Author Archives: Renato Volpe

Digital Noise – What Is It? What Causes It? And How Can I Get Rid Of It?


Digital noise in photos taken with digital cameras is random pixels scattered all over the photo. It is a similar effect as “grain” in film photography and it degrades the photo quality.

Digital noise usually occurs when you take low light photos (such as night photos or indoor dark scenes) or you use very slow shutter speeds or very high sensitivity modes.

When taking pictures with a digital camera an electronic sensor (also known as a CCD) built from many tiny pixels is used to measure the light for each pixel. The result is a matrix of pixels that represent the photo.

As with any other electronic sensor the CCD is not perfect and includes some noise (also know as white noise to hint on its randomness attribute). In most lighting the light is significantly stronger than the noise. However in extreme scenes where the light is very low or when a high amplification is needed noise levels can become significant and result in pixels in the photos that include more noise data than real photo light data. Those pixels usually appear as random dots or stains on the photo (for example white dots scattered randomly on the photo).

Understanding digital noise in various scenes:

low light (night photos or dark scenes):  when the scene is dark the amount of light measured by each pixel of the CCD is low. When the light intensity is very low it can become too close to the level of noise naturally found in the CCD. In such cases some pixels can appear as noise because the noise level measured for them is significantly close or higher than the actual light intensity.

slow shutter speeds: when the shutter is kept open for a long time more noise will be introduced to the photo. A slow shutter speed translates to the CCD integrating more light per pixel. The effect can be easily understood as the CCD “accumulating” light in each pixel and measuring the total light over the shutter period of time. However at the same time the CCD is also “accumulating” noise. For that reason in slow shutter speed photos some pixels will appear as noise because for these pixels the amount of noise integrated is significantly close to or higher than the actual light measured.

high sensitivity modes: high sensitivity in digital photography is implemented by mechanisms that result in amplification. The CCD amplifies the measurements it takes. However there is no way to just amplify the actual photo light that falls on the CCD pixels instead the noise and the actual light are both amplified. The result is that the CCD becomes sensitive not only to light but also to its own noise. When too much amplification is applied some pixels will appear as noise.

While it is impossible to completely prevent digital noise there are a few options that allow you to significantly decrease it. When taking photos in low light scenarios such as night photos there are two main parameters to play with: sensitivity and shutter speed. Raising sensitivity creates more internal noise in the CCD while slowing down the shutter allows for more noise to integrate on the CCD. The amount of noise generated by both parameters is different. It is recommended that you set your camera to manual mode and play with a few different sensitivity/shutter speed pairs to find out the one that generates the least noise.

Some cameras include a built-in feature called “noise reduction”. Noise reduction is implemented by sophisticated software that can identify the noise pixels and remove them. For example the software can identify the noise pixels based on their randomness and usually extreme intensity gap between them and their neighboring pixels. Removing the noise can be implemented by interpolating a replacement pixel value based on its neighboring pixels.

If you do not have a built-in noise reduction feature or it does not work properly you can use a PC based software that removes digital noise. Many photo processing software include a combination of automatic and manual digital noise removal. Some software packages can also use a few photos of the same object to “average” them and thus remove the noise (relying on the fact that digital noise is random and the noise pixels will be different in each photo taken).

To conclude digital noise should be understood by any amateur or professional photographer. However for most photographers digital noise is not a practical problem even in low light scenarios usually digital noise is minimal and can be significantly reduced by simply turning on your camera’s noise reduction feature. For professional photographers who shoot in more extreme conditions digital noise can present a real problem and can be dealt with using a combination of optimizing the camera settings and removing noise with professional software.

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Shwedagon Pagoda at Yangon, Mynamar



The Shwedagon Pagoda is believed to have been built nore than 2500 years ago. It is the essence of Mynamar and a place that never fails to enchant.

The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon’s most prominent landmark visible from far away. It is towering almost 100 meters above the city-scape.

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A Brief History Of Photography


For centuries images have been projected onto surfaces. The camera obscura and the camera lucida were used by artists to trace scenes as early as the 16th century. These early cameras did not fix an image in time; they only projected what passed through an opening in the wall of a darkened room onto a surface. In effect, the entire room was turned into a large pinhole camera. Indeed, the phrase camera obscura literally means “darkened room,” and it is after these darkened rooms that all modern cameras have been named.

