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Friday, November 25, 2011

Tips for photographing a city skyline at night and at twilight.

I love photographing cities and I particularly love photographing city skylines at night. There is something just mystical and magical about all those thousands of lights glittering silently in the night. The bigger the city is, of course, the more impressive the skyline and when it comes to cities like New York or Chicago, the skyline is downright breathtaking at night.

I recently had the chance to shoot the Manhattan skyline (most of what you're seeing in this shot is the financial district in lower Manhattan) from the New Jersey shore along the edge of the Hudson River.  I chose to shoot the view from New Jersey since the view from Jersey City is quite an amazing view. There is a beautiful boardwalk that runs along the entire waterfront in Jersey City that makes a perfect shooting location--it's a devastatingly beautiful vantage point. I shot this picture from a continuation of that walking path that runs through Liberty State Park--one of the state's most beautiful parks.

The trick to getting a great photo of a city skyline at night is not to shoot it at night, but rather at twilight. Depending on which direction the skyline faces (and where you're shooting it from) you can often get a beautiful mix of sunset colors, twilight sky and city lights all mixed together. It's incredible. Probably the very best time to shoot is just after the sunset and during a very brief magic window of opportunity when the twilight sky glows an almost turquoise blue and the city lights are beginning to come alive. This photo was made a few minutes past the peak of the sunset and honestly I should have begun shooting about 10 minutes or so before, but even as the sun was setting there was a driving rain falling--it was a wild mixture of light and weather. In fact, just a few minutes before I shot this the rain was pounding so hard that I almost abandoned the shot!

Even on the best of weather days, this kind of beautiful twilight/sunset light only lasts about 15-25 minutes, so you really have to be in place with your tripod set up and your camera all ready to shoot a half an hour before sunset. Once the sun starts to set the buildings (at least with west-facing buildings like these) take on some spectacular colors and as the sky darkens a bit the city lights get brighter and brighter. If you can capture the exact moment when all of the lighting conditions are peaking, you'll get some fantastic shots.

You'll definitely need to use a tripod to get shots like this because you're going to need a relatively small aperture and a correspondingly long shutter speed (this shot was made at f/10 at 2.5 seconds). At such long shutter speeds, I also suggest using either a remote control (wireless) or the self timer, and possibly also locking up the mirror. Even though this shot is pretty sharp, I'm not totally satisfied with the sharpness and I'm not sure if the softness came from the lens I was using (a Nikkor 24-120mm lens, which is not a particularly sharp lens unfortunately) or lack of depth of field. I'm going to go back and re-shoot this with a different lens (probably a prime lens) and I'll probably begin shooting a bit earlier and also using a smaller aperture to get even more depth.

You can, of course, continue to shoot after the blue has faded from the sky, but skylines just aren't as pretty with a black sky as they are with that nice blue glow. Also, if you shoot much after dark you'll be using much longer exposures which causes the lights in scene to blur together and create pockets of bright glare.

Twilight is the primo time, so just get to your location well before sunset, choose your shots and then be ready when the worlds of sunset, twilight and city lights begin to collide--it's an absolutely stunning mix!

