One of the disadvantages of photography is that it is a snapshot in time based on the shutter speed. As photographers, we can choose freeze time by using a very fast shutter speed, or slow down time by using a slow shutter speed.
This is a composite image, of three sets of three photos (slow, medium and fast shutter speed ie: HDR) all combined together into one.
Why ?. The advantage of combining image is to record the static (non-moving objects) and the blur of objects that moved based on the the speed of movement.
All photos taken with a Fuji X-E1 and XF14mm, at various shutter speeds with a Hoya 8xND and Hoya Polarizer, and processed in PhotoMatrixPro. Click on any image in the gallery to see it bigger, click on the small black arrows to scroll to the next image.
I confess, at times I dream about owning a Leica digital rangefinder M-E; German design, hand built precision engineering – think of the pure joy of owning a Porsche, Audi, or BMW. The price of a Leica M-E is a little steep (new price $4,700), which is almost half as much as it cost me to travel around the world for 10 months. And, that price is for the camera body only, add a Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH Lens – then tack on an additional $6,000.
I also dream about owning a Canon 5dMark III, or a Nikon 810 with a 36mp million pixel sensor, multi-point autofocus array, matrix metering, Full HD video recording, ultra high ISO, built in flash, external flash control and super high shutter speed (1/8000). Despite dreaming about the other cameras, I am not complaining about my Fuji-X camera, it is small, light, certainly more stealthy than a large DSLRs.
But the camera I am talking about is my newest camera. It is a F-I-L-M camera (yes kids, one of those cameras that you have to open to put in a small container and load the thin plastic sheet; if you loaded it correctly, you can take up to 36 photos, then remove the film and have it developed…). It is a Revue-3 rangefinder camera, consider it the great grandparent of the Leica M-E (copied by the Russians after World War 2).
Compared to the Leica M-E, Canon 5dMark III, Nikon D810 and my Fuji-X cameras – there are a lot of things the Revue-3 does not have have;
It isn’t Digital
No Light Meter
No WiFi upload
No flash sync
No +/- exposure compensation dial
No Auto white balance (or any adjustment for white balance)
No adjustment for ISO
Not even a neckstrap (or anywhere to attach one)
It doesn’t have any exposure modes (Program, Automatic, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Portrait, Fireworks, Beach, Snow etc…), actually, it doesn’t even have any electronics.
Despite all the things it doesn’t have – Is your camera better than mine – or Not.
Most or all, the (Revue-3) camera doesn’t have anything – I am 100% in control.
I do not have a light meter – adjusting for the correct shutter speed an aperture are based on my knowledge, my experience to manually set exposure (shutter speed and aperture; there is no setting for ISO).
So – Really, is your camera better than mine ?. You decide. For me, the bare bones simplicity of the Revue-3 is my way of learning. There is no option to rely on a computer programmed to recognize light conditions to set, or suggest the correct exposure. Through experience and some trail and error – I am learning about exposure, about the quality and intensity of light, learning about the balance of foreground light and background light, learning about exposure in sunny conditions and exposure in cloudy conditions, and most of all learning about myself – how I see the light.
I do not expect that many of my exposures will be correct, or that the image will be in correct focus. What I do expect, is that the process of taking my time to really look at the scene before me, and examining the light, thinking about the balance between the highlights and the shadows, thinking about the direction of light and how it will effect exposure, thinking about shutter speed and how it affects exposure.
And, when I go back to using a fully computerized digital camera, it will instantly display the ‘correct’ exposure. Not only will my computer – (the one in my head), have a more in-depth knowledge and understanding of what all the numbers on the LCD screen mean and why they were chosen. My computer, based on experience gained using a camera without a light meter, will also be able to suggest other values for aperture and shutter speed to over-ride the computer in the camera for an exposure that is more meaningful to me.
And to those of you that snicker and giggle when you see me taking my time – taking a long time (sometime a long, long time) to think about exposure while you simply push the button on your auto-everything cameras…
So Is Your Camera (Really) better than mine – Or Not.
During the past few months, I’ve travelled from Canada to Thailand, Australia, Nepal and Turkey by airplane. As we all know, large commercial airplanes have ‘black boxes’ that record the parameters of flight such as altitude, engine performance and pilot conversations.
In many ways, my camera is also a black box. It records the parameters of the photo – shutter speed, aperture, time and date. However, unlike airplane black boxes, the camera does not record my conversation while composing the photo. Not that I talk out loud while composing a photo – Imagine for a moment that the camera could record my mental conversations, thoughts, and envision for what I am seeing in the scene in front of me.
