Why I never shoot in Manual mode

At one point in my photographic career I’ve noticed that many photographers proud themselves in shooting only in manual mode. I get it, they want to emphasize the fact that they mastered exposure technique and  know exactly what f-stop and shutter speed to set for each lighting scenario.

“I shoot manual only” people generally look down on all the regular folk who are not in their club.
Well, guess what, in my opinion it is not wise and plain unnecessary to shoot on manual in this day and age.

Let me defend the case of Aperture Priority mode as the only one you’ll ever need to use whether you are an amateur or even pro photographer. There’s only one caveat here – if you shoot high speed events such as sports or racing you might want to consider Shutter Priority mode, but I’ll get to this down the road.

Why Aperture Priority you ask? It’s simple – because it gives you full control of your camera without forcing you to always be cautious of accidentally under/over exposing your shot. I wrote ‘accidentally’ on purpose, since you still have full artistic freedom of intentionally blowing out your highlights or deepening the shadows.

Ethereal beautiful woman swirling in a dance move

 

But first thing first – what is Aperture Priority mode?
In Aperture Priority mode you set your desired aperture and camera sets the shutter speed according to its built-in light meter. From my description it seems that you get only to control the depth of field (since that’s what changing f/stop does to the image). However, in addition to setting the aperture in this mode, you can also set exposure compensation, which leads us to the next question.

What is exposure compensation? By setting exposure compensation you basically tell your camera to use its built-in light meter to set the exposure, but then intentionally over or under expose the scene by the amount that you specify. For example you are shooting a sunset pointing your camera directly at the setting sun. Built it light meter will set exposure according to the bright sun, leaving the rest of the scene under-exposed. So if you want to achieve correct exposure, you need to set exposure compensation at about +1 or +1.5 stops. This way the camera will ‘add’ more exposure time to its measurement.

Now that we are familiar with exposure compensation, add it to your arsenal when using Aperture Priority mode, and you are almost set for any shooting scenario. The remaining bit of knowledge to mastering Aperture Priority is the ISO control.

Celebration of color and movement

By setting ISO you control your sensor’s sensitivity to light. The lower the ISO number, the less sensitive your camera will be to light. But why do we need different values of ISO? Example to the rescue again! Let’s say you are shooting people indoors where the light is dim, and people are moving. At ISO 100 and f/8, your shutter speed will have to be 1/15th of a second in order to correctly expose your scene. But at 1/15s anything that is even slightly moving will be blurred in the resulting image. One solution would be to open your aperture to f2.8 (for example), but what if that’s not something you want to do? Or in some places the light is so dim that even at f2.8 your exposure times are too long. The only option you have is to set ISO higher. In the example above you’ll need to go up to ISO 400 or even 800 to get acceptable shutter speeds.

The lowest ISO is usually 50, which you would normally only use when shooting in bright daylight. The highest ISO differ between cameras, the highest that I heard of was 409,600! It means that this camera can basically shoot in very dark conditions and still produce visible details.  Remember though, you always want to shoot at lowest ISO possible because the higher your ISO, the more noise you’ll have in the image.

That’s it! By setting your desired f/stop, exposure compensation, and ISO, you have full control of your camera as if you were shooting in manual but still let your camera do the tedious job of metering the light so you don’t have to worry about it.

Let’s reinforce this claim with a few examples.

1. Shooting sunset with sun visible in the frame.

a. Set the desired f-stop. I’ll go with f/11 to achieve optimal overall sharpness and depth of field for my taste.
b. Since the sun is in the frame, the camera’s built in light meter will under-expose the scene, so I’ll set exposure compensation to +1 stop.
c. If I use tripod, I don’t care that the exposure time might be too long, so I don’t mess with ISO and leave it at the lowest setting possible for my camera. If I don’t use tripod, I half press the shutter button and see what shutter speed my camera chooses. If it is too long, I’ll bump the ISO to the next level (ISO levels are 50-\>100-\>200-\>400-\>800-\>etc.) and check the exposure time again.

2. Shooting portraits indoors.

a. Set the desired f-stop. I’ll go with f/4 in this case to achieve low depth of field that will give me enough sharpness for all facial features but also a pleasantly blurred background.
b. Check that there’s no exposure compensation set, because I want my portraits to be correctly exposed using the available light.
c. Half press the shutter button and see what shutter speed my camera chose at the lowest ISO setting. Then bump up the ISO until the shutter speed is acceptable. Shooting handheld I normally don’t go slower than 1/30th of a second, or even 1/60th if my hands are a bit shaky.

3. Shooting rays of light protruding through trees in the forest.

This is not an obvious thing to achieve. I am talking about those beautiful rays of light seeping through the dense foliage, and hitting the low vegetation.
a. Set your f-stop at whatever value that you want. No suggestions here on my part.
b. Here’s the important part – set the exposure compensation to about -1.5 stops. Reason being – you want the rays of light to stand out, so you need to under expose your scene. Don’t worry about the rays – they are so bright that they will still be perfectly visible, but your background now will be dark enough for the rays to stand out!
c. As usual, if you are not using tripod, half-press the shutter button and check the exposure time. Adjust the ISO accordingly.

Ethereal beautiful woman swirling in a dance move

In conclusion – Aperture Priority mode can be used to deal with any photographic situation without the hassle of manually metering the light as you would need in manual mode. Therefore it is to me an absolute winner between those two modes. If you have another opinion, please, feel free to share it in the comments as I am always willing to learn.

 

Oh, I forgot to mention the Shutter Priority mode for sports and stuff. When you shoot fast moving objects such as race cars or football players, and you want to freeze their motion in your frame (in other words produce sharp images), you need to make sure that your shutter speed is short enough. Let’s say 1/500th of a second and shorter. Achieving that is easy with Shutter Priority mode, in which you set the desired shutter speed, and camera sets the f/stop. In Shutter priority mode you can still control all the rest of the settings by using exposure compensation and ISO controls exactly as you would in Aperture Priority mode.

Photographing Still Life Part II

About three months ago I wrote an article about my work with still life objects. I’ve been continuing photographing still life since then and experimenting with different ways of post processing the images. In this post I will show some of my more recent works. Click on the images to view larger version.

In this image I went with simplicity in shapes but added more interest using texture.
Still Life with bottle and wine glass

Here, on the contrary, I wanted to create a more complex image with additional elements. My main problem was to choose these elements so that they would fit harmoniously into my composition. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether I succeeded or not. 
Still Life with bottles, mandarins, and leafs

I especially like this image, mostly because it wasn’t easy to come up with the idea for it. I started it by trying various compositions of glasses and the bottle, and various liquid levels. After I achieved something that looked good to me, I still felt that something was missing from the image. So I looked around for an item to add, and decided to add the two marbles. But I needed an aesthetic way to place them, and after a while I solved this puzzle with a spoon. I made a couple of shots and still wasn’t completely satisfied with the results. Suddenly it hit me that these marbles on the spoon look like musical notes! To make this idea more visible I added musical sheet to the background and the photo frame, and finally I felt the image was complete.
Still Life with bottle and glasses

 

This is my best still life image to date. It has an interesting idea and a nice execution. In addition this image was accepted to 1x.com !!! It was my dream to have my image featured there, and I finally achieved it. You can see it on 1x.com here.
Still Life with bottles

 

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Photographing Still Life

For the last several months I’ve been focusing on photographing still life images. I don’t know exactly why but I am drawn to still life photography. I like to create various compositions putting emphasis on shapes, light, and color. In this article I’ll share some of my creations and talk you through my thought process. The images that you will see here where created by me during the course of the last five months.

I started experimenting with simple shapes and gradually added more components using bottles and other items I had at home. My first images consisted of two objects and were shot in black and white. This way I was able to concentrate purely on shape and light. Here is one such example, which I liked. There is a contrast between one dark, “solid” object on the foreground and one light, almost transparent object in the background. I tried intuitively to place them in a way that would look interesting and pleasing to me.

Still life with bottle and vase in black and white by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

Next I added one more object, some color, and changed the lighting. The reason I changed the lighting is for the color to bee seen, but I still wanted to have shadow in the image. This way I aimed to bring a certain mood into the image. Looking at it on my computer screen I felt that something was missing, tried to add texture, and liked the result. This image is still very simplistic, a building block in my studies of still life photography.

Still life with bottle and vase in color by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

I kept on trying various compositions, and here’s my attempt to add some humor. There’s not much sense to it, but I like this drunk zebra 🙂

Still life with bottles and toy horse in black and white by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

The image below was inspired by images of Victoria Ivanova . She has some very cool conceptual still life images with pears (and other items). I call this image “Examination”. Will let you figure this one out for yourself 🙂

Still life with bottles and pears in color by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

Concept imagery is pretty difficult to come up with, and I didn’t have much luck with it just yet. In the meantime I continued to focus on form, light and color. In my next composition I wanted to emphasize a single color, so it would become the whole theme of the image. It doesn’t mean that there is only one color but that it is the vividly dominant one, so there’s no mistake as to which one is it.

Still life with bottle vase apple and glass in color by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

I also tried to change backgrounds and match them to my subjects. One of the things I learned from the photo below is that I don’t like empty things. I didn’t notice this at first, but when I looked at the final image I kept thinking that something was missing, and finally I realized that all the items were empty!

Still life with bottles and glasses in color by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

I didn’t repeat that mistake in my next image. In this image I made an emphasis on color. Seeing the final image I saw that vivid colors add a lot of interest to it. Ideally, of course, it should also be the shape, the light, and the meaning of the image together to form a good one.

Still life with bottles glass and fruits in color by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

The image below is the most recent one I created. When working on its’ composition I felt that only glass objects with (or without) liquid created a lacking picture. I tried to add various objects but nothing worked. Then I went out to the garden and looked around, saw this sprout and tried to add it to my composition. Finally I got what I needed, and the image was complete. There is an interesting “cross-balance” (term I thought of just now 🙂 ) in this photograph: A diagonal line of three filled objects from top left to bottom right, and another diagonal line of two empty objects from top right to bottom left.

Still life with bottles glass and flora in color by greg brave
click on the photo to enlarge

A few technical notes regarding my lighting setup: I generally had two lights. One is located below the table on which I created my compositions. That light was lighting the background and adding the glow to the bottles from behind. Another one is located to the left of the camera and just a bit above the bottles. On it I placed polarizing gel and also used a polarizing filter on the lens. I turned the polarizer on the lens so that the reflections of the light source in the bottles would not be visible. In some cases I created two exposures of the same composition – one with reflections and another without. Later in Photoshop I loaded the two exposures as layers, completely masked out the exposure with reflections, and only revealed the reflections that I wanted to be seen.

Your comments, questions, and thoughts are highly appreciated!

How to determine suitable photographic paper

Photographers spend many hours perfecting their image capturing skills and a lot of money obtaining the most advance photography equipment. When images remain in the digital realm all is well, but when images are printed on an inferior photo paper all that hard work and money often goes down the drain. This can be avoided and rectified by using a suitable photographic paper and here is what to look for.

Brands

Manufactures of photo paper often brandish a budget line and a premium line so ‘brand name’ alone is less important than you think. In fact, users often limit their choice of paper to one made by their printer manufacture due to incorrect information. Printer manufacturers do not produce photo paper, which are made by external suppliers on their behalf.  Therefore, having a certain brand of printer does not limit you to its range of photo paper alone.  External suppliers often produce photo paper with universal compatibility that is made to a higher quality than your printer’s own range of photo paper.  As long as you ensure to adjust the printer settings to the correct finish, grade and size of photo paper results will match and often exceed your printer manufacture photo paper results.

Inkjet Vs. Laser Printers

Printer technology is divided into Inkjet and Laser technology. The choice of most photographers is Inkjet due to higher DPI (Dots Per Inch) of 2880 vs. 720DPI achieved by Laser printers. Higher DPI ensures accurate image details, true colour representation and high quality photo paper support over bigger areas (A3 and A3+ sizes for example). Inkjet uses dye or pigment based inks propelled on the media by means of an accurate jet (hence, Ink-Jet). It results in slower printing time compared to laser, but higher accuracy. On the other hand, laser uses powder based ink which melts on the media after going though heat fusion. It results in shorter printing time that is fantastic in a commercial office environment for example when large amounts of ready prints are needed quickly.  However printing quality of laser printers will not be accurate to the digital image as much as Inkjet will.

Photo Paper Structure

The difference between budget and premium photo papers by the same manufacturer or even between completely different makes is in the structure of the paper. Understand the various options and you would be able to choose the most suitable media for your printing job.

Base – Photographic papers are made from either normal uncoated base or one that has a pre-coating of polyethylene – PE, on which an inkjet receiving layer is then added.   PE photo paper base which are present in premium examples has superior of significant amounts of inks. The PE coating helps ensure that ink is not allowed to penetrate the paper.

Receiving Layer – Unlike the base which is visible to the eye, the receiving layer is invisible, however it makes ALL the difference between the average and the high end photo papers. The receiving layer is a chemical coating, which is applied onto the paper. It is tasked with welcoming the ink and ensures it is held in place. Smudging after printing, ink that has run to the other side of the paper, poor colour representation and other quality indicators are often linked to the type of receiving layer used.

Budget lines use a ‘cast coated’ receiving layer, which is suitable in most cases. It is a far cheaper coating to produce, which explains why you would often come across cast coated in budget lines. The chemical is placed on the paper so prints would often be prone to smearing if touched immediately after printing. Cast coated is made from uncoated base paper without the PE pre coating.

Superior models often use pore based receiving layer either nano or micro pore in which ink ‘sits’ within tiny pores in the chemical. Therefore, the print can be held immediately after printing and longevity of the print is far longer. Prints printed on the pore based receiving layer are instant dry, will cope better with UV light and water as well as having a better archival properties such as anti-fading and anti-yellowing.

Finish Options

Photo papers come in three common finishes which are designed to enhance the image. The three are measured to a glossy scale from the most to the least and naturally the options in between. It is often a question of personal taste, though it can also take a practical angle. The three are glossy, satin and matt, though variations such as semi-gloss, pearl and luster are also available.

Glossy – The finish with the highest level of glare is the glossy finish, though some brands use higher level of glare than others. Glossy will suit most circumstances as it has the potential to sharpen the image. On the other hand, behind glass and from certain angles the glare can make the image hard to see.

Satin – Satin includes certain gloss but to a lesser degree. Versions of satin that you are likely to come across include Pearl, Semi-Gloss and Luster. They are all extremely similar to satin, perhaps with a slight difference in texture.

Matt – Matt include zero levels of gloss. It is rarely used in the reproduction of high quality imagery, more for printing in bulk and on a tight budget.

Photo Paper Weight GSM

Weight is measured in GSM (grams per square meter – g/m²) and indicates perceived appearance than anything else. Unlike common belief, it isn’t an indication of ‘quality’ but does play an important role in the perceived value of the print. Higher GSM photo paper often feel heavier to feel, which when giving the print away makes for a good first impression. Heavyweight photo paper which carries the budget structure characters of normal base and coast coating will often prove inferior to a lighter weight photo paper which carries the premium structure qualities.

