Sunday, 1 May 2016

Featured Artist Earl Eells

This weeks featured artist is photographer Earl Eells who had this to say to us:

I've been on Fine Art America now since August of 2014. I hope that I have learned along the way as I have studied what others are doing and the beautiful pictures that they are posting. 
The Grand Canyon Mathers Point
I'm longing for warm weather to return so that all of us can be out and doing what we all love, shooting incredible images. My wife and I have definite plans to visit the Grand Canyon later in early summer. I am excited about the experience and I'm sure you will get a chance to enjoy what I see there.
 
Come Sit With Me
I'm still using my imagination and see things that may be no one has seen before until someone puts it in a picture. I love to shoot small things. Flowers and small insects and small objects. Scenic pictures are amazing. We live in an amazingly beautiful country and I love to capture some of that beauty. 
Purple Phlox
The heavens above have started to catch my interest. I would love to capture the Milky Way on film but have as of yet failed but will succeed at some point. Hoping that the pictures I upload to Fine Art America will catch the eye of many and result in successfully selling many of my pictures. 
Abandoned
Earls work can be viewed at http://earl-eellsa.pixels.com/
and you can follow him on Twitter @eellsearl 

Friday, 29 April 2016

Britain from A to Z - F

This week we move on to the letter F where we are looking at images from Scotland, Oxford and the county of Dorset.
Buy artwork of The Falkirk Wheel.
Falkirk Wheel
The Falkirk Wheel is a rotating boat lift in Falkirk, Scotland, connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. The lift, opened in 2002, reconnects the two canals for the first time since the 1930s as part of the Millennium Link project. 
The wheel raises boats by 24 metres (79 ft), but the Union Canal is still 11 metres (36 ft) higher than the aqueduct which meets the wheel. Boats must also pass through a pair of locks between the top of the wheel and the Union Canal. The Falkirk Wheel is the only rotating boat lift of its kind in the world.
Buy artwork of Folly Bridge
Folly Bridge
Folly Bridge is a stone bridge over the River Thames in Oxford, England. 
The bridge stands at the site of oxen ford where oxen could be driven across the River Isis, the ancient name of the reach of the Thames between Folly Bridge and Iffley Lock. This is the likely derivation of the name Oxford.
Buy artwork of Foxglove
Foxglove Digitalis Purpurea
Foxglove in the New Forest, Dorset, England. A popular ornamental, with tall spires of tapered, tubular, purple to pink or white flowers, common foxglove is also a source of digitoxin, used in the heart drug digitalis.
Buy artwork of Fallow Deer
Fallow Deer
Fallow deer in Arne Nature Reserve, Dorset, England. They were introduced by the Normans and quickly became established in the wild in hunting forests and chases. There are no really accurate estimates, but there must be tens of thousands of fallow deer in Britain.

As usual, my work is available to purchase as original  Wall Art, in a variety of formats from stretched canvas or framed prints, metal or acrylic prints,or simply as standard prints for you to mount in your favourite picture frame. They are also available as greeting cards or printed onto iPhone or Galaxy phone cases, throw pillows or duvet covers or tote bags or shower curtains. Simply click on the  image and you will be taken to my gallery where you will find full details.



Monday, 25 April 2016

Featured Artist Ami Poindexter

This weeks featured artist is photographer Ami Poindexter who had this to say to us:

Hi, My name is Ami Poindexter and I am a Fine Art Photographer currently residing in West Jordan, Utah. I have been married to my high school sweetheart for nearly 19 years and we are raising two wonderful boys together.
Infinite 2
Photography hasn’t always been in my life. It wasn’t until 2004 when I received a 35mm Nikon SLR for Christmas. I remember stepping outside and looking through the viewfinder for the first time, a whole new world came into focus. One filled with beauty, beauty in the most ordinary places and things. I started to see things in a new light, and I began to see light in new ways. I spent the next few days in the freezing cold weather and loving every minute of it; it didn’t take long for me to use the 5 rolls of film that came with my camera. After a few years, I started thinking of ways I could take my photography to the next level.
Baby's Breath
So, In 2014 I earned my Associate of Art Degree in Photography from the Academy of Art University. During my studies there I was able to explore many different genres, which allowed me to discover, refine, and expand my vision as an artist. 
Infinite 6
In developing my own personal style I discovered a love for Landscapes, Nature, and Still Life. I often prefer a more minimalistic approach to my subjects and finding a unique perspective. I am so inspired by the softness of Pictorial Photography that I frequently employ a shallow depth of field in my Landscapes. I also enjoy using some techniques of the time, which can be seen in my Not Just a Flower series. By shooting through glass covered with different substances I was able to achieve various intriguing results. 
Mimicry
My vision for my work is to create memorable images that people will be talking about for years to come and to share with them the beauty I see in the ordinary, as well as the extraordinary. 

