Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Automated Program Settings and Lighting

by Christina VanGinkel

I was able to spend some quality time with my two-year-old grandson this past weekend before he headed out once again with his parents. They work out of town and try to get home as often as possible, but it is not always possible. When they are here, they are always good about letting us borrow our grandson as often as we want. Sunday afternoon my husband and I, along with our son and grandson, headed to the park. With us, we also took our brand new Konica Minolta Digital camera.

A DiMage Z5, it has several automated program settings. One of them, Sports Action, maximizes shutter speed, thus allowing the capture of motion. Lighting is an important aspect of this I soon learned. When we first arrived at the park the light was probably at its best for any picture taking without advanced knowledge of lighting, including use of the flash. I snapped a few photos of the kids in the park, running across a swinging bridge and climbing a pair of shaky steps, (the steps shake on purpose!). Soon after, I snapped a few photographs of my grandson as he was swinging. I actually continued to snap several more as the natural light faded. I snapped a few more photos, some with my flash, some without, as we were leaving the park.

As soon as we arrived back home, I plugged in the camera to my computer to see what, if any, of the pictures had turned out. While a few looked good on the on-camera review screen, I was anxious to see them in full size on my computer. As I reviewed all the snapshots from the evening I was acquiring a lesson in lighting without even meaning to. The first few photographs were nice, what I often refer to as scrapbook quality. The first one of my grandson swinging was what I considered exceptional. The kind of picture I try often to take, but more often than not fail at doing. Not only was the composition of the picture dead on, the automatic setting for Sports Action worked, along with the natural lighting. What I had was a photograph of him, smiling from ear to ear, feet tucked back, swinging full out. The background was slightly blurred, allowing the crisp lines of him to shine as the focus of the picture. This was exactly what I was trying to capture, plus more.
Sadly, the next couple of photographs were not even close to the same quality. As the light faded and I did not attempt to use the flash, not only was the background in a softy blur, so was he. Of the photographs that I snapped as we left the park, one of those also was of a quality that made me realize that taking a good photo is possible if I could just learn the value of lighting. Standing in front of the park's main feature, a small lake, with the sun setting off to the side, my husband, son, and grandson were framed perfectly, the lake picking up a myriad of colors. I snapped several pictures in a row, a couple with the flash on, a couple with it off. Too bad, I have no clue if the picture that turned out beautifully was with or without the flash. That is ok though, as it just means I have that much more reason to snap a few more pictures lakeside the next time he is home for a visit!

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