2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 8: Long Exposures Animated GIF

This may sound a little strange, but it’s as much fun as you can have with a camera, a computer and a little time on your hands. If you let your imagination run wild, there is no limit to what you can create. The foremost objective of this challenge is to produce a unique visual experience to dazzle your 2017 PhotoChallenge Community Members.

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The above image by Pedro Belleza is the perfect example of what we’re looking for, an animated GIF with a mix of long exposures. There’s also an added little touch of Tilt-Shifting. Long Exposures have been covered several times in the past ( SEARCH LONG EXPOSURE CHALLENGES ) and animated GIFs as well. ( SEARCH ANIMATED GIF CHALLENGES )

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Since we’re working with light, long exposures are by definition easier to create at night. With a few simple tools you can work your long exposures during daylight hours. We would usually use a Neutral Density filter or a Variable Neutral Density Filter to reduce the amount of light entering the camera through the lens. For those of you who want to avoid the cost of a pricey filter, you can always use a pair of dark sunglasses from the dollar store. Here are some DIY ideas on a GOOGLE SEARCH

deluz

Incorporating Light Painting and many other techniques we’ve covered in the past will help you create your very own unique touch for this PhotoChallenge.

What you will need to create your challenge image :

  • When working with long exposures, a stable tripod is a must. I would also suggest a wired or wireless trigger to make sure the camera doesn’t  move when pressing the trigger.
  • A way to reduce light. A store-bought filter or a DIY project. You will also want to reduce your ISO and close your aperture to increase your exposure times.
  • This will demand a bit of planning for each frame of your animated GIF. You may want to create a little story board to maintain your creative focus throughout your shoot.

When it comes to creating an Animated GIF there are plenty of resources online for which many are free. You can also use Photoshop and other purchased software.

Searching for LONG EXPOSURE ANIMATED GIF on Google will reveal plenty of inspirational images.

Our Friendly Community Guidelines are simple :

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2016 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 6: PROPER EXPOSURE USING THE HISTOGRAM

My focus this year will be on Proper Exposure: what it is and how to achieve it. Have you ever wondered why some photos seem to “pop” and grab your attention while others don’t? There can be many reasons why, but often it’s a matter of proper exposure. Proper exposure maximizes contrast and the human eye is drawn to contrast.

Each of the following images has a problem with the exposure. The first image is underexposed, i.e. there aren’t any light pixels. The second image is overexposed, i.e. there aren’t any dark pixels. The third image isn’t too light or too dark, but it looks flat because the darkest parts are just dark gray (not black) and the lightest parts are light gray (not white) resulting in an image that looks somewhat lifeless. This can sometimes happen in shade or cloudy skies.

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In general, a properly exposed image means that lightness values run the full gamut from black to white (instead of dark gray to light gray). There are always exceptions to the rule, but this is very often the case.

color-flowers-proper-exposure

Rainbow Bouquet – Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero

But how do we know for sure when we have the proper exposure? Simply relying on how the photo looks on your camera LCD or phone does not always give you a true representation of the photo. Luckily there is a tool called the Histogram that gives you the information you need at a glance.

What is a histogram? It’s simply a bar chart. As an example, imagine that we want to create a tile mosaic of a sunflower. Because we’re focusing on exposure (i.e. luminosity or lightness values) let’s make the image B&W so that it’s easier to “see” the luminosity values. To further simplify things, let’s reduce the number of lightness values to 10. If we were to count the number of tiles of each value and display those counts in a bar chart, it would look like the chart below:

sunflower-mosaic-with-histo

This is the essence of a histogram: a bar chart which shows the number of pixels in a photo of a particular luminosity value (which runs along the bottom of the chart). The difference is that the histogram of a photo has 256 luminosity values – 0 (black) to 255 (white) – instead of just 10. However if you compare the histogram of the photo with the simple bar chart from the mosaic image, you can see that the basic distribution is the same.

sunflower-bw-full-with-histo

It’s important to realize that there is no ideal shape for a histogram, i.e. you are not trying to get a “bell curve”! The histogram is a tool to help you understand how well exposed a photo is. Looking at the histograms of the three images we started with, you start to see what a histogram can tell you. When the histogram is weighted heavily to the left, the photo is typically underexposed. When it is weighted heavily to the right, the photo is typically overexposed. When it doesn’t stretch across the entire luminosity scale (from 0 to 255), the photo lacks contrast and appears flat.

