- How to Approach & Photograph Strangers in Other Countries for Travel Photography
- Depth of Field for Beginning Photographers (Video)
- Interesting Photo of the Day: Double Exposure of Man in Nature
- 3 Creative Ways to Use a Ring Flash for Portrait Photography (Video)
- Amazing Microscopic Timelapse of Snowflakes Forming (Video)
Posted: 06 Mar 2014 01:48 AM PST
I’ve wanted to write something on this topic for ages. To be honest, this is probably the question that comes back most from my students: how should I approach people to take their photos?
For most people traveling here, and to be more precise, for most Westerners traveling in Southeast Asia, taking photos of people feels like intruding into their private lives. When your photographic tutor tells you to keep getting close, it may feel uncomfortable to approach locals one does not know. Well, I have few answers for you.
Please note that in this article we are talking about travel photography focused on people and Southeast Asia. For street photography in New York City, different tips are applied, including getting a good lawyer!
First, when people tell me they do not want to intrude and enter people's private spaces, this is said and thought from a Westerner’s perspective. Things in some parts of the world, including Southeast Asia, are different. Indeed, private space is very different here compared to in the US, for example. Here, leave the door of your house open and neighbors will start coming in to borrow chili, pinch your kids’ cheeks, or just see what is going on. People will hug you and walk with you after they have known you only ten minutes. And for those traveling to Vietnam, after one minute the first questions to come are often: "Where are you from? How old are you? Are you married? Do you have kids? Do you make a lot of money?" Privacy does not mean the same thing to all cultures.
How does one actually get close to people?
Well, it is all about the photographer's attitude toward the subject(s). Let's say I am eating snails on my terrace in Paris on a Sunday afternoon (as all French people do on Sunday afternoon) and this foreign guy comes in and looks at what I am doing. First I think, "What the hell is this guy doing?" But this guy, obviously not French based on his accent and poor French language skills, comes and talks to me. He looks very excited and eager to ask me about what I am eating. He manages to speak a little French and asks if these are snails. He tells me he’s heard about this French tradition but has never actually tried. Of course I offer him one to try, and he does try it, looking very satisfy when he finally tastes one of the most famous French culinary treats (guys, I am French and I’ve eaten snail just three times in my life–this is not something we have for breakfast!). He seems very happy and gives me a thumbs up, with a big smile, and asks where he can buy some.
Then I think, “Wow, this guy is cool! He is ready to try this disgusting looking dish and seems to like it. He is pretty open minded to be doing such a thing. And he makes me smile with all his thumbs ups and bad accent.” So when that guy lifts a camera up and signals to me that he wants to take a photo to remember this moment, I say sure! We have had a good time discussing snails and watching his weird face when swallowing his first snail. “And you know what? If you can send me the photo as well, I would love it!”
Not sure this snail related example is what works best here, but I am trying to show you that it is about the photographer's attitude, and only about that. I have made people smile and laugh and taken photos of people who at first seemed to wish to kill me.
But this takes a lot of energy and time. You do not always have the luxury of time when traveling (2 days here, 3 days there, "quick, quick I need to visit everything which is in the Lonely Planet!”). Yes, taking photos of people takes time, unless you walk up to people, snap a shot, and walk away. But that can cause misunderstandings easily.
When I finish a photography workshop in Hoi An for example, I know that it was good and I probably have some good shots when my jaws hurt from over-smiling for hours. Vietnam is easier for me, as I can speak the language. I get into a conversation with people right after meeting them, and it often startles the locals when this foreign guy comes to them and asks them how many children they have in their own language. But wherever you go, it works the same.
Just Three Words
Learn the basics of a language. And when I say basics I mean learn three words: hello, beautiful, and thank you. Say hello, at least. (I meet a lot of people who have been traveling in Vietnam for over a week and still do not know how to say hello!) Try to communicate with the people using your hands and a smile. The smile is everything. Get interested and curious about them, what they are doing, things surrounding them.
