Friday, March 19, 2010

Playing with Speed

Please note that the photos have been posted separately....for some reason they disappeared when this post went up...thanks!

Playing with speed on your camera, of course....but then you knew that was what I meant! There are two places you can "play with speed" on your camera. First is the shutter long your camera is "open" to capture the shot. Think of someone long do they leave their eyes open? Someone that blinks a lot has a fast shutter speed. Someone that rarely blinks has a slow shutter speed.

Where would this come in handy? One instance would be if something is moving and you want to slow down the speed to capture that movement. Some examples would be a waterfall, vehicle lights in traffic, the trails of fireworks. With each of these, leaving the shutter open longer than normal will result in capturing something going from point A to point B.

With a waterfall, what happens is that you get that smooth continuous look as seen above. There is always more water coming, so the water all joins to become a silken strand. With car lights, you will get a line of light from point A to point B. With fireworks, you get the trail showing the path of the embers. Speed control is something you can do with most cameras. It is usually designated as the setting "TV". You will have to experiment with speeds to see which one works for your particular situation. If the shutter is open too long, you could just have a nice totally white shot as so much light got in.

Where else would this come in handy? Low light situations. The longer the shutter is open, then more light is captured. If no movement is occurring, you won't even know the shutter was open longer. Which brings us to the other control of speed....your ISO.

In film cameras, we use different "speeds" of film. On a bright sunshiny day, you might use 100 or 200 ISO. At a concert or location where there is not enough light, you might buy a faster speed of film like 800 or 1600. Which brings up one of my pet peeves...when you see all the flashes going off in an arena....flashes only go a few feet. You are much better putting your camera on "Program", thus telling your camera it is on it's own as far as light goes....stay open as long as you have to as I am not giving you extra light!

Digital cameras obviously do not use film, but you can adjust the ISO. In low light situations or if you want to stop a moving object, you use a higher ISO. In the waterfall below, you can see individual water droplets shooting up into the air. That was shot with a high ISO. Rather than forming a silken strand, I wanted to show how much water was rushing over the falls after twelve inches of snow was melting! You can still see the snow over on the right hand side.

So, why not use a high ISO all the time? The quality of the photos goes down the higher the ISO goes. Perhaps you have purchased a high speed film and shot night photos. You will see that the photos look grainy.

Even in the fireworks shot below, you can see that the black sky looks grainy. Of course, you can also use a slow ISO when there is plenty of light. The "film" doesn't have to process fast as there is plenty of light.
In this sunset photo I took in California, there was still enough light in the sky that I got good color with a slow speed shutter. You can also tell from how long the car lights are that the shutter speed wasn't extremely long, or the car lights would go all the way across the photo.

If you do use the Program mode on your camera, (where the camera is not going to get help from the flash) in low light places, you might find that the photo will look "yellowed" as it searches for light. It just depends how much light is available.

There is always the "Automatic" mode which will usually rely on the flash for light, but why not play around with the different modes? Remember the difference in the two photos of Lincoln I shared with you....the "Program" mode shot was much better than the flat, washed out flash "Automatic" shot.

Usually the modes are on the dial, "A" for automatic, "P" for program, "TV" for shutter priority, "AV" for aperture priority (that has to do with depth of field that we talked about before)....and you might have specific settings for portraits, landscapes, closeups, night shots, etc. Play around and learn what each of them does. For the ISO, you might have a dial or you might have to go into the menu to adjust it....just depends on your camera.

One thing you might want to consider if using a faster shutter speed is movement of the camera. With the shutter being left open, every little movement will be recorded. Even pushing down the shutter creates camera movement. This is where a flat surface comes in handy or using a mono pod or tripod. Some people keep a bean bag in their camera to place the front of the camera to center the shot, with the camera sitting on a flat, still surface. You can use the timer on your camera to release the shutter rather than physically pushing the button. There are also little release wires you can purchase to plug into your camera so that you don't have to push down the shutter. If you opt for a tripod, it doesn't have to be a big one....they make the small gorilla ones that will stand up or wrap around a railing. Just make sure it supports your camera's weight. The bigger the camera or lens, the bigger the tripod you will need. I love a mono pod as it is much mobile than a tripod. It is a like a big stick that keeps the camera steady.

If you want to make a quick trip to Paris, visit this website for a cool interactive tour of the city of lights. You can take a trip and never leave the farm...or keyboard. Thanks for sharing Marian!

Most people probably keep the camera on Automatic and never change life with some speed!

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