Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tools of the Trade- More on Lenses

Greetings, Hohenfels, welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place. Here’s hoping today sees you starting on the downhill run of a great week!

Today it’s time to talk a little about lens attributes and traits.

We’ve already talked a little about lenses, so today we’re going to concentrate on some of the quality issues and features of your lenses. It’s a little long, for which I apologize.

One of the first things most folks need to know is that your old film lenses will work on digital cameras. They may have a crop factor, for instance 1.6X for APS-C, but if they can mount on your camera, you can use them. On the other hand, your newer digital lenses are unusable on full frame or film cameras. When you put a film lens on an APS-C sensor, the crop factor comes from the distance from the back of the lens to the sensor. The film lenses cover a larger area than the sensor; this in turn causes an apparent increase in focal length and the crop. Canon’s recent systems, the EOS cameras, use EF lenses, which have a 1.6X crop on your APS-C sensor. Their digital line of lenses for the EOS system is the EF-S line. They require no crop factor and apparent focal length is actual focal length. The reason the digital series of lenses don’t work on full frame or film cameras is due to their smaller projection of the image onto a smaller sensor. They won’t fill the frame or film, and most likely won’t even focus properly even if they could be mounted.

Another concern about your lens on zoom lenses is often the aperture. Less expensive lenses read something like 28-135 f/3.5-5.6. This is because the aperture size doesn’t change during zooming, that is the largest it can go. The area of the aperture remains constant, requiring a change in f-number. If you remember, your f-number is a ratio of focal length and aperture. It represents the focal length divided by that number, that’s why it’s written f/2, f/5.6 etc. The longer a lens is, the less light reaches the sensor. That’s why the f/number changes throughout the range of zooms. If your area doesn’t change, your f-number must. The reason for this is the cost and weight added to vary the aperture size throughout the zoom range. That doesn’t mean a constant aperture means a cheap lens, it doesn’t mean less quality, it just means less light as you zoom in.

A great feature of lenses over the past few years is the addition of IS. The affordability of technology has made it possible to use feature that used to be unavailable to the hobbyist. IS allows slower shutter speeds when enabled. Using it hand held, you can get down to about 3 stops lower that the handheld limits. The systems work by compensating for motion with motion in the opposite direction. When hand holding your shot, using proper shooting styles, with arms tucked in etc, will enable the IS to really slug it out with vibration. The most important thing to remember is turning it on for handheld, and ALWAYS turn it off for tripod shots. When on a tripod, the IS searches for motion in the lens and can cause vibration rather than reducing it. The big drawback to IS is that it uses your camera’s battery for power.

The last thing I’ll bring up for now is a quality issue. The problem is chromatic aberration or CA. This is distortion caused by different colors, or wavelengths, of light focusing at differing areas on your sensor. There are several types and names, but we’re not going into it that deep here. It often causes the purple fringing that you see along borders with bright highlights and dark shadows together. Using a smaller aperture can help mitigate this, as can a longer lens. Low dispersion glass and good coatings can combat this effectively. There seems to be many complexities involved in CA, including the types and calculations. The best practice when purchasing a lens, if possible, is to take a test shot using that lens of a high contrast area, and zoom in looking for fringing. CA can also cause blurriness in Black and White photography, so keep that in mind. You can see examples on Google to get more information and some idea of what to look for. According to the reviews I’ve read, Canon makes the most advanced software correction to mitigate CA and other distortions available. Because Canon’s EF lens system is actually all electronic, and records the information on individual lens models, Digital Photo Pro can compensate for it. Yet another advantage of shooting RAW!

Whenever you look to purchase a lens, make sure you read a variety of reviews, and look at loads of test photos taken with that lens, it could save you some headaches! If you have a lens that you favor and would like to write it up here, let me know, and I’ll get it posted for you!

Now on to other things, remember to get your votes in for next week’s theme. This week our theme is “Morning Moments.” Dazzle me with your work! Get shooting and start posting at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page. Of course, commenting here is always welcome, too!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tech Talking

Greetings, Hohenfels, welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place. Here’s hoping your week is off to a good start and Tuesday didn’t turn in to Monday part 2.

Today we’re going to introduce the concept of “Dynamic Range.” If you remember our introduction to the Zone System, there are 11 zones, 0-10. Ansel Adams considered this the full range, zones 1-9 were the dynamic range, and 2-8 the textural range. Zone 2 is the lowest value that retains discernable texture, and zone 8 is the highest value retaining usable texture, and in both cases the values where detail is preserved and recorded.

When we speak of dynamic range today, this still in some ways holds true. Metering from a gray card, it’s how many stops of exposure above and below middle gray that are usable. For instance, the EOS 7D has about 8 stops. Its range consists of 5 stops below gray before clipping to black or solid noise, and about 3 stops above middle before blowing to white. This means it runs from about zone 1 to zone 8, maybe a little higher. Each camera’s range is different; so don’t use one camera’s range to guess another’s. "Dynamic Range" determines the amount of contrast an image can have and how sharply that gets applied. It also can effect how you change the sides on your exposure triangle, based on your intention.

When you know your camera’s range, you can adjust your exposures appropriately. If you wish to increase middle gray, zone 5, to zone 6, you have to know your limits before the higher zones blow out. Taking 5 to 6 brings zone 7 to 8, and anything starting at or above 8 will be blown to solid, textureless white.

