My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

What I’ve learned recently, passing on some tips, part I

As I said a few posts back, I’ve been spending some time watching online tutorials and equipment reviews in an effort to improve my photography skills. Most of the stuff that I started watching, I quit not very far into the video, as most of them aren’t very good. However, B&H Photo has posted some really good tutorials, I’ve watched one with Tim Cooper on Creating Dynamic Landscape Photographs twice so far, and I’ll probably watch it again soon.

There’s so much great information contained in that hour and a half long video, that I may even take notes the next time I watch it. I’ve been putting what I learned from that video, and some other sources, to the test the past week or so, and this will be the first of two posts that I’ll do passing on what I’ve learned.

One segment of the video is on white balance, and how your camera can be fooled if the scene you’re shooting contains large amounts of the color blue, or the colors yellow through orange to red. The second time I watched the video, it dawned on me that while I wasn’t shooting landscapes, there were times when the auto white balance of my camera may have been fooled by the color of the subject I was shooting. So, as a test, I set the white balance of the second body I have to daylight and left it on auto on the other body.

Here’s the results of my mini test. The first photo was shot with white balance set to auto and I used the 300 mm prime lens.

Indian love call day lily auto white balance

Indian love call day lily auto white balance

The same flower shot with the second body, Tokina macro lens, and the white balance set at daylight.

Indian love call day lily daylight white balance

Indian love call day lily daylight white balance

Another test subject.

Unidentified yellow flower shot with auto white balance

Unidentified yellow flower shot with auto white balance

Unidentified yellow flower shot with daylight white balance

Unidentified yellow flower shot with daylight white balance

Unidentified yellow flower shot with daylight white balance

Unidentified yellow flower shot with daylight white balance

I think that you can see that the colors were much better when I used the daylight white balance versus auto. The differences between the two aren’t as dramatic here where I’ve reduced the quality of the photos for posting here, but in the full versions, using daylight white balance won hands down. So, from now on, I’ll be setting the white balance manually for both camera bodies. It does make a difference!

My test would have been more accurate if I had used the same lens for each photo, but the 300 mm prime and the Tokina 100 mm macro lens are both superb lenses, and are very close as far as image quality.

That brings up something else. It took me a while using the Tokina lens to get my camera dialed in as far as the best setting to use for it, and of course, it took me a while to learn how to get the best from it. I’ve said before that every new lens, every bit of photo gear for that matter, has come with a learning curve, and the more that I use the equipment that I now own, the more apparent that becomes.

When I first began using the Tokina lens more often this summer, I would have rated it as equal to, or slightly less sharp than the 300 mm prime lens. Not any longer. The more that I use that lens, the better my images become.

Yellow lily

Yellow lily

Pokeweed flowers

Pokeweed flowers

Pokeweed flowers

Pokeweed flowers

Evening primrose

Evening primrose

Evening primrose

Evening primrose

English plantain

English plantain

English plantain

English plantain

Timothy grass

Timothy grass

Timothy grass

Timothy grass

Unidentified tiny white woodland flower

Enchanter’s nightshade

Unidentified tiny white woodland flower

Enchanter’s nightshade

Unidentified tiny white woodland flower

Enchanter’s nightshade

White clover

White clover

Pokeweed seed pod

Pokeweed seed pod

Fly

Fly

Wasp vs wasp

Wasp vs wasp

For me anyway, there’s only one way to learn to get the best from my equipment, and that’s to use it, a lot! Reading the manual or watching the online tutorials do help, but the only way that I’ve found to apply the “book learning” to actual improvements to image quality is go out and try what I think I’ve learned, look at the photos to see what I’ve done right, and what I’ve done wrong, then go out and try it again.

Nothing illustrates that better than this dragonfly that I shot yesterday!

Dragonfly, not cropped at all

Dragonfly, not cropped at all

I almost feel as if I should hold off from doing this post now, as my photos for it are so last week, and I could easily replace the ones so far with even better ones from this week.

But, that sort of proves the point that I was in the middle of making, there’s nothing like experience as a teacher.

