Beached

I have been struggling to find something to write a post about for the last two weeks. When I first started this blog it was very easy to write about things that I had learnt and show the results as they changed. That’s the most exciting time when you learn something new, but then something happens – a plateau.

When you go to learn something new there is so much that you don’t understand that you can learn something huge, fairly easily, every day. As you learn and learn, though, the amount of effort it takes to get to the next “a-ha!” moment increases every time. I think this is why many people, myself included, start lots of new things and then drop them.

Now I haven’t stopped taking photos, but it’s been tricky coming up with what to write for the next post. I have settled for a few mini posts which chronicle a few days of shooting over the last few weeks. Today’s will be about a trip we took a few weeks ago.

Some friends and I went on a trip to the beach. I am not used to this being a big deal, because in Canada we can go to the beach every day if we want, at least in the summer. It’s about 15 minutes away. In England, though, it’s a 2 hour drive for us. By the time we got there, it was a half hour walk to get to the beach. Halfway into this, we made the mistake of turning around to spot the clouds behind us.

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Beautiful, no? I have to say I am impressed with the tenacity of Brits. We turned around at this point, but we saw just as many people walking towards the beach. Magnificent bastards.

All was not lost. It did start to pour rain, but we did have a picnic lunch in the car. After about 30 minutes of Zeus’ wrath, the rain let up. We started the trek back to the beach, and that’s when I realised that cows do something interesting when it rains, they huddle together and look scared to death just confused, really.

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I took a few others that I am happy with. The main thing I am trying to focus on right now is finding interesting subjects. Dogs are always fun.

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Although there’s not a lot going on, I couldn’t resist including this one.

Next we came across a boat which had been anchored when the tide was higher. This created an awkward situation for the crew.

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I am happy with the composition of this one, but I may have oversaturated the colours a bit. I tend to like very high contrast, popping colours, but you have to get them right otherwise it looks like a cartoon.

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The alternative is to just desaturate it. This feels safer. As a side note, I was happy with how still everything looks in this shot.

Lastly, I had to take a photo of this legend.

kiteguy_1It’s hard to tell from the photo, but this guy was struggling. The winds were intense, and his kite was whipping up and down and smacking into the sand every minute or so. He kept at it, though, for at least an hour. I took the shot at a bit of an angle and I think it makes a kind of jumbled feeling which is what it looked like.

Finding subjects to photograph, and finding interesting ways to shoot them, is what I am focusing on at the moment. It’s fine to know your editing program and camera and produce nice looking photos, but ultimately these are just tools for getting the effects that you want. What I’ve tried to to is take some photos that stand on their own, without an accompanying blog post, that are interesting to look at. This is the area where I need to work the most on, and I don’t think it’s a concrete skill that you can master by reading a book or watching a bunch of tutorials.

When I reach a plateau like this, and I feel like there’s not much else to learn, I try to push myself and get to a new peak. This is the most frustrating part of learning– not the plateau, but the peak that you reach by pushing past it, only to realise that you’re at the top of a foothill surrounded by mountains. It’s pretty easy to get some nice looking photos, maybe even some interesting ones. The cameras and computers we have do so much of the work for us. What’s hard is the what, when, and why of a photo rather than the how.

A walk in the park

Fairly near to where I live there is a massive park with several soccer fields and play areas. Since my girlfriend’s feet are still in terrible shape from walking 26 miles last week,  we went for only a little walk through here yesterday to take advantage of the nice weather. I saw this as an opportunity to take some daytime shots and see if I can improve my eye for interesting shots.

Here’s what we have available:

  • trees
  • dogs
  • grass
  • sky
  • families
  • trees

As I’m not entirely comfortable walking up to strangers and shooting them, I opted for trees and dogs.

Let’s start with dogs.

I am not good at photographing dogs. I knew I wanted a fast shutter speed, but I didn’t go nearly fast enough for the speed those little guys run. All of the moving shots have some blur, except for the first one where he’s kind of trotting.  I had some issues framing the shots, as I only had a split second to get them. In general, I think you want the dog to be running into the frame, with lots of ‘room’ for him to go…which they don’t have. None of these are candidates for editing or anything putting up for show, really. They are cute, though, so there you go.

