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 25, 2011

Lighting 101: Using What You've Got

When I first started the Manual DSLR project the first thing I did was to turn my camera to "Manual" and start shooting...experimenting. So where do you start when the subject changes to lighting? I guess the most natural place to start is with natural light, or sunlight. So let's talk about a shot I took recently using natural light and no modifiers (reflectors, diffusers, etc.)

Our youngest son was involved in a children's theater production this summer. Performances were Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with a matinee thrown in at 2 pm on Saturday. This meant that we had a couple hours of free time between the first and second shows on Saturday. So what do you want to do? I don't know...(repeat, repeat, repeat). But alas, we both had our cameras, so I suggested driving over to the old Davis Mill. This is a great old building that I've been driving by for the past 20 years but haven't ever really stopped and looked at it. Once a booming sock factory, the mill is now an antique mall. They had just closed when we arrived Saturday, but we did get to walk around outside to take some photos.

The first photo you see is my favorite from the afternoon, with Trisha leaning against the frame of an old garage door. I wasn't sure if that was poison ivy at the time, but did caution her against touching it (although I later determined that it did not match the photos of poison ivy that I found on Google Images). With only natural light to play with, I had to make sure that her face would be out of the shadows. It was about 5:30 in the afternoon, so the sun was low in the western sky. However, we had just gotten a pretty good rain shower, so the sky was a little overcast. This door is located on the west side of the building, so what we got was a diffused sunlight coming in from about 30 degrees to her left. If this had been a planned shoot with an assistant I would have likely used a reflector or perhaps some fill light, but for what I had in my hand, I felt pretty good about how it worked.

My goal for this phase of the manual DSLR project is to train my eye to see the light and to learn how to best use the light I have available (whether natural or controlled) to make the picture. I hope you will join me in this journey and let me know what you think.

The other shot is an HDR image of the building. I didn't have a tripod with me so this is 5 shots (2 above, 2 below) taken while sitting on the edge of the railroad track that was just behind me. It gives you a good idea of the layout of the building (that side is facing west), and how cloudy it was, which gave me a nice diffused light.

By the way, I took photos at the theater, using only stage lighting. Look for some of those in the next post and a discussion of how I chose to shoot it. And yes, I'm going to whine that I really need that 24-70 2.8 for just that type of shooting situation. Well I do...

All the best...Mike

Friday, June 24, 2011

Storm Update

Here a team from Lexington SC is working on electrical and finishing drywall.
Hi, Folks! It has been a crazy past several weeks, and while I have had the chance to shoot and write a bit, I didn't have a chance to bring both together on this blog.

As many of you know, our area was hit by severe storms on April 27. According to the National Weather Service, six confirmed tornadoes touched down in DeKalb County on that day and 33 lives were lost. Hundreds of homes were destroyed.

This is one of the portable showers at our church.
Much of our lives since April 27 has revolved around relief efforts to help our communities recover from the storms. Our church is hosting teams from all across the country who are taking vacation time to visit our area to help with the relief effort. Working with our denomination's Mission to North America organization, I am serving as the initial contact for groups who come to our area and my wife, Trisha, is coordinating the work once the teams get here.

To date, we have hosted teams from Delaware, Iowa, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Missouri, Alabama, Florida, and a couple of full-time RVers whose home is wherever they park their motor home. It has been great to meet these good people who donate their time and expertise to help their fellow man. There is still much work to do and we will be here working and hosting teams as long as there is work to do and volunteers keep coming.

We have made some new friends and renewed some old friendships. For example, we went to Iowa for flood relief in 2008 and met two couples from Delaware. After the tornadoes hit here, these great folks called and let us know that they would be here to work for three weeks. And work they did!

A partial completed Shed For Hope stands among the rubble.
The work has been anything from debris clean up, chainsaw work, house repairs, helping to build houses, and building Sheds for Hope. Sheds for Hope is a project started on the Gulf Coast after Katrina where storage sheds are provided at no cost to those who have lost so much in storms. The sheds provide storage room for those who are living in temporary housing, like FEMA trailers. An 8' x 12' wooden shed costs about $600 and takes 2-3 days to build. While it would be more efficient to prefab these buildings off site, part of the value of working in the storm area for 2-3 days is the contact with the families and their neighbors while the shed is built.

As a rural community, our area has not received a lot of press coverage. Even so, I am heartened by the outpouring of support that we have received by our sister churches across the U.S. The children in Vacation Bible school at Perry Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Perry Georgia raised more than $1,200 to support our Sheds for Hope project. Thanks to these children, two families now have a building to store their belongings.

Enough for now. My next installment will actually be about photography and the most manual of lighting situations: natural light. We will start there and move into reflectors and modifiers, hot lights, and flash. All the best...Mike