Light Trails

Photography is all about how you play with light. Whatever be the kind of photography you do, light is the essential common denominator, be it portrait, landscape, macro, or any other thing you can think of.

Light trails are a mix of use of depth of field, controlled shutter speed and ISO. Along with the basic trinity, you also bring in creativity, and different props. The understanding of how a shot is being taken, or how it should be taken, is paramount while doing light trails, light paintings and such.

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Its not always that a slow shutter is all you need. Sometimes, varying the light source also helps.

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In the end, all that matters is, that you must have a lot of fun.

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Have fun experimenting with different light sources. Understand this, when your shutter is open during an exposure, any and every movement of the light source pointing towards the camera, shall be captured by it. Use this to make shapes, letters, drawings .. the possibilities are limitless.

Good luck.

Cheers!!

5 directions for the Streets!

Street photography is always recognized as a challenging and equally rewarding venture. Its an adventure and often requires a certain skill to get the shots  right. It is difficult to put into words what shall make you a successful photographer on the streets, but practice and patience are a couple of sure shot ways to learn.

My experience in street photography has taught me a few things, which I would like to share here, which, I hope shall be of use to you , my dear reader.

  1. Be ready-
    It may sound very obvious, but is the first rule, nonetheless. Keep the lens cap off, the camera set in a probable setting, or be in a position to adjust on the fly and fire away. The opportunities present themselves at unexpected times, you must be ready.
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  2. Keep an eye out-
    Look out for frames, people, settings which can be used to tell a story. Often, a nicely composed shot, can speak more than a thousand words.
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  3.  Blend in-
    Try to blend in the crowd. Have a lens that is inconspicuous and is not cumbersome. I mean, yes, a 150-600 is an amazing lens, and can be used to isolate your subject effectively, but imagine using it right in the middle of a bazaar. People will actually be wondering if you are shooting them. The local police might be interested too. So, be realistic. Have a small, versatile lens on you. One that makes you comfortable, and doesn’t scare your subject away.DSC_8506-21
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  1. Be discreet-
    There will be instances where you are better off not letting your subject know that they are being shot. Be at a distance, be camouflaged and shoot. You ll get the best shots if your subjects are in their natural environment.
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  1. Be friendly-
    Have a smile on your face, and be ready to show the shots to your subjects. Do not creep your subjects out. Some may want to look at how they appeared, oblige them. Some might want not to be shot, heed them. If possible, ask for their permission if you really want the shot, and once you are done, show it to them. Often, they ll be ready to give you another shot, if the first one was not good enough.

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There shall be many missed shots, composition fails and angry glares too, but you ll have to skim them off and cope with the constraints, and once you manage to adjust, you ll see a whole world of opportunities opening up. Good luck.
Cheers!!

10 Hacks to stunning portraits

Photographs are generally classified on terms of locations, themes, stories they depict, subjects they focus on, so on and so forth. As the multitude of classifications exist, so are the personal favourites. My favourite is portrait.
The main objective of the portrait from my point of view is to portray certain emotion, or a certain feeling through the photo.  My model should be the point of focus, and the emotions felt, the expressions emitted should be captured in the best of possibilities. If I manage to show to my audience, what my subject felt while the shot was taken, I feel, its a good portrait.

Today, I shall put down certain points which I feel are important while taking portraits. I keep these points in my mind while shooting and so far, they have served me well.

1. Focus on the eyes: The first rule, by me, is the focus should be on the eyes. Not on the nose, not on the lips, the EYES. Why? Because consciously or not, that’s the first thing that catches our eye in the photo. So, a sharply focused eye of the model, makes the photo likable immediately.

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Sharp focus is on the eyes

2. Let the eyes see: I ll explain this, in simpler terms. I mean, let the photo be such that the model has some place to look to, that the viewer also looks towards the way the model is watching. Let the curiosity be there. If the model is looking towards left, leave some space in the left, and vice versa.

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She looks to her left, so thats where the space should be

3. Change the angles and point of views: All shots need not be taken right from the eye level. Go up, go down or maybe, just take a step back. They all work wonderfully.

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Take a step back, and let her beauty fill the frame
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Make her look up to you
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If needed, get down on the ground too

4. Anticipate Movements:  While shooting at an event, you shall come across conditions where your model is in motion. Observe the patterns and anticipate the movements, be ready and press the shutter at the right moment. With a bit of practice, sharp shots of moving people will not be difficult.

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Anticipate the pattern
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Prefocus, be ready and shoot!

5. Go Candid:  Here, you just need to be on the prowl. Keep your eyes peeled for subjects to be shot. Sometimes they notice you and the expression changes, the objective is to shoot before the expression changes. But be advised, the shots may not be as you would have wanted them to be, but then, sometimes, gems emerge too.

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6. Bokeh to the rescue:  If you have a background which has distractions, or maybe you just dont want the background, open the aperture wide and let the background fade.

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The tip of the finger is all I am interested in, rest all should fade
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To isolate the model from the distracting background, use a wide aperture

7. Use Flash:  When shooting in the dark, or poorly lit conditions, use the flash as a last resort. With a few test shots, gauge what strength and what shutter speed you need to do justice to your model. Once found, fire away.

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The flash gives the adequate light and also helps freeze the motion
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Combination of Flash and wide aperture helps isolate the model and also provide proper lighting

8. Get close:  Often to capture the expression, you must get very close to your model. But be advised, do not disturb the natural surroundings in the process.

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Concentration….captured

9. Ask the model to smile: This trick, never gets old. Ask your model to relax and take a seat. Bring out your gear and show them how to take a shot, and when they have relaxed, ask them to smile….voila! You have a genuine and happy smile,

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Effortlessly beautiful

10. Try Monochrome: For a lot of shots, the monochrome version appears to be of more depth. Try it out, but dont overdo it.

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Beauty as I know best

So, there you go. 10 simple tips to get you going on your next portrait shooting trip. Go on, have fun and shoot some wonderful portraits.

Thanks a lot to the wonderful models here: Nikhila, Gowri, Rishika, Shruti, Soma, Mayukh, Shweta, Parthivi, Aakash, Anushree, Yogi and my muse, Tuhina. You all are simply wonderful 🙂

Cheers!!

Up Close…Encore

Today I got my 100th follower, and I was very happy. It made me think that today something special needs to be done, something innovative. So, I revisited an issue I had previously, how to take macro photos on a budget. The macro lens I am aiming for, is still pretty much out of my reach, but lens reversal, that can be done right…so lets try it.

I pulled out my body cap and hollowed it out, and stuck one of the UV filters to it, thread facing outward. IMG_20150703_175844124-1

I put a bit of sticking tape to reinforce the joint, and voila! my lens reversal system is ready. Now, does it manage to hold the lens?
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Oohhh yeeaahh!!! Works fine till here. Lets test!

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By the results, I am happy. No, they are not as nice as a macro lens, but surely a huge improvement than using the macro filters. Check the previous post here and see for yourself.

The DOF is incredibly small, maybe 2 or 3 millimeters deep, at a maximum, when the aperture is open wide. Keeping the aperture open is an issue, needs to be done manually. I wont lie, to take a photo, I needed to shoot at least 10, and it is tiresome. But the results are very much satisfying. Am working on some more close ups, hopefully will post them soon.

Cheers!!

Rule of Thirds

Hi there all,

I love it when the weekly photo challenges are a bit theoretical in nature. This week, its the Rule Of Thirds. I am sure you all have come across this rule, by choice or not. Check out the challenge page and other responses here.

Lets just begin. Divide your frame into 3 parts, horizontally and vertically and then keep your most important subjects on the intersecting points of the grid or on the grid lines. Remember the grid option in your phone’s camera, yes, thats the grid for this superb rule. And try to avoid the center block.

When we align the photos suitably, you ll notice almost immediately, that the look and feel of the photo changes and becomes much more pleasing and natural to the eye. Go ahead try it.
Here is an example of the rule.

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Here, the bird on the foreground is almost in the left third, while the one in the background is on the right thirds. The opposite river bank is in the upper third.

This is one of the most common rules which immediately makes your photo look better.

Similar concept right here too.

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Check out the rest of the Varanasi shots in these posts:  http://wp.me/p4EGyN-4F

Happy shooting!

Cheers!!

 

Be-aware!

