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Photography 101 Series of Free information About Your Camera and Photography
Creativity involves opening up your mind to new ways of seeing. Problem solving is not often a linear process but rather a “playing” or trying out different approaches and “failing fast”. Testing ideas and going back to the drawing board when you experience failure.
Failing fast means to figure out what is not going to work before you get to far into an approach or have spent a lot of money on something that will ultimately fail.
cre·a·tiv·i·ty – the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work
Artists are thought to have a lot of creativity but artists don’t have a monopoly on creativity, it is just that they are not shy about experimenting, playing with materials, ideas and concepts and tossing out the ones that don’t work.
Examples of sandbox play and creative exercises
Building sand castles
Playing with a pile of Legos
Try something new – sign up for a class in glass blowing, pottery or something else you’ve never done.
Enjoy some quiet time – take the dog for a walk, go work out, and leave the cell phone behind. Let your mind wander, look around and observe.
Lay down in the grass and look up at the sky and try to find shapes in the clouds.
Go something you think is just for kids – the Zoo, the arcade, an amusement park, let yourself have fun and rekindle the imagination of your youth.
Travel – experience new cultures, new food, new languages, new terrain to spark you creativity. Get out of the rut even if it is just traveling across town.
Try new foods – get creative in your dining, try new recipes and visit ethic restaurants to try new flavors. Give your taste buds new experiences.
Wonder and ask why. Question things around you. Why do things work the way they do? What is the history of your town? Where does your water come from? Why do other countries do X and we do Y?
Don’t Self Edit – Just let the ideas flow
This great creative exercise comes from researcher Bob McKim, and is featured in Tim Brown’s TED talk Creativity and Play.
Take a piece of paper and draw 30 circles on the paper. Now, in one minute, adapt as many circles as you can into objects. For example, one circle could become a sun. Another could become a globe. How many can you do in a minute? (Take quantity over quality into consideration.)
The result: Most people have a hard time getting to 30, largely because we have a tendency as adults to self-edit. Kids are great at simply exploring possibilities without being self-critical, whereas adults have a harder time. Sometimes, even the desire to be original can be a form of self-editing.
Decorate with a large artwork in a great room, a master bedroom or the end of a large hallway presents the perfect opportunity to make a statement. Scale up to create that eye-catching focal point. You can make an impact with a single large piece or by hanging art in groups.
Aperture – ISO or sensor sensitivity, shutter speed and aperture are the three basic controls the photographer has over photo exposure. ISO controls how sensitive the sensor is, shutter speed controls the length of time the shutter is open during exposure and aperture is the size of the opening on the lens.
But aperture is much more than that as it effects the depth of field in an image. Depth of field or DOF is areas that are not in focus in an image. Every modern lens is capable of sharp focus at a single plane. Changing the aperture can change how much of the image appears to be in focus.
Depending on the focal length of the lens and the aperture, images can look in focus from front to back or you can totally blow out the background into a creamy, smooth backdrop in which you can barely make out the shapes. That smooth, out of focus area is typically described as “bokeh” and different lens designs create different bokeh effects. Often professional photographers prefer a certain lens for this effect especially for portaits. Landscape photographer looking for as much overall sharpness usually are not as interested in bokeh.
In photography, bokeh (originally /ˈboʊkɛ/, /ˈboʊkeɪ/BOH-kay — also sometimes pronounced as /ˈboʊkə/BOH-kə,Japanese: [boke]) is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens. Bokeh has been defined as “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light”.
Aperture is measured in “f stops”. Smaller numbers mean larger openings. Such as f1.2 lets in more light and creates more out of focus area than say a f16.
Recently on the campus of the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence I was given to opportunity to experience what is happening inside a camera and the effects of aperture.
A large inflatable camera obscura was set up and groups of ten or so entered the airlock chamber, the outer door was zipped shut and then were lead into the inner dome-like chamber. After adjusting to the light, a hole in the side of the tent was uncovered and projected on white surfaces of the dome were live, upside down images of the streets around the camera obscura, demonstrating how what we see is reflected light bouncing off objects.
