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Welcome to Zoom-Foto

You've no doubt landed here as part of a journey. It starts with the quest for knowledge or inspiration and ends generally with a few choice words with our good friend Google. Words like "camera" and "lighting", combined with "how'd they do that ..." and "how can I do that ..." will land you here. Take heart my friends. I can show you "how'd they do that" - and how you can too.

And this is where our paths cross and we begin our journey together. I have trod the path of 'avid photographer' for years. I have searched for hours for 'how to photograph water drops' and marveled at the perfection of other people's beautifully poised single sparkling drop. I have stood for far too long in the cold to capture that one moment of swirling snow when the air appears to sparkle. And I confess with guilt that beautiful wild horses in the Icelandic hills just had to be photographed at the expense of my very patient traveling companions.


We have all been there - somewhere where the distractions of life are left behind and we exist in the moment. Camera in hand, subject just there. And nothing else. Call me obsessed, call me a little crazy, and you might have captured my dedication to documenting that moment.
If you get this - if you've been there - then join me as I follow the path of avid photographer. Let's learn a lot of photo tech, share our inspiration and produce fantastic shots!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Macro Mania - Resistance is Futile!: Top 10 tips for Great Macro Photos

There's only one answer and its very simple. To avoid succumbing to Macro Mania DO NOT purchase a macro lens. Do not browse other peoples awesome images online, and for god's sake, keep that credit card in your wallet.  Danger lurks - take it from me - I succumbed - I purchased the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Macro Lens and I saw an immediate scarcity of both time and money.

Happily, along with scarcity of some essential resources, I also experienced a transformation that was worth the cost.  When I started my journey as a photographer I found new appreciation for the visuals.  Now as Macro Mania sets in, I enjoy those same visuals at very close range - it's a whole new perspective.  I've captured a fruit fly sitting on a butterfly's leg.  I've shot a beautiful fly's butt. And yes, I always photograph my food in restaurants before eating - my lens makes me do it!  :-)

Let's suppose you've already succumbed to Macro Mania. Now you might as well enjoy it.  Here's my Top 10 tips for Great Macro Photos:

  1. Buy the best lens you can: Go for a longer focal length, a largest aperture of at least 2.8, image stabilization and a high speed-focusing motor.  Fork out the cash or you'll be handing over more in a few months for an upgrade.
  2. Use a tripod, lean your hand on something, or use a remote shutter release - just keep that camera steady: At close range you'll really see the effect of camera shake.
  3. Water drops are your friend: This is a great technique for spicing up those standard macro shots.  Go out in the rain, use a spray bottle, or water dropper.  Stunning results justify a little 'cheating'.  Add a little glycerine (from your local drugstore) to get those drops to hold their shape and position just a little better.
  4. Look for bugs at mid-day, but look for sleepy bugs early in the morning: This one is a trade-off.  If you're having trouble finding little creatures to photograph, head out at mid-day.  With the sun and warmth, they'll be out and busy and easily located.  Now you'll experience the frustration of shooting a busy bug that's just not up for posing.  Try an early morning shoot.  Those sleepy critters will be easy to shoot.
  5. Check your backgrounds: Its not just all about your subject.  That subject will be so much more striking if your background is given the same consideration as the rest of the shot. 
  6. Cloudy days are great days: Avoid glare and harsh shadows on your subject with ease.  Avoid the sun!
  7. Banish the light: If you have no choice but to go out shooting in the glaring sun, you're in luck.  Just block that sun by positioning your body between your subject and the sun.
  8. Find your focus: At close range and with a large aperture, a movement of as little as 1mm can change the focus enough to completely ruin your picture.  Once your focus has locked, shift your position slightly until you've captured the right focal point.
  9. Depth of Field is where its at: Large aperture is highly recommended!  This is a common technique that isolates your subject from surroundings.  A blurry background removes distractions, or a slightly blurry but interesting background can frame your subject beautifully.
  10. Mix it up: Framing and Composition: Be creative - think outside the box!


Friday, 1 February 2013

Water Drop Photography


I did some water drop photography over the holidays.  Above are a sample of some favs.  ... And a couple more from this last Saturday night below.  Hands down best way to spend an entertaining Saturday night is a glass of wine, and a couple hours with my camera!

