Monday, January 28, 2008

More RAW...

I have another photo that I wanted to play with - the snowball bush in front of our house - this is the before: mode: aperture priority ~ f/5.6 ~ ISO-200 ~ 1/1250 ~ 55mm ~ no flash
I decreased the saturation, increased contrast and did a little playing. I really like how the b/w and the increased contrast brings out the details in the petals.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Fun With RAW

I took some RAW shots this morning so I would have something to "play" with. I was really upset when I got home and I could not open them in PSE 5.0. I found out that I needed a "plug-in". This was downloaded and problem solved. I had hit the car wash on the way home from shooting the birdies and had quite a wait in line, so a little switch of lenses and just had to wait for my turn. I took quite a few shots, but most didn't turn out until the van got towards the end of the wash and the outside was in site.
This shot is before any modification (other than cropping in PSE):
mode=auto (no flash) ~ f/7.1 ~ ISO-200 ~ 1/200 ~ 35mm
After editing (increasing contrast, light, black, and just general playing around):

Lesson 6:

Since some of you are asking about RAW, let's make it lesson 6...

RAW file format is a general term used for a digital negative. Different camera companies have their own versions of different RAW file formats (Canon, Nikon, etc)… RAW shoots in 12 bit vs. JPG that shoots in 8 bit. When you shoot in RAW, you have to convert it to JPG before you can upload it to the web or take it to the lab for printing. So, what’s all the bother then, right? Versatility… you can manipulate it like crazy, fix mistakes, manually set white balance, compensate exposure, under expose photos on purpose to avoid blowouts and then adjust in the RAW converter, punch up colors for landscapes, decrease saturation for interest, adjust levels and curves, change to black and white or sepia tone, etc… and it’s all in one little converter program package.

Some programs have RAW converters, and some don’t but I'm not sure which. The one that I'm using (Photoshop CS3) does (thank goodness!)... I love RAW. It's so versatile. Here's a simple way to test if your program supports RAW file management... take a picture in RAW, upload it to your computer, and then double click on it. If a program opens to manipulate it, you're in business – you’ve more than likely got a converter. If not, it will open into windows viewer and look terrible. RAW is essentially a digital negative. You can manipulate everything about it (almost the same as the lab tech's do with film). But, as you save it, the changes are saved but can be manipulated back... RAW remembers the original settings. You can fix your exposure, tones, saturation, lighting, pretty much everything... punch up colors, etc. And, in the end, you save it as a JPG… so again, you wonder: “if it’s going to JPG anyway, what’s the deal with shooting in RAW?” Versatility of manipulation.

I found an article that simplifies the mystery of RAW… you can read it at this address:

In addition, another good argument for shooting in RAW can be found here:

Now, originally, I was working with other programs and none of them would allow me to preview my RAW images. I found this very frustrating because I didn’t want to open every RAW file into the converter to see if it was even worth working on. Since getting Photoshop CS3, it comes with Bridge 3 (a viewing program) which allows RAW file preview. This has made all the difference to me. I now shoot almost exclusively in RAW because of the preview feature. CS3 also comes with it’s own RAW converter and it’s amazing!

Assignment – RAW:

This week’s assignment is to shoot anything in RAW and test to see if you have a converter by double clicking on the RAW file. Report back on your experience (ability to preview, which converter you have, if no converter then research where and how much, etc). If you have a converter, post the picture the way it was shot as well as the RAW adjustments in your blog with a brief description of which converter you used as well as some of the adjustments you made.

Bird Watching... and depth of field

Sheryl was kind enough to invite me to take some photos with her. I took over 300 pictures today (about 2/3 of those were birds). These are my favorite bird shots... Next stop... the car wash... stay tuned!!
f/5.6 ~ 1/800 ~ ISO-200 ~ 300mm f/5.6 ~ 1/640 ~ ISO-200 ~ 300mm
f/5.6 ~ 1/800 ~ ISO-200 ~ 300mm
f/5.6 ~ 1/800 ~ ISO-200 ~ 300mm

