the worst problem with vineyard photographs is that they are taken
on sunny days. Direct sunlight creates deep shadows alongside brilliantly
illuminated features. When the picture is intended to be 'illustrative',
the resulting excessive contrast is disastrous. Overcast days are
best, heavily cloudy days are useable. Partial clouds in motion
create rapidly shifting lighting, from excellent to awful. Another
desirable cure for the over- enthusiastic sun is to use the early
morning or evening period. The low, oblique light is much softened,
and flatters most subject matter (tho it can alter the appearant
color, say of grapes in veraison..). A very low sun is conducive
to taking some of the most attractive pictures. With the sun below
the horizon, conditions resemble overcast, with a bluish tinting
(filterable), and low illumination levels that require longer exposures.
Shades, Screens, & Reflectors
must be taken when one has the opportunity. A hard sun can be tamed
using shades, screens, and reflectors, and all can be improvised
from common materials. Simply holding a hand up to shade a small
object will often do nicely. Larger areas can be made more camera-friendly
by holding up a sheet of cardboard for shade. If the cardboard is
white, or painted, it will also serve as a reflector. Sunlight can
be glanced or bounced back from a low-lying white relector surface,
supplying illumination from below and greatly improving photo-conditions
within a shaded environment. Screens work to impart a diffuse, glowing
effect to the existing illumination, and are frequently the final
touch that makes a winning picture. They can be delicate, expensive,
fancy things, on the market, but work even better made out of junk.
White plastic supermarket bags are perfect, and so is (multiple?
slightly shady?) layers of slightly milky polyethylene - cheap 'clear'
It is no secret, that the bulk of the difference
between professional photography and identifiably amateur efforts
lies in the control of the lighting.
Both colored reflectors
and screens are practical options. 'Brown-paper-bag', plain 'kraft-corrugated-paper',
and 'enviro-brown' plastic bags at supermarkets have the same light-brown
(reddish) color, and offer effects similar to the low sun, but at
high illumination levels. You should know, digital camera image
elements are intrinsically sensitive to the red/infra red end of
the spectrum, and respond magnificently to these color-accents.
A tripod is awkward, slow,
and resists placing the camera where it should be, when in tight
quarters. The second reason for using a tripod is that you gradually
get better with it, and even forget that it is there, like a crutch
& plaster cast following a ski mishap. The first reason is that
it will much increase the frequency with which really good images
show up in your collection.
let the lack of a tripod, or impossibility of setting one up, prevent
the use of it's benefits. A 'monopod', just a stick, rod or staff,
held in a common grip with the camera in front of oneself, damps
most of the wiggling and twitching of a free-standing person. For
small-objects in close-up mode, pose the object near the ground
so you can lay down and prop/brace your elbows and wrists. Close-up
mode should always be stabilized with a tripod, because there is
an effective magnification, but unfortunately closeups are often
too confined for the tripod and must be free-handed.
with Small Subjects
When photographing small objects such
as flowers, bunches of grapes, or leaves, there is often a natural
impulse to approach the object as it exists, in it's natural setting.
But because the intent is often to fill the image with the object,
the original setting or context is not visible or important in the
final picture anyway. Better results can be had, by removing the
object and 'posing' it in some more advantageous setting. Rather
that contort oneself for a green flower cluster up inside a tangle
of contrasty and occluding shoots & leaves, cut it off and hang
it somewhere handy where the light is good and the background is
at a blurrable distance and does not interfere. See: A
nice photograph - Don Tveter
Affordable digital cameras still lack the quality of traditional
35mm, and many folks have an existing investment in 35mm equipment.
For the person considering a camera, or considering a change, the
digital offers compensations for it's lower resolution. Dispensing
with the rituals of film processing, and presenting the results
promptly and without recurring expense is simply revolutionary.
Digitals have a little display screen, rendering the perennial vexation
of scene composition a process of intuitive discovery that is pleasurable
and successful. Many people who have owned and used 35mm gear for
a (long) lifetime, have 'picked up' a little digital and found their
enjoyment of photography, and their satisfaction with the results,
increase dramatically and rapidly.
Images for Computer
Though a computer screen is much larger than a
35mm slide, it's resolution is far less. Perfectly elementary point-and-click
cameras are capable of delivery images that will be gorgeous on
the screen. Furthermore, very high quality images in digital format
require enormous files to store the image-information. A scanned
high-quality 35mm image may require 20,000,000 bytes of storage,
while an excellent version for the screen would take only 50,000.
That's a 400 fold difference in storage size. And download time.
As mentioned earlier, the semiconductor
imaging element of a digital camera responds stronger to the redder
end of the spectrum. Commercial makers must include an infra-red
reflector or filter, to prevent excessive IR exposure. 'Red-eye'
when using a flash must be battled aggressively. This is an exploitable
attribute of the technology. Photographers have always used the
distinctive reddish light of the low sun to happy effect, but this
game is strongly enhanced with digitals.
The eye-brain system handles several problems
of 'real images' (such as what forms on the retina), by applying
image-processing 'in software', as we say today. Impaired scenes
often seem ok, to our perception, when they are really damaged goods.
One of the areas where this haunts the photographer is glare. We
'see through', or 'around' glare, but the camera records it. Worse,
the "dynamic range" of a camera is less than the eye,
and 'overloads' easily, 'blowing out' the scene. Digital cameras
have even less dynamic range than film. When using an overcast day,
the entire sky is a source of strong glare, and you may have glare-problems
if the sky is in the background, especially when photographing from
within shadey places. It may be necessary to exclude the sky. At
the same time, overcast produces near-ideal, 'studio-grade' conditions
for illustrative photography.
Macro & Zoom Included
Happily, even lessor digital cameras typically come with
closeup or macro capability and an almost obligatory 3x optical
zoom. Both improve what the camera can deliver & do. Matching
the closeup ability of even very inexpensive digitals with 35mm
is a serious challenge & expense. The advantage arises from
the small real image necessary: the image element is relatively
tiny, maybe 5-8mm, so the lenses can be proportionally smaller,
and small lenses handle closer scenes easier. The macro capability
is very valuable, for many of the images any horticulturist or grape