Monday, October 24, 2011

Memory Colours

Took two shots, then wind blew away the yellow leaf.
When I worked at a daily paper, one of my responsibilities was preparing colour separations for publication. I learned that sky blue, grass or foliage green and some other colours such as tomato red are memory colours. Oddly enough, memory colours vary from culture to culture. For instance, I was taught that North Americans like their memory colours, especially sky blue and foliage green, more vibrant, more saturated than Europeans.

I don't know whether or not this is completely true but I do know that brightly coloured pictures in the paper were received better than dull oneseven though the dull ones might have more accurate. When I think of fall, I think of incredible colours. Impossible colours. Like the colours in today's photo.

This image was shot RAW and punched up before being converted to a jpeg. Then it was taken into Photoshop and posterized before being saved. (Image -> Adjustments -> Posterize...) When doing stuff like this to images, always keep a copy of the untouched original. The bold look you like this year, may simply look cheesy next year.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Point-and-shoot zooms have changed photography forever

When I got into photography my camera had a fixed lens. Then, in the '60s I discovered the single lens reflex camera and ordered a Pentax Spotmatic from Asia Photo Supply in Hong Kong. I can still recall the excitement when a large, wooden crate arrived with my new gear. I had a 28mm lens, a 135mm lens and a 300mm lens.

But because it took a crate to carry all that stuff, I often didn't have all that stuff with me. Often, I was back shooting with one lens.

Today, almost every point-and-shoot has a zoom lens and many have lenses capable of emulating my entire camera kit from the '60s. The pictures today were taken with an older Canon S90 but they could have been shot with any one of dozens of little cameras.

For the dandelion picking picture, I set the lens to wide angle. For the shot of Fiona enjoying a high-flying ride on a swing, I set the lens to its longest setting. For the picking dandelions shot, I wanted to see some context. I wanted to see the little girl surrounded by grass with the suburban neighbourhood in the distant background.

For the swing shot, I wanted to try and show the flying, mane of red hair and the child's reaction to being pushed hard, fast and high. The long lens setting allowed me to fill the frame.

What is important here is to capture the moment just after she has reached the highest point and is beginning her return. Stopping action with point-and-shoots can be difficult. If you nail the shot at the instant the little girl is changing direction, you will have a tack sharp picture but the flying hair won't be flying. But, if you wait too long to shoot , she will very difficult to frame properly. Set your zoom to a long lens setting, I used 105mm, and be sure to shoot lots.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A shot in the dark

I shot today's photos with my Canon S90, a model that has now been superseded by the Canon S95.

The little point-and-shoot had two features that attracted my attention. One, it had an f/2.0 aperture available when emulating a 28mm lens on an SLR. This f/stop lets in twice as much light as the more common maximum aperture of f/2.8.

Two, it has a little trick up its sleeve that allows it in dark, picture-taking situations to treat two adjacent pixels as one. This ups the light sensitivity of the camera while cutting the photo file size in half. If all you want are snap shots, this is a good trade-off. When set to low-light, the camera also turns to a brute strength strategy and ups the ISO rating in use.

When I saw my granddaughter, Fiona, sitting with her grandmother, both engrossed in a television program, I thought picture. The light was poor; It was night. But with the camera steadied against the television stand, I squeezed off some shots. I should take Judy into Photoshop and brighten her face a little but overall I'm happy.

Later, I caught the little girl running up and down a "stone" path she had constructed through our kitchen using place-mats. Again, I grabbed my Canon S90, set it to low-light level photography, braced the it against a chair, and shot away.

Personally, I like the low-light level shots better than the ones illuminated by the little camera flash. The colour in the picture may be off a bit and there might be more grain or noise marring the image but it has the feeling of the moment. I have a personal hatred for direct, harsh, on-camera flash. Deciding to shoot available is not a difficult decision for me.

Don't let low light levels stop you from taking pictures. Make sure you have a camera eager to take a shot in the dark.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

One example of enhancement correction

In my last post, No tripod? No problem, I mentioned that the images were posted without colour correction. I believed that a little time spent in Photoshop might improve the flesh tones of the little girl and remove the overall blue colour cast in some of the images.

Here is an example of what I was referring to.

Not enhanced.
The enhanced image has had the colour warmed in Photoshop using Curves to add yellow and remove a bit of cyan. The contrast was pumped up a little using Levels. The picture has not been saturated.

No tripod? No problem.

It is dark in our living room for available light photography. My little Canon PowerShot S90 needs every bit of help it can get. One easy way to make pictures in these situations better is to use a tripod to steady the camera; This removes camera shake from the picture-taking equation.

To steady a camera, one may immediately think tripod or monopod. But often something a lot less official will not only do but do wonderfully. For shooting these photos of my granddaughter, Fiona, I steadied my point-and-shoot on the front of Fiona's yellow, toy bus.

This had the advantage of providing quick sideways movement to frame the picture. The little, toy bus has wheels, a tripod or monopod doesn't.

To show what is possible, I posted these pictures without any enhancement other than cropping plus sizing and sharpening for Web display.

The creativity involved in taking a picture doesn't stop with the camera.