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Posts tagged ‘camera’

Introductions – Mike Powell

With all the talk that has been going on about Macro lenses and how I have a loan of one at the moment, the Tamraon 90mm Macro, I have noticed that I have been gravitating towards other blogs that have macro images.  When I was trying to decide who I would ask about todays Introduction post, Mike Powell’s name came to me. Mike Powell, and his blog, by the same name, have some amazing macro images and I wanted to share them and introduce him to you.

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There were some things on his blog I couldn’t show you, but you will see them when you go to over to take a look for yourself.  There is an abundance of insect life over there, and I am in awe of it.  I see insects in my garden, but they never stay still long enough for me to take photos of.  When I am out with the camera, they never seem to be around either.

When Mike explained where he lived, that helped to explain why he can get so many insects.

I have lived in Northern Virginia in the greater Washington D.C. area for just over twenty years in a suburban townhouse community. This area is blessed with an abundance of gardens and parks that let me indulge my passion for nature and wildlife photography, generally without having to travel more than about five miles from my house. We are on the migration pathways for some migratory species and are a migration destination for some others, so there is always lots of interesting animals, birds, and insects to see and to photograph.

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As he just said, about the birds, there are birds on his site, some amazing photos of them.  It isn’t all insects, but there is a lot of nature there.  It is something that I never thought I would be interested in, but in the last 12 months my interest has grown a lot.

I asked him why he take photos for how long he had been doing it.

Photography allows me to experience the world in a different way. It has had a transformative effect on the way I look at my surroundings, and not just when I have a camera in my hand. When I was in college, I majored in French language and literature and spent a year studying in Paris. Several of my friends noticed that my personality and even the tonality of my voice changed when I was speaking in French. At that time I was quiet and introverted, but when I switched languages, I somehow felt freer to express my emotions and grew to love 19th century romantic poetry, for example. Over the years, my personality has shifted and I have become more like that original French personna. I sense that a similar process is taking place with photography, as my senses become much more attuned to the natural world and I am experiencing life in a deeper, more self-aware way.

Most people in the Washington D.C. area are incredibly career-oriented and define themselves by what they do for a living. They rarely look at each other when they are in public, with their heads often buried in their electronic devices, and are often obvious to the natural beauty of their surroundings. Three years ago, I decided to step off that treadmill and retired from full-time work, having spent twenty years in the US Army and an additional fourteen years in the federal government. Those jobs had been marked by a sense of stability and security, but I felt a need to experience something more, to rediscover the idealistic side of myself that had been buried for many years.

To celebrate, I spent two weeks in Paris and had a kind of photographic rebirth. Although I already owned a Canon Rebel XT DSLR, I had rarely used it, but somehow I decided to take photos every day that I was in Paris and to post ten of them every day in Facebook account. That experience rekindled my love for photography and I started taking photos regularly, particularly since July 2012, when I started my photography-oriented blog.

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While I tend to think of Mike’s blog as mainly nature photographs, there are other images on there, and you will find a mixture, though I do think Mike does concentrate more on the natural world, rather than the man made one.

I asked Mike what his inspiration was.

The single greatest inspiration for my photography is undoubtedly my dear friend and photography mentor, Cindy Dyer. Cindy is an amazingly talented free-lance photographer and graphic designer and is one of my neighbors. Over the past three years she has been a continuous source of instruction, encouragement, and inspiration for me. I was particularly struck by a photographic exhibition that she did in early 2012, entitled Garden Muse, A Botanical Portfolio. I was blown away by the quality and beauty of the photographs and I wanted to be able to shoot images like that.

Cindy took me out shooting with her on numerous occasions and taught me many valuable lessons. More importantly, she sat down with me after many of those sessions and went through my images with me. Most of us are more comfortable sharing our images only after we have selected them and processed them and cropped and adjusted them. Cindy was willing to take the time to look at my raw images, to see how I was composing in the viewfinder, and to make suggestions.

Over time, we have ventured off photographically into somewhat different areas. I started off shooting her preferred subjects, flowers and the occasional insect, but gradually migrated to primarily insects, with the occasional flower. She still shoots primarily botanical subjects and five of her fern images appeared on US postage stamps this year.

