Today's England photos come courtesy of one of my favorite places in London. The Borough Market. The market is rich with history, but it remains as relevant now as it has ever been. As London’s oldest food market, it has been serving the people of Southwark for 1,000 years, and that extraordinary heritage is an important part of its appeal. Its precise start date is impossible to pin down: there was no official opening, no ribbon-cutting ceremony, not even a brief mention in a chronicle. The best date available, and the one used as the basis for the Market’s millennium celebration, is 1014. The present market is located on Southwark Street and Borough High Street just south of Southwark Cathedral on the southern end of London Bridge. This place is amazing, and a food lovers paradise. The present-day market mainly sells speciality foods to the general public. However, in the 20th century, it was essentially a wholesale market, selling produce in quantity to greengrocers. It was the main supplier, along with Covent Garden, of fruits and vegetables to retail greengrocers shops. It has dozens and dozens of stalls that sell everything from tomatoes to truffles, cheese to fresh breads, and every kind of meat or seafood you can imagine. It also has tons to booths selling freshly prepared food. So, if you want a salt beef sandwich or a plate of paella... this is the place to come. If you love food... this is a place not to be missed. The food is beautiful, the people are so nice and everything is delicious. How do I know? Because everybody will let you taste everything... and believe me... I did! If I had to pick a favorite, though, and I'm glad I don't... It would be the salt beef sandwiches. They're like a hot corned beef, but at the market, they're served with homemade pickles, pickled cabbage and top with cheese that they caramelize with a blow torch!! Seriously amazing!
Today's London photos come courtesy of my walk home through Hyde Park. I love this place and try to walk through it any time I'm town. It's like Central Park in New York, except everybody has cool accents. It's a beautiful place and like most typical London days, it started to rain during my trek. That didn't stop me, or the parrots from showing up.
The first picture is a shot through the trees of a fountain near the Marble Arch. The fountain had tons of people around it, so taking the shot through the trees allowed me to keep the tourists out of the shot and made for a nice frame. Shot at 1/500 sec at f/7.1, ISO 100.
The second shot is one of a number I got of the wild parrots that can be found in the park. Trust me, you'll know when you're close to finding them. They're not quiet. I saw a ton, but this guy seemed to want to have his picture taken, so this was a favorite. Shot at 1/320 sec at f/5.0, ISO 1600. I had to bump up the ISO in this shot cause the clouds were coming in and it was actually pretty dark under the tree canopy.
Finally, this shot of a bridge over the lake in Hyde Park. I'm sure it has a name I should know, but I don't... so don't ask. I processed this phone in Color Efex 4.0. I needed to process it cause there were a lot of blurry spots in this photo. Truth is, I actually got rain drops on my lens and took a bunch of photos without noticing. So a little color, a little blur, some contrast and wham-o bam-o, this is what I ended up liking. Shot at 15 sec on a tripod at f/22, ISO 100.
Two more of my favorite photos from my trip to London. Today's favorites were both taken at about the same time in almost the same place... The first is a long exposure taken on the Westminster Bridge of Big Ben. I took a similar picture on the Tower Bridge the last time I was here, but I've always wanted to take one with the famous clock in the background. I love this city and this location, so this shot was a goal of mine on this trip. I took a ton of photos at this location trying to get the lights on the cars just right. I wanted the light streaks at different levels, so I waited for busses, cars, bikes... anything with a light! It seemed like every time there were the right cars, there were no busses, and every time there were buses, there were no cars. I really need the busses and the cars in order to get the right amount of lights at the right nights. It took about 25 minutes to get the shot I was looking for. You'd be surprised how hard it is to get the cars and busses to cooperate. There was actually a shot where everything was coming together, but since I was taking 30 second exposures, there was a lot of time for something to go wrong. I almost had it when a tourist with him iPad camera stopped right in front of me to take the same shot I was taking!! He literally stood there for at least 20 seconds before he realized that he was standing RIGHT IN MY SHOT! He offered an apology and moved on, but I still punched him in his face. ;) I guess I couldn't fault him as I thought this was a pretty perfect spot. The image below was taken at 25 sec at f/18, ISO 100.
