XDrive Photo Lesson 9 – Focus

This is my submission for XDrive Photo Lesson 9 – Focus. All photos were taken with Nikon D750.

First, here is the daylily photo I posted for XDRive Photo Lesson 8.

(F/13 1/80 Sec. ISO-200 105mm)

In Raj’s comment, he said, “You have an aperture of f13 that should have sharpened the whole flower. The reason is your shutter speed. At a focal point of 105mm, you should be around 1/160 sec minimum. So there is a micro camera shake in the picture.”

Well, it was more than a “micro” camera shake. This photo was taken in my front yard and it was quite windy that day. Anyway, after reading Raj’s comment, I decided to bring the flower inside of the house and give it another try.

(By the way, the black background was interesting for me too. It was during the day; I think it was because the sunlight shinning on the flower, and how far the background was from the subject.)

(F/8 1/250 Sec. ISO-2000 105 mm)

Even with F/8 instead of F/13 (no wind) I can see a lot more details of the flower in this photo! (I mean… Raj was right 😉

What’s next? Raj had mentioned a couple of things about DOF. I decided to take some photos to help me remember what I had learned.

Photo 1 – f/9 1/15 Sec. ISO-1250 105 mm
Photo 2 – f/9 1/10 Sec. ISO-1250 300 mm
Photo 3 – f/5.6 1/80 Sec. ISO-1270 300 mm

The longer the focal length of the lens, the shallower the DOF.

Comparing photo 1 and 2: they both have same F-Stop, but Photo 2’s focal length (300 mm) is longer than photo 1 (105 mm). Sure enough, Photo 2 has shallower DOF (The Chinese character in the background is more blurry.)

The closer you are to your subject, the shallower the DOF.

Comparing photo 2 with photo 3: Based on F-Stop, photo 3 should have shallower DOF (F/5.6 vs. F/9). But because of photo 2 was taken closer to the subject, photo 2 turned out having a shallower DOF.

It’s fun to take photos to “verify” what I have learned. 😉 Not because I don’t believe my instructor, but because I often suspect my camera has its own soul, since it often produces unexpected results ;-).

One thing I want to say about taking sharp photos (focusing) is probably not agreed by many — gear does matter! I am not saying that one can take better (sharp) photo with a more expensive camera; I am saying that the weight of a camera (certain weight is more stable for certain person) and how hard you have to press the shutter release button to take a photo does affect the quality of your photos. In other words, I believe certain camera suits me better than the other. (There, I said it.) I mean… based on my experience, I get along better with certain cameras. 😉

Finally, here are photos I took at the Temperance River State Park. (By the way, I did go back to ask the boy’s email address and emailed his photos to him.)

Both photos: F/5.6 1/640 Sec. ISO-200 300 mm

I was surprised at how these photos had turned out. To be honest, I didn’t have many successful shots with 300 mm focal length (a lot of blurry ones.) This time, I did use the information board to support the camera though.

Even though I am happy with the result, I am quite aware that they can be further improved. For example, it would be much better if I had included the water below in the composition (but in that case, would I be able to see his face expression?). Oh well, all of these will get better with practices, I am sure 😉

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Temperance River State Park

Temperance River State Park is located at one mile north of the town Schroeder on State Highway 61.

It is said the park got its name because, unlike other North Shore streams, the river had no bar at its mouth. At one time, the waters of this particular river flowed so deep and so strong into Lake Superior that there was no build-up of debris. This meant that there was no “bar.” What could you call a river without a bar? For an appropriate, if slightly tongue-in-cheek selection, “temperance” fits perfectly.
— MN Department of Natural Resources

Last weekend, we attended a wedding up north; after the wedding, we visited a couple of state parks and Temperance River State Park was one of them.

Which bridge photo do you like better? I like them both; I like them equally, I am afraid.

Hidden fall is one other attraction in the park.

When we approach the hidden falls, a group of young kids came to greet us. “We are going to jump down the cliff!” one kid said excitedly.

“Is it safe?” I asked.

“Yes. We have two guys down there checking it out and they said okay.”

A moment later, the kid who went down checking came back. “Is it deep enough?” I asked.

“I think so,” He said.

“You have to be 100% sure, okay? Don’t risk,” I said.

Wei positioned himself preparing to take a good photo when the boy jumped. I told him we had to leave. “I don’t want them to jump because of us. If we stay, I am afraid they jump only because they had told us they would.”

After telling them to be careful, we walked away. Right before we were out of their sight, I turned around and saw them waving at us. “OMG, they are going to jump,” I said to Wei.

The kid did, and we did take a couple of photos.

