Glenn is the editor of BeatRoute magazine. This was taken while I was covering five shows at a club in Vancouver, BC. I had to take some portraits of bands in the basement there, and with little time and not a lot of lighting, I made do with track lighting on the ceiling and a white wall.
Photo by Bryce
Landscape Photography Tips
Photographing landscapes can be one of the most frustrating and rewarding things a photographer undertakes. While there are no solid “rules” to making a landscape photograph, there are some helpful guidelines and tips that you can use to enhance your experience and move those average photos from your computer into spectacular images on your walls.
Use a Tripod
In some situations (like hiking up the side of a mountain), carrying a tripod can be cumbersome. Try to find one that is lighter (carbon options are pricey, but perfect) that you can strap to your back.
The advantage to photographing landscapes with a tripod is that you can achieve a much larger depth of field without sacrificing sharpness. I usually shoot stopped down to f/22, which allows much less light onto my sensor. I offset it with a longer shutter speed - which is where my tripod comes in very handy. Sometimes I will use a cable release as well, so as to minimize the amount of shake associated with pressing the shutter button on the camera itself. If you don’t have a cable release, you can set your camera’s timer.
Consider the Foreground
Long, ambling landscapes can be made much more interesting with something in the foreground of the image. Even shorter photographs can be made far better with a foreground focal point.
Work With the Weather
Don’t fret when the sun isn’t shining! Most photographers like to keep themselves and their cameras warm and dry at all times, but sometimes it’s worth it to go out chasing some less than favorable weather. Don’t put yourself in harms way, but when the skies are angry, it can add a lot of drama to your images.
Keep ‘em straight. 99% of the time, this rule is hard fast. Use your grid in camera or fix it in post, but please - keep ‘em straight.
Golden Hour & Blue Hour
Golden hour is a period of time shortly after sunrise or before sunset when the sun is low in the sky and the daylight takes on a redder hue. Light is softer and shadows are less harsh. Landscape photographers will wait and wait for the perfect golden hour conditions to make their images.
Blue hour is a period of time before sunrise or after sunset when the sun is still below the horizon and the residual, very indirect light takes on a blue hue. Blue hour is amazing for photographing skies, as well as any buildings with their interior lights on.
I don’t use filters, but this guy does, and he wrote a nice little blurb about them at the end of this article!
Rule of Thirds
You don’t have to center everything. In fact, photographs are much more visually appealing when you don’t. Light School contributor Iain wrote a great Composition 101 tutorial that discusses this rule in depth.
One of the greatest ways to tell a story about your landscape images is to capture motion. This can be in the form of cars on a freeway, star trails, silky waterfalls or ocean waves (or anything else really). Longer shutter speeds are necessary for these shots, so this is where your tripod becomes absolutely necessary. If you’re shooting in bright daylight, this is also where those aforementioned filters come in handy as well.
On the flip side of capturing motion is stopping motion. You will need a super fast shutter speed for this, which will allow you to freeze raindrops, snowflakes, ocean waves and fast moving animals or insects.
Play around with your camera’s settings to see what story you can tell. There are no rules, and practice will make your work better and better. Just go shoot!
Photography by Bex
Virginia @ Myth Masque
My good friend/archery coach/model/actual professional mermaid Virginia Hankins brought me with her and her company Sheroes Entertainment to photograph their appearance at L.A.’s Myth Masque. During a quieter moment she took me aside to get some shots of her beautiful costume. Problem? There was absolutely no light. The event was in the historic LA Theatre and since it’s a masquerade ball, it’s obviously dark and moody.
For closer-up shots like this, I’d brought a small lightbox with me to get some fill, but these aren’t ideal; the light has a dramatically sharp falloff, and is often way too bright if the person you’re photographing is, say, a translucently-pale ginger. I wanted them to look good, though, so in post I took the super-contrasty, flashy look and decided to go with the Ellen Von Unwerth approach, which is own it.
These had a lot of processing in terms of colors and lighting—bringing in a rich, saturated masquerade feel while keeping with the dark, sexiness of the background was a fun challenge. It was unlike anything I’d shot before, and it was a fun experiment to make a less-than-ideal lighting situation seem intentional. It goes to show that if you just get creative, you can make something difficult into something amazing.
Photo by Kaitlin
Excerpts from Vistion Quest Assignment Cards
#10: Go for a walk without your camera. Go back and make one photo of something you noticed along the way.
#14: Use negative space with “wild and reckless abandon”, making your main subject a very small part of the composition.
#20: Walk an area you would normally drive past. Bring your camera and make photos of what you might normally overlook.
#28: Make a scenic photograph. Eliminate one element and retake the photo. Repeat until there’s nothing left to take out. See how many steps you can make.
The Photographer’s Playbook by Jason Fulford, page 19
Drive-by Shots Throughout Scotland
I’ve spent a lot of time in Scotland and a great deal of it has been in a car. Drive-by shots are some of my favorites to take, and for these (taken across several years), I tried to focus on good composition while getting texture. Drive-by photography is a really great way to challenge yourself, because getting proper composition is so much harder when you barely have time to think, let alone act.