The first photograph is considered to be an image produced in 1826 by the French inventor Nicéphore Niépce on a polished pewter plate covered with a petroleum derivative called bitumen of Judea. It was produced with a camera, and required an eight hour exposure in bright sunshine. However this process turned out to be a dead end and Niépce began experimenting with silver compounds based on a Johann Heinrich Schultz discovery in 1724 that a silver and chalk mixture darkens when exposed to light.

Niépce, in Chalon-sur-Saône, and the artist Louis Daguerre, in Paris, refined the existing silver process in a partnership. In 1833 Niépce died of a stroke, leaving his notes to Daguerre. While he had no scientific background, Daguerre made two pivotal contributions to the process.

He discovered that by exposing the silver first to iodine vapour, before exposure to light, and then to mercury fumes after the photograph was taken, a latent image could be formed and made visible. By then bathing the plate in a salt bath the image could be fixed.

In 1839 Daguerre announced that he had invented a process using silver on a copper plate called the Daguerreotype. A similar process is still used today for Polaroids. The French government bought the patent and immediately made it public domain.

Across the English Channel, William Fox Talbot had earlier discovered another means to fix a silver process image but had kept it secret. After reading about Daguerre’s invention Talbot refined his process, so that it might be fast enough to take photographs of people as Daguerre had done and by 1840 he had invented the calotype process.

He coated paper sheets with silver chloride to create an intermediate negative image. Unlike a daguerreotype a calotype negative could be used to reproduce positive prints, like most chemical films do today. Talbot patented this process which greatly limited its adoption.

He spent the rest of his life in lawsuits defending the patent until he gave up on photography altogether. But later this process was refined by George Eastman and is today the basic technology used by chemical film cameras. Hippolyte Bayard also developed a method of photography but delayed announcing it, and so was not recognized as its inventor.

In 1851 Frederick Scott Archer invented the collodion process. It was the process used by Lewis Carroll.

Slovene Janez Puhar invented the technical procedure for making photographs on glass in 1841. The invention was recognized on July 17th 1852 in Paris by the Académie Nationale Agricole, Manufacturière et Commerciale.

The Daguerreotype proved popular in responding to the demand for portraiture emerging from the middle classes during the Industrial Revolution. This demand, that could not be met in volume and in cost by oil painting, may well have been the push for the development of photography.

However daguerreotypes, while beautiful, were fragile and difficult to copy. A single photograph taken in a portrait studio could cost US$1000 in 2006 dollars. Photographers also encouraged chemists to refine the process of making many copies cheaply, which eventually led them back to Talbot’s process. Ultimately, the modern photographic process came about from a series of refinements and improvements in the first 20 years.

In 1884 George Eastman, of Rochester, New York, developed dry gel on paper, or film, to replace the photographic plate so that a photographer no longer needed to carry boxes of plates and toxic chemicals around. In July of 1888 Eastman’s Kodak camera went on the market with the slogan “You press the button, we do the rest”. Now anyone could take a photograph and leave the complex parts of the process to others. Photography became available for the mass-market in 1901 with the introduction of Kodak Brownie.

Since then color film has become standard, as well as automatic focus and automatic exposure. Digital recording of images is becoming increasingly common, as digital cameras allow instant previews on LCD screens and the resolution of top of the range models has exceeded high quality 35mm film while lower resolution models have become affordable. For the enthusiast photographer processing black and white film, little has changed since the introduction of the 35mm film Leica camera in 1925.

Posted in People

Choosing A Subject In Photography

Choosing A Subject In Photography

Choosing A Subject In Photography

How do you know what photos you will take?  Are you going to a family reunion?  Are you going out for a hike and hope to see some wildlife?  There are many questions when it comes to photography.  You will want to have a basis of photography techniques to provide the best photograph and once you learn those techniques the subject will be up to you.  Most photographers whether they are professional or amateurs like you will have a medium they work with.  It is the same with other artists; you have painters, sculptors, sketch artists, and much more.  Photography is art and therefore requires an eye for the right photograph.

How do you know what subject you will shoot?  This is where your interests lie.  If you wish only to take pictures of wildlife then you will have to wait for the subject to come into view.  Obviously you can go to a wildlife park such as the Rocky Mountain National Park and hope to find subjects.  Most often it will depend on the time of year.  Elk and Deer are more prominent when they come down the mountains to mate and eat.  Birds will always be available, but the type of birds will vary.  If you are in Alaska chances are you will have several chances of shooting a Bald Eagle, while in Florida you may find heron or cranes.

