Thursday, October 6, 2011

Shadows and Light

I thought we would take a little break from Europe and talk about photography and a local sale going on in southern Maryland this weekend!

When it comes to taking photographs, I feel that trying new and different stuff is the only way to find what works best for you.  As a self taught photographer, I am slowly learning the terms of photography, but I doubt I will ever be an expert, heck I can barely remember which lenses I own, but I do know what I like.  And what I love doing is playing around with the settings and trying to grow as a photographer through pure luck and lots of trail and error.

In the photo above, it was early morning the other day when a heron landed right on the dead log by the end of our dock.  The fact that a heron did this is nothing new, but the fact that it let me and 2 boisterous dogs come clamoring out of the house without freaking out and flying away is nothing short of a miracle!  Herons are skittish birds in the wild, and they will fly off at the drop of a hat, screaming loudly at you as if to say, "you scared the heck out of me and I'm outta here!"  I have lots of pictures of heron butts to prove this!

This heron however, was quite content to perch on the log long enough for me to extend my telephoto lens to it's full 400 millimeters so that I could try and see every feather.  Of course I realized after snapping a few pics that my ISO was way too low and so the pics were going to be very blurry.  As a general rule, and without using a tripod, your shutter speed shouldn't be any less than the length of your lens.  So if you are using the 400 mm your shutter speed shouldn't be below 1/400th of a second.  This is the number that you can see when you look through the viewfinder, on my Canon it is in the lower left of my screen display. 

So I quickly bumped up my ISO, which makes the light sensors more sensitive, meaning you can have less light and still get a good image.  And voila, I got a great shot of the heron!

When shooting wildlife that is apt to move off quickly, you don't have a lot of time to stop and see if you got a good shot, you tend to just snap away and hope for the best once you are done.  So besides changing my ISO, I also switched to TV mode for a few shots.

In TV mode, you can set a fixed shutter speed, one that is quick enough to capture something in low light.  These images can often be dark, but if you shoot in RAW format, you can sometimes lighten things up and still have a fairly sharp image.  This is a great trick if you simply don't have a tripod for low light situations.  I actually used this trick while shooting in a castle in France, and even though the images looked almost black on my LCD screen on my camera, and I wasn't sure I would get anything out of them, I was pleasantly surprised when I got home and manipulated the exposures in Photoshop...I got some wonderful images by using the TV setting 1/125 while using my wide angle lens which is a 24 - 70 mm.

Anyway, that is all a very long and boring way of saying that I like trying these different settings, and learning the capabilities of my equipment.  The image above was taken using the TV setting and I decided not to lighten it, I loved the dramatic effect that I got as much as I liked the first image.  They are both different and each have their own appeal, at least to me anyway.  Sometimes photography is about shadows and light as much as it is about the subject matter.

Ok, enough camera gobbledygook for one evening, but before I go, I want to tell you about a sale going on this weekend in my neck of the woods.  My friends Susan and Julie are at it again, pulling together a fall show that is sure to help you find those early Christmas presents!  

The flyer below will give you all of the details, and if you go, please tell them Kat says hello!  I will be up in DC meeting a bloggy/Garden Web forum friend of mine (for the first time) who will be in town from Atlanta!  We've been friends for a few years now, and I can't wait to meet both Traci and her husband!  

I hope you each have a wonderful weekend!


  1. How funny that I came upon your post tonight! My mother and I have been looking for herons the last few years and have had few and far between sightings. We live in upstate NY and they are not real common here. Needless to say, recently I have seen one and it came real close to me. After I had been at the park for and hour or so it seemed to trust me. My camera does not have alot of variety in what to shoot with, but I was so blessed to have finally seen the elusive, skittish and graceful heron!! Great pics by the way!!

  2. I have a family of blue herons that visit my pond. I can never get close enough because they fly off like you said. Thanks for the picture. They are so pretty.

  3. Kat every once in a while there will be one be one of the ponds here in my area. They are gorgeous, as are your photos!!

    I hope you will come visit & tell me what you think of my fall far! A new giveaway as well!


    Art by Karena

  4. Wow that photo is fabulous.....thanks for the tips

  5. We get a heron at our pond pretty often, too and it will fly off sometimes if it just sees me in the sun room window. The other day walking at the park one was perched on this metal thing in the pond and he didn't move. I was wishing I had my camera with me, but I can't walk Bailey and handle a camera. Love that darker photo. I need to practice more with different settings. When I read Scott Kelby's book he said to always try to keep the iso on 100 for tack sharp pics. I know you have to use a tripod when you have a low iso and I usually do use mine all the time except when I am shopping. Then I change the iso to 1600 so my shots are clear.

  6. Great shot Kat, how satisfying! (must confess my eyes cross with the technical details, which is why you are a photographer and I'm not!)

  7. Wonderful pictures Kat! I also want to be a good photographer, but I have to learn so much...and my errors help me!

    Wish you a good weekend!!

  8. Hi Kat, What a gorgeous heron image. He (or she) just sat there on that branch so artistically!
    I am learning about using ISO, shutter speed and aperture. Hopefully, it will make me a better photographer!
    Much of is is art~ and you are certainly an artist!

  9. Great shot!
    And a good reminder that I need to whip out my tripod more often!

  10. Ok since I have a mere point and shoot, you lost me on the lens/camera, aperture stuff but then the beautiful shot of SIr Heron..Gorgeous! I also did not miss the chuckle at Heron Butts. Do birds have butts? hmmm? oh great something else to think about all morning!
    BIG hugs

  11. I keep forgetting to use my tripod, it really does make a difference. You amaze me how far you have come with your photography. That 2nd shoot has such a cool mood to it. xo ~Lili

  12. that last photo is absolutely stunning....


  13. I didn't realise how much I enjoy photography until I started my blog and invested in a small digital camera. Kat, thank you for the great tips and also your beautiful photos. Learning is fun. have a wonderful time when you meet up with your friend.

  14. I could never bore of you talking photography Kat. Your photos are always stunning. And yes, while I like to do everything through my lens, sometimes there are those photos that just need to get recorded to our card and we can manipulate them later. (I don't know photoshop, but do edit using my Canon program) When the grandchildren are here and doing something adorable, that is when I just shoot away and not get too hung up on exposure...and sometimes I just put it on auto for those times. Although I don't like auto for much, sometimes I worry I will miss the 'cute' shot.

    You asked me about the roses in my last post. They are Guy de Maupassant (a romantica rose)
    I love them!!!!

  15. Skittish indeed. My main goal is to get a decent pic of the heron who visits our pond. I think it's gonna be a while! Your capture is awesome.


  16. Kelly J/Hunters HillOctober 12, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    Herons are my favorite water bird to watch. I ADORE that first shot! I hope it will soon be for sale on your website (hint, hint) :-)


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