You can view more of Ami's work on her website at:
http://ami-poindexter.artistwebsites.com/index.html


Friday, 22 April 2016

Britain from A to Z - E

For the letter E in our A to Z of Britain, we travel from the north of Scotland, through East Anglia and end up in London.

We start right in the north of Scotland on Mainland, Orkney, with the Earls Palace.
Earls Palace
This fine courtyard castle was built between 1569 and 1574 by Robert Stewart, half-brother to Mary Queen of Scots, and the illegitimate son of James V by his mistress Euphemia Elphinstone. When Mary’s son, James VI, created him Earl of Orkney, Lord of Shetland and Knight of Birsay in 1581, the castle became his principal country residence in Orkney. The overthrow of the Stewart earls in 1615 effectively ended the story of the Earl’s Palace, Birsay. An inventory drawn up in 1653 by Cromwell’s troops, then stationed here, suggests neglect had already set in. By 1700 the palace was roofless and decaying.

Travelling back in time even earlier than the Earls Palace, we next take a look at Ely Cathedral.
Ely Cathedral - West Tower
Ely Cathedral - The Lady Chapel
Ely Cathedral, has its origins in AD 672 when St Etheldreda built an Abbey Church. The present building dates back to 1083, and cathedral status was granted it in 1109. Until the reformation it was the Church of St Etheldreda and St Peter, at which point it was refounded as the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Ely, continuing as the principal church of the Diocese of Ely, in Cambridgeshire, England. It is the seat of the Bishop of Ely and a suffragan bishop, the Bishop of Huntingdon. Architecturally it is outstanding both for its scale and stylistic details. Having been built in a monumental Romanesque style, the galilee porch, lady chapel and choir were rebuilt in an exuberant Decorated Gothic. Its most famous feature however is the central Octagonal tower, with lantern above, which provides a spectacular internal space and, along with the West Tower, gives a unique exterior landmark that dominates the surrounding landscape. Ely Cathedral is the only UK building to be listed as one of the “Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages”. Visible for miles around, the Cathedral is often referred to as “The Ship of the Fens”.
Egyptian Goose
Travelling towards London we see an Egyptian Goose on the banks of the River Thames at Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.
Elizabeth Tower
We finish this journey in the centre of London with a view of The Elizabeth Tower which houses The Great Clock and Big Ben, which is the name of the largest of the five bells which hang in the clock tower.

As usual, my work is available to purchase as original  Wall Art, in a variety of formats from stretched canvas or framed prints, metal or acrylic prints,or simply as standard prints for you to mount in your favourite picture frame. They are also available as greeting cards or printed onto iPhone or Galaxy phone cases, throw pillows or duvet covers or tote bags or shower curtains. Simply click on the  image and you will be taken to my gallery where you will find full details.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

How I Learnt To Use The Main Features Of A DSLR Camera

Today we have another article from Graham Wadden, this time outlining how he learnt to use the main features of his DSLR Camera.

If you're looking to get the most out of your new DSLR camera, you're going to want to get out of the automatic "Programme" mode (which is fully automatic) and begin learning how to take photos either in "Shutter Priority" mode, "Aperture Priority" mode or, ultimately, full "Manual" mode.

