Tuesday, September 28, 2010

iPhone Macros

I bought these camera phone lens attachments from Photojojo and they are really lots of fun. I'm loving the macro attachment especially. Here are some of the shots I took yesterday with this cool little attachment. It was a little windy yesterday (ugh, finally some cooler weather!) so it was a little hard to get a good focus on the rose and the tiny oranges because the whole stem would sway. I am still really happy with how these came out :)

This was a tiny, tiny rose but the macro makes it look bigger than it actually is:

New Fern:

Teeny Oranges:


Inside of a Rose. This one is a little grainy but that's okay. I could always run it through a noise reduction program if I wanted to.

All of these were edited to boost the color a tiny bit and to cropped to 4x6 ratio. I don't know what ratio the iPhone crops to but it annoys me that it's not the "default" that a regular camera is, lol! I'm just weird like that.

Pretty awesome, right?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Some D40 Love

I've been shooting with the D700 for a few weeks in a row so I thought I'd take the D40 out with me a little more. I wanted to see how my favorite type of shots look on the D40. I have to say, I'm still quite impressed with this little camera. Here are some of my favorites of the week:

Beautiful clouds:

Trying to capture some Sunflare:

Lots of construction:

Another beautiful sunset:

More power lines:

Edited in CS5 and some noise reduction in LR3.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Shooting in Manual- What clicked for me...

This discussion is aimed more for the newbies who may still feel really overwhelmed by shooting in manual. Different things work for different people and this is just what clicked for me. People may agree or disagree with me but different people learn differently so I thought I would share my personal experience.

*Don't feel like you have to rush into shooting manual. A lot of people suggest you should stick your camera on manual from the get-go to force yourself to learn. My brain doesn't work that way. If I would have tried to force myself to learn manual I think I would have just ended up a frustrated, tear filled mess. My personal suggestion would be to try out one of the other shooting modes for a while... Aperture priority or shutter priority. I shot on these two settings interchangeably for almost 3 years and I really think picking at least one of the settings (as opposed to full auto) helped me to understand my camera better a little at a time.

*Learn what each of the settings in the exposure triangle does one at a time. ISO, Aperture (measured in f-stops) and Shutter speed. Trying to learn it all at once can be really confusing. I'm usually a fast learner but all this talk about lowering or raising your ISO and making sure your shutter speed is at least 1/125 for shooting kids and around f/4 had me totally confused. What do you mean f-stop? What about aperture? Are they the same thing? oh wait... and what about shutter speed? How many settings ARE there in this triangle thingy? UGH!!!

Okay... I won't get into how it all works together... just know that they all come together to help you get a properly exposed photo.

The first setting I learned about was ISO because to me that was the "easiest" to understand. ISO measures your camera's sensitivity to light so the higher the ISO the more sensitive your camera will be to light... okay, sure, but what does that mean? It means that if it's really freaking bright outside you don't need a super high ISO because a higher ISO makes your camera MORE sensitive to light.... Higher ISO's let your camera "see" more light. If the sun is blazing out your camera doesn't want to "see" more light... so lower that ISO. :)

What about higher ISO's? Higher ISO's are used when there is less light. Your camera wants to "see" more light and to do that you need to raise the ISO. The trade-off though... is that the higher the ISO, the greater the chance you have of getting grainy (noisy) pictures. Grainy?? But I don't want that... well trust me... It's easier to fix a noisy, properly exposed photo than an underexposed one.

The next two settings are equally heard to learn IMO... so whichever you want to focus on learning next is totally up to you. I'm going to pick aperture.

Aperture is how "open" your lens is. A bigger opening lets in more light than a smaller one. This is where the numbers confused me a little bit because a smaller number = a greater opening. How does that work? Well I don't really know. I guess I can google to find out why but I don't really care why just how. The main reason I care about aperture has to do with depth of field (blurry backgrounds). There is a DOF calculator some people find useful and it explains a lot of things that help you achieve a better DOF (like distance from the subject etc). Since we are just learning the basics, let's keep it simple. You can expand into the DOF calculator after you have a better understanding of aperture. One thing that's certain, lower f-stops (for example f/1.8, f/2.0 etc) will help you get a blurrier background than a higher f stop will (for example f/22). (Lower numbers let in more light than higher ones).

Okay now for shutter speeds. The higher the shutter speed the more you are able to "freeze motion." Since kids move around a lot, many people recommended working with a shutter speed of about 1/125 or 1/160 to avoid getting blurry pictures. I think a lot of experimentation with shutter speeds is what really helps you understand it. But I think the main point with shutter speed is that higher motion needs higher shutter speeds. (Lower numbers let in more light than higher ones).

Okay now let's say you're outside in a bright sunny day ready to take some test shots of um... your lovely plant or something. It's really sunny so you start out with ISO 200. You want a nice DOF so you go down to f/2.8 or something (depending on your lens if it can go that low or not.) so now you pick a shutter speed of um... 1/100... for example. Take a look at your LCD screen. Is the shot in focus? Now look at the histogram. Is it properly exposed? If it's not... is it over or underexposed? If it's overexposed what do you have to do? Your ISO is already pretty low...you don't want to introduce more light to your lens so leave that alone... you either have to change your aperture (f-stop) or shutter speed. Raising your shutter speed would work but if you want to raise your aperture that wouldn't hurt either. It's a trade off... what can/do you want to sacrifice?

