Learning Your Equipment – Part 4

Learning the capability of your equipment and how it will see a scene you shoot and utilizing that knowledge, I think is a skill akin to that of Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso or Rembrandt van Rijn. You think this is a little over stated? Perhaps not. Not only will you notice the shading caused by the light, the setting around your subject and how you want to set-up your shot, but when your new skill is perfected you will be able to estimate with some certainty the shutter speed necessary to render your subject perfectly lit.

As I have personally begun my own education in estimating shutter speed in connection with proper exposure, I understand it takes a little time and thought before pushing the shutter button. I was the impatient student ready to push the shutter button expecting a miraculous photo worth thousands of dollars. Even if I were completely talented, talent can be formed and shaped. So now I understand the value of learning the basics and the power of their effects in a photo. So get ready: Here we launch into a few practical steps to learn and practice in “self-metering” light.

Where is your subject? Sitting in light, with face shadowed? The location of your subject relative to your light source is important to note because a person’s face is a delicate surface to capture.

What is the part of your subject you want properly lit? Eyes more specifically than only the face for best expression. What I meant by a person’s face being a delicate surface to capture is that being so well-shaped it is deeply shaded or over lit. Proper lighting may require a longer exposure time than you are used to, but keep a tripod or mono-pod on hand to help steady your camera.

How is the background lit in contrast to your subject? Is the background part of the photo as you planned? Be sure to plan steps to include the background elements essential to your designed shot.

Shooting In A Low-Light Situation

I do not often have the opportunity to shoot with other equipment other than my Canon SLR camera body and lenses. However this week, I was asked several times at a convention to use other people’s cameras for differing shots. Now that I have some experience with other cameras I have a few tips that will help you take better pictures in low-light situations.

First off, I would like to define what “low-light” means. Very often “low-light” is any situation indoors. “Low-light” is not having enough light for your camera to shoot a well exposed photo at the following settings:

  • ISO 200
  • 1/30 of a second or faster
  • At your preferred Aperture setting (I prefer to shoot at an average of 13)

(I understand that not all of you, my readers, have cameras which allow you to set each of these settings independently of the others or options such as Aperture. If your camera does not give you the option, disregard the information and work with shutter speed and/or ISO.)

Cameras as we have discussed see things differently than we do even though they are based off of our visual capability. If you wish to understand more about this, please refer to the blog posts “Camera Troubles through Camera Trouble – Part 6“.

Here are the tips that I have promised will help you capture better photos with less motion blur and camera shake.

Say you are in a hall with a person on stage who is lit with a spot light. You subject of the photo is the person on stage and you are currently in the darker corner of the hall.

  1. Get closer to you subject (physically).
  2. Zoom away from your subject (using a wider viewing angle).
  3. Step into the light of the spot light.

Hint #1 is a practical help by the principle of object relativity. For the rest of us non science majors, motion is more easily seen and anticipated when the viewer is more closely located to the viewed object or person. Yes the object will more quickly leave you viewing area, but movement is more fluid and easily tracked in closer proximity than further away.

Hint #2 is a light receiving issue. The more light that your camera receives the faster your shutter speed. The further your lens is extended means the less light is being received within the same shutter speed as if you were to shoot at widest angle. This works because if forces you to get closer to the light source.

Hint #3 allows more light into your camera lens and will adjust your shutter speed.

Enjoy!

Camera Troubles – Part 5

There is one more part of the human Eye and camera that we have not covered. This is the process of the Data Transfer from the Sensor to the Storage media via the Processor.

The Data Transfer:

The human capability for vision is amazing because we think we understand it enough to duplicate the process, only to realize our duplication is much less efficient than our inspiration.

As soon as our Retina receives the light of our surroundings, beginning to send the neurological impulses to the Optic Nerve there is a process of Data Transfer initiated. The amazing thing about this Data Transfer is the amount of detail that can be recalled, or amounts of certain information which one can be trained to receive and recall.

Illustration of information recall: Military branches train their personnel to acquire a target and discern in an instant if it is friendly or hostile. After an operation, begin the reports from each member and with it the lists of information that is most important; number of personnel on the operation, enemy patrols encountered, branches to which the patrols are affiliated, shots fired, number of injuries…etc. There is a lot of information to take in with precious little time to do so. This information is primarily accumulated by sight and secondarily with the other 4 human senses.

