Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Amateur Photography Part V: Tripod Tryouts!

My cheap lightweight tripod arrived in the mail yesterday and has been put to initial trial over the past two nights. Here are some quick results and comments.

0. Overall notes. The tripod is far from perfect. It does what it is supposed to do - holds the camera, but the operation is far from smooth - framing a shot takes a while because precision ain't this tripod's thing. But, it is a great improvement over my previous state of affairs.  One good thing about it - the screw-on attachment is removable. Since I only have one camera and one tripod, I screwed it onto the camera, and inserting the camera into a tripod is a matter of three seconds. The lock is plastic, so when it breaks, I am in trouble, but until then.....  I will only mention one more annoying part. There is a level to show whether the front and the back of the tripod are in line with each other. But that's a degree of freedom that is easy to fix via camera rotation up and down.  The dimension that is harder to deal with is across - I can move the camera from landscape to portrait, but that is only 90 degrees - I cannot move the camera itself to set it straight if the tripod is crooked in the other direction. The only thing that works is fiddling with the tripod legs. So ... not the best design, but we will classify my complaints about it as a type of a first world problem.

Now, onto results.

1. Macro.  

My new screw-on macro lenses work much better with a tripod.  This is the before tripod picture of a screw top (I needed a target that was small enough but also static) shot with a handheld camera with a 55-200mm zoom lens at close to max zoom, with the 10x macro on.

The depth of field is probably in millimeters. I had to hold the camera just out of focus, and press the shutter release while moving slightly forward to get anywhere close to focus. This is the best shot out of five or six, and it is nowhere near focus.

Here are the results using 12x macro (a combo of a 2x macro and a 10x macro screwed on top) - so, even higher magnification factor. The same zoom lens, shot at 150mm.

The camera is just below the screw top, and you can see the artifacts of shallow depth of field - top of the screw is in focus, but it gets softer at the bottom - the physical length from the lens to the points in and out of focus is different by a couple of millimeters.

More macros shots - the first - just shooting straight into the tree leaves with no attempt to focus, the second, some of the berries from the tree. This was done with a 2x lens. Wind was strong, so I stopped trying for better shots.

2. Landscapes.

Some landscape trials from yesterday and today. Yesterday was on the side of Cerro San Luis, below the water tower. Today was at French park. Both sessions were during the "golden hour" between 4:20 and 5:00pm.


One disappointing bit from yesterday was poor performance of the wireless shutter. All the pics are taken from the tripod using the self-timer.  Today, before shooting at French Park, I reinserted the battery into the wireless shutter (it's another el cheapo thing, so performance issues are not too surprising), and it started working much better - I was probably between 2/3 and 3/4 success rate on button presses.

The sky overexposed in the pic above - not too happy about that, but the court actually looks nice. I was in the shade, hidden from the setting sun, but the court was exposed.

The greenery on the foreground controls the exposure, but the sky is decent, and there is a nice contrast between the dark colors on the foreground and the lighter colors of the hills.

This is simply what the golden hour is all about. A boring piece of the field (there was a soccer team practicing, I tried to avoid getting them into the frame) becomes beautifully lit, and this alleviates the picture somewhat. 

This is Bishop's Peak from yesterday.

Apparently had issues with spots on one of the filters. Also, would very much prefer the wires to not be in the shot. Next time I need to move further towards the peak off the path and into the grass.

3. Night Photography. 

Probably the least success from yesterday's tryouts. Without the remote working I had to put a self-timer and press the shutter manually.  Both shots were taken with 30 second shutter speed at f/5.0. For the second one, I wanted blues, so shifted white balance to tungsten.  Interestingly enough, the lights below and to the right of the P showed up on all images, but were not in the frame itself. I suspect - reflections of some lights on the deck (or the grill fire - the shots were taken while some pork chops were being grilled to the side)

4. Fool moon. We have a full moon now, and it is rising from behind the grade, which works really well for shooting from our deck.  The shot below was taken from the path to the water tower - a bit further up the hill from us.

More experiments with golden hour, moonrise and night shooting are coming up, now that the wireless is working. Also, on the second try, my newly purchased manual flash is compatible with the camera, so, will spend some time experimenting with it over the weekend.

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