Monday, November 13, 2017

"Night Photography" by John Williams

I find night photography to be a very fun way to discover whole new ways of looking at the world through our cameras and it presents photographers with such a great opportunity to capture fantastic images.  Just as with all image making; composition, light, color, contrast, texture and dynamic range are all differentiators.  This is indeed true during the day, but it can really make a huge difference at night. If you want to expand your image palette, there’s probably no better way to do it than with night and low light photography.  No need to travel to distant exotic locations because when the lights are turned on, streets, buildings, bridges and attractions take on a whole new look, what often may be mundane during the day can become fantastic subjects at night.

There are many aspects to night and low light photography!  Getting the right exposure, color balance, obtaining sharp focus, dealing with ultra-wide dynamic range and even seeing your compositions. We’re going to take on this exciting photography subject and dig into several of these challenges in our CAPS Night & Low Light Photography session.

Let’s discuss one aspect of night photography that’s a really interesting phenomenon which can occur when you have a point of light.  This is called Star Effects, or Starbursts we can also include Sun Flares and Sun Stars. The more you know about how these are created, the more you can incorporate them into your photography by intention.
Starbursts are caused by diffraction in the camera lens.  The effect is magnified when you have a point source of light in your image frame, like a spot light, street light, sun, etc.  When light waves pass by an object, especially like the diaphragm in a lens, this causes the light waves to alter their direction and spreads the wave pattern.  This occurs not only with light, but also with sound waves and water as well.

In photography, diffraction occurs differently depending on the size of the aperture opening.  Normally more diffraction is thought to be a bad thing in photography because it is associated with softening the focus of an image.  But, it is because of this diffraction on distant single-point light sources that we get a starburst effect, especially noticeable in night photography.
The design of your lens aperture diaphragm and the aperture setting you select has a profound impact on the starburst effect.  You should also know that differing lenses, even within the same brand, let alone altering brands, will have vastly different characteristics to the look of this effect.  If the aperture blades form a perfect circle, you will not get the starburst effect.  Instead, you will have distant highlights producing Airy Discs on your image which may be so small, you may not even see them.

Here are some tips to get you started with Starburst effects in night photography:

Tip 1:  Test and practice starburst effects at home with your lenses.  Use a flashlight to create the distant point source of light.  Set up your camera on a tripod so you can alter your aperture and change your shutter speed to accomplish the correct exposure.  Take a series of pictures with each lens, using f/8.0, 11, 16 and 22.  You will learn very quickly just how differently your lenses create the starburst effect and just how different the effect looks.  Depending on the number of aperture blades, you will see various numbers of points of light. The result of this process will help you to really know your lenses for the ideal starburst effect.

Tip 2:  Use smaller apertures to create more defined points of light. Usually that would mean a minimum of f/11 if not f/16 or f/22.  It’s strange how this works, but technically, if you have an even number of aperture blades, you will get that many points of light.  If you have an odd number of aperture blades, you will get twice the number of points of light.  So, 6 Blades equals 6 spikes of light, but 7 Blades will equal 14 spikes.

Tip 3:  Beware of filters!  Filters over the front of your lens can and usually do cause flare from point light sources.  They can also cause you to not achieve the starburst effect you are looking for.  Try removing any UV or other glass in front of the front element of your lens and you should achieve a much better result.

Tip 4:  Get the right exposure.  Exposure affects the intensity of the starburst effect.  The longer the exposure, the more star effect you will see.  The brighter the highlights in a photo and depending on how much contrast is in the scene will all influence how much you will see the starburst effect.

Tip 5:  Subject to lens distance will influence how large the starburst effect appears.  Often, if the point source of light is up against an object partially blocking it, like a building or bridge, or even the sun at the horizon, this will make the starburst effect more pronounced. Of course, the relative size and brightness of the point source as well as the quality of light overall will have an effect.  Nothing takes out a starburst effect quicker than a bunch of haze, smoke or fog.

John Williams is a passionate and accomplished photographer living in Lake County and a longtime member of the Lake County Camera Club and CACCA community. Modern digital photography presents the perfect intersection of technology and art that John has found totally engaging with his technically inclined interests.  While John enjoys a wide variety of photographic styles and subjects, his favorites include Architectural, Landscapes, Cityscapes, Travel and Night photography. 

John will be presenting "Night and Low Light Photography"  at CAPS-Chicago Area Photography School on Sunday, November 19th.

To see the entire schedule of classes go to: or click here:  Home

To register go to:   Chicago Area Photographic School (CAPS) 2017 | Summary | powered by RegOnline

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

"Photography 101: A look at Backgrounds" by Mike Trahan

CAPS has many classes that dive deep into a specific subject. But what if you’re a relatively novice photographer or someone who has more experience but isn’t sure if you have all the essential basics mastered yet? If you fall into those categories, then this class is for you.

We’ll pick out the key practical essentials you need to know to consistently take better pictures. We’ll only get technical where we really have to and only where it matters to you.

Here’s a general outline of what we’ll discuss:
n  Some Fundamentals
         Telling a story / capturing the mood
         Types and quality of light
n  Practical Technical Stuff You Need
n  Gear – Lots of Choices

As Albert Einstein once said, we’ll try to make things as simple as they can be, but no simpler. Let’s take a look at one of the specific topics we’ll cover in the class.


