Oh, I have a only point and shoot camera !

proposed museum at Panhala Hill, Near Kolhapur, lies neglected shot on Canon SX620HS point and shoot

 

It is said that the most important element in photography is 12 inches behind the camera. It is the photographer who can either make or mar an image. He is the master of his craft. The more he is advanced in marshaling the resources he has and the way he uses them to his advantage he can take his photography to next level.

Many a time, people say that you photography buffs have all the nice equipment and hence you get good photographs. It is half truth. Yes, equipment does matter to some extent. But the main things you require to click good photographs is through knowledge of science of photography and art of composition and presentation.

Some people rue the fact that they do not have a DSLR ( Digital Single Lens Reflex ) camera. What they have is a simple point and shoot camera, which many a times can comfortably fit into your shirt or trousers pocket. Yes, folks you can shoot very nice images even with these small cameras provided you exploit its capability to the fullest. And for that you have to know the camera thoroughly well. Yes, in this limited space I cannot teach you how to fully exploit its meager resources to your advantage but I can give you food for thought on how to go about it.

Simple point and shoot cameras have a non-interchangeable lens. Its reach is also limited . But by studying the available facilities in the camera, you can still shoot good photographs. I will let you into little secrets your point and shoot holds.

Explore its menu. Most of them offer some ready made modes, such as portrait mode, scene mode, close-up mode. Generally if you use portrait mode, you may not get blurred background to the extent you get it in DSLR, but you get nice smooth skin, somewhat blurred background. Thanks to the algorithm these cameras have built into them.  Similarly in scenery mode you get saturated greens and blue colours and sharpness from few feet to infinity.

Many a time these small cameras perform very well in macro and close up  photography. The details you get may surprise the DSLR toting clickers. Another advantage these cameras have now days is its high zoom level. To get that same zoom level in DSLR you may have to spend a fortune by investing into a long focal length zoom lens, costing many a time as much as your camera itself. Off course the zoom in point and shoot, comes with a rider that mostly these camera  have small sensors and are prone to high noise level. They have fewer adjustments in settings. Yes, they have limitations no doubt about it, but you cannot expect to get apples at banana prices.

Some of these small cameras have long exposure settings, which you can use for getting night shots of cityscapes ,dusk and dawn shots etc.  Hence instead of waiting for getting bigger camera, go and use your simple point and shoot camera to your advantages, till the time photography bug bites you and goads you to get a Digital SLR ultimately, enjoy your photography

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Wanna Create Some Magic ?

After you wet your feet in photography, you start exploring the other avenues that are available in photography, such as Astrophotography, Macro-Photography, Wild-Life Photography, Low-Light Photography, etc. Of this Low-Light Photography literally enthralls the viewers, with breath-taking photographs of the things, or rather how they look under night-lights.

The bridge, which looked mundane under sun-light, looks exotic, totally shining under warm glow of tungsten lights that come up when the Sun-goes down. This throws out many interesting subjects. Take for example, the lights from the automobiles, racing across the bridge, or on busy through-fare, they create spell-binding light trails which look like streaks of tungsten light and red-lights. The buildings which are firmly rooted show themselves in their shimmering glory. Any thing that is moving disappears from the view no matter how crowded the street or highway is. That is the magic of slow shutter-speed photography.

However, to create magic, shutter speed should drop to 1 second and below.  This is not possible when the Sun God is shining in His blinding glory. We humans can only lessen the harshness of the light by wearing the dark Goggles. Companies like Rayban minted billions by catering to this need. So, the photographers

If you want to see the water cascading down a water-fall, look like a fluffy cloud of water coming down and falling on the rocks below, you have to get a goggle for your camera…….!!  This goggle cuts the light intensity and turns day into twilight or day-break. This will fool your camera and make it slow down the shutter speed and create magic.

When you go to sea-shore you can make the water look like a super-soft shimmering satin by using the “Goggle “ for your camera ! This goggle we photographers call as Neutral Density Filter. This is supposed to be a shade of black, more dark it is, more light it will cut-off and bring down the shutter speed drastically. This ability to cut light is measured in terms of number of stops from the normal exposure. One stop less means the light is cut into half of its intensity, two stops means it is down to one fourth of the original intensity. Hence these filters are identified by the number of stops it can bring down the intensity of light.

