Saturday, February 28, 2009

All in a Days Work

Well actually only about 45 or 50 minutes. I had to pick up a relative at the hospital in Delta and I had some time to waste before the scheduled pick up time. So I drove out to my favorite bird shooting location. My first stop was on the side of the highway.

This immature Bald Eagle was further away and backlit but I still had a chance to observe this majestic bird for about 5 minutes. My next stop was just as I was nearing my final destination on Westham Island.

Here a large flock of Snow Geese were grazing in a field a ways out from the main road. As I approached the location where I chose to pull over there were several observers already there with binoculars in hand. A Delta Photo Club member, Ursula Easterbrook was also there.

Arriving at my final destination, the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, I was greeted by usual large flock of Mallard ducks that I had to slowly drive around lest I run one of them over.

Although I am not a "Duck" person in that the ducks do not garner my attentions as do other birds and my favorite's the raptors, I am always in awe when I see the incredible reflective metallic green heads these wonderful creatures have. On to the trails. . .

I had to look up the name of this duck, remember I'm not a duck guy (except perhaps at the dinner table) but this is a beautiful Northern Pintail.

This Northern Shoveler is also very beautiful but odd looking. I had never seen one of these before or perhaps never noticed at it closely resembles the Mallard in colour but it has a rather large oversized black bill. This appears to be the Cyrano de Bergerac of the duck world.

The colour of this Wood Duck and the other birds in this blog are way off and I am not sure why. There must have been something weird going on in the RAW to JPG conversions. But take my word for it that the colours of the Wood Duck are amongst the most beautiful of all the birds.

Two people hand feeding birds (colour balance is off) (With permission).

One of the many black squirrels at the sanctuary. The sanctuary also has rats, mice, and minks.

This beady eyed Spotted Towhee was starring right at me. Usually these birds are rather shy and skittish but this one held his ground and starred me down. This image in RAW is razor sharp and the colours are spectacular. It will make a great print.

The ever beautiful Black Capped Chickadee. Unlike the Towhee, these little creatures are curious and you will often find them flying towards you and landing in a shrub not to far from you. They never stand still for very long and because of that they appears skittish but they will hang around and watch you. When taking photos of these birds focus quickly as they will not be there long before jumping onto another nearby branch.

A wonderful Song Sparrow picking seeds someone has left on a fence post. I find that the best photos come to you. Sit still, camera in its ready position, be still and quiet, the birds will come.

A still young first winter House Sparrow (above).

Although this appears to be one of the local common birds, I do not actually know what this is. Since I started "Birding" a year ago I have found that the most difficult birds to identify are the females. The males of a few species and the females of many species all look very similar. With photo in hand and a bird book in another hand I still had problems identifying this bird. (If you know what it is, please let me know). I think it is either a Golden Crowned Sparrow or a Brewer's Sparrow. The Brewer's Sparrow is usually an in-land bird and so I think it is a Golden-Crowned Sparrow.

The pick-up phone call came in so I headed out. On my way out I captured this image below.

This image is not clear at all as it has been cropped to about 1/16th of the original size and I also took it hand held with my 560mm lens (400mm with 1.4x). I took the photo because this is a duck I have never seen before. I could not properly identify this duck. I am sure it is a Merganser, but the sub species I cannot identify as I cannot match the colouring to any of the images in the two books I have. Again, if you know what this is, please let me know.

Update: (Thanks to Frank Townsley the gentleman in the photo above whom identified this duck as a Female Common Merganser. Thanks.)

I did get a few other very blurry images of a few other "unknown to me" species that I have identified as Buffleheads and a beautiful male Hooded Merganser.
I also did see many common ducks such as the Blue Winged Teals, American Widgeons, American Coots, and many Canada Geese. On the drive out to the hospital I did see two Great Blue Herons but I did not have the time to stop. I saw all these great birds and others including Bald Eagles and various Falcons and Hawks that flew overhead while I was at the park.

