To all ye who want to paint with light ...

I should have started this blog many moons ago as I started experiencing the joys of rediscovering the art of photography. But as the saying goes - it's better late, than never!
So, here I am, in the hopes of recording what I learn as I progress from ignorance to enlightenment; about what my eyes can see that my camera can capture; and, what my mind imagines and my camera paints with its capabilities.

Please feel free to add any comments and share your wisdom (tips or tricks) that you have picked up along the way.

And do check out my How-To and Birding pages as well.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Day 231 - Relearning the Alphabet: The Letter "B"

The Letter "B" - "B" for Beans, Blend, Break, Buh-Bye

I accidentally deleted my images yesterday, after labouring over them!  And today's effort was a little bit sloppy as I wanted to get this over and done with as fast as possible.  I have to finish some last minute packing before my flight tomorrow afternoon.

I will be taking a break from posting and so the farewell - I am gone for the next week or so, spending time with friends in San Francisco.

Last but not least - Merry Christmas, everyone and wish you all a great start to the new year!  Thank you for constantly supporting me through the past months as I learned how to do this and that, and for all the great comments and feedback you kept sending my way.  I wish you all a fabulous holiday season and see you again in the new year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day 230 - Relearning the Alphabet: The Letter "R"

"R" for Ring

I finally went and got myself a small roll of seamless white paper and tried to do a product shot with that as the background.

I definitely found it easier to set up the subject without having to go through multiple iterations of having to produce a better background!  What a change!

However, as far as lighting the subject was concerned, I was unable to get the sparkle in the stones from the arrangement I used.  I bounced my external flash off the ceiling, and maybe that didn't really help matters.  What I will need to try for the next time is to flash the background so the background turns out white and maybe I won't have the blown highlights in the stones.

90 mm, f/10.0, 0.6s, ISO 400, Manual Mode, CWB

90 mm, f/3.5, 1/8 s, ISO 400, Manual Mode, CWB

Day 229 - Relearning the Alphabet: The Letter "L"

"L" for Lamb Curry

I made lamb curry after ages - because I had my cousin over to dinner, and I need to get some shots for my cooking class as well.  Nothing fancy, because I'm going to be really, really busy this week with different things before my trip.

Incidentally, the curry had turned out delicious, as confirmed by my cousin! :)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Day 228 - Relearning the Alphabet: The Letter "G"

"G" for Glowing

I was going to do "H", but I know that, that's an idea I have already got on my to-do list.  That's saved for a day when I totally run out of ideas.  Thus, today was the day of the "G".

The image was shot with the 90 mm lens, f/4.0, 1.3s, ISO 100, AWB, Manual Mode.  Click on the picture to enlarge the image - you will see the glow in the bulbs.

Day 227 - Relearning the Alphabet: The Letter "P"

"P" for Portrait of a Pigeon

This has to be another quick post as I need to hit the hay.

250 mm, f/5.6, 1/80s, ISO 200, Manual Mode

Friday, December 17, 2010

Day 226 - Relearning the Alphabet: The Letter "C"

"C" for Crumpled

I don't have an armchair, so I couldn't get the "C" out of its curve.

Susmita, if you're reading this, please accept my thanks for the great ideas for the series!  I will definitely try the other subjects that you've suggested.

I wanted to make up for the lazy shots I took yesterday - admittedly, I was exhausted and I'd had a really long day.  If I hadn't missed posting the day before, I would have refrained from posting yesterday.  But anyway, I will take comfort in the fact that I have made the effort of coming up with something today.

And the renewed energy sprung from the fact today was my last working day before the holidays!  Yay!  I will have two weeks off, although those two weeks are chock-a-block with activities!  The first week will be filled with chores, and the second week will be spent with a very dear friend in San Francisco.

@Swati:  I can't thank you enough for inviting us to spend time with you guys!  I can't wait to see you! :)

The images were shot with my 90 mm macro lens, most of them with the lights turned off and subject illuminated with my Lights App on the iPod.  The one with the white background was shot under fluorescent light.  They're all kinda similar shots, but I like the slight colour variations in each.  I would love to know which one you think turned out better than the rest.

f/7.1, EV - 2/3 stops, 30s, ISO 200, AWB, Aperture Priority

f/5.6, EV - 2/3 stops, 30s, ISO 200, AWB, Aperture Priority

f/6.3, EV - 1/3 stops, 0.3s, ISO 200, CWB, Aperture Priority
I changed the base of the subject to make it sit on a white cardboard, instead of having it sit on glass. 

f/6.3, EV - 1/3 stops, 30s, ISO 200, AWB, Aperture Priority
The background didn't turn out the way I had wanted it to - I will definitely need a white seamless background for this one.  However, I loved the spotlight effect in this image.  I changed the base of the subject to make it sit on a white cardboard, instead of having it sit on glass. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day 225 - Relearning the Alphabet - The Letter "S"

"S" for Snowman

Quick post

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day 224 - Relearning the Alphabet - The Letter "I"

I for Icicle

Pretty obvious subject during the winter, huh!

