How to Photograph a Texture

Now that you’ve found those wonderful textures you’ll want to know how to capture the best possible image. Although, most of the principles of exposure and composition apply equally well to textures, here are some factors that you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • Keep your camera parallel to the surface you are photographing. Of course, you can experiment with other angles, too, but if you are going to use your texture in another photo you will want it to be uniformly sharp.
  • Use the middle f-stops of f/8 or f/11, if your lighting situation permits, unless your texture has deep ridges, in which case you will want to use an f-stop small enough to ensure strong depth-of-field.
  • Side light is best for bringing out the richness of a texture. I like ambient light in my texture photos and often shoot indoors by a side window. Otherwise look for times when the sun is positioned on the side of your subject, and if all else fails shoot in open shade or use a diffuser.
  • Take various shots of an interesting texture — horizontal, vertical, close-in, further away — really work that subject. If your texture is a pattern, watch the edges so that you can capture a pleasing and balanced crop.

Some textures stand alone as wonderful photographs. Others need a little help to engage the viewer’s interest. This usually involves adding a focal point. I often carry little natural items to enhance an image. At other times, I add a little something to the image in post-processing.

Taking a look at the texture I showed you last week, what most drew me to this subject was the tangled web of vines against the deteriorating sideboards of the house on which they were growing. The combination of lines and curves was intriguing and I wondered what the vines were protecting. I also had this feeling of crawling through the crevices…weird, but interesting.

My first decision was to de-saturate the image completely, so that it was now a black and white photo. This helped put the focus on the lines and curves and not the color of the house. Then I needed a focal point. Since the background was pretty complex I wanted something simpler and finally chose a big white daisy flower. I didn’t have one with me in the field, and there was certainly none growing out of the house, so I added one in post-processing, taking care to give it some shadow perspective to match the background. All right, then, here it is:

Wallflower

Wallflower, 8 x 12 inches
© 2008 Fran Saunders

Tell us what you think and how this compares with the original. Do you agree that this one has more compelling interest? Come on back next week when we will talk a little bit about post-processing to bring out the best in a texture.

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Posted in Camera Techniques, My Art, Post-Processing | 2 Comments

Are You Still With Me?




Texture 1

Texture 1, 8 x 12 inches
© 2008 Fran Saunders

Okay, we are talking about the use of textures in photography, and right now we are concentrating on in-camera techniques. All right, so…where can you find images with great texture? The following tips should point you in the right direction, but there are many more subjects–

  • Construction materials — bricks, cement, tiles, flooring, metals
  • Rocks
  • Wood — tree bark, logs, cut wood with grain patterns, roots
  • Leaves
  • Sand — beaches (wet and dry), dunes, desserts
  • Animals — fur, feathers, scales
  • Water — bubbles, surface patterns
  • Fabric

Use YOUR imagination, and tell us what you come up with. Come on now, we really want to hear from you.

P.S. This blog entry was published on Jan 2, but apparently did not post anywhere but on my blog site. I am attempting to navigate from wordpress.com to wordpress.org, but may give it up for a bad deal. Stay tuned, but please be patient with me. I am not giving up my blog!


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Ending the Year by Tooting My Horn!

As we enter the last few days of 2010 I wish you all a very healthy and happy 2011. I particularly want to thank the friends and family members who supported me and my art throughout this most successful year. Particular thanks go to my husband Norm who was my strongest supporter and who graciously put up with my hectic schedules, and to friends at the Tidewater Camera Club based in Easton and the Wednesday Morning Artists group from Cambridge. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the tremendous roles played by Gallery 26 in Easton, the Main Street Gallery in Cambridge and the Dorchester Center for the Arts, also in Cambridge, for giving me the opportunity to exhibit and sell my work. Thank you one and all.

To end off this spectacular year, I am pleased to announce that that my image, Beauty Leaf, was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Nature category and has been juried into the Women in Photography International exhibition, “Black and White and Color,” which will be online on January 10.