I am always in awe of all these great birds but again I am reminded on just how lucky I am to live in the most beautiful part of Canada. Where else could you do what I just did in Canada at this time of the year when most of Canada is still covered in snow! I took all these in less than an hour and oh, did I mention I was only wearing a very light jacket!

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.11 - March 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

On the Previous Post

The Previous Post is a re-post of one of my original articles I have re-titled "Exposures, ISO's, Apertures and Shutter Speeds, Oh My!" I have re-written the article and changed some of the Diagrams and I have now labelled it Version 2.0. Please re-read it as some of the changes are significant and you may yet learn something new.

The intent for this article is to teach the basics of photography to beginners before they go on with the actual learning of photography. I have re-worked the article to make it simpler and easier to understand. The reasoning is that most beginners do not know or understand the "basics" nor do they understand photography terminology. Telling a beginner to simply change the "shutter speed" when they do not know what it is or even understand the concept does not help them in any way.

This Tuesday I will be teaching an "Introduction to Digital Photography" course and this article will act as a Photography Primer and the first evenings homework for the class. All the subjects, Exposure, ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed will all be covered in more detail as will subjects like Depth-Of-Field, Motion Blur and all other photography basics.

The article is designed as an article for print and so I do have it available in a PDF format. If you would like a copy for personal use please just ask and I will send one along. I will be making a few more small changes but it is basically finished.

I will from here on be posting more classroom articles to continue the whole learning the Art of Photography. I hope that you will learn from these articles and if you have any ideas or thoughts on this article or future ones, please let me know.

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 2.00 - February 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Exposures, ISO’s, Apertures and Shutter Speeds, Oh My!

An introduction to Exposure, the foundation for the Art of Photography.

This is the very first in a series of articles on Photography Basics. Although this is not the final article on Exposure, ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed, I would like readers to understand at least the basic principles of exposure before getting into lengthy discussions on the Principles of the Art and Science of Photography. I'll try to explain 'Exposure', and then you can use this information to do further studying on your own.

I usually recommend to someone that asks basic questions on photography, to buy a book that covers most topics you’ll need to understand. You can then use the book to guide you along. Even a cheap used book works well because you can use the book as a reference and guide to do more research on the Internet. Some people suggest just using the Internet as a free source, but then you would not have a structured framework to learn with.

Exposure is defined as such, “In photography, exposure is the total amount of light allowed to fall on the photographic medium (photographic film in a film camera or the image sensor in a digital camera) during the process of taking a photograph.1

What we are concerned about here is Exposure with your digital camera, which simply means how bright or how dark, your final image will be.

The four factors that determine exposure are the following:

1 - Available light

This you have no control over in most settings. It is possible to add light or use a flash, which would increase the available light, but for this discussion we will only refer to “natural available light”. It may be a grey day or a sunny day or you may be in the shade... the lighting always varies.

2 - ISO

This translates into the “light sensitivity” of your camera’s sensor. In the good old days of film, different chemicals and dyes were used to make the film. Some films were more sensitive to light than others. The more sensitive the film, the less light was required to give you a “proper” exposure. Today, with digital cameras it is basically the same. By using different sensor designs they can make the sensor more or less sensitive to light based on the ISO setting used.

The sensitivity of a film was measured in ISO (or in DIN or ASA before ISO became a standard). On a digital camera the ISO is a measurement of a digital camera's imaging sensor's sensitivity to light based on the same ISO standards as film. This sensitivity can be adjusted using the ISO setting.

(Diagram A)


Numbering for ISO on a digital camera is usually ISO 100 to ISO 1600. ISO 100 is the least sensitive but will give you the best quality results. The higher the sensitivity, the more “noise” or stray pixels that will be visible into the final image. Generally ISO’s of 100 to 400 are recommended.

Note: In Diagram A, each ISO lets in half as much light as the next number (Left to Right). Remember that.

3 - Aperture

For most beginner photographers, F-Stops or Apertures seems to be the most difficult concept to get a handle on. The F-Stop is a number that is derived from a mathematical formula that corresponds to the amount of light that is let in through the lens, based on the size of the hole or opening in the lens. The hole is usually made up of several blades in a diaphragm that can actually change from a tiny hole to a hole as big as the optics of the lens will allow.

