Why we still need optical filters

Tiffen ND filterArticle about optical filters I wrote for TechRadar:

The idea of filtering light before it enters the camera has been around for almost as long as photography itself. In the beginning there was no need for diffusers or soft-focus filters, as the lenses of the day were quite soft enough thank you. Things changed when black and white emulsions were developed that were sensitive to blue and green light, instead of just blue, and suddenly there were creative benefits to interrupting the light path with a sheet of coloured glass to control the recorded effect.

As we developed colour films and emulsions the desire to filter really took off, and as colour film reached the general population, and photography as a hobby came to the masses, filters became a major part of the required kit. However, they multiplied in number at a rampant pace, like bacteria in a warm, moist petri dish, and we saw the production of both quite useful and quite useless filters.

Read the rest of this article here on the TechRadar website

 

Raw vs JPEG: You Decide

raw verses jpegEver wonder whether you should you be shooting in Raw or JPEG? Damien Demolder explains the pros and cons of each to help you decide

Shooting in Raw format will allow you to get the very best from your camera’s sensor, but the benefits have to be weighed against the extra time spent processing and how involved you want to get with working in software. There is a lot of mystery about Raw files and what they are, but there really doesn’t need to be. It’s true that shooting in Raw means more work for the photographer, and that it gives those prepared to do that work in software more options and greater potential for better quality images, but that doesn’t mean this way of working is the sole preserve of the professional photographer. It also doesn’t mean that you have to shoot in Raw format to get good quality images, as with a modern camera set to save files in best quality JPEG mode, excellent pictures are more than possible.

Read more of Raw vs JPEG: which should you be using? here on the Wex Blog

 

Timing in street photography

IPad man Decisive moments: timing in street photography

We have all heard of the ‘decisive moment’, and we know it relates to the split second in that which the multitude of disparate elements within our view come together to form a single harmonised image in which all those individual entities suddenly somehow relate to each other.

When many of us think about this concept we visualise the world moving and the photographer passively standing by waiting to catch what happens next. To some extent this is true, but the part of the successful photographer is of the active fortune teller who analyses the lines on the palm of the situation to guess what MIGHT come to pass in the seconds and minutes that follow. When we spend the time to see and to predict we can try to ensure we are in the right place with the right settings on our camera, and prepared to capture that future in a way that communicates the essence of the moment.

I liked this man’s hair and the way the light and dark streaks emphasised his style and shape in the pale overcast evening light, and I hovered around behind him waiting to get a shot. I wanted him taking a picture down the river, with The Shard softly setting the scene in the background, but I needed to wait for those elements to come together in a single cohesive moment.

He decided to create a sweep panorama with his iPad Mini, and I could see he was going to swing from left to right as he captured the view, so I quickly composed my own view so that I would be ready for the moment his iPad was in the right place. As I have a building in the shot we need to activate our mental architecture mode, making it essential to keep the camera upright and straight so the viewer doesn’t have to face the distractions of London falling over. Guessing where the iPad would be I set my AF point for that spot using the Touch AF feature of the camera I was using. This allows the photographer to position the focus anywhere in the scene by touching that place on the rear screen. I set a wide aperture of f/1.2 to create a tiny depth of field that would blur the background behind the iPad and even the man’s hair in front of it.

And as he swung the iPad in to position I was ready and just had to trigger the shutter at precisely that moment.

 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 with Leica DG Noctilux 42.5mm f/1.2

 

If you would like to learn how to take pictures like this, and become a confident and creative street photographer, sign up for one of my one-day street photography classes.

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Student Gallery for Foreign City Courses

A gallery for students to show off

pictures taken during courses in foreign cities

I hope you like the gallery, and that it will encouraged you to go out and explore the world with your camera in any weather and at any time of day. If you have been on this course please feel free to add a few of your best pictures from the day, using this uploader below. Size your images to 800 pixels in the longest dimension first.

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Please do leave me a comment below.

I run regular street photography classes around London, both during the day and at night, so why not join me and a very small group of other photographers for some instruction and inspiration – and a lot of fun?

