Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Happy Monday Zensters and new readers, I hope you all had an enjoyable weekend. We’re going to start out the week with a Photography Tip that’s both challenging and fun. Today’s post takes us to the zoo.

The zoo not only gives us a wonderful opportunity to photograph wildlife, it’s also a great place to photograph people and their interactions with the animals. It provides a great place to not only practice your photography skills but it also will teach you to overcome some obstacles as well. Today I’ll share some tips to get the most out of your trip to the zoo.

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Prepare for the trip

Your success is going to depend on how well you’ve prepared. You’ll be doing a lot of walking and standing on your feet so it’s probably a good idea to travel as light as possible and wear a comfortable pair of shoes.  The best time to take photographs at the zoo is early in the day or late afternoon. This is when the animals are going to be most active giving you the best opportunity to get a great shot. Find out when feeding time is, that’s a great time to get good action shots. I would try to plan your trip during the week when the crowds will be far less than they are on the weekends. You can also try calling your local zoo, some allow photographers early access to the park for a fee, giving you the opportunity to shoot without interference.

Pack your camera, extra batteries and memory cards, you’ll be taking a lot of photos. Most of the photos you’ll shoot will probably require a telephoto lens with a focal length of 200-300mm. You’ll also have some opportunity to get closer shots of wildlife behind glass exhibits, or your zoo might even have a butterfly garden. In these cases, a lens in the 50-70mm range will come in handy. Hopefully you have a zoom such as a 70-300mm or 80-200mm in which case, one lens will be all you need to carry that day. Whatever lens or combination of lenses you decide to take, make sure you have a lens hood for them all. You’ll be shooting in all kinds of different light and dealing with the sun from all kinds of different angles. The hood will help eliminate lens flare you might encounter.

I am going to recommend leaving your tripod at home. It’s going to be cumbersome, especially if the park ends up being crowded that day. Not only will it take up a lot of room, you’ll have issues of people, especially kids, accidentally bumping into or kicking it as they attempt to get a closer view of the animals. If you absolutely feel the need to bring a tripod, take a monopod instead.

Arriving at the zoo

Hopefully the day you arrive is a beautiful sunny day, the park is not crowded and you’ve arrived early. If it’s overcast, don’t worry, you’ll still be able to get some great shots and not have to worry about harsh shadows or battle the sun in certain angles. I would just try to keep the dull sky out of the shot the best I could. If it’s raining, well, I don’t know about you but I’m going home and scheduling for another day.

So, you’ve decided that all conditions are perfect and you’re going to spend the day. The very first thing you should do is get a map of the zoo and plan your route. It’ll help you decide which exhibits you want to visit and the easiest routes between them. Sometimes the feeding times are listed on the map as well so you can plan accordingly. Of course, no trip to the zoo is complete without walking past the antelope exhibit and asking “What’s Gnu?”

Lights, Camera, Action

Here are some tips to help you make the most out of your day and capture the best images possible.

1- Be Patient. Rarely will you walk up to an animal exhibit and see them posing, ready for you to take the shot. Animals will seldom stay in one spot for very long. Spend some time around the exhibit, watch the animals as they interact and move around. You might just catch the perfect moment by being patient.

2- Eliminate fences and other distractions. You want to create the illusion that these were taken in their natural environment. Items such as fences, doors, ropes with tires, etc, will take away from the image. Try to find a vantage point that focuses on the animal and it’s habitat.

3- Fill the frame. As shown in the example below, try to use as much of the frame as possible for an interesting composition. You don’t need to see the whole picture to know it’s a lion, but it’s a great perspective of a lion up close. Elephants, zebras and giraffes are great subjects for up close, filled frame shots.

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4-Include people in your shots. Don’t forget to look around and observe people as they interact with the animals. You can heart-warming images, as shown in the photo I took at the Aquarium in Corpus Christi (below) or humorous shots of people mimicking the animals they are observing. Be aware of what’s going on around you, you might be surprised at what you’ll catch!