This 'hole’ is actually called the Aperture and it is measured in F-Stops. This is where it can get confusing. The logic here is simple, the bigger the hole, the more light comes into the camera. Simple. However, the F-Stop numbering system works backwards because of the formula. So, f/1.4 is a big hole (more light) and f/22 is a small hole (less light).


Tip: If you think of the numbers as fractions, i.e. 1/1.4 versus 1/16, you will remember which opening is larger or smaller.

Here is a scale of Apertures (Diagram B) - Starting with the largest “Aperture” on the left, so the most light to the least amount of light on the right.

(Diagram B)


Lenses with large apertures (small F-Stops) are considered “fast” lenses because they allow more light into the sensor which allows for the use of faster shutter speeds. Lens apertures are fixed in numbers and so are limited. Typically, a lens will be f/2.8 to perhaps f/22 which would give you a total of only six full usable F-Stops.

Note: Each F-Stop lets in twice (or half) as much light as the next full F-Stop. Remember that.

So, using the aperture or “F-Stops” you can control how much light comes into the camera. The F-Stops also control what is called Depth-Of-Field. I will save discussing this Depth-Of-Field thing which is not related to exposure until another day.

What adds to the confusion here is that when someone talks about “aperture”, are they talking about the “hole size” (the aperture) or the “aperture number” (the F-Stop Number)?

One give away is the term “lower” and “smaller”. A lower aperture is a reference to the F-Stop number. A ‘smaller’ aperture is a reference to the aperture or size of the hole unless they specify a “smaller F-Stop”. But, if they say “bigger”, you would not know what they were talking about. They could be talking about a bigger hole or bigger F-Stop number? When discussing aperture it is very important to state what parameter you are discussing. Photographers should always state the parameter, a “bigger opening”, a “bigger aperture” or a “smaller F-Stop”, all three of which allow more light into the camera.

4 - Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is measured in seconds and it controls how long the camera’s sensor is exposed to light. Shutter speed is also a very simple concept. Unlike the inverse results of the F-Stop number vs. the size of the aperture, shutter speeds are easy to understand. 1 second, 2 seconds and so on, these would be considered long exposures. On the shorter side you would have 1/60th of a second, 1/125th of a second and so on.

Here is a shutter speed scale in seconds – starting with the slowest shutter speed (allows the most amount of light into the camera) to the fastest shutter speed (left to right).

(Diagram D)


Note: Each shutter speed allows twice as much light as the next number. Remember that also!

In the end, this also controls how much light goes into the camera just like an aperture, but in this case it is based on time. This “time setting” or shutter speed can determine if a photo is blurry or not. If you used a 5 second exposure, could you sit perfectly still for 5 full seconds?? This blur caused by you moving the camera is called camera shake. Your shutter speed also controls "motion blur" or rather blur caused by moving objects.

Earlier I mentioned that there are about six usable full F-Stops. The usable shutter speeds for hand held photography ranges from about 1/30th of a second to about 1/1000 of a second which also yields about six settings. This can be increased with the use of a tripod with extended shutter speeds of 1/15th of a second, 1/8th of a second and so on to exposures as long as 15 minutes or more.

Back to Exposure

So given a specific scene, say a house sparrow on a branch. Based on

1) the available light and
2) the sensitivity of the sensor (ISO 200 for this example)

your camera would automatically calculate the correct exposure settings (the aperture and shutter speed to use to get a properly exposed photo).


To calculate this exposure, your camera doesn't know it's looking at a bird on a branch, but rather thinks it is looking at a whole scene that is perfectly 18% gray1. Why 18% gray? Why not 20% gray...or 15% gray? Because it has been determined that if the light in an average scene is averaged out, it will produce an 18% gray tone. So film - color and B/W - is formulated to produce proper exposure when it is exposed to produce an 18% gray tone.

