Nikon’s D750 – Still a Best Selling Full-Frame dSLR
Born in late 2014, Nikon’s D750 hasn’t lost it’s momentum as one of Nikon’s best sellers. Among the full-frame cameras offered for less than $2000 USD, the d750 has a long list of high-end features which is especially hard to beat in its price class.
We normally see Nikon and Canon holding back many of the more premium features for their pro-class cameras like the D810 or EOS 5D III. In the case of the D750 Nikon took a different approach and went “all-in” with an impressive list of technical specs. A few of the most important highlights include:
- 24 megapixel full-frame sensor and the same ExSpeed 4 processor (same processor used in the Nikon D810 and D4s).
- Pro-level autofocus system, also taken from the D810/D4s.
- 15 cross-type autofocus points and the ability to focus at EV -3.0 (allowing it to focus in very dark environments).
- 6.5 frames-per-second drive speed for shooting fast bursts.
The top and rear covers of the D750 are made from magnesium alloy, which some believe to be a disadvantage in terms of durability. However, there are many who appreciate the weight savings and smaller dimensions when compared to it’s bigger brother, the D810.
We’ve seen this camera in the hands of many advanced and intermediate students at Viewfinder. We’ve seen it perform great while shooting northern lights in Norway, on safari in Africa, and in various sports, event and portrait situations in our Advanced Study program last year. It seems to strike a perfect balance for photographers seeking well-rounded performance in a variety of photography situations. Even among more recently released cameras from Nikon, Canon and Sony, the D750 still belongs at the front of the pack in our opinion.
If you’re lucky enough to own a D750 already, Viewfinder is offering a D750 course on the 9th of April and on the 3rd of September in Zurich.
Breaking Up with Automatic Mode (Part 1: Aperture)
Have you been wanting to break up with “automatic mode” and switch your new dSLR to manual? Not quite sure where to start? I have just started my job at Viewfinder and I am excited to improve my photography skills along the way. I have been wanting to break up with automatic mode for a while. Matt has taught me a few fundamentals that might be useful for you too. So I put together a quick assignment to get you started with controlling aperture and shutter speed, the two main settings which put creative control in your hands.
In this first part we are going to look at aperture. Have your camera manual ready if you are not quite sure how to find the different settings on your camera.
Step 1: Go outside and find a subject with depth, for example a scene with objects that are both near and far (for judging sharpness).
Step 2: Use a 50mm lens or use a piece of tape to fix your zoom lens at 50mm
Step 3: Switch to A/Av mode on your camera
Step 4: Set your Aperture to f/5.0 and take a photo of the subject (see example 1 below)
Step 5: Switch the aperture to f/11.o and take another photo of the same subject (example 2 below)
Step 6: Compare those two photos that you have just taken. What do you notice?
Here’s an example of how it should look:
The aperture is responsible for the depth of sharpness in your photo. If your shooting a regular portrait you will want to have the aperture wide open, but in case you are taking that typical tourist photo with a person in the front and a landscape in the back, you will want to have your aperture smaller. The aperture is measured with the focal length. You will find it marked with a small f on your camera. The focal length usually reaches somewhere between 2.8-22 f, with 2.8 standing for a wide open aperture. This may seem confusing at first, but just think of it as being the opposite of what you may have guessed first.
Here’s an Illustration to help you remember:
I hope you enjoyed this first part of our series. If you want to get notified when we publish part two, you can sign up for our Newsletter at the bottom of this page.
Norway Photography Trip Report
Viewfinder’s first Winter Photography Adventure in Norway was a huge success and it’s hard to believe that we’re already back. The weather was unseasonably warm and our group had great luck photographing northern lights, migrating whales and Sami reindeer herders. Besides a longer trip, we couldn’t have asked for more!
After arriving in Tromso our group assembled for a workshop orientation and some specific photography tips for photographing northern lights. After a group dinner at the hotel we got our warm layers on, grabbed our tripods and hit the streets of Tromso to get familiar with the aurora shooting process. Our very first night turned into a great show – right in front of our hotel. One of my favourite shots from the whole trip is the picture below, taken by workshop participant Helen Kim. What a great image of Tromso!
When the sun finally showed up the next day (at around 10:00) we were in the van and headed out for a visit to a local Sami reindeer herder’s farm. Johan Isaak and his colleagues explained the history of the Sami people’s relationship with their reindeer livestock. It’s amazing how well-adapted these animals are to their environment. The Sami people have ingenious ways of creating clothing and tools from the reindeer leftovers which they happily showed off to us. After some tasty reindeer stew in the lavvu (large conical tent) we watched Johan Isaak throwing a lasso to round up his livestock. He made a great action subject!
While Johan Isaak was explaining some of the challenges of the Norwegian winter brings, Steve captured a great portrait shot of him. He’s Norway’s version of a frontier cowboy.
On the second night of our workshop, we were joined by two aurora guides (Aurore & David) who live in Tromso. Yes, that’s right, our aurora borealis guide is named “Aurore,” so we knew that luck was on our side. We drove about one hour outside of Tromso were we had better chances of finding a clear sky for northern lights photos. The aurora wasn’t terribly active, but we did manage to get some some shots before taking a break around the campfire and enjoying some well-deserved hot drinks. Thanks again to Aurore and David for the terrific support! Angela did a great job capturing our little basecamp amidst it’s snowy surroundings.
After a late wake up on Saturday, our group grabbed a casual lunch at Kaffe Bonna in Tromso then checked out of our Tromso hotel and departed for Sommaroy Island on the Norwegian coast. Sommaroy is a remote location and feels like the end of the Earth. Our workshop participants loved it! We had a great time shooting landscape photos of the icy coastline and on Sunday we departed on a whale watching adventure together.
The trip culminated with a group slideshow which we enjoyed after dinner on our last night in Sommaroy. It was a lot of fun seeing everyone’s best shots on the big projector screen. There’s something about photos and music that really gives an experience a great final touch.
Thanks very much to Angela, Dawna, Fabienne, Helen, Nadia, Andrew, Klaus, Felix, Roger and Steve. Last but not least, a special thanks to Dagmar for her support in helping plan and carry out a very successful trip!
Northern Lights Lenses
As we get ready for our big trip to Norway at the end of this month, I’ve been finalising my workshop presentation on Aurora Borealis photography for our 10 workshop participants. The strategies for photographing the northern lights are fascinating and the equipment that’s required isn’t your average every day photo gear. In the last couple weeks I’ve received a few questions about what makes a good northern lights lens. In this post I’d like to share what I’ve learned since making my own winter trip to Norway last year and having studied the art of Aurora photography in the meantime.
I’ll break the bad news early – if you’re entering the realm of aurora photography with high expectations, you’re going to need some high-end equipment. To start with, experienced northern lights photographers reach for high quality wide angle lenses which are equipped with big maximum apertures, like F/1.4, F/2.0 or F/2.8. The size of your lens’s maximum aperture defines it’s light-gathering ability – which is perhaps the most important aspect of a lens when shooting the aurora.
Lenses which only open to a maximum F/3.5 or F/4.0 aperture will require the photographer to shoot with very slow exposure times, resulting in photos that don’t do justice to the intricate shapes and structure of the aurora display. Keeping your exposure time relatively short is a huge advantage for capturing the structure of the aurora. In the midnight arctic darkness an exposure time of 4 or 8 seconds is considered fast and will prevent the aurora from becoming an abstract blur of green light in the sky.
Graduating to high-end lenses brings other benefits as well. Expensive wide angle lenses don’t just have the advantage of gathering more light than their cheaper, lighter weight counterparts. They’re also produced with higher quality glass, which is denoted with the “L” classification (Canon) and the “ED” classification (Nikon). Sigma’s APO lenses are also made with stringent standards for image quality. Zeiss lenses are, well… Zeiss lenses. You can go broke but you can’t go wrong.
The second part of the equation is your camera’s ability to perform at high ISO settings. If your camera is more than five years old, it’s low-light performance may be questionable. Recent models such as the Nikon D750, Nikon D810, Canon 5D III, Canon 6D and Sony A7 are all great cameras when it comes to low-light (high ISO) performance – probably ranked in that respective order. If you’re lucky enough to see a very active aurora show (moving erratically through the sky) you’ll need to turn up that ISO in order to reduce your exposure time.
These lenses represent a range of price points across various brands. There are certainly other options out there, but what these lenses all have in common is that none of them has a maximum aperture of less than F/2.8. You’ll find good solutions from about $450 right up to about $3000. To save a few bucks, consider doing without autofocus – which really isn’t such a handicap on a wide angle lens. Whatever you do though – don’t skimp on maximum aperture and go for the highest quality glass you can afford.
Alter Silvester Photography Outing
Yesterday’s trip to Appenzell for the annual Alter Silvester event tested our group’s “cold weather will power.” Despite the sudden onset of winter in Switzerland, our group of six had a great day out! Our cold-weather-skepticism lifted as soon as we rounded the corner and saw the ornately dressed “Silvesterklausen” marching our way. After some on-site photography tips, we departed the van and got busy photographing this extraordinary cultural event. It’s quite a photo opportunity!
Our hunt for photo subjects took us through Urnäsch and Waldstadt where we bumped into a group of young children dressed in traditional garb. Many thanks to Kelly, Janet, Genevieve, Veronica and John for joining in the fun. This trip is at the top of my winter list every year. You can’t beat the scenery or the costumes!
Digital Photography Course – Autumn recap
Our recent dSLR 1-2-3 Digital Photography Course was an absolute blast! Our energetic group of photographers was a pleasure to work with and co-teaching the class with John Faber was a great experience. Many thanks to: Giorgina, Paola, Gabi, Maja, Alessandra, Segolene, Cheryl, Emma, Yvonne, Joanna, Johannes, Dawna, Kati, Evaristo and John! We’re looking forward to more dSLR fun starting on February 13th. The course is already starting to fill up, so if you think Santa is bringing you a new camera for Christmas now’s the time to register!
Piedmont Photography Trip
After being in the Piedmont region of northern Italy for a few days, the transition back to “normal cuisine” can be a little jarring. Viewfinder completed it’s fifth travel photography workshop in Italy last weekend and (as usual) everyone had a great time shooting photos. Needless to say, we enjoyed eating and drinking some of the world’s best food and wine at least as much as we enjoyed photographing the cultural sights in this amazing corner of Europe.