 

There are some well-known companies who manufacture such filters. SRB, LEE, HOYA, FORMATT-HiTECH, COKIN,B+H are some of them. These filters should be such that they should only reduce the intensity of light and they should not introduce any extra colour into the image. These filters are available in various densities. Some cost you the earth, and some are affordable. You should go for such a filter!

We photographers are always looking for hacks and some of us use anything that can cut the light, such as welder’s glass, your dark goggles, etc. If you know photoshop then even if you use Do-It-Yourself type of “Jugad” to cut light, you can recover back!

These ND filters are classified as per its ability to cut light by  number of stops, but there is one more way of measuring it and it is  in terms of its optical density. For example a ND filter with optical density of 1.2 cuts light by 4 F stops ans is also numbered as ND 16. Just to confuse you further it transmits through only 6.25 % of light falling on it.

Hence whenever buying online , you may be misled by various parameters. Just to be sure, ask them by how many F stops it cuts down the light.

There is one more variety of ND filter is available and it is known as variable ND filter with this you get variable density for cutting light. This is generally made by two rotating polarizing filters put together. However purists in photography say that it is not a classical one. However when you have to choose between filters costing the earth and via-media for getting similar results, the choice is yours.

 

 

Sir, Which Lens I should purchase ?

 

“ Sir, should I buy a new lens ?“  This is a question I am asked very often by my students.

Before I try to answer this ticklish question, I remember a question asked to a candidate appearing for Union Public Service Commission. She was a lady. She was asked “ Diwali is fast approaching, Now tell us whether you will buy a silk sari for yourself ?”

The answer given by this lady, who later on posted as collector was , “ look sir” she said           your question I will rephrase , whether I will buy a  sari this Diwali ?  Now a days, a cotton sari too costs as much as a silk sari does, so it does not matter whether I buy a silk or cotton sari !. The mute point is whether I need  a sari !  My answer is if I really need a sari this Diwali, then I will definitely buy it.”

When you buy your first DSLR, you often get two lenses, typically, 18-55, and 55-250( canon) or 55-200 ( Nikon). These lenses are good enough to hone your photography skills in the first few days of your journey into photography.

Later on, as you progress  you start exploring further, you realize that your equipment is limiting your creativity, and then the search starts, generally this starts in your honeymoon period with your camera and photography !  “ I am not getting good photos of birds in flight…I am not getting enough details while shooting butterflies, small insects I do not get the background blur in my portraits. I do not get wider coverage….These are some of the complaints” these are the points that drive you to think about purchasing new glass…as they call lenses in America !

In these days, the question you should ask yourself is “ what is my main area of interest in Photography ? “ whether I like, shooting wild life or I am content with shooting small insects, small plants, flowers etc, in my back garden or whether I like  shooting, portraits, or street photography.

Hence, Friends, what should drive you to buy a lens ?  You should not buy a lens just because  your well healed friend has it, not because your neighbor has it.  Do you really need it ? whether the lenses you have are enough for your needs ?  whether your physical, mental make-up allows you to go for that kind of photography. After tackling these questions with honest answers, then you should arrive at a decision. OK ?

Once you decide your main area of interest, then go for an appropriate lens for that genre of photography. Do  not go on amassing lenses, just because you have oodles of money, then you will end-up having lenses you rarely use and instead of giving you photographic pleasure these lenses will serve as home for fungus.

Hence friends, it is your real need that should drive your choice for new lens and not anything else !

When You See A Better Model…………!

When You See A Better Model……….!!

Breathes there a photographer with soul so dead, who never to himself hath said…..I want to upgrade to a newer model!   (with apologies to Sir Walter Scott, whose words I have borrowed)

When you buy your first SLR……you were after it…….just like newly married guy who adores his better half, for the entire world to see.  You learn the techniques to shoot better photographs, try to understand the working of the camera, lenses and fiddle with it to the best of your ability.

But a day comes when you see a full page advertisement of the newer camera model, which boasts of higher mega-pixels, newer software, faster frames per-second count, better view-finder, better display, and you start yearning for it !  The Ads are all written in attractive terminology that appeals to your inner urge to stay ahead than your neighbor, who showed you his latest camera acquisition just recently.These ads do their work diligently and make you line up at nearest outlet to get the newer model. It is a psychological warfare, which most of the time the companies win !

