Soft Focus Spring Closeups

This an extract from a five year old post. It follows the macro theme of yesterday’s post. It was done in the spring while, here & now, our first major snow of the winter is two days away – and the real-feel is near zero. Enjoy the faux-spring blossoms.

I love doing macros – especially flowers. Spring has sprung around here & I was out & about for several hours today with my camera checking out the flora.

My most used lens for this type of shooting is a Nikkor 105mm 2.8 macro although I occasionally use a Canon 500D closeup lens or a 1.4X teleconverter on one of my other lenses.

  • I recently bought a set of extension tubes and last year bought a Tokina 50-135 2.8 lens.
  • I decided to stick a 36mm extension tube on this lens and see what I could see.
  • The lesson? Images like this don’t absolutely need a macro lens.

Here’s a Japanese Cherry Blossoms image (why drive an hour to DC – with no parking – when I can shoot this in my neighbor’s yard?).

  • DOF of field was almost non-existent which is fine since that’s the way I prefer shots like this (of course keeping the wind-blown blossoms anywhere near in focus was tricky).
  • Gitzo tripod, Nikon D300, Tokina 50-135 lens at 135mm, Kenko 36mm extension tube, and
  • 1/40 sec at f/2.8, ISO200, EV0.0, Center weighted metering, Aperture priority exposure mode, Cloudy warm white balance.
  • Blossoms about 18″ from camera sensor plane.
  • RAW image converted in Nikon Capture NX2.

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Image Critiquing: A How-To

This is a repost. It’s long, but if you read it & take it to heart I guarantee you will be a better photographer – or you get your money back 😉


Summary – There are lots of ways to critique. Regardless of how you do it – learn to critique. If you don’t know what is & isn’t a good image, how can you hope to ever make one?

I Critique using the “4-C’s”


Do you know how to critique an image? No, not –

WOW! I like that!“.

That’s not a critique. That’s a Flickr comment.

Supportive but not useful if better photography is the ultimate goal.

Even the most well-intentioned critiques can be hard to take – ego’s need to be put aside.

One of the most common reasons given by newbies for not entering club competitions is fear/embarrassment because of criticisms.

A typical image has both good and bad points. Both should be recognized – the good acknowledged and constructive criticism offered for the bad. To be useful, the praise and criticism must be specific, not general – even more specific than

“There’s a problem with the focus”

What & where specifically and why do you think this happened so the maker can avoid the problem in the future

“The background is more in focus than the subject’s eyes. Your focal point was wrong for the shallow depth of field you used.”

Knowing how to critique images is a key step toward becoming a better photographer.

If you don’t know what makes an image good – and bad – how can you hope to make good images?

If you can’t recognize problems when viewing a displayed image, how do expect to see them when looking through your viewfinder?

The most important critique is self-critique of your own images


I use a structured method for critiquing images built around what I call the 4-C’s.

Take a look at this blog’s subtitle at the top of the page

The subtitle is there because I firmly believe that

Mastery of these four elements is key to Photography Improvement.


The 4-C’s

  1. CRAFTSMANSHIP – Using your camera to control exposure, focus and color for a technically perfect image or for the creative image that you want. Key message – putting you in control of the camera & not vice-verse.
  2. COMPOSITION – Making aesthetically pleasing two-dimensional images
  3. CREATIVITY – Making your images YOUR images (and not like everyone else’s) by building on craftsmanship and composition skills
  4. COMMUNICATION – Inserting emotion and feeling into your images. Great artists believed that art sprang from emotion. (A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art. Paul Cezanne)

The list above is in the order that the C’s should be applied in an a critique.

The list begins with the most basic skills and progresses to the most difficult to master

Good craftsmanship should be a given even for a relative beginner – especially with today’s cameras

Communication on the other hand is very difficult – especially since it’s so viewer dependent

In another sense the list progresses from “objective” criteria through to “subjective”

Craftsmanship elements, color for example, are very objective. Unless the maker is making some artistic statement (see creativity & communication) we all know what color the bride’s skin and gown should be – it’s not a subjective thing.

Communication, on the other hand, is nearly 100% subjective. What “sings” to me may be “nails on a blackboard” to you.


To round out the story, the list is exactly in the opposite order I use when making an image rather than critiquing one.

Making an image begins with Cezanne’s quote – A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art. If I can see the potential for an image that sings to me, I’m 90% of the way home toward making a good image.

We can’t begin with an everyday scene, craft & compose it in a creative way – and then “glue emotion” to it at the last-minute. It doesn’t happen that way.

Note – “good image” here means one that is good for me. I really don’t care about what others think. Depending on where you are in your photography development journey, you may (or should) care.

