The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
Monday, June 05, 2006
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: Conversion Lens: ...
Q&A 2: Choosing That Tri...
Q&A 3: Correct Aperture ...
Q&A 4: Photographing a G...
Q&A 5: Mildew/Mold/Fungu...
Q&A 6: Filters: What to ...
Q&A 7: Butterfly Photogr...

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Capturing Intimate Views ... by Kerry Drager
Many photographers have discovered the time-tested technique of seeking out the "small picture within the big scene". Can't find anything to shoot? The solution isn't far away: Look closer! "Bad" weather? The soft light from a white sky is great for working on a small canvas - intimate landscapes, colorful flowers or architectural details, and even extreme close-ups.
Don't take my word for it! Consider Ansel Adams, who is best known for his sweeping, all-inclusive views. But many of his finest images actually zeroed in on slices of the environment. In Adams's book, "Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs" (published in 1983, the year before he died), he had this to say:
"The longer I worked in Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada, the more convinced I became that the inclusive landscapes - striking as many undoubtedly are - may not interpret the direct excitement and beauty of the mountain world as incisively as sections, fragments, and close details, which are available in infinite number if the photographer will carefully observe."
Note: Learn more about Kerry Drager and his BetterPhoto courses through his Premium Gallery.

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Liquid Womb
© - Warren Ishii

Welcome to the 267th issue of SnapShot!

Lots of fantastic news at BetterPhoto.comô! First off is the launch of our June session of online 4-week courses, which get under way this Wednesday. We are also thrilled to welcome yet another top pro to our talented instructor team - photographer and writer Ibarionex R. Perello, who is also the associate editor for Outdoor Photographer, PC Photo, and Digital Photo Pro magazines. He will be teaching an outstanding new 4-week course in July: Available Light Portraiture. Ibarionex, by the way, joins another new instructor - Scott Stulberg - whose 4-week Photoshop Tips, Tricks and Filter Magic class also gets under way in July. Testimonial of the Week: "Peter, I'd like to thank you for the course - your answers and critiques were always prompt and to the point. I am glad I took this course; it's an excellent class." - a student in Peter Burian's Mastering the Canon EOS Digital Rebels online photography course.

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

May too early? July too late? For the first time, we are offering many of our most popular 4-week online courses in June! Classes get under way this Wednesday (June 7th). See the school schedule... Learn how to capture memorable portraits without sophisticated lighting equipment. In this 4-week online course, photographer and writer Ibarionex R. Perello will show you how to make your subject - and not the camera - the focus of successful portraiture. Class begins July 5th. Learn more... Are you ready to take the next step in your photography? We have an awesome Summer schedule of online courses at Our instructors are all experienced professionals who are well-published, have extensive teaching backgrounds, and enjoy sharing their expertise. The schedule: 8-Week Courses and 4-Week Short Courses-July.

Photo Q&A

1: Conversion Lens: What Is It?
What is a conversion lens? Is it to add on to a telephoto lens? This might sound like a stupid question but I'm a newbie so please forgive me. :)
It changes the focal length of your lens when you attach it. Tele-converter and tele-extender are other names for them. They are denoted by how much they change the focal length. Or you could say how strong they are if it's a tele-converter. 2X doubles the focal length, 1.5 makes it increase by 50 percent.
- Gregory La Grange
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2: Choosing That Tripod
I've read through all the "What Tripod?" Q's and A's, and although I can now spell "Manfrotto" and "Gitzo" (not "Ginzu"- they're the knife people.), I can't do this alone. I'm looking for a tripod for my Canon XT 350. My largest lens is a Sigmna 70-300. My main desire is: compact and lightweight. I've almost decided on the Gitzo G1027 Mountaineer, carbon fiber 6x. Any thoughts on this tripod? Is the XT tripod socket compatible with Gitzo tripods? Also, does anyone have a ball head they especially like? Gitzo has a ball head (G1077M) that looks quite basic at $73 and would keep the weight down. Off to click. Thanks!
- Noel Baebler
It will be very difficult for anyone to suggest a tripod for you, as picking a tripod is a subjective venture. Many people love a ball head. I don't. (Guess it sounds too much like bald head, and I'm getting there.) Most people like a tripod with a quick-release plate. I don't. (OK, I'm a weird guy.) However, we can make suggestions as to brands. Gitzo is the Rolls Royce of tripods, and you can't go wrong with them. Bogen-Manfrotto is also an excellent brand. Beyond that, I suggest you handle the tripod you think you want and see if you really like it.
- Kerry L. Walker
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3: Correct Aperture for Portraits?
Dear friends,
I have 2 questions: 1. When photographing 2 people (a couple), do I select a focus point between their heads to get them in sharp focus? 2. Also, if I go down to an aperture of 3.0, will it affect the clarity of the subject? I was told that he best way to get good clarity on 2 subjects is to use nothing less that f8 - f11. Is this true??? Thank you for your knowledge and input.
- ewurama hayford
You focal point is this film plane or sensor. Aperture adjustment affexts depth of field, the range of acceptable focus on the focal plane.