So, friends, the mute-point is, when to upgrade your camera ?

Let us analyze the mega-pixel race. How many mega pixels are required ? Look, if you print photographs that are 8 inch by 12 inch, most of the time, then you require an image 3600 pixels wide and 2400 pixels high. This translates into 8.7 megapixels. So even if you have camera with 10 mega-pixel sensor, it would be just fine for your purpose. And if you know photo-editing then even with lesser mega-pixel count camera, you can work wonders !

However, there is plus point to this aspect of the race, that if you have more mega-pixels, you get better intricate details, if you crop a part of the picture and blow it to bigger size. But there is a down-side also, if the size of the sensor remains the same and the mega-pixel count increases then you literally cram more and more photo-sites into a coffee bite size sensor. This creates more noise as you increase The ISO in your camera.

Second point camera companies hammer on you is that the frames per-second count of the newer model is more.” Frames per second” comes into play only when you shoot flying birds, planes, faster actions. If you generally shoot portraits, sceneries, stationary subjects, then this count takes the back-seat. If you are besotted by birds ( I mean the birds on the trees !!!) and fast running animals or you cover cricket , football matches and athlete meets, then go for newer model.

The third point they mention is the newer software inside the camera,  that translates digital images into photographs you see. To some extent, this claim of the companies is correct, as better software many a time translates into better pictures. This also means lesser noise at higher ISOs.

They also mention number of focus points in the newer model they introduce. More the number of focus points, better action shots you get. But here again if you shoot portraits, stationary objects and know about aperture priority mode while shooting sceneries, then the number of focus points may even be just 9 or 11, you get better pictures.

Always remember that camera body is nothing but a black box that translates the digital images into a photograph. But what makes a good photograph, is the lens. Better the lens, better is the photograph. So instead of purchasing a better body right away, purchase a better lens you have been thinking of.

Now , in the end I am going to tell you the advantage of owning a second body. If you shoot on locations most of the time and change the lens often, then it pays to purchase a better body. This will help you in preventing your sensor getting dust on it. If you change the lens outside in open, a gust of wind can play a spoil-sport by getting miniscule dirt particles inside your camera. Hence while going on a sojourn where you want to have the best of both the worlds, shooting distant objects by using long focal length lenses and shooting adorable portraits by using a prime lens, you can get the photographs you desire, without dust playing a spoil-sport.

So friends, this is what I genuinely feel, but I am sure as it happens in everyday life, whenever you see a better “Model” ( the pun is intended ) you get the urge to get  it……..how far that benefits you is for you to weigh the options !! Best of luck!!

 

 

 

A bi-product of an eclipse !

A bi-product of Moon Eclipse Shoot

 

 

A bi-product of Moon Eclipse shooting  !!

Few days back, I took you along with me for shooting Lunar eclipse, Blue Moon, Blood Red moon.  It was well worth rewarding experience. Thanks to my friends, I received maximum hits on my blog on that day and I broke my own record for number of hits for my post. I felt humbled by your response !   A cart-Load of thanks, folks !

On the same night, I had another kind of encounter and I felt that I should record it for the readers of my blog, who do not get to see this kind of eerie display, which resembles a volcanic eruption of sorts. When we were setting up our tripods for shooting lunar eclipse, and we were hoping against hope that everything goes well!  Silently we were praying that, clouds do not play spoil-sport and atmospheric pollution wont obscure our view of the horizon.

As Sun went down on western horizon, the light began to wane and slowly but surely darkness took control of the farm-lands before us. We took out our cell phones and started searching for sky map, to know where the moon would rise in the east. As the eclipse has already in , the brightness of the moon would be low and we had to struggle to ferret her out of the gloomy eastern horizon.

And during this waiting period, suddenly and without any warning, the eastern horizon lit up in many hues of Red……….! For a minute we were transfixed ! And then it dawned on us that some farmer behind the tree line thought it fit to clear his land of dried sugar-cane leaves and remnantsby putting it on fire. And that was the reason for the ”volcanic eruption” we saw on eastern horizon….just joking folks….It looks like fire spewing lava coming out of something like Mount Fujiyama or the volcano you see on TV travel channels !

