The New Manual DSLR Project

Hi, and welcome to my blog. The Manual DSLR Project was started March 30, 2010 with the intent of devoting one year to learning how to use my Nikon D300 in manual mode. I invited you to join me as I took this journey. You celebrated with me as my fingers began to remember which wheel adjusts the shutter speed and which controls the aperture settings. I was brutally honest in sharing my mistakes.

A year passed quickly...and I achieved my goal of demystifying the manual operation of my camera.

While the Manual DSLR Project was intended to be bound by time (one year), I am eager to keep the conversation going. So look for additional posts on anything related to photography. And interact. Let me know if you are reading the blog and find it useful.

All the best...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dumbest Photography Mistakes I'll Admit

It has been nice to receive a couple of words of encouragement this week--especially so since one was from Kerry Garrison of Camera Dojo--one of the pros that inspired me (through his podcast and blog) to begin this project. Thanks for the words of wisdom. I can sure use them. 

Regardless of what we know, we sometimes still make mistakes. Have you ever made a really stupid mistake and wondered how you could mess up that badly? I certainly have. Even so, remember that our stupidest mistakes are only stupid if we continue to repeat them and/or if we learn nothing from them.

Here are my stupidest photo mistakes (that I care to admit).

1. A little over a year ago I discovered the world of High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography and learned that with my D300 I could easily bracket exposures at normal and 1, 2, 3 stops above and 1, 2, 3 and 3 stops below. Very cool feature and very easy to do. Unfortunately, you have to remember to "undo" that feature. You can guess what I did. After using my camera to shoot HDR one day I went to a family get together the next day and couldn't figure out why I couldn't nail the exposure--even in aperture priority. Some shots were underexposed; some were overexposed. Imagine that. Anyway, I was able to salvage some shots, including this one of my oldest son, Devin. This was shot at ISO 200, F5.6, 1/160 sec. I could have toned this one down a bit, but like the effect.

2. Exposure compensation is fun to play with, and as part of this project, I took some shots with exposure dialed down to -3. Again, however, I took some photos the next day and didn't check exposure compensation (though I did check to see that I wasn't bracketing), and guess what. I shot everything 3 stops down. Everything turned out okay, but I couldn't quite understand why the settings I was using just weren't working like I thought they should. Lesson number two: If something seems amiss it probably is. The family portrait shown earlier on this blog was one of the victims of my -3 EV error.

3. Then there was that time that I just shot everything (for about a month) at ISO 1600. Enough said.

I don't know if you have noticed, but there seems to be a common theme here. So what did I learn from these mistakes and what have I done to assure they do not happen in the future? Before I start shooting, I always check the ISO, make sure I am not bracketing, etc...

Another mistake:
4. Didn't charge my batteries the night before a shoot and left my spare and charger in another bag. Thankfully, I made it through the shoot, but I was a bit nervous about it.

I suppose I could do an entire blog about this. So what are your biggest mistakes?

Also a shout out to Greg Peck, who is also considering learning how to use his D300 better in manual mode. Thanks for the comment!

This photo is of the Steiner Building in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. I took this out the window of my wife's jeep. This is as shot, but I did apply an effect in Lightroom 3. ISO 320; F5.6; 1/1000 sec.

All the best... Mike

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