Stay tuned - a tutorial is in the works!  #1 tip and essential element to capturing that shot at the perfect moment: Know the life-cycle of a water-drop!
You can check out more water drops via my gallery: Water Drop pics


Wednesday, 26 December 2012

High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography Technique



Here's a cool technique I've been meaning to blog about for ages, and one that's a great addition to any photographers toolbox.  High dynamic range (HDR) photography is a great way to turn a potentially blah shot into something much more dramatic.  And despite the hype and the possibility of producing some truly stunning results, mastering the basics is really quite simple.

Step number one, figure out what you want to photograph.  Have fun with this versatile technique and point your lens as whatever interests you.  The one factor for enjoying the most dramatic HDR results is all about the light - not the subject.  Choose a shot that shows a large range from lightness to darkness - look for brightly lit areas and shadowed areas.  If a single exposure would normally show both correctly exposed areas and either over or under exposed areas, then you've found a scene where HDR will shine.

Now let's get set up for HDR!

Equipment

Here's what I used for my shots:
  • Camera - Canon Rebel T1i
  •  Tripod
  •  Remote shutter release
  • Photoshop CS5

The only essential equipment for getting your shot is a camera that allows you to set different exposures.  So my guess is, if you've got a camera, you've got the necessary equipment.  If you can find a stable spot for your camera where it won`t be moved, jiggled, or vibrated during multiple exposures, and if you have a very steady hand when releasing the shutter, then you can get by without the tripod and RSR.

Multiple applications support HDR processing.  I use Photoshop CS5, but feel free to find what`s best for you.  Here`s a review that might be useful: Top Ten Best HDR Software Review 2012.

Shooting 

  1. Set your camera on a tripod or other steady surface.
  2. Configure your camera for bracketed exposure.  Most cameras can be configured to automatically shoot 3-5 bracketed exposures with one click.
  3. Use your remote shutter release to take the shots.  
  4. Configure additional exposures and repeat shots if your camera doesn't support bracketed exposures
Your shooting is done.  Now you should have 3 or more shots taken at a range of exposures from over to under exposed.

Processing

Now fire up your HDR processing software and merge those shots into one stunning image!  My experience is with Photoshop CS5 so these steps will describe Photoshop specific technique:
  1. Open bracketed shots in Photoshop
  2. File - Automate - Merge to HDR Pro - Add open Files
  3. Check 'Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images'  if there may have been some slight movement between shots
  4. Click 'OK' to complete image selection
  5. Configure merge parameters - presets are a great way to get started.  Check with the product manuals for detailed information about each parameter.
  6. Check 'Remove ghosts' if there was movement in some of your bracketed shots during exposure.  This is my favourite discovery - it works beautifully, and it saved quite a few shots from the delete button as I was shooting a scene of moving people.
  7. Click 'OK' to start merge
Processing is complete and you'll see a dramatic image that combines all of your images into one high contrast shot.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Photoshoot: Kitchener-Waterloo Olympic Hockey Club-JWPL


Quote from the Kitchener-Waterloo Olympic Hockey Club facebook page: "Great games for JWPL on Sunday...2-0 loss to AC and a 1-0 win with TFHC...for such a "young" team you all played with a great deal of heart and sportsmanship and did yourselves proud!"


You can go directly to my gallery for today's JWPL,  the K-W Hockey Club-House League 2012, and Dragons Den Tournament or check out the Zoom-Foto gallery for more of my images.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Photoshop CS5 Tutorial: How To Correct Skewed Buildings and Distortions


Watch Tutorial:



Before: Lens correctionAfter: Lens correction


Instructions:
  1. Choose Layer > Duplicate Layer/Group to Duplicate the selected Layer(s) or Group(s).
  2. Close Layer Palette
  3. Click Filter > Lens Correction > Straighten Tool
  4. Click and drag to indicate the horizontal in your image
  5. Ok to accept changes
  6. Click Crop Tool
  7. Click and drag to select image
  8. Ensure Crop Guide Overlay is set to Grid
  9. Click on Perspective checkbox
  10. Drag Left and Right Crop Guides to indicate the verticals in your image
  11. Hit Enter to accept changes
Your lens correction is complete!



Thursday, 21 June 2012

Photoshoot: Kitchener-Waterloo Olympic Hockey Club-House League 2012

K-W Olympic Hockey Club Teams

Spent a warm summer morning photographing some great kids and coaches for the U9, U13 and U18 teams of the Kitchener-Waterloo Olympic Hockey club.