Can we allow this scene to go unrecorded……..no…….here it is for you !  Hope you like it……! It was shot on my Nikon high zoom prosumer camera !

 

Once in a Blue Moon…Once again !!

Blood-Red Moon in her full glory !

Once in a blue Moon………once again !

Friends, This year’s very first month, was unique…celestially I mean ! Two full moons in a month , A total Lunar eclipse of the moon on 31st January, and an opportunity to witness blood-red moon………we photographers cannot miss this opportunity.

Yesterday, the weather God’s were benevolent……..no clouds……….! But the pollution could play spoil-sport at any time………but everything was in order and we set out for a date with the moon !

The place we chose was on the spur of moment……..Old Dhamani road, leading to Bamani, a small village just on the outskirts of sangli. The Sun was setting on the western horizon, leaving behind reddish orange hue behind……..! Lot of farmers, students, were returning home, on their motor cycles……….zooming past us !   After about 10 minutes, a faint presence of the moon could be seen on the eastern horizon……! However for we photographers, it was not enough to focus our cameras, as most of our cams focus poorly dim lit objects. The pollution added to this lack of light……..!  Slowly curious people gathered around us and started asking us, what the hell we three were doing at this unearthly hour in darkness. One person incredulously asked whether we are from Government department who measure the land for their record.  He was worried as the place we were standing belonged to his friend . We allayed his fears and set out to look for Moon…….Now she was turning Red………..and slowly but surely the shadow of earth started spreading across the disc…..turning it in to a reddish orange ball……..!

When shooting this phenomenon, we go on shooting spree as even after shooting lots of images, we may get  few images that are worth show-casing…..( any photographer who says that all his images come out perfect……is lying…take it from me……! )

As we were shooting, an unexpected event happened……a city-bus rambled past us and went towards old Dhamani….and in few minutes returned back to where we were , on its way back to Sangli……The headlights of the bus lit up the small almost barren tree near my left side……and as luck  would have it, I clicked my camera pointing towards moon, at this moment. When I saw the replay on the LCD screen……it was a something beautiful……barren trees lit up by the bus lights with a Red Moon on eastern horizon……!

Later on we were at the spot for almost three hours and recorded the entire celestial drama in our camera…….!

I had clicked a good pic of Moon in her reddish orange glory. When I came home photo artiste in me woke up to a reality that If I can combine the two images ……one of the small barren trees and the darkness lit up by bit small Red Moon and bus head-light…and the full disc of the Red Moon clicked by me…….low and behold ……the image you see here is the result of this effort…….!

Super-Moon……….To Blue-Moon

Shooting Moon, once in a Blue-Moon  !

Super Moon As seen from Sangli, India

 On the very first day of brand-new year 2018, we had a one of the well-known celestial opportunity of observing Full Moon on 1st January 2018. Why it was so special is that it occurred on 1st January and secondly the Moon was at closest point to the earth.  The moon’s orbit is elliptical and not circular.  So the moon moves in an elliptical orbit around the Earth. In the Ellipse there are two points, one which is nearest to the centre is known as perigee and the farthest one is known as apogee.

Yesterday, the moon was at its perigee. Hence it was at a point which brings it 14% closer to earth. What this means is that the moon becomes 40 % brighter than he usually is. So friends, yesterday’s moon was brighter and 14% larger than she usually is. This celestial event is known as “ Super Moon” because the moon appears larger than usual.

However, for us photographers, full moon never fascinates!  Why? On any full-moon day Sun and Moon are in exactly opposite zodiac signs. And the sun’s rays fall perpendicularly on the moon’s surface and hence there are hardly any shadows on the moon to distinguish the features on the moon, such as  mountains, plains, huge deep canyons etc.,  Hence the full moon appears as a huge bright disc with the famous dark marks on its face, which have generated lot of mythical stories.

Hence if you want to see the craters on the moon, the best time is to observe the moon on or after 7th day from either Full Moon or the darkest moon day. Here too you have to observe the pen-umbra area, where the light on the moon begins to wane and slowly turns into total darkness. In this area you can see the craters very clearly.

