Friday, September 30, 2011

Adding Depth

Greetings, Volks!

Chiaroscuro. What does that mean? What is it and how does it apply to photography? More importantly, what does that have to do with adding depth?

Chiaroscuro is the term used in art for the strong contrast between lights and darks, or highlights and shadows. That’s a generalization of the term, but serves the purpose. By taking that definition, we can understand it to mean contrasting your light areas and shadow areas. Here's an example-

The Matchmaker by Gerrit Van Honthorst

Have you ever noticed a photo taken with a large blast of light? It generally appears flat and lacks contrast. It becomes more noticeable in portraits, especially in shots taken with a built in flash.

Built in flash is about the biggest mistake a photographer can make! When you blast the on camera flash straight on, it takes away the shadows, making the face flat and featureless. Shooting anything with only frontal lighting will make things dull.

The old Dutch Masters, Golden Age painters like Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, Van Honthorst, and Cuyp used chiaroscuro to provide ambiance and reality to their works. If you ever view any of the Dutch masters’ works, you will notice the play of light and shadow. Observe the way the shadows that seem to dance about the image. Notice how the way they worked the light into a scene brought depth and dimension to their work. Notice how your eye is drawn to certain parts of the art you are viewing. It feels almost as if you are compelled to look there! Notice, also how the image lighting creates a sense of space and depth, the space seems open or tight depending on the lighting, the bodies and faces seem almost alive in the shadows and lighting.

Chiaroscuro, the Dutch weren’t the first ones to use it, nor were they the only ones, but it became a hallmark of the Dutch Golden Age of Painting. They even named a style of portrait lighting after Rembrandt!

To give you an idea of its role in photography, I’ve added a couple photos to demonstrate.

Now notice how the back-lit image is alive with depth.

Another shot showing some depth to it.

In the images above, you can see how the light diminishes as you get closer to the camera. Notice how the fingers have lighting on the camera side, as does the face, yet the shadows are stronger there. You get a sense of depth from the relationship between the light and the shadows. Although these pics aren't the best examples, they give you an idea of depth and how to create it.

The next time you are taking a photo, stop, visualize, and look for the play of light and shadow. When you see the combination that gives you the shot you visualized, shoot it. Take more and enjoy the freedom of seeing something different and being open to it. When you get home and load your images, you’ll find some good pics, probably some that aren’t so good, and maybe you’ll find something that stops you in your tracks.

Remember, chiaroscuro occurs naturally, but can be created. Using reflectors, flashes, and shade you can create some great pics without too much difficulty.

Enjoy the weekend, get lots of pics, and have fun!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Some Inspiration

Below are a few inspirational quotes about photography by some of the greatest photographers of all time. They really add some perspective on what we enjoy so very much, at least for me!


Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera.
Yousuf Karsh

There is a brief moment when all there is in a man's mind and soul and spirit is reflected through his eyes, his hands, his attitude. This is the moment to record.
Yousuf Karsh

Those people live again in print as intensely as when their images were captured on the old dry plates of sixty years ago . . . I am walking in their alleys, standing in their rooms and sheds and workshops, looking in and out of their windows. And they in turn seem to be aware of me.
Ansel Adams

The negative is the equivalent of the composer's score, and the print the performance.
Ansel Adams

A portrait is not made in the camera but on either side of it.
Edward Steichen

Photography is a major force in explaining man to man.
Edward Steichen

Here's wishing you loads of images and a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Hello, again!

Welcome to another post. This time we’re going to talk about VISUALIZATION. I won’t be adding this to the Intro series, as this is more about the artistic side of photography.

Ansel Adams defined VISUALIZATION as "the ability to anticipate a finished image before making the exposure." In fact, he dedicated the first chapter of his book “The Negative” to the subject. VISUALIZATION covers more than the simple definition, but we’re dealing with it in a simple sense right now.

