Science of Photography – Rules

To achieve good results or master a process one must follow certain rules. Photography isn’t an exception. There are few written rules which are said to make your photo look better because you now know HOW to take good photos. Few of the rules are listed below. I would like the readers to add more to it and suggest changes, if any. This blog combines the information of me reading (and later implementing) multiple books on photography picked up from my local library. So here’s rule number 1.

Rule #1: The “Half/ Double” rule
In my previous blogs I haven’t discussed the term Exposure. You obtain exposure by combining the values of Shutter Speed, ISO and Aperture. To understand the Exposure concept better, please read the “Glass of Water” analogy. It is the easier way to understand the concept and the only analogy I found thus far. Now that we know what an Exposure means, this rule is about that.

Using any three values an Exposure is achieved, let’s say it’s our INITIAL exposure. Changing one value, will change the Exposure. In order to maintain the same exposure as our INITIAL, if you HALVE one element (either Aperture, Shutter Speed or ISO) you need to DOUBLE the other and vice-versa. For example, if you have a shot setup with a correct exposure of ISO 100, Aperture f/5.6 and Shutter Speed of 1/250, then based on the subject changes decided to cut the Aperture in halve to f/8.0 (remember Aperture is measure in ‘f’ stop and is inverse, so halving it will almost double the value), you would either have to DOUBLE the Shutter Speed to 1/125 (again the same maths as Aperture) or increase the ISO to 200.

Rule #2: The “Rule of Thirds”
When we decide to shoot a prominent subject (a mountain peak, portrait, stationary animal etc.) we generally try to bring the subject in the center of the view finder thinking if we pan the subject in the center, it will be the only center of attraction. This is a false assumption or a myth. “Rule of Thirds” is one of the Composition techniques that allows an off-center composition which is pelasing to the eye and looks more natural. Again you can read more on it from the several available resources, books and internet.

The key elements of your photo should be arranged in thirds. Divide (imaginary or use the Grid Lines, if a feature in your camera) the scene into a matrix of 3×3. The focal point of your shot should be positioned with 2/3rds of the scene to one side, and 1/3rds to other rather than in the middle or close to the edge of the frame.


As you see, the stone tower is positioned to left than in the center which gives this photo an appealing sense and a greater value. Make use if those 4 connection dots to position your subject.

All these rules are guidelines. If you don’t follow, no harm, as long as you are happy with your way of subject exposure and composition. Sometimes it is better to not follow the rules to achieve a different perspective, professionals calls it as Breaking the Rules..!!

Please send in your comments, opinions, and any other rules you may know of.

Science of Photography – Focus and Relativity

The following is a guide on the Aperture sizes based on the area of reference. A crude drawing (drawn in Paint), but works to pass on the message..!!

Aperture Focus – Visual

The above diagram displays three different areas in focus, Subject, Landscape and the Horizon. To denote the focal area for each I have given them a unique id 1-Horizon; 2-Landscape; 3-Subject. Refer the following table now.

Unique IdAperture SizeWhat’s in Focusf/stop
1SmallerEntire shot in focusf/32
2MediumMost shot in focusf/11
3LargestSubject in focus;
everything else behind is
f/4.0 or

The following is a GRAPH (drawn in Visme, an infographic software), visually depicting how the Amount of Light changes when Aperture Size changes and how the Depth of Field (DoF) varies and how the Focus changes. Me being a visual guy, I understand such relativity better when shown in picture.

How to read the above graph:

The larger the aperture (f/1.4, f/1.8) – Less Focus and Shallow Depth of Field
The larger the aperture (f/1.4, f/1.8) – More light can come in
The smaller the aperture (f/22, f/32) – More focus and Deep Depth of Field
The smaller the aperture (f/22, f/32) – Less light can come in

Note: The numbers representing “Amount of Light” are just indicative to show an ascending growth. They are not scientific data. Probably if I research I can replace them with actual scientific unit of measurement called Candela (for curiosity sake,Candela is the standard SI unit for measuring the intensity of a light source for photography), but I won’t. I want to keep this as simple as possible for everyone to understand.

