Checklist for when using ND photographic filters on site

Probably the worst thing that can happen – through your own fault at least – is to arrive on site and find that you’ve forgotten to bring something. For example – you remembered your tripod bit forgot to mount an L-bar or arca swiss tripod plate on your camera. The checklists below might help to prompt you when preparing.

AT HOME

  1. Clean Lens & filters
  2. Charge batteries – camera and phone
  3. Check space on SD card/s.
  4. Replace with new cards if necessary
  5. Check tripod legs firm/adjust as needed

  BEFORE YOU GO

Pack as below:

  1. Camera plus charged battery/ies
  2. Clean Lens/es
  3. L- Bar or swiss arca plate or equivalent
  4. SD card/s
  5. Phone with charged battery
  6. Filter holder
  7. Step-up adapter/s
  8. Clean Filter/s
  9. Blower / Lenspens
  10. Microfibre cloth/ lens wipes
  11. Remote cable shutter release if available
  12. Torch/ head torch if planning night shots
  13. Food Change for meters?
  14. Clothing/ footwear for conditions
  15. Bag for litter

ON ARRIVAL

  1. Check viewpoint OK?
  2. Foreground/Midground OK?
  3. Check scene for composition?
  4. Remove portable distractions
  5. If necessary move elsewhere
  6. Set up tripod securely/firmly
  7. Attach camera firmly to tripod
  8. Remove lens cap and store safely
  9. Check camera set level to horizon
  10. Attach remote cable shutter/ self-timer
  11. Focus
  12. Take a base shot
  13. Check Preview for focus, exposure, and white balance
  14. If necessary change settings, take another shot and check
  15. Note shutter speed, aperture, ISO
  16. Tape lens barrel to lock focus
  17. Switch to Manual Mode
  18. Enter the aperture and ISO

SET UP FILTER SHOOTING

  1. Set High ISO Noise Reduction OFF
  2. Set Shake Reduction OFF
  3. Set Mirror Lock UP
  4. Enter base shutter speed from test shot into app to calculate settings for ND filter being used
  5. Enter shutter speed for that ND filter onto camera if less than 30 seconds
  6. Attach Adapters and Filter/s
  7. Use gaffer tape on viewfinder (and lens exposure window) to seal against stray light entering camera during exposure
  8. Do not re-focus: Change mode to Bulb if recommended shutter speed more than 30 seconds
  9. If using more than 30 seconds set Long Exposure Noise Reduction ON
  10. Check filter still clean
  11. Use calculated time to start timer and TAKE SHOT

AFTER THE SHOT

  1. Allow time for Long Exposure Noise Reduction activity
  2. REVIEW image – ADJUST AND RETAKE IF NECESSARY
  3. When finished remove filter/s and adapters & pack securely
  4. Replace lens cap and lens hood.
  5. Fold tripod
  6. Check that you are leaving nothing behind
  7. Check that your backpack zips etc are closed properly
  8. Pack and leave

I think that with this post I’ve now covered most of the trickiest things that anyone new to photography needs to know. If anyone reading this blog wishes me to cover a different aspect, please let me know. Otherwise, my next post will revert to my writing hobby.

Photography: A balancing act

Composition, in photography, means setting up your image so that it helps anyone looking at it to see what you want them to see. There are lots of online sites that tell you about the various techniques, but most of them will also tell you that, sometimes, you should throw away the rule book. It’s your photo – use YOUR judgement.

I’m just going to list eight of the techniques before I go any further, just to get that out of the way.

  • COMPOSITION
  • Simplicity – less is more and get rid of distractions
  • Symmetrical balance – useful particularly in a shot with reflections.
  • Asymmetrical balance – For example, with a seascape, don’t put the horizon exactly half way up the frame.
  • Radial balance – for people with an artistic eye
  • Rule of thirds – mentally divide the frame into a 3 by 3 grid. Put your subject at about 1/3 up and 1/3 in or 1/3 down and 1/3 in (from either side). (Personally I think that this is just a kind of asymmetrical balance).
  • Leading lines I’ll illustrate this by examples
  • Golden Ratio -for people with an artistic eye
  • Framing – show your subject inside a frame – natural or otherwise

I’m going to ignore Radial Balance and Golden Ratio but add a ninth and tenth – Colour and People. Again, I’ll provide an example.

In this image of the South Stack lighthouse on Anglesey, I’ve placed the horizon asymmetrically.

This image, taken at Trefor Boatyard near Llangollen in Wales is fairly symmetrical to show off the reflections.

This is an example of a structural leading line formed by the Humber Bridge. The underside of its image drags the viewer’s eye into the frame.

Another example of a radial leading line formed by this spiral staircase at the Queen’s House at Greenwich. The eye is drawn to the skylight.

Here, the beach at Porth Oer on the Lleyn Peninsula provides a natural leading line. Other examples are rivers, roads and jetties.

