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Filters – Why do we use them?

Live as if you were to die tomorrow.
Learn as if you were to live forever.
– Mohandas K. Gandhi

Filter is a must! Some might argue with me that filters diminishes the quality of your photo and I agree to some degree. However, it is only noticeable when you are more than 100% zoomed in! It is not really noticeable unless you are shooting directly at the sun or a light source that is huge enough to create glare. Other than that, you can’t really tell the difference.

I use a UV filter to provide extra protection to the front of my lens (water, dust, scratches, etc). Filters are cheaper to replace than lenses! I’d rather spend $50 on a filter than replace my entire lens for $1,000.

These pictures were taken at Salton Sea using a circular polarizer:



To show and demonstrate different types of filters and how they work, please watch the video provided below:

 

I hope you learned something.

Time Lapse!

“I always wonder why birds choose to stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth………
……. Then I ask myself the same question.”


It has been a while since I’ve updated my blog. I have been really busy with everything else in my life that took away a little bit of time left for photography. But it doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped taking pictures! I actually still have quite a lot of pics in my RAW folder that I need to edit. *sigh*

My last post was 5 months ago and since then I have traveled to different parts of Canada, Philippines, Malaysia and of course, the good ol’ California. Enough of my introduction, let’s get to the reason why I am creating this post, it’s about time lapse! You all have probably seen these pictures that looked like fast forwarded videos. Well, they are actually composed of hundreds/thousands of pictures played at a faster rate. I really wished I had this in mind when I traveled to different places last year and this year. But it’s not too late, I will probably do it in the future.

How to get started on Time Lapse. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • DSLR Camera – to help you capture high quality images
  • Timer remote or an intervalometer - it basically tells your camera when to take pictures so you don’t have to stand and take it manually
  • Tripod – to create clear pictures, you’ll need a very good tripod. Invest on a good tripod if you don’t have one. You can have the best camera but if you have a poor quality tripod, your pictures are going to be blurry!
  • Video editing software – I use Adobe Premiere, this software will allow you to combine your pictures and play it at a faster rate (24 fps +)
  • TIME – you need time! Without time, you cannot create a time lapse!
  • Patience – You need to be patient! Patience is virtue! lol

If you need a more detailed tutorial, click the link below:

Introduction to Time Lapse

Check out some of my new uploads on my website: www.jmephotographie.com

 

Have fun!

Camera 101 – What is Aperture???

I talked about Aperture a few posts ago but I didn’t really talk about it in details. Some of you found that using A mode or Av mode to be useful and takes better pictures than Auto but you didn’t really understood why. Well, first let me give you the Princeton definition of Aperture: a device that controls amount of light admitted; a natural opening in something; an man-made opening; usually small
In short, it’s that round thing that you see inside your lens. If you look close enough, your camera actually moves it to make it smaller or bigger. The larger the aperture, the more light it takes in. The smaller the aperture, the less light it takes in. Now, look at the pictures below, one was taken at f/5.6 and the other at f/1.4. The smaller the number, the bigger the aperture gets and the bigger the number, the smaller the aperture gets….. what???? Yes, this can get confusing sometimes. You might hear someone say “wide aperture” and that means “big” aperture or the largest aperture your lens allow. For example, if you have a 18-55 f/3.5-5.6, the largest aperture that your lens will allow is f/3.5 at 18mm. Since the lens has 2 numbers, this means that your lens is not a “fixed” aperture lens. Your aperture changes depending on your focal length. Now, examine the pictures below and tell me what you see:

Taken at f/5.6
Above: Taken at aperture 5.6 or f/5.6
taken at f/1.4

Above: Taken at aperture 1.4 or f/1.4
Now that you’ve looked at the pics, you will notice that one is clearer than the other. The first picture was taken at f/5.6 and this aperture will pretty much get everything in focus, it’s still a little bit out of focus but the background is still a little bit distracting. The second picture was taken at f/1.4, at widest aperture my lens allows (50mm). The subject in the middle is completely in focus and the rest are out of focus (my focus point was in the middle). You can actually change your focus without moving your camera. If you look in your view finder, you will find several boxes (depending on camera model), some will have 3, 11, 39, 51, etc. focus points. You can move your focus points by using the arrows behind the camera. If you can’t move the focus in the view finder, you might be in “Area” mode and not in “single/dynamic” mode (refer to your camera manual).

Here’s a video that pretty much shows you how aperture works.


Downtown LA Walk

Downtown L.A.Light streak

So last week, my friend Jesse wanted to go out and take pics to try his newly purchased DSLR. I decided to take him to one of my favorite spots to take pictures of the L.A. Skyscrapers. Unfortunately, the Water and Power District Building is currently under renovation (Inception was also filmed at this location, some might not recognize it since it has been altered by CGI.). So we ended up across the street to take pics of the water fountain using long exposure but we were only able to take a few pics since I was using a tripod and the security guards came to inform us that we cannot use tripods. We ended up walking around the block to the Disney Concert Hall and ended the night.
Disney Concert Hall

Neckstrap? RS-Strap? B-Grip? That is the Question…


If you constantly take pictures, you probably don’t like how the factory strap feel. First, they’re uncomfortable on the neck especially if you have a heavy lens/camera. Second, they’re too short to be worn as a shoulder strap. So what do you do? Well, there are many companies that have developed different types of straps to fit your needs. I use the RS-5 strap system with fastener 3 by BlackRapid. This strap makes a big difference especially when you’re traveling. BlackRapid offers a lot more products but RS-5 works best for me. It costs around $65. See below:

Another option is the B-Grip camera holder by Adorama ($74). I have never tried this product but it looks nice and comfortable. This is useful when you’re hiking, rock climbing or any type of outdoor activities as it prevents the camera from slamming into your body. See below:

I hope these videos helped you decide on which product to buy. Trust me, it makes a huge difference!

