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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