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08-01-2013, 03:44 AM - 2 Likes   #1
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Pentax DSLR-Specific Landscape Shooters Checklist

Pentax-DSLR-Specific Landscapes Shooting Checklist

If you’re like me and mostly take the camera out with family, grabbing shots handheld where possible, then when the time comes for some more considered tripod mounted landscape work, you might find the lack of practice can make you all fingers and thumbs, fumbling around as the sun starts to leave for the day.

It does for me, so I set up at home to practice my techniques and refresh my knowledge of the camera settings, with the aim of making sure I was quicker and more precise with my camera techniques before heading off to the hills.

This helped a lot, and I realized it would be good to have a record, or checklist, of the setup steps and key camera controls I needed, and that also got me thinking more about the different options available. I want to share this one approach here, with the aim of encouraging others of all experience levels to also share their particular ideas about landscape shooting on the Pentax DSLRS, and what camera setups and shooting controls works best for differing situations.

Please note - my ’checklist’ here is deliberately prescriptive (do this, do that), and describes tripod mounted photography with remote control. This is so that it is laid down as definitive, and therefore can be used as the springboard for all the alternative methods and different situations that could be recommended. This is not a photography course either (!), so I do not give reasons for or the purposes of my specific choices - that would come through in later discussions when other ideas are raised or things questioned.

Menu descriptions should be accurate for the K7 and K5 ranges.


1) Pre-Shoot Setup & Preparation


I’m not covering the generic and obvious checks, like battery charging, lens & sensor cleaning, SD cards and backup etc - that’s all in the guidebooks. Just the Pentax specific items. If an item is not listed, it should not affect the actual photo taking. Custom settings are not covered. This is a checklist of essential camera picture taking options to act as a reminder and save time and extra work at location. The order of setup though will have some affect, so should be followed through as laid out.

a. LENSES - Aperture rings to A (if fitted)
Camera Focus switch to M or AF.S (as required)

 

b. BATTERY GRIP - Camera Li-lon battery in place then fit the Grip
Extra Li-lon battery or 6x AA in place inside Grip
Secure your tripod baseplate to the Grip

c. CAMERA MENU SETUP -
Choose your required File Format & JPEG Pixels / Quality

Live View - activate Histogram

Digital Preview - On plus Histogram

Instant Review - On plus Histogram

Electronic Level Display - On

Choose Color Space & RAW file format

Memory - activate the following items : Drive Mode, White Balance, Sensitivity, Playback Display, File No. Deactivate EV Compensation

Shake Reduction - Off

Select Battery - set as needed by your charging options

Perform Dust Alert (if you have a DA lens) and / or Dust Removal

d . CUSTOM IMAGE MODES

Set these if needed for JPEG shooting. Set these up generally, you can fine tune in the field. For RAW capture these settings will only have an effect on how your shots will be displayed on the LCD during image reviewing. The settings metadata will be recorded in the RAW file, but different software will interpret it differently or not at all. Only Pentax Digital Camera Utility will exactly match up and apply all the settings when opening the file, when any adjustments can be made non-destructively. These CIM settings will not affect the actual image data recorded by the sensor.

e. WHITE BALANCE

If using a Preset then set it now - you can make additional fine tuning in the field. Likewise, if intending on making a Custom WB, set the nearest suitable preset now to avoid unintentionally jumping to tungsten or something in the field.

f. USER MODE SET FOR EXPOSURE BRACKETING -

Mode Dial to Av - Set ISO 100 (or as needed) - Drive Mode set to Exposure Bracketing with Remote Control, set 5 images (front e-dial), set exposure spacing (rear e-dial), press OK

In the camera menu enter the USER item, choose ‘Check Saved USER Settings’ - check the settings are all OK - press OK then choose the item ‘Save’, and then ‘Save’ again.


2) On Location Shooting Setup & Camera Control
Once you’re set up and the shot is framed :

a. CAMERA CONTROLS -

Check Av mode, ISO and White Balance preset already set
Drive Mode set to Mirror Up with Remote
Ev Compensation to 0
(these items should be pre-set in the camera memory from your pre-shoot setup)

Manual Focussing - Press LV (Live View) and use the Info button to zoom view into the scene. Use the 4-way controls to centre on something at an approximate hyper-focal distance into the scene and then focus carefully on this. When done exit LV

Set required aperture

Half Press Shutter Button to get metered shutter speed
Wait for the right moment (eg wind drop, people to pass etc)
Take shot with Remote Control
Review image on LCD - use histogram to confirm desired exposure range was captured.
If needed set appropriate exposure compensation value, and reshoot

Assess the contrast range you can capture in a single shot and decide on whether to shoot a further exposure for blending in Photoshop, or whether it is so great you need a bracketed range of shots for HDR work. If needed, switch to User mode, set appropriate ‘master exposure compensation’ for all the brackets, and shoot the brackets, using the focusing methods above first.

