For the folks who received cameras last Christmas, welcome to the fold! It’s a wonderful hobby, this photography thing, whether you shoot digital or film, have the most advanced of gear or theĀ  simplest of cameras, are in it to express your creative longings or are in it because it’s the in thing to do.

You’ve probably already shot the hell out of your new toy. Are you pleased with the results? If this is the very first time you’ve used a camera, a film one at that, you may be wondering: where are all the awesome shots I was expecting? Where are the crazy colors? What happened to the vignettes? Why’s it too dark? Why’s it too light? Why’s it all black? This is, of course, if you’re honest. Many new photographers like to convince themselves that their photos are award-worthy, even though they’re just photos of random clouds.

We all want to be better photographers, and the first step towards becoming one is admitting there’s a lot to learn. That means you. That means me. Photography requires us to understand some things, the basics, before we move on to the meatier stuff. To help everyone along, especially the beginners, I’ve decided to embark on a series of articles on the fundamentals of photography. Rather than go all technical, I’ll be focusing more on the basic principles of the art and craft.

I’m not a professional photographer, just an avid amateur, so this serves as a refresher course for me as well. I don’t live and breathe photography the way folks like Scott Kelby or Kevin Meredith do, so a return to beginnings can only serve to deepen my own understanding of this hobby.

We’ll tackle topics like exposure, shutter speed and aperture. ISO/ASA as well. Basic composition and framing, depth of field, panning, the Sunny 16 Rule of course. If I can find guest bloggers, that’d be great, a breath of fresh air to be sure. All that and more. But, I am asking for your forgiveness in advance. I can only write these when I find the time. Some weeks, it’ll come fast and frequent. Other times, it’ll be an agonizing drip-feed. Gotta prioritize writing that puts food on the table, heh.

Well, that serves as our introduction to the course. Now let me go and prepare the first lesson. Cheers.

Fireworks Shuttleworth

Photo by SWSmith Photography

Just two days until we bid farewell to the year that was 2011 and welcome in the Year of Our Lord 2012, most likely with wonderfully excessive displays of pyrotechnomania. And while I don’t recommend strapping Roman candles to your boobs and setting them alight (a la Katy Perry), I do encourage everyone to crank up their cameras for some firework photography. While luck factors a lot in shooting pyrotechnics, there are some techniques to put into play to improve your shots. To help those who may not have a clue how to go about capturing a massive chrysanthemum bloom in the sky or a Catherine wheel in furious spin, here are ten of the best tips I’ve learned.

2008 first Fireworks

Photo by Daita

1. Go full manual
Forget aperture priority or shutter speed priority or full-on auto. If you want to take even decent firework shots, you’ve got to get a camera that lets you adjust your controls (speed, aperture, focus) manually. If you rely on your camera’s on-board metering system, chances are, their readings will be out of whack.

2. Set your shutter speed to B(ulb)
A slow shutter speed is key to capturing a nighttime mid-air explosion in all its glory. It takes time for a pyrotechnic starburst to achieve its maximum diameter, and you’ll want your shutter to be open all that time. With the Bulb setting, you have control over how long your shutter will stay open, long or short. I typically play around from 5 to 10 seconds. Also, you never really know when the next rocket will go off, so keeping your shutter open longer increases your chances of catching a few choice explosions.

fireworks!

Photo by Probably Okay!

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