Amy, one of the people who follows my blog, and does her own blog here, posted something a short time ago that I’d like to respond to. She read an expert’s opinion that beginning photographers shoot too many photos, and that they should slow down, put more thought into their photos, and shoot fewer but better photos.

Well, yes and no. I see a problem with the expert’s thinking, how does a beginner know how to get a great photo if they haven’t shot enough photos to learn their equipment and what it takes to get a great photo?

I’m still of the opinion that you should shoot many photos, to learn from them. If you shoot a lot of photos and just delete them when you see that they’re bad, you weren’t learn anything from them. But, if you can figure out why the photos came out poorly, then you’re learning what not to do the next time.

I probably still don’t put enough thought into many of my photo, but I’m getting better at thinking before shooting.

I’ve said all of that before, many times, so I’m probably boring you, as I’m even boring the subjects of my photos.

Juvenile eastern kingbirds dozing

Juvenile eastern kingbirds dozing

Juvenile eastern kingbird dozing

Juvenile eastern kingbird dozing

I’ve learned how to use the digital filters that are programmed into my Canon 60 D body. I doubt if many of you care, but the digital filters are there to take the place of using real filters when shooting in black and white. And, we all know that “real” photographers shoot in black and white, so I just had to play around one day when the clouds were too good not to try out the red filter programmed into my camera. Here’s the view in color….

Creekside Park in color

Creekside Park in color

…and two in black and white.

Creekside Park in black and white

Creekside Park in black and white

Creekside Park in black and white

Creekside Park in black and white

When shooting in black and white, the red filter adds contrast, it’s one of the tricks used by Ansel Adams when he photographed the landscapes that he is so famous for.

Now, I’m going to have to find the quick photo guide that I used to carry in my bag when I shot film to jog my memory as to what the other color filters are for. 😉

We all know that “real” photographers do street photography, so here’s my effort from last week.

Chipping sparrows

Chipping sparrows

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Okay, so it was a bike path and not a street. And, there’s nothing creative about the dove photo, it’s one of my more typical bird portraits.

I do like the shot of the chipping sparrows taken while I was laying on the ground though, it reminds me to try out different angles from time to time.

We’ve all heard that “real” photographers shoot in manual, so I tried it a few times this past week, and to tell you the truth, I see no advantage in using manual for the type of photography that I typically do. There are times when switching to manual is a must to get good photos, such as night photography, or when using a graduated neutral density filter. Maybe I haven’t worked in the manual mode enough to see the benefits? As long as I’m using the light meter in my camera, and I get he correct depth of field and exposure, I see no difference in what mode that I used to get the photo. If I were using a better light meter than the one built into my camera, as many good landscape photographers do, then I could see shooting in manual.

I’ve also heard that all “real” photographers shoot in RAW, so I also tried that this past week, and for me, there was no real advantage to it. I ended up with two photos of each subject, one huge file in RAW, then another much smaller JPG file. I could see that if I shot in RAW all the time that I’d be filling external hard drives up almost as quickly as I could purchase them. 😉

The advantage to shooting in RAW comes when you post-process your images, and since the only post-processing I do is cropping, there’s no advantage to shooting in RAW for me. That may change one of these days, if I ever get Photoshop, Lightroom, or some other photo editing software. First, I would need a new computer, as mine is old and outdated, much like me.

Anyway, here’s the rest of the photos for this post, some were shot in manual, some were in RAW originally, since there’s no real difference, I’m not going to bother noting which are which. If you think that you can tell which are which, more power to you.

Juvenile blue jay

Juvenile blue jay

Kwanso day lily

Kwanso day lily

Boneset buds

Boneset buds

Yellow day lily

Yellow day lily

Moth

Moth

Vibrating juvenile barn swallows

Vibrating juvenile barn swallows

Barn swallow feeding one of its young

Barn swallow feeding one of its young

Juvenile barn swallows

Juvenile barn swallows

Moth on alfalfa flower

Moth on alfalfa flower

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

To wrap this up, I’ll say that it pays to play. Even if something doesn’t work for me, I learn from it, and can apply it to the photography that I do. In the next post, I’ll continue that theme, and also discuss what I’m learning about the lenses that I’m using, and how what I learn from using one lens helps me to improve when using other lenses.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

Advertisements

38 responses

  1. Sensational beauty,every picture is gorgeous. Regards.

    July 23, 2014 at 11:02 am

    • Thank you, and you’re welcome!

