Last week I shared some of my photos from my in-law’s lovely garden, with the low sun streaming through from behind. I have a few more to share today from the same place. On Instagram and Facebook this week these photos got a lot of interaction, which is lovely. Flower photos and how they were shot This tulip was on its last gasp of glory, with ageing curled petals balanced, about to fall at any moment. There is still something quite solid and definite about a tulip even at the end of its life. Those petals are not delicate; I feel I could use one as a small plate! Here the composition needed some thought. When I took this photo I was concerned that the pattern of light on the…View Post
It may seem funny but even though I am a family travel and photography blogger I have not been able to get out of the house much this whole year. I had surgery on my big toe which has limited my walking a great deal. Since March Fizz has been getting stuck into her GCSE revision which means we can’t go on holiday. If you follow me on Instagram you will know that recently Belle has been quite ill. That has dragged on for over a month. I am really getting to know my four walls!
Thankfully I have plenty of travel experiences and photos which I have still not got onto the blog. In fact I have so many I wonder if I will ever manage it all.
A Garden for Flower Photos
To get outdoors for a change of scene, I am always grateful at this time of year to be able to visit my in-laws garden. It’s just a twenty minute drive away. Not only is there always a cup of tea and a biscuit on offer, but their award-winning garden is abundant in Spring flowers. This is where I shot my pasque flower photo which won me my first photography trophy. The sun sets low across the garden and the light shines through petals and leaves.
Camera settings and tips
I took these photos with my Sony compact which shoots high quality RAW images. The only disadvantage is that in dazzling sun the viewfinder shape is not adequate to block out glare from around my eye. With my DSLR I could have got my eye closer and better protected from glare. So with the Sony I couldn’t entirely see what I was shooting. I’ve done this enough times before to be able to get some nice pictures but it was not a precise exercise.
As it was broad sunlight, I set the ISO quite low (I think I left it on 200) and used the P setting to dial the aperture quite wide. To get nice bokeh you need the aperture wide but to get sharp sunbeams you need the aperture small. It’s a compromise. I used f4. That ISO and aperture gave me a really fast shutter speed which made life easy.
Who can resist taking flower photos? Do you have a favourite that you have taken, and how did you achieve the shot? Let me know in the comments.
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There’s actually a huge amount of flexibility and tactics which you can employ to control your exposure when taking photos in auto mode. I will start by keeping it very simple, and introduce more tips and tricks in future blog posts.
This blog series on auto mode is packed with tips to get you off the starting blocks with improving your photography, but you can read the posts in any order. For example the first blog post was about camera angles and holds, and last week I wrote about composition.
Why does exposure matter?
When someone looks at your photo their eye will be drawn to one area more than the rest. You want that part of the photo to be the most important; the subject. Perhaps it’s someone’s face, or a feature in the landscape. When half a photo is in darkness, including the most interesting part, it is a real turn-off for the viewer.
What are you trying to achieve with a good exposure?
The best exposures for photographs will show the main subject clearly, without some other part of the image fighting for the viewer’s attention. A good exposure doesn’t have too much pure white or pure black (unless you’re going for an arty effect that requires it). Overall, a good exposure either has a balance of dark and light areas, or a majority of the image is a medium tone.
Above all, you don’t want to be looking at the final image and saying things like “what a pity her face is in darkness” or “what a pity the sun was too bright”.
Places to take photos where exposure is easier
A cloudy or hazy day makes everything evenly lit and easy to photograph, as long as it’s still fairly bright. Indoors by a window can work well if the sun is not shining directly in. White surfaces will bounce light around and diffuse it to be more even. On a sunny day, the shade under a tree will work well.
In summary, the easiest places to take a photo are places with plenty of light, but not hard shadows.
It’s a good idea to practice looking at the light, and judging it. Is it bright enough? Is it hazy or diffused? Is my subject sitting half in shadow? Are the surroundings too much in contrast?
These two street scene photographs show the difference between hard shadows and diffuse light. It was easy to get a good exposure on a cloudy day in Haworth but the sunshine and shadows of the New York photo meant that I had to decide whether to leave the buildings in darkness and make a feature of the skyline, or have the sky too bright so that the street-level scene looked correct. Normally I would not make a feature of the skyline, but this was New York, where the skyline matters!
To learn, become aware
As I say, the first step in learning about exposure is to practice your awareness of light. Analyse the scene before you and the shots you’ve tried to take. Think about contrast, brightness, shadow and even tones. Make a mental note of what is easy, and what is hard.
