How to use a tripod the right way
A tripod with bracing struts is often recommended for video because of its extra stability; a geared center column is also a bonus. In an all-purpose tripod however, I recommend one without struts because those components make it impossible to fully splay the legs for low level placement of the camera.

How to use a tripod the right way

In this video, you will learn how to use a tripod the right way. Because the last thing you want is your camera hitting the floor. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qI7hAU1roaE

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Shooting Sports 2 – Courts – Volleyball and Basketball

In my first article, I talked about some general considerations in shooting sports – the gear, the camera settings, etc. If you haven’t taken a look at that article yet, you should read it before this one.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the considerations specific to shooting court sports — volleyball, and basketball. These are usually indoors, but the same principles apply when they are played outside.

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The Tuesday Composition: Repetition

Salt Polygons at Sunrise, Death Valley
Salt Polygons at Sunrise, Death Valley

If you like this article, you can now get the book! Joe has expanded the “Tuesday Composition” series into an inspiring new ebook on composition, especially for nature photography. Check it out: The Tuesday Composition.

A while back we talked about visual echoes–and we primarily focused on repetitions of two similar or contrasting objects. Today I’m going to revisit that topic with a greater emphasis on repetition generally, whether two, eleven or a million similar image elements.  If you didn’t get a chance to read the echoes post, I suggest going back and and reading it now, many of the ideas in today’s post will relate to and reflect on the ideas I presented there.

Repetition is a powerful and amazingly versatile tool.

One of my favorite uses of repetition in composition is in simplifying an image. In general, images with many kinds of disparate elements can be harder for the viewer to make sense of–put enough elements together and you take away an easy sense of what elements of the image are important, dominant.

Repeating patterns in an image can help organize all of those elements into a pattern that’s easier for the viewer to understand. Salt Polygons at Sunrise has hundreds of elements, but our eye quickly integrates the underlying pattern of the salt polygons and makes sense of what’s going on in the image. A random collection of that many disparate elements in an image would feel much more chaotic. (Of course, that might be what you want, but more often, my own work tends towards less chaotic.) (more…)

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A simple cheat to direct a viewer’s eye

We can’t always control the shoot as much as we’d like. One of my regular gigs is shooting real food prepared by real kitchen staff at real restaurants. The shots are more about the cooks and the restaurants than about my photographic prowess. Many times food comes out of the kitchen looking perfect, other times … not so much.  On these assignments I’m also usually restricted to available light, or minimal supplemental lighting. Immediately I’ve lost control over two key aspects of the shot. It’s on assignments like these that I’ll often employ a trick that’s so simple I’m almost   embarrassed–vignetting.

By artificially darkening the corners and edges of images we can direct the viewer’s eye toward the center. The trick is to not overdo it, but to have it be subtle. If you look at an image and think, ‘Oh, darkened corners,’ you’ve most likely gone too far. There are several points along the way where you can employ this trick, but my preference is in Photoshop, after the image has been cropped and the contrast adjusted.

My personal method involved the Quickmask tool and an Adjustment layer. On you image, enter Quickmask mode (Q key command) and select a round paint brush of appropriate size. Then simply mask the majority of the image. Remember this is a mask, not a selection, so the areas you paint will not be affected by the next step.

Quickmask mode
Quickmask mode

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Handholding: Making Sense of the 1/f rule

Polar Bear Walking. Without familiarity with the 1/f rule and how to use it, this 300mm shot would have been a blur.
Polar Bear Walking. Without familiarity with the 1/f rule and how to use it, this dusky 300mm shot would have been a blur.

I got some questions over the weekend about the details of the  1/f rule and I thought I’d share some of my answers with you. It is a simple formula which allows photographers to roughly estimate how fast a shutter speed they’ll need to prevent camera motion from blurring an image.

The “1/f rule”  simply says that the longest shutter speed you can handhold a 35mm camera, with careful technique but without a tripod or other support, without getting blur from camera motion is about one second divided by the focal length of the lens (in millimeters). For a 100mm lens, the rule suggests that you’d have a shot at getting a sharp handheld shot at 1/100 of a second (or a 1/1000), but not a 1/10, or 1/50. This is fairly intuitive. Telephoto lenses magnify more, magnify motion more, than wide-angle lenses, and so you need a proportionally faster shutter speed to get a sharp image with the longer lens.