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5- Be courteous. Please keep in mind that the others in the park have as much right to the zoo as you do. The fact that you have a camera with a big lens on it does not give you preferential treatment. I’m only mentioning this because I have witnessed photographers being extremely rude which only gives the rest of us a bad name. I’ll refer back to tip #1- Be patient.

 

Hopefully your day at the zoo produced some excellent images. Maybe they were just “ok” and you’ll evaluate what you could have done better and return with a better game plan. Sometimes it just about being at the right place at the right time. Whatever your results, you spent the day outside, in a beautiful park with your camera. Now I ask you, what more could you ask for?

 

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

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Out of This World: Astrophotography (Part II)

Previously on Photography Zen-

Yesterday, as you may recall, our hero (that would be me),  began his quest to photograph the night sky. Gathering the proper equipment, his journey of a 1000 steps ended after about 8. Thwarted  not only by the rain, but the realization that living in the city, a dark sky would be difficult if not impossible to find. The Quest for the Milky Way begins.

 

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The night is even more richly coloured than the day… . If only one pays attention to it, one sees that certain stars are citron yellow, while others have a pink glow or a green, blue and forget-me-not brilliance. And without my expiating on this theme, it should be clear that putting little white dots on a blue-black surface is not enough.

— Vincent van Gogh, letter to sister, September 1888.

Drying myself off, I felt a little dismayed. My quest to photograph the night sky was proving to be more challenging than I originally anticipated. Having the proper equipment was only part of the equation, finding a location was a little more problematic. It had been a while since I’ve seen the Milky Way. Living in the city, only the brightest of stars make their appearance. I need total darkness. I need to be able to look up at the heavens and be overwhelmed. Armed with a keyboard, mouse and favorite glass of wine, I began my search.

It wasn’t long before I discovered the International Dark-Sky Association, or the IDA at darksky.org.

From their website:

Our Mission
IDA works to protect the night skies for present and future generations.

Our Goals
Advocate for the protection of the night sky
Educate the public and policymakers about night sky conservation
Promote environmentally responsible outdoor lighting
Empower the public with the tools and resources to help bring back the night

 

Not only did I find exactly what I was looking for, I believe I found a new cause that I can stand behind and support.  I don’t want the importance of this organization to get lost within the context of this article so I will dedicate it to it’s own daily page which I will post tomorrow. Today I’d like to focus attention specifically to the International Dark Sky Places program started by the IDA in 2001. Their goal is “to encourage communities around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting polices and public education.”

The Dark Sky Places program offers five types of designations:

International Dark Sky Communities
Communities are legally organized cities and towns that adopt quality outdoor lighting ordinances and undertake efforts to educate residents about the importance of dark skies.
International Dark Sky Parks
Parks are publicly or privately owned spaces protected for natural conservation that implement good outdoor lighting and provide dark sky programs for visitors.
International Dark Sky Reserves
Reserves consist of a dark “core” zone surrounded by a populated periphery where policy controls are enacted to protect the darkness of the core.
International Dark Sky Sanctuaries
Sanctuaries are the most remote (and often darkest) places in the world whose conservation state is most fragile.
Dark Sky Developments of Distinction
Developments of Distinction recognize subdivisions, master planned communities, and unincorporated neighborhoods and townships whose planning actively promotes a more natural night sky but does not qualify them for the International Dark Sky Community designation.

 

Dark Sky Parks! Yes! I was finally onto something. With a couple of well placed mouse clicks I found myself on the ‘Search for a Find Dark Sky Place’ page. Using the search bar, I was able to instantly find Dark Sky Reserves, Sanctuaries , Parks and Communities around the World. As I held my breath, I typed ‘Texas’ in the search box and hit ‘enter’.

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My query produced four Dark Sky Parks in the State of Texas, three within a 4 hour drive and one that is at least an 8 hour trek. As happy as I was that I finally found a place to photograph the night sky, I also found myself a little unsettled by the fact that in the entire State of Texas there are only four Dark Sky Parks, and dismayed at how few existed in the entire U.S.

