Spring Has Sprung

All the jokes about Seattle aside, our weather is fickle.  Especially this year (although it kind of always seems like I’m saying that), Spring is late.  Three or four times we’ve been tempted with a day of glorious weather, only to plunge into another week of rain.  Yesterday spring was back and it looks like we might get a bit more of it.  I took these pictures a few weeks ago, but the sun makes me want to post them now.

  • Aperture: ƒ/4
  • Credit: Ari Brown
  • Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T1i
  • Taken: 22 April, 2011
  • Focal length: 100mm
  • ISO: 400
  • Shutter speed: 1/250s

This is my plum tree.  All of those flowers have me pretty excited about the idea of having actual plums too.  We’ll see what happens as I’ve only had it about a year, and it’s in a pot.  Fingers crossed!  One more.

  • Aperture: ƒ/4
  • Credit: Ari Brown
  • Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T1i
  • Taken: 22 April, 2011
  • Focal length: 100mm
  • ISO: 400
  • Shutter speed: 1/250s

  • Aperture: ƒ/4
  • Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T1i
  • Focal length: 100mm
  • ISO: 400
  • Shutter speed: 1/250s

Dutch Tulips

Spring in Seattle is when all the tulips bloom, especially the big farms in the Skagit Valley.  Spring on the blog is when the searches for tulips in Skagit Valley exceed the searches for bokeh.

I was digging in the archives and came across this.  Check out the date – serious blast from the past!

  • Aperture: ƒ/2.8
  • Credit: Ari Brown
  • Camera: Canon PowerShot S400
  • Taken: 6 April, 2004
  • Focal length: 7.40625mm
  • Shutter speed: 1/100s

Two things about this shot.  First off, it isn’t from Seattle – it is from the Keukenhof outside of the Hague in Holland.  The gardens there are an amazing mix of all sorts of flowers, but most notably tulips.  I have some other shots but lost the opportunity for some great ones when I learned that my camera battery gives little warning before giving up.  The second thing is that (as you can see from the info above), this was shot on my old Canon Powershot S400.  Not an SLR and although it was good at the time, really not even a good point and shoot!  If you’re careful and pick the right subject, it doesn’t always matter.  Make sure you hold steady and definitely shoot outside if at all possible – there is usually so much more light than inside that few things will improve your picture quality as much.

This isn’t my favorite shot in the world – I don’t like how close to the center of the frame the subject is – it makes the balance feel funny.  I do like some aspects of it like how the background blurs as you get farther out and how close the main tulip is, but most of those flaws were mine, not the gear.  Shoot with what you’ve got – just remember to shoot!

  • Aperture: ƒ/2.8
  • Camera: Canon PowerShot S400
  • Focal length: 7.40625mm
  • Shutter speed: 1/100s

Lighting Can Be Cheap

As you’ve heard, we went to see the tulips last week. Brought some home too – very nice but they don’t last forever. On the way out they still have a nice look. Here was last night:
Closeup of a Tulip

  • Aperture: ƒ/2.8
  • Credit: Ari Brown
  • Camera: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
  • Taken: 2 May, 2009
  • Focal length: 100mm
  • ISO: 200
  • Shutter speed: 1/2.5s

Since it was dark and I was using the macro lens, I had the tripod out.  Yes, I was attempting to do things correctly.  After cranking the aperture wide open to blur the background, I thought I’d try something else and go the other direction – want to see more?  I, personally, think it is worth hitting the link.

Continue reading →

  • Aperture: ƒ/2.8
  • Camera: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
  • Focal length: 100mm
  • ISO: 200
  • Shutter speed: 1/2.5s

Tulips As Far As Your Panorama Can Pan

When you see the fields of tulips in the Skagit Valley, it’s hard to translate the feeling into a picture.  The beauty is there, but the sweeping view disappears.  Of course it was cold and of course there were too many people and of course I didn’t put in the effort to be diligent and bring a tripod, but I decided to pull together some panorama action anyway.  Sure it’s lumpy, but what do you think?

