27 April, 2008

Help Me Carmi-wan Kenobi you’re my only hope!

I really admire the pictures that Carmi takes and asked if he would be willing to give tips. Silly boy said yes. Unfortunately I do not know enough to even ask a question, so I am going to post a few photos to see if he can tell me what I might have done to make them better.

I may be asking an impossible task, and if so, I guess I will just have to try and remember what I was doing the next time I take pictures. I am also a very proud mom and almost all of my pictures are of my boy, is it just difficult to get the perfect shot when dealing with kids? These were all taken with a regular camera. A Cannon EOS RebelX. I believe I took all of the shots with the 300 zoom.

The following photos were taken with B&W film.




I was trying to get Spotty with the waterfall behind him, but somehow he is blurry and it looks like the rocks are in focus. Any clue as to what I did wrong? Is it because he was in motion and I was not using the “motion function”?

This is an ok shot, but I was going for FAB. Again they are blurry. I am pretty sure I was using the auto focus and not manual, although I do try that on occasion with extremely varied results.

Meh, it is so beautiful in the White Mountains, but this is just a lame ass photo, I was trying to capture the power of the water


Ok I am adding this to show that I can take a decent picture, it’s depressing looking at just the crappy ones.

These photos were taken with 400 Kodak film

We were in Cape Canaveral at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge after a shuttle launch. What could I have done to make this look less crappy? I know there are settings for night/dusk, but haven’t the foggiest how to use it.


I like this photo and don’t mind the sun sparkle but could I have avoided it?

3 comments:

Carmi said...

Thanks for your too-kind message. I’ve jotted a few misc notes below. Here goes:

Photo 1 – Spotty in front of waterfall. It’s hard to tell precisely which parts of the photo are in focus. Sometimes, when the primary subject is relatively small against a large backdrop, some autofocus systems have difficulty deciding what to focus on. So they “hunt” or focus on infinity. Best bet if you can’t get the AF to lock in on your topic is to go manual and let your eye be your guide. Or, if your lens has distance indicators on it, estimate the distance and adjust the focus ring accordingly.

Photo 2 – Hard to tell because I couldn’t load a higher-res version of this shot. But since the primary subjects take up a proportionately larger area of the composition, chances are the AF would zero in on them more effectively. The lighting is nice, too, but when composing, you’ll want to vary how close/far you are to your subjects. I’m an in-your-face kind of shooter, so I tend to get closer to my subjects. Then I mix in the occasional wider-perspective shot. But you want to avoid the in-laws-visiting-Europe shot, where we end up with millions of pictures of teeny-people lost in the middle of a big, wide vista.

Photo 3 – waterfall. You need a pretty fast shutter speed to freeze water. There’s no rule: sometimes you’ll want to freeze it solid, while other times a deliberately slow shutter speed will give you a soft focus effect. When using slower shutter speeds, though, it’s best to use a tripod, because otherwise everything will be fuzzy. The overall composition of this shot is quite solid: the diagonal path of the water defines the scene really nicely and takes the eye on an interesting journey.

Photo 4 – Yup, agreed. Great focus, lighting, composition and timing. Bear in mind that EVERYONE shoots lousy shots amid the keepers. It’s the only way we become any good. And when we experiment or encounter outside-the-bell-curve situations, our hit rate goes down. That’s normal.

Photo 5 – Gator in the water. Composition is too wide, resulting in the out-of-focus leaves in the foreground. Not sure what you’re focusing on either. From the looks of it, the camera was confused, too, which probably explains the overall fuzziness of the image. The story was the gator. Would have been best to either zoom in on it, if possible, or crop the final image (if getting too close would have been inadvisably dangerous.) The gator itself is also underexposed. I would have opened it up a bit so it wouldn’t have looked as dark as it does. This is a good example of a situation where auto-settings can be confused; backlit, reflective surface, near AND far elements.

Photo 6 – Lifejacket. Shooting into the sun – or at a narrow angle to the sun – often results in flare – those little spots of light in the final image. Lens hoods can mitigate the effect to a certain extent, but if the angle is narrow enough, you’ll get that effect anyway. Shooting into the sun generally plays havoc with most auto-exposure systems, too, which explains why the face is a bit dark relative to the rest of the image. In cases like this, where your subject’s back is to the sun and it’s not convenient to turn it/him/her a bit, move yourself to one side or the other to minimize the potential for flare, then adjust your exposure to properly light the central subject – in this case, the face. If your camera has a spot metering capability – as opposed to center-weighted average or matrix – use it.

