Sunday, January 31, 2010

Part 2: Photography with Imre Z. Balint: Episode 12 - Pre and Post Composition Checklist

For episode 12, my goal was to help novice photographers not only see how much can be involved with a photo shoot, but also to keep some of those things in mind in order not to miss critical shots and to be prepared for the majority of events that might occur. To elaborate on the latter, here's an example. Let's say I've gone hiking to capture some dramatic vistas, which generally means I'd be shooting with a wider lens. But, maybe I've spotted some wildlife in the distance and I have a chance to take a few shots. Being prepared in this case means that I know exactly where my telephoto lens is in my bag, and my camera is set in a way where all I pretty much have to do is swap lenses and shoot; the focus, metering, etc. in general are set in such a manner that I can catch that moment before it passes.

But here is where things become a little more complicated, and perhaps something I could have also mentioned in the video now that I think about it. Not only is it a good idea to be prepared, it's also a good idea to know your equipment well. If I need to change ISO on my camera quickly, off the top of my head I know there's a button on top of the camera that I can push down, hold, and then using the control wheels I can manipulate the value, all without even taking my eye away from the viewfinder.

This brings to me to why I kept saying "please check my blog" in the episode, especially when I kept talking about white balance (WB).

Since I've been involved with photography for quite a few years, just before I take a shot I'm very accustomed to really quickly determining whether my settings are appropriate or not; to a simpler degree, I covered some of those in the video, but here's a slightly more comprehensive list:
  • Sensitivity, aperture, shutter speed - usually I take a quick glance
  • Exposure value compensation check
  • Metering type (area, center-weighted, spot) - sometimes I'll determine this far ahead of time before I take any shots
  • Focus locked - usually I'm set to the center spot; I lock the focus, then "move" to frame my shot
Notice that I left out WB. My camera is pretty much always set to save images in RAW format, so although I usually have WB set to something appropriate (either using my ExpoDisc or the specific settings like sun, shade, etc.) I can happily fine tune WB well after I've taken the shot in my program of choice, which for me is Photoshop. But if you're a JPEG shooter then I strongly suggest checking that setting often; often being difficult to define, but basically when you notice a significant shift in the color temperature of your scene. Color correcting JPEG files is not as easy compared to RAW and I've personally noticed that some color corrected JPEG images end up with a slight tinge of one color or another.

Anyway... the lessons I really wanted to push through this video are like I said; think ahead to be prepared, always re-evaluate your settings and shot just before taking it, and know your equipment. At first, all of this may seem daunting but believe me, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. When I pack my gear for a shoot of some sort, I'm done in 5 minutes. To evaluate a shot just after I've composed it, probably takes me 2-3 seconds. Keep at it and I certainly hope you'll become a proficient and happier photographer... happy is a good thing!

If you enjoy my videos and posts, please do subscribe and check me out on Facebook where you can become a Fan; you can also keep up-to-date with my stuff as well! TTYL

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Photography with Imre Z. Balint: Episode 12 - Pre and Post Composition Checklist

Well I'm in a hurry to post this as Saturday Night Live has already started, but indeed the 12th episode of my photography series has been uploaded. I shall write the supplemental blog post tomorrow... off I run! Remember to subscribe and check me out on Facebook!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Part 2: Photography with Imre Z. Balint: Episode 11 - Neutral Density Filters

Alright, hopefully you've found Episode 11 on ND filters interesting. These filters can certainly be quite useful and can be easily overlooked, especially by novice photographers.

The first half of the video was quite self-explanatory, so I want to jump right to the part about using ND filters to slow down your shutter speed or in other words allowing you to take longer exposures. Indeed, getting that silky look for streams of water during the daytime with lots of light would be quite tricky without such filters, but the same goes for shots of lightning.

Now before I get into this, I want to say that shooting lightning can and is dangerous. Simply said, I don't recommend doing it unless you have truly done your research about lightning safety and you know what you're doing.

A common way to get shots of lightning is by setting up your camera to take a very long exposure, say anywhere from 5 to 30 seconds pointing in a direction where you expect lightning to discharge. During electrical storms at night, this tactic works quite well, but during the day, you would likely terribly over-expose your photo; frankly at those exposure times your photo would probably be completely white.