Panorama of Skagit Valley Tulip Fields

Also, I’m going to try something a little different here.  Thanks to the wonderful features of Photoshop CS4, there is a built-in flash-based panorama generator. Want to see it, click the link.

Continue reading →

A Storm of Pink?

When you see the fields of tulips, looking out over all the different colors is pretty nice, but some of my favorite pictures were down close with just one color.  Pink works pretty well.

Pink Tulip Field in Skagit County 2009

  • Aperture: ƒ/5.6
  • Credit: Ari Brown
  • Camera: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
  • Taken: 25 April, 2009
  • Focal length: 100mm
  • ISO: 200
  • Shutter speed: 1/400s

This one comes from my 100 mm macro lens.  I love the shallow depth of field, which devolves into solid pink.  On the Digital Rebel XT I shoot with, you’ve got to multiply the focal length by 1.6, so I have a 160mm lens which means I was probably 5 feet back from the flower in question.  With overcast sun shooting at ISO 200, you still have plenty of light to freeze any movement in the breeze, but late in the day or inside, this isn’t the perfect lens for hand-held shooting.  Sometimes it’s nice to try to figure out what else you can do with the lenses you have.  Macros are great up close, but that’s not all they can do.

  • Aperture: ƒ/5.6
  • Camera: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
  • Focal length: 100mm
  • ISO: 200
  • Shutter speed: 1/400s

Washington Does Tulips

I don’t really associate Washington and Tulips, but I guess someone does.  Every year in April, a bunch of farmers band together to make the Skagit Valley outside of Mount Vernon worthy of the name “Tulip Festival”.  I can’t say it is a *ton* of fun.  I can say that every 5 years or so, it is worth going and the fields are pretty darn cool to look at.

Skagit Valley Tulips

  • Aperture: ƒ/10
  • Credit: Ari Brown
  • Camera: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
  • Taken: 25 April, 2009
  • Focal length: 28mm
  • ISO: 200
  • Shutter speed: 1/200s

I suppose my problem with the “festival” is that it is really a group of totally independant farms that allow you to traipse around a bit, possibly buy some popcorn or tulip postcards and charge you four or five bucks to park.  I’m not totally knocking it though.  This picture comes from a farm that proclaims itself as “Tulip Town”.  They grow tulips of every color and looking out over all of the rows, I can’t really think of anything else like it.

  • Aperture: ƒ/10
  • Camera: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
  • Focal length: 28mm
  • ISO: 200
  • Shutter speed: 1/200s

Spring Still Springing

Seattle in Spring is a fickle place to be.  Just weeks ago it was snow – far too much.  Now it is rain, even as the days get longer.  Spring is somewhere, I’m sure, because the flowers are coming everywhere you look.

Rosemary flowers at the start of spring

  • Aperture: ƒ/5
  • Credit: Ari Brown
  • Camera: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
  • Taken: 26 February, 2009
  • Focal length: 100mm
  • ISO: 200
  • Shutter speed: 1/250s

This is from my wanderings a couple weeks ago.  Some of my favorite flowers are one the plants that you don’t think of as flowers.  Rosemary is almost as rampant as blackberries in my area of Capitol Hill, so it’s hard not to find.  The tiny flowers are pretty neat though, especially in macro!

  • Aperture: ƒ/5
  • Camera: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
  • Focal length: 100mm
  • ISO: 200
  • Shutter speed: 1/250s

Depth Of Field – Instruction-o-rama!

I’ll just say this up front – for a lot of people, this is really elementary stuff.  Every photo class I’ve ever taken, for the first or second assignment, did something with DoF (depth of field).  In any case, I was playing around and just happened to end up with some pictures that demonstrate it well, so I’m posting here.  Someone said they liked this stuff before.  We’ll see what you think.