Steve to camera – ‘I am taking this picture because…’
Steve to camera – ‘Lets slow down the shutter speed to blur the people walking by…’
Steve to camera – ‘What if I moved a bit to the left…’
Steve to camera – ‘Lets see what happens if we add +1 exposure to reduce the backlight …’
Carrying a tripod in Nepal almost got me shot by Nepal Police, and had Army soldiers walk by with ‘safety off’ on their rifles.
It all started in Nagrakot (an hours drive north of Kathmandu), while walking through a Police checkpoint. I’d passed through this check point several times before, even with my camera tripod attached to my backpack, and had no problems. On this fateful day, I was carrying the tripod in my hand as I approached the checkpoint. At about 10 meters away the Police suddenly, and without warning started shouting at me, and pointed his rifle at my chest. I could not understand what he was saying – though the way he was waving his rifle, is seemed to mean …’drop ….drop’. With my eyes locked on the rifle, I slowly moved my arms away from my body, and lowered the tripod and placed it on its legs on the ground. In my right hand, I was holding my camera with a wrist strap. I placed the camera on the tripod, and carefully slid off the wrist strap and backed away. Seconds later, though it seemed like forever, another Policeman came running from behind me. He was angry, really angry and saying ‘camera…click..click’. I thought I was going to piss my pants. The second Policeman ran in front of me toward the first Policeman still with the rifle pointed at me, yelling something. The first Policeman then lowered his rifle (a World War 2 vintage Lee Enfield), then spat on the ground and flicked his thumb toward the path and went inside his guard post !.
A few hours later, walking along the main road and passing a military base I saw a small hill on the other side of the rood. The small hill overlooked the valley below and had a superb view of the mountains in the distance. I headed over, checked out the view, took a few pictures, had a snack. The moment I unstrapped the camera tripod from my backpack – three soldiers came running over. Fortunately, none were carrying weapons. One said – “You are not allowed to be here”, to which I replied “I am sorry, there were no fences or signs”. He smiled, and said, “Yes – you are correct”. As we walked back to the road, we talked about Canada, and his memories of eating ‘beaver tails’ in Ottawa. We shook hands and he went back to his guard post.
Not even 20 minutes later still walking along the same road, a group of approximately 30 Nepali soldiers approached. Again, I was carrying the camera in one hand, and the tripod in the other hand. Each soldier was carrying a rifle – the very same rifles that I had used as a young cadet in the Canadian Armed Forces 17 years ago. These were the FN FAL rifles, and as each soldier walked past, I could see that the safety switch was set to ‘Off’, and their index fingers were resting on the trigger guard. These soldiers were ready for shooting !. Through the corner of my sunglasses, I could see that they were not lokig at my eyes, but at the tripod in my arm. Not wanting to disturb them, the best thing to do was to continue, and not make any sudden movements, or stop to attach the tripod to my backpack.
So – be warned. To the eyes of a Nepali Policeman or Nepali Soldier – a camera tripod is a threat, and if you are not careful, carrying a camera tripod can be hazardous to your Health.
On the night of the full moon of the twelve-month of the Thai lunar calendar in Chaing Mai, is the Loy Krathong festival. Although the festival continues for three days, it is the evening events that are the most spectacular.
The night sky is filled with thousands of lanterns, fireworks, firecrackers, the streets packed with people, and parade of dancers and elaborately decorated floats pass through the city streets, and Krathong (small floats made from banana leaves and decorated with flowers and a candle), launched in the Mae Ping River on the full moon night to bring good luck.
Before you answer – think about what do Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Salvador Dali and Rembrandt have in common ?.
None of these painters were ‘one hit wonders’; their career and popularity was not based on a single painting. They went to school, learned from the masters, imitated the masters, and developed their own techniques, and most importantly, they practiced their technique…they painted, and painted and painted.
The same for can be said for photographers. Annie Leibovitz, Joe McNally, Ansel Adams, Yousuf Karsh, Henri Cartier-Bresson were not ‘one hit wonders’; each of these photographers took large numbers of photos during their lifetime.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers’ he claims that the key to success in any field is, is for the most part due to practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. The same concept applies to photographers;
“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”
― Henri Cartier-Bresson
With modern cameras, you can hold down the shutter release and easily take 10,000 photos. By the math, with a camera that can take 7 frames per second it would take 1428 seconds (or only 24 minutes). Doing this doesn’t achieve anything other than get a blister on your thumb !.
Those 10,000 photos need to be creative, they need intellectual thought, emotion and consideration of point of view, angle, shutter speed, aperture, composition, subject, and lighting. These are but a few things to consider.
Those 11,973 photos – is is enough, or not enough ?. It is not all about the numbers; practice and experience is better.
