Thursday, October 27, 2011

Around Hohenfels- Kelheim

Hello, Volks! Welcome to Hohenfels Volks and to our latest Around Hohenfels.

Today we’re taking a drive to Kelheim. Located at the junction of the Altmuhl and Donau rivers, this lovely little city has a long history. The area, populated since about 500 BC, and later, conquered by the Romans, eventually became what it is today.

One of the first thing visitors to Kelheim notice is the Befreiungshalle, or Hall of Liberation.

The Befreiungshalle

Built by Ludwig to commemorate the victory over Napoleon, this massive structure on a large hill overlooking the city is visible for quite some distance. It also provides breathtaking views. Inside are huge statues representing victories during the war. Between each pair of victories is a giant round shield made from melted cannons captured from Napoleon’s forces. The giant doors are also clad in melted down cannons.

The Victories, these statues are incredible!

Another great feature of the city is the river, not only is it quite a magnificent little scene, but the river cruises that run from the city make for a great way to spend your day. Taking a trip on one of the cruises to the Weltenburg monastery provides some amazing scenery and some opportunity for relaxing on the river. The monastery, a Benedictine abbey, has a magnificent church that is a wonderful example of Baroque art. Once at the monastery, it’s time to eat. They have a wonderful restaurant and brewery. Something not to miss! Make sure your camera batteries are charged and you can visualize and compose on the fly.

While at the Befreiungshalle, you can take a hike along an archaeology trail, part of Altmuhltal archeological park, and see working sites, or you can take a nice little nature hike. There is a restaurant for the hungry and a large grassy area for a picnic in nice weather. It takes some effort to get to the top of the hall, but it is worth the climbing, twisting, and tight spots for the incredible view and sense of majesty that come along with it.

The path to the Befreiungshalle from the visitor's center.

In town again, you can find the archaeological museum and see some wonderful exhibits, or check out the Franciscan church, which has a beautiful organ that has been re-worked to sound incredible.

The city was chosen by the dukes of Bavaria in the 12th century to be their seat, so given the wonderful history and beauty that greet every visitor, it’s no wonder that a return trip will definitely be part of your future!

Here’s hoping we run into each there someday! Enjoy the weekend and remember to share your pics and post your questions at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, and or by commenting here!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tools of the Trade- Filters

Hello, Volks! Welcome to Hohenfels and to our newest post. In today’s Tools of the Trade, we’re going to talk about filters.

Filters are glass that goes on the end of your lens. There are many types of filters, some for artistic purposes, some are for technical purposes, and some are to protect your lens.

The 2 basic set-ups are the square filter, which uses a holder that fits onto your lens, and the screw-in.

Most people use the screw-in filter. When selecting a screw-in filter, you must ensure that the filter’s diameter matches that of your lens. A 58mm lens requires a 58mm filter. The threads are universal, so moving from lens to another of the same diameter is not a problem. They come in many types, and are usually more widely available.

Square filters use an adapter ring that screws into your lens just like a screw-in filter. The ring remains in place when you switch your filters to another lens. Having one adapter for each lens allows you to move your filters easily from lens to lens, and back. Cokin makes the most common square filters, and they have several types and varieties. The basic and most common ones for our needs are the P series. With square filters, you have the extra advantage of staking several together without vignetting on your image.

The first filter you either did, or should, purchase is a UV. This is a cheap filter to place over the end of your lens. It limits UV radiation, but the main reason for having it is that it will protect the glass in your lens. Breaking a filter costs just a small amount to replace, whereas breaking a lens costs considerably more.

The next in the line of types is the circular polarizer, or CP. You can replace your UV with a CP and prevent vignetting caused by stacking your filters. It increases contrast and darkens blue skies. It can do a lot more than that, including improving the color contrasts. The main feature beyond that is that when properly turned, it can remove reflections from glass, water, plastic, and most sources, except metal and mirrors. This effect is strongest when your light is approximately 90 degrees to your left or right with the lens facing forward. You use this lens by turning the filter’s twist ring until you obtain the desired results. Look for one that has good coating and no impact on your color balance.

Next up is the neutral density filter. These little gems can help reduce the light to your sensor, allowing for slower shutter speeds and nice effects in fog, or when shooting running water. They are great landscape tools, and properly placed in a shot can darken the sky, while allowing the landscape portion to be shot at a decent shutter speed. They come in numbers like 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. When numbered this way, the numbers refer to stops of light. 1 being a 1-stop reduction in light, and so on. The other system used to rate them in their density, in .3 increments. Each .3 increments equates to one stop. ND filters do not change the colors, as they pass light of all colors equally. When used on extremely bright objects, they increase contrast and improve image detail. There is also a graduated ND, which is an ND filter with reduction only about halfway down the length of the filter. This allows for darkening a sky while allowing the remaining portion of the image to remain unaffected.

Black and white photographers use colored filters to change to light hitting the film or sensor. Red filters pass red light and darken green and blue. Green filters pass green light and darken red. There are a whole series of color filters for both black and white and color photography. Most are labeled by their Wratten numbers, for instance 81A is a light warming filter. The Wratten system is available online and filters using this designation can be purchased online.

