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50 shades of grey

On today’s blog I would like to talk to you about filters. So for all of you who read the title and thought this was a raunchy sex type post, sorry! Filters for photography have been around forever, over the years techniques have changed a little but the fundamentals of being a creative photographer are still the same. Stepping out into the creative world of filters can be addicting, it is also known to cause lack of sleep, disappearance of extra funds in your bank account, many wasted hours processing photos and the need to travel for that next shot once your hooked. So lets go over some filters that are available for photographers today. First we have a UV or protective filter.3111_filtry-all2 Then we have Polarizer that helps cut down the harsh sun. We also have ND filters that cut out light to create longer exposure times. And of course the old faithful color filters. So let’s talk a little more about these types of filters and what they really do.

Haze filters or UV filters seem to be a great seller for most photography businesses. The average person will buy one of these filters when buying a new lens for the protective value that it adds to the glass of the lens. It also will cut down the glare on water or harsh light in landscapes. So as much as people think they are doing something good for there images they really are degrading some of the image quality. When a lens is designed it is made to what technicians feel is optimal quality, adding that one more piece of glass can have that much effect on your image. Sometimes these filters will add more flare from direct sun or in the nighttime they can add star bursts from specific light sources. This also depends on the type of lens that you install this filter on as well.maxresdefault So the real trade off you have to think about is, do I need to protect my lens? Or will I gamble and remove it so I get a better picture? I will tell you this much that a 20-30 dollar filter is a lot cheaper then to repair or replace a lens, so you decided.

Next we should talk about those polarizer filters and what they can do for you. Polarizers are designed to cut out some of that harsh light so you can get more depth in your clouds and give it that rich blue sky.polarizer-filter-example Or they can also cut down some light to give you a more real look of water, removing the glare and adding deep tones. Some polarizers filters can also be circular, meaning that you can rotate the filter to adjust it properly on your horizon. But be careful when using these filters because if it’s a strong one and you don’t have it aligned properly to your landscape you will have a funny looking line across your image. Best way to tell is to aim it up towards the sky and adjust the filter so you can see the defined line. Another problem people have with these filters is they do not work when facing the sun. You must be facing 90 degrees from the sun. So the easiest way to remember this is to face the sun and what ever direction your shoulders are turned will be the best light for your filter.

filter-in-holderOk so ND filters are a very popular filter on the market right now. When you are looking into buying one I would suggest doing some research in regards to the color cast that can be created by them. So the idea of a ND filter is to cut out the light and trick the camera into thinking it’s darker outside then it really is. What this does is it allows you to get a slower shutter speed to create a long exposure. Some examples would be that soft silty looking water from rivers or waterfalls. Or another example would be that streaked look of the sky that you see in nighttime long exposures. Or one of my favorites would be the look of some rides at the fall fair in the nighttime.fair crop ND or Neutral Density can be fairly expensive and usually require a proprietary holders for that specific type of filter to mount onto your lens. The holder can again increase the total cost of owning one of these setups. Some people would rather purchase a regular screw on type filter instead of the holder style. One thing I should mention is that the lip on a screw on filter should be slim if you are shooting with a wide angle lens or you will catch the lip in your photos.

Many people still ask me if they should get color filters for there DSLR so this is what I tell them.rodenstock-filtry-1000x750 The usual color filters for BW film are not very useful in digital world as these can easily result overexposure in one channel and leave the other channels underexposed and noisy. Putting a strong color filter in front of your lens means that you are using your digital camera inefficiently, as for example in case of red/blue filter, you’re using just 25% of your available pixels and 50% in case of green. However people who shoot black and white photography and do not use editing software these filters can still be of use. Black and White is a balance of dark blacks and white whites so to use a filter to make a channel stronger can result in a more impacting contrast in a photo. For those of you that have editing software this can all be done at your fingertips without filters.

If you would like to learn more about how to use some of these filters please join me on one of my composition workshops. The workshops we will be using filters on will be 50 Point sunrise, Night photography into a sunrise, Golden hour workshop, Fall colors in Paris and the Fall fair. We will work together using your filters to make sure you bring home the pictures you desire.
click here for my 2015 classes

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Working from the ground up

On today’s Blog I would like to talk about tripods.

