Is DIGITAL better than FILM? | How to photograph new landscape locations | Planning ambitious shots

Is DIGITAL better than FILM? | How to photograph new landscape locations | Planning ambitious shots

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Coming up on this episode of photography  online we explain what to do on a first   visit to an epic location. Harry tells us  why he thinks digital is better than film.   And Marcus goes in search  of another ambitious shot. Welcome to another commercial free episode of  Photography Online. As you can probably tell I   am not in Scotland. I have flown to this beautiful  medieval village which I'll tell you all about as  

well as show you around a little bit later  on. Before we begin though here's a quick   photography question just for fun....  Have a think about it  and I'll give the answer at the end of the show.  Okay well since we first launched Photography  Online at the beginning of 2020 it's been very   difficult, or almost impossible to travel, so  the kind of shows that we'd always planned on   bringing from various locations around the world  has understandably never really materialized...   until now. As we can finally travel again, we can at  long last start to make this show into the one   we had always intended. To prove the point, I am  here in Spain and here is Nick in Utah - finally!

As a landscape photographer most of the photos  I take are at locations I've been to before.  For me, this is an important  part of the photo taking process - planning a shot and visualizing it in my mind. It's  then just a case of returning to the location when   I feel the conditions will allow me to convert  my visualization into reality. However, sometimes   you don't get the chance to return to a location  because we may be traveling like I'm doing here   in Utah. We might only get one or two chances  at most to get the best out of a location, so after doing some initial research on this area  it turns out that the best time to come is dawn   and just after sunrise. So because that would mean  walking in the dark I've come here mid-morning and  

I've been walking around for about an hour  now trying to find good viewpoints. Now I've   used either my phone which is also just handy in  the pocket and also the camera, and it looks like   basically you can use almost any focal length  from 50mm or wider through to something   like a 70-200mm lens and I found this  one particular viewpoint which appeals to me and   it's a 70-200mm shot and so I've got  no foreground and what has drawn me to it is the   the different layers in the shot. We've got these  beautiful colours of the rock in the foreground   going off to the red rock in the background  which has got trees in it so there's green there.   So now, for me, it's just a case of honing different  compositions from this particular viewpoint   and yeah see what I can come up with  and then I'll continue walking around   finding shots that will work also with my wide-angle lens. It's not possible to pre-visualize a scene  which you've never been to before, so I'm seeing   everything for the first time. To be honest it's a  bit like sensory overload and would be easy to run  

around and try to get as many different shots  as possible, but that's unlikely to produce the   best photos. So what I need to do is slow down and  identify where the best potential is likely to be.   After a while I found what I believed was  the best viewpoint, so I set up the camera   and explained my thought process out loud... with  a 70-200mm lens here you're basically   picking up the layers in the scene so you've got  no foreground just about picking out the layers   in the shot. Pretty much anything from 70 through  to maybe 100, 135mm will work here I think.   Yeah it's just these beautiful red rocks  in the foreground, different shades of red   and with those mountains, hills in the background  with the trees on it really gives a nice contrast.   These are simply a few reference shots which  I took to enable me to remember the various   viewpoints and compositions I consider to have  the best potential, so that I know what to work   on when I return in more optimal conditions.  Reccying a location is all about taking lots of  

reference shots from different angles in seeing  what works and what doesn't. After walking around   here for a good two to three hours now I've taken  plenty of reference shots. I've also taken shots   so that if I can't return for maybe one, two, three  years, at least I've got something to reference   back to, if when I do return here which will be in  the dark because I'll need to arrive here probably   a good half an hour to an hour before sunrise to  hopefully get that nice glow that will hopefully   appear in the kind of twilight, so all these notes  and reference shots should help me in the future.   Spend as much time as you can  to explore all the options,   taking photos either with your main camera if you  want to work out the best focal lengths or you   can simply use your phone if you only want to get  an initial idea whether composition works or not. A handy app for the iPhone is aptly named  Viewfinder, which enables you to select any format   camera with any focal length to see what you'll  need in order to get the ideal crop of any scene. So yeah, all I've got to do now is to return to  this location and hopefully get the shots I want.

