Category Archives: Blog

Holiday Pet Photography Tips

Words & photos by Olympus Gallery Guru & Rescue Photographer, Amanda Strozeski. (source: getolympus.com)
Click images in this post to enlarge.
 

During the holidays, people love to photograph all of the family and friends they hold dear. For many people, this includes their beloved pets. Taking pet photos can be a struggle – they can move around even more than children, but without the ability to understand when you say, “Just one picture – say cheese!” Here are some tips to make your pet photography easier:
 
STARTING OFF

For many animals, especially those who you may have recently brought into your family, a camera and the sound of a clicking shutter is a new experience – and may be a little scary. (Think of a child getting their first photo taken on Santa’s lap at the mall!) If you can, let them see or smell your camera before taking photos for the first time. Even if you’re taking casual photos at a family gathering, and not specifically dedicating time to capturing memories of your pet, it will make “camera time” a more positive experience.
 


EQUIPMENT

If you’re photographing a dog, they move around – a lot! Be cognizant of your shutter speed. A higher shutter speed will give you less motion blur, but a lower shutter speed will capture movement – like a quickly moving tail.

Focus is very important when photographing dogs and cats, because their eyes and nose are not always going to be in focus at the same time. You should make their eyes your focus point, especially when you are shooting with a prime lens. Capturing the clarity of their eyes will create a portrait you can connect to, while focusing in on their nose can create a more artistic effect.

As with any portrait, prime lenses are a great option for keeping the focus on your subject. I find 25mm to be an ideal focal length for photographing pets, since it allows you to shoot close to your subject. Depending on the size of your shooting space, a longer prime may not allow you to get the type of shot you are looking for.

If you’re hesitant about getting the settings just right for a fidgety subject, or are having someone else take the photo of you and your pet, you can set your camera to iAuto. If you’re more comfortable, try shooting in P or M to have more control over your shot.
 


CATCH LIGHTS

We already know to make sure to focus on their eyes – but another element that will bring pets to life in your photos is to make sure to get catch lights in their eyes. This means the reflection of a light source. When shooting indoors, this can be from an open window, indoor lighting, or a flash.

When shooting outside, catch lights usually come from the sky. Direct sunlight can sometimes cause eyes to be totally in shadow, so try to find filtered light. This can be shooting in a shadow – but my favorite option is to shoot where tree branches will help filter direct light and create shadows, while still letting light in.

If you are using a flash indoors – like the FL-900R or even the FL-LM3 included with select PEN and OM-D cameras – try bouncing it on the wall behind you. This will help the light from being too harsh.

If you’re looking for more detail and pronounced catch lights, you can also find inexpensive studio lighting to help – even when you already have natural light. I tend to shoot indoors with my LED portrait lights and soft boxes.
 


SIT. STAY. GOOD BOY!

There are a few distinct ways to think about photographing your pet. One style is to photograph them without pre-posing them. Show them naturally interacting with their environment – playing with a toy, snuggling up on the couch, or happily taking a treat from a family member.

Another style is a posed photo. Some pets look into the camera perfectly and give you a happy smile – while others aren’t the biggest camera fans. There are many poses to help you get the best shots no matter what kind of pet you have. Posed photos can be more challenging with animals who have not mastered the “sit” or “stay,” who are very active, or who struggle with confidence. One way to overcome this is to try holding a treat or squeaky toy in one hand, or have a helper do this over your shoulder. Much of the time, they’ll look right at the incentive and you’ll get the shot!
 
Some other ideas:

  • If your pet is a ham, use it! Eyes are the window to the soul, and it’s beautiful when they make direct eye contact with the camera.
  • Shooting with another human family member is a great way to get your pet at ease and stop them from wandering about. It’s always a good shot to show them sitting on a lap, or next to a person on a couch or the floor.
  • Try to get on their level for some of your photos. This will give you more freedom in terms of what angles you can capture, and often makes the pets feel more at ease.

Burst shooting will also be your best friend! With OM-D or PEN cameras, you’ll be able to shoot in bursts of at least 8 frames per second. By utilizing burst shooting, you’ll maximize your chance of catching the moment you want. If you have the E-M1 Mark II, you can shoots in bursts of 60 frames per second. You can also utilize its Pro Capture mode, to ensure that you catch the exact frame you want – with up to 14 frames preceding it.
 
PROPS AND COSTUMES

An “ugly sweater,” knit cap, or even a fun holiday themed costume – your pet will either love or hate these fun photo additions. If you do have a pet that’s into props – like my dog is – have fun with it! Let them be in the Ugly Sweater photo – they’re part of the family!

But if your pets don’t gravitate to them naturally, don’t force it. You’ll be able to tell that your pet is uncomfortable, and that’s not the kind of holiday memory you’ll want to keep. Focus on other ways to bring the holidays into your photos. Think about the backdrop instead! There are many non-obtrusive ways to get some themed elements into your shot without alarming the subject. A beautifully decorated tree, roaring fireplace, festive blanket, holiday themed toy or snowy yard will give you the theme you want without making photography a negative experience for your furry friend.
 


POST PRODUCTION

A great photo can be hindered by busy elements, like leashes. You should always have your dog on a leash when shooting outdoors – and in many states it is illegal not to – but there is an easy way to remove dog leashes in Photoshop. If you select sections of the leash with the Lasso Tool, and then hit “Delete,” it will take elements from around the leash and blend the selected area with them. Be sure you’ve selected “Content-Aware” in the Fill > Contents window. This is the default option in Photoshop CC.

If you’re not comfortable with programs like Photoshop or Lightroom, there are many apps you can use on your phone. I recommend FaceTune and Snapseed – or even the editing functionality in social apps like Instagram. You can easily sharpen your photos, change the highlight levels, and increase brightness.

Enjoy this one-on-one time and have fun with your furry friend!
 

MORE IDEAS FOR PET PHOTOS YOU CAN TAKE ANY TIME OF THE YEAR


 
ABOUT AMANDA STROZESKI

Amanda is a professional animal rescue photographer and a member of HeARTs Speak, a non-profit for rescue related artists. She moderates the Olympus User Photo Gallery. Amanda also runs the popular pet Instagram account @itsmisterbarclay.

