Macro photography - shoot in miniature
Macro Photography is a very popular area of photography and if you haven't tried it yet let me give you five reasons when you should give it a go.
Discover a whole new world
Macro Photography allows us to discover a whole new miniature world with virtually endless possibilities. Broadly speaking Macro photography is about photographing small things, close up and blowing them up larger than life. The number of subjects available are endless but bugs and flowers are very popular but as many of you know I love water drop photography. Small things such as waterdrops often go unnoticed or are taken for granted but freezing that moment in time can create spectacular images.
When you start doing macro photography a whole new creative world is opened up providing a whole new range of subjects that were under your nose the whole time.
Macro Photography has never been more accessible. There is gear available that is suitable for all budgets that will allow you to start capturing macro. A standard kit lens on many different types of camera's will often be an option. Look out for the small green leaf icon on your camera's mode dial. Whilst not shooting true macro, they allow you to focus in close to blow small things up large.
Additional items can be bought very cheaply like this macro reverse ring. It allows you to attach your lens on backwards and achieve a true macro magnification. We also have these extender rings that add space between your lens and the sensor again giving a better magnification. They work well with prime lenses that you may already have lying around.
The next step would be to buy a true macro lens that provides 1:1 magnification. Although this one is relatively expensive there are much cheaper versions that will still produce excellent images.
I've created a video before about shooting macro photography on a budget that explains all this in more detail so check that out.
Develop studio skills
Macro Photography is no different to other areas of photography in that composition, light, colour and tone are hugely important. By carefully considering these things in your macro photography it will ensure your images stand out. Macro photography often requires additional light. Controlling the light through the use of a couple of flashes, getting it off your camera with wireless triggers will help you to start expanding and learning your studio skills. Because you are doing it on a small scale you don't need much space making it more accessible. The principles and concepts of working with flash and other studio items such as backgrounds and reflectors simply scale up once you are working in bigger studios and shooting portraits.
Because you have total control of your environment and lighting it also gives you the opportunity and time to totally understand exposure and start shooting in manual mode. You can also take your lighting to the next level with investment in things like barn doors, flags and honeycombs like this that control the direction and amount of light that hits your subject.
If you've been watching my landscape photography vlogs you'll have seen I've been caught out by the weather on a number of occasions. The beauty of macro photography is there is so much to shoot indoors meaning when you don't want to brave the weather you can stay warm and dry.
If you are feeling the call of the great outdoors though there is plenty of macro shots to be captured when you are out and about all year round.
Food and Product Photography
The skills you develop exploring the world of macro photography act as a gateway to other forms of photography. Especially if you zoom out by a small amount. The skills you learn around composition and lighting can directly be applied to food and product photography. An area of photography where there is still money to be made. If you have been shooting studio macro work for a while then you will already have all the equipment you need. And if not at least the Instagram shots of your tasty dinner will be at the next level.
If I have done to convince you to give it a try then you check out my series of macro tutorials that will take you from the basics up the more advanced method of photo stacking - Click here.
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Pretty much everyone now has a camera in some way, shape or form. Here are 5 good reasons you should be giving landscape photography a try.
1. Get’s you into the Great Outdoors.
You can not do landscape photography sat on your couch. It gets you out of the house, into interesting locations and promotes a more active lifestyle. There is virtually no downside to this and your overall wellbeing will be increased. One of my favourite things in the world is getting home after a day out shooting landscape photography, listening to some great music, then sitting down and post processing your images. If you do this with a friend, it is even better.
2. Landscape photography is easy.
Let me explain. Anyone can give landscape photography a try. It’s just so accessible. Head out the door with your smart phone in hand and start shooting what you see. You don’t need to worry about adding light like flashes or reflectors, you don’t need tripods and filters to get great shots and cityscapes work just as well as landscapes. There are also plenty of locations where you can grab great shots just by sticking your camera out the window of your car.
3. It’s Hard
Whilst it is very accessible, mastering it can take an entire lifetime. There are technical aspects that must be learned like compositions rules, camera settings and the exposure triangle. To take your images even further you need an artistic vision to tell a story. It is all about the story. Always.
It is also really hard getting up at 4am to catch a sunrise. Plus climbing up a mountain is no picnic, although, you do often have one at the top.
However when you take on these challenges you will be rewarded with great images and a deep sense of satisfaction that will keep you wanting more. It does not hurt to be lucky either, especially when it comes to the weather.
4. Understand light
Doing landscape photography will increase your understanding of light and exposure very quickly. That will benefit your photography as a whole. It gets you thinking about sunrises, sunsets, golden hours, contrast, shadows, highlights, mid tones, backlighting and front lighting.
The light on your subject is as important as the subject itself and understanding how to best use the light to tell your story will really take your images to the next level.
Creating landscape photographs is an excellent way to draw attention to yourself and build a social media following around your work. Pretty much everyone loves to look at a beautiful landscape and quality images quickly gain attention. This is particularly true if you focus down onto capturing great images of your local area. People will quickly identify with the subjects in your pictures which can create an opportunity to sell your work and gain commissions if you are good enough.
