Category Archives: Tips & Tricks

Fine Art - 3

ART & Creative Photography

By | Tips & Tricks | 2 Comments

Date: 18-Apr-2016

As a member of Creative Nature Photography (widely known as CNP) forum, I have recently got an opportunity to attend CNP meet held at Dandeli from 15-17th Apr 2016. It was a great opportunity for me to meet photographers who think creatively (not like minded!) and use various techniques in “creating” images. It was also good to know the efforts they put and challenges they face through various sessions and discussions held during the meet.

Since a long time I was thinking of writing an article on ART & Creative Photography, not in terms of true photography as I am not a photographer by any parameter but as a common man.

I thought this is a good time to write as I have just returned from a meet dedicated on this and spent 3 days photographing various subjects during this time (what I mean by photographing is “Clicking the shutter” without any pre-visualization as this was my first visit to this place). Interestingly most of the members who were part of this meet would definitely term/recollect me as “Person with a camera everywhere”.

I will start now on the “subject” (oh even in photography too the terminology is same!) without any further delay.
Kindly note that this is all according to “ME” (Please see my conclusion at the end of this post).

I want to broadly classify which “I” can think of in “this context & specific to subjects of Nature” as below.

  1. Natural History
  2. Creative Photography
  3. Photography as ART
  4. Creative ART

1. Natural History

Natural History is about “Discuss more and Think less”

Natural History is more about discussions like knowledge on subject, behavior, places and seasons etc. and thinking is not much required in photographing as they were very well classified over years like action, portraits, behavioral etc. Photography techniques in this area very much evolved over decades and can be followed simply by anyone (ex. Rule of thirds composition, capturing subject with a clean Background in good light or with habitat etc).

Few images I have shot during my 3 days at CNP meet in this context:

2. Creative Photography

Creative Photography is about “Discuss less and Think more”

We can’t discuss too much about creativity, subjects do not matter for a discussion too.
So one has to think a lot on “how he/she can be creative” in showcasing their creativity.
The catch here is that we can discuss about creative images which were “made” in various platforms but we cannot guess what a future creative image would look like!
That’s the reason the creative images are always exciting.
These images sometimes need a good title inline with the image or little explanation.

Few images I have shot during my 3 days at CNP meet in this context:

  • Elements of Life – Flower as the evidence of life, Earth, Water, Air (evidence here in the form of ripples of water in this image) & Light (the light reflections through water on the earth below) as the elements without which there is no life
  • New Student

3. Photography as ART

Interestingly ART falls under “Discuss more and Think more”

ART evolved over thousands of years, where we have millions of records either on rocks, tools people used, paper after invention or even on canvases of animals!
Hence there is lot more to discuss and lot more to think to get the same expressions using a camera.
Sometimes either a clear title or few words of description helps in understanding the image better.

Few images I have shot during my 3 days at CNP meet in this context:

4. Creative ART

For sure for me this falls under “Just Think”

Just like the Modern ART, sometimes this needs more explanation from the creator (oh artist too!).
This is as challenging as Creative Photography and slightly more to retain the aesthetic feel.
Creative images need not be artistic like the above image in Creative Photography section Elements Of Life is not Artistic.

Few images I have shot during my 3 days at CNP meet in this context:

Diya is a source of light.

I have used Moon for fire to showcase the source of light (the creative part of the image) and used leaves (one of the themes I was working on those three days as one of my subjects) to create the holder of the light but also in an artistic way (the artistic part). Lightning the leaves in that fashion was extremely tricky using camera inbuilt flash without any additional equipment.

Now it’s the time to see one single subject in all the four perspectives as mentioned above to get what exactly I am trying to convey:
These were taken at the resort’s boating/rafting area.

  1. Tree scape – Photography as ART
  2. Tree scape – Creative Photography
  3. Tree scape, Tree scape – Creative ART

One thing I would like to point out here is how a very simple basic photo as shown in Natural History can be transformed in a different way completely depends upon the photographer skills and creativity.

