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Favorite Resources

Next week starts my graduate studies in earnest, so this will likely be my last post to this particular blog. Although I never say never, as you never know 😉 As noted in previous posts, I will keep the The Art of Schutzhund Photography blog live for those who are looking for inspiration and ideas on photographing IPO (Schutzhund) dogs are work. I have truly enjoyed posting and sharing my journey with you. I also appreciate your support and visits. Thank you!

In wrapping up my posts, below is a list of my favorite resources that have helped and inspired me these past years. I encourage you to visit these sites. Some are free; some not. Some investments are very reasonable, while others are a bit more expensive. But like most things, an investment of time and money is needed to make significant progress. I hope there is enough variety in this list for you to find something of value.

Note: I left the URLs where you can see them, rather than as links, to avoid broken links and what not.  If a URL is not included, I tried to indicate a possible source.

Books (Hard Copy and E-Books)

Blair. L. Photographing Dogs: Techniques for Professional Digital Photographers. 2013. Amherst Media, Inc. Available from Amazon.

Digital Photography School. Publisher of e-books, tips and tutorials. Excellent resource. www.digital-photography-school.com

Hisch R. 2012. Light and Lens: Photography in the Digital Age. Focal Press. Available from Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Light-Lens-Photography-Digital-Age/dp/024081827X/ref=dp_ob_title_bk

Kanashkevich M. Natural Light: Mastering A Photographer’s Most Powerfule Tool (e-book). Digital Photography School. http://digital-photography-school.com/book/naturallight/

Laird, S. Artistic Elements (e-books). Using textures and layers to create digital photographic artwork. Stunning! http://www.stephanielaird.com/psd.html

Patel J. What the Heck is a HISTOGRAM. (e-book) Jay Patel Photography. All of Jay Patel’s e-books covering a wide array of photography topics may be found at http://visualwilderness.com/learn

Peterson B. Understanding Exposure. Revised Edition. 2004. Amphoto Books.

Peterson B. Learning to See Creatively: Design, Color & Composition in Photography. Revised Edition. 2003. Amphoto Books.

Peterson. B. Understanding Shutter Speed. 2008. Amphoto Books.

Peterson B. Understanding Photography Field Guide. 2010. Amphoto Books.

All of Bryan Peterson’s books are available on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_11?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=brian+peterson+photography+books&sprefix=Brian+Peter%2Caps%2C209

Pflughoet, J. Beautiful Beasties: A Creative Guide for Modern Pet Photography. 2012. John Wiley & Sons. Available from Amazon.

Articles of Note / Websites / Blogs

Action Photography. Photographic Magazine. August 2003. Reprinted with permission on Steephill.tv Bike Travelouge. http://www.steephill.tv/photography/action-photography-tips.html

Bigman, A. PPI vs. DPI: What’s the Difference? 99Designs Blog. February 26, 3013. http://99designs.com/designer-blog/2013/02/26/ppi-vs-dpi-whats-the-difference/

Copyright Guidelines. Reprinted with permission by the Photo Marketing Association International. http://www.kodak.com/cluster/global/en/consumer/doingMore/copyright.shtml

Creamer, D. Understanding Resolution and the Meaning of DPI, PPI, SPI & LPI. Ideas Training.com. 2012. http://www.ideastraining.com/PDFs/UnderstandingResolution.pdf

Johnston. M. Bokeh in Pictures. The Luminous Landscape. April 4, 2004. http://www.luminous-landscape.com/columns/sm-04-04-04.shtml

Sloma K. Exploring with a Camera: Printed Aspect Ratios. Kat-Eye Studio blog post. November 18, 2011. http://kateyestudio.com/2011/11/exploring-with-a-camera-printed-aspect-ratios.html

Organizations / Tutorials

KelbyOne (previous National Association of Photoshop Professionals). A website full of amazing tutorials for Photoshop, Lightroom and Creative Cloud, plus a subscription to Photoshop User magazine. www.kelbyone.com

Professional Photographers of America. Atlanta, GA. www.ppa.com. Excellent organization with many resources for emerging professionals and long time professionals as well. Dues are stiff, but worth it.

