5 Tips For Awesome Summer Photos

Beaches provide excellent opportunities for digital photography because of their vast natural beauty. Impressive colors, textures and most of all – amazing light. Many consider a beach vacation to be a dream destination for a family trip, honeymoon or a casual get-away. Follow these tips to capture more exciting and creative beach photographs…

Capture the Fun!

Capture some the fun by getting your friends or family to run on the sand for some wonderful action shots. Be sure to protect your camera and lens from any kicked up sand!

Sunsets

Once the sun has started to set, grab your tripod to take images of the sky and sea. The water will look calm and there will be many captivating and vibrant colors. Place the camera on a sturdy tripod because of the lower light levels.

Avoid Shadows

When there is a bright sun, it means that harsh shadows are inevitable. There are a few things you can do; use fill-in flash which will bounce some light into the subject’s faces, especially the eyes to counteract the shadows. You can also zoom in closer using a standard or telephoto lens, cutting down on the amount of shadows.

Unique Subjects

Beaches are great settings to photograph wildlife. Birds like seagulls and sandpipers are a good choice. Make sure you use a good quality zoom or telephoto lens (at least 200 mm) to get close without disturbing your feathered friends.

Always Have a Camera

Finally the above tips are all useless if you don’t carry a camera -a cell phone doesn’t count- around with you at all times. You have to be ready to capture that great moment or happy event, so keep a camera in your pocket, bag, or pack at all times.

 

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10 Tips For Awesome Fireworks Photos

Fireworks 4bannnerJuly Fourth is just a few days away so I thought I would share my top 10 tips for capturing the color, drama, and spectacle celebrating our nation’s independence.  To get the best photos that will stand apart from all the others you’ll see after July 5th, try some, or all, of these tips.

1. Do Some Recon

To make your fireworks images stand out you’ll need to know in advance where the launch site is located and then position your shooting location so that you can include some interesting foreground elements that will provide scale and setting.  I also like to include the western sky when possible since most shows start shortly after twilight. The long exposure required for the pyrotechnics allows some of the last remaining color in the sky to register on the sensor. Finally, arrive early and claim a spot then spread out a bit to avoid latecomers plopping down in front of you at the last second and ruining your shots.Fireworks 5

2. Use a Tripod

You’ll need to secure your camera to eliminate any movement since photographing fireworks at night requires long exposures. I usually start around 2 seconds and vary the shutter speed throughout the evening for different visual effects.

3. Use a Cable Release

Whenever you’re using a tripod for stability during long exposures, use a remote release cable. It makes no sense to set everything up and then jab the shutter to start the exposure. Additionally,  this enables you to time your exposure for the peak moment of the bursts and will be necessary later if you decide to shoot in “Bulb” mode.

4. Composition

Start shooting horizontal and with a wide-angle lens to capture landscape versions that include the foreground and the last remaining light in the west. Switch to vertical and capture the entire launch from ground to sky. In both cases remember to keep the horizon level. Finally, switch to telephoto and fill the frame with the aerial burst.

Fireworks 4

5. Pre-focus Your Lenses

After you arrive and set everything up, use the last remaining daylight to prefocus on the launch site or an object that is approximately the same distance as the fireworks display. Prefocus each lens you’ll be using during the show and then turn the Auto-Focus off. Tape down the focusing collar with gaffers tape or blue painters tape to prevent it the lens from slipping out of focus. Once the show starts, it will be very difficult to focus the lens and you may waste precious time trying to get sharp images.

Fireworks 1

6. Exposure

10 seconds @ f/11 ISO 100   Manual mode.
You’re welcome…
OK, that just a starting point, but you MUST shoot in Manual mode and set the exposure yourself. I like to use a longer shutter speed to record the light trails and then change the f/stop to adjust the brightness and maintain the color. Lock down the ISO and aperture and change the shutter speed to change the look of the fireworks bursts. Long exposures create trails, short exposures stop the movement and freeze the elements in mid air.

7. Shoot In “Bulb” Mode

Sometimes I shoot in “Bulb” mode to get very long light trails. Press the remote release button as soon as you hear or see the mortar shooting into the sky and leave it open until the burst dissipates. This will usually take several seconds and the resulting light trails are very dramatic. Since the aperture is actually controlling the exposure, you can still record vibrant colors of the burst.  To record multiple bursts during a single long exposure, I use a piece of black 6″x 6″ Foamcore to cover the lens opening between launches. It takes a bit of practice and a little luck, but the results can be spectacular.

8. Shoot Early

Be prepared to start shooting at the very first boom.  Most pyrotechnicians set off a “salute” mortar to gauge the wind direction and to signal the crowd that the show is about to begin. This will be your cue to drop the beer and brats and grab the remote release. With some luck, the wind will be blowing away from you. If not, start shooting early because the smoke from the first few mortars will render subsequent images quite hazy.

