Category Archives: How to…

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

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+.

Light intensity – estimating the light you need

Light intensity is about finding the natural look

• Computer user •
Get familiar with light intensity. Look for the right light intensity in every shot. It is not always easy – here’s how.

Aim for a light intensity that suites the subject.

When using artificial lights think about how light best suits the subject. Learners often use lights set too bright. We will explore the use of distance to reduce the light intensity.

What is light intensity

You might describe light intensity as the power that light has at a given place. A light is most powerful at its source. As it radiates away from the source it becomes less intense. Actually the light radiated still has the same total energy. As it gets further from the light source it is just spread out more.

At each point where you measure light travelling away from the source there will be less and less light. This is because the total light is more and more spread out. This relationship is called the Inverse Square Law. It is a bit of math which describes how light behaves. For our purposes we just need to know that as the distance from a light increases, the illuminated area also gets larger. The same amount of energy is spread out over a larger area. We can say this in a simple way…

As you move away from a light, the light intensity reduces by “distance squared”.

A camera only samples a small area of light. If the light is spreading out the amount of light it can gather is getting less. The light intensity it can capture reduces with distance. Less light is going to get into the camera.

So the light intensity gets less with distance?

At one meter from the light you can say light intensity is one unit. At two meters the light is spread out over four square meters (1 divided by four). If you take a photo you will get one quarter of the light entering your camera. Here is a table that shows how this goes…

1 M from source :: Light intensity per square meter = 1
2 M from source :: Light intensity per square meter = 1/4
3 M from source :: Light intensity per square meter = 1/9
4 M from source :: Light intensity per square meter = 1/16
and so on…
[M = Meter]

Here is a diagram showing how light intensity falls off according to the inverse square law.

How does this help?

When using artificial light of any kind you should remember light intensity. Good light should match the scene for a good image. It should look natural and the right sort of light (colour, intensity, etc). You also need to have enough illumination for the shot. Too little and the picture will be under exposed. Too much? The picture will be washed out, over exposed. All simple enough.

You need to know that light intensity falls off with the square of the distance for one reason. If you take a picture close to a light (1m) that may be bright enough to achieve what you need. If you move to three meters the light intensity will be reduced to one ninth of its previous amount. That is very different light to use. It changes your light levels in the scene. It will also affect your cameras ability to make an exposure. It may affect the colour of the light or other properties.

For someone using a flash on a camera it works the other way around. If you move to three meters from your subject the flash will light them at one ninth of the light intensity of a shot taken from one meter. They will appear much less bright.

Moving close to or away from a light source

The point is simple. Light intensity determines both the illumination and the brightness of a subject. You don’t need to move a lamp or flash very far for a significant loss (or gain) of light intensity. So guessing where to take your next shot is made easier. You can predict that fall-off now you know how the lighting behaves.

Now you can control your flash two ways. You can turn it down using the menus on your camera (check your manual). Alternatively you can move back. Even a short distance back will reduce the brightness of the shot by a lot.

Next time you are using a flash…

Why not test the theory. Put your camera in manual mode. Take a picture at one meter. Without changing the settings, move back. Try two meters, then three, and so on. Each picture will get dimmer. Quicker than you expect you will not be able to make an exposure. This is probably one of the most important lessons about the behaviour of light.

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Portrait context is about the artist as well as the subject

Portrait context is important in photography

• Portrait context is important in photography •
[Image taken from the video].

Art in a portrait…

…includes much more than meets the eye. Photographers taking their first steps with portraits often see only the person in front of them. But the portrait context also includes the scene, the artist and their culture.

Portrait context – a historical boundary

Portrait art historically reflected the fashions and ideas of the time. For example early civilisations tended to depict people in profile. These flat two dimensional portraits were a mark of early Egyptian art. Much later, in the 14th century, the Renaissance masters did portraits as a three dimensional rendering on the canvas. They used artistic tools the Egyptians did not have.

Today the portrait context is still related to the knowledge and experience of the artist. And, they are partly bound by the conventions of their time, culture and so on. You can never fully be divorced from your context. But, we are free to take a wider, more context-free view of portraits. Artists and photographers are trained to take a broad, imaginative outlook. Art and photography schools give the imaginative freedom of students a wide scope. Breaking the bounds of traditional portraiture is a part of that freedom.

