15 Tips for Successful Fireworks Photography – Digital Photography School

A Post By: Darlene Hildebrandt

fireworks-tips-dps-08With the summer coming up and different celebrations you may have the opportunity to photograph some fireworks.  If you’re in the USA you have the 4th of July, in Canada July 1st.  In many other places you can find fireworks festivals or competitions even, or special occasions when fireworks may be set off including weddings, New Years Day or course and of course at Disneyland!

So here’s a few tips to help you photograph fireworks. The biggest thing to remember is that it’s all about practice, experimentation, and the following mantra (say it with me!)

SHOOT – REVIEW – ADJUST – REPEAT

Please remember that if you’ve never tried fireworks before it’s all trial and error and I’ve made a lot of mistakes myself before I got any images that I was happy to show anyone.  Each time I photograph fireworks there’s always some element that’s unpredictable so you have to learn to adapt and learn from your own mistakes, correct for next time and do it again. So take these tips to help you get started.

15 tips for fireworks photography

#1 Use the right equipment: use a sturdy tripod and remote to fire the camera  and bring an extra battery as long exposures tend to use them up quickly.  I say STURDY tripod because it needs to hold your camera steady for several seconds without sinking, tipping, or wobbling. I wrote an article on my site on Tips for buying a tripod of you need more info on what to get.

This image was actually purchased by the company that put on the fireworks show in Portland.

This image was actually purchased by the company that put on the fireworks show in Portland.

#2 Set your ISO low like 100 or 200, for a couple reasons. First the higher the ISO you use the more noise you’ll introduce into your images, so keep it low to prevent that. Noise also lives in blue areas of images and nighttime has a lot of blue so that compounds the issue.  Long exposures also tend to increase noise so if you add it all up you get a lot of noise so keep the ISO low to eliminate that variable.

#3 Turn OFF long exposure noise reduction.  This setting, while it does a really good job of noise reduction, adds an extra complication you don’t need when doing photography of fireworks.  The way it works is that if you take say a 10 second exposure, it takes a second one of equal length but just black (the shutter doesn’t open). Then it merges the two together and blends the blank one into the shadow areas of the first one which is where noise typically shows the most. The problem is that fireworks happen so fast you don’t want to have to wait 10 seconds to be able to see your image, make any adjustments and shoot again. I did this once my accident and it was very frustrating and I missed most of the show and did not get the results I wanted because I couldn’t review and correct.

#4 Do NOT use live view if your camera has it. This will eat up your battery really fast. Live view is really for shooting video and using the display screen so much uses a lot of power, as does making long exposures.  Save your battery for actually shooting and set up your shot using the eyecup viewfinder.
fireworks-tips-dps-09

#5 set your camera on Manual mode for exposure and set your aperture to f5.6 or f8.  Those apertures are pretty optimal for fireworks as the light streaks are controlled by the size of the aperture.  Closing down more will make the light trails thinner, opening up more will make them wider and possible too over exposed.  Do some tests but all the times I’ve done fireworks I keep coming back to f8 as my preference.

#6 Set your shutter speed to between two and ten seconds.  Do a test shot before the show starts and see if the sky is too dark or too bright and adjust the exposure time accordingly. As long as you’re under 30 seconds you can let the camera time the shots for you.  Or you can switch to Bulb and just open and close manually when you feel you’ve captured enough bursts in one image.

#7 Focus your lens ahead of time, and then turn off AF otherwise the camera will keep trying to refocus every shot and you may end up with missed images or blurry fireworks if the camera misses. Assuming you’re a fair distance away from the fireworks you shouldn’t have to refocus at all unless you change your angle of view or want to focus somewhere else, like the people in front of you.

#8 Use a neutral density filter to get a longer exposure if need be.   If it’s not 100% dark out yet it (the sky still has some light) this will allow you to get a longer exposure and make sure the fireworks bursts have a nice arch.  If your exposure is too short you’ll end up with short stubby looking bursts, not the nice umbrella shaped ones. If yours are too short, just make the exposure time longer. If you are getting too many bursts in one shot and it’s coming out over exposed, shorten the exposure time.  Using the ND filter if it IS dark will also allow you to shoot longer exposures and capture more bursts per image.  Play with that and try it with and without the filter if you have one.  A polarizing filter will work to a lesser degree also.

ISO 100, f/10, 1 second

ISO 100, f/10, 1 second – notice the bursts don’t really make a nice arch? A longer exposure will make your trails longer. You choose how you want them to appear and adjust accordingly.

#9 Shoot most of your shots at the start of the show to avoid the smoke/haze that appears a bit later. Eventually the sky will be filled with smoke and it’s not as pretty looking.  That’s when I’ll try some close ups or abstracts (keep reading for more on that later)

#10 Scout your location ahead of time and get there early to get a good spot, think about background (what’s behind the show) and if you want the people around and in front of you as part of the shot. In general the good viewing areas fill up sometimes 1-2 hours prior to the fireworks show. If you want a good spot with enough room for you and your tripod, go early and take a good book or something to entertain you while you wait.

