Regarding Melissa #11


‘You mean that you’re putting PC Plod Stacy Jackson before me – your boyfriend? That’s not very nice. Where are you going with PC Plod? Shall I come and join you?’

‘Not tonight, Craig. It’s a girls’ night together. Stacy and I have been mates since even before I met you – as you well know. Stop sulking and stop calling her PC Plod. It’s not nice of you.’

Craig was clearly unhappy, but Mel wasn’t the kind of person to break arrangements with her friend without good reason and she thought that Craig was becoming a bit of a drama queen.


Melissa and her family

Mel was stirring the contents of a pan, preparing an evening meal when her Mum walked through the door. Jean was not quite as tall as Mel, but they shared the same fair hair – though Jean’s was cut into a smart bob.

‘Hello, Mel love,’ her mum shouted from the hall, ‘Something smells good.’

The Harrington family home was on a small estate of  detached properties in, what estate agents generally called, the desirable residential area of Upperton. The carefully tended front garden and block-paved double driveway added to the house’s desirability. The estate was on a wooded rise above Codmanton. The four bedroomed house had been designed by Brian, Mel’s dad, an architect who had personally overseen every stage of its construction and landscaping. The large rear garden afforded a stunning view of the tops of the dales.

Jean and Brian were of a similar age – Brian was 49 and Jean was two years younger. She was head teacher at the local comprehensive school.

‘It’s only a chicken curry, Mum,’ Mel said, ‘Thawed-out chicken thighs and a jar of Jalfrezi. Will that be enough. There’s a supermarket apple-strudel for afters if you want it.’ With both of her parents working full-time, food that was home cooked from scratch was a luxury reserved for weekends and holidays.

The kitchen had been recently modernised with shiny, black, granite worktops adjoining the walls and on the central island unit, contrasting with white tiled walls and white drawer fronts. Suspended black lights and black and white floor tiles completed the look. This modern kitchen with its futuristic equipment seemed wasted on the basic simplicity of the meal Mel was preparing.

Her mum, hung up her coat, walked across and leaned over Mel’s shoulder to look at the chicken-thighs simmering in the sauce. She kissed her daughter on the cheek and thanked her.

‘Have you had a good day, Mum?’ Mel asked, still stirring.

‘”Good,” is relative in teaching, love. Sixty percent teaching rather than half of my time dealing with bureaucracy would be good in my life. How’s your day been?’

‘You’ll be pleased to know that I now have a full-time job to go to starting next Monday.’ Mel announced.

Jean clapped her hands to her cheeks – her mouth and eyes registering her pleasure and surprise.

‘Turn round while I give you a hug,’ she said, ‘Where? Doing what?’

Mel’s reply was muffled as her face was squeezed into her mum’s cardigan.

‘Tell me again,’ Jean said.

‘I got a job today at Hannay’s camera shop in the Precinct – permanent, full-time and more than minimum wage. Proper sick pay and holidays after a probationary period.’

‘Hannay’s?’ Jean asked, ‘You mean the little camera shop off the high street?’

‘Yes,’ Mel said, ‘on the approach into the precinct.’

‘Mmm,’ Jean said, ‘They used to have a place on the High Street, I’m sure. I hadn’t noticed that they’d moved. Probably the rents and rates for the High Street. Are you sure that’s a good move for you, love? Doesn’t everybody buy that sort of stuff online now?’

‘Yes, Mum,’ Mel said, ‘I do understand your concern, but most photographers want to feel what they’re thinking about buying in their hands – judge the weight, the grip and so on. Even the people who own the shop seem to expect that, with my degree and photography skills, I’ll probably want to move on eventually to make the most of them. I’ve seen inside the shop though, and I’ve met and discussed things with them. They’re lovely people, it’s full-time, reasonably paid for a starter job – and I can see how I’ll be able to learn a lot working there.’

‘All right, Mel, love, I can see you’ve thought about it. Your dad will be over the moon, I’m sure. How did you manage to get an interview?’