Tiny icicles hanging down from the railings of my balcony.  Took these images with my 90 mm lens, fill-flash, f/9, 1/160s as I was hand holding the camera, high ISO (we're talking 800 here), WB set to Cloudy.

Day 223 - Relearning the Alphabet: The Letter "J"

Starts with J - J for Jujubes

Please don't blame me, if in the next few days you forget your alphabet and relearn it slightly .. ahem.. differently (read backwards).

Well, as I'm running out of inspiration again, and the weather isn't helping, I thought I'd start something I have been wanting to do for a while, but had put on the back burner.  So, while I still had a small supply of jujubes, I decided to start my alphabet with J.

These images were made with the 90mm lens, with the lights off, external flash fired at 1/8 power level, light bounced off the ceiling.  The ISO was jacked up to 1600.
90 mm, f/20.0, 1/8s, WB set to Flash 

90 mm, f/14.0, 1/8s, WB set to Flash 

90 mm, f/9.0, 1/8s, WB set to Flash 

The colour cast is a little disappointing in the last one, and I'm not quite sure why that happened.  I kept the post-processing to a minimum - removing colour cast, increasing exposure, contrast and a bit of sharpening.

Please help me out with ideas for the other letters of the alphabet!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Day 222 - Frozen

We had buckets of snow this morning and I was itching to go out.  However, consideration for my camera kept me indoors while the snow came gliding down in huge flakes - like bits of fluffy cotton.

I looked out of the window and saw some kids with their siblings and parents building snowmen and snow castles.  I don't know what I was thinking when I asked my son if he wanted to go out and do that with his friends.  The answer was of course an expected "NO! Why would I want to do that?!  I play in the snow on schooldays!"  So much for trying to get him to go out.

So, once it stopped snowing, I picked up my gear and left to go to the riverside, hoping to find some birds.  I carried bird seeds in my pocket, and was worried that the poor creatures were going to be hungry since they couldn't really go out foraging in this miserable weather.  As expected, however, I hardly saw any birds, except a few chickadees, and another warbler-like bird that I saw vaguely, but couldn't get a proper shot of.  So, I scattered some seeds around the place and moved on.  Maybe they found them and fed their hungry selves?

I was out for an hour and a half, until the wind started to pick up and it started to drizzle.  There was freezing rain in the forecast, and I didn't want to be out in that, and neither wanted to damage my camera.  So, I just stashed everything into my bag and beat a quick retreat.  

Here are some shots from the afternoon:

208 mm, f/7.1, 1/50s, ISO 800, Manual Mode, AWB

Didn't really get a good shot of the chickadee which was sitting high up on this tree, quite a distance away

250 mm, f/8.0, 1/60s, ISO 1600, Manual Mode, AWB, Flash fired at -1 stop to add fill light and freeze the swaying branch as there was a lot of wind

208 mm, f/8.0, 1/60s, ISO 1600, Manual Mode, AWB

90 mm, f/2.8, EV +1, 1/100, ISO 400, AWB, Shutter Priority, Flash fired at -1 stop to freeze the motion as there was a lot of wind

146 mm, f/5.6, 1/30s, Manual Mode, ISO 100, Flash fired at -1 stop

Day 221 - Busy Busy

I should say busy and tired.  I spent quite a bit of time doing stuff outdoors, and by the time I returned, I was so bushed, I decided to snooze for a bit.  Then woke up even more tired.

I had to get all the editing done for the shots I took at the office party from two days ago, so I spent a chunk of time on that.  Now that it's all done, I am surprised that I was able to fix some of them, but most of them are still very, very disappointing.  It's really time for a new flash!  Maybe I should go out and buy myself a lottery ticket!

I am posting this shot taken last summer.  I just stumbled upon it, as it was waiting to be processed.  I had stored it in a folder that I was planning to get to at some point in time, so I thought that time was today!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Day 220 - Cinnamon Hearts and Candlelight

Almost missed doing the shot of the day.  I started off pretty uninspired, but as I went through the first ten sloppy shots, I got the idea of using a tea light.  The results weren't bad!

Which one do you like?

 90 mm, f/10.0, 1/5s, ISO 800, Aperture Priority, AWB 

90 mm, f/8.0, 1/5s, ISO 200, Aperture Priority, AWB

As above - red background added.  The red background was the lid from my pyrex tupperware. :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Day 219 - Party time

We had a team celebration at work today.  There was great food and beer and wine to celebrate our success with a project we had been working on.

