Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Shooting RAW worth considering under difficult conditions

Love the swirling colours thanks to the slow shutter speed. A  lucky shot.

I've never been a big booster of shooting RAW. As mainly a shooter for a local daily newspaper, JPEG did just fine and it was quicker to work with when getting images into the paper -- or so I believed. This past Monday I had to question my position. I shot my six-year-old granddaughter on stage with the Kidlets of the Original Kids Theatre Company. Working on the RAW images was both fast and exceedingly easy.

I use Photoshop CS6 and Photoshop would not show me a preview of my RAW images. I had to boot up Bridge to see the all important previews. This isn't that big a deal but it is a miner hassle.

RAW image straight from camera.
Now, let me show you the RAW image as it came from the camera.

Now, in defence of my former love of JPEG images. When I was working, I was shooting with a top-of-the-line Canon camera. That was one wonderful camera and it corrected colour in camera using some amazing algorithms.

That said, two photogs at the paper tried shooting RAW. One loved it and found it fast and efficient. The other found shooting RAW slowed him down. News shooters cannot let anything creep into their working methods that eats into the time needed to get their images into the paper.

Today I am shooting with a Fuji FinePix HS10. It is a good camera for the price and I'm happy. That said I've learned to shoot RAW. It clearly offers more latitude when it comes to image enhancement. And, as I use it more and more frequently, I can see how the one photog came to love shooting RAW.

The RAW image enhanced and saved as a JPEG. Results are simply amazing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Finding the right angle can create a visual surprise

This image takes the advice found in the last post and adds another wrinkle: The importance of camera angle.

The Golden Sword Yucca on our backyard is a striking plant from almost any angle. But one of the most interesting angles is the one from above. I stood on a plastic lawn chair to get to the right height.

I have said this before but it bears repeating: If your knees are never soiled, you are not putting enough variety in the points of view captured in your pictures. Get down low, get up high (as was done to capture this image), spend some time seeking different angles. You will be rewarded.

An excellent news shooter I met through work told me he imagines a large, glass dome over his subject. He moves his camera all over the dome seeking surprising new angles. He discovered at media photo opts he was often off on his own, alone, shooting the event, while the herd of media photographers pushed and shoved each other jockeying to take the same shot.

Monday, September 28, 2015

"Printing" with the goal of making colours pop

Years ago I was taught to expose for the shadows and print for the highlights.The goal was to keep a little detail in both the extreme shadows and the extreme highlights. It was a good rule but it can be broken and with some success. (The rule applied more to black and while photography than colour as the two processes were quite different. Modify the development time for colour film and one risked suffering strange colour shifts and other unwanted results.)

This picture of my wife's chrysanthemums is a good example. The oh-so-dark background makes the bright colours pop and contrasts very positively with the clean whites in the flowers. A little detail would be acceptable, even preferable, but it must be minimized to avoid adding a distraction to the all important blooms.

This image was taken into Photoshop and the contrast carefully increased. Care was taken to hold the detail in the highlights. As a rule, we are far more lenient when it comes to accepting detail-missing shadows that blown-out highlights.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Continuous shooting is for more than action photography

Continuous shooting mode is for more than simply capturing sports action. We don't always have to strive for a peak action moment depicting time halted: a dog frozen in mid-air leaping for a Frisbee, a tobogganer launching from sharp bump in the slope or any of a thousand other exciting moments captured at the peak of the action. No, continuous shooting mode can be used to carve quiet moments out of a hectic activity.

This little girl can be a live wire, a tightly wound little bundle quickly fraying at the seams. Her smiles are grand but fleeting. They stick in one's memory but can be hard to capture with a camera. When she started bouncing, literally bouncing, about the room, I slipped my camera into continuous shooting mode and began firing. I cranked off more than five hundred pictures.

This moment was truly fleeting. She had bounded across the room and stopped quickly by grabbing the iron bed. She brushed her hair back and then with a solid yank on the bed she quickly exited stage right.

The moment is a bit of a lie. Oh, it happened. It had to have happened. I have the picture. But no one watching would have seen this moment. This is a purely photographic moment and a very good one at that.

