Meeting in the Garden

Lisa Snider

On Saturday, May 19, 2012, the Calvert Photography Club met at Ann Marie Garden for our monthly meeting. We began the meeting with a warm welcome from our hostess at the Garden, who also provided us with a brief history of how the Garden came to be. She went on to invite folks who are interested to volunteer, whether you volunteer on a regular basis, or just at special events. The art lab, the front desk, and the Community Gallery are but a few of the places where volunteers are welcome. The current exhibit will feature 70 Fairy houses, and volunteers are needed to help place them around the grounds. A volunteer sign up sheet was made available. In closing, the Garden is interested in working with our club, and was kind enough to provide free admission to the grounds, after our meeting.

Today’s meeting topic was critique - “How to Accept and give Critical input to Improve our Photography,” which was presented by our club members Daniel, Shaara, Jim and Jeff. Daniel began the discussion with a definition of critique - “the careful evaluation of a photo - constructive criticism.”

He then offered the following in support of the critique process: feedback is a good way to improve your skills; it is a great way to get out of a creative rut; and it is a great way to learn and share new techniques, such as giving and receiving simple fixes.

Daniel talks critiqueDaniel suggested that photographers with similar photographic interests offer some of the best feedback, so it is often wise to seek such individuals out.

In order for the photographer to openly receive the reviewer’s comments, good and bad, he or she must put their emotional attachment to the image aside. Daniel offered that this is a very difficult thing to do. You may remember how early you got up and how far you drove to get the image, or maybe it was very difficult for you to take the photo after you got there.

He also mentioned how hard it is to critically evaluate your own work. Daniel often takes the images and sets them aside for a week before he looks at them again, and begins the process of identifying his favorites.

In closing Daniel suggested that everyone has a different opinion, and a different eye. The key to accepting the critique is not to get too defensive.

Shaara then discussed the elements of good composition in a photograph, accompanied by a slideshow presentation by Jeff. She offered that the photographer should remember to use the Rule of Thirds, capture repeating shapes, patterns and directional lines, and unclutter a shot, to showcase the focus of the image without including extraneous elements. Often, we want a photograph to tell a story.

Don’t forget how important the light is in composing an effective photograph, and remember that elements that draw you into a photo, and cause your eyes to move around and explore it, are hallmarks of good image.

Jim gives tipsIn closing the presentation, Jim offered that a critique is an evaluation of the quality of an image – and not whether someone likes the subject being photographed, or the circumstances surrounding a shot. If the photographer disagrees 100% with the critique that is given,  often it is because a point of view that the photographer hasn’t considered is being offered.

The next segment of the meeting built upon the presentation. Club members were previously invited to submit their images to Jeff for presentation at the meeting, and practice critique by the club. Many members agreed to participate, and graciously offered their images.  Jeff opened each image in Photoshop Lightroom, and Jim began with his critique of the image, followed by Daniel and Shaare. Positive attributes were mentioned, as well as suggestions for improvements, if any.

Club members were then invited to add their comments, and pictures were adjusted in Lightroom to try the “improvements” suggested, such as a different crop, white balance, or color saturation. An interesting point raised was the difference between a shot which is meant to tell a story, and documentary photojournalism - a picture of simply what is. These are two very different styles of photography, which appeal to very different photographers. What the photographer was trying to convey has to be taken into consideration when critiquing a photo.

The practice of offering and receiving critiques proved to be a wonderful exercise for the club, and clearly illustrated the educational value of a thoughtful critique. In closing this segment, club members were reminded about the critique portion of our Flickr web page. It is set up as a private group, which club members must be invited to join and accept. Photos for critique are submitted anonymously. All are encouraged to participate - offering critiques, or offering photos to critique, or both! 

The club then took a snack break, enjoying drinks, mini-muffins, fruit, bagels and cream cheese, which our club members generously volunteer to provide.

The next portion of our meeting featured a slideshow by new club member Daniel, depicting the evolution of his interest in photography from photographing his friends on bikes in California, to underwater photography, to desert shots, and his current interest in wedding photography, which he pursues with his wife. He ended the slideshow with some fascinating night photography shots. The slideshow was very thoughtfully-assembled, offering members a chance to get to know Daniel better, which we all appreciated.

It was then on to the business side of our meeting. President Guy Stephens reminded club members that he is now accepting photos for possible selection for the Solomon’s Island Exhibit. The theme is summer in Calvert County, and all submissions must be made by May 25th. See Guy’s e-mail for more details. 

Out Treasurer, Bonnie, then presented her report, indicating that we currently have 36 paid members. Members are reminded that Bonnie maintains the list of monthly snack volunteers. Bonnie will follow-up with the volunteer the week of the meeting, to provide a reminder.

Spencer followed with an update on our club’s lending library, which features many new titles, including an interesting new book on converting color photos to black and white. See the Members Only section of our web site for a complete list of the books available to borrow and review for our web site, and contact Spencer directly regarding the same. 

Finally, Robbin gave the group an update on our next field trip, scheduled for Saturday, June 2nd, when the club with be heading to Baltimore to the National Aquarium and/or the Inner Harbor. Pamphlets about the trip were made available (there is a cost to enter the aquarium), as well as a sign up sheet, which Robbin encouraged members to sign even if they were only tentatively planning to go. More details will be provided by e-mail, and members will be asked to confirm their final plans, then.