The trees were a little better. I had less issues keeping up with the trees.

So, how do you shoot a tree?

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There’s the basic shot. It’s certainly…there. Technically speaking, the sky’s blown out, but really I just find this a bit boring. I went for a small crop and toned down the brightness a bit and came up with this:

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It seems a bit dark once uploaded, but hopefully you can see more of the sky. I upped the saturation a bit just to make the sky and grass pop out a bit more. This is just, a bit boring, though. There’s no mood, really. It’s a tree.

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I also got some shots like this, which is an option. This is part of a tree! It’s a bit more interesting than shooting it straight on, but the macro shots aren’t really my thing.

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There, we found a more interesting tree. It’s deadish and has some spooky cavernous bits. Shot straight on, though, it’s still boring. It looks like the tree’s posing for a graduation photo.

So, I tried my luck with some close ups at odd angles. Here are my favourites:

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They still suffer from the technical problems of the first, though. The sky’s blown out. I like the angles a bit more, and so I had a go in rawtherapee bringing some interest out of these.

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Colour didn’t do a whole lot for this one, so I put it through a black and white filter and fiddled with the brightness. I still felt that this one was a bit boring so I tried increasing the contrast a bit:

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What do you think? I think the contrast gives it a bit of a spooky vibe. Definitely more interesting than the straight on shot.

 

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For this one, I kept the colour in as it had some nice contrast anyway. The clouds make an interesting swirl around the top, and I darkened it to give it some more drama. Not sure I’d use this in a portfolio, but it’s an improvement.

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I really enjoyed this one. Bringing the exposure down a bit shows the dramatic bits of lighting in the sky. It creates a kind of halo around the tree, and comes across like some kind of obelisk.

As always, the image you think will be the best is rubbish.

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I missed focus on the text by a tiny bit, and it kind of ruins the image altogether. I adjusted the levels and used photoshop to sharpen the card only, but it doesn’t help much…

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Perhaps I’ll go back and re-take the shot another day and get the focus right. It’s an interesting shot, and it’s probably the most interesting subject in the park.

I continue to struggle with finding the right line with editing. I don’t like overdoing it, but I want to bring out the interesting parts of the picture. I think I accomplished that for a few of these, and I am happy with how my intentional change of perspective created some workable images.

Feeling it out

Photography, for me, is a hobby. I don’t have hours to spend travelling just to take photos, so I take what I can get. It’s a kind of creative restraint that I try to get some decent shots in the down time whenever I go to a new place. Luckily, my camera is tiny and I kind of just have it with me all the time.

This weekend I took a train into London to meet up with my girlfriend who had just finished an event. The plan was to go out for breakfast and take the train back. Since her event finished at 7AM, I had to be there on the first available train. Being an early bird, this was no problem. I arrived at my station about an hour early.

And then it started to pour rain.

Soaked from top to bottom, I managed to get into the cover of an awning and wait for the next train, a half an hour later. It was a perfect time to get some shots.

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I had no idea what this would turn out like when I took it. I knew I wanted to be in the middle of the tracks, which is fairly easy since there’s a covered bridge over them, but I’d be lying if I said I knew it would look as eerie as it does now. It wasn’t until I brought it into rawtherapee and brought the blacks up and fiddled with the white balance that I realize I had a shot that actually had some…atmosphere to it. This was a bit of a eureka moment for me, as up until now I had just been trying to get my shots to be somewhere near decent on a technical level. Is it a perfect shot? Certainly not, but it’s got something which I hadn’t even realized I was trying to get, which is a sense of atmosphere and emotional connection.

Most of my shots look like this.

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Which is just…why? What’s this saying? What’s the mood? Oh, it’s a nice sunny day..  Wow. There are some nice lines.. Almost anyone could walk out their door and take a shot like this. It’s boring.

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This is a shot from the reverse perspective. Train tracks are cool, there’s some blue stuff. Whatever. This sucks.

