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May 2008 Archives

May 2, 2008

Metering Modes

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

You hear about all kinds of "modes" when you talk about digital photography. There's shooting modes, scene modes and metering modes. The later refers to how your camera meters or "sees" what's in front of it's lens. You see, inside each of our cameras is a light meter. Because it is viewing light reflected from the subject you are pointing your camera at, it's called a reflective light meter.

Reflective light meters are designed to see everything as 18% Gray in color with some variation. That would be fine if you were only taking pictures of gray cards, blue sky, green grass or the back of your hand. This is why when taking pictures of very bright or very dark scenes, your camera's meter gets fooled and you often end up with drab colors as the meter is trying to read everything as 18% gray. Thankfully, we can compensate for this by using the exposure compensation adjustment button found on our cameras.

There are three standard metering modes found on most digital SLRs (and many Point & Shoot cameras may have some or all three) which are Matrix, Center-weighted and Spot. Each works differently so you need to understand them to better use them to your advantage.

Matrix Metering Mode. This is sometimes referred to as evaluative metering. What matrix metering does is take readings from multiple points over the entire scene you are looking at through the viewfinder (refer to graphic on the left). The camera will then use it's internal programming to come up with an appropriate shutter speed and aperture (f/stop) to get a correct exposure. Remember, it's using 18% Gray to come up with that number. Having said that, today's modern digital cameras are very good when using this mode. I use matrix metering in most of my photography. Below is an example of a photo using matrix metering. Notice how Matrix metering trys to balance out the entire scene including the dark shadows behind and the light foliage in front.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Matrix Metering Mode Example. © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/125s, f/5.6, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 200mm Focal Length

Center-weighted Metering Mode. This metering mode needs a little explanation. The graphic is showing a large circle in the middle of the scene. When using center-weighted metering, the camera takes 75% of it's exposure data from the circle area and factors in the remaining from the scene outside the circle. I use this mode when I have tricky lighting with telephoto lenses greater than 100mm in focal length. The afternoon parades at Walt Disney World would be a good place to use center-weighted metering with bright Florida sun overhead and shadows moving across the floats and characters. Below is the same scene used for the Matrix example but this time using Center-weighted metering. You'll notice the shutter speed is a bit quicker and the shadow portion a little darker.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Center-weighted Metering Mode Example. © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/160s, f/5.6, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 200mm Focal Length

Spot Metering Mode. As the graphic shows, spot metering uses a small area in the center. Somewhere around 2 to 5% of what you see through the viewfinder. When you have very difficult lighting, the ability to measure such a small area is very handy. If you are taking a picture of someone with the light coming from behind them, more often than not, matrix metering would cause that person to be seen as a silhouette. Using spot metering, you can have the camera measure the exposure from the person's face only. Giving you a nice exposed face with rim lighting framing it from the backlighting. Now, where does very tricky lighting occur at Walt Disney World? Many of the shows use spotlights on the performers. Spot metering would be a good way to avoid overexposing them. In the scene used for Matrix and Center-weighted, when using Spot metering, the leaf in the middle is correctly exposed but the part in shadow is very dark.

Click for Larger Image. Copyright © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Spot Metering Mode Example. © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/320s, f/5.6, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 200mm Focal Length

I hope you can forgive me for not using Disney photos this week. The following links will give you more information on metering modes:

Indroduction to Metering Modes

Camera Metering & Exposure

May 3, 2008

Where in the World? #39

Focus on Disney World by Barrie Brewer

This was Challenge #38:
 Where in the World #38

And here's the answer:
Mexico Pavilion Epcot
Copyright © 2007 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50, 18-200VR, 1/5s shutter, f3.5

You'll find this fountain in the marketplace of the Mexico Pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase. Mexico is a great place to get beautiful, colorful photographs. Because it is so dark, you have to be extra careful to keep your camera steady. For this shot I balanced the camera on the ledge at the entrance to the pavilion.

John Agnew was the first to send in the correct answer this week. Congratulations John!

