Monday, November 30, 2009
Hey everyone, welcome back from Thanksgiving! I hope you were all able to give heartfelt thanks for all the good stuff in your life, and passive-aggressively attack those who are guilty for everything else. I was, and man, it was awesome.
So, first off, I do feel like it’s worth mentioning that no, I have not posted this picture before. I have, however, posted at least a couple that are really similar. That’s just the way it goes around here. When I go places, I take a lot of pictures, that are all just a little bit different. The differences are usually subtle enough that you won’t notice them unless you’re looking at two versions right next to each other. But what usually happens is that half of the subtle differences that I like better are in one version, and half in the other, so I can’t in good conscience pick one over the other. So I usually keep both hanging around. That’s exactly how it happens that all 10 if the top 10 most highly-rated pictures of Colorado in Rate Dave’s Photos are pictures of the Maroon Bells and Maroon Lake taken on the same day. This one’s not QUITE that similar, (it’s vertical, whereas the ones I’ve posted here before were horizontal), but the point still stands.
If you actually read the text here on potd.com closely (I’m not sure how many of you actually do), you probably noticed that I failed to post a picture last Tuesday as I had promised. It’s a long story as to why, but it involved running out of time and almost missing a flight. But, before things got quite so desperate, I had planned on posting this picture. Mostly because I figured it was a safe one to go ahead and post with a minimal write-up. So since I was already mentally committed to using it, I figured I’d go ahead and use it today.
This is of course a view of the Maroon Bells and Maroon Lake, just outside of Aspen, Colorado. I think I’ve actually posted three Maroon Bells pictures before, so if you’re interested in seeing those, search for “Maroon Bells” in the search box on the upper right. I would normally link to them here, but I’m feeling a bit lazy today.
But, since I actually do have time to do a write-up today, I’ll go ahead and say something about it. And here we go.
There are a lot of different kinds of photo opportunities. There are the subtle ones, where something catches your eye in the middle of an ordinary day. And there’s the ones where due to some unique circumstance, like a crazy storm rolling through or a nice sunset, something ordinary is turned into something extraordinary. There’s mood shots, where for whatever reason the scene in front of you does a perfect job of encapsulating the aura of a place and thus makes a good story. The list goes on and on. But somewhere in that list is the lookout point. A well-marked spot where the general consensus is that the view kicks ass. Doesn’t really matter the time of day, time of year, or weather. It’s just an awesome viewpoint that makes for a great picture. That’s what this place is. The natural elements are all there in such a way as to make it idiot-proof to get an awesome shot. I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, but I do want to make sure I somehow work it into this paragraph that you should take the time to try out a lot of different stuff in such a situation. Try taking it horizontally, try it vertically, try it with all sorts of different layouts of foreground. Try it with everything. Because you’re using digital (you’re using digital, right?), so who cares how many you take? And for god’s sake, don’t delete them on the camera before you’ve had a chance to see them on the big screen! The ONLY excuse for that is if your card is full and you need to take more pictures. But it’s WAY too easy to miss something on the little tiny camera screen that will turn an image that you think is only ho-hum into something fantastic. It very often happens that the real winners, my favorite shots of the day, are not the ones I expected to be so when I was taking them.
Okay, lunch time. I’ve rambled at you enough for one day. Thanks for coming back after almost a whole week of no posts! I promise I’ll do it again soon.
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel XT, 18-55 mm kit lens. 1/320s, f/7.1, ISO 100. Focal length: 25mm.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Hello everyone. I apologize for not putting up a post on Friday – I was sick and sleeping it off. I’m back in action today though, although I’ll be out of town the rest of the week after tomorrow, so this post and the next one will have to keep you satisfied until next week.
Today’s picture was taken along the Baker Lake trail, which can be accessed by heading off 20 or 30 miles on a forest road shooting north from Highway 20, the road that goes through North Cascades National Park. It’s a beautiful area, even if you don’t leave the car.
If you’ve been shopping for cameras or lenses any time in the last couple years, you’ve probably heard the term “Image stabilization” (or some variant on the theme – different manufacturers call it different things.) So.. what exactly does it mean, and what does it do for you? And, the million-dollar question that I’m not going to answer, is it worth the cost?
