Part 2: Basic Steps and Lessons of Using Tilt/Shift Function

Part 2: Basic Steps and Lessons of Using Tilt/Shift Function

This is part 2 of a series on tilt-shift lenses. Be sure to also check out part 1: Will Learning Tilt-Shift Lenses Improve Your Photography. John Cooper specializes in corporate, industrial, and commercial photography for various business communities in Texas and teaches basic skills to other burgeoning photographers. If you are just starting out, or looking for a refresher, check out his advice below. You can also read more tips for architectural photography from John on our blog.  Basic Steps for Using Tilt-Shift Controls Select your perspective and lock down your tripod. Making sure you are level to the horizon; compose the scene straight on using the “live-view” mode. Set to bracket exposure. I use one full stop since the light measurement goes crazy with everything moving around. Bracketing with tilt-shift, I feel, is mandatory. Select f/8. Remember that aperture settings do not affect DOF on tilt-shift lenses. If your focus plane has been aligned with the sensor plane, then focusing on that plane will result in total plane focus regardless of aperture. I use f/8 because it consistently produces the sharpest image on the wide angle lenses I use. There are 3 controls and 5 knobs or buttons on all tilt-shift lenses to control everything you do. The Lens Rotation control is the button at the rear of the lens. Depressing it allows the lens to move a full 360° and always remains parallel to the camera’s sensor. Loosen all control knobs and start composing! Throw caution away and have some fun. It will take a long time but you will soon see this “plane of focus” I keep talking about. Compose...
Part 1: Will Learning Tilt-Shift Lenses Improve Your Photography?

Part 1: Will Learning Tilt-Shift Lenses Improve Your Photography?

John Cooper specializes in corporate, industrial, and commercial photography for various business communities in Texas and teaches basic skills to other burgeoning photographers. If you are just starting out, or looking for a refresher, check out his advice below. You can also read more tips for architectural photography from John on our blog. Here is his advice on whether tilt-shift lenses are worth it for photographers. Part 1: Will Learning Tilt-Shift Lenses Improve Your Photography? by John Cooper Are tilt-shifts worth it? It depends on what ‘it’ is. Most will argue that software editing can replicate the effects of a tilt-shift lens – so why bother? We need to first understand three key facts: An SLR camera focuses to a plane, not a point, even though you can select the precise place you want to focus on. Depth-of-field and depth-of-focus (DOF) mean the same thing in this discussion. The slight difference between the two does not affect the tilt-shift principles discussed here. The only way to control DOF on any SLR camera without a tilt-shift lens is by aperture. The sketch below shows how the Sensor Plane (SP) is always parallel to Plane of Focus of the lens. This remains constant for all lenses except on tilt-shift lenses. All SLR camera lenses, except the tilt-shift lenses, focus ONLY “front-to-back”. Whatever position your camera is in, relative to the subject, will produce a DOF “plane”. If your subject is parallel to your camera’s sensor plane, then everything will be in focus. If your subject is on a diagonal then only the plane you focus on will be sharp. The images below illustrate the...
Breaking the Rules to Get the Most Out of Natural Light

Breaking the Rules to Get the Most Out of Natural Light

In photojournalism school, students are taught to underexpose when out in the field in order to achieve the richest colors and most intense contrast possible in a photograph. The trick, conventional wisdom explains, is to bring the exposure back up in post processing. I shot this way for years and it always treated me well. I’m still a big fan of the ‘underexpose method’ when shooting landscapes and documentary stories. The technique brings out the drama of what you’re trying to capture; old, wrinkly faces look like they belong to lost souls with millions of years of stories to tell, a canyon or mountain scape appears to be straight out of a dream with rainbow-like colors and dark, cloud-filled skies seem to hover over every crevice of the earth. Depth and drama are what this technique creates  — perfect for telling stories with a ‘wow’ effect. After starting my own wedding photography business, I slowly learned how to bend and, even break, the rules. My focus shifted from news stories that break your heart to telling the happiest stories imaginable — family moments of pure joy and love as young couples prepare for their next stage of life together. When photographing a wedding, you are trusted to document one of the most precious moments in a person’s life. I wanted to do these people justice by focusing on the beauty within. By capturing them in just the right light, I knew I could help them see their own beautiful depth radiating out. With this new goal in mind, my style began to morph. I no longer cared as much about the...
Prime Lens Basics and Why You Should Ditch Zoom Lens Photography

