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.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

In support of Earth Hour

We need to do something to save our planet. Please support Earth Hour. You can show your support by creating a virtual lantern here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

To polarize or not to polarize

I'm doing a lot of experimentation with the C-PL right now and I wanted to post just two shots of what I found about reflections on indoor objects, both under natural (details in my earlier post of yesterday) or artificial light (under tungsten).  I took a shot of this hand-painted plate first without the C-PL and the next with it.

I shot both at ISO 200, f8, 2.5s.  The first one @100 mm and the second one @96 mm (don't remember why I changed that all of a sudden, but it's not much of a difference anyway).

Here are my findings:

The one above is without the C-PL.  Notice the colours, and especially the washed-out effect on the bottom edge of the plate.  It almost has a glare.

This second one is with the C-PL on.  I think the colours are much richer and practically no glare since there are no reflections.  And honestly, this is closest to the original colours of the plate.  I find the saturation pretty appealing.

My finding of the day, therefore is the C-PL must be great for the outdoors (since that's the main reason I got it in the first place after my disappointments at the Old Port recently), but I'm finding that it could be a good tool to use indoors as well when the lights aren't ideal.

Would love to hear back from the others about what your thoughts are on this.  I am right now in R&D mode and will keep experimenting to push the boundaries.  

Happy clicking!

P.S. I'm planning to start a Photo 365.  Any tips are greatly welcome. :-)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Milk droplet turns into marshmallow

Still hung up on the droples, I thought I'd try doing some droplets with milk.  I first tried a few shots with 2% milk, but I didn't get any good shots even after about five tries.  Then I decided to throw in some half & half into the milk to make it a little thicker to get the droplets a little bit more substantial.  But no luck there either, so I just decided to throw in some marshmallows to make the milk look interesting.

Since I hadn't yet tried my circular polarizer, I thought this might be a good occasion to try it on the glass and see how it cuts reflections.

Before using the polarizer.  See the ton of reflections on the glass.

This one is with the polarizer on. The reflections are almost all gone.  I'm not sure if there are any other tricks to using a C-PL.  I have to do some reading up on this. 

I just thought I'd like to see some more colour in the glass.

My son thought I'd had enough of the marshmallows and dumped half of the glass into his cup of milk - but not before I got a shot of that as well. :o)


Friday, February 19, 2010

Water droplet continues

While I'm waiting for another idea to pop into my brain about doing some more reflections in a water droplet, I decided to try simple droplets - a continuation from my previous endeavours.  This time I decided to play with the background and lighting a little bit, wanting to try black.

So all I used was a black jacket that I laid out on top of my kitchen table (most of the excitement happens here or on my dining table) and used a large box draped with a black towel at the back.  And to bounce the water off, I thought a nice red and yellow apple would work well with the black backdrop.

High shutter speed, large drops of water, a moderately small DoF, an external flash and a tripod did the trick and I got some nice photos.

Here are the shots and you can click on them to enlarge.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

More reflections in a water droplet

Since my latest obsession is with reflections in a water droplet, I thought I'd try to reflect something else other than the foliage the water droplet is hanging from.  So, I had a brainwave and I decided to use my silk plant and try to catch it's reflections in the drops of water.  What I still can't manage to do (and it has nothing to do with photography) is to be able to get two or three droplets suspended from the same stem in a row.  Can someone teach me a spraying technique, please?

Ok, so here are the results from the evening's efforts, and amazingly it didn't cost me too much time or effort since I was using the zoom lens.  The results were pretty satisfactory.  I just applied a crop to some of the shots and there is absolutely no other post-processing.

My little african violet plant being reflected.  I realized that the disparity in the heights of the two plants created a really small reflection of the plant in the droplet.

My silk plant with its flowers plus part of a leaf from this plant

Managed to get some droplets hanging from the leaf above

Just cropped the photo to get up close and personal with the single reflective drop suspended from this leaf.

This one reflects both the plants pretty well.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Water droplets

Ok.. so my latest obsession is with water droplets - the first project was to capture the water droplets and freeze the motion which I spent ages on doing.  I even went and got myself the faster lens when I realized that my kit lens is no match for the kind of speed I need and the precision.  I spent hours trying to get one droplet to form, but it was a no-show.

I got images like this and didn't just get to see the droplets bounce off the surface of the water.  I was using a piece of rag supersaturated with water and dropping big drops into the bowl.  Somehow, didn't work no matter how hard I tried.

I finally got a bit of action - but not enough to make me happy. I applied post-processing to this to bring out the highlights.

The next thing I did was to buy a tripod and then subsequently the faster lens for the next set.  I set up my little gig in the kitchen, for want of a better place, and I still got a bit of glare in the water since my kitchen lighting wasn't the best.  But I did get the effect I was after.

This was the ripple when the droplet hit the surface

This was caught in motion

The trick was to use big drops of water, a continuous shooting mode on shutter priority.  And I always use a timer on the camera when trying to take these precision shots.  It avoids all the camera shake that you can possibly avoid.  And oh, the mirror lock-up if it's available on your camera is another good way to avoid the minutest of shakes when the shutter drops.