Caponigro, JP. John Paul Caponigro Illuminating Creativity. His website includes online tutorials, DVDs, ebooks and printed books. www.johnpaulcaponigro.com

Cheat Sheets, Online Tools

CameraSim. Simulates camera settings; great way to play with lighting, distance, focal length, ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. http://camerasim.com/apps/camera-simulator/

Color Temperature. Useful chart. http://www.3drender.com/glossary/colortemp.jpg

Cost of Doing Business Calculator. National Press Photographers Association. https://nppa.org/calculator

DOF Master. Depth of Field Calculator. http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html

The Photo Argus. Cheat sheets for portrait lighting, photography, photo tips, light fall off, reflectors, plus more. This site also features tutorials and other resources. http://www.thephotoargus.com/resources/helpful-photography-cheat-sheets-to-make-you-life-easier/

PhotoBert CheatSheets and Accessories. http://www.photocheatsheets.com

Photopoly. Another great resource. http://www.photopoly.net/22-useful-photography-and-photo-editing-cheat-sheets/

Ultimate Exposure Calcultor. Fred Parker Photography. http://www.fredparker.com/ultexp1.htm

Web Design Ledger. 13 Super Useful Photography Cheat Sheets. http://webdesignledger.com/resources/13-super-useful-photography-cheat-sheets

Until next time…Happy Shooting – and again thank you for visiting!

 

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I attended a very interesting lecture recently on color theory and color contrast in photography. It got me thinking about how to use color and color contrast in IPO photography. Yes, I know, most all IPO photographers shoot in color, so you may be asking yourself, what’s the big deal? Well, as with many elements in an image’s composition, color plays an important part in telling the image’s story as it evokes an emotional response and draws attention to or away from particular elements. Used wisely, color enhances images and the viewer’s experience.

Before considering colors in typical IPO settings and how to effectively use color in IPO photography, a quick review of color theory will be beneficial.

We perceive color from reflective, absorptive or transmitted light. In other words, the color of an object depends on how much of particular wavelengths of light are absorbed or reflected.  For example, an apple appears red, because it absorbs all of the other colors and reflects red wavelengths of light.  A black object absorbs all the wavelengths of light. Solid object reflect light, while transparent objects will transmit light through them.

This visible light spectrum correlates to a wavelength range of 400 – 700 nanometers (nm) and a color range of violet through red. The visible colors from shortest to longest wavelength are violet, blue, green, yellow, orange and red.  For more information, see the following articles:

With this in mind, go back to when you first learned about color as a child. Recall, that a traditional color wheel used by artists has 12 colors, as shown below, which can be divided into three categories:

  • Primary – Red, blue and yellow, which make up all other colors.
  • Secondary – Orange, green and violet, which result from mixing primary colors.
  • Tertiary – Red-violet, red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green and blue-violet, which result from mixing primary and secondary colors.

Color Wheel 1 - Shutterstock

Each color is called a hue. Color Value refers to a color’s lightness or darkness.  Within each color value are tints and shades. Tints refer to a color where white is added to lighten it, such as pink (red + white), and shades refer to a color where black is added to darken it, such as brown (orange + black).  See the color wheel below.

Traditional Artists Color Wheel 2

Color directly across from each other on the color wheel are called complementary colors; for example, red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and violet. These colors can compliment each other or contrast with each other. There is no hard and fast rule about whether or not a particular color combination is pleasing.

But wait! There’s a twist when it comes to photography! Artists mix pigment, but photographers mix light, and light uses a set of different primary colors. As explained in the Franklin Institute’s helpful article:

“The primary colors of light are red, blue and green, and the secondary are yellow, cyan and magenta … Red and green paint, for example, make brown paint, but red and green light makes yellow light … When beams of light are mixed without any absorption, an additive process occurs. The more we mix the beams, the closer they get to white light.”

