My Blog List

Friday, April 30, 2010

Bringing Up Baby 1 - Facing The Truth

I looked at my sweet girl Kitt's paperwork today.  I had to fax it to the breeding station. She is the descendant of four AQHA grand champions.  I never looked at it.  I didn't know.  The stallion is the descendant of seven AQHA champions. I picked him because I knew the owners and he had a great disposition.  Who knew he was this good. What do I do with this?  All of a sudden I've got a million dollar baby. I'm at a loss. 

My grandfather was a dairy farmer. He told my mother, who told me how to selectively breed for mares. I can't have a little boy. I'd have to leave him a stallion and there's no place to put him. I'm going to have to talk to the vet tomorrow about breeding a girl. Please guys help me here. I've raised cats and dogs but never horses. And I've never had a million dollar baby. And here's my dilemma.  I know what happens to horses who go to spoiled thirteen year olds.  How they are passed around until they are old and end up in the feed lots. I want this little girl to end up a brood mare for someone who will appreciate her until she's retired. I'm going to hand raise her and show her.  Hopefully, you'll instruct me in how to do that.

Please, please help me.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Demystifying the Almighty Fstop

If you want to take truely great shots, you are going to have to become familiar and comfortable with both aperture priority and shutter priority shooting.  Today we're going to deal with aperature priority and the fstop.

On almost every camera I've owned, aperature priority is indicated by an A or an AV on the shooting mode dial.  I could give you a long song and dance about why it works the way it does, which is confusing in the extreme.  So, I'm not going to do that.  Instead, I want you to think about the F in Fstop as meaning focus, as in what do I want to be in focus in my picture.  The smaller the f number, the shallower the depth of field, or, your subject will be in focus, but the background won't. The higher the fnumber, the more of your background will be in focus.

To see for yourselves, how this works, I'd like you to try this exercise.  You'll need a fence and three bottles or cans.  Place your cans/bottles approximately ten feet apart on the fence posts.   Position yourself about four feet from the first can.  Turn your shooting mode dial to A or AV and select the lowest fstop your camera offers, focus on the first can and shoot.  Once your in A or AV mode turning the wheel will select the fstops.  Next I want you to select the fstop in the middle somewhere around 5 or 6 focus and shoot.  Fineally select the largest number your camera offers, focus and shoot.  When you look at your shots on the computer, you will understand what the fstops do.  Next week, we'll go into what fstop for what situation.

PS:  Those of you with the Nikon P80 who have been taking pictures where the subject is so dark you can't tell who or what it is.  In your playback menu, select D lighting and see what happens.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Payoff

I'm sitting here feeling rode hard and put away wet, every muscle in my body hurts, but I wouldn't change it for anything.  You see I'm sorting through the eight hundred shots I took at the wedding  I photographed on Saturday.  I'm listening to the wedding music and planning how pictures will fade into each other in the slide show.  I'm reliving the joy and the love and every beautiful thing that happens when you're invited in to chronicle people's joy.  The way the bride and groom looked at each other when they took their vows.  The groom's parent's joy. The precious baby girl taking her first steps in her fancy dress.  The teenagers flirting with each other.  How the bride's older brother cried when he danced with her.  The photos of the bride's deceased parents on their table.  It was just wonderful.  Don't get me wrong, the check that's earmarked for Kitt's stud fee and vet visits is nice, but that's not the main reason I do it. The joy and the ability to create beauty is.  It made those years, when I was struggling to learn, and felt like I was the slowest learner on the planet, seem like a small, very small price to pay.

This is my wish for you, that someday soon you will be sitting where I am, and say to yourself, the joy that I get from creating beauty made all the pain and frustration of learning how to do it worthwhile.