So, for this example let’s say the camera suggests using an F-Stop of f/8 and a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second. Those are the settings you would need to use to get a correct exposure or a “properly exposed photograph’. Not too light and not too dark.

This leaves you two controls. You could leave the shutter speed at 1/125th second and change the aperture. Changing the aperture to f/4, a bigger hole would let in more light and would lighten your photo. An aperture of f/11 or f/16 would make the hole smaller and would let in less light making your photo darker.

Conversely, leaving the aperture at f/8 and changing the shutter speed, you could darken the picture by using a faster shutter speed (less light) or brighten it by using a slower shutter speed (more light).

Total Control

This is where the fun comes in and where you as the photographer and artist can control what is going on. Remember I suggested that the aperture controls the Depth-Of-Field and that the shutter speed can control "motion blur"? Well, the camera lets you change aperture and shutter speed settings while ALWAYS making things perfectly exposed by compensating the exposure with equivalent changes in apertures, shutter speeds or ISO’s.

Back to our example. If f/8 at 1/125th of a second is a correct exposure, then we could keep the exposure (the total amount of light going into the camera) the same by changing the shutter speed higher or lower, and then adjusting the Aperture to make sure we have the same amount of light in the end.

Note: What is nice is that full F-Stops and full shutter speeds each allow half as much (or twice as much) light as previous or next numbers. (You remembered this right?) Because every exposure setting, aperture, shutter speed and ISO work in factors of 1/2 or 2, it makes it very easy to make changes to one setting and then to compensate the exposure with another setting.

This Table below shows a correct exposure of f/8 and 1/125th of a second in gray. Using any combination from any column would result in the same exposure.

(Diagram E)


So with our example of f/8 at 1/125th of a second, we could change the settings to f/5.6 (twice as much light) and to 1/250th of a second (half as much light) and still have a perfectly exposed scene (or bird in this case). By making aperture changes and then appropriate corresponding shutter speed changes to keep the exposure correct you can control the apertures and shutter speeds you want so you have full creative control of photographic elements such as focus, blur, Depth-Of-Field, bokeh, panning, lighting levels and so on.

To further control the light you could also change your ISO settings higher or lower. ISO settings are also in Full Stops and so an ISO of 200 allows twice as much light as ISO 100. Again though remember that higher ISO’s create more noise and can adversely affect the quality of your images.

This then lays the foundation for the Art of Photography.

Technical Foot Notes:
Exposure is measured in Lux Seconds and can be computed from Exposure Value (EV) and Scene Luminance.
2 Modern day digital camera sensors and light meters are factory calibrated using ANSI luminance standards that are roughly equivalent to the reflectance of 12% gray. This is roughly half a stop off of 18%.

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 2.00 - February 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Judging Images

How are images judged in Photo Competitions? What criteria is used to determine that one image is better than another? Competition photos are judged in different ways based on categories and based on competition rules. They are however judged to standardized judging criteria's.

What if you wanted to raise the level of your photography? What if you knew what the judging criteria was and what judges look for? How about becoming a judge? Would this help in becoming a better photographer?

When looking at a photograph, how much emphasis do you put on technical qualities? What about on technique or composition? Is artistic merit a consideration?

Well I recently answered these questions by becoming a judge myself. This past weekend, I took The Canadian Association for Photographic Art's (CAPA) Judging Course. The course was very thorough and very compressed with a lot of information condensed into a short amount of time.

Part of the course was doing some hands on evaluations of different images including images in many different disciplines of photography including "Abstract". Although I am not an abstract photographer or artist it was very interesting learning about this art.

Along with technical judging skills we were also taught what I would call soft skills or rather judging etiquette. How to be critical and yes positive when commenting on images.

Overall it was a great course and I will write more on judging one day when I have more experience. For now I have signed up with CAPA to become Certified CAPA Judge which is an 18 month long process. Just like with Photography, I now have a lot of homework and learning to do.