A camera’s range often times is limited by the size of the photocells or photosites. These are the individual receptors on the camera sensor. A larger frame sensor will usually have larger photocells, allowing more light to be received and detail retained. There are millions per most of today’s sensors.

Another way to expand your “Dynamic Range” is to always shoot RAW, as your camera records more information. You can add up to a stop and a half shooting RAW. Shooting automatically and in JPEG mode can cost you that latitude in your exposure. Keep that in mind when shooting in very bright or low light conditions.

Well, that about wraps up our discussion. Try to keep that in mind when you’re out capturing the beauty of Hohenfels, our area, and your holidays. The results will amaze you.

On to other things, I’d like to remind all of you to get your votes in and get working on your photos for this week’s theme, “Morning Moments.” I can’t wait to see what you amaze me with!

Shoot for the love, of photography, your subjects, and your art, it really will show! Get shooting and start posting at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page. Of course, commenting here is always welcome, too!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Morning Moments?

Greetings, Hohenfels, welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place. I hope everyone out there had a magnificent Thanksgiving. There is so much to be thankful for, that one day is never enough!

I see no one posted their photos for Thanksgiving With a Twist. It’s too bad we didn’t get to see what you came up with. I visualized several series of shots, but due to limited space had to go with something else. I wound up with a shot that only had a couple inches DOF. Nice shallow view and some nice blur, but not what I originally wanted! Oh, well, roll with it.

Hohenfels Volks cake
ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/25, Focal length 100mm
The cake here is about 3 inches thick. That gives about a 1-3 inch depth of field. the secret is a long focal length with a wider aperture.

This week’s theme, chosen by you voters out there, is “Morning Moments (Morning Shots, Wake Up!)” This theme is most likely going to cause some consternation. The guidelines for the theme are:

1- Photos must be shot between 0400 and 0700
2- You must take your photos between 0400 Tuesday morning and 0700 Sunday morning.
3- Photos are not shots of your morning routines, they should be something at least 1/2 KM away from your home. Perhaps a landscape or nice shot of your town.

Remember, when shooting in the morning or evening, bring a flashlight! Not only will it help you see, it will help you focus. Try to visualize your shot a day or 2 out to minimize wasted time in the cold, and visit the location prior to shooting it to get an idea of the ground and troubles you might expect.

Next week’s poll is up, and includes those not chosen for this week and something new to replace this week’s theme. All the themes we’re going to explore are meant to push your photography and bring together some of our lessons and talks. I hope you will enjoy them! I’m looking forward to more votes, and more participation in the theme.

Taking photos, it’s something we all love to do. Get posting and share the love at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, and or by commenting here!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving, and Pushing the Theme

Greetings, Hohenfels, welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place. I hope everyone out there is blessed with a wonderful Thanksgiving. Living in Hohenfels gives us lots of options for celebrating our thanks and thankfulness. May you always have an abundance for which to be thankful!

Remember, tomorrow is the time to bring your visualizations to life. Share your thanksgiving with us. Whether it’s something you’re thankful for, or your way of celebrating that, show us your vision and bring us with you for the ride along! I’ve already been visualizing so many different shots. I’m hoping to get the main one, complete with turkey! We’ll find out soon enough, right? Monday is the deadline to get your pics posted. After that, we’ll come up with a new theme. Vote for your favorite theme now, the one with the most votes will be chosen.

Again, Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy this time to show our gratitude for all of God’s blessings, and to share the time and sentiment with our loved ones.

Remember to share your pics and post your questions at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, and or by commenting here!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Reading List: The Negative

Greetings, Hohenfels, welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place. Shorter days and lots of fog made our visibility very limited this Tuesday. Cold, foggy, and wet, together they combine to make for some serious winter like weather. It looks like Hohenfels can expect snow before too awfully long!

This post will introduce the book “The Negative.” This is a piece of advice for those who desire more knowledge about photographic techniques and methods. Ansel Adams wrote The Negative in the 1940s as part of his series on photography. It was part 2 of a 3 book series. In its final version, written by Adams in 1981 and still published today, it provides an incredible amount of guidance to the photographer and would be photographer. It also helps the photographer understand exposure in more detail, breaks down controlling exposure and contrast, and introduces concepts and theories that will advance even the beginner along the path toward better photos.

The chapters include Visualization, Exposure, The Zone System, as well as chapters on natural light, artificial light, and filters. I find the chapters on exposure and the zone system to be the best material on the subjects. One of the main reasons is that Ansel Adams explains exposure in extreme detail, while making it understandable to anyone remotely interested. The other reason is he co-created the zone system. No one else could have brought it within the grasp of so many people.

Even though he wrote this book for users of film, Adams himself envisioned a sort of digital photography. When you take into account that photography remains writing with light, and that the concepts are the same, you can see the use of studying this handy book. Some of the terms used may no longer be common, like candles/square foot, but the information remains within grasp. For example, in the previous example of foot candles or candles per square foot, a lux meter will give you a measurement in lux, which can be converted to c/f2 by dividing the lux reading by 10. Knowing this, you can use a reflected light lux meter, do the math, and use the exposure formula in chapter 3 of this wonderful book to get your exposure correct. A concept introduced is that every ISO has a native aperture. That native aperture is the square root of the ISO. For example, ISO 200 has a native aperture of approximately f/14. ISO 125 has one of f/11; ISO 400 is f/20, and so on. Keep that in mind, as in an upcoming post we talk about the exposure formula.

