my flickr photostream

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

52 weeks: Week 29 wrapup

Watery Morning
© 2010 Simon Hucko

I had every intention of sticking to the shadow theme this week, but it's been so rainy here that we haven't really had any shadows to speak of. Instead, I captured the view from my car before walking into work one morning. Case and point. I always enjoy shots like these - water on a window is like nature's photoshop, you can get some crazy effects. There wasn't much color anyway, but the black and white helped put the focus solely on the texture of the shot.

My pick this week comes from q-pix:

© q-pix

I like the lines of the boats here, especially when distorted by the reflection in the water. Awesome sky, too, very moody.

This week's theme is "texture" - the world is full of interesting textures, use light and your framing to show them off. Side-lighting is good for bringing out texture, as the shadows that you get will add a more 3D effect to the image.


[title of blog] on flickr

Monday, July 26, 2010

Shoot what you know

© 2009 Simon Hucko

This week's post goes a bit deeper into something I touched on in the 52 weeks wrapup last week.

A lot of times people equate great photographs with exotic and exciting locations, and feel trapped and limited by where they are geographically. I'll admit I fall into this trap from time to time ("oh man, if I could only go to ______, my photos would be awesome!"). Sure, it's easier to get that "wow" factor when shooting somewhere foreign, but some of the best photographers in history have made their mark capturing what was in their own backyard.

A good example of this is Ansel Adams. Ansel is probably most famous for his photographs of Yosemite National Park. Along with his mastery of black and white photography (the man was a true genius with his craft, I suggest reading some of his books if you haven't yet), he knew that park like his backyard. In fact, he lived in the park for a few years while working at the visitor's center. This intimate knowledge of the area and his long-term access let him pick and choose his vantage points, time of year, time of day, and even weather to get the image that he wanted.

Granted, we don't all live in Yosemite, but there are plenty of interesting things in your area to take photos of. I don't just mean beautiful landscapes, either. You are in a unique position to get to know your locale and the people in it better than any other photographer out there. Get outside your normal routine a little and explore what's around you. A 5 minute walk or drive can reveal a completely different world and help you get out of the hometown creative rut. If you want to photograph people, find a local event or group and see if you can document it in some way for them. A lot of organizations can benefit from photography, and if you approach them you can probably gain access or even make a sale if that's your thing.

My point is, don't feel limited by your lack of a travel budget. There are plenty of great images waiting for you out there if you look for them.


[title of blog] on flickr

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

52 weeks: Week 28 wrapup

Pastoral Landscape
© 2010 Simon Hucko

My photo this week was taken about 5 minutes from our home. A lot of people think they have to go to exotic locations to get great photographs, but often times there are plenty of fantastic images right around the corner. Finding these spots gives you the advantage of being able to go back whenever the weather and lighting are the best. That's a whole blog post on its own, I'll write it up for next week.

This week's pick is from q-pix:

© q-pix

Interesting setup, I like the framing with the wrenches. Nice black and white, too, it really brings out the texture on the background.

Next week's theme is shadow. Photography is all about light, but shadows are what define that light. Find a way to show this in your photo this week.


[title of blog] on flickr

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

52 weeks: Week 27 wrapup

© 2010 Simon Hucko

I had every intention of sticking to the theme (symmetry) this week and had a few other shots planned, but life got in the way and so this photo of Radames will have to do. I'm happy with this shot except for the white balance - it came out a little magenta, so I'll have to go back and tweak it a bit. I used his white fur to set the white point, and apparently his white fur is actually a little green? Just goes to show, if you're looking for accurate color there's just no substitution for a neutral gray card.

My pick this week is "Lemond - 6" by djhucko:

Lemond - 6
© Dan Hucko

I figured my dad would hop on the symmetry theme, as we both share that aesthetic in our photography. I like the use of grass as a background, it adds some nice texture to the shot. I'm digging the square crop, too (of course). The photo brings me back a bit to my pick from week one. My only criticism here is the smeary flare around the highlight on the fork. It might just be a product of shooting that lens wide open, and there's probably not much you can do about it.

That's it for this week. Next week's theme is black and white. Show me what you got.


[title of blog] on flickr

Monday, July 12, 2010

Shoot your pets (the SPCA approved way)

Nice to meet you
© 2010 Simon Hucko

My wife and I brought home a kitten last week from the shelter, and as you might expect I've been taking plenty of photos of the little guy. Sensationalist title aside, I figured I would take this chance to talk a bit about how to get the best photos of your pets. (Incidentally, these tips work pretty well with little kids too.)

- The first and most important thing is to get down to their level. Crawl on the floor if you have to. I'm assuming most of you are much taller than your pets. A photo from standing height is just not very interesting. Even if you zoom in on your pet, you're getting the same boring perspective that you see every day. Get your lens down to your pet's eye level, and suddenly you see the world as they see it. This is true for people as well, we connect much better to the subject if we're at eye level.

- If you want a static portrait of your pet, your best bet is to get them right before or right after they take a nap (especially if they're still young and rambunctious). They're much more likely to stay still during that quiet period between play and sleep, and if you time it right they'll still be alert enough to look at you and the camera. I got this photo of Radames right before he nodded off for a nap on the kitchen floor (and yes, I was lying on the ground):

© 2010 Simon Hucko

- If you're trying to get a more active shot, your best bet is to shoot a lot. You're going to miss a lot of shots due to focus, timing, or motion blur. Shoot plenty, and then you can pick the ones that worked later. Don't spend all your time staring at your LCD screen, either, or you'll miss moments. Once I get my exposure locked in, I stop checking the shots and just shoot. You can also work on pre-framing and pre-focusing your shots, waiting for the pet to come to you and grabbing the frame. That's what I wound up doing for this one:

Radames at Play

- If you're taking photos indoors, I recommend using your fast prime. Wider apertures and higher ISOs let you get a shorter shutter speed, which can help capture your pet as they run around and play. However, the extra speed comes at the price of depth of field, and with moving subjects a shallow DOF leads to more missed shots. See my point above about shooting a lot.

- Check your backgrounds. There's a lot of clutter and distracting backgrounds in your house. Shoot toward a wall or other plain vertical surface and you won't have to worry about your dirty dishes showing up in the frame. The other option is to open that fast prime up and blur out the mess.

- Avoid your built in flash. Nuked out photos of your pet on a dark background aren't the most flattering in the world, and chances are they're not going to sit there and let you blast a flash into their sensitive eyes more than once or twice. Again, open your aperture and boost your ISO. Window light helps, too - try to grab shots while they're looking into the world "out there."

- Shoot low, close and wide. The bigger the pet, the wider you can go. These make great "action" shots, and tend to have a nice dynamic feel to them. I've talked about this a bit before.

Hope that helps. If you've got another tip for pet photography, please share in the comments!


[title of blog] on flickr

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

52 weeks: Week 26 wrapup

Stars and Sky Forever
© 2010 Simon Hucko

26 weeks means we're halfway there! Participation is still kinda low, but we did get a bunch of "blue" themed photos this week, which I was happy to see. Again, don't feel forced into sticking to the theme, it's optional and is only there to help you. If you have a great shot that isn't in line with the theme, post it anyway! The theme for this coming week will be "symmetry" - another favorite of mine. Humans love symmetry, and if you start looking you'll find it all around you (buildings especially).

My photo this week was a quick grab during the BBQ-ing festivities. Rather than correct for shade, I left the white balance at daylight giving the flag and pole a very blue cast. I did warm up the shadows just a touch to contrast all the blue, it's probably most noticeable in the tree.

My pick this week is "Sitting on the dock of a lake" by chofler:

Sitting on the dock of the lake
© chofler

She captured some great sunset tones here, I really like all of the colors in the sky. I also like how the boats and people are almost in silhouette. A very calming summer photo.

That's it for this week, folks. Hard to believe the year is halfway over already! Get out there and get shooting, symmetry or no, and post something. You can do it!


[title of blog] on flickr