Friday, December 28, 2012

Not Quite Sunrise

I had a vague idea that I would get up this morning and head over to Hammonasset State Park for a sunrise walk with the dogs. The new camera is so much more sensitive to different kinds of light that I really wanted to see what the results would be.

However, I utterly failed to get out of bed anywhere near sunrise, so I had to settle for taking the dogs there late morning, after their 6 month checkups at the vet.

I also met up with Jeremy for part of the walk, and we went out the "nature trail" all the way to where it ends, overlooking a marsh plain.

Here's Comet in front of those same rocks.

Afterwards, I went over to the Supply Ponds because the dogs needed a good rinse, and there's no fresh, clear water for them to dunk themselves in at Hammonasset.

Monday, December 24, 2012

After the Frost

Just over two months ago, I snapped a picture of these woods from this very spot, and I ruminated on Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" because the woods were so yellow then.

Now, after the first frost, I returned with the dogs, for a little Christmas Eve celebratory hike while Andy was working.

But it wasn't all landscapes and ruminations. We were out in the woods for quite a while, so I had plenty of time to keep working on my skills with my new camera. I got a lot better at using the autofocus on a charging dog, and I did some experimenting with shutter speed and  some auto-exposure settings to try to get bright, golden glow on the running dogs.

I used center-weighted exposure values and a center-biased autofocus, so I had to center the moving dog in frame each time. However, the new camera picks up a lot more light (a full frame sensor) and a lot more data (higher resolution sensor), so the options for cropping are more varied.

It can be difficult to catch a dark gold dog when the light isn't shining from behind the photographer. You tend to get underexposed, dark regions without detail on the dog himself, while the surrounding the landscape is properly exposed.

I've been working on using that less-than-ideal light to give the dogs a fringe of gold while keeping the dog himself properly exposed and letting the background get washed out a bit. I got a couple of good ones.

I have no shame about posing dogs for a photo, but this time, Comet posed himself. He ran up ahead, jumped up on that rock, and stood like a proud lion while I fiddled with camera settings.

The new camera also lets you use an iPhone as a remote. it shows you what the camera sees right on the iPhone screen and lets you trigger the shutter and even change a couple of settings. So I set up a teeny tripod on a rock and posed us. You can actually see the phone in my left hand as I trigger the shutter.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Crisper Autumn Photo

After several years of having it on the what-if section of my budget spreadsheet, I finally went out and bought myself a new camera. I had originally intended to take one big step up in terms of features, but I ended up deciding on a camera that's a whole quantum leap from my hand-me-down Canon XTi.

I got a Canon 6D, which is a brand-spanking new model with some really interesting features, most notably a full-frame sensor. What that means in practice is a lot more sensitivity in different light conditions and a lot more flexibility in shooting.

It also takes much crisper photos at much higher resolutions, so that even heavily cropped images like this one stay pretty sharp looking.

I didn't just buy a new camera body. Because it's a full frame camera, it won't take my old 18-55mm lens. So I got an EF 24-105mm lens, which is a huge step up in the quality of glass from the old 18-55.

I'm still getting the hang of the new features. Some of the old features are stumping me because they've been relocated. The new layout of buttons and settings is definitely superior to the old, but I don't know where everything is yet. I'm particularly struggling with what's different about action shooting. I haven't quite mastered using autofocus on a moving target.

Nonetheless, the flexibility is extraordinary in terms of what you can do with troublesome lighting. I deliberately backlit the dogs with the sunset here, and I think I ended up with a nice dramatic shot with really cool colors.

I even tried my hand at creating an HDR (high dynamic range) shot. You take a series of shots very quickly across a range of exposure levels. Then, the computer (I used Photoshop) puts them together, using the higher exposure information for the darker areas and the lower exposure information for the brighter areas.

This shot isn't really a wonderful job of it, partly because it's not meant for moving subjects (since panting dogs move slightly from shot to shot, no matter how fast your shutter is), and partly because I have no idea what I'm doing.

The dogs are infinitely patient about posing for me, which I truly appreciate, since I feel like I'm imposing on human hiking buddies when I stop so often to set up shots and mess with camera settings, so I look forward to getting the hang of the new hardware with my two favorite models.