Photography and Art

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Slow Photography for Christmas

Santa was very nice to me this year. I got the gift of slow photography. The theory is that if I use a tripod and take my time to plan and execute a photograph, then the results will be better and I won't spend as much time sorting and editing photographs. I did have a tripod, but it had a ball head that used to sag whenever I tightened down the locking lever. I'd get my shot lined up, let go of the camera and the lens would be pointing a few degrees lower than where it was aimed. Talk about frustration!

Thanks to Santa (aka Trish), that won't be a problem in 2011. If you're an equipment junkie, here are the ingredients of slow photography for me:

  • A good tripod. In my case, the Manfrotto 055CXPRO3. This is a carbon fibre tripod to minimize weight and maximize stability. Here's a great article on this tripod and tripod stability measurement that will change the way you use a tripod:
  • A good tripod head. As I mentioned, I was not very happy with my ball head, so I looked around for something that was rock solid and could give me precise adjust ability in three dimensions. The one that stood out as the best value for the money was the Manfrotto 410 Junior. This is a geared head, so the adjustments can be very fine. The head does not move once it is set. 
  • Live View. As someone who has been a photographer for years, Live View seemed like an unnecessary frill when Canon added it to their range of cameras. I was used to using the viewfinder and didn't like holding my camera at arms length to compose my shot. However, for tripod work, Live View is a very good thing. It allows you to compose your shot slowly while you see exactly what will appear in the sensor. It works especially well with manual focus - you can zoom in up to 10x to see the details of your image and make sure that the focus is tack sharp.  You can also superimpose the histogram on the screen to get the exposure just right. All the key camera settings are visible through the LCD including F-stop, shutter speed and ISO. 
  • Tilt-shift Lens. The final ingredient to the slow photography mix is the tilt-shift lens. In my case, it's a 24mm Canon TS-E lens. I tiptoed into this by buying a used lens through the online classifieds. It's the mark I version of the lens and it's not as sharp as the current version. However, it costs less than half of the current lens. If you are curious about how a tilt-shift lens works, here's a great article. A TS lens gives you the ability to shift the lens and take pictures of buildings without the sides of the building converging at the top. It also allows you to take great panoramas. The tilt function allows you to create some incredible effects by adjusting the plane of focus. 
So far, the results have been fun. I've really enjoyed the way slow photography forces you to figure out the composition, exposure and focus. Time slows down and you feel at peace with your environment. Here's an example of a photo that I took at the cottage using slow photography. The weather had warmed up and the lake ice was covered with water so there were lots of reflections to work with. 

I'm happy with the composition and the exposure. The focus is very sharp and I got a lot of pleasure out of taking this shot. 

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