Enjoy your printing now that you are aware of the difference in photo paper qualities and options.  Please leave your comments below.

Written by Joseph Eitan of PhotoPaperDirect.com. Joseph is the MD of the brand and works with professional as well as amateur photographers in order to help them make the most of their printed media.

London Bridge Panorama, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

About a week ago I took my family for a short 5 day vacation. We decided to go for a drive along the famous Great Ocean Road here in Victoria. Of course I had my DSLR with me, however I didn’t use it during the noon hours of sunny days. I used my iPhone instead. Here is a panorama I took from the London Bridge viewing platform.

London Bridge, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

London Bridge, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

P.S. The photo from the previous post (Apollo Bay) was also taken on this trip.

Photographing still life in studio – how to shoot reflective surfaces

Have you ever tried to shoot still life with bottles or any other glass object? If you did then you know that it is difficult. It is difficult because glass reflects bloody everything. Theoretically I knew that, but I totally forgot about it when I suddenly got the urge to shoot me some bottles 🙂

I realized that only after first few clicks of the shutter, when looking at the back of my camera I saw reflection of me, my camera, ceiling and most of other irrelevant stuff in my studio. Then I started thinking what can I do to eliminate all the reflections.

First thing I did was to turn off all ceiling lights, leaving only modeling lights from the strobes to light the studio. It helped, but I didn’t want the strobes to be reflected in the bottles either. My solution was to place main light under the table pointed at the background, so the main light itself wasn’t visible at all and the bottles were lit from behind. I still had to add some light from the front, and so I did.

In the photo below you can see the reflection of the front soft box ( I cleaned it a bit in post, but it is still visible). This photo is a composite, in which bottles were shot fist and then I shot two additional photos while holding the grapes with two fingers at each side of the bottles. Having camera on tripod all the images were aligned to begin with. Later I loaded them as layers in Photoshop, and masked out my hands from the grapes.

Still life with bottles and grapes

For the next image I didn’t want to have any reflections on the bottle and glass at all, but I still needed to light the vase from the front. Since the vase wasn’t transparent, when I only lit the scene from behind, it was almost totally black. Therefore, to create the image below I shot two photos – first only with back lighting, and the second with additional light from the high left. In Photoshop, again, I loaded the two images as layers into a single file, and used the bottles from the first image and vase from the second.

Still life with bottles

It took me a while to create the image below, and not due to technicalities. On the vast plains of the Internet I saw a few creative still life photos with pears, and felt like trying something creative with them myself. It turned out to be not simple at all (not that I thought it would)! At first I just tried to arrange pears and other items without any intention – just to make something nice. After about an hour I realized that it doesn’t work. Then I put everything aside, and just sat on the couch and thought about what I really wanted to create. I thought about what happened lately in my life and in the world, and little by little ideas started popping into my head and I ended up with the image below, which I call “Examination”

Examination

 The background texture was added later in Photoshop, if you were wondering 🙂

P. S. There is one really cool way to get rid of the reflections of your light sources in the bottles (or any reflective surface), but it requires additional equipment, part of which I didn’t have. You can buy sheets of polarizing gels and put them on your light sources. Also you’ll have to put a polarizing filter on your lens. Then by adjusting the polarizing filter on the lens you will be able to completely eliminate the reflections.

Your comments  and thoughts on this post and my works are very much appreciated, so don’t hesitate to write them in the comment section below !

Melbourne Botanical Gardens – Vertical Panorama

Recently I tried to shoot something new for me – a vertical panorama. It turned out to be a fairly easy thing to achieve with the iPhone’s native app.

So I started to experiment in different locations, and here is one that I think is interesting. The downside to it is that iPhone can’t create HDR panoramas, so in this case the sky is blown out.

Later I found out that before you start taking the panoramic shot, you can lock exposure (by a long tap on the desired area) and then record the panorama. I afraid though that if I locked the exposure on the sky in this photo, then everything else would be very dark.

Melbourne Botanical Gardens - Vertical Panorama

Melbourne Botanical Gardens – Vertical Panorama

Panoramic shot of a place in Frankston

Here in Frankston, where I live, I take a daily stroll with my baby daughter. We have a few different routes, and on one of them there is this roundabout. Nothing special about it, but when I took a panoramic shot I happened to like it a lot. There is a certain dynamic to the lines that create the walking path, the road, and the nature strip. I like that. Here, see for yourself 🙂 (the image is clickable)

Somewhere in Frankston, Victoria, Australia

Somewhere in Frankston, Victoria, Australia

Looking at this photo, I just thought that I wish there was a person walking on the path… #afterthoughts

Eagle’s Nest – Panorama shot with iPhone

Shooting panoramas is not something new at all. Shooting panoramas with iPhone isn’t either. However, in order to shoot a panorama on my iPhone 3Gs I had to use third party apps and it made the process somewhat cumbersome. Eventually I ended up almost not shooting panoramas at all.

But everything changed when I got an iPhone 5 (again as a present!), and now it has an option to shoot panoramas straight from the native camera app. It is pretty easy, although requires some basic skills, and its right there! So I’ve decided to take on a project to shoot at least one panorama a week, and share it here on my blog.

I also created a category especially for that. You can find it in the top menu bar, under the “Blog” menu.

Here is the first panorama that I’m sharing in this project. It was taken at Eagle’s Nest beach in Victoria.

Enjoy!

Eagle's Nest beach, Victoria, Australia

Eagle’s Nest beach, Victoria, Australia

Birthday Photoshoot

A couple of weeks ago I’ve got another family photoshoot. It was a very nice couple and a cutest little boy Leon who just recently turned 2 so they wanted some photos to remember this age. Parents wanted photos to be taken in the boys’ natural environment – their home and backyard. Therefore for me it was an “on location” photo shoot and I had to bring my lighting equipment.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

 

When shooting kids in studio you have time to set up all the lighting equipment before the session, but when you come to a family home, chances are you won’t have that luxury. There also might not be enough space for your light stands and stuff, which was exactly the case in this shoot. Lucky for me there was a large window with white curtains that provided a great light source. I also mounted a Canon 430ex speedlight on my camera and used it as additional light source, bouncing the light from the walls and ceiling.

For example, in the photo below I pointed the flash at the ceiling to get Leons’ beautiful long hair to be lit from above.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

With little kids most of the times you have first to earn their trust by playing with them and smiling a lot :), and then you have to react to their movements and catch those brief moments in which they forget about your presence and act naturally. I was also looking to capture various emotions and moods of the child.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Another good idea is to give a kid something to play with. When Leon saw my large shoot-through umbrella, his eyes lit up with interest and he started to play with it, but it turned out to be too big for him. However his parents found a solution – they gave him a smaller umbrella, which kept him (and me) occupied for a while.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

At some point during the shoot Leon got so comfortable with me and my camera that he started intentionally posing for me. When kids pose for camera it is nothing like when adults do it. Kids are natural, they can’t look “posing for camera” by definition, and I can prove it to you. In the next two photos Leon was intentionally posing for me.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Could you tell that he was intentionally posing?

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I didn’t think so!

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I enjoyed this photoshoot very much and most importantly – the parents loved my work!

Brightening the eyes in Lightroom 4 quickly and easily

 

Sometimes, after shooting portraits, when I look at the photos, I see that in some of them the persons’ iris is too dark. In that case I want to brighten it (obviously 🙂 ). To do that, in Lightroom 3 I used to choose the adjustment brush, bump up the brightness slider a little bit, and brush the eyes. This presented a problem because it would brighten up everything I “brushed”, so I had to be very accurate with the brush and the process took quite some time considering I would do it to many photos.

Luckily Lightroom 4 improved the overall processing workflow and now I can do it much faster and more efficiently. So If you have Lightroom 4 and want to brighten up a bit eyes of your models here’s a quick and easy way to do it.

1. Go to develop module in Lightroom and select the adjustment brush:

Lightroom adjustment brush tool

2. Increase the Shadows slider quite a bit, but make sure that all other sliders are zeroed out.

Lightroom adjustment brush tool settings

3. Brush over your model’s eyes quickly, not trying to make the exact selection.

4. Adjust the Shadows slider to taste 🙂

What happens is that the Shadows slider brightens (or darkens if you slide it to the left) only the darks, and usually around the area of the eye, the iris is the darkest part. The eyelashes and the pupils are completely black and Shadows slider doesn’t affect them. So if you accidentally select a small portion of the white of the eye, or the skin, they won’t be affected by this adjustment.

Here’s an example of before and after using this technique

Darker Eyes

Before (click to enlarge)

Brighter Eyes

After (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope you will find it useful, and be sure to let me know how you go in the comments section below!

P.S. For best results I recommend shooting RAW

Building Composition

In this post I’d like to talk about composing photographs “after the fact”. Wait, don’t jump to any conclusions just yet, let me explain what I mean.
About a month ago I had to fly to Sydney for work but got stuck at the airport due to bad weather. I spent about two hours sitting in front of the large viewing glass looking at the runways. The weather was indeed stormy, it was dark from all the clouds, and there was nothing to photograph.
But when the weather started to get better, clouds began to clear, and airport started to come back to life, I finally took my camera out and started to stock my prey. I wanted to capture this feeling of the “airport awakening” when the planes begin to approach the runways, and workers move to and fro. Unfortunately no matter how hard I tried or how long I waited, I couldn’t capture the picture I had in mind… at least not in a single frame. Needless to say that I was very disappointed.

Later, when I returned home and went over those photos, my imagination switched gears – I saw details in different photographs, that put together would be able to create that image I had in my mind while shooting. Since I know my way around Photoshop,  I decided to go ahead and try to do that.

I ended up with two images which both have two things in common – both of them I would call “airport awakening”  because they portray the clearing of the storm, and resuming operations of the airport. The second thing is the way in which I created this sense of awakening – with directions. I’ll explain this in more detail by going over the images.

In this first image I have three different “directions”, which go in zig-zag shape leading the viewer’s eye from one element of composition to the next. First is the direction of the two trolleys, which goes from lower right to somewhere in the middle left side of the image, next is the direction of the moving utility vehicle which catches the eye on its way to the left and redirects it towards the upper right corner, and finally the eye reaches the plane and again changes direction to the left ending up on the airplanes in the distance. The floor is still wet from the rain, but the sun starts to shine through, giving the feeling that storm has ended…

Melbourne Airport

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The second image is darker, as if there is still the danger of the storm, but the moving vehicles hint of a hope for good weather. And again, we have the directions theme – from right to left, then from left to right, and finally the plane takes us into the depths of the image.

Melbourne Airport

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The main thing that made the compositing easy was that I shot all the photos from approximately the same location and also I was using the same focal length.

As always your thoughts, suggestions, and critiques are welcome in the comments section below.

Old Cars Show in Mornington

 

Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition
A couple of weeks ago Ira and I visited a collectible cars show at the Mornington’s racecourse. There were lots of beautiful old cars and we had lots of fun.There were also quite a few photographers taking shots of these beauties. But from my photographic perspective, I didn’t want to simply photograph the cars as I am sure there are already many photos of each model that was showcased there.
So instead I tried to look at the event not as “this is a car show, so I am going to photograph cars” but more as “this is a social event featuring nice cars, so there will be people interacting with them, and I want to capture this interaction”. And even when I photographed only the cars I tried to convey how I see them. For example when shooting the b&w Jaguar in the photo above I tried to show the “facial expression” of that car which was kind of “right in your face” 🙂 Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition

Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition

Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition


We spent about one and a half hours at the show, and just when I thought that I’m done photographing, the car owners began starting up their cars and drive away – it was the end of that day. During the show the cars were standing unattended, while their owners were sitting somewhere in the shadow chatting and drinking coffee, so now it was a great opportunity for me to capture the cars together with their owners, and I tried to make the most of it.

Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition

 Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition

 

From the technical side the biggest problem was the harsh sunlight, which created deep shadows and sharp transitions from light to shadow, so it was difficult to capture both the car and its surroundings and the driver sitting inside the car in the shadow. My solution to that problem was to shoot in RAW and slightly overexpose my photographs. This way in post processing I could lighten up the shadows and darken the highlights (the RAW format gives you a bit of freedom in correcting your exposure).

 

Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition

Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition

 

Hope you enjoyed the photos, and as always – you’re welcome to leave your “creative responses in the comment section below” (© Equals Three) 🙂

Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition

Post-processing variations

I am not a believer in the “straight out of camera” philosophy. You know, the photographers who don’t do post processing at all and sometimes shoot in plain JPEGs. Anything in addition to that, would be “distorting the reality” they claim. My opinion on this subject is that there is no such thing as objective reality. Everyone sees what he sees through his own eyes and his own perspective. Your previous life experience also alters your perception of everything that you see around you. Even when you simply point your camera at a scene and shoot, the light goes through the lens, hits the sensor, gets transferred into electronic signals, then is processed by your digital camera’s own processor, and undergoes even more transformations until you see the photo on your computer screen. I don’t think I need to go further.

So, when I work on a photo, first I usually perform basic adjustments in Lightroom such as brightness and contrast and then, if I feel that it is not enough, first I try to understand why I feel that way. Is it the composition? If it is the composition then there’s nothing much can be done in post processing, and I will probably discard that photograph. But if the composition feels right then I continue my exploration.  Are the shadows too shallow or too deep? Can the colors be improved?

Next, I open the photo in Photoshop and start playing with it, changing color palette, increasing/decreasing lights and darks, and other adjustments. Usually I come up with several versions of processed image, which look good to me, then I compare them and choose the one that I like the most.

Below I have three versions of the same photo, but the thing is that I can’t choose the one that I like the most. Each version has its own mood, and I have trouble choosing.

The first image below is the original version with only minor brightness adjustments.

Waterfall version I

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The second version received quite a bit of processing, and has a warm autumnal feeling to it. I like the purplish glow and how it contrasts with the white of the water.

Waterfall version II

Click on the photo to enlarge.

In the third version I used the original photo as the base, substantially decreasing color saturation, of all the colors except the yellow of the leaves in the water. I also happen to like this version a lot.

Waterfall version III

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Which version did you like? Please help me choose, but I also need to know the reason for your choice, and this is what the comment section below is for! You can also leave your comments on my Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/photopathway

Nepal In Photographs – Part 2 (Portraits)

This is my second post, in which I write about my photographic experience in Nepal. You can read the first part here. While in the first part I showed you Nepali landscapes, now I’d like to show a few portraits of Nepali people.

Interestingly in some cases people would not let me to take their photographs at first. In that case I would nod in agreement (like, hey I won’t take your photo if you don’t want me to) , point my camera at other subjects, and take a few photos here and there. This would get them interested. Then I would approach them and show them the photos I just made on the back screen. Next thing you know they are posing in front of the camera and running back to me to see the picture. I wished I had a portable printer with me so I could print out and give them their photos.

