Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How to Photograph a Thunderstorm

Storms and lightning create beautiful opportunities for photography. The bolts of light are powerful and will make any scene dramatic but only if you can capture them.
To capture lightning you have to behave like a hunter, shooting and shooting until something is caught, focus and expose for the landscape you are using shooting 20 or 30 seconds exposures depending on the level of brightness in your scene. Something like ISO400, F11 and 20 seconds is a good way to start and you can adjust the parameters after taking a couple of sample shots before the hunt begins. Check focus carefully, it’s difficult to focus at night and out of focus bolts are not nice at all.
Use a remote intervalometer and program it to take dozens, even hundreds of shots one after the other. While the camera is taking the shots you can take a nice cup of coffee while you are warm and dry. You can also buy a specialized device as the Lightning Trigger to make the camera shoot only when lightning is detected.
Once the storm is finished examine the photographs looking for the best bolts and then create a composite scene merging all the nice shots in one. Load the shots in your photo editor as layers and play with different blending modes to find the best mode for your final image. Luminosity mode works quite well in several cases, other modes can be even better so always try them.
Lightning storms are fast, our brain usually remembers a mix of all the bolts and lights that we saw, that’s why a single photograph usually seems to do no justice to what we remember. The composite shot is usually more dramatic and even more similar to what we remember. Sometimes reality is the sum of events.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Photographing Waterfalls

Waterfalls and streams are popular photography subjects because they can easily be made into a soothing digital desktop wallpaper. A common element in many waterfall pictures is the silky smooth appearance of the water. This is not difficult to capture, with the right tools and techniques.

Without a tripod, the pictures below would not have been possible. This is because we typically use shutter speeds of 2 seconds or more, which is not possible to hand-hold without getting camera shake.
Polarizing Filter or ND Filter
Circular polarizing filters are designed to reduce reflections and increase saturation. As a side effect, they also cut down about 1.5 stops of light coming through the lens.

ND filters are neutral density filters, available in different strengths. They act like sunglasses for your lens by cutting down the light coming into the lens.

Timing and Location

UluYamStream 2 Photographing Waterfalls
Finally it’s time to use these tools to get the shot. Shooting a time when the sun is not too strong will give you the best chance of slowing down the shutter speed. This is because even at ISO100 and F22, your shutter speed may not reach the required levels if there is too much light. A shutter speed range of 2 seconds to 5 seconds is your target. Shooting in forest cover will also increase the possibility of lower light levels.

Vary your shutter speeds for different moods. There are many other variables to fine-tune, like composition, color balance and foreground interest. So keep on experimenting to get the perfect waterfall shot.

UluYam TreeTrunk Sunset Photographing WaterfallsSmoothening Ripples

You can also apply this technique on other water surfaces, like lakes and dams. Ripples on a lake can be smoothened out by using a long exposure. The result is a mirror-like calmness. Reflections on this surface are sometimes rendered as wavy surreal reflections. This was exactly the technique used for the 2 images below.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Optical vs Digital Zoom

On consumer digital cameras, the terms optical zoom and digital zoom are common. When shopping for a digital camera, ignore the digital zoom. What you should look for is the optical zoom capability, because what is captured using optical zoom is what the lens actually sees.
Digital zoom is basically using in-camera software to enlarge the center pixels in the photo, resulting in loss of detail and sharpness.

Some digital cameras use digital zoom exclusively, because they lack an optical zoom lens. On such cameras, the photo will be at its sharpest without using the digital zoom at all.
Other digital cameras have a combination of optical and digital zoom. On such cameras, I would turn off digital zoom entirely, and use only the optical zoom. This will ensure that I get sharp photos all the time.

x 1 x 2 x 3
zoomx1 35mm Optical vs Digital Zoom zoomx2 70mm Optical vs Digital Zoom zoomx3 105mm Optical vs Digital Zoom
Usually equivalent to a 35mm lens. Details in the photo are captured by the lens. Usually equivalent to a 70mm lens. Details in the photo are captured by the lens. Usually equivalent to a 105mm lens. Details in the photo are captured by the lens.
zoomx1 35mm Optical vs Digital Zoom zoomx2 digital Optical vs Digital Zoom zoomx3 digital Optical vs Digital Zoom
Usually equivalent to a 35mm lens. Details in the photo are captured by the lens. Camera adds pixels to make the photo larger. Details in the photo are artifically added via software in the camera. Camera adds pixels to make the photo larger. Details in the
photo are artifically addedvia software in the camera.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Night Photography Tips

Photography at night can yield amazing results if done right, but it is also a major hurdle for beginners in photography. Instead of blaming the equipment, let’s look at refining our technique. In this article I will suggest a few settings for night photography.

Fireworks Photography

The fireworks picture below was taken with a technique involving holding a black card in front of an open shutter. In manual exposure mode, set the shutter speed to 20-30 seconds (or use bulb mode), an aperture of F11 to F16 and an ISO setting of 100 or 200. Using the bulb mode on your DSLR, you can get the shutter to stay open as long as required. If you are using the bulb mode, a remote shutter release is very useful to avoid getting camera shake (yes it can happen even on a sturdy tripod). 

Timing is Crucial
The single most important tip I can give you regarding night photography is to get a good tripod. With a sturdy tripod, you can use the most basic camera and lens and come out with a winning shot. Armed with a tripod, the next thing to do is to scout for a good location where you can set up your tripod and wait for the twilight hour when the amount of ambient light matches the amount of artificial light. This creates pictures where the sky is a deep blue color, perfect for offsetting the man-made lights in the scene. If you are shooting a low ISO setting like 100 at this time, and your aperture in the F11-F16 range, your shutter speed will drop to a level where it is not possible to hold your camera steady. That is why you need a tripod.
Shooting Light Trails
Use a small aperture (which means a big F-number like F16) to get starburst effects on street lamps like in the picture below, taken in Ubud, Bali. Not only does a small aperture give you more depth-of-field (which means objects are sharp from front to back), it also enables you to get longer shutter speeds, which contribute to the long red lines created by the tail-lights of passing motorists. Or white lines created by their headlights. The easiest mode to shoot this is Aperture Priority.

Over Two Hundred!

I just noticed I had reached a new milestone. 200 frickin' followers!

I just want to tell you that you're all wonderful and I'm really thankful for each and every one of you!
Thanks for comment and visit me day by day.

This blog has grow very fast, I'll try and keep it updated more often from now on.
I hope all of you, enjoy the content!

Thanks again.

200 is an even number.
200 has 2 representations as a sum of 2 squares: 200 = 2^2+14^2 = 10^2+10^2
200 has the representation 200 = 2^8-56.
200 divides 49^2-1.