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, September 21, 2010

Just Having Fun

I haven't had much of a chance to take photos recently but I have had some time to think about what I could take pictures of. One of the ideas I had involved my 14-year-old son, Lane, and his sword. What... Your 14-year-old kid doesn't have a sword? Okay, that's a different story. Let's talk about the picture.

I was looking to do something edgy but I didn't have a clear vision for how it would look because I don't spend a lot of time hanging out in the woods. After some really bad poses initiated by me (not sure how we ever got him out of tree without hurting at least one of us), Lane suggested a spot in a thicket next to a tree. It looked good to me so I told him to pretend that he was all alone with only his sword with which to protect himself, and the bad guys are on the way. Here is the result. 

Lighting was provided from my pickup truck, parked about 75 feet away with the lights shining in from photo left. I simply asked Lane to step forward until his face came into the light. The dirty looking spots on his face and elsewhere are actually shadows. He isn't wearing a hat of any kind; the darkness is just from being outside the light. This was shot in manual mode at ISO 1600, f5.6 and 1/6 second. What you see here is what we got from the camera. I didn't do anything in post except to convert from RAW to JPG.

We experimented with using a small LED flashlight but found the light to be too white. The lighting from the pickup truck was quite warm, allowing it to look a bit more natural. My goal was to take a creepy-looking picture that is a little edgy. Though I probably won't hang a 60-inch canvas of this over our sofa, I deem the experience a success for five reasons:
  1. I was able to translate a vague vision of what I wanted to do to an actual photo. All too often I take my camera out looking for something to shoot. This time however, I approached it a bit differently. 
  2. I got to experiment with light, not in the traditional way of adding strobes or speedlights, but using available light and adjusting the scene. 
  3. It was fun!
  4. I got to hang out with Lane. 
  5. And most importantly, it almost made the purchase of a sword sound legitimate. (Not really. #4 is by far the most important.)
And who knows, it might make a good Facebook profile picture for Halloween.

Until next time...Mike

Monday, September 20, 2010

Back in the Saddle?

I'm back after about a three-week hiatus caused by illness in our extended family. This post will be pretty quick, but I hope to be taking more photos in the next few days. In fact, I have some ideas for some edgy nighttime shots. We'll see how those go before I tell you what they are.

This is a recent shot of a barn that is very different from the HDR barn photos that I've taken lately. This was taken at ISO 250, f6.3, 1/320 sec. I applied a Holga effect in Lightroom, giving me the vignette around the edges and overexposing the corn in the foreground. Not my best shot ever, but a fun shot of what was a pretty unexciting barn. I especially like the contrast in the green trees, the golden corn, and the red barn. The Holga preset just raised the bar on the contrast.

Hope you enjoy. It's getting dark, so I'm headed outside to shoot.