Temperance River State Park is beautiful, but it was the smile on those young boys’ faces that made the trip unforgettable.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

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XDrive Photo Lesson 8 – Closeup/Macro

This is my submission for XDrive Photo Lesson 8 – Closeup/Macro. All photos were taken with Nikon D750 and Sigma 105 mm Macro lens (I didn’t know we have a macro lens! 😉

Raj said, “In this micro world, the colors are so vivid; shapes are intricate, life is very different, nothing is trivial.”

Vivid color was probably the first thing I have noticed.

(F/13 1/80 Sec. ISO-200 105mm)

(F/4.5 1/320 Sec. ISO-125 105mm)

Raj said, “Also, remember by shooting from the nearest distance, you are also separating the background from the subject better.” (Is it because of shallow DOF?)

(F/2.8 1/250 SEc. ISO-3200 105mm)

By the way, this photo was the result after many shots. During the whole process, I gave up 4 times. It still can be better, I am sure.

Just for fun, I lighted up the candle and held the leaf in front of it.

(F/3.5 1/200 Sec. ISO-200 105 mm)

Raj said, “I strongly recommend you do manual focus and not to rely on auto-focus whenever possible.”

I tried using manual focus like Raj suggested, but… every tiny (I mean very tiny) move (shake) would end with a blurring photo. Using a tripod is near impossible. Monopod didn’t help me either. Maybe it’s not for senior citizens? 😉

(Bee: F/3.5 1/200 Sec. ISO-125 105 mm Cricket: F/2.8 1/200 Sec. ISO-1600 105 mm) )

The bee — the difficulty of using manual focus is particularly true when shooting bees. Bees don’t stay at one spot long. They move constantly and they move fast. I finally switched back to auto-focus, and even with auto-focusing, it took many tries to get one that looked “okay”.

The cricket – it’s probably better if the whole cricket is in focus. I am not sure using F9 would help in this case, since its head was closer to the camera than its body. After giving some thought, I came to a conclusion that if I lowered my body, I might get the shot I wanted. I tried to re-take with F13 in manual mode, but I didn’t get any good one (got two mosquitoes bites instead.)

(By the way, people said we should focus on the eye. Do you see how small those eyes are?)

Raj said, “Close up shots are the most time-consuming photography activity in my opinion.”

I agree. I shot 300+ photos for this lesson and most of them (95%?) went straight to the trashcan. ;-( I didn’t realize how much I LOVED my zoom lens; I can’t wait to switch back! But I definitely will miss those vivid colors. 😉

Now, a confession… after reading Raj’s comment for Amy, I realized that what I-thought-macro-photographing-was is not what it is. I use to think the challenge of taking a macro photo is to be able to focus on a small spot; the smaller that spot is the better. Now I know that, not every in-focused tiny spot has an impact to viewers. The real challenge for me is to know what should be in focus and how to achieve that. (Thanks, Amy and Raj.)

Final question… Reversing the lens — isn’t that hard? I mean… one hand has to hold the lens, and the other have to focus and shoot. Also, dust may get onto the sensor, right?

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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Already… leaves start turning red. We don’t have our summer yet! (I don’t think we do.)

Already… my nephew and niece have become responsible, matured adults. (They really are 😉 He slept a lot when he was a baby. No matter how we played with him, he wouldn’t wake up. She was a wise little girl. She asked straight-to-the-point questions, which often surprised us; we didn’t know how to respond. Now he doesn’t sleep much; she patiently answers all of our questions.

Already… my great nephew is (soon will be) 3 year old and great niece 6. I remember their dad (a different nephew) at that age… I didn’t want to fly back to MN after spending a week with him. Now I can never have enough time playing with these two. I remember fighting with my sisters for an opportunity of holding her and later him. They are getting heavier and heavier 😉

(The photo on the left is a re-do of a photo I posted for XDrive Photo Lesson 7 – Frame your subject. Already… I learned a lot from Raj’s lessons.)

Already… I have become a senior citizen (for a couple of years). BUT, this must be a mistake!!! I don’t feel old at all.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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XDrive Photo Lesson 7 – Frame your subject

This is my submission for XDrive Photo Lesson 7 – Frame your subject. All photos were taken with Nikon D750.

Raj’s examples (for this lesson) are easy to understand. But, don’t we all already stop in front of every arch we have encountered to shoot a photo through the arch? Maybe this is a piece of cake? 😉

(Left: F/7.1, 1/800 Sec., ISO 200, 75mm.)
I like the light. If I am right, the darker buildings on the left side served as a frame.

(Right: f/11, 1/250 Sec., ISO 250, 44 mm.)
My great nephew was hiding behind his dad. What you don’t see is that there were 4 cameras pointing at him at that time 😉

Other than my great nephew, the rest of the photo is black and while, which serves as a frame.

So far so good – I mean the first hour went very well. Then I started getting confused like I usually do.

(Left: F/9, 1/1250 Sec., ISO 720, 100 mm.)

Is it possible that the green part on the top half (the background), can be considered as a frame? How about the bottom part – the deck (the foreground)?