Landscape Photography Tips

 
Featuring professional photographer, Tony Sweet. (source: nikonusa.com)
 
 
HOW WE THINK OF LANDSCAPES

When you think of landscape photography, chances are the images that come to mind are the awesome vistas—something from Bryce Canyon, Yosemite or Mojave; maybe the Badlands, the Adirondacks, the Everglades. You know, the big stuff.

But landscape photography is also about the components of the big stuff, as well as the textures, colors and details of small slices of outdoor life.

Tony Sweet brought this to our attention when we asked him if he’d be interested in talking with us for a story about landscape photography.

“Sure,” he said. “But what kind of landscape do you want to talk about? A grand landscape, a tight landscape, a macro landscape?” Tony does them all, and we found that by working out definitions and differences, we came up with variety and opportunity.

It was liberating to realize that once you get outdoors, the landscape is anything and everything you want to make it, and once you think of the landscape that way, it becomes a lot more accessible than, say, just a vacation destination. “The landscape can be two miles from your backdoor,” Tony adds, driving home the point.

Which is pretty much how he started out. “It was all ‘nature photography’ then,” he says. “It took place outside, and that was it. So I went to the Cincinnati Nature Center—a few ponds, trees in the water, good reflections, and to me that was the landscape. Then I went out west—different places, bigger things—but the die was cast from that beginning: I photographed outside, where there were no people, and it was beautiful. It could be a local field with a few trees and great light. The photographs depended on what I made of them.”

He learned it was okay to interpret the grand places, but he didn’t have to be limited or constrained by feeling that he had to go to those iconic locations.

 
THE KEY ELEMENT

So if “the landscape” is pretty much everywhere and everything outdoors, what do you look for to make effective images of all that variety?

“Light,” Tony says without hesitation. “See the same scene in great light and lousy light, and it’s like you’re in a different part of the world. If you want to do it right, whatever it is, you have to get the light right.”

For Tony, who conducts a series of nature and landscape workshops, the right light starts with scouting. “You have to know the time and the circumstances that will give you the best light. The issue is not where the action is, it’s when.”

Which means, get out of bed. Early. “I see it all the time at the workshops,” Tony says. “Once the participants get to the location, they’re fine; fired up and ready to make pictures. But I’ve got to get them there plenty early to get the great light. They have to be there at first light, and that can mean getting up at three, four, five in the morning. Some people have a hard time doing that, but that’s when the pictures happen.”

Of course you can shoot the late light of afternoon, but, as Tony says, “It gets darker a lot quicker than it gets brighter, so morning will give you a lot more time to shoot various levels of light than sunset will. At sunset, the light’s great and then it’s gone. In the morning, you have more light slowly showing up to work with, from pre-dawn glow to sunrise. That’s why in the morning long exposures work better. Morning is quality shooting time.”

“See the same scene in great light and lousy light, and it’s like you’re in a different part of the world. If you want to do it right, whatever it is, you have to get the light right. You have to know the time and the circumstances that will give you the best light. The issue is not where the action is, it’s when.”

 
SHOOT WHERE YOU LIVE

Finding a favored landscape near you gives you the benefit of a quicker early-morning journey, and the advantage of being able to get there year-round to catch the changes the seasons bring.

“The same landscape scene in four seasons is a great, under-shot project,” Tony maintains. “There’s a field, with a great tree, two miles from where I live. I can look outside, see that things look pretty good, drive over and wait to see what happens. It’s not an iconic spot; it’s a spot for cool pictures. A photographer told me years ago: ‘Shoot where you live.’ ”

Tony took the advice to heart: 20 percent of the photos in his first book, Fine Art Nature Photography: Advanced Techniques and the Creative Process, were taken within 90 minutes travel from his home.

Near or far, the landscape photos he takes are marked first by “the right light,” then by the classic elements in the scene that make the most sense to him and the composition: textures, colors, juxtapositions, contrast and perhaps most of all, the shapes found in nature—circles, squares, lines—and the things that connect to those shapes.

“I look into the scene to see what the elements are offering me and what I can do with them: s-curves, leading lines, repetitions, patterns, rules of thirds. Some people in my workshops look for trees and go from there. There are no rules; it’s all about what attracts you. And then, why does it attract you? The answer to that will help you frame and compose your picture—or pick out from the larger scene the essence of what it is you want to convey.”

That last point is important: what you see in front of you isn’t enough. Pick and choose, zoom and crop, get a high or low angle. This is where landscape becomes a macro landscape, an abstract landscape, a landscape of elements. “The negative of that,” Tony says, “is returning to the same thing, the same elements all the time. You want to develop a style, not a repetitive approach.”
 
A RANGE OF CHOICES

The Nikon D810 is Tony’s major landscape camera. “Incredible resolution,” he says. “I can creatively crop into the big scene to get all the detail I want.” His lens choices range wide and far. “The most important thing is to realize that not all landscapes have to be taken with wide-angle lenses, because not all landscape images are the big picture.”

Ninety percent of his most recent landscape photography of the American west have been taken with the AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR—”because I was ‘pulling in’ smaller parts of a large landscape, essentially reducing the big picture to one of details by making selections from the big picture. I do this especially in situations of overlooks, where I’m looking down on something. Wide angles? Sure, but mostly when I’ve got a foreground subject of interest, or I’m into shooting tighter scenes.”

The gear, especially a new lens, will make its own suggestions.

“There’s a shot I want to make in the Botany Bay wildlife preserve in Charleston, South Carolina,” Tony says. “There’s a tree in the water that we all shoot—we walk down the beach with a 24-70mm lens, great light of dawn or a little later, and we get a great shot. But I want to stand off about half a mile with the 200-500mm and try to get the huge fireball of the sun coming up behind the tree. I’ll need timing, position, the lens—all that to make it work—but that’s the goal: to do something different with a familiar location, to make choices to alter the landscape in the frame.”
 
7 QUICK LANDSCAPE PHOTO TIPS

  1. The earlier you get there, the more time you’ll have to let the light play with the scene.
  2. Sidelight on a scene serves to separate elements.
  3. Not all landscapes have to be taken with wide-angle lenses.
  4. Pick and choose, zoom and crop, get a high or low angle.
  5. You don’t always need to travel far to make great landscape photos. Look in, or near, your own backyard.
  6. Search out the stalwarts of composition: s-curves, leading lines, repetitions, patterns, Rule of Thirds.
  7. But remember, there are no rules; it’s all about what attracts you.

 
ABOUT TONY SWEET

Tony is a Nikon Legend Behind the Lens.

