Golden Rules For Landscape Photography

They say that the only golden rule one should remember is that there are no golden rules !! In photography too one should not be bogged down by rules mentioned in the books. You have to experiment all the time to find out the best combinations for your photographs.

However there are few rules for landscape photography. I will tell you few rules about timing first. Then in next installment I will tell you about technicalities. In landscape the best time to shoot landscapes is 30 minutes before sunset and 15 to 30 minutes after sunset.Similarly 15-30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunrise is the right time to shoot landscapes. This is because the light is mellow and has many hues to it, which gives the landscapes a wholly different look.

This is the time to fiddle with your white balance also. Never use Auto white balance. It averages out all the colours. Experiment is the only advice I can give

 

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Gadget Acquiring Syndrome (GAS ) !

Do you know we photography freaks generally suffer from a disease called Gadget Acquiring Syndrome ( GAS ). When we buy our first DSLR, we have a kit lens to go with it. Generally it is 18-55 mm, lens. All manufacturer have this variety. Manufacturers say that this is a good lens to start with. Yes it is but you grow out of it very soon. You feel that it is not sufficient to shoot all that you imagined when you bought your DSLR. Something is lacking. Hence you pool your resources once again and generally buy the other lens offered by the manufacturer. It is most often 55-200 , if you are NIKON buddy and 55-250 if you are a CANON buddy. You start using it and feel that the view you get is restricted to around 30 degrees from the centre of your site at 55 mm lens and it goes down when you go to other end. So now you start feeling inadequate again.

Then the next thing your friends advise you to go for a wide angle lens, possibly 1 10-18 mm. You again spend around 15 K for this brand new gizmo. Start using it and feel that it some what distorts the reality at both the ends at 10 mm ( we photographers call it as Barrel Distortion ) so you again try to use it at 18 end. THen you start scratching your head to find out why did i not use good old 18-55 bundled with your DSLR !!

Then when you see your friends showing you the photographs of some exotic birds, ferocious tigers, and regale with their tales of exploits while on the look out for these photographs, you start feeling inadequate again. You require a longer focal length, say 150-600 mm. So once again you buy 100-400 mm and go out to capture birds and go on a jungle safari to shoot tigers for that one memorable photo of a tiger. After getting few photographs you again grow out of it and start looking out for something else exciting in photograph.

Your friends show you the photographs of cascading water-falls with fluffy water flowing in a dream-like streak. Your friend tells you to go in for ND filter. You start looking out for ND filters,. You ultimately find it and part with anything between 3K to 10 K to buy this filter. For using it you have once again travel to the water-fall site. Snap few photos and then you realize that this filter is useful but only for certain occasions.

I can go on and on ……on this topic but my main contention in writing this piece is that for photography acquiring gadget is only limited by the lining of your pocket. You can have every gadget a photographer should have and go on amassing them. If you look at your list of gadgets and try to think, then you will realize that some of the gadgets you have used only once or twice in the year. Then do you think the cost you have paid for it is worth the satisfaction you got out of it.

I humbly tell you that I too was a gadget freak and I have cokin filter system since the days I was using film cameras and because it is bit difficult to set up than screw-on filters now we use, it is still with me as a heirloom !

So friends, my advice……use your present gadgets fully…decide your area of  liking…….purchase only those gadgets which you are likely to use often……..!  Understand your camera fully. Exploit its all settings. Learn about the techniques…implement them……..talk to your seniors………and lastly take your photography seriously…..shoot…shoot and shoot !!

sorry friends for long absence !

It has been quite sometime since my last post. I was held up because of some heavy commitments in the last four months. I am sorry for such a long period of absence. Blog is something that should be shared often. Now that I am out of my commitments, I promise to be regular. Please do keep a watch on my blog and nudge me if I do not post anything for a fortnight. Drop me a line and I will be right back.

Photographer’s Second Sun…………..!!!!

In good old days, when I joined  our photography group, the very first instruction I received was “ do not use flash at all “ and this suggestion was so assiduously followed that any photograph that looked like one that used semblance of flash was out-right rejected.  Some even went to the extent of telling us to put a sticker tape on the small flash on the camera, so that it did not pop-up even by mistake !

The reason behind this rule was simple. If you know how to handle your camera well then you should be able to manipulate the precise amount of light you let in and expose perfectly. Theoretically they were right. However that set a chain of thoughts in my mind, if it is so and ” no flash” rule is to be followed with no questions asked, then why did the camera manufacturers provided a tiny flash on every SLR ?

When we graduated to higher level and then realized that the rule of “No-Flash” is not that correct and it had many exceptions. The tiny flash on the camera body has to be fired in back-lit situations to bring out the details in shadow areas  which other-wise would have resulted in silhouettes of the object in the foreground.

