Selective Focus

 

iron fence

Selective Focus allows you to make a subject stand out from the background or elements around it. When you press the shutter part way the camera focuses on a point a certain distance away. This depends on where you are focusing and how far away the subject is. This plane of focus is parallel to the plane of the sensor.

If you want the subject to stand out you need to set a low aperture to decrease the depth of field. So f 2.8 has a shallower depth of field than f 8, f16 or anything higher. Depth of field is how far in front of and behind the plane of focus that will be rendered sharp in the image. So if you want the subject to stand out you need a shallow depth of field or low f stop.

One final consideration is how far from the subject you are. The closer you get to the subject the easier it is to decrease the depth of field. So being inches from the subject as opposed to feet or being 5 feet as opposed to 10 feet away, will help decrease the depth of field.wine bottles

The example of the iron fence has the focus on the center fence spike with an f stop of 3.2 and I’m relatively close to the subject about 1 foot away.

The next image has the focus on the first wine bottle with f stop of 2.8. This makes it stand out from the others behind it.

The final example uses selective focus to highlight the grapes and then lets the grape picker go blurry but still be recognizable. To achieve this effect I am inches away from the grapes but need a higher f stop of 11 to render enough detail in the background.

grapes

 

Get the Right Colors!

Color Calibration between the monitor and prints has long been a thorn in the side of the photographer. When I first got involved with printing my own images on my Epson almost 10 years ago, nobody knew much of anything. There was one guy in the UK that shed some light on the subject, but there were few tools.

Well we’ve come a long way since then! Now it’s so easy to calibrate your monitor and printer. I recently got a Dell U2410 monitor. Dell says it’s color calibrated for sRGB and Adobe RGB from the factory. And boy did it look good when I plugged it in. Too good actually. Images that I had previously developed looked garish, bright and oversaturated. They were fine when printed. Hmmm a mismatch here.

So I got a Spyder4 from Datacolor the mid level Pro version. And boy was it easy to use. A huge improvement over their previous products. It measures the ambient light, the interface is simple – none of the adjusting brightness to make the logo disappear into the black – you know what I’m talking about if you’ve used older products.

And the results were spot on. Images perfectly matched from screen to my Epson 7800. So if you’re printing and need a solution I highly recommend the Spyder 4!

 

Icy Weekend

Hopefully you got a chance to get out and do some shooting this past weekend. The ice covering was beautiful to see. I ventured out in full winter gear, to stay warm and captured a couple of images. Both were done with a close up or macro lens to get close to the subject.

The problem with close up photography is the depth of field drops off dramatically. So trying to get the entire subject sharp even at f22 may not work. Or you may run into the background coming into focus too much and ruining the shot.

So break out the tripod and take several images changing where you focus each time at f5.6 or f8, then using Photoshop CS5’s auto blend feature or Helicon focus you can stack them to create a sharp image.You can do this manually using layers and masks in any Photoshop, but that’s like work, hours of it.

icy leaf curveicy leaves

 

People add Scale

Many natural wonders are so vast they are hard to express. I personally find the Grand Canyon overwhelming beyond belief! But other natural structures are vast as well. If you just photograph a waterfall or rock formation it may be technically great, compositionally pleasing, but the grand feel you felt from it is lost. What to do?

Add a sense of scale. Use a person in the image to scale the subject. Both of these images give a sense of the scale of the feature. The person on the bridge behind the rainbow is tiny! (My friend and fellow photographer Rod Barbee, check out  his site: www.barbeephoto.com). The person gives a sense of scale to the vast old growth forest and the waterfall in front of him.

The second image to a lesser degree also conveys a sense of scale. I posed my student Sam in this narrow area to show the size of where we were walking. I like the fact you can’t see the top or bottom. It leaves the scale to the imagination.

So next time you are overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of nature, add some scale!

 

Photo Business Tips – Who are you?

Want to start your photo business? Have a photo business and you’re flailing? There is a lot of work that goes into any business, but the most important part is you.

Who are you and want are you selling? You need to know who you are first, really and truly. Not the superhero in a perfect world you really want to be this way you, but the everyday you. If you paint yourself as something you are not then you are cheating yourself. Start with who you are, good and bad. Bond with it. This will define what you offer the world.

This is not a static thing however, you can change and grow into what you want, but you have to start with what you are. Have no idea how to start? I highly recommend Fast Track Photographer by Dane Sanders. It’s an eye opening experience on defining who you are and creating what you want to be.

Nothing good is easy, it’s hard work but well worth it. Try it out!

www.danesanders.com

 

 

Lightroom Tip: Add pop to your image!

Ever have those dull lifeless images? Oftentimes this is the result of low contrast or lack of a good black point in the image. In the film darkroom it was important to have a print that had a black and white point. In other words a place on the print that has absolute black and absolute white. This creates contrast and results in an image with a good range of tones.

Not all images will have an absolute white or black point but most images will. So when your image looks flat and lifeless try this tip in Lightroom to boost the contrast and set the black point:

Under the basic tab go to the black slider. While holding down the Alt key AND left clicking on the slider the image goes white. Now move the slider slowly to the right until you see an area of black appear. Release the Alt key and see what the image looks like. There should be a definite increase in contrast which gives the image pop and will give more saturated colors.

These examples are from a hazy day shoot in Palouse, WA. The first image is flat but once I adjusted the black point the image has good color and life again.

Happy New Year!

