Monday, May 21, 2007

Family: Zachary's 3rd Birthday

After a sports-filled Saturday I spent Sunday afternoon at my brother-in-law's house in Finksburg Maryland. I get along well with my brother-in-law. We're very similar in a lot of respects: we both own houses, we both enjoy improving our houses, and we both are technical. In fact, we both contract to the same government agency. As a result, when we get together it's fun because I get to see what improvements he's made to his house, and we get to talk about what we're doing for our government customer.

The last time I was up at his house was at the end of March. It was my niece's 1st birthday, and my D200 had just arrived that week. I sold my D40 to a coworker along with the kit lens so I used my Dad's f1.8 50mm prime lens using Manual Focus. That event was the first time I had used Manual Focus for an event, and my shots showed my inexperience. I also made the mistake of keeping the aperture fixed at f1.8, so my depth of field was very shallow. As a result many of the shots contained a lot of out-of-focus elements. A few were good, but for the most part I underexposed and shot a lot of out-of-focus pictures.

In my defense tho, children are very difficult to shoot. My coworker (Jason) has a child and he's always remarking on how difficult it is to track and take pictures of young children. They're constantly going in and out of focus because they move towards and away from the camera compared with horizontally from the camera (without changing their distance). However, since March 30th I've covered a lot of events and I've been practicing a lot. I've learned a lot about my D200 and lens, and I was looking forward to see if my shots showed any progress.

Fortunately they did. I learned about the dot in the viewfinder in the camera the other night when I was reading about how the auto-focus system works. When the dot appears the camera reports the element in the focus-area is in-focus. I used the dot as a crutch in a lot of cases when I took my pictures. This worked out pretty well. I used spot-focus in the center with continuous focus mode (rather than spot).

I also paid a lot of attention to the ISO and white balance setting. I was sensitive to the ISO because of yesterday's shoot in open sunlight. As a result I lowered the ISO and shot in Aperture priority mode with my 50mm/1.8 lens, and paid attention to the white balance. A few test shots when I arrived looked good, and I was able to shoot in the backyard with 1/120sec shutter speed.

I took a few pictures inside while Zach was eating. They weren't very exiciting. It was difficult because he was placed in a seat with windows behind him on every side. As a result he was heavily backlit and it was difficult to properly expose his face without overexposing the background. But I treated it as a learning experience...

One thing that really shocked me was the performance of my AA alkaline batteries. Yesterday I shot almost 14 hours of events, including playback and deletion of bad shots (which required the use of the LCD). I charged my EN-EL3E batteries over night, but I forgot to pick them up before I headed up to my brother-in-law's house. As a result I had to fallback on my emergency AA batteries. These were "fresh" batteries my wife purchased for me. I loaded 6 of them into my MB-D200 battery pack thinking they would last the entire night without a problem.

I was shocked when those batteries gave out on my less than 1 hour into the evening. I took I snapped a ton of shots, and some of them are incredible. There's one I captured of my niece looking at the sand fall out of her hand with the sun setting on her. It's incredible. There are some others that I shot of Zach and his friend Riley that are great as well. Kids are difficult to shoot (as Jason always tells me) - they constantly look downwards rather than upwards, and it seems like they avoid the camera whenever possible!

None-the-less I got some great shots. The f1.8 lens really makes the shots amazing - with the backgrounds being blurred out the foreground is really drawn into focus. I'm hoping I have some more opportunities to shoot people with the f1.8 lens in the future.

Moving forward... This week I'm going to finish up posting my shots from this weekend. This basically covers the soccer games on Saturday night. Then I'm heading south the North Carolina. I'm not sure how many blog-worthy photos I'll take there. We'll see....


Post a Comment