Photographers who did not follow the Golden-Hours rule and shot portraits at high noon have to have a flash to lessen the harsh shadows they get under the eye sockets, under the chin, under the nose of their subject.If you cleverly use external flash and manipulate ambient light to your advantage then the photographs you get are truly dramatic. And if you can play with white balance and your external flash at dusk or dawn with a sturdy tripod and a beautiful model , the riot of unimaginable colours on the horizon with clouds of different shapes and the shapely models on the ground, lit by external flash will blow your mind. Well this has to be tried to experience the moment.

Off-course there is a technique to use the flash unit. Smaller the bright light source, more harsh it will be and will throw out nasty shadows on the background. To make it soft one has to use many other options to lessen harshness of light thrown . One has to use light softeners like tracing papers, thin silk cloth, But the things change if you use external flash units which allow you to use bounce flash technique to control the amount of light from the flash and make the flash light  mimic the sunlight !

So friends, by all means befriend your flash, play with it and use it cleverly. And remember that camera manufacturers who provide flash on almost all cameras nowadays, know what they are exactly doing, if the flash was so undesirable then it would have died a natural death long ago !

Hence I call the flash unit, may it be on your camera or an external one,as your Second Sun……the first one in the sky lights up every day to provide we photographers with the abundant light and the Second Sun on your camera helps you to avoid ungainly shadows and help you get good photographs in low light situations !

So every photographer should befriend their second Sun and treat him on par with their elder Sun in the sky !!

 

Couch-potato………….Mouse-Potato…………….Cam-Potato !!

A person who sits on a sofa, does not move a bit, watches inane TV serials, eats potato chips for passing the time and puts on lots of weight around his/her midriff , is called as couch-potato. This word has now become a part of English language and even finds a place in revered Oxford English Dictionary.

In this digital age, the things are moving very fast and technology is changing almost every day and if you are not computer savvy, you will be thrown out of main stream sooner than later ! Hence you cannot help but to spend hours and hours before the computer screens, holding reverently the mouse that makes your computers  run.  Hence English Language is about to accept yet another word coined by today’s computer generation. The word which will soon find its rightful place in Oxford English Dictionary is Mouse-Potato…….. a person who spends lots and lots of time sitting before a computer….and who like a couch-potato puts of lot of weight around midriff……..because of lack of any  other  exercise..!

Couch-Potato………..Mouse-Potato…….and now we photographers are about to introduce another word into English Lexicon and that is Cam-Potato…….!  A photography addict who does not move from the place he/she  pitches  his/her tripod, uses long zoom lenses and takes photographs of near and far things just by rotating the zoom barrel of the zoom lenses……such a creature can be compared to above two extreme cases of probable health hazard…… a photographer who does not move……so my photographer friends you are not far away from glory of being responsible for coining a new word for English Language …..cam-potato !

Why this “hulla-gulla” about non-moving photographers….Friends, zoom lenses are integral part of photography lore now. They have their own advantages . One lens for all occasions. From all sharp nature shots to selective blurred portraits, from macro to wide-angle, all in one lenses have enamored photographers and umpteen number of combination of zooms are available from all lens manufacturers.  And all the sugar and spice, everything nice in a photograph is accomplished by that contraption called zoom lens, without moving an inch from your tripod mounted or hand-held camera.  But such long zooms have their own pitfalls. They are not sharp throughout their zoom range. They have their own sweet-spots where they are the sharpest and they suffer from barrel or pin-cushion distortion besides another dreaded monster called chromatic aberration. In photography every photographer should remember that like a perfect human being , a perfect lens has not yet been manufactured by its maker ! Hence Friends by using only  zoom lenses you are likely to become a cam-potato and thus contribute towards enriching the English language !

What is the way to avoid putting on those extra-kilos around the midriff……use a prime lens….lens with fixed focal length…which does not allow you to stay at one place and makes you move around to get that perfect shot you are longing for.  These lenses are sharper than their zoom brothers/sisters……I did not know that lenses have a gender too !! Because of fever moving elements they are better at giving you sharp images over a large stop range with controlled chromatic aberration. Some of these prime lenses are cheaper too compared to their big brothers…for example  the much worshipped 50 mm 1.8 lens by canon or Nikon is priced under 10 K bucks.  Canon has come out with 24 mm wide 2.8 lens again below 10 K bucks. They deliver results far superior to their zoom counterparts. Try it !

These lenses will make you move around and find interesting angles to any shot you intend to take. And by moving around while photographing  will make you look slimmer and more healthy. Hence friends Go for a prime lens…for the sake of your health…….and for getting interesting shots!  Will you ?

Megapixels……..the race is on…..!!

Mega-pixels………………Race is on !

 

Recently Canon introduced their flag-ship DSLR model 5DS and 5 DSR , world’s first 50 mega-pixel DSLR pair and they have literally set the cat amongst the pigeons ! Everybody is now scampering to add more and more mega-pixels to their cameras, just like the race we have seen for more and more mega-pixels for smart phone cameras !

