Macro Lens and Extension Tubes

What is it?

Macro photography gets you closer to things, it makes small things larger on your sensor or film, by doing this it opens up the world of photography to things that you would walk past or miss on a daily basis. Insects flowers and many more things look amazing when you get closer to them than the naked eye. Here is what a macro lens and extension tubes can do for your photography.

A dedicated Macro lens will allow you to take pictures of objects, closer to the front of the lens than your kit lens. This allows you to get closer to your subject making it up to 5x its actual size on the sensor. A lens like the Canon 65mm MP-E Macro is dedicated to taking macro images and will focus on very short distances from the lens.  But, that lens will only do that one thing, it does do it quite well though, but it is not as versatile as the Canon 100mm F2.8 Macro LIS this lens can be used to do portrait work as well as other things.

What if you wanted to learn about Macro photography but didn’t want to buy a macro lens just in case you tried it and really didn’t like it?

Extension tubes are your answer, they will convert almost any lens to do macro photography. A set set will cost you about $225 compared to the price of a dedicated macro lens that is great Value.

I have a set of Kenko extension tubes, they attach between your camera and lens, and move the lens forward. They come in a set of three, 12mm, 24mm, and 36mm and you can use one of them at a time or all three of them at the same time, they will allow you to focus closer to your subject using your existing lenses.

How do I use it on my camera?

I will be talking about how the ones I have work with my Canon camera and lenses. There may be some slight differences with other brands of cameras and extension tubes.

The set I have use a pass through system, there are contacts that allow the lens and camera to communicate with each other, so the camera will autofocus and set the aperture. You can buy units that do not pass through, they will require manual focusing and you cannot control the aperture, so you can only use the smallest number aperture that lens has, which will limit the depth of field in your photo, when shooting this close, you may need more depth, my advice is to buy the pass through models.

The focusing distance that a lens refers to is measured from the subject to the film or sensor it is being recorded on. A 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens that has a minimum focusing distance of 25cm, that means that your subject can be as close as 25cm from about the back of the camera.

As the tubes shorten the focusing distance on any lens they are fitted to, you do have to be careful of what you fit them to, as the focusing distance may be shorter than the lens, which would mean that the subject would never be able to be focused on. Wide angle lenses that focus close usually fall into this category, I have a Canon 16-35mm  F2.8mm lens that has a minimum focus distance of 24cm, if I put a 12mm extension tube on that lens it cannot focus.

What does it do to my pictures?

Here are some examples taken back to back on a 50mm F1.4 lens with the 12mm 24mm and 36mm tubes and a 100mm Dedicated 1 to 1 Macro Lens, I have also added the tubes to the Macro lens to show what it would do to that lens. All the images were taken on a 5D mark II with ambient light at my desk, hand held and I was focusing on the 1:2.8 marking on the lens, the aperture was set to F2 and I was shooting at 1/250th when using the 50mm and F2.8 at 1/125th when using the 100mm Macro.

Examples

Macro Lens and Extension Tubes50mm with 12 mm tube: The photo on the left is the 50mm at standard focusing distance. The photo on the right is using the tube. Note the depth of field or out of focus in the background is starting to disappear very quickly.

Macro Lens and Extension Tubes50mm with 24mm tube: Note the out of focus is much more effective, and that the EF-S marking on the top of the lens is almost not readable.

Macro Lens and Extension Tubes50mm with 36mm tube: I now am so close that the EF-S marking is not in my picture. Note though that now the 60mm is starting to be out of focus. You can see the details in the gold ring and the rubber on the lens though quite nicely.

Macro Lens and Extension Tubes50mm with all three tubes: Note that with all three on the camera, I had to increase the exposure. Note the .8 of the 2.8 is now almost out of focus. The depth of field at this distance would be less than a millimetre.

Macro Lens and Extension Tubes 100mm Macro: The photo on the left is the 100mm at standard focusing distance. The photo on the right is what the Macro lens can do without the use of an extension tube. This lens also has image stabilisation which can be handy when you are getting close and the smallest of movements will blur your photo.

