Photography 101: Apertures and Shutter Speeds

Apertures and Shutter Speed

Photo of the previous waterfall in a gorge with the water in the falls very silky or cottony and the surface of the water at the base of the falls very smooth. 15 sec., f/11 – Extremely long exposures can reveal unusual patterns in water. © F.M. Kearney
15 seconds, f/11 – Extremely long exposures can reveal unusual patterns in water. © F.M. Kearney

By F.M. Kearney

Perhaps you were intrigued by the photos you saw in magazines. Maybe you wondered why your own photos never came close to matching them, or even the scene you just photographed. It might simply be that you’re just curious about the purpose of all those strange-looking buttons and dials on your new camera or lens. Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to get a little more serious about photography and you’re interested in elevating your skills to another level. If that’s the case, then this article was written just for you.

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Gourmet Photography: Making Memorable Images of Forgettable Subjects

Close up photo of a few holly leaves with a splash of yellow color in the background. "Holly leaves with a bit of color." © F.M. Kearney
Holly leaves with a bit of color. © F.M. Kearney

By F. M. Kearney

Besides photography, one of my other passions is cooking and baking. To satisfy my sweet tooth, I’m always baking some type of cookies or cakes. I use baker’s tools like piping bags and scrapers to make them look like they were purchased from a bakery. People often tell me I should bake professionally, but I have little interest in doing that. I don’t think I would enjoy it as much if I knew I had to do it. I also have an extensive collection of cookbooks and a filing cabinet full of recipes, categorized with folders devoted to specific meats, vegetables, and of course, sweets. However, I would never consider myself a chef. A cook, perhaps, but never a chef. Unless I’m intimately familiar with a dish, I have to follow a recipe. True chefs don’t “cook by numbers.” They instinctively know how to combine obscure ingredients to produce the most spectacular dishes. I love watching cooking competition shows on the Food Network. I always marvel at how chefs are able to take an odd-ball collection of ingredients like a banana, a pork chop and a cup of cashews, and combine them into award-winning, gourmet masterpieces.

I started to wonder how I could apply that same concept to photography. It’s really not that difficult to create an amazing photo of a great subject in the perfect light. But, what if your subject is less than stellar and your lighting is awful? As a personal challenge, I set out to find the most unremarkable subject and to shoot it in the worst possible light.

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Keeping Your Composure: Creative Ways to Compose Your Photographs (Part 3 of 3)

Photo from under a pier looking out through the rows of pilings towards the horizon with the sea meeting the beach at the bottom of the frame.  © F.M. Kearney
Pier pilings offer great opportunities to shoot repetition. © F.M. Kearney

By F.M. Kearney

In this third and final installment of my series on compositions (see Part 1 and Part 2), I will discuss methods that are occasionally used, as well as some of the most unusual and obscure techniques. That being said, it’s highly likely that you’ve used at least some of these techniques without even realizing it.

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Keeping Your Composure: Creative Ways to Compose Your Photographs, Part 2

A fence leads viewers’ eyes down the path of a forest trail. © F.M. Kearney
A fence leads viewers’ eyes down the path of a forest trail. © F.M. Kearney

By F.M. Kearney

Last month in part one of this series, I discussed some of the most commonly used compositional techniques in nature photography. In Part 2 I’ll be highlighting a few more popular methods, but some might not be used that frequently.

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Keeping Your Composure: Creative Ways to Compose Your Photographs, Part 1

Daffodil Hill in the New York Botanical Garden. This is a typical composition of foreground, middle ground and background. © F.M. Kearney
Daffodil Hill in the New York Botanical Garden. This is a typical composition of foreground, middle ground and background. © F.M. Kearney

Story & photos by F. M. Kearney

Well, 2020 is finally in the rear-view mirror. Assaulted by a non-stop barrage of civil unrest, lifestyle changes, political uncertainty, economic hardships, and devastating heartaches, it was year none of us will soon forget – no matter how hard we may try! It was a struggle just to maintain one’s sanity in the midst of such utter chaos. The toilet paper shortage alone could easily have caused even the calmest of individuals to lose their composure. As a photographer, that got me thinking. Although, at times, certain situations may make it hard for you to properly compose yourself, you always have total control over how you compose your photographs.

