Tech Tips

Many of these tips have been published in our newsletter or facebook. These are repeated and in some cases expanded in these pages.

Light Matters!Light Matters Composite

Light is everything in photography
After all, light is our medium.

Finding the Right Subject & Light
The challenge of finding the right subject and then waiting or coming back for the best light is what drives many photographers. Sure, you can change things in Photoshop if you are skilled, but where is the fun in that. I would rather be out in the environment trying to achieve the ultimate image.

Alternatively if you can't keep returning to gain the best light, learn how to 'see' the light and what effect it has on your subject and then you can react when you come across the incredible!

There is no wrong light!
Whether the light is cloudy, soft, harsh or in between, it depends on your subject and what feel you want to impart to your image that makes the light right or wrong for you at that time.

In the photos of the yellow leaves against the trunk, we have soft cloudy winter light and somewhat harder winter sun as a comparison. The cloudy light produces an image where you can see all the detail in all areas whereas the image with the sun makes use of the shadow in the background to cause the background to go dark. This then accentuates the leaves as well as the sun creating interesting shadows of the leaves. The image has been framed to make use of the shadows on the trunk.

In the next set of three images of grasses with a colourful background, the sun was going in and out behind small clouds, which caused the light on the background and foreground to change rapidly as well as illuminating different areas of the image.
The top left image is in full light shade, which creates an evenly lit image. The grass heads can be seen but lack life.
In the top right image, the background is still in shade, but the grass heads have some light sun on them - giving the grass life, but still allowing a beautiful, soft colourful background.
In the bottom image, the stronger sun is hitting the grasses and the background. The grasses come to life and sparkle, but the background is also starting to dominate more with the extra light.

In the last pair of images, we look at the effect of the colour that is imparted on the subject by different light.
Shade or cloud imparts a blue light on the subject, whereas sun imparts what we consider to be white light.  You can correct the blue colour back to 'white' light by changing the colour balance or you can leave it as is and use the cool effect for mood.
Do not use AWB (Auto White Balance) as the camera will correct the colour!

The soft winter sun or the light coming through the edge of a cloud can illuminate a flower and make it glow - especially if you have the light coming from behind your subject so it shines through your petals or leaves.

Light is wonderful and varied and can produce many moods. Take the time to look and really see the effect it has on objects or scenes. Think about how it makes you feel. You can do this whether you have a camera in your hand or not.


Using Auto ISO with 'M' ModeAuto ISO Composite

One of the problems with Auto Focus, is it doesn't work quickly or accurately if your exposure is too low ie. too dark. The system just doesn't have enough light to manage!
If you are photographing small creatures that have the potential to move, you often miss the shot.

Missing too many Shots
This happened too often for me recently while I was trying to photograph little brown birds called Thornbills, that were in dense bushes, in low light and they were almost always moving. They would stop occasionally to taunt me and then, while the camera was trying to focus, it hopped away!

Aim - to Reduce my Movements to 2 - 3 moves
Ideally, I would like to only frame, focus & shoot
So I decided to experiment.
I like to use manual as I can select the shutter speed and f-stop without the camera applying something I don't want. I would then adjust the ISO to get the correct exposure. So I thought the camera could do that faster than me.
It worked! and the exposure was mostly in the right ball park

Fine Tuning
As always there are exceptions to everything, so there were some instances when you have to adjust the exposure. You do this with exposure compensation (the +/- button). There are of course some situations where it can't cope well eg. a back lit bird in the tree tops with a bright sky behind. You can fix this with spot exposure or going back to full manual.

Check the ISO of your Images
While you may be getting the correct exposure, in low light particularly at this time of the year, you may end up with ISO's that are very high. This is OK if you don't want to crop or enlarge the image too much. If you want a lower ISO (even 1 stop can make a difference) you can lower your shutter speed or f-stop. This will automatically lower your ISO.
If you don't want to do that - or can't, then it is time to get out the tripod, add a flash or add another light source.
It is your choice of how you want you image to look

I am using these settings more often now and finding my hit rate much improved in a quicker time.

Photographing BeesBee Composite

Bees are a good subject to choose as there are many around to practice on. Another good thing about photographing bees is they are usually out in the sun. This means you can get the correct exposure whilst having plenty of scope to have really fast shutter speeds to still movement.

