Ansel Adams brought the beauty of the American West through the lens of his camera to the American people. He captured landscapes and scenes that were foreign to many who had never ventured out of a city in their lives. His favorite spot was the wilderness surrounding Yosemite National Park in California, and his favorite technique was the use of black and white to capture and enhance shadows of rocks, valleys and mountain peaks.
His photography was primarily done in black and white in order to capture the depth of color through the use of shades of grey. He believed that color distracted from the overall scene, while black and white allowed the viewer to see everything about the scene. He spent hours getting the right combination of lighting to achieve the photo that he envisioned.
While most digital photography is concentrated on color, there is a whole world that looks beautiful in shades of grey.
Manipulating Color Photos
The modern camera and photo manipulation programs allow photographers to shoot their images in full color, and then use a filter to reduce the photo to greyscale. This is a common practice in order to capture the greatest amount of shading. Digital cameras may have the option to shoot in black and white, but there is less control over the photo in the finishing stages when the color data is absent.
The best time to take black and white photos is often on an overcast afternoon. The low contrast will allow the photographer to capture more of the shadows in a softer light rather than the shadows of harsh sunlight. It is easier to control the soft shadows through a graphic program like Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro to maximize the depth of the subject.
However it should be noted a large number of images by Ansel Adams were done in the middle of the day - which does increase the tonal range beyond what most cameras are capable of capturing and he was capable of doing by manipulating the exposure and development of both his film and prings. One can start on sunny days by making sure to keep the highlights from blowing out by reducing the exposure (setting your camera to alert you overexposed ares on the image preview can be found in your camera's manual.) Or you can learn more advanced techniques such as High Dynamic Range photography which is having multiple exposures of once scene combined to have a larger tonal range.
When using a graphic program, there are filters that can be applied to the photos to change the white balance, tones and contrast that will enhance the photo. Adobe's Photoshop and Lightroom can be found at their website and Paint Shop Pro, formerly by JASC, is manufactured by Corel.
A lot of people wonder - "What camera should I buy?"
The answer is complicated, which is why they ask the advice - however there's a lot of factors that go into the best recommendation. What do you want to photograph? Are you thinking of turning professional or want to be a hobbyist (I'd rather see people do it as a hobby rather than try to go professional and burn out on photography - which happens a lot, being in business is not easy.)
If you're a first time dSLR (digital Single Lens Reflex) buyer - my recommendation is:
First - set your budget, it can be anywhere from $500 to $5000 (U.S. or Canadian dollars, your local currency may differ), so what you're comfortable spending is how much you should spend. And yes, you'll likely spend far more down the road, but what you're comfortable with now is what's important.
Second - go to a camera store and try out several in your price range. You want to see which ones are easiest to do some specific things: setting exposure manually, formatting the memory card, able to hold the camera comfortably.
Yes, buying online is cheaper in theory - but if its the wrong camera you wont use it, and a camera you never use is a lot more expensive than a camera you use all the time.
You'll want to do manual exposure to learn to control the camera - not let it make decisions for you. The easier to set those controls the better you will learn.
Menus on various cameras are easier for some people to use and harder for others - so make sure it is easy for you to understand and formatting cards is something you'll do a lot of.
Notice I'm not talking about all the features cameras come with these days - ignore them. If you want to learn to do photography at the highest level, you need to really understand what makes the right exposure for your vision of the finished image - and the only way to learn that effectively is to do it manually.
Honestly, if all you want is a glorified snapshot, get a really good quality point-and-shoot, you'll be much happier in the end.
Notice also that I don't recommend any one brand - each brand works better or worse for different people, so choose the right one for you. I've used Nikon, Canon, Fuji, Sony, Leica, Hasselblad, Pentax, etc. They are all good brands, and I'd happily shoot with any of them again - as long as I can easily make my own choices for exposure.
You might also want to look at a "mirrorless" camera - which look a lot like the old rangefinder cameras. They're kind of like an advanced point-and-shoot, except they use the same sensor as dSLRs and have controls for easily doing manual exposure. I bought one and have gotten many great shots. No its not quite as good as my professional camera, but at 1/3 the price its probably 85 per cent the quality, which is a very good buy to me and is a lot easier to take with me.
Been seeing a lot of landscape photography by some very enthusiastic photographers. There's some great photography being created.
However, I do often see a few common issues that can be corrected.
Crooked Horizon Lines: Because of nature (as in bent trees, poles that are actually falling over); or the nature of wide angle lenses - a foreground element may appear to be crooked if the horizon line is level.
Don't let that sway you - the horizon is level.
There may actually be a good reason for the horizon to appear un-level such as a curved shore of water - but that's an illusion and usually means you have to re-orient your camera. Sometimes its as easy as just keeping the camera level side to side and front to back. Sometimes it means you have to move up or down to get the proper perspective.
