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Travel Photography At Night

If you are on a trip, or even playing tourist in our own area, you don't have to stop shooting after the sun sets.  In fact, the moonlit city streets might be just the ticket for getting shots that most don't come home with.  When I was in Kingston a month ago, I took advantage of the only free time we had, even though it was after dusk.

Usually, you will want to use a tripod in such low light situations to ensure the sharpest photos possible.  Compact point and shoot cameras tend to be especially bad at night photography in my experience - I've seen a lot of people post photos that are terribly blurry, and have been frustrated with this myself before getting my new camera.  Sometimes you can get away with hand-held shots if you are shooting something that moves less than your friends do, though.  It really helps if you have a digital SLR with a lens that helps comensate for vibration.

Here are some of the photos I got in Kingston.  They were actually all done hand-held, and even though they probably would have been ever better with a tripod, I was pretty happy with the results.  You can click on any of the thumbnails to see the originals on Flickr.


One of the things I love the best about night photography is that the longer exposures give the sky a magical, deep blue hue: 

Rounded Corners


I also like the effect of mixing what natural light is available with artificial lighting.  This can be tricky because of white balance issues and making sure the exposure is ok throughout the shot (avoiding highlights, for example).  These are things I'm still working on, but I can often get a decent enough result using the Program mode of my camera:

Sleepless Goat


For some reason, I've always liked composing city shots with flowers in the foreground and an out of focus background.  Even this standby looks a little more interesting at night:

Framed by Flowers


And finally, who can deny the power of the moon? I think there are some tricks for getting good moon shots, but I don't know them yet.  Once again, the program mode on my camera did the trick for these two.  I also shot them in RAW (rather than JPG) so I could adjust the white balance later.  My travel-mates weren't too interested in waiting for me to fiddle and find the right one (it was only these situations that even needed something other than auto).

Under the Moon   Under the Moon II


You can look at all my night shots from Kingston on the "Kingston at Night" Flickr set.


Shooting Water


Well if there ever was a summer to shoot water, this one would be it!  It's rained more than not and there's water everywhere!

Here are just a couple of things to think about when shooting water. 

1.  A circular polarizer would be your best investment as water reflects light in the most amazing unpredictable ways!  To reduce this unwanted glare a circular polarizer is your best friend!  It wil also enhance the colour of the sky if shooting wide.

2.  Decide how you want the water to look.  Do you want to stop the action of it as a wave crashes into a rock OR, do you want to slow it and smooth it out for that surreal look and soft feel.  You can also use water as a reflective element in your composition.  Here are examples of each.     (shows stopping action of water)      (shows water motioned slowed)      (shows water as reflector)     (shows slowed falls)


Here are just a few articles about how to achieve the slowing effect here:


When wanting to get a reflection not only large bodies of water make a great reflective surface - look in puddles and sometimes there's a whole scene just waiting to get noticed and captured!.

As always, keep shooting and have FUN!!

See you next Wednesday!


Bye Bye Kodachrome

After the Rain

Well, it's definitely been a very rainy spring and it's looking like it might be like that all summer too, so thought I'd post this - since you can't fight it use it!  I don't know about you, but after rain I love to take a walk in the back 40 with my camera and see what I can see. 

Today I went out with my macro lens as rain provides such a great time to practice macro shots of droplets on flowers, branches, fence wire or whatever. 

At times the light can be flat, so try out a piece of common tin foil to try and reflect that light on your subject.  It's light and you can even ball it up and put it in your pocket only to unfold it when you think  you need it.  Another thing that, handy to take out is a square of bubble wrap to keep your knee or belly dry!  Again, it's light and you can roll it up and stick it in your bag!

For those of you who like to shoot flowers, all those water droplets add texture and extra beauty to an already beautiful subject.  They can add much tenderness to a simple flower capture.  Try out a few different f/stops of the same subject - this also provides a very different look according to dof.

If you don't have any of these type of things to shoot, there's at least a wet car in the driveway and you can always practice on the droplets on it.  So no matter what the weather get out there and it's amazing what you can find just in your yard!


Got Shooter's Block?

Just like writer's block, shooter's block can make photography such a chore.  So what to do when you just aren't feeling creative? I like to take another look at the ordinary when I want to take pictures but am not sure of what.