Tony’s photography is published worldwide in every medium and is represented by Getty Images. His iPhone photography is represented by Aurora Photos. Tony’s images are also used by Nikon, MacPhun, Singh Ray, Alien Skin, Topaz, Lensbaby and others for national ad campaigns.

Tony has authored five books on the art of photography: Fine Art Nature Photography (’02), Fine Art Flower Photography (’05) Fine Art Nature Photography: Water, Ice, Fog (’07), Fine Art Digital Photography (’09) and HDR Photography (2011). He and Master Photo Workshops have co-produced four photography DVDs: Visual Artistry, HDR Made Easy, Visual Literacy and Flower Photography Artistry, as well as an iPhone instructional video series.

The first book in his Fine Art Nature Photography eBook series, “Creative Techniques and the Art of Self Expression,” was just released.

Creating Silhouettes in Photography

 
Words & photos by Olympus Visionary, Mike Boening. (source: getolympus.com)
Click images in this post to enlarge.
 

Creating silhouettes in photography is a great way to explore the drama in your environment, wherever you are. The contrast and lack of detail in a subject creates a mystery for the viewer, which can be beautiful and mysterious. They are easy to make and fun to look for the next time you’re out with your camera.

The key to making an effective and interesting silhouette: you must first focus on the subject; it is much more important than the actual technical skills involved. The simpler a subject the better, when looking to capture great silhouettes. You want a pronounced shape because you will not have much detail on your main subject. Outlines of bodies, hats or recognizable items are always a plus.

If you pick a subject that is blocky or boring you may not have what you are looking for. Usually one person works much better than a crowd because of the overlapping bodies may look very unusual. For those shots that might work with two or more, like a kissing couple, try to shoot it just before the contact is made so the heads or faces don’t blur into one large block in the image as an example.

The key technical parts of making a silhouette are all about backlighting. You want the background to be so bright that it overpowers the foreground and the side or shape of your subject. A great time to achieve this on the streets is when the sun is rising or setting because it’s the lowest in the sky at these points of the day. That will always help light your subject from behind. It’s not easy and you have to think about what you are seeing because it does differ from the type of photography you may normally be performing.

Let’s talk more about subjects to select. Something memorable and simple like I talked about above is the first part of selection. The second is the shape. An image taken straight on may not work. Try to have the subjects off to their sides or in a profile. Remember the shape needs to be distinct. Keeping your subject away from other items in the picture always helps. If you take an image of a person leaning on a building it may just all blend together and not possess the type of shapeful subject you were looking for.

PRODUCTS USED FOR IMAGES IN THIS POST: (click below for more info on each product)

 
ABOUT MIKE BOENING:

Website: http://www.mikeboening.com
Blog: http://www.mirrorlessminutes.com

Basic Tips for Photographing the Moon

WORDS BY: NIKONUSA.COM
Click images to enlarge.
 

The moon, regardless of whether it’s a supermoon or just a plain ’ole full moon makes a great subject to capture because you know it’s going to be visible every month. So, if you don’t get a great shot, just try again.
 
The moon can be photographed using a DSLR camera and zoom or super-telephoto lens and even super-telephoto COOLPIX cameras. One tip for increasing the apparent focal length of your lens on an FX or Full Frame Nikon DSLR is to set the camera into DX Crop mode. This will add the 1.5x crop that using a DX format Nikon DSLR would have done, giving you extra reach.

By the way: if you’re thinking of getting a new Nikon DSLR or lens, let us know you saw this blog post. You’ll receive a free camera sensor cleaning when you make the purchase with us. That’s a $60 value!

 
EXPOSING FOR THE LIGHT OF THE FULL MOON
 
If you’re using any of the PSAM exposure modes, set the camera’s exposure manually or use program or shutter or aperture priority. You may want to underexpose the image to ensure that the detail of the craters on the moon’s surface aren’t blown out. Bracket exposures to find the ideal one for your taste. Using Spot metering will also help you get the correct exposure for the moon, which will be the brightest part of your image. Use a shutter speed of at least 1/15 second or faster since the moon actually moves pretty fast across the sky. Set the focus to infinity and if your choice of ISO allows it, set the aperture to f/11 or f/16.
 
Select COOLPIX cameras such as the Nikon P900 feature a Moon Scene Mode. Select it and the camera will optimize the settings, focusing at infinity, in the center of the frame. You may also want to use a tripod, and if you do, remember to set the VR to OFF in the setup menu. Don’t have a tripod? Brace yourself against a sturdy object or place the camera on a sturdy surface and use the Vari-angle LCD to compose the image.
 
WHAT ABOUT THE FOREGROUND LANDSCAPE
 
Photographing the moon along with the foreground landscape can be tricky because of the wide dynamic range. Exposing for the foreground might cause the moon to be overexposed, and exposing for the moon might cause the foreground to be too dark. In this case the optimum solution may be to create a multiple exposure or composite. If you’re using a wide-angle lens and the moon is a small element, it likely won’t cause the overall image to suffer if the moon is blown out with no visible details.
 
There are a few ways that you can add the moon to another image for a more interesting composition. One of those techniques is by using the Multiple Exposure function that is incorporated into select Nikon cameras. (Check your camera’s User’s Manual to see if your camera has this feature.) Some Nikon DSLRs offer Image Overlay in the camera, which is another way of compositing two images together.
 
Yet another technique is to photograph the moon and the landscape as separate images and combine them together using an image-editing program. Use the same focal length that you shoot the landscape with, when you photograph the moon, for the most realistic look in the final composite. It also makes the actual compositing easier to do.
 
Other ways to get creative: set the Picture Control in the camera to B&W since the moon against the black sky is pretty much a monochromatic image. When doing so, try adjusting the red filter in the monochrome setting, which will give you more of a punchier tonal difference or higher contrast between the blacks and whites.
 
Use some of the fun effects that are built-into the camera for a unique view. Shoot video as you zoom into your shot, or experiment with time lapse of the moon’s movement across the sky.
 
5 HELPFUL TIPS FOR PHOTOGRAPHING THE MOON

  1. Select an aperture of f/11 or f/16.
  2. Use a shutter speed of at least 1/15 second or faster since the moon actually moves pretty fast across the sky.
  3. Set the focus to infinity.
  4. Use Spot metering to help you get the correct exposure for the moon, which will be the brightest part of your image.
  5. Set the camera’s exposure manually and underexpose the image to ensure detail of the craters on the moon’s surface. Want to use the camera set to programmed exposure? Just use the exposure compensation to underexpose the image for a correct exposure. Either way—bracket your exposures.