All right then, I’ll be back blogging next year. Hope to see you then!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Happy Holidays All

We’re taking a bit of a break (but not a long one) while we enjoy this wonderful holiday season with family and friends.  Have a good one, yourselves!

"Happy Holidays"

Holiday Greetings, ©2010 Fran Saunders

Posted in Ramblings

Give in to Your Touchy-Feely Self

When I think of “touchy-feely” things, I always wind up thinking about textures.  Textures play a big role in photography.   Texture is a major compositional element that gives depth and detail to images.  Texture can be part of a larger subject or the subject of your photo itself.  When I think of texture, I always think of images that combine color, pattern and detail, and in my case, these images usually stand alone.  Some are close-up shots, many are abstracts, but all depend on the combination of detail, color and pattern to provide interest.  I am going to be spending a good deal of time exploring this topic and showing you examples of my work, as appropriate.

But before we begin, I want to mention a growing trend in photography.  This trend uses texture to enhance “normal” images, by providing a subtle background of texture by combining two or more images.  I have been experimenting with this type of texture as well and will share my discoveries with you later on.

So, do you need a special camera or photographic equipment to take images which focus on texture?  Not necessarily is the answer.  Some equipment may make your life easier, but is not required.  A macro lens or macro feature on your camera will let you get in closer to grab those details.  I also find that I need to turn to manual focus in order to get a tack sharp texture image, so this will help.  A tripod is always good to have, especially for those situations when the light is low or when angling the camera may need to shake and blurry images.  I use McClamps and Plamps, to hold small items in just the right light or position.  If you’ve never seen or used these, you don’t know what you are missing.   These helpful gadgets are clamps with flex arms that can be attached to stationary objects or staked into the ground. 

Okay, then, take a look at a texture subject (part of a leaf) that I shot at the Adkins Arboretum last October and get ready to give it to your own “touchy-feely” self.  We’ll continue our journey next week.  Have a good one, all!     

"Winterizing"

Winterizing, 12 x 8 inches
© 2010 Fran Saunders

Posted in Camera Techniques

Landscape Blues

All right then, we’ve learned about maximizing depth-of-field (dof) and sharpness in our images, and discovered that many strong dof images are landscapes or other images with a distinct foreground, mid-ground and background.  Now we want to take a look at compositional elements that can help us capture a truly compelling strong dof image.  All the rules of photographic composition can apply here, but there are some that lend themselves to landscapes and strong dof situations more than others.

Here are some things you may wish to consider:

  • Give your viewers something to focus on.  Your landscape should have a clear subject that draws the eye.
  • Watch where you place the horizon and especially avoid the center of the image.  If your sky is not interesting, place it in the less dominant upper third and choose a foreground interest to carry the day in the lower two-thirds.  Dramatic skies deserve more attention, so give them the upper two-thirds.
  • In your final image be sure your horizon is straight.  This is easy to fix in post-processing if you didn’t get right in the camera.  If you use Adobe Camera RAW, check out the quick and easy way to rotate the horizon in the lens efex section.
  • You also want to watch how the horizon merges with the subjects in your image.  Try not to have the horizon in line with the roof of a house, for instance
  • Use lines to draw your viewer into the image, and don’t forget curves, too.
  • Look for ways to provide a frame within a frame.  Sometimes foreground branches can provide exactly what you need
  • Just because it’s a landscape doesn’t mean you can’t have animal life in the image.  Wildlife and even people can provide added interest to your photo.
  • Work your subject from various perspectives.  Once you leave the scene it’s too late, so try different viewpoints (yes, use your feet) before you leave the site.  If you have more than one subject, give them all space.
  • Balance is especially important in a landscape.  Balance your negative space, although it often doesn’t take that much to balance it.  Consider color, texture, a smaller subject.  Some people prefer a scene that moves from left to right, the way we read in Western culture.  If that’s what you are aiming for, then you need to have heavier elements on the left and lighter elements on the right.  You can sometimes accomplish this by simply flipping your image 180 degrees horizontally, if you didn’t capture the image that way initially.  This may also improve the flow.  Remember that the eye of the viewer will move from the heaviest parts to the lighter in weight, and from the darker to the lighter in tone.  Don’t have your viewers going in two different directions at once!
  • Try to include something in your image that will give your viewer a sense of scale, so they can place the scene in their own perspectives.

