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Archive for March, 2011

Down for the count

I recently decided to try my hand at using one of my old manual focus lenses. I had tried it in the past but was always disappointed with the results. However I came to the conclusion that if I didn’t practice I would never get better at it. The great thing about my Nikon D300 is that it is supposed to be compatible with my older lenses. Well that is now questionable since I was unable to remove the lens from the body of my camera, though to be fair I have used it and removed it in the past. I have had to send my camera to Nikon repair, which means I have no camera for the next 6-12 weeks, and I have no clue what they will charge me to fix this problem that shouldn’t have been a problem.

Sorry to all my followers, but I have no idea when I will be up and running again. I suggest subscribing either through wordpress, or the RSS feed so you’ll get a notification once I am up and running again.

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Nikon D300 24-70mm @ 48mm f/2.8 1/200, ISO 2000

A couple months ago I wrote about how I didn’t like to go over ISO 800, however I had pushed my comfort level and produced acceptable results at ISO 1600. Well tonight I managed to push that comfort level 1/3 of a stop further. The above photo was shot at ISO 2000, the only noise reduction was in camera and not with noise reducing software. The 7 cheese ravioli has very little digital noise, though there is definately some in the shadow areas.

I could have easily used ISO 1600 at 1/100 sec and not had to worry about camera shake, but I was intentinally forcing myself to use that 1/3 of a stop higher ISO than my current comfort level. I’m not sure that I would want to use ISO 2000 for a photo with a lot of shadow, but if the majority of the photo is the same correct exposure I won’t worry about it as much.

While pushing my comfort zone as little as 1/3 of a stop may not seem like much to many, it was a huge deal to me, and I’m glad that I did.

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This past Sunday I needed to bake some bread as we were out. I started baking bread about a year ago when the cost of bread started to get so high. It saves us about $$30-$40 a month, after so long of baking my own bread, my family has become spoilled, and we no longer even like the taste of store bought bread. I was also really aware that of the past 3 posts I have used a photo of my son. While I certainly think he’s one of the best subjects around to take photos of, it can get boring to see photos of the same subject over and over again. So I figured it was a perfect oportunity to photograph the bread making process.

I decided I would take photos of the entire process, much the same way I would if this were a food or baking blog. However what I learned from the process was very interesting. One thing I realized is that people who take great food shoots for their food blogs probably don’t have a very demanding four year old “helping” the entire process, and if they do they must have less clutter in their kitchen than I do. It is hard to get a four year old to wait while you wash your hands between each step and then take photos, they just want to get on with the fun of playing with the sticky dough.

Nikon D300 24-70mm @ 32mm f/4 1/80, ISO 800

I only got this one shot of the dough after the first rise before my son started rolling it in the flour, so of course I didn’t get a chance to either recompose the shot, or move the empty beer bottles. I even tried to use the blur function in Aperture 3, but it made for a strange line along the counter edge so I couldn’t fix it that way. If anyone knows how to do a decent blur without leaving a funny looking line along the counter edge please let me know.

Nikon D300 24-70mm @ 42 mm f/4 1/100, ISO 800

While I knew this before, I thought it best to share this tip. Take the time to also take the photo that your child wants you to take. It makes a world of difference in how well they cooperate with what you want to do. He thought the two loaves looked like dinosaur feet, and his arms were the legs.

Nikon D300 24-70mm @ 28mm f/2.8 1/100, ISO 800

Never trust the back of your camera to check for white balance. I took this with the white balance set to incandescent, when I looked at the back of my camera it looked horrible, but in reviewing the photo on my computer this image is not that far off correct. The bulb looks pure white and after all the bulb was the only light source.

Nikon D300 24-70mm @ 31mm f2.8 1/80, ISO 1250

The last thing that I of course should have realized but simply didn’t consider is that while making bread takes all afternoon, the sun does not stay in the same place, same intensity, or same colour temerture all afternoon. This photo was taken 2 1/2 hours after the first photo. The first 2 photos worked with the sunny setting, as they were light by window light on a bright sunny day. However by the time this photo was taken the sun had moved, and I didn’t take that into consideration when I took the photo, this was the best white balance I could achieve in post processing.

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Nikon D300 24-70mm @60mm f/2.8 1/100, ISO 800

[Click on photo to enlarge]

I recently posted about my relationship with Aperture 3, soon after I got a google notification that www.kirjaputiikki.fi had republished my article. Well the link love certainly made me feel great, but the real benefit came when I decided to check out that site again yesterday and found a link to this teeth whitening tutorial. I decided to watch the video even though I though I knew how to whiten teeth in Aperture. However the video showed me how to use multiple adjustment brushes. For example you can have an adjustment brush on the highlights/shadows of the photo, and then get another brush to highlights/shadows with different settings for a different part of the photo.

