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. 
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:

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)
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,, 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 


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.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Featured Artist Roberta Byram

This weeks featured artist is painter and photographer Roberta Byram, and this is what she told us about herself:

Hello! I am Roberta Byram; painter, photographer, and writer. My art reflects a deep love of life as I embrace life and all of creation. I focus on capturing those things that take us by surprise and those images which we want to hold onto forever. I possess a creativity that is unique. 

Here is a sample of Roberta's work:
Yellow Lillies

Look at all the buds on those lilies! I was so excited to receive this bunch of beauties! The first three flowers are bursting with joy as they await the others to come along.

White Arches

They may not be the Golden Arches, but these white arches have been around for some time. An original pizza pick up in Steubenville, Ohio, it is still the best pizza in the world. I am 65 years old and this building was here when I was born. It has not changed: no updates, no remodel, no make over. It is still the same. I guess the saying is true: some things never change!

At Peace

Come to a place where peace abounds; a quiet, soothing place. The creek bed is a place of peace where quiet abounds and mystery is found. You can hear your heartbeat in this place of peace, so come and stay awhile.

You can visit Roberta's blog on her website, under the info tab 

You can also find Roberta on the following Social Media sites:

Little Bits and Bytes of Revelation: Messages from God 
A book about hope and inspiration 
Available on Amazon Books. 
Roberta Byram, Author 

Now Released! 
In a Split Second 
A book about an 'almost' near death experience. 
Available on Amazon Books. 
Roberta Byram, Author 

Monday, 11 April 2016

Flash Photography: Taking Photos With Vs Without Flash (A.K.A. Speedlights)

Today's article is from Graham Wadden who created and maintains the Creative Commons photography website,, specializing in creating Royalty Free Stock Photography primarily for home educators and those in education. I have included a selection of my images where I have not used flash in poor light and I have given the settings of ISO, Exposure and Shutter Speed.

Taking Photos Without Flash

When taking photos without flash, you're relying on the image sensor being sensitive enough to capture as much information about the scene as possible, based upon the available light - whether that's ambient light from the sun (whether the sun is shining directly or being diffused through cloud cover).

The larger the sensor, the more data can be recorded and this helps, to a degree, when taking photos in low light conditions, particularly indoors. However, with the more sophisticated, modern DSLR cameras, there are a few settings adjustments you can make, to help improve both the amount and the quality of light that go in to making a nice looking photo.

1. Adjust The ISO Setting = Adjusting The Sensor's Light Sensitivity

One of the things you can do to improve the light recording capability of your DSLR is to adjust the light sensitivity of the sensor. This is done by adjusting what is known as the ISO (pronounced "EYE-so") setting - this is a numerical value and the higher the ISO number, the better your camera's sensor will deal with low light conditions... to a point! You see, there is a trade-off for this wizardry - the higher you push the ISO setting, the grainier your photos will turn out. This graininess is referred to as "noise" and it lowers the overall quality of the image.

A general principle is to keep the ISO setting as low as possible, for the best possible quality in your images. Get to know your camera's lowest "native" ISO setting. What I mean by this is, on some of the more sophisticated DSLRs, you get the option to select Extended ISO from the camera's menu and this allows you to digitally take it below the manufacturer's natural or "native" ISO setting, which is where the camera's sensor performs at its natural best. For instance, on the Panasonic GH4, you can turn on the Extended ISO feature and this will allow you to take the ISO down to either 100 or 80. Turn off the Extended ISO and the lowest you can get to is ISO 200... this is the Panasonic GH4's lowest "native" ISO setting.
Parliament Building At Night
Exposure f 3.5  :   Shutter Speed 1/60   :   ISO  3200

2. Adjusting The Aperture Lets More Light In Through The Lens

Another thing you can try and adjust is the Aperture of the lens - this works like the iris of a human eye: the wider it opens, the more light can enter, so the scene looks lighter and brighter; with a narrower aperture, less light can enter the lens, so the image will be darker.