Congratulations to all the readers who knew the answer to this past week's contest and sent it in before the end of Thursday: Jennie K, Nancy, John Pasqueralli, Kevin Toomey, Gary E Genteman, Esther Muldur, Stephanie Visco, Chris Kotcamp, Mary Dannahey, Kelli Vanil, Kelley H, Reynic Compton, Amy Smith, Ramona Gaylor, Jennifer Schwing, Jennifer Bogdan, Heather Coursen, Monica Guerra, Jamie Hammond, Julie Mcclure, Renie Mistretta, Jillian Hoffman, Shana Wilson, Carinne Kight, Barclay Bakkum, Tammra Daugherty, Richard Ouellette, Melissa Olson, Julie Williams, Sara Stanfield, Emily Nussbaum, Amy C, Roye Ann Morris, Maria Rubi, Cheryl Lemmy, Martha Vance, Margaret West, Jorge Caso, Betsey Pickard, Angie Young, Sara Lewis, Debra Moscara, Alan Lichtman, Caitlin Blaney, Ana Marlett, Carrie Mcgugin, Patty Sindone, Sarah Bajek, Eric King, Sharon Dale, Lisa, Jennifer, Lisa Stamey, Michael Ciarrocchi, Brenda Double, Anjanette Tournillon, Susan Kolmetz, Jennifer Tremley, Karen Schlumpf, Katarina Whitmarsh, Denise, Marie, Kye Layton, Wendy Snelgrove, Jullie Petrie, Ashley Salters, Becky Myers, David Lizewski, Sherrytrapp, Laura Pranaitis, Emily Rennie, Vincent Maltese, Rob Stewart, Margaret Vattes, Patrick Albrecht, Sarah Smee, Catherine Chiarello, Mike Fisk, Tamara Gary, Mrs. Mumpower's Class, Kim Peters, Lisa Honard, Susan Williams, Karen Dresser-Smith, Stuart Hale, Sabrina, Sharon Lee, Julie Fahrner, Heather Timko, Julie Ellis, Anderson Dun, Jeremy Hardy, Bryan Timko, Trish Babler, Ann Carr, Jen Campbell, Sara Clemenson, Jeff Christiansen, Michael Gainey, Shirley Mclaughlin, Hollie Hinton, Josh Rohrbach, Brenda Strohmeyer, Monica Hatch, Donna Ports, Abbey Williams, Emily Russo, Danusia Rogacki, Jeff Schoeling, Cindy, Heidi Summers, Vicki Vaught, Susan Pitts, Elizabeth Akerley, Patty Carty, Kendall Huffman, Derek Carty, Garland Cox, Robin Fitts, Dave Cole, Rebecca Payne, Tim Rachuba, Rose Guarracino, Shannon Milair, Judy Koslowski, Chloe' C, Christine Dagney, Kevin Scharf, Becky Terjung, Luis Rodriguez, Chris Bertelmann, Jennifer Cox, Aaron Hale, Patty Lue Roosa, Mike Kaczanowski, Brian Haas, Scott Cullen, Belicia Dawson, John Dupre, Austin O'Blenis, Deb Staples, Damon Carter, Sherry Klinefelter, Nicole, Erin Hammer, Holley Blyler, Brandy White, Evelyn Cowdell, Brian Gallant, Anne Hainsworth, Richard Uhler, Ed Aleszczyk, Katie Wetzel, Heather Young, Jude Toups, Sandra Shaw, Caryn Schill, Melody Salemi, Erica Sipich, Brittany Irish, Jacquelyn Law , Maryann Eckenrode and Nora . Each of you will be entered in the May winners' drawing.

Challenge #39: Where in the world is this?

 Where in the World #39

Do you know? Do you have a guess? Send in your answer, before the end of the day on Thursday, by clicking HERE!

Everyone who sends in a correct answer to a Where in the World Challenge this month will be entered in a drawing at the end of the month for some special AllEars® goodies and a copy of PassPorter's Walt Disney World by Jennifer Marx, Dave Marx, Allison Cerel Marx!