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I made a little trip to Iowa City today to take some pictures of the Black Angel at Oakland Cemetery. You can read her story here: A lot of my pictures from Iowa City were poorly exposed - I am trying to work in manual mode - so I headed out to a cemetery here in Cedar Rapids to try again and had much better luck. Then, I decided that I needed to head to Morgan Creek Park. You have all seen this shot - I have taken it several times, but the sun was just right. LOL.
mode: manual ~ f/22 ~ ISO-1600 ~ 20mm ~ 1/500
mode: manual ~ f/22 ~ ISO-200 ~ 18mm ~ 1/50
mode: manual ~ f/22 ~ ISO-280 ~ 48mm ~ 1/125
The Black Angel
You can really see the damage to her from vandalism in the second photo. I could tell that she was visited far more than any other spot in the cemetery. There were tons of footprints - you can see them in the first photo - I had only walked around her once at this point.
mode: manual ~ f/22 ~ ISO-250 ~ 32mm ~ 1/60 mode: manual ~ f/9 ~ ISO-200 ~ 19mm ~ 1/80
This photo was also taken in Iowa City at Oakland Cemetery and was VERY overexposed, but I still like the way it looked, so I increased the contrast and highlights in PSE 5.0.
mode: manual ~ f/6.3 ~ ISO-200 ~ 22mm ~ 1/80

More Action

I took this photo the same night that I took Robin's pictures, but never posted it... I was messing around with shutter speeds and the fireplace:
mode: manual ~ no flash ~ f/32 ~ ISO-500 ~ 3 seconds ~ 40mm

Monday, January 21, 2008

I am working on assignment five... action. Robin was not exactly a willing participant in my little experiment. I wanted him to come outside and play tag with me. Normally the two of us can keep this game going for quite a while. He was having nothing to do with it and just wanted to go inside where it was WARM!!! I managed to take only FOUR pictures when he made a few passes. So I have three of the four that actually seemed to turn out decent - I think I like the first one the best. I am hoping for a warmer day and so is Robin!!

mode: sports ~ f/5.6 ~ 1/1000 ~ ISO-200 ~ 55mm
mode: sports ~ f/5 ~ 1/1250 ~ ISO-200 ~ 18mm
mode: sports ~ f/4 ~ 1/1000 ~ ISO-200 ~ 18mm

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Lesson Five

Camera Basics and Shutter Speed:

In this lesson we are going to learn what makes up the basics of a camera and then shutter speed. If you ever took a high school photography course, they probably had you make a “pinhole camera”. If not, then basically this is a cardboard box with a tiny hole in the front and a flap over the front of the hole. The entire inside remains totally black and has a piece of film inside that the image will be recorded on. As the flap is lifted, the light is let in. The longer the flap is open, the more light. The larger the hole, the more light. That, in all its simplicity, is a camera. Of course thereafter is processing… (for another day). The size of the hole is the aperture and the flap is the shutter.

The shutter by definition is the movable curtain in the camera that opens and closes when you press the shutter release button. While the shutter is open, the scene you’re taking gets passed to the film or sensor where it is recorded. The amount of time that the shutter stays open is the shutter speed.

Like aperture, shutter speeds are made up of fractions: 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, etc… each time you change from one to the other, you are either doubling or cutting the light in half. So, 1/30 lets in twice as much light as 1/60 and 1/125 only lets in half of 1/60.

Like aperture affects a photo (depth of field and what is in focus and what is not), the shutter speed also affects the way a photo can look by either showing or freezing motion. We will cover more in a “low light lesson” later. For now though, it’s enough to think of it as showing or freezing (sharp or softly blurred). So, if everything in the scene is in focus and a car driving by is blurry, then the shutter speed was left open long enough to show the motion of the car. Or, you can use a fast shutter speed to stop dripping water in mid air.

The following is a list of basic ways to think of shutter speeds. This is an excerpt from ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Portrait Photography’ and is an excellent reference manual:

