Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Greetings, volks. Welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place! I hope Hohenfels and our friends throughout the area are staying comfortable and warm.

Today we’re going to talk a little bit about the histogram and the characteristic curve portion. We’re going to see how every camera, film, and sensor has a different characteristic curve and how adjustments we make can change that. We’re also going to see those changes on the histogram.

First, we need to define what a histogram is. Simply stated, your histogram is a graphic representation of the range of levels within your image. The higher the graph, the more of that exposure level is present within your image. If you notice, with Canon’s DPP, it’s scaled from about –10 to +4. The starting and ending points vary between different models. The curve you see highlighted is what is generally referred to the characteristic curve, and is dependant on the camera model and sensor. This is analogous with a film’s characteristic curves, and once we see how our adjustments impact it, we can learn to judge our images and exposures.

The characteristic curve for my 7D in an unedited image

Here is the same image, after crushing levels some. Note the minor differences in the curves. Everything past the threshold of the toe will be pure black.

Next, we’re going to learn the basic terms when referring to the curve. At the bottom left, you can see the curve has tapered and become elongated. It loses its vertical travel and starts fading into a horizontal line at about –6. That area is referred to as the “toe,” and runs from –6 to about –2.5. At the upper right, something similar has happened, that area is referred to as the “shoulder,” and runs from about +1.5 to +4. The area in between is the straight-line portion. –6 on the curve is the “threshold” and at about +3 we hit “maximum density.”

The toe area represents the “density” in the negative shadow areas. The greater the density, the more detail can be brought out in your shadows. At maximum density, no further increase can be visually detected in the brightness at those levels. When we are at the threshold and maximum density, our shadows and highlights are clipped or blocked, and there is absolutely no detail in these areas. These equate to about zone 0 for your shadows and zone 10 for your highlights. These zones are slightly off some with digital due to restraints of monitors and printers. We look to get our images from blackest at zone 1 to 2 and whitest at about 8 to 9. This gives us our limitations within which our exposures must be made.

Using the example of my curve, we can see that zone 2 to zone 8, or –3 to +3 are capable of being exposed and retaining detail. Below 2 and above 8 we start to see clipping and blocking creep into the image. This equates to 3 stops under and 3 over middle gray, or what our meter is telling us to set our exposure for.

Understanding these things gives us the tools to adjust our images in a manner consistent with our vision and measurements. When we crush in our curves, as discussed in a prior post, we change our characteristic curve. As you can see from the image showing the levels we adjusted to, our toe and shoulder have gotten shorter. This changes our minimum maximum densities. In effect, it darkens our darks, and whitens our whites. A sort of photographic laundry soap! You’ll also notice that the straight-line portion becomes progressively more vertical. The more vertical this section is, the more contrast in your image.

Combining all these things, we see how easy it is to change our characteristic curve for our camera and sensor, which will change our image quality and exposure. We can easily use these tools in conjunction with our metering and proper exposure to bring our images into our range of visualization.

Film and even our sensors use these curves to determine the ISO or exposure value. That’s how true film speed was determined before the advent of digital. Sensitometry
was used in conjunction with testing different exposures to get the correct speed for setting cameras up. The densities were measured and settings read that allowed a film's ISO to be determined, and therefore exposed properly. Density today doesn’t need to be measured, but knowing how film density relates to your histogram and exposure can increase your ability to visualize and expose accurately.

The next time you’re working on your RAW images, watch what happens as you adjust your exposure and crush in your curves. When you see the characteristic curve change, you’ll know why and how better to read your original and your edits. Have fun playing with it, discovering what you can do, and making your vision concrete.

Enjoy the rest of your week.

Don’t forget to post any of your images you’d like to see here at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page. Of course, commenting on both Facebook and here is always appreciated, too! Don't forget, we're on Google+, too!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hohenfels Cloudy

Greetings, volks. Welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place! After a chilly day and busy day, Hohenfels is best served with a cup of HOT chocolaty cocoa!

Today’s lighting was nice for some outdoor environmental portraits. The sky can be a great light source if used properly.

Cloudy overcast skies give us nice soft light that wraps around our subjects. Being so soft allows the light to smooth and flatter the folks you’re photographing. It works best if we can keep the sky out of the scene, like shooting against a nice background or in an office through a large open window. Soft light is what makes a portrait nice and can be used for awesome effect.

When we don’t have the luxury of cloudy weather, open shade works about as well, depending on reflections and such. When shooting near the edge of a wooded area like a park, it can give the same soft effect. Using reflectors and other light sources allows us to make it more or less dramatic according to our vision.

