Through the Looking Lens: No. 9

How did you get on trying a different point of view?

I’ve not managed anything creative this week, my camera is still being used for advertising purposes and I’m becoming an obsessive eBayer.  As something leaves the abode for a new home, camping equipment is coming in.  It’s like Christmas.  New sleep system, wardrobe, clothes line, kitchen sink all in small packages.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to finish knitting a coat I started a wee while back so that I use up all my wool.  I have two sleeves and a boob to go.  But of course, none of this has anything to do with you improving your photography.  So let’s get right to it.

This week’s compositional tool:


The Challenge


Look for repeating patterns, repeating lines, repeating textures, and objects that come in threes.  Here’s something to give you a few ideas:




I know, I promised a treasure hunt for this week’s challenge, but doesn’t 10 sound better for rounding off the series until I’m back on track with blogging?


Through the Looking Lens: No. 8

I’ve learned a few new things about my camera.  I have a hard copy manual, but discovered that there’s an Nikon “manual viewer” app.  Better still, it’s iPad friendly and space saving.

This enlightenment came about because I learned my passport expires just about the time I might have need of it.  You can now renew online and get someone to take a photo of you with their digital camera or phone.  I thought I’d try a self-portrait.  This entails, putting the camera on a tripod, focusing the lens on an object where you intend to pose, locking the focus, posing, then using the remote control to take the shot.  Easier said than done.  I had to learn three things, how to use the remote, how to lock the focus and how to pose.

I still don’t have a passable photo, but it was one way to while away an afternoon.

How are you getting on with your own camera?

Last week I declared that we’re going to concentrate on composition for a few weeks.  I need to be more focused over the next 5 weeks as I have two lives to erase in the form of accumulated possessions.  So this week – a composition challenge –  but next week you’ll be given a Treasure Hunt that will keep you going for a few weeks until I manage to find wifi again.


When you walk, either in the country, or in more urban areas, where do you look?  Straight ahead?  At the ground?  Do you ever look up?  Do you find a higher vantage point to look down?

Where you look gives you a specific point of view.  Why not try changing it?

When taking photographs, change your point of view.

The Challenge


Like last week’s challenge of using the the whole viewer to really see what is in your shot, this involves taking time over your photograph.  When you see something you’d like to take a picture of, change your point of view.

Get down and dirty:

Lily Pond
The blog header photograph was taken lying flat on wet grass to get this point of view.  I stood up covered in mud.

Look up!

This was quite an ugly construction over one of our local canals.  This might look  better if the lines are more diagonal.

Look Down!

Crooked Pub
Reflections on the same canal

Try a different angle:

Sunlight at the Corn Exchange copy.jpg
The Corn Exchange in Leeds is highly photographed, so I took this more unusual angle to capture the shadows created by sunlight through the roof of the building.  On reflection, I think there’s something wrong with the angle, but I liked it when I did it!

Feel free to share any challenge responses and your reflections on your photographic process.  Would love to hear how you are getting on!

Through the Looking Lens: No. 7

After all the technical challenges, it seems refreshing to focus more on the art of photography.  In many ways creating a photograph is similar to the principles followed in painting or drawing.  You first have to decide on the subject of your photograph, otherwise, you may end up with an image that looks like this:

Busy Picture.jpg

So busy that it draws the viewer’s eye away from it rather than into it.   Isn’t this a little easier on the eye?  At least it’s clear what the subject of the picture is.


Secondly, you need to decide on how to best compose the shot.

What is composition?

Composition refers to the aesthetic placement of elements or objects in a picture.  It refers to techniques used to draw the viewer’s eye into your image and linger there, and if you’re really clever, perhaps to draw their eye back out again, as if they’ve travelled a journey through witnessing your work of art.

These techniques are often referred to as rules, and for non-conformists like me, the term isn’t productive, it makes me want to instinctively break them.  I prefer to see them as free tools.  You go out, get all that expensive photography equipment, but your photos still look amateurish at best.  However, with some careful application of your free tools, you can produce a masterpiece.

I’m going to dedicate the next few weeks to these free tools as these are how some people manage pro shots with point-and-shoot cameras and their smart phones, without all the bells and whistles of a DSLR.

Keep it simple

Have you ever taken a photo where a lamppost appears to grow out of someone’s head?  Have you looked at a shot after it was taken, and thought, ‘I didn’t see that when I was taking the shot’?  Have you ever taken an image and the world looks slanted?  Have you ever looked at an image and questioned what you were really taking a photo of?

Yup, so have I.

So let’s start by not doing any of those things any more!


The Challenge


The beauty of our free tools is that you don’t need an expensive camera to use them.  This challenge is for everyone who takes snapshots of their darling loved ones and includes those who have grand designs to make a living out of photography.  For me, I just want to take some photos that I’d be proud to have printed and hung on my wall.

The challenge is to LEARN TO LOOK.

Make the best possible use of your viewfinder and/or digital screen.  Take your time composing your shot.  When you look through the viewfinder, or at the screen, check not just the focus point of your shot, but all around the subject.  Go right out to the edges.  Are you including something you shouldn’t?  Is there a stray foot?  Have you chopped off a head?  Did you really want that poo in the shot?  And is that horizon line really straight?