Truffle aficionados from around the world have descended on the city of Alba this month for the annual Truffle Festival. Truffles are serious business in this part of Italy. Before visiting the festival we wanted to witness the unearthing of this delicacy and photograph the hunt, so Carlo and his trained truffle pooch showed us how it’s done.
Many thanks to Fabienne, Stefano and Geoff for joining me on this adventurous trip. A big thank you to Paolo, Carlo, Flavio and Mauro for their hospitality and expertise. We look forward to our the next photography workshop in Italy!
Portrait Photography Course with a Fashion Twist
We had a great time on Saturday with Lara Fuchs and our small group of “Portrait Photography Fundamentals” students. Many thanks to Stephanie, Hadrien, Kami and Laurent. It was a really fun Saturday! Looking forward to hosting another Viewfinder Center fashion shoot soon! Here’s a few shots from our fun day together in Halle 710 (Winterthur).
Thanks again to our participants and fabulous model Lara Fuchs! It was a lot of fun!
Engadin photography trip
Last weekend’s photography trip to Switzerland’s Engadin Valley was a unique adventure. On Friday, our Advanced Photography Study group piled into the Viewfinder van and journeyed southeast to explore one of Europe’s most famous alpine locations – the Engadin Valley.
We arrived in Sils midday on Friday after twisting our way up and over the Julierpass. After getting checked in at Hotel Cervo, our group headed down valley to the Muottas Muragl cog-train station. A 15 minute train ride (very steep!) takes you to the top of the Muottas Muragl – a fantastic vista for landscape photography. The weather up on Muottas Muragl wasn’t ideal on Friday evening, but a few impressive pictures were made nonetheless. Before having a fabulous dinner at the mountain top restaurant we spent some time discussing wildlife and macro photography in the hotel’s presentation room.
On Saturday morning we were off to meet our wildlife expert Martin Schmutz who works for the Swiss National Park, also located in the Engadin Valley. Martin took us for a hike in one of his favorite areas for seeing Ibex. We did spot some gemse and ibex, but sadly they were out of range in terms of photography opportunities. We still had a great time walking through an amazing landscape and photographing our surroundings. The fall colors have just begun in the Engadin and if you get a chance to get down there soon you won’t regret it.
We said goodbye to Martin and returned to our cozy Hotel in Sils before heading out again to practice macro photography. Two beautiful lakes (Lej Marsch and Lej Nair) provided an excellent playground for practicing our closeups. We were even visited by a handsome mallard who was happy to model for us.
Sunday was very rainy, but the group was determined to get some practice with movement and more macro images. We headed down to to Surlej and walked up to Nietsche’s Waterfall just above the Silvaplanasee. It made for a terrific practice spot. Susi demonstrated how inverting your tripod can help get the camera extremely close to your foreground.
Many thanks to our fantastic group for a wonderful adventure! Alex, Fabienne, Jessica, Susi, Hal, Martin, Steve and Rod – you guys are great! It was a pleasure being out in the mountains with you. Hard to believe that we’re fast approaching the last unit of this year’s Advanced Photography Study program. Time really flies when you’re having fun!
Janine & Dan Patitucci – get the perfect picture
Showing less is the key to showing more. Less stuff in the photo might mean more feeling, or more impact. Getting rid of unnecessary clutter, distraction, annoying elements, empty space, etc., is often done with a lens change, movement in where you make the image, or simply re-composing. Do you really need 20 feet of carved up powder in the foreground of your image? Or that nasty dead tree in background? Probably not, so re-frame the image by changing focal length or moving your position.
Parts from Patituccis blog on www.outdoorresearch.com
All pictures in this post are from Patitucci Photo. Many thanks to Dan and Janine for your support.
Challenge: When you are next shooting photos, think as much about what to keep out of the photo as what you want in it.
2. Lose tangents and use color well.
Have you ever looked at an image that is seemingly great, but something just feels wrong? It may well be a psychological issue you’re having with the image that comes in the form of intersecting lines, bad color combos or poor subject placement.
Tangents are lines not working together. Lines that cross through one another in bad positions, or shapes not quite lining up in proportion. As a photographer, avoiding tangents comes with experience. You need to develop the ability to see them when you shoot, and/or quickly identify them on your screen and declare, “One more time!”
Working with color is an art. You can use it to create a feeling or mood, make something more dramatic, work with complimentary colors that please the eye, or use different tones for separation.
Subjects typically need to separate against the background, and color can do this. A runner shot against the blue sky probably shouldn’t wear a blue toned outfit. Think yellow, or orange.
But an entire scene can also be a color, or in photospeak, a tone, and color temperature. Blue is cold, yellow, or orange is warm. Want to make an alpine climbing scene look frigid? Cool it down with bluish tones throughout the scene.
3. Master subject placement.
Our eye likes to see things placed within other things, neat and clean. A line going through a face is distracting, or a tree growing out of someone’s head is just plain annoying. Consider where your subject is and how you might place them in the scene so as to be clean.
As a pro photographer shooting products for clients, we often need to make the product the hero. It really needs to pop. This usually means making the human subjects pop. This is done using all of the above points, but none more so than subject placement in the image.
Challenge: Keep the subject of your images free of distraction. Place them cleanly in the image and use color to your advantage.
4. Learn to edit your own work.
Scanning Instagram and Facebook is a lesson in how not to make photos. You need to be your own best critic, and you need to learn to edit. Do you really need to show twelve blurry images of a dot’s butt climbing a slab? No! Your Facebook friends will thank you, your hard drive will last longer and by really studying your own work, you’ll likely start to become a better photographer. Studying your mistakes is probably the best of all lessons when learning to make better photos.
Years ago, I read a study that had been done where a laser tracked the eye movement of viewers as they were shown an image. In images with some of these “rules” broken, the eye rapidly went back and forth from the mistake to the main subject, but over time, the eye stayed on the mistake. In well known images, or famous photos without these “mistakes,” the eye landed on the subject and stayed there before drifting about the image, slowly. The eye had found peace in the image. There was a balance of its elements.
If given the opportunity, this is all the more reason to start incorporating the “one more time” strategy. To get things just right. After practicing all of this, even your quick shots will benefit as your eye becomes used to seeing the best image. Like all the other things we do in the mountains—climbing, skiing, running—getting better requires practicing the best techniques. These days, photography is part of most everything we do. Time to start training.
If you are eager to get to know Janine and Dan click on this link to get more detailed information and the booking.
Please notice: as Dan and Janine are very famous, the seats are likely to be sold out quickly. So get your place now.
Understanding Flash Photography: Part 1
I’m convinced that once a photographer gains control of a small flash (a Nikon or Canon speedlight for example), it opens a door into another realm of creative possibilities. Of course I don’t always use flash in my photography, but I believe that developing one’s ability to carefully and creatively add light to a scene is something that shouldn’t be overlooked.
The trick with using a flash is to understand how an available light exposure differs from a flash exposure. If you’ve been shooting pictures in manual exposure mode, then you’re probably familiar with the concept of the exposure triangle by now. In an available light shot, a photographer balances ISO, aperture setting and shutter speed to record a scene with a suitable level of brightness. In flash photography, the exposure triangle looks a bit different. Because the light from a flash is so quick, shutter speed becomes irrelevant in terms of the flashes impact on your exposure. A typical Nikon or Canon Speedlight is done illuminating the scene within about 1/20000 of a second. That’s more than twice as fast as the top shutter speed on a pro camera body! It’s a strange concept, but from your flash’s point of view – your camera’s shutter doesn’t even exist. If the shutter is open – the flash goes in, that’s it. To be sure that your shutter is in fact completely open, you’ll need to be careful that your shutter speed doesn’t exceed your maximum “flash sync speed.” Consult your camera manual to determine exactly what that maximum flash sync speed is on your own camera.
If you compare the available light exposure triangle to the flash exposure triangle, shutter speed is noticably absent in the later of the two. It’s replaced by flash output (the power setting on the flash). The fact that you have two triangles means that you’re dealing with a two-part exposure. Balance your camera settings for the available light in your scene first. Once you feel good about the light in your background – leave your camera settings alone. Your next step is to turn on your flash. If you find that your background is getting dark (maybe the sun is setting for example), then slow your shutter just a bit to bring in more available light in the background. If your main subject is getting too much light from the flash, adjust the flash output accordingly. The crucial thing is to realize that you have a control lever in each hand. Shutter speed controls your available light brightness and flash output controls the brightness on your subject. If you adjust ISO or aperture, both background and subject brightness will be adjusted simultaneously, becuase both of these are integral parts of both the flash and available light exposure triangles.
Advanced Photography Study – Architecture
Our Advanced Photography Study group has been busy with a new unit of study after wrapping up with our Adobe Lightroom unit recently. On Tuesday we dove into the topic of architectural photography with a short presentation about composition and technical considerations when photographing buildings. Then it was time to get out there and practice! DMG Mori is a high-tech firm located just around the corner from the Viewfinder Center and their new building made a great practice subject.
With it’s wind power generators and solar panels, we had plenty of details and themes to photograph. Students were asked to find balance, symmetry and pattern & repetition as they explored the property. We also incorporated triangles into our composition in at least one shot. Finally we practiced using time as a compositional element – showing the movement of the wind power generators against a static building.
After that we jumped in the van and headed into downtown Winterthur to practice other techniques. We shot some panorama-stitch shots in front of the Stadthaus, then took a photo of the Stadtkirche for an assignment on perspective correction. Our last stop was Tollkirsch GmbH (my friend’s creative agency) for an interior shot using Speedlights to light the space. It was an action packed evening! This Sunday we’ll up at the crack of dawn to shoot more architecture down in Zurich. We’ve rented a couple of Tilt/Shift lenses to play with. Looking forward!
Photography Trip to Schoellenen Gorge
Saturday’s trip to photograph the Schoellenen Gorge near Andermatt was quite an adventure! Mother nature confronted us with strong wind, chilly temps, and even threw in some rock slides (the day before our trip) for good measure. But our hearty of group pressed onward and managed to make some outstanding images on the walk from Andermatt down to Goeschenen.
We had a brief field lesson on HDR photography upon arriving at the Teufelsbruecke. We spent more than an hour exploring different angles on this fabulous architectural photo subject. The weather seemed to help make the bridge look mysterious – especially if the photos are given a black and white treatment in Lightroom.
