Now when the Swedish wonderful summer is drawing closer to the autumn I need to share a real runner tip with everyone that wants to keep running in the woods even if there is a slight drizzle of rain or the darkness is hitting earlier than before. In not too long the darkness will descend upon us earlier and earlier and it is actually already starting to get really dark in the night.
So a light on the forehad and a cap to keep the light rain out of your face would not be a bad idea?
This is a proper cap in nice material with their logo on the side and which got 5 LED lights built into the cap rim that will show you the road in the darkness. It is powered by 2xCR2032 (wristwatch style) batteries and will light for many hours on the roads and in the woods while keeping your face dry (from rain).
And for the price, buy two!
The light switch is in the cap, easy to reach and hitten under the fabric. Turn it on and off as you please while never missing a stride!
I had the grand fortune to be able to re-visit the old public records building. I found when I came home from the first time that I had unfortunately missed many details that I remembered and I also did not find the basement with the elevator machine room and the attic where I think some nice pictures could be made.
Therefore – here is my re-visit to the Public Records Office here in Stockholm. If you have not seen the first article then you should read that one first.
Now you are welcome to follow me into this fantastic place. The building is bein re-made into a place for children, which I think will be really great – very Harry Potter-ish in many ways. So welcome into the magic world of designed offices from the 1880:s.
Last saturday we set out about 11 hobby photographers to the old Public Records building here in Stockholm. It was my Flickr aquaintance Björn Sahlström who had been able to get access to the building and we entered it with camers, tripods, bags of lenses and other gear to have a good time. The building is fairly large so we quickly spread out and did not have to step on each other’s toes at all really.
Strolling through the empty halls that used to hold all the stat public records and books was a strange feeling, I had never been there, some of the others had been on a guided tour and quickly went to photograph what they knew to be well worth taking a look at.
This building is called ”Riksarkivet” in Swedish and was built around 1880 with the intention of being able to withstand a fire. From the beginning the archive was only open during the light hours of the day because they did not want open flames or even electricity inside. Therefore it has huge windows to let enough light in for people to be able to work there with reasearch or book keeping tasks of various kinds.
A little while ago I found this excellent blog on Nikonians by Martin Turner. He writes about how the classic potratit painters worked and how we can improved our portrait photography by learning from these masters. He has written several very interesting blog posts on this subjects and I felt like commenting on them myself.
In his first post also titled ”Learning about portraits from the masters” he discusses the context of the portrait more than the actual technique to pain or photograph. A portrait is supposed to say something about the person being portrayed and therefore it is important to not lose context and pay some attention to the surroundings of the person, the positioning of the subject, any other props or objects in the picture should have meaning and add to the portrait and not detract from the person being potrayed. I think this is an important lesson and something that is easily forgotten.
In his second post he speaks about differential focus something that has been used by painters for a long time and photographers using a telephoto lens, wide open aperture and focusing as close as possible to re-create. Of course post processing can also be used to achive this and there are more than one way of doing nice differential focussing on a subject.
For a portrait we want the eyes to be sharp, then the mouth and the hair are also important — putting too much fuzziness on the hair makes things look strange and the eyes and mouth are what we as humans focus mostly on when we are viewing a portrait of someone else. An excellent example about this is the painting of a Genoese nobleman painted by Bernardo Strozzi in oil on canvas.
Another thing that he notices are also that backgrounds in paintins are almost always very dark. Almost to the point of being black but never completely black there is always some texture to them but in a very subtle way and the idea of isolating the person from the background is very evident.
Today in photography we often use light backgrounds, even white overexposed so called high key shots which usually means you put 4 times as much light on the background as you do on the subject. Makes it easy to cut out in photoshop and re-arrange in a different background but I get a feeling there is a reason that portrait painters never used such backgrounds.
He also talkes a lot about skin details and softening of the skin in portrait. This was done by painters also using selective focussing techniques when painting but this is also likely down to that our minds generally don’t remember much skin details, we focus on the areas around the eyes and mouth and we tent not to remember too much on other details.