Macro Lens and Extension Tubes I have added the 12mm tube to the 100mm dedicated macro lens to show that if you were to buy the tubes you can then still use them on your dedicated macro as well, and get even closer!

Try This

Here are some images that I have taken with a mixture of lenses with and without tubes. One of these images was taken with a dedicated macro lens. The first person to email me with the correct image and the image settings both aperture and shutter speed will win a set of extension tubes that suit their camera and a 2 hour photo walk around Roma Street Parklands showing how to use them.

Macro Lens and Extension Tubes Picture 1

Macro Lens and Extension TubesPicture 2

Macro Lens and Extension TubesPicture 3

Macro Lens and Extension TubesPicture 4

Macro Lens and Extension TubesPicture 5

Email me with your choice and the camera settings for your chance to win the tubes. I will announce the winner once it has been won.

Flash Photography

What is Flash Photography?

There is some times when you are taking a picture that you want to add extra light to your picture; most of you have a flash built into your camera. It sits on top of the camera and the camera will pop it up when it thinks you need it, only if you are using the fully automatic green square.

There are a few problems with this in built flash; It’s very small, and will usually only work for subjects that are about 1 to 3 meters in front of you. You can get a little more range by using a higher number ISO, it will also use less battery power, and be ready to use quicker.

How do I use Flash Photography on my camera?

Most cameras have a button to pop up the flash, and some will have it in a menu. When it is up, the camera will usually do some things that may seem a little odd. Generally the camera will not let you set a shutter speed setting that is faster than 1/180th or 1/250th. The reason for this is very long and very hard to explain, what you need to know, is that outside in daylight the small flash on your camera will do very little.

Because of the pop up flash limitations, external “flash guns” can be bought, which can have up to about 7 times the power, some have the ability to high speed sync which allows you to set a shutter speed which is faster than 1/250th, and turn the flash away from the subject that will allow the flash to do other things.

These external flashes have their own batteries and can recycle to flash again quicker, and they can be taken off the camera and used very differently. Some cameras have the ability to remotely fire the flash using the on board pop up flash or inbuilt wireless, read your manual for more information.

What does Flash Photography do to my pictures?

By using flash it allows you to change the light in your pictures, but it can add seen shadows behind the subject in your pictures. By changing where the flash is you can remove these shadows or use the shadow to give the photo a different look.

Examples

In the following examples, I have used the on board pop up flash, and then rotated the camera to show the “portrait shadow” from the flash being to the right. Then I have moved the flash to different spots, using a remote flash trigger. All the images were taken with ETTL flash, which is an acronym for Electronic Thru The Lens, which is an automatic mode of flash which uses a small flash before you take the picture to measure how much flash it needs to use. I will explain where the flash was and how it’s changed the picture, but not how powerful the flash was set, or the pictures settings.

Flash PhotographyBy using the pop up flash on top of the camera you can see the flash shadow behind the subject, the trouble is that a portrait is usually shot in that way, with the camera rotated 90° which will move the shadow.

Flash PhotographyWhen the camera is rotated 90°, the flash is now to the left of the subject and casts a shadow on their right, the shadow is also very distinct and very harsh.

Flash PhotographyThe remaining shots are taken with the external flash, and positioned in different places and using different techniques to get different effects. In this one the flash is above the subject and to the cameras right, the shadow on the wall is strong, and it has also cast a shadow of the subjects left arm on the subjects left leg.

Flash PhotographyBy lowering the flash and moving more in front of the subject you can now see the shadow has been cast upwards and away from the subject, I have also minimised the shadow of the subjects left arm on the subjects leg.

Flash PhotographyThis time I have moved the flash so that it is almost right beside the subject, this is casting a shadow across his chest of his arm, and giving his nose a little shadow as well. It has removed the shadows behind the subject completely.

Flash PhotographyThis shows how moving the flash to the wrong place can cast shadows in the wrong places and can cast shadows over the subjects face.