Further down the trail we were forced to make a detour due to a recent rockslide. We heard yesterday that the road to Andermatt has now been closed as repairs and road work have begun in earnest. Down near Goeschenen we practiced some long exposure times, creating a silky water effect in our images. A few of us tried out the Big Stopper ND filter from Lee Filters. This super dark lens filter cuts back on ten stops of light, and allowed us to use an exposure time of 25 seconds. The effect that is created by the very long exposure time is really amazing.
Thanks very much to Alex, Jessica, Darya, Carmen, Noorul, Kristina, Rod, Fabienne, Ashley, Ruedi, Pippa, Peter, Fabio and Han. Dagmar and I really enjoyed your company and adventurous spirit! I’ve seen some great shots appearing in our Viewfinder Center Flickr group. If you’re not already a member, join us and share some of your work! If you have an interest in landscape photography and learning Adobe Lightroom, think about joining us for the Landscapes & Lightroom workshop in Zermatt this Autumn. It’s spectacular!
Basic Photography Course
Last week was action packed! After a full day of Adobe Lightroom and printing with our Advanced Photography students on Thursday, I was off to shoot a wedding on Friday (rather soggy weather conditions unfortunately), then back at Viewfinder for the second part of our basic photography course (dSLR-2) on Saturday. We had great weather and (as always), the Eulachpark made a terrific place to practice basic photography skills. If you’re new to photography or feel the need to brush up on foundational photography technique, then this fun 3-part couse is perfect for you!
Thanks very much to Blanca, Ines, Carine, Silvia, Andrew and John for spending your Saturday with us. We’re looking forward to dSLR-3 in two weeks time and it will be great having a couple of you back for the Composition in Photography on June 13th. We’ve still got space in that one if you’re interested in joining the group. I’m also pleased to announce that John Faber will be helping out with a German language dSLR 1-2-3 series this Fall. Let us know if you’d be interested in learning foundational camera skills “auf Deutsch.” John is a terrific instructor with lot’s of valuable experience.
Advanced photography students start printing!
We had a very productive day on Thursday with our Advanced Photography Study group who is now halfway through the second unit of their year-long program. We took advantage of the holiday in Switzerland and put in four hours of Lightroom training in the morning, covering some of the finer points of Lightroom’s “develop” module. Our group practiced using tone curves to adjust for optimal contrast in their images. We then checked our images on color–calibrated monitors before dropping them into a print folder on Viewfinder’s server. Then it was time to print!
Each student printed (and matted) two images taken recently. For Jessica, Alex and Rod, our visit to the Hergiswil Glasi supplied plenty of portfolio-building opportunities. Chandni printed a great shot from our day on flash photography. Fabienne nailed two amazing photos while joining our Zurich Night Photography course on Wednesday evening. She managed to capture a lightning strike over the St. Peter’s Church in Zurich and an awesome HDR image!
It’s been really fun watching the level of understanding develop in our advanced group. We’re having a great time together and the group is learning fast. Now that two big topics (Exposure & Adobe Lightroom) are becoming more comfortable – I can see things accelerating. We’re looking forward to doing some architectural photography with our group later this month!
Schwingen photography on the Eschenberg
On Saturday morning, we had an enthusiastic group of sports photographers head out for some Schwingen photography up on the Eschenberg, near Winterthur. The weather prognosis was not ideal, but thankfully the rain held off just long enough for us to get plenty of shooting in at the annual Eschenbergschwinget outdoor wrestling event. EOn Saturday morning, we had an enthusiastic group of sports photographers head out for some Schwingen photography up on the Eschenberg, near Winterthur. The weather prognosis was not ideal, but thankfully the rain held off just long enough for us to get plenty of shooting in at the annual Eschenbergschwinget outdoor wrestling event.
We started out with a strategy chat over coffee as the event organizers made final preparations. Autofocus was the main topic of discussion and we configured our cameras so we could follow the action in AI-Servo mode (Canon) or AF-C mode (Nikon). A demonstration and discussion on using the “back button autofocus technique” followed.
Schwingen photography isn’t easy. The wrestlers are constantly on the move, so it’s a challenge to keep the camera focused and ready. On Saturday the wrestlers were all juniors, ranging in age from five years old up to 16. They pulled and tossed each other around like little men and we did witness a few emotional moments over lost matches. It was really nice to witness such an authentic Swiss event taking place in a beautiful countryside setting. These boys gave it everything they had and we were impressed by their good sportsmanship in the ring. I’m looking forward to doing more Schwingen photography already.
Photographing glass blowing at the Hergiswil Glasi
Last Thursday Viewfinder students could be found photographing glass blowing in Hergiswil, near Luzern. The trip helped round out the first unit of our Advanced Photography Study program – giving Steve, Fabienne, Jessica, Alex, Rod and Chandni an opportunity to practice some recently acquired exposure skills. We were also joined by Janet, Liz, Geoff and Fabio who found the challenge of photographing glass blowing quite interesting.
Besides capturing the action on the production floor, one of our objectives was to get good exposures in this high-contrast situation. The challenge was made more difficult by the quick movements of the workers who rarely repeated their glass making procedures exactly the same way. Two by two, we took turns photographing glass blowing on the factory floor – being wary not to get burned, or let our shutter speeds creep below a 1/125th sec. The dimly lit factory floor required us to shoot with wider apertures and relatively high ISO settings. Those who were able to focus fast enough made some very creative shots of the molten glass being cast into different shapes by the artists. Several participants were surprised to find that their cameras performed quite well at ISO settings of up to 1600 and 2000. In situations like this one, where it’s not possible to photograph from a tripod, a photographer is forced to “open the flood gates,” making use of wide aperture settings, high ISO’s and medium-fast shutter speeds.
Many thanks to our terrific group of participants and our gracious hosts at the Hergiswil Glasi. We look forward to photographing glass blowing again in the coming months!
Year-long photography course kicks off!
Last week we had a milestone event at Viewfinder. Our Advanced Photography Study program kicked off with a full group of six participants. I’m very excited to begin this year-long photography course with Alex, Steve, Jessica, Fabienne, Rod and Chandni.
Each of our six students is psyched up and ready to push toward reaching their individual photography goals. The progress is going to be fun to watch. Our first three sessions have been centered around the topics of exposure and advanced lighting techniques. On Thursday we’re off to Hergiswil to practice our low-light shooting at the glass factory.
More updates to follow as our photographers roll up their sleeves and work through six units of course work together. Many thanks to our Advanced Photography Study participants for committing to a fun and challenging year.
Photography Workshop in Norway
Last week Dagmar and I returned from five days of scouting for Viewfinder’s upcoming photography workshop in Norway. We’re planning to return this January for a five day, four night adventure. This gave us a great excuse for a “reccy.” If you’ve never been to Norway before and have any interest in shooting northern lights, landscapes or wildlife – put it on your bucket list! This place is truly spectacular!
Tromso, Norway is known as the best place on Earth for viewing the northern lights. The combination of northerly latitude, local weather patterns and close proximity to both coastal and inland viewing locations make it an ideal place to see and photograph the northern lights. This part of Norway is also a prime location for whale watching safaris. We’ve chosen to return in January when the humpback whales migrate to the fjords to feed on schools of herring.
We did over 1400 kilometers of driving on our trip, researching various sites for our photography workshop in January. On two nights we saw amazing northern lights displays. Of course to see a good show, one needs aurora activity and clear skies. We’ve been told that January was the clearest month of the year during the last three years in a row.
If you’re interested in joining us for an unforgettable trip north this winter, have a look at what we have planned for late January. Be aware that flights into Tromso may become scarce if you don’t book early. Between auroras, whales and reindeer herders, it’s bound to be quite an adventure!
Istanbul Travel Photography
Our recent Istanbul travel photography experience was a real pleasure. Just a three hour flight from Zurich, Istanbul is where Europe and Asia come together on either side of the Bosporous strait. I’d been wanting to visit Istanbul for quite a while and when Gill, Sue and Lisa told me they wanted to explore a new place – it was decided that we’d pack our kit and head to “the Bull.”
While the weather was less than cooperative (we had lots of rain while Switzerland was enjoying the nicest weather of the year), we managed to see a lot of this interesting city during our three day stay. Besides the lovely people and enjoyable food, there is no shortage of photography subjects in this city of 18 million inhabitants. I was amazed to discover that there were over 82,000 mosques in Istanbul as of 2013. Istanbul is a travel photography paradise!
A few highlights included wandering the lively streets of the Sultanahmet district and photographing friendly shop keepers, night and sunrise photos of the impressive Blue Mosque and Haggia Sofya and (at least for Matt) a whirling dervish ceremony. We also made a tour of the Basilica Sistern and the popular Koptaki Palace. Istanbul’s architecture is endless. Impressive mosques can be seen from every spot in town, making backgrounds rather difficult to screw up.
Al little tip photographers planning to bring tripods into the Basilica Cistern and the famous mosques to try HDR shots, etc. Be advised that tripods are not allowed. If you’re going to get away with it, you’ll need to bring along a very small tripod which can be packed discreetly inside your camera bag.
We will definitely be coming back to Istanbul again as there’s just so much to photograph in this very unique city. Thanks very much to Gill, Sue and Lisa for accompanying me on this memorable trip!
Glass Making Photography in Hergiswil
Last Friday, a group of Viewfinder students joined me for some glass making photography in Hergiswil. The Hergiswil Glasi has been around since 1817 which is remarkable, but even more interesting is the fact that the factory workers are all multi-generational glass artists. If you weren’t born into the family then “tough luck.”
We had amazing access to the factory floor while the other factory visitors watched from the balcony up above. It was warm down where the action was taking place, and there was lots of movement. Not an easy subject to shoot, especially since when there isn’t tons of light to work with.
With a few metering tips and a discussion about shooting strategy – our participants were able to nail some good shots. One of the tricks we discussed was how to use your camera’s spot meter in conjunction with the “auto-exposure-lock” button (AE-L for Nikon shooters or “star-button” for Canon shooters). This was an effective way for us to measure the light quickly, lock our settings and shoot away. We brought along our arsenal of 50mm lenses so that we could use wide maximum apertures – gathering as much light as possible in the dim work environment at the factory. The glass artists moved quickly and you had to be fast to catch them in action. The texture, color and interesting characters made for a fantastic photography subject. I could have stayed there for hours shooting these guys. We will definitely revisit the Glasi again. You couldn’t ask for a better place to practice low-light action photography.
Many thanks to Heather, Matteo, Joanna and Steve for joining me on this excursion. I’m looking forward to our next outing on January 13th to photograph Appenzell’s “Alter Sylvester” celebration. Hope to see you there!
White Turf photography trip
Our recent White Turf photography trip to Switzerland’s wintery Engadin Valley was a big hit. The posh winter horse races draw an elitist crowd and there were more fur coats in the crowd than I’ve ever seen in one place!
Practicing ahead of the event
Our White Turf photography trip was a fantastic opportunity to practice capturing sport images in a challenging environment. To get the most out of our weekend, we departed Zurich in the Viewfinder van on Saturday morning and arrived at our hotel in Pontresina with a whole afternoon to practice sports photography techniques. Participants worked on fine tuning their exposures autofocus techniques while shooting a hockey practice in Pontresina. Our willing subjects had a good time performing for our cameras and the situation was perfect for rehearsing how to deal with the difficulties of photographing in bright surroundings. They sprinted towards us on the ice, giving our group the chance to practice photographing fast moving subjects heading straight towards the camera.
Location scouting & picture review
Afterward our practice shoot with the hockey players, we went to the White Turf race track to think about positioning ourselves during Sunday’s race. We looked at all the background possibilities and considered photographing from a number of positions around the track. That evening, after a very nice meal at Hotel Schweizerhof we did some picture review in the bar. There was lots of good conversation about lens choices, autofocus tricks and settings and the many other techniques and photography strategies that are useful at events like White Turf. There were a few cameras among us that needed cleaning before race day, so we did some sensor cleaning before heading off to bed.
Shooting the action & on-site picture review
The White Turf races started around midday, so we were sure to arrive early and find our photography positions around the track. We took the opportunity to ready our camera gear and check out a few more example images at a nearby cafe. The races began and we started shooting away. Between each race we checked our images with a special magnifying loupe to verify sharpness and exposure. The discussion and practice that we did on Saturday had made a really big difference!
The White Turf photography trip was the perfect opportunity to work on sports-specific photography skills amidst an awesome setting. The horses (and the hockey players) were really fun to shoot. We will certainly return in 2016 for more. Many thanks again to Sian, Mihai, Radu, Matt and Laurent. It was a real pleasure spending the weekend with you! We’re looking forward to seeing you again.
Chateau d’Oex Photography trip
Luck was on our side Saturday morning as we woke to clear skies on our Chateau d’Oex photography trip. We had left Zurich in a blizzard on Friday evening as we drove to Fribourg where we overnighted. We had a head start on Saturday morning, and the report was that the balloons would indeed be launching. This was very exciting news! After discussing a few compositional and exposure tips at the breakfast table, we jumped back in the van for the last leg of our Chateau d’Oex photography trip.
This annual ballooning event is recognised worldwide and draws quite a few international visitors. We arrived to a flurry of activity as balloon teams prepared for launch. Each of us got great shots as the colourful balloons got off the ground and drifted slowly towards the stunning alpine backgrounds down valley.
By 14:00 the weather was starting to turn and event officials decided to wrap up this year’s show. That was fine with us as we’d gotten our shots and needed to hit the road and head back to Zurich. The Chateau d’Oex photography trip was a hit, and we’d like to say thanks again to: Pippa, Miriam, Laura, Mary, Haley, Peter, Ather, Matteo and Ivan. We had a terrific time with you all! Next up is the White Turf horse races down in St. Moritz!
Stay warm & keep shooting!
Wintertime brings many opportunities for stunning outdoor photos. Blue skies and snow covered peaks can make amazing backgrounds for just about any outdoor subject, but snow can be a challenge for many photographers. Here’s a few things I’ve learned from shooting in the snowy environments of Alaska, Canada and the beautiful Swiss Alps. And yes, I still have all my fingers and toes!
Before getting into camera pointers it’s worth noting that if you’re not able to stay warm and comfortable, it’ll be impossible to focus on your photography. Know that body heat is lost via four principles: radiation, evaporation, convection and conduction. If you’re diligent about managing your body heat you can keep these from ruining your day out and even manage to stay comfortable in sub-zero conditions.
The human body is radiating heat into the environment constantly. We reduce this heat loss by layering up against the cold – trapping a layer of warm air between our clothing and skin. Outdoor activities place unique demands on clothing. I prefer to think of outdoor layers as belonging a system which can be adapted to whatever I’m doing. I need to be comfortable during periods of exertion (ie. hiking, snowshoeing or skiing to my shooting location) and I also need to stay warm during periods of slower activity (ie. shooting from a tripod). I purposely layer my clothes rather than wearing heavy garments which are “all or nothing.” The layers can be fine-tuned to match my level of exertion and the temperature of my environment, keeping me dry and warm as the activity, pace and temperature changes throughout the day.
Evaporative heat loss is a fancy way to describe sweating. If you’re doing some trekking to reach your photography location, be careful not to overheat on the hike, which is a big waste of your body’s water and will lead to discomfort. Sweat enables your body to loose excess heat up to 85% faster than dry skin does, turbo-cooling you back to homeostasis. If sweaty snowshoeing, hiking or skiing can’t be avoided, consider changing into a dry thermal top after arriving at your destination (while you’re still warm from the hike).
Convection occurs when water or air flows past the skin carrying body heat away with it. You loose heat 25 times faster when your skin is in contact with wet surfaces or wet clothing. Staying dry can’t be stressed enough. In wet conditions there’s no substitute for a high quality breathable waterproof layers (both jacket and pants). Breathability is just as important as your jackets ability to shed the rain. If your own perspiration can’t move through the fabric and away from your skin then you’ll be getting soaked from inside and out.
Conduction is the body’s tendency to loose heat through direct contact with colder surfaces or objects. Sitting directly on the snow, for example, is a big no-no. Sit on your backpack or on an insulated foam pad. Otherwise stand. Keep all clothing off the snow. Avoid carrying metal objects in your hands. Wrap tripod legs in foam so that they conduct less heat away when you need to handle them. A photographer friend of mine actually got frostbite on his nose from touching it to the back of his camera while shooting in Antarctica. Be wary of anything that may sap your body’s heat.
Filters & batteries:
On to the shooting tips. A polarizing filter will help reduce the bright glare which results from the sun bouncing off the snow and then up into your lens. In the best case this filter will fit several of your lenses if you own more than one. If you’re new to polarizing filters, experiment with twisting the movable portion of the filter. Keep an eye on the sky especially if it’s a sunny clear day. If you over do it your blue sky may look nearly black. Twist the filter until you see the blue sky come back.
Carry your extra batteries in your pants pockets to keep them warm with body heat. Most cameras function well-enough in below-zero temps, but the batteries must be kept warm. Return them to your pockets between shooting. Avoid viewing your pictures if you can help it. This drains batteries quickly!
Gloves & backpacks:
Good photography gloves are crucial! Pay close attention to fit. My favorite pair are fingerless and have a mitten flip over piece to rewarm my fingertips after handling the camera for a few minutes. Thick gloves may work great for skiing, but the small buttons on a camera can be difficult to manipulate with gloves.
Lugging a shoulder bag on a long hike (winter or summer) is a big pain. We’ve been extremely happy with our Fstop Loka packs and one year later I’d still recommend these packs over everything else I’ve seen out there which is oriented to the outdoor photographer. The fact is, if you’re a ways from the comfort of a restaurant or your car, you’ll need to carry a number of things besides camera gear like extra layers, snacks, maybe a thermos, etc. Most camera backpacks aren’t designed to carry much beyond camera gear. The Loka is an exception. If your gear doesn’t require much cargo room, consider a chest mounted camera pack which can be accessed quickly without removing your backpack. This is a go-to method for carrying minimalist camera gear while skiing for example.
Avoid fogging up:
A word to the wise: going out in the cold with a warm camera is no problem, but heading back indoors can be trouble. The trick is to warm your camera up very slowly. Before going inside put the cold camera, lens and a silica pack inside an airtight ziplock bag and squish out the air before sealing. Then place the wrapped camera back in your camera bag. Close everything up tight and avoid placing your gear near any heaters and be patient while it warms up.
Shooting in “auto mode” in bright, snowy conditions will produce mixed results. Most annoyingly – bright sunny winter scenes will appear dull and darker than they should because your camera’s light meter is being overwhelmed. Avoid full Auto mode and instead try shooting in Program, Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority modes (depending on your subject matter).
Locate your camera’s exposure compensation button and increase your exposure in bright sunny situations if your photos are coming out flat and dull. chances are that your light meter is overwhelmed.
Your camera likely has an external button or dial which enables “exposure compensation.” When shooting a scene which includes lots of bright white snow, you’ll want to increase your exposure (which seems counter intuitive). Start with +1.0, make a test shot and adjust to your taste. The more bright snow you have in the shot the more compensation you may need. If there’s not much snow in your shot – you may not need it all.
Nine out of 10 digital cameras have a “highlight warning” indicator which helps you realize when you’ve overexposed your shot too much. Find out how to activate this helpful playback feature in your camera’s user manual.
Don’t force it:
Anything made of plastic or metal becomes brittle as the mercury drops. Handle your equipment very carefully. Don’t force anything together (or apart) which could snap or fracture. Avoid setting anything expensive down on the snow as it could quickly get lost in the snow. Keep your pack or camera bag closed when not in use.
Stay warm out there! It’s not possible to concentrate on your photography if you teeth are chattering. Bundle up with appropriate outdoor clothing. Visit your local outdoor shop for clothing tips if necessary. A thermos full of hot tea can also be a lifesaver – but be sure it doesn’t leak on your camera gear!
Alter Silvester photography excursion wrap-up
What a day and what terrific luck with the weather! As I write this blog post and look out of our studio windows I’m thanking my lucky stars to have had blue skies for our excursion to shoot Alter Silvester in Appenzell yesterday.
For those who are not familiar, “old Silvester” (or New Year’s day) is an informal traditional holiday celebrating the start of the new year by the Julian calendar. This orthodox holiday is celebrated all over Europe, but it really goes off right here in Switzerland!
Since returning last night I’ve seen several Facebook posts from our participants and their images are just fantastic! Many thanks again to Susi, Angela, Carmen, Idit, Fabienne, Joana, Alex, Kristina, Jose Luis, Laurent, John and Steve for joining us. It was a great pleasure to be out with you all and I look forward to having more adventures with you this year! E guets Neus!
Next up is our trip to shoot the Chateau d’Oex hot air balloon festival on January 30-31. We have two hotel rooms left if you’d like to join us!
A Fun Day Of Photographic Composition
Viewfinder Center’s recent Creative Composition Course was a fun event for all concerned. Our students all picked up some ideas to help them along on their photographic journeys and it is very gratifying as a teacher to see people enjoying themselves.