Cindy and I talk regularly and shoot together occasionally, but I feel her presence and her influence whenever I am taking photos–she is my photographic muse.

I am also inspired by a wide range of photographers that I have met through my blog and who I consider to be my friends, despite the fact that I have never met most of them. These friends include Lyle, Sue, Allen, Ed, Gary, Phil, and Walter.

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This image seemed a little out of place, but you know I love cats, so I couldn’t leave this one out.  I loved the intensity in the eyes, I know that look, I’ve seen it many times on my own cat.

I asked Mike if there was anything special about the way he worked.

I consider myself to be an opportunistic shooter. I spent a lot of time wandering through the back trails and the unmarked areas of my favorite marshland park, Huntley Meadows Park. I never know for sure what I will encounter and try to be alert at all times. I’ve been fortunate to see bald eagles, a river otter, a banded juvenile hawk, a family of beavers sleeping outdoors, a beaver breaking through the ice, and an amazing variety of colorful birds and insects, particularly dragonflies.

I shoot almost exclusively in RAW and currently process my images in Photoshop Elements 11 on a relatively old Macbook, though I am planning to migrate soon to Lightroom. I feature some of my favorite shots on my WordPress blog, which serves as my primary creative outlet. I’ve discovered that I enjoy writing my postings as much as I do taking the photos and try to inject my somewhat personality into those posts.

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Recently I was on my way to a place to take photos and as we headed up this road, there were dragonflies everywhere.  The friend I was with was so excited, she wants to shoot dragonflies, but when we got to our destination there wasn’t one to be seen anywhere, she was so disappointed.  I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed myself. I thought perhaps there were very hard to do, but then I see Mike has lots and lots of photos of them, and they are so beautiful, so I want to know how you did it Mike?

The last question is always about gear.

I enjoy being on the trailing edge of technology and use a somewhat outdated computer and camera. I now shoot primarily with a Canon 50D DSLR (and will be moving soon to an original Canon 7D and shot for the first year of my blog with a Canon Rebel XT. During much of the year, I enjoy shooting with my macro lenses, the Canon 100mm and the Tamron 180mm, and when the weather turns colder and I focus more on birds than insects, I tend to shoot with my Canon 70-300mm zoom lens. On certain occasions, I will use my original Canon kit lenses, the 18-55mm and the 55-250mm zoom lenses, and the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens.

In addition to my camera and lenses, I tend to have a tripod with me most of the time and frequently a collapsible diffuser and reflector. I am not very experienced in using an external flash and tend not to carry one with me. This winter I hope to learn more about using external flashes and plan to add one to my camera bag soon.

Thank you Mike for giving me permission to feature you and your images here on my blog.  I hope everyone will go and check out his blog Mike Powell, he was talking about doing something special for you all today on his blog, so please go and take a look.  I have a gallery with lots more photos that I really liked for you to look at now.

Up for Discussion – Instagram

When I put the call out for guest bloggers David from Blinded by Light put up his hand and suggested doing one on Instagram.  I thought it was a great idea.  It is a form of social media and one that many of us use.  I love playing with, but after looking at his post, I can see I don’t use it well, or nearly enough.  So take a look and see if you do.

To Instagram or Not To Instagram?

Let me just start this off with a short story, so lend me an ear (or two).  A couple of months ago, I showed the photos on my blog to one of my friends, who replied with, “Dude, I bet you’d have a really sick Instagram”.  Questionable language aside, I instinctively mentally scoffed and recoiled.  All I said was “oh, I don’t use Instagram”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat I was actually thinking in my head was “Instagram?? Of course I don’t use Instagram, as if it was some sort of bizarre insult.  I realise that I’m quite stubborn with my views on some things, but I am quite aware of it and I like to think that usually I have a reason for them.  In this case, I guess that for a long time, I’d neatly pigeonholed Instagram into the category of ‘casual photography’.  I thought that it was a place only for photos of cats and dogs and food, all taken with smartphones.

