photography tips

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Tips Index - Please click on the links below

Safety on a shoot
Night photography 2
Composition technique
B & W print evaluation
Night photography 1
Manipulation of Photos
Portfolios
Setting up a Darkroom
Framing
Camera Bags
The Best Conditions for Photography
How Important is Technical knowledge?
Compositional Elements
Only wind still conditions for landscape photos!
Choosing a tripod
Shooting Transparencies
Do I use filters?
Will more expensive or digital cameras give me better pictures?
Photographing under moonlight conditions

Photographing in twilight conditions
Composition
 

 

Video - Landscape Photography with Erik Gunzel

Includes advanced techniques on composition, sequential photography and true night photography etc.
For any photographer who wishes to see beyond the obvious.
Click here to find out more and to see screenshots from the video.


Landscape Photography Courses
Get the most out of your  landscape photography by going
on shoots with Erik Gunzel in small groups of four students maximum or by enrolling in a photography course by correspondence.
Click here for Landscape Photography course & workshop

Click here for the Photography by Correspondence course


Wedding Photography
Click here for information on affordable wedding photography on the Central Coast

 

Safety on a shoot

Nothing can ruin your day more than an injury. 
I recommend to all my students to plan trips carefully and to carry food, water and suitable clothing.  Let others know where you are going and when you are expected back.  Consider to carry a mobile phone.
Injuries like cuts, bruises and insect bites can not always be prevented so becoming a senior first aider will be of great value to you.

 

Night photography 2

Having walked into many spiderwebs and had big spiders crawl over my face as a result, I have succumbed to using a torch to see where I am going when walking through the forest.   But still, from half to full moon will give you sufficient light without using a torch and fully enjoy the unique atmosphere.


 

Composition technique

No, nothing to do with the silly rule of thirds.

Try using your hands or fingers to mimmic your camers viewfinder.  Look through your hands to scan an area.  Move your hands closer to your eyes will approximate a wide angle lens.  Moving them further out will approximate a zoom lens.

Works for me.


 

B & W print evaluation

In the darkroom, prints can look ideal when they are still in your fixing batch or holding tray.  Good blacks and whites are present and you think you have got it.
The following morning when you look at your dried print in daylight, you are filled with shock and horror as it seems flat and dead.

Prints darken during the drying process.  I print my black and whites now using an approximate 10% underexposure. 


 

Night photography 1

What I consider to be true night photography is shooting using the moon as the only light source.  No torches, flash or suburban lights.
Determining exposure values can therefore be quite difficult and relies on a fair bit of trial and error, but here is a tip:

Using a large aperture, e.g. f4, a 100ASA film and a tripod, expose a frame for a couple of minutes.  Then shoot additional frames, each time doubling your exposure time.  Write down the exposure values for each frame and also write down the light / sky conditions that was present when you did the trial.  This will give you a good starting point.



Manipulation of Photos

Many times I get asked the question whether I use filters in my photography.  Well, except for a UV filter to protect my lens, I don't.
Many photographers will tell you the same, and I am sure they are all telling the truth.
What people usually mean when they ask this question is whether I have manipulated the colours in my works.  Again, apart from some light/dark and contrast adjustments I haven't done that either.

Every photographer knows that much better colour manipulation can be achieved during the printing process or when preparing scans for printing.  It is silly and much less effective to use filters for such effects.

I don't disagree with colour manipulation and at some point I am sure I will do some as well.  In the end it is the end result that counts and whether it moves you or not.


 

Portfolios

A portfolio must only include work that you are 100% happy with.  If there is any doubt whether to put something in, then don't do it. 

Zero compromise.


 

Setting up a Darkroom

Setting up a darkroom is easy.  Light tight material for windows and around doors, noooooo carpets.  If you do have one, wrap a tarp around it.   This will keep the dust down and will also protect the carpet.
Running water is a luxury.  Just a holding tray to keep the prints during the darkroom session has always worked fine for me.  You must still wash the prints afterwards though.


 

Framing

As far as I can see, a frame has 2 major functions.  It helps to preserve a work and protect it from damage and, if designed well, it becomes part of the overall work.  For this reason I design all frames myself. i.e. I choose the moulding, matt, dimensions and determine placement of the photo in the matt.
I think it is unwise (and also unfair) to go into a framing shop and let the framer design the frame.
If you are serious about your own work, design everything yourself and give clear instructions to your framer.  As the photographer, you know best as to what the work must look like.


 

Camera Bags

There is a variety of camera bags available and they all suit a certain purpose.  For going out into the forest where sometimes you have to crawl under/over, climb and sometimes get wet, I find that camera bags that have a waist strap + a removable waterproof skin, great value.  Some bags also have a rounded shape to suit your body.  It all helps.


 

The Best Conditions for Photography

I guess you have been through all of this before.  The moment you get a camera, there are all these gurus coming out from everywhere explaining to you what a good photograph is, what to take and when to take it.  They will point out to you that sunsets and sunrises are the best times to take photos (all these colours!), and usually they will tell you what the best spots are as well.
True, many people do this with the best intentions and I have been guilty of pressing the shutter at such occasions to avoid any negative vibes.  I now usually offer the person to take that photo and then I look forward to seeing their point of view.
I don't know what a "best" photographic condition is.  In the end, it is how you see things at a given moment and what grabs your attention.  Regardless of what time of the day.  And the only person to decide whether the photo works or not is.......................................you.
 

 


How Important is Technical Knowledge

I only have a very basic understanding of camera operation,  e.g. I know that f22 gives you lots of depth of field and that f2.8 hardly gives you any.   A fast shutterspeed can freeze movement and a long shutterspeed records movement.  And then there are fast and slow speed films. 

