Night: Learning on the Prairie

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  1. 1) If you trust the steadiness of your hand, you can purchase a cleaner for the sensor. Read, and follow closely, the instructions in the camera manual. Or, you can take it to a camera store and have them clean it. I know of several in the Houston area.
    2) Uh… yes.
    3) Actually, underexposure isn’t a function of white balance. And, you don’t use a white piece of paper – you use what is called a “gray card”. You can find them (or their digital equivalents, which is a strip with white, gray, and black) at a local camera store. White balance will help eliminate color casts (e.g. the bluish cast you may see early in the morning, or the odd yellowish cast you sometimes see on indoor shots.)
    Oh, and as to “bulb” – that is a setting where the shutter stays open as long as you hold the shutter button down. I recommend you use a tripod and a remote shutter release for this setting – but expect that noise you noticed in #2 to get even worse.

  2. EdT — I’m so glad you’re still hanging around here giving me some feedback. This just wouldn’t feel normal otherwise!
    You’re absolutely right; my mangling of terminology and absolute neophyte status at this level of photography is hanging out all over the place.
    The biggest lesson learned here, really, was the ISO. I shot a whole TON of fast action shots at the swimming pool this weekend, and on the first day, I forgot to change the ISO setting back down from the night before. As a result, I couldn’t correct some shadows on faces, because lightening them brought out that hideous graininess.
    This really is a VERY steep learning curve…
    BTW — I loved your MS-150 shots, particularly the single rider that you evidently panned.

  3. I understand the mix-up between white balance and exposure, it can be confusing. If you have a RAW setting on your camera, it will allow you to adjust the white balance without degrading the image (which can happen if you post-process white balance on JPG files). As for using a white sheet of paper, it’s not the best, but will work – as long as it is truly neutral – no slight cream or bluish cast that some papers tend to have.
    White balance is something, like ISO, that one must remember to reset. I have my share of bluish photos taken during the day after setting the white balance indoors the night before.

  4. Ah… that RAW “thing”…. For some reason, I’m intimidated by it. However, I’ve seen Ed T debate the merits. Glenn, do you shoot RAW also? Or just under certain conditions?

  5. What you learned through trial and error was something I was taught yrs ago (granted not on a digital camera!)–bracketing your shots. I was taught that no matter how perfect I thought my choice of exposure variables were, that once I got into the darkroom, or in your case, on your computer, I wouldn’t always be right. So shoot one at the exposure you think is right, then shoot one under and one over. It saved my butt on many occasions. You can bracket shots on a digital camera for sure. And don’t waste money on a cheapo tripod. Pony up and get a good stable one. It doesn’t have to be heavy, but must be stable or you’ll be really pissed when you start playing with really long exposures and a breeze blows. And Ed T is absolutely correct about the gray card and shutter release. At long exposures, no one’s hand in my experience is steady enough to eliminate all shake.

  6. I have used RAW before, but I am more a casual photographer than a serious hobbyist, so it’s not something I have used very much. A RAW file is pretty big, and my limitation was usually storage space. Now that storage is that much cheaper, I may need to use it more.

  7. Hunh! Slate! How fun to learn more about you — that you’re a photographer!
    You’re right about that tripod, and after last night, it has hit the top of my list, along with a remote shutter release… [smile…]

  8. Thanks, Glenn, for the feedback. I guess working w/ RAW won’t hurt too much…. ? I downloaded the plug-in upgrade for RAW (for my version of PSE). Still not sure what I’m doing with it, but I started playing around with some practice images to see what I could see.
    Ed, I know you use RAW a lot. Any major pitfalls I should watch out for?

  9. I find that RAW is good for shots I want to do a lot of tweaking on – for many of the shots that are of the variety of “capture the moment”, though, I will stick with JPEG. RAW takes longer to write to the card, so it isn’t all that good for fast action shots (like AC’s swimming.) Also, you really do need to do the post-processing – make sure your camera’s RAW (I think it is NEF) is supported by your editing software (Photoshop Elements, IIRC.)

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