Next month’s shooting assignment is “Red,” to be interpreted anyway club members see fit. It will be interesting to see what everyone chooses to photograph and share at our next meeting, scheduled for June 16th.

We closed out our meeting with the photographs taken for this month’s assignment, “macro.” Armed with the tips from last month’s guest speaker, Robert Tinari, club members went out to shoot macro, and were invited to share these photos and the story behind them at the meeting.

Seascapes Under The Full Moon

Jeff Smallwood

The rise of the “supermoon” in May seemed to have generated an increase in awareness of when and where full moon will be. I was lucky enough to be in a tropical location for the arrival of the supermoon and shot more seascapes under the light of night. With our club having such close access to the Chesapeake Bay, rivers, and other water areas, I wanted to share some photos and a few tips and techniques for getting the most out of what the full moon has to offer.

Read the blog entry.

Macro opportunities at Sotterly Plantation

Lisa Snider

On Saturday, May 5, 2012, the Calvert Photography Club met in Hollywood, Maryland, to enjoy a morning of photography at Sotterley Plantation. We met at 10:00 a.m. on the grounds of the plantation, which stands on the banks of the Patuxent River, and features a beautiful Colonial Revival Garden, a plantation house which dates back to 1703, and many other interesting buildings, which were part of the working plantation. 

Photo by Lisa SniderWe began the trip with a short photography lesson by new club member Daniel Coughlin, who discussed depth of field, and offered suggestions on how to set the ISO and other controls on our cameras in order to capture the best of what the scenes around us had to offer. This lesson followed the e-mail he sent prior to our trip, introducing these concepts. Daniel, a member of our new education program committee, also made himself available to club members throughout the shoot, if they were interested in further composition or photography technical advice. 

We then spread out, to explore and photograph whatever caught our eye. With macro photography in mind (our shooting assignment for May), many club members brought their tripods, and headed for the beautiful Peonies and other flowers blooming in the garden. There were many “mini-scenes” to capture, with the wide-open, white picket gate beckoning visitors to come in and see the sun dial, the various flowers in bloom, the wagon, garden tools and benches, all of which were interesting garden elements to photograph and compose scenes out of. The architecture of the plantation house and surrounding buildings (constructed during different time periods) and the vastness of the property also made for some lovely, sweeping landscape photographs.
By 12:15, our club members were ready for lunch. Robbin Haigler graciously supplied Lemonade and cookies, to which club members added their own sandwiches, which we enjoyed on the picnic tables and benches right on the plantation. A good time was had by all.

Club members are reminded to share some of their photos of the trip on the club’s Flicker page, which showcases many inspiring photographs by our talented club members.

Technical Tip – Depth of Field

Daniel Coughlin

Depth of Field (DOF) is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp. 

Depth of Field can be controlled one of four ways:

  1. Aperture (aka f-stop) – The most common and easiest way to control DOF is to change the aperture.  As the aperture is stopped down (opening made smaller/ bigger number) the depth of field increases allowing more of the scene to be in focus.  The adjustments can be previewed by pushing the depth of field preview button on your camera.
  2. Focal Length (Length of lens) – The rule of thumb is the longer the focal length the shallower the DOF is at any giving aperture.  Shorter focal length lenses have greater amounts of DOF.
  4. Distance between the subject and camera – As the distance increases between the camera and subject the DOF also increases. This true for any aperture and lens combination.
  6. Hyperfocal Distance/Focusing – Focusing at the hyperfocal distance will allow the photographer to attain sharpness from the foreground to infinity.  This means that if you have a strong foreground and background subject they can both be in focus.  It is best that you understand the first three DOF control techniques before you play with hyperfocal distance. If you want more information on this topic please let me know.

Applying This Knowledge

To get the most out of these techniques practice shooting in Aperture Priority or better yet Manual.

Shooting Marco - Shooting macro will allow you to play with the aperture and control how much of the subject is in focus.  With your camera, macro lens and tripod find a small subject that you would like to photograph.  Try a flower or other small subject.  Set up at the minimum focus distance with focus on your subject.  Make an exposure with the largest aperture on your lens, e.g. f/2.8, f/4.  Take note to the DOF and how much of the image is in focus.  Next, make another exposure with the smallest aperture on your lens, e.g. f/22, f/32.  Compare the two images.  Can you see a difference? At f/22 the DOF should be greater allowing more of your subject to get in focus. 

Shooting Wide - Shooting wide will help you understand how the distance between the camera and subject affects the DOF.  Find a location with a nice foreground subject, e.g. a small tree or bush.  It is important to have lots of space in the background to effectively see the change in DOF.  You will want to use a wide angle lens but not too wide.  Depending on the camera try an 18mm to 35mm focal length.  Set your shot up so that your subject is filling most of the frame but so that you can still see the background.  Take an exposure with the widest aperture on your lens, e.g. f/2.8, f/4.  Review the image and take note to what is in focus and what is out of focus.  Make another exposure with the smallest aperture on your lens, e.g. f/22, f/32.  Compare the two images.  In the second image your subject should be completely in focus along with some if not all of the background.