Category Archives: How to…

How-To articles… how to do specific things, preparation for, planning, shooting, etc.

What you can learn from candid photography

Groom • Candid photography :: getting the shot is a pressure.

• Groom •
Candid photography – getting the shot is a pressure. Weddings are times when you need to work particularly fast and accurately. •

Responding is a skill.

When starting on the path to disciplined photography we’re told to slow down. Take careful, measured and pre-visualised shots. We are told to stop trying to frantically pepper the scene with shots. Take time. Take stock. Think everything through. The aim is to get the shot under control.

A good photographer often needs to respond rapidly. The careful, measured approach still applies. They still have to get the picture. However, the pace of a situation demands swift shots. The practised photog can respond with speed and accuracy. Practice at candid photography is a great way to realise those skills for yourself.

Candid photography and practice

The aim is to make a clean, sharp, well composed image. The nature of a candid shot makes that difficult. While trying to make a success of your candid photography some conditions may apply. Some of those may contradict each other…

  • The subject may not know you are going to take a picture.
  • The subject could know you are going to take a picture.
  • The subject may be unpredictable.
  • You will need to be very quick.
  • You will need to be able to get a sharp image despite speedy working.
  • You may have to take several shots (eg. not dozens).
  • Your subject should be in an interesting position.
  • The subject needs to to be in an interesting context in the scene.
  • You should anticipate the shot (rather than getting lucky).
  • You will have your camera ready and settings correct for the shot.
  • You will have only a microsecond to compose the shot.

You just do not know what you are going to encounter until you have to deal with it.

Dealing with all that may seem a tall order. Especially if you are told not to machine-gun the scene with shots. Haste and frantic bursts rarely lead to good luck. Actually, it is not about doing all that at super speed. Like everything you do in photography, candid photography requires preparation, practice and control.

Equipment – knowing what you can do

NO! Do not go out and buy yourself a micro-weight, super-camera. Up-to-date bells and whistles are not the point. Instead, look for simplicity. Sometimes the best camera is an old and familiar one. What we want for this exercise is knowledge.

The best possible way to get fast with a camera is to know what it can do. The lens too. If you are familiar and well versed in using your equipment you will automatically respond to the scene. Here is an example.

In candid photography control of depth of field is essential

• Impish grin •
Keep the subject in focus but the background is frosted out.
In candid photography control of depth of field is essential
(Click to view large)

This shot was captured as this lovely man turned from a conversation. He was talking to someone on his right. I was ready for his turn toward me. His impish grin as he saw me really made the shot.

I wanted a depth of field that had his head and face sharp. I also wanted the background indistinct. Notice the sharpness is lost just on the far shoulder. My lens was set up to have a depth of field of about 400mm (about 15in to 16in). But there was no measurement involved. This was an estimate. It involved knowing the depth of field at my distance from the man, and using the right aperture. This capture is the result of knowing the lens and camera combo really well. It was a practised shot using very familiar equipment. The successful candid photography came out of the practice and familiarity.

Equally, it is easy to get the shot wrong. Depth of field, especially at close range, is fickle. It is easy to get the tip of the nose out of focus, the eyes and face in focus, and the hair out of focus. It is important to look at the variables involved. The aperture size and distance-from-subject control the depth of field. So, try the exercise below using manual settings.

Take a bright coloured builders tape measure. Place a small object beside a mid-point on the measure. Take a photo of the object down the measures’ length. Use a wide aperture. Check out the depth of field by looking at the measurements that are sharp. Now by varying your distance from the object see how much you change the depth of field. Do this for a wide range of apertures. With experience you will get a feel for controlling the depth of field. With twenty or thirty variations you should get a feel for the depth of field.

Settings

Aperture is one setting. ISO and shutter speed are important too. Getting a feel for your equipment means getting familiar with how these settings work.

Candid photography often involves working in darker lighting. Parties and indoor sessions, weddings in churches and in evening light all require wide apertures. You might use flash. But in a lot of situations that may not be practical or desirable. So using a high ISO setting (more sensitive sensor) will allow you to work effectively in lower light. So, lower the light where you are working with the tape measure. Raise the ISO and repeat the exercises. Get a feel for how you can vary the exposure by changing the ISO.

Needless to say you can vary the shutter speed in similar ways. Try the exercise again. This time keep the aperture and ISO fixed and change the shutter speed up and down through a range of shots. [More on varying shutter speed].

