Archive for the ‘technique’ Category

30 Photographic Goals for 2010

January 7, 2010

2010 Photography Goals

I thought this list on the Digital Photography School site was excellent. See

I don’t know that I’ll try all of them and some I do already but Christina Dickson’s list is thought-provoking nonetheless.

It Wasn’t My Eyes!

December 30, 2009

I found out why I could not focus properly on the moon last night. My Canon EOS-30D’s viewfinder was not adjusted properly.

It was obvious when I looked through the viewfinder at a passing helicopter the next day. I must have moved the adjustment wheel inadvertently. I’d forgotten it was there.

Here’s the page from the Canon EOS-30D User Guide:

Canon EOS-30D Dioptric Adjustment

Canon EOS-30D Dioptric Adjustment

Another thing I liked about my old Canon A-1 was that it had a little shutter to close the viewfinder window. It was good for tripod work. Canon have done away with it on their consumer cameras. I think the EOS-1D has one.

A Little Bit Out of Focus

December 29, 2009

Last night I made a second set of test shots of the Thai moon over Bangkok. This time I tried manually focusing on the moon with my Canon 75-300mm lens set at 300mm.

Although the pictures looked all right in the viewfinder and on the LCD display, when I got them into Lightroom they were unacceptably blurred.

Moon Out of Focus

Moon Out of Focus

My first attempts when I let the camera auto-focus were much better. I was surprised that it could focus, but it did and it did a better job than my 53-year-old eyeballs.

I remember my Canon A-1 film SLR camera had two optical devices in the viewfinder to help you focus. (This was the 1980s before auto-focus was available).

The first were micro-prizms. They disappeared when the picture was correctly focused. The second was a split prism. This worked better in low light. You adjusted focus until the top and bottom half of the picture was aligned. This article talks about them and this article explains the optical theory.

I don’t think there’s a technical reason cameras no longer have these aids. They are available on professional cameras like the Canon EOS-1 series. I suppose manufacturers believe that autofocus works 99% of the time so they are no longer necessary for amateurs.

Moon Shots

December 28, 2009

I asked my online mentor, Michael Willems, a question that’s been bothering me for a while:

We’re having some lovely clear nights in Bangkok now it is the cool season. The moon often looks great but I have had limited success photographing it. Do you have any tips for good lunar photography?

He responded here with some useful tips.

The moon wasn’t very interesting tonight and it wasn’t full but I thought I’d try his suggestions.

I set up the Canon EOS-30D on a tripod with a cable release. My longest lens is the Canon 75-300mm F3.5-5.6 so I used that at 300mm.

I set the camera to 100 ASA to get the best quality from the sensor. I set a manual exposure of 1/125 at F11.

The moon was high in the sky so I got a crink in my neck trying to focus manually. It was not very bright so I tried some longer exposures.

I converted them to greyscale in Lightroom – the images looked better that way.

Here’s a single sheet with four pictures, courtesy of Lightroom’s “Print to File” feature:

Moon Shots

Moon Shots

I also put some larger pictures on Flickr:

1. Moon Shots

2. Moon Shots

3. Moon Shots

4. Moon Shots

My reaction? They are okay and better than I have achieved in the past. They don’t have the sharpness I was hoping for. I think that’s a function of my inexpensive consumer-grade lens. The camera is capable of better pictures.

A Slanted View

December 23, 2009

A Slanted View

Bangkok Apartments

A Slanted View

Waiting Tuk-Tuks

A Slanted View

Subway Passengers

A Slanted View

Subway Platform Leaning Right

A Slanted View

Subway Platform Leaning Left

A Slanted View

Visual Pollution on Sukhumvit Road

A Slanted View

Sukhumvit Road Traffic

A Slanted View

Sukhumvit Road Traffic

A Slanted View

Lunch Counter at Foodland

This post from Michael Willems’s Daily Photography Blog inspired me to consciously slant my camera when taking some pictures. I was out for a late lunch on the Sukhumvit Road in central Bangkok. I tried looking at the street scenes and people I see every day from a different perspective and took the six pictures above.

I posted them to Flickr. You can click on each of them to open a larger picture in a new window or tab.

I think some are more effective than others. I like the lunch counter and the colourful tuk-tuks the best. The latter may be polluting road hogs but they are photogenic.

Portrait mode does not work as well as landscape.

I did not crop or rotate the pictures in post-processing – they are framed as I shot them.

I won’t use this technique often – I find it is disorienting, especially when a number of slanted pictures are shown together. It’s interesting how the human eyes / brain need straight horizons for comfort. Maybe it is related to the causes of seasickness.

