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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Shooting Buildings and Monuments - get a new perspective!

By Marc B

Shooting buildings and monuments can be very challenging to get right.  It’s easy to stand in front of a building and snap off a few shots, but what does it take to get a truly exceptional photograph?  There are many things that need to be considered when it comes to this type of photography, not least of which is location, light and perspective. 

Location
The best part of the photo taking process is actually finding either a building or monument to photograph, and finding a different perspective than anyone else.  This involves a bit of walking and looking.  You don’t need to shoot a well-known landmark or building; indeed they have all been photographed to death, so it’s good to find something a little out of the way that may not get the attention it deserves.  I have seen amazing photographs of drains, old petrol stations and even car parks. The limit here is your imagination and skill in capturing a compelling photo of what could normally be considered a ‘boring’ subject. 


Canon 5DMk2, 50mm, f5.0, 1/125 second. Shot in Hamburg, Germany

Lighting
Here is the real challenge.  Getting the lighting right is really what photography is all about, but how do we control the light on something like a building?  A little bit of patience is required as you will need to wait until the light from the sun (or moon!) is at just the right angle for the photo you want to achieve.  There are a few Apps that you can get for smartphones that can tell you where the Sun will be at any time on any day for the chosen spot. Knowing this information will help you plan your timing to be on location.  A nice technique is to wait until ‘Golden Hour’ which is a time just after sunset where the sky takes on a nice deep blue - this lasts for varying amounts of time depending on the time of year and your location.  The lighting of ‘Golden Hour’ adds great colour to the sky while at the same time leaving enough light to have some details in the shadows of buildings.  

You will definitely need a steady tripod for this kind of work as your shutter speed will be quite long, particularly if you are using a low ISO (which you should be).  Also a cable release would be very useful here.


Canon 5DMK2 70mm, f2.8, 0.6 seconds. Shot at Edinburgh Castle, Scotland


Change your perspective
Here is what almost everyone does: they see something that looks like it would make a good photo and they lift the camera to their eye and take a shot.  This ends up looking like every other photo of that building (or waterfall or whatever) ever since cameras where invented.  This is where you need to get creative.  Think about the perspective you want to use to make your photo different (changing lenses does not alter your perspective; it changes your angle of view only).  Can you get up high and take a photo from a nearby building?  Can you find somewhere that allows you to lie flat on the ground and shoot up at the building from an extreme low angle?  Try to think of anything that will give your shot a wow factor that is different from the standard point and shoot mentality.  Lens selection is also important. Do you shoot with an ultra-wide angle?  Stand back and shoot with a standard lens and get straighter vertical lines?  If you have the time, try as many options as you can.  

Patience
Above all you will need patience - finding the location, working out the best time of day for light and then nailing the perspective will take time. But in the end you will end up with a photo like no other - one with some thought and planning behind it, which will stand above the average snapshot.  Get cracking!  Feel free to share you results with us and remember that the first 10,000 shots are the worst!

Recommended equipment:
  • Lenses of varying focal length but particularly wide and mid-range lengths such as 10-22mm, 24-70, 18-55
  • A sturdy tripod (essential)
  • A cable release for your camera
  • Filters like a Cir-Pl, ND and graduated ND filters are great for certain situations (take a look at our recent blog on the Benefits of Filters)
  • Lens hoods can be helpful when shooting outside
  • A torch if you’re shooting at night
  • A weather resistant camera bag

Monday, February 17, 2014

Owning Multiple Cameras – Part 2

…different cameras for different uses

By Marc B

Owning Multiple Cameras – Part 1 explored street photography and special occasion photography. Below are some suggestions of camera types that are suitable for specific situations. Remember, any camera is better than no camera at all!

Landscape Photography
Landscape photography is all about wide open spaces, detail, sharpness and rugged equipment. You can use a few different cameras for this type of photography.  The only essential would be a camera that can use filters as landscape photographers have a need for a few different types of filters (
ND, ND Grads, circular polarisers etc.).  A Compact System Camera (CSC) is ideal for this as they are light, some are weather resistant and have some high quality lenses that can take a filter.  Another advantage of a CSC is that they are compact enough to go in a backpack if you are hiking, but good enough quality to get awesome results.  The lens selection is great and there are plenty of cameras to choose from.