Finally, a warning:
If you catch the bug you will never be able to look at a nice landscape again without thinking about how you could capture it in an image. You will permanently be looking at weather forecasts, cloud cover, tidal times, sunset times and your desire for gear will be unlikely to reduce.
Also, stay safe, apply some common sense to the places you visit and remember there is no photograph worth risking your life for.
For me landscape photography makes me so happy that, if it went unchecked, I would spend all my time doing it and would probably forget to speak to anyone ever again in my life.
Please subscribe to the YouTube channel and leave a comment down below and let me know what you love about landscape photography.
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Size Matters With Big Numbers and Small Holes
Small apertures ( big f-numbers) have a bad name as we are conditioned to constantly be chasing huge apertures. When a huge aperture like f/1 or f/1.2 we automatically assume quality. The opposite is often true with small apertures where problems like diffraction and loss of detail are always mentioned. In most situations it is simply not relevant unless you're pixel peeping. Small apertures will still produce beautiful images that can be printed and blown up large.
Big Depth of Field
Small apertures will provide a large depth of field where you can have your whole image in focus. This is essential for landscape photography where you want both foreground and background in focus. It also helps with macro and product photography. When you get in close to your subject, depth of field becomes much smaller so having a small aperture can minimise this effect. Some macro lenses go right down to f/32 to get as much of your small subject in focus as much as possible. Smaller apertures are also important for taking group portraits. The last thing you want is to have half the people in sharp focus and the rest with blurry eyes. This is a common mistake people make when first shooting with prime lenses with big maximum apertures.
Small apertures mean less light gets into the camera. Longer exposures are therefore needed to get proper exposure, especially in low light. We can use this to our advantage to capture long exposure photography even without the use of an additional filter. This shot of the London Eye was captured without any filters using f/22 and is a 2 minute and 45 second exposure. This is thanks to the small aperture.
Shooting at these minuscule apertures enhances the star effect on bright sources of light shining straight at your camera. This can include artificial light like in the shot above of the sun in a sunset shot like this. There are filters that simulate this effect but it thanks to aperture blades coming close together and forcing the light through the small hole onto your sensor.
Apertures at around f/5.6 and f/8 are often the the aperture that will maximise the sharpness of your lens. These are still pretty small apertures although you do start to lose sharpness again once you go beyond f/11 or f/16. Again though, you probably need to be pixel peeping to notice a difference. A good fact to know, especially if you’re looking to maximise the quality of your gear, especially in studio portraits and product photography.
Improve Your Skills
Thinking about the aperture you are using and controlling your exposure is an important step in taking your photography to the next levels. It will help you towards shooting in manual mode giving you total control over your camera. For me this is important because it frees you to then truly focus on capturing beautiful images.
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Will the new Instagram Algorithm spell the end?
This week Instagram announced some major changes that could seriously affect how we interact with the platform. In a mild mannered blog post titled ‘See the Moments You Care About First’ they announced the introduction of a new Instagram algorithm.
You will be familiar with the algorithm already operated by Facebook whereby you do not see every piece of content that your friends and favourite sites share. Instead Facebook decides, through the algorithm, what it thinks you will like. Some say this has been the secret to Facebook’s continued success. Twitter on the other hand has suffered over the last few years with people’s feeds becoming so full they never actually see the Tweets that would interest them. Twitter have now also announced they will be introducing an algorithm and it resulted in a heavy backlash from many users with the introduction of the hashtag #RIPTwitter.
Initially the algorithm announced by Instagram will effect your main feed and rather than showing you everything in chronological order, it will display the pictures it thinks you will like first. The blog states, “If your favourite musician shares a video from last night’s concert, it will be waiting for you when you wake up, no matter how many accounts you follow or what time zone you live in.” It continues by saying, “when your best friend posts a photo of her new puppy, you won’t miss it.”
Instagram state that at the moment it will only effect the order of your photos. You should still see all the photo’s of the feed you have carefully curated over the years. However this is just a start and there is every possibility Facebook will takeover the curation of your Instagram feed in a very similar way to Facebook itself.
It may not be all bad though. Instagram claim we miss 70% of the photo’s in our feed so they want to ensure that the 30% we do see are the very best. Clearly the intention behind this is to keep people on the Instagram platform for longer and therefore increase advertising revenue but it could be mutually beneficial. As a photographer I only want to see the very best photographs. When browsing Instagram you have to wade through a large quantity of terrible images to find the good ones. Instagram has already made efforts to resolve this through the ‘Top Posts’ feature on popular hashtags and the Instagram algorithm will take this a step further.
Whatever the outcome the next few months, we will see Instagram develop and change in a major way. It may be wise to reserve judgement until the effects become more clear but I am hopeful that good content and good photography will shine through.
