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Basic 35mm Photography

Dear West Linn/Wilsonville class participant,

Please bear with me while I get organized! Following is the outline for a nature photography class I have presented in the past as a three-day seminar. I haven't really had time to break it into our four/eight week format, but this is basically what I plan to cover over the next eight weeks.

If you only signed up for the first four weeks, we'll be covering all the basics in detail, with lots of practice and more shooting/viewing than I was able to do in a three-day format.

If you are signed up for both four-week sessions, the second session will assume basic understanding of your camera, and will focus on compositional techniques.

New Stuff Goes Here!

6 February 2001:

  • Last week's shooting assignment is on-line!
  • Final shooting assignment: beginning composition
    • Shoot an process a roll of Kodak Elitechrome 200 slide film using the compositional techniques discussed in class.
    • If you wish, get four slides to me (503.635.3229), and I'll put them on this web site!

Thank you for making this class a success! I look forward to seeing some of you in the follow-on Nature Photography class, either on Tuesday, 20 February, or in the spring quarter, tentatively scheduled for 15 May. Watch your mail for the West Linn/Wilsonville Community Education schedule or the Clackamas Community College schedule.

    30 January 2001:

    • Last week's shooting assignment is on-line!
    • Third shooting assignment: exploring lighting and exposure control
      • Shoot an process a roll of Kodak Elitechrome 200 slide film on the theme of control of lighting.
      • Bring four slides to class next week.
        • Have at least one image that shows strong side-lighting.
        • Have at least one image that shows strong back-lighting.
        • Optional: bring an image that shows low contrast lighting.

    23 January 2001:

    • Last week's shooting assignment is on-line!
    • Second shooting assignment: depth-of-field
      • Shoot an process a roll of Kodak Elitechrome 200 slide film on the theme of depth-of-field control. Bring four slides to class next week. Have at least one image that shows very tight depth-of-field -- with one object in focus, and the rest of the scene blurred. Have at least one image that show very broad depth-of-field -- with many objects at various distances all in acceptable focus.

    16 January 2001:

    • First shooting assignment: motion control
      • Shoot and process a roll of Kodak Ektachrome 200 slide film on the theme of motion control. Bring four slides to class next week. Have at least one image that shows stop-action, and at least one image that shows purposeful blurring. Experiment with moving subjects -- have a friend run, jump, etc. Use a pet. Shoot traffic (safely!)
    • Shooting assignments: general
      • Use Kodak Ektachrome 200 slide film. You can get a pack of four rolls at Costco for a good price. Otherwise, you can get it at a photoshop, but probably not at a drug store or discount store.
      • 3-hour processing is available nearby at Today's Photo, 15630 SW Boones Ferry Road, Lake Oswego, 503.636.8967. They are open until 6:30 pm, and have a drop-box for leaving film before opening.
      • Each week, select four slides to bring to class. Orient the slide properly, and put your full name across the top. This both identifies it as your slide, and makes it possible for me to put it in the projector properly!
      • We'll start with a brief review of the assignment, then view and critique. I'll then take the slides, scan them, and make them available on this website, and return them the following week.
      • LAST CLASS -- bringe a SASE if you want your slides scanned and returned!

    Course Outline: Nature Photography

    Jan Steinman, Instructor

    Session 1: Basics

    Session 2: Exposure

    Session 3: Viewing

    • 3.1: Lighting Lab, Part 2
    • 3.2: Fault Analysis
    • 3.3: Potpourri: Viewing Session 1

    Session 4: Composition 1

    • 4.1: Lighting Lab, Part 3
    • 4.2: Composition, Part 1
    • 4.2.1: Division of The Picture Area
    • Division By Contrast
    • Division By Similarity
    • Division By Form
    • Passive vs Active; Static vs Dynamic
    • 4.2.2: Center of Attention: Drawing The Eye
    • 4.3: Potpourri: Shooting Session
    • 4.4: Quiz: Depth of Field and Basic Composit:ion

    Session 5: Composition 2

    • 5.1: Composition, Part 2
    • 5.1.3: Perspective
    • Use of Lenses
    • Use of Viewpoint
    • Depth of Field, Again!
    • 5.1.4: Foreground — Background Awareness
    • Division of Picture Area
    • Framing
    • Avoiding Background; Why Is That Girl Sprouting a Tree?
    • 5.1.5: Texture
    • Patterns, Repetition
    • Emphasis vs Deemphasis Through Lighting
    • Water, Snow, Ice
    • 5.2: Composition Lab
    • 5.3: Quiz: Advanced Composition