Don’t forget, though, that cloudy and overcast can also be your friend when shooting cityscapes and nature shots, and can add some nice smooth highlights to close up flower shots. This last one is especially true right after a rain. I’ve found that taking shots of features near old buildings in cloudy weather can smooth out your light and help hold the exposure for your metered areas to bring out the details. A little bit of golden tone to the cloudy light can really add some warmth to those details, as well.

Try getting out during these end of winter and early spring blah days. Look for the soft light, look for something that inspires your vision and encourages a shot or 2, and take the shot! You’ll enjoy reviewing your results over a cup of cocoa.

Don’t forget to post any of your images you’d like to see here at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page. Of course, commenting on both Facebook and here is always appreciated, too! Don't forget, we're on Google+, too!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Placing and Falling

Greetings, volks. Welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place! Lovely weather is starting to work its way around to us again. Slowly, but it’s coming!

Today we’re going to talk about metering and level placements. First things first, though, you need to know your camera and how to set metering types.

We need to start with our visualization and an assessment of the scene we’re trying to bring to life. Where are the most important details, where do we want to keep detail, and where can we sacrifice some detail to get our image to match our vision?

Once we’ve done our initial assessment, we need to place our camera’s metering mode to spot mode. In spot mode, we’re going to meter several places in AV mode, with our aperture set to the key stop for our ISO. Remember, your key stop is the square root of your ISO. To keep things simple, we can go to ISO 125, f/11, and be set. Having 2 sides of the triangle will help us get our exposure the way we want.

Start by metering the darkest part of the scene. Meter the brightest part of the scene, and move through to the middle levels. Take note of what these shutter speeds are. Find the darkest part in which you want to retain full detail and texture and meter off it. Take note of that setting, perhaps you’re showing 1/60 in your most important dark area, and read your brightest area where you want full detail.

Deciding upon which is more important, based on your vision, highlights or shadows, you need to set your exposure. If you decide the shadows are the most important, then you’d set your exposure 2 stop down. If you metered your darkest detail area at 1/60 at f/11 for ISO 125, you’ll want to shoot 2 stops down. You could go 1/125 at f/16 for maximum DOF, or 1/500 at f/8. Alternatively, you could go 1/250 at f/11, which would be 2 stops down. That will place your shadow details 2 stops below middle gray, or about 18% reflectance. This is about zone 3 in the zone system.

This concept is known as place and fall. By deciding the most important part of your image, you are deciding where you want it exposed. As mentioned in the example above, we’re placing our shadows which we find important into zone 3, letting the other values fall where their new levels will be. The same works in reverse for highlights. By moving our desired highlights up 3 stops, we’re placing them at about zone 8. This gives us a range of exposures in our image that should be about what we visualized.

By placing our levels where we want them, we can minimize our editing time, which means more time shooting! It also gives us a starting place for our previous post on developing for our vision. Try shooting a few scenes in monochrome this way, and then try it in color. You’ll see a change in your image and the way you see and approach a scene and photographing it. You’ll also notice that you have a more vibrant color and tonal range than before.

Exposure is the base of all we do in photography. Even printing an image was traditionally done by exposing the paper to light. Most high quality printing by large firms is still exposure using lasers. Learning the triangle and how to manipulate it, in ways beyond the conventional can make for incredible images. Your vision is the starting point to making it happen!

Here’s hoping you find the right light, the right scene, and have your camera by your side to capture it!

Don’t forget to post any of your images you’d like to see here at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page. Of course, commenting on both Facebook and here is always appreciated, too! Don't forget, we're on Google+, too!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Digital Density

Greetings, volks. Welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place! Let’s start by welcoming a little sanity and quiet, as peace returns to Hohenfels and our surrounds!

The last couple weeks have been trying for everyone, I’m sure, but things are getting back on track.

I went out and shot some film today, and developed 2 rolls this evening. That got me thinking about something that we’ll discuss here today. Before we begin, I should explain that many of our recent references to Ansel Adams are because he was probably the most prolific educational writer on photography. He’s not the only great, but his vast amount of work and writings are the most widely read, studied, and approachable.

Today we’re talking about “Digital Density.” This has nothing to do with being behind the curve on technologies. I’m referring to something that hit me today while developing my film.