Friday, October 21, 2011

16 Simple Landscape Photography Tips

You don't take a photograph, you make it. - Ansel Adams 

<>Here you'll find a number of simple landscape photography tips. Great landscape photographs capture the spirit of a place, and the techniques used support that purpose. Wide-angle lenses and settings can include more of the scene, but must be used with care to prevent everything looking too distant. There are times when nature needs a helping hand and filters can come to the rescue for some shots. The landscape photography tips below will help you make more of the photo opportunities that you'll come across.
1. High vantage points that give you a commanding view of the scene are ideal - and if you have a camera that gives you control (e.g. an SLR) over the exposure settings, a small aperture of f/11 or f/16 will let you keep everything in focus.
2. Early morning and late evening are the best times for shooting landscapes. This is because the low angle of the Sun picks out shadows and reveals textures.
3. The best landscapes are rarely found at the side of the road. So be prepared to go for a trek with a map or a GPS Unit in an effort to seek out the most interesting locations.
4. Wide angle lenses are commonly used for landscapes because they will allow you to include more in the frame and open up perspective. A wide-angle zoom lens gives you more latitude in framing the scene and cropping out distracting features.
5. Whenever possible, place something of interest in the foreground of the shot to create a sense of depth. At the same time, ensure that you use a small aperture to keep everything in focus.
6. Another great but simple landscape photography tip is to anchor your camera to a tripod to slow down your pace of working when shooting landscapes - this means you'll take fewer but better pictures. Get a light model to cut down on weight if you do a lot of walking to your locations.
7. Look out for scenes that will let you crop the top and bottom of the image to produce a more dramatic "letterbox" panoramic composition.
8. Use a polarizing filter to darken the sky and saturate the colors in the landscape (this is the one must-have filter for landscape photographers).
9. Use graduated grey or neutral density filters to darken the sky and reduce the contrast between the landscape and the sky. Polarizing filters aren't much use for bright cloudy skies but graduated filters are. Frequently, the sky looks burned out in photos because the films or digital sensors don't have the range to record the brightness differences between it and darker foreground scenery. (Films and sensors still aren't as good as the human eye!)
10. Use color correction filters to change the color of light on a landscape. These filters can either warm up the landscape or cool it down, depending on the filter color used. In this image, a sepia graduated filter was used upside-down to color the foreground rocks only.
11. Try using a soft focus filter to add an ethereal quality to the scene. These filters blur the bright areas of a scene into the shadows to give the image a glow.
12. If you're an experimenter, try making your own filters. There's no guarantee you'll get good results, but your photos will certainly look different. You can make a filter out of anything that's at least partially transparent - a bit of old stocking, colored sweet wrappers, vaseline rubbed on an old filter (don't ever rub vaseline directly onto a lens - you'll ruin it permanently!) Or you could try breathing gently on your lens (in cool conditions) to get a soft-focus effect.
13. Use the Hyperfocal Distance to obtain the fastest shutter speed with greatest depth of field. Hyperfocal focusing allows you to get everything sharp, from things close up to the camera to those far away. It's more reliable than just setting the focus at infinity. You will need a camera that allows manual focusing though.

14. If you use a digital camera, and your camera is capable of it, shoot RAW images rather than JPGs. The RAWs will take up more room on your memory card but there's no in-camera processing done on the image (as there is for JPGs). RAW images will give you greater latitude for image manipulation (using Adobe PhotoShop, PhotoShop Elements, Paint Shop Pro or some other image manipulation package). 

15. Be original! Develop your own style and unique vision. Any competent photographer can duplicate others' work. Truly great photographers produce unique images. Avoid cliche photography. Go for non-standard viewpoints, say from ground-level rather than eye-level. Imagine the world as seen from an animal's viewpoint rather than a human's!

16. Tell a Story! Why tell stories with your camera? Well, for one thing, people who look at pictures will enjoy looking at a story over a snapshot any day. Telling stories with your camera forces you to slow down and think about what you are doing. What is it about this scene that makes you want to make a photograph? What moves you or attracts your eye? Is there a theme, a phrase or a point of view that you want to capture and preserve?


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Learning to Select Appropriate ISO Settings

All photographers, irrespective of their level of experience, know the term ISO as it is one of the essential requisites, which enables them to take effective photos in varied light conditions. As one of the three components of the exposure triangle, the ISO setting is defined as a value which represents the sensitivity of the digital camera’s image sensor. This value is expressed in form of a definite number and is inversely proportional to the amount of light meaning that the lesser the ISO value, the more is the light required and vice versa. If you take a look at the two photos below you will notice the effect that the different ISO settings have on the final outcome – the one on the left has been taken 100 ISO and the one on the right at 3200.

It is essential for a photographer to adjust the ISO value while taking a photograph in combination with the shutter speed as well as the aperture because it is this setting which determines the final outcome of the photograph. Therefore, whether it is a professional photographer trying his talents in a deep rain forest or an amateur practicing at a concert, unless the ISO setting is adjusted in accordance with the amount of light in the surroundings, one would only end up taking dark images.

While selecting an ISO setting, there are four parameters which need to be kept in mind by the photographer namely light, grain, tripod and the status of the subject. While reference to light is to inquire whether the subject is well lit, the reference to grain whether it is a finer grain, which is required along with its noisiness. Likewise, the status determines whether the subject is moving or stationary and the fourth factor pertains to the use of tripod by the photographer.