But by using a very dark ND filter, like an ND8, and a small aperture, let's say f11 (or depending on your lens even smaller), you can reduce the amount of light entering your lens drastically, thus allowing you to shoot some stunning lightning shots during times when there's still a fair amount of sunlight forcing its way through the clouds.

And do check out the third link in the web resources section below. There's a fantastic article by Peter Bargh about ND filters, and the part I want to highlight is in regard to shooting a scene where people might be getting in the way of your subject. The example in the article is about photographing architecture with tourists mingling around, and by using an ND filter you can apply exposures long enough to make those individuals almost completely vanish off the image. Here's how this works in case you're not quite clear on it. Since people are generally in motion, wandering around the place, they don't stand in one place long enough to properly expose on the camera's sensor. But the scenery around you, the buildings, artwork, what-have-you, are stationary, thus light from those objects keeps steadily coming to more or less expose well on your sensor.

Jumping to the third use of ND filters in my video, there's actually not a whole lot more to say other than that if you are shooting with older camera equipment with particular limitations in shutter speed and aperture settings (perhaps sensitivity would come into play as well), then an ND filter could help reduce the amount of light to a point where the camera could handle the exposure. But really, I don't see this as a major issue these days; it was probably more common with older film cameras that had a max shutter speed of 1/1,000 of a second, and where you were stuck with a specific speed of film until you finished that roll.

As usual, remember to subscribe and check me out on Facebook where you can also become a Fan, and so you can stay up-to-date with my videos. Also, feel free to send me questions you have about photography, which I may answer on a future episode. Cya next time!

Web Resources

Olympus E-P2 (Pen) - High Speed Video of Shutter

Well I had to run out late last night so I haven't posted this until now, but wow, what a reception. I've received over 270 hits and they still keep coming! You can check out the video of the E-P2's shutter in action by looking below or by clicking here.

If you want to stay up-to-date with my videos, please subscribe and check me out on Facebook.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Photography with Imre Z. Balint: Episode 11 - Neutral Density Filters

Wonderful timing! Dinner is ready and my video just finished uploading to YouTube. Episode 11 turned out pretty good if I do say so myself, and hopefully you'll be a brave soul and try out the fabulous and sometimes under-appreciated neutral density filter.

Now I'm going to write my supplemental blog post tomorrow (I need some time off ya know! :) but in a short while I'll be uploading another video, this time featuring some high-speed clips of... I ain't sayin yet, so you'll have to check back to find out!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Part 2: Photography with Imre Z. Balint: Episode 10 - 3D Photography

Alright, here we go. Well Episode 10 was indeed a long one, but packed full of 3D goodness for those of you out there wanting to create such photographs. By the way, I accidentally said "red-green" glasses in a couple of sections... really that should be red-blue! If you view my video with the annotations, then you'll see those notes pop up.

Anyway, that aside, I was quite happy with how this episode turned out. As I watched my video again, I really don't know if there is that much more to add. The only thing I can really stress, whether you have the luxury of shooting with two cameras or just one, is the part about trying to get your two photos to look as identical as possible in the sense of focus, exposure, white balance, and alignment (which could really include size; both shots should be essentially the same size). The more discrepancies you have between the two photos, the poorer the 3D effect will become; our brains are just too smart for us to fool gosh darn-it!

But to get the two images to look the same (aside from the angle/position they were taken from) isn't that difficult really, and can even be fixed up afterward in most image editing software. And I'll ride this segway right into recommending that you check out my Photoshop tutorial below on how to put together two images, with the assumption that you'll either be using a stereoviewer like the one I've shown in my video or you'll be employing the parallel viewing technique.

Before moving on though, in my Web Resources section below I've included a link to creating anaglyphs, if that by chance is your cup of tea.

