Model: Twyla D'Vine
A lot of photographers that are trying to improve focus their efforts on buying new camera bodies, new lenses, or other photography equipment. Although it is good to have the right equipment for the job, the things that make the most impact on creating an amazing image are lighting and composition. It is the lighting and composition that really tell the story in the image. It is the lighting and composition that make the subject stand out, draw the eye around the image the way you intend for the viewer to look, to express story.
The photo in this blog post is an example of negative space. The model, the awesome Twyla D'Vine, is off to the far right of the photo (or is that the far left). She is standing next to a very large pillar. Normally the rule of thirds would say to move her more toward the center so she and the pillar are in the right third of the shot. But I purposely put Twyla farther over to the side. The rest of the photo is pretty much empty. There is a slight pattern to the wall. But the pattern and colors are very sparse. So your eye is immediately drawn to the side of the image where the story actually is.
When you use negative space in an image it is really important that the "empty" area is pretty blank. You can use a stucco wall, or an adobe wall. In this case the wall is paneled, but the pattern is very simple. If the background is at all busy then you lose the effect because there is so much the eye can look at. So now the viewer needs to struggle to figure out what the photo is supposed to be about.
One other thing I did in this image was to have the model looking off camera instead into the image. This helps continue the tension for the viewer to look to the side, and ultimately off the image. It makes you wonder what is out there that we cannot see.
An image like this can also be used well in an advertisement, or in a double truck or two page full layout in a magazine or book. For an ad you could put text in the negative space. If your graphics designer is really good they will use the lines and composition of the existing image in designing how other elements will go in. If you put it in a magazine or book then the spine will run down in the negative area and not on the model or other significant element of the image. Sometimes when composing an image you need to pay special attention to the ultimate use of the image and let that guide your composition decisions.
Well it has been some time since I posted anything. Family matters filled most of my holiday season. But it is now 2014 and I am back with a vengeance. Although I did not have much time the end of 2013 I did get a couple chances to go out and do some photography. I am part of a group in West Michigan that gets together to shoot. It is a group of models and photographers and makeup artists and hair stylists called Odeum Arts. It is a lot of fun to work together, and helped me stay sane during the crazy times in my life. I also had a chance to shoot a friend in a rocker series too.
As I was looking over these photos I came up with the idea for this blog post. Many times we think of cameras and lenses and possible strobe lighting as photography equipment. As we get a little more involved we might start to add filters to the camera bag. There might be some softboxes or light umbrellas. But we still have stuff that is decidedly photography related. It is all stuff that is marketed as photography equipment. But are there other things that photographers might need that you would not initially think of as photography equipment?
So what might also be a bit of photography equipment? Well one thing I found and LOVE is a fog machine. It is possible to add a fog effect in photoshop. But first it is very time consuming. Second, it is very difficult to get it to look right. Third, if you have light shining through the fog the fog will dissipate the light in interesting ways. If you use lasers then the fog will allow you to see the laser beam. But the beam will be broken erratically and in a very random and organic way.
The fog will also allow you to separate the subject from the background. It is sort of a special effects equivalent to a shallow depth of field. Along with what it does for the photograph itself, you have the advantage that it will add atmosphere to the shoot that the model and photographer will both feed off of. It is sort of like playing music during the shoot. The environment will help feel the creative energies.
The first photo in this blog, the steampunk shot, was the setup I was going for with Andrea, when I saw Katie in her outfit for a shoot with another photographer. Because I saw the hall with the lights and the steam I was starting to focus a lot on the look. I suddenly had the idea that Katie would look incredible in the hall with the lighting and fog too. So she was gracious enough to spend 15 minutes to let me photograph her too, and the results were beyond my initial vision even. As I showed both her and Angela photos on the back of the camera as I was shooting them they got very excited with the results and the energy level went up and we were able to get even better shots. Had I waited till later to photoshop in the fog we would have not had the energy increase.
My friend Tara has a very interesting and unique look. We initially shot together on a cars and ladies shoot. As I talked with her I learned she was quite the rocker. We had the idea that she would look really good in a rock star sort of setup. I had just gotten the fog machine and suggested we get together for a shoot so I could try it out and see if the rocker gal would come out. We had so much fun that day and got some very interesting shots. Again, being able to show her samples of the look right away really helped with the flow of the shoot.
