Photographing the Milky Way – A Detailed Guide

Milky Way Vortex

I have been shooting the night sky since my grandfather gave me my first 35mm SLR in junior high. Today’s digital SLRs allow us to shoot amazing things that I could only dream of a couple decades ago! Below are some tips and suggestions that I teach at night photography workshops for shooting the Milky Way.

[Read more…]

Astrophotography Tutorial

Horse Head

Astrophotography is a hobby rapidly gaining popularity thanks to the fast advancing CMOS sensor technology. Over a decade ago, the light recording material employed in astrophotography was primarily chemical emulsion. Its low sensitivity makes it very hard to record the weak signal from deep space. In addition, the lack of real-time feedback is a huge source of frustration for beginners. Operational errors such as out-of-focus can only be realized after several nights of hard work after the film is developed. In the mid 90s, the advent of cooled CCD cameras provided solutions to both the sensitivity and real-time feedback problems. However, their high prices and miserably small sensor areas limited their uses to only a few kinds of astrophotography and to very enthusiastic astrophotographers. While CCDs revolutionized astronomical research, this technology has never really changed the landscape of amateur astrophotography. The true turning point took place in 2002. After Fujifilm announced its FinePix S2Pro DSLR and showcased amazing astronomical pictures taken by this camera, people started to seriously explore DSLRs for astrophotography. DSLRs can provide real-time feedback, which is very important for beginners. They have sensitivities not much worse than CCDs, and DSLRs with large sensors (APS-C) are quite affordable nowadays. Today’s landscape in astrophotography is shaped by a series of CMOS-based DSLRs from Canon, but DSLRs and mirrorless cameras based on Sony sensors are gaining popularity very quickly.

[Read more…]

Why Bother Shooting RAW If You Are Culling JPEGs?

1866_UE

What do you think is the possibility, when you are choosing and sorting images based on the JPEG previews, that you are going to discard the better-quality image, and keep the lesser-quality one? Let’s take a look at a typical “training” shot for a holiday – noon of a sunny day, blue Ionian sea, bright white limestone pebbles, bushes with dark-green, high-detail leaves (which lose all detail if the shot is underexposed), deep shadows under the bushes. These types of scenes typically have a very wide dynamic range. We will see later, however, that the real range of the shot we are examining is pretty much only 8 EV, if the exposure is technically correct.

[Read more…]

Concert Photography Tips

Nick Cave

I was recently asked how many concerts I’ve photographed, and realized that it is coming up on thousand in the last 15 years. Any given week you can find me shooting anything from a 20 person house concert to The Who in a 30,000 seat arena, and anywhere in between. Tonight, it will be an up-and-coming band called The Spring Standards, who I’ve shot 7 times in the past. They are a dynamic, high-energy band with a lot of emotion, character and flying hair to capture.

[Read more…]

What is a Decentered Lens?

Decentered Lens

A decentered lens contains one or more optical lens elements that are either moved or tilted from the principal axis of the lens. Such shifting or tilting of lens elements can potentially lead to blurring / softness of parts of the image due to divergence of light rays. While very slight decentering of optical elements can be observed in many lenses, especially on superzooms, severe decentering and tilting can render the whole image blurry, with the lens unable to achieve good sharpness across the frame.

[Read more…]

Nikon Group-Area AF Mode

Nikon Dynamic-Area AF

The latest Nikon DSLRs like D810 (see our detailed review) and D4S came with the a new “Group-area Autofocus” mode. When compared to the regular Single-Point AF Mode, Group-area AF activates five focus points to track subjects. This focus mode is great for initial focus acquisition and tracking of subjects when compared to a Single-Point or Dynamic AF, especially when dealing with smaller birds that fly erratically and can be really hard to focus on and track. In such situations, the Group-area AF mode might give better results than Dynamic AF, showing better accuracy and consistency from shot to shot.

[Read more…]

Wildlife Photography Tips Part Two

600lb Wet Black Bear

It has taken a little longer than I wanted, but I finally got around to writing this second article on photographing wildlife. The writer in me is still struggling to get out, wants to keep hiding and do more interesting stuff like taking photographs rather than write about it. Let’s get started and see where it leads. If you would like to read the previous part, please see this link.

[Read more…]

How to Photograph Interior Domes of Popular Landmarks

Praha Kreuzherrenkirche Thumb

Incredibly, the first domes date back to people living in the Mediterranean region 4,000 years BC. Since then, artists have created a fascinating variety of them all over the world. Still today, they are an essential part of modern architecture, as shown for example by Calatrava’s spectacular glass dome of the library of the Institute of Law in Zurich, Switzerland.

[Read more…]

What is Ghosting and Flare?

Lens Flare

When light rays coming from a bright source(s) of light (such as the sun or artificial light) directly reach the front element of a camera lens, they can reflect and bounce off different lens elements, diaphragm and even off the sensor, potentially degrading image quality and creating unwanted objects in images. Better known as lens “flare”, the effect can impact images in a number of ways: it can drastically reduce image contrast by introducing haze in different colors, it can add circular or semi-circular halos or “ghosts” and even odd-shaped semi-transparent objects of various color intensities. Flare is not always undesirable in photography though – sometimes in is used creatively to add artistic elements to images. In fact, lens flare is often deliberately added to movies and computer games to add a sense of realism and boost the visual experience of the viewer.

[Read more…]

What is Vignetting?

Optical Vignetting

Vignetting, also known as “light fall-off” (sometimes spelled “light falloff”) is common in optics and photography, which in simple terms means darkening of image corners when compared to the center. Vignetting is either caused by optics, or is purposefully added in post-processing in order to draw the viewer’s eye away from the distractions in the corner, towards the center of the image. Depending on the type and cause of vignetting, it can be gradual or abrupt. There are a number of causes of optical vignetting – it can naturally occur in all lenses, or can be caused or increased/intensified due to use of external tools such as filters, filter holders and lens hoods. In this article, I will talk about each type of vignetting and also discuss ways to reduce or increase the amount of vignetting in photographs using post-processing software like Lightroom and Photoshop.

[Read more…]