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This is a shot of that camera in the bottom right of the last picture, shot through a bit of fence. I really like this picture, but I had no idea I would at time. I do find CCTV cameras a bit creepy, and all the fences and security measures in this country can be a bit cold and impersonal at times, but I definitely wasn’t thinking that when I shot this. It was only upon editing it – with very little I might add- that I realized it looked like a still frame from a dystopian film.

These are the kind of shots I want to take. Ones that express a feeling, a mood, or a story. This is kind of hard to do. I don’t even know if it’s worth focusing on taking shots like this, and explaining what you like about them makes you sound like a douche. But, here we are. There’s no guarantee that it’ll have the same meaning or message to anyone else, but at very least I find it satisfying to make something that clicks with me.

Recovery

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This is a shot I took this week that I was really excited about. I loved the colour in the sky, and I thought it would turn out brilliantly. I wasn’t too happy with the result since the foreground turned into a silhouette, and trying to bring it back resulted in massive amounts of noise.

So far I have been using a combination of Sony’s Image Data Converter to edit my images, and it’s had mixed results. The advantage is that it lets you edit the actual RAW files, and export them as a TIFF into photoshop. I am not sure if the TIFF loses some detail, but it seems like it was limiting what I could do.

I had some free time so I decided to try out rawtherapee which was recommended by Tony Northrup on his youtube channel. I was put off at first because of the massive amount of options the program features, but I gave it a go and, after some tinkering, managed to get some nice results. There is definitely a learning curve, but the program is much more powerful…

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Through a bunch of tinkering with noise reduction and exposure, I was able to recover loads of the foreground detail, making this into a much better image. There are way too many little tweaks I had to do to mention here, but I do plan on posting some step-by-step photo editing stories once I get a firm grasp of the program. I highly recommend it for anyone, especially if you don’t have the cash for lightroom.

Shots at Dusk

A few nights ago we finally got some nice soft light making it through the clouds. I had to wait until 8:30 and drag myself out of relaxation mode, but I haven’t shot many pictures at a time I know the light will be nice, and I was hoping to get some good results.

Setting my shots up properly is an ongoing concern, because I’m still not getting the results I want. A week ago on a similar walk (on a cloudy night) I took some fairly grainy shots with ISO set to Auto which I thought would yield reasonable results. I got some shots like this…

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And also some shots like this:

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Which at this size aren’t too bad. It definitely could use some editing, but it’s passable. At the time, though, I was not happy with the amount of grain I was getting in my shots. Based on my (little) knowledge of how things work, I assumed if I set a lower ISO I would get less grainy pictures. This is true, but upon further research and experimentation I’ve found in low light settings, the real problems come from a low ISO, and higher ISOs can actually reduce the grain you get.

So, when I went out to get some pictures of the nice light, I set my ISO to 400, assuming that it was high enough for the light conditions, and I went to work.

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I shot these with ISO 400, in aperture priority mode. I am not happy with these images for two reasons. First, they are either too dark or too bright. I lost lots of detail in the dark areas and some of them are just too bright. Some of them were very grainy. I assumed that I could get the detail back in Photoshop because I shot in RAW, but that just made everything a muddy mess. The detail just wasn’t there; I had buggered up the exposure. My favourite shot of the night…

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Is nearly black in the bottom half. The sky is beautiful, but the foreground is solid black. This creates an interesting effect, I think, but it’s not what I wanted.

The second issue I have with these is the amount of grain in some of them. They look like they were shot in the dark with the ISO cranked way up, but it seemed like there was plenty of light when I was out and about. I have been researching the issue, and I think there are a few problems with how I’ve shot these.

Using aperture priority mode at night for shots that I have time to set up is a mistake. I should have shot fully manual and exposed for the foreground to make sure I was within a decent range. I could then check the histogram to make sure I wasn’t getting loads of pitch black parts. At very least, I could change from multi area metering mode to spot metering and pick a part of the foreground to focus on, expose for that, and then (while still holding the shutter halfway) re-compose the shot and take it. This would let me get the proper exposure and keep that precious detail.

