Using Aperture

– What does f-stop or aperture number do?

– It determines the depth of sharpness area of the image, or depth of field!

Shallow or wide strips of sharpness are obtained by using different f-stops. Shallow depth of field (using smaller f-stop numbers) means that the area of sharpness is very small and all other objects including nearer or farther objects are blurred in the image. Obviously, larger sharpness area is obtained as depth of field becomes deeper (using larger f-stop numbers). So, you can capture an object in near and far distance as sharp as it is, and leave everything else blurry. In contrast, you can capture a landscape with everything sharp in it, from near to far distance.

Nature Painting (NIKON D610, f/4, 1/250 sec, ISO400, Nikkor 70-200 @ 200mm)
Nature Painting (NIKON D610, f/4, 1/250 sec, ISO400, Nikkor 70-200 @ 200mm)

Image story: A pleasant Saturday morning walk in Victoria park, Auckland city, New Zealand. End of winter and there was no leaves on trees. These beautiful seeds, like black dots in white lines of tree branches made me think of using a shallow depth of field to capture the beauty of a single dot in a shot! I set the aperture of my lens on its widest, f/4, and shoot a dot. The original background of the image was green and I lightly touched the Hue of background to make this nature paint more eye catching.

– Roohollah

Lines in Photography

– What is the impact of lines in photography?

– Lines contribute to the composition and mood of image!

Lines can create two-dimensional or even delusional three-dimensional environment in an image. Different properties of lines such as their angles, directions, density, curves, color, and thickness can significantly impact on image composition and mode. Although horizontal and vertical lines can create sense of stability, peace of mind, and permanency in an image, other types including perspective, angular, and irregular lines can act completely different as emotional triggers and attention grabbers (read this article for more details). Add to the list, lines can cooperate with other objects to put them in center of attention, push them to background, reduce or emphasis their impact, or simply fill their surrounding space.

Blue lines (Sony DSLR-A350, f/5.6, 1/250 sec, ISO320, Sony AF DT 18-250 @ 140mm)

Image story: Workers in general, and specifically painters bring peace and beauty into our daily life. I took this photo in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia in my only trip to East Malaysia. I used parallel vertical lines together with emphasize on blue color to bring sense of peace into the image. On the other hand, I kept the simplicity of the image by removing unnecessary colors. This also helped me to transfer my message that “they bring color into our life, no matter how grey their life might be.”

– Roohollah

Shooting Rain

– How can I shoot rain?

– Adjust shutter speed to convert rain drops to lines!

Shooting in rain is challenging, mainly because of possible gear damage due to wet environment. Also, lightness and contrast are not great in cloudy sky that make it hard to get bright and sharp images. However, every moment of life is worthy to be captured, because of its uniqueness. So, there is no excuses to not to shoot rain! Lets back to the subject, shooting rain! As we discussed before, the most important thing about moving objects is their speed. As the object moves faster, your camera shutter speed has to be faster to freeze it, or you will end up with a blurry object. Rain drops are liquid objects fall from the clouds and if we freeze them by fast enough shutter speed, small pixels of water will be appeared in photo. If you try it out, you will find out that the result is nothing but a noisy image. So, how to capture real rain? It’s simple, slow down shutter speed to convert falling drops to small lines of water. This will help you to show rain in photo the same as we see it by our eyes.

Gloomy Sky (Canon EOS 450D, f/5.6, 1/160 sec, ISO 200, Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS @ 55 mm)

Image story: Malaysian rain is really awesome. True tropical rain that makes you get wet in a few seconds. I took this photo in a rainy afternoon from the balcony of my apartment in level 5. So, there was no problem of getting wet and the height was enough to provide a great view. I used 1/160 sec shutter speed to make small rain lines from fast falling drops of rain. A little post processing made the rain lines clearer and easier to see.

In addition to adjusting shutter speed, there are some other tips that may help you to get better results. Using a tripod may help you to avoid blurry images, since you are slowing down shutter speed based on rain speed. Remember to not to fire flash, because the light will be reflected in water drops and you will get noisy image as a result. If you need more light, lower flash power and use deffuser to reduce the reflection. Adjusting f-stop is based on your desired depth of filed, so do it wisely. Last but not least is that focusing on a near object makes you able to capture nearer rain drops that are seen clearer and brighter.

– Roohollah

Shooting Moving Objects

– How can I shoot a moving object?

– Adjust your camera setting, look for the object path, follow it in view finder, and shoot!

If you like to shoot moving objects like kids, runners, cars, birds etc., this short note may help you to get better results. The most important thing about moving objects is their speed. As the object moves faster, your camera shutter speed have to be faster to freeze it. However, faster shutter speed means that you need brighter light source, higher ISO, or smaller f-stop (larger aperture) to maintain light balance of your image. Usually, this is not a problem in daylight and studio photography, however it would be a concern if you shoot in cloudy sky or at night. In these situation, you may use your camera flash, an external light source, or consider to use higher ISO or smaller f-stop (larger aperture) if possible.

Free bird (Canon EOS 550D, f/6.3, 1/800 sec, ISO 100, Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6.3 IS USM @ 300 mm)

Image story: An amazing afternoon in Ponitian, Johor bahru, Malaysia. I saw this bird standing on a rock, preparing to take off! I looked around to see if it is possible to shoot it during its flight, and yes it was. So, using the shutter speed priority mode, adjusted shutter speed on 1/800 sec, I followed the bird in the camera view finder and shoot it several times during its flight. The sunny sky allowed me to use ISO 100, and the selected shutter speed (1/800 sec) along with f/6.3 (based on my lens aperture at 300 mm) gave me the required depth of field to have a sharp image of the bird from wing to wing. A crop and a little post processing gave me this image that I like to share with you.