Hi there all,
My today’s post, is more of an advice to my dear readers. It is not of photography but very closely related to it. I am talking about the .RAW/.NEF files from the photos taken. Now, if you are one of those who take a photo either in .JPG or delete the raw file the moment they are done with converting to .JPG, then you are at a safer side. But for people like me, ones who keep the raw files for at least a year before deleting them, we face issues of space and repetitions. Often we go by the “spray and pray” method and thus have multiple repeats and more often than not, we choose to put off deleting the repeats to a later date, and this, clutters up the hard disks. It always pays in the long run to keep the raw files organized.
Also, be careful as to where you are keeping your valuable raw files. Do not keep data in hard disks which have shown signs of fault in the past. I learnt it in a very hard way today. I lost raw files worth some 20gb, about 40gb of movies and close to a 1500 photos, old ones, which I wont ever get back. Often, before dying, the hard disk will give you one last chance to take the data out before it croaks up all together, watch out for these signs and act before irreparable damage is done.
So, I realized that I ll need to reduce the number of extra photos I take, they ll keep things sorted, and will use less space up too, and hence, are easier and faster to transfer away, when needed.
I hope that this kind of disaster doesnt befall the unaware ones…better safe than sorry.

Cheers!!

10. Filters – ND

Hey there all, its been quite sometime for me since I posted in something new, so here goes!

A filter, in definition is something, some device or contraption, which will restrict or modify transmission. In terms of a camera, optical filters, are used to selectively transmit light depending on the need. There are various types of
filters in use, special effects, close up, Neutral Density(ND), gradient, etc.
I ll talk about some of them here.
The most commonly used one is a UV filter. Expected to cut down the incident UV rays, but at times, is responsible for unwanted reflections and lens flares. I use it mainly as a lens cap.
The special effects ones, provide a variety of different effects to the photos. They can shapes, words, starbursts etc
that are the results of the special effects one. Few examples

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and a DIY here…http://wp.me/P4EGyN-1l

The close up filters are basically magnifying glass. Check the post here…http://wp.me/p4EGyN-2y

The other type, the ND filter is a particularly useful too if and when used during the day time where you want to both depict or soothe out motion. I know it sounded confusing, how do i depict motion and also soothe it out. Well, we dont do both in a single photo. Suppose you take a photo of a fountain and there are people moving in front of it. Use the filter, decrease the shutter speed and there you have it, the moving people are hardly visible. On the flipside, as the people are soothed out, the water too, will become smooth and flowy. You wont get the sharp droplets anymore, it ll become more of a dreamy smooth and flowy substance.

So, what the ND filter basically does is, it cuts out the incoming light without changing the color balance of the scene, a sunglass to your lens.
Gradient filter is a type of ND filter where half of the glass is darkened, this is commonly used while shooting
landscapes to darken out the sky, helps in proper exposure of the complete scene. Another costlier filter variation of the ND filter is the circular polariser filter. Here the strength can be varied by rotating the polarised glass discs.

In the following photos, observe the difference in shutter speed before and after using the filter.

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These photos should explain how the end result is. In the first one, the outline of the car is visible.

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In the second set, water ripples are visibly reduced  in the second shot.

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I hope you, my dear reader will take amazing shots using this type of filter. Do share.

The ND filters are not cheap things to come by…but you can always make one for yourself! How?? Check it out on the DIY page, Innovation Corner (https://senkaustav.wordpress.com/iinnovate/)
Cheers!!

 

9. HDR Photography

Hi there…another post on photo techniques…
Today, I share, HDR Photography. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. Dynamic range, in a photo basically means the span of the photo’s lighting conditions from the
highlights to the shadows. Suppose in a photo, involving both land and bit of sky. On a normal day time shot, we can expect that the sky will be brighter than the
foreground, the land. Now, the question comes up, which brightness will be your benchmark. If you take the sky as the reference, then the foreground will be
underexposed and all dark, whereas, if you take the foreground as the reference, the sky will appear as a white sheet and lose any and all details.
One way to compensate this, is by using gradient filters, which act as a sunglass for the part of the photo with the sky and making the light levels comparable and
hence a cleaner photo. But, these filters, the good quality ones, they do cost, not heftily..but significantly.
The other way is the HDR way. In the HDR, what we do is, take multiple photos, same focus, same focal length, except, different exposure values. A sturdy surface or a tripod is must for HDR photos. Different exposure values, are attained by varying the shutter speed. I take Optimum plus 1 and plus 2 stop photos and minus 2 and minus
2 and one with the optimum. And then, I stack them up in Photoshop. Other HDR making software are readily available online. Do put special attention so that the frame doesnt shift between the photos or ghosting (multiple copies) issues come up and they do not look pleasing or artsy at all.
HDR photos enhance bits of details too but in a close up shot, as the one which follows, the difference is very limited though.
I do not take a lot of HDR photos, not because I do not like them or some biasness, but because after I bought my camera, I havent visited much places where HDR photos are warranted.
Check out these two photos. They are both correctly exposed. The first one is a optimally exposed photo where as the other one is the HDR rendition comprised of 5 photos.

