Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Breaking the rules: shooting into the Sun

There exists a number of common 'rules' we are supposed to follow to make photographs, one of these rules is shoot with the sun at your back. And while I normally follow this rule, you can also create great photos by breaking this rule. Here are some of my favorite photos shooting directly into the sun:

Camera: Canon 5D, Lens: Canon 24-85, ISO: 100, Focal length: 28mm, Shooting Mode: Av, Aperture: F8, Shutter-speed: 1/400, white balance: sunny, picture style: Landscape.

Camera: Canon 5D, Lens: Canon 24 f2.8, ISO: 100, Shooting Mode: Manual, Aperture: F10, Shutter-speed: 1/320, white balance: sunny, picture style: Faithful.

Camera: Canon 10D, Lens: Sigma 70-200 f2.8, ISO 100, Focal length: 200 mm, Shooting Mode: Tv, Aperture: F9.5, Shutter-speed: 1/500, white balance: auto.

The 'trick' I use when shooting into the sun is to 'meter' off the blue sky (point the camera at the blue sky and then press the '*' button--this 'locks' the exposure), and then recompose. The camera then meters for the 'blue sky' so when you shoot into the sun you still get 'blue sky'. Alternatively, you could meter off the blue sky - see what parameters the camera choose, switch the manual and then use those same parameters. You'll have the experiment a little to get the results you want.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

An emotionally compelling photograph (for me)

One of my favorite subjects to photographs is 'my friends at play'.

Here a shot I took yesterday of my friend Maureen windsurfing in the Columbia River Gorge.

Shot settings:
  • Canon 5D camera
  • Canon 400 f5.6 L Lens: So the windsurfer was big enough in the frame & to pull in the background.
  • ISO 200: To ensure a fast enough shutter-speed to freeze the action.
  • Shooting Mode of 'aperture priority': I wanted to specify the widest aperture the lens supported and let the camera select the correct shutter-speed.
  • Aperture f5.6: The widest aperture this lens supports--to give me a 'blurry background'. This lens (400 f5.6) is sharp 'wide-open', many lenses are not sharp 'wide-open.'
  • Exposure compensation (EC) set to 0: The camera metered it 'just right'
  • shutter-speed 1/1250th of a second: Selected by the camera. I did set ISO to 200, to ensure I got a fast shutter-speed (ISO 100 would have given me a shutter-speed of 1/600th of a second--at 1/600 I might have gotten some 'motion blur' or blur from 'camera movement'.)
  • Picture style of 'standard': This gives me a nice 'punchy' image without a whole lot of post-processing.
  • White balance set to 5900 degrees Kelvin when the RAW file was processed to JPEG: The 'sunny' white balance I used when shooting looked a little 'cold' to me back at my computer, so I set white balance via 'color temperature' when I processed the file (white balance 'color temp' is a 'slider' in Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP.)) Being able to 'tweak' white-balance in post-processing is a nice benefit to shooting in RAW.
  • Focus mode set to AI Servo: So I could 'track' my subject and release the shutter when I wanted to take a photo.
  • Tripod with ball-head: To keep the camera stable when shooting. The ball-head allows me to freely move the camera, while still having the camera stabilized by the tripod.
  • Location the photo was taken: Arlington, Oregon, USA (Columbia River Gorge)

I really love this shot. The elements that make this photo good, in my opinion, are:
  • The beautiful scene
  • The very nice colors. The contrast between the green water and the tan hills.
  • The subject in focus, with the slightly blurry background (making the sailor 'pop' a little.)
  • The hills in the background 'filling the frame'
  • An uncluttered background (remember to 'watch the background' -- it matters.)
  • The subject is in the bottom third of the photo (following the 'rule of thirds')
  • No other windsurfers in the frame to clutter the photo
For me, this is also 'emotionally compelling' photo. It reminds me of a spectacular day of windsurfing at a beautiful location with good friends. I can look at this photo and I am reminded of great day of sailing.

The use of the long 400mm focal length lens was key to:
  • Make the subject (the sailor) large enough in the frame (so she isn't a 'speck')
  • Pull in the hills in the background (with a 100mm focal length you would get lots of sky.)
Here's another photo from the day. I like the first photo better, but this one has a little more 'action' - so others may prefer this one:

(similar 'shot settings' to the previous photo.)