The photo below was taken on Helambu trek. We were passing a settlement in the hills of Kathmandu valley and made a short break in a nice spot overlooking rice terraces. These women were passing by, and seeing us smoke asked for a cigarette. In return we asked to take their photos 🙂

Hardworking Nepali Women

1/200sec at f3.5, 28mm | Click on the photo to enlarge.

One of the settlements on Helambu trek is Golphu Banyang. It has only one main “street” and not many tourists are staying there overnight, trying to reach the next village of Khutumsang. But it so happened that we did stay there, and I had the whole evening to photograph local kids. Once I showed them a photo on my camera they wouldn’t stop posing, only downside being late time of the day and, as a result, very dim light.

Kids Are Always Kids

1/500sec at f2.8, 100mm | Click on the photo to enlarge.

The photo below was also made at Golphu Banyang on the following morning when we were leaving the village. The evening before I saw this old man in the same pose, doing the same thing, but it was too dark to make a good photo. In the morning though, there was this beautiful ray of light, lighting perfectly his face and hand. The result you can see below.

Working Man

1/160sec at  f3.2, 28mm | Click on the photo to enlarge.

On our way to Gosainkund Pass we stopped at one of the two lodges in Phedi. The lodge was run by a Sherpa couple. While woman was preparing our dinner, we were chatting to the man. Well at least we tried. Even though he seemed to be speaking English fluently, I realized that we hardly understand each other. In any case the conversation turned out to be very interesting and we learned a lot about local animals… or at least we think we did 🙂

I took the following shot of this man in the lodge’s dining room in very poor light, hence the f1.8 and 1/30sec. This is one of several shots I made trying to get his eyes to be sharp, which was difficult with f1.8 and his constant movement.

Also Maybe Yak?

1/30sec at f1.8, 28mm | Click on the photo to enlarge.

Continuing from Phedi up to the Gosainkund Pass we reached a lonely lodge standing in a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains above and the valley below. Ram Sherpa, the owner of the lodge kindly agreed to be photographed. Ram was fixing holes made by some rodents in his rice bags when we reached his lodge. I liked the window lighting on him, which created definitive shadows on his face.

Ram Sherpa

1/200 at  f3.2, 28mm | Click on the photo to enlarge.

The man below is a Tibetan refugee living now in Nepal, in a village named Melamchi Gyang. He has a Dalai Lama badge on his hat, and he runs a small tourist lodge in the village. He asked me to take his picture and said I should bring him the photo when I come visit again… I wonder if there are any postal services to this village.

Refugee from Tibet

1/100sec at f8, 28mm | Click on the photo to enlarge.

In one of our final days in Nepal we went to an ancient city of Bhaktapur. It is about 30 minutes drive from the touristy Thamel, and it well worth a visit! One of my future posts on Nepal will probably consist solely of Bhaktapur’s photos. Bhaktapur is the third largest city in Kathmandu valley, and was once the capital of Nepal during the great Malla Kingdom until the second half of the 15th century. It is also listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO for its rich culture, temples, and wood, metal and stone artwork ((C) Wikipedia).

In addition to all the heritage sites, there are many shops for tourists. Walking around I saw a large Mandala shop and a woman drawing Mandalas for sale right there. If you saw mandalas you know that it is a very laborious task, which requires concentration and devotion. And look, she also holds the canvas by herself!

Nepali Woman Drawing Mandala

1/500 at f4.5, 20mm | Click on the photo to enlarge.

All in all I can say that people in Nepal are open and friendly to tourists, which doesn’t deny them to try and make as much money as they can from them.

As always your comments are highly appreciated!

 

 

Nepal In Photographs Part 1

As I promised, in the next posts I will write about my photographic experience in Nepal. To get everyone up to date – recently I took a rather long vacation of almost one month and went with my life partner Ira and one good friend to a trekking trip in Nepal. As always my camera was with me, but since we didn’t hire a porter (or a guide) I couldn’t take just any photo equipment that I wanted.

I was facing a hard decision – which lenses can I take with me and not add too much weight to my already heavy backpack? And here’s the list of the photo equipment that I took:

  • Canon 40D body. This wasn’t really a choice since this is the my only DSLR.
  • Canon EF-S 10-22mm
  • Canon EF 100mm f2.8 macro
  • Sigma 28mm f1.8
  • 4 Spare batteries, 2 circular polarizers (different diameters), lightweight SLIK tripod

Let me explain my choice of lenses. Even though I have two Canon L-series lenses (70-200 f4 and 24-70 f2.8) I didn’t take them with me for one simple reason – they weigh too much. Instead I decided to go mostly with prime lenses, which are much smaller and lighter but still produce very good quality photographs even though they are not from L-series. Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens is known for its superb quality, and after shooting with Sigma 28mm f1.8 for a while I saw that it is also a very good lens though it has some minor issues with lens flare. In addition I took the Canon EF-S 10-22mm, which is known for its good quality-to-price ratio. In this case I didn’t have much of a choice since it is the only wide angle lens I have, and you can’t go trekking in Himalayas without a wide angle lens, can you?

The only thing I could’ve taken less of were the batteries. I found out that for a nine day trek I only need two batteries. But I must say that I didn’t use the live view, which is known for its ability to drain power quickly.

Our first trek was the famous Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) trek. In order to get to its beginning, we had to fly from Kathmandu to Pokhara (second largest city in Nepal) and then take taxi (~1h drive) to Phedi. Phedi is a small village, in which ABC trek starts with a long climb via stone stairs.

Before setting off to the ABC trek we had a rest day in Pokhara. One of the main attractions of this town is Pokhara Lake. For 300 Nepalese rupees you can take one of the boats below for a 1-hour sail. Add 50 more rupees and you’ll also get a boats-man.

1/60sec at f5.6, 28mm | Click on the photo to enlarge.

The next photo happened almost by accident. It was raining all morning that day, and we got completely wet, walking carefully not to slip on wet rocks. The heavy backpacks made it that much harder to keep balance, and we seldom shifted our eyes from the ground. It was a hard climb, and while we were getting near its ending, the skies suddenly cleared, and then we reached this house. I saw the mountain and the dog, which was laying calmly. My hand instinctively reached for the camera, suddenly a man appeared from the house adding final touch to this photo.

1/200sec at f9, 28mm | Click on the photo to enlarge.

On our ABC trek, as a general rule the weather was at its best early in the morning, 5 – 6am, sometimes until 8, then gradually clouds came in and covered everything. And then again weather would improve at about 4 – 5pm. Of course it was only usually like that, and different variations were possible, but our most certain bet would be to get up as early as we could. If we wanted to have clear view of the peaks that is. And as you can imagine – I really, and I mean REALLY wanted to see the peaks!

The next shot was taken early in the morning and the mountain peak that you can see on the right called “Fish Tail”. Locals call it Machapuchare, and revere it as very sacred to the god Shiva. This makes Fish Tail forbidden for climbing.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Unfortunately, good colorful sunsets were rare because at sunset time the skies were usually covered with clouds, and the next photo is one of the very few I made during sunset time. But that particular sunset was marvelous! The orange colors changed hues constantly, and I made a dozen photos trying to capture them. I only wish there would be slightly less clouds so that more of the snowed mountains were visible.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

While two photos above were taken looking up at the mountain peaks, they are not the only attraction in Himalayas. When you are at high altitude, looking down can take your breath away as easily as looking up. The next photo was taken in the morning looking down on the “small” hills of Annapurna National Park. Some of these hills are higher than the highest  mountains in Europe (let alone Australia), but they still look tiny in this vast landscape.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

This is it for my first post in the Nepali series, and I hope you enjoyed it.

Let me know what you think, and what photographs and information would you like to see in my next posts on Nepal. This is what the comments are for!

 

Walk in the bush

I just realized that even though I love photographing flowers, I haven’t shown much of them here. But hey, don’t worry! I’m here to fix that 🙂

A couple weeks ago me and Ira went hiking in the Bunyip State Park here in Victoria. To be honest there wasn’t much to photograph, at least where we were hiking, as it was mostly plain and boring eucalyptus forest.

 

Click on the photo to enlarge.

But when there are no breathtaking views around me, I take out my macro lens and start looking for the little things. And there were quite a few beautiful flowers there. Macro photography in the nature has its own tricks. Aside from artistic aspects such as choosing the subject, angle, composition etc., there are technical issues that should be thought of.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

When shooting Macro, even the slightest movement of your subject can result in loss of focus. So having that in mind I would suggest shooting at shutter speeds above 1/100 sec. It is more difficult with choosing apertures because that would be part of an artistic choice. Generally speaking, the wider your aperture, the faster shutter speed needs to be.

Now, you’re probably going to ask me – what about tripod? Well tripod can be a huge help, but it is not a “complete solution” to all your problems, because when shooting in the nature you have wind, and even if your camera is dead still on your sturdy tripod, one blow from the wind and your flower moves out of the focus area.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Personally, I find using tripod in macro shots too constraining. Tripod gets in my way when I circle around my subjects looking for a nice spot to shoot from, especially when there are fast moving clouds in the sky and the lighting conditions change constantly.

Of course there are conditions in which using tripod would be very beneficial. For example picture this: Early morning, everything stands still. The insects are sleeping inside flowers covered with droplets of dew. The morning light is beautiful, and a little dim. This is the perfect time to use tripod – you would have enough time to put the camera in place, choose the composition and shoot away.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Here, have a look at this plant, at first I thought it was a giant caterpillar 🙂

Click on the photo to enlarge.

When I had enough of shooting macro, I started looking for a “bigger” subjects to put in front of my lens. I liked the moss on this huge stone. By the way, it is still a mystery to me how this huge stone ended up in the forest… it probably got there before these trees grew up.

I think I’ve already mentioned it in one of my previous posts – it is very difficult to take interesting pictures of forests, and if you just see a nice section of forest, point your camera at it and shoot, chances are that the photo won’t be of any artistic value.

In order to make your photo of the forest interesting, you must find a point of interest, something for the eye of the viewer to rest upon.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

And finally, here is one of my favorite photos from that hike. Ira serves as a good reference point to show the scale of this place.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

What are your favorite macro tips? I am always willing to learn new stuff!

How Ideas Come To Life

Thinking of it, maybe I should’ve titled this post “story of an idea” because I will be talking about creation of one particular image. But I eventually I decided on the current title because the way this creation emerged from the depths of my imagination is one of the most common ways.

A few weeks ago I had a photo session with Ira, in which my primary goal was to try some new lighting techniques that I thought of. In that shoot I decided to focus on close up portraits (chest line and up). I experimented with different backgrounds and asked Ira to put on a few different shirts.

At first nothing was working for me. The lighting was bad, and I didn’t get any interesting results… but then again, I didn’t start this shoot with a specific idea in mind – it’s like that phrase from Alice in wonderland:

– In which direction should I go?

– It depends on where do you want to arrive

But I felt inspired that day and just kept on shooting and trying to get some nice shots. At one point Ira suggested adding an accessory – a piece of white semi transparent white fabric that she had, and I agreed to try it – it is a good idea to listen to your model, especially when you are out of ideas 🙂

Trying different variations we came up with this photograph:

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I liked it, but quite frankly it lacks an idea behind it. I looked at this photo and thought “nice photo! but what am I trying to tell with it?”. And I couldn’t find an answer. So I forgot about this photo for a while and focused on other tasks.

After a while (a few days have passed since the shoot), when I was watching a Phlearn Pro photoshop tutorial (which by the way was magnificent!), suddenly an idea emerged in my mind. I remembered this photo of a spider’s web that I took:

Click on the photo to enlarge.

And it suddenly got layered, in my mind, onto that photo of Ira holding white fabric, as if she was holding the web itself. I rushed into photoshop to try it, to see how it looks in reality. It was nice but still something was missing… what was it? The spider of course. So I searched the net for images of spiders and chose the one I liked the most. Then I brought it as a layer into my working file, and converted the spider to be pure black.

Now I needed to find a meaningful placement for the spider. I tried different variations before I came up with the final result, which you can see below. I call this image “The Way Up” :

The Way Up...

Click on the photo to enlarge.

By describing my creative process on one particular image I wanted to show one of the many ways creative ideas come to life – they are not always pre-conceived, and sometimes, as it was in this case, they develop step by step over time, graduating slowly towards the end result.

What do you think about the final image? Your thoughts, comments, and suggestions are always appreciated!

Sunrise Walk

Lately Ira and I adopted a new habit – we get up early in the morning and go out for a walk in the neighborhood before work. It is winter in Australia so we have late sunrises and early sunsets, therefore we often start our walk before the sunrise, and have the joy of witnessing it to the fullest.

From photographer’s point of view not just any sunrise, as well as sunset, is perfect for landscape photography. Of course it all depends – whether there are too many or too few clouds in the sky, if it was raining at night (if it was, there is a good chance of having crystal clear atmosphere with bright colors), if there is morning mist. It is also depends on your subject obviously, and on how you intend to photograph it – for example what quality of light do you need.

Anyway, I am talking about simple walk here, with no specific intentions. In this case good sunrise colors and interesting cloud formations can help a lot in creating interesting photographs.

Here, see for yourself:

 

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I liked the sunrise-lit sky very much,  and decided to make it the main subject of the photo above. I only had to find a decent framing for it.

I decided to call the photo below “Absense”… can you think why? If you have an idea please write it in the comments section below.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Next photo shows a location that I’ve photographed many times, but under this light, I think it looks the best. I am bothered a little bit with the foreground, but I still like this photo very much. Many things come together here – as I already mentioned the light is beautiful, the depth is depicted nicely by the three planes – the foreground, the “middleground” with the white houses and the background plane is emphasized by the piece of land sticking out. The winding road takes the viewer’s eye smoothly through the planes, and the lonely car in the middle-left adds to the overall mood of the photograph.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I took the photo below because of two main reasons – one, to show the beautiful cloud shapes and sky colors colors, and two, to emphasize the pure graphic nature of the tree branches, which are very eloquent when depicted as silhouettes. I think that the plain poles in the middle add nice perceptual contrast to the intricate shapes of the trees.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Next photo is simply here for you to enjoy.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I call the next photo “The victory of Light over Darkness”. Again the main interest in it is the sky, but without having interesting shapes of houses on the foreground I wouldn’t take it.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Here’s couple more photos from the same walk taken after the sunrise, when the sky wasn’t so interesting anymore and I had to concentrate on other things 🙂

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Feel free to leave your thoughts, suggestions, and other comments in the section below.

I’m off to take some photos, be back soon!

 

Creating Dynamics In The Shot

Yesterday I visited Melbourne’s CBD, and had a chance to take a few photos in Docklands area. Afterwards, when I was going through them on my computer (most of them weren’t anything special 🙂 ) , one photo grabbed my attention.

Here it is:

Dialog

Click on the photo to enlarge.

