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Date: Tuesday, 19 Aug 2014 09:09

Today is World Photo Day. If you’re wondering how a 2009-invented celebration of the visual medium came to be on 19 August, it’s because that’s the day in 1839 when the French government announced that it had purchased the patent to the daguerreotype method and made it a gift ‘free to the world’. Armed with that snippet of information, the pressing question is, what are you going to do to mark it?

For anyone in need of a little inspiration, here are some Photocritic suggestions to mark World Photo Day.

1. Try something new

Photography is a learning curve. There’s always something new to try or with which to experiment, so pick something you’ve not done before and give it a go.

Crazy-shallow depth-of-field with a macro lens

Crazy-shallow depth-of-field with a macro lens

May we recommend, in no particular order and certainly far from exhaustive:

2. Go back to basics

The technological wonders that we can perform with our cameras today can sometimes obfuscate the simplicity of photography. It’s painting with light. So why not go back to basics: pick up a pinhole camera and rediscover the perfection of capturing light in a box.

The ONDU pinhole in action

The ONDU pinhole in action

3. Have a print made

How many of your photos are hanging on your walls and how many are stuffed away on hard drives as binary files that never see the light of day? Do justice to your skills: pick your favourite image and have it printed to hang on your wall.

4. Set yourself a challenge

We can’t all be good at everything. But we can try to improve. Which aspect of photography do you find challenging? What would you like to do better, but find a struggle? Maybe your landscapes come across as flat and dull? Perhaps your portraits fail to capture your subject’s spirit? Is your food photography not exactly good enough to eat?

Decide on a point of focus and challenge yourself to improve over the course of the coming year. Read. Practise. Try. Maybe fail. Definitely try again. Keep a record of your experimentations. Come World Photo Day 2015, you can measure your progress.

5. Teach a child to take a photo

There’s no better way to share your passion for something than to teach it to someone else. So why not help to develop the next generation of photographers by teaching them how to take photos. It doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult, just the basics. We’ve even got a tutorial to help you.

This article was originally posted at Today’s World Photo Day! What are you going to do to mark it? , on Photocritic.

PLEASE NOTE -- The contents of the Photocritic blog is strictly copyrighted, and this feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. The use of this feed on other websites is a copyright infringement, so you should only ever be able to read this text in a feed reader. Digital Fingerprint: d07805f964d211dfdfe227d609f7448f

Author: "Daniela Bowker" Tags: "News, HDR, high speed, improve, inspirat..."
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Date: Tuesday, 19 Aug 2014 07:35

Sony announced its A5100 yesterday. It has been referred to as both a replacement for the NEX-5T and as a camera sitting between the A6000 and the A5000. It has a 24.3 mepagixel CMOS sensor, auto-focus that’s been described as ‘lightning fast’ (although not quite as fast as the A6000), upper sensitivity of ISO 25,600, a pop-up flash, wi-fi, and a touchscreen. But there’s no EVF.

ILCE-5100_wSELP1650_pop_up_black-1200

It’ll come in black or white and Adorama has them available for pre-order. Body-only, it’ll cost $550; if you’d prefer an A5100 with the 16-50mm lens, that’ll be $700.

This article was originally posted at Sony’s A5100 is available to pre-order from Adorama , on Photocritic.

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Author: "Daniela Bowker" Tags: "Consumer Articles, Equipment, News, ador..."
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Date: Monday, 18 Aug 2014 09:28

I’m not certain how the tweet ended up in my Twitter timeline. I don’t follow the company in question. Possibly it was as a result of Twitter’s new-fangled algorithm that it implemented recently. It shares tweets with you that have been favourited by people whom you follow. However I came to read it, it left me feeling marginally despondent.

No my darlings. I don’t agree. It’s neither my camera nor my camera bag that makes me a photographer. It’s me. I make me a photographer. I’m sure you did this with the best of intentions and you just wanted to draw attention to your range of camera bags with a quirky slogan and a pretty picture. However, you’ve overlooked an important detail: you’ve just denigrated the very people to whom you’re attempting to sell your product. By suggesting that being a photographer is down to kit, you’ve ignored the skill and craft that photographers hone, the hard work that they dedicate to making each picture better than the last.

I suppose it’s an easy mistake to make. Ask any photographer how often they’ve heard ‘You’re a photographer? You must have a really great camera!’ and you’ll be met with any combination of head-shaking, teeth-gnashing, or groaning and a reponse along the lines of ‘Too many!’ But as a company that’s meant to work with and support photographers, it’s terribly disappointing. I thought that you guys might’ve understood.

It doesn’t matter which craft you practise—whether you’re a photographer or a saddler or a dancer—the principal factor behind anyone’s success is her or himself. It is about skill and dedication and a willingness to learn, to experiment, to try, to fail, and to try again. It’s about a constant desire to improve. Kit? That’s always way, way down the list.

This article was originally posted at Owning a camera doesn’t make you a photographer; neither does a camera bag , on Photocritic.

PLEASE NOTE -- The contents of the Photocritic blog is strictly copyrighted, and this feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. The use of this feed on other websites is a copyright infringement, so you should only ever be able to read this text in a feed reader. Digital Fingerprint: d07805f964d211dfdfe227d609f7448f

Author: "Daniela Bowker" Tags: "Opinion & Editorial, advertising, camera..."
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Date: Friday, 15 Aug 2014 12:43

The English Premier League kicks off tomorrow and in addition to last minute transfer news, shock managerial sackings, and managerial press conferences, copyright and broadcasting rights and the use of tablets inside Old Trafford have made headlines, too. The issue of tablets and laptops inside Old Trafford is fairly self-explanatory: Manchester United has prohibited bringing them inside the grounds owing to security reasons. The copyright issue seems to have people in more of a flap. And heavens, this isn’t the first time it’s happened.

The Premier League has stated that it will be taking action against people who compile and share Vines of goals that they record from live broadcasts of matches. Being able to live-pause broadcasts makes this relatively straightforward technologically, but it’s a breach of copyright.

This has thrown up a few interesting questions, not least from the BBC’s Technology Correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones, who wondered if his Google Glass recording of Brentford matches would violate copyright.

I’m fairly certain it wouldn’t violate copyright, but it could well infringe on other rights. So if everyone will be please calm down, and preferably sit down, I’ll explain what (I think) the situation is.

Copyright

Copyright is the right to make copies of someone else’s creative endeavours. When I click the shutter on my camera, I own the copyright to the image that creates. When BT Sport or Sky Sports record and broadcast a football match, they own the copyright to the broadcast. That is, the producer decides on which cameras to use and how to put together their sequence of use, which constitutes the original work. The football match itself isn’t copyrightable, it’s the broadcast of it that is.

As well as charging their subscribers a fee to watch the matches, BT Sport or Sky Sports can charge other broadcasters to use these images or they can keep them all theirselves. Their pictures; they decide.

When someone sitting at home on the their sofa and watching a football match compiles a Vine of the goals using pictures transmitted by BT Sport or Sky, they’re violating BT Sport’s or Sky’s copyright. They are taking BT Sport’s and Sky’s work and using it without permission and without paying for it.

When you read that BT Sport and Sky Sports are complaining about their copyright being violated, this is what they mean.

Broadcast rights

When BT Sport and Sky Sports won the contracts to televise Premier League matches, they paid an excruciating sum of money for broadcast rights, or the opportunity to transmit live pictures from the game. The BBC holds the broadcast rights to highlights of the Premiership matches. They paid a fair whack for that, but not quite as much as BT Sport and Sky Sports. This season The Sun and The Times have the online rights; this is big business and it’s this money, paid to the Premier League, which has made it into the financial behemoth that it is.

