Sunday, December 23, 2012

Nothing to shoot here...

I can't tell you how many times photographers have said to me " there's nothing to shoot here!"
There's ALWAYS something to shoot.....if you keep your eyes open and pay attention to the world around you. Even on the quietest streets and alleyways, there's small details, textures and contrasts that can be explored and celebrated.

I was up early on the island of Santorini in Greece with no-one around, and came across this blue door, broom and colorful curtain that balanced in a perfect composition. The "hand made" quality of the design elements helped tell the story about the beauty of the Greek Islands, and the embrace of individual craft in the construction and decoration of homes there.

The lesson here is to always keep your eyes open for beauty all around you....there's great subject matter everywhere!

Leica R8 with Leica 70-180mm f/2.8 Apo Elmarit-R Zoom Lens

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The pictures in between...

I was traveling between two cities in the state of Rajasthan, India...when I happened upon this itinerant group of locals, and whispered quietly to my driver...STOP THE CAR!!!

My point here, is that some of your best shots will be those moments when you are "in between" two places, and not really thinking about what's flying by the car ( or bus or train ) window. So never let your guard down...opportunities will pop up in the most unforeseen locations.

It's also why I like to have a car and a driver under my control in "image rich" locations like India.
For as much as you're spending on getting there, the small added cost is worth it!

Just don't drink the water.

Nikon F3 with 80-200mm f2.8 lens

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Getting above it all...

I was back in Hong Kong, having walked waaaay further than I really wanted to that day, but you don't get new shots if you don't keep the camera moving, so here I was...tired feet and all. I'd already captured plenty of eye level market shots, and was looking for something new, when I just happened to notice the pedestrian overpass above me.'s really more than that...they're called the Central-Mid-levels Escalators, and it's the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world, transporting pedestrians over 2500 feet halfway up the steep terrain of Hong Kong Island...but enough about the crazy ways the locals get around!

The point here, is that you should always keep your eyes open to an opportunity to get "above it all"
and capture a nice overview, or "down" shot, as we pro's call it.

Canon 5D MkIII with EF 70-200mm f2.8L IS II USM • 1/125th @ f5.6 • ISO 1600

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Twilight Serenade

Another lousy day on the Oregon Coast! What were you expecting....sunshine?
But don't put away the camera quite yet....because at twilight, something magic matter how threatening the sky may be, or how dreary the light may look.
Lights start coming on, and the dark, monochrome sky will turn a rich blue...just in time for you to grab your tripod and set up to capture this brief interval of magic light when the natural and "un-natural" light falls into a beautiful balance!

Canon 1Ds with 16-35mm f2.8 Lens

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Make friends in new places....

So a photographer walks into a church. In the Cook Islands in the South Pacific....on a Saturday.....what was I thinking? Sunday is a day of worship here.....NOT Saturday! Soft, warm light was filtering in the stained windows, the century old walls peeling and nicely faded.

But wait.....over there is a smiling Cook Islander happily sweeping the floor, getting ready for tomorrows' influx of parishioners. I smiled and walked over. "Would you mind if I grabbed a couple of shots of you sitting in the pews by the windows? I think it would make a really nice shot!"

So the lesson learned here, is that if you see a great location, but no-one occupying the frame, make it happen! If you look around, you'll probably find someone who would love to pose for you. Make a friend....get a great shot!

Fuji 690 GSW Camera w/ 65mm lens

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Your eyes don't work like lenses....

One of the first things I tell people when they get started in photography is that lenses "see" differently than your eyes do. That is, they offer a much broader range in terms of field of view, as well as having the ability to isolate a subject through selective focus.

In this example, as I was walking around a busy marketplace in Hoi-An, Vietnam, the one thing that stood out to me was a small concrete bridge across an adjacent waterway.

Although the scene beyond the bridge was rather cluttered and busy, through the use of selective focus with my telephoto lens, I knew I could keep the bridge in focus while throwing the distracting background out of focus and nicely soft.

On top of that, the bridge was beautifully backlit, so all I had to do was wait.......

And always...generally pays off!

Nikon F4 with Nikkor 180mm f2.8 lens

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Details, Details....

I was wandering around Hong Kong's famous Yuen Po Street Bird Garden, unfortunately packed to the gills ( feathers? ) with tourists, trying to figure out how I could shoot without getting Bob and Carol Metcalfe from Muncie, Indiana in my shots...when it came to me...

Move in tight on the details! In this case...birds. Sometimes things get so overwhelming visually, that we can tell the story better with the details rather than the big picture.

You don't need a macro, or close-up lens to shoot this tight, generally. Most modern day zooms allow you to focus and zoom close enough to capture some nice detail without having to switch lenses.

So...the next time you just can't find the wide shot that works....move in tight!

Canon 1Ds Mark-II with Canon 24-70mm 2.8 @ f4.0

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Gotta get low, low, low...

Some of the best shots you can take are when you break the "6 foot" rule.....just because your eyes are roughly 6 feet off the ground, it doesn't mean the best place to shoot from is there!

So get off your "high horse" and get low...on the ground if need be. You will find that not only does the world look different from down there, but if you get in close to some interesting foreground subject matter, the distracting backgrounds tend to disappear behind them.

