J R learns the D200 - Page 36
Story + Photographs copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.
It's a little early to tell if these, that I shot today — tonight as I type these words are great art or big mistakes. It's my first forray into the darkness with the new camera, and it did not behave as well as I hoped. By a long shot.
I was shooting long. With my $170 (cheaper online) Nikon 70-300mm lens, and it did its usual focus freak-out in really low light. Just as I'd settle into a longish two-or-three-second exposure with everything all lined up, the image sharp and ideally composed, it'd decide it didn't have enough light and start spinning back off to pure blur.
So, many of these shots are manually focused (MF, as they say on the forums online). Hmm. Something else I discovered is that the tiny bulb that can back light the camera top's control panel is way too dark unless I have my glasses on. What I could do I had to do by feel and the command line in the viewfinder.
The first shot above was hand-held out the window on my way to deliver medicine earlier in the evening. I'd hoped to catch the lake in the cool of evening but with enough light. And sure enough, there was just enough.
Big tungsten lights on the other side of the lake back-lighting the waves like molten gold.
Underexposed by some amount I'll discover when I add the exif data just before I load this page onto the internet and make last-minute comments on this or that shutter speed. This looks like may have been hand-held. But many of the following were shot with the camera resting firmly on what we've been calling "The Singing Bridge," because of all its almost musical vibrations in any wind at all.
One person walking with determined steps, let alone jogging, can set the whole thing jiggling and making photographers wait a few minutes till that walker walks off an end of the bridge onto solid land. These were shot between joggers, who mostly jog in daylight, thank the goodnesses.
I have to carry a bean bag, so I don't have to shoot crooked and straighten it out later.
This is my first composite in many weeks. Neither two, adjacent shots had enough light of its own to look halfway decent. Together, they had just enough. That recurring theme, again.
I cloned the headlight stream near the middle left onto the darkness of the right picture. The upper reaches are an amalgam of the two with bits of both; the lights were fine but the headlight/taillight streams were thin. I also cloned that one, lone green light upper rightish, just so all the traffic lights wouldn't be overexposed red.
The water was the water in the right picture — too soft in the other.
Zooming in on the water looks like the spun gold Rumplestiltskin had to have.
I made several tries before I realized I was cam conspiring to make 18% gray images — trees green and grays gray. That I had to fool the camera's overactive brain to give me car lights bright on a dark ground, turning this ordinary dull gray not much above to the more spectacular streaks below.
This is a step into that direction. Under-exposed originally, then Photoshopped back from the darkness.
The matrix metering mode cited on previous pages and the matrix here are slightly different in that the cheapo zoom doesn't actually offer Color Matrix metering, only pattern. That's part of the differences I'm discerning between cheap and expensive Nikon lenses.
My 17-55 2.8 lens lets me manually focus any time by grabbing the large focus collar and twisting or just holding on. It lets go its need to control, subtly, immediately. No struggle. This one won't let go till I flip the tiny switch under the lens, far from any light source. I may actually need a small flashlight to deal with this cam at night. Or learn its feels.
Another notable difference is that this cheap lens has a solid, securely screwed in, detachable hood, and the $1300, as of today, $1200 lens (with Nikon's spring rebates, always appreciated a month after I bought it) has (had) a wobbly, insecure, swoopy sculpted hood that snapped off into nowhere during my last art crit outing. Big disappointment.
I'd shot red and white lights blurring over Mockingbird bridge many long, slow minutes, only gradually realizing I could zoom out to add depth with the lake's surface glitter, then zoom more to include a car or two driving by down there, to further flesh out the picture. Never till this moment did I remember the D200 would let me combine exposures in camera.
I got quietly excited when I saw that first car coming from the far side. I knew it would blink through the support columns and lend me an added, dotted sense of depth, although this spacy dark image may need more.
When I get a little bored shooting at night, I often hand-hold a shot of light reflected on the water. It's an easy shot. Hardly matters if I move the camera, as I'm sure I did here. The water moves, the camera moves, the earth moves under us holding us and everything but this globe's water, in place.
I never in a million seconds thought we'd be able to discern, let alone distinguish that guy sitting on that picnic table with the light reflected down from the bridge in the background. But there he is, thanks to the miracle of command-L photoshopping. There, too, is the picnic table. I'm gently amazed.
I was thinking it'd make an interesting little abstract what with all that varicolored splishy splash white beyond his head. That the silicon captured this much detail is a surprise. I did have the cam on a monopod, holding it in one hand and shutter button finger, clamping the monopod tight against the fender of my car with the other.
As I left the scene, I stopped along the near end of the bridge where a bunch of young people were fishing and talking. I stuck the zoom out the window, attempting to hold it still, but I was getting tired and didn't really care. Others of this series are sharp, but I like the slight blur better. I had choices from idiot sharp to double-vision.
I thought I was being so stealth invisible cool — till I put the camera away and noticed my headlights glaring into the ditch ahead. But I drove away with my first different shot of the singing bridge since Anna and I got up there before it was open. I was happy.