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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  1. Love the photos! Such a great adventure... also, I'm happy squishy santa made his way into your post. I'd like to see a picture or 2 of your amazing angel... :)

    1. The Christmas decorations are almost put away, but I think I could do a portrait session of the wonderful angel!