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

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