Monday Morning Tip – 1/4/10
Here’s a photo of Fred, a shoebill stork. Students who have attended a Hands-On Photoshoot with me know Fred is one of my favorite critters. He looks as if he has a real attitude but is described to be fairly mild mannered. In the left photo, Fred is calling his girlfriend. On the right, Fred is smiling and showing his sensitive side.
At first glance, both photos appear to be perfectly fine in terms of focus. The feathers on Fred’s wing are clear, crisp and finely detailed. Moreover, Fred’s eye is sharply in focus and contains a catch-light. However, at 100%, it’s easy to see the beak in the first photo is slightly blurred due to Fred vibrating his beak when calling.
Both were taken at 1/1000 second and you can see the rest of the photo is perfectly sharp so the only explanation is that Fred moved his beak. The point to all this is that shutter speed is relative. Because I didn’t know Fred’s beak vibrated or quivered at such high speed when calling, I assumed 1/1000 was more than adequate.
During my next Hands-On Photoshoot Workshop on Jan 23, if Fred is cooperating, I’ll try again with my shutter set for 1/1500 or more to see if I can freeze his beak. With such a high shutter speed, I’ll need a wide open aperture and/or a higher ISO. Since this photo was taken at f/6.7, 1/1000 and ISO 200, I can gain 1.5 stops more light by going to f/4 at ISO 200 and increase my shutter speed to 1/2500. Fortunately, depth of field isn’t too important here since Fred is practically up against the reeds in the background so there’s really not much room for a nice smooth bokeh. Of course, this also assumes we’ll have a nice bright San Diego day.
Here’s a final photo of Fred “mad dogging” a photographer. This is his usual station. Notice the sun is to his right (camera left) and there’s enough space behind him for a nice creamy, soft bokeh. This was taken with a Canon 20D and a 100-400/4.5-5.6L (1/640, f/5.6, ISO 200, 390mm).
There are three take-aways from this MMT. First, always keep an eye on your shutter speed. If you’re in Shutter Priority, don’t assume whatever you set it to is adequate for the situation. If you’re in Aperture Priority, don’t let the Shutter Speed drop below a predetermined point in your mind. The second take-away is: Know your subject. Had I known how fast Fred’s beak vibrates when he’s calling, I would have compensated. As it was, I learned something new but this could have been a bummer if I had traveled to Africa to learn this. Finally, third, if you’re using the LCD to examine focus, be sure to magnify the image to closely examine areas of interest. In this case, I examined the feathers but failed to examine the beak.
Good light, good memories and good luck for 2010.
The Digital Photo Guy Blog Gets a Facelift
This is the 6th year for this site. During the first 4 years, it was a static site that was rarely updated because making changes was excruciatingly slow, complex and costly. In 2008, I resolved to fix the problem and commissioned a web developer to develop a new site that I could easily and quickly update myself. He recommended WordPress and the initial implementation took just 6 weeks. As soon as he was done, I started making changes and quickly learned how to do just about everything by myself. I’m no rocket scientist but WordPress makes everything simple and straightforward.
Now, a year after the initial launch, a new static home page has replaced the previous dynamic home page. A dynamic home page was fine in the beginning but, now, with so many articles and posts, it was quickly becoming unwieldly. Readers couldn’t easily find the information they sought. A static home page can act as “street signs” to help point readers in the right direction. As you can see, some of the signs are still not working. That’s because all the MMTs, posts and articles weren’t always correctly or fully tagged.
Tagging the material at this time would be counter productive because each update would generate an e-mail notification of an update and readers wuld be innundated with e-mails.
Starting in 2010, I’ll be more careful about tagging each MMT, post and article so readers can quickly find all material pertaining to Cameras/Lenses/Gear, Photo Editing and Photography.
In the meantime, the existing tags (right side of main blog) can help you find specific articles or MMTs. You can also use the Seach box along the right side of the main blog.
A website is a never-ending process. If you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment here. Good light, good memories and good luck in 2010.