Learning to use your settings manually takes more than one session. That is important. You can gain a lot by training yourself to be sensitive to the settings. Working toward good quality candid photography can really help you gain that sensitivity. Poor photographs of faces and people are immediately obvious! You get great feedback from the experience of poor shots.

Composition – seizing the moment

Candid photography is about seizing the moment. You need to use good settings. You also need some understanding of composition. This means working to get your subject in the right environment. They will have an appropriate pose and possibly the right context or behaviour too. Without all these coming together the moment is lost. Setting it all up takes some thought.

Normally people do candid photography with some idea of what they want to achieve. Random wanderings are normally unproductive. Luck follows more often from preparation and forethought than stumbling upon a notable event.

So, have a good think about your scene composition….

  • Set yourself up in a viable position ahead of the shot.
  • Think about how the light is placed in the scene overall.
  • Place yourself for the right background on the far side of the shot.
  • Fix the camera settings for the composition ahead of the shot.

In other words be prepared. Then, when the right moment comes along, you will have the minimum to do. A little composition, framing the shot, is essential. A tweak of the focus possibly… But essentially – you should be ready.

Now you stand the best possible chance of getting the shot.

Candid photography is successful when it all comes together

All this preparation and practice is about getting you to the moment when you take the shot. Making a success of your candid photography is about three things…

  • Knowing your settings.
  • Practice with and knowing your equipment.
  • Forethought about the scene.

Having everything ready is the key. Then when all the elements of the scene come together all you do is frame it and capture. If you succeed in that, you will also make a swift shot. Because, in fact, you have little to do. Speed and accuracy is about being ready with everything and having the minimum to do when the right events pull the shot together.

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Using polarising filters

The polarising filter helps reduce glare in the photograph| Photokonnexion.com

• Beach Huts •
Using polarising filters reduce glare, reflection and colour fade in your photograph. These filters are easy to use and produce great results.
[Image from the video]

Filter with a hidden impact

Photographic filters are light modifiers. They have a variety of different effects. Polarising filters are just one type of photographic filter. When you look at one it appears dark. It looks as if it would have no effect except to reduce the light in your image.

What does using polarising filters do for your photo? Light from the sun tends to be scattered by the atmosphere. The waves of light are out of alignment. When the light is very bright the glare causes a bright haze of light. This over-brightness can act to overwhelm a photograph. It especially tends to wash the colour out of the sky, whitening it. Using polarising filters helps reduce the glare. It filters out some of the light that is not aligned. Only the polarised light passes through the filter. This aligned light has reduced glare allowing the colours to come out. Skies are darkened. Reflections are reduced.

The results of using polarising filters

The result of darkened skies, reduced reflections and better colours can be dramatic. Here are a whole range of images on Google using polarising filters Images on Google using polarising filters | External link - opens new tab/page.

Worst and best case scenario for using polarising filters | Photokonnexion.com

• Worst and best case scenario for using polarised filters •
Careful positioning and using polarising filters dramatically affects the outcome.

Using polarising filters can have a dramatic effects on your image. The top picture shows the worst case scenario. Light is almost directly into the lens. It is bouncing off glass and polished surfaces into the lens too. The sky is very bright with scattered light from direct, harsh sunlight. There is a hazy glare from brightness. There is also flare and very bright spots from reflections. This photo was taken without using a polarising filter.

In the second (lower) photo the position is different. The direct sunlight is not directly entering the lens. Even so, without using a polarising filter there would be problems. Notice the bright blue sky. This would have been a very washed-out blue on this very sunny day. Notice the windscreen is almost transparent? The polarising filter has reduced the bright reflections and specular highlights. The reflections on the bonnet are also pleasant and not over-white. The car paintwork has a quality colour-depth. The whole quality of the lower photo seems better. All this despite the harsh direct light.

Actually using polarising filters

In the video Mike Browne shows how to use these useful filters. In particular you need to remember three things of particular interest…

  1. Using polarising filters is most effective when the light is coming at the lens from about 45° off the optical axis.
  2. While using polarising filters you will need to rotate the filter to find the most effective polarising position. You need to re-adjust it every shot. Each shot will have a different angle of light to the lens.
  3. Using polarising filters reduces the light able to enter the lens. Your light may be reduced by over two stops with a poor quality version.


Mike Browne

Quality

High quality Polarisers are more expensive. They are time consuming and expensive to make. They also use expensive materials. However, the better ones maintain photographic quality. So it is worth spending the extra money. Poor quality polorisers may increase the digital noise from light scatter in the filter. They may also create aberrations and distort the image.