I brought my camera to the office, but when I had looked at the lighting situation yesterday, I knew I would have a huge challenge with the overhead recessed lighting, the very low ceiling that wasn't even white and then a couple of fluorescent lights near the sink; and then my flash, because I would definitely need to use my flash!  Well, the spelling of disaster became clearer as I kept getting shot after shot of crazy orange and green lights, despite the CWB.  

I hadn't bothered with my YN460 flash as I knew it wasn't powerful enough to light the entire venue, and I couldn't put it on camera because I had been warned not to.   I would have done it still, but the consideration that I wouldn't want to fry my camera's circuit just before going on a trip, stopped me cold.

I tried playing with a little bit later, once I more or less got all the shots I could possibly get, but as I have maintained, I wasn't able to squeeze out enough light (this is a perpetual problem) by bouncing it off the ceiling.  This was the first time I felt frustrated enough to simply want to pitch it into the trash can!  But anyway, I need to have a little bit more patience so I can use it for my experiments at home, at least.

Unfortunately, I wouldn't like to post any of the photos here of the people at the party, so I decided to post a shot of a plate of food someone left lying around.

55 mm, f/8, 1/30s, ISO 400

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day 218 - Late night

This time the shot was taken of the park in the back through my living room window - late at night.. the only light coming from the lamp burning in the doorway of the apartment building up front.

Very long exposure - 20 seconds, at ISO 400.

The dirty window is quite apparent here.  But what caught my fancy were the shadows of the trees on the ground.  

Day 217 - The Blizzard

Just a quick post for yesterday.  This shot was taken through my second floor bedroom window.  The glass was dirty and I had the wrong lens  but it did its job.

I felt guilty taking photos of this little kid struggling and stumbling through knee-deep snow.  But this is life here - I did the same on Monday.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 216 - The Snow Continues ...

... with winds howling outside my window, blowing the snow around and throwing everything out of gear!

I was expecting the snow storm since I'd been keeping close tabs on the weather forecast and so I decided to bring my little point & shoot camera with me to work today.  I didn't want to risk getting moisture into my other camera since it's really a basic camera and neither the body, nor the lenses, are weather-sealed.

After being busy all day, I realized that the light was waning fast on an already gloomy day.  So I walked over to our cafeteria and shot down on the blizzard from the fourth floor windows.  I couldn't get many decent shots either by way of composition, or by way of settings.  There's hardly any optical zoom, so the digital zoom on the camera got me a lot of noise and I couldn't really crop in tight either.  And there were reflections on the glass window to boot.  

These were the best shots from the evening.

The patterns caused by the footprints in the snow were pretty interesting, especially in the second shot.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day 215 - Christmas Theme (Pt. 4)

Just a continuation of the Christmas theme I'd started way back in October.  The first one was a quick shot while I was playing with the flash and got bored from not getting what I wanted.  

I also took the opportunity to get a little bit more comfortable using the monopod.  Although I found a couple more ways to be more effective and efficient with the tool, I'm absolutely convinced that you can't use it for anything slower than 1/8s shutter speeds if you want to get any sharpness out of your shots.   In fact, I think I'm steadier when hand holding my shots at 0.5 secs, than I am with the monopod at 1/8s!  Now, that's something!

154 mm, 1/10s, f/5.6, ISO 400, Shutter Priority, AWB
I had to use Shutter Priority because I wanted to fix the minimum shutter speed to avoid camera shake.

154 mm, 1/100s, f/6.3, ISO 400, WB set to Flash, but later adjusted in Lightroom, Manual Mode, Flash fired at -2 stops, external flash fired powered down to 1/8, placed 6 inches to right of subject and bounced off ceiling.  Phewww!  That was a long description! 

I'm not very happy with the second image.  The background is quite cluttered in this one, and could definitely have been better composed.  But as far as light is concerned, I think it's a slight improvement over previous tries.  I'm yet to figure out the power levels on my external flash - maybe I'm reading the levels all wrong as there are no markings on the bars to show the different levels and the one page user guide that came with it was mostly written in Chinese (at the expense of sounding ignorant, I wouldn't know if it was Mandarin or Cantonese).  Maybe the mystery will one day be solved?  Maybe I'll break down and Google it one day!

But meanwhile I'm definitely considering a light kit.  But the dilemma is always which one to get first - camera body, lens or light?  

Any suggestions?

Day 214 - My Updated Website

I was a little bit under the weather today, and I lost a lot of time when I fell asleep this afternoon.  Therefore, there was no time for photography, and the little time I had, I thought would be a good way to use to update my website:

Please take a few minutes to check it out and leave me some comments on what you think.  I would love to get your feedback.

Thanks to all that take the time to help a poor soul in distress! ;-)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Day 213 - Montreal Downtown

I froze my knuckles and my nose,
I froze my cheeks and froze my toes.
I didn't get too many good shots
Despite taking lots and lots. 

