I unexpectedly went to Croxden Abbey recently. Until just over a week ago I didn’t even know it existed, but it’s a nice place to go — if it’s sunny — for photos. I’ll blog a bit more about it in the future. Right now I thought to give credit to people on the web who helped me with my photography skills. They used to be awful but now, call me arrogant if you like, sometimes I think my photos are quite literally adequate. I think I messed up the perspective a bit here, but standing in the right place would have meant trampling someone’s flowers, so this is good enough for me.
The biggest help was Aydin Örstan who gave me a very simple piece of advice: use the manual settings. I didn’t use the manual setting usually. The way I saw it, I wasn’t much good at photography, while the camera had been built by a lot of clever boffins who knew all about exposures and apertures. I still think they do, but they don’t know everything about the quality of light everywhere around the world. They can make an approximation, but it’s a huge advantage to be on the spot. Juggling the balance between shutter speed and aperture looks difficult when you read about it, but it’s surprisingly simple in practice. The aperture is f/8, unless you want to do something odd and the shutter speed is guided by the lightmeter in the camera. If you meter on the sky, then you’ll underexpose, so you might want to point the camera at the important thing and take the settings from that. The great thing about photographing landscape and architecture is that it rarely gets up and wanders off, so it’s not like you have to be fast. The great thing about digital is that you can take multiple shots with different exposures so that when you do muck up the settings you have a chance of hitting the right settings by chance if you’re shooting around the right region.
Another help with HDR is Trey Ratcliff. He’s written a guide to using Photomatix that I’ve found helpful. I’ve since moved away from his settings. I get the impression he’s very keen on pushing the atmosphere of a scene. In contrast in the photo above I was simply trying to bring out detail in a photo that could have looked blurry with the glass frontage. So while he might use 100% strength settings, the photo above is probably about 30% and I tend to keep the strength around 40%. Finding what I like became a lot easier after reading why he does what he does.
Finally, I enjoy David DuChemin’s blog Pixelated Image. I’ll admit I’d like a Canon 550D with a 10-22mm lens. A wider angle means I could get closer and for the top photo I could have took a better line at it. But that’s not going to happen any time soon. In the meantime David DuChemin has plenty of practical advice about the sort of thing that you should be paying attention to anyway. Things like composition, contrast and balance in photos.