The take-away message is:
Don’t count the number of photos.
It is better to enjoy what you are doing, learn from what you are doing and and the end of the day, keep only the best.
Be like the monkey in this photo with a bag of garbage: eat (keep) the good stuff, and toss the rest.
For those that follow this Blog – You know that I like to modify and build custom tools for my camera gear.
A couple of years ago I fell in love with the look of long exposure black and white images that are both in focus and anything moving like waves on beach, waterfalls are gently blurred. The photos I’d seem were all taken with a LEE “Big Stopper” 10 stop Neutral Density (ND) filter all taken in the middle of the day!. Neutral Density filters reduce the amount of light entering the camera lens, making it possible to get long exposure times needed to blur moving water, clouds and my favorite, boats and airplanes tied up to a dock. ND filters are made by several manufactures; such as B+W, Cokin, Hoya, Singh-ray and LEE in either a circular screw-in filter, or as a sheet of glass that slides into a holder. ND filters are not cheap, and good quality ND filters can cost a couple hundred dollars.
Several bloggers have described how to use welding glass as a ND filter to achieve a similar effect by blocking out light so you can shoot day time long exposures. Using welding glass as a ND Filter is not a new idea. So – keen to do some experimenting, I bought a piece of 4¼ x 3¼ welding glass from a local hardware store for $10.
If you want to use welding glass as a ND filter, there are a couple of things to know.
1) Welder’s glass filters come in different strengths from 6 stop to 13 stops. Other grades of welding glass are:
#8 = 10 stops,
#9 = 11.5 stops
#10 = 13 stops
Choose a strength depending upon your needs, remembering that a #10 needs much more light than a #9 filter. The welding glass that I got was a #10 grade and it is tinted a dark shade of green.
2) Welding glass filters are designed to fit standard size welding masks, not photography (Cokin and LEE) filter holders. With typical exposure times between 2 to 5 minutes, you don’t want to be hand holding the filter. One way to attach the filter to lens is with thick rubber bands, around the sides of the welding glass and around the lens hood. Depending on your lens hood, it might be easier to flip the lens hood backwards so the petals are facing towards the back of the camera (typical storage position) and hook the rubber bands around two petals. Or, if this doesn’t work, some folks wrap the elastic bands around the back of the camera.
3) Welding glass filters are very reflective and any light leaks will cause lens flare (streaking or bright spots). To avoid this problem, simply attach the filter to the lens using one of the methods described above, then drape a dark light-proof cloth over the camera, lens, and the corners of the welder’s glass to prevent light from leaking in through the crack in between your lens and the glass.
4) The fourth problem with using Welding glass filters is getting rid of the green hue. We will show you how to get rid of this in post-processing below.
What you need to make long exposure images
• Digital camera with the ability to shoot in bulb mode
• Camera lens – any lens will work, except ultra wide angle and fisheye lenses.
• Welding glass filter
• Thick rubber bands – I use the thick blue rubber bands from produce
• Light-proof cloth –
• Remote shutter release. Since the maximum exposure time on most digital cameras is 30 seconds, adding a remote shutter release will allow you to get an exposure time longer than 30 seconds.
• Viewfinder cover for camera – to prevent stray light from entering
• Stop watch to time the exposure length.
Taking long exposures with a Welding Glass Filter
1) Find a scene with movement in it, like water, clouds, or people.
2) Set your camera up on your tripod and compose your shot. After adding the welding glass, you will not be able to see out of your viewfinder.
3) Set camera to manual exposure, RAW, auto white balance and autofocus off. RAW setting allows more colour adjustment during post-processing (see notes below). Focus, then set autofocus off to prevent the lens from searching for focus once the welding filter is attached. Set lens aperture to f/10-13, and lowest normal ISO.
4) Take a picture. View the image on the viewfinder and adjust exposure time if required.
5) Attach the welding glass to your lens (see notes above).
6) Cover the lens and the welding glass, and close the viewfinder eyepiece to help prevent light leaking into your lens (see notes above).
7) Attach the remote shutter release.
8) Set the camera to bulb mode, and estimate exposure based on the grade of the welding glass filter, and adding the appropriate exposure time to the previous exposure time. For example, if you are using a 10 stop ND and the first exposure was 1/125s second, then set the new exposure to 8 seconds. See the exposure chart below.
9) Take a picture using estimate exposure time. Depending on your shutter release, you might have to hold the shutter release the whole time. My shutter release, a Nikon MC-30 has a lock switch so I can lock the shutter open for long exposures.
10) View the photo on the LCD. Do not worry about the greenish color – that will be removed later. If the image is too light, add 30 seconds to the previous exposure time, of too dark – remove 30 seconds from the exposure time. There is no exact science to how long your exposure should be, but I’ve found that exposures in the 3 to 5 minute range work well.