Friday, April 16, 2010

F Stops 101 - Depth of Field

When you're taking your pictures this week, I want you to stop and think before you shoot.  How do you want the end result to look. Do you want the subject tack sharp, because it's relatively flat, and the background soft and dreamy. If you're shooting an animal, nose to tail, vertically, do you want that whole animal tack sharp and the background relatively soft and dreamy, or do you want the whole scene sharp, from where you are standing to infinity? If it's at all possible, I'd like you take a small notebook with you when you shoot, record, what you wanted, since you all now have the histogram and other information readily available, I want you to record the fstop, that's the number after the f that your camera decided was right. Then when you have the finished product, I want you to look at it and decide if it matches your expectations.

If this sounds like a lot of work, it is.  But when you are starting out, you have to stop and think before you take every shot you want to be good, You have to look at the light, look at the surroundings, photography is WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). Check your histogram, stop it down if you need to,

Remember, you have to take a lot of bad shots before you take the great ones.  If you have Canon or Nikon Prosumer cameras, you will find the histogram and fstop number by hitting the display button,,  Canon DSLR;s it's the button marked info.

Have fun with it,

PS: You will  never again shoot one single picture on the automatic setting,  Program is automatic with options

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Some Thoughts on Curves and Vibrance

The tool "Curves" is just a box with a diagonal line running from the top right to the bottom left. However, where you raise or lower that line can make all the difference in the world to your pictures. At the least, it can brighten your midtones and slightly darken your shadows which gives your shots more definition or contrast.  At the most it can change the look of your picture completely. The top right area is for your highlights, the bottom left the shadows and the middle, well that's for the midtones.  You raise or lower the line, by putting your cursor on the line , clicking on that spot, and then performing the action.
In Picnk, there is a curves tool. I'd like you to start working with it manually, first. But if you're anything like me, you'll open the customize tab and try every option just to see what it does.

Vibrance is saturation on steroids.

When you learn to work with Curves and Vibrance, your photographs will start to look 100% better.

Happy Shooting

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Some More Fun to Have in Picnik

Original shot

Not bad now let's see what we can do with it:

Went into Create, Effects and Changed it to a black and white, then went to curves and on the tab that says Custom, I clicked on it to open it up, then I clicked on TriX400 (a black and white film setting), then I went back to straight Curves and raised the line in the middle.  Back to Edit, Sharpen Advanced. setting .07 at 50% added a frame and there you are.

Warning, next lesson will be about the almighty fstop. Here's a hint, I want you to think that the f in fstop stands for focus as in, in this shot what do I want to be in focus. Start using your display button when your taking your pictures and look for the f number, that's the fstop.

Till then.

PS: I'm shooting a wedding on Saturday, so I'm going to have to squeezed this in.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Photography Lesson 3 Photo Editing

A lot of people, when faced with the daunting task of photo editing, just want to run screaming out of the room.  It's too complicated. It's too expensive. I don't understand.  How am I supposed to know what do or even how to start, when even the simplest explanations are written in some foreign language.  You have to spend a gergillian dollars taking a course to even begin to do the basic things. I can't do it.....

Oh yes you can.  Today we're going to start and today we're going to start with PICNIK.  "What" I can hear you all thinking.  "What happened to Photoshop."  Why aren't we starting with Photoshop."

We are not starting with Photoshop, because Elements does not allow you to do all the nifty things Picnik does.  You have to full blown Photoshop do most of them, and Picnik makes it easier to learn, a lot easier.  Now mind, you are going to have to have Picnik Premium to do them.  And Picnik Premium costs a whopping $24.95 for a year, but I think they have a free trial and I want you to use it.

Remember Miss Belle, our example for stopping your photos down. Well here she is again.

And here is Miss Belle after I did two things in Picnik.

The first thing you need to do when you're in Picnik is open up the tab Create, for all of the basics, you're better off in Elements.  Once your in Create, we're getting started with Vibrance.  It's on the left under Editor's Picks.  Open it up and adjust the slider until you like the how your shot looks.  Play around, you can always undo it.  Then on to Curves.  Yes, Curves.  It, too, is under Editor's Pics. I want you to take your cursor, midway down the diagonal line and lift the line slightly.  See what happens.  Then I want you to move to the lower left, almost to the bottom and just click on the line, dropping it a tad. Is this easy or what.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Exposure 101 Add On

First of all I want you guys to know that I consider nobody and I mean nobody a slow learner.  This stuff is technical and it takes time.  If every now and again, I stick a shot up and start blathering on in techno speak, it's just to shut up the lurking snarks who might say who does that idiot think she is.  So there will be no more talk of slow learners, ok.