Special thanks to my 8-year-old daughter who told me how to get everyone seated by height.  She passed on the trade secrets of the photographer that took her class photos - thanks to whoever you are!  And thanks to Anika whose demo at the bus stop one morning was charming and really not too confusing - for me or all the onlookers.

Go directly to my gallery for the K-W Hockey Club-House League 2012, and Dragons Den Tournament or check out the Zoom-Foto gallery for more of my images.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Photoshop CS5 Tutorial: How to Replace Your Sky


Watch Tutorial:




Old sky vs New sky

Instructions:
  1. Choose Layer > Duplicate Layer/Group to Duplicate the selected Layer(s) or Group(s).
  2. Close Layer Palette
  3. Select tab with sky image
  4. Click on Rectangular Marquee Tool
  5. Select area of image to use
  6. Ctrl-C to copy
  7. Select tab with your image
  8. Ctrl-V to paste
  9. Select Layers Palette
  10. Drag top 'sky' later down
  11. Make top layer invisible
  12. Close Layers Palette
  13. Edit-Transform-Scale
  14. Scale the sky layer to be slightly bigger than the sky you wish to replace
  15. Click on the Move Tool
  16. Drag your sky to cover the original sky
  17. Select Layers Palette
  18. Make the top layer visible, and select the top layer
  19. 19 Close Layers Palette
  20. Select the Magic Eraser Tool
  21.  Verify Tolerance and Opacity
  22.  Click on the old sky
 Your transformation is complete!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Macro Images - Water Drops and Water Drop Reflection - Round 2!

Setup: Macro water drop reflection - showing new water drop regulator (an IV bag!)



See the following for my original post: Macro Images - Water Drops and Water Drop Reflection

It's been a while since my previous post on water drop reflection and I've had some time for some of my own reflection on the topic.  Add to that some time for googling, viewing other peoples fantastic images, and of course, the inevitable result of passing time - the acquisition of yet more photography stuff.  Yes, photographers do appear to be a materialistic breed, and yes, I've been shopping ... more on that later.

In the meantime, the following are my insights after a few long nights, lots of pictures, and a few glasses of wine to help me with point #1 below:
  1. Patience is a virtue!:  Take this to heart - embrace the process and those fantastic shots will take care of themselves.  I found this quote which sums up the required attitude pretty well: "You can't control the wind, but you can adjust your sails".  With that in mind, be prepared for a lot of minute adjustments as those unruly water drops just do whatever they want.

  2. Water drop regulation:  Back to my comment on shopping for more photography stuff.  My most useful acquisition since my last session is a gravity feeding bag - actually a medical item, but ideal for regulating water drops.  The one I used can be googled with the reference 8884702500 - available at most medical supply stores.  This is a  replacement for the ziploc bag with hole that I used previously and turns regulation of drop rate from a nightmare into a dream.

  3. Light management: Turn off any point lights, including room lights, and directed light sources for illumination of water drops.  These reflect in drops, and may result in blown-out areas.  Use only a diffused flash if possible.

  4. Water drop management: A wider, deeper pool of water results in a higher bouncing drop.  A drop centered on the surface rather than closer to one edge results in a more predictable bounce that is more likely to be straight up and down.

  5. Reflection management: Reflections should be centered in the drop and fill the drop to avoid getting unwanted background reflection.  Point the camera lens at the center of your subject, then get your water drop to bounce into the line of sight using step #4 as a guide .... and step #1 to maintain sanity.  This of course only applies if you want the subject to be centered behind the drop.  If this is not the goal, all bets are off!

  6. Power: Keep lots of backup rechargeable batteries on hand.  There will be a lot of clicking and flashing and you won't want to pause while you wait for recharging.  With all that clicking and flashing, keep in mind that if your pictures start to look grainy, it could be a sign that your sensor is overheated, and it may be time to give your camera a rest.

  7. Snap that photo!:  The following is taken from my previous post on water drop reflection, and copied here for completeness:

    1. Set your camera to Manual mode to maintain control over both a fast shutter and the level of detail in your background.
    2. Hold a pencil in front of your lens.  When the point is in focus, you have found the focus location.  Adjust the bag so drips meet up with this location.  Alternatively, hold the pencil point where the drops are landing, and adjust the lens so its' focus location coincides.
    3. Using a fast shutter will make the view too dark (until the flash goes off) to determine the focus location as indicated above.  In this case, switch to aperture priority temporarily with a large aperture to make adjustments.
    4. Use your cameras remote shutter release software to view your image and snap your picture for maximum control and to eliminate camera shake.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Photoshoot: Kitchener-Waterloo Olympic Hockey Club-Dragon's Den Tournament

K-W Olympic Hockey Club Dragon's Den Tournament
Sweltering day at the Warrior Field in Waterloo and it barely shows in my photos.  Congratulations to a bunch of energetic kids and coaches who didn't let a crazy hot day dampen their energy.  I on the other hand was on the verge of melting!


