27 Apr 2010

The Frame: Project - Looking through the viewfinder, pt3

Exercise: A sequence of composition
30 photographs

Click here to view album

I took advantage of an outdoor market to complete this exercise, though I cannot say it was easy to begin with. I was required to take a sequence of photographs and show how I came to frame an interesting scene. However, as a matter of politeness, I was unable to take a few of the photos I wanted to but this got a lot easier toward the end of the sequence when I wondered into the part of the market with live animals (it was very difficult to offend a parrot…). Also, there was a photo of opportunity as a group of camel riders made their way through the street!

Another reason I found this exercise difficult was keeping the camera to my eye – a practise I have never used. I realise the intent was to demonstrate how I came to frame a photograph but I am more comfortable with ‘just looking’. However, as I relaxed into it, I believe I met the intent toward the end of the sequence by better framing interesting scenes. It also quite successfully demonstrated that as events happen in real time, as with the camels, they can focus your attention in addition to just something you find interesting.

Click here to link to the album for this exercise; notes on each frame are shown under each photograph.

The Frame: Project - Looking through the viewfinder, pt2

Exercise: Object in different positions in the frame
4 photographs

{content pending}

The Frame: Project - Looking through the viewfinder, pt1

Exercise: Fitting the frame to the subject
4 photographs

Click here to view album

This exercise required me to photograph an object in four different ways; first was capturing the subject without much consideration for the composition; second tightly framed with edges taking up the whole photograph; third close in with no edges; and lastly from a distance to emphasise the setting. I chose a rather large crane that was parked up as something nice and heavy to contrast against the open setting.

Next, I took a copy of the images and did some digital cropping to come up with some whole new photos. It really emphasised to me that new and interesting pictures can be produced post shoot. I particularly like the panoramic view of the whole scene (the 5th image in the album) as it draws out the vibrant colours and weights the photograph in opposing corners. Click here to see all the images in a photobucket album.

Cropped to a panaramic view

Ok, I'll admit that these photos are a little boring. The crane is not the most exciting subject I could have picked but I'm a little limited on options right now. I would love to re-shoot this exercise using my Mum's Karman Ghia parked up against the bluebells back home in Gloucestershire, but I doubt I will be back in time for the season.

26 Apr 2010

Project: Photographing movement, pt2

Exercise: Panning with different shutter speeds
12 photographs

I cannot believe that I ended up missing the Motor GP - what a perfect subject for this exercise! Damn!

Right, I've got x4 ideas for this exercise; my mate "General" Patton is a big runner and is doing sprint training this weekend; there's a basketball match on Sunday if I can get to it; there's camel racing on in town, again, if I can get to it; if all else fails I can get one of the lads to drive the car back and forth for a bit.


Click here to view album

Many thanks to General for coming through and helping out with this exercise, we got some pretty fun snaps together. Now, I have to admit that a little bit of doctoring took place on these; I've cropped them to a 16:9 frame to cut out some of the open background and to frame General's movement better (I've also blurred out some number-plates, just in case). Also, it was a really hazy day so I reduced the noise using an editing program to improve the image quality a little. Have to say, for my first attempt at panning I'm really happy with the results! I'd love have another go at this at a motor race.

I asked General to do some sprints against the parked cars and the rocky mound in the background. Originally we were planning to do this exercise down at the track but the scenery is pretty bare so we opted for this so that there were more details in the background to review the results. I used the same S mode as the last exercise to allow the camera to decide the aperture for the selected shutter speed.

#01 1/4000 sec

In this first image with the shutter speed set at maximum, General’s movements have been frozen and the background details are crisp. It’s a good action shot but doesn’t really have much presence to it.

#02 1/2500 sec

Slower the shutter speed down to 1/2500 sec, there’s little difference in results for the second pic compared to the first.

#03 1/1600 sec

Still little difference from the first x2 photographs.

#04 1/800 sec

Onto the forth photo and the shutter down to 1/800 sec, the background is starting to un-focus just a little. This is a nice action shot of General and he’s starting to stand out against the car in the background.

#05 1/400 sec

As with the previous photo, General’s movements have been frozen and the background is slightly out-of-focus.

#06 1/160 sec

Again, General is standing out against the background as the shutter speed gets slower. I really prefer this photo over the first few as it’s beginning to give a sense of speed rather than a freeze-frame of the action.

#07 1/60 sec

This is my favourite picture of the series. Down to 1/60 sec, the motion blur on the background really shows how much pace General has picked up. Also, at his extremities, where the motion is greatest, the detail is starting to show motion blur giving the scene a lot more character; it gives a greater sense of movement than a simple freeze-frame of the sprint.