9. Shoot Often

Shoot as many photos as you can.  Don’t spend a lot of time “chimping” (Google it…) but periodically check your photos for exposure, composition, and sharpness. Just don’t overdo it and miss a great shot.

10. Experiment…Firworks 2

After you have photographed a few keepers, change it up a bit…

  • Change your shutter speed to shorten or lengthen the light trails.
  • Set your camera’s white balance to Tungsten and Fluorescent to change the color.
  • Use your zoom lens and zoom in during a long exposure on one of the burst patterns.
  • Change the focus during a “Bulb” exposure from blurry to sharp to get cone-like effects from every point of light.
  • Include water, trees, and other landmarks to create more compelling compositions.
  • Shoot with a wide angle lens and ask a friend to stand in the foreground to create a silhouette.

Fireworks 00Bonus tips:

  • Bring a flash light. Add a red filter to preserve your night vision.
  • Bring extra batteries and memory cards. It sucks to run out of power or memory just before the Grande Finale.
  • Turn off your flash. It won’t have any impact and only annoys your neighbors.
  • JPEGS are okay. RAW is better. Less noise and artifacts / More control in post-processing.
  • Turn off the Image Stabilization (IS) / Vibration Reduction (VR) function on your lens.
  • Put some reflective tape on your tripod to improve it’s visibility to others walking near your site.
  • Pack a cooler with water and snacks…

~

FenwayFlag

July Print Special
Bring in your best fireworks photos to be enlarged and printed
and we’ll take 20% off our regular print prices.
Good for all sizes printed in-house at Omega Photo through July 31st.

~

Omega Photo
210 105th Ave NE
Bellevue, WA 98004
(Located between NE 2nd & NE 4th behind Safeway)

(425) 455-2126

Omega Photo website

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“Tank Man” 25 Years Later

Tank man 1

Photojournalists serve as the eyewitnesses to world history. They use their skills, resources, and ingenuity to do whatever it takes to ‘get the shot’, and bring light to the pressing social issues of the day.   I write this today because it marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most powerful and iconic spot news photos ever captured.

On June 5th, 1989 the famous “Tank Man” photograph was captured by Jeff Widener during the Tiananmen Square protest crackdown in Beijing.  The amazing story of how he captured one of the most widely viewed and famous news images ever,  involved luck, skill, and absolute cunning.  Although Widener’s image was a finalist for the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography, the top prize went to The Tribune staff for their coverage of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Great work to be sure, but I’ll bet you can’t remember a single iconic shot that represents the scope of damage that the quake did to the San Francisco Bay Area.

But when you see this photo…

tank-man-by-jeff-widener

You know EXACTLY what it represents. One man standing up to the injustice of a tyrannical regime…

And this one by Robert Capa 70 taken years on June 6th, 1944 during the D-Day invasion on Omaha Beach…

robert_capa D day

 

Another great story is how a lab tech ruined almost all of Capa’s film after Capa risked his life dodging bullets and artillery fire trying to get “close enough” to get good pictures.

While not all photojournalists are evading secret police or stray bullets, they have endured a rapid decline of respect and perception as professionals.  A year ago, the Chicago Sun Times laid off it’s entire staff of full-time photographers.  Freelancers, wire services, and reporters with cell phones will now provide the Times with daily images.  I’m waiting to see if the Chicago Sun Tribune reporters with their little cell phones will ever capture anything on par with these iconic masterpieces above.

Yeah, right… Let’s see how that works out for them.

File Photo. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

In this age of ubiquitous cellphones and inexpensive compact cameras, everybody thinks they’re a ‘photographer’…    … but only a few can call themselves a professional.

It takes years of training, practical experience, and a huge investment in equipment to become a skilled professional photographer.

If you are a working pro, charge what you’re worth.

And if you’re the client, please don’t mistake our passion as a “hobby”, and stop offering “exposure and publicity” as a substitute for our rates and fees. I checked with my mortgage lender, they still insist on cash for my monthly payment.

Fiat Lux…

– Jeff Greene

 

7 Tips for Better Landscape Photos

By Jenn Gidman / Jeff Greene
Images by David Akoubian / bearwoodsphoto.com.

David Akoubian has had plenty of practice photographing the great outdoors. Whether he’s exploring the region around his Georgia home in the mountains or leading one of his photography workshops to the Grand Tetons or Apalachicola; David has a special love of nature that translates effortlessly to his photography.

lighthouseVFor this series of images, David used the Tamron SP 24-70mm VC lens, a full-frame F/2.8 standard zoom that’s compact and lightweight for a day shooting outdoors.

Read on for some of David’s tips to get the most out of your landscape photography experience.

Choose the right lens. 

