Category Archives: Introduction

Exercise: Panning with different shutter speeds

The brief:

To take the camera off the tripod and make a series of images from a fast shutter speed to a very slow one, using a panning motion for each shot.

After having so much bad weather which really hampered me in completing this assignment I managed to get out and shoot today. For ease of doing this assignment I headed off to Grand Boulevard park just a short distance from where I live. There is continuous traffic next to the park and I would be guaranteed to get some panning opportunities. I position myself midway between two intersections on the hill so that I would able to capture some speed from the cars.The cars were travelling between 30 and 50 km per hour. I ended up with a selection of 17 frames, but have only included 12 for the exercise.

At 1/320 both the car and the background are nice and sharp as can be seen in figure 01. At 1/200 (figure 02) the background begins to show signs of very slight blurring, as can be seen on the siding of the house – the horizontal lines are not so crisp any more. At 1/125, the background blur is more prominent and the wheels of the car are also showing some radial blur on the wheels (figure 03). This continues in the following images and at 1/60 (figure 05) we can see a faint streaking coming into play on the side of the house. The car is still relatively sharp. At 1/40 there is definite ghosting around the sides of the house and trees and the car’s body has begun to show signs of blur (figure 06). At 1/30 the background has a nice motion blur and the car’s blur has intensified slightly. This photo conveys the idea of speed fairly well (figure 7). At 1/25 (figure 8) the background blur is more pronounced but the car doesn’t seem to have blurred much more than the previous frame. It is possible that this particular car was travelling slower than the preceding one. In figure 09 one can see that at 1/20 the foreground and background are nicely blurred and the car is still quite sharp. At 1/15 the image is beginning to hurt my eyes – there is too much discord happening (figure 10). This just gets worse down to 1/10 (figure 11). This could also be due to some camera shake occurring. However, the image at 1/8 (figure 12) seems to work better.  Perhaps this has something to the slight shift in view point and the fact that the background and foreground are totally smoothed out.  One can no longer discern the background shapes, or make out what they are, but this image has a painterly feel to it. I had to do some highlight recovery on this last image as I started hitting the right end of the histogram at 1/13.

On reflection, I would say that I like the images at 1/30 (figure 07) and 1/20 (figure 09) the best. They convey a sense of speed and are not confusing to the eye. Figure 09 is probably aesthetically more pleasing as the SUV is larger and thus creates better sense of balance in the photograph. Blurring definitely gives a better sense of speed and creates more interest in the photograph.

Exercise: Shutter speeds

The brief:

Set the camera on a tripod in front of something that moves across your view. Make a series of exposures, from the fastest shutter speed on your camera to a very slow one. Adjust the aperture each time, or have the camera set so that it automatically adjusts the aperture so that the exposure stays the same.Take note of the shutter speed used for each frame. Compare the finished images. Find the slowest shutter speed at which the movement is sharply frozen. Make notes about each print in your learning log.

For this exercise I headed down to the Seymour River and set up my tripod on the river bank. The Seymour River is a fairly fast flowing river at this time of the year as we have had quite a bit of rain recently. Because I’m rather rubbish at shutter speed settings, I decided to try this exercise using my shutter speed priority and set the camera to auto ISO. I started out at 1/1600 of a second, with ISO 500 and aperture f4.5 at 92mm. I took a photo at 1/3 of a stop intervals (only 12 photos are shown here), stopping down to 1/5 of a second before my highlights were totally blown out. I noticed that the water is sharp until 1/200 – the splashes over the rocks still show definition and volume. However, one can also see at 1/200 that where the water is more free flowing (not splashing over rocks), it is beginning to smooth out. At 1/50 the droplets have consolidated and one can see the beginning of the milky effect on the “mini rapids”. At 1/25 the undulations of the water over the rocks are beginning to form. It is almost as if the water is “solidifying”. At 1/13 the undulations are move evident and the colour of the rocks and the water have begun to merge/streak together. The “mini rapids” are now beginning to look like candy floss in the water. At 1/10 there is sufficient motion blur in the water for creativity to emphasis the strong flow of the water, but still enough ‘realism’ that were one to crop a portion of the river, it would still be recognizable as water. I think this is my favourite photo. By the time the shutter speed is reduced to 1/5 the water has a painterly effect and is almost totally smoothed out and the rocks below the surface have totally lost all definition.

This exercise was definitely harder than I thought it would be. I found the tripod rather restrictive. I first attempted it with people walking across the viewfinder, but I had little success focusing on the moving targets. However, I’m determined to try this again with human subjects, so I will come back to this exercise again.

Exercise: Focus at different apertures

The brief: to find a similar subject to the previous exercise (I have used the same subject) and stand at an angle to this row and using a tripod take three photos. Frame each photo identically. Focus on an obvious point near the middle and note this in the field book. Take the first photo with the lens at the widest aperture, the second with the lens stopped down to its mid-range and the third with the lens at the smallest aperture. Adjust shutter speed accordingly.

I actually performed this exercise with all f stops, beginning at f1.8 and increasing by 1 stop until I reached f16. My focus point was on the centre bowl on the blue strip on the 2 o’clock position above the fish’s eye. For my learning log I am only including those images taken at the widest and narrowest aperture and the mid-range. Every click on the dial indicates 1/3 of a stop: 3 clicks on the dial give one a full stop increase or decrease in aperture or shutter speed.

Ex 03 F1.8 aperture - centre focus

f1.8, 1/160, 50mm, ISO 200

Ex 03 F5 aperture - middle focus

f5, 1/20, 50mm, ISO 200

Ex 03 f16 aperture - middle focus

f16, 1/2, 50mm, ISO 200

The wider the aperture value, eg f1.8, the less time is needed (shutter speed) to make the image. The smaller the aperture value, eg f16, the more time is needed. Because both aperture settings and shutter speeds settings function in the same way in terms of halving or doubling the amount of light hitting the sensor, this means that there are many combinations of aperture and shutter speed settings that will result in the same exposure.