Notice I've included the crowd to show perspective.

Notice I’ve included the crowd to show perspective.

#11 Make sure you leave enough room in your frame to anticipate the height of the opened bursts. Adjust as necessary if you miss on the first shot – it’s a lot of trial and error and correcting. It’s often hard to tell where the highest fireworks will end up in the sky, you may want to try both horizontal and vertical compositions.

Try a vertical composition for an added sense of power, especially if you can get a reflection like this one.

Try a vertical composition for an added sense of power, especially if you can get a reflection like this.

#12 It takes a bit of practice to time your shots when you hear the fireworks being released, so ideally you capture a few bursts.  Do some testing to see how many bursts is just right for your taste.  Try some with more, and some with less. Having too many may overexpose the overall image, so keep that in mind.

#13 Shoot into the eastern sky not facing west, if you want a darker sky. Here in Edmonton we are quite far north and even by 10:30pm in the summer the sky is not fully dark yet.  I’ve found that when I shoot into the sunset my sky gets too blown out and the lights of the fireworks don’t show up as well as they do against a darker sky.  So try and find a vantage point that has you facing east when possible if that’s an issue for you as well.

Western facing, notice the sky isn't dark enough and the fireworks seem lost against it.

#14 Try some telephoto shots as well as the usual wide, try some close ups zoomed in tighter for something a bit more abstract. For this you will need to aim basically into thin air and try to anticipate where the bursts will open

Abstracted using a longer lens, I think they look like palm trees.

Abstracted using a longer lens, I think they look like palm trees.

#15 if you have a zoom lens try zooming during the exposure and see what you get!  If you’re going to try this make sure you have focused at the most zoomed in point of the lens.  Try different technique including counting 1/2 the exposure before you zoom, or zooming right away and the last 1/2 is zoomed out. Try zooming fast, then slow. Try more bursts, or less. Get some city lights in the shot too.

ISO 100, f/6.3, 6 seconds - zoomed during exposure.

ISO 100, f/6.3, 6 seconds – lens zoomed during the exposure.

Summary

The biggest tip I can give you overal is experiment with your settings to get the look you want. Use my settings above as a starting point, adapt to your situation and your camera equipment until you’re happy with the results.

Have a great time this summer trying these out and don’t forget to share your images of fireworks, and any additional tips you’d like to add.

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How To Photograph an Airshow

While both U.S. teams fly six aircraft in their demonstrations, the planes are in six aircraft formation for a relatively short portion of each program–both teams fly with a four aircraft formation and have two “opposing solo” aircraft that pair up as well as operate independently for the bulk of their program.

If the airshow you plan to attend is on an active duty or reserve military base there may be restrictions on articles that are allowed onto the facility, such as ice chests, glass containers, folding chairs, etc. You may also have to park at a remote site and take base-provided transportation onto the show site, which may limit your ability to take bulky objects with you. For example, the Thunderbirds season-ending show at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas requires you to park at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and then take provided buses across the street and down the road onto the Nellis facility. Check the particular base website or public affairs office for specific exclusions–and specifically ask if a small, stroller-sized wagon like a Radio Flyer is permissible. A wagon makes hauling gear so much easier.

Even an airshow on a civilian facility will have security concerns and it’s always a good idea to check for restricted items ahead of time. Folding chairs, small umbrellas for shade (if allowed) and plenty of sunscreen will make what can be a long day more pleasant.

Most airshows tend to offer free admission to the airshow grounds, although premium and formal seating may be available for purchase, and there are usually plenty of vendors selling food, beverages and souvenirs. At Miramar one year, one of the military squadrons had both a flight simulator and beer concession…

If you’re attending an airshow with the express idea of trying to make some great photos, sitting in the bleachers with a bunch of other folks is not the place you want to be. We’ll discuss locations a bit later, but for now let’s talk about equipment.

Cameras and Lenses

Airshows typically have a number of static displays, which is to say parked aircraft and other subjects of interest that you can generally approach fairly closely and photograph. If you’re content to stick with static displays a cell phone or compact digital camera may provide all the photo capability you need. There may also be slow moving displays of vehicles or aircraft as they taxi by that can be imaged successfully with basic equipment.

But flight demonstrations and airborne activity are the heart and soul of this entertainment genre. In addition to the flight demonstration teams, there will typically be flights of individual or groups of military aircraft, some featuring fairly aggressive flight profiles, as well as civilian performers.

Pyrotechnics may come into play to simulate weapons or gunfire, particularly to simulate an air-to-ground attack. Here’s an air-ground pyro simulation at Luke AFB–and we’ll discuss how you can try to position yourself closer to such activity than we obviously were for this shot.

A dslr is the instrument of choice once aircraft leave the ground, and particularly during high speed flight, largely for its continuous shooting, autofocus/tracking capabilities and real time viewfinder. Next in line would be a high-performance mirrorless camera, but even without much of a continuous shooting capability, other digital cameras that offer decent continuous autofocus and minimal shutter lag may still be able to produce some top quality images. If you’re trying to capture flight images via scene modes in your compact camera “sports” or other choices geared toward capturing fast-moving subjects is a good place to start–and good luck.

