Sunday, June 29, 2008

Accessorizing your Camera Equipment and Being Mobile

This week I thought I would describe how I adjust some of my camera equipment to permit me to be more mobile in venturing out for my shoots.

I am a tripod fan, albeit a reluctant fan, as these tend to be added weight and more importantly, these items are not easily stored in your coat pocket. Well there are some that might fit, but I like the larger, more solid tripods that will hold the heavier camera and lens solidly. I do like the Gorillapod SLR Zoom, a miniature and flexible stand that works as intended.

I like to use a backpack type camera bag, as it will hold lots of lens and accessories that I think I may use, as opposed to what I actually use. I guess it’s the old boy scout motto ‘Be Prepared’.

The backpack tends to either not have a convenient tripod storage mount or if they do, will hold your tripod horizontally along the bottom. This makes it too wide for me if you have a longer tripod and it restricts movement within the urban jungle.

These backpacks do have many attachment points and straps so I figured that there should be a way to attach my tripod to the side of the backpack.

With a trip to my local Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) store to examine the various straps and buckle components that might be useful, I came across a mountain climber’s chalk bag and thought that this just might hold the bottom legs of the tripod. It comes with a belt and buckle to hang around your waste.

Chalk Bag

The bag held the legs perfectly and without any additional straps, also held the tripod securely to the side of the backpack by utilizing the belt through the various loops in the camera bag.

Tripod in chalk bag

I have highlighted the belt in red to better show how it attaches to the backpack

Tripod attached to backpack

I made this 25 sec video with my camera phone, so please excuse the quality, to show how easy it is to mount the tripod to backpack.


While driving around Ottawa in my car is convenient, at least time wise, to get to a destination, it is not really the best method to find any unique photographic gems through the city. There is the parking problem and most importantly while you are driving you need to focus on the traffic, that it is easy to miss little wonders tucked about on your route.

When the weather is enjoyable I like to take my recumbent Bike-E bicycle and attach the above backpack with the tripod to the back of the bike.

My mobile camera shop

I attached carabines to some of the loops in the backpack and then connect these to the curved metal rod used to keep the back webbing taught. A small bungee (bottom edge carabiner) keeps the tripod tight to the bike

It is so enjoyable to be able to toodle about at your own pace and at a speed that makes it easy to see the grant vistas or back alleys in front. A benefit of a recumbent bike is that you are at a natural position, like a reclining lazy-boy chair to be looking straight ahead. Parking becomes non issue and you now have access to areas that your car would not be able to get to. I would be great if I could summer bike all year round as I find winter roads way to risky.

Taken with a P&S film camera and scanned

This is and image of my son and I riding our recumbent bikes on one of the Ottawa Bike paths. This is the closest I ever came to an 'Easy Rider' feeling

Niels Henriksen

As I have practiced it, photography produces pleasure by simplicity, I see something special and show it to the camera. A picture is produced. The moment is held until someone sees it. Then it is theirs. Photography, alone of the arts, seems perfected to serve the desire humans have for a moment -- this very moment -- to stay. - Sam Abell, Stay This Moment : The Photographs of Sam Abell by Sam Abell (Photographer), Robert E. Gilka , ISBN: 0934738726

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Photographer’s Mistake(s)

I try so hard ensure sure that I have everything set up correctly with the camera that taking a photo should be easy, almost a photo-walk in the park.

I could blame my problem on the new camera and in fact I am, but in reality this is not the root dilemma. The new Nikon D300 camera I just acquired has almost the same controls and settings as the D200. What could be easier?

I am very fortunate that during my drive into work, that first I am the passenger and secondly I travel east along the very picturesque Ottawa River Western Parkway. As with most parkways, these are scenic routes with grand vistas that have very few if any streets or other side parking areas along its journey. Just pure unspoiled greenery.

I am normally on the road by 6:30 in the morning and with sunrise occurring about 5:15am the sun by this time is just over the treetops lining the outer edges or the grassy open areas that comprise most of the pathway.

While traveling east one sunny morning with no clouds in the sky, I saw these 2 short trees that had at one time been radically trimmed and now with new growth radiating outward, was near the roadway. They were backlit by the sun and had as its backdrop the outer forest that was in the shadow of the sun. Perfect contrast and a photographers’ dream and I knew I just had to have this image.

Tamaron 90mm f2.8 Di 1/8000s f3.7 iso 200

The specific problem is that there is nowhere to park nearby and to find a side street and trek over to capture image and back meant I would be late for work if I did this during the week.