three-problems-with-histo

While there is no ideal shape for a histogram, in general the most eye-catching photos have a histogram that covers the entire luminosity scale from 0 (black) to 255 (white). Note that the histogram for the good exposure is more spread out than the low contrast one. The left (dark) and right (light) sides of the histogram are more filled out which indicates that the dark areas of the image have gotten darker and the light areas have gotten lighter, thus increasing the contrast.

good-exposure-with-histo

There are two exposure issues that cannot be corrected in post-processing: clipped (aka blown-out) shadows and highlights. “Clipped” essentially means that there is no detail in the very darkest or very lightest parts of your image. Referring to the histogram when you review photos on your camera can help you avoid both situations! If a histogram has a tall spike pushed up against the right edge, your photo has blown-out highlights that you will not be able to recover in post-processing. I’m sure you have seen this in landscape photos where clouds look like white blobs in the sky without any texture in them. Alternatively, if a histogram has a tall spike pushed up against the left edge, your photo has blown-out shadows. Of course, you can have both of these situations in the same photo.

In the photo below you can see that the vast majority of the image is very dark and the histogram shows that with a large spike on the left. In the upper right corner however, there is a section of the sky that is pure white and has lost detail. You can see that in the smaller (but tall) spike on the very right of the histogram. This is a great example of what NOT to do, but at times it is unavoidable. (We’ll be covering how to handle this type of exposure challenge later in the year.)

clipping

The human eye does not easily forgive the loss of detail in the lightest parts of a photo and it is best to avoid clipped highlights unless your goal is to purposefully make a gray sky look white. The human eye is more forgiving of clipped shadows, but don’t expect to be able to lighten those shadows to pull out any detail in post. It is best to avoid clipping on both ends of the histogram!

I encourage you to play and experiment with a bunch of different photos this week. I’ll be referring to histograms throughout my challenges for the rest of the year so you’ll want to get comfortable with them. If you want to read more about them, here are some helpful articles. Remember we’re focusing on the Luminosity Histogram in your camera, not in post-processing (though the concept is the same).

The challenge this week is to take and post a well-exposed photo and also post the histogram in the comments:

  • Take your photo OUTDOORS during daylight hours and do not include any sky in your photo. (Sometimes sky can throw off the exposure. We’ll work on that in a future challenge.) If you have sun, I encourage you to take a photo both in sun and in shade to see how that affects your exposure (and histogram).
  • The actual subject is wide open this week, but don’t forget all of the other rules for good composition, depth-of-field, etc. This might be a good week for macro since you can’t have the sky in your image.
  • Post-processing is fine, but the goal is to get the exposure as perfect in camera as you can. If you do post-process, it would be interesting to see both the before and after histograms for your image.

What you will need to complete your challenge:

  • A camera with the ability to show a Luminosity Histogram when reviewing photos on the LCD –or– a phone app which does the same. Here are some iPhone apps and here are some Android apps. (Be sure to read the app details to make sure it has a histogram. a “live histogram” means that the histogram is active while you take the photo, but may not be viewable afterwards. If that’s the case, you can simply take a screenshot to capture the histogram while your camera app is on.)
  • Knowledge of how to change the exposure in your camera or camera app. This may be needed if you find that your histogram is not optimal and you need to adjust your exposure. If you don’t know how to do this, look up “exposure compensation” in the manual for your camera.
  • Knowledge of how to take screenshots to capture the histogram of your photo. If you don’t know how to take screenshots (aka screen captures), you can do a search for your phone model or operating system (Windows or Apple) along with “screenshot” to find instructions for how to do it. Or you can simply take a photo of the histogram on your camera LCD or your computer screen.

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • The posted image should be a still image or an animated GIF, not a video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 5: Year of the Rooster

Happy Chinese New Year everyone. This should have technically been a guest challenge, all fault of mine, I haven’t had a chance to organize it yet. I apologize to all those who have reached out to be a GUEST CONTRIBUTOR. Truth is I’ve been chasing down Wildlife Criminals (Poachers, Baiters, etc…). This year, Wildlife Agents have been doing a terrific job and we just have to give them the support they deserve.

The great news is, it’s officially the Chinese New Year and it’s my year with the Year of the Rooster 🙂

According to the news, it was the biggest celebration broadcast ever recorded in China with over a billion viewers. I’ve always been fascinated with Chinese culture. The flamboyant displays of colors and animated creatures just fascinate me.

One of my biggest challenges is how do we turn the celebrations into a PhotoChallenge, especially that not everyone will have a Chinese New Year Parade or celebration in their back yard.