May 7, 2008

What do I do with my old digital camera?

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

For those of you who'd like to get some cash back on your recently retired digital camera and are planning to or have purchased a new digital camera, some manufacturers are offering an incentive program. What they all do is have you fill out a questionnaire by Dealtree Services. You will provide specific information regarding your digital camera, so be sure to have it in-hand while you answer the questions. You'll get more money back if you have any or all of these original items : lenses, cables and/or dock, AC adapter/charger, manual, memory card, and software that came with your digital camera.

Once you have completed the survey, you'll print out a pre-paid shipping label and send off your old camera. It must be in working order otherwise you will pay a shipping charge to have the camera returned to you. You have 30 days to ship your camera.

Be sure to read the rules, terms & conditions carefully as they differ from company to company.

Olympus' offer allows you to purchase your new Olympus digital camera anywhere and then send in your old camera along with a copy of the receipt from your new camera. Your new purchase must have taken place after October 1, 2006. You must be a US resident.

Casio has a list of authorized dealers from whom you may purchase a new digital camera. Purchase your camera, answer the questions regarding the video camera, SLR or point and shoot you are trading in, print out the pre-paid shipping label, and send in your old equipment, copy of the new purchase receipt and the UPC code from the box. A list of eligible new Casio cameras is on their site next to the instructions.

Kodak's requirements are bit different than the others so pay careful attention. First, create an account and provide all of the information you have about your old camera. Second, you have to purchase a Kodak camera from Kodak's website, then once your new camera arrives, send a copy of the sales slip with your old camera. Packaging instructions are extremely detailed.

Sony's program will allow you to purchase a digital camera or camcorder. Their steps are different than the others. First, fill out the survey and then ship your camera or camcorder with a prepaid UPS label. You will receive by e-mail, a coupon for the value of your old camera. The coupon is to be used at www.SonyStyle.com towards a new camcorder or digital camera.

May 9, 2008

S is for Speed Control

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

On to top of your digital SLR or advanced Point & Shoot cameras is a Mode Dial. On this dial you will find the main shooting modes to let you take more creative control of your photography. Below is a list with a short decription for each one. For more detailed information, consult your camera's manual.

AUTO or A-DEP - this is an SLR's version of a Point & Shoot mode. It will calculate your exposure for you including the ISO, metering mode, aperture and shutter speed (this may vary by manufacturer).

P for Program - calculates the aperture and shutter speed given the camera's settings for ISO, metering mode, and white balance (this may vary by manufacturer).

S or Tv for Shutter Priority - you set the shutter speed manually and the aperture is calculated for you given the camera's settings for ISO, metering mode, and white balance (this may vary by manufacturer).

A or Av for Aperture Priority - you set the aperture or f-stop manually and the shutter speed is calculated for you given the camera's settings for ISO, metering mode, and white balance (this may vary by manufacturer).

M for Manual - you set both the aperture and shutter speed and take full manual control of all the camera settings. You have to be careful here as some other settings may or may not be affected. Check your camera's manual.

With that little primer finished, I'm going to start with the Shutter Priority (S) Mode and continue a series of entries over the next few weeks to cover the rest. Let's climb right into how to use the S-Mode by looking at this photo from Epcot's Canadian pavilion featuring the Rocky Mountains with a very tall waterfall.

Rocky Mountain waterfall in Epcot's Canadian pavilion, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Rocky Mountain waterfall in Epcot's Canadian pavilion.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/30s, f/18, 200 ISO, -0.3 EV, 28mm Focal Length

I took a few images of this beautiful scene with the late day light striking the top of the mountains and the waterfall cascading down the mountain side. For the first ones, I was in P or Program mode and it kept selecting shutter speeds which froze the water. Made the water look very static and uninteresting. Often when taking pictures of moving objects, like water, you want to show it's motion. The best way to do that is to use a slow shutter speed.