There is always the weekend and I was willing to forgo the lovely feeling of being able to sleep in and get up at my leisure.

I woke up early but both days were too overcast to provide the striking burst of light I needed on the leaves.

So I figured that I would just take a chance and use my own car, have the camera and tripod all ready. I would stop along the road, put the emergency flasher on and rush out to capture a few images.

It took over a week before the morning sky was right, as even the next weekend was not right. That’s 4 precious weekend mornings lost with an early rise and no adventure to chase.

But one morning it was right and off I went with my new camera that I had not even tried once. What would be the problem? Just like the D200 and I knew how to use that camera.

Nikon 70-300mm f2.9 vr @f2.8 1/5000s 130mm iso 200

Off I drove and hopped out of the car with the camera and tripod and my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens and setup ready to take an image. For some reason the camera did not seem to focus correctly. Checked that camera is not on manual focus, this was ok. It did move focus as I changed focal points, but still not a clear image.

The 2 trees where close to each other and I assumed that if I set aperture to f9 that they would be both in focus and the background would be soft enough.

I could not figure out what the problem was. Tried to manual focus and took a few images. I noticed that a little closer to the trees that there were some shadows on the grass and I thought I should go there and try a few as I might experience some flare due to close angle to sun. I then run up and rushed off a few more shots. By this time maybe 5 minutes had gone by and only one bus had honked its horn because of my parking on the road. Ran back and drove away with the assurance that I must have gotten one good shot and no traffic fine.

Later that evening when reviewing the images it just wasn’t the case. The first set of images where properly exposed but had some bleaching due to light entering the lens. The second set while standing in the shadows was under exposed by 2 stops and many images just didn’t have the crisp focus I liked.

In examining the metadata I had inadvertently set it to manual exposure.

It was then I realized that there wasn’t a problem with the lens but that I had forgotten to set up the dioptre for my so out-of-focus eyes. (big stupid grin)

The camera did have Live View with zoom but I had not bothered at that time to learn how to use it.

There was also the problem that the image framing was not great and the sunlit grass seemed too bright. Could I be a worse photographer?

I can hear all of you laughing now.

Lessons Learned Time

The first lesson is that for me rushing, if I am unprepared, just doesn’t work.

I didn’t really give myself enough time to understand the shoot, calculate proper aperture setting

Do check in the eyepiece for the camera settings before you shoot. It provides all the information you need to understand if it will work for the subject (Priority Mode, shutter speed, f-stop, exposure value and metering mode).

One problem I have also noticed is that with the D200 I used to reduce the exposure when there was a high dynamic range and some specular highlights and I didn’t want these blown out. It appears that the D300 better captures these with normal settings and I don’t need to reduce exposure as much. That is why the shadow shots were so under exposed.

There is also the problem, which I described, in a previous article ‘What My Mind Saw, What My Camera Saw’ is that especially when travelling quickly by a subject your mind captures what you want to see not what is actually there.

Great pictures can happen in a fleeting moment and be gone but most great images come from carefully studying the scene and then determining the correct light and how to frame the photo with just the right elements in their proper place within the story.

To use any fine instrument as an extension of your hand only comes with much practicing with all the features so that there is no thinking about how to hold. Just your artistic vision is needed.

I do hope to go out again and try once more and to be there at least a ½ hour before sunrise so I can carefully plan the shot. I may not be able to get it the way my mind sees it but it should at least be better.

Niels Henriksen

Photographer’s Showcase

In today’s reading list we have 2 unique B&W photography blogs. Each with a new perspective.

Xavier Rey Photoblog has a very captivating almost edgy B&W style. He only publishes about once a week but I do like his varied subject matter from boxers to tranquil seascapes.

The second is A Photo A Day Keeps The... whatever - you know the rest Which was active until 11 May and has an eclectic collection of older photographs from various people. Even it ti dosen’t start up again it is worth a glance over to the stie.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Spring Tune-up Time

Keeping things in proper working order means, that from time to time, looking under the hood, or in my case examining the inner workings of my mind to see how well it’s working and if I need a tune up.

By trying to explain a bit about why I like to write these articles and illustrate some of my images, it forces me to examine more about myself, and that may lead to new understandings and most importantly a clearer vision of where I need to go in the future.
Feedback from you would be greatly appreciated, as I don’t have all the answers.

I’ll throw in a few pictures to help those of you who aren’t big on self-awareness sessions like this.

A Milestone – at least a small one

I have been posting ‘My Camera World’ photography blog for a year now and for me that’s an achievement. A fair number of you have been along for the journey and that may be a bigger achievement.