Breaking the bounds of portrait context takes careful thought

Portraiture starters often only see their subject through “everyday” eyes. Most of us are not trained in the ways of imaginative scene setting. So we tend to take portraits that represent our every day view of people. There is nothing wrong with that. Family, friends and others make a fun photograph. The images can be pleasing and satisfying.

Great portraiture goes deeper than that day-to-day view. To push the boundaries of your portraits, think in a different way. The portrait photog should consider their own vision and experience. They also need to think of the environment, cultural context, story and location of the shot. The photographer should understand who they are as well as knowing something of the portrait subject.

Of course knowing these things does not produce a great image. What makes a great portrait is pre-vision. It is how you bring out something in the subject, the scene or the portrait context that is remarkable. This takes a unique perspective.

The art of portrait photography

A strong portrait steps out of the everyday view. In the video we get the perspective of a number of portrait photogs. Each has looked into the portrait context in which they are working. With forethought and insight they have constructed artful portraits. They have also made driven and powerful images of their subjects. Each has a clear understanding of the portrait context. Each has a clear view of what they want to say.

The lesson is, look for a point to make. Understand both what you are working with and what you are working to express.
PBSoffbook  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 also 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+.

Lag time – don’t miss the shot

Lag time - test one

• Lag time – test one •
There is a gap between pushing the button and the making the photo.
(image by Netkonnexion)

Every time you push the button…

There’s a period when not much happens. Lag time is the total time taken for the camera to complete the exposure process from the button push. In that process is a lot of detail. Here we look at lag time. With a simple test you can get a feel for the lag time in your camera.

Why is lag time important?

If you buy a camera for action shots you want minimal lag time. Otherwise you look and press, but the action has gone. Of course you can anticipate the action. This is how we all deal with lag time. But to know what time to anticipate you need a feel for the camera. A long lag time is likely to make your guess about when to press the shutter button less accurate. So it’s in your interest to know the lag time and practice with it. If you know the lag it makes it easer to guess the delay for shots.

Shutter lag – don’t misuse the term

Some people use the term shutter lag in a confusing way. They mean it to be the same as lag time. In the past this may have been the case. In early cameras most of the exposure process was completed by the shutter. Today we have a lot of other steps involved. The list of various time related things in the exposure process is quite long today…

  1. LCD activation of the picture (LCD display and electronic [mirrorless] viewfinders only).
  2. Thinking time between seeing a subject on the display and the finger push on the button.
  3. Time taken to get a focus.
  4. Aperture – time to calculate & set aperture size.
  5. Meter – time from light reading to exposure set up.
  6. Digital sensor start up to be ready.
  7. Shutter motor/mechanism actuation.
  8. Shutter opening.
  9. Digital capture of light data.
  10. Shutter closing.
  11. Data emptied from sensor ready for next exposure.

These items may overlap, run simultaneously or be in sequence. Some may not apply to some cameras. It depends on the camera model, design, efficiency and the components involved.

This list adds up to the total lag time. The first five items are not shutter related. They delay the firing of the shutter. They are shutter delay times. The other items are shutter lag items. They are responsible for the shutter and sensor capture of the exposure. They determine the shutter process from start to finish. These are the shutter lag items.

To be clear, lag time is the sum of all the lag items. Shutter lag is only those items related to the shutter-sensor system.

For a more detailed look at various components of lag times check out: Definition: Shutter lag; Shutter delay; Lag time; Processing lag;

Getting the shot – lag time explored

In order to know your camera better you can actually measure your lag time. So here is a method you can use at home. I have tested it using two different pieces of equipment and on two cameras with good results.

A word of warning. The on-board flash crosses all the other lag/delay times and may extend your total lag quite a lot. This is because it takes time to charge up ready for the flash. It will affect the results. Before testing turn off your flash. Check your manual if you are not sure how. Both these methods have back-lighting. You will get enough light without it.