Another great feature of this book is the inclusion of some of Adams’s amazing photography to emphasize a point or introduce a concept. If you only get it for the pictures, it’s worth the price. You can get it for as little as $12.00 new!

On to something else. Are you visualizing your shot for this week’s theme? Are you thinking about how to get something great, just the right DOF, and how to get the angle? I’ve had a couple cool ideas. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Well, Volks, here’s hoping your week stays short and interesting.

Remember to share your pics and post your questions at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, and or by commenting here!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ride Along Shot- Proof of Zombies

Greetings, Hohenfels, welcome to another Monday and to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place.

Let’s start out this short week with a ride along shot. Today we’ll look at a photo I shot of one of our local beauties, Michelle.

Halloween night, the family going to our friends for a party and some of that good old trick or treating, followed by hot soup and warm friendship. I came big, knowing the holiday spirit that pervades our place during this time, camera, flashes, umbrella, reflectors, the whole nine yards. I expected to get some decent shots, but not too much. Boy, was I in for a surprise!

After seeing Michelle and the incredible costume she built, I knew there was a shot waiting to happen. She even scared some of the adults, which was really cool. She looked like something from a George Romero movie, and I thought that it would be fitting to take a couple pics to capture that feel. We went outside and I looked around for some great angles while visualizing several shots.

Hohenfels Volks proof of zombies
ISO 800, f/8, 1/80, 60mm, monochrome with green filter, RAW

As you can see, the shot I posted here was taken with me nearly on the ground. After taking a few pics to get started, I noticed the sun was flaring a little, washing out the sky. Switching over to monochrome and applying a green filter, I shot on. I knelt down and as I readied my camera and flash, Michelle started acted like a real zombie coming out of the ground. That was the one, as the green filter darkened her makeup, while allowing the scenery’s exposure to remain constant. Allowing the background to fade to darkness makes Michelle pop out and creates some negative space to frame our zombie. I think that this shot captures the feel of a Romero film, the kind of black and white film that brings back the late late shows we used to watch as kids.

Here’s one that’s washed out with the sky, that kind of sets the mood of the sun going down and the zombies rising.

ISO 800, f/8, 1/80, 28 mm, Monochrome with green filter, RAW

And here’s the color version of today’s ride along. Shooting in RAW mode allows all the color data to be preserved and used for several types of shots. Something to think about when you’re visualizing your scene. Sometimes your shot may look better with color, although for the Romero feel, black and white is necessary.

Hohenfels Volks zombie in color
ISO 800, f/8, 1/80, 60mm, daylight balance, landscape picture style, RAW

Also today, we’re introducing a new feature. We’re going to do a weekly shot. Similar to the Internet craze of 365 shots, we’ll be posting a theme and giving you a week to post your shots to our Facebook page. After a week, we’ll choose a new them and post all the photos in a separate post here.

Well, that’s it for today. I’d like to offer special thanks to Michelle for allowing us to feature her photo here, for the incredible job she did making Halloween fun, and for being such a great friend. I’d also like to offer special thanks to Jennifer O for the theme a week suggestion. Always one to help out, her idea really hit the spot!

For our first theme, I thought we'd go with Thanksgiving, with a twist. Show us your thanksgiving, but be creative in your application of Depth of Field, covered here and here. Show us a turkey and the trimmings with a shallow DOF, or maybe that wine glass frame by a sharply focused turkey. Anything that keeps with the theme, remember to post a little comment with your photo, and let us ride along with you!

Remember to share your pics and post your questions at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, and or by commenting here!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Prevalent Art Styles in Our Area

Greetings, Hohenfels, welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place. This lovely Thursday came in cold, remained cold, and leaves us shivering in it’s tightening embrace! Things are warming up spiritually, though, with the approach of the holidays, so look forward to the warmth and glow of family, friends, and cheer!

Today I thought we’d touch on some of the different art and architectural styles you’ll encounter during your journeys through our place. We’re only going to touch on a couple of styles and the basic characteristics. The reason we will discuss these is that as you explore cathedrals, palaces, churches, graveyards, and other parts of the area, you will encounter these quite a bit. It helps to know what you’re looking at when folks ask about your photos, so let’s run through a little. I’m not an art authority, so please let me know if I make any mistakes, so I can correct them.

Let’s start with Romanesque, which seems to have started around 1000 AD and ended about the 13th century. There was quite a bit of Byzantine influence, especially in the churches. The tops of columns were often carved with whole scenes. Statues of the Madonna were quite popular during this period. Most of the bright colors used in the art have faded, with the stained glass being the most colorful examples. To see this style, check out the Schottenkirche, St James’s in Regensburg.

