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Thunderclouds and lightning strikes

Taking impressive photos of lightning storms

Natural phenomena arouse a particularly great photographic interest in many of us. Thunderclouds and lightning are a popular subject. In order to be able to capture such weather events, you need some luck and some technical skills. Since thunderstorms are only partly predictable for a certain region as well as relatively temporary, a thorough preparation is recommendable for the eventuality.

Your safety always comes first

The enchanting photo motifs of thunderclouds and flashes should always be taken from a safe location, because the risks of thunderstorms should not be underestimated. Shooting from the inside of a house or a car can also be an appropriate location, despite the presence of windows in between. Perhaps the raindrops on the windscreen offer a special charm for the photo.

So always remember: Your safety comes first. You should always keep a sufficient distance to the thunderstorm.

Which camera settings you should use with a DSLR

First, you should select the desired image section so that an interesting scenery can be seen. We also recommend a small focal length, which makes it possible to take large photographs of the surroundings and the sky and thus increases the probability of catching a flash.

Ideally, you should use a camera that allows you to make manual adjustments, such as an SLR camera. The camera settings depend on the time of day or night when the pictures are taken. Night shots of thunderstorms are particularly interesting. A high exposure value, i.e. a long exposure, is recommended. The shutter speed, which usually lasts several seconds – depending on the frequency of the thunderstorms – requires a stable and quiet exposure of the camera. A stand – preferably a tripod – is therefore the ideal companion for these shots. Furthermore, a remote shutter release is recommended, which can also be replaced by the self-timer or an interval function of the respective camera, so that you do not blur the picture by pressing the shutter release.

Blitz schlägt bei Nacht in ein Feld ein

The long exposure time should be set depending on possible light sources, such as street lighting or moonlight.

Since a long exposure time does not produce good results in daylight photography, you should use a neutral density filter during the day. This ND filter is a suitable tool for blocking excess incoming light. The exposure time should be adjusted again and again, as the lighting conditions can tend to vary greatly. The ISO values of such photographs should be in the range from ISO 100 to ISO 200. The aperture must be set individually depending on the situation. You should adjust the f-number in relation to the exposure time. The longer the exposure time, the less the contours of the clouds can be seen in your photos. An average aperture value of 8 tends to be a good start.

You should also adjust the focus manually, as the autofocus of a camera is not suitable for such brief snapshots. The short period of time during which the flash is visible is usually not sufficient for automatic focusing. The focus should be set to infinity. Alternatively, you can select a point further away within the image section for focusing.

Blitz schlägt in Berge ein – das helle Licht zwischen dunkelblauen Wolken ist gut erkennbar

Alternative to DSLR – Take photos of lightning with compact cameras and smartphones

Thunderstorms often occur unexpectedly and of course you are not always prepared for them. Since the SLR camera and its lenses are not always at hand, thunderstorms and flashes can also be photographed with compact cameras and smartphone cameras. The result is of course a different one than with professional equipment and manual adjustment possibilities.

Smartphone cameras offer numerous filters and settings that allow us to take photos of ever higher quality. If the aperture, the exposure time and the ISO value can be set manually, the relevant conditions for the success of such photos are met. In addition, burst mode functions make it easier to capture thunderstorms. With this method, numerous photos are taken one after the other in the shortest possible time, among which a good result can certainly be found.

You can also use apps that allow you to insert or even photograph a flash up to three seconds after the event. For Android devices, there is the Lightning Camera app, for iOS users the iLightningCam Lite app.

Nowadays, manual focusing can also be used with some compact cameras. If the essential parameters can also be set manually, there’s hardly anything standing in the way of your dream photo. As with SLR shots, a tripod and a remote or self-timer are also useful when shooting with a smartphone or compact camera. Subsequent image processing completes the results of the photographs.

Conclusion

The best results can be achieved with SLR cameras and the corresponding manual settings. Although some smartphone cameras also offer manual adjustment options such as ISO values and f-numbers, it is almost impossible to adjust the focus to infinity. Only a lot of patience, some luck and subsequent image processing remain for the smartphone photographers. Alternatively, you still have to resort to additional apps.

And always remember: In the mountains, at home or on holiday – never endanger yourself. Good luck trying it out!

Battery life – Power banks, solar chargers and other alternatives

When your phone or camera turns from a practical device into a brick.

Even the most carefully planned trips often have some surprises in store – some pleasant, others less so. The latter includes the battery life of mobile phones and cameras, especially for photo enthusiasts. To avoid missing excellent photo opportunities because of a dead or weak battery, many turn to portable charging devices. As there are countless products on the market of many different types and styles, there are a couple of things to consider before making a purchase:

  1. How intensively do you use your camera?
  2. How often do you have access to sockets?

Fresh from the socket

Let’s start with the simplest case: you go on day trips and can connect your charger regularly to the power supply over a longer period of time. The power consumption of the camera depends on your photographic behaviour and your camera model. From several batteries per day to only one in 14 days, everything is possible. The best thing to do is to test it out beforehand. Apart from the possibly necessary socket adapter, one or two well-charged camera batteries are normally sufficient. These are offered by various third-party manufacturers for the most common cameras at low prices (10 -20 CHF), original batteries often cost many times as much (50-70 CHF). To recharge, it is worth investing in the purchase of a dual charger in order to make efficient use of your time in your accommodation.