The Honey Bee is the most common and it is large enough and slow enough for you to get some good photos. Start with photos of when the bee is on a flower and still. you can then move on to more challenging shots of bees on the wing or approaching with their tongue out.
You can then try the tiny native bees which are often fast moving. If you can find where they roost at night and catch them early morning when they are too cold to move - you can get some good shots.

Stationary on a Flower
Pick a flower with a good flat centre like a daisy or single rose. They have more pollen and nectar and the bee will stay there longer. There is also less chance of the insect being partly obscured by petals. An aperture of around f8 or higher will help you achieve a good depth of field without having to compromise on ISO or a slower shutter speed to get the correct exposure.

In Flight
Shutter speed is very important in these shots, otherwise you will just end up with a blur. Decide whether you want the body and wings still (1/800 sec or higher) or body still and wings partially blurred approx 1/200 - 1/400 sec.
Trying to focus on an incoming bee is really hard as they are relatively small and fast. Instead watch what flowers they visit and pre-focus on a flower edge and wait. Make sure your camera angle is on the same plane as the flower and approaching bee. (See below, the bee approaching the pink flowers).
Waiting takes a fair bit of patience, but if you pick a warm sunny day and there is a lot of activity, you will be rewarded.

Lenses macro vs Telephoto
You can use almost any lens, but the best option is a telephoto Macro lens eg 100mm (Olympus 60mm) or a telephoto lens that can do 200 - 600mm. Some of the modern zoom lenses allow you to focus reasonable close which means you don't have to crop the picture so much afterwards. 
The advantage of a telephoto lens is you can be further back which is less likely to spook the insect. Also, you may be able to record different behavior. See the picture of the bee flying towards the camera with the green eyes.

Tiny Bees
These bees usually only come out when it is warm or hot. Find a bush or tree with nectar rich flowers. If it is in the sun, you might find a great number of them. These are very fast moving so be patient. Wait till they land on a flower and start feeding.
You may be lucky that one will stop and clean itself and you will have time to get some good photos. If it is a little cooler, you may find them resting on branches or leaves. For these bees, it would be best to use a macro lens.

Enjoy the challenge. The results are worth it. You may even find it addictive!


Photographing Through Smokesmoke haze comp

I thought this would be very topical as we might have these conditions on and off for a while.
Treat Smoke like Mist
Mist and smoke behave similarly, though smoke can be more coloured. Look for scenes that provoke interest and have some foreground which is clearer so you get a feeling of depth.
Keep the Haze or Remove it?
Decide if you want to show the haze or eliminate it in photo editing. You can use exposure (see below). You can also use the dehaze filter. This filter increase contrast, saturation and clarity, so you may get a colour shift, which you can correct by reducing the saturation and/or the yellow & magenta in colour balance. You can also just change parts of the image.
Colour Balance
You may need to experiment with this. If the smoke is thick. you may need to use the cloudy preset, but if the sun is breaking through you may need to go to sunny/daylight. If the smoke is a reddy yellow, you need to decide whether you keep the colour (sunny) or correct it by changing to a something like the incandescent light bulb preset.
This is also a matter of preference or interpretation. Making the image lighter can increase the appearance of the smoke and make it whiter. The reverse happens on darkening the image. If the smoke is marginal and you are close, it can almost make it disappear.
Sunsets will look spectacular or could even look eerie, depending on the amount and colour of the smoke. Try varying exposure and colour balance to get an image you like, or to get a true record.
First decide whether you are recording reality, making something artistic, or wishing to take the scene without the appearance of smoke. Then use the suggestions above to create the image you want


Light Makes a DifferenceLight Compared Composite

Light is the key to all photography

It can make a soft moody shot, it can make you feel happy or gloomy or even give you a foreboding feeling. It can be dramatic or subtle.

The art is to learn to see this light and then to use it to convey the message you want.
The shots below show you the difference between soft diffuse light and using the emergence of the sun and shadows to produce some more dramatic photos.

Very Fine Grass Head in Flower
The grass in soft light was shot with a lens length that enabled the background to be blurred so the similar toned grass could be separated from the background.
The grass in the strong light is the same type as the one shot in soft light, but taken a week later with light on the grass and shadow behind.

