Saturday, December 29, 2012

Not Always Just "Dumb Luck"

Being in the right place, at the right time is always a rewarding experience for photographers. While I always welcome such a moment, there is a way to help increase your odds of that happening. Knowing where you are in relation to the sun as well as what that means for your photographs is a BIG help. 

One of the routines I go through just before a shoot (almost unconsciously now) that I learned from a fellow photographer is to ask myself a few very basic questions. 

  • Which way is North? This will tell me where the sun will rise and what direction it will travel. I'll know what side of a building will be illuminated, where the shadows will fall and where I need to be in relation to the sun. I have one of those temperature and direction gizmos in my car, but have recently gotten a smart phone and downloaded a simple compass App. It's really easy to get yourself turned around and lose your sense of direction when wandering around in the predawn darkness.
  • What time of year is it? To some, that may seem a silly question, but this will help you know how much time you will have for a shoot and how high in the sky the sun will travel. This will also effect the color of the light you are shooting under. We have all heard of the "Golden Hour" and I am here to tell you there is such a thing and it does make a difference. There is nothing more magical than shooting during this time of day. The hues and shadows that happen during that time literally make my heart race. (More on the Golden Hour in future posts)
  • Where am I? No, not because of all the beer the previous night, but more so in relation to the Equator (North or South and how far away). This plays a major part in the previous question and what it means to my photographs.
Here is an example of what I am talking about. I was shooting at Shaker Village of South Union. I knew on which side of the building the sun would be shining and how high in the sky the sun would be. I put myself in the position to take advantage of the sun. (The second floor of the Centre Family Dwelling on the East side) Now....I didn't know the sun would be shining on the candle stand, but I did know it would be shining through that window. Part planning, part luck, part "gift".                          

There are all kinds of Apps that you can download to track the sun, the moon and the stars as well as web sites that will give you the same information, but just asking yourself these few simple questions can help put yourself in "the right place at the right time".  I like the freedom and flexibility of being able to roam about a location and not sit and wait for one special shot that just may not happen. If that's's OK, it's just not for me. What other shots might I miss if I am sitting and waiting for that "one" shot? It would have been this one.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Simple Pleasures

I am fond of saying I don't take photographs....I am given them. A rather straightforward statement which, upon further thought, sums up my approach to photography. Being aware of the world around you and the simple, everyday things in it can often lead to some wonderful images. Having your camera handy doesn't hurt either. Take this recent photo for example.
© David Toczko

I was visiting a friend last week and as we were standing in the kitchen drinking what was probably our third cup of coffee, I glanced over and saw this pitcher on the counter. A simple, ordinary object to be sure, but the way the light was coming through the window, the way the counter top reflected on the pitcher was what caught my eye.

I quickly grabbed my camera from my bag in the other room, raced back to the kitchen and fired off the shot. Those who know me will agree this is not an uncommon event, but can be a bit unsettling for anyone experiencing it for the first time. Especially if it is something as common as a pitcher. How many times had that scene played out? How many mornings had the sun streamed through that window and cast those shadows? Had anyone noticed? Had anyone stopped to enjoy the simple yet magical moment?

My football coach used to tell me to keep my head on a swivel, taking in the big picture and to see what was going on all around me. Little did I know it would carry over to photography. Our days are full of magical moments all around us if we just take the time to notice them. As a photographer, capturing and sharing these moments with others is the best part of what I do. 

So...what's the takeaway? Be aware of the world around you. Open your eyes (and mind) to those special moments and scenes happening all around you every day. Notice the gifts that are given you to capture and share no matter how fleeting. And, of course, keep your camera handy!

Happy Shooting

Thursday, June 14, 2012

As Time Goes By. A Quick Look Into Time Lapse Photography

Time lapse , simply put, is a series of photos taken at a given interval over a period of time. The photos are played back in a video at a high rate to give the impression of a video. Typically these are things that happen slowly over a long period of time. Think of clouds moving across the sky, a flower opening or the stars/moon moving in the night sky. Yes, it can be time consuming both when taking the photos as well as processing, but the results can be pretty cool. Here's a quick example....................

Equipment you'll need........

  • A sturdy tripod
    Even the slightest movement will show up in the final product, so use a tripod that will hold the camera still and in the same position for an extended period of time. HINT.....wind is your enemy.

  • A remote shutter release.
     Pressing the shutter manually can cause the camera to move ever so slightly. Most cameras these days have a timer function, but usually can't be set for more than 10 seconds. That function also uses battery capacity. Save your batteries for the shots and get a remote switch. Some cameras are picky about which ones they work with as well as how you connect the two together, so take a few minutes and make sure it will work with yours. You can get these gizmos in any camera shop, through your camera's manufacturer or online (EBay, Adorama, Amazon) If you are shooting for more than a few minutes, I would highly recommend a  Intervalometer.  This is a handy little tool that lets you set it....and forget it. I'm speaking of the interval between shutter releases. Some also have added features like exposure time when the shutter is open. Google the term and you will find tons of different kinds in all price ranges. Unless you plan on standing with your camera for hours either counting to yourself or looking at your watch, these things are indispensable. HINT....set the interval between shots long enough so that each image has time to write to your card without going to your buffer.

  • A memory card with lots of space.