The four inch opening produced a bright image but a fuzzy one. Various smaller apertures were demonstrated which produced a sharper yet dimmer image. A lens was used on the larger opening to focus the light, demonstrating need of lens design. One wants as much light as possible yet needs lenses to focus that light.
Using Aperture Artistically
Too often beginner photographers seem focused on sharpness. Reading lens reviews endlessly looking for the sharpest of the sharp lens. Meanwhile professional wedding, fashion and portrait photographers invest in certain camera systems just to have certain lenses which produce amazing out of focus areas.
Sharpness in a photograph is often determined by a fast shutter-speed, a steady hand or tripod, more then the actual lens anyway. The sharpest lens ever produced hand held at a slow shutter-speed won’t produce sharp images.
Unless you are shooting sports, race cars or other moving objects, aperture choice is the most often used setting for artistry in photography. Aperture determines how much of the image you want to be in focus and how well you want to define the subject using selective focus.
In this still life photograph of baseballs, fine art photographer Edward M. Fielding uses a large aperture to throw the baseballs in the background into soft focus to pull the views eye to the main subject.
A traditional landscape photograph typically strives for a deep depth of field from front to back so smaller f-stops (higher numbers like f/11 – f/16 – f/22) are used. Ansel Adams used a view camera and lenses with very small apertures such as f/45 and up to f/64 and even started a movement called the Group f/64. DSLRs lenses typically don’t stop down this far. Also such small apertures let in such little light, long exposures and a rock solid tripod are must. Some lenses create diffraction issues at their smallest apertures and you have to watch out for dust spots as the increased depth of field betrays a dirty lens or sensor.
Landscape images don’t have to always be created with front to back sharpness. Artistic used of shallow depth of field with landscapes should also be considered such as in the following examples.
Notice how the subject of the images stands out from the background. If a shallow depth of field wasn’t uses, the clothespin or swing might have been lost in the background.
Aperture and lens choice
The effects of aperture will differ from various lens choices. Wide angle lens (24 mm and wider such as a 17mm) will have greater depth of field through out the aperture range then telephoto such as a 100 mm, 200 mm or 400 mm.
Some wide angle lenses have such a deep DOF field that you can set it at f8 and not even have to focus because just about everything will be in focus. On the downside, its nearly impossible to get a bokeh background.
Long lens inherently have a short depth of field so you have to be extra careful to focus on the eye of a bird for example, but you get a beautiful soft background.
Close focusing lenses such as macro lenses working close to subjects will also have a very shallow DOF, sometimes as small as a few millimeters.
Type of camera will also effect the DOF effect as mirror-less cameras such as micro fourth thirds cameras or small point and shoot cameras have the lens closer to the sensor than a full frame DSLR so its harder to get extreme DOF using mirror-less systems.
Aperture and Lens Cost
Canon sells a 70-200mm f/4 for $1099 and a 70-200mm f/2.8 for $800 more. Why? Because there are professional photographer who want and need that extra wide aperture and it cost more to make lenses with larger glass.
If you are a landscape photographer shooting at the smallest aperture possible, you don’t need to spend extra on the f/2.8 version. But if you are a portrait or wedding photographer wanting maximum boken, then the extra $800 is worth the price.
It’s the same with Canon’s 50mm lens line up. You can get a really inexpensive basic 50mm f/1.8 or normal lens for $125.
But for professionals wanting more shallow depth of field, Canon makes a $350 f/1.4 version.
And has found enough demand for an even more extreme shallow depth of field so they offer a $1,300 f/1.2 version.
And, you wouldn’t be buying these lenses for landscape photography on a tripod. You pay for the wide open apertures when you want to blur out the backgrounds. You aren’t paying for “more sharpness”, you are actually paying for the unfocused area of the image.