When you've got your camera in Programme mode (usually signified by a letter "P" on the mode dial of your DSLR), you're basically handing over all of the decision making responsibility to the camera. The camera will then use its coded algorithms to decide what is the most appropriate settings to use - that is, how wide the Aperture should be; how fast the Shutter Speed should be. Both of these (Aperture and Shutter Speed) affect the amount of light data that can be captured by the camera's digital image sensor, and what the camera calculates as appropriate might not result in an image that's desirable. Essentially, when you buy a DSLR and keep it in Programme mode, you're treating it like a cheap compact camera, where you just aim and click the button to take the photos, rather than treating it like the sophisticated image creation machine that it is and you taking control of what will be blurred in your image and what will be crystal clear; or. you choosing when you want motion blur in your image and when you don't.

The main features of your DSLR camera that you will want to master are:

Mode Dial (Programme vs. Shutter Priority vs. Aperture Priority vs. Manual Modes)
ISO
White Balance

I'll walk you through each one in turn, the way that I learnt to become comfortable with working these features, so that I was able to take responsibility for how my photos were (if I may be so bold as to say) "crafted".


1. Mode Dial


The obvious first step is to get out of Programme mode and learn to become comfortable in the other three modes. Because I wanted to be totally in control of using my DSLR, my ultimate aim was to comfortable using the camera in full Manual mode. My route to this was to take advantage of what you might call the two "semi automatic" modes: Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority, respectively.

Aperture Priority Mode... All you need to know is that when your camera is set to Aperture Priority mode, YOU are in control of setting the correct Aperture values (f-stop numbers, such as f2.8, f5.6, f8, all the way down to f22) and the camera will be in charge of calculating the Shutter Speed. When you're changing the aperture of the lens, you're either widening the opening of the lens, to let more light in, or you're narrowing the lens, to let less light reach the sensor.

When you widen the aperture (choosing a lower f-stop number, such as f2.8), background subjects will become more blurry, allowing foreground targets to stand out more when you focus on them (either turning lenses manually to achieve clear focus, or taking advantage of the camera's Autofocus technology and, typically, pressing the shutter button half way down to engage the Autofocus system, which will get your target subject in focus, before pressing the shutter button fully down, to take the picture).

When you narrow the aperture (choosing a higher f-stop number, such as f8 or higher), more things deeper in your scene will be in clear focus, including the foreground subject you're targeting.

Shutter Priority Mode... If you've understood what happens when you select Aperture Priority mode, you may already have figured out that when you put your camera into Shutter Priority mode, YOU are responsible for choosing how long the shutter is allowed to stay open. The image sensor of your camera will record all the available light data for as long as the shutter remains open. So, if you choose a faster Shutter Speed (measured in fractions of a second, such as 1/50, 1/250, 1/1000, 1/4000), the sensor will have less opportunity to continue recording light and this results in a darker exposure (you know, when you're ultra disappointed because your photos have come out too dark? That's known as an "underexposed" image, as it hasn't been exposed to the light for long enough).

If, on the other hand, you choose a slower Shutter Speed (greater than 1 second, such as 1", 1.3", 15", 30", 60"), then you're allowing the shutter to stay open longer, so the image sensor will be able to record more of the light, resulting in a lighter image (have you ever been disappointed because your photos have become too light and nice details have been lost to the brightness? That's known as an "overexposed" image, as it has been exposed to the light for too long).

It may have dawned on you that one of your roles as a photographer is to master the balance of light coming into the lens and onto your camera's sensor. If the scene is too dark, your job is to use the settings and tools at your disposal (i.e. a flash, if necessary), to help the image sensor to record more of the light - either by allowing the shutter to remain open for longer and/or allowing more light in through the lens by widening the aperture. If the scene is too light, you want to go the opposite way and either restrict the time the shutter stays open and/or narrow down the aperture so that less light enters the lens when the shutter button is pressed.

It sounds pretty straight forward, but there is a slight catch... The Shutter Speed and Aperture are both tools used not just to get more or less light onto your camera's sensor; they are also creative controls that give you different effects and, once you get the right setting, you might not want to change it even if you still need either more or less light in your image.