    Session 6: Viewing

    • 6.1: Designing a Show
    • 6.1.1: Sequence vs Discrete Images
    • 6.1.2: Visual Consonance and Alliteration
    • 6.1.3: Tempo and Cadence
    • 6.2: Potpourri: Viewing Session 2

    Session 7: Applied Photography

    • 7.1: Nature Photography Essentials
    • 7.1.1: Applying Photography Fundamentals to Nature Shooting
    • 7.1.2: Scenics and Still Life: Composition Reigns
    • 7.1.3: Insects and Flowers: Macro Photography
    • 7.1.4: Birds and Ani,nals: Hurry Up and Wait

    Session 8: Shooting

    • 8.1: Potpourri: Parting Shots

    Session 1.1: Basic Equipment: The 35mm Single Lens Reflex Camera System

    What is Available

    There are dozens of types of cameras available for all fields of photography. We will discuss the most popular alternatives, which are classed by film size and viewing system.

    Larger cameras, variously known as box cameras, press cameras, portrait cameras, view cameras, etc. (depending on the size and intended use of the camera) use cut sheets of film in sizes from 4" x 5" to 8" x 10" or larger. Some cut film cameras used for technical illustration or portraiture view the image on a ground glass screen prior to insertion of a film pack, while the common 4" x 5" press camera uses a simple external viewfinder. All of these large cameras trade clumsiness, lack of optional lenses and accessories, and a certain lack of portability for the excellent, grain free image produced on the large negatives.

    (The biggest cameras in common use are called copy cameras and actually take up a whole roam, with the photographer composing and exposing the typical 24" x 36" image while he is actually inside the camera!)

    Next on the list are a variety of what are known as medium format or roll film cameras. These cameras form a typical image of between 6 x 7 cm (2 1/4" x 2 3/4") and 4.5 x 6 cm (1 5/8" x 2 1/4") and use roll film, which considerably simplifies taking more than one shot in succession. The trade off is again one of high resolution, grain free images versus bulkiness, heaviness, and high cost.

    From the small end are the various small image cameras, typically using 110mn cartridges and producing images of sufficient quality for informal snap shots. Few of these cameras feature “through the lens” viewfinding, but are attractive due to extremely low cost and ease of operation. Only slightly above these camerasb in complexity and image quality are the 35mm rangefinder cameras, which produce a larger, clearer image for a modest increase in cost.

    Our darling, however, is the 35mm SLR camera. No other format has enjoyed the flexibility, technical advancement, and ease of use that has the 35mm SLR, which has also stayed within the buying power of most aspiring photographers. Any person with a serious interest in photography should consider this format first when buying a new camera.

    But Aren't They Complicated? Three Basic Subsystems

    Any camera, of any of the types mentioned, can be broken down into three major systems.

    The viewing system allows a human being to see, with varying degrees of accuracy, what image will strike the film at the time of exposure.

    The light gathering system is camposed of one or more pieces of glass which gather light reflected from an image and focus that light on the film plane, which is the surface to be exposed to light.

    The exposure system allows a precisely controlled quantity of light to strike the film, where it causes chemical changes in dyes and silver compounds that eventually result in a viewable image.

    The light gathering system is very similar among different camera types. A giant copy camera has a lens not unlike (except in size) that of the 11Omm 'ice cream bar' camera, and the zoom used on a 400 pound television camera is not much different than the zoom used on your own 35mm SLR.

    The viewing system on a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera is considerably more advanced than that of any other camera. A mirror in the camera's 'light box' reflects the image to a ground glass (or textured plastic) viewing screen which is precisely the same distance from the focal point as is the film plane. A prism atop the camera body rights the upside down image and projects it to the eye. A split second before exposure, the mirror swings up out of the way, allowing the light to strike the shutter curtain, and eventually, the film itself.

    As little as 25 years ago, exposure systems were quite similar throughout the range of camera equipment. A simple adjustable opening in the lens, called the iris, controlled the amount of light striking the film, and a simple clockwork like mechanism controlled a “leaf” or “blade” shutter, thus controlling the amount of time the light was allowed to strike the film. Figure out how much light you had, figure out how much light your film of choice needed, figure out how long an exposure would give the film the proper amount of light, set everything up, push the button, and hope for the best!

    All that figuring made photography a chore and the realm of the technically, rather than the artistically, inclined. Now, however, most cameras incorporate electronic circuitry which does most or all of the figuring found so distasteful by right hemisphere folk. There is no reason to avoid automation (as long as it can be defeated with manual override); most manufacturers still make at least one non automatic model for technophobes.