- B (“Bulb”) – At this setting, the shutter stays open for as long as the shutter release is held in, allowing you to take long time exposures and to show motion in images that contain changing light patterns, such as pictures of fireworks.
- 1/4 sec and 1/8 sec – These slow shutter speeds require a tripod or some other support. It’s possible to shoot close portraits of people who are adept at sitting perfectly still at 1/4 sec, but not likely. These shutter speeds are intended mainly for stationary subjects.
- 1/15 sec and 1/30 – Some super-steady photographers using normal and wide angel lenses can hand-hold their camera at 1/15 and 1/30 and get sharp pictures, but it’s better to use a tripod because odds are blurring will still be a problem.
- 1/60 sec – Most people can take steady shots at 1/60, a speed which still allows great depth of field in most situations. Additionally, this is the most commonly recommended shutter speed to use with electronic flash.
- 1/125 sec – Probably the safest all-round shutter speed for handheld shots. Although not intended to capture motion, it’s great for taking more candid-type portraits when outside in normal daylight.
- 1/250 sec – The shutter speed for mid-level action photography.
- 1/500 sec – The action shutter speed that can clearly capture most rapid motion.
- 1/1000 sec and up – Better have awfully good light and fast film for these settings.

What is not mentioned in this list is that in the B or bulb mode you usually need a tripod and helpful to use a remote since you control how long the shutter stays open.

Also, taking the same photo from different angles gives you a different feel. ie. a moving subject from head on, 45 degree angle and from the side will all give your photo a different sense of motion. Just an idea to show us how taking a photo with the same settings at a different stand point gives us a different sense of motion.

So, for now, we are going to play with the automatic setting of “sports mode”. Play with the flash on and off and see what the difference is. Make mental notes of the shutter speeds your camera is using and the results you are getting from different shooting situations.


Use sports mode and show motion either frozen or in motion… make sure that the photo tells us that there was motion happening when the picture was taken. Don’t worry if your subject is blurry if it’s an action shot… if everything else is clear, then it is a successful action shot. Or, you can do the opposite and freeze someone jumping in mid air. Don’t forget to upload your specs with your photos. We’ll be looking at the shutter speeds this time.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I decided to do a little water experiment of my own for class. I filled a stainless steel bowl full of water, turned off the lights (flash was on) and poured water into the bowl while shooting the pictures. They turned out kinda fun.
f/5.3 ~ 1/60 ~ ISO-400 ~ 46mm
f/5.3 ~ 1/60 ~ ISO-400 ~ 46mm

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I have been playing around some more with "macro" - in my case, it's really close up mode as my camera doesn't have true macro. This was kind of fun - looking around the house for things to get up close and personal!! LOL. Here are a couple pics I did today - my favorite snacks right now. The first ones are Wheatables (Honey Wheat flavor) and the second ones are Sun Chips (the yummy cinnamon ones!) The third picture is one of my mom's dish cloths that she knits. I have one that hadn't been used yet.
mode: close up ~ f/8 ~ 1/60 ~ ISO-360 ~ 55mm
mode: close up ~ f/8 ~ 1/60 ~ ISO-400 ~ 42mm
mode: close up ~ f/8 ~ 1/80 ~ ISO-200 ~ 45mm

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I am working on the landscape and macro assignment, so Brian and I made a trip to Palisades-Kepler State Park. We spent the afternoon hiking and, of course, had to hit Olive Garden on the way home for nourishment! LOL. Here are a few of the photos:
f/10 ~ 1/400 ~ ISO-200 ~ 18mm ~ light: partly cloudy
f/10 ~ 1/250 ~ ISO-200 ~ 30mm ~ light: partly cloudy
f/5.6 ~ 1/1000 ~ ISO-400 ~ 300mm ~ light: partly cloudy
I find this house fascinating, but I could NOT live here!
f/5.6 ~ 1/400 ~ ISO-640 ~ 300mm ~ light: partly cloudy
See the two Bald Eagles? I had been trying to get pictures of them flying, but they always went in the other direction.

f/5.6 ~ 1/500 ~ ISO-400 ~ 300mm ~ light: partly cloudy
How could I resist the three stooges?

f/8 ~ 1/125 ~ ISO-200 ~ 18mm ~ light: partly cloudy

This is a bolt on one of the fences out at the park. I need to work more on macro.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Lesson Four and Challenge

Lesson 4: Macro and Landscape Modes

In this section, we are going to cover Macro and Landscape. I was originally only going to work on Macro, but I’ve also realized that some cameras (or lenses) are not completely capable no matter how much you try to force it… trust me, I was trying… so, we’ll include landscape too. Incidentally, I am also touching on lenses and focal length a little, but we will do more on this later too.