I can help to improve your photography whatever your level of experience. Find out more in the Events and Courses section.

See me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/demolder

Follow me on Twitter at @damiendemolder

Tonal Contrast for Emphasis

Tonal contrast for emphasis. Street photography courses in London. Damien DemolderSmoking at the Bank – Tonal contrast for emphasis

If you asked twenty people in the street ‘What’s the best colour to make a white object stand out?”, they would probably all say ‘black’ (except those who know that black isn’t a colour!). It is obvious, isn’t it? But in the heat and excitement of the moment the street photographer can easily forget the most obvious principles and miss the opportunity to make a scene into an effective piece of communication.

This picture is clearly about the whisps of smoke that appear above the man’s head. We know that because they are probably the first things we notice when we look at the picture. They are the first things we notice because they stand out, and they stand out because the difference between their brightness and the deep dark shades of the doorway represent the strongest tonal contrast in the scene.

Tonal contrast: brain v camera

When I saw the potential of the shot I’m not sure where the smoke was, but it stood out because my eyes and brain were able to separate the smoke from whatever background it was against, but the camera can’t do that on its own. When I came to take the picture I adjusted my position so that the light toned smoke would be against a dark toned background – not against the stone wall or the pillar in the distance. It is this slight shift in my position, and the differences in the tonal values of subject and background that make the shot work. Had the smoke appeared over the wall of the Bank the picture wouldn’t have worked at all.

The reason I moved was because I had thought all that through in the seconds between seeing and taking the shot. I didn’t just get wow’ed by the smoke, I thought about the best way to get the message to you that the smoke rising from the man’s head looked cool with the light shining through it. And it is that few seconds of thinking that make the difference and which are so often missing.

Contrast, depth of field and saturation

The shallow depth of field helps, of course, as does the soft light of the rainy day that allowed the camera’s dynamic range to capture the full scale of the tonal values of the scene. I exposed for the smoke, not for the man’s jacket, because I didn’t want it to appear pure white and featureless.

It was a muted sort of morning, and there are no strong colours in the scene. I’ve desaturated the image it a little more to give it a stronger monochromatic atmosphere. I also cropped square for a classic feel that suits the moderate tones and colours.

Smoking is of course pretty bad for the health of humans, and as prices and prohibition increase fewer and fewer people are doing it. That’s great for the lungs of the nation, but one day scenes like this will be rare. Go out and make the most of smokers while we still have some.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 with Taylor Taylor Hobson 2in f/2 Telekinic lens

 

I run regular street photography classes around London, both during the day and at night, so why not join me and a very small group of other photographers for some instruction and inspiration – and a lot of fun?

I can help to improve your photography whatever your level of experience.

You can also follow me on Facebook or on Twitter:
http://www.facebook.com/demolder
https://twitter.com/damiendemolder

Lighting for 3D effect – orange pillar

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALighting for 3D effect – orange pillar

It is through directional lighting that we appreciate the three-dimensional qualities of the things around us. Very early on in primary school art classes we learn to draw a cube and shade one side black and another grey; I was amazed how it jumped off the page, and repeated the exercise over and over. Of course we understand how all this works when we have a pencil in our hands, but it is another thing to apply the same principles when out with a camera.

Depth through layers

This image has a sense of depth through the different layers created by the lighting of the scene, and these make the man stand out clearly from the foreground and the background. As a silhouette he could be a cardboard cut-out, except that the light falling on his left foot suddenly lets us know he is in fact a 3D object.

The single bulb that lights the scene creates a definite mix of 2D and the 3D objects, and the contrast between them makes one stand out from the other. The heavy side lighting on the pillar describes very clearly its cylindrical form, and because of the strength of this impression the flat cut-out top half of the man’s body stands out. That he is sharply defined, with jet-black hair, eyebrows, lips and nose, against one of the lightest areas of the scene, our attention is drawn immediately. The figure jumps off the page by being 2D against a 3D background, and then by his 3D foot against the 2D background of the pavement.