Quick Photoshop Tutorial
As I mentioned in my video, this tutorial explains how I put those left and right images side by side so that you can get a decent 3D effect out of them. Now I'm going to assume that you have a little Photoshop experience, so I won't go into detail about the application itself. Also, I'm going to assume you are using a similar stereoviewer that I have in the video, and that the two photos you have taken are in portrait orientation (in other words the photos are taller than they are wide).
  1. Take the two photographs you've shot and load them up in Photoshop (make sure you know which is the left and right image).
  2. Drag one of the images onto the other, which should automatically create a layer for you. In other words, you should now have a single file with two layers, one with the left image, the other layer with the right image. Rename the layers accordingly for the left and right photo. Probably a good idea to save your file (use Photoshop's format to retain layers).
  3. You should now have two pictures sitting right on top of each other, NOT side by side... yet. We'll get to that in a bit.
  4. Start with either image and level it out if necessary. A quick way to do this is to select the layer you want to edit and then hit CTRL+T, which is short for Edit menu > Free Transform. Now if one your layers says "Background", you'll need to double-click on it and give it a name, otherwise you won't be able to rotate or move the picture around. By the way, you can click on the eyeball icon in the layer's palette to turn off the layer you're not working with. Also be careful that you do not resize your image; just level it out by rotating the photo a little and this is something that I just estimate by sight.
  5. Once you've finished straightening out the image, do any color corrections to it if necessary BEFORE straightening out the second image. Here's why I do this. By touching up the first image to exactly how I want it to look like (leveling it out and color correcting), I can use that image as a reference when editing the second image.
  6. If you're at this step, you're ready to edit the second photo. Now here's what I do. I move the second photo's layer to the top (so above the image you've already fixed up), and then I change the layer's opacity to about 50 or 60%. This way, when I level out the second image to match the first, I can see the bottom image show through a little.
  7. So rotate the second image as much as needed to match the first (use references in your image to do so; for example, if you took a shot of flowers, then matching up the angle of the stems might be helpful).
  8. Once you've leveled the photo, now it's time to move it into place. Here's what I mean. Remember in the video how I talked about taking your two shots around a center point? Well now you have to line up the two images so that the center point of both images match. To better illustrate this, take a look at this 3D anaglyph (don't worry that it's the blue-red variety; that's not important here); scroll to the bottom of this post or click this link: Notice how the tree nearest the middle doesn't really have a blue or red ghostly image next to it, but the tree close up and to the right does as well as the tress in the background further off to the left? Ok, so hopefully you know what I mean by moving the second image over the first to where those center points match as best as possible. Use the arrow keys to nudge the image pixel by pixel if necessary. The closer they match, generally the better the effect.
  9. Ok, now you can turn the opacity of the second image back to 100%. Don't worry if the images are no longer perfectly over top each other, we'll fix that in a bit. Now your task is to color correct the second image to match the first if necessary.
  10. Almost there! Now select your crop tool. In the crop toolbar that should appear (near top of screen), enter "3 in" in the width textbox and "4 in" in the height textbox. If you see any value in the "Resolution" field, delete it. This ensure that the full resolution of your photos are retained; a good thing when printing the final image.
  11. You guessed it, crop your picture! There is where you can cut off those parts that no longer overlap, or where the background shows through due to how your photos might have been rotated. When you finish cropping, ensure that no "gaps" remain on any layer; in other words, both photos extend completely to the edge of the image frame.
  12. Select the Image menu and then "Canvas Size...". Because you cropped your photo to be exactly 3x4 inches, that's what you should see in the width and height textboxes (switch the units to inches if you have to).
  13. Click on the left-middle arrow in the "Anchor" section and change the width to 6 inches. Click ok.
  14. You should now see that your canvas is twice as wide as it used to be, with both of your photos sitting on top of each other on the left-hand side.
  15. Select the layer that represents your right-eye photo, and you guessed it, move it right to fill up the empty space on the canvas. If you have the Snap feature on (under the View menu), then the layer should snap to the edge of the image frame.
  16. Save your masterpiece and print it out! Hopefully it worked well for you. At the bottom of this post I've included my 3D downtown photo, so you can have a clearer idea of what the end result should more or less look like. Actually, if you use the parallel viewing technique on that picture, you might be able to see it in 3D.
    And there you have it! Hopefully that all made some sense. Remember to subscribe to my YouTube Channel and become a Fan on my page on Facebook, so you can stay up-to-date with my creations! L8r.

    Web Resources
    Links are provided "as is" and you are solely responsible and liable for your actions. As a recommendation, always be sure you virus check any software you download (and don't download any software you don't trust), and be sure you do your research before buying from any online store.

    P.S. Here are those 3D images mentioned in the tutorial above:

    Sunday, January 17, 2010

    Photography with Imre Z. Balint: Episode 10 - 3D Photography

    The 10th episode of my photography series, on 3D photography, has just finished uploading to YouTube! Check out my channel to see it in HD or view it below. Tomorrow evening I'll write up my supplemental post, as it is indeed a tad late now. Remember to subscribe and check me out on Facebook! Become a Fan too!