African Violet taken at f/2.8Wanna learn all about it, or just see some purdy pictures?  Click the link:

  • Aperture: ƒ/2.8
  • Camera: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
  • Focal length: 100mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/25s

Gonna get really elementary on you for a second.  Depth of Field is controlled by your aperture.  The aperture is a hole that lets light reach your sensor or film.  A big number means a tiny hole.  A small number means a big hole.  Lenses that are referred to as “fast” are lenses that are capable of really opening up the aperture wide, to let a lot of light in fast, which allows the “fast” capture of a picture, even in low light.  My 100mm macro lens, which I took these pictures with, has an aperture (or f-stop) that goes up to f/2.8.  Not bad.

Alright – got that out of the way.  Here comes the DoF.  The larger the aperture, the deeper the Depth of Field.  Sometimes that is good.  If you’re taking a picture of a few rows of people, you probably want them all in focus, right?  Well I’m not taking pictures of lots of people – I’m taking pictures of a flower today.  Isn’t it purdy?  It’s the one African Violet that somehow I’ve never killed and my cats have never succeeded in eating.  Furry leaves don’t go down so easy.  Enough of that – picture stuff.  Shallow DoF is useful more often than you’d think.  If you take a look at that picture above, there is a nice flower, right?  What there isn’t is much in the background.  That’s because I used a really wide aperture (2.8) which blurs most everything else out.  It doesn’t even keep the entire flower in focus, but I like the look, so good.   Let’s try it with a smaller aperture:

African Violet, taken with 5.6 Aperture

  • Aperture: ƒ/2.8
  • Camera: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
  • Focal length: 100mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/25s

Here we are at 5.6.  That’s 6 clicks down on this lens from 2.8 and gives us a little more DoF, as you can see.  The flower is a bit more in-focus and the background is much clearer.  This smaller aperture also means that you have a slower shutter speed to account for less light coming in.  Keeping this lens still is pretty hard when you’re up close like this, so I’m using a monopod.  It helps a bit.  Six stops didn’t make that big of a difference, right?  Let’s go all craz and crank the aperture WAY down:

African Violet with an aperture of f/32

  • Aperture: ƒ/2.8
  • Camera: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
  • Focal length: 100mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/25s

This is with an aperture of 32.  That’s a LOT smaller than 5.6.  15 clicks.  What is going on with the picture?  Well obviously I was too lazy to get the tripod out and instead of 1/25th of a second (for the first picture) or 1/5th second (second picture), the exposure time here is 8 seconds.  But it doesn’t matter right?  Because the point wasn’t to frame this and put it on your wall – it was to look at the DoF.  Clearly the camera is shaking a bit, but otherwise, the flower is entirely in focus.  Look behind it.  See that red candy bowl?  That’s in focus too.  Do you want to see the candy bowl?   Well f/32 might be the aperture for you.  If you were maybe more into looking at the flower, f/2.8 might be better.  The point is, you can control this stuff.  Not all lenses can go as low as f/2.8, but f/5.6 is very common, even on a pretty cheap lens, and that same lens can most likely do f/32 as well.  In order to control for DoF like this, you’ll want to set your camera to Av  or Aperture Priority mode.  Some cameras even have a nifty DoF mode, but that’s between you and your hardware.   In Av mode, you can select the aperture setting you like and the camera will pick the correct shutter speed to go with it.  This is probably the second most common mode I use on my camera.  Ooh… one last comment – DoF at any setting is deeper the further away you are from the lens.  My flower above may be less than an inch deep, but since it was very close to the camera, it’s still not totally in focus close up.  If I shot it sitting a few feet back at the same setting, it would all be in focus.  Just something to think about.

Got any good DoF pictures of your own?  Link to ’em below.

Update 2018.07.02: The folks over at PhotographyTalk reached out to me with their own tutorial on the subject.  It’s pretty good and also goes over the various other priority modes on your camera.  Give it a look: https://www.photographytalk.com/beginner-photography-tips/7356-a-beginner-s-guide-to-aperture-and-depth-of-field

  • Aperture: ƒ/2.8
  • Camera: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
  • Focal length: 100mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/25s