When I was making it, I simply thought it would be a good idea to capture the singer on the big screen in an interesting pose so that I would have both, statue and singer ‘posing for the camera’.

But when I was looking at the photo later, on my computer screen, I’ve noticed that it has very ‘dynamic’ feel. I could feel the movement of the statue, as if it was a live person. So I started thinking – why is that happening? Why is the statue, which didn’t look that much ‘alive’ in reality, came to life in my photograph?

And here is my conclusion: it is because I created Interaction between the statue and the singer. It looks like the statue ‘responds’ to the movement of the singer, and since we all have no doubts that the singer is a live person, that feeling also ‘spills’ onto the statue.

It is very interesting effect, which can be used when photographing other situations. Even with this same statue – if instead of singer a real person would be somehow interacting with the statue, it would also make the statue come to life. For example imagine a bunch of kids dancing around it.

As always your thoughts and comments are highly appreciated!

Family Photo Shoot – How I Did It

I think that this is how many photographers start their venture into the realm of professional photography (by “professional” I mean paid jobs): I photographed my friend’s kid, then his friend saw the photos, got excited and offered me the job.

He asked me to make portraits of his one year old son and of the whole family. Needless to say that I agreed. Even though nowadays everyone has a digital camera, and any parent snaps tons of family photos, there are many people who still appreciate good photography, and can tell a great portrait from snapshot. Still, the job of photographer is harder now than ever before – his photos has to stand out of thousands of such snapshots.

So let me share my experience from this family photo shoot.

First of all I talked to the guy and asked him what did he expect from the shoot. This is very important – you have to be absolutely clear in regards to what your client expects from you. Here are some example questions to ask your client:

– How many digital photos (in files, not printed) does he expect to receive?

– Does he want prints, or just the digital files?

– Agree on the time frame for you to deliver the photos

– Does he want any artistic post processing?

– Which portraits exactly does he want – of the whole family only, individual portraits only, both, or maybe he has some kind of special request.

– Ask your client if he can show you (from internet or his friends) examples of photos that he particularly liked.

-If the shoot is to be held at client’s house ask the client about the dimensions of the house, and whether he wants the shots to be studio-like, because in that case you’ll have to bring your own background.

 

 

Click on the photo to enlarge.

In my case client already saw my work and he said that he wants something of that kind. What he saw was portrait of a child tightly cropped and processed in sepia tones. In addition he said that he would like similar kind of photo but of the whole family. He also said that he doesn’t need a lot of photos, just a portrait or two that will remain for the years to come.

 

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The photo above is my favorite from that shoot. I love the kid’s look, and his inviting hand that “takes” the viewer’s hand and leads him into the child’s world…

Sorry, I got distracted… where were we? Ah, the expectations! So after talking to the client I understood his demands, and tried to fulfill them during the shoot.

 

Preparing for the shoot

I did this shoot at the client’s house, so I’ll describe my preparations for that specific case.

– Most important thing: Lighting. Even if the shoot takes place during daylight, if it is indoors there might not be enough sunlight, so you’ll have to bring your lighting equipment. I had a light stand, two strobes, a white shoot-through umbrella and a soft box.

– Lenses. If your client doesn’t have a lot of space in the house, you might not be able to use your favorite telephoto lens for portraits, which is too bad as it creates lovely bokeh :).

For portraits I used two lenses – Canon 24-70mm f2.8L and Canon 100mm f2.8 macro.

– Memory cards, backup batteries, cleaning cloth etc. Though this might seem trivial, but forgetting any of these (well cleaning cloth excepted) can cost you the photo shoot. If you bring strobes, then don’t forget backup batteries for them.

 

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The Shoot

Don’t be late. This is very importantit shows how seriously you take your job.

As a photographer you will benefit from being an open and communicative person. Talking freely and openly with people you are about to photograph makes them feel more comfortable with you and in front of your camera, and enables you to capture their natural expressions.

Shooting little kids is difficult because you can’t just ask them to be still, sit at one place, smile, or play with their toys. So you have to improvise. It is a good thing to ask parents for help. In my case the kid’s mother played with him and I was able to catch some nice facial expressions and poses.

 

Click on the photo to enlarge.

When we got to shoot the family portrait, at first parents had difficult time keeping the child still in front of the camera, but then they gave him father’s cellphone, and it was a bingo!

 

After the Shoot

We agreed that I will deliver the finished photos within a week from the shoot, but I delivered them in tree days, reasons being first of all because I love processing photos and couldn’t wait to see what I can do with the “raw material”, but also because I think it is a good little marketing trick. When people expect to receive a product in certain amount of time, but they receive it earlier than that, provided that the product is good, they feel even better about your services.

The most important thing that I’d like to leave you with is: Don’t be afraid to try! Don’t think that you can’t do it, and the client won’t like your photos. If you love photography, and someone offers you the job – Take It! You can read a thousand articles on the subject (including this one), but they won’t give you the same experience you’ll get from the actual shoot.


Click on the photo to enlarge.

 

An Evening In June

From time to time I get a chance to catch a nice sunset, and my regular readers are already used to my “sunset” posts, like the one from February 2011. I use the term “sunset photos” loosely as for me these are also photos made some time after the sunset, and sun is not present in the frame.
This is one of such posts but with a twist that this time I started photographing at sunset and the session seamlessly (for me) continued into night photography.
All the photos in this post were taken on the same evening and will be presented chronologically so you can get a faint feel of how the light changed.
It all started, as usual, with our daily evening walk on the beach. It was raining earlier this day, and I know from experience that usually, after rain, the sunset light is beautiful, so I took a tripod with me just in case. No need to mention that my camera comes with me all the time.
I’ve also noticed that the best time to photograph sunset on the beach (at least in my area) is during the low tide – there are these “ponds” of water left by the retreating ocean, the water is calm, and there is more room on the beach to choose location.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

In the 10 months I live in Australia I already took hundreds of pictures of the Frankston pier. This time I thought to make it a bit more interesting, and having a tripod made the following photo possible. It took us several takes to get it right, as the light was low and thus exposure was long, so we had to be pretty steady. I converted the initial result to black and white and dramatically increased the contrast, to make Ira and me into silhouettes.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The following photos were made long after the sunset and it was getting darker by the minute, but tiny fraction of light was still remaining to light up the sky just enough.

I liked the reflection of the bridge as if it was completing a circle. It was also a bit unusual point of view as this bridge is usually photographed facing the ocean, while I was looking at it from the opposite direction.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I like the simplicity of the next photograph as all the interesting details in it are concentrated in the narrow strip located in upper third. The shapes of the clouds are beautiful, and so is the light, which seems to come from the city lights. I think this photo can make for a great wallpaper.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The last photo was made when there was no sunlight left, making the reflections of the light vividly visible. I liked the straight lines of the pier, the shore, and the light poles in contrast with the slightly distorted reflections in the water.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

What are your experiences with sunset / night photography?

Feel free to post your experiences and links to your photos in the comment section below.

Walk Around Sassafras

Sassafras is a small village located in Dandenong Ranges. The area was named Sassafras Gully, after the trees which grew in the area. Sassafras is a tourist destination with some antique shops, boutiques, and nurseries.
While most of the tourists visit Sassafras on their way driving the Dandenong Tourist Road through to other destinations, Ira and I came here specifically. We wanted to visit the “Tea Leaves” store, which has over 300 teas and herbs. But then again, we are not tourists – we live within 40 minutes drive from here.
As you probably guessed I wouldn’t write this post if I didn’t have some photographs to share along with it. The tea store was really nice, but it was too small and crowded to photograph. After we finished our tea-shopping, we decided to explore the surroundings.
I always liked the Australian Magpies. I think that they are very interesting birds, and I also like their singing – Australian Magpies are considered to be among Australia’s most accomplished songbirds. There were plenty of these birds in Sassafras, so I could take a few photos, and here is one.

Australian Magpie

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Dandenong Ranges is a beautiful place, and Sassafras is surrounded with eucalyptus and fern-tree forests with kilometres of walking trails. Ira and I came across one of the trails and went into the woods. It was such a beautiful walk! I can still feel the cold fresh air filled with smells of nature…

Dandenong Ranges Forest

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The forest was magical. It was around three o’clock in the afternoon, and the sun was already setting (the sunset time is currently around five o’clock) so the light was beautiful. I was fascinated with the rays of light breaking through the foliage.
The biggest problem when photographing forests is to find distinction. What I mean is when you walk in the forest and you simply like what you see and take a picture, most of the chances that the resulting photo won’t be interesting. It will be very cluttered with leaves, tree trunks, and branches. One of the keys here is to find some kind of order in the forest and reflect it in your photograph.
The photo above is a bit too cluttered to my taste, but I still like it – I found an opening in the forest, saw this fern lit by the sun, and decided to make it a main point of interest in the photograph. Rays of light in the background add another dimension to the photo making it… airy?

Wooden Stairs

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Walking down the trail we came across wooden stairs, and saw this “unreal” ray of light shining through. I just couldn’t pass the opportunity ☺. Though I am bothered a little by the wooden rail on the foreground right, overall I like this photo. The stairs lead the eye into the photo, and them being not straight enhances the feel of space, while ray of light helps creating magical forest atmosphere.

Mushrooms Growing On Eucalyptus 1 Mushrooms Growing On Eucalyptus 2

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At one point I saw a huge eucalyptus and just stood there admiring this nature creation, then Ira said – “look! There are lots of tiny mushrooms growing from the trunk of this tree!” And only then I saw them. The tree trunk was so big, and the mushrooms were so tiny that I didn’t notice them even though there were so many. I really liked this “crowd” and spent a good 15 minutes trying to find an interesting angle.

Waterdrops

Click on the photo to enlarge.

As in most of my walks in the nature, I couldn’t resist taking a few macro shots. I didn’t have a tripod with me (what a rookie mistake! ), so this photo might not be tack sharp, but it is sharp enough to show all the diversity of the water drops. I really like the tenderness and fragility in this photograph… one careless move and this beauty will disappear.

And finally I’d like to present my best photo from that walk in Dandenong Ranges.

Dandenong Ranges Forest

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I feel that in this photo I succeeded to create order from the forest’s chaos. I found a pattern made by the standing ferns, and a space in between, and the light was just right. I tend to think that in nature photography great photo is created when two factors come together – pure luck (the light, weather conditions) and the photographer’s vision. Sure, if there is no vision, there won’t be any great photos, but when you have the vision you still need the nature to play along with it.

I hope that you enjoyed this journey into the Dandenong ranges, a beautiful place in Australia, and I’ll see you next time right here, on my photo pathway.

As always your comments are most welcome!

Portrait Studio Photo Shoot

Recently one of my friend’s friends, Renata, saw these portraits I shot about a  month ago, and liked them. So we decided to do a studio photo shoot with her. When I said “studio”, I meant a tiny studio that I put up in my living room. It consists of a black or white background, one light stand with Canon EX430 flash inside soft box, and one tripod converted to light stand with Yongnuo flash and white shoot-through umbrella.

Shooting in my home studio I am limited by the size of my living room, so I can’t use any focal length I want. The biggest zoom I can use is about 100mm. In that case I have to stand at the far end from the model, and still be able to shoot almost only head-shots.

The following photo was made using Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens. Even though when shooting studio portraits I usually use my soft box as the main light, in this photo my main light was the Youngnuo flash through white umbrella from the left, and I used my soft box as hair light from the top right and it also acted as a fill in light to soften the shadows.

I placed the lights at such angles so that almost no light would spill on the background as I wanted the background to remain black. It is intentional that the Renata’s dress is also black and looks only slightly lighter than the background – I wanted to make an emphasis on her face.

Canon 100mm f2.8 macro; Shot at f8, 1/200 sec | Click on the photo to enlarge.

 

Continuing the discussion regarding the photo above – shooting that portrait I looked for Renata’s natural expression. At first she was a bit constrained trying to pose for the camera, but then we started a conversation about all kinds of topics and she got more relaxed. At one point I put the camera down and we continued speaking about a particularly interesting subject for her, and I noticed that she  got completely relaxed. So I grabbed a camera and started shooting.  This is when I got the shot above.

Next photo is posed, of course. It was my idea to shoot Renata with a candle, but after trying everything I had in mind, I couldn’t make a single nice photo. Then I asked my model to do anything she liked with the candle and just watched and shot. After a while I saw her making this pose and thought – “this is what I was looking for!”, so I asked her to remain in that pose and shot several variations. The photo below is the one me and Renata liked the most .

Sigma 28mm f1.8; Shot at f5, 1/200 sec | Click on the photo to enlarge.

 

In the next photo, I wanted to try a bit more dramatic lighting with stronger shadows. One of my primary concerns was to make her left eye (the one to your right when looking at the photo) free of shadows coming from the nose. I wanted it to be as vivid and visible as the right eye, and still to have strong shadows. This involved moving the main light around the model until I found the desired angle. All my flashes were set to manual mode, so in order to achieve stronger lighting I just increased the power of the flash.

 

Sigma 28mm f1.8; Shot at f5, 1/200 sec | Click on the photo to enlarge.

 

One more aspect to think about is the flash recycle time. I use small strobes (Canon EX 430 and Yongnuo), which are powered by 4 AAA batteries. Using such strobes at full power means waiting two to five seconds between shots, loosing priceless facial expressions and body poses. So I never use my strobes at full power unless I absolutely have no choice. I usually don’t go above 1/4th of the full power and set ISO and f-stop accordingly (taking the DOF into account of course).

After getting a few decent portraits, which were the main goal of the photo shoot, we started to improvise. I particularly liked the shot with the sunglasses. I liked Renata’s expression in that one – it is radiant and tender at the same time. Of course I didn’t get this shot on the first try, but the final result is what counts, right? 🙂

Canon 24-70mm f2.8 L; Shot at 24mm f2.8 1/200 sec | Click on the photo to enlarge.

 

The following photograph is my favorite. I love the dynamics of it. For this photo I had Renata stand facing the background and then turning swiftly around on my mark. I really wanted to catch that hair movement. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds because at each turn hair moves differently, and it doesn’t always look as nice as in the photo below. I probably did about 15 shots before making this one.

Canon 24-70mm f2.8 L; Shot at 42mm f4 1/200 sec | Click on the photo to enlarge.

 

I really enjoyed this photo shoot and I am pretty satisfied with the results. I find the background a bit boring, therefore thinking of my next photo shoot to be on-location somewhere.

 

I hope you found this article to be helpful and interesting, or at least one of these 🙂

 

Your comments / questions / suggestions are always appreciated!

Cheers,

Greg.

 

 

Autumn Walk

While Spring rules in most parts of the world now, Australia is heading for winter. Driving through my neighborhood towards home from work I felt a kind of Autumn mood in the air. So when I came home I quickly grabbed my camera and went out for a walk. I wanted to capture this mood before it vanished.