That is about it.

Technical knowledge is no guarantee for great photos.  In fact, the less technical you are, the more you will concentrate on what is around you.  And that is what it is really about.
When something great happens in the landscape, just go for it, shoot lots of film, make mistakes, shoot some more film.  Love the results.

Who cares whether you shot something with a shutterspeed of 1/125 or 1/250? 


Boring

 

Compositional Elements

In a scene there are many compositional elements that have an influence on the ambience of a place and therefore influence how you might set up a shot, or whether you are going to set up at all. To mention some of the more tangible elements: Shapes, Colour, Light and Movement.
They can be present in varying degrees.  Some of them may have a dominant presence whereas others may have a more subtle presence.  Others may not be present at all and therefore reinforce the dominance of others through their absence.  Some of the more obscure compositional elements include temperature, sound, negative space, wind direction, or simply the presence of e.g. a little bird.  Give yourself time to immerse yourself
in the landscape as opposed to simply looking at the landscape.  Feel it's spirit and energies.  There are some greater life forces at work here.
And the environment changes all the time.  Therefore, what works today may not necessarily work tomorrow.
A composition then becomes the result of how you perceive and respond to the interplay between the several elements of the moment.

Do you still believe in rules for composition?  Please............

 

 

Only wind still conditions for landscape photos!

This is a claim I have heard made by a number of photographers. 
Why?......... I carefully ask them. 
To get sharp & non blurred pictures!!......... They tell me with an authoritative tone of voice.  I usually leave the scene at that point, contemplating my future as a photographer because I do not understand and because they got me very worried about the pictures I should never have taken.

Follow this link, and tell me what you think.

 

 

Choosing a tripod

A good tripod is worth every cent you pay for it.  Don't try and save money on it as you will be sorry.  Let your dealer advise you as to what tripod suits your camera.
Also, buy a tripod which has a head that tilts in 4 directions. ie: left/right & forward/backward.
Many tripods only have 3 tilting movements, i.e.: forward/backward and left or right only.
If you are considering to buy one of those then you must like pain & frustration because whenever you are working on uneven ground, you will find yourself performing the very awkward task of (re)adjusting the legs of the tripod each time when you change camera position.
Much easier and faster to be able to (re)adjust the head.

 

Shooting Transparencies

Transparencies are quite unforgiving when it comes to exposures.  Therefore, I always bracket my exposures.  That is, I shoot one with the exposure that my lightmeter recommends, then I shoot one stop under and one stop over recommended values.  Yes, you shoot three times more film, but it beats having to work with badly exposed shots.  When shooting architecture or interiors I also make polaroid test shots.  This allows you to check out whether the room is set up right.

 

 

Do I use filters?

The only filter I use is a UV filter, primarily to protect the lens from damage.  I did have a few close calls when walking through the bush and my camera bumped against some rocks.  It was easy and quite cheap to replace the UV filer, but at least my lens was not damaged.  If you are after special effects then find out first if it can be done during printing, or alternatively take the photo with and without filter.  What is the cost of an extra frame?

 

 

Will more expensive or digital cameras give me better pictures?

NO, definitely not.
When deciding what camera to buy, first make sure what kind of photography you intend to use it for.
For instance, if you are into sports photography and you have to shoot quick, then an auto focus may be of use to you. 
But, if you are like me and shoot landscapes or architecture, then the only good thing about auto focus is the OFF button.  The more electronic gadgets a camera has, then usually the more expensive the camera will be.......but for what true benefit?.....  It really is up to what you want.   But don't expect to become a better photographer as a result.
Quality of the lens is important but I have not seen noticable differences between 35mm film cameras, regardless what price range they were in, i.e. $200 second hand to $2000 new.
I make life size slide projections for multi media projects using a 20 year old single reflex camera.  Pick one up for $200 almost anywhere.  It works perfect.   Click here to see some results
Digital still cameras today I find  overpriced and they do not deliver equivalent quality at the moment.  It is however a great technology and will improve fast over the next few years, just like computers. 
The technology has opened up many new possibilities from both an artistic and convenience point of view.  e.g. night exposures seem easy and some of the results I have seen looked fantastic.  The issues of colour temperature and reciprocity failure do not seem to affect digital cameras in the way they affect normal film.  All great stuff.

But no matter what you are into, in the end it is the person behind the camera who makes or breaks it.

That will never change.

 

 

Photographing under moonlight conditions

The moon is a great light source but, when shooting in a forest, usually you don't see anything through your viewfinder.  Too dark.  Once I have set up my camera in a general direction, I point a torch light into the forest and run the beam along the periphery of my viewfinder. 
This also allows me to focus.  When everything is set, I turn the torch off and take the photo.  Some exposures have taken up to 4 hours.


 

 

Photographing in twilight conditions

Lots of photographers photograph sunsets by pointing the camera towards where the sun sets.
Next time when you are on a shoot, try looking the other way, i.e., look over your shoulder in the opposite direction.
You might see the most extra ordinary light conditions.  That is how I shot Tasman Sea & Untitled.

untitled2.JPG (110573 bytes)

 

Composition

Often I hear people getting involved in rules on how to compose a photograph.  One of these is the so called rule of thirds.  Another one is that some people feel that you can not crop an image during printing.  Pfeww... all that pain and suffering people put themselves through.
Rules restrict creativity.  The sky is the limit as far as I am concerned.  If it works, it works.  Trust your own intuition and be perceptive to what is around you.

sandstonedetailII.JPG (126563 bytes)

 

 


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