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XII No.11 - Sunday June 2 - Saturday June 15, 2013


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SNAP SHOTS by Harry Flashman

 

Developing the photographic eye

Photographers develop their skills. The photographic eye is not something you are born with. However, that skill can be learned, and there is no age limit either. In fact, it is probably easier to acquire the photographic eye as you get older, as you will generally have more time to devote to learning.
As one gets older, physical activity is important - just getting out of the house or condo is an enjoyment in itself. This is where photography is so good. Give yourself a small photo project and out you go and illustrate it. You are exercising your photographic eye, as well as your legs!
Photography is also an ideal pastime for our seniors, because it is something that can be picked up and put down at will, it is not too physically demanding, and modern cameras can assist in the areas where age has taken some toll. And the end result is something that can give you great joy, be that award winning sunsets or just pictures of the grandchildren.
I will start this article assuming that the reader is a very rank amateur. Probably someone just contemplating photography. To play golf you need golf clubs. To play photography you need a camera. What one should you get? Get one with autofocus (AF). There are many reasons for this, but since sharp focus is necessary for a good final print, let today’s camera do it for you, as sharpness in vision is something that can become very problematical as you get older. Provided you can point the camera in the right direction, the camera will do the rest.
Most AF ones are a little more expensive, and work by moving the lens in and out electronically to focus on the subject in the middle of the viewfinder, just as if you were doing it yourself. They do this quickly and accurately and will usually give an audible ‘beep’, or a green light in the viewfinder to let you know the focus has been set. Do not be afraid to try the new advanced cameras, they make life easier, so just use them to your advantage.
A digital camera does away with film and any of the problems associated with it. Nothing could be simpler or more fool proof. And one of the best things about digital photography is the ability to immediately see if the shot is what you want. Trying to shoot from different angles and perspectives is also exercising the photographic eye.
Zoom lenses also save you having to go the distance. Is it just too much of a hassle these days to walk up to distant objects to get close-up details? Then a zoom lens will do it for you. With a zoom lens it is no problem at all to get a close-up, a wide angle and a distant shot from the same camera position. Maybe an autofocus digital compact camera with an inbuilt zoom lens is just the camera for you. Just push a button to make the zoom bring the subject closer or farther away. However, until you are proficient with the camera and how the different focal lengths affect the final shot, practicing your eye with the ‘standard’ 50 mm lens is good practice.
Today’s camera manufacturers have taken the fears out of flash too. Most new cameras have their own in-built flash which comes on when the light levels are too low, will set their own flash power and give you perfectly lit indoor night shots every time. You don’t have to put the camera down when the sun goes down!
So there you have it. There are cameras available now which can get you into photography! If you want to develop the ‘photographic eye’, then today’s cameras will help you. All you have to do is get the equipment to let you use and enjoy taking pictures. Look for suitable AF digital compacts with built in zoom, anti-shake technology and auto flash.
Pricewise you are looking at spending something around B. 10,000. There are plenty of choices in the marketplace. Something from the major brands such as Nikon, Canon, Olympus. A hint to the family around birthday should suffice.


Composition, cropping and the hero

If you want to put some interest in your photos, you have a few items to consider. As well as complying with all the ‘rules’ of photography, your photograph should identify a “hero”. Record shots of grandma outside Lotus will never make hero status for anybody!
All good photographs follow the rules of good composition.

Photo this week by Larry Dale Gordon.

The best known one of these is the Rule of Thirds, which by following, I guarantee will improve your final photographs. Mind you, this rule does expect that you have moved close enough to your subject, to fill the frame! Tiny people against vast expanses of background cannot be saved by any rule, other than the one that goes “Walk several meters closer!”
But for those of you who are not aware of the Rule of Thirds, here it is. Position the subject of the photo (that’s the hero) at the intersection of one third from the top or bottom of the viewfinder and one third in from the right or left side of the viewfinder.
By just placing your subject off-center immediately drags your shot out of the “ordinary” basket. The technocrats called this the “Rule of Thirds”, but even just try putting the subjects off-center. While still on the Rule of Thirds, don’t have the horizon slap bang in the center of the picture either. Put it one third from the top or one third from the bottom. As a rough rule of thumb, if the sky is interesting put more of it in the picture, but if it is featureless blue or grey include less of it. Simple!
With some cameras where you can make a grid pattern on the viewing screen from the menu, such as on the DMC FZ series Lumix, it makes it even easier to position the subject. With the vertical lines, you will soon see if you have the subject vertical, and for horizontal subjects incorporating the horizon, you can also make sure it is level. With other cameras, you can actually draw the two vertical and two horizontal lines on the viewing screen with felt tip pen. It does improve the final shots, believe me. And what is more, this composition is something you can do in the camera as you take the shot. It does mean that you look critically through the viewfinder and position the subject correctly.
Now, that is not the only item you should think about with your photographs, though it is obviously a good start! The next item is cropping, where you get rid of non-important items from the final photo, by literally slicing them away. These are items which do not add anything to the photograph you have in your mind’s eye. This can be extraneous details, such as a rubbish bin, which never does anything for landscapes. Or it may be that the hero is too small - because you didn’t walk several meters closer!
You can do this with post-production ‘edit suites’ or even a good Photoshop style program, where you actually do just the same as we used to with two L-shaped pieces of card, but with electronics. Call up your print on the computer screen and with the cropping tools you can move them around until you feel you have the correct (most pleasing) crop. The problem comes that after doing this, you may find (usually find) that the crop is not quite what you wanted, so you might have to call up the image and go through it all again. The secret is to always work on a copy, so you have the original safely tucked away in your photo folders. With judicious cropping you can also move the hero inside the frame to get closer to the rule of thirds.
So this week the messages were simple. Remember to fill the frame to give your photos more impact, so walk in closer. Remember to position the subject at the intersection of thirds, and learn how to crop for dramatic effect. That will improve your shots immeasurably.


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Developing the photographic eye

Composition, cropping and the hero
 

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