Tuesday, 25 January 2011

1st Published Photo - Dawn on the Banks of Taj Mahal

A photo I took during my time backpacking around India with my compact Sony P120 Cybershot has been published in The Spectator Magazine, as below.  I recommend you get your good travel photos onto TrekEarth which is where this particular photo was picked up from.  It's a great site to learn about the world through photography and develop your skills by sharing comments / feedback with other users.  It also goes to show that it's not the camera that makes the great photo - it's more about the composition of what you take, which can be done with any camera.  

The credit is given in the top right corner of the image. Online version of the above article: All these Indias

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Lens: Canon 50mm f/1.8

I recently upgraded from my kit lens to a prime (fixed) lens - which essentially means a lens at a fixed focal length (i.e. zoom) and therefore has no 'zooming' function.  This particular lens is at 50mm (which on my kit lens scale of 18mm to 55mm is highly magnified).  This means you have to step back to capture the same amount of image as previous compositions, at say 18mm.

The lens I purchased was the Canon 50mm f/1.8 and costs £85 on Amazon (see link).
Considered to be one of Canon's cheapest lens (evident from build quality), it's main advantage, which more than compensates plastic exterior and noisy function is the actual lens within.  At an aperture of 1.8 (remembering that the kit lens only gave a maximum aperture (f number) of 3.5), you get an idea of the power of this lens.  Aperture is essentially how big the whole with which you allow light through a lens is - and the lower the 'f' number, the lower the aperture.  The main purpose of aperture is to allow more light to enter at a give shutter speed, in other words, with an aperture of 1.8 instead of 3.5, less light is required to take the same image.  This is useful when you are in low-light conditions such as indoors (and you do not want to use a flash).

The other main and exciting feature with this lens is the ability to work with Depth of Field. I don't know enough about DoF to explain it properly (lots of the net), but in essence, it is a parallel plane (to the capture medium / camera's sensor) which is in focus with the remain sections in front and behind slows fading out of focus.  Low aperture enables the plane of focus to be really narrow (i.e. shallow depth of field) giving those trademark captures with crystal clear subject and blurry backgrounds.

For example, we can see a shot I took of a goose eating bread on a winters day - the head is in focus and relatively clear compared to the background which is 'blurred' - this demonstrated the potential of this 50mm lens:
Goose captured using Canon 50mm f/1.8 Lens
More examples of 50mm lens images can be found on the 50mm Flickr Group.

Vignettes - darkening the edges of photos

With my recent discovery of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3, I have found the vignette tool to be very helpful in post-capture processing to give a professional and creative look.

The process of a vignette was originally (and still can be) and unintended effect of the lens due to the way it curves outwards allowing less light around the edges of the capture. As you can see from this example image, vignetting allows the image to have greater focus in the centre by darkening the edges.
With Vignette (and other processing)

Without Vignette - Original Photo as Shot

The simplest way to apply this vignette is using Lightroom (which is what I used above as well as for my other images).  There are three options, but the default "Hightlight Priority" is the best one to use as this ensures minimal loss of detail around the edges, where it does exist.  

This below video gives a good introduction and example of how to apply this effect properly (using Lightroom) to your images.  I found this very useful, recommend you watch it!

Slightly more difficult, but probably more commonly used is the Lens Correction Filter in Photoshop.  For a guide on how to do this in Photoshop, click here.