Lightning Photography Tips for Beginners

Photographing Lightning_1

We had a very ambitious storm last night, and where there’s a storm, there’s often lightning. Nasim has a detailed article written on “How to Photograph Lightning”, so if you hear there’s a storm coming in your area and you want to grab some amazing shots of it, Nasim’s extensive article will help you be prepared from the start.

When the storm hit, I didn’t have a tripod anywhere near me, but you don’t always need one if you just want to take a spontaneous photograph through an open window or a balcony. While I’m not usually one to photograph lightnings (or landscapes, for that matter), I still grabbed my old-ish D300 (still a great camera I use at weddings) with a AF-S 17-55mm f/2.8G lens mounted, set it to its widest setting of 17mm, closed down the aperture to f/8 (the wider the aperture, the thicker the lightning will be, but you’ll need to compensate using slower ISO setting or a ND filter to block some of the incoming light from the flash) and, after setting it to manual focus only, focused at infinity. My camera was set to Auto WB, ISO 200 (base setting for my D300) and Bulb setting in manual exposure mode (M).

Photographing Lightning_1

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Is it Sharp Enough?

Using lenses wide open

How important is sharpness? Recently I noticed, in my business, not so much. Of course, some shots, group portraits in particular, require a certain level of detail preservation edge to edge. Yet in most cases, at least for me, sharpness is second-place to aesthetics, and thus I will most often choose to photograph at the widest aperture I can.

Whenever we read a lens review, it almost seems as if the one thing a huge part of potential buyers care about the most is its “sharpness”. While that is quite understandable with older fixed focal length, and especially zoom, lenses, where the so called optimal apertures between f/4 and f/11 had to be used to resolve as much detail as possible, the way I see it, resolving power is slowly reaching its peak (a sort of a “speed limit”, if you like, when it doesn’t matter how much potential top speed or horse powers you car has, because the top speed allowed is quite enough), after which any kind of additional sharpness will most likely be meaningless. The reason is simple – these are not “f/8 and be there” days anymore. Modern lenses are just that good.

Using lenses wide open

I took the shot above using my 50mm f/1.4G wide open at f/1.4. Check the 100% crop – if you look past the low contrast B&W conversion and high amount of grain added during post processing, there’s plenty of sharpness there and the lines are well defined where they need to be, without looking over processed.

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Are You Afraid to Ask?

Street Dancer (6)

We rarely get to see extraordinary people in our everyday lives. Have you had one of those moments when you saw a stranger that you really wanted to take a picture of? I am sure you have. So what did you do? Did you just photograph the person from afar without them knowing, try to talk that person into being your 30 second model or perhaps you might have tried to sneak up and take a picture? Or even worse, maybe you did not take a picture at all? I guess it has to do with our personality. If you are of shy type with a low confidence level (often a photography rookie), you might be even afraid to ask. That dreaded “No” can be quite discouraging to say the least and many of us don’t even bother to ask for that very reason.

I once asked a big tattooed guy to take his picture, because he had a very colorful outfit that looked very interesting with his tattoos. With plenty of anger on his face, his response was that he would break my camera if I even tried. Oh well, not everyone is approachable for sure! It certainly sounded very discouraging, but did it make me give up on asking? Of course not. I have asked many people since then. And I have photographed many of them, some of which later became my clients.

While doing a short photo walk with the Canon 5D Mark III in Disney Downtown, I came across an Italian guy, who danced away to tunes played by local artists. His dancing was not very good (meaning, he is not a professional dancer or anything), but the way he was dressed and he moved attracted a lot of people:

Street Dancer (1)

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Confessions of a Deer Hunter

Buck Blending In

I spent quite a bit of time during my youth hunting in the woods of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Along with my family and friends, I was convinced that the first day of deer season was a national holiday! In truth, I invested far more time in preparation for deer season than hunting. It was simply part of the process of being as well-prepared as possible for harvesting a deer. During my early teens, I gave serious thought to becoming a Pennsylvania Game Warden, as I could imagine no better job than being outdoors every day and getting paid for it! And although I never bagged a buck or became a Game Warden, I learned quite a bit about nature, wildlife habits, topographical maps, and many other subjects. The learning process and being outdoors was far more important to me than actually shooting an animal. When I rekindled my interest in photography, and my Nikon cameras and lenses replaced my rifles and scopes, I put many of the skills I had learned as a hunter to work in photographing deer and other wildlife.

Buck Blending In

Over the last five years, I have been photographing quite a few of the animals inhabiting Hartwood Acres, a historical landmark consisting of the former estate of the John and Mary Flinn Lawrence family, and 629 acres of pristine forest. Red-tailed hawk, whitetail deer, turkey, raccoon, and fox are regular inhabitants of the park. Rumor has it that coyotes have been spotted as well.

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Getting Yourself Out There

I have met a lot of great people. Many of them, while being truly brilliant at something, have a hard time understanding their potential. It is sad to see them just drift away wherever life takes them and not take a step of their own. Are you like that? Do you ever stop yourself from going out, meeting people, starting photography or videography projects? While no one can change that but you, I think a little bit of inspiration can go a long way.

This is a short film by three student, who, as they say, did not care about nature, and then decided to do something about it. And they did. While the attention this project received is quite amazing – their website has been visited by over 900 thousand people already – it’s not even the idea that I found most inspiring. This film was made by three students, and while I am quite certain they did not have a million dollar budget, they sure found a way to unleash their creativity, something we all have an unlimited amount of. Do you still think there is something you cannot do?

Get out there. Take your camera and shoot. Make a film. Stop drifting, stop wasting your time. Stop thinking you can’t. Not tomorrow, not in a year – now, whatever it is, whatever you dream about.

There is no better way of doing what you love than simply doing what you love.

