Welcome to (The Occasional) Photo Tip of the Day! Please also visit my main site jeffwignall.com. Text and photographs Copyright 2014 Jeff Wignall.

"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on."


Robert Frost

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My New Digital Basics Book is on Amazon

If you're new to digital photography, or still confused by some of the basic concepts of exposure (shutter speed, aperture, etc.), you might be interested in my latest book Focus on Digital Photography Basics (A Lark Photography Book). It was just released on Amazon today! This is a true basics book and starts at ground zero, so there's nothing in it that will scare anyone away. Other topics in the book include:

Digital Camera Basics
Learning About Lenses
Exposure
Understanding Light
Using Your Flash
Getting Sharper Picutres
Composition and Style
and Going Beyond Your Camera (printing, organizing, archiving, etc.)

There are also dozens and dozens of good photo examples--including photos that I've never published before. Hey, Mom's Day is coming--what more can I say!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Experimenting with Texture Overlays

While finishing up the revision of my book the Joy of Digital Photography I did some experimenting with texture overlays and I'll write more about them in a day or two. Basically using an overlay is just a matter of using two images: one of a normal subject, the other of just a texture. You then merge them in Photoshop and create a blend (using the opacity setting) between the texture and the subject. It's a lot of fun and you get some very interesting results. I've been using textures sold by a company called the Flora Bella Collection and, again, I'll write more about this topic and show you what a straight texture file looks like soon. In the meantime, this is Mama Kitty, one of my two cats, and one of the Flora Bella textures.

Monday, April 19, 2010

If You Grow it, Bugs Will Come: Four Lessons

Last summer I had a client that wanted me to take some photographs that included bugs in them. That's a nice request and a fun challenge--but they needed the photos the next day. I thought their request was a bit nuts and never expected to be able to actually find and photograph a bug on command, but I actually completed the assignment--and was even able to give them a choice of bugs--including this green-looking bee (I have no idea what it is). The trick was just sitting in my garden, camera on tripod, and waiting. Low and behold, within about 10 minutes of sitting there staring at some black-eyed Susans, a small moth showed up. Then some bees. Then this green thing.

Even though I've spent most of my life gardening, I guess I never realized just how many bugs hang around gardens--because in the past I either ignored them or was annoyed by them. But suddenly, with an assignment on the line, bugs became my friends. I was able to spend almost an hour photographing this little guy because (lesson number one) he kept coming back to the same flowers over and over. And also, once I set up the camera next to a particular blossom (lesson number two), he (or she) pretty much ignored me.

Later I got even more hip (I'm slow on the uptake sometimes) because once the light fell off of the flowers I was shooting, I picked some flowers, put them in a vase and put the vase on a picnic table in the sun--and, amazingly enough, the bugs followed me. While not as many came to the flowers in the vase, apparently they like the sunlight (lesson number three) because they were ignoring the flowers in the shade in my garden and hanging out with me in the sunlight.

The last lesson for the day was that you should always take on a challenge even if you think you might fail. What's the worst I could have told this client? Sorry, no bugs today? That's not my fault! But as it was they were pleased, I made some cash and the bugs are now famous.

The bugs are waiting for you--so if you're looking for something fun to shoot, go sit out in the garden. By the way, I used a 105mm Micro Nikkor lens and a 20mm extension tube for this shot and I used a small aperture to get some depth of field.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

More Fun with the Lensbaby, Baby

Here's another shot with the Lensbaby Composer (see the previous post for more on Lensbaby). I'm having quite a bit of fun with this lens and have written a full page about it for the revision of my book the Joy of Digital Photography. Maybe I'm being influenced by seeing Tim Cury's extraordinary new Alice in Wonderland film (go see it if you haven't--one of the best films I've seen in many years), but I think we all need to step away from reality now and then--if only visually. If you want to check the pricing out for Lensbaby, try clicking the B&H ad in the margin or just go to Amazon:  Lensbaby The Composer for Nikon F mount Digital SLR Cameras (Nikon) or Lensbaby The Composer for Canon EF mount Digital SLR Cameras (Canon).

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Oh Baby! Fun with the Lensbaby!

I finally got around to playing with new new Lensbaby today (something I've been dying to do for many weeks) and once I got a handle on how it worked (it took me about a half an hour to get the basic concept down), I had a really great time.

