Bret Culp photography
The Beauty Of Impermanence

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Milky Way Photography (A Short Tutorial)

In contrast to my homemade pinhole camera solargraph, featured in an earlier post, this photograph of the Milky Way was taken from the same location using good equipment and completed to the best of my technical abilities at the time. 

The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy approximately 120,000 light-years in diameter and containing between 100 and 400 billion stars, of which our sun is one.  There are billions of galaxies in the universe, which is, hypothetically, one of an infinite number or universes (see multiverse).  It is as unfathomable and humbling as it is beautiful.

The Milky Way Photo
The Milky Way 1, 2014

I used a Nikon D800 camera, Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lens, Gitzo Explorer Series 2 tripod with Ball Head, Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.  I set the camera to manual mode, turned off noise reduction, vignetting and distortion corrections, set the ISO to 3200, the shutter speed to 20 seconds, white balance was 3600K (modified during post processing), the lens was zoomed to 14mm at f/2.8 and the focus locked at infinity.  The images were saved as RAW files. 

I utilized image stacking to create this photograph.  This technique combines many images on top of each other in order to increase the signal-to-noise ratio of high ISO images resulting in a cleaner and more detailed photo.  Another option for less noisy results would be to decrease the ISO, but that would increase the exposure time resulting in the stars blurring because of the rotating Earth, which is not something that I wanted.  Anything above 20 seconds would reveal visible star trails with my camera and lens combination.  A third option would be to use a star tracking device which moves the camera in perfect sync with the rotation of the Earth allowing for very long exposures at low ISO. Since I didn't have one I opted for the stacking technique.

It's important to shoot from a location with minimal light pollution, something that is increasingly hard to find.  The quality of the results will definitely be limited in urban areas.  Check out this light pollution map to see what I mean.  My location was between light and dark green on the map, which is not terrible but could be a lot better.

I used the camera's built in intervalometer to take a series of 24 photos, one after another.  I imported the images into Lightroom for basic colour correction work and exported them as 16-bit TIFF files.  I then switched to Photoshop.  Under Scripts in the File menu I selected Load Files into Stack... and made sure that "Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images", necessary to counter the Earth's rotation over the course of the 24 exposures, and "Create Smart Object after Loading Layers" were checked.  Once Photoshop was done processing I went to Smart Objects in the Layers menu and changed the Stack Mode to Median, which is the magic of the stacking technique.  The noise was greatly decreased while the details were preserved.  I flattened the image and finished with a little more post processing work.



Monday, January 12, 2015

Finding Your Photography Style - Podcast Interview with Bret Culp

You can listen to a recent podcast conversation I had with Marko Kulik about developing a unique photographic style at Photography.ca or on iTunes.


Pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast #134 fea­tures an inter­view with Toronto, Ontario fine art pho­tog­rapher Bret Culp. Dur­ing the inter­view we talk about find­ing and devel­op­ing your own pho­tog­ra­phy or shoot­ing style. Bret offers up some prac­ti­cal tips on how to make this process easier.

Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, by Ansel Adams
Mono­lith, The Face of Half Dome, 1927, Ansel Adams

In the podcast I discuss that the iconic photograph Mono­lith, The face of Half Dome, made by Ansel Adams in 1927, is a great example of an artist choosing a specific technique as a way of expressing how he felt about a subject, as opposed to trying to capture exactly how it appeared before him.  The story goes that Ansel was unhappy with his earlier photographs of this subject citing that they lacked the power he felt when in its midst.  In a moment of inspiration he decided to place a deep red filter in front of his lens resulting in a darkened sky and increased contrast, releasing the drama of the scene that he felt when looking at it.  To my knowledge, this photograph was the first time he used such techniques, and for which he became famous.

You can listen to the podcast at:

iTunes http://bit.ly/1BOROnn
Photography.ca http://bit.ly/1sdoqak


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Solargraphy (128 Day Exposure of Time, Space and Weather)

My first solargraph, below, is the result of a 128 day exposure made from August 16 through December 21, 2014. 

Solargraphy is an alternative photography process that uses homemade pinhole cameras and very long exposures to record the suns movement across the sky over days, weeks and months.  A single image allows for a view of space, time and weather patterns that we are normally not able to see.  Uniquely, it reveals the gradual change of the sun's path from one day to another, due to the Earth’s slightly elliptical orbit and 23.5° tilt.  The missing or broken trails are the result of periods when clouds have obscured the sun.

As a photographer committed to the using the best tools and techniques in order to produce the most technically competent photographs I can, solargraphy is a wonderful lo-fi liberation from technology.  Much of its beauty is the result of uncontrollable factors such as moisture, dirt or fungus that may invade the camera, temperature fluctuations and whether the days are sunny or cloudy.

