August Highlights

August, the eighth month of blogging, experimenting and trying new skills and practicing old ones.

Thought for the month:

You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.
― Ansel Adams

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Day 243 – Through the wire.

A while a go I took some photos of some baby grey parrots, I got to visit them again and had an opportunity to take these pictures along with some other caged parrots. The greys were indoors, the others outside – but it was overcast and rainy. This therefore a great change to use what I now know about ISO – as to get the best photos I would need to have a short shutter speed in low light, and a shallow depth of field to try and make the cages disappear.

The cage, F6.3, 1/15sec 40mm
The cage, F6.3, 1/15sec 40mm

These are the tree parrots in their cage – with the camera wide I was able to include all three birds but the shallow depth of field was focused on the wire and not the cage… changing the focal point to the birds, just meant the cage was distracting.

ISO3200, F6.3, 1/15sec - 300mm
ISO3200, F6.3, 1/15sec – 300mm
In the cage - Indoors. ISO3200, F6.3, 1/20sec - 210mm
In the cage – Indoors. ISO3200, F6.3, 1/20sec – 210mm

Zooming in with the telephoto lens, and with a shallow depth of field I was able to focus on the detail of the individual parrots, capture a “catch light” in their eyes and make the cage disappear.

ISO3200, F6.3, 1/100 sec - 90mm outside in the rain
ISO3200, F6.3, 1/100 sec – 90mm outside in the rain

Moving outside – different parts … important to capture the detail on their light feathers, but this time they were pressed hard up against the cage and the cage wire was much tighter together. With their beak and claws poking through the cage, the wire really is part of the image.

70mm, ISO2500, F6.3, 1/125sec
70mm, ISO2500, F6.3, 1/125sec

I choose instead to move closer, square up the cage to my image and wait for the moment when the eye of the parrots looks directly at me through the cage wire. You are almost left wondering who is in the cage – the parrot or the photographer?

Through the wire - ISO3200, 105mm, F6.3, 1/60sec
Through the wire – ISO3200, 105mm, F6.3, 1/60sec

Another parrot – this time I partly zoomed in… the parrot was at the back on the cage and I was quite close to the wire. It is not really sharp enough, the foreground wire is still there although totally our of focus … maybe moving back and zooming more would have improved the image – I am not sure!

ISO3200, F6.3, 1/25 sec - through the cage, 100mm zoom
ISO3200, F6.3, 1/25 sec – through the cage, 100mm zoom
ISO3200, F6.3, 1/40 sec, 100mm zoom
ISO3200, F6.3, 1/40 sec, 100mm zoom

Two more images – this time of a vibrant yellow parrot. I was still close to the wire… but the bird was further away,  both images had a blurry spot – after I had taken these I spotted the raindrop on my lens – but I did not have the time to retake.

So what did I learn:

  • Check for stray raindrops – I had a lens hood on, but I somehow got wet!
  • Up the ISO for the shutter speed to get the shot
  • A shallow depth of field and a zoom lens have held remove the cages of captive animals and birds.
  • The further the animal is from the cage the better and the closer I can get.

Day 242 – Grey Skies

I had hoped to photograph hang gliders on the cliff top with the sea in the background, but after a morning gardening I was greeted with grey skies and the hang gliders had gone home… instead I was left with the most boring skies – they were totally full of one big hazy cloud and were acting as a giant light box. I decided instead to take some photos of the sea – it is amazing how different the water looks on an overcast day.

ISO100, F5.6, 1/500sec
ISO100, F5.6, 1/500sec

It wasn’t quite that grey … I have turned it into a monochrome image in Lightroom – but the sea had no character today, the skies no texture and it barely looks like a photo at all. The one yacht on the horizon at half sale looks lonely and alone, it is quite a depressing feel to today’s photos I think.

