To Grow, Adapt and Adjust

I think it is important that we all grow, adapt and adjust to changes in the world and in our lives. My work is now making it difficult for me to have the time and the mental space to do this blog. So I am not going to continue it. 

There really are three reasons for this:

  1. As I mentioned, my present work is making it hard to do. I am excited that part of this work takes me back to earlier times where nature, science, writing and photography all came together for me. This includes starting up a YouTube channel on helping folks better understand the wonder and the science of nature and biology. I will let people know more about this on Facebook as I launch this later this fall. 
  2. My work has long been about using visuals and words to communicate about our world, including photography, especially nature, but also about many other cool things I have been awed by. There is a lot today about photography on the Internet and in classes all over the place, everything from great to mediocre. However, much of it has lost the “communicate about the world” idea and simply is about impressing or trying to impress other photographers than seeing and connecting with the real world. It is photography about photography, making it a little too  “inbred” for my interests.  I know that is fun for a lot of people, and I wish them all the best, but it is not for me. 
  3. Frankly, I have worked over the years doing so much how-to stuff that I have neglected at times who I really am and my deeper interests, so I need to honor those things.

Thanks to everyone who has read and followed my blog! I will still post to Facebook, including some behind the photography thoughts, and I will send occasional photo how-to ideas to my email list. My on-line course, The Art of Choice, will be available a little longer, but I will be closing that, too, in the not too distant future. 

Posted in News | 19 Comments

Photographing the Sun

The sun is a critical part of our photography. Without it, we’d have no light and most nature photography wouldn’t exist. We use the sun’s light to highlight our subject, enhance a scene, add some sparkle to water, and even include the sun in sunrise and sunset photos as well as to add some impact to a photo with sky.

Now a solar eclipse is coming up. These don’t happen very often. Lots of people are talking about photographing it.

So I thought it might be useful to talk a little bit about photographing the sun in any situation and why you have to be careful about that. A long time ago, I did photograph an eclipse of the sun, but those photographs are long gone. I have included the sun in my photographs, however, almost my entire career. I have loved including the sun in sunrise and sunset photos, but I’ve also enjoyed adding the impact of bright sun in lots of photographs.

I learned long ago that you have to be really careful when using a telephoto lens with an optical viewfinder and photographing the sun. For example, if you’re photographing the sun at sunrise or sunset, the telephoto will intensify the rays of the sun, and if you are using an optical viewfinder, that can damage your eye. This is magnified even more with an eclipse of the sun because you would be photographing it at first with its full power during a time of day where it is not diminished by sunset-time atmosphere.

There are a couple of things you can do to minimize any danger to your eyes. And I want to emphasize that there can be a very real danger of damage to your eyes. My wife works in eye healthcare, and she makes sure I know that, too!

First, whenever you are looking at the sun, especially when you’re looking through an optical viewfinder of a camera, you need to protect your eyes. You can’t just use any old dark filter or sunglasses. You need sunglasses with the ISO Certified seal of approval, or ISO 12312-2 printed on them. This ensures the glasses were made to protect your eyes. For more information, click here to see this article by an ophthalmologist

Second, use your camera smartly. Set your camera to manual focus, then set your lens at infinity before you even frame up your photo with the sun. The sun is going to be at infinity so you don’t need to do anything else. Even when you are shooting a sunset, the sun on the horizon is still going to be at infinity.

Next, frame up the sun quickly with your camera on a tripod and then shift your camera so that the sun is out of your frame. Now you are ready to start taking pictures when the time comes, but you are not having the sun go through your camera. That way you are in no danger if you forget and look through the camera. When the time is right, quickly create your composition with the sun, then take your eye away from the viewfinder and start taking pictures. Since your camera is on a tripod, the composition is not going to change, so you don’t need to look through the camera as you shoot.

Now here’s a different idea that you don’t heard much about. People seem to forget that most cameras today can use Live View (and if you have a mirrorless camera, such as I do, then you are always using Live View). When you are using live view, you are never looking directly at the sun. The sun is being captured by your sensor, then being displayed on your LCD. That way you can see what you are photographing without any risk to your eyes. So use your Live View!

Years ago, cameras used to be very sensitive to having the sun constantly on the sensor. Sensors have been designed to make that much less of a problem now, but still, you don’t want to just leave your camera pointing at the sun while you are using Live View. That can create damage to your sensor or camera from the focused heat at the minimum.

