Friday, January 22, 2010, 1:20 AM
with Wayde Carroll
So Long For Now!
I just got word today that Chatalaska will soon be shutting down. This will be my last official posting for them.
I wanted to say thank you for all of you who kept checking in to see what I was up to photographically. It's been a pleasure trading comments and viewing your photos as well. Thanks!!
I will be keeping a blog on my new website soon. If any of you would like to be e-mailed once that blog is up and running, please feel free to send me an e-mail at:
and I will contact you as soon as it is in action!
Thanks again. Hope to see you out shooting!!
Sunday, January 17, 2010, 2:44 AM
with Wayde Carroll
Effective Use of Aperture
Someone sent me an image recently in which a person in the photo was clear and sharp while the foreground and background were out of focus. This person really liked the look of the photo and wanted to know how they could emulate the style.
The answer is aperture. For those of you who don't know, when you press the shutter release on your camera three factors come in to play to give you your proper exposure. The shutter speed, your ISO, and your aperture.
The shutter speed simply determines how long the shutter remains open and is one way of controlling how much light is allowed on to your sensor when you take an image. The darker it is the longer shutter speed you need etc..
Your ISO (same as "film speed" in the old days!) determines how sensitive the sensor is to the light coming in. A photo taken at a lower ISO of 100 needs more light to give a proper exposure than a photo taken at ISO 400. There are good reasons and times to use both but that's another post!
The aperture determines the size of the opening that is allowing light in during the exposure. The smaller the aperture opening, the less light gets in and the more time needed for your exposure. Thus, with a larger aperture opening the less time needed.
Sounds similar to the shutter speed right? Well, not exactly. The size of the aperture opening also determines your "depth of field" or range of apparent sharpness. The smaller your aperture opening, is the sharper your image appears. This is referred to as being "stopped down". If you have a large aperture opening, less of your image appears to be sharp. This is called "shooting wide open".
To make it a little more confusing the aperture numbers are sort of counterintuitive. The larger the aperture number ( F16, F22, etc.) the smaller the aperture opening. The smaller the aperture number (F2.8, F4, etc.) the larger the aperture opening.
I get clients to think about it this way; "The larger your aperture number, the larger amount of your image appears sharp, the smaller your aperture number, the smaller your amount of apparent sharpness is."
So, in general, if you want to isolate a subject with a shallow depth of field- a small range of apparent sharpness- then set you camera's aperture on the smallest number you can. Focus on your subject and let the rest fall out of focus. There are various factors that effect this technique as well. The closer you are to your subject the greater the effect will be. Using long telephoto or zoom lenses compresses a scene so things appear closer and thus diminishing the effect. The best thing to do is experiment with the lenses you have at various apertures and various distances. Soon you'll have a good feel for what works well with what you have.
Here are a couple of examples to show you the difference between photos taken "wide open" (larger aperture number) and "stopped down" (smaller aperture number.
Aperture "Stopped Down" to F16
"Wide Open " Aperture of F2.8
Aperture "Stopped Down" to F16
"Wide Open " Aperture of F2.8
Of the top two images I prefer the wide open exposure. Of the bottom two I prefer the stopped down image.
Here is a typical scene that required a small aperture of F22 to get the canoes and the mountain to appear in focus.
Here is a scene where I wanted a large aperture opening to blur the distracting foliage behind the leaves.
Monday, January 11, 2010, 1:57 PM
with Wayde Carroll
Snowshoeing in Chugach State Park
Last week my son, Jack, and I spent the day snowshoeing in the Chugach mountains. We entered Chugach State Park via the Eagle River Nature Center. This is just a stunning, and easily accessible, area to get out and explore the nations third largest state park.
The eagle River Nature Center is a not for profit organization that keeps trails groomed and hosts many outdoor programs as well as providing a great "base" to launch from. It's nice to peruse their collection of natural artifacts while sipping a hot coffee after several hours out in the cold!
Snowshoes are wonderful because they allow you to explore wherever your eyes take you. They work fine on trails and when you want to veer off they keep you from sinking too far into the deeper, unpacked, snow accumulation.
Jack and I had a great time getting off the trails and making our own. I was thrilled with the photo opportunities and my son had a ball carrying a stick and whacking snow off of everything. (He did also manage to admire the beauty of the place as well!). More importantly, I got to spend time with my son clowning around and getting exercise.
I made sure to have an extra camera battery tucked in my pocket, next to my body, in case the cold sucked the power out of the one in my camera. (Even though my "battery low" indicator was flashing for quite a while in the 10 degree F temps, it did last the four hours we were out.)
Below are some of my favorite images from the day. I shot everything in daylight balance in RAW. When shooting daylight balance shady areas have a deep blue cast. Some of the images I preferred that way. For the rest I later warmed up the color temperature in Adobe Camera RAW to have a more natural looking color. It's a personal judgement call and one of the reasons I always shoot in RAW. To change color temperature in a TIFF or JPEG image is much more time consuming. If you haven't experimented with RAW and all the variable control the format gives you I highly suggest you give it a try.
Because of the extreme contrast range between the brightly lit peaks and the lower shady areas it was important to keep an eye on my histogram. The camera's meter exposed for the larger shadow area. I had to underexpose to keep the highlight detail.