The looks of surprise on their faces as the list of assignments were handed out were lots of fun and everyone seemed to “get” the joke. It was certainly another light-hearted moment in a great course day. We are looking forward to offering our Composition Course again next year – dates have already been announced, so keep your eyes open for another opportunity to join in for this fun learning experience.
A Photo Walk On The Uetliberg
A couple of Sundays ago, I was out with an enthusiastic group of Viewfinder photographers for a walk on Zürich’s Uetliberg. We met quite early in the railway station in the hope of finding nice early morning light once we reached the top of the hill.
DSLR 1-2-3 happenings
We’ve done quite a bit of revising and fine-tuning of Viewfinder’s popular DSLR 1-2-3 beginners courses and we have had a lot of fun presenting the material to our students in the past few weeks.
It is always gratifying to see a new photographer have a “wow moment” when a new concept or camera function suddenly becomes clear for the first time. We look forward to seeing more enthusiastic picture-takers at Viewfinder Center very soon! Our next round of dSLR 1-2-3 starts on November 1st and we currently have a few open spaces if you’d like to join us.
We recently had some special visitors at Viewfinder who were visiting Matt from Seattle. The Titcomb family stopped over in Switzerland after spending a week down in Sicily. They took advantage of some great weather and got down to Grindelwald and up to Stein am Rhein and Schaffhausen for some photography practice with Matt.
Suzy and Rob Titcomb, life-long friends of Matt’s from Seattle, have both become avid photographers in the last couple years and enjoyed practicing some of their skills in their European surroundings. Their visit gave Matt the chance to test out some of our new “field lessons” which we’ve been doing a lot more of on our dSLR 1-2-3 courses and on our regular photography excursions. Field lessons are a great way to learn photography skills in small chewable chunks. Expect more of this kind of thing at Viewfinder. We think it’s a great way to learn.
3rd successful mountain sports workshop with Patitucciphoto
Dan and Janine Patitucci ran a third successful mountain sports workshop in Grindelwald last month with guests that came from near and far. Nick and Brittany joined us all the way from California and Cesar and John joined us from Zurich and Luzern.
On the first night of the workshop Dan recounted his under cover photography adventure in North Korea earlier this year where he worked on a story for Skiing magazine (his article will be published in their November issue – kicking off this year’s ski season).
In typical Patitucci style, energy levels were high and participants were pushed to do their best work. The Patituccis are leading outdoor photographers who produce a constant stream of high quality images for the biggest outdoor brands. If you’ve ever opened an outdoor gear catalogue or magazine then you’ve seen plenty of their work. They’ve earned their reputation over many years of hard work, so it’s no surprise that they don’t make excuses – just great pictures.
After speaking with Dan and Janine after the workshop they told me that the participants of this year’s workshop had some valuable “breakthrough moments” after shooting and re-shooting the assignment they were given. It’s a great reminder that we often make our biggest gains after confronting mistakes and addressing the challenge of “getting the shot” while we’re out in the field. A big thanks to Janine and Dan for sharing their passion for photography with our group. Thanks again to Nick, Brittany, Cesar and John. Nice work gang!
Viewfinder Center Excursion To Elm
A Sunday morning gathering and the Viewfinder Center group were off on a photography excursion to Elm in Kanton Glarus to take pictures of the annual Alpabzug. This traditional event involves the farmers bringing their cattle and goats down from the alpine pastures to lower altitudes for winter and provides wonderful photo opportunities.
With the possibilities of shooting the action with the livestock, the large food market, plenty of people in traditional costume and a nice old village there was a wide choice of interesting subject material. Our enthusiastic group of photographers all came away with successful images and had a very enjoyable day out.
Personally, I’m looking forward to getting out on the next excursion with the Viewfinder Center to do some more shooting! If you would care to join us next time, we are off to Glasi Hergiswil on November 14th which promises to be another fun excursion.
Val Bavona wrap up – Summer’s last blast
Last Friday we made the voyage from Zurich down to Val Bavona for a weekend of landscape photography in this rugged valley found in northwest Ticino. The landscape in Val Bavona is dominated by huge granite walls towering over it on both sides. A great effort has been made to preserve the original buildings in the small stone villages of Sabbione, Foroglio, Fontanelada and Sonlert.
Africa Photo Safari Roundup – Part Two
Our Africa photography adventure continued northward again – taking us from Hwange National Park up to Victoria Falls, home of the world’s largest waterfall. Upon arriving we were greeted by Stuart’s wonderful wife Susan who had been working behind the scenes to make sure that all of our accommodations, boat trips, dinners and other activities were perfectly arranged.
Africa Photo Safari Roundup – Part One
It’s hard to believe that our 10 day photography safari has come to an end. Like all great trips, the days passed much quicker than we’d have liked. Our trip to Zimbabwe and Botswana was truly the adventure of a lifetime. The wonderful people, beautiful landscapes and stunning wildlife have left us all captivated with Africa.
Viewfinder Center at The Zürich Street Parade 2014
Street Parade in Zürich wouldn’t be the same without Viewfinder Center! A huge thank you to Markus Enderlin and Angela Burrows for co-hosting the Viewfinder Center group and for sharing lots of fantastic street photography images with us.
Excursion to Alpkäserei in Appenzell
Sunday’s weather was less than ideal for a photography excursion, but Angela, Arantxa and I we were determined to make the most of it despite the soggy conditions. We departed the Zurich HB at 8:00, arriving in Unterwasser at roughly 9:40. A short gondola ride up to Ebenalp was followed by a descending hike to Aescher Wildkirchli (a famous Swiss landmark) where we paused for a hot drink.
Low Light & Night Photography in Zurich
Photography is of course full of interesting genres to explore. As a former newspaper photographer I’ve had a chance to photograph quite a wide variety of assignments but one thing I never really got into was “low-light photography.”
Fast prime lenses – are they worth it?
By allowing huge amounts of light through to the sensor, fast prime lenses can allow us to shoot in conditions which would be impossible with any other lens choice.My previous post, “what’s in my bag” has prompted me to write a little piece on lenses.
My personal choice is for “prime” (or fixed focal length) lenses whenever possible but that will not necessarily be the best solution for everyone. It is only recently that the major Japanese manufacturers (think “N” and “C”) have been able to provide similar image quality in a zoom lens as is available in comparable prime lenses.
To me, the light weight and relatively compact size of a prime lens is a large advantage over a zoom. The fact that they are often faster (ie have a larger maximum aperture) is another reason to make that choice. Unless conditions are appalling, changing lenses is not a problem and can be accomplished quite quickly – although there is always the chance that we will miss a shot when doing so.
Traditionally, “pro” zooms with fixed maximum apertures of f/2.8 were good quality but heavy and the only real alternative to a selection of Prime lenses. These days there are a number of wonderful options in zoom lenses with fixed f/4 maximum apertures which are much lighter and more compact while still providing great image quality. Prosumer (or consumer) zoom lenses with variable apertures are a question of convenience and cost. If, for example, you would like to have the ability to get to 300mm without carrying a heavy lens and don’t mind a “slow” f/5.6 maximum aperture, they may be the perfect solution for you. In other words, as long as your photographing in well-lit conditions and are willing to sacrifice a bit of image quality, then a variable aperture zoom will see you through.
While photographers wishing to own just two or three pieces of glass may see zooms as the most sensible option for covering a range of focal lengths, it’s worth considering the advantages of fixed focal length lenses. Like many photographers, Matt and I both own some of each. A logical first purchase would be a 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.8 which won’t cost you a lot, won’t take a lot of space in your camera bag and will allow you to photograph in very dimly lit situations (without flash) and create shallow depth-of-field shots. An 18-200mm super zoom, parked at 50mm, cannot be compared to a fixed 50mm lens. There’s a reason we refer to this lens affectionately as the “nifty fifty.”
Photo Walk with Novartis at the Zurich Zoo
On Wednesday we spent a fun morning at the Zurich Zoo with our friends at Novartis who organized an action packed week for their company’s top achievers. The morning started with some simple travel photography tips presented in one of Dolder’s beautiful lounge rooms. Then we were off to the zoo!
Saentis Landscape Photography Workshop – Roundup
Viewfinder hosted it’s second Landscape Photography Workshop up on the Saentis mountain in northeast Switzerland. Our friendly group of 13 photographers departed Zurich in the Viewfinder van, arriving in Schwaegalp by lunch time. Weather conditions weren’t ideal up on the mountain so after lunch we sought out subjects to photograph down in the valley. Thankfully there’s no shortage of them in Schwaegalp!
A Trip to Paris for Henri Cartier-Bresson
Henri Cartier-Bresson, famous for his “decisive moment” photography, co-founding the mighty Magnum Photo Agency and being one of the originators of “street photography” has provided plenty of inspiration for photographers over the years and we were no exception.
Lauterbrunnen Photography Excursion
Last Sunday’s photography excursion to Lauterbrunnen was a total hit and the weather could not have been nicer! Our group of 10 photographers arrived in Lauterbrunnen at 10:00 just as sunshine started to fill the steep Lauterbrunnen Valley.
Night Photography in Zurich
Great times in this evening’s Low-light & Night Photography course in Zurich. Though we had our rain gear, umbrellas and plastic bags – ready for the down-pour, it thankfully never came. Many thanks to Angela, Mariann, Julianna, Irena, Julie, Krisztina, Brian and David for coming out! It was a pleasure as always!
Sechseläuten 2014 – Zurich Meetup Excursion
For the people and event photographers out there, springtime is an ideal season to practice your people and event photography at the many local folk events. Viewfinder organised a casual Meetup excursion at Zurich’s largest folk festival – Sechseläuten earlier this month.
Night Photography in Zurich
Our last Low-Light & Night Shooting course in Zurich was a hit (despite very cold temperatures). Robert Emunds got some terrific shots down along the Limmat river. Zurich is a great place to practice night photography techniques. The classic architecture, combined with riverside foregrounds adds a lot of mystique.
Thanks early 2014 Photography Course Participants!
We want to say thank you to all the great folks who participated in our early 2014 dSLR 1-2-3 Series for Beginners photography course. It’s been great meeting lots of new faces recently and we hope that you will each “go forth and photograph.” Hope to see you again soon!
Analogue Photography Workshop with David Hamilton
We had a blast developing our own black and white film at the Analogue Photography Workshop with David Hamilton. It was a lot of fun to see the look on our participant’s faces as they handled their Kodak Tri-X film in the changing bag (blindly spooling into onto their developing reels).
Alasdair Turner “Your Viewfinder” Vernissage – 24. JAN
On January 24th, Viewfinder welcomes our next “Your Viewfinder” gallery exhibitor – Alasdair Turner. Alasdair’s remarkable collection of images from the Antarctic will decorate the Viewfinder studio for two months starting on January 24th.
Maria Cecilia Austin’s Vernissage Event
We had a great turn out on Friday for Maria Cecilia Austin’s Vernissage event here at Viewfinder. There must have been about 70 people in the studio throughout the evening. Many thanks to everyone who came to show their support!
Maria Cecilia Austin “Your Viewfinder” Vernissage – 29. NOV
Join us on November 29th as Maria Cecilia Austin opens her exhibition: “The Secret Life of Plants” with a Vernissage event from 19:00 to 22:00 at the Viewfinder Center. We’ll serve wine and snacks and hear what inspired Maria to investigate the world of macro plant photography – right here in Switzerland.
Wedding Photography Workshop with Richard Overtoom & Matt Anderson
Last Saturday and Sunday we hosted a great wedding photography workshop with Richard Overtoom and Matt Anderson as instructors. Our ten participants came from near and far to partake in a weekend of shooting, business discussion, post-processing and album design tips.
Piedmont Photography Experience
Viewfinder has visited the awesome Piedmont region for the third time this fall with our second Piedmont Photography Experience in early October. With the help of our good friend Paolo Ferrero, we were introduced to some new artisan food producers and we visited some of the friends that we made last year as well.
Landscapes & Lightroom Workshop in Zermatt
Viewfinder hosted a very successful workshop in Zermatt this September with the help of Adobe guru extraordinaire David Marx. We’re very grateful to David for flying all the way from Montana State to Switzerland and for sharing his deep understanding of Adobe Lightroom with our ten workshop participants.
Mountain Sports Photography Workshop in Grindelwald
Dan and Janine Patitucci put on another great performance at this year’s Mountain Sports Photography Workshop in Grindelwald, Switzerland. We had students join us from Spain, the USA, and across Switzerland for two days of mountain sports shooting, instructor critique and business insights – all in stunning Grindelwald-First.
Photographing People in Public Spaces
Damir asked (and I paraphrase his words here): “I‘m fairly new to street photography – how do we get permission from our subjects to use the picture we shoot of them? Which lenses would you use for such an event (like Zurich Street Parade)? 16-35mm? 24-70mm? 50mm? In the chaos of the crowds of people I’d prefer to use a compact selection of equipment.”
The question of getting permission is always a tricky one. Should I spoil the moment and ask for permission, or photograph the subject candidly (without them being aware of my camera) and take my chances on their reaction? The answer is going to be different for each photographer and in each situation, but I think for all of us it comes down to using our best judgment. At a big event like Zurich Street Parade – most of us shoot hundreds of images, and it would be impossible to ask every one of those subjects for permission to take their photo. Most of the Street Parade folks are happy to be photographed, but if someone seems averse to being photographed – my advice is to simply move on. It’s not worth the trouble of a confrontation, especially when there are thousands of other subjects around you. In certain countries there are cultural differences in the approach to photography. Viewfinder instructors Dan & Janine Patitucci recently traveled to Peru where they found it extremely difficult to photograph people without prior permission. It’s always good to ask around and educate yourself before arriving with your camera. Furthermore, don’t underestimate the power of a smile when approaching strangers. If your intentions seem innocent – the chances are good that your subject will be willing.
Legally speaking, in a public environment – there’s no such thing. One tacitly consents to the possibility of being photographed when they head out on the street. Of course, this doesn’t mean that a subject must cooperate just because their standing on public ground. Many people are unaware of this fact, and may believe that their clothing (or lack of) justifies some privacy from your camera. Please don’t try explaining this legal concept to a drunk Street Parade goer as he sachets across the Quaibrücke in his underpants. The same concept applies to security cameras around town. If you walk through the Zurich Bahnhof, you tacitly consent to being photographed/video-recorded simply by approaching the building. When using a public toilet however – one assumes that they have a right to privacy – and rightfully so! Consider also that you might frustrate a subject who is startled by your camera and by upsetting them you may ruin your chances of making additional photos. I’ve been physically threatened while covering public events. Photographers make easy targets. Use your best judgement. Don’t recite the law as a justification for photographing someone in public. Be a good human being and be aware of your surroundings and context.
If a photographer gets up on a ladder to peek over into a private situation to get a shot of someone who had a right to “assume their privacy” then that photographer has likely gone to “extreme measure” to make those photos and could be held liable for any negative ramifications. I don’t imagine that this is very relevant at Street Parade, but it’s worth understanding the concepts of “extreme measure” and “assumed privacy” which can be applied in other contexts as well, like photographing people on private property with a super telephoto lens, using hidden cameras, bringing a camera into a bathroom, etc. If you feel like a creep when you’re doing it, then it’s probably not OK. The law is not black & white, so again – use your best judgement.
Using, Displaying, or Publishing
none of what’s described above has any bearing on the photographer “using someone’s likeness”for his/her own purposes. If you catch a great shot of someone at Street Parade, you should exercise caution in the way you use, display or publish that image. Ask yourself: “if I were this person, would I be OK with the way the image is being displayed, distributed, posted, etc.” If you’re not 100% confident in your answer – seek professional clarification and/or permission from the subject. In general, showing photos in your portfolio, or on photography forums, etc. should in theory be OK, but distributing images for sale or commercial usage (of any kind)| by yourself or any third party does indeed require that any recognizable people in the photo give their written consent to the photographer and end-user. Imagine how irritated you’d be if a picture of you (in a racey Street Parade outfit) was used in a condom advertisement without your permission. The people pictured would have some pretty compelling legal ground to go after the condom company and the photographer if they wished. Pleading ignorant (of copyright rules) hasn’t proven to be an effective defending arguement in court. If you granted usage permission to a third party – then you are assuming responsibility for the licensing of those rights. If you think there’s any possibility of wanting to distribute or sell images or use them in any commercial context, then you’ll need to have any recognizable person sign a model release – either on the spot or afterward. This also goes for any recognizable property, pet, etc. in your image. It must all be released!
Publishing photos in an editorial context is much less constricting, and the publication’s editors will make the appropriate decisions and assume responsibility for their choices. Therefore – they may decline to publish certain images if they think that readers will find them offensive. Most newspaper photographers have listened to a few angry phone messages from readers of the newspaper during their career. I laughed it off the first time a reader left me a voicemail on my editors answering machine. My editor pointed out that it’s not to be dismissed. Be aware that any error in judgement could come back to haunt you. Use extreme caution when it comes to children or people in distressing situations. There could be some bigger issues at hand than you’re aware of. For example, some children’s identities are being protected by court orders. It could be a public place, and maybe you were within your rights on making that image, but you could get in big trouble for publishing it. There are sensitive issues surrounding the security of certain government and private buildings which are not legal to photograph, and countless others no-go situations. Ask around, be willing to talk with a concerned subject, onlooker, public official, etc.
Model Release, Notebook, Contact Cards
I always carry model releases (for both minors and adults) in my camera bag, along with my own business cards, and a notebook for getting contact info from people. If you know that you just nailed the “million dollar shot” – follow up and
get some contact details from your subject. It could be very worthwhile. I know someone who won $1,000,000 in a photography contest. He would have been bummed out had he not collected contact info from the subjects – who happened to be school kids.
The bottom line is use common sense, exercise caution and read up. Put yourself in your subject’s shoes. If you’re not being respectful of subjects in public places, then why would anyone respect you in the studio? In the end it’s your good name and you may have more to loose than to gain.
I agree 100% with Damir (that less is more). Last year I took one camera body and a 50mm lens to Zurich Street Parade. I got lots of great shots. I’d be tempted to add a wide angle lens this year. It’s largely a personal decision and depends on what you own, but keep in mind that you’ll have to move through tight crowds, you may get sprayed with water, and it will probably be a hot day. The wide aperture of a fixed 50mm lens will also allow you to obscure busy backgrounds so you can direct your viewer’s attention right to the subject of your photo. I would avoid large backpacks which are difficult to move with and which make lens changes cumbersome. A small sling bag which can be moved in front of you for lens changes, then to your back for carrying – would probably be ideal. Leave the tripod at home!
“Your Viewfinder” Vernissage – Pedro Nuñez
Last Friday was quite a night at Viewfinder and we’d like to thank everyone who came out and showed their support for Pedro’s gallery exhibition. We were treated to a really fun evening which included a surprise musical performance by Pedro and his good friend Patricia. Thanks again to you both for putting on such a great show! Muchas gracias!
DSLR 1-2-3 Beginners Photography Course
On Saturday we kicked of a new round of DSLR 1-2-3 (Digital Photography for Beginners) at our studio in Winterthur. The weather was amazing, and our outdoor shooting excercises in the park were lot’s of fun. Thanks again to Nadine, Tamarin, Marilyn, Marian and Amit for spending their Saturday with Viewfinder!
Pedro Nuñez – Your Viewfinder on July 19
You won’t want to miss our next vernissage event on July 19 at Viewfinder Center. Chilean-born photographer, Pedro Nuñez will present an extrordinary collection of limited edition prints. Pedro’s photography has taken him around the globe – and his exhibition deomonstrates a unique style across a variety of subjects. We’ll celebrate the opening of his gallery show with wine, nibbles and some fun socializing. Please RSVP for this July 19 event if you will join us. We’d love to see you there!
“Your Viewfinder” Vernissage – David Hamilton
Last Friday we kicked of the first of our “Your Viewfinder” exhibtions here at the studio. David Hamilton was a great co-conspirator for our first exhibit of this type. His exhibtion is titled: “Pattern & Texture” and will be on display at Viewfinder Center until July 18th. David’s limited edition prints are still on sale at the studio. His images were an absolute hit with the crowd and several of his prints sold during the show.
Photography Tour in Zurich, Switzerland for Novartis
Viewfinder recently held a customized photography course and photo tour of Zurich for pharmaceutical company – Novartis. Our day started with a very short presentation on better travel photos – taught on location at the beautiful five-star Dolder Grand Hotel in Zurich. From there, our group of 16 participants, two instructors and local Zurich tour guide – were chauffeured down to the Zurich old-town by private air-conditioned coach.
Viewfinder Center – Opening Party!
Our big opening event on May 24th was a total hit and we’re also very excited to see so much interest in the “Your Viewfinder” program. We hope that you’ll all pay a visit on June 28th as we launch David Hamilton’s exhibit in a similar style. We’ll serve more great wine and nibbles. Here’s a few shots taken at the big party by Dave himself. Thanks for documenting the festivities Mr. Hamilton!
Gourmet Travel Photography in Italy
Last week we concluded another amazing photography workshop in Italy. Our group explored the region around Lake Orta in the Italian province of Lombardy. The trip was salivating – from both a gastronomy and photography point of view.
Fashion Photography Workshop with Duncan Blum
Last weekend Viewfinder hosted an outstanding workshop with guest instructor Duncan Blum, an established Zurich fashion photographer with over a decade of professional experience. Our 10 participants had the opportunity to shoot with star model – Sira Topic who is also well known in the photography community.
Night Photography in Zurich
Zurich is an awesome place to practice Low-Light & Nightime Photography, and we’ve had some really fun outings lately. Last week we headed out as a group of five and photographed low-light scenes down in Zurich’s old-town. We picked the perfect night last week because it was dry, yet the sky had some very interesting clouds – giving a number of our photos a “spookey” quality and adding interesting details in the sky area of our shots.
Which New Tripod?
There’s two pieces of camera gear which consistently – (even after decades of product developement) befuddle photographers. The camera bag (the perfect one simply doesn’t exist) and the tripod – which is never a fun thing to lug around.
A good tripod can become necessary for landscape photography, long exposures, architectural photography and even for working in the studio. A solid set of “sticks” generally becomes a part of most photographer’s kits at some point, whether they’re using small mirrorless cameras or larger systems from Nikon, Canon, and bigger systems from Hassleblad, etc. With the camera in a fixed, stable position – the photographer extends his or her creative possibilites and avoids the pitfalls of high-ISO settings, motion blur, and is saved from holding the camera in a tiring position. Having recently made a tripod purchase of my own, I thought I would share my experience.
Bear these important facts in mind: Most photographers “under-buy” on their first tripod purchase. Granted, many photographers end up owning more than one, so if yours is looking a little shaky under the weight of that new dSLR, then you may still be able to use it with a lightweight mirror-less camera, etc. Most tripod companies are over-confident with their weight ratings and it helps to get your hands on the thing to judge whether it’s really capable of it’s rating or not. Thirdly, each company lists it’s maximum height, which is important. If you’re setting up for some long exposures – you won’t want to use your tripod’s center column to achieve maximum height. Many “big-league” tripods don’t even have center columns because the tripod’s stabilty is so dramatically compromised when the camera is being supported by one vertical beam. Save your back (and your image) by getting a set of tripod legs which brings the camera to eye-level without extending the center column.
Now it’s time to define your priorities. From the following three characteristics choose the two characteristics which are most important to you (sorry, you can’t have it all):
Choose Two: 1) Affordable, 2) Stable, 3) Light weight.
Starting to get the picture..? The most high-end tripods are lightweight and stable, but not cheap. There’s plenty of affortable tripods that are stable – but they weight a ton. I’ve seen loads of cheap, lighweight tripods, but I wouldn’t hang my coat on them.
With that said, I was happy to discover that it wasn’t necessary to spend over a thousand francs or dollars to get a set of high-end carbon fiber tripod legs. Until recently, it was difficult to find a solid set of legs that wasn’t made by either Manfrotto or Gitzo, (the two dominant brands in theindustry). The competition has heated up in recent years with good offers from less known brands such as Sirui, Benro, Oben, Induro, and Giottos (to name a few).
I was able to quickly narrow my own search based on the following criteria:
- The tripod must be lightweight and compact (ie. easy to travel with).
- Must be sturdy enough to support my heaviest combination of camera+lens+flash, perhaps up to 5-8 kilograms (in the worst case scenario).
- Must be well built and easy to handle – even with gloves on (bonus points for not pinching me).
- Must be able to position the camera at eye-level without using the center column and be capable of lowering all the way to the ground for closeup work and low camera angles.
I can’t claim to have reviewed every option on the market, but I came upon the Sirui 3204-M and it checked all the boxes listed above, plus offered some additional advantages. The Sirui M-3204 comes with a six-year warranty (longer than any other tripod priced under Fr. 1000.), comes with a high-quality carry-case and tripod-carrying strap (this wasn’t included in any other offer I found), comes with an accessory short column for working close to the ground, and get this – one leg unscrews to form a monopod – super cool! Did I mention padded legs for carrying, retractable spiked feet for added stability on rugged surfaces like ice, dirt, or frosty grass? All that, plus a load capacity of 18 KG (or 40 lbs.). Wowsa! Best of all, it comes in at under Fr. 500.- and can be purchased locally. You may be thinking that even Fr. 500.- sounds quite expensive, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Consider though, that when shooting with long exposure times your image quality is reliant on these factors (in order of importance): Sturdy camera support, high quality lens, camera with a mirror lock-up feature and cable release, and a capable image sensor.
I’ve traveled with it and really put it through the paces over the past two months and must say that I’m quite satisfied. Price aside, I’d still rather own the Sirui than a Gitzo.
If this tripod seems overkill (in terms of price or size) then consider the smaller model: N-2204, and/or an aluminum version which will both save you quite a few pesos.
DSLR 1-2-3 Beginners Photography Course
Last weekend in Zurich we wrapped up another succesful round of our popular beginners photography course. Many thanks again to Jessica, Bryan, Helen, Yulia, Ilana and Brian! It was a pleasure meeting you all. Keep up the shooting and check back to let us know how it’s going with your photography.
Zurich Photography Course with Justin Hession
Yesterday in Zurich we had a very inspirational morning discussing photography composition with Justin Hession. Justin gave a terrific presentation on the key elements or “rules” of composing effective photographs, and broke down the strategies used to build captivating images.
dSLR 1-2-3 Series Photography Course
Today kicked off another round of our popular dSLR 1-2-3 Series for Beginners photography course. We’re very pleased to be holding many of our English language photography courses in Zürich at the Jallé Learning Studio, just off the Bahnhofstrasse in the scenic Rennweg quarter.
Alter Silvester in Appenzell
Last Saturday the hills of Appenzell Ausserrhoden were crawling with people decorated in both bizarre and beautiful traditional costumes as they celebrated Alter Silvester (or “Old New Year’s”). The costumes come in three varieties: “die Wüeschten (the ugly), die Schönen (the beautiful) and die Schön-Wüeschten (the beautiful-ugly).
5 Reasons to Own a 50mm Lens
We often get questions from newcomers to photography about which lenses we would recommend to them as they start building their camera systems. Of course everyone should choose lenses and other equipment that suit their particular interests, but there is one lens that I think everyone can benefit from and the good news is that it won’t break the bank. The 50mm lens belongs in every photographers bag.
Before digital cameras came on the scene, new SLR type cameras were sold with a 50mm standard lens. It’s versatility and relative low cost made it a perfect compliment to a new camera purchase. The simplicity of this fixed focal length “prime” lens made it very easy for photography students to get a handle on aperture settings and controlling exposure. In my opinion, the entry-level zoom lenses that come with many of todays cameras (often referred to as “kit lenses”) are a huge detriment to learning photography basics. This is primarily because of the fact that these lenses are “variable aperture zooms.” A variable aperture zoom is cheap because it doesn’t have much glass in it. Not a probem unless you want to shoot in low-light without flash or create shallow depth-of-field effects in your images. Most of our photography students want to do both! Who wouldn’t?
5 Reasons why you should own a 50mm lens:
- LOW LIGHT: It’s large maximum aperture will gather much more light than your zoom lens in those darker shooting situations (such as indoors), allowing you to make pictures without flash, and thereby preserving the atmosphere of the scene (and allowing you to remain inconspicuous).
- BLURRY BACKGROUNDS: That soft, blurry background that you’ve been hoping for in your pictures will finally be possible. Simply open up to the widest maximum aperture and let ‘er rip!
- IMPROVES YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY: The fixed focal length will force you to move your feet and use your brain, rather than letting you lazily twist your zoom ring. This fact alone will actually train you to be a better shooter. Zoom with your feet!
- LIGHT, CHEAP, COMPACT: It’s lightweight, inexpensive and compact. A 50mm 1.8 can be purchased for about CHF 150, and a 50mm 1.4 can be purchased for about CHF 350. Both are fine lenses. Any other lens with such a wide aperture will cost you closer to CHF 2000. This particular focal length (50mm) hits a particular sweetspot price wise. Take advantage!
- VERSATILE: This lens will work great on all cameras, regardless of whether you own a camera with a full-frame sensor or you shoot on a cropped format. It’s a great lens for general reportage, for travel, and for shooting people in a multitude of situations.
Italy Travel Photography Workshop
Our travel photography workshop in Italy was a total hit. Our blog needs a little updating, so I’ll take this opportunity to share a few photos and highlights from this extraordinary experience. When the day finally came for us to set off on our Spirit of the Piedmont travel photography workshop – we were all a bit gitty with excitement.
Speedlights Workshop – We Made Flash Fun!
Our speedlights photography workshop with Carina, Vicky, Barry, Martin and Manuel last Saturday and Sunday in Winterthur was a blast. The topic of flash photography can be a little daunting – even for folks who have been shooting for a long time, however it seemed that everyone was able to get a handle on the difference between a normal ambient exposure and an exposure which adds flash to the equation.
1 Minute Tip – Timing the Step
In this one-minute photography tip, Dan Patitucci explains the importance of timing the step to make sure that you’re getting photos of a hiking model while she/he is in the optimal stepping position.
Zurich Street Parade with ViewFinder Meetup Group
Thanks to everyone who came out to our Meetup group gathering at Zurich Street Parade 2012. We had a great time shooting and socializing over beers beforehand and afterwards at the Outback restaurant. If you’re not already a member of our Meetup group, sign up and join us next time.
Photography Workshop in Grindelwald, Switzerland
Viewfinder had the privilege of hosting our first Mountain Sports Photography Workshop with Dan and Janine Patitucci (of PatitucciPhoto) in Grindelwald, Switzerland this past weekend. It was an absolute blast! A big thank you to Janine and Dan for sharing their passion, energy and creativity with our group.
Photography Workshop with Mindy Veissid
It was a pleasure hosting Mindy Veissid’s one day workshop called the Art of Intuitive Photography. Everyone enjoyed listening to their inner creative voice and seeking out compositions in and around the Katharina Sulzer Platz in Winterthur.