The one thing I wish is that I would have gotten a larger fog machine. Not knowing anything about them I had gotten the smallest quality one I could find on Amazon. It works OK, but at times we had to work a bit to get it to fill the space enough for getting good shots. This was especially true when we were in the factory that I did the Steampunk and Middle Eastern dancer shots. So eventually I am sure I will be getting a much larger one. But in the meantime I am loving it.
Something else that I am going to start to do is to build out props for future shots. I will be getting a fair amount of foam core board for those. I have some circa 1950s style stuff that I want to do that I want to make sets that harken back to American Bandstand and other TV shows of the day. So I want to make musical notes and staffs and coffee cups and other stuff. I will be able to cut the things out of foam core and then suspend them from the ceiling. It will be inexpensive and lightweight.
So as you develop your photography make sure you start to think about things beyond just the traditional photography equipment as you take your photography to the next level!
Here in Grand Rapids recently we had a Comic Con event. If you have never been to a Comic Con and are unfamiliar with them one of the features is something called Cosplay. It is short for costume play. Basically people will dress up as favorite characters from comics or movies or television shows. It is a wonderful opportunity for photographers. The people take a lot of time creating the costumes, and do a wonderful job recreating the look.
As I look at the pictures one of the things that I find very interesting is how the people pose. Some of the people really play the part. Others will just stand there. It is very interesting to see how people react to a camera. Some people are nervous. Others are natural models. The natural models are the ones that make the job of the photographer much easier. Whether it is a Comic Con, a portrait session, a wedding, or a fashion shoot, it is always nice to shoot photos of people that are comfortable in front of the camera and are willing and able to pose.
So enjoy the little photo gallery at the end of this blog post, and pay attention to how people look in the shots. Check out which ones pose well and which ones look awkward. Try to figure out what it is about a pose and photo that you like or don't like. This will help you to know what to say to people in the future when you are trying to get photos of them.
Vampire Family Reunion
I have started to go on a fair number of group shoots. Some photographers (myself included) will take strobe lights and reflectors to modify or add to the light that is there. Sometimes we will almost completely replace the existing light. Others will simply shoot what is there. No modification. Far be it that I will say one is right and one is wrong. But I do get questions at times asking why I would be willing to schlep around a bunch of additional equipment and take the time and effort to set it all up for my shots.
Well in my mind photography is basically about using light to "paint" the image. A painter uses paints, I use light. I recently did a themed shoot that was all horror and creepy stuff. The image here, Vampire Family Reunion, is one of the shots. This shot is basically "as shot". I did a dodge on a couple of faces because they were too light. But other than that I did not do any photoshop touch ups. It was shot in the afternoon about three hours before sunset. The red leaves are from a light with a red gel. The lighting from the two sides are from strobes, one with a softbox and one with an umbrella. There was one shot before the lights were set up and it was very flat and just not interesting at all. This photo took an honors rating at our local camera club judging. What I think really makes this photo is the intense colors and shadows that are created using the effects of the lights.
This shot was done this weekend. We were at an abandoned paper mill. First, it was very dark inside. So there was not even enough light initially to get anything in the way of a photo. Second, even the rooms with windows had lighting that was dull and lifeless. So with the strobes I was able to shape some shadows and to get some interesting lighting. I put a strobe in the stairwell up on the stairs a ways up. Then there was a light behind Kim lighting up the door behind her. It had a grid on it to restrict the light some. And then there was one more light to my right with a loose grid for a little wider light.
There are two ways to remotely trigger a strobe. One is optically. when the strobe sees another strobe going off it goes off. The other way is with radio triggers that use radio waves. OK, you can use cables too, but almost no one does that any more. For optically triggering the light the strobes have to "see" one another. The light behind Kim was optically triggered from the one next to me. The one in the stairwell could not "see" either of the other two lights though. So I put a radio trigger on it, just like the light next to me. I would have had radio triggers on all the lights, but forgot one of the triggers. Silly me. But I always prefer radio triggers to optical when on location. FYI, speedlights that talk about remote triggering are always talking about optically triggering each other.
OK.. that was a bit of an off topic aside. Here is the on topic point though. With the strobes I was able to get some good keylight in Kim's hair. I was able to light up the stairway so that it was not just some dark bland hole. I was able to get good lighting on the shadow side of her. The light in the stairwell also helped to separate Kim from the background too.