The basic problem that image stabilization is trying to solve is that taking pictures in low-light is hard. In bright light, you can get away with using whatever size of aperture you like and a low ISO, and you won’t have any problems. And by “you won’t have any problems” I mean “you’ll be able to use a shutter speed that’s fast enough that you won’t get any blurring from camera shake.” Humans have shaky hands. It’s a fact of life. So if your shutter stays open too long, your camera will move, and the resulting picture you take will be blurry. Tripods are one solution, but what if you don’t have one? That’s where image stabilization is. It’s technology in the camera or lens that compensates for your shaky hands to keep the light reaching the camera sensor steady. A lot of the time that means having a spinning lens element that acts sort of like a gyroscope. The spinning element likes to maintain it’s angular momentum, or something (I really have no idea what I’m talking about here, could you tell?), such that the beam of light passing out the back end doesn’t change despite the fact that the lens moved. Even re-reading that sentence it still doesn’t make any sense. But whatever, you get the idea.
The basic rule of thumb is that, if you’ve got image stabilization, you’ll be able to take hand-held pictures one or two stops slower than you would otherwise. Wait, what? Okay, I’ll take a step back. You of course want each picture to be “properly exposed” -which means “exposed the way you like it”, there isn’t a scientific definition for proper exposure. Basically, it means “not over-exposed (too light) or under-exposed (too dark”). There are lots of factors that go in to how much light reaches the camera’s sensor (or film) to reach a certain level of exposure. Keeping most of them constant for now, we’ll just talk about the shutter speed and the aperture (or f-stop). In general, those two are inversely proportional. That is, the wider the aperture (the more open the hole), the less time you’ll need to have the shutter open for. And vice versa (a smaller hole means you’ll need more time with the shutter open.) Again, I’m ignoring for the moment all of the side-effects from changing your aperture or shutter speed (like depth-of-field, blah blah blah), I’m strictly dealing with exposure level right now – how light or dark the resulting image is. As I mentioned before, in bright light, you can make the aperture as small as you like without having to worry about needing a shutter speed longer than that magic amount of time where hand-shake becomes a factor. In low light? Not so much. If you’re in, for example, a shady forest, you may not be able to use the aperture size you want – it would require that you keep the shutter open too long to be able to hold the camera steady. A good rule of thumb (for me anyway) is that any shutter speed faster than 1/200th of a second means I’m good to go. Sometimes I can push it to 1/100th of a second or even slower and still be happy with the result, but anything slower than 1/200th means hand shake could start to become an issue. That’s without image stabilization. WITH stabilization, you can move that down a bit, meaning that I can be pretty confident that anything faster than 1/160th of a second or even 1/125th of a second will work out fine, and the grey area moves too, down to about 1/50th of a second or so. To go back to how I started this paragraph, that means I can close down the aperture one or two (f) stops, and even with the corresponding increase in required shutter time, I should be okay.
So, awesome, right? Well, yeah, kinda. There is of course always a downside, which is usually the cost. Lenses with image stabilization can cost a LOT more than a similar lens without it. The cost is of course coming down as it becomes more and more popular, but the general rule of thumb still holds true. For point and shoots, at least for Canons (which are really the only ones I know anything about), I think it’s pretty hard to even find one without it these days. But, despite all of the hooplah about it, it’s not really a HUGE difference, it may get you a picture here or there that you wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise, but it’s definitely not worth refinancing your house to pay for. In fact, many people (myself included) go the route of spending money on getting a “faster lens” (a lens with a larger maximum aperture size – or a lower minimum f-stop) rather than on a slower lens with image stabilization. Image stabilization sometimes means that you’re making tradeoffs in image quality (to keep costs more reasonable) which I decided I was no longer willing to make.
Why did I bring all this up today? As it turns out, this is one of those pictures that I probably wouldn’t have been able to get without it. This was taken with my 28-300 mm super-zoom that I no longer use regularly. I used a shutter speed of 1/50th of a second, which is normally too slow to get a decent image. Even with the stabilization, most pictures I take with that shutter speed won’t turn out. But some of them do. If I had the lenses then that I do now, I cold have of course just opened up the aperture wider and used a faster shutter. There would have been a correspondingly smaller depth-of-field, meaning the trees in the background would have been more out of focus. But it’s tough to say how drastic of a change it would be. If I knew I was going to be put in the same conditions again I’d definitely reach for my 28-75 f/2.8 over my 28-300 f/3.5-6.3 with image stabilization. But again, that’s just personal preference.
