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Update December, 2014

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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern

SNAP SHOTS   by Harry Flashman


Recording the New Year fireworks

I was reminded of the tricks in shooting fireworks when we had the fireworks extravaganza a couple of weekends ago. I should have written this then, but better late than never. We (that’s you) will have plenty of opportunities over New Year (be that the Western New Year, Chinese New Year, Thai New Year or the Patagonian Petunia Festival). At all of these events the culmination is the letting off of fireworks.
Many photographers attempt to record these colorful displays and most come back with disappointing results. Here is how to do it properly (but even then you do need a little luck!
The first item is to select where you are going to shoot the fireworks. Try to avoid overhead wires and the roofs of houses. The secret is an uninterrupted view, without people walking in front of you.
The next item to attend to is the flash incorporated in your camera. You have to turn it off! Most automatic cameras these days pop their little flash heads up as soon as it gets dark, and flash settings are exactly what you do not want in recording firework flashes. You may have to resort to your instruction booklet to do this. It is amazing just how many camera owners do not know how to turn on and off the various functions.
The next item of equipment you need is a tripod. I have written about these many times, but a good sturdy tripod is best. The light aluminium jobs are easy to carry but don’t keep the camera rock solid. You need a good heavy one and even hang the camera bag from the central pole, just to stabilize the whole shooting match even further. My own Manfrotto is around 25 years old and has never given any trouble. It is worth the extra expense to get a good one and it will be with you forever.
Another piece of equipment is a cable release, and even though not 100 percent needed, makes life much easier in this firework situation.
The final piece in the equipment list is a piece of flat black cardboard around 10 centimeters square. Matt black is best as it does not reflect light (this is why most photographic equipment is matt black too). Get a matt black spray can at the hardware shop and make your own card. Your usual 100 ASA or whatever will be fine, this exercise does not need super-slow or super-fast ASA (ISO) ratings. Use a wide angle or even standard lens and point the camera at the sky where the firework star-bursts explode in the sky. Even wait for the first star-burst and lock the tripod with the camera then in the correct position.
The way we are going to get the top shots is to record more than one firework star-burst on one piece of film. This is how the pros get all those magnificent fireworks photographs. The trick is how!
Here comes the action. You are going to need something like 30 second exposures to get several star-bursts. Select “B” as the shutter speed - popping the shutter button in this mode opens the shutter and keeps it open until the button is released. Now you can see why the cable release is a good idea, particularly ones that you can lock in the depressed position.
With the cable release in your left hand and the matt black card in your right, you are ready. When the rocket goes up, open the shutter. As the star-burst wanes, cover the lens with your black card, but keep the shutter open. As the next star-burst happens, uncover the lens, covering it again as the star-burst wanes. Now you have two sets of fireworks on one picture. Get another and then close the shutter, which means that the camera advances to a fresh area in the memory card. Now you can repeat the exercise as many times as you like. Get up to four star-bursts on one photo - any more than four and it gets too crowded in the final print.
So there you have it. Shoot like the pros and get professional results you will be proud of. And Happy New Year.

Shapes, patterns and contrasts are eye-catchers

How do you get eye-catching photographs? Even in camera clubs there are more dull photographs than eye-catchers. So what is the secret?
Amazingly, sometimes the commonest or simplest items can produce eye-catching photographs. No difficult shots, no special effects, no exotic lenses, just great shots by the simple technique of keeping one’s eyes open for good results.
The secret to all this is to remember repetitive shapes, contrasting shapes, contrasting colors and shadows. In other words, these types of images rely totally on vision and composition.
Remembering that the ‘rules’ of composition are merely there to be broken, very often a dramatic shot comes from trying something different.
The secret of great photography is not just in correct exposure and placement in the frame. You will get plenty of photographs that are perfectly exposed with the subject at the intersection of thirds, but dull. You need to remember contrast!
Contrast in photographic composition is an effective means of directing the viewer’s attention to the subject of interest. When I speak of contrast, I am referring to both tonal contrast, as in black-and-white photography, and color contrast as it relates to color photography.
In B&W photography, contrast is the difference in subject tones from white-to-gray-to-black or from the lightest tone to the darkest tone. In color photography different colors create the contrast.
Tonal contrast is generally expressed as high contrast which has extreme black and whites, or low contrast which has nothing but graduated greys.
Now you can wander around all day looking for a girl in a white swimsuit on a white sandy beach, or you can manipulate a photograph to produce that image. If you have an advanced digital camera, you can program it to record black and white only and then go from there, but if not, no fear, your software will allow you to do this post camera. First convert the color shot to grey scale, then play with the brightness and contrast, and you will very quickly produce a high contrast shot.
Now high contrast should not be confused with high key. A high key black and white shot is one where the photo shows mostly light tones. Conversely, a low key shot is one that has mainly dark tones. Low key and high key pictures convey mood and atmosphere. Low key suggests seriousness and mystery and is wonderful for Halloween photographs. However, high key creates a feeling of delicacy and lightness. A portrait of a blonde in white against a white background is an example of high key.
High contrast gives very black blacks and very white whites, and usually with nothing in between. Low contrast, on the other hand, still has blacks and whites, but everything is predominantly grey, giving a flat scene which still has tones, but in which highlights and shadows have very little difference in densities. In other words, all tones within the scene are very similar in appearance. However, remember that if you are shooting in automatic mode, the camera will be set to deliver 18 percent grey, and not black.
Now to contrast in color. This is where an artist’s color wheel comes in handy. By picking colors from opposite sides on the wheel, you immediately have stunning contrasts. Blue and yellow is a classic example. Another is bright red against a luminescent green background.
Cold colors (bluish) and warm colors (reddish) almost always contrast. Cold colors recede, while warm colors advance. Light colors contrast against dark ones, and a bold color offsets a weak color.
Color contrast is an effective compositional element in color photography, just as tone is in black-and-white photography. Colors with opposite characteristics contrast strongly when placed together. Each color accentuates the qualities of the other and makes the color images stand out dramatically. Color contrast is enhanced when you create the contrast of detail against mass. An example is a single, bright, red flower in a clear, glass vase photographed against a bright, green background.
The photograph used this week is an example of very high color contrast, so much so that only two colors matter. This was designed to be a photograph that hits you between the eyes.

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Recording the New Year fireworks

Shapes, patterns and contrasts are eye-catchers



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