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    Photography with Imre Z. Balint: Episode 9a - Color Polarizing Filters

    Ok, I just uploaded Episode 9a about color polarizing filters, as I left the poor things out of my previous episode on the "regular" variety. I have to admit that I haven't used these types very much, as I've always found myself iffy about what scenery they would match to. But after playing with them a little more recently, I'd love to give them a go again; perhaps take them downtown and see what interesting hues I could get off of windows on skyscrapers.

    For those of you interested in getting your hands on these filters, several manufacturers do make them. The ones I have specifically are #170 and #173 from Cokin. I should point out that I'm not being sponsored by this company, nor am I affiliated with them, but I can say with enthusiasm that I very much like their products.

    As usual, please subscribe so you can stay up-to-date with my videos and also check out my page on Facebook. TTFN

    Monday, January 11, 2010

    Part 2: Photography with Imre Z. Balint: Episode 9 - Polarizing Filters

    Ok, I've had my dinner so I'm ready to write my supplemental post to Episode 9 about polarizing filters.

    In the video I covered a fair bit about the physics of light polarization, but I'd like to highlight that you really don't need to know it in depth, or almost at all, to be able to successfully use a polarizing filter. But heck, being the geek I am, I love exploring why things work the way they do, hence the physics segment. If you'd like to prod into this subject further, definitely check out some of the links I've provided; Colorado University has very cool interactive sections in their web-based tutorial.

    In regard to their use, something that I didn't cover in the video is that this is not usually a filter you want to keep on your lens at all times. The major factor as to why is because of the loss of light through the filter. So for example if you're shooting an area that requires longer exposure times, then the shutter speed may slow to the point where "hand shake" or blurriness could occur. Now if a photographer forgets that s/he has the filter on, s/he may end up with a "bad" photo and potentially a missed chance at taking such a picture again. And let's say a photographer chooses to leave the filter on, but has compensated for the loss of light by opening the aperture wide. Ok, perhaps shutter speed will be acceptable, but keep in mind that the wider you open the aperture the less depth of field you get to work with. Higher sensitivity settings may also keep the shutter speed manageable, but then you might see an increase in noise on the photo.
    Now the nice part about digital cameras is that during the image preview (if you have that feature enabled) you'd quite likely catch many of these issues, and it's not like it's that difficult to quickly remove the filter, so at least it's not the end of the world (that'll be sometime in 2012 *chuckle*).

    Because these filters are generally more expensive than your run of the mill UV filter, or even some other varieties, I always remember to take the filter case with me, so that I can safely put them away when not in use. Also something to watch for is that these filters can be a tad thicker then most, which means that if you stack filters on top of each other for effects purposes or have a UV filter on your lens all the times, then expect the potential that you could get some vignetting. Now if you've never seen one of these filters and are wondering why they are a tad thicker than others, it's usually due to how the filter is constructed. The polarizing material itself is not thick at all, but there are basically two rings that make up the filter. One ring screws onto your lens, while the other rotates freely (well with enough friction to stay put if turned to a specific angle). I've for whatever reason you're an obsessive-compulsive filter stacker, I have seen ultra-thin varieties available on the market.

    And there are such things as color polarizing filters, which I completely forgot about when I shot Episode 9 (although if I did remember, it would've made the video too long to upload anyway). But in the next few days, I'll release an informal video showing those off, so stay tuned! This Wednesday (Jan 13th) is my projected upload date.

    Also keep my 10th Episode in mind, as I'll be showing you ways that you can create 3D photographs! Seems to be all the rage these days. Oh! And if you have any questions about photography, feel free to send them in; click here to read my post about that. Remember to subscribe to my channel and become a Fan on the Binary Graphite Page on Facebook to keep up to date with my stuff. Cya in a while.

    Web Resources

    Sunday, January 10, 2010

    Photography with Imre Z. Balint: Episode 9 - Polarizing Filters

    Wow. To say the least, I think Episode 9 has taken by far the longest to complete. For several evenings last week I spent my time researching the technical aspects of light polarization, to ensure that I would represent it as accurately as I could for the video. Then all day yesterday I wrote and finalized the script, along with recording the narration and shooting all the video. As for the editing and uploading, well that was all done today. Yet, I still somehow managed to squeeze a little extra energy out of me to complete some details on my Facebook profile. Feel free to become a fan by the way!