Anyway, that’s enough blabber for today. See you all tomorrow!
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel XT, Tamron 28-300 mm VC lens. 1/50s, f/3.5, ISO 400. Focal length: 35mm.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I used the caption (and title) “Olympic National Park” today because, quite frankly, the thought of labeling YET ANOTHER picture as “Shi Shi Beach Trail” was a bit embarrassing. I mean, it’s just sort of the way these things go: you take your camera with you every time you go anywhere, and sure, you get a couple nice shots each time. But then there are just a couple times when everything just comes together, and you get a huge number of top-tier (okay, fine, top- and middle-tier) pics. Maybe it’s because the planets are aligned just right, maybe it’s because your mood is aligned just right, maybe it’s because you made sure to eat enough fiber the day before, whatever. The point is, this particular trip out to the Washington coast was one of those times. The time I hiked out to Silver Lakes was another (and another).
As long as I’m doing the whole stream-of-consciousness thing, I’ll also go ahead and point out that, based on the color of the light, it looks like it was overcast when this picture was taken. In fact, my memory also suggests the same thing. Which just goes to show that you can get pictures you’re happy with even if the sun’s not out. So don’t ever let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t go out hiking just because it’s cloudy, okay?
.. Wait.. one sec… Oh.. I’m being told that in fact I am usually the one saying that. I see. Well, in that case, don’t let me in particular tell you that. Just get out there and take a few shots. Worst case, they’ll suck. But what are you complaining about, you’re not still shooting film (right?) so there’s no harm done. Happy Thursday!
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Canon 10-22 mm lens. 1/200s, f/4.5, ISO 200. Focal length: 18mm.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Today takes us back to Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso, a national park in the far northwestern corner of Italy. For a full story of where we were and why, it’s probably best to go digging around the earlier entries ( like this one, this one, or this one), but a quick summary is: we were there, and we saw stuff. And the stuff we saw is totally worth going there to see.
This is probably true everywhere in the world, but one thing that really struck me on our little trip through northern Italy (with a quick jaunt through southern Switzerland) was how warm and friendly everyone was once we got away from the cities. And I’m not even just talking about the folks working at the restaurants and hotels, even the other tourists seemed more willing to come out of their shell. Just as an example, when we were having dinner and breakfast in our hotel in the national park, (a total of 4 meals – 2 dinners and 2 breakfasts) we had two sets of buddies that I don’t know if we would have even interacted with in any other circumstances. One set was made up of two mildly older gentlemen (that’s my new term for folks that are my parents age – “mildly older”. Meaning, they’re older (than me), but they’re not what you’d call “old”) who were down from Britain for a couple weeks just to go “walking”. They were trying out different trails around the park each day, returning to the hotel every evening. I mean, man, what a trip that would be! I’d love to have the vacation time to be able to do that. The other set was two French-speaking ladies from… Quebec City, as it turns out. They were happy to practice their English on us, and we were happy to practice our “speaking more slowly and loudly so that non-English speakers will understand you”. Good times! Also, they had homemade yogurt. I’m glad I was able to work that in there.
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel XT, Tamron 28-300 mm lens. 1/200s, f/6.3, ISO 100. Focal length: 28mm.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Yeah, I know, I know. Another picture of a daisy. I told you: they will never end. You’re lucky that I’m at least trying to space them out to only come once every few days. It could be so much worse, you don’t even know.
Since there’s really not much to talk about with this picture (hey look! A daisy!), I guess I’ll try to come up with something else to cover. Oh, I know! Whitefish mountain resort (as in, the physical mountain itself) has a twitter feed! Either that, or it has cleverly decided to commandeer a human to write a twitter feed, phrasing the tweets as if it were coming from the mountain itself. I’m leaning toward the former, but I can’t be sure. Anyway, the mountain stumbled on my entry yesterday, and kindly linked to me. You can see it here: http://twitter.com/SkiWhitefish/status/5801182897 . Terribly exciting, right?? I know!! The most unexpected part is where all the traffic that came via the twitter feed comes from. About half of those people are from… wait for it… MONTANA! Okay, not very unexpected. But I had to fill up the space somehow.
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Quantaray 70-300 mm macro lens. 1/250s, f/10.0, ISO 200. Focal length: 300mm.