When you use your camera with Live View and a strong sun, use a neutral density filter (or at least a polarizing filter acting like a neutral density filter) to knock down the intensity of the sun on your sensor. Then, follow the technique as described above – after setting your focus to infinity, quickly frame up the sun with your camera on a tripod and then shift your camera so that the sun is out of your frame. When the conditions are right for photographing, shift your camera again to create your composition with the sun, and start taking pictures. With Live View, you can actually watch the shots as they unfold, which is really cool for observing a solar eclipse.

Posted in News, Photography Commentary | 2 Comments

The Midday Photo Challenge

As nature photographers, you and I have learned that midday, summer sun is typically a poor light for good looking photos. There is no question that this light causes major problems – an unattractive, harsh toplight; colors that get washed out and even get some unwanted blue; a lack of strong dimensional light and shadow to define and sculpt a composition.

Yet, as nature lovers, you and I also know that nature does not stop “being” because the light is bad. That creates a challenge – how to photograph and represent nature throughout its richness, not just early and late in the day. This is something that has concerned me for a while. If we aren’t showing off nature throughout its life (and midday is a big part of its “life”), then we are not showing the full reality of nature.

So what to do? For me, I want to get nature at all times (a reason why I have been working to photograph bats), so I am going to try to find interesting photos at midday. Here are some ideas that I have found can help:

  • Do close-ups. With close-ups, we have a lot of freedom as to how we photograph them, low, high, this side, that side. That will often give us some interesting light. Because the area photographed is small, we can also control it by shading the background, the subject or both. (I am not a big fan of using diffusers at this time because it shows this particular nature in an unnatural light.)
  • Shoot in the shade. This may give you images with weak contrast, so be prepared to adjust contrast in the computer (Clarity works well here). Also, watch out for overly blue images if you are shooting auto white balance.
  • Look for strong colors and base your composition on them rather than the light. This  may mean you need to get close to something colorful so that you don’t lose color due to distance under the midday light.
  • Try black-and-white. This avoids the color problems, plus you can work contrasts in ways that don’t always require light and shadow.
  • Try black-and-white infrared. Have that old camera you no longer use converted to infrared. I used LifePixel.
Posted in Photography Commentary | 6 Comments

Hot Summer Photography

Summer in the prairie, Minnesota. Warm, humid sunrise.

It’s July, one of the hottest months of the year in most of the country. Some parts of the U.S., particularly the Southwest, have seen some of the hottest weather in quite some time. And there is no question that when you add high humidity to high temperatures, the discomfort level rises.

Heat and humidity doesn’t mean you can’t go out and photograph. It just means you have to pay attention to a few things.

Some of the best light for nature photography comes early and late in the day, particularly for landscapes. Those are great times a day to be out in the heat coming anyway. And of course, you need to be sure you are drinking lots of water and you are being careful of overexertion.

A hot and humid day. Time for water.

Let’s look at dealing with your gear in the heat. Our gear today is filled with electronics, including lenses. Electronics don’t like high heat and can be damaged from it. So one thing that you really have to be careful of … leaving your camera and other gear in the car when it is sitting in the sun and really heating up. I won’t do it. It is just too risky for potential damage to the gear.

When the sun is strong, be careful about leaving a black camera directly exposed to the sun for any length of time (such as sitting on a tripod while you rest). It can be surprising how much a black camera can heat up which can potentially cause damage to the electronics on the camera and lens, plus it may even affect the lubricants in the lenses.

Another important heat issue is condensation. You know what happens when you bring a cold glass of water out into warm, humid air. It gets covered with water from condensation.

The same thing can happen to your camera when you bring a camera chilled by air-conditioning out into warm humid air. That can cause moisture to form on your lens surfaces, which can affect how quickly you can shoot. Condensation can also be a problem because you may get moisture building up inside the camera which is not good. Now if you are in the desert where there is no humidity, then you probably won’t have this problem.

So when you’re outside photographing this summer, remember to take care of yourself, take care of your gear, and look to be outside at the cooler times a day.

My friend, Chuck Summers, taking a break on a hot day.

Posted in News | 7 Comments

Camera Lens Degradation

Do you know the flowering plant often called kangaroo paw (or toes)? The flower buds are these long, fuzzy rounded tubes that remind people of kangaroo paws (sometimes names for natural things can be fun and a little crazy). I have some in my yard. I walked by them the other day and for some reason the scattered open flowers caught my eye. They were pretty wild. 