Professionals swear by it – Battery handles

Digital single lens reflex cameras (DSLRs) are expandable with battery handles that dock to the battery compartment and provide room for two batteries. Although this makes the camera heavier and more bulky, the maximum service life of the device is significantly increased. Another advantage is the improved handling, because the device offers more grip area due to the extension and is easier to hold, especially when shooting in portrait format or with heavy lenses. In an emergency, some battery handles can even be equipped with standard AA batteries instead of lithium-ion ones. Third-party suppliers offer battery handles starting at approx. 30 CHF, original parts are available from approx. 100 CHF.

Batteriegriff auf hellem Untergrund

Compact bundles of power – Power banks

If you are away from your accommodation for a longer period of time and photograph a lot, you might want to buy a power bank (sometimes called power pack). These portable power storage devices have much larger capacities than single batteries. Some models offer enough reserves to fully charge end devices several times and may have different connection options available. However, a USB port is standard, which can be used to power compact cameras, action cameras and some bridge cameras. The advantage here is that smartphones, MP3 players and other technology that you don’t want to do without during your holidays are compatible with it. With DSLRs, direct charging is usually not possible, but there are chargers that are supplied with power via USB. Alternatively, you can also use a power bank with an integrated charging slot for your DSLR battery or insert a special battery dummy (CHF 20 – 40) into the battery compartment, which you connect with a power bank.

Powerbanks mit USB-Anschluss

The capacity of the power banks is given in milliampere hours (mAh), just like that of rechargeable batteries. The higher the capacity, the more you can charge with it. Another factor to consider is the current output. If this is too low, devices whose energy consumption is designed for higher strengths will take longer to charge. Powerbanks are now available in a tremendous variety and in numerous price ranges, starting from less than CHF 10 to an average of CHF 30 – 50, up to several hundred Swiss Francs for professional equipment.

When the wildernis calls – Solar modules

Experience has shown that it is difficult to find a power socket on an extensive hike where you spend the night in the great outdoors. If the tour lasts several days or even weeks, the capacity of your electricity storage devices will eventually be exhausted and they will need to be recharged. For this purpose, solar modules are available in many variants: The larger their surface area, the more solar radiation is absorbed at the same time and the higher their output power will be. But this also means that the modules become heavier and take up more space. Some manufacturers offer portable versions for backpacks or power banks and solar modules in a combined device, but these are usually weak and not recommended for consumers who are hungry for electricity.

For DSLRs, for example, you should use solar modules with sufficient output, which cost around CHF 400 – 500 in a kit with matching power banks. If you do not use a DSLR, simpler solar modules and power banks are sufficient for a total of around CHF 100 – 200. You should always bear in mind that they are dependent on several hours of sunshine for charging – you can find out how many exactly on the respective product pages.

Tragbares Solarmodul liegt am Strand auf dem Sand und lädt ein Smartphone.

A special case would be the road trip, during which you may not or rarely be able to connect to the mains, but you can recharge your batteries or your power bank with the help of adapters (10 – 20 CHF) via the car’s cigarette lighter.

Work in progress – New alternatives

If, on the other hand, you travel by bicycle, there are even chargers (20 – 160 CHF) that can be connected to the hub dynamo, but which do not work efficiently enough to serve as a reliable solution. Other unconventional but not yet fully developed options include fuel cell power packs filled with lighter gas or camping stoves that heat a power module that generates energy.

A stone staircase - spiral staircase

Capturing a closed room photographically

Have you ever wondered why a hotel room looks so much smaller in reality than the great photo you saw on the website? Or how do you manage to photograph your new living room furnishings for your family, who live on the other side of the country? Due to the limited space and sometimes difficult lighting conditions, indoor photography poses a real challenge. However, with the right equipment and a few tricks, even closed rooms can be captured professionally.

Indoor photography is not all disadvantages, though. The main advantage is that you don’t have to worry about wheather conditions and witht he right equipment you can adapt the scenery to your liking and needs.

Capturing the light just right

Pictures taken with flash often appear clinical and uninviting. The aim is to reproduce the lighting mood prevailing in the room in your photo. For this you need longer exposure times and a tripod or other stable support surface for the camera. The flash should be switched off as it would destroy the lighting mood and create hard shadows. You may be able to use an indirect flash (directed towards the ceiling or wall) to brighten up the room.

Many digital cameras also have a motif program especially for interiors, which you can set via the menu.

If you are working with a tripod or similar aid, you do not need an image stabiliser. However, it is recommended that you use a remote shutter release or set the self-timer to 2 seconds to avoid accidentally shaking when taking the picture. A long exposure time is ideal when photographing rooms where the room is not daylit.