Turning up at Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge and taking photos or video of a match would get you into a different type of trouble, therefore. If you were to try to stream the match live from your seat, you wouldn’t be very popular with a gaggle of corporate lawyers for infringing on broadcast rights. Not to mention you’d likely upset the fans sitting around you if you obstructed their view. Whether or not you can take a camera into a football stadium and take some photos for personal use seems to be open to clubs’ interpretation. It’s worth checking what it says on the ticket. Some might be happy for you to take a photo to remind yourself of the day; others might want to throw you out for just having a camera.

I have no football photos, so have one of the Tour de France instead

I have no football photos, so have one of the Tour de France instead

Broadcast rights and copyright are different beasts, but from the same genus. You’d own the copyright to any images you were fortunate enough to make inside a stadium, because you’d made them. What you wouldn’t own are the broadcast rights to let you redistribute them. Not unless you’d paid an eye-wateringly large sum of money for the privilege and you probably don’t have enough kidneys for that.

Performers’ rights

Back to Rory Cellan-Jones and his tweet asking about copyright violations at Brentford, someone asked if it wouldn’t breach performers’ rights. No. As far as I can tell, performers’ rights don’t extend to sporting events, at least not in the UK, so there would be no infringement there.

Tablets

Now we get onto Manchester United’s prohibition against tablets and laptops inside Old Trafford, which was announced earlier this week. According to officials there, the decision to ban larger devices, including iPad Minis, was made in response to security concerns. They’re worried someone might want to pack a bomb into a device, much like airlines are. The ban doesn’t extend to smartphones, provided that their dimensions are no larger than 15 centimetres by 10 centimetres (5.9 inches by 3.9 inches). Seeing as smartphones have not been banned and they’re still capable of taking photos, we’ll take this one at face value. And quite frankly, if it stops people obscuring others’ view with when they’re recording with the iPads, so much the better.

In conclusion

Please remember that I’m not a lawyer. I’m a writer who takes a fiendish interest in copyright and I’ve applied a healthy dose of common sense to its ramefications, together with a bit of research.

If you want to take photos or video at any sporting event, I suggest that you check with the stadium before you turn up with any manner of kit. You don’t want to forfeit your ticket or have your gear confiscated. Speaking from experience, just go and enjoy the game. Fiddling about with electronic equipment detracts from the atmosphere and what’s happening in front of you – the reason why you’re there. But maybe that’s for another article.

When it comes to making Vines from what you can see on TV – don’t. Protecting intellectual property applies to little guys as much as it does to big guys. If we don’t want them stealing our content from social media sites and using it for free, best not to infringe their copyright either.

This article was originally posted at What do football, copyright, and Vine have in common? A lot of money and a lot of confusion , on Photocritic.

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Author: "Daniela Bowker" Tags: "Business & Legal, Feature Articles, Opin..."
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Date: Thursday, 14 Aug 2014 08:12

When setting your shutter speed, have you ever wound the adjustment wheel so far into long exposure that you’ve gone past seconds and found ‘B’ or ‘Bulb’ on your screen? Or maybe you’ve noticed that you have a ‘B’ option on your mode wheel, somewhere between Manual and Custom settings? This is bulb mode, and it allows you to control the duration of the exposure for precisely as long as you would like. It’s perfect for exposures in excess of the 30 seconds that most cameras have as their longest shutter speed, or for when you need to be in control, for example if you’re practising high-speed photography.

First, a quick word on why it’s known as ‘bulb’ mode. Haje has a much more thorough explanation here, but it doesn’t have anything to do with light bulbs. It’s from back in the day when you could control your shutter speed using an air bulb connected to your camera.

'B'? What the hell does that do? (Picture thanks to Triggertrap.)

‘B’? What the hell does that do? (Picture thanks to Triggertrap.)

When your camera is in bulb mode, you open the shutter by depressing the shutter release button; as soon as you raise your finger off of the button, the shutter will close. Seeing as it isn’t terribly convenient to stand with your finger on your shutter release button for minutes or even hours on end—and it’s not fabulous for camera-shake, either—most people use bulb mode in conjunction with a remote shutter release. And a tripod, but that’s probably quite obvious.

Plenty of remote shutter releases come with a locking mechanism, so that you don’t need to hold your finger down there, either. However, if you go for something such as our much-beloved Triggertrap, you can select from a variety of different modes to control your super-long exposure, including a timed release that lets you set the duration of your exposure down to fractions of a second, a star-trails setting, and even a bulb-ramping option to fine-tune exposure during very long time-lapse recordings.

Late night in East London

Late night in East London

Even if you’re shooting at night, your camera’s sensor will be able to detect far more light than you think it can, especially with a very long exposure. Consequently, using a small aperture is recommended. If you’re photographing during the day, you might benefit from a neutral density filter to prevent unavoidably over-exposing your images, too.

It is worth bearing in mind that using bulb mode can drain your battery enormously. Don’t set off to capture star trails with a less-than-fully-charged battery. Take a spare if you have one, too. It’s a complete waste to maroon yourself in the middle of nowhere with limited light pollution only for your camera to keel over halfway into the exposure.

Waterfalls, shot using bulb mode. (Picture thanks to Triggertrap.)

Waterfalls, shot using bulb mode. (Picture thanks to Triggertrap.)

Now that you know what bulb is, what can you do with it? Perhaps you’d like to try some long exposures of landscapes? Or maybe capture some smooth, milky-looking water tumbling from a fall. You might want to try your hand at a star trail, or have a go at light painting. You could even grab a flash adapter and have a crack at some high-speed photography and burst some water balloons. So many options presented to you with so much time from bulb mode!

This article was originally posted at Dare to stray into bulb mode , on Photocritic.

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Author: "Daniela Bowker" Tags: "Explainers, Feature Articles, Technology..."
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Date: Monday, 11 Aug 2014 22:34

We’re probably all familiar with the notion of aperture controlling the depth-of-field in our photos. By using a faster aperture, you create a shallower depth-of-field. To keep more of your image in focus, you need to use a smaller aperture. But there’s a whole lot more to depth-of-field than adjusting your aperture to get more or less of the scene in focus.

‘Acceptably sharp’

Let’s start with setting out what we mean by depth-of-field. It’s the range of distance in a photo that is considered to be ‘acceptably sharp’, or what we would regard as ‘in focus’. Only the actual point of focus in a photograph is definitively sharp and ‘in focus’; depth-of-field describes the zone of acceptable sharpness either side of it. A wider band of ‘acceptable sharpness’ running through an image equates to a greater depth-of-field. To introduce more blur into your photos you would want a shallower depth-of-field with a narrower band that’s ‘acceptably sharp’.

A shallow depth-of-field with a gradual fall-off

Although the depth-of-field is shallow, the transition away from ‘acceptably sharp’ is still gradual. There’s no cliff.

It’s worth remembering that there’s no sudden transtition from ‘sharp’ to ‘unsharp’: focus falls off gently on either side of the plane of focus, regardless of the aperture you use. It is fair to say, though, that larger apertures have a more rapid transition from in- to out-of-focus than larger apertures.

Shallow depth of field; large aperture Somewhere in between Deeper depth-of-field; smaller aperture

Controlling the depth-of-field in an image is achieved primarily by adjusting your aperture—a smaller aperture for a greater depth-of-field; a larger aperture for a shallower depth-of-field—however, there are other factors that affect it, too.

