Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pre-visualizing star trails

Last weekend I had the chance to make my first attempt at photographing star trails. The idea of this type of shot is to point your camera at a fixed location in the night and make an exposure long enough so that the stars will appear to move across the sky as the Earth rotates.  Making star trails can be fun and gratifying but it requires a certain amount of commitment on the part of the photographer.  For best results, you need a dark, clear sky, devoid of light pollution. This means you'll likely have to travel far from your home and you may have to get up late at night after the moon has set. Making the exposures also requires a fair amount of time. A single image can require a cumulative exposure time of an hour or more. For these reasons, it's helpful to know what your shots are likely to look before you invest time and energy making start trails. This is not a situation where "chimping" and correcting is practical. In this blog post, I provide some help for pre-visualizing star trails. I hope this information will help you make the star trail shots you expect, with a minimum costly trial and error.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Manipulating reflections off of water for creative effects

Water can provide a beautiful backdrop for all types of images. Still water seems to convey a sense of serenity and calmness that most everyone responds to.  The look of water in a photograph can vary greatly depending on the way light hits it.  It may appear like a mirror, as in those landscape photos of snow capped mountains reflected in high alpine lakes.  Or it can look transparent, as when we photograph a swimming pool from a high angle. In today's post, I discuss how to harness a little knowledge about the way light interacts with water to control how water appears in your photographs.  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Managing dynamic range when photographing the sunrise or sunset

We're now deep in the dog-days of summer, when many folks in the northern hemisphere head for the beach.  If you're one of those people and you're reading this blog, then chances are you'll be visiting the shore with a DSLR over your shoulder or a point-and-shoot tucked into your beach bag. Having just returned from a family vacation on Delaware's eastern shore myself, I thought I'd share some thoughts about making what is perhaps the quintessential beach vacation photograph -- an image of the sun rising or setting over the ocean.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

How to photograph an iDevice

I admit it; I'm a gear head.  I love my photography equipment, or course, but I'm also rather fond of my smart phone, my personal computer, and the other sundry electronic gizmos and gadgets scattered throughout my house.  I don't think I'm alone in this regard.  Do a search in Google images or Flickr on the term "iPhone" or "Nexus" and you'll find thousands and thousands of images taken by photographers of every level of expertise.   Some of these images are quite remarkable and could easily stand in for the press photos distributed by Apple or Samsung.  Others are…well...somewhat less remarkable.  A particular problem with many of these photos arises from poorly balanced exposure; either the subject's screen appears dim and washed out or the screen is bright but everything else in the photo is too dark. 

In this post I'll discuss an approach to lighting and photographing gadgets with backlit displays using a DSLR (or any camera with manual shutter/aperture controls), a tripod and a flash.   While the focus of this post is somewhat specialized, it also serves to illustrate a much broader and incredibly useful photographic technique -- balancing exposure from flash and continuous light sources.  I'll return to this broader issue many times in future posts.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Using focal length to control background

I think that most photographers choose the focal length they shoot at primarily based on the desired size of the subject in the frame. Want to get a head shot from far away, use a long lens. Want a full body shot in a confined space, better have a wide-angle lens handy. Today, I'd like to talk about another criteria to consider in choosing your focal length: subject isolation.

In portraiture we usually want the subject to stand out against the background. Experienced portrait photographers don't just look at the subject, they look at the background as well. They try to compose their images so that their backgrounds aren't that too cluttered or colorful or so interesting that they draw the viewer's attention away from the subject. They also tend to shoot at wider apertures to minimize depth-of-field, which allows them to blur the background while keeping the subject in sharp focus. Longer focal length lenses can help on both counts. To explain why, we'll need to introduce a bit of geometry.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Lighting glass against a dark background

To make this kind of shot work, you don't need an expensive camera or lots of lighting equipment.  What you do need is plenty of space, many black and white reflectors (I use poster board) along with convenient ways to position them, and a fair bit of patience.  A long lens also helps, but isn't essential.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Welcome to the 8,030,249th photography blog

A Google search of the term "photography blog" yields 8 million hits.  With so many photography blogs out there, it's fair to ask, "why would I choose to start another?"  First, I've learned a great deal about photography from the web, and I think it's time to "pay it forward."  I hope that this blog will provide the kind of information that technically-minded, amateur photographers will find useful and interesting.  Of course, my motives for starting this blog aren't entirely altruistic.  It gives me an opportunity to showcase my work, which is a reward in itself.  And I've found that the very best way to learn a subject is to try to clearly explain it to others.  So I hope that the process of creating this blog will help me to improve my own photography.