Solargraphy (128 long exposure with sun trails)
16.08.14 – 21.12.14 (128 days), Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada, 2014

The camera was facing west-northwest over Georgian Bay.  The tree line is visible on the right side of the frame and there is a hint of the shoreline along the bottom.  Every day the sun burned a new trail, the highest in this image from mid-August, the lowest on the winter solstice.

What I like most about solargraphy is that in contrast to the instant gratification digital age we live in, solargraphs take their own time, and the results are always a surprise.

More to come, in good time.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

The 5th Let Kids Be Kids Camp Trillium Benefit

Camp Trillium's Let Kids Be Kids Benefit, University of Guelph, Canada
May 3, 2014

I'm very happy to have donated a photograph and a signed book to Camp Triullium's Let Kids Be Kids silent auction. It's heartening that an organization such as Camp Trillium exist in this too often cold and indifferent world.

Camp Trillium – Childhood Cancer Support Centre


The 5th Let Kids Be Kids Benefit supporting Camp Trillium will be held at the newly renovated Creelman Hall at the University of Guelph. We are expecting over 300 people this year, May 3rd. We will be serving a 4 course dinner, which will include a cash bar and silent auction items valued at over $20,000 including, wine tours, golf passes, gift baskets, autographed paraphernalia, Disney passes, artwork and tickets to multiple entertainment venues to name a few! 100% of proceeds raised will go directly to Camp Trillium. We are excited to announce this year's music entertainment- Black Water Draw (The Black Water Trio)!

Let Kids Be Kids Benefit, Camp Trillium

Camp Trillium is an organization that provides year round programs for children living with cancer and their families across the province of Ontario. Since childhood cancer impacts the entire family, Camp Trillium welcomes the entire family to participate in its programs at no cost. Programs range from youth and preschool groups, in clinic programs, residential and family camps, winter camps and many more. This past year we had 3,100 campers and anticipate more through the coming year. With our numbers growing your support becomes imperative.

We receive no government funding. All of our funds are raised through the support of dedicated volunteers throughout the province. It is these special people who help Camp Trillium families and ensure that we can afford to bring them to camp. With over 400 children in Ontario being diagnosed a year, our numbers grow quickly and we need even more support.

Cancer is a very adult disease. Our goal is to make sure that our kids enjoy the fun and friendship of childhood and forget about the burden of cancer even if it is just for a little while. Your help will make so many children smile.

Camp Trillium | info@camptrillium.com | 905-527-1992 or 888-999-CAMP
40 Queensdale Avenue E, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8V 1N4


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Roger Ebert Didn't Fear Death

LIFE, LOVE, WONDER AND LAUGHTER

Roger Ebert passed away recently and although I'm saddened for the loss of our greatest advocate of cinema I was reminded of a relevant quote of his which I filed into my impermanence notes a few years ago.

"I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can't say it wasn't interesting. My lifetime's memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris."

 -Roger Ebert, 2010

Roger Ebert


"In addition to being sharp, funny, insightful, interesting, opinionated, informed and complex in his writings he was also fair." 
-Pete Hammond



Roger Joseph Ebert (June 18, 1942 – April 4, 2013 was an American journalist, film critic and screenwriter. The Chicago Sun-Times said he "was without question the nation’s most prominent and influential film critic," and Forbes described him as "the most powerful pundit in America". He was both the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize, and the first to be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

10 Irish Proverbs for St. Patrick’s Day

In anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day I’ve compiled a list of 10 Irish proverbs from the thousands of quotations, poetry, prose, toasts, sayings, blessings and other expressions that originate from the literary prodigious Land of Saints and Scholars - Ireland.  I've matched up black and white Irish photographs from my Between Heaven and Earth gallery for your visual indulgence.

10.
Nuair a fhásann a craobhóg deacair go bhfuil sé deacair a twist é. Bíonn gach tosú lag.
When a twig grows hard it is difficult to twist it.  Every beginning is weak.

The Dark Hedges, Antrim, Northern Ireland

9.
Dá fhaid é an lá tiocfaidh an tráthnóna.
No matter how long the day, the evening will come.


8.
Meileann muilte Dé go mall ach meileann siad go mín.
The mills of God grind slowly but they grind finely.


7. 
An rud is annamh is íontach.
What is seldom is wonderful.


6.
Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir.
Time is a great storyteller.


5.
Na daoine teacht agus dul, ach na cnoic fós.
The people come and go, but the hills remain.



4.
Bíonn súil le muir ach ní bhíonn súil le tír.
There's hope from the ocean but none from the grave.


3.
Uaireanta lá amháin athruithe gach rud; uaireanta rud ar bith athrú bliana.
Sometimes one day changes everything; sometimes years change nothing.


2
An rud a líonas an tsúil líonann sé an croí.
What fills the eye fills the heart.


1.
Folaíonn grá gráin.
Love is blind.


Bonus Irish blessing:

May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you. 


Click here to see my full Ireland black and white photography gallery.

Sláinte!