Today’s post is not about my adventures as such, but about what camera equipment I took with me and then how I turned my very amateurish shots into something a little better.
I stumbled upon this competition to win a Leica M-P Digital Rangefinder Camera Safari Set! Valued at $10,000. From what I can tell from the terms and conditions it is an international competition. So have a look. I have just entered it myself. :)
Also I want to recommend a blog called PhotoFocus. Give it a look as it has some good tips and tricks and information about such things as the aforementioned competition.
Now back to the topic.
The first thing I felt that I needed to do was understand the types of photos that I might take, the circumstances under which I would take them, and constraints that I might endure. I only got a few things wrong.
Well, I would mostly be taking photos of monuments (inside and out), of landscapes and cityscapes, of people… hmmm, actually sounds like the whole gamut of things. So I needed to be flexible.
As I would be spending a large amount of time travelling around according to strict timetables, and that I would be walking several hours a day in crowded spaces, I wanted to ensure that my equipment was not bulky or heavy.
I settled for three cameras:
- Canon 60D. This is a great DSLR (at least the research told me this when I bought it a few years back). I have never learnt to use it beyond automatic mode. This trip would be my chance. More importantly, of the three cameras it shoots in RAW format. I really wanted a camera that did RAW because its a format that permits a lot of post-processing (interpret as “fixing up colour related mistakes”).
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT10. A compact 14-megapixel, waterproof digital camera. It fit easily into my board-shorts when swimming. This meant that I could take good photos in wet environments.
- Samsung Galaxy 5. Yep, I took the SIM out of my phone and used it as a camera. For this I used both the standard Camera app that comes with it and also the FV-5 app for Android. My goal with this was to have a quick but decent camera for situations where I did not feel the need for the DSLR.
I also took a monopod that I never ended up using because it was just too inconvenient.
Now you need to understand that I am not an experienced photographer. Yes, like many of us, I like taking photos but my output does tend towards the uninspiring.
So I asked myself why this is the case, given that I paint and compose digital art. The answer was simple: when I take photos I tend to think about the object or scene that I am capturing rather than the photo itself. Hence I decided that I must approach my photography differently from now on. And now I have started to consciously compose photographs.
You may laugh and say that this is obvious, and yet even with this knowledge I found myself taking lots of “happy snaps” with insufficient thought. Anyway, I decided that I would try to follow one – just one – composition rule. This was the Rule of Thirds, described by Wikipedia (source of all knowledge) as the proposition “that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections”. The following picture I took at the Eden Project in Cornwall.
Also, where possible, I would try to ensure a concentration of photos during the Golden (or Magic) hours. Again referring to Wikipedia (all hail Wikipedia) the Golden hours are “a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is redder and softer compared to when the Sun is higher in the sky.” I’d heard about this from several YouTube videos. I took this picture in Pompeii, trying to make the most of the colours and the shadows.
I’m not sure that I did a great job at trying to do these things, but we all have to start somewhere. :)
Software for post processing
As any long time readers will know, my wife Nicole purchased a subscription to Photoshop for me in September last year. That also came with Lightroom, which I never really bothered with. Until now. Over the past week it has been superb for not only organising my 5000 photos but also improving colours etc. My subscription costs me about $10 a month and it is so worth it. I would highly recommend that you go to YouTube and look at some brief introductions to Lightroom. Here’s a link to one.
BTW – just to give you an idea of how it can fix up a poor photo, here is one of mine from Stratford-Upon-Avon where I under-exposed.
Luckily I had taken it in RAW format on my DSLR. So with Lightroom I merely changed the exposure setting and voila!
Not a great photo but it serves to demonstrate my point.
Here are some things that I learnt from this trip and my attempts at photography.
- Three different cameras for three different purposes is a good approach so long as they are light and not bulky.
- I really needed a multipurpose lens for the DSLR. Switching between multiple lenses was cumbersome and I lost opportunities.
- The FV-5 app will often freeze in situations where it is being heavily used. Other times it simply did not take photos and did not even put up a message to tell me.
- Samsung’s standard camera app is actually quite good for a lot of situations.
- In the Canon 60D use the Landscape setting to shoot at night. Trust me. That present does great night-time shots (or shots in dim places such as the insides of ruins) without using a flash. This last point is important in art galleries.
- Lightroom is astonishing when used with RAW format. It can turn a dark, seemingly unusable photo into something of beauty.
All these things said, you should now understand where some of my thinking on photos is coming from over the course of subsequent weeks as I show you more from my trip. Hopefully you will see me grow.
Thanks for reading (especially any photographers out there who probably are shaking there heads at my cluelessness). :)