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Update June 2016


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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
 
 
 

SNAP SHOTS   by Harry Flashman

 

Update May 28, 2016

Digitally polarized

Weekend photographers who used polarizing filters in the days of film (remember waiting for the one hour D&P shop for your prints) have strangely seemed to avoid this filter for their digital cameras, especially DSLR’s.
Whilst there are no polarizer advantages unique to digital cameras, digital cameras with limited dynamic range can benefit greatly from the selective suppression of excess contrast. Due to the limited UV sensitivity found in most digital cameras, polarizers also work well for haze control, especially with the haze we have in Thailand, thank you Malaysian forests!
Quality polarizing filters are different from most others in the fact that they are made up of two distinct elements. There is an outer ring that rotates the outer “glass” relative to the inner element. This increases or reduces the degree of polarization to allow the photographer an endless range of polarized effects from one filter.
The principal behind these filters is to remove reflections, and funnily enough it is reflections that take the color out of color photography. Look at the surface of a swimming pool, for example – a shiny white, non-transparent surface. Now look through a polarizing filter and you can see right down to the tiles on the bottom of the pool. And the people frolicking in the pool!
What you have to understand now is that these filters remove reflections from any surface, not just water. The reason you cannot see through some normally transparent windows is because of reflected images on the surface of the glass. The reason some tree leaves appear to lose their color is through reflected light from the sky above.
One of the traps for young photographers is that because you know the grass is green, you see it as green when you look through the camera viewfinder – even though it is not truly well saturated green. Look again at the scene in the viewfinder. The green grass is really a mixture of green and silvery reflections, dark shadows and pale green shoots. Put the polarizing filter on the lens and slowly rotate the outer ring. Suddenly the silvery reflections disappear and become a deep, solid green color. The grass is now made up of green, dark green and pale green. This green will really leap out at you and smack you fair between the eyes!
Your next beach scene when taken with a polarizer will really amaze you. Again, slowly rotate the outer ring on the polarizer. Look critically through the viewfinder and you will see the sky take on a much deeper color to highlight the white clouds. Keep turning that outer ring and the sea will change to a deep blue to green luminescent hue. The end result is at your command. Try taking the same shot this weekend, but with varying degrees of polarization and see the differences in the final shots.
So, if the polarizer is such a wonderful bit of gear, why do we not make it a standard piece of equipment on all cameras? Well, like everything, there is a downside as well as the upside. In the case of the polarizer it does its bit of brilliance at the expense of the amount of light that gets through to the lens. With most polarizing filters you will lose about one and a half stops of light. What this means is that the shutter speed will be at least twice as long to record the same scene, or that the aperture will have to be twice the size. This means that you are more likely to get camera shake effects and suffer from lack of depth of field when using the polarizer. However, with shots in the bright sun, a polarizer will bring a new dimension to your shots.
By the way, when using any filter on your camera, I suggest you use a stepping ring to increase the diameter of the filter, so there are no unwanted vignetting effects, especially with wide angle settings. My regular camera has a 55 mm diameter lens, which I have then stepped up to 62 mm so takes all my old filters. This is really a good idea and also cuts down the number of lens adapters you will need. Including the polarizer.


Update May 21, 2016

The Dangers in Photography

My assistant saved the vodka bottle!

Photography is not thought of as a dangerous, or contact sport. However, photography has its dangers, and I have been on the receiving end.
Let me state from the outset that the situation did not involve outraged art directors or clients unhappy with the billing.

Monkey Business.