In a way, I think at some point I considered that Instagram and its filters somehow cheapened the art of photography.  This is absolute pretentious rubbish, obviously, but I do have my “back on my day” moments, despite not being that old.  I have been called a 1000-year old man before… Besides, I thought that anyone who’s a serious photographer (and has serious equipment) uses Flickr, right?  Well, and 500px if you’re really good, I guess.  I’d already been using Flickr for my old film/toycam photos on-and-off for years, so Instagram didn’t factor into the general scheme of OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthings.

As I said, I’m a stubborn, stubborn man, so I held that view for a very, very, very long time.  Not until my partner Tiff started using it did I even think about using it again and even then it took a lot of convincing.  She picked up Instagram as an adjunct to her knitting/sewing/craft/life blog, so it didn’t seem super relevant to me initially, since I neither knit, sew nor craft.  I guess I do partake in a bit of living on a day-to-day basis, though.

The point is, one day Tiff was telling me that Instagram is super fun and that I should post my photos on there too.  I raised the above points to her, thinking I was making very valid points, but then she proceeded to show me a series of amazing photos on Instagram.  That sure showed me!  I was genuinely surprised to see photos taken using everything ranging up to 5D Mark III.  I started to use it, slowly, but I wasn’t really sure how to use it properly, alongside my blog.  Since then, I’ve OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbeen Instagramming my old photos, along with ones I don’t think are quite good enough for blogging purposes.  Turns out Tiff was right – Instagram is a hoot.

Instagram didn’t invent the hashtag system (as far as I know, anyway), but it really does make it easier for you to find specific themes, as well as making it easier for others to find your photos.  I haven’t been using Instagram for that long, but I’ve already had the local museum and university alumni contact me and repost my photos on their own Instagram and Facebook pages.  I’m not making any money from them (I’m not looking to), but it’s great validation that people actually like my photos.

Don’t forget about Flickr

I do still very much like to use Flickr, but it was never really the same after Yahoo bought them out way all those years ago.  It might be just me, but I find the site irritatingly difficult to navigate.  It’s not that it’s actually challenging, but it just feels like it’s harder than it should be to find whatOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA E-P5you want to look at.  For example, I still haven’t figured out how to browse a list of the groups without typing in a search term.  In saying that, I’m nowhere near a professional level and I’m taking photos purely for fun.  I know that the pros are able to leverage Flickr to find work, so I know that the Flickr community is alive and thriving.  It’s become a place where I occasionally bulk upload my photos, not all of which end up making it onto my blog.

Other social media networks:

I’ve focussed on Flickr and Instagram so far for obvious reasons, but we shouldn’t forget about the other heavyweight social media sites: Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

In my mind, Facebook was the first of the big-hitting social media sites.  While I don’t use it for photography, it’s easy to see how it could be a staple for anyone serious about their photography.  It’s an easy way to interact with your fans, secret admirers, clients, what-have-you.  Plus, most OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERApeople use Facebook in some form already anyway.

Twitter is one service I’ve never quite figured out, so I can’t really help you here.  I guess tweeting links to your posts could work as an easy way to reach out to more people

Google+ is an interesting one.  I was one of the first to jump on the Google+ bandwagon, though I wasn’t hopeful that it would ever get anywhere.  Since then, it seems Google has bet big on it, rolling it into a lot of their services.  Some might say they’ve integrated it a bit too much, but that’s a discussion for a different article.  It seems to have carved a niche for itself though, lying somewhere between Twitter and Facebook.  It seems like its become a nice way to follow sites/brands/people you like, while still maintaining a way to interact with them.  Additionally, by setting up your own Google Plus page might also have the possible additional benefit of search engine optimisation.  No-one knows the search algorithms employed by the servers at Google, but it can’t hurt to have more hits to your name.

At the end of the day, social media sites should be viewed as additional avenues for us to reach out to more people.  My initial reaction to Instagram was just my stubbornness and arrogance showing through, more than anything else.  What I love about photography is that it doesn’t discriminate and it breaks down barriers.  A powerful image can convey a range of themes and feelings, without a single word, and that’s something that can be achieved with any equipment and through any outlet.