Taking a Great Sunset Photo

Words and photos by pro photographer & Olympus Visionary, Peter Baumgarten
. (source: getolympus.com)
Click images to enlarge.
 

I can’t resist a great sunrise or sunset. I’m a real sucker for those amazing colors at the bookends of the day. But the reality is that sunset shots are a dime a dozen. So how do you get yours to stand out from the rest of the crowd?

 
1. IT’S NOT ABOUT THE SUNSET

Gorgeous sunset colors are certainly appealing, but they are definitely not enough to maintain your viewer’s interest. Think of the sunset as the backdrop to your photograph. What you place in front of those colors is the important thing.

Good photographs don’t just happen. They are a combination of four things:

  • Planning
  • Composition
  • Camera Settings
  • Post-processing

2. THINK AHEAD

When you are ready to capture that amazing sunset, arrive early to the location you plan on shooting at. I usually try to get there at least an hour before the sun sets. This allows me ample time to:

  • Scout around for the ideal spot
  • Check out any points of interest I may want to include
  • Plan out a set of shots
  • Get my camera and tripod set up properly
  • Clean lenses and filters

 
3. AVOID DISTRACTIONS

One of the things that I love most about being a photographer is the power to control what other people see. As I compose my next shot I decide what to include in the frame and what to leave out. At times this is easier said than done, but if I can’t eliminate a distracting element I won’t take the shot. The worst distraction for me is power lines, but there can be many others – a parked car, people where you don’t want them, branches in the way, and the list goes on. Arriving early can give you the time to adjust your vantage point and hopefully eliminate these unwanted elements.

4. FRAMING YOUR SHOT

Including a natural frame in your image can add depth to the photograph and anchor your main subject. The examples below help illustrate ways of including a frame.

“GET CREATIVE. THE REFLECTION OF THE SUNRISE ON THIS WINDOW ADDS AN INTERESTING PERSPECTIVE AND A VERY DIFFERENT WAY TO FRAME THE SHOT.”

5. STEADY AS SHE GOES

Once the sun goes down it is time to pull out the tripod. You are now entering the territory of slower shutter speeds. My Olympus cameras have excellent image stabilization capabilities and can cope with being hand-held at speeds as slow as 1/2 second. I trust my camera to deliver good results hand held, but the real reason I use the tripod is to force me to slow down and focus on composition. That’s what really matters.

Of course some of the best colors occur 15 – 20 minutes after the sun has set when the sky has noticeably darkened. Now you might be using shutter speeds as slow as 30 seconds or a minute. There is no camera that can be hand-held for that length of time. I also use a shutter release cable or if you have a wireless camera you can trigger your shot using your smart phone. This helps to avoid camera shake when you take the shot and ensures better clarity.

“ONCE THE SUN GOES DOWN IT IS TIME TO PULL OUT THE TRIPOD.”

6. LET’S GET SPECIFIC

This is the equipment that I shoot with and the settings I typically use:

  • Olympus OMD E-M1 or E-M5 Mark II
  • Olympus M.12-40mm PRO lens
  • Aperture Priority Mode
  • RAW and jpeg file format
  • ISO 200 (a low ISO produces a cleaner image with less noise than a higher ISO setting)
  • Aperture f/8 to f/22 depending on how much depth of field I want
  • Shutter Speed – In Aperture Priority the camera chooses the shutter speed. Since I am using a tripod for most shots the actual shutter speed doesn’t matter much unless I need to freeze some action.

 
7. GO AUTO

If the settings I’ve mentioned in the above section make you break into a cold sweat, don’t worry about it. Every camera has a Sunset Scene Mode that will do all the thinking for you. When I purchased my first digital camera I regularly relied on this auto mode and got some great results. As a matter of fact if you are new to landscape photography generally, I urge you to focus on the composition and let the camera worry about the exposure. Just don’t use it as a crutch for too long. Push yourself to learn how to control the exposure.

8. GET IT IN FOCUS

Nothing is more disappointing than spending your evening shooting that amazing sunset, and then, upon uploading you discover that they are all out of focus. Follow these steps to help avoid that disappointment.

  • Focus on your point of interest. Usually it is fairly close to you.
  • Use a fairly small aperture (f/11 to f/18). Aperture helps control your depth of field (how much of your image is in focus).
  • Typically we want our landscape shots to be in focus throughout the image. A smaller aperture can help guarantee that.
  • Be warned however, smaller apertures mean longer shutter speeds, but more importantly can lead to diffraction of the light.
  • Use a tripod.
  • Use a shutter release cable, wireless Smartphone app (like OI.Share) or a 2-second time delay. As you press the shutter release there is a good chance that the camera will move slightly, even if it is solidly attached to a tripod.

 
9. TWEAK IT

I regularly get asked, “Do you Photoshop your work?” The short answer is “Yes.” The longer answer is: I use Adobe Lightroom more than Photoshop for adjusting an image. Typically I will only work with overall exposure by adjusting the ‘Curves’ in order to improve the overall contrast in the image. This helps brighten the colors of the sky.


 

ABOUT PETER BAUMGARTEN

Peter has been a dedicated Olympus shooter for over 30 years, and he has found a way to combine his passion for photography with his love of teaching to develop photography and graphic design courses at the high school level.
Web: http://www.creativeislandphoto.com
Blog:http://www.creativeislandphoto.com/blog Twitter:@creativeisland4
 

9 Tips for Memorable Vacation Photos

 
Words and photos by pro photographer & Olympus Visionary, Anne Day
. (source: getolympus.com)
Click images to enlarge.
 

TIP 1: THINK OF YOUR VACATION AS A STORY YOU WANT TO TELL

In addition to taking fun snapshots of your family, try to establish shots of where you are and what gives you a feeling for the place. I was on a vacation in France and when everyone went inside after a long day at the beach, I took a picture just to remember what the place felt like with nobody there. Nothing remained except the chairs and towels we had left there. I used the PEN E-PL1 with the M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II R at ISO 200 with the pinhole art filter because I like the way it renders color.