Explanation/method: to measure the lag time we need to identify all the processes involved. I have done this for you above. This allows you to know what parts of the process are holding things up. You will see later that can help you save time.

Next we need to find a way to mark the start and end of the process. Fortunately the camera helps us. When the shutter button is pushed we know the exposure process is started. The clever part is that if we photograph a timer we know when the exposure process is finished because the clock will show the finish time.

To find out our lag time is easy. We activate a clock at the same time as we push the shutter button. We do this while photographing the clock. When the shot is taken the end of the the lag time is shown on the photograph.

Two methods to try out

In the photo “Test one” above I have used this method with my smart phone. I set up the stop-watch app on my phone. Then I pushed “start” with my left hand. I simultaneously held the camera and pushed the shutter button. The key is to make sure you set off both the timer and shutter button at once. If you do, the the photograph will show the lag time. In the photo above it shows 69/100ths of a second. This is my lag time for a photo taken on my little Canon G12. Use a tripod or stand if holding your camera and pushing the button at once is not steady enough.

If you do not have a smart phone (or a stop watch) to photograph, try this web page…
This page will allow you to test your Digital Camera’s shutter lag… External link - opens new tab/page.
(Note: this page is about your total lag time even though it refers to the shutter lag).

Shutter Lag Test two

• Shutter Lag Test two •
Test your Digital Camera’s lag time External link - opens new tab/page.

Follow the instructions on that page. You will see a very slight retard on the clock at the ‘zero’ point. That gives you time to notice the top point and press the shutter button. The resulting photo will tell you the lag time on your camera.

I have run tests on my camera using both the web page and the stop-watch app method. They give consistent results. I feel confident you will find either test will work for you.

Pre-focus to get the shot

Notice on the second test page there are two tests. The second one shows you how you can shorten your lag time. If you pre-focus the camera that saves some pre-shutter time. Focus takes quite a bit of time. So if it is already focused when you take the shot your lag is reduced.

To reduce the delay with pre-focus press the button half way down while looking at the clock. The camera will focus and take meter reading. Then you can hold the half way position – this is called focus-lock. Hold your half-down position until, at zero. Then push the shutter button the rest of the way down. You will normally find your camera lag time is greatly reduced. Possibly by as much as a half. Something to bear in mind for future shots.

Accuracy

Of course you might take a totally bad reading for your fist shot. After playing I found that for both methods you need to practice a little to get consistent readings.

To ensure you get a good overall result I suggest taking ten readings after some practice. Here are readings from my run of ten… 0.53 + 0.53 + 0.69 + 0.98 + 0.89 + 0.66 + 0.74 + 0.65 + 0.66 + 0.74 = 7.07
If we divide the total by ten we will get an average reading. It will iron out any anomalous readings.
Thus: 7.07÷10 = 0.71 (rounded to two places). The lag time on this camera is therefore 71/100ths of a second.

This ‘average’ method provides us with a consistent standard over our readings. This is a more accurate method of gauging the lag time.

What have we done?

The things a modern camera does to take a picture has created a long lag. The lag time is the sum of all the different things that impact the exposure process. From button-press to complete capture-of-data is the lag time.

We have looked at two ways of testing the lag time: a stop watch app; and a web page timer. I have also suggested using an average reading to iron out anomalies.

If you go through this process you will know your camera much better. But more to the point you will have a new confidence. You will know how long it takes to complete an exposure. And, you will know how much time to delay for a shot.

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has also 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+.

Break the pattern – draw in the eye

Break The Pattern - interest the eye

• Break the pattern – interest the eye•
When you break the pattern your texture, pattern or background takes on a new perspective. The eye is drawn in to explore the changed symmetry.
(Image of Brian Peterson taken from the video).

The eye loves pattern and texture…

Detail in the world around us can be attractive to the eye. But often we miss this detail if the eye is not drawn to it. Break the pattern and our eye is drawn in.

Break the pattern – break the monotony

Pattern attracts the eye because it is uniform and predictable. However, pattern is also spoilt for the same reason. When we see a pattern we are not threatened by it. We quickly know it. We feel comfortable with it. In fact the eye quickly becomes bored.

