|My Photography Blog covers everything about photography including topics such as shooting and post processing techniques, composition and book reviews.
|If I Could Turn Back Time - Volume ThirteenSweden, January 2017|
My current passions is shooting long exposure landscapes and landscapes utilizing intentional camera movement to create a variety of abstract and impressionistic images.
We all know, and most would agree on this, that learning from our mistakes is a invaluable way of improving our photography skills. Many - and I agree - say that failures and mistakes are a necessity for us to reach some sort of level of perfection. These days - everyone that shoots digital - has access to all the information you need in the EXIF data, or more correctly, most information. For example, if you load your RAW’s into Lightroom, there’s no way to tell exactly were you focused before taking your shot. This you will have to try and remember, the best way to do that is to have some sort of methodology when you do a shoot. Say you shoot landscape, you could decide that during the whole shoot you will focus at the hyperfocal distance. There are numerous apps for both Android and iPhone that you can download for free. If you don’t have a smartphone, download and print a chart that you take with you.
Now to lets get to the point of this article. What category of your photos is most important to study in order to optimize your learning curve? The ABNQS’s, Almost But Not Quite Shots. Which are these, what constitutes them ? They are real easy to classify, they are the ones that, you at first love, but fairly quickly do not because there’s something that isn’t quite right. Almost perfect but not quite, you nearly nailed it but it has a flaw that you just can’t ignore or fix in post production. You will have to surrender, archive them and move on. But before you do, study them hard and really try to pinpoint why the don’t work. Since they are almost perfect, if you pinpoint what’s wrong, in that process, you also unconsciously register what is right, what made you like them in the first place. This is why they are the best photos to study, you see both positive and negative aspects in one process.
The process of pinpointing the issue with a photo can sometimes be very hard and take a lot of effort. The EXIF data and your recollection of the actual shoot is your best friend, if you did shoot with a strategy, it will of course be easier to remember how any given photo was made as opposed to if you go out and just shoot totally without a plan.
Nowhere In ParticularSweden May 2015 Even though the EXIF data is invaluable, it will not always be the key. Sometimes you simply will have to analyze your photo, looking for - sometimes - subtle things that make it fail. Let me give you a couple of examples. At one point I did a lot of shooting out walking in the woods on trails or dirt roads, using them as a way to create a focal point and leading line. The ones that didn’t work had one thing in common, a very distinct dark - almost black - branch right at a top corner of the frame or close by. This simply didn’t work at all, it looked liked someone had taken a marker and drawn thick a line for some mysterious reason… The composition was totally of balance, the eye drawn to the corner constantly. Imagine the photo above with a black branch creeping in at the top left corner of the frame, it wouldn’t work would it ? After pinpointing this issue, I started to pay very close attention to the corners and edges of my frames out shooting. A slight adjustment of the composition in most cases, solved the problem. On some occasions I did however have to adjust my position by several meters.
Moving on to my next example, putting the finger on why the shot below is a ABNQS was very hard. My conclusion is that it is too flat and lacks depth, the reason for this is the very dull even light from a overcast sky, not a hint of highlights and shadows. What can be done about that ? Not much, almost nothing in fact. The only thing I can think of is that I should have stayed around for a while in the hope that the light would improve. The conclusion of the analyze of this photo, shooting impressionist photos like this doesn’t work in this kind of light. If you don’t ‘feel it’ when you look in your viewfinder, trust that feeling, let it be and move on.
Before I go - I almost forgot - about the EXIF, a example when looking at the EXIF data is a good idea. Perhaps the most obvious and first thing that comes to mind is camera shake. The camera shake doesn’t have to be extremely bad in order for you to end up with a ABNQS. If you find yourself with photos that has a slight blur, check your shutter speed. Chances are that you will see a pattern and learn that most photos with a longer shutter speed than -for example- 125th/sec is too slow for you to hand hold. Knowing and acting upon this fact, you can eliminate your ABNQS caused by camera shake. One more thing. Whenever I get a new lens, I make sure that I have a really high shutter speed when I start testing it, all in order to make sure that I eliminate camera shake as a factor, if the photos don’t come out sharp, it’s not because of camera shake. After the initial testing at - say - 500th/sec I work my way down to slower shutter speeds until I find the point were I can’t hand hold anymore. It is always good to know your limitations.
U P D A T E
Since I wrote this I have been doing a lot of intentional camera movement.
I've learned that the shutter speed suitable for effects like the ones in this post varies depending on your focal length.
In other words, technique and shutter speeds mentioned here might only be valid when using a focal length of around 35mm like I did when I wrote this.
My advice, experiment.
Short version, you need a shutter speed of around 0.5 second or slower, my latest shots are between 0.5 - 1.5 seconds. You don’t need a tripod to use this technique.
Long version….if you use shutter speeds much faster than 0.5 seconds, the result tends to be a photo that just looks out of focus, like you have very unsteady hands, or both. When it comes to the shooting technique, I pan vertically by slowly tilting the camera. Typically I start with the camera pointing down, tilting it upwards.
The reason I’m panning by tilting is that it’s the easiest way to get a smooth motion, at least for me at this point. If you have very steady hands you could pan by simply moving the camera straight up.
So what exactly is ‘slowly tilting the camera’ ? Impressions - Volume Twenty-SevenSweden, May 2017 Well, it depends on the shutter speed and your composition. Take this photo for example. The shutter speed is 1.5 second, this means - in order to get the composition I want - I will have to tilt/move the camera slow enough so that I don’t end up outside my composition but fast enough so that I don’t end up with a fraction of the composition. This particular shot was made by focusing fairly closely on the boardwalk, hold still for a split second and then slowly panning sideways following the boardwalk, making sure I didn’t get any part of the sky in the frame, ending up outside my intended composition. Or, to put it more correctly, end up with a part of the sky in the frame long enough for it to register.
Generally speaking, it’s all about experimenting. I have tried pause for a split second while panning, panning during the whole exposure, hold still for a split second before panning. Vary the shutter speed and the speed of the camera movement.
To slow down the shutter on my D800 - sold recently - I dialed in ISO 50 and put on a polarizer, I then adjusted the aperture to get the shutter speed I wanted.
On the Fuji X100T I have been using the built in 3 stop ND and - if necessary - a polarizer. To get more options, I'm considering to buy a 4 stop ND to the Fuji. Anything below ISO 200 is a no go on the Fuji because it then only do JPGs, I always shot RAW.