Welcome to the blog of the Frustrated Photog.

I am not a professional, not even an expert, just an enthusiastic enthusiast.  I will share my mistakes and tell you how NOT to do it. For anyone like me who has limited time and opportunities out and about, I'll share what I can to help you maximise time behind the lens and also my photography adventures.

If you like an image in the blog that's not in the shop, send me a message!

Best wishes

The Frustrated Photog.

The Tulips of Turkey

April 23, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Now Turkey, my adopted home, is famous for many things, but one thing that isn't internationally well-known is that the national flower is the tulip.

In all shapes, colours and sizes, come the spring, you'll see them blooming in just about every municipal garden.  Beautiful!

Black Tulips - Koza Han - Bursa (f/4.5, 1/125, 24mm, ISO100) 

Is it the seductive subtle curves, the wider hips and slender waist of the tulip that makes it so photogenic?  Let's not get Freudian about the metaphor...the bottom line is, the tulip, for me, is more enjoyable to photograph than any other flower, even the rose...

TearsTearsMorning dew on a pink tulip

Silk Tears (f/5, 1/200, 105mm, ISO200)

Why?  Forgetting metaphors, I think it is because the lines and forms are so often flawless; nature displaying it's most perfect artistry, such a sublime sweeping curve. 

Being close to some city gardens in my hometown each spring we are treated to a burst of colour.  The shapes and styles of these gems often bejewelled with dew, or with the sun's morning rays shinning through their petals.  By now I've just about photographed them from every angle...traditional and otherwise.  Which leads us back to my snowdrop blog post about using such opportunities to get thinking more creatively.

There's the normal shots...

  • Top down
  • Side on (displaying the full curves)
  • One nestling against another
  • The full flower bed displaying uniform or a variety of colour
  • At sunrise closed up
  • Midday, fully opened

There's other shots...

  • Decorated with dew drops
  • Insects sneaking around
  • The bent or the broken, imperfections
  • Focused stacked for front-to-back sharpness
  • Framed by out of focus flowers

f/5.6, 1/320, 105mm, ISO100 & f/5.6, 1/640, 105mm, ISO100

This last choice is one that I've been experimenting with, ideally to find complementing colours...though not easy (especially as I am badly colourblind). It's still on the photo bucket list, if I get one...I'll post it!

This spring I've made it to the flowerbeds a number of times, always with the same lens; Sigma 105mm macro.  It's a great lens; fixed f/2.8, super sharp, not to mention a lot cheaper than a Canon verdion.  With my 70D, I find manual focusing far reliable for really tight in macro work, with usually around f/5.6 - f/8 aperture.  At 105mm the depth of field is very narrow and slight movements, even breathing can throw out the auto focus as it hunts back and forth.  Though in the past I have used a Sigma 10-20m for an alternative landscape shot of the tulips.

With a worm's eye  (f/16, 1/40, 15mm, ISO100)

Yes, one tulip may very well be very similar to another, but, different light, angles, apertures, lens choices and so on give you a whole range of different creative options.  The more you photograph a similar subject, the more you can challenge yourself creatively...a positive thing! 

Do you have any favourites that you go back to regularly?  Do you agree the tulip is the most graceful flora subject?

Leave comments and links!

Best wishes

The Frustrated Photog.

The Multi Splash Project

April 19, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

With a photo project, I am kept safe and out of trouble.  My wife knows where I am, not getting run over by traffic going through red lights or by motorcycles going up and down the pavement, and not making friends with the friendly, cuddly and adoption-wanting street dogs that abound in the city...there are many I would love to take home.  Apartments, though, are not the place for dogs, big dogs. 

So, a photo project.  Splash photography is always a good one to try.  No, I know it’s not original, but it's good practice to improve your techniques and your camera skills.  Anything that helps you learn to adjust and adapt settings to the needs of the situation is good, and if it produces a nice result at the end, who cares if it isn’t original...as long as you don’t claim that it is!

So, yes, I have tried the lemon splash...and others...with ordinary results at best...

Splash of Lemon? f/8, 1/200, 53mm, ISO100 (Flash behind a white reflector placed behind the glass)

Strawberry Milk, f/11, 1/250, 85mm, ISO100 (Flash at 1/8 power through snoot)

I’ve also tried water drops, most of us have, but we’ll talk about the ‘Birth of Time’ in a later post!

