Old 07-22-2006, 06:47 PM   #1
htgguy
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Default Any Tips for a Beginner?

Hi everyone:

If you have read my previous posts you know I am a rank amateur when it comes to photography. After I got my new camera (Canon S2) I decided to go out and see if I could get a picture accepted here. It took a few tries but I finally made it. Now, like a lot of other people I think, I am hooked on getting out and taking pictures, working them over and submitting them here.

So far I have set my camera on "Auto" and snapped away. I get some decent shots but I keep thinking all those dials and buttons are on the camera for a reason. Is anyone willing to share some simple advice on how to start branching out beyond just pointing and clicking, and hoping for the best? I know that a lot of this will be learned by experience but it would sure be nice to at least know where to start so I don't try to reinvent photography as a technology. For instance, if I start using manual or aperture priority settings what is a good f stop to start with on a cloudy day or on a sunny day? Are there techniques that will help emphasize the sky on a stormy day? How do I decide whether to use aperture or shutter priority? And on and on.

Any tips or advice will be appreciated and experimented with over time. Thanks in advance for any help.

Jim
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Old 07-22-2006, 07:04 PM   #2
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The Wade H. Massie standard:

1/500s @ f/5.6 and go from there.

I would shoot full manual (shutter/aperature) with the camera if able. That way, you don't lose any good shots from the camera thinking it's seeing something that it's not and any mess ups are soley on you since you set all the parameters.

Also for digital photography, processing your shot is almost as important as taking the shot itself. Search the web (or on the forums here) for other photographer's workflows. Here're some I've posted:

http://www.railpictures.net/forums/s...ead.php?t=1699
http://www.railpictures.net/forums/s...ead.php?t=2436

And just to show you how important post-processing is, look at this thread and compare the two shots from rrpicturearchives:

http://www.railpictures.net/forums/s...ead.php?t=2345
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Old 07-22-2006, 07:42 PM   #3
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Jim,

You've already taken the first step to becoming a good photographer, you are asking questions!

Personally, I wish more people would focus on the compositional aspects of photography and less on the technical aspects. A properly exposed 3/4 wedgie is still a 3/4 wedgie! Spend some time looking through other people's work in the archives and find shots that really appeal to you, then starting thinking about how they got that shot.

There are lots of different approaches that all work. The full manual method works if you really have the time to master your camera and your craft. The intelligent use of the excellent metering capabilities built into most cameras may work well for you as well. With digital, you can take a test shot, look at it on the screen and then adjust. You can also bracket and you aren't wasting any money on the shots you will throw away, electrons are free!

Generally, most railfan photographers don't use program, as it will vary shutter and aperture in a sort of stair step approach and you may not get enough shutter speed. Generally you want to stop motion, so a shutter speed of 1/500 is good. That suggests using shutter priority and letting the camera chose the aperture.

If the train isn't moving, then you can use different apertures to make the zone of focus as deep as you want. Sometimes throwing a distracting background out of focus will greatly improve a shot. Othertimes you will want everything tack sharp. You can use aperture priority in these situations.

You will need to figure out when your meter can be fooled. Cloudy days often lead to under exposure, as the meter reads the light gray sky and trys to turn it 18% gray. Learning how to either set your shot manually, or minimize the sky area are useful tools when it's not RP sunny and bright outside.

To emphasize storm light, sunsets and sunrises, you need to figure out just how bright the light is on your subject. If it's in full sun, even if the rest of the scene is dark, expose for full sun. Learn the sunny 16 rule. You can also do this by use of the exposure compensation dial on most cameras. Get out and practice taking some shots, where you can bracket each shot, then go back and see what worked. Keep notes.

Good luck, it's a great hobby.

Michael Allen
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Old 07-22-2006, 10:44 PM   #4
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Hi and welcome to the chats and to RP. As little as 2 weeks ago I was in the same boat as you, wanting to improve my photos, which meant for me fiddling with settings. Read this post I made. I use these basic rule and they work for me, still working on getting a photo summitted, but I basically now just need to learn about lighting.
http://www.railpictures.net/forums/s...ead.php?t=3830
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Old 07-23-2006, 03:38 AM   #5
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When I first joined RP.net, one of the Chris's (sorry, don't remember which one) suggested National Geographic Photography Field Guide: Secrets to Making Great Pictures, Second Edition I drove around with that in my car for a year.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/079...e=UTF8&s=books
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Old 07-23-2006, 09:55 PM   #6
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Last night I offered the family a ride so we headed for the Verndale park to let the dog romp. This park is right next to the Staples sub so I was looking for a train to shoot. I tried Shutter Priority at 1/500 and got this picture:
http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=152344
I am pretty happy with it. It did seem a little sharper before processing than some I have shot on auto. I will keep fooling around with the camera and learn what works that way. Thanks for the advice and I will be back for more.

