Friday, April 17, 2009

Spring Time

With my finger broken, and work and life feeling really busy, I haven't been going on any serious photo outings. I've mostly just been doing some photography reading, and looking forward to the day when I have the time and energy to plan out a fun shoot.

I have managed to snap a few pictures here and there, though.

A couple weeks ago, I went out at lunch for a walk along the bluffs in Isla Vista near UCSB. I brought my camera knowing that the conditions probably wouldn't be too great--I was out in the harsh midday sun, and it was a pretty hazy day--but it had been so long since I had photographed anything that I decided to go out anyway.

A couple thoughts on this shot. First, I worked way too hard for this composition. What you don't see in this photo is that in between that fence and the path is actually a four-foot-thick wall of bushes and shrubs. I was literally standing in a bush, holding branches out of the way to get this.

Something I'm learning, and this isn't a very profound insight, is that if you're uncomfortable when you're framing the shot, it's a lot harder to compose it well. One part of your brain is saying "I dunno... I'm not sure this composition is really doing it for me. I should keep looking," while the other part's saying "Just press the shutter release, dammit! I can't take anymore of this bent knee, twisted torso position, with one hand holding back a branch and the other trying to keep the camera steady." The second voice usually gets louder and eventually wins out.

I was thinking a tripod might be a partial solution to this, since it would allow me to take a break without losing the framing I was considering. It would slow things down, though, to be adjusting the tripod all the time.

I'm hoping the other solution is to simply get better at composition with practice, and be able to find a good one before my patience wears out.

The other point to make is that this photo really demonstrates why sunrise and sunset are much better times for these kinds of photos. The harsh light on the flowers and leaves really doesn't do the scene justice.


I'm proud to say that the front of our little house is surrounded by a white picket fence, with rose bushes planted all around. My wife puts a ton of effort into pruning the bushes back throughout the year, but when spring finally comes, the bushes explode.

It's fun to watch people walk down the street and stop to smell them, then keep walking only to turn back and smell them some more.

A little technical tip I used on this second photo--on the front of your SLR near the base of the lens is a "Depth-of-field Preview" button. On our Canon 20D it's unlabeled, it's just a button near the lens base. Check your manual if you can't find it. This button stops down your aperture to the actual aperture you've set in your exposure settings. You'll notice when you do this the image gets darker, but more of the photo will be in focus.

Normally when you look through your viewfinder the lens is at maximum aperture in order to let in as much light as possible for you to see the image. This means that the image you see through the view finder is not exactly what you'll get, and depending on your aperture setting the viewfinder will usually have less in focus than the actual image you capture.

I don't hear this camera feature mentioned much, so it may be that professional photographers don't consider it that valuable. You're probably just expected to have a feel for the depth of field you're going to get at each aperture.

In this case, however, I took advantage of it to get the right level of blur on those palm trees in the background. At maximum aperture, they were so blurry they were indiscernible. At too small of an aperture, though, the background would have become more in-focus than I wanted and it would have distracted from the flower.


My finger's pretty much healed now, and life seems to finally be slowing down a bit, so hopefully I'll be getting out for some more serious photography soon!

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