How many mega-pixels……has become a key word to flaunt the capabilities of your camera…may it be in cam-phone or DSLR. Now let us understand this phenomenon of more and more mega-pixels and the effect it has on photo quality !

I will give you an analogy. When you were young you were staying with your parents. Father,Mother and yourselves; you were three. You were occupying  one BHK flat. Every one had space enough to spend the day comfortably. Later on you married. Then you were four and you started feeling the pinch…..for privacy…., only three rooms and 4 people ! As years wore on you had a son……..Now you were five and still same three rooms. Few years later you had a daughter ….then you were six in the same three rooms you had….so on as the residents increased……sparks started flying for little space……! Same thing happens on your camera sensor ! Sparks begin to fly…generating what we photographers call as colour noise !

As the number of pixels increase in the same space on your sensor, may it be APS-C or even full-frame…….more mega-pixels mean more crowd and it results in every pixel having an effect on its nearest neighbor…which results in colour noise in your pictures. Off-course, more megapixels have its own advantage, when you consider enlarging your prints. But how many of us go beyond 15×18 inch !

This quality degradation is much more pronounced in mobile cameras as they have still small sensor like a one room bachelor accommodation in above example. Camera manufacturers are definitely working on this problem and are trying to control colour noise to a great extent but till the new technology for sensor manufacturing sets in the problem will persist.

Canon introduced 5Ds and 5Dsr models recently. Thankfully they have restricted the ISO scale in these cameras to tide over the colour noise generated by crowded 50 MP sensor.  In these 50 MP marvels they have restricted ISO to 6400……….my humble 18 MP canon 700 has ISO of 12800 ! The argument for this difference is that 5Ds or 5Dsr is full frame sensor and Canon D700 has an APS-C sensor. Hence 5Ds or 5 Dsr are more brighter than D700 sensor. They have also bundled with it Canon’s newest processor Digic 6…in pair (Dual ) !

Even with all this the mute point is how many mega-pixels can one populate on a sensor, 36 mm by 24 mm wide ! The answer lies in the realm of unknown..as all the camera manufacturers play their cards, holding them close to their chest ! Till then more the merrier !

Sweet-Spot………!

In good old days when we were in college, we were of impressionable age. There was a very good looking girl in our class. We used to say that her face was her fortune !! Her looks were classic, but what drew attention , was a strategically placed mole just near her lower lip. In those days it was sacrilegious even to talk to girls in college. We the admirers, learnt that such a well placed mole  is considered as beauty spot and is also called as sweet-spot !

Years wore on and with advent of zoom lenses for Single Lens Reflex Cameras, we learnt about another sweet spot……the sweet-spot of any zoom lens we use……….who so ever named it as sweet spot was dead right….as this is what makes the photographers drool over…!

Zoom lenses are complex pieces of individual optical lenses put together in a precise arrangement, just to get you sharp photos….. All lens manufacturers strive to turn out perfect lenses for modern days digital SLRs…..!

I have a question for you. Can you see the glass ? The answer is no……classically you cannot see the glass, the glass is supposed to be transparent ! What you see is the contamination in the glass. And precisely for this reason, lens manufacturers over last century or so, are trying to make lenses which are made up of purest form of glass and which are optically correct. For this they invented different kinds of glass material. And with that they make the lenses you get. The placement of each individual element and their groups has to be so precise.  A fraction of a millimeter here or there will make the image go soft. It is the best endeavour of each lens maker to give you a zoom lens which gives sharpest results at all settings, but many a time it is not so………..at some point in its range the lens is the sharpest….razor sharp rather….at all other settings it may be sharp but not razor sharp. The point at which the lens is sharpest is known as the sweet-spot of that lens.

For every lens there is a sweet spot, which you have to explore and find out. The lens at this spot gives the sharpest image. For this you have to try different focal lengths on the zoom lens and that too at different settings of the aperture. Generally aperture F8 or F11 can be explored at different focal lengths. However do not try the focal lengths which are at lower or higher end. Generally these are not the focal length settings that give you sharpest results, as they are amenable to barrel and pincushion distortions respectively. The sweet-spot of focal length may lie somewhere in between these two extremes. As far as aperture is concerned do not go to F22 or F32 as there is going to be another optical problem known as diffraction,which makes the images go softer instead of making them sharper at higher F stops.

So friends, take out your zoom lenses and find out the sweet spot of your lens. If you have prime lenses which give you a single focal length, the sweet-spot can be found out by trying different aperture values………….!

Every time I take out my zoom lenses and try to set it at its sweet spot, I remember my classmate with the precisely placed mole near the lower lip……old habits die hard !!

What we forget when we pick-up the camera to shoot…….!