Plan to shoot bursts of fast movers. Flight demos necessarily involve aircraft moving at speed, and in some cases military performers doing a high speed pass may be traveling at upwards of 600 miles per hour–roughly 900 feet per second. Panning on a high speed subject requires precise camera control and technique – shooting a burst gives you a better chance of getting a sharp shot than putting all your faith in a single shot. High speed passes also tend to produce vapors and condensation on/about the aircraft which can be fleeting but make for a dramatic image, and shooting bursts gives you a better chance to capture these than a single. Here’s a back lit F-22 generating a transonic vapor cloud and beginning to fly out of it at Miramar.

It’s tough to track a fast moving jet with a camera/lens combination on a tripod, particularly if you shoot a fast 400 or 600mm lens–a monopod is a better choice if you’ve got a lens too big to be easily hand held. And speaking of lenses…

Lenses for static subjects can range from wide angle to normal–a dslr kit lens would work well–but once aircraft start flying telephoto is the name of the game. The FAA mandates airshow safety standards and once flying demonstrations begin the bulk of the airborne activity will be at least 500 feet from the closest spectator point. There may be occasions when aircraft approach closer or even overfly the spectator areas, but these will be limited and typically involve straight and level flight at or above 500 foot altitude and lower speeds. We’ll discuss some ideas for shooting locations a bit later.

With your subjects at a distance, APS-C sensor or mirrorless models with sensors that produce crop factors are attractive for shooting air demonstrations due to the 35mm equivalent focal length increase applied to lenses. As a practical matter, 400mm in 35mm equivalence is probably a good starting point, but even at 400mm solo aircraft (aside from large performers such as a C-130 or C-17, below) are going to be relatively small in the frame. Both aircraft are seen here full frame at 300mm.

Things get better with formation flights, but it’s safe to say you probably can’t have too much lens to shoot the flying portions of an airshow. High resolution cameras help as their large files give you leeway to crop away larger empty portions of the frame without degrading image quality. Some, but not all of the images for this article have been cropped to 12 x 8 size at 240 dots per inch–the 240 dpi figure allows for prints that are virtually indistinguishable from 300 dpi while maximizing cropping size.

Camera Settings

First and foremost, there are basically only two settings for shutter speeds at an airshow: jet and prop. Fast shutter speeds help capture fast moving jets by helping minimize camera shake while panning; slow shutter speeds blur the propellers or rotors on planes and helicopters. Jets basically have no moving parts externally, they look the same at 1/125 of a second as they do at 1/1250, but it’s more likely your shot will be sharp with the fast shutter. But a propeller plane or helicopter shot with a fast shutter will have a  propeller or rotor that appears stationary (or nearly so) and the first thing the viewer thinks is “why has the engine stopped?” Here are two shots of formation flights; in the first the propeller has a bit of blur, but more would be better. In the second, the propellers have a nicer blur to them.

Make sure you blur the propellers. On helicopters, the main rotors turn much slower than the propeller on an airplane, so blurring may not be as pronounced–however, the anti-torque (tail) rotor spins fairly quickly, so a helicopter shot with some main rotor blur and a nice blur on the tail rotor is the goal here. The Marines’ V-22 Osprey needs a fairly slow shutter to blur its rotors. A good starting point for blurring props and rotors is 1/125 second and adjust as necessary.

Once you get the hang of capturing sharp images of fast movers, you can start slowing that fast shutter down a bit – this will tend to blur any terrestrial features and adds to the sensation of speed in the image–assuming your camera technique is good and the aircraft remains sharp. Keeping the subject sharp trumps having an artsy background.

A quick and easy way to jump from jet settings to propeller planes and helicopters is to use Aperture Priority for jets and Shutter Priority for propellers. Aperture sets the fastest shutter speed given your ISO sensitivity while Shutter lets you set a slow shutter to blur propellers and rotors. Both work well on front lit subjects and clear skies with the camera in a matrix form of  exposure metering. Cloudy bright skies will cause the camera to underexpose so plan to either add in some exposure compensation or shoot in Manual mode to fine tune exposure–and don’t forget to check image histograms to help you zero in on the exposure no matter which method you use and under any conditions.

At shows where the aircraft are backlit I tend to shoot Manual and expose for the shaded portion of the aircraft using center-weighted metering and histograms, trying to balance shaded detail without overly blasting the highlights. Shoot RAW for everything if you can–you have more post processing options to manipulate images than with JPEGs. RAW is more work but the end result is worth it if you’re looking to max out image quality.

Location, Location, Location

Typically, airshows offer vast expanses of tarmac (taxiways and aircraft parking areas adjacent the show area) from which to view the show, but there are three areas to keep in mind when deciding where to set up for photo opportunities: the show line, the crowd line, and “show center”.