If we were outside we could have used reflectors to shape the natural light in the photo too. This shot from a beach shoot a couple years ago used a reflector. Had we not used the reflector her face would have been totally in shadow. The reflector is very easy to use, very inexpensive, and very effective. A reflector will also work with a point and shoot camera or a smartphone camera too. It is inexpensive low tech that is simply awesome. You can get some very nice reflectors that fold up very small for well less than $50. The smaller ones run around $20. The larger ones will be a bit more expensive. But all of them will help you to shape the light nicely.
Written Review below the video review if you don't want to watch the video.
I had a shoot just this last weekend. I have not replaced my 50mm f/1.8D with the 50mm f/1.8G and was not wanting to manual focus the D. So I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I would rent a lens for the shoot and then at the same time I would do a review on it. So I went to lensrentals.com and looked around. I was thinking of renting either the 50-150mm f/2.8 or the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. While I was looking at them I stumbled across the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 lens. I had never seen it in all my browsing of lenses before for some reason. I went over and looked on B&H and discovered that the lens is only $499 brand new. That is why it was so inexpensive to rent compared to the 24-70mm or the 50-150mm lenses. It had great reviews on B&H so I decided to rent it. I also figured it would be interesting to take to the football stadium on Friday night and see how it would rock out for sports. It also happened to go with me to OctoberFest too. So I shot it a lot over the weekend.
Let's start with the price. Most of the time when you find a zoom lens that has a consistent fast aperture through the zoom range you will pay a lot of money for that feature. Most of the time you are looking at well over $1,000 for those lenses. So this lens selling for $499 US is just amazing. If you are not sure what that means, when you look at a zoom lens it will show the maximum aperture either as a single number, like this one at f/2.8, or as a range, like the kit lens at f/3.5-5.6. The kit lens can get to f/3.5 when at 18mm, but when you are zoomed all the way in the best it will do is f/5.6 for the aperture. That is a difference of one and a third stops of light. So this lens lets in a lot of light no matter what focal length you zoom to.
Next, how did it actually perform. Well it is basically very sharp. I am sure if you put it head to head with the Nikon or Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 and fully zoomed in you would be able to see the difference. But the lens was incredible. It was so very sharp. The images were stunning. I have used a number of sub $500 lenses, and it is almost impossible to get this sharp of an image in that price range. The things that are out of focus in this football image are either because of motion blur or they are outside of the depth of field area of sharp focus. I was shooting with my minimum shutter speed set to 1/320th of a second in auto ISO and the shot is at ISO 2,200. I could have gotten 1/500th of a second and gotten less motion blur and a sharper image.
Next, the lens focused very fast. It was incredibly responsive. I never had an issue with it struggling to find focus or hunting for the focus. And it grabbed the focus spot on so quick. When I set the focus mode to continuous the lens tracked the moving subject very well. I would not recommend this lens for football, only because the 75mm max focal length is just too short. But I can totally see using this lens for basketball if you are courtside. So that fast autofocus will be very handy shooting that quick action. The lens zoom action was also very smooth. The lens was very lightweight too.
So bottom line, this lens is half the price of the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. It is well worth the investment, and a great lens to shoot. I would recommend it for shooting portraits, taking out on family outings, a good general walk around lens, and sports where you are fairly close to the action. If you want something for shooting football or soccer then this is not really your lens, especially if you cannot get right on the sidelines. I would think that if you want to take a single lens for your camera on a day outing or vacation then the best two choices would be either this lens or an 18-200mm lens. This lens does not have the long reach of the 18-200mm lenses, but it has a very fast aperture, sharp images, and it is very lightweight. In my opinion I would recommend this lens to most shooters over the 50mm or 35mm f/1.8 prime lenses. A prime lens will always have a faster aperture and sharper image, but they lack the versatility of a zoom lens. And this one is basically the same cost as the 50mm and the 35mm and covers both focal lengths and more.
Feel free to add your opinions on this lens in the comments below.
