Saturday, March 28, 2015

Charleston Charm

I can't wait to return to Charleston, SC in May. While I would never characterize myself as a city gal, I do love Charleston. Its lovely historic homes, sweeping plantations, huge live oak trees draped with spanish moss, and fabulous world class restaurants combine to make it the perfect place for a photo tour.

This gorgeous 17th century home has it all  -  lovely entryway with hand-wrought gates, massive front door with beautifully arched frame, original brickwork and windows. These kinds of photo ops are all over town, with one eye-catching subject after another.

When shooting architecture with so many details, it helps to take a few minutes before starting to shoot to just look at all the elements and decide how to approach it best. Usually a combination of close-ups and long views will cover the subject well. When photographing this house, I decided to start with the impressive entryway, and used the brick columns and gates as a framing device for the massive door which is the center of interest.

The curved brickwork above the windows repeats the curved shape of the doorway, and adds interest. Repeating shapes is something to keep in mind when photographing any subject. It helps to tie elements together and improves compositional strength.

I also took shots closer up of just the doorway in order to have a variety of different views to choose from. It is a good practice to shoot subjects from a variety of angles, especially when traveling. You never know when or if you will return to that location, and the more variety you capture, the more options you will have to work with once you return home.

Click here for details on the Charleston Charm photo tour, May 17 -  21.

Shutter Speed 1/80 sec.  Aperture f/8.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 17-40mm f/4L, set at 27mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment."   --Hilaire Belloc

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring Has Sprung

Happy Spring! Even though snow is still falling in some parts of the country, spring is definitely in the air. At this season of new life, it is a good time to consider infusing fresh life into your photography. Try new things, learn all you can, and enjoy your photographic endeavors more than ever.

Get your camera gear out and go in search of new turf. Consider taking a photo workshop to improve your skills and your creativity, or go on a photo tour to expand your personal and photographic horizons.

Today's image is a close-up of a sunflower. Often the sunflower images we see are large fields of them, stretching out to the horizon. But when photographing sweeping scenes, always pay attention to the small things as well. Get in close, show just a portion of the subject, try unusual angles of the same subject, and walk around it if possible to take advantage of different angles of light.

When you take an Awake The Light photo workshop or photo tour, I will help you see all those things and more. You will get personal attention and individual help as needed. You'll see new things and will see things with fresh eyes. And you will have lots of fun and meet new people.

Spring trips coming up are Soar With Songbirds in late April   ONLY 2 SPACES LEFT.

Also join me at the exquisite location of Charleston, SC in May. The Charleston Charm photo tour    provides  opportunities to photograph many of the iconic historic homes, a restored plantation, a boat trip to Ft. Sumter, and much more.

Wherever you go and whatever do, try to look at your surroundings from a new perspective and enjoy all that is around you.

Shutter Speed 1/400 sec.  Aperture f/9.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 100mm macro f/2.8.  Camera: Canon 40D.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant."  --Anne Bradstreet

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Depth Of Field

How do you control Depth Of Field (DOF)? No special software, no slight of hand, just plain old fashioned DOF. The answer is by controlling the aperture (F-stop) of your lens. It is easy to learn and easy to do. And it is REAL, done on the spot while shooting, not a decision made later in the glow of your computer screen.

I am a strong proponent of getting things right in the camera as much as possible, without having to resort on software to do the job later. That being said, some things MUST be dealt with after the fact, like optimizing the image with software like Lightroom.

But DOF is a decision that should be made at the time of shooting. With close-up bird photography, shallow DOF is the best approach. It allows the details of the bird to stand out while allowing the background to go soft and muted.

DOF is created by the optics of lenses. All you have to do is to learn the basics, and the lens will do all the work. For shallow DOF, use a large lens aperture like f/4 or f/5.6. For deep DOF, allowing most everything in the image to be sharp and in focus, use a small lens aperture like f/16 or f/22.

That's it. No complicated formulas, no time-consuming decisions. With a little practice you will easily create the DOF you desire in your images. And you will have the satisfaction of knowing that YOU controlled it, and did not have to rely on software for the look you want.