TIP 2: DON’T BE AFRAID OF LOW LIGHT

I shot this picture using the PEN E-PL3, ISO 400, 1/8 sec, f/9 – with the on camera flash. Dark night and fire are difficult to photograph but I wanted to illuminate the girls’ faces a bit more than what the fire was allowing for. By using a slow shutter speed, I was also able to capture the boats and water in the background. The show shutter speed also captured the shadows of the flames on each of their faces. Overall, I like the naturalness and spontaneity of this image.

TIP 3: ISO AND SHUTTER SPEED ARE IMPORTANT

Fireworks pictures can be boring but if you shoot at a slow shutter speed you are able to capture some ambient light. An exploding firework in a black sky picture with nothing else in the photograph is not interesting. If you have foreground and some color in the sky, the photo opportunity gets more interesting and using a slow shutter speed is the best way to enhance the picture. In this case, it was so dark that I also needed an ISO of 1600. The slow shutter speed also enabled me to capture the wind blowing the sparks, which gave some movement to the image.

TIP 4: THE BEST PORTRAIT ISN’T ALWAYS A SMILEY ONE

I caught my neighbor on a summer afternoon in a pensive moment behind the screen door. I used the Pinhole filter on the OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens, 1/80 at f/3.2 to let me concentrate on her face as opposed to the background.

TIP 5: SMILING PHOTOS CAN ALSO BE GOOD

I know I just said that a portrait doesn’t always have to include a smile, but sometimes it is what makes the picture. This little boy had just caught a crab and his smile tells the whole story. And somehow, the crab shape and his smile are the same! I shot this with the OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens ISO 200, 1/250 second at f/5.6. I wanted to see the background but didn’t want it to be so sharp as to fight with the main subject.

TIP 6: EXTRAORDINARY PICTURES CAN BE MADE IN ORDINARY SITUATIONS

This scene is a place I have driven by dozens of times and honestly, it’s rarely interesting. But when a storm was blowing and the light was crazy, I illuminated just that part of the hill where the barn is. I shot this from my car. Take advantage of the amazing light you can get in a storm. This was shot with my OM-D EM-1, M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO, ISO 400, 1/80 sec., f/6.3.

TIP 7: CHOOSE THE RIGHT CAMERA

This picture was shot with the TOUGH TG-3, which is shockproof and waterproof. I was in the water with this girl and she came up from a dive. Because I had the TOUGH I was able to capture the image without any fear of getting the camera wet. I usually always have it with me there because there is no other way to capture the excitement and movement of being underwater.

TIP 8: TRY TO FIND THE MOON IN GOOD LIGHT

I tend to get bored by sunsets but every once in a while, I get a shot of the moon that I love. This was last summer’s super moon. If you expose for the moon your foreground will go dark. If you expose for the landscape then the moon will turn into a white hole. The OM-D E-M1 has a double exposure mode so you can take two shots and blend them together. Or, you can do what I did and take two separate images and blend them together later in your processing software. Either way, your moonscape is much nicer if both the landscape and the moon are properly exposed.

TIP 9: ALWAYS HAVE YOUR CAMERA WITH YOU

The best camera is the one in your hand when something amazing is happening. I captured this picture of my son on vacation at a lake as the light was perfect. Without a camera though, I would not have been able to capture the moment.

ABOUT ANNE DAY

Website: http://www.annedayphotography.com

Olympus Visionary Anne Day is a veteran photojournalist, portrait, wedding and architecture photographer and writer based in New York City and Connecticut, but she will tell you her favorite subjects are her family members. Her well-respected work has appeared in TIME, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fortune, Vogue and other publications.


 

10 Tips for Photographing Sunrises and Sunsets

Words and photos by David FitzSimmons, a Sigma Pro photographer and prize-winning author.

Click on each image to enlarge and for useful location and shot information.

No time of day is as spectacular than the ends of the day, when brilliant colors abound. At sunrise and sunset, the rays of the sun get bent by the atmosphere, creating scenes with all the colors of the spectrum. Planning, perceiving the changing colors, and composing well will allow you to produce stunning images at the ends of the day. To help prepare you for these wonderful times, below are ten tips for shooting sunrises and sunsets like a pro:

1. Watch the weather. There’s an old mariner saying, “Red in the morning, sailors take warning. Red at night, sailor’s delight.” This phrase works because it refers to the general movement of weather systems from west to east. If the sky is red in the morning, a front is moving in from the west toward the east. That is, the last rays of the sun’s spectrum, bent by the atmosphere as the sun rises, begin hitting the clouds on the edge of a weather system moving in. Clear sky is giving way to clouds, and the sun still in the clear sky, begins lighting up the advancing clouds. That’s good news for sunrise photographers but bad news for boaters.

For “Red at night, sailor’s delight,” skies become colored at night if a storm is clearing from the west toward the east, allowing the setting sun to illuminate the underside of the back edge clouds with the last rays of the spectrum. This creates beautiful colors with the sky clearing. This time it’s good news for both photographers and boaters.
 
2. Start wide, zoom in, and then go wide again. One of the first choices that a photographer has to make when photographing a sunrise or sunset is what lens to grab. Do you want to shoot a wide angle shot, or are you planning on zooming in? From my experience, for both sunrises and sunsets, you should start with a wide angle lens, then zoom in when the sun nears the horizon, and then zoom back out again.

This wide-telephoto-wide sequence works for sunrises and sunsets. For sunrises, you start by capturing the beautiful colors in the pre-sunrise sky. A wide angle, such as a 12-24mm or 24-35mm are great at this time, capturing colors spread throughout the sky. When the sun starts to peak above the horizon – and especially over water – switching to a telephoto lens, such as a 70-200mm or 150-600mm, works well. Then you can capture our star’s appearance against hill, mountains, water, skylines, or other landscape objects. When the sun starts to rise above the horizon, go wide again, capturing the golden colors in the wider landscape and some of the colors that abound in the sky.

During sunset, the formula works, as well. Start wide to capture the golden colors of the sun on the landscape. Zoom in for the sun creeping below the horizon. And then go wide as the sun disappears and the sky lights up the oranges, pinks, and purples.

3. Expose for the sky next to the sun. Once have predicted a great sunrise or sunset, arrived at your location, and grabbed your wide angle lens, the next question is how to meter the wide range of tones. I have found that the best technique is to take a spot meter reading from just next to the sun. If you have a telephoto lens on, of course, don’t look into the sun!