All photographic filters reduce the light entering the lens. A quality polariser will also reduce the light. But, they will affect the light much less than a poor quality polariser. Using polarising filters of a low quality may reduce the incoming light by as much as three stops. A quality polariser will tend to reduce light by only two stops (or less). So think carefully about what you purchase.

Buy now…

When buying a circular polarising filter make sure you get one that is the right size. The filter size of your lens is normally written on the inside of the front of the lens.

Recommended!

Circular polarising filters  A range of circular polarisers on Amazon | External link - opens new tab/page

When using polarising filters buy the size that fits your lens. Also remember that the quality of the filter can affect the photo. High quality polarisers reduce aberrations. A higher quality filter will not reduce the light as much as a poor quality one.

Review a range of different filters here…
Circular polarising filters  A range of circular polarisers on Amazon | External link - opens new tab/page

 

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Ten ways to develop confidence in your photography

To develop confidence in photography you’ve got to be doing it.

There is a difference between a photographer and an occasional snapper. It is about attitude. Determined to improve your skills? Actively seeking new knowledge? Practising the things you are learning? An answer of ‘yes’ to these questions confirm you a photographer. Once you start learning photography you will go on doing so for life. It’s in the spirit of photography to keep learning and experimenting. Here are ten ideas to help you Develop confidence.

1. Keep it simple

• Party person • <br /> Take a simple approach to your photography.

• Party person •
Take a simple approach to your photography.
Example: In portraiture, working for simplicity helps you see the person and concentrate on the technique. Cut out unnecessary distractions.

Leonardo da Vinci was a Renaissance painter, inventor and genius. He made many insightful observations. One of the things he said was, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. This insight suggests that we should show only what is needed to make the point.

Do not allow anything to creep into your picture that is not absolutely necessary. Your viewer wants to see the main subject. Don’t spoil that view by including other things that are not relevant. They will distract the viewer. Make sure what you are photographing is simple.

This makes your job easier too. Don’t think big – think simple. Simple photographs are easier to do. Get in close to your subject. Make sure what you photograph is bold. Show the subject. Remove or reduce any other distraction or things of secondary or no interest. Taking the simple approach makes the photography easier and will develop confidence.

2. Shoot every day

There is no better way to develop confidence. If you always carry a camera you will always have an excuse to use it! So get out and take the shots.

Just shooting is not good enough. If you want to build your confidence you will need to be doing two things when shooting every day…

  1. Ensure you can see an improvement from day to day. Challenge yourself a little each time you shoot. Try hard to move on from where you were.
  2. Make sure you do things that will help that improvement happen (read an article, discuss a technique, try an experiment etc).
3. Repetition is a great way to develop confidence

Having a go at something new just once is rarely good enough. When you try out a new technique, learn it before moving on. To learn it well do it a lot – repeat it in different situations. Experiment and play. Focus on its good points. Identify its bad points. Each time you use this technique make sure you challenge yourself a little more. Your confidence will develop as you see you can do it in almost any situation.

4. Learn about light

There is a time honoured truism about photographers in general. It is…
Amateurs worry about equipment. Professionals worry about time. Masters worry about light.

It is not altogether clear why amateurs suffer from equipment lust but they do. Actually, an effective strategy for improvement would be to spend most of your time learning about light. It will shorten your journey to competence. Light is the centre of the art of photography. Learning about light will teach you to see great photos and help you to understand more about your equipment. Studying light will develop confidence because you will learn about the most important thing in photography.

5. Creativity (This point By Ann LeFevre)

Don’t look at limitations as obstacles. Use them to encourage your creativity. Every photographer has a good set of eyes. They also have the creativity to photograph what he/she sees with the camera in their hand.

Explore and discover the strengths of the camera you own. Develop your artistry with what you can accomplish with it. You do not need an endless supply of cash to feed your photographic appetite or a lust for equipment.

The best camera in the world is the one you have got. Make the best of that. Enjoy the creative outcome. As you get creative you will develop confidence.

6. Read up on photography

There are some wonderful resources on the Internet. This website is a great start. There are literally billions of photos to look at and take lessons from across the Internet. There are also some great video resources available. Offline there are some absolutely wonderful books to read too.