The waiting hall of an old railway station with wooden ceilings and benches

The waiting hall of an old railway station in dim light ©Rene Gropp

If you want to use your hands to take the pictures, use the image stabiliser that almost all cameras offer. Where possible, increase the ISO values a little to shorten the shutter speed.

Lighting problems indoors can occur when some areas are very dark and others (e.g. windows) are very bright. These strong contrasts with a high dynamic range can be used as a stylistic means or can be produced afterwards by using bracketing and superimposing several images (HDR image).

Interior photography with the right lens

Wide-angle lenses are particularly well suited for relatively small indoor spaces, as the narrow dimensions often make it impossible to maintain a sufficient distance from the subject. The shorter focal lengths compared to standard lenses let you capture larger image areas. This makes the shots appear more spacious. In order to avoid distortion, which gives the impression that the room has sloping walls, the camera should be aligned straight and perpendicular to the center of the opposite wall.

Wide-angle lenses are well known equipment for DSLRs, but there are also wide-angle and fisheye lenses available for smartphones. The quality of the lens and the compatibility to your particular smartphone should be taken into account; Especially low-priced products regularly come off badly in customer ratings.

Perspectives indoors

Unlike outdoors, there are only so many places to stand when photographing indoors. For interesting perspectives and the most realistic possible rendering of space, you will often have to stand directly against a wall or in a corridor. Remove disturbing objects from your subject by rearranging something or taking a different position.

There are two perspectives for rectangular rooms: You can stand in the middle of the room axis and photograph towards the opposite wall (central perspective). Particularly small rooms appear tidy, calm and somewhat dynamic.

Parlour photographed from a central perspective with chest of drawers and frontal windows

Parlour photographed from a central perspective

Alternatively, you can take a photo diagonally or at an oblique angle into the room and place yourself in a corner. This increases the dynamics of the image and creates a greater spatial depth. On the other hand, this two-point perspective – depending on the room – can lead to an unbalanced image structure.

Dining room photographed diagonally from a corner in the direction of the window front in an interior space

In an interior space, photographed diagonally from the corner towards the window front – darker and brighter image areas are clearly visible. ©Gundel Woite

In large rooms or even rooms that open over several floors, you have other options for taking on creative perspectives. For example, you can take a picture of offices with a gallery from above. Churches and large halls can usually not be depicted in a single image, but only as partial shots. In this case, it is a good idea to photograph with the direction of the light, for example with a window in your back, or to use incident light from side windows as a stylistic element.

Deserted workshop photographed from a central perspective with graffiti and oblique incidence of light

Deserted workshop photographed from a central perspective ©Lydia Hülle

Capturing details inside

The details of a room can set interesting highlights. Pay attention to the special features of the room – decoration, furniture, textiles, but also windows, door frames, stairs, and similar room elements can provide interesting detail shots. You may also want to play a little with the arrangement of moving details to create a more harmonious overall picture of the room, vary your viewing angle and test which perspective is best. Depending on the lighting conditions, you should also use a tripod here.

Close-up of the technology of an old windmill - wooden wheels and beams

Close-up of the technology of an old windmill. ©Gerd Gropp

 

 

 

Merken

Taking photos in the forest – the supreme discipline of landscape photography

Come rain or come shine –forests have great potential for extraordinary photos in any weather and at any time of the year or day. However, many photographers don’t date to approach the photo location ‘forest’. The reason for this is that taking pictures in the forest is regarded as one of the most difficult disciplines of photography. The ideal image composition and the right lighting conditions for successful forest photography are the most difficult to master. But don’t let this discourage you.

In this article, we will explain to you why you should use the low sun and what effect a little fog in the morning can have on the picture motif. You will also find various tips on how to return from your trip to the forest with a perfect photo.

Preparation and camera equipment for the forest expedition

The equipment for a trip to the forest naturally includes sturdy shoes with a slip-resistant sole. In rainy weather, you should also bring a rain jacket, waterproof overpants and a hat. A pair of long hiking trousers is also recommended. Even in good weather you should wear long trousers and socks, as these protect you from prickly plants and ticks.

Of course the photographer should not forget the most important thing: the camera. For forest photography, you can use a compact camera, a system camera or a reflex camera. The latter is characterised by a wide variety of settings. Important parameters such as exposure time, aperture value and ISO can be manually adjusted to the difficult conditions in the forest. Compact cameras, on the other hand, often have various modes with pre-configured settings for different situations and photo subjects, but they quickly reach their limits under poor light conditions.

In addition, a tripod, a remote shutter release, filters and various lenses make for useful photo equipment in the forest.  For example, a wide-angle lens enhances the size ratio between fore- and background, while a telephoto lens compresses or exposes objects. For close-ups, use the macro lens. You can use a polarization filter to enhance the leaf green and the blue sky and to reduce reflections. To create a special atmosphere in forest photographs, you can also use a grey gradient filter. Ideally, you should store the camera and accessories in a photo bag or a backpack with integrated rain protection.

