17 December 2010

New Year; New Book

Looks like Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn will be our next book. I'm thinking that a start-date of about Jan. 15 sounds like that will give us enough time to finish out the holidays and get copies of the book and be ready to go. What do you think?

13 December 2010

More Movement

I'm still playing around with what happens when you photograph music. It's a fun game.

Did we come to a consensus on if we're doing The Good Earth or Enchantment?

08 December 2010

Choosing a New Book

So, I know we've all but chosen The Good Earth for our next book, but can I suggest that we consider Enchantment: the life of Audry Hepburn anyway? Apparently she was part of the Dutch resistance in WWII, and carried secret messages in her ballet slippers & got caught & put on a German truck one time, but escaped, and it just sounds interesting.

09 November 2010

Shutter Games

After studying aperture in action, I wanted to play with shutter spped, but it took me a while to find the right moment. And then wouldn't ya know it, I didn't have my tripod. But we were at the park, and it was beautiful, and Monkey's orange hoodie was awesome against the late fall colors, so I ran with it.

Lesson #1: Bring the tripod. I'm considering tossing mine in the trunk on a semi-permanent basis. I sure wished I had it today! Not for everything, but it would have been nice for some.

Lesson #2: Mind the exposure. My camera tells me if the exposure is "right," but today it was telling lies, and a bunch of them are overexposed. Doesn't seem to have that problem with underexposing.

1/20th of a second. Just a touch of blur on Monkey, not too bad holding things steady. Exposure's not too shabby either, even though I hadn't realized the camera was telling stories just yet.

1/15th of a second. Composition's crummy. Swing pictures are SO difficult to compose! But there's potential, if I crop it right. Presuming that I can figure out how to make it look artistically blurry, rather than just out of focus.

1/8th second. In addition to the relatively long shutter speed, I was also moving the camera, tracking Monkey's movement. This one I just love so much about... but it's way overexposed. I'm going to try to photoshop it to correct that. Not the point of the exercise, but I want this picture!

Following motion works at quicker shutter speeds too (1/25), but it's not so dramatic. However, it's easier to get the subject in focus. And I like the shallow depth of field effect, where his feet are blurrier than his face. Of course, that's probably more that he was moving them right then, and less the photography.

Lesson #3: Angle makes a difference in the lens's perception of movement. These were both taken at 1/40th of a second, but there's a lot more blur in the one taken from the side. Though composition is much easier from the front.

Lesson #4: Freezing action will make it look inactive if it's not done right.

I like this one. It's at a pretty quick shutter: 1/30th. I like the tilted horizon. Composition is ok, though not anything special. Monkey's looking happy. But the sense of the moving swing is almost gone.

Gratuitous Cuteness:

27 September 2010

Picking Back Up

Well, I've been wanting to get out and take some specific pictures for a long time now, and today I was finally able to do it. I put the camera in shutter-priority mode, and went to visit a fountain at one of our parks with my tripod. I've decided that I like the S-priority & A-priority modes better than the full manual, because the interface for adjusting them is a bit awkward, and it's very time consuming to do full manual. It'll be a feature to pay attention to when I'm buying my next camera.

It's a gorgeous day today, perfect early fall weather. That was part of why I wanted to go out today. That, and I knew they will be turning off the fountains sometime soon, and I wanted to get this project done. The very fast shutter speed froze the water; you can see droplets in a couple of places. The rainbow is a lovely bonus!

Here you can see better the droplets, with the very quick (1/1000) shutter.

1/800 of a second. Not a lot of difference, but you can see some in the center spray and the feet splashes to the far left, when compared to 1/1000.

1/640 of a second.

1/500 of a second. It's starting to be noticeably more like sheets of water at this point.

1/400 of a second.

1/320 of a second.

1/250 of a second.

1/200 of a second.

1/160 of a second. At this point, my batteries died. I still had just a couple of f-stops that I could have used, but the camera was done, and my "fresh" batteries were also dead. Bummer. In addition to not really finishing this, I also didn't get any pictures of the kids playing at the playground or in the fountain!

One thing that's interesting is that the little "icicles" of water running off the orangy part of the fountain get longer and longer the slower the shutter goes. I'm actually having a hard time deciding what I like best: 1/800 is very nice, but so are the last couple on the slowest shutter speeds. It's hard to say. I think I may do this again, but point the camera at some running kids and see what I can come up with there.

20 April 2010

Gaining some Understanding

In the last paragraph of the introduction, the author comments that "For many readers, the material in this book will be brand new territory, while for others, the material may serve as an affirmation of what is already known (pg. 11)."  I'm deciding that I clearly fall in the first category.

