Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Photography Assignment #1 ~ Simple Depth of Field

One of the things I intend to do in this blog is to recreate some of the photography assignments I had during the classes I took. The first I've tackled is, as the name implies, a simple depth of field task. I've already been playing around with the quick-snap Auto-Focus features, but this is one of my first forays into going 100% manual with this new camera.

The original assignment was to take at least 5 objects, put them in a line spaced evenly, and then take 2 pictures - one photo focusing on the first object and the other photo focused on the last. The first time I did this project, I did it with a stupid subject like jars of paint. This time I planned out my shots better, hence the chess pieces on the chessboard, neutral backdrop, and focused lighting.

Additionally, the first time around on this assignment, all of the film I used was black and white. It wouldn't really be a good recreation if I didn't have that in mind and include that in my compositions.

I also tried the reverse, with the "black" pieces instead of the "white" ones. It really changed the look and feel of the picture drastically. Especially in the black and white versions.

I predicted I'd like the photos of the darker pieces better, because I tend to gravitate towards darker colors (like the blacks, greens, and blues of my blog designs didn't give that away). But I really liked the white pieces better, in both color and black and white. I liked how the shadows stood out more and how much greater the colors contrasted, even though it seemed when I was putting the scene together that the neutrals were too washed out.

This was fun, and I have more chess pictures to follow soon. I played a game against myself and took some pictures, playing with depth of field and lighting. But that is for the next installment of Experiments.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lesson #2 ~ Know Your Battery

Don't learn this lesson the hard way. I almost did and it was almost a tragedy. Almost.

I was not paying attention to when the last time my battery was charged. Most of the week, I was messing around with the camera and having fun. Totally wasn't thinking about the battery.

On Thursday, though, I brought it to a local event to get pictures to go with an article I'm writing. Partway through, the battery indicator started flashing and the camera started powering down unexpectedly. I got all the pictures that I wanted, but it could have been missed opportunity. So

1. Know how long your battery lasts
2. Use it until its almost drained, then charge it
3. Unless you need it for something important, in which case make sure you charge your battery before you go.

I can't post any pics of the event until they're published with the article I'm writing. So instead, I'll post my favorite picture I took this week:
Moss & Cobwebs

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bountiful Backyard

Because I haven't had much of a camera until now, I haven't ever really been much of a food photographer. However, because I love to eat so much, I plan on changing that. Soon.

A Pair of Juicy Red Apples
This probably doesn't quite count as food photography. There is no cooking, no plating. No table setting or other photographic garnish. No fancy lighting.

Sunburned Pear
Heck, I really didn't do anything except for focus the camera where it needed to be.

Perfect Pear
Well, maybe I did a little something.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

First Experiment with Action Setting

Today, I did my first experimentation with the Action setting on my camera, or as I like to call it, the "little running man" setting. And boy, did I make a few discoveries. Not very many memorable pictures, though. Oh, but the discoveries.

Brandon Launches
My first discovery was that the automatic action setting, or any multi-shot setting in which the camera continuously snaps pictures for as long as you hold the button, aren't going to do well in a lower-light setting. By choosing the "little running man" setting on the camera, I had all the "automatics" set: focus, light meter, aperture, time setting. Because the sun was going down, the lighting wasn't great and the shutter was trying to stay open longer to get fully exposed images, while also trying to snap continuously. The result is not the crisp, clear pictures for which I was hoping.
Long Shot
This led me to discovery two, which was that I could make some adjustments to that by playing around with the manual multi-shot settings, changing the aperture myself. I had some results on test shots, but while waiting for more Wright County Disc Golf League members to get to the open and brighter area I was in, it got too dark to take any more pictures. I guess I'll have to show up earlier next week.
Disc Golf at Dusk
The rest of the disc golf photo set.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Moments in Time

A photograph is the captured image of a moment in time. When you snap a picture, from life changing events to even of the most mundane of topics, you're creating a record of time and place, subject and space. No matter how you might try to recreate it, what is recorded on film will never happen the same way again.

Honey Bee Has a Bite
Subsequently, photography is more than just taking pictures. Truly impactful images don't just happen, they require an investment in being at the right place at the right time. Some of the best shots require extreme patience while waiting to capture a perfect moment that lasts as long as your shutter speed. In an instant, the deed is done.

