Category Archives: Light and Lighting

Anything to do with light, lighting, soft light, hard light, light work, light use, light quality, etc.

Using tablets in photography

[Todays article comes from contributing author, Honest Blossom]

Photo of a camera taken with a tablet as a light source.

Taking shots in soft light is so easy with a soft light source. A tablet can provide just that.
{Image by Damon Guy}

Mobile devices give us new tools

Mobile photography is on the rise. Yet despite high usage of smart phones and tablets many believe nothing beats photos produced on a DSLR.

Mobile devices do have a place in the photogs bag. Many pros use mobiles Tablets in photography | External link - opens new tab/page effectively. Photographer-author Anne Hamersky used her iPhone 5 to take photos for her book, “Farm Together Now Tablets in photography: Link to Amazon | External link - opens new tab/page (jointly authored with Amy Franceschini and Daniel Tucker)”.

Apart from being used as cameras, smart phones and tablets in photography have huge potential. They can assist with simple lighting, easy viewing of images, and controlling cameras.

1. Simple Lighting

You don’t need professional lighting equipment to create a soft light. Your tablet can create shadow graduations on your subject. How? Use a bright-white image on your screen (Download white-screen image here). Point the display toward your subject. It will create soft light and shadows. You can also use your smart phone to light smaller objects. The screen illumination produces white light. It’s a source of localized soft light in your image.

Table-top studio photo showing how to use a tablet as a soft light source.

The camera image at the top of this article was taken using the table-top studio set up in this image. Simple to do and simple to set up.

Use tablets in photography to create direct light too. Devices with built-in flash can be used as a photographic light. Use a flashlight (torch) app. There are also some LED light apps. that you can use on your tablet to create coloured light sources.

2. Camera Controller

Want to control your camera functions via your tablet? Try the Chainfire app for Android devices. You can use your tablet as a Canon EOS camera controller. Here is how to do it:

  1. Install the Chainfire app Tablets in photography: Chainfire app. | External link - opens new tab/page.
  2. Connect your DSLR to the tablet via a USB OTG connector line and a mini USB cable for the camera. {Tip: It’s best to get a longer USB cable}.
  3. Turn on the camera and the app to view the subject.

Navigating through the app is easy, as it uses the controls of your camera. Photos taken using the camera can also be saved to the memory card of the tablet. I suggest downloading photos to your computer later. Photos take a lot of space and are safer on a PC.

View a guide on how to use the Chainfire app Tablets in photography: Chainfire app guide. | External link - opens new tab/page. Also read more details on the Chainfire website Tablets in photography: Chainfire website | External link - opens new tab/page.

3. Field or Preview monitor

It’s advisable to opt for a tablet with at least a 9-inch display. The main purpose of using a tablet is as an extended monitor. You will get a better preview of the subject than the small display on your DSLR. According to O2, tablets such as the Apple’s iPad Air (9.7-inch screen) and ‘Samsung Galaxy Tab S’ (10.5-inch screen) are the best preview monitors you can use on a photo shoot Tablets in photography | External link - opens new tab/page. They allow more space to view and work with the images. You are less likely to strain your eyes with decent sized screens.

Using tablets in photography to control the camera uses the same procedure as any shoot. Taking the shot is set up and released from the mobile. You will need a USB OTG connector to use the tablet as a preview monitor. Applications such as the DSLR Controller, GoPro, CamCap, Helicon Remote, and DslrDashboard are the advisable software to use.

Tablets in photography – top devices

What are the top tablets for photographers? There are various devices to choose from. They offer many features and functions. Choosing one can be quite confusing when picking the best to help your shoots.

To make it easier, consider the other reasons you’re buying the tablet. Email and editing photos or other uses are also important. This will help narrow down your list of choices, as most devices have their own strengths. It will also help to opt for a tablet that has been recommended by other photographers. Here are some examples:

  1. Apple iPad with Retina Display
  2. Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2
  3. Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
  4. Microsoft Surface 2
  5. Lenovo Yoga Tab

Mobile devices have found their way into DSLR photography because of powerful camera lenses and relevant apps. These assist professional and amateur alike. The changes have come about because using tablets in photography helps and simplifies our work.

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Contributing author: Honest Blossom

Honest Blossom is a seasoned blogger and practising photographer from the UK. She has written various articles ranging from the latest technology and innovation, travelling spots, mobile and digital photography and more.

Exposure changes the mood of your image

Exposure changes can affect many aspects of an image.