There are filters to soften the contrast, and other special effects, including adding starbursts, grids, and to increase the magnification of a lens. By knowing something about filters, you can get the right kind, and the best one for you and your photography.

There are shops in the local area, including Amberg and Regensburg that carry the different types of filters, and you can any of them online. Try to get a decent one, as low-end filters can add colorcasts and vignetting that will leave you wishing you hadn’t used a filter.

Enjoy the rest of your week! Surrounding the Hohenfels area are towns and sites worth shooting and adding a filter can make your art that much better.

Remember to get out and shoot with your filter and share your pics and questions by posting at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, and or by commenting here!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Baker's Man

Hello, Volks! I’m glad you all could make it to today’s post! Time to talk to Hohenfels about our favorite subject, photography.

Have you been into a bakery lately? Have you seen some of those incredible wedding and birthday cakes out there? You know, the ones that are 3 feet tall! Have you ever wondered how they do it? How do those masters of baking create such a delight, a feast for both the mouth and the eyes?

They do it in layers. A 3-foot cake would be difficult to make, and probably fall in on itself, otherwise. I’m sure you’re wondering where I’m going with this, maybe into Photoshop? Worse, maybe I’m just a sugar hungry fool?

No, I’m introducing the concept of creating your image in “layers.” After you’ve visualized the image you desire, after you’ve put some thought into the composition, the light, and the subject, you have to work on creating your vision. One of the simplest ways is in “layers.” Examine your background; make it match your vision. Move on to your middle ground, then the foreground. At each step, make it match your vision. Check the elements, one “layer” at a time, and build your next “layer” upon your last. End your “layers” at the subject you are trying to feature, your center of interest. Along the way, make sure to check your lighting and exposure throughout the entire range, and in each “layer.” Here’s an example how you can use “layers” in your work.

Here you can the following layers; the sky, the statue, the pedestal, the bridge running behind the statue and pedestal, and the trees. By moving around until I got the scene I visualized, and looking at each element as a layer I was able to get something nice.
ISO 200, f/8, 1/100

Your “layers” can be something other than foreground, background, and middle ground. You can set up your “layers” to match your vision. Maybe for you, it’s the top third, middle third, and bottom third. Start seeing you’re visualization, and you composition, in “layers,” and you’ll start seeing a whole new world of creative opportunities open up. Just like the master baker, building those masterpiece cakes, you’ll build some masterpieces of you own. Trust me, yours can be every bit as impressive as that baker’s can.

Hohenfels, and our little part of the world, have enough layers to build a cake and ice it, too. Just keep your eyes open and building your photographic “cake.” Don't forget to share your pics and questions by posting at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, or by commenting here!

Friday, October 21, 2011


Hello, Volks! It was an incredibly cold morning here in Hohenfels. Dark, dank, and COLD! Of course, the sun managed to burn off the first bit of fog after a slow start, and once it got going, there was no stopping! After the burn off, it was blue skies and lovely breezes to fill the afternoon. Of course, with winter around the corner in Hohenfels and our surrounds, there were plenty of signs of Volks getting ready.

I barbecued some of my ribs this morning. I got off to a slow start, much like the sunshine, due to a lack of starter fluid. Once the coals were glowing, it was cooking time. Ribs getting smoke, the breezes through the falling leaves, and the magnificent aroma of meat on the grill made for a wonderful morning.

Of course, by now you’re asking what this has to do with photography. What does it have to do with making my pictures better and improving my art? How can talking about smoking ribs possibly relate to this blog? I’m sure some of you are saying, never mind that, what’s this crazy guy doing making barbecue in October, when it’s freezing?

Here’s your answer- it’s quite simple.

There is no time like now. When you think that doing something like photography or barbecue are limited to certain seasons, you limit yourself and your art. An adventurous attitude can lead to more than just great times, it can make magic in your photography.

During autumn, there is so much color. The trees change, the world gets ready for another long cold, and things look different. When you think about it, the sky seems clearer, you notice these things more. This is one of those times that getting out and taking the shot can make more winners than losers! Just remember to visualize your shot, and compose it well. Our part of the world can offer an open pair of eyes a lot to view and a ready camera can capture some majestic shots. See the light and see the color.

See it in your mind before your eyes do, then compose that long sought after shot of the leaves changing on the tress, or the blanket of yellow, red, and orange on the forest path. Take shots of the family playing in the leaves; show the frost and how it looks blue in shade and so white in the light. Put your eyes and mind to work, make your camera do the stuff that it does, and combine it all into a prize-winning pic. Look for fall photo contests and enter them, you might just win big and while you’re trying to win, you’re sharing your vision. Isn’t that part of the reason we got into photography in the first place?

Back to what this has to do with photography. The simple fact is, photography season is year round! Don't let the seasons stop you!

Enjoy your weekend. Don't forget to share your pics and questions by posting at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, or by commenting here!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I've Seen the Light!!

Welcome back, Volks! Winter is lurking just around the corner, and Hohenfels is starting to feel its presence! I hope you’re prepared for it!

Hallelujah! I have seen the light! I say that about several things, but in this case, I mean something unexpected. Today we’re going to talk about how to see the light. I plan to keep this somewhat short, so let’s get this train moving.

