Whale Tale

On a recent trip to Santa Cruz, I decided to go on a whale watching tour. For those who have never been on a whale watching tour, here are some tips in general and for photography.

  1. Pop them Pills – Now, if you thought I was speaking of drugs you were correct, that is, over the counter Dimehydrinate tablets, aka, Dramamine tablets. These are essential, especially, if you get motion sick easily. Even if you do not get motion sick easily, it is better safe than sorry. Besides either you keep your food or the fish get a nice snack.
  2. Jackets – I made the horrible mistake of not wearing a jacket, for this was my first whale tour. Unless you wish to feel like a polar bear, in December, in a snow storm, on top of Mount Everest, take a jacket.
  3. Elbows – They are there for a reason. I quickly learned that the elbows were designed, not as a strategic location for a joint, but as a deadly weapon. If your tour is full; first, prepare emotionally for the battle ahead. Then be sure to elbow your way to either side of the boat. Eventually whales will end up on your side, that is, if there are even any whales on your tour.

Photography tips.

  1. Do not be scared – Yes, some will argue their camera is more important than anything in the universe; however, you made the choice of being on a rocking boat, fully surrounded by enormous mammals that out weigh you by at least 200x and you payed for the experience. If you are worried about your camera getting wet, that is the least of your problems. Remember the camera can be replaced, but if you have to choose between a life-vest and your camera, please choose the life-vest.
  2. Timing – As I said the boat will likely be rocking. Timing the shot is difficult and very irritating at first. Later you will learn to anticipate when to take the shot. For what ever reason, in Santa Cruz sea lions always seemed to know where the whales would surface. I do not know whether this is just a Santa Cruz thing or if it is common in multiple areas. So, look for sea lions, they’re psychic.
  3. Gray – If you are using auto-focus, you better pray for a sunny day. Many cameras can not distinguish between a gray sky, with gray water, and gray whales. So, the camera’s ability to sense differences in color and lighting drops to a very low level, further complicating taking photos on a rocking boat full of irritated tourists. If the sky is gray and similar conditions occur, I recommend switching to manual-focus, if you have the option. This worked for me and is one of the few times where it is was required to go to manual-focus.

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Aperture: f/5.6  Shutter Speed: 1/500s    For all photos shown.
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Grey Whale

Free Willy, by liking or commenting on this post!

Luminescent Lighting

Lighting is what gives a photograph a personality. As a photographer one should say do I want this photo to be apparent or mysterious, vivid or bland, happy or depressed. These moods can be achieved by knowing how to use the four kinds of lighting.

  1. Diffused lighting – Lighting is spread evenly throughout the photo. Diffused lighting minimizes shadows in photos and ,some times, can eliminate all shadows in photos. Diffused lighting can also reduce the appearance of wrinkles in photos, so many portraits of older subjects use diffused lighting to their advantage. Diffused lighting can be created naturally when the sky is overcast. Since the sunlight is having to travel through a layer of clouds, the light is spread out. Diffused lighting creates a mysterious or bland scene; however, it all depends on the subject. As seen in the photo below there are no apparent shadows and the lighting is mostly even throughout the photo due to an overcast sky.grad
  2. Back lighting – Caused when the light source is located behind the subject. Excellent for creating a sense of drama and for creating silhouettes. Back lighting is simple to achieve, especially around sunrise and sunset. When the sun is at a low position in the sky it is easier to place a subject in between the sun and camera creating back lighting. As seen in the photo below some storm clouds are back lit by the setting sun creating a silhouette of the clouds.clouds
  3. Front lighting – Caused when the light source is in front of the subject. Unfortunately, front lighting places shadows behind the subject and can cause these photos to appear “flat”. The flat feeling is a result of the loss of shadows and makes these photos seem more two dimensional. The photo below is an example of front lighting. Now, while this photo is not exceptionally flat, due to the motion of the water, it is still front lighting.
  4. Side lighting – Caused when the source of lighting is located at one side of a subject. As a result of the source of light coming from one side of the subject, usually one half of the subject will be well lit, while the other half is covered in a shadow. The subjects curves and edges are noticeable allowing for the differentiation of elevation on the subject. Side lighting can cause a three dimensional effect to appear in a photo. Side lighting is also exceptionally good for dramatic photos. As seen below the subject is side lit allowing for parts of the rock formation to be well lit, while other areas are blanketed by shadows.

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How to Photograph the Milky Way

This post is great. Be sure to visit Cornwall Photographic if you like the post.

Cornwall Photographic

The Milky Way

This tutorial covers the basic steps necessary to capture images like the one above. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is shaped, as the late Sir Patrick Moore, (a BBC, well actually, national institution described it, a man who presented a late night astronomy programme for 55 years) like two fried eggs back to back.  We live about halfway across the white.  It’s about 25,000 light years to the centre of the galaxy and about 25,000 light years to the edge.  With light travelling at 186,000 miles per second, getting your head around how far light can travel in an hour, let alone a year and then multiplying that by 25,000 to get to either the edge or the centre of the galaxy from where we are situated, it really is quite mind-boggling.

The size, the complexity, the multitude of stars and planets, standing on a beach or a cliff top…

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Luring Landscapes

Warning extreme bias: Hint (I love landscape photography).

