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Author Topic: See the light  (Read 6341 times)
VicS
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« on: December 18, 2006, 01:02:02 AM »
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I have been trying my hand at a little bit of birds in flight (since I got my 100-400L    ) with varying degrees of success. What I have realised however is the undeniable importance of light. I have noticed that even if the sbject has the most perfect pose or flight spread, if the light does not catch it properly then the shadows cast will hide all the detail and no amount of post-processing will bring out the detail.

So my request from this thread (and I am sure that many other enthusiasts would also like to know) is if the serious amatures and professionals on this site wouldn't mind sharing a copule of their tips with us.

I would like to know the following:

Firstly - When is the best time for shooting? I have heard alot about "sweet light" and "magic hour" ... what's it all about?

Secondly - Is there any practical ways that you can train your eye to "see" a bit more like the camera would "see". I swear the naked eye and the brain paint a much nicer picture than one you can take through a camera.

All the help would be greatly appreciated ...
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ddolde
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« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2006, 09:37:43 AM »
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haha
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LoisWakeman
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« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2006, 11:13:49 AM »
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Firstly - When is the best time for shooting? I have heard alot about "sweet light" and "magic hour" ... what's it all about?[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=91106\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
I've more often heard it called the golden hour (or the blue hour: confusing - huh!): it's the time round about sunrise and sunset. The light direction is shallower, and contrasts consequently greater, and the quality of the light is more subtle then. But you can take great images at any time of the day if you wait for the right light: cumulus sky and afternoon is a good combination for scurrying clouds across fields and hills for example; and mist or fog lend mystique at any time

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Secondly - Is there any practical ways that you can train your eye to "see" a bit more like the camera would "see". I swear the naked eye and the brain paint a much nicer picture than one you can take through a camera.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=91106\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
There are two factors that lead to this effect I think: first, you fiddle about with the camera controls which distracts you, and because of the way we evolved to see, the brain tends to ignore extraneous stuff away from the current focal point. That's why you get so many snaps with a lamp-post growing out of Granny's head for example: the person who took it was looking at Granny and literally didn't see the post. The camera has no such selective vision, which is why you have to practise, and train yourself to really look around the frame first.

Try using a tripod, or make a frame out of card to use as a 'viewfinder' before you even touch the camera. There both lend a degree of indirection that helps you contemplate the actual scene more carefully.
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howiesmith
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« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2006, 11:47:05 AM »
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I've more often heard it called the golden hour (or the blue hour: confusing - huh!): it's the time round about sunrise and sunset. The light direction is shallower, and ...

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=91207\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I would add a couple things to this.  The time before sunrise and the time after sunset, when there is no direct light are also very good times.  The light is provided by the sky, acting like a very big soft box.  

Blue hour comes from the fact that much of the light is scattered from the sky and blue, like shadows.  Golden I think comes from the sun (just before rise or set) being low. blue light scattered out, leaving the warmer reds (golden).

The way to learn to see like your camera is to practice and really look at the image before you take it.  Recall the past things you didn't see (pole coming out of Granny's head) and eliminate the ones you don't want.

In my opinion (and this is my opinion and it works well for me), photography takes time.  You need to spend time composing your image if you expect to get wht you "see."  A little planning and looking before exposing will prevent a lot of cloning later in PS to get rid of that pole.  I personnally do not believe that photogaphers who claim they shoot 100,000 exposures a year are spending much time planning their images.

In photography school, I was required to use a 4x5 view camera.  The reason was it was easier to see the image before I took it, it was expensive, so I didn't just bang away and hope, and it was slow, requiring time per exposure.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2006, 04:10:41 PM by howiesmith » Logged
John Sheehy
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« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2006, 12:05:35 PM »
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Secondly - Is there any practical ways that you can train your eye to "see" a bit more like the camera would "see". I swear the naked eye and the brain paint a much nicer picture than one you can take through a camera.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=91106\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Squint.
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howiesmith
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« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2006, 12:10:47 PM »
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Secondly - Is there any practical ways that you can train your eye to "see" a bit more like the camera would "see". I swear the naked eye and the brain paint a much nicer picture than one you can take through a camera.

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=91106\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Couple things.  The eye has a huge dynamic range - greater than any camera.  It will take practice to learn that.

The brain filters (especially on the perifery) images to remove a lot of "noise."  You won't "see" as much of what the camera will faithfully record.  This takes really looking at what the camera is seeing, and looking at your images after they are taken.  Otherwise, you may miss power lines and stuff coming out of people's head, etc.

Bottom line is it isn't easy.  Takes time and practice.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2006, 04:12:41 PM by howiesmith » Logged
MatthewCromer
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« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2006, 01:57:39 PM »
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Firstly - When is the best time for shooting? I have heard alot about "sweet light" and "magic hour" ... what's it all about?

Secondly - Is there any practical ways that you can train your eye to "see" a bit more like the camera would "see". I swear the naked eye and the brain paint a much nicer picture than one you can take through a camera.