My iPhone was handy, plus a strong close-up lens attachment, and since the sun was leaving the flowers, I grabbed it for the photographs. When I tried photographing the flowers, I immediately knew I had a problem. The wind was blowing, making the flowers bounce around, plus I was having trouble steadying the iPhone with its camera up this close. When you get close, any camera movement is magnified greatly. I also had little control over the iPhone’s shutter speed to maybe stop this chaos of movement. 

The result … the photos were blurry and unusable. Except for my blog! Anyway, a combination of camera movement during exposure, plus subject movement made the camera and lens look bad, even though it really was my fault.

Enlarged

Lenses are critical to our work as photographers. Without a lens, we cannot create a photograph with our cameras short of creating some pinhole camera with a body cap (it can be done), but even then, results are not that great (unless you want that effect). While lenses today are mostly quite good compared to lenses of the past, a distinctly “good” lens can be a joy to use.

 

Shot with same iPhone and CU lens on a better day.

Enlarged. The blur at the lower left is a lens aberration, not unusual with such gear.

The surest way to degrade the quality of a lens is camera technique that results in camera movement during exposure. This can be the result of holding the camera poorly, of punching the shutter button, of windy conditions that blow the camera, of vibrations from a car or other vehicle being transmitted to the camera, the use of too slow a shutter speed, not compensating for a telephoto or macro lens (both are highly sensitive to camera movement during exposure) and so on. 

All too often, I have seen photographs with camera movement that cannot be excused (though sometimes conditions can make it difficult to eliminate it entirely), but frankly, for a lot of photographers, this might not matter if they are only posting to Facebook. Small images often don’t show the sharpness problem of slight camera movement.

But much of the time, the blur due to camera movement is clear. It is amazing to me to see photographers spending a great deal of money on camera and lens, yet they allow their technique to cause camera movement, resulting in images no better than a cheap, entry-level camera and kit lens combination. And “allow” is the right word, because this is a choice. 

But a big problem on the Internet comes when photographers start commenting on lenses and even comparing them. From the photos, you can clearly see the camera movement degrading the image quality, yet the photographer posting this information will blame the lens for being of “poor quality.”

I once saw a comparison of a Nikon macro and a Canon macro where the “reviewer” said that the Canon was of slightly lower quality. Looking closer, I saw that the reviewer was looking at camera movement during exposure, not lens quality. This made the “review” worthless, though it may have influenced some photographers, “I know my Nikon is better than your Canon. I just saw this review …”

How do you know you have camera movement during exposure? One clear giveaway is little lines all going in a certain direction (of the movement) from point or round spots (especially sun highlights) that are not lines. Notice that all of the little highlights in the next image have a feeling of movement from top left to bottom right. 

Subject movement is similar, though you will often see the blurriness of the photo limited to a certain area compared to camera movement during exposure. The latter will always affect the whole photo. 

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Pruning Trees and Photo Gear

California lilac

I admit it. I am a bit sensitive to how people treat the life around us that isn’t human. The life on this planet is far greater than any measure of human beings. And in spite of our belief that we can do it all, we can’t actually do it all. We can’t constantly produce oxygen for us to breathe, plants do that. We can’t dispose of waste so that it disappears and is recycled back into our planet, insects and bacteria do that.

And more, of course, but this is not about what nature can do that we can’t. It is about nature photography, too, but I have to set the stage.

Recently, I came across a tree pruning company in our neighborhood pruning trees around a church and its parking lot. At first, I thought they were just getting rid of some dead wood. One of the pines did have dead branches.

Oh, no, not just that.

They cut down a couple of beautiful, old jacaranda trees. These are flowering trees with a stunning blue-purple abundance of blossoms. Unfortunately, the trees drop a lot of flowers. They are “messy”, so some people don’t like them. I am not sure what was going on here because the trees were not dropping flowers on cars or any lawn people used, but I am guessing that someone complained, so they decided to get rid of them.

Then I suspect the tree pruning company told the church that “since they were there,” they could prune the other trees. None of the other trees actually needed pruning. (I don’t say this as a sensitive nature “tree-hugger.” In college, I studied plant and soil science, and while in school, I worked at an arboretum, including with a master pruner.)

But prune they did. They truly butchered the trees. The broad-leaved trees will resprout and should fill in the terrible gaps left. But pines do not respond well to severe pruning. They do not readily resprout. They will never look like they did (these were trees probably 50 years old with wonderful, full, healthy crowns), and they may be weakened enough that some die.