Do you have other favorite landscape “rules”?  If so, let us know.

You may ask why I am going through this elaborate exercise.  These three blogs were designed primarily to help members of my club, the Tidewater Camera Club, based in Easton, Maryland, to prepare for an upcoming competition themed, yeah you guessed it, “Strong Depth-of-Field.”  So forgive me for being a bit pedantic.  Fellow club members, you’ve been armed with the fundamentals, now go out there and shoot compelling images.  I’m expecting big things from you!

P.S.  I entitled this “landscape blues” because I HATE photographing landscapes.  I hope you have better experiences with the genre.

Posted in Camera Techniques

How to be Sharp

Picking up where we left off the other day in our search to shoot a photo that has strong depth-of-field (dof) throughout the image AND is tack sharp, we learned about how to maximize dof by using the 1/3-in rule, a small aperture and focal length, now we are going to make sure other factors don’t destroy what we set out to accomplish.

There are two major reasons why images may not be as sharp as you would like.  The first concerns the equipment, the second the photographer and his/her technique.

So let’s get the easy one out of the way first.  Not all lenses are created equal.  The quality of your optics could have a great impact on the sharpness of your image.  If the optical quality is poor, or if your lens has been damaged, sharpness will deteriorate.   Your lenses likely cost more than your camera.  Choose them carefully and keep them well-maintained.  You’ll want to research lenses in the focal length of your interest before you purchase.  For Canon users there is an excellent website I consult quite often and have never been led wrong.   It is part of The Digital Picture site.  There are many others available on the Internet, just do a Google or a Bing search to find them.  The websites of photo magazines can also be a big help since they often review lenses.  Once you have that perfect lens for the money you must keep it clean.  A dirty lens will give you a dirty, out-of-focus picture, so clean before your photo sessions and keep dust and other debris away.

All right, now to the hard part, operator error.  Yes, that means you, but there are two types of operator error.  The first applies to the things you do to blur your photos.  The second deals with camera techniques you use that could result in inadequate sharpness.  Camera shake is probably the most frequently cited reason for lack of image sharpness.  It is also the easiest and least expensive to fix.  So, to avoid motion blur DO the following:

  1.  Use proper technique when handholding.  That is, hold the camera steady or brace yourself against another object to prevent motion blur.  You hold your camera with your elbows in and the camera against your face.  Grab your camera with one hand and place the other hand under the lens.  Using the LCD to focus may rock the boat, so use the viewfinder.  If need be, lean against a wall or other structure to provide additional support.  Squatting down may also help.  Breathe in and press the shutter button part way down, letting the camera focus, then press gently until the shutter does its job.  Pressing all the way down quickly and hard will not only likely move your camera, but won’t give the lens an opportunity to focus properly.
  2. Better yet, use a tripod or monopod.   Yes, it’s an investment, but one you won’t regret.  If you do use one, take care to turn off image stabilization on your camera or lens and don’t raise the center column too high, otherwise your tripod may shake more than your hands, especially in the wind. 

Okay, now what about those in-camera techniques: 

