What is Correct exposure !

In photography we call a photograph nice when it hits our visual senses in right place. But is there any scale by which we can measure the accuracy of exposure. Some photographs look good when under exposed, some look good when they are slightly over exposed. Some look good just because they correctly show what I want to show and our sense of beauty may be creating a hormone which makes us feel happy.

But classically speaking, anything that has highlights, shadows and mid-tones is considered to be a good photograph. Yet in photography it turns out to be a balancing act. If you expose for shadows, you blowout highlights. If you expose for highlights, you loose details in the shadows. Based on this the legendary Ansel Adams developed zone system in photography.

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Hence friends try to expose for midtones………..! Here is an example…. a shot of dilapidated temple on Dandoba hills, near Sangli. Here the sky in the background was bright and the temple itself was in shadow. But I managed to get the midtones right ! Hope you people like it !

 

star trail……amazing experiment

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Star Trail Photo by Apoorv Thacker, Sangli, shot at Belanki (Sangli Dist.)

 

Star-Trails, a beautiful circular spirographic image of the path of the stars around polaris, (North Star) looks eye-catching .

In photography there are few exotic experiments that few people try and very few get it right the very first time. Off-course with advent of mobile phones and myriads of apps that help you in achieving the  right results. You can get it right if you follow the guidelines and experiment a bit.

For the uninitiated let me explain few basic astronomical facts. Our mother earth turns on its north-south axis every 24 hours ( roughly) and it also revolves around the sun. Earth completes one revolution around the sun in approx 365 days. earths rotation around its own axis causes day and night. The north pole of our planet points towards a star which we call as pole-star ( in mythology it is called Dhruv ). In fact it is the earth that rotates on its north-south axis but to we people on earth, it looks that it is the stars that rotate around the earth. So if you point your camera at the pole-star and keep its shutter open for sufficiently long time, it creates star trails just like light trails of passing cars we shoot at night.

Nowadays there is a software available that can create beautiful 360 degrees star trails out of the images of star-trail bits you have recorded. It looks beautiful. For capturing this phenomenon you have to follow certain rules. You should have a SLR with wide angle lens.You should have a cable release. You should shoot star-trails preferably on moon-less nights ( Amavasya). use widest aperture, keep the shutter on Bulb mode,Dial the lowest possible ISO, Have a heavy tripod,place it on the sturdiest platform. Figure out pole-star, point your camera at it, focus on infinity. see to it that you have some natural or man-made subjects in the frame, these objects should not hinder your view of the north sky.

After all this preparation, open the shutter and keep it open for say 30 seconds at a time.Allow the camera to cool down a bit as such a long exposure heats-up the sensor. Then again repeat the process…..so on for minimum 100 frames or more

Now download your images to your computer and using the software combine them together to create a magical star-trail photograph.

High Zoom Cams…………!

The world of photography has evolved over the years with plenty of variety available for clicking pictures and with that camera manufacturers have also evolved. Gone are the days of staid cameras with boxy look, cameras have now turned modern….with new technology being incorporated into…rather crammed into the gadget, just to meet the consumer demand…for variety….to satisfy a latent need of the consumer.

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Earlier people used to have a simple point and shoot camera with no frills. Just plain simple look, slowly the concept of modern styling , ergonomics, entered the field of camera, and the ease of use become the buzzword.. Cameras shed their staid looks and took on the look of a fashionable eye-candy, which people would like to flaunt.

Right now the cameras fall into following sub-classes…..High flaunting DSLRs…..Bridge Cameras……….plain point and shoot variety ! we will talk about DSLRs and Plain Jane cameras some other time. But today, we will look at the middle one…..no pun intended !

Bridge camera is a cross between point and shoot and DSLR They have fixed lens. They do not have the ability to take on variety of lenses, but they boast of high zoom lenses. which can shoot the things which are far away than the plain point and shoot. But they lack the ability of the DSLR lenses to shoot under any lighting condition. The aperture of these lenses generally limited to a range between  2.8 or so and 8. With this limited range the creative photography takes the back-seat and you have to make do with the available amount of light. As such these cameras become fair weather friends. Come cloudy weather, dark areas, night shots, and you may be stumped.

High zoom factor of these cameras brings with it, another problem, the problem of shaky photos. No doubt some of the bridge cameras try to counteract  by providing vibration reduction (VR) facility, but in some of these cameras the zoom is so high that you do require a tripod to shoot. Moreover these cameras have very small sensors compared to DSLRs and hence they show noise at ISO 800 and above. And precisely for this reason I call them fair weather friends. If the weather is sunny and  the sun is shining, then your ability to get clear noise free shots increases.

But the best advantage these bridge cameras have is their compactness and their wife or Girl-friend friendly nature. Being small in size,these cameras do not invite the attention of your wife or girl-friend. A larger DSLR will be pain in the shoulder for you and an eyesore  for your wife or GF. I have seen many wives or GFs serving an ultimatum to their beaus that on the next trip it is either me or your camera…. you have to choose between  camera or me.And friends you cannot go on a honeymoon with your camera alone…..can you ?  Hence here the bridge camera becomes the peacemaker………you can have fun with your camera…and enjoy your much needed holiday with doting wife.Ultimately the choice is yours !