Prime Lens Basics and Why You Should Ditch Zoom Lens Photography

Prime lenses are a not-so-secret weapon favored for their fast apertures, crisp detail, and creamy bokeh.  They differ from the more commercially popular zoom lenses because of their ability to better maximize available light and separate foreground from background with aesthetically pleasing crispness.  They also possess the power to be a catalyst for creativity since they force the shooter to be more physically involved in their compositions. What is a Prime Lens?   A prime lens is a fixed focal length lens that does not allow you to zoom in or out.  In short, the determined focal length of the lens is the distance between the camera’s iris and the subject matter being photographed. Prime lenses allow a handful of benefits compared to their zoom counterparts.  The first, and most desirable, is the availability of fast apertures.  With a fast aperture, a  lens is able to maximize the amount of available light by opening its aperture to an f/2 – f/1.2 or even f/.95 range! Most zoom lenses do not shoot any faster than a f/2.8 (a notable exception is the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8). Why Fast Primes Matter Being able to shoot at a fast/wide-open aperture also allows the shooter a more shallow depth-of-field. Depth-of-field (DOF) is the distance between the foreground, subject, and background.  Shooting wide-open gives a narrow DOF, isolating the subject from its surroundings in terms of sharpness and clarity.  The closer the lens is to the subject, the softer the foreground/background will become. The three most popular and widely used standard primes lenses are the 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm lenses.  They are available in an array of aperture speeds and...
A Photographer’s Guide to Modern Urbexing

A Photographer’s Guide to Modern Urbexing

Jamie MacDonald is an Olympus Trailblazer who shoots nature and wildlife in the Mid-Michigan area exclusively with the Olympus Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds camera systems. He is also a contributor for Small Camera Big Picture. As a nature and landscape photographer he enjoys exploring new areas that have often been abandoned. Learn the tools of the trade to modern “urbexing” in the article written below by Jamie MacDonald. He has also been featured on our blog discussing a new light painting tool to create a successful light painted photo.  A Guide to Urban Exploration: By: Jamie MacDonald Urban exploration, or as it is more commonly known, “urbexing”, is the act of exploring properties that have been either abandoned or forgotten by the general public. Places that are often explored are abandoned factories, hospitals, housing complexes, and even old theme parks. For photographers, urbexing is not just about the exploration, it is often about capturing scenes full of complex detail and light, photographing scenes of decay and destruction in a way that many find hauntingly beautiful. In the following article I will discuss many of the things you will need to have a successful urbex trip. And as always, there are some rules to be followed, and a nice big disclaimer too. Disclaimer: Urbexing quite often can involve being on private property. And though many of the locations that are popular for urbexing look like no one owns them, they just may be. So by entering into any building or onto any property be aware that you may be trespassing. I take no responsibility for that. Now that we have the disclaimer out of the...
8 Helpful Tips for Firework Photography

8 Helpful Tips for Firework Photography

Each year millions of people pack up their cars and head to a local destination to watch the sky light up and crackle. Firework shows are not only a desired destination for families but also for photographers looking to capture that perfect firework photo to add to their portfolio. This year we want to help you capture a special photograph by offering you a couple tricks that will prepare you for the beautiful lights in the sky on the Fourth of July.  8 Helpful Tips for Firework Photography Make sure to bring a tripod when preparing to photograph fireworks! Firework photography requires long exposures and slow shutter speeds. Using a sturdy tripod and a shutter release cord can keep your camera motionless and prevent you from ending up with blurry photos. It is a good idea to have a remote since you won’t know exactly when the fireworks will go off.  Always use manual focus instead of auto focus. For many cameras it can be difficult to use autofocus in low light situations. To prevent missing great firework shots try adjusting your camera to manual focus. Remember if you change focal lengths throughout the firework show it will mean you need to adjust your manual focus on most lenses.  Opt away from using a flash when shooting fireworks. No matter the power of the camera flash or add-on flash it will not be enough to reach the fireworks. Go flash less for the highest quality and clearest photos.  4. If you’re having trouble adjusting the camera settings try starting at the lowest ISO possible and a slow shutter speed. The low ISO will keep...
Bird Photography Advice from Nature Photographer David Bernstein

