Macro Shots

Today, as I sit to type down this post, my bags are packed and ready to leave. I leave NICMAR, Pune in less than 6 hours and will be on my way to my home first, then to much bigger adventures. Last night while packing, I stumbled across two very prized possessions of mine, my self made reverse lens adapter and a pair o kerosene lighters.
Flipped it open, spun the wheel, the sparks erupted, felt good.
At around 0100h, I felt a tiny bit creative. So, here is what I did, past mid night, using the reverse lens adapter. Lens used, my trusted Nikon 50mm F1.8D, and the camera, Nikon D3100.

macro of tanks made on a zippo lighter

macro shot of a SDHC card

macro close up of a diamond ring

macro close up of the wick of a zippo lighter

macro close up of the striking wheel of a zippo lighter

macro close up of the hinge of a zippo lighter

The following images are shot using the Tamron 70-300mm F4-5.6 macro lens, in the macro mode as control shots.

macro close up of the stalk of a flower

macro close up of a stalk of a flower

I ll infer that unless one is dedicated to shooting macros, the need for a macro lens, is quite limited. Often, a reverse mounted lens shall do the trick. Adding on, it is always much easier to use a full manual lens for reverse mounting because you can control the aperture ring and decide on the depth of field.

With this, I sign off from NICMAR, Pune. I shall be travelling for the next few days and shall also be visiting Delhi for almost a week, so that should make for a nice post.

Till then,
Cheers!!

Repurpose – Flash Diffuser

Photographers, both, budding and experienced, have faced the issue of flash whiteout quite often. Sometimes it can be handled by varying the settings and we immediately realize the importance of a flash diffuser.
Like the name suggests, it is used to diffuse the harsh light from the flash and make it more soft and soothing, while still lighting up the subject. It is useful as it does not produce harsh shadows and lights up more area, albeit in a little less intensity.
One can get clip on diffusers for the on board pop up flash, while the external flashes generally come with a diffuser flap. Here is a method of repurposing a used cigarette packet as a flash diffuser in a hurry.

Get a white pack, rip off the bottom of it carefully and pull out the silver or golden foil from inside, carefully so as not to tear it away.

Cigarette pack with a ripped bottom

Reverse the foil so that the shiny bit will be facing inwards.

Foil reversed in a cigarette pack

Push it to till the head, in such a way that light doesn’t escape and is rather reflected and the head behaves as the flash.

Foil positioned to reflect light

Clip it on your camera’s pop up flash. It may need a little tweaking here and there for it to be set correctly.

Repurposed pack clipped on on board flash

Repurposed pack clipped on on board flash another view

Results:

 

Brain coral, loses detail due to white out by direct flash
Normal flash

 

Brain coral, much more detailed due to diffused light
Same settings, with the diffuser

I hope you have found this useful. This is quick fix solution, a typical Jugaad ūüôā

Cheers!!

Star Trails: What is and how to..

Shooting at night, and in long exposure is quite fun, one must agree. With a little tweak, the night can be turned  into dusk, if not bright day.
This shot, 0230 h. 30 seconds of exposure does this trick.

Long exposure photo of lake with landscapes mirrored into the lake.

We get enamoured by the photos of trails of lights across the sky, often in round or elliptical patterns about a stunning landscape. Some of my readers may already know what it is. What you have seen, is a star trail.
What is it? Well, as the earth rotates, from our point of view, fixed on the earth, we find the stars shifting. If we capture this shift, over considerable span of time, we shall get the path traced by the star. That illuminated trail, is the star trail.

Star trail photo over landscape. Multiple long exposure photos combined in one.

Things we need are quite minimal. We need a tripod, a camera with a means to take a certain number of shots over a period of time, a landscape and a starry night.

Set the camera appropriately on the tripod. In the settings menu, make it take photos till the battery runs out or at least 8gb worth of photos are captured. For the exposure settings, you ll have to take a couple of cold shots. Try with the minimum ISO and shutter speed at about 15 seconds. Take a shot and inspect it, if you can see at least one star in your display screen. A few trial and errors and you shall get the exposure right. Once done, set the camera on the interval shooting mode, and wait.

Now, what you shall get out of the shots is a series, where the only movement, preferably, will be of the stars. Get hold of the software, StarStaX, and load up the images. Follow the instructions and let the software process the photos. If done correctly, you should get yourself a beautiful star trail photo.

If you have reached till here, you have definitely earned the right to know what may go wrong. Take a look at the photo above, once more. Zoom it. Do you notice that there are tiny gaps between each trail. That gap is what 5 seconds looks like. Between each of my exposure, I had set a gap of 5 seconds. If you want a continuous trail, ensure, no gaps. You may have to shoot on JPEG for that, turn noise reduction off, so that as soon as the camera shoots one image, it can continue to the next one. You have got to ensure that there are no movements on your end. Before you put the photo into StarStax, it is advisable to convert them in JPEG, if you have shot in RAW. And while you are at it, make the uniform changes in all the photos using sync (Lightroom) or similar functions.

My exposure is about 120 photos, half an hour long. This was a proof of concept shot, to try out whats and hows. Now that I know, in near future, better, seamless shots should be expected.

Till the next post.
Cheers!!

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 ūüôā

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!