Which New DSLR Camera Should I Buy?
Lately I’m getting questions from photography students who are in the market for a new “DSLR” (digital-single-lens-reflex) camera and are seeking advice before they purchase. I’ve prepared a summary here of things to think about while shopping for a new DSLR camera and a list of what I think the best current DSLR candidates are at three different price points.
(Last update on 13. February 2016)
I need to preface this post with a bit of an overview on camera selection. Different photographers obviously have different needs, budgets, etc. Beginning photographers are at a disadvantage when shopping for cameras because many won’t completely understand the advantages and disadvantages of one model over the other. For that reason, take your time and seek good input before buying. The camera market is constantly changing as well, with new advances every year. I’m going to start this blog entry by identifying what I think are three most important issues to consider when choosing your next camera body.
All digital camera sensors are not created equally. In the film days this was easy. 35mm SLR cameras all took the same sized film. Today, in order to achieve different price points, manufactures have diversified their camera lines to include less expensive, smaller-sensor (24 x 16mm) camera bodies and more expensive, larger-sensor (36 x 24mm) camera bodies. In camera lingo, the large sensor cameras are often referred to as “full-format” cameras and the small sensor models are often called “cropped format” or “APS-C format” cameras.
While many smaller sensor cameras have outstanding picture quality, there are a couple of drawbacks to be aware of. First, because of the smaller dimensions of the sensor you will be confronted with a focal length issue when using lenses that are designed around the larger dimensions of the full-format camera bodies. For example, if you take a standard 50mm lens and mount it on a cropped-format camera, you will essentially be shooting with a 80mm lens. The smaller sensor is only able to “see” the middle part of what the lens sees. The next time you’re in the camera shop – ask if you can compare two cameras (one large or “full-format” and one smaller “cropped format”) side-by-side. Put the same 50mm lens on both and have a look through. You’ll notice right away that the larger format camera “sees more.” Because of the difference in sensor sizes, camera manufacturers have begun producing lenses designed specifically to work on “cropped format” cameras. The typical zoom lens which comes with a cropped format camera is either an 18-55mm or 18-135mm zoom. An 18-135mm lens on an cropped-format camera approximates the same field of view as a 24-200mm lens on a full-format camera. These “cropped-format lenses” are much less expensive than the lenses built for full-format bodies.
If you have a collection of lenses which you are hoping to use on your new camera, then it helps to understand that there will be a “cropping factor” involved when using full-format lenses on a cropped-format camera body. Take your full-format lens, multiple by a factor of 1.5x and that’s roughly what the lens will become when used on the cropped-format camera. Better yet, use this handy focal length converter, provided by Cambridge in Colour. You can find in-depth information about camera sensors on this page as well. If you don’t own any lenses, then you need to ask yourself whether you should invest in cropped-format lenses. If you decide to upgrade to a larger sensor camera in the future then you’ll have to replace all of your lenses as well because they were designed only to work on the smaller format and are not backwards compatible like the larger format lenses. Different camera manufactures have their own proprietory markings to designate if a lens is designed specifically for the cropped-format sensor size. In Nikon they are called “DX” lenses, in Canon they are called “EF-S” and Sony refers to their cropped format lenses as “DT” format.
If you are someone who mostly shoots outdoors where there is a relative abundance of light – then don’t fret over this point. Most modern dSLR cameras do a pretty decent job when set to ISO 800 and ISO performance is improving every year. However, if you enjoy shooting photos after the sun has gone down, prefer not to use a flash, and/or you wish to take event photos indoors – then choose carefully. Though there are a few APS-C format cameras which perform well up to ISO 1600, larger sensor cameras will always out-perform smaller small sensors when shooting in low-light scenarios. As your ISO rating climbs above 1600 you will see big differences in terms of image quality between the two. Leave megapixels out of it, because for most cameras – having more megapixels is a disadvantage when shooting at higher ISO ratings. For more on the relationship between ISO, megapixels and image quality vs. noise, visit this explanation on Cambridge in Colour’s site.
Menus, Buttons and Ports:
As you go up the product line towards the more expensive cameras – regardless of brand, you’ll notice that the cameras get tougher. This is evident in terms of build quality and weather sealing. Ergonomics are superior on the more expensive models. The more shooting you do – the more important these aspects become. Additionally, the more expensive models will come with more external buttons to control the camera’s most important (most frequently adjusted) settings. As you gain skill and familiarity with your camera, you’ll be changing your camera settings more frequently in response to different situations. For example, as a wedding photographer I am constantly changing my ISO settings as I move from outdoor shooting scenarios to dark churches, and back outside again, etc. If I had to dive into my cameras menus and submenus to change my ISO each time – it would drive me absolutely nuts and I would miss loads of shots. Thankfully, both of my Nikons have an external ISO adjustment button. I simply hold it down and roll the camera’s rear command dial to adjust my ISO settings. I can even do it without taking my eye away from the viewfinder. If you’ve ever photographed in very cold conditions – where gloves were a necessity, you also know how much hassle it can be to adjust settings with micro-sized buttons or elaborate menus and submenus. Bring a pair of mid-weight winter gloves with you to the camera shop as you’re shopping and comparing models. Some will be easier to operate with a gloved hand than others. Pay attention also to the types of ports provided on each camera. Some cameras will have a port to connect to a studio strobe system (via a “PC port”). USB 3 is being offered on some models – which could make downloading pictures much faster.
The Resolution Race:
The race to increase resolution is never ending and camera manufactures such as Nikon, Canon and Sony are constantly turning up the Megapixel count to stay competitive. If you need to print very large images – then invest in a camera with at least 20 megapixels. Consider that you may have to crop part of your image away, which means that your 20 megapixel shot becomes 15 megapixels if you crop out 25% of your image. However, beware that if you upgrade to a camera with 20+ megapixels, you may need additional storage space to accommodate your fast-growing digital library.
In terms of video – there are a few special considerations. Any of the cameras on the market these days (including the iPhone 4s) shoot video of a high-enough quality for making amateur YouTube videos and the like. For these purposes, a camera which shoots 720p (video resolution) is totally adequate. If you intend to embark on more involved video projects (with much more care, energy and editing involved) then pick a camera which produces 1080p resolution and preferably has the ability shoot at 60 frames-per-second at it’s 1080p setting. If the words “production quality” don’t mean anything to you – then you’ll be totally fine with any video-capable DSLR.
If you’ve boiled it down to a final run-off between two camera models and are satasfied that all your basic needs have been met, then consider some of the following points:
- Auto focus: how quick and accurate is it? Does it function well in darker lighting situations? Will it track fast moving subjects well?
- Ergonomics: does the camera feel good in your hands? Are your fingers long enough to reach the most crucial controls without having to reposition your grip?
- System Compatibility: are you able to make use of existing accessories that you already own? Can you rent special lenses if needed? Will the camera connect to studio lighting if needed? Connect to a cable release? How will you get photos off the camera? USB 2.0, USB 3.0, card reader? What kind of memory cards does it take? Do you need to buy new ones?
- Drive mode: can the camera take a burst of shots in rapid succession? This could be important for a variety of subjects, such as shooting sports, children or wild animals. Three frames per second is pretty darn slow, while six or more is fast enough for most moving subjects.
- Battery life: How’s the battery performance? Can you shoot all day on a couple of batteries?
Top Contenders in the current DSLR Market:
My suggestion is to stick with either Canon, Nikon or Sony if you’re getting serious with your photography. Other manufacturers such as Pentax and Konica Minolta also produce outstanding cameras, but they don’t offer the depth of lens choices or accessories found in Canon, Nikon and Sony.
Because the market changes so rapidly, I’ve stopped listing my favorite camera models in this blog post. Instead, I recommend heading over to DPreview.com to have a look at the latest reviews. This website gathers loads of technical information about each new camera on the market. You can even compare models side-by-side with their camera comparison tools. Enjoy and good luck with your search!
Landscape Photography Workshop on Säntis Mountain
This weekend we hosted a fantastic landscape photography workshop on the Säntis Mountain in eastern Switzerland. The workshop was a hit and we’re grateful to everyone that joined us for this awesome two-day photography trip. The weather gods went easy on us and we were treated with fantastic evening light and a colorful sunrise.
Beginner’s Photography Course “Hands On” in Winterthur
I had a great time working with a very nice group of ladies on Saturday for our DSLR2 beginner’s photography course in Winterthur. I think everyone left the course with a better understanding of the infamous “exposure triangle” (the basis for understanding the relationship between ISO, aperture and shutter speed) among other things.
Travel Photography Workshop in Italy – October 2012
We are very excited to add a unique photography workshop to our offerings this year. In October we will host “The Spirit of the Piedmont” in a little village called Alfiano Natta in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. We’ve partnered with Buon Gusto Tours and the Castello di Razzano Estate to make this a truly unique event.
Panorama Photos in a Snap – No Special Gear Required
Ever wondered how some photographers create those wonderfully wide high-resolution panorama photographs of landscape scenes? Panorama images were formerly the territory of professional photographers who had the budget for special cameras and lenses, such as those made by Seitz and Lindhof.
DSLR3 “Hands On” Photography Course in Winterthur
Just a quick thank you to the folks who came out for ViewFinder’s DSLR3 course on Saturday. I had a great time working with Vicky, Helen, Julia and Mark. We missed you Angela! Looking forward to seeing everyone next time.
DSLR1 – Photography Course in Winterthur
We had a great time shooting under sunny skies at our DSLR1 photography course in Winterthur on Saturday. Many thanks to everyone who came out: Caroline, Angela, Kerry, Helen, Thomas and Giglio. I was really impressed with how well everyone did on the shooting excercises at the Katharina Sulzer Platz. It was great meeting/seeing you all and I look forward to next time!
More Winter Photography Courses – Join Us!
Just a quick shout to thank our recent participants of the DSLR 1-2-3 series courses at ViewFinder. We’ve been having a great time with all of you this winter. We’ve announced our new course dates for the next round of DSLR 1-2-3 courses over on our registration page.
Viewfinder’s exciting step into 2012
Greetings fellow photographers! I’d like to take the opportunity to introduce myself here on the blog. My name is Matt Anderson and this blog post marks my first website contribution as the new managing director and owner of the Viewfinder Center for Photography. To say that I’m excited about what’s around the corner in 2012 would be a crazy understatement!