For instance, while the Aperture "can" be narrowed to let less light onto the sensor, thus helping to darken overly bright images, you might not want to reduce the Aperture any further than what you've selected, because at the wider aperture that you've selected, you're getting a nicely blurred background, which is helping to make your foreground subject stand out more clearly (this is known as "selective focus"; you're telling a story by helping those viewing your photos to better understand that the clear, foreground item - whether person or other object, etc. - is the main subject of the photo, and you're helping them know this by blurring out everything behind the target subject).

Alternatively, you can create different effects by choosing a faster or slower Shutter Speed. Perhaps you want to freeze every drop in a waterfall? Or capture a bird of prey as it hovers in the air, without any blurring of the wings? For both situations, you'll want to select a faster Shutter Speed - the shutter will stay open for only a very, very short time (fractions of a second, such as 1/2000 or something like that). You're doing this to freeze the motion, NOT primarily to let the sensor record light for less time. If you wanted motion in both those examples, you'd be choosing a slower Shutter Speed - the shutter stays open for longer, even if it's only a few fractions of a second, and all that movement will be recorded onto your final image.

Okay, this is all very good to know, but how do you go about learning how to use this knowledge to master the main features of your DSLR camera?

I ended up playing about with the camera in both modes - some of the time I spent in Aperture Priority mode, controlling the Aperture; some of the time I was in Shutter Priority mode, controlling the Shutter Speed. I wasn't concentrating on the technical aspects of whether I wanted to freeze motion with a faster Shutter Speed, or blur out certain subjects in the background with a wider Aperture (that all came to me later, as I got more experienced with the camera). I was focusing solely on looking at the LCD screen to see whether the image was too bright (overexposed) or too dark (underexposed).

From a personal point of view, I found I learnt faster while in Shutter Priority mode. This was because, on the camera I was using at the time (a Panasonic FZ1000), whenever I half-pressed the Shutter button, as I scrolled the dial to change the Shutter Speed, I could see the image on the LCD screen either get lighter or darker and I was able to use this to gauge whether to increase or decrease the Shutter Speed.

At this point, I need to mention my upgrade from the Panasonic FZ1000, to a proper DSLR, in the form of the Panasonic GH4. When I went to use the same method, of looking at how bright or dark the image was on the LCD and simply deciding whether I needed to increase or decrease the Shutter Speed, I discovered that the brightness didn't alter on the GH4's LCD screen. As it turned out, this was to be a good thing, as it forced me onto YouTube to look for a solution, and that's where I discovered how to take advantage of the Exposure Compensation indicator to help determine when the image was exposed properly. It turns out that, when you have the light balance right - not too dark (underexposed) and not too light (overexposed), there should be a little symbol that has a plus and a minus in a box, with a zero next to it (+/-0). When you see this, you have the right light balance and you're ready to start snapping. Now, it doesn't matter what DSLR I use, I know I can find the right balance of light to gauge the correct exposure, BEFORE I waste hours taking photos that are either too light or too dark.

Even with this knowledge, I'd still continue to practice in Shutter Priority mode, first, letting the camera dictate which aperture to use. Do this until you feel you've grasped the proverbial nettle and feel that you're ready to begin experimenting with the camera in Aperture Priority mode. When I made the switch, I found I got the hang of it pretty much immediately - setting a wider aperture (lower f-stop number) will make things brighter, but also make the background elements more blurred; setting a narrower aperture (higher f-stop number) will make the image darker, but will bring more of the scene into clear focus.

I spent only a few hours in Aperture Priority mode before I felt I'd got the hang of it and felt ready to begin learning to use the camera in full Manual mode. But, guess what? The transition was pretty much instantaneous - I'd learnt how to use the Shutter Speed in Shutter Priority mode, and I'd learnt how to use the Aperture in Aperture Priority mode. In Manual mode, you're essentially putting the two lessons together, but doing it all yourself... You're now in control of what to adjust to let more or less light onto the sensor and now you're able to start learning to be more creative with this knowledge - you can make subtle changes to both the Shutter Speed and Aperture, to improve the quality of your images. You can start to use the Shutter Speed to explore freezing moving subjects or letting some of their movement show in your photos by slowing the Shutter Speed to introduce a bit of motion blur. And you can adjust the Aperture to have more things in focus in your scene (which is often what you want in landscape photos, when you want to see everything in the foreground and everything to the horizon, in clear detail, and when you want to select a narrower Aperture, with a higher f-stop number). Or, maybe you want to use selective focus and have only your main subject in focus in the foreground, while the background is allowed to be blurred, to help the subject "pop"? That's when you can widen the Aperture, with a lower f-stop number.