The second was taken just about 100 feet away from the bridge, down the street, facing across the river at the London Eye. I literally walked off the bridge and about 100 feet down the bank of the river. This spot looks magical at night and this photo really captured the area for me. Getting the boat lights to streak by just added to the magic look. The photo below was taken at 30 sec at f/14, ISO 100. Since I was standing on the edge of the river, at least no tourists could stand in front of me, but again I had to wait for the boats to come by. You think it was hard to wait for cars and busses... boats are way harder. Hardly any come at night, so there was a lot of waiting. Although, I guess if you have to wait for a shot, the banks of the Thames is a pretty good place to wait... My friends and I even managed to find a souvenir while we were waiting.
As you may have noticed, I added a few vacation days to a work trip to London earlier this month. Of course with some free days, I spent all most all of them taking photos and over the next few days I'll share some of my favorites here. Today's photos are the result of a early morning trip to Primrose Hill in the Primrose Hill District of London. The hill of 213 feet is located on the northern side of Regent's Park and offers a pretty stunning view of central London. Nowadays it is one of the most exclusive and expensive residential areas in London and is home to many prominent residents. I took the tube at sunrise to take photos as I heard that every photographer has to take picture on this hill. To be honest, it was a little underwhelming, but did offer a great view and it was a fun little trip on the tube and a bus to get there. The first shot is a pano made up of 8 individual photos all taken at 1/15 sec at f/18, ISO 100. It's easiest to shoot a pano on manual so your exposure remains constant for all the photos in the group. You don't want your exposure to change as you take the photos while you move around.
The second photos was unplanned, but has a pretty good story behind it. Remember, I was at Primrose Hill at about 6:00 in the morning. As I started hiking up the hill, I passed about 8 guys, all drinking, half smoking pot and half with no shirts... at 6:00am. So, to fit in, I decided to take off my shirt and drink with them. Yeah... I'm kidding. I walked up the hill and one of the guys (who was wearing a shirt) started shouting at me, "hey photo man... take our picture... come on photo man." So I figured I was in no position to say no to them, so when they realized that I was willing to photograph them, three of the 8 guys stood together, with their weed and drinks in hand, and posed for the attached picture. You can pretty easily tell the guy who asked for the photo to be taken. He's the guy who's not covering his face and is actually smiling. Anyway, after taking one photo and thinking "okay, it's time for me to get out of here," the guy, in his completely wasted, drunk voice, said, "thank you photo man... now share that picture and tell the world about us." I'm not sure what I'm supposed to tell the world, but here's the picture. Taken at 1/80 sec at f/6.3, ISO 100 and processed in Tonality Pro. Enjoy!
More people are taking photos with their iPhones than any other camera. So why not make your phone photos the best you can. They say the best camera is the one you have with you, which is true, but there are ways to make your iPhone photos even better.
The iPhone camera gets better and better with each new upgrade, but for the iPhone 6 it’s not just about hype. It might not be "the next best thing," but it just might be the most awesome thing right now. :-) The iPhone 6 camera has been frequently praised as the best smartphone camera to ever exist. The biggest change in the new addition of the iPhone camera is the focus pixels, which means the camera is twice as capable of focusing as the iPhone 5S.
Change Exposure Manually
Most people complain about a lack of control when using a camera phone rather than a more dedicated camera. You can actually have more control than you think with your iPhone. Sometimes, the lighting in your environment is not ideal. This isn’t a problem with the new iPhone 6 cameras’ new manual exposure control option. First, you need to tap the area on the photo that you want to be the main part if your photo. The phone will base the exposure on this area. If the camera doesn’t accurately guess the exposure, you can use the slider to make adjustments by dragging up or down the screen.
You can use the timer mode from anywhere between 3 and 10 seconds to take better group shots, different selfie angles, or hard to reach shot... and did I mention selfies? I did? Well, that's because you can't go anywhere without somebody pulling out a selfie sick these days. I thought selfie sticks were sticks to hit people over the head with who were taking selfies! :-) The camera will fire off a burst when the timer reaches zero, which will give you an opportunity to choose the best photo from the bunch. This is great for combing through photos for people with closed eyes, those who weren’t ready yet, or worse yet those who close their eyes on purposes just to be butts! (I'm talking to you, daughter)
Edit Your Photos
We all (or maybe it's just me) have tons of apps on our phones for editing photos. I have tons. For the record, Perfectly Clear is one of my favorites, but that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about the fact that now you can edit your photos right in the photo app already on your phone. You can use your iPhone 6 camera to alter different exposure levels, highlights, contrast, and saturation. You can also revert your image back to the original by clicking on revert. It's really easy. Check out the all the new options when you push the EDIT button after taking a shot.
