Photography practical

What you realize you when get into photography is that it is such a long journey of learning. There is just so much to know in regards to techniques and equipment and it takes many hours of shooting and experimenting to even begin to get a grasp of what is involved. And of course, most budding photographers just do not have the time to be taking pictures every day

Personally I do a lot of reading and then try different techniques to see what I can come up with. You know when you are getting better when you look at older "great" photos you took to realize they really aren't that great. I still have a very long road to travel This is a very basic page designed to help the beginner or novice

photographing waterfalls

To get worthwhile results, a tripod must be used. Shutter speed of 1/4, 1/8, 1/2 etc, are good starting points. The slower the shutter, the greater the blur of the water. Also key, is using mirror lock up and a remote trigger or camera timer. These will minimize vibrations and achieve the sharpest photo possible

As you are slowing down the shutter speed, a lot more light is being let in. Even closing down the aperture [F22, F29 etc] and setting the ISO to 100, may still yield an overexposed photograph at slow shutter speeds. Additionally, these very high apertures do not yield the sharpest photographs due to diffraction. Of course polarizers help decrease shutter speeds, the use of ND Filters [neutral density] may still need to come into play. They reduce the amount of light [2,3,4+ stops etc] reaching the sensor. So with just the application of 4 stop ND Grad, a properly exposed shot that yields a 1/15 Tv can become a more silky shot of 1 second
  • Shot at 1/5th. SS does not produce a fluid result
  • This 2 second exposure has a nicer effect
You can buy filters for specific lenses which thread in like a regular UV/Protective filter or purchase a filter holder. A filter holder is better way to go in most cases. It allows you to use the filters on various diametre lenses with the use of an inexpensive adapter ring and for filter changing and stacking it is much quicker and easier to use. Cokin, Lee, Singray etc are the names to look for


The use of a polarizer will not only reduce the exposure by 2-3 stops, it also accentuates colour and reduces reflection on the water. Although expensive, they are an essential investment for this type of photography. Both B&W and Rodenstock make good polarizer's

These pictures illustrate a dramatic difference between a standard filter compared to a polarizer. Simply turn the polarizer while you look in the viewfinder and stop turning when the reflections are minimized. It also helps to change angles. Being 90 degrees to the sun will likely maximize the effect of the polarizer, with the sun in front or behind you there will be no polarizing effect

  • Withoug a polarizer you get a lot of glare
  • A huge difference by rotating the circular polarizer

Black Background
I personally love the look of a black background. It draws attention to the main subject of your photograph. This effect is most easily achieved by using a flash with a very high shutter speed. You need to shoot in manual and you can also dial back the zoom range of your flash Essentially what happens is the shutter speed is so fast that only the close object has a chance to be exposed

  • Fast shutter speed and white dog = black background
  • High speed and flash creates subject isolation

The dog photo provided a high contrast and the 1/1000 Tv didn't allow for exposure of the backdrop. No flash was used in this picture. The second photo was more contrived, with a flash and 1/8000 Tv which is very very quick. The couch is lost in the background and there is just a little glare from the flash showing on the wood paneling

Other techniques involve draping black cloth behind your subject but I have yet to experiment with that approach

Improving Portraits

Taking good portraits is a skill unto its own. I really thought I captured a nice one with this picture but upon reflection, there are 2 big flaws with it

First, a little fill flash would be nice to reduce the shadowing in the face. I now have a Lumiquest Ultrasoft diffuser and a CB Mini-RC flash bracket which would have done wonders. A diffuser and bracket are essential tools to get good portraits. Secondly, with a Av of 13, there is little blur of the background. This would have been a chance for the bokeh to shine given the distance between the subject and trees.

If I was to do it over, I would use my 35mm 1.4L @ 2.8 - 4 using a fill flash w/diffuser
Sun behind - no squinting eyes, hair highlights but you need fill flash

Macro Tips

This is a great facet of taking pictures that I enjoy. DOF [depth of field] is of critical concern because as you move in, zoom in and open up the aperture, the range of focus is reduced

In most cases, macro is done with high aperture settings in order to maximize the depth of field. F11 is a sweet spot without much sharpness loss due to lense diffraction. The pictures right illustrate when you would not want a larger depth of field

  • Good DOF, but poor aesthetics
  • Ring is still sharp and the skin is smooth

The first picture has an aperture setting of 18 and it works too well, showing all the lines in the skin which is not attractive. In the second photo, the aperture has been opened up to F5, which just really brings the ring into focus and the skin is much more appealing