Kushida Jinja

This will be a highly interpretive PhotoChallenge giving free liberty to your imagination. There are plenty of associated symbols around, we just need to keep our eyes open.

Hóng Bāo

Every child that has been exposed to a Chinese New Year Celebration is probably very familiar with the little red envelopes.

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Naturally being the year of the ROOSTER, our little feathered friends can take center stage.

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: INFRARED - INFRAROUGE &emdash; Chinese Garden - Infrared / Jardin de Chine - Infrarouge

Another great source of inspiration may be your local Botanical Garden. Many Botanical Gardens feature a Chinese Garden that is most probably decorated for this very special occasion.

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: PICTURE OF THE DAY / PHOTO DU JOUR &emdash; Chinese Lanterns - Montreal Botanical Garden

Keep an eye out and be on the lookout for displays of Chinese Lanterns. These intricately detailed lanterns are just incredible when photographed at dusk.

China Town Kites

When all else fails, a visit to your local China Town may just give you the inspiration you need.

 

Our Friendly Community Guidelines are Pretty Simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • The posted image should be a still image or animated GIF and not a video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 4: Rule of Thirds / Toys & Games

I’m very excited to join the PhotoChallenge team! My theme for this year is “Composition and Technique”, which will focus on some of the fundamentals of photography. I hope that the challenges will be enjoyable for beginners and advanced photographers alike. To that end, if anyone has any suggestions or feedback, I’m happy to listen!

This week’s topic is the Rule of Thirds. In a nutshell, the Rule of Thirds suggests that you should place your subject off-center (approximately 1/3 from any corner or edge), which results in a balanced, pleasing composition. Let’s dive in to some examples:

crop_coffeeSteaming Coffee – Eric Minbiole

The images above show the same subject, with two different compositions: The upper image has the coffee cup in the center of the image. Note that the composition seems a bit awkward– the steam is cut off on the top, and there’s too much empty space at the bottom. In contrast, the lower image follows the Rule of Thirds, and feels much more balanced: The steam has plenty of space to rise, and the overall image has a more pleasing composition.

Another benefit of the Rule of Thirds is that it can help clarify the subject, especially in case of a landscape shot:

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The upper image shows a centered horizon. While the water and the sky are both reasonably interesting, it’s hard to tell which is the intended subject of the photo, as both are given the same amount of space in the image. In contrast, the lower image better follows the Rule of Thirds, placing the horizon at the lower third of the image. This helps make it more clear that the sky and clouds are the main focus of the image, since they are given a larger portion (2/3) of the space.

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Longwood Home – Eric Minbiole

Certainly, the Rule of Thirds is not a hard and fast rule. Just like any rule of thumb, there are plenty of times that you can (and should) break it. However, it’s often a very good starting point when composing a subject, and is a technique that every photographer should at least be familiar with. As such, this week’s challenge is to create a photograph that follows the Rule of Thirds.

Optional Twist: Each week, I’ll add an optional twist to the challenge. As the name implies, these are completely optional, and are intended for those looking for a bit of extra difficulty. (Some twists may be harder than others.) This week’s twist is “Toys and Games” — feel free to interpret this in any creative way that you like. Regardless of whether or not you follow the twist, your composition should follow the Rule of Thirds.

Get your camera, and have fun!

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • The posted image should be an animated still image and not a video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 2: WE ARE WHAT WE EAT

They say we are what we eat, it’s time for you to show us what you’re made of. This is nothing new for the PhotoChallenge, back in 2010 we would have week long challenges that involved posting your food images on a daily basis. We’re not going to post all our food for an entire week but contrary to our regular challenges, you will be able to post up to three (3), yes THREE images this week.

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: FOOD &emdash;

There’s a catch, they can’t be from the same meal. You can choose Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner or go the route of cool treats, desserts and your favorite bar drinks and eats.

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: FOOD &emdash;

I encourage you to be creative while shooting your image and in post processing. Don’t settle for a snapshot. We’re creating a photograph, it doesn’t have to sell as appetizing, but eye pleasing art is a good start. Naturally one can stick to editorial and give us a lesson in traditional foods from around the world.

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: FOOD &emdash;

Depth of field is important. Rule of thumb, keep your foreground subject crisp and in focus if you’re going to have a shallow depth of field.

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: FOOD &emdash;

On the flip side, you may want to get your entire serving dish in focus. Don’t be afraid to experiment and assemble multiple images together to get an overview of an entire meal or a before and after. In the image above we have an out of the even to the serving plate photo.