18mm focal length
A lot of people don't like to think about the geek stuff of photography. Start to talk about inverse square law, or compression from focal lengths, or ratios of ISO, aperture, and shutter speed on exposure, and most people will start to roll their eyes. But truth of the matter is that these things are very important. I often will see posts on different photography forums that will start with a question like "what is the best lens for....." or "I had my flash on full power but it did not light the subject very much, do I need a more powerful flash?". We are into the geek of photography. A lot of people will simply answer "get lens X" or something like that. They might throw in some geek words to sound impressive, but they use them to simply show they know what they are saying and you should use their advice. It does not help the original poster to learn so they can figure out what the actual answer is for them.
Why is this important. Well today I was looking to rent a lens for this weekend. I mainly want it for a shoot on Sunday at the train station in these photographs. We are doing a retro look with models dressed circa 1942. But Friday night we have a home football game. So I was thinking "hey I can get dual use out of this and get something that will rock the football game, and do a kicking review of it too". I started to look at the 70-200 and the 50-150mm f/2.8 lenses. I want to review both of these for you all. But then I started to wonder if they would work at the train station for a group of people. How to know unless I know the geek of focal lengths.
While I was there I decided to shoot some shots for this blog post to show the compression of images when moving from wide angle lenses. My telephoto is dead from taking a swim in the lake this summer, so I don't have anything longer than 55mm in the bag at the moment. I might just do a part two next week with a longer lens. Anyway, the first photo is taken at 18mm. This is not totally scientific, but it will give you a good idea what is going on. I set the tripod about 6 feet from the light. I put the outermost focal points in the middle plane on the outer edge of the bowl of the lights so I would have a reference point to frame up the lights the same every time. Looking to the left you can see all the way to the first window of the stationmasters office (if you are a train aficionado and I named that wrong please forgive me). Looking to the right you can see all the way to the edge of the house. We also see sky above and the tracks below.
40mm focal length
I will get back to the lens choice in a second (suspense eh?). This photo is taken at 40mm. I was not as accurate on choosing focal lengths for this test as I thought I was. At any rate, again I framed up the lights the same in the photo, putting the focal points in the same place on the two sides. Now look to the left, no window and only part of the door. To the right we barely see beyond the corner of the depot. We barely see the roof, and the tracks are totally gone. If you look to the right you can actually see the back end of the truck (barely) that we saw the front end of before. Remember this for later. I was standing 12 feet from the light this time. If you double your distance you need to double your focal length to get the same framing on the subject. Interesting little math bit eh? 55mm focal length
The third one is at 55mm. The roof is gone, half the side on the right, and some of the door on the left, and all the gravel on the ground. The lights are still in the same place. So we can see how the focal length has a major effect on what we see. It is more than just bringing things far off close. It totally changes the overall image.
So back to the focal length of the rental lens. If I opened the 18-55mm lens all the way to 18mm I could get the entire depot from about 12 feet away. So if I went to 24 feet I was shooting at around 36mm (remember this is not scientific - I was pacing this off for rough measurements). So first, this would put me way away from the models. Second, behind me was a cornfield. So I could only go so far back. When I went back to the edge of the field and went to 55mm I was losing parts of the front of the depot. So obviously the 70-200mm would be totally out for that shoot, and the 50-150mm lens would be a struggle. Now that I have figured this out I can get a good sense of what focal length to use when trying to capture a multi person scene shoot, and it is not a long telephoto lens at all.
There is something else to consider as well at times. We talked about compression. We will see a lot of the effect of that in these next photos. What I did was to use the outhouse to substitute for a person. I framed it up roughly for a waist up shot of a person (you will have to take my word for size proportions). I put the center focal point on a bit of the frame where the paint rubbed off so I could keep the outhouse in the same spot. So here at 18mm again you can see a lot of the depot on the right side. Notice all you see on the left side is trees. But look really close at the outhouse. The line on the right side is nice and straight. The line on the left side of the building tends to bow out though. Look below and compare and you will be able to see it better. So the image is definitely distorted on the edges. Older lenses were worse for this. If you go wider than 18mm it will get even more noticeable. If I had an FX camera body it would be more noticeable too (more on that in a bit).
This next image is at like 38mm. On the right you no longer can see the loading dock. On the left.... what the heck is that??? It is a building that is behind the outhouse. It is suddenly visable. And the depot on the right looks like it is closer to us than it was before. The image is compressing front to back to draw the things in back forward optically. And notice the trees on the right hand side. They are much larger than before. Follow the line of the railroad tracks. The angle is changing so that it looks a little more straight on instead of at such a severe angle. The left side of the building is a touch straighter too.