But what if you still don't have enough light entering your camera? What if you have your Aperture and Shutter Speed correctly set and your photos are still turning out too dark (too underexposed)? Well, that's when you can explore the next setting I learnt to adjust...


2. ISO


The ISO setting (pronounced EYE-so) determines how sensitive your camera's sensor is to light. When I first got my cameras (both of them, the FZ1000 and GH4), they were already set to "Auto ISO", which meant the camera used its algorithms to calculate the most appropriate ISO setting. But, like having the camera in Programme mode, you also want to get comfortable adjusting the ISO settings as the situation demands it, rather than letting a snippet of computer code make a "best guess" (albeit a binary one).

It's not all that difficult to learn - when not in Auto ISO mode, the ISO settings are displayed as different numerical values, such as 100, 125, 200, 400, 800, and 1600. The higher the value, the lighter the image will become. However, this isn't a magic feature that will allow you to take high quality photos, regardless of how dark it is. The camera needs to make certain algorithmic adjustments to help illuminate dark images. However, the higher you push the ISO setting, the more grainy the photos become (this graininess is referred to as "noise" and, if you can help it, you want to avoid noise in your images, because it detracts from the overall quality of the photo). That's just the nature of this technology, which is gradually getting better as cameras become ever more sophisticated. However, as things stand in 2016, camera's like the Panasonic FZ1000 and Panasonic GH4, which I know well, don't fare so well above ISO 1600, which is my current limit that I'm willing to go to, despite being able to push the ISO over 12800. Images are just about acceptable at ISO 1600, certainly for posting smaller photos on the internet; if I still needed more light for a correct exposure, I would ignore pushing the ISO any further and, instead, scale back to a lower ISO (such as 200 to 400, maybe 800 at most) and reach for my external flash to provide the desired illumination. If I can get away with it, though, I do like being able to take photos without fiddling with the flash, and will explore the ISO range to try and get me there.

That said, there are times when an external flash comes in useful - recall those instances where the you didn't want to adjust either the Shutter Speed (because you wanted a certain motion blur, perhaps) or the Aperture (because you wanted to use selective focusing to help your image tell a story) in order to help your camera's sensor capture the right balance of light? Well, you can have your proverbial cake and eat it, if you use an external flash. The flash allows you to introduce light so that you're not having to steal light from Shutter Speed and/or Aperture adjustments. Let the power of a flash (a.k.a. Speedlight) take charge of illumination and leave the Shutter Speed and Aperture settings at the sweet spot for your current project.

Okay (deep breath, in)... (deep breath, out)... so, by this time, I was getting better at selecting the Shutter Speed and Aperture and adjusting the ISO, all in tandem, to help improve the overall quality of my exposures / photos (whatever you want to call them). That left just one other "main feature" to get to grips with...


3. White Balance


The color of white can take on a reddish or blueish tinge, depending on the lighting conditions, such as sunlight or when taking photos indoors, under incandescent lights. The White Balance feature allows you to adjust the color temperature so that it looks natural, just the way you see it with your naked eye.

Most modern DSLR cameras come with certain preset White Balance settings, usually identified by specific symbols in your camera's White Balance menu. For instance, you can set it to AWB (Auto White Balance) and let the camera calculate the most appropriate setting. Or, you can take a look at the environment you're in and, if you're outdoors and the sun is shining, select the "sun" icon; if you're under a cloudy sky, well, there's usually a "cloud" icon that will adjust the White Balance to a suitable color temperature for this situation. When taking photos indoors, there's usually a "light bulb" icon for taking photos under incandescent lights.