I was then asked to print the photos, number them and draw on each print what I see as the limits of sharpness. I have only reference the aperture setting and not included all the other camera settings on these photos as they are the same as above.

No. 1

Ex 03 f1.8 - area of sharpness

f1.8 – area of sharpness

At f.18 the area of sharpness is along the same focal plane as the focus point. It is very narrow and includes only the middle bowl.

No. 2

Ex 03 f5 - area of sharpness

f5 – area of sharpness

The area of sharpness doubles at F5, including two bowls, but the foreground is still soft and out of focus as is the last bowl.

No. 3

Ex 03 f16 - area of sharpness

f16 – area of sharpness

At f16 the area of sharpness is again doubled (4 bowls) and extends all the way to the last bowl. I have not included the front bowl in the area of sharpness, as upon magnification, one can see there is a slight soft focus on that bowl. However, it is not easily discernible to the naked eye.

Exercise: Focus with a set aperture

The brief: Find a scene which has depth as seen from an acute angle and from the same place and using the widest aperture take 2-3 photos focusing on something at different distance.

Due to a horrible rainstorm this week, I had to resort to doing the exercise indoors which wasn’t my best choice. I used my 50mm prime lens for this exercise.

Focus on the front rice bowl

Ex 02 focus set aperture focus front

f1.8, 1/25, 50mm, ISO 200

Focus on the middle rice bowl

Ex 02 - f1.8 rice bowl - 02 focus middle

f1.8, 1/25, 50mm, ISO 200

Focus on the back rice bowl

Ex 02 focus set aperture focus back

f1.8, 1/25, 50mm, ISO 200

While all three images work for me, I  would rank the first image as my favourite. The front bowl that is in focus anchors my eye for a while so I can inspect the detailed etchings on the bowl, then my eye wanders up the line over the progressively blurred bowls and returns to the front bowl.

In the second photo, my eye tends to skip over the first two bowls until I come to the bowl in focus, lingers for a second or so and skips over the last two bowls. Because this image is ‘weighted’ equally, ie two out of focus bowls on either side of the sharply focused bowl, it tends to be predictable and boring.

In the final photo my eye is teased by the mystery of the very out of focus first bowl and it then speeds along the other bowls to finally settle on the end bowl which is in focus – a process of revelation. Mystery solved. This is my second favourite image.

I think we are drawn to what we can recognize and identify immediately. Shallow depth of field plays a part in directing the viewer’s eye to the subject matter. It also creates visual interest. By using a different focal points, one can change visual interest of the image, thereby creating a more engaging photo.

Exercise – Focal length and angle of view

My Nikon D3000 has a sensor size of 23.6 mm x 15.8 mm which means that a photo taken with the same focal length on a full frame 35 mm camera will be approximately 1.5 larger than the photo taken on the D3000. The crop factor is actually 1.483 (35 divided by 23.6), but 1.5 is perfectly fine for my mathematically challenged brain.

The brief is to look through the viewfinder, keeping both eyes open and adjust the lens until the image in the view finder is the same as the one seen with the other eye. I took all the photos from my deck overlooking my neighbour’s apple tree with the bird house  – he spends much more time in his garden than I do! On a fixed focus 35mm camera this point should be at 50mm, however on my 18-55mm kit lens, I found that I had to switch out to my 55-200mm lens before I could come up with a match. This could be due to my poor eyesight and my progressive lenses though. I found a match at 68 mm. So to avoid confusion, I am not going to include this photo as the course manual has warned me that this would probably not work with a digital camera.

I switched back to the 18-55mm lens and set my camera to 32mm which is approximately similar to a 50mm on a full frame camera and took a reference photo, again keeping both eyes open. Then I set my camera to 18mm, the widest focal length, took another photo and then swapped back to the 55-200mm lens and took the final photo at 200mm.

Exercise 01 - 32mm

32mm f8 1/160 200 ISO

Exercise 01 - 18mm

18mm f8 1/160 200 ISO

Exercise 01 - 200mm

200mm f8 1/40 200 ISO

I then printed the 3 images and went back to the position where I took the photos. I then held up each print, moving it forward or backwards until the scene was similar to what I was seeing with the naked eye and got my husband to measure the distance from the photo to the front of my glasses. The distances were as follows:

  • 32mm was 30 cm – this distance was comfortable to look at the print
  • 18 mm was 19cm – this distance was not very comfortable, just tolerable for a short while
  • 200mm was 177.8 cm – this distance was very comfortable for me

I’m a bit puzzled why the last measurement isn’t closer to the actual focal length as the other two measurements are, but that might be due to my eyesight.

New discoveries on reading the manual

I have read my manual for my Nikon D3000 a few times over the past 4 years, but something new always come to the forefront upon a re-read.  This time the following items sprang out at me:

AF-Area Mode

An interesting observation under the AF-Area Mode section is if one uses 3D-tracking points the colours in the area surrounding the focus point are stored when the shutter button is depressed half way.  This could be problematic if the subject is of a similar colour as the background.

Focus Lock

Holding down the AE-L/AF-L button allows one to focus and then recompose. This is a function I have read about, but never practiced properly. I have tried it out now a few times and I think I will definitely be using the function more often.


I actually read through the retouching segment of the manual again and tried a few of the features, but I can’t see myself doing any in-camera photo editing ever. The camera screen (3 cm) is nowhere big enough to do any serious editing, but there are a few nice features like the filters.