I’ve decided that I will journey to Coppers Break State Park near the Panhandle of Texas. Having already made plans to visit nearby Palo Duro Canyon State Park just a few miles Northwest, I can incorporate a stop to Coppers Break. Sadly, my Astrophotography project is now on hold.

Final Thoughts

Although I am disappointed that I will not be shooting photos of the night sky in the near future, I’ve now become acutely aware of light pollution and its multiple effects on our environment. Have we become so accustomed to not seeing the night sky that we’ve never given it a second thought? How many kids now living in the city have never seen the Milky Way in the night sky?  Will we one day lose our night sky where future generations will never see a black sky sparkling with a billion stars?

Food for thought.

I am not a hard-core environmentalist by any means. I do my best to recycle, I keep my car running clean, etc. This has been a very enlightening lesson for me and I hope you come away with a little more awareness yourself.

Tomorrow I will go against ‘all things photography’ tradition and write a bit about the International Dark Sky Association as a show of support.

 

Namaste

 

 

 

 

 

Out of This World: Astrophotography

“Before we invented civilization our ancestors lived mainly in the open out under the sky. Before we devised artificial lights and atmospheric pollution and modern forms of nocturnal entertainment we watched the stars. There were practical calendar reasons of course but there was more to it than that. Even today the most jaded city dweller can be unexpectedly moved upon encountering a clear night sky studded with thousands of twinkling stars. When it happens to me after all these years it still takes my breath away.”
― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

 

I’ve decided to expand my horizons (pun fully intended) and explore the world of Astrophotography. While doing research on another topic, I happened to come across an astrophotography website and became enamored with the photos.

Milky Way over the Watchman in Zion NP

One website led to another, and then another, and another. Soon I was watching YouTube tutorials and ended up going down that long vortex before finally declaring, “You know what?? I can do that!”  With that, I began to make a list of what I need to begin my journey.

The first thing on that need list is, obviously, a camera. The cameras I have are more than adequate to do the job. For the sake of anyone that might be interested, you’ll want a camera that will let you manually adjust all settings (ISO, Shutter Speed, aperture, etc), with the ability to snap the shutter remotely.  In addition to the camera, spare batteries are a very good idea, long shutter times will drain batteries rather quickly.

Second on the list, and probably just as important as the camera- A good sturdy tripod. The cheapy Wal-Mart/Wolf camera/Best Buy special is not going to fly here. You want zero vibration. The camera should feel cemented on the tripod with no movement whatsoever. So far I’m feeling pretty good as I check the first two items off the list.

Continuing down, we come to item #3. The lens. I read a lot of differences of opinion regarding the best lens to use when shooting the night sky.  Ranges from 10-20 mm seem to be the recommended lens with a preferred aperture of f/2.8. I’ve read many articles that stated if you don’t have a f/2.8 lens, an f/4 should suffice. Either way I was good. There is no need for a new lens in my future. Well, there’s always a need for a better lens, I just can’t justify it this time around.

So, with my list successfully checked off, the excitement begins!  I begin to pack my camera bag. I choose the perfect camera, pack in a couple of batteries, grab my Bogen tripod, and take a 10-20 Nikon wide-angle lens and carefully place it next to the camera. The adrenaline is rushing as I shut off the lights inside the house as I walk out the front door. The horn blasts twice as I press the remote to unlock the Toyota as I approached.

Then, two things hit me. One quite literally, the other figuratively. A: It’s raining. and B: I have no earthly idea where I am going. I live in the middle of the city. Another thought occurred to me while I stood there, dejected, getting soaked in the rain, looking up at the sky. “When was the last time I actually saw the Milky Way??”  I could not recall the last time I saw a black night sky.

shawshank

 

To be continued.

 

Tomorrow,  my search for the Milky Way.

