All posts by Michael Coppola

Black and White Photography

Black and white photography, how do I do that on my camera?

What is it?

I have mentioned before that in terms of the photographic process, not much has changed over the last 100 or so years, yes cameras don’t use film, they have auto focus and metering systems and much much more, so why do some people only shoot in black and white?  In this blog post I will give you some reasons when and why I shoot in black and white.

How do I use it on my camera?

Every camera model does black and white photography differently, but in your menu you will have the ability to make your camera shoot in black and white, on a Canon camera it is part of the “Picture Style” menu.

BEFORE you make this change please note, if you are shooting “JPG” only, the images you take will only be black and white and will not be able to be changed to colour in any way.

I shoot both RAW and JPG, which allows me to get a JPG which is black and white and a RAW file which I can process and get a colour image from it.

You can of course remove the colour from a colour image using photo editing software, by adjusting the saturation of the image, but in my opinion I prefer it when the camera does it, I get much nicer blacks and crisper whites, but its only my opinion.  

What does it do to my pictures?

By using black and white, you can change the mood of a picture, remove a highlight from a picture where something brightly coloured would distract the subject or just enjoy the highlights tones and shadows of the subject that you are capturing.


black and white photographyIn these two examples, the bright colours take your eye away from the scene, and distract the viewer dragging their eye to the bright colours instead of exploring the scene.

black and white photographyIn this image I was shooting the duckling (with a Canon of course) through some reeds on the river bank, even though the reeds are very out of focus, this was done by using a very small aperture, the colour distracts the eye away from the duckling.   

black and white photographyWith this image, the dynamic range was quite large a HDR could have been used to get colour in the sky and the details under the trees, however in black and white the slightly overexposed sky is grey and the slightly under exposed sections in the trees are black.  The eye is drawn to the correctly exposed light post.

black and white photographyWhilst doing the wedding dance the DJ decided that his 4 colour disco lights were very cool, the light from them however really messed with the white balance of the ambient lights, by changing to black and white, the images are only of the moments being captured, and not the crazy colours in the picture.

Try This

Grab your cameras manual, or google how to change your camera to black and white, go out and have some fun. That’s what photography is all about, experimenting and trying new things.

Exposure Triangle

When shown the exposure triangle for the first time I nearly cried, it made no sense and was so hard to understand.

As my photographic courses are aimed at the beginner level, I wanted to create an info-graphic to help people understand how shutter speed and aperture interacted with each other.

The exposure triangle also includes a third axes which is ISO, however, I feel that this confuses beginners, when this interaction is fully understood, the concept of how ISO affects the images is easier to comprehend.

The two sides to photography I teach are, understanding how aperture affects how much of the image is in focus, and how shutter speed either freezes action or blurs movement.

This info-graphic shows how they interact, please share it with anyone who you think might want to see it.exposure triangle

No Green Square Video Lessons

No Green Square is launching a new series of video lessons, that will help you get the best out of your camera.

Here is the first video, I have four more videos in this series that discuss cameras, lenses and memory cards.

These introductory videos will teach you how to hold your camera what the different types of cameras are and what some of the numbers on the lenses you see mean.

No Green Square will be launching a new series of videos that will follow on from these introductory videos which will cover Aperture, Shutter SpeedISO, white balance, auto focus modes, metering and how they all interact.

I look forward to teaching you how to get the best out of your camera.

Time lapse photography

What is it?

Time lapse photography is a technique that involves taking lots of still images and then using the images to make a short video.

Generally a time lapse photography would be taken on a tripod of a scene where things are moving through the scene, a building being erected, a sunrise or the stars moving across the sky. The images are taken with some sort of remote picture taking mechanism like an intervalvometer.  If you ever watched any of the Wallace and Gromit movies, this sort of animation is time lapse. You could also have the camera mounted on a sliding rail so the camera moves between the frames to give a different effect.

How do I use it on my camera?

You will need to pick a location that will allow you to get the movement you want, the simplest is the clouds moving across the sky and the sun rising or setting in a sunrise or sunset. You will need a tripod and a remote shutter cable with a intervalvometer, this is a device that will allow you to set the number of images you take and the timing between the images. Depending on the make and model of your camera, some are now incorporating this feature into the camera.