Photos by Kaitlin
I had the opportunity to shoot the Vancouver International Film Fest’s new executive director. Looks like I’ll be doing photography for the whole festival, so if you’re going to be in town for it, don’t be afraid to say hi!
Photos by Bryce
The “Portrait Lens”
Skill Level: Intermediate
I was once in a photo forum in which a person just starting out posed the classic question.
"What is the best lens for doing portraits? Is my $100 50mm f/1.8 okay?"
Two photo nerds responded and quickly took over the forum with a heated argument. One said that 50mm was an unacceptable focal length. That features would be distorted and unflattering. The other posted a portrait they had done at 50mm—professing they used it for portraits all the time. Then the first guy came back and posted one done at 85mm and claimed you could see how much more flattering it was. He told the 50mm guy that he was wrong and that his portrait was horrible and an insult to photography.
Pretty soon the forum was ten pages long and the young newbie who first inquired was no closer to having an answer to their question.
Thankfully, I know the answer to the question and I am going to share it with all of you now.
What is the best portrait lens?
First of all, if all you have is a $100 50mm f/1.8, then that is the best portrait lens because it is your only choice. I have used that lens for portraits and I think it works great.
Second, it should just be assumed that wide angle lenses are out. Anything below 35mm might look a little funny. If you look above, I’m hoping my two examples can display why. When you do a wide angle close up, it exaggerates features. People start to look like aliens.
Third, you should probably have a fast lens for portraiture. It should have a maximum aperture of at least f/2.8. This is important for when you need to blur out the background.
So the crux of this issue comes down to a different question.
What focal length should I use for portraits?
Wide angle lenses exaggerate distance. Big noses will become even bigger. As lenses get longer in focal length, they start to compress facial features. Typically you start to get a more flattering image that doesn’t turn your dad into an alien being.
The human eye has a field of view that is similar to a 40-50mm lens. If you want an authentic image, many consider a 50mm to be the way to go. But when you are looking at a person, you are usually not right up in their face. You don’t view them nose to nose.
So the conclusion you can draw is that maybe 50mm is better for portraits that include more of a person in the image. Their torso and head. Maybe a full body portrait. For very tight headshots, this might not be ideal.
Next we have the 85mm range. If I had to pick one portrait lens, this would probably be the best compromise. It is long enough to compress facial features and give that flattering look, but it is not sooo long that you have to take your pictures from across the street. You can do headshots, head and shoulders, and if you need to, you can do full body too.
100mm and beyond is another popular option. More compression of facial features. Easier to blur out backgrounds. But this is when you have to take your subject into consideration.
Maybe you need a nice rapport with your subject. Being far away with a telephoto lens can get very impersonal. You may have to shout directions. Gesture wildly to get their attention. And if you have limited space behind you, it can be problematic too.
Now you must decide if they really need that telephoto squishing of features. Do they have the kind of face that would benefit from that compression? Would flattening them lose an important aspect of dimensionality? Maybe they don’t have pronounced facial features and compressing them is not necessary. Maybe they are extremely slender and compressing them would exaggerate that. Or maybe they are portly and compressing them would be welcome.
The reason I say “it depends” is because there is not one definitive answer to the question. You have to consider your own personal preferences, style, and all the variables I mentioned above.
Breaking it down…
- 50mm lenses are usually what people start out with because there are great inexpensive options. They are good for candid shots and street photography. Might not be ideal for very tight headshots.
- 85mm is the safest bet. It has enough compression to flatten features for a flattering look, but isn’t so zoomy that you are too far away from your subject.
- 100+mm gives you even more compression and the added bonus of exaggerating blurry backgrounds. Usually best to use outside or in a larger studio.
- A 70-200mm zoom is a very popular choice because it gives you flexibility. Unfortunately, it won’t be as sharp as prime lenses unless you pay through the nose.
Photos by Froggie
Q:I'm going to be filming at the local diy venue coming up, and thanks to the build in there, it gets extremely loud, which is usual in a small space. I was looking for a relatively inexpensive mic that wouldn't be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of noise that'll be going on. Any suggestions?
Hi there, Bex here!
I’m a huge fan of Zoom mics, and you could probably do with something like their H1 which you can look at here.
If the H1 isn’t what you’re looking for, you can spend a little more and get something like the H4n, which is here. I’ve used the H4n more than the H1, on loads of audio and video projects, and it’s super easy and very high quality for not a lot of money.
If you don’t want to buy one outright, you can probably rent one from a photographic retailer or an AV place. There are tons more options, but I’ve found the Zooms to be the easiest.
Hope this helps!!
Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood is one of my favorite places in the city to shoot, especially on a beautiful, sunny day. I take a lot of clients there as well for engagement shoots and portraits, because it’s so quintessentially Boston.
Nothing says “Look How Old and Cool This Neighborhood Is” quite like Acorn St. It’s narrow, cobbled and tucked away between large, brick row houses that recall a time of colonial masterpiece.
In the rare instance you can catch the street without a mob of tourists or a large, luxury SUV parked (illegally!), it’s worth taking the time to stop and soak it all in.
Photography by Bex