Rocks and Feathers On a Cloudy Day

During a recent trip to Crescent Lake, I was hoping to get some good landscape shots but with the weather being gray overcast, the lighting wasn’t ideal to capture the lush, vivid colors of the foliage around the beautiful lake. I was using aperture priority mode and didn’t like the results. The landscape images were dark, bluish cast and very flat looking. I decided to go manual and started to experiment with the camera settings. Such as: changing the white balance to sunny might give the image more warmth and color; increase exposure time and ISO while lowering my standard f/11 landscape aperture to f/6.3 to get better light.

As I was making the adjustments, a mallard duck waddled up a few feet from me. Quickly, I took a shot of the duck and was pleasantly surprised by the result. I really like the contrast of the duck’s soft feathers against the shallow depth field of the rocks on the beach. It created an attractive looking background. For me the background is just as important as the subject — especially when shooting shallow depth of field. I know from experience, a distracting background can ruin otherwise a perfect shot.  It is something to keep in mind when shooting — a boulder might become a big black blob that takes up half of the image.

For the next several shots, I focused on the feathers and rocks but also lighting and composition. I didn’t want it to be just a photo of a duck. And lucky me, seem like the duck knew what I wanted and posed nicely for me. It’s interesting how a situation like this helps me learn more about photography than just shooting a pretty landscape.

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White Balance Experiment

Currently, I am taking an online digital photography class. And the exercise is on white balance. I realized this is one of the features I haven’t explore much. There are over 15 different choices of WB on the menu, and have used only three settings — sun, cloudy, and 5560K (color temperature).  In my quest for a creative and sharper image, I have neglected to learn the importance of the WB function. Instead I’ve focused mostly on the shutter speed and aperture. And relying on Photoshop to fix any color problems.

For the experiment, I used an orange sitting on a light box with natural light from the window. No post processing other than cropping. You can see the difference in color temperature, saturation, and clarity of the image with various WB settings. 

The settings for the 6 images are:
50mm Nikkor prime lens
ISO 200
2 s – f/22


Photo 1: WB 5560K


Photo 2: Flash (but without using flash)


Photo 3: Direct Sunlight


Photo 4: Sodium Vapor Lamps (Not sure exactly what it is but looks deadly 😉


Photo 5: Incandescent


Photo 6: Auto Select (Looks like the camera knows best… the colors are more accurate, especially the green leaf. )

The Joy of Photoshop

I remembered the old days when I had to be selective on what I choose to photograph because the film only gave me 36 chances to get it right. When I got the digital camera, it was great to have the freedom to shoot at whatever I wanted. But then I realized I also spend a great deal of time “fixing” all the mistakes the freedom gave me. I find myself using the Photoshop more than I should to correct my images.

I see so many beautiful photographs and always wondered what the original might look like. With the Adobe Photoshop and many other photo editing software available today, it’s easy to retouch and fix photos that would otherwise be discarded. However, I also realized the ease of over usage and becoming dependent on it. As I become more committed in being a “Professional” photographer, I strive to take better photographs by using only manual mode and learning more about the light, exposure, aperture etc… BACK to OLD SCHOOL.

I know there will be times that no matter how I try to get it right… the digital manipulation is still required. For example, the original waterfall photo looks too green, under exposed and has a 20 foot log in the way. It did occurred to me to push the log out of the way… however, in this case, it was safer to use Photoshop. I increased the exposure by +.25, add a violet color photo filter to brighten and decrease the green in the water. Unsharp mask filter applied twice at 25%.