When old photographers spoke of their negatives, they spoke in the arcane language of photographers. A negative that was thin was dark in printing and so on. Too dense often leads to blocked, or clipped, highlights. Contrast was a product of your negative’s density. So was tonal range. The density was determined by the thickness of remaining silver, or emulsion, after development. Adams developed for a zone 8 density of 1.25-1.35 for his preferred diffusion enlargers. Density is a logarithmic number, and we’re not going into it here. Generally, zone 8 is where the brightest details can be discerned and identified. Zone 9 results only in very slight variations in tone and 10 is pure white. By exposing to keep the darkest shadow details in zone 3-4 and developing to keep highlight details in zone 8, he was able to make magnificent images.

Most of that is overly simplified, but it gives us a basis for the next part of this post.

First, let’s look at a basic representation of the zone system.
Hohenfels Volks: Zone System
The basic Zones chart

Now, we’re going to convert that to a negative.
Hohenfels Volks: Zone System in Negative
When converted to a negative, this is an approximation of the basic zone chart

You can see how things changed. Assuming a pure white light behind the negative strip, you can see that zone 1 is pure white, and so on up the scale. Below are the negative versions of a couple photos, one black and white, and the other color. Looking at them, you can see that the darker parts are actually the lighter areas when the image is returned to original.

Areas with no density, other than film base+fog, will have absolutely no detail, and tone. Areas that are pure black will have no detail and will be pure white. Knowing how the density affects photos, you can do a bit of editing on your image after converting it to negative. In Photoshop, this is done by inverting the image, or CTRL-I. In Lightroom, it’s the same. In Paintshop Pro, it’s under the Image Menu- negative image.

Here are 2 conversions of digital photos, taken with a Canon digital SLR, one in color and one black and white.
Hohenfels Volks: A Lady in Waiting
This is a color photo converted to negative. Look for the original in my works.

Hohenfels Volks: Developing for your vision
The photo we used in our last post about developing for your vision

Once you’ve done your conversion, you can clone out dust, with greater accuracy if you’re messy with the mouse. Another great thing about this feature is the ability to bring out detail in your highlights. Digital doesn’t deal too awfully well with blown highlights, but you can recover small amounts of detail by converting to a negative of your image. This is great for working with skies and snowy areas. It’s possible to recover some in the shadows, also.

The caveat is that there must be information there, or it will be less effective.

You can also increase your control over your tonal range by performing level and curve adjustments on a negative layer, then inverting it. When working on a color image, be aware, that subtle changes to exposure can be localized to perhaps a small portion by extraction that selection as a layer and converting it a negative. It allows you to expand the tonal range of any color, or the whole image, in ways that can be very impressive. You can also diminish some colorcasts! Colors are inverted in a negative, so keep that in mind, or you’ll end up all abstract and disappointed, unless that’s your vision! It’s almost like working with a large negative.

Using the tools taught to us by those who were taking photos when our folks were kids, we can learn to improve our digital art. Using your vision, seeing both the negative and the print, you can begin to get some awesome stuff going on. Give it a try and see how it works with your vision and your exposures. If it's something you're happy with, post the results, we'd all like to see!

Don’t forget to post any of your images you’d like to see here at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page. Of course, commenting on both Facebook and here is always appreciated, too! Don't forget, we're on Google+, too!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Developing for Your Vision

Greetings, volks. Welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place! Welcome to another delayed post.

Lots of things going on have delayed posting for several days, yet again! So here we go, continuing our last post about exposing for your vision.

We posted a photo that we referred to as N development, or normal. That going to be our starting point. Going back to our RAW conversion, we’re going to change that some. Since I use Canon’s Digital Photo Pro that came with my camera, I’ll refer to that.

Our first step is to adjust the slider for exposure. I took it down to -.33 stop. That added some depth to the sky and brighter areas, allowing for some slight texture and tonality. Then I set the white balance to color temperature, at 4200. You’ll see why I did that later.

After that, I crushed in the levels some, the method is shown below. That increases contrast and allows you to bring your levels at the extreme end in some. It gives deeper shadows and highlights. Some of this will be offset, while allowing the levels to be set in our next step.

Hohenfels Volks: Crushing levels
Looking at the arrows, you can see how the levels are crushed in using your sliding limits. This adds clarity, contrast, and depth to an image.

Bringing the contrast up to 2, and the highlights to –2, allowed for some slight increase in highlight detail along the snowy roof of the church and in the snow on the fields. Bringing the shadows up to +2, added depth to the forest and some detail to the church tower and tonality to the almost black barn. It also allowed the shadows to move higher along the exposure scale, increasing the open feeling of the spaces and the shadows from the buildings.