This is really a non-comprehensive way to think about shooting in manual mode. There are several different factors that affect your image like what metering mode were you using, what focus mode etc. I've been shooting manual a little over 3 months and I'm definitely still learning but once all of this (above) clicked in my head is when I really started learning more about those other factors. The number one thing I suggest is taking things one step at a time. If you've had your camera for 6 months to a year and are still not shooting manual... DON'T worry about it!!! There's no rush! Like I said, I shot in aperture or shutter priority modes for THREE years!!! Take it slow... keep reading and learning. ;)

Quick recap:

ISO: Higher numbers let in more light
Aperture: Lower numbers let in more light
Shutter speed: Lower numbers let in more light because the shutter is open longer with lower speeds.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Photo Duplication/ Restore

My mother in law asked me to take a picture of a portrait of her mom because she wanted to have another copy and this was their only one. I moved the frame all around the living room trying to find the best place to take the picture to avoid getting reflections. I guess it would have been easier to take it out of the frame but I didn't want to damage the picture. This was taken when her mom was 14 or 15 and she's in her 70's now so the photo is very, very old. Actually, I think it's really a painting, not a photograph. This is what I started out with:

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and this is what I ended up with after a little editing/restoring in CS5. I think it looks great and both my mother in law and her mom were really happy with how it turned out. :)

A little editing CAN go a long way!

For those of you that are also on the SPN message board, I apologize but I wanted to copy the thread I posted over at SPN to my blog for my own easy reference. :) Thanks to all of you that replied, I really do appreciate it.

Most of us here [on the message board] want to learn or are learning how to use our cameras to get better pictures SOOC [straight out of camera]. It's really important to know your camera and how to change your settings accordingly to get those great SOOC shots because you can't always rely on luck to get good pictures. You can't rely on editing to make your pictures good either without already starting out with a good shot.... you CAN rely on editing to take your pictures from good to great.

I'm not a professional, and I don't play one on TV ;) , but with the help of a lot of wonderful ladies here I have learned a lot and I feel like I have a better understanding of a lot of things and so I thought I'd pass off these tips/tricks:

*Not every picture you see came out so wonderfully SOOC.... I mean there are some people out there that are super amazing at what they do and their SOOC shots blow my edited ones out of the water but we're not talking about them and their perfect-ness ;) We're talking about regular "Hey I got this cute shot that I want to enhance" type people like me :)

*Just because there are some distracting elements in your shot doesn't mean they have to ruin an otherwise good picture. I live in the city. A LOT of my shots have power lines in them but that doesn't mean that all my pictures should. A little bit of cloning can take those distractions away.

*It's okay if you can't hold the camera perfectly straight. If you leave enough room you can always crop to straighten and no one will ever know

Here are some examples I want to share. I've awed most of these before but I thought I'd explain a little bit of what was done to enhance these.

Take this picture of DD. It looks underexposed and flat. It's okay but it's not great. If I were to put it up for CC the #1 thing I'm sure I would read is that it's underexposed... bump up the exposure and it should be ok.

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What are they talking about? I checked my histogram and it's telling me it's correctly exposed....

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Should I ignore the CC and keep the picture as-is because those ladies don't know what they're talking about??? Maybe I should try to brighten it a little bit... and maybe mess with the levels? You see how a little editing took this picture from hmm? to <3

Okay what about this one? Power lines and part of the gate... not exactly a great picture. I should have moved further away from the disctractions, took it from a different angle etc... but what do I do? I can't recreate that look on his face? Did I miss the moment?

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Nah... just crop and clone those power lines out of the way. Lighten it up a little bit and it looks MUCH better:

Okay Last one... if you've stuck around this far... The vision I had in my head didn't play out well 100% because of those darn power lines again... and there is a lot of empty space:

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Just clone out the lines (again) and give it a different crop. Maybe add a little more blue to the sky. I just LOVE this picture now when I would have otherwise thought it was just ok and not even printed it out.

Looking at the sky

I hope this help some of you that may be feeling so new and overwhelmed. It's not all about the camera and not all about the editing software... but what you learn to do with it... so just keep on learning.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Landscapes and Roads

It's late. Really late. I should already be asleep but I was busy editing the latest set of pictures. Lately I've been really obsessed with taking pictures from the car of the roads and the landscapes. The beautiful sunsets have not been helping with my obsession. Everyday there is a such beautiful array of colors in the sky that I just can't help myself. These are pretty close to the straight out of camera shots and I just love the mood that they exude. I tried playing around with different actions but I just really loved how they looked so (for the most part) I left them how they were... no matter how cool that Totally Rad SX-70 action looked on the picture of the powerlines. ::sigh:: I hope you enjoy these as much as I did taking and editing them. :)

I love when there is no traffic on the way home. It was very relaxing.

Light traffic

I just love how fake this one looks... kind of like a drawing or a painting maybe? It was a little underexposed straight out of camera to the point where I lost some detail in the blacks but I still love the effect of the motion blur on the road.

More Sky/Road

I was just trying to get a picture of the sky and when I saw this one I really loved how I captured the big powerline tower (or whatever you call those things). For this one I used MCP's Magical Color Finder Brush action to bring out some of the colors in the sky. The blues looked really amazing afterwards. :)Oh and I might have cloned out a car or two... can you tell ;)

Power Lines

This was while waiting at the red light before getting to McDonald's. I guess you can say there is nothing really special about it but for me, just looking at it makes me feel so peaceful. I was listening to some good music and I had the A/C nice and cold... I could have taken a nap right then and there lol!

Rail Road Crossing

Thanks for reading :)