The next step is to set up, and sit back and take the pictures. Video plays at 24 fps (frames per second), that’s industry speak for every second of video you watch has 24 still pictures in it, so if you want to create a 1 minute time lapse of a sunset you will need 60 (seconds) x 24 (frames) = 1440 images. Stretching a sunrise over 1 minute though may be a little too long, so making it much shorter may be better.

So you will need a few things other than the tripod and intervalvometer, before you start you will also need to have a fully charged battery, a memory card big enough to capture all the images, note that 1080p video or “HD” is 1920×1080 pixels, or approximately 2 mega pixels! Yes most cameras are at 3 to 15 times larger in megapixel size. So you could reduce the image size in your camera to allow the memory card to hold more images without reducing the quality of the video.

So how do I set up the camera? Depending on the type of scene you have selected it may be as simple as using the camera in Aperture Priority mode and allowing the camera to set the rest of the settings, note that if you are doing a sunset, the images will get darker as the sun sets, so you need to factor what the last images settings will be in order to make sure all the images work. A simple way of making sure the camera gets the same style of images across the entire set of images, is to use auto ISO so that as it gets darker the camera adjusts the ISO to suit.

Once all the images are taken, you will need to use video production software to make a slideshow, both Windows and Apple users will have inbuilt free software that will do this.

Here are a few of the images that were taken for the video.

Time lapse photographyDicky Beach:  Canon 5D Mark II, ISO 1600 F4 30 seconds.

Time lapse photographyDicky Beach:  Canon 5D Mark II, ISO 1600 F4 30 seconds.

Time lapse photographyDicky Beach:  Canon 5D Mark II, ISO 1600 F4 30 seconds.

Try This

Find a spot where the sun sets or rises and you can take about 10 minutes of images as the sun rises, remember to be set up just before the sun breaks, take a photo every half a minute for ten minutes that’s only 20 shots and you could do that manually without the intervalvometer, using the 10 second self timer. Most windows and mac computers come with movie making software that will allow you to put the images together and make a video.

Sigma Art 50mm F1.4

The new Sigma 50mm Art F1.4 lens would have to be the best built non Canon lens I have ever owned. That is a big statement, and below I would like to explain why I picked this lens up and why I had to have it in my kit bag.

Sigma Art 50mm F1.4

A little about why I had to have one
When I am not teaching photography I am usually in a gym or CrossFit box doing indoor action photography, usually in very poor light, yes the ISO technology has come a long way and ISO 6400 is very usable on my 6D, but like everything I wanted more. I own the three aperture F2.8 lenses the 16-35mm 24-70mm and 70-200mm all Canon L series lenses and all have amazing optics, and fast focusing USM, Canon terminology for Ultra Sonic Motor. I had been using the 16-35mm and 70-200mm in these gyms, and found that the 70-200mm was too long, to get the images I wanted, I needed to be a step or three further back, and then people at the events would not see me and walk between me and the subject, it’s a busy competition so it is hard to stop people doing that.

I needed something shorter, yes I do own the 24-70mm, but I also wanted to separate the competitors from the background more than the F2.8 allowed, and wanted a little more light in these dark scenarios so I could use a faster shutter speed. I started looking at alternatives, Canon make a very very nice 50mm F1.2 L series lens, has the same USM focus system as all my other L series lenses and is F1.2!!! It’s quite an expensive lens, and I could not justify the expense to trial the lens. I had thought of hiring it for a weekend, but instead bought a Canon 50mm F1.4 lens, it is not an L series lens, its focus system is also USM, but not on par with the other L series lenses I own. I used it at a few competitions on a 7D mark II and I really liked the length and how it felt in terms of crop and closeness to my subjects, without being in their face I was getting a nice cropped image of the athlete.

Sigma Art 50mm F1.4CrossFit: 7D Mark II, Sigma Art 50mm F1.4 F1.4 ISO 1000 and 1/350th the ability to take the background out of the picture and crop in to get the shot is just right.

So I had proved I liked the length on my 7D Mark II, but the images were a little soft, and occasionally, especially when shooting at F1.4 the images were just out of focus. I had read that this was not uncommon, and that it was part of that lens.