So this one particular ‘keeping out of trouble’ moment saw me try and take the splashing a bit further, again, not original, but new for me.  Different coloured water, splashing at the same time.  I think Karl Taylor, (professional photog with an amazing array of work), has done this with paint for advertising work.  He used a special contraption to drop into six or seven cans at the same time with stunning results.  I don’t have the space or the budget, so the natural solution was to take separate images and place them together in Photoshop afterwards.

The three coloured splash, f/11, 1/250, 44mm, ISO100 (flash at 1/8 power)

The set up was simple.  Black card as the background, flash with a single flash gun side on using a snoot to direct the light, the flash on low power to freeze the movement.  Shutter speed on my camera defaults to the usual sync speed, but it is the flash that freezes motion.  Here I used 1/8 power, in room lit with natural light this was enough, combined with an ISO of 100 to freeze movement and not capture any of the background.  In Lightroom I increased the blacks to ensure that any muddiness in the background was eradicated.

A couple of tips though.  Plastic wine glasses!  They’re harder to break, and not so expensive if they do.  Also, plastic ice cubes, (as also used in the lemon splash above), which, when covered with water, look fairly authentic – with the added bonus that they don’t melt.  The colours were achieved by food colouring, rather than colouring the image in post processing! Oh and, a big water proof sheet bent to allow run off of the spilt/splashed water into a bucket.

Of course, splashes are about trial and error.  I recommend placing a pen in the middle of the glass and focusing on this BEFORE you start dropping and splashing.  Once your focus is set, take some test shots to check how the water freezes, you may need to increase/decrease the flash power and ISO.  Once you have the settings right, you can then start to try and catch the splash as the ice cube/object hits the water.  A shutter cable release helps with timing, as does using the rear articulated screen turned so you can see your hand holding the cube just out of shot; it’s also a good idea not to drop from too high! Especially in your nice tidy kitchen!

I don’t know how many shots I took of each colour before I was convinced that I had enough good shots to make the end result.  The tip here is to check images, zoom in and check sharpness to ensure you timed them correctly BEFORE you dismantle your set up. You don’t want to have to set it all up again when you find that you didn’t catch good splashes after all!  Trust me!  That’s a muppet moment post for another day!

Strangely, the shot of the three colours shown here actually has what could be three stages of the same splash, in different colour.  I only realised this months after putting the images together in Photoshop with the aid of clipping masks.  I just selected the best splash from each of the three colours, then aligned them in what seemed to be the best colour order.  I didn’t realise the sequence at all.  Ah well, a happy coincidence!

What’s your technique for capturing a good splash?  Share your ideas here! Send me a comment!

Best wishes

The Frustrated Photog.

Tip07: Doing it on public transport, and the benefits of using rubber!

April 15, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

If the title made you think of something else, get your mind out of the gutter!  Behave...this is a family blog!

As I have mentioned over and over again (and over), I get a little frustrated about being in good places, but unable to take photographs...especially when the light and weather conditions are perfect.  We know that public transport won't stop for us, so, what can we do?

Çapraz Creek from a bus window.  I got lucky as the bus was in traffic so only moving 10-20 mph

f/8, 1/500, 15mm, ISO1000 (Rubber lens hood fitted)

Well, not a lot. We can:

  1. ignore it...not really an option, but it does lead to less frustration!
  2. make a note of the location, using GPS on your phone if necessary, so you can return one day (and pray that light and weather play ball!)
  3. try and take some kind of shot from the vehicle

The third option leads to many technical challenges, not least trying to get other passengers out of the way.  But assuming the shot is on your side of the vehicle and you are tucked up against the window...we still have a fight on our hands...

A good tip, if you plan to shoot from the window during a journey, is to check the route beforehand and get yourself up against the most profitable window!

Dirty windows...not a lot you can do about them, unless at the next stop you get out with a mop and bucket...believe me I have been tempted, but never done it - yet.  In this part of the world, intercity buses and the fast trains do not have windows that open.  pffft!