Since both modes are based on aperture, here is a quick review: In lesson 2, we discovered that the aperture (the opening in the lens) affects the “depth of field”, the area which is in focus vs. the blurry area just before and after the subject. Remember that a small numbered f/stop (ie, f/4) is a larger opening in the lens which makes the background/foreground more blurry. The opposite is true for a large numbered f/stop (ie, f/22) which is a small opening in the lens which makes everything in focus. Remember, the common f/stops are – f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, and f/22.

When we covered the Portrait mode, the auto settings pretty much chose an aperture around the f/5.6 or f/8 range… sort of in the middle. This makes the background a little blurry and is nice for portraits of people, etc. It helps to keep the attention on the subject. So, since that was the middle of the scale, lets visit the extremes on each end of the aperture scale.

Macro Mode:

Macro mode is represented by the “flower” icon on the dial (or if you have a point and shoot camera and it is macro capable, then it will be either on a dial or on the back somewhere or perhaps a menu feature. So, macro mode uses the larger openings in the lens which are the smaller f/stop numbers (ie, f/2 – f/4, and some smaller than that). A macro shot looks like those extreme close up shots that you see in magazines of flowers or insects, etc where only part is in focus and the rest of the picture is blurry. This gives you a concentrated area of attention.

My Experience:

I have a Samsung s750 digital P&S and a Nikon D50 (SLR) with the following lenses:

Tamron 70-300mm with macro – this lens has a switch on the side to change from regular close up to extreme close up (normal and macro 180-300mm). So, I extend the length of the lens to its max, flip the switch, and then I have even more zoom. All of my macro shots to date have been done with that lens.

Nikon 70-300mm – this lens doesn’t have the macro switch. No matter how far I extend the lens, it just can’t seem to achieve a larger aperture than f/5.6 in macro automatic mode.

Tamron 28-80mm – this lens won’t achieve anything larger than an f/5.6 in macro mode either. Also no matter which mode I was working in (manual or auto), I couldn’t seem to make the background blurry. I believe this is due to the focal length (which we will cover more later).

Samsung s750 point & shoot digital – got this for Christmas and this camera surprised me right out of the gate on it’s macro shots. I think they will potentially seriously rival those of my Tamron macro lens! I’ll put up some examples of both as a comparison later for fun. On this one, you find the macro option not on the dial, but as an option on the directional button on the back.

Landscape Mode:

At the opposite end of the aperture scale, we have a small opening with an f/stop of f/16 – f/22. These openings are very small but all at the same time keep everything in focus. When you see a picture in a magazine of a mountain range and everything is in focus, then it was done with a small aperture (larger number, ie, f/22). You can find the landscape mode on your dial represented by a “mountain” type icon.

My Experience:

70-300mm lenses - I use these often when I’m far away from what I’m trying to take a picture of and trying to zoom in. I find that the 28-80mm is not really good for long distance shots even though there is a little zoom to it.

28-80mm lens – this one is good for those shots where you want to get everything in, say a wide mountain range. Even though the other lenses are great for zooming (which a lot of people are after), this lens has a ton of benefits too. There is such a thing as being too close to your subject. When you are standing somewhere and you are looking at a subject, our normal vision sees the world around 50mm (so they say). More than 50mm and you are zooming. Less than that and you are creating a wider angle which is like standing where you are but stepping back by a couple of feet. This lens is great for group shots or when you are in a small or confined space such as a living room. However so far, 90% of my experience has been that everything taken with this lens comes out clear (no blur). If I’m looking to blur the background, I switch to my 70-300mm. And, all at the same time if I’m taking a group shot with a 70-300mm lens, then I find that I have to move much further away from the subject (sometimes running a few yards).

All 3 lenses have their benefits and can be better suited to specific situations. Here’s the sort of neat part… each of these lenses can obtain a focal length of 70-80mm.

Samsung s750 P&S – I’m still looking for the landscape option on this camera. The manual that came with it pretty much only points out where stuff is on the camera but not how to change other settings. I’m still lurching around for that right now.