There is nothing better to develop confidence than learning more. For the new photographer it can all be a little daunting, despite all the resources online. At Photokonnexion we try to make it simple to learn about making great images. However, sometimes your learning style might lead you to a short course or to work with a book. Which ever learning style you choose, keep working on improvement. The work you do to learn more will help you become more confident.

               
       
Scott Kelby :: Digital Photography Boxed Set. Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4, Updated Ed. Amazon.com :: Scott Kelby :: Digital Photography Boxed Set | External link - opens new tab/pageThere are more than 800 professional photographic “tricks of the trade” in this set. These four volumes make up Scott Kelby’s best-selling series. It is an excellent resource for any one who wants to improve their photography and make sharp, colourful and professional photos.

 

7. Find photo-friends – develop confidence together

If you can get excited about photography with someone else it really helps you be more enthusiastic. Join a club, chat with a friend online about your pictures, do what it takes. But try to share. You and your friend will gain a great deal. You will both learn off each other. You will develop confidence through shared friendly feedback. Try things out together. You will have encouragement from each other. Go on then, phone your friend now!

365Project - A friendly project to develop confidence in your photography

365Project  Amazon.com :: Scott Kelby :: Digital Photography Boxed Set | External link - opens new tab/page
A friendly site where people help each other to develop confidence and improve their photography.

8. Join a supportive online community

The Internet is full of great sites to display your photography. And, there are lots of people there who will help you. They love to get feedback for their own pictures. So they will be prepared to give yours a good look over too. I have a been a member of 365Project  Develop confidence on 365Project.org | External link - opens new tab/page for a number of years. What a great site. I have made a lot of friends over there. There is lots to do. Some fun games and lots of ideas and sharing. People swap techniques and help each other. Some groups meet up regularly too. If you need to develop confidence and take a shot every day then that is the place. Give it a go. Great fun!

9. Dump the naysayers

Don’t waste time on people who speak negatively. Nothing can destroy confidence quicker than negative comments. Sometimes the most effective thing you can say is nothing! Ignore them and they will probably go away. Victory is yours! It is always better to surround yourself with positive people, and have positive attitudes and thoughts. This will help you develop confidence. It’ll help your skills to bloom, and your photographic eye begin seeing anew.

10. Celebrate the victories

Nothing better than a good celebration. When you get something right take a little time to show your family and friends. Enjoy it and make sure you keep it safe. It is one of the milestones mapping your progress to being a better photographer. Have fun!

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Community photography

Community photography •

• Dining Out •
Community photography is as much about attracting the community as it is about telling a story of the community.
(Community event: Annual sponsored fancy dress swim on New Years Day – great photo opportunities).

Involving the local people in photography

It sounds ideal. Get the local people involved and do lots of photography. In reality it tends to happen the other way around. Photographers get involved in the local activities and events… the rest is great fun! Community photography is a two way street. Get involved in the community. Then your image work will feed back in as you develop contacts.

Just what is community photography

Actually, community photography is just about anything where the local people are involved. On the one hand we have street photography. It’s all about people out on the street doing what people do locally. The focus is rather loose and chaotic.

On the other hand we have community events and activities. These are about people getting together and sharing an event. In this case there is a single focus where everything revolves around the central interest.

Photography is a peculiar pursuit. Unlike most hobbies, it’s mostly a solitary pursuit. One person, one camera. So how do photographers get involved in community photography and develop community ties?

Getting involved

Almost certainly the first step to engaging with your community is to join a club. Failing that create a group of friends or associates. Later a club can spring out of this group. Clubs and groups are a natural consequence of community.

It’s natural to want to use the community and the local area as a photographic resource. Communities get enriched by groups like yours. Your members work to expose their interests and creations to the community. But it also brings the community into contact with your members too.

Community photography is about reaching out

In almost every community on the planet there are dozens of interest groups. Making the best of your photography is what you want as group members. To do that effectively it’s important to get some resources. You can all club together and put in some money for trips, meetings, a group projector… whatever. Ultimately, you need to become self sustaining. Having a ‘membership’ is a big step at first. But, it’s at that point that the community can help you. And, through your community photography, you can help others out in the community.

Reaching out to your community should be a major part of the activity of your group. You must engage directly with other groups and organisations to join in with them. Activities in the community happen at multiple levels. From within your group, and at a different level between groups. This relationship between groups, and the individuals within them, is what makes the community rich and interesting. Lots of photo opportunities come out of such a mix.