We are all photography buffs and in our enthusiasm we unwittingly commit a basic mistake and as a result we get some awful shots and then wonder what went wrong !

we just pick-up the camera and start shooting without realizing that while on earlier shooting spree we had set certain parameters for shooting, such as white balance setting, exposure compensation, flash compensation, picture control,focus mode, focus point selection, and lastly many a time shutter and aperture also ! These were set for that particular condition and if we use the same settings for the other scenario, then we will not get correct exposure at all.

When we go to  shoot  beautiful nature, or a beautiful………you know what i mean……you are mesmerized and fail to notice the wrong settings… and then you are overawed by the scenery or the person and go on shooting without noticing that you are shooting with earlier settings which may not match what you want from the present scene.

Hence friends always remember to clear earlier settings from your camera before you set out for photography outing.

Once in a while restore the factory settings. You will find this utility in your camera menu. Why I suggest that many a time we or some of our well-meaning friends change the settings without realizing the effect it will have on the photographs. Hence restore your camera to factory settings if you are not sure about correct settings !

Happy clicking friends !!

When to upgrade your gear ?

This question rankles the mind of every serious photographer ? Before considering this question, let us analyse the reasons for upgrading the gear :

1. Change in technology for better picture quality

2. Inadequacy of the gear for your photography

3. simply getting fed-up of the camera and gear you have

4. Mine should always be better than my neighbour’s / friends gear

Now let us take the reasons one by one. If you are upgrading just because of change in technology, then always remember that technology changes so often that if you are to keep pace with it then you should be a moneybag. The technology of today is outmoded within a very short span of time. Hence just for the sake of technology do not change your gear often. Use the gear you have fully, explore its various facilities fully. And only when you have mastered the equipment you have, then you may opt for higher technology.

The second reason, inadequacy of the gear, stems out of impulse buying of the camera. Without first ascertaining your requirements do not rush to buy the camera. For example, if you want to go in for wild-life photography then you may have to go for high zoom lenses with camera capable of shooting higher frames per second. Discuss the purchase with your friendly camera dealer, or photography Guru before you put your money on it.

Some people change the gear just because they get fed-up of using the same old camera very quickly. Such people also buy things on impulse. Think for a while, do you really require to change the gear, if your work requires it, then only change.

The fourth reason, i recently came to know from one of our friends from Kolhapur, who was recounting an encounter at a camera shop in Kolhpaur. A well-to-do person rushed into the shop and said give me the latest camera and lens. The dealer gave him the combo kit of latest offering from a camera company. When he saw two kit lenses he brushed them aside and said ” no, not these lenses…..my neighbour has a half meter long and big diameter lens and i want that…….only………no matter what it costs !!” This person may not even know how to hold a camera, but only because he has oodles of money, he is buying it…!  Never, never do it… !

Some people change the lens so often that in the process they loose lot of money. If you are going in for higher zoom then wait, think about it for a minute. For example if you are upgrading from 55-250 mm to 70-300 mm, then what you are getting is just 50 mm extra, which will not make much difference.The 50 mm difference can be made up by walking few paces up to the thing you are shooting. This will also keep you fit…!!!  But if one is upgrading to more higher mm lens or  for better and sharper lens with lower aperture , then the matter is different.

Lastly, before buying camera and lots of lenses, take all pros and cons of that particular brand into account, as buying camera with lots of lenses can be compared to marriage………..once you choose your model then you are stuck-up with it for long…long time, unless you are ready to pay the price !!!

 

Photographer’s Best Friend

You may wonder, who he/she could be ? is he the one who advises him about photography tricks and techniques ? it he the dealer who supplies him camera gear and accessories ? or is she, your wife/girl-friend/ or your son/daughter who accompany you on photographic trips and quietly endure your countless tantrums and occasional spending spree for newer equipment ?

Friends, you take for granted all these people, even though your photography is because of them. Say thank you to all of them for helping you……. however there is a piece of equipment  which we call photographer’s best friend and it is a three legged piece of metal……..called tripod !

Well friends why we call it a best friend ? Simply because, without them, you end up with many missed shots…full of blurred images. The images definitely look tad sharp when you view them on LCD screen of your camera, but when you see them on your computer screens, you realize that you missed a memorable shot !

Hence, friends before buying any other accessory, go for a tripod ! However, here you remember that your tripod should be sturdy enough to support your camera and lens firmly. It should be light enough to carry it around where ever you go .

Here remember that your tripod should be able to support twice the weight of your camera plus lens. The recent carbon fiber tripods are very sturdy and light , but they cost a packet. The next best thing is aluminium tripods. Look  for bigger diameter legs, smaller diameter legs may give-in if burdened beyond capacity.

Tripod improves your photography beyond imagination……..the reason is technical…..but there is another reason, which is …….well think about it and let me know….i will disclose it next time ! so with that go out and shoot…shoot and shoot …!