Using this technique, the sun itself will burn out, but you will have preserved details in the sky and clouds right next to the bright orb. Of course, dark subjects on the ground will likely turn into silhouettes, but you are better to have exposed for the highlights than for the dark areas.

4. Use silhouettes to add interest. Speaking of silhouettes, use interesting background, foreground, and middle ground subjects as silhouettes. That means seeing them as black shapes rather than as discernable subjects. Our amazing human eye allows us to see lots of details at the ends of the day, but generally most of what is not in the sky will go black. So, look for interesting shapes to add to your shot, lines that point toward the sun, trees that have geometric shapes, or buildings lined up in pleasing symmetry. You may be able to bring some details out in post-processing, but most of the time this results in extreme noise.

5. Look for interesting subjects lit by the sun. When the sun is five or ten degrees above the horizon, turn your camera the other direction. There are often subjects behind you that look extraordinary in the warm light just before the sunset or just after sunrise. Look for wildlife, flowers, buildings, and even people, all of which can look incredible with the early – or late-day sun.

6. Process in HDR/Exposure Fusion. HDR software can help bring details out of your silhouetted subjects. It can also make your skies pop. By either using tone mapping or exposure fusion, you can reduce the contrast in the sky to eliminate hot spots. My method is to shoot in RAW and then convert the file plus two or three stops, in the middle, and down two or three stops. I then combine three or five 16-bit TIFFs in Photomatix using the exposure fusion option.

If you have the scene where not much is moving, you can shoot a series of images many stops apart, watching the blinkies to make sure that the sun is not burned out and the increasing exposure for five or ten stops. Your enfused or tone mapped image will contain brightness information more similar to how you experience the scene.

7. Don’t stop shooting! More people photograph sunsets than sunrises, and many of these commit the cardinal sin of sunset photography: leaving early. Never stop shooting when the sun disappears. Often the greatest colors of sunset occur long after the sun disappears. If you stick around for twenty or thirty minutes after sunset, oranges will turn to pinks, and pinks will turn to purples.

Those purples are the marker for the edge of day. What you are actually seeing is the last red of the sun mixing with the blue of the sky. That same purple can decorate the tops of white-capped mountains and produce stunning pics showcasing alpenglow.
 
8. Bring a tripod. Of course, many of the best shots taken at sunset require a tripod. The sky gets dark, and the land around it gets even darker. Pre-sunrise and post sunset images may be many seconds long, sometimes into the minutes if you are shooting early or late enough. A tripod is a must.

In addition, tripods help you align the best possible shot. A tweak of the height, a movement to the left or right, or a slight tilt up or down can make a good shot great. What ever you do, pick out a good tripod and keep it for life. Under the dark ends of the day, you’ll appreciate an easy-to-use and stable set of legs even more.

9. Use a remote trigger. Okay, so you have your tripod. Now use mirror lock-up or live view, and trip the shutter with a remote. Having the mirror up during shooting eliminates the camera shake that occurs with SLR cameras, producing steadier shots. Plus, you won’t be shaking the camera as you press the button.
 
10. Practice and critique. After you get back to your computer, sort through your images, critiquing your shoot. Look at exposure, focal lengths, perspective, and composition. Are there burned out areas? Are all your shots from eye level? Did you rotate the camera into the portrait position enough..or at all?! Does your sunrise or sunset shoot include images from throughout the hour-long event? Try to imagine your images on a gallery wall. Do you have variety? Did you cover all aspects of the sunset?

So get up early and stay up late. Study weather patterns. And then start shooting and don’t leave too early. Soon your walls will be covered with prize-winners!
 

David FitzSimmons is a Sigma Pro photographer and prize-winning author. His Curious Critters children’s picture books have won 12 national book awards nd sold 200,000 copies. David travels across North America teaching photographers how to improve their craft and working with school children, helping them connect to nature through photography. You can see more of David’s work at www.fitzsimmonsphotography.com.

7 Travel Photography Tips from a Pro

Words and photos by Jay Dickman
. (source: getolympus.com)

The camera can reinforce and reinvent the reasons we travel. By learning to “see photographically,” I believe we are able to more thoroughly enjoy the world around us. By seeing photographically, the viewer is processing the scene, determining what is drawing their interest: palette, composition, moment or a combination of all three.

As a professional in this business for 45+ years, I thought I’d share a few ideas that may make your travel experience a bit easier and fruitful.

1. TRAVEL LIGHT

Right out the gate, I’ll say that one of the first rules of travel photography is “travel light.” Minimize the amount of gear you are carrying, not only will a huge bag and large cameras draw a lot of attention, but it may interfere with that connection you hope to make with your potential subject.

The majority of my work is travel photography; last year I spent more time out of country than in. I primarily shoot with the E-M1, and M.7-14mm f2.8, M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO and M.40-150mm f2.8 PRO lenses – all very weather-resistant, since weather can provide great shooting conditions if you are ready!

I always work with two cameras, using a BlackRapid “Duo” strap system, that distributes the weight evenly on my shoulders. By using this two-camera setup, I find that I’m actually minimizing what I’m carrying as I have ready two lenses to cover a range from wide to telephoto. This lets me concentrate on the subject, not the extra gear in my bag. What I love about the Olympus, it gets “out of the way” in the shooting process, becoming an extension of my eye.

Another reason I love my Olympus OM-Ds: the camera is small and unobtrusive. This is really important for that travel & location photographer, as I want to be as “invisible” as possible when shooting. Plus, being so small, I can carry my OM-D’s all day without breaking my back. What’s the best camera to have? The one that’s in your hands when needed.

If wandering with one camera, the E-M10 Mark II with the 12-40 Pro lens is an unbeatable combo. Very inconspicuous, and with a very workable zoom range, in addition to being quite fast, this package allows you to work so many situations involving street photography.

2. PREPARE IN ADVANCE

Make sure that you have all of the basics cove red: batteries charged, memory card ready to go, formatted and the previous days’ shoot downloaded.

As a travel photographer, it’s important to have an understanding of the place in which I’m looking for images. When shooting a National Geographic story, about 80% of my assignment is spent with research, so when I’m finally in the field I’ll have a good sense of what’s going on, what is polite or rude, and foundation of the culture. I don’t want to make avoidable errors that can cause problems, and the internet provides an amazing amount of information for a photographer.