Bird Photography Advice from Nature Photographer David Bernstein

As the weather gets warmer and daylight hours are lengthened, those who have been stuck inside for the long winter months are ready to begin exploring the great outdoors once again with camera in tow.  I caught up with local wildlife photographer David Bernstein to answer a few questions regarding his experiences. Bernstein started out using a humble Rebel series camera and over time grew into being what he calls a “photo-naturalist”, taking pictures of landscapes and creatures large and small. He especially loves photographing birds and has graciously shared a few tips for those of us looking to brush up on our skills or begin a new photographic hobby. Kymberly: How did you get into bird photography? David: My father is a very talented photographer and I guess you can say that his passion for photography rubbed off on me at an early age. He built a darkroom in our house and gave me one of his old Pentax 35mm cameras around age 5.  My favorite things to photograph were squirrels and birds in the yard. For my 7th or 8th birthday he got me a cheap, used 300mm lens so I could get “better” shots of the sparrows.  Fast forward to 2008, after a hiatus from photography, I was taking my dog for a walk in the park and I noticed a really odd/cool-looking duck in the stream. I had never seen a duck like that before and I was determined to figure out what it was.  I went back the next day with my Canon Rebel, which had a 250mm lens attached, and luckily the duck was still there....
The Importance of Being Archived

The Importance of Being Archived

Our friends at SmugMug really care about photography and the importance of taking pictures in everyday life. This is part 2 of a 3 part series on improving your online life as a photographer, whether that is by improving your website or backing up your files. Here are some tips on how to avoid a personal, digital meltdown and keep your memories safe against fire, flood, hard drive crashes, and other unexpected blips in the matrix. SmugMug’s 9 Must-Haves for a Successful Photography Website reprinted with permission  We see so many websites each and every day and love hearing about how people are using their online websites and how having an online presence affects so much of what they do. Not long ago we shared 6 top mistakes people make when they put together a website but this time we’re addressing a topic that most people probably don’t want to even consider: backing up your photo and video files. A hard demon to face but we’ll show you why it pays to prepare for a potential doomsday disaster. The Worst-Case Scenario Imagine this: you’re booting up your laptop, ready to email your recent trip photos to your friends, and all of a sudden you get the BSOD. In one split second, poof! Your hard drive is gone. As you wipe the sweat from your face, you realize – oh no! All the photos and videos I shot, all the things that I lived and saw in those two weeks abroad, those were the only copies I had. And they’re gone. Forever. Why Back Up? The subject of backing up your files...
Nikon D4s: Thoughts, Test Shots, and Quick Review

Nikon D4s: Thoughts, Test Shots, and Quick Review

Court Leve is a sports, wedding, portrait, and pet photographer. His work has been published in National Geographic Adventure, Powder, Ski, Skiing, Freeskier, Parade Magazine, ForbesLife Mountain Time, Spirit Magazine, Southwest Art, and more. He is a regular contributor to the BL Blog. Nikon D4s: Thoughts, Test Shots, and Quick Review by Court Leve Like most new iterations of Nikon’s pro bodies, the D4s is yet another leap forward in imaging. In my case, coming from a D3s to a D4s ,the improvements are quite noticeable. If you are a current D4 user, the differences will be more subtle but still noteworthy especially for those shooting video. It’s hard to believe a camera can make the D3s feel somewhat antiquated but the D4s does just that. While the D3s is more than capable for just about any situation, the D4s ups the ante yet again. The main areas of improvement are autofocus, low light capabilities, faster frames per second, and better handling. First is the handling of the camera. The added sub buttons are a welcome addition. The reach is shortened and response time quicker when selecting autofocus points.  The body has a few different tweaks and has a great solid feel. The new autofocus is simply amazing, extremely fast and accurate. While shooting a free skiing event I was capturing athletes coming towards me blind over a jump. I was able to instantly capture the skier in mid air while traveling towards me using my 80-400mm at 400mm and achieve nearly a 100% focus accuracy rate. Also helpful was the improved frame rate of 11fps and a nearly non-existent blackout time while...