Eat and Run

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lesson #1 ~ Know Your Camera

The Basic Lesson
When I decided to buy a new camera, I did my research. I first determined three things:

1. What my expectations were for future photography interest
2. What types of pictures I would like to take
3. What my spending limit would be

Naturally, all of them are interrelated and can have an effect on each other: My previous experience with photography classes and a year-and-a-half of playing around with a point and shoot means I expect I will remain interested in cameras well into the future. I determined I wanted to be able to do all the snazzy digital effects and presets, but I also wanted to be able to take manual shots. And since both of those add up to me needing a semi-professional camera, I knew I would be spending between $500 and $1000, depending on the brand, model, and features.

After that, I did a lot of research, mostly at Flickr and talking to other people I know who are interested in photography. I determined that the Canon Rebel XSi was a good fit for me because it had the options I wanted and just enough bells and whistles to keep me learning for a long-time to come, but that didn't have a lot of features I'm not going to use (like HD video for example). And because its not the most recent Canon like this released to the public, it was ripe for sales.

The day I went to go buy the camera, it was on-sale everywhere at a low price the clerks hadn't seen before (and was well in-line with prices I'd seen online). At the three places I went, it was listed at the same price of $700. But the National Camera Exchange was offering $160 in free photography classes on top of the sale price, so they won my business.

Here is where the lesson I wasn't expecting comes in:

After unpacking what had looked like an unopened box and the battery was charged, I finally had time to play with the new camera, so I started taking some practice shots. About 10 shots in, I noticed the numbers of the photos were 0470, 0471, 0472, etc. I looked in the manual, and it said that the very first picture I took should have been 0001. Then I thought about how the battery only took an hour to charge when the clerk said it should take 4 hours. I called the store and suggested to them that I had been sold a used camera and described what I'd found. They apologized for the error and said I could bring it in and get a new one and I could be the first person to turn it on when I got to the store.

Sure enough, the clinching clue came at the store when I turned on the new camera: It asked me to set the date and time. The first camera I'd bought already had the date and time set. What's the moral of this story?

Know Your Camera. Research it, read about it, get to know it before you get it, then read more after your purchase. If you're getting an SLR camera, you're spending a pretty penny for a high-quality piece of equipment. If you want to buy a used or refurbished piece, that's one thing (and you should ask the clerk about any information they can give you about its previous use). If you want it to be new, insist on it. In this case, there was no way of knowing what the previous "owner" had done with it because it had been passed off as new and unused (I suspect it was brought on a vacation and then returned to the store). I wasn't willing to make such a monetary investment in something of which I was unsure.

In the meantime...
The first picture I took with the new camera was on accident, but this second one was very cute and intentional. My dog Spirit looks on at a friend's rottweiler puppy, Brutus.

The third picture I took tickles me because it demonstrates what I couldn't do with the point and shoot: Determine what I wanted in-focus or out of focus.
See the rest of the first new camera photoset at Flickr.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sam Can Shoot: A New Blog for a New Camera

I just bought a new camera, a Canon Rebel XSi to replace the 9-year-old EasyShare DC3400 Zoom. From now on, I'll have new adventures in semi-professional photography, a far cry from the feats of point and shoot I've been relegated to. Through this blog, you can have some adventures, too.

Who am I? I'm Sara Duane, Twin Cities professional freelance writer. I'd like to make that writer/photographer. Since this blog will be more laid back than my True to Words blog, I'm using a more casual name - Sam - which has been my nickname for half of my life now.

"Sam" also fits better with my choice of blog name, "Sam Can Shoot" - a spoof of the Chinese cooking show "Yan Can Cook." What was the show's catchphrase? "If Yan can cook, so can you." So it stands to reason that if Sam can shoot, so can you. :)

Why am I doing this? I like photography, blogging, learning and sharing.
Though I've had some photography training and taken a few classes, I'm rusty. And digital SLR cameras are an entirely different animal. I'll be sharing what I learn here in this blog to maybe help out other photographers who are just starting out or are trying to advance their skills (like me!). Plus, its FUN!

So now I've finished uploading the last pictures taken with my old camera to Flickr. Starting from this point on, all the photos I will upload there and display here will be taken with the new camera. This is going to be fun and I hope to meet a few other people who like photography, blogging, and sharing, too!