So now I had a problem, I liked the length, needed the F1.4, what to do. The release of the Sigma Art 50mm F1.4 fixed all that. I had read that the optics of this lens were very very good, some say that optically, it is the best 50mm lens on the market, but the ability to focus was my concern.

I wanted to test the focusing ability of the lens, I went into digiDIRECT in Adelaide Street, Brisbane and spoke to Emma, they had one on the shelf and more in stock, the first thing I noticed was it was very well made, the body is all metal, and it is quite heavy, I like the weight in my hand, as it makes it feel purposeful, it has a plastic switch for turning off the focus, but importantly has a large easy to grip focus ring, that allows you to manually override focus at any time. It uses a 77mm filter thread too, which is great as all my other lenses have the same size.

I put it on my Canon 7D Mark II  and had a trial, whilst in the store I did a near focus far focus test, focusing on the counter and then focusing on the buildings across the street, then coming back to the counter, I was impressed! The lens uses the HSM; the Sigma trade name for Hyper Sonic Motor similar to the USM of Canon, and it is as good as the Canon L series lenses I am currently using.

I was hooked, I needed one NOW! Of course digiDIRECT had them in stock, I walked out happy!

What does it do to my pictures?

After all that writing, the proof is in the pictures, taken on both the Canon 6D and 7D Mark II, I really love the creamy out of focus background that this lens creates, and how it really allows you to separate the subject from the background.

Sigma Art 50mm F1.4Agapanthus: 7D Mark II Sigma Art 50mm F1.4 ISO 100 F1.4 1/6000th. The little flowers on the back of this stem are already starting to blur away.

Sigma Art 50mm F1.4Bike rider Riverside: 6D Sigma Art 50mm F1.4 ISO 100 F1.4 1/4000th the rider is separated from the background.

Sigma Art 50mm F1.4Bamboo: 7D Mark II Sigma Art 50mm F1.4 ISO 100 F2 1/8000th even shooting into the sun, the lens has little lens flare (lens hood included with the lens) and did not have trouble focusing on the backlit leaves.

Sigma Art 50mm F1.4Best man speech: Canon 7D mark II Sigma Art 50mm F1.4 ISO 1600 F1.4 1/125th having the F1.4 aperture allowed me to shoot at a reasonable shutter speed to get the shot.

At about half the price of the Canon 50mm F1.2 L series lens, the Sigma Art 50mm F1.4 lens is very good value. The Art range of lenses represents a major step forward for Sigma, they are no longer just a manufacturer of great glass, they are now incorporating excellent build quality and amazing focusing technology. They used to say Sigma lenses were half the price for 95% the quality, I think that is no longer true.

Low Light Photography

I read a post about low light photography on another website that I thought was going to give the reader some amazing insight, instead the first point on the list was to buy new equipment. I was a little disappointed as I was expecting it to be about how to get the best of what you have, not spend more money to get better photos. So here are a few quick tips to use what you have to get better photos.

Low light photographyThis shot was taken at 16mm and hand held at 1/8th of a second. I have steady hands.

If you only have the lens that come with your camera, and the lens has floating aperture and ranges from F3.5 – 5.6, it makes sense to use the lens at the F3.5 aperture setting, which means you wont be able to zoom. You will need to use foot zoom instead (walking closer)

Use a high ISO,  most new cameras have at least ISO 1600 many have ISO 6400 and beyond, yes the picture will have noise, but, is a noisy picture that is not blurry better than a blurry photo, don’t be scared to use the highest setting and see what the pictures look like.  If you are not blowing the images up and making them large, the noise will be insignificant in some cases.

Use a slower shutter speed, if you are using the lens that comes with your camera, and using it at F3.5 it also means your lens will be at about 18mm focal length. The general rule for hand holding a camera is 1/focal length, in this case 1/18 (say 1/20th), it is best to test how good you are at hand holding these sorts of speeds, or even testing if you have steady hands and can hold it steady for an even slower shutter speed. Note: if you are photographing moving subjects this will not really work, unless you are panning with them. Best to brace yourself or use something to keep you steady.

Low light photographyThis shot was taken at 70mm and at 1/8th of a second, hand held, I used a tree to help me hand hold this at such a slow speed.

Be aware that your cameras light meter may not be reading the scene properly, if you are in a dark room and taking a picture of a person blowing out the candles on a cake, the dark room will make the camera expose for the darkness in the room,  not the brightness of the candle, you can change the settings to suit the light of the candle, give it a try.