Using a wide open aperture gave me a shallow range of focus and helped isolate this tree from the background.
I'm a sucker for the texture of cottonwood bark!
I used an off-camera flash for this. I set the background exposure manually and used a manual setting to dial in the flash power. ETTL work well most of the time but any variation in composition can change the flash output. Manual keeps it consistent.
You can see the effect of daylight white balance well here. The area hit by the flash, which is also daylight balanced, has natural color. The shady background holds the blueish cast mentioned earlier.
Friday, January 1, 2010, 2:52 AM
with Wayde Carroll
Photo Improvement Tip: Rule of Thirds
I wanted to share a fairly simple and extremely effective technique, the “Rule of Thirds”. This “rule” is the basis for well-balanced and dynamic images and is used by visual artists of every discipline. Weather you are a painter, cartoonist, cinematographer, or still photographer, this technique can help you immediately take more interesting and memorable photos.
What all of us are trying to do is create images that convey the same sense of joy, awe, or wonder, we felt when we were making them. My hope is that this tip will help you to think twice about placing the subject(s) of your photos in the exact center of your frame every time! This typically results in static and, ultimately, disappointing images.
Here’s how it works. Take a look at the viewing screen on the back of your camera. Now imagine two equally spaced vertical lines dividing the screen into thirds. Do the same with two equally spaced horizontal lines. What you end up with is a grid that looks like this:
Placing your subject(s) along, or even close to, these lines and intersections creates more tension, energy, and interest. (This is particularly true at the intersecting points.) That, in turn, holds the attention of your viewers longer.
That’s it! Easy isn’t it.
Of course every rule can be, and should be broken from time to time, but I think it’s important to know, and practice, the rules before doing so! This tool is useful for all subject matter. I’ve included samples of wildlife, people, architecture, and landscapes.
By placing the horizon line on either the top third or bottom third of your image it typically becomes more interesting. Any key elements composed at the intersections make the photo that much stronger.
The hummingbird and the flowers are near intersecting points on the grid making this image much more dynamic than simply a bird centered in the middle.
Though the horizon line is centered here, the interest grabbing elements of the volcano and the front corner of the swimming pool are along our grid lines and make the image work.
Lining the body close to the vertical line and having the eyes along the horizontal line make this a compelling portrait. The person’s face is at an intersecting point and makes for a strong subject with room to show his environment.
Note 1: When photographing people or animals, it works best if your subject is placed on the side opposite of the direction they are looking. If your subject is looking towards the right you want to place him/her on the left third. You want to get an idea as to where your subject is looking as opposed to having the person looking out of the nearside edge.
Note 2: For cultures that read from left to right, images feel stronger with the main subject on the left third. It’s the opposite for those that read right to left.
This all sounds simple enough to do but most cameras today are auto focus and can be tricky. This is wonderful technology but how do you place your object of focus at one of our grid lines or intersections if the camera focuses from the center?
Here are a few pointers to help:
1) With most camera models you can hold your shutter button half-way down to lock your focus. As long as your finger is holding down the button half-way, your focus distance will not change. So if you want to place a person on the left third of your image, simply point your camera at your subject, push the shutter half-way down to lock the focus, keep the button pushed half-way down and re-compose your photo. Once you’re happy with your composition, finish pressing the shutter all the way down until you’ve taken your image! It’s a lot faster than it sounds and comes easily after a bit of practice.
2) Some models now let you select one of several focusing points on your screen. You might see several dots or rectangles in a grid either on the screen view or in your viewfinder. If you have this option, take a look at your manual and figure out how to change your focus point. With a bit of practice you can easily switch your focus selection point to one of several choices. This comes in handy if you know you’re going to be taking a lot of photos with the same composition. For instance, if you’re taking photos of a monkey in Costa Rica and you want it on the left side of your composition, and you want to take a lot of photos quickly, it’s great to just change your focusing point to the left of your screen instead of having to focus and recompose for each shot and possibly miss a great shot!
Just be sure to change your focus point back when you’re done with that scenario.
3) More advanced lenses allow you to manual focus by way of turning a ring around the outside of the lens. This is very useful in low-light situations when some cameras have trouble focusing. Put your lens on “M” for manual or else the camera will continue to focus for you.
I hope you find the “Rule of Thirds” a helpful way to start bringing home more memorable images!
Friday, December 25, 2009, 4:13 AM
with Wayde carroll
Ok, I know it's a little hokey but once I got started on the idea I couldn't stop until I proved I could do it.
I was toying with the idea of making a turning a moose red for a Christmas photo and was wondering if I could make it look fairly believable. Well, not quite, but it was fun figuring out how to change the brown to red.
Obviously this is a digital composite of two photos. The background was from last weeks blog and the moose was from the neighborhood last summer.
The hardest part was clipping the moose out from the fall foliage behind it using my laptop. If you've ever tried using a mouse-pad for detailed work you know what I mean. Once I cut out the moose I experimented with changing it's color. I made two copies so that I could bring back the natural color of the antlers once I changed the moose's color.
To change the brown to red I went into selective color in photoshop and boosted up the red and magenta channels. Then I went into the saturation tool and added more saturation. Once that was done I made a layer mask and erased the red version antlers to expose the normal color. Added text and there you go.
Have a wonderful Christmas and a super, and safe, New Year!!