ISO100, F5.6, 1/500sec
ISO100, F5.6, 1/500sec

Looking towards the Needles and there is such a contrast between the image I took on day 240 – the white cliffs soak up the light, the details are hidden … there is a totally different feel. When someone asks you what settings you used to take that image … does it matter, not when the light is so different – but images tell a totally different story.

ISO320, F11, 1/400sec
ISO320, F11, 1/400sec

Playing around with the contrast, two boats sailed in shot, but the sailors look cold, huddled together. This is the height of British summer, it is August bank holiday weekend … and yet this photo tells a totally different story!

ISO320, F11, 1/500sec
ISO320, F11, 1/500sec

Altering the yacht in Light room to increase the exposure, to brighten the sea and to lighten the image – I have managed to create an image I like and that I could imagine on someone’s wall. this one feel timeless, I feel it could be a much happier brighter day and I feel it is a timeless image that you would look up at on your office wall in the depth of winter and remember the good times of summer, and they say the camera never lies…. I think it can really stretch the truth!

Day 241 – Exploring Maximum ISO

My canon 7D mark II camera enables me to take photographs and varying ISO, so today I decided to see how far I could push the ISO and what the results would be.

According to my camera manual I should consider the following:

  • ISO100-ISO400 – Sunny Outdoors
  • ISO400-ISO1600 – overcast skies or evening time
  • ISO1600 – ISO16000, H1, H2 dark indoors or night.

The manual also goes on to mention the higher the ISO, the farther the flash range will be – but I chose not to use the flash. H1 is the equivalent to ISO25,600 and H2 ISO51,200. It also mentions that I should see an increase in the amount noise and grain in the photos… so I am expecting to see that.

I chose to shoot handheld, in the dark with only street lighting to use my 28-300 mm lens.

ISO6400, F6.3, 1 sec
ISO6400, F6.3, 1 sec

First shot and as you can see a 1 sec exposure is too slow for me to hand hold with, hence the street lights are blurry, and you can also see movement of people walking within the scene.

ISO51,200 F4.5, 1/13sec
ISO51,200 F4.5, 1/13sec

The above shot was taken an H2, the maximum ISO for my camera. It is really grainy but it was dark, but with a hand held shutter speed of less than 1/13 sec I did capture any movement and everything is in focus. Is the image good enough – well apart from the composition being rubbish, if it is a choce between getting a shot and not getting a shot maybe it is OK – it also depends what the end use is.

ISO51,200 F4.5, 1/13sec - edited in Lightroom
ISO51,200 F4.5, 1/13sec – edited in Lightroom

Above is exactly the same camera raw photo but I have edited it light room to reduce some of the noise, and it looks better.

ISO51,200 F4.5, 1/13sec - edited in Lightroom
ISO51,200 F4.5, 1/13sec – edited in Lightroom

A further edit – turning it into black and white and the shot looks grainy, but I don’t think it looks any worse than some of the images I see in my local black and white weekly newspaper – which I think gives the indication that if creating the image is more important that not creating the image… it is important to know what my camera is fully capable of.

I experimented again, this time I stood in the dark with my hubby under a street light and tried to capture him standing still, the photos are clearer at the lower ISO’s but they are usable – ISO16000 is perhaps the highest I should use rather than ISO25600 (H1) but there is not a huge difference when looking at them at web quality … so I know I can push the ISO high if I need too.

ISO800, F4.5, .3sec
ISO800, F4.5, 0.3sec
ISO12800, F4.5, 1/5sec
ISO12800, F4.5, 1/5sec
ISO16000, F4.5, 1/8sec
ISO16000, F4.5, 1/8sec
ISO25600, F4.5, 1/8sec
ISO25600, F4.5, 1/8sec

Do you know how high an ISO you can create an image with on your camera? My camera is now set up so that the Auto ISO takes images between ISO100-3200, but I can manually change the ISO between ISO100-16000, if I want to change if further then I need to go into the settings … as it really is too grainy … but I now know the options are there!