When I got the book and flipped through the pages, I felt all inspired by the pages of dazzling picutres! Heck yes this is what I want my pictures to look like!! But, like Ritsumei, I've come to feel some frustration as well. Sure, this guy is professional and has been doing this photography thing for nearly 30 years, but come on! This is a How-To book! I read the first chapter, what's the hold up?

Heh.. turns out that before I could really do the simple exercises outlined in Chapter 1, I needed to become better acquainted with my camera. So, I went back and re-reread the applicable parts of the manual. And, though I originally thought I might get through this book without taking notes, I've since decided that they might actually come in handy :)  (my notebook is ever so much more handy a reference than always looking up the full manual online).

Happily, between the explanations from our book and the examples and commentary from the manual, I'm actually beginning to feel like I might be able to (eventually) master these manual settings! Hooray!

As it turns out, my camera doesn't seem to be capable of going completely manual in the way the exercise wants. I can play with the aperture, and I can play with the shutter speed, but I can't do both simultaneously. So, I set the aperture to F5.6 and the camera would automatically adjust the shutter speed to what worked. Since the ISO on the automatic setting was 100, I just left it there for all the pictures on this round.

Here is what the automatic setting does:

This one I adjusted the aperture to F5.6 and the shutter speed was 20.

While my camera doesn't allow me to tweak the shutter speed while I pick aperture settings, it does have an extra gizmo called "Exposure Compensation" that I can play with; the manual gives some hints as to what settings to use (EV). So, the adjusted picture was a little dark for my taste, so I adjusted the EV to +1 1/3 and this is what it looked like:

All this tweaking definitely does take longer, it may be some time before I use it to capture spontaneous things... but the hope is that eventually this knowledge will lodge itself in my brain well enough that I'll get quicker and know what the "right" exposure should be.

Still, in the meantime, this is way fun!

19 April 2010

Understanding Exposure

Hurray for new books! I'm very excited about this book, though I'm finding the process of learning the manual controls is still frustrating. Not that I want much; just instant perfection! For some odd reason, my pictures didn't immediately look like the photographer-author's the instant I opened the book! Ah, well. I guess that I'll have to learn it a bit at a time, just like everyone else. (I need some smileys to add a winking one here. Forums have spoiled me, and ;p just isn't as cool as it once was.)

So, here's my picture, the one that's officially the "Setting and Using Your Camera on Manual Exposure (page 15)" picture. Only, I didn't use the aperture he suggested (f5.6) because my camera's meter said it didn't work. I used f3.5, with a shutter of 1/800, ISO 80. One thing I've come to suspect since starting to read this book is that I don't have a lot of aperture options. But that's OK. I'm still going to learn to use them to the best they've got for me!

First thoughts about manual mode: this takes longer than my programmable-auto setting. And it's hard to make it work inside. Hopefully, both of those things are problems that will go away with some practice.

12 February 2010

Finally Finished It!

Hehehe... so it's only four months behind schedule (besides, I think we decided not to officially finish with our book club anyway), but I have FINALLY finished David McCullough's 1776. Yay!

It was a little rougher read than I expected; I had a rough time keeping track of who was who and what they were doing where. However, I do think the author did an excellent job juggling all the different peoples' stories and actions while keeping the story moving. (if i'd been more familiar with the people involved before, keeping tabs wouldn't have been nearly as tough as it was) But in addition to that challenge, previous to reading this, I had no real notion of how difficult a struggle it was for those early Americans. As I kept reading, things seemed more and more hopeless and I found myself commenting to my husband, repeatedly, that it's hard to believe the Americans actually won the war!

In the final page of his book, Mr. McCullough sums it up quite nicely:

The war was a longer, far more arduous, and more painful struggle than later generations would understand or sufficiently appreciate. By the time it ended, it had taken the lives of an estimated 25,000 Americans, or roughly 1 percent of the population. In percentage of lives lost, it was the most costly war in American history, except for the Civil War.

The year 1776, celebrated as the birth year of the nation and for the signing of the Declaration of Independence, was for those who carried the fight for independence forward a year of all-too-few victories, of sustained suffering, disease, hunger, desertion, cowardice, disillusionment, defeat, terrible discouragement, and fear, as they would never forget, but also of phenomenal courage and bedrock devotion to country, and that, too they would never forget.

Especially for those who had been with Washington and who knew what a close call it was at the beginning-- how often circumstance, storms, contrary winds, the oddities or strengths of individual character had made the difference -- the outcome seemed little short of a miracle.

And while I don't come away from this book an immediate Revolutionary War Scholar, I am definitely more familiar with the major players: Washington, General Howe, Henry Knox, Nathanael Greene. Also, that painting of Washington crossing the Delaware River has greater significance for me now. And, undoubtedly, I have greater appreciation for the beginnings of this country and all those who struggled to make it happen. And that was exactly what I had hoped to gain from reading this book.

All that being said, this one is definitely worth a re-read.