Camera settings for forest photography

The parameters ISO value, aperture and exposure time need to be adjusted to each other. The best way to get the ideal values is to try them out. If you use a tripod to take pictures in the forest, you can choose a longer exposure time and thus stick to the standard ISO value (between 100 and 200). Use a higher ISO value, a lower exposure time and the image stabiliser for flexible shots without a tripod.

You should keep the ISO values in moderate ranges, though, as too high values quickly lead to image noise. As for the aperture: The more closed it is, the greater the depth of field in the image. Use the manual focus for perfect shots and the histogram to control the exposure.

Aufnahme von Baumkronen im Herbst aus der Froschperspektive

Special lighting conditions in the forest

Light conditions vary greatly in the forest. In sunshine, you may find overexposed or completely black areas while a cloudy sky may offer a very limited dynamic range.

Shaky or blurred images can be the result of sparse light. That is why you should check the results on your display and try a higher ISO value if your photos are blurred. Ideally, you should work with fast lenses and a large aperture, but these are very expensive.

Possible angles and photographing subjects

If you change your perspective or angle you bring variety into your photos – try shooting from a squatting position, lying down or sitting. Frog and bird’s eye views turn your photos into special shots.

Your pictures become really special taken from the frog’s or bird’s eye perspectives. To spare yourself from sitting on the forest ground, it’s wise to bring a plastig bag or similar to sit on.

Keep an eye out for details. As the forst is a living space for plants and animals, there are countless fascinating things to find for your photos. Roots, old and young trees,small plants such as ferns or moss, leaves, cobwebs, mushrooms, streams and rocks are just a small selection of the little wonders a forest has to offer. These details will be vital to your photo.

Capturing the colours and moods of the forest

Fog – Mystical forest images

The mystical mood of the forest can only be captured in a very tight window of time – preferably the early morning hours. The special combination of low direct sun and varying densities of fog create a mysterious atmosphere. Take a wide variety of pictures, with the sun streaming in from the side as well as with backlight. An even more mysterious mood is created when you include ripe cobwebs, mossy soils, ferns, loose undergrowth, hoarfrost, or dew drops in your scenario. You also get a very interesting picture when you combine old and young trees in one photo.

There is no such thing as bad wheather

Don’t let the rain get you down. On the contrary, use it to your advantage! After a good fall of rain, forests shine in the richest colours. Often times, there is even lighting in this kind of wheather, the contract is low and the colours come out very nicely. Everything seems fresher.

Fall and winter also create the perfect conditions for unique pictures thanks to colourful falling leaves and pure white snow around green conifers with the sun in a low position.

When the sun is shining

The combination of light and shade creates a particularly pretty bokeh effect for backlight shots. Both in the early morning ours and the early evening hours the available sunlight provides for beautiful moods in the backlight. Direct sunlight, however, produces strong colours and dramatic shades.

Mystisches Waldbild mit Nebel am Morgen

  • The best format for your photos is RAW. It enables you to edit your photos in more detail on your computer than a JPEG file would, for example when it comes to increasing the dynamic range of the image.
  • To make sure you don’t miss the perfect photo, we recommend working with bracketing.
  • Take all the time you need for choosing the subject and composing the image. Scan your surroundings and take close-up photos with a shallow depth of field.
  • Go to you favourite spot in the forest in different wheather and take in the many captivating impressions.
  • Use vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines such as forest paths, streams or rows of trees. For example, use a curtain of leaves with an opening as a natural frame for the motif of your image. This way, you can direct the viewer’s gaze beautifully.
  • Bring order into your picture. A good image composition is decisive for the image effect. It lends depth to the image and directs the viewer’s gaze to specific areas of the image. Make use of foreground, middle and background.

Conclusion

The right behaviour is very important for your trip to the forest. Avoid making to much noise, don’t light any fires, take any trash with you, and don’t harm the plants. Pulling off branches that are in the way will not help you get the perfect picture.

You should be able to take extraordinary pictures in any wheather at all, except perhaps in a storm. Depending on the season, you will capture a wide variety of impressions. A forest has countless fantastic photo opportunities to offer. With a little practice, you can also deal with the limited amount of light and high contrast. Bring light into the chaos of the forest by highlighting individual objects specifically.

The forest has much to offer. You can enjoy your hobby, get some fresh air and bask in the quiet serenity. Take your camera and make your way straight to the nearest forest.

Tethered Shooting

Tethered Shooting or wired photography allows images to be transferred from the camera to the computer or tablet in a matter of seconds. The camera can be adjusted and triggered from there using software. In the past, Tethered Shooting was mainly used by professional studio photographers. As the technology became cheaper and easier to use, it became popular in hobby photography.

Advantages of Tethered Shooting

Tethered Shooting is mainly used for people photography or product shootings. It simplifies the workflow and saves a lot of time. The photos are sent to the computer right after they are taken, where they can be conveniently viewed by several people in large format. Immediately after the first shoot, important parameters such as lighting, colour values or sharpness can be checked directly on the monitor.