    As I'm getting hungry and my budgies need their cage cleaned, I'll write my supplementary post for this episode tomorrow evening. To view my videos in glorious HD, check out my YouTube Channel, where you can also subscribe so you can stay up-to-date with my videos.

    Thursday, January 7, 2010

    My Album, Just Listen, Released on CD Baby

    Yeay! CD Baby has put up my new album on their website! Click here to check it out!

    I think it looks great and from what I know this is now the second location selling my album; the first being iTunes. It's so very cool to see... and hear! I'm really glad I did this, otherwise my songs would not be doing a whole lot sitting on my backup drive. I also used CD Baby's link maker to generate that snazzy mini-banner (see below). You bet I'll be placing this on my website and wherever else I can! Woot!

    And yes, I think you should check my songs out! ;^)

    I Z B: Just Listen

    Saturday, January 2, 2010

    Photography with Imre Z. Balint: Episode 8 - UV Filters

    Well I was supposed to do an episode on polarizing filters, but having cloudy skies this week didn't help. Polarizers have a really cool effect on a blue sky that I wanted to record, so I'll just have to wait until next week to do that.

    But this morning I managed to upload Episode 8 to YouTube featuring UV filters.

    UV filters are overall quite simple things, and as I pointed out in the video, what it tends to come down to in digital photography is your stance on protecting the exposed front lens element of your lenses. I've been on some forums where this topic comes up and I have to admit that I find it quite amusing when photographers become quite passionate (even angry!) about their use.

    In my humble opinion, I personally believe to each their own. If you feel that you'd rather not use one to maximize every ounce of quality coming from your lens, then don't use one. On the other hand, good quality UV filters do offer wonderful benefits in regard to keeping dust, moisture, and other hazards away from that expensive glass, without affecting image quality much at all. So if you like the idea of the latter, then use one. As I mentioned on the video, I tend to use them (although not always if I'm feeling too lazy to bother putting one on) when in environments that pose a threat to that front lens, such as shooting in rain or snow. By the way, be mindful that you have equipment that is weather sealed and can withstand such conditions, otherwise you could permanently damage your gear. However, I tend not to use one in most other cases, but like I said that's just me.

    Fair warning though... If you are planning to get a UV filter to protect your lens, I recommend carefully considering the varieties available, as they may have slight color casts that could affect your photographs, and some are just plain cheap in terms of being poorly manufactured. Those could create visible artifacts on your images, especially flaring and reflections as they may not be well coated.

    The last note I would like add in this post touches upon protecting your gear in general. Getting in to some of these good habits could easily prevent many unfortunate accidents from happening; truly a good thing!
    • One habit I've religiously adhered to when I pick up and handle my camera is to always, always either put the camera strap around my neck or wrap it around my wrist. This almost completely eliminates any chance of me dropping the camera for whatever reason.
    • When you're changing lenses, do so in such a way that you can easily and securely grab hold of the camera and lens. Not a good idea to hold a cup of coffee in one hand while fiddling around with one hand to change lenses. Generally I keep my camera strap around my neck so I don't need to worry about dropping it, and that also allows me to basically have two hands free to deal with the lens change.
    • Also, try to change your lenses over a softer surface or get closer to one, so that if by chance you drop your lens, it won't have far to go which might prevent it from smashing into little itty bitty pieces. For example, if there's a table nearby then change your lens over it. Another is to crouch down while changing.
    • If you're not the type to go to such lengths to change lenses, then perhaps getting a good camera bag may make things safer and easier for you. One of my favorite bags I have has a zipper running through the middle of the top "lid". This allows me to pluck things out without having to open the large flap that covers everything up. So I can open the zipper, remove my lens with both hands, put the lens away, pull out the next lens, and attach it with both hands, all the while the camera happily hangs from my neck.
    I'd rather take the time to safely change my lens then risk the chance that I not only have to buy another one to replace it, but also missing that ever important chance of a lifetime shot. :)

    Remember to subscribe to my channel and also feel free to submit your photography questions to me (please click the link before submitting questions) as I might just answer them on my next episode!

    Web Resources - This site demonstrates the differences between some UV filters

    Some Filter Manufacturers