Tuesday, October 28, 2014

My trip to the Grampians

I spent last weekend with my wife and her childhood friends at The Grampians. It was a very enjoyable visit to the national park. It was also an opportunity to practise what I have recently learned about handling the camera for shooting sharper images. I am quite happy with the result, after reviewing the images back home. Here are some of the images I like.

On the way to The Pinnacles, we passed through this place called The Grand Canyon.
The rock formation reminds me of Angkor Wat and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
 Another interesting reminder of the Angkor Wat temple ruins.
This reminds me of a werewolf, shot against the midday sun and converted to monochrome.
Shot this "family portrait" at the aboriginal centre in Hall's Gap.
This is Mt Abrupt, as seen outside the tourist information centre in Dunkeld. Dunkeld is the southern gateway to The Grampians.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

How to shoot a sharp image

I have to admit that despite my technical knowledge about all the controls on a DLSR camera, I really know very little when it comes to achieving tack sharp images. I hope all this is about to change with the time and research I have invested in the last few days.

All the  information I ever got in any photography course about focusing was not enough to get me there. Typically, the lessons cover camera holding technique, use of tripod and remote control, and correct setting of minimum shutter speed. The more advanced topics may cover hyperfocal distance, and use of mirror lock up to reduce camera shake.

With the above knowledge, I have never really mastered the art of getting consistently tack sharp images. Therefore I jumped at the opportunity to read a book called "Tack Sharp" by James Brandon when I signed up for a special 5-Day Deal on photography. The book did not help me at all (later, on re-examining the book, I found that it did cover the important camera settings I am going to talk about) but it did trigger me to do something about it.

I pasted some printed papers on the wall and started target shooting practice. Fixing the shutter speed at 1/50 sec, I got some disastrous result; I have over-rated myself at my own hand holding stability. I increased it to 1/80 sec (i.e. I was shooting with 24-70mm lens) I started to get better focus more often. Therein lies my Discovery No.1: the experts were right. The minimum hand held shutter speed must be faster than 1/(focal length).

Discovery No.2: Using another camera, the Olympus OMD-EM5, I managed to achieve consistently sharp focus even when hand holding at 1/45s on the equivalent of a 90mm lens. The image stabilizer actually works! Previously I was using a Nikon D700 which has no image stabilizer.

Discovery No.3: I "discovered" that many pro shooters out there actually (not surprisingly...) use the fancy camera settings available on the higher end DSLR. I re-discovered the back button focus "AF-On", which allows me to focus using a separate button other than the shutter release. I also learn to take advantage of the AF-C servo focus. I also learn when to use the Single Point AF and when to use the Dynamic auto focus to achieve better result.

Discovery No.4: My OMD-EM5 with a simple $250 45mm lens, does a far better job at focusing than my D700 with a ~$2000 24-70mm lens.

Now that I think I have a better understanding about focusing, perhaps I might next learn the fine art of lens appreciation. Frankly, with all the wonders that a simple bit of photoshopping can do, I am not a big connoisseur of lenses.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Model shoot and fine art rendition

As always, model shoot has always been a highlight event at the camera club for me. Tonight we had a model shoot at the club. This time, my images get some fine art treatment instead of the usual realism, due to my new-found penchant for this. The first image below is the original, while the other two are artistically rendered.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

How to convert an image to monochrome

Converting a coloured image into black and white can often be achieved with just a single click when using even a simple photo editor. However, the resulting image may not always be pleasing. Often this is the result of not having a good enough tonal range and the image looks "flat". To achieve the classic high contrast look in a black and white image, one of the easiest ways is to use the dodge and burn tool in Photoshop.

Here's how. First, use whichever method you prefer to change a coloured image into black and white. For instance, click on Image>Mode>Grayscale, or, Image>Adjustments>Black & White.

Now, using the Burn tool and setting the Range to Shadows and Exposure very low (to, say, 3%), brush over the entire image to make the dark areas slightly darker. Then using the Dodge tool and setting the Range to Highlights and Exposure again to very low (say 5%), proceed to brush over the image again to make the bright areas slightly brighter. That's all there is to it!

Below is an example of an image before and after the Burn and Dodge treatment.

Before Burn and Dodge

Monday, October 6, 2014

Loch, a country town in Victoria

Loch is a quaint little village in country Victoria, about an hour and a half's drive southeast of Melbourne. There is a little cafe there that serves a most delightful meal.The cafe is decorated with antiques new and old, which I find to be very interesting subjects to photograph. At this time of the year, the sidewalks are full of bright and colourful spring flowers. If you ever make a visit to Loch, don't rush through it, but take some time to leisurely enjoy the food, the flowers, and the fresh air.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Fine art photography portraits

Last few days, I did a google search for fine art photography portraits. I found that many of the images have a grungy background texture. Therefore I decided to try my hand at reproducing the technique. See these images below, which I did this morning. All these images were shot against a white backdrop and have been post-edited for background effect.