Mel explained, and Jean said how impressed she was.

Featured Photo

The photo that I’ve chosen today is the first of a series that I’ll be posting in this part of my daily blog in this part of the page. The series is based on a walk that I did on the 19th April along the bank of the Leeds to Liverpool canal between Burscough Bridge and the ‘Ring O’Bells’ pub just over a mile away. I did the walk in both directions, accompanied by my daughter’s dog, Ted. I’ll start with a shot I took at Burscough Bridge wharf.

The image shows the view along the wharf from under an arch of the road bridge (Burscough Bridge) which passes over the canal. The EXIF data are as follows: Camera used was my 24 MP Pentax KP cropped sensor camera paired with a Pentax 28-105 mm f/3.5-5.6 full-frame lens. The shutter speed was 1/100 secs @ f/10 and 28 mm. The ISO was 100. The shot was handheld.

Regarding Melissa #10


‘You’re just jealous because I showed some initiative. Admit it. Some of us have what it takes – don’t I?’

‘Well, it’s easier for a girl to succeed at interview. I bet they saw things your way just looking at your tits and your legs.’

‘Sexist pig,’ she said. She waited because she could hear Craig’s dad talking to him, asking him what job she’d got. He was shouting at Craig telling him that if ‘Dolly Daydream’ could get a job it just showed how useless Craig must be.


When Craig re-joined the conversation, he told her what his dad had said.

‘Oh, I heard, she said, ‘Tell him that I heard him call me Dolly Daydream. I won’t be sending him a birthday card.’

‘Do you think that they’d employ me?’ he asked.

‘I shouldn’t think so, Craig,’ she told him, ‘There was just a note in the window saying that they wanted an assistant. Now they have me that’s probably all they need. It’s only a small shop after all.’

‘When do you start?’ Craig again.

‘Next Monday.’

‘What’s the pay like?’

‘Don’t be nosey. Better than minimum wage anyway. Before you ask, I also get sick pay and four weeks holiday after I’ve been there six-months – if they keep me on after that probationary period.’

‘What about the hours?’

‘Well,’ she hesitated, ‘they’re a bit unusual because it’s a shop.’ She paused again, I have to think how it works. Hold on.’

She rummaged round in her bag for the note she’d scribbled earlier with the details.

‘Right,’ she said, ‘thirty-nine hours a week. I’ll be working Monday through Saturday 8:30 to 4:30 with an hour for lunch and Thursday afternoons off. They’ll give me time-and-a-half for any overtime they ask me to do. Satisfied?’

‘Jesus, Mel,’ he groaned, ‘Saturdays? Really? Do you have to?’

‘Wrong attitude, Craig, for someone who wants a job,’ she said, ‘It’s a shop. People want to buy things at weekends. I’m lucky that they don’t open on Sundays – and it might come to that.’

‘When am I going to get time to see you then?’ he pleaded.

‘Craig,’ she said, ‘I’ll be home before five every day normally and I will have Thursday afternoons off – and all-day Sunday.’

‘Yes,’ he argued, ‘but my job behind the bar is almost always evening work. Can’t you get another type of work?’

‘So, which of us do you think should change their job, Craig?’ she asked. ‘My permanent, full-time, thirty-nine hours with holidays and sick pay or yours with whatever hours they say they need you a couple of nights a week? What do you think? Really?’

‘I know what you mean, Mel, but I am trying.’

‘You’re just going to have to try harder then, Craig. I’m going to be meeting a lot of male customers who have loads of money to spend on cameras. You’re going to have to up your game if you don’t want me to see you as a long-term loser.’

‘Christ, Mel,’ he said, ‘Is that a threat? Surely you’re not that shallow? You know that I’d top myself if I lost you.’

‘It’s not a threat, Craig – and I don’t like emotional blackmail,’ she said, ‘but I do want you to get real. We were never going to be able to afford a place together at the rate you’re going.’