When you are practicing techniques you will have to choose your subject accordingly.  A lot of us are regulated to the area around us.  Landscape photography requires the use of the land you have around you, unless you are going on vacation to some place new.  This is another important fact to choosing a subject.  You are either limited or you have the whole world at your feet.  It will depend on your traveling abilities.  For now we will stick close to home.

Once you choose your medium you will then go in search of subjects.  The subject that speaks to you is what you should choose to shoot.  If a tree and the knots it’s formed interest you, you will want to check the lighting of the area.  Deciding which angle to shoot from will also make the decision on the subject.  The lighting may not be right for the subject you have chosen and the other side of the subject may not yield the best picture.

To choose a subject you will need a good eye for detail and observation.  Often the best subject is not the one you can see with a plain eye.  Have you ever looked at a tree and found a spider web hiding in the leaves?  If you look closer you might even find a spider.  A spider web can make a great picture not only because of the technique required to have the web show up in your photo with the silky threads, but also the pattern of a spider web.  We are fascinated with an organism that can create a symmetrical pattern.

Again your eye is the best tool for finding a subject.  How you choose the subject will depend on what is available, the angle and the light.  Moving slowly through an area such as landscape will help you determine the subject.  Looking under leaves or rocks is often beneficial to finding something new and different. You never know where you will find a picture just waiting for you to click a picture. Some people and animals do things that will never again happen and this is when you want to have camera available. Most people interested in photography carry a camera with them everywhere they go. If this sounds like a habit, a real habit turns into a hobby and a possible income if you become good at taking the right pictures. As you get better at taking the pictures, you can then start displaying your pictures for others to see and possibly buy.

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Digital Black and White Photography

You know, there is something that is definitely more artistic about black and white photography. I know I am getting a little away from the overall concept of digital photography. But as a photographer, you will no doubt run into the phenomenon that is black and white photography.

I can remember vividly a photographer named Michael Zagaris who is the team photographer of the San Francisco 49ers. He said that he was just captivated by the use of black and white photography. The way the light and the shading are so much more evident. This helps contribute to the overall feeling and emotion of the moment that the black and white photo captures.

Some of you may be saying to yourselves that color photography has surely taken the place of black and white photography, and I would say that for the most part you are correct. An interesting note here is that black and white photography still holds a degree of nostalgia in most photographers, amateur and professional alike.Perhaps one reason for this nostalgia is of course that photography was first taken on black and white film. Not only that, but many photography students are tasked with taking black and white photos when they are in their first photography classes. I know in my first digital photography class I was astounded at the very idea. Only later when the photos were developed did I truly start to appreciate black and white photos.

Therefore if you are an amateur or even experienced photographer, I would encourage you to give black and white photography a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the level of sophistication it takes to really pull off a great black and white photo. After that you may be able to take in some advanced photos such as adding one stream of color. You may have seen these kinds of photos before when the photographer allows one color to be very evident in a black and white photo. For instance I can remember a picture of a little girl in a black and white photo, but the coat she was wearing was bright pink. It was great moment to capture.

As for taking the black and white photos themselves, more advanced digital cameras have gray-scale mechanisms that allow to this. Also you can have the color picture converted by using a digital photography software such as “Photoshop.” Give yourself a chance in black and white photography. I think you will be pleasantly surprised in the results.

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Abstract Photography

Floating Market 17.11.2012 (7 of 20)

Abstract photography and abstract art are very popular and involve a merchandise trade of billions of dollars over a century. Most art galleries and exhibitions as well as photography events are never complete without a section on this form of depiction.

Every year thousands of art students and photographers follow courses all over the world and try to vent their thoughts and ideas in the form of their own interpretation. In fact, abstract photography is a direct outcome of the earlier abstract art form that was made famous by many noted artists. Nearly everyone at some point of time has had a brush with this genre of photography and as we will see later in this article, has appreciated or collected the abstract photographs.

What is it really and is it the same as Abstract Art?

As the name implies “abstract” denotes what can be interpreted but not seen. The art form is many times debated to be complex and difficult to understand. Yet it attracts a horde of art critics and art collectors from every part of the globe, and several interpretations may accompany abstract paintings. Similarly, abstract photography draws the same popularity except it is done with a camera and not with brush and paint!

