November 13, 2012

I Like Watchin’ the Puddles Gather Rain

By the time you read this, the water to my house is going to be shut off because of the construction happening on our road and it’s not scheduled to be turned back on until 1pm. Great.

Last night was information overload, just in general. On the way to photography class, Blake and I talked about the possibility of getting Madison unlimited texting on her phone (my old cell phone, not a smart phone), which is dependent on whether or not we can review them online, if necessary, like you used to be able to do with Telus. This is what she wants for Xmas. She also wants internet access on her iPod but that’s dependent on whether or not Blake can block the app world from it with parental controls so Madison doesn’t download chat programs where there’s no history. (Madison has proven in the past that periodically checking chat histories is, sadly, necessary from time to time. Or at least the threat of checking them is necessary.) Other than those two things, one of which is free, she can’t tell us what she wants for Xmas. She has no idea, so we have no idea what to get her.

Then we talked about Squam and the possibility of going to Quebec for a few days this summer. Squam is a given, but Quebec is dependent on being able to take a Tuesday morning off. Blake also wants to go to Kalamazoo with the kids but I told him I didn’t want that to happen until I had a vehicle so I could get something if I needed it (and I don’t like working anywhere but my desk and I don’t want to ask for more time off than is necessary; I’m sure Kalamazoo is lovely but I can’t take the time off and I can’t work in strange places, especially if we’re staying with strange people).

Theoretically the government owes us a bunch of money because of my mental illness and that should give us enough money to pay off the car we have and then we’d buy a new one (same car, just with air conditioning and probably another colour) so payments wouldn’t change, we’d be a 2 car family and the only extra expense would be insurance on the 2nd car. So basically until I’m comfortable driving by myself and we’re a 2 car family, I’d really prefer it if Blake and the kids didn’t ditch me for an extended period of time.

Photography class was information overload. This class was about flashes and Andre brought in this big (I think) 2500 watt flash thing that had this power source that looked like a big car battery, and reflectors and then he and Bob showed off their camera flashes and remote things. Like I get everything that he said but since I don’t have any of that, I’m not sure how I could put it into practice. All I have is my pop up flash. And wanna know something? I have NEVER taken a photo with a camera using flash before. As soon as I get a camera, I turn the flash off and keep it off. The only time I’ve ever used a flash is with my phone, just to try it, because my phone’s camera is an absolute piece of garbage. And the flash made the picture exactly as I thought it would: garbage.

So this week’s assignment is as follows:

Pick a subject and photograph it twice. It can be a portrait, an object, architecture/room setting, movement, or something I haven’t thought of. The object here is to get a sense of the differences between flash and available light shots.  The order is not important. 

First with the camera’s built-in flash on:
– Pay attention to the available light that is affecting your subject as well as your flash – does it have an affect on your picture? Can you adjust your camera to have both the flash and available light work together? “Night portrait” and fill flash are both designed to do this. Fill flash is usually the use of flash in otherwise bright light to help fill in the stark shadows/murky areas. Shooting on manual lets you control the balance of light completely but takes more input from you.

– If you have or can borrow an add-on flash try this with it as well. You may able to create more interesting light by bouncing/diffusing the flash. I do this with most of my flash shots. I also adjust the flash for more or less light to get the right look. This is called “flash exposure compensation” and is available in your flash function menu or directly by a button. 

Second with the flash turned off:
– Use only available light but be creative with your light source It can be a window with daylight, work lights, lamps, reflected light. As W. Eugene Smith said to his students/fans when they asked: “Yes I use available light…I use anything that’s available!”

In both photos try to apply the basic tips on composition covered before. Remember that this is the slow photography movement – take enough time to notice the effect that different light sources have on your shots. White balance (WB) can be Auto (AWB) or set for the particular light source. Mixed light sources usually work with AWB.

A tripod can help a lot in this exercise since it will allow you to use ridiculously longer shutter speeds than hand holding will. Sometimes I refer to available light as available darkness since it is really not very bright to the camera, therefore you get the long (shaky) shutter speeds. It also keeps the composition exactly the same for comparison’s sake. 

Reflectors are often used to direct or soften light in photos. Anything that reflects is good as long as in is the right colour(less), is easy to use, and is big enough to be reflective. You may find one useful in either of these shots. A wall is often your best reflector. 

Portraits are good practice because we have an innate sense of when someone looks good or interesting or dramatic etc. You can always move your subject to where the light is good. It can be hard to get someone to relax with you however, so pick a subject that will put up with your fussing.

I have no idea how to take pictures with my pop up flash without them being absolutely horrible. I really really don’t want to do this assignment. I don’t want to show pictures in class that look like garbage. I already did that this week with my stupid pomegranate pictures. (Although he did applaud my ability to take a clear handheld shot at 1/4 of a second haha)

I just took a few test shots just of the bookshelf at the end of my office about 4 or 5 feet away and I guess the flash at that distance isn’t so terrible. I’d still rather take a straight no flash shot and edit it in Lightroom.

Whatever, I’ll figure something out.

Something Andre showed us with his flash that goes on the camera is that as a diffuser (which spellcheck says isn’t a word, but it totally has to be), he uses an envelope made out of clear bubble wrap and he just attaches it with an elastic band. I have lots of bubble wrap. Pink bubble wrap even. Maybe I could do something like that with my pop up flash?

I dunno. I guess I’ll have to play with it when Madison gets home from school.

Now I’m going to go see if WoW is done patching and then I’m going to do nothing until my work meeting this afternoon.


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  1. scutterman says:

    I would look at a flash as just another light source, albeit one that doesn’t hang around. If a shot would look bad in really bright light, work out what you would do with that light and you can use the same techniques with flash. I expect bounce boards and diffuser techniques are particularly good with a pop-up flash, whereas you have more options with flashbulbs that you can move away from the camera.

    • Sunny says:

      You can’t bounce a pop up flash….where would you put the bounce, BEHIND the person so it lights the back of their head and shows up in the picture? The flash faces forward, there’s no bouncing it.

      • scutterman says:

        I don’t know much about it, and it’s probably better to dissipate pop-up flashes, but what I would try is to use a very small bounce very close to the flash. But that sounds difficult.

        • Sunny says:

          Yeah my friend suggested putting my hand beneath the flash and angling up, but a hand isn’t reflective so I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t work. Maybe a card would work though.

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