Tuesday, 25 January 2011

End of intro

Well that's the end of the introduction. What have a learned? Well not too much technically to be perfectly honest because I pretty much knew all the techniques used. However, I did have to use camera modes I don't often use and I had to think a lot about how I was going to produce the images. 

Reading other student blogs has been a real eye opener because most of them seem to be going through the same doubts I had, i.e. trying to make each picture a world-beater when in fact there's plenty of inspiration to be had surrounding us.

One thing I've definitely learned is to read the whole chapter first and have a better overview of the types of photos I will require for all the exercises and the final assignment. I took each exercise as an individual project and the intro took me far too long to complete. I'm now going to have to get my skates on if I'm going to complete the first assignment in time and I feel like I've wasted a huge amount of time. All part of the learning curve I assume!

Onwards and upwards....

Exercise 5 - panning

As before, I used my photographers assistant but this time, panning the camera along with the movement of the subject. The images were all taken at ISO 200, 24mm Raw format and lightly processed when converting to Jpeg. I chose a simpler background for this set of images and they proved to be much more pleasing to the eye because of this.

1/250  f/2.8

1/160  f/2.8

1/100  f/2.8

1/80  f/3.2

1/50  f/4.5

1/30  f/6.3

1/25  f/6.4

1/10  f/11

1/8  f/11

1/4  f/18

1/3  f/20

1/3  f/20
Learning outcomes
The background just started to blur at around 1/100 shutter speed but a real sense of movement became apparent at around 1/50 which was where the most pleasing effects occurred. I managed to keep the subject relatively clear up to around 1/10 but after this it was difficult to pan with enough accuracy. The effects after this were not unpleasant however, and I really like the sense of action a long shutter speed can convey. After 1/3 though, the images became unusable.

My two favourite images from exercises 4 and 5 are below:
Under normal circumstances, the movement in this image may be too much. However, with the busy background I think the exaggerated movement conveys a sense of drama the other images don't have.

This image shows just the right balance between background blur and subject sharpness. It is my favourite image of both exercises. I do like the effect in the latter images of this exercise, even if the subject is not sharp because it gives a surreal effect taking you away from the rather mundane scene.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Exercise 4 - Shutter speeds

For this exercise we were required to take a series of images of a subject moving across the frame to gauge the effect of shutter speeds. As with the previous exercise, I found it difficult to think of an original scenario so I decided to use the resources I had close to hand. 

On a rather dreary day with pretty poor light, I took a series of images of my photographer's assistant (AKA Mrs O) walking in our back garden. Not terribly original or artistic but I got the effects required. The main issue was the dull light which meant the images became blurred rather quickly and shutter speeds were limited. I shot all the images in Shutter priority, raw format at 34mm and ISO 400 which I felt was a decent compromise between clarity and noise. I then applied some levels adjustments and a small amount of sharpening when processing the images and converting to jpeg.

1/800  f/2.8

1/500  f/2.8

1/320  f/2.8

1/250  f/3.2

1/200 f/4

1/125  f/4.5

1/80  f/5.6

1/50  f/7.1

1/20  f11

1/30  f/14

1/8  f/18

1/6  f/20

1/4  f/22
Learning outcomes
Because of the low light, the images lose sharpness very quickly after 1/800 shutter speed. Even at 1/500 there is a definite loss of sharpness which makes the images look amateurish. At around 1/80, the images stop looking just out of focus and a more pleasing sense of movement becomes apparent. At and after 1/4 shutter speed, the images look ghostlike and become too indistinct to be of interest.

I normally use Aperture Priority mode as I find this suits my needs, but I enjoyed the use of Shutter priority and will use it more in the future.

I really like the later ghostly images. They not only give a sense of movement but add a surreal effect to a rather average scene.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Exercise 3 - focus at different apertures

I was rather limited in my options for this exercise. The bad weather, a lighting kit that has been delayed in the post and a sensor that needed cleaning on my main camera body were conspiring to make this harder than it should have been! I decided to use the pictures below despite the fact I was less than impressed with the quality of them. They do however, convey the effect of closing the aperture with a fixed focal point. Each image was taken at ISO 200, 55mm with aperture and shutter speed given below. The limit of focus has been marked in Photoshop (rather crudely)!
f/2.8 1/4s

f8 1.6s

f22 13s
Learning outcomes
The results clearly show that closing the aperture with a set focal point increases the depth of field of the photo. The larger apertures are often used by photographers to focus on a particular element of the composition. Landscape photographers often use small apertures such as f22 to get as clear a composition as possible.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Exercise 2 - Focus with a set aperture

This exercise required two or three photographs with a wide aperture and differing focal points. I chose to photograph a still life scene with some coloured pencils I had close to hand. The 3 pictures below have focal points at the front, middle and back of the scene. All were taken at ISO 200, f/3 @ 60mm.