Does the image show a side of the child with which we are all familiar? I'd say, "Yes." Is it a fair representation of what was happening Sunday? I'd have to confess, "No." And yet, I love this picture.

In the larger scheme of things, this is a very good picture of this little girl. It is both good and accurate. Anyone knowing her would recognize the expression and the gesture. It is a fine picture and I have no qualms about having shot a pile of images per second until I had burned through more than 500 images in order to get it.

I've got a fine shot, a fine family memory picture, and that is all that is important.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

KISS: Keep it simple stupid

Mom took this with my Canon PowerShot S90: a true point and shoot.

Ah KISS: a fine command and so very appropriate in so many places. Buy a simple camera like a Canon PowerShot S90 and reap benefits for years to come.

Simple cameras carry lots of benefits. Remember, the goal for most of us is simply capturing a good picture. Often simple cameras making capturing simple, good pictures easy.

I wanted a picture at my 68th birthday party with two of my granddaughters. I didn't want a selfie with my arm extended. I wanted a moment captured and captured by another. I gave my S90 to my daughter, the mother of the two adorable little girls.

The S90 has a fast lens, f/2.0, and when set for low-light photography will continuously fire until the SD card is full. It may fire as fast as about two frames per second but many dispute this claim. Whatever the speed, it isn't fast enough for sports action but it will capture the action around a birthday cake.

Mom wasn't familiar with my camera but that wasn't a problem. The oh-so-automatic little Canon doesn't demand familiarity to deliver good pictures. I set the camera to its low-light setting, made sure the lens was set to wide angle in order to take advantage of the fast lens, and told mom to frame the picture and then just hold the shutter button down. The camera would do the rest, I said.

Mom did, the camera delivered, and I got my memory photos. There's a lot to be said for KISS inspired cameras.

Note: the successor to my camera, the Canon S110, has a continuous capture rate that can hit 10 frames per second used in low-light level mode. The technology behind these little cameras is anything but simple and the engineers responsible for their creation are certainly not stupid.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Seeing through another's eyes

Clearly, it is not possible to truly see through another's eyes but, that said, it is possible to be inspired by the vision of others. My image today is a good example of this.

My two-year-old granddaughter, Isla, absolutely loves birds: all birds. But, the little yellow finches that gather at our bird feeder are among her favourites. At this time of year, the birds will flit over to the nearby magnolia tree from the all too busy feeder. A little finch doesn't have to fight for a perch in the magnolia tree; there are ample perches for all.

I hadn't really paid attention to this and if one doesn't pay attention the moment will pass. The magnolia is only in bloom for a very brief period in the spring. There are only a few days to catch the shot. Isla made me see this and I thank her for it.

There is no shame in taking inspiration from others. One must simply give others the credit they are due. Many folk are shocked and dismayed to discover a favourite artist took inspiration from another. They write off the work as derivative: a copy. And sometimes, they are right. But, as often as not, the latest work is not a copy but a new take on an old song, a new twist to an old story, a new and glorious work of art reflecting on another, and very inspirational, piece of art.

Monday, April 13, 2015

See more in less

Some time ago I joined a Facebook group, Abiotic Minimal Photography. Members were encouraged to post photos with a minimalist focus. I joined but before I could shoot and post many suitable images, the group folded. Why: Too much interest. You read correctly: Too much, not too little, interest. Founder Isabelle de Touchet wrote:

I am closing the group for good. I don't feel I have enough time to really run the group the way I wish to. I thank you all for all the wonderful photos . . . Much love to all.

Isabelle de Touchet is, I believe, a pseudonym. I've done some googling of the name and, although I am no closer to knowing a lot about the lady (I know some but not all that much), my journey through the labyrinth of the Internet, propelled by her name, has brought me into contact with some wonderful, imaginative art. I cannot post the images encountered. That would be wrong. The works are not mine. That said, I can post links. Please follow them. You will not be disappointed.