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Expect the Unexpected - Don't Miss a Photo Opportunity
Thankfully the days of missing a photo opportunity are becoming more scarce. The introduction of mobile phones have ensured that all moments are captured both in stills and in video. A cat falling from a tree will never be missed again.
For many of us, the quality of an image from a phone camera is still not good enough when we are used to the quality of a DSLR. There are some good options with more compact mirrorless cameras, but I still like to maintain a close proximity to my DSLR. This leads us into the first key.
Having your camera with you is a vital first step to not missing a photo opportunity. Sadly, this is not the only step and good preparation is not that easy. There is more to the the art of photography than pointing your lens at something and pressing a button. The skill comes with a carefully thought out and well composed image. Also required is the technical mastery of your camera to pull off the shot with perfect settings and exposure.
This is more than achievable given the time and space to do your work. However on so many occasions time is not an ally. Events occur quickly and unexpectedly and the last thing you want is to be fumbling around with your camera to the point where you miss the moment. So many of history’s greatest images captured a moment that lasted less than a second.
One of the best ways you can prepare yourself is to Subscribe to the First Man Photography YouTube channel. My free eBook, Understanding Exposure will also help you to capture perfect exposure every time.
Arm yourself and be prepared.
One of the best ways avoid being caught off guard is to use your observation skills and anticipate what is about to happen. This is particularly useful whilst shooting people who are moving around. It is often about waiting for the moment that your subject and your perfectly composed background fall into line. You will need this skill if you ever shoot things like sports, weddings or wildlife. The trick is to watch the action developing in front of you. Predict the movement and pull the trigger when everything falls into line. Try not motor drive because the second the buffer gets full will be the very moment you miss the perfect shot.
I captured this shot, by being both prepared and waiting just until the plane crossed between myself and the sun. The time from first seeing the plane to it flying past was about 20 seconds.
Often we set out to shoot an image with best laid plans. Whilst planning is important unforeseen things will often happen; the weather will change, people will cancel or you will forget that vital piece of gear that tied your whole plan together. This happens to the best of us at least once.
During my Scotland trip last month I had planned a night time shot. Hoping to use the very dark skies to capture the Milky Way, I had also been hopeful of the aurora showing itself. The weather had not been great but all indications were pointing to the Saturday night being clear. Evening came, the sky cleared and I became excited about the night’s shoot. Following some dinner and the onset of night we headed out with our gear ready and a spring in our step. Not two seconds from the door I realised my plan was ruined. The amazingly dark skies on offer in the north of Scotland were being ruined by an amazingly bright moon.
Not one to be defeated, I quickly googled moon set times. Google informed me that the moon would be setting at the not so ridiculous time of 2335hrs. We were willing to wait, knowing this was going to be our only cloud free night. After a short while I realised the moon was starting to go down directly in front of me and would set behind the mountains that were across the water from where I was stood.
Anticipating a great moment, I set my camera up, took a couple of test shots to ensure my focus and exposure were correct, and then waited. I have taken many sunset shots in my time but had never before been in such a stunning location ready to grab a moonset shot. I knew the flexibility I had shown was about to pay off. A few minutes later the moon set behind the mountains and I captured one of the best and unique photographs I have ever taken.
Using the 3 keys in your photography will go some way to ensuring you do not miss a photo opportunity again. You will never be able to capture everything but will quickly start making many moments count that would have previously slipped by the wayside. This results in more spontaneous, natural and unique images that, like mine, could well take pride of place in your portfolio.
What the Anchor App can do for photography.
How can the Anchor App be used for Photography? Photography is a very visual art form but we also love the conversation that takes place alongside. The popularity of photography exploded in paralell with the internet as people began to share their work and interesting (and not so interesting) moments of their lives. This created massive attention and the conversation around this work followed.
However as the years went by the quality of the conversation declined. Apps like Instagram are platforms for people to grab attention and build followings. Whilst this is no bad thing, the engagement around the photography is often brief, insincere and lacking real substance. Finding good feedback and constructive conversation can be extremely difficult, especially for photographers just finding their feet.
Medium has been a breath of fresh air in regards to this conversation. With publications like Vantage providing intelligent and well thought out posts. Still though the engagement and follow up has not always been there.
Partly the reason for this is not everyone enjoys, or finds, writing an easy thing to do. What people do like though — is to talk. If there was someway to reply using your voice, so people could hear all the complexities of that interaction, that would be a very interesting prospect. Well now there is……. Anchor.
Anchor is an app that could potentially turn all of us into podcasters. The Anchor app is a social network where voice takes centre stage allowing you to make 2 minute posts about any subject you have in mind. Hashtags and all the usual Twitter style features are in place, meaning discovery and engagement should be high.
For photographers, the Anchor app will be the perfect medium for high quality discussion and conversation around photography. The two minute posts provide ample time for measured opinion and interesting replies. The app uses your phone microphone and you can record by holding the phone to your head. This is a perfect solution to ensure people can post at anytime without the embarrassment and appearance that you are talking to yourself.
