Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Street Smart

Gotta Show Some Flair For A Flare

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


Someone asked me a fascinating question recently – whether I look through my viewfinder when I shoot, or whether I look at the LCD screen instead. I actually had to stop and think about that one, because I was about to answer that I look through the viewfinder every time.

Then I realised that there is a subtle distinction. Yes, when I use my Pentax digital SLR, I always look through the viewfinder, but when I use a compact camera (which is not that often) I view the composition on the LCD screen instead.

Which in turn begs the question: when I use my Pentax DSLR, how often do I shoot a frame and immediately check the result on my LCD screen? In all fairness, I’d have to say maybe one in about ten frames, which to the mathematically minded among you, equates to only 10 per cent of the time.

I shot this frame on New Year’s Eve, when we were in the city to watch the fireworks display that has become a Melbourne tradition. This was purely a random shot, simply taken because I had Federation Square to the left of the frame and traffic coming down Russell Street in front of me.

Like I said, just a throwaway shot, probably occasioned by the fact that I was capturing the last of the dusk sky, a deep blue against the skyscrapers. Because the first fireworks display began at 9pm, this would have been taken a few minutes before.

But had I taken the time to look at my LCD screen, I would have noticed the light halo and the rainbow effect just left of centre. Had I seen that, I would have immediately shot the same scene, using a vertical perspective to emphasise the halo.

The image below is simply a cropped version of the original shot, but I reckon it works better because it emphasizes the light flare. Sometimes self-analysis can even teach an old dog new tricks.


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35 comments:

lakeviewer said...

David, do you have simple hints for people like me who have simple cameras and even simpler brains? I get no pictures if I shoot in the dark, or just flashes, with no distinguishing marks. Of course, I do nothing to "set up". I have an automatic point and shoot.

Sylvia K said...

Always enjoy the hints and tips since I've only been doing this whole photography thing for less than six months. Never had so much fun, but still have so much to learn. Of course, my camera is much simpler than yours -- matches my simpler mind!! Thanks, as always!

Shadow said...

viewfinder, lcd, the results are great!

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

I've always struggled with viewing on the LCD screen - I'm a viewfinder gal for better or for worse.
I really like what you've done with the cropping - you're right, the vertical depiction creates a far more dramatic impact.
Great shot!

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Brilliant night shots...I think viewfinders are best...the LCD is hard to view so much of the time, especially if you are shooting in daylight...a lot of glare...Perhaps, the LCD works best for night shots? I love these... You work magic with your camera!

vicki archer said...

Old dogs are always better with new tricks! I find it so much easier through the viewfinder than the screen to line up my shots - guess it is a question of practice and using both cameras on a regular basis. xv

Hilary said...

I never check the screen either to take the photo or to review it. My camera does allow a quick, immediate review of the shot just taken, and an easy access to manual review, so that's what I'll do if need be. That said, I still struggle with taking decent night shots. Yours, as always, are fantastic.

Patty said...

What a difference a crop makes.

I use the viewfinder on my Nikons. I look at the display every so often to make sure everything is cool.

Once I was shooting an assignment and happened to look down and saw blue hues. I had accidentally hit the white balance button. So it is good to peak every so often.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Great post! I love the crop :-)

PS I look through the viewfinder (no choice on my DSLR) and don't always look at my LCD either...

Bonnie said...

I have enjoyed visiting your blog while Debbie has been away. Thank you!

Maggie May said...

Yes, I see what you mean about the second cropped picture which is better.
I don't always use the viewfinder except to check for the ones I want to delete before they are transferred.

maryt/theteach said...

Thank you for the lesson, David! :)

Gaston Studio said...

Patty took the words right out of my mouth (my fingers?); the crop made all the difference in the world. Great shot!

Rinkly Rimes said...

Photography is hit or miss with me but I prefer your second flare shot.

imac said...

Thats a question Ive never thought about, but you right.
Great shots too David.

pop and see my - Parallels Of Time.
by S. Mackinder (c) April 1994.

Mary Elizabeth said...

Thanks David for sharing this, I have learn today something new.
Have a great week.
Visit That’s My World Tuesday

Carver said...

I like both of these versions of the shot and interesting hearing how you accomplish a shot.

Babooshka said...

I do exactly the same. My point and shoot LCD, the big Nikon, the viewfinder. I never really liked the LCD idea. Give me a viewfinder any day. I check only when I think I will auto delete, about 1/30. The main thing is enjoy, and you will take better images. Still say you explain in a way that is very easy to understand. Better than I could put it. I would digress or apply too much humour.

Erin said...

enjoyed learning from your commentary and examples...and i do stop by regularly. thank you for the comment at my blog, it is most appreciated. i am learning as each day passes and that is a good thing. i have noticed that this trip to italy i am more focused and see things differently than past trips...
have a wonderful week.
regards

susieofarabia said...

It's a gorgeous street scene, and the halo is beautiful - hard to believe you could get any better than that! The cropping does emphasize the halo more too, but I love both photos!