Few other images I have captured during these 3 days at CNP Meet can be seen below.
Before viewing the images, please note:

  1. Every image posted here is a single exposure (one image file, no composites, no stitching etc were done), originally shot in RAW image format.
  2. No special effects are added in post processing for any image, images were captured using various techniques in field.
  3. Standard post processing is performed and majority of the images (eg. image Life Line) are Full Frame without any Cropping .
  4. Minimal dodging is done on 3 images and one dirt element is cloned out in “Floating Flower” image.
  5. Silver EFEX Pro software was used for converting photos to B&W.
  6. All images were shot “HANDHELD” including images shot in the night.
  7. The techniques I have used in these images very well exist even before I was born :)
  8. All images were taken with a Nikon D90 DSLR camera with a Sigma Sports 150-600mm lens

Images from this TRIP of all sorts

To conclude, Creative & Art photography has no bounds.

Hope my thoughts and images give some pointers in these areas.

Have a great time.


Scapes 016

Dynamic Range

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The above image is an example of exceptional performance of Nikon D800E sensor (manufactured by Sony).

Dynamic Range of Camera sensors are extremely important for Photographers like me where I can completely concentrate on capturing the moments I want in the field than bothering about the camera settings for each shot.

I want to make this post self explanatory with Images than text, please judge yourself.

Below are with Nikon D90 – 7 year old sensor technology

This below example is an accidental shot, still a keeper :) :)
Example 1:
Image out of the camera
Image out of the camera 100% crop
Image pushed around +5 stops in Post processing
Image pushed +5 stops in Post processing 100% crop
Ideally this image should be shot with more Depth of field, please check this link – Tip: Shooting at Small Apertures

Example 2:
Image out of the camera
Image pushed in Post processing, details are in the image itself
Final image

Below are with Nikon D800E
Example 3:
Image out of the camera
Final Image, pushed +3 stops in post processing
Extreme left bottom corner Out of the camera
Extreme left bottom in the Final Image 100pc crop
Before Shadow lifting, lower bottom
After Shadow lifting, lower bottom
After Shadow lifting and Processing, lower bottom
Saw the Black Kite? Advantage of 36 MP Resolution!

Keep shooting…


Scapes 077

Shooting at Small Apertures

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The above shot was taken in Shutter Priority and I let Aperture to set by camera automatically, in this case to f/36 (Ideally one should shoot this in manual mode with ND filters which I did not have at that point).

Interestingly in Photography “Small Aperture” means a big number. For ex. F/11, f/13, f/16, f/22 etc are few small apertures and f/1.2, f/1.4, f/2.8 etc are Large/Wide Apertures.

Shooting “Small Aperture” is required in few kinds of photography like Landscapes, some Macros, Architecture photography etc where more depth of field is required.

Few drawbacks of using small apertures are
1. Need more light, so it is a challenge when shooting in low light
2. Diffraction, which mean loss of sharpness

Overcoming the drawbacks:
1. Use a tripod with a timer or wireless/wired remote triggers when light is low and more depth of field is needed
2. Use good lenses which can handle smaller apertures without a huge degradation of Sharpness
3. Use good post processing techniques for sharpening.

Below is an example shot at f/16 with Nikon D90 camera and Nikon Af-S 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. Generally prime lenses are good in optics.

Image out of the camera

Out of the camera – 100% crop Eye portion

Out of the camera – 100% crop Tail portion

Processed Image

Processed Image – 100% crop Eye portion

Processed Image – 100% crop Tail portion


As you can see this image, the final result is sharp with good depth of field from eyes to tail. So with good shooting discipline and post processing, one can achieve good results even shooting at smaller apertures.


Mammals 036 - Bengal Tiger

Shooting RAW – Basic Post Processing

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The above image was taken in RAW and processed.

Disclaimer: Please see the comment @12-04-2011 16:33:50 in

The advantages of shooting RAW related to this post here are.
1. Adjusting the White Balance
2. Exposure

For the first time I have shot in RAW+Fine JPEG mode as an experiment in April next to my home in Bangalore around 7 am.
Surprised to see Western/Eurasian Marsh Harrier Female in the morning searching for the food around!
Sun was playing hide and seek with me, very low light (Typical Bangalore Morning Light)

The following one is direct from camera Jpeg with the default camera settings like
1. Auto Whit Balance
2. Exposure Compensation -1/3 EV
3. Accidentally set Vivid Picture Control (More Saturation)

Getting even a record shot from the above jpeg is extremely difficult as it lacks everything.