If you would like to read more on judging photographs, check out these web site links that have great detailed five part article entitled:

Thoughts on Judging Photography Club Competitions

and another five part article:

An analysis of judging - photography judging

If you would like to do some serious reading on the subject of judging, I would recommend a great book from Terry Barrett titled:

Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images

If you would like to take your photography to a whole new level, you should learn how to judge your own photographs.

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - February 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mini Moo Your Way to the Top

Although they have been around for several years already, Moo Cards are still a hot commodity. Moo Minicards are more than basic business cards, they are unique in that they are much smaller and thus they become something to talk about and remember.

Moo cards are well marketed to artists and business people alike. They have great pricing on a very distinctive product. And, unlike standard business cards, they offer a set of 100 minicards with up to 100 of your own images so each and every card is different all for only $19.99 U.S.

MooMini also has regular full colour Business Cards, Stickers, Postcards and other great products all available in short runs. Enter this promotional code "YDFBNJ" to get 20% off 100 minicards. Hurry this offer won't last.

Too get your fun promotional products for that upcoming Gallery Show, check out

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - February 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Giga Pixels

When photographing flowers or birds or even your pet, megapixels are usually enough. A fifteen megapixels image of Fido will render a suitably sharp 11x14 inch image perfectly suited for hanging on the wall. If you had a larger job in mind that required more detail, how many pixels would you need? How about 1.44 Gigapixels?

With the fate of Earth on the line, PAN-STARRS scientist's need every one of the 1,440,000,000 pixels that the PAN-STARRS telescope's camera will create. Within each image will be billions upon billions of stars and within those billions of stars, a far off earth bound asteroid large enough to destroy earth will need to be spotted.

This may sound like some sort of Dick Tracy fiction but in December of 2008 this became a reality. The project PAN-STARRS, short for 'Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System' uses the world's largest digital camera to keep an eye out for Earth bound asteroids. The immediate goal of Pan-STARRS is to discover and characterize Earth-approaching objects, both asteroids & comets, that might pose a danger to our planet.

John Tonry looking at the detectors for the Gigapixel camera
A look at one of the four 1.44 Gigapixel PAN-STARRS image sensors. (Image courtesy of the Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawai`i)

Phase 1 of the telescope is now on-line and it has recently discovered its very first Super Nova in January of this year. The final assembly will have four 1.8 meter mirrors and four 1.44 billion pixel sensors and will sport on-chip image stabilization. The created images will be 38,000 by 38,000 pixels each.

For more information on PAN-STARRS check out their site here:

Also, 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy. For more information check it out here:

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - February 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Very First Photograph

I am in the process of preparing for the "Introduction to Photography" class that I will be giving at a college. While developing the layout or curriculum for the class I decided I should give a short brief history of photography.

This is when I made a very sad discovery, I do not know how the very first photo was made and whom made it! In this day and age of nostalgia and trivia where our heads are filled with all kinds of sports knowledge, movie facts and a whole assortment of useless trivial pieces information, how sad is it that I being an ex-professional photographer and now an avid photographer that I do not know this simple piece of photographic history.

I asked a few other photographer friends and received a few "I Do not know" answers and several guesses that were all wrong. So, I will pose it to you now, Who created the very first photograph? I will even help you out by posting a copy of the image below.

View from the Window at Le Gras

At this point I would guess that most if not all of you reading this have no clue as to what this photograph is. So, who created the image, what is the image called (the name gives the location away), where was it taken, when was it taken and what photographic process was used?

Before giving out the answers I will just say that this image was an 8 Hour Exposure taken out of the creators window.

So, who did create the image? Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (1765-1833), a French inventor who was experimenting with Camera Obscura.

The image is called "View from the Window at Le Gras." and it was taken from the creators lab/studio window near Chalon-sur-Saône France.

It's hard to believe that this image was taken in circa 1826. Despite the fact that Niépce had been playing with silver chloride (salts) used in modern B&W Photography for a long time without success, it wasn't until he turned to bitumen of Judea, a kind of asphalt that hardened when exposed to light was he able to be successful.