Click here for official “WE MISS YOU” project website.

Know Your Rights as a Photographer!

Occupy Movement

Photographers spend a good bit of time, money, and energy on craft and their equipment. This same focus, however, rarely extends to the investment of time necessary to understand their legal rights and obligations. Why? Investigating legal matters can often be less exciting than watching paint dry, eating plain yogurt, or listening to a State of the Union speech! It is far more engaging to have a raucous debate regarding the resolution of the Nikon D800 vs. the Canon 5D MKIII, zoom into the first full size RAW samples from the D4, or dig into the details of some other photography minutia! Well, at least for some…

Know Your Legal Rights as a Photographer

It is important for you to take some time to understand the legal aspects of photography, however, since if you are engaged in the field for any appreciable length of time (particularly in the area of photojournalism), you will eventually encounter a potential legal situation. The purpose of this article is to offer some tips and guidelines that may help you better understand and deal with common issues related to your rights. All of my comments are strictly from the perspective of United States law. Since I am not a lawyer, I cannot offer legal advice (at least not legally!). Should you find yourself in a situation that calls for legal advice, attempt to find a reputable attorney (preferably recommended from a fellow photographer or organization such as the ASMP) that routinely deals with such issues.

1) Lack of Understanding Galore

The main concern is the amount of misunderstanding regarding these issues. This applies equally to photographers, those they take pictures of, police officers and others that enforce the laws, and those that manage content, such as newspapers, magazines, and websites. Even those managing photo contests may not have the necessary depth of knowledge. This can produce quite a bit of confusion, confrontations, and unnecessary strife. 9/11 only aggravated this situation, with some in law enforcement becoming increasingly suspicious of those with professional camera equipment.

2) What Can You Photograph While on Public Land?

Just about anything and anyone, and you don’t need permission. If you are standing on a public sidewalk, and spy Madonna walking into Starbucks, you are free to take her photo. If you shopping in LA, and observe the police busting Alec Baldwin for impersonating an actor, you are free to photograph Baldwin and the police arresting him, assuming you are doing so from public property. If you encounter an accident scene, there are no restrictions to your taking photos of the scene, the people involved, the EMTs, and police officers.

Lock

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Have Fun While Working

Kissing Couple Not Kissing

I’ve always found photographing engagement sessions and weddings to be rather stressful for both the couple (and the guests, too) as well as myself. But stress, at the same time, has proven to be the force that makes me want to do as well as I can. I get over it, eventually, because I have an obligation to do my best. My couples, on the other hand, sometimes have a harder time getting over their nervousness just as fast. The trick is in keeping it fun for them until they’re as comfortable with you around as if they were alone.

Kissing CoupleKissing Couple

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The Significance of Depth, Background and Color in Storytelling

Shallow depth of field

We as photographers often make the final call on deciding the life span of an image according to our own perception, imagination and expertise. As much as we should be open to constructive criticism, I have always thought our own satisfaction from a photograph should come first. My own self-criticism is always the deciding factor on where I take my craft going forward. While those creative juices affect what I do behind the camera, knowing the technical aspect of photography to give life to any idea is very essential. It can take the story telling ability to a whole new level. Being able to analyze each shot before it is taken eventually will become a second nature as you photograph. I hope the below steps will help you get there a little faster.

Shallow depth of field

Depth

Mastering the depth of the story and being able to translate it into a visual prospect is very important, so it certainly helps to have a solid understanding of how depth of field can affect your images and the story you are working on. Whether it is a portrait or a landscape shot, the right amount of bokeh should be able to transport the viewer into your story. You can choose a longer lens with a large aperture (small depth of field) to pinpoint one element in an image that your viewers could concentrate on, or use a small aperture (large depth of field) to portray the melting pot of action, with many elements to the story.

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Diseases That Plague Photographers

Diseases that plague photographers

Photography is an art meant to invigorate our creative side and facilitate our ability to see our world in new and interesting ways. Many books, articles, tutorials, and blogs focus on various aspects of the artistic and technical merits of photography. Rarely discussed, however, are some of the strange maladies that afflict photographers. There are the occasional whispers and, “Did you hear about Joe?” types of exchanges, but all too often, such problems are rarely acknowledged and dealt with openly.

In an effort to bring such diseases to light, Dr. E.X. Posur, a leading psychiatrist that specializes in treating photographers, highlights a number of common illnesses he has encountered, and their associated symptoms and treatment. Although described individually, they are all part of a common illness labeled “photographus excessivitis”. Rarely will a photographer exhibit symptoms a single disease. Close examination almost always reveals multiple afflictions.

Diseases that plague photographers

It is important to point out that professional photographers rarely deal with these illnesses, but those that wear the label, “serious amateur” bear the brunt of these diseases. Because professionals have been inoculated by the need to earn a living, they seem to have built up a strong immunity to the diseases outlined in this article. Though they appreciate the merits of their equipment, professional photographers see their equipment as tools to achieve an end, not an end unto itself. This subtle, but critical, difference between the professional and the serious amateur prevents the former from acquiring many of illnesses outlined below. Professionals are not totally immune, however, and can succumb as quickly as any serious amateur if they are not careful.

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Photographing What You Love

Photographing Flora. ©B.S.

Eyes wide open! ©B.S. Yesterday, I spent some time looking at the infamous “Stages of a photographer” chart again. The graph starts out with a blue line – the one that marks “How good you think you are” – at the top of the scale. It mentions that the photographer, at an early stage of his/her photography career shoots mostly flowers and cats (or anything else that’s pretty, cute or more or less easily accessible). The green line marks the actual quality of the photos, which is at the very bottom of the chart. It all makes sense – at one point, we all thought our work was, well, pretty.

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