Moving on, we run across the Gothic style or period. Gothic art was a medieval style reflecting the themes of the day. A large amount of Gothic art was religious in its nature. The architecture of the time relied heavily upon pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and the flying buttress. These allowed more emphasis of lines and light, and space in the structure. The labor and time to create these majestic Doms was immense! A trend in Gothic art was the integration of sculpture, stained glass, and architecture. Bamberg cathedral has the only life sized horse and rider statue in Europe since about 500AD, look for the "green man" below the horse's hoof. The Gothic period ran from about 1200 until about 1600. A great example of Gothic architecture is the Dom St Peter in Regensburg or the cathedral in Bamberg.

Next up, we find Baroque styles coming into importance. The baroque period ran from about 1600 until 1800. The general characteristics of baroque art were movement and energy. Strong contrasts of light and shadow, chiaroscuro, were very common in the arts of this time. Themes included scenes of ecstasies, martyrs, and other religious events. Artists tried to portray the emotions and feelings in the soul on their subjects. This time gave rise to the Dutch masters and others who worked with light in new ways, and continue to inspire us to this day! In Hohenfels, we have St Ulrich Church, a Baroque church built between 1716 and 1720. The Asam brothers did the frescoes inside.

Rococo Art is often called later Baroque. The Rococo style led to art that was more decorative and served no other real purpose than decoration. Bold colors were favored. Themes involved hobbies of the rich and the nobles, sensual activities, love, frivolity, and romantic intrigue. It was very ornate and playful, with elaborate details and craftsmanship. For some great examples of Rococo style, check out the Residenz in Munich, as well as the Residenz in Wurzburg.

Learning more about these styles can help us in more ways that one. Knowing them allows us to explain what we shot, but it also allows us to learn new ways to work our camera and art. Remember to share your pics and post your questions at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, and or by commenting here!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gear Day- Pop Goes the...

Greetings, Hohenfels, welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place and our Volks. Another day, trees covered in white and ready for the icy grip of winter, closes around us.

Today we’re going to talk about flash. Learning to use flash is one of the major steps you should take in getting your photos gallery ready.

Today’s electronic flashes work amazingly well and can put a great deal of light right where you need it. The secret to using flash to get the right exposure is knowing how to meter and knowing how to balance your lighting.

First, let’s talk about several terms and features of an average flash.

The first term to know is Guide Number or GN. This is an indication of your flash’s power. It means your flash can provide light up to that distance at maximum zoom, for ISO 100. It’s usually measured in meters. The Canon 580EXII has a guide number of 58, as does the Yongnuo YN-560. This is used to calculate manual flash settings for your camera.

The second term is zoom. Your flash can often zoom to a preset distance to match the zoom of your lens, allowing it to throw light more in line with what you are shooting. This is extremely useful in auto flash; the drawback to that is the camera must be connected to the flash. The longer the zoon, the further the light will travel, and the less it will spread out.

The third term is sync speed, or shutter sync speed. On most higher end cameras, like the EOS 7D and 60D this is 1/250. For the lower end cameras, like the Digital Rebel series, this is 1/200. Some cameras won’t sync above 1/125 to 1/160. The slower the maximum sync speed, the slower you have to shoot. At speeds above the sync speed, either you will need a flash with high-speed sync, or you will get dark bands on your image.

The fourth term is rear or front curtain sync. In rear curtain sync, your flash fires at the end of the exposure, and in front curtain it fires at the start. This really only applies beginning at 1/30 – 1/60, depending on your model.

The last term I’ll introduce is TTL. Most of today’s automatic flashes are capable of being controlled by the camera, provided they are mounted to the camera. Today’s cameras meter through the lens, and pass that information to the flash to set output power and zoom. Many cameras use a more advanced feature called E-TTL, which is electronic metering through the lens. Using this method can improve your flash exposures. The downside is using your flash on camera can be disappointing, as it flattens the light and removes depth and character.

The range of a flash is limited by inverse square law, which states that light drops off from a source rapidly. For instance, a flashlight shined into the dark starts out quite bright, but ends up not even visible beyond some distance based on its power. This law states that doubling the distance from a subject to a source reduces light to ¼ its original level. Almost all light sources follow this rule.

When using your flash on camera, use your E-TTL features to get the best exposure. To correctly expose flash manually, you will need to adjust your aperture to control exposure for the light from the flash and your speed to control ambient light. To find the required to take a photo of a subject use this formula- f-stop number = GN/distance to subject. To figure out the distance to place your flash for a preset aperture use this formula- distance = GN/f-stop number. These are usually measured in meters, so remember to set up accordingly. Guide number is at ISO 100, so any change in ISO, must be accounted for.

A couple points- on camera flash gives a hard light, which results in a loss of shadows in the image making the subject appear flattish. On camera, or flash on the axis of the lens, gives red-eye effect, which is when the eye reflects red light straight back in the direction it came from.

Another thing to mention about off camera flash, besides adding depth, character, and bringing out detail, when used properly it can bring out the eye colors and make them stand out a little. This is especially true in brown and dark eyes. It takes some practice, but the results are worth it!

I like to use the YN-560, as this a nice, inexpensive, and powerful manual flash, paired with my with radio triggers. This allows for shots on camera can’t get, and it creates a nice direction to the light. Having directional lighting on a portrait really adds to the magic. That’s why you see it even in the paintings from the old masters. Next time we talk about flash, we’ll discuss fill, main, and lighting ratios. We’ll also discuss basic lighting patterns for portraits, and how to take the guesswork and mathematics out of getting your manual flash exposures.