These primary colors form the basis of the “Additive Color (RGB) Model, named because black is the base and light is ‘added’ to eventually get to white, which is all of the colors together. Additive colors are seen in televisions, nature and computer screens.” Our retinas also are sensitive to these same primary colors. “Just as any color of the [light] spectrum can be made by mixing the three primary colors, so do our own eyes discern the various colors by sensing different wavelengths with these three receptors.”

With this in mind, a photographer’s RGB color wheel might look like this:

RGB color wheel

One more bit of theory before moving on. “Saturation is how intense colors appear. Over saturation of color can result in loss of detail or clipping. Vibrance is a smart-tool used in photo editing software that increases the intensity of the more muted colors and leaves the already well-saturated colors as they are.” For more about the hue, color value, saturation and vibrance, see the following articles:

Without getting too much into the weeds of color management for image files (a topic for another day) and color theory, what’s key here is red, blue and green light are not only the primary colors in nature (the outdoors being the most frequent location of IPO photography), but they also are the primary colors we use to see and to create color in televisions and computer monitors, the most frequent viewing medium for IPO photographs. So, it makes sense to think of color in photography for the purposes of image composition in this context.

Part 2 of this series will discuss what colors may symbolize and how we perceive them on an emotional level. Part 3 will wrap up this series with examples and tips on how to effectively use color in IPO photography.  As always, thanks for visiting and Happy Shooting!

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Aspect ratio, as discussed in the last post, is critical for determining the size of a printed image. To review, aspect ratio is the proportional relationship between an image’s width and height. Different aspect ratios can significantly impact the image’s composition. So, when cropping an image for printing, it’s important to crop to the correct aspect ratio for the print size. Crop tools in most imaging editing software allow you to select the desired aspect ratio.

In selecting a print size and preparing the image for printing, also consider the viewing distance and the image’s resolution (ppi). According to Photography Stack Exchange, “The viewing distance of an image is based on two factors: first is the diagonal image size and second are the pixels per inch (ppi) required at the distance to give a sharp image.”

The rule of thumb is the optimal viewing distance is 1.5 to 2 times the diagonal of the image. An easy formula to figure the diagonal of the print size is take the square root of width2 + height2 (Pythagorean Theorem).

For an image to appear sharp at the optimal viewing distance also needs sufficient number of pixels per inch to “fool the eye in to seeing a smooth image”, according to Photography Stack Exchange. The minimum ppi for a given image is calculated by dividing the value 3438 by the viewing distance. Why 3438? This value is the constant for human vision and correlates to how much resolution a human eye can see.

The following table lists the optimal viewing distance and minimum resolution for some of the most common print sizes. For the sake of argument, the viewing distance is calculated at 1.5 times the diagonal. All values expressed in inches. Note that the larger the image, the greater the distance for optimal viewing and the lower the minimum ppi needed to achieve a smooth, sharp image.

Aspect Ratio

Print Size

Diagonal

Viewing Distance

PPI Needed

1:1

6 x 6

8.49

12.73

270

2:3

4 x 6

7.21

11

313

5:7

5 x 7

8.6

12.9

267

4:5

8 x 10

12.81

19

181

11:14

11 x 14

17.8

26.7

129

3:4

12 x 16

20

30

115

4:5

16 x 20

25.61

38

89

2:3

20 x 30

36.1

54.2

63

4:5

24 x 30

38.5

57.75

60

One more thing: To ensure good quality prints, there needs to be enough pixels in the image itself. Cameras with greater megapixel capabilities can produce image files that support larger sized quality prints, while cameras with fewer megapixels may be somewhat limited in available print sizes. B & H Photo has an excellent reference chart. Also, see the list of articles below for more information on PPI, DPI, print sizes and resolution:

Printing: Which Resolution, Long Answer 

PPI vs DPI: What’s the Difference

Understanding Resolution and the Meaning of DPI, PPI, SPI & LPI 

I hope these more technical minded posts have been helpful. Coming up – back to posts on the Art of Schutzhund Photography. Yes, I know, one day I must change the title of my blog to The Art of IPO Photography. Soon, but not yet. Until next time, Happy Shooting!

