Januray 2012 saw my wife Maureen and I take the longest holiday we have had together for over 12 years. We bought a new caravan and decided to put it through it's paces with a 2500 kilometre trip to outback NSW and down into mid Victoria.
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Can a lifetime of experience actually go against you in photography?
Recently my son Matthew and I spent 2 weeks traveling outback NSW. While we covered a lot of distance, we were on the constant lookout for photo opportunities.
We shot some amazing scenery and came to the understanding that we only scratched the surface of this wonderful country.
I think we both learned a few things from each other also.
For example, shutter priority is used when we want to control motion in our images and aperture priority for controlling depth of field.
BUT, what if you want a certain shutter speed AND a particular aperture to control both at the same time? For instance, I know I needed a fast shutter speed to freeze any camera movement when shooting this eagle.
I was using a 400mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter so even with image stabilizer, I needed good technique to hand hold for a sharp shot. I also wanted to choose my aperture to control my depth of field to make sure I had the whole bird sharp.
But what if the available light didn't let me select those settings?
The only other adjustment is i.s.o. by the time I could adjust the i.s.o on a shot like this the bird would have flown, literally. We only got half a dozen shots off before he took off.
Matt and I had discussed this earlier and he suggested a change of thinking that my 'old school' mind would never have thought of.
He asked if I had ever shot using auto i.s.o. as then I could choose my shutter speed AND aperture and let the camera give the correct exposure by changing the i.s.o.
HUGE light bulb moment!!!
With today's cameras (DSLR's at least) we shouldn't be afraid of using higher i.s.o. as noise reduction technology is superb.
Previously I have always suggested to first choose your i.s.o. using the lowest setting to give the best image detail and colour as the higher the number, the more noise is introduced, particularly in the shadows.
While this is still true, it is so much less of an issue with modern cameras and a huge degree better than any high i.s.o. film.
Most mid to high end DSLR's will even let you limit how high auto i.s.o. will push. For example, I know my camera is brilliant as high as 1600 i.s.o. so I can tell the camera to use auto i.s.o. but never set it to higher than 1600.
Because of my old school photographic thinking, I didn't ever give any consideration to auto i.s.o. settings. With film, you had to make the choice and so too with earlier digital cameras where you saw huge image degradation at higher settings.
So I put it to the test. And what a sense of freedom and control it gave me. I COULD set both my shutter and aperture, I COULD have my cake and eat it!
The lesson learnt?
No matter how long you've been into photography, ALWAYS be open to new techniques, especially as the new technology opens up ways of doing things that would have been unimaginable in the past.
Thanks to Matthew, a young mind still open to other possibilities!
(I believe the above lesson will apply to many things in life, we're never too old to learn, only too old to be stubborn!).
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The eternal question, what gear to take?
What are they and what difference do they make to the image?
Prime lenses (non zoom) have always been the mainstay of the professional photographer and they were the lenses that came standard with SLR cameras up until a couple of decades ago.
So why have they all but dissapeared from an amateurs camera bag?
What to look for when studying images.
When learning photography (which is ALL of us as we never stop learning this skill) it's important to look at as many images as possible. This isn't difficult with today's media. Everywhere we look there are images from magazines, advertising boards, TV, iphones, web etc.
But just viewing images isn't enough for us to learn by them, we have to STUDY them.
During our classes I ask my students to flick through any magazines they have around the house, not read them, just quickly flick the pages until an image grabs their attention.
Have a go at this now and try to define what made you take a second look at an image. Was it the colour, the detail or simplicity, was it the subject, composition etc.
By making a careful study we can learn many things about both the image and our own reaction to it.
Try to think of an image that totally shocked you, stopped you in your tracks. Do you think that the photographer meant to shock you? Most probably yes.
Think of an image that you recall making you feel calm and serene. If it was that special maybe you bought a print of it and hung on your wall?
The point is that we can be emotionally affected by what we see and a good commercial photographer knows this and shoots with this in mind.
