Giving your pictures a voice?

I was asked recently ‘what message I was trying to convey with my pictures?’ and this got me to thinking, what am I trying to convey?

On initial reflection I would have liked to say something cool…

But I’m not that cool, however I put some more thought into it and as photographers we should think about what message we are trying to convey as much as apeture,shutter speed etc Each of our pictures should convey something but what?

Advertisers, film makers and writers all start out with a basic concept and expand on this as the work through the process.

So 3 things to think about

Heart – does it convey something about our emotions

Head – is there and intellectual message or does it take a cognative, logical process to see the meaning

Conceptual – a common theme throughout a series or the heavy use of metaphors?

or all three

I think the majority of us do this subconciously, however their can be real benefit in being planned and concious of our message.

Let me know what you think my picture above says in the comment box if you have time

PS for my regular readers out there, I have had abit of critism from some photographers about why I would want to put ‘rudimentary’ training techniques on my blog, my answer is well people seem to enjoy them ;), so let me know if there any subjects you would like me to blog about in the future.

City Shots at Night

Sometimes getting access to the countryside, sea is not possible for long exposures, however don’t let that stop you. Using exactly the same techniques I talked about in the ‘Long Exposures made Easy’ post you can adapt this to cityscapes and buildings.

To make them look abit different, think about making them black and white. Sounds strange when alot of buildings are photographed because of the beautiful way they are lit however this conversion can bring a new sense of the place. Sometimes they work sometimes they don’t, there isn’t any rule to say when to do it.

The above shot of the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow is an example of how this can be done…. what do you think?

Some tips

  • Try and take someone with you in certain areas of cities. I have had a few scary moments including stones thrown at me! (the shot taken below of the bridge on the clyde is definitely not somewhere to wander around with a camera yourself)
  • Security guards / police seem to think that anyone with a dslr taking pictures is up to no good, so reasearch your rights in the country your are in, a great card for the UK is here
  • http://www.sirimo.co.uk/2009/05/14/uk-photographers-rights-v2/
  • Buy a new generic strap or tape your existing one, you may be proud of your camera but its an advert for criminals

More info about the GoMA http://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/our-museums/goma/about-GoMA/Pages/home.aspx

Let me know if you have any questions,comments or other tips for night shots, I would love to hear from you.

Use the weather to improve your photos -The Sun will come out tomorrow

In my last post I talked about how the golden hour can help improve your photographs, but I wanted to balance that post because you shouldn’t let the time of day or more importantly the weather negatively impact you taking photos.

In fact my friends used to wind me up because if we went out on a sunny day without a cloud in the sky, I would moan that there were no clouds! Living in scotland this doesn’t happen very often!

For me clouds and weather can add so much drama to a shot, clear blue skies can be boring ( I will talk more about how to overcome this in a later post).

The above shot was taken at Portencross on the west coast of Scotland, which I love because it is an hour from my house, has a castle, an old pier, great rock formations and dramatic sunsets. I took off that evening hoping for a great sunset and when I got there it was overcast, windy and there wasn’t going to be any dramatic sunset so I decided to go with what I had.

Patience is also a good attribute for landscape photos, the picture below was at Glencoe, we had to drive through heavy snow and we had gray skies, However I set up and waited in sub zero temperatures. I was ready to leave when the sky cleared for 5 minutes and I got the shot I wanted

Summary

  • Don’t let weather put you off you never know what you will get
  • Make sure you have protective clothing (especially in Scotland)
  • Protect your equipment, it doesn’t need to be expensive, a polly bag has saved my camera more than once and weather seals have let me down. I accept no liability for this advice!

  • Make sure you take a lint free cloth to wipe rain of lens, body etc
  • When you get home unpack your gear in room temperature so any residual moisture escapes (moisture hates lenses and bodies)
  • Tell someone were you are going and / or take someone with you if the weather is to be extreme. I have been glad of a fellow photographer a few times after nearly been swept into the sea!
  • A thermos with your favorite hot drink, you will be amazed and how good it tastes after a wild day of shooting.
  • Stay safe… you can always claim insurance to replace your camera but you are irreplacable

I would love to hear your comments or questions also if you have any specific topics you would read about let me know and I will see if I can include it in a future post.