After setting my monochrome filter to red, which darkens greens and blues, the snow appeared brighter without fading or washing out, while adding some shadows back to the open parts of the further hill and forest. Adjusting the color temperature down to about 3900 cleared things up a little.

After rotating the image to a more suitable angle, due to my camera not being level while I shot, I was ready to sharpen, convert, and save. Below is the finished image.

Hohenfels Volks: N-.3 village outside Hohenfels
ISO 400, f/16, 1/500, 115mm
Our finished shot of this charming village.

Here is the photo in color with almost the same settings, with the biggest change coming from the color temperature. Outdoor shadows, and snow, usually have more blue light, so bumping up the color temperature allowed for white snow, blacker shadows, and still retained the color on the far hills.

Hohenfels Volks: N-.3 village outside Hohenfels
ISO 400, f/16, 1/500, 115mm
Our color shot of this charming village.

Some small edits in RAW can save tons of time fixing photos. They also allow us to create our vision, not just re-create what we saw. Using some dodging and burning tools and sharpening brushes, as well as the other tools, in editing applications can further that vision to a concrete expression of what our mind saw and wanted to show.

I hope to see some of your vision soon! Start sharing your work and showing us how you saw something, not what you saw. Making great photos is a great way to spend some time, and get in touch with the world around you! I hope you have a wonderful week and enjoy the weather we have right now!

Don’t forget to post any of your images you’d like to see here at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page. Of course, commenting on both Facebook and here is always appreciated, too! Don't forget, we're on Google+, too!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Exposing for Your Vision

Greetings, volks. Welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place! Welcome to another delayed post.

Lots of things going on have delayed posting for several days. So today, we’re going to get back to basics a little. We’re going to look at several concepts of exposure and how to use our settings to get our photo as close as possible to our vision in camera. Our next post will deal with bringing that image into our application and bringing to what we envisioned.

First, as you know, exposure is a combination of things, ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and light. You can read more about it here, in our intro to photography. Changing any one of these things will change your exposure. Usually when we’re shooting travel, landscape, and other photos, light cannot be changed for various reasons, so we’ll stick with the basics of the exposure triangle, and metering for our intent and vision.

The first thing to decide is what shooting mode we’ll use. If you’re shooting AV, set your f/stop accordingly. Then we need to know what we’re metering from. Knowing that what we meter gives us a flat neutral 18% gray reading, we know that we’ll be shooting that as our mid tone. Using spot metering in your camera gives you about 7 degrees of coverage, which allows us to meter several areas of our scene. Once we’ve decided what our subject will be and what level we want it placed at, we meter from that. Should we want our subject to be 2 stops under middle gray, we take our meter reading and set our camera 2 stops below that. For instance, your meter tells you that at ISO 200, f/8, your shutter speed should be 1/50, then set your shutter speed to 1/200. That’s 2 stops down from your meter. Remember, that lower values are accordingly decreased, as are brighter values. It’s often useful to take a shot at 1 stop and 1 at 2 stops, or even going by third stops, to get your image values where you want them. It may not look perfect, but when it’s as close as you can get it, it’s time to work your settings through various combinations, adjusting your aperture for DOF effects and your shutter for exposure and creative effects.

It’s often useful to take your readings from several points, your deepest shadow value where detail is to be retained, and your brightest highlight where detail and textures need retention. Going back to f/8 at ISO 200, we find that the lowest value with texture and detail is 3 stops down from middle gray and that may be too dark for your vision. We can make up for some of that in our software, but shadows pushed into higher exposures, introduce noise. That’s why we meter for our vision and not for an average. If we know the darkest part we need to keep detail in, we can build up from there. The same is true of highlights, only building down from there.

Give it a try, shoot RAW, and save your files. When you open them, unedited in your conversion program, that will be called N, or Normal development. We’ll refer to that in our next post.

Hohenfels Volks: Country village at N development
ISO 400, f/16, 1/500, 115mm
A country village along the way, near Hohenfels. This is processed for normal, or N, development in RAW conversion.It's not bad, but can use some help!

Take your favorite shot, metered for your intent. It can be a test shot, in color or monochrome. The point here is learning to use your vision, the light, and your camera to make something you like. After you feel comfortable with metering that way and get some shots that you like, try it on your next shoot. Then we can learn how to get that look you visualized and worked so hard to come up with. It may not be an exact replica of the scene, but it should be what you wanted to see and show us all!

