Saturday, August 1, 2009

Early Morning Roust

You know what the best kind of friends are? The ones that defy the passage of time.

No, I don't mean we stay eternally youthful.
Huh, don't I wish.

I mean that no matter how many years have passed, you can get together and it's as if time has frozen.
You easily slip back into the old camaraderie.
The years melt away.
There are no awkward silences.
No "Uh oh, what do we talk about now?"
No "Sheesh, I don't know this person anymore."

Everyone should have friends like that, and I have several.
I am very lucky.

Roger (or RAD in my comments section) was my best friend during college.
Then we each got married and went our separate ways, with only a handful of contacts in between.

Say what you want about the computer, but over the last few months,
I have been able to reconnect with a lot of old friends through the magic of the evil internets.
It has been great fun talking to all my old friends and classmates again.

So, a few days ago, Roger calls to say he is going to be in town for a meeting.
Now, I'm not sure how it happened or who was the one to come up with such a moronic idea,
but I found myself driving to the beach at 5:00 in the morning to shoot pictures of the sunrise.
(he is a professional photographer, and his website & blog are linked on the right)

Okay, there are a couple things that were whacky about this plan:
1) I voluntarily got up at 4 in the f**king morning? What was I smoking?
2) There was no stinkin' sunrise. It was overcast & cloudy, although a few patches of sky did peek through after awhile.

There was also the laughable contrast in the equipment each of us brought.
Here was the extent of my arsenal - my beloved point-and-shoot which is usually set to "Auto":

Yeah, so here is what Roger brought along:

Hahahaha. Just kidding.
And Rog, I can see your expression through the screen, doncha know.

But his arsenal did consist of a backpack full of stuff and a tripod.
My tripod was the legs-splayed-and-elbows-locked-to-sides model.
I've had it for years.

But really, what is better than sunrise (or at least a poor imitation of one) over the Atlantic
with a cool breeze in your face and good company.

Okay, there are 2 things that control how much light gets into the camera,
aperture & shutter speed, and by playing with these settings,
you can create gorgeous effects . . . uh, if you know what you're doing.
And I don't.

I broke out the "A" setting on my camera for the first time in the 3 years I have owned it.
Boys & girls, lets learn the photographer's alphabet:
"A" is for aperture
"B" is for bokeh
"C" is for camera
"D" is for depth of field

I adjusted the "A" on my "C" to change the "D" so I could get some interesting "B".

I'm learning, but I don't know if I can explain it and sound intelligent.
And I always want to sound intelligent.
But since Roger's blog is still new and he hasn't done that particular tutorial yet,
I'll give it my best shot at the end of the post.

Anyway, not only does he have enough equipment to fill a small house,
but his editing software gives new meaning to the term 'photoshop'.

Many of the pictures I took were crap, and others I looked at & wondered "What the heck was I thinking?"
Probably 2/3 of them got deleted, so I don't have a lot to show you.
His were much better. The whole pesky 'talent' thing, you know.
That and good equipment.
Although, I do believe I got the best shot of the dragonfly.
Wait, let me rephrase that.
My dragonfly was in better focus than his.
Whoo hoo!

But, oooh, I have an idea.
I'll send him a couple of my bad pictures and let him do some of his mad editing skillz
to show you the crappy 'before' and the cool-as-all 'after'.
Rog, you can do this, right?

Helloo? Helloooo? Helloooooo? (echo)


Well, we'll see. Anyway, most of these pictures were taken at the
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
at the southern end of Virginia Beach, one of our fair city's hidden jewels.
It spans Virginia's barrier islands (geologically they are the northern edge of the Outer Banks)
from ocean to sound.
A beautiful, peaceful place.
Peaceful - especially at 5 am. Yeah.
Can you see anything in this dark, what-am-I-doing-up-so-early pre-dawn shot?

But then the sun came up behind a lot of clouds.

Never did see much of a nice blue sky.

Now for what little I know about that particular setting on my camera.
"A" is for aperture, otherwise known as the f-stop.
Why is it called the f-stop? I dunno.
This setting determines your depth of field, or how much of your picture will be in focus,
by controlling how wide the lens opens up to let in light.
Kind of like the pupil of your eye.

