Posts Tagged ‘how to’

HOW TO: Speedy Abstracts

October 16, 2013 24 comments


Last weekend we were out for a drive in the countryside on a beautiful Autumn afternoon. My wife was driving and I decided to get creative with my camera as we whizzed through the woods.

I set up the lens with a mid range aperture and the camera with a slow shutter speed. In this case it was f8 and 1/25th of a second. As we drove through the woods I pointed the camera out the passenger window towards the scenery that was zipping by. I was attempting to capture the various colors of leaves as they began to change colors, but in an abstract way.

Photography from a moving car, whether it is daytime or nighttime, offers endless possibilities for creativity.



ISO 200

cloudy WB

HOW TO: A Third Leg

August 5, 2013 10 comments


In my opinion, a monopod is the second most important tool for an outdoor photographer. The first would be a tripod. Outside of a camera, of course.

Even with the advent of super high ISO speeds, anti-shake lenses and camera bodies, tripods and monopods provide the essential support needed for blur-free photographs. The use of either of these tools also enables you to scrutinize your composition before pressing the shutter button all the way.

But as we all know, a tripod is not always the most convenient support system to use.

For instance, tripods are not usually permitted indoors in many museums, historic buildings or conservatories. A tripod can even get in your way at certain sporting events. Even architectural street photography could be bothersome to some folks with a three legged apparatus spread out across the sidewalk during rush hour.

So what is the intrepid photographer to do? Have faith…there is a solution. It’s not a fix-all, but I have found the simple, rarely-praised monopod often saves the day. These one legged support systems have plenty to offer.

Their conveniences are many. They are lightweight, easily carried, unobtrusive, quick to set up, and adjustable in height. Mount a ball head onto a monopod, and the camera positions available are almost limitless.

The stronger ones can be used as a walking staff, and most importantly, monopods provide a good bit of stability. When braced against an immoveable object or even yourself, a respectable steady platform is the result. And they are usually allowed where tripods are not. That benefit alone opens up all kinds of possibilities. Plus, monopods are fairly inexpensive.

A monopod certainly will not replace the stability offered by a tripod, but they sure do work well in a pinch. If you know someone who owns one, give it a try for a day. I’m sure you will be pleasantly surprised…and you may even add one to your cache of photographic tools. I keep mine in the car at all times.


IN THE FIELD: Revisiting Familiar Places 3

May 16, 2013 14 comments


Bracketing exposures:

Whenever I am in the field, I like to bracket my exposures, if time and the situation permits. One reason is to see how adjusting the amount of light the camera records affects the subject or scene. And as good as camera meters are at predicting what settings to use for a “proper” exposure, sometimes an adjustment from the recommended setting may be needed to get a preferred exposure.

To illustrate what a slight adjustment to the shutter speed can make, here are two photos of the same scene taken at the Hopewell Furnace. The photos were taken within seconds of each other, yet they are different. Neither is an incorrect or an improper exposure. As the photographer, or the viewer, it’s just a matter of personal preference.

In this series about revisiting familiar places, all of the photos were taken with ambient  light. I wanted to capture the mood as it was occurring naturally, rather than adding an artificial light source.

These two shots were taken with identical settings except for the shutter speed. It was slowed by half (one full stop) which doubled the amount of light between the two shots.

Left Photo

aperture 7.1

shutter 1/50th

cloudy WB

ISO 200

Right Photo

aperture 7.1

shutter 1/25th

cloudy WB

ISO 200

IN THE FIELD: The Other Half Of Serenity

March 30, 2013 11 comments


This photo was taken the same morning as the photo in the previous post. I was facing in an easterly direction when I took this shot, as compared to facing in a more westerly direction when I took the former photo. The two shots were taken within a minute of each other. Shortly after I took this shot, the subtle colors of the sunrise and distant forest were obscured by the fog moving up the valley.

The exposure settings for both photos were actually identical. I wanted to show the difference in color tones from two different view points and to illustrate the difference in the light, even though the scenes were very close to each other.

I used a cloudy White Balance setting for both photos primarily because I rarely use any other setting. I feel the color tones in photos have a warmer feel when using the cloudy setting. Sometimes I will need to make a custom white balance setting for really difficult, mixed, or artificial lighting situations, or if the camera is just not duplicating the color I am seeing.