Many photographers tend to take pictures with their digital cameras set in the ‘Auto Mode’ since in this mode the camera determines its own ISO setting in accordance with the surrounding conditions. In case the individual wishes to select his own specific ISO, then it should be accompanied by a change in the aperture setting and shutter speed as well. The ISO value, which is the normally accepted norm for acquiring crisp shots with the least amount of noise and grain is 100, although it can be altered either way.

And 100 is considered to be the optimum ISO value because a value which is higher than this figure results in noisy images with more grain. Although people do not mind a bit of noise since it does not always disturb the picture, there are other demerits which are likely to occur like reduced sharpness and reduced contrast ratio. However, these are minor problems which could be overcome by opting for a more technologically advanced camera.

Certain situations that call for a higher ISO setting are indoor sports events which involve a fast moving subject in a limited light setting, concerts which also feature limited light, art galleries and churches and birthday parties. Similarly, situations which could be shot with a low ISO value are shooting a stream, taking pictures of a field on a sunny day and trying to take photographs indoors without the images being too bright.
An adept photographer is always quick to realize the importance of the ISO setting in a digital camera and hence dedicates his efforts towards getting in-depth understanding of the subject. Ultimately, mastery in this area could be acquired by practically experimenting with different ISO settings and judging their impact on the photograph.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Street Photography

Originally, only photographers own professional cameras. But since those cameras are now made for public use, many people are trying their hands at this  new hobby. More and more people are drawn into photography, most specifically street photography.

When you take pictures of public places, people, and events in their most natural state, you are doing street photography. Yes there is a term for whatever it is that you are doing. However, there are a few things you need to remember when practicing this craft.

1. Get used to taking pictures of strangers. If you are a shy person, you might want to practice some more. You can first practice on your friends and family members. Capture them at their most natural state to get candid shots.

For example, you might find it interesting to get good angles of your ill-tempered brother who is studying.  When you are able to handle this well, you can go to public places and take pictures of strangers.  But if you want, you can skip this step and go to public places immediately.

2. Be prepared. Bring extra batteries, flash cards, and lenses and put them inside a small carrying case. You won’t know when you will be able to get a good shot. Others get lucky and find great shot early in the morning while there are others who won’t even get single great shot even if the day is about to end.

3. Be inconspicuous as much as possible. Keep a low profile so people will not be too conscious of your presence. Dress just like them so you won’t stand out from the crowd.  Let them be comfortable of you. In no time, they will no longer mind you taking photos of them.

4. Go to events. People are less concerned about being models of a photo when they are having too much fun.

5. Be sensitive to other people’s feelings. Some people just don’t like it when they are subjects of your photo. If you see that they don’t like it, just go away and find other subjects. Learn to draw a line between what is okay and what is inappropriate.

6. Bring someone who can look after you while you do your thing. Not everyone wants their picture to be taken.  Some people think that you are invading their privacy so expect attacks. This is harsh but true. If you have someone to watch over you, you are free to think creatively without having to worry about yourself getting mobbed. 

7. Study about the technical details. Don’t just keep shooting. In order to master your craft, you  have to study and research about techniques and the right tools to use. For example, you should use a lens with a focal length of 35mm. You should set a fast exposure too to avoid blurs if you are taking pictures of fast moving objects such as cars or moving people. Higher ISO should be set if you are shooting in a low light. Details like these will help you improve greatly. Here are few Outdoor Lighting and Contrast tips.

8.Try different things. You can shot from from different angles and viewpoints. Don’t be afraid to experiment so you can finally get a great picture.  Just make sure that you and your camera are safe when you are trying out every possible angle or options.

If that time comes, it will be easy for you to take a shot as your camera is just near. But if your camera is too big for daily use, you might want to buy a point and shoot camera with high megapixels.  This way, you won’t miss an opportunity.

The tips in this post are pretty easy and I am very sure that you can manage it. keep practicing. Who knows? This might even be a career for you in the future. Good luck!


Friday, August 12, 2011

Create Your Own Designer Wedding Album

If you have been to a recent bridal show, you have witnessed the impressive growth of an entire industry revolving around wedding albums. Some brides are even choosing their photographer based on the quality of their albums. For those photographers who have mastered the art, making albums has become a key revenue generator for their business. In fact, I have spoken to photographers who have lowered their coverage prices and put more energy into making high-end albums. Even with significant coverage price reductions, many photographers are generating higher profit margins due to increased album sales. The key is creating a custom one-of-a-kind album that your clients will love. This can be very intimidating and push you out of your comfort zone behind the camera. To take the edge off creating your first album, we will explore some techniques the professionals use.