Mirrorless or SLR

img_7208The debate has been raging for last few years. Whether to go for the new mirrorless  handy cameras or to go for the age-old single lens reflex (SLR ) cameras. There are people who support SLRs as the ultimate  and there is  new generation reared on slimmer and lighter mobile technology who prefer mirrorless.

Off course there are advantages and disadvantages for both SLRs and Mirrorless. Let me give you a little background knowledge about SLRs. These cameras use the same lens to look at the scene in front by a mechanism consisting of  45 degrees inclined mirror and pentaprism, which bends the light rays and forces them out of the view-finder at the top through which you look at the scene.. Because of this contraception SLRs have greater flange distance, the distance between the lens and sensor. Hence they have larger depth and consequently they are much more heavier and bulkier.

In mirrorless there is no mirror,pentaprism mechanism, hence the flange distance is small and hence they are smaller, lighter like most of the high-end point and shoot.Mirrorless uses the LCD display at the back in place of view-finder and they use slightly different autofocus method. They take little longer to lock the focus than SLRs.

Another negative point, for mirrorless is because of smaller size of the camera, the battery has to be small. Hence it does not last as much as a SLR battery lasts. But most of these cameras are now offering two batteries to compensate for this lacuna.But the biggest advantage mirror-less offers is their weight. The lesser weight makes these cameras easy to carry on tour.

Some mirrorless cameras do not offer APS-C or bigger full frame sensors, but offer smaller ones. But good mirrorless cameras are now offering APS-C or better sensors.

Mirror-less is the latest technological advance in photography and is here to stay. Over the time there will certainly be new improvements in mirrorless technology. And slowly mirrorless will overtake SLRs. In India we may have to wait little longer for mirrorless to catch-up with SLRs, as we still ask the wedding photographer which camera he has, before placing the order with him. We like bulkier models (no pun intended )

Festivals….of Lights..Camera and Action !!

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At the outset let me wish all my friends, a very happy Dipavali. May this festival of lights bring in its wake all that is good, into your life. May best of luck be yours and all your dreams come true. My friends who do not know marathi, may find it difficult to understand the meaning of some of the words…..But the Dipavali wishes transcends all language barriers….it simply means Good Luck to all..Prosperity to all….Good health to all !

We Indians, love festivities and it is the time to make valuable purchases. Camera is one such instrument, that is bought in large numbers on the occassion of such festivals. Dipavali is one of them.

Earlier, even people having oodles of money also used to wait for one of the three and half muhurts……Gudhi Padwa,Dasara, Dipavali Padwa and Akshay Tritiya….to buy these goodies. Right now the sale of cameras sky-rockets on these days. My friend who is an old camera distributor used to sell one or two peices of SLR cameras earlier, but the things have changed to such an extent that he does it on each day of the year……..! And on these festival days they are sold in large numbers !

One more change has overtaken the public mind over last few years, they have started to go for official stores and not for grey market. There are distinct advantages to go for             “white market” as it gives you peace of mind and which is very much important with highly sophiasticated cameras entering the market these days.

So, friends, do indulge and get your self a camera…..wide variety is available and it is the consumer who is the king now and he is driving the market right now……go….enjoy the ride !

Need to back-up your photos

We photographers go on clicking spree once we see anything interesting or attractive. In the heat of moment sometime we click hundreds of pics in one go. Some of the clicks may be of graet importance. You may not be able to visit the place again. So what you are carrying in your camera are a bundles of memories. Generally we use SD cards or CF cards to store these images. No doubt CF cards are more secure than SD cards to store the images,but not all camera models support CF cards. And thus we are vulnerable to vagaries of electronic technologies. One small glitch and all your images are lost in a jiffy….before you gather your wits.

A minor fault in any of your devices in your computer may affect your images totally and lo all your memories are gone in a flash. It recently happened to me. We friends from our school days held a get-together and we were meeting after a gap of nearly five decades. I lost all the pics on my card because of a small glitch. I decided to write about it  so that you do not land yourself in such an avoidable situation. Though this happened to me for the first time in my five decades of photography experience, one cannot be sure when a disaster strikes !

Hence friends, when you go on a trip do carry a small laptop with you and after the shoot, back-up your images to your computer and also on a pen-drive. This will help you avoid huge disappointment. Learn from your mistakes, such mistakes do happen and are a part and parcel of life. The only way to protect us from the loss is to avoid repeating the mistakes.

Come October !!

When we were very young, there was a romantic movie named ” Come September “. It had very good lilting and foot-tapping music. For we photographers, “Come October” should ring the bells and make us sing happy days are here again……!!

The boy and his bicycle !

The boy and his bicycle !

This is the month, when the monsoon starts receding. Some of us, who do not dare to venture out during Monsoon, for the fear of damaging our much loved photography equipment, take out our cameras and once again start clicking !