The shoot involved a bottle of vodka and a glass with ice cubes. Illustrating vodka on the rocks. To give the impression that the bottle and the glass were “floating” it was necessary to use a grey seamless background paper. Seamless backgrounds are generally about two meters wide with probably 40 meters in the roll.
The way this works is you run the seamless down the wall and gently curve it into the flat surface on which the object to be photographed is sitting. This means there is no “seam” or line between the back wall and the floor.
My game plan was to have a sheet of glass on some low stands, lit from underneath. I cut out the circle to match the vodka bottle, and another for the shot glass with the ice cubes in it. With the light from below, the vodka bottle would really stand out, as would the glass with ice cubes.
Having experienced ‘melt down’ with ice cubes on another shoot, I prepared myself this time with some acrylic ‘ice’ cubes. Now nothing could go wrong.
Now the items were put in place on the grey seamless on top of the glass sheet. The other end of the roll of seamless was hung on the wall on hooks already placed there.
Now to get the focus correct we use modeling lights. These are tungsten globes which allow the photographer to position the flash heads to get the lighting needed. With the bottle and glass being lit from below, this was quite a tricky exercise which took a little time.
Finally we were ready to pull the first Polaroid and as I said, “Go!” there was a huge bang and the montage on the glass of vodka and ice all toppled into the middle of the set, bringing the grey seamless with it, pulling the roll off the hooks on the wall.
The roll looked as if it would hit the camera on its tripod so I moved to shield it, with the result that it hit my head, knocking me out and I fell on the floor hugging the camera to my chest.
And what about my assistant? She saved the vodka bottle!
After I came to, we worked out just what had happened. The tungsten lights under the glass plate heated it up too much and it cracked through the middle and taking a V shape, pulling the seamless paper off the glass and dislodging the full roll from the wall hooks which landed on my head.
And yes, we sat down in the shambles of the studio and drank the vodka. Wouldn’t you?
An interesting
conundrum
The picture of this monkey was not taken by a wildlife photographer, but by the monkey itself. The world’s first simian selfie. We can use this selfie, as there is no copyright for the image, as it has been uploaded to Wiki Commons. The guy who owned the camera says he owns the copyright, but Wiki says that, since the monkey took the photo, technically the copyright would belong to the monkey. But since copyright law states that copyrights cannot be assigned to non-humans, there is no copyright on it. All very interesting, and in some ways a bit silly, but that is the way the world is heading.


Update May 14, 2016

Just in time?

Every photograph you have ever taken represents a moment in time recorded for posterity. 1/60th second of your world frozen for eternity. The famous French photographer Lartigue (1894 – 1986, was particularly good at this. So was Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908 – 2004), who coined the phrase “the decisive moment,” showing photography gives longevity perhaps?
However, in time lapse photography, you record a series of these “decisive moments”, one after the other, all related to each other. This kind of photography will show such items as the development of a flower, or the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis. You know the sort of thing – all very National Geographic or Disney World. Any of you who have seen the film “A Zed and Two Noughts” will also remember those scenes of bodies decomposing, all done by time lapse photography.
Before we go much further, time lapse should not be confused with time exposure photography. Time lapse covers multiple exposures, time exposure is one long exposure.
Time lapse photography is probably the easiest, yet most spectacular form of wall art that any amateur photographer can produce. And you do not need fancy equipment. In fact you and your point and shoot auto-everything compact can do it.
Now while all this style of time lapse photography sounds expensive and even time consuming, it does not need to be so. You can produce your own time lapse shots with any old camera. It just needs a little planning.
There is one photographer who on her birthday takes a photo of herself in the nude. This she has done for the past 30 something years and has produced a time lapse record of human aging. This series of shots has been studied by the medical profession, as it is the only such record that has been undertaken in the world. So, if it doesn’t depress you too much, there’s an idea for you!
No, for me, I want more instant gratification than that. I believe you should pick on something that can allow you to produce a finished product in the sort of time frame that you could sit with comfortably (and not lose the photographs taken previously). So let us look at some items that you could do easily, with just a point and shooter.
Here is one suggestion – buy a rose (they sell them in all bars every night) and place it in a vase by the window and shoot it at lunchtime. Leave it exactly where it is, and take one lunchtime shot every day for the next week. In that time, it will have spread its petals, begin to die, the petals will shrink up, the stem will bend over, the water will have gone cloudy and other attributes that will only become obvious when you study the shots. However, you must mount the shots, side by side, in order from the left. You have just produced a work of art in a week!
So you haven’t got the stamina for a week. What else can you do? Well, there is always the record of one object in daylight. Take six shots, one every two hours, of your house, for example, starting at 6 a.m. You will see how the different time of day produces different light, the sun’s movement produces different shadows and again, by mounting them side by side, in order from the left, you will have produced a work of art in one day! But mark the spot where you shoot from, so you have the same items in it.
So you don’t want to spend a day getting your definitive time lapse shots, so look at taking one hour. In that time you can document the progress of a snail along a wall, or serial shots of people walking down the street, or the way your beer glass empties. Just light it from behind with natural lighting to get the best effect. Probably repeat this a few times over a Sunday, with the final shot being a glass of water and two headache tablets.
So the choice of subject is totally under your control, and the way you mount the shots is also your control. Do get them mounted. Great wall art will ensue.