The rule is not  particularly  precise, though, and it is helpful to keep a few caveats in mind.   (more…)

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The Tuesday Composition: Sometimes Centering Does Work

Badwater Reflections
Badwater Reflections

If you like this article, you can now get the book! Joe has expanded the “Tuesday Composition” series into an inspiring new ebook on composition, especially for nature photography. Check it out: The Tuesday Composition.

As I’ve said before (and will keep saying), these photographic “rules” we talk about are more like dozens of tools in a large toolbox, and the vast majority of your images will only use a small subset of those tools. In fact, often there are very good reasons to do precisely the opposite of whatever one of these guidelines might seem to suggest, sometimes the rules themselves are contradictory. Today’s column is a case in point. Last week I explored a number of reasons you’d usually be better off not centering things vertically or horizontally in your images. This week, I’m going to mention some exceptions, but those exceptions are no more hard-and-fast as the original “rule” was. As such, I hope that you’ll not only get some ideas about why images might work well centered, but also that you’ll get a little better idea of what I mean by the “toolbox” metaphor. (more…)

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Rules for Good Photography

I think now, more than ever, it’s hard to tell what makes a “good picture.”

Photography, like all art, is subjective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, etc, etc. And with Photoshop becoming such an integral part of the work process, it’s getting to the point where the old “rules” for good photography are being tossed out the window. I think that’s just fine, and I’ll tell you why. (more…)

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The Tuesday Composition: Avoid the Middle, Man.

Virga over the Straits of Magellan: The sky was more interesting than the water, so I used a lot more sky than water.  Sometimes it's that simple.
Virga over the Straits of Magellan. The sky was more interesting than the water, so I used a lot more sky than water. Sometimes it's that simple.

If you like this article, you can now get the book! Joe has expanded the “Tuesday Composition” series into an inspiring new ebook on composition, especially for nature photography. Check it out: The Tuesday Composition.

Last week we talked about working the edges of your photographs. This week, I thought we’d start taking about where we place objects in an image; I like Geir Jordahl’s metaphor of choreography. By moving around, by pointing the camera in different directions, by choosing a framing and focal length and orientation of our shot, we’re including and excluding objects from our image, changing their size and shape and moving them around within our image. While we do not have (outside of Photoshop) unlimited flexibility to rearrange our images this way, we do have quite a number of controls over where we place in our images. So, where should we put them? Where will they look best? (more…)

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The Tuesday Composition: Areas of Low Contrast, Negative Space

Tree Ballet, Mono Basin, California
Tree Ballet. Mono Basin, California

If you like this article, you can now get the book! Joe has expanded the “Tuesday Composition” series into an inspiring new ebook on composition, especially for nature photography. Check it out: The Tuesday Composition.

Last week we discussed areas of high contrast, this week we’re going to turn around and say a few words about low contrast areas and how they contribute in a composition.

At least one of these effects shouldn’t be too much of a surprise if you read last week’s column. If our eye tends to gravitate over time towards the high-contrast parts of a composition, then it more or less equally gravitates away from the low-contrast areas of the image. I won’t dwell on this aspect of it, if you want a nice, simple example start with the tree at the head of last week’s column and notice that the valley walls don’t pull your eye the way the tree does.

But as much as that’s true in last week’s tree, it is even more true for Tree Ballet. Save for three small areas of the image (the bare trees and a couple patches of dead grasses) Tree Ballet has no real detail or contrast whatsoever. Whereas the small amount of detail in the valley walls in Morning by the Merced will occasionally pull your eye in to look at what detail is present, the complete lack of sharp detail in Tree Ballet does not. We say that most of this image consists of “negative space”. “Negative space” is the art term for space around the subject of an image. The large area of this image devoted to negative space is important to this image, it emphasizes the cold, isolating fog. (more…)

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