Secondly, a tripod could help enormously. I am limited to a fairly quick shutter speed, so there are few things that I can do to get the shots I want. Exposure is all about trade offs, and if I want to have everything in focus (high aperture number), a fast shutter speed (to avoid camera shake) and a low ISO (to avoid graininess) then there is nothing that can compensate for any of these. A tripod would allow me to set a long exposure so that I can set the other settings to whatever I like (I think? I am not sure what the limits are) so that I can get clear shots of landscapes, even at dusk.

Oh, and here is a bird.

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Light and dark

Yesterday some friends and I went for a walk around Thetford Forest, which was a great opportunity for me to take some shots in RAW. Seeing what I could get done with a JPEG got me excited to take a bunch of RAW files and edit them. It’s definitely a difficult process, especially because my monitor doesn’t have the best accuracy. I tend to make things a bit too dark, so getting things right is an ongoing learning process.

One of the first pictures I wanted to play with was one of a nice little clearing where the light was quite dramatically different from the surrounding area.DSC01069

On its own, I like this one. It’s got a kind of ethereal glow to it that makes it look almost like its been edited, but this is the file straight off the camera. This was the first one I had a go at editing, and I think it’s debatable whether I made it better or worse. There’s no crop, I just changed the white balance, curves, and brightness. It’s definitely a very different picture.

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Again, as soon as I put this online it seems much darker than the file on my desktop. I like that there’s a lot more dynamic range, but I think it loses the sense of a glow. I went back and tweaked the brightness and I think the results are much better:

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Next I had a snap with some actual subjects in it which was really nice.

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What’s great about all these pictures is just how massive the trees are, and they really give you a sense of scale. I didn’t want to do a whole lot of cropping, but I also want to get rid of unnecessarily distracting details. I went for a bit of a crop, and added a cooling filter:

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Again, it looks very dark compared to what I had, but I like the crop. I added a cooling filter, but in retrospect I think it’s too much. The original is already lovely, and I definitely need to cool it on my edits.

Next we have a fairly generic shot of some trees.

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I didn’t expect much from this one, but it’s good practice anyways. I cropped a bit of the foreground out, and cooled it off.

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Again, it amazes me how dark it becomes when I upload it. I think the crop helps a lot, as well as the cooling filter. The trees have more definition, and the original looks like it’s got this green tint to it that went away with a bit of tweaking. I am fairly happy with this one.

Lastly, a shot that looked incredible in real life. There are these lines where they’ve cut a line straight down of trees.

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However, the final is washed out and full of unnecessary details. The sky is blown out as well, but that’s what it looked like. I went for a vertically focused crop, and I wanted to make that tree at the end the focus. I also darkened it, and added some soft lighting coming in from the top to give the lighting some depth. This is the most editing I’ve done on a picture, as I’ve actually added in a new element (a sphere of soft light in the top) which I really don’t want to do, but I think it helps.

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Again, this one looks a bit overly sharp and dark in places. It’s working towards the effect that I am looking for, where it’s a bit more dramatic, but it’s a bit much.

It’s funny how the original shot, the edit, and the final uploaded pictures look so different from what you visualise throughout the process. As far as I am concerned, I am going to try and tone down the edits a bit to avoid having the aggressively dark pictures. I am happy with most of the results, but I may be revisiting a few of these later on when I’ve had a bit more practice.

Snip Snap

It seems like the most important skill in photography is editing. Looking through others’ portfolios and youtube videos, I have begun to realize that a big part of what makes photos look as great as they can is a little bit of editing. I have been researching and looking at the tools and techniques other people have used. For my purposes, these are my top three purposes for editing:

  1. Crop the image properly
  2. Fix exposure errors
  3. Add some drama

Since I don’t have the greatest camera in the world, my options for cropping seem a bit limited. I don’t have a very wide angle lens, so I have to try and work with what I’ve got. Still, there’s  almost always a better crop. For example, here is an image I took when I first got my camera:

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Overall, I like this photo. It’s simple, has a clear subject, and feels natural. However, it’s also got a gigantic tree on one side and a telephone pole. Yuck. Let’s try a crop:

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I also tweaked the contrast a bit, but in my mind it’s the crop that makes this a better image. It’s still a bit boring, but you can’t win ’em all.