The show line is the line of flight that will be used by most of the performers most of the time, and typically will be oriented along a runway so as to provide the aerial performers with a ready reference to the minimum safe distance from the crowd and spectator area. Much of the flight demonstrations will fly along this line, but there will be times when aircraft deviate due to maneuvers or to reposition themselves.

The crowd line is the barrier that contains and restricts the crowd from approaching the show line, and is typically at least 500 feet from, and generally parallel to, the show line for some distance. At its ends, the crowd line may turn perpendicularly or angle away from the show line to enclose the viewing area and provide crowd control.

“Show Center” designates the center of the flying display area and serves as a reference point for the aerial performers. Typically, announcers/media and stands for spectators (if provided) will be located  at/near show center on the crowd line. While horizontal flight will typically traverse the length of the show line, vertical maneuvers are typically performed at or near show center. Special effects such as pyrotechnics will often be set to go off in this area as well.

From a photographer’s standpoint, the most important consideration is to be somewhere on the crowd line–literally, be at the actual barrier. While some aerial demonstrations take place high enough that you can shoot them from somewhere in the crowd, low level parts of the performances and aircraft and other subjects of interest on the runway/taxiway require a clear field of view right to the ground.

Being at/near show center can be advantageous as performers may conduct some of their demonstration relative to that point–such as initiating a high performance takeoff, turn or climb, or greeting the crowd after a demo.

As a practical matter, the larger airshows tend to provide seating located at show center and extending some distance along the crowd line in either direction–corporate sponsors and VIP viewing areas also take up some of the line, so you may find yourself having to position away from show center and perhaps even on either end of the crowd line. As crowds form before the show, the last portion of the crowd line that fills in tends to be the ends–and if a show has seating or other activity blocking the crowd line at/near show center, the end of the line is where I try to set up. Here’s a quick comparison between shooting at show center  versus shooting show center from the end of the crowd line: the close up of the Harrier is 300mm, full frame from show center; the long shot is 400mm, cropped to 12 x 8 at 240 dpi from the end of the crowd line.

The ends of the crowd lines offer shots of aircraft during ingress and egress to/from the show line. You may catch them angled toward you and in a bank, while they may go simply straight and level once on the show line. Here are two shots of an F-22–we were in a parking area north of the end of the crowd line as the Raptor came inbound directly overhead before making a left turn to pick up the show line.

Two more shots from the end of the crowd line…

One advantage of shooting from the ends of the crowd lines: sometimes the performers cut the corner a bit as they are inbound to, or depart the show line and you get an aircraft inadvertently passing closer than the 500 foot minimums.

Another major consideration in picking your spot is the orientation of the light–one end or the other of the crowd line may have better light on the aircraft as they pass by, and front lit is definitely preferable to back lit. A quick way to gauge light: hold the palm of your hand up and swing it along the path the aircraft will travel as they pass by your position–the palm represents the side of the aircraft facing you. If a portion of the pass has light on your palm you’ll get your best results shooting aircraft in that portion of the sky.

Odds and Ends

Clean your camera sensor before an airshow–all that sky in the background will show every bit of dust or spot on your sensor in every image. You can post process to remove spots, or use a dust reference photo if your camera has that function, but it’s easier to just go with a clean sensor in the first place. Take a blower brush to clean the front element of your lens(es) from time to time during the show.

I personally think aircraft look best as they approach or pass by in a bank so you can see the top of the fuselage/wings, but there will be opportunities to shoot the undersides that you should take advantage of. If an F-22 flies at your show they will often do a pass at a high angle of bank with the weapons bays open; some civilian performers and both the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds have paint schemes on their undersides that are worth capturing and just about any jet looks good from behind if the afterburner(s) is/are lit, producing flame from the engine exhaust nozzle(s). And if the Blue Angels C-130 does a rocket assisted takeoff (RATO), make sure to capture that–as close to show center as possible is the place to be for this one. The C-130 is fitted with 4 rockets on either side of the rear fuselage; the rockets are then ignited to produce extra thrust and get the aircraft off the ground in a spectacularly short run followed by a steep climb.

Be ready for the “sneak pass”. Both the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds do a sneak pass, usually during the first half of a program. Typically, the four plane formation will come by at a fairly leisurely pace, attracting the crowd’s attention. As this flight departs the show line at one end or the other, one of the solo performers is already inbound at extremely high speed and arrives at show center literally before the sound of his engine(s). The sneak pass is the fastest pass of the show and is meant to demonstrate how a small, agile aircraft can ingress/egress a combat zone. Any time a formation comes by, keep your head on a swivel to see where the solo aircraft are–the sneak pass guy will generally line up along the show line well away from show center and be inbound at an obviously high speed, arriving at show center as the formation flight has turned out of the way.

Heritage Flights have become a popular airshow feature, and involve flying modern and vintage aircraft in formations together. Usually, Navy/Marine Corps and Air Force/Army Air Corps aircraft fly together, but you may get a mix of any or all of the service aircraft in single formation as well. This two plane formation features a P-51D Mustang and F-15E Strike Eagle, arguably the two greatest fighters of their generation. The P-51 is painted in the colors of the 357th Fighter Group and then Lt. Lowell Williams, who gave me my check ride I began to fly with our local flying club.