There is a good reason for this quick loss of interest. As we move around in our environment pattern allows us spot safety or danger; predator or prey. When we see something break the pattern we need to explore it. Is there danger here? Is there prey here? We find the things we seek when we see a break in the expected pattern.

Seek the difference

Our eye-brain system is really good at recognising pattern. But it is the ‘slightly different’ we really want to know about. We quickly lose our focus on the pattern – unless we see it is no longer uniform at some point. An edge that is different; or colour, or form, alerts the eye. Then, our eye-brain system spends time comparing and contrasting. We explore.

If you think about what really fascinates the human spirit it is all about things that break the pattern. When something is not as we expect it all sorts of questions are raised. We could almost say that understanding “pattern and inconsistency” is behind the scientific revolution. We look to understand the world by finding pattern. When something breaks the pattern it is a source of endless curiosity.

So it is in photography…

Images provide this same interest. By creating a pattern we make it easy to know the picture. When we break the pattern we introduce the same endless quest to explore. You have won the viewers eye when you make them explore your image. Ultimately, you interest them when they want to know more, or to know why.

Pattern Texture: You Keep Shooting with Bryan Peterson

In this short video Brian looks at a simple, predictable texture. He very simply shows how to break the pattern to attract the eye. Another tip after the video…
Adorama External link - opens new tab/page

More than one dimension

If you break the pattern you interest the eye. However, composition has more than one dimension. If we want to interest the eye a break the pattern – yes. But, we can do it in a boring way and lose the eye quickly. If the flower in Brian’s shot was placed dead centre the effect would be lost. When central the picture suddenly becomes about the flower. Actually we want the picture to be about how we broke the pattern. So, if you re-run the video you will see that not one of the photos had the break at dead centre. Each one was on, or near, a “third”. Yes folks… the good old Rule of Thirds.

If you off-set the break to a “third” you break the pattern again. You raise another question in the viewers mind. Why there? Why not the centre? Why not where it was expected? At the same time you give the pattern in the picture a strength that would not be there if the flower were central.

Vision

Seeing, in the photographic sense, is all about understanding vision. Knowing pattern and why we look at it is a large part of understanding what attracts the eye. At the same time, understanding why we seek patterns, is also why we are fascinated by any break in the same pattern.

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Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is editor of Photokonnexion. He has professional experience in photography, writing, image libraries, and computing. He is an experienced web master and a trained teacher. Damon also trains digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’
By Damon Guy :: Profile on Google+.

Heads together – the more intimate pose

Coffee Girls on 365 Project

• Heads together pose – an intimate feeling in your pictures •
This pose really increases the intimacy of your shot.
Image by Netkonnexion  External link - opens new tab/page

Emotion is powerful in a photo.

Every photograph has hidden messages. Everything you look at tells you about the picture. The more you are able to express emotion the better. When that emotion shows itself to the viewer you have a powerful impact.

The heads together pose

It is a pose with a long history. Putting heads together has shown trust, love and intimacy for centuries. Today the trust that goes with the pose is still felt. We all inwardly recognise it even if we could not point it out.

That is the point. Many emotional and trust elements in relations with others are not spoken. We only see them as visual clues. But, they carry a strong message.

Another message we often miss is a true smile. When someone fakes a smile they don’t smile with their eyes. We only wrinkle our eyes at the corner when we do a true smile.

The girls above worked together for a long time. They had become good friends. I asked them to put their heads together. They recognised the trust and both did true smiles. What a happy picture.

We are family – heads together show intimacy

The depth of intimacy goes beyond smiles. At weddings and funerals people often have a very formal pose. Ask them to bring their heads together and you make it less formal. It brings their character out too. In the next picture we see quite a formal father-daughter portrait. The formal feel is broken by the heads together pose. It makes the ‘family feel’ obvious. Wedding parties and groups of friends can all have that feeling with even a slight inclination of their heads.

We are family • The heads together pose even works in formal shots

• We are family •
Family closeness is shown by the heads together pose even in formal shots.