You’ve seen this one before, but here I’m using it to show how the clouds act as leading lines.

Here, leading lines and symmetry are combined at the Brunner Bridge in the South Island of New Zealand.

Here framing is provided by the gateway entrance into Exchange Flags, Liverpool to draw attention to the Town Hall.

There are two other useful techniques, using colour – especially spot red – and people (preferably both). In this shot, the people provide a focal point, interest and perspective to the image.

Here we have symmetry, reflections, people and colour to draw the eye.

Today’s featured photograph is of the Healey Pass in the Beara Peninsula of Eire’s Wild Atlantic Coast. It has an unusually winding leading line to take the viewer’s eye on a road trip. I shot this panoramic image using my old Pentax 24 MP cropped sensor camera on a tripod with an 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens at 23 mm and f/13. The ISO was 400 and the shutter speed 1/10 seconds.

Your probably fed up by now, so tomorrow I want to look at a different aspect of light – Dynamic Range.

Photography: Come Closer

Today I want to illustrate three ways of getting up-close with a photo when you’re too far away where you are.

This shot of Media City at Salford Quays, Manchester was taken from exactly the same spot as today’s featured photo, but I used my lens to zoom in by changing the focal length from 24 mm to 43 mm.

Using my lens meant that I didn’t discard any megapixels from the image – I got the full benefit of my sensor’s resolution

This image has been cropped and resized in post processing from the original. The featured image is a panorama, stitched from three shots each of 42 Megabyte RAW format originals. This cropped and resized, jpeg format, image from one of the original three has less than 1 megabyte, and therefore, less detail information for further editing.

This photograph of Ynys Bach at Trefor, Gwynedd: one of two sets of sea stacks, is a shot taken from a distance along the cliffs

This is also a photo of Yns Bach, but I took this from the clifftop directly above it, by walking, sometimes known as ‘sneaker zoom’. No megapixels lost when getting closer this way.

I hope that seeing these three ways of coming closer helps you to choose the best method for you. ‘Sneaker Zoom’ is not always practical, but you get the highest resolution quality. Lens zoom – by changing the focal length of your lens – or by swapping lenses – is often more practical. Using a wide angle lens provides the big picture, but sometimes you get a nicer image by choosing some feature to zoom in on, and ‘getting right in camera’. Cropping in post processing is an option if, when you get home, and load your day’s image batch into software, you realise that there is a section of an image that you want to pick out. Just remember that, when you do that you are also throwing away megapixels. The cropped image will not enlarge as usefully as a close up obtained by one of the other methods.

I took today’s featured photo using my tripod mounted, Pentax K-1 camera plus a 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens at 24 mm and f/16. The ISO was 100 and the shutter speed 1/25 seconds.

Tomorrow, we move on to composition.

Photography – The importance of position

Thinking about position should begin when you arrive on site. Try to get the best possible viewpoint – check different places nearby, kneel, sit or lie down if necessary (did you bring a bin bag?) Compare today’s featured photograph with the one below. Both are images of the Millennium bridge in London, but the one below – apart from being a daylight shot – is a typical tourist photo looking across the bridge.

From this viewpoint, for me, the image is too cluttered, too many lines competing for attention, litter, no clear subject.

Sometimes, however, you can be spoiled for choice and you decide to photograph more than one viewpoint. This is a popular view.

This is the same jetty photographed from a different angle. Both shots are of Lake Ullswater in the English Lake District.

Have a good look around. but vary the angle that you look at your subject – look up and look down. Look at what’s behind you – it may be more interesting.

Here, I’m in London, in the Square Mile of the financial district, but I’m looking upwards.

Here, I’m in London again, inside Heals’ department store, looking down from the top of the spiral staircase.

Sometimes, if you look around you you’ll see interesting reflections or shadows. This shot is of the Gherkin Building in London

I was driving into my local town when I noticed these shadows, so I turned off the road, parked my car and walked back to take the shot.

Sometimes it’s just a question of noticing an unusual viewpoint. I was kneeling down when I took this photo in Blackpool. Everything seems to be bending away from the wind.

While you are looking, consider where the light is coming from. In landscape photography, sometimes you need to wait for the sun to come from behind a cloud, or to light some hills differently. In portrait photography, you may want the light to come from – or to appear to come from – above and to one side of the subject.

Whatever you are photographing, are there any objects in the scene that could spoil your composition – road signs, bins etc? Think especially of things that are at the side of your frame that could distract a viewer,.

Last, but not least – make sure that you are working in a safe position – for yourself and your equipment.

I took today’s featured photograph in London, at night using a Pentax K-1 36 MP full frame camera using a 15-30 mm f/2.8 lens at 30 mm and f/7.1. The ISO was 100 and the Shutter Speed 30 seconds. I used a tripod. No filters were needed.

Tomorrow, I’ll have a brief look at aspects of photographing distant objects.