3. BE THE EARLY BIRD

When photographing in small villages or towns, and wanting to photograph in the almost always rich area of plazas and town centers, get there early. Best to be part of the landscape when the place starts “waking up.” Walking in later as an outsider (and loaded with gear) may make you the center of attention, which is often the opposite of what you want to be.
 
4. MAKING EYE CONTACT

Often when photographing on the street, and you see a possible situation start to take form, frame the scene and let the subject walk into your viewfinder. If a great situation is happening, I usually shoot first then decide if I want to take it to the next level and approach my subject. Making eye contact is one of the first things I do here. You’ll know quickly if your attention is not welcome. I find that the eye contact is critical, as I can usually further the possibility of extending the shooting situation. You’ll learn, very quickly, when someone doesn’t want to be approached. Learn when to cut your losses and back away. I find that a genuine interest in the subject can go a long-ways, no matter who this may be. I’ve approached the beggars on the streets of third-world countries, as well as the very well to do in beautiful locations, and by dealing with that potential photo subject with dignity, you can really open the possibilities.

5. SHARE YOUR IMAGES

This simple, but often ignored process, can help create a bond between you and the subject. Someone who initially may be a bit unsure of your intent, may be coerced into giving you more time when seeing on the camera monitor what you are creating. And, try to obtain an address or email and send them copies of the images you’ve created of them.
 
6. ALWAYS BE READY
When shooting on the street or in public areas, have all your camera settings in place, nothing worse than that great moment presented to you when your gear isn’t ready. My thinking has always been that when the camera is slung on my body, a switch goes on in my head: I’m thinking and seeing photographically. In these situations, I’ll have the sleep mode set to 3 or 5 minutes, and if things are percolating, I’ll keep touching the shutter button to make sure the camera is awake and ready to shoot in an instant. I’ll also make sure I’m in the proper shooting mode, manual, shutter, program or aperture priority..this is up to you, and that my exposure is in a realistic range for the type of image I’m hoping to capture. On the streets, I’ll often use Shutter Priority, as I am concerned with motion and moment. Everyone has their favorites, and different situations will demand the appropriate mode.

7. KNOW WHEN TO SHOOT & WHEN TO WALK AWAY

Very importantly, know when to back out or leave a scene or situation. Realistically, not every area in which you might like to photograph will be the safest place to take you and your valuable camera. And, learning to have your “radar” up in terms of safety is paramount. Also, not every situation that may be in front of the camera will be appropriate to photograph. For example, if I see kids whom I may want to photograph, the first thing I do is look for parents or someone obviously in charge. Be very careful photographing kids without permission, you could end up in trouble, with the parents or with the law. Learn the local mores and traditions, so you’ll know not to make a simple mistake that could be construed as improper or insulting.

My Olympus camera has given me the reason to approach many, many people in many different countries. This is common in my work, to see someone who looks interesting or is doing something interesting, and ask permission to photograph them. Don’t be disheartened if you get turned down…just move on, keep an eye out for that next interesting character, and try again. You will have success eventually. And, the friendships I’ve developed over the years strictly due to the camera number in the dozens. Isn’t this why we travel, to get under that “veneer” of tourism and be able to touch on something real? The camera can be your passport, your entrée, into this world.

ABOUT JAY DICKMAN
Web: jaydickman.net | Blog: firstlightworkshop.com/wheres-jay/

As a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist and National Geographic photographer, Jay Dickman is one of the most traveled, experienced and celebrated photographers in the program.

Photographing Waterfalls and Waterways

Words by Jenn Gidman; Images by David Akoubian
. (source: tamron-usa.com)



For more than three decades, David Akoubian has headed out into the mountains, forests, and deserts to capture his breathtaking nature photography, both in the American Southeast (his home is in Georgia) and across the US via his various workshops and seminars. One of David’s favorite subjects: the streams, rivers, and waterfalls that permeate the landscapes in front of his camera. David used the Tamron SP 24-70 f/2.8 VC lens for this particular series of photos, taken throughout the Peach State, as well as in Kentucky and Tennessee. Read on for his tips on creating mood and drawing viewers into your images through composition.

 


SEEK OUT OPTIMAL WATER FLOW

Right after a real heavy rain, there tends to be too much water, so I don’t usually go out to shoot the day after a big storm. A normal flow pattern in a stream or waterfall is typically what I’m looking for.



The way I prejudge the flow: When I’m going through the previsualization process, I find that if I squint, it almost shows me what the water is going to look like at a 1-second exposure. The reason for this is that the human eye sees at roughly 1/60th of a second, so when you squint, you allow much less light in than you would with your eyes fully open―you basically simulate a 1-second exposure. If I’m squinting and I want all of the lines to connect a bit better, I’ll consider doing a 2-second exposure―instead of shooting at F/11 or F/16, I may go to F/22 to double the exposure. I have to sometimes explain to people that my glasses are just fine when they see me go into squint mode.

 


DECIDE WHAT MOOD YOU’D LIKE TO SHOW

There are really two main ways that people photograph water. When you stop the movement of the water, it tends to show strength. For example, when I photograph the huge waterfalls out West, I’ll sometimes use a faster shutter speed because it stops the motion and shows the power of the massive water coming through.



However, when you slow your shutter speeds down, you create a more relaxing feel, and that’s the mood I tend to like, especially with smaller streams with the moss-covered rocks and other elements around them. I like my images to have a soothing effect on the viewer. To achieve this mood, I prefer to shoot on overcast days, even with fog or just after some rain. I use a tripod to achieve my desired shutter speeds of 1 second or slower. 






DON’T FORGET TO SPOT-METER

The idea of photographing on an overcast day or even in the rain is because it keeps contrast low, allowing you to capture more detail in the water. When you slow water down, the air bubbles are what cause that white, milky effect you often see. You can’t really worry about controlling that because you’ll lose that detail in the shadows. What I’ll do, then, is find something like green moss on a rock or even a rock itself, spot-meter and expose for that, and then let the water do whatever it’s going to do.



USE A CIRCULAR POLARIZER
This reduces the glare on rocks and leaves, which there’s often plenty of around water. On days when it’s overcast, you may not realize that even without direct light, you’re getting a lot of reflection off the foliage and the rocks themselves. The added benefit of the reduced glare is better saturation of the foliage and slower shutter speeds. The clouds may take away much of the contrast, but the polarizer helps put a bit of it back in and separate those rocks really well from the water, as well as separate the foliage. Your greens will suddenly become super-rich.