So there you go. Take that camera phone out of your pocket and use it. It probably won't replace your DSLR, but you always have it with you and you can get some great photos with it!
I've dedicated previous posts on providing tips for taking holiday portraits, so I'm not going to waste your time telling you what we've already discussed. If you're looking for tips for improving your portraits, especially those taken during the holidays, type portraits into the search box and the top, right side of this page. Doing that should bring up previous posts that were focused on the subject. I thought today's post I would highlight some of my favorite portraits I took over the last few days. Pictures of my best and cheapest subjects... my family.
As we did last year, we spent the holidays with family in El Dorado Hills, CA. It's a about 30 minutes past Sacramento on the way to Lake Tahoe. Well, I had lots of plans to take some landscape shots in nearby areas, but of course one of my main priorities this time of year is to take photos of the family, and especially the kids. Anybody with kids knows how fast they grow up and having new photos of them every year will help you remember how young, cute and awesome they were before they turned into the little terrors they are today. Even if you're kids are totally ugly, you'll want photos. I took pictures of these same kids last year, but I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to capture them again. The most beautiful family holiday photo is the photo that captures what your kids or family members are like now... this year. What is the "now" for your family? Do you have little ones who run around everywhere? If so, consider a photo like that for your photos, cause in the next few years your "now" will look very different. Capture something about today that will be unforgettable to not only you but your family!
When I'm hanging out at the house I usually have a plate of food in one hand and a drink in the other, but I never know when a great photo opportunity will pop up, so I always keep my camera close. I think it drives my family crazy, cause it's always near by... usually on the kitchen table, in front of the TV or hanging on the coat rack. You can be sure wherever it is, it will be in the way. I also always make sure when I'm just hanging out that my batteries are charged and the lens I want to use is on the camera. During this trip I mostly had my Sigma 50mm f/1.4 on my camera while I was in the house. It's a great lens to use in doors cause it's wide aperture can almost see in the dark, so I can still get sharp photos in relatively little light. I also always had my Canon Speedlite 580ex on my camera. Again, it's not used all the time, but I want it ready to go when I do need it. I actually found myself using it a lot this year. An off camera flash is one of those things that you don't realize how much it will benefit your photos until you start using it. Try it, you'll like it.
If you remember last year, I actually set up a studio in the garage and took portraits on a backdrop, with a full lighting set up and even snacks! This year I decided to go more causal. Don't just plan on taking photos around the tree or at some fancy family dinner. You never know when you'll have a great opportunity. I literally took my camera with me when I took the dogs outside for a pee, or when we hit the malls for those after Christmas sales. I just took my camera around with me and took photos when the mood hit, or found myself in a moment I really wanted to capture. Below are a few of my favorites from the week. No rules, nothing set up, just took 'em when I felt like it. I got some good shots and I know the family is really happy to have the photos, even if they think I'm really annoying at the time.
So I don't want to leave you without offering a tip. Some great kernel of knowledge that makes the last two minutes of reading worth it. Okay... here it goes. DON'T TELL YOUR SUBJECT TO SMILE!! Seriously, there's nothing that generates a faker, more uncomfortable, unnatural smile than to tell somebody to smile. Say something else... anything. I used i know a photographer that would have her subjects say "fuzzy pickle." When I'm taking pictures of kids, I usually include the word "fart" somewhere in my request. That always gets a laugh, cause come on... farts are funny. Anyway, try it. Say something that will illicit a nature smile rather than a forced, uncomfortable one. Oh, and when taking a family holiday photo, get everyone to close the gaps by getting as close as they can to each other. If you can see any background between two people (or worse crazy Uncle Bob), have them get in closer, tighter, for a more affectionate feel.