Exposure changes can affect many aspects of an image. Colour, mood, visual impact, contrast and others. The second image below show the differences.
Image better seen large. Click image to view large.

There is no such thing as a perfect exposure

The main goal of starter photographers is to control the exposure. The Exposure Triangle, or other models of balancing light, lead learners to pursue ‘perfection’. Once they grasp the concept of balancing ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed, the needle in the camera viewfinder is their guide.

In manual mode, that central needle is important. It shows that the three elements are balanced. The unwary learner is soon overwhelmed by that needle. They have learned how to keep it central. Now they are going to keep it there despite everything. They have learned that, if the exposure changes, the needle drifts off the middle position. When that happens it is no longer “perfect”.

That mid-position needle is useful. However, it is not ‘perfection’. It is just a guide. Modern camera manufacturers have made things easy for the camera user. The technology, sensors and controls on a modern camera mislead the unwary into a false position. Complex technology and controls give the user confidence that the camera must be right. They assume the central needle creates the perfect capture. That is simply not true.

The balance of light controls the quality of outcome you want. Your final image is created by that quality of light. The creative photographer uses exposure changes to to conjure up the result they want. A good photographer commands the camera to create the picture. The camera does not create the perfect exposure for the user. The user makes exposure changes to create the desired image. Deliberate under or overexposure is an important part of creating your image.

Exposure changes allow you to command the camera

In the image below we see (almost) the same picture as above…

A different quality of exposure changes the whole experience of the picture.

This second image shows same scene as above. But the different quality of exposure changes the experience of the picture. This outcome is no more correct than the top picture. However, when it was taken this one was 1 and 1/3 stops underexposed on the camera viewfinder scale. It was taken within seven seconds of the first image.
Image better seen large. Click image to view large.

Exposure changes allow the user to create the mood of the shot. This is clearly shown by the deeper contrasts, more saturated blues in the sky and reds in the Autumnal leaves. The low sunlight brings out the shadows and colours more. It all adds up. Together they create a very different view of this fountain scene. A twilight feel perhaps.

I was trying to create an Autumn evening view and the deliberate underexposure gave me the key. Yes, I deliberately underexposed to create the effect. I was commanding the camera to create my “perfect” scene for what I wanted.

Experienced photogs make exposure changes regularly

For me, the darker version was right for the reasons I needed that photograph. The control of the intensity of shadows, colours, contrasts, and so on, can be done many ways.

For example, High key shots often use exposure changes. They are created by deliberate overexposure. That brings out the intense whites in a high key image.

Many portraits are lit very brightly to the eye, but a very small aperture or fast shutter speed limits the light entering the camera. This will create an underexposure bringing out the facial features. This gives shadows a depth, without harshness, as can be seen in the next image. This use of exposure changes is a great mood enhancer.

Portrait shot in bright light but underexposed in-camera.

Portrait underexposed in-camera creates a tonally controlled result.

Create the exposure changes you want

How do you create this effect of under or overexposure? Simple. There is a control that can do it in auto or semi-auto modes. While in an auto-mode use the “exposure compensation” dial. You can add or subtract one or two stops of light. You can find out how to use the dial in your manual.

For the learner going fully manual it is even easier. That central needle position is your guide to what the camera calculates as an optimum light level for the shot. To create a manual over or underexposure simply dial the exposure-meter back or forward. Move the needle away from the central position. Shocking I know. You actually create exposure changes by deviating from the central needle position.

Exposure changes of one stop halves or doubles the light entering the camera. So be careful. Take several test shots. Dial one third of a stop or more at a time. Look at the result and check if you have created the right effect.

Create your image in mind – then make exposure changes to suit

The way you want your image is a creative decision. The camera should not be allowed to dictate the outcome.

You have two choices. If you go with the settings the camera gives you, the result is an optimum of the balance of the settings. If you can foresee what you want to achieve, then create your own result. In this case, make the balance of settings so the exposure changes to your choice. Your choice will be different to the result the camera would give you. But with care and practice it will be what you intend for your shot. You have taken control.

So next time you are taking a photo consider this. If you think your picture would be more effective as a darker or lighter representation, then make the exposure changes you need. Do it – create. Really make your images – don’t just capture what is there.

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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+.

Photography hacks – adapting your equipment

Seven photography hacks :: adapting your equipment

Seven photography hacks

Photography hacks- making something work differently

In most shots our standard equipment does what is required. Yet, the standard shot is not always what we want. Sometimes we want to make some special effort to provide a different effect, a new view. There are many thousands of photography hacks. Each one can give us something different. Some are more radical than others. But what it really comes down to is making our equipment fit our need to get a specific type of outcome.

