96 — Tripods for photography (the good stuff)

Pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast #96 is a primer on how to buy a great tri­pod, what to look for in a tri­pod and why you should buy a great tri­pod. (In the lon­grun, if you stick with pho­tog­ra­phy long enough, you will be buy­ing a great tri­pod even­tu­ally anyway)

If you are seri­ous enough about your pho­tog­ra­phy that you save money to buy great lenses, then this pod­cast won’t scare the crap out of you.

If you are into the cheap stuff, and are more con­cerned about over­all price ver­sus over­all qual­ity, be afraid — be very afraid.

Tripods and heads for photography

Tripods and heads for photography

Links /resources men­tioned in this pod­cast:
Tri­pod arti­cle by Thom Hogan — a must read
Gitzo GT2540LLVL tri­pod at B&H
Man­frotto 055 Tri­pod plus 3-Way Pan/Tilt Head w/ Quick Release at B&H
The fol­low­ing com­pa­nies make rec­om­mended ball­heads — Arca Swiss — Acrat­echReally Right Stuff - MarkinsGitzoMan­frotto
Cheaper Car­bon fiber tripods by Induro — Benbo (Remem­ber to research and TRY spe­cific indi­vid­ual mod­els)
April’s reg­u­lar assign­ment on the Photography.ca forum — Geo­met­ric shapes
April’s level 2 assign­ment on the Photography.ca forum — Cre­ative underexposure

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Thanks to forum mem­ber Benny who posted a blog com­ment about our last pod­cast. Thanks as always to every­one that sent com­ments by email about our last pod­cast. Although ALL com­ments are appre­ci­ated, com­ment­ing directly in this blog is pre­ferred. Thanks as well to all the new mem­bers of the bul­letin board. Most of the links to actual the prod­ucts are affil­i­ate links that help sup­port this site. Thanks in advance if you pur­chase through those links.

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Thanks for lis­ten­ing and keep on shooting!

Bokeh baby! by Kristen Smith

Aside from the razor-sharp sub­ject, one of the most impor­tant ele­ments of any close-up or macro pic­ture is bokeh. It is a funny con­cept that has many inter­pre­ta­tions and is def­i­nitely one of the more sub­jec­tive ele­ments of pho­tog­ra­phy. I’m not going to debate those, but I want to talk a lit­tle bit about how the delib­er­ate use of bokeh can help strengthen your images. Before I get going though, def­i­nitely lis­ten to this mini-podcast from Mar­tin Bai­ley on how to pro­nounce bokeh and its ety­mo­log­i­cal his­tory and cul­tural meaning.

In its sim­plest pho­to­graphic def­i­n­i­tion bokeh refers to the out of focus areas of a pic­ture. Mostly the mean­ing is applied to pho­tographs where there is a spe­cific sub­ject in the imme­di­ate fore­ground. Not always a close up or macro, but not really a land­scape either where some of the photo might not be in crisp focus. Bokeh is a prod­uct of shal­low depth of field which is achieved by a wide aper­ture rel­a­tive to the length of the lens.

One of the most dra­matic uses of bokeh is to sep­a­rate your sub­ject from the back­ground. Espe­cially if the back­ground is very busy. Ren­der­ing it smoothly out of focus makes things really pop –

Joyeuse by Kristen Smith

Joyeuse by Kris­ten Smith

One of my favorite bokeh tech­niques is to echo the main sub­ject exactly. Your imag­i­na­tion can eas­ily fill in the miss­ing detail because it resem­bles the sharp sub­ject so much. The echo rein­forces the main idea, but also gives your brain some­thing to play with. The trick is to uti­lize an aper­ture that will simul­ta­ne­ously allow you to rec­og­nize the out of focus object and leave it fuzzy. I love this technique –

Vinca by Kristen Smith

Vinca by Kris­ten Smith

I also love how bokeh can cre­ate atmos­phere in a photo – mostly a gauzy, dreamy effect. It doesn’t work in all cir­cum­stances, but if you are work­ing in the right light it is beau­ti­ful. With this kind of image, the sub­ject most often is the bokeh itself with the sharply focused parts play­ing sup­port­ing roles only.

Birch by Kristen Smith

Birch by Kris­ten Smith

The dig­i­tal age is a real help when exper­i­ment­ing with bokeh because you can see your shot imme­di­ately and use live view and depth of field pre­view to fine-tune each one. Get to know your lens by shoot­ing objects at dif­fer­ent aper­tures and focal lengths then study­ing the effect. Think about what kind of photo you want to make and how bokeh can empha­size your photo’s intent.

Got any good bokeh shots? Feel free to add them in com­ments or join the Photography.ca forum and start a thread.

For more of Kristen’s out­door pho­tog­ra­phy and other arti­cles visit wickeddarkphotography.com

Photography forum image of the month March 2011

Every month on our pho­tog­ra­phy forum mem­bers nom­i­nate images that they like. Then at the end of the month I choose an excel­lent image and talk about why it rocks. The photo I choose is not nec­es­sar­ily the best one of the month. I’ve come to real­ize it’s not really log­i­cal to pit images from totally dif­fer­ent gen­res against each other. That’s why there are cat­e­gories in photo con­tests. I just choose a photo that has extremely strong ele­ments that we can learn from.

Urban Eagle by Michaelaw

Urban Eagle by Michaelaw

This month’s choice is Urban Eagle by Michaelaw.

I chose this image for sev­eral reasons:

Story and com­po­si­tion — The title Urban Eagle tells it all and the awe­some back­ground imagery of a bridge and cranes make the story more com­pelling. Themes and sub­themes abound in shots like this and I really enjoy that. The eagle is well posi­tioned in this shot that had to be com­posed super-quickly. The back­ground ele­ments (bridge struc­ture and cranes) are also very well placed in the shot.

Degree of dif­fi­culty — timing/decisive moment — This is no easy shot to get. The tim­ing, (just look at the lovely frozen open-wings) the focus, and com­po­si­tion have to be very well synced and Michaelaw did an excel­lent job.

Sharp­ness — The bird’s feath­ers are really sharp and the eye looks quite sharp along with some lovely back­ground bokeh.

Colour and post pro­cess­ing — Both are well con­trolled to cre­ate this very strik­ing image with a lovely ‘cool’ colour palette that totally suits the image. If it were my shot I may have burned in the rear white wings a bit and dodged the face a wee bit but that’s it.

For all these rea­sons, this is my choice for image of the month. Since we all have opin­ions, some mem­bers may dis­agree with my choice. That’s cool but THIS thread is not the place for debate over my pick, NOR is it the place to fur­ther cri­tique the image. The pur­pose here is to sug­gest strong ele­ments in the photo that we may learn from.

Con­grats again Michaelaw for cap­tur­ing this won­der­ful scene!