Start by brain-storming as a group. Find out what skills you have in your group. Also, list the contacts you all have between you. Here are some of the sorts of things you might identify…

 Group Skills  Group Contacts
 Doctor  Local medical facilities. Pharmacy. Local school. Local farmers club events secretary.
 Town official  Local groups and clubs. The town business club. CEO of the largest local company. Golf club.
 Housewife  Members of the local women’s club. School staff. Children’s group. Library staff.
 Company admin.  Member of local art club. Local sports club secretary. Chairman of the Annual Fair. Hospital nurse on the staff committee.

As the table shows, just four people from your group easily have a broad reach locally. All these contacts work within groups and companies. They have access to events, planned activities and finance. They also have contacts who have or need those resources too. Your community photography group can provide things for them too. The first stage of reaching out to the local community is establishing these contacts. Get talking to them about your group and what you can do.

Charity Swim - New Year Fancy Dress swim

• Sponsored swim •
At this annual swim event there is a whole host of local groups. They include the local Rowing Club; the Royal National Lifeboat Institute; the local Lions’ Club and the Church. Local businesses, hundreds of local people, swimmers and spectators are also involved.

What can your community photography group do?

Penetrating the local community and getting known as a group takes a little time. It also takes a little planning and talking to your contacts. It is worth doing. Before long you will find there is plenty to do. So to help your group keep on track, break up the tasks so people don’t get overloaded.

You members are sure to have a photographic resource already. Your local photos are really important. So start there. Show off your best photos in the local library (library contact). Make plans for an exhibition in the local community centre. Make contact through the town official. Organise a stall in the summer fair or pageant this year. Raise some money for a local charity. Do a portrait shoot in the main street. I am sure you can think of many ideas to extend your skills for the good of your community photography.

My camera club does a number of community photography events each year. We provide photographers to shoot a range of events including…

  • Mayors Annual Golf Tournament
  • Annual town regatta
  • Annual luncheon for local service veterans
  • Annual luncheon for senior citizens
  • The annual “Santa fun run”
  • Armistice March past.
  • Town fair
  • Annual carol singing event

…and quite a few other activities.

Armistice Day - Veterans Lunch

• Armistice Day – Veterans Lunch •

What do you get for doing your community photography?

The whole process of community photography is extremely rewarding. You want your club or group known locally. Then, as you grow and contribute you get more members, raise money and so on. Most of all you will feel fulfilled as active members in your local community. Sometimes it’s quite hard work. But it is worth it. The benefits are…

  • It is great fun!
  • Meet local people
  • Extend the community reach of your group
  • Make more contacts
  • Raise money for your club
  • Raise money for charity
  • Help other community groups
  • Get your work known locally
  • Get in the local papers
  • Get onto local websites
  • Create a photographic legacy for the town
  • Help people understand photography better
  • Joint activities with other local groups
  • Provide the community with a richer experience

Raising money for charity is great. A lot of people in need get help. There are some other rich, but less visible, benefits too.

A rich source of local history is often the local library too. Many libraries retain many thousands of photographs of the town donated by local photogs. Some go back over a century. It is a rich and important local resource. It gets your photos and club exposed in all sorts of ways. So does providing a historical archive of the area for the “Local History Club”.

Another reward is mixing with other interest groups. At fairs and events you will meet other clubs and their members. You can also get to know them by just ringing up and talking. Why would you do that? My community photography club has an annual event with other local clubs. One club night we get together with the poetry club. In advance we have swapped poems and photos. On the night we provide photos to illustrate the poems they provided. They read poetry about the photos we provided. A great evening – really illuminating. We do a similar event with the local artists club.

Publicity is key to community photography

Many a local group has died because of lack of publicity. Community photography should not go that way. If you engage with your local people you will have some brilliant photo opportunities. Each and every one provides a publicity opportunity too.

Community photography thrives on telling the stories of events in the local area. That is the stuff of blogs, newspaper articles, fund-raisers, exhibitions, displays and other types of contacts. Engaging with your community is not just about taking photos. It is also about exploiting the opportunity to get your work and the club known. If you engage with your local people… make sure they know about your group too. Shy photogs are not well known. Get out there and take photos, but make sure you engage with others.

Most of all make sure everyone knows your group took the photos. Insist that, if your clubs’ photos are used, they are acknowledged. Put photos up in the town with your community photography club name and contact attached. Get in the papers and insist the club is mentioned. Have a blog. Link to town event and activity websites. Use your photos and offer them to other websites to use too. Making the best of your community photography is about getting your name and your photos out in the community.