At First Man Photography I plan to use the Anchor App to discuss all aspects of photography with my audience and provide short tips and general musings to build on what I already offer on the website and on my YouTube channel. I am excited about this format and seeing how Anchor grows.
Here my Anchor post recorded during this video. Click here!
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Understand the ROI and you will never look back.
First and foremost I believe very strongly that photography is an art. Like all artistic ventures it is a skill that requires careful nurturing and encouragement to allow it to blossom into something magical that people will love and appreciate. Skills however are so often hungry beasts that require feeding over and over again and there is an associated cost to this.
This cost is not necessarily a monetary one though. Many would argue that your time is more valuable than money and indeed this is often the case. Photography has a reputation for being expensive though, so let us first take a look at that.
When making a purchase it is important to balance your needs and requirements with your budget. This is particularly the case when buying your first proper camera system. For example, it would be pointless buying a top-of-the-range professional DSLR when you will be only shooting off a few frames on a weekend. On the other hand you should buy a system that gives you room to improve and grow, you do not want to feel the need to upgrade too soon after the initial purchase. There is a third caveat however, that is the desire to buy the best item possible. My method of dealing with this, in all walks of life, has always been to buy the item that is just one notch up from what I can actually afford. Whilst this does not seem like sound financial advice it will ensure your happiness. Were you to buy the item that is slap bang within your budget it will likely result in a feeling of regret that you did not stretch a bit and plump for the better item. Most of the time there will be cut backs you can make elsewhere in your life. Eating is only semi-important compared to drinking water; we all have to suffer for our art right?
Time. Considering the small amount we actually exist in the world what more a precious commodity is there? It is important to understand yourself and decide where you want to invest your time. I realised sometime ago that I had did not really watch TV anymore (apart from when the mighty Middlesbrough Football Club are on). This was not a conscious decision but i had simply started investing my time elsewhere; in my family, my business, my writing and my personal photography projects. This extra commitment to personal projects has undoubtedly made me a better photographer over the years as I indulged in so many areas of photography, learning my craft and honing my skills. Challenging yourself in this way is a sound investment of your time and the return will be clear to see when you track the improvement in the images you are capturing.
Here are 5 reasons why you should start a photography project. https://www.firstmanphotography.com/blog/5-reasons-photography-project
The most rewarding feeling and biggest improvement in your photography will come when you combine the two and invest both time and money into your craft. This does not necessarily mean buying more new gear either. Every year my friend and I take a photography trip somewhere and spend a few days capturing beautiful landscapes, the local wildlife and generally indulging our passion for photography. We try to travel fairly cheaply and camping is an excellent way to stay connected to the landscapes we are staying in and ensure we are up with plenty of time to catch the sunrise. You can read about the most recent trip here, although our sunrise shot was thwarted by total cloud cover. We both captured some beautiful images throughout the trip though so a full return on our investment was realised. We are both now hooked on this type of investment and our 2016 trip to Western Scotland is already planned. Plans for 2017 are already underway and we are looking at our biggest investment yet with a trip to the remote Island of St Kildas.
Now to return to the title question; why you should invest in your photography? The easy answer is it will make you a better photographer. Going deeper though it will make you a more interesting person, it will expand your horizons, it will make you happy, it will give you a purpose and a positive direction and it will leave you with an ever expanding portfolio of images that you can share and people want to see. The next time someone asks you, "what did you do last night?" the answer will not just be “I watched TV.”
Check out Lyle McCalmont at https://www.flickr.com/photos/mclyle/
Have you had the misfortune to meet Conservative Photographer?
In this video I rant about stuffy old photographers who are unhelpful, unpleasant and will discourage you as a photographer as much as possible. I have branded such a person Conservative Photographer.
I have written about this person before and you can read the article here - https://medium.com/@AdamKarnacz/conservative-photographer
I came across Conservative Photographer again the other day whilst I was browsing a photo forum. I was answering a few macro related questions when I came across a young student who was asking about a macro slider that attaches to your tripod and allows you to make fine adjustments when shooting macro. The student was asking about a cheaper brand and whether it would be suitable for his needs. He made it clear he had a very small budget so the $20 item fit the bill. I knew this item would be more than adequate for most peoples need as some photography equipment is very basic and cheaper brands do a great job. Now along comes Conservative Photographer suggesting this student was not committed and asking, "if you are truly interested in macro photography then $400-$500 would be no problem" for the top brand product. Reading this made me very angry because $400-$500 is a lot of money to most people, especially when there is a item almost as good for $20. Conservative Photographer was doing his best to discourage the student and make him feel inadequate as a photographer learning his craft. This is abhorrent behaviour.
There are now so many people interested in photography and it is a very exciting time. With social media and the internet there is so much opportunity for so many people to become very decent photographers and many will become professional. Conservative Photographer knows and fears this and it drives his selfish behaviour.
If you are just starting, improving your skills or about to become a pro it is likely you will come across Conservative Photographer before too long. I encourage you to ignore Conservative Photographer and pity him as you continue to progress and encourage fellow shooters. Move aside Conservative Photographer, your time is done.