After you’ve picked your main subject, you need to really pay attention to the background. Often we’re so focused on our subject, we forget all about the background. You want to make sure that it doesn’t detract from your subject, clutter the picture for your viewer, or draw their eyes away inappropriately. And sometimes the background can enhance your subject and help tell your story.

So look at these pictures: 

In the first one, there are elements in the background on the left and in the upper right corner that add no value but do add distraction. Plus the one in the upper right is brighter as well and your eyes go naturally to bright areas drawing them away from the subject. In the second picture, changing where we stood eliminated those distractions and is clearly better. Now if my granddaughter would only smile.

Here’s another example where just changing where we held the camera and getting down low made a dramatic difference in the photograph:

And another similar example where getting closer and a little  lower had the same effect:


So your first thought on backgrounds needs to be: SIMPLIFY. Remove distractions where you can.

But a background doesn’t need to be plain or empty. It can add to the picture immensely also. In this next example, we were in a King Penguin colony of over 200,000 birds on South Georgia Island near the Antarctic. I wanted to show an intimate scene of parent birds and their chicks (the brown ones), but also convey a sense of the vast number of birds surrounding them. I hiked to a low ridge where I thought I could isolate a few birds on the back side of the ridge but with a large separation from the other birds giving me the ability to blur them with a lower depth of field. And, viola, the picture I wanted! It reminds me of my kids saying but Dad, one of them did it.

 We’ll cover backgrounds with a few more examples in the class as well as the other key factors you need to know to take better pictures, no matter where and no matter what. See you at CAPS!

Mike Trahan enjoys shooting a wide variety of photos with a special emphasis on nature and birds.  You can check them out at Zenfolio | Michael (Mike) Trahan photos. He's won many honors including the first Stewards of the Upper Mississippi Bald Eagle photo contest, first place winner in the Ottawa National Forest photo contest, and Lake County grand prize winner with a picture used on four 20' x 50' billboards along the expressways.  Mike was the recipient of the 2015 CACCA Kohout award for nature photography teaching.  What really matters though is that he really enjoys photography, sharing what he's learned with you, and having fun doing it.

Mike will be presenting "Photography 101: Taking Better Pictures" at CAPS- Chicago Area Photography School on Sunday, November 19th.

To see the entire schedule of classes go to: or click here:  Home

To register go to:   Chicago Area Photographic School (CAPS) 2017 | Summary | powered by RegOnline

Friday, November 3, 2017

"Hidden Gems of Chicago" with Chris Smith

In the Chicago suburbs we live near one of the most architecturally interesting cities in the world. There are photographic subjects around every corner, but they’re not always easy to find!

In my presentation, Hidden Gems of Chicago, I’ll show you my favorite little-known photo locations in Chicago. We’ll go beyond The Bean, Buckingham Fountain and the Chicago Skyline to discover my favorite interiors, vantage points and out-of-the-way architecture.

Along the way, you’ll get tips for shooting interiors, photographing the city at night, post-processing your Chicago images and how to create unique images in these locations.

This year I completely rewrote The Photographer’s Guide to Chicago. You can download the 2nd edition of the ebook at

Chris Smith is the founder of Out of Chicago Photography. Out of Chicago runs their annual photography conference every June. Chris is the author of The Photographer’s Guide to Chicago and host of the Out of Chicago Podcast. 
You can follow Chris Smith's photography adventures at  Photography Online Courses, Workshops, Conferences, Outings | Out of Chicago

Chris will be presenting "Hidden Gems of Chicago" at CAPS- Chicago Area Photography School on Saturday, November 18th.

To see the entire schedule of  CAPS-Chicago Area Photography School classes go to: or click here:  Home

To register go to:  Chicago Area Photographic School (CAPS) 2017 | Summary | powered by RegOnline

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

"Drips, Drops & Illusions" with Nick Sinnott

This is a class you can come and have fun in.  Bring your camera and get some interesting shots. 
During the class, you will learn the basics of using strobes (off-camera flashes) in combination with macro photography to create stunning images with items found in your house.  After seeing the various methods demonstrated, you will also put what you learned to practice and begin to create Drips, Drops & Illusion photographs during the class. You will have an opportunity to test your hand at photographing fruits, vegetables and other items splashing into a tank of water!
Nick will be presenting "Splash Photography" at CAPS, Chicago Area Photography School on Sunday, November 19th. 

Nick Sinnott is a Partner and Director at Richard Stromberg’s Chicago Photography Classes.  He has taught all levels of photography for 5 years and has written the curriculum for several classes including the popular Drips, Drops and Illusions Workshop and Lightroom In-Depth 7-week Class.  As a photographer, he enjoys photographing landscapes, sports, architecture, real estate and his family of 4 children and amazing wife.

Smug Mug:  foreshots

To see the entire schedule of  CAPS-Chicago Area Photography School classes go to: or click here:  Home

To register go to:  Chicago Area Photographic School (CAPS) 2017 | Summary | powered by RegOnline