Monday, April 20, 2009

Improve Your Photography - Part 10, Aperture and Shutter Speed

For any control over the camera, one has to know how aperture and shutter speed combine to
create an exposure.
An aperture is defined as: The device that controls the amount of light entering a camera.
It controls the amount of light entering the camera through a circular diaphragm designed
The aperture opens in a circular manner. The wider the aperture, the more light it allows
through. And vice versa for when it is closed down.

Shutter speed: A shutter blade that allows light to enter the camera for a determined time.

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Exposure is the resultant image that a camera produces once the shutter release is pressed. It
is the resultant image that comes from a combination of the shutter speed of the shutter and
how much light the aperture let through the diaphragm.
Aperture and shutter speed are the two controls a camera uses to make an exposure on the
film when you "take a picture". Shutter speed is the speed with which the camera's shutter opens when the picture is taken. It is the "click" you here when you push the button.

You probably have seen a dark picture or light pictures; these are illustrations of incorrect
exposures. With Compact cameras, these properties are most of the time beyond your control,
as the camera is working in “auto” mode. The more control you have over an image, the less
incorrect exposures you will have. We are lucky that cameras produce good results 95% of
the time- allowing us to enjoy our photography without worrying too much.
However, creative control comes with you controlling the camera, so your camera will have
to move off the “auto mode” and start working in Aperture” and “Shutter” Priority modes on
your camera.
These modes give you control over what aperture to use and how you can control the
resultant image, allowing extensive creative control.

Added to this equation is Depth of Field (DOP).

Aperture also controls Depth of field. The smaller the hole in the diaphragm; the greater the
DOP. The larger the hole in the Diaphragm; the narrower the DOP. We will cover this later,
for now lets look at shutter speed.

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Things to consider when choosing a shutter speed:
There are some basic rules that we need to know:

• Most individuals cannot hold a camera steady (without blur in the photo) for anything
slower than 1/60 of a second.
• Subjects need to be extremely still/steady in order to not show motion/blur in the
image less than 1/60 sec
• Fast moving subjects tend to need shutter speeds of 1/250 of a second or faster into
order to freeze motion or prevent blur.
• The faster the subject, the faster the shutter speed needed
• Low levels of light limit one to a slow shutter speed
• High levels of light may limit one to fast shutter speed
• Thus for low light- one needs support to get a steady shot (or flash)
• For High light levels, can hand hold and good for action shots
Iso is the digital cameras sensitivity to light. As with film, and asa, iso is determined by an
increase in numbers. As each number doubles, so does the sensitivity of the sensor.
Ie: iso goes up as 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 etc
With each increase, the sensitivity of the sensor increases.
If all other factors were to remain constant and iso had to increase, then the shutter speed
would have to also increase. For each increase in iso, the shutter speed would halve. This is
due to the sensor being twice as sensitive to light (it needs half the amount of light to make an
image) and thus the shutter speed halves.
One problem with iso is that as it increases, so does images quality decrease. Thus it is almost
not worth taking photographs at iso’s above 800, unless you are going for a specific effect.

Shutter speed, aperture and iso go hand in hand in determining how your creativity. You need
to know how they affect one another and how you can use them to your advantage.

For more information on Photography courses and how to improve your photography see here.

All text copyright C4 Images and Safaris

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Improve Your Photography - Part 9, People

2. People

People are probably the most photographed subjects around. Photos are always taken at
gatherings of friends and families. Thus it makes sense that you need to photograph it