You might need to reposition yourself to get rid of all that busy noise that’s invading the shot.  Perhaps moving a little closer to the subject, choose a different angle from which to take the shot and you may find that you’ll avoid all that clutter.

It feels like you are taking an age before you press that button, but do it!    I know I never took a good shot quickly.

Challenge Response


My challenge was to get a shot of one of the sculptures at a park without including distracting people, parked cars, signs or losing the visual impact of the sculpture in the background or foreground elements, like in the first one above.  I wanted to get a good picture of this:


Due to the publicity surrounding the sculpture – Poppy Wave, this isn’t an easy task.  It’s drawn a crowd.

I try moving closer so that it’s clear that the poppies are the subject of the photo.


A little better, but gah, it’s an image of the spectacle rather than the beauty of piece.  So how about really close?


Oops a head.

The other side of the wave perhaps?


Less distraction, but the river is drawing the eye away from the wave rather than into it.

I go back to the other side where the light is a little better.


I’m happier with this, I like how the poppies are reflected in the water.  I like the red and green contrast and feel that the greens in the background and foreground balance the image.   What do you think?

Let us know how you get on with the challenge.  Ping backs appreciated!  Have fun 🙂


Through the Looking Lens No. 6

Capturing Motion in Photographs

Quite often we want to capture images of moving subject: birds in flight, racing vehicles, athletes, children and pets…..

You could aim to freeze motion like this:


Or this:


Or portray motion like this:

Year of the Horse.jpg

Motion is controlled through varying shutter speed.  The faster your shutter speed, the more you are able to freeze motion like in the top image, notice how little blur there is in the droplets of water.  When slower, more motion will appear in your images.  The above picture was of car lights on a rural road on a rainy day taken with slower shutter speed.

The Challenge



If you have a DSLR camera, adjust shutter speed and experiment with photographing moving objects.  Notice the difference in motion blur as you decrease shutter speed.  Which effects do you like best?

If you don’t have a DSLR camera, you may have less or no control over shutter speed.  However, motion can be controlled in a different way.  If you follow a speeding car, for instance, by moving your camera to keep pace with it, the car should look frozen in time, but the background may be blurry.  You could also take a picture of a stationary object, but move the camera to achieve motion blur in your photo.


Challenge Response


I’m a little behind this week and I wanted to try slower shutter speeds when capturing moving objects, as I’ve learned that I tend to opt for freezing motion.  Hopefully I’ll get around to it and share something a little later on in the week.

Next week: Something for everyone, no matter the camera.  I’m going to do a series of challenges based on composition.



Through the Looking Lens: No. 5

It’s hard to believe we’re on the 5th week of the challenge already.   Hope you’ve been enjoying the journey so far.

If you’re taking photos, you’ll very likely have some that are way too dark and some that are way too bright.  If you look at the whites in the photo, and there is no detail in them, then it is overexposed.  You’ll often find this on bright sunny days.  You have a photo where the end of someone’s nose looks like a beacon and they don’t thank you for it.  If you live where I do, the problem is more likely to be that the blacks in your photos have no detail at all and the overall feel of the image is that it is underexposed.

Here’s an example of an underexposed image, caused by the shadows of the trees, it actually was one of those rare sunny days.


This is one of my favourite places to visit and was my first pleasure trip on the bike when I got brave enough.  It’s Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

But I’m getting side tracked.  Look toward the right of the picture where it is darker and you’ll see an example of how the blacks lose detail.  The image is in RAW format, so I process it with the software programme Aperture as I’m currently working on improving my RAW file processing.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park Processed.jpg

This is a little more like how I saw it: more detail on the right side of the picture and the trees are a little warmer reflecting the sunshine of the day.  As I want the subject of the photos to appear stronger in the image, I finish with a final cropping.


What do you think?  Better?

But all this has taken some time, particularly as I don’t have much experience in processing images in their RAW format.  What I mean by RAW is that rather than taking the photo as a jpeg image, I’ve used an unprocessed format that retains all the detail and information that the sensor picks up.  It enables a great deal of flexibility in the editing stage.  Jpegs are processed in camera, and therefore lose some of that information.

It’s useful, so for example, if you end up taking an image that looks like this:

Sever underexposure, send to trash, or do something with it?

it is still possible to rescue it like this:

Pan From Almost Black.jpg
This is the same image as above, however, the information stored in the RAW format was still available to produce a picture showing the light that I saw when taking it.

As I’ve said before, prevention is better than cure, so how can you avoid over or underexposure when taking the photo in the first place?

You use something called “light meter”.

I’m able to see my light meter through my viewfinder.  It looks something like this:

light-meter.jpgYour camera might vary between -3 to +3.  It may also appear on your digital screen and/or in the information window at the top of your camera.