And return I did - armed with the information I'd  gained during my recce, this allowed me to get   straight to the best viewpoints and work on the  best compositions without wasting any time running   around when the light was good. Here's a couple of  shots I got in the morning during the blue hour   when the distant lights from the city were glowing  in the twilight, but the warmth of the approaching   dawn was providing enough directional light to  give subtle highlight and shadow detail in the rocks. Next time you visit a photo location for  the first time, try not to arrive at the optimum   moment when the light is at its best, as you'll end  up running around in a panic trying to make the   most of it without having worked out where the  best shots are. As Ansel Adams used to say...    "luck favors a prepared mind" so be prepared and you'll  find that luck will more likely be on your side.

Thanks Nick. Now usually I would be green  with envy with your location there but this   will do me just fine. You might be wondering  where exactly I am? Well I'm here with some of   the Photography Online team as we prepare for  our annual photo workshop here in Albarracín in the heart of Spain. Now if you've never heard of  it then join the rest of the world as this place  

is well under the radar but as you can hopefully  see it is ideal for photography. Team member Marcus   discovered this place by accident when he took  a wrong turn - so he tells us - on his bike ride 15   years ago (that is actually true) and we've been  returning ever since. The village is plastered   onto a hillside, deep in a gorge and it's small  enough to walk around in just a couple of hours.  

Yet despite its modest size, it's got a castle,  a cathedral, a church, a fortified wall, endless   cute alleyways and crooked buildings, and let's  not forget great tapas bars and a bakery as well!   If that all sounds appealing and you'd like  to join us for three days of photography here   next year, get in touch for full details. We'll be  showing a gallery of some of the photos that we've   taken so far later on in the show. Okay so over the  past year or so, Marcus has been banging on about   the resurgence of film and how it's so much more  rewarding than shooting digitally. Harry has taken   slight issue with this and thought he should  balance the show by batting for the other side... For a couple of years now I've let Marcus  drone on and on about how wonderful film   photography is. "Look how big this camera is!" "look  how long this one takes to set up" so on and so forth.  

But no one's been around to defend the  technology that revolutionized the photographic world Many people will sing the praises  of film photography and the 'good old days'.   A quick search on YouTube is filled with people  talking about how film photography changed their   lives and has made them a better photographer.  Let's just take a quick moment to look at why   digital photography revolutionized the world  and why it's better than film photography.   Now don't get me wrong, I love film photography. It's  how I started out and how I built my foundations.   I love producing imagery in the darkroom, but let's  begin with a simple statement - digital photography   (objectively speaking) is better than film  photography. It's like comparing old CRT TVs   to beautiful slim LCD panels, or wind-up windows  to electric car windows - it's no competition.

Let's get the awkward money bit out of the way first.  Initially it might appear that film photography   could be a cheaper option because there are some  fantastic bargains on film cameras. Take a look at   what Fford's photographic have at the moment for  example. It looks quite attractive at those prices!

On a previous episode, Marcus argued the  cost-effectiveness of film photography if   you're looking to produce professional results,  but let's face it, 95% of people probably aren't   looking to produce the top professional results,  so frankly I disagree with his arguments.   Compared to digital photography, film may seem to be cheaper  initially. It's true that most new digital cameras   on the market can be eye-wateringly expensive but  if budget is a concern then there are just as many   used bargains in the digital market. Top-rate  second-hand full-frame cameras can be picked  

up for as little as £350, plus a lens and  your memory card and you're pretty much set to go. An often quoted argument, particularly aimed  at mirrorless cameras and their vast array of   displays tools and information is that it's making  photography 'too easy'. Now making photography easy   cannot be a bad thing - simple. I learned many  lessons the hard way on film, especially when   it came to exposure and composition.  It took me several years to make the  