Today’s Monday Morning Tip
I have a Wild Animal Park Photoshoot this coming Saturday so I thought I would roll my MMT into the instructions I send the students beforehand. During “hands-on” photoshoots, I concentrate on three areas: Nailing Exposure, Sharp Focus and Compelling Composition. Today’s MMT is about nailing the exposure.
Exposure is a balancing act among three controls: aperture, shutter speed and ISO. These are covered in this previous MMT. After I wrote that MMT, some students didn’t understand the relationship among the three so I wrote this MMT. Then, students wanted step-by-step instructions for adjusting EC (exposure compensation to get the desired exposure. I also wrote this MMT this year as a refresher.
Bottom line, there are 3 variables (controls): aperture, shutter speed and ISO. To help you adjust these, there are 3 major tools: histogram, EC and “blinkies”. Use these tools to determine if your photo needs more or less light and adjust the appropriate control. Click to read more
It’s time for a new photo contest. This time, the theme is holidays. Being American, I’m partial to Thanksgiving during this period. For readers from other countries, the photos must reflect some sort of national celebration. The contest is open to registered readers of this site. Registration is free. The contest is open now and submissions will be accepted until December 8, 2009. The winner will be announced in time for them to receive the prize by Christmas 2009 unless they happen to live outside the USA in which case, all bets are off as to ETA.
The prize is a Photoshop World Workbook from Photoshop World 2009 in Las Vegas. It is 800 pages of PS tips, tricks and hints from virtually every class at PSW. For a peek at the contents, see this description on my site. Because the book is heavy, I’m asking the winner to pay US$10 via PayPal for shipping.
Photos will be judged on three criteria:
- Exposure – is the photo correctly exposed. Correctly does NOT always mean right edge of histogram at right side and left edge touching the left side. Many photos look better when one side or the other is pulled in to achieve a specific “look”. Color balance will also be evaluated.
- Focus – is the photo in focus or was blur used artistically. If your portrait has a sharp ear but blurry eyes, it will be noticed. Not only must the important parts be in focus but the unimportant parts must not be distracting. Controlling DoF is an integral part of good photography, it will be evaluated.
- Composition – what is the emotional impact of the photo? Does it tell a story or do the colors/shapes/lines/negative space evoke an emotion? Does the photo engage the viewer? Does it create tension through unanswered questions? More than anything else, I’m looking for photos that have impact, that makes me sit up and notice.
Since I am the sole judge and arbiter, here are some of my biases. As much as you think your kids/grandkids are precious, I rarely find any redeeming artistic value in photos of children or pets. On the other hand, I love landscapes, portraits, wildlife, birds, flowers, still life, architecture, old things, new things, shiny things, rusty things and just about anything. See photos on this site to get an idea of what yanks my chain, floats my boat, tingle my toes and, in general, makes me happy, sad, excited, thrilled, thoughtful or otherwise emotional. BTW, I’m also not a fan of street photography unless your name happens to be Henri Cartier-Bresson.
All photos must be resized to 640 pixels along the longest side and no larger than 1MB. Send it to me via e-mail or post it on your own website and send me a link. If you send a link, it should be a link to one photo. In other words, don’t link to a page with a gazillion photos and expect me to figure out which is your entry. The photo must have been taken with a digital camera (any type, make, model) and the only edits allowed are crop, color correction, levels and sharpen. No composites or collages will be considered. HDR will be accepted but the more it looks like a single frame, the better your chances. Each person is limited to three (3) submissions. Once a photo is submitted, it can be withdrawn but not replaced.
The purpose of this contest is to promote photography as an art. I want people to elevate their photography beyond snapshots of Fluffy & Rover at the backyard barbeque. I want more people to see the potential within themselves. Even if all you ever take are photos of your kids/grandkids, I want you to make them into art, not simple snapshots.