Seeing the light is something that we photographers need to do to get the most from our art. There is more than one way to skin a cat, and more than one way to see the light.

Light isn’t just white. We learned a little bit about that when we discussed color balance. We need to see the effects that color may have on our subject. Color is just a part of it, but it’s important to look at. You can use your white balance card and camera to see that color. There are times of day that photographers know are generally colors by the atmosphere. About sunrise and sunset are prime examples and called the golden hours, for two reasons. The first is that this is one of the best times to shoot photos outside, and the second is that the light takes on an almost golden tint. Just before sunrise and after sunset, the light becomes bluish, and some call these times the blue hour.

Another part of seeing the light is seeing it’s impact on your subject’s tones and exposure. Remember your triangle here, you’ll need to see the light to offset or maximize its impact.

Lastly, let’s mention seeing the light in the context of seeing the light that’s not there. Examine your shadows. How do they interact with your light? How do they interact with your subject? Do your light, shadow, and subject, all play well together? Sometimes we judge what we have by what we don’t. Seeing the shadows helps to gauge your light.

Visualize the light you want, make that light happen. Easier said than done, even with lots of equipment, but can make for some shots that reward your effort with some wonderful warm feelings. You can’t always create light, but you can visualize the scene in different lighting conditions, and either wait for the right lighting or return at the right time. Not every shot needs taking.

Take some time over the course of your day to see the light. Examine how it falls on someone or something. See how you can change it by moving an object or the light source. See how you can shape the shadows, watch grow, shrink, and distort. Even if you don’t really learn, it’s a fun exercise!

Seeing the light, it’s more than becoming a convert to something or seeing the error of one’s way! It’s an important part of our creativity, of our art, and of our special part of the world, right here in Hohenfels!

Enjoy your week. Here’s hoping you enjoy the autumn and see the light in your own neck of the woods. See it and use it, create those masterpieces within you and share them with us on the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page. Don't forget to leave your comments and questions here and there!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What's on the Menu?

Welcome back, Volks! Autumn in Hohenfels is really starting to pick up, moving us faster and faster to winter. Let’s hope it’s not as rough as last year!

Today we're going to start a multi-part investigation of the camera menu. Since most of us shoot Canon, I’m going to use my camera’s menu for this series. I’ll break it down into the pages of my camera menu, but most cameras either have the same or similar menu settings. Some of what we discuss you may not have, and you may have some I don’t. For the purposes of this article, it’s assumed you have set your basics. I hope you’ll follow along in your manual and with your camera.

Press the menu button, and you should be on the first tab. It has a camera symbol with one dot. Your settings are Quality, Red-Eye on/off, Beep, Release shutter without card, Review time, Peripheral illumination correction, and Flash control.

The Quality selection allows you to choose your resolution. I shoot RAW, but you can select your desired resolution. You should be able to select RAW, RAW+JPEG, or JPEG and select the JPEG resolution. Since I shoot full Resolution RAW, I selected the RAW ICON and saved the setting by pressing the menu button.

The Red eye on/off is just what it says. Since red eye is caused by flash that is too close the lens and along the same axis, selecting this to on causes a series of pre-flashes to be emitted by the pop-up or on camera flash. Since we NEVER use the pop-up flash, and most on camera use of a flash should be from bouncing the light, you can leave this off.

Beep allows you to set the camera so that focus will beep, as will timer functions. It’s your choice!

Releasing shutter without card should be off. Having this turned on can lead to some serious disappointment when you’re out shooting. No card, no photos!

The review time sets how long the LCD displays the image after shooting.

Peripheral illumination control, if available, allows the camera to append data to the image that allows for the lens’s light drop off at the corners. Your lens has to be registered in your camera. If it is, setting this will allow corrections to be made by the camera. A good idea to have on. You can register and check which lenses are registered using your EOS utility.

The last control on this tab is the Flash control setting. This is a power full setting. When selected there are more settings available. Let’s explore them!

First up is Flash firing. If this is set to disable, not even an external flash will fire. Maybe you should enable this one!

Next is built in flash function. Unless you have the EOS 7D and use it to control off camera flash, or you use your pop-up, this should be disabled.

Then we have External flash function settings.

You have your flash mode. ETTL, manual, multi flash, TTL, automatic, and manual external flash settings. If your flash is mounted to your camera’s hot-shoe, E-TTL is a good choice to start.

Next is Shutter Sync. Selecting first will fire the flash when the shutter curtain begins to open. Setting it to second will fire the flash once at the start of the exposure and again right before the end. It only works at speeds slower then 1/30.

Then is FEC, or flash exposure compensation. This allows you to adjust the flash output to either brighten or darken the flash exposed areas.

E-TTL II should generally be set to evaluative

Unless you are using a Canon 580EXII or a 7D, the wireless function should be left alone.

Finally, there is the clear all flash settings function. Do you really want to clear your settings?

We’ll be exploring more settings in another post. I hope this has been of some help to you. Reading your manual will give you all you need in the menu areas and operations of your particular camera, so check it out!

Enjoy your week and enjoy the autumn colors, scenes, and events ahead. Keep shooting, and capture that masterpiece! Don't forget to share your pics and questions by posting at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, or by commenting here!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Color Balance

Welcome back, Volks! Today we're bringing the subject of white balance to Hohenfels Volks.