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A few ‘ rules’ when taking portraits of people:
1. Fill the frame
2. Make sure your subject’s eyes are open. A tip is to take two photos, the second
right after the first, so that you capture the open eyes, or else a more relaxed
3. Turn the shoulder towards the camera. Have you ever thought why models
always have their shoulders towards the camera? It’s because it creates a leading
line and opens up the image, instantly bringing in depth into the image. Ok you
don’t have to pout…
4. Raise the chin. This is not a given, but it also a trick from the modelling industry. A
raised, lifted, or chin pushed slightly forward make the person look a bit more alert and it makes them open their eyes more. It is important to not overdo this
technique, as a high raised chin does not look nice at all.
5. Choose your background. Portraits are the one time when you can choose your
setting, so make sure you have the best spot available. A dark background with even
colours is always a nice start. Look out for bright spots in the background that may
be a distraction in the picture.
6. Make your subject laugh or smile. Any relaxed person is going to be easier to
photograph. A few test shots with the camera will also help them relax whilst you
talk to them, show them a picture on the LCD and get ready for a better shot. One of
the most famous portraits of all time, of Sir Winston Churchill, was taken in a light
moment. The photographer, Karsh, stopped Mr Curchill and asked for a photograph,
Winston reluctantly obliged. Karsh set up the shot and then grabbed the cigar out of
Winston’s hand. As he did so, he took an image. As soon as Winston realised that it
was a joke, he broke out into a broad smile, and Karsh grabbed the next shot. Only
two images taken and both were to become legendary.
7. Get to the level of the subject. If you take a picture of a child from adult level, you
will get a picture of a child from adult level, and not a very flattering one. Get down
to the level of the subject and take the photo at their eye level. This increases the
intimacy of the image

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Portraits in the environment

This is where you can use a wide angled lens to photograph people. Use the mantra, ‘get
close, go wide’. Meaning get close to your subject and use a wide angled lens. This technique
shows the environment where the along with the person. It can often show a picture of a
person in their work environment. Another benefit is that you can combine this technique
with other composition techniques to increase the overall impact of the image

Candid Photography

Similar to environmental photography, candid images are those that capture scenes or
happenings when people are unaware.
It is the type of people photography that focuses on spontaneity to make the image rather
than a proper set up of camera equipment. This is the typical “fly on the wall” type of
photography and is extremely enjoyable when nice images are captured. Children are easy
candids, as they often play in the own little worlds. They are good to practice on.
Its important to note that in many countries today it is illegal to photograph people who you
don’t know in public places. This law is in effect in many first world countries and relatively
strictly enforced.

Action and sport
Sport and action are always the most difficult photos to get. Use the sport mode in your
camera to make sure you get the fastest shutter speed. Also use the burst mode to get as
many frames per second to capture the action. A good technique to learn is to pan with your
subject, as it is moving. If the subject is running from left to right, then keep a steady pan in
the same direction. Even if someone is on a trampoline, pan up and down to catch freeze the
motion of the person jumping. When there is action, always remember to keep your eye on
the viewfinder so as to be ready for the shot you want.

For more information on Photography courses and how to improve your photography see here.

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All text copyright C4 Images and Safaris

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Friday, April 10, 2009

A Landscape of Insect - Tswalu Kalahari Reserve

Two years ago, I met good friend Duncan MacFadyen for a birthday drink one Thursday evening. For a present, I gave him a fine art print of an image I had taken at Tswalu reserve, a stunning reserve in the Kalahari of which Duncan manages all the conservation research for. In the excitement of the moment, we decided there and then that we would work together to produce a book- him doing the text and I the photography. It was seemingly innocent talk, but waking up the following morning, we both had that nagging feeling that we had started something that would not go away. That evening was to be the spark for “A Landscape of Insects”.
Over the course of these last two years, Duncan and I have worked through numerous proposals; ideas and processes of how produce this mass of work. We are both new to this game and it all meant a lot of meetings and e-mails flying back and forth planning new ideas and solutions.

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Both of us being “bush people”, the real part was when the fieldwork was to begin. To both of us, this meant the project had really begun and we were on our way to actually, physically producing something. During this process, we have been able to visit and work on some spectacular reserves across South Africa. These properties cover varying habitats, meaning we are seeing and photographing a great diversity of insect life. I was relatively new to the “insect world”, but with the help of Duncan and Ruth Müller from the Transvaal Museum, I have learnt to distinguish a Graphipterus from a Graphiurus and no longer squeal at handling a ground beetle! It’s been a great experience and one that has taught me a lot of the natural history of insects, as well as photographing them.

Photographically, it has been a great challenge for me. Macro work is traditionally a technical realm of photography. My aim though, was to make it an artistic realm- One that a reader could relate to and see the insect within its environment; not just on a black background. Zendré kept repeating to me: “Context, I want to see context.” Naturally, I listened…

So a few rules were established.
We would always photograph in natural light. No set up studios. (Except for some real close ups done with specialised equipment)
Insects were photographed in situ, in the outdoor environment, where they naturally occur and the insects would be doing something. We didn’t want any insect stuck onto a plant- all our insects were to be alive in their own environment.
This proved tougher than expected. One thing we learnt very quickly, is that insects fly- and fly very fast! Needless to say though, we persevered and have managed to get some excellent results- of which all will be in the book when it launches in December.