I find it so ironic that the post about me starting to doubt Aperture 3 actually lead to me finding exactly what I needed to make me love it all over again. I don’t do a lot of converting to black and white, but my frustration with white balance (in this post here) lead me to think that perhaps when I can’t get the colour right, that might be a good time to convert to black and white. The teeth whitening video then inspired me to use a brush to put the colour back into the photo selectively. I know the brushing wasn’t perfect, it was really hard to get right around his messy hair. But a friend of mine inspired me last night to experiment with things I haven’t done before, and to not expect the experiments to be perfect, but to be stepping-stones to greater things. The above photo is exactly that, a first time experiment. Thanks Paul.

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If you are at all into photo processing you have surely heard of the Lightroom vs Aperture debate. Every time there is a new release the debate sparks up again, and people consider switching. I bought my first copy of Aperture 2 shortly after its release date. Lightroom 1.0 hadn’t been on the market as long as Aperture, not to mention it was $100 more, and I didn’t really see that it did a whole lot more than Aperture 2. Since then I have often thought about switching to Lightroom, not because I think it’s a better program, but because it has become the standard. It’s easy to find courses on Lightroom. However I have a relationship of sorts with Aperture, and the idea of all the work involved in such a move seems wrong to me.

As with many new things or relationships, at first you are all in love, and in awe of everything about the person/program. Eventually the euphoria wears off, and you start to see the flaws, some that others tried to point out to you, others that you just find on your own. Eventually I started to see the flaws, at least the flaws in Aperture 2 that bothered me, one of the biggest was that in the metadata the exposure program was listed as a number, and the same number was used for manual, as either aperture or shutter priority (I can’t remember anymore). But the biggest complaint that I had was it didn’t show me the focus point. I could review every photo I had taken and the camera would show me where I had focused, but that information was not communicated to Aperture 2. I can remember complaining to a fellow photographer friend of mine. His only response was that I didn’t really need that information anyway. While I respect his opinion, this time I didn’t care what he thought, this was a huge deal to me.

I finally got Aperture 3 a couple of months ago, and the honeymoon phase started all over again. Aperture 3 had got it right; this time you can simply click on a button, and the focus point is highlighted in red. I have used that feature so many times to check my work, and it has helped me improve my photography. Aperture 3 also lists what exposure program I used, whether fully manual, aperture priority, or shutter priority. It also tells me what white balance the camera was set to.

The honeymoon phase is over now. The white balance metadata is sometimes wrong, and in the last couple of weeks it was wrong under 2 different circumstances. The first time it read “Daylight fluorescent” when really I had used “High temp mercury-vapor”. Today it was wrong again, when the metadata read “Auto White Balance” when I had actually manually preset the white balance. I’m almost sure that my friend would tell me that it really doesn’t matter, in the end it’s about getting the image right, and not what the program says, but I’m upset. If you’ve been following my blog you know that a couple of weeks ago I wrote about my frustrations with white balance. I’m paying attention to what situations the camera’s white balance presets work well in, how auto white balance does work, and when a custom white balance works best. So having accurate information in the metadata helps me, while incorrect information makes it all the more difficult for me, and is just plain bad programming.

While the honeymoon may be over and I’m angry with Aperture 3 right now, I’m sure that once the dust settles and trust is re-established I’ll want to continue this journey with Aperture 3 as my friend, and not want to ditch him for Lightroom. However at this very moment, the idea of changing to Lightroom is floating around in my head.

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Nikon D300 24-70mm @ 70mm f2.8 1/160, ISO 800

[click to enlarge]

Tonight my husband was looking through the photos I have taken over the past couple of months, and he said I should post the above photo. I found this interesting because I took this photo simply because the light from the window was so beautiful and I was just surprised how little light was produced by the window. I had considered blogging about window light. However this was not the reason my husband said I should post this photo, his reason surprised me.

My husband wanted me to post the photo because he loves how only the one eye is in focus. I can’t remember where or when I learned that when you take a portrait you want the eyes to be in focus. When they eyes are in focus the viewer is tricked into thinking more of the photo is in focus than really is. My husband, also a hobbyist photographer didn’t know this, turns out that he would have chosen to focus on the nose (a big no-no by the way.) Sometimes in trying to improve your skills, you forget how much you already know.

So in the spirit of sharing, here is my first photo tip:

  • When taking photos of people, focus on the eyes.

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