Regular readers will know that creative work often involves visualisation. Seeing a hoped-for image outcome in your head helps you to have ideas. Such pre-thinking can help you plan how to use or adapt your equipment. To get the desired result you may have to do all sorts of small adaptions. Walk into any working studio and you will see, card, boards, gaffer tape, clamps, flags. They are all there to help jury-rig things into a new way of creating an effect for the shoot.

These photography hacks are the mainstay of studio work and important on location too. You can do lots of simple things to change the light, the colours, the shadows, the effects of light on your lens, and so on. All that is required is to try and think ahead about what you want to achieve. Then, find ways to change your equipment to get the effect. Familiarity with your equipment helps. As you get creative, then other ideas will come to mind. Look around for ways to change things, or to get new effects.

Photography hacks video

In the video, “7 Simple Photography Hacks” you can get an insight into some of the basic ideas. These are a good start for some examples you can develop yourself. Spend a little time thinking about things you have around you. See if some of them could be used in your own photography hacks.
Provided by COOPH Photography hacks video | External link - opens new tab/page

Messy

The “Vaseline” photography hack in the video can be a bit messy. Only do it on a filter, not the lens. And, try to keep any of the “Vaseline” off the rest of the camera. It is difficult to clean up too. So use an old filter.

Another photography hack for you to try

Here is another idea you can use. It is less messy and gives some satisfying results too…

  • Cut a section out of a fine quality pair of ladies tights (psst… make sure they are surplus first!).
  • Pull the piece tight across the end of your lens.
  • Fix it in place by securing it with elastic bands tight enough over the end of the lens to hold it taught.
  • Take your photo through the material of the tights.
  • To vary the effect, you can make a central hole in the material.
  • Try different colours, try different types of tights knit.

This one is a very old photography hack. It used to be used a lot in wedding shoots years ago. It is just as effective today. Have a go. It is fun.

Let us have some of your shots. We would love to put up a few for others to see.

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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+.

Settings for overcoming hand-shake blur

Balance your settings to avoid hand-shake blur in low light.

First dance
Low light photography needs a careful balance of settings to ensure a sharp shot and avoid hand-shake blur.

Hand-shake blur and sharp results.

Hand held shots often return blurred results. While using auto-settings the problem does not seem to arise. What is going on and how do you overcome hand-shake blur?

Manual settings and auto

Your digital camera is a sophisticated computer. It has access to a range of powerful programs that make decisions about each shot. When you use auto settings you are handing the camera over to the control of its programming. The auto setting is selected with the green square on the program dial. It makes all the decisions and you just point and shoot. This ‘auto’ strategy is limited. It leaves you unable to make creative decisions about your shot. Depth of field, movement blur and the light or dark emphasis in a scene is beyond your control.

With any of the manual settings on the program dial things are different. Shutter speed (S or Tv), Aperture (A or Av) and ISO settings allow you to get control of the exposure. Once you control these settings you are able to make creative decisions about your shot. But if you get it wrong you might allow hand-shake blur to creep in. Equally, with the right strategy, you can also set up to prevent the effects of hand-shake blur.

What causes hand-shake blur

Low light, long shutter opening or low ISO can all contribute. Hand shake-blur is caused by hand movement while the shutter is open. To prevent it you shorten the time the shutter is open. With a shorter shutter opening any hand movement is not given time to impact on the shot. Very fast shutter opening, say 1000th of a second, freezes the shot. The hand has almost no time to move in that short period. So, no hand-shake blur.

However, short shutter opening time means less light reaches the sensor. A good exposure requires sufficient light. A shutter speed of 1000th of a second would leave the picture under exposed in low light conditions. On the other hand, if you select a 15th of a second, the shutter is open for a long time. Hey presto! Enough light. But, (boo!) hand-shake blur. The shutter is open too long. Your hands have plenty of time to move.

Over coming hand-shake blur is about balance

If you raise the ISO setting, the sensor becomes more sensitive to light. So, raise the ISO until you can set the shutter to around 200th of a second. At that speed it is easier to hold the camera steady.

