Fotocast – A Unique and Powerful Weather Forecast App Designed Just for Photographers!

Fotocast – A Unique and Powerful Weather Forecast App Designed Just for Photographers!

Fotocast - A Unique and Powerful Weather Forecast App Designed Just for Photographers - www.darkphotography.org

There’s a new weather forecast app on the scene for mobile devices. But this one is different from the rest – it’s designed just for photographers and videographers!

When you first open the app, it asks you what type of photographer you are, and presents many choices. This is because the app is fully customized to what kind of photography you practice. Obviously, different types of photographers will look for different types of weather conditions that work best for their craft.

The first thing you will notice when you open the Fotocast weather forecast app is a thing called Fotoscore. This is a score from 0-10 that tells you if the weather outside is good (or not so good) for your type of photography. It’s quick and convenient to use this to know if you should be outside taking photos, without having to read a full weather report.

Of course, Fotocast still has all other weather data (and more) that you would expect from a weather forecast app. Fotocast also has a “Sunny 16” rule indicator that automatically changes based on the weather – for you photogs that use the Sunny 16 and don’t want to have to calculate it out manually anymore.

It’s important not to get your camera wet (or your clients) when you are outside shooting. Fear not, Fotocast has hyperlocal rain notifications that will alert you exactly when the rain is expected to start.

On the topic of notifications and alerts, you can also create custom alerts for just about any weather condition you can imagine with the Fotocast weather forecast app. This is great if you are trying to monitor a specific location to take photos at that requires the weather to be just right.

Some examples of this could be if you are trying to take a photo of a pond and need there to be no wind (to get a nice mirror-like surface on the water), or if you are trying to take a photo of a bridge and want there to be fog around the bridge. With the custom weather alerts, you know exactly when you need to head to your location and start taking photos!

The app also automatically gives you tips for taking photos based on the weather conditions and what type of photographer you are. You can also save your gear into a “gear database” and then configure which weather variables they are needed for and get helpful reminders, as well as see images from other photographers based on your photography type and current weather for quick inspiration at any time.

Fotocast - A Unique and Powerful Weather Forecast App Designed Just for Photographers - www.darkphotography.orgAlong with golden hour and twilight info, you can get an idea if sunset will be beautiful and colorful at your location by looking at the sunrise and sunset quality scores for the day. There are a plethora of different photography calculators built into Fotocast as well, for just about any type of photography situation you can think of.

It does not end there with features. Also included is a trip log (mileage recorder) which logs your distance traveled to photo shoots on the go, a sun and moon direction tool so you can see where the sun or moon will be located at any time or date, a built-in compass, a very high contrast shot clock to sync capture times with your other camera bodies in post, cloud height indicators, nightly summaries for the next day’s weather, and more.

Fotocast is designed for all Android and Apple phones and tablets. It can be downloaded now on the App Store and Google Play for free. Check out Fotocast’s website.

Fotocast is free and has no ads. You can also subscribe to an optional monthly or yearly subscription (the yearly subscription comes with a discount) that will unlock a few extra features. The base app is free and will work for most casual photographers, but the subscription is affordable, won’t break the bank, and will truly unlock the full power of Fotocast for the hardcore professional photographer. The subscription also helps the developer continue to add new features and maintain the app.

Fotocast - A Unique and Powerful Weather Forecast App Designed Just for Photographers - www.darkphotography.orgSpeaking of the developer of the app, (Photographer’s Arsenal – but listed on the App Store as Dunbar Technology, LLC), they are very responsive all inquiries and generally will fix any bugs you report within a few days. They also are very open to new suggestions you have for Fotocast and will add them as soon as they can.

If you’re a professional photographer or even an amateur who wants to take better photos, Fotocast is essential to always make sure that the outside conditions are as best as possible to capture that perfect shot. As a weather forecast app for photographers, this app really gives other apps in the photography space a run for their money.

Making Your Light Bigger

Making Your Light Bigger

If you want to make your photography light source larger, but don’t want to diffuse it with a softbox or scrim, you could bounce it off a wall, a reflector or fire it into an umbrella. Give this a try and see how the light source has gotten larger. I appreciate that most of you probably don’t have studio lights, and may never get them, but it is still important to know how to modify and shape light.