I hope this information brings you another tool in our quest for the perfect picture. Let me know if it has! Remember to share your pics and post your questions at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, and or by commenting here!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What's on the Menu Part II

Greetings, Hohenfels, welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place. Another day, starting shrouded in mists and fog, ends on a light note, with blue skies and nice weather.

Let’s return to our series on your camera’s menu. (Part 1 is here)

Press the menu button, and you should be on the first tab. Using your multi-controller or command dial, scroll to the second tab, shooting2.

In order, the settings are as follows:

The Exposure compensation/AEB. This allows the camera to change either the shutter speed or aperture to bracket or compensate for exposure. Adjustments are made in 1/3-stop increments. 3 shots are taken, allowing you to choose the best-exposed shot. This is cancelled at power down.

Auto lighting optimizer. This allows dark or low contrast images to be corrected for in camera when shooting JPG. You can set the amount here, or if shooting RAW, in Canon’s Digital Photo Pro application.

White balance. This setting allows you to select what color temperature to use for your white balance. By selecting the right one, whites will be white, and so on. Color balance can be quicker when the right selection is made. Refer to the post on color balance here.

Custom White balance. By using a custom white balance, you ensure proper whites in all shots taken in that specific lighting. Take a photo of a white object in the lighting you will use for your photo then select that image as your custom white balance source. This allows a more accurate setting of color balance tailored for the specific situation.

White balance shift/BKT. This one is a don’t play with it setting. You need to know about color temperatures and color compensation filters. Read your manual carefully before playing with this one!!!!

Color Space. Select sRGB usually. Adobe RGB is expanded color range that is designed for commercial presses and printers, the type we most likely won’t use. Even Miller’s and Mpix recommend sRGB, to ensure proper color calibration and rendition.

Picture style. These styles are created by Canon, but you customize and create new ones. Selecting one these allows the camera to create an image that matches your intentions. Landscape and portrait are 2 commonly used styles. Another one is Monochrome. When you shoot RAW, these settings can be changed in the DPP software. JPEGs cannot be easily corrected unless you do non-destructive editing or save an original file untouched. They use contrast, color, and levels to create a scene that will usually give you what you want.

It’s important to note here that none of the above settings can be used in the fully automatic modes.

Well, that’s today’s “What’s on the Menu.”

We’ll be exploring more settings in another post. I hope this has been of some help to you. Now go out and use your settings to get some great shots and make yourself proud! Remember to share your pics and post your questions at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, and or by commenting here!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Photography as Art

Greetings, Hohenfels, welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place. A cold morning, frosty and foggy, greets us and brings in the week!

Today we’re talking about photography as art. Photography has several things that make it different from other arts. In some ways, photography can be more of a craft, or a science, or a way of recording things as they are. It can also be an art and art form. Much like the composer of incredible symphonies is an artist, so too, a photographer can be one, which is why we speak of composing our images.

Ayn Rand defined art as a concretization of a man’s values. She stated “Art brings man’s concepts to the perceptual level of his consciousness and allows him to grasp them directly, as if they were percepts.” While she viewed most photography as more of a recording, she felt that commercial photography was an art form. This was because most people view photography as a way to capture the moment, not to create a representation of what we value. She also felt that art should have positive subjects and values and that negative parts should be small and serve as a way to emphasize the positive attributes.

Most people can agree with the above. A see and shoot photographer doesn’t create art; they merely record what they see. Most shopping mall portraits are just canned poses and lighting, done on the cheap, with no eye toward impact. As artists, we visualize a scene, and either create it or make what’s there match our vision, and we create art. When we shoot to have an impact on the viewer, one that touches them somehow, we create art. Using our camera to share a feeling, or value, such as family togetherness or man’s generosity, we create art.

The next time you’re out trying to get the shot of a lifetime, visualizing the scene, setting it up just right, pause to think about its impact on the viewer. What does it say? What have you “concretized?” Even a simple portrait can have meaning; look at Leonardo or Rembrandt. A great way to develop the skill of making art is to look at art and figure out its impact on you, and then figure out how to make that kind of impact with your camera.

A fine example of photography as art is Ansel Adams. His work brought the concept of conservation and the beauty of the world to something we can perceive as reality. His series of photos documenting Manzanar relocation camp during the war is an outstanding example of showing the positive in the midst of a negative. Dorothea Lange captured the negative and sadness, but Adams really brought out the heroism there by showing how the residents made the best of things and created a life for themselves in the middle of this unbearable situation. Nobody can doubt that these folks were heroes! Yousuf Karsh did the same with his portraits of great people and great minds. When we look at the shot of Churchill taken by Karsh, we see the art there; we feel a sense of the man’s greatness and how the weight of his position and power he wielded made the man great.

Regardless of her politics, ideals, and viewpoints, and your thoughts on them, Ayn Rand’s view of art bringing thoughts, values, and ideas to life, is incredibly insightful. Her view makes us take stock of how we represent the world and how we share our take on it.

Hohenfels Volks shot in a church
ISO 1600, f/5.6, 1/60 at 37mm
Bamberg, Michaelsberg Church. This "concretizes" two things, the importance of faith, and the importance of preserving the past to pass on to our children.

