As Adam and I were snuggled up watching a movie last night, I peeked out the window and noticed the sky was really cool and mysterious-looking. I pointed it out to Adam and he casually said… “I’ll go up on the roof with you with the tripod if you want”. That was just the kick in the butt I needed and we paused the movie, grabbed the tripod and made our way upstairs. First off – it was CHILLY! Hello fall! I love it. I was in a sweatshirt and was shivering. The sky looked totally rad so we set up and I started experimenting.
Warning…I’m going to get a little technical for anyone interested. Also – let me caveat that by saying that I’m very much in the learning phase here still so if I’m mistaken with my explanation in any way, please correct me!
The challenge here, is that it was nighttime and there was not a lot of light. I was also shooting over a great distance and wanted everything to be sharp. To get the sharpness, I brought the aperture all the way up to a setting of twenty-two (f/22 – the highest possible with this lens). That means when I release the shutter to take the picture, the opening (letting light through) is the tiniest size possible. This gives you a greater depth of field, which results in everything in view (near and far) being captured in pretty sharp focus. I have experimented with this using my own eyes! I’m sort of blind without my glasses or contact lenses, but when I squint my eyes real tight, I can see things in focus that I couldn’t see with my eyes open all the way. Pretty cool right?
Anyway, by decreasing the size of the opening so much, you limit the amount of light that is able to get through. So, in order to expose the photo properly, you must let in more light some other way. That is where shutter speed comes in. If you slow down your shutter speed, the shutter stays open longer, so the hole letting light through (though tiny) is able to let more light in. In this case, my shutter was open for four seconds. The only reason I was able to get a sharp picture, with the shutter open for four seconds, is because I had my tripod. If I was holding the camera in my hands – there is no way I’d be able to take a sharp picture with the shutter being open so long. Especially with all my shivering!
Basically… to simplify:
- Higher aperture setting = smaller opening = greater depth of field = everything (various distances) in sharp focus
- Higher aperture setting also = less light getting through
- Need to balance that with shutter speed to get enough light to expose photo properly*
- Slower shutter speed = shutter stays open longer = more light is able to get in
- Slower shutter speed = need for a tripod to eliminate shake so image stays sharp
* side note… if you need more light, you can also use a higher ISO, which to my understanding, means the sensor becomes more sensitive to light, however with a higher ISO (anything over 1600), you sacrifice the look of the photo with a lot of graininess and noise.
Anyway – I know a few friends of mine picked up new cameras lately and are interested in learning about this stuff. For all the rest of you – I hope you skipped that!
Here are a couple other photos I took – just playing with focus and light:
I love how this light looks… so cool!! That happened with the high aperture setting. As I lowered the aperture, those rays of light lessened significantly. Not sure why – I’ll look into it.
This one I just took completely out of focus. I think it’s kind of magic.
So there’s your camera lesson for the day. Now it’s starting to thunder… oooooh I love thunderstorms!
PS – I cooked up some ridiculously tasty pork and fennel sausage from Dickson’s Farmstand Meats last night for dinner – served it with pasta, a light cream sauce, garlic and peas! Oh… and I grated the rest of that Ben Nevit cheese from last week on top. Delish!
Nice shot! Everything you said about doing long exposures at night is true, but here are a couple of tips: After about f/16, you get something called diffraction. I’m no physicist, so you can look up the particulars about that on Wikipedia or whatever, but the bottom line is you lose sharpness and contrast past that line.
You’re also 100% right about ISO – the higher the number, the greater the sensitivity to light. But when the sensor is more sensitive, you get more noise – speckling of random color and tone on the image (aka grain). Sometimes this is desirable; sometimes not.
To avoid all this, you can still take stopped-down images at night (around f/11 or f/16) and get those awesome sunstars (what most people call rays emanating from bright, single-point light sources) while getting clear, crisp images. The only thing is that you’ll need something VERY steady – a tripod. You’ll also want to set a delayed mirror flip-up if your camera does that, or use a mirror lockup mode and set your exposure manually. That’s easy though – just play around ’till you get the right exposure.
Keep up the great work!
Thanks so much for reading and for taking the time to clarify! I’m going to go look up diffraction and delayed mirror flip-up! not quite sure what that is… but every day I’m learning something new over here. I appreciate the encouragement. 🙂
You’re welcome! I’ve been told I’m too technical about photography, but I know these things because I think they can help. I’ll enjoy watching your blog! Stop by mine sometime! http://az365.wordpress.com
Great photo Nell. Definitely need to invest in a tripod, especially when the days get shorter and I’ll be shooting more in the evening. Thanks for the inspiration.
Thanks Yvonne! I seriously just used a tripod for the first time ever two weeks ago when we bought it for me for the food network job. I do think it’s a very valuable thing to have – it allows you to play and experiment a bit more too. total worthwhile investment. keep it up chica – your photos are getting consistently better… don’t you think?! I’ve been really enjoying your stuff lately. xo.
thanks for the detail. I don’t have a super awesome camera yet, but hope to in the near future and explanations such as this helps. I really want to get to a photography class. First I need the gear.
What kind of camera and lenses do you find a must? Maybe it could be your next post. Hmm, photos of camera equipment.
Keep up the great shots.
Thanks Heather! I took one photo class at ICP, which was really helpful in understanding the basics of photography and the basics of my camera. The rest I’ve learned by doing this project and looking up stuff online when questions arise!
The lens I’ve used primarily for this entire project has been my 50mm 1.4 prime lens (that means it doesn’t zoom). it takes GORGEOUS pictures – but it’s limiting in that it can’t zoom in or out… so you have to move your body instead.
Another good lens to have is a standard zoom – maybe a 24 or 28 to 105. I think you’d be just fine starting out with those (that’s all I have – except for the few times I’ve rented or borrowed lenses).
I also can’t express enough how much I love my rebel t2i. There are better and more expensive cameras (7D and 5D) – but the T2i is much cheaper and takes fabulous pictures and commercial quality video – so I think it’s a great first big-time camera. 🙂 Good luck! keep me posted.
Love the first shot the best!! Really beautiful!!