When you’re selecting a nature and landscape lens, you want to pick a lens that’s incredibly sharp and has great compression/decompression abilities.

When trying to stretch a landscape, the wide-angle end of the 24-70 gives you the decompression needed, “stretching” the landscape out and providing the ability to use a compositional element to grab the viewer’s attention.

For example, in the lighthouse image above, Akoubian literally jammed his camera down into the rocks. The rocks look so much bigger than the lighthouse itself, mainly because of that decompression factor.

creek

The same thing happened in this

image of a river with little ferns in the foreground. It was a perfect compositional element-the ferns are maybe 3 inches tall, but they look huge in the foreground thanks to the decompression factor of that lens. The front of the lens is about 12 to 15 inches away from the ferns, so they look really huge.

Evaluate the Scene 

Decide what kind of mood you’re trying to set. If you’re photographing a river decide if you want a stop-action image with a faster shutter speed to show the power of the water, or if you want to slow the shutter speed down and create a more relaxing mood.

Look for S-curves and C-curves

Lead a viewer into a photo with an S or C curve giving viewers a way to travel through the image. The S-curve look, typically starts at the bottom left and moves through the image to the upper right. For example, that could be a river winding through a landscape. On the other hand, waves crashing against a shoreline with a lighthouse might appear more masculine-the land against the sea appears to make a backward “C” shape.

lighthouseH

Use the “Rule of Thirds”

If you were to take a tic-tac-toe board and place it over your image, the power points are where those lines on the board intersect. Studies show that our culture tends to read left to right, top to bottom, so your focus points are typically in the upper left and lower right of your frame. Ideally, you should try to place your center of interest on one of those intersections.

Evaluate the Composition

You might think you’ve got a great shot, with ferns in the foreground and a river in the background, but then when you go to look through the viewfinder, you might see a big, bright rock or other distracting element in the lower left of the frame. If that’s the case, change your angle of view, blur out the background, or do whatever it takes to eliminate those distractions.

cactusEvaluate the Exposure.

A camera’s dynamic range is fairly limited compared to what the
human eye can see. To remedy that, mount your camera on a tripod, take one picture exposing for the foreground, one for the background, then I blend them together in Photoshop.

Use can also capture a set of images, exposed in 1-stop increments, and use HDR (high dynamic range) enhancement for scenes with very high contrast. Keep in mind that you don’t want to over use HDR resulting in  fake looking image, you want it to be complementary.

 

Filters

Use a high-grade circular polarizer. The polarizer will reduce glare enhance the sky and clouds, and saturate the greens in your image to make them richer.  A neutral density filter is also handy to darken scenes enabling you to use a slow shutter speed to blur movement.

All this being said, just slow down and don’t sweat the technical stuff so much. Take the time to select a lens and focal length, select your photographic elements, and compose the scene..
 
Create an image, capture the mood, and enjoy the moment.

-JMG.

7 Tips for Photographing Tonight’s Lunar Eclipse

1) Determine the Time of the Eclipse
Eclipse Phase   Pacific Time  
Penumbral Eclipse begins   Apr 14 at   9:55 PM  
Partial Eclipse begins   Apr 14 at 10:59 PM  
Full Eclipse begins   Apr 15 at 12:08 AM  
Maximum Eclipse   Apr 15 at 12:46 AM  
Full Eclipse ends   Apr 15 at   1:23 AM  
Partial Eclipse ends   Apr 15 at   2:32 AM  
Penumbral Eclipse ends   Apr 15 at   3:36 AM  

2) Use a Tripod & Shutter Release.
Nothing is steadier than a good quality tripod and although your exposures will be surprisingly short, if you’re using a long lens, you’ll need to keep it as steady as possible. Remember, if you forgot your remote release, use your DSLR’s 2-second timer.

3) Use a Long Lens
200mm is good.  300mm or 400mm is better… If you have a 2x converter, use it. For most shots you’ll want to fill the frame as much as possible.

4) Shoot in Manual Mode
Most photographers overexpose their moon photos when they rely on the camera’s auto modes. The moon is actually quite bright. Think about it, it’s being illuminated by the Sun so the Sunny 16 Rule is a very close estimation. Once the eclipse starts you may have to make some adjustments.
 
The photo above was taken during the lunar eclipse on December 10, 2011
Exposure: 1.6 seconds @f/5.6  ISO 1600

5) Shoot Wide Open
In a related note, select the widest aperture so you can use the fastest shutter speed possible. Remember, the earth is rotating and the long focal length will amplify movement.

6) Compose and Re-compose
Because of the aforementioned rotation of the earth, the moon’s position in your viewfinder will constantly shift. Make the necessary adjustment to keep the moon centered.

