seemed like chaos, we got beautiful family photos!
I have been photographing Kristina and Mike what seems like forever: the engagement, the wedding, first and second maternity, first and second newborn, etc. So I know what they like: they want to capture the love they have for each other and they like their photos to be timeless without looking staged. Mission accomplished! This is what Kristina wrote to me after seeing their family photos for the first time: "Thanks soooo soooo much Fimachka!! Those are just remarkable!!! My jaw hurts from smiling non-stop when we were editing photos from our family photo session.Simply...... genius!"
I love photographing several families at the same time. Just like the photos below, where I photographed 2 families with 2 kids each and their parents/grandparents. Within total chaos when you have 4 very young children, we created beautiful photos.
I cannot thank enough Daphne and her daughter for being an amazing models during their photo session in Golden Gate Park and then at the beach. The best compliment I could ever receive is when Daphne told me that her daughter said about photo session: "She loved it and you! She asked about you the other day. "I want to see Fima again". Everyone had fun during the photo session!
I love photographing families with more then one child. Another successful family photo-session!
It is always exciting to do a studio photo session with newborns and their entourage! You never know what they are going to do. This is what Vivian said after the photo session: "It was Fun and went smoothly!"
The baby cooperated big time!
I have been photographing Michelle and Pat's kids many times. So when grandma wants to have photo session with her granddaughters, here we go! Another fun photo session!
I have been photographing Stacy and Ethan's family since their child was born. And every year after that. Every year different location.It is such a pleasure seeing the growth of your clients children. I believe their son nailed down the "being super cute" part in the last photo session! :)
I was thrilled when Vivian and Dave decided to get my "Baby Step Club" package: Four photo sessions in one year: A Maternity, Newborn, 6 Month and One Year. Besides being a very good deal in savings, its a great way to document growth of a child! As always, I met with clients before photo session to discuss their goals, what kind of images they wish to capture, what to wear and not to wear. We also talked about using different locations for the photo session. Vivian wanted outdoors but when I started showing maternity photos, she really liked studio. So I proposed to do both: we meet in my studio, work for an hour and than go to the beach. Unfortunately it was foggy the day of the photo session! Surprise: a fog in San Francisco in July! :) My studio policy for maternity/child/family photography: 100% guarantee that I will exceed your expectation! So we captured studio photographs and rescheduled our outdoor photo session for different day.
I was very happy when we got to the beach several days later. So were Vivian and Dave! The light was spectacular.
I was very happy to hear at the end of photo session how happy Vivian and Dave were during the session and how easy it was. After all, my goal is, when couple looks at the art on their wall;I want to remind them: it was a happy day!
Yesterday I had a privilege of photographing Jessica and Ryan's wedding in beautiful Sonoma county vineyard. What a perfect setting for a wedding! The whole show was run very smoothly by Jenny from Jennilynnevents.
Flowers were provided by Emily from Green Snap Dragon
Doves for the ceremony were provided by Gene from Celebration in Flight
Hair and makeup for the Jessica were done by Crystal (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Delicious food and cake were provided by Grapevine catering
This is just a quick peek from over 2 thousand photos from the wedding.
Hope I have enough photos of their dog Sophie who behaved so well during the wedding and especially by bringing the rings to the ceremony! :)
Panorama photography in the wilderness. When you travel in wilderness, as in backpacking, weight is everything. So you want to keep weight as little as possible and, if you care about image quality as I do, bring professional equipment. Which limits your choice of lenses to one, unless you are built like a Sherpa or have a mule to carry it for you. But first, let’s start with camera choice. Latest generation of mirror-less cameras and their image quality is phenomenal. They are also weight less than DSLR cameras. Unfortunately their battery life is not very good. Also battery recharging, at least in case of Sony batteries, takes twice as long compare to Canon batteries. I also love to photograph Star Trails at night. For that I needed full frame sensor camera because I need very high ISO settings with clean image quality. For reasons above I chose Canon 5D Mark 3. My favorite wilderness lens is Canon 24-105L 4.0 To some people 105 is an odd choice for wilderness. I also love to photograph people and it’s a great compromise between wide lens and portrait lens.