If you don’t own a tripod, you can always use a chair, bin, can, drum or anything else you can rest your camera on. A small bean bag works or bag of rice works a treat. Note: you get to eat the rice after too. You can even put your camera on the ground which gives you a different perspective as well.

If you do not have a cable release which is a device that allows you to remotely trigger the shutter with out jarring the camera when you press the shutter button, you can set your cameras self timer which is a 10 second delay, the setting that allows you to get into the picture.

Low light photographyThis image was taken using the self timer, as I did not have a self timer, it was one of the first images I took on my Canon 300D camera with the lens that came with the camera.

By using the above strategies and testing your camera so that you understand how it will work in these situations, the next time you are in a poorly lit room, you will be better prepared to tackle the little light you have head on.


Why did I buy a Canon EOS 6D

It is a very good question indeed. As a very technical shooter, who likes to twiddle with all the knobs buttons and settings on a camera, and who after all is teaching that the camera does not make the photographer, some of my decision was based on practicing what I preach.

I recently upgraded from a 5D mark II and a 7D, I have always used two bodies, as each had its advantages and disadvantages, but they complemented each other. The 5D II was great in low light (for its age) and the 7D was a focus monster for the money it cost at the time. I originally bought the 7D to replace an aging 1D Mark II.

In 2013 just after the 5D mark III was released, a friend of mine who has a great mix of bodies and lenses (1DX’s and 5D III’s) asked me to help him out as he was double booked. It was motorsport and of course I said yes. As payment he offered me his 5D III for about a month to have a bit of fun with. I ended up taking about 5 to 6 thousand images on the camera as well as doing a wedding. It was fantastic it focused like a machine (better than the 7D and had amazing capabilities even at ISO 25600! It was sorted when I could I was going to replace my 5D II with one.  So why did I buy a Canon EOS 6D?

When Canon released the 6D, it was full frame, it had the same ISO capabilities as the 5D III, which was one of the things I really “needed” it didn’t have the focus system of the 5D III but the important thing was it was much better in low light focusing than the 5D II, the biggest let down of the 5D II (in my opinion). I had seen a few friends buy them, and I asked them how they liked it, most were all amazed by its abilities.

This advantage seemed so trivial at the time, but I have found it to be a very great little feature. WIFI! Who would have thought, I can connect the camera to my phone, and have a shot on my phone and be able to email it to a client (in low resolution) within seconds of it being taken. Yeah it sounds trivial but it’s amazing.

One disadvantage was the need for new media cards, as I had been using compact flash, and now needed SD, they are larger in capacity and faster in read / write speed for the same sort of money, so that was that much of a disadvantage.

The most obvious thing of course was cost. The 6D was conservatively half the price of the 5D III which is a lot of money to some people and can be hard to justify. The bigger question was “is the 6D half the camera that the 5D III is?”

My simple answer is NO.

My longer answer is this, for the type of work that I expect the 6D to do (I do not need the amazing focus abilities, I bought a 7D II for that) I do not need the 6D to take more than 4 frames per second (I bought a 7D II for that) I need the 6D to focus in low light where I would be using the camera with no flash and very high ISO. And this it does amazingly.

Here are some images taken on my 6D some in my testing phase, this is where I push the camera to see what it is capable of.

I will explain what aspect of the camera I was testing with each example.

Why did I buy a Canon EOS 6DISO 1600 F2.8 1/15th and no tripod. I wanted to test the abilities of this camera with high ISO and a mixture of bright and dark areas in the same picture. Usually with high ISO you see the grain in the darker underexposed areas.

Why did I buy a Canon EOS 6DISO12800 F2.8 1/250th, I really needed to be able to freeze the action here, and to do that I needed to use a faster shutter speed, also the athlete was moving, and was back lit, so I was testing the focus tracking in these poor lighting conditions.

Why did I buy a Canon EOS 6DISO 12800 F2.8 1/180th trying to catch the cat in front of the camera I needed to use a fast shutter speed, to do this indoors at night, I needed a very high ISO, this image has very little noise for a shot at ISO 12800.