    The Modern 35mm SLR Automatic Exposure System

    Three automated exposure systems exist; there are trade offs in selecting any of the three.

    The least expensive automatic exposure system is known as shutter speed priority. Cameras which use this system expect the photographer to select an appropriate shutter speed. The exposure system then selects the proper iris opening (f stop), based upon the amount of light entering the lens at the time the shutter button is pressed. This system allows absolute control over shutter speed, which helps beginners control motion. Composition can be hindered due to lack of control over depth of field. The inexpensive cameras of this type use a trapped needle mechanism which is not as sturdy as electronic cameras. (The mechanical cameras can usually be used without battery power, however.)

    Aperture priority is the opposite of shutter priority: the photographer choses the iris opening and the camera choses the shutter speed. Absolute control over depth of field is maintained, but the photographer must insure that the camera is selecting a shutter speed high enough to control motion. Dynamic range is greater and is lens independent; at least one brand of aperture priority camera can expose properly by moonlight or high noon without changing aperature!

    The easiest to use, and yet the least flexible, is the programmed exposure system. Both shutter speed and iris opening are controlled continuously by the camera. The photographer has nothing to worry about and no control over either depth of field or motion! Cameras of this type should have at least one other exposure system to be useful to a creative photographer.

    Many modern cameras combine two or more exposure systems. The photographer can select the system best suited to his immediate needs by the flip of a switch.

    Any automatic system should have both a manual override for unusual situations (such as macro photography or timed exposures), and a compensation scheme for strongly backlit or shadowed subjects.

    A Piece of Glass

    Most 35mm SLR's are purchased with a 'normal' 45mm to 55mm lens. The field of view provided by a typical 50nm lens i, about the same as the 'circle of attention' provided by the human eye; that zone of vision of which one is usually aware.

    The wide angle lenses in the range of 24mm to 35mm provide a field of view similar to the sharp field of view of the human eye, about 80 degrees. This field of view is useful for landscapes, buildings, interiors, and other scenes which one would prefer to 'take in at a glance' rather than study in detail.

    The short telephoto lenses in the range of 80mm to 150mm display a field of view provided by the “circle of detail" of the human eye; that zone of vision which one usually studies in detail. These lenses provide intimacy with the subject matter at a comfortab:le distance and are often called portrait lenses for that reason.

    Zoom lenses are available in many different focal lengths. They exchange versitility and ease of composition for lower sharpness, brighter light requirements, and greater bulk and weight. While few professionals shoot important work with zooms, zooms are ideal for amateurs who cannot justify purchasing many lenses. Lenses with zoom ranges of around 30mm to 140mm cover all three fields of view naturally used in human vision and are ideal for the amateur. High power zooms with high end focal lengths over 220mm are bulky, heavy, difficult to hold steady, and require lots of light and are usually not reconmended over the fixed length lenses in their range.

    The Media Is The Message

    Film is of primary concern to most beginning photographers. Film can be categorized by type (black and white, color reversal (or transparency), or color print) and by speed (high resolution–low speed, or low resolution–high speed). In addition, color film is classified by color balance (daylight, tungsten, flourescent).

    Black and white film's primary advantage is that it is easy to work in the darkroom. Color darkroom work tends to lack creativity — make the colors look real — while black and white film lends itself to great control over the density and contrast of the final print. Although it certainly has unique uses, black and white has one drawback: it isn't color!

    Color transparencies are inexpensive, can be displayed in a variety of ways, and cost only slightly more to make into prints than color print film. If transparencies are used as proofs for turning out only a few, outstanding prints per roll, the savings is considerable over print film. Color transparencies feature saturated colors and high contrast, but lack the dynamic range of color print film.

    Color print film is useful when you know you want one or more prints of each shot on the roll, such as for parties, weddings, snapshots, etc. It also has a greater tonal range than transparency film — there are more details in the brightest and darkest parts of the image.

    Film resolution and speed must he considered carefully for the type of subject material and the intended use of the photograph. Pictures which are to be enlarged beyond 3" x 5" will look much better with a low speed, high resolution film (ASA 100 or lower), especially if plenty of light is available. In low light or moving subject situations, one may have no choice but to use a high speed, low resolution film (ASA 200 or higher), no matter how big the enlargement is to be.

    Color film of either type must be balanced for the source of illumination used. Either a special film or filters may be used. I recommend sticking to daylight film and using the proper filters for incandescent or flourescent lighting. Daylight film shot under tlmgsten lighting will be warm , tending toward red and yellow. The same film shot under flourescent lighting will be 'cool , tending toward green and blue.