If your images are looking too dark when you review them on the LCD screen of your camera, you can try and open up the Aperture. This will require dialing down to a lower f-stop number. For instance, f2.8 is a wider aperture than, say, f8. If, on the other hand, your images are too bright and detail is being lost because of the brightness, you can try and dial a higher f-stop number, to close the aperture down and make the image darker.

However, notice that in both instances I said "you can try"? This is because adjusting the Aperture impacts on the overall image, by adjusting how much of the scene is in clear focus and how much will be blurred. Basically, lowering the f-stop number (widening the Aperture of the lens), increases how much of the background will be blurred (focus on a subject in the foreground and stuff in the background will become defocused - a.k.a. blurred), and you might not want this; you might want everything in the image in clear, sharp focus. The way to do this is to increase the f-stop number (narrowing the aperture of the lens). But, in doing so, you're going to reduce the amount of light that can come through the lens, so you'll once more encounter darker images.

Adjusting the aperture, to employ what's called "selective focus" - where you deliberately blur out background subjects in order to make foreground subjects stand out more clearly, helping direct the eyes of those looking at your photos to precisely your chosen subject - is a key part of helping your photos tell a story, so you may not want to adjust your aperture in order to brighten up your image. It depends, if your image doesn't suffer from the wider aperture, then do so to help aid the image sensor in grabbing as much of the available light as possible.

3. Adjusting The Shutter Speed Allows More Or Less Light To Be Recorded By The Sensor

If you've decided you've got the right aperture for your photo and don't want to alter it any further, then adjusting the Shutter Speed is another way to increase or reduce the amount of light that can be recorded onto your digital image.

Basically, when you select a faster Shutter Speed, you're reducing the time that the shutter stays open and, as a result, less light can reach the sensor, so this will make images darker. Conversely, when you select a slower Shutter Speed, you're keeping that shutter window open for longer, exposing the image sensor to more and more light. For all the time the shutter is open, the sensor will record every scrap of light it detects. Keep it open for long enough and you will end up with an overexposed image, to the point where you just have a totally white photo, which has lost all of its detail because you allowed the shutter to stay open too long - light rays get recorded on top of light rays, and you end up with a washed-out image. So, you play about with the Shutter Speed, increasing and decreasing it until you have the shutter staying open just long enough to capture the perfect amount of light detail, resulting in a nicely exposed photograph.

However, there may be times when you don't want to adjust your Shutter Speed any further. For instance, you may deliberately want a slower Shutter Speed, because you're trying to capture movement of, say, a car as it passes with its lights on, and you want to add a sense of motion to your still image, by capturing the light trails as the vehicle whizzes by.
Salisbury Cathedral Nave
Exposure f 3.5  :   Shutter Speed 1/80   :   ISO  3200

Taking Photos With Flash

When you've adjusted your ISO and don't want to risk introducing any "noise" into your images; and when you've adjusted your Aperture to get the right amount of depth of field (e.g. everything in sharp focus or background blurred to make your foreground subject stand out more clearly; and when you've adjusted your Shutter Speed as fast or slow as you want it... and you're STILL not getting enough light onto your sensor, to expose your photo(s) properly? Well, that's when you need to add some flash into the mix, preferably from an external flash (as you can control direction, as well as the power of the light, to get that perfect balance of light hitting your subject when you take the shot). The "pop-up" flash on your camera is better when you're able to turn down the power, so you're just "kissing" subtle light onto your subject, to fill in what would otherwise be lost to shadows, but because it's facing your subject directly, it tends not to give the most flattering look, especially when taking photos of people. If you can get hold of an external flash unit, you will improve the look by taking the flash off to the side (at an approximate 45-degree angle from your subject).

Depending on the external flash unit you get, you will be able to change certain settings on the flash, to add sufficient light when you don't want to make any further changes to your camera settings.

Settings that top of the range flash units allow you to adjust, include:

1. Flash Power... this will be a feature of virtually all external flash units, allowing you to keep the ISO on your camera low, by increasing the power of the flash output.

