Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve Show

Click on picture for a large view
What a wonderful way to end the year. About 4 p.m. clouds started coming in slowly covering the Moon in the still bright sky so I thought the last conjunction of the year was going to be a bust. Gloria mentioned that the sky was getting some nice colors, so I broke away from my computer thinking "well, I'll just get a beautiful sunset". As it turned out, the clouds were moving away making for a colorful scene in my backyard. Colors like these only last a few minutes.

I didn't notice the airplane and its contrail until after I looked at the image on my computer. These is just pure luck, but it adds a nice element to the composition.

I put on my old 200mm lens from my Olympus camera to get this close-up. An inexpensive adapter lets me use these great lenses on my Canon XTi digital. There is no auto-focus or auto-exposure settings with these lenses, but that's okay, because taking these type of images is pretty simple. I take lots of pictures at various exposures (about 100 for this event) then choose the best ones on my computer.
If you would like to try this type of photogrpaphy, here is how it is done:
You can use just about any digital camera to do this. The one thing that your camera needs to do is to allow you to manually set the exposures and to manually set the focus. Read your manual to see how this is done. The next thing you will need is a way to take the exposure without touching the camera. On some cameras you can buy a shutter release, which is simply a switch you hold in your hand, with a length of cord attached to the camera. Again, check your manual to see if this is possible. If not, you can still take a picture without touching the camera, just use the camera's timer (yes, check your manual on how to use this). The last item you will need is a tripod. This, of course, is because you can't hand hold a camera at slow shutter speeds and expect to get a sharp image. If you can do all of the above, you are ready to go.
Here is what I do with my camera. It may be slightly different with your camera. After I have the camera on my tripod and the shutter release attached, I adjust the zoom lens, if the camera has one, to the composition I will be using. I make sure that the aperture on the lens is set to wide open (check your manual on this).
If the Moon or Venus is in the sky, your auto-focus will probably work on these bright objects, so use it to get the correct exposure. Once focus is set, turn off the auto-focus mode (check your manual), because most of the time the composition of the picture usually does not have the Moon or Venus at the focus sensors to auto-focus, so if you leave auto-focus is on, the camera will just try to focus on blank sky and never find focus.
I then set the camera to a shutter speed that I think will be close to the correct exposure. It usually isn't, but that is okay, just look at the image on the lcd. If the image looks dark, increase the exposure, if it looks too bright, decrease the exposure. It's that simple.
It's impossible to tell you what exposure to use because every situation is different. For one thing, the amount of light is constantly changing (the sky is getting darker). The best thing to do is to experiment and try it all out. Don't wait until a big event occurs. That is no time to learn how to do it. If this is all too much trouble, well, all I can say is there are lots of people doing this very thing and I guess you can just look at them on the net. Digital cameras have made photography especially easy to learn, considering the almost instant gratification of capturing wonderful scenes such as these.
Here's wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

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