I’ll continue with tips and methods for good exposure when this blog series on auto mode photography continues. If you have any feedback on the series so far please do let me know in a message or the comments below.
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This week on Instagram I have been sharing my photos of Wiltshire’s stoneage attractions, in particular my shots of Avebury Stone Circle.
Avebury Stone Circle is situated not far from Calne and Marlborough and is the largest stone henge in the world. The irregular megaliths are quite strung out over a very large area. They wend their way through a charming village with rustic cottages, a museum, gift shop and cafe area. Roads cross the stone lines, huge earthworks and ditches get in the way. You simply can’t photograph the whole thing in one go like you can at Stonehenge.
The photo below gives a view from the bank of the higgledy-piggledy nature of this landscape. It’s hard to make out the circular stone pattern. Archaeologists believe that the site was not all built in one go, so perhaps that helps explain why it’s irregular.
Walking Avebury Stone Circle
There’s a path to follow around most of the Avebury stone circle which climbs up onto the bank and crosses sheep fields. I felt that the best approach to taking photos at Avebury was to document the walk and give a feel for the modern environment in which the stone circle now lies. The path, the perspective and the people all featured in my shots. I also photographed the village houses with their unusual view of the stoneage.
More from the Stoneage: Read my blog about taking photos at Carnac Megaliths in Brittany, where there were similar challenges but also a fun little roadtrain tour.
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Up to now I have always been reluctant to write about my husband’s business travel. Some people make the mistake of thinking it’s glamorous and that couldn’t be further from the truth. My husband Mr F. travels a lot for his work. It’s very erratic and often at short notice. The working week often starts at 4am on a Sunday with a taxi to the airport, and we never get that lost weekend time back. He likes his job but the travel is a bit of a slog. Perks are rare.
On a long trip, he once had a middle Sunday free when he was staying in Beijing. That was a very different kind of a day off than usual! It’s difficult to know what to do for one day in Beijing, such a vast historic city. It would be nice to make the most of it and book a luxury holiday or a long haul holiday deal. One day in Beijing isn’t long, but if it’s all you have, try these tips.
Getting around Beijing
There are high speed trains to cover long distances in China but within Beijing itself there’s an awful lot of heavy traffic. There is a local version of Uber but traffic may prevent your cab from collecting you. To see the highlights of Beijing it may be ideal to allow one day for each district, because of the issues with traffic and travel. The subway has a good reputation and it does have signs in English, if you’re happy to give that a go.
The Great Wall of China
Beijing is about a 90 minute drive from the Great Wall of China. An organised day trip can be booked with transport, guide and lunch. Most hotel front desks will be able to connect you with a service. A day trip to the Great Wall will take the whole of your one day in Beijing.
Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City
These two great sights are adjacent to each other, although both are very large and you will use up some significant shoe leather to get around it all.
A visit to the Forbidden City imposes on you a sense of space and grandeur, along with the journey through repeated courtyards and palaces. This moated royal city was forbidden to the common people in the days of the Emperors, but nowadays the crowds are immense. Heads will bob in the foreground of every photo.
This park is beyond the Forbidden city to the north, with views from the high pagoda over the Forbidden City and much of Beijing.
Authentic Peking Duck
A restaurant sitting of this iconic dish is a long process. The entire duck will be served, bit by bit. The middle part of the meal is familiar but other servings may be mysterious. Don’t be surprised if the meal ends with the head of the duck split in half so you can eat the brain with chopsticks. With luck you’ll be full by this point!
Beijing Photography Tips
If smog is a problem on your one day in Beijing, then it may cloud your photos. The Chinese authorities are working hard on reducing the smog now. If you visit any city with smog or dust cloud problems then I recommend taking a polarising lens for your camera. Smog and dust reflect and diffuse light, but a polariser will cut out some of these wavelengths and should make your images sharper. You can read about how I used this trick in the forest fires of Yosemite. In editing you can improve smoggy images by increasing “clarity” or “structure” sliders.
If there are big crowds in the way of your photo you can try to make a feature of the people by using them to frame the edges of your image. Try to get a moment of interaction between people to one side of your image, or find someone in bright white or red and frame them on the third line of your image (see “rule of thirds”).
More than one day in Beijing
Mr F tells me his one day in Beijing was visually and culturally extremely different and interesting. He felt China is somewhere he would like to visit for a proper holiday, although he did warn me that he often had no idea what he was eating. There is very little English spoken and he was particularly glad to have a guide. How many days would you ideally like to have in Beijing? Let me know in the comments.
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