same progress I did in just a few weeks  when I eventually switched to digital.   The instant feedback that a digital camera offers  means you can immediately learn from any mistakes.   You can directly see the influence of  exposure time and aperture on the final image.   Having access to a histogram pretty much  guarantees getting the correct exposure   in any given situation. Imagine  being able to do that on film! As a wildlife photographer, having the option to  shoot 2000 images of a bird in flight gives me a   higher chance of nailing a pin sharp shot than if  I only shot 50. Having all the tools directly to  

hand to make our lives that little bit easier  is a fantastic thing. It makes some aspects of   photography just a little bit more simple and  that's what encourages us to think more creatively.   If you have to constantly worry about  exposure, focus, or tiny little technical   mistakes, that's a huge amount of your  effective processing power taken up.   More often than not, this will lead to images with  creative mistakes rather than technical mistakes. Personally I'd rather have  a creatively competent image   with a few technical mistakes  than the other way around.  Once we worry about the technicalities less, it's the  only way we can become better photographers. 

And photography, after all, is about the way we perceive  the world, regardless of budget, medium or camera.   Off the back of my last point then, by  making photography a little bit easier,   it also makes it more accessible. Film photography  was a genre dominated by just a few who had the   time to invest in order to get good results.  Digital photography has no such barriers and   complete beginners can pick up a camera and start  shooting immediately. This, of course, does not take   away from the time and dedication people put in to  improve their skills, but the simple instant nature   of digital photography provides access to those  that may not have the time to otherwise invest.  

Digital photography does not simply encompass  expensive cameras anymore. Pretty much everyone   has access to a high quality digital camera  right in their pocket in the form of a phone.   One of the arguments that really bugs  me with proponents of film photography   is always talking about having a final result to  print. Really this just isn't true. There are plenty   of people out there with hundreds of rolls of  undeveloped film, film that has never been printed   or film that has only been scanned into a computer.  Having the desire and urge to print a photograph   is irrespective of the medium you choose to  shoot on. I have just as many prints from my  

digital cameras as my film ones - probably more - because digital is easier and more accessible.   Now this is the slightly controversial point.  Quality can be subjective. There are lots of   people that say they prefer the 'look' of  film. Does that necessarily make it better? 

It's hard to define. It's like saying you like  the scratchy quality of vinyl over crystal clear   digital. It's all subjective and hard to define.  So let me introduce some element of objectivity.   If we talk about how much we have to enlarge  an image to produce our desired size print,   then shooting on medium format film is strictly  going to give a better result simply because   our image area is larger than most digital  camera sensors. However, if i'm photographing   fast fast-moving wildlife such as eagles in  flight, this is going to be pretty much impossible   on a medium format film camera. It obviously  isn't going to give me the desired quality.   I could also talk about sharpness from the point  of view that a higher degree of sharpness results   in a higher quality image. As lens and sensor  technology advances, it's now easier than ever  

before to get sharper results with minimal effort.  For many people, this is simply better. However, ask   someone entrenched in the previous century and  they may say that images that are too sharp are   a bad thing and they prefer that soft hazy look of  film. I could carry on listing all the advantages   of digital over film, such as being able to change  my ISO from shot to shot and the fact I don't have   to shoot a whole roll of film before processing  and printing some of my images. In fact if it were  

just a simple for and against checklist between  digital and film, digital clearly comes out on top.   There is little argument these days against the  superiority of digital. Humans though, are nostalgic.   We have difficulty in letting go of the past, but  the simple truth is we shouldn't be that bothered   about what we shoot. There will always be a place  for analogue and film photography. And as long as   you enjoy the process and the results you get, at  the end of the day - that's all that really matters. If i know Marcus, he is not going to  let this one lie. I don't know about you, but   I sense some trouble brewing. I'll be grabbing my  popcorn and waiting to see how this one unfolds  