A Footprint of Feelings: Isabelle de Touchet
John Shelton photo
BehiƧ Alparsa photo
Erika Nagy photo
Artopho Group

I'm going to stop here. You can click the links as well as I can. The last link I gave is simply the best. I love the shot by Erika Nagy and when I search for more by Erika Nagy I find 40 Astounding Examples of Abstract Photography. Erika Nagy's is the last shot shown.

What was the point of this post? Inspiration. Use the Internet to inspire, to encourage, to plant the seeds of creativity in your mind. Expand your photographic horizons by learning to see more in less.

And if you'd like to know more than the minimum about Minimalism, here's a link to more: Minimalism.

It is not quite minimalism but the hunt itself led to this very nice image.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Possibly the best rechargeables: Eneloop

When my Fuji FinePix HS10 stopped working, I thought the camera might be toast. I found it hard to believe that all eight rechargeable batteries had died at exactly the same time. My granddaughter noticed the low-battery icon flashing before I lost all power. She said, "Change the batteries, Gug."

I had never charged my ni-cads without letting them rundown, but I never let the batteries discharge completely either. I tried to be careful. It wasn't enough. I believe a cheap battery charger did them in.

I have since learned that a cheap battery charger, that charges all batteries at once,  treats all batteries like the weakest battery in the set. Soon all batteries are as poor as the failing one.

I replaced both sets of batteries with Eneloop rechargeables from Panasonic. These batteries have a great reputation on the Internet and so far I have been very pleased. They hold their charge well when not in use and they are not damaged by early charging like my other batteries. The battery charger that came with the set of eight double As and two triple As charges each battery separately. Hallelujah!

I was unable to find these batteries in either the electronic stores or the camera stores located near me in London, Ontario and so I went online. I found the best price at Costco. There was no charge for the delivery and the batteries arrived the day after I placed the order. I am beginning to understand why brick and mortar stores are in some trouble.

In the recent past, I've had some problems with my Fuji FinePix HS10. I'm wondering if the problems were caused by low power. Did I have enough juice to allow the camera to work but only poorly? Don't know.

But, look at the picture of my granddaughter at Karate practice and I think you will agree, the old camera has found its second wind. There is life in the old superzoom and the new Eneloop batteries may well be part of the reason.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

iPhone Picture in a Pinch

Is it sharp? No. Are the colours accurate? Not really. So, what does this photo have going for it?
It is an important moment, a milestone. Judy, grandma, is 67.

I forgot my camera at home and the camera that should have been handy wasn't. We were celebrating Judy's 67th birthday at the other grandparent's home and their camera had also been left at my home, too. I thought we were camera-less.

Fiona spoke up: "I have daddy's old iPhone. It takes pictures." She disappeared into her room only to reappear quickly with the iPhone in hand.

She turned it on; she plugged in the access code; she showed me how the camera function worked. Then she took her place, with her sister Isla, beside grandma and it was, as Isla says, "happy to you" time.

As you can see, the best image wasn't the best but it was fine in a pinch. The image may be soft and the colours way too warm, but the moment is intact and accurately captured. The iPhone did the job and for that I have Fiona to thank.

"Thank you, Fiona."

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Simple Portraiture

Isla under soft but directional window light.

Say portraiture and many folk immediately think of studio pictures. I know a lot of folk with decent little cameras who run off to a place like Sears every time they want an updated portrait of a grandchild. I say try and do it yourself.

Seat your subject near a large window. Illuminate the subject with the soft but directional light. Watch for catchlights in the eyes. These are important. Catchlights add life to any subject's portrait.

While paying attention to the light, remember to pay attention to the shadows as well. Shadows give form to your subject. Here is a link to an excellent post discussing six simple and very popular lighting approaches used in shooting traditional portraits.

Your subject should be quite relaxed in this environment, certainly more relaxed than when forced to sit in front of a camera at Sears. With any amount of luck, you should be able to capture a pleasant expression. Don't struggle for a big grin. Don't badger the subject to smile or say cheese. Simply chat and shoot. Or do what I did and capture the subject unaware, pleasantly occupied with something other than picture-taking.