#08 1/30 sec

There’s much more motion blur in this frame and it seems to radiate around General; there’s no mistaking that he’s the subject focus in this photograph. At 1/30 sec, the motion of his arms and legs gives a greater impression of speed as he powers down the road (x8 rapid sprints down and General is showing no signs of fatigue!)

#09 1/13 sec

The degree of motion blur at 1/13 sec has completely distorted General’s arms and legs and the streaking in the background seems to have widened the cars. I like this photograph as it is quite abstract but I have my doubts as to how successful it would have been without that orange shirt!

#10 1/8 sec

Lots of motion blur in this frame and General’s arms a legs remind me a little of how a cartoonist might portray movement in a given frame. Also, the background detail is starting to blend into itself.

#11 1/3 sec

Here the background has streaked into one continuous feature as the car stretches from one end to the other. I really like the effect this has produced as it makes the frame look a lot ‘faster’. Also, there is enough detail on General’s extremities to make out his basic shape and gives an abstract sense of speed even though he’s completely out-of-focus.

#12 1/1.3 sec

Oh dear, it would seem General has just broken the sound barrier…

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this exercise as there were some really striking results. Despite the fact that the atmospherics didn’t not allow for high quality photographs, I feel that the intent of this exercise was met. I prefer the results from the ‘middle-ground’ of the shutter speeds, 1/60 sec, as there was just enough motion blur to give a sense of movement without losing detail and giving the scene greater feeling than a simple freeze-frame. Looks like I’ll be using panning a lot more often! Please click here to view the whole album.

Project: Photographing movement, pt1

Exercise: Shutter speeds
12 photographs

Click here to view album

The purpose of this exercise was to photograph a continually moving object set against a plain background using various shutter speeds. I chose to use a line of flags that are lit up at night; with a good breeze and the night sky they provided the perfect scene for this exercise.

Using a tripod, I utilised the ‘S’ shooting mode that allowed me to manually set the shutter speed and the camera decided on the aperture, that way each photo had the same exposure. Below is a list of hyperlinks to each shot annotated with the shutter speed and f-stop. Alternatively, you can view the whole album here.

#01 1/40 sec, f4.8.

In this first image the fast shutter speed has frozen the motion of the flags, clearly showing the creases and the shadows that are cast.

#02 1/30 sec, f5.

Slowing the shutter speed down to 1/30 sec, the second photo shows little difference from the first; the motion is still frozen, showing creases and shadows.

#03 1/25 sec, f6.3.

Photo number 3 still has sharp details but the ends of the flags (where the motion is greatest) is beginning to blur.

#04 1/20 sec, f7.1.

Little difference from the previous photo.

#05 1/15 sec, f8.

Down to a shutter speed of 1/15 sec, the edges of colour for each flag are starting to un-focus.

#06 1/10 sec, f9.

By the sixth photo, the motion blur is starting to become more apparent. At the end of the Union Jack, where the motion is greatest, you can clearly see the extent of motion blur with the red and white lines running into each other.

#07 1/6 sec, f13.

Now the extent of the motion blur is clearly affecting the focus on the French and Australian flag in addition to the Union Jack. The upward motion of the Australian flag shows clear lines of movement with the white stars and the Union Jack shows a wave motion.

#08 1/3 sec, f16.

Photograph number 8 shows a lot of movement on all 6 flags now that the shutter speed is down to one-third of a second. This is juxtaposed with the stillness of the flag poles that are unaffected by the breeze.

#09 1/1.6 sec, f22.

Again, a lot of movement is shown here. Interestingly, there appears to be x2 Union Jacks!

#10 1 sec, f29.

The four flags to the rear of this photograph are so badly distorted by motion blur that you are unable to make out any lines of motion. However, the Union Jack in the foreground shows a lot of motion lines that are curiously apparent. It reminds of the motions that you would make with a sparkler on Bonfire Night.

#11 1.6 sec, f32.

So extreme is the level of blurring on the 5 rear flags that you cannot really tell that there is movement; to me they just look out of focus from a shaking hand. However, the ripples of the Union Jack make the flag look as if it is underwater.
Another interesting note, this level of motion blur has done a strange optical illusion; look closely at the top of the Canadian flag pole. It appears to be in front of the French flag though clearly that is not possible from the viewing angle.

#12 2.5 sec, f32.

Down to 2.5 seconds on the shutter, the optical illusion I noticed in the previous photograph is more apparent; now the whole Canadian Maple Leaf appears to be in front of the French flag.

