Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Window IX :: Inside Looking Out

Exposed for Outside
This has been an age old challenge, to get both the inside exposure and the outside scene balanced.  Whereas our eyes can automatically adjust to see detail over a wide range of lighting levels than even the best digital camera. Also our eyes are constantly looking around the scene adjusting focus on regions of varying brightness. The image our mind sees is a reconstruction, and not a direct measure of the light entering our eye(s). If you are skeptical, read the Cambridge in Colour article Cameras .vs. TheHuman Eye.

Exposed for Inside
The camera just has to take a single image and because it has a limited dynamic range, and if its using the light meter to choose exposure it is likely to choose something in the middle.  The inside is very dark compared with the intensity of light outside. Finding a compromised for these two lighting condition may be too hard and any exposed in the middle will leave the interior in deep shadow and/or the exterior view bleach out.
You can override the automatic exposure metering and take two exposure one for inside and one for the outside view. Then blend them together assuming you have that capability in your postprocessing software. This is a very common procedure recommend elsewhere on the net, but it can be tedious to do.

Another alternative is to use the HDR methodology, which combines different exposures or can also exploit the extra information in a single RAW photo to expand the range of tones that can be reproduced. The article I have linked is somewhat old but does explain the method well. Most post-processing software now has a HDR capability. I prefer Trey Ratcliff's AuroraHDR and using a set of three EV bracketed photos (underexposed by 2 stop. Normally exposed & over exposed by 2 stops) which I have dialed in for the camera to take as a series.

Bracketed EV Series

A word of warning, be careful when tone mapping (or using presets with HDR images because it is easy to overdo and end up with ugly. faux painted look that is disturbing to most viewers. I prefer to just use the default HDR image (with AI controlled tone mapping and looks natural) from AuroraHDR and do any further tweaking in my chosen post-processing software, usually using On1 Photo RAW. It is my best solution to the Indoor and Outdoor View at the same time dilemma. Most real estate photographers must also believe!
Final HDR Result

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Window VIII :: Getting really close

When you think there is nothing more to challenge your photographic desires taking photos of TheWindow, its time to get closer.  "The closer you are too the subject, the more detail you see and the greater the impact of your photograph" ... Rich Sammon. This advice is not new but now is a perfect time to take the advice seriously.

You actually don't need a specialist macro lens, although they can simplify the tasks when getting really close up. You can use any lens really, but there will be a few challenges to address.

118/336 the sunniest spot in the house
Most lenses have a minimum distance that they can focus and in general terms the longer the focal length the greater the minimum focusing distance. This can work against you when trying to use the magnification capability of a telephoto lens to get a larger image. With your impressive Telephone Zoom you might have to stand a meter or more away!  Whereas with your wide angle lens you could get with a few centimetres.

The next obstacle is depth of field which is a bigger topic than I need to address in full here, where by the longer the focal length of the lens the shorter can be the width over which the camera is able to achieve sharp focus and to confuse things the Aperture (which controls the amount of light let through the lens) also affects the apparent depth of field. Wider Aperture (lower f-stops) narrow the zone within which the focus seems sharp.

118/366 I did tell you the Windows needed cleaning
The distance to the subject also affect perspective. Wider angle lenses (lower focal distance of the lens) make close objects seem larger. Telephotos (large focal length lens) make distant objects appear larger and more similar in size to close objects (they seem to compress space). This difference can be amplified for close up photo.

The final issue that might prove a challenge is the about of light. Consider that there is only a fixed amount light coming off a subject so as you use more magnification. The amount of light landing on a given sized pixel in you sensor gets less. You will need to either expose longer of move to a wide aperture. Leading to the possibility of blurring via camera shake or soft focus due to a narrower depth of field.

I'm deliberately not telling you how to find the compromise between all these issues. I'd rather you figured this out yourself. You should have plenty of time to work through your solution. No need to keep those trial photos this is an exercise in understanding not make a single great photo. However I found this nice explanation of what depth of field Is and Isn't on a new YouTube channel called Photography Online. Its quiet an informative show so perhaps check out some of the earlier episodes as well.

"When you think you are close enough, Get closer"
... Rich Sammon

Monday, April 27, 2020

A Surreal Selfie #photoproject

Le Violon d'Ingres

I got inspired whilst looking through Man Ray's photos (I was looking for but never found his Jazz series). He was a Dada &/or Surrealist artist and photographer who came to fame in Paris in the 1920's & 30's. His most famous image from that time is probably Ingre's Violin, but he was also a very successful fashion photographer and filmmaker after the war.

“It has never been my object to record my dreams, just the determination to realize them.”
...Man Ray

The object here is to take a "self portrait" (it doesn't have to include your face, could be just a shadow, an empty chair, your hands holding a camera, or a coffee cup!) that tells much more of your story than a standard head-shot selfie. What story do you want to tell? Perhaps it will be about your aspirations, what you have achieved, what you want to do after lockdown is over?

