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Old Jan 3, 2015, 3:33 PM   #1
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Default Unexpected results from an idea that didn't work

Photography is such a great hobby. It is so much more than cameras, lenses and megapixels - it can be a lifelong learning experience, an expression of joy at a wondrous world around us.

Recently I've been playing around with flash, reading Strobist 101. The first time I read through it, I didn't have a good means for getting my flash off-camera and gave up on it, partly because I didn't understand some of the very basic things and partly because I was getting such awful results. But now that I have a set of Cactus V5 radio frequency triggers I'm having a great time making mistakes and learning a lot of new things. Good thing, too, because I've been sick and not venturing out much this week.

Last night I wasn't feeling very creative about photographing nick-knacks, and had the idea to take a photo with a wide angle lens, exposing for the night view outside and then using flash to light up the room. It worked after a fashion - I now understand that if you use manual flash, that the thing you can change isn't a ratio of light between on-camera and the external flash, but a fraction of the maximum amount of light the flash can output (I just figured that out!). I played around with the exposure manually, choosing 30 seconds as the shutter time and varying the aperture and ISO settings to get the outside exposed the way I wanted. Then I took the picture and pushed the "test" button at the end of the exposure time (I don't know if the V5 triggers can do rear-curtain sync, or if the camera can do it anyway other than on-camera - that needs more research to verify). It did work after a fashion, the room and the outside exposures were properly balanced. However, it was a failure - I forgot to take into consideration that I was shooting at a distance from a window and as soon as I lit up the interior with the flash, I got room reflections in the window. Ooops! The only way I could make that work would be to open the window, and 24 F is way too cold to do that when I'm sick! I'll try that again next summer, when it's warmer. I still think the idea has possibilities.

But then I noticed that my 30 second south-facing window test shots taken to get the exposure right showed some star trails, more than I had expected from a 30 second exposure. Now I've never tried to shoot star trails, though it's been on my list of things to try. So somewhat impulsively I decided to try it, shooting out of the same window.

How many of you have had it drummed into your brain to always check your camera settings? How many of you have missed some priceless shot because the shutter speed or something else was set wrong? Well, I checked the shutter speed, the aperture, the ISO because I was shooting M mode and turned off the long-exposure noise reduction setting. But I didn't think to check anything else, like to make sure the focus of the new lens was set to infinity. Duh!

I then proceeded to shoot a 7 frame set of 30 seconds each, one of which captured a car driving by. It occurred to me when I was listening to the last frame being taken, that I had also not checked something else - the camera was set to 2 sec. mirror lock-up. Now anyone who's taken multiple frames would know what that means - there was a gap between sections. I processed the set anyway and was both delighted and disappointed. Delighted that the concept worked better than my flash experiment and disappointed that I ended up with dotted star trails. On the other hand, the frame that captured the car going by was neat.



Reduced to this size it's harder to tell that the camera was focused on the rail and that the distance objects are a bit soft.

Encouraged by the first results, and having learned some useful tips from my mistakes, I tried it again, this time from window that more or less faces north. I checked ALL of the settings this time! I even came up with a solution for the problem of the bookcase in front of that window by digging out a Manfrotto table top tripod Dan gave me years ago when I still owned the Sony F717. I had found it too light-weight to do macro with a big dSLR and Viv 105 macro, so put it aside and forgot about it after I moved it's small ball head onto a gorilla pod, which I also don't use much (currently "living" in a desk drawer at work). For some reason I happened to see it yesterday afternoon and made a note of it's location. So I dug it out, put the Acratech GP head on it and found it worked very well with the light-weight K-S1 and DA15 Ltd lens. It's not as good an answer as my big tripod, I must have moved it slightly when I was shooting a 10 frame series - there's some jags. But turning off the 2 sec. mirror lock-up made a big difference and I was pleased with the results.



After I was happily contemplating the fact that I had dealt neatly with a 30 second maximum shutter speed I looked at the camera and noticed the "B" setting, I had just assumed that the K-S1 wouldn't have that capability since it doesn't have a port for a wired remote. Not sure I would get anything better by using it and it was too late for me to want to try it, so now I have 2 things on my "to try" list instead of just star trails (the original idea that will have to wait for warmer weather and the B mode for this camera).

Another unexpected lesson I learned was that the star trails from a south facing window are quite a bit longer over the same 30 seconds than they are if you are more or less looking north. While I could easily see the short trails when reviewing the individual frames on the LCD from the south window, they looked more like dots from the north facing window.

It was a very successful night - I tried something new, learned how not to do something else, had an old lesson expanded and just generally had fun. Not a bad way to spend an evening when you're sick, is it?
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Old Jan 3, 2015, 9:45 PM   #2
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I did another series, with fewer frames but longer exposures. It's a little better, but I decided to do another series with 5 minute exposures, and slip out to get ready for bed while doing them. The first one had a minute to go when there was a definite jolt. Decided to stop the series and find out where the earthquake was. It was 4.5 and about 30 miles away, not big but big enough to know what it was. The interesting thing is that I had the camera mounted on a very heavy buffet, and the motion wasn't visible in the star tracks. I think I'll call it a night.
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Old Jan 4, 2015, 12:25 PM   #3
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your experiments! It's posts like this that plant the seed of discovery in the rest of us to get off our behinds and try something new with our cameras!

I loved your photos also! Thanks for making a very snowy, dreary day much brighter and interesting!
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Old Jan 10, 2015, 7:53 PM   #4
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Thanks for sharing the results of your experiment - and looking forward to seeing more of your star trails photos!
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Old Jan 10, 2015, 11:39 PM   #5
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Thank you both for your comments. It's raining now - I hope for better weather at the new moon or close to and will try then.
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