These are some ideas for shooting specific aspects of an airshow, but there’s so much activity and photo opportunities that an airshow is really a target rich environment for a digital camera. Try out an airshow with your camera and watch some exceptional aviators ply their craft.

  

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6 Reasons Why Photography Matters – Digital Photography School

Declan O’Neill is a professional photographer who lives in the South Island, New Zealand. He travels extensively capturing the beauty of New Zealand’s extraordinary landscape. The photographs which accompany this article are part of a series entitled ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy’ which is dedicated to the memory of his sister, Ann, who died from Multiple Systems Atrophy.

1. Our photographs tell us what is important to us

When you ask people what possessions they would rescue from their burning house, one of the most frequent answers is the photograph album or a computer with their digital images. When in panic mode it’s interesting that we would probably grab photos rather than valuable jewelry. This impulse to save our recorded memories is a powerful force which tells us much about the role of photography in our lives and our constant desire to distil our most precious moments into images.

Why photography matters 1

We preserve the important events and people in our lives. The ceremonies of birth and birthdays, marriages and anniversaries, holidays and new houses are all recorded because they matter. Photographs are our personal story, a timeline of our lives filled with faces and places that we love. They are our story, which we can share with others. The hundreds of images come together to form a narrative of our lives.

2. Photographs are part of our legacy

Once I remember sitting in a train as it passed a playground where children were standing to attention for the annual school photograph. Across the front row sat the teachers and behind them, hundreds of children neatly preened and uniformed. For the briefest second the entire assembly was motionless. We were passing just as the photographer clicked the shutter. Suddenly, as if in slow motion, the huge group scattered as children escaped their enforced immobility. The neat rows dissolved and broke into individuals who were now kicking footballs or huddled in friendship groups. None of those children realised that the photograph was probably going to outlive them. A couple of generations later it might surface among old papers in an attic and someone would search for granddad among the fresh young faces. Photographs matter because they freeze moments of our lives which pass unremarkably and which seem to have little importance to us at the time. The significance, however, may be for others who search for the person we once were or the places we once knew. They can be small pieces of a jigsaw that complete the larger picture of our lives.

Why photography matters 2

3. Photographs allow us to share and to communicate.

Images are much more than a simple record. Photography speaks to the best and most generous part of our human nature – the desire to share what we find beautiful and interesting with others. You only have to look at Flickr and a multitude of photo sharing sites to see this impulse at work. Millions of people sharing their personal, passionate and sometimes quirky take on the world around them. Our images can involve a world of strangers in our life. How powerful is that?

Why photography matters 3

4. Photography makes us artists

Photography allows us to express ourselves through an art form. We notice a beautiful landscape or an old man’s lined face and we want to capture it. Each of us will have a different reason to do so but, essentially, we want to create something. However humdrum our nine-to-five lives may be, the creation of an image makes us an artist. It feels good.

5. Photography is a complex language

Our images can express joy and sorrow, wonder and sympathy. Every human emotion can find a place in photography. For many years I never valued my photographs of overcast landscape because I believed that there was no beauty in a land with muted colours and a leaden sky. I wanted the land to be alive with colour and vibrancy. However, lack of colour in a landscape makes you search for other things that often go unremarked in bright sunlight. It could be a symmetry of hills or a tree standing out from a forest of thousands. I have suffered from depression for most of my adult life and photography gave me a language to express feelings for which I can find no words. We have a miserably poor vocabulary for mental illness and photography has allowed me to develop a visual language for some of the most difficult emotions.

Why photography matters 4

6. Photography has the power to move us

Photographs can grab our attention and speak directly to our emotions. Nick Ut’s photograph of a crying Vietnamese girl whose clothes have been burnt away by napalm embodies the power of a single image. At a more subtle level, we can learn lessons about a whole range of emotions. Grief has the power to wash away the luminance and chrominance of our lives. There is no magic way to restore them at will. We have to be patient. But while waiting we can search for the shapes and patterns that are still there in the greyness. They will lead us back to colour eventually. At moments of great sorrow in my life I have used images to express that hope of returning colour.

Why photography matters 5

Photography, at its best, is a powerful language which speaks to our emotions. It allows us to tell our story and show others our framing of the world around us.

Declan O’Neill is a professional photographer living in the South Island of New Zealand.
site: www.newzealandlandscape.com

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Bird Photography Near Feeders – Digital Photography School

A Guest Post by Lithuanian Photographer Tadas Naujokaitis.

Bird photography is quite difficult because birds don’t do what a photographer wants. Moreover, it’s often hard to get close to them. And when you have more experience in photography, you realize that it’s even more difficult to take a good bird photo, because you need a good background and a beautiful environment. However, there are a number of ways you can improve the bird photos you take. In this article, I’ll explain some tips on photographing birds near feeders.