Small Grass Tree Flowers - Xanthorea minor
The first shot was taken in soft light and to get any separation, I photographed against a tree trunk. A week later the early morning light was overcast, so we returned to that track later in the morning. By then, the sun had broken through and was lighting the back of the flower spike. This made the flowers around the spike glow. The bark of the tree was now dark because the exposure was set for the lit flowers on the edge of the spike. The back ground was blurred due to a lowish Depth of Field (f8) and long distance from the flower. 

Shaky Grass
This is the same piece of grass - just shot in different light
The soft light allowed the colour of the shrubs and grass in the background to be revealed, whereas exposing for the stronger lit image causes the shadowed background to go black.

Rainforests in Wet WeatherRainforest

This is actually the best time to photograph Rain Forests – they look right and the richness and colours show through.
Heavy rain is problematic but light intermittent drizzle is achievable or if it is after rain but still cloudy.
Even Light
Sun light in a forest creates many high contrast highlights and shadows. This produces an image that can be confusing and where the subject is hard to discern. In cloudy or drizzly weather, you still have light and shade from the open patches of sky that break through. These are much lower contrast levels, thus producing a better image.
Wet Leaves
Wet leaves and ground create rich colours and wet soil and bark is darker, giving better contrast for your subject which allows it to be more easily seen.
Many creatures come out in the moist conditions like native snails & slugs, birds and more.
Mist & Low Clouds
You may be lucky enough to get some mist that gives a beautiful look to your forest.
Water Droplets on Leaves and Branches
These can give beauty and added interest


There is less light so ….
Take a Tripod. You need to decide whether you will use a tripod or hand hold your camera. For the best quality images, take a tripod and use a low ISO and a low shutter speed. If the shutter speed is below 1 sec, use a remote trigger or a 2 second timer to delay your shutter, giving the camera time to stop even the slightest movement
Use a high ISO and hand hold. The aim is to have your shutter speed high enough so you don’t have camera shake (above 1/60sec for short lenses and at least double that for long lenses).

Keeping Your Camera Dry
Take a small towel to place over your camera if it is drizzling. Use this to dry it also. Watch out for droplets on your lens – they really stuff up a photo!
When you return home, thoroughly dry and air your gear, extend your tripod and dry off all bits.

Enjoy your photos and the experience of being in an awesome place.

Elusive LightElusive Light Comp

Light and Seeing its Subtle Effects is something lot of photographers struggle with. Once you have learnt how to change the settings on your camera and are beginning to come to grips with depth of field and other technical aspects, one naturally gravitates towards trying to see and use light more effectively. Learning to see light is something you will continue to learn and improve on for ever. It is one of the reasons you can never get bored with photography.

The Golden Hour
Everyone has heard of the golden hour - it is the glorious light that is available around dawn and sunset. The light is low providing shadows and is warm and sometimes glowing. Then there is the blue hour before dawn and after sunset. This can be equally moody and beautiful.

But..... it isn't always there! if you have heavy cloud or rain, it doesn't happen.

Light can be Good at Other Times Too.
There are other times of the day when you can have really effective moody light. It depends on your subject, the weather and the time of the year.

Some of the Qualities that Make Light 'Good'
When the light on your subject separates it and makes it look 3 dimensional
When it hits the subject and not the background
When it creates a mood that you want to show whether it be sombre,  joyful, peaceful, foreboding etc.
When it creates shadows that lead your eye to the subject or enhance its look
When it provides the detail you need in your subject

Time to Test your Theory
You have an idea of what to look for and when. You choose a location, find a good subject, go there at the right time of the day and take your photos. You got some great photos. Feeling confident now, you try another place and time.

This time you are disappointed in the results. They are good, but not great - What happened!
No matter how good a scene is, you can't make a great photo if the right light is not there.

Light is Ephemeral
Sometimes it is there for only minutes. In early morning you can actually watch it move over your subject and it happens very quickly. Sometimes it is reasonable, but not spectacular. sometimes the concept is right, but you won't get what you seek at that time of the year.

Patience and Persistence
Photographers need these two qualities. You can't make OK light look great. You just have to wait or return or be there when it is great. That is why I nearly always carry a camera with me so I am ready for when I see the magic!