Go directly to my gallery for the K-W Hockey Club-House League 2012, and Dragons Den Tournament or check out the Zoom-Foto gallery for more of my images.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Photoshoot: Kitchener-Waterloo Olympic Hockey Club-Purchase Photos

Photos taken at the Kitchener-Waterloo Olympic Hockey JWPL - Sun June 24, 2012
- All photos are copyright Nicola Gordon Photography
- Click on "Buy Now" to purchase via PayPal
- Click on an image to view the larger version
- All photos are $5 Cdn + shipping and tax ($7.75 Cdn) for a 5x7
Thanks to the K-W Olympic Hockey Club for their support!

                    

                   

  

     

 
                                                         





Saturday, 21 April 2012

Macro Images - Bugs!


A few warm days last month, and like any self-respecting photographer with a macro lens, I was waiting impatiently for the bugs to come out.  A month later and lots of cold weekends, and I've finally had enough of waiting.

My son said "Mummy", lets go to the butterfly conservatory to take photos."  Well, I was out the door and driving toward Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory almost before he could grab his point-and-shoot and hop in the car.

We were rewarded for our gloomy-day jaunt with a steamy day in the greenhouse, and a few great pics.  These were all taken with my Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x Macro Lens, mostly at 1x magnification and without a flash.

Go directly to my macro gallery, or check out the Zoom-Foto gallery for more of my images.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Trip of a Lifetime - Photo Cuba Workshop 2012


A sample of favorites from my wonderful trip!

Links:
My Photos of Cuba
Article: 'Love and Fiestas - Chivirico, Cuba'

Take one long cold February, one bedraggled and disheveled mother of two, and far too many months without even a semblance of me-time, grown-up time, down-time, or any other kind of time.  Add to that Trina Koster's Photo Cuba Workshop, a new lens for Christmas, a spare $50 bucks in my pocket, and (this one is essential!), a kind husband who is willing to lend the balance.

Now you have the makings of a 'Trip of a Lifetime'.  So said the email header from one of my fellow travelers shortly after the trip - and it could not have been said any better.  Every element of this workshop came together like a thoughtfully composed photograph. 

My fellow photographers were, each and every one of them, as mad about photography as I.  Envision, if you will, our typical evening relaxation - a few hours by the pool, mojitos and fantastic live Cuban music ... and our laptops - editing and sharing the days photos.

Our morning lectures were like those elements of a photograph that you just can't take your eyes off.  You take it all in, and then you are left wanting more.  We looked at inspiring photos by masters, learned about Cuban surrealist art, culture and politics, and had our own work critiqued.  An hour in a darkened room on a beautiful Cuban morning was absolutely worth every moment.

Then there were the wonderful Cuban people.  Their warmth and kindness is something I have just never experienced before.  And I'm sure you can't find so many photogenic subjects anywhere else.  Children smiled and showed off, and followed us in giggling rowdy groups, old guys posed with their dogs, chickens, brooms, men everywhere blew kisses, and everywhere, people were out on the streets just going about their lives.

Now I'm back home - still bedraggled and disheveled - but I have this snapshot in my mind of a beautiful place, some wonderful new friends, and a thousand new pictures to remind me of that fantastic week of inspiration.

Gracias to Trina, Laura, Scott y German for bringing together all the elements of a really fantastic Photo Cuba Workshop!


Links:
                  Instructors:
                   Some of my fellow photographers:

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Macro Images - Still Life


 



So you'd like to be a photographer, and you'd like to be a geek, but your real dream is to be a bit of both.  Here's a great project I recently undertook.  It gave me the opportunity to hone my photo-geek skills and forced me to develop makeshift solutions to resolve some tricky setup issues.