7) Create a Multiple Exposure of the Entire Eclipse
A very cool effect, especially if you have an extra camera, is to capture a multiple exposure of the entire eclipse sequence. Mount your camera with a wide angle lens, compose the scene with some interesting foreground, and capture an image every 30 minutes. Afterwards you can blend the different phases of the eclipse into a single image in Photoshop.

If you miss your chance tonight, no worries, the next total lunar eclipse visible in the US is on October 8th.
-JMG

8 Tips for Sharper Images

8 Tips for Sharper Images

Baywood Sunset, Morro Bay CA  / ©2014 Jeffrey M. Greene

How can I get my photos sharper?” is one of the most common questions I get asked during my workshops and seminars. There are no shortcuts to getting sharp images, so here are my eight suggestions for staying in focus:

1) Use a tripod

Nothing will keep your camera and lens fixed and steadier than a good quality tripod. There are lots of choices when purchasing a tripod system and there are basically two types you can choose from:

1. Tripods that are cheap, light weight, and easy to carry. 

                or…

2. Tripods that actually work…

I’ll discuss tripods in detail in a future newsletter, but you should be prepared to spend from $500+ for a carbon fiber model with a ball-head and quick release system.

2) Use a remote shutter release. 

It makes no sense to secure you camera to a tripod only to jab the shutter with your finger. Use a remote release.

Bonus Tip: If you forgot your remote release, use your DSLR’s 2-second timer. 

 

3) Capture in Live View Mode

The old-school advice for shutter speeds that are 1/4sec and slower was to enable “mirror lock-up” to reduce vibration. With Live View, the mirror is already secured since you’re viewing directly off the sensor. Bonus Tip: Enable Silent Mode 1 or 2 on Canon DSLRs. The simulated electronic shutter action reduces the vibration even further.

4) Achieve Critical Focus

Check and double-check your focus. In Live View, magnify the view on the LCD monitor to ensure that you’re in focus. Use a small aperture (f/11, f/16, f/22) to increase depth of field. A piece of blue painters tape or gaffers tape is perfect for securing the focusing ring and prevent it from slipping. 

5) Select a Fast Shutter Speed

If you’re shooting sports, (or ignoring Rule #1 above) select a fast shutter speed to freeze the action and reduce camera shake. For sports I recommend shooting at least 1/500sec, but 1/1000sec and faster is preferred. To reduce camera shake with a hand-held cameras, select a shutter speed that is the inverse of the lens focal length. Example: if you’re using 200mm lens, your shutter speed should be 1/200sec or faster.

6) Enable Image Stabilization / Vibration Reduction

Canon and Nikon both have lenses that feature technology that compensates for slight camera-shake from hand-holding a camera. Although it’s no longer required, I still recommend turning off this feature when using a tripod.

7) Minimize Filter Usage

The more glass you add to the front of the lens, the more the image may suffer degradation. There are proper times for using filters and I only carry three in my bag; a polarizer to reduce glare, a vari-ND to cut down light, and an IR filter for infrared photography. Many photographers affix UV filters to protect their objective lens, but in that case I strongly advocate buying a top brand UV (Heliopan, Hoya, B+W).

8) Invest in “Pro” Lenses

There is huge difference in quality (and price) between consumer lenses and the Canon L series and Nikon ED/N lenses. Glass quality, coatings, and construction all contribute to higher overall quality. Most experts will advise you to invest in “glass”. Camera bodies come and go, but a good lens can last forever.

 

For the sharpest images possible, I recommend that you follow all of these tips whenever you can. It takes time, patience, and effort; but that degree of diligence is what turns a snapshot into a great shot…

 

-Jeff Greene

Time to Spring Forward!

Spring Forward Today…

Today is the second Sunday of March and that means that it’s time to set your clocks to Daylight Saving Time.
ALL your clocks,  …don’t forget the internal clocks on your cameras.  

DST 2014 Spring 650px

The Good News is that we get an extra hour of daylight in the evening to follow our photographic pursuits.
The Bad News is that most of us will waste half a day running around the house setting all of our clocks one hour forward  instead of spending it outside shooting.

To set the time on most cameras, simply go to Menu > Camera Settings >Date/Time and make the necessary changes. I use my cell phone as an accurate reference for the correct time.  As you go through your home changing the other clocks in your house, make a list.  Before you know it November 2nd will be here and you’ll be reversing the process back to Standard Time.

Here’s my “Clock List“:

  • Master bedroom
  • Kid’s bedroom
  • Guest bedroom
  • Master bathroom
  • Guest bathroom
  • Office
  • Workshop
  • Kitchen Stove
  • Microwave
  • Coffee maker
  • Anniversary clock
  • Wristwatches
  • Cameras
  • My car
  • Her car
  • Motorhome

DST 2014 Spring Strip 650px

Tempus Fugit…

-Jeff Greene