This is the fourth in a series of articles that tour the contents of my camera bag. If you missed any of the previous three articles you can catch up with these links:
Photographic Gear – A Tour of a Photographer’s Camera Bag
Photographic Gear – the Camera Body
Photographic Gear – Lenses
In this article I want to discuss filters with you.
An Overview of Filters
Filters are a clear medium that is placed in front of the camera lens. The medium can be glass or, in some cases, a high-quality resin. The purpose of the filter is to enhance the image. Filters are one way in which photographers “get it in the camera,” a point of view that it’s better to get something close to the image you want in the camera so that it doesn’t require so much effort in the darkroom, digital or analog. Continue reading “Photographic Gear – Filters” »
Tags: filters, graduated neutral density filter, neutral density, photography, Polarizer, variable neutral density filter
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I’m taking you on a tour through my camera bag and the first stop was the bag itself.
Click here to read the article: Photographic Gear – A Tour of a Photographer’s Camera Bag
The next stop is the camera itself. Now, by this, I mean the camera body, not the body and lens. I’ll talk about lenses later.
Like so many of us, my camera got put aside for quite some years. I was very active in photography in the 1970s. I took frequent trips to Yosemite, camping and exploring with camera in hand. I even worked in a photography studio lab for several years, learning the intricacies of color film processing and printing. But then things changed and time for photography dissolved. Until my daughter was about to be born in 1994, that is.
I bought a Canon EOS ELAN with a Tamron 28-200mm lens and shot countless rolls of film, mostly of the new joy in our lives.
I resisted the digital movement for a long time, preferring 35mm film. But when I finally joined the movement around 2000, I purchased a digital point and shoot with a big zoom lens. It was a Canon PowerShot Pro90 IS that I cut my digital teeth on with all of its 2.6 megapixels.
I tried to apply what I had learned in the film world for both color slide and negative films to the digital world. I also tried to apply what I had learned in the color darkroom to Photoshop. It took a while to realize that very little of the knowledge and experience I had gained carried over into the digital world. This required a whole new way of thinking, both in the field and in the digital darkroom. For example, with color slides, you normally want to underexpose a little to saturate the colors more. With digital, you overexpose a little to get more detail in the shadows.
It was in September of 2004 that I made the jump to a digital SLR when I upgraded to the Canon 10D. With a little over 6 megapixels, I was a big step up from the PowerShot. This is the camera I was carrying around in the duffel bag I mentioned in the previous article.
I did a lot of shooting with the 10D. I was intimidated by RAW processing at first so I shot in JPEG. Sadly, there are a lot of JPEG files that would have been great had I been able to capture them in RAW but, alas…. Eventually, I moved to RAW when I found a software program that made sense. Adobe bought the software when they were developing Lightroom. It made RAW conversion much less intimidating.
Continue reading “Photographic Gear – the Camera Body” »
Tags: camera, camera body, Canon, DSLR, gear, mirrorless, photography, sensor
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What is Art?
I want to talk about art.
Mind you, I don’t claim to be an expert. I’ve done some reading and talked to a lot of people about art and there are a lot of ideas out there on what art really is.
Some say art is a work that is displayed in a gallery or performed on a stage. I can see that (pun not intended; well, actually it was) although I’m not there – yet.
Others say that art is a work commissioned by a patron. Alas, not there yet either.
Still others say a work is art if the artist says its art. That’s fine as long as the artist can get others to agree.
But none of these definitions help me to grow as an artist. They don’t provide any indication of a path I can take to become an artist (other than perhaps bribing someone to hang one of my photographs in a gallery, at least for a day or two).
I’m looking for a definition of art that will provide some guidance in my quest to become an artist – to grow as an artist.
Continue reading “Thoughts on Art – What Is It?” »
Tags: art, communication, interpretation, photography
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Something hit me the other day on the way into work. That happens quite often. I mean I didn’t get hit by a car or anything. I got hit by an idea. And the idea this time is that there are four types of photographs. In this blog post I want to illustrate what I have in mind by showing you the same raw file rendered four different ways.