      July 23, 2014 at 2:41 pm

  2. I wonder if what the professional was saying when he said amateurs should slow down is that they should also take more time to compose their shots? I’ve been trying to pay more attention to that lately myself. There is a lot to learn! I keep my cameras on manual because I’m forever having to under or over expose a shot. 9 times out of 10 I’m under exposing.
    The unidentified tiny white woodland flower is enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea lutetiana).If you walk through a patch of those you’ll find hundreds of small round seed pods stuck to your clothes. You can’t brush them off-you have to pick them off.
    Thanks for the video link. I’ll watch it when I have more time. I’m all for learning more about photography.
    I think my favorite shot of this batch is the dragonfly. Amazing detail on those wings!

    July 23, 2014 at 11:24 am

    • I sort of agree that most of us should slow down, but, there are times when we’re faced with things that we haven’t tried before, and unless you shoot many photos, we may not know what to do.

      I should have added a caveat that all cameras are different. I’m always adjusting the exposure compensation, but I can do that in program, aperture, or shutter priority.

      The enchanter’s nightshade is a pretty little flower, I see it often, but almost always in deep shade. I’m going to have to see if I can find a few more in sunlight and do a better job with them.

      If you thought that this dragonfly photo showed detail, wait until you see the close up! Oh, and that video may be the best bit of photography advise that I’ve ever seen in print or in a video. I learned so much from it that I’ve already forgotten some of it.

      July 23, 2014 at 2:47 pm

      • I knew some of what he talked about but the video was worth watching. I was surprised to hear that he used a polarizing filter so often. I used to use one occasionally in the film days but I’ve never used one on a digital camera. I’ll have to give it a try.

        July 24, 2014 at 6:22 am

      • Actually, there was very little new stuff in the video for me either, but for some reason, seeing it in a video rather than reading it in a book, the information is sticking with me more.

        July 24, 2014 at 8:28 am

  3. So much great information here! And thanks for the mention, by the way. 🙂

    Interesting to see the differences between auto and daylight WB. I have been playing with the difference on my camera, also, and have found I prefer setting it for the conditions – I can do bright sunlight, cloudy, tungsten, florescent, etc. – over the auto setting.

    Funny you should post about shooting in RAW because this was going to be a subject for one of my photography forum posts!! So, I’m glad you brought it up and I will probably skip it now as a subject. I have been reading so much about RAW and the differences it makes because it retains more of the original information in the photo. But like you, I was concerned about the increased amount of space the files take up. In my Canon I can do as you mentioned, have two copies of one photo – one in JPEG and one in RAW. I had yet to try it.

    Your dragonfly photos continue to amaze! That is probably my favorite of this post, but I also love the juvenile kingbirds, just because they are such adorable subjects. And I got a real kick out of your “real photographers do street photography”. 😀 LOL I’ve got a soft spot for chipping sparrows, for some reason. Love the blue jay and that boneset bud is really awesome, I love the almost 3D effect.

    Your posts always educate as well as entertain, and for that I’m truly appreciative.

    July 23, 2014 at 11:37 am

    • Thanks Amy! I’ll have even more about those subjects and more in my next post. For example, the boneset photo wasn’t intended. I was too lazy to fight my way through a tangle of brush to see if the buds had opened yet, so I put my camera with the long lens on it on the buds to see if they had opened. I loved what I saw, so I had to shoot.

      July 23, 2014 at 2:55 pm

  4. Just exceptional photography!!

    July 23, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    • Thanks Barb, wait until the next post, when I’ll have even better photos.

      July 23, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      • How can they get any better😀🙋🙋

        July 23, 2014 at 6:39 pm

      • Thanks, but they will get better as I improve my skills.

        July 24, 2014 at 2:46 am

  5. Like Amy, I found the kingbird babies so cute and the dragonfly shot is amazing. I take ages going through your posts because the detail in your shots is so great – there is so much to see.