Moreover, this is the month, which gives us the Nimbus clouds, the clouds which are filled to the brim with water droplets, showing us the grey shades , ranging from white fluffy combed cotton like clouds to dark grey ones. Friends go and click these clouds, for the sheer shapes they throw out and for multitude of colours they spew at sunsets and at Sunrises. You will not get such dramatic sky view again till next October/ November.

This is the good time to shoot, landscapes, seascapes. Good time to venture out for a short trip………..! Come…start clicking !!

Learn…….UnLearn………Relearn

Learn….Unlearn……Relearn ………that is the way one should go about practicing photography. The things in photography are changing very fast and if one is to keep pace with changing times, then he/she has to learn the new techniques, new equipment, new concepts,new gadgets. 

And wallpaper 682modifiedfor all this there is no shortcut……it is the practice that makes you perfect. However I would like to impress on every one who is still learning the ropes, that you should understand the basic concepts fully and they should become your second nature as they say !  And for all this what could be better than hands-on practice of the concepts learnt in the class-room with real-life shoot in the soothing surroundings of nature………How about going to Konkan and all those exotic places………..with me for Two days and learn the photography the right way ! It will be a rewarding experience I promise !

Watch this space for new “concept learning” in Photography ! 

Steve McCurry and the controversy about photo-editing !

Recently, an oft discussed subject related to photography came back to haunt we photographers. Should we edit the photographs in photo editing software or not ? It so happened that a world famous photographer Steve McCurry was the centre of all the controversy that surrounded the subject. Photo-editing …….As you know Steve became an iconic photographer with his very famous photograph of The Afghan Girl he photographed while covering the war in Afghanistan. The razor sharp image of the girl spoke more than thousand words about the  plight of the war ravaged population of Afghanistan. Her eyes mirrored the suffering of the millions in that war-ravaged country. And Steve McCurry became a legend.

However it is said that uneasy lies the head that wears a crown……. Along with his admirers there were his distractors also……who gleefully pounced upon the originals of some of his images and found that his final photographs published in well-known journals were edited using Photoshop.

Some of these publications pride themselves about being the purveyors of news as it happens. They also claim that they report on anything as it happens without adding or subtracting anything. So for these publications it was a shock that they had published a photoshopped version of the photograph and not the original.

After the controversy blew the lid off, Steve McCurry had to admit that he had photoshopped some of the images and he no longer considers himself as a photo-journalist. He declared that he considers himself as a photo artiste!

Yes, we are all photo artistes and we are not photo-journalists ! We do use photo-editing to bring out the best in photographs. If anybody claims that he can get everything right in camera itself and does not resort to photo-editing, take it that he is just bluffing.

In good old days of photography, we did some of the things we do today in photoshop. We did crop the photos, we did dodge or burn the photographs, we used different printing papers to overcome the under or over exposure, we used filters and so on. Whatever we did in the darkroom, now we do it on our desk-top……so what is the big deal about not using photoshop !

However a word of caution, with photoshop we have a double-edged weapon in our hand. We should not use it to destroy the reality in the images we claim to be the original images we shot. If you have photoshopped and changed the reality then we should put it straight and tell that the image is altered for artistic effect. Nothing is wrong in it.

Every painter does take liberties with the subject he paints. For example if he is painting a petite girl against a not so pretty background and if he eliminates some of the ungainly things in his painting, the would you not call him a painter ? The same argument applies to a photographer……if he removes some objects which are not relevant to the subject and which bring out the best in the subject……. Should you not call him a photographer ? …….we all photographers are photo artistes and we are proud about it…we enjoy photography and we do it to give sheer pleasure to the public and that’s it !!

 

Getting everything sharp up to infinity in landscapes

In any landscape, you would like to have everything sharp from here to eternity…….err infinity ! There are few tricks employed by landscape photographers. First of all shoot in aperture priority mode so that you can manipulate the aperture for getting deep depth of the field. For this you may have to experiment a bit. Play with aperture 8,11 and 16 and if necessary with 22. Smaller the opening of the aperture a phenomenon known as diffraction kicks in and it tries to soften the edges mostly thus robbing your picture of sharpness to some extent, if you go to aperture 22 and beyond.

Secondly, you have to focus at approximately one third distance from where you are standing and the farthest point you can watch. This effectively means you are focusing at hyper focal distance. Alternately you can download apps from the internet which calculate the hyper-focal distance for you. Dial in the settings and it gives you depth of the field you will be getting with these settings.

Thirdly use a wide-angle lens so that you can cover the entire scene in one shot and need not stitch it later in Photoshop if you shoot it in two or three shots.

Use a very good sturdy tripod and switch of the internal stabilizer of your lens before you click the picture.

Use a cabled trigger for shutter release.

Picture Style mode you use should be set to Landscapes as it will give you richer colours.

With these settings you will be getting very good landscape photos ……..try these settings and send me your pics !

Happy clicking !