I was still adamant to break new boundaries though- test the limits of equipment and try new angles. I consulted with various photographers in the industry and decided to try a fish eye lens in the insect world. A fish eye lens is an extreme wide-angle lens that has an angle of view of 180°. It requires extreme care when working with it to not get ones own feet in the shot!

Our latest field trip was to Tswalu and the reserve was in full summer bloom. Every blade of grass was green, the devils thorn flowers were out in bloom and very importantly, insects were everywhere.

It took me a short while to locate this blister beetle feeding in a patch of tribulus flowers. Getting down low on my stomach and 5cm from the beetle, the fish eye lens opened up a new world to me. In the foreground was a beautiful flower, whilst it still captured one of the icons of he Kalahari: A camel thorn tree with a sociable weavers nest. The image came together instantly and I got up covered in thorns and red Kalahari dust.

As I down loaded, I immediately knew the new lens had done what I wanted. This image, to me, captures the essence of what we are trying to achieve with our book. It shows an insect going about its daily business in a landscape that we all know, and many of us love to visit. But the beauty extends beyond the tree and the nest (and the lions), it too extends to the beautiful spotted blister beetle feeding happily away amongst some yellow flowers. That is exactly what we will be showcasing in our book.

Exposure information
Nikon D300 - 10.5mm fish eye lens
Exposure – f 18 Shutter Speed: 1/250sec
Exp. Comp. -0.3. EV
ISO - 200
Flash - SB900 -0.7 TTL BL FP
Exposure mode– Aperture priority, Metering Mode– Matrix
File type– NEF (RAW)
Focal length: 10.5mm

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Improve Your Photography - Part 8, Colours, Shapes and Patterns


With the knowledge gained from recognising the different types of light and the basics of
composition, the next level is to start applying these skills in the great outdoors. We are
blessed with a climate that begs to be photographed and I always believe it a sin not to take
advantage of the great weather that we have. This section is dedicated to showing you how to
take better images of everyday scenes. Pictures that we like to take while on holiday, portraits
of your children, and other examples are covered to help you enjoy your photography more.

The section is broken up into three headings:

1. Colour, shapes and patterns
2. People, portraits, candids and action
3. Travel, holiday and landscapes

1. Colour, shapes and patterns

Our eyes see a multitude of colours and shapes every day. The secret is to be able to
recognize the ones that compliment each other and then frame them in an image. Below are a
few types of ways to create balance in an image. The more you recognize such shapes
patterns and colours, the more your mind will be stimulated; It’s an ongoing learning process.
To be able to train your eye is an essential part of improving your eye for colour, shape and

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Balance by colour- Eyes are attracted to colour. A small area of bright colour can balance a
much larger area of duller colour. Typically, your three primary colours of red, green and
blue compliment each other and one another.

Balance by value – the contrast between light and dark often makes for a nice balance

Balance by shape – complicated shapes are much more interesting to the eye and it lingers
on it compared to simple shapes.

Balance by texture – a variegated dark and light pattern is much more interesting than a
smooth pattern

Balance by position – a large item closer to the center of an image can be balanced by a
smaller item closer to the edge. In western art a heavier subject is placed on the left and
balanced by a smaller item on the right due to the fact that we read from left to right.

Balance by eye direction – heavier elements can direct your eye towards a smaller item


Patterns occur naturally, we just need to look to find them. Again it is a matter of training
your eye. Flowers on a bush can make for very simple patters in a natural setting, whilst
people can be placed behind one another to make a pattern for an image.

Patterns are typically seen as:
• Repeat of the same form or shape. Triangles and circles are often repeated in nature
• The repetition of lines
• Repetition of a structure
• People behind one another
• Stacks of objects piled up together
• A row of buildings
• A stand of trees

Patterns can also be isolated and reflected as an abstract. Most abstracts are derived from
close ups of repetitive forms.
For more information on Photography courses and how to improve your photography see here.

photography courses, improve your photography, photography information

All text copyright C4 Images and Safaris

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