It’s Winter, get your camera out!

Winter is a great time to get out and take some pictures. One of the biggest reasons is the early dusk / sunset light. The light at this time of day is soft and can bring out some beautiful tones in nature scenes. The advantage of Winter? Sunset comes earlier so we don’t need to wait.

Before venturing out and taking some great images though, make sure you are prepared.

1 – Make sure your battery is fully charged, and it is best to have a fully charged spare with you. Cold weather is hard on batteries so plan ahead. If you live where it is really cold think about the cranking sound your car makes.

2 – Make sure you have enough space on your memory card, and always carry a spare.

3 – If you are going from a warm space to a cold one, this can result in fogging of your lens. Plan ahead and acclimate your gear to the cooler temps. I find that a shed, trunk of my car, or other place for 30 minutes is perfect. The opposite is true in the summer when going from outside to an air conditioned building.

4 – If it has snowed, your camera sensor if on auto settings will either set the ISO on an average of light or on the brightest point, which is going to be snow. To minimize this, I carry a grey card with me to establish my settings. An alternative is to underexpose the image. If you don’t do this upfront, you will blow out all of the color and highlights. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to re-capture the information in post processing. Resist the temptation to start shooting immediately and take some time to assess your particular situation.

5 – If it is snowing, and you are lucky enough to have a lens cover, use it. Unless the snow is blowing in horizontally to you, it should leave your lens clean and clear.

6 – I like using a polarizing filter. These can be purchased really cheaply in stores, on Amazon, or any photographic equipment retailer (B&H is a great one). Make sure you buy one that is for the size lens you have. They are always in MM (millimeter) measures. A filter like this will help with blue skies, water, foliage, etc.

7 – Carry a clean microfiber or other soft cloth. You may need to clean dust off your lens, but if it is snowing, you will get water drops on your lens occasionally.

8 – It’s likely colder out…so you will be too. As you shake and shudder this will be picked up by your camera. Especially with slow shutter speeds. If possible, use a tripod, monopod, or other stabilizing foundation (a fence post can work) to minimize shake.

Have fun. Taking images thru falling snow, the contrast of car tail lights on a white backdrop, or kids riding sleds or skating, can be used to not only capture great images but as an opportunity to practice using your settings and getting more comfortable.

Getting Comfortable With Auto

Welcome back to SimplifyingPhotography. Our goal is to get everyone comfortable with their camera in a simple to read and understandable fashion. In our last post we asked you to take your camera out, review the manual that came with it, and get comfortable with the dials and buttons on it.

Since most people likely have a digital single lens or full frame camera, we will use that as the basis for our exercises. If you have a point and shoot, many of the exercises will still be applicable, you might need to review the manual or onboard documents to find some of the settings.

Now that you have checked that your batteries are charged and you have room on your memory card, pick up your camera. As a safety precaution I ensure that the neck strap is around my neck. Hold the camera in your left hand, and on top, you should see a dial that has letters on it such as A, S, M, Auto, P, and depending on the manufacturer of your camera maybe a few others. Turn the dial to Auto or whatever the complement is for your make.

Next, let’s minimize as much image distortion as we can using some other settings. The two big one’s are on the lens itself, especially if you have a lens that covers multiple focal lengths. Yours might be 18 – 55MM or 55 – 200MM, or some other variation.

First, there is normally a switch labeled as M / A. The M is for manual focusing on the subject. The A is to allow the lens to coordinate with the camera body programming and let the camera auto-focus. Set it to A. Next, on your lens is a switch for image stabilization. If your lens, especially those with longer focal lengths, make sure it is turned on. Even though you think you are standing still, there are always slight variations and movements in posture, hand and arm shakes, and even breathing. Today’s modern cameras and accessories are very sensitive. Turning on image stabilization allows the computer software to compensate for this. Note small movements can be exaggerated with longer lenses…in part because they are heavier to hold.