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When photographing dogs, whether in a lovely pose or in action, paying attention to small things before and after the image is taken can make a big difference between a photograph that looks like a snapshot or one that looks polished and professional. For many photographers, grabbing that quick shot is all they are after, and that’s fine. But if you want to take your photography to the next level, remember small things do matter. Here are a couple of examples to illustrate this point.

Consider this image. It looks pretty good. It’s in focus and a nice pose. Yet, it could be much better.

Little-Things-Matter-1

Notice in the image below how much more dynamic it looks. All that was done was cropping to a 5 x 4 aspect ratio (8 x 10 print), using the histogram to make a few tonal adjustments (shadows, highlights and mid-tones), touching up with the dodge and burn tool here and there, sharpening the eyes just a tad, and finishing up with cleaning up the bits of yard dust on his head, eye crud and bubbles on his tongue. All told – 15 minutes of work.

Little-Things-Matter-2

In Schutzhund photography, backgrounds are a real challenge. The action gets lost amongst all the clutter. Even after considering all the options, it’s sometimes very hard to avoid unwanted background elements. Now, I love Shelly Timmerman of Shell Shots Photography. She is among the best around, but even Shelly would admit that she doesn’t add much to this image. So, by taking her out in post processing, along with the tent and fencing tape, this image goes from a snapshot to a cleaner, more professional image.

Little Things Matter-5

Little Things Matter-6

The following is a list of some of the small things I look to correct:

Unwanted elements in the background: Okay – these can be big or small, but look for the small things that can be distracting and either shoot around them or remove them in post processing.

Sun position: Ideally, it’s best to shoot with the sun over your shoulder. In addition to fully lighting the subject, sunlight adds a glint to the dog’s eyes, which brings a lot of life to the image. Remember that early morning or late afternoon are best for photographing dogs, especially dark or black dogs. The warm light brings out the detail and highlights in the dog’s fur. By mid-morning, the light is too harsh and often all you will get is a blob without much detail.

Eyes, ears, nose in focus: Your viewers will naturally look at a person’s or dog’s face first. It is what draws viewers into the image, along with the action. Make sure the eyes, ears and nose, especially the eyes, are tack sharp.

Dust and debris: To me, removing bits of dust and debris from a dog’s coat along with eye crud and mouth drool really helps smarten up an image. After all, who likes to look at drool or a crusty eye? It’s distracting at best and gross at worst.

Glare: Even the best Schutzhund photographers struggle with balancing exposing for the background and the dog, especially at trials. Take the time to adjust each area separately in post processing by isolating the dog from the background and vice versa. In addition, Photoshop’s dodge and burn tools are great for lightening or darkening a small area of an image.

What’s on your list of small things that matter? Let me know, and I’ll share them in an upcoming post. Next up, sizing images for printing and the web. It’s both easier and harder than you think! Until next time, Happy Shooting!

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In my last post, I defined bokeh as a “nice blur effect.” That’s true in a general sense, but bokeh is so much more. In common usage, bokeh refers to patterns of blurred lights or shapes within an image. Another way to look at it (no pun intended) is how out-of-focus points of light are rendered – not in a technical sense, but in an artistic one. According to Ken Rockwell (see below), “Bokeh is not how far something is out-of-focus, bokeh is the character of whatever blur is there.” In other words, it is the aesthetic quality of the out of focus (outside the depth of field) areas of the image.

The term “bokeh” in digital photography has been in use since the mid to late 1990s. It derives from the Japanese words “boke”, which means blur or haze, or “boke-aji”, the blur quality. For more about how “boke” became the Anglicized “bokeh”, see Mike Johnston’s on-line column Bokeh in Pictures.