Raj said, “Generally framing is achieved by composing the picture such way that one or more edges of your picture intentionally contains other objects to make a frame.”

I did intentionally include the lawn and the deck, but I didn’t intentionally use them as frames…

(Right: F/11, 1/40 Sec., ISO 1600, 65 mm)

The black background is also served as a frame, I think.

Last photo…

(F/11, ¼ Sec., ISO 1600, 300 mm)

I think the brown background is a frame, but how about the book? Does it count as a secondary frame? Or a secondary subject?

I am thinking (for a long while)… maybe the word frame doesn’t mean what I thought it meant.

Raj said, “The main purpose of framing is to emphasize our subject in the picture.”

In post processing, I often darken/lighten the background to make my subject standout more. Maybe… that is kind of “framing”. Maybe whatever we do to make our subject standout (including vignetting) is an effort of creating a “frame”. Yes?

Again, thanks for a great lesson, Raj.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

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What I should have said…

A couple of years ago, my nephew Jason introduced google photo to me. After trying it for 5 minutes, I gave up. This year, again, Jason created a google photo album to share our family gathering photos. Seeing how much he liked the product, I decided to give it another try.

Those who are familiar with google photo know that one of its features is that it will automatically create some collage or photo album for you based on the photos on your PC. Because of that, suddenly, I saw a lot of Karin’s photos. My sister Karin passed away 4 years ago.

I miss Karin. Even now, I often have an urge of calling her. We used to talk often… whenever she had discover a new kitchen tool or an amazing face cream, saw a good TV show, or found a good travel package; whenever I needed a recipe, was bored, or wanted to hear her voice… Talking to her made me happy.

One day, after Karin had her chemo treatment, we went to a restaurant that she frequently visited. A waiter, who was not serving at our table, stopped by and warmly greeted Karin. I wasn’t surprised. Karin was well-liked at that restaurant. One time when one of the waitresses had a family emergency but didn’t have money to go home, without any hesitation, Karin gave her some money.

Karin definitely had a big heart. She had sponsored some needed children oversea for many years, and whenever someone asked for help, she seldom said no. I had a discussion with her about this one time. “How do you know they are telling you the truth?” I asked.

“They wouldn’t lie to me,” she said.

“In that case, I need some money, too.”

“How much?” she said, and paused. She then looked into my eyes and added, “You are my sister. If you need money, let me know, okay?”

That day at the restaurant, I watched that waiter chatting with Karin excitedly. He asked why they hadn’t seen her for a while. He wanted to know how her summer was. They seemed having a great time talking to each other. With a huge smile still hanging on his face, suddenly, he pointed at her cap and asked: “Why are you wearing that today? I have never seen you wear a cap.”

Karin struggled to keep a smile on her face; she, clearly, didn’t know what to say. She looked at me, her eyes begging for help. I didn’t know what to say either. I didn’t know what I could say that wouldn’t hurt Karin’s feeling. I didn’t know what I wanted to say.

We sat there looking at each other. I prayed that by making eye contact with her, I could somehow comfort her. Eventually, the waiter figured out. He quickly walked away.

This whole experience bothered me. I failed protecting Karin when she needed me the most. I had been thinking about this, wondering what would be the right thing to say, and I haven’t come up with anything that would satisfy me. The truth was: I didn’t want my sister get sick. I refused talking about her illness.

Recently, I spent a lot of time staring at Karin’s photos. It finally dawned on me that no matter how unwilling I was at that moment, I should tell the truth. I should have said, “Karin is having chemo. We are happy that she is doing well.”

Sometime silence hurt. I felt it then. I feel it, still.

(I miss you, Karin.)

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Posted in Memoir, random thoughts, Writing | 25 Comments

XDrive Photo Lesson 6 – Focus on Blurs

This is my submission for XDrive Photo Lesson 6 – Focus on Blurs. All photos were taken with Nikon D750.

(Left: F/5.6; 1/6 Sec.; ISO 320; FL 48mm
Right: F/5.6; 1/8 Sec.; ISO 320; FL 170mm)

(F/4.8; 1/10 Sec.; ISO 320; FL 68mm)

Do we first come up with a story, then a picture? Or come up with a picture first? I don’t know. (Does it even matter?) What I know is: story changes when I focus/blur a different subject in the photo. Don’t you agree?

For me, some blurry photos are like abstract paintings. They attract me, but I don’t understand them. The rose photo was created by zooming out while pressing the shutter release button. Tree photos were created by panning while pressing the shutter release button.

Rose: F/25; ½ Sec.; ISO 200; FL 92 mm
Tree 1: F/13; ½ Sec.; ISO 80; FL 92 mm
Tree 2: F/29; ½ Sec.; ISO 80; FL 50 mm

Thank you, Raj, for another great lesson.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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