Short Black

Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Window VII :: At Dusk

This is an image from the window I should have taken as part of my windows snapshots and I missed the opportunity, because I had other things like eating dinner to distract me. Tonight I was ready BUT a normal standing  shot it didn't take in the sky. I had to move the camera down almost to the floor. Which gave a slightly skewed view.  If this is done deliberately this is know as a Dutch Tilt and can add drama, though strong diagonals in the composition.

 Lets just leave it as a happy accident and I like it. However trying to capture the light at dusk at The Window is now struck off my list of times (ie no Golden Hour photos)

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Window VI :: Day & Night

Dappled Ambient Daylight
The quality of light varies a lot during the day but the changes to night and artificial light can be even more dramatic. This is even more obvious in any photographs we take. The artificial light normally has a different colour temperature and this may show up as a colour cast. (orange in my example below)

This colour cast can be fixed by a process normally know as White Balance, which is just a name for the task of removing that cast and it will vary depending on where you undertake it. It can be undertaken in digital cameras by the camera as your take the picture, often as little icon in the menu for daylight, sunny, cloudy, artificial light etc).

Jpeg direct from camera showing orange colour cast despite AWB
Most modern Digital cameras have an AWD (Automatic White Balance) setting that the camera best guesses the colour temperature (usually very well). If you are taking a jpeg image this adjustment is applied to the image, if you Capture in RAW the adjustment is applied to the preview but the un-altered data from the sensor is also stored and the white balance is easy to change later.
RAW image post processed with a WB adjustment
Most Photo Processing software also has white balance tools built in, and it is possible to make the same adjustments to removed colour casts in the post-processing step (as I have undertaken in my example above). How the adjustment is carried out varies with each package but most offer a simple approach using a dropper tool (that is pointed at part of the image that should be a neutral colour) through to sliders that adjust the colour temperature in degrees Kelvin (how colour temperature is measured)

Friday, April 24, 2020

Stay at Home Photo Scavenger Hunt

You don't have to use this list, its just a start. Set 10 items to find around the House &/or Garden and give everyone at home a phone or camera and a couple of days to find the items.

  1. The red-ist thing/place in the house
  2. The oldest item in the house
  3. My favourite outfit
  4. My happy place
  5. An old neglected favorite toy, book, pair of shoes
  6. Something made of wood
  7. Something beautiful
  8. Something that's living
  9. Something that was lost and recently found
  10. Something smelly

I thought I'd start with the smelly-ist, 
in my favourite bit of afternoon light.
(yes they are my shoes)

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Window V :: Backlight with Available Light

110/366 Must have  been a good night!

The natural ambient light can be perfect for back lighting close up subjects. This bottle and glass where not cleaned up from a homemade pizza dinner the night before and this simple composition using the soft indirect morning light caught my attention.

Always be on the look out for good lighting opportunities now that you are staying at home.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Keeping your gear clean

When you get out to exercise, I trust you are taking your camera, or at least your smartphone, to take the opportunity to also exercise your photographic muscles. There is then the issue should you also disinfect your gear when you get home, The answer especially now is yes,  cameras and phones are something that you think nothing of bringing up to your face, for some time and there a couple of other important issues.

  1. Do not share your phone or camera with anyone you meet.
  2. Just putting it back in your camera bag is not enough.
  3. Wash your hands (thoroughly) as soon as you get home (you are more likely to be a source of infectious than your camera).
  4. Avoid using liquids to clean or disinfect any gear. (alcohol wipes may be out but probably unnecessary)

So when you get home take all you gear out of the bag and wipe it down with a microfiber cloth (the type you get from the supermarket as fine, they don't have to be black with a camera manufacturer's name on them. Take the opportunity to clean any lenses you used. It is not necessary to clean your sensor unless you change lens on a windy dusty day,, and that's not recommended anyway. You should wash the microfiber in soapy water, rinse and dry thoroughly before re-using.

Derrick Story goes into a lot more detail in his podcast "How to Disinfect Your Gear.The link goes to his show notes as well the podcast, as he has a some important sources of information there.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Window III :: inside Out, Outside In

Because these are large windows they lend themselves to including much of the outside as well as aome detail of the inside.

106/366 Inside looking out

The obvious pair to this is  looking back inside (I need to wait till the afternoon when the sun was streaming in and giving similar illumination to the light outside).

  105/366 Outside Looking In

Friday, April 17, 2020

The Window at different times

This a great exercise to begin the Window project with. Just take much the same view of your chosen window at different times of the day. Perhaps even on different days so you see the differences between a sunny and overcast days. Don't worry that these photos just look like simple snapshots, they are not intended to be shared.