To get the effect you see above, I turned the Mode Dial on my Nikon D70 to S putting it in Shutter Priority mode. I now had control of the shutter speed by turning the command dial (this may be different for your camera so check your manual. Sound like a broken record, don't I?). I took photographs at shutter speeds of 1/60, 1/30, and 1/15 of a second. Each time the camera selected the aperture for me based on the other camera settings (refer to the Exif data below the photo).

I'm sure you have seen other waterfall photographs where even longer shutter speeds were used giving the water an even softer look. Those pictures were taken with shutter speeds over multiple seconds and require a tripod to keep the rest of scene in sharp focus. Something I didn't have with me during this visit to Walt Disney World.

If you are taking pictures of action scenes like the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular or Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt shows at Disney's Hollywood Studios, you may want to use a very fast shutter speed to freeze the action. I would start at 1/250 for Indy and 1/500 for Lights, Motors, Action!

For more on the use of shutter speeds, check out some of our past Picture This! entries:

Shutter Speeds and You

Mechanics of Exposure

May 11, 2008

Where in the World? #40

Focus on Disney World by Barrie Brewer

This was Challenge #39:
 Where in the World #39

And here's the answer:
Main Street USA Trolley Horse
Copyright © 2008 Barrie Brewer, Nikon D50, 18-200VR, 1/320s shutter, f5.3

This beautiful horse pulls the trolley on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom. Ed Aleszczyk knew that! He was first to send in the correct answer this week, followed by a whole bunch of other people!

Congratulations to all the readers who knew the answer to this past week's contest and sent it in before the end of Thursday: Cari-Ann Smith, Whitney Miller, Kate L, Heather Stevens, Paul Ignudo, Kevin Toomey, Patty Lue Roosa, Grace Goldblatt, Danusia Rogacki, Sara Lewis, Jennifer Tremley, Daniel Meagher, Sarah Bajek, Holley Blyler, Wendy Snelgrove, Richo, Danny Gauthier, Kim Peters, Brian Gallant, Karen Schlumpf, Sandi Smith, Doug Armstrong, Megan Stallings, Jude Toups, Eulette Mckneely, Susan Pitts, Katie Wetzel, Ken Fischler, Brian Harrigan, John Agnew, Ed Nawrocki, Sara Clemenson, Renee Soderberg, Karen Hotchkiss, Amie Mumpower, Jacquelyn Law, Michelle Ellis, Theresa Rucando, Jessie Romano, Linda Iacono, Debra Kuklinski, Anne Hainsworth, Alyssa Nutter, Angie Young, Jennifer Siwula, Merrie Tesh, Kendall Huffman, Robin Fitts, Double Family, Katelyn Palermo, Patrick Mcclelland, Sarah Smee, Derek Carty, Mike Kaczanowski, Jennifer Bourg, Josh Rohrbach, Evelyn Cowdell, Garland Cox, Jeff Schoeling, Katarina Whitmarsh, Vicki Vaught, Chris Bertelmann, David Lizewski, Darlene Harmon, Caryn Schill, Tim Rachuba, Patty Carty, Rose Guarracino, Chloe' C, John Dupre, Brenda Double, Jesse Kline, Glenn Meyer, Sarah Haas, Christi Ison, Luis Rodriguez, Paige Tow, Michele, Diana Archambault, Willie Tople, DECLAN OBRIEN, Nancy, Marc Lorenzo, Kelli Vancil, Janet Campbell, Chad Ryan, Patti Sturgis, Valerie Mccoy, Heather Coursen, Nan Newton, Melanie, Matt Naldzin, Beth Dye, Sherri Pell, Carol Donoghue, Lisa Battaglia, Tammra Daugherty, Nora Beirne, Renie Mistretta, Stacey Barboza, Moya Seaman, Noreen Rachuba, Sharon Dale, Jennifer Bogdan, Jodie Lee, Lesley Strawderman, Becky Myers, Susan Thompson, Judy Koslowski, Tina Lefante, Dave Cole, Kathryn Hughes, Heidi Leshko, Kimberly Kusser, Cheryl Costello, Bryan Timko, Hollie Hinton, Kelley H And Laura Barnes. Each of you will be entered in the May winners' drawing.

