Saturday, January 12, 2013

Your new digital camera can be a great teacher.

I've advanced my own photography to "manual mode". It should be more scarey than it is, but digital is so forgiving that it shortens the learning curve. Today, I took pictures in full sunlight and snow. I captured these two new visitors to my backyard.

 This young doe has been making a habit of wandering my pet free yard (the dog lives in the garage this time of year) and harvesting my weeds. We were recently visited with a large snow storm, so my garden weeds are more tempting than ever.
I had my camera set to manual mode at 1/40 sec and F 5.6. The little thingey on the bottom of my viewfinder that looks a little bit like a ruler with a "0" in the middle and "+" and "-" on the outsides had many hash marks in the positive side. That little thingey's name is the exposure indicator. I know because I looked it up in my user's manual. Had I taken a picture (through my kitchen window glass, mind you) at those settings it would have been blown out, and only capturing the very darkest portions of my picture. So what do you do when faced with too many hash marks to the positive? Slow down the speed and decrease the opening that allows light into your camera.
So my F-stop became 1/36 (see there really was a reason to study fractions in high school). When the aperture changes it changes your depth of field. As you can see in the picture the distant figure (the deer) is in focus, the tree branch (closer by nearly 30 feet) is out of focus.(The branch is "touching" the deers hind quarters.) Changing the F-stop allowed less light to enter my camera and create a picture. The histogram for this picture is balanced without "hotspots". (Those bright spots in a picture that store no data due to overexposure.)
With the F-stop changed down to 1/36 I also had to speed up the shutter speed. (It needs to open and close very quickly to prevent too much light into the exposure) I halved the speed to 1/80, not because I'm a genius but because that's when the "thingey" balanced. All the hash marks lined up over the zero and thus I took this picture in manual mode.
Now you go try it. Still scared? Use the scenic mode in your camera but pay attention to what the shutter speed is. (On my nikon, it's the number in the middle on the top just right of the battery indicator.) Then pay attention to the aperture. (The next number to the right, with "F" in front of it.) Knowing the exposure that your camera would choose, then go to manual and make adjustments up or down to experiment. Pretty soon, it will come more naturally. FYI; many times in reading the numbers in your control panel the 1/ is inferred. IE; a speed of 40, really means 1/40 of a second. An F-stop of 5.6 is really 1/5.6, that is why an F-stop of 36 is a smaller opening than a 5.6. Again, it's why you paid attention in High School algebra.
Make a resolution to take a "manual" picture every time you have your camera out.

1 comment:

Georgia said...

We only live a block away from you, but we have never (in almost 14 years) had a deer in our yard. Perhaps it is because we are surrounded by dog owners with loud, yappy dogs? Maybe it has something to do with the people in this house sending off vibes of pure craziness? Whatever it is, I'm happy you caught such wonderful images of these beautiful creatures who visit your yard without fear.

Your skill with a camera in manual mode is very impressive!