‘Can I see you tonight to talk about things?’ he asked.

‘Sorry, Craig. I’ve promised Stacy that I’ll meet her and we’ll have a drink together to celebrate. I’ll see you tomorrow I’ve had my tea.’

‘You mean that you’re putting PC Plod Stacy Jackson before me – your boyfriend? That’s not very nice. Where are you going with PC Plod? Shall I come and join you?’

‘Not tonight, Craig. It’s a girls’ night together. Stacy and I have been mates since even before I met you. Stop sulking and stop calling her PC Plod. It’s not nice of you.’

Craig was clearly unhappy, but Mel wasn’t the kind of person to break arrangements with her friend without good reason and she thought that Craig was becoming a bit of a drama queen.

Featured Photo

Today’s image is the last of those from the evening of sunset photography on Crosby Beach, Merseyside. Tomorrow, I’ll start a series of shots that I took this week on a canal walk. When I was packing my gear away on Crosby Beach, I noticed the illuminated cranes at the container port in North Bootle. It was getting quite cold and I needed to walk a kilometre or so southwards, but I felt that the effort was worth it for this image along the beach.

I continued to use my Pentax K-1 36 MP full-frame camera and the same Pentax 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens. The EXIF data were: shutter speed 8 seconds @ f/8 and 70 mm. The ISO was 100.

A meeting in the Marketplace – a Short Story – Part Two


‘Well, there you go, man. Come back and tell everybody else what you’ve been learning. Anyway, wasn’t it you who gave that talk about rainy-day photography? Photographing things about the house?’

‘These days, I’d want to get some proper lighting gear,’ Jack says, ‘Set up a mini studio.’

Frank says nothing for a moment while he thinks. Jack makes to leave.


‘I’ve got to go, mate. My sciatica won’t let me stand like this. My hip and leg are killing me.’

‘If you’re that bad, you wouldn’t be much use walking about Durham would you? Listen. I’m sorry about your sciatica, but before you go, I’ve just had an idea.

Jack looks at Frank but says nothing.

Frank starts clearing a space in the back of his van..

‘Come round the back and let me show you something,’ Frank says, turning away and rummaging in the back of his van.

‘What about social distancing?’ Jack asks.

‘Bugger social distancing for a minute,’ Frank replies, ‘Come here.’

Once Jack has made his way between the stalls to the other side of Frank’s counter, he sees that his friend has pulled out a large, glass fish tank on to a clear space between other unsold stock.  The tank’s about two and a half feet long by two feet tall and the same deep.

“Not fucking likely!’ Jack says, ‘There’s no way you’re going to persuade me to start keeping tropical fish.’

‘Don’t be so bloody miserable. Who said I had tropical fish in mind anyway? Use your imagination.’

Jack stands, his arms folded, but one arm up and his knuckles under his chin. His brow is furrowed.

‘Well, go  on. Enlighten me.’

Frank turns the tank on its side so that the open-end faces Jack.

‘Enlightening! Just the word!’ Frank says, pointing to the upper glass wall of the tank.

‘Aah!’ says Jack, ‘A mini studio. A light box.’

‘Exactly!’ says Frank.

The two men talk and point, excited, animated as they exchange views about how the tank could be used – lighting from above, kitchen foil lining one or both sides to reflect the light inwards, and coloured mountboard, cut to use as backdrops and as a base.

‘How much?’ Jack asks. He’s smiling now. In his mind he’s lining up things to photograph in the tank – flowers, jewellery, food – even insects.

‘A tenner,’ Frank says.

‘How much?’ Jack repeats – the emphasis on the word ‘how’.

‘I’ll do you a mate’s rate, Jack – on one condition.’

Jack waits for the catch.

‘A fiver if you re-enrol with the group and give us a presentation with photos of how you’ve used it. We’ll all be glad to see your ugly face again. Think of the pals you’ll have to keep you company.’

