Archive for September, 2008

“I like your camera!”

Posted in Random with tags , on September 22, 2008 by thtroyer

That’s what a girl told me yesterday!

Well, Ok.  She was… maybe 12? 

I had just gotten off my bike at a local park, pulled my silver Minolta XD-11 from my book bag, and was headed towards the trails.  One of the adults near her glanced my way, said “She wants to become a photographer”.  I smiled, nodded, and went on my way, having other things on my mind.

I reflected back on the experience later. Would she really end up in photography, or is this just a juvenile fantasy? *shrug* But it got me thinking about dreams and hopes — what I hoped for as a child, a teenager, and now as a young adult. Some of these things have remained the same, but most haven’t. I guess it’s to be expected, really, that events and experiences fundamentally change us as time goes on. Hopes and dreams of the past fade as we grow and new interests arise. I would expect life would get rather dull if this cycle didn’t happen.

In any case, I just found it interesting to see a kid interested in photography. As I recall, I was curious about photography when I was little. When my family got our first digital camera, I was a teenager and enjoyed experimenting with it, but didn’t have the maturity to thrive. It wasn’t until recently that I was even able to love photography. I’m often technical-minded, so I enjoyed using the concepts I researched to understand. I’m now more patient than ever and I’ll often wander aimlessly carrying a camera; it’s relaxing, whether I’m actively shooting photos or not. Lastly, photography gives me a creative outlet for emotion — whether in a good or bad mood, it enables me to vent or share in a unique way. To me, there’s much more than one facet of this art and to be able to approach something in multiple ways like this gets me much more involved and keeps my interest, without the likeliness of burning out quite so fast… and it wasn’t until my personality changed and matured that I was able to get to this point.

Anyway, sometimes it’s hard to tell where a train of thought will go. Even writing this down is a sort of exploratory process for me, as some things seem almost epiphanic… kinda strange… but perhaps it’s because I’m low on sleep. :)


Intro to Depth of Field

Posted in Tutorials with tags , , on September 18, 2008 by thtroyer

Minolta XD-11, MD Rokkor-X 50mm 1.4, Vivitar MC 2x teleconverter
Kodak BW400CN

Simply, depth of field (DoF) defines how much of the scene is in focus — both in front of and behind the focus distance. It’s another composition tool available to photographers, but it isn’t incredibly intuitive to pick up, so I’ll touch on the largest determining factors.

The aperture consists of multiple blades which can be closed down to limit the amount of light into the camera (like an eye’s iris). The aperture is the easiest control of depth of field, and the aperture is rated by f-numbers (which is a ratio of the focal length over the aperture diameter). So, the smaller the the f-number, the larger the aperture. For example, a f/2 is larger than a f/4.

The effect of opening or closing the aperture has two side-effects. The most obvious is the amount of light that reaches the film/sensor. For example, one of my lenses can close down 7 stops: f/1.4 is ~128 times brighter than f/16.

Secondly, depth of field is directly affected by the aperture such that a higher f-number results in a larger DoF. Effectively, the smaller the aperture is set, the more that will be in focus. The converse is thus true that a shallow DoF is the result of a larger aperture (lower f-number).

DoF is affected by various other factors that I’ll merely mention. For instance, wide angle lenses typically have greater DoF than standard. Also, the closer you’re focused towards infinity, the larger the DoF. I’ll revisit these ideas again later in an article about understanding and using hyperfocal distance.

Anyway, time for examples:
Ooh... Pretty.
Minolta XD-11, 50mm MD Rokkor-X f1.4, on Fuji Superia 400.

A shallow DoF can be used to isolate the subject from the background for whatever reason — distracting, ugly, etc. In this case, with a large aperture and close focal distance, the trees/yard/road are blurred into oblivion to create a dream-like state.

Yashica Electro 35 GSN, Fuji Superia 200

Controlling DoF can be incredibly useful in portraiture. Here, background blur is present, but not overwhelming. Had the background been sharper, it could become distracting; more blurry, then less interesting.

Minolta XD-11, 28mm MC W.Rokkor-X f2.5, on Kodak Tmax 100.

This is one of my favorites, and it’s a good demonstration that background blur (shallow DoF) is absolutely not necessary for a great photo. There is no “right way” to use DoF — it, like everything else in photography, is merely a tool. No more, no less.

(Not all cameras have access to aperture controls. Some point and shoot digital cameras allow it, but camera/lens design often limits the flexibility of such cameras. Consult camera documentation to see about access to either a manual or aperture priority mode).

Rule of Thirds

Posted in Tutorials with tags , , on September 11, 2008 by thtroyer

Alright.  I figured I’d start out simple.  The “Rule of Thirds” is a universally known rule throughout photography and other visual arts.  It is one of the most basic methods available to compose a shot, and it’s simplicity and effectiveness make it is an excellent place to start.

One of the common pitfalls I see among new photographer (and I was no exception) is a centered subject.  This is one of the few things you want to avoid.  It’s not that all photos with centered subjects are bad, but usually, they could be better.  Centered subjects usually create an awkward or unbalanced feel.  This is where the rule of thirds comes into play.

The concept is that there are stronger places to put the subject (or subjects) than in the middle.  In this case, 4 lines, and specifically, 4 intersections.  It gives you a way to break down the composition and place defining items at these stronger points.  These lines are at 1/3 intervals into the photos, as such.

The lines are common points to place things such as the horizon, buildings, or any other definitive horizontal/vertical lines.  The intersections are excellent places to put the subject, parts of the subject, or otherwise interesting things.  Using this method, it’s perfectly fine to not use all lines/intersections.

Taken with Kodak disposable

Finally, like any rule, this one is meant to be broken — it certainly isn’t the only way to compose a photo, but it’s good to understand what is aesthetically pleasing and why, and the rule of thirds is a great introduction into composition and a guideline that you’ll use for a long time.

What is photography?

Posted in About me/blog on September 8, 2008 by thtroyer

Photography is the capturing of light onto film or a digital sensor, but that’s such a dry, lifeless definition… so let me try again.

Photography is an art, a skill. It’s a way to record the present and to view the past. It’s a method of expression,to share an experience.

To me, photography is a hobby, perhaps an addiction or obsession.  I have had no formal training, but have spent much time reading and learning everything I can on the subject.  I originally began exploring photography as a serious hobby about a year ago with a point and shoot digital Kodak.  The Kodak did nicely for a time, but I eventually looked for something nicer.  Long story short, I got my hands on an old Minolta XD-11 and fell in love with shooting film.  I’ve since added more equipment, another lens, camera, filters, etc.

As such, I want to be able to share my love with others — and that’s the purpose of this blog.  I plan on updating once or twice a week, but that’ll depend on my schedule and time.  Updates will be a variety of information, tutorials, reviews, and stories that cover my experience of shooting film in a digital age.  I don’t expect everything to be film specific, but some will be.

And just to make it clear, I’m hardly a film zealot.  Digital certainly has advantages in many areas, but so does film — and film strengths and character are part of what this blog will explore.

If you’re at all curious about photography or why people still use film, stay tuned. :)

Taken with Yashica Electro 35 GSN on Fuji Superia 200.