Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Comfort Zone

It’s been an interesting photography weekend. Quiet, but I’ve been doing a lot of photography-related stuff and I’ve learned a few things in the process.

To digress a little, I've been a touch under the weather -- I think I'm fighting something. It's making me sleepy, sometimes I fall asleep right in the middddddddddddddddddddddd...

Where was I? Anyway I went out and chopped some kindling in the snow, I actually felt better. I spend too much time at this damned keyboard! I actually started writing this last night but got too tired to finish it, so here I am in the morning, getting over my “lack of caffeine headache” (if I don’t have a coffee at least in the evening, I wake up with a headache. I must be actually addicted to the stuff), revisiting what I wrote and rewriting it all!

Oh, and climbing up to fix my satellite dish too!

On Saturday, I visited Shannon, she was exhibiting at a craft show in Huntsville. She sold a bunch of pictures... I'm envious. She has a great eye but she told me she’s weak on the technical side of things. I don’t believe it – a few of the techniques she talked about are beyond me, and I came home to try some of them. I was inspired to write the photo tip below after trying her “multiple exposure in the camera” technique. The results were terrible but I have a little insight in how to do it next time.

In addition to the prints Shannon was selling (and she did well with some very fine images), she had prepared some greeting cards which were selling well. There was another photographer there whose images were so-so and he was selling too! There’s hope for us all. Anyway when I got back I was determined to create some saleable products and I put together some “boutique” size frame able images (my name for it – I’m sure there’s an official name!) which are essentially 3½ x 5 images printed on 5 x 7 paper, with a title and signature. I looked at them last night and realized they are a bit smaller than I would like, so I’m going to revisit it today and make them bigger. 5 x 7 on 8 x 10, I think. I have to redo them because they’re too down-sampled to print well at the larger size. I’ll leave the small ones up but reprice them accordingly.

You can see these images at

There is now a link on the home page to the featured “Art Print” gallery. Please visit it and BUY SOMETHING! Christmas is coming and these prints make wonderful, thoughtful gifts.

So enough for the commercial. On to the Photo tip of the day.

FacZen Photography Tips

All Work and no Play...

...makes me dull. In the sense that you need to experiment in order to move forward. I’m self-taught, for the most part but I do appreciate the value of taking courses to learn new things from time to time. That said, the best way to learn is to try stuff! I joined the Richmond Hill Camera Club a few years ago so that I could learn from others. My first impression was that the club was a bunch of old fuddy duddies but I’ve come to realize that their wealth of experience is a valuable source of learning. Often, when I see how something is done, I want to try it – and that’s what this tip is about.

Try things. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Digital “film” is cheap, so what if you burn some shutter actuations? It’s not costing you anything. You will be amazed at the things you can do. Let me give you a few examples.

• When I first joined the club, someone showed us pictures taken through “water glass”. I went to a local store, bought a few dollars worth of glass pieces with different patterns in them and played. I got a few acceptable images, but mostly I got an understanding of how it’s done.
• Maria, at the club, paints with light. She does studio still life setups but doesn’t use traditional lights, just a flashlight and long exposures. Her work is awesome. I tried it. I now have an appreciation for how hard it is, and I got an idea about trying the same technique on landscapes shot at night. I can’t wait to try it!
• “Panning”, or moving the camera to follow a moving subject is an art. There are some technical things you need to know, but how do you figure out what shutter speed you need to get the effect you want? The answer? Experiment!

This image was actually taken at 1/80 sec. I was amazed at how much motion blur you get at that speed when you pan the camera!

1/5 sec @ f/36. Again I panned with the bike but you can't be really smooth at that shutter speed.

• What about moving the camera when you shoot a long exposure? Or one that isn’t so long… remember that rule of thumb about what shutter speed you can handle? So turn it around. Try shooting at 1/10 second and deliberately moving the camera. Or put a flash on but leave the shutter open for a longer time.

1/5 second stopped right down to f/36 and I deliberately moved the camera while shooting.

• Move “parts” of the camera. Like zoom your lens or change your focus while the shutter is open.1/30 sec. I rotated th zoom ring while the shutter was open. Amazing what you can accomplish in 1/30 sec!

• “Play” in Photoshop. Do you know what the Art History brush does? Take an image and try all the different filters on it. See what they do.

Everyone has a comfort zone. Mine is taking pictures of rocks and trees. I realized that I've taken photos of the exact same log in the water near my house probably 30 times. Sure, I'm waiting for that day when the light will be magic or when a deer will walk out and stand where I want him to. Great, if that's what you want to capture, but get out of your comfort zone and play! You’ll be amazed at what you will learn.

I've been shooting 'people' pictures -- some candids and informal portraits; long time exposures at night; camera motion; slow shutter subject exposures and pans; architectural shots; I've been painting in Photoshop and using different adjustment layers; I've even tried printing some images (yeah well, I have a ways to go there!); I'm learning how to judge competitions; learning a new camera, preparing images for sale, researching and writing a blog and technical tips and I'm planning workshops... my bathroom reading is National Geographic and Scott Kelby. In short (OK, it wasn't short!) I'm playing. Learning all kinds of stuff. Now if I were retired, I could spend some real time on it!

Let me leave you with something DeWitt Jones said in his motivational video (paraphrasing from memory): "Mother Nature doesn't stand at a forest and say 'there is only one good photo here, one photographer will capture it and all the rest of you are losers'. " If you open your eyes and try to see things differently, there are a million different pictures to take. Go Play!

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