October 09, 2011
Kids on Mass Street
Bert Nash Dash & Bash
There was a small little festival set up on one block of Massachusetts Street today. It was a fundraiser for the local psychiatric center, Bert Nash. There weren’t too many attractions, but fortunately, the bouncy houses and obstacle courses they had set up meant lots of kids playing about. It’s hard not to get some good pics when kids are about, so I grabbed my 50mm lens and went exploring.
I felt very comfortable when taking pictures today. I think being in a familiar environment helped. It’s also much easier when there are a lot of people milling about. When you’re comfortable, photographic opportunities open up easily. You just have to be alert enough to catch them.
Photographing in the bright sun is certainly not a preference for most photographers. The harsh shadows are often unflattering, and the range of exposure values from bright sun to dark shadow can be hard to meter. However, there are ways to take advantage of the light. Bright highlights against dark shadows can be dramatic. So can shadows of a figure on the pavement. I especially like looking for opportunities when someone is being brightly lit from reflected light. It can give a wonderful glow to a shot.
So today, I took advantage of the custom presets on my camera. The mode dial on the Sony a850/a900 allows you to preset three modes that you can switch between quickly. Upon first arriving I metered the area and programmed my presets.
Preset 1 was set at f/5.6 and 1/1250 ISO 200. I used preset 1 as my default. This aperture gives good sharpness to my lens and a somewhat deep depth-of-field. ISO 200 is the base ISO for my camera allowing for the lowest noise with the greatest dynamic range. Setting the camera at base ISO will give me the greatest latitude if I need to do exposure corrections in RAW. In fact, in some ways I prefer to do exposure corrections in raw so I can keep my mind on composing when I’m shooting. As long as I don’t blow the highlights, I have at least two to three stops of compensation available to me for correction.
Preset 2 was set at f/2.0 and 1/3200. I used this preset when I wanted/needed more depth-of-field control. Backgrounds can often be difficult to control and having a wider aperture quickly available can provide an easy way to make sure viewer’s attention is focused on your chosen subject. So if the background appeared too busy, I could quickly switch to Preset 2 without having to worry about metering.
Preset 3 was set at f/2.0 and 1/500. This is my shadow-area setting. If I wanted to get a picture of someone entirely in shadow, this would give me a good exposure and still allow me to keep a decent shutter speed. Plus the shallow DOF of a 50mm lens at f/2.0 is always a plus (if you can nail the focus).
Once my presets were programmed, I set out looking for some shots. The first area that attracted me (and the one I kept returning to) was this large inflatable obstacle course. The kids were having a really good time. They would run through, get off, and then run back through again. Bouncing, climbing, swinging and more.
I initially got in close to make some compositions that cut out extraneous elements, but then I moved back to look for opportunities with a few more subjects.
I’m glad I settled on the 50mm for today. There were may parents with strollers and other obstacles that often prevented me from getting too close. The 35mm would have been nearly useless at those distances.
One advantage you can see of setting your exposure manually is that you can expose for the highlights and get more dramatic effects. If I had let the camera meter this scene, it would have ended up brighter than I had envisioned.
I try not to get too hung up on slightly out-of-focus images anymore. There are plenty of great images in the history of photography that are out-of-focus. Out-of-focus images can still evoke emotion just as well as in-focus images.
It made for a great Sunday, especially since I didn’t put any pressure on myself to come away with great images. It was fun, relaxing, and I got some images I really enjoy. Hopefully we’ll have a few more days with weather like this before winter comes in force.