Flash Photography

I have used a diffuser, in this case a piece of A4 white paper in front of the flash to soften the light, you can just see the subjects shadow behind them, by putting the flash up high it has also lit up the subjects face nice and evenly.

Flash PhotographyStill using the diffuser and putting the flash in front of the subject, you can see that the subject is evenly lit and the shadow is soft from the diffuser.

Flash PhotographyThese last two images I have turned the flash away from the subject and bounced the flash off the ceiling, as you can see it is a little dark, as the ceiling in this room is high, compared to the subjects height, you can adjust this by telling the camera to use more flash. Look in your manual about “flash compensation”

Flash PhotographyIn this last picture I have bounced the flash off a wall next to the subject, in this case it was a white piece of paper, but it could have been a wall or a large white bed sheet. I placed the flash still quite high, there is now no shadows behind the subject and there is nice soft light across the face giving the subject cute cheeks.

Try This

If you have a pop up flash, use a small piece of paper to diffuse the flash, note this will reduce the flash range increase your ISO if you need to, tracing paper will also work, or a small piece of a plastic milk carton. If you have an external flash, try to direct the flash onto a wall or the ceiling next to the subject, this is called bounce flash, the light that bounces onto the subject from the wall will be nice and soft and very even.

 

Tourist in your own town

When was the last time you went for a walk as a tourist in your own town, city or suburb? We spend hundreds and thousands of dollars every year to go somewhere foreign or exotic and take our camera out, blow off the dust and take pictures. BUT when was the last time you wandered around Brisbane City, Bulimba or Capalaba?

I can hear it already:  “But I am too busy”, “I don’t know what to photograph”, “I need inspiration to shoot”. So here it is!

Go for a 15 minute walk down your street. Take your camera, don’t take your phone (unless it is your camera). Don’t walk the dog, just walk. Slowly. Look UP, look down, look around you, and take in all that your street has to offer. I am sure that you will find something to photograph in the first 100 metres – a flower, an interesting tree, a spider web, a hood ornament, or even just the clouds!

Whatever it is, try to photograph it in three different ways, and change the style in each. Use a different aperture or a slow or fast shutter speed. Photograph it close up. I have added some examples below to show you what I mean, as I live in Bulimba. Here are my Bulimba photos.

tourist in your own town Star trails and Planes; Canon 5D II, 16mm, F6.7, 189 shots at 20 seconds per shot (About 63 minutes). I didn’t even leave the house for this one, taken from my bedroom balcony, this is the stars the moon and some planes coming into land. This post will tell you how I did it.

02 Tourist in your own TownCityCat at sunset; Canon 5D II, F6.7, 1/20th, ISO 800. Taken at the Hawthorne Ferry Terminal just as the CityCat was leaving. This used a panning technique.

03 Tourist in your own TownAll clear on final; Canon 7D, F4.5, 1/1500th, ISO 400. This macro shot was taken in my back garden. Less than five steps from my back door.

04 Tourist in your own TownBulimba Ferry Terminal; Canon 5D II, F2, 1/1500th, ISO 50. I dropped my wife to the terminal and noticed the sun on the terminal building. I took this shot as part of my 365 photo a day challenge.
05 Tourist in your own TownSunsets and CityCats; Canon 5D II, F2, 1/45th, ISO 50. I saw the rays as I was driving home and thought the Hawthorne ferry terminal would give me a nice vantage point.

07 Tourist in your own TownTo Bulimba; Canon 7D, F9.5, 30 seconds, ISO 400. I missed the ferry to Bulimba, and while I was waiting (without a tripod) I put my camera on the ground, propped it up with my wallet and took this long exposure.

08 Tourist in your own TownDodge; Canon 1000D, F2.8, 1/350th, ISO 400. This was parked just out front of the Jetty Bar at the end of Oxford Street in Bulimba. As it was an old car, I thought I would give it a black and white process.

A picture can be taken anywhere, so take your camera with you and you will be surprised what you find.