When you are new to photography, there are tons of things to think about when you're taking a photo. The shutter speed, the aperture, light, what you had for breakfast, etc. Literally tons of things. One of the more misunderstood terms is depth of field, or DoF. You may have heard the term depth of field, but if you are new to photography you may not yet be taking advantage of how it can enhance your photos. A basic definition of depth of field is: the zone of acceptable sharpness within a photo that will appear in focus. In every picture there is a certain area of your image in front of, and behind the subject that will appear in focus.
This zone will vary from photo to photo. Some images may have very small zones of focus which is called shallow depth of field. Others may have a very large zone of focus which is called deep depth of field. Three main factors that will affect how you control thedepth of field of your images are: aperture (f-stop), distance from the subject to the camera, and focal length of the lens on your camera. Here are some explanations and answers to other common questions concerning depth of field.
How does aperture control depth of field?
We talked about aperture in a previous post. If you forgot, or never read it, use the little search box in the upper right corner of this page and search for "aperture." Anyway, aperture refers to the access given to light from the lens to the camera sensors. The size of your aperture (the diameter of the hole through which light enters the camera) controls the amount of light entering your lens. Using the aperture (f-stop) of your lens is the simplest way to control your depth of field as you set up your shot.
Large aperture = Small f-number = Shallow (small) depth of field
Small aperture = Larger f-number = Deeper (larger) depth of field
I know this can sound confusing. Large things equal small numbers and vice versa. WTF? Just remember that the lower your f-number, the smaller your depth of field. Likewise, the higher your f-number, the larger your depth of field. For example, using a setting of f/2.8 will produce a very shallow depth of field while f/11 will produce a deeper DoF. If you're not totally confused now, read on.
Now what about focal length?
Focal Length refers to the capability of a lens to magnify the image of a distant subject. This can get crazy complicated, but the simple answer is that the longer you set your focal length the shallower the depth of field. Come on, that one is pretty easy, right? At least easier than that DoF stuff above.
Wait, distance controls depth of field too?
The closer your subject is to the camera, the shallower your depth of field becomes. Therefore, moving further away from your subject will deepen your depth of field.
So when should I use a shallow depth of field?
Using a shallow depth of field is a good way to make your subject stand out from its background and is great for portrait photography. Shallow DoF can also be useful anytime you want the subject to stand out from its surroundings, like wildlife shots. This is also useful because many wildlife photo opportunities are low light situations, and increasing your aperture size will give you more light. Shallow depth of field is also very often used in sports photography, where many times you want to separate the athlete from the background to bring attention to them. The result of this should also help give you a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action.
Okay, I think I got it, so when should I use a deep depth of field?
Easy... Landscapes, period. Okay, not period. There are tones of examples where a deep depth of field would make sense that are not landscapes, but in general... landscapes.
Hope that helps. It's a concept that took me a while to understand, but once I did, I feel like i immediately became a better photographer. If nothing else, when you're at a dinner party, talking about DoF will really make people think you know what you're talking about. Try it, I promise it works.
I'm about to go on another trip. On Monday I leave for Stockholm, Sweden. The good thing about having photography as a hobby is that even if you're going on a trip for work, you can usually either get up early or stay up later and take some really great photos, before or after you do your work. Well, this trip is no different. In fact, because of the schedule, I should even have one or two free days to take photos in this beautiful country.