Finally, we have the 55mm shot. Both sides of the outhouse are straight up and down now pretty much. You can also start to see just a bit of the side of the left side too. The building in back on the left, welll we are seeing the right side of that building. It has "moved over" to the left. It is also huge compared to the other shot. And look at the trees between the depot and the outhouse now! They are absolutely huge. Not only are they larger, but they are actually taller than the depot roof line.
The changes we are seeing between these photos are because of the change in the angle of view as we zoom in and out on the image. As you zoom out (like to 18mm) you will have a much wider angle of view right to left and top to bottom. As you zoom in, you will narrow that angle of view. This is the effect you get when people talk about a crop sensor body (a DX image sensor body) and how it makes a 50mm like a 75mm lens. You are not actually magnifying the image the same as a 75mm lens. But you are changing the angle of view, because you are cropping out the outer edges of the image. so it affects the overall image like putting on the longer focal length. One thing I am unsure of is the effect of greater magnification of using the 75mm on the FX body. All the websites talk about angle of view. But it would seem to me that the longer focal length would be magnifying the image optically too, giving a sharper image than the 50mm on the DX. I guess it is time to rent a D600 and make some comparisons for that. I just need to figure out how to get a good solid comparison. If anyone has any good information on this put it in the comments below!!
At any rate, we have seen how there are significant differences in the images between focal lengths. It is not just bringing something far closer. Also, you need to think about how much room you have between you and the subject, or how far back you might want to get from the subject with your lens choice too. Do you want to use a megaphone to give directions to your models? Or I suppose you could rent a Segway to go between the camera on a tripod and the models too.
I always highly recommend taking time to take a bunch of different test shots when trying to understand things. So for focal length go out and shoot a series of photos at different focal lengths yourself. To understand noise and high ISO take a series of shots at different ISOs and then look at them. The best way to understand shutter speed is do a series of photos of a waterfall from lightening fast all the way to at least a second or longer (hint: on the long shutter speeds use the self timer or a trigger to make sure you don't get blur from moving the camera when pushing the shutter). In a future post we will talk about that dreaded inverse square law and how it affects the light from your strobes or continuous lights.
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I am way overdue for writing a blog post. School has started and things have gotten a little crazy. I have decided though to expand a little in this post and talk about video. Well actually video and iPhone photography. There was a really great two day training session on creativeLIVE.com all about iPhoneography. It was very inspiring. The video here is taken with a program called 8mm. It is designed to give a very classic feel to videos. You can do 60's or 70's or 1920's or Noir, or several other settings.
I like the look of video out of 8mm because it feels more organic than a lot of digital video. The nostalgia factor helps a lot too. I have some video of my wife and me on our trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It looks like the home movies when we were kids, with the addition of sound. And I have the phone with me all the time to capture the videos. The only challenge is in having enough memory to store the videos. So when I get my 5S eventually I will get either the 32 GB or 64 GB version.
I have also taken a number of photos with my iPhone. As a matter of fact one of the photos I took in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan at Tequamenon Falls with the iPhone was one of my submissions for our camera club "competition". When I was going through the photos from my DSLR and my iPhone I would have to say that this photo of the falls is all the equal of the ones from the DSLR. I suppose if I were to make a huge print of some photos this one might not look as nice. But as a digital image it is incredible.
There are a number of really cool applications for the iPhone for photography too. Some are just great photo programs. Some are designed for giving either that vintage look, or other crazy and interesting edits. At some point I hope to review some of the different programs and let you know what is out there, and also how well they work. I know there are some for Android too, but I don't know at this point which are good and which are not.
The big thing to remember is that the best camera is the one that you have with you. The iPhone and the Android phones are always with you. Don't be shy in learning how to use them to take photos. It is a shame to miss a photo op just because you don't have your DSLR out with you. Take some time ahead of time to learn the phone camera, and maybe get a couple additional programs. It is worth it.
