SUDDENLY, NORWAYS

I’m in Norway now, and I’m hoping to catch the Aurora Borealis tomorrow. But just to let you know I’m still alive, enjoy this:

10 second exposure, from in town. I can't wait to get into the mountains.

Edit: Yes, I know the new watermark is a pain, but certain people have been stealing my photos without acknowledgement. And that’s just not on.

Advertisements

On the books, but never too busy for photos.

Busy days are busy. With two essays on the books and a number of other commitments, updates are going to be pretty intermittent up until December. However, I’ll bring you photos when I can, and maybe even a LTA post. Meanwhile, enjoy some photos I took walking around during what free time I had.

White balance set to flash for this one.

England finally decided that it might be a good idea to invest in road grit for the winter.

BLOW OUT ALL THE SKIES

I would have liked to remove the sign and posts, but I think that might have been a bit more trouble than this photo is worth.

One of these days, I'm going to find a white-barked tree to take this photo. And it'll be awesome.

Edinburgh – Some Epic Skies

I was in Edinburgh last weekend covering a basketball game again. However, the photos I have for you today aren’t of the games. Maybe next post. Since I was on a fairly tight schedule, I couldn’t take my time with taking photos, but I took what opportunities I could to get a few anyway. Being very busy, I don’t have the time to write a full article, unfortunately, but enjoy these four selections from last weekend.

The sky in particular was quite something.

Metering the sunlit part of this building meant that the sky was properly metered as well.

Sunrise, not sunset, if you were wondering.

Part of Arthur's Seat. Realised after we came down that I had chosen to climb up the harder path. :/

Will bring you some basketball later this week hopefully. πŸ™‚

A bit of macro

Well, I was out today and took a few macro photos. While I publish my misc photos on FB and not in post to themselves nowadays, I wanted to give these their own post, because FB destroys photo quality. With that said, enjoy.

Let’s Talk About: Basic Macro Photography

Before we start, I’d just like to say that the photos I’ve put here are -not- necessarily relevant to what I’ve written below, and I’m not sure if any of them are at full 1:1 magnification. Mostly because I took them before I learned what I’ve written in my article below. I’ve put them in because I felt you might prefer not to have to read an unbroken wall of text, and I felt they were worth sharing.

If anyone knows where I can find more of these bugs, let me know.

First off, some of you might be wondering what macro photography actually is. To put it simply, it’s a type of photography where you take a photo that’s very close to your intended subject, often showing off fine details, or enlarging a small subject like an insect to fill the whole frame. For macro photography, you probably will be using/will want to be using a prime lens.

Why use prime lenses for macro?

Performing macro photography with a prime lens simply means doing it with a lens that doesn’t zoom and only has one fixed focal length. It’s usually a better idea to use a prime macro lens if you’re going to do a lot of macro photography. One reason for this is that the image quality of your photos will be better. This is because prime lenses usually have a lot less lens elements in them than their zoom counterparts, so the light doesn’t have to pass through as many pieces of glass before it hits the sensor, and so won’t be disturbed as much. In addition,Β most (but not necessarily all) macro zooms aren’t capable of 1:1 magnification. In other words, most macro zoom lenses aren’t capable of getting as close to a subject as a prime lens, due to the nature of their construction. Most only manage 1:2 or 1:3 magnification, which means 1/2 and 1/3 life-size respectively. A 1:1 ratio of magnification means that your subject is reproduced life size.

No, it's not macro at all. But it's kinda pretty, so I'm sharing it anyway.

What kind of gear would help me in macro photography?

A tripod, or at least some kind of supportΒ is going to help you out a lot. When you’re taking macro photos, unless you’ve used a very small aperture setting (i.e. a very high F number), you’ll find that the depth of field is absolutely miniscule, and the area that you’ll have in focus will be tiny. This where your tripod or other support comes in handy. If you’re using single focus, handheld shooting will probably mean that your photo will drift in and out of focus because of your body movements. By using a support, you get rid of camera shake, reducing motion blur and soft focus in your macro photos.

Another piece of gear that might help is a macro focus rail. It’s basically a rail that you can mount on your tripod that allows your camera to slide back and forth on it. Because your depth of field will often be tiny, it can be helpful for focusing if you can move your camera back and forth to change the point of focus. You’re probably wondering why I’m not telling you to just use the focus ring – that’s explained in the next section.

