What’s a polarising filter – beach at Uvero Alto

Uvero Alto with a polarising filter

Uvero Alto with a polarising filter

A polarising filter is used in photography to reduce the effects of reflections and glare. When these distracting forms of light are removed from a photograph it allows colours to really shine through and appear much stronger. Polarisers are a particular favourite of landscape and architectural photographers for the dramatic effect they can have on a sky – transforming it from pale blue to a dense and impressive navy. Here you can see a ‘before and after’ demonstration of what a polarising filter can do. On this occasion I used the filter to darken the sky, firstly producing a stronger blue and secondly making the cloud formations stand out more clearly. The filter has also cut reflections from the surface of the sea, which again intensifies its colour, and the same impact can be seen on the sand as it’s colour becomes more saturated. While the non-filtered image is nice, the second is much more dramatic and eye-catching.

Uvero Alto without polarising filter

Uvero Alto without polarising filter

Rotate for control

The power of the filtration effect can be controlled at the shooting stage by rotating the filter in front of the lens. For these images I have shown the extremes of the effect, but it is easy to tone things down because the filter allows the degree of impact to be controlled at the shooting stage.

Two types of reflected light

In very basic terms there are two kinds of light illuminating this scene – light that comes directly from the sun and reflects off the trees, clouds, beach and sea into the lens. And then there’s light that’s been reflected from something aready, that goes on to bounce off those same objects, but from different angles. If you take the sand, for example, you can see there is light that’s coming directly from the sun and then there is light that has been reflected from the sky that gives the surface a slight haze. The same is true of the sea; in the non-filtered shot most of the colour we see is the reflection of the colour of the sky. Light that has already been reflected before it strikes the subject can be cancelled by a polarising filter, and thus help improve contrast and colour. The resultant reduced light levels will mean longer exposures are needed so, except in very bright conditions (such as in the case here), a tripod is the natural partner of a polarising filter. The filter I was using, made by Hoya, has particularly good light transmission, and so long exposures are less often required.

The angle of the sun

Polarising filters have most pronounced effect when the photographer has the sun on his or her back. The effect is still visible at 90° to the sun, but as soon as the lens moves to begin facing the sun a polariser becomes less useful.

Samsung GX20, with 16-45mm f/4 ED lens. Exposure without filter f/11 @ 1/250sec, with filter f/11 @ 1/125sec. Both ISO 100, and at the 16mm end of the lens.

See more of Damien Demolder’s recent photographic posts here

To see more of my pictures visit my galleries at www.damiendemolder.com

To see more of my pictures visit my photo galleries site at www.damiendemolder.com

Uvero Alto with a polarising filter

Uvero Alto with a polarising filter

Uvero Alto without polarising filter

Uvero Alto without polarising filter

A sense of depth – The Boathole

Using layers in your compositon • low angles to show the foreground • selective focusing for emphasis

Boat on Loch Foyle, at the Boathole, St Johnston, Co Donegal, Ireland. By Damien DemolderIt’s hard to create a sense of depth in a photograph, as we are trying to convey our impressions of a three dimensional scene using a flat piece of paper. To get the message over to the viewer we have to choose carefully what we show, as well as how we show it.

We are told that a 50mm lens gives the same angle of view as our eyes, when it’s mounted on a 35mm camera or full frame sensor (it’s about 35mm for APS-C sensors). Really, though, this only represents what we can concentrate on, rather than what we can actually see. There is a big difference between what we take in when we look directly at something, such as when we are talking to another person a few feet away, and what we experience when we are taking in a view or enjoying a pleasant scene. We build a profile in our heads of the atmosphere of a place not by looking in one direction or by concentrating on any single element, but by looking around ourselves, at our surroundings and the sky, and combining all the elements to create a whole and complete impression. We analyse the details, notice what is at our feet and what is in the distance, what is to the side of us, and how the place is made up.

The layers
On this morning I was enjoying the high grasses and plants as I pushed my way through their rain-wet leaves to get to the shore. Before I got to the water’s edge I stopped and took in the scene. What I was struck by was the combination of the flowers up to my waist, the stillness of the water and its gently turning boat, and the pale colours in the pre-sunrise sky. The horizon was almost out of sight in the mist, but before it was a splendid foreground, a high-contrast attention-seeking middle ground, and the shapes of the other side of the loch against the pale blue sky.

Lens choice
To get a sense of realism rather than sheer impact I used the 35mm end of a 16-35mm zoom lens, and, fitted to a tripod, dropped the camera to below the level of the flower tops. Rather than stopping down and focusing a third of the way into the scene for maximum depth of field, I focused on the flowers just a few feet in front of me. I wanted them to get the attention, as even when soft the sky, the boat, the loch and the distance could look after themselves. Viewers are going to look into the distance anyway, but by pulling the focus to the foreground it ensures they pay attention there too.