 

David.
Blog: Blinded By Light
Flickr: Blinded By Light
Instagram: @blinded_by_light

David has given us all his links above, I will have to make sure I am following him.  My Instagram is in the side panel, but I may have to see if I can start using it for other photos besides what I take with my phone.  

I hope you will all thank David for me, I think this a great post.  I think he is answering the comments, so any questions, David will answer them.  Thanks David.  I also have a gallery with some more images.  

 

 

Up for Discussion – That’s a Great Camera

Have you ever been out taking photos and someone has looked at your camera and said, “wow, that’s a great camera, it must take great photos”? I’ve had it said to me many times.  Yeah, I do have a great camera, but is that camera going to take great photos for everyone? There is an assumption by many people that it won’t matter what I do, I will get fantastic photos, like it has nothing to do with me.

When people, and by people I mean those that don’t really know about photography, see photographers with cameras, then the assumptions happen.  I was teaching a woman photography one day and she had a bigger camera than mine, and people would say to her, wow I bet you good photos with that?  She had hired me because she didn’t know how to use it.

I try not to be insulted when people say things like that, I know it’s ignorance, but seriously, really, do they not think that I have anything to do with it.  I have spent years and years learning my craft, how to use the camera to LeanneCole-macro-20140530-9927get the best from it.  Composition, figuring out what works and what doesn’t.  Then there is working out how to photograph different things, like landscape photography, or architecture, now stars.  I have spent, oh I don’t know how many hours over the last few years learning to use Photoshop so I can also get the best out of my camera.

I do have a great camera, and it does take great images, but that is because I know how to use it and I know, well most of the time, what I am doing with it.

scpointlonsdale-8809I also think that you don’t have to have a great camera to get good images.  I have seen photos here on WordPress that have blown me away, and then found out they were taken on a compact style camera.  Top cameras do have advantages, and they will do things that are great, but in the end, it doesn’t matter how you got the image, it is all about the image itself.  If you learn how to use your camera, and use it well, then who will know what you are using.  At the end of the day, people don’t look at a photo and say that must have been taken with a great camera.

Have you experience that reaction? Do feel that way when you see someone with a bigger camera than you? When you look at photos that people have taken do sccity-canon8877you wonder what sort of camera they have?

These Posts.

I have received no emails from anyone wanting to do any guest posting, or come up with suggestions for the Up for Discussion posts, and I don’t really know what to do.  I am running out of ideas.  Would love to hear your thoughts.  I’ve asked people to write posts, but I’m sure there are lots more people out there that know things or could write something.  You don’t have to be an expert, sometimes some of the best posts are because someone wanted to know something, or you might have experienced something that you would like to share.  Give it some thought, get back to me.

All the photos in this post were taken with an entry level Canon that I was able to borrow.

Up for Discussion – Street Photography

Street photography is a very popular style of photography and there are people all over the world taking to the streets to see what they can capture.  I don’t do it a lot of it, but I do follow some people that do, so I asked Shane Francescut from The Weekly Minute if he would write a post for you on Street Photography.

If you can smell the street by looking at the photo, it’s a street photograph. - Bruce Gilden

Street photography is a photographic style that many people enjoy viewing, but tend to shy away from attempting it themselves. And, from my experience the number one reason for not trying it is a concern for the privacy of others. I see street photography as a way of documenting a moment in time or telling a story about life in a certain place, at a specific point in history. There are many subsets to street photography – candid shots, street portraits, and architectural images, so I think the genre can appeal to a wide range of people.

In this article, I’ll attempt to ease your discomforts and relax your hesitations about street photography with a few tips and examples that I’ve picked up along the way. Photography is about experimentation and pushing your creative limits, and if you choose to ignore any one style of photography simply because of discomfort, then you may not discover your true potential.

Street photography has helped me learn a lot about myself as a photographer, and it has greatly helped me improve every facet of photography. Through street photography, I have become much more comfortable and confident when shooting studio portraits, I have learned to identify the key elements and angles that produce strong imagery, and I have learned to pay attention to smaller details that would have escaped me in the past. And with that, here are my seven tips to help you make stronger images on the street.

