#Photo3 – Alternative Framing Formats

A weekly trio of top photo tips

The rectangular framing format is a common one. It’s how we basically see the world and therefore how cameras are designed by default. Longer on the top and bottom and shorter on the sides, this can be reversed by turning the camera into the vertical format. This then is your first alternative and now you can emphasise foreground within this frame. Here are three more to consider that may prove more creative.

Square

Make the top and bottom edges of the frame the same size as the sides and of course you now have a square format. A more even frame with no bias either way. You can use this balanced alternative to frame up views with similar aspects. Some subjects just sit perfectly within a square frame and just require a neutral frame to show them off, which is exactly what the square format is. The square format is also more forgiving for subjects placed dead-centre, so use this rule breaker to make a creative statement.

Brierley Tree, South Yorkshire

Square

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#Photo3 – 3 Essential Filters

The first in a new series featuring a weekly trio of top photo tips

Photo filters used to be an essential item for photography. In the days when you shot with film, these where the only ways to manipulate your images. Digital has removed the need for many filters, or has it? There are still some filters that digital can’t replicate or don’t need to. Most of the process of creating an image is done in-camera, so if like me, you enjoy using your camera more than a computer, then here are my three favourite and essential filter purchases.

Polariser

The polariser. The king of filters! Not only does it darken blue skies by increasing contrast, it also boosts any colour in the scene, making them rich, vibrant and ‘pop’ in the picture. The polariser also removes reflections, which again increases colour saturation and is useful when shooting views including water. This filter absorbs up to 2 stops of light, so whilst you will have to bear this in mind when calculating exposures, it also means that this filter can also be used as a 2 stop ND filter if you need assistance in bringing the shutter speed down.

Whitby, North Yorkshire Moors

Polariser

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Open Wide – the bokeh effect

The aesthetic quality of blur produced in the out of focus parts of an image is known as bokeh (pronounced boh ka). Bokeh can also be defined as the way the lens produces out-of-focus points of light. This is the effect the lens design has on out-of-focus highlights in the background which mimic the lens aperture blade’s shape inside the lens. These may be perfect circles or they may appear as hexagonal shapes, with a good lens rendering these as soft looking circles, making the bokeh effect less distracting.

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Olympus E-M1, 12mm, 1/6400 @f2

Creative landscapes

A different mindset needs to come into play when shooting landscapes which feature bokeh. If you swop f16 to shooting at f1.8 instead, then you need to consider your composition carefully as well. Using a wide angle, you will need to be nice and close to a foreground subject, just so that you can achieve a suitable bokeh effect. So, fill the bottom of the frame with this and focus carefully on this subject. Check the image afterwards for sharpness and use the depth-of-field preview if your camera has one. You may not be able to reduce your out-of-focus part of the frame to a series of soft circles, but you will produce a nice sense of depth with your results

You can read more about bokeh in my eGuide ‘Open Wide’, available as part of an e6 subscription or to purchase separately. www.e6subscription.co.uk

 

Dare to be Different

I’ve been a self-employed travel and landscape photographer for 21 years now. Plus 5 years of doing it part time. One day, with a change of circumstances, no real plan and a deep breath, I left my job in the motor industry to become a photographer.

The first chapter to be added to my ‘Personal Guide to Success’, apart from moving to medium format, to gain the advantage of the bigger image size, was discovered from doing an online course with the Bureau of Freelance Photography. Their advice was, if you want to get ahead you have be different from the rest and in my circumstance, add words to your pictures. So, this started with a few words, a couple of sentences to accompany my submitted images. Basically a bit of a back story to the image as to why and how it was shot. This idea progressed to over a thousand words with each submission to magazines to form a short article, along with a few more pics to complete the package. This gave me the edge over others, as the editor had both words and pics to put in the magazine.

Next came the workshops. I had been shooting professionally now for over ten years and digital had just kicked in. Suddenly there were more photographers, both wanting to learn and competing to have their work published. I dabbled in the landscape workshop myself here and there. A few in the Yorkshire Dales, along the Yorkshire Coast, Peak District, but only one day affairs, as I never fancied organising the multi-day holidays. But I got bored. There were too many others doing the same thing as well, so I referred back to my ‘Personal Guide to Success’ mantra. Be different.