Day 240 – Composition Challenge 5

Continuing on thinking about the composition of every photo that you capture, and I have been looking at different composition techniques inspired by Emma – she shares some wonderful examples.

  • Colour – Harmonious (or ‘analagous’) colours are ones with similar shades and tones.
  • Discordant – these colour combinations shouldn’t work, but they often do. Colours that jar, or seem to be haphazard, can make a striking photo
  • Abstract -Abstract photography doesn’t try to replicate reality, but suggest something using colour, shape, texture and other composition techniques.
  • Repetition –The most appealing design technique out there
  • Break the rules – Now you know what the rules are, you can break them. 

So last night I headed off to the beach with these composition challenges in mind and worked with the late evening light.

Harmonious Tones, F8, ISO400, 1/640sec
Harmonious Tones, F8, ISO400, 1/640sec

Above – my location, as I looked out to the Needles of the Isle of Wight, I decided that this shop with the pale sky, green headland, white cliffs and sea was full of Harmonious neutral tones and would be a great place to start as it sets the scene for my location.

Repetition and the Power of Red, ISO400, F8, 1/1000 sec
Repetition and the Power of Red, ISO400, F8, 1/1000 sec

This area of beach was damaged in the storms in February 2014, and they have recently put a new barricade in place. This shows of the power of red, leading lines as well as being a repetitive pattern, it would have been a stronger short if there was a person or something of interest at the steps towards the end.

Abstract, ISO400, F8, 1/1000sec
Abstract, ISO400, F8, 1/1000sec
Abstract, ISO400, F8, 1/250sec
Abstract, ISO400, F8, 1/250sec
Harmonious Tones and Absract - ISO 400, F8, 1/1250 sec
Harmonious Tones and Absract – ISO 400, F8, 1/1250 sec

As the waves crashed onto the shore they made all sorts of abstract patterns which varied with the changing light, changing waves movements and shutter speed. These shots work in both monochrome and in colour as the tones are very subtle.

Harmonous Colour, Repeditive patterns and absract - ISO400, F6.3, 1/1600sec
Harmonious Colour, Repetitive patterns and abstract – ISO400, F6.3, 1/1600sec

The beach is naturally a place you associate with blue and yellow, I was pleased to be able to find an abstract of these harmonious colours on one of the beach huts – the wall was blue and the door yellow. It also works as it shows off the texture of the material – weathered by the sea, and the paneling of the wood is in two distinctive patterns.

Discordant Colours, ISO400, F9, 1/320sec
Discordant Colours, ISO400, F9, 1/320sec

Another beach hut, this time the colours are discordant – they don’t really balance at all in the picture, the tight crop gives an abstract feel and without me telling you in is a beach hut you are left wondering what you are being asked to look at. The purples, greens and orange sunlight are at odd’s with each other and clash.

Discordant Colours and Abstract - ISO400, F6.3, 1/160sec
Discordant Colours and Abstract – ISO400, F6.3, 1/160sec

As the sun began to set it coloured things with a distant orange feel and with the water in shadow – I snapped this image, again an abstract with discordant colours … however I think in this case the birds are too close to the top of the frame and cause a distraction.

Breaking the Rules, ISO400, F8, 1/500 sec
Breaking the Rules, ISO400, F8, 1/500 sec

Now it is time to break the rules – I shot into the sun with the horizon in the center of the picture. There is no real focal point, and the breakers cut completely across the picture. I like the tones of the image, but I don’t think it is a very strong composition.

Breaking the Rules, ISO400, F9, 1/6400sec1
Breaking the Rules, ISO400, F9, 1/6400sec1

Another go at breaking the rules – my watermark is distracting (but automatically placed – sorry) the horizon is too low, but I have included lots of rules too – there lots of space in the composition, there is detail and a sense of scale in the foreground and there is something of interest of the thirds!

And after all the rain we have had recently the warmth of the sky is a pleasure to enjoy!

