The Motion of Old Indian

16 08 2012

A simple fun exercise is to play around with the settings on your camera and see what happens. The better educated you become, the more often “what happens” will be really cool. If you aren’t familiar with terms like “shutter speed” or “f/stop” a legend in the photography world wrote a post about it here.

Yeah, just kidding, that was my post.

A word to the wise. If you’re using a slideshow, the Word Press Reader Feature may not be teasing a potential follower with your beautiful photos.

Anyways, one fun thing to do is decreasing your “shutter speed.” This means instead of trying to freeze action, you are allowing anything that moves to become blurry. This isn’t a great idea with people or pets, but it can turn out pretty nifty if you’re shooting cars at dusk or running water like I was here.

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The gallery thing is something I haven’t tried before so let me know what you think of it. The trick to long exposures is knowing what to adjust. Shutter speed is a fraction (oh no, fractions!) So 1/2500th of a second is very fast. That means the shutter only stays open for that long. This doesn’t let much light in so you shoot at a reasonably low f/stop, I used 3.5. (again, if this is greek check out my tutorials on f/stop and exposure speed.) When I dial that down to 1/40th of a second and 1/10th, we start getting a lot of light. The image would have been completely whited out if I hadn’t decreased the aperture size to f/16. (I cheat a bit and let auto ISO do some of the work for me.)

What you end up with is a smooth and silky flow of water that you wouldn’t be able to visualize with the naked eye. This was my first go at this so the pictures aren’t incredible but it was a lot of fun to do. I fully intend to try a few follow up trips to play around with this more. In the meantime here’s a top ten list with some of the best I’ve ever seen.

Environmental Graffiti

I love to hear from you. Let me know what you liked and didn’t like in today’s post in the comment below. Thanks for stopping by and God Bless You!

Replacing Color For a New Mood (Photoshop)

25 05 2012

Today I will finally be doing another tutorial of sorts. This one is fairly specific to Photoshop but I’m sure there are ways to do it in many other software’s as well. If you are trying to decide if you need Photoshop, you probably don’t. There are much cheaper photo editing software’s you should start out with. The first time I opened PS I was completely lost. It took me many tutorials and failed experiments to learn my way around but it is well worth it. That being said, it is the most advanced photo editing software there is and it can do things nothing else can. If you’re a serious established photographer or if you have the money and are willing to spend some time learning it, go for it. I love it and I couldn’t imagine not having it. (Here’s an affiliate link so if you decide to buy it, you can support the blog when you do.)

One important thing to remember when you use any editor is that it’s not made to make a bad picture good. Sometimes you can use it to correct your own mistakes, but you really aren’t getting everything you should out of your hard work if you start with a crummy picture. The above picture was one of my favorites but I wanted to play around with it and see if I could make it something more.

Photoshop does a nifty trick called “Replace Color.” You can find it under Image>Adjustments. This will open a dialogue box where you can select the color, or colors you want to affect, then change their hue, saturation and brightness. Many effects in Photoshop can be attained at least two or three different ways. You can do this one manually with layer masking and selective color but this is the easiest way. I selected the blues in the sky and water, changed the hue slightly and pushed them darker to make the details pop.

Next I did the same thing with the wood but I pushed it very dark to give it an almost painted look.

This step was pretty tricky. I did a few things here. The trees looked a little neon so I used the brush tool with the darken color to get them a little more natural. The biggest step here was transforming the image so I could get a clean crop on it. I didn’t like the wood post on the left side But I couldn’t crop it out without losing part of the sign. I used the Free Transform>Perspective tool to drag the bottom of the image to the right and straighten the sign post, then I used the distort tool in the upper left to get enough image inside the rectangle for a good crop.

Finally, I realized the image was getting a little too dark so I adjusted the exposure slightly. I also spent a little more time taking care of the white spots in the wood that were bothering me. Overall, most of the changes were subtle and served only to enhance the original image.

I hope you enjoyed today’s tutorial. Feel free to re-blog if you think your readers would enjoy this. Please comment, I love hearing from all of you! Happy Friday everyone, have a great weekend!