Badly pruned trees. Broadleaf on the left, pine on the right.

Healthy pine trees in area. What they should look like.

That said, the pruners did not technically do anything wrong. They had the right tree pruning and safety gear. They had the right technique in how to cut branches without damaging the trunk around the cut. The had the right technique to cut back to a joint of branches. They just had no understanding of the trees they were cutting, other than objects to cut, not seeing the trees as living organisms that have specific growth needs.

So what does that have to do with photography? If you pay attention to the marketing from the camera and other photographic companies, you will learn that you don’t have “enough.” That better photography will be yours if you just buy some of their newest gear. And I am sure you know some people who pay too much attention to that marketing, as well as paying too much from their wallets and gaining no better photography.

Also, I am sure you know of the amateur photo “expert” who has been to all the classes, read all the books, and can tell you a hundred techniques that will help you be a better photographer. Except these folks often don’t actually have great photos.

You see, the pruners and photographers can be alike. A photographer can have all the right gear. He or she can have all the right training to learn the best techniques. But…

If such photographers don’t have the ability to photograph from the heart, to actually see the subject as something more than an object to be “captured” and “manipulated” by the camera (and I use that word manipulated very deliberately yet it has nothing to do with Photoshop, and all to do with how one uses their gear), their photos are going to be like those over-pruned trees, empty, bare shells of what they could be.

Good photography comes from something much deeper than the gear one owns and the techniques one learns. Gear and technique are important, of course, but as tools to help your achieve your photographic vision. If they are the focus of a photographer’s work, then he or she is missing really seeing the world and its possible subjects.

You will often hear that good photography that engages others has some emotional content. That emotion largely comes from caring deeply about what you are photographing, about seeing your subject as more than an object to funnel into your lens. That may mean learning something about your subject more than it exists as a subject for photography. That may mean getting excited about color or light and translating that excitement into your photos. That may mean falling in love with the subject in front of you.

That doesn’t mean that one is in “love with nature.” That’s kind of a non-statement. A lot of people say that, but what does it really mean? Dig down and find what that love means, use that information to affect how you look for subjects, to influence how you photograph each subject in front of your camera, to change how you see every “individual” (even landscapes) you photograph.

That’s photography with heart. If only those pruners had had some heart about nature and how different trees really grow.

Posted in News | 8 Comments

Puzzling Out Night Nature and a Trailcam

Normally, I am unfazed by animal scat (droppings, poo, you get it). I have spent enough time outside to know the difference between deer and rabbit droppings, fox and raccoon, and so on. But when I found big round chunks of scat on a deer trail behind our cabin in the mountains, I really was puzzled.

Could it be bear? I had heard that there had been a bear in the area years ago. This was the Southern Sierra Mountains in California, after all. But no, there was no evidence of a predator (fur, bones) or even a berry-eating omnivore like a bear. The same would apply to a mountain lion, unlikely anyway since they tend to stay away from people.

Looking closer (like a good naturalist), I could see the scat was grass-based, like a horse might leave, but it would have been a small horse, and there were no horses, small or otherwise, in the area. Maybe some deer was constipated! Do deer even get constipated? So it stayed a puzzle. I did have a book on scat and tracks (a very useful manual for naturalist photographers), but it was at home. I was convinced the scat’s owner would remain a mystery.

That night, our son’s fiancé was sitting by a window that overlooked a bird feeder and happened to look out. “Omigod, there’s a pig … no … could it be a bear … no, it’s a pig!” My wife, my son and I rushed to the window, but it was gone. We grabbed flashlights and went outside, but no pig was to be seen. We knew it was no domestic pig, but a wild pig (aka, hog or boar).

Let me clarify. My son and I grabbed flashlights and looked, but my wife and my son’s fiancé stayed close to the house. My wife was worried about our little dogs – should I even walk them that night? I reminded her that pigs didn’t eat dogs, small or otherwise. Though I have to admit that if the pig had suddenly showed up in my headlamp while I was walking the dogs, the dogs and I would probably have had a record speed walk back to the cabin!

Okay, now the big scat made sense. The size was right, the content right. It had come from the wild pig. Pigs are not native to California. When the original settlers came here, they had pigs, some got loose and became wild or “feral.” Then in the 1920s, somebody decided to introduce the European wild boar to Monterey County for hunting. The two interbred and now the wild pigs are hybrids with little of each and in much of California. They are very productive and have spread into many areas in the state. Once established, they can be hard to get rid of, plus they can be very destructive to natural areas.

