Tag: nature

Blog Posts

Its Snow Wonderful!

Ok, that is a well-worn and tired cliché, but I needed a title for this blog post. I live in Northern Virginia and large snow storms are an infrequent occurrence. This past weekend we did have a nice snowfall and it made for a beautiful winter scene in my backyard.

Snow can be difficult to photograph if you only pay attention to the light meter readings in your camera’s viewfinder. I am not a technical expert, but I do know that most built-in light meters are programmed to optimize something called 18% gray. This usually works out well enough except when photographing snow. If you just use the meter to set your camera then you will probably get a photo with gray snow! Usually not a good image! I most often shoot with at least one stop more light than the meter indicates, and the result is white snow. This is also referred to as exposing to the right. You sometimes need to adjust up or down depending on how bright the snow may be.

As I was looking at my backyard it occurred to me that there were a few simple compositions that might yield some attractive photographs. Here are two of my favorites from my backyard. Both photos were post-processed with Adobe Lightroom and I placed vignettes to center the viewers attention on the bird feeders in the frame.

snow play-20

  Lonely House

snow play-25

   Frozen Food

Hopefully these photos highlight the fact that you can usually find photo opportunities almost anywhere if you just take a few moments to look around.

Please come back and visit www.cestlavie4me.com to see where my photographic journey takes me next.

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Blog Posts

Flashing Around

I have been away from this blog for quite a long time. It seems that since the end of the year many other things have been occupying my time. Recently, it occurred to me that perhaps I should get back to photography by doing some photos. That was my first brilliant thought of the new year! It’s not that photography has been something that I had forgotten about, after all; I had been reading other photographers blogs, listening to podcasts, going to my photo club meetings and studying YouTube videos about Lightroom and Photoshop. I just had not been taking pictures. Perhaps some of you have experienced the same type of lull in your photography.

 One of the photography podcasts that I listen to, Improve Photography, had a segment that discussed this very issue. A suggestion was made to try something different in photography to get reengaged. This seemed like a great idea and I decided to begin with flash photography. This is an area that is new to me. I had purchased a Canon 430EX II Speedlite a year or two ago and had used it very infrequently. To help get some training I viewed a few YouTube videos explaining the use of speedlites. Every video almost demanded that you take the flash off camera.  I proceeded to purchase two Yongnuo Digital Wireless Flash trigger/transceivers from Amazon. I had read that these were good units and significantly less expensive than Canon’s equipment. I also had a circular reflector that I had never used, so I took it out of the package hoping that I would be able to repackage it when I finished.

 The next issue to deal with was finding an interesting subject to photograph. Fortunately, the Amaryllis bulb that I had planted a few weeks ago, had bloomed. The flowers are a beautiful red, large and almost translucent, so this was to be my flash photography subject. I had a lot of fun putting the flash in different positions and using the manual control to adjust the intensity of the flash. The reflector did come in handy on several shots and fortunately I did get it back in its storage bag after a few attempts!

 One of the many facets of photography is the level of anticipation that occurs as you engage the shutter. You find yourself getting excited about viewing your newly created masterpiece on the camera’s LCD screen. In an instant, you can go from elation to disappointment when seeing your creation! Each of you probably experiences these emotions as you finish framing your shot and finally depress the shutter. As I was experimenting with my speedlite, I felt this anticipation increase because I had absolutely no idea what the result would be. I must admit this added a great deal to my enjoyment of this exercise in flash photography!

 None of the photos displayed below would win any prizes but that was not the point. Each photo was a type of adventure. I would examine it on the back of my camera to evaluate what change the flash had made and then try to determine the next speedlite position and setting. Sometimes I would add the reflector to see how that changed the image. Every photo became a sort of classroom by itself.

This blog is not about instructions because I don’t have that level of skill. My goals for the blog is to share my photographic experiences with whomever takes the time to read it. Thus, below are the photos that I took with minimal information on how I did it or where the speedlite was located. The first photograph was shot at f9, 2.5 second shutter, 70mm and ISO 100. The other photos were all shot at f9, 1/200 second shutter and ISO 100. The differences seen are due to the speedlite flash power amount, position and reflector use. I have my favorite, now you can choose yours.

 So, what did I learn from this exercise? First, it helped get me doing some photography work again. I probably shot 200 photos of this flower with different lighting and I enjoyed the activity tremendously. It also became very clear to me why taking the flash off camera is so highly encouraged. I try to always shoot in manual mode with my camera and this gave me the opportunity to learn about manual mode on a speedlite. Because of this exercise, I now feel a little more comfortable in using a speedlite off-camera. Since I don’t have a light stand for my speedlite, I now have something else to buy for my photography hobby!

Amaryllis Flash-1

 

Please come back to visit http://www.Cestlavie4me.com in the future for more of my experiences in photography. Keep shooting!

Blog Posts

A Bee and a Butterfly

The wings of a Bee

The wings of a Bee

Open Wings

Open Wings

I recently went on a family vacation with my grandchildren, my daughter, son-in-law and my wife. We rented a home in North Carolina that sat on 75 acres and included river frontage on the Dan River. The home and setting were beautiful and I decided to take advantage of some of the numerous photographic opportunities there. So my first order of business was to determine what might be hidden among the 75 acres of undeveloped land!

 My oldest granddaughter and I are both interested in photography, so she went with me as we scouted locations for a photo shoot. As you can imagine we found several scenes that were idyllic and well suited to photography. We stumbled upon an old home site that only had two weathered stone chimneys remaining standing. It created a fantastic photo opportunity and my granddaughter decided she would concentrate on that. She must’ve taken 100 different photos of that site and most of them turned out quite nicely.

 I decided to take advantage of the numerous butterflies that were flying about in a field of flowers near the home. Early the next morning I walked to the field and set up my camera and tripod. I then frantically proceeded to turn and pivot the camera to try and capture a butterfly as it landed on a flower. This proved to be an extremely poor idea! Trying to capture a butterfly in flight is not an easy task to do, especially for a novice photographer such as myself. It must’ve been very comical to see me jerking my camera around trying to catch an elusive butterfly on a very small flower. I’m lucky that I didn’t knock the camera down or fall over the tripod with my clumsy self.

 The next morning I decided on a new plan of attack. I got up and took one of my younger granddaughters with me and asked her to pick a flower that she thought butterflies would land on. The flower she picked out I set my sights on it, and proceeded to focus on that specific flower and then wait for something to land on it. This proved to be a much more fruitful strategy. It just required patience on my part. Thankfully I captured quite a few photos of both butterflies and bees on both that flower and an adjacent one. I guess the moral of the story is to think things through before you start shooting somewhat aimlessly, especially with moving objects such as butterflies and bees!

 As I was reviewing the photos in Adobe Lightroom I noticed a couple of consistent errors on my part. Although I focused on the flower, I didn’t take fully into account just how narrow the depth of field would be for that type of a shot. As a consequence, some of the flower in the foreground was very clear and sharp but as you can see the rear of the flower was out of focus. Fortunately both the butterfly and the bee were in sharp focus. I was particularly pleased with the photo of the bee because you can clearly see the detail in its wings! Another problem I noticed was with composition. I planned to have a good bokeh in the background so that the flower, the butterfly or bee would stand out in sharp focus against the foliage in the background. Unfortunately, I think I had too much of the background and that created a sense of clutter in my photographs. Take a look and tell me what you think.

I also decided to experiment a little bit with Adobe Lightroom by creating a vignette for the photo of the butterfly. I think this helped remove some clutter and also focus more attention on the butterfly. I’m interested in your opinion of this and any other comments you might have on my photography especially anything that can help me improve! Until next time, keep shooting!