Focal length

You’ll often hear people say that telephoto lenses have a shallower depth-of-field than wider angled lenses. This isn’t strictly true. It’s more accurate to say that because telephoto lenses are mostly used to magnify subjects, and the subject will then fill more of the frame relative to the background, the depth-of-field appears to be shallower.

200mm; ƒ/3.2

200mm; ƒ/3.2

All the same, it’s worth capitalising on the magnifying effect from telephoto lenses to pick out your subjects and surround them with blurred foregounds and backgrounds.

Subject-to-lens proximity

If you’ve ever practised macro photography, you’ll appreciate how getting closer to your subject makes it harder to get it all sharp. The closer that you position your subject to your lens, the shallower your depth-of-field will be. Choose a subject further into the background and you’ll find that the depth-of-field surrounding it is larger.

Crazy-shallow depth-of-field with a macro lens

Crazy-shallow depth-of-field with a macro lens

Distribution of acceptable sharpness

Depending on the focal length you use, you will find that the depth-of-field isn’t divided equally in front of and behind the plane of focus. Instead, the area of acceptable sharpness behind the point of focus is generally larger than that extending in front of the focal plane. As focal length increases, so too does the distribution of the depth-of-field in front of the subject.

When you shoot with a focal length of 15mm about two thirds of the depth-of-field will be behind the subject and one third in front of it. When you get to 400mm it’s closer to a fifty-fifty divide.

Depth-of-field: not just about aperture.

This article was originally posted at Depth-of-field in greater detail , on Photocritic.

PLEASE NOTE -- The contents of the Photocritic blog is strictly copyrighted, and this feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. The use of this feed on other websites is a copyright infringement, so you should only ever be able to read this text in a feed reader. Digital Fingerprint: d07805f964d211dfdfe227d609f7448f

Author: "Daniela Bowker" Tags: "Explainers, Feature Articles, Photograph..."
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Date: Thursday, 07 Aug 2014 15:13

Ever wanted to capture a water balloon going pop? It looks impressive when you get it right, but it isn’t as simple as just setting your shutter speed to as fast as it will go. That’s still not fast enough. Fear not, however: we’ve a tutorial to set you straight.

When a fast shutter speed isn’t enough

When your camera is in manual or shutter priority mode you can set your shutter speed to its shortest duration to freeze the motion of very fast events. (Or to let in as little light as possible if the environment is very bright, but that’s another side to the exposure story.) As fast as 1/4000th of a second might be, which is the fastest shutter speed on my Canon 6D, it isn’t always fast enough. Combined with the period of time it takes to actually fire the camera and the duration of an event as quick as a balloon bursting, you might miss it.

Squash! (Image thanks to Triggertrap)

Squash! (Image thanks to Triggertrap)

Bring out the flash

To overcome this technical failing, you do something that initially might seem counter-intuitive, but when you think about it, makes sense.

You shoot in a dark room using a long exposure and a flash. The dark room means that your sensor won’t pick up any light while the shutter is open until the flash fires. The duration of the flash is much, much shorter than your shortest shutter speed, therefore freezes motion far more effectively when it exposes the sensor. Your flash speed—fastest at its lowest power out-put—controls your exposure duration.

Triggering the flash

To accomplish this you’ll need a flash adapter and a sound sensor that, between them, will trigger your flash. The balloon goes pop, the sound sensor detects this and triggers the flash, the flash exposes the sensor.

Absolute darkness

Being able to shoot in absolute darkness is critical to the success of high speed photography. Any stray light will reach the sensor and can result in a blurry image. Not what you want.

Giving it a go

Theory grasped? Onwards to the practice!

Step 1: Set your scene

You’re going to need a bit of a shopping list to accomplish this:

  • Camera and tripod
  • Flash and lighting standing
  • Sound sensor and flash adapter
  • Balloons and water
  • Thread and something from which to suspend your balloon (a lighting boom works)
  • A sharp implement to pierce the balloon
  • A large receptacle, such as a paddling pool, to collect the splash
  • Freezer bags and a torch
A balloon on a string

A balloon on a string

Start by attaching a balloon to your lighting stand (or other suitable support) with thread, and positioning it over something to catch the water. It’s a good idea to test the set-up with an air-filled balloon or two before going the whole hog with water, but when you do fill your water balloons, blow a little air into them first: it helps to ensure they make a popping noise.

And of course, this all needs to be set up in a room that you can make completely dark.

Step 2: Set up your camera

When you’ve set the balloon scene, pop your camera on its tripod and compose your shot. Use manual focus to get the balloon sharp. Try using an aperture of ƒ/4.0 and a low ISO. Rather than set a shutter speed, opt for bulb mode. If you think that you might struggle to open and close the shutter in the dark using bulb mode, because you will be doing that bit in the dark, try a long exposure of 10 or 15 seconds instead.

Bulb mode, or an exposure time of 10 or 15 seconds if that's easier

Bulb mode, or an exposure time of 10 or 15 seconds if that’s easier

Step 3: Set your flash

Position your flash and hook it up to a flash adapter (we recommend the Triggertrap Flash Adapter, but then we would). Switch your flash to manual mode and set it to the lowest power output.

Lower power, shorter duration

Lower power, shorter duration

Step 4: Add your sound sensor

Plug in your sound sensor (again, Triggertrap to the resecue) to your flash. The Triggertrap team points out that if you’re using Triggertrap Mobile, plug the flash adapter into the mobile dongle first, and then the dongle into your smart device.

Triggertrap Mobile + Triggertrap Flash adapter to detect for the pop and fire the flash

Triggertrap Mobile + Triggertrap Flash adapter to detect for the pop and fire the flash

Set the threshold fairly low so that the flash fires on a moderate sound. Don’t forget to add a sensor reset delay of around one second to ensure the flash only fires once.

Step 5: Take some waterproofing measures

Water plus electronic equipment equals potential disaster; a bursting water balloon will soak your kit. Protect anything in splash range with freezer bags.

Raincoat

Raincoat

Step 6: Lights out!

Everything should be ready to go! Turn out the lights and get ready to take some photos. Having a torch is handy.

Step 7: Testing, testing?

Is the flash awake? Is the sound sensor working? Turn off your torch and start the bulb exposure. Make a loud noise, such as a shout. The flash should fire. Once the flash has fired, stop the bulb exposure and check your exposure. If things are too dark, try bumping up your ISO rather that boosting the flash power. Test until you’re happy.

A diagram for good measure

A diagram for good measure

Step 8: The real thing

Now for some balloon popping. String up your balloon (maybe try an air-filled one first), test the flash again, make sure that everything is completely dark, and then open the shutter. As soon as you can after opening the shutter, burst the balloon. This should fire the flash. When that’s happened, close the shutter again. (If you struggle to open and close the shutter in bulb mode in the dark, try setting a long exposure instead, say 10 or 15 seconds.) You should have a photo of a gush of water bursting out of a balloon!

Finally: if you prefer a video, here’s one prepared by Team Triggertrap:


Much of this, including all the images, is based on the fantastic How to capture a water balloon popping tutorial found on Triggertrap’s How-To microsite, and it’s reproduced with permission. Triggertrap How-To is full of great content for making the most of your camera. You should take a look.

This article was originally posted at Pop goes the water balloon – a high speed photography tutorial , on Photocritic.

