Travel Photography — Greece

Athens (Greek: Αθήνα) is the largest city and the capital of the Greek republic.  It has a typical subtropical Mediterranean climate. As of 2011, Athens had a population of 745,514 people and has a total land area of 412 square kilometres. It is the eighth largest city in Europe and one of the EU business center.

Athens has a recorded history of up to 3,000 years; it is known as “the cradle of Western civilization.” Athens still retains a lot of historical sites and a large number of works of art, the most famous of which is the Acropolis of Parthenon which is regarded as a symbol of Western culture.

Athens’ Acropolis, Greece’s most famous and outstanding ancient buildings, was the center of religious and politics in the ancient days. Acropolis’ size is about 4 square kilometers, located in the center of Athens Acropolis hill; it was built in 580 BC. The earliest buildings in the Acropolis were the Athenaeum and other religious buildings. Acropolis in Greek means the city of high land.

 

Santorini Island

Santorini is one of the most beautiful and romantic island in the world. A must visit island if you are in Greece. It is located in the southern Aegean sea, about 120 miles from the mainland.

Oia town is the second largest town in Santorini but it is the most beautiful town. It is built on the cliffs of the sea and is considered to be the world’s most beautiful place to watch the sunset. Every day thousands of tourists from all over the world gather here to enjoy the beautiful sunset. The blue-top churches built on the cliffs, the numerous nice looking white houses, as well as traditional Greek windmills make the view especially the sunset absolutely gorgeous, stunning and unforgettable. It is every photographer’s paradise.  Stay here at least few days.

Mykonos

Mykonos Town is the best representation of the Cycladic Architecture. It is one of the most attractive places of the Cyclades islands. The narrow streets with the bright white buildings on either side seem to have no end. May take you to a quiet church, may also bring you surprises with a unique store. Greek mythology says that the island of Mykonos is made of the broken body of a giant killed by Hercules. Its famous landmark is the iconic 16th-century windmills, which sit on a hill above the town.

There are more than 300 small churches on the Mykonos Island. Walking through the narrow residential street, you will come across a small church every few houses or shops.

One famous resident of Mykonos is actually the cure Pelican. It strolls in the streets every day, and when you eat in the open-air restaurant, its big mouth will try to share your dinner. In 1954, after a storm, a pelican decided to take this island as home, islanders named it Pedro, it has since become the mascot of the island.

The original Pedro has long passed away; the islanders miss it, and so they get a new one to let the legendary continue.

 

Creative Exposure Part II

Many combinations of aperture, shutter speed and ISO will give us correct exposure. For example, ISO 100, F4, 1/250, F5.6, 1/125, F8, 1/60 and ISO 200, F8, 1/125 will give us same correct exposure in terms of brightness of the photo.

Which correct exposure setting to use?

Well, choose the combination that gives us the desired effect. In order to know what the desired effect is, we need to know the effect of aperture and shutter speed setting. For ISO, use the lowest possible as lower ISO gives us better quality with less noise. However, as mentioned before, crank up the ISO when necessary to avoid blur image. Image with noise is still better than unintentional blur image. Image with noise can be improved significantly in the retouching software nowadays.

Aperture and depth of field

Depth of field is the distance that appears to be in focus in front of and behind the focus point. It is affected by aperture, lens focal length, and the distance to the subject. The table below summarizes the effect of aperture, focal length and distance to subject on the depth of field. To achieve the shallowest DOF, use the largest possible aperture, long focal length and move in closer to your subject.

Shadow Depth of field Deep depth of field
Aperture Wide (low f-number) Small (high f-number)
Focal length Long (telephoto lens) Short (wide angle lens)
Distance to subject Short Long

 

Here is the illustration of the effect of different apertures:

Shutter speed and motion

Fast shutter speed has the ability to freeze the motion and action to capture moment that our human eyes can’t see.

Slow shutter speed will introduce blur to the image and when use correctly can emphasize the motion and direction. However, bear in mind that you may need to mount your camera on tripod if shutter speed is too slow.

