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

 DSC_5465 DSC_5585

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.

  IMG_20141110_113600   IMG_20141110_113734

 

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

DSC_5994

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

DSC_6254DSC_6269

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!

3. Aperture (F-stop) and Depth of Field

Hi there all, today, its all about dilation and depth…Aperture and DOF (Depth of Field)
Aperture is the slit or opening through which light enters the camera through the lens. The aperture is the characteristic of the lens and not the camera body. It is denoted by the F/- numbers, in the format of f/2, f/3.6, etc.
You might have heard people say, photos taken at “widest aperture” or “aperture fully open”, what they essentially mean is that the aperture is open at the maximum to open the maximum amount of light. The smaller the f/- number, the wider the aperture. The below photos show the apertures at various f/- numbers.

  f-1.8    f-5.6    f-11    f-22

The wider the aperture, to get a shot properly exposed, you get more light coming in at an instant…so that reduces the need to increase the ISO. Another way of saying this would be, suppose at f/5.6, you need ISO 400 to properly expose a shot, other conditions remaining constant, then, if you open up the aperture to f/1.8, then ISO 100 would cater to the shot adequately. How is this helpful…it reduces noise that are introduced with higher ISO.
Now, the other factor that is directly related to aperture values, is depth of field (DOF).
DOF refers to the part of the photo that will remain in focus when you take the shot. You might have seen and marveled at the photos, where the subject is in sharp focus and the background is a dreamy blur…that is to say, the DOF extends over the subject only. With the increase in the F/- numbers, the DOF increases i.e region of photo that will show up in sharp focus increases.
There might and will be times, when we want some of the background to show up, we would just increase the DOF, that’s all. This also acts as a buffer for the people who are unsure while using manual focus. You focus to the best of your ability, and have a fairly deep DOF, chances are very high that the subject will be in focus, but this technique is generally avoided and discouraged.
Similarly, for a shallow DOF, dial down the aperture value and hence open it up and you have yourself a very isolated subject..perfect for those portraits of your loved ones 😉

These photos below have been taken varying only the F stops to give an idea of what it is.

    f/1.8     f/3.2     f/4

        f/7.1     f/22     f/14

Now, in the following ones, are more like real situations where, with the change of F stops, DOF changes , and so does the amount of light coming in. With increase in F stops, light entry will decrease proportionately.

 

  f1.8     f2.5     f3.2

 f5     f7.1

Now, with tweaking the ISO and changing the F stop numbers (that’s what F/- numbers are called, by the way), you can manage the photos all right, the photos of still life objects, landscapes, basically, objects which wont move. How do you take a noiseless photo, with nice DOF and proper exposure too? Or how do you capture or restrict motion…that’s where shutter speed comes into play. Coming up next…
Cheers!

2. ISO

Hi all…today, the first basic concept of the image…ISO
Some of you might know and remember ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization and they set some standards, namely, ISO12232:2006, for determining sensitivity of a camera sensor, hence the name ISO. Not going into all the technicalities, long story cut short….ISO lets you change the sensitivity of the sensor.
Lower the ISO number (say ISO 100/200, even up to 400 on some cameras) better will be the clarity of the picture, this is kind of a thumb rule. So, why would we want to rise from these numbers at all, set the camera to the lowest ISO and snap away…we always want the sharpest of pictures right? The argument is true, Yes, we do want the sharpest photos but every now and then, we are in situations where we do not have decent amount of light. Bumping up the ISO, lets us deal with this issue. When we are increasing the ISO number, we are increasing the light sensitivity of the digital sensor. The ISO system today, in digital cameras is equivalent to what film speeds were in the film cameras. Remember the numbers written on the film rolls, and how a 400 or a 800 speed film would be pretty costly and hardly be given to us, when we were younger, while the 100 or 80 speed ones were cheaper and more dispensable. Back then, the film speeds reflected how sensitive the film were to low light conditions, more sensitive, more pricey.
But, the sensitivity comes with a trade off too…noise, digital noise. Digital noise is what causes tiny grains to appear on the photos. Sometimes we do put on a film-grain effect on the photo to make it look different, but if they come up in the original photo, it is undesirable. Now, with increase in the sensitivity, the noise also increases. To counter this, the cameras generally have a noise reduction system in them. These systems, take care of the noise till ISO 800 with ease, some take handle it up to ISO 6400 too, but beyond that, the noise overwhelms the anti-noise system and they appear in the photos.
Below are a few photos, which are almost 200% crops of bigger photos, taken of a pillow cover at various ISO to show the difference. Notice that in ISO 100, 400, and also in 800, the strands are pretty much visible separately but once beyond that, they start getting smudged in the photo…this is being caused by noise and in ISO6400 and ISO12800, the details are almost non existent.

The high end DSLRs provide with ranges near ISO204800. Agreed, at that high range, your picture will be noise and noise only, but the sensitivity will allow you to shoot at pitch darkness and your camera will see more than your eye can and give you some outputs, in theory at least…need to try this in practice someday..
Now, even in the entry level DSLRs, the noise reduction system is good enough that on a general viewing, the noise might not be a distraction to the great photo that you have taken. But as and when you start printing them, say at 100%, the noise will show up and believe me, you would want to avoid that.

To avoid the noise from creeping in and ruining your shot, you ll need to handle the aperture ( F stop) and the shutter speed….topics coming up on the next posts..

Cheers

1. Photo-Graphy

Photography, is a composite of greek words, photos meaning light and graphe meaning drawing, making the complete meaning as drawing using light. Gone are the days of portraits when the model would have to sit for hours, still, so that the painter can create an impression of her, with no guarantees that the portrait will be accurate. And also, gone are the days, when post clicking a photo, we’d need to wait for at least a week to know how much similarity exists between what we saw and what we captured.
Now, we have digital cameras, that let us know what we might capture before we take it actually. Still, differences do exist in quality, based on what we are using. In general, cellphone cameras, point and shoots and D-SLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras form the main three groups of cameras available. Each have their own capacities and their own uniqueness and one can really not compare and say, this certain group is better than the rest. The gap that existed between the groups have diminished considerably and they have all found their supporters. I, like many, own specimens from all 3 groups and respect each for their versatility, compactness and ease of use. Opinions and views will always vary, but the things that dont change,that are the basics of the photos.
In the upcoming posts, I ll write about the basic pillars of a photo and then on, how to balance and make the best use of them.
Till then,
Cheerio!

My Cameras
My Cameras