Sunday, November 28, 2010

How To Take Good Christmas Season Photographs

Christmas, whether you are Christian or not, is a very festive season, especially if you celebrate it in the spirit of giving--either of your time, energy, skills, experience, etc. Regardless of religious or spiritual beliefs, it feels good when we give. So, during this season, visit an ailing relative or friend; comfort someone in a difficult time in their life; stop and help a stranger stranded on the road with car problems; give to someone who cannot give.

Today, I give to you just a little bit of my experience and skills as a photo artist. I enjoy photographing Christmas-themed subjects. I have several, but here are a few I'd like to share with you.

 This is of the City/County building in Denver, Colorado. Exposure is fairly simple, since the scene has a good balance of darks and brights--all you need is a little bracketing, plus and minus, then fine tune later in PhotoShop if necessary. I superimposed the moon in-camera--it's important to keep it in proper perspective and not make it too big (I've seen that--yikes!). I made a slight parallel adjustment to the outside lines of the building in PS.

This is also in Denver--historic Union Station. I also adjusted the outside lines of the building with PS. If you want to get those nice blurred lines in the photo, wait until the light changes to get your shot--that way, you will photograph the cars in motion, thus the effect of blurred lines of color! Any exposure 10 seconds or longer will give you these results.

This creative design is across the street from the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Again, the exposure is fairly straight forward because of similar amounts of darks and brights. A lot of photographers, even those that consider themselves "professional," hate using tripods. I like it because it allows me to use lower ISOs (less noise/grain), use low shutter speeds (e.g., 10 sec.-1.5 minutes or more), AND fine-tune my compositions--it's hard to fine-tune compositions in PS! It's also difficult to fine-tune the correct f/stop (depth of field) in PS. My goal is to always get composition, depth of field, and exposure as good as possible in-camera, then do some fine-tuning in PS.

So, go out there and enjoy catching the colorful spirit of giving through your photography!

Enjoy, and have a great holiday season!

Eli Vega, Photo Artist

Monday, November 15, 2010

How To Take Great Winter Photos

Taking winter snowy shots can be tricky. Have you ever seen some great winter scenes, photographed them, just for them to turn out sort of grayish or bluish? Not to worry. It was 
your built-in camera meter just doing what it was designed to do--try to turn white (or black) objects as gray as it can.

This is not one of my photography classes I teach, so I'll just take a short cut and give you some quick tips (sorry, those of you with simple point and shoot cameras can e-mail me for some other options). First, assume that your meter will want to "gray down" that snow or ice scene. Now, are you ready for a counter-intuitive tip? Use your exposure compensation dial on your camera (you can find it in the index of your manual, or on the illustration at the front of your manual where it has arrows pointing to the features on top of your camera). Turn the dial so that you are overexposing, yes, overexposing the scene. Depending on how bright the scene is, and how much "whiteness" you see in the viewfinder, you will have to overexpose the scene by anywhere from 1-2 stops!!! What you're your actually achieving by doing so is getting a photo of white snow, which is what your eyes see.  

In this first example, taken in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, it was sooooo cold and the scene sooooo white that I overexposed the shot by 1 2/3 stops! As you can see, I got white.

In this second example, of the ski slopes (a Steamboat Springs image that appeared in a Colorado calendar), it wasn't as tricky. Why? Because there was more color, other than white, in the viewfinder. Therefore, the built-in meter didn't think it had to underexpose the scene as much in order for it to give me gray. Nonetheless, I still overexposed it a bit--to 2/3 of a stop overexposure.


So, unless you live in southernmost United States, go out there and experiment. You're going to amaze yourself this winter!!! Have fun.

Shoot me an e-mail anytime--I love to share my expertise, experiences, and approach to my photo art.

Eli Vega, Photo Artist