Great Sunset Photography – Folks, there is nothing more boring than a sun ball sitting on the horizon on a clouds less evening. Yet head to any beach on the coast and you’ll see people lined up with their smartphones snapping away as if no one as ever seen such a sight.
These images become meaningless and boring to anyone except the person who took it. It’s a great memory from a glorious vacation for the picture taker, for everyone else it is the same boring sunset photo they’ve seen a thousand times.
The trick to a great sunset photograph is to use the sun for its amazing background color but to find an interesting foreground subject. The sun ball is not an exciting subject – it is a background. We’ve all seen a sun since we were still using yellow crayons in kindergarten, show us something new. Show us the beautiful light glimmering off the water. Show us a fishing pier lit with oranges, pinks and blue. Show us people silhouetted by the bright waning daylight. Anything interesting!
Study your location, learn where the sun will be at sunset and then look around for an exciting subject for your shot including foreground, middle ground and background. Pray for clouds as empty skies can be rather uninteresting and dull.
Meter your shot for the sunlight and let the subject go to silhouette (you might have to tweak the results in post processing) and bracket your exposures. White balance can be set to daylight to keep the amazing warm colors. Auto white balance will most likely remove the warm cast and turn the whole scene cold and sterile. Take charge and experiment with your white balance setting and by all means, shoot RAW so you can easily change the white balance later in post processing.
Another tip is to use a tripod and set up the shot before it gets too dark. Manually focus on your subject as your autofocus might not work too well in low light. Also a tripod will allow you to shoot at lower ISOs to prevent grainy shots and smaller apertures to keep more of the scene in focus.
Auto settings on a point and shoot camera will tend to open the lens wide giving you a shallow depth of field and will focus on the closest thing it thinks is a person. Consider these cameras are designed for selfies and family photos so you will have to take control. Try the “Sunset” mode if your camera has one but test the results and go to aperture or program mode for more control.
Since you will be dealing with a scene that has intense light in one area, its easy to create an image that is mostly shadows. Take test shots and use the exposure compensation dial to compensate for the tricking lighting situation.
Low key photography is full of dark, black backgrounds, shadows and moody lighting. Highlights define the outlines of objects but there are spare mid-tones. Low key photography requires careful lighting, you need to provide just enough light for the subject without lighting the background.
Low key photography is highly cinematic, film noir like, and dramatic. In the world of painting it would be called “chiarscuro” which has a full range from deep dark blacks to pure white highlights.
Low-key lighting is a style of lighting for photography, film or television. It is a necessary element in creating a chiaroscuro effect. Traditional photographic lighting, three-point lighting uses a key light, a fill light, and a back light for illumination. Low-key lighting often uses only one key light, optionally controlled with a fill light or a simple reflector. Low key lighting has a higher lighting ratio, e.g., 8:1, than high-key lighting, which can approach 1:1.
Examples of Low Key Photography
How to Achieve Low Key Photography
Low key photography can be created with lighting techniques in a dark room or within Adobe Photoshop by manipulating the highlights and shadows in levels.
In the above examples the old car was shot during the day and then worked in Photoshop to create a more dramatic low key look. Same with the silver spoons with leaves. Shot on an overcast day and then manipulated in Photoshop.
The other examples were shot with a single, low light source in a dark studio, often with against a background of an open door leading to a dark room. Lighting was from the side to minimize any light hitting the background. Any background elements that did appear in the shot were burned in Photoshop to make them fade into the shadows. Highlights are typically dodged to increase their value.
How to Dodge and Burn in Photoshop
In the old darkroom days, a photographer would dodge (block light) and burn (allow more light) certain areas of the print to achieve the look they wanted. You can do the same in Photoshop.
“In the early days of photography, art aficionados didn’t consider photographs a “real” form of art. Today, we know that isn’t true. You can purchase a vast variety of photographic art or create your own – and it’s just as beautiful and engaging as any other form of art you can display in your home.”
