250 sales on Dreamstime

Generations of sailors
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Yesterday I reached 250 sales on Dreamstime. Above you see the last picture that was sold to complete the 250. Since 2009 I have been selling a slowly increasing number of pictures, although it is not a lot (especially not in money) compared to some of the other contributors to Dreamstime, I am proud of it.

2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
22 35 41 33 49 66

I always wonder where my pictures appear. Do they appear in books, magazine, calendars, or on the web? It is impossible to find out because the buyer is known only to Dreamstime and not to me.
Another question is what kind of pictures are sold and which ones sell best. The interest of the buyers is wide spread; the last couple of years of almost all photoshoots I sell at least one picture. The pictures that sell best are cityscape and waterscapes. Also my two models are doing quite well. Furthermore, my Chinese pictures are also popular. The most popular picture is of Budapest in winter.

Donau through Budapest
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Here you will see all the pictures that are sold via Dreamstime.
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Peking Opera: a must

Peking OperaGoing to the Peking Opera when you visit Beijing is a must. The singing is of course very special, with the high-pitched voices. However, in my opinion, the colorful and elaborate clothes are even more special and nice to take pictures of. Also the movements in combination with the elaborate clothes create interesting lines and shapes.
If you are interested in the history, the roles of the performers, and the visual aspects of Peking Opera please have a look at Wikipedia.
Here you will find an album of some of the pictures I took during a performance. I had taken my general-purpose lens (28-300 mm), which is always good for this type of shoots. There was no way I could have used a flash: annoying, distance, light drop-off. I set the Shutter Speed to make sure that the movements were more or less frozen (1/60sec and 1/100sec), I checked the Aperture to see whether I had enough Depth-of-Field, and the ISO did the rest. A nice memory of a special evening.

First snow in winter 2014/2015 in my hometown

Sneeuw in Hengelo januari 2015In January we got our first snow of the winter 2014/2105 in my hometown. Always a pleasure to take pictures, especially if you are the first to walk through the snow.
Taking snow pictures is not easy. The camera tries to turn all the white in the picture into gray. Although our brains try to see it as white (because we know that snow is supposed to be white) it still does not look nice. So, OVEREXPOSE. How much, depends on the scene. So, experiment! If you overexpose too much, you will loose detail.
Below you see two pictures, on the left no exposure compensation and on the right one-stop  over compensation. As you can see, the right picture the snow looks whiter.
Sneeuw in Hengelo januari 2015 Sneeuw in Hengelo januari 2015
Here are some pictures I took this morning in my garden.

Night Shots – Chinese Light Show

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In 2012 there was a wonderful Chinese Light Show in Rotterdam. A perfect opportunity to practice night shots. It is important to try to make areas where there is ambient light as dark as possible. Therefore, preferably work in Manual Mode, and

  • keep the ISO value low (no noise),
  • keep the Shutter Speed low (no ambient light),
  • use an Aperture for the required Depth-of Field (DoF).

These suggestions of course contradict each other, so it is important to find the right balance, to get sufficient light on the sensor. In this case I used my D700 which even for high ISO values produces very little noise. So, this gave me the freedom to set the Shutter Speed to 1/60 sec, enough for not noticing my shaky hands (it was in the middle of winter). I also used my 50mm prime lens, which is very light sensitive. Because most of the objects were far enough so even with an Aperture of 1.8 I had still enough DoF.
Here are some of the pictures I took at the Chinese Light Show in Rotterdam. Maybe you recognize the Temple of Heaven, which I visited in 2013.
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Flash: how to make it easy

flashesIn the beginning I used the built-in flash of my camera. Although I realized that the pictures I took had little to do with what I saw, I did not know what to do. Then I bought a separate flash for the hot shoe on the camera. The reason was that this one was more powerful and I could use the ceiling or a wall to get indirect light. Although this was an improvement, it was still not what I had in mind.
The Hot Shoe Diaries and Sketching Light of Joe McNally made me aware of the wide variety of possibilities of using one or more flashes and getting better pictures. He is a very enthusiastic author and makes using several flashes to get better lighting easy. This book has been very influential for me.
The first step is to take the flash off the camera and put it either on the right or left of you. This will create some shadows and gives a better feeling of three dimensions. This is quite an improvement compared to the built-in flash that hits the subject right in front leaving only cast shadows. Cast shadows, by the way,  can be avoided in several ways: use several flashes, place the subject far away from the background, make the flash bigger by using a softbox.