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: FOOD &emdash;

Don’t be afraid to experiment with color filters, vignettes and borders. If you have to break the rules of photography to make your artistic vision a reality, then go for it 🙂

Theres a great deal of freedom in this challenge but please stay away from snapshots and apply yourself with composition, exposure and depth of field. Plan your shot and take multiple images at different angles. Food photography is an art in itself.

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • The posted image should be an animated still image and not a video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2016 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.
2017-week1

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 1: END OF DAY – TIMELAPSE

Here we are, the first week of the 2017 PhotoChallenge. We have a brand NEW YEAR with some new contributors. Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero, Eric Minbiole and Maaike Groenewege have joined the 2017 PhotoChallenge Team. They are all creative and talented members of the PhotoChallenge who have contributed a great deal to our success as a community in 2016. Each with their unique approach, style and culture will lead us into a new and exciting year of photography.

One of our founding Fathers, Trevor, will be making more and more of an appearance throughout the year. Unfortunately, Gary is taking a break for 2017 but will make a surprise appearance as a Guest Contributor. If anyone else is interested in contributing to the 2017 PhotoChallenge as a Guest Contributor, please step forward and let us know.

Until now, for the exception of our last Hyperlapse Halloween Challenge, we’ve only focused on Still Images or Animated Images. Video contributions weren’t part of our focus. For the most part this will remain the same but we will venture a little into the video world with some assembled time-lapse challenges and other surprises to come. However when it’s a still photography Challenge, please only post still images.

This brings us to our first 2017 PhotoChallenge.  Our first ever time-lapse challenge. Those of you who participated in the 2016 Halloween Hyperlapse Challenge will find yourselves on familiar ground. Time-lapse photography is actually easier than Hyperlapse as you just setup your equipment and relax with your favorite drink while your camera and time do all the work. 😉

There are multiple ways to do a time lapse. The most common way is to choose your location, setup your equipment, compose your scene and let the camera shoot the scenes without any camera movement. You can also add movement to your camera with automated panoramic heads and sliders. We’re going to focus on the still camera as the cost of additional equipment can prove to be more than an expensive venture. However if you’re shooting with a small lightweight camera or smartphone then there are plenty of affordable egg timer style trinkets on Amazon and eBay.

I started with the above scene, letting time pass by while at an angle to the facing sun. I wanted to get the deepening contrasts of a low Summer Sun before the golden hour. My main subject was to remain the Hydro Power Plant, but I wanted to get two facets of light and two distinct environments.

I then followed up with a scene composed from the opposite side of the Hydro Plant. A race against time that translated into a second day of shooting. This time I wanted to get the golden rays of the sun as the day came to an end.

The final result, put together the two scenes,  trimmed them a bit and added a touch of public domain music to get this final little clip.

Completing Your Challenge

To complete your challenge you will need to submit an end of day time-lapse clip or Animated Gif with a duration of 15 to 30 seconds.

You can use the intervalometer mode of your camera or a remote controller attached to your camera. Certain cameras offer a Time-Lapse mode that automatically creates a compiled video once the shooting sequence is over. With an intervalometer you will have to assemble all the images into one sequential movie using a basic movie editor or a hyperlapse/time-lapse/stop-motion App.

I used a Tiffen variable ND Filter to get longer exposures and create more movement and smoother transitions.

Tools you may need

  1. A tripod is a must as each image will have to maintain the exact framing over and over again.
  2. A remote for your camera as to not shake the camera if you are manually shooting
  3. Filters such as a circular polarized filter, ND, sunset, etc. to create the mood you want. Remember this is still photography and every image in your time-lapse will reflect that.
  4. A chair as you will be shooting for a few hours
  5. An assistant to make the time pass by more quickly.

The time between frames, the length of the exposure and how long you will shoot is entirely left up to you. There are plenty of resources you can Google such as (Intervalometer & time lapse) to get you started. You can also find tools for your mobile device on the App Store or Google Play. The research is part of the challenge and will allow you to learn by searching for your particular piece of equipment. Don’t hesitate to bring forward your questions and findings to our Facebook community. This will help everyone in the community.

For free music I used soundbible.com. Make sure to respect the licenses for each individual sound track and give attribution when necessary.

This is an OUTDOOR CHALLENGE for the END OF DAY part but nothing keeps you from producing your video indoor. Using an eye-pleasing room with windows to a view, you can strategically shoot your end-of-day-time lapse showcasing a special outdoor view from indoors. You may have to shoot HDR images to accelerate your post production…

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • The posted image should be an animated gif or video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2016 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.