Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thoroughbred Park: Telling A Story

Besides finding the best aperture, shutter speed, setting etc, I think the hardest part about photography is how to photograph an object. Before the fancy Nikon, I used to just point-and-shoot anything and everything that catches my eyes. Most of the time, these photos look "lifeless". How do I capture something without ruining its purpose and story?

Sunday morning I took Lola to Thoroughbred Park in downtown Lexington. It's a small park with life-size bronze horses and commemorative plaques of important people in Kentucky history. While I enjoyed the perfect sunlight and photography opportunities, Lola on the other hand did not know how to deal with these large size creatures surrounding her. She barked and barked at the motionless and scentless horses. She snarled her little canine teeth but the horses would not move. I wonder why.

Thoroughbred Park.

f/22, 1/125, ISO 400

f/22, 1/100, ISO 400

Here they come.

f/22, 1/60, ISO 400

f/22, 1/60, ISO 400

f/5, 1/1000, ISO 400

f/9, 1/250, ISO 200

I wish I had focused the horses in the back instead of the foot.
 f/5, 1/1250, ISO 400

Ponies at play.

f/5, 1/640, ISO 200

How do you do, Miss?

f/5, 1/800, ISO 200

In the end, it's all good.

 f/22, 1/60, ISO 200

I did learn today that if I make the subject the majority of the picture (i.e. take up most of the scene), the subject seems stand out more. Sounds simple but it took me this long to figure out. I wanted to make the horses look alive like how Lola saw them. It's a work in progress. At least I finally got pictures of some horses.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ah-Lo-Ah-Lah Lola Lalalalalala Lola: Aperture

This is Lola.
No, she is not a show girl or a member of The Kinks. She is part husky, part shepherd, and maybe part wolf (I think). She is practically the love of my life. I adopted her from the Humane Society three years ago. She has not only become my work out buddy, the reason why my couch is covered in fur, but also my photography model.

I got a little ahead yesterday talking about white balance. Let's go back to the basics first. Aperture, the size of the lens opening in which regulates the amount of light source traveling through. A large aperture (f/5; small number!) reduces depth of field, blurring objects behind and in front of the subject. Meanwhile, small aperture (f/22; large number!) increases depth of field, bringing everything in focus.

Large aperture/small number = blurry background, object is the main subject
Small aperture/ large number = everything in focus, including background/foreground

One of the best things about DSLR is that I get to play around how I want an object to be photographed. Most of the time I am on aperture setting (I pick the aperture number) and the camera adjust shutter speed automatically. But which number should I pick? What's the difference between f/5 and f/10? Or f/15 and f/22? I am still experimenting with this, I would take pictures of the same object but changing the aperture number. Let me demonstrate.

Here are some pictures of Lola I took using large aperture:
f/8, 1/15, ISO 3200, +3EV

f/8, 1/15, ISO 1600, +3EV

f/4, 1/13, ISO 1600, +0.3EV

Then a trio of apertures:
f/22, 1/30, ISO 800

f/11, 1/125, ISO 800

f/22, 1/30, ISO 800

Can you tell the difference? I can't seem to decide which aperture setting is ideal for this scene. Maybe when I am more experienced...any advice?

Finally, I changed the white balance setting to Cloudy (to tie-in with the last posting). This gives the scene a "blue-y" and "winter" look.
f/10, 1/160, ISO 800

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gloomy Cloudy Winter: Using White Balance and Exposure Compensation

Since my arrival in Lexington, I have not had a chance to visit the main attractions other than the neighborhoods around my apartment. This important as walking the is part of my daily ritual. More on this later. I find it hard to find photo subjects at this time of the year, when most days are either cloudy or snowy and no sight of life. How many pictures of empty tree branches and snowed covered grass can I take? 

White balance ensures that colors are unaffected by the color of the light source (Nikon D3100 User's Manual. 99% of the time my camera is set as AUTO, meaning white balance is automatically adjusted. However, the beauty of DSLR is that the photographer has the ability to control the color of the pictures depending on shooting light source. In this cloudy overcast winter situation, the Cloudy option would be ideal. This setting would bring out the "whiteness" of snow. White balance is also measured in "color temperature". Lower color temperature appears yellow or red while higher color temperature gives white and tinged with blue appearance. Cloudy setting has a 6,000k color temperature versus shade setting at 8,000k, and direct sunlight at 5,200k (depending on your camera). The setting of each white balance setting can also be fine-tuned.

I also used exposure compensation to make pictures appear brighter with +1 to +2 EV. I find this a great way to "add light" without using flash (more on flash use later). In other words, exposure compensation compensates for the lack of light source in shooting settings. 
Cloudy setting with +2EV = Bright!
f/5.6, 1/125, ISO 800
Much better with +1EV. f/2.5, 1/250, ISO 800
No exposure compensation but still in cloudy setting
f/22, 1/4, ISO 800
+1EV. Blurry. f/22, 1/3, ISO 800
Still at +1EV but with large aperture. f/6.3, 1/40, ISO 800
+1EV. Washout evergreen. f/5, 1/20, ISO 800
+0.7EV. Much better. f/4, 1/40, ISO 800
These pictures were taken at Lansdowne Merrick Park, my new favorite neighborhood.

Tomorrow, my all-time super model. Oh and aperture.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Introduction: A new beginning through lens...

Three weeks ago I packed up all my belongings in Madison, Wisconsin and took an 8 hour road trip to the horse capital of the world, Lexington, Kentucky. Why Kentucky? Other than being accepted to a master's program in Kentucky, I thought I would take a chance and go somewhere I have never been before and start something new. 

During the hectic packing and moving arrangement, I got a Nikon D3100 for Christmas. My dream gift. My new hobby. Except I did not how to use a DSLR camera let alone talk about it. When I got the camera, I read through every page in the manual and tried to write down notes. However, there is no way I would learn to be a photographer without experimenting. My first few days as a "photographer" I took pictures of the same thing at different settings. 

This blog will document my journey though graduate school, a new city, and a new camera. I want to use every setting and button there is on the camera to show to explore Lexington through my Nikon. 

So here we go. 

 My first photo. First step as a photographer. f/5.3, 1/25, ISO1600

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