To practice my edits I have dug up some old files from my Nexus-5 smartphone. Many of these are surprisingly good, but the amount of detail in them is limited. I wanted to see how much I could do to add some drama.

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I actually really like this one of King’s college, and it’s one of my oldest. I tried a crop to ‘fill the frame’ with the important bits:

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I am not entirely happy with this one, as it seems to have lost some contrast and range. It’s definitely got more going on in it, but it seems a bit same-ey. What do you think?

A second shot from the Nexus-5 comes from Oxford:

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It’s a nice shot, but there’s so much going on. Let’s strip it down:

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Again, still not entirely happy with this one. The first one seems to have more scale to it, even if it’s a tad blurry. Maybe it needs a bit more negative space, as the second is just full of objects and feels a bit cramped.

Fixing the exposure is also an important feature of editing. Anyone who knows anything about photography will tell you to shoot in RAW for just this reason (and others). RAW is a file format where your camera takes ALL the data from the image sensor and saves it to a file. Normally, cameras/phones/etc. will save to a JPEG file which may look nearly as good, but loses a lot of information and is more compressed. This makes it harder to correct errors afterwards.

I have not been shooting in RAW, because I am an idiot. All my pictures up until this point have been shot in JPEG, but I’m switching to RAW now because I am getting more comfortable with the edits. Here is an example of a JPEG from the Nexus 5 that I have tried to fix:

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This is a shot of some ladies walking down the street of a rural French village. It’s hard to make them out, as the foreground is underexposed. I went for an aggressive crop and some layered brightness changes:

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This one was the hardest to do. The crop already adds a lot to helping us make out the subjects, but the brightness was a challenge. I had to separate the sky and the rest of the scene from each other with masks and adjust the brightness and curves separately. The result is much clearer, but a little ‘washed out’. I definitely prefer this one, but I wish it had a bit more contrast. If I had been shooting in RAW (or on an actual camera) this would have been a lot easier.

Adding drama is something that is easy to overdo. It’s scary to me to do anything out of the ordinary, because I don’t want to be ‘that guy’. Filters, borders, text, etc. don’t appeal to me, as I want my photos to look like they haven’t been edited. There are a few things I am finding out that allow me to make little adjustments that go a long way, depending on the photo.

Take this shot from Newcastle, for example:

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I was in a hurry to get it, as we were gone through town on an aggressive walk, and my friends up ahead didn’t feel like humouring me as I took tourist photos. In this shot, I knew I wanted to frame it with the arch, but it ended up off-center, and because the camera adjusted for the dark/light conditions, I lost a lot of the detail outside. It has a cool effect if you ask me, but I definitely want some of that detail back.

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Here I went for three things. I cropped the image to look a bit more balanced, I lowered the brightness to  get some of the overblown bits back, and I desaturated the picture (made it black and white). Since it wasn’t a RAW photo, going with black and white makes the loss of detail much less noticeable, as the lines are still there. I am the most happy with this one. The crop worked out well, the contrast is nice, and I got the detail back. Most importantly, it doesn’t look like it was taken while falling down the stairs.

 

Are there any easy and powerful edits that I’ve missed that you use on a regular basis? Please share them in the comments.

Shifting gears

I’ve had a few weeks off from writing since my last post, but I’ve been taking a lot of pictures. I’m trying to break my learning down into significant bits, learning one thing at a time, but that’s maybe not the best way to do it since it seems like there are just a million little things that you have to learn.

I was really excited to shoot in Manual, as I get more control over what happens, but my main motivation is to not be an auto-shot pleb who just coasts on the power of technology. The problem is, I am a pleb, and shooting manually without a viewfinder is difficult enough for people without any type of colour blindness (not me). The next step would be to get into the math of manually measuring exposure, but that still has the disadvantage

of

being

slow.

And for me, photography usually accompanies a social situation where either I have to keep pace with a few friends going for a walk, or I don’t want to stand awkwardly for 5 minutes in the middle of a busy street. The compromise is to use the camera’s powerful metering (how it measures and adjusts for exposure automatically) without shooting fully automatic. For me, the most useful modes are A mode and S mode:

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M is for Manly.