Jim
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Old 07-23-2006, 10:57 PM   #7
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I like the Manual setting myself, but I will sometimes set it to Priority just to see what the camera thinks.
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Old 07-23-2006, 11:12 PM   #8
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Aperture priority was my bridge between shooting full auto and shooting full manual, which I always do. These cameras are great, but they're not smarter than we photogs in most cases.

My advice to beginners might seem to be at adds with that though. It is not to go crazy with the technical side of things that you forget composition, framing and timing. I have a friend who got into photography later than I did. He went Nikon just because that was what the sales guy sold him on. So we're oppositesin that regard.

He's the best technical photographer I've ever met in real life. He sometimes blows me away with what he knows and how he can describe shooting in low light condistions indoors for example where he can get the facial expression of a fly shooting through a ceiling fan. (A mild over statement, perhaps, but he's good.)

Except that he can't frame his shots to save his life. He has people with their legs cut off at the knees or portraits that don't include hands when they need to include hands. If he's shooting someone outside, you can almost be guaranteed there will be a tree or a branch or something growing out of their head.

Above all, don't listen to shooters who have been doing this for so ,ong that they think it's really harder than it is. Some guys love to tell you how to set the camera for cloudy days vs. sunny days and in what type of light, etc. etc. But don't listen to them too much at first.

Just shoot.

That's the best advice anyone can give.


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Old 07-25-2006, 06:03 PM   #9
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- Read a good book on photography. I highly recommend John Hedgecoe's Complete Guide to Photography.
- Photograph things other than trains when not trackside to develope your skills as a photographer. This will carry over into your railroad photography and you'll begin to have creative ideas beyond the standard 3/4 wedge and "TeleMash".
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Old 07-25-2006, 08:35 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ericb
- Read a good book on photography. I highly recommend John Hedgecoe's Complete Guide to Photography.
- Photograph things other than trains when not trackside to develope your skills as a photographer. This will carry over into your railroad photography and you'll begin to have creative ideas beyond the standard 3/4 wedge and "TeleMash".
In H.S. we used the original version of that book (the 198- version) in our photography class and it definitely improved not only my photography but my attention to detail as a whole, so I'll vouch for it. The one book I've read cover to cover more than once.

Quote:
Originally Posted by a231pacific
Personally, I wish more people would focus on the compositional aspects of photography and less on the technical aspects. A properly exposed 3/4 wedgie is still a 3/4 wedgie! Spend some time looking through other people's work in the archives and find shots that really appeal to you, then starting thinking about how they got that shot.
Can't say it any better than that. Composition is key if you want your photos to be accepted on RP.net but remember don't just shoot to have them accepted, shoot what you want and will enjoy lookign at in the future. If they can be accepted congrats if not you can always enjoy it yourself. Try new compositions using different "props" whether they are RR related, historical, or even bizarre. Just always remember to have fun.
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Old 07-26-2006, 02:25 AM   #11
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Set the apeture to "California".

Just kidding (sort of).
After you have your fill of generic wedgies from the left, right, center and top try moving on (as time permits) to photos that evoke an emotion. Capture a feeling or atmosphere and stand apart.

As for technicals - the above posts pretty well cover the topic. Perhaps a way of summarizing in an edible gulp - set your shutter and let your camera choose the apeture. Set it at a high shutter speed to avoid bluriness and stop motion (60th is absolute minimum, 250 to 500 is your best bet and faster for zoom lenses). When that is not an issue - taking pictures of a still object, reduce the shutter speed which will by consequence make the appeture smaller resulting in (if desired) a overall sharper image. Regarding setting your apeture to "California"... your best bet outside of being creative, try to have the sun at your back and the details in your images will be brilliant.

/Mitch

Last edited by Mgoldman; 07-26-2006 at 02:28 AM.
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