Set up the images side by side, before post processing, and evaluate the levels of natural ambient light. What is the best time of day and type of day to take photos. Of the window? Or objects in front of the window. Spend a little time doing this, because now you will be thinking of the quality of light. a great step towards becoming a better photographer.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

watercolour postcards

At last..., this has taken me 4 days to figure out to make, and I know there are a lot of stumbles and some bit filmed upside down, but it is my first real attempt at an instructional style video (so feedback welcome, but expect nasty comments to be deleted)

This was primarily made for other watercolourists, but the idea probably applies beautifully to small photographs (10 by 15cm or 4" by 6") just turn them over and put a stamp on the back. Most prints have a paper base so 8 hours or overnight quarantine on a shelf at the recipient's place is all that is required. I have however come across some plasticized and synthetic papers from some commercial labs and papers for inkjet printers (so they would be less suitable eg 72 hours or over 2 days quarantine required) but still worth sending. The recipent will undoubtedly appreciate their connection with you.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

COVID19, Conspiracy Theories, Rumors, Memes & Beliefs

The internet is flooding with fake news false rumors and straight out wacko conspiracy theory (the trolls, hackers and other undesirables are also locked in). The big disappointment is that so many folk seem to believe them and circulate them further, its like a really dodgy chain letter. Here is Trey Ratcliff (a photographer I do admire, believe in his honesty and upfront approach) with a his personal evaluation of the situation.

So how does this relate to the stay at home photowalker?

 Firstly you now have time to be a bit more discerning in what you believe, and you can afford to dive a little deeper to understand things before hitting that share button. Secondly a long standing peeve I have with a lot of YouTubers particularly  is they may be biased and restrictive (follow my work flow exactly, its the best, I am the greatest, buy the latest full frame camera, fastest lens, more megapixel etc) that can be ok  but the advice may not suit your way of working and too often is positively appropriate or incorrect anyway. Thirdly there are a lot of idiots and nasty people out there on the open net that are just out to offend and put you down, just ignore them and focus on those you can trust to share your work with (it might be specific groups or even just individuals)

Find your trusted news sources (and those you trust on your favourite social media), stay in contact with your family and friends and ignore the rest.

Friday, April 10, 2020

The Window II:: #photoproject

Ok this looks a lot like a snapshot but I was actually trying to follow the idea of sticking with the "rule of thirds" (I despise it, its not a rule its a myth but in some ways its close to the golden mean). So this more about trying to get a pleasant composition and the three panels do lend themself to a three-way split.

When you take a photo inside you may not be able to get far enough away from a subject and have to use a wider angle view to get everything in the frame. However, what happened is the edges of the resulting images can tend to bend and often curve in. Typically if you are photographing slightly down the verticals may bend out, if your looking up the verticals can bend in. I'm sure you have seen these effects. So you might have a couple of issues to fix. On really wide-angle lens you get what is often called barrel distortion. Things are wider in the middle and bend in at top and bottom. If you are using an exchangeable lens camera a lot of software (like lightroom, On1 & CaptureOne) will have lens correction tabs and tools which will recognize the lens type and focal length then will correct for this barrel distortion. The second item to fix is the converging or diverging verticals, and for this you should use a tool usually called Keystoning, Some cameras now have this ability built-in, the great little app Snapseed (see Tools/Perspective) can do it on your phone and many large software packages can also do it nicely (but not always called keystoning). 

Thursday, April 09, 2020

The Window I :: #photoproject

This is a return to a project that I posted earlier. Infact it is exactly the same project. I just want to add a bit more detail about the aim.

I expect that the first day or so you will find a window (you might just have one if you are in imposed self-isolation so that window will be it) and photograph it at different times of the day. I also expect the photos will probably just be snapshots. You know the ones you just pick up the camera aim at the window and snap. There is nothing wrong with this, just get this approach out of your system for the time being.

The real purpose of this project is to look deeper at something familiar. Now you should spend some time looking at the window, looking at light and shadows before you pick up the camera. Think of abstract composition, perhaps just a small segment of the window. Don't just do it once make some time to return to this project several times over a few days and focus on different aspects.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Challenges of Photographing the Moon

100/366 The Full moon from OZ
I must initially apologize in advance I'm sure you will see this image posted a lot tonight. This was taken around 7:30pm in Melbourne, Australia. I missed the moon as it rose above the horizon (because I can't see the eastern horizon from my place). I believe it had a golden tint . That colour coming from the earth's atmosphere, that the moonlight must travel through as it rises above the horizon.

I thought I should share my experience photographing the moon with a standard camera (I've used my baby Mirco Four Thirds model the Olympus OMD 10iii, if you want to see my exif data click on the image above and it will take you back to Flickr).