PLEASE NOTE -- The contents of the Photocritic blog is strictly copyrighted, and this feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. The use of this feed on other websites is a copyright infringement, so you should only ever be able to read this text in a feed reader. Digital Fingerprint: d07805f964d211dfdfe227d609f7448f

Author: "Daniela Bowker" Tags: "Feature Articles, Practice, Tutorials, b..."
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Date: Wednesday, 06 Aug 2014 10:26

‘Tis the summer (here in the northern hemisphere). ‘Tis the season for festivals and fairs and fetes. ‘Tis the season when people might want to capture crowd scenes with their cameras. Shooting crowd scenes is easy, yes? There’s so much going on that all you have to do is raise your camera, point it in the right direction, and shoot to produce an interesting photo, yes? Ehm… no.

Anyone who’s ever tried to take a compelling crowd scene photo will appreciate that it’s far harder to get it right than it is to get it wrong. Frequently, crowd photos emerge as amorphous collections of strangers with no clear narrative or obvious focal point. Anyone whose attention doesn’t wander irretrievably will be left asking ‘So it’s a photo of what?’ But mostly the eye will scan over an ordinary crowd scene shot, fail to find anything of interest and be drawn into the story, and move on to the next shiny thing. Your audience is gone.

It's a crowd. And a large one. But where is it going? What is it doing?

It’s a crowd. And a large one. But where is it going? What is it doing?

What makes crowd photos so difficult? The very fact that there is so much going on in these scenes is usually their undoing. Every photo must tell a story. (Along with ‘Get closer!’ and ‘Just because it’s on the Intergoogles, it doesn’t mean it’s free to use!‘ it forms the third edge of the Photocritic mantra triumvirate.) Rather than expecting your audience to determine what the story might be among the tens, maybe even hundreds, of people, you have to set about deciding on what the story is and composing an image that conveys that.

When you’re thrust amongst a crowd, or are perhaps looking down upon one, ask yourself: ‘What am I trying to relate here? What’s the story?’

Sunday. Corner of Brick Lane and Hanbury Street. It's always crowded. Look for the lull, the change, the aberration. The guy leaning, and watching, and waiting.

Sunday. Corner of Brick Lane and Hanbury Street. It’s always crowded. Look for the lull, the change, the aberration. The guy leaning, and watching, and waiting.

Perhaps it’s the sheer number of people? Maybe it’s the focus of thousands of individuals on one figure on a stage? Is it a solitary red shirt in a sea of blue? Sometimes it’s a case of waiting patiently for that moment: a sting of eye contact, a dropped doll, a wearied pause. Define the story and you’re halfway to creating a compelling image.

Finchingfield, July 2014, waiting for the Tour de France. The village was heaving and when people are sitting a-top fingerposts, you know it's crowded.

Finchingfield, July 2014, waiting for the Tour de France. The village was heaving and when people are sitting a-top fingerposts, you know it’s crowded.

Now, ask yourself: ‘What can I do to convey this?’ How you compose and expose your photo will ensure that your audience can grasp what you’re trying to say and will help them to connect with it.

Tamil protestors, London, February 2009. The crush behind the barrier, the emptiness before the barrier, and the 'Stop' sign.

Tamil protestors, London, February 2009. The crush behind the barrier, the emptiness before the barrier, and the ‘Stop’ sign.

When you’re trying to express numbers, find a point of juxtaposition to emphasise them: look for something small or noticeable that stands out and contrasts against the heaving mass. When a horde is focused on one thing, use lines to direct the viewers’ eyes and channel them into the moment. For an aberration in the flow of things, try to isolate the rogue figure and plant it amongst the norm.

Rather than point and shoot, hoping that you’ll produce an image that people will find interesting, draw on your compositional skills—the rule of thirds, leading lines, colour theory, pattern and repetition—together with your technical knowledge—focal length, aperture, shutter speed, and metering—to tell a story. Then you’ll capture the crowd.

This article was originally posted at Standing out in the crowd – or how to take meaningful photos among lots of people , on Photocritic.

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Author: "Daniela Bowker" Tags: "Advice, Feature Articles, Practice, conc..."
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Date: Wednesday, 06 Aug 2014 05:40

I was having a fairly good morning, until I took my lunchtime peruse of Feedly to see if anything interesting or exciting had dropped into it. Apart from a new post by my favourite film critic, nothing was outstanding until I reached Lifehacker.

The Lifehacker team has just posted a link to a visual media usage rights flowchart created by The Visual Communication Guy. Excellent! Ignorance is no excuse when it comes to image theft and unauthorised use and reproduction of photos. While we’re all perfectly aware that when you place something on Facebook, Flickr, or your personal version of Frankie’s Funky Photos, there’s a real chance that someone will try to use it improperly, the more that we can educate people about the right way to do things, the better. This one, however, was not quite so excellent.

You’ll find the original here and the Lifehacker article here.

If you’re wondering, I can reproduce it here under fair dealing: criticism and review use.

Apart from the fact that it’s far too dense and word-heavy, it contains at least one humongous, glaring, verging on the unforgiveable fault for something that purports to advise on usage rights. Take a look and tell me if you can see it. (And tell me how many others you can see. There are plenty.)

Found it?

If you haven’t, because it’s a horrid thing to read, here it is:

While the laws about distributing images through social media channels like Facebook, Pinterest, and blogs are still fuzzy, it is generally considered acceptable to redistribute an image that was intended to be viewed publicly by the creator. This is why you will typically find original images re-posted on blogs, news sites, and social media channels even if the person re-distributing the images didn’t receive permission to do so.

No, no, no, no, no, no. And for good meaure I’ll say it again. No.

Images that are shared on social media aren’t free for redistribution unless the creator has expressly said so. I put my images on Flickr and use them here on Photocritic and put them on my personal website to display them, to illustrate concepts, to tell stories. I do not put them on the Intergoogles so that anyone else can make use of them. And you should never assume that anyone else does, either.

The law regarding this is hardly fuzzy about the situation, either. There’s been at least one monumental court case that supports this opinion, when photographer Daniel Morel sued AFP and Getty Images after they redistributed his images from the Haitian earthquake, which he’d shared via Twitter, without his permission.

Copyright exists from the moment that someone creates something, whether it’s a photograph, a tune, a poem, or a piece of prose. It doesn’t matter how a creator wishes to share her or his creation with the world, unless she or he has definitely signed away the rights to it, the rights remain theirs.

Mine! All mine! Now sod off!  Actually, this was one of Haje's foster kittens. The photo's mine and the kitten is now someone else's. But it's a kitten on the Internet. I couldn't think of a more appropriate image for this article.

Mine! All mine! Now sod off!
Actually, this was one of Haje’s foster kittens. The photo’s mine and the kitten is now someone else’s. But it’s a kitten on the Internet. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate image for this article.

To be fair to the Visual Communications Guy, he does state ‘My rule above all else? Ask permission to use all images. If in doubt, don’t use the image!’ in the post that accompanies the flowchart, but that’s not really good enough. It’s the flowchart that people are going to share and see, not the article. When incorrect information such as this gains traction, we all suffer. Suddenly what’s not right becomes commonly accepted. Or people who were doing their best to not be ignorant are in the wrong when they thought they were doing right.

So I’ll say the mantra and everyone can repeat it after me: ‘Just because I found it on the Internet, it doesn’t mean it’s free to use.’

This article was originally posted at Just because you found it on the Intergoogles it doesn’t mean it’s free to use , on Photocritic.

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Author: "Daniela Bowker" Tags: "Business & Legal, Feature Articles, Opin..."
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Date: Tuesday, 05 Aug 2014 14:32

When the press release for Ricoh’s newest camera fell into my inbox yesterday, I felt overcome by a sense of deja-vu as I scanned down it. The specification for the Pentax Q-S1, a pocket-sized EVIL camera, seemed very familiar: 12 megapixel 1/1.7″ CMOS sensor; ISO 12,800, 5 frames-per-second; DR II dust removal mechanism; and Eye-Fi wireless LAN SD memory card compatibility. Isn’t that the Pentax Q7 in all but name?