Continue reading “Four Types of Photographs” »
Tags: art, believable, capture, creativity, document, interpretation, personal style, photography, realistic
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A lot of people are doing nighttime photography these days including yours truly. There are many good sources of information on nighttime photography. I’ve written a few blog posts myself (Exciting Nighttime Photography in 10 Easy Steps). Nighttime photography falls into two categories – star trails and night sky. In this post I want to elaborate on something I’ve discovered recently with regards to night sky photography.
Nighttime photography is pretty much like daytime photography. The biggest difference is you can’t see what you’re doing. Let’s run through a quick comparison of camera settings in daytime and nighttime photography.
Continue reading “Mastering Night Photography – Focusing” »
Tags: Aperture, aperture priority, auto focus, depth of field, focal distance, focal length, hyperfocal distance, ISO, live view, manual, manual focus, night, nighttime photography, photography, shutter speed, white balance
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There’s no question about it; photography is very technical. There are many technical skills that must be mastered to become a proficient photographer. And they didn’t all just crop up when digital cameras came on the scene. Film cameras required a great deal of technical know-how also.
If you were taking a grand landscape photograph back in the days of film, a composition that had a very interesting foreground and a spectacular background, you had to know how to control your depth of field so that the foreground and the background and everything in between would be in focus. This required a technical knowledge of the three factors that affect sharpness; those being, focal distance (the distance from the camera to the object you’re focusing on), the focal length of the lens and the f-stop.
Exposure in the film era was perhaps even a little more intimidating. Your ISO was determined by your film and you selected that when you purchased it. But you had to set your shutter speed and your f-stop manually. Shutter speed wasn’t too hard to understand. If you decrease the length of time the shutter was open, you decrease the amount of light that passed through the lens by the same amount. A shutter speed of 1/30 of a second let twice as much light through the lens as 1/60 of a second. Pretty simple.
But f-stop didn’t make any sense at all. If your f-stop was f/8 and you wanted to double the amount of light coming through the lens, you set it to f/5.6. The amount of light was doubled but the number was smaller. And it wasn’t what you might intuitively have expected it to be, namely, f/4. It could be a bit baffling. And the only way to get a grasp on it was to memorize these weird numbers. With film you were stuck with manual exposure and there was no getting around it. With digital you can use one of the automatic exposure modes so you can get away without fully understanding this f/stop stuff. But it’s still best if you do.
The coming of the digital camera introduced a whole new level of complexity. In the film age the camera was a simple mechanical device. You were responsible for doing practically everything – deciding where to focus, the shutter speed to use and the f-stop to use. The only role the camera played was to open the shutter for the precise length of time that you specified when you set the shutter speed.
Continue reading “Making a Photograph – The Technical and the Creative” »
Tags: creativity, depth of field, exposure, fine art, human brain, landscape, left brain, photography, right brain, sharpnesss
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If you’re a person who’s interested in just taking pictures and don’t want to be bothered with all the technical details, you are probably photographing with your camera set to automatic mode. Often times automatic mode is indicated by a green box. Probably the handiest feature of automatic mode is that the camera makes all the decisions for you. All you have to think about is getting the people you’re photographing in the frame and pressing the shutter. The camera does everything else.
But the problem is that the camera doesn’t always get it right. Often times it will overexpose parts of the image making them look washed out. But there’s a simple way to avoid this without mastering all the complicated technical details of shooting in manual mode. And that is P mode.
Using P Mode
The P and P mode stands for Programmed Automatic. In P mode the camera allows you to make some of the decisions while it makes the rest. You get to choose whether or not to use flash, and set the ISO, exposure compensation and white balance. The camera sets the f-stop and shutter speed.