  1.  Many people do not realize that lenses have optimum f-stop settings where the best sharpness can be achieved.  Captured images are at their sharpest when the lens is stopped down a couple of f/stops from the minimum or maximum.  This means that if at all possible, you should use f/stops that are two stops from the maximum and minimal range of your lens.  A lens with a wide f/2.8 aperture, will be sharper at f/5.6 or f/8 and above, at least until two stops below the lenses smallest setting.  Practically, this means that you should avoid the extreme f/stops of your lens as much as possible, unless your selection serves some other purpose.
  2. Use your lens hood.  Without it, haze could form lowering the contrast in the scene, and the sharpness of your image will deteriorate.
  3. If you are handholding use a shutter speed that is at least the reciprocal the focal length of your lens.  If you are handholding with a 300mm lens, for instance, that means your shutter speed should be at least 1/300s to ensure a sharp photo.  If all else fails, increase your ISO setting until you can capture your image at a shutter speed that will avoid the “shakes.”  For our maximum dof project, we are primarily using smaller focal lengths, which should make it easier to handhold the camera if need be, but in low light situations, you may need to make an ISO adjustment.
  4. Learn when to turn off autofocus.  Autofocus does not work well in dark situations and if the spot you are focusing on has two different parts of the scene in close proximity, causing the lens to hunt and hunt for focus lock, you will need to go to manual or find another point of focus.
  5. If your scene requires a long exposure, the movement of the mirror as the shutter opens and closes could cause motion blur, especially at exposures longer than about 1/4s.  Dig into your manual and see if you can lock up the mirror during shutter release. 
  6. Many cameras today have a continuous shooting mode.  Some photographers swear that the images after the first in a sequence are often sharper than the first.  So take a few photos in a short burst and see if that gives you the sharpness you want.

Now that we know how to find the appropriate camera settings for  a strong dof scene and how to avoid human and technical problems that could reduce sharpness, we’re going to look next at those compositional elements that do justice to a landscape scene.

If I’ve forgotten one of your favorite ways to ensure tack sharp strong dof pictures, feel free to comment.  I’ll be back soon with the last part of this series.  Meanwhile, take a look at another strong dof image.  This one was taken at f/16, 1/50s, ISO 100, -1/3 exposure compensation.

"The Giant"

The Giant, 10 x 15 inches© 2010 Fran Saunders

 

Oh, and I get to do a little bragging today, too.  At the Dorchester Center for the Arts Community Art Show and Competition I was awarded a third place win for “Morning Glows” in the pro creative category and second place for “Moody River” in the pro open category.  You can see both below. Thank you, DCA!

Posted in Camera Techniques, Kudos

How to be Strong

Most people who think about an image with strong depth of field (dof) immediately picture landscapes.  Why, because a large number of landscape shots are taken to maximize the dof, that is, the photographer wants to ensure that most parts of the image, from the foreground to the mid-ground to the background, are in sharp focus.  That is the essence of a strong dof.

So, how do you ensure that your entire picture is in focus when you have parts of the scene at various distances from the camera? 

First, you use a small aperture opening.  Generally speaking, the smaller your aperture, such as f/16 and above, the more chance you will have of getting everything in focus.  But this is not always true.

There are many factors that will determine how strong your depth of field will be.   Along with your aperture, the focal length of your lens, the distance of the scene you are attempting to capture from you and your camera, and whether you shoot horizontally or vertically.   Those factors that contribute to a strong dof are small aperture openings (at least f/16), wide angle rather than telephoto lenses, subjects that extend far from you and the camera, and a horizontal orientation will tend to give you a stronger dof.

However, it is usually not as easy as all that.  To maximize your dof you must focus your lens on the hyperfocal distance.  This is the distance at a set aperture and focal length that will provide the most dof.  Calculating hyperfocal distance is a mathematical complexity (to me, at least), but you can do a fairly good job of approximating it by focusing your lens one-third into the scene you are photographing.  Under many circumstances this is will give you at least a good starting point.   Depending on your scene you may need to use other distances, but the most important factor to remember is that you need to focus on a point closer to you and not at the horizon or beyond.

The image you see here was photographed using this method.  Focal length was 35mm, using f/22 at 1/90s and 200 ISO.

"Autumn"

Autumn, 8 x 12 inches
© 2005 Fran Saunders

If your camera has a dof button, use it to preview your image.  Don’t rely on your camera’s LCD, it is much too small to give an accurate showing of the dof.   If you can zoom in you may get a better idea of how well you’ve maximized dof.