Day 239 – Tea and Croissant

Something different today, I am on a home based day and was wondering what I could photograph for today’s blog when one of my teens came back from walking the dog with a croissant to enjoy and brighten up my day … I did not really need the calories, but why not – but to make it extra special I thought I would use it to inspire me to take some still life photos with natural light from the window.

I thought I would experiment with the position of the camera and how it impacted to the photo. I carefully set up a cup of peppermint tea and the croissant on a matching plate, and then took a variety of photos. The only lighting was diffused window light to the left, and I used my 50mm lens through out – hand held, I also choose a wider aperture – so that I can see how the focal point impacted the image.

ISO400, F5, 1/250sec
ISO400, F5, 1/250sec

My first composition. The wooden surface was fairly neutral but had lines which I angled in one direction, whereas I choose to angle the cup handle, croissant and cutlery in the other direction from it.  I left the teabag in the tea with the twinings label on purpose but the tea bag does not add anything to the shot when I photograph it from this angle. The depth of field is such in this photo that nothing is truly sharp and in focus… but this was just my scene setting photo, t show the space around the objects.

ISO400, F5, 1/200sec
ISO400, F5, 1/200sec

I got lower, focused on the cup of tea, with a hint of the croissant in the foreground. Unfortunately the grain of wood changes in the background – but this could be sorted out in Photoshop by feeling in the area with the other wood.

ISO400, F5, 1/250sec
ISO400, F5, 1/250sec

Lower again, and you see less tea – more of the background – but I like the light on this image, the focus point on the tea label “enjoy me” – your eye is drawn to the writing in a photo … and here… well I have to see when I did enjoy my almond croissant it was lovely!

ISO400, F5, 1/250sec
ISO400, F5, 1/250sec

I changed the focus point to the croissant – it is the same angle as above but it is the croissant that is the subject. The black writing on the tea label is now the darkest point on the image and is distracting, especially as you can not make out what it says.  I think together these images encourage me to think about what I want the photo to say … if I am selling the croissant – the second photo showcases the product, but if I was selling the concept of breakfast or a relaxing cup of tea the first shot would be the stronger image. It really depends on what “story” you want to tell to the audience.

ISO400, F5, 1/160sec
ISO400, F5, 1/160sec

Shot from above – the teabag in the cup is now a messy distraction and does not work. The side lighting had burnt out the detail on the croissant and the shadows look much harsher – it needing a reflector to the right to balance out the lighting. The knife also makes the croissant look small, and cuts the photo almost in half. The photo also looks very flat, the tea cup and croissant loose its depth … it is kind of flat, don’t you think? For me this photo does not work – but I think it is really important to still share it…

ISO400, F5, 1/320sec
ISO400, F5, 1/320sec

I have talked lots about the importance of moving your feet and changing angle, and that is exactly what I did here, I am now shooting towards the window – there are so many reflections on the cup, the shadows are looking much darker and the angle of the objects photographed are not as strong.  I have not moved any of the objects or the lighting just me – and this really highlights to me how important it is to position the photographer in the right place to create the image you hope to achieve,  note the label is partly hidden, the handle and spoon are on competing angles, where as the knife and spoon form a triangle that point you out of the image – this for me does not work.

ISO400, F5, 1/250sec
ISO400, F5, 1/250sec

Moving closer – above and just focusing on the cup .. I changed angle and you can see some reflection from the window – but I think you are missing part of the story … where’s the croissant….  I think the crop is much too tight.

ISO400, F5, 1/250sec
ISO400, F5, 1/250sec

The opposite of cropping tight is to shoot wider, so I moved further away as I was using a fixed length prime lens.  I dont’t think it is such a strong shot as one where only part of the croissant is shown.