Of course, if you have to raise the ISO a lot to allow 200ths sec. you will get a grainy picture. Raising the ISO reduces the quality of the shot. Ideally an ISO setting of 100 will give you the best quality photographic result. On an average day you may have to set your ISO at around 200 or 400 to get a 200ths of a second shutter speed. Up to about ISO 800 the quality from most good DSLRs will be fine. After that, the quality of the image will be affected more and more by grain or “Digital Noise”.

Pictures taken in a dark church, or at an evening dance will have very low light. So, as an example, an ISO of 1600 would possibly give you enough sensitivity to work with a shutter speed of, say, 160th of a second. That would allow you to get a hand-held shot without hand-shake blur, if you have a steady hand. But you might also get a little digital noise in the final image.

Getting the right settings between the ISO and shutter speed is a fine balance. You need to raise the ISO the right amount to give you the shutter speed you need. Too much ISO and you get bad quality in the picture. Too little ISO and you will be forced to use a shutter speed that’s too low. Hand holding under these low light conditions may cause hand-shake blur.

Hand-shake blur and aperture

With ‘auto’ shots the camera program takes account of the light conditions. The program sets the ISO, aperture and shutter speed to values that allow shorter shutter opening. So far we have only discussed shutter speed and ISO. But aperture has a part to play too.

If you open the aperture wider it lets in more light. So, you don’t need to raise your ISO so high if you also open your aperture. In our church example above, an ISO of 800 (not 1600), shutter speed of 200th sec. and an aperture of f4 (wide) could create a good exposure.

If your aperture is set at say f11 (small) less light will get through. So, again you are going to need to have higher ISO or long shutter opening (or both), depending on your light conditions. A small aperture, like f11, will give you a sharp picture to infinity. But, you may have to sacrifice picture quality (high ISO) or suffer hand-shake blur (from longer shutter opening).

The wide aperture does have a penalty too. As the aperture gets wider the depth of field gets shallower. So once again we are back to a balance. To hand-hold a camera we must make decisions about all three basic settings – Shutter speed, aperture and ISO.

Other strategies for avoiding hand-shake blur

Camera movement or hand-shake blur can be avoided in a lot of different ways. Sometimes you must work in situations where hand-shake blur is inevitable without more radical solutions. Then there are other things you can do to reduce hand-shake blur. Here are some of them…

  • Lens anti-vibration: Many quality lenses have anti-vibration systems. These sophisticated systems detect hand-shake blur as it happens and counteract it. This might extend your safe shutter speed down to quite slow shutter speeds (say a 60th of a second). While this many not solve all your problems it can help in less extreme light conditions.
  • Tripod: A steady platform will prevent camera movement. If you need a long shutter opening then work from a tripod to eliminate hand-shake blur.
  • Flash: If you are working in a low light situation you may need to raise light levels. A flash unit, on or off the camera, is one answer. An intense flash of light can raise the light high enough for you to work with settings that prevent hand-shake blur.
  • Studio lights: More controllable, but more expensive, these lights can accurately raise light levels to enable you to reliably avoid hand-shake blur and get a good exposure.
  • Reflectors: You can use these to bring more light to where you are working by, say, reflecting from another artificial light or natural light source. Reflectors are particularly useful in reducing the darker areas of a shot. You can reflect the light to just raise light levels in some areas bringing the over all light level up. As the light level across the shot is raised the hand-shake blur can be reduced since shutter speed can be faster.
  • Improve your stance: A better stance is a great way to improve your steadiness.
  • Go to the gym: “What? This is about photography not fitness”, I hear you say. Well, here is a revelation. If your arms are stronger you can hold the camera steadier. A DSLR is a heavy object. Especially after a long session your arms will not hold the camera steady. If your camera is too heavy for you – well, strengthen up. Actually, more strength gives you much better motor control of your hands in any case. You will be able to hold even a point and shoot camera or phone with a steadier hand after regular exercise. Photography, like all other pursuits benefits from a fit body. Improved fitness will reduce hand-shake blur.
The answer to avoiding hand-shake blur

The auto program in your camera may give good results and reduce hand-shake blur. However, it will only do so in average conditions. In more extreme conditions, or where you want to exert some creative control over your shot you need to go manual.

The use of manual settings gives you control. You can control depth of field, subject movement-blur and light vs. dark emphasis in your shots. But, to get the best out of your camera you will need to set it up to avoid hand-shake blur. In this article I have tried to help you understand that the settings you pick can help you control hand-shake blur. Overall, the answer lies in creating a balance between the basic settings of aperture, shutter speed and ISO so that your hand held shutter speed is around 200ths of a second or higher. Lower than 200ths of a second and hand-shake blur is liable to creep into your shots.

