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...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Advantages of Using Manual Mode

It has been a few days since I blogged. We took a quick trip to New York City last weekend, which gave me the opportunity to shoot in NYC for the first time. There are so many iconic locations there that it was difficult to know where to start. You'll probably see several photos posted here and on Twitter over the next few weeks.

While walking around the city on the first day we were there, we went by the iconic Apple Store on 5th Avenue. You've probably seen the typical view of the storefront--all glass with the silver Apple logo. While waiting outside, I took a few minutes to experiment by taking a photo of the Apple Store from a different point of view. This is shot from the FAO Schwartz side of the store shooting toward East 59th Street. (ISO 320, f11, 1/500) In shooting it, I realized how I could use manual mode on my camera to make the photo look the way I want it to. An any of the automatic modes, the camera looks at the setting you choose (aperture or shutter speed) and attempts to equalize the light for a nice bell-shaped histogram. While that is desirable in some circumstances, in cases like this where I wanted the building just across the street to pop a little more, it was not optimal.

My solution to this was to change the shutter speed to 1/125 second, giving me 2 more stops of light and allowing for a better view through the Apple Store to the building beyond. It also gave me more detail on the glass and provided a nicer image. By adding a preset in Lightroom 3, I was able to create a cool effect. The one of the left here is called "Jake Likes the Sky".

So, should I never use the automatic settings on my camera? Of course not! To ignore these features would be almost like refusing to use autofocus because "I can focus better than the camera". However, there are times when the photographer needs to use manual controls to bring out the vision that the computer within your camera is unable to see.

Having said that, the more I use manual mode the more I am becoming a "Manual Snob" and finding that I am not satisfied with the results when I shoot in Aperture Priority mode.

While in NYC I was able to visit the B&H Superstore and J&R Music World. No major purchases, but it was fun to browse. Until next time...

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