ISO400, F5, 1/250sec
ISO400, F5, 1/250sec

In this photo, I have moved again and this time the light is behind me. The background objects, which I have not noticed in any of the other images are now in shot and are a distraction, but the colour on the cup is lovely… you get just a glimpse of the spoon and the nice, you are told to enjoy me, and I just want to reach out and taste that croissant – I should reshoot without the clutter – but I have eaten it!

Instead though I removed the background in Photoshop, as it always good to practice your skills..

Edited in Photoshop - background edit, sharpened, burned and dodged.
Edited in Photoshop – background edit, sharpened, burned and dodged.

Day 238 – A walk in the woods

A walk with my camera – a break from taking photos and more of a relaxing walk enjoying the surroundings and taking my time to just enjoy my photography. This past month has got me really thinking about what I like to take photos of, what I am choosing to specialise in…. and yes looking back I am interested in some areas more than others… but I love exploring the diversity of opportunity that photography offers and I know that each time I compose a picture, each time I press the shutter button, each time I chimp the photo and each time I bring it into Lightroom as a raw file I learn more.

The diversity of the New Forest, ISO800, F9, 1/80sec
The diversity of the New Forest, ISO800, F9, 1/80sec
New Forest heather in August, ISO800, F9, 1/800 sec
New Forest heather in August, ISO800, F9, 1/800 sec
The purple heather with the wood behind, ISO800, F9, 1/800 sec
The purple heather with the wood behind, ISO800, F9, 1/800 sec
A natural leading line of moss, ISO800, F7.1, 1/40sec
A natural leading line of moss, ISO800, F7.1, 1/40sec
The Fern, ISO 1600, F6.3, 1/60 sec - love the vibrant colours after rain.
The Fern, ISO 1600, F6.3, 1/60 sec – love the vibrant colours after rain.
Woodland Textures - ISO800, F6.3, 1/60 sec
Woodland Textures – ISO800, F6.3, 1/60 sec
Signs of Autumn, ISO800, F6.3, 1/250 - I like the bokeh and the bright leaves in the backgoround.
Signs of Autumn, ISO800, F6.3, 1/250 – I like the bokeh and the bright leaves in the backgoround.
Looking from aboe at wet leaves ... I often look up from underneath - ISO800, F6.3, 1/125mm
Looking from aboe at wet leaves … I often look up from underneath – ISO800, F6.3, 1/125mm
ISo800, F5.6, 1/250sec - Love the rim lighting on the leaves in the foreground
ISo800, F5.6, 1/250sec – Love the rim lighting on the leaves in the foreground
17-70mm Lens, ISO800, F13, 1/10 sec - a woodland path to explore
17-70mm Lens, ISO800, F13, 1/10 sec – a woodland path to explore

I am learning so much about

  • What ISO is needed for the available light and shutter speed of my camera
  • The composition, what to include, what to leave out
  • The exposure triangle now makes sense in my head
  • The pre photo preparation and lens choice

It is finally dawning on me that by sharing my settings I can give you you an idea of what i did the moment i choose to take my picture, but it is only through photographing a variety of images, experimenting with the functions of my camera, learning about composition and light that I can even hope to begin to capture the images i inspire to achieve, so was today just a walk … or a chance to experiment in a diverse location not to far from home.

Day 237 – A photo meet at the Beach

One of the facebook photography groups I belong to suggested a meet up at a local beach to take some photos. This would push me out of my comfort zone as I would have to meet and mix with photographers that I did not know, but would give me the chance to get to know other local photographers – so when contacted by Sue one of the other photographers regarding sharing lifts (I had not met her before) – I thought why not …

I discovered I am not the only photographer who is reluctant to step outside my comfort zone, as although 226 people were invited along, 6 people replied they were going for sure – there was only the two of us, however that did not mean we could not experiment, talk about photography, find out about each other and have fun.