So, get out and “concretize” some values of your own. Make us feel something, bring a thought to life! Remember to share your pics and post your questions at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, and or by commenting here!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Around Hohenfels- Bamberg

Hello, Volks, welcome to Hohenfels Volks. Another weekend is rolling into Hohenfels, bringing cold, frost, and icy fog. I hope you’re staying warm and getting some great pics.

Today we’re traveling to Bamberg. Located on the Regnitz River, and near the Main River, this city is full of great sights and history. If you bring your camera, you’re almost guaranteed to bring back a winner!

The town started attracting notice about 902, and was under the authority of the Diocese of W├╝rzburg. In about 1007, it became independent and for a while was the seat of the Holy Roman Empire.

Some of the sights to see are:
The Cathedral, which contains the tombs of emperor Henry II and Pope Clement II
The new Residenz, where the Bishops resided during the 17th century
The Old Town Hall built right in the middle of the Regnitz River
"Little Venice" which is a colony of cool old fishermen houses from the 19th century
Michaelsberg Abbey, which is no longer an abbey
Altenburg castle, a former residence of the bishops.

The Old Rathaus is very interesting to note, as it is smack in the middle of the river. It also cool because along the outsides of the building, statues and paintings seems to merge and come alive, as seen below.

ISO 400, 1/100, f/8
The statues in the wall seem to be coming out and alive!

ISO 400, 1/400, f/8
Dead in the middle of the river!

The cathedral is an amazing piece of work, and features the tombs of the Emperor, his wife, and Pope Clement II. The Gothic architecture and art are worth the time you spend in here. Removing many of the non-Gothic pieces to St Michaelsberg during the purification of the Dom back to its Gothic styling, allowed the church to maintain its original Gothic feel. Another feature of the cathedral is the “Bamberg Ritter,” a statue on one of the columns in the church. No one really knows who it is, but it serves as the symbol of the city. Make sure you bring a flash or 2, and shoot a little higher ISO to get the image that you want!

ISO 1600, 1/60, f/5.6
The Bamberg Ritter and surrounding features

Michaelsberg Abbey, on one the hills, presents an amazing view from below, and is even more impressive inside. The monastery is now a retirement home, restaurant, and brewery, but the church remains in use. This church is unusual and very impressive. It contains numerous skull, death, and skeleton statues and carvings, including one blowing bubbles! There are medicinal plants and herbs painted all along the high vaulted ceilings, as well. Inside you will find the Holy Grave Chapel, featuring a tomb for Jesus and other statuary throughout the small space. It’s amazing! You can touch the tomb of St Otto, and if you walk through it, they say your back pains will go away.

ISO 1600, 1/30, f/5.6
A tomb or marker of one of the bishops from the 30 years war, unusual style for a church!

I know this city, with its Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance styles will provide you with enough photos to make it more than an ordinary day out! Remember to share your pics and post your questions at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, and or by commenting here!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Composition- Seeing in Color

Hello, Volks, welcome to Hohenfels Volks. Another week is almost over here in Hohenfels, and we’re onto another post!

Following up on yesterday’s post about color, today we’re going to talk about how color theory can work for you. Using complimentary and adjacent, or analogous, colors can really improve your compositions. The masters, including the painters and old time photographers knew how to get the most from the colors available to them.

Color theory is an extensive subject, and involves a lot more than we’re going to discuss. If you remember back in grade school, you learned there are 3 primary colors, red, yellow, and blue. They are primary because they cannot be made from combinations of other colors. Here’s a basic primary color wheel.

The 3 primary colors

The secondary colors, made from equal parts of 2 primary colors are orange, green, and purple. Here’s another chart showing the relationship between primaries.

The 3 primaries with the secondary colors

Colors opposite each other on the wheel are called complimentary colors. If you stare at one of the colors for some time, and then shift your view to solid white, the compliment, or opposite, of the stared at color will appear.

Beyond that, you have tertiary colors and other more complex blends and hues. Here is a 12-color wheel showing some of the basic ones.

12 colors, including primary, secondary, and tertiary.

Just as colors opposite each other are complimentary, colors next to each other are analogous, which means they are analogs of or for each other.

In normal human color vision, red focus beyond the focal plane, green directly on it, and blue focuses short of it. This is why red appears to advance and blue seems to recede. Another effect of normal human color vision is that the same color appears brighter and larger against a dark background than against a lighter one. Another interesting fact along that same line is that Da Vinci observed, "Colors appear what they are not, according to the ground that surrounds them." Handy stuff for the photographer!

With all that information, feeling overwhelmed can be a problem. So, to make this subject easier, we’re going to show a couple example of how to combine colors into a harmonious composition, and have them add to your image rather than distract from it.

Analogous color scheme. Using this scheme can create calm scenes and photos. Make sure you have enough color contrast, though, to keep your image interesting.

Complementary. Very vibrant and exciting images. Don't overdo it and you can get something really appealing.

This is called a split complementary scheme. This has a strong visual appeal like complementary colors, but with less risk of overdoing it.

Remember, there are other schemes as well. You could do a three color scheme using colors equally spaced through the wheel, which can create a dynamic image, especially when one is given a greater weight in the composition. A great way to get more information is to use Google "color theory." Another great source is Tiger Color. They also have some nifty software and such that will help you understand color.