Half Moon as seen from Kolhapur,India

However, you cannot shoot the moon with ordinary lens set-up. You require the highest zoom possible. Luckily, if you have a suitable high zoom prosumer camera such as Nikon B700 or Canon SX60 or Nikon P900. You can get a bigger disc of the moon and observe the craters more clearly.

But here again ther is a catch, when you zoom in so close the angle of view of the lens is so small that a small movement at the camera level results into huge movement when you look through the lens. Hence the use of a sturdy tripod is a must.

The Blue-Moon

So that is about the shooting the Moon, now there is one more phenomenon you are going to observe this month. On 31st January you are going to watch the super Moon once again. If you have two full moons in one calendar month, the second full Moon is known as Blue-Moon. This phenomenon occurs once in two and half years and hence the term “Once in a blue-moon “ was coined in English language for an event or occurrence that rarely happens !

For want of a four rupee polythene bag..a DSLR was lost !!

It so happened, that one of our photography colleagues, frantically called me and informed me that his dear DSLR camera has stopped functioning. Before I could ask him what went wrong he recounted a sad narrative how his dear DSLR went west ! This colleague of mine happens to be a sportsman and an ace cyclist, who has won many awards for his cycling ability. He has cycled through the most difficult Himalayan terrain and has visited most of the historical areas on his sport bike. Earlier he had a small point and shoot, but later on after joining us he purchased a DSLR and it became his constant companion.

However last week, he went to Lonavala and Khandala for a trek and for participating in an event. It was raining very heavily and in the heat of moment he did not realize that his camera bag, hanging from his shoulder, is getting wet in the rain. When he noticed this oversight, he immediately took out the camera and tried to switch it on. It refused to switch-on………! The water that entered the crevices, joints of the camera and lens body had done its destructive job.

This could happen to any of us. It is said that experts never commit mistakes they commit blunders! We may be handling cameras for well over four five decades, yet momentarily our senses take a back-seat and such blunders happen.

What could have prevented this unfortunate accident? A simple Four rupee polythene bag could have saved. One can buy a large polythene bag and wrap ones camera inside it and then keep it in the camera bag. Your camera bag is never intended to be 100 % water-proof. In monsoon, whenever you venture out put this four rupee bag in your camera-bag. This will save you heart-ache of losing your dear DSLR to the vagaries of nature.

One more trick I would like to share with you. While taking a shower ladies generally use shower-cap. This shower cap fits almost all DSLRs that are not weather-proof. Put your camera in such a shower-cap. The elastic wraps around and your camera is relatively safe. The people with thick pockets can have a costly alternative, a Rain-Coat for your camera.

The lesson learnt after this incident by my friend…….For want of a Four Rupee  polythene bag, a DSLR was lost…..!

So, friends on this World Photography I wish you….happy clicking in the ensuing year…and take care of your electronic gadgets in the remaining months of this Monsoon

Hundred Years Of NIKON

  

The Nikon Story

Nikon’s Crystal Model

My tryst with photography dates back to 1965…….however ever since I have I crossed my teens and stepped into real world photography, I still remember that I trudged miles to feast my eyes on first Nikon camera. It was owned by a professional photographer who shot photographs for a film magazine. Since then the name Nikon and the camera became a part of my dream.

Here is a brief history of Nikon and how the camera brand evolved.

Nikon hasn’t always been Nikon. In fact, The company that makes Nikon Cameras now ,Nikon Corporation, has only been around for about the past 30 years. When two of Japan’s leading optical manufacturers – the Optical Instruments Department of Tokyo Keiki Seisakusho and Reflecting Mirror Department of  Iwaki Glass Manufacturing – merged on 25 July, 1917, with investment support from the President of Mitsubishi, Koyata Iwasaki,the company was known as Nippon Kogaku, K.K. (or ‘Japanese Optical Co.’).

what is in a Name ?