Alrght, well if it looks like I'm on  a medieval movie set then it certainly   feels like that. Over the past couple of days  I've had a great time wandering around the   cobbled alleyways of this charming town where  there's a photo to be had almost everywhere that you look. To prove the point, here's a gallery  of some of the shots that we've taken here... As I mentioned before, if you'd like to join us  here for one of our Masterclass Workshops next   year, then there is a link to the basic details on  our website, but do get in touch if you want more   detailed information or would like to reserve  a space. We do only bring small groups here so   numbers are limited and are likely to sell it  quickly. Okay, well regular viewers of Photography   Online will be familiar with our Mission: Possible  series where we set out to achieve ambitious   shots and invite you along on the journey so that  you can see what's involved. Three years on, Marcus  

is still trying to get his full-moon-rising-behind-a-lone-tree shot - something that does only happen   two or three times every year, so he could be  waiting for a while yet. The next opportunity to   get that shot won't be until this December, so  to satisfy his itchy feat, he's decided to embark   on another mission which potentially happens  on a daily basis, but the problem is where? If you're a regular viewer to Photography  Online then you will have probably seen me   photographing the Jacobite Express steam  train passing over the Glenfinnan viaduct   on at least a couple of occasions  from a couple of different viewpoints.   This is part of the West Highland railway line  which runs from Fort William to Mallaig and is   generally considered to be the most scenic  train journey in the U.K. The viaduct is the   obvious place to photograph the train so it  pulls in the crowds and many photographers   are here each day to catch what can be an  amazing shot if the conditions are right.   However I've been thinking for a few years now  that there may be a better shot to be had. One   that's never been taken before because it's  from a difficult to access or remote location,   where no photographer ever goes because they're  preoccupied by the lure of the honeypot location.  

All photos start with a visualization, so let me  describe the scene I am visualizing here in my mind.   I'm looking for a scene which will work  well in its own right, with or without a train,   but the train will be the icing on the cake,  the feather in the cap, the pièce de resistance.   Ideally i'm looking for a place where I can get  an s-bend in the track, or the very least a curve,   to prevent the train from being straight on. The  train doesn't want to be too dominant in the scene -   I want it to be a small detail rather than the  subject itself. That's the good thing about a steam  

train - it can be a very small part of the scene  but it will still stand out and be obvious what   it is, but that's only once I know where I need to  be. Until then I can't make any of the important   decisions such as what camera I'm going to shoot  it on, what weather conditions I need, and what time   of year I need to take the shot. So my objective  for today and tomorrow is to find that location,   but this railway line is over 42 miles in length, so it's going to be no mean feat to find the perfect location. 

So armed with my map, I'm heading to the area on a scouting mission only.   How can I be sure this will only be a scouting  outing?.. because i'm not bringing a camera with   me. A camera bag will only weigh me down and I  reckon I've got a lot of exploring to do so I'm   just going to be using my phone and more precisely  my Viewfinder app which will allow me to see the   crop of every camera I have with every lens. That  way, when and if I find the scene I'm looking for,   I'll know exactly what gear to bring and I won't  need to bring everything but the kitchen sink.  

So according to the map, the railway line is just  a couple of hundred meters in this direction, but   there's a couple of tunnels over here so they  might be quite nice to include in the photo, so...    I'm just gonna go for a wander up  between the trees see what I find. So this is kind of along the right lines but  it's not really singing to me at the moment.   What's wrong with this is that the train's  going to be too dominant in the scene,   So I think I'm looking for something  where you can see the train tracks go   far further into the landscape and  get the train when it's further away   what's good about this is that there's a tunnel  just here so i could potentially get right above   the tracks have the train coming in underneath  the camera so i'm going to remember this place   because it's useful for other things, but for what  I'm looking for today, it's not really cutting the   mustard at the moment, but it's good nonetheless,  so i'll take a shot anyway just to remind myself. So I've just walked the other side of the tunnel and   there's no viewpoint from here  but, if you look up on the top   up there once you get above the tree line, you'd  have an uninterrupted view back down to here.    We've got a nice curve of the rail going around and then  you'ld see it disappear into the tunnel. And if you  

see how many deciduous trees there are here and  imagine how golden this would be in autumn, up   there is a potential area of interest shall we say.  So I'm going to mark this on the map, but for now   I'm going to return to the car because there's  a much easier way to get up there than from here.   It turns out that that viewpoint didn't work due  to the trees hiding too much of the rail line,   meaning the train would be mostly hidden so it  was back on the road to the next location.  So one of the places that I identified by looking at the  map as a good potential is up there on that hill.