Try This

Have a go! If a 15 minute walk up the street is too far, check out your garden. Or take a ferry instead of driving so you can enjoy the scenery.

If you are planning a holiday, why not get your camera out now and get back into using it, or if you need a little push, we have our holiday memories photo walk, to help you learn more about holiday photography.

Which 1000 words does your photo tell?

I was told that a picture must be self-explanatory some say a picture is worth 1000 words, i.e. the person viewing the picture should understand what is going on without a title and without speaking to the creator of the picture.

When I was told that I never really understood what that meant and how I was supposed to portray that in one shot. If the reader wasn’t with me and they don’t know the subject matter like I do, and they may or may not care what the subject is, how do I tell them the story?

Over the years as I developed as a photographer I realised that this skill makes your photographs stand out, and pushes you to get better and pay more attention to the small details in the photo.

So how do you tell a story in a picture without using words? I think the best way to do this is to show the reader the different parts of the story in the picture. That is by using the foreground, the background and the subject matter to each have their say in the final story that the picture is telling.

Examples

I photographed the Brighton Jetty Classic in Adelaide, and was tasked to show the event at its best. So the story behind the photo was to show the Brighton Jetty, the swimmers in open water and that the people swimming are in a competition. The three examples show how the story is told better in each example.

Picture worth 1000 words This image shows the open water swim aspect, shows the competition as they are all wearing the same caps, and shows some competition, but it does not show the location.

Picture worth 1000 words This image shows off the location, and if you look closely enough you can see the competition but it’s not the focus of the shot. Again it tells a story but not the whole story.

1000 Words 03This image now shows the open water swim, the Brighton Jetty location and the competition. It tells the whole story. The three aspects are combined into the one photo.

1000 Words 06Lastly I was asked to capture a Ford fanatic’s large car collection, and his large shed. He also drives a sprint car. To get all of that into one picture I took this shot, bearing in mind the green car was not running at the time, so the shed had to be the location for the shoot. This photo was commissioned for Street Machine Magazine.

Try This

Give a picture with no title to a friend and ask them to tell you what the photo tells them. Compare that to the reason you took the image and what you were trying to put across.

Panning: how and when to use it in photography Part II

What is panning?

Panning is a photography skill that involves moving the camera left to right or up and down to follow your subject while they are moving. You can also slow the shutter speed down in order to blur the background as you take the picture.

The previous blog post will showed you three of the ways it  can be used. Below are two more ways and some practice tips.

Panning to show movement in the action

By using a long exposure I have shown how you can show movement in a scene like a waterfall, if you are panning however you are trying to show the movement of an object by showing the blurry background. You can use this to make a slow moving subject look like it was moving faster.

08 PanningCanon 5D II, ISO100 1/40th 16mm F11: By panning I have been able to make this little boy look like he was going faster than he was.

11 PanningCanon 5D II, ISO100 1/125th 40mm F6.7: By panning I have made this look like the motorbike was going faster than it actually was, but keeping the subject, the passenger on the back as sharp as possible.

Panning to get a shot as its too dark to freeze the motion.

This is almost not relevant any more as ISO is no longer as grainy at “high” ISO as it used to be early-model digital cameras. However, if you are still restricted to using an ISO 1600 or lower, there may be times in dawn or dusk. or under street or artificial light where you may need to pan in order to get a sharp shot.

04 Panning 04Canon 5D II, ISO400 1/60th 65mm F5.6: In the rain there is usually less light. Panning has still allowed me to capture the action without blurring the subject.

07 PanningCanon 5D II, ISO1600 1/125th 21mm F3.2: By panning I have been able to almost freeze the car in mid-air, but still been able to show that it is moving, all in a very poorly lit environment.

09 PanningCanon 20D, ISO800 1/40th 40mm F3.5: The upper limit on the 20D was really ISO400. This ISO800 image is very grainy, but by panning I was able to take this image just before dawn at a 24 Hour race. The darkness allows the viewer to see the glowing brakes better.