Looks-wise the Q-S1 didn’t appear exactly ground-breaking either. That might sound contradictory for a camera that comes with five different body colours (black, gunmetal, pure white, champagne gold, bright silver) and eight grip colours (charcoal black, cream, carmine red, canary yellow, khaki green, royal blue, burgundy, pale pink), but Pentax is famed for its swap-shop approach and the design is making the retro-but-not overtures that feel almost inescapable right now. It has very similar dimensions to and weighs almost the same as the Q7.

Q-S1_40colors

You might get a new design and 40 colour options, but under the hood the Pentax Q-S1 is pretty much a Pentax Q7

Try as I might, I couldn’t pin-point any significant differences, save for the physical appearance, between the Q7 and the Q-S1. The Q-S1 is supposed to have a slightly improved auto-focusing system and has updated filters, but that’s about it. Improved autofocus is always appreciated and quite frankly I can take or leave filters and toys, but I’m still scratching my head. What’s the point of the Q-S1?

If Ricoh is of the opinion that the Q-S1 is there to offer consumers more aesthetic options and choices, that’s a grimly disappointing approach to selling cameras. I admit that I have been known to go weak at the knees owing to the sumptuous design of a camera on occasion, but I part with my money because of their guts and performance. Cameras are tools, not fashion accessories and what truly interests me are technological developments that make a difference. Dressing up the Q7 with its tiny sensor that suffers from noise issues won’t make it a better camera.

Pentax Q-S1: £300 body-only, or £380 with a 5-15mm lens; £550 with both the 5-15mm and 15-45mm lenses

Pentax Q-S1: £300 body-only, or £380 with a 5-15mm lens; £550 with both the 5-15mm and 15-45mm lenses

I’m desperately hoping that camera buyers aren’t so superficial that everything rests of the look of the box that lets in light and not how well it allows the photographer to control and manipulate that light, or how well it records that light. I can’t be sure but I blinking well hope that isn’t the case.

So Ricoh and the Pentax people who work there, if you’re listening, I’m sure that you can do better than this. There’s the Pentax 645D on your roll, after all. And people who buy cameras: it’s about making beautiful things, how your magical picture-making box looks isn’t all that important. Not in the grand scheme of things.

This article was originally posted at Is the new Pentax Q-S1 all fur coat and no knickers? , on Photocritic.

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Author: "Daniela Bowker" Tags: "Opinion & Editorial, CoSyCa, CSC, EVIL c..."
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Date: Friday, 01 Aug 2014 18:09

Have you noticed anything a little different about Photocritic recently? Maybe that we’re reporting fewer news stories? Or that the front page looks slightly different? Don’t worry; you don’t have to answer, but trust us when we tell you that things have changed around here.

We set out with the intention of making Photocritic a resource of everything that you should know about photography. It even says so up there. If you think that sounds like an enormous undertaking, you wouldn’t be wrong. But in addition to the mountainous workload, the scope of ‘everything’ carries with it the threat of the insignificant drowning out the significant and the ephemera overwhelming the fundamentals. This is of no benefit at all to you, and it’s a waste of our time. Hence we’ve decided to make some changes.

We’re diversifying our presence but consolidating our coverage. No, I’m still not sure how I came up with that statement. Too many press releases, probably.

Let’s start here, with the Photocritic website. This will be for the everything that makes you a better photographer. And for everything that deserves analysis and commentary within the photography industry. It will be for tutorials and explainers, for reviews and op-eds. This is for long-tail writing.

PC etc

For the everything that encompasses quirky news stories, exhibition announcements, competition calls for entries, and information about books written by people who aren’t us, we’ve set up Photocritic &c. It’s a Tumblr for the sort of everything that won’t necessarily be interesting in six months’ time, but is interesting now. It’s more of a rolling news feed.

We’ve put a link to Photocritic &c in the navigation bar, there’s also one in our social bar, you should be able to subscribe via your RSS feed, and if you’ve a Tumblr account, you can subscribe there.

And of course, there’s the Photocritic Twitter account. That covers everything that you should know about photography in 140 characters. (Don’t be shy of following Daniela on Twitter, either. She’s @SmallAperture.)

We think this is a change for the better: a smoother, less cluttered Photocritic experience. We hope that you think so, too.

Finally, if there’s anything specific that you’d like us to cover, please ask us. We have an extensive editorial calendar, but we want to know what you want to read. Do drop us an email.

This article was originally posted at Introducing Photocritic &c , on Photocritic.

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Date: Thursday, 31 Jul 2014 13:51

Adorama has three Sigma lenses available at very attractive prices using a combination of mail-in rebates and a special offer coupon code. The catch is: they’ll expire tonight.

Sigma’s 150-500mm ƒ/5-6.3 DG APO OS HSM usually costs $1069, but between the rebate and the coupon, you’ll pay $739. It comes in Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma, and Sony mounts.

If you’re looking for a wide-angle lens, the 10-20mm ƒ/4-5.6 EX DC HSM will cost you $350 following the discounts. Normally you’d pay $479. Again, it’s available in Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma, and Sony mounts.

Finally you can pick up the 85mm ƒ/1.4 EX DG HSM portrait lens for $850. It too is manufactured with Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma, and Sony mounts.

The coupon code is 1SGMAJUL99. You’ll need it for all of these purchases, as well to complete the mail-in rebate. Check out all of the options here.

This article was originally posted at Sigma lenses on special at Adorama – expires tonight! , on Photocritic.

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Date: Thursday, 31 Jul 2014 11:18

Once you’ve got a proper handle on your camera and what it’s capable of, and you’ve built up an understanding of your lenses, you might find that you want to extend your photographic experimentations to flash so that you can create alien space lemons and bright and breezy high-key portraits. It’s probably easiest to start out using through-the-lens (TTL; iTTL; or eTTL) metering, but much the same as you progress and take more control over your camera, there will probably come a point when you need to exert more control over your flashes and have to change the mode to manual. Adding a new variable into any mix can be a daunting prospect, but don’t let it put you off. It’s another skill to master and put to use.

Through the lens metering

TTL stands for through the lens metering. Rather than you dictating how much power your flash puts out, your camera and your flash will combine to make the calculation. It does this by emitting a small pre-flash to determine how much light is required for the scene and your camera settings.

The primary advantage of TTL metering is that you don’t need to think too hard, so when you’re photographing an event or something fast-moving, you won’t miss your shot for need of fiddling.

But if you need consistency in your exposure between shots, then TTL isn’t very useful. You’ll have to switch to manual mode.

Splat! (Image thanks to Triggertrap)

Splat! (Image thanks to Triggertrap)

The advantage of manual flash

Much like using manual mode on your camera gives you complete control over your exposure, manual mode on your flash gives you complete control over the power it emits. Between them, they will provide you with consistency.

Understanding the power out-put

The power out-put on a flash is typically displayed as fractions. Full power is 1/1; the least powerful setting is usually 1/128.

Don’t forget that if you set your flash to full power, it’ll be working at its hardest and will take longer to refresh in between shots.

When you’re experimenting with your flash, you might want to set the power to 1/16, which is roughly half-power. You won’t have too far to move in either direction if you need to make adjustments.