My cat Barley is probably one of my most photographed subjects (I'm sure anyone with a pet will relate to that!).  She's just so cute! I do try to find new an interesting ways to capture her to spice things up.  For example, check out this set I made called "Barley: Sewing Workhouse Overseer" (sample below).  When I was working on some sewing with my mother in law, Barley seemed to really want to "help", so I made a little story about it with pictures and captions.

Sewing Master

Food is another good standby.  Even though practicing normal food photography with a dish you're proud of can be fun, there can be fun opportunities for stories here, too.  I documented the process of Andrew and I making pizza from scratch in this set called "The Art of Making Pizza."

Sauce Recipe

Finally, if all else fails, I sometimes just walk around my backyard an hour before sunset (that magic hour for the best light) and shoot seemingly ordinary little details.  Doors, posts, flowers, barbecues - I've done it all! Frame something just right and you just might make the ordinary something more.

Post    Door

So if you're itching to pick up your camera but can't find a reason, just walk around and look for those little details! You never know what you'll find.  I hope you'll consider signing up for the blog and sharing your experiences - I'd love to hear what you take pictures of when you have shooter's block! (Contact Us to request an account.)


Photography 'Do's & Don't Do What I did'!!!!

After browsing posts on 'Photography on the net' forum I became very interested in bird and wildlife photography. I realized I needed a better lens for those close-up bird shots. After saving up enough money I went out and purchased a Canon 400 f5.6 L to go with my Canon 50D.  One 'windy' day while out shooting the birds in my yard, with camera on tripod, I decided it was getting warm out so I  removed my jacket.  I turned around for a second to drop my jacket just as the wind picked up and to my horror I heard a crashing, glass shattering sound that made my heart sink.  Yes, that was the sound of my $1600.00 lens connecting with a rock. I still feel sick about this even as I write.  The UV filter was smashed (thank goodness I had one on), and I couldn't get it off the lens, obviously the threads were damaged. So now my lens and camera are back to Canon to be checked out and repaired. 

I was so mad at myself for taking my hands off the camera, and wasn't going to tell this story of my 'stupidity' to anyone, but I feel if just one person reads this and doesn't make the same mistake I did, then it was worth it.   So the moral of the story, DON'T trust your tripod.


D-Town TV: A Web Show for Nikon Shooters

This past Christmas, I got a shiny new Nikon D90 from my husband Andrew.  It's our very first digital SLR, and I have to say, I love it!

But if you have an SLR yourself, you probably know there are an awful lot of settings to worry about.  If you happen to have a Nikon as well, then you might appreciate D-Town TV, a weekly web show that shares lots of tips, tricks, and basics about all Nikon DSLR's!

It's hosted by Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski, renowned Nikon shooters and Photoshop gurus.  Although some of what they say has simply been review, I have found other topics (like using wireless flash) very useful.

Check it out, and I hope you enjoy it!


Composition Tips From Wendy Stevenson

At the second ever meeting of the club, held in May, local photographer Wendy Stevenson shared her tips for good composition.  She began with a list of some challenges all photographers face, including but not limited to:

  • static images from centred subjects
  • elements get cut off
  • never trying new perspectives
  • poor lighting conditions
  • too much clutter
  • subject too small

Wendy shared many great photos to demonstrate what we should be doing.

For example, aim for a clean background, since we want to focus to be on our subject.  Shallow depths of field can help blur the background to achieve this (obtained from a low f-stop number, which gives a wide aperture).

Don't forget to include foreground, middle ground, and background; not just one or two of these! This helps give your image depth (which isn't that easy, if you think about it - after all, a photo is a two-dimensional entity!).

Negative space can be used to highlight the flow, colour, and form of a subject.

When aiming for a minimalist result, ensure that the form itself has interest.

Take advantage of scale for impact.

Remember that your abstract work shouldn't be recognizable (that would defeat the purpose).

If you are trying to capture a portrait with more than one person in it, try to get creative with their poses.

The golden hour for great outdoor lighting is the first and last hour of sunlight during the day.  Use it when you can, but when it's not possible, take advantage of shaded areas to make the best of harsh mid-day light.

When shooting children and animals, get down to their level.

Look for repeating patterns, odd numbers, and leading lines/diagonals.

Wendy ended with a few sites she recommends.  I only wrote down a few, but here they are in case you want to check them out: