Glorious details

JJWP781b Our eyes are oriented to take in the big picture. Our front-facing horizontal field of view including peripheral vision can cover as much as 270 degrees. That’s a whole panoramic world in one snap of our eyes. That wide image that we see however is made up of small glorious details which we sometimes miss. We must train ourselves to focus and see them. One thing I’ve learned in photography is that it is as much as taking in the particulars as it is capturing the complete image.


Butterflies are shapely and colorful creatures. However, like all other winged critters, they just don’t get to be still that long. But when they do, even for mere seconds, the photographer will snap away. Here are samples from my butterfly collection.









Color or B&W – the considerations are the same

I am always tempted to shoot in black and white in-cam. But based on my readings and advise of experts, it is better to shoot in color and convert to black and white later during post-processing. That way you don’t lose information that is fully captured in color – tones, shadows, highlights, dynamic range – which can all be useful and adjusted during conversion to black and white. So first and foremost, capture it good in color. I read somewhere that a good color photograph is a good black and white photograph.


The considerations are basically the same. What you look out for when photographing in color applies in black and white – lighting, lines, shapes, form, textures, patterns – and it would do well to be aware of these. Your composition will be guided by these elements. The above photo of a butterfly on thin vines was originally in color. And it was quite, well, colorful and vibrant. But I thought it would look good in black and white because of those dark and white patches, and the defined form of the creature against a light background. I have said before that not all color photos will work well in black and white. It’s your judgement call and you have the option to experiment. Which is also the wisdom in capturing in color; you can always revert back to the original color capture if the converted image to monochrome does not look interesting or appealing.

Happy weekend everyone! Saturdays and Sundays for me are reserved for this classic medium, allowing me the opportunity to further explore, discover and pursue the art of black and white photography. You can view these B&W images through the Monochrome Weekend category or the Monographs tab in the top menu of this page. Take care always blogger peers!

Be not afraid to blur


Article Excerpt:
You have been taught so strongly that blur is bad that it can be hard to accept this. However, there are times when you actually want the blur. Not only will it create a true sense of movement and action, but it will also create a very artistically appealing image. For example, think of the movement of car headlights along the highway. If you use a fast shutter speed, you will have an image of those cars. However, if you use a slower shutter speed and allow for blur, you can end up with an image full of visually appealing blur and light trails. Always keep in mind that when it comes to action digital photography, blur can be better at times. You may have to experiment with this from time to time, but it is definitely worth the work when you get that one fascinating image.

Digital photography has certainly made it so much easier to freeze action. However, it can be easy to go overboard and end up with a boring image. That means you need to use the right techniques in order to freeze the action without stopping the sense of motion.
~from the article Techniques of Freezing Action in Digital Photography

The lesson is…


I saw this grasshopper one morning perched on an aloe vera plant at the house. It was still and I immediately saw the reason for its non-activity. Missing were its most powerful anatomical parts – its hind legs. Hurriedly I took out the digital camera and took shots. Some thoughts ran into my mind – I was taking advantage of a poor, hapless creature. But then its immobility was a strong attraction. For crying out loud, now was not the time to have a conscience for a cricket! So I snapped on, took different angles, tried different perspectives and came out with a couple of dozen shots. Afterwards, I took hold of the creature by the wings and gently settled it on a bush across the fence. In its condition, I don’t know if it could even survive the day but I thought I had done my part by placing it in a most conducive environment. And the lesson is? Photographers may be relentless, inflexible and determined when it comes to taking a shot, yet they are only human; they also have a heart. Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead!

Photo Quotes 140


It’s the subject matter that counts. I’m interested in revealing the subject in a new way to intensify it. A photo is able to capture a moment that people can’t always see.~Harry Callahan



Never get into a staring contest with an animal especially if its a top predator. After this single shot I immediately backed off. I had a feeling the eagle was sizing me up for his next meal, or maybe he was just curious at the lens that was as sharp as his eyes.

Photo Quotes 118


The photographer selects rather than conceives a picture by choosing what will be inside and outside the four edges of the frame in his camera’s viewfinder. Those edges take things out of context and define the content of the subject.~John Szarkowski

Photo Quotes 107


From an artistic viewpoint; color depicts reality. Black and white is an interpretation of reality.~Andrew Gibson

The element of luck

When you’re on a small motor boat cruising along the coastline, you don’t have much room to maneuver. You can not go around and find a vantage point. You have no choice of perspective. The only viewpoint you have is that of a passenger whiling away his time on a three-hour trip by pointing his camera here and there, and just casually snapping the scenery. You try to summon as much of your technical and creative skills in a cramp, immobile situation. Then you wish for luck.


As fate would have it, luck descended on some of my shots (like the one above) given the situation I was in. Though we have no control over it, luck or what photographers fondly call serendipity, is the third element in the triumvirate of arsenals. The other two I have mentioned in the first paragraph are creativity and technical skills. Serendipity is when you are out there in the field after a day of shoot, all packing up and satisfied with the shots you’ve taken, when suddenly a giant bird perched on a nearby tree, or a ray of light fell on the foliage, or a line of tree cast a calm reflection on the riverbank. Serendipity happens as a form of answered prayer, like when I solemnly requested that I get even just one good picture while I was on that small motor boat. I got half a dozen. Serendipity, though you don’t know when it will come, is aided when you are prepared, armed with the skills of how to capture, and ready with your knowledge of what and when to shoot. Serendipity will answer the why.

Close up and macro 101

JJWP411Like the differences we’ve tackled in earlier posts such as between framing and composition, and between form and shape, we head now to another one – close up and macro photography. You use macro lens to photograph a micro subject to make it look big. Favorite subjects in this area are insects and flowers. Macro and micro photography are basically the same, but when you speak of macro you’re also referring to these dedicated lenses to do the job for macro/micro photography. Genuine macro lenses are specialized equipment that gives you the power of 1:1 magnification (I refer you to this DPReview article to understand magnification ratios). Canon calls its line of macro lenses “macro” while Nikon refers to its own line as “micro.” It goes without saying that as true macro lenses, these are expensive items. Why did I say “true”? Because most cameras now from DSLR to P&S have that feature represented with the icon of a flower – the macro mode. Essentially the camera picks all the settings – aperture, shutter speed, focal length, depth of field, ISO, etc. – to come up with the optimal magnification that its sensor and general-purpose lens would allow. Now some of these top-of-the-line point and shoot cams can produce macro images that can approximate those taken by true macro lenses, allowing amateurs and hobbyists to enjoy macro photography which, a few years back, was the JJWP294exclusive domain of professionals. On the other hand, for close up photography you can use any lens. Your purpose here is to have your subject, or part of your subject, fill the frame. Macro photography will fall under the wider scope of close up photography, but not the other way around. So how do you know if an image is macro or close up? The power of magnification by true macro lens will give you fine, extreme details. You’ve probably seen images of eyes and hairs of tiny insects magnified to astounding proportions. Close ups will also produce details but not to extremes such as the Koi fishes above, and the fly below. The normal human eye, unaided, cannot see the tiniest details. Close up and macro photography provides us the means to see the world in a new dimension and perspective.

The predatory photographer

JJBW88Article Excerpt: “In her book On Photography, Susan Sontag describes photography as a tool of power. In a predatory way, photographers scan their territory, stop, shoot, move on, and later display their collection of trophies for others to see. They appropriate, tame and master the situation by visually capturing and preserving it. They isolate a moment of time out of its connectedness to other moments, separate it from its environment and a larger reality, freeze it in taxidermy fashion, impose their own interpretation and viewpoint on it. By fixating that moment, they keep things the way they are and attempt to prevent the inevitability of change. They offer proof that they were there, that this thing happened, that this thing existed. At the very least, by recording and interpreting an event, they put themselves in a relationship to the world that feels like knowledge, and, therefore, power.”~John Suler on The Good Capture from his articles Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche

Avoid soft foregrounds


Article Excerpt: “When foreground elements are soft, they become visually annoying. In nature, we want to see and appreciate all of the beautiful detail and texture in the subject. When the part of the composition that is closest to the camera, and therefore very prominent, is out of focus, our eye keeps going there in the hope of seeing sharp detail. However, it can’t bring that part of the image into focus. The blurred portion of the image keeps tugging at our attention instead of allowing us to enjoy the rest of the frame. It is best in these circumstances to use more depth of field. Soft backgrounds are ideal in many cases, but soft foregrounds should usually be avoided. If you want to include out-of-focus foreground elements, they need to be so out of focus that they are no longer recognizable. Make them just a blur of color.”~Jim Zuckerman from his article Composition: Foregrounds

Enhance reality with sharpness


Article Excerpt: “In a precisely sharpened image, we notice and appreciate the details of a scene. We may marvel at how closely it depicts reality. Often this is what a precisely sharpened image is all about: how close to reality is it, at least how reality appears to people with 20/20 vision. And if we turn up the sharpness just a bit more than that, the viewer might be captivated by an image that seems to enhance reality beyond the range of normal vision. It’s the eye of an eagle. It’s Superman vision…image sharpness involves two different factors: the resolution of the image, which determines how much detail it captures, and “acutance,” which is how well defined the edges are. A high resolution image may not necessarily have high acutance, while an image with high acutance may not necessarily have high resolution.”~John Suler from his article On Being Sharp

Photo Quotes 98


If your photos aren’t sharp then the rest doesn’t matter.~Scott Kelby

Detailed and defined

JJWP394How do you get images to be detailed and defined, exposing its subtleties and nuances? Easy. Capture them sharp. Yet this is easier said than done. Our favorite online photography instructor Darren Rowse cites four factors that keep pictures from being sharp: poor focus, subject movement, camera shake and noise. One time or another we have encountered these aforementioned. I for one, after a day of photo shoot, will have half or a third of my total shots not worth keeping, so straight to the digital trash bin they go. In his article How to Take Sharp Digital Images, Darren shares ten tips to keep pictures clear and sharp. They include holding your camera steady, using a tripod, adjusting shutter speed and aperture, tweaking the ISO, utilising image stabilization (Sony has IS built right into their DSLR while Nikon and Canon have it in their lenses), proper focusing, using good lenses, having our eyes checked (I’m gonna have to visit my optometrist as I think I need to upgrade my eyeglasses) and cleaning the equipment (lens and camera sensors). Head over to the article and read Darren’s brief explanations on each of the ten items. They are simply practical and easy to do. Once I took a shot of a clear blue sky then saw later on a larger monitor that there were specks. It was simply a matter of wiping clean the UV filter in front of the lens, a most basic thing we oftentimes fail to do. The above picture of a Belgian Malinois was cropped. I wanted to emphasis the dog’s facial details – the eye, teeth, wet whiskers and brown fur. I also had the image sharpened with a photo editing program which, by the way, is another tool you can use. But remember, no amount of processing can sharpen a picture that is out of focus. A picture must first be sharp enough before being subjected to further processing. Unless you want them abstract or deliberately unfocused (even selective focus shots require the subject or part of it sharp), strive to keep your images clean, crisp and lucid. It is hard enough to convey our message or story with a single picture, don’t make it harder for the audience to grasp what you are trying to say through a fuzzy, obscure image.