Understanding the scale

We know exactly how far into the scene the man is, as we have his shadow to mark the position for us with engineer’s precision on the pavement – the grid of which lends us the front-to-back measures of the stage he is striding across.

There is further mix of 2D and 3D elements on the rear wall, where the long straight shadow of the door catch breaks the flat plane of the image background with one small but significant area of relief.

Atmosphere of mystery

I rather like that the fact we only have an outline of the figure makes his identity something of mystery. We get some clues, but not enough to really know much about him. He evades our detection, just as he bypasses the CCTV camera mounted on the wall in the background – that focuses only on a very empty dark door where there is clearly nothing going on. The mystery is continued by the dangerous deep orange night-time glow of the ambient street lighting.

The right person in the right place

When I saw this scene I knew I would be able to get something out of it, so I lined up the shot and waited for the right person to walk in to it. What makes this chap work is that he is in full hurried stride, giving a clear sense of his outline shape. This stride coincides with the moment right before his outline breaks the brightest edge of the pillar, so his darkness is at maximum contrast and he doesn’t interfere with that powerful long straight line. That he doesn’t intersect that line is critically important – we rely on the strength of his outline to identify what he is, and if that outline is complicated by external elements the message becomes less clear. And rather nicely, his shadow leads us from the lower left corner in a powerful diagonal straight to the subject of the photograph.

Olympus PEN E-PL5 with Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ASPH
f/2.5 and 1/150sec @ ISO 1600

I run regular street photography classes around London, both during the day and at night, so why not join me and a very small group of other photographers for some instruction and inspiration – and a lot of fun?

I can help to improve your photography whatever your level of experience. Find out more in the Events and Courses section.

See me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/demolder
Follow me on Twitter at @damiendemolder

 

Please do leave me a comment below.

Create 3D pictures with a sense of depth. Damien Demolder

 

Photographing graphic shapes

Photographing graphic shapes Damien Demolder in London. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3

Photographing graphic shapes – creating a frame

Most built-up areas are created using three basic shapes and the variations on them; rectangles, triangles and circles. Alongside those basic shapes we have the lines that define their edges and demonstrate their existence. When we recognise these shapes, and acknowledge that they are the foundations of the city structure, we can begin to make the most of them in our pictures. And when we do that, we tap into an awareness that can create really powerful images.

This picture is all about shapes and the lines that create them. The shapes of the world this man lives in are hard-edged and rigid, while his own shape is rounded, organic and soft – so he stands out against the foreground and the background. That act of standing out makes us aware that he is the subject, but only in the sense that his presence makes the hard/soft contrast possible – and it is that contrast that helps us to notice the hardness, rigidity and geometry of the world around him.

The frame

I shot this through a vast metal sculpture at Liverpool Street station’s Broadgate Circle entrance, in London. Looking between the great sheets of metal, I liked the way a giant doorway could be formed and the way the soft light of the overcast morning was bleeding into the deep dark shadow inside the structure itself.

The viewer’s first thought on seeing the image is probably that we are looking through a four sided aperture, but the four-sided idea comes only from the fact that the triangle made by the converging edges of the metal sheets meets the top of a wall that leads into another darkness in the distance. The two dark areas can play the trick of fooling us that they are one – and the overall visual effect is that they are as between them they contain our attention and hold all the action.

Composition and shooting position

I had to position myself quite carefully to ensure that I made the most of the shapes and lines on offer here. To get the full impact of a structure and its angles it’s important to have some sort of baseline that grounds us and lets us know we are standing straight and upright ourselves. In this picture that levelling anchor is the group of lines on the steps – that travel left to right parallel to the bottom edge of the frame. These, whether we recognise it immediately or not, let us know we are upright and perpendicular. When we know that, we can appreciate the relationships of all the other lines and shapes in the picture – that they really are off at an angle, and that it isn’t just us leaning over ourselves.