Subjects that Look Better When WetPhotographing when wet

Often one avoids going out on dark drizzly days or after rain, as it looks dark & dreary. Think again - for some subjects, this is the best time.

The light is even, without sunny patches
The colours look very rich
Light colours can contrast with the wet dark tones giving strong separation
Wet surfaces can add a shine to surfacesWwater loving creatures come out in the dull daylight
Droplets look great
If the sun comes out you can get rainbows
Spider webs look great covered in drops
Mosses & Lichens come to life
Rainforests look right in the rain!

How does your image make you feel when you look at it - calm, happy, relaxed, excited, peaceful? Mood is another aspect to consider when you are photographing. See the photo below of a boat on the pond. The rich but muted colours with the rain lightly falling, makes the scene work and gives one a peaceful feeling.

Water Drops on Lens
Remember though - if you are photographing in the rain or brushing past wet leaves - check the front of your lenses for spots of water. It can really wreck a good photo and is very hard to remove



Photo Editing SoftwareDamselfly Bird Comp2

There comes a stage when you may want to take the next step and wish to do some more editing of your photos beyond the basics of in house software.

"What Photo Editing Software Should I Use?"  This is I often a question I get asked and it is not an easy question to answer as there are many options and degrees of ability & interest. I have listed some below with their pros & cons. Some I have used & some I have not.
If you shoot in RAW format, to take advantage its benefits you will need to use some sort of software, either the one the camera provides or a 3rd party one. Also, you will need to convert your RAW photo to JPeg to be able to send or use it elsewhere.
I have used the term 'layers' below. Having the ability to work on your images in layers means you have the ability to make copy of a section of your image and make adjustments to that layer without it effecting the rest of the image. When you finish your editing, you can compress your layers back down to one again. This can be very useful.

Adobe Photoshop is the most well known one. It is a very capable and large programme designed for graphic artists and photographers. Most photographers would only know how to use a portion of it, nor would they need to know & use more. This is only available on subscription so if you stop paying it, you no longer have the software on your computer.
Adobe Lightroom: Made for photographers and has the photographic features of Photoshop. Usually you get Lightroom & Photoshop together on subscription, but you can get it separately. It does not have the ability to work in layers, so you would need to use Photoshop or Photoshop Elements (see below) as well.

When Adobe went to a subscription-based system, there were several programmes that were developed to fill the void.

Medium Priced - around mid $300's

ON 1 Photo RAW. This does similar things to Lightroom but also has the ability to make separate layers. It is a very capable programme and relatively simple to use. You own the software. If you want updates you can buy them.

Low Priced - around $100
Photoshop Elements: A cut down version of Photoshop that is more suitable for most non professional photographers. You can buy this outright and you then own it. It is simpler to learn to use than Photoshop and does have the ability to work in layers.
Luminar 3 recently announced and looks easy to use and very capable. It includes the ability to make layers
Affinity Photo - reportedly quite capable (I haven't looked into this one).

Low Priced or Free     0 - $50
These usually have good basic abilities without the detail of the others

Corel After Shot Pro - simple to use. A reasonable start to editing
Fast Stone Image Viewer - Free. simple to use.
Fast Stone Image Resizer - good for batch resizing and renaming. All the larger programmes would have these features built in

There are more programmes available than listed here. Think about what you want to do with your editing and how much you wish to spend. Look up the ones that interest you, watch some tutorials and read the reviews. Then you just need to try one and see how you like it.


Tripods - Do I Need One?Tripod Use2

These days, with cameras & lenses having significantly good image stablisation, as well as sensors that allow you to use much higher ISO's and still get good quality images, it makes you wonder whether you need a tripod.

Indeed, I use my tripod much less than I did because of this. The freedom to get your camera into tight or difficult positions and the speed at which you can change position, can make using a tripod a hindrance.
However, there are some subjects where a tripod is beneficial and some where it is essential.
It all depends on what you like to photograph!

Tripod Essential
If your shutter speed is 1/4 sec or slower then it is essential to have a tripod or similar to ensure you get no camera shake. You still need to pay attention to how sturdy your tripod is, especially if your camera gear is big & heavy and your shutter speed very long. You may also need to use a time delay or remote trigger to make sure the camera has stopped moving after you focus & press the shutter.