Gear
Canon EOS Rebel T1i
Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo Lens
Reflector
Tripod
Laptop with: EOS Remote Shooting Utility, Photoshop CS5
Not cool gear:
  • CD's and CD cases to manage distance from lens - a sad workaround for my as yet non-existent cool and very expensive focusing rail.
  • Incandescent point lights - yet another sad workaround as I was not yet lucky enough to own an external flash at the time of this project.
  • Mister - No dew was falling in my kitchen during my photoshoot, and I had to cheat.  I've heard that glycerin creates rounder drops although I have yet to try this.

Snap that photo
  1. Set your lens pointing down similar to a microscope.  I found this by far the easiest for composition and focusing for still life.
  2. Set your macro lens to the desired magnification before focusing as this is the easiest way to achieve your intended composition.
  3. Now apply that highly technical technique of focusing your subject by adding CDs or CD cases below to adjust distance to lens.  (Wouldn't a focusing rail do a beautiful job of that if I had one!)
  4. Adjust depth of field - the tiniest adjustment affected whether a dewdrops surface was in focus vs the reflection inside the dewdrop.
  5. Adjust lighting - shadows are magnified just like subject detail
  6. Snap your shot via EOS Utility installed on your laptop.  This is easier by far than viewing through the camera eyepiece or LED, and the remote shutter release avoids camera shake. 
  7. Use your favorite editing software to lighten highlights and reduce shadow if your lighting system was not sufficient.

Comments and gripes
Well, you know my gripe by now.  I'm in the market for a 4 way focusing rail - or any setup that does not involve CD's and CD cases.  But hey, I got some good shots with some not cool gear - see above for the end result.

I also have to gripe about the lack of macro subjects here in the winter.  Finding a bug to photograph is a real challenge, and flowers must be acquired at the local florist instead of the garden.  Bring on the summer!



Gallery

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Florabella Collection: Photoshop actions, textures and frames


As an avid photographer I could not help but become also an avid digital editor.  Mix in a little of the perfectionist and some minor control issues, and I could easily while away the whole night transforming and tweaking until the latest photos fit the picture in my mind.

Photoshop is my trusty partner and Photoshop CS5 is a dream!  Double that sentiment when I discovered Photoshop actions.  This simple concept allows you to record actions and apply to one or multiple other digital images with one click. 

Naturally, as any self-respecting Photo Geek would do, discovery of Photoshop actions led to googling into the wee hours.  And naturally, this led to the discovery of Florabella Collections.   This site is a true inspiration with a wide choice of Photoshop and Photoshop Elements actions, textures and frames.  Sample before and after shots are a visual feast with creative composition and stunning transformations.

You will realize, as I did, that being the new owner of one of the Florabella Collections is a worthy cause, and a very good reason to get out your credit card.  I am now the very satisfied owner of the Florabella Luxe II Photoshop Actions collection ... and the proud owner of some once drab photos that now look quite stunning!


Thursday, 26 January 2012

Photoshop CS5 Tutorial: Blurred Vignette Border


Watch Tutorial:



Instructions:
1 Choose Layer > Duplicate Layer/Group to Duplicate the selected Layer(s) or Group(s).
2 Make the background layer invisible
3 Minimize the Layers palette
4 Select a Marquee Tool to create your border
5 Draw a border around your photo
6 Open the Layers palette and select the top layer
7 Click Add Layer Mask
8 Click the Layer Mask Thumbnail
9 Minimize the Layers palette
10 Click Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur
11 Select a blur radius
12 Click OK to accept selections
Note: This is a Photoshop CS5 Tutorial

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Photoshop CS5 Tutorial: Stroke Style: Draw a border around your text


Watch Tutorial:



Instructions:
1 Choose a layer containing text that you wish to add a border to.
2 Click Layer > Layer Style > Stroke...
3 Click Stroke and adjust size.
4 Click OK
6 Alt-Click the stroke style under your selected layer.
6 Drag and drop to other layers you wish to apply this style to.
Note: This is a Photoshop CS5 Tutorial

Photoshop CS5 Tutorial: Render Lens Flare: How to add lens flare to your photo


Watch Tutorial:



Instructions:
1 Choose Layer > Duplicate Layer/Group to Duplicate the selected Layer(s) or Group(s).
2 Click OK to apply the changes.
3 Click on the eye next to the Background layer to make it invisible.
4 Click Filter > Render > Lens Flare...
6 Adjust point, brightness, and Lens Type
6 Click OK to apply lens flare.
Note: This is a Photoshop CS5 Tutorial