Susan Sontag once wrote that travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs. Why not save the planet and shoot your pictures from a window at home.
Photographer Andre Kertesz shot many photographs from above or from a window.
Also, I remember a New York City woman in her eighties who rarely left her apartment, but shot memorable street photographs from her apartment window.
“When I was young, the Dead Sea was still alive.” George Burns
The most famous use of through a window photography was in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “Rear Window”(1954), where a photographer with two broken legs is confined to his apartment. The photographer, played by Jimmy Stewart, even discovered a murderer while spying on his neighbors through an open window with his camera.
See a clip from the movie “Rear Window” below: ( Grace Kelly plays the girlfriend)
Photo Tips for Shooting through a Window at Home
Open the window if possible to avoid glare
If you can’t open the window, get as close to the glass as possible or put your lens against the window to cut down on glare
Turn off your flash
Use exposure compensation to underexpose (-) the scene by a third to one stop
Follow the general photography rules and don’t shoot outdoor scenes between ten and four unless you’re shooting through tinted glass.
Hold your camera with two hands and keep your arms close to your body when you don’t use a tripod
Photo Tips through Windows when You Must Travel
If you must travel, take a bus or car. I shot this photo with a high shutter speed late morning from a moving bus in Northern Arizona. When you are moving, use a high shutter speed to keep things in focus. I like the reflection in the window, but you can avoid it by pressing your lens against the window. Unfortunately, you will also pick up more motion from the moving bus when you lean your camera against the glass.
When you stay in a hotel, always ask for a view and change rooms or hotels often for the best variety of shots. The following photos were taken from windows in two different rooms at the Miyako Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
For the richest colors, take advantage of the golden light up to an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset as in the above shots
Sometimes the world begins to look a little flat when we use our camera flash or shoot outside in evenly lit conditions. Natural light coming through windows can add mystique and drama to your photographs. Other benefits of indoor photography include the usually pleasant climate and the lack of need to slather on sunscreen or wear a hat.
Mundane Scenes Get a Boost from Natural Light
On his 77th birthday when American Film comedian Harold Lloyd was asked his age, he said “I am just turning forty and taking my time about it.”
How to Avoid Noisy pictures and Camera Shake
You may not think of photographs as noisy, but they can be noisier than a group of unruly children. Lack of detail and a grainy gritty look are common.
The Problem of Noise:
Gritty looking low detail photos are common in low light digital photography. How sensitive your camera is to light and how it records it on your camera sensor is partly determined by your ISO setting. Low numberssuch as 80 or 100 ISO, record a lot of detail and little noise. Higher ISO settings such as 800 record less detail and more noise (grain). Since the higher settings allow more light to fall on your camera sensor in low-light conditions, they are generally more ideal. In some cases, such as at a rock concert, you may like the noise and lack of detail, but chances are you’ll want to remove at least some of it in a photo editing program like Photoshop.
Use a tripod like in Andre Kertesz’s 1926 photograph below and you’ll avoid the noise problem because a steady camera can record long exposures and make everything sharp.
The highly lit window photo below gives just enough detail about the inside.
The Problem of Camera Shake
Use these techniques indoors to avoid camera shake and undesirable blurry images:
Hold your camera with both hands and press your elbows into your body
Relax and then hold your breath
If possible, set your camera to take several pictures at once (continuous) to increase chances of a sharp one
Set your automatic timer to two seconds so there is less movement when the camera fires
Possible Manual Control Settings for Indoors:
1) Set aperture (f-stop) for the widest possible opening (lowest number); 2) Set shutter speed to 1/100 sec. or higher; 3) Set ISO to 800 or higher (not too high); and 4) Use exposure compensation to underexpose 1/3 to 1 stops so you record more detail; 5) Brighten it up later in a photo editing program
Tips for Portraits: Use a Window as a soft box
Position your subject in front of a window so that part of them is in the shadows (profile)
Narrow the light coming in by adjusting the curtains and shades
Set your camera f stop on a small number such as f 1.8, 4.5, etc. (wide lens opening) in order to allow more light to reach the sensor and to blur the background.
A Story about Jack London’s Portrait
When Jack London had his portrait made by noted San Francisco Photographer Arnold Genthe, London began the encounter with praise for the photographic art of his friend. “You must have a wonderful camera…it must be the best camera in the world”…Genthe then used his standard studio camera to make what has since become a classic picture of Jack London. When the sitting was finished, Genthe couldn’t contain himself. “I have read your books, Jack, and I think they are important works of art. You must have a wonderful typewriter.”
More photo tips next Friday on shooting the outside from the inside
“Today, everything exists to end in a photograph” Susan Sontag
This is even truer today in the world of social media. With the birth of photography, people could experience images in multiple places and ways for the first time. Then, TV expanded the possibility of simultaneously sharing images throughout cultures and sometimes the whole world. Today online, we post our real and imagined experiences in photos and videos. We have the power to fabricate “our image” through photography. In essence, we have become our own publicity machines. If thinking about being a publicist 24/7 makes you yearn for a nap, see previous posts that mention naps as an alternative to photography.
Flattering Portraits often “Made in the Shade”
“If you look like your passport photo, in all probability you need the holiday” Earl Wilson
Not All Shade Is Created Equal
Don’t shoot under a tree: Sun will come through the tree and make blotchy patches on your subject. It may also create a greenish cast.
Find a building with neutral walls because colored ones can cast unwanted color onto your subject
Position your subject facing the brightest light in the shade
Blur the wall background with a wide aperture or set your camera on portrait mode
As you can see in the these portraits, I didn’t follow the rules of good portraiture. Personally, I only like to make portraits to show place and context. There are some excellent sites with good outdoor portrait examples, just Google portraits in the shade.
A student recently excitedly told me how she couldn’t wait to visit the place in Yellowstone that she showed me on her smartphone. It was a professional photograph of a Yellowstone Geyser Pool shot from a private plane and heavily saturated in a photo editing program, plus it had the advantage of being back lit on her phone. I felt bad for her knowing that the real place couldn’t possibly compete with the photograph.
“So successful has been the camera’s role in beautifying the world, that photographs, rather then the world, have become the standard of the beautiful. Susan Sontag
Rich Colors Found in the Shade
Visit next Friday for photo-tips on shooting indoors without a flash or tripod
Enjoy the 1962 performance by George Lewis and his band playing“In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree”
I am not young enough to know everything. Oscar Wilde
Someone Hung a Huge Piece of Gauze in front of the sun
Hidden under gloomy overcast skies are deeply saturated colors and soft diffused lighting. Overcast skies are defined as 90% or more cloud cover. Avoid large sections of gray sky in your shots because it will never be anything else and look for colorful subjects instead.
Photography is painting with light, so understand where the light is coming from. For example, even on an overcast day, if you are shooting people when the sun is high in the sky, it will create bags under their eyes and shadows over their eyes. Try to avoid shooting between the dreaded hours of 10 and 3 or 4, or use your fill flash for portraits to fill in shadows and even out the light. Try Side light to bring out interesting details and front light for more even lighting. Choose back light for dramatic silhouettes and for old people who want to disguise their age in dark shadows.
Old age comes at a bad time. Sue Banducci
Watch the Clouds Drift By
Even if you don’t think that life is a cloud drifting by, you can enjoy photographing them.
Cloudy day photography will benefit from some post processing in your computer because of low contrastflat light on cloudy days. An alternative way to add contrast is to carry around a sheet of red or orange acetate to hold in front of your camera lens while shooting. A better idea is to download a free photo editing program onto your computer like Google’s Picasa or use the Apple iPhoto program to enhance your photos. I processed this photo in Picasa after shooting it underexposed by -1/3. That way, the highlights in the clouds didn’t completely blow out to white. Then, I cropped the photo, changed it to black and white, applied the Holga filter to darken the edges, faded the filter, and added some contrast. Voila, it only took about 5 minutes. If you don’t want to spend that much time on your pictures after you shoot them, consider some alternatives: 1) Stay indoors and study your camera instruction manual (Exposure compensation)while waiting for a sunny day, 2)Take anap, (see note below), 3)Use a smartphone with quick and easy photo apps that take less than a minute to make your photo “pop”.