Would it be possible to photograph this night beast? This is where trail cameras (trailcams) with infrared light can work. (More on trailcams for nature photographers in a later post.) I had modified mine because I didn’t like its built-in light, so it could use an “off-camera” infrared light. I couldn’t easily set it up when it was night, plus it was already set up for some night nature video at a small pond I had created in the front of the house. So I forgot about the pig for the night.

The next morning, I gathered up my trailcam and brought it inside. I looked through the video captures to see what had visited. And there was the pig in one of the clips! I could only display it small on the trailcam screen (which is really small), because I had forgotten my SD card reader for my iPad, but it still was obviously a wild pig. Notice how he plays the statue in the middle.

Now I had visual proof of our piggy visitor! And I was sure of that scat. Subject-triggered photography/video comes through! It is almost impossible to visually capture night visitors in any other way.

Posted in News | 2 Comments

Photography Is Not Just One Thing

In the last post, I talked a bit about how a photojournalistic approach has helped me “get the shot” in varied conditions. A photojournalistic approach is about communicating how you connect with your subject so that others can, too. I happen to love that approach and you will see it in much of my work.

Not everyone likes that approach. There are many approaches to photography, but one of the most common is looking at each image as art first. My friend Art Wolfe is truly an artist who takes this approach. He is one of the finest photographic artists I have ever known. Every one of his images have been carefully crafted based on his background in art. And they are beautiful! (This photo is from The Art of the Photograph that Art and I did. Art’s website is at artwolfe.com. You can call 888-973-0011 or email info@artwolfe.com to license this image or purchase a limited edition print.) 

Photo © Art Wolfe

Now what happens when two photographers get together to discuss images and they have very different approaches, such as an art first bias or a photojournalistic bias? There is a natural tendency to be critical of work done by the “other” approach, often more so than of work done by folks with a similar inclination. Psychologically, we are hard-wired to favor things that connect with our world view, so if our world view is based on art, we may have little patience with someone else’s world view based on photojournalism.

(I want to be clear that this is not necessarily an either/or idea. Folks doing a photojournalistic approach may create art, and those doing an art approach may look for photojournalistic elements.)

There is a very strong bias toward the art approach among photographers, especially among folks who do critiques at camera clubs. So much photography instruction is about applying art ideas to photography, which can be great. I do work to apply art ideas to my work as well.

But the problem comes when people start making arbitrary judgements about work that doesn’t fit their world view of what photography “should be.” This can make people uncomfortable following their own path in photography when it differs from a pervasive bias. I have given talks to camera clubs showing a different approach at times, and then I will often get quiet comments from some members who feel “relieved” that their photography is okay. The pervasive art bias makes them feel not okay.

The way we deal with this is to take photographs and photographers as they are, not as they “should be” based on our personal approach. Be open to possibilities that you can learn from others, yet still retain your own preferences.

There are more approaches to photography than simply these two, such as documentary, abstract, record-keeping, and so forth. Each approach demands the photographer take different approach to image making. You can still evaluate how well a photograph meets its objectives based on what it is trying to do, but not based solely on what you are trying to do with your work. I try to do that approach in my workshops and critiques, and it seems to work pretty well.

Posted in News | 6 Comments

When You Have to Get the Shot

As I drove into the forest service recreation area, I saw all these white spots on the hillside next to the road. Flowers! I wanted to know what they were, so I had to stop and check them out.

They were Mariposa lilies! Several species are common throughout California and a great sign of the California spring (also called calochortus after the scientific name). I had never seen so many at one time! Usually I had found one here and there through a landscape, but not like here. They aren’t as spectacular as the California poppies or the “superbloom” that sometimes occurs after a big winter rainy season (like this year), but there is something about them that makes them so beautiful, especially when you get close.

I knew I had to get some photographs. The problem was that it was about 11 AM. The sun was high and the light was not overly attractive, especially for anything beyond a close-up.

Close-ups often work well at any time of day because you can always control the light by moving around your subject, shading it or the background, and so forth. You can’t do that with bigger scenes and here was a big scene of Mariposa lilies.

I know, of course, the story for a nature photographer is that you always “have to” photograph at sunrise and sunset or near those times. Of course, those are great times to be out and photographing because the light can be absolutely beautiful. But nature doesn’t just exist at those times. So how do we get interesting photographs of nature when we aren’t there at the “right” time?