Next, I want you to consider program mode (the letter P right next to the insidious green box or however else your camera has automatic) as automatic with options. That's right, program mode will do everything for you, but it also allows you to override it if you want to.

Now in order to pull up the histogram on a Nikon prosumer camera look for a button marked "disp" right next to the viewfinder.  Push it down when you are in playback and voila, there is the histogram. I'm not sure how to do it in a Canon prosumer camera, but in my 50D, it is a button marked "info."

The exposure compensation option is displayed as a box, cut in half on the diagonal, one half is black and one half is white.   Push that and you get the exposure compensation line.  On some camera's it's vertical and on some it's horizontal.  Think of stopping down as darkening incrementally and stopping up as lightening incrementally. 

Happy shooting, next up will be curves.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Exposure 101

Exposure is simply the way the light is spread throughout your shot.  That's it, plain and simple, period, the end. Until you learn how to see light accurately, your going to have to rely on two tools that your camera offers. 

1.  In your playback mode, where you see the picture you've just shot, you're going to have to see the histogram as well.  The histogram is going tell you how the light is spred. Almost every camera will allow you do to that.  Read your manual to find out how to set that up.

2.  You are going to have to learn the exposure compensation function for your camera. You're going to have to know where it is an how to use it.  For most of you it's going to mean taking your camera off automatic and on to the program mode.

For this exercise, I'd like you to meet Miss Belle, a palamino quarterhorse who lives at same farm Kitt does.

Here is Miss Belle shot with the automatic mode.

"Not bad," you might think to yourself.  But look how washed out she looks.  And look at the white stripe running up the white side of her neck and the white patch right over eye.  The grass doesn't look to hot either.

Here is what the histogram looks like for this picture.  I want you to notice the line spiking at the far right and the line spiking slightly to the left.  A line spiking on the right means that some part of your shot is blown and it's time to stop it down.

Now here is Miss Belle shot with program mode and exposure compensation.  When you bring up the exposure compensation graphic on your camera, you will notice several horizontal lines and a flasing line in the middle.  Take that line and move it to the left. The increments will be, 1/3, 1/7, 1 etc.  This is Miss Belle shot at -1
Do you see how much richer and more saturated the color is?  Do you see that the hot white places are gone?  If you did nothing else to this shot, it still would be good. 

Here is the histogram for this picture.

Look how the spikes are gone.  Look at how the light is spred.  This what you need to see in the histogram in order for your shot to look it's best.  In photo editing software you can always brighten the midtones.  Once you have "hot" or "blown" whites, there is absolutely nothing you can do and you can count on the fact that the rest of your colors are blah and washed out.

So now we are no longer going to shoot using the smallest image size available, on automatic.  You are going to shoot on the largest size on program, with the histogram showing when you view your pictures and using exposure compenstation when it's called for.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Gift In My Garden

This crab apple tree was a gift from the birds. I had nothing to do with it, but I love it.  I shot this picture with my Nikon point and shoot. I shot in program mode, stopped down 1/3.  I didn't like the fstop, so I changed it to f4 for flowers. I changed it to a tiff, resized it for the web and uploaded it into picnik.  In picnik, I used curves (which all of you have got to understand and use,) then used vibrance and added a frame. 

I wanted to teach you guys how to use exposure compensation, to fix your washed out blown out shots.  I have shot white flowers, white horses, white buildings in the middle of the afternoon, but I can't get the right washed out shot. Go figure, when I was starting out, I had nothing but washed out shots.  While I'm attempting to get this bad shot, I'd like you all to start to be aware of the light. Look at the light in the morning, midafternoon and the evening.  As the rat once told me, good photography is nothing more than romancing the light.