Shallow or Deep.

One of the most important thing that turn an ok photograph in to an amazing image is depth of field. In simple terms, how deep is our field. If we are looking at a field, ask yourself the question how much of the field do you want to be in focus? Just the front part, the middle part or all of it?

In the image below we demonstrate using an model aircraft. Look carefully at the various different apertures and you'll see what appears to be in focus and out of focus. This is all controlled by the aperture setting but there are other factors to consider too. The three main factors are :

Distance to subject - You'll get a shallower (more out of focus background) the closer your camera is to the subject.

Focal length : The higher the focal length of your lens the shallower the depth of field. Whilst it is very hard to get a shallow depth of field using a very wide angle lend it's very easy to get one with a longer focal length lens. 

Aperture : The lower the F-Stop the larger the opening in the lens is. A large aperture (such as F2.8) gives a shallow depth of field. 



Lastly, which very few people mention, your camera sensor size comes in to play. Mobile phones have a tiny sensor and the only way you'll get a shallow depth of field with one of these is to get so so close to the subject. Using the example below you'll see the keyboard has a very shallow depth of field but the mobile phone camera lens was around 5 cm from the keyboard. The second example shows around 15cm from the keyboard and everything is in focus ( a long depth of field).

So to summarise. If you would like to get a nice blurry background ; Don't use a mobile phone unless you are photographing something within 5 cm... Use a digital SLR preferably. Second, practice between stepping away and using a long lens and getting in closer and using a midd range lens. The lens that works best is an 85mm on a full frame camera as it's wide enough to get close to your subject but high enough focal length to get your blurry background. Now set the aperture wide open (low Fstop number) and adjust your shutter speed accordingly.



Photographing The Eclipse

So on Friday morning (20th March 2015) at around 8:30am we are due a partial eclipse. Depending on where you are located in the UK will depend what percentage the eclipse will be but somewhere between 83% and 94% is predicted for the country. The further south you are, the less the percentage will be. It will be a total eclipse of the Sun and Moon in Norway so much of Scotland will be over 90%.

So I've been asked over the last few weeks how to go about photographing such a rare event. the last one was in 1999 and from memory, everyone got very excited about it and spent a long time talking about it and then it was the cloudiest day ever with heavy rain so the event was pardon the pun, a wash out! SO here is hoping for some better luck this time.

In order to photograph the sun successfully you'll need a Solar Filter. You can buy them from Amazon and prices start at around £15. However, if you'd like to try and photograph it but you don't have time to get one, I've been looking at a couple of DIY options. I must say at this point, try these at your own risk. There is no reason that I can see why they won't work and they should't wreck your sensor but there is always a chance. The first option that seems to be the most popular is to just buy an emergency foil blanket. You can buy them from Outdoors shops, DIY stores or Halfords for just a few pounds. Simply wrap it twice over the front of your lens and put an elastic band around it and you are good to go. Another method that some people have tried is using a A blank cd has also been used but they're not as effective as the emergency foil blankets. If you look through them and hold them up to a bulb you'll see through them just about. I've seen examples where people use an empty round small ice cream container covered in gaffer tape but these are a little overkill I think.


So now you have figured out what you need, you need to remember a few basics before you try this. First off DO NOT EVER look through your viewfinder at the sun. It may well blind you! If your camera has live view then just use this. 

1. If you are aiming to shoot just the eclipse as your subject then use a telephoto / Zoom Lens. At least 200mm which will be around 300mm on a cropped camera. 

2. Look through your viewfinder at a stationery subject in the distance at least 50 + metres away.

3. Set your camera to manual focus on the lens and the camera body or in the settings. 

4. Turn your lens focussing barrel all the way around either clockwise or anti clockwise until the subject in the distance is in focus. Infinity focus is usually just back a little bit.

5. Now your focus is ready, make sure your camera is set to fully manual. 

6. Adjust your aperture to the smallest aperture. That is the largest F number (around F22) This makes sure that the smallest amount of light possible hits the sensor. 

7. Turn the ISO down all the way. You'll have either 100 or 50 ISO as your minimum. Again, this in effect makes less light fall on the sensor.

8. Now adjust your speed accordingly. Try starting out with a 1/4000th exposure. 

9. Now either attach your solar filter and then wrap the emergency foil twice around your lens and secure it with tape or an elastic band. make sure you don't knock your focus ring. 

10. Aim your camera on a tripod towards the sun and line it up with live view. It is a fairly good idea to lock your mirror up too if you know how to do it. It will be in the menu settings. 

11. Now place a little black tape or masking tape over your viewfinder just so you don't look in to it. 

12. Switch live view on and you are now good to go. Experiment with exposures. Ignore pretty much what your live view shows apart from the framing. Check the images afterwards and use your histogram where applicable to check that large portions are not thrown out. 

First location to see partial eclipse begin Mar 20 at 7:41 AM  
First location to see full Eclipse begin Mar 20 at 9:09 AM  
Maximum Eclipse Mar 20 at 9:45 AM  
Last location to see full Eclipse end Mar 20 at 10:22 AM  
Last location to see partial Eclipse end Mar 20 at 11:50 AM  

The latest information I have is that the eclipse should start in the middle of England around 8am and end around 9:30am. 

Should you get the bug for this and you would like to learn the art of shooting Star Trails and making time lapse videos then our on line 'Shooting Stars' video workshop make s great starting point.



Keeping your kit safe while travelling

 We all liking taking photographs whilst we are on our travels so here are a few tips that I've learned along the way. 

Firstly, don't over pack your gear. Take too much with you and you'll find to to heavy to carry around. Consider whether you want to take your digital SLR or a more compact camera first.

Try not to look too much like a photographer Keeping a low profile while traveling and not looking like you have loads of expensive gear on you is rule number one. The obvious reason is for security but another reason is because you don't want to intimidate people. 

If you are taking a lot of kit with you away then leave some of it at base and only take what you need. I generally just take my camera in a small rucksack that looks more like you are going to the gym or the beech. 

Note the serial numbers of your kit down in case any of it goes missing whilst you are aware. Don't store this in your camera bag!

Take some silica gel with you if you are going to humid places. Cameras don't like moisture. 

If you are shooting in high humidity then wrap your camera up well. Don't take it from an air conditioned room straight outside. It will last seconds before the lens steams up. Wrap it in clothes or a dry towel inside and then gradually bring it un to heat.