Try This

To learn how to pan properly, you need to make some decisions about your settings before or while you are taking pictures. To get a better understanding of what you need to set and what to change, you need to be able to register how fast your subject is moving, and change the shutter speed to suit.

  • I would start with a shutter speed of 1/subject speed in km/h. So, for example, a car moving at 60km/h past you would be shot at 1/60th of a second. Then slow the shutter down further to increase the blurred effect.
  • You need to be using a continuous focus system on your camera: AI-Servo (Canon) or AF-C (Nikon). Most entry level cameras only have a centre focus point that is better at tracking focus. Revert to your manual for more information.
  • Stand comfortably and make you are facing where you intend to take the picture through the motion of the panning. Don’t twist as you pan and then take your picture when your feet are facing forwards and your twisted to the left or the right.

The best way to practice is to find somewhere that has moving targets that pass you at the same speed. So you can get accustomed to that speed. When you feel that you have practised enough, move to a place where they go faster. And so on, note that the more you practice the better you will get.

Panning: how and when to use it in photography

What is panning?

Panning is a photography skill that involves moving the camera left to right or up and down to follow your subject while they are moving. You can also slow the shutter speed down in order to blur the background as you take the picture.

This blog post will show you two of the ways it can be used. There will be a follow up post showing another two uses and some exercises on how to improve your panning skills.

Usually this skill is used in sports photography with very fast moving subjects but it has many more uses.

I feel that panning is a great skill to learn, as not everything you will photograph will stay still. Sometimes you are moving and the subject is stationary, so you need to pan with it. An example would be taking a picture from a fast moving train.

How do I use it on my camera?

There is not one setting that makes panning what it is. It is a mixture of movements and shutter speed that will get the result you want. Image stabilisation can be helpful but was not used in any of the examples below. This post walks through a few different examples of panning, showing the settings and how to get similar results.

What does it do to my pictures?
Blurring the background, while keeping the subject sharp

This is typically the look that people want from panning. Blurring the background and keeping the subject sharp draws attention to the subject and takes the focus away from the background. This could be useful where the background is distracting or muddled with colours.

01 Panning 1Canon 40D, ISO100 1/80th 135mm F7.1: By panning with the car I have been able to keep the car sharp while it was driving past me at about 120km/h. By using a large number F there is enough depth for the driver to be sharp as well.

02 Panning 2Canon 7D, ISO1600 1/60th 105mm F4: By panning at such a slow shutter speed I have removed the distracting crowd in the background of this shot, and the focus remains on the driver and his bike.

10 PanningCanon 5D II, ISO50 1/60th 70mm F14: The timing tower and the white building at Lakeside are quite an eyesore. By panning and blurring the background, the car (the subject of this photo) is more prominent.

Keeping the subject sharp while you are moving

An example of this is taking a picture from a moving train. Say you wanted to get a picture of a landscape while you were passing it from a moving train. You want a reasonable depth of field, using a large number aperture, this will of course slow the shutter speed down. By panning with your subject you will be able to get a sharper shot than trying to keep the camera still.

03 Panning  3Canon 5D II, ISO400 1/180th 50mm F6.7: This shot was taken from a moving train in Intelaken, Switzerland. I wanted a slow shutter speed so the waterfall wouldn’t look frozen, by panning I have allowed the shot not to blur.

Blurring the foreground to remove it from the picture

This is not usually seen in the everyday world of a photographer, but motorsport photographers have to deal with photographing through fences, crowds of people or many other objects to get the shot. Sometimes you can use a small number aperture to get the fence out of focus, but you can also do it by panning. By slowing the shutter speed down you can actually blur out the fence.

05 PanningCanon 7D, ISO100 1/80th 16mm F9: The blurry brown in the foreground is tall grass. As the sun was behind me, this was “the best angle” from which to capture this car. However the grass in the foreground was in the way. I couldn’t move the grass, so I had to use a slow shutter speed to blur it out of the photo.