Hope you have a great day (or not weather wise! 😉 )

Improve your landscape shots with the golden hour

The best time to take landscapes is in the Golden hour, 1 hour before and after sunrise or sunset as the light is diffused and you get the possibility of some amazing colours.

  • Get to your location 1 hour before you need to so that you can set up and a pick your frame
  • Bring a torch, you will either be arriving or leaving in the dark
  • Times http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/astronomy.html?n=136
  • Find out whether your location would look better at sunrise or sunset. The above picture of Schiehallion was taken at sunrise as at sunset the mountain isn’t lit with light
  • Use an ND grad and / or a polariser (I talk about these in my last post)
  • Slightly underexpose to get deeper colours
  • Use a long exposure

The above shot was taken at Loch Rannoch in Scotland and the mountain in the back is Schiehallion or Fairy Hill

http://landofthefae.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/schiehallion-fairy-hill-of-caledonians.html

I got up at 5am to photograph the sunrise and it was amazing and I felt energised all day. I met a photographer on the way back from my spot and she said it was a beautiful morning, I thought, if you think this is good you should have seen it an hour ago! 😉

Hope you have a great weekend of stunning sunsets and sunrises, if you have any questions or comments please let me know. What was your favourite sunrise or sunset?

I also run 1:1 coaching sessions and training courses if you are interested please contact me

Long Exposures made easy

I get asked alot how do I get long exposures that mist water so I thought I would do a short post without will as little jargon as possible.

what you need

1. A tripod – get the best you can afford and it will last you for years. I have had my manfrotto for 7 years. If you dont have a dslr (a camera with interchangeable lenses) then you might get away with a smaller cheaper alternative.

2. Camera – Again you don’t need a dslr any camera with a manual setting (where you control the settings of shutter speed etc) even the iphone has apps for long exposure e.g. slow shutter app

above shot taken on my s95 point and shoot camera

3. Filters – basically its like sunglasses for your camera, they reduce the light going in your camera. You can buy screw in ones that are cheaper or a filter set. I use cokin z pro series,which is a filter set, however you can get cheaper versions of filter sets. They attach to the front of your lens. If you have a point and shoot these won’t fit however all you need to do is wait til it gets abit darker. If you can only buy 1 filter I would go with ND Grad (darker at the top than the bottom of the filter), they help stop you overexposing the sky.

Ok so you have the kit what now

1. Set up tripod and switch camera to manual, make sure your iso (this part of your settings is telling your sensor how sensitive it should be to light) is low as possible to start with).

2. Set your camera to timed shutter release so it will take the picture after a few seconds rather than when you fully depress the shutter button. This will help keep your pictures sharper as pressing the button can move the camera). You can buy a remote shutter release which is helpful but not essential.

3. Set your camera to RAW instead of Jpeg if it has this setting. RAW means that the pictures you take have more information and you can adjust them more after your shoot. Don’t have RAW don’t worry, jpeg will do its just a tip to help.

4. Focus on what you want. If you can switch from auto focus to manual do this, as once you have the filters on it may make it harder for the focus to lock on something.

5. Next turn your f.stops up F10 upwards (In basic terms it affects how much light goes to your sensor, it does affect depth of field etc but thats for a different post). Depending on how light your scene is and ability of lens / camera)

6. Your camera will have an exposure bar on it ””’I”” adjust the shutter speed so that the arrow is near the centre.see above (tip i tend to underexpose – arrow to the left of the middle as it will give you richer colours). to start getting misty water you need at least an exposure of 0.5secs. If you haven’t got this then its time for the filters as they reduce the light to the sensor so you will need a longer exposure!

If there is alot of contrasting light (beautifully bright sunset) then your camera may not be able to tell you the right exposure, don’t worry look at your shot, to bright? move your shutter speed closer to 0.5 a second in small increments. Too dark? make the shutter speed longer.

As you practice you will get your own system and be able to judge settings instinctively. No water? the above works for light trails and cityscapes at night.

Please comment whether you found this helpful, have questions and with reduced jargon.

I run 1:1 coaching and workshops in the central belt of scotland, if you are interested drop me an email.

more of my work can be seen here http://www.flickr.com/photos/7382165@N04/