The place

The place is the first thing you need to consider. You need to decide what bird species you want to photograph, and work out where you’ll find that kind of bird.

Depending on your location, even your backyard can be a great place for a feeder to attract the species you’re after. I wanted to photograph forest birds, so I chose a local forest. I searched for the exact place in that forest quite a long time—mainly, I needed to consider the background, and the amount and direction of the light that reached the feeder.

Ideally, your location will have a smooth background (when I search for a background, I use manual focusing at ~4m and take many test shots) and enough light. I’ve found it’s best when the sunshine reaches the feeder in early morning. Also, be sure to ask for a permission to feed and photograph the birds if you are not the land owner.

The hide

Once you’ve worked out the exact place where you’ll put your feeder, you need a hide. I recommend using a permanent hide, because birds will understand it as a part of environment, and you won’t need to set it up and then wait while the birds get used to it each time you decide to take photos.

You can build the hide from whatever you like—even an old door can be very useful. I built my hide from the branches I found in the area. It required a bit more work, and it isn’t waterproof, but I didn’t want to use expensive materials because there is always the risk that your hide can be damaged by other people if you don’t build it in your own backyard.

One more thing to note: the hide should be large enough for you to stay in it comfortably, because you may spend many hours in it. This is how my hide looks:

2-birdphotography.jpg

The feeder and food

The construction of the feeder itself isn’t very important. I prefer the platform feeder because, if you like, you can put many decorations on it when you’re photographing birds.

However, the food is very important. I recommend using sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet cakes. Other similar products should be fine, too, but be sure the food you choose won’t harm the birds you’re photographing. The food must not be tainted, salted or smoked. And if you feed birds in the colder seasons of the year, you must feed them constantly until the weather becomes warm and the snow melts—otherwise many birds can die. Be prepared to spend some money on food. As am example, you may need even more than 100kg of sunflower seeds for one winter if you use them as the main food.

3-birdphotography.jpg

The perch

If the birds have already found the food, you can start shooting. Find a beautiful perch, twig or rotten stump and put them on the feeder or near it. If you’d like, find some decorations to add to the scene—berries, for example. They will make the composition of your shots more lively.

Be creative: try using various perches, or put the food in such place that you don’t see it though the lens. You can use holes in the feeder, put the food on the side of the perch that isn’t visible, or simply place it below the perch on which the bird will sit.

The food can also be put in such location that the perch becomes an intermediate stop for birds moving towards the food. Often it’s difficult to photograph the bird without food in its bill. If this is your goal, try to hide some food so the bird will need to search for it. You can also take some pictures of birds without food, when the food has just run out, but you won’t have much time to shoot before the birds realise that there’s no more food and fly away.

My recommendation, however, is to always have plenty of food in the feeder, which will attract more visitors to the feeder, and be ready to quickly take a photo before the birds take any food.

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Equipment

You should get good results with any dslr and a 100-200mm lens. However, with longer focal length, you’ll get a better background. A tripod is usually necessary, too.

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Camera settings

Exposure: 1/50-1/500 or even shorter, depending on how fast the birds are (faster birds need a shorter exposure), and how much light you have (if there isn’t much light, you may need to set longer exposure if you don’t want to use high ISO settings).

Aperture: if you don’t have enough light and want the best possible background, select the largest aperture (the smallest number). If it’s difficult to get the whole bird in focus, close the aperture a bit.

ISO: use as low an ISO speed as possible. However, if you don’t have much light, it’s better to set ISO 800 and get sharp pictures than ISO 200 and take blurry ones.

The light

The best time for photography is morning or evening because the light is soft and has a pleasant hue, shadows are not so distinct, and it’s easier to get details from very bright and dark areas. Overcast days are better than sunny ones because the shadows are less distinct. However the midday sun can be your friend if its rays are diffused by trees.

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Composition

It’s usual to leave some space in the direction in which the bird is looking or flying. Try using the rule of thirds in your composition. Avoid any distracting elements and take the picture at the bird’s eye level. Don’t always try to fill the frame with a bird: remember that birds are very fast creatures, so they need space. Even in the photo!

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Conclusion

The best part of bird photography near feeders for me is that I have a great time. It’s usually hard to believe that 10 hours have already passed – I always wish I had more time. I hope you will have a good time photographing birds near feeders, too.

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About the Author:

Tadas Naujokaitis lives in Lithuania. See more of his work at www.tadasnaujokaitis.tk and connect with him on his Facebook page.

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Selling Your Images As Art: 5 Tips To Getting Started – Digital Photography School

A Post By: Rick Berk

As photographers, the highest compliment we can be paid is to have someone pay us for our vision and creativity.  For some, this means becoming wedding or portrait photographers, getting paid per event or session.  But what about those of us who enjoy shooting landscapes, or wildlife? Subjects that aren’t often paid for in advance? Aspiring photographers are often told they should try selling their work, but are unsure where to start. It’s relatively easy to set up a website, but getting potential customers there can be difficult.  So how do you get your work seen? What are the options?  Here are five tips to getting started.