When you shoot two people, focus on one [make sure its the eyes], and press down halfway on the shutter button. Hold the position and recompose the picture to include both people. Snap away. [Of course both folks should be on approximate the same plane facing the camera.

To get greater depth of field, use a smaller aperture - like f11 or f/16. If youy want to try "selective focus, use a larger aperture, say f/5.6.

Remember, however,when you use a selective focus setting, the depth of field shrinks and, so, if the two people aren't on that same plane, one may be out of focus!

- John Sandstedt
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4: Photographing a Group
At Easter, I took a pic of the family (6 people), and unless they are all lined up on the exact same plane, some were out of focus. This was with a 28-70 F2.8-4 lens. It was in a living room w/plenty of natural light but even at that I had a Quantary zoom flash on the hot shoe. I was shooting fully auto, but with that flash, it should've been able to get a small enough aperture to have them all in focus. Any suggestions? I also have a 70-300 F4-5.6 ... should I start using that lens for group shots?
- Amanda 
What was your lens length and f-stop for the shot? The longer the lens, the less depth of field you have. Also the wider the aperture the less depth of field you have. If you tried to shoot at f2.8 with the lens at the 70mm end of the zoom, you would have people out of focus. For a group, I would recommend shooting at at least f8 or f11.
- Bret Tate
I know that I want a smaller aperture with a group, but can you explain the effect the lens/zoom has on it? For instance, if I'm shooting w/the 28-70 (which is what was on that day - but I don't recall aperture and exact lens length). If it's fully extended (zoomed-in), will that make more or less people in focus? Sorry, layman's terms help me to get a grip on what I'm talking about.
- Amanda 
The longer the lens, the less depth of field. The f-stop is a ratio of the physical length of the lens to the diameter of the aperture. For example, f5.6 on a 28mm lens is a much smaller opening in the lens than f5.6 is on a 135mm lens. The smaller the opening, the more depth of field.
- Bret Tate
If you want more people in focus you want more depth of field, so use a shorter lens (28-70).
- Bret Tate
DOF is affected by three things:
1) The focal length of the lens. 2) The aperture of the lens. 3) The distance between the camera and the subjects.
Greater DOF requires one or more of the following: Shorter focal length (wide angle). Smaller aperture (f8 instead of f2.8). More distance between subject and camera.

Shallower DOF requires the opposite: Longer focal length (telephoto). Larger aperture (f2 instead of f16). Less distance between subject and camera.
We can almost always affect one of these three to control DOF. Usually lens aperture.
Most of the time, we can affect lens aperature and our distance to the subject.
Or if you are unable to move far enough from your subject due to space limitations - especailly indoors or when using a small flash - then switching to a wide-angle lens will help.
In your case, shooting with the short zoom should have solved the problem. First of all, using the shorter focal length equals greater DOF, plus by using a shorter lens, you should have been able to get closer to your subjects, which would also facilitate using a smaller aperture with your flash.