The first problem is the moon is well lit compared with a dark sky and the camera's selection of the best exposure (to achieve an average grey) is heavily biased by the black sky and tends to leave a very blown out moon with no detail. If you think about it the moon is being lit by the sun and is roughly the distance away from the sun as the earth so the illumination is the same as daylight here. A good exposure to get detail on the moon is very close to what we would use on a sunny day on earth (if you want to talk in M for manual terms, start around ISO 200 f8 and 1/100 second) Start around there and experiment a bit. I actually started there but using Apeture Priority and dropped the Aperture a little because I was using my telephoto (I wanted a bit more light) and it surprisingly gave me a speed on 1/800 using a spot exposure reading but that was great because I was handholding. An advantage of my mirrorless camera is I can see what the exposure setting looks like before I take the photo and I used the EV (exposure compensation) to then darken the brightness of the moon till I got good shadow definition of the moon's mountains and craters.)

The second problem is focus and most automatic focus systems will be hopeless at night, and you will usually end up with a burnt-out blur. The only solution I know of is to use manual focus (and if you have focus peeking that will be a great asset). However focusing at night can be very hard so a good solution is to do your very best but take a few photos, either with slight tweeks to your focus ring or dropping focus and focussing back it. Statistically, you should find at least one is in nice clean focus.

A bit of trial and error and you should find this a fun project, just a little cold in southern parts of Australia. You should be able to do it from your backyard if you are in a Covid19 lockdown and you should get something you are proud off,  BUT expect there will be a lot of other amazing moon photos posted on social media.

I will check at around midnight but I'm not expecting a "pink" moon then.
  (late update no pink moon, just a very bright full moon)  

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Stay At Home Photowalker

Photowalking while you are staying at home may sound a bit counter-intuitive. However, you can practice your photography around the house just as easily as you can at an exotic location. At home everything is familiar and you will need to start seeing your place in a slightly deeper way (develop the Photographer's Art 0f Seeing or an Artist's Eye)

This particular post will become a nice landing page that will send you off to other posts in here, a series of tasks or maybe other weblinks worth a visit. I will also be joining in posting about doing the projects and issues I discovered along the way. The list of links will grow over time, so this is one post worth returning to.

  1. Chasing Newton's Rainbows of Colours, this is a very simple week long project.
  2. The Window, an ongoing project to help start seeing familiar things differently.
  3. Photo Scavenger Hunt, something for the whole family.
  4. Surreal Selfiethat tells much more of your story than a standard head-shot selfie. 

As with any new training regime please pace yourself.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Pace Yourself

Don't go too soon, race around trying every single home based photo project idea. Mainly because we could be ineffective lockdown for a while, and that time frame will be determined by the virus infection rates and extent of the epidemic; not politician or self-appointed experts (please ignore the trendy but hollow projects, rumors and fake news flooding social media and the populist media, instead, find a  few reliable news sources, stay informed via them and ignore the rest. Follow your appropriate lockdown rules).

The second reason to pace yourself is that this will give you more time to experiment and practice. Just doing 1,000 hours is a bit of a myth and that practice might be counterproductive if you just repeating bad habits. However, if you use the time to gradually improve, discover new things and techniques you will emerge at the other end of this a much better photographer

Rich Sammon has great advice here as well -
"Surround yourself (you'll have to use social media oronline services to stay connected while the lockdown is in progress) with positive/fun people that can help you achieve this goal. Keep this adage in mind: Stay away from negative people."
Stay Safe & Healthy 

Friday, April 03, 2020

VIOLET Colour #photoassignment

Violet (that blue shade of purple) is not common in nature. There can be those fleeting moments at sunset, and a few flowers. However there are lots of manufactured materials that are coloured lilac to violets. The trouble is this not a fashionable colour at the moment. "Its so last year".

So capturing something violet might just be the hardest colour challenge of the week.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

DEEP BLUE Colour #photoassignment

Deep Blue (Indigo in  Newton's Rainbow) happens in a magic way when you take your image after dark. Particularly if you photograph during the Blue Hour (which is the hour or so after sunset (or before sunrise). The eye might see the sky as dark but your camera can capture a rich deep blue with the right exposure.

If you haven't photographed at night, try it tonight. First, a warning, your camera's automatic exposure settings may not work. So you will probably need to experiment with a lower f-stop number, a slower speed and/or a higher ISO.  Rather than give you general numbers, I would encourage you to change that mode dial to M (manual) and start experimenting. To begin make changes that give you more light, then refine in little steps till you capture that beautiful rich blue.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

BLUE Colour #photoassignment

Looking in my camera bag I can see some important stuff for keeping my Camera Healthy and Clean, which just happens to be Blue. For the lens there are the blower and lens pen and that black microfiber cloth supplied with your camera. The blue "fannel" is also microfiber and ideal to wipe down the outside of the camera (every day after use). You can wash microfiber cloths in the washing. The Blue zip wallet has a spare battery and extra SD cards.

Camera hygiene can be as important as washing your hands as well.