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2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

These are the posts that got the most views in 2012.

Some of your most popular posts were written before 2012. Your writing has staying power!

Click here to see the complete report.

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2012 in Featured

 

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How to Use Steel Wool for Beautiful Light Painting Photographs

Here’s an awesome tutorial that teaches you how to create beautiful light painting sparkler photos. The materials are pretty cheap: all you need is some steel wool, an egg whisk, and a rope or cable. Simply place the steel wool inside the whisk, light it on fire using a lighter or 9V battery, and swing it around at the end of the cable while your camera snaps a long-exposure photo. Just be careful not to start a fire!

Recommended Starting Settings:

Manual Mode
Tripod Use
Shutter Speed: 30 secs or Bulb
Apperture: F/8
ISO: 200
White Balance: Tungsten
Format: RAW

via How to Use Steel Wool for Beautiful Light Painting Photographs.

 

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2012 in Inspiration, Night Photography, Technique, Tutes & Tips, Worth a Look

 

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How to Use Natural Frames to Enhance Photographic Composition

By Light Stalking

In a lot of photographic situations, a photographer will often come across a natural object near the scene that can be used to “frame” the main element of the image. It’s a common photographic composition technique and one that can be used to great effect if you can pull it off. Here are a few things to think about when you next have the opportunity to frame your photograph as well as some examples of successful images that use framing.

Alcatraz - Exercise Yard Exit Door "Sailing Away"
Photograph by David Paul Omer

Keep in the back of your mind the common objects that can be used to frame an image naturally. The most common are trees and branches for landscapes, windows and doorways and tunnels and cave-openings. Of course, that is by no means an exhaustive list, but remembering these common objects gets you into the habit of considering less common things to frame an image.

I get the window seat!
Photograph by Ed Siasoco

Remember to use the frame to convey depth in your image. There are basically two main ways to do that. Colour and depth of field. The most common (though not only) way to use colour to convey depth is to have the frame in silhouette (or at least much darker than the main object of the image) such as the forest image below. That means that you need to expose for the background or main object of the image.

As the frame is a foreground, you also have the opportunity to either have it in focus with a narrow aperture or out of focus with a tighter aperture. The choice will very much depend on the situation, but remember to consider the options before taking your shot.

Our love is like the misty rain that falls softly, but floods the river...
Photograph by ManojVasanth

Potato Island

Photograph by Wolfgang Staudt

Don’t think that the frame needs to cover every side of the image either. Many of the most successfully framed images only have one or two sides framed (such as with a tree trunk and branch). On the other hand a fully framed image through a window or door can also be very effective. Use your own judgment.

Employ framing only when it suits the image. Don’t use a frame for every shot. It is easy to overdo framing, especially in a collection of shots from the same shoot. Use it sparingly and only when the opportunity for a good shot is there. Framing can look a little forced at times, so don’t fall into that trap, but don’t be afraid of it either. Again, this is one of the things in photography where every situation is different and you are best advised to use your own judgment.

no need for a frame
Photograph by Izarbeltza

Using a frame in your shots gives you an opportunity to draw the eye of your audience to the main element of the image that you want them to look at. By remembering a few basic pointers as well as always looking out for unique ways to frame images, you give yourself a much better chance of capturing a great photograph.

two Sides
Photograph by Robb North

via Light Stalking » How to Use Natural Frames to Enhance Photographic Composition.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2011 in Featured, General, Landscape, Technique, Tutes & Tips, Worth a Look

 

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Using Photography to Appreciate Life

by Michael Zhang on PetaPixel

365grateful.com from hailey bartholomew on Vimeo.

Back in 2008, photographer Hailey Bartholomew was feeling down even though everything seemed to be going for her in life. After getting some counseling, she began an exercise in reflection and gratitude by purchasing enough Polaroid film for an entire year, and taking a single photo every day of something she is grateful for. Before long, she began noticing things that she otherwise would have overlooked, and her life was transformed by simply looking for the small things in life that are easy to take for granted.

Seeing and celebrating the good in my life affected not only the way I felt spiritually and physically but it improved my relationships with others too. It was not long before it was hard to only take a single photo each day. The more I noticed and took photos the more I began to notice the good and great moments in my life and want to capture them. [#]

After sharing her project, which she calls a 365 Grateful project, through Flickr, Bartholomew is on a mission to spread gratefulness and an appreciation of life to other photo enthusiasts.

