Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tripods and Focus Points - Christmas Adventures


Sitting around with my curious camera and all of the sparkly lights and decor everywhere, I shot some frames of a few of my favorite bits of Christmas magic at home. I shoot in manual mode so I can change all of the settings to my liking. Trying to shoot in low light is a problem for just about anyone, and without a tripod, it is even harder.

I've had this Santa for as long as I can remember. He is really squishy and obviously quite photogenic.

If you cannot increase the light in the room, try to get the lowest f-stop your lens allows, the slowest shutter speed before it gets blurry from hand shake (usually no lower than the lens' highest mm - in my case it's 55mm, so that would be about 1/60), and keep the ISO only as high as necessary - the higher the ISO, the more digital noise in your shots. A lower f-stop means the aperture or lens opening is as wide as it can be to let in as much light as possible. A slower shutter speed has a similar function, capturing all of the light between opening click and closing click.

Your main goal is to use the triangle of aperture (f-stop), shutter speed, and ISO to get your exposure to 0. Your exposure will be the little light meter scale on your screen or in the viewfinder that has a + on one side and a - on the other. Exposure is key.

Here are a couple of the pictures I took. I did not use a tripod, so my ISO was higher than would be ideal to compensate for the low light and shaky hands. I later found out that we have a tripod that fits my camera, but during my frustratingly blurry, underexposed attempts at capturing the tree and ornaments, I was seriously considering going down to Kenmore Camera to buy a tripod right then and there.


As you can see in this picture, my ISO was raised to a pretty ungodly number (4000) and as a result it is grainy. Invest in a good tripod, kids!

Focus Points

With family here for a short while around Christmas, I went on a little photo adventure with my sisters to the quaint Montlake neighborhoods near the University of Washington. We then went to Gasworks Park to shoot some views of the Seattle skyline and the old rusted pipes. Cameras in hand, we ran around and had a good time figuring out what we were doing (one sister has a new camera as well). 

There's a lot of trial and error, but practice really is the best way to learn. Also, I'm a big fan of macro and bokeh as you will see in most of my pictures.



I love reflection pictures and with the abundance of puddles in Seattle, it makes for great photo ops.


One thing I like to do to add some creativity to a photo is change the focus point. In this shot and the next one, I selected a point that I thought gave the most interesting framing of the foreground subject and the background. 

Another thing to remember is that your aperture (f-stop) controls your depth of field. With a low f-stop (wide aperture) you can get just the foreground subject in focus and the background blurred, and with a big f-stop (narrow aperture), everything through the whole depth of the picture will be in focus. Play around with your aperture and see what happens. Always keep balancing shutter speed and ISO to reciprocate changes in aperture in order to get an exposure of 0.


This is actually in my parents' front yard, but it goes with the water drop and focus theme :)



If you want to know what my camera settings were for any of the shots above, I'm happy to provide that info! Sometimes it can be helpful as a starting point for messing around with exposures, focus points, etc.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Water Drops

The other week I saw some of those amazing water drop photos by professional photographers - you know, the kind with the pristine water and brilliant color and crystal clear droplet? Well, I decided to try to create some of my own. It was quite a long process as this was only day two of having my new camera and I was still figuring out how to adjust settings and grasp basic concepts like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

Along with providing sufficient lighting substitutes for my lack of external flash / spotlight, my other primary obstacle was getting the camera to focus just on the spot where the water drop would be. This first photo shows one of those earlier attempts. It's obviously blurred, but I like how the splash looks like sparks of fire or gold.

After several hours and various locations, backdrops, containers, and camera settings, here are a few examples of the (somewhat) satisfactory results! In order to get these shots brighter than the one above, I had to increase the flash compensation as well as the exposure compensation 1 stop. The light meter yelled at me saying that the shots would be severely underexposed, but I ignored it. I'm learning that sometimes you have to trick the camera to get the results you want.

Here are the camera specs for all three pictures below:
Nikon D5100
18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens
1/200    f/4.8    ISO 200    exposure compensation +1 stop


 I had some fun in post-editing, applying various colorful filters. I liked the green tint to this one.

In future repetitions of this project, I will try using different colored backdrops (this one was blue, as you can see), and will also try a larger container to isolate the droplet without the peripheral vase edges and reflections.

Hope you like them, and let me know if you try this out! I'd love to hear about your techniques.

New camera for Christmas!


I got a new camera for Christmas and it's my first DSLR so I was really excited. My sister and brother-in-law are in town for Christmas and since my sister has the same camera, she has introduced me to the wonderful world of digital photography adventures and blogging.

I love taking pictures and capturing the world around me, and I look forward to posting some pictures soon. As this is a learning experience for me, I'll also provide explanations of camera settings and other tips on how I get some of the shots. Hope you enjoy!