Monday, July 25, 2011

It's good to be green: Photo Assignment

Back in college, I took a photography class because I thought it would be fun and because I needed a few filler credits. It was an amazing class, and I learned a bunch. The first assignment that we were given was to pick one word/subject/topic and try to take photographs that related to it. Some people, like me, took a more straight forward approach to the assignment. But others really thought outside of the box and took some very imaginative photos.

So this is going to be the first of hopefully many photo assignments that I will post. For this assignment, your word/subject/topic is Green. Take photos of something that is green, photos of living green, photos of somebody that is green with envy, or anything else creative that you can think of. Then put a link in the comment section so we can all see what you came up with.

Below, you can see my "Green" photos. Like in my college course, I took a more straight forward approach.

And finally, my favorite photo, which was taken by my wife.

I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The all-important, not-so-holy trinity of photography

For some of you, this will be old information, but hopefully for others this will be new. Either way, I hope this will help you understand a little more about photography and your camera.

At its most basic, photography is simply capturing light. The amount of light and the characteristics of the light determines how the photo will turn out. When you press the shutter release, the shutter opens allowing light to pour onto either the film or the image sensor. In this process, the camera uses three mechanisms to control the amount of light that is captured in a photograph: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

My Canon 40 D
 The aperture is the opening that lets light into the camera through the lens. The size of this opening can be made either larger or smaller to let in more or less light as needed. The size of the opening is denoted using f-numbers such as f/2.8, f/3.5, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22 etc.... Although somewhat counterintuitive, smaller f-numbers indicate a larger opening. So, f/2.8 will let in a lot more light than f/22. Adjusting the aperture is also one of the primary ways to control the depth of field in a photo. Depth of field is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image. A smaller f-number ( like f/2.8) will have a much shallower depth of field than a larger f-number (like f-22). I'm sure I will talk more about depth of field in another post to come. On my camera ( on the fully manual mode), the aperture is adjusted using the wheel on the back of the camera.

Wheel that adjusts aperture
The next mechanism that controls the amount of light is shutter speed. Shutter speed is the time the shutter remains open when taking a photo. Shutter speeds are denoted in terms of seconds such as 1/250th, 1/125th, 1/60th, and 1/30th of a second etc.... With the bulb setting, which is available on many cameras, you can keep the shutter open for minutes even hours. Obviously the longer the shutter remains open, the more light that will enter the camera. An important side note is that generally any shutter speed longer than 1/60th of a second will cause camera shake (resulting with blurry images) if you are holding the camera by hand. At this point it is usually smart to attach your camera to a tripod.  Though with a good image stabilizing system and a steady hand, you will probably be able to squeeze out a few more fractions of a second. Using shutter speed is one of the main ways to capture motion in photography. A fast shutter speed will freeze objects mid-motion, and a slow shutter speed will blur the objects motion. Once again, this is a topic I'm sure I'll discuss further in another post. On my camera, you adjust the shutter speed using a wheel that is jsut above the shutter release button.

Wheel that adjusts shutter speed

 The final mechanism is ISO, which is a measure of the film's ( or image senor's) sensitivity to light. These are denoted like ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, etc... The higher the number, the more sensitivity to light. Although, higher ISOs also result in more grain or image noise in a photo.. On my camera, the ISO is adjusted by pressing a button on the top of the camera and then turning one of the previously mentioned wheels ( I can never remember which).

ISO Adjustment
All these three things combine to control the amount of light that is captured. By increasing one and decreasing another, you  can let the same amount of light in but with different effects (different depth of field, more or less grain, etc..) This is about as much as I understand on the topic. If anyone has anything further to add, please post a comment.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

fotos of the fourth

Before too much time passes, I wanted to post some photographs I took on the fourth of July. My wife and I spent the day with family, relaxing by the pool, and grilling out. We ended the day by watching fireworks at Kollens Park.

    Ernie Surfing.

 In order to photograph the fireworks, I first mounted my camera on a tripod (which proved difficult because my tripod broke during the night).

The main thing in trying to capture images of fireworks is the shutter speed. I left the shutter open from anywhere between 4 seconds to 5 minutes. I suggest using either a short timer or a cable release (shutter remote) when taking photos with longer exposures as a way to eliminate camera shake from pressing the shutter.

 However, a timer doesn't work on the bulb setting (anything over 30 seconds on my camera), and I don't as of yet have a cable release. So I had to sit there holding the shutter open for the 5 minute exposure trying to hold as still as possible. Consequently, I intend on investing in a cable release in the near future.

  For a  more detailed explanation of taking photos of fireworks, click here.  Where this website suggests using a low ISO, I used a higher ISO, which resulted in more grain in the pictures. I plan on trying a lower ISO the next time around.

Still for my first attempt at photographing fireworks, I was satisfied with the results. Overall, it was an enjoyable and relaxing long weekend.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Seeing through the Fog

I opened my eyes to find myself in a dense forest shrouded in mist. As I wandered through the trees, the fog hid the details of the world around me. Stumbling through what I could not see, I soon became lost. Suddenly, the trees opened up, the fog lifted, and everything came into focus.

Often times, the world around us can seem like that forest hidden in the mist. The cares and worries of the day can hide all that is amazing in this world. Days, weeks, months, even years can pass without us seeng what is really important. We often wander and stumble through life not knowing what we are aiming at. But if we stop and take a moment, the fog may lift and we can see something truly amazing. That is discovering the focal point.

I recently found myself in a forest, though it was not covered in fog. A friend and I were taking a short hike. On this hike, we talked a little about life and a lot about photography. I shared with him how I get frustrated about the fact that I go long periods of time without taking a photo. He asked what I do with the photos that I do take. I lamented that I often do very little with the photos that I take. They often just remain on my camera unedited and unused.

So, I am starting this blog as a medium through which to share my photos, consequently motivating me to take more. In upcoming posts, I will talk about photography as well as my life. I will share photos that I have taken and tips that I learn. I don't claim to be a great photographer or know everything about cameras. But, I hope that by doing this blog, I can learn to take better photos. Ultimately, I hope to become a better photographer so I can capture all the amazing views that I come across in this world. That is my focal point.