Ok.. I'm not a poet!  But the little verse just flowed through - unrestrained! :=P

But it pretty much sums up my evening adventures.  I bought a monopod yesterday, in preparation for my trip over Christmas and I broke it out this evening.  It was a very useful thing in a couple of ways - I did manage to get a few shots that were sharp enough to be posted, but more than that, I found it easier to shoot when I wasn't handholding the camera.  The freezing cold and the heaviness of the camera and bag could have tired me out much sooner than it actually did.  Although I'm still not 100% sold on the monopod yet, I think I will find it very useful over time.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day 212 - Sneak Peek ...

... At what I've been up to with the smoke shots.  I'm still going through a huge learning process of working with Photoshop, but once it's done, I'm going to be one whole load more proud of myself! :=D  This still needs a lot of perfecting, but it's one step at a time!

Enjoy the soup!

Day 211 - Something Different

Ok, I won't bore you to tears with the smoke stuff today.  If I allow myself to be honest, I didn't get a chance to do any photography.  I actually had an appointment for a therapy session and spent much longer than I had planned.  Public transport is not always the most reliable, so obviously everything got delayed.

I took this opportunity to post a couple of old shots I had wanted to post a while ago, but never got around to it.  I was trying bokeh of my christmas tree and this is was what I got.

It's really very simple to get these types of light shots - you just have to turn the focussing ring on the lens till the lights are all out of focus and the shape/size you want your bokeh to be.  I took some pains to turn them into perfect circles.  These shots were made with the 90 mm lens I have.  

And if you're worried about the kind of therapy I'm undergoing (I can always pretend you're worried, of course), it's nothing serious - it's called retail therapy! :=p  I spent more than an hour looking for purses and silver cake decorations and returned with an armload of stuff that I semi-need, or don't need; including some jelly beans and fruit pearls!  Of course I didn't get what I went to get!  Go, figure!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 210 - Ganesha?!

I have definitely made some improvements in my smoke shots today - I have managed to direct the light in a way that the smoke is actually quite visible, instead of being just faint impressions most of the time yesterday.

And look what I found!  The first shot brought out of the camera looked like an elephant and then after processing the blacks a little bit, I found it looked like the Hindu Elephant God - Ganesha!  And the second one gives me the feeling it's a centaur or something.  I'd love to know what comes to your minds when you see these images.

Minimal processing - darkened the blacks and added a little bit of definition and luminance.  

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 209 - Holy Smokes!

This is my second try at smoke photography.  I had a lot of fun doing this but it's far from perfect.  I intend to improve this over the course of this week, so you can either choose to stay tuned (while getting bored) for the how-to that will come right after I'm done as much as I could, or you could come back in a few days.  :)  Smoke photography is actually pretty interesting, if you haven't tried it before.


Day 208 - Unintentional

This was taken yesterday, although I didn't get a chance to post it until now.

I was chilling after a day's fun and laughter with some good friends over pretty good food (although I say so even though I was the cook), and had no intention of doing any photography.  But the camera was lying right there on the ottoman, under my nose, and I decided to pick it up and play with it.  I took 3 shots of this piece of the wreath illuminated by a burning candle.

This shot was taken with the camera resting on the couch, and is straight out of the camera except for a crop and watermark added in post.  If you're wondering why I even bothered to post such a careless shot, it's because I didn't want to miss another day.  I am now over the 200 mark, and want to see this project through with as little disruptions as possible.

But come to think of it, the light isn't bad, although the image could have definitely been better composed.  Ah, well!  Not everything that comes out of the cameras of the masters is a masterpiece, so I can't expect that to happen to me either (although I would really love it to be that way!) and I keep telling myself that so I don't lose heart.

250 mm, f/5.6, 10s, ISO 100, Manual Mode, AWB

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day 207 - Snow-Crowned Sparrow

Nah - there's no such species like that!  Read on, and you'll know what I mean.

We had the first proper snow of this season.  When I awoke this morning, I was greeted by a white blanket that God had decided to lay over the sleeping world.  It looked beautiful, and I always enjoy watching the snowflakes come gliding down.  But today, it was windy, really windy, although not too cold.  I picked up my camera, donned a jacket over my jammies and got out on the balcony for the first shots.

I probably scared the sparrows as I stepped onto the balcony and I suddenly heard a big flapping of wings and squeaks and chirps and then saw a cloud of sparrows rise up and take itself to the trees nearby.  I saw a pair of them that sat together and as I aimed my camera at them, I saw one of them lean over and eat snow off one of the branches.  I was quick enough to catch the action, however, it was so windy, the branches and the motion of the sparrow kinda blurred the shot a bit.  And then I saw the little bit of snow that had collected on this sparrow's head - he looked adorable, the little snow-crowned sparrow!

Serious birders would have a heart attack if they were to see nothing beyond the title of the blog post!  ;-)

In the above shot, I think I see a mist from the sparrow's breath.  I might be hallucinating entirely as well.