This maple tree fascinated me. The autumn colors are revealed here in all their beauty. Warm light of the setting sun gets even warmer filtered through the orange-yellow leaves creating a very cosy atmosphere. The only thing I’m missing in this photo is a lonely person sitting on the stairs…

Click on the photo to enlarge.

In the next photo I focused my attention on the fallen Autumn leaves adding the fence on the left to emphasize the perspective and add a sense of movement to the photograph.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

At first I didn’t realize why I wanted to capture what you see in the next photo, but then I realized that it was the combination of cleanliness of forms, simplicity of the composition, and the background texture. Combined together these three factors formed a complete picture in my mind and I pressed the shutter-release button.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Walking around I saw these bicycles and immediately the words such as “separation”, “loneliness”, “different” started popping into my  mind. You know kids can be cruel sometimes, and in my mind this was a good visualization of this fact. Even thought there is not much of an Autumn mood in this picture, since I took it on the same walk I decided to present it here.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

And finally going back home, when Sun was getting close to the horizon, I took this photo. I can’t say much about it except the fact that I like it.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Hope you enjoyed the photos. Feel free to comment on them in the comments section below, I’d be happy to know what you think!

Till the next time, take care!

Cheers,
Greg.

Phillip Island

Phillip Island is located approximately 140km south-southeast from Melbourne. From my home it is about two hours drive. It was named after the first governor of New South Wales, Arthur Phillip. Phillip Island is pretty small: it has 9 kilometers at its widest, and is 26 km long, but it has about 97 kilometers of coastline, which allows for many photographic opportunities.

Recently I took a three day trip to Phillip island. As always I had my camera with me, and I’d like to share my experience with you my dedicated readers! 🙂

One of the first places I visited were “the Nobbies”.  This area has spectacular coastal views, which you can experience from the boardwalks and lookout points set amongst natural sea bird gardens.

The Nobbies, Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia Seal Rocks, The Nobbies, Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

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The views were so magnificent that I couldn’t stop photographing. When I later saw my photos on the computer screen, the grass was so vividly green, as if I greatly increased the saturation. I even had to reduce saturation a little so the grass would look more natural! I really wanted to photograph this place on sunset, but the whole area closes before the sunset time due to wildlife activity in the twilight.

The Nobbies, Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

My next stop was the Swan Lake, the only permanent freshwater lake on the island. I didn’t see too many birds out there, but there still were a few, and I liked the “layered” view, which you can see in the photo below.

Swan Lake, Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

There was a boardwalk leading around the lake with small hideouts along the route for watching birds without disturbing them. The shot below was made from one of the hideouts. I am not sure if swans sleep with their eyes open, or he noticed my presence despite the hideout.

Swan at Swan Lake, Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

On my second day on Phillip Island, on late afternoo, I found this beach. It is very close to the bridge that connects the Island with mainland. The photo below was made on this beach, and somehow it reminds me of ancient Greek amphitheaters. I also decided to come back to this beach on the next day’s sunrise…

Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

and then I drove to another beach to photograph Sunset… why? you ask me. The answer is pretty simple – the sun was setting on the other side of the island! So the next photo was taken from Surf Beach, which is located on the way to Cape Woolamai.

Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

And we are back again, now at dawn to the same beach with the “amphitheater”.  The land that you see in the distance is the mainland with small town of San Remo on it. Formed as a fishing village, San Remo’s economy nowadays mostly based around tourism.

Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

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I think I already mentioned that Phillip Island is connected to the mainland by bridge. It is a 640 meter concrete bridge, which I found to be rather nice looking in sunrise colors.

Bridge to Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

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Unfortunately I have no idea what is the name of these birds but I find them very beautiful against the sunrise-pink colored water. For the shot below I used my Canon 70-200 f4 L lens and tripod.

Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

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During the sunrise the clouds were moving pretty quickly so I was lucky enough to catch some pretty darn nice shots :), as you can see below

Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

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And finally I went to San Remo’s jetty to watch pelican feeding. Unfortunately that day feeding didn’t occur but, I snapped the photo below. Look, they are twins!

Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

That’s it for my photographic reportage from Phillip Island. I hope you liked my photographs, and

As always your thoughts and comments are welcome!

 

Till the next time, take care!

Cheers,
Greg.

Portraits and Backgrounds

For quite some time now I wanted to shoot portraits, and finally I found a model to shoot!

Since photography is my hobby I don’t have a studio, so I had to improvise. I converted my living room into a studio for a day, and shot my model on gray muslin background. I bet everybody heard about these famous muslin backgrounds. But what the guys who sell them to you don’t mention is that you receive the muslin in a really crumpled state, and if it is 3 by 6 meters long, there is no way you can iron it by yourself. But I had no other choice than to use what I had.

My solution to this problem was in post processing – I had to “cut” the model from the original background and paste it onto another background in Photoshop. You can see before and after images in the example below.

Muslin Background Photoshop Background

Click on the photos to enlarge.

In order create precise selection of the model in Photoshop I used the pen tool. Many people don’t use this tool because they find it confusing just like I did before I saw this tutorial:

Using Pen Tool In Photoshop

After getting used to the Pen tool, I promise you that you won’t ever go back to lasso or any other selection tool when you need to do a complex selection. After I selected the model using pen tool, I used the option “Refine Edge” to refine the edge of the selection in the areas with model’s hair. It is really important to make the hair look natural on the new background. My last step in the selection process was feathering the whole selection by 2 pixels to add a more seamless transition from the model to background.

Portrait

Click on the photo to enlarge.

If you don’t want to cut and paste your model, and still use your crumpled muslin background, here is how you can do that:

If you have enough space, put your model far from the background, and use wide aperture – this will make the background go out of focus and its wrinkles won’t be visible. In addition to that, you can setup your lighting so that no significant light will fall on the background making it dark (you can use gobos for that).

Portrait

Click on the photo to enlarge.

In all the photos you see here I used pretty much the same lighting setup, only slightly varying the position of my strobes and their strength. Here is my basic lighting setup diagram:

Portrait

Click on the photo to enlarge.

You probably wonder where I got backgrounds that I use on these photos, and it is no secret. You must have heard about OnOne software. I used one of their products named PhotoFrame. This product can work as a standalone application or as a plug-in for Photoshop and Lightroom. The primary aim of this product is to supply the user with lots of photo-frame templates, so you can choose and add nice framing to your images, but it also has a great collection of backgrounds. I downloaded their trial version here. In the image below you can also see the frame that I created with this plug-in.

Portrait

Click on the photo to enlarge.

But it is the only frame that I used from PhotoFrame. Other “frames” that you can see in the photos here, are simply a creative use of vignetting feature in Lightroom, which is pretty easy to achieve – you simply reduce the roundness of the vignette somewhere around -90 to -100, set it’s midpoint between 0 and 15, and the amount slider is up to you.

Portrait

Click on the photo to enlarge.

While most important aspects of portrait photography lie in the artistic sphere rather than technical, still in order to get acceptable  results, all the technical details must be carried out correctly, and this is why I dedicated this article to them. Nevertheless after all the technical aspects are set and done, I forget about them and concentrate on the model and on my artistic perceptions of what I want to achieve from the shoot.

Portrait

Click on the photo to enlarge.

If you have any questions regarding the issues brought up in this post, feel free to leave them in the comments below, and as always any other comments are highly appreciated.

 

Cheers,

Greg.

Flowers Macro Photography Tips

Sometimes I see a photograph, and I wonder how it was done, what tricks or special equipment (if at all) did the photographer use to achieve the result? In most cases there is  no way of asking him, and I have to guess and speculate on how it was done.

A few days ago I did a few flower macro shots, and posted one of them in a couple of forums. In the responses I’ve received I saw some questions as to how I did it, so I decided to write a post about it.

Flower. Macro Photography

  • I used Canon 100 mm f2.8 Macro lens, a light tent, and two flashes – the main one from the right side, and another flash from the left side. I set the second flash to be much weaker, so it would make the back side of the flower just a little brighter.
  • I didn’t want big depth of field so I set my aperture to f5. On the contrary, I wanted to be able to control what exactly will be in focus.
  • The shutter speed was 1/200 of a second, but it is not important in this case because I didn’t use ambient light – only strobes.
  • Since I had total control of my lighting, and I could set it to be as bright as I wanted to, I used ISO of 100, the lowest ISO on my Canon 40D. As you probably know, the lower your ISO setting, the less noise you’ll get in your photo.
  • Of course I used tripod. This is an important point. You might think that shooting at speed of 1/200sec doesn’t require the use of tripod, and under certain circumstances you might be right. For example when using wide angle lens with fairly closed aperture. But in my case I used telephoto lens (100mm) with f5, which means that even the slightest movement will shift the focus from where I want it to be to another random location. So, the conclusion is that in macro shots tripod is almost always an essential piece of equipment.

As you can see on the shot I sprayed the flower with water. Water drops are a very nice touch to many natural subjects, not only flowers. Sometimes photographers photograph the water drops on their subject in such a way that a reflection of something would be visible in the drops, and it makes for great images. In my case I wanted to achieve the exact opposite – I didn’t want any reflections in the water drops in order to focus the attention of the viewer on the flower, and to achieve that I photographed my flower in a white light tent.

And finally, the background. In the shot above and in one of additional examples from that photo-shoot below you will see that my background wasn’t plain white. But what was it? It is easy – I used one of my calendars with colorful photos as the background. When shooting macro, DOF is so tiny that a photograph placed 30 cm behind the subject becomes totally indistinguishable collection of colorful splashes, which makes for a nice background.

Below you can see a few more examples from that shoot

Flower. Macro Photography Flower. Macro Photography

Flower. Macro Photography >Flower. Macro Photography

I hope you learned something from my experience.

As always, feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section.

Cheers,
Greg.

P.S. For those of you who wonder, the flower’s name is Morning Glory

Night Photography With a Single Flash: Step by Step Guide

Imagine that you need to photograph a large dark space, like a cave, or a church, but you only have a single flash. Is it even possible?

Quite some time ago I saw in a photography magazine photo of a big beautiful cave, perfectly lit, all the beautiful stalactites perfectly visible, and I thought to myself – there is no way photographer could bring powerful studio lighting equipment down there!

Fortunately there was a brief description to this photo – photographer put his camera on tripod and set it to long exposure, then during the exposure time he ran around the cave with small strobe flash and flashed all the areas of the cave. “Simple and Genious” I thought to myself back then.

Genious? Sure. Simple? Well, not really.

Recently I decided to photograph the front of my sister’s house decorated with shiny Christmas lights. Yes they still haven’t took them off, because my three year old nephew likes to turn them on every night before he goes to sleep :).

In order for Christmas lights to be visible, I had to do that after dark, and I only had one flash (not that it matters but it was Canon 430 EX). So I decided to try the technique described above, and it turned out not as simple as I first thought it would.

I’d like to share with you the tips that I learned from this experience, hoping they will make it easier for you should you decide to use this technique. I will do this in the form of step-by-step instructions how to perform this kind of shoot.

Here we go:
1. Set your camera on a tripod and compose your shot.
2. Choose the desired f-stop (here your guide should be only your artistic intentions, and not exposure considerations).
3. Focus your camera where you need to, then switch to manual focus. The reason for switching to manual focus is that in the dark it is hard for automatic focus to work, so each time you’ll press the shutter it may take a long time for camera to focus if at all.
4. Look at the scene and decide which areas need to be lit and which don’t.
5. Set your flash power to about 1/8th of its max power.
6. Press the shutter, and run around the scene with a flash in your hand flashing all the areas that need light. Flash ONCE each area.
7. Take a look at the result, and go over all the areas that needed to be lit. If they are too dark, next time you’ll flash them twice, or increase the flash power. Using low flash power and flashing several times the same area gives you more versatility in case you need different areas to be lit diferently.
8. Repeat the steps 6 and 7 until you are satisfied with the result.

In addition to this process you also need to have in mind the following:

  • When flashing hold the flash pointed outwards from your body, and as far from you as possible so that no light will spill on you (otherwise “ghosts” of you will be visible in the image).
  • Always point the flash away from the camera, so that no direct light from the flash will hit the lens (otherwise you’ll see bright points of light all across the image).
  • Remember that the longer the exposure time, the more noise you’ll have in the photo. Try to complete the shot as quickly as possible, unless you want the noise for artistic purposes.

Here are a few examples of the house that I photographed:

Night Photography With a Single Flash



In the photo above, you can see that I deliberately flashed into the lens a couple of times to create lights in the tree. This is also a good example of what you’ll see in your image if you do it by chance.

And here is another example, this time without the lights, and with better lit right side.

Night Photography With a Single Flash



Feel free to ask questions and share your experiences in the comment section below.

Till the next time, take care!

Greg.

Wilson Promontory, Australia

Wilson Prom is a peninsula, which is the southernmost point of the Australian mainland. Its coastline is about 130km in length and it is framed by granite headlands, mountains, forests and fern gullies.

During my visit there it was very windy. Winds reached speeds of 65 km/h, which made it pretty difficult to photograph the place, but the ever-changing clouds created a very moody atmosphere.

This photo was taken on the beach. I liked this small water canal and the ripples on it. If you look closely the rock on the left resembles head of a dolphin. Actually I didn’t notice that until my father saw this photo and pointed it out.

Wilson Promontory, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The river in the next photos named Tidal River. It is the main river in Wilson Promontory. It runs into Norman Bay and swells with the tide (hence the name). The river has a very interesting color, a purple-yellow. This is due to the large amount of tea trees in the area, which stain the water with tannin giving it a tea-like appearance.

Wilson Promontory, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Here I wanted to emphasize the texture of the boulders, and I also wanted a minimalist look. Lack of color achieved it in my opinion.

Wilson Promontory, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

This is the famous whale rock. As you can see it resembles whale’s head.

Wilson Promontory, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

In about 100 meters from here forward Tidal River meets the ocean. The next photo and the rest of them was made on my second day at Wilson Prom. The winds weakened, and the weather improved a little. As a result you can see people swimming in the river.

Wilson Promontory, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The photo below was pretty heavy processed. I shot it into into the sun, which made the lower part very under exposed, and I had to increase fill light to a horrible 87 percent in Lightroom! I must really start thinking of purchasing ND Grads… Nevertheless I really like the composition and feel of this photograph.

Wilson Promontory, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I always loved to photograph the ocean. As you can see Tidal River gives its color to the ocean making it look very unusual but also very beautiful to me. Clouds add the final touch, and below you can see the result.

Wilson Promontory, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I’m convinced that photographers don’t give seagulls enough attention, and I’ve decided to fix that. In coastal Australia seagulls are everywhere, and they are not afraid of humans. On the contrary – they are always near, waiting for food. I found a nice location at one of the picnic areas, and took many shots of seagulls with the help of my 3 year old nephew who was throwing them food 🙂

Wilson Promontory, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

And last but not least two photos from the Squeaky Beach. The photo on the right is called “The Elephant Legs”. These rocks looked magnificent, and I want you, the viewers, to concentrate on their shapes and textures, hence the b&w.