With digital photography, it is pretty easy to control the color casts on your final photo, so those work lights you can buy at any home repair type store work very well.

These will all work as beginner replacements for studio lights. They will need some post-processing to remove color casts, but it’s a low-cost way to get started. Caution is needed though, these are hot lights! Be careful about any sort of modification devices catching fire. There usually isn’t a problem, but never leave them unattended while they are turned on.

If you are after some inexpensive photography hacks subscribe to Dark Photography. I’ll show you how to make a soft lighting setup that you can use in your home to create some pretty stunning photos.

Flags, Dots, and Fingers

You will soon be able to manipulate your photography light source and create photos with your homemade $10 lights that will rival the best studio portraits. And you will be able to use them as hard or soft lights. Another way to shape light is by using flags, dots or fingers.

Flags are like taking one of the flaps in a barn door and just using that to block the light. They come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Generally, larger ones are called flags, if the flag is smaller and narrower in shape – it’s generally called a finger. If it is round, we call it a dot. In reality, they are all different sizes and shapes of the same thing; a way to block light from hitting some part of, or your entire subject.

Above are samples of a finger and a dot, a flag is the same thing, just larger. We don’t usually think of permanent, stationary objects as flags, but a tree trunk or an overhanging leaf-covered branch that blocks light from hitting your model would be the same concept.

What if we don’t want to completely block the light, but instead want to cast a specific shadow on our scene?

Imagine taking one of the above flags and cutting out a pattern. For example, cut away all but a big ‘T’ and when the light shines through it, it will cast a shadow that resembles the shadow cast by the panes in a window frame. Or you could cut out a pattern of leaves and have that pattern striking your backdrop to add to the complexity of your photography light source.

13 Bad Photography Habits That Can Ruin Your Photos

13 Bad Photography Habits That Can Ruin Your Photos

Do this simple test below. See if you have developed some of these bad photography habits. They are easy to pick up, but hard to shake off! For each bad habit, give yourself a test score. Finally, resolve to drop at least one of these habits this year.

01 Leave the Camera at Home

The best camera is the one you have with you – even if it’s on your smartphone. Not every photo you take is photography competition material, or is of commercial value. Regardless, a huge megapixel count and optimum lens quality on a DSLR is useless if left at home. You can see why tis is right up the top of the list of bad photography habits, right?

02 Rely on a Single Memory Card

Those little storage cards are hugely expensive, but the temptation to be frugal will bite you on the bum. Murphy’s Law states that your memory card will fill up precisely when you’re shooting that ‘money shot’; when the light is right; or when the entire group is all smiling at you. The remedy? Buy more memory cards.

03 Don’t Back Up Your Photos

I know a friend who fills up a memory card with images, then buys another, fill that up, then buys another – a dangerous habit! He recently confessed he’s lost some of his precious photos. Personally, I have experienced the pain of having a hard drive fail, losing more than a year’s commercial photography work. To be super-secure, you really should store your photographs in three different locations.

04 Chimp

Constantly checking your images on the LCD display is called chimping, and it’s a really bad photography habit. To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with it, per se, except if you’re into street photography, or at a wedding or party. You may miss that definitive moment, as you’re too engrossed in the perfectionistic tendency of chimping.

05 Shoot From Eye Level

Amateur shutterbugs tend to hold the camera at head-height. However, this will produce predictable results. When shooting in a location, learn to ‘work the scene’. Drop to your knees, or even lie on the ground, searching for fresh angles. An aerial perspective can be stunning. Remember that the best tool of composition is your feet.

06 Fail to Consider the Background

Look for a simple background behind your subject. For example, avoid having a telephone pole (in the distance) that appears to protrude from a person’s head. If you have a long lens, you can employ a narrow depth-of-field to blur the background. This will isolate your subject from the clutter beyond, achieving a degree of separation.

07 Center the Subject

Ignore the rules of composition at your peril. This bad photography habit is practiced all too often. If you want your photos to stand out, learn and use the Rule of Thirds, rather than place your focal point bang in the middle, like most folks do, (in blissful ignorance). Or, add dynamic by tilting your camera at an angle. Don’t forget to try different types of framing: portrait orientation versus landscape orientation. Or even a really wide panoramic crop.

