Saturday, December 19, 2009

So that's how it works!

I finally did it. I've seen photos in books of waterfalls with the moving water looking creamy while the rest of the landscape was in sharp focus. I knew it was a matter of a slower shutter speed but things always seemed to go wrong. Either I had the wrong landscape to try it with or my shutter speeds were apparently way too slow.

The other day while I was in Salem I stopped at this office building complex. More correctly, I stopped in the bicycle lane of Hawthorne Street. This street has a Costco at one end so it's quite busy. That's where I had to be to include Elvira in the shot. So be it. I had a bright retroreflective vest on. I'd look like someone on a road crew.

There are four or five multi-story buildings in this complex. The whole campus is beautiful. At first I just stopped to take a photo or two. I know that purists will tell me that this photo is framed wrong. Elvira is just about to pop off the frame to the left instead of having the "action going into the picture". What the heck. It's my photo and I wanted to frame the waterfall in the curve of the bike's lines through the dash, seat, and trunk. Here's one that's more "technically"correct.

Yet another look at the overall scene. I can imagine working in one of those offices near the pond. I would never get any work done but I'd always be smiling!

Like I said, my original goal was simply to take a few photos because the landscape appealed to me. I kept looking at the waterfall, though, and it dawned on me. Here was an opportunity to get some more practice. We stress to our instructors that students learn by doing. The same applies to student photographers. Thank goodness digital shots cost nothing, because I am doing quite a bit of practice!

Here's the first upclose picture of the waterfall. I used the shutter speed setting for these and let the camera decide the rest. The G11 made some interesting decisions.

I chose a shutter speed of 1/160 of a second to try to freeze the falling water. I could have tried 1/250 but it was a really gray, drizzly day. Even so, the Canon chose to use ISO 800 and an aperature of f4.5. It was trying to let in some light.

Then I went for the next shot.

This is at a shutter speed of 1/8 second. It actually turned out pretty good. I realize I had been trying to use too slow a shutter speed in my other attempts. I thought I had to really slow it down but I finally realized that I wanted a bit of blur but not very much. Unlike previous efforts, this time I was hand holding the camera, not using a tripod.

Interestingly, the camera chose to change the ISO to 80, way down there. It closed the aperature to f8 as befits the shutter being open longer. However, the camera also decided to cut down the exposure compensation to minus 1/3. I don't quite get that. I know it has something to do with "fooling" the circuitry by telling it something not quite true so it will compensate accordingly.

When I saw the photo in the LCD screen I was pretty stoked. It's probably pretty basic to a lot of you grizzled photographers out there. For me it was like learning to use the friction zone on a motorcycle for low speed control. Another step forward in fine tuning my control.

Of course, just to keep me humble, this happened.

I was trying to set the shutter speed a stop lower and had a misfire into the grass! Once I got over that I snapped the last picture in the series.

The above shot was with a 1/4 second shutter speed. Still more or less handheld but the camera was resting on Elvira's trunk this time for a bit of extra support. The camera left the settings the same as they were at 1/8 second.

This shot still looks good but I think the shot at a 1/8 second shutter speed looks a bit cleaner. It's amazing how little it takes to make a discernable difference in the pictures.

There's no doubt that the magic is still in the camera itself, contained amongst the electronic circuits. Still, though, little by little I am putting the puzzle together. What a fun journey! On top of getting to ride the bike. Does it get any better? Well, I was only a mile or so away from a Starbucks and a chance to warm up with some hot coffee. That would make the third leg of the stool.

Miles and smiles,



tedder said...

Welcome to the world of shutter speeds, Dan :-)

Orin said...

Dan, very impressive! Especially the shot 1/8 sec, hand-held, no less... the rocks are sharp! Good for you!

I've got to get a G11. Of course, by the time I'm able to contemplate a purchase like that, Canon will probably have replaced it with a G12...

Scootin' Old Skool

Dave said...


Let me set you straight
There is no such thing as miss

I call them high art an only the most knowledgeable get what I am saying in them ; )

That’s my story and I sticking to it : )

Dave aka old f

Chuck Pefley said...

Dave has a good point. Not sure about the "high art", but unintended consequences are often quite gratifying. Being able to duplicate that "mistake" is the hard part. Practice and more practice ... with a Zen mind ... life is a learning experience, always.

Happy Holidays to you!

Conchscooter said...

good job. now you need to take a picture of your front wheel turning as you ride. that will force bobskoot to do something interesting with his video. we sit on the sidelines and hope.

irondad said...


I'm so pleased that you are still reading! Thank you for gracing my blog. I have the basics of the exposure triangle more or less down but I'm working on how to get the effects I want.


Just remember, this was BEFORE I had coffee! Don't know how it would have gone later. I guess photographers brag about how long an exposure they can hand hold. I'm not anywhere near there, yet.


I agree that the best things often happen accidently. I'll take whatever I can get!

Take care,


irondad said...


I seem to be the kind that needs a carrot hanging in front of me. Photography is serving that function quite well at the moment.

Like you say, I get a good picture and then forget how I did it. I'm keeping a notebook with me these days.


Hmmm, keep watching.

Take care,


Anonymous said...

With film you could say, you forgot
the details.
With digital you're dealing with
a computer that just so happens to take photographs.
Now because of this, ALL of the
physical characteristics of each recorded image done with a digital camera is available if you're willing to look for same.

Ideally Dan, if you shoot RAW as opposed to JPEG more information about each image is readily available. Don't misunderstand me;
writing down the how, why, what, who, and where, of each image recorded is vital to enable you to learn from your mistakes.

You need to understand reviewing your photographed images is work;
similar with learning to ride a
two wheel motorized transportation
device; it all takes time, practise
makes perfect.

Musings of an Intrepid Commuter is a form of expression for an individual who is growing
in his ability to communicate with
his readers both by word, deed and

My best wishes to Dan, his growing family, and to all the readers herein for a Merry Christmas and a superb New Year.