1 - stop moving

1. Stop moving

Our first instinct when street shooting is to wander the streets at a torrid pace, frantically searching for that decisive moment to capture and share. It is always helpful to casually walk about the streets, but pause at busy intersections during rush hour or let a few trains or busses pass while waiting on the platform, taking a few minutes to see what might unfold. Alternatively, find an interesting background and let the scene find you. I find that this is difficult to do because the urge to keep your feet moving is strong, however this technique can produce an excellent image, if not a whole series that you’d be proud to share.

2 - plan a route

2. Plan a route

Many people think that street photographers have a knack for capturing moments anywhere they venture. The truth is prolific street photographers take time before a photo session to plan the routes that they know will give them the best chances at capturing quality images. Plan a photo walk through a market, or an area with several outdoor patios, or shoot from an overpass such as a bridge or balcony above a busy plaza. I learned the hard way that aimlessly walking and shooting is a waste of time and most often results in nothing to show for it.

3 - ditch the zoom

3. Ditch the zoom and use a wide-angle prime

I don’t necessarily agree that you should only use prime lenses while doing street photography, but I do agree that wide angle lenses help to tell better stories. Many of the images on my blog are captured with a focal length of 24mm-30mm, and I find that by getting more of the scene in a frame, the viewer gains a better sense and feeling of the moment. The other advantage to using a single prime lens is that you develop a consistent point of view, thus making it easier to visualize what an image will look like before you raise the camera to your eye. Many people struggle with photography because they use too many different lenses and focal lengths, and they never gain the opportunity to really learn how to use what they have.

4 - always carry camera

4. Always carry your camera with you

Always, always, always take your camera with you when you leave the house. There will be times when you don’t pull it out of your bag, but if you have your camera handy you are far more likely to return home with some great images. I found that once I took this advice, I captured far more images, and the quality of my images greatly improved. This also speaks to owning a camera that is compact and light weight, but I’ll speak to that later in this post.

5 - smile and be courteous

5. Smile often, be respectful, ask for permission

Friendliness, respectfulness, and permission have made it possible for me to branch into street portraiture. Granted, street portraits might not be the ultimate goal of everyone who tries street photography, but by being friendly with strangers it can help to calm your nerves and make the whole shooting experience a pleasant one. If your aim is to capture candid images and someone notices that you’ve taken their picture, feel free to complement an article of clothing or some other feature about them, and be on your way. People tend to respond very well when randomly complemented.

6 - capture movement

6. Capture movement

We see movement everywhere we look, but when captured in a photograph, movement adds excitement and wonder to a scene that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Movement can be captured through techniques such as panning, adding blur, or freezing action. Leanne has written on the topic of panning before, but that is difficult to do and takes practice. I tend to capture movement by combining a blurred object with a still object, but you can also freeze movement, such as in sports photography which lets our eyes take in a scene that may have otherwise happened too quickly to see in real life.

7 - shoot from the hip

7. Shoot from the hip

When starting out with street photography, nerves and fear can easily get the better of us. To combat this, spend your first few sessions shooting with your camera dangling around your waste. You’ll be surprised with the results. Shooting from the hip achieves two things; first, it helps you train your eye to look for those decisive moments that make for great street photographs while disguising the fact that you’re taking someone’s picture. Second, it allows you to capture images from a different vantage point that is different from what we’re used to seeing which instantly provides a different point of interest.

Gear

I’m not a big fan of gear talk, but I’ll touch on it briefly here. You can read hundreds of articles about what people say is the right gear for street photography, however my simple take on the subject is this, use what you have, and if you’re in the market for something new then look for a compact and light weight camera such as one of the many new mirrorless offerings on the market. Fuji and Sony make several mirrorless models that are inexpensive and produce tremendous image quality, and there is a growing list of lenses available for all brands. As mentioned earlier, a wide angle lens allows you to capture more of a scene; however you have to use what you’re comfortable with. If you’d prefer to stand two hundred yards away from someone when you’re taking their picture, then by all means, use a long zoom. It ultimately depends on your style and taste.

Dangers

As with anything in life, I suspect there might be dangers, however, Toronto is a very safe city and I have only been confronted on one occasion. The funny thing is that I wasn’t taking his picture, I was taking a picture of a colourful flower that happened to be lying next to his car and he was briefly concerned until he found out what I was doing.