Today's cameras can take lots of photos without costing a cent. So, shoot lots and shoot fast. Don't shoot single shots but shoot short bursts. Keep shooting until you have your shot. Pay attention to the images as you capture them. You will know immediately when you have succeeded.

The shot of my granddaughter Isla was shot while she watched Caillou. She loves the cartoon Caillou and paid very little attention the camera. Unfortunately, she moved as I shot the picture and I cropped off the top of her head. Oops! If I took a little more off the bottom, the picture might look as if I planned the awkward crop.

Of course, I could have kept shooting.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Don't fake photographs

I was looking at some images of my old high school in Windsor, Ontario. One image was especially striking. In fact, the dramatic sky with the perfectly placed billowing cloud looked simply too good to be true. My Photoshop sensor was twitching.

I didn't have to wait long for confirmation. The very next picture, taken from another angle, had the same cloud formation soaring above the school. The only difference was that the cloud was flipped and the colour of the sky changed.

Don't do this. It may add drama to your images but it also puts a big question mark over your work. It says, "Don't trust these images." And that is sad.

This castle-like school, approaching the century mark, exists. I know. As I said at the beginning, I went there.

Someday Kennedy Collegiate Institute will be history. It will only be a memory recalled through photography. These images must be above reproach. The memory must be accurate and trustworthy.

If you are having a difficult time seeing that both skies are identical, I have flipped the one and placed it on top of the other. The similarities are now impossible to dismiss.

Don't fake images. Don't make it too easy to dismiss your work. Your images are too important. Treatment your images with respect. And don't do this with the images of others either.

A photograph should be more than a graphic element on a page. Don't cheapen the franchise.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Document the interaction between those you love

My oldest granddaughter, Fiona, 5, is getting pretty good at puzzles. She made grandma Judy promise not to finish the snowman puzzle while she is away on vacation. Grandma Judy agreed. The puzzle will sit undone for the next 12 days.

And my youngest granddaughter, Isla, 21 months, loves to walk a 'tightrope' of colourful numbers. She giggles and laughs as she walks quickly from one end to the other and back trying not to loose her balance and put a foot on the carpet.

Stuff like this is important to document. These are memories. This is the stuff that gives texture to life. Capture it. And don't ask anyone to, "Say cheese."

If at all possible try and capture the moment using available light. Find a spot to brace the camera and minimize the camera shake. I used the table top for Fiona and the floor for Isla. Shoot wide open using the fastest shutter speed possible. This will minimize subject movement.

If you must use a flash, I do hope you have a flash with a swivel head snapped into the hot-shoe of your camera. If you don't have that you are in trouble. It may be impossible for you to bounce your flash.

If the ceiling is white, as it is in most rooms, bounce the flash off the ceiling and let the camera's auto features take care of the aperture setting. In this picture of Fiona, the bounced light would bounce off the white table cloth and help to fill-in the darker shadows. Bounce flash is not needed with Isla.

Sadly, I don't have the correct flash. I must shoot available. On the bright side, my Canon S90 has a maximum aperture of f/2.0 which allows me to take almost full advantage of the room light. I say 'almost full advantage' because lots of normal lens open to f/1.4. That's a full stop faster. That said, lots of lens considered fast stop at f/2.8 and that's a full stop slower.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Pick your angle

When I watch folk taking quick shots with their point-and-shoot cameras, I'm often amazed at how little thought they put into the angle from which they take the picture. All too often, the shooter simply lifts the camera to eye level and fires off a shot or two.

Quick doesn't have to be dirty. One can shoot fast and still tell a clear story. When my granddaughter, Fiona, made a tower of linked markers, I picked a high vantage point for shooting the picture. I wanted to accent the height of the marker tower while getting a good clear shot of my granddaughter. The high angle fulfilled both wishes.

And looking up caused the little girl's eyes to sparkle with highlights caused by the nearby window. Highlights add life to eyes. Highlights should rarely be ignored.

The next time you are taking some pictures, try thinking before you shoot. Try to accent whatever is important to your picture story. Get down low, climb on a chair, move. Release your inner creative self and not just the shutter button.