Early in my career, I worked as a staff photojournalist for the publications at the Minnesota Department of Transportation. As a photojournalist, my job was to go out and get the picture. I could not go back at another time or anything else like that. I had an assignment to get out and get a certain photograph at a certain time, when a highway engineer, for example was only available at a certain time, or a state legislative transportation committee was only meeting at a certain time. It was my job to get an interesting and engaging photograph that could be used in our publications. No excuses. This is true of any photojournalist.

I think this definitely colored my approach to nature photography. Even though I have been photographing nature since I was a kid, this photojournalistic approach made me think about how I did my nature photography. I photographed for one of the state maps while at MN/DOT, and I only had a certain amount of time to go around the state doing that. I was photographing nature for the map, but if I came into a location and the weather wasn’t perfect, I had to find a way to make an interesting photograph.

I think sometimes nature photographers get trapped by the “rule” that you can only photograph at certain times. There is no question that there are times where nature photography is difficult. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

So back to my Mariposa lilies. I started photographing them in different ways. First, I used a telephoto to isolate the flowers against out of focus flowers behind them. The telephoto also compressed distance to make of the flowers in the background look more plentiful. That type of closer work often does give you interesting pictures when the conditions aren’t ideal. However, I wanted something that gave a feeling of where these flowers live, which was up in the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains.

I tried some wide angle close-ups, which as you know I love to do, but the light wasn’t quite giving me what I wanted.

What to do?

One thing about finding a photograph in difficult conditions is to really have a mindset that you are going to find a photograph. Notice I did not say that you are going to take a photo. Find a photograph means that you can’t simply point your camera at the subject and snap a shot because that’s all you’ll get, a snapshot. And it probably won’t be very interesting as a photograph. To find a photograph starts by taking a mindset that you are going to find an interesting, engaging photograph, maybe even something a little different than what you even expected.

So I started looking at these flowers again and realized that if I laid down on the ground, I could get a dramatic shot of the flower against the sky with mountains in the background. So I laid down on the ground and started shooting. This was not a simple thing either. I worked the shot to find the best photograph I could, so I kept looking at the background to see where the mountains would show up, how the flower in the foreground would relate to them, and what showed up in terms of out of focus flowers on the hillside as well. But as I worked the scene and played with it, I found a shot that I really liked. The light actually made the flower look great even though the overall scene didn’t have the drama of other times of the day. But it didn’t matter. I still had my shot.

Sometimes you have to think beyond simply finding a beautiful scene and capturing that. It can help to think about how can you make an interesting photograph with what is in front of you. That could take some work and some time to do. But it can be well worth doing.

Posted in Photography Commentary | 4 Comments

The Importance of Shallow Depth of Field

Shallow depth of field is an important part of the craft of photography. So often I get questions about how to get more depth of field, which can be important, yet getting less can be really, really helpful in creating better photos. It is a cool technique often missed by photographers who get stuck feeling they always have to have a lot of depth of field.

Just this week I photographed my son and his fiancé in a city park. We had no time to go to some other location, so park it was. I deliberately shot with very shallow depth of field to isolate them against a nice background that showed none of the park, the people there, the buildings in the distance, and so forth. The shot showing some of the background is from my wife’s iPhone — it gives an idea of the conditions.

Shallow depth of field is very important to nature photography, too. It can be a huge help in making sure your subject stands out in the photograph regardless of the surroundings. Exactly like my son and future daughter-in-law’s photos.

The easiest way to get shallow depth of field is to shoot aperture-priority exposure with your lens wide open (this means choosing the biggest f-stop which is also the smallest number) and using a telephoto focal length. The telephoto focal length also helps to compress stuff in the background, making it tighter and often less distracting.

For the photos of my son and his fiancé, I used my 40-150mm f/2.8 set to 150mm and f/2.8 (that lens on my MFT system is equivalent to 300mm in 35mm-full-frame and 200mm in APS-C formats). Sure, I had to back up to get the shots, but that backing up helped compress the background, making it more attractive, while that combination of 150mm and f/2.8 gave me extremely shallow depth of field. That meant making sure my focus was right on the eyes of the couple (any time eyes are out of focus, the photo will look out of focus to most viewers).

All of these photos required me to back up to get the shot, NOT stand in one place and zoom.

So if you are ever feeling trapped by a background, try getting out the lens you have with the longest, most telephoto focal length, then shoot with the widest lens opening (the smallest number). Then give this a try with other subjects. You may find it a lot of fun!

Posted in News | 2 Comments