The rest of the posts are also interesting but his number 2 post was the best one so far in my opinion.
Do you answer yest to one or more of these questions?
Do your indoor photographs come out red or yellow?
Do your winter photograph seems very blue?
Do you get weird colours in people’s faces when you shoot portraits in fluorescent light?
You need to learn more about white balance!
When you take photographs the camera records what it sees. This is a difference to our eyes where the eyes themselves and the brain actually processes what we see before we experience it. Light comes in many different aspects. It can be coloured light or it may be even distributed ”white light” across the spectrum. However the distribution across the spectrum can be uneven and the light is then said to have a certain ”color temperature”.
This temperature is measured in a scale called Kelvin, the same that physiscists use to talk about temperature. And when we speak about light temperature we are speaking about something that the phycisists call ”black body radiation”. The explanation for this phenomenon is somewhat complex and out of the scope here so let’s just say that when you heat something up enough it starts to emit light.
If you think about a piece of iron when it is heated enough the light from it is white almost with a blue streak. And when it cools off it becomes first yellow, then orange, then red and after that you can not see the color any more. So physicists talk about various colours as they are related to objects and what colour the radiate at different temperatures. Now we can relate temperature with colour.
Kelvin is not so different from degrees Celsius. There is however an offset of 273,15 (273 will do for us) degrees between the Kelvin scale and degrees Celsius. That is because Celsius has it’s zero point when water freezes (at sea level) and Kelvin has it’s zero point when there is a total absence of energy, the coldest there can be. This point is -273,15 °C so therefore room temperature is close to 300 K. Now, to see something glowing it is generally around 2000 K or more. Light from the sun at mid day can be estimated to have a light temperature of about 5 600 K.
In the evening and in the morning the tones go more pronounced red and yellow, the golden hours as they are called in photography takes place roughly one our after sunrise and one hour after sunset and they are great for nature photography. Light from a light bult is usually somewhere around 3 200 K giving a much more red-yellow light than the sun.
Indoor where we use electrical light the light radiated from these are much colder compared to the sun. Our brains adjust to this automatically but not our cameras necessarily. There is a control on the camera called White Balance. This control tells the camera what the temperature should be of the main light source in the picture and the camera will adjust the red-blue balance of the picture accordingly.
Today most cameras have automatic detection of white balance but this can sometimes be wildly wrong so it is always a good thing to try to learn to set this yourself. Most cameras today have several settings for white balance, here are some that are common on most cameras:
If you are photographing in RAW format you don’t need to worry about these, because you can always set them in your post processing of the pictures. But if you are shooting in JPEG format you should take care and try to get the white balance right from the beginning. If you fail to do this you may compensate a little bit in your post processing software (Google Picasa, Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, GIMP or the tool of your choice) but when you do that to a compressed picture such as a JPEG there will be artefacts introduced. Slight adjustments are okay but if you need to change it more than a few hundred Kelvin then you will notice you start getting strange things in your picture.
One example is the sudden appearance of bright blue pixels in dark or black areas. It does not look good.
At the same time there really is no need to fully compensate for white balance, sometimes the blueish or reddish tone can actually make the picture a very nice picture but if you are tired of having every picture you shoot indoor come out as yellow-orange then you need to find and adjust your cameras white balance setting.
It should be fairly obvious which setting goes where, after all the names says it all. At this point I want you to look up your camera’s manual and find the chapter on white balance. Take a few test shots with different settings and learn the difference between them.
From the 12th century and forward the castle is standing close to the City of Borgholm and it is still one of the major attractions of northern Öland. A lovely place to stroll around and forget the modern life for a while.
Yesterday visiting some friends I brought my lightstand and umbrella and snapped a few portraits. It is incredible what a difference a few simple things can do to improve a photograph. It is all about the light.
One SB-600 into silver brolly camera left 35-45 degrees off center and about head height looking slightly down.