Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Let there be light…but not too much and also in the right temperature

Somewhere in the vague, dark recesses of my memory is an 11th grade chemistry lecture from Mr. Chas Bowman about how different colors of light have different “temperatures” along the Kelvin scale. This same concept has popped up again a couple of times in the intervening years – when friends were making a movie and, despite being pretty smart themselves, forgot this and had to spend $10k to rent lights for their shoot; in my college astronomy class; and so on.

It came up again Sunday night when a deliciously interesting looking fog rolled into
A-Town (and the rest of NOVA/DC area as well). Hoping to capture the phenomena, I headed out to the veranda with the camera and stick (monopod). This is what I got:

Yeah, it’s unsteady, yellow and just plain ugly. I post it here only as an object lesson, not an object of beauty. It was shot with the camera on auto white balance at an aperture of f2.8 and a 1 second exposure. I don’t recommend this method for night pictures, but go ahead if you want, don't say I didn't warn you.

Then I remembered reading in my brand new, just arrived from Amazon last Friday “How to use my DSLR” book that my camera could easily adjust itself to differing light conditions. I also got my tripod and remote trigger out for obvious reasons. This, is the first attempt at playing with light temps:

Better, but not quite. It was shot at an aperture of f2.8, a shutter speed of 1.3 seconds, and a temp of 10,000K.

I won’t bore you with the 50 or so intervening pictures where I dropped the temp one setting at a time and played with the shutter speed. Instead I’ll jump right to end where the camera eventually ended up set at 2,500K (the minimum). This finally got rid of most of the ugly yellows, although some other colors crept in, the greenish-blues at the bottom center and right of the next three pictures, for instance. But what’s a guy to do? Seriously, this is a real question and if anyone has an answer that’d be great. kthxbye.

Once I got the light temp figured out, the aforementioned 2,500K, I started playing with the shutter speed and aperture. This is the result, shot at f11 with a 20 second exposure:

And, finally, these two (f14 for 30 seconds) with their wispy clouds, long trails of headlights and taillights, and beautiful fade from misty white to azure through cobalt blue and then finally to the inky black sky, well, I’m pretty satisfied with them.

I didn’t get around to it, mainly because it was kinda coldish, near midnight and I had to get up for work in about six hours, but I really would have liked to try a really long shot. Something where I left the shutter open for two or three or even five minutes with the aperture really stepped down to f32 to see what I could get.

Also, I have to wonder what my neighbors, any who might have seen me that is, thought about me being out on my balcony with a camera on a tripod late into the evening? Thankfully I didn’t have a telephoto lens on. That could have been awkward.


lacochran said...

Hubby discovered that with his camera (and without special telephoto lens), he can zoom in on all kinds of activity in the neighborhood. Oops!

Liebchen said...

I really think it's amazing what you can do when you know how to adjust shutter speed, etc. I say this as someone who doesn't know how to do any of it, but who can always appreciate a beautiful photo.

Alice said...

i have a book at home that will explain these things to me. i really should read it, at some point :-P

J said...

Wow, those are really cool

FoggyDew said...

la - Yeaaaah, kinda creepy. He might want to shave the goatee before he has his mug shot taken.

Liebchen - Unlike many men, I don't mind reading an instruction book...once in a while. There are just so, so many buttons and settings on my camera I'm basically forced to.

Alice - Reading *is* fundamental. Or, the next time we get together, I'll be happy to explain in person, which is more interesting.

J - Thanks.

LiLu said...

It's crazy to me how the same camera can take have such a variety of effects! B's trying to learn how to do this stuff with our Nikon.

Sebastian said...

RAW! No, not me being sleep deprived and imitating an animal... shoot in RAW!

You can alter the white balance after, during post-processing, if you have the RAW files.

Auto WB (AWB) does a pretty good job most of the time, but with reflected light/odd sources it can mess up, as you can see.

You saw my recent night-time/low-light stuff I presume?!

FoggyDew said...

LiLu - There are several good books out there on the subject. These pictures are the result of me reading the one I just got.

Seb - I just started shooting in RAW on some things, like the snow shots above (actually JPEG Fine+RAW). Basically I'm still learning my software as I learn the camera, so I expect the journey to more perfect pictures to be long.