Of course there are other things you can do to help raise your shutter speed. I have mentioned some of them. But they all have the same effect. They either stabilise the camera (tripod) or allow you to get the shutter speed high enough so you can steady the camera. So, now you know. Get out there and try to get your settings so you have around a 200th of a second when you take the shot.

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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+.

Beach views – ideas for a seaside photoshoot

Beach views are really worth planning out.

• Cornish Afternoon •
The great British beach experience is based on our long history of holidays by the sea. The beach views that come with it are worth pursuing too.
(Click image to view large).

Work up a great coastal vista shot.

Beach views can be magnificent and there is always something worth photographing. Sea makes a magical subject in almost any weather. In the right place the views can be magnificent. Here are a few ideas for you to help you get a great photo from your visit to the seaside.

Beach views :: great vista shots

Photographers should be aware of the opportunities for great vista shots. Here are three tips to help you get the shot and the right light…
1. Spotting a rugged coast: Scout out the maps near your destination. Most good maps will show contours and the coastal shape. If you are looking for interesting coastline check out the height of the land beside the sea. Cliffs and hills indicate harder, more resistant rocks. This helps build up a range of rugged landscapes. Also, the more jagged edges the map shows along the sea/beach line the more likely the coast will have an interesting viewpoint.

If you are looking for a place to try out, Google Maps is useful. The Google maps are not very good at showing contours or heights. But the jaggedness of a coast line is shown. If you convert the map to the Google “Earth” view you can get a satellite view of the coast. From that you can get quite a good idea of the terrain.

Google Earth - the satellite view provides a good idea of the type of coast.

• Whitsand Bay Cornwall •
The photo at the top of the page was taken from the position of the red dot. The view was taken along the rugged coast there. You can see from the Google Satellite view how rugged the coast is along there. It’s ideal for lots of different Beach views.


2. Beach views :: Checking out the light:
There are two times a day when the light is best for landscapes and vista shots. These are the Golden Hour just before sundown and the hour around sunrise. There is great light and low sun position at these times of the day. Why is low-sun position good? Because that causes long shadows to be cast off the rocks. Strong contrasts between the dark and light help define edges, shapes and form of the rocks and features. Shadows provide the defining depth in a picture too. Well defined shadows help the eye to see objects as more three dimensional.
• The Okta • The symbol for cloud cover on good weather maps.

• The Okta •
The symbol for cloud cover on good weather maps. A useful symbol to tell you the light conditions when checking for good beach views.
(Attribution: Wikipedia.org Beach views :: Oktas - cloud cover symbols | External link - opens new tab/page)


Of course we are not always able to take our photos at the best times of the day. So how do you check to see what the light will be like when you are there? Of course the starting point is the weather. Most good weather forecast web sites will tell you the amount of cloud cover. You can usually tell how much cloud cover is expected by the number of Oktas (or Octas) shown. The more cloud cover the more diffused the light will be. The actual types of clouds make a difference too – if they are dark and ominous they will make a great backdrop to your beach views. Seascapes really look great with heavy storm clouds. Make sure you have a tripod to hand. Dark clouds mean longer exposures.

3. Sun position: If it is a sunny day you might find the sun position is important. If the sun is up high, cliffs can still be in shadow. It depends exactly where in the sky the sun is at the time you want to take photos. There are websites to help with that too. Check out The Photographers Ephemeris Beach views :: Get the light right with . This really useful website “is a map-centric sun and moon calculator: see how the light will fall on the land, be it day or night, for almost anywhere on earth”. There is a web-based version. But usefully, there are versions for your mobile phone too. You will be able to work out where the sun will be at any time of the day. This will help you work out how to fit your beach view shot into your day.

Putting depth into your beach views shot

The shadows you are able to capture will help your beach views appear to have depth. But a longer distance view, especially in mid-day daylight, will need to have other perspectives. Here are a few ideas for you to introduce a feeling of depth into your shots…