Fine art photography is photography created in accordance with the vision of the artist as photographer. Fine art photography stands in contrast to representational photography, such as photojournalism, which provides a documentary visual account of specific subjects and events, literally re-presenting objective reality rather than the subjective intent of the photographer; and commercial photography, the primary focus of which is to advertise products or services.
Decorating with Contemporary Fine Art Photography in the Modern Home
Until the mid-1950s it was widely considered vulgar and pretentious to frame a photograph for a gallery exhibition. Prints were usually simply pasted onto blockboard or plywood, or given a white border in the darkroom and then pinned at the corners onto display boards. Prints were thus shown without any glass reflections obscuring them. Steichen’s famous The Family of Man exhibition was unframed, the pictures pasted to panels. Even as late as 1966 Bill Brandt’s MoMA show was unframed, with simple prints pasted to thin plywood. From the mid-1950s to about 2000 most gallery exhibitions had prints behind glass.
Since about 2000 there has been a noticeable move toward once again showing contemporary gallery prints on boards and without glass. In addition, throughout the twentieth century, there was a noticeable increase in the size of prints.
But for the home, most people like a mat and frame or simply display the photography without a frame either printed on canvas or floating on the wall via a metal print.
Try a display wall of black and white photography
Art walls of simple black frames, white matted black and white photography works great as a collage wall or as a more formal arrangement because each element adds to the over all effect without any distraction of color.
The photography can be themed say around old vintage tractors and barns or it can be random as the common elements of black and white monochromatic tones brings everything together.
I have my largest portfolio on edward-fielding.pixels.com and this site offers the most combinations of museum quality prints in the form of framed and matted prints, canvas, metal, wood and more. Plus decor products such as throw pillows, phone cases, bags and more.
In the past few months I’ve punched through the 1,000 sales mark and my collectors keep growing, discovering new, never sold before images from my portfolio of nearly 5,000 fine art photographs and artwork as well as repeat sales of fan favorite images.
Decorators have also discovered a few of my images for their clients and have received a professional discount for large volume buyers through Designer Prints which is a service to those in the trade who need to purchase in volume for their clients or for resale.
Here are some of my top sellers:
If you want to sell your own artwork take a look at some of my advice on selling artwork articles:
The Wilson family got more than they bargained for when their Hanover High School senior Daniel signed up for the “Surf and Sato” March Intensive program. Each spring the high school in Hanover, NH (home of Dartmouth College) offers a week of out of the ordinary educational experiences, everything from analyzing classic horror films to hut to hut cross-country ski treks to intensive Shakespeare, drama trips to NYC, college tours in Boston and a trip to Puerto Rico to help with the street dog problem and maybe try a bit of surfing.
Rumor has it that Daniel was under strict instructions to resist all attempts of adorableness and not to return with a puppy but then Ronnie’s cuteness prevailed and after a week of being surrounded by lovable puppies, one managed to come back to New Hampshire. Luckily I was able to persuade the family to bring Ronnie over for a modeling session.
What is a Sato?
Sato is the name for mutt i Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has a large population of stray street and beach dogs. Some estimates put the population of stray dogs at 500,000.
Dead Dog Beach is located on the South-East coast of the island. A dumping ground, it is known for its stray dog population, and the abuse that has occurred on the isolated beach including gang rituals, target practice, and cars running over helpless dogs and puppies.
Dogs are dumped here everyday. The Sato Project, a rescue group founded by New Yorker Chrissy Beckles, is their only source of fresh water and food, and rescues them as their resources allow it. Dead Dog Beach is one of the many beaches of the island overran by stray dogs. (source: http://www.sophiegamand.com/deaddogbeach/)
From The Sato Project Org – Satos are usually small dogs under 30lbs. The majority have terrier in them so they tend to be incredibly smart and quick to learn. The street or beach is a very hard life for a dog and the majority do not make it past their second birthday. Nature seems to have sensed this and females are giving birth to increasingly large litters of puppies.