So I have taken the corresponding RAW file and did the basic processing on
1. Exposure Compensation around +1.7 EV
2. White Balance set to Direct Sunlight – 5200K
3. Cropping for better view of the subject

And applied Noise reduction and sharpening in Neat Image which looks as follows.

Atleast now it can be used as a record of this species in our area!


Birds 153 - White Crested Laughingthrush

Understanding the Tele/Tele zoom lens

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With “little” understanding of mine, I thought of sharing this about telephoto/telephoto zoom lenses…

Every lens has the following attributes
1. Focal length
2. Minimum focus distance
3. Aperture (Smallest Aperture less light required to capture the picture)
4. Sweet spot (Sharpest @some aperture settings)

Most of the times, lenses performance depends on the above parameters.

The following is some of my explanation of above wrt to 70-300mm f/4.5 to f/5.6 VR.
This lens produces excellent images (Full Frame) when
1. Around minimal focus distance-20 feet when subject is small and 20-40 feet when the subject is bigger.
2. Ultra sharp images when the light is very good/light is on the subject.
3. When light is good and aperture is around f/8

In the above scenario, the images are so sharp that no sharpening in PP is required.

The image quality suffers when the subject is in shade/low light, focus is at infinity etc. In general, lens focusing speed will be reduced in low light and also with larger apertures like F/8, f/11 etc.

Also the bokeh directly depends on the distance of the subject in these cases. When the subject is withing the reach of the lens as said above with less clutter in the BG, most of the lenses produces the best they can (very clean, also one should position themselves accordingly for this).

That is the reason, when shooting subjects at far distances, cropping yields less IQ. So in these scenarios better to use good prime telephoto lenses with good converters to get better pictures as their reach is more.

The above Oriental Magpie Robin image was taken with Nikon D800E camera with Nikon AF-S 600mm VR lens and TC 1.4 II tele-convertor in DX mode.

Some sample shots for the explanation.
1. (Clean Bokeh/clean BG, almost @minimal focus distance with no clutters in BG)
2. (Sharp details, distance within the lens reach)
3. (Small subject and focus at infinity, IQ suffers)

Scenarios change for other lenses like Wide angle lenses (a future topic)


Birds 015 - Common Myna

How to get best shots

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To get the best shots, one does not “ALWAYS” require the best camera and lens.
Even a point and shoot cameras (P&S) will produce.

Then what’s the limitation?
Normal cameras (P&S, entry level DSLRs with consumer lenses) have some challenges

1. Low light – Early mornings, late evenings, overcast weather and general indoor shots.
2. Sports/Kids/Action shots – which require fast focusing, speed.

So when shooting with normal cameras following techniques will help in producing better images.

1. Go for photography on sunny days with plenty of light.
2. Subject should not be in a shade, avoid taking such shots (non record shots).
3. Avoid shooting distant subjects then cropping heavily.
4. Shoot within the focus range to preserve more details and contrast.
5. Use appropriate filters in situations when required, like landscape photography, reflected surfaces etc.
6. Follow good techniques to approach the subject without disturbing it much, This results less cropping of the image, gets better IQ and captures more detail.
7. Use appropriate lenses for the appropriate photography (most of us don’t do)! A Macro lens for Macros (more details), Wide angles designed for landscapes. Telephotos/super telephotos for birds (cleaner Background), Medium telephoto lenses for portraits (nicer Bokeh) etc
8. Also similar settings in Cameras until getting proficiency (mostly for P&S) Portrait setting for portraits – Avoids unwanted sharpness on faces Landscape setting for landscapes – Good greens and blues etc.
9. And a standard technique: Keep the Sun behind you, so that your subject will be lit properly in the direct sun light.
10. Keep your tripod/monopod handy, to prevent camera shake at longer focal lengths, in low light for longer shutter speeds (ISO performance of most of these cameras are average).


Nikon DSLRs – Blurring view finder in crop modes

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This tip comes handy while shooting images like above in in-camera crop modes.

I struggled for 2 years to get this info, finally thanks to for posting this.
So posting this for everyone’s benefit who shoots in crop modes (5:4, 1.2X, 1.5X) in Nikon DSLRs like Nikon D800(E)/810 etc.

Go to the Custom Setting Menu and to the setting “a6 AF point illumination” and set it to “OFF”.
This will make it a lot easier to frame subjects by blurring the area outside the cropped frame and making it appear darker.