There are other hidden messages in poses

There are many poses that show our emotional and relationship status. These can be positive and negative. Have you noticed people who tend to cross their hands over their waist? This is a classic “I look over weight” pose. Another is when someone crosses their arms in front of them. This is a defense pose. They may not feel comfortable in front of the camera. People who look away from each other are often showing they are not close or intimate. I could go on.

The heads together pose is a code for having fun.

• Having fun •
The heads together pose is a code for people having shared fun!.

Looking for how people stand and pose

Sometimes the hidden clues are not easy to work out. They are always there though. How people stand, sit, look and express themselves is a code. Look out for the little things. The heads together pose, and others, show you how people really feel. Pick up the positive signs. Then you can get people to pose in positive ways. It will improve your images every time.

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Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is editor of Photokonnexion. He has professional experience in photography, writing, image libraries, and computing. He is an experienced web master and a trained teacher. Damon also trains digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’
By Damon Guy :: Profile on Google+.

Dirt kills kit – protect your equipment

Tripod With Bags • Dirt and grit is a camera killer. Prevent it from getting into your kit

• Tripod with protective bags •
Dirt and grit is a camera killer. Prevent it from getting into your kit.

Dirty photography gear will stop working.

It is surprising how much dirt will get into your gear. It’s a kit killer, damaging everything. You can prevent it with care. You will save a big expense down the line too.

Dirt is preventable

There is no doubt your equipment will get dirt on it. Even simple shoots can get close to dirt. Outside it’s almost certain that dust and will get on your kit. In Summer photogs use cameras on beaches, in fields and many other dusty environments. What should you do to protect your kit?

Observation is the key. Keep an eye open for anything dusty around you. Be particular about sand and grit. If you get those in your camera you will suffer a huge clean up problem. Sand and small dirt particles will get under the focus rings on your lens, under the lens cap and possibly into your camera body. There are two key points.

First, think about your environment. Small particles hide even in very clean places. There are some particular things which you should look out for around you. This post has more details: 10 Tips for Saving Your Camera

Secondly, pay attention to your clothes and other equipment. Yes, that’s right. The biggest danger to your camera is transference. Your clothes, shoes and other equipment collect dirt particles.

Transference – The secret route for dirt

I first noticed this problem when changing a lens in the boot (trunk) of my car. I put a lens down on my coat to put on another one. As I put it down a cloud of dust puffed out from under the coat. The dust caught in the sun as it drifted out. It occurred to me that all sorts of outdoor items go in the car boot. It is a dusty place. When I swept the carpet I found all sorts of particles. These came from boots, coats, ordinary clothes and other equipment. If you have pets the problem is much worse.

Looking more closely I also discovered my tripod was a source of grit. After shooting on a beach I had just put it back in its bag. There was lots of dirt and grit in that bag. Looking more closely, sand and dirt had got into the legs of my tripod too. Where I had clamped them shut the sand had left scratches and damage on the paintwork. When I shook the tripod I could hear dirt rattling inside.

After that I looked for ways to keep the tripod feet clean. The result can be seen in the picture above. Where dirt or grit is found I use a rubber band and plastic bag on each leg. Before putting the tripod away I simply remove the bags. I dispose of them sensibly. Nothing is transferred into the camera kit.

Camera kit is delicate

Most of our equipment can be damaged by dirt. The hidden routes to getting it into our camera are all around us. Try to change lenses and store your equipment in clean and cleanable places. Try to find ways dirt can be transferred into your bags and storage places. Find simple ways to eliminate it. In the long run it is cheaper and more convenient to protect than to pay for repairs.

Research photography cleaning equipment.  External link - opens new tab/page to Research photography cleaning equipment..

Recommended cleaning tool
Dirt on your camera, or worse, on your digital sensor? You need this tool. An efficient blower, the stream of air will clear dirt and grit from damageable places. Use it to clear dirt from the camera sensor and to blow out dust . It is an indispensable tool for the keen photographer. Giottos Rocket Air Blower – Black.  External link - opens new tab/page

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Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is editor of Photokonnexion. He has professional experience in photography, writing, image libraries, and computing. He is an experienced, webmaster and a trained teacher. Damon runs regular training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’
By Damon Guy :: Profile on Google+.