If you go to fully manual mode on your camera, you can see the effect of changing your aperture and shutter speed on the light meter.  If it goes to the left of 0 you’ll end up with an underexposed image and if it goes to the right of 0, it will be overexposed.  Try also playing with the ISO settings.  If higher, you’re likely to have an overexposed picture, but if too low, it’ll be dark.  You can usually find a good balance by playing with these three settings.  You need to decide first what is most important in your picture.  If you want a shallow depth of field then you need a low f-stop (e.g. 2.8 – 5.6).  Those settings allow in quite a large volume of light, so you may need to make the shutter speed faster to compensate.  If you want to freeze motion, you need a very fast shutter speed, so the f-stop needs to be low, and you might need to have a higher ISO setting.

Sometimes, it’s still not right, in which case, find a little +/- button on your camera, turn the appropriate dial and you can compensate for any under or over exposure that might be apparent when you play back your image.

The Challenge


Photography is the art of capturing light.  If there’s not enough, you have no picture, too much and you’ll capture a bleached imaged.

This week, notice how light is reflected from objects.  Aim to take a photograph, not of an object, but of light.   This is what the camera captures.  Try to improve your exposure through noticing good light conditions for a well-exposed image.

If you have a DSLR camera, try to control less than ideal light conditions making use of your light meter.

Challenge Response


My personal challenge was to take a photograph in completely manual mode making use of the light meter to achieve good exposure.   I’ve chosen the wonderful wine bottle stopper featured above to achieve this.  I’m working indoors with natural light and due to the time of year and dull weather, the light levels are low.  I’m close with this shot, but there are some less well lit areas to the right of the image where some of the wonderful detail in this sculpture is lost.


As he’s such a magnificent specimen, it’s worth a little more work to get that exposure right.   For the next attempt, I decide to make the most of the available light and ensure the full face is exposed to the window light.  This demands a change of background.  And I’m a little happier with exposure in this shot.


However, that detail is lost due to the shallow depth of field.  Some areas of the figure are in focus, others are not.  I really want to show the leaves making up his beard, without losing the detail in the face.  With luck, you can now see these more clearly.  I’ve cropped the image since to make it very clear what the subject of the photo is.


Looks like a museum exhibit doesn’t it?

Don’t forget to share how you’ve been getting on with any of the challenges.  Would love to know if you learn anything new and if you find anything useful.

Next week, we’ll be looking at controlling motion in your photographs.

Through the Looking Lens: No. 4


Different types of light conditions have different colour temperatures.  If you take a photo using tungsten lighting (your usual light bulbs) you’ll notice that the whole picture will have a yellowish tinge to it.  If you take a photo in fluorescent light, it will have a bluish-green tint to it.  These are colour casts.  Sometimes, for a visual effect, the photographer will desire a colour cast, and shoot at particular times of day to obtain this.  For example in the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset, they might make use of the ‘golden hour’ for the particular warm glow that is achieved in photographs at those times.  However, an hour before sunrise and the hour after sunset will achieve a colder, blue colour cast – great for making a cold day look even colder.

However, if you’re photographing people, they’re not going to look their best in blue light.  It makes them look like they are the walking dead and similarly, you could make them look quite jaundiced with warmer colour casts.  If the lighting produces tints that you don’t want, then the photographer will aim for ‘white balance’ in the shot.  This means to effectively remove the colour cast.

You could spend some time post-processing to remove the colour cast as I have done with the photograph I took last week:


And here it is with some of the colour cast removed with post processing:


In the process of correcting, it was difficult not to introduce a different colour cast and truly achieve white balance.  If I’d played for longer, that white cloth might eventually look white.

But isn’t prevention better than cure?

If only I knew how to adjust the white balance of my shots without using an automatic mode on the camera!

Sometimes there are good reasons to go read that manual.   Heading to page 89, I find there are several options from using in-built settings to creating and storing my own white balance adjustments.  The easiest however might sound the most complex.

Colour temperature is measured in Kelvins.  The higher the kelvins – the colder the photo will appear. 5000 K is the temperature of ‘white light’.   By going choosing the Kelvins option, I can just rotate a dial to create the desired compensation.  So with the blue colour cast as seen in the glasses above, by inputting a high Kelvin setting that reflects that cast, the camera then makes the adjustment to produce better white balance.

The Challenge


Play around with colour cast.  Take photos in different light conditions, both natural and artificial.  Note how the colour tint in the image changes.

If you have a camera with more control, investigate how to correct colour cast and obtain white balance.  Have a go!

Challenge Response


I chose this quaint figurine to photograph indoors, using natural light.  My aim was to create images requiring no editing in photoshop, to minimise time.  I set the WB meter to three different settings: roughly 2500, 5000 and 7500 K, producing two photos with colour cast and one with white balance.  The difference is most visible in the ‘whites’ of the image.


Image perfect?  Hmmm, well, you’ll notice the whites, particularly in the background are quite bleached.  However the front of the figurine was shadowed from the light.   Some over exposed and underexposed parts.  We’ll talk exposure in the next challenge and ways to deal with these issues.

Let us know how you get on with the challenge, if you’re following.   I’m feeling happy I’ve learned something new!