    Although experimenting with film is useful and fun, it is best to stick with a few films covering the major categories mentioned above. We use Kodachrane 64 or 25 for high resolution, Ektachrome 200 for high speed, and Ilford HP5 for super high speed black and white.

    Session 1.2: Motion Control Techniques

    More Than A Euphemism For "How To Hold Your Camera'?

    The most noticeable difference between beginning and advanced photographers is the degree to which motion is controlled. Holding the camera properly and using shutter speed effectively are the keys to advancing the first step frcm taking snap shots to shooting advanced photographs. The proliferation of low priced shutter priority automatic cameras shows the need for attention to motion control.

    Holding a camera is a very personal thing. The techniques we teach may feel uncomfortable at first, but are the same techniques (with sound roots in physics) that professionals use. (Carefully watch a real pro at work next chance you get.)

    First, cradle the lens in your left hand, allowing, if possible, the camera body to rest on the fleshy part of your palm below your lisle finger. Your thumb and forefinger should be able to adjust the focus and aperture easily; on many cameras the depth of field preview and the shutter speed are nearby.

    Second, grasp the right side of the camera with your right hand, allowing the forefinger to rest on the shutter release. The thumb should be hooked under the winding lever, ready to advance to the next frame. (If your camera is small or your hands large, allow them to contact each other under the camera body for more support.)

    Third, pull the camera viewfinder back against your right eye (sorry, lefties!). If possible, try to have three points of contact between your face and the back of the camera: the bony ridge above your eye should contact above the viewfinder, your nose should contact the left side of the camera back, and your right cheekbone should contact the knuckle of your right thumb. (The thumb that's hooked under the winding lever.)

    Fourth, pull your upper arms in so that your elbows are contacting your chest. Your two arms and your body are now forming a stable platform upon which you can take motion free pictures!

    For vertical shots, maintain the left hand lens cradle and the left elbow against the lower chest. Use the middle finger of the right hand for the shutter and try to get the right forearm ancl elbow against the chest.

    This position is usable, for almost all people, for exposures as low as 1/fl, where 'fl' is the focal length of the lens you are using, i.e. 1/50th of a second for a 50mm lens, 1/24th of a second for a 24mm lens, 1/135th of a second for a 135mm lens, etc.

    By using the same position, but leaning backwards against a solid object, many people can shoot as slow as 2/f1.

    Lying on the floor with your elbows extendecl, or directly bracing at least two points of the camera against a doorway or other solid object can increase the lowest usable exposure time to as much as 4/fl. This is about 1/15 of a second for a 50mm lens!

    Controlling Motion Through Shutter Speed

    Now that you know the techniques for shooting at 1/15 of a second, don't be tempted to try it with moving subjects unless you desire a blur! Most normal human activity at comfortable shooting distance requires 1/fl as the minimum shutter speed required to stop the action. A particularly animated conversation with lively gestures may require shutter speeds as fast as 1/2*fl, or 1/100 of a second for a 50mm lens. If you keep the basic 1/fl rule of thumb in mind, you will soon learn to judge when a faster shutter is needed and when you can get away with a lower speed.

    For ultimate sharpness, some studies indicate that a speed of 4*fl or greater may be needed, for example, 1/200th of a second for a 50mm lens. These studies photographed fine text from a hand–held camera, and demonstrated that speeds under 1/250th were less sharp. For nature photography, you seldom need this ultimate motion control — or if you do, use a tripod!

    Peak Of Action

    Depending on the viewpoint, the relative motion of most things can be observed to go through periods of high and low activity. A tennis player's serve (when observed from front or back) will pass through a point, at the top of the serve, when little relative motion can be observed, even though his arm has fairly constant motion over much of the serve. This 'peak of action' moment is when you strike, with your ever ready shutter button finger. A tennis player's serve might require 1/1000 of a second to stop the action when viewed from the side, but may only require 1/100 of a second when photographed from the front or back at the peak of action.

    Zooming and Panning

    Panning with action is a way to control motion relative to the camera. This technique, effectively limited to long lenses, is usually used with a tripod, but will work hand held down to about 1/fl.

    Zooming during exposure is a method for exaggerating motion, rather than controlling it. This technique is usually done at speeds of 1 to 1/8 of a second and will benefit greatly from the use of a tripod. Wide angle to telephoto zooms produce the most startling effects; high power zooms tend to suffer from camera shake during the zoom.

