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Posts Tagged ‘Photography’

The first photograph

View from the Window at Le Gras, by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce 1826

The above photo is credited as being the first photograph ever made.  According to The Amateur Photographer’s Handbook 8th Edition by Aaron Sussman, it took eight hours to expose.

When I look at the above photo, the image itself does nothing for me as it is simple, and lacking in detail.  But when I stop and think about the photo’s history, my experience is very different.  With this perspective I wonder about Joseph and why he choose this particular spot for the first photograph. The photograph suddenly has impact.  I’m sure at the time he didn’t realize the importance it would hold in history.  Instead he was probably simply trying to help out his son, who was a painter, by providing a way to hold an image permanently.

I also wonder how many photographers know of this image.  You don’t need to know of this image, or it’s historical importance in order to produce stunning photographs.  However this photograph is historically important, and I believe should be known to all who choose to call themselves photographers, or photo enthusiests.

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My Nikon D300 goes from ISO 200 to 3200 not including what it calls “Hi-1” which is equivalent to 6400.  However I have been too afraid to shoot at anything above 800 as I don’t like digital noise. Anytime I have have taken photos over ISO 800, I haven’t liked the results.  This has always confused because I have often looked at other people’s photos taken at 1600 or even 3200 and loved the results.  I fell into making excuses for my lack of results: ” My camera isn’t good enough”, “if only I had the D700 I would get better results”, “I need a better noise reduction program”.  You know the game, we’ve all done it, and we’ve all tricked ourselves into believing these excuses to be legitimate. Recently a friend of mine posted this picture, and asked my opinion of it.  I was hit with a huge case envy.  How could he get such a great photo at ISO 1600 when I couldn’t?

Shallow depth of field has also caused me grief when taking portraits. My favorite lens is my Nikon AF 24-70 F2.8.  I have always been glad that I bought the fast lens, but when it came to shooting people I rarely used anything lower than the recommened 5.6. When I did, I wasn’t happy with what I got. Recently I read on mostlylisa that for portraits you should use between F2.0 and F5.0.  Why could she take such awesome portraits at such a wide aperture, and I was having a difficult time at the guideline of F5.6?

Last year I took the following photo.  It’s not a bad shot, but I was not happy with the focus.  I thought for the longest time it was that F1.8 was too wide.  However I now realize that my focus point was off by just the tiniest bit.  The focus is on the crease of his eye, and not his pupil.  The problem itself was not the shallow depth of field but the focus point, and as such could have been easily solved.

[Click on photos to enlarge]

Nikon D300 50mm f1.8 1/100sec, ISO 400

This year I took the following photos, and I’m much happier with the results.

Nikon D300 85mm F2.5 1/100sec, ISO 1600

This time the focus is right on her pupil, and clearly makes a much better photo.

Nikon D300 24-70mm @48mm 1/50sec, ISO 1600

Again the focus is right on her pupil. You’ll also notice that this photo is taken at 1/50sec @48mm and the sensor has a crop of 1.5. The guideline to avoid camera shake would be at least 1/72sec.  But by using steadying techniques I managed to take a good photo at High ISO and with shallow depth of field, despite pushing the rules of camera shake.

Nikon D300 24-70mm @24mm f3.5 1/50sec, ISO 1600

As you can see, the photos I took this January are much better despite using ISO 1600. I am no longer afraid of ISO 1600 or shallow depth of field.  I have realized that in order to get better photos at ISO 1600, you simply need to take a better photo, and one key way to do that is to avoid underexposure. That means slower shutter speeds, so you have to control camera shake.  Following is a list of  things to help avoid the lack of focus camera shake causes:

  • Always make sure that the shutter speed is equal to or greater than the focal length. (or 1.5 times the focal length on a crop sensor)
  • Hold the camera to your eye for a second after taking the photo, especially at slower shutter speeds.
  • If using a shutter speed lower than the focal length (accounting for crop factor), use steadying techniques.

I notice that these photos are lacking in digital noise.  I think the reason I may have been getting digital noise before was underexposing the photo.  I will have to look into that some more, perhaps in another post.

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I love old run down houses.  Many photographers do. You see photos all of the time with a beautiful woman standing in the doorway of a weathered old barn or farmhouse.  For many the draw seems to be the beauty and texture of weathered wood.  My husband loves old houses because he can visualize the history of the house in his mind.  He tells me he can see a young couple moving into the house when they first got married, and then eventually a baby or two.  He sees the whole story in his head all the way to the point where the couple is old, and still living in the house.  None of these are the main reason that I love old run down houses. I love old run down houses because their guts are exposed.  I get a thrill at the parts that have started to fall apart but are still standing.

This past summer, as we were driving home from a family vacation, I spotted this beautiful old house at the side of a secondary highway in southern Alberta.

Nikon D300 24-70mm F2.8 @36mm 1/320sec f/8, ISO 200

Nikon D300 24-70mm @24mm 1/60 sec @f/5.6, ISO 200

This is the part that gives me a thrill, the raw guts of the house. I’m also really impressed with the lack of graffiti in this house.

Nikon D300 24-70mm F2.8 @62mm 1/250sec f/9, ISO 200

Nikon D300 24-70mm F2.8 @35mm 1/200sec f/9, ISO 200

Nikon D300 24-70mm F2.8 @34mm 1/250sec f/10, ISO 200

I really wanted to climb the stairs and take a look around.  However the mother in me was concerned that if the stairs or floor did cave in my husband would either have to bring our 3 year old son inside the house to rescue me, or leave him locked in the car.  I also learned that I need to take the lens hood off if I use the pop-up flash, as you can see its shadow at the bottom of the photo.

Nikon D300 24-70mm F2.8 @34mm 1/250sec f/9, ISO 200

Here I used the pop up flash to bring out the detail on the wall.  I think this particular view gives a good sense of the entire surrounding.

Nikon D300 24-70mm F2.8 @48mm 1/250sec f/9, ISO 200

I did the same thing here, but closed in more to simply frame the photo.

Nikon D300 24-70mm F2.8 @48mm 1/250sec f/9, ISO 200

For this photo I didn’t use the pop up flash, in order to get more of a silhouette.

When I look at the last 3 photos I can’t decide which I prefer: the last one where the door frame is silhouetted, or the one where I pulled back and used to flash to convey the surroundings.  I know the one in the middle is my least favourite. What do you think?

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