Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Complete Photographer?

I really enjoy going through my images, browsing through my catalog, stopping at images that haven't been edited, or even stopping at some that have, only to improve them further.  Tagging, rating, keywording, and yes, culling, all are quite enjoyable activities for me. 

I frequently tell my friends that I enjoy EDITING pictures as much as I like TAKING them.  I like both, a lot, and I think you should too.  These two different activities although closely related, involve quite different skill sets.  What would be the point of having a box full of negatives if no one enjoyed them?  And if you were great at printing, wouldn't it be more fun have lot of your own images to work with?  Some of my friends take a lot of pictures, but seldom edit them, and seldom share them.  On the other hand, I'm sure you know people that would just as soon sit in front of Photoshop all day than go outside with you on a photoshoot.

What are your preferences...shooting...editing...sharing?  There's no wrong answer, just right answers--what's right for you.  But I'd just ask you to think about expanding your interests and skills.  You may need spend a little time, study time, practice time--consider this an investment in the hobby you love.

I'd love to hear how you're doing...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Time for another photo shoot already?

So, it's a new year, you're full of new hope, new commitments, and new-found enthusiasm for photography...and you're no doubt already been out on a couple photo shoots and working on the results in the digital darkroom, right?  No?  What do you mean too busy...not enough time?

Ok, how about this...go on a photo shoot right in your own home.  No driving, no hiking, no stalking big game, no laying in wait for the perfect combination of lighting and subject matter.  Just stay home. 

Actually, you can, and with a little bit of imagination and creativity, you'd be surprised at what you might come up with.  The garage is full of cool things.  The kitchen is full of neat tools also.  The backyard can be your own personal nature land.  How about that closet that's full of stuff...what can be made of that?

You see, in the end, it isn't so much what your subject is, or what exotic destination you find it, it's what you do with it.  What is the emotion, mood, response.  Photography is looking at the same thing that millions of people have looked at before, but looking at it in a different way.  How many times I've check my wrist for the time.  But this time something was different...this watch might make an interesting photograph.  Speaking of time, gotta go...have a photo shoot out in the garage in 10 minutes!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Focus on What You're Doing

How many times have you seen something you liked, pointed your camera at it, pressed the shutter, and moved on?  It's easy to do and I've done it--still do many times.  The problem with that approach, like most activities, is that the brain needs to be engaged, not just the is thinking.  So, what are you focused on, that is, thinking, when you're taking that next shot?

How about if "focus" is exactly what you're thinking about?  What if sharpness and image crispness is of primary concern--what should you be thinking about to accomplish that?  Well, here's what contributes to a sharp image... 1) a decent lens, 2) a still camera, 3) an aperature that includes sufficient depth of field to include what you want sharp, 4) a still subject, 5) low ISO (noise).  Easy huh?  Guess I need to think about this for a minute...

1) got a decent lens, check.   2a) have a tripod, check.  2b) don't have a tripod...better use a shutter speed at least as fast as 1/focal length.  (200mm shot, use 1/200 sec or faster).  3)  Let shutter, therefore wide open aperture, right?  No.  Two things working against you.  One, you may need more depth of field, and two, most lenses are at their sharpest at f8 (lots of tech reports you can find to explain this).  Ok, I'll choose f8 or maybe f5.6... check.  4)  The exposure TRIO defines proper exposure--that includes the f-stop, shutter speed, and ISO.  So I guess my ISO "choice" rounds out the specs.  Of course, higher ISO means more noise, which negatively influences your perception of sharpness.  That's the good camera and I have good noise-reduction capabilities in my post production software...check.

Hey, that's too much to think about... my camera has auto focus and that good enough to get great, sharp images, right?  Depends.  Depends on whether your subject is moving and whether you have your camera set to focus once when you press the shutter half way, or focus continuously until you press the shutter all the way down to capture the image.  Hmmm...more thinking.

So, look at this image of the bird.  Taken with a decent camera (actually a great camera--Nikon), and taken during the day (great news for shutter speed, aperture, ISO).  But the bird is moving which means that the camera is moving too.  And, the bird is not moving parallel to the camera (keeping focus distance constant), therefore the camera will need to maintain CONTINUOUS focus until the image is captured, or you'll have to be pretty quick on the shutter to get the focus and complete the image capture.

Is that too much to think about?  Not really.  Not any more than driving a car and attending to all the detail of the vehicle operation and the surrounds... What's common is that the more you PRACTICE THINKING the faster you're able to do it, and in some cases the more automatic that thinking becomes.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Now you see it, now you don't

Position is everything in photography.  Are you too high, too low, too close, too far?  It's often said that you need to move your feet, not zoom your lens.  I had one of those "aha" moments the other night.  I was outside looking at the Christmas lights on the houses across the street.  It was raining and I was out under the eaves trying to keep dry.  For some reason, I crouched down, and there it was...the image begging for capture.

You see, it was only when I was crouched down that the angle of reflection was just right to create this brilliant pallet of colors.  It was as if someone was turning on and off the lights as I would crouch or stand.  I would never have seen the possibilities of this shot had I not moved my body--and there's today's lesson.  Keep moving, try different positions, look behind you from where you've come, and experiment.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Oh, What a Day!

In the midst of the holiday's rainy days came a gloriously sunny opportunity to get outside and capture some images.  The photo shoot destination this time was Bolsa Chica Wildlife Refuge in Huntington Beach.  This location is popular due to the abundance and variety of birds.

As I was walking around, I wanted to capture of overall feeling of being there...of being in the warm sun, enjoying the colors of the marshland, the sounds of the birds, and the crisp, clear, snow-covered mountains in the distance.  That was the inspiration for this image.

Out of the camera, the image was sufficiently complete to convey the emotion I was after.  A minor crop and a small amount of post-production in Lightroom improved the clarity of the mountains.

Happy New Year from CostaMesaPhotography!

What a better way to start a new year than with a renewed commitment to sharing the photographic experience!  It will be my intent this year to create of following of similarly interested enthusiasts who what to improve their ability to IMAGINE, CAPTURE, POST-PROCESS, and SHARE.  I will do this by sharing my own images inititally and then as interest grows, I intent to share the images and learning experience of followers of this blog. 

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Welcome to CostaMesaPhotography, and 2011!