    July 23, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    • Thanks Clare! It’s nice to know that the years of working to improve my photography are appreciated!

      July 23, 2014 at 2:49 pm

  6. The shot of the dragonfly is superb!

    July 23, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    • Thanks, would you like to see the close up?

      July 23, 2014 at 2:18 pm

  7. What a lot of excellent pictures, the kingbirds were sweet.

    July 23, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    • Thanks Susan! They are cuties, and they seem to enjoy posing for me.

      July 23, 2014 at 2:52 pm

  8. The mourning dove fills the 24′ screen bright and clear, excellent !

    July 23, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    • Thank you very much Michel!

      July 24, 2014 at 2:32 am

  9. You’re correct that RAW does nothing for you if you don’t do any post-processing. In essence, you’re letting the camera make all the decisions. Having said that, I kick myself for not shooting in RAW earlier than I did because some of my photos would have been well worth working with if I had done them in RAW. Mostly that applies to landscapes in my experience. Perhaps that’s because it’s what I shoot mostly. When shooting jpg, you let the camera override all the decisions in how your image comes out.

    July 23, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    • Thank you for the information! One of these days I plan on getting a new computer, and I’ll shoot RAW landscapes and maybe macros, but I think that I’ll continue to shoot birds and wildlife in JPG. The larger file size of the images in RAW will fill the camera’s buffer quicker and slow down how quickly I can shoot a series of photos. I don’t use the continuous mode, but my finger can work the shutter pretty quickly.

      July 24, 2014 at 2:37 am

  10. Your idea of play looks like real solid hard work to an idle fellow like me but I learn from you.

    July 23, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    • Thanks Tom,that’s high praise coming from some one who shoots as many great photos as you do. It fun to me, like doing puzzles, trying to make the pieces fit.

      July 24, 2014 at 2:39 am

  11. Interesting post. As for white balance it would have been useful to see what happened with the auto white balance shots, if in post processing you chained the WB to daylight (using raw of course).

    July 23, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    • Thank you! Some day I’ll get around to playing with software, but I still have a long way to go in getting the best images possible to start with.

      July 24, 2014 at 2:40 am

      • I think there are very few people able to get out of the camera perfection, The majority of photographs need work and that means RAW.

        July 24, 2014 at 8:40 am

      • So I’ve heard, but being pig headed, that doesn’t stop me from trying 😉

        July 24, 2014 at 8:43 am

      • Honestly, good luck, at the very least you know your camera inside and out. I appreciate your aim.

        July 24, 2014 at 8:45 am

  12. Jerry, I feel like I have seen you grow photographically. These photographs are superb! About Raw, when the time comes, when you are able to enjoy the post processing, you will appreciate it. For now, your JPEGs do the job. After all the years of shooting seriously, 35, I only started shooting RAW about 3 years ago. Like you, I was a holdout.

    July 23, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    • Thanks Bob, and I also want to thank you for trying to help me out back when I was using my Nikon camera and lens. It turns out that the body had a fatal flaw, and the lens was one of the worst that Nikon ever produced, not a good combination. Once I have added a few other small items to my camera gear, I plan on purchasing a new computer that will allow me to handle images shot in RAW. I’ll still be a holdout until then. 😉

      July 24, 2014 at 2:50 am

  13. Some really wonderful close up shots here. Nice depth of field too focusing all the action on the subject.

    July 24, 2014 at 7:16 am

    • Thanks, I’m still working on getting the depth of field correct, but I’m getting better.

      July 24, 2014 at 8:31 am

  14. It will be a sad day when your juvenile kingbirds quit posing for you. So nice to catch up with all your posts that happened while I was off-line.

    July 27, 2014 at 9:08 am

    • Thanks Judy! Nice to have you back. The kingbirds will be back next year to raise young of their own.

      July 27, 2014 at 7:21 pm

  15. Love the “real photographers do… ” and the barn swallow feeding atop the chain link fence is unique, great shot.

    July 30, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    • Thank you! The part about “real” photographers was written with tongue firmly in cheek. 😉

      July 31, 2014 at 2:42 am

      • Yep, and very clever take on “street art”!

        July 31, 2014 at 7:32 am