And it's all backasswards.
A small number means a wide open lens.
A big number means a small lens opening.
It confuses me.

Since my brain doesn't work that way, I have to use mind games to remember which does what.
As far as the f-stop, the bigger the number, the more is in focus.
A small number will result in only the subject being in focus - everything else will be blurry.
(kind of like when you get your eyes checked & they dilate your pupils - everything is blurry)

Blurry? Why do you want blurry?
"B" is for bokeh & bokeh means blurry.
You can get some very pretty effects when the central subject is sharp and the background is fuzzy.

Here are some bad examples.

See how the pretty pink flowers are in focus, but the background is blurry.
It lets you highlight the subject of your picture without a lot of background clutter.
I had a small f-stop.
(Which is wide aperture. It's that whole backwards thing.)
Smaller f-stop, less of the picture will be in focus.
ps - I think last flower needs some Viagra.

The viagra-needing flower picture was taken at The Lotus Pond, a couple miles inland:

Look at the difference here. 1st pic is a larger aperture (blurrier background),
2nd is a smaller aperture (sharper background).

I know, it's a pretty pitiful example.
I'm a novice at this. I know the theory, but the practice part is lacking.

Large f-stops are used for landscapes when you want the whole thing sharp & clear.
Big f-stop, big scenery, everything in focus.

No doubt there's a lot more about apertures that I don't now and may never get.
Like this:
In this next set of 2 pictures, I thought I was doing the whole bokeh thing with the sea oats.
Hey, I'm getting good at this, but noooooo.
Something happened in the 2nd shot. The anti-bokeh?

I have no idea what I did. Rog, help?

Anyway, I had a terrific morning, and please give my best to your beautiful wife.
If she puts up with your house o' cameras, how awesome is that?

Next time, fun with shutter speeds. I don't know what to do with those yet. See?


Dan said...

Kathy, what a terrific post. The pnly thing better than the words were the pictures. Thank you for sharing.

-- Dan
Outer Banks Revealed

Anonymous said...

You are WAY over the top with your I-don't-know-nuthin' act. ;-) You obviously know quite a bit about making pictures, as you demonstrate in your blog photos. Everyone who reads your blog can easily answer the question of who came up with the time--I was amazed you made it--but, to give you proper credit, you came up with the Back Bay location. Although we didn't get any pics of the sun rising, we got some very decent shots. OK, OK, You got the best dragonfly shot (I have lots of really valid explanations, but this is your territory, and I don't want hostile reactions from your die-hard readers). If you want to send me your favorite files, I will make some minor post-processing adjustments, but I think you have the eye and just need a few more tools and practice.
Your second sea oats picture was caused by your camera's autofocus locking in on the background, which made your intended sea oat "in the way" and out of focus (hence the blur).
What a blast! I love that you're as whacked as you were in days of yore. Most people would have told me to drop dead at the mention of a 0500 meet-up time. Next time we should do it prior to sunset, so you won't have to get up so early.
Stay you.

Kathy said...

Dan - thank you for your kind words. Please come back and visit again.

RAD - I swear, you're bringing a wee tear to me eye with your praise. I don't think I'll be able to fit my head through the bathroom door anymore.

And, please go ahead and offer whatever explanation you can come up with for your inferior dragonfly. :-) Since I have all of about 6 die-hard readers (including you & my mom), I don't think they will mind.

Heck, the only one who I could send to beat you up would be BS, and he doesn't even read this. "I don't need to read it Momma. I'm living it." Snotty kids.

Russ said...

Awesome pix. Awesome. Did I say they were good too?

Sista G said...

I agree with the rad RAD!! You know your pichrs are always so fetching (I've said so before), even for an auto shooter (like me)!

I like the two that have the dunes and sea oats in the background.

Love, G

Sista G said...

BTW - Loved your Zsa Zsa quote!!

Kathy said...

Gail - ummmm . . . duh . . . what Zsa Zsa quote?

Sista G said...

It was the Cheeky Quote at the moment I was on the site. I don't even remember the quote now (old brain), but it was funny!