Friday, May 27, 2011

camera button friday: the idea of seeing part 1

I gave a photo tutorial about Vision at work the other day. I usually focus on Light and Form (otherwise known as Exposure and Composition) as the basic tutorial I have given many times, but this time I mixed it up a bit.

I recently read this quote from Elliott Erwin:
"Photography is just about seeing. You either see or you don't see. The rest is academic. Photography is a function of noticing things, nothing more."

(Yes, this is one of Elliott Erwin's images)

This gave me the language to start leaping into the realm of vision that my mind has been unconsciously playing in for a little while now.

I am starting to realize (after learning most of the required photography technique) that the “technical technique” is the way you produce the “image you see in your head” into a photo. First you need to "see" then you need to capture what you see in a way that represents what you saw; (duh, but stay with me here) all the technical knowhow is how you capture what you saw. Seeing comes first.

There are so many knowledgeable photographers out there (in this case, knowledgeable meaning they can talk about f-stops, camera lighting, and image sharpness) that are actually bad photographers because they have never learned to SEE! Yes gear and "know-how" is important…even necessary...but it is just a door that your vision needs to pass through to become a photo. It is like photo knowledge is the solution to your problem, the problem of connecting the photo you see to the final image that will communicate to others. But having the vision to see is the first step to creating an image.

The above images is a small example: I was at one of InterVarsity's camps last week, Cedar Campus, where I was trying to capture its beauty as well as the InterVarsity Students there having fun...but I was getting frustrated because all the photos I was taking were not conveying the feeling I had.  It was not until this girl turned around so that I could see her smile did my feelings for the location come across in the photo.

Now I realize that this may be very intellectual for many. And that is OK because I thought that at first too. But if you want to create compelling images, I want this to be the lens that gear and photo knowledge are viewed through; as a way of expressing our vision not as the vision itself.  I also realize that many aspiring photographers do not think they have a vision.  You do.  It is how you see the world.  Sometimes naming something can trivialize the simplicity of it.  Just know that seeing is just as important to photography as doing.

Next week I will better explain what I am thinking by telling you the story behind this image:

If you like this kind of talk about photography, check out David du Chemin’s blog, he has been thinking about this a long time…and even has a couple books on the subject.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

want to buy a macro lens? Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro for Nikon

I have been talking about macro a little bit here, and if you are thinking of jumping in fully, here is your chance because I have decided to sell one of my macro lenses!  This is a Sigma 105mm macro lens (can focus up to 1:1) for a Nikon camera.  The outside has had some lovin' (a couple scratches or wear marks that have worn at the outer coating of paint, but nothing deeper than that) but the optics are pristine!  Comparing it to my Nikon 105mm it is indistinguishable in image quality.  I have fallen in love with the 105mm focal length for macro because it allows a bit more of a working distance so that you do not shade the subject and/or scare it away.  Brand new, this would go for $480 so I will sell it for $350. (Free shipping in the continental US!) For all the specs, see this link.

Let me know if you are interested or have any questions:

Below is the actual lens and a photo taken with this lens.

Note:  If you have one of the lower model D-SLR's that can only use AF-S lenses, this lens will NOT auto focus...but I only use manual focus on macro lenses anyway.

Monday, May 23, 2011

macro revisit

For the Black Hawk Photo Group that I am apart of, we had a macro challenge for this month. Appropriate given my last post and the fact that things are finally blooming and looking alive here in Madison.  It has actually been only a hand full of times this year that I have gotten the macro lens out JUST to go and find small things to photograph so it was a lot of fun playing with it again.

Friday, May 20, 2011

camera button friday: macro...and with a flash

It seams that I am on a renewed macro kick.  Maybe it is all these pretty things growing out of the ground.

Depending on your camera, you may have a macro setting but the real important part is to get as close as you can...sometimes that means buying a macro lens, or using one of the many adapters or hacks out there.  Point and Shoot cameras actually have a great macro feature to them, so don't feel like you need to buy a ton of stuff.  Oh, and it is worth mentioning here; all the normal 'rules' of composition, and lighting still apply.

How To:
My default technique is simple to explain, but always a challenge to do: I simply manual focus my lens as close as I can and then move my body close to a subject until it is in focus. It takes a little getting used to but soon enough you will learn the distance you need to be from your subject to get it to be in focus.  One hard part is the exact focus, so I take A LOT OF PHOTOS for each subject, then only after I get home and I am looking at them big on my computer is when I choose the best one.

I don't often take macro shots like the above image...unless I have a really fast shutter speed...even then they rarely come out great.  Here is the image from above:

Some people say you need a tripod for macro but I don't like how it slows me down, so I compromise a shallow Depth of Field for a faster shutter speed.  Most people give up on macro photography very fast because the images are not sharp, this is mostly to do with the fact that you do not have enough light in order to have a fast enough shutter speed.

The creative element is where you get unique camera angles, complimenting elements in the frame or something that has never been seen before.

Incorporating flash into macro work is something I have read about several times, but I have never tried because I don't liked the look it creates. Flash is mostly used to add light for better exposure and therefore a greater depth of field, but what I don't like is that usually causes the background to be underexposed (sometimes even completely black because the flash won't light it) which I do not like because it looks to fake or like a studio.  But why mimic others when you don't like the outcome?

Unless you try something different that you would like.