On some of the more sophisticated DSLR cameras, you're able to manually adjust White Balance by adjusting the Kelvin color temperature values. Those presets that I just mentioned were doing this, to a certain degree, by changing the White Balance to a certain Kelvin temperature value, according to the situation. However, if you have the option on your particular camera, you can choose to warm things up a little bit more, by selecting a slightly higher Kelvin value; or, you can cool down the color temperature by lowering the Kelvin value. The lowest value is 2500K (K = Kelvin), which will cool the image down by increasing the amount of blue. The highest value is 10,000K which will warm up your image by increasing the amount of orange in the exposure.

There is no hard and fast rule about which White Balance setting to use. There was a time when I wanted to set the White Balance manually and dictate the color temperature in my photos, so I would always go into the Kelvin menu and decide whether I wanted more warmth in my images (increasing the K value) or less warmth (reducing the K value). However, I have come to find that the presets do a pretty good job so, for instance, if it's sunny outside, I just stick the White Balance into the "sun" preset and get on with taking my photos. Experiment, see what works best with your workflow.

And that's pretty much it. That's how I learnt what I consider to be the main features of a DSLR camera. This is how I went from never having used a DSLR before, to feeling fairly comfortable using any DSLR camera in full Manual mode, where I take control of the creative process of crafting (or trying to craft) the photos I want to take. It is a rewarding skill to master.

Graham Wadden created and maintains the Creative Commons photography website, WaddenCCPhotography.com, specializing in creating Royalty Free Stock Photography primarily for home educators and those in education.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Featured Artist Terry DeLuco

This weeks featured artist is photographer Terry DeLuco, who told us this:

I’m an artist and photographer from the (New) Jersey Shore who specializes in photographing landscapes and seascapes. I have been drawn to the outdoors for as long as I can remember, seeing art in nature everywhere – from tiny leaves that have fallen to the ground to majestic vistas. 

My amazing journey is a process of forever learning through the people, places and things that touch my life. I try to capture the beauty that I see before me so I can share it with others. It is so important to me and others to have photos of the people and places we love. I like to spend as much time as possible outdoors. I love animals, nature, the mountains, the beach, yoga and love to create digital art.

Should my photos make you smile, feel peaceful, touch your heart, or recall a favorite place or memory, then I have accomplished something wonderful – I have made someone happy, and for that, I am thankful. 

Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow. ~ Imogen Cunningham 

You can view more of Terry's work at 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TerryDPhotography?ref=hl
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TAD09

Website: http://terry-deluco.artistwebsites.com/

Friday, 15 April 2016

Britain from A to Z - D

For the letter D in our A to Z of Britain, we travel from the north of Scotland, through the Midlands ending up on the Dorset coast with images of landscapes, flowers and churches.

We begin on the east coast of Scotland with an interior view of Dornoch Cathedral.
Dornoch Cathedral
The south transept stained glass windows in Dornoch Cathedral, Sutherland, Scotland. It was here that Madonna's and Guy Ritchie's son was baptised on 21st December 2000, the day before they were married in nearby Skibo Castle.

Next we have another church interior, this time in the town of Warwick.
Deans Chapel
The small Dean's Chapel in St Mary's Church, Warwick. This small chapel has fancifully painted Gothic vaulting painted white, with blue between the vaulting ribs. Squints look through the wall of the Dean's Chapel into the much larger and grandiose Beauchamp Chapel.

We now move away from architecture to nature with a macro of a dandelion:
Dandelion Seed Head
A dandelion Seed Head in Stoke Wood, Oxfordshire.

Finally off to the south coast with an image of Durdle Door in Dorset.
Durdle Door
Durdle Door is one of the most photographed landmarks along the Jurassic Coast. This rock arch in the sea was formed as a result of the softer rocks being eroded away behind the hard limestones, allowing the sea to punch through them. The name Durdle is derived from an Old English word thirl meaning bore or drill. Eventually the arch will collapse to leave a sea stack such as those that can be seen at Ladram Bay in East Devon.

As usual, my work is available to purchase as original  Wall Art, in a variety of formats from stretched canvas or framed prints, metal or acrylic prints,or simply as standard prints for you to mount in your favourite picture frame. They are also available as greeting cards or printed onto iPhone or Galaxy phone cases, throw pillows or duvet covers or tote bags or shower curtains. Simply click on the  image and you will be taken to my gallery where you will find full details.