 

 

 

 

 

Express Your Vision, Show Your Talent-Adobe Lightroom

Greetings again Zensters and new readers!  Today we’re going to talk a little bit about post-production, more specifically, Adobe Lightroom. This is probably catered more towards the new photographer, but if you’re using another program to edit your images, or you’re currently using Lightroom but not 100% proficient, the following information might help you out as well.

lightroom-6

So what’s the difference between Lightroom and Photoshop??  Short answer- about $500. I joke, but honestly, to beginner photographers and even professionals, Lightroom is more than enough to edit and create stunning images. Is there a real difference between Photoshop and Lightroom?  You bet. A great explanation on the differences can be found here.

Lightroom is available to download a couple of different ways. If you go to the Adobe website, you can actually download a free trial which I believe lasts 30 days if I remember correctly. You can then “lease” their Creative Cloud package which includes Photoshop for $9.99/mo. US. The Creative Cloud Photography plan gives you Lightroom for desktop, mobile, and web, plus the latest version of Adobe Photoshop CC and new mobile apps like Photoshop Fix — all for just US$9.99/mo.

Lightroom is also available to purchase as a stand alone program for about $150 US. Amazon had the lowest price I found, you can download it directly or buy the disk to install.

create There are 2 big reasons I really like and recommend Lightroom for your Post Production work.

1. It creates a catalog of all the photos you upload and gives you the ability to quickly find a photo based on the parameters you requested. For example, I can do a search for every photo I’ve ever taken in Mexico and Lightroom will show every photo from Mexico I uploaded to Lightroom. I can even go as far as finding even photo I ever shot using a 50mm lens. When you’re dealing with thousands of photos, this is a big deal.

2. It is a non-destructive edit. This means that what ever I do to an image in Lightroom, the original never gets touched. This means that I can go back months from now and have the ability to visualize it in a different way. Most other programs use the original and make changes to it. Unless you had a copy of the original, it would be lost.

 

Learning Lightroom

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of online tutorials on Lightroom instruction. Some are bad, some are boring, and I wasn’t finding anything that really caught my attention. I sifted through the seemingly endless array of videos and websites until I stumbled upon a YouTube site hosted by Anthony Morganti. Of all the videos I’ve watched online, his were by far the most informative and easiest to follow along with. His series of Lightroom 6 / Lightroom CC Training Videos take you from the very basic introduction to all the advanced features of Lightroom in a language that is easy to understand. In addition to the Lightroom training videos, there are another 70+ Lightroom quick tip videos, Photoshop training videos and much more. I highly recommend paying a visit to Morganti’s YouTube channel and take a look. It’ll save you hours of searching, trust me on this.

 

Well, that’s your Enlightenment for today. Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed. Now get out there and create!

 

Namaste

 

 

** I would like to let you know that I have not received any sort of compensation for recommendations or review from Adobe, Amazon or Anthony Morganti. My passion is Photography and my motivation to teach others is pure. 

 

 

 

 

Quick Tip: A Matter of Perspective

I’d like to share a series of photos that appear in my Twitter feed every so often with the heading “You won’t believe these aren’t Photoshopped!’, or something of that nature. The title has always bothered me a little, because, yes, I can believe it. I usually just roll my eyes and look at the images because I love these types of photos. I am usually not a fan of staged photos but I admire the imagination and simplicity of these. Perhaps you’ve seen them too:

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I think what I admire the most about these images is the simplicity and imagination that went into creating them. Too often we forget that we can tilt the camera. There’s probably a few of you out there that don’t even shoot the camera in Portrait view often enough. Pay attention. It can change a boring image into a keeper. Here’s one I took with my iPhone while visiting San Francisco a couple of years ago:

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You’re limited only by your imagination. Cliche, yes, but when you look at these examples, don’t you ask yourself “Why didn’t I think of that?” Yeah, me too.