Generally, white balance is an adjustment made to an image to make your neutral colors, neutral. What we really mean when we speak of white balance is color balance. Color balance removes colorcasts, or imbalances, caused by shooting in light of differing temperatures. Color temperature theory is a little too much for me to explain, so simply put; blue light has a high temperature in degrees Kelvin, as it requires more heat to create. Red requires less, so it has a lower temperature. Who knew engineers would create such a complex way of thinking about colors?

The sensor in your digital camera measures the temperature of the overall light to create a general color balance when set to automatic. It then adds or removes colors that remove the colorcast. In single lighting conditions, automatic can do a good job for you.

The difficulty comes in when we realize that we really don’t shoot with one color light. If you’re shooting on a nice sunny day, there is still light that is differently colored than the sunlight. This is caused by the nature of light. Light has no respect for your boundaries, and doesn’t stop only on your subject. Light tends to reflect and bounce everywhere. So, on this bright day, you’ll have light from the sun, light bounced off buildings, trees, grass, windows, and many other sources. Yikes, time for “white balance.”

When you use a preset white balance, you are telling the camera what type of light you used. The camera then adjusts for that type of light. For tungsten, it removes yellow and/or adds blue. For fluorescent, it adds green and/or removes red. You may end up with a bad colorcast if you have multiple color temperatures that vary by too much.

Shooting in RAW mode allows the most control, so what I describe will work best on images shot in RAW format. There are several options to deal with color temperature in RAW images. The first is to use a preset, as mentioned above. The second is to adjust your color temperature manually. The third is to click a neutral color. This last one can do a good job if you have a large enough neutral area. It samples a variety of pixels around your selection and applies the adjustment to the entire image. There are 2 more that I will mention here. The first is to use an Expodisc, or something similar. This fits onto the end of your lens, and then you take a photo of either your light source or your subject, and apply the resulting image as a custom white balance to your camera. The other and probably better way, at least for most, is a white card. You can use plain white paper, but it tends to have variations in the tone and colors, even between sheets. Your best bet is to get a white balance card. They are made to ensure your neutrals stay neutral. When using a custom white balance, if the lighting changes, you must do a new custom balance source to ensure accuracy.

For best results, take your white balance card and place it with, or near, your subject. Ensure the lighting is the same you will use for your subject, and fill your frame with the card. Make sure there are no colors in the frame, and click your shot. Then go into your menu and select custom white balance. You will have to choose the image you just created, and then apply it. All your shots taken in that lighting will be properly color balanced.

You can also batch color balance in your RAW conversion software by selecting your white card shot and selecting the source, then applying it to all your shots taken in that lighting.

The order of white balance settings in this sample chart is from left to right; as shot, Daylight, Flash, Shade, Cloudy, Color temp 5800k, Click on white, Tungsten, Fluorescent, with the last square white for reference.

There is a lot more to color balance, but this should get you going. Just remember that getting it right takes some practice and knowing your camera.

Thanks to Jennifer O for the suggestion for today's topic. I hope to hear more suggestions and comments! Your input will make this thing of ours great!

Here’s hoping the rest of your week is filled with loads of photos of Hohenfels, and lots of joy! Don't forget to share your pics and questions by posting at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, or commenting here!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Around Hohenfels- Landshut

Greetings from Hohenfels! Welcome back Volks, to another Around Hohenfels.

This time we’re going to take a little trip to Landshut. This is a great little city about 60Km from Munich on the Isar River located on the foothills of the Alps. The town was founded in the 1200s, and became the capital of lower Bavaria. It is the home to the first Renaissance palace north of the Alps.

Trausnitz Castle is one of the main points of interest in the town. It’s been there since the early part of the 13th century. For some time it was the source of the town’s protection and later became a palace. Built on a hill overlooking the town, the view is wonderful, and the courtyard and palace make for some great photo opportunities. It’s used now for tourism, and even more importantly, for part of the Landshuter Hochzeit.

BurgTrausnitz, as seen from the Goldenne Sonne Hotel
ISO 100, 1/150, f/8

The Landshuter Hochzeit is a re-enactment of the wedding of Prince George of Bavaria to Princess Hedwig from Poland in 1475. This event takes place every 4 years. The next one is scheduled for June and July 2013. Tickets are usually available for 6 months or so before the event, so look for them in December 2012. The main tourist event of Landshut, it draws over 100,000 visitors, and involves over 2000 local persons re-enacting the different roles of the time. Some of the highlights include; jousting tournaments, camp games involving medieval events, a huge parade, and other shows throughout the summer weekends. Definitely not to be missed.

The "Princess" arrives
ISO 200, f/8, 1/250

Another tourist site is the Landshut residence. This Renaissance palace in the town itself was built in about 1540, and was the first of its type North of the Alps.

Landshut has a slew of Gothic architecture and styles throughout the town, including Trausnitz Castle the Church of St Martin. St Martin’s has the worlds tallest brick tower, and is majestic, inside and out. Then there is the Old Town Hall, with its splendid rooms and stage, where dances and court life is recreated during the Hochzeit. Another great site is the Landtor, remains the old medieval walls.