Most of us start out as what I call “See and Snaps.” You see something you like and just click the shutter until you get something that looks similar to what you saw. “See and Snaps” who never grow beyond that stage, usually end up giving up on photography or just settling for “seeing and snapping.” They never grow beyond it, because they never learn about VISUALIZATION.

Learning to VISUALIZE will improve your images with some certainty. The first step in VISUALIZATION is learning to separate what you see, from its context and surroundings. This sounds out of sync with reality, but as you will see, is actually easier to develop than you might think. When you take a photo, you are only capturing a piece of the whole scene, even if you go wide angle. See the scene and the piece you want to capture. Figure out how to show it with limited context and surroundings.

Another important part of VISUALIZATION is learning how to see the color, loss of color, and the effect of the light on your sensor and image. This will help you get the best exposure, DOF, and color possible. You need to get familiar with your camera to accomplish this one. This is more technical VISUALIZTION, but it is important in helping set up our shots. Remember, color can refer to the lack of color, too! Shooting black and white leads to some incredible shots, as the works of Ansel Adams, George Hurrell, Yousuf Karsh, and many of the old masters will attest and impress!

Using the technique of VISUALIZATION, you can create art from your photos; you can make some beautiful landscapes, portraits, still lifes, and keepsakes that will warm the heart later in life! VISUALIZATION leads you to think about every shot you take, and helps you to take the time to get it right. If you can’t take the time to get it right, what fun is it?

Here’s an exercise to try. Get a piece of matting or foam core about 8 inches by 10 inches and cut out a rectangle about 4 inches by 6 inches. Try to use black, as it will assist in the exercise, other colors may distract. Carry it around with you whenever you have your camera. Every time you wish to take a photo, first look at the scene, and then look at the image you want to capture through the card you made. Shift yourself, and look through the card again. Check to see if the perspective and framing are harmonious and work together to create something that will make you proud. Take your time and work the scene into what you VISUALIZE it to be. Sometimes that means waiting for the right light, sometimes it means moving, sometimes it means coming back later, but it also always means better pics! Who doesn’t want that? They used to do this exercise in photo courses and schools to teach a little bit about VISUALIZATION. It feels slightly silly, but you’ll be amazed at the outcome. Just using a small frame to get the feel of the image will aid you in developing and perfecting your VISUALIZATION, which will help you to share your vision! Eventually you can see without seeing, at least without seeing through the little card! There are so many places around Hohenfels to practice just VISUALIZING; Regensburg, Hohenfels, Grafenwoehr, Bamberg, Bayreuth, and Munich. Each one has unique things and sites to get you going!

The best source for VISUALIZATION is most likely “The Negative” by Ansel Adams. He writes quite a bit more than I can! Another great post is an article on Ron Bigelow’s Blog. Check it out and don't forget to look at the rest of his site!

Here’s hoping you’re visualizing a great week! Take care and all the best.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Welcome to another post!

Our topic this time is FOCAL LENGTH, and covers more than just lens sizes.

Let’s start out with the basics; FOCAL LENGTH refers to the length of your lens, usually in millimeters. A 300mm lens is 300 millimeters, but crop factor can change the apparent FOCAL LENGTH of the lens. Crop Factor refers to sensor size on a digital camera. Most of us use cameras with an APS-C sensor, which provides a 1.6x crop factor, or 1.6 times the magnification of the lens’s FOCAL LENGTH. Unless a lens is made for the specific crop factor, for instance Canon’s EF-S lenses, crop factor must be counted to provide the correct focal length. Therefore, a 300mm lens at 1.6x crop factor has an apparent FOCAL LENGTH of 480mm. Since most of us now use the digital lenses that either came with our camera, or we purchased later, I’m not going to make too much of crop factor, that’s for another post.

A large number of folks believe that the perceived change between two FOCAL LENGTHS is caused entirely by magnification. This is actually not entirely true. When you zoom in closer, your lens covers a smaller area of the scene. It doesn’t really magnify it, just shows less in the same amount of space, although there is some magnification from the optics. If you look through a toilet paper tube and take note of what you see, then look through a paper towel tube of about the same diameter, you’ll notice this effect.

