A Viewfinder Darkly

Photography tips and tutorials

Photograph the Familiar

Starting out in photography and you can’t find interesting photographic subjects?

Photographers are often inspired by images of exotic places, or unusual scenes.  Frustration can set in when they are unable to go to far away places.

The answer is all around them.  The secret is uncovering the hidden gems often obscured by the everyday point of view. Often life gets in the way and we are too busy to appreciate our surroundings.

Your local is exotic to someone else, particularly with the ability to share photos world wide  using social media platforms, such as instagram or flikr. Pictures are a far more universal means of communication than language opening up a global audience for your local photographs.

My Neighbourhood

The corner of my street on a foggy morning

Two of the keys to creating memorable photographs are timing and  framing.


Cameras record a literal version of the scene that is limited in time and by the angle of view of the camera’s lens.

Our eyes do not see evenly across our field of vision. We see colour in more detail in the central portion and we view motion better in our peripheral vision.  The camera lens has an uncompromising view, something is either in view or not at all.  This sharp delineation forces the viewer to concentrate on the part of the scene selected by the photographer without surrounding distractions.

The photographic process removes the peripheral vision element of the view  creating an unfamiliar view of a familiar scene. Photographers  decide what is in view and what is excluded. This highlights the important elements of the scene, and lessens distracting elements.  This is accomplished through choice of shooting position, the angle of view of the lens,  and the amount of cropping applied to the image during processing.

So what is it?

So what is it?

The emphasis added using framing applies to the size and orientation of the photo. While sweeping exotic vistas are attractive, but getting in close can produce intriguing photographs.  Something small can dominate an  image when a photographer uses framing techniques to remove the object from its  context. When viewers are uncertain of an object’s size it opens up a range of interpretations to intrigue viewers.

The still photograph also frames a scene in time, preserving an instant from the flow of life.  Henri Cartier-Bresson’s  book The Decisive Moment celebrates this  approach to candid street photography.


The advantage of  photographing local subjects is ease of access, which is important for capturing  fleeting moments.

Commuter in the wet city centre on a bicycle

Commuter in the wet city centre on a bicycle

Changes in weather, amount and direction of light, and unusual events are all factors that provide a moment that makes the mundane extraordinary. Part of a photographer’s skill set is the ability to analyse a scene, then anticipate when special conditions are likely and be ready and waiting. Some great “chance” photos are not luck, they are the product of knowing the location and how it varies.

Here today, gone tomorrow

One of the disappointments while scanning my old film photographs  is there are not enough of them. Whatever stage of your life you are at it will change and the everyday will become a distant memory.

Department store on fire in City centre

Department store on fire in City centre

Because you see something everyday it seems uninteresting and commonplace. For other people now, and you in the future, they are a record of social or personal history.

The hole left behind by the department store

The hole left behind by the department store

This is one of the essential elements of street photography where fashions and means of personal transport  provide an ever varying range of  photo opportunities. The results increase in interest over time, so a good catalogue  containing photographs of  ordinary people is of enduring interest.

The new store rising into the sky

The new store rising into the sky

The same approach applies to local architecture, although sometimes the changes are faster and more dramatic. New buildings go up and older structures are demolished, changing familiar streets. Then there are  structures such as new bridges, and renovations of local businesses, providing another opportunity for documenting change.

Learning photography techniques

Even if the local surroundings are not your photographic passion they are a great place to learn and practice the art of photography.  Photographing the same scene with different techniques and settings  offers the opportunity to appreciate the effect of  new approaches.

This  allows photographers to acquire the valuable skills they can use when given the chance to photograph an exotic location or special event.

Ricoh GRII compact camera mixes convenience with premium image quality

Ricoh’s new compact camera offers mobile device connectivity with  the photo quality of a DSLR.

The Ricoh GRII  compact camera aims to meet the challenge from smart phones by providing high image quality in a  a pocket size camera with mobile connectivity for instant photo  sharing.

The Ricoh GRII’s  Wi-Fi and Near Field Communication (NFC) functionality is enhanced with GR Remote, a web-based application which allows users to control camera settings virtually via any browser, as well as view and share images wirelessly.

Ricoh GRII

Ricoh GRII

“With the introduction of the GR II, we are taking the premium compact camera to a new level, offering the key features desired by photo enthusiasts: high resolution, a wide angle lens, quick shoot time and portability,” said Jim Malcolm, President of Ricoh Imaging Americas Corporation. “With its new Wi-Fi and NFC capabilities, photographers can now easily share their exceptional street and travel shots more easily, benefiting from the best of both worlds.”

The Ricoh acquisition of Pentax shows in the GRII’s use of a APS-C-size CMOS image sensor with approximately 16.2 effective megapixels. This sensor proved an outstanding performer in the Pentax K5 DSLR .

The compact wide lens may have also benefited from Pentax’s design experience. Pentax has a history of high performance pancake lenses for SLR and now DSLR cameras. Pancake lenses are much thinner than normal lenses making the design perfect for compact cameras such as the Ricoh GRII. (more…)

Scanning old slides with the Epson V500

The only time it ever snowed in our suburb, thirty years ago

Over thirty years of my film photography are sitting in boxes of  transparencies and negatives hiding in the cupboard. I learnt much about photography over the years. Even though as a raw beginner in photography my  techniques were far from ideal,  my basic instincts were always there.

The scanning project has tow aims. First is exploring the film scanning techniques and settings with theEpson V500 and the other is searching  the old photographs for any suitable for my photo library. (more…)

Essential photography editing using the GIMP

The rotate tool dialog box

The GIMP has a number of essential tools for creating a copy  your photograph into the right size, shape and resolution for its final use. This could be on the web page,  email, on social media , or even printed on paper for display in a photo frame.


It is not always possible to hold a camera perfectly level while taking a photograph. Most of the time small errors can be ignored. Where there are obvious reference points for viewers, and the horizons or verticals are wrong, then this can distract from the main point of the photograph. Classic examples are pictures of the sea, where everybody knows  the horizon  must appear perfectly level.    (more…)

Canon Introduces New 50MM Standard Lens

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

Canon is introducing a new reasonably priced prime lens offering a fixed 50mm focal length with a wide f1.8 maximum aperture.  While it may not offer the flexibility of a kit zoom it should offer better image quality especially in low light. The big bonus is its Autofocus function in movie mode.

The Canon EF 50MM F/1.8 STM  has a low price, but the basic optical design concepts were sorted years ago, and it is a matter of refinement  for a new lens of this type.On a cropped sensor camera such as the EOS Rebel T6,  Canon’s new lens has an effective focal length of 80mm, making this general purpose lens perfect for portraits. (more…)