Featured Gallery Photographers Explain Their Views On Their Photography

John Knopf


I first want to thank Graham Houghton who’s instructional material on bridge cameras and photo tips have been invaluable for my photographs.  My first photo tip is to acquaint yourself with as much of Graham’s photo website instructions, explanations, and YouTube videos as possible. 


If you own the Panasonic FZ200, do yourself a favor and purchase his book on this camera.  I have found that the more familiar you are with the camera you own, the more you will learn its limitations (all cameras have them), and then be able to figure ways to work around those limitations while taking advantage of the camera’s strengths.  I am aware I have much more to learn, but this is part of the fun, especially with guidance from someone of Graham’s photography expertise.


From my Flickr account, my surfing photos seemed to have generated the most interest.  I look for three basic things for these action photos: the pose and expression of the surfer, the shape and color of the wave the surfer is riding on, and the proper exposure of both the surfer and the wave. 


To freeze the movement of both the surfer and the wave, I set either my FZ200 or FZ1000 to 1/1600 of a second shutter speed.  I place the camera in burst mode, but not at the highest burst rate.  I use 7 frames per second for the FZ1000 and 5 frames per second for the FZ200. 


This provides me with automatic focus for each individual shot during the burst.  The camera is set to AFF, i.e., automatic focus flexible, since the movement of the surfer is not constant or in just one direction.  I engage the “auto-focus tracking” for the camera, allowing the camera to hold onto and track the surfer during his ride.  (My son-in-law’s FZ300 is a joy to use for auto-tracking -- simply engage the auto-tracking feature, then touch the subject you want to track on the touch screen.) 


I use “center-weighed” exposure which gives me the best exposure for both the surfer and the wave.  The “spot” meter provides a good exposure of the surfer, but can overexpose the wave and often yield blown-out surrounding areas.  “Multi-area” exposure provides a good exposure of the wave/water, but can leave the surfer very underexposed, and at times, almost a silhouette.  Last, I set the camera to enable me to zoom from the lens barrel with my left hand while keeping my right hand/finger on the shutter button.  I save these settings in one of the “custom” selections so that I can quickly call them up.  Of course, these settings can be utilized for a variety of action-shot situations, not just for the sport of surfing.


Although I have been enjoying the improved detail that the larger sensor on the FZ1000 can capture over my FZ200, my FZ200 (or the FZ300) can achieve fantastic surfing captures, and some of my favorite surfing shots have been achieved with my humble and trusty FZ200.  Here are two of my FZ200 favorites.  (photo #1 & #2 )  For the first photo, I like the extreme right-angle profile, the surfer’s forward-leaning posture and outstretched fist giving a feel of power, the streak of white from the surfer’s board cutting the water showing speed, and the “green wall” of color from the wave framing him.  In the second photo, I like the high position of the surfer on the wave as well as the color and detail of the wave itself.


For low-light photography, both my FZ200 and FZ1000 are limited by noise in higher ISO settings.  I learned from Graham to set the FZ200 ISO to go no higher than 400 ISO, and for my FZ1000 with its larger sensor, I set the ISO limit to 1600 ISO. 


For non-moving subjects in low-light, I set both cameras at or near their best quality ISO and use a tripod for a timed exposure.  If I am not carrying a tripod (which I am usually not), I set the camera on a stable surface, and then to avoid camera movement when pushing the shutter button, I set the camera to the 2-second shutter release letting the camera fire the shutter. 


For both cameras, I either let the camera decide on the exposure length after setting the low ISO or experiment with several shots at varying longer exposures.  For the photo below of the foggy Mark Twain riverboat (photo #3 ) taken with the FZ1000, I used near the widest focal length to enable me to use an f/3.1 aperture.  I then set the camera to a low 200 ISO, braced the camera against an iron rail fence, and shot a one second exposure using the auto shutter release.  I also carry a mini-tripod that has three, seven-inch legs as well as a velcro strap to attach it to a post or rail.


The FZ200 (and FZ300) have the strength of the constant f/2.8 aperture throughout the entire zoom range allowing it to capture photos in low light at full zoom.  In the photo below (photo #4 ), I handed my wife the camera after setting it up, and she captured the photo of my daughter at a middle school Christmas concert shot from quite a distance back in the center of a darkened auditorium. 


However, for my FZ1000, the more I zoom in, the smaller the aperture size gets, thereby letting in less and less light.  My work-around is to “zoom with your feet.”  In low-light situations without a tripod, I keep the FZ1000 at its widest focal length giving me access to its f/2.8 aperture, then frame my subject by moving the position of my body either forward or backward. 


I enjoy visiting museums which often have displays in very low light, and I don’t always want to carry around a tripod.  My FZ1000 has been able to capture hand-held, low-light photos in these situations at f/2.8 where my FZ200 was unable using the same f-stop due to the FZ200’s lower performance at higher ISO’s compared to the improved low-light performance of the FZ1000.  The three FZ1000 low-light photos below (photo #5, #6, #7 ) are examples of these situations and illustrate the quality that can be achieved at 1600 ISO with this camera.  


Last, I have two “go-to” post-processing photo programs I regularly use, “Photoshop Elements 11” and a Topaz Labs plug-in called “Clarity.”  One of the Photoshop Elements’ tools I like to use at times is the “depth-of-field” tool to blur the background in order to emphasize the main subject from the background.  Two before-and-after shots are provided below (photo #8, #9, #10, #11 )


I usually shoot jpeg photos, not RAW with my FZ200 and FZ1000, and the Topaz Clarity plug-in allows me to lighten or darken “black level”, “mid tone”, or “white level” tone areas in jpeg photos with three separate sliders.  This, for example, allows me to lighten heavy shadow areas to bring out details without affecting other areas of the photo (the “brightness” slider in Photoshop Elements affects the entire photo when moved, so if making the shadow areas brighter when using it, properly exposed areas of the photo can become too bright). 


The Clarity plug-in also has individual sliders for adjusting the saturation level of eight different colors in jpeg photos allowing me to make individual color adjustments without affecting the color of the photo overall.


I hope this has been helpful. Grab your camera and have fun shooting.



John Knopf