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Tips for Creative Digital Photography and Lighting

 

Ships and Shards - A story: July-August 2014 Photo Bytes

June 24, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

It was my pleasure photographing porcelain shards dating from 1625 to 1865. These were illustrated with writings from the 1838 Amanda Babson diaries and the ship’s journal entries of Captain Edward Babson who sailed the Cadet, and then fired onto the old porcelain by artist Diane Chen KW. These are now a permanent installation in the collection of the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester, MA.

Shipwrecks were quite common during storms and war with hidden danger around every corner. Treasures buried in the sands and journals left behind provide hints of a seafaring family’s way of life. 

With this set up in my studio, tethered to a laptop for instantaneous review, shards were photographed against a graduated grey background –

overview as well as macro detail shots.

Then after assembly, embedded in sand and mortar as if found that way beneath the sea.

Final Installation is on four walls at the Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, MA. (see below). A fifth wall will have Chinese export plates transformed by Diane KW using the diary and logbook documents.  Hope you can visit.

Judith Monteferrante Photography


June 2014 Photo Tips: Travel Photography

June 01, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS:

  1. Shoot iconic structures from a different vantage point. Move around. Follow the light to choose front, back or side lighting. Early morning and dusk are favorites but stay later waiting for the deep blue sky post sunset and use a tripod for longer exposures.
  2. Do some close ups or macro images. This helps to tell the story by exploring one aspect of it. These iris are in Monet's Gardens. 
  3. Look for patterns or reflections. This helps train your eye to see and makes a more interesting picture. Remember, you need an interesting foreground, mid ground and background for a good landscape!
  4. Try double exposures in camera. Read your manual! This makes a well-known scene look completely new and fresh.
  5. Consider B&W or Sepia. This gives an air of drama or antiquity to your image depending on your location. And remember, just have fun.

May 2014 Photo Tips: Using a Fisheye Lens

May 01, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

A fish-eye lens is an ultra-wide angle lens (short focal length) that produces strong visual barrel distortion intended to produce a hemispherical image or a wide panorama. They use special mapping to achieve these extremely wide angles of view but give you a characteristic convex non-rectilinear appearance to your image.  Typical focal lengths for full- frame sensors would be 15-16 mm (I shoot with a Nikon 16 mm on a FX sensor – D800 or 4 – not a DX ie. digital sensor). The name was introduced in 1906 by Robert W. Wood when he imagined how a fish would see objects from beneath the water. It was used primarily for meteorology or whole sky- sphere pictures initially. There are 2 groups of fish-eye lenses: Circular Fish-eye (180 degrees in every direction) – not as common and Diagonal Fish-eye (covers the whole picture frame but only 180 degrees on the diagonal field of view), but again lots depend on your sensor type (digital DX or full format FX). In general, however, there are only two middle straight lines – one horizontal and one vertical with zero distortion. Depth of Field (DOF) is almost limitless. Most of the time even at F/5.6-8 with focus on the nearest or the chosen object, the DOF will almost be to infinity.

But with that out of the way, let’s have some fun.

  1. The main reason to use a fish-eye lens on landscapes is to emphasize the foreground and still allow you to include the sky. Remember, you must have something of interest in the foreground, so move around and select carefully.
  2. Landscapes with the horizon at the middle: should have little distortion, and will look like a panoramic picture. So if you need a very wide angle landscape (nearly 180 degree view), this may be the perfect lens. Often, however this may be boring, and at times you may want to emphasize the curve of the earth in the image and embrace the distortion but placing the horizon line close to the top or bottom of the frame. However, avoid getting your limbs in the frame. Never forget basic composition so look for leading lines, color, etc. to vitalize your landscape.      
  3. Use the fish-eye lens to enhance shape or structure in architecture: such as the curve of a building or object. Fish-eye lens will bend and distort verticals so either embrace or avoid or correct this (Tilt shift lens or post processing in LR or PS).    
  4. Try using a fish-eye as a vertical image (instead of horizontal by rotating your camera 90 degrees) to be able to include the foreground and more sky.   
  5. Also try pointing directly up at the sky or somewhere in between. In these pictures, the palms and sky take on a completely unexpected look. 
  6. Move closer to your subject to exaggerate DOF (versus a telephoto lens which will flatten it). However, with portrait subjects close to the lens, facial features will become quite distorted. Unless you want this comical effect, avoid getting too close to people. A good use would be to keep people closer to the mid ground to help capture them in their environment or place. 