Why did I buy a Canon EOS 6DISO 1600 F1.8 1/30th taken with a 28mm F1.8 lens (yes that is not an L lens) I wanted to see if the focus would work on fast moving objects in very poor light while panning. Cars were doing about 60 km/h.

Why did I buy a Canon EOS 6DISO800 F1.8 1/60th taken with a 85mm F1.8 lens (yes that is not an L lens) again I was testing the highlights against the darkness in the spots. And focusing on a moving target that is backlit.

Footnote: the 6D has a custom function menu just for its focus system (the 5D II had one of these that allowed you to turn on 6 extra focus points to assist the centre spot only and only in AI-Servo I had this turned on of course) this custom function is set by default to let release the shutter (take the picture) even without focus lock, which means you may not get a focused shot.  This is in the user manual the chapter starts on page 301! Past video image processing and so much more, the page you need is 308 but read the whole chapter, as it is all VERY helpful in helping you customise the camera to make it do what you want it to do, the next custom function controls how the camera takes the next image.

Why did I buy a Canon EOS 6D

Photographer Styles:  Aperture vs Shutter Speed

As I was self-taught; I learnt the technical side of photography mainly from trying something and then seeing if it worked. Pretty much all of my experiments were based on the cameras shutter speed. I wanted to know how long I could hand hold the camera, how slow I could pan with the camera, I wanted to know what shutter speed setting I needed to blur the background or make the stars trace across my picture.

I mainly used shutter priority for all of my photography, I used the exposure compensation to make them brighter or darker, but the most important part of the picture for me was how fast was the shutter speed was.

When I was photographing single drift cars I would move from 1/60th to 1/160th depending on lens length, their speed and the ambient light conditions. Usually using a circular polarising lens to cut the glare, and allow me inadvertently use slower shutter speeds. When two cars were in the frame and they were in a battle I would shoot at 1/250th. As I wanted both of the cars (moving at different speeds) to be sharp.

So for about 7 years I never used the aperture priority setting. The arty side of Michael had not been unleashed, yet. But then I bought lenses that had smaller number apertures, which allowed me to work on other ways to get out of focus, I then started to learn about how aperture could affect my images. I did my 365 challenge at F2, and that helped with using lenses at small number apertures.

It made me realise though that there were two types of photographer styles, those that made the depth of field the most important aspect of their image (majority of landscape photographers), and those that made the amount of movement in their image the most important (majority of sports based photographers), even though those two are related to each other, the way you compose and think about how the image will look before you take the picture is very different.

How do I use each aspect on my camera?

If the depth of field is important in your picture you would use Aperture Priority and set your aperture to get the depth you wanted.

If the shutter speed was important then you would use Shutter Priority and set the shutter speed to get the desired effect that you were after.

What changes though is how you set up the picture in your mind before you take it. Long exposures or lots of depth of field with large number aperture will need a tripod; very shallow depth of field images may need to be manually focused to make sure what is important is in focus. Doing calculations (using a depth of field calculator) to make sure all in your image is going to be sharp.

Either way, there is more to the image than just pointing and shooting.


In the examples below I will outline what the thought was before and how I took the image.

Photographer StylesI was standing on this hill wanting to take a photo of the city lights and a car drove by, I saw the lights trailing down the hill and thought, how long would the car take to get to the bottom. So I timed my friend driving down the hill in my car, and then set the shutter speed to that and got him to do it again. This was shot on a Canon 300D with a 18-55mm Kit lens at ISO 200 F11 and a shutter speed of 65 seconds.

Photographer StylesThe GT Autosound car was going to be unveiled at Autosalon in 2006, I wanted to capture the unveiling, and I only had one shot at it of course, the camera was tripod mounted, and I released the shutter as the owner started to unveil. You can see his shoe near the gold front rim where he stood for a few seconds of this 10 second exposure, Shot on a Canon 20D at ISO 100, F13 and 10 seconds.

Photographer StylesI wanted to show the “Cruising of Rundle Street” in Adelaide with a slow shutter speed shot, the driver was quite still in the ½ second shot, we were doing about 25km/h no more, the lights dragging through the windscreen is what I wanted. Shot on a Canon 20D at ½ second ISO 400 and F4.5.

