Greetings from a Wildlife Photographer on Dartmoor in Devon
First of all I must apologise to my regular readers of my blog. I have not posted a blog since March due to several events that life has thrown at me. One affected me, one my wife but the main one is that my little dog Murphy lost the use of his back legs whilst he was out for a walk. He ran to catch a ball when he suddenly stopped and started yelping. I took him to a vet straight away where they kept him in overnight. The next day I had to take him to a vet in Bristol where they carried out an MRI scan. The result showed that he had burst a disc in his spine and the fluid shot out and hit his spinal cord. This bruising and swelling of the spinal cord caused him to lose all feeling from the waist down. He stayed with these vets for a few days and then he was released back in our care. They informed us that Murphy had a 70% chance of walking again but had to rest and not jump about! (Have to tried to keep a terrier still!) Since then my wife and I have given him physiotherapy several times a day. He seems to make a slight improvement every day but it is going to be a long process. My wife and I take him for very short walks on the moor three times a day to keep his mind active and there is good movement in his legs. He is just about controlling his toilet functions and now, four weeks later, he has started wagging his tail. At the moment his right leg is the stronger one and is working well. His left leg is a few weeks behind. I can only describe is as “whilst his front legs walk his back legs ice skate”. We have now started taking him to a hydrotherapy pool that contains a treadmill. The water holds his weight whilst a lady moves his back legs along the treadmill. Whilst he is doing this he is getting fed slices of sausages which he enjoys!
Digital photography has brought to the photography table a lot of plus points including: - Histograms, viewing your image as soon as you have taken it, no expensive processing, able to take hundreds of images rather than 36 at a time etc. But it has also brought with it a downside. Rather than spending time taking images you now have to spend a lot of time sat on your computer post processing your images.
I know you might have spent a lot of money on the latest piece of post-processing software and want to do lots of things with it. But when taking a photograph you must not think "I'll just fix it in post processing". If you do then you're not the only one and a lot of people do. After all, post-processing, has given us some really wonderful tools to work with and adjust or change our images to suit our mood or creativity. We can clean up quite a bit of noise albeit to the detriment of losing fine detail. We can fix a certain amount of underexposure and overexposure; just remember that if we really blow the highlights then we cannot bring back the detail. We can adjust white balance, add a colour cast, add an ND grad filter etc. In a sense software producers have made things too easy for us. So why is it a big deal to think “I’ll just fix it in post processing”? Well for some things it’s not. Adjusting a little bit of this or a little bit of that is pretty easy. But there are lots of reasons why it is bad practice to just let your post-processing act as your personal failsafe. The main reason is TIME, time is costly not just for photography but for everything you do. Would you rather be sat there on your computer or be out in the field taking images. For a wildlife photographer it is better being out there in the field because being sat indoors means missed photo opportunities. Likewise if you were a wedding photographer and you underexposed every single photo, in other words the brides dress is grey instead of white because you did not use the histogram, then you can't give the bride and groom any of those photos until after you have corrected them. That means a long time sitting in front of your computer, tweaking and adjusting every single photo, before you can finally save them and give them to them. If you had a lot of weddings to attend then the “post-"Getting your images right in camera", "camera's sensor", "colour tempreture", "color tempreture", processing time” would set you back and you might end up losing business.
Even though your new digital camera is a great piece of equipment is doesn’t always get it right. Post-processing isn’t a new thing. It’s just that photographers used to do it in a darkroom, and today they do it on a computer. I call it a downside but some people enjoy this part of the photography world but I personally find it a chore. If we were all the same the world would be a boring place. For those that think like me I reduce the time spent at my computer by doing a few things.
Getting your images right in the camera
Getting your images right in the camera is a combination of several things including your subject, your creativity and understanding the workings and settings of your camera. As you examine your subject and the conditions of the scene you should consider what you want your image to look like. You should ask yourself what story you want your image to tell and also what emotion you want it to evoke.
This starts with actually looking, and seeing what is going on all around you and not just through your viewfinder. Look and visualize the possibilities of images you would like to take. You could do this at your given location even if you haven’t got your camera with you. This is part of what I call reconnoitring the area. By taking time to looking around you might see something that interests or inspires you. It might arouse some emotion within you which compels you take a photograph of it. I know you might have gone to great lengths to get into the right position at the right location at the right time and you might only be there once so you want to get it right. It is always worth getting in position early to give yourself time to look around. You should already have some ideas about what you want to do with your photograph which should include how you want capture it, how you want to treat it in post-processing and where you want to show it. These considerations will improve how you approach taking photographs.
