Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New to Digital Photography

August 25th.

My cousin Jan came to visit me from Brazil not too long ago. He is in his mid-twenties, young and eager to advance in his IT security consultant career. But he ensures he has enough free time to enjoy his favorite hobby, digital photography. His photos are mostly awe inspiring images of landscapes and people.

I'm in my mid-thirties and have been satisfied with my Kodak point and shoot digital camera until Jan's enthusiasm for digital photography rubbed off on me. Yes, I am very new to this so I will be blogging about my voyage in learning the art of photography.

After much research and Jan's suggestion, I went out and spent $400 on a used Nikon D40 SLR camera (not including lenses). I bought the camera at Adorama, a well-rated NYC photography store that also sells online. The D40 camera reviews are good and it is positioned as an easy to use, great entry-level SLR camera. Many professional photographers have said that the camera is good enough for most occasions.

Once I had the device, I went out and started shooting with my cousin. It's great that with this camera I can shoot as many exposures as I want without having to spend money to develop them. The fact is that the first shots I took were nothing to smile about.
But my first goal was to practice using the shutter speed, aperture and ISO settings to determine the outcome of an exposure. I highly suggest that if you are new to this that you do the same. Do not take the easy way out and shoot on automatic mode. Because if you do you will not realize the potential of a creative exposure. A book I suggest you read is "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson. The book explains the relationship between aperture and shutter speed in a demystifying kind of way and is great for beginners.

One day when Jan and I were out shooting on a beautiful sunny day, he urged me to place my camera on a tripod and take exposures of the same image at different shutter speeds. We were on the highline park in NYC when he suggested these next steps. So I prepared the tripod and set the camera to shutter priority and took 5 shots at different shutter speeds.

He then introduced me to the concept of high-dynamic range photography. Hi-dynamic range in the wiki is explained as follows: "In image processing, computer graphics, and photography, high dynamic range imaging (HDRI or just HDR) is a set of techniques that allows a greater dynamic range of luminances between light and dark areas of a scene than normal digital imaging techniques or photographic prints".

Jan explained that I needed to take photos of the same image at different shutter levels in order to run it in a high dynamic program called Photomatix Pro. The program merges the images together into one high-dynamic range photo at the click of a button. Why am I telling you this? Because high-dynamic photos are visually captivating and the technique is not hard to manage as a beginner. That is if you do not mind the fact that your exposures have been digitally modified. 

5 exposures merged in Photomatrix Pro and color corrected. My first high-dynamic range photo is of the Empire State Building taken from the highline park in NYC:

For a tutorial on high-dynamic range check out this site: