Get A Kick: Photograph Soccer!

I moved out to the sideline for this shot.  Right around the 18 yard line is a great place to stand and turn back to the goal for the action there. Canon EOS-1D X, EF 200-400 f/4L IS Extender 1.4X. 1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 800.

I moved out to the sideline for this shot. Right around the 18 yard line is a great place to stand and turn back to the goal for the action there. Canon EOS-1D X, EF 200-400 f/4L IS Extender 1.4X. 1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 800.

I spent a good portion of my career photographing sports, from children all the way up through the pros. One of the most challenging sports to photograph was soccer (football or futbol if you’re outside North America).  I’ve had colleagues liken it to “photographing a moving tree in a moving forest” because you’re focused on one player, while other players are moving across the frame between you and the subject all the time.  It takes patience and some knowledge of the game to be really good at photographing it.

This shot was part of a sequence that started with this player making a run with the ball. A few frames prior to this, he was tripped and went airborne along with the ball. I never would have had this frame if I wasn't shooting at 12 fps. Canon EOS-1D X, EF 200-400 f/4L IS Extender 1.4x. 1/1600, f/5.6, ISO 800.

This shot was part of a sequence that started with this player making a run with the ball. A few frames prior to this, he was tripped and went airborne along with the ball. I never would have had this frame if I wasn’t shooting at 12 fps. Canon EOS-1D X, EF 200-400 f/4L IS Extender 1.4x. 1/1600, f/5.6, ISO 800.

From behind the end line, you can often capture two players fighting for position on the ball. Canon EOS-1D X, EF 200-400 f/4L IS Extender 1.4x. 1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 400.

From behind the end line, you can often capture two players fighting for position on the ball. Canon EOS-1D X, EF 200-400 f/4L IS Extender 1.4x. 1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 400.

Soccer is a fast-moving sport and thus requires your camera to be set a certain way.  I shoot most of my action using Aperture Priority, with the aperture set around f/4 or f/5.6. I want a pretty shallow depth of field so the athletes pop off the background, and so that background objects don’t distract from the subjects.  I then set the ISO to be sure I get a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action. Generally this means 1/500 minimum.  Faster if you’re using a lens longer the 500mm.   I set my camera’s autofocus system to AI Servo or Continuous (dependent on the brand of camera you use- it means the same thing).  AI Servo or continuous simply means that your camera will focus on the subject and continue to track the subject as it moves towards or away from the camera. Finally, I set my camera’s drive to continuous so that I simply have to press and hold the shutter button to take multiple images. This enables me to take an entire sequence of action, meaning I won’t miss peak action by taking only one shot, or more importantly, I’ll get multiple images to choose from of the play to be sure I get the best shot out of the action.  Note that some cameras have multiple continuous settings, such as continuous low or continuous hi. I suggest getting as many shots as possible and using continuous hi, if you have a choice. For instance, the images accompanying this article were taken using an EOS-1D X, with the drive set to Continuous Hi, which is 12 frames per second.  Realistically, faster is better, but even a consumer camera firing at 4 frames per second can produce outstanding results.

Unfortunately, soccer is a sport that screams for long glass on your camera. The fields are so large, and the game so spread out, that putting anything less than a 300mm lens on the camera will leave you missing a lot of shots. Truth be told, a 500mm lens is ideal.   I found a lens such as Canon’s EF 200-400 f/4L IS Extender 1.4x to be a great combination as I could zoom in and out and cover things close to me at 200mm, and zoom all the way in when the action moved away. Nikon makes a similar lens, without the 1.4x extender built in.  For more cost-conscious options, lenses such as Canon’s 100-400mm or the many 70-300mm lenses on the market are also good choices.

When on the field, or pitch as the rest of the world calls it, I have several places I like to stand.  My favorite place is behind the end line, to the side of the goal. This allows me an angle on the goalie when he comes out to make a play, but also gets action coming more or less right at me.  I find it much easier to photograph players running towards me, rather than to try and pan with action moving parallel to me.  When the action is coming to me, I don’t have to work to keep the AF point on the athletes. When I have to pan with the athletes, there’s always the chance I move too fast or too slow and the AF point loses focus.

I find the combination of speed and physicality to make soccer incredibly rewarding. I love capturing the players fighting for the ball, fighting for position.  I love capturing the emotion as they score a goal, or the dejection of losing a big game. Spending an afternoon at a soccer game provides a ton of great opportunities, so go take advantage of them!

Occasionally, I'll try something a little different.  I had a lot of standard action from this game, so I decided to switch it up a bit and try some panning. The darker backgrounds lent themselves perfectly to this.  Canon EOS-1D X, EF 200-400 f/4L IS Extender 1.4x.  1/10, f/36, ISO 100.

Occasionally, I’ll try something a little different. I had a lot of standard action from this game, so I decided to switch it up a bit and try some panning. The darker backgrounds lent themselves perfectly to this. Canon EOS-1D X, EF 200-400 f/4L IS Extender 1.4x. 1/10, f/36, ISO 100.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Get A Kick: Photograph Soccer!

Life With A Rangefinder, Plus Street Photography Tips.

Shoes

These days you are most likely to find me wandering the streets of London with a Leica M Monochrom hanging from my neck. Street photography and Leica have been inextricably linked for decades and this is solely down to Leica’s M system camera and its rangefinder focus mechanism.

This is not to say that you cannot be a street photographer without a rangefinder camera or, transversely, that you cannot shoot anything but the streets with a Leica. It is simply that this style of camera is the preferred tool of the serious street photographer.

If you’re unfamiliar with Rangefinders, the name is simply a reference to the distance oriented method by which you focus the lens. You are presented, within the viewfinder,  2 overlapping versions of the scene and as you turn the lens to find focus, the overlapping images merge together into one, at which point you are focused!

Can you hear me?!

It does raise the question of why use a Leica rangefinder once you realize the camera is pretty much manual. Focusing, especially, is an entirely manual exercise. My camera will struggle to reach 4 fps. The viewfinder is essentially just a viewing frame where the image does not travel through the lens and is not related to the focal length either. It is just a ‘window’ for you to frame the shot. Side stepping image quality, there’s more and improved functionality out there in the DSLR world. And the cost?! US$13000 for a Camera, lens, spare battery and a strap!

It just doesn’t make sense, does it?!

I actually traded my entire ‘bag’ of Canon bodies and lenses for this camera, never more convinced this was the system for me. I have always been a manual photographer, actively disliking AF for its constant need to slave my compositions to specific points in the frame. The mirror system means bodies are big and lenses, good quality lenses, are bulky too. Compare a Canon 5D Mark II and a Leica Monochrom, each with a 35mm f/2 lens, and the Leica is 2/3s the weight and I dare say the size too. Factor in shutter noise and you are a lot more conspicuous in a crowd with a DSLR.

Rangefinder cameras, generally much smaller, quieter and inconspicuous than their DSLR counterparts aren’t just the subjective opinions of a few desperate fans. I recently read that quite a few US court rooms dictate that cameras, “… shall produce no greater sound than a 35mm Leica “M” Series rangefinder camera.”.

For most of you, I concede, not the right camera. For me? Definitely. I want lightweight, quiet, inconspicuous and excellent image quality.

On the streets

I plan exactly where I will take photographs. My style is slightly minimalist and the contextual environment is paramount. With a history oriented to architecture photography, I am picky about my backgrounds.

Tourists

Of course many locations are new to me and, once I get there, I have to establish the best vantage points. How and precisely where are the people interacting with this place?

So I wait. And watch. I am largely ignored and, for all intents and purposes, I don’t look the least bit ‘professional’ just have a compact camera around my neck.

After a few minutes I know where to focus and do so in readiness.

And… nothing!

I can’t count the occasions where the people who are at the scene or walking through it are simply doing just that. If the scene is extraordinary, then the people ignoring it make a good composition. How dare they not notice how wonderful the building behind them is?! Otherwise it will just make a dull photograph.

Patience does pay off and, eventually, you are rewarded with a great image.

Run!

I did mention the downsides of using an entirely manual set up, but there are distinct advantages. The boy, in the image above, ran through the fountains only once. He didn’t think he’d be caught by the water jets as they erupted and he reacted so quickly and ran to escape, but I got the shot. I’d already focused my lens and was just hanging around needing only to point at my chosen scene and press the shutter.

Did you realize that, with a full frame camera, set an aperture of f8 focused to a distance of 3m away and everything will be in focus from 2m to 10m? This is called zone focusing and allows me to focus without lifting camera to eye. Very stealthy! Why 3m away? I am frequently around this distance from a subject when I want to take their photo.

Cigar Break

This business man was clearly checking his phone, probably for emails, whilst smoking his fat cigar. He couldn’t stand still, so I waited, wondering whether he’d step on the larger steps. A good result!

How do I improve my street photography

Whatever your camera, there is some helpful advice I can pass on after learning some hard lessons.

Have a plan, even if it is, “I’m going to walk from place A to B”. Before I head out, I put together a list of interesting places, items, or a theme. When it has rained, I will always look for reflections in puddles. Either way I look for reflections in the windows of buildings. Lately, I have been interested in phone boxes and graffiti.

Just. Keep. Walking.

Be like the tourist, walk confidently, look and stare. Whilst everyone seems to be able to see the skulking photographer, camera clutched at chest height, no one pays the tourist attention… unless they get in your way, which they quite frequently do! Be bold, see your shot, stand firm and take it. If the subjects see you, wave and smile and walk away. Like a tourist!

Look around you. Simply taking random snapshots of ordinary people in normal life situations is not going to be rewarding for very long. Additionally, think about the viewer of your photograph too – what will they see from your image? As I walk around I look at the buildings and signs,  graffiti, bill boards and giant posters. People in front of these can be a great juxtaposition. So look around you and mentally picture a person, or a group, as a foreground subject. Is it worth waiting a few minutes to see if anyone interesting turns up?

I hope this article gives a glimpse into life with a rangefinder camera which, for me at least, is the perfect camera.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Life With A Rangefinder, Plus Street Photography Tips.

How to Create a Reflection in Photoshop in 6 Easy Steps

Creating a reflection using Photoshop is one of those things that at first glance looks really hard, but really isn’t, once you break down the steps (just light Light Painting which I covered in another two part series). In this article I’m going to demystify creating a reflection, a technique that works particularly well on images with open pavement, and HDR processed images which tend to make the pavement look wet already.

We’re going to learn how to go from this . . .

reflection-before

To this!

reflection-after-photoshop

In less than 10 minutes!

I recently showed one my HDR classes how to do this, and they all followed along with me step by step.  Some of them were using Elements (which works just fine, but you may find the menus and choices look slightly different), and this technique can be done using that program too, so if you use Elements, not to worry. Many of my students were also self proclaimed “Photoshop novices” and when I asked them if they thought they’d be able to this when I showed the before and after images, most said “no”!  But they all did, and we were done in less than 10 minutes. **Note that also included me going super slow to ensure each of the 12 people in the class were on the same page with me. I’m going to guess this will take less than 5 – ready GO!

Here are the six easy steps to follow in Photoshop.  This is the super condensed version for those quick readers and skimmers.

  1. copy a section of the image
  2. paste it as a new layer
  3. flip it
  4. position it
  5. change the layer blend mode
  6. mask it

That’s it! You want a few more details?
Let’s dive in a little deeper into each step

STEP ONE – COPY

Using the marque tool (“M” is the keyboard shortcut) draw a box around an area of your image that will become the reflection (see Figure #1 below). Make sure you go edge to edge on the sides, and get enough of the image vertically. If you grab more than you need that’s fine we’ll be moving it around and masking later anyway.

select-section

Figure #1 make a selection

Copy the selection as a new layer. You can do that a few ways.

  • right click on the image and from the menu that pops up choose “layer via copy” (see Figure #2 below)
  • from the edit menu choose “copy” or using the keyboard shortcut “command/control+c”  (see Figure #3 below)
layer-via-copy2

Figure #2 right click>Layer Via Copy

Figure #3

Figure #3 Copy from Edit menu

STEP TWO – PASTE AS NEW LAYER

If you chose the “layer via copy” method above you already have the selection pasted as a new layer. If you haven’t already done that go ahead and paste either from the Edit>Paste menu option of the keyboard shortcut “command/control+v”. You will end up with something that looks like this, Figure #4 below.

Figure #5

Figure #4 paste new layer

Doesn’t look much different right? Right! Because it’s basically on top of itself.  But look at your layers, it is there on a new layer and it only grabbed part of the image. Now the magic begins!

STEP THREE – FLIP IT

Next from your Edit menu choose “Edit>Transform>Flip vertical” to flip this new layer upside down. You should end up with something funny looking like Figure #5 below.

flip-layer

Figure #5 flip vertically

STEP FOUR – POSITION IT

Figure #5 move tool

Figure #6 move tool

Next select your MOVE tool from your tool palette (see Figure #6 right – “v” is the keyboard shortcut) and grab the flipped layer and drag it down until the images start to line up where the reflection will begin. In my image I’m using the edge of the sidewalk in front of the diner. If it doesn’t line up perfectly don’t worry about it, you can mask any imperfect bits out later in step six.

Now you want to have something that looks like Figure #7 below. The reflection is in roughly the right position. Make sure you don’t move side to side, just down, otherwise you’ll have gaps on the edges of your reflection.

NOTE: once you’ve selected the Move Tool, you can also use the up and down arrows on your keyboard to move the layer up and down. This works great for smaller adjustments when you get it close to position.

Figure #6

Figure #7 position the layer

STEP FIVE – CHANGE THE BLEND MODE

layer-blend-modes

Figure #8 Lighten blend modes

From your layers panel change the layer blend mode to one of the “lighten mode”.  You will find the layers blend modes near the top of your layers panel, next to “opacity”. By default the blend mode is “normal”.

The Lighten modes are the ones in the third section down (see Figure #8 right), they include: Lighten, Screen, Color Dodge, Linear Dodge, Lighter Color. Layer blend modes change how the selected layer interacts with the one below it (the original image). By selecting one of the options in this section it will only show areas of this layer that are lighter than the one below it, and any areas darker will not appear.  For reflections I usually choose Lighten or Screen, depends on the image. Try them all and choose the one that looks best for your image. For this example I’m using Screen mode.

Now I have something that looks a little closer to a real reflection  (see Figure #9 below).

Are you still with me!?  Do you have something reasonably similar?

Figure #

Figure #9 change the layer blend mode

STEP SIX – MASK IT

add-layer-mask2

Figure #10 add a layer mask

Okay we’re almost done and it’s looking pretty good. But in my image the neon sign in the reflection is too bright. It doesn’t look natural because reflections are usually darker than the original – so we’re going to tone it down using a mask and the gradient tool.

First, make a layer mask by clicking on the “add layer mask” icon at the bottom of your Layers Panel (Figure #10 right). You can also do it by going to the Layers menu>Layer mask>Reveal all.

Figure #11 gradient tool

Figure #11 gradient tool

colors-foreground-background

Figure #12 foreground/background colors

Next select the Gradient tool from your tools panel. Keyboard shortcut is “g”  but make sure you have the gradient tool and not the paint bucket.  See Figure #11 above. Hit the “d” key on your keyboard to set your foreground/background colors to default, then hit “x” to switch them. Make sure you see black as your foreground color and white as the background color (see Figure #12 right).

Once you have your colors set to black and white, and your gradient tool selected and ready for use – make sure you are on the layer mask not the layer. You can tell because whatever is active has corner brackets around it. If you layer thumbnail is selected, just click on the white layer mask thumbnail to make it active. We need to make sure we are doing this on the mask, NOT the layer.

How masks work is that anything in white on the mask reveals the contents of the layer.  Where ever there is black on the mask it hides that area of the layer. So we want to hide the outer edges of this layer so it fades out gradually towards the bottom of the image and looks more natural.

With the gradient tool, by default it paints from the foreground color, to the background – fading from one to the other depending on how we create the gradient. Sometimes it takes a little experimenting to get it just right but you can always “undo” using the handy “command/control+z” shortcut on your keyboard and it goes back one step or undoes what you just applied.

NOTE:  ”undo” is your best friend in Photoshop, if you learn no other keyboard shortcuts, memorize this one!

So, to apply it to our reflection start with the cross hairs for the tool in the middle of your image, near the bottom.  TIP: holding the SHIFT key down will keep the gradient from applying at an angle, it will just go straight up. Click and drag the tool up (you’ll see a line drawing the gradient spread) and let go when you get near the top of your reflection. If it’s not exactly how you want it you may have to start a little more away from the bottom edge, or drag it up higher, or other variations.

NOTE: with the gradient tool on a mask you don’t actually even need to “undo” if you just drag another one overtop it replaces the first one. But it’s still good to know how to undo!

Here’s the image with my gradient applied to the layer mask.  Notice on the mask it goes from black to white? So it’s hiding the bottom area of this layer which is what we want. See Figure #13 below.

Figure #13 gradient applied to mask

Figure #13 gradient applied to the layer mask

OPTIONAL FINISHING TOUCHES

Now if you want to do any other masking to show or hide certain areas of the reflection just use your brush tool (“b” shortcut) at a lowered opacity (10-20%) and paint with black on the mask over areas you want to hide, and white on areas you want to show.  In this image I painted over the edges of the diner where I felt it was still a bit too bright. You can also change the opacity of your layer to adjust it that way too.

SeeFigure #14 below for my final version. Notice my mask where I painted a little up the sides to hide those areas just a little bit more.  You could also paint away a little in the middle of the reflection where the pavement is the darkest if you wanted. That’s the neat thing about photography – it’s all subjective!

It’s really easy to get upset or hurt feelings when someone else says something that we perceive as negative about one of our images, something we put blood, sweat and tears into, right!?   Well my personal opinion is that it is just their opinion, one person, and you don’t have to agree with them. If they have a valid, or constructive criticism YOU get to decide if you want to take it on board or, just agree to disagree and move on. Life is too short to worry about pleasing other people.

Do photography for you!  If other people like it, then great!

If not, oh well!  Move along and life goes on.

Figure #14

Figure #14

OKAY YOUR TURN!

So, think you can do this? Give it a try!

Here is my image to play with, in case you don’t have one that will work.  It’s 2000 pixels wide which is plenty big enough for this test.

Download diner image - just click on this link and save the image that opens in a new tab.

A few trivial things FYI about this image:

  • it was taken in Rochester, NY, USA when I was in the area and visited Eastman Kodak House. If you’re ever there, do go, it’s worth the trip to see where photography took roots and grew
  • it is a 5 image HDR, tone mapped in Photomatix and finished using LR4
  • during the longest exposure of my bracketed series a kid on a skateboard, carrying a goldfish in a bag skated right through the parking lot in front of me. Why didn’t he show up? Because my exposure was 30 seconds long and if you aren’t there for more than 1/2 the time you will not appear.

Okay, off you go and let’s see your results! 

Cheers Darlene

 

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

How to Create a Reflection in Photoshop in 6 Easy Steps

Getting The Image You See In Your Head: Blending vs HDR

This shot is an HDR shot blended from 6 bracketed shots.  Each shot is one stop different from the next. The exposures range from -2 through +3. Aperture was set to f/16. The shutter speed ranged from 1/125 at -2, to 1/4 at +3.

This shot is an HDR shot blended from 6 bracketed shots. Each shot is one stop different from the next. The exposures range from -2 through +3. Aperture was set to f/16. The shutter speed ranged from 1/125 at -2, to 1/4 at +3.

Often times when I’m photographing landscapes, the image the camera sees versus the image in my head are quite different.  Sometimes that image in my head doesn’t mesh with what the camera capture, because the dynamic range is far too great.  The contrast between the highlights and shadows is just too great.  Such was the case with this shot I took a week ago of Arch Rock in Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.

These are the six shots I used for the HDR blend. I also used the even exposure, and the +2 exposure, for the two image manual blend I did in Photoshop.

These are the six shots I used for the HDR blend. I also used the even exposure, and the +2 exposure, for the two image manual blend I did in Photoshop.

With the sun setting directly behind it, exposing for the sky would have rendered the rock a silhouette.  This may have been fine had I intended a silhouette shot- which I did capture and intend to use. But ultimately I wanted some detail in the rock, I wanted detail in the sky, and I wanted to maintain the drama of the spectacular desert sunset that I was witnessing.  Because of the way the landscape was laid out before me, graduated neutral density filters were not going to work for this shot.  If I wanted to bring down my highlights and keep detail in the shadows, I was going to have to either blend two shots, or use an HDR program to get the result I was looking for. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, meaning an image where the range of tones is higher than what the camera can accurately record.

I really wasn’t sure which processing technique would give me the best results.  And sitting there in the desert, I didn’t want to place any bets on it.  So I bracketed my shots using the auto exposure bracketing mode on my EOS-1D X.  I shot in Av mode, at f/16, with the EF 14mm f/2.8L II lens. I bracketed for 7 exposures, but ended up only using six. The -3 exposure really didn’t add anything to the HDR, so that was dropped from my processing.   I use Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 for my HDR processing to blend the exposures, and then finish in Photoshop, adjusting color, saturation, etc.  Nik HDR Efex Pro offers a variety of presets, but I always try to keep the HDR processing fairly subtle. I don’t like the over the top look that some get, but I do like the image to pop a bit. I try to minimize any halos, and keep the tones fairly smooth.

Before I processed the HDR image, I also tried a simple two shot blend in Photoshop. I first processed the even exposure and adjusted for color and saturation.  Then, I took the +2 exposure, and processed in the same way, dropping that image on a new layer in photoshop over the even exposure. I then apply a layer mask to the +2 layer, and paint the entire mask black to hide the layer.

Then, using white, I painted the arch back in to reveal the arch at +2 against the sky at even exposure. This takes a lot of patience since with the exposure difference, it’s very easy to see halos if the masking isn’t done carefully. One way to ease the transition is to run a gaussian blur filter on the mask to soften the edges. How much will depend on what the mask is like. You may need to run the gaussian blur more than once to get it just right.

Looking at the two images, the HDR blend seems to have a smoother transition from lights to darks, as well as a richer overall look. I know there is a lot backlash against HDR, and I understand it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But I believe in using any tool available in order to express what I felt when I looked upon the scene as it happened.  Every scene will be different, and will lend themselves to different processing techniques. Understanding what techniques are available to you can help you overcome the shortcomings of technology and allow you to express your creativity to the fullest.

This shot was done by blending an even exposure with a shot exposed at +2.  The +2 exposure was masked off in Photoshop so only the areas I needed to show through did.

This shot was done by blending an even exposure with a shot exposed at +2. The +2 exposure was masked off in Photoshop so only the areas I needed to show through did.

 

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Getting The Image You See In Your Head: Blending vs HDR

Perseverance and Patience Will Payoff

When I look at my collection of photographs, my favourites are always the ones I really had to work for.

75% of the time I photograph what is in front of me, what is there when I get there, and I make the best of whatever weather conditions and light are present. But the other 25% I chock up to sheer stubbornness, or in other words, perseverance and patience.

Fire Wave, Valley of Fire

Recently I was in Nevada in the Valley of Fire State Park where I stayed at an RV park that was an hour away from the park entrance. I spent hours doing research about the park and learned about a specific location I wanted to photograph called “Fire Wave” which was not on the park maps.

It took about 1.5 hours to drive to the trail head and another half an hour or so to hike there (it sure seemed longer in the heat). When I got there, the light was just terrible. It was a grey sky day. I was hoping at the last minute the light would break through and give me the drama I wanted but it didn’t happen.

What was worse was a group of rude photographers who had also discovered the location. Usually I find other photographers are helpful to each other, staying out of each other’s way, and taking turns making images. But not these people. They were purposefully leaving bags and tripods in the way of specific points of view while they were photographing a different point of view, preventing other photographers from getting the shot. They were all together and I believe they drove out from Las Vegas for the day, so I guess they felt they owned the shot.

It just wasn’t to be. But I persevered.

A couple of days later I tried again. Another 3 hour drive round trip, another $10 park entrance fee, another hike in even greater heat to a place I had already seen, but this time it was different. There were a few other photographers there, but they were nice people. There was some lovely light, some puffy clouds, and I got the shot.

Fire Wave at the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, by Anne McKinnell

Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge

When I visited Florida, I really wanted to make some images of wading birds with reflections. It was one of the dream images I always wanted to make — the image I had in my mind before I ever went to Florida. In hopes of getting the shot, I rented a lens specifically for the occasion.

First I did a trip out to the park one afternoon to scout the location and figure out where I might be able to make such a shot. I found a section of water that was somewhat protected from the wind where a few birds were hanging out and I figured it was a good candidate.

The next day I got up long before the sun rose and drove to the park to be there as soon as it opened in the morning. I drove along the park drive to the location I picked, got my gear out, positioned myself on the shore, and waited. I waited and waited and nothing happened. Eventually the light got bright and the wind came up and there was no longer a possibility of getting the shot I wanted. I went on to make other images, but I didn’t get the one I really wanted.

So I went back the next morning and did the same thing. Drove to the location, got my gear out, sat and waited and waited. This time some birds came, but so did the wind and while I got some nice images, I still didn’t get the one I dreamed of.

So I persevered and went yet again. I think the man who opens the park gate in the morning was wondering why I was the first person there three days in a row. But on the third day, my fourth visit, it was as calm as calm can be. The light was perfect. I sat motionless waiting and waiting and then payoff!! I got three birds with perfect reflections: a spoonbill (this is the image I always dreamed of), a wood stork and an egret.

Roseate Spoonbill at the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, Florida, by Anne McKinnell

Never have I had a bigger payoff for my stubbornness.

Bandon Beach

At Bandon Beach in Oregon, I wanted to make an image of the sun setting behind the rocks. There was lovely colour in the sky, but just as the sun starting making its descent towards the horizon the wind came up. It got windier and colder and I got pelted with sand and soaked with sea spray until finally I was the only photographer left on the beach. I was shivering cold, but determined to make the image I wanted.

I used a UV filter on my lens to protect it from the ocean spray that soaked everything and the blowing sand that felt like a sand blaster. I was getting the odd image, but they were always clouded with water, salt and sand. I turned my lens away from the wind as best I could, blocking it with my body, cleaned it and quickly put the lens cap on.

Then I got everything set up exactly the way I wanted it, quickly removed the lens cap, and took the shot. Then I repeated that whole process with cleaning the filter and quickly taking the lens cap off to make the image. Rinse and repeat — literally!

Finally, after about twenty attempts, I got a clean shot that was just what I wanted, made only moments before it would have been too late.

Sunset at Bandon Beach, Oregon, by Anne McKinnell

Occasionally getting a great image is pure luck. Usually we can make pretty good images at any time by using the light to our advantage. But more often than not I find the images that hit it out of the park are the ones I really worked for — when I planned everything out, persevered by going back to a location again and again, and tested my patience by waiting for the right light and enduring sea spray, blowing sand, freezing cold, or bug bites.

Those are the occasions that had the biggest payoff. Now, when I look at my collection, those are the images I am most proud of.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Perseverance and Patience Will Payoff

10 Tips for Improving Your Flower Photos

Spring is here!

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere who have been hunkered down for winter, enduring the rain and the snow, the time has finally come to get outside and enjoy some long awaited sunshine.

As the flowers start to emerge from the soil, all the neighbours begin emerging from their houses with gardening tools in hand. I, on the other hand, have my camera in hand ready to capture the spring flowers and I hope you do too!

Here are 10 tips that will help you make the most of your flower photography this spring.

1. Photograph flowers on an overcast day

Okay, not every day in spring is a sunshiny blue sky day. But that’s okay because the white sky days are perfect for photographing flowers.

The soft even light of an overcast day compliments the delicacy of the flowers and there are no shadows and no harsh bright spots, which makes it easier to get a good exposure.

Flowers in soft light by Anne McKinnell

2. Backlight will make your flowers glow

Another type of light that is excellent for flower photography is backlight. Backlight happens when the sun is directly in front of you lighting your flower from behind. Because flower petals are translucent, backlight makes flowers appear to glow.

Try to capture backlit flowers late in the day when the sun is close to the horizon which will cast nice warm light on the rest of your image too. You might even be able to catch some rays of light filtering through the trees.

Backlit flowers by Anne McKinnell

3. Watch out for wind

When it comes to photographing flowers, wind is your enemy. The easiest way to avoid it is to do your photography early in the morning when there is less chance of wind. If there is a bit of wind, you can use a piece of cardboard or your reflector to create a block.

Your other option is to bring a flower inside. I photographed the flower below by taking it inside and placing it in front of a white sheet.

Gerbera by Anne McKinnell

4. Get closer

There are a number of ways to go about making the close up images of flowers we all love.

First, you can use a telephoto lens and zoom in to the flower. In this case, make sure you take note of the minimum focussing distance of the lens. This is usually marked on the outside of the lens. For example, my 70-300mm telephoto lens has a minimum focusing distance of 1.5 meters (or 5 feet). It simply will not focus on anything closer.

There are a couple of solutions for getting around the minimum focussing distance problem. One is to use extension tubes which are hollow tubes that you place between the camera and the lens. Essentially the tubes move the lens farther away from the camera’s sensor which allows the lens to focus on closer objects. The other solution is to use a close-up filter which works like a magnifying glass and attaches to the end of your lens.

Finally, you can use a dedicated macro lens which has the ability to focus on objects that are close to the end of the lens.

Spring Tulips by Anne McKinnell

5. Use a reflector

If your subject is in the shade, you can use a reflector to bounce some light back towards your subject and make the flower more vibrant.

6. Avoid a cluttered background

As with every photograph, the background can make or break the image. Try to change your position so that there is nothing distracting behind your flower.

7. Use a shallow depth of field

Shallow depth of field is when only part of the image is sharp and the rest is soft and out-of-focus. You can achieve this by using a wide aperture (low aperture number) such as f/4 or f/2.8. The effect is even more pronounced if you are using a telephoto lens with a wide aperture.

Flowers and water drops by Anne McKinnell

8. Make it sharp

Even if you are using a shallow depth of field, it is essential that at least part of the flower is sharp. Use a tripod, a cable release or your camera’s two second timer, and the mirror lock up function for the best results.

Remember that even if there doesn’t appear to be much wind, flowers always move. If your flower isn’t sharp, try using a faster shutter speed.

Finally, check your focus and if necessary use manual focus to ensure the camera is focussed on the most important part of the subject.

9. Change your point of view

Move around and try some different angles for more interesting images. Try photographing the flower from behind or underneath to capture a point of view that is different from what we see from a standing perspective.

Behind the flower by Anne McKinnell

10. Focus through another flower

One technique I love is focussing through another flower. Remember how I said in tip #4 that your lens has a minimum focussing distance? You can use that to your advantage! Try positioning yourself so that another flower is in front of your main subject and very close to the end of your lens. The secondary flower will become a blur of colour and your final image will have a more abstract feel.

Flowers using the shoot through technique by Anne McKinnell

If your camera has been gathering dust this winter, now is the perfect time to get yourself and your camera outside to enjoy the sunshine and the flowers and make some beautiful images!

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

10 Tips for Improving Your Flower Photos

How I Got The Shot: Desert Road

This is the final image I created from a single shot, processed twice.  Taken with the Canon EOS-1D X, EF 24mm f/1.4L II.  Exposure 15 seconds, f/1.4, ISO 800.

This is the final image I created from a single shot, processed twice. Taken with the Canon EOS-1D X, EF 24mm f/1.4L II. Exposure 15 seconds, f/1.4, ISO 800.

Some exposure situations become difficult to handle in-camera without a little post processing later on.  A perfect example is this shot of a desert road in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, that I took a week or so ago.  There was no moon, which made it a great night for capturing the stars, but an awful night for capturing the road surface in the foreground.

First, I needed an exposure for the stars.  I started with my usual base exposure for that, 15 seconds, ISO 800, f/1.4.  That gave me exactly what I wanted on the stars, but the foreground was too dark.  I was prepared for this, having brought an LED flashlight with me to “paint” the foreground.  So, during the next 15 second exposure, I held the flashlight on for five seconds, shining it indirectly down the road.  I did not aim it straight at the road, I simply aimed it down the road, allowing the light to skim along the road.  This avoided any hot spots. The 5 second exposure with the flashlight was the result of some experimentation with time. The entire 15 seconds created overexposure on the foreground, so I scaled it back to 5 seconds, and was pretty happy with that.

In the screen shot on the left, I adjusted the white balance to render the sky the way I wanted it- that deep indigo we normally see.  In the shot on the right, I adjusted the white balance so the road looked the way I remembered it.

In the screen shot on the left, I adjusted the white balance to render the sky the way I wanted it- that deep indigo we normally see. To do this, I simply adjusted the color temperature to 3000°K. In the shot on the right, I adjusted the white balance so the road looked the way I remembered it. Again, I used the color temperature setting and adjusted it to 5400°K.

I always shoot RAW when shooting landscapes.  There are several reasons for that, but one of the biggest for me is that I can adjust my white balance for creative purposes in post processing.  As you can see, if I tried to adjust for the sky, correcting that yellow cast that came from the glow of a distant city, the road became a deep blue area.  But if I corrected for the road, the sky became this garish orange.

There are two ways this could have been fixed. The first one could have been done in camera.  By taking a color correction gel, commonly called a CTO gel (Color to Orange), I could have warmed up the light on the road and then as I adjusted the white balance for the sky, the road would have fallen into place.  However, I did not have a CTO gel handy.  So I made the adjustments in Photoshop ACR.

When I adjust the white balance like this, during RAW processing, I tend to avoid the presets such as “Daylight” or “Shadow” or “Tungsten”.  I find I have much finer control by using the color temperature slider, which allows me very fine control over the color tone of the image.  I opened the file in Adobe Camera Raw, and adjusted the white balance for the sky, as shown above on the left, to 3000°K.   Then I opened that image in Photoshop.  I then reopened the image in ACR, and adjusted the white balance again, but this time for the road, as shown above on the right, to 5400°K.  I then duplicated the layer of the properly white balanced road, onto the layer with the properly white balanced sky.  I created a layer mask on the top layer, of the road, and masked out the orange sky, allowing the blue sky to show through.  The distant mountains silhouetted against the sky gave a perfect delineation for the layer mask, making it an easy blend.  After I got the layers the way I wanted them, I simply flattened them, did a few saturation and contrast adjustments, and had my final image.

This image shows the two layers stacked, with the layer mask.  The mask has only partially been painted in.  After adding the layer mask to the layer, you use black or white and paint over the layer.  Black hides the layer, while white reveals the layer.

This image shows the two layers stacked, with the layer mask. The mask has only partially been painted in. After adding the layer mask to the layer, you use black or white and paint over the layer. Black hides the layer, while white reveals the layer.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

How I Got The Shot: Desert Road

Meet The Photographers Who Write For Digital Photography School ~ Helen Bradley

You’ve been reading their articles for months or years, have you ever wondered “Who are the photographers who write for dPS”? Today we meet Helen Bradley, a long time writer on the site.

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1. How long have you been shooting?

I have been shooting seriously for about ten years. I started quite by accident. I needed some slides for an art class so I borrowed a Pentax K-1000 film camera, got some quick instructions on how to use an SLR and headed out shooting. It was love at first click!

hb red hair smaller2. Do you have a full time job or are you a full time photographer?

I am a full time freelance lifestyle writer and part of what I do is to write tutorials, and produce videos and books about photography, Photoshop and Lightroom.

I also write about Microsoft Office and iPad apps so I get to include my photographs in what I do every day. If my photos aren’t the subject of a photography or post production tutorial, they’ll be illustrating a tutorial on some application or other.

3. If you had to limit yourself to one genre of photography, what would it be and why?

It would have to be street photography. I love city streets and the noise, dirt and bustle of big cities. I get a thrill from finding a really great piece of street art, stencil art or cool person to shoot. I like the buzz of shooting on the streets and interacting with people that I meet. I’ve met some really interesting people whom I’ve either photographed or spent time talking with because they too have a camera in their hand – or a paintbrush.

4. When did you start writing for dPS and why?

I started writing for dPS in December 2008. I’d seen a note saying Darren was looking for writers and being an Aussie I felt that that might tip the balance in my favor. I love writing about fun and interesting stuff. I’m a strong believer in something I once heard Guy Kawasaki say – that you should eat like a bird and poop like an elephant. He meant you should learn and absorb everything you can then spread the information far and wide. This is what I live to do so dPS was a logical fit for me.

5. What do you shoot with and what’s your favorite lens?

I am a camera junkie. I have boxes of film in my fridge, I own a Holga, a refurbished Polaroid land camera, a point and shoot converted for IR capture, a Lens Baby and my trusty Pentax K-7 and a bag of lenses.

My favorite lens is a 28-200 3.8-5.6 Tamron lens. It’s a great everyday lens – it’s the only lens I carry when I am out on the streets, it can capture pretty much anything and it’s not too heavy or awkward to hand hold.

6. What would be your number one tip to any new photographer?

Carry your camera with you. All the time. Everywhere. It’s really, really difficult to take a photograph without one.

7. What’s your next big project?

Thank you for asking! I’ve just launched a book in the 57 Secrets series. The book is 57 Secrets for Working Smarter in Photoshop and you can learn more about it at http://www.57secrets.com/photoshop.htm. It is available as a Kindle ebook and a printed book from Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/57-Secrets-Working-Smarter-Photoshop/dp/161038010X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1357091649&sr=8-2&keywords=57+secrets+photoshop

8. Where can people go to find out more about you and your work?

My web site and blogs are all at: http://www.projectwoman.com

I have a craft blog at: http://www.craftinggoodness.com

Find me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/projectwoman

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/helenbradley

YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/HelenLBradley

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/116149445148279071329/posts

I also offer classes on Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Lightroom and one on one training. Details here: http://projectwoman.com/articles/44PhotoshopTraining.htm

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Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Meet The Photographers Who Write For Digital Photography School ~ Helen Bradley

7 Tips for Photographing at the Zoo

Zoos … love ‘em or hate ‘em?

I think it depends on the zoo. I much prefer open range zoos where the animals have tons of space to roam around and live almost as they would in the wild. I can’t stand to see animals in cages especially when they pace back and forth in frustration. But zoos do play an essential role in conservation and education.

When it comes to photographing at the zoo it’s easy to get distracted by the sheer joy of seeing the animals and forget everything we have learned about photography. Try to remember that all the rules of good composition still apply such as balance, the rule of thirds and, most importantly, no cluttered (or unnatural looking) backgrounds.

Here are some tips for your next zoo visit:

1. Choose the right zoo

The type of zoo you choose makes all the difference to your photography (and to the animals). Zoos with large open areas for the animals to roam tend to make better photographs because the images look more natural when you cannot see any fences.

Giraffes by Anne McKinnell

Giraffes at The Living Desert, Palm Springs, California.

2. Wait for a special moment

When the animals are right there in front of you don’t just snap away because you can. When you have this opportunity to be so close to them try to be patient and wait for a special moment to make a unique image.

Baby Elephant by Anne McKinnell

Baby Elephant at the San Diego Safari Park, California.

3. Dealing with fences and rails

Tufted Capuchin by Anne McKinnell

Tufted Capuchin at the San Diego Zoo, California.

If you are at the kind of zoo with fences, you can use a wide aperture to reduce the depth of field which should make any fences out-of-focus.