Focusing - your auto focus may try and hunt as the window confuses things, as will objects that flash by.  You can try and set manually on infinity, perhaps this at least gives you a known parameter to work with.   

A larger depth of field is also desirable of course to try and get as much of the scene as sharp as possible...that means at least f/8 is advantageous.  But then of course we have...

Shutter speed.  If you're on moving transport, you need a shutter speed fast enough to counteract the vehicle...that could mean opening the aperture...but, see the point above.  Fortunately, most modern cameras, especially the DSLRs, perform well at higher ISOs.

ISO.  The truth is, shooting from transport will always lead to a lot of missed shots, often with telegraph poles, or something similar, close to the lens being blurred, or to the landscape being too soft to use, (thanks to the dirty window between you and the scene), a higher ISO (800-1000 for example), is not going to be your biggest problem and will give you more chance of getting a fast enough shutter speed.  Naturally, better results will come when there is more light outside, low light and night will be nigh on impossible to get a shot that is anywhere sharp enough to look at (let alone keep).

Reflections.  How do you combat the reflections from the window?  Well this where rubbers come in.  Rubber lens hoods that is.  I bought one to try out, I cannot remember the brand but if you look on Google images you can get an idea of the type of thing.  They do allow you to press your camera right up to the window so as to block out all internal light, so stopping unwanted reflections. 

Honestly, though, I had varying degrees of success with mine. 

Rubber lens hoods are normally built in such a way that you can vary the length of the hood.  At a 90 degree angle to the window it works fine, but adjust your angle slightly and the rubber will pop back into it's next length position, and so you'll get reflections again while you try to adjust.  It also means that you pretty much have to work at the same angle all time, which isn't really possible.   All in all, it worked to banish reflections, but was cumbersome.  I expect the more expensive options may not be prone to such a problem, and may allow you to vary your angle to the window more reliably. 

An alternative for shooting from a hotel room window would be to place your camera on a tripod or flat surface, use the timer and a black jumper/coat to block the internal light while the shot is taken.  Unfortunately, this isn't really possible from the seat of a bus or train, unless you have extra hands! 

If you have a coat with loose sleeves, I guess you could push your lens up the sleeve and out of the shoulder end, then pad the rest of the coat around the camera.  It would block out a lot of the internal light causing reflections, and no doubt everyone else on the bus/train will think you're a bit odd...but hey, who cares! I may give this a go next time!

People.  Perhaps the last problem, if shooting from a seat on a bus or train, are the people in the seats around you.  If they're trying to sleep they will tut, moan, and even get aggressive with the constant clicking of your shutter.  Some trains have vestibule areas with windows that may even open...but DON'T put your head or your camera out of a moving window...that would be incredibly dangerous!

The foothills of Uludağ, near Bursa.  Through a bus window while travelling around 50mph

f/10, 1/3200, 24mm, ISO800 (Rubber lens hood fitted)

Ultimately, shooting from a moving vehicle is not a good way to get shots...to state the obvious!  You'll face a lot of challenges and if you have to shoot through a glassed window, the shots will rarely be usable.  But, if you've got no other way to get the shot, at least it is a momento and also a clear reminder of a place to go back to...one day!

Have you managed to get some good shots while on transport?  What were your techniques?  Please share your thoughts and links to images!

All the best

The Frustrated Photog.


Istanbul in the rain

April 11, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

İstiklal, the grand shopping street from Taksim Square to Galata...in the rain!  Where else? It follow me everywhere!

Turkey, the land of turquoise seas and golden beaches drenched in glorious sun.  True, in summer at least.  In the UK most of us probably think of Turkey as this idyllic summer holiday destination...and yes, it has all those ingredients usually absent from an English summer holiday, but Turkey does get rain too...and snow! In fact the climate is actually very diverse, but enough of that.  Photography isn’t about meteorology or geography, or is it?

Of course it is!

For travel photography, landscape photography, street photography, in fact any outdoor photography...weather plays a huge part.  Light, natural light, is not only about the golden hour, but also the weather.  The mood that light and different weather conditions create are essential ingredients for us.   In addition, if humans, you know those peculiar creatures, are in the shot, they behave very differently in different weather and temperatures.  The attitudes, the clothing, the interactions all vary.