Arija said...

...and yet David, to me the composition in its original form holds more interest. The two beams of light and the lit building on the right make a nice frame for the flare. Must admit my stomach bunched up when I first saw those search lights pointing at the sky, that brought back memories of air raids.

skywind said...

Oh, beautiful night.
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Martha said...

The cropping did the job, though. It might not have been any better if you had reshot it. Quite a "throw away"!

Sarah Laurence said...

Ha! Caught cropping! Sorry, couldn't resist given your artistic policy. It is better cropped - lovely shot!

I confronted this issue when I bought my first DSLR last summer. The Canon DSLR had a live view LCD screen so I was tempted as I'd gotten in the habit of shooting that way with my point and shoot Canon Elph. I ended up going with the Nikon D80 (no live view LCD) because it had a separate screen for manual settings, and I'd always shot through the viewfinder with my old Nikon FE2. Also thought I'd reuse my old Nikor lenses.

There are times when an LCD screen shot is better - low light times as you say but also shooting dirtectly into the sun or above your head (I'm short!) I rarely check my shots after shooting unless I'm doing portraits of people or shooting my portfolio.

I do spend a long time looking through the viewfinder before shooting. Looking at the screen feels a bit like cheating and takes me out of the moment. Plus it's too small to see well. When in doubt I bracket on manual.

Interesting question indeed and response!

Gaelyn said...

My 5 year owned P&S has no eye view finder, the next camera will. I'll be in the market this summer. Sometimes it's impossible to see what's on the LCD. I rarely look at the shot after, again, too hard to really see anything. I usually just take gobs of pics, and hope that at least one comes out OK. Sure is fun when something shows in the shot that wasn't expected. And sometimes a cropped version is best. Like yours.

Janie said...

Amazing how that second photo emphasizes the light flare so much more simply because of the way its cut.

Natalie said...

Even though I really like both photos, I think the first pic is more interesting. The crop looks fine, but a little 'staged' to me.Is it ok to be honest here?

♥ bfs~"Mimi" ♥ said...

Love these photos. Street scenes are always so inspiring.

Do you have the book, LIFE AT THE CROSS? Copyright 1965 All b/w photos at King's Cross. Is that still there? I love street scenes where life is taking place.

I lived in Sydney (New South Wales) in 1968-9 and wish, looking back, that I had been bolder and had seen more of the City than I did.

Katney said...

I toted a film camera long enough that the viewfinder is automatic for me--except my little hip-pocket point and shoot that doesn't have one.

My new Canon PowerShot SX10IS, though, has a neat feature which aids me in getting some of the odd angles you know I love doing. The LCD swivels to various positions. I can use it rather like a periscope, shooting around corners, I can look upat it holding it over my head, Or I can set it on the ground and look down at it.

I'm not ready for a DSLR, but I am working hard at learning what this baby can do.

Catherine said...

some great light effects here..

The Explorer said...

the flash and rays of lights coming from the center is quite interesting

Ananda girl said...

Beautiful. These give me the feeling that something exciting is about to happen. I love the halo.

Mojo said...

Since I don't own a point and shoot and my DSLR doesn't display until the capture is completed, it's a non-issue for me. The only way I can compose is through the viewfinder. But I gave my mom a Canon Digital Elph for Christmas which doesn't have a viewfinder and the whole method of composing that way is so alien that I don't even want to use her camera. The P&S model I'm looking at as a "backup" camera has a viewfinder, and I imagine that'll be my method of choice even though it probably will offer both options. (Unless of course, I can pull Katney's "periscope trick" with it in which case I may use the LCD on occasion.)

Having shot film exclusively for so many years, I initially had a hard time even remembering that I could review my shots in real time. And I still forget it a lot of times, especially if I'm shooting at a fast clip. But I've started forcing myself to adjust based on what I see rather than simply "bracketing". Frankly I'm not sure that doesn't do more harm than good since I tend to "overthink" some shots anyway. But it's useful when working with tricky exposures.

Finally, I liked both versions of this shot, but I honestly think I'm more partial to the original horizontal shot. The "V" shape of the spotlights on the wall adds interest and lightens the overall shot. It gives some definition to the background features -- at least those on the left of the frame -- which in my singular and admittedly untrained opinion adds some depth to the shot that I don't get from the vertical crop.

That said, having the flare and the halo as the only point of interest does make the audience focus on the primary subject. With the added definition in the background comes added distraction and when you quite literally shine a spotlight on it, the notion of making the entire shot about the flare falls apart.

Both have their charms though, and it's hard to tell what a given audience is going to like. (I know I can certainly never predict it!)

Brit' Gal Sarah said...

David I do exactly the same with my two different camera's. But unlike you I view the resulting LCD image everytime LOL! I agree that sometimes you see things in the LCD you don't through the VF.

Amanda Guthrie said...

great evening shot love the lights and colors. By the way I always use my view finder, and I hate point & shot cameras that have eliminated them all together.