Photo insights january '16

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An eMagazine devoted to inspiring photography and Photoshop techniques written and published by Jim Zuckerman.

Text of Photo insights january '16

  • 1 P H O T O I N S I G H T SJim Zuckermans

    January 2016

    Anatomy of Eight PhotographsCanvas sizePhoto toursNegative spaceStudent showcase

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    4. Anatomy of eight photographs 18. Canvas size 21. Whats wrong with this picture? 23. Short and sweet 26. Ask Jim 27. Photography tours 29. Negative space 34. Student showcase 38. Back issues

    On the cover: A baby harp seal laughing at a private joke, Magdalene Islands, Nova Scotia, Canada. On this page: An abandoned cabin in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado

  • M any people think bigger is better with pretty much everything. Thats certainly true with diamonds, vacation time, and bowls of ice cream, but is it true with megapixel counts? The new Canon 5DS R 50.6 megapixel camera makes me ask this question.For most photographers, I would argue that 50 megapixels is overkill. Most of us dont enlarge our images to make monster prints. If you happen to be in the billboard business, then sure, the camera is essential. If you sell your work in art fairs or galleries, this camera would be fantastic. Also, if your passion is shooting birds and you find that you often have to crop your pictures to fill the frame with a small bird, having 50 MP is a great advantage.

    There is a price to be paid, though, for having such incredible resolution. The frame rate is only 5 frames per second. If you only shoot landscapes, portraits, and architecture, this is fine. But for wildlife, sports, and especially birds, this is way too slow. You will miss too many shots. Having all of those megapixels also means you need more and more hard drives to store the images as well as larger flash cards, and working on the huge files in Photoshop takes longer due to the comput-ing power needed to render plugin filters, etc. Youll have to buy more RAM or possibly a newer, faster computer.

    Viewing images on the LCD monitor on the back of the camera also takes longer because of the extra data the cameras processor has to display.

    If you are tempted by the bigger-is-better mind set, think carefully about the kind of photography you do and what you really need out of a camera.

    Jim Zuckermanwww.jimzuckerman.com

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    Anatomy of Eight Photographs

    Every time you take a picture, several decisions have to be made simultaneously: what shutter speed to use; what f/stop is cor-rect; what ISO is ideal; how much expo-sure compensation is needed, if any; how to prevent blown highlights and shadows with no detail; what is the best exposure mode to use; what autofocus function will insure that the subject is sharp; and what, if any, Photoshop work will be required.

    Thats a lot of decision making! And when you have to make those decisions in a split

    second, its easy to get confused and over-whelmed and miss out on capturing a great photo opportunity.

    What follows are eight photographic situa-tions and a discussion of the strategies I used to get the results you see here.

    1. White Horses of the Camargue, Provence, France

    Most of my pictures of these horses taken during workshops were done with a tele-photo lens. I wanted to try something differ-

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    ent, so I switched to a 24-105mm zoom. This did two things. It showed a huge expanse of sky, and it produced an environmental shot as opposed to capturing the horses with a tight composition.

    The first decision here was shutter speed. I wanted to freeze the action, complete with sharp water drops and flying manes. Had I used a telephoto, the shutter speed would have had to be very fast -- in the 1/2000th range -- because telephotos magnify move-ment. Because I used a 24mm focal length, I could get away with 1/640th. That meant that the ISO didnt have to be extremely high. 400 ISO is what I used.

    The lens aperture I chose was f/18. I could have gotten away with a larger opening due to the wide angle lens and its incredible DOF, but this was fine. It insured that the immedi-ate foreground as well as the distant sky were both sharp. This was essential.

    For the exposure mode, I chose Program. With fast moving subjects and with precious little time to think about all of these numbers, Program mode is a good choice. It wasnt the only choice here, but as long as the shutter speed was fast enough per the ISO selection, Program worked because its biased to pro-ducing a very fast shutter.

    Because I was shooting into the sun, I was concerned that the image might be underex-posed. Therefore, before the horses ran, I did a test shot in which I composed the picture mostly with sky. With minus 2/3 f/stop ex-posure compensation, my usual camera set-ting to protect the vulnerable highlights in a scene, I felt the picture was a bit dark. There, I brightened the image a little by using minus 1/3 f/stop compensation. As you can see, the

    horses are a bit dark. But in this context with the sky correctly exposed, I was happy.