The exact definition of this art is difficult but it is sufficient to understand that there are no rules or norms for creating and in layman terms “anything goes” as long as it appeals to the eye! The photography technique is used to capture almost any event in a subtle manner such as a drop of water splattering in a pool to look like a crown or a piece of hemp rope at close quarters that looks like a striated bundle etc. The composition is immaterial; it is only the way a scene (really a photograph) is captured on film. The interpretation may come later.

How is abstract photography carried out?

It is necessary to have a professional high speed camera and sometimes a special high speed film. The best results can be obtained by using a black and white film and many valuable photographs are of this monochrome variety. The following aspects need to be kept in mind:

A perfect understanding of conventional photographic principles regarding shutter speed, aperture, focusing, film speed and lighting effects.

Telephoto lenses and close up lenses and flash equipment form a part of certain trick effects one wishes to create.

Films of different types like color, black and white, speed in ASA or DIN, tripod stands, remote shooting, filter lenses, shadow hoods etc.

Abstract photography is really the prerogative of a true artist and one who also has a scientific bent of mind. Composing a perfect shot requires the “artist” and taking the photograph requires the “technician”! Imagination knows no bounds and the best results are when one uses creative powers to its full capacity.

If you wish to try out your hand at this form of art, do read what some of the famous personalities like the Czech Josef Sudek and Jaromir Funk, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Ernie Yang, Latvian Wilhelm Mikhailovsky, Henri Bresson, and Ansel Adams have to write about abstract photography.

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Portrait Photography

VodaDo you just snap pictures of friends without a thought to how it my turn out?  Portrait photography takes you a step up from people photography.  It gives you elements to notice such as the angle you take the photograph, the lighting you will use, and the expression of emotion on a persons face.  While you may be an amateur photographer deciding to take Christmas photos without the expense you will need to have some basic knowledge of techniques used by the professionals.

First when taking a photograph of a person you need to study their face.  The face is important to the angle you will shoot from.  Though it is a cliché, it is true some people have a better side.  This could be in relation to scarring or acne breakouts or even simpler.  For instance my left eye is larger than my right by just a bit, and looking head on into the camera will cause a horrible portrait, however if the photographer comes from the right side and angles up a little the light and shadows will help even out the features while keeping the distinctions that make me who I am.

Portrait photography is about capturing the essence of the subject, the personality.  The little nuances of a face add character to the portrait.  You will want to loosen up your subjects.  If you are becoming a professional portrait photographer you will want to learn about your subject as you are taking pictures or perhaps meet them before the session.  If they are just your family then you should know what would get their personality captured on film.

Lighting is the next important step to portrait photography.  A lot of photographers prefer natural light to artificial.  Your subject will in part decide this for you.  Remember you will use the light you have.  Natural light will often require setting the aperture to compensate for the cameras lack of definition.  In other words you need to create the contrast with the light and shadows for the effect you want.  Often artificial light is harsh and not directed properly unless in a studio.  Again you will need to use the manual settings on your camera to create the perfect portrait.

The background is also important when discussing light.  In a studio a photographer will pick a background that will not wash your features out or your clothing.  They want to have a distinction or contrast between you and the background.  This is also important of home portrait photography.  You will want a background that gives color to your subject rather than taking it away.  Finding a nice spot with a tree to sit on and mountains in the background can be a great portrait, but you will want to make sure the background is not too busy to distract from the subject.  Make the subject seem apart of the picture rather than outside of it.

The type of camera and film you use will also determine the quality of the photography.  Once you combine techniques such as lighting, angles, and understanding your subject you will be able to create a near to professional if not professional portrait for your friends and family no matter the occasion.  Just snapping a picture is possible, but it would be great to have a better portrait?

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Scene Modes and your Digital Camera


Most people don’t want to mess with their digital camera’s settings.  The rest of us may not understand what they are for and what they can do.  Camera manufacturers realize this and are making it easier to take great photos.  It is done through a feature called scene modes.  Scene modes are mini-programs designed to automatically adjust your camera’s settings that are best suited for the situation.  By merely twisting a knob or pushing a button a few times, you are able to quickly and easily adjust your camera to get a great shot nearly every time.

Here are some of the more common scene modes and what they do:

Backlight – eliminates dark shadows when light is coming from behind the subject or when the subject is in the shade.

Beach/Snow – this mode is used when photographing beach, snow and sunlight water scenes.  Exposure times and white balance are set to help prevent the scene from becoming washed out looking.

Fireworks – shutter speed and exposure are set for shooting fireworks: pre-focusing and the use of a tripod is highly recommended.