While taking photos on the street I always recommend that you think smart, don’t put yourself in vulnerable positions, and don’t walk around dodgy neighbourhoods alone late at night. With that in mind, as long as your convey confidence and courteousness, you should be fine.

I am honoured, and thankful to Leanne for inviting me to share my knowledge of street photography with her blogging community. Leanne is one of the finest photographers I know, and she has done so much to help me and the rest of her readership become better photographers through her blog.

Thank you Shane for that great post, I certainly picked up some ideas and I might even have a go at this one day.  Don’t forget you can go and see more of Shane’s images on his blog, The Weekly Minute, but for now, enjoy the above images in a gallery, and some more that Shane sent for the post.  Shane will answer any questions you have, but remember we are all in different time zones, so it might take a while to get an answer.  

Up for Discussion – Post Production on Images

Last week I received an email from Better Photography Magazine and it had an article in with the title Should A Landscape Photography Competition Be Art?.  I was intrigued.  It was also about a new competition and one that I recently entered.  It is a good read and it got me thinking about this whole problem we seem to have with the digital age and manipulating photos.  scabattoirs0035

Let’s start in the days of film.  When you went out and did a shoot with a roll of film, you would come home and develop the negative.  There was no difference here, the film determined how the film or negative was processed.  Once the negative was ready to be printed, you would get your enlarger and do a proof sheet.  Lay all the negatives on a piece of paper, put a clear piece of glass over the top and expose the negs.  Then you would look through the negatives and decide which image you would want to print.  Before you print it, you would put it in the enlarger and do a series of tests, times, to work out what the right time for the image would be, the correct exposure, so to speak.  Then you would decide which filter to use to give you the contrast you wanted.  The print would then be made.

scindustrial-0031You have the print in your hand and you think, well the sky is too blown out, I better do some dodging there, this is where you would use your hand or a paddle or something and hold it over the area, but move it quickly as well so you didn’t get sharp edges.  This was also how you burned in a area that wasn’t dark enough.

While I was doing my photography course, we spent the year in the dark room and we were taught so many different ways to do things in there.  I don’t know, but isn’t it all silosclouds-0152manipulating the image to get something special.

The people who were envied in the days of film, were those that had darkrooms.  However, today in the world of digital, people who manipulate their images are called cheaters.  I don’t quite understand how it is okay if I do my images in the darkroom and manipulate them it is okay, but if I do that in Photoshop then I aren’t being true to the image.

It seems only now in the world of digital that people think you can take images with a camera and they won’t need anything done to them.  It was never the case in film, not that I was ever aware of.  If you were capable of that you were considered a very skilled and masterful photographer, certainly not a cheater.

scslaughterhouse0020Of course, nothing compares to being able to see a shot in camera and take it.  I think being able to capture something in the camera first is the most important step.  If you have that first, then what follows will only add to that.

I do believe that some people over manipulate their images.  They have learned many tricks and it becomes more important to show those than getting a great image.  I often see images that I think are fantastic, but they have overdone the post production work.  I certainly have to put myself there, and have done it many times in the past, but I do hope that I am doing a much better job these days.

Perhaps the real skill is learning when to do things and when not too.  Being able to judge the image as the image and not some post production piece of digital art.  I also hate that term, but that could be me.  For me, the post production is the part I could possibly love just as much as actually taking the photo.  I have my images, that I have been out to take, and now I want to see where else I can take it.

Do you manipulate your photos?  Why do you you?  Do you think it is wrong to do it? What do you think makes a good image?  Do you love doing post production work?walhalla0096

These posts are a great way to share knowledge, so please contribute.

I will approve them, as long as they are nice and not nasty in any way.

Feel free to respond or reply to other comments.  It would be good to generate some discussion. I do like it when you start talking amongst yourselves.  

If you have a topic that you would like discussed, or a problem you need help with then please send me an email and we will see if we can do a post about it.

All the images in the post are all images taken with black and white film and developed by me, except for one.  I did have a darkroom for awhile.  I will put them in a gallery for you now.