Look for an assignment related to this post on Facebook in the next couple days. Hopefully we can get everyone posting a couple photos, and get more assignments going. Drop us a comment and let us know what you think of the idea.

Remember to share your pics and post your questions at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, and or by commenting here!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Elements of Composition- Color

Hello, Volks, welcome to Hohenfels Volks. I hope everyone is having a decent week. The weather on Monday and Tuesday was excellent getting out and shooting some pics weather. Even in this time of shorter days and less time to get the shot you want, you can still get one or two that will make you feel good.

Today we’re doing a quick post on one of the unexpected elements of composition. We’ve talked about chiaroscuro and shadow, and subject placement. There are general guidelines for most situations. Today we’re going to talk a little about using light and color to bring in your viewer.

As you can see in the photo below, there is a lot of shadow in the right side, set for zone 3 at best, which amounts to a lot of unused space. At least it would seem that way.

I shot this photo on a little side road about 15 to 20 KM from Hohenfels.
ISO 400, f/11, 1/40

By leaving so much in deep shadows, it really makes the light streaming in from the left pop out and creates almost a set of diagonal shafts crossing through into the road. It also amplifies the magnificent autumn colors of the trees and the shaft of light green grass. The blend of greens and oranges just makes it seem to jump out from the woods and the shadow.

Pick out a color in a scene and try to find one that either complements or contrasts your chosen color for an extra bit of eye drawing appeal. This even works in black and white, only instead of showing the colors, it creates tones and textures that will pull the viewer in. Remember color is a major part of your composition!

Keep your eyes open, walk around, and believe in your abilities. That will bring home some keepers and treasures, and isn’t there so much around Hohenfels that we can find to treasure? Remember to share your pics and post your questions at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, and or by commenting here!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tools of the Trade, Powering Up

Welcome to Hohenfels Volks. I hope Monday was good to everyone. I was off and went to Regensburg to buy some gear and a hamster for the princess. Of course, time limits prevented getting the gear, so I’ve ordered some online. The weather was extremely nice today, and made for some great photo ops. Tomorrow should be some great autumn pics coming! I’m hoping to get out and check out some areas between Hohenfels and Regensburg I discovered today.

Speaking of gear, today we’re going to do a paragraph about battery grips and their benefits.

DSLRs use rechargeable batteries, and those batteries are good for somewhere between 300 and 900 shots usually. I’ve gotten 600 in one night, and 300 more the next. It sounds like a lot, eh? Sometimes, though, the extra power comes in handy. If you chimp a lot, then that extra bit helps. It also helps when shooting bursts, as the buffer can clear a little faster.

Another advantage of the battery grip is that using 2 batteries means half the charging. If you have either 2 chargers or a dual charger, you have the same time to charge them, but get twice the shots between charges.

The other big advantage is the addition of controls to portrait mode shooting. You have full access to your camera controls from portrait orientation, allowing for continued shooting without rotating your camera to make changes or view settings.

An unsung plus is the weight. For some volks, the extra weight is too much. The reality is that having the extra weight, adds anywhere from 1/3 stop to a full stop of stability to your handheld shots. It’s a trade off, the choice is yours to make. I like the thought of extra stability. If you’re using a string-pod, it’s even better in low light!

Well, that’s it for today. Thinking about traveling? Check out the battery grip for your camera and keep shooting longer.

Keep shooting, both Hohenfels and beyond. Remember to share your pics and post your questions at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, and or by commenting here!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ride Along Shot

Welcome to Hohenfels Volks. I hope everyone is having a great weekend. The day is chilly, but the sky is blue, and the light is there. Today we’re going to try something new based on a suggestion by my friend Darris. We’re going to look at a photo and go over how and why it was made, and what kind of thoughts went into it.

I’m going to use a photo taken in Bamberg at the Residenz.

Here’s the image and the settings

ISO 1600, f/5.6, 1/60. Canon EF 28-135mm IS

The imperial hall is a magnificent room, from which you start your tour. It’s also the only room where flash photography is allowed. I wanted to capture something of that grandeur without taking it to the point where there is too much of the room,

Choosing something that would be pleasing and have a point led to this image. Visualizing something with the windows leading to the door gave several possibilities. I liked having something lead to an interesting and mysterious item or subject. The door was the way to go, as it increased interest and curiosity.

By moving around the room, and visualizing several ways of getting the picture I thought placing the door at one of the thirds, and leading in with the chairs would be a great way to draw the viewer in. I set my flash to cast a small amount of light to toward the entry into the main part of the palace. I thought that including some of the windows would be a nice touch, but realized that closing in the window frames toward each other added another way of leading the eyes into the door.The contrast between window light and the dark chairs creates more interest in where they lead.

Creating diagonals with the chairs, I’ve created one set of leading lines. By closing the windows together, the converging parallels created another set of diagonals. All the diagonals converge at the door, leading one into the apartments. What’s in there, what is the light, and where does the door lead? These questions can be created with placement of the subject and leading lines. Keeping it in glorious color helped show the glory and majesty of the hall and increase some curiosity and tension.