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True Affects: Using Special Effects to Realistically Affect Reality

Daylilies with Radial Blur Filter (Spin mMethod) Applied © F. M. Kearney
Daylilies with Radial Blur Filter (Spin mMethod) Applied © F. M. Kearney

By F. M. Kearney

A friend of mine once showed me a movie trailer on YouTube for a foreign-made film called “B-14.” It’s about rival drug gangs, featuring an assassin with superhuman powers. To say that the special effects are ridiculously over-the-top would be an extreme understatement! This movie wasn’t meant to be funny, but I laughed more during this 1-minute trailer than I have during some 2-hour actual comedies. It seemed as though the producers just discovered special effects the night before and were determined to use all of them in this film – no matter how poorly executed, or whether the scene called for them or not. But what about special effects in photos of nature?

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The Fruitful Rewards of Bare Trees: Using Nature to Enhance Urban Winter Photography

Ominous-Looking Tree Overlooking Manhattan Skyline © F. M. Kearney
Ominous-Looking Tree Overlooking Manhattan Skyline © F. M. Kearney

Story and photos by F. M. Kearney

Aside from the cooler temperatures, which I greatly prefer over the blazingly hot, dog-days of summer, I look forward to winter. There’s something magical about capturing the fleeting beauty of a winter wonderland, festooned with snow-covered fields, sparkling ice crystals and dangling icicles. However, the weather’s been a bit on the mild side here in the Northeast. Some people are still running their AC’s! Indeed, winter can be unpredictable. In some years, you may be inundated with a steady stream of snowstorms, and in other years, there may not be a flake in the forecast for the entire season. But, no matter what, the one thing you can always depend on each winter is the abundance of bare trees. After they shed their fall foliage, most people usually don’t pay too much attention to them in the winter – unless they’re coated with snow and ice. But bare branches can provide excellent framing and/or foreground elements for a number of photography subjects in natural and urban environments as well.

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A Season For All Conditions: Explore the Beauty of Autumn… In Any Type of Light

Photo of autumn foliage along a lake. “Bear Mountain State Park Autumn Scene in Direct Sunlight,” © F.M. Kearney
“Bear Mountain State Park Autumn Scene in Direct Sunlight,” © F.M. Kearney

By F.M. Kearney

As nature photographers, we’re always searching for the best light in which to capture our subjects. What looks good in direct sunlight probably won’t look its best in flat light, and vice versa. It’s not often you find a single subject that will shine equally in any type of lighting condition, but that’s precisely the case when it comes to the colors of autumn.

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A Day at a Lake: Exploring the Hidden Gems of a Common Subject

By F.M. Kearney

There was nothing particularly special about it, and it was completely hidden from view. In order to reach it, you had to walk to the rear of the property and go down a short trail leading to a clearing. The only reason I knew about it was because I Googled the location beforehand. It was just a small lake… so small it didn’t even have a name. Nevertheless, I couldn’t wait to explore it.

Several years ago, my wife and I went on a short, weekend getaway to The Poconos. We stayed at a vacation resort in the town of Bushkill, PA. The resort was best known for its golf course, but I was only interested in one thing… the lake.

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Back to the Basics: Flower Photography Tips

Cluster of Darwin hybrid tulips
Cluster of Darwin hybrid tulips

Story and photos by F. M. Kearney

At the time of this writing, every state in the country has now either partially or completely reopened. Although we are far from being out of the woods with the COVID-19 crisis, more and more people are starting to venture out to enjoy what’s left of this summer. After last winter and the extended lockdown, I’m sure some photographers haven’t touched their cameras in months. I had originally planned to run this article at the beginning of spring, but I postponed it due to the lockdowns – and the unlikelihood that many people would be able to enjoy the outdoors. With things slowly beginning to return to a “new-normal,” I figured now would be a much better time for an article about photographing flowers outdoors.

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