I want to give a big thanks to all of you for hanging in and also to those who have joined along the way.

Why do I blog?

The 2 main reasons why I started to blog where;

- To get exposure as an artist and to help with print sales, and
- To give back to the photographic community.

While I like to think that the first part was the most important, it really wasn’t that strong a drive, as I should also have been updating my web sites and portfolio.

Giving back or sharing knowledge was the most important as I, in my learning journey, receive a lot of help from many photographers and artists in developing my skills. I still get and need help today and hopefully will forever. If you are not exploring and learning then you may be stagnating.

Along the way I found other motivations to continue blogging.

One is that it forces me, in a positive sense, to take more photos and to challenge myself and improve my artistic capabilities.

The best part is that I have connected with some wonderful people and should we eventually meet in person I am sure we would have a wonderful time together either chatting or going about and taking photos.

Blog Format

I decided to only publish once a week, as I wanted articles to have a little depth, a story and to include more than one reasonable picture.

With a day job that pays for the fun I have with photography and a lovely wife that I enjoy spending time with and maybe being a little lazy I find that I don’t have the time to publish more than once a week. Part of the problem is that I am a consummate tinker and I will for the pure pleasure spend at least an hour on each photograph to bring out the best qualities and to give a bit of vision to each image.

Writing does not come naturally to me. I have to work hard to structure my thoughts into coherent and readable text that you might be able to understand. Sometimes I think my mind is a big round-about with too many off ramps for divergence. I am also lucky to have my wife as my chief editor.

I have been planning to do two part series on Sharpening techniques and White Balance and these would probably be a mid week post. It takes time, as I need to create every image I plan to use as examples.

My Photography Career

My interest is art. Almost all forms and from a previous articles you saw some of these examples.

I would never make it as a professional photographer as I have a habit of wanting to do things my way and to my standards. This means spending whatever time it takes to get it perfect or whatever that means as an artist. With this model, productivity would be low and I would have to work many hours to make some reasonable income.

I abhor failure in myself and rather than fail I’ll just keep some images as unfinished works. This is why I don’t do Weddings. The client’s expectations for the single event, with no way to redo it, would be too much stress for me.

I have taken some pictures at a few friends weddings for fun and the couples, on a few occasions, liked my work better than the photographer they hired. It was great to give them images of their special day for free.

I try to develop and print a few images that people would be willing to hang on their walls. I don’t need to make a lot of money this way, but I try and charge an amount that is reasonable and at the same time is not a give-away price. I want people to appreciate these works and be willing to invest a little to get a signed and numbered piece of art. I do print images in smaller sizes, 8x10 or less, that I don’t sign and sell for less.

I will be retiring soon from a career type job (IT project management) and that will give all the time I need to pursue and chase the things I love and to finally to have more time for painting.

Where do I go with the Blog?

Just like it never hurts and only helps to reflect on your artistic vision, the same is true when you blog. In some ways blogging is an artistic outlet and here I am at the very beginning of learning.

The lame name I originally picked (My Camera World) was just a quick thought about discussing my photography and the equipment I use. I have not really discussed much about equipment, as there are so many good sites already and therefore I am not sure that I can add much.

I have been trying to focus on creativity ideas as an artistic expression related to composing and enhancing photographic images. It seems to be working as the readership (feedburner count) slowly increases and there have been other web sites or blogs that have referenced a few my articles.

I have been planning to move to the Wordpress platform as it will provide for tab pages where I can now incorporate my print images, FAQ and other material into one software package.

My web site (so out of date now) is called ‘ Light and Colour on Canvas ’ since I paint and print photos on canvas, so it seemed an appropriate title. I will probably call the new site ‘Light and Colour’ and would keep both sites running until I feel that it has fully transferred onto the new site, not just users, but reasonable search finds.

I am a little unsure about the content for future articles, but for the most part I would still like to describe how I approach my creating and editing. My technique is not necessarily the right way or best way. Just one person’s approach to art and hopefully it might help some people with their creative ideas.

I currently only show my images, because I feel that I should be able to demonstrate any techniques myself. This does make it a little harder as I have to plan and then shoot the photos for articles. There are so many good images available it would be easier to ask to use these, but somehow I feel it is better if you see my struggles.

I definitely would like to hear about any ideas you might have with articles I should write or any comments on these thoughts in this article.

Reader Interaction

This blog does not get a lot of reader interaction. I am not really sure why. The obvious conclusion is that the writing style does not lend itself well to comments.