This is easier to achieve if there is greater distance between the animal and the fence.

It is also easier to make the fence disappear if it does not have direct light on it. Find a portion of the fence that is in the shade if it is in front of or behind your subject.

When I made this image of a monkey there was netting both between me and the monkey and behind the monkey. With a 400mm lens at f/5.6 only the monkey is in focus.

4. When to go

If it’s a hot day the animals will often be in the shade where they are more difficult to photograph. Try to go as soon as the zoo opens in the morning when it’s cooler and the animals are more active. You will find fewer people and more animals in the morning.

Overcast days are great for the zoo! Just keep the sky out of your image and enjoy the soft light with no harsh shadows.

If it is a bright sunny day you can use a polarizing filter to remove glare from the animal’s skin or fur.

5. Don’t forget the butterfly zoo

Butterfly by Anne McKinnell.

Butterfly at Butterfly Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia.

One of my favourite types of zoo is a butterfly zoo.

One thing to remember about a butterfly zoo is that they are very hot inside. If you live in a cold country like I do and you visit in winter remember that your lens will need to make the transition to the warmer climate. When your lens is exposed to the warm humid air condensation will form and it might take awhile for it to go away.

One way to deal with this is to go in the restroom and put your lens under the warm air from the hand dryer for awhile to warm it up before you go inside.

Another option is to put your camera and lens in a ziplock bag before you enter and then let it acclimate inside the bag. It will take about 20 minutes before you will be able to take your camera out of the bag without condensation appearing. I prefer the hand dryer method!

Butterfly zoos tend to have beautiful light and often there are more than just butterflies. At Butterfly Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia, there are a number of birds as well and the light does wonders for the colour of the flamingos.

Caribbean Flamingo by Anne McKinnell

Caribbean Flamingo at Butterfly Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia.

6. Equipment

Baby Bear by Anne McKinnell

Baby Bear at Bear Country, Rapid City, South Dakota.

You probably won’t need a huge lens because you can usually get fairly close to the animals in a zoo. I find most of my zoo images have a focal length between 100mm and 300mm.

As far as a tripod goes, I think this is one occasion when it’s perfectly okay leave your tripod at home.

The animals are moving so you are going to need a fast shutter speed anyway. Use at least 1/500 second shutter speed and image stabilization.

When I go to a zoo I usually take my camera with only one lens and a polarizing filter. That’s it! It makes it much easier to move around to get the right angle and you’ll have less to carry on a long hot day.

7. Focus

Snow Leopard Kitten by Anne McKinnell.

Snow Leopard Kitten at Westcoast Game Park, Bandon, Oregon.

Always focus on the eyes.

When you are using a shallow depth of field to remove background distractions part of your animal may be out-of-focus too.

That’s okay as long as the eyes are in focus.

In this image I made of a snow leopard kitten, with a 300mm lens and an aperture of f/5.6, only the nose and eyes are sharp.

Zoos provide both opportunities and challenges for photographers. I hope these tips help you make better images during your next zoo visit.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

7 Tips for Photographing at the Zoo

Using Gobos To Create Dramatic Lighting

When lighting a subject, one of the things you want to try to do is create drama, or a context, using the light. This often means modifying your light source. One of the easiest ways to modify your flash to create a context, or drama, is to use a gobo.

In this shot, the gobo was used on the background light, to create the illusion of light shining through window blinds. The off camera flash was a Canon 580 EX II, with the gobo positioned in front of it. The light on the model was a 580 EX II in a Westcott 18x42 strip box.

In this shot, the gobo was used on the background light, to create the illusion of light shining through window blinds. The off camera flash was a Canon 580 EX II, with the gobo positioned in front of it. The light on the model was a 580 EX II in a Westcott 18×42 strip box.

Gobos are templates that go in front of your light source (“Goes Between” your light source and the subject)  that have patterns cut out that control the shape of the light.  They can help add mood, create the idea of a setting or context, and add interest.

This is my homemade "windowblinds" gobo.  It's probably a bit larger than it needs to be, but this helps ensure that it blocks out any unwanted stray light. You want to use flat black oak tag or mat board, as the black minimizes any reflecting light.  Using a lighter colored material would reflect light that may not be wanted in the image.

This is my homemade “windowblinds” gobo. It’s probably a bit larger (about 20×30) than it needs to be, but this helps ensure that it blocks out any unwanted stray light. You want to use flat black oak tag or mat board, as the black minimizes any reflecting light. Using a lighter colored material would reflect light that may not be wanted in the image.

Gobos can be purchased, but often times, the available patterns may not fit your need.  In addition, they are relatively easy to make yourself and thus customize as needed.

Simply go to the nearest arts and crafts store, choose a piece of black oak tag, and a razor blade or exacto knife, and cut the desired pattern out.  The pattern doesn’t need to be too large, keep in mind how large the flash beam is going to be at the point that it hits the gobo. 

You may need to experiment a bit with the size and distance before getting the desired effect.

I will place the flash on a light stand, and then simply use a second light stand and use an A-clamp or two to hold the gobo in place.  This way I can experiment easily with how far the gobo should be from the flash, and how far from the subject or background.  A magic arm attached the light stand holding the flash will also work for holding the gobo.

For the accompanying photos, I wanted to create a night time mood, light projecting through the window blinds onto the wall from a street lamp.  So I simply took the piece of black oak tag and cut a series of rectangles in it. When projecting flash through it, it resembles light shining through window blinds.

There are myriad other patterns that could be used to create various moods and effects.  Play around and see what you come up with!

You can also use the gobo to modify light projected onto your main subject. In this instance, it creates an air of mystery about the subject.

You can also use the gobo to modify light projected onto your main subject. In this instance, it creates an air of mystery about the subject.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

Using Gobos To Create Dramatic Lighting

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