Friday, August 28, 2009

Good Thing I Promised

Last week I promised that I'd do the Digital Photography School assignment for this week, even though it was about technical aspects of photography (which I don't love).

Good thing I made that promise, because otherwise I'd be tempted to just skip this one. But if I keep skipping all the technical assignments, I won't learn and be able to do more things with my camera.

This week the assignment was to take one photographic parameter and take two identical pictures varying only that parameter. Seems like a great way to learn about what some of those settings actually do.


Aperture is basically the size of the opening when you're taking a picture. By varying the aperture, I can take pictures where the background is blurred.

Rose with aperture set to 4

Rose with aperture 16

It's hard to tell the difference in the background in these photos without the full-sized image, but the background is blurred in the first photo.

I also notice that the smaller rose is slightly blurry in the first photo.

Out of this set, the first photo is my favorite.

These next two pictures show the same effect more clearly.

Rose with aperture 5

Look at that nice blurry background! (There really is nothing back there that I want you to see - it's our long, unmowed lawn and a weedy part of the garden!)

Rose with aperture 13

The long grass, background trees and even some weeds are visible - detracting from the beauty of the roses.

Boring technical note meant for my eyes only:
To get camera into aperature mode, turn dial to Av. Now dial by viewfinder goes from 4.5 or so up toward 20. Change that to change aperture.
Can change ISO in this mode if you need to by pressing ISO button - then dial will change that.
Told you it was boring - but I want to remember how to put the camera in aperture mode - so I will know I have it written down in this post!


I don't have a short description of ISO - although the technically inclined among us will be happy to hear that it does refer to the same standards body that we hear about all the time.

For cameras, ISO used to refer to technical aspects of film, but now it refers to what's going on in your camera. This discussion seems pretty good.

To demonstrate the tradeoffs at different ISO settings in a low light situation, I decided to photograph a very large fungus that has taken up residence in our side yard. (Part of why I wanted a blurry background in that rose photo......This large beast was in the middle of our uncut lawn!)

Big glorious fungus

There's just something cool about a giant fungus!

Fungus with an oak leaf for scale

At low ISO, you can see that the photo is blurry, and at high ISO the photo is sharper, but there is graininess introduced.

I still count on my camera to choose the correct ISO most of the time - because it is smarter than I am in many photographic situations.

Boring camera note for my eyes only:
To get camera in ISO, turn dial to AV. Set aperature to 5.6 (or did I do 5.0?). Vary the ISO using the dial.

Phew!! I started working on this post on Tuesday, and found it so daunting that I even skipped a blogging day because of it. For an engineer, I am surprisingly uninterested in the technical pieces of photography.

Fortunately, next week's assignment is about a subject instead of a technique. The subject is "Weather". When I first learned that, earlier this week, I thought I'd have trouble because the week was forecast to be sunny and nice. That has been true so far this week - however, tropical storm Danny is aiming for us this weekend.

I guess I will have some weather to photograph after all. I hope that the current forecast holds true....that it stays out to sea and we just get a bad rain storm. New England isn't used to this much hurricane activity.

Wish us luck!


Sharon said...

I absolutely love this post - thank you for taking the time for all the details. I've been at the fair all day and am tired and grubby, but will come back to this in a couple of days so that I can pull out my camera and manual and then re-read your post.

B.C. (before children) I used to shoot with an SLR and do darkroom work, but I'm having a hard time getting my old way of new thinking into my new fangled camera.

Wool Enough said...

Thanks for that "all about ISO" link. I didn't realize that digital ISO was not an exact emulation of film ISO.

Deanna said...

Very interesting, Sue!

My son has a t-shirt with a mushroom on it, and the words "Fun Guy!"


Theresa said...

You deserve some prize for sticking with this assignment. Now I will admit, that technical stuff kind of makes me glaze over,not yours, but in general, so the visual examples, perfect. Thank you!
That IS some fungus you've got there. Gosh darn it's big. Hubby going to mow it, or is it enough of a presence to be a mow around? ;-) It's almost big enough to name, or maybe use it for directions!
"Go past the mother of all fungus and take a left.....
You guys have had a lot of storms recently, but I can remember other years when the storm tracks were prominent too. Peabody MA is no doubt flooding...again. Stay dry!

Life Looms Large said...

What a nice surprise to wake up to nice comments this morning!

Overnight I was concerned about how long and rambling that post was. I'm thrilled if any of you can find anything useful in it!!

As for the fungus, Jim dismantled it before I mowed the lawn. We were afraid it would hurt the lawnmower (or me!) There is a beautiful orange fungus growing in the woods right now....hope it survives the storm!!


Delighted Hands said...

I was going to ask if the fungus was edible but since it is history-never mind! I loved the camera mini lesson-thanks.

skiingweaver said...

Fantastic! Please, please bring all that wonderful knowledge to the NH guild class in October... :) Looking forward to meeting you!

Rita said...

I love this post. I am not tech savvy and i get so frustrated trying to learn something new. I can't get all the great pictures that others get. I am going to try playing with the aperture. Thank you for such an inofrmative post.

Jennifer said...

Hey - I enjoyed this post if that helps any with the technical assignments! Good job sticking to it. I'm beginning to learn from these things that what I want to do likely will require a better camera. Like I have no ability to change the ISO function. Or at least I need to get my book out and read it - scary! Love the fungus - it it edible?

Life Looms Large said...

I like it that several people have wondered about eating that fungus. You're braver than I am..... Although one of the best things I've ever eaten in my life was some wild mushroom ravioli. What if the key ingredient was growing right in my yard?

On photography I have two ideas:

We've had great luck buying and selling cameras and lenses on Ebay. It takes some work, but once you know what you want, you can often get a better price that way.

Also, I don't know if you're doing any post-processing on your photos, but if not, there's a website called that lets you do different photo processing. It's free for some things, and $25 a year for everything. I don't use it because Jim bought Photoshop years I use that. But if we didn't have Photoshop, we'd consider picnik.

For me, improving my photographs this year has involved taking lots of pictures, learning to use both of our cameras a little better, and learning how to do some photo processing to make the pictures I get look as good as I can make them. I still discard a ton of pictures every day....and find new photographic challenges frequently.

Thanks for sticking with me in this long and possibly a little boring post!!! It does help to know that other people read it and found it helpful!!


Jennifer said...

Thanks for the comments on the possibility of a new camera. Those are great ideas. I am looking for a quick a dirty media to increase my creative output and have considered photography. There is another blog where the artist is posting a photo a day for practice.
It may be that I try out picnik and post a manipulated image a day.... We'll see how far that goes and if I'm frustrated with that. Thanks again!

Life Looms Large said...


I've been watching Daily Visuals too! (Plus Bedlam Farm on your recommendation).

I can say that taking photos so often since I started blogging has helped me with composition and with seeing and appreciating things more. It is such a quick way to create something beautiful.

I'm sure that both the websites I mentioned feature images shot with great cameras, and post-processed with software. In the days of film cameras, people could make changes in the darkroom. Now people make changes with software.

Anyway, I hope you have as much fun with your camera as I've been having with mine!