06 PanningTop Left, Canon 5D II, ISO400 1/125th 70mm F8, Bottom Right, Canon 5D II, ISO100 1/125th 150mm F3.5: The fence in the top left picture is starting to disappear with some panning at 1/125th. By getting closer to the fence, using a longer length lens and a smaller aperture, the fence in the bottom right almost looks to have disappeared.

To Be Continued

Counting the true cost of a photo

The cost of a photo is not just the memory card it was taken on, nor is it just the cost of the model of camera and lens you are using. The true cost of a photo is more about the story behind the photo, the setup, the taking of it and the inevitable processing.

01 Cost Of Photo experienceBoat on Brienzsee, Ringgenberg; using a wide angle lens gives the mountain’s behind the boat some perspective.

If you were on a holiday, the cost of a picture could include the cost of the trip, added to the cost of the camera and so on. But what about your experience? By experience I am not meaning your holiday experience I am meaning the experience you have behind the camera – your abilities as a photographer.

02 Cost Of Photo experienceFlying Scotsman, Paris; the RAW processing of this image was made to look like it was taken in the same period that the car would have been new.

My experience is in motor sport photography, and my experience in that genre has made me aware of where incidents may happen or places that would make a great new angle. This allowed me to capture images that were different to the normal and would tell a different story, or show a facet of the sport that people had not seen before.

03 Cost Of Photo experiencePimlico Tube Station, London; by taking this photo at 1/8th of a second, the train moving out of the station has been accentuated. By using the right balance of ISO and shutter speed I was able to hand hold the camera for this shot.

Over the years I have tried other genres of photography and I have come to the conclusion that a photographer that is good at their genre usually is an expert in that genre too. A surf photographer will be able to pick waves that a board rider will take, and know which surfer to follow as they have the best wave.

A landscape photographer will know what time of the year the best cloud formations appear over their subject and the placing of the sun to maximise the lighting, as you can’t move the mountains but the sun does shift over summer / winter.

Likewise a macro photographer will know that a dragonfly will come back to a perch it has sat on if it flies away, as long as you’re patient enough.

04 Cost Of Photo experienceBoats for hire, Lake Como; by using a tripod and a long shutter speed I have made the headlights of the cars drag.

So this knowledge is part of what makes up the cost of a photo. The other part of the cost, is knowing which lens to choose, which aperture to use, what the shutter speed will do to the mood of the image and so on, as you have seen from the examples above there is more to the picture than just pushing the shutter button.

05 Cost Of Photo experienceFlower bokeh, Rothenburg; by using a very small number aperture I have made the different flowers behind this poppy blend into the photo.

06 Cost Of Photo experienceSpiral staircase, Arc de Triomphe; by using a fisheye lens, the spiral of the staircase has been exaggerated.

07 Cost Of Photo experienceDole Reflections, Dole, France; by using a HDR technique I have been able to capture all the detail in this scene.

This is what we are here to teach you! Our next Learning to crawl beginners class is on the 30th of August book now.

 

Image Stabilisation do I need it?

What is it?

Image Stabilisation is probably one of the least understood photographic advances there is. The image stabilisation systems across camera models differ in how they work (some move parts in the lens, others move parts in the camera body), but their common aim is to move parts of the camera in the same way you do when holding your camera (unsteadily) so that you get less blurry photos. This feature is also known as, Vibration Reduction (VR), Optical Stabilsation (OS), Vibration Correction (VC) , Optical Steady Shot (OSS) and many more.

How do I use it on my camera?

Usually there is a switch on the lens to turn it on. Some camera-based systems may have a menu to turn it on.  

What does it do to my pictures?

By moving the parts in your equipment as you move, image stabilisation allows you to take a picture at a speed slower than you might otherwise be able to.

The general rule for being able to hand hold a camera and get  sharp picture, is using a shutter speed of 1/ length of lens. So for example, using a 100mm lens would mean you would need to shoot at 1/100th of a second to stop the whole image from blurring. Assuming that the entire picture is stationary then all the picture should be sharp. As it is a general rule, some people with shaky hands may not be able to get these results, and some people with very steady hands may be able to shoot slower than that and still get sharp pictures.