Photographer StylesLocation location location, being on the top of a 25 story high rise at IndyCar in 2007, the F1-11’s were going to do a dump and burn as they flew over. Not knowing what speed they would be flying past, I wanted to make sure I got a sharp shot of the planes. I set the shutter speed to 1/1000th to make sure. Shot on a Canon 20D 1/1000th of a second F8 and ISO 400.

Photographer StylesThe Brisbane river is rarely calm and mirror like unless you are awake at 4.00am before all the boats start and the wind picks up. So to make the river look calmer I made the shutter speed quite long. This makes the water look much calmer then it really is.  This shot was 8 minutes! I used a ND filter to darken the image. It was taken on a Canon 5D Mark II 487 seconds, F16 ISO 50.

Photographer StylesHere is one of my 365 challenge photos, by using the small depth of field that you get with an aperture of F2 the palm tree in the background does not distract the focus of the image. Canon 5D Mark II at F2 and 1/1000th of a second at ISO 50.

Photographer StylesIn this photo of a glass ball with Brisbane in the background I needed to make sure that the city in the ball was sharp and in focus. The image has been inverted as well. The very shallow depth of field at F2 made this photo quite tricky. Taken on a Canon 5D Mark II 1/4000th F2 and ISO 50.

Photographer StylesThis shot on HaLong Bay, was a mix of both of these styles, the problem was it was getting darker and darker, I was using my Canon 5D Mark II and the maximum ISO I wanted to use was ISO 3200. The camera was on a tripod on the deck of another boat, so a very long exposure would have been blurry, and the boats themselves were also moving. So I needed to shoot at 1/3rd of a second at ISO 3200 and F2.8 to get this shot.

Photographer StylesIn this photo of a train leaving the Pimlico station, I had just got off the train so I needed to act fast, I wanted the train to be moving through the shot, and I didn’t have a tripod with me so I needed to hand hold the shot, I set the camera to 1/8th of a second and knew that if I took three shots, at least one should be sharp. This was the result. Canon 5D Mark II 1/8th of a second and aperture F9.5.

Photographer StylesLastly this photo of a welder that was taken for my 365 challenge, I was limited to F2 for the challenge, but wanted the sparks to be flying, and for that to happen I needed a slow shutter speed. I lowered the ISO to 50 and manually set the camera to 1/20th of a second. The light from the welding sparks also lit up the welder. Canon 5D Mark II ISO 50 F2 and 1/20th of a second.

Try This

Which one are you? Are you thinking about shutter speed or aperture when thinking about your pictures? See if you can switch sides and change the way you think about your photography.

Crossfit and Indoor Gym Photography

What is it?

The usual problems with Crossfit and indoor gym photography, is the small amount of light in these places. Because of this, your camera if left in automatic mode, will slow the shutter speed down which will cause your pictures to blur.

The problem with this is that you don’t want your pictures to blur! So how do you get around this?

Below is a list of tips that you can do with any camera that has a P mode, most point and shoot cameras will allow you to set one aspect of the camera, and modify some of the settings to allow you to get better shots.

The first thing to do is consult your manual, and look up these three terms, if you don’t have your manual and are not sure what  they are I have linked the terms to previous blog posts, so you can have a read.

ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed.

If you are taking pictures of people moving, you need a fast shutter speed to freeze the action. In these sorts of sports, you really need to be taking pictures at 1/250th of a second, as a minimum, anything slower than that and you will get motion blur.

Please note the following pictures were taken at Crossfit Coorparoo by me, using their Canon PowerShot ELPH 330 HS (pictured below), not my Canon 5D Mark II.

Crossfit and Indoor Gym Photography

I set the camera in P mode, I adjusted the ISO manually to different ISO, here is the critical part, this camera when zoomed will have a larger number aperture, so it is at its best and will let in more light, when it is NOT zoomed, (don’t worry Trent, i set the camera back to how you had it when I gave it back)


So all the images below were taken with the camera not zoomed in, I used Foot Zoom, its where you walk closer or further away to get everything into the picture.  With this in mind, have a look at some of the pictures below, I will explain what I have done to get these pictures and what is happening in the photos.

Crossfit and Indoor Gym PhotographyIn this photo taken at F3 ISO 1600 and 1/40th of a second, Mike’s legs are blurry as they are moving through his toes to bar exercise.  This camera is being pushed to its limits though as ISO 1600 is very high and at F3 its at the smallest number it can be.  So the light is terrible, and I can’t really do much about it.

