Doppler: This Shot Captures Her Essence


If Doppler ever learns to talk, her first words will be, “Turn off the damn camera!” I’m taking advantage of the situation. She can’t say no. She’s been my photographic subject thousands of times.

Every once in a while a single photo will stand out. This one does to me.

Helaine was drying Doppler after her shower. The blow dryer was farther down her back. Doppler was prone with her snout flat on a towel.

I was flat on my belly and on the other side of the bedroom when I snapped away. It wass a 300mm F/4 lens, a telephoto. I shot at 1/200th, slow for this focal length but OK because of image stabilization.

The ISO was 4000. Very high. You get tiny noise specs on the photo. It’s the price you pay for sharpness in low light.

This lens, configured this way, produces a shallow depth of field. On shots like this you try and get the eyes in focus and forget everything else. That wasn’t happening. Her bangs worked fine. Doppler’s nose is slightly out-of-focus while most of her body is softly blurred.

I like this shot in part because of the incredible contrast in her fur. Bright white to shadowy dark grey are represented. Each cluster of strands lies a different length from the lens, so not only is there contrast in luminance, there’s contrast in sharpness.

When Doppler speaks, after she tells me to stop, she’ll let me know this photo captures her essence.

Phuzzy Photos

Patty is using her Rebel as an overpriced point-and-shoot camera. You can do that in good light. You can’t indoors, as Patty has discovered.

patty-pictures.jpgEarlier today, Patty wrote and asked about problems with photos she’s taken of her daughter playing hockey. I suspected they’d be fuzzy… and they are.

Patty is using the Canon Rebel XTi, the newer, better version of my camera. She is also using an image stabilizing lens.

The first thing I did was right click the original file she sent (not the one posted here online) and read the Exif data. Exif files, in every digital picture, contain most of the parameters which describe how the camera was set.

Patty’s shot was 1/25 sec, f5, ISO400. Her lens was zoomed to 43mm. The camera was set to sports priority, which tries to favor faster shutter speed.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough light for the camera to do everything asked of it!

In order to have a properly exposed photo, the shutter speed, aperture (size of the lens opening… that ‘f’ number) and sensitivity (the ISO number) must combine within the camera’s sweet spot. If the numbers are too high, the picture is overexposed. Too low and the picture is too dark.

Patty’s biggest problem is, to maximize the light, the camera set the shutter speed too slow. That’s why anything moving is blurry. I also suspect the image stabilization isn’t turned on, but I can’t be sure. That’s probably a switch on the lens. Sadly, it wouldn’t have helped with the hockey players.

The photographers rule of thumb is, never shoot slower than “1/lens length.” In Patty’s case, that’s 1/43 second. But that’s for still life. She’s shooting motion. The number needs to be even higher, which means faster (the shutter is open for a shorter length of time).

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Switch to shutter priority. It’s probably abbreviated Tv
  • Turn up your shutter speed to 1/150 (to start)
  • You need to compensate for lost light, because you’re now losing 2 f-stops by having the shutter open 25% of the time it was open earlier, so raise the ISO to 1600
  • Your shots will be a little grainer, but they should be a lot sharper (the grain won’t be a terrible problem unless you’re printing the shot in a very large size)

If this works (and it should), you can do some additional tweaking. If there’s still plenty of light, you can increase the shutter speed a little – from 1/150 to 1/200 or even higher. Or, you can reduce the ISO to 800, which will reduce the grain a little, but also reduce the brightness.

Earlier, I mentioned your image stabilization looks like it’s off. Even if it is on, ‘IS’ only helps stabilize stationary things, like the net or the walls. The only way to keep moving things from blurring is with faster shutter speeds.

Don’t be scared to shoot away. Take a few hundred photos at a game. Fill your card.

Look at the LCD screen from time-to-time&#185 and make adjustments to the settings. Faster shutter equals darker. Higher ISO equals brighter. Turn the knobs. It’s only bits and bytes.

The aperture can also be adjusted, but not in the mode I have recommended. It will try and open up the lens to compensate for the other settings.

Patty, I sure would like to show some ‘after’ photos, because I’m confident you’ll get this right the next time you shoot!

&#185 – I have shot alongside pros at sporting events a few times. I was very surprised when I first saw, they sneak peeks at their LCD screen too! In fact, the first few times I saw it, I thought I was seeing exceptions. Nope, everyone seems to do it.

Vacation Crunch Time

After a few small and even separate trips, Helaine and I leave later this week for the West. We’ll be flying balloons in Albuquerque, driving to Kayenta, Arizona to see Monument Valley, Page, Arizona for Antelope Canyon, and Springdale, Utah for Zion National Park. We finish with some play time in Las Vegas.

That’s a hell of a trip.

Balloon Fiesta

We are not known for packing light to begin with. This is a major undertaking with a few different climates to prepare for.

Helaine is very organized – much more than I’ll ever be. She is now at the ‘worried about anything that might be forgotten’ stage. That will be with her until our first unpacking, in Albuquerque.

Life is much easier for me. My only real responsibility is to round up anything that gets plugged in. That is a larger list with each successive trip. We now bring an outlet strip on vacation!

Some nights we’ll be charging two cell phones and a Bluetooth earpiece, a laptop and camera batteries. That’s five plugs right there.

The main lens on my camera has been acting up, so I’ve rented a replacement from Ziplens in Maine Who even knew you could do that? It’s a very nice Canon lens with image stabilization.

I’ve traded emails with Lee who owns the business. It’s nice to help a small businessman just getting started and his product is really scratching an itch with me.

The camera is very important. We’ll be going to one of the most photogenic events on Earth – Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta. From there everything up to Vegas is naturally beautiful, or awe inspiring, or both.

And Vegas… please. At one point, Kodak might have paid for it to be built.

Of course I’ve got 21st Century concerns. Will there be Internet access? Actually, yes – even at our hotel in tiny Kayenta, AZ

Will there be cell service? Not so much. It’s nearly impossible to know where there will or won’t be access. The maps are awful. It’s almost as if the cell companies want it that way. And user submitted information about cells is old and often subjective.

We’re renting a car for the drive. I’m hoping it’s got satellite radio. Kayenta, for instance, is over 80 miles from the nearest radio station.

The rental company gave me a definite maybe! Many full size cars (a rental car exaggeration) have satellite… not all.

This trip promises to be the kind you remember for a lifetime. What will we see? Will the weather cooperate for our balloon ride? Will this much time together be enough for Helaine to pull out a gun and shoot me?

Anything’s possible. One more day to tie up loose ends and then I’ll be writing you from the road.