PHOTOGRAGHY, OPTICS AND COMPUTING TIPS

FOR TOTAL BEGINNERS AND IGNORAMUSES

The main emphasis will be to offer advice and tips on digital photography, enhancing, meanings of technical specifications, which cameras, tripods and optics to purchase, for the beginner. Any additional tips or opinions will be welcomed. More to follow.

Scanners for Naturalists

The Rule of Thirds

Digital Photography

Digiscoping: This is the name of the method whereby a picture can be taken by a digital camera, through a high- powered spotting telescope; It can be taking pictures of magnification of 100X or more! It began in about 2000 due to innovative Nikon 4500 cameras, became popular, but the interest has tapered off. This is because no camera has ever been manufactured specifically for digiscoping that has proved an all-round success. However, the results with a working combination of camera, telescope and adaptor, can be fantastic and always challenging.

Photographing Plants: Flora is an excellent subject for digital photgraghy. You can now photograph all these plants (never pick wild flowers, leave for everyone to enjoy and allow plants to scatter their seeds) and check on the pictures from the comfort of your armchair. You can get closer to plants than birds, and they don’t move around so much. Yes, this is facetious, but plants do move in the breeze. Hold the stem. Another tip is to place a coin or a finger near the plant, to give indication of size.

Here, the picture of a giant fungus, means little until the size is revealed.

Digital Zoom: This means little. It simply disposes of pixels, so you might as well crop or blow the image up on your computer. Optical zoom on the other hand, is genuine.

Delete: If you have seen a rare or beautiful bird, or a common bird displaying unusual behaviour, there can be intense excitement as you download onto your computer. The upshot can be either intense satisfaction or bitter disappointment. You can never too sure of the quality of pictures until you see them on a big screen. Most should be deleted. Your friends are not interested in a slightly out of focus Sparrow. If the bird was moving and is blurred, or was too much over or under-exposed, then delete. Unless the subject is rare, means something special to you, or is captured in an unusual pose, delete, delete, delete.

Exposure or Lightness: We are however, able to manipulate and improve our results. Usually easier and best to let the camera do this automatically, but if in doubt, always slightly under-expose rather than over-expose, but do not over-do this. A photo manipulation programme can easily brighten up a picture, with little loss of definition, but if the picture is over exposed, definition may have been irretrievably lost.

Wildlife Enhancement: There are only 3 tools that are needed to improve wildlife pictures, which make pictures come to life. Adjust the lighting, sharpen and crop, and all can be done in seconds. With people, do not sharpen, if anything, soft focus is more pleasing.

Sharpen: One of the best tools for improving wildlife pictures. For a peculiar reason, it is sometimes called the ‘Unsharp Tool’. You can adjust how much a picture can be sharpened before it becomes unnatural and ‘noise’ appears, and you can see this by clicking a ‘Preview’control. The more pixels, the more it can be sharpened.

Pixels: Stands for PIcture Elements or the number of dots that form a picture. Do not be too obsessed with pixels; the human eye is quite satisfied with a 3 megapixel image, or even less. The major advantage of a high resolution image is when we wish to produce a large print, to crop an image, or sharpen it.

Crop: One of the most used tools, not just for wildlife, but every type of picture. Cut out superfluous details, just highlight the subject. It also reflects more of what our eyes actually see, as we do not take in all the details of a scene. Sometimes though - leave well alone.

Saturation: This saturates the colours and is the most dangerous tool. Here a dead, flat image can come to life, by accentuating the colours. It is tempting to overdo this, so best to avoid using it. Within seconds, that House Sparrow acquires the wow factor of a Kingfisher, but it is not true. Indeed, the results can be so appalling they could win the Turner Prize.

Manipulation: Beware of manipulation. It is okay for certain categories, but not nature, there is no requirement.

Depth of Field: This is the area that will be in focus in the picture. Sometimes you may wish the subject to stand out, so everything else should be out of focus, other times you may wish to show as much as is possible in a scene.

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