So to understand why these are helpful, we need to understand what they are.

For most point and shoot cameras, the ‘full auto mode’ is the way to go for newbies. This is the green/orange i/camera icons in the picture above, although other cameras might be a bit different. These do almost everything automatically for you. They’ll usually take good pictures, but they can have problems if you have a scene that is unusual, or you want to go for an artistic effect. The M mode is where you control nearly everything – Aperture size, shutter speed, and ISO. The problem with manual is, you don’t always have time to fiddle with all three settings to get them right, and you may be wrong in measuring the exposure correctly.  You also may find that moving objects are too blurry/not blurry enough because it’s using the shutter speed to adjust exposure, not to capture motion, or you may not get a nice depth of field.

This is where the A/S modes come in. A stands for Aperture Priority mode, which is basically the same as AUTO, except you control the aperture, and the camera adjusts the other two. This gives you creative control over the depth of field, and the camera adjusts the other two settings. This is my favourite mode, as for most types of photo I want to to have control over how much of it is in focus, but I don’t necessarily want to fiddle with the exposure. In this mode, I set the aperture size and the camera does the rest.

For example, you can set a very low aperture number (it’s the most open the smaller the number is) which is great for close ups.

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This shot is f/1.8, which is the lowest my camera will go. You get a great depth of field, with only a narrow range of objects being in focus. This makes you look like you know what you’re doing. However, this is not so good for landscapes, where you want to see all the detail possible. As an extreme example, here are some shots taken with f/11 (the highest my camera will go) so nearly everything is in focus.

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I haven’t found that this makes as big of a difference (at least for my camera/lens) as a low aperture number does for close ups. Still, shooting in A mode and just adjusting it depending on whether you are doing portraits or landscapes seems to be a solid way of making things simple while still getting nice shots.

What A mode doesn’t let you do, though, is deal with movement. Prioritising the aperture allows the camera to adjust the shutter speed as it pleases to compensate for whatever aperture size you pick. If you pick a very small aperture (f/11…) it may want to keep the lens open longer to get more light in. This is okay when you are standing still, but when you are moving you may run into trouble. Take these car shots for example:

DSC00569.JPG That’s f/11, so the camera goes to 1/3 of a second shutter speed to compensate. It’s a cool effect, but you might not want that. Or you might want it even more extreme. You might want to have a super fast shutter speed so that you can take perfect (ish) landscapes from a moving vehicle (or…shots of moving people and sports, if you’re into that). S mode is Shutter Priority mode, and it lets you only control the shutter speed while the camera adjusts to the correct exposure by changing the aperture size.

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You’re never going to get a perfect shot while in a moving vehicle, but I’m happy with these. If you wanted to take shots of sports, for example, you’d want to set the Shutter speed to something fairly quick (1/1000 of a second, maybe) which will make the camera shake less noticeable and, more importantly, will freeze-frame the action so you have basically no blur whatsoever.

So, I find Aperture Priority mode is the most useful. I’ll probably be  using that for the majority of my shooting. If I need to shoot something that’s moving, or I want there to be a bunch of blur (waterfalls, yay!) I’ll use S-mode. I consider these to be slightly less manly than full manual, but all that really matters is that you get some nice pictures.

 

 

Project Manual: Learning Exposure

Today I took the training wheels off. It was a very sunny day in East Anglia, so I went out for a few hours with the intent on getting used to shooting with full control over the exposure. I’m trying to focus on learning one thing at a time, but I’ll have to lump in what I’ve learned about the ‘holy trinity’ as a group since they are so related. So, from how I understand it, it works something like this…

You have three settings that control the exposure: aperture size, ISO, and shutter speed. These things need to be balanced to have the correct exposure.

Aperture size is the size of the opening in the front of the lens, with the lower numbers (f1.8 on my camera) letting the most light in, and the highest numbers (f11 on my camera) the least. The trick is, this also controls your depth of field, with the lower numbers making whatever is not in focus blurry, and the higher numbers making it appear as though everything is in focus.