One final thing for this blog posting. I was on YouTube the other day and I stumbled across a review done by Michael the Mentor that compared the Nikon D7100 and the Canon 70D. I found it to be a very fair review. More importantly it did a great job showing how to compare two different cameras and what to look for when trying to select a camera. It is a little long, but it is very well put together and he does a great job putting together an awesome video. So I decided to share it here for you all to watch. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Tonight was the start of another high school football season. I spent most of the time shooting photos of the band. But late in the game I had an opportunity to get down next to the field to take a few shots and really work the new D5100 camera. I was shooting with the kit lens. I set the camera on auto ISO with a minimum shutter speed of 1/200th of a second, and a maximum ISO of 6400. The stadium has new lights this year, and they are quite a bit brighter than in the past. But it is still a high school stadium. So the lighting is not perfect.
The shots I am putting in here were shot at ISO 4000. The aperture on the lens fully zoomed in is f/5.6, not really fast for an aperture. This means two things. First, I could have gone even higher on the minimum shutter speed and still gotten the shot inside my ISO range. Second, with say the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens I would have been able to get even more shutter speed if I wanted it. The auto ISO worked wonderfully. I was on aperture priority with the aperture set as wide open as possible for the lens I had.
If you look close at the photos you will see that they are more than acceptable for noise, even at 4000. My old D80 had a maximum ISO of 3200, and was getting pretty ugly after topping ISO 1000. Keep in mind also that I am working with the second to the bottom of the line for the Nikon bodies, and I am shooting with the lowly kit lens. Of course with using the kit lens I was only able to get really great shots on the times the play ran to my side of the field. Even with a 24-70mm lens I would not have had the reach to get shots on the far side of the field. But the image quality is incredibly nice. One of the reasons I got the D5100 was to show the proof in the pudding that you don't need really expensive camera equipment to get really good photos.
I will say though that the high ISO response on this camera shows that sometimes hardware can make a difference. Also, the high ISO performance of the newest cameras is really changing the game for photography. With the ability to easily shoot to ISO 6400 and still get great shots I can now shoot less expensive lenses. I can also get a much deeper depth of field for shooting action. Sure a fast lens is nice. But the shallow depth of field can be quite problematic. Also, being able to use auto ISO like I did tonight is really freeing. I can focus on the subject and getting great shots, not fiddling constantly with camera settings as we move across the field. Sure the high school put in new lights, but the end zones are still pretty dark, and the lighting is still not even and consistent.
Someone posted on a forum recently the question why doesn't Nikon give pro and consumer designations to their lenses. The reason behind the comment was so people could know which lenses would be the best to buy. I think that the images I shot tonight with the kit lens show that the differences between pro and consumer lenses are not as far apart as some would think. This is why people need to look closely at the lenses performance, not a designation of pro, or consumer, or even kit.
BTW, these photos are as shot in camera. I did not do any processing other
If you disagree make sure you put comments below. If you agree it would be nice to hear as well.
So if you have been reading my blog postings you know that I recently switched from a Nikon D80 to a Nikon D5100. It is interesting how sometimes a change in cameras can also be an epiphany of a change in how to do photography. The D5100 is a camera that did that for me. Prior to getting the D5100 I would always tell people to shoot the lowest ISO possible. This I still believe. That is not the epiphany. The epiphany is that in the past I laughed at the idea of auto ISO as something ridiculous. Why would you want to let the camera pick a different ISO when you are shooting after all? You might suddenly start to get a lot of noise. With the D80 I was always worried when I started to increase my ISO, and doubly so when I went over ISO 400, that I would get noise in the image and just hate it. Sure there were times I would go higher, like when shooting basketball, so that I could get an acceptably fast shutter speed. But the D5100 is really quite clean much higher than 800. I am even usually happy even as high as ISO 6400.
With the ability to shoot higher ISO cleanly, I can now shoot much higher. And if I am shooting where lighting is changing a lot then I might often miss a shot if I am shooting on manual. As I was running around on my trip in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan I realized that having to keep going in to reset the ISO level was doing the same thing for me missing shots. I often shoot aperture priority when "running and gunning". The challenge is that if the ISO is not high enough my shutter speed can drift down slow enough that I get motion blur in the photos. These two photos of the duck are a good example. I had just started to use the auto ISO setting. I had set the minimum shutter speed setting to 1/60th of a second. The challenge is that I was shooting with the 18-200mm lens, and for these shots I was all the way to 200mm. So I should have been at or near 1/200th of a second for the shot. Several of the shots were unusable. The top shot here is not bad. The shot with the foot raised is awesome but a touch blurry. If I had set the max shutter for say 1/125th or 1/200th I would have gotten a great shot. I was at ISO 140 on both these shots. So I had more than enough ISO to get the shutter speed I had needed.