Below are example of images captured with slow shutter speed. Instead of getting a perfectly still image, now we can some some movement from the otherwise still image.

 

How to avoid blur image for static subjects?

  • Pay attention to shutter speed
  • Rule of thumb (without tripod)
    • Minimum shutter speed = 1/(focal length)
    • 200mm lens à min shutter speed is 1/200 s
    • 50mm lens à min shutter speed is 1/50 s
  • With VR/IS
    • Vibration reduction / image stabilization
    • Min shutter speed could be 3-4 stops slower
      • 1/200 s becomes 1/15 s

 

How to avoid blur image for moving subjects?

Again, pay attention to shutter speed.

For slow movement, 1/100s or 1/125s is probably sufficient

For fast movement, you need faster shutter speed of 1/250s or 1/500s

For extremely fast movement, increase the shutter speed to over 1/1000s

 

Panning

Panning is an interesting technique that you pan your camera along with the moving subject to get a image with relatively sharp subject with blur background

This technique takes some practice to master it. The speed you pan is especially important as you need to anticipate the speed of your moving subject.

Below are some examples of panning effect:

Creative Exposure

Creative Exposure

We already know the three basic elements of our camera that affect the exposure. In this article, we are going to discuss the effect of each element, how they are going to affect our images and the pro and cons of the different settings.

Aperture

An aperture is the opening of our lens that can be adjusted to change the diameter of the opening. Given that there are many combinations of aperture and shutter speed setting that will give us correct exposure, what aperture are we going to use to give us best result? Are all apertures giving us same result besides affecting faster or slower shutter speed? The answer is definitely no. Let’s look at the effect of aperture setting:

The larger aperture like F2.8 besides giving a lot of light to go through the lens, it has a very nice effect of creating shallow depth of field that allows us to isolate the main subject and make it stand out from the background. Large apertures are typically used in portrait photography when we want to make the person very sharp against the blurry background.

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On the other hand, the small aperture like F16, F22 or smaller will give us more depth of field, meaning more area or distance behind or in front of the focus point will appear in focus or sharp. This is typically desired in landscape photography where we would like to see both foreground and background clearly.

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Shutter speed

Shutter speed is the time duration of opening and closing of the shutter. How does it affect the image? Well, a fast shutter speed like 1/400 of a second has the ability to freeze the moment. For wild life or animal photography, in order to achieve sharp images, the shutter speed has to be fast due to the fast moving subject. Similarly for sport photography, fast shutter speed has to be used if sharp image is the priority. On the other hand, slow shutter speed sometime is more desired as slightly blur image shows the speed, the motion of the subject better than sharp images.

Slow shutter speed sometime can be used to create artistic images to show the mood, the atmosphere. For water scene like waterfall or wave, slow shutter speed that produce silky, misty water surface are worth to try out.

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ISO

Does ISO affect the quality of the images? The answer is definitely yes. That is because although high ISO allow us to take images under low light situation, there is a side effect of producing noise in the image that often are not desired. Higher ISO will produce more noise than low ISO. It is good practice to test out the high ISO image quality of your camera. However, it is better to get a slightly noisy image than a blur image so crank up the ISO if necessary. There are few photography software like lightroom or neatimage that can reduce the noise in your images while maintain certain level of details and quality.

Exposure elements

Exposure elements

In my last article, I explained what the basic of exposure is. In this article, we are going to go beyond that to understand further. We are going to go through the three elements namely Aperture, Shutter speed and ISO that affect the exposure.

Aperture

What is aperture? An aperture is a hole or an opening of your lens that can be adjusted to make the opening larger or small to control the amount of light reaching the film or image sensor.

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We are not going to the details of the F number or how it is calculated. However, the important thing to remember is the smaller the F number like F1, F1.4, F2, F2.8, the larger the aperture opening, the larger the number like F16, F22, F32, the smaller the aperture opening.