Sunset over St. Martin's
ISO 400, f/4.5, 1/20

Examples of Baroque and Renaissance art and architecture are abundant as well, including the Jesuit church and the Dominican church as well.

A must see is the Isar river. Don’t take a trip here without a stop and some time to view and wander the banks.

The day can pass quickly when visiting, so make sure you either stay at a hotel in town, or schedule time to come back! It’s a place that will stay with you long after you’ve left. With all the great photos you’ll be taking, memories of this little gem will always be a fingertip from being re-kindled! Check out the town’s website at Landshut Tourism.

I'll leave you with this shot of an alley into a restaurant.
ISO 200, f/5, 1/15

Here's hoping you make to Landshut, and get some great pics. If you do, let us see by posting at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page.

Remember; leave your comments and questions here and on our Facebook pages, also.

Enjoy the week ahead, and keep shooting the gems in your viewfinder!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Zone System

Welcome back to Hohenfels Volks. This time we’re going to deal with the Zone System.

Ansel Adams and Fred Archer developed the Zone System. Most of us have heard of Ansel Adams, and seen some of his magnificent works. Fred Archer was another big name in the early days of photography, pioneering the use of still photography for motion picture and movie star publicity, and was an early proponent of photography in advertising. Together they developed a system that brought the concept of sensitometry and print density together, allowing for proper exposure of film and prints.

It sounds pretty complicated, and an in depth analysis of it can be, quite technical. We won’t go too deep here, but we will hit upon it more than in our exposure topic. Learning about the basics of the zone system can bring some zing into your work, and help deliver you from the dark ages of auto mode, so here goes!

There are 11 steps, or zones, from black to white. Here is an image I made showing the zones.

The actual full range is smoother, but given the nature of photography, we end up with approximately these zones.

At zone 0, there is no detail and no texture. There is no usable information at all. This is the same at zone x. At zone i and ix, there is limited tone, but not much else in the way of detail. Ansel Adams described the ranges as; full spectrum, zones 0 through x, dynamic range, zones i through ix, and textural range, zones ii through viii. In his book, The Negative, he describes the zones as:

0 Total black in print
I Black with some tonality but no texture
II The first suggestion of texture; the darkest part of the image where texture and detail are required
III Average dark materials and low values showing adequate texture
IV Average dark foliage, dark stone, or landscape shadows
V Middle gray (18% reflectance): clear north sky; dark skin, average weathered wood
VI Average Caucasian skin in sunlight; light stone; shadows on snow in sunlit landscapes
VII Very light skin; shadows in snow with acute side lighting
VIII Whites with texture: textured snow, highlights on Caucasian skin
IX white without texture; glaring snow, may print as pure white
X Pure white: light sources in the picture area and specular highlights

When metering from a source, your camera, or meter, will render the metered object in zone v. Knowing this, you can use your exposure compensation or manual settings to bring the desired part of the scene into the zone you desire.

In practical application, you identify the main element in your scene, then expose for the desired zone, the other elements exposing according the placement of your main element. If you desire an area to be zone v, then the rest of the image exposes for the zones according to what you placed in zone v. It’s fairly straightforward. Take a meter reading from the parts you want in zone 5, and you will end up with something that matches what you visualized.

A great way to see the effects of the Zone System is to look up Ansel Adams on Google, or your favorite search engine. His work is quite addictive, though, so be prepared to spend some time admiring his art. Then look into the Zone System. After a few hits and misses, you’ll be glad that Fred Archer and Ansel Adams collaborated to create such a wonderful tool to make the pursuit of our passion a little easier!

I hope you have a chance to shoot away over the next few days. Hohenfels alone has enough incredible scenery to try out the zone system, not to mention the surrounding communities and towns. Maybe in a church or a field, or even a portrait. Let the magic work for you! Who knows, you may capture a real prizewinner! Get out and give it a try!

How do you plan to use the sone system? Let us see by posting at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page. you might inspire a convert!

Remember; leave your comments and questions here and on our Facebook pages, also.
Thanks to all of you, have a great day!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What's Your Muse?

Welcome to another Hohenfels Volks entry. The Hohenfels area has lots to inspire, so let’s explore inspiration some more.

When we refer to a person’s “muse,” we’re talking about something that inspires them or gives them a source of inspiration from which they draw upon to create their art. For most of us, especially parents, that muse is a person. My daughter is one of mine, and she loves it! She loves being the center of attention when we’re out taking photos. Nevertheless, Muses take many forms. Let’s explore some.

As I said, our children and families can really become a great source of inspiration. Documenting our lives with a little creativity and inspiration can be more than just an exercise in snapping some pics. Adding some vision, depth, and inspiration can make it a great way to practice your photography, and make your memories that much more enjoyable. Have fun and be inspired by your loved ones! Let their habits and quirks become a source of inspiration and creativity for your work. Showing a loved one’s offbeat style in different ways can create some nice images and lead to some fun conversations in the process. Explore the muses your family presents. You’ll be amazed at the opportunities you find for some great pics!