Now the project I then decided to undertake was capturing reflections in a water droplet.  Simple trick that yields beautiful results.

At 1:30 am my creative juices started flowing (as they are always wont to do at that ungodly hour) and I staged this - I sprayed water on one of my more colourful plants and then looked for the reflection.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that my kit lens ( I was too lazy to switch to my zoom lens) took fairly decent macro-style shots of the droplets.  I shot in raw, but didn't shoot in the highest quality.  Therefore, I lost some resolution when cropping the photo to make the droplet stand out.

Here's a sampling of what I got from my first attempt.  Click on the photos if you want to enlarge them.

Watch out for the drops hanging from the leaf as well.  Each of them has a reflection, but it's not all that clear in this pic since I only used a single point of focus here.  The little hint of blue is actually the placemat on the table that's being reflected in the drops.

Look at the drop running down the stem. 

The second drop of water almost running off the stem, but the reflection is still visible.

Here's the last one of the crop

Photography at the Old Port

Since I had been dissatisfied with my photos of Westmount, I decided to go out and do some photography around the Old Port area.  Lunchtime wasn't my favourite time to go out for taking photos, but that was the only time that was okay with my two other colleagues who planned to come with me.  So, lunch hour photography it was!

The results I don't have to mention - too many overexposed shots of anything that was in plain daylight.  I still went ahead and took a few shots at the boats that were around and also the museum (of something or the other ;-)) that was standing tall against the blue sky.  We did find a kind of interesting nook underneath one of the quays where we tried to get a few shots of the ice formations and a couple of pigeons that kept flying into it for a drink of water.

The pillars underneath the quay.. I tried to capture the vertical pattern of the columns as well as the light and shade, but the light totally washed out the details in the foreground.

When I failed to capture anything of interest without the fear of overexposing, I tried to get this boat.  This is without any post-processing. A little saturation would go a long way of course.

Tried to photograph the turbine going under the boat with the pieces of ice clinging to the rope as well as the little whirlpools.  The turbine was a nice rusty orange, but it looks washed out here.  I later realized that I should have used a smaller f-stop and a faster shutter speed.  I used f-7.1 and 1/100 here - not good at all.  Good lesson here.

And here's Mr. Pigeon - bad composition and totally overexposed in the foreground.  It could have been much better composed if I wasn't too scared to slip on the ice while lean over the railings a bit.

When I couldn't get anything to focus on, I decided to go for the knot in the rope.  Too pale in the bright light.. I didn't want a very small aperture since I wanted a medium DoF, but what I didn't remember for that blindingly bright day was the "sunny 16" rule - f-16 and a shutter speed which is the reciprocal of the ISO.  My shutter speed was fine, but the f-number wasn't.. (sigh!)

This shot was originally a little pale, till I bumped up the saturation a little bit and increased the highlights as well.  Passable for a bright day pick. 

Playing with the light a little bit here, and the DoF as well - a smaller f-stop and I liked the shade and the pattern.  

The bright colours are nice in this, but again I missed the mark - no focus in this image. I think I need to pay more attention to achieving a point of interest and then work around it.  

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Trying to get some city shots

Yesterday, I went out with a friend hoping to get some nice shots of Montreal downtown, just in time for the photo contest that's been announced at work. However, we apparently chose the wrong day as far as weather was concerned. It seemed a perfectly fine, bright and sunny day, but I did have my apprehensions, because I feared it just might be the perfect recipe for washed out photos and for the case of the blinkies. And that's exactly what happened.

Another lesson learned was that when it's too cold, it's not good to go out unprepared. Both my friend and I were inadequately dressed, and even within the short time we took to set up the tripod, our fingers were freezing and we could barely manage 10 shots between ourselves - not good at all!

Third lesson was that it would have been a better idea to take photos of the shaded side of the church, rather than to take the side that had the sun shining on it - it washed out the photos completely, the photo at the top is a perfect example of that.

Later, what I did do was use my point and shoot to take a couple of shots of the sunny side, so I could look up the EXIF data of the photos in case they turned out well enough, to learn from them; and lucky for me, they did turn out pretty decently (photo below - no post-processing applied to this).

While walking around the Westmount area, we came upon another church that seemed really interesting with its leafless creepers and architecture.  And I loved the windows!  Here are some shots of those, and they weren't on the point & shoot.  I only applied a crop to both.  The shade actually helped in making the details pop out on the walls.

Some other photos from this set are also worth adding here, since I have a dilemma - I don't know how to declutter the photos of the tree branches that interfered with the shot.  However, viewing it on the screen doesn't make them look all that bad now.  I also wanted to capture the different colours of the row houses in a single shot, but my point and shoot didn't do a great job of zooming.  But overall, not too bad.

And now a couple of interesting doors in the neighbourhood.

Conclusion - None of my shots are good enough for the contest! :-(