Shake, Rattle and Roll

With the lovely auto-immune issues I seem to be saddled with, I seem to quite often be victim to my hands shaking like aspen leaves in a high wind. It happens most often when I've worked beyond my limits, and am reaching exhaustion.  As you can figure, shaking hands and photography do not mix. So what can you do to help with the problem if you also fight a bit of palsy? There's always using tripods and remote triggers, of course. Modern cameras also have a 'vibration reduction' feature, which is some help. There are a few other things you can do, too. I have to admit, though, that the lighter the camera, the fuzzier the picture. It seems almost impossible for me to get a completely sharp shot on my cellphone, for instance. They usually turn out somewhat 'artistic'. 😉 You can try leaning on things. Keep your elbows close to your body instead holding your camera waaaay out at the end of your arms swinging in mid-air. Yeah, I know, those LCD viewfinders make that tough. Rather than inhaling and holding your breath, exhale slowly while clicking. I also use a multishot setting when I take pictures, quite often. In other words, the camera takes more than one picture while I have the shutter depressed. Sometimes the second is sharper than the first. You might just catch everyone's eyes open, too. 🙂 If you have a choice, make sure that your shutterspeed is faster than the length of your lens, at the very least, and faster than 1/125 a second or more so that the fast shutter speed can make up for your wobble and bobble. So those are a few ways that you can sharpen up your photos, rather than being doomed to fuzzy 'art' shots. Along that line, let me show off one of my newest lines at Zazzle. It's sporting a head of curly hair with fun pink highlights, and says 'I'm not gray, I'm Chrome!' in honor of all of us who are joining the Gray Hair Revolution, and owning our status as Natural Queens! So if you want to shout to the world that you earned every one of those lovely chrome strands, check out my store! 🙂 Find the Chrome Hair Travel Mug Here. It's Customizable! Have a great day, and don't forget to encourage someone along the way! Cheryl  

Newest isn’t always best

Recently I talked to a young lady taking a photography course and all I kept hearing was how lousy the camera was, how it didn't do this, it didn't do that and she just couldn't do what she wanted and on and on. All this while never taking her camera off of the auto setting.  It's true, it wasn't the newest dSLR. It wasn't the high-end model. It also wasn't a Sony Mavica circa 1994 with a floppy drive. Even a dinosaur camera is better than no camera at all! After all, you could have a pencil and your memory, right?Even dinosaur cameras are better than non at all! Stop and think, be patient and figure out how to get what you want instead of throwing a floppy tantrum and quitting. The work-around you come up with yourself will teach you far more about photography than taking for granted that the camera should do it all, or that you can fix anything and everything in post processing rather than creating a strong image in camera. Don't have a grey card? Use your hand! Using that little jpeg only camera is going to teach you to remember to check your settings for every shot, and get your white balance setting right the first time, isn't it? 😉 That's right. Many of the guys who are truly brilliant photographers didn't start out with the newest equipment, they made do, and while they were making do they figured out alternative ways to do what they envisioned exactly because they didn't have perfect conditions and cool equipment. Or they simply had to make do because you can only pack so much stuff and there are always variables you can't control when you leave a studio environment. They invented new ways of doing things because they had to stop and think and really use their own creatiivity.Which first requires using that scary 'M' on your camera setting dial. I've also noticed that the truly top professional photographers are kind to their models, clients, and always give due credit to their service providers as well as their teachers, because none of us exist in a vacuum. That's something to keep in mind. What goes around comes around. Be kind even to the thankless.  🙂 Now get out there and shoot something. With a camera. 😉Cheryl

HDR tip-Where Do My Exposures Start and End? I’m Lost!

HDR, or High Dynamic Range imaging is a way of being able to portray what your eye actually sees in a scene, rather than the limited view that a camera can handle. Usually using a tripod you take several exposures of the scene that are then combined by software and with some tweaking to add detail to shadows and highlights that wouldn't otherwise be portrayed in a photograph. Problem is, how do you know where your starting exposure and ending exposure are quickly and easily when you get your images downloaded at home? If you're like me, you take a ton of pictures of one particular scene at various apertures, etc. In order to tell what's what you don't necessarily want to have to check the EXIF data for the aperture of every picture in order to see which ones go together to be merged. Unless you're an overachiever, then have at it. I'd rather clean stalls. Long story short, get your hand in front of the camera when you start your series of exposures. Put your left hand in front of the camera before the start, put your right in your line of view when you're done. Easy peasy. Like this:
Start your HDR series here!
Point to the right to start ...
I picked up this tip from one of the photography books I'm always scouring, and it solved the whole problem, quick and easy! The book was The New Complete Guide to Night and Low Light Photography by Lee Frost. The link will take you straight to where Amazon sells it if you want to pick up a copy. 🙂 Have fun, keep shooting! Cheryl