Optimum exposure
Optimum exposure

 

HDR version
HDR version

Cheers!

8. Close Up!

We love the insanely close up photos of insects, showing their eyes, or a tiny ant holding a tinier grain and truly, we are amazed by these shots. These photos are termed as macro photos. Actual definition is a big complicated thing that simply means, photos where small objects look way bigger, magnified, thats all.
All lens have some bit of magnification factor in them, but the macro lens, they are dedicated ones which have very little focusing distance, extremely high sharpness and they are very very pricey. Well, they deserve to be too.
Anyway, since my blog is all about the way I have met up to these challenges, I have opted for the easier way out…screw on close up filters. These filters are simple magnifying glass lens adapted to be mounted as a filter on the lens. They reduce the focusing distance and magnify the image. Available normally in packs of 3 or 4, these filters come in strengths of +1, +2, +4 and a macro lens (+10).

+4 lens
+4 lens
Macro
Macro

Now, you might wonder, if these screw on lens, whole set costing within 2k INR are available, why should I go for a 20k macro lens? The reason is a single word, quality! The quality of the dedicated lens are incomparably and invariably better than the screw on filters. These filters cause light loss on the edges, distortions and also vignetting. Plus, these are not the sharpest of lens at all. So, if you plan to go pro about the macro shots, or have very deep pockets, buy the dedicated ones. The screw on ones are fine for occasional close up shots!

Macro(+10) f/1.8
Macro(+10) f/1.8
Macro (+10) f/11
Macro (+10) f/11
The +4 lens
The +4 lens

Cheers!

 

7. Flash Diffuser

In my previous post, I wrote about flash photography. I hope you, my readers, have taken some shots using the flash. And also, I believe, you have faced the issue, where the flash felt very harsh. Skin tone has become unacceptably white and too much of the detail has been lost. No amount of post processing will help in these cases.
This is caused, when the flash is too strong and the light is very concentrated. Hence, our options are either to lower the flash strength or diffuse the light.

Lowering the flash strength is fine upto a certain level but beyond that, still photos do get blown. This is where the diffuser comes in.
First, what exactly does the diffuser do? Imagine the flash on your camera as a point light source, like a strong bulb. It gives out a dispersing beam allright, but the dispersion is not enough hence the subject’s details are getting overwhelmed by the light. Now, the diffuser’s work is to disperse the light even more, make it softer. This makes the subject retain the details and also gives your photo a balanced look. For a further enlightenment on the diffuser, feel free to check up on the web, but the nutshell description is the same.

Normal flash
Normal flash

 

Same settings, with the diffuser
Same settings, with the diffuser

Diffusers are generally not available for the onboard flashes, and a decent external flash costs at least 15k INR, plus the diffuser box is around 6k INR. Frankly, I dont have that amount of money at all, hence, a bit of improvisation (Jugaad, the Indian term) is all we need. Head over to the DIY section for a awesome jugaad that ll make your day.

Cheers!

5. Flash Photogrpahy

Flash photography, is simply put using the flash during taking the photo. We all know what a flash does, add light to the scene, thats the nutshell. Good use of flash allows the proper amount of light and also not washing off the colors in a photo. Most common use is during the night time photographs we take. These basic things, we are all aware off, and knowingly or not, we use them every other day.
But what do we do, when our subject is backlit, most commonly by sunlight? We take a photo without flash, and we end up having silhouette photos. I, personally, love the silhouette shots, but sometimes, you would like that the subject’s features, expressions too be captured. This is when the flash becomes indispensable. This technique of using the flash is known as “Fill Flash”.
Now, in a DSLR, you will have options of how strong you want the flash to be. With use and experience, you shall be able to judge the amount of light your scene needs and other than practice and trial and error, there is no short cut to it.

When you go through the options within the flash menu, generally, you ll come across the following options.
1. Normal Flash: This one is the standard issue flash setting. The shutter and the flash are synced and they normally fire simultaneously.

2. Slow sync Flash: This option comes up if you want to depict both motion and also freeze your subject. On the point and shoots, the party mode gives you this option. Here, the flash fires with combination of a slow shutter speed. The slow shutter speed gives the option to depict motion, while the flash freezes the subject in sharply.