Project: Focus, pt2

Exercise: Focus at different apertures
3 Photographs

Click here to view album

As I discussed in the exercise 'Getting to know you camera', the aperture can change the depth of field for a given scene. When the f-stop is lower the aperture will be wider, resulting in photographs where the image subject is in focus and the surrounding details are blurred. Conversely, a higher f-stop (narrower aperture) will produce images will a greater depth of field, capturing surrounding details in greater clarity.

Logically, when the aperture is wide it will allow more light to reach the sensor when capturing the image; when the aperture is narrow it will let less light through. It is simplest to think of the aperture as the pupil of an eye. When the pupil is dilated it allows more light to reach the back of the eye and vice versa.

Also to note, different apertures will require the shutter speed to compensate for the amount of light allowed through to produce the optimum exposure.

This exercise requires a scene with depth to be taken at an acute angle. The same picture will be shot x3 times, each with a different size aperture to measure the resulting blur around the focus point. A game of pool inspired the subject matter for this exercise, so I set the camera up on a tripod and focused on the 8-ball (naturally). I took x3 photographs; the first at the camera's widest aperture; second at it's narrowest; third somewhere in the middle.

#1 - f4.2
As it is evident, the wide aperture has caught the in-focus 8-ball crisply and blurred the surrounding spot & stripes. The balls immediately around the 8-ball appear fuzzy and the balls at the furthest reaches of the fore and background are so out-of-focus that you cannot make out their respective numbers.

#2 - f22
At the narrowest aperture the photo now captures the surrounding details in greater clarity. The surrounding balls are in-focus and the numbering can be made out.

This exercise has shown that I will have to pay greater attention to the aperture size when photographing. Perhaps I will want a scene with reduced depth of field, maybe when photographing a friend and it is more important to focus on them rather than the background? Another possibility in a very narrow aperture when photographing landscapes and capturing all the detail. Much to consider.

Click here to view photobucket album.

Project: Focus, pt1

Exercise: Focus with a set aperture
2-3 photographs

Click here to view album

The purpose of this exercise was to take 2-3 photos of a scene from an acute angle. The aperture was set at its lowest f-stop and the pictures taken at various distances; the intent was to focus on something different in the scene each time and blur the surrounding features.

I took advantage of a market spice shop, though I was a little rushed for time. I fully intend and trying this exercise again with a different scene.

Spice #1

This first image was taken with a wide angle to capture most of the scene, with the focus on the teller serving a customer. The intent was to draw the eye to the top-centre of the photograph and un-focus the surrounding spice. If I’m honest, I’m not all that keen on this picture because of the angle; the perspective of the scene means that the image subject (the scoop) is small in comparison to its surroundings and it looks very unbalanced. Most of the 'weight' of the photo is un-focused piles of spice.

Spice #2

The second photograph zooms in on the spice and cuts out most of shop in the background. The subject of the photo this time is the central pile which is sharply in-focus with the piles immediately forward and behind slightly blurred and the piles and the fore and backgrounds unfocused even more. This is my favourite of the 3 as the subject is focused and centred on the image so it is very easy to draw the eye of the viewer. Furthermore, with the way this image is framed, the perspective on the surrounding piles gives a very balanced weight to the photo.

Spice #3

The final photograph focuses on the bottom right of the frame at the lens’ longest focal length (55mm). There is not much depth to this image as only 3 piles of spice are fully shown. However, your eye is still draw more centrally to the photo as the label in the foreground is out-of-focus; your eye is not drawn to this part of the image at all, instead focus on the spice directly behind it.
On an interesting note, I’ve noticed that I seem to reduce the depth a lot more significantly on longer focal lengths. I will have to experiment with this and discuss it with my tutor.

Project: Getting to know your camera, pt2

The lens

As per my last entry, I bought my D5000 with an 18-55mm NIKKOR lens kit. Basically, the unit allows the user to move the lens to a distance away from the camera sensor between 18 and 55mm. This is commonly referred to as a ‘zoom’ lens and can be purchased with different ranges, such as a 55-200mm. There are also lenses that have a fixed range (a prime lens) that are lighter and cheaper than a zoom lens but offer less flexibility.

The distance between the lens and the sensor is called the focal length. Changing the focal length alters the angle of view; the closer the lens to the sensor the wider the angle and vice versa. I drew a quick picture on paint to help illustrate this;

At its shortest, the focal length will capture a lot more of the content of the scene where as a longer focal length will magnify a portion of it and cut out details outside of the frame. Wide angles, for example, are very good for landscapes and architecture where as telescopic narrow angles are good for sport or wildlife photography.