Silhoutte Experiments - ISO800, F13, 1/640 sec - 17-70mm lens
Silhouette Experiments – ISO800, F13, 1/640 sec – 17-70mm lens
Pointing Up - Black and white Edit. F13, 1/160 sec, ISO800
Pointing Up – Black and white Edit. F13, 1/160 sec, ISO800

Chatting to Sue she told me about a workshop that she went on at the coast where the photographer had suggested turned the images into black and white if the light was not as interesting as you wanted it to be, as it can really highlight the textures and mood of the location. I used that to influence how I edited the first few pictures that I created.

I did wish that I had took a neutral density filter with me to slow the movement of the sea down, but I did not – I could have slowed it slightly by using ISO 100, but I actually like the breaking waves and the movement shown.

Looking at the Dolphins - Black and white Edit. ISO100, F4, 1/800 sec
Looking at the Dolphins – Black and white Edit. ISO100, F4, 1/800 sec

I like the person in this one – he is looking out to the “Dolphins” as they are know locally – they were originally put of an old pier structure which were used during the DDay landings, by using lots of space, the vast sky and getting down low, and using black and white makes you think about the past … to reflect back on the past when it would have been a bustling location … now it just remnants of the past.

Sue - Silhoutte Image - ISO100, F22, !/25sec
Sue – Silhouette Image – ISO100, F22, !/25sec

This is Sue – photographers are often behind the camera and not in front of it. She was looking out towards the dolphins and with the light behind her and her tripod – I thought it made a great silhouette.

Silhoutee of the evening sky. F20, 1/80 sec, ISO100
Silhouette of the evening sky. F20, 1/80 sec, ISO100

Another Silhouette – this time I was low down on the beach and looked behind me and there was a person reading the information sign and the clouds banking up overhead. I just liked it.

The evening sun reflected on the dolphins. F20, 1/30sec, ISO100
The evening sun reflected on the dolphins. F20, 1/30sec, ISO100

The evening sun on the Dolphins helps bring out all the textures in the wood. The sailing boat close to the Isle of Wight in the background reflected the sunlight back perfectly.

It's behing you - looking into sun. F22, 1/60sec, ISO100
It’s behind you – looking into sun. F22, 1/60sec, ISO100

Into sun and you have lots of sunglare reflected on the lens – but it is amazing how just for a moment the sun can transfer water into liquid gold.

Evening Silhoutte - F25, 1/80 sec, ISO800
Evening Silhouette – F25, 1/80 sec, ISO800

Another Silhouette, shooting into sun the trees on the headland make really interesting shapes, although there was not much of a sunset.

Wire Wool - ISO100, F14, 10 secs
Triptych of some wire wool images

I then introduce Sue to wire wool photography – it was a little bit light to start with … but with a 10 or 15 sec shutter speed – and at around F8 (I suggested to Sue – but I used F22) – we were able to create our own wire wool images. I wanted to experiment with the size of the aperture – and a smaller aperture lets less light in (see my first attempt) … so next time I am going to wait till it is a bit darker, use a wider aperture or add an ND filter. I think she enjoyed having a go.

Lepe was a lovely beach to take photos on – but it worth noting that they do lock the carpark at night… we had to move the car otherwise we would have been locked in, and with the Dolphins being a 2km walk from the carpark…. and the fact they sometimes lock up early … you can easily loose track of time!

Day 236 – Lifeboats and the RNLI All Weather Centre

I was lucky enough to visit the brand new RNLI all weather lifeboat centre at Poole at their open weekend. This fantastic location is the home and training centre to the RNLI. It is open regularly for tours – so if you want to find out more about their amazing life saving work you can book a visit.

I had to use my Sigma 17-70mm lens as I was too close to the action to use my Canon lens, but I think I got some interesting record shots of the day. The RNLI really do use bright colours with their signature orange branding, and it was really interesting to see how the indoor photo turned out in the rain – I don’t usually take photos in heavy rain and I like that one a lot. I also like the reflection of the RNLI crew in the water.

It is interesting to see how shooting close and shooting wide can create a different feel to the image.