Once the contact has been made and there is a good feeling going on, maybe it is time to take the camera up. You do not need to ask to take a photo; you have been talking to them for ten minutes with a camera as big as their pet dog in your hands–they know where you are going to do. Once you have snapped a photo, show them and say “beautiful” in their own language. You'll usually end up with ten people around you laughing and talking about how their neighbors look in a photo. Then it is time to say "thank you".
That is a thing one needs to realize when traveling: for people living in developing countries, it in not obvious what we are doing with our photos. People who have never been out of their villages may see cameras as something used by the army to document the population of a country. People just do not know we love taking photos because we love it! So one needs to make this clear, explaining we love them because we think they are beautiful.
I have been watching a lot what goes on when we go on a photo excursion. What is sure is that “Hello, can I take your picture?” never ever works. People either do not speak English, so they don't understand and walk away, or you are in an area with a lot of tourists and they will think "please not again!" and walk away.
I hear "photo one dollar" a lot in Hoi An. But when the light is perfect and I spot a great wall to use as a background, I say, "Fine, but come here. Walk in front of that wall, and look in that direction!" It will cost me $1 to get a great postcard (my own, not a 20 year old photo they sell all over the country). Great deal!
And when I come back to any location I have been before, I print the photos of people I have taken and give them. You cannot imagine all the doors it opens to you, people then queue to have their photo taken. Just start the queue line where the light is best!
To make it easier for you, try and find an area with a lot of activity going on. If people are busy doing their things, they will not care about you being around and snapping photos. Also, I usually tell my students that when not comfortable approaching people, start with kids: they are patient, easy, and love having their photo taken!
Once again, approaching people and having them open up to you is all about your attitude. It takes a lot of energy and smiles, but everyone can get there. I have met some photographers who, the more they realized they struggled to take photos of people, the more they got grumpy about not getting the shot. This made people around feel they did not want to have their photo taken by this unfriendly, unsmiling man.
I found this to be the best way for me to decompress and relax from the hassles of life. When in a village, getting into people's houses, chatting with kids, and trying to get the best shot, I forget all the world around me, and I enjoy the simple things life has given me.
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Go to full article: How to Approach & Photograph Strangers in Other Countries for Travel Photography
Posted: 05 Mar 2014 04:37 PM PST
Depth of field is one of the most important distinguishers between professional and amateur photography. Composition and exposure might be easy to grasp, but controlling your focus is harder, mainly because there are so many ways to manipulate it. Kelly Mena does a great job at explaining it:
What is Depth of Field?
Basically, depth of field describes the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in an image, and how much in focus each one is. Calling depth of field “deep” means that most, or all, of the photograph will be in equal focus, whereas “shallow” depth of field means only the foreground will be in focus.
Generally portrait shots, like the one sampled below, look better with a shallow depth of field, because they force your eye to focus on the person.
The quality of the background, when blurred, is called bokeh. Bokeh is determined by the shape of the aperture blades and the focal length of your lens. Certain upper-class lenses are renowned for having sharper bokeh than others.
How Do You Manipulate Depth of Field?
There are three ways to change depth of field:
Your aperture, or f-stop, is the most popular method of adjusting depth of field. The wider the aperture, the shallower the depth of field; if it’s narrower, your depth of field will be deeper, meaning more of it will be in focus.
For example, as seen above, an f-stop of f/16 is considered a very narrow aperture, so the background cars are somewhat clear. But when you get to the widest aperture, f/1.4, like what most prime lenses can achieve, you get a foggy background, focusing instead on the foreground exclusively.
Next up is focal length. A longer focal length creates a shallower depth of field. So if you zoom in with a strong lens, as in the image above, the closer you zoom into the object–even if it’s with the same aperture setting–will blur the background out more.
Lastly, you can move yourself in lieu of your lens to alter your depth of field. This is especially useful with prime lenses, a.k.a. lenses that don’t zoom. They’re excellent for portraits, but require you be fairly close to your subject. Remember: the closer you are, the shallower your depth of field will be. It’s the same premise as using a zoom lens.
