New Camera, Same Photographer

I love amazing shots of lightening. Perhaps because I’ve never managed to capture one? I have tried many times, but I always miss. At one of the workshops I attended recently, they mentioned a few tips on how to capture lightening, and then, not having any opportunities, I forgot about it.

But, at last, as I was sitting on the couch reading the instructions for my new 5D Mark III the other evening, a brilliant flash lit up the sky. I grabbed the tripod and set my camera up on the balcony, attempting to remember those tips.

I tried a low ISO with a small aperture and a very long shutter speed. I tried a high ISO with a small aperture and a fast shutter speed. Then I remembered the suggestion to set the shutter on bulb (stays open until you close it). Of course, I hadn’t gotten that far in the instructions yet and the bulb setting isn’t where it was on my 40D, so I went with 30 seconds.

This led to several images that looked like it was daylight out except for the streaks of the car lights.
You may have noticed by now that none of the photos in the gallery actually contain any lightening. At least not obvious lightening. I think part of the problem was that the lightening was so far behind cloud cover that it wasn’t bright enough to make a huge difference in the exposure. While the clouds lit up like paper lanterns to my eye, the difference in light over a 30 second exposure was too subtle for my camera.

This theory led to me remembering another tip.

The tip was to cover the lens with a piece of paper or your hand and uncover it only when the lightening flashes. In case you were wondering what the dark shadow is over some of my shots, that’s my hand. Apparently, I didn’t actually cover the entire lens, so I have some fun finger shadows. I can see this turning into a whole new style of shooting. Look forward to many photos with animal shadows cast over them in the future!

I thought if I could block all light until the moment when the lightening was flashing, maybe the difference would be great enough to capture the flickering clouds.
I think I need to try this again with a different way of covering the lens to see if my theory has any merit.

Another thing I would like to try is shooting lightening from out in the country where there is little ambient light. The street lights in my neighborhood contribute to the problem, I believe.

I googled shooting lightening to see what other tips I could find. The biggest one I hadn’t considered before–and perhaps the skill I most lack–is to be patient.

I guess I was secretly hoping my new camera would magically solve these kinds of difficulties for me. Next time, I’ll upgrade the photographer instead of the camera.

Getting Wide

Ah! I realized I didn’t get my blog post written on time today! I think this is the first time I missed my self-imposed deadline of 6AM since I established it.

But, here I am. And, I am here to report that after many months of trying to decide whether I really needed a second camera, then more time debating what features were most important, and then finally waiting patiently for another month because my new camera was on back order, it arrived late last week.

My new Canon 5D Mark III has given me a whole new set of things to learn!

But, today, I want compare the field of view between my old camera (a cropped, 1.6 sensor) vs the field of view with the full frame. I’ve matched some recent test shots with some similar past shots in the gallery to show just how much wider a full frame sensor let’s you go.

I love, love, love shooting wide with the full frame! It’s amazing how much of the scene suddenly fits into the frame! The one down side is that the distortion created by a wide angled lens becomes much more noticeable in the full frame because now, the image captured includes the area from the outside edge of the lens, where the most distortion occurs.

You can see this distortion well in several of the images. By comparison, the buildings in the cropped-sensor version look straighter, although the large brick buiding in the foreground near the bridges always looks warped. This building is built going up a hill and curved to the street–it looks warped to my eye, too. Although, not quite as much as it does through a lens.

I decided to go full frame (meaning the sensor is the same size as one frame of 35mm film) in part because I really like to shoot wide, but also because of what I learned about sensor size. The larger the sensor, the more room for bigger photosites and micro lens that collect and record data, the better quality image you get. This is especially true in low-light shooting conditions.

Since I also like to shoot in low light, I did a little experimenting with different ISO settings. I found that I could get as much noise into an image by under exposing it and trying to post-process it to the correct exposure as when I shot at the highest ISO setting, which was 25,600 (an insane number!). I’m really impressed with the quality of the image at ISO settings that compare to my 40D, which maxed out at 1600 but pretty much sucked once you got above 400 in low light scenes). However, the need to get the exposure right hasn’t changed, which makes sense.

I have much to learn about this new beast–the number of new features over my 4 year old 40D is astonishing. For one thing, it adds video. That’s a whole new world!