I would love to hear about your experiences of when you have met Conservative Photographer. Please leave a comment below.
Start a photography project today.
Whether you are starting out or a seasoned shooter, everyone should take on a photography project at some stage in their lives. Here are 5 reasons why:
1. Find some direction.
Photographers of any level know it is easy to get stuck in a rut where you feel uninspired with the photographs you are creating. There are a couple of sure fire ways to break free of this. Firstly, look at other peoples work. This is easy to do but may only have short term effects. The second more effective option, albeit more difficult, is to take on a photography project. The theme and content of your project is entirely up to you but starting with a clear and defined focus will give you the direction you need to break free of the rut. Your project could be a 365 project with a common theme running through it, a 50 in 50 project where you take 50 portraits of strangers using a 50mm lens, you could shoot a landscapes in every county in your country. The options are endless and you can go as big or as small as you see fit. Going small is particularly good if you are armed with a macro lens. Check out Eddie the Bugman. My current photography project is called Water Drop Wednesday. Check it out here - https://www.firstmanphotography.com/tutorials/water-drop-photography
2. Improve your photography.
Use the opportunity of shooting your project to improve your skills. If you are just starting out then aim to get out of auto mode and capture proper exposure. Check out my free eBook Understanding Exposure that will help you along with this - https://www.firstmanphotography.com/ebook Get used to visualising a shot before looking through the viewfinder and think about the composition. Before pressing the shutter button, take notice of the edge of your frame and the background behind your subject. As your project continues try to apply lessons you have learned from previous shots and apply them to your latest picture. Try to make every photograph better than the one before. Throughout the project, look back over your previous images; you are bound to see an improvement as the project has progressed, this serves as a very good motivator along the way.
3. Build a social media following.
When I embarked on my first 365 project it was purely a personal project but many photographers will use a photography project to help build a following on social media. In this age where everyone is shooting pictures, creating something special to stand out is a must and a focused photography project can very much fit the bill. My 365 was a family project so I originally only shared it with family and friends through Flickr. The project very quickly became a documentary of the year with a short description that accompanied each shot detailing a notable or amusing part of the day. Family and friends became avid followers and quickly began adding to the comments enhancing the overall documentary aspect of the project. Admittedly my family and friends were a biased audience but they came back day after day; the same principle applies to building a public following. If you have a clear idea that people can understand they will soon begin to engage. They will feed into the work, enhancing the project and your experience of it. High quality images, posted on a regular basis are key alongside some good quality engagement. For example, if someone leaves a comment like 'Awesome shot', do not just reply 'thanks'. This effectively ends the conversation so instead, share a little piece of info, show some insight or ask that person a question. You might be surprised just how many people respond to this positively. Follow me on Instagram.
4. To Challenge yourself.
This is an important one that should have veins running through everything you do. When things get to the point of being easy it is likely that your learning will have ceased and real progress will have halted. It is not always immediately obvious when we get to this point as it often creeps up on us silently when we become more comfortable. If you have time to watch 10 episodes of Breaking Bad back to back, I would suggest you might be there. You can avoid this plateau though by continually pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and driving your own progress and growth. Get up out of your chair right now and go and capture an image. I guarantee there is a good shot within two minutes of where you are right now.
5. It is Fun.
Depending on the challenge you have set yourself a photography project can often be tough, but it will also be fun. I often think, when I am shooting, is there anything else I would rather be doing right now? The answer is always no. Especially when i am shooting with friends or collaborating with interesting people. Taking on a photo project is a lot like playing a video game (when I had time to play video games). You progress through many levels and pick up skills and knowledge along the way as you get better and better. Sometimes you might falter and have to re-do a level which will be frustrating and challenging. Eventually you fight through and get to end where you will feel a massive sense of achievement for what you have completed. Unlike a video game though you will be left with something to hold on to and you will have created some art that you will be proud of. The boost to your portfolio will be proof that you have not wasted your time and you will know the well constructed and thought out project was all worth it. Like a video game though, the sense of achievement will last for about two minutes; you will immediately starting thinking about the next one. Start a photography project today and you'll be hooked.
Welcome to the world of water drop photography.
Type a quick search of ‘Water Drop’ or #waterdrop and you will quickly see just how popular this area of photography has become. I have written before about why shooting these kinds of images improves your skills as a photographer, but that does not explain why people love them so much.
Shooting water drops highlights the pure essence of photography, capturing a moment in time. We see thousands of water drops every day, but rarely pause to consider their architecture and movement. During a particularly heavy rain storm we may marvel at the size of drops bouncing off the ground, but the rest of the time we take it for granted or do not notice. Freezing this moment forces us to appreciate the beauty, complexity and symmetry of a most regular occurrence and brings into sharp focus the importance of water in our lives.
The addition of vivid colours, opaque liquids and well controlled lighting, adds drama to the scene and gives the images that ‘wow’ factor that is becoming increasingly rare in today’s world.