Sync speed

Your camera and flash need to synchronise in order for the sensor to be able to detect the flash. Open the shutter for too short a period of time and it won’t be able to catch the flash, rendering the entire process futile. Cameras, therefore, have a maximum shutter speed that can be used in conjunction with an off-camera flash; it’s known as the sync speed. The maximum sync speed tends to be 1/125 second, but do check your camera’s manual to be sure.

The exposure triangle

Seeing as you’ll be using manual mode on your camera, you’ll need to be certain of the impact that altering shutter speed, aperture, and ISO will have on your exposure.

First: changing your shutter speed will not have an impact on your flash exposure. Shutter speed will have an impact on ambient light. Want more ambient light? Use a slower shutter speed.

Second: adjusting your aperture will have an impact on your flash exposure.

Third: ISO has an effect on both flash and ambient exposure.

Actually doing this

Now that the theory is in place, how about some practical photography?

Step 1: Set up the flash

Turn on the flash and set it to manual. This is normally achieved by cycling through the MODE button on most flashes. If you’re not sure about this bit, check the information in your flash manual.

Select manual

Select manual

Step 2: Adjust the power

Now you can adjust the power by pressing the arrow keys. 1/1 is full power, and each click down will decrease the power.

Adjust the power. 1/1 is full power.

Adjust the power. 1/1 is full power.

Step 3: Set the camera

Place the flash on the hotshoe of the camera, or attach the lead or radio trigger if you’re using either of those, and switch on the camera. In manual mode, set the shutter speed to 1/125 second and adjust your aperture and ISO.

Select manual mode for your camera

Select manual mode for your camera

Step 4: Incremental adjustments

Take some photos!

If your images are too bright you can:

  • Decrease the flash power
  • Increase the aperture
  • Decrease the ISO

If your images are too dark, do the opposite!

Adjust as necessary!

Adjust as necessary!

Experiment with different combinations of flash power, aperture, and ISO to get a feel for what you can achieve with flash photography. After that, the world is your playground!

For a video version of this tutorial, here’s Team Triggertrap explaining things:


Much of this, including all the images, is based on the fantastic How to use manual flash tutorial found on Triggertrap’s How-To microsite, and it’s reproduced with permission. Triggertrap How-To is full of great content for making the most of your camera. You should take a look.

This article was originally posted at Manual flash – not as scary as you might think , on Photocritic.

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Date: Tuesday, 29 Jul 2014 17:23

When Flickr and Getty announced earlier this year that they’d not be renewing their licensing deal, I suggested that it might not be long before Flickr unveiled its own in-house licensing project. With well in excess of five billion images on its servers, Flickr has a huge stock library waiting for exploitation: easy sales for Flickr users and a cut for Yahoo! is a win-win situation. We had a four-and-half month wait for the grand reveal: today, Flickr announced its Curated Connections project.

Well, I say it was a grand reveal, it was more of a swift overview.

Sign-up! Sign-up! Although it's mostly a wait for information now.

Sign-up! Sign-up! Although it’s mostly a wait for information now.

What is Flickr offering photographers who sign up to the Curated Connections project? It’s a good question that doesn’t have an especially solid answer, for the announcement is curiously light on specifics. The Flickr blog post tells us that they are: ‘excited to introduce a new way for you to partner with photo agencies, editors, bloggers and other creative minds who are seeking original content like yours.’ But there’s no indication of what this new system is or how it will operate.

Flickr’s curatorial team will be there to ‘provide assistance, outreach and connectivity to help you get your photos licensed!’ But it doesn’t detail what this will entail. It’s hardly surprising that with such a vague outline of what they’re planning there isn’t any significant information concerning such trivialities that interest photographers, namingly licensing terms. We’re told that they’ll be transparent and easy, although as things stand the terms remain mythical beasts.

The sign-up page tempts users with suggestions that their images might be used by media behemoths including the BBC, Gizmodo, the New York Times, and Reuters. There’s even a mention of previous licensing-partner Getty. As you might expect from a Yahoo! owned company, there is potential for your images to be used on other Yahoo! owned, sites, too. Part of the ‘outreach and connectivity’ that Flickr hopes to offer are opportunities to complete commissions and assignments. Flickr’s definitely talking the talk here.

Being able to share your images and make them available for licensing in one place is appealing—and it’s something that other photo-sharing sites, for example 500px and EyeEm are also beginning to entertain—but so much of that appeal is going to depend on how the deals are cut and the terms under which images are released. Allowing Flickr to deal with the tedium of bureaucracy might not be suitable compensation if the remuneration is insufficient. Will it walk the walk?

Cake
Can we have a baked and iced cake, please, Flickr? It beats a half-remembered recipe.

So do tell us, Flickr: what exactly are you proposing here? There’s a lot of ethereal chatter and not much substance. I’m sure that you’re excited by your new project and you want us to be excited about it, too, but it rather helps if you share with us the pertinent facts. It’s something of a half-baked non-announcement at the moment. We’ve no idea if the cake’s carrot or chocolate or something else entirely. Provide us with an actual announcement that you’ve baked and iced and we might be slightly more enthusiastic. Or not. Depending on what you suggest (I prefer lemon, for reference).

If you are interested in Flickr’s Curated Connections, you can sign up here.

This article was originally posted at Flickr has announced Curated Connections, but what exactly is it? , on Photocritic.

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Date: Wednesday, 23 Jul 2014 15:43

An 18 year old and a 19 year old are in a relationship. They’re committed to and respectful of each other. They enjoy consensual sex and every now and again they share a naughty photo.

A 16 year old and a 17 year old are in a relationship. They’re committed to and respectful of each other. They enjoy consensual sex and every now and again they share a naughty photo.

What’s the difference? Both couples are over the age of consent and no one is being forced into doing anything they do not wish to do. Yet the younger couple is breaking the law. By sharing photos of themselves, they’re distributing indecent images of children. They are, of course, under the age of 18 and therefore still children. That they are accustomed to each other’s bodies in the flesh means nothing when they’re pixillated.

The penalty for distributing indecent images of children is much more serious than a slap on the wrists, too. It can result in being placed on the sex offenders’ register. For anyone, that is a life-altering punishment; for someone who is 16, it could be life-ruining.

This issue has been brought into the public consciousness again (it raised its head towards the end of last year) after Nottinghamshire Police sent a letter to schools in the county asking them to advise their pupils about the potential consequences of ‘sexting’. Recently, the police have dealt with several cases where sexting has taken a turn for the nasty, and while they’ve not prosecuted the young people involved, the outcome could have been different.

That's quite enough!

That’s quite enough!

Much of what I’ve been reading around this topic today—for it seems to be overtaking the BBC—involves admonishing young people not to be so stupid or to consider the consequences of their actions should these photos make their way onto the Intergoogles; invokes despair that young people are capable of such recklessness and disregard for other people’s feelings and reputations; or it criticises their lack of self-respect and gutter behaviour. There’s also a great deal of concern about the pressure that might be applied to young people to take and share lascivious photos when they really don’t want to.

Some of these concerns are valid. The teenaged equivalent of revenge porn can be deeply painful and horribly humiliating with tentacles that spread much further than school. While its perpetrators might be content to wreak harm and havoc on those whose images they share, I doubt that they realise just how extensive the consequences can be. As for coercing young people into sharing pictures that they probably wouldn’t want to show their parents; it’s another of those pressures of conformation piling up on young people: to be thin, to wear particular clothes, to smoke, to drink, to have sex. Between Snapchat and Slingshot and WhatsApp and any other means of sharing an image, we have for ourselves the social media age incarnation of ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,’ behind the bike sheds, except with potentially longer-lasting and farther-reaching consequences.