You can take your time thinking about this next challenge. I'll be going on vacation (more about that later) and will be taking a little break from the blog. You have until Thursday, June 5 to get your answers in. Look for the answer and the next challenge to be published on Sunday, June 8. That's also when the winner of the May winners' drawing will be announced so don't forget to come back!

Challenge #40: Where in the world is this?

 Where in the World #40

Do you know? Do you have a guess? Send in your answer, before the end of the day on Thursday, June 5, by clicking HERE!

Everyone who sends in a correct answer to a Where in the World Challenge this month will be entered in a drawing at the end of the month for some special AllEars® goodies and a copy of PassPorter's Walt Disney World by Jennifer Marx, Dave Marx, Allison Cerel Marx!

May 12, 2008

July Disney Calendar

Focus on Disney World by Barrie Brewer

If you read my December 25, 2007 blog, you know that my holiday gift to you is that each month I will post a photo calendar page that you can print out and use at home or work during 2008.

Here's an unusual shot of Illuminations from inside the China Pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase. Generally, China is considered to be one of the worst places to view Illuminations from because there is an island in Showcase Lagoon that sits right between China and where Illuminations is staged.

However, when I was at MouseFest last year, I happened to be coming out of the China pavilion right when the fireworks started and I loved the silhouette of the arch against the fireworks. But, I didn't have my tripod with me. It was my last night in WDW so I had to wait until my next visit to photograph it. This is what I captured then.

I want to try it again though, because I don't think I was in just the right place. I'd like the arch to be more centered with fewer of the trees in the frame. Next time... it's always nice to have a reason to have to go back!

You will need to have Adobe Reader on your computer to download the calendar(s). Just click on the photo to download the calendar you want.

This one prints out at 8.5" x 11". It's handy if you need a calendar that you can write on.

July 2008 8.5x11 Calendar

This one prints out at 4.75" x 4.75", the perfect size for a CD Jewel Case frame.

July 2008 Jewel Case Calendar

May 14, 2008

See LCD Screens in Sunlight

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

Friends! Gather 'round! You'll be amazed by what I have to show you. It will make you happy again! You'll feel great! No, you will feel magnificent! Come on! Ladies and gentlemen I have here before me something that even the least mechanical, the least technical, the least physical, magical, hysterical, popsicle, musical, whimsical, and tropical of us can use with ease.

That's right. Right here and now we are our family photographers who record vacations, celebrations, and elations with digital cameras. Indoors it is a bright colorful screen we view on the backs of our cameras, showing us who or what it is we are photographing. However, once we step outside into a bright, bright, bright, bright sunshiny day that glorious LCD screen becomes reflective. Where have all the flowers gone? You can barely make out if your friend is in the photo so you look around the camera and indeed, she is there. You take the photo, cursing non-Disney words because you can't see what you are doing.

Look no further for I have the answer to your prayers. Boys and girls! Moms and dads! Brothers and Sisters! Cats and dogs! Welcome to the world of Pop-Up Shades.

popup%20shade%20black.jpg popup%20shade%20d80.jpg

What is a pop-up shade?
It's made of plastic, folds down to keep your LCD screen protected when not in use and springs up and out when you lift the cover, to provide shading for better viewing of the LCD screen.

How does it stay on the camera?
For a point and shoot, simply pull off the plastic film backing and firmly affix the non-residue adhesive so the window fits around the LCD. You can slide the shade off it's track if need be and put it back on when you feel like it. For SLRs, the shade attaches over the eyepiece and slots surrounding the LCD.

How does it work?
When you're shooting in bright sunlight or anywhere that is casting a glare on the LCD, the pop-up shade surrounds the screen on the left, the right and on top to keep out light. This means you can now clearly view the screen. Doesn't that sound terrific?!

What colors do they come in?
Black and silver for point and shoot cameras and black for SLRs.

What sizes do they come in?
For point and shoots, 1.8", 2", 2.5", 3". For SLRs they are model specific.

