Saturday, March 27, 2010

Panning as an art

Panning with a subject is one of those things that requires a lot of practice. It's not too hard when it's an airplane or something large that is moving across the sky in a fairly even manner. It's a completely different thing when it's a bird close to the water. Large things just don't move as erratically as larger, more massive things.

The basic idea is to rotate your body to keep the subject in the frame, while keeping the composition. Then by using a slower shutter speed you can get a nice artistically blurred background. If you can do this while it's on a monopod or tripod, so much the better. The Canon 100-400 IS lens actually has a special anti-shake mode for doing panning. I'm not sure it works if you shoot portrait mode.

The photo to the right was taken at Golden Gate Park, there is a lake north of Martin Luther King Drive and west of 25th. It's also where I took the photo of the goose.

These mallards are in full breeding colors, and are amazing to observe. However, if you try to take a photo of one, they can be difficult to track across the sky. This shot was taken with the 100-400 mm zoom at 400 mm, 1/250 th of a second, f.11. They can fly very erratically, dodging around things and generally making it difficult to pan with them.

An admission on my part, if I don't know how something works on my camera, I tend not to use it. It took me quite a while to start using the ISO as an adjustable parameter for every shot. I think that the auto-focus mode where it pays attention to the 7 sensors in the viewfinder might help for this type of shot. I'll have to give it a try in slightly more controlled experiment.

What modes do people use for auto-focus when shooting moving objects?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

New camera bag

Someone at work is selling a Crumpler 6 Million Dollar Home bag which seems like a very nice bag. He let me borrow it for the weekend and I went wandering around Golden Gate park with all of my camera gear. It handles the Canon Digital Rebel XT, the Tamron 18-250mm zoom, the 100-400 IS lens, the 1.4 teleconverter, and the Canon Speedlight 420 I own. I carried the Bogen tripod on my shoulder, I don't think anyone should think about packing that into a bag.

It's nice, but I am a bit afraid of out-growing it too soon. I like the side-carry, though it is more difficult on my shoulder than the backpack I currently use. But, it takes quite a bit of time to get a lens out of the backpack as compared to the Crumpler.

I welcome any suggestions.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Breeding season

It's breeding season for the birds. A quick walk around Lake Merced in California had lots of interesting opportunities. The Hummingbirds are out and fending off intruders to their territory.

When shooting this image of the Great Blue against the sky, I knew that the sky would fool the meter quite a bit, so I adjust the metering to be +1 stop. Since I was shooting in aperture preferred mode, that meant that the shutter speed was cut down by 1/2. This shot was f.8.0, iso 800, 1/2000 second at 400mm on the Digital Rebel XT. The lens was the 100-400mm IS Zoom from Canon. In Raw mode of course.

There is a little cropping, and some adjustment of exposure (Fill Light in Adobe Lightroom 2).

The camera was set up for AI Servo and spot metering.

One of the things I discovered is that I need to work on my panning. As long as the object is fairly large in the frame I don't have a problem (for example airplanes at an air show) but I was not able to keep the spot on this bird very well.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

San Francisco light

There is a certain quality of light in San Francisco, and I am sure it is other places as well. It's that light that cuts through the fog, or in the case at the moment, under it. I think it allows a little more time for that golden hour, because the sunlight reflects off the bottom of the stratus layer and warms things up a bit.

It's an odd city, you have the actual city itself, with the high-rises, crime, shopping centers, street people. All of that is in one section, mostly. Then you have the suburbs, or everything West of 19th ave, which is where I currently live. And then you have the nature areas, Golden Gate Park (where this cormorant was resting), the area around the Legion of Honor, and the newly reintroduced wetlands at Crissy Field. All of these areas are great for bird watching. On the way to do some photography today, I was able to watch a red-tailed hawk grab something for dinner and fly off with it.
Even in the suburbs, you can see a red-tailed hawk perched on a telephone wire. This one was a few houses down from me, I was able to get my 100-400 mm zoom and take a fair number of shots without him (or her) paying a lot of attention to me.
The crows and blackbirds were distracting him.
And yet, I dislike the bitter wind that comes in off the Pacific Ocean at an average speed of 12 miles per hour in April. That's average, and there is nothing between the water and you. The houses act like a wind-tunnel, making it seem much higher.