     We are talking about taking a lot of shots here. One shot every 5 seconds for 8 do the math. Nothing worse than your card filling up right at the critical moment. Don't think you can just stick another card in. You WILL move the camera and you WILL mess up your lapse.

  • A fully charged battery or an AC power connection.  
    Again...lots of exposures...lots of time. don't let your camera die due to low batteries.

Now the technical stuff.........(Camera Settings)

DO NOT shoot in program mode!!! If you do, the camera will adjust for each individual shot and your final product will be all over the place. The first setting to make is White Balance. Do NOT use Auto White Balance. Set it using a grey card or simply choose one of the presets your camera has built in. I use a White Balance of 5200K...but that's just me. These other settings are as much art as they are science. Remember you will be shooting over a long period of time and lighting conditions will change, so plan for that from the start. Choose a reasonable ISO setting. If you are shooting stars at night, the sky is the limit (no pun intended) as for how high you can go with this setting, but be aware that, generally speaking, the higher the ISO, the higher the amount of digital noise in the shot. Shutter Speed should be set to give a good exposure given the conditions and your ISO setting. I can't believe I am going to say this, but.....don't set your speed too high and don't worry about getting a tack sharp shot. I say this for two reasons. When you put all these images together, you may see a phenomena known as "flicker". While there are several reasons for "flicker", the most common is too high a shutter speed. The other reason is so you have a SLIGHT amount of motion blur in each shot which helps give a smooth transition from frame to frame. So drag your shutter just a bit either by the speed setting or by use of ND Filters. Set your f Stop for the desired effect and exposure you want, but I would start with something around f /11. If all of this seems a bit daunting, take several test shots at various settings and see what works best for you. Another way would be to run off a few shots in program mode and make note of the settings the camera automatically applied. Switch to manual and use those settings. Finally, take your camera and lens out of auto focus mode and set it manually. That way your focal point stays the same throughout the series.

After firing off all these shots, you'll need to process the images and a program to assemble them into a "video". Use the program you normally do to adjust and process your images. No need to adjust each individual shot. Simply select the first image, adjust it to your liking and then copy and paste the corrections to the other images. Since your camera setting didn't change (you WERE shooting in manual mode) the changes in the conditions over time will come through. There are hundreds of programs out there that will create time lapse videos and range in price from free to hundreds of dollars. If you are doing this for fun and the experience....go free first. For short clips, Picasa has a nice time lapse feature and it is free!

So set up, sit back and have fun!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Help Me Walk "The Walk"

About the Project:
My project is to walk The French Way / Camino Frances which is the most traditional of all the pilgrims’ ways to Santiago via The Way of St. James and the best known internationally. The journey covers a distance of 780 KM (482 miles) and will take about 59 days to walk. I plan to document this pilgrimage in photographs as I go. Not only the route, but the places and people I encounter on my journey. Regular blog entries to supporters, friends and family will keep them up to date on my progress as well as provide sneak peeks of photos that may appear in the book. After finishing the journey, I will produce and publish a book containing photographs, information and my impressions of my adventures. Through these photographs, I hope to give readers who may never have the opportunity themselves, to experience and enjoy this tradition. For others, I hope to inspire them to make their own journey as well those who have already, to share and remember the experience.
Your Support:
Will help fund this project and help defray the costs of travel, accommodations, meals and other associated expenses. Once the pilgrimage is completed, funds will be used to produce, publish and distribute a book about my adventure.The route, which was established in the late 11th century, crosses the North of the Iberian Peninsula, through the Basque Country, Navarra, La Rioja, Castilla y Leon and Galicia regions of Spain.  Starting in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, at the foothills of the French Pyrenees, the French Way runs through Northern Spain, from East to West, all the way to Santiago de Compostela, in the Northwestern corner of the country.
About The Way:
Click Here for a video about El Camino de Santiago (or The Way of St. James). 
This is the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, north west Spain, where legend has it that St. James' remains  were carried by boat from Jerusalem to northern Spain where they were buried on the site of what is now the city of Santiago de Compostela. The Way of St James has existed for over a thousand years. It was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during medieval times. It was considered one of three pilgrimages on which a plenary indulgence could be earned (the others are the Via Francigena to Rome and the pilgrimage to Jerusalem).
There is no single route on the Way of St. James. In fact, there are a number of pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. However, some of these routes are perhaps better known than others. Santiago is considered to be an important pilgrimage destination because of its association with James the Great. During the Middle Ages, the route was highly travelled, but the Black Plague, the Protestant Reformation and political unrest in 16th-century Europe resulted in a usage decline. By the 1980s, only a few pilgrims arrived in Santiago annually. However, since then, the route has attracted a growing number of modern-day pilgrims from around the globe. The route was declared the first European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in October 1987; it was also named one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites in 1993.
The Modern Camino`s revival began in the 1960s thanks to the efforts of people like a local parish priest who wrote a guide on the Camino and travelled around Europe giving lectures on the subject. Although initially a pilgrimage for those with religious motivations, there are many travellers and hikers who walk the route for non-religious reasons: travel, sport, or simply walking in a beautiful but challenging landscape. Also, many consider the experience a spiritual adventure away from the stress of modern life. In 2010 (the most recent year for which data is available) 272,313 "pilgrims" completed the entire trek. Thousands more did portions of "The Way".
More About Me:
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