OK, that's the list! I see it as serving two purposes - firstly as a pre shoot double check if the camera has been used for another kind of photography and the settings have been changed - and secondly as something for everyone to bounce off, consider and offer up the alternatives and add to the knowledge base on the efficient working with our Pentax DSLRs !
All feedback and alternatives gladly anticipated !

Nigel McGregor

08-01-2013, 04:06 AM   #2
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Great Checklist!

Hello Nigel,
Wow, that's a very comprehensive list. I'd have to say, regarding camera set-up, you're more organized than many people, myself included.
I tend to focus on the gear I'm bringing, having been caught out with two 49mm lens hoods instead of one 49mm and one 52mm, left the extra QR plate at home, etc. So I double-check the camera bag now and sometimes even bring spares I don't really need!
But your list makes me realize how much I rely on basic settings and change on the site as needs dictate. There are several shortcuts you've presented that I will try, if there's any adjustments or changes I'll post them here.
Thanks for posting, lots of good ideas here!
Ron
08-01-2013, 08:02 AM   #3
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Nice list and I agree with almost everything...except using the grip. When I'm tripod shooting I remove the grip for 2 reasons: 1) the camera is somewhat lighter w/o the grip, and lighter is always better with tripod work; 2) the tripod mount on the grip is offset from center, and I like exact center mounting better. Other than that minor quibble it's a good list.

NaCl(but what's a quibble or two among friends?)H2O
08-01-2013, 11:11 AM   #4
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If you're shooting Av, you need to cover the eyepiece to prevent stray light from affecting the metering.
I've found that it's best to turn off horizon correction when using a tripod.
Also agree that you're better off without the grip.

08-01-2013, 12:29 PM   #5
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Wow, I am impressed with your detail.

do you ever shoot a two (or more) frame pano? I do from time to time and so always avoid using any settings that may change from frame to frame such as AF, AWB, and auto metering modes. I love to click an aperture ring around, so tend to favor setting my aperture with the ring.
When using AF, I have recently switched to back button focus so I don't accidentally change focus with the shutter button.
I also keep the eyepiece cover on the camera at all times and slide it up a little for regular handheld shooting, etc...no more comfy rubber eyepiece thingy but that's ok.

Also, because I am frequently rushing to my location against traffic and changing light, I sometimes consider the shot i'll be taking in advance and have the right lens on there so I don't have to lose time changing in case I am late.

I also bought about 4 quick release plates so I don't need to fiddle with taking it off the body to put it on a tele, etc...all the teles have their own and one stays on the body.

The only other OCD behaviors I have are to designate certain pockets to hold certain things so I never have to guess where to find my filters, lens cap, Kleenex(for that perpetual winter drippy nose), battery, etc...
...oh, and I keep a dry pair of jeans, socks, and shoes in the car...learned this after getting thrown around by the ocean a few times and totally drenched.

Last edited by mikeSF; 08-01-2013 at 12:35 PM.
08-01-2013, 12:49 PM - 2 Likes   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by mcgregni Quote
as a pre shoot double check if the camera has been used for another kind of photography and the settings have been changed
...

Nigel McGregor

This is a great reminder, again, especially if you are in a rush to arrive at your location before the light changes. Often, the first shot I fire off is the keeper before the good light is lost.
Once, I was racing to shoot a brilliant orange morning twilight sky and only had time to take one long exposure before the colors faded...I had been shooting a kids birthday party the night before using my WB set to FLASH and did not have a spare moment to look at the camera settings...well, not only did I like the resulting blue and pink effect, I ended up selling several of these happy accidents:



This one was so popular, a few months later, I returned to shoot a companion image using similar settings:

08-01-2013, 01:54 PM   #7
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Great feedback so far everyone, thanks! Some great ideas to add to the list ....

QuoteOriginally posted by rbefly Quote
Wow, that's a very comprehensive list. I'd have to say, regarding camera set-up, you're more organized than many people, myself included.......
Thanks for posting, lots of good ideas here! Ron
Well, Ron, I give a good impression I guess, but I've had my dumber than dumb moments - like getting all set up then realising after pressing the button that I've not got an SD card within 10 miles of me!