Another effect of FOCAL LENGTH, is longer FOCAL LENGTHS, compress the distance between objects in your scene, making them appear closer together. This is great for a portrait with a shallow DOF, as it can blur out and compress the background for a nice effect. It’s something to pay attention to, as the effect can make a great picture look somewhat flat and plain.

For more the rest of this article about FOCAL LENGTH, check out our Intro to Photography page, which contains our full intro series posts so far. And for a great article about the effects of FOCAL LENGTH, check out Photo Tuts+. You can also get into the maths of it at Wikipedia!

I hope this article will be useful on your photographic journey. The knowledge really helped me! Enjoy the weekend folks, and keep your eyes open for more articles, tips, and Hohenfels Volks photo goodness!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Exposure Triangle

Today’s post is on the “Exposure Triangle.”

You’ll find this everywhere on the Internet. A quick Google search turned up 18,300,000 results!

What is the exposure triangle? It’s basically the combination of the three factors that affect your exposure- ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. I put a pic on the Intro to Photography page with the rest of this article.

Remembering it is easy if think of a triangle and visualize that changing as you change your settings. That’s pretty much the gist of it.

Here’s a list as an example. Use that list to visualize your triangle and you’ll be off to the races, at least for the moment. I’ll use whole stops for simplicity. Each stop is either double or half the amount of light compared to the two numbers next to it.

ISO                                    APERTURE                SHUTTER SPEED
100                                           f/4                                  1/1600
                                                 f/5.6                               1/800
                                                 f/8                                  1/400
                                                 f/11                                1/200
                                                 f/16                                1/100

Looking at the first triangle 1/1600, f/4, at ISO 100, you can see that any changes require a change to another side to remain the same. I can change the exposure to 1/800, f/5.6, at ISO 100 and get the same exposure. Cool, huh?

Let’s try something else. This one will demonstrate the importance of the triangle and knowing how it works. At ISO 200, f/8, 1/400, my image is overexposed. How can I fix it? Try ISO 100, f/8, 1/400. That’s half the previous exposure level!

The first example showing how to get the same exposure is useful to figure out how much DOF you want and to help you keep your exposure constant in constant lighting.

The second example gives you an idea of how to use this tool to get more of your shots usable in changing lighting.

For the rest of this, visit our Intro to Photography page, and do a web search on it. Don't worry, though, more about exposure will be coming around soon!

Focal length will be our next topic.

Please leave your feedback here and on our Facebook page.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Quick Update

I've updated some of the information on our pages. Don't miss the tips and tricks page!

If you have any tips or tricks, or would like to share some of your knowledge of our area, just leave a note on our Facebook page.

I'll be continuing on with our Intro series by posting about using your exposure triangle of ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, this week. I hope to dish up something informative and helpful, and maybe even coax you out from the auto modes!

Enjoy the week!

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Welcome back

This time around, we're going to talk about METERING. Let's dive right in.

What is METERING and why is it important?

Basically METERING is measuring the light. It's extremely important, because it lets us know how to expose the scene.

Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, it's not as simple as you might think, as there are several types of METERING.

Cameras use reflected light METERING. Almost every camera in existence takes the reading of the scene and tries to make the exposure for the METERED area to be 18% reflected gray. Not based on color, but on a comparison to a gray level that reflects 18% of the light that hits it. Ansel Adams called this ZONE V.

Evaluative METERING- If you haven't read your camera manual, or you've decided not to change your settings, you're most likely using Evaluative METERING. This means it's averaging out the light over the entire scene to get a basic ZONE V exposure. This is good for most photos, especially those that don't have too much range between lighting levels.

Partial METERING- this is set from your menu and decreases to amount of the scene used for METERING. You can set this on some cameras to different parts of the scene.

Spot METERING- In this mode, the camera METERS off a small spot to set the exposure. This is great for tricky lighting, and for more control of your exposure. It also allows you to get some idea of the range of a scene's lighting for manual exposures.