08 Shoot Only in Bright Daylight

Confession time… I am guilty of this. Because I trained back in the bad old days of film, when strong light was necessary to capture good images, I became a fair-weather photographer. Also, I used compact digital cameras for a decade, which were hopeless in low light situations. So I was infatuated with clear, blue skies, as cloudy skies often washed out into a white haze.

However, under a harsh, midday sun, shadows are short and therefore objects do not look three-dimensional, lacking form. Human subjects may squint into the sun, or blink. Worse, they may have an ugly ‘sun-dial’ effect under their noses! Better to pose people in the shade.

Landscapers should learn to work with softer, diffused light – this is mandatory for waterfall scenes. Thunderclouds overhead will introduce a sense of foreboding that blue skies cannot. Golden hour lighting will exude warmer tones and longer shadows.

09 Don’t Read the Camera Manual

Same old story: you buy a new camera, put the box away and the camera’s manual stays inside the plastic bag. Perhaps you were too eager to use your new gadget. Well, now it’s time to dig out the manual and attack it with a highlighter pen. Not so much a bad photography, as a really obvious rookie mistake I guess, but still, it is often the source of lost opportunities in photography.

Be methodical, and diligently work through each function of your camera. You may find features you didn’t know existed!

10 Shoot on Auto

If you haven’t read the camera manual, your photos may suffer from the restrictions of shooting in Automatic mode. Modern cameras are amazing, and can produce great results on Auto, but not consistently. Better to take control yourself. Learn the semi-automatic shooting modes, such as Shutter or Aperture Priority. Then, if you are brave, try shooting on Manual.

11 Think that Post-Processing Can Fix Everything

This is a lazy habit to fall into. It’s much better to get a shot right in-camera, including the correct exposure, as blown-out highlights cannot be retrieved later. Another consideration is ensuring that the horizon is straight, or you will lose the edges of your image when rotating then cropping it on a computer. Use the 3 x 3 grid on your LCD display, or a spirit level fitted on the hot shoe.

If you shoot landscapes, buy some ND and ND Grad filters. The most useful filter is the Polariser, the effects of which cannot be replicated using software. Finally, it’s better to do a bit of gardening, removing distractions from a scene, than be forced to clone them out in Photoshop – tedious work!

12 Shoot Only JPEGs

JPEG files are compressed. Unfortunately, this narrows the dynamic range of your photographs, and changes the colour, according to the camera’s presets. This can’t be undone. Shoot using the RAW file format, as this is more forgiving. RAW allows you the latitude to correct exposure and colour, as well as sharpen the image, on computer software. Think of RAW files as digital negatives, that need processing and fine tuning.

13 Post Too Many Photos

We all take poor pictures, badly exposed or blurry… but there’s no need to inflict these on the unsuspecting public! Carefully select only your best images, then process these on the computer.

Also, display a variety of images on social media, or online galleries, but limit these to 3–5. Essentially, don’t submit minor variations of the same shot.

So, what’s your score? How many bad habits can you identify with? Tick these habits and tally up your total.

SCORING

1–3 habits: Wow! You are disciplined, and must have done a few photography courses.

4–6 habits: Not bad. But there is room for improvement.

7–9 habits: Don’t despair; there’s still hope for you.

10–13 habits: You need professional help!

10 Commandments for Landsacapers

10 Commandments for Landsacapers

To take the stunning photographs you want to there is a lot more to consider than just the old point and shoot. Planning is the key and you will find that the more research and planing you do the less time you will need to spend trying to figure out the how. This will also reduce any potential expense you may encounter through the consumption of not just time, but other resources that don’t come freely.

Let’s explore the ten commandments for landscape photography that have helped us catch that exact shot we have been looking for.