How to bring your pro gear into the wilderness. I have been struggling with this question for a while. At first, I tried to carry my camera on my neck with a camera strap, like some photographers do. It's OK if you are only going for a few hours. Ones I went out for 12 hour hike and could not move my neck for several days. I tried to put my camera inside my backpack. But found out that I did not take any photos because it was very time consuming to get my camera out. Finally I found the solution from ThinkTank Photo They make several products that let's you carry camera where it belongs: right in front of you. Below is the photo of me using their digital holster 20 in conjunction with their digital harness in Patagonia earlier this year. They do have other sizes available for different camera sizes. With this set up, I carried my Mark 3 with 24-105 very comfortably. The most important thing: I could access my camera in a few seconds and camera was protected from elements (I carried plastic bag on the bottom of the holster in case of the downpour)! The digital holster also had room for my IPhone and maps.
By the way, if you buy anything from ThinkTank Photo, enter this special code number in the "Affiliate Box" in the shopping cart: 141269.357718 You will receive free gear with every order over $50.00!
Why Panorama photography? Why not take extra wide lens and capture everything in one exposure? I was asked those question many times. The simple answer is this: The wider the lens, the further away your subject will appear to be. So when you photograph magnificent mountains, for example, they will look very far away. But if you use longer focal lens and make several panoramic exposures, the perspective will be compressed, the closer your subject will appear to be. Another reason is files size. If all you want is web image, this is of no importance to you but if you wish to print panorama image, you want the biggest files size possible (panoramas never look good in 5x7 or 8x10). They look beautiful large.
Creating Panorama images:
Tripod: You want all panorama images to be horizontal! (Unless you are doing vertical panorama). Tripod with leveler will help you achieve this with ease.
You want to eliminate image parallax by finding lens nodal point. In plain English, you want to rotate camera/lens combination not where camera mounts on a tripod (camera center) but in center of lens (nodal point). Instead of trying to explain what it is, below is the link to Really Right Stuff page on the subject. By the way, all my panorama equipment is from Really Right Stuff.
Yes, the camera can be hand held. With practice you can make decent panoramas. But if you have lots of lines in the photo (fences, electrical lines, tree lines, etc.…) your software will have very hard time stitching it together and you will not be happy, especially if you are stitching more than 3 images together.
Below is a panorama photo made with 25 images stitched together using pano gear from Really Right Stuff. Please notice how many horizontal lines are there (deck, rails, etc.) This kind of image is completely impossible task for hand held camera.
Secure your camera vertically into tripod/pano gear (your file will be larger). ALL camera settings must be on manual: aperture/shutter speed/focus/ISO/white balance. The last thing you want is for one image to have focus in the foreground and next one on the background. You will never be able to make clean stitch. For pano photography you want high aperture number to get foreground and background in focus. Since camera is on the tripod, shutter speed is less important. You may have very strong highlights and shadows in the scene. Adjust exposure for middle ground (unless you also doing an HDR. Focus on what is important in this photo and turn off auto focus. Just for this reason alone, I love lenses that have auto focus switch on the lens. Trying to go through the camera menu to find focus switch is a pain! Do not put any filters in front of the lens, especially polarizing filter! You will get more even files to stitch together. If you take multiple panoramas of the same scene, before I start moving camera to photograph, I take a photo of my hand. This way in Lightroom I can easily identify different pano groups. When you photograph panos, you want to overlap your images. The rule of thumb is to overlap it by at least 30%. 50% is even better.
To process images, as in stitch them together, I use Photoshop. Latest Lightroom can do it also but I still prefer Photoshop.
In Lightroom, identify what images you want to stitch. Take the first image and do all adjustments to your liking. Select all other images, including the one you just adjusted and sync all images to the first adjusted image.. You want all files to be the same. Photoshop will love you when you make stitching easier. While all images are still selected, right click, edit in, and in the drop down menu, select Merge to Panorama in Photoshop. In Photomerge window, I get good results with auto selection. I also select Vignette removal and Geometric distortion correction. I leave Content Aware fill unchecked. I like doing it as needed by myself ones stitching is done. If I use tripod and pano gear, very little content aware fill is ever needed.