The model can also judge how they look on the picture and can make adjustments if necessary. Important camera settings can be adjusted on the computer using software. These include, for example, the aperture, white balance, ISO sensitivity, and shutter speed. Ultimately, the photographer is only responsible for the focus and the image section.

Moreover, the photo session does not have to be interrupted in order to load the images onto the PC, as image files can be saved on the computer using tethering. With this automatic data backup, one is no longer dependent on a storage medium.

Equipment for Tethered Shooting

Most modern digital SLRs and some compact cameras today are capable of tethering. The cheapest way to transfer data is a sufficiently long USB cable. Conventional USB cables are available up to a length of five metres and usually provide sufficient freedom of movement for a shooting.

Some providers specialised in tethering, such as Tether Tools, offer special cables in signal colours so that you don’t accidentally stumble over them. A so-called JerkStopper, a cable holder developed for Tethered Shooting, also prevents the USB cable from being accidentally torn out of the camera socket by external pulling force.

Most modern digital and SLR cameras are equipped with WLAN today. Canon cameras, for example, can be connected to a smartphone or tablet via the free Canon Camera Connect app. In the meantime, most WLAN-enabled cameras have their own apps that allow photos to be transferred and the camera to be controlled via a tablet, for example.

If you want to retrofit older models with WLAN, a so-called CamRanger with the corresponding app is suitable. The CamRanger creates its own WLAN network that connects the camera to the computer. However, the CamRanger is only available for Canon and Nikon cameras and at a price starting at CHF 400 it is more suitable for professional photographers.

For tethered shootings it is best to use a mobile table to place your laptop on.

Foto-Kamera mit Laptop verbunden

Tethering software is essential for the transmission and storage of photos as well as for camera control. Nowadays, there is a whole range of easy-to-use tethering software available. Among the most popular options are Capture One, Canon EOS Utility and Adobe Lightroom. Before deciding on the software, it is important to check whether it is compatible with your camera. For example, Adobe Lightroom only works in conjunction with Canon and Nikon cameras. Usually, tethering software is supplied with a modern camera.

Workflow for a Tethered Shooting

Photographing with tethering requires only a few steps. The camera and computer are connected via the USB cable or WLAN. It is important to specify a storage location in advance so that the images can be located later. If you take photos with a memory card, please note that Canon cameras automatically create the image files on the memory card, but Nikon cameras do not. Once the shutter release button is pressed, the images are transferred to the PC or Tablet in just a few seconds. The camera settings can be adjusted intuitively in the menu bar next to the image.

Conclusion

Although Tethered Shooting may look complicated, it is easy to work with. All you need is a camera, a USB cable or WLAN connection, and a laptop with tethering software. The comparatively large screen size lets you immediately evaluate images in detail.

Die Pusteblume als bewegtes Motiv

Photographing moving images

Capturing water splashes and other moving subjects is a challenge for any photographer. In addition to technical knowledge, creativity, human skill, and a lot of practice are required. Photography offers a multitude of possibilities to deal with this challenge. With the right photographic technique and some practice and patience, you will get the perfect shot – the following tips make it possible.

First of all: With a simple compact camera you will quickly find yourself at the limits of your possibilities. It is worth investing in a good SLR camera for such shots.

Creating good conditions

Movement can be displayed either flowing or frozen. The right technique plays a decisive role. However, good light is the basic prerequisite for successful shots of moving objects. If the available sunlight is not sufficient, artificial light must be used. In an interview, photographer Gerd Gropp tells us: “What is important is the orientation of the lights, regardless of whether flash or photo lamps are used.

Sharp, blurred, or high-contrast images – the exposure time determines the result. If you want to display moving objects in razor-sharp detail, you should choose an extremely fast exposure time. For dynamic shots, especially with running water, a longer exposure time should be chosen. Basically, the sports mode should be switched on for these shots, if available, which automatically takes over some settings and thus makes life easier for every photographer. When photographing moving objects, settings on the camera must generally be made before taking a picture. In order to avoid additional camera shake in the picture, the tripod is a great help for beginners when shooting moving subjects. Gerd Gropp also recommends taking pictures with a tripod and a remote shutter release in order to have one hand free for the objects to be photographed. Shoot a few test shots first to get a feel for it all.

Thee techniques for the perfect shot

Razor-sharp, blurred, or high-contrast. Here are three techniques to show what needs to be considered.

1. Freeze

If you want all details to be sharply displayed, you should use the freezing technique. For this, the exposure time should be in the range of 1/500 and 1/1000 seconds. The subject section and the sharpness are preselected here. The object moves into the subject. A tip: Use the continuous mode to get as many shots as possible, because this way you can sort out unusable pictures afterwards.

2. Blur

This technique is especially suitable for those who still need some practice. The exposure time lies in a range from 1/10 to 1/90 second. Interesting effects are created with this technique by blurring the main subject. To avoid shaky pictures, the camera is fixed on a tripod. Characteristic for pictures taken with this technique is the contrast between the blur of the moving object and the sharp surroundings.

