Archive for September, 2010

Assignment No. 4


Rule of Thirds.

1/40, f-5.6

I came across these three saw blades as I wandered through my husband’s wood shop looking for inspiration.  A flickering flourescent light made for some interesting patterns on the flat surfaces in the room, so I experimented with different White Balance settings in my camera.  I didn’t have my tripod with me so I exhaled, kept my elbows in and hoped for the best.  I’m quite happy with the end result.  The saw blades look sharp, oily, and a little mean!  I would have been a bit happier with my composition if the three blades intersected a little more to the right.

1/50, f-5.6

Not totally happy with my first Rule of Thirds photograph, I decided to add another.  The winged samara of a Japanese maple tree, (and small parts of the adjacent leaves), is the only thing in focus in this photograph.  I like the subdued colours of the bokeh on the left hand side of the photo and the symmetry of the fruit. 


1/60, f-14

The Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia).  Mother Nature does symmetry; maybe not  perfectly, but pretty darned close.  This butterfly was kind enough to remain in one place while I came in for a close up.  I did not have time to consider the Rule of Thirds (not that I wanted to include more of the parched September vineyard floor anyway), I was afraid he/she would fly away.


1/8, f-4.5

An indoor chain link fence.  The light was poor here so I needed a really slow shutter speed and large aperture.  Working again without a tripod I think I sacrificed a little sharpness (especially at such a slow shutter speed), but it was my intention to bring the second third of the frame only into focus.  I think the end result is quite abstract.

Leading Lines.

1/60, f-20

This drained fountain was my choice of subject for leading lines.  I like the way the spikes’ shadows almost look like the keys of a piano and draw the eye along the length of the photograph. 

My Choice.

1/60, f-16

A grapevine leaf backlit by the late afternoon sun.  Mother Nature strikes again; symmetry, patterns, and leading lines (veins.)  Taking this photograph in B&W – belying the fact that this leaf is a little chlorophyllic, photosynthetic-powerhouse – just made it look a little more abstract.   The silhouette of the tendril lends a soft curve to the image in juxtaposition to the angular paths of the veins.

Thoughts and Observations.

Interesting assignment this week.  It was rather difficult coming up with subjects and I kept finding that my ideas for photographs sometimes contained more than one compositional technique.  It got a little confusing as to what photographs should be in each category but I think I am pleased with my final selections.  I believe some people just have a better eye than others for composition: it is probably something that I can practice but I don’t think I will ever be truly artistic.  I will just have to work on making my technique better.

All photographs were taken with ISO 200 and, with the exception of the saw blades (Daylight Flourescent), Auto White Balance.


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Assignment No. 3

Light Observations. 

Morning, Midday, Afternoon. 


1/50, f13, 9.21 am. 

What do I know of that is stationary all day?  Where I can set my tripod up and leave it where it will not  be disturbed?  A-ha!  The backhoe in the yard.  I decided to take this series of photographs with the camera pointing north to take advantage of the sun’s daily progress across the sky.  The morning sun is rising above the eastern hills that face my house.  I always think of the morning sun as being soft, but the light in this photograph seemed very stark and cold.  The west-facing side of the backhoe is in the shadows, the hood is fully illuminated. 


1/40, f20, 12.40 pm. 

The midday sun is high and the light very bright, but look at that beautiful California blue sky!  Not many shadows in this photograph, and the small amount that are in the photograph are very short. 


1/50, f5.6, 6.11 pm. 

With my house facing east, and the sun setting earlier than in most places around the valley because of a hill to the west of the house, the amount of available sun light from the west is pretty diminished  early in the evening.  You can see the beautiful golden hue of the sun on the tops of the highest trees as they benefit from the angle of the sun at this time of night.  The entire backhoe is now in shadow. 


 1/60, f25 

Crouching down in front of this volunteer sunflower (originally birdseed) I was initially bothered by a small sweat-bee that came buzzing by my ear.  When he alighted upon the sunflower, I decided to make him a part of the photograph.  I love the reflection of the early morning sun on his shiny thorax.  The photo is slightly blurred as I was afraid he would fly away if I took too long to focus fully; I held my breath, bracketed and hoped for the best, so I am not completely happy with it…but to me, at least, it screams full-sun


 1/60, f13 

One of the examples of side-lighting that we were shown was a photograph of Emmet Gowen’s wife, photographed with side-lighting, in a light coloured nightgown.  I wanted to pick a darker subject and see if side-lighting would be as effective.  My old brown dog, Mya, makes for a wonderful model…she is mostly cooperative.  I decided to take this photo indoors (my only indoor photograph for this assignment) as I love the morning light that comes through my east-facing kitchen windows on sunny days. 



