Monday, August 27, 2012

Patience - a Photographer’s Special tool

Many times we see wonderful scenes and landscapes right in front of us.  Our emotions are stirring especially since for the last few moments our vision and senses are taking it all in. Therefore, it must make a wonderful photograph.

We take the photograph and move on knowing that we have a great shot because that's how we perceive our visual and sensory experience for this site.

But when we get home it seems to lack that something special we experienced back at our location.

Others who see the image may say it's nice but in reality it's just another tourist type shot. The experience we had is missing.

The key ingredient missing is patience, or just plain waiting for the scene to evolve in either light-shaping or the actors in the scene. These actors can be real people or elements in the changing  landscape.

Light, it's strength or absence, is the key to all photographs. After this, it's the context of element within the science that further define the photographic experience.

As an example, the photographs of a set of wonderfully painted stairs help to demonstrate the importance of patience to wait out a scene until the elements define it in a new perspective.

There is a set of beautifully paints stairs just across the street from the Chateau Laurier hotel in Ottawa.

But to photograph them is to only copy someone else's work. This is fine if all you want is to show others the beauty of these stairs.

But there could be more if you only wait for people in this particular case to add the extra element to make this your own original photograph.

I knew people walking up and down the stairs would add interest to the image but without staffed actors I could only wait for what?

A few minutes later a solitary well dressed soldier from a ceremony on Parliament Hill was approaching the steps to walk down. Luckily there was no one else nearby to also transcend these steps.

I waited until his eyes were near the wolf's eyes and took 3 rapid shots. It's hard to get the arms and legs just right so with 3, one should work well.

It wasn't a busy place as these steps are slightly hidden. I felt good with the shot and started to walk on but a short distance later I felt there could be more if I just waited longer, so back I went.

After about 15 minutes of waiting a bunch of young children and their parents started to head up. The little girl was leading the pack and it looked like she would head right for the wolf's ear.

There were many others on the steps but I knew I could immediately afterwards take a photo of just the stairs and then edit everyone out.

The photograph now looks like the child went up the steps to whippers into the wolf's ear.

In many locations, taking the time to wait for something to change within the scene will make it a better photograph. The shadows created by the sun as it sculpts the landscape or intermittent clouds that create highlights within the scene. It could even be the addition of people, or removal of too many or  the right combination of their colourful clothing that augments the photograph. Either way, occasionally take the time to explore the environment in front of or behind you and sit and wait for that extra photographic element.

Niels Henriksen

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Ottawa Lumiere Festival of Lights – Full Camera Skills Needed

The Ottawa annual Lumiere Festival of Lights is not just a wonderful events for kids and spectators it's also a great chance to get some interesting and new photos for your collection.

 ISO 400; f6.3; 13 sec; -0.67ev; 123mm; tripod mounted; Nikon D300

This is my 3rd time attending this event and each and every time I go there is something new to see. The festival is all about light and for this event it means candle power. There are activities for kids in the leading-up week where they make wonderful colorful paper mache objects that have holders inside to take those small candles in metal cans. These candles go inside the object and are lit at dusk. This creates a wonderful glow emanating for the colorful paper mache objects.

ISO 2,500 f5.6; 1 sec;  48mm

Hundreds of these lit lanterns in the shape of many different forms from faces to animals line the many paths around New Edinburgh park in Ottawa.

For the photographer it's visually stunning but also provides many photographic challenges in order to capture the event as the night unfolds.

When you first arrive around 7:30pm, you are at the golden hour of light and normal settings gets most of these shots.  You may need a bit of fill light from your flash and here an attached strobe flash is necessary to get just enough light to fill area and the ability to reduce the exposure (-ev) so as to not over power the ambient light.  See image of man on stilts below.

ISO 200; f5.6; 1/60 sec; 40mm; Flash -1ev

With hundreds of kids moving around and depending on their activity in front of you, a long exposure shot may create interesting photo image. The children in the image below are playing a large chess game. I wanted to show motion blur to create effect of action within the photo.

ISO 80; f25; 3 sec; 32mm

As dusk starts to envelope a more  stronger flash is necessary to freeze motion and completely fill subject as with the Tango dancer.

ISO 200; f5.6; 1/60 sec; 100mm; Flash

There are other areas like the lit swans in the river where flash won't work and a long exposure is needed to amplify available light to avoid the noise of higher ISOs. But when there is some wind movement then you will need the higher ISOs as in the photo below. In these photos it's all about the soft glow of candle power.