I am just an ordinary person on a continuous and life long learning journey. I don’t know everything, but what I do know is that when we get together we learn more by sharing with each other. There is not a photographer that I could not learn something new from.

Summer Holidays and Postings

This August I will be going to Denmark to visit my family, which as I mentioned last week, I only discovered existed in 2005. This is so cool as I always wanted to be from a large family and now its come true. I will try to have a few posts pre-created to publish every second week. I am not sure of my ability to post in Denmark plus all my images are in RAW format. If I try and save in JPEG format also - wow! Where do I get terabyte memory cards?

If any of you would like to write an article in a similar approach, please contact me.

Your thoughts?

Please fill in the blank space here, as I would like to hear from you. Not just the Good, but the Bad and Ugly. (I did enjoy that old western movie)

Thanks again,

Niels Henriksen

A “Photographer’s Showcase”

This highlight does come with a bit of a warning as once I saw the utterly stunning images, I started to doubt that I would ever be able to get near this point of photographic greatness.

A recent article at the Luminous Landscape made reference to a photo book 'Landscapes of The Spirit' created by William Neill that was out of print but the photographer had decided to publish in an eBook (pdf) format.

A few sample images convinced me to purchase the ebook for $15 and it was well worth the price. The author has decided to restrict printing, which is fine by me. I may explore this approach for some books I would like to create.

He does have a few hardcover books left that he will sign and sell for $80.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Skagen Denmark ‘The Land of Light’

First I would like to thank very much all those who are regular readers of this photography blog. I have decided to post the blog membership of readers as presented by Feedburner. For the last month the total has remained over 500, which for me is a form of acknowledgement that the images and articles provide some enjoyment to you.

Feedback, whether comments on articles or as represent by number of readership, helps to keep me excited about continuing the weekly writings.

The SoFoBoMO project was a bit all consuming for a period of time and except for those images I have not been able to get out and take new photographs as I normally would.

As photographers, we are sometimes just ordinary tourists and this week I want to show some images I took from the very unique spot at the tip of Demark on the main land peninsula known as Jutland. The nearby picturesque village known as Skagen lends its name to the area.

This 4 km long point of land is where the waves and currents from Skagerrak (west) and Kattegat (east) smash into each other. Because of the wind and wave action the seas tend to be in opposing directions and there is great crashing and convolutions of a disturbed area. This sand tip has grown 1 km longer in the last 100 years as the sand is swept up the western coast of Denmark. Occasionally a small sand island will form off the tip, commonly known as seagull island, but will disappear within a few months.

Picture of my wife Claudette with the 2 seas colliding behind her. If you have ever witnessed large river rapids these waves have a similar form. The 2 seas each have their gentle rolling waves, but at the tip they crash together forming standing waves

Below are many of the tourists walking along the sand spit to the tip.

This is a map of Demark with Sweden on the right.

There are no cars allowed in the protected area and you need to embark on a sand trolley to head out to the sand point. The map below from google earth shows some of this landscape.

During the 19th century many painters were attracted to this area because of its special kind of light by which it was given its nickname ‘Land of Light’ and an artist community formed to capture its unique quality of life.

The village of Skagen is extremely beautiful and in many ways very representative of the traditional Danish houses, small, almost cottage like, but with pure white trim and brilliant yellow walls and red tile roofs.

While many people do drive to Skagen, for the locals bicycling is a main mode of transportation within this village, which can be seen in several of the images below.

There are very many small restaurants with patios where you can enjoy the quietness of a picturesque and small village. To stroll around is be in another time where the hustle of everyday life has failed to venture this far north.

Being a fishing community, fresh fish has always been an important ingredient in the food of Skagen. Fried fish is served with delicious specialities from the moors, such as honey-preserved cranberries. Also the famous Danish open-face sandwich can be obtained with the artistic approaches to decorating the toppings.

The bright blue summer skies and the red and yellow buildings make for classic colour combinations as photographic images as this church image demonstrates below.

If I wasn’t touring the rest of Denmark with my sister and her husband I would have liked to spend several weeks with my watercolours, capturing that special light this area is known for.

On a side note, I have upgraded my D200 to a Nikon D300 camera. I am not sure that this the best use of my funds since with the upgrade cost it’s the same as if I had rented the D200 for $900 for 16 months. I knew when the D300 came out that I would be upgrading eventually because of the low noise at high ISO and better colour rendition, but I figured it would be a few years away.

I found out from Henry’s store that the previous warranty was not transferable to the new camera since it was over a year old and they were not able to include it for the new owner or even let the owner contact me to transfer for them.