So it’s cold and the landscape is barren. Most popular photography magazines say winter is a wonderful time to shoot and show you spectacular images of snowy landscapes and colossal mountains(well at least they look that way to east coasters). So unless you live out west and up north you are out of luck for consistent amazing snowy landscapes. We get a few here and there but they are few and far between. So what is there to do? While our landscapes are not the most inspiring this time of year, look to the details. Today we’ll look at ice formations.

While the temperatures may fluctuate wildly down here, up in Shenandoah National Park and George Washington National Forest it stays relatively cold and all of those weeping rocks you see driving along during the spring and summer turn into amazing ice formations.

I found these images a few miles down the Blue Ridge Parkway. Ice creates interesting unique formations. Find some icicles or look for interesting patterns in a mass of ice. Also notice what the light is doing. The image on the right was taken at sunset and gives an interesting warm glow to an otherwise cold subject. The color of the light greatly influences the feel of an image.

I love close up patterns. Take your time and experiment with different views and focal lengths. Once you find a good shot don’t just click on auto and move on, use the camera and what you’ve learned. Set up your tripod and set the camera to manual. Adjust the depth of field to maximize how much of the ice is in focus and clear. Using a tripod will give you a sharp image since the shutter speed will not matter. All too often we are in a hurry. Why? Winter is a beautiful peaceful time of year. Make sure you are comfortable and warm. Slow down and create a few great images instead of running  from shot to shot like some caffeine crazed hyper psycho. SLOW DOWN and ENJOY the experience. Life is too short to run from thing to thing never remembering what you saw.

So bundle up and take a drive up the parkway/skyline drive, it’s incredibly uncrowded this time of year.Have fun, get up close and take your time! If you want to learn about how to get more out of your camera in the manual modes I have a ton of classes open for registration this spring in Charlottesville and Richmond. PVCC is registering and filling up fast, plus I offer one day workshops and private lessons. So click on Classes/Workshops above and sign up for some fun classes!

New Classes/Workshops Posted for Spring!

After a 2 week delay I finally have new classes and workshops posted on www.digiphotoclass.com. A back injury flare up had me confined to bed for a week or so. It was time well spend breaking in my new Dell 2410 monitor. A fabulous monitor with great color. It comes color calibrated from the factory and looks good when I hooked it up. The wide view is excellent for working in Lightroom, Photoshop and any program when you need several screens open at once.

So onto classes for the spring. PVCC is already registering for spring session. These fill fast so sign up soon. I highly recommend the Advanced Photography class for those of you that have taken everything else. This class was great fun to teach. We have classroom and field sessions, so join me in the spring!

I have a new HDR workshop. I will show you how to pick the right scene and shoot it then develop the images using Nik HDR Efex Pro. I also have another round of Macro and Action photography planned. Finally there are several workshops with my friend Rod Barbee, one here in the Blue Ridge Mountains and then out west in Palouse, WA. The image above is from an abandoned farm in the Palouse region developed with bi-color in Nik Color Efex Pro. So if you’re still looking for that perfect holiday gift consider giving a gift certificate for a class or workshop!

Have a wonderful Holiday season and I’ll see everyone again next year!

Victoria

Ahh Technology

So if you’ve taken a class from me you know how rabid I am about backing up your files. If you’ve never had a computer crash before it will happen and it finally happened to me. Not a complete crash, the computer just wouldn’t shut down, then wouldn’t restart… Some corruption somewhere, sigh. My husband spent quite a bit of time trying to solve the issue, but alas computers don’t read the manual and do whatever they want to do. We had to reload the entire operating system which meant losing everything on the hard drive. But I had backed up my files and while time consuming reloading programs, I have a brand new computer again, without all of the previous problems!

So back up your files! For Lightroom make sure to save the catalog so when you reload it all of your information is still there: files, collections, folders, editing history, keywords. If you reload the catalog and then hook up your external hard drive, the computer may not assign the drive the letter that Lightroom recognizes. Fear not, just change the drive letter to the one Lightroom used before and you are good to go. (For information on changing drive letters, Google it, it’s easy to do). Back up picture files separately. All of mine are on external hard drives that mirror each other. So no tedious reloading of terabytes of information! Have a system wide back up like Genie or Time Machine that copies all of the pertinent information on your machine. Be prepared! So my Thanksgiving wasn’t a total loss. Next week I’ll tell you about the cool new monitor I am getting for editing!

Finally Blogging

After procrastinating, shooting and dealing with my elderly father’s pneumonia I have finally started my blogging series!

See my welcome page to see what it’s all about.

This past weekend I was fortunate to see Freeman Patterson speak. He is an internationally known nature photographer. Years ago a student of mine mentioned him and I purchased one of his books. He does a wonderful job teaching you how to see. I have been fortunate to have the gift of seeing, but until now I did not know how to explain or quantify this art. It’s hard to teach someone how to see. I feel that regardless of your photographic skills with a camera, being able to see will greatly improve your images. Combining elements and light regardless of the tool used is the key.


Taken this week in southern Albemarle, the image combines great morning light, various lines, shapes and elements. There are 3 color lines, sky-trees, trees-green field and green field to yellow field. This divides the image into 4 rough balanced rectangular areas. There is also another oblique line that divides the lower area into a triangle.  The elements of hay bales, silo and red tree on the left provide interest and keep your eye moving circularly around the image. The hay bales reflect the morning light and pop out with contrast from the field. Morning light gives the image a soft warm feel and enhances the fall colors. It is these concept that make this a beautiful image. Light and elements.

I plan to put together a class teaching these concepts for fall of 2012. Working hands on in a class and having images critiqued  creates a fun learning experience. So keep an eye out! In the meantime take a look at Freeman’s book: Photography and the Art of Seeing.