Readers, please let me know what you think about the visuals. Do they help?

Science of Photography – Elements

1: Shutter Speed

“Amount of light let in through the shutter is directly proportional to the amount of time the shutter is opened”

For example, an exposure of 1/500 of a second lets in TWICE as light as 1/1000 of a second. The following picture (Googled) might help understand the factor.

Effects on subject with changes in Shutter speed

Usage: On your camera select the Shutter Priority mode (TV or S). Use, when your subject, or any part of your shot is moving or when there are issues with getting enough light for a correct exposure.

2: Aperture

“Controls the amount of light that is allowed through it to hit the sensor”

A large aperture enables more lightto hit the sendor for the duration of time shutter is open. Aperture is usually expressed in f/stops (f/1.8, f/5.6). For example, a SMALLER f/stop (f/2.0, f/3.5) number indicates a LARGE aperture . Conversly a LARGE f/stop (f/16, f/22) number indicates a SMALLER aperture. The following picture (Googled) might help understand the factor.

Effects on subject with changes in Aperture

Usage: To acheive a good “Depth of Field-DOF” – The amount of an image that is in FOCUS. Shallow DOF means little of the image is in focus; Deep DOF means more of the image is in focus.

On your camera select Aperture Priority mode (AV). This mode gives you the freedom to select desired aperture value such as f/16 or f/22 to get a deep depth of field, while the camera take care of the shutter speed and ISO.

3: ISO

“Measurement of your camera sensor sensitivity to light”

Higher the ISO number, the camera is more sensitive to the light and produce more digital noise.

The higher the ISO the picture will have more noise (more grainy)

Usage: Usually most of the advanced cameras will have this set to AUTO. It starts from 100 and can go to 1000’s depending upon the size of the camera sensor. In broad day light when outside ISO100 works perfectly fine. If you are inside with less light to capture a photo, increase the ISO. In summary, LOWER the ISO when shooting in brighter light, INCREASE the ISO when shooting in dim or less light.

This blog is meant to be a refresher for some and information for others who are just entering into the world of DSLR. By no means I am planning to create or recreate a book on Photography. This is the first blog on the science. More will follow soon.

Trip to Uluru – Day1 Uluru

I have been on many camping trips in my 10 plus years of stay in the USA. First 4/5 years we did strict tent campings, then moved to cabins/yurts, and later started on remote campings (no electricity, no gas, no water, just a wooden or stone made house). I enjoyed every bit of it, being an avid nature lover. My very first camping trip was Uluru since we migrated to Australia. The Outback adventure tour was something out of this world, though. This was a trip that even the trip organizing company (name withheld) didn’t quite know about. This blog is not about the Uluru rock (a.k.a Ayers rock) but the time spent there. One can read about all the facts of Uluru on the internet if interested.

The day came. The plan was to fly from Melbourne to Alice Spring. Stay that evening and start bright and early morning (5am) on a 6hrs trip into the outback. There were 3-4 pick-up locations and our hotel was on the second pick-up point. We three (me, my wife and our son) and other two –  elderly but young couple from Melbourne- boarded with us. It was a mini-bus, a bit set back, as I was hoping for some sort of a rugged 4×4. However, since the group had 15 members, they had to arrange for a mini-bus. The driver, a happy go lucky guy, helped us put our luggage in the caravan attached at the back of the bus which also housed all kitchen stuff – utensils, food etc. Sleepy, we settled in, as the bus made few more pick-up stops and when all were in, we started the arduous journey into the most awaited arid landscape, which I have only heard and read about.  It was something we three have never experienced, not even the Arizona, Nevada landscape come closer to this. We were aghast by the flat land, red sand, sun beaming strong – even in early morning and no human being visible anywhere. It was September of 2015. We choose this month as it is still winter and a better month to be in Uluru.