    Simultaneous panning and zooming during exposure produces interesting effects. Things get complicated if you try this without a tripod!

    Showing Speed and Motion

    Control of motion not only involves producing sharp images, but also purposely producing blurring for the feeling of speed. Even still life subjects can be given a dynamic element by purposely introducing motion during exposure. (Zooming is particularly effective with flowers; panning is more effective with swiftly moving subjects.) Once motion is under control, one is free to use motion for artistic statement.

    Tripods Rule

    Of course, the best way to control camera motion is with a tripod, but most of us don’t like to lug one around for nature photography. If you are going to the trouble, avoid the temptation to use a flimsy, super lightweight tripod — in many cases, a flimsy tripod is little better than none.

    Also avoid extending your tripod’s center column — it only makes camera shake more likely. Unless you are in a constrained location, like a ledge on a cliff, you should fully extend your tripod’s legs before considering extending the center column for more height.

    You can add mass to your camera to avoid vibrations on the tripod. I use zip–lock bags filled with sand or gravel, draped over the lens barrell. These are very light to carry when empty, and sand or gravel is available almost everywhere. You can also buy “bean bags” in camera stores intended for this use.

    Use a cable release with your tripod — any shot deserving of a tripod will be compromised by camera shake when you press the release. One alternative for stationary scenes is to use the camera’s self–timer, even if you have no intention of being part of the scene. During the timer count–down, camera–shake vibrations you started when you pressed the button die out, leaving a stable platform when the shot actually fires.

    Session 2.1: Lighting and Exposure

    What Is This Stuff, Anyway?

    Light is the photographer's paint, and just as an artist may chose watercolors, pastels or oils in various types and colors, light has various qualities which can be used to achieve a desired effect. Although the photographer is usually stuck with the light available at a given time in a given location, he may be able to enhance or diminish certain of the available light's qualities to suit his purpose.

    Light has four major qualities, which may be present in various quantities in any given situation. At least one of these qualities is usually under the photographer's control, and all photographers should learn how to analyze and control a lighting situation. These four qualities are brightness, color, direction, and contrast.

    Brightness Sets The Exposure

    Brightness is a measure of the intensity of the available light, which is also the most easily controlled quality of light. The primary importance of brightness is in setting the exposure. For any given brightness, there is one proper exposure value, which is equivalent to a range of f stop, shutter speed pairs. Neutral density filters may be used to reduce brightness if one merely wants to reduce the shutter speed or reduce the depth of field. Bracketing is a technique for obtaining the desired exposure, which is not always the exposure reccomended by your light meter! Through exposure control, one can make a sunlit, noon time scene appear to be under full moonlight by reducing the brightness available to the film.

    Color, The Most Likely To Be Noticed

    Color is the next easily controlled quality of light. Color is the single most noticeable (and therefore, perhaps the most important) quality of ]ight. Although requiring an external filter rather than a simple camera adjustment, color balance can be readily adjusted at the camera for effects ranging from subtle to bizarre. Keeping many filters on hand is expensive, but several filters can suffice if they are chosen well.

    I prefer to shoot only film which is balanced for daylight color. Such film may be used with indoor incandescent light with the addition of an 80A filter, or under flourescent lighting with a 30M filter. A camera with an internal meter or exposure system will require no exposure compensation with these filters, but there is a sizeable decrease in the quantity of light striking the film. If you do a great deal of indoor photography, or need to shoot indoor action, choose a film balanced for indoor light.

    Although not affecting color balance by itself, a polarizing filter can be used with special dichroic filters to give a continuously variable amount of color, from a pastel tinge to a deeply saturated color. Such filters do consume a great deal of brightness and are of limited use when fast shutter speeds or great depth of field is desired.

    Also available are two toned filters for special effects. These filters are used on a subject with a prominent horizontal feature, such as a seascape, to give the foreground and the background different colors. Most of these have a graduated change in filtering to avoid harsh, noticable changes in the image.

    Covering color in detail takes a whole semester at many photography schools. Awareness and a strong sense of taste is the best tool for analyzing and modifying color lighting situations, which can get out of hand easily. (Who ever heard of people with green faces, anyway?)

    Directionality, The Forgotten Element

    Direction is a quality of light which is seldom under the influence of the nature photographer, yet the direction of lighting is often the quality which sets a prize photograph apart. The typical high noon lighting favored by so many snap shooters is really the least interesting kind of directional lighting.

