Nature Photography, LLC
October / November 2014
In-Camera Color Control
As the weather cools from the blistering heat of summer, leaves begin their annual, dazzling bursts into full color. Reds, oranges, and yellows decorate the tree lines like wrapping paper on an eagerly awaited gift. The goal of autumn photographers is almost always to capture these brilliant hues before they fade into the dull browns and grays of winter. In the days of film, a photographer would choose a particular type of film to enhance these colors. Fortunately, the digital age has made it very easy for today's photographers to do the same – without ever getting near film or image processing software such as Photoshop. Sure, you can always enhance or change colors through your computer, but if you can get the image you want right out of the box, that leaves you with more time behind the camera and less behind a desk. I have yet to meet a photographer who prefers being behind a desk.
A great many digital cameras today, from high-end DSLRs all the way down to point-and-shoots, allow you to change the intensity of the colors you capture. There are often four different "styles" from which to choose: standard, neutral, vivid, and monochrome. You can consider each a template, generally designed for a particular purpose but able to be utilized in a wide variety of circumstances for creative effects. Standard is often used in product photography when a realistic, not too subdued and not too bright color palette is desired, while neutral is often used for portraiture to help even out skin tones and lower contrast. Monochrome allows you to take those old-fashioned looking sepia images that can be wonderfully nostalgic – and you aren't limited to sepia. Many cameras offer multiple monochrome hues to play with. How about blue, green, or purple? My camera offers 7 different hues within each tone, too… But for autumn colors, vivid is the setting that you are looking for. Vivid does exactly what it sounds like: it makes the colors pop, enhancing strong, bright hues. Many cameras also offer you the option of choosing how saturated you want the colors to be, giving you options from -3 to +3. Some consider +3 to be oversaturated and unrealistic, while others absolutely love the effect. Begin at 0, then work your way both up and down the scale to find the color style that you most like for whatever you are trying to capture. In case that isn't enough fun, you can also adjust contrast and sharpening, and in some models, brightness and hue as well. What a treasure trove of effects, all without leaving the camera!
This option is usually buried in the menu folder somewhere, but it shouldn't be too difficult to find. In Nikon cameras, it is called Picture Controls, while Canon's more recent cameras call it Picture Styles. (They can never agree on anything. Ever.) Other camera brands will call it yet something else; check your owner's manual for the specifics. That being said, if you know what you are looking for, it is pretty easy to locate. The following is how to find Picture Controls in Nikon cameras; other brands should be similar.
Go to the Shooting Menu (little camera icon on the left).
Push the right arrow to get you into the Shooting Menu options, then scroll down to Set Picture Control.
Push the right arrow again to get you into the Picture Control options.
From here, you can choose one of the four styles mentioned above. Scroll up or down to get to the option you choose, then push the right arrow to get you into that style's options. Choose your settings, then push OK. If you skip this last step, your choices will not be saved, and the camera will revert to whatever its previous setting was.
Now that you know how to saturate colors, go out and capture some autumn beauty. But let's not forget that Halloween is also just around the corner. The range of Picture Control options can help you create eerier, creepier, bleaker images, too. So whether you want to create bright, happy images or dark and brooding ones, autumn provides a great excuse to get to know your in-camera color controls.
In September, I was fortunate enough to be one of the photographers for PAWSwalk, a fundraising event for my local animal shelter and wildlife rehabilitation center, appropriately named PAWS (Progressive Animal Welfare Society). Every year, hundreds of PAWS supporters come out to the park to show their support, walk with their furry friends (mostly dogs), try the canine agility course, watch training exhibitions, play games, enter contests, and drink beer and mimosas. (Hey, we know how to have fun.) The event was a huge success, surpassing the fundraising goals by more than a bit. The money and resources donated go to helping companion animals find good homes, and to nurturing and mending orphaned and/or injured wildlife that are then returned to the wild. Needless to say, the latter goal is particularly close to my heart. If you are an animal lover and have a little extra time on your hands, I would highly recommend volunteering at an animal welfare group in your area. If you are fortunate enough to have a wildlife rehabilitation center in your neighborhood, so much the better! (Know, however, that at any rehabilitation center focusing on releasing the animals back into the wild, you are likely to have very little hands-on contact with the animals. The goal is to keep the animals from getting habituated, or accustomed to people, as this could lead to big trouble for the animal later.) If you don't have the extra time but would still like to help, I would imagine that most places would be very grateful for donations, and it doesn't even have to be the monetary-kind. Old towels and blankets, cat and dog toys, plastic bags… You would be surprised what is useful to these organizations. PAWS uses lots of empty yogurt containers, hundreds of hot dog wieners, and even bowling pins to aid the animals. If you are cleaning out the garage, kitchen, or linen closet, contact your local agency to see if they can use any of your old stuff. The animals will thank you.
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As Halloween approaches, a particular furry animal serves as a symbol of the season. Who does not associate All Hallow's Eve with the oft misunderstood black cat?
- More black cats are male than female.
- Black panthers are not uniformly black. If you look closely, you can see their spots.
- An Italian black cat named Tommaso made it into the Guinness Book of World Records when his owner left him $13 million in her will.
- Not all black cats are so lucky. Due to the superstitions surrounding them, it is widely thought that black cats have a 50% lower chance of being adopted from a shelter.
- All cats' eyes are huge in relation to their overall head size. This leads to several interesting phenomena related to focusing. First of all, cats generally cannot focus on anything within about a foot of their face. Secondly, their enormous eyes have difficulty adjusting their focus from near to far and back. This leads a cat's eyes to develop based on environment: inside cats tend to be nearsighted, while outdoor cats tend to be farsighted.
- Wonder why your cat is not interested in chocolate? It is one of the few animal species that cannot taste sweet.
- Experts believe that cats were first domesticated somewhere in the Middle East around 9000 years ago as a result of grain cultivation. Cats were welcomed as pest control in the fields.
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CITY ESCAPES Nature Photography, LLC