On the way, we stopped to collect woods for our evening itinerary. This trip being completely in the outback, there were makeup tents and cooking areas and common toilets/bathrooms in some areas. New day, new site, a new camp was the theme of this trip. NO permanent establishments on any sites. We later found out that the cooking was to be strictly on coals as we were bare with amenities on this trip, leaving an absolute nomads life. Hence the wood collection. All of the group members soon embarked upon wood hunting and soon there was a huge pile of woods, good enough for that night and early morning. This was then a routine every single day.


Firewood collection and loading

We were driving through the rugged terrain of Kata Tjuta National Park with the sun blazing up in the sky and air-condition in full swing inside. The temperature was soaring as the day progressed. We were taking it all in what the landscape has to offer. We did stop for some refreshment at one of the locals. Our driver and all of us helped cook breakfast at the facility. A different experience altogether.

20150928_072034Pancakes – from scratch – in the making. There was an area with a shelter provided with a portable gas and a grill. Any bacterias that would be lurking in this facility would have been dead already due to the heat :-). We lived with this assumption for the entire 5-day trip..survival of the fittest?

The afternoon was devoted to enjoying the sites of Uluru, including a visit to the cultural centre to learn about the Tjukurpa (Aboriginal law/religion), a full base walk (10 km loop, 3.5 hours). There was an option to climb the rock but we decided to not do it in order to pay respect to the culture, so we base walk instead. Uluru is a sacred site and Anangu, the indigenous custodians, respectfully ask visitors not to climb it. We all were wondering how the rock could be climbed as we didn’t see a way to do so. The rock is completely smooth with no crevices or outgrowth to hold on to. However, on one side we saw a few metal bars with a rope running along to hold while climbing. But we didn’t see anyone doing so. Glad that people respect the belief of the custodians.

It was then time to view the magnificent sunset on Uluru, with a champagne by the side.


Uluru – during Sunset

 There were hundreds of tourist buses and thousands of tourist flocking to see the sunset. The shades on the rock vary as the sun sets which is a visual treat. It was time to leave the site as we had another long day the next before we cook our dinner and settle in our remote campsite for the first night. As soon as we were back at the campsite, we all begin doing chores. Some of us started helping in the kitchen, cutting veggies, making the dough, preparing stuff we haven’t seen, few of us brought down the twigs and wood from the top of the van, made a big pile and lit it. The primary objective was not to generate some heat but to make coals. Our dinner was going to be cooked on it soon.


If my memory serves right, we had a chicken dish, a beef stuff, a vegetarian dish for few and a nice local damper (Damper is a traditional Australian soda bread, historically prepared by swagmen, drovers, stockmen and other travelers. It consists of a wheat flour-based bread, traditionally baked in the coals of a campfire or in a camp oven: Source Wikipedia). This was an instant HIT. Never had tested such a thing until that evening.

After having a nice warm dinner and a clean-up, we all were given an option to either sleep in the tents (temporary canvas tents already installed on the grounds, enough for all of us) provided or sleep outside in the swags.



The idea of sleeping outside under the open sky was appealing and at the same time was scary as we didn’t know if any night crawlers would want to snug with us. But the enthusiasm overpowered over scariness and ALL of us decided to sleep on the ground. Our bags were sleeping in the tents…!!. It was a unique experience. Sometime in the midnight around 2am, the temperature dropped and we all begin shivering. Good that the fire was burning to keep the area warm enough. We all have positioned our swags around the fire. We were all tired and soon were snoring. We had an early start the next day to view the sunrise over Uluru. Good Night folks…..Sleep tight, don’t let the crawlers bite…!!

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Who agrees with me that the following image is a CHARCOAL and COLOR PENCIL drawing?

In fact it is not. It’s a shot (Aperture Priority) I took today morning from my Canon EOS7D DSLR. This is definitely a distorted image but for some reason I find it interesting. Do you?

Here are the specs for this image;

Lens: EF28-135mm
Shutter Speed: 1/1.3 sec
Aperture – F Number: f/22
Exposure Correction Value: -0.3 EV
ISO 100

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