1. Establish an Online Presence

This allows you to get customers when you aren’t otherwise selling your work.  The secret here is to go with a web presence that will allow you to be found when others don’t even know they are looking for you.  I use FineArtAmerica.com to host my website.  The beauty here is that all of my work gets entered into their database. I keyword my images, so they appear in pertinent searches by people who’ve come to the site looking for art to purchase. Visitors who know of me can use my own URL, but my guess is that few, if any of my sales actually have come from people visiting my personal URL.  There are other websites out there- Zazzle.com and RedBubble.comare two others. 

I will admit I know very little about how they operate, so do some research before you commit to any of these websites.  One of the beautiful things about the online presence is that it can work with the other outlets I mention below.  It will allow you offer other sizes and products, such as canvas prints, that you may not keep in stock at an art show or be displaying in a gallery. It allows someone who saw you at a show, but wasn’t prepared to purchase, place that order a day, a week, or a month later.  With any of these sites, depending on how quick you are to upload your work, you can be selling within hours.

Horton Point Sunset

This image of a local point of interest on Long Island, NY would do well in a local restaurant, cafe, or art show but would probably not garner interest in a more national setting.

2. Look Locally

There are opportunities to sell your work everywhere.  That coffee shop on the corner. That new restaurant down the block.  Many local banks will occasionally show local artists’ work.  The local library will as well.  Prepare a portfolio and ask who to speak with at the establishment. 

Be prepared to have your images printed, matted, and framed.  Work with the establishment to set up guidelines, commissions, and payment for the images.  The best images for this kind of use are images of local landmarks that compliment the restaurant, or images that work well with the restaurant or establishment’s theme.

3. Besides local restaurants and cafes, local art galleries and framing shops are also a good bet

Contact the gallery owners for their guidelines and ask how they like to review new submissions. I’ve found they all seem to work a little differently. Some galleries will charge a membership fee, or a rental fee for space. Most will have specific requirements for digital files, and commission structure will vary- the usual range is from 40%-60%

4. Local art and Craft Shows

These can be tricky, because you never know what kinds of buyers will show up.  It’s best to avoid shows that may be more crafty than artsy, but you’ll have to evaluate each show on it’s own merits. These are a good way to get your feet wet, as they tend to have low entry fees and less stringent requirements, but at the same time, you don’t get the kind of buyer who is necessary looking for fine art and is willing to pay top dollar for it.

Local shows, like local eateries, tend to look for more local art.  My first show I showed up with lots of images from around the country in my travels.  The stuff that got the most interest was all stuff local to where I lived. You’ll want to have a variety of sizes, with most images matted and a few framed images.  While the larger images look great, it’s generally the smaller sizes that will sell better.

5. A-list Art Fairs are the “Big Time”

I have not ventured into this arena yet but have researched it thoroughly.  Sunshine Artist Magazine(subscription required) is pretty much the definitive resource for these larger art fairs. Each fair is different, with artists required to apply and be accepted into the show.  Application fees can be in the hundreds of dollars and apply to your booth fee if accepted. The applications are generally accepted months in advance, so planning is required.

There are requirements for your booth layout as well.  Nothing about these shows is just thrown together at the last minute.  It is virtually a full time job to do such fairs, so be prepared for a commitment.  It is an expensive proposition as well.  You must have a stockpile of prints, framed and unframed, as well as a way to display them.  Several artists I know well have spent well over $1000 just on displays. That said, they can be lucrative as there are many who do make a good portion of their income doing such shows.

An image of a national park or other nationally known landmark will have broader appeal.

As I mentioned, it’s incredibly gratifying when someone is so taken with your work that they actually pay for it.  There are various outlets for you to get started in selling your work. All it takes is some commitment, and some time to get started.  Remember, ultimately,

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5 Beginner Photography Tips for Moms – hands on : as we grow

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Momentage Releases App For Sharing Photos and Video

At first glance, Momentage might just seem like another photo sharing app, but it’s more than just-another-Instagram. Momentage expands on the basic photo sharing app idea by offering unique and intuitive features, while also helping users make the most of their smartphone camera.

Momentage is easy to use and it offers a mix of features from social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram. The app allows users to import photos and then apply filters as well as edit the contrast, brightness and saturation, and more. Users can also take photos directly from the app using the Momentage camera, which the company states makes use of “Apple’s advanced camera settings such as improved sensors, image stabilization, automatic exposure adjustments, as well as multiple shooting formats including panorama, HD recording, and slow motion effects.”

The app opens up to a discover page where users can see featured members and collages. Swiping to the left brings users to updates from the accounts they follow. Another swipe displays the activity page, where users can find friends and connect with other users. A fourth swipe pulls up the user’s profile, where they have a cover photo, profile photo, and a feed with all of their uploaded photo collections. Users can either create a unique profile for Momentage or connect via their Facebook account. Once connected, it is easy to start discovering different accounts to follow, including friends and family.

