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Update January 2018

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SNAP SHOTS   by Harry Flashman


Saturday, January 20, 2018 - January 26, 2018

Painting with light – or is it painting with dark?

The old saying was that photography was painting with light. But is it really? I would put forward that photography is rather more painting with dark.

With today’s fully automatic cameras, “light” is no longer a problem. Light can be found by changing ISO, shutter speed, apertures and even turning your back to the sun.

Getting to grips with the concept of “light” is an important factor for photography, and good photographers are the ones who have learned how to harness it.

Unfortunately, with the sophistication in cameras these days, the casual photographer can be excused for thinking that there is nothing to getting good shots. Set the camera’s mode to G for Great pix and the electronic ‘smarts’ does the rest. Pity about chaps like Ansel Adams who used to set up his camera and then wait hours if necessary to get the best light resulting in the magnificent photos he has left us.

However, the most important equipment for any new photographer is a notebook and two pens as one always runs out at the “decisive moment” (with apologies to Cartier Bresson).

Let’s make things easy for you with light and dark. Set the shutter speed for 1/30th and let the camera decide what aperture is needed. Take your shot and review critically. Too bright? Too dark? Now change the aperture and try again. You will eventually get a shot that you like, and you note the settings in your trusty notebook.

Using those settings, you will be close to where it needs to be with a similar shot. You now have a baseline and you can experiment from there.

Let’s get some spectacular low-light photographs. If you have a tripod, dust it off, but even if you haven’t, continue. We are about to explore the dark.

Go to your local markets and take some photographs using just the stall-holder’s naked bulb for illumination. Be prepared to lean against a telephone pole to stop camera shake. But give it a go.

Now try photographing some of the hotels at night. Most are quite brightly lit and once again, you may end up very surprised. Even try some portraits lit by candles only. Use your imagination, and not the flash!

Take, for example, photographing the waves rolling into the shore. The white caps on the top of the waves look great, but to get that shot you need to have the sun coming from behind you, at an angle that is almost parallel to the beach. This way the water remains dark, but the white caps catch the sun’s rays and show very brightly.

So how do you get this shot? Well, you have to find a beach where the early morning sun’s rays go out to the sea. If you can’t find one, sometimes the late afternoon sun will then be coming from the direction you want. This is something that your fancy e-camera cannot replicate.

And those two times – early morning and late afternoon have always been the best times to get good shots. “Cold” ambience in the early mornings and “warm” ambience in the afternoons. You can use an 81A or 81B “warming” filter, but the end result is not as good as that coming from the ethereal light technician.

The next confusing aspect is that the photographic color rendition and the human eye do not see the colors with the same intensity. The usual camera colors are ‘balanced’ to around 5,000 K, so light sources lower in color temperature will look orange, even though it does not look orange to the naked eye. This is why tungsten light sources produce the orange hue. However, when you balance the color, the light is balanced against tungsten light by exposing it to a blue tinge, so this time the light bulb will look white. Slightly confusing.

You also do not have to know the degrees Kelvin table off by heart to get some different photographs when you turn the flash off. The main thing to remember is that the color you perceive via the naked eye, is not necessarily the color you will get in your photograph, but if you know your Photoshop, you can correct post production.

Saturday, January 13, 2018 - January 19, 2018

What goes on after dark

(Photo credit:

Too many weekend photographers put the camera away at sunset. For many, there is no auto mode called “after dark”, so they imagine that their camera was not designed to be used after hours! When in actual fact, you can use your camera 24 hours a day. The time of the exposure is purely up to the photographer.

Remember the basics – exposure is calculated by shutter speed and aperture. The bigger the aperture, the more light it lets into the camera, and the longer the shutter remains open, the more light falls on the light sensitive receptor in the camera.

That goes for all types of camera, film, digital or even smart-phone. The great thing about this is you will always get an image, and with your digital cameras you will see straight away whether enough light is getting in to give you a good image or not. Now is the time to make sure the camera is set on ‘manual’ so you have total control.

Still working on the basics, if when you review the image at the slowest shutter speed you can hand hold (probably 1/15th of a second), it is still too dark then you have a choice of three ways to get the night image.

The first is to mount the camera on a tripod, so that camera shake is not a problem. With the camera mounted solidly on the tripod (you will need a good quality heavy tripod, forget the lightweight aluminium ones) and a cable release for the shutter.

Even if you haven’t got a cable release, all is not lost. Open the shutter (generally indicated as the “B” setting) and place a black card in front of the lens. Remove the card and count however many seconds you want and place the card back again to stop the exposure.