Let’s take these controls one by one. Let’s start with flash. You can decide whether you want to use flash or not. If you’re shooting in bright daylight or even on a cloudy day you probably don’t need flash. But if it’s a little darker you can always choose to turn the flash on. If you don’t know how to turn your flash on or off you’ll need to consult your camera’s manual.
Continue reading “Photo Tips – Getting Great Exposures the Easy Way” »
Tags: Aperture, aperture priority, camera settings, cloudy, color, daylight, exposure, exposure compensation, flash, image, ISO, light meter, open shade, photography, shutter speed, tungsten, white balance
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Personal style. What is it? I like to bring up the topic of personal style in my workshops. I think it’s important to understand that each of us has a personal style whether we know it or not. It comes from the fact that each of us is a unique individual and sees the world in our own personal way. Our skill levels are different. Our life experiences are different. Our interests are different. And that leads to each of us having our own individual world view.
Continue reading “Making a Photograph – Personal Style” »
Tags: landscape photography, out-of-the-box, personal style, photo, photography, photography workshop, Workshops
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I recently read an article by William Neill in the September Outdoor Photography magazine titled “Need to Know” that really resonated with me. His main point is, don’t let the acquisition of gear and techniques interfere with the experience. There’s so much information out there, so many people offering advice on techniques for composing, exposing and post processing. But in Neill’s journey he has developed what he calls, ‘… a simple but effective tool set.”
A foundation of gear and technique is important in capturing the experience. But it is the experience that is what we’re out there for, not histograms or depth of field or leading lines.
Continue reading “Making a Photograph – Two Sides of the Coin” »
Tags: aperture priority, composition, creative, depth of field, exposure, focus, gear, histogram, landscape, leading lines, light, manual, Outdoor Photography, photograph, photography, sharpness, skills, technical, William Neill
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Occasionally at art festivals a visitor to my booth will point to one of my photographs and ask, “Is that what your camera saw?” This question points out a common misunderstanding about the physics and art of photography.
Those of us who are serious about our photography capture our digital images in RAW file format. That’s a format that does a minimal amount of processing on the image before it saves it to the memory card. It is more like what the camera sees.
The other format is JPEG and is not what the camera sees but rather a highly processed image that is controlled to a large extent by the settings the photographer sets in the camera – settings like sharpness, contrast and saturation. So if the photographer likes saturation he just has to up the saturation setting in the camera.
JPEG is much closer to the photographs that were captured in the wonderful days of film. Each different type of file had its own unique way of responding to the scene. Kodachrome film was great for reds while Ektachrome was perfect for blues. Fujichrome was prized for its treatment of greens and its high contrast.
So what did the film camera see? The question is really, “What did the film see?” Was it a faithful documentation of reality? Not in the least. The same can be said for JPEG digital files. They are no more a faithful documentation of reality than film was.
The fact is, RAW files are closer to what the camera saw than film or JPEG files ever were or will be. And, as one workshop participant put it to me, “I don’t like shooting in RAW because the photographs are so plain and uninteresting.” There you go. What the camera sees, exactly what the camera sees, is often plain and uninteresting.
So the physics of digital images captured in RAW format is that the images are the closest to what the camera sees. But from an artistic point of view, these images generally do not speak to us. These are documentation but that’s not art; art is interpretation.
Now, a RAW file is the perfect starting point from which to create art. It is neutral, unbiased and open to the artist to express what she saw, what she experienced that inspired her to set up the camera and compose the image, that led to the decisive moment that the shutter was pressed.
In the days of film we relied on our selection of the type of film that would do the best job of rendering particular situations. In the digital era we have much more powerful tools that we ever had with film – Lightroom, Photoshop, Photomatix and all the wonderful software that we have access to that allows us to express our vision, our interpretation of reality.
So, are my photographs what the camera saw? Not at all. They are what I saw.
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Tags: art, contrast, documentation, fine art, interpretation, JPEG, memory card, photography, RAW, reality, saturation, sharpness, vision, workshop
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