Wilson Promontory, Australia Wilson Promontory, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I used tripod for most of the photos you saw here. Just to give you an idea – I shot about 570 images in total, from them I deleted 520, and the photos you saw here were the chosen ten. If you liked these photos, you can see eight more on my Facebook page:  www.facebook.com/photopathway

As always any comments are appreciated!

Till the next time, take care

Greg.

Symmetry and Abstract

Hello Everybody!

This is another photo-sharing post. Recently I had the time to revive my small home studio, so while I was at it, I took some photos… actually I took a lot of photos, most of which aren’t worthy of sharing.

Here’s the only two I liked:

This photo was taken inside light tent with two flashes (one from each side). I call it “Almost  Symmetrical”. Nothing much to it, just having fun 🙂

Almost Symmetrical

Click on the photo to enlarge.

And I also liked this abstract photo, which is really a closeup of glass filled with cold bubbling mineral water, with yellow light in background.

Abstract

Click on the photo to enlarge.

As always your comments are highly appreciated.

See you next time!

Greg

Monthly share of sunset photography

Those of you who frequently visit my blog  probably know that I like shooting sunsets, so now I want to share some of my recent shots.

This one has strange colors, but I like it anyway.  I was shooting sunset from the pier and suddenly in the far distance I saw this ship. I quickly changed to my telephoto lens, and made a few clicks. But something was missing… the photo was empty. Then a bird appeared in my viewfinder, and I got this shot.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Here is one pretty simple photo. I like its simplicity, and I also like colors and reflections in this photo.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I wish the girl on the boat would come closer, but this is the best I could do under the circumstances 🙂

Click on the photo to enlarge.

This shot was also taken with my telephoto lens because I wanted to isolate a small part of the shoreline.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I call the photo below “classic sea sunset photograph” – setting sun, orange water, two silhouettes…

Click on the photo to enlarge.

This collection wouldn’t be complete without a little humor. I was shooting standing under the pier (you can see photo from that location in this post), when two boys came and sat on it. I quickly turned and had time to take only one photograph. After a few moments one of the boys ran away, and it wasn’t that interesting anymore.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I hope you liked the photos. Feel free to comment on them!

Till the next time, take care!

Greg.

Seeing in Black and White

In one of my previous articles I wrote about shooting with intention for B&W (tip number 6), and not merely looking at your photos and trying to convert them to B&W to see if that looks good. Now I would like to add the concept “seeing in black and white”. It comes to you when you shoot a lot of b&w images – you then gain the ability to look at your composition and in your mind see how it would look in b&w. Sometimes, the weather is such that you don’t need this ability – the colors are simply black (dark gray) and white (light gray), but on other occasions the sky may be blue with white clouds and everything around you so colorful that imagining how it would look in b&w would be difficult. This is when the “seeing in black and white” skill comes handy.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Sometimes the scene itself calls for b&w, as it was with this garden statue. This woman was standing in this garden for a long time and her skin turned from pearl white to muddy gray, the same happened to the color of the fence, and in any case the emphasis here is not on the color.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Black and white in photography often helps to convey mood, and emphasize shapes and textures.

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Here is another example of emphasizing shapes by shooting in black ans white.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Did I mention mood already? I just love it when the sky looks like it is going to rain any minute, and light is dim. These minutes before the rain are great for capturing photos such as this one. I wish there would be a bird sitting on the hanger at the foreground though…

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I hope you liked the photographs, and I’ll see you next time!

As always your comments, thoughts, and experiences are highly appreciated.

Cheers,
Greg.

Using Flash When Shooting Sunsets

You might think I’m going a little bit crazy here, but hey, don’t make any rushed judgments!

Yes, flash won’t help you to light the landscape but it can help you make your sunset photos a little bit different. Usually when you see sunset photos, the foreground elements of composition are silhouettes due to the high contrast between the backlight from the setting sun and the darkness of the foreground. Sometimes these silhouettes of objects or people look good in the photo, but sometimes adding a little foreground light can improve the final image.

In the following example you can see pretty much the same composition taken with (on the right) and without (on the left) the flash.

Sunset_2 Sunset_3

Click on the photo to enlarge.

While the silhouette in the left photo looks nice, using a little bit of light to show the cool red hair of the standing person adds a nice touch to the photograph. It also reveals a bit more detail in the foreground, though I’m not sure if it is a good thing in this case.

In the photo below I also used flash to light the foreground, and show the beautiful color and texture of the wood. Without flash this photo would have been too dark and much less interesting. Another way of achieving this result would be shooting several frames with different exposures and later combining them into an HDR image, but it would take much more time and possibly look less realistic.

Sunset_1

Click on the photo to enlarge.

These are only a few examples of endless possibilities which open up when you start using flash in many situations where it is not normally used, not only during sunset. For example you can use flash when shooting in harsh daylight in order to soften the hard shadows that daylight produces.

Hopefully this post inspired you and gave you a starting point for your own creative ideas when and where to use that flash that has been lying in your photo bag for too long 🙂

If you have any original ideas or examples of unusual use of flash, please share them in the comments.

Cheers,

Greg.

Elements of Mood

If you think about it, in many landscape photographs there are these often small compositional elements that create the overall mood of the photograph. The whole photograph can show a magnificent landscape, but still what makes all the mood (or sometimes adds the final but vital touch) are these elements. And once you thought about this, you can try and consciously add them to your photographs. Just like I did.

This photo would be nice even without the bird, but it would be empty and lifeless. Having the bird in the photograph adds life, motion, and mood to it. Yes, the bird is not sharp ( due to the rather long exposure), and there are not many details of the bird visible, but it is not important. The most important thing is that it is there.

Grass, Bird, and Sea

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Can you guess what is the “mood” element in the photo below? It is the moon. Without it the photo would still be nice, with the beautiful rays of sun reaching the sky from below the horizon, but moon adds a final touch to the composition. In my opinion photo wouldn’t be complete without it. And also, I think it is important that it is a young moon and not a full moon. It has to do with our stigmas and perceptions – full moon associates with dark night, bright moon light, and in my opinion would be inappropriate in this image, while the young moon associates with evening or morning sky and fairy-tales.

Sunset under the moon

Click on the photo to enlarge.

As you can see in my two examples important mood elements are small in dimensions, compared to other parts of the image, but are very important and vital when composing the shot.

I hope that having this in mind will help you create more striking and meaningful images.

Here’s to your next photo! Go out there, and don’t forget to have fun!

Greg.

Photographing Still Life Using Available Light

In this post I would like to show that you don’t need sophisticated lighting setups and other “special” props to create interesting still life images. All I used in the photos that you will see below was a glass, an apple, two small sheets of black paper, and two cardboard frames.

The main player here was the light. For quite some time now I’ve been noticing that I have a beautiful light coming from my kitchen window during the late afternoon hours, and finally I decided to take advantage of it. Writing these lines it is a late afternoon of another day, this same light again coming from my kitchen window and I struggle with a strong urge to leave everything and shoot some more still life.

I liked how the glass shadow looks on the black sheet of paper. To enhance it I poured water inside the glass to make it wet, so the shadow would look more interesting, and here is the result.

In post processing I converted the photo to B&W (when you shoot RAW you always get a colored image), and increased contrast and clarity. That’s it.

Glass and its shadow.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

In the next photo I deliberately used a green apple, because I intended for the shots to be in b&w except for the apple, and being evenly colored green it was very easy to leave only the green color. In lightroom rather then directly converting the photo to B&W, I separately decreased the saturation of all colors except the green. Then I had to increase the green saturation to bring back the original color of the apple. In this photos I simply put one black sheet of paper on the kitchen table, and another one was acting as a background. The rest is obvious. The direction of the light can be easily determined from the highlight on the apple. Because I couldn’t move the light source 🙂 I created my composition so that the light would be falling in the desired direction. In post processing, in addition to what I already described, I also increased clarity and contrast, and added just a touch of vignetting.

Glass with green apple

Click on the photo to enlarge.

In the next three photos I was playing with geometric forms, light and shadow. I poured some water into the glass to get additional horizontal line for my geometric formation. Actually I did that intuitively, and only now, realized why. Here again, two most important factors were light and creativity. You should understand that I didn’t come up with these compositions right away. It took me quite some time of thinking, imagining, trial, and error to come up with something that I thought was working for me.

Shapes and Shadows

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Here I tried to shoot just a fragment of the whole, and ended up liking it. In my opinion it gives a hint of the whole leaving enough room for imagination.

Glass and apple fragment 1

Click on the photo to enlarge.

In this final photo I tried a more complex approach to my composition by adding more detail. I think it is a risky thing to do because I could easily over complicate the photo thus loosing the viewer’s attention. I hope I didn’t, and I’d be glad to hear about it in the comments to this post.

Glass and apples

Click on the photo to enlarge.

So here you go. Still life photography that doesn’t require expensive equipment or artificial light. I hope you liked it, and I hope that you got inspired by it to create your own still life images.

As always your comments are appreciated, and

Remember, you only need to enter your name to leave a comment!

Wishing everybody a Fruitful and Creative New Year!

Greg.

Artistic Interpretation

In this post I’d like to talk about photographer’s artistic interpretation of the observed scene.

When I decide to take a photograph of a location, it is usually because I feel some sort of impulse. This impulse comes as a result of the surroundings communicating a certain mood, or association to me. You can say that I am photographing more of a mental image of the scene that I have in my mind at that moment than the actual scene. And consequentially, later when I see the photograph on my computer, it is quite different from my mind’s picture.

I call bringing the two images together “Artistic Interpretation”, and use post processing to achieve that. I constantly feel the need to improve my post processing skills to be able better present my photographic intentions.

In the following two examples, you can see the photographs before and after my artistic interpretation (left photo is before and right photo is after).

It was  evening time, about 40 minutes after the sunset. The darkness came quickly and the sky was cloudy, it  was going to rain any minute. I felt the “pressure” of the coming rain in the air taking this photograph. When I saw the resulting photograph, I felt that this feeling of a close rain and late evening was gone and I had to bring it back. I increased contrast and reduced saturation. I feel that I succeeded in bringing that mood back, but I’ll leave it for you to decide.

Seaford Beach, Victoria, Australia. Photo 1 before. Seaford Beach, Victoria, Australia. Photo 1 after.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

On another occasion I was again walking along the beach. It was a shortly after the sunset, and because it was cloudy, I could barely see the faint remnants of sunlight. The clouds were really beautiful and I couldn’t resist taking a photo. In post processing I increased contrast and added a bit of saturation to the yellow. I also added slight vignetting to concentrate the viewer’s attention on the horizon.

Seaford Beach, Victoria, Australia. Photo 2 before. Seaford Beach, Victoria, Australia. Photo 2 after

Click on the photo to enlarge.

What do you feel looking at these images? Can you bring your own examples of your artistic interpretation?

As always any comments, suggestions, ideas and anything else you’d like to say are welcome.

Till the next time, take care!

Greg.

Leading Lines

One of the compositional tools that photographers use to draw the eye of the viewer into the photograph is lines, which lead the viewer through the photograph. And by lines I don’t mean pencil drawn lines or anything like that. These “lines” can be represented by various contours of elements in the image.

Here is an example of leading lines in the image:

Seaford Beach, Seaford, Victoria. Australia.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

As you can see there are several such lines in this photo. One of them is the line of the wooden fence. The “line” can be broken and not straight, as is the case here, but nevertheless it still does the job. Another line is formed by tops of the bush, and finally the third imaginary line appears when your eye connects between the three tree tops.

All three lines converge at the lower left part of the photograph leading the eye from right to left. However there is one more line, which “breaks” this pattern. It is the stripe of bright sky protruding through the clouds. While other lines are relatively easy to control because they are stationary , this line could be caught only during a short period.

Lines can be a very strong compositional element when used wisely and in place, for example you can use such lines leading the viewer’s eye to the main subject of your photograph.

What are your examples of leading lines? You can share your photos in the comment section to this post.

Till the next time, take care!

Cheers,

Greg.

Planning a Sunset Photo Shoot

Sounds easy right? You just go out there at sunset time and shoot away. Well it is easy if you only want snapshots, but if you want beautiful photos you really should plan ahead. Don’t get me wrong – accidents do happen, and occasionally you might snap a nice sunset photo just from accidentally being in the right place at the right time, but most of the time it just doesn’t work that way.

Planning is essential when shooting at sunset, and it doesn’t matter whether you shoot landscapes or models at sunset or anything else – you have to plan. Main reason for that is the fact that sunset is not eternal, and the quality of light changes every minute during the sunset.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Ideally you should visit the location during the daytime, or another sunset time when you are not planning to shoot, and look around, think of ideas of what you are going to shoot there. Imagine the sun being at various heights in the sky,  the colors changing, find angles and places from which you’d like to create photos. Think of the compositions that you’d like to create.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

At the day of the shoot arrive at the location at least 2 hours before the sunset time and prepare your gear. If you are going to shoot people and you need lighting equipment to be in place – do it BEFORE the actual shooting time. Be ready. Because when the sunset will start happening you won’t have much time to think, you’ll have to shoot quickly so you won’t lose precious light.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Remember that if the exact sunset time is, let’s say, 20:00, it is the time that the sun disappears below the horizon, so if you arrive at location at 20:00, you won’t see the sun. Actual sunset time good for shooting starts approximately 40 minutes before the sunset. This time period depends on many factors such as your geographic location, time of the year, and the weather. You can also shoot after the sun disappears, and quite often the lighting many minutes (usually about 20 to 40 minutes) after the sunset is very beautiful.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Remember to take weather into account when planning your shoot. Too many clouds for example can totally block the sunset light, making the sunset uninteresting, but then a complete absence of clouds is also not always welcome. Remember that weather is something that you can’t control, be patient with it, and don’t despair. With enough patience and determination you’ll get your shot. I promise!

What are your tips for shooting at sunset? Any examples of sunset photography?

Remember, you only have to enter your name to leave a comment!

Greg.

Cape Shanck

Cape Schanck is the southernmost tip of the Mornington Peninsula and separates the wild ocean waters of Bass Strait from the slightly calmer waters of Western Port. Its most recognizable symbol is the Cape Schanck Lighthouse, which was built in 1859 and was the second lighthouse built in Victoria. A prominent rock outcrop is Pulpit Rock. It stands out at the very tip of the cape.

The first time I went there was on weekend mid-day, and my biggest problem photography-wise was the strong straight sunlight, which made the shadows very dark and deep. On the photo below you can see the shadows I’m talking about. The good part was the colors being very vibrant. The rock on the upper right is the Pulpit Rock.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

At my first visit there I decided that I have to visit the place on sunset and see what can I make out of it, so a few days later I drove there after work (it is a 40 minutes drive from where I live), but the sunset wasn’t that good. It was very cloudy, sunlight could barely be seen, and I started thinking that I won’t be able to create even a single good photo, but I was patient and decided to stay there and walk around even after the sun fell completely below the horizon, and suddenly the sky started to clear and I was able to catch the photo below.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

On the right you can see the Cape Shanck lighthouse. So this was a good experience for me, as I saw that when shooting at sunset, patience is a good practice because even quite some time after the sunset it is still possible to capture the beautiful remaining light.