Tree, Brierley, South Yorkshire

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Beyond the Grave & into the Red

For my infrared project having the right subject to shoot was key. Infrared doesn’t work on every subject. Well, the actual process does, but the successful result is a bit more subjective. Some of the results I have seen published or on the web have often been a bit cliché, even if they work well within that cliché. So, I was looking for a subject that would suit the medium that perhaps hadn’t been done before, or was just less-photographed. In fact, this combination happened the other way around. I’d had the subject in mind for a while, but needed a technique to give it an edge. And so my Beyond the Grave idea was brought to fruition. I wanted to photograph cemeteries and the ‘Into the Red’ tag was the infrared medium I would capture them in.

The camera I used or should I say camera’s, were my Olympus EM1 and EP5. These are the camera’s I use for all my photography and they were actually ideal for this medium. The filter I used was a Hoya R72 Infrared filter. I purchased it in 67mm size, big enough for my standard zoom and I also purchased a couple of step-down rings so I could use it on other lenses too, if required.

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Brompton Cemetery, London.  Olympus E-P5, 10mm, ISO 800, Hoya R72.

This filter absorbs at least 10 stops of light, so it’s a bit like using a Big Stopper filter. This effectively means using the camera on a tripod, as the resulting exposures, even on the bright days, lasted several seconds. This was going to be one of a few downsides shooting with this filter rather than with a converted infrared camera, as I wouldn’t be able to get away with any handheld shooting. The other issue was movement. Subject blur from foliage, important for infrared, was not going to look very pleasing on the final result, so a lack of wind and therefore a calm day was preferred.

Now, as I say the OMD camera’s, especially the EM1 were ideal for shooting with this filter, as it avoids a third issue, composition. Because the filter is so dark, I would normally have to compose the scene without the filter in place, then once happy with my position, focus, screw the filter on and take the picture. If moved position again, I would normally have to take the filter off and repeat the process. Not so with the Olympus system. These cameras have a mode called Live Boost, which increases the intensity of the rear screen and electronic viewfinder view for when using strong filters such as this. This meant I could ‘see through’ the filter enough to compose and fine-tune the focus without forever taking the filter on and off. A godsend, I can tell you!

You can read more about infrared project shooting cemeteries in my eGuide ‘Beyond the Grave & into the Red’, available as part of an e6 Premium subscription. www.e6subscription.co.uk

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Lenses for Landscapes

Aside from the common 24/28mm wide angle, the 50mm lens is next up as a favourite for landscape photography . A distant scene will still make a good composition if you frame it correctly. You may not be able to get right up close to include a strong foreground feature and so this focal length will allow you to draw the scene in. Successful landscapes are all about composition and fitting the widest lens in your arsenal is not always the answer to successful pictures. Tight framing and knowing what is negative space or just distracting from the main scene, is as important to your technique.

Loch Leven, Highlands, Scotland

Loch Leven, Highlands, Scotland.  Canon 5D MKII, 50mm.

This focal length is very easy to work with, as it offers the same field of view as we see with our eyes and so it should feel very natural to compose with. If you need to compress the elements within the scene slightly, then this focal length will allow this too. Sometimes the landscape isn’t perfectly placed for you and there can be too much distance between the foreground rock and tree in the mid-ground. A 24 mm will only exaggerate this and spoil the harmony of the composition, A 50mm however, will compress the scene slightly and make the two elements appear closer together than they actually are, allowing for a tighter view.

You can read more about the ideal focal lengths for landscape photography in my eGuide ‘Lenses for Landscapes‘, available as part of an e6 subscription or to purchase separately. www.e6subscription.co.uk

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What’s in my camera bag?

I’ve recently sold all my Canon full-frame camera gear and so now I only shoot with one system, Micro Four-Thirds. This is the first time in a long while that this has been the case. When shooting with medium format, I also had 35mm kit. When I switched to digital, I also used a Fuji 617 panoramic camera. For the last few years, I’ve been using both digital full-frame and M43, so it’s quite a change to have just one system now. However, it does consist of both a zoom and prime lens set-up, to suit different shooting situations, so I’m still sort of keeping that multi-combination aspect even now! Continue reading