I've found shooting low and with a wide angle lens can really create some dramatic imagery that would otherwise be left undiscovered. 

If your camera has a swivel viewing screen, it makes seeing what you're shooting easy, but if you don't have that or a right angle finder for your eyepiece, try just shooting a "range" of tilt angles until the horizon is where you want it to be. Pixels are cheap!

Canon 1Ds with 16-35mm f2.8 Lens at 30mm set to 1/400th @ f10.0

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Near and far....

This image of a small boat…sitting high above the Aegean sea on the island of Santorini in Greece, illustrates two good points about creating a successful landscape shot. 

Point one is to try and incorporate a foreground element within the frame….this helps give the image a sense of depth, as well as lead the eye into the background.

Point two is that the foreground element relates somehow to the background….here it's the idea of the small boat high above the distant sea, but it could be as simple as a small tree against a distant forest, or a few sea shells against a sunlit ocean. 

Adding elements such as these to your landscape shots will provide interest and depth that would otherwise be missing if you just shoot landscapes from afar.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

How to get great shots in the worst weather:

You've just flown for 12 hours strapped to a worn out airline seat, eating whatever morsels were put in front of you more out of sheer boredom than hunger......but now you're THERE!

Waking up the next morning with camera in hand.....ready to walk the streets of an exotic new city, hoping to blaze new visual trails in the early morning walk out the front door of your hotel to find...GLOOM!

Fear not, O ye, of little faith! With the simple application of some " supplemental flash ", even the gloomiest weather can provide a visual cornucopia of options. The secret is to slightly underexpose the background, while setting the flash to correctly expose the foreground. In the image shown below.....I underexposed the background skyline 1 stop, set my TTL flash on auto.....did a test shot with my Canon 7D...and then adjusted the flash exposure compensation to correctly expose for the kiosk.

It's easier for me to let the flash TTL have a first go at setting the exposure correctly, and more often than not it gets it right. When I need to adjust it somewhat, I just use the flash exposure  compensation to "tweak" it rather than go to a manual flash setting, since that would require constant readjustment for every flash to subject distance change.

Simple solutions are always better when you need to shoot fast. With digital cameras, we get instant feedback on how well the TTL flash units are lighting the subject, and can achieve a much better "keeper" rate than back in the days of film.....when we sometimes waited until a trip was over before we knew how well we did!

In this example, I used a Canon 7D with 16-35mm lens set at 1/250th sec at f 5.6 at iso 400 with built-in TTL flash.

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Shooting time exposures in daylight:

One of the cooler effects you can achieve with a strong N.D., or Neutral Density filter is the ability to reduce the light reaching the sensor so much, that you can actually do a time exposure of a few seconds even in bright daylight.

This creates a rather unworldly look to images shot in bright sunshine. With careful use of a sturdy tripod, anything in the frame that is moving around reproduces as a blur or streak, depending on it's movement during the exposure time. Set that against a fixed background, and things get very interesting visually!

A standard 0.9, or 3 stop N.D. Filter won't give you this affect, however. You really need a Variable N.D. filter, composed of 2 polarizers that can be rotated against each other. This allows for variable light reduction from around 2.75 to 8 stops, depending on the angle of rotation. Another option is a 3.0 N.D. filter, that provides around 10 stops of fixed light reduction.

In this example, I used a 3.0 N.D. Filter on my camera fitted with a 24mm lens exposing for 8 seconds at f 11.0

A Manfrotto tripod was used to hold the camera steady for the duration of the exposure.

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Top ten tips for better pictures:

Get Down and Get Dirty
One important part of making better  pictures is utilizing an interesting point of view. Try seeing from the point of view of four legged beast or a flying bug.
And don't wear fancy slacks.

See the Future
Try to mentally construct the image that you hope to create. Practicing previsualization is a great way to improve your photos and to help with the logistics of making images.  Many a great shot has been spoiled by arriving late or for lack of the right equipment.

Get Bored
Some of my best images were done when I was bored out of my mind and the camera was the perfect excuse to have an adventure.

See the forest and the trees
New photographers often make the mistake of using the camera like a gun.  Placing the subject in the very center of the frame and firing.
The visual environment around the subject is also an important part of the image. Try to see the entire image.

Make New Mistakes
Making the same mistakes over and over again is so boring.

Kill the Flash
Trust natural light. Avoid on-camera flash and increase the camera ISO.  New digital cameras are great with low light.

Revisit your failures
If you're unhappy with a shot, try to do it again.  Practice, Practice, Practice

Be a Chimp
It's more than fine to review your images on the LCD screen.  It's great.  Do it. Pros do it all the time (with laptops).

Take Less Gear
Having less equipment helps you to concentrate on better seeing.  iPhones don't count.

Get Hung up
Find a subject or location that fascinates you and turn that into a long term photo project. Good photos require practice.
More photo opportunities translate into better pictures in the long run.

Get Lost
The best locations are often random and accidental.  Keep your eyes open and be willing to explore.

Bring Another Leg
I love to use a monopod.  It's small and easy to pack and helps reduce my coffee jitters.
Tripods are also great to have, if you have a mule or broad shoulders.

Use a Torch
OK, flashlight.  The best times for photography are also the best time to be stranded in the dark.
Or paint with light.

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