Bokeh results from a wide-open aperture (f/1.4 up to f/5.6) and a shallow depth of field. The subject is close to the lens and the background and light source are farther away. As you might expect, this will yield a background that is very softly focused or blurred. Recall photos where Christmas tree lights or city street lamps appear as soft circles of brilliant light against a softly focused or blurred background. This is a classic example of bokeh.

Amy Renfry clarifies the difference between soft focus and bokeh in her article, What is Bokeh Effect in Photography: “In soft focus photography there is an intentional blurriness added to the subject while the actual edges are retained in sharp focus, but in bokeh it is only an element of the image that is intentionally blurred. Additionally, bokeh tends to emphasize certain points of light in the image as well.”

Consider the three images below. The first is a puppy against a soft focus background. One could argue that the background is a bit monochromatic. Yet, the image still works. The second image shows a helper (Frans Slaman) against a background of trees and the third a dog running the blinds. Notice how the light filtering through the trees and at the base of the blind appear as soft circles that blend into the background. That’s bokeh! It softens the brighter points of light and adds interesting highlights to the background.

Bokeh-7

Bokeh-19

Bokeh-20

Ken Rockwell offers an excellent discussion of the technical aspects of how bokeh is created. If you are interested in a more in-depth discussion than is offered here, check out his article, simply titled Bokeh. If you really want to get into the technical weeds, see H. H. Nasse’s article, Depth of Field and Bokeh, published by Carl Zeiss Camera Lens Division.

The following summarizes Ken’s definitions of poor, neutral and good bokeh:

  • Poor Bokeh. Occurs when the blur circle (out-of-focus point of light) has a sharply defined edge, bright edges and a dim center.
  • Neutral Bokeh is a technically perfect and evenly illuminated blur circle, but the edges are still too well defined. As a result, out-of-focus objects, either points of light or lines, appear as reasonably sharp lines in the image due to the sharper edges of the blur circle. Many quality lenses today create neutral bokeh.
  • Good Bokeh is characterized as a blur circle with an edge that is completely undefined. That is, it blends softly into the background.

The aesthetic appeal of bokeh within an image is subjective. One could argue endlessly about whether an image has poor, neutral or good bokeh, and if your having an image judged, this could be very important. Most often, it is an artistic judgment. For example, the images below show neutral bokeh. If you are after a more textured effect in the background, this isn’t so bad.

Bokeh-17

Bokeh-8

To me, this next image of a puppy standing on his hind legs combines neutral and good bokeh very well. The tree trunks are softly focused and exhibit a neutral bokeh, yet the blooms on the crape myrtles are an example of good bokeh and really pop out of the background. It’s a nice counter point to the dark puppy fur.

Bokeh-15

In Schutzhund (IPO) photography, it can be tricky to work bokeh into fast action images, as photographers like to fill the frame with the dog – an excellent composition technique. Also, aperture and shutter speeds settings are often set to achieve sharp focus, which is not favorable to creating bokeh. But creating bokeh is possible under the right conditions and offers an appealing feature to perk up backgrounds. Give it a try, and let me know how it goes. Until next time, Happy Shooting!

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Note: I have been trying to write this post for three weeks! Seriously! While it is my intention to post at least biweekly, these past few months have been very challenging. Here’s hoping the rest of 2013 is calmer, which will translate into more regular postings. Happy Shooting – and thanks for your patience!

A very cool feature on DSLR cameras is the histogram, yet many photographers do not take advantage of this tool while shooting or in post processing. Histograms can be very helpful to Schutzhund photographers as we often shoot fast moving dogs in varying and adverse lighting conditions. Histograms really are not as mysterious as they seem. The goal of this series of three posts is to demystify histograms and to offer tips and ideas on how to use them to improve your photography.

In researching this series of posts, I came across an excellent e-book by Varina and Jay Patel, entitled “What the heck is a HISTOGRAM?” I recommend it, and I am grateful to Varina and Jay for giving me permission to share some of their material.