Where do I get one and how much are they?
You can purchase it via AllEars.Net's Amazon Store. Prices range from $11.00 and up depending on the seller and model. They are also available at your local Ritz Camera and Wolf Camera stores for $19.99 for point and shoot cameras. Delkin, the manufacturer sells directly to the public.

Professional shades are available for SLRs.

May 16, 2008

A is for Aperture Control

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Aperture seems to work in reverse to common sense. Measured in f/stops, the smaller the f/stop, the larger the aperture or opening of the camera's iris and the more light is allowed to hit the sensor. It also controls the Depth of Field or how much or how little the plane of focus is in your photographs.

In the photo of Expedition EVEREST, I wanted everything sharply focused (a large plane of focus) from the tops of the trees to the clouds in the sky.

Click for larger version of Expedition EVEREST in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Expedition EVEREST in Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/60s, f/18, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 35mm Focal Length

To get the maximum depth of field, I moved the Dial Mode to the A position to put my camera in Aperture Priority mode. I now had control of the aperture or f/stop setting by turning the command dial (this may be different for your camera so check your manual. There I go again!). I took a series of photos of Expedition EVEREST, waiting for the train to enter the mountain. It took a few tries to get the timing down. Once I downloaded the files to my laptop, I liked this one the best at f/18. It shows every detail in mountain's "rock" and "snow" with a nice base frame of trees and top frame of sky. I took this while waiting outside the Theater in the Wild to see Finding Nemo -- The Musical.

On the Maharajah Jungle Trek, the sun angle on this hanging Malayan Flying Fox showed how thin the membranes are in his wings. To make sure the background went out of focus, I selected an aperture of f/5.6 for a narrow plane of focus. This technique is called selective focus and is a great way of separating your subject from a busy or unappealing background.

Click for larger version of Malayan Flying Fox soaking up the sun on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Malayan Flying Fox (Pteropus vampyrus) soaking up the sun on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/25s, f/5.6, 200 ISO, +0.3 EV, 120mm Focal Length

May 18, 2008

Looking for Where in the World?

Focus on Disney World by Barrie Brewer

Hi everyone - I thought some of you might not have seen my note last week about being on vacation. Right now I am somewhere in Italy on an Adventures by Disney tour. After that I'll be heading to France for a tour of Provence and Paris. Then I'll be wrapping up the three week dream trip with a couple of days at Disneyland Paris!

And yes, I am definitely taking my camera! I hope to get lots of great photos to share with you all. I won't be posting any here until I return but you might be able to see a few on my other blog, 365 Days [and learning]. No promises, but I'll try to get at least a few photos posted there while I am gone.

The next Where in the World challenge (#41) will be published on June 8. You have until June 5 to get your answers in for Challenge #40. I'll see you when I get back.

May 21, 2008

Night Landscapes for Beginners

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

I have returned from Walt Disney World and I have lots of new photos to share with you all in upcoming blogs. Based on the feedback you gave Barrie, Scott, and myself in the survey, I will go over the topics you requested to learn more about. Let's get this party started. C'mon!

There are icons on every point and shoot camera dedicated to night landscapes . night%20landscape.jpg.gif This mode may be found on a dial, in a menu or under the title, scene. What it does is slow down the shutter allowing light in for a longer amount of time than it would normally. Since the shutter is open longer, any movement will cause the image to be blurred. While you may think you are holding still, the fact that you are breathing means that you are moving and so is your camera. The best ways to shoot a night landscape is to use a tripod, set your camera down on something flat and stable and if available, use a remote.

What should you use this mode for? Scenic landscapes, architecture, and people but only if you want a blurred effect. When shooting with the night landscape mode keep in mind that any lights will look as though they are glowing brighter and you may see streaks.

Here are some examples for you. These were all shot with the Nikon Coolpix 7600 on Night Landscape. I was without a tripod so I set the camera on the balcony railing of the Grand Floridian and kept the wrist strap wrapped around my wrist in case of any mishaps.