 

 

(If you enjoy thought provoking images such as these, Philippe Ramette is an artist that produces great surreal imagery.  ((The second photo in the series above and the two below are examples)). It’s worth your time to take a look at some of his work.)

stunning_photographs_by_philippe_ramette_05

pr1

 

That’s all for today, nothing too profound, just a little “brain tickle”.  As always, “Thank You” for reading. We’ll see you next time.

 

Have a great day. Now get out there and shoot.

 

 

It’s Hip to be Square

Hello Zensters and new readers. Today I’d like to talk a little bit about composition and more specifically, the square format. Once available only to those that shot Medium format cameras, the advent of programs such as Photoshop and Lightroom let you convert those digital images without loss of image quality.

Currently, your camera produces images in an aspect ratio of 3:2 giving you a nice rectangle image and one you’ve been accustomed to using in your composition. You’ve learned the Rule of Thirds and compose all your shots accordingly. (Of course, I am making an assumption if you are not familiar with the Rule Of Thirds, click here for a Wikipedia overview).

ratio

Things are a little bit different when you talk about composition in a 1:1, or square format. Subconsciously, we look at rectangle photos from left to right scanning the image for the subject. On a square photo we tend to look at the center and then around the image. The Rule of Thirds does not apply on 1:1 crops. Square crop lends itself to the subject being in the center of the photo.

square-iphone-photos-1
Photo courtesy of @allophile

Take advantage of geometrical shapes while you compose. Look at the photo above and Vivian Maiers photo below. Note the repetition of squares and rectangles in the photos…

vmajier-square
Vivian Maier/John Maloof Collection

…and the use of triangles in the photo below. Powerful stuff.

Untitled, May 16, 1957
Vivian Maier/John Maloof Collection

The square format works very well with black and white images because there are no colors to distract you from the subject and the geometric patterns in the photo. If you love shooting B&W, I would strongly encourage you to experiment with this format. The results can be stunning, especially when mounted and framed.

Look at some of your past work that you weren’t completely happy with. Try recomposing using the 1:1 crop, you might be pleasantly surprised and come away with a couple of more “keepers”.

Keep this in mind next time you’re out shooting. It’s a great tool to get those creative juices flowing and get you looking at familiar scenes in a different way. Get out there. Experiment. Have fun.

So, you got your first DSLR…(Part 3)

As promised, today’s topic will cover Shutter Speed and Aperture, a couple of fundamentals you should know and fully understand. I would like to also note that this series of blogs is catered towards the beginner and much of it is oversimplified. My purpose here is to remove some of the mystery and maybe help create a clearer understanding of these principles.

As with ISO, these two settings allow you to manipulate your available light and capture the image that you, as an artist, envisioned. ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture are commonly known as the Exposure Triangle. Here is the Exposure Triangle graphic-

exposure-triangle

Shutter Speed / Shutter Time

Your shutter sits directly over the sensor in your camera and it’s purpose is to control the period of time a specific amount to light hits the sensor. Shutter Speed is also referred to as Shutter Time, maybe that’ll help some of you understand this principle a little easier. As you see in the graphic, the slower the shutter speed/time, more light and more motion will be present. As you increase the shutter speed/time, you decrease the light and the ability to freeze motion occurs.

Understanding and utilizing your knowledge of shutter speed will dramatically effect the outcome of your vision. For example, let’s say you’ve decided to go out and shoot photos of hummingbirds. Being able to control your camera’s shutter speed will allow you to either use a fast shutter to freeze all movement and get all the details of the hummingbirds wings or slow down the shutter and show movement in the wings. Waterfalls and rivers are another great subject to either stop motion or give a more dramatic look by presenting the appearance of motion. There is no right or wrong, it’s your interpretation. Have fun with this, experiment, try different settings. Unlike learning and experimenting on film, it costs you nothing to take bad shots. You’ll learn as much from the bad shots as you will from the good ones.