Now that I’ve found my singing image, the rest is straight forward. Starting with creativity I try not to make the presentation of my “song” routine & predictable – I want to be creative. My ingredients for creativity are the first 2-C’s (and treating them as the “RULES” of composition and craftsmanship probably won’t get the creative job done – but you do have to know them before you can break them).

The final two steps are relatively easy.

Usually the most difficult composition task is simplifying the image.

Craftsmanship is easy (or it damn well should be else it’s back to the drawing board for you). You HAVE TO reach the point where craftsmanship (using your tools – camera/lens) is instinctive and your camera is an extension of YOU.

If you have to think about it, even for 5 seconds, you’re not ready to be the best photographer you can be. This where practice, practice, practice comes in….

Craftsmanship errors are inexcusable

This is one reason that Craftsmanship comes first in a critique (especially in judging where 75% of all entries must be eliminated; if you can’t do the basics, there’s little reason to go further)

Craftsmanship is essential in terms of making your camera do what your vision requires for this singing image, including bending & breaking rules in the name of creativity


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Contrast & Vision – Part 1

Some essentials related to contrast and human vision. Important to understand how this affects your images and, in turn, a viewer’s perception of your images.

Understanding the nature of light

Is essential to understanding contrast

Understanding the role of contrast in human vision

Is essential to understanding how (& what) we see

And so we begin….

Click to enlarge for detail

6-4-2013 1-22-23 PM

 Top Row: Color Capture ….. B&W Capture

Bottom: Capture with Enhanced Contrast

Without increased contrast, the texture is nearly invisible

The camera captured it, but it took added contrast to bring it out

If you want to show texture, tonal contrast is needed


What do our eyes see?

Our eyes see light & its components which include

Color and

Tone (brightness)

They are receptors for visual stimuli


What happens to the signal received by our eyes?

It is sent to the brain for processing

The combination of eyes + brain = the vision system

Flaws in either part will affect what we “see”

Eye: A common “eye flaw” leads to color blindness

Brain: Dyslexia is a problem originating in the brain

Skipping one or two small details 😉

The brain relies almost totally on contrast

To complete our vision (seeing)

If there is no contrast for our eyes to discern

The brain will not “detect” anything and

We will see nothing

The better the contrast, the better we see


Is everyone’s vision system the same?

Not everyone sees (interprets)

Identical colors or tones to be the same as the next person sees

(and your dog sees everything in black & white)

The point is that there is no “one single color & tone”

When it comes to what human vision (eye + brain)  “sees”

Even when presented with identical stimuli

It’s important to realize that not everyone will see your image

as you saw or captured it

Don’t assume that they do

(And that doesn’t even consider the role of emotion)

It’s a common joke about referees being blind

How about color-blind photo judges?


Even you, as an individual, will misjudge colors and tones

Depending on their physical surround

Further, you will respond differently to the same image

from time to time, depending things like

Your mood, your culture, ….

———————————

Do the two reds “look” the same? The greens?

(Apologies to those who are color blind)

They are the 100% identical, but appear to be different because of the

Contrast difference (B&W) of the surrounding space

6-3-2013 11-14-46 AM

———————————

Is the tone (brightness) of all three ovals the same?

Again, as in the above color example –

They are identical in tone, but appear to be different because of the

Contrast difference (B&W) of the surrounding space

6-3-2013 11-22-24 AM

Are you beginning to think – Contrast really makes a difference!

It does and may be the most important difference between a good & great image


The examples suggest that there are (at least) two forms of contrast –

Color contrast

Tonal contrast

(as well as absolute & relative contrast)

Which makes a good stopping point and segue to tomorrow’s post


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Beautiful, Beautiful Brown Eyes

Another in my photo-a-day series. Same frame, a fence, but a very different subject from the past three subjects (barns) – today, a barn resident.

Darling (her name) & I formed a bond

A wide (12 mm) angle lens, 8 inches from Darling’s nose_DSC3442_orig nx2wb-dl cep4sep2lum56brdr

Another example of an explicit frame; the fence serves little other purpose


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Yet Another Fence Framed Barn

Another in my photo-a-day series

Another barn framed by a fence; in this case the fence is more than just a frame

Same barn as two posts back; two years later; shot from opposite side122608229.P2dwZxzU.0905aD300_090430_135727__DSC0193_nx

Framing your subject is an effective compositional technique. The frames can be explicit, as in this image, or more subtle as I’ll illustrate in later posts.


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More Frames Out of Fences

Been very busy getting the new home settled. Unpacking, contractors, new drivers license, car registration, voting registration, new electronics – and the list goes on and on and…..

Another barn with a fence frame17_DSC4035_nc4_pwp-filterblur-sub162_resize


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