A happy accident… and a photography lesson…

The life of a photographer… I take a fair number of photos over the course of a year, not as many as some, a lot more than others… sometimes I’ve got my “A” game (as good as that might be…) and sometimes I’m not “feeling it”… but like falling off a horse or a bike, you’ve gotta get back on and get to work… trying to produce something good….

Last night at the Carson High Freshman and Jr. Varsity football games I fell into the later category… I’ve been sick for nearly three weeks, cough, sniffles, etc., you know, that crud that we’re all passing around… my family somehow got over it in 4 days… I’m on the 4 week plan… anyway…

So… (… get to the point… ūüôā ) Last night, completely by accident I ended up with this shot… 131003_instaimage_Carson High Football_interceptionPlease be honest, tell me what you think… I think it’s very cool… You can clearly tell who this is… it shows action, you see the ball, you see the speed of the game… It’s an absolutely perfect example of what I’ve been preaching to people they can take with ANY digital camera that is or has been available since around 2004ish….

Wait… what? ¬†Everyone knows I have this big camera and lens… and yes, I took this shot with that camera… however… I quite frankly was absolutely not meaning to do this… it was an accident, a very happy accident in my opinion but none-the-less an accident, but it doesn’t have to be.

The camera settings were ISO 800, 1/60 of a second, f/2.8.

So what does that mean…

The reason I have that big camera and lens is because that big camera and lens will go up to a native ISO of 51,200.  And the reason I have that lens is because it is an f/2.8 maximum aperture.

(interpretation… not in camera geek speak…)

Remember a camera is a tool for me, much like a hammer for a carpenter… I need the tools to do the job I’m trying to accomplish… hence, why I have the gear I do…

So let’s look at what all this means…

The camera settings were ISO 800, 1/60 of a second, f/2.8.

ISO is what we used to have in the film days as ASA… most people are familiar with ASA 100, 200, 400… maybe 800… well ISO is the equivalent we have with digital camera… and it’s the same, 100, 200, 400, 800… it doubles (yes there are marks in between but those are 1/3 stops… for a later discussion…). ¬†ISO is the camera’s sensitivity to light, each “stop” it doubles the amount of sensitivity… So that big camera I have will go… 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600, 3,200, 6,400, 12,800, 25,600 & 51,200 (“natively”… again, another discussion…). ¬†So as anyone that has shot at any youth field or gym ANYWHERE, you can’t sugar coat it… the light sucks, it’s just terrible… hence the new cameras have these new insane ISO capabilities.

Aperture… my lens is f/2.8. ¬†This is a more confusing part of photography for some because it seems backwards until you understand what that number means… The smaller number the more light is let through the lens… a lens aperture is the ratio of¬†focal length¬†to effective aperture diameter¬†(or the amount that the lens is closed at the time of exposure)… ¬†So the smaller the number the less the lens is “closed” at the time of exposure. ¬†The reason the lens I have is so big is to let in a lot of light. ¬†When you go from 2.8 to 4.0 you’re cutting the light in half… and again from 4.0 to 5.6 half again as much. ¬†So you can see the tricky thing with photography here… you need a lot of light.

So what does this all mean for you? ¬†Let’s look at those settings again…

ISO 800, 1/60th, f/2.8

ALL of you have a camera that will go to ISO 800, most will go at least 1,600 (some as high as 12,800… or more…).

Your lens is most likely f/5.6 at the longest focal length you have… so for example the lens is a 55-300mm f/3.5-5.6. ¬†This means at 300mm your lens is a f/5.6 aperture (and at 55mm it’s a f/3.5, it’s a variable aperture lens, very common “kit” type lens).

So that leaves the 1/60th of a second part… (to give you a point of reference, “portraits” are generally taken around 1/100 or 1/125th of a second to “freeze” a person that is sitting, not moving…) as you increase motion that number must get faster to “freeze” action… for example, I shoot most sports at 1/1,000th of a second or faster… a lot of you tell me your photos are blurry… this is the reason why. ¬†Take a look at the photo above… it’s blurry, but the 18 is kinda sharpish… kinda, but the whole effect is pretty cool. ¬†So generally I’d shoot this scene at around 1/1,000th of a second… (this works kinda the same… the numbers double… 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1,000 and again the light doubles or halves depending on which direction you’re going on the scale…)

Photography is all about compromise. ¬†What I’ve discussed above is called the exposure triangle, ISO (800), Shutter (1/60), Aperture (2.8). ¬†As one setting moves, another has to change to accommodate to keep a “proper” exposure, hence keeping the triangle shape and giving you the same potential “look”. ¬†So let’s assume you have the lens I described above at 300mm it’s f/5.6. ¬†So from 5.6 to 4.0 to 2.8 is called two “stops” of light. ¬†So to get the same image we need to change one of the other settings two stops, or some combination of changes to get two stops of light back because the hinderance of the lens we’re using…. To keep this simple and relevant to a lot of the cameras I see people shooting… let’s also say your camera will go to ISO 3,200. ¬†So by simply setting your camera to ISO 3,200 and zooming to 300mm (f/5.6) (shoot in Aperture Priority, A for Nikon users or AV for Canon users…) you’ll have about a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second (… in the light in that portion of the field)…. ¬†THEN… you need to move with the action, called panning, and press the shutter button as you move with the action… ¬†The panning does take some practice (I learned the hard way using film a long time ago…) but you can see what type of a photo you can get with this technique.

So… for those of you with a Nikon D3000, D3100, D3200, D5000, D40, D90, D60, etc. (lower end without high ISO) or Canon Rebel of pretty much any vintage… try this technique, your camera isn’t useless, you just have to use the tool differently….

Happy shooting!

Shoot me any questions, I’d be happy to answer!