We discussed shutter speed in regards to moving subjects but there is one more dimension  called camera shake you should be aware of as well. Camera shake will occur when you are using a very slow shutter speed or shooting with a long telephoto lens. While the steadiest of hands might be able to hand hold a shot at a shutter speed of 1/30 sec, I would still recommend using a tripod at that speed or slower. This way you are assured you grabbed the sharpest, cleanest image possible. On telephoto lenses, do yourself a favor and use a tripod on anything longer than 300mm. Again, I am oversimplifying this for the sake of fundamental instruction. Yes, there is a formula to figure out what the minimum shutter speed should be in relation to what lens you are using but I don’t believe it’s pertinent at this time. 

 

 

Aperture

The last leg on our discussion of the Exposure Triangle and perhaps the one fundamental that is the most difficult out of the three to fully understand. Aperture, also known as f-stop, refers to the opening inside your lens that lets in light.

aperture-scale

The biggest confusion for beginners is understanding that the bigger the f-stop number, the smaller the opening is. As you can see on the illustration above, f/16 is a pinhole when compared to f/2. Each step from one f-stop to the next is called a “stop”.  A increase from f/16 to f/11 is 1 Stop, from f/16 to f/8 is 2 Stops, and so on. Each Stop doubles the area of light going to your sensor. Conversely, a 1 Stop decrease cuts the area of light in half. Sounds pretty similar to the ISO settings doesn’t it?

So why not always shoot with the widest opening available? Well, that’s what point and shoot cameras do. They have a fixed aperture at f/5.6, maybe f/8 and all your photos will come out pretty much identical (exposure wise). Being able to effectively adjust the aperture allows you to explore your creativity and control what the final image will look like. Let’s discuss Depth of Field (DoF).

DoF refers to the area in front to and behind your subject that is in focus. Areas with small areas of focus have what is called a shallow depth of field. Areas with a large area of focus have a deep depth of field. By adjusting your aperture, you can control the depth of field in your images.

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When would you use a shallow DoF?  Well, it’s common in portrait photography, wildlife photography (especially birds), and any other time you want your subject to be the main focus of attention. Use deep DoF on shots such as landscape photography where you want to show as much detail as possible. Take control of your depth of field. Understanding how these adjustments control your it will greatly improve your photography.

I’m going to finish this series with a handy chart that will be helpful as you review the Exposure Triangle. I have just given the very basic explanations of each of these functions and I encourage you to do more research and learn more advanced techniques as you go. The amount to information out there is astonishing. You could spend a lifetime alone watching tutorials on YouTube on just about any topic you are curious about. Most of all, don’t forget to have fun. Don’t be discouraged. Knowledge is truth.

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Thank you Hamburger Fotospots for the Cheatcard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, you got your first DSLR…(Part 2)

In the last blog we discussed becoming familiar with your camera, going out and spending some time shooting photos in Auto mode. Hopefully that little exercise was fun and you learned what your camera is and isn’t capable of doing on it’s own. It’s time to progress. Knowing and understanding the fundamentals of photography will mean the difference between good photos and great photos. It’ll allow you to artistically express yourself through your camera, achieving the results you envisioned. You’ll understand that a “better camera” doesn’t necessarily take better photos but it does make achieving those results easier. There are other features in high-end cameras that make them better but they are totally unrelated to this discussion.

The word “photography” was created from the Greek roots phōtos,  genitive of phōs, “light” and graphé, “representation by means of lines”or”drawing”,  together meaning “drawing with light”.  It’s all about light. How efficient you capture and render that light is going to determine the quality of your image. It’s time to discuss ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed. Not only should you know what each one of these things are, it’s important to know how they relate to and influence each other.

