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.
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.
Canon’s 50mm f1.8 is an absolute bargain!
A weekly trio of top photo tips
The accessory is the vital extra component that usually makes life easier no matter what hobby or craft it is associated with. In photography, there are a whole wealth of accessories available to purchase. Some bad, some good. Some you just can’t do without! So, let’s take a look at those must-haves and see if you ask yourself – why have I not got one of those!!
Simple in design, their sole purpose is to keep things looking straight and level. In photography, this means the horizon and if this isn’t straight, the whole picture looks wrong. A simple hotshoe-mounted spirit level, avoids this faux pas and every landscaper should not leave home without one. Manufacturers have realised this too and now incorporate one into the camera. If yours isn’t one of these latest models however, go spend the best ten pound you will ever spend.
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.
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.
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.
Olympus E-M1, 12mm, 1/6400 @f2
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
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. 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
Landscapes are one of the most popular subjects for photography and having the right tools for the job, makes the experience and time spent of capturing the beauty of our world even more enjoyable. Having the right camera therefore, comes down to having the right features and specifications to match this subject, the shooting conditions and ultimately the final results. So, what is the ultimate landscape camera? In the days of film, it would perhaps have been a 4×5 large format camera, such as an Ebony or Linhof. Ultimate size for ultimate quality. With the advent of digital, the choice is even greater. No longer do you need to shoot with a medium format camera. Both Nikon and Canon have top end SLR’s, seemingly ideal for the job and if Canon’s new 5Ds isn’t the ultimate landscape camera, then what is? Continue reading
My latest magazine commission took me to Worcestershire and the beautiful Malverns, a location that had been on my ‘must-see’ list for a long time.
The feature centered around the glorious views from the main peaks, Worcestershire and Herefordshire Beacons, which I visited each at sunrise and sunset, though with mixed results due to lots of cloud. Just being up on the hills at sunrise is a worthy experience, plus their ease of access means these summits are a short walk from the car parks. Continue reading