What are the style options?

Most albums fall into two categories, flush-mount or matted styles. Both can be bound in beautiful leather and look very elegant, but there is a significant difference. Matted albums are ones you have probably seen from the days of yore. They consist of actual photo-prints that slide inside pre-cut matte layouts, typically 1-4 photos per page. There are several layout options available with this style, but your flexibility and creativity is limited because can’t deviate from the provided template. To me, that is a deal breaker and is the reason this style of album is becoming less popular.

Flush-mount albums, sometimes called “magazine style”, are much more versatile. You are only limited by your imagination and graphic design skills. Each page is digitally printed as a single image and is then hard mounted to give thickness and strength. You can drop in as many images as you would like, use background images and have images span the entire width of two pages. Some album companies use a technique of one seamless photo with no split, just a fold down the center.
So which style do you choose, flush or matte? In reality, it’s not your choice; it’s the bride’s. I recommend you have a sample album of both types to show perspective clients, but I generally steer them towards the flush-mount style because of the higher image count and the uniqueness of the book.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Great Travel Photography Tips

By Robert Caputo, August 2007
From Photography Field Guide: Travel

Each place we visit has its own particular look, character, and ambiance. If we want photographs of our travels to be good and lasting, they should capture all of these qualities, and say as much about a place as give the literal look of it.

We are unlikely to long remember the smell and buzz of a flower garden in spring, the awe of gazing for the first time at the mountain we intend to climb, the caress of a tropical breeze, the thrill of a huge roller coaster, the wonder of our first wild bear, or the adrenaline of rafting white water. Our photographs need to bring these and other sensations back, to trigger our memories, and to communicate how we felt to others. To do this, we need to think and feel as much as look when setting out to make photographs.

First and foremost, think about what made you decide, out of all the places in the world, to choose this particular destination. Whatever it is—the beach, the rides, the mountain, the galleries, the food—obviously appeals to you. If it didn't, you wouldn't be going there. That site or activity (or inactivity) is one of the things you want to photograph. But there are probably many other interesting aspects of the place you may not be aware of. That's where research comes in.

Photographers for National Geographic spend a lot of time doing research. This helps us figure out what's there—what the place is about and what subjects we need to cover. Read brochures and travel books. Go to libraries, bookstores, or onto the Web. Talk to friends who have been there. Pick up travel information at the country's embassy. Find whatever you can that is relevant, and devour it.

Understanding the customs and traditions of a place is vital. For one thing, you want to be sure you act in a way that is not rude or offensive while you are there, and it's hard to know what's acceptable and what isn't with some knowledge. It can also help you understand things people do that at first encounter you might consider incomprehensible or even horrifying.

When you arrive at your destination, be open and try to take note of the first impressions—write them down if you have to. (A notebook is an essential accessory for a travel photographer.) When you see a place for the first time from the plane window, or when you drive around a bend and there it is, or as the ship nears some distant island—how do you feel? Where do your eyes go first? What do you notice about the place right away? A smell? The heat or cold? Blistering sunlight? Mysterious fog? A particular building or vista? The way people move? Their dress? Whatever it is, remember it. First impressions are invaluable sparks to creative interpretation, and by definition are not repeatable. You've seen the place in pictures, you've read about it. Now you're there, and all your senses can partake.

Get out there. The only way to discover the rhythm of life in a place, and so figure out what to shoot, is to experience it. Many places, particularly hot ones, are active very early in the morning and late in the afternoon but rather in a lull around midday. Get up early, stay out late. If you are on a tour that is scheduled to leave the hotel or ship at 9:00, get up well before dawn. Wander around before meeting up with your companions. If the tour goes back to the hotel or ship for lunch, don't go with them. Rather than take the bus back at the end of an afternoon tour, hang around until after sunset and then take a taxi. Use any spare time to get out and look for photographs. Besides availing yourself of more opportunities, time spent discovering the place will enrich your experience.

Get lost. Wander down alleys. Sit in caf├ęs and watch life pass by. Don't eat where the tourists do, but where you see locals. Just set off down a street and see where it leads. Look around the bends, over the rises. Get away from the crowd. I find that if I meander away from the tourists and tourist sites, away from what is too familiar and comfortable, it's much easier to adapt to the rhythm of a place, and to be more observant.