Niepce dissolved the bitumen in lavender oil and coated a sheet of pewter with the mixture. He placed the sheet in the camera and exposed it for eight hours aimed through an open window at his courtyard. The light forming the image on the plate hardened the bitumen in bright areas and left it soft and soluble in the dark areas. Niepce then washed the plate with lavender oil, which removed the still-soft bitumen that hadn’t been struck by light, leaving a permanent image.
Niepce named the process heliography - Greek, helios for “sun” and graphos for “drawing” or "painting" thus the term "Painting with Light".

Not only did I find this information fascinating and informative, I had fun researching the complete history of the Camera, the different Photo Processes including the more successful Daguerreotype (ca.1837) and then the advent of the Negative and eventually Color Film. I would strongly suggest that you check it out.

For more specific information on Joseph Nicéphore Niépce and his "View from the Window at Le Gras.", check out this informative web site at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Harry Ransom Center Permanent Exhibition - "The First Photograph"

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.10 - August 2012)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Epson Print Academy Success

By all accounts including my own, the Epson Print Academy was a success. Five of us headed out for Seattle leaving from Tsawwassen at 5:55 am and met a sixth member of the Delta Photo Club on location. Finding the location was easy and un-eventful and the venue facilities were excellent. Coffee was ready and waiting for us as we arrived at the show.

With coffee in hand we all checked out the mini sponsor's product showcase which had many of the sponsor's on hand showcasing or demonstrating their products. Epson was there as the main sponsor but others of note were onOne, NIK, Microsoft along with PhaseOne, Wacom, Bogen Imaging, Profoto, Solux and others. Many of these vendors had freebies to give away including some very nice Camera Straps from Microsoft and Trial Software and Pens from some of the others.

Further past the mini Expo, was the Epson Print Gallery. This showcased some exceptional Prints from photographers Jack Reznicki, Greg Gorman, Bob Shaw, Bruce Dale and others. The gallery was filled with phenomenal high quality 'Epson' prints showcased under beautiful Solux brand lamps. Two of us purchased 4 of these great gallery display lamps and we will bring them to the next Delta Photo Club Print Night to use instead of the bad single spot that we currently use. Before we could properly check everything out it was time to head into the 'Track One' session.

The session was packed with great information on all aspects of photography from light, natural light, landscape photography, studio lighting techniques to digital workflow techniques with great Tips & Trick for improving your digital images. A valuable in-depth session on Colorspace was given that helped many of the 300 or so attendees gain greater Digital Workflow knowledge.

There were two 20 minute breaks throughout the day and a 50 minute Lunch Break. A selection of Boxed Lunches with Fruit, Snacks and Cookies were available along with Water, Pops and Juices. Lunch brought another opportunity to check out the Expo, the Gallery and Quick Vendor Tutorials and Demonstrations.

After lunch the data filled learning continued and later in the afternoon the software sponsors like onOne, NIK and Microsoft demonstrated their great products live. onOne ( showed various modules of their spectacular onOne Plug-In Suite 4.2 (which I own and highly recommend). NIK ( demonstrated their Suite of Plug-ins including their highly applauded Viveza Plug-In. What a great Plug-in, a must buy! Yes, everything the plug-in can do can be done manually in Photoshop, but what a great easy to use interface this plug-in has that is much faster and easier to use with great results. It is now on my shopping list. Microsoft ( showed their Microsoft Expression Media 2 software that facilitates the Cataloguing of large collections of images. I have found another great use for this product that I will blog about in the future.

Throughout the day many prizes were given away via draws and as usual people in seats on either side of me won prizes with nothing for me. I hope this 25+ year drought of winning great prizes ends soon. The Epson Stylus Pro 4880 printer that was given away would have looked great on my desk!

Of note in the Expo were Solux mentioned above and Bogen. It was nice seeing Bogen on hand with their Bogen and Gitzo lineups including the Gitzo line of Photographers clothing. This great Full Sleeve Vest and Matching Parka are usually not carried in stores so seeing them and being able to try them out was great.

All in all it was a great outing for all six members and we now all look forward to 'Track Two' of the Epson Print Academy.

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - February 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.