Update May 7, 2016

Photographic equipment made to measure

Black velvet.

The son of an old friend of mine is showing a remarkable talent for photography. However, like all young photographers he is experimenting in just how he gets his images, and trying at the same time to come up with something completely original.
To assist all budding photographers, would you believe me when I say that you can get a very valuable piece of photographic equipment at the local Indian tailors? Probably not, but you really can buy something there which is of inestimable value for special effects in photography.
Indian tailors fit into low budget special effects photography, and when I say “low budget”, that is exactly what I mean. In my personal library I have books that claim to do just that and then go on about the “low budget” equipment required – an enlarger, registration table with registration pins, copy stand and photo floods and studio strobes. Hardly what I would call low budget! However, it is possible to produce many special effects photos without having to purchase expensive equipment. The first item you need is a roll of black velvet.
Black velvet is one of the easiest ways to introduce some very different effects into your photographs. The secrets behind the use of this material include the facts that it is non-reflective, it does not affect exposure values when taking the shot and shadows do not register on it.
Because it does not affect the final image, this makes black velvet the ideal material to use as a background when you wish to combine images, or do other special effects using Photoshop or whatever is your favorite graphics package.
Here are just a few ideas you can do with black velvet. Simple double exposure in the camera becomes very easy with this material in the background. Set your camera in the double exposure mode (or if you have not got one, select “B” for time exposure). Position the subject to one side of the picture and pop the flash to take the shot. Now reposition the subject on the other side of the picture and shoot again. You will have two perfect shots on a perfectly black background. (For those using the “B” setting you have to have the room dark and the camera on a tripod. Cover the lens between taking the shots to stop extraneous light coming into the camera too, but it is possible to get excellent double exposures in this way.)
Another use for black velvet is in making pictures of light trails. These can be very spectacular special effects pictures and are very easy to make. Stick the black velvet on the ceiling and suspend a torch from the center. With the camera facing upwards, twirl the torch and record its movement for ten seconds or so. You have just made a totally original image!
Photo montage is another simple effect you can produce, using the black velvet as the background. Here you let your creative self run riot. You can produce any picture you want, whether it be yourself standing on top of the Statue of Liberty or three elephants standing on a beach ball – you are in total control!
With this type of special effect you have to cut out the elements you want from other pictures, be they prints or magazine photos or whatever. Cut carefully and then run a black felt-tip pen around the edges (See why? It will sit on black velvet!) and you are ready to combine all your subjects.
Put your composition (photo montage) together and positioning your camera above the montage, look carefully through the viewfinder. This is how the shot will look, remember (WYSIWYG). Reposition any items at this stage. Next important item is to keep the camera back parallel with your background as this will keep all the elements in focus. Now shoot! Three exposures half a stop apart.
If you find the direct flash gives you a reflection problem, you can use household “floodlights”, one each side at 45 degrees to the surface. You will get a “warm” color cast, but since you are producing “surreal” photographs, it does not really matter. Have fun this weekend, after you’ve been to the tailors!


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Digitally polarized

The Dangers in Photography

Just in time?

Photographic equipment made to measure
 

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