The lines of the steps are a strong visual element as they contain so much contrast themselves. The treads are lit from above, while the risers are comparatively dark. The combination makes a series of black and white lines, running like those on a sheet of ruled writing paper. They are powerful and influence our perception of the scene. That they are straight, and that our brain knows that, allows us to see the slope of the path, the diagonal of the handrail, the man’s upward journey and the angled edges of the sculpture.

The right man

I shot quite a few images from this position, as I experimented with composition and the different types of people using the path. Once I was satisfied with the camera angle and my exposure, I just had to wait for the right person. While it is easy to project what you think the right person will look like before they arrive, we should always be ready for whatever comes along. Here I knew I wanted a ‘city person’, and a suited worker would fit the bill, but with the light-toned background I had expected to be making a silhouette of someone in black. It didn’t occur to me that Colombo would come by, with a pale raincoat and newspaper – but he did, and I’m very grateful for that.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 with Taylor, Taylor and Hobson 2in f/2 Telekinic lens via a C-Mount adapter

 

I run regular street photography classes around London, both during the day and at night, so why not join me and a very small group of other photographers for some instruction and inspiration – and a lot of fun?

I can help to improve your photography whatever your level of experience. Find out more in the Events and Courses section.

See me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/demolder
Follow me on Twitter at @damiendemolder

 

Please do leave me a comment below.

 

Photographing graphic shapes Damien Demolder in London. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3

Photographing graphic shapes Damien Demolder in London. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3

 

 

 

One-to-one classes with Damien

 

One-to-one photography and

CAMERA-SKILLS CLASSES WITH DAMIEN DEMOLDER

 

One-to-one tuition for all levels of experience. Sessions fully customised to your needs

£499 – including lunch and refreshments

My one-to-one days are designed around each individual student’s needs and are tailored to fill specific gaps in knowledge or experience that we identify before the day starts.

The day usually begins with a chat about the type of photography we will be doing or the techniques and modes we’ll be using. Then, to put into practice what we’ve discussed we go on to a series of great locations to so we can both be sure that the lessons stick and are really learnt in a concrete way.

Damien Demolder's one-to-one photography courses
The whole time I’ll stand next to you delivering instructions and instant assessments, in a friendly and constructive way that so you can see exactly what your mistakes and successes are. By the end of the day you will have thoroughly grasped the concepts and skills covered and you will be a much better photographer and a wider experience and a more open mind to future progress.

Working on a one-to-one basis is an ideal way to fast-track your photography skills and your understanding of how your camera works. You get all the attention and you can ask all the questions you like – in the comfort that there are NO silly questions, and that everyone has to start somewhere and from a position of hardly any knowledge.

I have 15 years practice teaching photography, from writing practical and technical articles for Amateur Photographer magazine, Photo Technique magazine and DP Review, as well as from working with countless individual students. I am fully familiar with every brand of camera, having tested and used DSLR and compact models from all manufacturers over the last decade and a half. So I’m in a perfect position to help you to understand how to find your way around your camera if you are a beginner, or how to get more out of it and your manufacturer’s system if you are a more experienced user.

Understand and control basic and advanced settings and photographic skills
• Apertures and shutter speeds
• Exposure modes
• Exposure metering
• Depth of field
• Editing techniques

Visual Concepts
• Composition
• Framing
• Subject placement
• Camera angles

One-to-one classes take place in London, and students can request a weekday or a weekend. Please email me for more information, available dates and with details of the areas of photography you’d like to learn about.

You can see a galleries of former student’s work in the One-to-One Students’ Gallery and in the One Day Street Photography Classes Gallery.

 One to one photography lessons with Damien Demolder

Damien Demolder’s Street Gallery

A small selection of Damien’s
street photography work

I hope you like the gallery, and that it will encourage you to go out with your camera in any weather and at any time of day. Please do leave me a comment at the bottom of the page.

I run regular street photography classes around London, both during the day and at night, so why not join me and a very small group of other photographers for some instruction and inspiration – and a lot of fun?

I can help to improve your photography whatever your level of experience. Find out more in the Events and Courses section.

See me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/demolder

Follow me on Twitter at @damiendemolder

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