single_flash softbox
Small flash – hard light Big light – soft light

The second step is to understand how the camera via the built-in flash (master) communicates with the off-shoe flash (slave) without flashing itself. You probably have to read your manuals. The idea is that the built-in flash communicates with the other flash just before the curtain opens.  If you know how to do this it is quite easy to start using several flashes (left, right, rear, or top) with different flash power. This is real fun!
The third step is choosing the right Aperture and Shutter Speed. Actually, the Shutter Speed has no influence on the light coming from the flash. The duration of the flash is much shorter than the opening of the curtain. With some cameras you can go all the way down to 1/250 sec. On the other hand, if you leave the curtain open a bit longer, like 1/30 sec, then you will also catch some ambient light. It is important to remember that independent of the shutter speed the flash light freezes motion. The Aperture determines how much light we let through to the sensor. In TTL-mode (automatic mode), however, widening the Aperture does not give a brighter picture, only the flash requires less power; in M-mode (manual mode) it would make the picture brighter. In both cases the power balance between the various flashes is important, because it determines how much light each side of the subject gets.
The final step is to experiment:

  • where to position the flashes;
  • the power balance between the flashes;
  • use TTL- or M-mode of the flash;
  • what type of softbox gives the right light;
  • what type of background gives the right atmosphere

Enjoy, you will learn a lot from it!

Forbidden City, Beijing: feeling like an emperor

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The Forbidden City is a special place to visit. It used to be a place where only a limited number of people were allowed to be and now you are surrounded by hundreds of tourists.
Hearing the stories how the women of the emperor were transported in a carpet to the emperor himself for their nightly encounter gives a feeling of a cultural gap. The place is really beautiful to visit and it gives a good impression of how it used to be in those days.
It is difficult to imagine where all the marble comes from. You find it everywhere. The incense burners representing the 18 provinces of China in the Qing Dynasty are enormous. The symbolic value is obvious. Furthermore, looking at pictures of the Forbidden City it looks like it is equivalent to roofs. One can see these yellow roofs everywhere each with your own sequence of animals on it to show the importance of the building.
Here you will find my pictures of the Forbidden City accepted by Dreamstime. Some of them are Editorial because recognizable persons are on the pictures, others required a lot of processing (removing logos, announcements, and other stuff) to fulfill the requirements for a Royalty Free license.
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Shutter speed: slow or fast?

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The Shutter Speed simply determines how long the sensor is exposed to light. Common is to use shutter speeds faster than or equal to 1/60 sec to make sure that slight movements of subjects and maybe also of the camera are more or less frozen. In general this works fine. However,

  • if the lens becomes too long it is best to take a shutter speed 1/x sec, where x is the length of the lens;
  • if due to low lightening the shutter speed becomes too long (less than 1/30 sec) it is best to increase the ISO;
  • if the subject moves fast and is close by don’t underestimate the required shutter speed to freeze the subject;
  • when using flash it is possible to use a slower shutter speed (for example 1/30 sec) to catch some of the ambient light without blurring the subject.

However, freezing the subject might not be the goal. There are many examples where slower shutter speeds better grasp what we experience: lights of moving cars in the dark, waves of the ocean, waterfalls etc. There is an almost unlimited number of possibilities to use slow shutter speed. Crafts and Vision has a nice eBook about this, called Slow by Andrew Gibson. In this case it is a good idea to use a tripod to avoid movements of the camera. Have fun with experimenting with slow shutter speeds.