3. Panning

If you already have some experience, you can try out the technique of panning. With an exposure time of 1/60, 1/90 or 1/125 second, the camera moves parallel to the main subject. In contrast to its blurred surroundings, the subject appears relatively sharp. But be careful here, because the exposure times can cause shaky images. A tripod with a swivelling ball head can help.

Examples and tips for correct camera settings

Here we show a few impressive example photographs with personal tips from Gerd Gropp on the correct camera settings. A 60 mm lens was used for all shots.

Fruit slices in the aquarium

Fruit slices in the aquarium

Source: Gerd Gropp

The fruit slices are attached to the disc of an aquarium and backed with a blue background. With regard to the shutter speed, an exposure time of 1/100 second should be selected. Photo-lamps provide good light. In order to get a sharp picture, the camera should be fastened with a tripod. To ensure a sharp background, the aperture value is 13.

Strawberry in milk

Strawberry in milk

Source: Gerd Gropp

A bowl is filled with milk to absorb the strawberry into the milk. A flash is needed to put everything in the right light. Here, too, the tripod is an indispensable aid. In order to throw the strawberry into the milk bowl with one hand, a remote trigger should be used. It is best to adjust the sharpness beforehand to the level at which the strawberry is to be dipped into the milk. It is advisable to choose a smaller aperture to increase the depth of field. Now drop the strawberry and quickly press the trigger. Don’t despair, some attempts will be necessary.

The dandelion as a moving motif

Die Pusteblume als bewegtes Motiv

The dandelion as a moving motif

Good light is also a requirement here. You should therefore use a flash unit in spite of daylight. A remote shutter release and a tripod are indispensable. These aids make it possible to blow at the dandelion and operate the trigger at the right moment at the same time. In addition, the image processing program Photoshop could also be used to insert individual elements later.

Dice game with moving dice

Dice game with a moving die

Source: Gerd Gropp

In addition to the above-mentioned aids such as tripod, remote shutter release and photo lights, the correct camera setting is indispensable when capturing the moving cube. The exposure should be set to 1/60th of a second, as this will reveal the dynamics of the cube. To achieve a contrast of blur and sharpness, the aperture should be set to 5.6. Once all settings have been made on the camera, the cube is thrown with one hand and the remote shutter release is operated with the other.

Dynamically capturing a waterfall

Dynamically capturing a waterfall

Source: Gerd Gropp

Running water is best captured dynamically. A long exposure time should be set for this. The exposure time for this picture is 4 seconds. This makes it possible to blur the water structures. Since the image is slightly overexposed in daylight with an exposure time of 4 seconds, a grey filter is used to reduce the amount of light. This filter is available in various intensities and is mounted in front of the lens of the camera.

A few last tips

When photographing moving objects, the following applies: Have patience and budget sufficient time. Not every shot will be perfect. It is advisable to edit the photos afterwards. The Photoshop image editing program is worthwhile for this.
Interesting: Motion can also be generated using the zoom blur. By zooming in and out during a long exposure time, unique photographic effects are created. The image becomes blurred from the center outwards.

Have fun trying it out!

Filter for analogue camera

Filter in Photography

In photography, a basic distinction is made between correction and effect filters. Both reflect a small part of the incident light and thus allow less light to reach the lens. The photographer has to readjust. They do this by using the printed extension factor of the respective filter as a reference. With a factor of 2, for example, the aperture would have to be opened one step further or the exposure time doubled. The corresponding tables are provided by the respective manufacturers.

These basic settings are the same for all filters. But now we would like to introduce a few useful filters in more detail. We will show you which results can be achieved with the individual filters and for which type of motif they are particularly suitable. As mentioned before, a distinction is made between correction and effect filters:

Correction filter

These kinds of filters serve especially to influence the saturation, contrast, or UV exposure of the image, or to correct it.

Polarising filter

The polarising filter is a very useful filter the effect of which cannot be imitated with Photoshop. Especially in product, architecture, and landscape photography, the polarising filter is often used to suppress reflections on non-metallic surfaces.

The filter works because it only filters out light from polarised light in a certain plane of oscillation and absorbs the other reflecting light and converts it into heat. The polarising filter is mounted in front of the lens. The effect on the light situation is adjusted by rotating the filter.

In photography, the polarising filter can be used in many ways due to its physical properties. As already mentioned, strong reflections from non-metallic surfaces can be contained. On the picture below you can see the difference. In the picture above, the water reflects very strongly and appears impermeable, in the lower picture it appears more natural. In addition, the filter produces richer green tones, as excess blue light is filtered out.

Bilder ohne bzw. mit Polarisationsfilter aufgenommen

For many photographers, the polarising filter is a must-have. The small filter can be used flexibly and the user can quickly judge whether the use of the polarising filter would be worthwhile. There is no better tool against reflections.

Gray filter

The gray filter is also called ND filter or neutral density filter. Some also call the gray filter sunglasses for the lens. It consists of optical glass that is evenly coloured grey and reduces the incidence of light on a film or photo sensor.

Particularly with long-term shots, the dimming effect of a lens may not be sufficient to effectively reduce the amount of incident light. This results in overexposed images. Many photographers therefore resort to gray filters. The filter allows for longer exposure times or larger aperture settings without affecting the colour and contrast of a subject.

There is a table for the calculation of exposure adjustments for the use of ND filters. This is primarily based on the extension factor. A gray filter with the designation “ND 64”, for example, extends the exposure time 64 times. In other words, the photographer saves 6 f-stops.

The following image could have been taken with this filter:

Wasserfall in Finnland mit Langzeitbelichtung und Graufilter aufgenommen

In the picture the water seems to trickle from the mountains like fine sugar. This is achieved by using a very long exposure time which is made possible by the grey filter. In addition, the water surface looks very smooth. However, the gray filter does not only contribute to wiping effects on running waters, it is also used in architectural photography to make people disappear in photos. Extreme exposure times are also necessary for this, although the photos would be overexposed without an ND filter. In addition, continuous traces of light, such as those produced by moving cars at night, can be recorded.

Gray gradient filter

The human visual system can perceive differences in brightness much more accurately than modern SLR cameras. When taking pictures of landscapes, details in the sky or below the horizon may be lost even though the human eye perceives everything. This is largely due to the lack of dynamic range in digital cameras. If, for example, the sky is very bright, it can happen that there is no detail due to overexposure. In this case, even RAW images cannot be improved on the computer because the information is lost. Photographers therefore use gray gradient filters for their images.

Grauverlaufsfilter mit softem Verlauf

To get a proper exposure between the lower part of the subject and the sky, use the gray gradient filter. The captured image will have a more detailed sky.

The gray gradient filter transitions can vary in strength. But they do have one thing in common – the straight, horizontal line. This is also the boundary of gray gradient filters. Objects that protrude into the motif or beyond the horizon line may also be darkened. The only remedy here is a series of exposures, which are then combined on the computer to form an overall picture.

All three filters mentioned here originate from the times of analogue photography. Their correction effects can only be recreated more or less or not at all on the computer using image processing programs. This is why many photographers swear by the use of filters.

Effect filters

Effect filters or creative filters are used as artistic means of design. Some filters can, however, produce very tacky motifs when used excessively. We will therefore only discuss two filters in more detail.

Star filter

Verwendung des Sternfilters vor der St. Peters Basilica in Rom

With this grid filter, point-shaped light sources can be transformed into quadrangular, hexagonal, octagonal, or hexagonal stars against a dark background. Spotlights are mainly spotlights. Some photographers use this effect for water reflections, for example. Others have brilliant-cut diamonds shine through a small star effect on product photos. Our picture shows that the filter can also be used at night.

Colour filters

These attachment filters allow either radiation of a certain wavelength to pass through or filter out certain colours. The latter, however, is rarely the case. These filters are usually made of glass, plastic, or gelatine foil. Colour filters can be used as both correction and effect filters. In this case, however, these filters are used to highlight special colours.

Drei Farbfilter zum Aufschrauben auf ein Objektiv

In the digital age, almost all effect filters can be reproduced by modern photo editing programs. With correction filters, the situation is somewhat different. In particular, polarising filters cannot be replaced by image processing programs due to physics. Ultimately, every photographer has to decide for themselves which filters to add to their photographic equipment. Here, the area of application and flexibility play a very important role.

A stream in the Alps - running water photographed soft - source: René Gropp

Photographing flowing water smooth

Water in motion such as rivers or waterfalls or beaches are popular motifs for impressive photos. In order to create particularly great water effects, every photographer has to decide whether to “freeze” every single drop of a torrential river or to highlight the flow of a waterfall. In the second case, the water appears soft like silk and the traces of the flow become visible. The water looks like a veil and radiates something mystical.

In this article, we will give you some tips on camera settings and helpful photo equipment to make your water shots appear particularly soft.

Technical camera settings

The exposure time is particularly important for water to appear soft. If the exposure time changes, moving objects of the subject become blurred and static elements remain sharp. The longer a subject is exposed, the softer it will look. The length of the shutter speed should also be adjusted to the flow rate. For a slowly flowing stream, an exposure time of at least 0.5 seconds is necessary, for a tearing waterfall 0.1 seconds. A few test shots with different settings will help here. In addition, the focal length has an influence on the result of the image. At short focal lengths the water needs more time to pass through the image from one edge to the other. Accordingly, a slower shutter speed can be selected for longer focal lengths.

Comparison of photographs of a stream - snapshot and long exposure - Source: René Gropp

Comparison of photographs of a stream – snapshot and long exposure – Source: René Gropp

In order to get the best possible colour and contrast, we recommend choosing a place or time of day that produces less bright and intense light. The Blue Hour, evenings, or rather cloudy days are best suited for photographing the movement of water. To further reduce the light falling on the sensor, use the lowest ISO value (between 50 and 100) on the camera.