1) The time around dusk and dawn are better for certain subjects, depending on how much cloud cover there is on that day.  But many great landscape photographs can be taken in many different kinds of light.  You will learn this through experimentation, and from looking at photographs from other landscape photographers you like.

2) Use a camera with a live LCD display, like the Sony R1 and one of the Olympus dSLRs (E330?).  They show you exactly what the sensor is seeing, instead of the 20 stops your eye can distinguish. . .
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jani
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« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2006, 03:51:33 PM »
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2) Use a camera with a live LCD display, like the Sony R1 and one of the Olympus dSLRs (E330?).  They show you exactly what the sensor is seeing, instead of the 20 stops your eye can distinguish. . .
Except that they don't, and it can't.
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Jan
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« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2006, 04:14:02 PM »
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Except that they don't, and it can't.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=91255\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I'm sorry.  I do not understand your cryptic comment.  Could you flesh it out a bit?
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jani
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« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2006, 07:06:04 AM »
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I'm sorry.  I do not understand your cryptic comment.  Could you flesh it out a bit?
1) The "live preview" function of the cameras do not "show you exactly what the sensor is seeing".

In the case of current Olympus models, the live preview is implemented by a separate live sensor. It's not even the same sensor that you take photographs with.

In the case of Sony, I'm not sure, but I think they're user a system where they either have extra sensor sites inbetween the regular sensor sites, or they have a way of reading only a subset of the available sensor sites.

None of these cameras are capable of reading out a full 6 or 10 megapixels at 30 or 60 frames per second.

2) The human eye can't distinguish as much as 20 stops at any given time, but the entire visual system of a human can function both under starlight and during brightest day, which technically is a difference of some 24 stops. In comparison with photography, however, the brain-eye system has an effective dynamic range of between 10 and 14 stops, depending on brightness and contrast.

Even this is a bit imprecise, since under starlight, we utilize the rods more, and that increases the dynamic range significantly -- at the cost of significant noise, of course.
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Jan
MatthewCromer
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« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2006, 01:20:56 PM »
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None of these cameras are capable of reading out a full 6 or 10 megapixels at 30 or 60 frames per second.

Sure.  And there is no camera-sized LCD that can display that much data even if they could.

However, they give you a much better idea what the sensor is seeing than the OVF.  And your eye does have a much higher DR than the sensor, so seeing the "sensor's eye view" does give you a much better clue than your eye what the resulting photograph looks like.
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MatthewCromer
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« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2006, 01:24:43 PM »
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There are two factors that lead to this effect I think: first, you fiddle about with the camera controls which distracts you, and because of the way we evolved to see, the brain tends to ignore extraneous stuff away from the current focal point. That's why you get so many snaps with a lamp-post growing out of Granny's head for example: the person who took it was looking at Granny and literally didn't see the post. The camera has no such selective vision, which is why you have to practise, and train yourself to really look around the frame first.

Composing by looking at an image on a flat LCD panel really helps with this.

The viewfinders of SLRs tend to "suck you in" visually and until you become really well trained it is very easy to ignore the lamp-pose growing out of Granny's head. . .

Of course, once you are well trained to look at the whole image you can make great compositions with SLR viewfinders just fine. . .
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howiesmith
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« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2006, 02:31:53 PM »
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Composing by looking at an image on a flat LCD panel really helps with this.

The viewfinders of SLRs tend to "suck you in" visually and until you become really well trained it is very easy to ignore the lamp-pose growing out of Granny's head. . .

Of course, once you are well trained to look at the whole image you can make great compositions with SLR viewfinders just fine. . .
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=91440\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I think the idea here is for viewing, large is good.  It is just easier to see the big picture and all the little clutter.  I learned with film, but have found it easier to go pick up a gum wrapper than clone it out later.

It also he;lps to look at the image's edges.  Sometimes a habd is either chopped off funny or just appears from nowhere.  I am not the world's best cloner, so it is difficult or impossible (for me anyway) to get rid of big stuff on a print.  I just think it is easier to get it right in the camera.
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LoisWakeman
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« Reply #13 on: December 20, 2006, 04:13:10 AM »
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Composing by looking at an image on a flat LCD panel really helps with this.
...
Of course, once you are well trained to look at the whole image you can make great compositions with SLR viewfinders just fine.
But with the LCD you are still using the camera as intermediary, with all the distractions that implies. By using a card viewfinder, you also have full brightness even with bright sun at your back, and by moving it closer and farther from your eyes, you can easily see the effect of changing focal length.

Using a tripod forces you to do things more slowly, giving time for consideration rather than blazing away in the hope of an accidental good shot. Also, it's good discipline to start as you mean to go on!