Defining Histograms

Simply stated, histograms “provide a simple, and highly effective map of your image, based upon tonal values…the distribution of light and dark in an image – from the darkest black on the left to the brightest white on the right.”

An 8-bit histogram is comprised of 256 bars, each representing a tonal value. From left to right, 0 on the far left show true black, while 255 on the far right shows true white. The left third of the histogram represents shadows and the right third represents highlights. The middle area, which overlaps both the shadows and highlights areas, represents the mid-tones. The height of each bar indicates number of pixels in the image for that particular tonal value. A 16-bit histogram represents the same information, but the tonal values shown (number of bars) range from 0 to 65,535.

Below is an example:

Histograms Image 2

Histograms Image 2 RGB

This histogram shows the bars “spread out over the entire range of tones…The tallest bars are near the center of the histogram.” The bell-shape curve illustrates “an image with lots of brighter-mid-tone values,” although there is a small spike on the far right.

Many photographers drive themselves barking mad as they think that all the histograms for all their images must show a bell-shaped curve to be correct. This is a misnomer as there is no one correct histogram shape.  Consider the two images below:

Histograms Image 4

Histograms Image 4 RGB

The histogram for this image is more heavily weighted to the darker tones and shows higher spikes toward the 0 value or true black. It flattens out across the shadows section of the histogram and then shows more of a bell-shaped curve in the mid-tones, before gently dropping off to essentially no bars towards the 255 value or true white. This is not surprising given that the dog is black and there are a lot of shadows in the background. The tall spikes on the left side, especially near the left wall of the histogram, are indicative of the loss of detail in the ears, under the dog’s chin and along its belly.

Histograms Image 5

Histograms Image 5 RGB

In the image above, you can see there is no detail in the bright sun or the silhouetted tree line. This is shown in the histogram by the spikes along the left (shadows / blacks) and the right (highlights / white) walls. The mid-tonal area in-between is the sky. As you can see, both images look fine, but neither has a histogram with a classic bell-shaped curve.

A quick note about the terms “clipping” and “blown-out highlights.” In the image above, the dark tones and the tones in the center of sun have been clipped; that is there is no detail. “Blown-out highlights” is another term that essentially means the same thing; detail has been lost. Blowing out highlights most often occurs when an image is over exposed. These are just very general definitions. A future post, after this series on histograms, will look at these terms in more detail.

Types of Histograms

The most commonly used is the RGB histogram, which is a “composite that combines the tonal values for each color channel (red, green and blue) into a single graph.” Recall that digital images are “made up of pixels, and each pixel contains color information for red, green and blue. Every color you see in your image is actually made up on a combination of those three colors in varying amounts.”  Each channel has its own histogram, which are merged to create the RGB histogram.

Color histograms show all three channels individually and appear on a single graph. “Colors other that red, green and blue…indicate areas where the graphs overlap…[and] make it easier for us to read the histogram and compare channels.” Photographers use color histograms to see “how the color intensity is distributed throughout the image.” It also is useful for “determining which individual channel is clipped…[and] exactly where the detail is lost.”

Luminosity histograms “take into account the fact that the human eye is more sensitive to green light and less sensitive to red or blue light…It shows a perceived brightness.” It does this by showing “average values adjusted for human perception of light.” For a more in-depth discussion of the types of histograms, see Jay and Varina’s book.

The next post in this series will discuss how to interpret RGB histograms, as again these are the most commonly used, and based on what the histogram is telling you what you can do in the field to adjust exposures to avoid clipping or blown out highlights. This series of posts will conclude with some tips on how to adjust your images in post-processing using the histogram as your guide. Until then, Happy Shooting!

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Light can be both friend and foe to photographers, especially to those of us who like to photograph dogs in action. Regardless of the light conditions, it is always a challenge. As Robert Hirsch notes in his book Light and Lens: Photography in the Digital Age: “There is no time of the day or year when the sunlight is photographically better than another. However, it may be more suitable for a particular subject. At various times of day and in different seasons, light takes on a range of unique physical attributes, each with its own emotional and tactile qualities.”