    Yes, the highlighted area of the sun is completely blown out, but thats correct. The sun has no de-tail at all as seen from Earth and captured with our photographic equipment. What I didnt want was a larger area of the sky to be solid white.

    2. Evening view of Shanghai, China

    Most of my photo tours to China begin in Shanghai because its such a stunning city to photograph, and this is one example. I took this picture from an observation deck on the 100th floor of the Shanghai World Financial Center.

    Twilight and night are the most beautiful times

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    to photograph any city, and that requires a tripod, of course. A tripod means that the shutter speed is no longer a consideration for cityscapes (unless there are imporant elements moving in the scene, such as fireworks). If the exposure were 1/30th of a second or 4 seconds, it wouldnt matter because the pictures would be sharp due to the stability of the camera.

    However, it was important to use either a cable release or the self-timer built into the camera. With slow shutter speeds, you dont want to push the shutter button with your finger be-cause youll possibly introduce subtle move-ment in the camera that can blur the image.

    The lens aperture, also, wasnt important be-cause depth of field was not relevant since ev-erything was far away. There was one caveat, though. I was shooting through glass, and if there were any dirt or grime on the outside of

    the window, this needed to be completely out of focus. Therefore, the ideal was a large lens aperture for shallow depth of field. Because of this, I chose aperture priority and chose the largest aperture possible on my 24-105mm lens, which is f/4. This produced a shutter speed of 1/2 second. Since I had the luxury of a tripod, I selected 100 ISO for a minimum of digital noise.

    The challenge here, though, was the angle of the glass window. It was not perpendicular to the lens axis due to the design of the building and also because the camera was angled down-ward. The reason this presented a problem was because the lights inside the observation deck behind me were reflecting in the glass.

    To deal with that, I placed the lens up against the window. I could still see a few unwanted light reflections, and to eliminate them I had to

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    block the gap between the edge of the lens and the glass. I did this with the microfiber lens cleaning cloth I always carry.

    When shooting at night, blown highlights are common. Street lamps, large neon signs, and distant windows often blow out due to the ex-treme contrast you see when shooting at night. You can deal with that using HDR, or you can accept it because it adds glitz to a scene. In this case, I opted to accept the blown highlights.

    3. Snowy owl in flight

    To capture the beauty of a bird in flight, the pic-ture must be sharp. Blurring motion shots of birds to show the fluidity of movement is a nice exercise in creating abstracts, but those kinds of pictures dont inspire the awe and apprecia-tion that tack sharp actions shots do.

    The choice of shutter speed, then, is the first decision you have to make. When it comes to photographing birds, what separates tack sharp pictures from all the others are the wing tip feathers. If they are sharp, then everything will be perfectly sharp as well. Snowy owls dont flap their wings as fast as hummingbirds or sparrows, but the need for a fast shutter is still paramount. For the picture below, I selected 1/3200th of a second.

    In addition to shutter speed, I also wanted a cer-tain amount of depth of field because the fairly large birds have depth. I didnt want the face to be sharp and the tail soft, and I definitely didnt want the tail to be sharp while the face was soft. I was using the new Canon 100-400mm lens lens, so I selected f/11 as the lens aperture. I mentally calculated that given the distance of the shooting position to the owls and the fo-

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    UPCOMING PHOTO WORKSHOPS

    Carnival in Venice, ItalyJan. 29 - Feb. 4, 2016

    Outrageous costumes in a medieval en-vironment! Venice is beautiful any time, but during carnival its beyond amazing.

    Frog & Reptile Workshop Close-up encounters with poison dart frogs and exotic reptiles in St. Louis, MO.

    May 21 - 22, 2016

    Home Photoshop workshopLearn amazing techniques that will give you unparalleled control over your images such as replacing the sky, making compos-ites, using layers, and more.

    April 2 - 3, 2016

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    cal length I was using, f/11 would give me the depth of field I needed for the bird. Given the laws of optics, there was no way I could render the distant trees sharp as well, but as it turned out, I wouldnt want them sharp because that would be to