Examples of Subjects:
Star photography, silky water on waterfalls, night & low light photography, long exposures for land & seascapes, panoramas done manually, interval photography, very small macro and more.

Tripod Desirable
When you want to spend more time getting the right composition, or using filters, having the camera on a tripod is much easier. Also, if you are waiting for the right light or something else to come into frame. When you want to take a sequence of photographs and have the composition identical. When your subject is contained and your gear is very heavy

Examples of Subjects:
Landscape photography, group family portraits, product photography, still life photography, some sports photography, some bird photography, macro in low light etc. 

Tripod not Needed or Where it Inhibits Photography
Where you have good light and high shutter speeds or where you need to adjust yourself or camera quickly. In crowds where someone can trip on your tripod, or you have no time to set one up. Where you don't want to draw attention to what you are doing.

Examples of Subjects:
Creatures and animals that move unpredictably including macro, birds on the wing or forest birds where you cannot predict where they will be, some flower photography, people photography when you wish to be more spontaneous, general travel photography and more.

So How do I Choose One?
First - make sure you know what you want to photograph and how low your shutter speeds will go. The heavier the gear and the lower the shutter speeds, the more sturdy your tripod needs to be. Buy one where you can choose what head you can put on it as you can then find the legs that suit and the head that suits what you photograph (unless it is so designed that it suits you well). Make sure that it has a quick release plate so you can take your camera off quickly. 

Look at the specifications. What weight will it take, how high will it go, how heavy is it and can you carry it if you need to for a long time. If it is only for use in a studio or home, the tripod's weight is not so relevant.

If you have a lightweight camera & lens and are mainly taken photos in bright light, you may get away with a light duty tripod. Don't buy a really cheap one as they won't last.
If you are going to use it for long exposures, and or have a larger camera and lenses, try out your gear on the tripod. Some shops will let you do this. Take your largest camera and your heaviest lens. Take photos at low shutter speeds eg. 2 seconds at your lenses lowest f -stop. Check for camera shake. If it passes that, check it for ease of use and comfort of carrying. You can now make an informed decision.


Capturing Raindrops & DewRaindrops Composite

Capturing Raindrops & Dew
Autumn & Winter brings rain (hopefully) & dew. Early in the morning or after rain you can get some beautiful photos. All these photos depend on the angle of the sun or light for the droplets to be seen at their best. So you will need to move around your subject till you see the drops at their best.

Droplets on Spider Webs
Early morning is great for dew on webs. Also, the sun is low in the sky which can make the web / drops more visible. Take note of your background. There is no use having a beautiful web with a confusing background as you won't be able to see the web clearly. Look for some shadow to put the web against. It is a juggling act to get the sun angle and the background right. Sometimes it just won't work - so move on to another web.

Droplets on Flat Leaves
Once again the angle of the sun is critical. Look for a good composition as well. If the background is not good, consider filling the frame with the leaf or leaves.
Some leaves have a waxy surface, which cause the droplets to ball up to a sphere, eg Ginko leaves, Eucalyptus leaves & Waterlily leaves. These round droplets can act like a lens and can have reflections in them.

Droplets on Fine Drooping Leaves
The droplets on these leaves run right down to the tips, creating a different photo opportunity. Try and photograph the ends of branches to keep the droplets on a similar plane and avoid confusion.

Flowers can also collect drops of water. Roses always look great with a spray of water. Look also for rainbows, especially with spider webs particularly if it is still drizzling and the sun is out.

What Settings Should I Use?
The Depth of Field is the most important setting here. You need a reasonable depth, so you can start by using f8. Look at the image you have taken and see whether you need more or less in focus. If you are photographing a rose, you may need a higher f-stop to get all the petals in focus. If you are photographing a flat leaf, you can have a smaller f-stop.

Spider webs will depend on the angle you are on. Shutter speed - if there is a breeze, you may need a fast shutter speed to stop movement. Your focus will be quite difficult if this happens so be prepared to take lots of shots and check for sharpness.

Use your ISO to balance the exposure
Enjoy the challenge and the rewards!