1/250, f-8 

This English bull terrier weather-vane served as the subject for the back-lighting component of this assignment.  Couldn’t quite get the ‘halo-effect’ as the trees in the background obscured the subject matter too much in the few photographs that displayed a little of it.  I couldn’t quite get the angle I wanted either as I was too low down beneath the weather-vane…and the breeze kept continually moving the dog into a new compass direction, so I had to keep moving also, so it is a little blurred.  I am, however, quite pleased with the finished result, especially the radial effect of the sunlight shining upwards from underneath the dog’s belly.  


Thoughts and Observations. 

This assignment was quite a challenge, but I think I learned a lot.   Just coming up with subject matters proved to be a bit of a headache, but overall I am pleased with my photographs.  Dealing with a new camera, because my original camera my Nikon D50 is in the hospital,  also was a bit of a challenge.  To me it seems that there are a lot of shutter speed combinations and f-stops that will come up with fairly comparable results in good light conditions, especially with static objects.  Most of my photographs would not have worked I think if I had been trying to capture movement, or freezing motion, like in last weeks assignment.  I feel that in poor/low light conditions the photographer is more limited as to shutter speed and aperture size options.  And, the final selection of photographs is very subjective – I picked the photographs in which the light conditions looked the best/most natural to me.  As we saw in Assignment No. 1, each of us has a different opinion as to what exposure works best for any given subject.  I used metering and bracketing extensively for all of these photographs.

For my morning, midday and afternoon photographs, I wish I had initially used a subject with more dramatic shadows and angles that perhaps would have seemed more alive and interesting because of the changing light conditions.  So I decided to take a second set of pictures that perhaps would contain more dramatic contrasts; my series of sky, ipomoea, eaves and weathervane photographs were taken facing south.

All photographs were taken with auto white balance and 200 ISO. 

1/60, f-13, 10.00 am.


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Assignment No. 2

Shallow depth of field.

 f4.8, 1/60

A winery logo on the top of a capsule.  Not too happy with the exposure, my lens does not seem to like being indoors.

Maximum depth of field.

f14, 1/50

Sunrise in Coombsville, 10th September 2010.  The sunlight coming over the eastern hills is pretty, everything seems to be in focus I just wish my composition was better and that the black blob wasn’t in the sky!

Stop/freeze motion.

f5.3, 1/500

Although this picture was taken at about 4.30 in the afternoon and the light seemed fine to the naked eye, I had problems with the available light and my aperture size.  There just didn’t seem to be enough light and I couldn’t get the aperture any larger than f5.3.

Although this photograph is under exposed, I am quite happy with the seemingly frozen nature of the water droplets.

Slow motion blur.

f20, 1/25

Photographing a fast flying humming bird seemed like a great idea at first, after all what bird can flap its wings faster?  Somebody said “never work with animals and children” (W C Fields maybe?) and I wished I had recalled this little snippet of wisdom before I tried to catch this elusive bird with my camera.  Humming birds don’t seem to be shy when I am out reading on the deck, but point a camera at them and they get stage fright!  I persevered and was some what happy with the results.  The humming bird is focusing on the feeder whilst he manoeuvres into position.  I used the daylight setting for white balance.

However, I do need to clean my windows!


f22, 1/50

Extremely bright sunlight, at about 4.00 in the afternoon, had me struggling to close down my aperture.  Fortunately, a friendly neighbourhood Harley Davidson rider was only too pleased to pass back and forth until I was happy with the results.

Thoughts and Observations.

This week, the typical time I had available to me to take the photographs for this assignment, were very early morning – grey and foggy.  Or, late in the afternoon –  sun lower in the sky.  Learning to deal with the limitations of my ‘kit’ lens is proving to be quite challenging.

A dark blob, I am assuming is on the sensor of my camera, appeared on photographs that I took on Sunday.  However, I did not get a chance to download my photographs until Thursday morning, and when I discovered the flaw in all my images I was horrified and then distracted for the rest of the day.

Really enjoyable assignment because of the variety of techniques introduced.  I need to practice a lot though.

Photographs were taken with auto white balance (except for humming bird) and an ISO of 200.