Introductions – Learning to Snap

My introduction today is a first, well it is the first time I have shown someone from New Zealand I believe.  Richard is from there and has been taking photos of New Zealand and then putting them up on his blog Learning to Snap. If you are a landscape photographer then New Zealand has to be one of those places that you would love to go to.  I know since seeing Lord of the Rings, I really want to go their to take photos.  The landscapes always seem big, I don’t know how to describe it really.  I will try.

 

2013-10-27-MilfordTrip-291-Edit-X3This is sort of what I mean, big mountains, big scenes.  Australia and New Zealand are very close, but yet millions of miles apart with it comes to our landscapes.  Australia is more open, big skies and very dry, whereas I imagine New Zealand with more mountains, and real mountains, with lots of atmosphere and very wet.  New Zealand is further south than us, so I assume that is why it is like that.  I see scenes like the one Richard has taken here and I am envious.  It is a magical shot, and it really makes me want to take that trip there.  Milford Sound is a place I’ve been hearing about for years and Richard has so many amazing images of it, this is just one of them.  I love the colours in the foreground, seems to warm up a cold image, or cold environment.

I asked Richard about why he takes photos.

The short answer is for fun!

I take photographs to let my creativity out. I enjoy being outdoors tramping, skiing or mountain biking and taking my camera allows me share those places and experiences.I have been taking photos since I was a kid with an old Kodak camera and 127 film but started being more serious (if that’s the right word) when I joined the Kaiapoi Photographic Club having moved to New Zealand about 7 years ago. Over 100,000 images later and I still have so much to learn!

2013-07-14-Snow-149-LI had to go back aways to find a image of winter on Richard’s blog, it has been a while since winter was here, but it is certainly making a come back here now.  I know that most of you know it never snows here, not where I am, so if I want to see snow I have to drive a long way, or look at photos of it from other people.  I love how Richard has captured the snow falling here.  I am assuming it is snow, and not rain.

As usual I asked Richard about what inspires him.

I am inspired by the world around me, the landscapes of New Zealand in particular. Great light, textures and shapes make me run for my camera.

I enjoy looking  at images on the web and particularly in books.  I look at the work of lots of photographers, the masters of the craft are so inspiring; from early photographers such as Atget through the work of Man Ray and Ansel Adams to Michael Kenna and Annie Leibovitz. I have enjoyed the ebooks from Craft and Vision particularly the titles on creativity and inspiration by David duChemin.

2013-11-09-PortLevy-13-XLI love it when you see trees like this.  I have never come across one, but I think they make great subjects for photos, and I know the day I finally find one I won’t be leaving it for a long time.  I will want to get every image of it I can.  The foggy/misty conditions really add to this image.  It must get very windy there.

The third question was if there was anything special about how he worked.

Mostly I just start taking images and see where it takes me, I find that once I start making images it gets easier and I get more ideas. Occasionally I plan an image but usually I end up with something different from what I imagined anyway.

For landscapes I tend to be at either extreme, either very wide or telephoto. I really like the compression effect with a long lens.

LeucharsChurch-XLWhile I think of landscapes when I think of Richard’s work, it would be wrong, he does do other sorts of images and architecture is featured there as well.

EliteRace_2014-01-12_11-19-45__DSC7423_©RichardLaing(2014)-X3You will also see that he photographs lots of sports as well.  There is a great variety of sports there, and a great variety of other subjects as well.

I also asked Richard what gear he uses.

I currently use a Nikon D800E having recently upgraded from my much loved (and well worn) Nikon D700. I have a variety of Nikkor lenses 14-24, 24-70, 80-200, 105mm and a nifty 50mm, all fast and sharp. I use polarisers, ND filters and graduated NDs to get the best image I can in camera.

On the computer I use Lightroom or Aperture along with Photoshop CC. To speed things up I use a variety of plugins and particularly like Nik Silver Efex Pro and Nik Color Efex Pro.

With all the hi-tech equipment sometimes it is good to get back to something more organic and I use a Holga with B&W film instead which I develop in my kitchen!

Except for the last part he could almost be describing my gear too, without the E on the end of the camera model.