Challenge by Chel (1tufchick):

Macro - (since it is so wet here and perhaps trying to capture some water droplets and or dew on leaves/flowers and such

Landscape - focus on reflections

Friday, January 11, 2008

I made a trip to the camera store yesterday looking for a waist pack. I would like something that can carry my camera with either lens attached and still have room for the other lens. Nothing too bulky. Do you know how hard it is to find such a critter? While I was there, they showed me a lens that would basically replace the two that I have. Nikon has an 18-200 that is SWEET!! Hmmm.... a $50 camera bag or a $750 lens? Ouch!! I'll keep looking for that bag!
We got a bit of snow last night and it cleaned things up a bit and made everything white again, so this afternoon I made another little jaunt to the park. It was pretty cloudy out and cold.
f/8 ~ 1/250 ~ ISO-200 ~ 55mm ~ light=cloudy
f/5.6 ~ 1/500 ~ ISO-200 ~ 55mm ~ light=cloudy
f/5.3 ~ 1/160 ~ ISO-200 ~ 45mm ~ light=cloudy
f/3.8 ~ 1/800 ~ ISO-200 ~ 22mm ~ light=cloudy
I put this picture through PSE 5.0 and tinted it blue. It really didn't change the picture too much, but I like the effect.

f/4.2 ~ 1/640 ~ ISO-200 ~ 30mm ~ light=cloudy

Sunday, January 6, 2008

When I got up this morning, the fog was very incredibly thick. This called for another trip to the park!
Nikon D40 ~ Lighting: dense fog ~ Mode: auto ~ Aperture: f/5.6
Nikon D40 ~ Lighting: dense fog ~ Mode: auto ~ Aperture: f/9
Nikon D40 ~ Lighting: dense fog ~ Mode: portrait ~ Aperture: f/8

Nikon D40 ~ Lighting: dense fog ~ Mode: auto ~ Aperture:f/9

Nikon D40 ~ Lighting: dense fog ~ Mode: portrait ~ Aperture: f/10

Lesson Three

Lesson 3:

Camera Settings So far, we have touched on the type of cameras we own (was in the survey), lighting, different modes (portrait), aperture, and a touch of focal length. I’ve seen some of you have already started to post these with your pictures and they do it in all the big magazines. So, this would be a great time to get used to putting the information with the shots. This is also a great learning tool. Boringly enough, the numbers are important. When I first started, I pretty much ignored all the figures until I HAD to pay attention (hence us going through the auto settings first). Eventually, you will want to push your camera beyond the auto settings and will need to know how aperture, shutter speed, focal length, ISO, and light (flash or otherwise), etc all affect the outcome and how to push in the right direction… “need more blur – oh, right! aperture!” or “want to freeze movement – oh right! shutter speed!” (of course having to compensate in other areas, but knowing the key of what we need to adjust first). Point being that if we see the numbers regularly, we will start understanding what it was that made that picture the way it was. Also, we can learn from each other by noticing what numbers were used in each instance.

So the first part of this assignment:

Find out where you can find your camera settings. I can find what my camera was set at when I took a shot the following ways:

1. In camera – only when the shots are still in there though.
2. Photoshop CS2 < File < File Info < Camera Data 1
3. Adobe Bridge – metadata is in the bottom left hand corner
4. Photoshop Elements 5 < File < File Info < Camera Data 1
5. Nikon Capture (RAW converter program) – camera settings are at the left hand side

**Note – when I checked the same photo in all of the above programs, the 2 photoshop programs only gave me half of the information which didn’t include the mode or the shutter speed even though these categories were available (I have no idea why…???). However, both Adobe Bridge and Nikon Capture gave me all of the information.

When you find out where you can find your camera settings regularly, then post it on your blog. Also, you can start adding on your camera settings to your picture posts like:
Lighting: sunny day, mid afternoon, no flash
Mode: Portrait
Aperture: f/5.6

Later, we will add more things as we learn them.

Assignments this week:

1. Find the above and post on your blog.
2. Start posting your photo information with your pictures (where available).
3. Continue shooting in Portrait Mode.
4. Fun assignment: I want to hear your funny or amazing stories that happened as a result of taking pictures. Say you dropped something, ruined something, fell down at a shoot, anything… post the picture that goes with the story and tell us what happened. I thought this would be fun since we are moving ahead on technical but not so much in the fun department.

Friday, January 4, 2008

These pictures are not for class. I donned the hiking boots and parka and took a little jaunt through Morgan Creek Park just down the road from our house. This is what my little eye spied.