The Photographer's Ephemeris - Dark Photography01 Use The Photographer’s Ephemeris to calculate the time and the path of the sun and moon as they set and rise. TPE is a great little app that has so many handy features built into it. You can set pins in the map to come back to at later dates and plan your attack to get the perfect position in those precious moments of the most creative soft light. The sun and the moon, just like the tide, wait for no man; so be prepared. You can find this great tool online at http://photoephemeris.com/

02 Check thy tide charts. With coastal scenes, an out-going tide will leave a pristine beach, free of footprints. Rocks will still be wet and hence, reflect the light.

03 Check thy gear before leaving home. Batteries must be charged; memory cards must be empty. The tripod shoe should be on the camera. Lenses and filters must be clean.

04 Arrive at thy location one hour early. If thou art relaxed, thou wilt be in a better frame of mind to produce great images.

05 Scout thy location thoroughly, looking for likely compositions. Pre-focus. Wait for the right light.

06 Use a hot shoe spirit level to keep the horizon straight. (This is very useful for video, or when shooting in the dark.) Alternatively, of course, if thou hast a recent-model DSLR, it may have an in-built level.

07 Tell someone exactly where thou art going.

08 Thou shalt look after thyself. Don’t forget to fuel up. Have snacks, hot drinks, music, warm clothes, first aid and cellphone.

09 Know thy gear. (Thou cannot see thy camera controls in the dark). When the sun is setting, thou wilt only have a short window of opportunity to capture the best light. Now is not the time to be fumbling around trying to read the manual in the impending darkness!

10 Thou shalt have fun! If it doesn’t work out, don’t fret. Pack up, go home and treat thyself to a hot shower or a decent meal. It is not uncommon for two out of three photo shoots to fail. That is, thou may not have bagged any great photos. But this can be par for the course, as one cannot completely control the vagaries of the weather… the wind, the tides, the clouds.

Indeed, it is precisely this uncertainty which makes Landscape Photography such an exciting pursuit.

5 Habits of Highly Effective Photographers

5 Habits of Highly Effective Photographers

To be truly effective when taking photographs you need a mix of skill, knowledge and above all, patience. Frustration through a lack of ability to get the shot you want will, more often than not, drastically reduces your chances of succeeding. Don’t let your emotions get in the way, keep a level head and apply these five habits of highly effective Photographers.

01 Don’t expect your camera to do all the work

This means saying goodbye to ‘Auto’ and bravely using other modes such as Aperture Priority or Manual.

  • Read the camera manual, several times, to get familiar with your gear.
  • Gradually work through various functions and features on your camera.
  • Take control of the camera, and the lighting conditions you are faced with.
02 Understand that pressing the shutter is only half of making a good photograph
  • Modern cameras are still no match for the human eye, and have lots of limitations, especially in low light situations.
  • Post-processing has been done since the invention of photography (either in a traditional darkroom or on the computer). This is where you polish your final images, and make adjustments to compensate for the constraints of the camera.
  • Select and present only the very best images from a photo shoot.
  • Store a backup copy of your images onto an external hard drive.
03 Publish photographs

So your photographs aren’t destined to die on a dusty hard drive, unseen by the world, take these steps to keep them alive.

  • Share your work to get constructive feedback from your peers, such avenues can include; online galleries such as 500px, Flickr, Google +, Instagram, or a Facebook group.
  • Present your images as a means of self-expression; these are your contribution to recording the world, from your point of view. Get them framed, make greeting cards, calendars, show them in art galleries, photo-books, or even as prints inside a photo album.
04 Get inspiration from other photographers you admire
  • Read eBooks, magazines, blog posts, look at Facebook posts, or view YouTube videos.
  • Visit galleries, take workshops or go on a photography tour to learn from a more experienced shooter.
05 Travel in search of fresh subject matter

Effective Photographers are always in search or fresh subject matter. This could be a range of things that can bring about inspiration, and could be anything from interesting locations to photogenic people.

  • On a micro level, you need to use your feet to find fresh angles and perspectives – you need to ‘work the scene’, and don’t just settle on the first composition you see.
  • On a macro level, you need to consider visiting exotic or remote locations away from home and opening your eyes to new possibilities.
  • Avoid shooting clichés, looking for a new ‘take’ on well-photographed subjects.