For those that are not aware, here is how auto ISO works, at least on the D5100. In the menu you set what the maximum ISO you would want the camera to climb to if it needs. You then set the minimum shutter speed you don't want to drop below. On the camera you can set any base ISO you want, but you might as well set to 100 ISO to start with. You then set your aperture in aperture priority that you want to shoot at. As the camera meters the scene and sets the shutter speed if it gets down to the minimum speed you set in the menu it will start to ratchet up the ISO to be able to get the exposure it has calculated. So the camera is still going to try to give you the lowest ISO it can use. So we are still going with lowest ISO possible, but we are also getting an automatic adjustment that will help get those shots we would otherwise miss if we had to set the ISO ourselves.
Here is a shot that I took before starting to use the auto ISO setting. It was very early in the morning. I set the camera to ISO 6400 when I started because it was very dark when I began. Over time the light increased, but I did not drop the ISO on the camera. So this image was shot at 1/4000th of a second at ISO 6400. It is still a nice shot. And I am planning on getting it printed as a jigsaw puzzle for my wife. But I could have had a shot with much less noise had I been using auto ISO. Even if I had set the minimum shutter speed to 1/250th of a second I would have been at ISO 400 on this particular shot.
This shot was not one that was so rushed. And if I had been paying more attention I could have set the ISO lower as the sun came up. But I was enjoying the morning and nature so much I was sort of forgetting the mechanics of photography. The thing is that I should be able to get lost in the moment. The computer in the camera is very very good. So I should be able to get wrapped up in nature and the moment and the enjoyment of it all and not worry about the camera settings and the mechanical and technical parts of photography.
One other thing while we are on the subject of paying attention, my friend the mink. Actually I am going to blame this one mainly on lack of coffee and stumbling on him before I was even ready to start shooting. It was like 6 AM. I had just gotten up, threw on some clothes, and was wandering down to the river next to the campground. I was going to set the camera after I got down there when I stumbled on Mike Mink. I was on aperture priority, but not auto ISO. I also had the camera at f/13 from something the day before. I popped off a number of photos. The camera was shooting at 1/10th of a second. I think that getting anything clear when I was at 180mm focal length handheld at 1/10th of a second is a pretty good tribute to the OS of the Sigma lens I was using. But Mike Mink was moving and so he is blurry. Had I had any sort of sense to check my camera settings I could have ran the aperture much wider and been able to get some decent shots. He hung out for like 3 or 4 minutes or so.
He posed so nice for me too. It was almost like he was modeling for me. Then later he would peek his head up like saying "You still taking my picture"? This became one of those moments I will kick myself forever for not being more mindful. So I showed you some photos that have issues. I learned a lot on this trip. The two big takeaways for me are, first, to be constantly mindful of the camera settings. Take a look periodically, especially when first shooting at a particular time. Make sure you are not shooting some insane setting. Second, make use of auto ISO. Let the camera help you get the shots when you are out in a situation that is constantly changing. Think through the settings for the auto ISO too. If you are shooting your 18-55mm lens with VR you can set the minimum shutter speed to 1/60th of a second, or even a little slower. If you are using the 18-200mm with OS then get that minimum shutter to at least 1/125th of a second or better. The other thing is to get some different series of photos where you run through different ISO settings (jump full ISO settings for this) to determine how high you can go and still be comfortable with the photos from the camera. I will go to 6400 on my D5100. Some others might only go to 1600 or 3200. You need to determine your tolerance. And it might even change a bit depending on what you are shooting. But this is part of getting in touch with the camera.
This last week my wife and I made a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I had my nice new D5100 to take with me. But I only had the kit lens, and my 50mm f/1.8 D (that won't autofocus on the D5100), and my LensBaby. This is because the 70-300mm took a swim along with the D80. So it is dead too. Well my good friend Brenda was nice enough to loan me her Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS lens. This was nice for several reasons. First, it gave me a wonderful focal length walkabout lens. Second, it gave me a chance to really run it through it's paces for a review on here. This blog post will mention a few things about this lens. But I am also going to start a whole different section that will be equipment reviews. This lens will be the first in the listings. I will also do a detailed review of the D5100, but I am still learning everything there is to learn about the lens.
