MS.C 392x72

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Beginner Questions
by Chuck McKern

With over 12 years of retail and professional experience Chuck thought he'd heard it all - until he took this job.

Send us your questions for either the Beginner or Advanced columns by clicking HERE.  Please include as much detail about the technique, camera, lens, or film as you can so Chuck can answer your questions.

I want to start photography as a full time hobby so please help me how to start.  Shall I take a course or some friends tell me it is not necessary.  Just buy a camera and start clicking.  It is it true?  Please let me know and give me the right guidance 

Photography can be a fun and rewarding hobby. The best way to learn can vary from person to person. If you have a basic understanding of photography, you may be able to get very good without taking a course. There a lot of great books on the fundamentals of photography as well as specific types of photography as well as techniques.

However, if you do not have a basic understanding or are uncomfortable with the fundamentals, you may want to take a course. Many adult education programs offer photography courses.  These courses are not ususally expensive and they provide a lot of great information.

Either way one of the best ways to learn photography is to just go out and do it. Take notes as to what you do so that when you find techniques that give you good results you can duplicate them. There is something to be said for learning from your mistakes, but be honest with yourself - do you learn best from self study or in a structured classroom environment?

Concerning polarizing filters. I read the article by Moose on the use of filters and I am confused about polarizing filters and perhaps you can straighten me out. The filters I bought are circular and apparently you can change the photograph that you are taking by turning the filter. Question is "how do I know what I am taking or what effect the filter has". I have been using this filter and it has changed my photos greatly making them significantly better. I had my camera out the other day and when I changed the filter position I could not see any difference thru the lense.
Mike Melycher

Polarizing filters can definitely help photographs when used properly. The use of the filter is pretty straight forward. As you rotate the outer ring, look through the lens. You will see the polarizing effect increase and decrease as you turn it. When you see the effect you want stop turning and take the picture.

It is possible that you may not see any effect at times. That has to do with the angle of the light. If you do not see any change, change your camera angle slightly and try again. A lot of time this will allow you to get the effect you want with a small compromise in composition.

I am interested in capturing photo's at night and am not sure how to use my exposure time. For example; moon light above tall trees that beam down in between the tree branch's. Or Lighting as it strikes. I own a Rebel 2000 with the 28-80mm lens and a Quantaray 70-300mm 1:4- 5.6 LDO Macro lens. I have a tripod as well as a Quantaray QTB-9500-A flash with TTL, 1/16 and manual.

I am just starting out and have practiced shooting photo's but have been some what intimidated by own insecureties.

I have enjoyed reading the articles on your web sight and look forward to reading more to increase my knowlege. Your site is my security blanket. Thanks so much, I look forward to hearing your feed back.
Stacy Dill

I'm glad we can help. The best way to get more comfortable with your photography is to keep doing it. Also, keep in mind that most photographers, amateur or professional, never are completely happy with their own work.  We are our own worst critics.

Photographing at night can be a little challenging. You will want to use a higher speed film and your tripod. It is a good idea to get the remote switch that Canon offers for the Rebel cameras. This will allow you to keep the shutter open for long periods of time without risking camera movement during the exposure. The remote cable is a stock item at most Ritz Camera stores as well as many other photo specialty dealers.

Be prepared to shoot on nights when the moon is full or near full. Light meters will want to overexpose the scene. This is because most light meters are designed to make the scene appear to be in average brightness. Following the meter would make a moonlit scene look as if it were taken in daylight. To avoid this you would want to reduce your exposure by 1/2 to one full stop. This exposure correction is more critical with slide films due to their narrow exposure latitude. Print (negative) films can be compensated in printing.

Your film type can also change the appearance of your image. Tungsten film will give the scene a cooler look than daylight balanced film which will have a warmer look.

Shooting lightning can be even more tricky. The best results will be obtained at night. For the safety of you and your equipment set up in a dark place under good cover. Point your camera at the area of the sky where most of the lightning activity is occurring. Set the shutter speed dial on Bulb and using the remote release, open the shutter and hold it open until a bolt of lightning strikes. Exposure is entirely guess work. Start shooting with an aperture of about f/5.6 with ISO 100 film. Keeping the shutter open too long will cause overexposure in the surrounding areas. Heat flashes can also ruin the frame.

Capturing multiple bursts of lightning in a scene with light sources such as a city or street can be more difficult. Start with a smaller aperture and slower film speed so you can keep the shutter open longer.  Don't be surprised if you shoot a whole roll of lightning shots without getting one you're happy with.  There's a lot of luck involved here.

For any of these scenes you would want to bracket your exposures. It can be a lot of experimenting while learning, but following these guidelines you should be able to capture some great shots in these conditions.

Also check out John Carucci's Capturing the Night with Your Camera (Amphoto; ISBN: 0817436618) reviewed on our book review page this month.

My question is that from where I can know details about wild life photogarphy?  My equipments is Nikon F5, SB28 flash, 17-35mm Sigma ASP, 80-200mm Nikon (f2.8),400mm f5.6 Sigma APO

There are many great books on wildlife photography. One book I've heard a lot of great things about (but have not had the chance to check out myself beyond a quick look) is from B. Moose Peterson. It is called "Wildlife Photography: Getting Started in the Field" (Silver Pixel Press; ISBN: 1883403278). 

