Posts tagged “birthday

I’m Eight, Darling!

Eight 24mm, f/5.6, 1/100s

Many of my local photo friends will understand the reference in the title.  If you don’t…then never mind 🙂  We celebrated another birthday today and my son asked me when we were going to take the “eight picture”.  I didn’t know what he was talking about until he reminded me that we had taken a picture of him holding up fingers representing his age each of his last three birthdays.  I’m glad he remembered.  We spent the day with immediate and extended family playing games, opening presents, eating cake and ice cream, and jumping on the trampoline with the sprinkler.

Photo stuff:

Top photo: Manual mode, on-camera flash bounced off the porch behind me for fill, basic edits in Lightroom.  It was taken early in the morning when the light was really soft.  I took two versions of this photo — one with the face in focus, one with the hands in focus (this one is our traditional picture).  Of course we want photos with his face in focus but we take lots of other pictures on the kids’ birthdays.

Bottom photos: Manual mode, on-camera flash in high-speed sync mode, with 1/4 CTO gel, pointed directly at the kids, basic edits in Lightroom.  Taken in the middle of the afternoon when the light was at its worst.  I used the flash in order to even it out a little bit.  I don’t (totally) care for the look — maybe could go to 1/2  or 3/4 CTO gel and/or dial down the flash a bit — but it’s better than not using the flash at all IMO (I did some non-flash shots too).  I could play with the white balance, etc. too and try to come up with something better but I’ve captured what I want…

Jumping 40mm, f/7.1, 1/500s

Acrobatics   28mm, f/9, 1/500s

Protected By Remington

Protected By Remington 42mm, f/5.6, 1/125s, ISO 400

There’s yet another reason to think twice about breaking into our home.  We recently gave our daughter a Remington 870 20 gauge shotgun for her birthday.  She had asked for one and how can a dad resist giving his girl a present like that?  We don’t get to shoot nearly as often as we’d like but we enjoy shooting together whenever we can.  You know it’s been a good day when you end up with this.

Simple photograph here: She wanted pics with the shotgun so we were just playing around to figure out what shots might be cool and ended up with this one.  I used on-camera flash bounced up and behind the camera and focused on the end of the barrel using a large enough aperture to blur the background and the shooter (her request – “I don’t have makeup on, Dad”).  I had to use at least a 1/125s shutter speed because she got tired trying to hold the gun still after a couple of frames.  Fiddled with contrast, did some spot corrections, local exposure adjustments, etc.  I would have loved a different background but there really weren’t many options in the house (we wanted an indoor shot — that whole “protection” angle).

Lest anyone freak out about gun safety I’ll point out that the gun is not pointed *at* me.  Secondly, we are strict about personally checking our guns to make sure they are empty.  We don’t rely on “the other guy”.  I personally inspected the gun before handing it to her and getting anywhere near the end of that barrel.  Finally, although it’s difficult to see in this pic, her finger is outside the trigger guard.

Capturing What Matters Most

Working The Fish

I bought the spinning rod/reel combo pictured above for my son’s recent birthday.  I knew I’d be taking him fishing at the beach and wanted him to have something he could handle, yet something stout enough to handle the creatures one may catch in the surf of the Gulf of Mexico.  My oldest son caught a 40″ redfish (yep, 40″) on a rig just like this when he was 10 or 11 years old.

I’m amazed again and again how young children are able to learn and accomplish much more than we give them credit for.  [In fact, I think that some part of society’s problems these days are related to expecting too little out of our young people from age 2 all the way to 25…but that’s a discussion to have in person over lunch or something]  There were some lousy casts at first as my son learned how to use the spinning reel, but within 30 minutes he was practically a pro.  He put on his own bait, cast it, reeled it in to check it here and there, and landed some fish completely on his own.  I still removed them from the hook…we’ll work in that next trip maybe.

I didn’t have my camera out much on the beach b/c I (1) the trip was about father/son time and (2) I wanted to keep the sand out of the camera.  But, I did take a little time to record some shots of him fishing.  I took many that included a wider scene — the entire rod, more background, etc. but this is really my favorite.  This photo wasn’t posed at all and he looks like a little man “working the fish”.

There were several cropping options considered but in the end I didn’t crop it at all.  I really like a square crop because of the focus it put on my son, but I wanted the dunes and sky to give a more complete sense of location.  Having the fishing rod disappear out of the frame actually bugs me somewhat.  Post-processing was minimal and consisted of simple tone/contrast adjustments…I believe I did everything in Lightroom.

If I were a photographer on assignment I suppose what I would’ve done is gotten out in the water further — almost straight in front of my son.  This might have allowed me to capture the whole rod with the dunes and sky while keeping my son relatively prominent in the frame.  I was on a father/son assignment though and I got what I was really after and what mattered most — shots that capture the memory of the trip.