 The Nikon brand name was established in 1946 – not as the name for the company, but for a camera. Nippon Kogaku K.K. execs were looking for a title for a new compact 35mm camera that they were planning to develop. It is said that, in a bid to capture the camera’s compactness while building on the ‘Nikko’ abbreviation of Nippon Kogaku, they considered the title ‘Nikorette’, which sounds perilously close to nicotine gum . Concerned that Nikorette was too weak for a product for which it had major ambitions, the company instead decided to retain the ‘Nikko’ base but add an additional ‘N’ to give, as Nikon puts it, a more masculine impression in the Japanese language’. The first camera to carry the Nikon name – the Nikon Model I – was launched in 1948, and is commemorated by a limited edition crystal version (the above image ), which is available as part of Nikon’s 100th Anniversary collection.

A Reputation For Reliability

 Fast forward to 1988, and on 1 April Nippon Kogaku rebranded as the Nikon Corporation. Products bearing the Nikon name across various markets had built up a reputation for reliability and the company wanted to take advantage of this as it continued to develop as an international brand.

The Nikon logo was redesigned to reflect the new branding Nikon launched its ‘I AM Nikon’ advertising campaign throughout Europe seven years ago – and it’s still going strong. Created by the Jung von Matt/Spree creative agency in Berlin, the campaign was designed to build on Nikon’s ‘At the heart of the image’ concept.  “By reminding our customers that they too are at the heart of the image, we hope to ignite a new understanding of photography – one where anyone can express themselves, regardless of their photography experience, “said Nikon Europe’s Birgitta Olson at the time. The concept was a neat and simple one: express ‘who are you with your Nikon?’  Used to           encapsulate a moment and prick the emotions – ‘I AM Neil Armstrong’, to capture a baby’s first steps –     ‘I AM Alive’, for a shot of Robbie Williams turning his camera on the crowd – through to the more literal ‘I AM a Super Zoomer’,  it’s the myriad ways that ‘I AM’ can be applied that’s given this campaign its longevity and so the campaign “ I am Nikon “ was born and is still their catch-line in their advertisements.

In this journey of 100 years Nikon has contributed a lot to the imaging industry. They have invented a better kind of glass for the lenses. The ED (Extra Low Dispersion Glass) lens was their invention, which every lens manufacturer uses right now. This lens reduces chromatic aberration They were instrumental in developing special lenses for satellites launched by NASA. NASA has captured over 700,000 images from the outer space  with Nikon lenses over the years.

So wish Nikon a happy anniversary……..as they enter their centenary year……..!

with inputs from N-photo, August 2017 

Reference manual of your camera !

whenever you buy a camera you joyfully open the box ; in fact YouTube is replete with thousands of videos on unboxing of this one or that one, which includes variety of cameras available in the market.

The moment you open the box, you rummage through the box and the first thing you take out is always the camera. After savoring the feel of brand new camera in your hands and feasting your eyes on brand new , shining camera, then only you look at other things such as  its charger, usb cables, warranty card, memory cards……………however no body notices a booklet that is called instruction manual…..The very first page in it says that read this manual carefully before operating the camera……Nobody takes it seriously……..it is just tossed out….perhaps on the bed on which you opened the camera box……and after you put in the memory card in your camera and your hands start itching to click the first shot on the new glitzy gizmo you have just acquired……in the heat of the moment you forget about the manual and it lies their forlorn…….somebody comes in and crams it in the box and keeps the box on the upper shelf somewhere in your home. From this moment the neglect of the camera manual starts…….!

Friends, your camera is in fact a small computer and there are hundreds of little facilities available in your camera. I do not think that there is a person who has mastered each and every setting in the camera……including the employees of the camera company which makes the camera. It is virtually impossible to remember each and every setting your camera provides and tries to aid you in clicking better photos.

Hence your instruction manual is a valuable piece of your imaging set-up……do not disregard it at any cost……..I teach photography and in my class i exhort my students to treat the manual with utmost respect it deserves……I even go to the extent of recommending them to keep it on side-table near your bed….and take a vow that you will not sleep unless you read at least two pages of the instruction manual everyday. Slowly you become camera-friendly…..and instinctively know how to fiddle with the settings, to get very good pics.

Now days, camera companies are saving on printing cost, and are making these manuals available on the net. So if you do not find the manual in the box, do not worry……..Google can do the job and get you the manual…..download it as PDF or better still get it printed…….nothing like a physical book….in your hands while reclining on the bed.

Ignore the instruction manual at your own peril…….many a time it saves you…….frustration of missing important memories you preserve as images……!!