So how do I make sure that I don’t get blurry shots?

TIMING!  With Crossfit most of the movements have a point that they are locked out, or in a Rep. That’s when you take their picture. Please note the time between pushing the button and the camera taking the picture will depend with each camera, with a little practice you will get to know what it is.

Crossfit and Indoor Gym PhotographyThese two images were both taken at F3 ISO 400 and 1/20th of a second, the one on the left has better timing than the one on the right, as I have managed to get the ball when it has stopped, whereas on the right the ball is still moving up or down. The two bodies are relatively stationary as they are in the top of their rep. An open door helped with the light at this end of the gym. Please note: I have very steady hands, taking a picture at 1/20th of a second may not give you the same results, its best to try and get the camera to use a faster shutter speed.

Crossfit and Indoor Gym PhotographyThese two images were both taken at F3 ISO 1600 and 1/60th of a second, the one on the left has better timing than the one on the right, as I have managed to get the kettle bell when it has stopped, whereas on the right the ball is still moving up or down. The two bodies are relatively stationary as they are in the top of their rep. The open door in the background has really affected this photo, best to avoid bright spots like this with these point and shoot cameras that cannot be set manually.

Crossfit and Indoor Gym PhotographyIn this photo shot at F3 ISO 400 and 1/60th of a second, I used the on camera flash to light up the subject, again the timing was key as Trent is at the top of his movement, note the flash on these point and shoot cameras is so small it will only usually have a range of about a meter. You can see how the light on his shoes is already not affected by the flash, usually best not to use flash.

Crossfit and Indoor Gym PhotographyIn this photo shot at F3 ISO 320 and 1/60th of a second, again I have used the flash, you can see signs around Mike’s shoes where they have moved after the flash has fired, and there is blur.

So here are the tips summed up.

If your point and shoot camera has a zoom lens, don’t zoom, if you have an entry level DSLR and it has the kit lens on it, best not to zoom as well.

If you have a P mode in the menu (instead of “sports” “landscape” or “portrait”) use it, it will allow you to change some of the settings. Specifically the ISO.

Turn the flash off, usually it kills the battery quicker, slows down the reaction time of the camera, and it wont get too far.

If possible set the shutter speed as fast as you can.

Timing, timing, timing, test how long the response is between you pressing the button and the camera taking a picture, and hit the button at the right time.

If your camera has a burst mode which takes a series of photos very quickly, use it and start the burst as the movement is about to finish, one of the photos may be timed perfectly.

This was written specifically for point and shoot cameras, if you have a DSLR, then you should use shutter priority and lift the ISO as high as you need to, so that you can set the shutter speed to 1/250th. There are very cheap 50mm lenses (under $200) for most DSLR cameras with an Aperture of 1.8. they would be really well suited to this type of photography.

If you are a Crossfit Affiliate and would like me to show you how to take better photos with your own cameras in your gym, please contact me. If you would like to see some of my work, have a look through this gallery, taken at the Again Faster Semper Paratus 2014 Team Challenge. Most of these pictures were taken at F2.8 ISO 1600 and 1/90th of a second.

Startrails compared to Starmaps

What are they?

In this post we will discuss the differences between startrails compared to starmaps, and how to take each sort of photo.

The differences

A startrail is usually a night time shot of the sky that shows movement in the stars, which is of course all wrong as the stars do not move, the Earth rotates as the stars stay still! A star map however shows all the stars across the sky as single points.

How do I take either one on my camera?

Starmaps are the easiest of the star shots to take. All you need is a camera that can take pictures at ISO 1600 without too much noise, a tripod and a wide angle lens with a small number aperture. A kit lens like the Canon 18-55 F3.5-5.6 has a reasonably small number aperture F3.5, enough for a good try at a starmap. A remote shutter cable can be useful but is not required; you can use your cameras self-timer.

Make sure you are as far away from the city lights as possible, and of course you need a clear night with no clouds, if you pick a night with no moon you will get more light from the stars and more stars in your map!

Your camera will have a very hard time focusing on the night sky, so it is best to turn the focus off and using the view finder or live view focus on the stars. I prefer to use live view, zoom in on the back of the camera to a few of the bright stars and then focus manually.

