Archive for September, 2011


new reference article

Guide to the Making of a Photograph


Assignment 3: Electronic Flash

Swans in flight

In the last day(s) we went over the concept of fill flash and how to achieve it. Using the built-in flash in our camera, set on comparatively low power to shoot a subject at close range, while simultaneously using a slow shutter speed (1/4 second or greater) to give the proper exposure for the background, we can achieve some interesting effects, using the high speed of the flash to clearly make out our subject – while abstracting the background somewhat (depending on camera movement and/or what’s going on in the background)

When we make a photograph by this technique – we are actually making a form of ‘double exposure’ – one is a standard flash photograph of our subject in the foreground by flash – and the second is our background, lit by traditional methods.

The Weekend Assignment is:

1. Make three successful shots using this technique OUTDOORS (important hint: you will need to use the smallest possible aperture – i.e. higher f-number). This is because a wider (smaller number) aperture will require too short a shutter speed to effectively blur the background. Once you get your basic technique down and you feel like you’re getting pretty good with it – pick your framing and subject in a way that will complement the effect you’re achieving (hint: this technique conveys the idea of motion when used correctly)

2. Make three successful shots using this technique INDOORS – preferably where there are lots of people around (if possible). Use an aperture that will allow you to be in the 1/4 sec to 1 sec range, if possible.Now make three successful shots (again – not all the same please!) at the same location but try under exposing the background (by about one stop – yes, that’s right – we need to use a higher shutter speed). Now see what happens when we keep the background properly exposed and we underexpose the flash.

3. Make a series of photographs using a friend in motion – they can be on a bicycle or walking briskly by you – anything will work in this case. Now try making a series of seven shots. Test for the optimal background exposure and then make this the middle of the series you’ll do. So – for example – if the optimal exposure is around 1/4 second, then make a series at 2 sec, 1 sec, 1/2 sec, 1/4 sec, 1/8 sec, 1/16 sec and 1/30 sec. Look at your results now – once you have this completed. What effects do the varied exposure and reduced or increased shutter time have on the final picture?


Billiards with rear curtain synch


Assignment 2: Street Photography

Philip Lorca de Corcia

Philip Lorca de Corcia

Your homework for this segment is to take your camera into an urban street situation, not unlike the situations encountered by some of the photographers whose work we looked at last day (see reference at end for further details). Your job will be to capture an image using techniques that we reviewed and that you should practice shortly before the exercise.

garry winogrand vampiress

Garry Winogrand

Your Focus
The first of these is ‘Zone Focusing’ – learn to read from your focus dial (or equivalent) and pre-set your focus to a distance between 2.5 and 4.5 feet. The smaller the distance, the more demanding the exercise will be – a great result will be slightly more difficult – however you will learn much more. That’s the payoff. Practicing first with a wall or other object with vertical mass to it (like a person – of course – a person might be an ideal subject for your training), do a series of trial exposures while walking towards your practice target, attempting to identify the precise distance you will be working at. This may not come easy at first. Guiding yourself with a yardstick or measuring tape is a great way to get to learn how far that distance occurs in front of you at first.

Lee Friedlander  - doors

Lee Friedlander

Shutter Speed
Your shutter speed will be a fixed speed . So in this case we’re going to use a shutter speed of 1/90th of a second – the aperture will be determined by what the camera indicates in it’s light meter (in the case of manual mode) or automatically if we are in shutter priority mode. In this mode, an adequate shutter speed will always be maintained – and the lighting of the scene determining what aperture we end up using.

Focal Length
Remember – cropping (or zooming in) is no substitute for ‘being there’

Do not be afraid to shoot in a place where there is both direct light (sun or skylight) and a lot of heavy shadow- but don’t make this a priority – try to mix things up a little in terms of scenery.

Remember – a great street photograph usually contains a strong element of social commentary. Be intent on exploring social and other contrasts inside the frame of your viewfinder. It’s all about revealing relationships, whether real or only perceived. You have the power to reveal truths about the world in the same way as Franz Kafka or Vladimir Nabokov can with their pens on paper. The only limitations are created by you. GOOD HUNTING!

Lee Friedlander

Lee Friedlander

Roy De Carava

Roy De Carava


Street Photography in Wikipedia

PHOTO.NET’s page on Street Photography

Eric Kim’s page on Cartier-Bresson


Exercise 1B: Shutter Effects

For the next series, we will make an exposure series with constant shutter speed. A tripod is not necessary for this – as we will be exposing them all (all frames that is) at 1/60th of a second. The reason for this exercise is to have an intense look at what happens to our highlights and shadows as we move through an exposure series. While in most cases what happens may not be ‘pretty’ in terms of a traditional image – it can be learned from – and we can use it to our advantage where necessary.

f/2.8 f/4 f/5.6 f/8 f/11 f/16 f/22 1/60 sec. 1/60 sec. 1/60 sec. 1/60 sec. 1/60 sec. 1/60 sec. 1/60 sec.

Analysis: Explore the shadow detail in certain areas as we move through the series… notice what happens to the detail that is underexposed and likewise with the highlight areas. Also note that contrast seems to vary according to the brightness/darkness of certain areas. For example, in frames which are underexposed – shadow areas tend to lose contrast when underexposed. Film will respond differently than digital images in this regard, as film tends to be a more ‘forgiving’ medium that responds a little differently than the digital medium.

Make note also of what other changes you see happening :


Exercise 1: Exposure and Image Quality

Exposure, or making a great exposure is one of the most highly underrated aspects of making what is technically a great photograph. While the requirements for digital and film cameras vary in their characteristic way, this dictum still holds more true than ever. The eye loves detail. We love to look at a photograph which has a wealth of information in it. And shadow and highlight areas in a photograph are absolutely no exception to this rule – in fact, a photograph with intense blacks, whites AND detail in these areas is one of the classic hallmarks of a high quality print. But relying solely on the automatic exposure determination made by your automatic camera is not going to do this for you automatically. In nine out of ten cases, getting this ultimate quality will depend on your recognizing the characteristics of a particular situation and knowing your equip- ment well enough to capture that range with enough tonality to spare… in classic film photogra- phy, we deal with this by adjusting the length of film development… with digital cameras by shoo- ing in the ‘RAW’ format, which has an extended tonal range (one can zero in on the desired tonal range to capture after the fact in some cases).

This exercise was designed for the purpose of understanding the general problems and quali- ties inherent in underexposing, over exposing and getting comfortable with the concept of ‘tonal range’ and different lighting conditions. The exercise consists of making a series of exposures modifying both aperture and shutter speed. The basis for the exercise will be first determining the basic correct exposure and then varying the aperture and shutter speeds accordingly. It is best to do this series outdoors in the early evening or early morning barely after sunset so as to have the most flexibility and get into multi-second exposures.

Try to find a lighting condition (you can move more into the shade to effect this situation) that will give you a suggested reading of 1 second at f/8. Then shoot the following series. A tripod or other stable surface is recommended for this exercise.

f/2.8 f/4 f/5.6 f/8 f/11 f/16 f/22 1/8 sec. 1/4 sec. 1/2 sec. 1 sec. 2 sec. 4 sec. 8 sec.

Analysis: Note the ‘density’ (how well the image was recorded – look in the shadow areas for de- tail, etc…) of the film/digital images exposed for several seconds. Do you note anything different about them – and if so, what…?

What other differences do you see between the exposures? Do you notice any other differences, and what kinds?

September 2011
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