E-Session – Danny & Veronica

There were a lot of photo sessions happening in Pasadena yesterday, I wasn’t surprised since it was a nice gloomy Saturday. We spent a couple of hours walking around and I’m glad we did as we were able to get some good shots out of it. I just hope you guys didn’t get tired of smiling at each other from the session yesterday :) Congrats again!





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San Diego County Fair

We saw the Ferry’s Wheel and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Luckily, I didn’t get harassed because I had a tripod with me. Some of these shots were taken using a Nikon 12-24 F4 lens with a shutter speed from 1/10th to 4 seconds.

Slow Motion

Slow Motion

Slow Motion

Slow Motion

Slow Motion

Salton Sea

Salton Sea

This place is beautiful weird. You’ll know exactly what I mean when you visit! From Wikipedia: ”

The Salton Sea is a saline, endorheic rift lake located directly on the San Andreas Fault predominantly in California’s Imperial Valley. The lake occupies the lowest elevations of the Salton Sink in the Colorado Desert of Imperial and Riverside Counties in Southern California. Like Death Valley, it is below sea level; currently, its surface is 226 ft (69 m) below sea level. The deepest area of the sea is 5 ft (1.5 m) higher than the lowest point of Death Valley. The sea is fed by the New, Whitewater, and Alamo rivers, as well as agricultural runoff drainage systems and creeks.

The lake covers about 376 sq mi (970 km2), 241,000+/- acres, making it the largest in California. While it varies in dimensions and area with changes in agricultural runoff and rain, it averages 15 mi (24 km) by 35 mi (56 km), with a maximum depth of 52 ft (16 m), giving a total volume of about 7,500,000 acre·ft (9.25 km3), and annual inflows averaging 1,360,000 acre·ft (1.68 km3). The lake’s salinity, about 44 g/L, is greater than the waters of the Pacific Ocean (35 g/L), but less than that of the Great Salt Lake; the concentration is increasing by about 1 percent annually.

Anyway, the sunset here is spectacular! I’ve never seen anything like it before and the sea meets the water and it constantly changes colors from purple to pink to red to blue to orange, you name it! If you’re ever in that area, stop by and you will see what I mean. It’s a photographer’s heaven!

Camera 101 – Settings (P,S,A,M)

 

camera stuff

So you’ve purchased your first DSLR and you start taking pictures but your pictures are still coming out like it was taken using a compact camera. Now, you start to wonder why you wasted your money at a more expensive camera and get the same results. Hmm… Then you start playing around with the settings and you might find that you like a particular settings, maybe that one setting with a picture of a person with the star, yeah, that’s the one! The night shot mode! But you didn’t buy a DSLR to just use one settings, you wanna use it in full manual mode but you are not getting the picture you want.

Okay, let’s break this down to a level where everyone can understand and I’ll have a few scenarios. First, let’s forget about those settings with pictures and STOP USING AUTO!!! You know, the Green Box! Let’s just focus on the following modes:

  • Program
  • Shutter
  • Aperture
  • Manual

Program Mode is just like auto but you have control of the flash. The camera will automatically adjust the exposure, shutter speed and aperture to get that properly exposed picture. Some cameras will automatically adjust the ISO but you have to set it first (read the manual). I use this all the time when I’m just walking around and not looking for a particular look.

Shutter Priority Mode lets you control the shutter speed and the camera adjusts everything else. So let’s say you’re shooting a concert and you want a sharp picture and you know that you cannot shoot the photo at less than 1/320th of a second. So you set the shutter speed to 1/320th of a second and the camera will do the rest to give you that shot. Of course you have to increase your ISO for that.

Aperture Priority Mode let’s you control the aperture. The aperture is round thing inside your lens, the bigger the aperture the more light it allows and the smaller the aperture the less light it allows. So if you want to shoot a concert or a subject at a very low lighting condition, you have to shoot at biggest aperture to allow as much light. This also controls the focus of your subject. I am sure most of you who got a DSLR want that out of focus look when you’re shooting a subject to totally separate the background from the subject. I know I got my DSLR for that! Well, it really depends on what you shoot. Another example is if you want to shoot landscape then you have to shoot at a smaller aperture to get everything in focus. Just play around with the settings and you’ll eventually get it and figure out what it’s used for.

Manual Mode – this is where the camera gives you total control. It is so easy to mess up in this mode but this mode will also give you shots you’re looking for. You control the Shutter, Aperture, Exposure, ISO and everything else! I only use manual when I have my camera on a tripod or I want a specific look. But let’s just be honest, we’re not gonna get the exact look we’re looking for with just the camera.

Photography is expensive and you always have that need to acquire new equipment that you think you might think you need! I have gone through several lenses before I stuck with my current ones. So before you go out and buy those things, ask yourself, what would Jesus do?lol. Actually, no, don’t ask that, just ask yourself, “what am I shooting and do I really need this?” This will save you money!

So with all the things I just said in mind, go out and shoot! Play around with the settings and you’ll find something that you really like. The beauty of it is that it’s digital, it doesn’t cost you much to take pics unlike film. Yeah your shutter count increases but the life of your shutter is probably at 150k+ clicks.

Have fun! Again, if you have any questions, feel free to just comment below or email me.

EDIT: I found a very useful video on camera basics. Understanding your camera.

 

Photoshop – Before/After


Some have asked if the picture above was photoshopped or if it was taken in front of a mural of Optimus Prime in Arizona (I don’t think that exists). So to answer the question, this was actually photoshopped and it’s composed of 3 photos: Optimus Prime (left), Robot Hand (bottom right) and a Plane (upper right). I also added the lens flare coming from behind the plane (i believe it was 105mm Prime Lens flare).

Here’s the picture before the edits:

Before