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Photography of Musicians

April 01, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Photography of Musicians:

1. Strobes (or Flash) vs. Available Light:

During a performance, flash is typically avoided due to its distracting effect. Occasionally off camera flash on a light stand on stage is allowed, but don’t overwhelm the stage lights. Use  Spot metering mode on the main musician’s face which should be in the light since the background is best left dark. Using aperture priority, an aperture of F/4-5.6 is a good starting point, but you may need a wide open aperture of F/2.8 with a fast lens. This will limit the DOF (depth of field), but keeping the performers in one plane will help. Usually a high enough ISO to allow a reasonable shutter speed should be quite doable if you have a fairly current low noise hi ISO camera. If not possible, seize the effect of motion or learn to anticipate pauses and shoot then. In the studio, I shoot with 4 to 5 strobes and always in Manual mode with F/8-11 typically and 1/125, with an ISO 200 (to 400). I meter the foreground and background with a hand held light meter and adjust the lights accordingly. If using a white background, overexpose it by one to one ½ stops. If black, keep light off the background for pure black.

2. On Location: During an indoor performance, learn to keep quiet and keep a low profile. Look for simplicity and avoid distracting elements in the frame as much as possible. Keep to the side to separate the musicians from their microphone. Try to show the interaction among the musicians. Capture the musicians enjoying themselves; their “music face”.

3. Prepare: Creativity is a must and look for a theme or storytelling quality. Plan ahead with some possible scenarios. Listen to your client regarding what their needs and ideas are. Props are important and may be instruments, microphones or items of clothing such as jackets or hats. Push the limits for possible poses. Keep in mind the style of their music and the instruments they use. Meet with them in advance and review some possibilities. Note their hair color since if dark haired against a black background they will benefit from hair light. Have at least a dark and a white background with possible gels to add color. Prepare as much as you can in advance. I test some lighting scenarios on myself the day of the shoot.

4. Clothing: Solid colors without logos or patterns are the best. At least two changes of clothing – one relaxed and one more formal with choice of dark and light outfits. Dark or black clothing against a dark background is slimming. Keep tones and styles similar if shooting 2 or more people. Avoid sleeveless tops except for the young – long sleeve is best. Avoid lots of jewelry. Simple casual clothes such as jeans and a white or black T shirt are timeless.

5. Expressions:  Look for facial expressions and posture. Vary the positions and have some looking at the camera, some looking away, some looking at each other.  With or without their instruments. Some contemplative, some smiling. With and without singing and or playing. Make it a two way conversation.


Spring into spring with Flower Photography

March 01, 2014  •  Leave a Comment
  1. Vary your depth of field (DOF = Zone of acceptable sharpness) to see what looks best. Get close to your flower and have a background that is distant from your flower with nice muted or complementary shades. This first cone-flower at f/9 (more wide open aperture) has a softer background than the one shot at f/22 with the same 105 mm macro lens (focal length). OR use a more telephoto lens zoomed in at 200 or 300 mm while able to be more distant from the flower. The key factors that influence DOF: aperture, focal length and distance to the subject.     
  2. Change your position. Don’t just shoot down on a flower or flowers. Look at them from below or from the side. Early morning dew as on this tulip adds to the dreamy quality. You can bring a spray bottle to help if nature disappoints. Adding glycerin to the water will help produce larger droplets.
  3. It wind is your enemy, go with it. Try long exposures on a tripod to capture the flowers motion in the wind. Or hand hold and zoom your lens in or out while twisting the camera to produce this effect (Spin-Zoom).
  4. Find an object of interest in or around your flower to spice up your image. Here this green tinged insect brings in the background colors.
  5. Look for abstract or graphic elements. These colorful roses add a softness or drama to the rose petal curves. B&W will bring out the texture.