This time I took my flash and used it on a TTL cord which allows me to take the flash off the camera and place it somewhere at a 90 degree angle to my subject...or in the case of the last image below, behind the subject.  This was great for the type of day we had too, with flat light a little added flash makes things have an edge, like the sun is grazing the subject from the side.

Light on left side, slightly behind flower making it glow

Light on right side, on the ground skimming the grass

Light on left side, slightly behind making the dead flower glow

 Light below and behind, shining through the leaf

The image below is an experiment that, after many attempts and help holding the flash, eventually worked!  I wanted to take a long exposure of the water, so that it looks all soft and flowing, but I also wanted to freeze I added a flash.  I had the flash covered with a golden gel (a full and 3/4 CTO) to change it color so that where it hit the water it looks different than the color of the rest of the image.  Again, having the light come from the side is very important so that it only grazes part of the water and not the entire face.

Light on right side side, in line with the water falling

The unique aspect of macro photography is that you can take pictures of the most common things with a perspective that allows the viewer to see things in a very new way...especially things that may even have an 'ugly' connotation.

The important part is to keep playing, having fun and finding interesting things to take pictures of. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

camera button friday: story behind the shot

This turned out to be one of my favorite shots from my last wedding. It was fun for a lot of reason, least of which is the final product, but mostly because of the extra work I put in to frame the shot. This was a typical situation where the bride gets ready before the wedding and then I am asked to come in and grab candid/getting ready shots. My favorite usually happens when everyone is admiring their handiwork in getting the bride into the dress...cameras out and documenting is always an added touch. In this particular room (it was a church daycare area so there are a lot of toys that I didn't want in the shot) there was a beautiful window along the entire wall, allowing light to seep into the room. I knew I wanted to use this in some way so I started with my back to the light and let that bathe my subject in a nice window glow. As you can see below, there are more shots that I took to get to the 'best' shot, but working my angles and constantly trying to make a better photo lead me into the back corner of the room that (in addition to me squatting) allowed the sun to hit my lens and draw your eye to the bride.

Yes there is a Golden Ratio here, yes there is a lot of post processing to remove the green in the back wall, and yes there is a great moment that I was intentional in getting...but the real magic of the image was when all those camera together with the intentionality in framing the shot to create one image. 

Below are a couple of the other shots (I didn't want to show you all 15 though) that didn't make the cut.  Notice difference in exposure, color, post processing, and framing...but also how I interacted with the group and captured things different based on where they were and how I physically moved around.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

kaitlin randy...and keagan

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of photographing Kaitlin, Randy and their son Keagan. We had the fun setting of Grandpa’s (Kaitlin’s dad) farm to explore; including some of the original home-stead ruins and the lake. I was glad I had Mike there to help grab some great candid; Keagan was off running around so much I couldn’t have been able to follow him and take portraits.

Monday, May 9, 2011

can I call it a "collection"?

Over the weekend I was out shooting a portrait session with Mike, He looked at a couple of the lens pouches I had and asked if I spend more on my camera "accessories" than my actual camera gear.  I laughed...and then thought about it.
Nah, Can't be.

Is it a problem if I just pretend it is all OK?
I mean, I really do need all these.
There are so many more people out there that have more.
And, I have been "clean" for almost a year.

Why is it that the IDEA of simplicity can be so complicated to achieve?

If you really must know, bags from ThinkTank, Domke, Mountainsmith, Timbuk2, and Newswear (maybe others I can't recall as of now) collected over the last 7 years.

Friday, May 6, 2011

camera button friday: its also about light

Yes, form is extremely important. Last week I was thinking about the contents of the photos I have been taking and how they are important. I also have been learning (again, since I learned this my first years photographing) that light is extremely important. I have been in the season of “not quite winter-not yet spring” here in the Midwest and cursing the dead trees for not being pretty but also the light for not being super exciting. It was interesting actually, this post got a lot of comments (both here and Face Book) about the second image, and I think it is the light that everyone likes and not only the ‘form and geometry.’

To prove my point a little better; here are a couple images that I took on a recent trip on an overcast day followed by a day of direct, glorious, morning sun.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

lincoln logs

OK, so I don’t really have anything to post…last week was a week of recovery and rest from a difficult (mostly mentally taxing) week of shooting video. So you get a photo of my first attempt at Lincoln Logs. Sarah and I were milling around an estate sale and found these, when she found out that I only had Lego’s growing up (slightly cooler) she made me try it unassisted.

Photographically, I fought down the urge to bring out the big lights and make sure my first log cabin was documented right…instead I opted for an on camera flash, bounced up and to my right because there was a big white wall there. I first metered for ambient and used the flash to fill in the shadows on my side of the masterpiece. I think the flash was shot TTL and dialed down around -1 or so, I just took different options until it looked good.

Monday, May 2, 2011

place pretty things in front of your camera

Well, we finally had great light, good weather, and I had a day to go and photograph. But why, do you ask, did I feel defeated? Well, the old saying still applies; “in order to take pretty pictures, place pretty things in front of your camera.” The greenery of the trees has not been told it is spring yet (neither has the weather) so there were no great green pretty things to photograph. I guess I had a photo in my head of looking into the light, with a great green tree and great green leaves in there somewhere. I didn’t find that, and therefore I had a really hard time finding anything that made me smile when the shutter clicked…except maybe the deer that made me wish I was caring a telephoto lens with me. Oh well, I guess I will be looking for green as soon as it decided to show itself.