Don’t forget to post any of your images you’d like to see here at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page. Of course, commenting on both Facebook and here is always appreciated, too! Don't forget, we're on Google+, too!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Greetings, volks. Welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place! I hope everyone is warm and well, and with all this snow, is staying dry! We were hit by a virus, which limited updating of our site for a few days. All is now well, and photography never rest in Hohenfels!

Today’s post is going to just be a quick one. First, we’re not doing a theme this week. Only 2 votes were cast, and people are quite busy.

The second thing is a quick tip, making this a very short post. Always bring a notebook when you’re shooting. Even when you’re shooting digital, many of the details aren’t recorded. What was the lighting like, how did you choose you’re settings, why did you choose your position? There are any number of details that may be lost if you don write it down!

You’re camera settings are written in the EXIF information, but not why you chose them. Even notes about what you were thinking about can help bring certain things to mind. This can be a real Godsend when you encounter something similar. It also helps share the wealth of knowledge you may have about a place or time, and make your photos even more meaningful to you or someone else! It's also a great way to track your inspirations and visualization, too!

We’ll bring back the weekly theme poll next week; hopefully more volks will get involved! Hohenfels has so much to offer, and your input can make this thing of ours great! Keep shooting, and remember, write it down!

Don’t forget to post any of your images you’d like to see here at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page. Of course, commenting on both Facebook and here is always appreciated, too! Don't forget, we're on Google+, too!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Editing For Pre-Exposure?

Greetings, volks. Welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place! I hope everyone is warm and well, and that you got the shot you wanted today!

Today we’re going to deal with an editing technique based on old film shooting. I know this was supposed to be another Around Hohenfels, but that didn’t quite pan out the way I had planned.

Back in the film days, you couldn’t change film speed mid roll. You also had some interesting things going on. Film often had a wider latitude for exposure errors, especially for overexposure, but even underexposing allowed film to still work out, if you knew how to make it. You could shoot with ISO 200 settings on ISO 100 film, and push the processing for ISO 200, and save the shots. There were several techniques for saving the shot, including push processing, pull processing, and pre-exposing. When shooting RAW format, most conversion applications, like Canon’s DPP, can be used to correct an exposure by up to 2 stops either direction. Using the exposure setting that way, though, you affect the entire image, not just certain areas. Using most image editing programs, you can dodge or burn areas to meet your needs, as well adjust your curves and levels. In fact, most applications have the common dark room tools, which is why they refer to them as a digital dark room.

Rather than discuss those choices at this time, we’ll address pre-exposure. I chose this topic, as most image applications don’t have a feature that allows that directly. Rather, you have to use a round about method to obtain similar results, and that’s what we’ll discuss today. Pre-exposing film allowed the photographer to bring out detail in deep shadows by adjusting them to higher levels or zones. By pre-exposing a hot, then shooting over that pre-exposed frame, light intensity could be raised. If you wish to bring out detail in zone 2 shadows, you could pre-expose for zone 1 or 2, then shoot for a correct overall exposure and get those elusive shadow features. You’d need to take a gray card or translucent plastic/glass, meter it exactly along your image axis, and set your exposure accordingly, then shoot the scene. You could push, pull, or otherwise develop according to your plans, and print the same. We’ll be simulating this technique. I’m going to use this image as an example.

Hohenfel Volks: Passau skyline, pre-exposure original
ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/500, 55mm
The Passau Skyline!

First, select your image, and open it in your editor of choice. Whether you use Photoshop, GIMP, or Paintshop Pro, the basic are the same, but your application needs to support layers. Once your image is open, make a new layer, and select your color selection tool. Click on the shadows you wish to open up and increase the details. Before closing, look at the settings or options for that color and increase the values by the desired amount. For this image, I chose the trees in front of the church, which came out to R-7, G-7, B-7, L-7, and doubled them all to 14. This was still in zone 1, digitally speaking, but when combined at the end, allowed for a slight bump in the shadow detail.

With that being done and applied, select your bucket too and flood fill the new layer with that color. You should have something solid, in your selected color or tone. Set you blend mode to screen, and watch the magic start. All your levels will increase except the brightest areas. You will notice a decrease in contrast as well.

Decrease the new layer’s opacity until you have a set of results that are satisfactory. Now, select levels adjustment, and crush in the curves ever so slightly. This will increase your contrast, without removing too much detail from your shadows. You can apply a curves adjustment and a clarify adjustment if you desire. Now you should see something that is pleasing to your eye, and has more detail in the shadows.

