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Update November 2017

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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern

SNAP SHOTS   by Harry Flashman


Update Saturday, Nov. 18 - Nov. 24, 2017

Your favorite photographer

If you are interested in photography (and I presume you must be if you are reading this column) then you probably have bought a few photography books, and by now you should have a favorite photographer.

Everyone should have a photographer whose work stimulates you to greater heights. For me, I have many whose work I enjoy – Norman Parkinson, Helmut Newton and Jeff Dunas all rate high, but one photographer who inspires me not only with his images, but also with his words, was the late Larry Dale Gordon.

Now when I say that your favorite photographer’s work should inspire you, that does not mean that you should rush out and slavishly copy their work. I have seen it done so many times at camera club level with photographers who have been most upset when I mark them down for copying, rather than being creative.

When I say “inspire” I mean that you look at the work and say to yourself, “How did he/she do that?” You should look at the end result and work out how you can use that technique to produce your own shot. Half the fun in photography is working out “how to” with the other half being the enjoyment of looking at the final image.

So why does Larry Dale Gordon inspire me? There are many reasons. First off, he is a self trained photographer, who believes that the way to learn is to do it. Let me quote you from one of his books, “I learned photography through experience; by putting film through the camera, peering through the lenses, trial and error, and pondering every facet of light. It’s the only way. If you think there is another way, or a faster way, write a book telling how and you will make considerably more money than by being a photographer.” These are very wise words. Cut them out and stick them on your bathroom mirror and read them every day! In fact, my friend, the renowned Thai photographer, Tom Chuawiwat, used to tell me that professional photography was the only job where the client paid you to learn!

I’ve tried to see just what it is about Larry Dale Gordon’s pictures that appeal so much to me and I’ve come up with two basic concepts. Simplicity and Color.

Simplicity makes any photograph more readily understandable. Your photos should also have a strong, dominant color to attract the eye to the photo.

So look at the photo I have chosen here. A sunset, which can be deduced by the orange color, and a kangaroo on the beach which places the photo in Australia. This is a classic genre which can be duplicated by anyone with a camera. So saying, all you have to do is nip down to Pattaya Beach late afternoon with your pet ‘roo’, or if you want to make it Thailand, with your pet elephant!

Let’s not make slavish copies! But instead, let’s look at how we can accomplish the effect of a monochromatic picture and silhouette. To make it easier for you, pick your favorite beach or riverside at a time when the sun can be behind your subject – be that people or things. Now you need a tricky filter, called a “tobacco” filter. On that bright sunny day, with the light behind your subject(s) hold this brown/orange filter over the lens and pop the shutter. Stick it on Auto if you will, the camera will do the rest. Even experiment with different colors to get strangely wonderful or weirdly dreadful results.

The only point to really remember is to get the light behind the subject. You will be able to get this “pseudo sunset” look any time after three in the afternoon. Try it and amaze your friends with a classic silhouette!

Gene Butera, one of Larry’s favorite Creative Directors, says it all, “Larry discovered long ago that he has two consuming drives in life; travel and photography. He also realized that by combining the two, he could create an ideal career. Some thirty years and 70 countries later, Larry shot exotic subjects with equal enthusiasm and creativity.”

And Thailand has exotica galore!

Update Saturday, Nov. 11 - Nov. 17, 2017

Changing DOF

Depth of Field (DOF) is something that seems to be a challenge for many weekend photographers, though it does not have to be. Mastery of DOF really is the second rule of photography in my opinion. Before you ask, the first rule is to walk several meters closer to the subject!

The DOF in any picture can often make or break the entire photograph, but knowing how to manipulate the depth of field improves your photography instantly!

DOF is an optical characteristic and depends solely on the lens being used and the aperture selected. Altering the shutter speed, does not change the DOF.

DOF really refers to the zone of “sharpness” (or being in acceptable focus) from foreground items to background items in any photograph. This is different from what the eye sees, as the eye can instantly focus on near and far objects, giving the impression that everything in your field of vision is in sharp focus. The camera, however, gives you a slice of time.

The first concept to remember is “1/3rd forwards and 2/3rds back.” Again this is a law of optical physics, but means that the DOF, from foreground to background in your photograph can be measured, and from the focus point in the photo, extends towards you by one third and extends away from the focus point by two thirds.

For those of you with SLR’s, especially the older manual focus SLR’s, you will even find a series of marks on the focussing ring of the lens to indicate the Depth of Field that is possible with that lens.