Shutter Speed

At the back of the camera between the lens and the film/sensor, there is a shutter curtain which opens when the photograph is taken. Shutter speed or exposure time is the effective length of time a camera’s shutter is open.

1/8000, 1/4000, 1/2000, 1/1000, 1/500, 1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8, ¼, ½, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30

These are typical shutter speed a camera supports ranging from 1/8000 second to 30 seconds.

Below is the cross section view of a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera. You can see the opening of the lens which is the aperture and the shutter which open and close when taking photo.

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ISO

The ISO in photography is the sensitivity of the film or image sensor to the light

Higher ISO numbers like ISO 1600, IO 3200 mean the sensor is more sensitive to the light. Lower ISO number like ISO 100 or ISO 200 mean the sensor is less sensitive to the light.

 

These three elements work together to determine the exposure and there are many combinations of these three elements that will produce “correct” exposure, meaning producing image close to 18 % gray.

For example, under certain condition and giving a fixed ISO number of say ISO 400, an aperture setting of F8 with shutter speed of 1/125 will give us correct exposure. If we change the aperture setting to say F5.6, the shutter speed that will give us correct exposure is 1/250.

ISO Aperture Shutter speed
400 F8 1/125
400 F5.6 1/250
400 F4 1/500

 

In another word, the amount of light doubles going from F8 to F5.6 and from F5.6 to F4. The amount of light also double from shutter speed of 1/500 to 1/250 and to 1/125.  We can complete this calculation with the following:

The amount of light reaching sensor doubles following the arrow direction:

Aperture: F22, F16, F11, F8, F5.6, F4, F2.8

Shutter speed: 1/8000, 1/4000, 1/2000, 1/1000, 1/500, 1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8, ¼, ½, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30

ISO: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400

Fortunately all the modern camera have auto mode feature to auto set the ISO, aperture and speed for us. If we would like more control, there are manual mode or semi manual mode like aperture priority and shutter speed priority where we set one of the value and the camera will automatically decide the other setting for us. We will talk more about that in next article.

Photography – Exposure

Exposure

What is exposure?

Exposure is simply the amount of light capturing on photosensitive material like film or digital sensor.

What is correct exposure?

How much light should hit the sensor for how long?

How does the camera determine the “correct exposure? The camera has a small device inside called exposure meter or light meter that measure the amount of light hitting the sensor. It is the cumulative of light over a  duration that results in total amount of light falling on the sensor. The camera compares the result of total amount of light with a standard that is equivalent to 18 percent gray. Brighter than 18% gray, the camera will treat it as over exposed. Darker than 18% gray, the camera will treat it as under exposed.

Here is the example of 18% gray.

gray

Will the camera meter always give us correct exposure all the time?

Well, the answer is no and that is why the decent camera will have those manual buttons for us to override the setting provided by the camera.

The camera exposure metering is based on 18% gray so it provides the setting (aperture and shutter speed combination) to produce 18% gray or the mid-tone photo. Do we want all out photos to look like 18% gray mid-tone? Definitely no. Sometime we want white, sometime we want black.

For the extreme cases below, when we take the photo for the black board or the white board. What do we get straight out from the camera? Gray, 18% gray.

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Without doing anything or just using the auto mode from the camera, we are going to get under or over exposure photos under these condition. How do we change it? We can compensate for it with the exposure compensation button +/- of most camera since we know the reason behind the wrong exposure setting of the camera.

For the black board example, our camera thought it is under exposed if it give us black because it wants to give us gray and that result in over exposed photo. What we need to do is simply subtract light by compensate to the – side.

For the white board example, it is the opposite that our camera thought it is over exposed if it give us white because it wants to give us gray and that result in under exposed photo. What we need to do is simply add light by compensate to the + side.

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This applies to the scenario of beach, snow, water reflection or white wall background. Our camera meter will think it is very bright and will under expose the shot, we need to add light by compensate + to make white white and not gray.

On the other hand, in the case of black wall or subject with dark background, our camera meter will think it is not bright enough and will over expose the shot, we need to subtract light by compensate – to make black black and not gray.