In İstanbul, in late January, I had the pleasure, I think that’s the right word, of hanging around outside some of the shops of the main shopping street in the famous Beyoğlu district.  It’s the neighbourhood that sits on the European side of the Bosphorus nestled up against the shores of that famous waterway and the Golden Horn.  It has views across into Asia, and also across the Horn to the Sultan Ahmet district with the famous Topkapı Palace, Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia.  Why was I hanging around outside shops?  My hobby is photography, my wife’s...ok, I know it’s a stereotype but, what can I do sometimes?   No complaints from me, well, maybe a few as the knees scream when standing in the cold, damp weather...but they'd do that with photography too!

Now, street photography isn’t really my thing and for that matter, neither is true travel photography.  Many would say that true travel photography should capture the locals to give the series of shots more colour and an emotional connection.  Nothing demonstrates culture like the people belonging to it, I guess.  For me, both street and travel photography, where people are included, always feels...awkward.    

Photographing without permission just feels like an invasion of privacy...and asking permission just seems too, well, forward!  I know it shouldn’t be, but my personality is what it is.

Tips I have heard to overcome photography shyness:

  • A zoom lens is useful; using something like 200mm on a crop sensor and the subject may never know.  But it still feels invasive!
  • Take a photo and then keep looking, don’t make eye contact again – pretend you were photographing something else.  But that just seems rude, not to mention dishonest!

Ok, I just can’t do it.  Give me a landscape or a macro something, even a piece of architecture – anything that cannot take offence!  What am I frightened of? A punch in the kisser?  I’ve no idea!  A psychologist may be able to help, if I were actually interested in solving this problem I could try and get out of the comfort zone.  One day, perhaps!

I’m rambling, verbally that is, not up and down the shopping street.  I was standing in the same place for about an hour.  The great thing about this street though is the small red trams that shuffle back and forth.  A relic of a previous time that add something special to the area and they have, of course, been photographed a million times.  Fortunately that evening the street was not too busy, I challenge you to try and photograph the trams without obstruction in peak tourist season!

Even photography this tram was outside of my comfort zone.  Clearly doing something photographic...in public!  I knelt down, I don’t think anyone almost fell over me, and with the high speed shutter mode on I fired off a few shots as the tram passed by.  I attempted a few angles, but the low shot works better I feel, a more dramatic, interesting angle picking up the reflection of the light on the damp flagstones, I deliberately choose a gritty feel in post processing to try to enhance this atmosphere.

Light red riding in the Beyoglu 'hood, f/3.5, 1/40, 15mm, ISO250

Looking back I wish I had used something like f/8 to get a deeper depth of field, light wasn't good and I was too cautious about ISO...incorrectly I would add!

Still no sign of my wife, deeply esconced in H&M no doubt.  Ah well, what else can I photograph.  People! Me? Could I?

I lifted the cam, the faces looking straight at me somehow blocking my trigger finger...I hesitated, the shot was gone.  When I did get a shot, there was no clear subject just a naff image of bored, damp looking people.  I tried again. Failed.  Then Two young ladies, one photographing the other, at least they were not moving much...I should be able to get a capture as they checked the back screen images together.  It’s not a great picture, but somehow the blurred people passing by frame these high street screen scrimpers in an interesting way.  I put the camera down.  Enough being outside of my comfort zone.  It was uncomfortable!

High Street Scrimping, f/5.6, 1/15, 85mm, ISO6400

The sun was now going down.  The clouds began to glow.  Could I get street detail and the colours of the sky?  3 shots, bracketed, should work.  Sure, people were in the shot, but I knew they were not the subject and I was honestly ignoring them.  Better!

Istiklal Street, f/5.6, 18mm, ISO100 (3 shots bracketed)

HDR photomerge in Lightroom.  Much happier inside my comfort zone!

One last shot to get tonight.  Shopping finished and down the hill at the end of the street to get the normal tram service to our hotel.  We passed the Galata Tower, of Genoise origin and originally called Tower of Christ (I think), anyway, it’s a wonderful landmark and lit up nicely at night, the only problem is, without an expensive tilt-shift lens, converging verticals are always a problem due to the angle and space available to take the shot.  Just using the top of the tower in a landscape format works well, but with some work in Lightroom, a full shot can be, almost, achieved.