Lenses I use:

Nikkor AF-S DX VR 18-55mm

Nikkor AF-S DX VR 55-200mm

23 Apr 2010

Project: Getting to know your camera, pt1

The camera

Ok, I have finally received my OCA course pack for the Art of Photography and it’s time to get stuck in. Apparently, blogs are an excellent tool for keeping a ‘Learning Log’ for the course so here I go with a fad I’m many years behind on.

Not being the sort of person that particularly likes tools that do things automatically, (car gear-boxes being a big one), I went on and bought a Nikon D5000 digital SLR.

First impressions after fiddling with it a bit; it’s awesome. I’m really glad I spent the extra money after initially planning on a bridge camera and it’s just superb. I bought the camera base with an 18-55mm lens kit and I will probably buy another one shortly, probably a 55-200mm. I will discuss lenses more in the next project.

So, first things first; the instruction manual. I have skimmed through it to get a general feel for the camera’s operation but now it’s time to get into the meat of the content. All 235 pages of it. Ace. To be fair, a good chunk of the manual is about the basics like turning it on and plugging it into a computer, which, if I’m honest, I’m not going to bother reading.

First thing to note about the D5000 is the 2.7” LCD ‘Live-View’ screen on the back. This can be used as an aid for framing pictures instead of the viewfinder and also features a vari-angle screen. Gimmicey. When I first looked into buying the camera I wasn’t really fussed on this feature but it actually comes in useful if you want to take a photo from an awkward angle as you can swivel the monitor in favour of your body. Neat.

The screen also offers a very intuitive menu system for the camera setting that can be easily navigated using the multi selector and other buttons on the back, such as ISO settings, file format, playback, etc.

As with most manufactures in a competitive market, there appears to be a lot of features on this camera that is designed to ‘wow’ you. There is a grand total of x19 scene modes from Portrait to Candlelight, x6 of which can be quickly selected using the mode dial on the top of the camera. The others can be selected using a combination of the mode dial and the command dial. The mode dial also features x2 ‘point-and-shoot’ modes; fully automatic (yuck) and ‘no flash’. What appears to be the most useful function of the mode dial is the quick selection of the P, S, A & M shooting modes:

P – Programmed auto; the camera decides the shutter speed and aperture for optimum exposure.
S – User selects the shutter speed using the command dial and the camera decides on the aperture for optimum exposure.
A – User selects the aperture using the command dial and the camera decides on the shutter speed for optimum exposure.
M – User decides on both the shutter speed and aperture.

To adjust the exposure, ISO settings and other settings requires the user to navigate the menu system using combinations of buttons. So, it’s all very quick and intuitive to adjust the shooting mode.

Half way through the manual and it’s plain-sailing so far. A higher f-stop number means a smaller aperture, increasing the depth of field to bring out details in the fore and backgrounds (good for landscapes). Conversely, a larger aperture (low f-stop) would be better suited for portraits or making objects stand out against its surroundings by blurring details around the main focus. Further to this, when the aperture is at it widest, it’s going to allow a lot more light reach the camera’s sensor when compared to being at its narrowest. Therefore, the shutter speed will have to compensate for the width of the aperture to achieve the desired exposure; the faster the shutter speed, the less light it will let in and vice-versa.

Deciding on the shutter speed can make a big difference in what you are trying to express with the photograph. For example, a fast shutter speed will freeze moving objects, where as a slow shutter speed will blur the motion. So, for a given exposure, fast shutter speeds will require a wide aperture to allow the correct amount of light to reach the sensor and slow shutter speeds call for narrow apertures. So, at this stage, the S & A shooting modes that the D5000 offers are probably going to come in very useful as I learn to fully utilise different shutter speeds and apertures. Also, the bracketing feature where the camera takes the photo at x3 different exposures in sequence could prove useful as I practice with different lighting levels.

Now I’m onto the part of the manual that has me at a disadvantage. I understand what is meant by metering, white balance and flash compensation, but I’ve never actually used them so I don’t know what results to expect or indeed what best to use for a subject. I think with a spare afternoon when I’m back home I’ll set up some still-life out of some household objects, sit down with the manual and experiment.

The next few chapters are Playback, connections, menu guide and settings; skip.

Now, before the last chapter on technical notes there is a chapter about the camera’s in built retouching tools. Do I really want to fiddle around changing colours and balances using the D5000’s onboard tools? I don’t think so – I’m studying TAOP to learn to take a photograph without digital enhancement. This could be something to help pass the time on a train and maybe the fisheye filter could be fun (I certainly don’t have £500 for a real fisheye lens…).
However, if I decide to further study Digital Photographic Practice with the OCA I may read this chapter, but will most likely just use GIMP or Photoshop.