Thursday, October 5, 2017

Sometimes it is all about Focusing

Almost all cameras these days have AutoFocus- AF. I am sure you know that pressing the shutter release button half way, you can tell a camera to focus for you. 
Probably you may not know this part. When you press it half way first time, camera will focus on the nearest object. This is how most cameras work. Here is the first photo I took of the Moon today with my Panasonic FZ200 fully extended- 24x zoomed.
Focusing issue in a camera
As you can see, it focused on the closest tree branch and hence it is in focus but the Moon is out of focus. My interest was in capturing full moon.
Second time, I kept pressing the Shutter Release button half way multiple times until the lens had it focused on the moon. Most cameras have these feature. If you do not want it to focus on the closest object. leave the shutter release button and then press it half way again. This time, it will focus on some other object in the frame. Keep doing it until you see the object you are interested in in focus.
See the second picture I got when I was sure the focusing area- the green square on most cameras that indiacate the focus lock- was on the Moon!
Take photo of Full moon
I hope this small lesson helps you take better photos. Most cameras have this Trial and Error sort of feature built into it to help you select the right object to focus on!

If you are still not able to focus properly, you can change the AF to MF.- from Auto Focus to Manual Focus and do your own focusing!
Enjoy photography!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

How to take photos of Solar eclipse of August 21, 2017

Some tips on how to take photos of Solar eclipse of August 21, 2017

On Monday, August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will be visible within a band across the entire contiguous United States; If you are not within that band in the USA, you will still be able to see a large portion of the Sun covered by the Moon. 
 A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, thereby totally or partly obscuring the image of the sun for a viewer on Earth. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon's apparent diameter is larger than the sun's, blocking all direct sunlight, turning day into darkness. Totality occurs in a narrow path across Earth's surface, with the partial solar eclipse visible over a surrounding region thousands of kilometers wide.

Now let us get to the main topic: How to take photos of the Solar eclipse.

Sun photo in Auto mode.
To be ready for the Solar Eclipse photos this Monday, I wanted to run a quick test. I have few SLRs but I took out the fixed lens Panasonic FZ200 which offers easy convenient 24x zoom. Also, when there is abundant light, or too much light in this situation, any camera would work almost equally. The Bokeh of SLR is not possible as you can't take photos with wide open aperture. Also, SLRs are good for low light but here we are in a situation which has too much light.
So I turned on my camera, pointed it to the Sun and tried to take a photo. Here is what I got: 

Probably you wouldn't be able to see the photo on the right because it is all white! The Sun is the brightest object for any camera so in Auto mode, all I got was a perfect white photo! (I had to add a border on it so you can at least assume that there is a photo!)

I needed to reduce the light getting into the camera. I changed the camera mode to Manual from Auto. To minimize light, I set up the fastest shutter speed of 1/4000, smallest aperture of f/8 and lowest ISO of 100 on my Panasonic FZ200. This is the best this camera would go to take the least possible light. I zoomed to 24x- around 600mm equivalent on a full frame camera. I took another photo. Same result. I couldn't take a photo of the Sun. It was all white! 

Now to be able to take photos of the Sun before and during the Solar Eclipse, I had to do something. I needed to find a way to reduce the light getting on to the sensor. On a summer day, to reduce light getting into our eyes, what do we do? We put on sun-shade or goggles. This is was I needed to do for my camera. I have few natural density filters but my son, Miraj, took them with him on his trip to Sweden and Iceland to photograph water falls. Also, I am not sure if 2x, 4x, 8x ND filters would be able to block enough light. I thought of putting sun goggles in front of the lens but it is not convenient to hold both the camera and the goggles same time. Suddenly an idea stuck into my head. I searched for some old X Ray in the house. Luckily (LOL) having two sports loving boys in the household, it wasn't a difficult job.  I cut a piece and put it in front of my camera. Look at the photo of my camera below! 
Panasonic FZ200 for Solar Eclipse

I went out in the backyard, pointed at the bright noon Sun, zoomed the lens all the way to 24x and voila, I had limited most of the light and I was able to capture the photo of the Sun. I am excited with this camera jugaad and I am sure I would have fun taking photos of the eclipse on this Monday. I am all set!

There is one side benefit I guess for people who are not in taking eclipse photos. You can use your camera and this X ray film to watch the solar eclipse safely on the camera LCD instead of risking your eyes to look directly at the Eclipse. (Disclaimer: I think this should be safe but I can guarantee the safety. I am not an expert. Please ask my smart friend, Google!) 
Here is the photo of the Sun I just took with the X Ray film in front of the lens! 

Sun photo at noon in broad day light!

As I say on this blog, in most of the situations, you can take better photos with some easy to follow tips. Possibility of Trial and Error photography is the biggest blessing of digital cameras. Take a trial photo. Find the issue. Try to fix it. Here, the issue was too much light. The solution was to try to reduce the light!