Landscape photography is by far my favorite kind of photography. The sights and smells one can experience when shooting landscapes is indescribable. Yet, it is surprisingly easy to take amazing landscape photos, as long as one follows, the previously, unwritten rules.

  1. Maximize depth of field – also known as one’s aperture, depth of field is essential in any photograph, including landscape photography. The general approach in landscape photography is to set your camera to either aperture priority mode or manual mode and set the aperture to the highest f/stop. Aperture priority may appear as the symbol above. Once this is done find the rest of the settings until your camera indicates a correct exposure and click.
  2. Always use a tripod – Tripods allow landscape photographers to shoot at any shutter speed their camera is capable of shooting at. This means one does not have to sacrifice the slowing of motion in a photo. The slowing of motion is another rule when photographing landscapes. Adding motion to a landscape photo can create some very dramatic effects in one’s photos that are sure to impress others.
  3. Fill the foreground – By placing objects in the foreground a sense of depth is created in the photo. This sense of depth can allow viewers a kind of path to follow in one’s photos.
  4. Always consider the sky – If the sky is filled with colors, drama, and/or clouds try adding more of it to the photo. The sky is a great way to get attention in a photo.
  5. Consider 5AM and 5PM – I refer to these times as the “glory hours”. What this means is try to take landscape photos near dawn and sunset. These times allow a greater variety of colors to be captured and increase the chances of capturing a dramatic sky.

Examples: The photo below was taken with an aperture of f/36. Notice the use of a tripod allowed for a long exposure photo to be taken; which, slowed motion and created a cotton candy effect in the water. The rocks in the foreground are mainly located near the center and are lined up to point in the direction of the rotting log in the water.

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In this photo the aperture was set at f/20. The sky is visibly dramatic and the foreground includes near-by vegetation to frame the valley below.

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In this photo the aperture is set to a low f/4. Using a tripod, a lower shutter speed was used to capture the colors of a morning sun rise over a mountain lake. P.S. I woke up at 5 am for this photo and no I don’t regret it.

Early morning lightLandscapes are everywhere. The examples shown today were only of natural landscapes, but even if you can’t access these types of areas try other landscapes, like city landscapes. Don’t worry the same rules apply when photographing cities, just watch out for interesting sights!

IMG_0204AYes, its not a real landscape, but how often do you see that!

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Major Macro

Macro photography, also known as close-up photography, is an easy way to create amazing photos of subjects both large and small. Most cameras have a setting for macro photography built in, with the symbol usually looking like the symbol below.

For those wishing to abandon the, sometimes annoying decision making software in a camera, one could always go manual.

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When choosing to go manual for taking macro photos one should begin by setting the aperture to its lowest f/stop. For example, in this photo I set the camera’s aperture to f/6.3. This will give the background a nice blur. The blurred background ensures that only the subject will be visible and in focus. Arguably, the most important element in marco photography is the aperture.Flower 1

The image above was taken at an aperture of f/4.5. Notice the background is blurred throughout leaving only the flower in focus.

The image below was taken at an aperture of f/40. Notice the background is, for the most part, in focus.

IMG_0405_1135While, one image is taken at a low f/stop and the other at a high f/stop, the subject is the same. Yet, we end up with very different photos and different stories. Of course, one may take a photo in whichever way they feel like. I prefer a blurred background for most of my macro photos, but everyone is different and free to tell their story, their way.

Whether, one chooses to use a preset or go manual, a final tip for taking macro photos is to always be at your subjects height. Being at the same height as one’s subject gives a different perspective that is often seen in photos. This is especially important when taking macro photos of wildlife, for if the subject is an animal, it will feel more comfortable when one is at its height. Disclaimer: Do not try this with a bear. Instead try a squirrel. I assure you, they are much more fun.If you enjoyed this post please like or comment.

The Attraction of Abstraction

Although it has existed as its own genre for many years, abstract photography is still one of the most difficult art forms to define. So, what really is abstract photography? Since it has no true definition abstract photography can be defined by the following characteristics:

  • Does not represent the subject in a literal way.
  • Communicates primarily through lighting ,form, color, and curves rather than image detail.
  • Many are close-ups or Macro-photos of larger subjects.

I will next display and describe some of my own abstract photos.

StairsSo, if you have not tried to guess what the photo is of take a moment to interpret it.

Notice the photo is very linear and features the contrast of dark colors on lighter colors. The photo also uses lighting to its advantage. The unusual patterns and textures bend light around its grooves and angles.

This photo was taken at the bottom of a staircase at the California Institute of Technology campus. Now that we know what it is one may be disappointed if their interpretation was incorrect, but that is the beauty of abstract photography. Ones own interpretation of a piece of abstract photography is always correct, because the next person will likely interpret the photo in a very different way than you.

Green leafIn this photo we also have a linear form with the subject being a green triangle. The green of the subject has a gentle contrast with the lighter greens and yellows in the background.

This is a Macro-photo of an agave leaf. The agave plant was located at the Mission Santa Barbra, California.LightsThis photo uses light to communicate. With different lengths and colors of light, the origin appears to be the center.

This is a photo of a tree with Christmas lights in the city of Solvang, California. Or if you were just up to some illegal activities this is reality. Remember, don’t do drugs kids. More on this photo and similar ones in a separate post.

One must remember that while these photos may seem complex, all it really takes is a little observation, creativity, and a camera.

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