REARRANGING AND OTHER STUFF



Well, the last couple days I changed my myspace albums a bit to show specific shoots instead of looking like mirrors of the albums from my actual website. At the same time, noticing that for some reason my pictures on my actual site are not opening when I click them. Apple hosts my website and I know they are changing from their .mac service to mobileme service and have been having problems on and off for the last couple weeks, but this is getting ridiculous. Hopefully they get it cleared up soon, because a photographer website that you can't view the pictures on is not very useful.

Hmm, that's about it for the last few days really, just been working on boring stuff. Did see Wanted and Hellboy in the last week. Wanted was ok, Hellboy was pretty fun. The important thing is that it is only three days until the release of the Dark Knight!

BORED, THIS HAPPENED




Short post (esp after yesterday's). Just wanted to post a picture I was playing around with, I enjoy creating this type of work as much as I do standard photography. I'm just not always happy with the outcome when I start experimenting. This one I liked though, although I just noticed I cannot find the full-size file of it. I may have accidentily deleted it, which sucks for this type of picture, because I probably cannot recreate it exactly as I did here a second time around (or maybe I can do it better).

And the person featured in the photo above is a singer and musician that travels all over and puts on great small intimate shows singing Kirtan music. His name is Wynne Paris, check out his site if you ever have a chance and definitely see his performance if you dig his work.

TAKING BETTER PICTURES PT 3: FLASH

To Flash or not to Flash, that is the question.



A lot of folks seem to not like Flashes much when they are hoping their picture doesn't come out looking like a snapshot and even more people don't like them when they are on the receiving end. I've seen some amateur photographers that also seem to think their pictures look more artistic and prefer to shoot without a flash all the time. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but a flash can be very helpful most times if you want to give yourself more options than just artistic blurs in your photography. The key thing is to learn how to best use your flash best for whatever situation you are in. And...if you have invested in an SLR digital camera, even a basic entry level model; then spend a bit more to pick up a seperate flash unit, even a generic branded one from a ritz camera or similar store, it will make a huge difference.

A seperate flash made for your brand camera can communicate with your camera settings when you set it on automatic settings to adjust the power of amplification of the flash to suit the specific conditions of each shot. It's not a perfect solution, but much better than the built in pop up flash on most cameras. It can also give you the ability to angle the flash head as well, pointing it at a 45 degree (or so) angle to bounce light off of the ceiling if low enough and cut down on the harshness of the light hitting your subject. It can also cause you to have to lower your shutter speed a bit as the light is getting spread out over the room and not all blown onto your subject, this can be good though if the shutter doesn't shoot too slowly-- it can prevent your subject from looking like they were taken with a black pit behind them and let a little light fall on the background to give some depth to your picture.

Unfortunately, it would take more room than I can dedicate here to go over all the ins and outs of using flash, various lighting or no flash at all, so I won't be able to really cover every detail. Some main issues to learn: How to set up your shutter speed manually: the lower the number, the longer the shutter will be open. You can often get away with setting it around 20-60 when bouncing the flash in a dark room and what is best is you can review your shots as you take them. What your f-stop does, a lower f-stop will allow more light into the lens-- it will give you a more shallow depth of field as well though, so be aware. And of course make use of the ability to change your film speed on the fly: the higher the number goes, the lower the light you can shoot in (but you will increase the amount of film grain in your pictures as you go higher as well). Some cameras will allow you to pick a partially manually setting as well, which would allow you to set a somewhat high film speed like 400 or 800 and a low f-stop and the camera will adjust the shutter speed based on the available light and whether or not you are using a flash.

Another thing to watch out for when you have a flash attached to the top of your camera is turning it sideways to take a vertical picture, that you may cast a huge shadow to one side of your subject if they are close to a wall. Best way to avoid this without purchasing more equipment is just to make sure your subject doesn't get to close to a wall or other object behind them when you snap a shot of them. Again, turning the flash head up and bouncing the light can help reduce this effect also.

It's very important if you want to improve at picture taking to master the use of the flash. I feel like I still am everyday. And I prefer to shoot in natural light when possible (though even then, sometimes the flash is still needed). But I think the key is to be able to use a flash and look like you didn't use a flash; not to never use one. And everything you learn about your camera to get better with a flash, will help you without one as well. I have been in plenty of situations where the lighting was terrible, especially when shooting dance. Usually the lights were low or off and a few spotlights were on and the effect because of the small environment and constant motion is never quite as cool as a concert with that cool colored spotlight effect shining on your subjects.

Also, be aware of the limits of your flash. Most people think of a flash as a night-time need, which is not usually the case. It is not often powerful enough to light up a whole area (you will always get that black pit behind your subject) and the flash also doesn't reach as far as people think. (You can see this in all of the flashes at concerts or shows from the crowd--those flashes will never reach the subject and are useless. In fact they are throwing off your cameras automatic settings and making it think it will get some use out of the flash when it will not).

The following few shots are from a restaurant and were shot as I earlier described: Flash shot at an angle (with a diffuser over it) and a low shutter speed. With the motion of the dance involved it gave a blurring effect over their motions, but with the flash allowed the picture to be taken fast enough to not overly blur the picture and be unclear.






Whereas in these photos I was prevented from using a flash at all due to the circumstances. I still shot as low a shutter speed as possible, though using a tripod to help steady the shot. I also shot as high a film speed as possible to make the most of the available lighting. Now, one thing I hate is film grain, I don't know why I just don't like it. So I do have some photoshop programs for cleaning up grain to a degree and I used that on these images and on most images like this that I shoot. Not recommending you get into that unless you are very serious about your photography. I can't stress how horrible the lighting was in these two shoots though, especially the outdoor shoot (where the background is totally black behind the dancers-- there was no way to fix that one in those conditions).










I realize this post was fairly broad and I will try to delve into specific situations in later posts. Just remember the best thing about having a digital camera is that you can take as many pictures as you want and delete them if you don't like them, so just keep trying different things and perfecting your techniques. It will pay off.