11) Repeat if necessary to get correct exposure.
Post Processing: Removing the Green Color Cast
To remove the tint made by the welding glass, you can either turn it into a black and white image, or do some extra steps to re-create the colors in Photoshop or Lightroom. The reason for shooting in RAW is that White Balance can be modified in Lightroom and Photoshop.
To convert the images to Black & White
This is the easiest. Simply import the RAW files into Lightroom and Convert the image to black and white. Tweek the image as necessary to remove dust spots, adjust exposure, adjust contrast, sharpness, and highlights using the sliders in the basic panel.
To re-create Color:
To re-create colors is a lot more work, and these are the settings that I use in Lighroom. (thanks to DazJW https://www.flickr.com/groups/weldingmaskglassfilter/discuss/72157626691948810/).
-Profile: Adobe Standard
-Shadows, Tint: +2
-Red Primary, Saturation: +19
Another way is to create Custom Camera Profile. I did not use this technique, though you can follow the links below to see how it is done.
Fifteen Kilobytes of Fame <http://15kb.blogspot.ca/> Saturday, 7 May 2011 Welding Glass and White Balance. <http://15kb.blogspot.ca/2011/05/welding-glass-and-white-balance.html>
DIY Photography <http://www.diyphotography.net/> Hacking Photography – one Picture at a time.
For $10, a welding glass filter used as a neutral density filter is a lot of fun, and goes a long way to re-creating the look of long exposure photographs taken during the mid-day sun. Are the results as good as a Pro-quality neutral density filter ? – probably not, though with a little bit of effort and a few precautions, the results are superb.
When the Light isn’t Right: Photography in low light or too much light.
Any keen photographer will tell you that the best light for photography is the ‘magic-hour’ at sunrise and at sunset, and that mid-day or low-light photography should be avoided. For the rest of us, there is a whole day in between and, like it or not, it is our only opportunity to get photos. We simply can’t put life on-hold to wait for the so-called magic-hour. So, how do you get good photos when the light isn’t Right ?.
At any given light, good light or bad light, camera exposure is based on three variables;
Shutter speed (how long the shutter is open). Faster shutter speeds can freeze motion are used when there is good light, where as slower shutter speeds blur moving objects. You might have already noticed that some of you low light photos are blurry. This is because a slow shutter speed is required in low light conditions to allow enough light into the camera for proper exposure. Unless you have a tripod, the shutter speed should be 1/ the focal length of the lens, e.g. a 250mm lens would require a minimum shutter speed of 1/250sec.
Aperture (how much light comes in the lens). In good light conditions, the lens can be intentionally stopped-down (higher aperture number) to reduce the amount of light entering the camera, and increase the depth of field.
ISO or film speed (how sensitive the sensor of film is to light). Lower the ISO the better. Higher ISO (800, 1200 and higher) adjust the sensitivity of the camera sensor of film to be more sensitive to light, so that photos can be taken is lower light conditions. Unfortunately, this means more more digital noise, and photos that look murky or muddy.
Adding light by using a flash changes everything. Most digital cameras have built-in flash, so you always have a flash when you need extra light. The down side of built-in flash is the quality of light; harsh and people will have red-eye.
If you can, buy a hand held flash unit and a cable to connect the flash to the camera or wireless trigger. This is called off-camera flash. Once you get into it – there is no going back.
As mentioned above, adding flash (assuming off-camera flash), changes everything for camera exposure. Depending on your camera, flash units are synched to fire at 1/60, 1/125 or 1/250 of a second. If you set your shutter speed higher than your camera’s synch speed the image will be black, or partially black since the flash fired while the the shutter was already closing.
When using a flash, your can set the camera to Auto, or Program and let the camera work out the correct exposure, or set the camera to M for Manual so you can maximize the creative opportunity to over or under expose the background and make the foreground have more ‘Pop’.
In Manual mode
1) Set the shutter speed to the camera’s flash sync speed. You might have to refer to the camera manual to determine your cameras sync speed.
2) Point the camera at the background and set aperture according to the cameras light meter. Do not adjust the ISO – low number is better. The camera is now set to the correct exposure for the background. Some photographers call this “ambient exposure”.
3) Now turn on your flash. It can be set to automatic (TTL) where the flash power is controlled by the camera. This is useful for moving subjects. Setting the flash to Manual means that the flash power is controlled by you. This mode is most useful for portraits, or where you want to fine tune the exposure.