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Snowflakes – a source of mystery and wonder

Snowflakes are intricate and beautiful.

• Snowflake crystal •
Snowflakes are intricate and beautiful. They are a source of interest to scientist – but photographers can make amazing pictures with them.
Image taken from SnowCrystals.com External link - opens new tab/page

Snowflakes are amazing!

Close up pictures of snowflakes show how intricate and beautiful they can be. And there are an infinite variety of them too. Here are a few ideas…

Some history about snowflakes

The perfect six-sided snowflake exists, but is not the only sort. Early snowflake pictures were taken by farmers’ son, Wilson “snowflake” Bentley  External link - opens new tab/page (February 9, 1865 – December 23, 1931) from Vermont. Aged 15 he was captivated by snowflakes. It started with looking down a microscope. But in 1885 he began experiments with a camera too. After struggling with the early camera technology he began to make some progress. During his life he made thousands of photos of snowflakes. His work still dominate our ideas today. In particular he was the first to claim snowflakes are unique and six sided. His pictures are also some of the best too.

Snowflake photographs by Wilson "snowflake" Bentley

• Snowflake Photographs by Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley •
Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley was famous for his snowflake photographs. Nearly a century after his death we are still using the images.

Research has shown how diverse snowflakes can be. They are not all perfect, regular shapes either. In fact according to “New Scientist  External link - opens new tab/page” (a weekly publication, UK) there are many types. The various forms are created under different conditions…

  • -2°C = Simple hexagons and star shapes
  • -5°C to -10°C columns
  • -15°C Six sided crystals (dendrites) form again
  • -22°C onward… complex plates and columns form again

Here is detailed morphology diagram for snowflakes Morphology Diagram for snowflakes - External link - opens new tab/page. It shows the relationship between the snowflakes’ type and temperature/humidity.

Snowflakes go through a range of temperature, humidity and other changes while falling. They have a unique and sometimes violent history. They clash together. They may ball-up with other flakes. It’s common for them to have multiple crystals joined in one flake. They may circulate in the clouds for long periods. They may also melt and refreeze before descending to the ground. It is not a surprise they are all so different. There is a great infographic on SnowCrystals.com External link - opens new tab/page showing snow crystal growth and the no-two-alike idea.

Capturing snowflakes on camera

You can’t easily photograph snowflakes on the ground. The overall white in a snow mass makes it difficult to distinguish individual flakes. The small size makes them a challenge too. The best approach to snowflakes is two-fold.

  • Use a macro lens or macro extension tubes.
  • Use a clean (new) long hair artists paint brush. Sable hair is best. Use a small black velvet cloth (about 500mm x 500mm) to see the snowflakes.

The aim with these is simple. Tease out individual snowflakes onto a black background. Then get in close with the lens. If you are working with a macro lens help yourself out and use a tripod.

The snowflakes themselves are easily destroyed. The trick is to use the artists brush to lift snowflakes onto the velvet. The brush and velvet have hairs that support the snowflake without damage. Be as gentle as you can to preserve its delicate nature of the crystal.

Sadly tiny ice crystals tend to go grey when on a black background surface. When shot on a dark background they are best converted to monochrome. This helps to increase the contrast and definition of the crystal.

To show the beauty of the refracted light use a well-lit background. If you can, place the snowflake onto a glass slide delicately lifting it off the velvet. You can buy Blank Slides – Microscope accessories External link - opens new tab/pageBuy microscope slides for your snowflake photos. from various places. Make sure you have left the slides to cool down to the snow temperature or the snow will melt on it.

Be sure to keep your cloth, brush and slides cold and dry. Make sure your breath is not directed at the snowflake. Even slightly raised temperature or humidity will affect the snowflake while you are trying to photograph it. More than once I have had them dissolve in front of my eyes.

If you are using an actual microscope, or if you are using a glass slide try to get some backlighting. To get the best refractive results try light at different angles on the snowflake. The best results are not necessarily when the light is directly from below. The angled light tends to create contrasts on the snowflakes. This brings out light and dark as well as some aesthetic colourations from refraction through the crystal.

For your interest here is an amazing camera-microscope…

Celestron Dual Purpose Amoeba Digital Microscope – Blue External link - opens new tab/page
This an affordable and well reviewed digital microscope. It will do detailed images direct from your computer. It’s a photography tool which provides an opportunity to develop your macro skills. Hours of fun too!