Light is the most critical component of an image. The camera’s sensor does not know the subject you are photographing is a bird or a fox, all it captures is the light. Knowing how the sensor works will impact on your photography by learning how to use it creatively. There are many light sources and each has a different characteristic (or colour temperature), which affects photographs. Natural light has many characteristics depending on the time of day. It can be warm around the golden hours at sunrise and sunset. It can be direct and provide hard edged shadows, such as at midday. You may be in the shade or shooting into the shade. Alternatively it may be diffused and softer such as when there is an overcast sky, haze, or even fog. Each of these conditions provides you with different shooting opportunities.
There are also many sources of artificial light both indoor and outdoor including incandescent, tungsten, halogen, fluorescent and LED which add a range of colour casts to photographs.
The quality, intensity and brightness of the light hitting the sensor will influence your choice of shutter speed and ISO settings. The direction from which the light is coming from will determine whether your subject is lit from the front, side, back or is in the shade.
This leads to the exposure of the image. A good or “normal” exposure is one which has captured a well distributed range of light and is not over or under exposed. This is where histograms come in. This, in my mind, is the best thing about digital photography because you can check the exposure of your image straight after taking it, trust me it is well worth the few seconds it takes. If it is wrong then you can adjust the settings and take the image again.
Light will influence your composition of the image. Composition means how you build your image, what is included or excluded, and starts with understanding the subject, what the image consists of, how shapes within the image are related to each other, how the spaces are filled, or not, and the whole thing must have a kind of harmony.
During the framing of your subject through your camera’s viewfinder there are several things to think about which aids composition. How your photograph is organized, how the space is used, how the elements are to be linked, and how pleasing this is to you.
Think also about the composition rules (for more information on some composition rules, click on these links http://www.robinstanbridgephotography.co.uk/blog/2016/3/ramblings-and-photographic-composition-for-a-wildlife-photographer-part-1 http://www.robinstanbridgephotography.co.uk/blog/2016/3/photographic-composition-part-2 http://www.robinstanbridgephotography.co.uk/blog/2016/3/photographic-composition-part-3 http://www.robinstanbridgephotography.co.uk/blog/2016/4/photographic-composition-part-4 ), whether the image is better suited to a vertical or horizontal orientation, placement of the subject or subjects, use of space or negative space, the weight and size of the subject to create balance, the interaction between the foreground, middle ground and background helps create interest and all help guide the viewer’s eye through the image. Filling the frame to exclude unnecessary or distracting subjects or include more of the scene on each of the four sides of the frame to avoid cutting off any details on the edges. Photograph your image from different angles, such as above or below a subject, can create a unique point of view.
Knowing how a digital camera works
Knowing how your digital camera works and what happens when you change your settings means that you could set your camera up before you actually need to use it. Then when you get out there you might only have to adjust the settings a little bit due to weather conditions. The settings you choose can be used to impact the appearance of your photographs.
The three main camera settings, Aperture (f/stop), Shutter Speed and ISO will determine your exposure and there are numerous creative choices you can make with these settings. As stated above an exposure is best evaluated by using the camera’s histogram right after you have taken the image.
Using aperture as a creative choice means that you can have a great background bokeh with the subject sharp using a setting of f2.8 or f4. Then again you can have everything in focus using an aperture of f16 or f22. It is up to you and what image you want to produce.
Using shutter speed as a creative choice means that you can have the subject and background frozen with a high shutter speed or you can blur some of it using a slower shutter speed.
ISO controls the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor to light. A high ISO means that you can select a high shutter speed with a large aperture e.g. f4, or you can use a low shutter speed with a small aperture e.g.f16. Remember the higher the ISO then the more noise is introduced in your image.
By me doing all the above means that I only spend a few minutes post processing my image. All I do in post processing is usually: - crop, dodge and burn, de-noise and then sharpen.
When you have confidence in yourself and a good working knowledge of things like lighting, composition, understanding the workings and settings of your camera, you’re going to end up taking better pictures. And though you can crop and tweak the levels and fix the white balance afterwards, what you can’t do is adjust the position of the sun or light, change your camera angle or spot that perfect moment. Having confidence in your gear and yourself isn’t just something that will help you achieve technically perfect images; it will also help you to create fundamentally better images. And I don’t care which post processing software you have, you can’t do any of that in post-processing.
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