Saved by The Mel (Post Processing Tips)

5 03 2012

I would like to first apologize for the terrible pun in the title. I know it’s been a slow week here so I also apologize for the lack of content. I haven’t had a chance to go out and really do a decent shootabout and I didn’t want to resort to sharing something sub par. Fortunately I heard back from my friend Mel who agreed to write me a guest post. Fleeing years in a corporate environment Mel started a second career in photography by attending the Rocky Mountain School of Photography career training program. His greatest joy in photography is to turn his camera to the natural world and catch it in the act of doing something interesting, or entertaining, or simply profound. Still learning how to use the craft, he works in a variety of formats including 35mm, medium and large format, digital as well as film. One of his goals for this photography is the use of images in support of environmental education and action to result in common-sense solutions to living in our world. Although his favorite photographer quote is “Anything more than 500 yards from the car just isn’t photogenic” (Edward Weston) he continues hiking off into the woods to check its accuracy! Today Mel is sharing some awesome work he did post processing a few images. I know I have post processing fans in my readership as well as some staunchly opposed to editing any picture. I believe it has a place in photography and I agreed to share this because Mel seems to think of it much the way I do. Photoshop is not a band-aid for a bad picture.It’s more like a little bit of makeup to bring out the best in something that’s already great. In Mel’s case it’s a way to make the picture look more like what he saw and felt.


I’ve been playing around with photography for over 20 years and most of that time I didn’t really enjoy the results I was getting. Raised on years of National Geographic I couldn’t understand why my camera wasn’t turning out pictures of comparable quality, especially when it felt like I was following all the technical rules about focus and exposure. Frustrated, I was continually putting my camera on the shelf, then taking it down, then putting it back. Sadly, it was a case of literally ignoring what was right under my eyes. Yeah, I was reading all the “you can be a better photographer” books – I just wasn’t putting the advice into practice. So, it wasn’t long after buying my first digital DSLR I decided to get some instruction; you know, professional help. Maybe sharing that instant digital feedback with a pro would help me make changes in my habits right on the spot. Wow, what a revelation. The instructor brought home many of the lessons I should have learned before and showed me some new ones that helped bring it all together. “Ah-ha” moments every day. We spent a week in the field shooting and shooting and shooting until the lessons started to become habits. Happily, my camera hasn’t been back on the shelf since and I continue to learn how I see the world around me as well as how to share it successfully with others. One of the first lessons I learned was that all images need processing. The camera’s job is to accurately capture all the information you’ll need to translate the image into YOUR photograph; the rest of the effort has to come from your vision for the scene. For example, here’s a scene right out of my camera:
In my earlier days I would have looked at this image and complained, “that’s not what I saw!” because it looks so weak. Now I know the camera captured all the information I need to create the rich, detailed scene I saw when I pointed my lens in that direction. What attracted me to the scene was the idea of an image revealing the golden look of the sun on the water’s surface, showing off all the texture resulting from the little ripples. I also wanted the silhouette of the boats – no more detail than a dark outline. And I wanted just a hint of the mountains to use as a background frame but with enough contrast to show there are two ridges back there. The beauty of digital photography is you can make changes to the image in real-time and see what you’re getting. First I knew I wanted more contrast in the picture – make the blacks blacker and the whites whiter.
Making that adjustment meant more of the details in the water started showing through and the mountains in the background were more obvious. Next I wanted a richer look to the color, more like what I was seeing that morning.
Although that brought out more of the color it was my intent for the final image to have more vibrancy to it, something to catch the eye.
Now I had the overall feel and tone of the image I wanted but I really needed the eye to focus on the boats as they move across the water in front of the landscape. Most of that water in the foreground doesn’t really contribute to my vision for the image so I removed it.
Now I have the story I wanted to tell with this image along with the emotional sense I felt when I saw the scene. Another lesson I learned was portraying the drama found in a scene.

Read the rest of this entry »

Keys to Properly Exposing a Photograph 3: ISO

22 02 2012

Welcome to Part 3 of “Keys to Properly Exposing a Photograph.” To start at the beginning, CLICK HERE

The final technique we need to learn about is ISO. The history of ISO is a bit fascinating but to avoid a long boring post, it will suffice to say ISO (in photography) was a way we rated how sensitive film was to light. The more sensitive it was, the brighter our photo would be. The trade off was what we call film grain.

Film grain has to do with photons, silver halide, and dye clouds. The long and short is that to achieve a higher ISO and to get more light, we must accept film grain. In appearance it’s a small “optical texture” that makes me think of a picture printed on a piece of fine felt. Apparently there is even a software for making your digital pictures look like they were captured on film.

In digital, ISO is used to describe how sensitive our sensor is to light. It’s interesting that it causes a similar effect though for a different reason. Using a high ISO setting today will cause noise. Noise is different from film grain because it only effects one pixel at a time where film grain caused more of a blob of pixels. Noise is basically visual static in an image. Click the below image to enlarge and you can see some “noise.”

Some cameras can handle high ISO’s very well, keeping your noise down even at ISO’s as high as 6400. Some cameras will struggle with noise even at very low ISO settings. The best way to learn about ISO is to experiment around with it and see what you can get out of it.

So what do we use it for? I touched on that question in the last tutorial, here’s the answer. If we are working in a low light environment and we either already have our f/stop down as far as it will go or we just don’t want to sacrifice any more depth of field but our images are still blurring from motion or hand shake, we can crank in some ISO.

I use higher ISO settings a lot at concerts when I’m either not allowed to use flash or don’t want to kill the mood. You also may want to use higher ISO settings if you’re too far away for your flash to make a difference.

I kept it especially short today since ISO, in practice, is a fairly simple tool. I hope this series has been beneficial for you. I got on a little tutorial kick for he past 4 posts so I’m going to be coming back with some more “ShootAbouts” shortly. Those of you not that interested in the tutorials, thanks for bearing with me 🙂

I would love to hear your feedback in the comments or on Twitter! If you enjoyed this post, consider clicking a share button below to let your friends know. I’m a big fan of being “Pressed” so if you think you’re readers would enjoy this and you could use some fresh content from a friend, you’re more than welcome to it. I don’t mind you using excerpts or images from anywhere on the blog either as long as you link back to me in some way.

I’m always working toward new features and better tools on the blog but these things cost money so if you would like to help, consider a donation via the PayPal button in the right sidebar. (Really want to launch a video series, got my fingers crossed :) )

Keys to Properly Exposing a Photograph 2: f/stop

20 02 2012

Welcome to Part 2 of “Keys to Properly Exposing a Photograph.” To start at the beginning, CLICK HERE

Understanding exactly how f/stop work behind the scenes is VERY complicated. I’ve spent countless hours throughout my career studying it. If you’re looking for the most comprehensive, in-depth, intense explanation of f/stop. It lives here. Really, follow that link. It will tell you everything you could possibly want to know.

Freddy Knew You'd be Back

Now, if you’re reading this, you either have returned with an amazing understanding of the complex inner-workings of your SLR camera, or your back here waiting for me to give you the simplified version. Well, here it is.

The f/stop, as you will use it, is a range of seemingly random numbers from 1 to 22. (1, 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22.) (Some lenses will go higher than f/22. Thanks for the correction Rob) They represent how open your shutter (eyelid) will be when your sensor (eye) captures the picture. So why the weird increments? The answer is complicated. The simplest way I can say it is the f/stop is a ratio which describes the relationship between the diameter of the aperture (how wide your eyelid is open) and the focal length of the lens (how long your lens is.) The longer your focal length, the bigger your aperture needs to be to have a low f/stop. This is why a 70-200mm f/2.8 is so much bigger around than a 50mm f/1.4.

So again, why the weird increments. Now we’re getting to the bottom of this. We know an f/stop is the relationship between the diameter of the aperture and the focal length. Let’s say a 200mm lens, is set at f/4. The diameter of the aperture is going to be 200 divided by 4 which equals 50. (200/4=50) So, the diameter (distance across) of our aperture will be 50mm. Remember A = Pi times r squared? Long story short, the area of the hole letting the light in for our 200mm lens at f/4 is about 2000mm. Solve that for one stop down, f/2.8, you get about 4000mm, f/2 and you get about 8000mm. Summary, every stop down doubles the area of the hole letting the light in. This effectively doubles the light on your sensor, and this is what makes your picture brighter!

  • Remember when I told you your shutter goes in increments of doubles and halves too? Theoretically, if your image is properly exposed at (1/125 and f/2.8)… It will also be properly exposed if you double your f/stop (open the aperture twice as wide) and double shutter speed (leave the shutter open half as long) i.e. (1/250 and f/2.0) or if you halve your f/stop (open the aperture half as wide) and halve your shutter speed (leave the shutter open twice as long) i.e.  (1/60 and f/4)
So what’s the catch you say? The price of this extra amount of coveted sunlight? This one is a bit different. The way it effects your image is it creates a shallower depth of field. This means when you may have been able to focus your camera on something 10 feet away before and still see something 40 feet away clearly, now you may blur out nearly everything that isn’t exactly 10 feet away. The explanation for this is more complicated so we’ll put it off for another day. Keep your eyes open for more on that in a “Bokeh” post sometime in the near future.

A Short Depth of Field Makes The Background Unfocused

Bokeh is The Quality of the out of focus part of the image

The other catch is cost and weight. To get a low f/1.4 on a 50mm you need an aperture diameter of about 35mm. If you wanted a 200mm f/1.4 your diameter jumps up to 142mm. That aperture hole would need to be nearly 6in across. Such a lens does not exist that I’m aware of but it would cost a pretty penny. Just for a 70-200mm f/2.8 you’re getting into a $1000-2000 lens that weighs in excess of 3lbs. If you’ve got the money, (and the upper body strength) go for it. Here my equipment review post where I talk about mine along with the rest of my gear.

I know what you’re thinking. “Arley, what if I don’t have a lens with a low enough f/stop to put my shutter speed fast enough to freeze action in moderate light?” That’s where ISO comes into play. In the next installment, we’ll dig into the catch all that can add the most light, though at a steep price.

I would love to hear your feedback in the comments or on Twitter! If you enjoyed this post, consider clicking a share button below to let your friends know. I’m a big fan of being “Pressed” so if you think you’re readers would enjoy this and you could use some fresh content from a friend, you’re more than welcome to it. I don’t mind you using excerpts or images from anywhere on the blog either as long as you link back to me in some way.

I’m always working toward new features and better tools on the blog but these things cost money so if you would like to help, consider a donation via the PayPal button in the right sidebar. (Really want to launch a video series, got my fingers crossed 🙂 )


The next part in the series is ISO

Keys to Properly Exposing a Photograph 1: Shutter Speed

20 02 2012

Welcome to Part 1 of “Keys to Properly Exposing a Photograph.” To start at the beginning, CLICK HERE

Shutter speed is the most straight forward and simple of the three kings. You’re camera needs light to create an image. The way it get’s light is by opening it’s eyelid (the shutter) so it’s eye (the sensor) can send what it sees to the brain (you’re the brain, congratulations.) The longer the shutter (eyelid) stays open, the more light you get on the sensor. Eventually, all that light starts to pile up and your image turns white. It will start with the parts of the image that are already fairly bright turning completely white but leave the shutter open long enough, and eventually everything turns white. We don’t want this to happen. White pictures don’t look that impressive framed on your wall and worse yet, no one seems to want to buy them.

On the flip side, if the shutter isn’t open long enough, you don’t get enough light. If your exposure is too quick the darker parts of the image will be black. Don’t even leave it open close to long enough, most of your image will be too dark to see any details. People don’t want that on their wall either.

In a normal, reasonably bright environment. You can leave the shutter open just long enough to get a nice balance for a well exposed image. If it’s exceptionally bright, you will want to use a shorter exposure time to compensate. If it’s pretty dim, you may want to use a longer one. The problem is, when you start leaving the shutter open too long, you can see motion. Motion doesn’t look good in a “still” image like a photograph, it just turns into a blur.

You’re going to run into two different kinds of blurs when you’re shooting pictures; Camera Blur and Motion Blur.

  • Camera Blur:This happens when your shutter is open so long, the tiny movements of your hand make your entire image blurry. It’s less of a problem if you aren’t zooming a long way, but the more you zoom the more pronounced camera blur will be. Imagine trying to touch a pinhead with a toothpick. You can control the tip of the toothpick because it doesn’t really amplify the tiny motions of your hand. Now imagine trying to do the same thing with jousting lance. The tinniest motion at the handle and the tip moves a lot. Same principle, if you’re zooming 300mm, whatever you’re looking at is going to be moving a lot. A good rule of thumb is using a shutter speed with the denominator (bottom number) bigger than your focal length. Shooting with a 50mm, 1/60 will do fine. Shooting at 100mm, step up to 1/125, etc.
    • You can beat camera blur by using a tripod and you can reduce it by using an image stabilizing lens.
  • Motion Blur: You run into motion blur when you take a picture of something that’s moving fast. Like a mud racing car, water drops, or a butterfly. When dealing with these things you’ll have to sacrifice some of your light to get a crisp image. We’ll learn in the next part how we can offset that faster shutter speed and get some more light in the picture. Some things look cool when you incorporate motion blur though. A busy street looks interesting when the cars are streaks of light and river rapids can get a nice smooth blur to them, remember to use a tripod though.
Here’s an interesting point to remember for your next lesson. Shutter speeds, on most cameras double for every increment on the camera, i.e. 1/60, (one sixtieth of a second,) 1/125, 1/250, 1/300 etc. This means every click faster, you get half as much light…

Up next we’re taking a good long look at f/stop. It’s super complicated but we’re gonna break it down into manageable chunks and try to dodge the fancy jargon. 🙂

I would love to hear your feedback in the comments or on Twitter! If you enjoyed this post, consider clicking a share button below to let your friends know. The last one got “Pressed” several times and I met some great new people who hadn’t seen me yet. If you learned something here and think your followers could use it to, please consider pressing it!

Keys to Properly Exposing a Photograph Intro: The 3 Kings

16 02 2012

I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from readers who are remarkably gifted photographers but they still rarely venture away from the automatic settings on the camera. I spent the first part of my “professional” career using automatic and sport modes. Modern cameras are very smart so these modes can help you get acquainted and comfortable while you’re learning how to compose a good picture, but, smart as your camera may be, chances are it isn’t very creative.

I found that when I went to events, or took pictures of my friends, I got great pictures. They looked clean most of the time, if they didn’t I just deleted them. Unfortunately, when I got passionate, I learned that it was hard to take a really creative picture. I controlled the composition, but the rest was really out of my hands. Sometimes I wanted a dark picture that felt really deep and heavy and wound up with something so bright it hurt my eyes.

I wish this one had been darker

Sometimes I wanted a bright happy picture only to see something that looked like an illustration of an Emily Dickinson poem.

I wish this image had been lighter

I resolved to learn how to be the master of my own fate, or at least my own exposure. After sifting through countless difficult articles and technically intense websites I learned that exposure, is basically governed by three things on a modern digital camera: f/stop, shutter speed, and ISO.

Properly Exposed

Adjusting each of these can help you make your photos brighter, or darker. Making an image darker is usually “free.” That is to say you don’t get a lot of negative quality impact if you want a darker image. Brighter images are going to cost you though. Here’s a simple description of the “3 Kings.”