Hike near Oosterbeek and White Balance

Oosterbeek januari 2015
Last Sunday I hiked near Oosterbeek (see map below). It is a really beautiful area, a mix of woods and open areas, just north of the river Nederrijn. This particular morning you could see the frost and the sun was still pretty low with warm colors. Here you can see some of the pictures I took.

This track comes from www.wandeleninoosterbeek.nl
I always shoot RAW, this allows me to change some of the settings, for example, the White Balance. I set White Balance always to Auto White Balance, AWB. When I am back home I set it to an appropriate value.
Changing the White Balance can have a substantial impact on the way the picture looks: if a picture is taken during normal daylight and we set the White Balance to Shade it will start adding red colors (to compensate the bluish colors in the shade), making the picture warmer. The same happens, however, to a lesser extent when setting the White Balance to Cloudy.
Looking at my RAW pictures I noticed that the pictures looked cooler than I remembered and intended, so during processing I set the White Balance to Cloudy, giving the pictures a warmer expression and also making the effect of the backlight of the sun more visible. Setting it to Shade was a bit overdone. It is just a matter of experimenting.
Keep in mind that we do not have to make an identical copy of reality, we want to make a picture that expresses what we felt when we took the picture.

Aperture: getting to know your DoF

Beautiful view in the Alps, Switzerland
(Aperture f/20, Shutter Speed 1/125 sec, ISO 200) with 16mm lens; DOF is infinite
The Aperture determines the amount of light that goes to the sensor. At the same time it also determines which area of the picture is sharp. A wide open Aperture has a much smaller Depth of Field (DoF) then an almost closed Aperture. For example, for a 50mm lens the DoF at 2 meter is:

  • 26.6cm for an Aperture of f/2.8, and
  • 100.1cm for f/11.0.

This is quite a difference. Also, the DoF decreases for longer lenses. For example, for a 200mm lens the DoF at 2 meter is:

    • 1,5cm for an Aperture of f/2.8, and
    • 6.1cm for f/11.0

(all these values were computed with an iPhone app called Simple DoF of Dennis van den Berg for a full frame camera).
So, the question we should ask ourselves is what type of picture do we want to take. If, on the one hand, we want to highlight our subject it is nice to have a small DoF, because it leaves the background blurry. Our eyes tend to go to sharp areas in the picture and to avoid the blurry areas. Exactly what we want. This is often used for portrait photography. There are a couple of pitfalls to be aware of:

  • a DoF that is too small may unintentionally leave part of the person unsharp;
  • when shooting several people they may not be at the same distance from the camera, so make your DoF a bit bigger to make sure everybody is sharp (unless you don’t want to).

On the other hand, for landscapes and storytelling portrait pictures everything has to be sharp, requiring a large DoF. A common rule of thumb is: if you need a large DoF use a wide angle lens and a small Aperture and for a small DoF use a telelens with a large Aperture. For portrait photography and pictures of details I use my Nikkor 135mm and Nikkor 70-200mm lenses, and for land- and cityscapes I use my Nikkor 16-35mm lens.
Female student working on maquette in design lab
(Aperture f/3.5, Shutter Speed 1/80, ISO 100) with 135mm lens; DOF is 4.3cm

Summer Palace, Beijing: warm sunset colors

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Last year was my first visit to China. My program was packed with business and touristic activities. The day we arrived we hurried to see the Summer Palace of the emperor in Beijing. It was just before closing time and we had a long discussion whether they would take us by boat to the palace.  As it turned out this delay turned into a golden opportunity: perfect sunset colors shining on the various buildings of the Summer Palace and on another boat accompanying us in a city where there is fog almost every day.
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Another advantage was that the touristic market at the Summer Palace was completely desolate giving the opportunity to see the buildings and the boats. This was the first day of a sequence of days I will never forget.
During this trip I used my D700 and general-purpose lens: Nikkor 28-300mm. Here are my pictures of the Summer Palace accepted by Dreamstime. The one with the boat has been sold four times.
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