Sirui M3204 M Series Tripod LegsTripods for photographers can be one of the most overlooked pieces of equipment they own. Most people when they are starting out decide that spending over 200 dollars on a tripod is expensive. Well I would have to admit that this is a very true point for most cases and you will realize fast you made a big mistake. In the profession of photography mistakes can lead to very poor financial and/or business decisions. So let’s go over why you should spend a few more dollars then you expected to on that tripod.

For most of us the big issue is the cost of what we are willing to pay as aProducts10137-1300x1300-418683 beginner. Knowing very little about photography at this time of purchase can be overwhelming. Like really you want me to spend 500 dollars on just a tripod and I can’t even put my camera on it until I buy a head?? “Go pound salt buddy!” What’s the difference between this 99 dollar tripod and that 500 dollar one? They both have 3 legs? The 99 dollar one has a head already attached? No brainier here I will spend my hard earned money on this the 99 dollar one! Wrong!
You grab that camera you just spent a thousand dollars on or even more and go out hunting for that great scene to capture. During this time you have some issues trying to set up your camera as the legs are a little wonky and the head wont really stay still or falls forward cause the weight of the camera is to heavy for it. Then you think I must be doing this wrong but I will learn as I go.

Manfrotto-MT190XPRO4-Tripod-Compared-to-MT190CVPRO4Let’s go over a few more scenarios of what you are about to encounter. So your photography starts to advance now and you decide I’m getting better so lets try all this creative stuff people do with filters. So you buy yourself a 10 stop filter or something of that nature and again it likely cost more then your tripod. You take this filter down to the lake so you can get that great glass look like everybody gets. You set your tripod up and the filter on your lens and your camera starts slowly moving down or to the side and you don’t realize it until you get a few pictures into your session. As I would do, just prop it back up and keep going. You start to feel the wind pick up and realize wow I can see the thin legs on my tripod shaking in the wind. Oh well lets keep on shooting! You get back to check out your images and you realize not only did I get this cool glass effect but all my pictures are blurry I wonder why?. If you think that’s bad the most famous that I see on almost every workshop I teach would be the plastic plate that clips into your tripod keeps loosening off your camera. Or even worse and yes I have seen this happen at least 10 times now, the piece that retains that plate loosens off and your camera hits the ground. Now lets think about your camera and lens, what are these pieces made of? A camera is made up circuitry components with a sensitive sensor and a precision aligned mirror. Your tough weather proof lens that is indestructible so they say is made up of concave and convex pieces of precision placed and crafted glass. So tell me something, what are the odds of a camera and lens dropping on the ground and not having any consequences what so ever?

IMG_3420_900px_Border-620x586This is what I would suggest to all of you when looking for that perfect tripod. 1, do I need to travel with this tripod cause weight and size can become a big concern. 2, What will my primary use be for this tripod? Am I just using it for landscapes with small lenses or do I think my wife will let me buy a 600 F4 to put on this one day? Fat chance! 3, Point of view, do I want a tripod that can get me inches off the ground? 4, Do I want to carbon fiber so I don’t have to lug a heavy monster around while hiking hills. 5, Do I want to spend 500 dollars now rather then spending 100-200 dollars now and then spend 500 down the road?

images The tripod to the left and at the top of the page is what I use daily for my world of photography. It’s a Sirui M3204 bought from my local camera store BJ Photo Labs. I bought this tripod for many reasons that catered to lenses and my style of photography. First selling feature is this thing is very strong carbon fiber and is so light to carry around with me. Second is how low it can get to the ground and how high I can put it up to at full extension. Third is a great selling feature to me, one of the legs can screw off and turn into a mono pod within seconds. Fourth is the retractable stainless steel spikes at the bottom of each leg to aid in grip. Fifth is the easy to use twist lock system for the legs to extend and retract. And the last selling feature for me was the price, I got this unit for under 500 tax included. I love this tripod!

Tripods are a personal thing for photographers, kind of like clothes we all like something different. So don’t impulse buy your first or next tripod, ask people what there experiences are. Social media is a powerful tool for consumers so ask around. Search different camera stores or E-bay or Amazon and look at product reviews. Just please make an informed decision rather then some sales guy selling you what makes him the most profit.

Stay tuned for my next blog on heads for tripods

Thanks for viewing today’s Blog!

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