Shutter Speed 1/160 sec.  Aperture f/5.6.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS with built-in 1.4 extender for an effective focal length of 560mm..  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Taking care of your own learning is a part of taking charge of your life."  --Warren G. Bennis

Monday, March 9, 2015

Sunrise Serenade

Sunrises and sunsets make wonderful photographic subjects. The mix of warm and cool tones, and the drama of the light can make our hearts skip a beat.

Here are some tips to make your shots better:

1. Always arrive at least one hour before official sunset or sunrise time. That will give you time to set up and find a good vantage point.

2. Start with a wide angle lens, but be prepared to also shoot with a telephoto zoom. That will provide some variety, and allow you to zoom into smaller areas that might have great clouds or interesting colors.

3. Start with an ISO of either 200 or 400.  Higher than that will introduce noise, especially visible in smooth areas of sky and darker areas.

4. Use an aperture of at least f/8 or smaller. The smaller the aperture (the higher the number) the better you will be able to retain good detail and sharpness throughout the image.

5. A slow shutter speed is OK if necessary. If it is a calm day, there will be very little movement of the clouds. If it is windy, some cloud motion could prove interesting.

6. Some of the best shots are when the sun is below the horizon. The colors will be more subtle and you will not have the super bright sun overpowering your image.

7. It is also good to shoot when the sun just peaks above the horizon, as in today's image. That helps to retain some color in the sun itself, and minimizes the chances of having an uncontrollably bright  white circle of light.

8. For sunrise, shoot a lot before the sun breaks the horizon. For sunset, don't leave once the sun dips down below the horizon. Continue for at least 20 minutes afterwards, slowing your shutter speed as necessary. You will be amazed at the colors and subtlety that your camera will capture.

Shutter Speed 1/250 sec.  Aperture f/10.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 17-40mm f/4L, set at 17mm.  Camera: Canon 40D.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere."  --John Muir   

Friday, March 6, 2015

Charleston Charm

Charleston, South Carolina. The Paris of the South. This charming city and its nearby plantations have some of the most photogenic places in the country. It has charm at every turn. Its historic homes, beautiful churches, and ancient immense oak trees with spanish moss hanging on every branch are just some of the exciting things to photograph there.

This lovely 17th century home has ornate detail in the door, its curved frame, and oval windows. For this type of shot, my preference is to find as symmetrical a composition as possible. That allows the texture, shapes, and colors to stand out. The fact that the long window shutter on the right was slightly ajar added visual interest.

It was a very gray overcast day, so some tweaking was necessary to punch up the colors and contrast. Lightroom did the job nicely.

In a city like Charleston, a little exploring can net you some spectacular photo opportunities. If you have never been to Charleston, or even if you have, the upcoming Charleston Charm Photo Tour, May 17 - 21, is the best way to photograph this area. This tour has been designed to give you the maximum variety of photo opportunities in the easiest way possible.

We'll start with a leisurely private horse-drawn carriage ride around the city to provide an overview of all Charleston has to offer. Then we will have a private chauffeured vehicle to take us all around the historic city, making long photo stops at many unique and charming homes and churches. Photograph at your leisure, and when you're done, come back to the vehicle and be driven to the next lovely venue. Since this is our private vehicle, you can leave excess photo gear onboard and take only what you need at each stop.

In addition, we will tour at least one famous plantation, and take a short boat ride to Ft. Sumter to photograph this iconic place. Evenings will be free for you to explore some of the area's gourmet restaurants if you wish. There will also be image critiques, and lots of education and personalized attention.

Join me in May for the best Charleston tour around. Details here

Shutter Speed 1/80 sec.  Aperture f/6.3.   ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 17-40mm f/4 L, set at 17mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Charleston has a landscape that encourages intimacy.... You can be moved profoundly by other oceans, by soaring mountain ranges, but you can never be seduced [as you can be in Charleston]. You can never completely escape the sensuous, semi-tropical pull."