The ISO value, exposure time, and focal length should always be set according to the subject and, most importantly, according to the speed at which the water flows and the lighting conditions. Sometimes you may need to try different adjustments to make water appear soft.

Photo equipment for photographing smooth water

SLR cameras are most suitable for photographing water in its flowing motion. In their basic configuration, they already offer the necessary prerequisites and adjustment possibilities so that rapid rivers and waves on the beach can be photographed as softly as possible. With a compact or digital camera, traces of water flow can also be recorded. When choosing a camera, you should make sure that it has a manual mode and that the exposure time, focal length, and ISO value can be changed manually. Some cameras already have an integrated selection of presets, such as the long exposure mode, which are suitable for taking pictures of running water. However, the best results can be achieved by manually adjusting the camera settings.

A weir is flooded by water - soft water makes the photo look picturesque - Source: René Gropp

A weir is flooded by water – soft water makes the photo look picturesque – Source: René Gropp

To avoid unwanted blurring or shaky images during long exposures, it is also a good idea to use a tripod. This way you get sharp images with great soft water effects even at long shutter speeds.

If you have found a special water subject, but very bright light falls on it, you often reach the limits with the manual settings on the camera to shoot sharp, high-contrast photos. A photographer usually enjoys good lighting conditions, but less light is more to get particularly soft water. Due to the long exposure times, contrasts in very intense light are low and the subject may hardly be visible. In such cases you should use a polarisation filter or a grey filter. These “swallow” additional light, prevent water reflections, and ensure sharp photos and soft water.

Yellow flower in focus

Tips for Nature Photography – Photographing Plants and Flowers Correctly

Walking through blooming landscapes or strolling through your own garden – the beauty of flowers fascinates and inspires. But trying to capture the colourful splendour of the flowers or the richness of detail of the stigma with their camera, many amateur photographers experience disappointment. Because, truth be told, it’s not that easy to take a really good picture of a flower – as a whole or in detail.

Rote Blumen

Camera and lens – the right technique for perfect flower photos

In general, you can use any camera to take a picture of a plant. Many models come with automatic settings that make it possible to take pictures of flowers reasonably well. Nevertheless, the perfect image will probably only be created when you manually set all variables. Therefore, it is best to use an SLR camera.

Macro lenses with a focal length of 50 or 60 mm are suitable for photographing flowers – especially for close-ups rich in detail. Alternatively, a portrait telephoto lens with a focal length of approximately 90 mm can also be used.

However, if the selected plant motif is a tree, a wide-angle lens would be more useful.

Aperture and Shutter Speed – Camera Settings for Plant Photography

The shorter the shutter speed, the lower the risk that the plant photo will be blurred or blurred. Unfortunately, blurring is a big problem when taking flower pictures, because even a little wind is enough to move the delicate flowers and grasses.

A shutter speed of 250ths of a second or even less reduces this risk. However, since a high depth of field is often required for a successful picture of plants, a small aperture must be selected – high f-numbers between 11 and 22 are the best choice. The small aperture means that the shutter speed must be longer though to ensure sufficient exposure.

Water lilies

Image with a high depth of field – areas in front of and behind the focal point are also in focus

If you want a lot of blur in the image section as a design element, you can work with a large aperture; the f-number is selected accordingly low. The larger aperture means that comparatively more light falls on the lens, so that shorter shutter speeds are sufficient for a good exposure of the photo.

Flowers in white and purple

Photo with little depth of field – large parts of the image are blurred.

The theory may sound complicated, but with a little trial and error you can put it into practice. It is important to always take several shots and to vary the aperture and shutter speed in order to get the best shot.

Choosing the subject

Of course it is a matter of taste and it depends on the situation if you want to take a picture of a complete plant with its surroundings, a close-up of a flower or just a small part of the plant.

Nevertheless, there are some basic rules to follow when selecting a subject. In plant photography, it is usually elements in the background, blurred or sharp, that ultimately disturb the composition of the image. These can be signs like in a botanical garden or parts of fences or houses. However, other plants or parts of plants can also have a negative influence on the composition of the image.

blume_pflanzen_pusteblume

Try to let the entire image section have an effect on you in the viewfinder and vary the image section. Even unusual – and mostly uncomfortable – perspectives can make taking a picture of a flower more interesting. When photographing small flowers, for example, it may be necessary to take pictures close to the ground and encounter the plant at eye level. Cameras with swivelling displays facilitate these shots. If you take photos of flowers from above, you can often beautifully depict the floral symmetry, but you run the risk of having a very unsettled and dark background in the picture, as soil and undergrowth are not too decorative. If you’re set on taking images from above, it is recommended to use a shallow depth of field in the image in order to create a blurry background.

You should also be careful when selecting the flower to be photographed. In nature, small imperfections such as wilted edges or insect holes may not be disturbing, but in macro photography, these very imperfections appear oversized and interfere with the visual effect.

The most important aspects of flower photography are creative approaches and a little patience. Usually it is necessary to experiment with the camera settings, but also the image details, until the perfect flower image is created.