If you are the technical sort and want to delve into hyperfocal distance with a little more depth, the most comprehensive information on this subject can be found at The Dofmaster Website.   Here you will find not only informative articles, but various gadgets and software to help you determine the most accurate hyperfocal distance, including apps for the iPhone/iPad Touch.  You can find additional aids in the AppStore, such as iDof Calc and PhotoCalc.  Also, Expoimaging  has a nifty dof dial called Expoaperture2 which can be found at ExpoImaging.  But for many of us, the 1/3-in rule should work pretty well.

Now let’s take this a little further.  If you follow the 1/3-in rule does that mean your image will be tack sharp?  Nope!  That’s a whole different can of worms, as they used to say.  Stay tuned for a ramble on how to get the sharpest pictures on earth.

As always, questions and comments are most welcome.

Posted in Camera Techniques | 4 Comments

Don’t Miss These Upcoming Events on the Mid-Shore!

It’s mid-November and that’s a ‘BIG’ time in Maryland’s mid-shore area.  Dorchester and Talbot Counties will be alive with various ongoing art events that you won’t want to miss.  This weekend is the Annual Waterfowl Festival in Easton.  There will be wildlife art galore at several venues and scrumptious Eastern Shore and wine.

Friend Lin Layton will be exhibiting at the photography gallery in the Historical Society Building.  I can also recommend checking out the work of Chris Vignieri.  Lin’s work can also be seen at Hobbyhorse Photo, along with images by friends Liz Lawlor, Graham-Scott Taylor, Will Lockwood and Jay Friedman.

Opening night Friday the 12th will be special for Gallery 26 on W. Dover in Easton.  Jen Wagner and Jeff Pelayo will host a catered party featuring local band, Three Penny Opera.  Art demos are planned during the entire weekend and The Duck (107.1) will be broadcasting live from the gallery on Saturday.

Of course, Charley Carter, Barbara Cook and I are on display in the “Beyond the Lens” room at Gallery 26, just behind Jen’s mosaic workshop.  We will be present on Friday evening and at times during the remainder of the weekend.  Come by and see some of the new images on display.  You will even see some of those I’ve shared with you here.

Not to be outdone, Dorchester’s biggest photo event of the year, the annual competition, will take place Saturday night, the 13th, at the Dorchester Center for the Arts on High Street in Cambridge, when the winners will be announced.  There will be light refreshments and music to charm you.  Three of my photos are exhibited for your enjoyment.

And there’s still more!  Saturday also marks the opening of the Art-cessories Exhibit at the Main Street Gallery, Muir Street, Cambridge.  This exhibit is filled with wonderful small items that make great holiday gifts.  I have a few small framed photos here that you may wish to see. 

Okay….so don’t forget the big events:

       Friday, November 12, Gallery 26, Easton, 5:30-8:00pm

       Saturday, November 13, Dorchester Center for the Arts, Cambridge, 6-8:00pm

       Saturday, November 13, Main Street Gallery, Cambridge, 5-8:00pm

Hope to see you there.  Come by and say hello.

Posted in Events

Reflections

Reflections on a Hull

Reflections on a Hull, 8 x 12 inches
© 2010 Fran Saunders

Good day, good friends.  Reflections make excellent photographic subjects.  Sometimes, the reflection is included along with the subject; sometimes the reflection itself is the main subject of an image.  People photograph reflections in water, in windows, in chrome, in fact, in just about any reflective surface.  This is one time when you want to leave your polarizer behind.  Reflections on water are sometimes best in morning light, but I really think that this is one time when you need to experiment with various types of lighting depending upon your subject and time of day.  The image shown here was taken while I was sitting in our boat at it’s slip and noticed the water reflecting on our neighbor’s boat’s hull.  The patterns and muted colors attracted my attention and this was the result.  This is certainly an abstract photo, and not everyone’s cup of teas, but I am hoping that the lines and colors will make it interesting.  How many of you will agree?

Posted in Camera Techniques, Inspiration, My Art