Also, if you have the money for it, a ring flash would be good too, but if you’ve got a bright day, it might not be necessary. The alternative is to use a ring flash, which would give you more light and thus let you work at a higher shutter speed. This will help reduce motion blur, both from your movements and the movement of your subject. Another advantage of using a flash for this is that you can also afford to use a smaller aperture. This will increase your depth of field and give you more room for error in your focusing.

Finally, if you want to go that bit further, a remote shutter release would help as well. By using a remote shutter, you can completely eliminate any camera shake that might result from you holding the camera yourself, but you’ll almost certainly need to use a tripod, since you’re not holding the camera yourself.

Focusing

Generally, you won’t want to rely on your camera’s autofocus. Because you’re shooting at a very high magnification, it’s not necessarily going to be very accurate, and if the focus point is wrong, the shallow depth of field leaves little room for error. For macro, you probably want to be focusing manually.

A technique used by many photographers is to set the camera to its closest focus distance, then simply move closer and closer to the subject until it’s in focus. By doing this, you get as close as you can, whilst still having control over focus. If you’ve got a tripod with a rail, all you have to do then is simply slide the camera along the rail until the focus is in the right place. If you’re shooting handheld, the principle is the same – move yourself fractionally backward or forward until the focus is in the right place. Of course, a tripod will be much more stable than shooting handheld.

Because people have been asking, it's a dead plant, and not a nest of bugs.

Some tips for creating your photos

Don’t forget to compose your photos carefully. Composition is obviously highly subjective, and can look good to different people. However, there are a few things you can think about when composing your photos. One of the key elements is simplicity – make the photo as simple as possible. This means trying to eliminate anything that doesn’t add to the photo, such as background clutter and distracting colours.

Also, be very wary of shake – not just camera shake, but subject shake. In the case of camera shake, the fact that you’re so close to your subject means that the effects of any camera shake that goes on is magnified, and motion blur from that becomes more of an issue. As long as you have a good tripod and a remote release, that’s less of a problem (alternatively, use a timer to let the camera settle). However, subject shake could be more annoying, since it’s harder to control. For instance, trying to take a macro photo of an insect on a leaf outdoors could get annoying if it’s windy and the leaf is flying around. If you’re into natural macro, you might find it useful to build yourself a clamp – to hold the leaf in place, for example. Here’s a quick guide from Lancashire Lad that might give you an idea of what to do: http://www.wildaboutbritain.co.uk/forums/photography-techniques/51409-clamps-positioning-macro-subjects.html

Focus is important. This is for two reasons. First, because you’re emphasising very tiny, minute and/or fine details, these details need to be in focus and sharp to make the most impact. Secondly, because the depth of field is tiny, you need to carefully choose exactly what’s going to be in focus and what’s not. Therefore, keep the focus in mind when taking your macro photos.

You could increase the depth of field by making the aperture smaller, but there are then three things you need to take into account. The first is that a smaller aperture means a slower shutter speed, which means that you’ll need to further reduce any kind of movement in your scene to get a sharp image. The second is that you might lose some sharpness due to diffraction. The third is that the increase in depth of field isn’t that big, because you’ll be very close to your subject. As a result, you’ll have to think carefully about whether you want to use a smaller aperture given the circumstances. As a guideline, you might start at F/8, and work up or down from there.

It's a crop, but I felt the quality was good enough to warrant posting it up.

Well, that’s all I have to say for now. It’s just a basic introduction to macro photography, and there are more articles out there that will also help your knowledge. That said, I have to stress that reading articles on the Internet is all well and good, but the best way to improve is to get out there and take photos. Anyway, I hope this has been useful for anyone reading. I’ll do more of this soon.

Warwick Castle – Birds!

“It’s been 10 days, why haven’t you posted?”, I hear you ask. Well, I’ve been moving around quite a bit, and so my memory card has slowly been filling up with photos from all over the place. So as much as I wanted to post up this set of photos, I’d just been sidetracked with volumes of other photos and the conundrum of how to organise and upload them all. Anyway, the photos today will be mostly birds, although there’ll probably be one or two other photos from Warwick Castle that are not bird related.