2. Flash Zoom... if this is an option on your flash, you'll be able to select a wide angle setting, to spread the light wider in the foreground; or you can zoom the flash to get it to spread deeper into the scene (but at the expense of how wide the light will spread - the further out you zoom the flash, the narrower the beam).
St Peters Dome
Exposure f 5.6  :   Shutter Speed 1/30   :   ISO  3200

And Don't Forget To Experiment With Bounce!

When I first got my external flash for my Panasonic FZ1000, I was a bit disappointed with the results, no matter how much I changed the flash power and zoom settings... higher or lower, they made no difference; the photos just didn't look very good. And then, just pratting about out of sheer frustration, I turned the flash head so it was pointing up towards the ceiling... and with that one change, I got instant improvement with my photos. The reason for this is that, as the light from the flash hits the ceiling, especially if it's a light colored ceiling, it spreads out and is then redirected back down. As it comes back down, it spreads out. The force of the direct flash is softened and this helps to give a much nicer spread of light down onto your subject. Direct flash (when the flash is pointed "directly" at your subject) tends to be a bit too hard, but when you bounce the light off a surface (it can be a side wall; it doesn't just have to be the ceiling - so experiment!), the softer light just has a nicer look to it against your subject.

One thing you'll need to, particularly with the ceiling bounce, is find a way to project some of the light forwards - if it all goes straight up to the ceiling, this is when you'll likely get unpleasant shadows, particularly under people's eyes, nose, chin (basically, anything that protrudes that will block the fall of the light as it comes down off the ceiling). The flash unit I bought came with has a white strip of plastic that you pull out and this helps to project some of the light forwards. It's okay, but I found the white diffuser cap, which also came with my Panasonic flash, and fits over the flash head, helps to soften the light coming out of the flash, as well as projecting slightly more light forwards, even when doing a ceiling bounce. Other products that seek to enhance this forward spread of light, are Gary Fong's Half Cloud, and Rogue's Flash Bender, both of which increase the area the direct flash light hits as it leaves the flash head, thus throwing even more light towards your subject than a basic diffuser cap, helping to fill in more of the shadows. So far, I'm happy with the results I've been getting with a simple diffuser, but I am considering experimenting with those other two flash attachments, and that's possibly something you'll want to consider, too.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Britain from A to Z - C

Today, for the letter C, we start at Charing Cross Station in London, travel out to Caen Hill in Dorset and end up with a view of one of Cambridge's oldest Colleges.
Buy original Wall Art of Charing Cross Station
Charing Cross Station
Charing Cross Station seen from the London Eye.
Buy original Wall Art of Caen Hill Locks
Caen Hill Locks
The dramatic change in height of the land at Caen Hill resulted in the need for 16 locks to be built in close succession. They were built in 1810 and form part of a longer 29-lock flight at Devizes, all packed into just over two miles.
Buy original Wall Art of Caen Hill Locks Side Ponds
Caen Hill Locks Side Ponds
Because of the steepness of the hill there was not space to use the normal arrangement of water pounds between the locks and so engineer John Rennie had to build unusually large side ponds to replenish the water in each lock after use. 
Buy original Wall Art of Kings College Chapel And The Gibbs Building
Kings College Chapel And The Gibbs Building
King's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. It was founded in 1441 by Henry VI, soon after he had founded its sister college in Eton. However, the King's plans for the college were disrupted by the Wars of the Roses and resultant scarcity of funds, and his eventual deposition. Little progress was made on the project until in 1508 Henry VII began to take an interest in the college, most likely as a political move to legitimise his new position. The building of the college's chapel, begun in 1446, was finally finished in 1544 during the reign of Henry VIII. 

King's College Chapel is regarded as one of the greatest examples of late Gothic English architecture. It has the world's largest fan-vault, and the chapel's stained-glass windows and wooden chancel screen are considered some of the finest from their era. The chapel's choir, composed of male students at King's and choristers from the nearby King's College School, is one of the most accomplished and renowned in the world.

In 1724 James Gibbs redesigned the front court, but was able to only build the west range of his scheme, the present Gibbs Building. 

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.