Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Photographer’s Mistake(s)

I try so hard ensure sure that I have everything set up correctly with the camera that taking a photo should be easy, almost a photo-walk in the park.

I could blame my problem on the new camera and in fact I am, but in reality this is not the root dilemma. The new Nikon D300 camera I just acquired has almost the same controls and settings as the D200. What could be easier?

I am very fortunate that during my drive into work, that first I am the passenger and secondly I travel east along the very picturesque Ottawa River Western Parkway. As with most parkways, these are scenic routes with grand vistas that have very few if any streets or other side parking areas along its journey. Just pure unspoiled greenery.

I am normally on the road by 6:30 in the morning and with sunrise occurring about 5:15am the sun by this time is just over the treetops lining the outer edges or the grassy open areas that comprise most of the pathway.

While traveling east one sunny morning with no clouds in the sky, I saw these 2 short trees that had at one time been radically trimmed and now with new growth radiating outward, was near the roadway. They were backlit by the sun and had as its backdrop the outer forest that was in the shadow of the sun. Perfect contrast and a photographers’ dream and I knew I just had to have this image.

Tamaron 90mm f2.8 Di 1/8000s f3.7 iso 200

The specific problem is that there is nowhere to park nearby and to find a side street and trek over to capture image and back meant I would be late for work if I did this during the week.

There is always the weekend and I was willing to forgo the lovely feeling of being able to sleep in and get up at my leisure.

I woke up early but both days were too overcast to provide the striking burst of light I needed on the leaves.

So I figured that I would just take a chance and use my own car, have the camera and tripod all ready. I would stop along the road, put the emergency flasher on and rush out to capture a few images.

It took over a week before the morning sky was right, as even the next weekend was not right. That’s 4 precious weekend mornings lost with an early rise and no adventure to chase.

But one morning it was right and off I went with my new camera that I had not even tried once. What would be the problem? Just like the D200 and I knew how to use that camera.

Nikon 70-300mm f2.9 vr @f2.8 1/5000s 130mm iso 200

Off I drove and hopped out of the car with the camera and tripod and my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens and setup ready to take an image. For some reason the camera did not seem to focus correctly. Checked that camera is not on manual focus, this was ok. It did move focus as I changed focal points, but still not a clear image.

The 2 trees where close to each other and I assumed that if I set aperture to f9 that they would be both in focus and the background would be soft enough.

I could not figure out what the problem was. Tried to manual focus and took a few images. I noticed that a little closer to the trees that there were some shadows on the grass and I thought I should go there and try a few as I might experience some flare due to close angle to sun. I then run up and rushed off a few more shots. By this time maybe 5 minutes had gone by and only one bus had honked its horn because of my parking on the road. Ran back and drove away with the assurance that I must have gotten one good shot and no traffic fine.

Later that evening when reviewing the images it just wasn’t the case. The first set of images where properly exposed but had some bleaching due to light entering the lens. The second set while standing in the shadows was under exposed by 2 stops and many images just didn’t have the crisp focus I liked.

In examining the metadata I had inadvertently set it to manual exposure.

It was then I realized that there wasn’t a problem with the lens but that I had forgotten to set up the dioptre for my so out-of-focus eyes. (big stupid grin)

The camera did have Live View with zoom but I had not bothered at that time to learn how to use it.

There was also the problem that the image framing was not great and the sunlit grass seemed too bright. Could I be a worse photographer?

I can hear all of you laughing now.

Lessons Learned Time

The first lesson is that for me rushing, if I am unprepared, just doesn’t work.

I didn’t really give myself enough time to understand the shoot, calculate proper aperture setting

Do check in the eyepiece for the camera settings before you shoot. It provides all the information you need to understand if it will work for the subject (Priority Mode, shutter speed, f-stop, exposure value and metering mode).

One problem I have also noticed is that with the D200 I used to reduce the exposure when there was a high dynamic range and some specular highlights and I didn’t want these blown out. It appears that the D300 better captures these with normal settings and I don’t need to reduce exposure as much. That is why the shadow shots were so under exposed.

There is also the problem, which I described, in a previous article ‘What My Mind Saw, What My Camera Saw’ is that especially when travelling quickly by a subject your mind captures what you want to see not what is actually there.

Great pictures can happen in a fleeting moment and be gone but most great images come from carefully studying the scene and then determining the correct light and how to frame the photo with just the right elements in their proper place within the story.

To use any fine instrument as an extension of your hand only comes with much practicing with all the features so that there is no thinking about how to hold. Just your artistic vision is needed.

I do hope to go out again and try once more and to be there at least a ½ hour before sunrise so I can carefully plan the shot. I may not be able to get it the way my mind sees it but it should at least be better.

Niels Henriksen

Photographer’s Showcase

In today’s reading list we have 2 unique B&W photography blogs. Each with a new perspective.

Xavier Rey Photoblog has a very captivating almost edgy B&W style. He only publishes about once a week but I do like his varied subject matter from boxers to tranquil seascapes.

The second is A Photo A Day Keeps The... whatever - you know the rest Which was active until 11 May and has an eclectic collection of older photographs from various people. Even it ti dosen’t start up again it is worth a glance over to the stie.


Paul said...

Speaking as someone who's new to photography and always making stupid mistakes, its good to see I'm not alone and even excellent photographers can have lessons to learn.

Susanne said...

You know the saying "the early bird alwys gets the worm first" and that must be you. You usually get what you want. Keep up the good work and I always look forward in reading your blog

OneFaller said...

I've had similar situations, and that's what makes me -really- appreciate digital. Sure, I'm disappointed that I missed the shot, but at least it didn't cost me anything to find that out. :~)

nielsp said...

I do agree that digital does reduce the cost to re-shoot and if you’re not too much in a hurry, you can get a reasonable idea as to how the shot was through the display.

Sometimes because it is a random event or only available at a particular time you do not always have the luxury to re-shoot at another time.

I have now noticed that the leaves have really filled in and it does not have the same luminance in the morning. I may have to wait a year to get another opportunity. I think I will try a fall and winter shot to get a seasonal view.


Anita Jesse said...

This is another in my growing list of favorites among your articles. So many points hit home with me that I felt quite "bruised" by the end. I have made all those mistakes and more than once! Some hurt more than others. Like having to wait until next year to get the opportunity once again. Ouch. Thank you for sharing your in-depth articles.

Davidlind said...

The moon was so very beautiful last weekend and I posted about my so very poor and disappointing results. It made me realize I don't really understand my D-70 or photography for that matter.
Your situation is much different but the result seems the same. Oh well. Next time maybe.

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