    The color photographer often under utilizes the directionality of a lighting situation. It is very useful to shoot and review black and white film on occasion in order to renew an appreciation for directionality. Another useful exercise is to use a black and white video camera to preview lighting situations with unique directionality.

    Natural light direction comes in four basic flavors: toplight, frontlight, sidelight, and backlight. Toplight is the notorious noon time sunlight mentioned above. The sun is rarely directly ahove, and you should position your subject and yourself in such so as to enjoy frontlight if you are so unfortunate as to have to take pictures at high noon! Sidelight and backlight are used for creating contrast and interesting shadows, but are much more difficult to work with, especially when it comes to exposure.

    Contrast, The Degree Of Subtlety

    Contrast is the least understood quality of light. The contrast of a light source is based mainly on the light source’s physical size, and somewhat on its brightness. The infamous midday sun is extremely contrasty because it is, for practical purposes, a single point light source. When that same sun illuminates a canopy of stratus clouds, the resulting illumination is of the lowest possible contrast.

    Shadows are the indicator of contrast. When shadows disappear, look for subjects complemented by low contrast light, such as delicate flowers, cute animals, and generally passive static subjects. When strong shadows are present, look for mountain cliffs, powerful or fast animals, and active dynamic subjects.

    The contrast of a light source always affects the contrast of the resulting photograph. Keep in mind that the direction of a relatively high contrast light source will also effect the contrast of the resulting photograph. Frontlight, no matter how contrasty, will tend to produce flat, low contrast photographs, while sidelight or backlight of moderate contrast may produce extremely contrasty photographs.

    Flash is a special lighting situation. Flash is usually quite contrasty, due to its point source and extreme brightness, but tempered by the fact that flash lighting (outside of the studio) is usually frontlight. Bounce attachments for flash lessen its contrast by, in effect, turning a whole ceiling into the illuminating body. Flash’s high brightness makes it ideal for obtaining depth of field or stopping action. Fill–in flash is used in 'high noon', contrasty, toplight situations in order to reduce contrast and eliminate unwanted shadows. A white handkerchief draped over a flash is one way of reducing the flash's brightness, but it will not reduce its contrast — if you want to reduce a flash’s contrast and have only a handkerchief, suspend it a few inches in front of the flash instead.

    Exposure: Choice Makes a Difference

    Selecting exposure is a powerful choice in artistic expression. Accurate exposure, once the primary concern of the photographer, is now accomplished electronically on most late model cameras, leaving the photographer to easily select between depth of field, stopping action, or some combination of the two. As a photographer becomes more comfortable with exposure selection and more familiar with the peculiarities of his own camera, he can take advantage of predictable situations, such as iris flare, lens flare, or reciprocity failure. Through deliberate over or under exposure, he can control the apparent brightness of the photograph without changing the actual light.

    (Sorry about these figures. They were originally done in plain text, and didn't translate to the web too well. I'll make some better figures Real Soon Now.)

    Figure l Shutter Speed Versus F Stop For an Exposure Value (EV) of 12

    Speed: 1000



    Lens: 1000mm 500mm 250mm 135mm 50mm 28mm Tripod Only >

    1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

    500 250 125 60 30 16 8 4


    2 2.8 4 5.6 8 11 16 22 32 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

    Activity: Action Sports People and Animals Still Life 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

    < Increasing Stop Action Ability

    Increasing Depth of Field ~ >

    1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

    35mm: 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

    Near: 5.2' 5.0' 4.8' 4.2' 3.8' 3.4' 1 1 1

    Far: 7.0' 7.5' 8.5' 10.0' 15.0' 40.0' 1 1 1

    5Omm: l l l l l l l l l

    Near: 5.9' 5.8' 5.2' 5.0' 4.8' 4.2' 3.8' 3.4' 1

    Far: 6.1' 6.2 7.0' 7.5' 8.5' 10.0' 15.0' 40.0'

    135mm: 1 1 1 1 1 1

    Near: 5.9' 5.8' 5.2' 5.0' 4.8' 4.2'

    Far: 6.1' 6.2 7.0' 7.5' 8.5' 10.0'

    Figure 2: Brightness Versus ASA Film Speed For an Exposure Value of 12:


    Film Speed:

    Bright Cloudy deavy Open Bright Dim

    Sun Bright Overcast Shade Indoor Indoo


    25 64 100 200 400 1200

    The numbers in Figure 1 show the required film speed versus the available brightness for an exposure value of 12. Shown in Figure 2 is the range of possible shutter speed — f stop pairs for EV 12, with depth of field figure for three popular lenses.