Let me know what you think.

Mini Tripod

December 2, 2009

I was disappointed with the quality of the picture I took of Thanksgiving Dinner. A slow lens and not much light overwhelmed the image stabilization of my Nikon Coolpix P6000. That’s why I did not post a picture to Flickr and only put a small version on this blog.


Mini Tripod

Michael Willems suggested that I can try a mini tabletop tripod. I have one but I’d forgotten about it. Thai camera stores give away some cheap accessories when you buy a camera: I got the mini tripod and a flimsy case when I purchased my old Sony DSC-W35.


I dug it out and took it with me to lunch today: Delifrance at Central Lat Phrao. It’s small enough to stick in a back pocket – and thus small enough to lose easily.

Here’s a picture of my sandwich lunch:
Lunch at Delifrance
It’s definitely sharper than my handheld efforts. I used the closeup setting on the camera and the two-second self timer. I even got a somewhat blurred background sans Photoshop.

The angle is too low for plated meals and I had to be careful to keep the tripod level. Each leg can be bent independently.

That was a good free experiment. I’ll continue to take it with me and maybe I’ll get better at using it.

Lines and Curves

November 18, 2009

Thailand Cultural Centre Subway Station
I like the complex lines and curves in this view of the entrance to Thailand Cultural Centre Subway Station next to the large Esplanade complex and the RS Tower skyscraper.

Maybe the rainy season is over: we had a lovely blue sky on Tuesday.

Confession: I removed some unsightly power lines in Photoshop.

Funny Story

November 17, 2009
Ice Coffee

Ice Coffee

Last week a friend asked me to photograph some wheatgrass healthy drinks for his company. I gave him a CD containing all the pictures.

Yesterday evening he called me to say that one of the pictures was missing. How could this be? I put copies of every picture I took on the CD. Then I realised … his assistant gave me a cup of ice coffee and I did not know it was another photographic subject. So I drank it!

No harm done – I went back this morning and took a picture of another cup. Then I drank it.

Wheatgrass with Collagen

November 13, 2009

Wheatgrass with Collagen

Wheatgrass with Collagen


I had a busy day doing another product shoot for a friend in Huay Khwang. He had a range of wheatgrass products and drinks to be staged and photographed.

As before I used the Canon EOS-30D outside on a tripod with a single flash to provide some fill light. We used a simple white web board as a backdrop.

I used my Canon EF 50mm F2.5 Compact Macro Lens set to F8. It’s a nice sharp little lens and I was pleased with the results.

Most of the work was in Photoshop where I had to separate the product from the background and put it in a separate layer. That makes it easy for a designer to incorporate it into an advertisement, brochure or a banner.

I wish I was more adept with the Lightroom pen tool so I could make proper paths. But results using selections were fine on simple shapes.

I saved the pictures for delivery as a layered TIF file with a 50% grey background. I saved a Levels Adjustment Layer for the product so a graphics artist or designer can adjust the picture easily. I also delivered JPEG files for use on the web.

The only embarrassment came when I printed the label for the CD. One of the ink cartridges on my Canon MP610 printer silent ran out of ink so the customer’s logo is discoloured. It’s not vital but I prefer everything to be perfect.

Blurring the Background

November 13, 2009

One of the challenges of using a compact camera with a slow zoom lens is that it’s difficult to blur the background when required. Michael Willems here describes one technique – but it isn’t always possible.

But there’s another technique. You can blur the background in Photoshop. Yes, it is cheating and it is hard to do well so that it looks authentic. But I thought I would try an example.

I took this photo at Bang Sue Subway Station in northern Bangkok.

Bang Sue Junction Map

Is He There?

It was shot using the lens’s maximum aperture: F2.9, wide open.

It’s nice and sharp and I like the reflection of the student in the stainless steel guard rail. But the red taxi and tree in the background are a bit distracting.

In this case it is very easy to mask out the background. If part of the subject, especially hair, is commingled with the background it gets very time-consuming.

So I made a mask of the background in Photoshop and blurred it using the Photoshop “Lens Blur” filter. I could have used “Gaussian Blur” but I wanted to experiment. Lens Blur gives you lots of flexibility.

I also desaturated the background a little bit to give it more of an autumn tone. Not that we have autumn in Bangkok, but I am from a temperate country.

Here’s the result:

Is He There? (Mark 2)

I think it is better as it reduces the distraction of the bright red taxi and focuses more on the anxious university student.

What do you think of the effect? Is the photo obviously Photoshopped or could I convince you that I used a F1.4 lens?