‘But how am I going to get the damn thing home, Frank? I can’t carry it. Look at the size of it.’

Frank roots in his apron for a pen and paper.

‘Write your address and phone number on that,’ he says, passing them to Jack. ‘I’ll deliver it in the van personally. Will you be in at teatime?’

Jack nods as he writes. He hands the pen, paper and a five-pound note to Frank.

Covid forgotten, the two men shake hands and agree that it was nice to see each other again.

Jack has another look at the fish tank before he leaves.

Frank notices the smile on Jack’s face, and that, as he walks away, he holds himself more upright and his gait seems more purposeful.

‘I hope that he keeps his word and comes back to the flock,’ he thinks.

‘The price is right and it’s all gotta go!’ he shouts, looking around for potential customers and stuffing the paper and cash into the money bag around his waist.

Featured Photo

Another shot from our garden, also taken on Easter Day. Tulips growing up through a dandelion weed. Beauty can overcome even the toughest obstacles.

I took this on with my Pentax K-1 36 MP full-frame camera, this time using a Pentax 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens. The EXIF data are 1/20 secs @ f/3.2 and 68 mm. The ISO was 100. I used a tripod.

A meeting in the Marketplace – a Short Story – Part One

Frank is arranging items on his town square market stall. It’s in a reasonable spot – located at the far end of the market and backed up to his van. It’s the first day back for the market since the Covid restrictions were lifted in June 2020. His stall is one of twenty or so, though some haven’t yet re-opened. It’s a bright day, and the faded, striped awning over his stall flaps noisily in the stiff breeze. Not many shoppers yet – COVID has put a lot of folk off – but Frank is an optimist. He chats to Dennis on the DVD stall next to his as he works. Every now and then he pauses to encourage trade.

‘The price is right and it’s all gotta go!’ he shouts. The “all” is stretched out and louder.

Dennis laughs and shakes his head.

Frank’s stall is organised chaos: too neat and the punters will assume his goods are overpriced. There’s a mixture of secondhand tools, hardware and accessories: hammers, chisels, screwdrivers, wrenches, spanners, vices, screws and nails; plus some bric-a-brac.

As he pauses to take a sip of tea from a large, chipped beaker, he notices a familiar face among the shoppers working their way along to his stall.

‘Hello!” he says to Dennis, ‘I’ve not seen him for a while.’ He points with his hand.

The man in question is Jack Swift. Frank and Jack have both been keen amateur photographers since way back. He used to see Jack at the monthly meetings of the local over-55’s digital photography group. Jack hasn’t been to a meeting for almost two years now. He’s looking older – a bit stooped and he’s walking with a slight limp.

At the moment Jack’s looking at the paperback books on Alice’s stall on the other side of Frank’s. As Jack looks up from the books, his eyes meet Frank’s friendly gaze in recognition. Frank nods to him.

‘I see you’ve got your mask on, Jack. Good lad! Some folks seem to have forgotten that the virus hasn’t gone away.’

‘Morning, Frank,’ Jack says, ’You okay?’

 Frank notices that Jack’s voice is quieter now and that he hasn’t shaved.

‘Not seen you for a while, Jack. Josie not with you?’

Jack says nothing for a minute. He just stares at Frank.

‘Didn’t you see it in the paper, Frank? She’s dead. Car accident in January eighteen months ago. Drunken driver.’

‘Oh God, Jack! I’m so sorry. How are you? How’s Clare taken it?’

Clare is Jack’s thirty something year old daughter. She was the apple of her mother’s eye.

‘Bearing up. Having to work from home. We only see each other by Skype. She’s scared of me catching the bug off her and losing me as well.’

‘Bloody Hell, Jack! How are you coping?’

‘Not well, Frank. The house is too quiet. I know Josie could nag for England, but it was only because she worried. I don’t half miss her voice and her bustling around the place.’

