June 17, 2006

Trip to Ardenwood Farm


The weather was clear and sunny as our group gathered outside the gates. A total of 8 photographers showed up with their gear and manuals, including 2 new members from the Photogenesis group that I told you all about a few months ago. It was really great to see some new faces, and to get out to take some photos - which is, after all, the point of it all. :)

On the way to Ardenwood, I had a goofy idea to write down adjectives on pieces of paper and fold them up. At the start of our outing, everyone took one of the pieces of paper, and was encouraged to try and take a picture that embodied that adjective, while still being a successful photograph. They were Colorful, Bright, Dynamic, Remniscent, Fantastic, Dreamy, Chaotic, and Drab. For giggles, you can click on any of the underlined adjectives to see what I came up with for each of them. There's also another candidate for Drab that I think I like better as a picture, but is not as Drab.

The idea was for folks to try and take a few pictures that illustrated the adjective, and then if they came across someone else taking pictures and wanted to, they could trade and try another adjective.

Depth of Field Study 1

Denny was curious about Depth of Field, so we looked through the manual for her camera to see if there was a way to change the aperture and/or shutter speed settings. It looked like the only setting to which we had access was the ISO speed. As we sat and discussed Depth of Field, I took some photos as a test of my own camera to see how well it was able to create both narrow and deep Depths of Field. Here are the results:

We were sitting on a bench about 20 feet away from a white signpost. Behind the signpost was some darker foliage. I first took a picture with my camera fully zoomed out, and with the aperture at its smallest setting. (As a reminder, you can review Depth of Field on my main FAA resources page.) Remember: the larger the aperture setting, the narrower the depth of field. So this got the signpost, trees, and everything in focus. Click here to see the image

I then zoomed my camera in as close as I could go, just to illustrate how zooming in can also narrow the depth of field. You'll notice that the foliage behind the sign is beginning to blur. Note: I haven't moved...we're just adjusting the zoom (focal length) of the lens at this point. Here is the image.

Finally, I adjusted the Aperture to its largest setting, which creates the shortest possible depth of field. Here is the result. Note that the foliage behind the sign is even more blurred, while the sign is still in focus.

Depth of Field Study 2

As we walked around, I decided to do another Depth of Field experiment. Inside a gazebo, I looked up to see spiderwebs filling a trelliswork of openings around a light.

Here is the image with my camera fully zoomed out, at the maximum aperture setting.

Next, I zoomed in - and this was the only change I made. But look at how much more dramatic the depth of field is on this. Again - same aperture setting, just zoomed in. Of course, it crops the image very differently, but for this exercise, note that the trees behind the spiderweb are in focus in the first image, while they create a pleasing, blurry backdrop in the second.

Using a Napkin as a Diffuser

One of the things we talked about in our meeting two months ago was using a diffuser with your flash to help even out the lighting and prevent that harsh, "snapshot" feel. I saw an area with old farm equipment that was in the shade of a barn, and decided to do a little test to see if a paper napkin could serve as a diffuser, in a pinch.

Here is the picture with regular, unadjusted flash. Note that things in the foreground are lit, albiet somewhat harshly, while the background remains dark.

I then tried holding up a paper napkin folded over 4-ply thick (that is, folded in half, twice) in front of my flash. Note how dark the result is. I then unfolded the napkin once so it was 2-ply thick, which was still dark. Even with only one thickness of a cheap, paper napkin, the picture was too dark. The lesson I learned was that if you're going to use a diffuser, you need to adjust your camera's exposure settings to compensate. Pretty silly of me, huh? :) I would like to try this kind of photo again, but with corrected camera settings. Before walking away, I took a last picture of the area with no flash, and ironically, that was the most successful shot, as both foreground and background are lit. I still wouldn't call it a good image, as there really isn't enough light, but some photoshop work might be able to salvage something...I don't know. It's really just a boring picture. :)

Yet another Depth of Field experiment

Having spent so much time with Depth of Field, I tried one last experiment. I took one picture of a small horse-head post from about 4 feet away, framing it so that the horse head was centered and fully in-frame.

I then stepped about 12-15 feet away and zoomed in completely - again, not changing the camera's aperture settings - so that once again, the horse head was centered and in-frame. Notice that this time the background is much blurrier. Also, because we've changed the focal length, we get a much narrower background area. For example, in the first image, notice that there's a large fern to the left of the horse head. In the second image, this has been cropped out because we're now farther away and zoomed in.

My Happy Accident

I was taking pictures with my panoramic lens on, which is useful for getting more landscape in on the sides when you can't zoom out any more. However, I was taking both landscape and macro photos, and when I got home, I made an interesting discovery. The photos that I took with the panoramic lens on and the camera fully zoomed in (macro shots) had this etherial, blurry quality, but only around the edges! Here's an example - notice that blurry, smeary quality in the corners and sides? That wasn't photoshopped or altered in any way - that's straight out of the camera. I liked the effect a lot, and hope to use it again in the future.