I never buy warranties except for laptop computers or new digital cameras, as I was able to use it on my D70, which I still have because of its ability to capturer good Infra Red (IR) images.

When I read about the live view capability and ability to fine tune focus in contrast mode (Tripod setting only), and have it connected to a 7” DVD player, I figured that I just had to have this now. This would have been easy if I was a professional, but an amateur who only sells a few prints, it may take a long time to recover the costs.

The live view with external monitor is very akin to using my 4x5 view camera, which I enjoy very much for its ability to precisely set focus, but is a bit of a pain to lug around as I need to have the film developed at the few stores that still support view camera technology. The D300 now provides some of these benefits in a smaller unit.

I hope to have a few new pictures in the next few weeks.

Niels Henriksen

All images taken in August 2004 with a Cannon A40 2Mp point and shoot camera

There is a good web site that has many naturalist type pictures of the tip of Skagen Skagen, Denmark

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Indoor and Outdoor Studio Photography – Table-Top Flowers

Occasionally the weather does not permit us to be able to go out to get the flowers shots we would like to capture. Maybe even the flowers that are interesting are not available at the moment due to wrong time of season for flowering.

Why not cut some flowers from the garden or buy a bouquet at your local flower shop. The benefit is that after the shoot your house has a flower arrangement for display and enjoyment.

The important element with the indoor flower photography is finding an appropriate background. I’m sure that the dining room hutch, other furniture or those purple walls may not present the flowers in their best setting. The choice of a suitable backdrop becomes a key decision in presenting your subject in its full glory and prominence.

The Favourite – Black Cloth

For the images in this article, which are singular in design, I used a black fabric. Not just any fabric, but thick felt material. The reason for this choice is I wanted material that, even though black, would reflect very little light. Some black fabrics have a bit of sheen and depending on the strength of the light will reflect some of this light. It can be removed in Photoshop, but when it is used outdoors you will be surprised that the material has turned into a dark grey tone.

I selected a heavy felt material, as I wanted this fabric to not show any folds and creases, which a thinner cloth might show when removed from storage.

For singular flower images I like the black background as it keeps the focus on the subtle colours and tones of the flower. The Gladiolas flower, while very beautiful and delicate, is also difficult flower cluster to isolate a single flower for a photographic image.

To better present the singular flower cluster I decided to overlay a close-up section to form a composite image.

These images were lit by direct light from a side window and the fabric was moved back far enough in order not to receive any of the direct light rays.

I wanted the long stalk to dominate and the close-up image to add extra texture and volume to the image. An Angle Gradient tool was used to create the mask pattern as I found the standard linear did not create the right effect. I wanted the tones to vary in the background to add more interest and depth.

A Photoshop action (they sure make life easy) was used to create the framing effect.

Other Flowers as Background

Other flower arrangements can be used as backdrops but these need to be larger to fill the entire field of view and also be far enough in the background to be blurred by the lens.

In the article I wrote on using the reverse 50mm lens for macro images, I used other flowers behind the main subject for different colours and textures.

The above image is Red Gladiolas converted to B&W as I found that even when adjusting the saturation it did not add to the image. I highlighted the pistols in the main flower to add more focus and darken some of the top petals.

Use your own Photographs or Paintings

Depending on the size of your flower arrangement you can even print one of your images or find an image on the web that has the copyright set to creative commons for such use. Even a painting that you have hanging of the wall would be suitable.

In a previous article I used a copper plumbing tubing to create a moveable vase for outdoor photography and thereby you could have any of the nature scenes around as a suitable backdrop.

Do make sure that the backdrop image is set far enough back for adequate DOF blurring. The subject needs to be pin sharp and the background soft and diffuse in detail.

This was taken outdoors on the patio table with the black cloth as a backdrop. The cloth was placed on an angle so that the direct sun did not light any of the material directly.

Niels Henriksen

Photographer’s Showcase

Thomas Laupstad form the Photos from Northern Norway: highlight in his photographs and stores some of the unique and mystical charm of Norway.

This country in the last few years has taken on a special meaning to me, as in 2004 I found out that I have 11 brothers and sisters in Denmark I never knew existed. My parents and their ancestors are mainly from Trondheim. Norway. This August I am heading back to Denmark to visit 4 sisters I haven’t met and my 3 brothers. Over the last few years these 3 brothers have come to Canada to visit me. I may tell this story one day.

Davidlind has a blog Virginia Breeze that include writings, good poetry and image about his life in Virginia and Virginia Breeze II , which is his main collection of nature images from the same area.


Related Posts with Thumbnails