The second way is to change the ISO (ASA) rating which generally goes from ISO 25 through to ISO 32000. That is a measure of the sensitivity of the light receptor. The lower the number the less sensitive (but more detailed) final image. The higher you go, the more the blurring of the edges occurs, called “noise”. So for the sharpest detail don’t go much above ISO 400.

The third way is to use a flash, either an on-camera flash or a secondary flash connected by cable to the camera. This is the least suitable method of lighting for night photography, as there is too much light in the foreground which then falls off dramatically.

The other variable under your control is the aperture, the hole in the lens that lets the light through it. This works a little opposite to what you might think. The largest diameter (usually around f4), which lets most light through does not give the sharpest image. To get sharpness you have to look at using the smallest diameters and figures such as f22 are usual.

Now to recap, for your night photographs you have control over shutter speed and aperture and all you have to do is put them together.

Start by deciding whether you want good depth of field or otherwise. Select f22 for good sharp depth of field and f4 for close up sharpness, falling off dramatically from mid-field to distance. Most night shots work best with good depth of field.

Now the shutter speed. If you can get a reasonable image at around one minute, experiment from there, taking one shot and reviewing it. Do not take that image with those number again, but alter shutter speed and aperture, one factor at a time, moving all the time towards an image that pleases you. This is where a notebook is invaluable, so you can jot down the important numbers.

I almost forgot – the other piece of equipment necessary is a torch! Happy snapping.

Update Saturday, Jan. 6 - Jan. 12, 2018

Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre (1789-1851)

Many historians believe that Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre was the driving force in photography in the 1830’s resulting in the eponymous Daguerreotype in 1837. However, he was not the ‘inventor’ of photography; that was Joseph Nicéphore Niépce who had managed to produce some images. Daguerre by that stage did not have even one image to his credit. It could be said that Daguerre “stole” the technology, even though neither Niepce nor Daguerre could produce an image that would “stay”. Consequently, the biggest problem Daguerre (and others) had to overcome initially, was how to “fix” the image.

Daguerre was French (died July 10, 1851, Bry-sur-Marne), and has been described as a painter and physicist who invented the first practical process of photography, known as the daguerreotype. Though this is not quite correct. The first permanent photograph from nature was made in 1826/27 by Nicéphore Niépce of France, but it was of poor quality and required about eight hours’ exposure time. The process that Daguerre developed much later required only 20 to 30 minutes.

Daguerre had an interesting life and was at first an inland revenue officer and then a scene painter for the opera. In 1822 at Paris he opened the Diorama, an exhibition of pictorial views, with various effects induced by changes in the lighting. A similar establishment that he opened in Regent’s Park, London, was destroyed by fire in 1839. These were interesting in that the Diorama was very similar to the Camera Obscura, which again was not from Daguerre’s technology, as the Camera Obscura dates back to around 500 BCE.

Niépce, who since 1814 had been attempting to obtain permanent pictures by the action of sunlight, learned in 1826 of Daguerre’s efforts in the same field. The two became partners in the development of Niépce’s heliographic process from 1829 until the death of Niépce in 1833, and Daguerre was still without definitive ‘photographic’ results.

Daguerre continued his experiments, and it was he who discovered that exposing an iodized silver plate in a camera would result in a lasting image if the latent image on the plate was developed by exposure to fumes of mercury and then fixed (made permanent) by a solution of common salt. On January 9, 1839, a full description of his daguerreotype process was announced at a meeting of the Academy of Sciences by the eminent astronomer and physicist François Arago. Daguerre was appointed an officer of the Legion of Honour. In 1839 Daguerre and the heir of Niépce were assigned annuities of 6,000 francs and 4,000 francs, respectively, in return for their photographic process, which France could rightly claim.

This time Daguerre struck it lucky when Richard Beard bought the British daguerreotype patent from Miles Berry in 1841 and closely controlled his investment, selling licenses throughout the country and prosecuting infringers.

Daguerreotype photography spread rapidly across the United States after the discovery first appeared in US newspapers in February 1839.

It is possible that Morse may have been the first American to view a daguerreotype first-hand. Morse’s experience with art and technology in the early 1800’s attracted him to the daguerreotype. In his piece The Gallery of the Louvre Morse used a Camera Obscura to precisely capture the gallery which he then used to create the final painting.

Morse met Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre, in Paris in January 1839 when Daguerre’s invention was announced. While the daguerreotype fascinated Morse, he was concerned about how the new invention would compete with his telegraph. However, Morse’s viewing of the daguerreotype alleviated his fears when he saw how revolutionary its technology was.

In the 1830’s, there was much intrigue in obtaining patent rights, and Daguerre did well out of it, plus his French government pension.

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Painting with light – or is it painting with dark?

What goes on after dark

Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre (1789-1851)



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