Sunday, May 11, 2008

How to Take Big Suns in Photography

by: Jan Linden

Sure, these pictures may border on cliches, but they are cliches that never fail to grab us. We're all suckers for that frame-filling drama of Ol' Sol looming large on the horizon.

And we all know how to get those shots of big suns - just shoot the horizon with that fabulously expensive, super-speed, extralow-dispersion glass, apochromatic tele, right?

Wrong. You need a long lens, sure, but it needn't be a budget buster. Some very good 500mm mirror lenses come in under $200, store price. There are all-glass 400mm, 500mm, and 600mm designs from major independents that sell for $300-500. And you can make an existing tele longer by using a teleconverter. That fine 300mm f/4 you bought for nature work, for example, can be converted to a 600mm f/8 with a 2X converter. That's a pretty good focal length for big suns. Using a 3X converter will make a 900mm f/12, and so on.

Besides a tele, you need a sturdy tripod - flimsy travel models need not apply. For one thing, focusing and framing through a long tele is far easier if the rig is well supported. For another thing, even a little shake can blur a long-tele shot.

A spot or limited-area meter helps, although it is not essential. An overall meter reading with an SLR will generally be far too high, resulting in a shot that's too dark - even if the desired effect is a silhouette. Most big-sun shooters use the strategy of spotmetering an area of the sky near but not immediately adjacent to the sun - an area in which some sky tone appears. This will give you a silhouette reading that will still maintain a little shadow detail.

And how do you focus and compose with that big burning disk staring you right in the eye? First, if everything in your frame is a long distance from the camera, setting the lens to infinity is the easiest way to focus without being dazzled. Otherwise, you may prefocuse the camera with the sun just out of the frame. You can often recompose the scene by holding your eye a little away from the finder to avoid being temporarily blinded by the sun.

The best big-sun shots are the ones that don't rely solely on the sun; the big sun, in fact, is best used as a background. The landscape, the harbor scene, the city skyline - each picture should stand on its own for it to work with a big sun behind it.

There is a pitfall here, though. Even with objects at a far distance, they can still be out of the plane of focus of the sun, due to the effective shallow depth of long lenses. Generally, the sun can stand to be a little soft, so try focusing on the nearest large object in the composition. Also, use small apertures and check the depth-of-field preview.

Big-sun shots can, on occasion, be surprisingly colorless; the sky around the sun can range from blank white to dull gray. A filter is called for here, from the standard warming (81A and similar) for a warm sky tone, to amber for richer color, to full orange for an exaggerated effect.

About The Author

Jan Linden is a professional photographer and designer runs

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Capturing Motion - And the Photographic Blur

Photo by AllSportsBlog

If you are a sports photographer, and you will know how to take motor racing photography with action by setting a slow shuttle speed and panning when the cars passing by,so you might freeze the image with motion blur background to show the moving speed effect of the motor racing. With the modern cameras fixed with motor drive nowaday,it is so much easier if you want to venture into this motion photography.

Here is Tedric Garrison's view.

The fans are screaming; the Bulls have the ball, and you are following number 23 as he approaches the basket. He jumps, he shoots … you score! You did get that picture just as the ball left his fingertips, didn’t you? If you got that sports illustrated cover shot, the ball would be frozen just past the tip of his fingers.

This is the type of fast pace action shot that most photographers think about when they are trying to show motion in their photos; but it is not the only way to show motion. Think about it for a moment. If you were watching a wind mill; on a windy day, how would those blades look? If they were frozen in mid air like the basketball, you wouldn’t be able to tell if there was actually any wind that day or not.

If you were shooting a NASCAR race and got a single car high up on the edge of a curve, do you really want it 100% stop motion, razor sharp? I would say no. Why? Because if you took the picture the way it was just described, it could just be parked on the track for all anyone knows.

Obviously stopping motion is not the only way to show motion. If you want to freeze things in mid air, think fast shutter speed or electronic flash. If you want some blur in the image think slower shutter speed and a tripod.

When we say slow; we mean slow compared to the speed of the subject. For example; if we are talking about a NASCAR car that goes 200 miles per hour, even 1/250th of a second might be slow enough to catch some blur. To be on the safe side, I would bracket your exposures to include: 1/500th, 1/250th, 1/125th, 1/60th, and 1/30th of a second. The first two or three shots you should be able to hand hold without much problem; but once speeds start getting at 1/60th of a second or slower, it is always safer to use a tripod.

The wind mill may only be blowing at 25mph or slower; so you might still freeze the image at only 1/125th of a second. In this case you definitely want to use a tripod and shoot at even slower speeds. The reason you use a tripod is so that the rest of the image (other than moving parts) will photograph sharp and crisp.

So far we have only mentioned two basic choices: A) the subject is frozen in mid air (commonly referred to as Stop Action) or B) the subject deliberately shows some blur to indicate movement. There is a third choice which is not so basic; this choice is called panning. Panning involves using a slower shutter speed, but moving with (or panning with) the subject as it goes by. This makes the subject clear but the background blurry. It is very effective in showing motion, but it does take a lot of practice. Panning can be done with or without a tripod. But the cleanest pan shots I have ever seen all did it with the tripod.

You can also combine effects. For example: I once shot a dance where there were several photographers using flash. I was trying a timed exposure of a young lady coming down a circular stair case. Right at the end of my exposure a flash went off. The end result was really quite amazing. The ghost image of the girl walking slowly down the stairs became crystal clear when she paused at the bottom step and the flash went off.

There is no one way that is right or wrong to capture motion. Sometimes we see motion using stop action; sometimes we do it with a deliberate blur. Blur can be fractions of a second, or they can be several minutes long. If you have ever seen waterfall shots with the white dreamy flowing water, that was exposed for several minutes with a tripod. The choice of how you shoot movement determines how you view movement. Next time you automatically think “stop action” try a few blur shots as well; you might be surprised at the results.

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Award winning writer / photographer Tedric Garrison has 30 years experience in photography. As a Graphic Art Major, he has a unique perspective on the Elements of Design and how those elements relate to all aspects of photography. His photo eBook (Your Creative Edge) proves that creativity CAN be taught. Tedric shares his wealth of knowledge with the world, at: Better Photo

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