So let's talk about the lens first. I love it. But that is with caveats. First the good things. The lens is nice and sharp. I was able to get sharp photos in all focal lengths I shot. It worked very well for that. The lens focused very quickly. This is a very inexpensive lens for the range it shoots. The lens normally sells for $499, but is on sale for $349 right now through September 25th. The Nikon 18-200mm is $849 for the same focal length range. The lens has a very nice lens hood that comes with it. It has optical stabilization (the OS designation... similar to VR on the Nikkor lenses).
I also did some shots where I manually focused the lens. The travel on the focus ring was pretty nice and made manual focusing pretty easy. It feels a touch loose, but worked really well and held the focus well. I felt very comfortable using manual focus on the lens.
The OS seemed to work really well. I did not do any "scientific" tests on the OS to test it in-depth, but it felt like I could hand hold it much slower than I would be able to without it. I had a few times I forgot to turn it off when on the tripod and it did not seem to cause issues. But again this was not in-depth testing of the feature.
The negatives of the lens. First it is heavy!! There is a lot of glass in there. It is also a very wide lens at 72mm, so filters are going to be pricy for it. I was not as bothered by the weight as some, but it did get heavy on the neck over time. This lens convinced me more than ever that I need to get a BlackRapid strap by this fall though!! Second, the lens has a nasty habit of drifting out the focal length if the camera is tipped down. So if I lowered the camera between shots I might find it went from 50mm to 135mm by the time I brought it back to my eye. And if I was bent over shooting down I needed to make sure to keep hold of the zoom ring so it would not drift. This is not a problem most of the time, but can get annoying. Third, I did notice a touch of chromatic aberration. I am not as big of a pixel peeper as a lot of people. And I don't feel that this is a huge issue for most photos. Keep in mind, this is a walkabout lens for vacations, day trips, and other times you are doing more general shooting. It is NOT a professional lens. This is also a DC lens in the Sigma line. This means it only works on crop sensor cameras. So if you have an FX body this is not a lens for you.
All in all I highly recommend the lens for most all shooters for a walkabout lens with a really wide focal range. It shoots well and is inexpensive.
Now for the camera. This is the first time I took it out to shoot on a vacation/day trip situation. Over the course of the week I learned a lot about the camera. The biggest thing I learned is that I have a lot to learn about the camera still. I am rethinking some things in how to use a camera based on this last week.
The first thing that I have changed my opinion on is the whole auto ISO thing. I will write this up more later, but the auto ISO is awesome when on a day trip. You need to determine what the highest ISO is that you are happy with. But if you are moving in and out of buildings and getting drastic changes in light the auto ISO is a great feature. I found that using aperture priority along with auto ISO worked very well! The photo of my wife was taken at ISO 6400 and looks really good. It is going to be printed and displayed on the wall. Before I succumbed to turning on auto ISO I missed a lot of pics as I kept having to change settings back and forth. Now I can let the camera deal with that automatically and I can know I will get the picture.
The second thing I learned is that I love the video feature, but have some things to learn on how to set up the camera for that. It was wonderful to be able to quickly flip to video mode though and grab video clips. And the video looks much better than from my Canon Vixia. There are some limitations on the DSLR that I don't have on the Vixia, but I don't know if I will get the camcorder out very often anymore. One thing that is awesome about video on the D5100 is it is mov files that I just simply have to copy over to the computer and I am done. On the Vixia I need to do a log and transfer of all the videos so they are converted to something that the computer can actually use.
Something else interesting is that sometimes I am willing to put up with noise to get a shot. This shot is of a huge fire we made in the campground in Fayette. We sort of got into a competition with the site next to us with some wonderful people from Jenison, MI. I just had to get the shot to show the fire. This is a natural light shot that shows the fire and my lovely wife. Sure there is visible chromatic noise, but it is a great shot of a wonderful memory. I am more than willing to have the noise in the shot to have the picture. I might try some noise reduction software on it, but it is good as is IMHO.
So the camera performed wonderfully, the lens was incredible, the trip was great. And it all has given me a lot more to write on this site going forward. So look forward to a lot more articles on here soon. BTW I have included a few more shots below for you to enjoy also. :-)