Take a look at this week’s photograph, and look at the background. It has been made into a soft blur. How did I change this DOF sharpness? Answer, with a flick of the wrist!

You see, for each focal length of lens, the DOF possible is altered by the Aperture. The rule here is simple – the higher the Aperture number, the greater the DOF and the lower the Aperture number, the shorter the DOF. In simple terms, for any given lens, you get greater front to back sharpness with f22 and you get very short front to back sharpness at f4.

For example, using a 24 mm focal length lens focussed on an object 2 meters away – if you select f22, the DOF runs from just over 0.5 meter to 5 meters (4.5 meters total), but if you select f11 it only runs from 1 m to 4 m (3 m total) and if you choose f5.6 the Depth of Field is only from 1.5 m to 3 m (1.5 m total).

On the other hand, using a longer 135 mm focal length lens focussed at the same point 2 meters away, you get the following Depths of Field – at f22 it runs from 1.9 m to 2.2 m (0.3 m) and at f5.6 it is 1.95 m to 2.1 m (a total of 0.15 m).

Analysis of all these initially confusing, numbers gives you now complete mastery of DOF in any of your photographs. Simply put another way – the higher the Aperture number, the greater the DOF; the smaller the Aperture number the smaller the DOF; plus the longer the lens, the shorter the DOF, the shorter the lens, the longer the DOF (just remember the ‘opposites’ – the longer gives shorter).

Now to apply this formula – when shooting a landscape for example, where you want great detail from the foreground, right the way through to the mountains five kilometers away, then use a short lens (24 mm is ideal) set at f22 and focussed on a point about 2 km away.

On the other hand, when shooting a portrait where you only want to have the eyes and mouth in sharp focus you would use a longer lens (and here the 135 is ideal) and a smaller Aperture number of around f5.6 to f4 and focus directly on the eyes to give that ultra short Depth of Field required.

Master it this weekend, and just remember that these optical laws hold good for all cameras, be they film or digital. Or even the dreaded camera-phone.

Update Saturday, Nov. 4 - Nov. 10, 2017

Professional portraits

Professional portraits have something about them, something which distances good portraits from average ones. When you take time to analyze a “good” portrait, you always come up with the one deciding factor – and that is lighting.

Now when you go into a pro’s studio, you will find that there are flash heads everywhere, with the photographer balancing the amounts of light that falls on the subject. A typical portraiture set up will have a back light to illuminate the background, another back light to highlight the subject’s hair, one light to balance the main light plus one or two reflectors, so that the final result is a well lit portrait.

To be able to achieve this you will need a minimum of four flash heads and a flash meter so you can judge the light intensity.

So here we go, how to take an excellent portrait, without thousands of baht in flash heads. In fact, it only takes one flash head, plus a large mirror. You will also need a sheet of white paper and a black reflector (which more correctly should be called an absorber)!

First you have to position the model. I have written previously about this and how you must stop the model standing to attention, square on to the camera. As it will take you some time to get the lighting correct, I suggest you position the model on a chair about 45 degrees to the camera centerline and only get your model to turn the head towards the camera when you are fully set up.

So here we go with the main light, the flash head. This should be aimed (from your left) about 45 degrees from the centerline and from one meter above the head height of the model, and start with being about two meters from the model.

This will light the face much stronger on the photographer’s left and produce a dark shadow under the chin. Don’t worry, much more to go yet.

Let’s get rid of the dark shadow. This is where the sheet of white paper comes in. Get your model to hold the sheet of paper horizontally and about 30 cm below the chin. What this does is to collect any “spill” and reflect this back under the chin to get rid of that dark shadow. (It also gives the model something to do!)

Now comes the hair light. Remember I said you will need a large mirror. Place this behind and to the right of the model, and again one meter above head height. When you pop the flash, the over-spill is reflected back on to the model’s hair.

You should now take a few test shots. With a DSLR you can do this and by looking at the LCD on the back of the camera you can see if the face is getting too much light, so move the camera another meter back. Take careful note to see that the mirror itself is not in the shot. Be prepared to move the mirror hair light to give the hair as much ‘halo’ as you want.

Almost finished, but there is still the black paper to use. This should be placed close to the model’s face (on the side away from the flash head illumination) to absorb the spill and give some shadow effect to produce some 3D to the model’s face.

Now with the variables of the main light’s distance from the model, the effect from the reflected mirror hair light, the white paper under the chin and the black absorber you have the making of a very professional portrait. Try it this weekend.

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Your favorite photographer

Changing DOF

Professional portraits



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