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Archive for January, 2012

Suzanne Lavallee hosts a popular dog blog in San Francisco, called Spoiled Bitch.net. She recently ran an article on Schutzhund Spring Trials in the Bay area.  The article also features a description of the sport, along with some of my photos!  Very cool!

According to Suzanne, “SpoiledBitch is a lifestyle resource for dog lovers that is hopelessly devoted to helping you and your dog live the sweet life in and around the San Francisco Bay Area.” Suzanne trained and handled her own dogs in Schutzhund, French Ring and Mondio Ring.  She also has participated in police dog training and urban search and rescue training. She founded SpoiledBitch as a way to share great new discoveries with dog owners, especially in the Bay area.

Thanks, Suzanne!

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Recent posts have looked at different elements and issues associated with composition and exposure, both of which are critical to capturing compelling images of Schutzhund dogs (or any dog) in action. Examining specific images and considering what went into taking that image, including planning, photographing and post-processing, is the next step in putting what you may have learned from this blog and other sources into action.

Thank you Louise Jollyman and Martin Barrow of Brymwylf for being the first contributors to this series. Do you have a really great image that you’re especially proud of or you think would be especially instructive to other photographers? Then, please send it to me , along with a brief description of what went into getting the shot, with an emphasis on planning, actually taking the photograph, including lighting conditions and other challenges, and any post-processing. Please send before post-processing and after, so we all can get a sense for your process and why you made the choices you did. Send them to bj@bjspanos.com.

On to Lou and Marty’s photo of CJ and the Rag: What I really like about this photograph is the perspective, which is one I haven’t seen before; that is, taking a full frontal photo of CJ just getting ready to bite the sleeve. So, here in Lou’s own words is how she and Marty got the shot and what she did afterwards.

CJ and the Rag: Original Photo As Taken

CJ and the Rag: Edited Photo

We started out with a beautiful sunny day and thought we would try to get some shots of CJ doing some ragwork. By the time we had chosen a spot at the back of our property, a few clouds came over, so Marty took a few test shots and adjusted the F stop accordingly. Marty took the photo on his [Canon EOS] 7D, I was the “rag bearer.” I had to make sure I threw the rag in the optimal arc for the shot!  Marty set up, knelt down about 30 to 40 feet diagonally to the side of the tree which CJ was tied to. The expression and outstretched front paws is all CJ’s own special style!  The timing on the shot was a bit of luck. I think Marty took a hundred or so shots of which we kept nine. Post processing, I used Photoshop Elements, and, using the quick edit, I did a little bit with the “lighten shadows”, “darken highlights” and “midtone contrast” and also a little “sharpen.”

Camera: Canon EOS 7D
Lens: Canon EF 70-200 mm 1:2.8 L
Camera Setting: Av (aperture priority)
ISO: 640
F stop: f/4.5
Exposure 1/2000 sec

So, going back to previous discussions about composition. What do you see? For me, Lou made an excellent decision to crop in and fill the frame with CJ’s top half. If she included the entire dog, the drama would have been diminished. The short depth of field nicely blurred the background so CJ pops out of the photo. Behind CJ are two posts that frame her in the center of a “V” shape, further drawing the eye to CJ and her intense and focused eyes. The rag and and the lead it’s attached to bisect the entire image, so above the rag is CJ’s marvelous expression of determination and below the rag is her impressive body language and launch to get that rag! Nice work, Lou and Marty!

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Gather several Schutzhund photographers together and they will invariably lament about how frequently we shoot in constantly changing weather (lighting) conditions and how difficult it is. Gives credence to that old notion that if you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes. While we cannot control the weather, we can have a plan of action that takes into account different lighting scenarios and makes adjusting camera settings on the fly not as daunting.

A number of available charts that provide aperture and shutter speed settings based on the Sunny 16 Rule are very helpful and are a great starting place for calculating exposure for different creative looks. Just do a search for “aperture shutter speed chart” and a plethora of charts and resources will pop up. The most helpful charts from my perspective as a Schutzhund photographer are those that do not rely solely on the Sunny 16 Rule or ISO 100, but include entries for a full range of ISO settings and calculates the shutter speed for a full range of aperture settings at different EV values. Fred Parker developed one of the better ones that I have come across, as noted in part 1. Copyright restrictions prevent me from re-publishing the chart, but it is available on his website and his article that accompanies the Ultimate Exposure Computer is well worth reading.

Also as explained in Part 1, exposure values can be assigned to different lighting conditions. Using the corresponding value to the expected lighting conditions, photographers can then look at Fred’s Computer to determine which settings would be the most likely to produce a good exposure for the creative goals. Others also have published charts using EV values and can serve the same purpose, but they may only include settings for ISO 100. For example, say it is a sunny day or even a hazy sunny day, the EV values would be 15 and 14, respectively. According to Fred’s Computer, at ISO 200 at f/2.8, the shutter speed would need to be either 1/4000 or 1/8000 for proper exposure. If you dial the aperture to f/5.6 or f/8 – both excellent settings for catching action and depth of field – the shutter speed would be 1/2000 or 1/1000. Do you notice the trend? As the amount of light is cut in half with each step down in the aperture size (higher number), the shutter speed must correspondingly slow down (lower number) in order to allow enough light to fall on the camera sensor to achieve proper exposure. The minimum shutter speed for stopping action is 1/500, according to the experts. But I’ve found that 1/640 to 1/1000 to be workable minimums. You can also adjust to a faster film speed (higher number) to keep the shutter speed where you want it, but then the aperture would have to be adjusted to compensate.