Landscape – this mode is used to take photos of wide scenes.  The camera automatically focuses on a distant object.

Macro – is used to take close-up shots of small objects, such as coin, flowers or insects.  The lens can be moved closer to the object than in other modes.  The use of a tripod is highly recommended.

Night Scene – is used when photographing night scenes – what else?  Slow shutter speeds are used.  You’ll need that tripod again.

Panning or Action – this mode will “freeze” the action of the subject while blurring the background to give the feel of motion or speed.

Panorama – is used to take a series of shots from one point and “stitch” them together with software to make a wide angle scene.

Party Mode – is used to take photos in a dim lit room.  Exposure and shutter speeds are adjusted for room brightness.  The camera must be held very steady in this mode.

Portrait – this mode automatically focuses on the subject and puts the background slightly out of focus.

Sports – is similiar to action modes.  Fast shutter speeds “freeze” the action.  Best shots will result when taken in bright lighting conditions and when you are pre-focused on an area.

Sunset – is used to take photos of sunsets and sunrises.  This mode helps keep the deep hues in the scene.

Some cameras have as many as 20 different scene modes.  Some modes will automatically adjust the size of your photo for on-line auction.  Some are supposed to take 10 pounds off the subject.  Regardless of how many scense your camera has, always read the instruction manual.  Each manufacturer has their own terminology.  By understanding and using scene modes, you will get a great shot every time.

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Six Photography Tricks for a better Photos

okpo_geoje_koreaIt was admittedly difficult when we first began the transition from straight film to digital photography some years ago. My wife, a brilliant amateur photographer with a special flair for expressive and candid black-and-white photos, had trouble finessing the “delay” that occurred between pressing the button and the digital camera actually snapping the picture. The candidness, shall we say, gave way to more staged poses and less exhilarating results.

However, as time went on, we learned more about taking better pictures and also using Photoshop to enhance the images with special effects and other production techniques.

Tip #1: Pump Up the Volume. The advantage of not having to worry about the expense of film was something we began to exploit at a large scale, and we found that we could snap, say, 100 “relatively” rapid pictures and get one or two treasures – something we wouldn’t be overly apt to do if we were spending money to purchase and develop film.

Tip #2: Focus on Lighting. We realized that we could enhance all of our images across the board by paying far more attention to lighting. So we would be more oriented toward taking pictures at different times of day – for example, dusk – when there’s that “magic hour” element that can give photos a richer hue and tone.

Tip #3: Anticipation. Unlike the Heinz ketchup commercial, we learned to be impatient with certain of our subjects (particularly our kids, whose mannerisms and personalities we knew well) – meaning, we learned to anticipate what they would do and snap the photo in advance of where we thought the live action would go – so that the camera would catch it on time. This is a skill that needs to be developed over time – and it’s not something that can be done perfectly with strangers.

Tip #4: Download and Dump. We learned to download our photos often, after several times of missing out on awesome pictures because the camera was full. We also had to learn to be ruthless with “our babies” and cut out photos on the fly to keep the camera available for even better opportunities. That said, we also developed an excellent archiving system using CDs and DVDs, so we have thousands of photos stored and easily retrievable.

Tip #5: Grayscaling, Sepia Toning, Lassoing, Saturation and Other Effects. Some of our favorite techniques in Photoshop are actually pretty simple, but they are useful time and time again. We love grayscaling images to convert them from RGB to black and white, we love altering the hue to do sepia toning for that old-time effect, and we especially like to use the lasso tool to create “feathering” and other cool effects like drop shadows, bevel and emboss – even craquelure. Photoshop can be used in a million different ways – but having digital images has really helped us take more advantage of Photoshop than we did before when we had to manually scan printed photos. This alone has helped us really fall in love with the digital.

Tip #6: Batch Processing. From time to time, we would have a ton of photos that we wanted to do the same effect with. We got the hang of something called “batch processing,” where we could essentially program Photoshop to automatically open (and resave) every picture in a folder and do the exact same action to it. This is really cool and helpful if you have the need to do it – makes everything go super-fast.

Needless to say, there are many other tricks we’ve learned, but these six will hopefully be helpful to learn and adopt into your own digital photography tactics.

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Fukuoka, Japan 2013


A photo taken in Fukuoka, Japan. Spent three days enjoying the japanese culture and sampling local cuisine. Food in Japan is expensive, beware of the fact when planning your holidays.

Posted in Travel