Category Archives: Photography

How to take Photographs (3 – Speed and Light)

This is where it gets a little bit intimidating.

I am a bit of a one trick pony. I photograph nature. My camera is nearly always hand held and everything moves so I have to be fast.

The first trick that I learnt was to drop my exposure a couple of clicks. On my first camera (Panasonic FZ50) I could do that whilst leaving the camera in intelligent auto mode.

It was the only thing that I knew how to do and I took these photographs.

Forest Shield Bug

Common Lizard

Speckled Wood ButterflyI was happy and encouraged. I took hundreds of pictures like these.

As long as you have got enough light then dropping your exposure a bit will give you a faster shutter speed and a sharper picture. I still think that this is a good trick for beginners and worth trying before you get into the more complicated stuff. If your camera will let you do that.

Unfortunately the fellow that I am writing this for can’t do that. In auto mode he has no control over exposure. (I have got his manual in front of me)

So how do you get speed?

Most cameras have got a Shutter priority option that allows you to set the speed as fast as you like. I can’t really figure out why. (Okay you can achieve motion blur but who wants that?) If you set your shutter speed too fast you will just get a black picture because there is not enough light for such a fast shot.

I always have my camera set to Aperture priority. I usually want the fastest shot that the available light will allow. So to get the fast shot I have to mess with the light not the speed.

Marmalade HoverflyWhat is an aperture? It is the hole that opens when your shutter opens and allows light into your camera, you can determine how big that hole is going to be. The bigger you let it be, the more light will get into your camera and you can take a faster picture.

The animal will move if you hang about πŸ™‚

I want a wide aperture and by working in aperture priority rather than auto I can stop my camera from doing stupid things that I don’t want it to do.

How is this easy!!!

Well I am a one trick pony, remember? I always want a fast picture so I don’t have to keep changing things. I set my camera to Aperture priority and I set my aperture to f.2.8 and that is basically all that I do. It is just as easy as having my camera in auto mode πŸ™‚

Okay the other thing that I do is that I play with the exposure constantly. That is the way that I control the amount of light that I am letting in but all that means is that I keep my exposure as low as possible (almost always underexposed) whilst still letting enough light in to Β get a picture.

It is not very clever but it works for me.

Green Orb Spider

Small Skipper

White Plume MothThe down side of using a wide aperture is that it has a knock on effect on depth of field and what that means is that only a small area will be in focus.

Generally that is okay for what I do because insects are quite small.

You wouldn’t want big insects because they can be quite mean.

With big things like butterflies I sometimes struggle to get the whole animal in focus.

Red AdmiralBut sometimes that is okay.

So that is enough tricks for now.

If you want to explore aperture priority my friend then it is on page 82 of your manual.

How to take Photographs (2 – The Software)

A lot of what I do has nothing to do with camera settings. It has to do with the way that I approach photography and what I do with the pictures afterwards.

Okay. My software is very important to me and yet I don’t ever mess about with my pictures. I do two things, I throw them away and I crop them, sometimes I lighten or darken them but generally if it’s not what I need then I throw it away.

This is the software that I use. Picasa

Why Picasa? It is free and it does all that I need it to do and it is very easy to use. I find it a good way to organise all of the picture on my hard drive.

The first thing that I do is, I throw lots of pictures away.

Tip number one: Take lots of photographs. I know that professional photographers don’t have to do this but why not do it?

I grew up in an age when you had to buy a roll of film with twelve or twenty four exposures and when you had taken your pictures you had to send them off to the chemists and pay again to have them developed. We don’t have to do that any more. Photography is free.

I am quite happy to take a hundred photographs like this…

Bad HoverflyTo get this one.

Marmalade HoverflyThat’s cheating!

Yes it is. I told you that I was a cheat and that I would show you how I do it.

I want to photograph the animal because it is beautiful and I want to know it, I don’t care how I achieve that.

Close your mouth Fizz, we are not a fish.

Not a fishI don’t want to give the impression that I go out and take ten photographs and come back with ten beautiful pictures. On a good summer’s day I have been known to come back with a thousand pictures and some of them have been very good.

I throw the other nine hundred and ninety away πŸ™‚

This is where my software starts to come into it’s own. Picasa allows me to select as many pictures as I want and then right click and “Delete from disk.” A thousand gig hard drive isn’t as big as you might think.