Everyday Photography

There are times when the phone camera just doesn’t cut it (indoors, low light, if you need to zoom) and you need a camera that can far outdo the results from what your phone can do but you don’t want to lug around a big DSLR.  For this there is a range of small but high quality cameras available with built in Wi-Fi so you can still share those moments instantly.  But now you can do it with awesome quality.  Some cameras that fit this category are the Canon S120, the latest in a long line of ‘S’ series cameras that are known for their low light performance, the new Fujifilm XQ1 which is the smallest Fuji camera yet to feature their very well respected X-Trans sensor and it also features no low pass filter for extra sharpness.  Other cameras are the Sony RX100 II which is very small but with a larger sensor size than most other compacts for exceptional image quality.  All of these cameras feature Wi-Fi and all have apps available to stream your images to your smart device for uploading to your social networking site of choice.  The main difference being that your photos will be of a much higher quality than your friends’ photos.

Travel Photography

Travel photography encompasses such a wide range of photography styles (architecture, portrait, landscape, street and general photography) that it is impossible to find one camera to do it all.  The best option here is to take two cameras (this article assumes photography will be a major interest when you go on holidays), one of them should be your DSLR or CSC with appropriate lenses, and the other should be a good compact super-zoom camera.
The DSLR is the go-to camera that you use for the majority of the trip, these photos are unrepeatable events and you should use your best gear to capture them.
The compact is your back-up camera and is the camera to take with you if you find yourself going to events that do not allow (or you simply don’t want to take) a DSLR.  The compact should have a big zoom for those times when you need to get in close and Wi-Fi for transferring to your smart device to share the moment with friends and family.  Some good options here are the Panasonic TZ40 with a 20X optical zoom, Wi-Fi and NFC.  This comes from a long line of very successful travel zoom cameras from Panasonic.  The Olympus SH-50 also features a slightly bigger 24X zoom lens with an advanced 5 axis image stabilisation feature when using video to really steady those hands.  It also uses a 16 MP BSI CMOS sensor for great low light ability.  Nikon also has the popular S9500 travel zoom which features a 22X zoom, 18MP sensor, Wi-Fi, GPS for tracking where you took the photo and full HD video recording.
These are just a few options of cameras available for these photographic styles, there are plenty more in-store so come on in, call us or check out our website to see what else we have on offer!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Owning Multiple Cameras – Part 1

…different cameras for different uses
By Marc B
If only a one-size-fits-all camera existed, one that had the optical and sensor quality of a high end DSLR but in the size of a compact, with a massive zoom range but also wide open apertures.  Such a camera doesn’t exist yet so it’s left to us to pick and choose the right camera for the right situation.  This is great news for us cameraholics who love an excuse to buy yet another cool camera.  But which camera suits which situation?
Most photographers find themselves in a variety of situations that call for different lenses and sometimes completely different systems.  Below are some suggestions of camera types that are suitable for specific situations although any camera is better than no camera at all.

Street Photography

Street photography calls for a small, unobtrusive camera that still produces high quality images.  There are two popular choices for this area.  The first is a compact, fixed lens camera like the Fuji X100s or X20, Canon G16, Nikon Coolpix A or the Sony RX1 R at the high end.  These cameras are relatively small in size but give an outstanding result in challenging conditions.  The advantage of them being so small is the ability to take photos unobtrusively and candidly in a street situation or even a social occasion like a wedding (if you aren’t the primary photographer) where you might want a more relaxed and less posed photo. 
Another option would be a full size DSLR but with a small prime lens attached, like a 50mm or 24mm large aperture lens.  These are cheaper than a high quality zoom lens but can be of similar or better optical quality and in a much smaller form factor.  These cameras can be set up easily for pre focusing (a technique that involves pre focusing a known distance from the camera so you can shoot instantly without waiting for the camera to focus) so you don’t miss that vital moment.

Special Occasion Photography

This refers to things like professional wedding or portrait photography where the image quality is of absolute importance.  For this you want to have the best quality you can afford and ideally this would be professional quality glass with a full frame DSLR.  Size and weight factors are less important here than in other types of photography as the final result needs to be of the upmost quality.  The lens selection is basically the ‘three amigos’; 16-35mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm lenses (or very similar focal lengths).  This gives the range required for almost any situation you are likely to be in.  Here is a link to our lenses page.
As an extension of this, the cameras listed in the street photography section would also be appropriate as a second camera as long as you understand the limits of the cameras.
Next blog, I’ll be exploring cameras to use for landscape photography, everyday photography and travel photography.