Generally speaking, using your evaluative METERING mode will give pretty good results. There will be times when switching to partial METERING, or even center weighted, can give better results.

The easiest way to METER a scene is to get an 18% Gray card. You have your subject hold it up, zoom in and METER from that. Take the settings you read and enter them into the camera in manual mode. As long as the light doesn't change you will have a good exposure. Using the gray card allows your camera to METER from a target that matches what it is trying to set. This is best accomplished in spot METERING mode, unless you fill the viewfinder with the card. If you do that, then use evaluative METERING, which will average out the light over the card and result in better exposures.

For more info an METERING, check out our Intro to Photography page. The info there is a little more in depth and includes an example. Also visit Cambridge in Colour, their explanation really clarifies a lot!

Don't forget, if you have any questions, ideas, tips, or comments, post them. You can post them here and on our Facebook page.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Depth of Field

Welcome back!

This time we're going to explore DEPTH OF FIELD, commonly referred to as DOF.

Have you ever noticed that some photos are extremely sharp all the way through the whole range of the image and some stop being sharp with only a small range truly sharp? This range of sharpness in a picture is DEPTH OF FIELD.

How can we control this? There are several tools at our disposal. One is controlling the distance between subjects, another is focal point (an upcoming post), but the most valuable to us, and the one we will discuss here, is our aperture or f-stop.

You might remember that aperture is the size of the "window" in the lens. You might ask, if it controls how much light gets in, how can it control the DOF?

With a narrow aperture, basically, the light becomes more tightly focused, making the DOF wider and allowing an increase in sharpness.

A couple words of caution on this:

1) This is not the cure all for poorly focused or blurry images. One negative side effect of a very small aperture, or large f-stop, is diffraction blur. The bending of light as it squeezes through the aperture causes this, and can make blur more noticeable.

2) This will require longer shutter speeds. Sometimes beyond your ability to hold a camera steady. Camera shake is really bad at long exposures!

So, if a narrow aperture will increase DOF, it makes sense that a wide aperture will decrease your DOF.

Now, it's time to break out your camera. Play with your DOF; adjust your aperture and your focus to get some images with a shallow DOF and some with more depth, or wider DOF. A great way to start is taking 2 items and placing them on your table at different distances from the camera. Shoot at the range between f4 and f16 and examine the results.

Don't you feel more artistic already? I did when I first tried it!

For more information on DEPTH OF FIELD, check out our Intro to Photography page and don't miss out on Cambridge in Colour's excellent in-depth tutorial.

That's it for this post. Here's hoping you have a great week and get some good shooting in this week-end!

And remember, if you have any questions or comments feel free to share them here or on our Facebook page.

More Camera Controls

Today's post is being split in two part, as I intend to address two subjects.

First, more camera controls.

Here are some additional camera settings and controls for for helping you to get it right in the camera.

Exposure compensation- This allows you to tell the camera to overexpose or underexpose the image. You can usually set in in third stop increments. If your subject is a little bright, and you want to darken them up a little, underexpose by 2/3 of a stop and see how that looks. This small change can make a big difference.

Exposure Bracketing- This allows you to take a series of 3 or more shots, one will be what the camera thinks is correct, 1 will be underexposed by a stop, and the last will be overexposed by a stop. This is useful if you're not sure whether the exposure is correct and don't want to risk losing the shot.

Flash exposure lock- Allows you to set your external flash power to the area you lock your metering to. More on metering in another post.

AE Lock or Auto Exposure Lock- Allows you to meter from a different area of the scene than the focus point.

There are many more controls depending on your camera. We'll try to put more as we go!

On to the next post, Depth of Field.

Any questions or comments? Feel free to share them here or on our Facebook page.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Shooting MODES

Shooting MODES are part of you camera settings, and should be the first step in getting to know your camera. MODE is going to be all caps in this post to get us into the habit of thinking of these settings correctly, as MODES.

Let's start by looking at a typical dial on a camera.