The Tower, f/16, 25sec, 31mm, ISO100

Why f/16 for this shot, originally I was trying to include the street lights at ground level and have them become light stars, but the distortion of the tower geometry was too wild!  The shot had to be cropped.

Did you have nerves or issue photographing strangers?  What techniques did you or do you use to get by?  Write a comment, share your ideas!

Best wishes

The Frustrated Photog.

Muppet Moments 08: Too, Too Dark!

April 07, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

If you’re a regular reader to this blog you may have noticed that I like long exposures.  I like the silky effect on waterfalls, smooth glassy water, and streaking clouds.  Ok, I know it's not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it!  I also have a bit of a thing about water, check my Flickr photostream where probably three in every five photos include water; the sea, rivers, waterfalls, rain drops and so on. 

The Lower Laithe Reservoir, near Haworth, West Yorkshire: f/11, 30 secs, 27mm, ISO100

Combine the fixation with water and long exposure and you can guess what filters I’ll usually be reaching for.  The Big Stopper or Little Stopper from Lee.  I've read that some people experience a bit of a colour cast, I must admit, with these from Lee, I never have.  Maybe masked by my limited colour vision (I am colour blind with most colours), but any cast that may appear can always be corrected if you’re shooting in raw...so, no biggy!

I try long exposures a lot, with varying degrees of success, often failing horribly and falling into the clutches of one of my most daemonic and persistently present muppet moments.  A muppet moment that I seem intent on repeating almost every time and not learning from.  One day, I will!  İnşallah, as they say here in Turkey.

The problem is the long exposure (LE) at dusk, or at night.  It comes down to lack of patience perhaps, or trust in my camera techniques.  Often a long exposure in dim light, with even the Little Stopper, can easily run into minutes, and for some reason I am so hesitant to allow the shutter to keep running.  Checking my Lightroom catalogue, the longest LE I have is 461 seconds, it probably should’ve been longer. 

The technique should be solid enough...

  1. I line up the shot on the tripod
  2. Check Image stabilisation is off
  3. Using live view or mirror lock up to ensure no camera shake from the mirror flip
  4. Check that the image is level
  5. Zoom in on live view to check focus
  6. Make sure focus switched to manual
  7. Set to ISO100
  8. Take a meter reading for my chosen aperture, note the shutter speed
  9. Put the shutter speed/aperture/ISO into a phone app (I use Photopills if you’re interested)
  10. Adjust the ISO if speed too long for the scene (too much blur etc)
  11. Switch to Manual mode (or BULB mode if > 30 seconds)
  12. Dial in the settings recommended by the app
  13. Use a cable or remote release to start
  14. Use the stopwatch on my mobile to time the exposure
  15. Use the cable or remote release to stop the shutter after the correct time has past
  16. Review a splendid image on the rear screen (hopefully)

So where do I go wrong?  Why do I get the shots such as this?

This shot took 60 seconds but it should have been at least 4 minutes.  The image doesn't look too bad but I cannot use it full size because the quality has degraded, especially in the important foreground rocks.  It was severely under exposed.  To get the result you see above, I've had to push shadows and exposure along way to the right.  The shot was too, too dark!

So, why?

Simple, because I DON’T follow the steps above!  I know them, but: knowing the same as doing is not!  Which is how Yoda might say it! 

One critical step is not followed correctly that always results in the exposure being ended too soon, and a dark shot being presented on the rear screen. Step 15, emphasis on the correct amount of time!

The only reason for this is that I am trying to be too quick and save time.  But it’s a false economy.  If I trusted the technique to get the shot correctly first time; I wouldn’t have the rework of taking a second shot with a longer shutter speed.   MUPPET!

Next time I am fixing up the LE composition, I am going to follow those steps I have written above...to the letter...and wait for step 15, to the second!

Don’t be a MUPPET, Wait!

Hopefully I can guarantee more correct exposures by just trusting my technique and having a little more patience.

Have you had any experience of this or similar LE exposure problems?

Share your thoughts, send me a comment!

Best wishes

The Frustrated Photog.