Thursday, January 22, 2009

Contrast and Shadows in your Photographs

Red Dusk and Night - Photographer's Delight

Location: Grand Bend, Ontario, Canada
: 2008
Camera: Canon 40D, 17-85mm f/4-5.6 lens
Settings: ISO 100, f/20, 1/13 second, 85 mm
Support: resting on a post

Details: on my trip to Grand Bend I was enjoying the beautiful red sunset at the beach and taking lots of pictures. I had the opportunity to compose this photograph that I really enjoy (hopefully you do to!). Here are some tips to help you grab ones like this.
  1. Support -lighting will be low, so you will need to ensure the camera is steady. If you don't have your tripod with you (much like I did not that day), then resting it on a post, bench, wall, etc will do. Remember that a steady camera = a crisp photograph.
  2. ISO - as always, you want to strive for the lowest possible ISO for your conditions. In this case, I was able to use ISO 100 for as noise free shot. Recall from previous posts that while a higher ISO is more sensitive to light (and take photos in lower light conditions), it also has more noise in the shot.
  3. Aperture - Usually in lower light conditions you want a lower aperture so that the speed can be faster. HOWEVER, in this case I chose a higher aperture (f/20) so that the background and foreground would both be clear. Remember that a low f/stop will result in a faster shutter speed (more light comes in as it is wider) but creates blur on the subjects that are not in focus (known as bokeh).
  4. Composition - the part that draws my eyes to this photograph is the group of four unknown people walking together with the sunset in the background. It elicits good feelings and memories in me, as I hope it does for many people.
  5. Contrast - the bright background and the shadows of the people make the photograph a little more interesting and mysterious. I think of the subjects were well lit/clear, the picture would lose a lot.
Keep on clicking!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Photography Tip: Fast Shutter Speeds

Come Sail Away

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
: 2008
Camera: Canon 40D, 17-85mm f/4-5.6 lens
Settings: ISO 100, f/9, 1/80 second, 73 mm
Support: hand held
Other: polarizing filter

Details: This photograph was taken while sailing with some coworkers in the summer (2008) in Lake Ontario. The crisp, clear(ish) air and the cooling breeze made for a wondering afternoon. The photograph helps me remember those moments (and hopefully prepare for the next time). The shot was taken on a moving boat (about 4-5 nautical miles per hour, if I recall correctly), so you will need a fast enough shutter speed to still the motion. In this case, I chose an f/9 aperture and ISO 100, letting the camera decide on the shutter speed (1/80 second). While it came out will, my photography tip here is that I could have been better served by selecting a faster speed (say 1/250 second) and having the camera select the aperture.

Processing: to help this photograph stand out more, I did some single file HDR processing with Photomatix (possible since I was using camera RAW).

HDR Photograph

Original Photograph

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Photography Tip: Creative Use of Reflections

Mirror, Mirror, On the What?

Location: New York City, New York, USA
: 2008
Camera: Canon 40D, 17-85mm f/4-5.6 lens
Settings: ISO 100, f/8, 1/20 second, 47 mm
Support: hand held

Details: This photography tip isn't about how to operate your camera or what settings to use. It's an example to help stir the creative juices that flow within us all. While in NYC with my girlfriend, I caught this creative portrait of her by taking a picture of my sunglasses, using her reflection in them as the subject. This is probably one of her favourite photographs of herself.

So the photography tip for you is to get out there and take a day where you focus on taking pictures where your subject is in a reflection. Try this with water, sunglasses, glass, mirrors, polished stone, eyes, anything you can get a reflection with. And that is today's photography tip! Good luck!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Photo: Red Rover Come on Over

Contrast for Eye Catching

Location: Rice Lake, Ontario, Canada
: 2008
Camera: Canon 40D, 17-85mm f/4-5.6 lens
Settings: ISO 100, f/16, 1/25 second, 85 mm
Support: balanced on a post of the docks

Details: Take on my annual boys trip to Rice Lake for some fishing. I was on the docks enjoying a beer when a two buddies were heading in from the lake. The sunset as a striking backdrop and the boat and it's passengers silhouetted makes for an interesting image. An unseen subject can add a feeling of mystery to a photograph, something many people overlook in their attempts for a clearly lit subject.

In this case, a slow shutter speed is needed so you will need a steady camera. Either use a tripod or improvise. In this case I used the post of the docks I was on and put the camera on self timer mode.

Next time you are out, try taking some silhouette shots to get some practice. Take at least 15-20 of them. This exercise will develop your skill and lead you to better pictures.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Photo: Making some Lemonade

Turn A Bad Day into a Great Shot!

Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
: 2008
Camera: Canon 40D, 17-85mm f/4-5.6 lens
Settings: ISO 320, f/6.3, 1/100 second, 85 mm
Support: hand held
Other: 1 exposure

Details: Sometimes we have a desire to go out and take some photographs, but the weather isn't bright and sunny and the birds are not chipping. They may, in fact, be frozen! My advice to you is to still get out there and take those photographs. A bleak, dreary day doesn't mean a you will end up with drab pictures. Especially if you have a little help with some digital processing. :)

The first photograph below is an unprocessed shot I took of the Peggy's Cove lighthouse (Nova Scotia) when I was there in December. Not the optimal day for a shot. While the composition is decent, the photograph doesn't pop.

In this case, I got some added "pop" (second photograph) with my favourite program Photomatix. The HDR processing was based on a single shot frame (possible because I used the camera RAW format). At least to me, I find this photograph much more compelling now. The lighthouse is more intense, the red light is accentuated, and the boulders feel more powerful. This could have also been done in Photoshop by removing some saturation (colour), dodging the red lighthouse top and edges of the photograph, and enhancing the red in the light.

Original Photograph

Enhanced Photograph

Monday, January 5, 2009

Photo: HDR East Coast Style!

Multi-shot HDR of the Halifax Citadel Entrance

Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
: 2008
Camera: Canon 40D, 17-85mm L f/4-5.6 lens
Settings: ISO 320, f/5.0, 1/25 second, 24 mm
Support: hand held
Other: 3 exposures (0, -2/3, +2/3 EV)

Details: During my Christmas break I spent some time in Halifax visiting my family. When my girlfriend came down for a few days, I took her on a tour of a few spots. This is the entrance to the Halifax Citadel (an old fortress from colonial days). I took three exposures in camera RAW and used Photomatix to make this HDR photograph. However, like a fool I left my tripod at my parents place and did the three shots hand held. This happens to the best of us.

To help keep the three photographs aligned, I did the following:
  • set the camera to High Speed Continous shooting - this will allow you to press the button once (rather than 3 times) and get minimal movement
  • arms out from my body, almost locked at the elbows, help steady my arms from moving
  • ensured the camera strap is taut around my neck, steadying my camera
Hopefully these tips may help you next time you forget your tripod!