Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I had the opportunity to try my Nikon D-300 at a football game under the field lights the other night. My initial camera settings of ISO 200 with the camera set to programmable mode did not do well. After trying a few different WB settings I decided it should be left at Auto since I wanted to work only one feature at a time until I understood what effect my setting changes had. I haven't had the opportunity to shoot in these lighting conditions before so I enjoyed the challenge. At the initial settings my camera was using the shutter speed was very slow, near 1/13 sec at F/5.6. All the images were blurred and even panning was difficult. Mostly because I didn't have a monopod or tripod with me.

Eventually I decided to bump the ISO setting up all the way. The top photo here was with an ISO of 200, the bottom with the ISO set to the equivalent of 6400. At this setting my shutter speed increased to 1/80 sec at F/5.3 for this image captured in the darker parts of the field. This allowed me to shoot multiple images and freeze most, but not all the action giving the images a sense of motion. I also changed my camera from it's Vivid setting to Standard thinking it might help speed things up. After viewing these images I think I should have left it at Vivid.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sports Photography

I had the opportunity to shoot pictures of my grandson (with the ball) playing football this past Saturday with my Nikon D-300. I used the kit lens that came with it. It's a AF-S DX VR Zoom 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED lens. I use it for most of the action work I do with this camera. I ended up with 1023 totally sharp frames by the time the game ended.

The game was being played in the late morning when the sunlight was very harsh. There were no clouds in the sky to soften it up so the shadows are very deep due the the high contrast. My camera settings were: exposure mode - P, ISO 200, White Balance - Sunny, Quality - medium/basic, continuous focus mode with the release mode set to high. I used "Dynamic Area Auto Focus set to 21 focus points. I didn't want to let the camera have total control of what would be the main subject. Picture control was set to vivid. I also set my camera to focus priority. I usually set my priority focus point in the upper center part of the frame. That way I keep the subjects heads at the top of the frame rather than in the middle and I don't usually cut off their feet or heads.

Because I want my images to all be in focus, the focus priority setting will prevent the camera from firing if it can't get the images in the frame in focus. This can be a bit exasperating when you want a shot and the camera won't work. I've learned that if I keep my focal length between 70mm and 200mm the focus points work well. If I go wider and use something between 18mm and 50mm or so, the camera is not likely to find a focus point and will delay shooting. I sometimes press the AE-L/AF/L button to force the shutter to fire in these instances and when I need the wider shot.

I use a 4GB Sandisk Ultry II CompactFlash card that reads at 15mb/s. It works well and has never failed. At the settings I used on the camera I still had about half of the cards capacity left by the time the game ended.

Friday, September 11, 2009

How To Photograph a Vintage Truck

I had a really neat opportunity pop up yesterday. These really nice people came into the park with an awesome vintage truck on a trailer behind their Bounder Motorhome.

I had been down at the lower end of the park photographing this railroad bridge while experimenting with the monochrome feature of my camera and met them when I returned to my rig.

We talked about doing some photography of the truck while parked on the lawn next to the river and decided to do it in the morning. I took some time to study some of my reference materials and a few online resources about how to photograph cars and trucks. All the tips I picked up came in really handy. Here's what I've learned so far:
  • Shoot from a 3/4 angle as you would for a portrait of a person. Get both headlights in the frame with the far one just barely visible to start. Work this pose with more and less angle until you feel you have it down.
  • Turn on the headlights, especially in the darker lighting situations. I forgot to do this!
  • Use a ladder and shoot from an elevated position. Again more around and get several angles.
  • Watch the light and use your flash even in bright sunlight. I actually got started too late. It was after 8:00 Oclock AM when I started and I should have been working this thing at daylight. The sky here was cloudless and the light became very harsh with high contrast and deep shadows. I set my on-camera flash to manual and full power. I also bumped my exposure from one to two stops . The paint on the truck has a reflective pearl fleck additive in it and the fenders were all white. This meant I had to shoot as if I were shooting snow. I had to watch the meter and my histograms closely to get it right. Even then I had a lot of editing to do in the computer later.
  • Use all your lenses. Well not all I guess. I used my nikkor 12-24 and my Nikkor 18-200 for all my shooting. I could get close and still have a fairly wide field of view with either lens and I needed it for this project. I also use a circular polorizer on the 18-20 lens. I have one for the 12-24 too but the light was changing so fast I didn't feel like I wanted to stop to go get it. It is with one of my larger lenses and I use a stepping ring to make it fit. I'm afraid I wasn't quite prepared in that respect.
  • Be sure to work all the chrome and the inside of the vehicle. I had to break out my own chrome polish to get the bugs off the mirror backs. I wanted to shoot the inside of the vehicle while keeping a large portion of the mirror back in the frame with a reflection of the hood or whatever. This took some work and the inside of the truck wanted to go dark due to the contrast. Getting some of the Chrome side moldings right took some work too. My favorite is a chrome piece that says FORD on it with the blue sky reflected in the shiney metal. It's really cool!
  • This truck has a polished wooden bed and round steel fuel tank mounted in the bed. My lighting situation didn't allow me to work that part of the truck so I'll be doing that tonight and tomorrow morning.
According to the owner, this truck was in really bad shape when he got it. He also had to manufacture a lot of his own parts since this type of rig isn't as commonly rebuilt as others. Because of that there is no demand to keep parts available. It took him four years to build the truck and I'd guess he worked on it just about every day.

All in all this is a really fun project and I'm looking forward to doing more photo work on it. I shot 72 frames this morning of which five of them turned out to be usable. That's a pretty good ratio for photography. I hope I can do as well next time.

I printed a few 4x6's and an 8x10 for the owner. I hope he likes them! This is the last image I shot. I used my 18-200 lens here and cropped in tight. I think I should have left a little more room in front of the rig Though. I'll do that next time.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Now and Then

Every scene I attempt to capture with my camera has an impact on me. Every now and then one comes along that has a greater impact than others and I have just added one of these to my website and photo store.

I created this image using a feature in my camera that allows me to overlay two images to create a new image of both. You can do this with good film cameras too by exposing your film at different subjects without advancing the frame but you need experience and skill to do this well. You also need a camera that allows this kind of photography. Not all of them do this as they are designed to prevent us from ruining a previous exposure with a new one.

I used my Nikon D300 to create this image and when reviewed this scene on my computer later, I found that I did not want to edit it further. I didn't even crop it to a standard size. I decided to totally leave this image alone. You can find it in a new gallery called "Thoughts" at Dwains Picks

Photography Tips

Here are a few things you can do to improve your photography that will apply regardless of what camera you use. These are the basics that every photographer should know and do to get reasonably good pictures out of any camera.

Make sure you have a clean lens. Don't just blow the dust off, but use a clean cloth suitable for cleaning lenses and do it right.

Set up so your camera is stable and won't move as you press the shutter. You can do this a number of ways. If you will be handholding the camera, hold your elbows in against your sides, and stand with your feet apart with one slightly forward of the other. You can also lean against a solid object like a light pole, tree, building or whatever. The best method though is to use a tripod or monopod. I have both but I like to carry the tripod best. If I want to use it as a monopod I just extend only one leg and us it as I would a monopod. I'll add instructions about to how to use these tools later.

Finally the "First" basic thing you need to do is read your manual and learn what all the parts of your camera are for and how to use them. If you understand how your meter works and what white balence is you'll go a long way to getting that shot you want when the light is wierd and you are wondering why your pictures are all dark or yellow instead of like what you saw on the monitor or in the viewfinder.

I'll expand on all these topics in the coming weeks and months so you'll want to check back and see what I've added from time to time.