Brightness balancing
Obviously, with such a range of brightness values I wasn’t going to get the correct exposure for the flowers while still showing the colours of the sky, so I used a 0.9 (3EV) neutral density graduated filter to hold back the illumination levels of the sky and its reflection. This balanced the exposure enough so I could show all the elements within the camera’s dynamic range.

With white balance set for daylight I was able to capture the cool tones of the morning without the camera attempting to turn the scene into a Caribbean dreamscape.

I think that what I have created is a picture that has a real sense of depth that allows the viewer to place him or herself there at the scene, on that morning and see and enjoy the things I experienced too. And if you get yourself up at 4am to look at it the experience will become even more real again!

Canon EOS 1Ds III, with EF16-35mm f/2.8L USM lens set to 35mm, 1.6sec and f/16 at ISO 100. I used a HiTech filter system 0.9 ND graduated filter to reduce the brightness of the sky. TeamWork sells them

Shot at The Boathole on Loch Foyle, St Johnston, Co Donegal, Ireland. Click to see a map.

Did you find this interesting or useful? Let me know by leaving a comment.

To see more of my pictures visit my galleries at www.damiendemolder.com

To see more of my pictures
visit my photo galleries site
at www.damiendemolder.com

Boat on Loch Foyle, at the Boathole, St Johnston, Co Donegal, Ireland. By Damien Demolder

Patterns and shapes – Muzeum Techniki

muzeum-techniki - damien demolderThis ship’s propeller really caught my eye as I walked around in Warsaw, Poland, as its curved form is surrounded by a mass of squares and triangles.

Much of Warsaw’s non-modern architecture is based on right angles and straight edged shapes with few curves or circles. Although I suppose I hadn’t really made a mental note of that fact, when I came across this object, that has no straight edges at all, I was quite struck with it. In taking the picture I wanted to get over the contrast between the roundness of the propeller and the sharp edges of the notice board next to it, plus the visually powerful squares of the walls behind it. It was only when I looked through the camera that I noticed the blocks of the car park and the lines painted on the floor. These were something of a visual bonus.

At the time I had a wideangle lens on the camera and this is what I made the first pictures on. Viewing them on screen I realized that I wasn’t getting across the strength of the squares, as being close enough to fill the frame was creating too dramatic a perspective, which in turn distracted from what I really wanted to show. Instead I fitted a more standard lens (in this case a 28mm on the APS-C camera). This meant I had to move further away, which helped me to include more of the ground and those lines, plus it flattened the perspective. Moving away also meant I would have to worry less about the lens distorting the brickwork into curves rather than those strong straight lines.

Keeping the camera absolutely level was essential for the graphic and purposeful image I wanted to create, and keeping a wide aperture would allow the propeller and the notice board to stand out from the background, while still retaining enough focus in the brickwork that the shapes could easily be seen. I didn’t have a tripod with me at the time, but I wished that I had. Although the shutter speed was short enough to hand-hold the camera without fear of camera shake, mounting on a tripod makes getting everything right-up and level so much easier. In the end I took about six pictures before I was satisfied that I’d got what I needed.

Fortunately the day was overcast, so the reduced contrast of the softer light allowed me to show the three dimensional shape of the propeller without burnt highlights or overly dark shadows. The soft contrast also helped to display all the fine detail in the stonework, the notice board and the car park.
Originally shot in colour, I converted the picture to black and white via a channels conversion, using a combination of green and red channels. The green channel gave me fine detail, while the influence of the red channel boosted the contrast of the scene a little.

I didn’t have to do too much else to the image, other than some minor curves adjustments and then some unsharp mask to finish. The exposure was already quite dark, which I think adds to the atmosphere. The place the picture was taken is quite hash and serious, so making a jolly picture would not have been appropriate.

Pentax K10D with 50mm manual focus lens, 1/80sec @ f/2 and ISO 400

To see more of my pictures visit my galleries at www.damiendemolder.com

To see more of my pictures
visit my photo galleries site
at www.damiendemolder.com

muzeum-techniki - damien demolder

Keeping your eyes open – Dubai Hotel

Dubai HotelPatterns, and pictures, are everywhere, and of course we all know we need to keep an eye open for them in the most unexpected places. It seems though that the most unexpected place of all for most photographers is ‘up’. Looking up is something most of us fail to do, as we are just not programmed that way. With few airborne predators I suppose we don’t feel we need to.

Although I do now make an effort to look in the directions others are not, I saw this shot quite by chance. I was waiting for a bus and had the time to stare

At first glance, the face of this hotel looked just like all the other glass mirrored buildings in the district – which by their numbers had already become boring subjects by the second day of the visit. The difference here is that the windows actually opened, and thus they destroy the neat graphic designs of the building. The architect would probably not approve, but in fact the at-odds angles have made an interesting picture where one did not exist before.