The Lensbaby, if you're one of the few photographers on the planet that isn't aware, is a type of tilt-shift lens that lets you take the main element off-axis and shift the sharp focus to specific areas of the frame. In other words, you can keep one part of the image (say the center) sharp while tossing the sides or the top and bottom out of focus. The lens simulates effects that can be created using a traditional large-format camera (because they let you shift the planes of the film and lens separately) or a 35mm tilt-shift lens (which does a better job than the Lensbaby in some ways, but costs much more). In the photo here, for example, I first focused the center of the lens on the center of this unusual building and then used a pivot built into the lens to throw the sides and top and bottom of the frame out of focus. The effect looks a lot like the "miniaturization" that cinematographers create when trying to make things look falsely small. Click the image to make it larger and you'll see that the building looks like a toy from a tiny toy train village--no?

There is no aperture control in the basic Lensbaby (and you have to focus manually, of course), so you have to use your camera in the manual exposure mode.  I just shot a series of exposures in each lighting situation until I got an exposure that looked good and then kept that setting until the scene or lighting changed. Since I shoot in RAW all of the time, correcting exposure and white balance is simple.

The Lensbaby is a part of a rapidly growing and fun system of optical toys--which is very dangerous for a gadget-oriented person like me. It's a very fun and experimental-type accessory and I think you learn a great deal about photography by stepping away from the compulsion to make only technically perfect images and by tossing a little Impressionism into the mix. Check out their site for galleries of some very creative and fun photos created with their system. I guess in some ways the Lensebaby is just regarded as a toy--but hey, isn't that what all cameras are in one way or another?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Canon Introduces an 18 megapixel Rebel

If you're a Canon fan or just someone who watches equipment carefully, you probably already know this, but Canon has announced an 18mp Rebel, the Canon EOS Rebel T2i 18 MP CMOS APS-C Digital SLR Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD (Body Only). In addition to the impressive 18mp CMOS sensor, the camera features a 3" LCD, an ISO range of 100-6400 and improved movie modes. Considering that Amazon has a pre-release price (it will probably go down) of just $799 (body only), it seems like a camera worth considering if you're looking for a new (or first) DSLR. Nikon lover though I am, I have to admit that an 18mp camera for under $800--pretty tempting! Read more about it on the Canon site. You can also buy it as a kit with the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.6-5.6 IS lens. Click on either the Amazon or B&H ads on this blog to get the latest in pricing and availability. And if you buy one, let me know what you think--I may be next!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Make Your Subject Pop with a Vibrant Color

Brilliant colors are great at drawing attention to your main subject. The day I photographed this little girl on Liberty Island (looking toward the New York skyline) a few dozen people stopped to peer through the viewer and while the shots were kind of interesting, nothing was really jazzing me very much. Then out of the blue this little girl in the neon pink dress stepped up and I couldn't shoot fast enough--the color made a great contrast to the muddy waters of the Hudson River behind her. It was the same shot I'd been looking at for quite a few minutes with other people, but it was her dress that made the shot. Any time you can include a vibrantly colored main subject you'll get people's attention. The human brain is naturally drawn to and curious about bright colors and it's hard for anyone looking at a shot like this to not pause and look further.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter, Bunny!

Photographed with a 70-300mm Nikkor (at 300mm, or 450mm equivalent on my D90)  in my back yard, as ISO 1200 (cloudy day and shooting handheld). She's a one-bunny dandelion eradication team--she can eat about one every two or three seconds.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Liberty Glows

Spent the entire night playing in Photoshop to create some photos for the revision of my book The Joy of Digital Photography. I knew from the start of the book that Lady Liberty would be a part of it. Last fall Lynne and I spent three days in New Jersey shooting the statue and visiting the area. I have never been more moved by a single photographic subject in my life. Something about seeing that face in person (it was my first time on Liberty Island, though of course I'd see her from Manhattan hundreds of times) really shook me to my core. The idea that she was the first vision of America that millions of immigrants (including my grandfather) saw hit me profoundly when the ferry first brought us close to her. I had an extraordinary first day there--it was baking hot and then we were hit by a rollicking thunderstorm. And as much as I tried to concentrate on photographing her, I could not shake this feeling that I was meant to step on that island, meant to look her in the face and meant to be there with a camera. When you go there, you are surrounded by thousands of people, most of whom, I think, are having the exact same experience: awe that such an amazing country exists and that such a fabulous work of art welcomes everyone. If you have never been there, go this summer. Take your kids, or take your parents--or both. You will never be the same.

By the way, I created this using a combination of color tools (including the channel mixer) and created the lighting effect using the--what else?--the lighting effects filter. Just playing and having fun. Also, today's Black Star Rising blog features two of my Liberty collages. Black Star is the greatest photojournalism agency in history and they have a really great and interesting blog.