Assuming that you want control over the flash power, now it gets really fun and also a bit complicated. One step at a time.
a) Flash in manual mode means you control the Flash Power. Typical flash power settings are 1/1 (full power), 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16.
b) Off camera flash means you control the Direction of the flash hitting the subject.
c) Off camera flash means you control the Flash-Subject Distance. Flash held closer to the subject means less flash power is needed, distant subjects will require more flash power for proper exposure.
d) Assuming that your camera is also in Manual mode, with shutter speed set to sync speed. The lens Aperture (controls how much light enters the camera), and also be used to control exposure. If the subject is overexposed, then reduce the aperture (turn to higher aperture number) : e.g. change aperture f/5.6 to f/8. If the subject is underexposed, then increase aperture.
e) Other ways to change effect of the flash
1) How does the light from the flash hit the subject. Is the light harsh, creating dark shadows, or more soft with smooth transitions on the subject. Add a diffuser (e.g. softbox or umbrella) to reduce harsh shadows.
2) Coverage: is the flash directed at the entire subject, or only on a portion of the subject. Coverage can be modified (reduced) by zooming the flash, moving the flash closer to the subject, or adding a diffuser.
Go ahead – take a photo. See how it looks and make adjustments.
My Nikon SB-600 drains AA batteries like there is no tomorrow, and I am tired of replacing or re-charging batteries.
A quick internet search reveals many ways to replace AA batteries with larger, longer lasting batteries. The SB-600 flsh uses 4x AA (1.5 volt) batteries, which together add up to 6 volts.
Wooden dowel, the same width (or slightly narrower) than AA batteries
2 screws (size not important)
Wire (18 gauge speaker wire) from electronics store
6 volt square battery from hardware store.
Total cost $10.
The simplest way, is to make two fake batteries that fit into the battery slots on the flash. Cut two wooden dowels to the same length as AA batteries. Add a screw at one end of each wooden dowel and carve a narrow slot the length of the dowel to fit the wire. Strip approx 1 cm from the end of each wire, and wrap one wire clockwise around each wooden dowel (One dowel with a red wire, one dowel with a black wire). Tighten the screw around the wire. Place the wire in the slot and wrap with electrical tape.
Place the wooden plug with red wire into the (+) slot on the flash, and the black wire into the (-) slot.
Use the rubber bands (or tape) to partially close the door of the flash unit. The door will not close completely since it was not designed to have wires hanging out, however, the door must be closed enough to keep the screw on the wooden plug in-contact with the springs in the bottom of the battery holder.
Cut the remaining wire to the appropriate length, what ever length you decide is best. Strip approx 1 cm from each end. Attach the red wire to the (+) prong of the battery, and the black wire to the (-) prong on the battery. If you get it mixed up, it should not fry your flash. I tested mine. Instead of the large 6 volt cube battery, you can also use four ‘C’ and ‘D’ cells wired together.
Thanks to Matt Kenney’s post: Diy Photography.net, ‘Power your flash with a flashlight’.
As photographers we are on the sidelines using our cameras to capture the moment and capture the action. As an active person, naturally, we want to participate in sport activities.
However, in my experience, cameras and active sports do not seem to go together very well. I been frustrated with cameras since they were not designed for active participation in sport activities. Large SLR’s require two hands to operate, and most point-n-shoot cameras didn’t have suitable image quality. Neither camera types are rugged and waterproof. Actually, during the past 20 years, I have destroyed (and drowned) a few cameras trying to combine sport and photographing the action.
In August 2011 I bought a GoPro camera. It is small (fits in the palm of my hand), waterproof, has an interval timer, and HD video. Additional specifics can be found on the GoPro website (http://gopro.com/). For a photographer, the GoPro has one setting – On or Off, and does not have any user adjustable exposure settings. Also, it only comes with one lens. Are these limitations ?. No, since they free the photographer to concentrate on the photo, and not be burdened with adjusting exposure or wondering if they are using the right lens for the situation. For an active person wanting to photograph sports events, the GoPro accessories are available for attaching to bicycle handlebars, seat posts, helmets, a head and chest harness, and using the stick-on brackets can be attached to almost anything. The small size of the GoPro and the variety of available (and easily customized) brackets and harness allow a full range of movement for any sport or activity.
Now, the photographer can be in the action, photograph the action, and no longer burdened by a camera*.
In-Action Photography* refers to photography where the photographer is photographing the action while in the action. This differes from Action Photography, which is photography of an action (e.g. sports event) and does not specifically refer to the photographer being part of the action.
All the photos on this page were captured by the photographer. Downhill skiing photos captured using a GoPro on a chest harness, and kite skiing photos by a GoPro attached on the ski tip using a custom bracket. Click on the photos to make them larger.