I think when you go to Richard’s blog, Learning to Snap, you will not have a hard time finding images to like.  As I was going through it, I realised that a lot of the images I was getting for the blog were all from later posts, I had to stop myself from taking everything.  He does help you visualise his homeland and I hope you agree that he his images are of a high standard.  I would also like to thank Richard for allowing me to feature Learning to Snap on my Introductions post today.  Please go and visit, you won’t be disappointed.  Here is a gallery of some of his wonderful images.

Up for Discussion – How to Choose a Camera

A couple of weeks I was asked by someone about buying cameras.  They wanted to get a new camera but had no idea what to choose.  I told the person I had written a post on how to work out what camera is right for you, What you want in a Camera, and they said it was very helpful.  I wrote that post over a year ago and I know that people could contribute more to this discussion.  This is not a discussion on which is better, Nikon or Canon, the reality is they’re both good, end of that.  I don’t mind you talking about why you choose one over the other, I will do that too, but in the end it probably doesn’t matter what you choose.  I will go first.

747px-Pentax_K1000I started taking photos over 20 years ago, that is with a SLR.  I’ve spoken about this before, my husband asked me what I wanted one year for my birthday and that is what I said.  The Pentax K1000 was not something I choose, it was chosen for me.  It was a good choice, but as I started having children, well I only had two, I wanted a camera that could capture them, and the all manual K1000 wasn’t doing it for me anymore. I thought I could make it my black and white film camera.  So I started doing research on cameras.

I had joined a camera club and did their beginners photography course, I thought I was ready for a better camera.  I wanted something that could be totally automatic, or totally manual.  Of course most SLR’s were like that back then.  I knew it would be either a Canon or a Nikon.  Another woman who did the course had bought a good Canon, no idea what it was, but all I remember is that she had so much trouble working it out.  Trying to lc2_6689figure out how the aperture worked, I think, was the issue.  I wanted a camera that I could just pick up and use. So I went with Nikon, because to me, that is exactly what they were like, I could just pick it up and use it.  I knew how to change the aperture, and everything just fell into place.  I got the Nikon F90X.  I was so happy with it.  Also, at that time, I think Peter Eastway was also using Nikon, so how could I go wrong right?

I stopped taking photos for a while and the world of digital photography took over.  When I got back into it, I needed a new camera.  This time there were other considerations.  I had to have a camera that took lots of photos quickly.  I was doing sport, so I needed a camera that could take lots of frames a second.  That was really the only thing I needed the camera to have really.  I also knew that I went for a more expensive one my old Nikon lenses would fit onto it and would work. I thought the scsc0011autofocus may not, but I would still have those lenses, at least for a short time.  I bought the Nikon D300s, and to my surprise my old lenses worked exactly the same as digital lenses.  There was no issue with them at all.  So my new kit was made of old and new.

When it was time to upgrade my camera, I knew it would have to be another Nikon, as I had all the Nikon lenses.  This time, sport wasn’t a consideration.  I was no longer doing any sport, so how many frames a second wasn’t that much of a consideration.  I wanted full frame, a camera that could be knocked around a bit, I am a bit rough with my stuff, and good ISO.  The D300s higher ISO’s is horrible.  I have other lenses now as well, and I really like the kit I have.

Have I ever been disappointed with the Nikon, of course, there are things I don’t like.  Have I considered going to Canon?  Again, of course, but it would be such a major thing to do now, sell everything and buy a whole new kit.  I am sure if I had a Canon I would be saying the same things about it as well.

At the end of the day we all just want a camera we can use well, and easily, that will take images that we want and images we can be proud of.

When you were buying your first SLR or DSLR what were you looking for?  What made you decide to get what you have?  What advice would you give someone who wants to buy their first DSLR? If you have another brand would love to hear why you choose that and the camera?

These posts are a great way to share knowledge, so please contribute.

I will approve them, as long as they are nice and not nasty in any way.  I am out all day, so I won’t be able to respond to them.

Feel free to respond or reply to other comments.  It would be good to generate some discussion.

Finally, don’t forget to get your images to me for the MMC tomorrow.

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