Another good book is "John Shaw's Nature Photography Field Guide: Revised edition of The Nature Photographer's Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques" by John Shaw (Watson-Guptill Pubns; ISBN: 0817440593). Both of these books are available through Barnes & Noble's Website or any major book seller.

There are many other great books on this subject.  Other authors to check out are Frans Lanting and George Lepp.

I want to transfer my photo collection (in future) and share with friends via internet. My question is whether I should buy a good 35mm SLR and a good quality scanner or should I buy a good Digital camera? Which one will be economical for the same quality (best quality) photograph? (excluding cost of camera).

What are the "Mega Pix" of a normal 35 mm print photograph as compare to Digital "Mega Pix" ? Thanks, 


The question as to go digital or to stay with silver technology film is getting harder to answer as digital continues to increase in quality. Currently the best way to look at this topic is to think about what your needs are going to be. If your primary need is the traditional photo album, silver might still be the best way to go. If you primarily want to email, post to web sites, or create digital photo albums, digital may be the better method.

The best of both worlds is to get a good quality scanner and scan your silver images. For the better scans with more detail, use a film scanner to scan the negatives or slides. A good print scanner can also be used, however you will not get the detail that is lost in the print that is in the negative. Scanning can be quite time consuming, especially if you have a lot of images that need to be scanned. As good as the scanners are getting, they still need to be adjusted for each film type and each image. It's not as straight forward as just putting the film in the scanner and getting a perfect scan.

Using a traditional film camera with a scanner gives you the highest degree of flexibility. You do not have to worry about the limitations of the resolution of your digital camera. If you scanned an image at a resolution too low to give you what you need, you can either rescan the negative or slide at a higher resolution or fall back to a traditional wet print.

Although prices of inkjet media and digital printing prices through photo labs are coming down, it is still cheaper to get archival prints from traditional film. If you only plan on printing a select few prints, than the savings may not be justified.

Resolution of traditional 35mm film has been reported to be rated about 30 to 35 million pixels. The newer mega pixel cameras coming out are 4 to 5+ million pixels. That's a large difference. It does not mean that digital cameras are of poor quality. Keep in mind that film is completely different creature with its own set of limitations such as grain and light sensitivity.

Be sure to see our June issue to see some images from Nikon's Coolpix 995 and an article from Moose Peterson on how switching to digital photography has changed his shooting and work flow.

I have a kodak 240 digital camera. I can't get action shots of my daughter`s basketball games,the lense is not fast enough. I was looking at kodak`s DC4800 it looks like I could take action shots without the blurring. I also was looking at the Nikon 880 they seem to be similar , I believe the Nikon will take 8 or 10 shots & I could pick the one wanted. your comments please..I cant go much above the $600.00 to $800.00 range at this time.. 
Thanks for your time, 
Larry S.

The Kodak DC4800 does have a relatively fast lens (f/2.8-4.5), aperture priority, and shutter speeds up to 1/1000 of a second, all of which can make shooting sports easier. The camera also has a burst capture rate between 2 to 5 frames per second. These features all make this a good choice for trying to capture sports.

The Nikon Coolpix 880 is another great camera with aperture priority and a burst rate of about 1.5 fps. Much slower than the Kodak for sports.

These two cameras both provide a fantastic still images but have a completely different feel when shooting. I recommend handling both before making your decision. The comfort of a camera is very important, even in digital cameras. Overall, the Kodak gives you the most bang for the buck for shooting sports.

Tips on good composition, framing & light in various situation day and night.
Gaur Sankar Bhanja

Composition is best improved by following some simple theories. First off practice the rule of thirds. Don't center your subject. If you divide your viewfinder into thirds, both vertically and horizontally, every place that two lines intersect is a good place to place your subject. Also avoid keeping your horizon centered. Keep it just above or below the center of your viewfinder.

As far as framing, watch for surrounding details that may add to your subject. If you are outdoors, tree branches work very well. Just make sure that the branches do not become dominate. Do not focus on them and do not allow them to "touch" your subject. Just about any surrounding object could add to your subject if properly placed in the scene.  Experiment to find what kinds of framing elements you like best.

Lighting can be very simple. Try to avoid shooting in the mid-day sun or similar harsh lighting. Try to keep the light at your back or at 45 degree angle to your subject. Do not shoot with the light behind your subject unless you are trying to create a silhouette.

While shooting, slow down and look at the details. Where is the sun? What is in my background? What is around me and my subject?

If you follow these tips and ask yourself these questions, it can help your composition and get better photographs.  Then once you've mastered these basics experiment with breaking the rules - which can sometimes yield a more dramatic image.


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1/(lens length) is the slowest safe shutter speed to handhold















Use a monopod or tripod to stabilize the camera




















Composition is something that a lot of people have difficulty with...


























Don't always keep your point of interest in the center of the frame




MS.C 392x72

text and photography copyright 2001 Vivid Light Publishing