ISO is the camera’s ‘sensitivity to light’. I have no idea what this means in terms of physics, but basically the higher your ISO the more exposed your shot will be. The trick is, the higher your ISO, the more ‘grainy’ your picture becomes. From how I understand it, you generally want this to be as low as possible (80-200) so that you have good picture quality, but better cameras can push up to higher numbers and still look OK.

Lastly, shutter speed is how long the camera shoots the shot for (kinda?) which is measured in time (seconds, etc.). The longer you shoot for, the more exposed the shot will be. The trick is, anything over a fraction of a second and you’re going to have issues with moving objects, since they won’t sit still. You can use a long exposure to make an object get all blurry, since it’s going to move in the time that the camera takes the picture.

So, I’m still a complete n00b at this, so I try to make simple ‘rules’ to follow and pick these up wherever I can. If anyone who is more knowledgeable than me wants to correct me on where I am completely wrong, please do so.

  1. Low aperture number for macro (up close) shots. High number for landscapes. Middle number for indoor/mixed shots.
  2. Use as low an ISO as you can while still letting you balance the other two. 100 for sunny day, maybe like 400 for indoors? Not sure on this one.
  3. If you have a tripod and are shooting stills, use a long exposure so that the other two can be minimised. If not, use something small for this so that your shaky hands don’t screw everything up.

With these being said, I still have no idea how the math is supposed to work for these. I basically took a bunch of shots while eye-balling these settings in complete manual mode, and a bunch with auto-HDR on (a setting I still have to learn about, I just put it on auto because it seemed to help the outdoors shots).

Everything worked fairly well when I was indoors. I used auto focus, set the ISO to 400, the aperture size to f/1.8, and then tweaked my exposure time until it looked alright.

I was overall very happy with how these turned out. I’m probably a bit blind, but I think these match reality fairly closely in terms of colour and brightness. These gave me the courage to go shoot outside when it was bright out. This was a lot of fun, but I found that in very sunny shots where there were shadows, the shadows were black as the face of Satan and the sky looked like the skin of a metrosexual vampire.

The other thing I learned was that, on a bright day, using just the camera’s screen to judge exposure is fucking difficult. I could barely see, as my eyes adjusted to the light, and so I made everything just a bit too dark most of the time.

Still, I took loads of shots. Even a broken clock is right twice a day, and I think when I shot in the shade I was able to get the exposure closer to decent. Most of these I didn’t expect to be any good, but they ended up being my favourites.

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I think the main reason for the rest of the pictures being pretty terrible is because I was eye-balling with the camera’s screen. In the future, I think I’ll shoot on sunny days in a mode with some automated exposure — probably Aperture Priority mode — since I can’t seem to consistently get the exposure right when my eyes are adjusted to the brightness. The other thing I have considered is shooting in RAW and manually tweaking the curves in Photoshop, but that’s kind of pointless right now since I am trying to learn how to use the camera.

Please feel free to comment and give me tips on how to improve my shots. Keep in mind, these are shot on a compact RX-100 so lenses aren’t in the cards.

Project Automatic

I had some time off recently, and decided to scratch my itch to start making stuff. I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures, especially while travelling. I am currently living in the UK, and I want to make the most of it while I am here. Usually, I use my cell phone camera to take pictures, but I want to step up my game. I know basically nothing about photography, but I want to learn. The first step was to buy a camera. I don’t have a lot of money, but I managed to find a decent compact at John Lewis for about £300. It’s an RX-100 vI.

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It’s apparently quite good, and it lets you shoot in full manual mode which is what I’d like to learn. Of course, I have no idea what I am doing yet. I figured the first step was to just go out and take a bunch of pictures, so that’s what I did. These are shot in superior auto mode for the most part. The camera did all the work, I just pointed and shot.

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In these lighting conditions (full sunlight) it took fairly decent ones. I felt that some of them were a bit bright, or a bit dull (left lots of those out) but I take what I can get. I am such a noob that this is actually a bit of a challenge for me – to just find things to take pictures of and to get the framing right. Overall, I am happy with the results, but now I need to learn how to take control of this thing and shoot in manual mode. I’ve started to learn, but I’ll save the juicy details of my learning experience for the next post.