Being a puppy, Ronnie was quite the handful as a modeling subject. I’ve grown accustomed to Tiki the Westie ability to sit for a very long time, knowing that a treat is coming at some point. At this point Tiki anticipates treats when ever I make a move towards my studio strobe lights. During the photo sessions for the book “The Quotable Westie” Tiki was so good I could set him up on a chair and then remember that I forgot the SD card or prop or something, leave the room for a few minutes and he would still be stilling there patiently.
I’ve dealt with puppies before but its been a while. When I photographed Max, Pete, and Jeanie, my main camera was a micro-four thirds camera, a Panasonic Lumix G3 which had a handy feature for photographing moving objects – an LCD screen in which you could touch a spot on the screen and it would focus and fire the shutter.
With my Canon 6D and its minimal focal points (only nine) I found myself having trouble getting little Ronnie in focus. I also made the mistake of starting out on the tripod. Not good for a guy in constant motion. But I did manage to get some good shots.
The other challenge I had was too narrow depth of field. The Canon 6D is a full frame camera which has a narrower depth of field than a micro four thirds camera like the Panasonic G series.
In order to nail the focus on the eyes with a constantly moving subject like this little puppy Ronnie, I had to shot a lot of shots. I first tried pre-focusing on a certain spot on this antique high chair I was using as a prop. But the entire first set of photos were ruined by the focus being off ever so slightly.
I end up re-shooting the entire scene later with with the studio lights cranked up to maximum and the aperture increase to f16 in order to make sure I got his cute little face in sharp focus.
I also started to abandoned my carefully composed set ups and took the camera off the tripod so I could move the camera main focal point to the dogs eye, fire and worry about composition later with cropping.
A few things I learned that worked in this latest dog photo session.
With puppies, be prepared for puppies. They don’t know how to stay put, they need potty breaks, they are likely to climb out of what ever you put them in, and they are going to tire out and fall asleep on you at some point.
Safety – work with an assistant and try to create an environment like a basket with soft towels in the bottom to help contain the puppy.
Use chew toys, bones or a bit of peanut butter on a the edge of a basket to keep them interested and occupied.
Use squeaker toys or a weird noises to get their attention. Don’t be afraid to sound like a wild animal or a complete wacko to get some great expressions.
Have plenty of paper towels handy.
Limit the number of assistants in the studio so the dog doesn’t get too distracted.
Shoot with a fast shutter speed and be prepared for motion. I don’t recommend a tripod unless the dog can sit still.
Get on their level. I used a small coffee table to raise the puppy up but watch that they don’t try to jump off.
Living in the rural Upper Valley region of Vermont and New Hampshire, I have the opportunity to find a lot of old, vintage tractors still at work in the fields or stored in barns around the area.
I’ve come to know of a lot of old tractors around these parts. Some are restored beauties brought out by the local antique tractor clubs and showed off at country fairs while others are simply old family heirlooms that just won’t die and are still hard at work in the fields each summer.
Photographs of old tractors make a handsome nostalgia statement as wall art. At home in an old farm house, country estate, a restaurant with a homey, back to basics, farm to table concept or even in a office as a look back the fine machinery of yesteryear.
Tips for decorating with old tractors for a retro country decor
Decorating your home with farm and tractor decor can provide a sense of peace and coziness that other styles can’t deliver. Rustic tractor and farm designs are perfect for a country kitchen, busy farmhouse or noisy chicken coop – to decorate your favorite room in country style.
Display in groups of three. Odd numbers of items look more appealing and displaying three old tractor photographs will have more impact than a single tractor image.
Go big for a modern look. A wall of smaller items has an old fashioned look, for a modern contemporary style using retro photographs of old tractors, go big with a single large canvas print. Canvas prints are lightweight and can easily be hung and moved if needed.
Rustic farm equipment and photographs of old tractors make a fine way to create a masculine rustic effect in your decor. Hardworking, sweaty, manly farmers and the work horses of the farm – the tractor are as masculine as it gets. Large canvas prints of old tractors would give a large space a modern yet retro masculine look while a more traditional approach is to group a lot of framed images on a single gallery wall.