I stayed up a little past my bedtime last night to watch the eclipse, and to try and take some pictures. I've never had much luck taking pictures of the moon, but these ones turned out not too bad. What amazed me the most after looking through the pictures is just how fast the moon moves through the sky! I was using a 300mm lens on a D70 (equivalent to 450mm on a 35mm camera), and trying to bracket the exposure between shots. In just a few seconds between shots the moon moved a significant amount through the frame!
David Hobby is going to be starting a follow up to the very successful Lighting Boot Camp he ran last year. The next one, Lighting 102, starts on June 4th. I followed last year's boot camp pretty closely, although I wasn't able to do all of the assignments. Maybe I'll be able to complete more than a couple this year!
I've been following the action over at Strobist for a few weeks now. The author of the blog, David Hobby, has a great writing style, and is a fantastic teacher. If you're interested in flash photography, I highly recommend you check out his site. There's something of a cult following on Flickr as well, and they've produced some very impressive results! I've had more than a couple "A HA!" moments when reading his blog, and I thought I'd share a couple of things that finally clicked in my brain in the hopes that it will help somebody else to "click"...or maybe everybody else just gets these things and I'm really slow. In any case, my first epiphany happened after reading several of his posts and thinking, what's with this guy's unhealthy obsession with aperture? I mean, sure, aperture is important if you want to control depth of field. But if you're want to change exposure you can tweak both the shutter speed and the aperture, right? Nope! Well, at least not in the same way as when you're just using available light. The thing is, your flash fires pretty fast. Way faster than your shutter speed in most cases. It's like 1/10,000th of a second. So it doesn't matter if your shutter is open for 1/500th of a second, or 1/30th of a second, the same amount of light from your flash is going to hit your sensor either way. But your aperture does affect how much light is able to reach your sensor from that brief burst of light. A larger aperture (smaller f/stop) lets more light in. This isn't to say that you can ignore your shutter speed, because it does affect how the ambient light contributes to the exposure. You can use this to your advantage to control the flash / ambient ratio. Understanding all of this led to my second "A HA!" moment. David often says to set your camera's shutter to its fastest flash sync speed to make things easier for your flash...which is a bit counter-intuitive at first. If you want things to be easier on your flash, you should have a longer shutter speed to let more light in! After thinking about it a bit more, I realized that choosing a faster shutter speed means that your aperture is opening up to maintain a proper exposure of the ambient light. And since the aperture is open wider, the flash doesn't have to put out as much light to light your subject properly. Which is great when you're competing with the sun as the primary light source :)
One of the podcasts I subscribe to is Dennis Hays' Secrets of Digital Imaging. In his June 19th Podcast, he spoke about the ongoing debate he has with his sister over whether or not digital photography is "real" photography. I thought I would post a few thoughts on this, since I found it an interesting topic for debate. I used to wonder whether a digital image printed from a lab was a "real" picture or not. From Wikipedia:
The word [photography] comes from the Greek words ??? phos ("light"), and ?????? graphis ("stylus", "paintbrush") or ????? graphÃƒÂª, together meaning "drawing with light" or "representation by means of lines" or "drawing."So when we take a picture we're using the light coming from our subject to draw a representation on our medium, whether that be film or a digital sensor. This is never an exact representation, nobody has invented a film or sensor that can capture all the light coming from a subject. What we're left with is an approximation that is meant to look the same to the human eye as the real thing. I don't know too much about film processing, but I do know that there are many techniques that a photographer can use in the darkroom to manipulate the final print, from how the film is developed, to how the image is enlarged onto the print paper. People have been burning and dodging, touching up dust specks and airbrushing images on film long before digital cameras came around. And film can always be scanned into a computer and edited with digital darkroom tools. Not to mention manipulating the actual environment (lighting, composition, etc.) to achieve a desired effect. On the digital side of things, yes, the digital format is easier for most people to edit, but does this make it less "real"? Film can be modified as well. On the plus side, some digital cameras can give us the guarantee that an image hasn't been modified, by using encryption techniques similar to what your bank's website uses to make sure that your browser can connect to it safely. This is extremely important for law enforcement work where you need to be able to show that an image has not been modified. Where does this leave us? Film and digital both capture light and record it, although in different ways. Film and digital images can both be altered to improve, repair, or even misrepresent the original subject. If by "real" we mean, "is this the same image that was captured by the camera?", then I believe that digital has the edge since we can use encryption techniques to ensure that a given image has not been modified. For the present, the majority of digital cameras do not have this capability...which means that it comes down to how much we trust the people involved in bringing the image from the subject to print. Did the photographer change anything? Did the lab technician? Did the publisher? Is that image in the newspaper or magazine trustworthy? Whether the photographer used a film camera or a digital camera is irrelevant to the answer.