Places can be great sources for inspiration. Maybe it’s the town church and all its attendant glories; maybe it’s the local watering hole on darts night. There are probably some muses in the places you visit, you just haven’t noticed. Perhaps you always wanted to take a pic at the local gasthof or some other place. Bring your camera along, it can’t hurt, and you might walk away with something that inspires others to visit. Take a pic at the church when no one is present from a different angle. If it’s something folks don’t see everyday, and you’ve used your tools right, you could have a treasure in your camera! Be inspired by where you go, and you’ll see things anew.

A place doesn’t just mean buildings, either. Perhaps you like to go somewhere with a particular view that you love! Bring your camera and share that reason for going there. Share your love of the view, or whatever draws you there. Be it a hillside, the forest, or your own back yard, get out, and photograph it. Remember to visualize your scene and compose it in the right manner before you click the shutter!

Viewing old works of art can lead to new discoveries for your work. Perhaps you’d like to try photographing a scene from an old painting, give it a try. Let the muse loose and you can make a great scene that reminds folks of the art you admire.

Inspiration can be anywhere, and everywhere. It strikes anywhere and everywhere. A glance stolen between two strangers you observed in the train station, the way your wife or husband smiles at you, the nervous hand holding of your child, perhaps the sunset over the local castle ruins, anything, anywhere can be inspiring. Keep your camera with you and ready. Make sure you’re not riding on Auto mode, and keep your composition clean. You’ll bag some trophies and find the world has taken on a new look for you!

So, what (or who,) is your MUSE? Show us at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page and share the inspiration! You may bring someone over to your side and introduce them to a new muse!

Remember; leave your comments and questions here and on our Facebook pages, also.
Thanks to all of you, have a great day!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tools of the Trade- Lenses

Welcome to another Hohenfels Volks photography article. Today in Tools of the Trade, we’re going to discuss lenses. The lenses are like the eyes of the camera. Without them, your light is useless!

You may hear someone talking about their “glass.” Photographers like to refer to them that way, it’s a kind of insider speak. A fine example is the statement that for shooting pro-sports, you need “fast glass.”

Here are the basic parts of a lens;

The Focusing Ring - this allows you to focus your lens on your desired center of interest.
The Zoom Ring - this allows for changing your focal length on zoom lenses.
Front Optical Lens- the front-most element in a lens. This is where the light enters your lens for image recording.
Rear Element- the last element before the curtain or sensor. This is special because of back focus.
Lens Mount- this is where your lens connects to your camera body. It usually has electrical contacts for the camera to communicate with the lens.
Auto-focus On/Off selector- turns off the lenses auto-focus motor.
IS On/Off selector- if your lens is equipped with IS, this turns it on or off.
Diaphragm Blades- these are the blades used to adjust your aperture. they are sensitive and easily damaged. The more blades, the more circular your aperture.

Never try to mount a lens with a different mounting system than yours to your camera. Canon’s lenses cannot be used on a Nikon without a special adaptor, and vice versa. When mounting your lens, remember to align the mounting marks, and firmly seat the lens on the body. Once your lens is seated, you’re off to the races!

When shooting on a tripod or at higher speeds, turn your IS off. This saves battery life and prevents blurring caused by the IS looking for motion that doesn’t exist. A sufficiently high speed is no slower than 1 over your focal length in seconds. For a 300mm lens, you can safely handhold at no slower than 1/300 second.

Lens Care

When handling your lenses, never touch the glass!
Always keep the camera side of the lens facing down whenever the cover is removed to prevent dust settling on it.
When your lens is mounted, the best option is either a cheap UV filer or Circular polarizer. This will protect the glass of your lens from being scratched or broken.
Clean your lenses with either a cleaning kit or soft lint free microfiber cloth.
Always use a blower bulb to remove the dirt before wiping. Then wipe in a circular motion from inside to outside.
If it still needs cleaning, place a couple drops of lens cleaning solvent on the cloth and wipe again. Never put liquid on the lens.
Store your lenses in a clean dry place. Try to ensure it is free from dust, dirt, and moisture.
The case most lenses come with is a good place to store them.
Never subject your lenses to hard banging or jostling. This can damage the diaphragm blades used to adjust your aperture.
Take care of your lenses and they will provide a lifetime of great images and memories!

Not all lenses are created equal, some are better than others, but taking the time to learn about yours will make it more valuable and your images that much better!

Well, after that long-winded discussion, I’m sure your dying to get out and take some pics. Choose your lens and shoot away! There’s enough around Hohenfels to give all your lenses a workout! Make sure you post the pics to the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page and share the joy with all of us!

Remember; leave your comments and questions here and on our Facebook pages, also.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

Thanks to all of you, have a great day!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Center of Interest

Welcome to another Hohenfels Volks post.

Today we’re going to discuss CENTER OF INTEREST. A strong CENTER OF INTEREST is a major feature of great art including painting, writing, and photography. Painters like the Old Dutch masters were experts at it, as were the photographic greats like Ansel Adams and George Hurrell. Rembrandt used it to great effect, as did Michelangelo. They knew where and how to use it to greatest effect.

CENTER OF INTEREST is the main idea of the picture you’re about to shoot. As such, it requires some thought and visualization.

CENTER OF INTEREST is another tool of composition. By placing your CENTER OF INTEREST where it will have the maximum impact, you can lead the viewer into and through your image. One thing to remember is that the CENTER OF INTEREST DOES NOT mean the center of the image.

