#Photo3 – Three Advantages to the ‘Nifty Fifty’

A weekly trio of top photo tips

There was a time when new cameras didn’t come supplied with a kit lens, well not the basic zoom we have come to expect nowadays anyway. No, instead they used to come complete with a 50mm standard lens. An all-round versatile lens, that was great for the beginner and got you started with your first SLR. Now, because it’s all zooms these days, these fantastic 50mm lenses are often overlooked, even though you can still buy them, so here’s my three reasons why you should consider the ‘nifty fifty’ as your next essential lens purchase.

Price

Want a great cheap lens? Then here’s one for you. The 50mm lens is often one of the cheapest examples that camera manufacturers make. The Canon 50mm f1,8 cost just £106 new, whilst Nikon’s is a bit more at £189, still cheap for lens however. Buy second-hand and you’re probably looking at £50 for a good one. Their simple design keeps the cost down, but even with this, they still have a metal lens mount and fantastic optical quality, plus that nice fast maximum aperture. Great value for money when you think about it.

 

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Canon’s 50mm f1.8 is an absolute bargain!

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#Photo3 – Long Exposure Subjects

A weekly trio of top photo tips

If you’re yearning to make your images more creative, then an easy way to achieve this is by extending your exposure times. Of course, simply putting your camera in its Bulb mode and leaving the shutter open for a couple of minutes is just going to lead to very over-exposed images! However, place an extreme ND filter, such as a Big Stopper over the lens at the same time and BINGO! Beautiful, evocative images, full of creativity and movement. But what subjects and locations work the best for these type of images? Well, seeing as you ask…

Coast

To use the full potential of a long exposure, you need lots of movement in your images and at the coast, you have that aplenty. Not only can you capture movement in the clouds in the sky, but with an abundance of water at your disposal, you have a second element to blur with a 6, 10 or even 15 stop ND filter. The results work best if you can also place a static subject in the frame for the other elements to move around. Luckily, at the coast you have these too. Piers, groynes, rocks, harbour walls and marker posts all make suitable subjects, making the coast a great place to shoot long exposures.

Whitby, North Yorkshire

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#Photo3 – Three Really Useful Photo Apps

A weekly trio of top photo tips

Everyone carries a smartphone around with them these days. Whether its Android or iOS, Samsung or Apple, these computers in our pockets are a resource of information (and can make phone calls too!) and every photographer should have one. Besides being useful for a quick burst of Angry Birds or whatever your favourite waste of time is, the apps available can be very useful for the creative photographer. So, here are my three favourite photography apps for your smartphone.

LongTime Exposure Calculator  iOS Free (Android alternative: Exposure Calculator)

Extreme ND filters are very popular with photographers now and rightly so. These filters open a whole world of creativity and whilst results can be a clichéd, they are a lot of fun to create and the results are always breath-taking. Calculating the exposure times with a 10 or 15 stop ND filter attached can be tricky however and you can soon run out of fingers trying to figure out the new required shutter speed. This app therefore takes all the guesswork and maths out of the equation and gives you a clear and easy way to calculate how many minutes an ND filter requires at 4pm on a cloudy day. If you use LEE Filters, then they have a very similar version of their own, which is well worth a look too.

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LongTime Exposure Calculator

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#Photo3 – Three Advantages to Prime Lenses

A weekly trio of top photo tips

Zoom lenses are great, aren’t they? They cover several focal lengths all in the one lens. You can zoom in to distant subjects with it or shoot something close-up, all without even moving your feet. They offer great value for money and whilst they might have average maximum apertures, combined with a high ISO, you can shoot in most situations and light conditions with them. So, with all that in mind, why would you even consider a prime lens? Well, let me give you three reasons why you should in fact, consider a prime lens.

Speed

One big advantage of a prime lens is that they are fast. Yes, primes have speed on their side. You may be thinking here, Craig what are you on about! What exactly is a fast lens? Well, the term refers to their maximum aperture and this is usually wider than any equivalent zoom. So, whilst your favourite zoom lens may only have an f4 or even an f2.8 maximum aperture, a prime lens may have an f1.8 or even f0.95 maximum aperture. What this means, is more light coming in through the lens. More light means quicker focusing, brighter viewfinder, more bokeh effect (shallow depth of field), better low light capabilities and less need for high ISO settings, so ultimately better quality images too. Yes, a fast lens, i.e. a prime lens, is all good news.

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Many primes also have a depth of field scale

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#Photo3 – Three Ways to Break the Rules

A weekly trio of top photo tips

There are a lot of so-called rules in photography, mostly regarding composition. Most can be ignored however, as there shouldn’t really be any rules in a technique of artistic interpretation, which all photography basically is. The rules have been designed to help you achieve a safe and average image, that will no doubt be pleasing to the eye. By breaking the rules however, you are encouraging questions to asked and making your image stand out. So, let’s rebel with these three rulebreakers.

Centre

Placing your main subject dead-centre can lead to a static-looking result, where the subject is not making use of the whole frame. It can interpret a sense of lack of imagination in composition, whereas an off-centre placement starts to reveal more about the surroundings and this main subject’s relationship with that. Putting your subject slap bang in the centre however makes a bold statement. It focusses the eye on the subject and makes us question its authority. There’s nowt much more that says “Look at me, look at me” than a centrally placed subject!

Dungeness, Kent

Centre

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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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