Father’s Day 2010

Had a great Father’s Day this year!  We spent Saturday night at our friend’s house in Fredericksburg and I woke up to a fresh cup of coffee and the sunrise in the image below (9-exposure HDR).  It was such a cool morning (by Texas summer standards) so I just wandered around a bit and watched the cows graze.

Father's Day Sunrise in Fredericksburg, TX

We have so much fun with our friends and Sunday morning was no different as we enjoyed breakfast together and got ready for church.  After church we headed home to meet our oldest (married) daughter and have a meal — of my choosing of course — together.  The family got me something around 700 shirts which my son said was their way of telling me that they didn’t like my current wardrobe.

Speaking of being a father, we celebrated the birthday of one of our younger sons this past week.  Whenever we celebrate our children’s birthdays I’m reminded of how old *I’m* getting.

Our son has become fascinated with cowboys of late (he wanted to invite Roy Rogers to his birthday) so we got him a cowboy hat and used matches for candles on the cake (seemed more like what cowboys would do).  He loved it — “Mom, this is the BEST cowboy cake EVER!”.  Here’s a shot of him getting ready to blow out his “candles”.

Cowboy Birthday (HDR from a single exposure)

I don’t normally process single exposures (especially of people) as HDRs but I was inspired by Jayme Rutherford’s single-exposure turtle shot which you can view here.  I decided that the cowboy theme lent itself well to the gritty texture that tonemapping an image brings about.

Depth Of Field…Not Simply Determined By Aperture

Understanding depth of field (DOF) is one of the keys to great photographs.  Having too shallow a DOF can result in important subjects being out of focus.  A very deep DOF may result in background distractions — areas that you intended to be out of focus may be sharp and detract from your subject.

For a long time I thought that the only thing to know was “large aperture = shallow DOF”.  However, in addition to aperture, DOF depends on many other factors like the focal length of the lens, the size of your camera’s sensor, and the distance to the subject you are focusing on.

I have no intention to discuss the equations and physics which govern DOF here.  If you find that interesting then search for articles on a site such as  What I will do is give a few examples of what to expect with certain settings.  All the calculations come from  I use their iPhone app — quite handy.  Google “DOF calculator” or search the iPhone app store to find other programs if you’d like.

Let’s assume you are using a Canon 50D (my current camera) with the trusty 50mm f/1.8 lens.  If your subject is 5 feet away (that’s your “focus distance”) and you’re shooting at f/2.8, whatever is between 4.85 feet and 5.16 feet will be in focus (roughly 4 inches).  In a portrait situation this implies that if the eye is in focus, the tip of nose will barely be in focus (depends on the size of the nose 🙂 ).  The back of the ear may be out of focus a bit.  If you stepped back to a distance of 20 feet (granted this will be an entirely different composition) you now will be in focus from 17.7 feet to 23 feet — total DOF of over 5 feet.  Note that this depth is obtained using the same lens and aperture as the portrait above but the DOF is different due to the focus distance.

Here’s a shot taken with a 50mm lens, f/2.0, approximate distance was 6 feet which gives a total DOF of only a few inches.  The near eye was my focus point.  Note how the rear eye and cheek are already a bit out of focus (I like it).


Impromptu Portrait of Elaina

Here’s a shot taken with the same 50mm lens at f/4.5 (reasonably large aperture) but with a large focus distance.  Everything is in focus from the front of the car to the sign behind it.

VW Bug

VW Bug at Magnolia Cafe South

Let’s look at an example using a smaller aperture.  Most of us would consider f/7.1 to be a reasonably small aperture and expect this to give “good” DOF.  If you are focusing on a single person at a distance of 10 feet, they will be nice and sharp.  However, your total DOF is only about 3 feet.  If you were shooting into a crowd at this distance you would only be focused at a depth equivalent to a few people.


Elijah Is Five Today!

In the above image of Elijah, a 28mm focal length at f/7.1 gives exactly the effect I intended.  The hand is in focus and prominent due to the wide angle, his face is blurred but still very much recognizable and part of the picture, and the distant background is quite blurred.  Someday I’ll photoshop the kiddie pool out of the background…

So — pay attention to DOF and know how it will affect your images.

There’s a LOT more to know.  I’ve ignored the fact that DOF is constant in a *plane* rather than simply a radius from the lens.  I’ve not explained hyperfocal distance.  Research and learn the basics at least.  You may avoid the disappointment of finding out your small aperture didn’t give you much DOF or that your large aperture didn’t blur the background like you thought it would do.

© 2009 Michael Tuuk