Macro on a BudgetExtension Tubes

Many people love to do Macro but hit a barrier when they price the lenses. A good one can cost from $700 - $1500 and sometimes more.
There are alternatives
There are Macro Filters that you screw on to any lens or there are Extension Tubes, which I will discuss today.

Extension Tubes
These are hollow tubes that fit between the camera body and the lens and allow you to focus much closer. They can fit on any lens.  The better quality ones have mounts made of metal and fit tightly. One brand has a flock lining so there are no internal reflections. They are available in Australia and cost around $200. They are camera mount specific and most of the popular brands have them or a 3rd party brand will suffice. Check they have the ability to keep your exif data (lens length & f-stop) and allow auto focus. Pros - No loss of image quality Cons - lose some light.

Fit them to any Lens
You can use them on any lens including telephoto, zooms and even Macro lenses for very close up.
Wide angle lenses may be a problem as you may get so close, you touch your subject!
Telephoto Zoom Lenses
I particularly like them on telephoto zooms for several reasons.
You can be at a distance to your subject (particularly good for snakes and funnel web spiders!). Also good for Dragonflies and other flying creatures that spook easily.
A telephoto zoom allows you to use your zoom to get into the focus range more easily.
You can use your telephoto for bird or similar photography and put the rings in your pocket. Then you can out them on when you find your Macro subject

Using Your Extension Tubes
The Depth of Field is very small - the closer you go, the smaller it gets.
It is also hard to find where you can start to focus. A good way to achieve this is to walk or lean forwards and keep focusing until your subject appears sharp. Then you can fine tune your focus either by moving yourself or with your Auto Focus button. Instead of walking forward, you can use your zoom to get you into range.
Can't Focus to Infinity
When you attach these tubes, you can't use your lens as a normal lens. You can only use it for close ups.
Set of 1, 2 or 3 Tubes
The tubes come as a set of two or thee depending on brand, or some can be as a single tube. They are different sizes depending on how close you wish to get to your subject. You can use them separately or together. The larger the tube the closer you can go - and the larger your subject is on your sensor.
If you like Macro, and are on a budget or even if you want a pocketable item that turns any lens into a macro, they are definitely worth getting.


What F-Stop Should I Use?Depth of Field Composite

This is one of the most asked questions and is the hardest to answer.
Because each subject should be treated differently and it also depends on how you want your photo to look.

How does it change the look of your photo?
F-stop or aperture changes the way your photo looks because it changes the Depth of Field (how much is in focus either side of your subject)

Some Rules of Thumb

Flat Surfaces - any f-stop will do as the flat surface has no depth.

Landscapes - usually a high f- stop (large Depth of Field) to give lots in focus.

Portrait - usually a low f - stop like f5.6 to give some blurring of the background, isolating the subject

Group Portrait - Medium DoF, f 5.6 - f11. This allows people in a 2nd  or 3rd row to still be in focus and some of the background. The background in these situations is more important to give some context

Single Portraits where the background is important and part of the story f 8 - 11

Animals - same as portraits

Flowers  - for an Arty Look f 2.8 - 5.6. This will give a soft look with many parts out of focus, The closer you are, the more out of focus parts there will be.

Flowers - for a true to life look - f 8 - f16. This will make most of the flower in focus. To avoid the background dominating, have a large distance from the flower to the background if possible. Alternatively, have the flower in the sun and the background in the shade.

Insects and other small creatures - same as flowers

If in doubt
Start at f 8 (compact or bridge cameras f 5.6 or in the middle of the f-stop range). Take your photo, evaluate it, if you need more in focus use a larger f stop. If you want less in focus, use a smaller f stop

Photographing in Difficult SituationsWasp Caterpillar

What do you do when you see an awesome happening - in this case a caterpillar hanging on a silken thread with a beautiful wasp on it and the whole thing is in mid air and blowing in the wind! Not only that, but you have the wrong camera gear to get a good photo!

I had a compact camera with no viewfinder. The auto focus has problems seeing small objects when there is nothing close behind. The camera will try and focus on the background. The light made it difficult to see the back screen properly also.

So ... What do you do?