- Bob Chance
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5: Mildew/Mold/Fungus Protection
I live in a very moist environment. We do have air conditioning units (not central air). I would like to know how other people protect their cameras and lenses from mildew/mold/fungus. I have my equipment in a plastic box with Damp Rid jar in it. Is it better to leave the cover on the box or let the air circulate?
- Joy glenn
There have been a lot of postings on this subject. One of the more recent ones under the key word "fungus" is here:
Take a look and if you still have questions, let us know.
Oh, BTW, air needs to circulate around or past your equipment. In a very humid environment, I'd be careful about enclosing it in anything other than a breathable camera bag, even using lots of dessicant gel or "Damp Rid". Don't store your equipment with filters in place, and make sure your lens caps are the breathable type rather than the screw on variety.
Take it light.
- Mark Feldstein
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6: Filters: What to Get?
Hey, I have never used a filter and I was interested in buying a filter to experiment with. Do I need to purchase an attachment for the filter or does it just snap onto the lens? How do I know what will work best for my camera? I have a Minolta Maxxum QT SI. At the moment, I have only the standard lens that came with the camera, but I have ordered a few other lenses.
- Holly Marie Spoonley
The filter will screw onto the front of the lens, so you need to know the diameter to purchase (it is printed on the barrel usually near the glass). There are some filters that slide into a holder that you screw onto the lens.
But for now, I would suggest that you start with a CL polarizer. This filter will allow you to remove or at least cut down on glare and reflections. It will also boost contrast, make your sky and water more blue. Just like polarizing sunglasses, only you can adjust the effect. And you do not have to recalculate your meter readings, although you do lose about 1 stop of light. There are adapter rings (Step up, Step down) that will allow you to use a filter on lens with different diamaters ... you get a filter for the largest lens and a ring to adapt it to your smaller lens. I find it easier when shooting with a polarizer to have one already on each lens because it is one less thing to be concerned with when changing lens (although more expensive than the adapter rings.) You will wonder how you got along without this filter. I'm not an expert but just ask if you have any other questions.
- Mike Rubin
Greetings Holly: Filters usually thread or screw onto the outer part of the lens. What size depends on the size of the lens you have. Someone here may know it's correct diameter in millimeters.
Which filters you get are a matter of personal preference and depend on what you want to use them for. There are polarizer filters (circular and linear), color correction filters, contrast enhancing filters for black and white photos, and special effects filters too.
You might consider buying a small starter set of filters from Cokin that uses a filter holder with a single attachment ring for your lens. The filters just drop into the holder. Most camera stores sell the Cokin rig. So does
If you get different lenses with different diameter front elements, you can get a Cokin "P" ring set-up that will let you use different size rings for different size lenses and still use the same filter holder and filters. The advantage is that you only need one set of filters no matter how many lenses you get, so long as their diameter doesn't exceed the largest Cokin ring size. Even if you change cameras, all you need to get is a new set of rings, not filters. Save big bucks. Seewhatimean?
Lee, Hitech, Calumet, Singh Ray, and others make more professional set-ups like this. But as I said, it's a matter of personal preference along with some planning for future uses.
Here's a couple of links to Web sites specializing in filters:
OR the makers of the Hitech system I mentioned is at
Of course, there are a lot more but these oughtta get you started.
Take it light and have fun.
- Mark Feldstein
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7: Butterfly Photography
I haven't done much nature photography (mostly portrait) and I havent a clue what lens would be good for shooting butterflies. I have a Digital Rebel. I would be grateful for any sugestions on the subject. Thanks!
- Dennis McClain
The most ideal lens may be too expensive for you, but if money is no object, I would recommend the Canon 180mm macro lens. As an alternative, Sigma makes a 180mm macro for less than the Canon version, and it has a very good reputation. As a third alternative, check the specs on some quality telephoto zoom lenses in the 70-200 range to see if any have close-focusing capability within 4-5 feet at the 200mm setting. If so, these would also work great, and cost much less than either of the 180mm macro lenses.
FYI: For butterflies, here's what you need in a lens - close focusing capability from a distance. Butterflies, like most living creatures, have a "safe" zone - if you invade that space, they will spook and fly away. So you need to keep your distance, but at the same time have a lens with a long enough focal reach to fill the frame with the butterfly, and a focusing distance to get you close enough.
If you plan to hand-hold your lens, you will also need a lens with an Image Stabilizer, which cuts down on your selection, and raises the price somewhat.
Good Luck.
- Michael H. Cothran
The pro who is a keynote speaker at our club meeting and shot butterflys around the world said a 105mm is the best lens to use. And to shoot before 8 or 8:30 am before the butterfly's get active. :O)
- Dr  . Silly
The earlier you get there, the closer you'll likely get to your subject before it flies off.
This statement is more true in the cooler months but is worth mentioning anyway.
Insects, butterflies and all cold-blooded creatures tend to become more active as the rising sun warms their bodies and their metabolism increases.
At midday, you'll be very fortunate to get to within full-frame range with macro equipment any less than 180mm. (Earlier in the day, though, you should be able to get within a foot or so with a shorter macro lens.)
It's also wise to be prepared for that unexpected individual who won't fly off no matter how close you get. You can "feel out" an individual with a longer lens to see how close you can get to it.
Sometimes their body language will communicate to you that they ain't movin' ... and you can back off and slap on a few extension tubes to get really close. It's always wise to carry along a set of 'tubes for those rare, cooperative subjects.
- Bob Cammarata
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