Photographing Seals at Blakeney Point

Common seal

Blakeney Point is a nature reserve in Blakeney village in the county of Norfolk. During the summer, many common seals assemble at Blakeney Point to give birth to seal pups. I had planned this trip a few months back and decided to visit in July. At the Blakeney Point, there are not only common seals but also Grey Seals and various seabirds such as Sandwich Terns and Oyster Catchers.

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Why use back button focusing?

Shot using Sony Ultra XA2
Here I use both the AF-ON and * button to focus on moving or still subject

Back button focusing is taking focusing away from the shutter button and assigns it to one of the buttons on the back of the DSLR. Focusing using the back button of the DSLR is a very useful feature. It can be used to shoot moving subjects as well as still subjects. With the shutter button half pressed in AI Servo mode, it will refocus each time as the camera tracks the moving subject and this results in a lot of wasted out of focus images and one will need to switch from “One Shot” mode to “AI Servo” and vice versa (Canon cameras) when subject stops and starts moving randomly. There is no point in the camera having a high frame rate if it simply cannot lock focus using the shutter button and this reason is enough to use the back button to lock focus.

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How to shoot sunsets?

There are a number of ways to shoot sunsets. Here I will talk about how to shoot HDR sunsets. A tripod may be required depending on the shutter speed. All that needs to be done is bracket 3 different shots at different exposure levels and merge them in Lightroom or Photoshop. One shot will be underexposed at for example -2EV, one shot overexposed at +2EV and one at standard 0EV.

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How to Shoot in Bulb Mode?

ISO-100 f/8 172.3 sec

If one wants to shoot long exposures of over 30 seconds then it will be necessary to shoot in bulb mode. What bulb mode allows us to do is to increase the shutter time from 30 seconds to infinity and for this task, we need a steady tripod, an ND filter and a remote release shutter cable. With an ND filter, we will know how much light we are blocking and then it becomes easier to calculate the new shutter speed. For example when composing the initial frame, if the shutter is 1/4 second and aperture is set to f/11, on using a 10 stop ND filter will increase the shutter to 4 minutes 16 seconds. For this we will need a shutter remote.

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Neutral Density Filters

Comparison of two photos, top one shot without an ND filter and bottom one shot with an ND filter.

Neutral density filters come in various strengths or optical densities from blocking 1 stop of light to blocking out 10 or more stops of light passing through the camera lens. Each ND filter is given a notation of 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 and so on. The purpose of using ND filter is to achieve motion blur when using slow shutter speeds and are primarily used for shooting landscapes.

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How to shoot at long exposures under low light?

This image was shot while trekking in Markha Valley at Kang Yatse II base camp. For this I had used a Canon 6D DSLR and a Tamron 28-300mm lens. A steady tripod is a must to take a shot. For this image, I had used my Mefoto Globetrotter. In addition to the above, a remote shutter release also comes in handy in order to avoid any camera shake. This would normally occur when pressing on a shutter during a long exposure of let’s say 30 seconds. This would ruin the composition.

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“Best Top Photographer” Coffee Table Book

As a photographer, I was looking for ways to get my work out there other than posting on facebook and google groups. I came across an online photography group started by Rinus Bakker called Best Top Photographer. This group was exclusive to both professionals and amateurs and only great quality photographs were accepted. I then decided to join this group back in 2014.

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