  1. 1. Focus on your hand
  2. 2. Hold your hand as close to the camera as it will focus, focus on this and keep your finger half pressed on the focus button
  3. 3. With your finger still pressed on the focus button, wait till the subject comes back into range (the breeze was blowing) and estimate the distance that you had pre-focused on and  when it comes into range, take the photo.
  4. 4. Do this several times as your hit rate for good photos may be low.

Some cameras have a focus magnifier that you can put onto a function button on your camera. I put mine (Sony RX100) on the centre button of the control wheel. This allows me to see up close when the subject is in focus. It is still not easy, but it helps.

I ended up with only 2 reasonable photos, but it is better than none! It would have been much easier with my larger Sony A 6500 with 90 mm Macro lens. Having a viewfinder helps a lot too.


Start a Project for Inspiration & LearningImp Blue Horned Leaf Hopper

A great way to get inspiration as well as learn more from observation and discipline is to start a project. It can be as simple as choosing a subject like an interesting shaped rock (large or small), birth & death of a flower, an old wooden shed door etc.

Some ideas on these subjects - take photos at different times of the day, different light like sun, shade, rain, sunset, moonlight. Photograph it at different seasons. Look for creatures or things that land on it. Watch the change over time.
Try taking photos with different lenses from wide to telephoto. Close up sections - even in infra red! Try it from the view of an ant or a bird's eye view.

Tangential Ideas
You can also go off on a tangent and start investigating other things that come into the frame. The project can be as long or as short as you want. Then make a Photobook of your project

Starting a Project - The Life Cycle of the Imperial Blue Butterfly
My Project was to monitor the life cycle of the Imperial Blue butterfly. I discovered the first caterpillars in mid November and wanted to find out how long it would take till the butterflies appeared. The more I photographed & observed, the more questions I found.

Ant Protectors
These caterpillars are looked after by ants but I found on cold mornings - it was a different species of ant. That lead me to proposing a theory that this other ant looks after them at night - so I went to the tree at night and found this was correct. There were many other interesting creatures out at night too. One of them was a leaf hopper bug that was sitting in with the caterpillars and benefiting from the protection of the ants.

Photo Book
I will gather all this info and photos and put a photo book together.


Shooting in the Summer SunSun effects composite

The Summer Solstice is only a month away (21st Dec). This is when the sun is up for the longest time and it is harsh and bright. The hole in the ozone layer means there is less filtration as it reaches us in Victoria and add that to a low humidity and you can get very bright photos, often with faded or washed out looking colours if you aren't careful with your exposure.

How do you avoid this?
The best way is to try to avoid taking photos in the middle of the day between 11 - 3pm. Don't forget, this is daylight saving time. It is equivalent to an hour earlier. Even on an overcast day, the position of the sun influences the image. Top light is still top light.

If you can't avoid it, make sure you turn down your exposure till the colours look better and avoid top light. Try & photograph in the shade. At the edge of shade you can get some nice directional light coming in - but watch out for unwanted reflected colours if you are too close to the sunny edge.
If your subject is small, you can control the top light by putting some shade above it and then add some side light in with a reflector.

Avoiding the Summer Sun
The best way is to photograph is in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is down low and the light is softer.
Of course, in Summer, that time is very early or quite late.

Dawn till 8 or 9am is best. Then watch your subjects. Look for the best angles of light. As the sun gets higher, you will find that your subjects are no longer visually interesting and the shadows will be in the wrong spots.

If you are out in the environment and are observant, you will notice your subjects start looking better around 4.30pm onwards. Things start looking more 3 dimensional. The shadows are complimentary instead of distracting. From now to sun down and a bit after is the best time.


Photographing DropletsDroplet Composite

After rain, fog or a dewy morning, there are many beautiful sights - especially if the sun comes out.
So how do you capture that image?

Drops on the End of Fine Leaves
For these types of photos, you don't need a close up lens. F stop can be low if they are all on the same plane.
Position yourself so that the droplets shine
Have a simple background. Check through your lens that the background is simple and preferably in shadow so there is contrast with the drops (early morning is best).
Exposure should be slightly darker than normal to highlight the shine on the drops

Drops on Leaves
Once again, angle yourself & camera so the drops sparkle. You may need a close up lens or filter for small drops.
For multiple drops, create a pleasing composition and then make sure your camera is parallel to as many drops as possible so they are all in the same focal plane. Use a large Depth of Field eg f8 and above to get as much as possible in focus.
Focus on the sparkle

Drops that are Very Round
Some surface are so water repellent that the droplet is nearly spherical. eg. Ginko leaves, waterlily and lotus leaves etc. These droplets will now act as a lens allowing you to see the surface magnified and  also, reflections in the drop.
Focus - You need to focus on the reflection or magnified surface - not the edge of the droplet
DoF -Use f11 or more for multiple drops or lower for a single drop.

