In my photography classes I often get asked, “What is a long exposure?” Many beginning photographers want me to give them a definitive shutter speed with my explanation. However, long exposures are not only subject driven, they are largely based on the artistic vision you have for your photograph. Panning, light painting and night photography all make use of long exposures. However, these techniques are subjects of a future article. Today I would like to discuss “really” long exposures, exposures in excess of several minutes. These types of exposures create surreal, dreamlike images. They use neutral density filters (think sunglasses for your lens) to extend exposure times far in excess of what could be achieved by simply decreasing ISO and stopping down your aperture.
So while new gear is released and debated and salivated over this month I humbly submit that it may be worth a reminder as to why it means anything to us at all. Something to do with taking photos, I think, I’m not really sure. But while a newer sensor or greater ISO range or more AF points gets your hearts racing again as when the world was new, at some point we’ll need to remember to take some photos. This is in no way to diminish the enthusiasm people have for new equipment but perhaps I can be a small counterpoint to the frenzied gear fetish and dwell on some images.
No matter what you photograph, there is one thing you should realize about light. Not all light is created equal. I’m not talking about the quality of light, but rather the color of light. What you might see as white light from different sources can actually have different colors, or what are referred to as color temperatures. Direct sunlight at noon (which I’ll just refer to as sunlight) is considered to be a “normal” color temperature, so all light sources are compared to this as the standard. For example, light from an incandescent light bulb appears to be more orange than sunlight. On the opposite side of the spectrum, shady areas appear to be more blue than sunlight. In photography, we refer to these differences as being “warmer” (or more orange) and “cooler” (or more blue) than our neutral sunlight reference point. In this article, we will go over the basics of white balance and color temperature, topics that can be a bit intimidating for beginners to understand.
In this final installment to this series, I have chosen to discuss one of my favorite topics in photography: close-ups. My goals with this article are to provide a basic understanding of light and exposure when photographing a subject at close range, the rationale for exposure loss during magnification, and guidance on how to correct for this exposure loss. To illustrate these principles, I will share my own empiric observations, review the pertinent calculations that govern magnification and exposure loss compensation, and discuss select photographs that I have made at close range. Hopefully, this article will help beginning and advanced photographers grasp the physics of light at close range and take command and control of magnification and exposure compensation. Although I crafted this article from the framework of a photographer using traditional close-up and macro equipment (i.e., bellows, extension tubes), the use of an external light meter (i.e., non-TTL metering), and continuous lighting (e.g., natural light, lamps), the tenets and technical considerations for close-up exposure compensation are still relevant to those photographers who prefer automation, TTL metering, and electronic flash. Finally, I will wrap up the discussion by sharing some thoughts on the use of film as a tool for learning the visualization process.
As yet another new year beckons (entirely too quickly for my liking; I still vividly remember 1986!) we may be reflecting on the photography we have made this year but also on what we aspire to in the coming year. I’m sure most of us want to improve our skills and produce better images. Perhaps some of us simply want a newer camera and more pixels. Maybe those of you who do it for a living want more clients and more success for your business. Perhaps the hobbyists among us are wondering if we need to specialise in a particular genre. Is our poison landscapes, architecture, wildlife or street? Or perhaps we want to leave the camera on the shelf and spend more quality time with our families.
Street photography is one of the most feared and uncertain types of photography, in which almost nothing is in your control and almost everything is based on luck, persistence and the ability to see and capture the moment. A lot of new photographers who like street photography for its classy/candid look and feel typically get nervous to actually do it, as it demands a lot of time & devotion, ability to interact with strangers and sometimes even ability to handle stress if things go wrong.
You are excited about your upcoming photo tour and have narrowed down the equipment you want to take with you. But what should you do next? How can you load the odds in your favor so that you come home with winning images? In Part I of this series I talked about how to choose and pack for your photography tour. In Part II, I would like to suggest some ideas for pre-tour preparation and on-tour tips. These suggestions will help you come home with photos worthy of a place on your wall.
Every once in a while, you will hear some photographers claim that lens filters are completely useless. Some will argue that only specific types of filters such as UV and protective filters are evil, while others will also include polarizing and ND filters into the mix, claiming that one could reproduce the effects of all those filters in post-processing software. Arguments for or against filters can spark a lot of heated debates in the photography community, similar to topics such as “Nikon vs Canon”, or “DSLR vs Mirrorless”. There are certainly some passionate individuals out there who are ready to stand their ground no matter what. And there is nothing wrong with that, as that’s what typically happens when there is truth on both side of the coin, depending on what angle you are looking at – there are certainly both pros and cons to using lens filters. Having been teaching photography for a number of years now, I have come across many different photographers of all skill levels in the field and I have come to realize that there is sadly quite a lot of misinformation out there regarding lens filters and their proper use. Many of us simply don’t know enough about not just filters themselves, but also their significant effect on our post-processing workflow. Although we have previously written many articles on lens filters, let’s explore filters once again and hopefully address some of the misconceptions about these important tools.
Barring being struck by some incredible bolt of inspiration between now and the end of December (which given my advancing age and rather porous brain is highly unlikely), this will be my final article here on Photography Life in 2015. I’m looking forward to doing periodic postings next year. December is always the time of year that I hunker down and do some planning for next year’s business. During this exercise I am always reminded of the importance of choosing clients well and I’d like to share some considerations with you.
If you’re like me, you’ve planned a trip, had visions of coming home with an SD card full of National Geographic images, but ended up with a hard drive full of vacation snapshots. What can you do to better prepare for a trip when you really want to spend some quality time behind your camera? Consider taking a photography tour. You will find yourself among a group of like-minded people, all of whom are excited about spending several days dedicating time to photography. A tour can be a wonderful learning environment. And if you take the time to do some research and planning, you will end up at the right spot, at the right time, and you will come home with some exceptional photographs.