I got a lot of great comments on my images that I posted this past week on Facebook and I thank you for that. Yes, I get some good images as does everybody. But I have a lot of total failures as well. Just because I don't post the bad stuff on Facebook and Instagram doesn't mean that they don't exist. Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has something to learn. Everybody's photography will grow and change with time.

I went out on my paddle board to visit Crab Bank in the Charleston Harbor last week. It's an easy paddle out of Shem Creek and at low tide, I can anchor my feet on the seafloor in 1 foot of water. I took hundreds of images. I have thus far posted two of them. They're pretty good and I'm proud of them, especially since I'm not a "birder" and I don't have big glass. These were taken with my Sony a6500 and a kit lens, the 55-210mm. I don't bring the really expensive gear out on the water...but what I do have is still a huge step up from my iPhone!  But those that I posted are a couple of the best images of the entire outing...and literally hundreds went into the trash bin. Why am I admitting this humiliating information? Because I think it will help. I think it will help everyone to understand that just because you see something wonderful on social media, something that you envy, doesn't mean that the person who took it is a genius behind the camera 24/7. Everybody has to start at the beginning. With me, birds are not something that I seek out to photograph often...pretty rarely actually. So if I get a couple great shots out of hundreds, I'm fairly satisfied.

Just so I don't feel totally humiliated in this blog post after that first image, I'll share the two that I'm proudest of.

Your "winners" and "keepers" will increase with time, education, and practice. But don't forget, even those of us who shoot all the time and are even professionals in the field still make mistakes and totally bomb a photo...or two...or a couple hundred!

Best Light to you all!!

Never stop learning!

Check out future workshops at www.katesilviaphotography.com





The Vertical Swipe

Hello everyone! I hope you are enjoying the onset of spring. I thought I'd share a quick tip on getting creative with camera movement. I was teaching a workshop a few weeks ago and taught a group of beginners how to do this technique. They were shocked about how easy and fun it was to do...once they got their cameras out of "Auto" mode!  This technique is something that cameras simply will not let you do in auto mode under normal shooting conditions because the camera is trying everything it can to prevent blurry images. But in this case, that's our goal!

Let's get blurry and have some fun!

Here's how it's done followed by a few examples.

This can be achieved hand held or on a tripod with the head loose to allow fluid movement. 

Start by finding something in even light with repeating patterns. This is tough and pretty difficult to get a good result if the light is broken and harsh. A shady area or an overcast day work best. Look for stands of trees, long grass, architectural lines in cities, clumps of flowers with long stems, etc...

Next, set your camera up so that you can get an exposure of 1/2 second to around a full second. There's not an exact number that works for all subjects and you'll have to experiment a bit. Put the camera in Manual shooting mode and turn off Auto ISO and autofocus. You can use autofocus to achieve the initial focus if you have trouble focusing in manual, but turn it off just before the exposure so autofocus does not try to achieve focus while the camera is moving.  Lower your ISO as low as it will go, stop down your aperture to f/18 or smaller, and see if that gets you the shutter speed you're looking for. If it's too bright and you can't get a slow enough shutter speed, use your polarizer or a neutral density filter to make the whole scene darker and then adjust your settings accordingly. 

Turn on your 2 second timer if you have one or use a remote. Pressing the shutter button can create a jerky appearance in the final image instead of smooth lines. I will usually turn on my timer, count one second in my head and then start panning the camera up before the shutter opens and continuing the fluid motion after the shutter closes. This helps you get used to the motion while avoiding possible zig zags or mismatched lines. You can also move in a downward motion, or even side to side depending on the subject. Zoom in on your subject, pan slower, pan faster, and try different shutter speed and ISO combinations to get the "look" you're going for. IT takes a little practice. 

This image was taken at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston, SC. It's bamboo. Shutter speed was One second. f/16, ISO 250. I had to bump the ISO to 250 because it was actually too dark in the bamboo forest to get the one second that I was looking for. I chose to include some of the dirt in the bottom of the image to act as a visual anchor which helps give it a sense of place. Shot on a tripod with the ball head loose.

This next image was taken at Shem Creek Park in Mount Pleasant, SC. The shutter speed here was 1/15 second. I did not have any filters with me and was just out for a walk with my mirrorless camera. I moved the camera up pretty fast to get the motion with that shutter speed.  Shot handheld. 


This next image was taken at Cypress Gardens in Moncks Corner, SC. I loved the reflections of the cypress trees and included the actual reflection in the movement. The shutter speed was 1/2 second at f/18. Shot on a tripod with the ball head loose.

I hope you have fun with this technique. It's great to play with on a windy day when normal macro or foliage photography is difficult. 

Have a great day!

Best of light to you all!


Upcoming Workshops



Levels, An Incredibly Powerful Tool

If you haven't used the "Levels" adjustment in Photoshop, (sliders in the Lightroom  Basic panel), or other editing software, you're doing yourself a disservice. It's an extremely powerful tool that can greatly alter the colors, depth, and contrast in an image with little effort and in record time!

Here's a quick example. 

Original image with a texture applied. It looks a little drab to me after applying the texture. Or, it could just be "dreamy" however you want to look at it. My first tool that I go to in order to fix this is the levels adjustment. While I typically do this adjustment in Photoshop, the same effect can be achieved in Lightroom with the blacks, whites, and exposure sliders. Below the photo is the original histogram for the air plant image with the texture applied. Pretty "middle of the road" if you will. You can create a levels adjustment layer by going to the top of Photoshop's menu and clicking on Layer...New Adjustment Layer...Levels. Or you can simple tap the half black- half white, round icon on the bottom of the Layers panel and select "Levels".  

In this next image I dragged the black slider to the right and the white slider to the left. This increases contrast. Below this photo is the corresponding histogram in the levels adjustment box.

In this next photo, I dragged the mid tone slider to the left and it brightened it globally.

With this next image, I slid the mid tone toward the right and it greatly darkened the entire image. The histogram for this one is shown below as well. 

As you can see, I've created 4 vastly different looking images with ONE tool in Photoshop (a few sliders in Lightroom). 

It's extremely powerful, and often the one step that you need to take to improve the contrast, color, and depth of an image to your liking. Small, simple changes such as these can greatly change the overall mood of an image. I encourage you to experiment and see what blows your skirt up...figuratively speaking of course!

This is what I was finally happy with.  Have fun playing!



Don't Poo Poo A Clear Evening Sky

I've heard it many, probably too many, times....no clouds, boring sky, I'm going home. I've been guilty of it myself. But just because the sky may lack the dramatic clouds we all long for at sunrise and sunset, doesn't mean that there's nothing to photograph. There's ALWAYS something to photograph. You just have to keep an open mind and look for other opportunities. 

It's a wonderful time to look for shadows and textures. The low angle of the sun allowed for these beautiful patterns in the sand to be captured. In the middle of the day, you don't see the textures or have that 3 dimensional feel nearly as much. 

You couldn't ask for a better time to capture silhouettes. Just find a prominent, easily identifiable subject and wait for the colors in the sky to appear. You get striking shapes...and rainbow colors. Bonus!

Late day/early morning cloudless light is also a great time to practice your backlighting skills. Although it's the toughest of exposures for our cameras to handle, backlighting is, in my opinion, the most dramatic light. These petals of a sunflower simply glowed from the early morning sun at Botany Bay, SC. 

Just a quick post today...a short reminder to not let a lack of clouds keep you from searching for beautiful images everywhere!

Best of light to you all!  Hope to see you in 2017!