If your horizon appears crooked - you're photo looses effectiveness. Elements in the photo can be a little crooked - but if the horizon is off the photo will never be as strong as it could be. So really pay attention to that when you look through the camera as you shoot. Its not easy to spot slight problems in level and perspective, but the more you can learn to see that in camera the less time you'll spend on the computer.
If the horizon is obscured by hillsides, mountains, etc - you may have to play with it a bit to figure out what is correct.
There are tools to put on your camera to make sure everything is level - if you continually have problems with level this can be a great investment (and yes I have one in my camera bag.)
Now - if you do miss something, that can generally be fixed in editing. Cropping and rotating can be done with every image software that comes with cameras, or you can find free programs like GIMP (open source image editor - GIMP.org) or with online programs like Picassa, or with higher-level editors like Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.
If you use Photoshop - there's something in the last few editions called "Puppet Warp" which can straighten errant objects if need be.
Centered Horizon: The second thing I often see - and honestly this is something I learned very recently - is the horizon near the centre of the image.
Now, I've known the Rule Of Thirds for a long time so I rarely put the horizon in the middle anyways. The image is typically just more interesting with the horizon one third of the way from the top or the bottom.
But there's a bigger reason - which I mentioned - I just learned. The visual sense of depth of the image is greater by using the Rule of Thirds. By placing the horizon in the middle, you loose the sense of depth.
Now creating a 'flattened image' is fine if you're creating an intentionally 'graphic' image rather than a 'pictorial' image.
Typically however, we're using foreground, middle ground and background to help the viewer sense the same depth which we experienced as we shot it. However because we're translating reality from three dimensions into two dimensions, we have to use tricks to keep that sense of the third dimension and the Rule of Thirds can help with that.
Not 'using' light to best advantage: Light can hide or reveal, it can bring forward or push backward, it can create moods or not. Many landscape photographers try to only shoot at the "magic hour" which is really about 5 to 10 minutes on a cloudless day when the sun has dipped below the horizon but light is still plentiful.
That's not the only light to use - although it is beautiful when you catch it. Any time of day can be good, but look at where the light is working to create a great picture, and where you might want to 'let that one go' or at least realize it won't be a prize winning shot. Nothing wrong with that - we photograph to capture memories of times and places and not having a picture of something you want to remember is worse than a 'so-so' picture of it. If you can arrange to come back to the same place when the light is better - perfect.
But, sometimes that just isn't possible.
The factors of light to consider: Direction, Quality and Colour.
Direction: Light from the side brings out more detail than light from behind you. Light from behind the subject can create drama.
Quality: Is it mid-day sunlight which is very harsh, or is it an overcast grey day which happens to make colours in the foreground very saturated? Is there spotty light that can create the dramatic shots (best when you're located under the cloud but an interesting feature/mountain/building is in strong light.)
There is no "bad" light - just "un-interesting" use of it - if its cloudy, concentrait on small subjects, if its sunny concentrait on the big. If the sun is behind you - either look left or right for a subject, or rotate around your subject to get more detail.
One photographer recently suggested if you're shooting mid-day, convert the photos to black and white. Most of Ansel Adams fantastic photos were taken mid day and black and white was part of why they became iconic (although he did do some wonderful colour work as well.)
I hope that helps you create some great landscapes.
Quite often it is best to focus on your intended subject (and if its a person, on their eyes), then hold the focus and recompose the image to make the composition stronger - like having your subject to one side or the other rather than dead center.
Most modern dSLR's have multiple focus points available to get good focus on subjects in the middle as well as to the edges of photos. For most accurate focus it's often best to manually choose a focus point rather than let the camera choose one - an example would be focusing on the subject's eyes.
If you're working with a shallow Depth of Field (see Depth Of Field to learn more about this subject) and use the center point of a multiple point focusing system (common in most dSLRs) then the focus might actually be behind the subject because the 'focal plane' will swing on an arc. Its best to choose a focus point in your camera closest to where you'll want the subject positioned.
Please check out your camera manual to find out how to do that with your specific camera.
Here is an example - if you're shooting a full-length portrait, the best camera height is about waist level and the best focus is on the subject's eyes. (Yes, we've cut off the subject's legs in this illustration, but in a photo you'd show the legs as well.)
However as you swing the camera down to recompose it the focal plane swings in an arc and winds up about the subject's ears rather than the subject's eyes.
If you can chose a focus point nearest where the eyes are, the focus will shift the least and the picture will look its best.