  • Overlaps: When you are looking down a long beach you often find features of the beach itself will overlap in your sight. Mounds of beach stones; sand dunes; different rock layers at beach level; cliff top undulations; variations in the cliff face itself and even local vegetation all help. The ways that these features relate to one-another in the scene give you clues to depth in the photo.
  • Contrasts in colour: The colour of the beach stones, rock, sand and even vegetation can often be used to show variation. As you shoot down the length of the beach these can help to show depth to the eye.
  • Texture variation: The cliffs, dunes, rocks and any seaweed revealed by a low tide provide great variations in texture. Look for ways to bring all these into the shot. Textures often come out by slightly underexposing the shot. That may make the scene look darker than it actually is, but it will bring out the light and dark aspects effectively.
  • Lines of perspective: Strong lines are not often associated with beach views. However there are some strong ones that people often miss. The sea line itself is a strong line. You can look down the length of the beach and use the surf or water line where it meets the beach. Looking down on the beach from cliffs you can use wave lines (see below). If you are on the beach itself you beach views are often enhanced by cliff top lines. Although they often undulate they perspective is still distinct against the sky. On the beach itself, fences and other man-made features (groynes, buildings, paths, roads, beach walls etc.) provide lots of points of perspective you can use.
  • Distant points: If you have something in the distance that your viewer knows to be large they have a distance perspective. In the picture at the top of the page you can see a cloud line. These tiny clouds in the distance give a perspective for the viewer. Other things can be large shops towns on the coast, and even buildings.
• Cornish beach view •

• Cornish beach view •
This view of the beach shown at the top of the page loses some perspective because the distances are reduced. The wave lines in the sea and the rock protruding from the cliffs gives back some of the perspective. The nearness of the grass close-up and smallness of the person and buildings also give depth to the shot.
(Click image to view large).

Check out other pictures of the location for your beach view

The most effective way to plan for your picture is to look up your destination and look for pictures done by other photographers. Try putting your intended location into Google Images. You will be able to pick out features in advance to help you give depth and perspective. You will also be able to see some good places to take shots. Here is the page for the bay where my pictures above were taken. You can see my shots are quite different from the others shown there. There is lots of scope to help you pick out some ideas.
Google Images: Beach views Whitsands Bay Cornwall Google Images: Beach views Whitsands Bay Cornwall | 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+.

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+.

Using the sun to create shafts of light

Golden Morning - Light shafts pierce the mist

Golden Morning – Light shafts pierce the mist

Atmospheric shots – look for light shafts

Look out for the early morning or evening mist that creeps across the landscape. If the mist is with a clear sky, you are in for a photographic treat. This is one of the most atmospheric shots you can take.

What are light shafts?

We are talking about those lovely rays that pass through the air highlighted by the mist. They often pick up the golden colours of morning or the wonderful oranges/reds of dusk.

Misty conditions can arise in lots of ways. Early morning or evening chill after a warm day often creates mist. It’s best as a ground mist. Up above the rising or falling sun is bright, golden and low. Under these conditions you have the perfect situation for light shafts. It is the shafts of light falling through the mist that create the effect. Although often there does not need to be much more than a hint of mist. Sometimes only a moist air is enough. This is especially so if you are in a dark forest with bright light penetrating deep between the dense canopy. The strong contrasts will often pick out the light shafts.

Misty Morning • Look for light shafts

• Misty Morning •
Look for the way the shafts of light cut through the mist

How do you capture light shafts

Actually, very easily. Be careful however, because you can damage your eyes or camera. Here is what you do…

Look for the shafts of light you can see with your eyes. If you can see them then you can often bring them out in-camera by slightly over exposing the light shafts. Set your camera focus to measure light using only the centre point of the viewfinder. Check your manual to find out how. Then, make sure you point it at a dark spot – like the trunk of a tree. The camera will measure for the darker areas of scene. This will brighten the scene and light shafts will stand out strongly. You will need to use one of the manual modes to do this.

You can also look for very bright spots coming through tree cover. This is often only the case if your camera is pointing directly at the sun. This can be dangerous so only do it if tiny points of light are coming through. NEVER look directly at the sun with your eyes or through your lens. If you can, use live view. Then you will not be looking directly at a bright light. If you are able to see a place where most of the light is blocked you could capture a few rays. Powerful as they are, they will cause strong lens flare. Often this will emphasis light shafts coming through the mist.

Light shafts – examples

You can check on this search on Google Images to see a whole page of light shafts. There are so many around the web that you cannot fail to be inspired…
Google Images :: Light shafts  External link - opens new tab/page about light shafts

Getting there on time

This is one of those techniques that work best with the Golden Hours of morning or evening. So you might need to get up early. Looking out for the right conditions is crucial. So is making sure you are in the right light/dark conditions. Forests and woodland are best. Most of all, be at one with nature. These shots make exciting images to look at. They are wonderful to experience too.

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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+.