But the more common issue I've found is making the jump from the more regular hand held shooting while out with the family or just grabbing shots. I realised that the camera is highly configurable and can be optimised to provide more efficient service for different photography genres and shooting setups - such as landscapes on a tripod with remote.

I found myself getting all framed up on location, light starting to fade, need to bag some images quick - and what happens? ... silly things, like the drive mode defaulting back to single shot whenever the camera is switched off (like when changing lenses), or the Exposure Compensation remaining adjusted when you really need it back to centre each time. You end up fiddling around with the menus just when you really need to be focussing on the creative aspects of the photography.
08-01-2013, 02:04 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by NaClH2O Quote
Nice list and I agree with almost everything...except using the grip..... Other than that minor quibble it's a good list. NaCl
Thanks, that's an interesting point about the grip. I'm very much a grip fanatic - its always on, and seems natural to keep it that way on the tripod. I did feel that having the 2nd battery or 6 AAs in the grip might be valuable for longer landscape expeditions. What you said about the weight issue got me thinking - I'd always thought that more weight was preferable on a tripod, for the extra stability? I know some people use weighted bags below the tripod head for this purpose. And again, I hadn't even noticed the off-centeredness caused by the grip! Is it fair to say these aspects may be down to personal preference or comfort?

08-01-2013, 02:11 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by johnyates Quote
If you're shooting Av, you need to cover the eyepiece to prevent stray light from affecting the metering.
I've found that it's best to turn off horizon correction when using a tripod.
Also agree that you're better off without the grip.
Thanks for those points - do you have issues with the grip for the same reasons as NaCl? The eyepiece cover is good extra point, especially in backlighting I guess. I'll add it in to my list. I don't use any horizon correction, as I edit all my shots so its easier to straighten on the PC. The list item I have active is the Horizon Indicators - the dotted line on the top plate and viewfinder, and the 'Artificial Horizon' style circular indicator on the rear LCD (activated by pressing info button twice I think) . This is do find useful when framing up, especially on hillsides or when there's uneven ground.
08-01-2013, 02:14 PM   #10
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MikeSF, thanks for all those ideas. No, I havn't done pano stuff, must try it sometime! All those other items you mention makes me worry now - looks like I'll have to start to draw up another checklist
08-01-2013, 02:16 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by mikeSF Quote
This is a great reminder, again, especially if you are in a rush to arrive at your location before the light changes. Often, the first shot I fire off is the keeper before the good light is lost.
Once, I was racing to shoot a brilliant orange morning twilight sky and only had time to take one long exposure before the colors faded...I had been shooting a kids birthday party the night before using my WB set to FLASH and did not have a spare moment to look at the camera settings...well, not only did I like the resulting blue and pink effect, I ended up selling several of these happy accidents:



This one was so popular, a few months later, I returned to shoot a companion image using similar settings:
Also, love the creative WB mistake! OK, then, we need a new checklist item - 'switch to random WB mode without looking and shoot again'
08-02-2013, 05:44 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by mikeSF Quote
This is a great reminder, again, especially if you are in a rush to arrive at your location before the light changes. Often, the first shot I fire off is the keeper before the good light is lost.
Once, I was racing to shoot a brilliant orange morning twilight sky and only had time to take one long exposure before the colors faded...I had been shooting a kids birthday party the night before using my WB set to FLASH and did not have a spare moment to look at the camera settings...well, not only did I like the resulting blue and pink effect, I ended up selling several of these happy accidents:



This one was so popular, a few months later, I returned to shoot a companion image using similar settings:
Awesome shots, Mike.
08-03-2013, 09:54 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by mcgregni Quote
Thanks, that's an interesting point about the grip. I'm very much a grip fanatic - its always on, and seems natural to keep it that way on the tripod. I did feel that having the 2nd battery or 6 AAs in the grip might be valuable for longer landscape expeditions. What you said about the weight issue got me thinking - I'd always thought that more weight was preferable on a tripod, for the extra stability? I know some people use weighted bags below the tripod head for this purpose. And again, I hadn't even noticed the off-centeredness caused by the grip! Is it fair to say these aspects may be down to personal preference or comfort?
About weight. It depends on where the weight is. Camera bags or other weights slung below the head are one thing, they lower the center of gravity and a low center of gravity is a Good Thing. Camera weight however is by necessity above the head, and the higher the center of gravity, the more unstable something will be. But it's not a lot, and like I said a quibble. And the offset on the grip is definitely a personal preference type of thing.

NaCl( there is more than one acceptable way to shoot)H2O
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