I tilted the camera down so the center was on sand, pavement or plantlife and pressed the shutter button down halfway as to lock in the autofocus and without lifting my finger, gently put the camera back down and pushed the button all the way to take the photo.

You do not have control over ISO, shutter speed or aperture when using this mode and not all cameras will shoot with the same specs as this one did. I was able to check each photo once they were loaded onto my computer and see what the Nikon Coolpix 7600 shot at.

f2.8, 1 sec., ISO 200, Pattern Metering
f2.8, .83 sec., ISO 200, Pattern Metering
f2.8, 1/2 sec., ISO 200, Pattern Metering

Each shot has a different shutterspeed according to how much or how little lighting the camera's meter recognized. Notice the blurred people walking in the last shot? Unsuspecting models. Muah ha ha ha haaaa.

May 23, 2008

P for Program Assist

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

The past couple of weeks I've showed you how to control depth of field with Aperture Priority mode and to slow or freeze motion in Shutter Priority mode. What if I was to tell you about a mode which automatically selects a good exposure (aperture (f-stop) and shutter speed) to start with and allows you to change them for more depth of field OR slow or faster shutter speeds just by moving a control dial. Interested? I thought you might. The mode I am talking about is the P setting on the Mode Dial and stands for Program mode or Program AE mode, where AE stands for Auto Exposure. This mode differs from AUTO mode in that it does not change the camera's ISO number, Metering and White Balance (WB) settings giving you more control of your photography.

This is how I use Program mode. I set up my camera in Program mode, ISO starting at 200, White Balance at Auto -3 and Matrix metering. This gives me great flexibility for most shooting conditions I might encounter. (Note: I also use my Nikon D70's Auto ISO feature which starts at ISO 200 but when light falls off in a building or as day turns into night, the camera will raise the ISO for me. You may have to remember to change your ISO setting when shutter speeds go below 1/30 of a second.) Now, when I see something I want to photograph, I set my focus and see what exposure the camera calculates. If I don't agree, I can turn the command dial to vary the aperture and shutter speeds. It still gives you the same exposure but by turning the dial you can increase or decrease the f-stop controlling the depth of field. Like in Aperture Priority mode, the shutter speed will be changed for you. The reverse is true for moving the command dial to alter the shutter speed. The f-stop will be changed for you. When moving the exposure away from the camera's chosen one, an asterisk is seen next to the P on the upper LCD (for Nikon) to tell you you have selected a different exposure. It looks like this: P*. After pressing the shutter, the camera does not return to the starting exposure unless you move the command dial back to that position. This may be different for your camera so, again, check your manual to see how Program mode is implemented.

In the photo below of Sunset Blvd. in the Disney Hollywood Studios, Program mode initially gave me an exposure of 1/500s at f/5.6. I wanted more depth of field and moved the command dial until it showed 1/250s at f/8 which, for a focal length of 50mm or less, gives great depth of field. The slower shutter speed lightens up some of those deep Florida sun shadows, too.

Walking down Sunset Blvd. in the Disney Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Walking down Sunset Blvd. in the Disney Hollywood Studios.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/250s, f/8, 200 ISO, 0 EV, 46mm Focal Length, Matrix Metering, Auto -3 White Balance

The Disney Imagineers did a wonderful job on Sunset Blvd in the Disney Hollywood Studios. By using short utility poles and trees of the same height, they make the Tower of Terror look even bigger and with nice leading lines for us photographers to take full advantage of in our compositions.

Program mode is a great way to quickly get a good exposure to capture those moments we come upon at a Disney park, family event or walking around your hometown. It also lets you be creative by easily being able to change both aperture and shutter speed with the turn of a dial. However, Program mode does have it's limitations. It can't always reach the extreme slow or fast shutter speeds or smallest apertures your camera is capable of. In those cases, I still find both Aperture and Shutter Priority modes very useful.

