Tuesday, November 19, 2013

It's Not the Camera

At least that's what I tell the kids.
It's always what I believed except now I'm beginning to have doubts.
More on this later.
I have no idea what I'm going to find when I take to the street or park and being the prepared type it's in my nature to be prepared for anything.
Except being prepared for anything when you're taking pictures pretty much involves taking the kitchen sink.
You know, for developing film on the fly.
I tend to travel light:

Tripod in a case with strap and one camera in a bag (the other camera is out and ready) along with a couple of different lenses:

Lately since I've been doing mostly nightscapes so I take my 16-35 f4 wide angle zoom for digital and a  28-45 f4.5 wide zoom for film.
Both my digital and film cameras have 50mm f1.4 lenses, which helps when just taking random pictures.
I find that the 1.4 lenses will shoot at around 1/30 of a second at ISO400 which is not bad but not good, luckily the with the digital I can boost the ISO to around 6400 which still gets me decent images.
I've learned to sort of take pictures between breaths to keep the camera still:

For those images I set the camera to ISO800, to match the speed of the film I got in the other camera:

Those were taken hand held at about 1/50 or so.
Interesting how the film doesn't pick up the orange cast from the sodium or iodine or whatever lights those are.
Most of the other shots are done with a tripod:

That's on film with the 50mm f1.4 probably set to around f5.6 or so to extend the exposure time out to  8 seconds which is as long as my F3 will meter.
Since I walk around with the digital too, I have used it to check the meter in the film camera to make sure it's in the same ballpark.
I lengthen the exposure by closing the aperture mainly to flatten the water.
Out there at the end of the pier it's pretty calm, I try to get rid of that small shore break.
Usually ten seconds or so is enough but I've taken exposures as long as thirty seconds which  is as long as my digital will go without going to the bulb setting and manually setting the shutter.
Aperture wise, f11 is about as high as I'll go for funky things happen when you start to bend the light and although depth of field increases, so does either diffraction or coma or something else not good for resolution.
I gotta admit not knowing too much about depth of field for it involves some physics and stuff but with lenses 50mm and under I don't worry too much about it.

For the city/night scape stuff again I'm tripod mounted.
I have remote shutter releases for both cameras but tend to just use the timers to minimize shake.
That one there I'm at f 5.6 for 20 seconds at ISO100.
I don't boost the ISO for I don't want the extra noise.
From what I understand, long exposures cause heat to build up in the sensor causing more noise.
I do set my camera to wash some of that noise out; I haven't tried it without the noise reduction.
Again, I lengthen the exposure to flatten the water.
Although it was a still night, the tide was out and coming in:

You can see the reflections on the water bending I think because of the waves/ripples of the incoming tide.
That picture was at f4, I needed some speed for I didn't know if the gentleman was going to move, but he sat still for 13 seconds.
Thanks dude!
I learned to use a couple of other things to help me out.
I meter the light not at the buildings but at the edge of the water, a middle brightness of sorts, so that I don't crush the shadows.
My camera is set to spot metering only so that I have a starting point and then I can manually set the aperture from there.
By the way, I shoot on aperture priority almost 95% of the time, going to manual only when things get funky with the light or I need more exposure time.
Aperture priority though gives me a starting point.
I suppose I could widen the metering area and get to where I'm going sooner, but it's what I learned and it's sort of my routine for now.
Which helps, the routine part I mean.
Most of the kids would get all flustered at trying to get the shot because all the settings tend to overwhelm.
Night photos are about using camera basics mostly and using what you learned.
I think the most difficult part is finding the right composition:

I probably could have exposed that one a bit longer.
Luckily I can do some post processing to make it a little nicer:

I just upped the exposure about half a stop, and some other little things.
Anyways, folks think that for nice pics you need a nice camera.
It helps, but it ain't everything!
As you can see, I'm starting to get decent results using film.
On the other hand, I think the Nikon D600 (now discontinued and superceded by the D610) is an exceptional camera and it sure don't  hurt!
Of course, you gotta know how to use it and I think I'm only half way there.
While the camera may be exceptional, the photographer sure ain't!
Could I have taken the same pics with a lesser camera?
Sure, but I got some pretty nice glass in front and that helps too.
Most folks though won't be squinting their eyeballs enough to notice the difference.
I learned to take night shots mostly from looking at other folks' images and seeing what they were doing.
Imitation is they say, the greatest form of flattery.
Don't you know.


Steve A said...

It's not the camera, it's the lens.

limom said...

Only the photographer has an eyeball.