So if a lens which has image stabilisation suggests that it will be able to gain 2 stops, what that actually means is that with your 100mm lens, instead of being able to hold 1/100th (as the above rule), with image stabilisation active you would be able to hold 1/25th of a second.

This is all well and good if your subject is stationary, but if you are photographing a person, or people, this would be too slow unless you asked them to stay VERY still.

Examples

image stabilisationYou can see in this picture that everything is blurry. This is a result of using too slow a shutter speed and the camera moving while you take the picture. This is where an image stabilised lens could have helped keep the camera still enough to avoid the shake that is in this picture.

image stabilisationIn this image, even with a fast enough shutter speed to hold the camera still, the subject was moving and has been blurred. In this case an image stabilised lens would not have helped at all.

image stabilisationPanning involves moving the lens with your subject while taking the picture, as you can see in the picture above, the rider was moving right to left, and I was moving the lens at the same speed as him right to left. Because of this movement and the slow shutter speed (1/60th) the background has blurred.  An example of this style of IS is on the Canon 70-200 F4LIS. This lens stops the jarring in the direction of the panning and will help with slower shutter speed panning. This lens claims to have a 4 stop assistance.

image stabilisationThe above shot was taken on the Canon 100mm F2.8LIS Macro which has a hybrid image stabilisation. This works in both movements that are left / right and up / down, but also movements that are forward / backward. In the case of macro photography, when photographing very small things very close to them, the depth of field is very shallow, the smallest movement forward / backward can make the subject of your photo out of focus. As you can see in the following example.

image stabilisationYou can see that the frogs eye is not sharp in this photo, its slightly closer than the frogs eye. This would have been due to me moving slightly back as I was taking the picture. This was taken at F6.7  the depth of field at this distance and aperture is about 5mm.

Our Tip

If you are in the market for a new lens and you have the choice to buy with or without Image Stabilisation, make sure if you are buying it that you are buying it for the right reasons. If you have shaky hands and are having trouble with images where the whole image is blurry, then image stabilisation is most likely going to be best for you.  




Understanding Panoramic Photos

What is it?

A common definition of panoramic photos is based on its field of view and the physical dimensions of the print. Generally its more than the eye can see – so greater than 170°, and usually the rectangular photo is 2 times its height or greater.

What do I need to think about when taking one?

First, you need a wide scene to photograph, for example a landscape, cityscape or aerial view. Then you need to be mindful that you will be photographing usually more than 200°, which could mean that you are going to be shooting into different light situations. Also as you are photographing, moving objects (such as clouds, people or boats etc) may confuse the software – just be aware of what’s in the entire scene you intend to shoot.

You really want the software to do as little as possible for you, so its best to make the exposure the same, even the white balance. As a rule, when I’m shooting panoramas, I set the camera to manual and get a light reading across my image. I expose for the shadows, ie the darkest parts of the WHOLE panorama, and set my white balance to one setting.

Most of the software on the market works LEFT to RIGHT and TOP to BOTTOM, just like we read a book – so when shooting, follow this same sequence. Yes, you can shoot more than one row of pictures!

When taking your pictures swing the camera 90° so it’s taking a portrait, this will make your finished product taller, and give it a larger resolution.

Lastly OVERLAP your shots. I generally overlap my panoramic shots by 1/3, which means when I take my second shot, there is 2/3 of the old shot in my shot and 1/3 of the new shot. This will generally increase the number of images, but gives me the depth to be able to drop a shot out of the sequence if there is a moving object in it.

You can buy hardware like a Pano Head, which is motorised, and will move the camera and take the pictures for you. When you load the images into this products’ corresponding software it makes it even easier to stitch together.