A Note on Alternative #2— Famous British Actress Tilda Swinton is currently taking a nap at the New York’s Museum of Modern Art in a performance piece entitled “The Art of Napping.” We old ones could shed some light on the subject, but prefer to stay in the background for now.
“I recently turned sixty. Practically a third of my life is over.” Woody Allen
Photograph During The Magic Hour :
Most photographers agree that up to an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset are the best times to capture deep rich colors and the warm glow of the “Magic Hour”.
Since you’re probably up at dawn anyway or aren’t tired enough to go to bed at sunset, it’s a great time to go outside and take pictures. Take along a tripod because unfortunately, exposure times will be long (shutter speed slow), depth of field shallow (scene focus) and high ISO settings of 400+ produce less detail and more grain. I took the backyard desert with quail in the foreground photo shortly after sunrise in Hemet, CA and the Monterey Bay picture at sunrise facing the hills with the rising sun behind, so everything else is in silhouette. Both were taken without a tripod. You may get lucky without a tripod, especially if you 1) set your auto timer to 2 seconds which cuts down on shake when you press the shutter button, 2) keep your arms close to your body, and or 3) brace yourself against a solid object or an attractive man or woman.
” Just because there’s snow on the roof, it doesn’t mean the boiler has gone out.” Anonymous
Shoot Before 10:00 a.m. and After 4:00 p.m.
Mid-Day Sun Good for Mad Dogs, Englishmen, and Open Water:
As the sun moves higher in the sky, the bright light casts strong shadows and harsh contrast on your subjects. Because they look less appealing, try to move them into open shade where the light is more even. If they won’t cooperate, head for a cafe where you may find some interesting subjects indoors. You may also want to take a nap between these bright daylight hours (10 to 4).
Water is the only subject I know of that benefits from sunny overhead light. Water reflects the sky and produces rich, deep colors unavailable at other times. (physicists, please comment).
Visit next Friday for tips on shooting under overcast skies and in the shade
This blog is for aging photo enthusiasts who have been around the photo landscape a bit and for obvious reasons come to appreciate light weight point and shoot digital cameras and automatic settings.
So as not to cut into my nap and contemplation time, I’ll post weekly on Fridays only for the next few months.
You will find a blend of humor, practical shooting advise, links to photo sites for particular topics, updates on the latest photo technology, and illustrative photos from my own collection.
Capturing Slow Moving Subjects other than yourself
Action Photography from your recliner
Looking out the window photography
By now, you’ve traded your beloved film camera/s and lenses in for a lighter, slimmer digital camera and the debate over film versus digital is a vague memory, if one at all. You may have noticed however, that the capacity to shoot hundreds of pictures a day, like National Geographic Photographers, has not made you into one, so let’s get started.
Capturing Slow Moving Subjects other than Yourself:
Slow moving subjects
In addition to slow moving wildlife, sleeping pets and people, you may want to Shoot the Moon.
Shooting the Moon:
The full moon rises 30 minutes after sunset every month, which gives you plenty of time to prepare to shoot at twilight. The next 3 full moons are March 27, April 25, and May 24, 2013. Set up a tripod, place the camera on a solid object, or hold very, very still. Use two hands and keep your arms against your body. Contrary to what seems logical, don’t set your camera on fireworks or night-scenes. The moon reflects sunlight, so set your camera to daylight and turn on the flash. Of course you won’t illuminate the moon, but you will decrease exposure time. Extend your lens to the maximum optical zoom, but never use your digital zoom. Since the moon is a slow moving subject, you have plenty of time to move around to find a tree, building, or other object to include in your shot. If you’re hooked on the moon, try shooting other phases and at different times, but don’t make the mistake of trying to capture it during strong daylight. There just isn’t enough contrast between in the moon and sky to make it interesting. Here is an example of the moon shortly after sunrise.