I hope you enjoy this gallery. If you catch the bug and want to have a go yourself, my video tutorials are featured at the bottom of this post.
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Shooting Water drops will develop skills used in many areas of photography. Here's why:
- Shooting water drops is effectively a portrait session with the water drops as your subject. Lighting the scene is the same process you would go through when shooting a model. However with it being on a small scale, set up is easy and the cost of a session is very cheap.
- Get’s you used to a studio style workflow. It requires setting up gear and your set, perfecting your lighting setup, shooting the images, clearing up and dismantling and finally editing. Patience is learned skill.
- Post-processing is simple but requires some key tools in Lightroom/Photoshop that you will quickly learn and master. Interesting changes to the colours can also be made in post processing.
- Improves your skills with Flash. Flash is a vital part of studio work and in water drop photography the flash actually freezes the drop rather than the shutter speed. You can easily experiment with different flash positions and coloured gels.
- They are still relatively rare images in a world where everyone is taking pictures. Water drops generate a lot of interest on social media helping you build your following more quickly. After all, they’re awesome. If you think this does not apply to you as a photographer, please think again.
Try it for yourself today.
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If you enjoy this video tutorial please check out my other videos, tutorials and articles on this website and via the social media links below. I really appreciate all your comments so do not hesitate to get involved in some discussion. See you soon.
I'm Adam and this, is First Man Photography
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All You Need to Know to Visit the Farne Islands and Photograph Puffins.
If you have ever wanted to photograph puffins you can not go far wrong by visiting the Farne Islands. The Farne Islands are off the Northumberland Coast here in the UK and every Spring they are visited by thousands of nesting puffins and other amazing seabirds. If you have never seen puffins before they are extremely popular birds due to their colourful beaks and extremely tolerant attitude towards visiting humans.
This guide will run you through everything you need to know before making the trip that every photographer needs to make at least once in their life. This trip was made with friend and talented wildlife photographer, Lyle McCalmont.
Having done my research I knew that once on the islands I would be seeing a plethora of seabirds and wildlife. Not being a twitcher myself I only wanted shots of the most beautiful and interesting animals the islands had to offer. The star of the show by some distance is the Puffin and the main reason we had made the trip.
I had decided in advance that rather than firing frame after frame the second I landed, I would take a more thoughtful approach. In my opinion you can only have so many shots of a Puffin in your portfolio before it becomes too many. With this in mind I decided I only needed four or five beautiful shots to make the trip worth it. My list looked like this:
- Full body portrait
- Full body portrait with fish in mouth
- In flight with fish
- With chicks
The day began on our arrival at Seahouses. The boat was due to leave at 1000hrs and we were requested to arrive 15 minutes prior. Parking in Seahouses can get tricky later in the day but we had no problem finding a space in the main car park at around 0930hrs. We checked in at one of the small boat shacks down by the harbour. All are staffed by friendly locals who are more than happy to help out and give you information. Booking your boat trip in advance would be advisable but it was possible to arrive on the day and get a seat. Bear in mind that even if you have booked, if the weather is bad, the boats may not sail.
We were booked in with Serenity Tours . The planned trip would take us to Staple Island, land for 2 hours, take a tour around the islands and cliffs and then move on to Inner Farne. A further 2 hours there would then see us back on the mainland around 1700hrs.
We had a short wait for our boat to be made ready. It is at this point that you realise just how popular this area is with photographers and twitchers alike. I suspected that most were twitchers but, regardless, it would be easy to be intimidated by the sheer volume of 1Dx and D4s' coupled to 500mm f4 lenses. We took solace in the fact that most would be turning the turbo drive up to 11 and applying the spray and pray technique.
All aboard Serenity we were well looked after by our skippers, Andy and Toby. Both were friendly, helpful and knowledgeable about the birds and the islands; we could not have asked for more. Sticking to my plan I sat and enjoyed the boat ride as many were firing at anything that moved, surely only capturing a speck on the frame even with the big lenses. I chose to fire off a couple of shots at a passing sailboat to test out my exposure settings. A short time later we approached Staple Island and caught our first view of the white cliffs. This is not the white colour of chalk as seen in Dover but the white of years of accumulated bird dung. There is also an accompanying smell that is unpleasantly fishy.
Once landed we had a short set of steps to climb to get onto the top of the cliff. It is almost unbelievable how close you can get to the birds with many nesting less than a foot from the path. There was a small area roped off allowing people to file up and view the birds; at the same time providing a barrier to protect the birds near to the cliff edge. This area is quite craggy so a sure foot was required. It did however present the first opportunity for capturing a puffin portrait. At this point I realised my decision to pack light would come good.
I decided that 300mm would be the optimal focal length for the trip. I went with the 300mm f/4 as I wanted to be light and have the ability to shoot handheld meaning I could leave the tripod back at base camp awaiting my next long exposure landscape. This lens also has a very close focusing distance and I knew this would be useful. In hindsight anything in the 200-400 range would be more than adequate. Anything longer will leave you too close for many of the portrait opportunities and have you lugging a heavy lens over often treacherous terrain. Fast focusing speed is paramount as the puffins fly very fast and close to you. The 300 f/4 was left slightly lacking in this department whereas my cohorts 400mm f/5.6 faired much better.
