October 1st, 2012
Here are some tips on taking some interesting night time photos with your SLR...
To begin, you do not need any special equipment to take good nighttime photos. Just a good wide angle lens.
1. Start by composing your shot. If you're looking to include stars in your image, you will need a very stable tripod.
2. Compose your image so there is some interesting landscape in the foreground. Be sure there is no direct light source in the foreground, it will burn out your shot if its a static light source. Even if its just outside the view of your composition, it may produce some lens flare, so steer clear of bright lights!
3. Set your camera to MANUAL, and choose a nice long exposure time, 30 seconds is a good place to mess around. Be sure your aperture is as wide as it will go, f 3.5 or wider is good for stars.
4. Set your ISO to about 400. Any lower and you'll lose dimmer stars, any higher and you'll get digital "noise" in your exposure.
5. Set your camera on the tripod and be sure not to bump it during the exposure, it may ruin the shot.
6. Carefully release the shutter, ensuring when you do that you don't nudge the camera. The vibration will hang around long enough after you open the shutter that you may get blur.
7. After the shutter closes, take a look at your exposure. You may have to recompose if there are light sources you were unaware of. The light "piles up" on the exposure, so any light will get brighter and brighter, the longer you expose for.
8. If you want to get really crazy. shine a flashlight o an object up close in the shot. The dim light from the flashlight will accumulate as you pass it over an object over and over, and the results are a much softer light than if you pop your flash.
9. You'll notice that the stars tend to create streaks in the sky. The longer the exposure, the longer the streaks. In addition, because the earth rotates on an axis with the North Star, the further you shoot away from the North Star, the longer the streaks will be. Vice verse, if you shoot the North Star directly, then all the stars will create circular streaks around it. A very cool effect!
10. If you want to shoot the moon, be aware that it is actually a very bright light source. Generally, you wont be able to get a good exposure of the moon and still see the landscape in the foreground, unless you use your flash. My recommendation, don't just try to shoot the moon. Get creative. Turn the camera away from the moon and let it light up the landscape you're shooting! Especially in the winter! The snow reflects the moonlight and 30 seconds by full moon will almost completely light up a landscape with a different kind of light. Just be sure the moon isn't near your angle of view. Again it will create a "flare" inside your image that creates a haze or "chromatic aberrations"...those annoying little ghosts you see in a shot when a bright light source is just out of view.
Now just play with exposure times! Try different angles too! You'll be so surprised at what shows up in your image. You may get lucky and catch a shooting star, sometimes Northern Lights show up if you're pointed North. These may not be visible to the naked eye, but again, the light accumulates in your exposure! Have fun!
September 30th, 2012
Peak foliage season has arrived in the north! Too bad for so much rain.
Just keep in mind, foul weather can create some far more interesting skies than your average blue sky day. Mix that with some of the vibrant fall colors of New England, and you're really on to something.
Don't forget to get a polarizer on that lens! If you've never used one, then you are seriously missing out. A polarizer is a relatively inexpensive filter that threads onto just about any lens. Under most conditions, it removes the suns reflection off of the surfaces in your image. This means that your fall colors really stand out, because the colors are not diluted with the sun's reflection. It makes autumn images near the water even better because it removes unwanted reflections from the water surface and only leaves that which you want to see in that reflection.
If you're trying to get good autumn images, then you MUST have a polarizer! Buy one, try it out, and tell me I'm wrong, I dare ya :) I guarantee, you'll never take another fall picture without it. And just wait til you see what it does to a blue sky with just a few clouds in it! You'll be seeing more in your photos than you've ever seen before. Have fun!