If you've read this blog with any regularity, you know I love taking portraits and I really love taking landscape shots. So for this trip, I was actually considering not even bringing a camera. My wife is going to be traveling for work as well next week, and has asked to take my travel camera with her. Of course, I said yes... I'm no dummy. But that meant if I was going to take a camera, I was going to have to travel with my Canon 5D which I usually don't take on work trips. It's big and has lots of accessories, so it means unless I'm checking a bag, I usually don't have the flexibility to bring my big camera with all its gear. So what am I going to do for this trip... take my Canon! I'm no dummy. Weren't you listening? I JUST SAID THAT! I'm not going to pass up an opportunity to shoot photos in Sweden, so it's coming with me and I plan to take a bunch of landscape shots. Well, that got me thinking. Maybe i should post some of my landscape tips in this week's blog, to get me ready and put me in the mood. So here it goes:
Light is quite simply, everything and when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING! Just to be clear, let me explain what I mean. Light is everything! Without good light, an image can appear flat and lifeless. Most landscape photographers are up at the crack of dawn to catch the sunrise and while you may not wish to do this every day while you're traveling, you could be missing out on one of the most magical times of day when the light is soft and it’s most flattering. The golden hour, which occurs in the late afternoon and early evening is also another fantastic time. Avoid shooting in the middle of the day when the light is harsh and contrast is high, shadows will be very dark and your camera will struggle to meter effectively. It may well be that you have to go back several times to a location before you get the image you want as the conditions are not quite right. While on my trip, I will plan on getting up before everybody to ensure I get some good light. I'll probably walk around by myself before dinner too. The difference in this light is remarkable and will certainly be one of the most noticeable things you can do to improve your landscape photos.
A good sky can really make an image. There is nothing worse than a dull grey or bland blue sky lacking in interest. Clouds play an important part also in casting shadows on the landscape before you, adding form and dimension. If you have a great sky then let it have its say! Try devoting two thirds of the image to the sky.
The way we compose our image, or in other words, position the various elements within the frame is vitally important. There are various guidelines which can prove useful. The ‘rule of thirds’ is one, whereby imaginary lines are drawn, dividing the image into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Important elements of your composition are then placed where these lines intersect. Quite often the horizon is positioned along the bottom third. However, rules are also there to be broken, so don’t be afraid to try placing your main subject in the centre of the frame sometimes – this often works best with very simple compositions. I have written numerous blog posts on this topic, so if you're looking for more info, take a look and some of the previous entires.
Including some foreground interest will help to achieve a more balanced composition, as well as add depth and help draw our eyes into the scene. Lead in lines, such as a path, wall or river can be used to achieve the same effect.
USE A TRIPOD
This is one of the easiest tips because there is less to learn and only one new thing to buy... A tripod! This one simple and relatively inexpensive item can do wonders for your photography.
Where possible try to us a tripod. Not only does it minimise camera shake and allow long exposures it also really helps with composition. By slowing you down, and allowing you to evaluate your image before you press the shutter you take more time and care with your photography. There are many lightweight, compact tripods on the market now which can be carried easily in land luggage but if you can’t take a tripod on vacation or find yourself in a place where it is not possible to use one then try resting your camera on a wall, your car roof, anything that will give support. I am checking a bag on my trip just so I can make sure I can take my tripod with me. It's too big to fit in my camera bag, but can easily fit in my checked luggage, so that's what I'm doing. I never and I mean never travel and take landscape shots without my tripod, or something to stabilize the camera.
So those are just a few of my favorite tips for taking landscape photos. The most important thing is to go out there and do it, because that's the most fun and by far the easiest way to learn. If you have any questions, let me know... If not, go out, have fun, take lots of pictures and if you do nothing else, go out and buy yourself a tripod. You'll thank me later.
So I did it... I bite the bullet and bought a new iPhone. Maybe I shouldn't imply that there was any question. I had mine ordered the minute they were announced and because I preordered it, it was waiting for me when I got home on launch day. I love it... I mean, I really love it. Yeah it's bigger, faster, thinner and lighter but I know, you're thinking... what else, as if that WASN'T ENOUGH!!! Well, okay. How about we mention how awesome the new camera and camera app is.
Wanna hear something crazy? Every day, people take more photos with iPhones than with any other camera. Not just because it's so easy, but because the camera really takes good photos... and don't even get me started on video. I don't think I'm taking videos with any of my other cameras and I have a Canon 5D, the video king of DSLRs. With the slo-mo and time-lapse features... who needs a DSLR? (Please don't tell my camera I said that. I still love him.) So back to the iPhone. Now, in addition to its 8MP and f/2.2 aperture, the worlds most popular camera is packed with other great new stuff. I mean, it has a super large 1.5-micron pixels... You know what that means??? Yeah, me either.
Obviously bigger is better, whether you’re talking displays or legroom on a plane or... well, let's stick with legroom on a plane. The larger format and thinness (stack two CF cards and you’re pretty much there) of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus screens may be the headline-grabbing feature, but the wider viewing angle, increased brightness and improved contrast of the all-new Retina HD displays is likely to make photographers more excited than our non photo-loving friends.