The trick, beyond spotting the potential in the first place, is to represent what you are seeing in your photograph, and to get across what it was that made you look. In this case the attention-grabbing element is the break in the pattern. So, to begin with, you have to show the pattern. Here the pattern occupies the largest area of the image, so we can see what is the norm. The windows that are open are only small, but simply by breaking the flow of the pattern they stand out, and draw the eye.

To help emphasise how much the windows stood out I used a wide aperture for a shallow depth of field, as well as a tilt and shift lens which enabled me to alter the plane of focus completely. This meant that it was easy to de-focus the rest of the building, while keeping just the open window area sharp. You could achieve the same in software.

I shot the picture on a Nikon D40, and used the in-camera cyan-toning facility in the post capture menu. I find this a bit strong, even using the mildest setting, so I reduced the colour saturation in software.

Shot with Nikon D40, with Nikkor PC Micro 85mm f/2.8. 1/3200sec @ f/2.8 and ISO 200

Nikon D40 kit in black

To see more of my pictures visit my galleries at www.damiendemolder.com

To see more of my pictures
visit my photo galleries site
at www.damiendemolder.com

Dubai Hotel

Converging verticals – what, how and fixes

Converging Verticals Eiffel Tower with guide linesWhen we look up at a tall building its sides slope inwards to form an inverted V shape. We are so used to seeing in this way that we hardly notice the effect while we are enjoying the view. When we take in the same scene in 2 dimensions, as we do when looking at a photograph, the experience is quite different and we do notice the convergence of the vertical aspects of the building.

If the effect is exaggerated, or at least very obvious, it lends a sense of height and drama to the picture, and we can appreciate a a split second just how tall that building is. However, if the effect is only moderate the building might look as though it is tilting backwards and in danger of falling over.

As with many photographic visual effects moderate applications simply look like mistakes, so we should avoid them at the shooting stage, or learn to correct them afterwards.

The way to avoid the problem is to hold the camera completely level when taking the picture, as it is the looking up angle of the camera that creates the effect. Unfortunately, keeping the camera level usually means that the top of the subject will be cut off. You can move backwards to alter your perspective, but in the majority of cases this is not an option as space is usually limited in architectural locations. In any case you’d have to move a long way for even a moderately tall structure

To see more of my pictures visit my galleries at www.damiendemolder.com

To see more of my pictures
visit my photo galleries site
at www.damiendemolder.com

See a map of where this picture was taken

Converging Verticals Eiffel Tower

Real-life perspective – Squeeze box man

realistic perspective street portraitsThe idea of street documentary is to show the viewer what it is like to be in the place you are shooting – and to experience the things you are experiencing. To do this I try to shoot with a perspective that delivers to the viewer a feeling of being in the place rather than simply observing it from afar.

The simplest way to begin this process is to use a lens that captures an angle similar to that which the human eyes can see. Although a 50mm lens is seen as ‘standard’ for the 135 film format and full frame sensors this is still slightly long for a realistic view. On these formats I try to use a focal length of between 30-40mm, which is the same as between 20-30mm for cameras with an APS-C type sensor, and between 15-20mm for FourThirds users.

When you use a lens like this for the type of portrait shown here you have to forget your inhibitions and move in close. This chap was more than happy for me to take his picture, but I still asked by showing the camera and expressing my intentions. This is done in a split second through facial expressions, but makes the difference between guarrenteed co-operation and comfort, and not quite knowing how the subject will react once you start shooting. Having permission also improves your chance of getting good eye contact.
The accordion player was sitting down so I crouched to get on the same level as his chest, and so I could make a major feature of the instrument. It looked almost as old as him, with just as many lines, contours and interesting features.

The day was very overcast, so I didn’t have any trouble with contrasty light and shadows blocking up his eyes or shading his face beneath his hat. It also meant that exposure was easy, and I could leave the camera’s evaluative/matrix system to do the work for me.

I shot in colour as usual, but knew this one would end up in black and white. The conversion was made using the green channel – a favourite with me for getting an aged classic look.

I cropped square as well to keep the composition tight, and because the format seems to suit the shot well.

The final image has good depth and possesses a three dimensional effect that I would not have achieved had I stood back and shot with a long lens. While long lenses allow you to keep a distance, they always show that you were a long way from the subject – which makes it difficult for the viewer to connect with the subject. Actually getting close yourself makes a massive difference, and can be the difference between getting an ordinary shot and one that has some impact.

Shot with Pentax K20D, with Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6.

To see more of my pictures visit my galleries at www.damiendemolder.com

To see more of my pictures
visit my photo galleries site
at www.damiendemolder.com

realistic perspective street portraits

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