ISO 2,500; f5.6; 0.3 sec;  -0.3ev; 190mm; tripod mounted

ISO 2,500; f5.6; 2 sec; -1ev; 28mm; tripod mounted

But a near full darkness only longer exposure times and a tripod will get you those interesting photos like the girls with their glowing and twirling hula hoops.

The main event at this festival is a giant maze on a baseball diamond (to reduce chance of grass fire) covered with lunch paper bags filled with a little sand for stability and then a small candle. There are hundreds of children walking around this maze but with long exposures they do not show up in the photo because of their darkness. It's only when they are carrying candles or light that they show up as a moving white line.

ISO 1,000; f5.6; -1ev; 3sec; 1230mm; tripod mounted

At this event I did use my new Nikon D800e and I found it worked well. I did forget to bring my small flashlight to light the buttons on the camera.  Thankfully there remained mostly the same from the D300 and I could with some ease figure where to press to make changes to seetings.

In summary for an event like this you need to be able to switch between:
Aperture, Shutter priority and Manual mode – Flash will freeze when necessary.
Low and high ISOs.
Normal shutter speeds and long exposures of 2-3 seconds.
Flash power adjustments for fill light strengths.
Hand-held and tripod shooting.

I do hope you all get a chance to try events like these or a an amusement park or fair ground.

Niels Henriksen

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Test of Nikon D800e, a DX lens and a Teleconverter

I was fortunate to finally get a Nikon D800e (36 Mpx) after a brief 3 month wait. I didn't, and I also think its the same with Nikon, expect that there would be such a huge demand for this camera. I don't know why Nikon seemed to leap so far ahead with its next generation but I'm grateful. I think there are millions (well a whole bunch anyway) more who also think the same.

This is a full frame camera and a DX lens will work but is cropped due to limited image area. The camera even has mode where it will auto detect a DX lens and crop accordingly. Knowing that there is still a little more image available with the DX crop I decided not to crop and use whatever was available.

Nikon D800e with 70-200mm f2.8 VR. The image on right is actual size of window pane

My favorite DX lens is the 18-200mm f3.5 VR and as I travel around I notice others who like this lens. While it may have some pincushion and barrel distortion, thanks to Photoshop lens correction, this is almost all eliminated.
Nikon D800e with 70-200mm f2.8 VR set to 1.2 crop. The image on right is actual size of window pane. I didn't realize at first that the crop factor also applied to FX lens.

It was while I was performing a resolution test with my D300 and the new D800e by using both the 18-200mm f3.5 VR and the 70-200mm f2.8 VR that I noticed that when full zoomed on the DX lens that vignetting seemed to disappear, but looked like a dime at 18mm.

This excited me more than the current test and therefore I decided to pursue this further.

The 18-200mm is really like a 24-300mm on a DX camera due to the 1.5 crop factor and this range will meet about 90% of my needs. With a 1.4 teleconverter on the FX camera it's now almost the same range as on a DX camera.

The test I performed was hand-held as I didn't need with this test to check for perfect resolution. I stood in front of a large apartment building in the parking lot across the street and remained at the same position while I changed the lens focal length.

In the 1st test, see film strip below, there is significant vignetting in the 18mm and slowly reduces as the focal length is increased. Even at 200mm there is still slight vignetting at the corners.
When the teleconverter was added then magic seemed to appear. At 18mm there is only slight vignetting at the corners and disappears by 24mm. The film strip below shows the changes with teleconverter added.

Now a favorite lens becomes useful on my full frame camera.

Most lens that have such a wide range of focal lens is all about compromises when being designed and built. The same with the 18-200mm f3.5 VR. Photoshop easily handles the barrel distortion. But this lens at the glass edge, maybe more is being used now, also has a fair amount of chromatic appellation. This is also handled well with Photoshop. Since most artistic images don't need to be sharp or well defined at the corners of a photograph then any additional distortion caused by using more lens area is not really a problem with digital-editing.

So when and if you do decide to go full frame one day then your DX glass can be useful with a teleconverter.

The reason this works is because the lens is now further from the sensor and therefore increases in size on sensor chip. Take a magnifying glass and hold it to show an image appearing upside down on a piece of paper. Now move the magnifying glass further away and watch how the image on the paper grows larger. The same happens with a teleconverter attached.

Niels Henriksen


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