It’s amazing what my camera picks up. Sometimes it’s planned well ahead of time, with a pretty good idea of what the end product will be. But at other times, you just don’t know until the camera’s finished processing the available light.
That’s what it’s all about, the available light. Everthing the camera does, and everything you do with the camera, takes advantage of the available light.
At times there might be too much light, and you try to work around the harsh shadows that the midday sun gives you. Strangely enough, one way to work with this is by adding more light, by using a flash.
More often than that, in my case anyway, I’m trying to maximize the use of the available light. I’m just a fan of natural light, and at times it can be difficult to figure out the best way to use it. Last Friday night I went to my first high school football game in years. The lighting on the field was certainly adequate for spectating. However, when you’re trying to freeze the action on the field with the camera, you need a relatively fast shutter speed. I found that 1/250 second worked pretty well for my purposes, giving me just enough blur in parts of the photo to allow you to experience the speed of the athletes. A fast shutter speed though, with limited light, means you need to boost the ISO up to the point where digital “noise” is going to be an issue, particularly in the vast expanse of the dark background. The alternative though, is to lose the opportunity of capturing the moment.
Of course, if you’re not trying to capture the action, there’s a lot you can do with longer exposures. A couple of weeks ago I had the urge to try to photograph some horses at a local horse farm. So I got myself up at an unreasonable hour, got myself ready for work, grabbed the camera and tripod, and off I went.
However, the horse farm didn’t cooperate. In the early morning mist, the fields were empty.
Not to be daunted, I drove instead to the center of town, where the annual fair was resting on the common, waiting for thousands of people to pass though over the weekend, dropping their dollars at the ticket booths and fried dough stands. It was so dark out, that I really couldn’t see too much of what I was aiming the camera at. So I set it on the tripod, set the aperture to f11 for some depth, and hit the shutter. With the ISO at 800, the camera decided to keep the shutter open for 8 seconds. Being an impatient sort of guy, I hated standing there while the camera worked, but I was pretty pleased with the result. The colors and the early morning mist made for a photo that I think is both beautiful and spooky.
Still, one of my favorites form the past month or so came from Old Orchard Beach in Maine. With the pier running out over the wet sand and into the water, I was fortunate enoughtt o have a couple of people stay still long enough to catch their silhouette in the foreground. It’s not the best photograph I’ve ever taken, but I’m pretty happy with it because I knew what I wanted and I set the camera up well enough to capture it. It was also a real test of my patience, as this one was a thirty second exposure!
Remember, it’s all about the light. If you don’t have as much as you’d like, use what you have to capture the moment. But if you’ve got the time and you’re trying to photograph a landscape, or some other type of a static scene, take your time and let the camera do its job!