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Assignment No. 1

1.  My choice.

+2, F5.6, 1/60

Grapes: some of my very favourite things.  Photographing these grapes in extremely bright sunshine bleached out the beautiful blue velvet colour of ripening Cabernet sauvignon grapes.

+1, f8, 1/60

I kept the shutter speed at 1/60 for this series of five photographs.  The ISO is 200. The colour of the Cab is starting to look a little more realistic.

0, f11, 1/60

This is the setting my camera told me was the correct exposure.

-1, f16, 1/60

Grapes are now being under exposed.  At f16 the aperture is becoming quite small.

-2, f22, 1/60

Way too dark.  The individual grapes are becoming quite difficult to see because of the lack of light.

2.  Neutral subject – not too light or dark.


+2, f4.5, 1/3

New barrels being prepped for the 2010 vintage.  I thought the many different textures in the barrel room made for a very neutral subject; concrete, stainless steel, oak, stucco and tile.  Again I kept the shutter speed the same, 1/3 (the light in the room is quite dark, but for the window at the far end and the beam of light from a dormer window), and the ISO is 200.   I used a mini-tripod, recently gifted to me.

+1, f6.3, 1/3

I love the way the sun is reflecting off the hoops of adjacent barrels.

0, f9, 1/3

-1, f13, 1/3

-2, f18, 1/3

3.  Dark subject.

+2, f4.5, 1/20

Dark, shiny, unlabeled bottles of Syrah.  The light, down in this wine cellar, came from flourescent strips.  I set the white balance setting to automatic (as for all the subjects) but this time I changed the ISO to 400 to experiment.  I also decided this time to keep the f-stop at f4.5 and used different shutter speeds instead.

+1, f4.5, 1/25

0, f4.5, 1/30

The camera lens’ choice.

-1, f4.5, 1/40

-2, f4.5, 1/50

Not too happy with these results:  I think I prefer changing the f-stop more than the shutter speed.  Definitely not as much contrast as the grapes photographed in full sunlight.  Still, perhaps when I master manual exposure (and I am determined to get the hang of it) I will prefer shutter speed over f-stop.  I also would have been happier if I had got the subject a little more level.  I used a tripod for all the subjects, but I was trying to master all the knobs and dials on that also!

4.  Very light subject.

+2, f5.6, 1/20

A white bowl of milk is the whitest thing I could think of.  I decided to add 3 Cheerios for contrast.  This time I am back to keeping the shutter speed the same, 1/20, which seemed awfully slow considering I took this series of photographs next to a window.  I thought there was plenty of light – apparently the camera did not think so.  I don’t even like Cheerios.

+1, f7.1, 1/20

0, f11, 1/20

The camera’s choice.

-1, f16, 1/20

-2, f22, 1/20

This is so dark, the milk no longer looks white.  This is the same f-stop, f22, as the -2 photograph of my grapes…what a drastic difference with being indoors.

5.  Contrast.

What could possibly have more of a contrast than something half in the shade and half out of it?  A wet foot print on a wooden deck, half in the shade of a sun umbrella.  I would never have thought of this however if I had not accidentally, but fortuitously, stepped in my dogs’ water bowl whilst wrestling with my tripod.  Had to take these photographs quickly as my footprint was evaporating, but they actually turned out to be my favourite group of photographs.

+2, f5.6, 1/100

+1, f8, 1/100

0, f11,1/100

I concur with the camera’s meter on this one – the grain of the wood is clearly visible in the sun and in the shade.  Also the sun still manages to look, well, sunny.

-1, f18, 1/100

At this point, I’m a little confused.  The f-stops are not increasing properly – I would have expected f16 on this exposure and f22 (in actuality f25) on the next.

 -2, f25, 1/100

Thoughts and Observations.

This was a very interesting assignment.  I’m happy with some of my results, not so happy with others.  I think with a lot of experimentation I could really come to understand metering and bracketing – as an introduction though, this assignment was very helpful.  I can see that I need more time with my camera, a Nikon D50, and it’s manual.  It took me a little time just to figure out that there were certain limitations on adjusting the aperture size, simply because the kit lens that came with my D50 is just not that sensitive.  However I want to improve and get beyond the ‘poor workman always blames his tools’ mentality.  I just wish that my composition was better, and that the colours in my photographs didn’t seem so muted no matter what the exposure.  

The order I  uploaded my photographs in (+2, +1, 0, -1, -2) is how Nikon cameras are set up – in future I will switch the order around.

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