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Those fateful words….

Life as it is, photography

“I’ve been reading your blog…”

There they were. Right in the e-mail I received and had been waiting to receive. And as I read it I found those few words that reminded me of something I almost forgot.

Hey! That’s right, I have a blog.

Oh wait, it’s a neglected blog…. What does that say about me? And what was it I wrote about?

OK, I haven’t really forgotten it. I’ve just been undecided about what to do with it. My original desire was to have a place to write my little essays and rants that I got so much out of in another day and time, and that everyone encouraged me to return to. But here I am visible, known as me, and worse…my kids read it.

And even that wasn’t the end of it – I have many writing projects that can meet the inspection of everyone, but it’s also no real surprise that the last entry was the day after I got my new camera. I have been very active on Flickr, though it seems that I can’t write like I want to on there.

But what to do about this place? A photo blog? I more relevant essay spot? A place just to vent for the world to see? Or just like it was becoming – a place for me to create with words – something that can tap into the power of imagination and create more vivid images than anything I can put on film?

Well, I also don’t have to say anything huge and powerful either. I can just write about the reminder that I have a blog. You know, like I just did…

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A Drop of Water

photography

So my new camera arrived yesterday afternoon via UPS from eBay – the old one having suffered from one bad move with keys in the same pocket of the jeans. After fighting off my daughter (the photojournalism student), I was looking for something to shoot so I went to Flickr to get an idea of what to shoot. One group I am in regularly publishes “missions” with an assignment to shoot something specific, and its perfect for helping me think of a photograph to take.

In the end I accepted a mission to shoot water and ended up a few hours later submitting this photo:


In one drop of water are found /all the secrets of all the oceans

Kahil Gibran

I received some favorable responses – including some saying how surprised that I got the picture with such an inexpensive camera. But also I had a bunch of questions as to how I got the shot, and as I wrote them to tell the story of taking the picture, I was surprised to realize just how many mistakes I made, and then learned from, in order to get the picture.

 

As that is the nature of this blog, I thought I would share what I wrote earlier this morning about taking the photo last night.

 

First, since I was working till midnight and only playing during breaks, I did some research while on-line at my computer. I used the camera finder to find shots taken by Canon A710 IS cameras and then searched for “water drop”.  Then when I found some good shots, I stopped to look at their settings. The best shot of a drop of water that I found showed me that they were in shutter-priority mode (makes sense) with a 1/500 second shutter and manually selected the ASA 80 speed film (to open the aperture all the way and reduce noise?).  And with that, I had a starting point.

 

So it’s off to the kitchen and to find a suitable water container. I finally selected a blue, southwestern bowl and then spent forever trying to figure out how to get my faucet to drip at a decent rate – that is, that it would not take forever for each drop and would wait long enough for the water in the bowl to come to rest between drops.

 

For lighting, I have a heavy spotlight directly over my sink that I hoped would produce enough light. I wasn’t thinking very clearly I guess, and was in fact convinced the camera was broken as I kept getting a blank screen instead of a picture. Then I realized I was getting a fast shutter’s picture on slow film so it wasn’t blank, it was just black. So I turned off the overhead light (was causing a shadow with the faucet anyway) and turned on the auto-flash on the camera.

 

Focus was an issue, and I have many great shots with no focus – the speed delay with a point and shoot is so frustrating. Finally I realized that I could focus first by holding the button halfway and then press down at the moment I wanted the camera to fire. Now I had some fast action but still poor focus. Part of it was adjusting my distance from the bowl for better focus. Part of it was having something to focus on the surface of the water. So I tried focusing first on a spoon at the water surface, then while holding the button to keep the focus removing the spoon. That was ok. Finally I realized I could focus on the edge of the bowl and then move the cam a few inches to adjust. I was standing and using the full 6x zoom to get the framing right with the extra distance. (I felt the distance would help the flash as well).

 

Next was getting the timing down. The camera was fast and focused and set properly – now it was all about me any my timing. And the next 15 pics of either still water (too early) or ripples (too late) showed that I was still missing the boat. What I ended up doing was aiming the camera at the bowl and then watching the faucet instead of the camera’s view screen. When the water drop gathered and was falling, then was the time to complete the shot….of the side of the bowl. My aim was off since I wasn’t looking at where the cam was pointing.

 

I adjusted two ways.  One was I widened the shot a little – figuring I would crop to get the framing I wanted. Next, I made sure I was set to large images, so I would have something left after cropping. And then finally, pulled my elbows against the body to steady the cam and tried to find a reference point on the camera to keep inline with the faucet as I watched it (so I was in essence using the tip of the lens to be sure I was pointed in the right direction.

 

After that and 50 shots or so total I realized I had been playing for almost an hour so it was time to see what I had gotten on the computer. I used Microsoft Office Picture Manager (no money for the expensive tools and it comes free with MS Office) for the editing. I cropped the picture to a 4×6 ratio in case I wanted to print it, turned up the saturation for the blues, and then used the auto white balance set for a flash highlight in the water.

 

And voila, I hope that answers your questions – and equally important that it shares anything I have learned. I guess to summarize, that would be:

1 – Research how others used same camera to get something similar to what I want by looking at the “more properties” of related images from same camera

2 – Adjust what I tried – what doesn’t work gets abandoned until something does work, and then move on to the next obstacle (of which I had plenty).

3 – The camera may not be broken – it may be just displaying total blackness – use the flash!

4 – Rely on post processing/editing – it got easier when I stopped worrying about the framing of the shot as I took it knowing I could crop later

5 – Perseverance and creativity can make up for a shortage of dollars in getting a good shot!

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