The main question today is “What is my CENTER OF INTEREST?” Where should I place it? How should I weight it? How should I light it? How does it relate to the story of the image?

If you remember, there are guidelines for composition. Knowing these is the first step in identifying and placing your CENTER OF INTEREST. Your main subject is usually thought of as your CENTER OF INTEREST, although you may be shooting more than one subject. There should only be one CENTER OF INTEREST, as more than that can be confusing. In addition, when people are included in an image where they are not the CENTER OF INTEREST, they should not look directly at the camera. By having them look at the camera, you leave the viewer with doubts about your CENTER OF INTEREST. For impact you can include them, but have them looking at your CENTER OF INTEREST. This can be a powerful way to direct your viewer into your photo. People have a way of wanting to look where others are looking, so this trick will improve your images!

Here around Hohenfels, so many things can become a CENTER OF INTEREST for you. Rivers, mountains, hills, fields, castles, and palaces all make for great CENTERS OF INTEREST. You can make anything your CENTER OF INTEREST; you just have to identify it. The way you identify your CENTER OF INTEREST is through compositional tools, like placement, focus, DOF, and lighting.

Here’s a pic that shows what we're talking about.

A photo showing the wife watching a line of cars passing by. The cars, with their colors make a nice CENTER OF INTEREST. Notice that the wife is not looking toward the camera. Their angle and placement combined with her viewing of the cool cars tends to draw your gaze there, also.

Knowing how to visualize and compose an image with a strong CENTER OF INTEREST is a valuable tool. I hope that this little post has helped someone out there! We’ll be covering more about composition, lighting, and other artistic aspects of photography soon.

Remember; leave your comments and questions here and on our Hohenfels Volks Facebook page. Your participation can make this a true gem!

Thanks to all of you, have a great day!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Around Hohenfels

Welcome to another Hohenfels Volks post.

“Location, location, location!” It’s something we hear all the time, in the movies, television, news, it’s an old saying that seems to be everywhere around us. In photography, the saying should be “Light, light, light!” Our medium requires light to work. However, like most things, just having light isn’t enough.

We’re going to talk about light in another post, which is why I led off with the location quote. Today, we’re talking about an excellent location for photographers! Hohenfels seems to be perfectly located for quick access to so many places. Bayreuth is no exception. Guess where we’re going.

Bayreuth is a city in Bavaria and is located north of Hohenfels and Amberg. It takes about 2 hours by train to get there. That includes a stop in Nuremberg. The city is home to quite a few historic sites and buildings, which provides an incredible array of photographic choices. Let’s mention a few and some of the challenges and nice things about shooting there.

First stop, the Opera House. It was built between 1744 and 1748 for Margravine Wilhelmine, sister of Frederick the Great. She composed music and created much of what is the beauty of Bayreuth. The details are incredible, the splendor and glory here just blow the mind! For the photographer to work here, an off camera flash or two, high ISOs, and wide apertures are very important. Shooting with one remotely triggered flash and an ISO of 1600 resulted in this image.

The Margravine's Opera Box
1/60 f/3.5 ISO 1600

Bayreuth is famous for its association with Wagner, the great German composer. They host a Wagner festival annually. His house is a lovely place for some photos, with great blocks, gardens, tomb, and ivy covered walls nearby! A great place for some truly nice outdoor shots at lower ISOs, and with some light cloud cover, you have a natural soft box to make for some pretty light!

The last place on this visit is the New Palace. Although the inside is incredible, photography isn’t allowed in the actual palace. The entry museums allow photography, though. The best shots here are to be had in the Palace Garden. With a lake through the middle, and rows of tree-covered paths, this is a place to recharge, and practice your shooting skills. The trees can make for challenging light, but knowing your settings and visualizing your shots can make for something great.

Placing the island just a touch higher than the middle of the frame, and allowing the lake shore to converge created a nice composition and created some depth. Turning my circular polarizer to allow the sky to reflect in the lake added a bit of light and balance.
1/60 f/8 ISO 400

There are more great places in Bayreuth. The king of them all is the Hermitage, but with all the photographic opportunities there, that’ll have wait for another post.

Bayreuth, definitely a place for the photographer in all of us! Give it a visit and you’ll be back for more!

Don't forget to leave a comment. Post your questions to our Hohenfels Volks Photo Club Facebook page.

Wishing you a great evening!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Intro to Composition

Today we’re going to talk about COMPOSITION.

Simply put, COMPOSITION is bringing the image you’ve just visualized to life in a pleasing and attractive fashion. Pretty straight forward, isn’t it? Like many things related to photography, it goes deeper than that, simple- yes, easy - no.

Diving into the subject on a basic level, we’re going to cover some basics today.

First, there is subject and object placement to consider. Then there are color, exposure, DOF, weight, balance, and various other considerations.

The tips I’m outlining are not hard and fast rules! While often called rules, you can break them anytime. The trick is to know when and why to break them. That takes some time and practice.

The most commonly discussed is the “rule of thirds.” This rule states that your subject, or subjects, should be placed along an imaginary line dividing the image into thirds. For a more powerful composition, intersections of horizontal and vertical thirds are used. I’ve included a chart showing this and a sample using it below.