In some cameras/without latest firmwares like mine, it was “a5″. So please check in Menu “a” for this setting.

Original link


Flora & Other - 102

Extension Tubes

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Tip: Using Extension Tubes

The above image was taken using Extension Tubes.

Saturday, without any prior planning purchased Kenko Extension Tubes (ET) for Nikon F-Mount AF lenses, first time without doing R&D on internet. Tested them for an hour on the night on my AFS 50mm f/1.8G and AFS 70-300mm VR.
Want to share “my thoughts” on them, may be useful for others.

WHY Extension Tubes?
1. To get macro shooting capabilities on non macro lenses.
2. Or to get more magnification than 1:1 on macro lenses

1. Auto focus works on individual ET, not recommended to rely on stacked, and little slow but sufficient for any work.
2. Have to sacrifice shooting at INFINITY, this never worked on any of my lenses tested, so, no birds in flight and no focus on any subject farther than the lens specified maximum focus distance.
3. Should be very careful on focus and DOF. Slight shake of camera will spoil the image.
4. Best results with tripod, where you can use tripod, otherwise shoot as many as you can to make sure you will get enough keepers.

Results on AFS 50mm f/1.8G

1. For medium sized flowers, 12mm ET is a best fit, please check the result posted in the link.

2. For small flowers, 20mm ET will be good.
3. For smallest objects, like 1cm flowers/jewelry like ear rings, 36mm will be the best.

I found the closest focus distance is around 2 inches with this and very much suitable for the above.

Please check this image
Stacking of External Tubes, found not much required as the above are sufficient.

Results on AFS 70-300mm VR
As the zoom lenses are known for their versatility, ETs on this zoom are really versatile and absolute fun using this combination.

1. 12mm ET is not much useful as we will not gain much magnification, but AF is good, can shoot Birds with AF!

Please check the following link.

2. 20mm ET, here the fun starts. When there is no subject in the view finder and you are at 70mm, then start zooming in… Suddenly you will find the subject which means, you lens has acquired focus at that zoom, suppose 200mm, then lock the focus there. Your auto focus works and you can recompose you subject in the same way what normally we do. Manual focus is still not required.

A Butterfly
Another one

And again, you lens is also ready for Bird photography at the same time, check the link below, the subject I was waiting to get a clean shot from last 1.5 years!

This one again with Camera AF, able to shoot around 10 shots without even a single AF failure in absolute low light!!!

3. 36mm ET is good with good AF speed.
Please check this:

Where best suits?
1. Places like parks/gardens for shooting different types of subjects like flowers/butterflies/insects/birds
2. Other places where you may come across such occasions where you may need a macro suddenly like you may go for dedicated bird photography but may find interesting macro subjects.

1. One has to decide in advance what he/she will be shooting, otherwise one has to change the corresponding ETs always.
2. No focus at infinity in my test scenarios
3. Focus must be very accurate and should counter check after the shot
4. Extra added weight
5. Extra investment too!

Definitely one can try ET.
Have a great time and have loads of fun!


Birds 074 - Common Kingfisher

Self Assessment

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I feel the easiest way to do the self assessment on our own photo is

1. Open the photo to be judged
2. Browse the same category/same species photos taken by professionals for 10-15 minutes
3. Now go back and see the photo earlier opened!

Definitely everyone will be in a position to judge where their photo stands.
Funny but works.


Birds In Action - 065

Focus on Focus – For Beginners

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The first thing people do after buying the new camera is start clicking, with or without focus!
Focus is critical to all the images for both normal and creative photography.

I suggest the below for beginners.

1. Please read the manual first and understand about the focus points/focus area and focus lock behavior of the camera.
2. Switch on the camera and start practicing what was read.
3. Cameras have difficulties in focusing in certain situations like a subject in busy backgrounds, in flight, low light etc. learn more about those situations.
4. Understand your camera focus capabilities in the above situations and use the appropriate settings accordingly.
5. Read and understand Manual Focus and its importance.
6. Few instances are good for Manual focus, so do not use it unless you are completely aware of those situations ex some Macro work.
7. Experiment on focusing in Live View if available and the situations of live view to use ex. sun rise, sun sets etc to avoid hurting eyes.
8. Get the knowledge on subjects to know which areas to be focused like Eyes etc

List grows… So read atleast the minimum and then start taking photos.

Happy Clicking!