I fully agree with your second sentence above: once you get the bug, you are framing up everywhere you go - with or without the camera.
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Gregory
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« Reply #14 on: December 20, 2006, 07:34:31 AM »
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I shoot a lot of birds, most of them in trees but some in flight, particularly one of my favourite birds, Hong Kong's kites.

it's hard!!!

first, if the sky contrasts with the birds too much, it's hard to get detail. in Hong Kong, we have bright grey (polluted) skies more than blue and it makes shooting upward really difficult. with typical grey skies, I have to add 2 stops exposure to the photo, assuming that the bird doesn't take up a major proportion of the photo. if I can get hills or trees in the background, the photo is much easier to deal with because the contrast isn't so intense.

photographing the birds is better done in the morning and before sunset, when the sun is at a very low point so that it lights up the under side of the bird in flight. this helps immensely with the colour and the detail of the bird.

you could probably use a Better Beamer to help improve the lighting situation but I haven't tried it yet.

I am currently manually focussing and plan to train myself continually until I get pretty good at it. if the bird took up most of the frame, I could probably turn on auto-focus but for some reason, the birds simply don't listen to my wishes and fly my way when I'm ready for them ;-)

I frame as I shoot and pan. it's actually a problem because it introduces yet another source of camera movement. manual focus also adds another source of camera movement because I have yet to train myself to stop focussing when I press the shutter button all the way down (unless the camera does this automatically?).

btw, my usual technique for shooting birds (not in flight) is to:
... turn on auto-focus
... push the shutter release down half way to focus quickly on the bird
... frame the shot (I almost never position the bird in the middle of the frame)
... manually adjust the focus until it's 'perfect'
... push the shutter release all the way down and take the photo
... (IMPORTANT) lift the shutter release to the *half* way point again

this prevents the camera from trying to auto-focus again and I can manually adjust and reshoot quickly and effectively without having to repeatedly 'focus-and-position'. I only fully release the shutter release if I need to focus from scratch.

I only have the 70-300 IS DO and 70-200/2.8 non-IS with a 2x lenses. I usually have to get pretty close to the flying birds; 25 feet or less. if you can use a longer lens, it will probably be easier to track and photograph the birds because the angles of rotation are smaller; i.e., not as much panning is needed.

it will take time and patience to get great bird photographs but it's worth it when they begin appearing in your collection. I have yet to get one of a bird in flight but I trust I'll get one soon. I am taking my camera up the hill with me every morning now when I walk up there with our pets. the sun is perfect and the kites are frequently flying around looking for breakfast. any day now...

(I'm using a Canon 350D. I may upgrade to the 5D's successor when it's released early next year.)

regards,
Gregory
« Last Edit: December 20, 2006, 07:38:58 AM by Gregory » Logged

Gregory's Blog: An Aussie in HK
Equipment: Canon EOS 1D Mark III, 17-40L, 24-105L, 70-300 DO
howiesmith
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« Reply #15 on: December 20, 2006, 10:25:58 AM »
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first, if the sky contrasts with the birds too much, it's hard to get detail. in Hong Kong, we have bright grey (polluted) skies more than blue and it makes shooting upward really difficult. with typical grey skies, I have to add 2 stops exposure to the photo, assuming that the bird doesn't take up a major proportion of the photo. if I can get hills or trees in the background, the photo is much easier to deal with because the contrast isn't so intense.

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=91578\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Why not use manual exposure set for the under side of the bird.  It is independant of how much of the sky the bird occupies and not affected by the meter seeing more or less bright sky.  The bird will be properly exposed
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MatthewCromer
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« Reply #16 on: December 20, 2006, 12:45:57 PM »
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Using a tripod forces you to do things more slowly, giving time for consideration rather than blazing away in the hope of an accidental good shot. Also, it's good discipline to start as you mean to go on!

I usually shoot all of my landscapes with a tripod but they do of course slow you down.  Sometimes I need to play around with composition a great deal while watching the image change on the live LCD.  For example, when shooting sunstars in the forest, the sunstars change drastically based on very small shifts in position of the camera.

In cases like that where I have adequate shutter speed to handhold at wide angles I like to shoot untethered from the camera and play with fine-tuning the compositions and just rock and roll a bit, then pick the best composition / sunstar afterwards.  But then again my camera doesn't have any sharpness-spoiling mirror slap :-).
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howiesmith
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« Reply #17 on: December 20, 2006, 01:40:00 PM »
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I usually shoot all of my landscapes with a tripod but they do of course slow you down.  Sometimes I need to play around with composition a great deal while watching the image change on the live LCD.  For example, when shooting sunstars in the forest, the sunstars change drastically based on very small shifts in position of the camera.

In cases like that where I have adequate shutter speed to handhold at wide angles I like to shoot untethered from the camera and play with fine-tuning the compositions and just rock and roll a bit, then pick the best composition / sunstar afterwards.  But then again my camera doesn't have any sharpness-spoiling mirror slap :-).
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=91641\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I think the quote was meant to be a general statement, and not applicable to every condition.  A tripod will slow the process and allow time to plan.  Of course, moving or changing subjects may require moving and/or additional planning.  Thinking ahead - planning where the subject will be - is part of image planning.
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