Your composition is also important to create a pleasing image.


How Big Should I make my Photos?Size vs Distance Composite

Print Your Favourite Photos
The time has come when you finally get around to enlarging your favourite photo to put on a wall or mantelpiece.

How big should it be
There is a rule to follow for the optimum size vs viewing distance. You need to think first about where you intend to put it and then assess where you will stand or sit to see it.
The Rule
If you have to walk up to it to see the detail, it is too small.
If you have to scan your eyes across the image to see its entirety, it is too big.
You need to comfortably see the whole image without moving your head along its length

The Same is True for Books
When I make a Photobook - other than my small test books- I usually want to make it as big as possible. Usually it ends up about 35cm long. It looks great on the computer and then you open the book when you receive it and you are a little disappointed. Assuming the photography is good and the printing is also, the fault will be the viewing distance.
Put it on Display
A large book with 1 photo to a page needs to be on a coffee table with you standing or on an easel.
Good Light
Make sure you can view your book or photo in good light eg opposite a window. Then you will be able to see all the details even in the shadows.

Get your Books out of the Bookcase
One of the reasons for making a book is to get your photos out of your computer. Leaving the book in the bookcase is almost as bad.
Make it Part of your Decor
Find some easels or book stands, put your favourite book on display and turn the page daily. When you finish that one, get your next book or make another one!


Photographing in Blustery WindWind Composite

The problems are obvious - trying to focus correctly on your chosen subject. Then you need to  keep your subject still enough so it is not blurred. Just having a fast shutter speed won’t guarantee a sharp image.
Tip - follow the movement while looking through your camera and watch for the still point when the wind drops. Focus then. Then wait until the subject returns to that point. Take your photo.

Don’t forget to think carefully about what you focus on. This is very important to having the photo look right.

Showing the Effect of Wind
You could use the wind to show what the conditions were like and create a mood. Seas look much better when the wind is driving crashing waves into rocks.

Birds can have ruffled feathers when the wind gets behind them.
People can have hair blowing in the wind and brides can have the veil blowing behind and looking glorious

Try a Movie Clip
Sometimes a short movie of your subject can be more meaningful by showing the movement rather than trying to stop it.

In Conclusion

Think about what you want your image to show  - what feeling you want to put into it.
Use the elements rather than fight them.



What Lens Should I Use?what lens composite

Sometimes it is obvious - If I want to take something far away and I can't walk up to it, then I need a telephoto lens. If I wish to blur the background more, I also use a telephoto lens. Some creatures get spooked if you get too close so once again - use a telephoto lens
Landscapes - If I am taking Landscapes and I want to fit a lot into my image then I need a wide angled lens.
But what about other subjects like portraits, small things, buildings etc?

People - for portrait shots (head & shoulders) or kids you need a short to long telephoto lens 85mm to 200mm or more as this gives a nice face shape & you don't have to get too close. A wide angled lens distorts the face when you stand too close.
For full length or groups you can use a wider lens eg 35 -100mm.

Small subjects need a macro lens so you can get close enough to fill the frame. But macro comes in many focal lengths. A telephoto macro is better when you don't want to (eg scorpion or butterfly) or can't get close (dragonfly on a pond).
Sometimes a wide angled macro is better for seeing into flowers as you can get very close. You can get this with a compact camera.

Buildings also can require a range of different focal lengths. If you can get back far enough, a telephoto lens will avoid a lot of the problems of the edges not being straight. However, if you can't get back a wider lens is required. Use the least wide lens available to avoid distortion and don't have the edge of the building too close to the edge of the frame.

Wide angled Lenses 10 - 35mm
Mid Range (standard) 40 - 70mm
Telephoto lenses 70 - 600 + mm
Zoom lenses have many lenses in one. Check the range to see where yours fits



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