July 12, 2009

Shoot without Looking


A recent camera club project asked the members to photograph a subject from as many angles as possible and then select five different viewpoints to show at the next meeting. My favorites are included in this post, but the main reason I'm sharing them is that I returned to a technique I've only dabbled with in the past --- purposely not looking through the viewfinder or at the LCD screen when shooting.


The main reason was necessity. I was intent on photographing some daisies in a public flower bed and didn't want to trample on them. But the angle I was most interested in created backlighting that made the petals translucent. I wanted a low angle close to the flowers, but I couldn't lie down in the flower bed to get my result.


Instead I set my compact digital camera on macro focusing and just held the camera below the flowers, pointing the lens in the appropriate direction. I pressed the shutter button halfway, listened for a double-beep that confirmed that the camera was able to focus, then took the shot. I checked the results on the screen, then tried again, adjusting the camera position according to the results I got the shot before. My favorite is the one below.


In this particular instance, I was shooting below my usual eye level, but I could just as easily have held the camera at arm's length above the flowers (an angle I didn't try) for a different perspective.


If you like to take candid street photos, you can literally "shoot from the hip" by holding your camera at your side and taking the shot. In this situation, you might also want to turn on continuous shooting or burst mode to take a series of photos.

It's the compact digital camera's design that makes this so easy. (You can also do it with a digital SLR and a wide angle lens; it's just heavier.) My camera (a Canon Powershot A570 IS) is lightweight and easy to hold with one hand. All compact digital cameras have lots of depth of field (the amount of the scene from near to far that appears in focus), especially when the zoom is set to wide angle. This ensures that you can get a photo with nearly everything in focus, even if you aren't sure where the camera is focusing.


So the next time you think you can't get the shot because you can't get your body into position, think again. If you can put the camera in the right place, you may get the shot, or an even better one, after all!

A Professional's Process

Whether we consider ourselves beginning or experienced photographers, most of us are curious about how other photographers whose work we admire create their images. On the Luminous Landscape website, I recently read an article by Art Wolfe describing how he "fumbled" his way to the image he wanted. Take a look and discover that pros' images don't pop out of the camera fully formed on the first click of the shutter!

July 3, 2009

Night Sky Photos

Northern Lights
Missoula, Montana
November, 2004
Canon 10D

I've been making plans to photograph the fireworks again this year. All my thinking about exposures for bright things in a night sky reminded me of photographing celestial objects like the moon, a lunar eclipse or a comet, all of which I've done. Then I came across a great article, by Porter's Camera of Iowa, that contains very good tips about photographing the night sky (also called "astrophotography").

Hale-Bopp Comet
Missoula, Montana
April, 1997
Kodak Gold 400 Film
Cropped from Original

A tip of my own that doesn't get mentioned is to use the spot or partial metering mode on your camera for pictures of the moon. If you point the spot metering area at the moon, the camera will not be fooled by all the black sky surrounding it. An average or slightly brighter (no more than +1) exposure should give you good results.

Lunar Eclipse
Missoula, Montana
October, 2004
Canon 10D
Cropped from Original

And remember, a tripod is essential for these kinds of pictures because of the long exposure times involved. A remote release (cable release) or a 2-second self-timer setting is also useful since they keep you from jiggling the camera during the exposure.

Have fun in the night sky!

Northern Lights
Missoula, Montana
November, 2004
Canon 10D