After adjusting the camera setting, you should look for the object path. It means that you should be able to answer two questions as “where is it heading to?” and “can you follow it in view finder?”. If you are positive, use your camera view finder to follow the object and shoot. It is important that you be aware of other objects in the scene. For example, a great shot may be distracted by an annoying object in the background. Last but not lease is your decision to use continues or single shooting mode. It’s up to you to select one of them, but you should know that your choice does not have anything to do with shutter speed and blurry images. It means that if you get blurry images, you should re-adjust the camera setting (particularly using faster shutter speed) instead of shooting continuously.

– Roohollah

Shooting Lightning

– How can I shoot lightning?

– Set your camera and spend plenty of time!

Lightning is beautiful for some people and horrific for some others. I personally like it a lot! Specially, when it has strong voice and bright light.  To shoot lightning, you should be fully prepared. It means that you cannot shoot it only by chance, unlike what it seems.

Shooting lightning is fun (Canon EOS 450D, f/7.1, 14 sec, Canon EF-S 18-55 @ 28 mm, ISO 100)

Image story: I shoot this lightning in Malaysia. lightning is powerful, strong, and frequent there, so your chance to shoot one is high. In a rainy night, I decided to do some lightning photography. After some observation, I found an area with higher lightning occurrence and mounted my camera on my tripod aimed at that area. The setting was f/7.1, Canon EF-S 18-55 @ 28 mm, ISO 100, and bulb shutter for this shot. I was lucky to catch this lightning after 14 sec.

Some initial parameters that you should be aware of are the safety of yourself and your camera, suitable lens, focus, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and composition.

Your safety: You should be always aware of lightning hazard and do not put yourself in danger of hitting by one.

Your camera safety: If you are not a fan of water damaged camera and lens, you should set up your camera on a reliable tripod and cover it with plastic if there is a chance of getting wet.

Suitable lens: Before starting to shoot the scene, you should find an area with high chance of lightning. Since finding the exact area is not easy, you should use a wide lens on your camera to increase your chance of shooting lightning. So, a wide lens is an advantage.

Focus: You don’t probably believe that setting camera on auto focus would be the best idea when you shoot lightning! I agree with you!  Set focus on manual and focus on the nearest object to the lightning area (for example the tallest building that you saw lightning hit it many times) or simply set the focus on infinity.

Aperture: Shooting lightning is usually almost the same as shooting landscape in terms of depth of field. You need a great depth of field, so set the aperture on 7, 8 , or higher based on the distance between lightning and other objects in landscape.

Shutter speed: A big difference between landscape photography and shooting lightning is the shutter speed. Although you don’t need long exposure time to capture an strong light source like lightning bolt, you still need to use long shutter speed or bulb mode to trap one or more lightnings in your image. Since you don’t know when it comes, you need to shoot in bulb mode till you get your required result or set the shutter speed on 5, 6 or more seconds and continue shooting till you trap lightnings in one of the intervals. It means that you need to be patient and shoot consistently. Otherwise, you may loose the greatest lightning when your’e upset of shooting for several minutes. You may use a remote control if you don’t want to get tired soon.

ISO: High ISO numbers cause color dot noises in your image. If you like to avoid them, try lower ISO numbers and don’t be worry about the light source because it is strong enough to glow in your image. However, if you find that lightning bolts are not bright enough in your images, you may increase the ISO.

Composition: You may not see what exists in the field due to darkness. However, unwanted objects may popup after glowing of lightning. So, if your initial composition does not satisfy you, change the composition and wait for the next lightning.

– Roohollah

Apply Symmetry in Photography

– How can I apply symmetry in my photos?

– Look for balance in the weight, volume, light, color, or other properties of key parameters, you will find how!

Check the potential symmetry lines, surfaces, volumes, colors, light sources, and objects in the scene. Find matching angle and point of view and shoot. Sometimes, a little creativity may help your image to stand out of the crowd.

Symmetry makes great shots (Sony DSLR-A350, f/8, 30 sec, ISO100, Sony AF DT 18-250 @ 28mm)
Symmetry and creativity make good shots gooder (Sony DSLR-A350, f/8, 30 sec, ISO100, Sony AF DT 18-250 @ 28mm)

Image story: I went out to have a walk and take some night photos around the lake at my university (Universiti teknologi Malaysia) in 2014. Normally, the humid and misty weather of Malaysia doesn’t allow you to take sharp images at night. However, exemption exists. The clear weather and calm lake motivated me to take a symmetrical image of the buildings, lights, and trees with their mirror image on the lake. To take this  long exposure shot, I set up a tripod, mount my Sony camera on it and locked it’s zoom lens at 28mm. I selected ISO 100 to cancel out all noises, f/8 to achieve a deep depth of field, and shutter speed of 30 sec after some tests to capture all buildings and lights. To make the image more interesting, I cropped it out to have the lake shore as the center line and rotated the whole image to simulate an oil painting effect on the top part without using any filter or effect.

– Roohollah

Light is the Key

– What is the key parameter in photography?

– The answer is “light”, no doubt!

Light is the key. So, check the light source(s) every time you decide to take a photo. look around carefully and select your position and point of view based on the light source and direction.

Be smart in using the light source
Be smart in using the light source (Canon EOS 450D, f/5.6, 1/1250 sec, Canon EF-S 18-55 @ 44 mm, ISO 100)

Image story: I captured this image of my roommate, in a rainy day. The inside was darker than the outside and I decided to use the sky light as the background of the image. So, I selected a down angle as my point of view and shoot him  in front of balcony.

– Roohollah