With this in mind, this post turns from an earlier discussion of quantifying light as tool for determining camera settings for optimal exposure to using the quality of light as a tool for optimal artistic expression. Yes, Schutzhund (IPO) photography is an art, so artistic expression is applicable and encouraged. It also separates the snap shots from the really great dramatic shots we all love so much and strive to emulate. And, I sincerely believe that the artful expression of Schutzhund through photography helps to promote the sport and make it more accessible to those who are not familiar with it, its purpose, and the marvelous dogs and people who dedicate many hours to it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

While you continue reading, take a look at the slide show above and consider how the quality of the light changes the mood of the images. Consider how they might look under different lighting. They illustrate what Robert Hirsch calls “The Circle of Light”; that is, how the quality of light changes throughout the day and year, as follows:

  • Before sunrise: The outdoor environment can be seen as black and white, with light showing as cool and shadowy, and with muted, flat and opalescent colors. Colors become more intense as the sun rises.
  • Morning: Early in the morning, the sun’s rays are low. Warmer colors show through. Shadows look blue. By mid-morning, the light begins to lose its warm quality and starts to appear clear and white. This is because the full spectrum of light is able to penetrate the atmosphere, and entire spectrum of light together is white. For a more technical description of light rays, see an earlier post on understanding white balance and color temperature.
  • Midday: The higher the sun rises, the greater the contrast between colors. At noon, the light is white, so colors stand out strongly. Shadows are black and deep, and contrast is at its peak. Subjects can look like three-dimensional cuts outs against the background. Also, at this time of day, the light may be too harsh for many subjects. We all can relate to this when we try to photograph black, white or dark sable dogs.
  • Afternoon: As the sun begins to set, the light warms up again. On clear evenings, subjects can take on a warm, surreal glow. Reds get stronger, and shadows lengthen and become bluer. Also, greater detail can be shown.
  • Twilight / Evening: There is still a lot of light after sunset, although it may be not enough to capture dogs in action without artificial light sources. Light at this time of day is very soft, and contrast and shadow is at a minimum. Again, this is not ideal for photographing dogs, but it is a great time of the day for landscapes. Check out Peter Lik’s work some time.
  • Night: Unless you are under stadium lights, photographing Schutzhund dogs working at night is a feat of extreme courage. The light is harsh and contrast extreme. Long exposures and high ISO settings are needed, which is not conducive to capturing action. Still, it may produce a unique, more abstract image.
The seasons also express different qualities of light. Winter features more muted and subtle colors. Spring brings more daylight and more colors as the sun rises higher in the sky. Summer has the harshest light, and it can be really difficult to get great photos, especially midday. Schutzhund fields are also notoriously reflective. Fall once again is a time of transition with less light, but more color in the foliage as fall leaves display their colors.
The weather also affects the quality of light. Fog and rain diffuses the light, creates a monochromatic look and tends to be cooler or blue. Light is scattered, so colors and contrasts are soft and subtle. Rain also mutes and softens color and contrast. Snow reflects any predominant color, according to Mr. Hirsch. Blue casts and shadows are common. It also can fool your camera’s meter as snow reflects a lot of light. Taking pictures later in the day may be better choice to bring out the rich texture in the snow. Mr. Hirsch has much more to say about light in his book, which as noted in previous posts, I strongly recommend. It has really helped me become a better, more artistic photographer.
Until next time, thanks for visiting!!


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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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Taking dramatic photographs of Schutzhund dogs at work that stop the action cold, in focus and with the proper exposure is no mean feat, as all Schutzhund photographers can attest. For any one photographic opportunity, there are many challenges, such as lighting conditions, dog coat colors, handler clothing colors, background distractions and the nature of the sport. Understanding the relationship between aperture, ISO and shutter speed, and not just relying on your camera’s automated settings, will allow you adapt to changing condition while capturing creative and dramatic images.