So let's talking about one of my favorite features. Faster focusing! The iPhone 6’s sensor comes with phase detection autofocus built in. As you know, phase detection AF is more responsive than contrast detection AF. It uses two images seen from slightly different positions to drive the focusing mechanism, with the goal being to make those two images line up. Contrast detection is slower because it measures the focus directly from the sensor, with the goal being to find the point of maximum contrast – but it has to focus back and forth to find this point. The end result is that the iPhone 6 reportedly autofocuses twice as fast as the iPhone 5. TWICE AS FAST!
Another great feature is that you can finally do some decent tweaking (some people might call it editing) right in the photos app, and the camera now lets you adjust brightness before you take the photo by just tapping on the thing you can focus on and then dragging up/down on screen to brighten/darken. Remember when all you could do when your photo was take it! When the iPhone really got fancy, you could take an HDR photo, but was really about as fancy as you could get without downloading third party apps.
To access the Photo edits, click on a photo in the Photos App; tap the Edit button then tap on the dial icon. You can change the Light, Color or make a B&W. What you're seeing above is when you click Light then hit the three-line icon on the far right. Now click any setting and you get a slider for that feature and instant on-screen feedback. Nicely implemented all the way around — huge improvement.So the phone is great and the camera is super great. Check it out and take some photos. As the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you and since we almost always have our phones with us, my iPhone is definitely my best camera. Check it out. I don't think you'll be disappointed, and if you are...
"I must be in the front row," said Bob Uecker in that once famous commercial. Well I got news for you Bob... The second row is just as good! As anybody who's read this blog more than a few times knows, I'm a big San Francisco Giants fan. In fact, my whole family is. That means that not just me and the people who live in this house, but my parents and my in-laws are big fans too! Well, although we've been to tons of games at AT&T park (where the Giants play) and many with my parents, my in-laws have never been. With them living in El Dorado Hills (about 2 1/2 hours away from San Francisco), they’ve actually never made it out to AT&T park for a game. Well, we were gonna fix that. We were at their house visiting a few months ago (and had a bit to drink, which is an important fact in this story) and Joanna, my wife, decided it was time they went, so she was determined to find them good seats. After a little bit of searching, she found 2rd row, right behind home plate for $100. An unheard of price for that location, right? She decides to buy those tickets for me too for my birthday (it’s the day before the game), cause who could pass up those seats for that price?! So we’re all going to see the Giants play in the best seats I’ve ever had and for my in-law’s first time.
Well, fast forward a few weeks and my Father-in-law calls to say he knows why the tickets were so cheap... They're away game tickets. Before we could say "wow, that was stupid of us" my wife had already found us flights and hotels in Milwaukee for the game. So last week we all boarded a flight and headed to Wisconsin to see a baseball game. Pretty awesome, right?
I decided to bring my Lumix micro four thirds camera which I have been using a lot lately. I don't like the quality of photo it takes, or the speed it focuses nearly as much as my Canon 5D, but it's really easy to travel with and that was important for this trip.
So after a day of travel and some good midwestern beef and beer, we went to the game. The seats were incredible and I knew there was going to be some great photo opportunities. Once the players started coming out of the dugout, I started shooting and I didn't stop until the game was over. Shooting sports is much harder that shooting, say, portraits, cause the subjects seem to be always moving, but you get used to it pretty quick. Since the sun was out and the dome on the stadium was open, I had plenty of light so I could shoot pretty fast. This really helped with the sharpness of the photos. Focusing was another problem cause the players are moving from one place to another all the time. It really helped to predict where the subjects were moving, so I could focus on where they would be as opposed to where they were. If you know a runner is going from 1st base to 2nd base, focus on 2nd base so you're ready for the shot when he gets there. If you're shooting the pitcher, you know he's going to go through his motion and fall forward toward the plate. So instead of lining up the pitcher along the left side of my photo, I lined him up against the right side, so when he was done with his pitch and he had fallen forward, he was right in place along the left side of the photo.
You can see some of my favorite photos from the day below.
Best story ever, right?