In the burbs around Boston I occasionally came across a “Thickly Settled” street sign. It struck me as rather funny and while I expected that it had something to do with it being a more crowded residential area, it really was meaningless. After all, I could see with my own eyes that I was in a residential neighborhood.
I looked it up and found all sorts of humorous comments about this and other street signs. “Slow Children” elicited a comment along the lines of “When I see a Slow Children sign I always wonder how all the slow children all ended up living in one neighborhood.” The best I can gather (I did not bother to dig into the MA government sites to verify this) is that the Thickly Settled sign is an indication to observe a speed limit of 30 mph even if it is not posted. I’m not entirely sure why they don’t just post the speed limit itself if they’re going to bother with putting up a sign at all. Maybe I’m wrong about all this…
On a semi-random note, I’ll give a shout out to Enterprise Car Rental since you can (barely) see the hood of my rental in the picture above. I typically rent from Hertz through my company. I have Hertz #1 Gold which allows me to bypass the rental car checkin. Having #1 Gold means I just show up in the Hertz garage, find my name and parking spot on the display, and the car is waiting in that parking spot with the keys and paperwork in it, ready to go. Pretty convenient. This time my admin set me up with Enterprise which was only $17 per day for an “intermediate” car. I arrived at the Enterprise counter in Boston sometime around midnight and after checking in asked if I had any choices regarding cars. The agent asked what I drive at home — a 4×4 crew cab pickup truck. Upon hearing that she said that since it was midnight I could pick anything in the lot at the $17 price, but mentioned that the sweet, black 2012 Chevy Tahoe might be best suited to my tastes. True enough…nice! Especially nice because I had added some personal time to my trip and was paying some of the days out of my pocket. I’ll pay $17 a day for a new Tahoe anytime.
We’ve always taught our kids to stay out of debt so when my son went to buy a car last weekend he brought a big stack of “Benjamin Franklins” ($100 bills for those not familiar with US currency). The purpose was twofold: (1) paying cash and avoiding debt as I mentioned and (2) having a stack of bills to flash in the negotiations a la Dave Ramsey. Once we determined the car was a good buy my son did his negotiating thing and a deal was struck. While papers were being written up I spread the bills out and snapped some shots with my iPhone just for fun.
A couple of days ago a friend of mine emailed to ask my opinion regarding new tires for his car. That car — pictured above — was my car and daily ride for four years and his inquiry reminded me of some of the pictures I had taken of it. I wrote that I was thinking about selling it when I posted this street scene from Paris a couple of years back. Shortly after that post I did sell it (obviously). I think I gave my friend a really good deal, but my wife thought we should pay him to take it off our hands. So, don’t tell her that I miss it!
As for the picture itself, first know that I wasn’t so into my car that I took pictures of it all the time. Rather, I occasionally used it as a test subject when I wanted to learn something new about photography. The picture above was taken in my driveway for a dailyshoot.com assignment — “mode of transportation”. I started out to make a “normal” HDR (if there is such a thing) but bagged that idea. Here’s what I wrote about it at the time: “Another opportunity to try for a decent shot of the car. From the beginning I intended to make a black and white HDR image so I took bracketed exposures. However, the tonemapped image (from Photomatix) was terrible and I quickly determined that the best image would come from the normal exposure with a few bits and pieces masked in from the over-exposed shot. Still HDR in the manual sense (manual processing), just not tonemapped in Photomatix (or similar software). Lots of room for improvement but there’s that real job thing…”. There *are* a few glaring defects in the photo but I like the overall look and decided to post it in spite of those.
For any car buffs out there, this is a 2000 BMW 540i with the six-speed manual transmission and sport package. I miss the power of the V8, the handling, and the six-speed manual, but not the constant repairs 🙂
Last month some of my family attended the wedding of my niece Jessica in Seattle. We would love to take the whole family to events like that but it’s just not practical in our case. The weather was what one might expect in Seattle — highs around 50 and wet.
I was asked to do some photography during the times when the paid photographer wasn’t around — rehearsal, early wedding morning — and grab a few extra pics at the reception. I had just acquired a Canon 5D Mark ii the day before we traveled and I got to try out its capabilities over the weekend. It has amazing low-light performance and I took full advantage of that.
Here are some pics from the weekend (here’s a link to one I already posted of the rings resting in the flowers). Some are just OK from a technical standpoint but are personally meaningful or interesting to our family.
The shot below was meant to focus on the ring (and it does) but it isn’t the greatest shot. However, I still like the general feel of it — soft light, very shallow depth of field so I included it. It was taken in passing as I wasn’t focused on taking pictures at that point. I’d love to have that opportunity again though. I’d get the ring hand fully in the shot, shoot from slightly higher to entirely fill the background with Jessica’s to-do list on the poster board while keeping the nail polish bottle fully in the frame as in this shot.
Some pics from the rehearsal:
The wedding coordinator was concerned that the main photog wouldn’t arrive at the house early enough to get pictures of the miscellany like the rings, flower, shoes, etc. so she asked me to get some shots. Here are a few I came away with besides the ring shot:
Pre-wedding pictures in church:
After the ceremony the wedding coordinator again commandeered me for a photo assignment. The hired photog was covering the bride and groom’s trip through the receiving line from a vantage point near the church doors. I was asked to cover near the end of the line and I’m glad I did — look at how happy they are!
During the reception I didn’t capture all that many shots but here are a few. Light was challenging in the reception hall. Bouncing flash was not that great (note the black ceilings) and I didn’t have 3 remote flashes on stands like the hired photog did. I still like the shots even with some of the shadows. I take comfort in knowing that there wasn’t a whole lot to be done without setting up extra lighting myself. I just kept a diffuser on the flash and pointed the flash either up and slightly forward or up and slightly behind me. As the night was winding down, Jessica asked me to take a picture of her with the bridesmaids up near the dance floor. I like how the light ended up just fine with the exception of how everyone’s hair disappears into the background. I didn’t have a second light to overcome that. When we walked to the front and lined up everyone and their brother got cameras out and started firing. Getting all the girls to look at me rather than the other cameras was a bit like herding cats. None of the shots had everyone looking normal so I just picked the best of the bunch.
A candid of my beautiful wife. When she finds out her picture is here I’ll probably be in trouble. She never reads my posts so please — none of you go telling her. She never needs to know 🙂
The main photog had already left the reception when Jessica and Jonathan were making their exit so once again the coordinator asked me to take shots. I had the 50mm lens on and there was no time to fetch my 24-70 or really test out the flash to adjust compensation. I’d prefer a little different framing but I was zoomed out (with my feet) as far back as I could get and I wanted to catch some of the flag waving too. I got off 4 frames as they walked out and they capture the moment just fine. There was very heavy tungsten lighting in this little hallway. My flash was gel’ed with a 1/4 CTO and I could get away with cooling the color temperature more but I decided not to eliminate it completely. It’s a dilemma I often struggle with — Whether to keep some of that uncorrected color in certain shots. It can be a nice effect sometimes.
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 photo.net. What I will do is give a few examples of what to expect with certain settings. All the calculations come from dofmaster.com. 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).
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.
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.
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