Look for natural curves in the landscape and elements that can add depth.
The two types of compositions you can use for waterfalls and waterways are symmetrical―using a bull’s-eye format to balance the picture―and asymmetrical, which means purposely creating some type of tension in the image by placing emphasis on not necessarily your subject, but something in the foreground that catches your attention. You then use that manufactured tension, along with an S-curve, say, to lead up to the big waterfall or the subject you want the viewer to end up on.



It’s typically a wide-angle lens like the Tamron 15-30 or the 24-70 (which is the one I use most of the time) that allows me to place something prominent in the foreground. A rock, for instance, may only be 2 feet by 2 feet, or even smaller, but by using a wide-angle lens and placing it in the foreground, that rock looks much larger and grabs the viewer’s attention. Then you just find a curve or other visual draw to work the viewer up the frame to the waterfall or other main subject.

 


MIX THINGS UP WITH DOWNSTREAM SHOTS

When I’m shooting downstream and adjusting my polarizer, I’ll often get some color from the sky, or especially from the trees up high that can reflect down into the water. If I were to polarize that out, you wouldn’t see it. So, many times when I take these downstream shots, I may use only half-polarization to pull those rich greens and yellows and everything else into the water. It offers a totally different feel and mood, because you don’t get that white, continuous pattern through the scene that you do when you photograph upstream.

 


ELIMINATE DISTRACTING ELEMENTS IN-CAMERA IF POSSIBLE

Photographer John Shaw always recommended taking a step away from the viewfinder and articulating what it is you want to take a picture of. Then, when you look back through your viewfinder, if you see distractions to that visual you just described, you can change your position or angle of view to get rid of them.



Digital cameras make this task easier. I’ll compose a shot through the viewfinder and set everything up, define verbally what I’m looking at, then check out the scene in Live View. Live View typically shows you exactly what the sensor is seeing; the viewfinder may be showing only 90 percent of what the image is, meaning maybe I didn’t see that tire on the side that’s marring the image. I’ll zoom in using Live View, check my focus and other settings, then take the picture. I do this all in-camera to save time in post-processing later.

 

To see more of David Akoubian’s work, go to www.bearwoodsphotography.com.
 

Perspective – A small thing that makes a BIG difference

Words and images by Olympus Trailblazer Peter Baumgarten. (source: getolympus.com)

It sounds cliché to say, “it’s all a matter of perspective”, but in photography a slight change in your camera’s position can make a big difference to the overall look of your final image. Let me take you on a recent expedition to a local field to show you what I mean.

Each spring, the hay fields in my area are inundated with thousands of daisies. It’s a wonderful sight to see and always draws me in to try and capture a few images. This past spring was no different. One particularly pleasant evening I hopped in my car and drove down a local side road until I reached one field that was still nicely lit by the rapidly setting sun.

I grabbed my Olympus OMD E-M1 and, since I wanted to capture the expanse of this floral landscape, I attached my M.Zuiko 7-14mm PRO lens. I jumped the fence (yes, I am guilty of trespassing on occasion) and walked about 30 feet into the field. The daisies were everywhere, so finding the perfect spot was easy.

I had already pictured the image in my head – one large, photogenic daisy, set against thousands, and nicely lit by the orange glow of the sun. I checked my camera settings, composed a shot and… Click!

Now, I’d be lying if I said that this was the very first shot that I’d taken that evening, but this was pretty close to what I had in mind. I was quite happy with the overall composition – good light, rule of thirds, nicely balanced. Time to pack it up and move on? Nope!

Anyone who has been in the photography game for awhile has certainly heard this sage advice – “always walk around your subject and look for new angles”, or “the first place you put your tripod is the worst place to put your tripod”. Well, I wasn’t using a tripod and I still wanted my subjects backlit by the sun. That left two possible options – shoot high or shoot low. I chose to shoot low. Time to recompose and… Click!

For this shot, I lowered my camera about 12 inches and got a completely different take on the scene. That’s the power of changing your perspective. I’ll let you decide which image is better. That’s not really important here. By taking a few moments to think about the scene in front of me, and by placing my camera where my eyes never go (I’m 6′ 2″ and these daisies were at knee height), I created, what I think of as, a more interesting image.
 
THE FORMULA

Well, there really isn’t one, except perhaps – move and shoot (or is that, shoot and move). Each scene is different, but your viewer will be far more engaged if you offer an unusual view of your subject. Some suggestions include;

  • shoot higher than eye level
  • shoot lower than eye level
  • shoot straight up or straight down
  • move in close or back away
  • frame your subject – use a door, window, arch, tree branch (this is a whole blog post on its own)
  • switch lenses or focal lengths (again another blog post)

ANOTHER EXAMPLE

I have found that perspective and patience go hand-in-hand. When I arrive at a location I often have to take a deep breath and force myself to slow down. I may have a shot in mind and be quite focused on achieving it. Once I’ve got it, I force myself to look around and see if there are other (and perhaps better) vantage points from which to capture the scene.

Here is an example. Abandoned farm houses are a favourite subject of mine. The one pictured below is about 30 minutes from my home. Shortly after the snow melted this year I decided to spend some time photographing it. Again, I had an initial image in mind.

Overall I like this shot (below). It has some nice foreground, mid-ground, and background elements, but I thought – time to do more trespassing! I spent about 20 minutes wandering around photographing this old farm house.

Again, the “best” shot is a matter of perspective (pun intended). Each one has compositional elements going for it, but for me, I favour Figure 4. My wife, who happened to walk into my office as I was uploading these images, likes the final one best. Of course, I wouldn’t have captured any of the others had I not taken the time to view this building from a variety of angles.

A FEW MORE EXAMPLES

Regardless of the subject, experiment with different angles and vantage points.

FINAL WORD

Whether you move your camera a few inches (as with the daisy shots) or many meters, experiment with a variety of angles. This will provide you with a range of images to choose from and improve your photographic vision.
 
ABOUT PETER BAUMGARTEN

Peter has been a dedicated Olympus shooter for over 30 years, and he has found a way to combine his passion for photography with his love of teaching to develop photography and graphic design courses at the high school level.

Web: http://www.creativeislandphoto.com
Blog: http://www.creativeislandphoto.com/blog
Twitter: @creativeisland4