In the days of film, you shot for the shadows, to preserve detail. This often meant slightly overexposing your shot, and printing to retain the detail in the highlights. By pre-exposing your film, you had a way to create more detail without giving any up on the other end. Because exposure was cumulative on multiple shots at the same frame, you could add light as needed. The reason for dark areas benefiting most, was that you added light uniformly across the image at the same level, but your exposure of the image was not uniform. Using just quick numbers to demonstrate, at level 2, when you add 2 units you double the level. At your highlights with say 100 units, you add 2 units and the results are almost unnoticeable due to the ratios. This works in digital the same way, when you select screen mode, you only lighten values lower then your selected pre-exposure layer. Although there is some small effect at slightly higher levels, it is less drastic. By varying the opacity of the layer, you can control the effect even more. Adding masking to allow only certain areas to be painted in gives you complete control!

Here is my final image. Not a large change, but enough to bring out some of the detail within the trees. This works best with images without a large amount of bright spots or too much contrast, but this image was useful. This shows you what a little bit of old time darkroom work on today’s technology can accomplish.

Hohenfel Volks: Passau skyline, pre-exposure finished
Same as above, with pre-exposure.

Well, that’s it for today. Keep shooting, keep seeing the light, and keep your love of our art going with frequent sessions behind the lens! Don’t forget to vote and to get your works in for this week’s theme!

Don’t forget to post any of your images you’d like to see here at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page. Of course, commenting on both Facebook and here is always appreciated, too! Don't forget, we're on Google+, too!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Craftsmanship in Photography

Greetings, volks. Welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place! I hope you’re staying warm; I know it’s hard for me to keep warm!

Today we’re going to start with a quote from Ansel Adams. I frequently reference him, as you may have noticed. He wrote in the introduction to his book “The Negative,” “…it is false to suggest that there are shortcuts and quick formulas for success in photography.” I for one am starting to see why he felt that way.

The recent trend in photography, as in all things modern, seems to be toward the easier, simpler, and more automated. Without any doubt, I can safely say that automation, simplicity, and ease will allow you to take some decent snapshots. Take snapshots… not make photographs. Further, with even less doubt, I can say that, like government handouts and welfare, they create an unnecessary dependence, which will hinder your development into a maker of photographs.

Ansel Adams believed in knowing your craft, knowing how to make photographs. It was simple, really, to match your print to your vision you had to know how your camera, negative, and print worked together to get the right combination. He also believed that creativity and freedom in the pursuit of your vision were only available if you knew how to make your shot match your vision. Great photos can happen because of a little knowledge and some trial and learning. As you try various techniques and settings, you learn what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to try manual mode, even if your image is less than you wanted, it can teach you what settings didn’t work. Digital gives the instant ability to know if something worked or not, we should take advantage of it. The sad thing is, too many folks become totally dependent on the camera making the rules, and thereby limit their abilities.

Things we often view at first as less than we hoped for, can become a treasured shot when viewed free from the disappointment of not making what we’d visualized. Remember that, and keep shooting. Strive for better with each shot, but enjoy them all as they happen. You’ll find things about your work that you may have never noticed before.

Enough of the soapbox! Let’s move on to the new theme. This week’s theme is I'm SO Lonely! (If You Weren't So Isolated!) by a vote of 2 to 1. As last week’s theme dealt with the positive side of isolation and solitude, it seems fitting that you have chosen this theme. Show us the negative side of solitude, the isolation of your subject. Perhaps it’s the despairing soul trapped in a lonely joyless rut, maybe it’s the widow, who mourning, longs to feel again the warmth of her husband’s breath. You could show how being alone weakens, rather than strengthens, the whole, by isolating one from a group. Express the isolation, the negative side of solitude, in your images and get them submitted by next Monday night.

Tomorrow we’re hoping to do another Around Hohenfels if things work out. Look for it, and if we end up with something else, I’ll try to be more interesting!

Don’t forget to post any of your images you’d like to see here at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page. Of course, commenting on both Facebook and here is always appreciated, too! Don't forget, we're on Google+, too!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Home On the (Tonal) Range

Greetings, volks. Welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place! I hope you’re staying warm; this cold can be a killer.

Today we’re introducing a new concept. We’re going to discuss tonal range. Usually tonal range is a term used in monochrome photography. But it can also be used in color, with a slightly expanded meaning.

Tonal range in B&W photography refers to the range from darkest black to whitest white. This is a vague definition; so let’s get more detailed here.

First, tonal range is limited by 3 factors. The first is your camera or film, the second is your monitor in digital photography, and the third is the printer or paper selected.

