Another challenging week with Mr. DuChemin’s assignment for Lesson 6: Master the Triangle. I remember a teacher once saying that getting a great exposure is all about learning to dance around the exposure triangle – three different ways to control the light, depending on your subject and your vision for your image. Triangle you ask? Yes – it’s the ISO – how sensitive your camera sensor is to the light; the Aperture – or how much light you let in through the lens; and Shutter Speed – how long you allow the shutter to remain open. All three of these play into the quality of your image.
As we all tend to shoot in less than ideal circumstances, especially those who choose to shoot in “natural light” – you have to decide sometimes what to sacrifice. We shoot “wide open” to get that glorious bokeh (from the Japanese word boke, meaning “blur” or “haze”). In photography, bokeh is that beautiful out of focus pattern that certain camera lenses produce. With lenses capable of apertures of f/1.4 where the depth of field is razor thin – it’s a challenge to nail the focus. If you don’t keep the shutter speed fast enough, you can forget about sharp focus. And if you increase the sensitivity of your camera sensor by raising your ISO – you get “digital noise” – much like speckles in your image (what us oldtimers called “grain”).
This week, our frigid temps kept me indoors where it’s nice and warm and my subjects (and wranglers) would be more comfortable and thus more willing to help me produce images for this week’s assignment and blog post. I love shooting in my studio, because I can control the lighting, the background, and sometimes, even keep my subjects in the right place. Two-legged subjects are far easier to manage, but where’s the fun in that?! Bring on a handsome, muscle-bound girl dog named NuNu – who happens to adore her foster mom, and her tasty treats even moreso. Starting with the best image first – as a comparison for what comes up next – here’s a lovely portrait of NuNu – where I used my Nikon 24-120 f/4 lens – Settings: ISO 100, f/9, 1/160. Perfect for getting both her eyes and her nose in sharp crisp focus.
Now let’s contrast this image with two images I captured using natural light – and the use of a silver/gold reflector. In this image, I had my assistant bounce some light onto her face while her foster mom kept her attention with treats. Notice the histogram and settings on this image SOOC (straight out of camera). At an aperture of f/2.8 – I could barely get one eye in focus. Mainly because I was crouched about 4 feet from NuNu – giving me a sliver of focal plane. End result – one eye in focus…. the nose? blurred… same with the ears. My goal was a clean bust shot without any distracting background lighting – like that bright spot of light from the front windows of the house.
Side-note/tangent/whine time: Finding clear, uncluttered backgrounds when you can’t drag your 8 foot backdrop with you can be a nightmare. I envy those people who have developed a finely tuned eye for what makes a great background! When you think about everything that you must consider to craft an excellent image (subject, posing, background, lighting) along with the technical know-how for camera settings…it’s truly mind-boggling. Or as one of my teachers asked when we were doing image critique sessions – “so how did you miss that …insert whatever distracting element in your image that you totally missed yet is now clearly visible since you’ve already uploaded it for the night’s review session…?” And then he says – “your only job was to look through that viewfinder in your camera and see what was there before you click the shutter”…. “how hard could that be?”…. sigh, groan…. yah… how hard COULD it be…??
Okay – so here’s the SOOC image:
So what would happen after I edit and retouch the image? Is there any hope? (eh…. not much…)Okay – so NuNu was up for sun-bathing… except you can’t take a good clear shot of a dog with part of her body in sun and the other not… but you can get that handy assistant person to block the sun a bit… and here we have NuNu backlit! I went from f/2.8 to f/3.5 cause I still had to work at getting enough light on her lovely face. Except… wait… what’s all that blurry distracting stuff behind her? Yah… like I said – watching for good clear backgrounds is a skillset I’m working on. So when all else fails…
That good old Patch tool in Photoshop sure comes in handy… I wasn’t quite as happy with the blown out bits of carpet in front of her… and how about that ’80s style white vignette? When it’s after midnight and your blogpost is due at 4am…. well…. you get kinda desperate!
And now – let’s venture up even farther north and see what Blue Amrich, Boston Pet Photographer is doing with mastering her exposure triangle. Remember to keep clicking through the webring until you land back here with Sydney and me. Maybe I can convince her to model for me next week – when we will be working with slowing that shutter speed down to show ACTION. Now if that doesn’t seem confusing…. you’ll just have to wait until next week to see what I mean. If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere – and anywhere in the Mideast Atlantic – we’ll be having some frosty temps to enjoy. Stay warm and see you back next week!