Tripod Choices

At some point you're going to find that you need a tripod. They are absolutely indispensable in low light-long exposure situations, and make the multiple exposures used for HDR much easier. No matter how still you think you can hold a camera by hand, there will be camera shake variations if you are human. There are a lot of different tripods on the market, but which should you choose? After all, the good ones are quite an investment, but the better made they are, the better they will last and the more stable they are. Personally I chose the Manfrotto 190XPROB. It's not the lightest tripod, but it has several features I really like. If you're looking for something light to go hiking with, a carbon fiber model would be what you're looking for. It will cost you more than twice as much, although the extra cost will be worth it on a long hike. First of all, the 190XPROB has legs that are totally independent from one another, with no stabilizing bar halfway down hooking them together. I knew that I would be using it outdoors for the most part, where the ground is not level. I can fold any one of the legs out so it's at a 90 degree angle from the head so I can find a stable position for my camera in even the roughest terrain. If you're only ever going to use your tripod on a stable surface indoors one of the models with a stabilizer in the middle may work for you, but if you're heading outside you'll probably be happiest with independent legs. There is a center bar that raises for a little more height, or that slips sideways without disassembly for vertical shots. It also has a hook underneath the center so that you can hang a weight from it to stabilize your camera in case of wind, which can get pretty gusty whether you're on a mountainside or at the beach. This particular tripod also has a leveling bubble, so I can get an idea if the support for my camera is level. Don't underestimate this, as it really stinks to get home and find that the horizon line in all your pictures is at an odd angle that you didn't intend, or the perspective is skewed from your camera pointing slightly up or down unintentionally. A couple of the legs also are slightly padded so that when you're carrying it from one spot to another it's a little gentler on your shoulder, as well as giving you a little more grip in bad weather. The 'head' is sold separately, and can vary widely in price. Some are easier to get your camera on and off of, which is a consideration if you're dealing with arthritis or some sort of disability with your hands like carpal tunnel. Some only sit at one angle, which can really limit your flexibility in the field. I chose a ball head, which is adjustable to just about any angle you can think of. These can also have levels attached, or you can get a level that actually fits onto your camera's hotshoe. I recommend you go to the camera store and play with various models, and see what you like. Ask yourself what type of photography you like, and what styles you would like to explore. Once you get one, you'll wonder what took you so long!  

Is Your Camera Smarter Than You?

I recently saw a quote that stated "the best photographer is not as smart as the simplest camera'. Someone no doubt has another opinion on this subject-and if so I'll be glad to hear it-but I found this quote offensive and belittling. A camera is a tool, nothing more, no matter what it cost. It doesn't think, it doesn't create, it does what it's designed to do in whatever direction it is pointed. People made cameras, not the other way around. To elevate the tool above the maker is the height of foolishness. It also contributes to a helpless attitude in purchasers and users. "The camera says I can't take this picture" shouldn't be a final and defeatist statement signifying failure, it should be the beginning statement to the thought process of 'how can I bend this tool to my will to express my vision?' In the end, a camera is an expensive paintbrush that helps us duplicate images in our lives, and share our inner vision. It helps us to let others see the world as we see it. To allow the defeatists who worship their cameras to control our creative process is a great loss of potential artistry. People are smarter than their tools. No one says 'I don't draw well because I don't understand this pencil.' No. They say they don't know how to draw, and if they want to learn they either take a class or they buy a book and then they practice. Some years ago I purchased the book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards, and that book teaches that drawing is not a matter of the physical skill of pointing a pencil at a piece of paper, but of learning how to 'see' and duplicate our vision to paper. Wait a minute... That sounds just like what we do with our cameras, huh? Learn how it works, one function at a time. Then push those functions, and when a tough lighting situation comes up, you'll know what your tool can do, rather than letting it tell you what it wants to do. I shoot exclusively manual on my highly intelligent automated tool. Why? Because I'm smarter than it is, and the way it sees doesn't match the way I see, and it's not the boss of me. 🙂
North Cascades Pass
North Cascades Pass
This was a simple picture, simply done from the roadside during a pitstop, but the 'first draft' without a polarizing lens and with the camera settings on auto was flat and lifeless, and taken at a really flat time of day, 1 in the afternoon, a light I really hate. Between the polarizer and some dark room work, it becomes a nice picture that reminds me of a good long roadtrip with friends.