Friday, April 4, 2014

Sharper Photographs

      There are a lot of factors that can contribute to a photos sharpness or lack of it. Sharpness is important especially when printing larger images as this will magnify any deficiencies. There are many programs out there that can clarify and sharpen photographs, even reduce camera shake. But, as in all areas of photography, if you can get it right when taking the picture, the results will be much better. Are there any techniques that can be done in the field that will help make one's images sharper, even before the post processing stage. The answer is yes!
     Notice these photos of a corner of a picture frame. I used an 18-200mm lens zoomed out all the way as I thought this would exaggerate any shake. Then I made approximately 100% crops of a portion of the photo.     The first photo was shot at f8 to bring the shutter speed down to 1/4 second. The following four photos were shot at f22 for a 1 second shutter speed, settings fairly common in landscape photography. With these settings it is definitely possible to have a blurry image.

Picture #1- handheld, vibration reduction on lens turned on  f8 1/4 second
Picture#2- tripod. f22 1 second
Picture#3-tripod, remote shutter release. f22 1second
Picture#4- tripod, remote shutter release, mirror lock up f22 1 second
Picture#5- tripod, remote shutter release, mirror lock up, vibration reduction on lens turned off  f22 1 second
    The results are interesting. Picture #1 turned out not too bad considering it was handheld. No doubt the VR on the lens and the f8 setting helped. Surely we could improve. So for Picture #2 I put the camera on a tripod. WOW! Way worse! Even though the camera is on a stable tripod, it looks like my pressing the shutter button caused some camera shake. The biggest improvement came in Picture #3 where I used a remote shutter release. This eliminated that issue. Can we improve the sharpness even further? Yes, although the improvements were small in this test, they are sharper pictures. Picture #4 shows the results of locking up the mirror before pressing the shutter. Normally the mirror moves when taking a picture and some say this can cause a vibration. Finally, in Picture #5, I added one more step. I turned off Vibration Reduction on my lens. While VR is very helpful when shooting handheld, some feel it can degrade the sharpness of an image when the camera is on a tripod. And looking closely at this unscientific test, I would tend to agree.
   So what have we learned? I was surprised at how bad the quality was when putting the camera on a tripod as you would think this would automatically make the picture better.  For me, the biggest improvement was seen using a remote shutter release. Using the timer on your camera and setting the shutter to release a few seconds after you press the button would also help. Hope you find this informative!

Prehistoric Pause

       This is a photograph of our two daughters pausing on a trail in the Columbia River Gorge area of Oregon, U.S.A. As I have mentioned before, this area has some of the most amazing scenery I have ever seen, especially if one is interested in waterfalls. The atmosphere on these trails can be very surreal. I definitely want to return to collect more images of this unforgettable landscape. Thanks for looking!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

An Early Morning Find

        My last post was a photograph of a cool, gloomy, fall day in the mountains. This photograph was taken on a warm, summer morning in the prairies. Lately, we have had some nice weather, getting our hopes up for spring. Today, those hopes have faded a little as we are enduring another cold, snowy day.This winter seems to have been longer than usual. In protest, I am posting this image to remind us of what is soon coming! Don't forget to click on the photo for a better look!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Buller Pond

     I took this photograph a couple of years ago. It was a cold, dreary October day and I spent most of my time looking for details to shoot as the weather wasn't the best for landscapes. As we were driving along the gravel road I noticed the reflections of trees in the pond so we decided to stop for a few minutes. After walking around the little outlet stream I settled on this composition. I wouldn't mind going back there on an early morning sometime to hopefully capture some color in the sky and mist on the pond. We shall see.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Los Arcos

     Los Arcos or 'The Arches' in English, are located a short boat ride away from Puerto Vallarta in Banderas Bay. While taking a day trip to Las Caletas beach, our tour boat coasted slowly through this protected marine preserve, which allowed us to examine these unique rocky islands and the many sea birds that nest there. These granite islands rise high above the ocean but they also descend deep underwater. For example, one wall called "Devils Jaw", descends some 1800 feet. The rocks, walls, caves and variety of marine life make this place one of the premier snorkel and diving locations in the area.
     While we only had minutes in the area and I had to dodge a number of tourists on the boat, I managed to squeeze off a few shots. The early morning sun added greatly to the beauty of the area and these four are my favorites. Thanks for looking!