For more information on Program Mode, follow this link: Mastering Your dSLR Camera: Program Mode

May 28, 2008

Flying Elephants

Light Meter by Lisa K. Berton

I always see moms and dads taking photos from ground level of their kids riding Dumbo. It's difficult to do because the kids are moving, they're not always looking for you, and you've got a bit of an awkward angle.

Another option is to ride Dumbo, sitting in the elephant that's in front of your kids'. When the ride starts pull the lever so he goes as high as he can and have the kids fly at a lower level. You'll have to turn around in your seat and fly backwards to get the shot. It sounds funny and probably looks funny but you'll love the results.

While Laura Gilbreath* and I ran around the Magic Kingdom, we put this piece of advice to work. When asked how many in the party, we each said, "one". We found two elephants, and Laura got in the one behind me. When we began to fly, I went all the way up and Laura stayed in a lower flyzone.

With a Nikon Coolpix 7600 in hand and only a few minutes to get the shot, I still had time to test 2 different settings. The first setting used is Face Priority. Since we were flying at the same speed, I thought I'd give it a whirl. As you can see, this is not the proper setting.

Great composition however Laura is nothing more than a blur. Sorry, kid.

I switched over to the Sports setting, designed to capture action. Well, Dumbo's hat is in focus but dear Laura still isn't. Why? Flying backwards and taking photos with a point and shoot isn't as easy as it sounds.

Finally! I only got 3 shots during our circular journey. She's sharp, she's soaring, and she's modeling. Work it, work it. Certainly, I'd like to have better lighting and lose the pole that's in her head and I can by using Photoshop but I wanted to provide you with the actual results.

You can also try this on Triceratop Spin and Magic Carpets of Aladdin.

*Laura Gilbreath sold separately.

May 30, 2008

M is for Manual Control

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

Don't get nervous. Manual mode is NOT a mythical mode only for the professional photographer. Manual mode lets you have more control over exposure using your ability to change aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to create a good photograph. The link I will give you at the end of today's article will describe in detail how to use Manual mode. For now, I would like to tell you about a couple of subjects I use Manual mode for. Again, I apologize for having to use non-Walt Disney World images.

The photo you see below was taken last summer as some boaters were cruising on Lake Ontario at sunset. To get a proper exposure without overexposing or blowing out all the bright colors of the sky, I metered the sky just to one side of the setting sun. Metering means I read my camera's exposure using Program mode which gave me an exposure of 1/125s at f/8 for the camera's ISO setting of 200. Once, I got this, I put the camera into Manual mode by moving the Mode Dial to the M position and set the exposure. Being in manual mode, I knew those settings would not change and were correct for the sky. This technique will make anything between the camera and sky into a silhouette which is what I wanted for this picture.

Evening cruise at sunset on Lake Ontario, Oswego, New York
Evening cruise at sunset on Lake Ontario.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/125s, f/8, 200 ISO, -0.3 EV, 200mm Focal Length

Another time I put my camera in Manual mode is for capturing images of fireworks. For this technique you need a tripod and a remote shutter release. I set the shutter speed to B which is the Bulb setting. This means once I press the shutter, it stays open until I press it again. This is why you need to use a remote shutter release so as not to shake the camera when pressing the shutter button. I set a small aperture of f/16 to get a large depth of field and keep everything in focus. When I hear a rocket being launched, I press the remote to "trip" the shutter open (means to press the shutter button) and leave it open until the colored streams reach their peak. Then, I trip the shutter closed. In the photo below, this took 5 seconds and I got a couple of other smaller explosions of color as an added bonus.

Fireworks, Baldwinsville, New York
Fireworks during a festival in Baldwinsville, New York.
Nikon D70/18-200VR, 5s, f/16, 200 ISO, 0 EV, 38mm Focal Length

Manual mode is not hard to use. It takes some practice and checking your LCD monitors to see if you need to change any of the settings. The histogram is very useful here as well to let you know if you are getting a good exposure.

This link covers in more detail about how to use Manual mode and is a good review for both Aperture and Shutter Priority modes: Master Your dSLR Camera: Manual Mode and More.

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About May 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Picture This! in May 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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