Lightning Talk: A Lesson in Photography

Photography ? Things that I Do:
Just to give a little history, I?ve always been fascinated by great photographers. Last May, I purchased my first DSLR camera, and have been expanding this hobby as I learn more about what I like to shoot.

There are many different channels of photography, such as weddings and events, macro, candid, portraits, but just a few that I?ve been particularly interested in over the last year:

  • Outdoors (dusk, night, nature, landscapes) – There are many kinds of outdoors shots to get, but I prefer the ones where you can have a wide-angle view.
  • Long Exposures – Long exposure shots are basically ones where the amount of exposure time is longer that what you would typically have when you hand-hold your camera.
  • Framed scenes and photo walks – I?ll often have an idea of a shot I?d like to get, but sometimes I?ll find random or interesting things to shoot while out and about. I also find it important to look *behind* you when going on a photo walk, either alone or with a group. The picture below is one that was taken at a warehouse, where on a warm fall day, the garage door was open workers inside were producing sparks with their tools.
  • Accidental shots– There are some times where you don?t mean to get a shot, like hitting the shutter accidentally when holding the camera, or snapping a shot that?s the last set of bracketed images. I?ve captured some interesting pictures this way, as well.

How I Get the Shots ? Tools

  • DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) – As mentioned previously, I?ve had a DSLR for about a year now, which is a Nikon D7000. The way it works is with an image sensor that has a mirror over it. Basically, the mirror lifts up and exposes what?s coming through the lens onto the sensor when the shutter is fired.
  • Lenses (10-24mm Wide Angle, 35mm) – I prefer to use a wide-angle lens for most of my outdoor pictures, and a 35mm for indoor and portrait shots. The 35mm has a max aperture of f/1.8, which is great for low-light conditions.
  • Tripod, with remote release – The use of a tripod is a must when shooting any long exposures, unless you can find a good solid spot to position the camera. I use a remote release for the shutter, so I don?t have to touch the camera when taking a shot. If the lens has VR (vibration reduction), I?ll switch that off, as well.
  • Flash – Using a flash is great for indoor shots, but can be used outdoors as well. I mainly use this for portraits, but might use it for fill flash when taking pictures of flowers.
  • Creativity – Sometimes, you need to be a little creative in how you might capture you pictures. I often wear my work badge, and carry around cards in case I?m asked questions, which people often do. For the most part, I?ll try and look as inconspicuous as possible.
  • LOTS of patience – If you really want to get that shot, you may find yourself waiting a long time. It?s inevitable. I?ve stood behind the camera on the tripod for hours, to either get the light right for multiple exposures. Sometimes, you also just need to wait for people to get out of the way, if you don?t want them in your picture.

Sample pictures ? Landscapes

A sunset over the water at Paya Lake, Wisconsin. I was looking to get the reflection of the clouds and sunset over the water.

Last fall, this picture was taken at a nursery in Huntley, which also shows the rich colors from the tree leaves.

Long Exposure Methods and Effects

Long exposures that are relatively short, but not too long, can give the effect of blurred and moving objects. The picture below was taken on Michigan Ave near the John Hancock Center, which shows a bus and people going past, but the stationary objects are clear.

?Softened? water is the effect where there is a long exposure that captures moving water. The water takes on a mist-like appearance. It?s common on beaches and waterfalls.

Light trails are produced by having the camera setup on a tripod, such as at an intersection, and having an exposure time that?s above the amount of time for a vehicle to go by. This is usually around 10-30 seconds.

For nightscapes and cityscapes, I have an exposure go for anywhere from 15 seconds to several minutes, with a very low aperture, such as f/20. This will produce a ?burst? effect on some of the lights in the frame of the picture, since the low aperture (smaller lens opening) requires a longer amount of time for the image to be created.

Chicago Riverwalk

New York City skyline from Roosevelt Island

Zooming during exposure

This method involves a long exposure, where the lens is zoomed in at the last part of the exposure. The first example, with the Chicago Bean, the zoom was during the last few seconds of about a 15 second exposure. The shot from the Willis tower was zooming the last half-second of a three second exposure.

Chicago Bean

HDR (High Dynamic Range)

HDR is a method that is become popular over the last few years. This method involves taking a series of shots of the same location with under/none/over exposure bias, and then using software to blend the exposures into one picture. In the example, you can see the detail of the clouds in the under-exposed image, where more of the building detail can be seen in the over-exposed image. The final image shows detail from all three exposures. Some photographers will use even more than three exposures, which produce some stunning results.

How I get the Shots – Composition/Post-processing

  • Adobe Lightroom – I use Adobe Lightroom as the main program for storing my image library. Basic edits such as exposure, contrast, and saturation can be done using Lightroom. Other useful tools include teeth-whitening, noise reduction, and selective coloring.
  • Photomatix Pro – This is the main tool I use for exporting my images from Lightroom, and then creating HDR pictures, as in the example above. Different strengths and filters can also be applied.
  • Nik Software – Since their acquisition by Google, the price of the entire Nik Software suite has dropped to $150, which is why I bought it. It has tools to reduce noise, extract detail, create monochrome images, and HDR processing as well.
  • GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) – This is basically the ?free? version of Photoshop. It lets me create blended images, as well as other touch-ups to color, or certain areas of images. The example below shows the end result of two images taken from the same location, but the inside of the bracket structure is during the day, while the rest of the image is at night.

Things I Avoid

  • ?Dutch Tilt? – This is the method where a picture is slightly tilted to the left or right, to try and give an effect of mystery. I find this is often overused, and have yet to find wedding pictures that don?t include it. If everyone is doing it, then I probably don?t want to.
  • Garbage Cans – There?s nothing worse than looking through my pictures after I upload them and finding the obnoxious garbage can or bin in what would otherwise be a beautiful picture. I just don?t find the rows or clusters of blue and black bins very pleasing.
  • People Eating – This may be more obvious, but taking pictures at events or parties sometimes you end up with the unflattering view of someone with a mouthful of food. I?ll try to crop the picture, or may have to discard it entirely.

Looking Ahead
Since I?ve only been into photography for about a year, I?d like to explore some other areas that could be fun and exciting. Here are some of those areas:

  • Events – Concerts, especially at small venues, has a very urban feel that I like to capture.
    Weddings could also be interesting, but also stressful. The pressure of only having one chance to get a lot of important shots could be a little much, but I?d be willing to try it.
  • Lighting – Different uses of artificial light, such as studio lighting and using flashes is something I?d like to learn more about. I have seen other photographers? work that has some stunning results.
  • Props – I have some ideas to be creative using props such as a picture frame, or other kinds of reflective objects (mirrors, glass.)? Sometimes this takes careful planning, but I look forward to sharing what I come up with.

More of my Work