Thursday, January 30, 2014


       Here is a photo taken this past summer in south/central Alberta. A typical rural scene. New steel granaries, small creek cutting through the grass with a moody sky above. I desaturated the color and cooled the temperature a bit as I thought it would help to emphasize what you would feel if you were there when a storm comes in. Don't forget to click on the image for a larger view!

Monday, January 20, 2014

People Pictures

     For the most part, I spend the majority of my photography time in the great outdoors creating landscape images. However, over the last few years, I have had the opportunity to photograph people for special occasions such as weddings, engagements, anniversaries, family shoots etc.  This type of photography is quite different from landscape photography. After taking pictures of a mountain scene, a sunset or an abandoned house it is very rare to hear these subjects complain about how they look in the final image. But people.......that's different!
      When taking photos of people, especially on important occasions, it is crucial that the client be happy with the final images. You probably are not getting a second chance. For me, that is what is so challenging about photographing people. But on the other hand, when a client expresses  appreciation over their pictures, it can really give the photographer a great feeling that you have somehow contributed to their joy. I feel that over time I have made some improvements in photographing people and know that I still have a lot to learn. I also have a real respect for talented wedding photographers that do it for a living as I know how nerve racking it can be. I am going to have the opportunity this weekend to hone my skills once again as I am going to do some of the photographs for my daughters upcoming wedding. A challenge, yes, but more so an enjoyable privilege. Hope they like them!
      Below are some photos from the engagement shoot for my daughter and fiance.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Rural Morning

      Here is a shot taken early one morning while driving a rural road. Taking pictures directly into the sun can be challenging. Lens flare is something that can often result from photographing the sun and it is something that I personally wasn't a big fan of. I felt that it was a distracting element in the photo. But over time, I am finding that in some cases, I actually don't mind it. It kind of adds to the warmth and emphasizes the brightness of the scene.
   This photo represents an early summer morning at the farm, something very common where we live.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Field for Sheep

     On our trip to Scotland we had an opportunity to see a lot of the Scottish countryside. Taking the side roads allowed us to see many small farms and villages. When taking a back road in Alberta, you will see sections of land divided by barbed wire fences, many containing cattle. In Scotland, it was interesting to see the land divided by old stone fences surrounded by sheep. Very beautiful scenery. Can't wait to go back!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Is Photography Art?

    Interestingly, many who ask this question are themselves, artists. Some feel that a photographer only has to press a button to produce his images while a painter or sculptor spends many hours to create their artwork. While it may be true that photographs take less time to make than some other types of artistic media, it would be naive to suggest that the time spent on a project is what would qualify it as art or not.
   Actually, photographers spend a lot of time making their images. Effort, time and expense is required to search for a particular subject, experiment with composition and camera settings and wait for perfect light and weather. Learning and experimenting with different ways to process images takes time and money. A lot more is involved than pressing a button. But in reality, the time spent on creating something means very little
   One dictionary defined 'art' as "human creativity or skill". One of the definitions of an 'artist' was "one who does anything well". If we agree with these simple definitions, art is everywhere in many forms. It is different things to different people. You can use a piano, brush, computer, chainsaw, chisel, or even a camera. If we find it appealing or beautiful then it's probably us.
   The photograph below was taken in an old 'ghost town', Sharples, Alberta at sunset. Unfortunately, the sky was very boring. I liked my subject and composition but I wouldn't hang it on a wall. In post I played around with textures and filters and came up with this image. Just trying to make art ;)