‘Are you managing to get out much yourself? I see you haven’t got your camera with you. You used to have it on that shoulder strap everywhere you went.’

‘Nowhere to go, Frank. Rules say only local exercise once a day. I’d hoped to get up to the North East – Scarborough, Whitby, Durham – as far as the Edinburgh bridges for a few weeks. Get me out of the house, take some photos. I’ve always wanted to do that trip. Covid’s buggered that up too. Not been my year!’

‘Come back to the group Jack. It’ll be company.’

‘You must be joking! Even if I wanted to, you lot can’t meet anyway now.’

‘True. But we meet via that Zoom app. Have you heard of it?’

‘Yes, but I’ve never used it. Any good?’

‘So-So! It doesn’t always work and Bert’s bloody useless with anything technical.’

They both laugh.

A passing community policeman looks at them and waves to Frank.

‘So, you’re not getting any use from your camera at all, Jack?’

‘Nothing to photograph worth bothering with is there?’

‘For God’s sake, Jack! What’s up with you man? That’s not like you. There’s other places round here you could go.’

‘What? Photograph boarded-up shops, streets piled high with litter and dog shit. I don’t think so.’

‘Why did you stop going to the group, Jack? You always had ideas for times like this when you were a member.’

‘I wasn’t learning anymore Frank. I was bored. I learned loads more just being out taking photos. Learning more about my camera. Trying out new approaches that I’d read about online.’

‘Well, there you go, man. Come back and tell everybody else what you’ve been learning. Anyway, wasn’t it you who gave that talk about rainy-day photography? Photographing things about the house?’

‘These days, I’d want to get some proper lighting gear; set up a mini studio.’

Frank says nothing for a moment while he thinks. Jack makes to leave.

Featured Photo

For a change I include a shot from my garden to represent the coming of Spring. The flower was on my Magnolia Stellata bush. I took the shot on Easter Sunday this year and I was reminded of it because the bush is in bloom again.

I took the photo using my Pentax K-1 36 MP full frame camera paired with a 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens. The EXIF data are 1/320 secs @ f2.8 and 70 mm. The ISO was 100 and I used a tripod.

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.


  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


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


  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


  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


  1. Allow time for Long Exposure Noise Reduction activity
  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.

Are you stopping? ND filter strengths in photography.

In a post a few days ago, I mentioned the idea of Stops in the context of the Aperture triangle. When you use neutral density (ND) filters, the idea of Stops becomes a central issue. You use filters to reduce light entering the sensor in situations when using the shutter speed setting alone doesn’t fit the bill. ND filters are available in a range of strengths – these can be called by different names, but the easiest one to remember is the number of Stops of light which the filter offers. You have to choose, by looking at the situation, how strong a filter you want to use. If you are photographing a waterfall in bright light, perhaps 3 stops will do. If you are photographing waves then probably 10 stops would be your minimum – and you may want to stack a 10 stop plus a 5 stop. You are the judge. What you then have to do is to take the shutter speed that your camera recommends without a filter, and look it up in a table – such as that below, or by using a phone app – to find out what shutter speed you will need when you have a filter installed.

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So, if you’ve taken a test shot without a filter and the preview tells you that your exposure is OK, have a look at the shutter speed that you used, say 1/125 seconds. Now, let’s say you want to use a 6 stop filter, the table tells you that, with the filter installed, your shutter speed will need to be 1/2 seconds. At this point, you need to lock your focus, remember your settings and switch to Manual mode. Enter those settings – ISO, Aperture – and your new shutter speed (the 1/2 seconds one in this case), pop in your filter and you’re almost ready to go (I’ll say more about that tomorrow.

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I said above that filters are known by different names by different manufacturers – for example as a 6 stop filter, a 1.8 optical depth filter or as an ND 64 filter. The table above provides the equivalent types of naming for each strength. The table also shows the equivalent fraction of light that is admitted. So, a 6 stop filter admits only 1/64 of the light that would have been admitted without a filter. Think back to the first table. Without a filter you would have opened the shutter for 1/125 of a second. With the 6 stop, ND64 filter you will open the shutter for 1/2 second – ie 60/125 or roughly 64 times longer.