The problem is there's water between here  and there and although you can walk round I reckon it's probably a good three hour  walk to get from here, from this side   up to there, so what I don't want to do is invest  that three hours, get out there and find that it's   pants because there's something obvious in the  way or it just doesn't work compositionally.   To save myself a lot of time, potentially,  I'm just going to put the drone up there   and have a look through the drone, and if  it looks like it's got good potential then   I'll invest the time. If not then we'll move on. So that's what we'll do now. This is the hill I would need to be standing on, so let's turn  the camera around to see what the view is like.  

Immediately there's a massive problem - this messy  area down here, along with many other issues, means   that this is not an option. But turning the  camera the other way reveals something a   little bit more exciting - these islands and their  Scots pines. So I repositioned the drone to include   these in the foreground. This now works really  well. We have a nice layering to the landscape,  

the islands breaking up the large area  of water and the bend in the rail lines.   The only problem is that there's no hill for me  to stand on, so I would either need a very very tall tripod,   or accept that this can only ever be a drone shot - something which i'll keep in my mind as I do really like this scene. So that's the end of the first day and....  I haven't been successful in what I'm looking  for. However, I have found a number of other good   potential spots for other photos of the train,  but more importantly, I've learned some lessons.   And that is that firstly this is going to be  much more difficult than I originally thought.  

Secondly, I need to look for an area where the  tracks are not embedded in trees because you   just can't see the tracks, it just gets lost in  the canopy. And another thought I've had is that,   just to really make it difficult.  I'm also going to need to find a   a section of track where the train is going  uphill because if it's going downhill and   it's just coasting then there's not going  to be any steam/smoke coming out of the uh   engine which kind of defeats the purpose anyway.  So that's my task for tomorrow is to narrow   down this 40 miles um and I'm now looking for  areas of track which are a little bit more open,   uphill, S bend, mountains in the background... but it's  got to exist within 40 miles that's got to exist.  

so we'll call it a day for today. We'll  pick up where we left off tomorrow. Good morning from day two and I think I might  have found it. So this scene here is very close   to what I had visualized in my mind. We've got  a valley running down. We've got what looks like   three separate bodies of water - not that that  matters (the number) but it's just better than one.   We've got a nice valley being framed by both sides  there, uh most importantly the train line runs   right through that scene. Now from this distance  and certainly on that camera you won't be able to  

see it because it's too distant, but it's basically  running the far side of the water over there.    As I was saying before, a steam train is good because  it will stand out even though it's only a small   part of the scene and that's what I want. I want to  take a landscape shot with the steam train in it.   I don't want a shot of the steam train in a landscape  and there's a big difference between those two.  

So this here is ticking a lot of boxes. The one  i'm not sure about is whether the steam train   is going to be going uphill or not over there  because it's impossible to tell from here. However,   in a couple of hours the train will come  through and so I might go and reposition   myself over in that area just to observe and  see what's happening - see if it's accelerating   or chugging away or just kind of coasting downhill. Now these are the opposite conditions to what i'd   want to actually take the shot in anyway because  we've got very low humidity. Low humidity means  

the steam that's coming out the top of the  engine is going to evaporate immediately,   so you're not going to get that kind of classic  long plume of smoke which we need because it's   going to be so distant that that's what's going  to be eye-catching about this shot. So with just   the train there on its own with no steam and smoke  coming out the top we wouldn't really necessarily   notice it. So we need that highlight in the scene  um and it needs to be big as well. So we're gonna   have to shoot this on an overcast day when there's  kind of 99% humidity. Clearly that's not today,   but that wasn't the object, I haven't even got a  camera here today. So, using my phone - the Viewfinder   app, because the scene's quite a long way away  we're gonna need to use a reasonably long focal   length. You can't shoot this wide angle because the  train's just going to disappear into infinity. So....  

