“Incomplete and a little strange”

“A Ming vase can be well-designed and well-made and is beautiful for that reason alone.  I don’t think this can be true for photography.  Unless there is something a little incomplete and a little strange, it will simply look like a copy of something pretty.  We won’t take an interest in it.”

 John Loengard

Bumble bees buzzing around pink echinacea flowers

(photo taken at 1/800, f/1.8, ISO 100)

“Incomplete and a little strange” is something I have to learn to love in my photography. I’m trying. Often when I search through my photos I discover little treasures that I set aside because they weren’t just right. This photo is one I classed as “incomplete”. The focus wasn’t exactly where I wanted it, which bothered me so much that I couldn’t look at it and moved on. I didn’t rediscover it until a few months afterwards. I came across the photo and did a quick edit, just to see what would happen. It was only when I gave it this second chance that I realised it’s one of my favourites.

I’m trying to be more forgiving in my photography; allowing more space for life and less for attempted perfection.

This takes a lot of gentle (and not so gentle) reminders; I get frustrated when things don’t look like they “should”. I’m taking it gradually, one photo at a time…

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Autumn Walk

The days are drawing in closer, and nights are growing long and cold.

I took advantage of a rare Saturday off work and went for walk in the woods with my brother to enjoy the last of the autumn.

Red leaves with text "...pavements crunch underfoot..."

(Photo taken at 1/320, f/6.3, ISO 320)

I love this season. It may be cold, but the colours are rich, the air is crisp and loaded with the rich smell of the fallen leaves that drift into heaps by the side of pathways. I refuse to grow out of jumping in these drifts, far too much fun.

Feet walking through autumn leaves.

(Photo taken at 1/60, f/5.6, ISO 320)

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Spring has truly sprung!

I love spring more than any other time of year.

It’s the season I eagerly wait for, and year after year, it never disappoints.

leaves and flowers with the sun shining through them, creating a halo of light and some camera flare

(Photo taken at 1/4000, f/1.8, ISO 200)

After about 5 months of cold, grey, drizzly English winter (okay, so technically not 5 months, but winter here kind of stretches across three seasons), suddenly one morning you pull apart the curtains, and the grey sky has become blue. The sun is shining, and glorious green has emerged seemingly overnight.

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A Lesson Learned…

Last week my friend and I were eating lunch in the park when a pair of Air Force helicopters roared through, the wind from their blades blowing bags off our bench.

By the time I’d pulled the camera from my bike panniers, the choppers were directly overhead. I clicked away until they were gone, then looked at my photos.

(Photo taken at 1/4000, f/5.6, ISO 800)

I confess that sometimes I’m rather lazy with my camera settings, thinking, “Ah well, I’ll fix it in Photoshop.” But after a month spent thinking and writing about creative exposures, the first thing I thought when I saw these photos was, “Oops.”

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Exposure – Aperture and DoF

This is part of a four-part series on exposure.

Click here to read an overview of exposure, and for shutter speed and ISO.

Aperture

The opening to the camera lens is called the aperture. You are able control the size of this opening, in increments known as f/stops, thereby choosing the amount of light you want to let through the lens and into the camera in one go. The f/stop numbers go from small; when the aperture is at its widest, to large; when the aperture is small.

To demonstrate, here is a lens aperture at f/2.8:

Camera aperture at f/2.8

f/2.8

And here is an aperture at f/16:

Lens aperture at f/16

f/16

While the shutter speed lets you chose how long the light enters the camera, the aperture lets you choose how much light is able to enter in that time. Closing the aperture is known as “stopping down”, while opening it is “stopping up”. Even though modern digital cameras generally have the ability to be set to 1/2-stops, or 1/3-stops, the range of full f/stops is still useful to be aware of because it corresponds to the standard range of shutter speeds (which is also more varied on modern cameras).

Full f/stop range: f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22, f/32
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The Subconscious Photographer

Sometimes I wonder if I make my photography creative choices as consciously as I think I do. When I first got my SLR, I carried it with me everywhere and took photos constantly. After a little while of taking so many photos, I began to be aware of unintentional patterns in what I was taking. Some of them were unexpected.

Walls for instance.

I didn’t notice the crisp geometry that you get in new walls, the rough, worn textures in old walls, or the variety of plants and vines that grow across them, until I began to find photos that I had been taking of them. I had subconsciously begun “collecting” them. Now I’ve made it conscious and I do keep an eye out for walls that catch my attention while I’m out taking photos.

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Exposure – Shutter Speed

This is part of a four-part series on exposure.

Click here to read an overview of exposure, and about shutter speed and aperture.

Shutter Speed

Last week we talked about basics of exposure – essentially what does what. I’d like to begin going into these in some more detail, starting today with Shutter Speed.

Shutter speed, aperture and ISO are inextricably linked together. To achieve your perfect image, all of them are equally important and they have to balance each other out. Sometimes this link is more or less obvious than at other times, but it’s always there.

There are countless combinations of these three elements that will grant you a technically accurate exposure… that is, provide enough light to show all the detail in the picture, without it being under or over-exposed. This is generally pretty easy to achieve; set your camera to auto and press the shutter button.

But the real fun begins when you start to look at possible photo opportunities with some understanding of the way each of these elements will affect your image. Then, instead of simply trying to get the right amount of light to create an “okay” looking photo, you can choose your settings creatively to gain the best result from the subject in front of you.

Before taking each photo you can think, “Do I want this whole scene in focus? Or do I want to isolate just one area and blur the rest?”, “Do I want to freeze the motion in my photo? Or would I prefer a stretch of sweeping motion-blur to create a different, more dynamic effect?”, and even, “Do I want this image to have a completely smooth finish, or would this subject be complimented by a more gritty, noisy texture?”

As you make a practice of thinking like this, and of experimenting whenever possible, more and more possibilities become obvious with every photo opportunity.

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