(Editor's note - I came across this eBook and thought I'd share it for all you aspiring portrait photographers - Neil)
Discover How You Can Quickly And Easily Produce The Professional Standard Portraits You've Always Wanted By Mastering The Secrets Of Camera-Friendly Poses
Posing Secrets - The Photographer's Essential Guide Vol.1 is a newly released practical resource for creative posing that will quickly show you clear and comprehensive practical steps to produce and communicate a pose for any situation.
This book is for you if you photograph people and is invaluable whether you use digital or film photography. No matter what angle you wish to photograph your model from you can apply these techniques to head shots, ¾ shots and full length shots. Whether you want models still or apparently in motion, seated or standing, this resource will suggest every pose any photographer would need.
Summary: The “Your Guide to Digital Photography” by Dan Feildman is a downloadable guide for digital photography beginners and those looking for better results from their digital photography.
Product Details: There are a number of components to this learning product including –
- “Your Guide to Digital Photography” - a 75-page guide that includes a variety of tips and advice for the beginner to advanced photographer. Some of the topics are:
- Taking your first pictures
- Different kinds of digital cameras
- Professional technology at affordable prices
- Finding the right low end digital camera for those on a budget
- Exposing digital photography myths.
- Understanding the features of your digital camera
- Tips for taking better digital pictures
- Pet photo tips
- Night photo tips
- Horizons and sunglasses
- How to share your digital pictures
- Printing your pictures
- Choosing a printer for you digital images
- Editing your photos.
- Understanding white balance so your photos look good in all lighting.
- Interpolation and digital zoom to improve detailing in pictures
- Finding free photo editors for your Windows computer
- Using your flash effectively
- Understanding and making the most of your memory cards
- Important equipment to take when traveling.
- Battery options and your best bets.
- Making money from your digital photography hobby.
- “Photography Quick Tips” – 37 pages showing you how to make the most of your pictures. It includes practical tips for:
- Night photography
- Action photography
- Sunsets and sunrises
- Beach photography
- Desert photography
- Sports photography
- People and pets
- Street photography
- Fog & Mist
- Waterfalls & Running Water
- Rain & Snow
- Picasa Tutorials – There are 8 video tutorials (you can view them online or download them to your computer) to show you how to use the free Picasa software to organize, edit, create and share your photos. The videos include:
- Downloading and installing the program
- Editing photos with Picasa
- Creating collages
- Blogging with Picasa
- Backing up your photos
- Printing your photos
- Posting pictures to your web album
- “Your Top Digital Photography Questions Answered” – This 26 page guide answers 20 common questions about digital photography including:
- What is the biggest mistake made by beginning digital photographers?
- How to decide on the right digital camera.
- How to decide is a picture is worth taking.
- How to get the white balance right.
- How to take clear shots for indoor sports.
- Advantages/disadvantages of raw vs. Jpeg format photographs.
- What are the best settings for low light/nighttime conditions?
- What is hyperfocal distance?
- How to take a photo of a glass sign or a framed picture in glass
- How to get high contrast natural light black and white pictures.
- Time lag from the time you take a picture until it is on the memory card.
- How to avoid redeye in dim light.
- Small object close up pictures.
- How to photograph gemstones and jewelry.
- How to take a picture with both strong sun and shade.
- Capturing personality in photos of people.
- How can I understand depth of field?
- Settings and techniques for photographing birds and wildlife.
- How to take pictures into the sun and avoid lens flare.
- How to take good pictures in the snow or on the beach.
- “Buying a Digital Camera” Video – This video shows you how to use the Internet to conduct research from unbiased sources.
- “An Experiment in Photography. What Exactly Happens When You Change the Settings on Your Digital Camera?” – This 12 page guide shows photos of the same object (a house, in this case) with different camera settings resulting in very different photos.
- “Secrets of Night Photography” – A quick 6-page guide with concise advice about nighttime photography. It includes information on:
- Trails of Light (Cars)
- Trails of Light (Stars)
- Weather and Exposure
- Horizons and Sunglasses
- Low Cost Filtering
The main guide is a PDF ebook. There are extra guides (PDF) and videos (free Flash & Shockwave required). If you’re not sure how to use these files, don’t worry, all the download information is carefully explained and any software you may need is free and safe to download.
Thoughts on the Product:
This package covers a lot of ground on the topic of digital photography. All of the advice is very step-by-step and detailed, but doesn’t include unnecessary filler. Even for someone who has never used a digital camera before, the information is clear and concise enough to take that person from buying a camera to taking their first shots and being proud of their work.
The product can be downloaded instantly upon purchase, so you don’t have to wait for a bunch of books and videos to come in the mail. For those who are new to online downloads, full instructions are included.
This is a great exercise to push your ability to find interesting compositions anywhere. Go into the bathroom, lock the door and take 100 photos of the bathroom itself. The first 30 or so are easy. By the time you're done, you'll find yourself looking at a lot of things a bit different.