Photo Quotes 95


Contrast is what makes photography interesting.~Conrad Hall

Selective focus – the photographer’s “voice”


Article Excerpt: “Selective focus can play several roles in an image. First, it can direct the viewer to the subject, or show the depth of the subject in better detail. It plays an editorial role: in-focus objects could be said to have primacy over blurry parts of the image. Sometimes a very narrow depth of field can create a sense of intimacy, exclusion, and solitude. Selective focus expresses the authorial voice of the photographer, since it is a deliberate choice. (In contrast, a scene with everything in focus often has the effect of removing the appearance of the photographer’s “voice” in the image.)…having a narrow depth of field is very “photographic” and abstract — it is an effect that humans do not experience in the real world, since our eyes are so quick to focus on other objects. Sometimes removing detail information can direct the viewer’s attention to other relationships inside the image, such as lighting, texture or shape.”~J.Gilbert from his article The Power of Selective Focus 

Put focus and clarity on what matters


Article Excerpt: “…to focus on something is to pay attention to it, presumably because it matters. From a technical viewpoint, issues of focus have a great deal of impact on the success or failure of an image. Looking at things a little more broadly, you need to know (consciously or unconsciously) what is important to you about a photographic subject, or your composition will fight your content rather than work with it….You must truly care about what you photograph to muster the energy, persistence, and creative juices that are needed to see a photographic task to the end. Don’t believe those who think of photography as something than can always be done casually. It is often (but not always) the case that the more effort you put into your photographic work, the more you will get back.”~Harold Davis, Focusing on What Matters from his article series Becoming a More Creative Photographer

Notice, observe, be a voyeur

Article Excerpt: “Good photographers have hungry eyes. They are constantly looking, evaluating, internally composing—and yes, even being busy bodies and prying. The photographer is part voyeur, and the voyeur is obsessive about observing the details of their obsession…This makes photographs that show things that are often overlooked a common source of photographic inspiration. Photographers are just naturally good at this kind of thing…There are two parts to creating an image of something overlooked. You have to notice it, and then package it. The packaging is probably harder than the initial observation.”~Harold Davis from his article Making the Unseen Visible


Photo Quotes 82


Anyone can pick up a fancy camera and call themself a photographer but those who can take the cheapest gadget and the most menial subject and make something beautiful from it… are the true photographer.~Abigail Marie (Taken with an eight-year old Canon S2-IS point and shoot. And it doesn’t even have a macro mode!)

Photo Quotes 79


But inspiration comes from the soul and when the Muse isn’t around even the best exposure meter is very little help. In their biographies, artists like Michelangelo, da Vinci and Bach said that their most valuable technique was their ability to inspire themselves. This is true of all artists; the moment there is something to say, there becomes a way to say it.~Ralph Gibson

Photo Quotes 75


Everything is a subject.~Andre Kertesz

Close up

JJWP294In my post last October 26, 2012 (my my, and that was last year!) titled Macroing With A Point And Shoot, I shared an article on how it is to do macro shots without expensive equipment, basically just a point and shoot cam. In this first post on the second day of 2013 (Happy New Year – again – everyone!) we’ll go a little deeper. I said before I don’t do much macroing because I don’t have the special equipment and, much as I hate to admit it, I lack the patience to stand still and square off in a staring contest with bugs who have more eyes than I can count. But anyway, in that first macro post we’ve proven that we do not really need to have a plethora of magnification gears and lenses just to take great macro shots, and that even a P&S will do. In this new article I will share, it doesn’t matter if we have a DSLR or a point and shoot because what we’ll touch upon are the basic considerations when doing this type of photography. Photography instructor David Petersen (who is also the founder of in his article Close Up! Macro Photography and the Pitfalls to Watch Out For, lists the following essentials: composition, focus, aperture, tripod, self-timers and shutter release cables. Macro photography transports you to the Liliputian world, much like an alien space and dimension. An environment where bugs become giants, where tiny critters become titans, where minute droplets become humongous water domes, and where every little detail counts. The change in perspective is actually mind-boggling. We are not trained to see things in a miniscule scale. Yet always with practice, patience and persistence, we can dive right in and explore and discover. The results are worth it, and the experience is totally exciting. If you think you are into it, then you may have to invest in specialized equipment. However, before doing so get a grasp and understanding of how it is. The article by Petersen will provide you a grip and point you in the path of macro photography, if such is the direction for you.