    Determining Exposure

    Modern 35mm SLR cameras have built in light meters — if not full automation — and exposure determination is usually taken for granted. Point and shoot, right? Wrong! You should always be aware of what the meter is reading. Is it measuring the brightness of the sky? The snow? The dimly lit background? For the best exposure, choose a portion of the subject area that is of average brightness, an area you would expect to be mid gray in a black and white print. Move in close, until the selected neutral gray area fills most of the frame, then take a reading. Back off for the desired composition and set the exposure to the gray reading. (“Gray” is extremely subjective; a worthwhile investment is a standard 18% gray card, available in most photo stores.) Be careful not to cast your own shadow on the area you are measuring!

    Session 4.2: Composition 1

    Just What Is Composition, Anyway?

    Stated simply, composition is the arrangement of the elements of a picture in such a manner as to have a unified, interesting effect. Beyond that, the arguments rage. Most photographers noted for their composition agree that photographic composition is an art form, with generalized guidelines rather than firm laws and principles.

    You, the photographer, can identify pictures you like or dislike. The basis for improving compositional awareness and skill is to scrutinize what it is you like about a picture, rather that simply enjoy it. Compositional analysis can lead to a generalized, vague set of 'fuzzy' guidelines for taking pleasing pictures. Those who stick fast to specific rules and stringent requirements seldom take the best pictures. The most interesting pictures are often the ones in which the photographer has blatantly 'gotten away with' breaking a so called compositional rule by having exceptionally sound composition in other areas.

    Now that I've shot down the text book approach to learning composition, I'm going to present some generalized guidelines for searching out and creating compositionally strong pictures. These are personal guidelines I have developed through experience; where they disagree with traditional compositional theory, I'll explain the opposing viewpoint.

    Divide and Conquer. The Eternal Duple

    Protagonist and antagonist, good and evil, yin and yang, need I go on? One of my favorite techniques for generating interest in a picture is to use two subjects, often diametrically opposed, yet linked in some manner. The link might be considered the subject, as a decaying boat sitting on a beach, but would the boat generate so much interest if it were not linking the land and the sea?

    Traditional theory is that you should avoid multiple subjects. I agree unless there is a link element, bringing two subjects togecher.

    Division can be accomplished in many ways, the simplest of which is by contrasting two dissimilar subjects. A black chalkboard on a white wall, jagged mountains below horizontal, stratified clouds, an old, wrinkled man holding a tiny, pink baby; these all use the mechanism of contrasting dissimilar subjects in order to produce interest.

    The antithesis of contrast is similarity. This is the only form of division which easily works with more than two subjects. (In this case, division is similar to texture and pattern, another compositional technique.) Rows of cliffs, marching out to sea, the jagged peaks of a mountain range, viewed end on, a group of deer, all facing in the same direction, these are a few images brought to mind.

    Division by form, or mimicry, can embody elements of both contrast and similarity. A willowy tree can mimic the form of a sturdy mountain. One of my favorite mimic gimmics is to shoot a valley in such an angle that it mimics an inverted mountain.

    Drawing The Eye: Making a Subject The Center of Attention

    Often the difference between a good shot and an outstanding one is in sucking the viewer in and holding him fast. A sub ject which is normally relatively uninteresting becomes the center of attention with the proper composition. Everything in the universe has something interesting about it; the battle is in getting someone to look more than once.

    A wide angle lens and a high shooting position is a simple way to gain attention for your subject through the perspective distortion normally cursed by archetectural photographers. Vertical lines diverge to the edges of the frame, drawing the unsuspecting viewer into the center, where the properly placed subject should be. A low shooting position produces the opposite effect; your view is drawn off the edges before you ve had a chance to see what is in the picture! A low position can be useful at times when the rules (or the walls) need to be bent.

    The eye can be drawn to a subject by example when the subject is the center of attention. Two kittens, playing with a bumblebee; its tempting to say the kittens are the subjects, but where do you find yourself looking? This technique is very useful in lending unity to a group of people who are all intent on the subject. (Candid group pictures often suffer from a lack of cohesion. )

    The most common way of keeping the eye is by any number of framing techniques. There is almost always some sort of frame you can include in your picture to keep the eye from straying off the page.