Below are few of my panoramic images:
Enjoy your panorama photography.
There are few things you need to make great Star Trail photos:
- Be as far as possible from light pollution and preferably during new moon or when the moon is below horizon. Apps for sunset/moon/stars: LightTrac, Sunrise, Star Walk, TPE (The Photographer's Ephemeris).
- The image below is a great example of light pollution. Bear in mind that I am at least 30 miles to nearest small town (population less than 700 and 3 miles higher)
- Be as close as possible to ozone layer without any clouds.
- Camera with very good image quality (low noise) at high ISO (1600 or higher)
- Cable release or intervalometer is essential.
- Tripod is extremely essential (mostly).
- Warm clothing, headlamp with red or green light, collapsible chair and refreshments.
- Fast wide angle lens is essential (2.8 or faster)
- All camera setting on manual including focus and color balance with image stabilization and noise reduction off; exposure drive is set to multiple exposures.
- Be on location 2 hours before sunset to find Polaris star, compose the image and include as much sky as possible.
- Photographing just the stars makes boring photos. Create scale by including foreground in the photo.
- LOCK the camera to make sure it does not move in the next few hours. Most tripods have a hook at the bottom of center column. I usually hook my backpack to it to make tripod more solid or bring a lightweight bag, fill it with rocks and fasten it to the hook.
- Be creative and take a photo/s of foreground before/during or right after sunset.
- Change the focus to almost infinity.
- Start photographing stars at least 2 hours after sunset Test exposure with different ISO to determine proper exposure.
- Keep exposures to 30 seconds or less.
- Take at least an hours’ worth of exposures. Two hours is even better.
- Believe in higher power that what you are doing will turn out OK because you cannot see it in the camera.
- I also need to mention that you need a way to bring your camera on the trail. If you are only hiking short distance to a location, this is not an issue. But if you are going to wilderness and going to hike for days, carrying your camera properly is very important. I tried ones to bring my camera on the trail while hanging it by it's strap over my neck. After 10 hour hike, I could not move my neck for several days. I also tried to carry my camera inside my backpack. I ended up not using my camera at all because of the effort it took to get camera out. Until I found ThinkTank product Digital Holster in conjunction with Digital Harness Here is the photo of me in Patagonia and the above mentioned products attached to my backpack:
Post Processing: Computer with lots of ram Bring all images to Lightroom.
- Select the first image from the series and adjust it but stay away from radial and graduated filters.
- Select ALL images from the series and batch sync to match first one.
- While all images are still selected, Edit in Photoshop >Open as Layers
- Blending mode to lighten and clean all planes and satellites lights.
- This was my very first Star Trail image. Total of 181 exposures. Exposure #1 was during sunset of your truly. This is where I positioned my camera to face North and found decent foreground.
- I left my camera on a tripod in the same spot and came back several hours later and took hour and a half worth of exposures at 30 second interval (total of 180 exposures). This is how star trail image looked like:
- I then combined the image I took during sunset with star trail image and called it "Loosing my religion".
- Here is the final image:
- Here are several more samples of Star Trail Photography:
Last month I went on my lifetime dream vacation: backpacking in Patagonia! Combining my love for photography with my passion for backpacking!
The hardest part of the trip was getting there. I left my house to go to the airport Monday morning but did not start my tracking until Thursday morning.
Since I am much better photographer than a writer, I will let my photos tell a story about the trip.
I have been photographing Kristina and Mike what seems like forever: their engagement, their wedding, a model for a day photo session, their newborn daughter photo session, their daughter's one year portrait session and now their daughter's 2 year anniversary. Love it when my clients trust me with their milestones!
I love photographing families and children in Golden Gate Park. So many beautiful places, so many beautiful backgrounds and when you find the right light- it's magic time. This is exactly what happened when I photographed Cherry, Charles and their daughter! Magic!
What can I say? I love photographing newborns. The follow directions well! :) And there is no need to tell parents to look happy at the photo session. Their joy is contagious!