Sunday, May 31, 2009


I've been trying to improve my photography skills lately, so my self-imposed project for the other night was to take a bunch of different photos of pretty much the same scene trying out all the different settings on my fancy camera. I have a Nikon D70 which I just love. Most of the time, the best feature for me is its speed. With the cheap digital camera I had before this one, the kids would have moved out of the photo frame before the camera reacted. I have lots of pictures of feet and hands from that camera. Most camera experts would probably scoff at me for having such an expensive camera with so many bells and whistles that I wasn't taking advantage of. I don't care. It's worth it to be able to capture all those shots of my kids. Just the same, I decided that it's time to start taking advantage of those bells and whistles. I tried to do a little reading on the internet to get a better understanding of aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc. I can't say that I fully understand it yet, but I wanted to try different setting on my camera to see if it reacted in the same way I read it would. I'm still not sure. I have more experimenting to do. On of the other things I read on the internet was to NOT use the camera's built in flash. I already knew that using my camera's flash makes my photos look pretty funky, but I was kind of bummed to read that, since a camera flash is about the last thing I can afford right now. Then I remembered that we did have a fair amount of camera equipment for our old Nikon film camera, and for a change, I knew right where it was. Sure enough, there was a big, fancy-looking flash in the old camera bag. Woo hoo! I tried it out, and it actually does seem to work with my camera. We also had a couple of old lenses that I tried out as well. All this means that all my experimenting and learning has to increase exponentially (because the flash and the lenses have all kinds of different settings, too). Oh well, I always love a project. The photos above are some that I took the other night. I'm not even sure which ones I like the best or even which ones someone who actually knows something about photography would think are better. I do know that I need to start keeping track of what kind of works and what doesn't. Here are the "settings" I used for the above photos. I tried to take diligent notes but after a while, I just wanted to take the pictures. It turns out that the camera actually stores some pretty good metadata about the photos, so I listed that as well. 1. This was before I got the new-old flash working quite right. I had it on top of the camera, but it wasn't actually warmed up, so the only affect it had was not letting the camera's built-in flash open up all the way. I think it's better than the full flash, but the colors are not true. I think my camera lets you change the intensity of the flash, so I'll have to experiment with that as well. Everything else was still set on "Auto". Metadata: Exposure Time - 1/15 sec, , Exposure Program - Not defined (must mean auto), F-Stop - f/5, Light Source - Unknown (probably not relevant with the Auto setting). 2. This was the first one where I actually used the new-old flash. I can definitely tell the difference. Everything else was set to "Auto" still and the flash angle was 90 degrees - pointing straight up at the ceiling. Metadata: Exposure Time - 1/8000 sec, Exposure Program - Shutter priority, F-Stop - f/5, Light Source - Cloudy weather. 3. This one is only slightly different than #2 (at least as far as I can tell), but I think it's a bit lighter which I think is good. (Oh, and I accidentally left the glass of wine I was drinking in the photo. Oops.) This time I had the camera on the "S" setting which means you can control the shutter speed. Although I didn't actually specifically set it to anything. There's an ISO setting on the flash itself. I need to learn more about that, but in this photo, I had it set to 64/100 which is the lowest. Metadata: Exposure Time - 1/8000 sec, Exposure Program - Shutter priority, F-Stop - f/5, Light Source - Cloudy weather. 4. I guess this one is okay. It doesn't seem as natural as #2 and #3, but it is lighter. There's more light reflecting off the lemon, too which I don't think I like. This was the same as #3 except that I had that ISO setting on the flash set to the highest which is 1000. Metadata: Exposure Time - 1/8000 sec, Exposure Program - Shutter priority, F-Stop - f/5, Light Source - Cloudy weather. I added some oranges to the background so that I could experiment with the aperture. What I had read is that with different levels (or F-stops), you can control how detailed (or not) your background is. I also read that you sometimes need a tripod to keep the camera steady enough to take the picture at some apertures. The only thing I learned by messing around with this setting is that that is definitely true. All my pictures with the camera set to "A" came out overexposed or too blurry while the background oranges look pretty much the same. I wanted to try the extremely low and high F-stops to really be able to see the difference, but I didn't even have much luck with the ones in between. Maybe this is better for outside when you really do have more of a background. 5. There's something about this one I like even though it's so dark. I was back to using the "S" setting, and I had the shutter speed set to 8000 (which I think actually means 1/8000). I had the flash pointing up a the ceiling (90 degrees) and the ISO on the flash set to 1000. Metadata: Exposure Time - 1/8000 sec, Exposure Program - Manual, F-Stop - f/10, Light Source - Cloudy Weather. After that I played around with the close up lens we had for our old Nikon film camera. It seemed to work fine, but nothing spectacular. I went back to the original lens. 6. I like this one quite a bit. I used the manual focus (I used the auto focus on 1-5). This time I played with a bunch of settings all at once which was actually pretty dumb because now I don't really know which ones made the difference. I had the flash at 90 degrees, the ISO on the flash set to 200 AND the ISO setting on the camera set to 200. I also played with the White Balance on the camera and set it to flash mode. And my notes say that I had the camera on the "P" setting which I thought meant the camera would control both the speed and the aperture, but my notes also say I had the shutter speed set to 8. Metadata: Exposure Time - 1/8 sec , Exposure Program - Shutter Priority, F-Stop - f/10, Light Source - Undefined. I need to keep practicing, finish reading the manual that came with my camera, and maybe get a book. This Magic Lantern guide by Simon Stafford looks pretty good because it's specific to my camera.

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