In future posts we will get into more detail, but for now, find something that you want to take an image of. Indoor, outdoor, doesn’t matter. With our camera on Auto mode, what we are asking our camera to do is control all of the functions that we might set for shutter speed, aperture size (amount of light the lens lets in), and ISO or light sensitivity. We are also going to allow the camera software to compensate for the ambient light present. Basically, if we are in a room with incandescent light, which gives a yellow tinge, the camera will compensate and attempt to lessen the amount of yellow present in the image.

In full disclosure, I am not a fan of Auto, but most people I interact, with some really expensive gear, only use Auto, and have never read their manual. I am using this to get us started.

Exercise: Take a picture three times, at different times and lighting conditions. Take the image. Either through your viewfinder or using the monitor, note the shutter speed, ISO, and aperture for each picture.

Review: With the three images, compare the shutter speed, aperture setting, and ISO for each image. As the lighting changes, these metrics will change. This indicates that the camera is making decisions on how to best take a picture under the conditions presented. If comparing bright afternoon light versus evening or low room lighting, the ISO might be higher, indicating that in the evening we needed more light sensitivity. Maybe too, the shutter speed changed, like going longer in low light.

Look at your images. What do you like? What would you change if you could. If you took a close up of a child or a flower or tree, was everything in crisp focus so that it distracted from your subject? If something was moving, was it blurred or not?

To understand the impact of changing ISO, if you can, print or look at the images on your computer screen. A big screen really helps for this. The image with the lowest ISO setting should be relatively crisp and clear. The image with the highest ISO setting, when enlarged, will show some grain. Imagine if you wanted to blow this up to poster size and hang it on a wall. Well, you’d be disappointed.

Every adjustment you make on a camera impacts something else. The art and technology of taking images is knowing how the key settings of ISO, shutter speed, and aperture interact with one another. We’ll start to handle this in our next post when we concentrate on shutter speed, or shutter priority.

Let’s Simplify Photography

Welcome to SimplifyingPhotography, a blog dedicated to making photography easy and enjoyable, written by Joe Bucherer (joebuchererphotography.com).

I go to parties, weddings, group events with my camera and some gear, and people express interest in taking pictures, but think it is overly technical and hard. Things like shutter speeds and the dreaded F-Stop, get in the way. As a result they opt for use of their phone camera, which is fine, but there are severe limitations, the biggest being that when they have something they really like, it gets grainy when it gets enlarged.

I’ll be the first to admit – take the picture with the best camera you have with you, but don’t be afraid of a camera. Whether a point and shoot, a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex), or tablet understand the fundamentals to capture the memory.  Let’s get to the basics of photography and have some fun.  That is my goal – I hope its yours too!

Over successive posts, we’ll cover various topics in a non-technical format (read this as plain English), try and provide some examples to illustrate things, and some practice suggestions. You set the pace.

So, just what is photography?  It is the act of capturing light in a box on some matter that allows what you are looking at to be copied, or better yet, painted with light.  In the old days, this was with film, comprised basically of silver and chemicals that produced what we call a picture.  Today, things are captured digitally, or electronically, by sensors in our devices.

The colors we see everyday are based on different levels of light. Red has a certain light energy and so does blue. Likewise, different types of indoor lighting give off different hues. As an example, incandescent light from traditional light bulbs gives off a yellow hue – this is why that paint you bought in the store or fabric you selected for furniture may not look the same in your home and its particular lighting conditions.

So, as a next step, get that camera out of wherever you have been hiding it, or if you do take pictures but want to get more comfortable, give it a look over. In the next few posts we will cover a few topics to get us started. Each post will be on a specific topic and can be done back to back or when you are comfortable moving on. Briefly though, the next topics will be:

  • ISO (also called ASA) or the sensitivity of the camera to light.
  • Shutter Speed – This is the speed with which your aperture (the opening that lets light into your camera) opens or closes. 
  • Aperture – The size of the opening that lets light in.
  • The control dial with all those letters like M, A, S, and A / AUTO on it.

Along the way we’ll have exercises and examples…and that all important comment box so we can share our experiences.

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus you own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.