A common thread to all of these is that sometimes you want to turn off the auto-features (focus and/or exposure, generally) of your camera. They’re not perfect, and they CAN get gummed up on occasion. Most modern SLRs or higher-end consumer cameras tend to have fairly decent metering, which allows you to see the f-stop and shutter speed, and the overall exposure of the image. They also have fairly good focusing aids when you decide to turn off the auto-focus.

Also, this is a film-based camera. It may not be a bad idea to keep a notepad and scribble down the exposure settings when you decide to go manual. It helps you adjust settings from one session or image to another. Digital SLRs (and most consumer-grade camera, too) embed this information with each image, which makes such review quite straightforward.

I could go on for a while, but this should be enough to get you started. Hope it helps…

me said...

1 – Makes sense
2 – I thought I was using the auto focus, also I was using my 300-70 lens, are you suggesting a better one to get in close? I was unfortunately on the other side of the river when I saw them being goofy. Would a 500 or 600 mm have helped?
3 – Can you suggest a book or web site that might give me more info? I have all sorts of things like “M” and “Av” and “Tv” – but I have no clue what they mean, and as much as I don’t mind experimenting, I would like to at least have an idea of what I was doing
4 – Thanks
5 – This fellow was less than 50 feet away and I was as close as I was going to get, I was using the 300 mm, but apparently that was not enough. Now how could I have over exposed? Is that part of the M, Av, Tv thing?
6 - We were in a paddle boat so there wasn’t any real room to maneuver, but I will definitely keep this advice in mind for the next time.

The notebook idea is a good one thanks

We are camping Memorial Day weekend and we will probably do the same hike with photo opps galore

Thanks again!

Carmi said...

Howdy. Answers below. Hope they help!

2 – I thought I was using the auto focus, also I was using my 300-70 lens, are you suggesting a better one to get in close? I was unfortunately on the other side of the river when I saw them being goofy. Would a 500 or 600 mm have helped?

A2 - 300mm should be long enough to bring the majority (say, 90%-plus) of relatively distant outdoor subjects within a reasonable range. A 500 or 600mm lens would certainly help in this particular case - shooting from across the river is one of those 10% situations - but I'd hardly buy one just for the relatively few shots like this - that's a lot of money to solve a problem for which more feasible workarounds exist. I'd simply adjust my approach with the 300. So....if you're far enough away from your prime subject that it's giving your AF fits - i.e. the subject isn't big enough for your AF to "lock on", then switch to manual focus and use whatever focusing aids your camera/lens combo provides. Or simply eyeball it. If the subject's still too small after you compose and shoot, crop it.


3 – Can you suggest a book or web site that might give me more info? I have all sorts of things like “M” and “Av” and “Tv” – but I have no clue what they mean, and as much as I don’t mind experimenting, I would like to at least have an idea of what I was doing

A3 - Try shortcourses.com. The company also sells books that are specific to a given DSLR, which will help with the controls, settings and menus. This may sound overly simplistic, but you should also have your camera's manual in your camera bag at all times. If you've lost it, you can download it for free from the manufacturer's web site. I'm a fan of the Ansel Adams Guides as well. For Dummies titles are also worth a look, but I'd browse those in a store before buying...the cheeky tone often makes it hard for me to find what I'm looking for. You're at a stage where you need your guidance to carry a little more weight. Not sure if you're near a photo store, but my local Henrys (henrys.ca) carries a full range of camera-specific courseware (typically books and DVDs.) Most big stores usually have some sort of branded courseware.


5 – This fellow was less than 50 feet away and I was as close as I was going to get, I was using the 300 mm, but apparently that was not enough. Now how could I have over exposed? Is that part of the M, Av, Tv thing?

A5 - You overexposed because the auto-exposure programs on most DSLRs can be confused by lighting scenarios that fall outside their programming parameters. So things with lots of reflective surfaces, backlight, competing foreground and background elements, wide variations between lights and darks, etc...THOSE will result in either over- or under-exposures, depending on the situation and your particular camera. The only way to get around it - go manual, and bracket situations like this. Then analyze the histogram of each one after the fact to determine whether proper exposure was achieved. Also let your eye be the judge: sometimes, you WANT a little over- or under-exposure. Breaking the rules is allowed if that's the story you're trying to tell or the effect you're trying to achieve.


6 - We were in a paddle boat so there wasn’t any real room to maneuver, but I will definitely keep this advice in mind for the next time.

A6 - I've run into the same problem. If I can control the position of the boat, I try to move it so that the light is less tricky. If I can't control the position of the boat, then I wait it out. Or I recompose - maybe go tighter on the face - to mitigate the impact.