There’s no right or wrong when it comes to depth of field, just what you prefer, and what kind of atmosphere you want to establish. And, of course, consider every aspect of photography when toying with a new one.
Go to full article: Depth of Field for Beginning Photographers (Video)
Posted: 05 Mar 2014 03:22 PM PST
Is this photo double exposure? Technically, the term is reserved for when an analogue camera opens its shutter twice over the same slide of film, superimposing one image atop another. Some debate the issue feverishly, with critics complaining that when the images is a Photoshopped composite, it isn’t true double exposure. Others shrug that this is what double exposure has become in the 21st century. Judge for yourself:
The photographer snapped two photos, cropped out the hand and pasted one atop the other in Photoshop. He set the opacity of both at 50 percent and fiddled with the brightness and contrast until he found a happy medium. That’s it. No masks, no in-camera editing.
For reference, here are the two images used to create the composite. As you can see, they’re simple shots on their own:
Other photographers choose to use their camera’s built-in double exposure feature.
Is the Photoshopped version of double-exposure too simple? Does it devalue the authenticity of double exposure photography, back when you had to open the shutter twice to impose two images over the same layer of film? Most importantly: does it even matter? Ultimately, it’s a lovely image of the interconnection between man and nature. The process is less relevant.
Go to full article: Interesting Photo of the Day: Double Exposure of Man in Nature
Posted: 05 Mar 2014 02:25 PM PST
Ring flashes give photographs a distinctive look and are a favorite of fashion photographers. Typically used by shooting through the opening in the center, the ring flash creates a flat, uniform light and a “halo” of shadow behind the subject, both ideal for fashion and beauty shoots. However, the ring flash is actually a very versatile tool that can create a wide variety of effects. In this video, Gavin Hoey demonstrates three techniques for creating compelling portraits with a ring flash:
Shooting UK grime artist Iffy, Hoey’s aim was to create gritty, dramatic portraits. He used the Orbis ring flash, a particularly flexible model which can be handheld, on-camera, or mounted on a tripod, to show us three different approaches:
1. Use the ring flash as a small softbox.
The flash can be triggered with your camera’s built-in flash, mounted on a tripod, and positioned however you choose. For this shot, Hoey creates a “menacing” effect by pointing the flash down at his subject’s shrouded face, leaving most of it in shadow.
2. Combine it with other flashes.
To imitate dramatic stage lighting, Hoey faces two speedlights toward the camera and keeps the ring flash pointed down at the subject. This time, Iffy faces the light to recreate the excitement of a live performance.
3. Create interesting highlights.
A trademark feature of the ring flash is the circular reflections it creates in a subject’s eyes. Using this to his advantage, Hoey has Iffy don a pair of sunglasses and makes a simple paper stencil for the flash (for this shot, the ring flash is handheld). The result has Iffy seeing stars!
The mood of Hoey’s portraits was meant to be dark and brooding, but ring flashes can be used to create any atmosphere you choose. Experiment with different positioning and stencils to find your own unique use for them!
Go to full article: 3 Creative Ways to Use a Ring Flash for Portrait Photography (Video)
Posted: 05 Mar 2014 02:13 PM PST
If you thought snow was pretty before, you’ll love this. This microscopic view of snowflakes came out just in time to pick up our spirits during this freezing winter–set to a delicate piano background, the video depicts snowflakes as an undeniably beautiful ballet of piercing white movement:
The timelapse footage comes courtesy of Russian photographer and videographer Vyacheslav Ivanov, who specializes in outdoor adventure videos and microscopic views of everyday objects like snowflakes and acrylic paint (Via PetaPixel).
Ivanov uses a full-frame 1:1 camera and and a macro lens to capture the blossoming flakes, which grow hexagonally as water molecules cling to each other in freezing temperatures. Kind of a warm thought, actually.
Go to full article: Amazing Microscopic Timelapse of Snowflakes Forming (Video)
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