Slow sync has two options, which come up in the Manual mode in the DSLR…
a. Front Curtain: Here, the flash is fired at the beginning of the exposure. Practically speaking, suppose you take the picture of a car moving from left to right using this method, then, the photo will have the car being sharp on the left side of your shot and then the trail of light leading it as the car exits from right. Here I show it with a coin toss! Notice how the falling coin is also captured in the shot.

Front Curtain
Front Curtain

 
b. Rear curtain: Similarly, here the flash is fired just before closing the shutter. It also does the same job, just from a different perspective. Same car, same direction, same shot, but this time, the car will be sharp in the right side of the photo with a trail of lights in the back. Similar coin toss, but here, you can see it spinning and in the moment the flash was fired, the coin’s motion has been frozen.

Rear Curtain
Rear Curtain

Flash photography can be used very creatively from making weird blurred backgrounds to eliminating shadow to freezing motion and so on…Go on take the shots and have fun creating stunning effects in the photos right in the camera.
Cheers!

 

4. Shutter Speed and the Holy Trinity of photogrpahy

Hi there all…today the final part of the basics, shutter speed…
Shutter speed, as the name suggests is how fast or how slow the shutter will open up and close down. Lower the shutter speed, slower is the shutter movement and hence more time for the sensor to gather light.
The speed is denoted by notations like 1/250, 1/500 ranging upto 1/4000 commonly, upto 1/16000 are also found in very high end models. And on the slower side, speeds go 1/10, 1/2, 1′, 10′ generally up to 30′ and then there is a “bulb” mode. In the bulb mode, the shutter will remain open as long as the shutter button is pressed, no time limit to it.
Please note, 1/250 means, shutter will remain open for 1/250th of a second. Similarly, with a shutter speed of 2′, the shutter will remain open for 2 seconds. A faster shutter speed will allow you to freeze motion, make your photos less susceptible to camera shake and other disturbances while a slower one will allow you to show motion in form of trails, or ghost images.

     1/20     1/125     1/320

Now that we know the 3 basic pillars of making of a photo, namely, ISO-Aperture-Shutter Speed, we must now understand how these three are related. Let me explain below.

Assumption: we want a properly exposed, unblurred and negligibly noisy photo

1. With increase in shutter speed, chances of blurry image is less, and also the amount of light available decreases. So, for a properly exposed photo, we need to either slow down the shutter speed, or open up the aperture or increase the ISO.
We try opening up the aperture to the maximum to let in more light and also, we increase the ISO setting to make the sensor sensitive…then, the limiting factors become, how much DOF do you want, and how much noise can your camera handle.
For settings where you control the shutter speed and let the camera handle the rest, switch to the Shutter Priority mode, denoted by the “S” button on the dial in Nikon Cameras.

2. With a wide aperture, you get ample light to work with, but a very shallow DOF. Suppose you want a deeper depth, you ll need to stop down the aperture a few stops. This, in turn causes the light available to decrease, and hence, the need arises to lower the shutter speed or increase the ISO. As stated earlier, lower shutter speed will cause blurriness due to camera shake and higher ISO will cause noise. Hence, the limiting factor basically becomes, how slow shutter speed can the lens accommodate with the Vibration Reduction (VR) systems and/or how steady your hand is.
For settings, where you control only the aperture, switch to the “A” (Aperture Priority) mode in Nikon Cameras.

3. There will be conditions, where the aperture value is maxed out, and the shutter speed is as slow as feasible and still not enough light, that is when we need to increase the ISO out of compulsion, in my opinion that is. The sensor becomes more sensitive and we get better exposure, but the chance of a grainy pic is always there.
For this mode, where you get to change only the ISO, dial in to the “P” (Program Auto) mode in Nikon Cameras.

These modes are tried and tested over the years of SLR history and they deliver impeccable results with an appreciative hit rate, its a huge advantage to know how they work. But then, there are those, who want to have total control over the Trinity. If you are amongst those who are not afraid to take complete control of your camera, have a lot of misses and very few hits initially, learn to read the photo histograms, understand the range finder and then take a shot…then switch to the Manual mode, “M” on the Nikon bodies. As an afterthought, sooner or later, you will have to shift to the Manual mode to grow…so I ll suggest, get friendly with the Manual mode early on, but do know the quick settings that might be handy in a jiffy.

Once you get cool with the modes, shots like these, are going to be easy.

  15s  1/250

1/200

Next up, the first photo effect and some shots of a very common and very beautiful, Bokkeh!

Cheers!