This is the MODE dial on a Canon EOS Digital Rebel, EOS 300D

For the most part, almost all cameras use the same symbols to represent similar MODES.

The green square is the fully automatic MODE. Using this mode lets your camera have full control of the photo. You have no input or choice, so avoid this MODE!

The symbols on the right side, as we look at this image, are for automated MODES based on what you tell the camera you're shooting.

In order, they are:
Portrait MODE- for taking portraits, lower f-stop, and faster shutter speeds with less contrast.
Landscape MODE- for taking landscape style shots, higher f-stop, and slower shutter speeds with more contrast.
Close-up MODE- for macro or close-up shots of things.
Action MODE- for fast moving scenes, uses a higher ISO and faster shutter where possible.
Night scene MODE- for poorly illuminated subjects, usually used at night. High ISO, lower f-stops, slow shutter speeds.
Flash off, but fully automated settings.

It is important to note that none of these MODES offer you any choice of settings, including ISO. They will also use the pop-up flash whenever the camera wants to.

Moving over to the left side, we have:

P- Programmed MODE. You can set the ISO, Exposure Compensation, but not much else. More like the above MODES, with some limited choices.
AV- Aperture priority MODE. You set the ISO and f-stop, and the camera chooses the shutter speed for a correct exposure.
TV- Shutter Priority MODE. You set the shutter speed and ISO, and the camera chooses an f-stop to get a nice exposure.
M- Manual MODE. You set everything, this is where knowing your f-stops, shutter speeds, and ISOs is very important.

On newer cameras you also have
B- Bulb MODE. You use a remote trigger and as long as it's pressed, the shutter stays open. Great for low light and night time pics!
C1...etc- these are for you to pre-program settings that you use a lot.

Most point and shoot cameras have the automated settings MODES. Look for the symbols in the above pic and choose the MODE you want. If you dig around, you can find some advanced setting. For instance, on the Fuji, you can compensate for exposure by moving it up or down, usually in 1/3 of a stop increments. This is very helpful when taking pictures in a room with bright but uneven lighting or outside on a bright day.

So, if your camera tells you it should be shooting 1/250, f8, at ISO 100, but you want the background to be sharper. Switch over to AV MODE and set your f-stop to 11, your shutter speed should automatically go to 1/125.

If you're camera tells you 1/125, ISO 100, f11 but that's too slow for something you're trying to capture. Switch over to TV MODE and set your shutter speed to 1/250, your f-stop should automatically go to f8.

One of the best things you can do right now, is read your owner's manual for your camera. After you finish, read it again, while you have your camera, and try out some of the MODES.


I will be adding new stuff as a shorter post, and adding the more in-depth coverage on our Intro to Photography Page.. That way, all the intro stuff is covered on one page.
I hope this will make it easier for folks to comment, question, and track things. Please feel free to hit our Facebook and ask your questions, or leave a comment here! If you have any ideas for future posts, or information to share, we're here!

Take care and enjoy the rest of the week!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Some Good Reading

Here's some further information on exposure;

Cambridge in Colour A Learning community for photographers. Sean McHugh puts a lot into his site, check it out!

For a more in depth and technical explanation on exposure, I recommend reading "The Negative" by Ansel Adams. His work has inspired folks for nearly a century and will continue to do so for as long as we admire beauty! You can get this book new from Amazon for about $14.00.

A great source for general photography, is the "Digital Photography" series by Scott Kelby. There are 3 books in the series with a fourth one coming soon. You can also get this at Amazon.

Here's a link to Amazon, just search for those books and read on. Just so you know, I'm not getting anything from Amazon for this.

I hope to see your questions and comments!

Take care.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Post

Welcome to Hohenfels Volks Photo Club.

We'll be sharing photo tips, tricks, and ideas. We'll also be sharing information about our Hohenfels area to enable everyone to get the most from their photography here.

I hope everyone will chime in with their comments, questions, and tips.

We'll also feature photos from members of our club. I hope everyone will get into the spirit and come together to make this a great little club!