Saturday, June 29, 2013

Letchworth Photo Workshop

On a very warm but beautiful day, Saturday June 22, 2013, 4 adult students braved the heat and humidity for an opportunity to hone their photographic skills while traveling through various sections of Upstate NY's gorgeous (no pun intended) Letchworth State Park.
We chose to meet at 9 AM just inside the Mt. Morris park entrance at the Mt. Morris Dam Overlook. It is there that I offered a brief introduction, along with an information packet, as to our goals for that day. It was to be a fairly intense four hour (9 AM - 1 PM) photo session for these 4 brave souls. Topics to be included were (but not limited to) depth of field, outdoor fill flash, panoramas & a brief discussion on hdr (high dynamic range).
After the introduction, off we went - first stop - Wolf Creek. This is a beautifully serene setting with plenty of shade, vegetation and a graceful, flowing creek of water cascading downhill over a random series of rocks, branches, etc. It then quickly sneaks under a small, man-made bridge, eventually flowing over a steep drop off as it plummets down into the base of the gorge.
It was here that I instructed the group to indulge themselves in an exaggerated, landscape depth of field experience. To do this, the students were asked to get down low to the creek bed and, with use of a wide angle lens setting  (ex: 24mm), while focusing just a short way out into the scene, compose and take the shot.
Utilizing this technique can really exaggerate your feeling for depth in the scene in which you are in.
Camera settings often include at least an aperture of f16. Why not f22 (for you veteran photographers)? The reason is that a typical dslr camera has a "cropped sensor" (it is smaller than a 35mm negative) for photo capture. Using a very tiny aperture hole can cause "diffraction" which in turn leads to a slight softening of the photo captured. In fact in most typical landscape scenarios the average, cropped sensored dslr owner should consider not setting their aperture for any smaller than f11 (unless the photographer needs the smallest aperture possible for dimming incoming light while trying to capture a blurred water (slow shutter) photo. Typical cameras falling into this category would include the Canon t3 / t3i / t4i / t5i / 60d / 7d .. the Nikon d3100 / 5100 / 7100 etc. Full Frame owners (Canon 5d thru 6d series & Nikon 600 thru 800 series) can consider a smaller aperture such as f16 for their typical landscape photos. Full frame sensors (the size of 35mm film) suffer from less diffraction at the smaller aperture hole size settings.

Our other task while at Wolf Creek was to engage in a typical outdoor fill flash scenario. People are often surprised about using outdoor flash. Actually it is very often needed for outdoor portraits. Typically it is best to pose the person in bright shade or with their back/side to the sun. You then "fill in" the front of the body with an appropriate amount of flash. That said, the students were instructed on the typical gear used for such an endeavor along with proper procedure.

For the amateur photographer wanting to keep it cheap & simple, you can leave your flash on top of the camera, set it for Av (Canon) .. A mode (Nikon) .. select an appropriate aperture & iso .. let the camera select the appropriate shutter speed .. then take the shot.

In keeping it simple, you can keep your  flash in "TTL" mode although this is not always the best way to use flash. However this article will not attempt to explain other, more involved alternatives.

The concept of fill flash photography was also pursued at Letchworth's "Middle Falls" across from the Glen Iris Inn restaurant. The lighting was much more contrasting (very bright background) & offered the students a much greater flash challenge. It was here that students learned to set their camera first for the background lighting (using the camera's on board metering system), keeping the exposure just a bit underexposed. We then did test shots for proper flash fill on the model's face. I also demonstrated the use of a handheld meter (Sekonic) to help ascertain the correct flash exposure for the particular scene (for those who might tire from frequent testing).

We wrapped up our day with a few brief stops .. one at Archer's Overlook for a chance to do some panoramic photography ... the other at Upper Falls for a brief discussion on HDR photography. I will endeavor to talk more about these at some point in the future, perhaps via another future workshop.

Hope you enjoyed the brief story of my wonderful day with four great fellow photographers. Please feel free to stop by my website for a collection of more diverse landscape photos.We are located at:  I truly hope you enjoy the website.You will also find us on Facebook ... There you will find links to other interesting blog articles we have published, amongst other things.

Thanks for stopping in ... Ron

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