After taking tens of thousands of images of Schutzhund dogs over the past six years, I still get confused about this relationship. It’s a concept that just does not come easily to me. My cousin, Nick Piesco, referred me to CameraSim – The Online SLR Simulator where you can adjust the lighting, distance, focal length, ISO, aperture and shutter speed in aperture priority, shutter speed priority or manual modes. After you make your adjustments, you can “take the photo”, see your results and then go back and try again. I found it extremely helpful. I also refer you to several previous posts that address the aperture, shutter speed and ISO:

To cement this concept in my brain, I am experimenting with keeping ISO, shutter speed or aperture at one setting and varying the other two settings. This week, I used aperture priority, which kept the aperture at f/4.5, f/5.0 or f/5.6 (most photos were at f/5.0). My goal was to try different ISO and shutter speeds to confirm which worked best under bright sunny summer conditions in Georgia at these aperture settings.

Photography experts recommend keeping the ISO setting as low as possible to minimize noise in the images. Ideal is between 100 and 400. Great advice, but fast action requires fast shutter speeds, which also means pushing the ISO up. These same experts say that 1/500 shutter speed should be sufficient to stop action.  Experience has taught me, however, that I get better results at 1/640 or higher, so that’s where I started the day.

On this particular day, I shot with a Canon EOS 7D camera, with a Canon 70-300mm DO IS USM 1:4.5 – 5.6 lens. In addition to a UV filter, I also use a ProMaster Digital Circular Polarizer filter on sunny days, which I find helps cut the glare on the Schutzhund field and enhances the colors.

The first photo below was taken with an ISO set at 200 and 1/640 shutter speed at f/5.6. The photo is in focus, but it’s dark and the color over saturated, which may be a function in part of using a circular polarizer to cut the glare on the field. I adjusted the photo in Lightroom (second image below), but the dog’s face is still a bit fuzzy and muted.

Here is a photo of the same handler and dog taken with ISO set at 400 and 1/640 shutter speed at f/5.0. The dog’s ears and muzzle still are not as sharp as I would like, but the photo overall has a more balanced, pleasing look.

The softness of focus, however, adds an interesting, impressionistic touch to this image of this dog zipping down the field, which was taken at ISO 400, 1/640 at f/5.0.

Just for kicks, I upped the shutter speed to 1/800 for the first image below. ISO was set at 400 and the aperture was f/5.6. This second photo was also taken at the same ISO and shutter speed at f/5.0. In my experience – and it may not make intuitive sense – I find that even at higher shutter speeds camera shake becomes an issue, especially when I shoot in burst mode and follow the dog (pan).  An upcoming post will look at the pros and cons of using a monopod or tripod in Schutzhund photography. Conversely, the third photo demonstrates my results at setting the ISO at 800, the shutter speed at 1/640 at f/5.0.

Another significant challenge we all face is changing lighting conditions. A dark cloud passed over when I took the photo below, with the sun shining on the background. The ISO was set at 400, shutter speed at 1/640 and aperture at f/4.5. Only thing to do is to be aware of the cloud cover and get ready to make some quick adjustments to compensate! Knowing what settings work for a cloudy day will allow you to make quick adjustments, without missing a shot.

The final two photos demonstrate a technique for photographing dark-coated dogs that has served me well time and again. In the first photo, the dog looks great, but the background is a little over exposed. The second photo illustrates the results after making a few adjustments in Lightroom. The lesson here is to set the camera for the darkest element in the photo, in this case the dog, and adjust the rest via photo editing. Be careful, though, not to over expose the rest of the photo so much that you won’t have anything to work with later.

I must confess that I welcome the chance to photograph dogs that have lighter coats, as shown in these two images. They really stand out!  But then, you might say, “Where is the challenge? And, besides most working dogs have darker coats.” Okay, you got me there!

Seriously, I would be very interested in hearing from you about your experiences! Please post a comment or send me a message. Thank you for visiting.

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