  1. Shutter speed, which can also be called exposure time, is how long the shutter stays open. The longer your shutter is open, the more light it lets in, the brighter your image. The “price” is that if your shutter is open and anything moves, you can see the motion in your image in the form of a blur. If it’s a kid running across a field, the kid gets blurry. If your shooting something freehand (not on a tripod,) your hands will move a little, so the camera moves a little, so everything gets a little blurry. We’ll talk a bit more about shutter speed in the next part.
  2. F/stop is a source of confusion and distress for many learning photographers. There are complicated formulas, charts, and diagrams. But for now, here’s the simplest explanation I can offer: A lower f/stop means your aperture (the hole your light comes through) stays larger, and a higher f/stop means it closes more. So, the advantage of a low f/stop is a bigger hole which, you guessed it, lets more light in. The “price” here is a narrow depth of field, I’ll explain more about this and a few of the limitations of f/stop in part 2.
  3. ISO is a rating for “film speed.” It was a system that rated how sensitive film was to light. It basically means the same thing to us in the digital photography age. Increase your ISO and your sensor gets more sensitive to light. This means, your images get brighter. The trade-off here is you now have a hyper sensitive filter that records noise. We’ll talk more about ISO and noise in part 3.

I talk about Shutter Speed next, to view that post, click here!! This post has been a bit out of my norm and definitely geared toward more serious photographers. I’m just testing the waters here and I really want to hear from my readers about how you felt so don’t pull any punches. 🙂 I would love to hear your feedback in the comments or on Twitter! If you enjoyed this post, consider clicking a share button below to let your friends know.

Iron and Steel Sunsets with Histogram Basics

9 02 2012

Today I’m going to tell you a bit about histograms. To understand what a histogram is, it helps to know what a dynamic range is. We talk a lot about what the human eye can pick up on vs. what the camera can pick up on. In the real world, the human eye can perceive about 15 stops of light at once. That is to say, once our eyes adjust to an amount of light, we can see a range of about 15 stops around that. A one being the dimmest light you can still see in and a fifteen being the brightest. Unfortunately, most camera sensors today only pick up 5-11 depending on if you’re using a small point and shoot or a high end DSLR. That’s why you manually adjust your f/stop to compensate for which five to eleven of those fifteen you can see that you want in your image. Put Simply Your eyes can see details in a darker dark and a lighter light than your camera can at once so we have to adjust which part of the “dynamic range” we want the camera to capture.

The above picture was shot at f/2.8. All other factors being the same, (shutter speed, ISO, etc) increasing the f/stop will help you capture a higher (brighter) part of the dynamic range, and lowering it will help capture a lower (darker) part. The histogram is the thing that tells you if you’re getting the brightest and darkest parts of the image or if they are washing out or turning black. Almost all digital cameras, from point and shoots up to the nicest DSLR’s, will show you a histogram. Below is an example of a good histogram…

See the graph thing in the upper left. The one in your camera probably won’t have all the color but it will look a lot like that. The far left side represents the darkest part of the image, the far right side is the lightest part of the image. If your image is properly exposed, the histogram will be all bouncy in the center and will have tapered off by the time it gets to either edge. This is a really simple way to look and see how you did right after you take the picture. A bit of glare can make it nearly impossible to clearly see your picture on the LCD but the histogram can be easily checked in any light.

In the above picture, we have more low tones. You can see where the image falls into complete shadow and we lose all the details. The histogram is accurately representing this. You can see the left side of the graph is still really high because we have lots of pixels that are too dark for details. (A pixel is a little square of color, a photograph is made up of a bunch of these little dots) Sometimes areas of extreme dark or light are done intentionally and artistically. The key here is awareness. If you’re using artistic dark regions, you ought to know about them 🙂

Sometimes you get an image that you just can’t get the squiggly lines inside those five stops. Times like these you have to make a judgement call. Get the settings the way you think it looks best, and go for it! There’s a lot more to learn about histograms and with the right knowledge they can be a powerful tool. Here’s another great article on histograms–> Understanding Histograms by Darren Rowse

I hope you enjoyed today’s post. I love hearing from all of you and look forward to all of your feedback. Don’t forget to follow the blog and check me out on Facebook and Twitter. Social links up at the top in the sidebar. Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend!

P.S. I updated this post on the thirteenth thanks to some help from a new friend over at The Uncensored Photographer. He noted a few incorrect values up in the dynamic range the camera and the eye can see. His blog is just getting off the ground and is certainly not for the faint of heart. Looks like no holds barred reviews of equipment and well, reviews. Might hurt your feelings if you like Ken Rockwell as much as I do 🙂 but definitely worth a read, I’ll certainly be checking in from time to time.