    A Brief Photography Bibliograph

    This has not been updated for some time! I'll get some newer refs here soon. Though old, these are STILL good buuks, and can perhaps be found for a bargain at Powell's. Jan Steinman, 17 January 2001

    Highly Recommended:

    The Photographer's Handbook, Leonard Ford and John Hedgecoe, Alfred A Knopf, Inc., New York. 1977.
    352 pages packed with information on virtually all aspects of modern photography with hundreds of illustrations and photographs in black and white and color. A well illustrated photographic encyclopedia in easy to read and understand prose with copious examples.
    Kodak Master Photoguide, Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester, NY. 1973.
    A 36 page technophile's delight of charts, data, nomographs, circular slide rules, etc. Although much of the information is not needed with today's modern cameras, the Photoguide should be in every serious photographer's bag for those times when automation won't get the job done.

    Also Recommended:

    Photographer's Handbook, Time Life, New York. 1976.
    A 64 page beginner's guide featuring basic picture taking and darkroom work.
    Filters and Lens Attachments For Black and White and Color Pictures, Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester, NY. 1975.
    76 pages of information on the use of inexpensive lens attachments. Emphasis is on color with many pictures illustrating the effects of the various lens attachments.
    Photography: What's The Law?, Robert M. Cavallo and Stuart Kahan, Crown Publishers, Inc., New York. 1976.
    138 pages, no illustrations. A lawyer and a theatrical contracts specialist explain, in easily understood layman's terms, the details of photographic law. Included are boilerplate for various releases and contracts needed in the world of professional photography.
    Light and Lighting In Photography, Andreas Feininger, American Photographic Book Publishing Company, Inc., Garden City, NY. 1976.
    A 296 page definitive work on the photographer's medium: light. Using many line drawings and black and white photographs, Feininger takes a qualitative approach to situation lighting for meaningful and aesthetically pleasing photographs.
    Encyclopedia of Pllotography, Arno Press Inc., New York. 1974.
    A 572 page dictionary of modern photographic terms and phrases. Its many line drawings and tables will aid t:he technical user of photography and the serious student alike.

    Sessions 1.3, 4.3, 8.1: Freelance Shooting Lab

    1. Shoot at least four pictures, using techniques covered in the Basic Equipment and Motion Control Session. Record the exposure data for each picture, along with the specific technique you used in taking the picture.
    2. Shoot at least four pictures, using Division of Area and Drwaing the Eye as compositional techniques. Try to use more than one type of each technique.

    Sessions 2.3, 3.1, 4.1: Lighting Lab

    1. Chose a subject of your liking, preferably one with relief, such as rough tree bark or a rough rocky surface. Shoot at least one picture each for the following conditions: frontlight, direct sidelight, diffused (low contrast) sidelight, strong backlight, diffused backlight. Which situation do you feel produced the best picture? Which situation was the most difficult?
    2. Chose a subject of your liking, preferably one with a large area of constant, light tone, such as birch bark or a mushroom. Shoot one picture every half hour of the same subject during sunset and/or sunrise. Record the exposure data along with notes concerning the quality of the light. How does the color of the light change
    3. Chose a subject that is capable of high contrast, through either tonal changes or texture, or both. Choose a subject that can be photographed with strong backlight. Shoot at least one picture of the subject with the direct, strong backlight, one picture utilizing a diffuser between the light source and the subject, such as a sheet, and one using a reflecting surface, such as white cardboard, to illuminate the front of the subject.

    Session 1.4: Quiz on Session l:Basics and Motion Control

    1. What are the three major functional subsystems of any camera?
    2. What two adjustments control the exposure of the film?
    3. Name two advantages of aperture priority automatic exposure systems.
    4. Name two advantages of shutter priority automatic exposure systems.
    5. What 35mm lens (in terms of focal length) corresponds to the human eye's field of view when one is examining something in detail?
    6. What two qualities of a color film must be compromised and traded off?
    7. What is the 'rule of thumb' formula for determining maximum hand held exposure time for a given lens' focal length?
    8. Describe the proper position of the left hand when holding a camera.
    9. What adjustments are available to your left hand when properly holding your own camera?
    10. Pre test: What is meant by the term 'depth of field'r'

    Session 2.4: Quiz on Session 2: Lighting and Exposure.

    1. What are the four major qualities of light?
    2. Name two important features of backlight or sidelight.
    3. Name five subjects which would photograph well in a high contrast situation.
    4. Name five subjects which would photograph well in a low contrast situation.
    5. Name two situations for using flash in nature photography.
    6. When would you prefer to measure incident, rather than reflected, light?
    7. Name two subjects which would photograph well with strong backlight.
    8. Name three situations which require great depth of field.
    9. Name three situations which would benefit from narrow depth of field.
    last modified on Monday, 12-Nov-2007 14:23:40 PST

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