Be Prepared!

Be Prepared!

That is not just the Scouting slogan, it is an apt admonition to photographers. For years I have preached that a camera should always be ready for action. That means when putting it into its pack, it should be set so it is ready for a quick grab of an interesting situation.

Of course, when that moment came this past week, my camera was nowhere near ready. I had put it away after some still life photography without so much as checking any settings.

And this is what happened when I needed it in a hurry:

Vultures in the Attic

My recommendation is to always set the camera to AUTO mode to allow rapid shooting when needed.

There is more to that. The exposure mode isn’t all that should be in the “ready for action” setting. Here is my list:

Ready For Action Settings

Exposure mode: AUTO or P mode

Focus mode: Auto, with either single point or multi-point focus.

Vibration reduction: ON

Metering: Center weighted or matrix. Spot metering is great, but in hurried situations can lead to errors.

Exposure compensation: Zero. This control does not reset when the camera is turned off on many makes, so be sure to set it back to zero before stowing the camera.

ISO sensitivity: My “normal” setting is 200, many prefer 100. But there is more!

Set the Auto ISO mode ON to allow the camera to find workable settings. The high limit should be set to maximum. But the minimum shutter speed should be a reasonable value. I like 1/125 sec.

It was that last setting that really got me in trouble with the vultures. For shooting still-life scenes I had set it to 1 second.

That first photo at the top shows what can happen. The camera used 1 second, f/8, at ISO 3600. One second is more than I can hand-hold, even with good vibration reduction.

I got the camera to 1/125s, f/4, and ISO 200. But failed to watch where the center focus mark wound up.

Some days are like that! Nice photo of that mailbox, isn’t it?

.:. © 2021 Ludwig Keck

Squash Blossom

Photographing squash blossoms

When you search for “squash blossom” Google will serve up a long collection of recipes for frying, stuffing, and preparing them in other ways.

Photographing them? Who would ever want to to that? Squash blossoms are fickle models. Not easy. Each blossom is open only once and then for just a few hours. The open early, before the daylight gets good enough for photography.

This was taken about eight in the morning. The EXIF says 2020:08:02 06:55:10-04:00, I keep my camera clock on EST.

An hour and a half later a bit of sunlight got through the trees.

Notice that the edges have started to curl up. The blossom does present a neat star-like appearance. (8:28 EST)

Another hour later, at 9:33 EST, the blossom has begun to look bedraggled.

Little creatures have discovered the offering. Not yet the bumble bees that are the main pollinators, just the local neighbors. This is a male blossom and it offers its pollen in the hopes that some of it gets carried over to a female blossom.

Data on the photo below: Focal length 90mm, f/11, distance 0.56 m, DOF= 20 mm Not that the depth of field isn’t enough to get the small flies into focus. The image is cropped. Full frame showed all of the  blossom.

One more hour and the show is over. At 10:32 the blossom has pretty much closed up and looks like it will fall off shortly.

There is more to my story. These blossoms are about 4 to 6 inch across and are also quite deep. That makes getting everything sharp a challenge. For my first photo all the way at the top, I used a lens at 120 mm focal length and f/8. This gave a depth of field of just 18 mm (0.7 inch) as reported in the EXIF data, my shooting distance was 0.79 m (31 inch).

Besides having to manage the DOF exposure poses another little problem. Yellow blossoms, especially these orange-yellow ones, will confuse the camera light meter.

The image on the left shows the photo on the camera. This demonstrates that “chimping”, reviewing the image on your camera, is a good thing. In this mode the histogram is displayed individually for the three colors. The red arrow (added afterwards, of course) shows that the red data has a peak bunched up to the right side, indicating clipping of red information. This can show as washed out detail. You can see the same information in the histogram on the ON1 Photo RAW editor display, on the right. The image of the blossom looks good on the screen, but the histogram says that some red data is clipped.

When I shoot yellow flowers I underexpose, for this photo by a whole stop. Here is the screen view of the ON1 editor for the underexposed photo.

Yes, the photo looks distinctly underexposed, but the histogram shows that I captured all the data. This allows me to make the best of this image in post-processing.

So, to recap. Squash blossoms are temperamental models, they are open for only a couple of hours early in the morning. Their size across and in depth makes depth of field tricky. Pick what you want sharp. Their bright color can fool the camera, underexposure is desirable.

When you see a bud looking like this, set your alarm!

 

.:. © 2020 Ludwig Keck

Georgia Winter

Winter in Georgia

Yes, we do get winter down here in Georgia. Sometimes we even get snow. Here is my story of “winter” in Georgia in 2020.

On February 3rd our first daffodil greeted the new year.

The next day three more blossoms joined the chorus singing to the coming of spring.

Alas, it wasn’t spring that came. It was a cold rain “event” that beat down the flowers two days later and reminded us all of the official season.

The daffodils are a hardy bunch and determined to do their job. By evening they stated to lift their blossoms back up. But then, surprise, on the following morning, February 8, at around 9:30 snow started falling. It had been 750 days, according to one of the Atlanta meteorologists, since the last snow fall in our area. And it wasn’t just a light dusting. We got the full deal! By eleven o’clock that morning about an inch of the white stuff covered the ground and our spring messengers.

Winter snow had come! Of course, hereabouts that’s to be enjoyed quickly. It doesn’t last very long. By five in the afternoon the melting was on its way.

By nine-thirty the next morning it was back to work for our persistent friends.

Our trumpeter of spring proudly stands tall and bright.

… And so do its friends.

Our daffodils, my iPhone (which captured all but one of these images), my shadow and I wish you a happy Valentine’s Day and a glorious spring time!

.:. © 2020 Ludwig Keck