By understanding how these relationships work – either doubling or halving –  photographers have a lot of options and flexibility. Remember it’s a sliding scale. In researching this topic, I also came across several other resources and cheat sheets that may help you keep all this straight. Don’t worry if it seems confusing and hard to remember. Even the most experienced photographers rely on memory aids!

  • The Photo Argus Cheat Sheets for available light (aperture, shutter speed, EV values, ISO); 49 Photo Tips; Photography Cheat Sheet (aperture, ISO, shutter speed); and more
  • PhotoBert Cheat Sheets for photography settings and different camera models
  • Photopoly 22 Useful Photography and Photo Editing Cheat Sheets
  • Web Design Ledger 13 Super Useful Photography Cheat Sheets

There is some duplication from site to site, and some are for sale while others are free downloads. I also recommend Bryan Peterson’s books on Understanding Exposure, Understanding Shutter Speed, and Learning to See Creatively.

Let me know if these resources are helpful!  Happy shooting!

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For many Schutzhund photographers, me included, really understanding the fundamental relationship between ISO, shutter speed and aperture so it becomes second nature has not been easy, especially when lighting conditions change on a dime and quick decisions are the rule. This past weekend, I did some more digging, and learned about EV values, which for me has been a missing link to this often perplexing equation. I now finally, finally understand that choosing the correct exposure for lighting conditions and what I am striving for creatively is a function of doubles and halves.

Before reading further you may wish to review my earlier post Figuring Out Aperture, ISO, Shutter Speed in Changeable Weather Conditions, as today’s post builds on the information presented there. Also, I wish to acknowledge Fred Parker of Fred Parker Photography, who penned a great article that explains EV values, along with shutter speed, aperture and ISO. His article is the primary resource for this post, and I encourage you to read it sometime. He also has an “Ultimate Exposure Computer” that is very helpful.

Often, you will see the ISO, aperture and shutter speed relationship depicted as an exposure triangle. Varying these settings allows photographers to manage exposure and creatively change the image. After reading Fred’s article, as well as some other sources, I see this relationship more like a square, with the fourth side reserved for lighting conditions (see the figure at the end of this post). Various lighting conditions are assigned numerical values (called exposure value or EV) on a scale of 1 to 23 (for ISO 100 film) (see bullet list below). Each step up represents twice as much light and each step down equates to one-half the light falling on the subject. This value is then converted into aperture and shutter speed settings to achieve the proper exposure for the chosen film speed.

Most daylight subjects / conditions fall within the rage of EV 11 to EV 16, as follows:

  • Light sand or snow in full or slightly hazy sunlight (distinct shadows):  16
  • Typical scene in full or slightly hazy sunlight (distinct shadows): 15
  • Typical scene in hazy sunlight (soft shadows): 14
  • Typical scene, cloudy bright (no shadows): 13
  • Typical scene, heavy overcast: 12
  • Areas in open shade, clear sunlight: 12

For a full listing, including evening, night and indoor lighting values, see the Wikipedia article on Exposure Value.

To review, film speed (or ISO) represents the sensitivity of the film to light or in the digital world the sensitivity of the light sensor in the camera. These speeds are 25, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 and 3200. Each step up from 25 to 50 to 100 to 200 and so on is twice the preceding number and represents twice the sensitivity to light. With all other exposure settings the same, each step up will take half as long to reach the same level of exposure as the previous step. Conversely, each step down equates to one-half the sensitivity to light of the previous step and will take twice as long to reach the same level of exposure. Remember that the faster the ISO, the more noise in the picture. The equivalent artifact in film is called grain. For a great explanation of digital noise and ISO, see the Cambridge in Color’s tutorial on Digital Camera Image Noise. Most experts recommend keeping the ISO as low as possible. This doubling or halving the light holds true for aperture and shutter speed settings as well.

Shutter speeds are expressed as a fraction of a second (except those for very long exposures that are more than a second): 15, 8, 4, 2, 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000, 1/2000, 1/4000 and 1/8000. As you move to the right, each value is approximately twice the preceding value and represents half the light or moving to the left twice the amount of light. Shutter speeds at 1/1000 will stop most action, while slower speeds such as 1/8 will blur even slow moving subjects. Here’s useful tip from Fred to avoid motion blur:

“If your shutter speed is slower than the reciprocal of the focal length of your lens, you must use a tripod…For example, if you are using a 200 mm lens, your shutter speed must exceed 1/200…If your subject is moving, double this shutter speed…If you are moving, triple the speed.” 

Aperture settings are the ratio of the focal length of the lens to the diameter of the lens diaphragm opening, hence the term “focal number” or f/stop or f/number. The designation “f/2”, for example, means the diameter of the aperture is 1/2 the focal length of the lens. These are expressed as 1, 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22, 32, 45, 64. Each number to the right is one half the amount of light; conversely, each number to the left allows twice the amount of light. The lower the number, the more wide open the aperture and the more light is allowed into the camera sensor. Notice that the progression of f/stops approximately doubles the numbers 1 and 1.4: 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 32, 64 or 1.4, 2.8, 5.6, 11, 22, 45. Combining the two series yields the entire range of aperture settings or f/stops: 1, 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22, 32, 45, 64. With ISO, shutter speeds and aperture settings, there are intermediate steps as well. To keep things simple, they are not addressed in these posts.

Exposure Square - Double or Half the Light (or Sensitivity to Light - ISO)

So, how does a photographer put all this together? Well, you’ll have to wait for my next post, which will be up later this week!

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