On a more basic level, solid footwear is a must and you will need to take your own food provisions as there is nothing for sale on either island. Sun protection will be needed in the summer months to prevent being burned, even on cloudy days, as there is very little shelter. You will need a hat or stick to wave above your head once on Inner Farne as the Terns will be pecking and dive bombing your head to drive you away from their nests and their young.
The first portrait opportunity saw several puffins posing perfectly. Their audience was a cramped row of massive lenses shooting 10fps on turbo drive. Failing to understand why people were doing this for a simple portrait shot, I had a little look around. I noticed a small area I could climb down onto, remaining inside the cordoned area, that would allow me to shoot on the level with the birds. Sadly this meant crawling across white stained rocks to get into position. I decided it would be worth it and nothing my rain proof jacket could not handle. Once in position I ignored the majority of the puffins and composed my shot around a rock that would be ideal once Mr Puffin arrived on it. I only had to wait for about 5 minutes until one arrived with a mouth full of fish. I took what I needed from him and then clambered back up onto the shelf.
Ahead is a board walk that takes you up on to the main section of the island. It was at this point that a pleasant member of the National Trust staff will ask you for £6 (at the time of writing) to enter the island (free to National Trust members). Once paid up you are free to explore the island and shoot to your hearts content. I bagged a couple more portrait shots, satisfying my list, then explored until it was time to get back on the boat.
The trip then took us around the islands giving those aboard a chance to capture more of the birds on the cliff faces. With any luck you will capture a glimpse of the local Seal population too. The next step saw us landing on Inner Farne. This island is much bigger with several buildings. The Terns seem to like nesting near to the boardwalk so believing you are there to attack their young, they attack you first. They will flap around your head and peck your head to drive you off. They do a fairly effective job. A decent hat or thick hood should provide you with enough protection. If you are tall, expect to be targeted more often. Once at the top of the hill we entered the area belonging to the puffins. They make burrows so are less concerned about a human presence.
There is a grassy area next to the old building that provided an ideal spot to set up for the 'puffin in flight with fish' shot. From here the birds will fly right past you as they make their final approach to land and deliver a meal to their young. I knew this was going to be by far the most challenging shot. We were lined up next to numerous other shooters, many with their cumbersome 400mm f/2.8's and tripods with gimbal heads. Despite this gear many seemed to be struggling. Again I was glad to be shooting handheld giving me more freedom to pan with the flight of the bird. Not everything went my way. Puffins fly extremely fast so keeping focus was very tricky. I wanted the settings to give me the best chance of capturing a great image so I set aperture at f/7.1 so the depth of field was deep enough to give the autofocus the best chance of getting the eye in focus; I the set the shutter speed to 1/2500 of a second and ISO at 1600 to ensure the action was frozen yet remained relatively noise free. I started shooting but despite panning well and several times keeping the bird in my focus point, the 300mm just could not keep up. After a quick swap with my partner I attached the 400mm f/5.6 and things fell into place.
With the shots in the can I explored the island looking for an exposed nest but these Puffins were clearly better than that keeping their young safe in the burrows.
After a short wait we headed back to the mainland and Andy and Toby got us safely back to shore. We headed back to our campsite, very happy with the day and excited to get our laptops out to review the images we had captured.
At The End if the Day
The trip was easy to organise, easy to access and very cheap as there are numerous good campsites in the area. To improve as a photographer you need to invest in your photography. The return on investment here is very high. Aside from the Farne Islands the Northumberland coast is very beautiful offering numerous opportunities for landscape pictures, this includes the amazing Bamburgh Castle. Although I'm not the biggest bird fan, I felt myself getting wrapped up in the twitcher world. I enjoyed the challenge of capturing the shots I had planned and spending time with a great mate whilst indulging our photography passion.
Check out some of Lyle's pictures at Flickr
Visit the Farne Islands and Photograph Puffins with Serenity Tours
365 Project - Photography Ideas
365 project. Words that will quite happily roll off the tongue. In the hands of a photographer these words can become something very different. Demanding, emotional, challenging, tiring and hopefully in the end, rewarding. Let me explain.
The 365 project is not complex. You take one photograph everyday for a year. That's it. Although the idea is simple the execution can become truly testing when the burden of maintaining a creative edge solidly for one year eventually sinks in.
For me creativity comes in waves. There are times when everything goes right, the ideas flow, you feel the magic happen and the work seems to create itself. On other occasions you have no idea how you ever came up with your previous work and you can taste the bitterness of your inadequacy. We each have our own ways of dealing with this feeling and sometimes it is brief and on other occasions it is not so. I was stuck in a particularly bad rut when I decided to set myself a challenge large enough to haul me out of the mire and change the way I work. I knew it had to be a 365 project.