The table examples above are just to illustrate the principle. There are excellent phone apps, such as ND expert, where you just enter the base shutter time and the filter type and which also provide a timer.

Today’s featured image is of the lighthouse at Penmon Point, Anglesey, North Wales with Puffin Island to the right of the image.

This photograph was taken only slightly later with a 10 stop filter plus a 2 stop polariser. The light had also changed. The base shutter speed was 1/200 seconds, the filtered time was 10 seconds ie 2000/200 equalling a factor of 1000 (roughly 1024)

Tomorrow, I’ll provide a detailed checklist of everything you need to do to prepare for your long exposure outing.

Long exposure photography – filters.

I promised yesterday to say more about the various types of filter used in photography. As the featured image shows they come in different shapes and sizes: circular, square and rectangular. The square ones in the photo are 100 mm. For an ultrawide lens I would need 150 mm filters because of the diameter of the lens. They come in different strengths to block different amounts of light. They have different purposes, and while the circular ones screw into the internal thread at the front of the lens, the square and rectangular ones drop into a special holder that is mounted on the lens.

In the photo, from top left you see a filter holder with slots for up to three 100 mm filters to be stacked. Next along is an 82 mm NISI circular polariser lens next to a NISI 82 mm adapter for the polariser to screw into the filter holder. Below those three items are three 100 mm square neutral density filters – 1 @ 3stops, 1 @ 6 stops and 1@ 10 stops. Top right is a 3 stop rectangular graduated ND filter – darkest at the top and fading towards the centre. Below that is a 3 stop reverse graduated ND filter having a sharply defined area of darkness at the centre, fading towards the top.

Firstly, the circular filters. They come in different diameter sizes, so if you have several lenses with different diameters and you need various strengths of filter it would be expensive to have all the combinations. The workaround is to decide what will be the largest diameter that you are likely to need – say 82 mm, buy all your filters to fit that diameter and then buy one set of step-up adapters to convert your various lenses to hold your 82 mm filters.

Most photographers will own and use circular polarising filters. These usually block up to 2 stops of light. I say ‘up to’ because they have to be rotated to be effective. These lenses reduce reflections, reduce the effect of haze, increase colour saturation and make blue skies bluer but they only work when the Sun is at 90 degrees to you. A useful tip, though, is to look through your viewfinder while rotating the filter and you should notice when it takes maximum effect.

The photo shows my camera with a filter holder mounted and an ND filter and graduated ND filter in their slots.

The graduated filters are used to reduce the brightness of the sky area of the image and bring out cloud detail. These can be purchased as hard edge or soft edge versions. The reverse graduated ND is usually used at sunset where there is a straight horizon such as the sea. It’s purpose is to reduce the intensity of the light from the setting Sun.

Neutral density filters simply block different amounts of light depending of their strength, They are called neutral density filters because the coating should not cause a colour cast in your images. The may be square or circular. Different measures are used by different manufacturers – but they map across consistently. I only want to know how many stops because that’s what I’ll use when converting my base exposure to my intended filtered exposure. Let me explain that.

I’m in position to take my photo, my camera is on my tripod securely. The lens is focused, I’ve set my ISO as 100, chosen my aperture. I switch to Manual Mode. I check that the preview looks properly exposed and, if not, I adjust the shutter speed until I get a good exposure. I make a note of the exposure. I then look up the strength of filter I’ll be using against that base exposure and that tells me how many seconds I need to keep the shutter open for. I can now insert my filter. Because it’s stopping light, I won’t be able to see through the lens with my viewfinder, that’s why I did everything else first. If the shutter speed I need is 30 seconds or less, I can set that in the camera, press the shutter button and wait. Otherwise, I need to use Bulb Mode and time it myself.