I have taken all of my panoramic photos hand held, and used AutoPanoPro to do the stitching. It is very straight forward to use and has adjustments so you can straighten horizons and much more. But if you want to have a go and don’t want to spend any money, I have found some free software called Hugin. It is slower than AutoPanoPro and a little harder to get around, but has the same functionality to correct horizons and more. It’s still quite powerful and it’s FREE.  There are many other programs you can use – these are my experiences with the above two.

What does it do to my pictures?

Panoramic photos allow you to show a wider perspective than standard, and will allow you to get a picture of something that is wider than you can currently take in one shot. It allows you to make images of cityscapes and landscapes with lots more detail.

Examples

panoramic photosShibuya Crossing, Japan; 9 shots. Taken on a Canon EOS 7D at 10mm. If you look carefully, the taxi and white car appear twice as they were moving through the scene as I was taking the images.

panoramic photosThe Milky Way, 11 shots. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, and at 18mm the left and right of the photo are opposite horizons.

panoramic photosMoffat Beach, Australia; 41 shots.  The exposure was set for the middle and right of the image and the sun has slightly blown out (created the very bright white areas) on the left.

panoramic photosBrighton Jetty Classic 2010, Australia; 9 shots taken from a helicopter as it flew left to right.

panoramic photosTokyo, Japan; 83 shots 3 rows high and 27 shots wide. Taken from the Tokyo Tower, the section in the large red rectangle is a crop of the small section in red on the main picture. This image could be printed 3m tall and would be about 27m long.

panoramic photosCrazy Coaster, Brisbane Ekka 2012; These images were never shot to be a panorama, but I saw the opportunity to see if they would work, and it did. If you look carefully, the riders are the same in each car. So dont be scared to give something a go!

Try This

Take a 4 or 5 shot Panorama and have some fun editing it with Hugin. See if you like the outcome, and don’t forget the tips:

  • Set Exposure manually for the darkest spots
  • Set the white balance
  • Shoot portrait and overlap




File Organisation

Subject

Tips for file organisation and backing up your photos

What is it?

Basically it’s a system that you develop that works for you. As I started organising and filing images before programs like Adobe Lightroom (which extracts images off your memory card and catalogues the files for you), I had to develop my own system that would let me catalogue my images so I could easily order and find them.

When I photograph an event I usually use two cameras. This introduces the risk that the two cameras may be shooting and recording the same number file. When I download those photos to the computer, I have to be sure that one set does not overwrite the other. You can now set up your camera to change the file number so that this won’t happen, but 10 years ago when it first happened to me, this function was not available on my cameras.

My step-by-step file organisation process

My first step is to upload the files to my computer and put them into a folder that has the following structure.

YYMMDD <<Descriptive Words>>, where “Descriptive Words” is two words about the shoot. If I was shooting a wedding it would be the Bride and the Groom’s names. I do this using the Windows import. So for example, if I photographed Greg and Mary’s wedding today the folder name would be:

140511 Greg Mary

Each photo would have its own unique number – I do not keep the original camera file names. So each photo would have a unique file name like: 140511 Greg Mary 001.jpg

Once I have retouched and edited the images, I do a backup of those images – one backup to an internal drive on my computer and another backup to an external drive.

The day I do the backup, I create a folder with the following structure:

2014 05 11 Photos

This is the folder I copy to the two drives for storage. This folder is stored in a top level folder named 2014.

This is MY procedure and it’s what works for me. I am not suggesting abandoning your procedure; just make sure that you have one, and that it makes sense to you, as the folder structure really needs to suit you.

Examples

File Organisation 01This is my external drive structure. Each folder contains backups. My backups are manual and I usually backup after a major event or shoot.

File Organisation 02This is what the 2011 folder looks like. Each folder is named as per the day I did the backup.

File Organisation 03As you can see this folder has five shoots in it.

File Organisation 04If I open the 110528 Ripley Lake folder I will find the following jpgs each with the same file naming convention. And the RAW files are in the CR2 folder.

Try This

Have a good look at your folders and files and if you don’t have a system of your own, I recommend you start one. If you overwrite a file or lose it, there is no way of getting the files back.





Teaching you how to get the best out of your camera