The short focal length allowed me to shoot at f/5.6 and keep the DOF needed to bag the shot I visualized and keep the shutter speed high enough to handhold the camera. I knew that a large aperture would be need to get the light from the flash to record properly, and somewhat slower shutter speed to get the ambient light. 1/60 allowed the ambient to record at the desired level, while f/5.6 allowed the flash exposed areas to match the ambient levels.

When shooting manual with a flash, your shutter speed controls the ambient exposure and the aperture controls your flash exposure. This will allow you to adjust either part, as ambient lighting often cannot be changed, and running between your flash and camera can make things tricky.

Remember, with shots like this, you have to include the negative lighting and added lighting in visualization. Include the impact of your counters to the poor lighting, and see the end result. If you know your camera and your exposures, you'll get the shot you want.

Painted beautifully with wonderful scenes and colors, I’ve included a pic of the ceiling.

ISO 1600, f/5.6, 1/60

I love the color, detail, and majesty of this painting.

I hope this post can be of some help. Enjoy your weekend. Today’s golden hour begins at 4 pm, so get out and get shooting! That golden light will make your shots, and you surely can find any number of subjects to photograph in it! Remember to share your pics and post your questions at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, and or by commenting here!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Hello, Volks! Welcome to Hohenfels Volks. I hope you’re all doing well, here in Hohenfels!

“Your first 10,000 photos are your worst” ~ Henri Cartier Bresson

As mentioned yesterday, Bresson said that well before digital cameras.

My thought on this quote, being in the digital age, is that it’s no longer your first 10,000, but your first 100,000 to 1,000,000 that qualify for his comment. It’s easy to understand this, given the widespread use of DSLRs and computers. We no longer have to pay for each shot, we don’t have to wait for processing, and we can see it instantly. We now shoot 10-100 times what the old masters did. They had to pay around $10 for one 8x10 piece of negative. Shooting one shot therefore cost quite a bit and they made sure they made it count. Today we don’t. Another downside of the digital age, is that those same worst shots, are also our best.

The reason is simple, when you see your first pic from a nice camera, you think “WOW! This is so cool!” Of course, all your friends tell you how good your pics are, too. Of course, like the old days, you’re learning without even knowing it. You start showing your stuff online and posting to Facebook, people are leaving good comments and life is good.

Then… you start looking at other photographers and their works. You start asking “Why isn’t mine that good?” Maybe they have a better camera! Actually, they’re just a little further down the road. However, that question leads you to the next step, conscious learning. You’ve awoken to the reality of Bresson’s basic statement about your first photos being your worst. You now seek to improve and learn. You start asking for criticism and advice. You read everything, you learn the rules, you start shooting AV or TV, and now your photos are getting better. You can see the improvement, so can others. Still you see all the rules you broke, and think, “How can I do this right?”

Here’s the short answer- you don’t. Photography is art, and adventure, and fun, and frustrating. It’s all about the rules, and breaking them on purpose. If you’re breaking them and not knowing it, not knowing how, and not knowing why, then you’ve not moved on. Learn the rules, and learn when, how and why to break them. You’re images will speak to your art, and start telling volks the story you want told. Learning to use your camera, in AV, TV, or manual mode is a big step. Adding light and flash is another step, knowing about framing inside the image, and other compositional tips, will all improve your work. You’ll still be critical, but in a way that leads to something nice. Asking how to make it better is positive and can be a great way to master your art.

We all learn, all the time, as long as we don’t let ourselves get stuck in the negative thoughts. Don’t be too hard when looking at your work, look more for the technical side, like exposure and sharpness. Let your visualizations and compositions lead you to new rules and to breaking those rules. Whatever you do, don’t stop loving photography or the art. Keep your love and don’t let your criticism of yourself take away the joy you felt at your first few shots. Trust me, that feeling will return, each and every time you learn something new and make it work in your photography.

Enjoy the rest of you week, keep shooting, and remember to share your pics and post your questions at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, and or by commenting here!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Photography and Quotes

Hello, Volks! Welcome to Hohenfels Volks. I hope everyone had a great Halloween, and got plenty of goodies! For me, the goodies consisted of almost 1000 photos and some of my wife's delicious cake balls! Today’s post is going to be a short list of quotes, followed by a picture that shows your compositions don’t have to be like everyone else.

A photograph is usually looked at - seldom looked into. ~Ansel Adams

There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer. ~Ansel Adams

The departure of our boys to foreign parts with the ever-present possibility that they might never return, taught the real value of photography to every father and mother. To many a mother the photograph of her boy in his country's uniform was the one never-failing consolation. ~Louis Fabian Bachrach

Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited, and the wealth and confusion man has created. ~Edward Steichen

“Your first 10,000 photos are your worst” ~ Henri Cartier Bresson

Some food for thought regarding the last quote, Bresson said that well before digital cameras. Film was expensive and shooting 24 shots per roll made 10,000 photos quite an expensive task. That’ll be another topic later this week.

Here’s a pic to show you that visualizing your image, even on the fly, leads to some cool images.

This shot was taken after one of the Halloween parties we attended. By putting the princess on the ground and shooting from up high, I was able to create a picnic like scene. Her smile and costume made the magic. By placing the flash off camera  and slightly to her left, we have a nice loop light on her pretty little face.
ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/125

Enjoy the rest of you week, enjoy our Hohenfels, enjoy your photography, and remember to share your pics and post your questions at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page, and or by commenting here!