A film or image sensor can have wide tonal range, allowing for many levels between zone transitions. Though it has a wide range, it may not be capable of recording more than a few ranges at a time, which gives it more contrast. If you remember, there are 11 zones and that we generally want to get the bulk of our image in zones 2 through 8, with our true blacks in zone 0 and whites in zone 10. Zones 0 and 10 have no tone or texture; therefore convey no usable information to the image. This means we should be placing our extremes in zones 1 and 9 if we want any kind of detail. Tonal range in this context allows for more gradual shift between the extremes of each zone. As in the image “A Shot in the Dark,” narrow tonal range can increase the visual impact of an image immensely. Wider tonal range can be flat and lacking in impact if consideration isn’t given to the ranges you want to emphasize. You can use a wide tonal range, while limiting most of your imagery to one end of that range for more impact.

In film, light is recorded on a strip of film and silver halides. Where the light hits, the silver halides are concentrated, creating a thicker negative. This is referred to as your density. The greater your density, the greater the light recorded. A film's tonal range often corresponds to its density. A wide range of densities in a shot means a wider tonal range.

Your monitor also has a limited tonal range. The more modern LCDs have an incredible range, perhaps more than your camera or film. This will have an impact on your presentation and editing when using different monitors. This is part of the reason for calibrations for monitors and printers. We won’t discuss that here beyond this.

Your printer and paper also are limiting factors. As with monitors, papers and in digital, inks have different tonal ranges. One type of paper may have a wider tonal range and be capable of allowing the entire range of your image to be printed beautifully. Another type may not. The same with printers and inks.

In color photography, tonal range refers to all the above, but is applied to each of the colors, Red, Green, and Blue. Each color may have a different tonal range, in each of the devices we’ve discussed. That’s why on most newer cameras, your histogram can either show RGB, luminance, or both. This allows you to see each color in relation to the other colors.

When displaying your final image, you choose your presentation format- monitor, CRT, print, and so on. Giving the output and its tonal range the right consideration can go a long way to creating what you visualize and making your vision a reality. When you wish to print an image out, it’s best to have a test print from the target printer to ensure your monitor matches, then your image can be edited to match and you’ll get a great print. The same goes with film and silver based paper printing. Match your film to the paper that will achieve the results you desire and your photos will be better for it.

Later, we’ll look at more about this subject. In future posts, we’ll examining individual influences on, and aspects of, your tonal range. I’m looking forward to you joining us on our journey through photography.

I hope you’ll be posting your photos for this week’s theme, and get your vote tallied for next week’s theme!

Don’t forget to post any of your images you’d like to see here at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page. Of course, commenting on both Facebook and here is always appreciated, too! Don't foget, we're on Google+, too!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Reviewing Composition and Inspiration

Greetings, volks. Welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place! W-w-w-w-welcome to our review of composition and inspiration.

Today’s review of these things will show how they can work together, as well as refresh us on the topic.

Let’s start with some of the basics of composition. Remember the rule of thirds? Well, there are other guidelines, like the Golden Triangle, and Golden Mean, or Spiral. When we look at 35mm film, and most of our digital sensors, we find that they are 1.5 to 1 in their aspect ratio. The golden Ratio is 1.618 to 1. The dimensions of 35mm are 36mmx24mm. Oskar Barnack of Leitz chose this. By doubling the size of 24mmx18mm motion picture film, he created 35mm film as we know it. Using his film, Leitz created a camera to use it, but production didn’t begin until around 1924. Thus was born the Leica, Leitz Camera. Since his creation of the format for photography, the dimensions have been standard.

By splitting each dimension into thirds, and using those junctions as focal points for your center of interest, you can create nice compositions. This is the rule of thirds. By taking a line from one corner of the frame toward the center, and another extending from corner to corner, you create 3 triangles and can use those to position your center of interest. You can also use them to give weight to your primary subject. By following these rules to a certain point, composing your image becomes a visual exercise in balance, detail, and subject weight. It also allows your to create some interesting photos that will impress even the most die hard see and snapper. These rules are not set in stone, in fact, they are quite flexible. For instance, when shooting something that has converging parallels, it may be best to center the parallels at the bottom center and have them run straight through the frame. The secret to breaking the rules and being successful is knowing why it worked and why you did it.

Some other tips for your composition include not making your horizon centered in your image. It makes for a static scene. Diagonals make a scene dynamic, while curves add grace and elegance. Straight lines across or from top to bottom are very static, having almost no “flow.” Circles are a great tool to lead the viewer into and through the image. Remember that leading lines don’t have to be lines or shapes, but the feeling or implication of lines or shapes. They lead your viewer through your scene, and increase interest in your subject.