As always your comments are welcome, and

Remember, you only have to enter your name to leave a comment!

Greg.

Resolution, Megapixels, DPI Explained

Yesterday at dinner me and my sister had conversation about how digital photos are made, and what do all these strange definitions mean. Then I remembered the time when I was struggling to understand all these concepts. It took me some time to wrap my head around them.
I think many beginner photographers are still struggling with them. So I’d like to share what I have learned and understood in the way that is clear to me, and hopefully will be clear to you.

Let’s start with the initial image that comes out of the camera – what does it mean that camera produces, let’s say, 10 Mega pixel image?

Ok, before answering this question let’s explain what a “pixel” is. Pixel is a virtual dot. Yes, a virtual one – it doesn’t have dimensions of its own. Let’s just leave it at that for now and I’ll explain down the road when pixel gets it’s physical dimensions. Now imagine a rectangle shape filled with dots. On its long side it has  3648 dots and on its short side it has 2736 dots. So the total number of dots would be 3648*2736=9,980,928 – it is almost 10 million dots or in other words 10 Mega pixels.

All digital images are “composed” from pixels (dots). Each pixel has its own set of values such as color, brightness, saturation etc.
So when we say that camera produces 10 Mega pixel images, it means that for each image camera provides this set of values for ten million pixels, all these numbers being put into a single JPEG or RAW (or any other format) file.

When you load this image on your computer’s display all these values are translated into actual color, intensity, etc. and together form the captured photo. Remember I said that pixel has no dimensions? As long as it “sits” in the JPEG or RAW file it doesn’t, but as soon as the file is displayed on the display, pixel receives its physical dimensions depending on DPI, on which I’ll explain next.

Let’s stay with the 10 Megapixel photo for now, and try to understand the DPI. DPI stands for Dots Per Inch. So basically if we have, for example, 10 DPI resolution then it means that for each square inch of image we have 100 pixels (10 by 10) with information regarding their color, intensity, etc. And these 100 pixels are taking the whole square inch, so they each pixel has certain size. And if we have 20 DPI resolution then we have 20×20 pixels per square inch (400 in total), therefore each pixel is smaller, and the result is better sharpness of the image.

You might get confused a little bit at this point – DPI stands for DOTS per inch but I’m talking about pixels. Here’s the thing – when a dot displayed on the computer screen, it is called a pixel, and when this same dot is printed on the paper, it is called a dot. Sometimes the abbreviation PPI (Pixels Per Inch) is used for computers but I’ll mostly stick to DPI.

Now let’s talk some real numbers

If you are displaying your images on computer display, then you don’t need resolution higher than 72 DPI because of physical limitations of the display (the smallest dot that display can show is of certain size, so physically there can be no more than 72 pixels per inch displayed on computer screen). If you’ll save your images in a higher resolution than 72 DPI and only look at them on your computer, you will just waste your storage space because the bigger your DPI, the more space the photo will take on your hard drive provided its physical dimensions stay the same.

If you want to print your photos, then resolutions of 240 DPI or even better 300 DPI are appropriate. This is due to the fact that printer can print much smaller dots than computer screen can show. If you’ll use a much lower resolution for printing, then instead of nice photo with sharp detail and smooth color transitions you’ll see image comprised of colored squares because your digital file will contain inefficient amount of data.

Let’s go back to the digital image produced by a 10 Megapixel camera. As we already said, this image contains information about 10 million dots/pixels. That’s it, not less and not more. Now when you want to print this digital image, these 10 million dots are your limit, and it is for you to decide how to use them.
For example if you want to print at resolution of 300 DPI (to remind you DPI stands for Dots Per Inch) then you are limited to picture size of 12.16×9.12 inches (30.89×23.16 centimetres). How did I get these numbers? Easy: remember that we said that a 10 Megapixel image has the following dimensions 3648×2736? Now if you divide 3648 by 300 (your desired resolution), you’ll get 12.16 inches for the long side of the printed photograph, and similarly divide 2736 by 300 to get 9.12 inches for the short side. Don’t forget that it is the maximum size for resolution of 300 DPI. You can always print smaller sizes. In that case not all the information contained in the file will be used for printing.

After understanding how the Megapixel count and the resolution (DPI) are affecting the size of the printed image, it is clear that for any given digital image (in our example it is an image from a 10 Megapixel camera) the lower your desired resolution, the larger the printed photo can be.

For most of the printers you don’t need to go above 300 DPI because of the physical limitations of the printer – it simply can’t print more than 300 dots per inch, but when would you like to decrease the printed resolution? I can give one most common example here – printing large posters or ads that will be viewed from long distance. If you look closely at big advertisement signboards with photos, you’ll see that their resolution is very low and you can distinguish between printed dots when looking from close distance, but when looking from farther distances it looks like a good photograph.

The last thing that I’d like to discuss is the dialog box in Photoshop named “Image Size” because it illustrates perfectly all the concepts I wrote about. In order to get to this dialog box, in Photoshop go to the “Image” menu and from there choose “Image Size”. Then the following window will open:

Of course, the numbers shown are depended on the currently opened image. The numbers that you see in the screenshot above are from 10.1 Megapixel image, but you can play with any photo that you’ve got. As you can see there are three sections in this window:
1. Pixel Dimensions
2. Document Size
3. Check boxes
(For the sake of this exercise, make sure that the “constrain proportions” check box is checked – we want the image to keep its original proportions)
The first two sections are interconnected, which means that if you change numbers in one section, numbers in the other section are also changing.

Lets start with the “Document Size” section, and change the Resolution to a higher number. You’ll see that “Pixel Dimensions” are also changing to higher numbers, and it makes perfect sense – if you want to have more pixels per inch, the total pixel width and height of your image will increase provided that physical dimensions of the photo stay the same. Now change the Width in the “Document Size” section to a lower number. The Height in the “Document Size” section will also change to a lower number because we are constraining our proportions, and more importantly, the Height and Width in the “Pixel Dimensions” section will also change to a lower numbers. Let’s explain that: we kept the resolution intact, but we want the physical width and length of the image to be smaller, which means we want less inches (or centimeters) but with the same 240 Pixels Per Inch, therefore we have less total pixels in our image. Now if we go over to the “Pixel Dimensions” section and change Width (and Height will change correspondingly due to constraining proportions) there to a larger number, then Width and Height in the “Document Size” section will also change to larger numbers. I hope that by now you gained sufficient understanding to explain this change by yourself.

There is one important thing to remember when changing dimensions of your photo in Photoshop – if you try to save the image larger than its original size, Photoshop will use mathematical algorithms to artificially add the additional pixels to enlarge your photo, which won’t always look smooth and natural.

That’s it. It is pretty easy when you take some time to understand the concepts. I hope that if you didn’t fully understand the discussed concepts before, you understand them now, and if not, feel free to leave me your questions in the comments section.

To wrap things up I’ll present some key points to think of when dealing with digital photographs

  • When saving photo for only web usage save it at resolution of 72 PPI

  • When saving photo for printing save it at resolutions of 240 or 300 DPI

  • When saving photo for web or for printing know the size of the photo that you want and save it at that size. This way you won’t waste storage space on your computer.

As always any comments are highly appreciated, and

Remember, you only have to enter your name to leave a comment!

Till the next time,
Cheers!
Greg.

Power Of The Frame

Sometimes photo doesn’t need a frame, it is complete as it is. But then there are photographs that just don’t feel right until you frame them. Frame often adds sense of completeness to the photograph. Photographers often look for compositional elements to naturally frame their subject within the photograph.

It is also important to choose appropriate frame for each particular photo, otherwise it might distract the viewer, or even worse – ruin the whole impression from the photograph.

In our digital age it has become common practice to add frame directly to the photo  during the post processing. This way of adding a frame has one significant advantage – flexibility. There are many different
applications that have collections of various frames, which you can add to your photos, or if you are familiar with programs like Photoshop you can draw your own frame around the photograph.

Since most of the photos that we come across are seen on display (either from our digital cameras or the Internet) adding frame directly to the digital photo adds to the viewing experience, and later photo can be printed and hung on the wall without the additional expense on the “real” frame (actually this point can be argued by many who prefer real frames).

I’d like to present here two examples of photos with digitally added frames.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

In this photo I added white frame, which in my opinion turns it to a nice postcard, smoothly fading edges of the image and creating dreamy look.

The photo below would be incomplete without a frame, it’s black edges would leave a sense of incompleteness. So I decided to add a frame. The frame’s color is intentionally greenish to match the tone of the photograph.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

What do you think about framing your photographs?

Remember, you only have to enter your name to leave a comment.

Cheers,
Greg.

Patterson River Views

There is a Melbourne’s suburb named Patterson Lakes. It is considered to be one of the more prestigious places to live around Melbourne. The houses there are standing right on the lakes’ shores, and people can

sail their boats from the houses, through the lakes to the Patterson river and to the open sea.

I had a chance to walk around Patterson river area and took a few photos there. It was sunset time so the light was changing quickly, as you can see in my photos below.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

This second photo was taken approximately 20 minutes (maybe 15, or 30) after the first one, and you can see that light became more colorful.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Here I just tried a different angle, and also went closer to the boat ramp, I liked both of these photos and couldn’t decide which one to present here, so I presented both of them leaving the decision up to you.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I all three shots I used a Canon 10-22mm lens, the only difference being that in the first photo I used circular polarizer, and in the next two didn’t. As a result of using polarizer (and not the most expensive one)  on wide angle lens combined with certain light conditions you can see darkened area at the top middle part of the photo (in the sky), which I didn’t like and removed the polarizer. This is not always the case though as it all depends on the light (including angle of the light relative to the lens). I often use my cheap 🙂 polarizer with the Canon 10-22mm lens and get away with it.

As always any comments, thoughts, and suggestions are highly appreciated, and

Remember, you only have to enter your name to leave a comment!

Cheers,
Greg.

Simple Things

Lately I was thinking about minimalism in photography. For me it is conveying a message (mood, idea, emotion, etc.) to the viewer through minimum of visual details or subjects. When you see a successful example of minimalistic photography, it seems that it is very easy to accomplish, because there are not many details in the composition that you have to think about.

But that is not true. While trying to create photographs with minimum details, I found it to be pretty difficult to come up with a good one. It is due to scarcity of detail that each detail has to be absolutely necessary and located in the right place.

After numerous unsuccessful attempts I came up with this photo, which I like because it creates a certain mood.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Initially I wanted to make this photo with the bird sitting on the antenna, so I was waiting with the camera aimed at the scene for the bird to sit in “photogenic” pose (which would be such that its whole silhouette would be visible), but instead the bird flew away, and then I caught it changing my composition intentions on the fly. I was lucky to catch the bird with open wings as I made only one shot.

Now when I look at this photo, I think that I could have waited more for this or another bird to appear and sit on the roof, and it would make another interesting composition. Then I’d compare the photos to decide which I like best. But these are merely afterthoughts, and this image is the only one I have.

I would be happy to hear your opinions on this photo – what would you change in it and why? And any other thoughts that you’d like to share on the subject of minimalism in photography.

Remember, you only have to enter your name to leave a comment!

Till the next time,

Greg

Shooting Babies – Part II

About a month ago I wrote a post about shooting baby closeups. Just a quick reminder – my friend asked me to shoot his baby boy, and I used natural window light to shoot mainly closeups because I had problems with background.

This time it so happened that I visited my friend again, and I happened to have my camera with me. His baby boy was in a playful mood and since he liked my previous photos he (not baby, my friend of course!) asked me to take a few more. This time I decided to solve all my background problems and shoot something more than closeups.  In addition, it was late in the afternoon, and the sun light was almost gone, so In all photographs that you’ll see here, I used flash, and only in the first one, in addition to flash from the right, there is window light from the left.

In order to get good shots I had to solve several problems – to figure out lighting would be the most important one, and background would be the second important. Since me and my friend’s family are good friends I had no problems communicating with them and their baby boy Eric was in a perfect mood for taking photographs – he was smiling and playful.

In the photo below the main lighting was sunlight from the window on the left, but if I didn’t use flash from the right side, then the shadows on the faces would be too deep. So I used a flash and set it to 1/8th of it’s full power to fill in the shadows.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

For lighting I only had one flash (Canon 430EX) but I also had remote trigger making it possible to have lighting off-camera. In the photo below Eric was sitting on the couch, and I placed a flash with 1/4 CTO gel on it facing away from him straight into the pillows of the couch so that Eric would be lit not with direct but with reflected light (this made the light source bigger and shadows smoother). In addition I asked his father to hold a white bed sheet close to Eric’s right (camera left) side. This made the shadows on his face lighter, because light from the flash reflected from the pillows hit the white sheet, and reflected from it to the shadowed part of Eric’s face.

The background in this photo is almost black because I used flash and the ambient lighting didn’t affect the shot at all.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

For the next photo I wanted to do something different, something bright and happy. They had these pieces of soft foam that they used to place on the floor for Eric, and they made an interesting background. In addition I asked Eric’s mother to blow some bubbles for him to play with, and started shooting. I caught a few nice frames and this one I liked the most. In this shot there is still only one flash placed on the right side and reflected form the pillows.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Now we went from the living room to Eric’s room, and here I encountered another problem. The walls of Eric’s room were green, and this is bad for your white balance. I know, I know – you say “shoot in raw, and then correct in post”, but I wanted to fix this in-camera making post processing time shorter. So here is what I did – I placed my flash facing the opposite wall so that the light would reflect off of it (because this is how I wanted my lighting to be) and then I took a shot of a green wall (the opposite wall from the flash). Then I changed to manual white balance and chose that shot of a wall as a reference. This made wonders for my white balance, and photos started to look so much better!

Click on the photo to enlarge.

In this photo Eric’s father is holding the flash facing the wall and reflecting from the wall to Eric’s and his mother’s faces. Yes, it is still only one light 🙂

Click on the photo to enlarge.

And finally I wanted to play around and take some unusual shots. So I changed to a wide angle lens (with UV protector on it, in a sec you’ll understand why) and started shooting Eric from various angles from a very close distance. Eric got very interested in me and my camera and started touching the lens (you see, the UV protector was a good idea 🙂 ), and I made some very nice shots even though they were distorted due to the wide angle.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

In this post I talked about lighting and background, which are all technical details, but it is not enough to make a good shot of a baby and his parents. My advantage here was that I knew them so they were comfortable around me, and I was comfortable around them – this is very important. The more relaxed your subjects are, the better your pictures will be. It is also important to know what do you want to show in your photos (the love of parents for their child, happiness, thoughtfulness) and then try to find situations and angles to show it. And of course – experiment, experiment, and experiment!