Front focus

Middle focus

Back focus

Learning outcomes
Looking at the different scenes, I think the strongest composition is the one with front focus. The eye is immediately drawn to the focussed front pencil, which is reinforced by the strong red colour. This draws you into the scene.

The middle focus scene is not helped by the yellow and green colours of the pencils in focus, but it is the next most interesting photo. The weakest photo for me is the one with the focal point at the back of the scene. The eye has to travel over a lot of unfocussed material before finding something interesting and this makes it a weak composition in my view.

In general, this exercise shows the importance of the choice of focal point. It can make what initially seems a mediocre scene in to a very strong photograph and vice versa. 

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Exercise 1 - focal length and angle of view

"Exercise 1. This should be easy" I thought when I'd finally waded through my Nikon D300 manual. Hmmm.

I thought I was familiar with the concept of focal length - most books and magazines have articles about it and I've been using DSLR's for quite a while, so the 'crop factor' for my D300 should be about 1.5x which should reflect on the results of the exercise. We were required to look at a scene through the view finder and find the point where the objects were approximately the same size as when viewed with our eyes.

I set up the shot of our funky conservatory clock expecting the result to be around 75mm (50mm x 1.5 crop factor).

The actual result of precisely 50mm confused me somewhat. Where was my crop factor?!
I then took the other shots at 18mm and 200mm to compete the exercise, with the results below:
ISO400  f/4.8@1/250  50mm

ISO400  f3.5@1/400  18mm

ISO 400  f5.6@1/160  200mm
I then printed the pictures out and found the following distances where each print appeared approximately the same size as the real objects:

50mm - 50cm
200mm - 190cm
18mm - approx 15cm (but this one was very difficult for me to verify as I'm long sighted and couldn't focus on something that close to my eye). 

Interestingly, the distance in centimetres matches or is very close to the mm value of the photograph.

After some further research on crop factors, I think I've got it clear in my mind why it didn't appear to affect the results of this exercise. The crop factor is due to the size of the camera sensor being smaller than the 35mm equivalent. If you viewed the same scene with the same lens (and focal length) on both a 35mm camera and DSLR with crop factor, the scene would not appeared 'magnified' by the DSLR. You would however, be able to see more of the scene through the 35mm viewfinder, as shown by the diagram below:

Fig 1 - comparison of 35mm and DSLR photo sizes

The large rectangle shows the size a 35mm camera would take with the smaller rectangle showing the DSLR sensor size. 
Fig 2 - 35mm photo size

Fig. 3 - DSLR photo size
The DSLR takes a smaller photo of the same scene and therefore appears to crop the sides of the 35mm equivalent when printed to either a standard size or blown up. The DSLR picture would appear 'magnified' hence the crop factor. 

The crop factor therefore only applies to the finished photograph and NOT the magnification of the view we see through the lens.

Learning outcomes
This interesting exercise not only made me research and properly understand a subject I thought I already knew, it also taught me to stop making assumptions about my knowledge!

Fig.1, Fig.2 and Fig.3 from: 

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Learning notes 1

Right, I was about to start my first exercise and I decided to read some other student blogs to get and idea of what is required. 
A very common theme is the need to plan for the exercises rather than dive straight in. This is a bit of a change for me - anyone who knows me will tell you I'm not great at planning and prefer to dive straight in. 
Having read the exercise notes thoroughly, I realise my initial 'plan' (i.e. pick up my camera and take quick pictures) for doing the work wasn't going to get the required results.

So lesson learned already - I'm going to have to change the way I normally do things if I'm going to be successful. I'm off to plan the exercise again and will post the results later.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Opening blog for TAOP

This is my opening blog and learning log for the OCA Art of Photography course. 

I'll try to reflect on my learning experiences here as well as posting some of my photos associated with the course. I hope I'll be able to make it reasonably informative and sometimes entertaining!

I've been taking photographs since I can remember but have only fairly recently found the time to take it more seriously. I love most forms of photography but I've specialised recently in pets, specifically dogs which I find hugely challenging and rewarding. I'm sure some of my pics of our Springer and Beagle will end up posted on here sooner or later.

I'm looking forward to challenging my preconceptions and expanding my knowledge and who knows, I might even finish with the degree I want!