The same for public servants. Police officers require the use of sight in making reports besides assessing the threat to the public and their own safety. Paramedics make reports with vital statistics of a patient from many different senses at the same time. Firemen and women are trained to take verbal queues before getting to the scene of an emergency to take their own assessment of the situation.

This is all gathering data. These mentioned public servants and military are trained not just to gather information but to recall it for the purpose of reporting the events as they happened. This Data is what I draw upon in likening it to the Data a camera receives.

When the sequence in a camera is initiated, the light received by the Sensor is converted into Data which is transferred  across thin metal conductors. However, here is where Data loss becomes a problem. The Sensor is made up of millions of little pixels which receive light. There is not adequate space to give each pixel its own dedicated metal conductor for Data Transfer, so there ends up being about 100,000 or more pixels attached to 1 metal conductor lead.

Even still it is incredible that with so much Data being Transferred there is not more Data loss in digital cameras.

In the next and last post for the “Camera Troubles” series, we will discuss the specifics of the digital camera limitations so that we can learn to capture the detail we want.

Camera Troubles – Part 4

With this basic knowledge we have built on the human Eye and how the camera lens was designed from the model of the Eye, I would like to venture into some observations of human vision.

Again please take note of my disclaimer from Camera Troubles, “I am not an Optometrist”, so I am not attempting to prove anything for or against medical science but observing our ability and capability.

We have some magnificent capabilities to see detail in deep shadows while focused on well-lit objects. It is in fact this ability that I find most fascinating, because I have tried to  figure out whether I had looked into the shadows subconsciously noting the detail or if I am seeing that wide a spectrum of detail. In either case, the ability to see the wide range of detail in light or shade is a characteristic that I have not yet found innate within a camera, but I find it most common in creatively thinking people.

There are some ways to achieve the look of detail in shadow while focusing on the lit focal point. Before going to the topic of how the camera see a scene, we would do well to better understand what and how we see.

I have a hard time discerning the varying degrees of light and how well the area is lit where I am shooting. This I know from experience and so now I take some test pictures before getting into the heat of the photo shoot. This tells me some amazing things about my Eye sight. The Iris opening so wide that I do not notice the slight shadows between light fixtures and my Brain filling-in details of the wall paneling. We have an awesome device in our Brain to automatically fill-in such detail! Thank God for giving us such magnificence to be used and shared!

Now we have not discussed the process in-depth of taking the photo after exposure from the Sensor to Storage. So in the next posts in this series, I plan to explore “The Data Transfer” and “What the camera sees of what I do.”

Camera Troubles – Part 2

I can be quickly angered with myself because I lack the understanding of how my own camera sees the same scene I do. Not only that, but if I did have the understanding of how my camera see the scene, I do not anticipate that I have the dexterity to change the camera settings in the time it takes to raise the camera to my Eye once I see a shot. Although, because I know why I am angered, I can learn what I do not know. So, let us get to it!

In Tuesday’s post “Camera Troubles” we talked about how our Eye receives light and the path it takes through our Eye to the Brain. Now I should tell you that your visionary organisms are so magnificently fashioned no camera can compare to its spectrum of strength, complexity and ability.

Cameras are doing some amazing and spectacular things today, but the camera which outputs the most fantastic images is only at a basic level able to capture 1 out of the 100 things the Human Eye sees. Amazingly, even giving it a 1 out of 100, is being generous.

The camera is fashioned after the organisms that give us the capabilities to see. By displaying the inspiration for the first camera prototype I will list and correlate the major devices of the digital camera to the human capability of vision.

Major camera devices:

  • Lens – The lens containing glass for focusing and diaphragm for measured light control.
  • Shutter – The shutter is a part of an SLR camera which covers the sensor and only opens for the purpose of taking a picture.
  • Sensor – The sensor receives the light which surrounds the scene.
  • Processor – The processor receives the information from the sensor and sets it in order for storage.
  • Storage – The storage is a memory card that can produce any or all of the images you have taken.

Cameras, film and digital, are wonderful devices we can use to remind us of those specials times and events. There are some limitations of camera technology as compared to our visual capabilities.

“So how do I learn the difference between what my camera sees and what I see?”

“What settings ought to be change, and what is the proper setting level?”

These and other questions will be answered in our first two posts of April. Please join us as we explore how to get the most out of your camera!