This is just a basic chart to show where things line up.

This is an example using a photo I recently took. Notice how the right line runs through the middle of her eye and the bottom right intersection is right about on the corner of her smile. Also, notice the diagonal lines formed by her eyes, smile, and head.

Another rule is the “Golden Spiral.” This one seems to have several names. This is placing your subject near one of the points of intersection in the thirds, and using a nautilus type spiral to lead the eye through the image to the subject. There is some mathematics behind this using the Fibonacci sequence and the “Golden Ratio” of 1.618 to 1. This can be more appealing than a simple rule of thirds, as this more natural. It just takes some practice and patience. I’ve included a link to a site that shows an applet demonstrating this and several others.

Java Adjuster A cool applet that shows the effects and use of the rules regarding composition.
Golden Section and the Rule of Thirds An informative sight covering more about using these rules.

Place your subjects and objects according to how you visualized their importance to the scene. A subject that is important to the overall composition can be placed on one the intersections, or in the center of your “Golden Spiral,” while objects of lower importance can be placed along either a vertical or horizontal third only. Giving each object or subject a weight or ranking based on how you visualize the scene can help in using, and breaking, the rules.

Another important element in COMPOSITION is lines. By having lines in your image, you can lead your viewer through your vision and tell a story in your work.

Diagonal lines add a dynamic and powerful element to an image. C and S shaped lines create a sense of grace and harmony. Vertical and horizontal lines are static. Including a graceful element, like a river, and ensuring that is either C or S shaped, gives the viewer a sense of calm and grace. Use your leading lines, and you will see a change in how you look at a scene and how you start to visualize your images.

Here's a link to a nice little page about COMPOSITION. It's short, simple, and very helpful! 10 Top Photography Composition Rules

Well enough for today. We’ll dive more into COMPOSITION in another post.

Try this out and let me know how it works for you! There are a large number of places that will help you feel more at ease with your COMPOSITIONS around Hohenfels! I’d love to know if it helps! If you have a question, post it to our Facebook account. Also post it here as a comment on the related post, I’ll review it and get back to you! If you have a photo you’d like to share, add it to our wall on Facebook, and I’ll get it posted here.

Tools of the Trade

Today we’re going to talk about the tools used in photography. It doesn’t need to be expensive to get good images!


Let’s start with the camera. There are lots of options in this area. From the Canon ELPH and Powershot at the point and shoot category, through the Digital Rebel T3 and the EOS 1000d in the entry level DSLR, to the EOS 7d and the EOS 1d at the pro end, options abound. The important thing is to get one that allows you the option of manual control.

Canon’s S95 and PowerShot SX230HS make for great models in the point and shoot area, with manual modes. The 1000d and Rebel T3 are quite reasonably priced beginner DSLRs. Although they seem to have the features of higher priced cameras, you may outgrow most of the lower end DSLRs before too long.

The mid-range DSLRs, like the 50d and 60d, are something that will make your time behind the camera even more enjoyable!

The important thing to remember is that you can take shots that are breathtaking, even with a point and shoot. Don’t become trapped in the technology pitfall. So many people are fooled into thinking that a more expensive or higher level camera means better photos. The fact is, the higher-level cameras require more knowledge and experience to get it right. The higher end cameras usually don’t offer the automated modes, other than P, which is fully automatic.

The most important thing in the camera is the user’s manual. Read it, study it, and learn it! If you know your camera, you can make images that stand out.


The first piece of gear you should get, after a camera, is a flash. Even with a point and shoot, you can use a flash. Most of your lower priced flashes have a slave mode that will trigger the flash from your on camera flash. Getting your flash off camera is the first step to getting good light.

You can get a great flash from Yongnuo, for less than a cheap OEM flash, with most of the features. The YN-560 is a fully manual flash that costs around $70.00, and has the power of Canon’s 580EXII flash. It doesn’t offer TTL or HSS, but gives some great light to your image. Their YN-565 offers E-TTL and a modeling light for around $200.00, and it will work with the built in flash remote control on the 7D or as a slave to a canon 580EXII with full E-TTL.

Another good thing to get at the same time is a flash RF trigger. You can get a set of two receivers and one transmitter for around $50.00. This increases your range and allows you to use the flash in interesting places and ways. It’s also more reliable than using a trigger from a flash or your on camera flash.


A good tripod is a requirement for long shutter speeds. Without one, your images will be blurry when handheld at slow speeds. The high end ones can run several hundreds of dollars, but even a $30.00 tripod will produce what you need.

You can also use your tripod for holding your flash, so a second one is a great investment.

One more thing to get is a remote shutter release. They come in wireless and wired varieties and are reasonably priced. When you set your camera on a tripod, it’s necessary to use one, as it will reduce camera shake quite visibly.

What I wrote above is just a basic intro to getting your kit together. Look for more articles on tools and accessories for photography in future posts. I’ll also try to provide some reliable reviews. If you have a favorite piece of gear and would like to write a review, let me know. We’ll get your review on here.

Should you have a question, post it to our Facebook account. Also post it here as a comment on the related post, I’ll review it and get back to you! If you have a photo you’d like to share, add it to our wall on Facebook, and we'll try to get it up here!

Have a great day!