We cannot and should not tell young people what to do; it’s about giving them the skills, the self-confidence, and the information to make their own choices and about providing them with non-judgemental support when they have to live through it. Vilifying them for a lack of self-respect is unlikely to achieve very much.

It's a naked body, but not as we know it, Jim! (Photo by Haje)

It’s a naked body, but not as we know it, Jim! (Photo by Haje)

These are all pertinent points for anyone under 16 who’s legally regarded as not being able to give consent. Indeed they remain valid for anyone over the age of 16; but there’s a particular issue relevant to 16 and 17 year olds that seems to be overlooked.

There’s a disconnect between the legality of their engagement in consensual physical sexual activity and the illegality of recording that same consensual physical sexual activity. A law that’s designed to protect young people from exploitation has the potential to criminalise them. I hope that those who have to enforce it apply some common sense to any situations that come their way.

This article was originally posted at The unlikely and serious consequences of teenage sexting , on Photocritic.

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Date: Tuesday, 22 Jul 2014 17:59

For over a decade Stephanie Sinclair has been documenting the issue of child marriage and the horrific impact it has on the lives of girls and young women—from irreparable gynaecological damage to self-immolation. UNFPA and photo agency VII brought together her works in the exhibition Too Young to Wed, and as part of Girl Summit 2014, held in London today, it is on display at the London School of Economics.

Nujood was ten when she fled her abusive, much older husband and took a taxi to the courthouse in Sanaa, Yemen. Her courageous act—and the landmark legal battle that ensued—turned her into an international heroine for women's rights.

Nujood was ten when she fled her abusive, much older husband and took a taxi to the courthouse in Sanaa, Yemen. Her courageous act—and the landmark legal battle that ensued—turned her into an international heroine for women’s rights.

Girl Summit, hosted by the UK Government and UNICEF, aims to spearhead an end to child, forced, and early marriage and an end to female genital mutilation within a generation.

Too Young to Wed is being exhibited at the London School of Economics in its Atrium Gallery in the Old Building. It’s free to enter and you can wander through from 10:00 to 20:00, Monday to Friday, until 1 August.

Too Young to Wed at the London School of Economics, Atrium Gallery, The Old Building, London School of Economics, WC2A 2AE

This article was originally posted at Too Young to Wed: an exhibition for Girl Summit 2014 , on Photocritic.

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Date: Tuesday, 22 Jul 2014 13:32

When I’m offering feedback on the assignments submitted by our Photography School students, one of my most frequent questions is ‘Did you think about framing this vertically?’ Or at least, something along those lines. Human vision is binocular, meaning that we have two eyes that happen to be positioned adjacent to rather than on top of each other. We are, therefore, predisposed to scanning things along a horizontal plane rather than a vertical one. It’s no surprise then that we’re more inclined to capture horizontally oriented pictures. The vast majority of cameras have been designed around this fact, thus have a default horizontal orientation and it’s just about uncomfortable enough to rotate it that we sometimes overlook doing so.

Sweet peas
It is a truth universally acknowledged that landscape format pictures work more successfully in articles than their portrait format counterparts.

We shouldn’t be so hasty.

The case for horizontal

The long and the short of it (ahem) is that the majority of subjects that are wider than they are longer will benefit from being photographed in landscape format. You’d have to be standing an awfully long way back to fit all of the Schonbrunn Palace into a portrait format picture. Most of the time, the horizon in a landscape photo will demand to take up as much space as possible, stretching across the frame. Typically, there’s more to see when you scan left-to-right than there is up-to-down. But not always.

Corn field

The case for vertical

It’s hardly an accident that vertically oriented pictures are referred to as ‘portraits’. Any subject that is taller than it is wider—people, trees, skyscrapers, doorways, bottles—will suit a portrait shot.

Sheara i
It’s hardly a co-incidence that portraits are called portraits.

It’s a case of letting the natural lines in the image dictate how it’s framed. Don’t be afraid to swing your camera through 90° and give it a go.

Arrow slit
The entire point of this image is the vertical. Why would I shoot it horitonzally? Let the subject dictate the line.

Creative choices

If you stop to think about it, the majority of the time it will feel obvious whether you should be framing your subject horizontally or vertically. There will be a natural line and flow to your composition. Sometimes, however, you might be presented with a compositional dilemma or you might want to spread your creative wings.

Lonely Apostle
The Lonely Apostle might be a vertical feature, but it’s the landscape that gives it context and the horizontal framing emphasises that.

For example, you might have a landscape that features a mountain range running off into the distance—a horizontal motivation—but with tall trees in the foreground that would enjoy the vertical emphasis of a portrait framing. Which do you go for? What you have to decide is which element do you want to be the dominant one and therefore be emphasised by your framing. There’s not necessarily a right or wrong here; it’s about ensuring the subject and the framing complement each other.

Sheara ii
But portraits don’t always have to be oriented vertically. A landscape format can look fabulous.

If you’ve time, shoot both. You’ve nothing to lose.

Sunset kayaker, Mullaloo
The traditional landscape format works perfectly for this sunset seascape…

It is worth trying something new and different, though, to challenge your thought processes and expectations. You don’t need to be wasteful and practise obscure compositions for their own sake, but it is always worth moving and rotating and shifting and changing. Don’t feel constrained by what is expected, work to produce an image that tells a story.

Mullaloo beach
… but take nothing away from the vertical version.

This article was originally posted at Up or across? The choice between horizontal and vertical frame orientation , on Photocritic.

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Date: Friday, 18 Jul 2014 07:09

I was flipping through a book on film-making when I stumbled over a box-out mentioning the C-47. Or a clothes peg. Wooden clothes pegs are much-used on film-sets, where they don’t conduct heat so can’t burn people or melt. They make perfect handles for hot barn doors and they hold gels in place without dribbling into a puddle on the floor. Not to mention their grip over scripts, straws, and cables. Sometimes simple soilutions are the best.

It did set my mind a-thinking, however. How did the humble clothes peg come to be known as a C-47? After a little digging, I don’t have a defnitive answer, but I do have some pleasing stories.

Pass me a C-47!

Pass me a C-47!

After a plane?

The C-47 was a plane used extensively throughout the Second World War for troop movements, medical evacuations, and reconnaissance, and afterwards when it played a crucial role in the Berlin Airlift. It was a versatile plane, which mirrored the versatility of the clothes peg. Servicemen returning from the front to film studios carried over the name.

From a storage bin?

Some film studio somewhere stored its clothes pegs in a bin designated C-47. The name has stuck.

Its requisition number

Clothes pegs were assigned the catalogue or military requisition number C-47. They became known by their catalogue number rather than their common-or-garden name. Which leads neatly into the accountancy theory…

For accounting purposes

When gaffers and key grips were submitting requisition forms or expenses claims to film studio executives, accountants, and tax officials, they had trouble doing so for a bundle of clothes pegs, no matter how vital their presence was on set. By changing the name to something far more significant sounding, for example the clothes pegs’ catalogue number, nit-picking officials were none-the-wiser and the best boys’, grips’, and lighting crew’s fingers remained unburned.

Finally…

It makes a great joke to ask the new boy or girl for a C-47 and they have absolutely no idea what one is. And I’m reliably informed that what I know as a clothes peg (or even just ‘peg’) here in the UK is known as a clothespin in the US. Not that I’ll be using any today for their traditional purpose of hanging washing on a line: it’s pouring down.


Written with help from:

This article was originally posted at Pass me a C-47 – or how a clothes peg got its film-set name , on Photocritic.