365 grateful (via Digital Photography School)

via Using Photography to Appreciate Life.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2011 in Inspiration, Musings, Worth a Look

 

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Landscape Photography at Twilight

by Stefan Hofer at PictureCorrect

"Head-On" captured by Mark Broughton“Head-On” captured by Mark Broughton

There are various phases of sunrise and sunset, however each phase repeats itself twice a day – once during sunrise and once again at sunset. All phases during sunrise are the same for sunset phases – the only difference is chronological order i.e. when each phase begins and ends. Therefore, sunrise and sunset are exactly the same, except that sunset reverses the order of phases seen at sunrise.

Twilight phases at Sunrise:

  1. Astronomical twilight
  2. Nautical twilight
  3. Civil twilight
  4. Sunrise

The phases of twilight at sunset are the same just in the opposite order. Let’s begin with sunrise and discuss each phase separately.

The length of twilight before sunrise and after sunset is heavily influenced by the latitude of the observer; therefore I will not discuss the length of each twilight phase since it is highly variable. The first phase of morning twilight is known as astronomical twilight. This period of twilight occurs when the center of the sun is between 12° and 18° degrees below the horizon and slowly increases before day time officially begins.

Most casual observers would consider the entire sky already fully dark even when astronomical twilight is just ending in the morning. Atmospheric colors consist of deep dark blue toward the horizon, and completely black when facing west. Astronomical twilight really brings cityscape photos to life. The deep blue mixed with warm artificial lights from city buildings, streets, and cars produce nice contrasts. Arguably, this is the best time to photograph cityscapes, but this clearly depends what you’re attempting to capture. Images during all twilight phases and during sunrise require a tripod. The photo will be blurry, regardless if your lens has vibration reduction or image stabilization.

Nautical twilight is when the center of the sun is between 6° and 12° below the horizon. The primary color cast across the atmosphere is usually a deep blue hue with noticeable orange and yellow tones at the horizon due to the rising sun. Light will begin appearing quickly throughout this phase, and the blue sky will get begin to get brighter and paler. Details will become easier to distinguish but will lack most edge definition. Again, cityscape photographs are nicely produced during this phase. Most landscape photographs will be uninteresting during this phase because there is not enough available light. Silhouettes begin to look interesting, and get better in the next twilight phase.

"Winter Solstice in Reykjavik" captured by Ævar Guðmundsson

"Winter Solstice in Reykjavik" captured by Ævar Guðmundsson

Civil twilight is the brightest phase of twilight and begins when the geometric center of the sun is 6° below the horizon and ends at 0° sunrise/sunset. The horizon is clearly visible and shadows are easily discernible. Objects are clearly defined and no additional light is needed in most cases. The light cast during this phase can be anywhere from warm golden tones to cool pink tones. During civil twilight, the colors of the sky are going to change quickly. Colors of pale yellow, neon red, and bright orange will dominate the sky. If clouds are present they begin changing colors, first from soft pink then to deep ruby-red. When looking westward you can see the twilight wedge, which is a mixture of Earth’s shadow and scattered light. The pink and blue hues of the twilight wedge are separated by multiple layers. Most landscape photos begin coming to life as available light increases and details become obvious.

When the sun finally rises, deep ruby-red and dark pink colors splash all over the terrain. Shadows come alive and retain purple and blue hues due to scattered light. The contrasts of red and blue are at a pinnacle, and will arguably provide for the best landscape pictures. The mixture of colors and shadows helps distinguish form, shape, and texture, and these compositional elements should be utilized. The color of light is quickly changing from red to yellow, and you must react very fast if you decide to change composition or frame. As the sun continues to rise in the sky, colors shift from yellow to white. This is why the first hour of sunrise and sunset is called the “golden hour“, because red light shifts to gold. After the first hour of sunrise the color of light begins turning whiter and is not conducive to most landscape photography. The only circumstances that could create gorgeous photos in midday are during storms when the sun breaks through high clouds illuminating spots of land. Otherwise, forget about taking good landscape pictures – they will not be compelling.

Photo captured by Denis Krivoy

Photo captured by Denis Krivoy

The best time of day to create evocative landscape imagery is during twilight and sunrise/sunset. There are rare exceptions when these “rules” do not apply, which is why if you are seriously considering landscape photography you must be out in the wilderness during these hours. Yes you will miss breakfast and dinner, yes it will be hard waking up very early in the morning, and yes you will be frustrated many times when the photo opportunities are just not there because it’s too cloudy, or no clouds, etc. But who ever said photography was easy? This stuff is not meant for the meek. As with anything in life you have to really want it. You have to be passionate about taking away a beautiful photo, even though it took many visits to the same spot to get your photo. This stuff can be grueling at times, but for me, the rewards far outweigh the repeated disappointments. I hope this article has helped those seeking to become landscape photographers.