Masterful shots

One of the acknowledged masters of the art of shooting snowflakes is Kenneth G. Libbrecht External link - opens new tab/page. He’s a professor of physics who researches crystal growth. He also runs the SnowCrystals.com External link - opens new tab/page website. There are wonderful resources on the site including a “how to guide” External link - opens new tab/page and many hints about photography and equipment. There are some wonderful galleries of images External link - opens new tab/page. There is also a section on how to grow your own snowflakes. Although, the latter was a bit more complex than I think I would go… but who knows. People in this field seem to get obsessive about it. Snowflakes are extraordinarily beautiful.

Two other sources of snowflake inspiration…

Official Snowflake Bentley Web Site. This site houses the Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley photographic collection.
For a huge range of inspiring snowflakes images check out this search page on Google: Snowflakes photography  External link - opens new tab/page

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Camera grip – hold your camera correctly

Improving your camera grip.

Improving your camera grip is an important part of developing your skills.
[Image taken from the Joe McNally video below].

Your camera grip is a critical skill.

Do it wrong and you’ll have problems getting a sharp image in many situations. You may even give yourself bad posture and back pain. Learning to have a good camera grip will help develop your skills in many ways.

Camera grip and overall stance

The way you grip your camera works as part of your overall stance. You can get the grip perfect, but with a poor stance it will ruin the impact of a good camera grip. In Simple tips for a good photography stance I set out a detailed plan for a good stance. It will be worth reading that before you see the videos below.

Joe McNally – Da Grip

In this video Joe shows us how to properly hold the camera. He apologises for how this best suits a left-eyed shooter. However, the technique can apply to both left and right eye shots. So don’t be put off. Watch to the end. Joe makes many of the points I do in Simple tips for a good photography stance and this article. He shows you how to properly grip your camera. He also demonstrates how to control it from this grip too.

JoeMcNallyPhoto External link - opens new tab/page.

Sharpness and camera grip are close friends

When teaching I have often found that poor stance and grip go together. They result in soft shots and poor quality images. I try to help people to be more deliberate and use relaxed but firm control. Then, if they hold a good stance and a good grip the sharpness and image framing seem to come together.

In the next short video Gavin Hoey goes through his method for a camera grip. It is very similar to Joes grip and my camera grip too. Everyone has quirks and slightly different ways to do it. The important thing is to follow the basic plan and practice until your shots are sharp and controlled. Then you will see the benefit of good stance and camera grip.

Gavin spends time on some other aspects of sharpness too. This nicely shows how all these methods come together. Great stance, camera grip and control of your camera will develop your skills in leaps and bounds. For more on improving your sharpness check out this article :: The Zen of sharpness – 12 easy ways to improve.

No more blurred photo’s… Ever!

Gavin Hoey External link - opens new tab/page.

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Get some new ideas for your photography – a quick tip!

Get some new ideas for developing your photography

Here is a great book External link - opens new tab/page you can learn some new ideas about photography without paying…

New ideas to develop your photography…

Here is an interesting and easy way to find some new ideas. At the same time you can do some reading at no cost. A great way to grow your knowledge and find out more about photography.

How to get new ideas

I am sure you know Amazon, that great book-shop on the web. It is not all about book sales (and more). It is also a source of actual reading too. There are ways to use the website for new ideas and information. More to the point it’s free.

Let’s take an example to see how you can get these new ideas. The Collins Complete Photography Course External link - opens new tab/page is an excellent book. Well produced and researched. It’s a top seller and well reviewed. When you go to the Amazon page for it the book also has a readable section. That’s right. While on Amazon you can read several chapters. If the book has a “click to read” tag, like the picture above, you can read some of the text. The chapters you can read in this book are…

  • The story of photography
  • Camera types
  • Getting to grips with your DSLR camera
  • About various exposure modes

…and at the back of the book you can read a great little glossary of terms used in the book.

OK, so maybe you are not going to learn the whole of photography with this method. But, it is one way to pick up some new ideas and information. Other books are of interest too. This extends to books about art and composition ideas as well as other information. You could find yourself in a world of new ideas, facts and know-how.

One more new idea

If you are looking for projects or new ideas for a photograph try this. Go to the index at the back, or sometimes the contents at the front. Both of these areas of a book are packed with concepts. If you are in a book about art or composition in photography, these can start you thinking. Inspiration is all about the idea right? Use this resource just to get the new ideas flowing. Then follow your thoughts…

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.