Street photography can be challenging even in good conditions. As a West Coast based Canadian Photographer I deal with some of the darkest and wettest conditions encountered by anyone. In addition, as I write this there is snow on the ground in Vancouver. We haven’t had a winter as snowy as this for 30 years but that’s a whole other article. Continue reading “5 Street Photography tips for Difficult Conditions”
Tip One: Use simple Lighting set ups.
A few weeks ago I set up for a Saturday morning portfolio shoot with a local model named Iris. As this was a casual session to help her add to her portfolio I decided to do the shoot in my living room against a simple black low key backdrop. With a model who has some experience you need to keep it simple. Wasting time fiddling with complicated lighting or camera configurations will break the models sense of timing and ruin the mood. I had seen a few sample photos of her and knew her black hair would look great against a black backdrop. I was not prepared for the beautiful red highlights that were added by her stylist before the shoot. Gotta get that persons contact info. The sample photos she sent me were not enough to prepare me for our first meeting. Gentlemen, this is a beautiful, athletic Vancouver gal. Continue reading “Five Tips for a Model Portfolio Shoot”
In an era of incredible DSLR camera technology with all the different modes to shoot in. All the bells and whistles of editing and image enhancing camera settings. The various choices of full frame sensor or cropped sensors not to mention the myriad of lens choices. With all these modern features it is easy to lose sight of how far we have come in such a short time. Continue reading “The Digital Age: Looking back through history at vintage cameras”
While looking through some old digital photo archives I stumbled upon some shots I took 5 years ago during Vancouver’s famous and arguably notorious Stanley Cup riot. I am old enough to remember the riot in 1994 so I was prepared with a digital camera, water and a first aid kit.
As the game ended it became clear to me that something was about to kick off. One of the main things that help a photographer in general is a sense that something is about to go down. As a keen people watcher I noticed a small band of young thugs pushing their way through the crowd toward the central hub of activity in front of the big screen where we all watched in horror as the final seconds of the game ticked off. What followed happened so quickly and spiralled as the hive mind took over. Some how the crowd got into a manic frenzy of destruction and I managed to get off a few shots.
This shot taken early after the first group of young thugs went to work shows that to have a riot you first need a large central fire to build unity of the collective mind. We all stood yelling and getting worked up. Suddenly “normal” people went crazy.
As things progressed I moved between the combined roll of photographer to crowd director to help the police get out as they were trapped in the middle without any riot gear. They returned shortly and launched tear gas into the crowds. The crowd fired back with water bottles and anything they could throw. It was chaos.
All tooled up the police engaged in a stand off with a crowd that refused to give any ground.
These shots tell the story far better than words. Sometimes in photography we tell an unpleasant story but the Photographer tries to stay true to the art and simply tell the story through photos while trying to remain neutral and apart from the scene.
Lesson learned always have your camera and be ready to record life’s less than proud moments. 😉
Using only 1 of my lighting umbrella’s in shoot through position and a portable 5 in 1 reflector I set up to do a project to compare and practice 4 basic go to one light portrait set ups. Broad, Short, Rembrandt and Butterfly Lighting. Not having a beautiful model lounging around my apartment I opted for a highly skilled balloon head with a cotton skin tone bag held around it with an elastic. I formed a basic nose bridge and put a hat on it to provide artistic appeal. Close enough, miss “balloon head” sits still and doesn’t need to be fed expensive chai latte’s every hour. 😉 Continue reading “4 Basic 1 Light set ups for portraits Broad,Short,Rembrandt and Butterfly”
The light reflects on the metal grate from the right of frame. The geometric lines of the railing of the bridge creates depth and perspective as well as leading the eye further into the image along the continuing path.
exposure time: 1/400sec aperture: f/1.8 ISO 3200 focal length: 50mm
I tweaked the tone curves with my software to give it that slightly faded photo feel and to enhance the contrast between light and shadow. In black and white you can see the metal brightness of the grate and the light reflected on the left hand rail of the bridge provide some balance to the dark tone of the wood of the bridge lines. Also in the background the lightness of the bark stripped off the tree provides a counter point to the bridge grate in the foreground.
Below is what the tone curve looked like in converting the image to black and white.
Here the light reflection On the moving water in the foreground is balanced diagonally by the reflection in the back right of the frame. The log forms a natural boundary between turbulence and calm. The reflected trees in the calm water balance the dark tone of the log. I like the sense of movement conveyed in the ripples.
Exposure time/ shutter speed: 1/30sec Aperture: f/1.8 ISO: 400 Focal length: 50mm
This image may have been more sharply focused if I got my shutter speed up a bit more. Also it’s a bit blue maybe white balance could be adjusted a little. It’s ok I like the shot but there is always something to learn and improve on. Such as…Keep that camera rock steady in low light. As usual I left the tripod at home.
The black and white version is really a bit haunting and murky.
Here the light reflected on the water bisects the green colour of the foliage which is balanced on either side of the frame. The bridge in the background provided some perspective to the depth of the shot which is amazing considering the lack of depth at f/1.8 with the pancake 50mm lens. Really surprised at how it looks. Possibly could up the ISO and get the aperture smaller and increase shutter speed to focus the bridge and water more. Still, it’s an interesting shot to learn from. At 1/30sec shutter speed you need to be rock steady for the shot and motion of the water will be blurred. A cool effect but Again I should have used my tripod :D.
