First weekend

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So, what did I learn this weekend? Quite a lot actually, I am still processing a lot of it, but I did shoot my first pics that stink, with the camera in Manual mode; that was rather pleasing. Kind of like the first time you take the stabilisers off your bike and your dad shoves you down the road towards the canal.

Manual Matches

Key learning’s from the weekend coming up then:

  • I leaned that a Dutch tilt is not funny or rude, its actually a camera position / shooting style. One of those instances where I think I would have preferred to have stayed ignorant.
  • Apparently, you can cover up a noisy (high ISO) photo with ‘grain’ and ‘high contrast’ post-processing. Its difficult to get right, but can be effective for those candid pub shots. (One to try out I think)
  • The catalogue / collection system in Adobe Lightroom is confusing as hell at first.
  • Flowers, Sunsets and Pet photos are clichés and should be avoided, I’m supposed to find something different to practice on.
  • Use the flash outdoors, it will even out harsh shadows on faces, when shooting portraits.
  • Its all about the light, the best light for taking pictures is the first hour after dawn and the last hour before sunset….. Wait, WHAT!? Damn it,  I have taken up a hobby which requires me to be outdoors, when I should be be either in bed or in the pub. DOH!

Most of this actually came from reading the excellent “..for Dummies” book which I mentioned in a previous entry.  I am also finding the site contains an absolute wealth of information, and will be something I suspect I will link to a lot in this journal.

A note on Aperture

Aperture and depth of field (am I supposed to capitalise these words?) are not the easiest of concepts to get your head round. From what I can gather there are entire books written about the subject. Lucky me!

I do want to write a bit about this as it has caused me a little frustration over the course of my first weekend with my new camera. I guess it is a good thing to start the week on, clear the air as it were.

You would think that photographers and camera makers would get together and, realising that this is a tricky subject do their best to create a numbering / measurement system which simplifies this right? Wrong! The numbers go the wrong way, the terms are contradictory and the results, for the most part still appear arbitrary. I know they are not, but to a beginner like me it certainly feels this way.

So quick explanation then. Aperture is the size of the ‘window’ which lets light through the lens and onto the sensor. This window can be adjusted, widening or narrowing the window, and therefore controlling the amount of light getting into the camera.

The wider the window, the more light gets in, but at the same time, the smaller the depth of field becomes. This directly effects the amount of the picture which remains in-focus. A wide aperture creates more ‘bokeh’ which is a posh word for blurry bits.

This is best illustrated by the two pictures below:

Fig1.1: Exposure 1/80sec at f / 5.6 with
focal length 40mm & ISO 400
Fig1.2:  Exposure 1/20sec at f / 22 with
focal length 40mm & ISO 1600

In figure 1.1 there is plenty of bokeh both in front of the matchbox and in the distance, even with the kit lens I have at the moment. I am told that this will be more pronounced if I buy a lens capable of a wider aperture. This was set to my lenses maximum aperture of f5.6 with the zoom set to 40mm.

When you cast your eyes across figure 1.2 however, most of the image is pretty clear. in this imagine the aperture is set to f22, despite this being a much bigger number, is actually means the aperture is very narrow and not letting in much light at all. I had to increase ISO and slow the shutter speed down in order to make up for this much narrower aperture.

What is very obvious, is the usefulness of DOF. In the first picture it is very obvious that the matchbox is what I want you to look at; where as in the second stinky pic, its just a load of objects, right?

So, my first weekend complete, at some point I need to actually get outdoors with the damn thing, if it ever stops raining, I hope to be able to get out and play before my trip to the US next week.

In the meantime, I need to start reading a bit more on composition. Wish me luck!

3 responses to “First weekend”

  1. The Secret Poet avatar
    The Secret Poet

    >Aperture is the hardest thing to understand in photography, agreed. Think of it in terms of a shadow on the wall. Hold your hand in it. The light coming from the window is the light coming into your lens. The nearer you get your hand to the window the more blurry the shadow and larger your hand, the nearer you get to the wall the more natural the size of your hand and the sharper it is. The 'narrowing' of light makes the object sharper, thus the narrowing of an aperture makes a sharper, more accurate image. And vice versa. I prefer the latter because I don't want the photographs I take to be accurate, I like them dreamy and pretty.

    Aperture is the way I figure out a shot. My stock setting on my camera is Aperture Priority, i.e. I set the aperture to the stop I require and the camera arranges its exposure around that. I have a 1.8 lens because I love a shallow depth of field and hate flash so the more light the better. I also use faster film. 1.8 is quite a large aperture (and therefore expensive) but I love the results. Takes a while to get the hang of it.

  2. >I am in complete agreement with 'Secret Poet'. I also leave my camera on Aperture Priority auto 90% of the time, only using 'Manual' for super long exposure shots with my 10 stop ND filter.

    One of my favourite lens is my 50mm F1.8. On a DX camera with a a 1.5 or 1.6 crop factor (like yours and mine) it gives a 35mm equivalent of a 75-80mm lens, considered to be the ideal portrait lens focal length. These type of lenses (regardless of manufacture) tend to be very sharp, offer spectacular bokeh, and are quite reasonably priced for so wide an aperture.

    For understanding aperture, when I was trying to get my head around it I thought of the old 'pinhole camera' example back in 'O Level Physics'. A tiny pin hole made in a shoebox would project a sharp image in the inside of the shoebox, illustrating that a tiny aperture needed no focusing and had an almost infinite DoF.

    Regarding light, a photographer much wiser than I once told me 'great photos not about the subject, but about the light falling on the subject'. It's all about the 'quality' and direction of light. And yes, it's going to mean getting out with a camera in 'the blue hour', either AM or PM.

    On the plus side I can see you are already starting to get to grips with the building blocks of photography. Keep going. It's very rewarding to master.

  3. >Some excellent analogies there chaps, thank you!
    @throughDarlense tweeted at me last night, , “@PhilPriston real interesting read. My tip, put the book down and find 'your eye' shoot in AV to learn about DOF and light an your lense.”
    I think this is most definitely the next step for me. I definitely need to get out and take some Photos.
    I’ll keep you posted on my progress!
    Thanks Again,

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