There are aids available for much of what I’ve said. There are free apps for your phone to calculate shutter speeds if you input or look up the number of stops against your base shutter speed. There are also free interval timer apps also available for phones. Remember though, this is not an exact science. You’ve taken a test shot at a specific moment in time. At various times after that, before and while you’re shutter is open, the sun can go behind a cloud or appear from the cloud, messing up your assumptions. You need to judge the situation as best you can. Check your preview after the exposure has been taken. If it’s really bad, have another try adjusting the shutter speed up or down a bit. If its almost right, you can do some tweaking in software afterwards.

Tomorrow I’d like to say some more about stop sizes and filters.

Long exposure photography

Most cameras have a default maximum shutter speed of 30 seconds, so I guess the range of shutter speeds from about 1/8000 secs to 30 secs must be classed as the normal exposure range. By that reckoning any shutter speed longer than 30 seconds would count as a long exposure, but, for the purpose of this blog, I’m going to count anything longer than 1 second.

Why, though, would anyone ever need to open the shutter for longer than 1 second? One answer would be to take photographs in low light conditions where. Alternatively, say that you want to use a wide aperture in bright sunlight eg to blur the background behind a shrub that you’re photographing in your garden. In order to avoid the photo being over exposed you could use a neutral density filter (ND filter) to reduce the light entering the camera. Another would be to take photographs to smooth out movement – for example waterfalls, waves or clouds.

Compare this shot at Cleveleys beach, Lancashire with today’s featured photo in which wave motion has been smoothed to focus attention on the rocks. I took the photo on the left at 1/200 of a second but the featured photo at 8 seconds using a 9 stop filter and an aperture half a stop smaller.

I took this shot, mid morning on a bright day with a 10 stop ND filter. My shutter speed was 30 seconds at an aperture of f/8 and ISO 100.

This image was taken within minutes of the one above but the shutter speed was 1/60 secs at the same aperture and ISO. Notice how the movement of the water in the stream was blurred by using a filter.

I won’t be able to explain even the basics in a single blog post, so I’ll spread it out over a few days. Today, I’ll just show a couple of examples of long exposure. Tomorrow, I’ll say something about the various types of filter that photographers use. Then I’ll post a blog about calculating shutter speed for using different strengths of filter. Finally, probably, I’ll go into how to use filters.

Having said all that about filters, in low light conditions you won’t need them normally, your main equipment other than your camera will be a tripod to enable you to take a stable, steady shot.

For this photo of Liverpool by night I used a tripod but I didn’t need a filter. My settings were shutter speed 6 seconds, aperture f/8, ISO 100 and focal length 23 mm. Because I used a tripod I set the image stabilisation to off. Other than that, the effort was simply waiting until all the drivers were using their lights and that there were enough of them moving quickly between two sets of traffic lights.

I hope that these examples may inspire you to look at this blog tomorrow to learn more about the various types of filter.

Enjoy your day.

Photography – Camera Modes

My featured photograph today is of the top of my camera. Like most dedicated cameras – and some smartphones – there are a multitude of dials, levers and buttons. These vary so much from camera to camera that I’m not even going to try to explain all of them. One dial, however, has settings that are common to most cameras – that is the Mode dial. In the photo, it’s the one on the left. The markings that I’ll be covering in my Blog today are those with the following marks on the dial – AUTO, P, SV, TV, AV, TAV, M, B and X.

AUTO Scene analyse Automatic exposure – the camera’s software analyses the scene and chooses for you the optimal settings.

P Programme Mode, Automatic exposure – allows you to change the ISO and exposure compensation only. (On my camera you can also set one the dials to change aperture and shutter value)

SV Sensitivity Priority Mode– Automatic exposure is similar to the Program mode but you cannot customise buttons for aperture and shutter values.

TV Shutter Priority Mode – Automatic exposure. You can change your shutter speed, ISO and exposure compensation but not your aperture setting.