Now I am sorry about this but I am trying to show my friend how to be a brilliant photographer, like as wot I am πŸ™‚

The next bad thing that I do is that I crop photographs mercilessly.

Professional photographers can’t do this, they have to spend a lot of time framing their picture and getting it just right. Why? because if you want to sell your photograph then you want it to be as big as it can be and you don’t just want to cut a little bit out of the middle and sell that.

I do want to cut a bit out of the middle. I use Picasa to resize all of the pictures that I am going to post anyway. We have a storage limit on WordPress, mine is already half full. So I post my pictures at 1024 x whatever. There is no point in posting full size pictures to WP.

So this…

Peacock ButterflyBecomes this.

Peacock ButterflyPicasa handles these simple tasks very well.

Now my friend, I have told you enough. If you go out and take lots of pictures and apply these skilful techniques that I have divulged then tomorrow you will have a set of excellent photographs to post.

It is very simple. If we take enough pictures then some of them will be good. Neither of us is capable of messing them all up. I have been taking pictures on this basis for many years now.

However there is a bit more to it than that. You have chosen a very good camera (Panasonic FZ40) and on intelligent auto mode it will take some good pictures but there are some simple ways to make it do better.

It all has to do with light and speed and we have to mess with our aperture settings and stuff like that. It is very easy and I don’t change mine much. That can be another post, I must go and play ball with Poochy now or she will cry.

The main thing is that you have to want to take photographs. You have to love your subject and you have to be loved back.

Common NewtThe rest is easy πŸ™‚

Common Newt

How to take Photographs (1- The Why)

πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ No seriously πŸ˜€

Photographers don’t read this. I am not a photographer and I don’t know the first thing about photography and yet some people like my pictures. How so?

I cheat and play tricks and I mess about a lot and by the law of averages, sometimes I get lucky.

Please keep in mind that I have never claimed to be anything that I am not.

(Big game hunter,Pirate, Jungle explorer…. oh I could go on…) Shut up Fizz!

I have never claimed to be a photographer or tried to sell you anything and all of the pictures that I post on this blog are free for you to download (just click on a picture to open it, right click and select “save as”) and use in any way that you like.

Starting with the basics: Why do I take photographs? It is so that I can learn about things. I need to identify a subject, that is the first step. Once I know it’s name then I can read about it.

I take a lot of pictures and try to get my subject from every angle because if I don’t know what it is then I don’t know what particular feature is going to prove the ID.

Common DarterI learnt this a long time ago. This one is a Common Darter and in this case it is the yellow stripe on the outside of it’s legs that proves that. I never know what feature it is going to be and I can’t remember everything without a picture (lots of pictures from different angles)

This next picture is a tachinid fly calledΒ Pelatachina tibialis and it is the reddish hue on the hind tibia that identifies it. How could anyone remember that sort of detail without a picture?

Pelatachina tibialisIt is pure coincidence if some of my pictures also turn out to be quite pretty. I go out looking for knowledge and trying to find something that I haven’t seen before and don’t recognise.

Often I can’t find anything new and exciting and so I pass the time taking pictures of things that I am very, very familiar with.

I take pictures just because something is so beautiful and I am in awe of it. I can’t understand why it is so beautiful. Not just for me, surely not? So I like to share things.

RabbitsThese turned out to be Rabbits (and it was the ears this time πŸ™‚ )

I am writing this post because a good friend of mine in Oz has bought himself a new camera and he wants to take photographs like fodrambler. He already can, some of his pictures are really good and I would have loved to have taken them. I thought that the easiest way to show him what I do would be via a few posts.

I Β can’t put everything into one post or it will be five miles long so I am going to do this as a series of posts. It is raining heavily outside so I am not going to get any great pictures today. I will of course take Fizz out but it will be all for her, no cameras today.

FizzSo I am nearly finished with this first post. Please don’t post comments about what a great photographer I am because when I show you how easy it was to trick you into thinking that….. Well, it will just be embarrassing for all of us and I am going to show you.

Photographers probably already know what I am up to but this is for the rest of us. It is going to be a “How to cheat” guide.

Next…. let the cheating begin.

This was one of the first pictures that I ever took and I did find out what it is….

Southern HawkerIt is beautiful.

But why is it beautiful?