I also like to experiment, if time permits, by taking several shots of the same scene using different WB settings. Not only just to see the difference, but also to determine what works best for me. There is no right or wrong, just a personal preference.

ISO 200



Cloudy White Balance

IN THE FIELD: Serenity

March 22, 2013 34 comments


A few weekends ago, mother nature created a winter wonderland during the wee hours before dawn. And I took the opportunity to step out on the deck to view the sights before breakfast.

The world around me was completely covered in white from a light snowfall. A dense fog had formed due to the warmth of the ground in the lower parts of the valley and it was heading my way. No sounds were to be heard…no traffic, no voices, no wind. Several minutes passed before I decided to get out the camera and try to capture what I was seeing.

I knew this would be an interesting exercise in exposure, due to all the reflected light and changing conditions. The sky behind me and to my right was bright, but the sun was still obscured by clouds. The scene before me and to my left was all white, foggy, and mostly monotone in color.

Because there was so much reflected light, and in order to expose for the snow and keep it reasonably white, I overexposed most of the shots from what the camera meter recommended by 1-1/3 stops. Any adjustment of more than 1-1/3 stops and the scene was overexposed. Any less than 2/3 stops overexposure, and the snow was rendering too grey and the overall scene was a bit too dark. Those darker shots are still usable but it was not the look I was going for.

Every snow scene is different. Some scenes have more contrast (dark objects vs. light objects) and some have less, as in this case. Either way, I usually start by overexposing the shot by 2/3 stops. This is because camera meters are designed to render a scene as middle grey…or about 18% reflectance. And since snow scenes can be so bright, camera meters suggest closing the aperture to reduce the amount of light that would reach the sensor.

Experimentation with various aperture settings is the key to see if the camera is rendering the snow as white, and to see if there is still detail in the snow and the darker areas. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a little of both to get a satisfactory result.

I took about a dozen photos of my surroundings, turned off the camera, and went back to enjoying the ever-changing view. Then had breakfast and took the dogs for a walk so they could also enjoy the splendor of a fresh snowfall.

All in all…a nice way to start the day.

ISO 200



Cloudy White Balance

IN THE FIELD: Not As Late As You May Think It Is

November 12, 2012 25 comments

After I finished some yard work on Saturday, I got out the camera to capture some of the autumn color that remains in our woods.

The sun was dipping below the horizon, but there was still enough ambient light to get some shots without using the built-in flash or a speedlight. And I knew this was a situation which would call for longer exposure times and the use of a tripod.

One of the advantages of long exposures is colors can become more saturated than what you may find with shorter exposure times. I was also fortunate there wasn’t even a wisp of a breeze, so everything in the photos was sharp.

To start this exercise, I bumped the ISO to 400, set the aperture at f11 for good depth of field, and adjusted the shutter speed to 2.5 seconds for a proper exposure. I could have used a faster shutter speed, but that would have dictated the use of a wider aperture. Which in turn leads to less depth of field. I also used an electronic cable release to further minimize camera movement.

Some folks might say it was too dark to get a decent photo. I say phooey. The light sensitivity built into cameras these days is remarkable to say the least. My camera, which is at least four years old, had no problem making a proper exposure or auto-focusing. The newer models are even more capable.

Low light photography can be a challenge for your equipment or for yourself, but the rewards are worth it. Least in my humble opinion.

IN THE FIELD: It’s A Bit Windy Out There

October 26, 2012 29 comments

Weather forecasters have been tracking Hurricane Sandy in the Atlantic ocean. She is scheduled to blow through our region this weekend. High winds and huge amounts of rain are predicted, even as far inland where I live.

In this part of Pennsylvania, we still have a good amount of colorful autumn leaves on the trees. But more than likely, the trees will be stripped bare from Sandy’s wrath.

A few days ago, I attempted to illustrate what it will look like around here with the wind and rain blowing through the trees. I figured by driving along our back-country roads, holding the camera out the window and capturing motion shots of the autumn leaves, just may give me a pretty good idea.

Since I was driving, I wasn’t be able to check exposure settings, so I set the camera to aperture priority. I chose an aperture setting of 2.8 and let the camera do the rest. I also set the shooting mode to continuous.

When I came upon an area I felt had potential, I held the camera out the window and pressed the shutter. And this is what I got.