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.
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.
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.
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!
What’s in my bag?
After a brief game of show and tell on our recent Landscape Photography Workshop on the Saentis, I thought that it was a good idea to make a blog post discussing my kit in case something in my bag may be of use to you.
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!
Trusty Tripod – A Photography Essential
With our Saentis Landscape Photography Workshop coming up and a new Sirui M-3204 tripod in my kit, I thought that it was time to write a few words on photographic support. Support can mean lots of different things from beanbags to a friend’s shoulder to monopods to tripods but this post is dedicated to the tripod.
Viewfinder Center Meets 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!
Holiday Gift Ideas for Photographers
Christmas is coming and a good number of photographers are hoping that Santa comes down the chimney with a nice piece of photography kit. The good news is that there’s a plethora of gifts out there – at a wide range of prices. None of it’s made at the North Pole but there’s a well suited gift for just about everyone.
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.”
“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.
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.
Gift Ideas for Photographers
It’s that time of year again and if you’re like me, it’s time to get cranking on that Christmas shopping. Well, the good news for you is that if there’s a photographer on your Santa list, then the gift ideas are endless. Here’s a few ideas for gifts (at a few different price points).
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.
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!
February Photo Courses
Last weekend was terrific. Many thanks to everyone who came out, braved the elements, and stoked the creativity furnace with us at ViewFinder. With our DSLR 3 course – we concluded another successful and learning packed DSLR series.
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.
New Years Photography Resolutions
Santa Claus probably left a few new cameras under the tree this holiday season, and for those getting started with new DSLRs this year – I think this list of 7 steps for getting the most out of your first DSLR could be a handy read.
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!