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Author: "Daniela Bowker" Tags: "Feature Articles, Photocritic Q&A, C-47,..."
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Date: Wednesday, 16 Jul 2014 17:03

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Elvis Halilović, the man behind the ONDU Pinhole camera company, asking me if I’d like to try out one of his handmade, wooden pinhole cameras. It’s not the sort of offer I’m likely to decline. Last week my entirely gorgeous 135 Pocket Pinhole arrived through the post. On Monday I took advantage of glorious sunshine and the flourishing abundance of the allotment and headed out with a few rolls of film to see what the camera could see. Today I collected an envelope of developed images from the shop in town.

One ONDU 135 Pinhole camera, with an approximate focal length of 25mm

One ONDU 135 Pocket Pinhole camera, with an approximate focal length of 25mm and ƒ/22 aperture

How did they turn out? Actually not all that brilliantly. The film was expired, which has resulted in all of my photos having a rose pink cast. Despite the very useful exposure guide provided by ONDU, judging shutter speed was a very hit-and-miss affair that was counted in pink elephants and almost everything is over-exposed. My little Lollipod stand is a perfect match for the ONDU pinhole, but I’ve not mastered opening the shutter without disturbing the camera, and of course the longer exposures means motion blur, so everything is hazy. And without a viewfinder, you’re guessing at just what the camera can see, so what’s in the frame isn’t necessarily what I’d anticipated would be there.

Proof of the pinhole

Proof of the pinhole

But the truth is, none of that matters. What matters is that I’m proud of these pictures and that I had fun taking them. I enjoyed experimenting with exposure times and attempting to determine what the camera could see. I recalled the anticipation of my childhood, when I’d send films off to be developed and have no idea what would be sent back to me. It was, in fact, the most fun that I’ve had with a camera for a very long time.

I won’t deny that I had a few frustrations, but they weren’t enough to deter me. The ONDU requires you to tape the film onto the receiving spool and count one-and-half rotations to wind on between frames. Loading the film was a bit tricky and I succeeded in breaking one roll with a heavy-handed winding action. There were a couple of unintentional double-exposures, too. No one said this was going to be easy, or indeed fast, though.

The ONDU pinhole in action

The ONDU pinhole in action

Perhaps the best tip that I have is to head out with a notebook when you’re shooting, to record the lighting conditions and exposure time for each frame. When I go out next time, if the lighting conditions are similar, I’ll know to open the shutter for a fraction shorter duration. If the conditions are different, I’ll be making more educated guesses. Whatever the light, I’ll be having more fun.

Pinhole photography itself is intuitive, with the requirement to judge and estimate and guess. It’s also visceral and plays on your emotions of surprise and vexation. The more that you practise it, the better you’ll become, not just at pinhole photography, but at the general discipline of photography. It pulls you back to the founding principles of expose and compose: a simple concept but with a nuanced practice.

The opportunity that a pinhole camera gives you is to play with light in a box: photography in its most deceptively simple form. If that doesn’t intrigue and inspire you, and remind you what’s wonderful about taking pictures then I’m not sure what will. Get hold of a pinhole camera and go back to basics; you won’t regret it.

This article was originally posted at Back to basics with a pinhole camera , on Photocritic.

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Author: "Daniela Bowker" Tags: "Feature Articles, Photography Theory, ex..."
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Date: Tuesday, 15 Jul 2014 17:49

In the early hours of this morning (if you’re in Europe), Ricoh announced a new bridge camera, the Pentax XG-1. But what exactly is a bridge camera, and who constitutes the target market?

Spanning the gap

It’s all in the name, really. A bridge camera spans the gap from small compact cameras with fixed lenses to larger and heavier dSLRs with interchangeable lenses. They’re fixed lens cameras that enjoy impressive optical zoom capabilities—in the case of the XG-1 a 52× zoom or the 35mm equivalent of 24 to 1,248mm—and the full manual control that you’d expect from a dSLR. However, although they might share a similar shape to a dSLR with its characteristic pentaprism hump, they don’t share the mirror and the optical viewfinder mechanism. They function akin to compact cameras, making them smaller and lighter than their dSLR cousins.

Ricoh's new Pentax XG-1 bridge camera

Ricoh’s new Pentax XG-1 bridge camera

Benefits of bridge cameras

Although a bridge camera usually comes in bigger and heavier than a compact camera, they’re smaller and lighter than dSLRs; this means you get the advantages of manual control and impressive telephoto prowess but without the bulk. As the lens with all the optical zoom is built into the camera body, there aren’t any expensive, bulky lenses to schlep about, either. You can switch from wide angle to telephoto with the movement of a button, rather than the inconvenience of a lens change and the potential of subjecting your sensor to dust and dirt. If you’re shooting in dirty or dusty conditions, a bridge camera might be preferable to an interchangeable lens model.

Bridge cameras present you with control and magnification in a neat, cheap package. The new Pentax XG-1 is priced at £250 £280*; the Canon, Nikon, Fujifilm, and Olympus equivalents aren’t too far off that mark and have generally similar specs.

Drawbacks to bridge cameras

My 70-200mm zoom lens doesn’t extend nearly as far as the 1,248mm of the Pentax XG-1. But it does have a fixed maximum aperture of ƒ/2.8. So whether I’m zoomed in or out, I can open my aperture as wide as ƒ/2.8. This isn’t usually the case with bridge cameras. At its maximum zoom, the XG-1 has a maximum aperture of ƒ/5.6. (When it is zoomed out, the XG-1 has a maximum aperture of ƒ/2.8.) While this might not be a terrible state of affairs where depth-of-field is concerned because the magnification factor is so high, it can be an issue with respect to letting in sufficient light.

With such an enormous zoom, camera shake is a big issue for bridge cameras and to help mitigate that, you need a fast shutter speed assisted by a large aperture. Most bridge cameras do have image stabilisation to help prevent camera shake making itself obvious in your photos, but that smaller aperture at maximum zoom can be problematic.

The huge zoom can you close to the action with a bridge camera, but they don’t always enjoy lightning fast autofocus and the EVF can be slow to refresh if you’re shooting action scenes. That might mean the difference between shot made and a shot lost, particularly if you’re trying to photograph sports or anything fast-moving.

Most bridge cameras use a 1/2.3″ sensor. Although that gives them more klout than many compact cameras, they aren’t as well endowed as dSLRs, which come with APS-C or full-frame sensors. This can be detrimental to image quality, with noise rearing its ugly head in images.

Bridge cameras versus EVIL cameras

While both bridge and EVIL cameras tend to be smaller than dSLRs, there remain significant differences that set apart the two groups. EVIL cameras come with a range of different sensor sizes, but they need separate lenses. They’re also more expensive than bridge cameras, particularly when you factor in lenses, which doesn’t place them in direct competition.

So bridge cameras are meant for…

People who want the flexibility of manual controls, incredible zoom, and a lightweight camera are the ideal consumers for bridge cameras. They’re excellent for travel, even if they can struggle in low-light and be a little slow to focus. Bridge cameras don’t require an arsenal of lenses, but do get you close to your subjects. And they tend to be afforable, too.


* We received a price correction from Ricoh on Tuesday 22 July

This article was originally posted at Bridge cameras – what are they and who are they for? , on Photocritic.

PLEASE NOTE -- The contents of the Photocritic blog is strictly copyrighted, and this feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. The use of this feed on other websites is a copyright infringement, so you should only ever be able to read this text in a feed reader. Digital Fingerprint: d07805f964d211dfdfe227d609f7448f

Author: "Daniela Bowker" Tags: "Equipment, Feature Articles, Bridge, bri..."
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