Who doesn't love eagles? πŸ˜€

What I’ve therefore decided to do is to use this opportunity to write a bunch of posts discussing various topics about photography. I haven’t yet decided what these topics will be, but I’m guessing there’ll be maybe five posts or so discussing it. If anyone reading has anything they’re not so clear on photography-wise, feel free to drop me an email at vertigo.photoblog@gmail.com and I might write a post on it.

Getting this photo was a bit difficult, since the owl's enclosure was somewhat dark. Thankfully, the fence was a good enough base to rest my 70-300mm on to reduce some of my camera shake.

Anyway, with regards to my plans for the near future, I’ll be heading off to France for a few days. Depending on whether there’s internet available, you guys may or may not hear from me, but with a bit of luck, I might have some landscape photos for you. I don’t actually know what I’ll be able to see from where I’m staying, so it might actually be something else. After I get back, it’ll be some posts about the aforementioned photography topics – again, what those will be remains to be seen.

I have to wonder if the shadows would have looked better if I had used a flash, but I don't think flash photography was permitted at the time.

Anyway, I don’t have very much else to say today, so I’ll write again after France. Have a good weekend, and I’ll see you guys next week. πŸ˜€

Couldn't get this guy to spread his wings, even after following him around for 20 minutes. Gave up, went with this photo. .___.

 

Warwick Castle – Jousting

So I recently was at Warwick Castle, and certainly, it’s an amazing castle. Of course, I had my camera along for the day, and so I did end up with a ton of photos by the end of it. What I’ve decided to do is to break it up, so I’ll be posting different stuff from the day over a few posts. So what am I posting today? Why, men running at each other with sharp objects, of course. πŸ˜€

Most of the photos I have today are crops unfortunately, because the show was across a river, and 300mm just doesn’t quite do the trick.

Unfortunately, the jousting and so on was taking place in a sectioned off area on the opposite side of a small river, and even with 300mm of focal length stuck on the end of my camera, it wasn’t enough to get the tight framing that I wanted. As a result, there are two consequences of my having to do this. Firstly, I’ve had to crop photos to get the framing I wanted, which is needless to say, not exactly the greatest situation ever, so the resolution of the photos isn’t exactly brilliant. Secondly, the lens I was using is a little iffy in terms of optical quality at the longer focal lengths, so having to crop the photos probably isn’t helping this.

The other drawback of not being able to get better angles - having things get in the way. Rrawrgh.

If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you’ll also know that I’ve been messing around with my picture controls lately. The main reason I started messing with it is because I realised on a number of my photos that the in-camera sharpening, which I had turned up pretty high before, was… well, sharpening my photos too much. The result was a large number of photos that looked very harsh, as opposed to sharp, fine and detailed. So when I was at the castle, I reconfigured the picture control and let it choose the sharpness automatically. For some cases it was fine, but for others, the lack of crisp and clear edges irked me somewhat. The pictures you’re seeing here (and probably in the coming Warwick Castle posts) will have been sharpened in Photoshop instead of in-camera, a step I didn’t have to do with my previous picture control. I think for my next outing, I’ll probably leave the sharpness at about 6.

Because everything is more awesome when it's on fire. True story.

Funny thing about Nikon’s picture controls is that if you make custom picture controls by using the existing ones as templates (which to my knowledge, is the only way of doing it), the base control that you use does seem to have an effect on the custom one that you finally end up with. Now, I know it might seem really obvious at first that basing two custom picture controls off of different controls would result in different effects on the photos. But when you have two pictures controls, one based off of Vivid and another off of Standard, with identical settings, producing different results, you have to scratch your head a little – especially when the settings for hue, saturation and contrast are controllable. It suggests that Nikon’s picture controls have a little bit of the black box around them, and it’ll probably be useful for people to know that there is this difference in the base picture controls that you build your customs off of.

Of the jousting/combat photos, this one is probably where a combination of being too far away and not having sufficient in-camera sharpening does hurt it a little, which is a shame.

Well, that’s probably all I have to say for tonight. Hopefully I’ll have time to put up more photos of the castle soon, so check back when you can.

Choppitychopchop.

By the way, if you like what you see, please do tell your friends and check out the Facebook page. I’m just one guy trying to run this and keep the blog updated with interesting and useful content – plus, I’m considering putting out some photography tutorial videos, so your support would mean a lot to me. Thanks for reading, and see you soon. πŸ™‚