Set the camera manually (M mode) and start with these settings, aperture F3.5, ISO 1600 and use a shutter speed of 15 seconds.

Startrails compared to StarmapsYou should get something like this; this was taken on a 5D Mark II, ISO 1600, F2.8 and 15 seconds. This shot is a wide panorama of 11 images that have been put together.

You can make the stars brighter by increasing the shutter speed from 15 seconds to 20 or 30 be careful though as any longer than this and the stars will blur. Increasing the ISO number from 1600 to 3200 or more depending on your cameras capabilities, if you have a lens with a smaller aperture number, then use the smallest number you have.  If your shot is too bright, you can darken the shot by reducing the shutter speed (less time) decreasing the ISO (smaller number) or increasing the aperture number. It is best to use the smallest number ISO you can.


Startrails are almost the same. You will need a tripod, camera and wide angle lens with a small aperture number, you will need a shutter release cable, or an intervalometer, this device can be set to take a certain number of pictures that have the same shutter speed.

With startrails it is of course better to get as far away as possible from the city lights, as you will get more stars in your trail, but with software like Starstax or Startrails, you can easily shot lots of images and add them together, this is my preferred option. Starstax is a little easier to use, Startrails has the functionality of making a video built in.

Most of my startrails are setup as above, with my starting settings of F5.6 ISO 3200 and shutter speed of 30 seconds. The reasoning behind lots of short shots, is that in a 30 second shot there may be a light or something that ruins the exposure, in this case it has ruined one exposure in many, if I was shooting 6 or 8 minute shots, it has ruined the entire shoot and startrail.

Startrails compared to StarmapsThis was one of my first star trails, 5D Mark II ISO 400 F2.8 16mm and 300 seconds per shot. I was using a intervalometer to do the 300 seconds, and the gap between each shot. In shot 3 of 5, a car drove past and lit up the trees in the foreground. This could have ruined my startrail, but in this case it made it even better. This is a 25 minute shot!

As you can see in the above the stars a spinning around a central start, this star or spot is called the Celestial South Pole. I will show you how to find it soon.

Startrails compared to StarmapsThis was taken the same night as the shot above, by turning 90° left from the Southern Celestial Pole, you get this sort of startrail pattern. 5D Mark II, ISO 800 F2.8 and 225 seconds. 6 images in total. So this image was 22.5 minutes.

So how do you find the Sothern Celestial Pole?

Startrails compared to StarmapsI have circled the Southern Cross and the two pointers in this picture. I have drawn an imaginary line through the long part of the Southern Cross and a line between the two pointers. Where those two lines cross is the Southern Celestial Pole. You can also use phone apps and other star maps to help, but some of those apps may need an internet connection, which in the middle of nowhere, to get away from all the city lights you may not have. There are some apps, which will also give the trajectory of the Sun and Moon. They can be handy too.

Startrails compared to StarmapsThis is the result. 5D Mark II ISO 400 F2.8 and 300 seconds, there are 9 images in this startrail, which is a 45 minute photo. I wanted the stars to rotate around the tree. This was a moon lit night and the light on the background was due to it, it did reduce the amount of stars, but I like the background in this shot.

So if the above long shutter speed shots work why use lots of 30 second shots? Below is a great reason.

Startrails compared to StarmapsThis is 125 shots stitched in Starstax, each shot is 10 seconds, at F5.6 and ISO 400 that’s a 20 minute photo, if we were to use the settings from the shots above, the long exposures would make the house and street in front of me too bright, I would see more stars, but the remainder of my image would not be correct, also a few too many lightning strikes could ruin the photo. So this image has lightning a startrail and planes coming in to land!

Startrails compared to StarmapsThis shot is made up of 115 shots stacked in Starstax, each photo was taken at F3.5 ISO 1600 and 30 seconds, 57.5 minutes. Using long shutter speeds would make the foreground too bright, and ruin this shot. The clouds started to cross the sky as I took them, but I like the effect they have given the shot.

Try This

On the same night set yourself up to take both a Startrail and a Star Map, make a night of it, and invite some friends with you, will give you something to do while your camera is doing all the work.

Post up some of your pictures! Would be great to see what you have captured.