For our second of four DSLR photography lessons, I once again meet Natasha in downtown St. Petersburg. For this second lesson we focused on low light portraits. We started off in a covered area along 2nd Ave that I have used for other lessons. For all my portrait work I use manual exposure mode. However, I had Natasha start out using aperture priority because I wanted her to see what type of exposures the camera is capable of choosing on its own. Using several different apertures and even adjusting the ISO did not yield an exposure I thought was the best possible. This is when I had Natasha switch to manual mode.
Aperture priority mode did provide us with useful information. Noting the shutter speeds it chose, I was able to advise Natasha on what shutter speed to actually set in manual mode to yield a more properly exposed portrait. For example, if the camera was choosing 1/160th in aperture priority mode with a slightly dark exposure, in manual mode a slower shutter speed like 1/100th would be set to better expose the subject matter.
Natasha does not yet have an external flash, so we used the popup flash on her Canon XT. Using some special composition techniques, and a well placed wall, I was able to show her how to kind of bounce the light even from her popup flash so as to not directly blast the subject straight on, which usually results in a not very natural skin tone.
I am enjoying these single focused, high detail lessons. Lesson three will be soon!
It seems lately my DSLR photography students are coming in even more enthusiastic, more eager to learn than ever before. New student John and his Nikon D300s is yet another such example. Even though John has quite a significant photography background in the past, if one does not keep up on it, like with many other things, skills can be forgotten, or at least buried under other memories. So during our first lesson I helped John dig up some of that old photography knowledge and added a lot of new DSLR specific info for him to put into his memory banks as well.
John (his website) is a very interesting person of some notoriety in the permanent makeup world, though I cannot say I had even heard of that term before I met him.
Due to the St. Pete Grand Prix going on last weekend, we did not meet at my preferred first lesson local, downtown St. Petersburg, instead meeting at John's Pass Village. After setting up his Nikon D300s with all the customizations I have done to my own Nikon D300, we used the mix of waterfront, beach and gift shop environments to go through all the normal settings one needs to change on a given day of photography in the bright Florida sunshine.
John has the same awesome Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR micro lens that I do, which is what we ended the lesson practicing with. That macro lens has very unique DoF properties, outstanding sharpness and the best looking bokeh around. John is excited about having more and more lessons, and I am as well, especially using the 105mm lens.
I often wonder what someone, something, anything animate or inanimate, might be thinking. I believe even an inanimate object can feel, thus I would never haphazardly toss my shoes into the closet, or set something heavy on top of them, for example. It is much easier to wonder what animals are thinking since they are sentient, but cannot speak English. Thus, they have to be thinking something, but they have no verbal way of telling me. So, I am left to observing their behavior and concluding from that what possibly might be going through their minds.
Such is the case with the above pigeon. It was reaching elegantly and gracefully for its closest tail feather. It instantly looked to me like a ballet dancer reaching for her toe over her back. That lead me to thinking of BLACK SWAN, the 2010 movie starring Natalie Portman (my movie review). Might this pigeon want to be the Black Swan?
For our second of four DSLR Photography Lessons I met Cindy once again in downtown St. Petersburg returning to The Pier as well because . . . she made a significant gear investment by getting the Nikkor AF-S 70-20mm VR II f/2.8G lens! Most people not into photography would be shocked by what such a lens goes for, but as mentioned in this lesson post, Cindy is headed for Alaska and wants her gear to not be any source of limitation while photographing whales and eagles. Plus, this lens will be great for the next 10+ years. Lenses have a very long life, much longer than camera bodies or really any other type of gadget or electronics.
We hopped the trolley to The Pier saving us some of the walk and headed straight to its roof where there was a succession of small airplanes taking off and landing whose distance and size provided very good whale photography simulation. For sure Cindy wants to get shots of the tails of whales sticking out of the water and of course of them breeching. Therefore, blurry shots are not tolerable, thus in the bright sunlight I had her use manual mode with a shutter speed of 1/640th and an aperture of f/5.6 with some adjustments made as we went along shooting. One can always make a slightly underexposed image brighter in the digital editing process, but there is no rescuing a blurry shot, so making shutter speed a priority for such shots is my advice.
More new gear (an external flash) may be showing up in Cindy's bag by the time we have our third pre-Alaska lesson in the coming weeks. I think I am just as excited about a student getting new gear as she/he is.
New DSLR Photography Lesson student, Natasha, will be helping photograph her friend's upcoming wedding in April. Thus, she has booked my new 4-lesson discount package in order to get up to speed as fast as she can by then, as she already previously has some photography knowledge. In addition to learning the basic settings (aperture, ISO, WB, focus mode) that are in need of regular changing, one must also know their gear well. Natasha's friend will be arriving at her wedding location in a horse-drawn carriage in the middle of the afternoon (tricky lighting). So to photograph this well a fast enough shutter speed must be used to freeze the action and certain moving subject shooting skills need to be refined.
We simulated this scenario by having me walk in an arc around her while she was in AI-servo (AF-C for Nikon) and burst mode. Through several practice rounds we found out what were the best settings to use in broad daylight, and most importantly how fast her DSLR/lens combination (Canon XT) could get a focus lock on a moving subject. It is critical to know how many usable shots (six or two or four, etc.) one can get in a given space. This exercise helped give Natasha some idea what she can expect when photographing the bride arriving via horse-drawn carriage for real and what can be expected of her photography gear.
We will cover more topics and scenarios like this in our next three lessons so hopefully come her friend's wedding day, she will feel as prepared as possible!