TAV Shutter and Aperture Priority Mode – Automatic exposure. You can change shutter speed and aperture settings together with exposure compensation but not your ISO

M Manual Mode – You can change all the above settings. This is not an automatic mode – ie the camera does not make allowances – it uses your settings and doesn’t try to change settings to give you a good exposure. You’ve input your choice of settings, if the resulting exposure is rubbish, use the exposure triangle to get it right next time.

B Bulb exposure -You would normally use this for exposures longer than 30 seconds. You have to set the time to close the shutter by an intervalometer or a timer. you can only change the Aperture value and the ISO.

X Flash X-sync speed. – You can only change Aperture value, ISO and exposure compensation. You can change the Flash sync speed by using your camera’s Menu.

On my camera, the Shutter Speed and Aperture settings are set by rotating the appropriate wheel.

Look on the brighter side of life – ISO photography

ISO is a setting to increase the brightness of a photograph.

Sometimes you have a dilemma when, in low light conditions, you wish to avoid an underexposed image. Let’s say that, even though you have opened your aperture as far as your camera allows in order to retain sharpness, the image is still under-exposed. So then you have set your shutter speed as slow as you can yet still avoid avoid blur, but the image is still under-exposed. If you don’t mind blur – or if you want special effects such as light trails – you could mount your camera on a tripod and take a long exposure. (If you are taking an exposure longer than about 1/50 seconds without a tripod you risk camera shake and undesirable blur.)

In other circumstances, however, in order to increase brightness your only option other than flash is to raise the ISO setting. Unfortunately, if you raise the ISO significantly, you will begin to notice ‘noise’ or ‘graininess’ in your image. You then have to trade off motion blur against graininess – or miss the shot.

I’ve provided here a series of images of the same scene, on the same day, as darkness appears. I took this first one at 20:37 using ISO 100 at f/11 and 1/25 seconds. The focal length was 20 mm for all this series. The image is reasonably sharp and without noise.

This photo was taken 3 minutes later and yet is brighter. I increased the ISO to 200, increased the shutter speed to 1/100 seconds, but retained the aperture of f/11. At ISO 200, there is no noticeable increase in graininess.

By 22:03, I was using ISO 250, a shutter speed of 4 seconds and an aperture on f/3.5 – that’s an increase of 8 aperture stops alone. There is some noise but not much.

By 23:28 I was using ISO 3200, a shutter speed of 25 seconds, and an aperture of f/3.5 – as wide as possible with the lens I was using. There is considerable noise. In the following two images I have cropped section of this image to illustrate the noise or grain.

This is a crop from the middle- left of the picture.

This is a crop from the bottom right.

The shutter speed of 25 seconds was as slow as I could use, with the lens I was using, without causing spot stars to trail as a result of the earth’s rotation relative to the stars.

So, in summary, The ISO setting on a camera can be used to brighten a photo, but start by setting an aperture suitable for your subject. Then set your ISO to its base value – usually 100. Take a test shot and if the preview image indicates motion blur, try a faster shutter speed until you get a sharp test shot. If you still experience blur, increase the ISO but use a faster shutter speed. If after increasing ISO a few times you start getting noise in the image, try opening your aperture.

My featured photo of light trails today illustrates some of the types of trade-off issues. It’s a low light shot for which I wanted sharpness overall ie good front-to-back depth of field for the light trails, and — preferably – a starburst effect from the street lights on the roundabout. My start point was, therefore, a small aperture of f/18. However, I wanted the exposure to be long enough to capture the light trails, so I used a tripod to avoid camera shake and a fairly low ISO of 125. My focal length of 30 mm was wide enough to take in the scene I’d chosen. As the scene became darker I eventually got the shot I wanted with a 30 seconds shutter speed.

I’ve provided a link below to an excellent website that explains ISO in crystal clear terms.,aperture%20and%20shutter%20speed%20settings.