Now on to inspiration. What inspires you? What is your muse, your source, the wellspring from which you draw photographic inspiration? Almost all of us are inspired by more than 1 thing. There are times my daughter is my muse, and others; it may be a shaft of light or my wife. I find inspiration in the strangest places and often at strange times.

You don’t have to go looking for inspiration, either. It often strikes unexpectedly. Reading a blog post the other day, I found myself hit by the desire to try something similar to what the author had done. When you get an inspiration for a shot, start out visualizing your composition and lighting. By visualizing those 2 things, you can get a stronger image that will hold the viewer longer. By being open to inspiration, you can get more shots that you like. Take the time to look around you, not for inspiration, but to see the light, the colors, the textures, and the patterns. Seeing them may start the cogs turning toward something that inspires you. Often just looking at something my daughter has inspires a shot of her using it! Her checked coat may make me want to catch the pattern in some way that it brings out a feature of her. Don’t look for inspiration in trying to put others down, but look for it in things that make you feel good, and you’ll usually find it without looking too hard.

For both of today’s review subjects, you can find a wealth of information, and inspiration, on the net. Check out our links and you’ll be surprised at what you find. Look at the Your Works section, and check out the works of our followers, you’ll find something there that appeals to you!

After our 2 posts reviewing some of the basics, you should be ready to get some shots for this week’s theme, Solitude. Look around and find something that inspires your creativity, and visualize your light and composition. Knowing what you want to show, you can get your exposure right, and have a great shot. I hope you’ll be posting yours this week, and get your vote tallied for next week’s theme!

Don’t forget to post any of your images you’d like to see here at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page. Of course, commenting on both Facebook and here is always appreciated, too!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Reviewing the Basics

Greetings, volks. Welcome to Hohenfels Volks, THE place for our place! Brrr. That’s our word of the day!

Today we’re going to review some of the basics of photography and exposure. This can all be found on our Introduction to Photography page. We should all have a good idea of this stuff, but it always helps to refresh the cup, so to speak.

First, we’ll address our exposure triangle. The triangle consists of 1- ISO or film speed, 2- shutter speed, and 3- aperture. To change exposure, you change any side of the triangle. To keep the same exposure, you have to change at least 2 sides. For instance, we set up on a sunny day at ISO 100, f/16, and 1/100. According to the “sunny 16 rule,” we’re good to go. But we want less DOF, so we need to increase our aperture. We go to f/4 to give us a shallow focus. If we don’t change another side of our triangle, we overexpose and create a mess. We have a 4-stop increase in the amount of light coming in, so we need a four-stop increase in shutter speed or 4-stop decrease in ISO. Since we can’t bring our ISO lower, we need to change our shutter speed to 1/1600. At 1/1600 at f/4, that gives us the same as 1/100 at f/16. If we want to increase our exposure, we can change any 1 side and either decrease our exposure or increase it depending on our new settings. For instance we want to increase our exposure on ISO 100, f/16, 1/100 2 stops, so increasing our aperture to f/8, decreasing our shutter speed to 1/25, or increasing our ISO to 400 will do just that. Remember, when we meter something, or a scene, the meter gives us the exposure for 18% gray, which is zone 5. Knowing this allows us to place the item we meter into different zones or exposure levels.

Next up, we’ll look quickly at depth of field, or DOF. This is a product of our focal length and aperture. The longer our lens’s focal length is, the shallower our DOF. The wider our aperture is, the shallower our DOF. This can be a good way to remove or minimize distractions. A 100mm lens at f/16 has about the same DOF as a 50mm lens at f/4. Focused at 10 feet, both give a DOF running from about 9.17 to 11 feet. Seeing that, you can deduce that a shorter lens has a wider DOF.

Remember, these 2 topics we’ve reviewed go together. By adjusting your aperture for a shallower DOF, you’ll have to change something else to maintain your exposure. If you wish to move into a new zone, you’ll change your DOF if you use your aperture to move zones.

We’ll review composition and inspiration in our next talk. Remember to vote and get your pics in early. I hope you’ll all participate in this week’s theme, solitude. We’re aiming for more votes for our theme, so get involved and let’s enjoy the journey together!

Don’t forget to post any of your images you’d like to see here at the Hohenfels Volks Facebook page. Of course, commenting on both Facebook and here is always appreciated, too! Don't foget, we're on Google+, too!