Till the next time,

Take care!

Greg.

Using UV Filters For Protection – Right or Wrong?

For those of you who don’t know what the hell I am talking about, I’ll briefly explain the issue.

When you buy an expensive lens, you want to protect it’s front glass element from scratches or other accidents. So most likely the photo dealer will suggest you to buy a UV (ultraviolet) protection filter to screw on your lens. But the question is – will shooting with UV filter degrade the image quality?

Lately I found myself bothered with this question a lot. It started when I bought my Canon 24-70mm f2.8 L lens. I bought it second hand, and the guy who I bought if from told me that it was with the UV filter all the time since the day he bought it, so it is completely scratches free. Way back I took an advanced course in optics in university, and I know that adding additional optical element to optical system changes system’s overall performance. This is exactly what you are doing to your optical system, i.e. your lens, by adding additional optical element, i.e. UV filter.

So how significant this “change in performance” is? In other words will the final image suffer in quality because of that?

I felt incompetent to perform tests to find an answer myself so I did an extensive web research, and I found a lot of information on this subject. It seems that there is no single conclusion to this matter, but here is my summary on it, which in my opinion includes all the major points, fact,s and conclusions regarding using UV filter on your lens for protection.

  • Putting UV filter on your lens will certainly degrade lens’s performance.
    • Explanation to this is pretty simple. When you screw on the UV filter on your lens, you basically add one more optic component, but not only that you also add a space filled with air between the filter and lens’s front optic element. So when ray of light hits your lens, instead of hitting the lens’s front element and passing to other optical elements inside the lens, it first hits the UV filter, refracts, passes to the space filled with air between the UV filter and the lens, and only then enters the lens. That ray of light can also be reflected several times between the lens and the UV filter (coating on the UV filters tries to prevent that).
  • The extent of the image quality degradation may vary from invisible to the human eye to a severe degradation in contrast and sharpness (and other image qualities), and it depends on the following factors:
    • The quality of the UV filter
      • I found many photographers complaining about Tiffen UV filters (even about the expensive ones). I even saw a test one guy did showing that using a Tiffen UV filter significantly decreases sharpness and contrast. That guy didn’t write the exact model of that filter though.
      • There is general agreement among photographers that expensive UV filters with double coating are the best choice if you must put a UV filter on your lens. Many photographers recommend the high end UV filters from B&W, Nikon, Hoya (Super HMC), Singh-Ray.
    • The subject that you are shooting – or more important the direction of light. For example if you are shooting into the light, then with UV filter there are more chances to have lens flare (partial solution is to use lens hood).
    • The lens. If the lens that you use is not of high quality, it may already produce less than great images, and adding a UV filter won’t make them worse than they already are.
  • There is everlasting debate whether one really needs the UV filter to protect the lens. Here are some pros and cons:
    • Pros:
      • UV filter gets dirty instead of the lens, so you don’t have to clean the lens that often (just clean the UV filter), thus protecting the lens’s coating.
      • When shooting on the beach, or during sand storms, or in any conditions where there are tiny particles in the air, which eventually land on your lens, you are risking scratching your lens when cleaning. Better scratch the UV filter.
        • Lens cleaning tip – when there are tiny particles on your lens don’t wipe them off because that can scratch the lens. Wash the front element first and then wipe it with micro fiber cloth.
      • If you accidentally drop your lens, or bump it into something, the UV filter will take the blow saving the lens.
        • Actually another opinion is that in such situations if UV filter breaks then its glass might easily scratch the lens.
      • The degradation of image quality resulted from UV filter is negligible in most cases.
    • Cons:
      • This one is somewhat philosophic – why put a 100 dollars piece of glass on a $1500 expensive lens? It means that it is very difficult to produce a high quality lens, and this is why it is so expensive, and by putting a relatively cheap (to the lens’s price) UV filter, you must degrade it’s quality.
      • Lens hood does great job protecting the lens so no UV filter is needed in most situations.
      • Don’t over protect your equipment risking loosing in image quality. Be reasonable, and predict when your lens might be in danger and when not.
      • The hard coating on most expensive lenses is very strong and can withstand numerous washes and cleanings (as long as you do it wisely).
      • Buy Lens Warranty instead of UV filter 🙂

Here is a great test of UV filters in action by Ken & Christine

In conclusion, there is no simple right or wrong here. Having all the information above you must decide for yourself whether to use UV filters or not. I decided to use them when shooting on the streets or in dusty conditions, but to remove them when shooting portraits, studio, or landscapes, in other words when there is little risk to damage the lens. I also use lens hoods almost all the time. If I was a millionaire and money wasn’t an issue 🙂 , I probably wouldn’t use the UV filters at all just to be sure that I am getting the maximum quality that my lens can deliver.

If you have additional information regarding this issue, you are welcome to share it here, and

Remember, you only have to enter your name to leave a comment!

Have a great day,

Greg.

Finding Sources Of Inspiration And Ideas for Photographs

It is a very common issue among photographers, therefore many articles were written on this, and now it is my turn. In this post I will describe how I try to keep myself inspired and what helps me to come up with ideas for photographs hoping that you find my experience useful.

Inspiration and ideas go somewhat together – when you feel inspired, most of the chances that you’ll have ideas for photographs, and when you have an idea for photograph, it’ll probably inspire you to bring it to life. Therefore the following text will be a mix of tips for getting inspired and coming up with ideas for images.

  • I have a notepad in which I write quotes from different sources, which inspire me. You know, you read something or watch TV and at some point you hear a sentence that makes you go ” That’s right! What a great thought!”. If you don’t write it down most of the chances that you’ll forget it. So I write down these quotes and go over them from time to time or when I feel uninspired. That helps a lot, because not only you will be reading inspirational quotes, but you will also remember the circumstances at which you wrote it down, and that in itself can bring back the inspiration.
  • During your “good” periods, when you feel inspired think of the things, events, places, people, which inspire you and write all that in the same notepad. It’ll help you a lot to get some of the inspiration back during the “low” periods.
  • Another thing that inspires me is listening to the music that I like. Listening to music while looking around for ideas for photographs can be a huge help. Think about it for a second – in the movies they always use various kinds of music to create different moods. Take action movies for example. A certain music can add tension to otherwise usual situation. So when you listen to certain music and look around you, you will see things differently depending on the music that you listen to and it just might inspire you to raise your camera.
  • I have a separate folder on my computer with my best photographs. When I create an image that I like very much, I add it to that folder. When inspiration leaves me and I feel that I won’t ever be able to create one good image, I go over my best images to remind myself what I am capable of.
  • When I come across an image that captivates me, I try to find out who is the photographer and then visit his website. If I find his works exceptional I bookmark his website. Over the years I gathered list of photographers that inspire me, and I come back and go over their work when I need inspiration.
  • I bet it happened to many of you, you keen photographers! You walk around doing your daily routine, and then suddenly a picture or a scene pops into your mind. It might be due to something that you see in front of you (on the street, in public transport, etc.), or because of your thoughts at that moment. It doesn’t matter why. But when it happens – write it down in a few words so that you won’t forget it. I do it in my iPhone because it is always with me. I have this nice diary application called Momento, and I write down there in a few words these pictures of my imagination. It doesn’t mean that I implement them all, but when I am out of ideas, I take a look at my notes and it helps.
  • In the Momento app that I mentioned above I can also add photos to text. So if I see certain situation and an idea pops to my mind based on that situation, I simply take a photo of it and add it to the diary entry.

Well that’s about it. All these things combined help me stay inspired and keep shooting during my lowest periods and I hope that you’ll find useful at least some of them.

If you have your own ways to get ideas for photographs and stay inspired, I sure would like to hear about them in the comment section below, and

Remember, you only need to enter your name to leave a comment!

Greg.

Enhancing Photographs in Lightroom

There is so much talk about post processing, and whether it is good or bad. There are people who never post process their photos, and there are also people who always process their photos, and also anything in between.

I do process my images in Lightroom or Photoshop, but not always. Sometimes the weather is perfect, and the air is so clear that nothing needs improvement. But in our busy world, we don’t always have the time to wait for the perfect conditions, and have to settle for whatever weather there is when we have the time for shooting. In such cases post processing can significantly improve the end result, and it is very important to shoot RAW in such cases because it gives you more flexibility in post processing.

In this post I will walk you through my Lightroom post processing steps, using one of the recent photos I took. Below on the left you can see the initial photo of an old fortress that I took on early morning. Unfortunately the sky was covered with clouds so that there was no contrast in the photograph.

Below on the right you can see the final image, after I finished working on it in Lightroom 3.

Initial Image Final result after processing in Lightroom

Click on the photo to enlarge.

So how I achieved this end result? Let me walk you step by step. All the steps below were performed in the Develop module.

First of all the sky bothered me the most in my initial image. It lacked contrast and was completely colorless. So I opened the adjustment brush, set it up and covered the sky area. Below you can see the screen shot of the settings that I used for the adjustment brush. Let’s go through some of them:

Contrast – though in most cases increasing contrast is more useful, in this case with clouds decreasing the contrast revealed more detail in the clouds.

Saturation – I increased the saturation of the adjustment brush because I also changed the Color to a shade of blue (as I’ll show in the next screen shot), and for this addition of color to be seen better I had to increase the saturation.

Clarity – Clarity is always good for clouds :). Really, increasing clarity makes clouds pop.

Color – I decided to add a slight color tint to the clouds so that they won’t be boring gray, but still have a realistic color.

Feather and Flow of the brush are needed for creating smooth gradients between the adjusted and not adjusted areas. The values that you see here are not a must, and you’ll have to play with them to find what suits your taste.

screenshot_1

Below you can see the color selection box and the values that I chose. screenshot_2

Now, I painted with the adjustment brush over the sky. There is a slight problem when you want to paint with adjustment brush over large areas, especially when the changes that brush does are subtle – you might miss a few spots in the middle and even more at the edges. I found a pretty easy solution for this: temporarily, in the adjustment brush settings decrease the exposure value to -4 so that in addition to all your essential adjustments, you’ll also significantly darken the image in the painted area. This will make the painted area perfectly visible. Then, after selecting everything that you want, slide the exposure slider back to it’s initial position.

In the image below you can see the clouds painted over with the adjustment brush with exposure set to -4.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

And here you can see the result of painting with the adjustment brush after I returned the exposure slider to zero:

Click on the photo to enlarge.

After adjusting the sky I examined the overall look and decided to make a few more adjustments to the whole image. In the screen shot below you can see the initial settings, with which I started.

screenshot_3

Let me explain the adjustments that I did.

I decreased Exposure slider to -0.45 in order to reveal even more details in clouds, but this also darkened too much the lower part of the image. To compensate for that I increased the Fill Light slider to 20. After increasing the fill light, I felt lack of contrast in the fortress, so I increased the Contrast to +34. Next I increased the Clarity and Vibrance just a little for a finishing touch. In the screen shot below you can see the final settings.

screenshot_4

And this is how the image looked like after performing those changes.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

We’re almost done, but not just yet.

I stared at the image for a few minutes, and it seemed to me that something was missing. Finally I understood what it was – subtle vignetting. Let me explain. The shape of the right column together with the clouds create a sense of movement from the outer frame towards the center of the image, and vignetting would emphasize this sense of movement.

And here is the final image (same one as in the beginning of this post).

Click on the photo to enlarge.

So this is how I do my post processing – by first analyzing the image, deciding what is missing or could be improved, and performing the adjustments. Of course this whole process is not “scientific” at all. It is very intuitive and imaginative, because in order to achieve an end result you have to visualize it first. Sometimes though it is more like “lets move this slider and see what it does to the image”.

Did you find this article helpful? How do you post process your images? Any examples of before and after will be much appreciated, and

Remember, you only have to enter your name to leave a comment!

Greg.

Creative Conversion to B&W in Lightroom

From time to time we all encounter black and white (B&W) images that look very dramatic.  Many times I’ve seen B&W images that simply took my breath away, but somehow most of the times when I tried to convert some of my most beautiful images to B&W (which I thought would look great in B&W), I was disappointed. I tried to increase contrast but it didn’t help a lot. And then I discovered (by myself! 🙂 ) the way of manipulating B&W images in Lightroom to significantly improve their visual impact, and I want to share it with you here.

I mostly shoot RAW, so my images are always in color even if I shot them with BW intentions. In order to turn them into B&W in Lightroom I go to the develop module and choose B&W. But only converting to B&W most of the times doesn’t deliver good results, and image often looks dull and uninteresting. Even if you try to adjust the color version of the image (vibrance, contrast, etc.) before converting to B&W, still the B&W version lots of times won’t be satisfying.

Here’s what I do. In the develop module of Lightroom there is the following section:

When your image is in color then the “Color” is highlighted, and if you click on the “B&W” it is automatically converted to black and white, below it appears caption “Black & White Mix” and 8 sliders (from Red to Magenta).

Below you can see an example of colored photograph before I clicked on the B&W, and immediately after. As you can see the B&W image is not that good.

desert landscape in color desert landscape in BW without editing

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Now I’ll show you how the black and white version of the above image can be improved.

After I converted the above image to black and white by clicking on “B&W” button,  here is what the Black and White Mix looked like:

Each slider in the mix is responsible for a different color, but since the image is in BW, when you drag the slider, what changes is the brightness of that color in the B&W image. So for example if I want to darken the sky, I drag the blue slider to the left side. In this manner I adjust all the sliders, so that my final image looks just as I envisioned it in the first place.

Back to my example. Here is the final image after adjusting the sliders:

desert landscape in BW creative edit

Click on the photo to enlarge.

And here is how the sliders of the final image are positioned:

Blue slider is moved to the left in order to darken the sky and make the white clouds stand out.  Yellow slider is moved to the right to make the hills brighter. Some other sliders are also adjusted but not all of them. For example I didn’t change the position of the red slider, because there is almost no red tones in the image, so dragging it doesn’t change much.

Of course you can use this technique with any image and not only landscape shots.

Here is another example. I shot these green leaves with intention to later convert them to B&W for a more graphic representation.

green leafs in color

Click on the photo to enlarge.

This is what the sliders looked like before I played with them:

And this is the final version of the image just the way I imagined it in the first place. Below it you can see the final positions of the sliders.

green leafs in black and white creative edit

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Converting just to black and white is not the limit. In this final example you can see another shot of the same leaves, but with two versions of creative editing.

one more example of green leafs before bw conversion

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The first is the black and white version, but then I tried to add a sepia tint and vignetting and ended up liking this second version even more than the B&W one, but it only became possible after creating the B&W version using technique that I showed.

one more example of green leafs after creative bw conversion   one more example of green leafs after creativ bw conversion and sepia toning

Click on the photo to enlarge.

If you have your own techniques for converting to B&W you are most welcome to share them here, and
Remember, you only have to enter your name to leave a comment!

Here’s to your creativity!

Greg.