Legal stuff – By entering a photo(s) in this contest, you affirm that you are the photographer with all rights appertaining including, but not limited to, copyright. You agree to hold harmless the owner and publisher of this site and contest promoter from any claims, past, present and/or future arising from any actions related to the photo(s) submitted by you or in your name. By submitting a photo(s), you agree to convey an irrevocable, non-exclusive 5 year license to The Digital Photo Guy (Lee Otsubo) to display the photo(s) and use them for teaching purposes. All other rights remain with you. Any part of this agreement/contest may be modified by The Digital Photo Guy without notice.
Sorry for the Wrong Date on MMT
Normally, I don’t correct minor typos on MMT posts because that causes everyone to receive a new notification e-mail but, in egregious cases like when the date is off by a month, I feel it’s important to correct it. Sorry for the double notice, everyone.
Serious Case of Writer’s Block Today
For some reason, I couldn’t organize my thoughts today. The MMT was written and I had ideas about photos I took at the Barona Indian Pow Wow in Lakeside, CA but my mind wouldn’t cooperate.
Few Spaces Left for the Photoshop Elements Webinar with Rob Sheppard
Click HERE to read how you can learn Photoshop Elements in just 4 hours from Rob Sheppard, editor of Outdoor Photographer magazine. Don’t let the magazine title scare you, the class covers all aspects of PSE, not just outdoor or nature photography. Most of what this class covers also applies to Photoshop CSx. Best of all, you get 60 days of e-mail support in case you have problems applying what Rob’s tricks, tips and shortcuts.
To sweeten the pot, I’ll be giving a copy of the 2009 Photoshop World Workbook (1000 pages) to one lucky student after the class. We’ll also give away, to a 2nd lucky student, a copy of 1-2-3 of Digital Imaging, the award-winning program that teaches you Photoshop and Photoshop Elements via DVD .
Monday Morning Tip
Today, we extend our previous discussion about lenses for new dSLR owners. We started with the Essential 3-Lens Kit (in the MMT archives) but owners quickly find that they want a longer lens. We have some good news and some bad news. First, the good news. Canon and Nikon have some really nice 400mm lenses but they’re in the US$1000 range. Others such as Sigma and Tamron have 400mm and 500mm lenses but they have severe limitations such as lack of autofocus. Now, the bad news, really good long lenses typically start at US$4000 and go up from there.
To read about your choices before you lay out your hard-earned cash, read this week’s MMT to understand your options. As always, MMTs are behind the password protected area on the Tips & News page.
Barona Indian Pow Wow
The Barona Pow Wow was this weekend and I went hoping to get more portraits of participants. Unlike the Pala Pow Wow, this one was held on a ball field and the background sucked (that’s a technical term). I had to practically lie on my back so I could shoot up high enough to miss the bleachers and fence.
I also got an object lesson in the term “Indian Time”. Unlike the Pala Pow Wow, much of the festivities started at 6PM. Since I was really interested in the Grand Entry, I took only my 17-40/4L and 70-200/4L. I didn’t take my 50/1.4 or 85/1.8 assuming the Grand Entry would be over before the light faded. Bad mistake. I was told about “Indian Time” at Pala but Barona practices that concept much more rigorously than Pala, probably because Pala was a smaller event. In short, “Indian Time” means nothing starts or stays on schedule.
By the time the Grand Entry started, light was fading fast and I was 150 yards from my RV where my fast lenses were. I had to crank up ISO and hope for the best. Here’s an example of what could have been a “money shot” if I had’t been at ISO 1600.
It’s OK as a snapshot but certainly won’t make the cut as a high quality print. Bottom line, when you need a fast lens, nothing else will do. Don’t depend on high ISO to bail you out of a situation like this. Had I used my Canon 50/1.8, I could have regained 2 1/2 stops over my 70-200/4. Those 2 1/2 stops would have let me drop to ISO 400 and bumped up shutter speed from 125 to 180.
On a positive note, I got some really cool cloud formations for my cloud collection. In case you don’t do this, always try to capture nice clouds so you can replace a bland sky in an otherwise great photo.