shutter speed

Black (& White) Friday: Fade to Black

Not having had the chance to get out and shoot the streets of Ottawa very much, I have found myself dipping into my catalogue more often. This is an image I made late one night while experimenting with different lighting positions.

Self portraits are tricky, and I often find it easiest to accomplish using old manual focus lenses attached to my camera using an adapter. This image was accomplished using an old Minolta MD manual focus 50mm lens on my Sony, with a single flash positioned at 90 degrees to my left (camera right) that had a Rogue FlashBender on it to diffuse the light slightly.

low key self portrait

There are two types of light to consider when doing flash photography – ambient light (the light we see that fills the room) and light coming from the flash itself. What people don’t often realize, is that the amount of these two light sources can be controlled by making simple changes to our shutter speed and aperture settings, and if you know these two things, the overall quality of your photography can improve dramatically whether using flash or taking pictures on a bright sunny day.

Shutter Speed controls ambient light

Shutter speeds are identified by numbers that look like fractions – 1/100th, 1/200th, 1/400th, etc and can go up to 1/4000th on most DSLRs today. The higher the number, the faster your shutter will click, and the less light will enter your sensor resulting in darker images. Conversely, the lower the number, the more light will be let into your sensor resulting in brighter images.

For the image above, I wanted to eliminate the ambient light in the room. To accomplish that, I set my shutter speed to it’s maximum sync speed of 1/250th. This is the fastest that my camera can take a picture using a flash before it starts to cut off the image. If I had set my shutter speed to a faster setting, such as 1/500th, then part of the left side of my face would have been cut off. If I had set my shutter speed to a slower setting, such as 1/100th, then some of the wall in the background would have been visible in the image.

Aperture – controls flash light

Yes, you can change the flash power by making adjustments on the flash itself, but it’s often easier to accomplish the same effect by simply changing the aperture on your camera. The aperture is identified in f-stops, such as f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, etc and can go up to f/22 for most standard lenses. The higher the number, the darker your image will be because it will be letting less of the flash light hit your sensor.

I don’t remember where my aperture ended up on the image above, but I would have started with an aperture of f/5.6 and my flash at half power, and made the appropriate adjustments from there. That’s always my starting point. If I had to guess, I would have probably ended up at f/10 or f/11 to get this look.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Between

Living in a large city changes you, nobody can deny that. Growing up on a farm, in a small town, working outdoors on lush green golf courses does wonders for the soul, and for the mind. But when you move to the big city, chaos ensues. You are suddenly surrounded by steel and concrete, endless noise, and night that never appears darker than sunset.

Living in Toronto changed me. It changed how I thought, how I acted, and how I reacted. Life was fast paced, stress was endlessly imminent. I felt as though the cheery and optimistic small town boy was gone. I felt caught between who I was, and who I was to become. I was becoming little more than a long exposure…

much music building toronto


Amazing Photography Resources I’ve Used

Earlier this week I had a discussion (in the comments section of her post) with a new blogging friend about taking great photos and becoming more comfortable with shooting in manual mode. It got me thinking about the topic, so I thought I’d share some of the resources that have helped me learn the ins and outs of my camera and get out of auto.


The first and most important piece of equipment is your camera’s manual. In it, you’ll find out about all of your automatic settings, how to usem, when to use them, and what they’ll actually do for you.


Probably the single most helpful and easy to understand tutorial I’ve found on the internet is a FREE series put together by a photographer named Darcy. It is a 31 day blog series on everything you NEED to know about using a camera and taking full control of your settings. You can find it by clicking here.

Darcy begins by explaining the correlation between ISO, aperture, and shutter speed, and how each of these elements affects light or motion in a photograph. At the end of many of the daily posts, you are left with a fun and easy photo assignment related to the lesson learned in that post. I recommend it to everyone, and you can find it here. I still can’t believe that this series is free.

Here is an example of how I learned the effect that shutter speed had on the amount of light hitting the sensor:

shutter speedAnd, here is an example of how I learned the effect that aperture had on the amount of area that is in focus in an image:



Another mind-blowing Angel of the internet is Jared Polin, aka The Fro. He set out to change the way photography is taught and shared on the internet, and in my opinion, he has nailed it. With literally thousands of YouTube videos, a free guide to shooting in low light situations (that you receive when you sign up for his mailing list), and two paid tutorial videos (getting out of auto and fro flash guide for beginners), Fro has carved out a cool corner of the internet that helps regular people like me become better photographers.

B&H EVENT SPACE (YouTube Channel)

Again, thousands of presentations on every photography related topic you can think of, presented by experts in the photography business. There are too many favorites to list here, so I’ll do some follow-up posts on some of my favorite presentations. For now, you can access the amazing goodness that is the B&H Event Space here.

Whether you’re a beginner hobbyist or a thirty year veteran in the business, you’re sure to find some value in these amazing resources.

I’d love to hear about some other great resources out there. How did you learn how to take better photos? Who have you turned to for the most amazing photography tips?

Supermoon Over Toronto

so, on my way to bed last Sunday night, I noticed that the moon looked big, bright, and full. I quickly grabbed my Sony NEX camera, strapped on my 500mm f/8 Tokina manual focus lens, and snapped a couple quick shots of it… handheld.

It turns out that this wasn’t just an ordinary moon, it was a supermoon.

supermoon is the coincidence of a full moon or a new moon with the closest approach the Moon makes to the Earth on its elliptical orbit, resulting in the largest apparent size of the lunar disk as seen from Earth. – source Wikipedia

It’s not the sharpest shot of this relatively rare occurrence you’ll find on internet, but I’m relatively happy with the results given my limited skill and $20 pawn shop lens.