ISO

ISO, also known as film speed, or in the case of digital, sensitivity. Back in the days of film photography, you chose your film speed based on the light conditions that existed. These days, it’s your camera’s sensor that captures the light and processes the image. Generally speaking, ISO ranges from ISO 100 or 200 up to ISO 6400 (and much greater, depending on your camera). Your base ISO, usually ISO 100 on Canon, ISO 200 on Nikon will produce the highest quality image. Beginning with your base ISO, say it’s 200, each increment increases by the power of 2. So, your adjustment sequence is ISO 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400 and so on. Each step between the adjustments essentially doubles the sensors light sensitivity. 400 is 2x more sensitive than 200, and 800 is 2x more sensitive than 400. This makes 800 4x more sensitive than 200. “Great. Simple enough…”, you’re probably thinking.  “…but how does it relate to my everyday photography?”  Great question, allow me to elaborate.

Each adjustment to ISO doubles the sensitivity. When you double the ISO sensitivity, you also reduce the exposure time in half. Assume the exposure time for ISO 200 was 1 second:
ISO 200 – 1 second
ISO 400 – 1/2 of a second
ISO 800 – 1/4 of a second
ISO 1600 – 1/8 of a second
ISO 3200 – 1/16 of a second
ISO 6400 – 1/32 of a second

This is important to know especially when you’re dealing with low light conditions and your subject is moving. You can bump up the ISO, allowing you to increase the shutter speed and freeze the action.

Now for the bad news. Each time you increase the ISO, you introduce something called “noise”. Referring back to film days again, it was grain that increased with higher ISO’s. As I stated earlier, you ideally want to shoot as close to the base ISO as possible. Your base ISO will give you the highest and cleanest image. The more you increase the ISO, the more noise you’ll see in the image. Here’s an example of noise in higher ISO’s:

iso-sensitivity-comparison

 

You’ll notice quite a bit of difference between the two photos. Most of the higher end camera bodies will let you shoot effectively up to ISO 6400 but for the majority of you the above photo is what you can probably expect to encounter when shooting higher ISO’s. Sometimes a little noise won’t even effect the image and most photo programs will clean up a fair amount of noise. Get the shot. Worry about the rest later.

 

Tomorrow we’ll discuss Shutter Speed and Aperture.

 

So, you got your first DSLR…

Congratulations on your new Nikon or Canon DSLR. Maybe some smooth talking salesman talked you into buying an Olympus, I’m so sorry. (Do they even make Olympus anymore??) Regardless of what manufacturer you own, the technology in today’s cameras are incredibly advanced and designed to help you achieve the best image possible. Note what I just wrote- “…designed to help you…” This is going to be important to remember because too many people think that a better camera will equate to better images. They are discouraged when they set the camera to full auto and are disappointed in the results. Your camera is a tool and that tool is only as effective as the knowledge you have to operate it. The path to that effective knowledge  is not difficult. Understanding (not just knowing) the fundamentals of photography is key. Understanding the fundamentals is what is going to make a good photo, a great photo. Instead of getting good shots by getting lucky, you’ll be producing great shots on purpose.

Become friends with your camera. Don’t be overwhelmed by all the buttons and all the information flashing on your menu screen, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you will learn all the functions and how they can affect your image. Begin the process by setting your Program Mode to full Auto and spend a couple of days taking photos under every kind of situation you can find. Full sun, full shade, cloudy, windy, moving objects, etc. Don’t worry  about if the image is going to be good or not. The idea is to see what your camera is and isn’t capable of doing. Have fun while your doing this, don’t think of it as a chore or assignment.

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Don’t be overwhelmed by all the buttons and all the information flashing on your menu screen.
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Set your camera to full Auto

Once you feel comfortable that you’ve shot in every scenario you could think of, download your images to your computer and review what you’ve captured. You’ll probably discover that under the best of conditions, the camera probably did a pretty decent job at capturing what you saw. Are they as good as you envisioned when you pushed the shutter? What would have made the image better?? Hopefully, if you followed the directions, you’ll discover that camera did not perform that well in many instances. Maybe it was a poorly lit room, maybe it was blurry from some movement by an object. This is exactly what we want and it’s exactly why you need to understand the fundamentals of photography. Now that you know your camera’s limits, you’ll need to know how to compensate for them.

 

To be continued…..