About the Author
Please visit my website for compelling landscape photographs to witness some of the phenomena I have described above. http://www.stefanhoferphotography.com

via Landscape Photography at Twilight – PictureCorrect.

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2011 in Featured, Landscape, Worth a Look

 

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For Photographers, It’s Not What You Look at — It’s What You See

April 18 | By Harrison McClary

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

Henry David Thoreau

This is one of my favorite quotes. While Thoreau did not say this about photography, it’s about the best advice you can give to someone in our profession.

Photography is not about pressing a button on a camera. It is about telling a story — communicating what you see when you look at your subject.

Same Subject, Different Stories

Different photographers can photograph the same subject but tell a different story. This is true for all types of photography.

For example, let’s say you are a sports photographer covering a basketball game. The game is very close; there is a lot of excitement in the game and on the sidelines.

As the clock winds down, another photographer might focus all his attention on the court. But you spot a player on the sidelines, waving a towel to cheer on his team, that captures the emotion of the game even better.

Or let’s say you are hiking in the mountains and see a stream surrounded by lush vegetation.

Another photographer might go with a wide shot, but this seems boring to you. So you find an interesting rock formation to place in the foreground, providing contrast and giving a stronger feel for where you are.

Or perhaps you decide to go with a detail or macro shot instead. Why photograph a whole tree when a single leaf tells your story?

Training Yourself to Notice

We should always be looking for pretty light, interesting juxtapositions, leading lines and other visually stimulating subjects.

At the same time, we should always be looking for stories to tell.

Peer inside a building with unusual windows. See if someone is looking out, or reading a book, or painting.

Walk through an old cemetery. Maybe you’ll find someone pressure-washing the headstones.

Drive alongside a long, winding white fence. Perhaps you’ll come across a horse being fed by its owner.

Always be observing. Always be looking for interesting subjects, and thinking about what elements would make your photos even better.

The more you do this, the more often you will come across these elements — because you have trained yourself to notice them.

via For Photographers, It’s Not What You Look at — It’s What You See | Black Star Rising.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2011 in Featured, Inspiration, Worth a Look

 

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5 Simple Ways To Improve Your Candid Photography

by Christopher B. Derrick

People love candid photography, because it truly captures slice of life moments that will never be repeated and it invokes a sense of the “now.” Only, most people go around taking staged photos and asking people to say “cheese”

1. Lose the Flash

One of the first things you need to do is turn off your flash. Whether you’re using a P&S or a dSLR, the use of a flash shouts that you’re taking pictures. Whereas, if your flash is off — you can subtly snap away and catch those great moments. Also, flashes blind people, so those expressions of joy, grief, surprise, excitement – can get wiped away by the flash.

2. Take A Lot of Photos

Don’t be afraid to take tons and tons of photos (fill up that memory card!), and if you’re not using the flash, the camera doesn’t need to cycle the flash to take advantage of the camera’s shooting speed. Most digital cameras today – P&S and dSLR have a burst mode, use that to your advantage (practice with it in non-important settings to get the hang on of it, because it’s useful and fun in the right hands in the right circumstances).

3. Use Your Zoom and Strategic Positioning

You’ll want to use the longer end of your zoom lens and find the most advantageous places to get shots that don’t intrude on what’s happening around you. This strategic positioning is a skill that you’ll develop the more you seriously think about positioning and placement for effective photographs — before the events happen.

4. Catch People in the Moment

And one of the best ways to improve your candid photos is to photograph people actually doing things… nothing drains the life out of a photo than having it staged; asking people to move closer and smile and change positions so so-and-so can be seen takes the energy out of any moment. The stilted nature of those types of photos (and we ALL know what I’m talking about) is what you’re fight against. Part of the fight requires you just taking pictures when your subject(s) isn’t aware; when they’re caught up in something else (listening to someone tell a story, waiting for the surprise guest to show up, etc.) is an ideal time to snap away.

5. Become Invisible

When your composing your candid shots, try to do a few things to prevent your subjects from knowing that you’re taking a picture. Try keeping the camera down by your belt/waist and fire away (no need to keep your eye at the viewfinder, as you had to with some film cameras) and/or position people and objects directly between you and the subject(s) to act as a framing device. In addition, by finding unorthodox perspectives and camera positions you’ll also increase the power of your candid — especially, if they’re slightly out of focus, tilted and otherwise “messy” — as that mess can be the brilliance.

Chris Derrick is a writer, photographer, screenwriter and director living and working in Los Angeles. He studied film production and screenwriting at the University of Southern California, and continued to expand his photographic knowledge through classes at the Art Center College of Design.

Website: shadowboxercinema.net

via The Photo Argus.

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Top image by moriza

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2011 in Featured, General, Worth a Look

 

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