Exposure time: 1/30sec Aperture: f/1.8 ISO: 800
Here rendered as black and white the bridge tends to steal the show from the light on the water as the subject as the eye naturally goes to it. However the water leads us to it giving an interesting point of view and perspective.
Exposure time: 1/320sec aperture: f/1.8 ISO: 3200 Focal length: 50mm
The subject of light reflection on the water is framed by the tree and the log. I like the diagonal balance of the tree and the log as well as the light in foreground balanced with the light in the sky. The geometric lines of the tree and the log naturally bisect the image and the water from the calm pool in foreground and the water from the sky. Again I could have used a higher f stop for greater depth of field however, Lot’s of light and high shutter speed to capture the detail on the water was the theme of this shot.
The Black and white image really makes the light reflection on the lower 3rd of the image stand out. I also love the balance of the tree reflection in the calm pool in the foreground. The tree tries to steal the show but the eye keeps returning to the water. I had no idea Capturing moving water would be so rich in photographic composition concepts. In converting this image to black and white with my editing software I adjusted the tone curve to be shaped like an “S” to enhance contrast and cloud the image a tiny bit to get the faded black and white print “vintage” character.
I took a total of 18 shots on this outing but these few were the ones chosen to convert to black and white. I learned a lot about the difficulty of focusing when my f stop gets low as it shortens the depth of field. Also low light shooting really forces you to hold the camera steady. A couple of my shots not chosen didn’t make it to this article as they were out of focus due to my shutter speed being too slow to let more light in. ie camera shake. Although the shots would have been interesting if I had nailed the exposure correctly. This is what it means to keep “working the shot” sometimes it takes several shots from different points of view and different camera settings to get the final version. For example, work the depth of field with aperture and lens changes balanced with film speed in order to frame the subject and get the exposure to achieve the effect you want in the shot. I challenge others to go out and shoot light as your subject in natural light conditions. Perhaps at some point I will try opposed sideways lighting with a reflector and A tripod when the shutter speed drops below 1/60sec. I am however surprised at how my few simplistic hand held shots turned out. Having a decent DSLR camera which is easy on the budget makes a big difference in turning a skilled amateur into a well seasoned “protog”
Exposure time: 1/30sec Aperture: f/4.5 ISO: 800 Focal length: 18mm
This image required a little post processing. I made a slight adjustment to the exposure tone curves and tried to adjust for the over exposure spike in the histogram.
From the histogram I can see some blue spectrum over exposure. Perhaps white balance is off or I simply over exposed the shot a bit. I could further adjust the exposure compensation to lessen this spike and maybe pick up some background details in the meadow. Below is the shot with some exposure compensation and I switched the white balance to cloudy setting instead of auto. At some point you have to stop changing stuff so you don’t loose the whole simplicity or character of the shot. The edited shot below does look more natural, less blue.
This brings out more colour in the background meadow. The barbed wire is slightly less blue. I still like the first image though.
The next images below were taken 2 days later with morning sunshine and a dusting of snow in the forest. I used my 18-55mm zoom lens with camera in Aperture priority mode.
The first image I shot directly into the sun and over exposed it. Initially I couldn’t see the detail in the trees above the creek in the right background of the frame. A huge spike on the right side of histogram. I then adjusted the exposure compensation slider and tweaked the tone curves and I really like the result. Light is clearly the subject of this shot. I made good use of the rule of 3rds to frame the light in the shot.
Exposure time: 1/125sec Aperture: f/10 ISO: 100
I barely touched the tone curves after adjusting the exposure compensation. the banks of the creek balance the shot diagonally. The light reflected on the water lead the eye into the area in the background that is now visible due to the correction.
Exposure time: 1/200sec Aperture: f/5.6 ISO: 100 Focal length: 27mm
In this shot we have a return to the bridge. This time I shot toward the morning sunlight. I used the tree in the right foreground to shade the lens so I didn’t over expose the image. I think this shot shows some improvement through this article with vibrant colour and detail. I did very little editing on this. I like how the shadow from the bridge balances the tree in foreground. There is good depth of field as I can see the leaves and forest in the right background 3rd of the shot. Clearly I have a thing for foot bridges and streams.
The next image is posted as I shot it. The tone curves were spot on as is. Other than converting the RAW file to jpeg so it was bandwidth friendly I made no changes. Some how shooting into the sun didn’t over expose the shot. The shadows cast across the path by the side lighting from the sun really help with the diagonal balance of the frame. The eye naturally goes to the sun in the top left but the path provides balance with the bright snow.
Exposure time: 1/320sec Aperture: f/7.1 ISO: 100 Focal length: 18mm
Below is how it loaded into my editing software. It may be possible I am getting better.
I learned a lot shooting natural light in difficult forest conditions. The Last couple images had better shutter speed and exposure settings and required less post processing. I encourage others to shoot light as there subject in a compositional way. Also converting several images to black and white really simplified the composition of a shot. It became easier to just observe the light and dark balance in a shot. I think my final few shots taken in the snow with better light show an improvement in my understanding of the exposure triangle. I can’t wait until my next photographic outing where I harvest images from a seemingly mundane scene and edit them in high end software to discover a deeper meaning through simplicity of form and light.