here i'm seeing this as a panoramic format. I don't  want all this rock down here. I could go further   forward to the next ledge, but even then I've  done that already just have a quick look   there's nothing of any interest down there so this  is crying out for a panoramic shot. So I have two   panoramic cameras and my Fuji 617 with the 300mm lens on is giving me that composition there, so that is pretty much perfect. Wouldn't want  it any other way even if I had a choice of other lenses and cameras. So this is the same section of track - the other side of the water.

From here, it looks suspiciously like it's going downhill  because the water's obviously level and the track   on the left hand side seems a lot higher above the  water than it does on the right hand side. So that   means that when the train's going along, it's going  to be going downhill, probably no smoke, no steam.   Now you might be asking - Marcus! I've got the  perfect answer - why don't you wait until the   train comes the other way because then it will be  going uphill. I've thought of that. The problem is   is that when the train gets to the far end, which  is Mallaig, there's no turntable there, so although   they put the the engine on the what was the back  of the train, which is now the front of the train,   the engine is reversed. So when it comes back the engine will be facing backwards   and in a photo that always looks really weird  obviously because the steam's going the wrong way.  So when the train's going in that direction, it's  really not an option for photography, so I have   to get it going in that direction. I reckon it's  going downhill but it's going to be along in about  

15 minutes anyway so i'm just gonna wait and see  what happens and then make the decision from there. As I had suspected, this section of track is  downhill so that rules this whole option out,   unless I can accept a back-to-front engine - something which may not be too noticeable   if i position the train to my advantage.  Another recce will be needed for that. I'll leave you with a few phone shots of  some other potentially good locations I found   for shots of the train as a main subject.   So there you have it - in one show we've brought  you the majestic Highlands of Scotland, the other worldly landscapes of Utah and a dose of  Mediterranean charm in Albarracín here in Spain.   You can't fault us for diversity in this episode!  If you appreciate what we do, do give us a thumbs   up and help spread the word by recommending us to  your friends and anyone you know with an interest   in photography. There are many ways you can support  the channel but the easiest by far is just to make   sure that you're subscribed and you watch all of  the shows. We do love hearing from you as well, so  

feel free to let us know what you think in the  comments section too. Okay, well at the start of   the show I asked.... The correct answer was the iphone which,  although it's only been around for the shortest   time, is used to capture over 1.3 trillion photos  every single year. Congratulations if you got that right. We'll be back next week with another one of  our PO Live shows exclusively for our supporters   of PO Live level and above this live show is  brought to you in association with Kase Filters U.K.  

and we'll be giving away a £100 Kase Filters  voucher which everyone has a really good chance of   winning, so it's well worth getting involved - not  only for the prize but also just to join in the   fun. If you can't make that, then we'll be back here  in just a couple of weeks for a lens-themed show   where we'll be back in Utah showing you how  to avoid flare, telling you how to get the best   performance out of any lens, comparing a 1960s  lens to an equivalent modern one to see how far   lens technology has come in the last 50 years, plus  we'll be showing you the extra control that you   can get by using a tilt shift lens. If that doesn't  get you setting a reminder in your diary then I   don't know what will. I'll be there. The crew will  be back, as will the various team members wherever   they are in the world, so until then, you know what  to do... take good care, but most of all take good photos. The fact that I don't have to shoot a whole  roll of film before shooting... not shooting.. Harry! Until then, I can't make any of the de deshi shi shi sions...

uh which is a really good tool you know just picking your poo out... picking you p... $&*@! There will always be a place for analogue and film  photography.... ah forgot the last couple of lines. I could also talk about sharpness..... uh completely  forgotten.

Until then, I can't make any of the de... &$£@ sake. Why is that so difficult? I always struggle  with that word - decisions decisions decisions.

2022-06-16 20:10

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