And you know it too, if only at a subconscious level, why else would you take photos in the first place? Something you saw made you want to record the moment.
I've included a couple of shots I took this week to demonstrate. Compare how the two images bring out different feelings in you.
Both photos are of people, both are in colour, both are in the square format. How many differences can you find between the two?
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The point is to be able to see why I took the shot and what did I do right and what could I have done better. Any opinion formed in your mind means that you have considered the image and have learned from it.
To help you study a photo and disassemble it I have given you 14 questions to ask yourself. If you are very new to photography you may not be able to answer some of the technical questions but it doesn't matter, that will come in time.
- Why did the photographer take the image?
- Is the photograph effective?
- What lens would have been used and why?
- Was depth of field (long or narrow) used effectively in the image and how?
- How was contrast used in the image and how could it have been controlled?
- What post production techniques (if any) where applied and were they effective?
- Did the composition work for the image or what would you do differently?
- Was a fast or slow shutter speed used and why?
- Was the quality of light suited to the subject and what bearing does it have on the overall image?
- Is there any evidence of in camera manipulation (such as filters) and does this add or detract from the subject?
- Was the exposure suitable for the subject?
- What, if anything, makes this image different from shots of the same subject?
- How well did the photographer communicate through the photograph?
- How was the image presented (mounted, framed etc.) and what bearing did this have on what you though of the photograph?
I hope you enjoyed this article. Last chance for our current term of photography classes starting this Thursday 28th April. Email me for details.
We CAN live together.
We just spent a week in Qld at a Camera House conference (I know, life is tough) and had the chance to go to Australia Zoo (courtesy of Fuji Australia, thank you Mr Fuji).
This is a shot of a young boy hand feeding an elephant and it had such a powerful effect on me. We can share the world, we MUST share the world.
For all the disasters and man made conflicts we have to keep in mind the BIG picture of world survival. Not animal survival and not human survival but both. We need the animals to keep the world balanced.
Interestingly, the only reason the animals need us is because of the mess we've made. If man disappeared the animals would thrive.
What are your thoughts? Do you have an image that speaks to you? Email it to mee and I'll put it on the site.
Next week I promise to climb down off my soap box and give you more of a photographic post.
In the mean time have a look at Eric Kims site, his latest article is an interview with street photographer Rui Palha based in Lisbon, Portugal. Some amazing, moody street portraits.
Pontiac from Ground Level in HDR
This is one on my favourite images from 2010. I was with a photography group at a small historic village (Little Hartley, NSW) when a couple of old Pontiacs rolled up.
I decided to shoot for HDR. HDR or High Dynamic Range is a process of taking multiple images at different exposures and then processing them is special software to achieve results that are not possible with a single exposure.
The camera has to be tripod mounted and I take between 3 and 9 exposures depending on the subject and light levels. One image is exposed just for the shadows allowing the highlights to burn out, and then a series of exposures 1 to 2 stops apart ending with an exposure for the highlights.
When processed we end up with an image that was initially not possible in a single shot due to a high contrast range in the scene.
For a free tutorial on HDR look at http://www.stuckincustoms.com/ This site is run by Trey Radcliffe, a recognised master at HDR. There are some brilliant shots on his site and he posts an image every day.
While Photoshop does have a HDR routine I find it awkward to use and limited in its possibilities. I prefer to use Photomatix which is used by the majority of photographers doing HDR.
You can download the program at www.hdrsoft.com Try the free demo version and have fun.
Sydney in Black and White
After spending about 8 hours walking the streets around Circular Quay in Sydney I put a collection of images together. Some candid, some I approached and asked them and one who wasn't pleased about being photographed, see if you can find which one! In comparison I even had two people actually asking me to take their photo.
A fantastic day with the camera, met some wonderful people and developed a few blisters!
Click here to view the images http://www.stevenorrisphotography.com/gallery/sydney-street-photos-march-2011/
or view the video
Beginners Guide to iso
Beginners guide iso
One of the BIG advantages of digital over film is the ability to change the iso per shot rather than per roll.
But what is iso?