While users can share photos with Momentage, they can also record video and standalone audio files to play over still images. The audio files can be associated with an individual photo so that they will play as a narration when other users view the image. On Momentage, you’ll find artists who share collections of work, parents who want to share images and video from their child’s first birthday, and travelers sharing every moment of their vacation. What makes Momentage stand out, however, is that rather than posting multiple images one after the other, clogging up others’ feeds, users can upload 15 photos at a time as a single collection.

To compare Momentage to current services, it offers Instagram-like interactions and filters with the convenience of Facebook’s photo albums. Unlike Instagram, which only lets users upload a photo at a time, with Momentage, users can upload multiple photos to one event. It’s easy to use too; upload directly from your iOS camera roll or take photos using the app. All photos taken with the app are automatically saved and edited images are saved as a copy, leaving the original intact. Once the photos are selected, users can individually edit each image, add narration, write comments, and include hashtags for searching.

Momentage is a comprehensive photo sharing app, and the developers have really thought of everything. The app was thoughtfully designed, and it patches up some inconsistencies that might frustrate users with services like Instagram, Vine, or Facebook. It mixes the allure of Instagram and Vine with the convenience of Facebook albums –all without the status updates and advertising that Facebook brings. 

Momentage is available as a free download in the App Store for iOS, there is no Android app as of this writing. 

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Panasonic announces the HX-A500 Wearable 4K camera

Panasonic announced the HX-A500, which the company is marketing as the world’s first 4K wearable camera. The main body with LCD display and the lens are separate, so users can mount the lens and shoot hands-free, capturing life as it happens.

With 4K/30p image quality, the HX-A500 lets users capture every details of their day, with connectivity options for on the go sharing. With Wi-Fi and NFC capabilities, users can quickly share and transfer images and video to another device while on the go. In addition to recording 4k resolution at 30fps, the HX-A500 records video at resolutions of 1080p at 50fps, 720p at 100fps, and 480p at 100fs. In addition to wireless connectivity, Panasonic has built in compatibility with Ustream, allowing users to broadcast a live stream directly from the device.

The main unit, which is separate from the camera, features a 1.5-inch LCD panel where users can adjust settings and the field of view. It houses a 1 /2.3 inch BSI senor for low-light performance, a Crystal Engine Pro + imaging engine, and image stabilization as well as tilt correction. The camera is waterproof for 30 minutes in up to 10 feet of water as well as dustproof. It comes with a head mount and armband for versatile shooting options and comfort.  

Panasonic states that the wearable HX-A500 will be available starting in May for around $626. 

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Choosing images using Survey view in Lightroom – Digital Photography School

A Post By: Helen Bradley

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Lightroom’s Survey view is a tool that makes choosing one image from a group of images a simpler process. In this post I’ll show you how to use Survey View and some tricks for working with it.

Step 1

To see it at work, in the Library module, select a series of images on the filmstrip by clicking on one and Shift + Click on the last. Alternatively hold the Control key (Command on the Mac) as you click on each image that you want to make a choice from.

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Step 2

To enter Survey View, choose View > Survey, click the Survey button on the toolbar or press the letter N.

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Once in Survey view, you will see only the images that you had selected. You can add more images by Control + Clicking (Command + Clicking) on them to select them in the Filmstrip.

Step 3

In Survey View, you can rate your images with a star rating, flag them and label them or simply use the view to narrow down your choices to a single image.

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To rate an image, click the star value beneath the image – this appears when your mouse hovers the image.

You can pick an image by selecting it and press P to flag it, U to unpick or remove the flag setting from it and X to reject it.

Click the label indicator under the far right of the image to select a label to apply to the image.

Step 4

Press Shift + Tab to hide all the panels to maximize the viewing area. When an image is selected notice the X in its bottom right corner. Click that and the image will be removed from Survey View. Note that it is only removed from this view not from Lightroom and not from your disk – Survey View is simply a method you use to pick the best image from a sequence and has no other purpose.

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Start removing those images you do not want by clicking their X buttons or Control + Click (Command + Click on the Mac) to remove them.

Step 5

Provided you are working with a Folder of images or a Collection (but not a Smart Collection, All Photographs or Previous Import), you can reorder images in Survey View. To do this, drag and drop an image into the position you want it to appear in the group.

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Files in a Smart Collection, All Photographs and Previous Imports can be selected and viewed in Survey View but you cannot reorder your images if they are selected from any of these collections..

Step 6

At any time you can exit Survey View by clicking G for Grid or E for Loupe.

The advantage of using Survey Mode is that you can quickly identify the image that you want from a series of images eliminating all the other images from the view as you do so.

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You can open Survey View in a separate window if desired. Press F11 to open the new window and select Survey as what should display in this window.

Using this secondary display window you can move Survey View to a second screen if you’re using two monitors or position Survey View in one area of your screen and work on one of the images in, for example, the Develop module at the same time.

Step 7

When you have only the image or images you want to use remaining selected, press E or G to exit Survey View. These images will remain selected so you can now do something with them such as adding them to a collection, export them or take them to Photoshop for editing.

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