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
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
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
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
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
Saturday, January 13, 2018 - January 19, 2018
What goes on after dark
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
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
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
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
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
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’
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
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
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
In the 1830’s, there was much intrigue
in obtaining patent rights, and Daguerre did well out of it, plus his French