Cookies And Gobos

Cookies And Gobos

In photography, we call these patterned flags a “cookie”. They are very useful for adding a little life to a backdrop or creating a scene.

In the theater, they are called “gobos” which stands for GOes Before OpticS the gobo is physically located between the light source and the lights optics. It is actually inserted into the light’s housing. To avoid being burned up and ruined by the intense heat of the lights, theatrical gobos are generally made of metal.

In photography, we don’t place a gobo between the light source and the light’s optics. Instead, we place it in front of the light. It is between the light source and the area we want the shadow to fall upon. So, though it does the same basic thing, it technically isn’t a gobo. In photography, we call them cookies.

The term “cookie” comes from the repetitive “cookie cutter” patterns that most cookies have.

The major difference being that since a gobo comes before the light’s optics; it is easier to control the focusing of the shadow images. They are much sharper than what we get with a cookie.

Cookies can be made of most any materials ranging from metal to paper and everything in between. We have this flexibility since the cookie isn’t subjected to the heat that a gobo has to endure.

In this picture of the cat, the cat appears to be snoozing with the late afternoon sunlight shining through the window. In reality, it was shot with a hard light source and a cookie which has been cut to resemble the ‘T’ shapes of the window crossbars.

Sometimes the use of a cookie is not hidden and is very obvious, other times it’s hard to tell.

In the picture of a girl looking out a window in the late afternoon light, the window coverings, or slats, are casting a shadow on her face. The final picture with the rose on the table is one where I was fooling around with shadows and it is pretty obvious that there is a cookie involved.

Question; is this a real scene of a girl looking out a window? Or is it a studio shot with a hard light source and a cookie? There’s no way to know, and that’s the whole point.

Obviously, since they are smaller, it is easier to modify studio lights with flags, dots, and so on, but the sun can be controlled too!

Flags can be put between the subject and the sun to either block the light or cast a shadow. Natural objects, like a building, trees and so on can be used as well.

Light Shaping and Snoot

Light Shaping and Snoot

One big benefit of using a hard light is that it is easier to control where it is going. Diffused light flies off everywhere, and because of its ability to wrap around a subject, it can be difficult to fine tune. If you have a hard light that is striking more of the scene than you want, you can easily block it with barn doors, flags, snoots, cookies, and gobos.

All of these are basically objects you put in front of or around the light to block or modify it. I call it shaping the light.

Barn Doors

If you have a studio type of light and you want to stop the light from hitting any particular areas of your set, you could attach what are called ‘barn doors’ to the front of the light. Barn doors usually come in sets of two or four adjustable flaps that you can open or close to either block the light, or allow light to shine through and onto your subject.

This is particularly useful in backlights or hair lights where any stray light would strike the lens and cause lens flare if it weren’t blocked. Here are examples of barn doors.

By adjusting the various flap (barn doors) the hard light can be directed to or blocked from any area that you want. The images below show a hard light being used to light the little girl’s hair. I’ve used barn doors to narrow the light to only hit her hair. If I had not used barn doors (or some other modification method) the light, which was shining directly towards the camera, would have hit the lens and caused a flare. It would have ruined the shot.

The Snoot

If you are using barn doors and are still getting too broad a light and you want to narrow it down even further, another accessory that is used to shape and modify a studio light is called a ‘snoot’.

A snoot is simply a cone that is placed over the light source and serves to focus the light down to a smaller light source. This emulates a tiny spotlight and tends to make the light even harder than before.

This is a sample of a snoot mounted on the front of a light. The function of a snoot is to make the light source smaller, harder and to have it cover a more focused, specific area. If you want your light to only hit a small, specific area – a snoot is just the thing!

snoot - www.darkphotography.org

You can buy a commercially made snoot to put over your light or you can make your own. All a snoot is, is a cone to narrow down the beam of light. You can make a pretty effective snoot by simply taping a cone of paper around the outer edge of your light.

diy snoot - www.darkphotography.org

Homemade snoots cost next to nothing and will do the job. There are a few drawbacks though, the most important being that since they if they are made out of cardboard or paper, they are going to be flammable. Be sure you don’t use a homemade snoot on a hot light, and never leave your lights unattended when using homemade modification devices.