The next decision was my subject. I knew I wanted to create quality images that were more than simple snap shots. I knew the images and eventual series had to tell a story of the year. I realised with my first child about to be born my time was going to become limited. It quickly became obvious what, or who, my subject would be.
The project started mere minutes after my daughter was born when the midwife placed her on the scales and suggested I might want to take a shot. Not one to miss an opportunity, I gathered myself from the events that had just occurred and took my iPhone out and grabbed the first shot. I never thought I would include any images taken on the iPhone but the shot was solid and my hand was steady enough to capture the shot, including the birth weight on the scales.
Although I embarked on my 365 project purely as a personal challenge, many photographers will use them to build a following on social media. In this age where everyone is shooting pictures, creating something special to stand out is a must and a 365 project can very much fit the bill. My 365 project was a based one project so I originally only shared it with family and friends through Flickr. The project very quickly became a documentary of the first year with a short description that accompanied each shot detailing a notable or amusing part of the day. The family and friends became avid followers and quickly began adding to the comments enhancing the overall documentary aspect of the project. Admittedly my family and friends were a biased audience but they came back day after day; the same principle applies to building a public following.
During the year the project almost became another member of our family. It was something that needed caring for, maintaining and required daily feeding. The nagging feeling of constant responsibility was prominent in my mind and this was only amplified by the following it had generated. I placed a large amount of pressure on myself to ensure I got each shot but now any failure would be shared by many others, I would be letting people down if I failed. Although at times it felt like a chore I had to remind myself that these challenging moments were the reason I took on the project in the first place. In the end I completed the 365 project without a missed day and it was in no small part by taking support from my followers and some creative inspiration from my wife, who's keen eye is scattered throughout the project.
My daughter is older now and looking back through the 365 project is magical. Coupled with the descriptions and comments that accompanied the shots they form a story of her first year that, in my opinion, a video could never compete with. My goal was to come out of the other end of the 365 project as a better photographer and a better storyteller. I hope this happened but most of all I took great satisfaction in the successful completion and I feel I have created something that my family will cherish for generations to come.
That only leaves the question, would I ever do another one? My wife asked me the same question a short time ago. I replied with certainty, "no way, never". She said, "I'm pregnant".
Why you shouldn’t be discouraged by the stuffy old guard.
Are you just starting out in photography? You might not know it yet but have you ever taken out your iPhone to capture a moment and imagined beyond the normal straight on snap shot? Are you looking for that perfect composition to capture a more interesting image? This is the basis of photography, how you perceive what you see, whether you have 'the eye'. You post your images on social media and notice they receive more than the normal number of views and praise starts to come your way. You decide to buy your first DSLR at which point you become an amateur photographer, your interest builds with your skill level as you absorb as much learning in the art as possible. You continue to receive praise and constructive criticism from friends and family and you are starting to produce some really strong images. Then you come across Conservative Photographer.
Conservative Photographer is a pro who has been churning out average images for years and years, once in a while producing something strong. He has shot many average weddings, he has exhibited his work a number of times and has made a decent living. Now though, Conservative Photographer is a dangerous beast, failing to adapt and change with the times. He fears you. He is frightened you are going to create better images at a fraction of the price he charges. When he comes across you he will do all he can to batter you down, break your spirit and ultimately make you give up.
Conservative Photographer will bleat about his experience and how he used to shoot film. He will wear it like a badge of honour in an attempt to generate feelings of inadequacy in you like it matters. I used to shoot film, but only because I was born before 1990, that's it. The image above was shot to film when I was 16 years old using a wide angle, single use, instant Kodak camera. If I re-lived the above scene with today's technology as my tool I would have captured the same image on my iPhone. There are two points here. Firstly, youth and inexperience do not prevent you from being an amazing artist. Experience is to be respected but it is not everything. Secondly, the gear does not make the artist. Good gear provides you the opportunity to get the very best you are capable of; do not be intimidated by the pro body with battery grip, big glass and multiple flash guns that Conservative Photographer is waving in your face.
Conservative Photographer will be unhelpful. He will be pompous, often rude and unwilling to share any of his knowledge in a vain attempt to maintain the position he feels he is entitled to after all these years. He will complain that, 'everyone thinks they are a photographer these days' because he is afraid of the increased competition that now exists.
I pity the joyless existence of Conservative Photographer. Like him, I am very serious about the work I produce and a professional attitude will rarely see you go wrong. However, it is possible to be serious and fun at the same time and take joy in creating your work. Do not be conservative with your photography, be progressive and like with all art, change, adapt and do it all with a sense of humour and fun. Why do you think things like Instagram are so popular?
The internet and modern technology have changed the world very quickly over the last twenty years, taking control away from the greedy few and putting it into the hands of the masses. Like the music and film industries, photography will never be the same again. If you want to be a successful photographer do not let greed rule. Share your knowledge, be gracious and let your work speak for itself.
Conservative Photographer, get out of my way. Your time is done.