Sunday, February 20, 2011

Solvang Streaking

The West Coast Greyhound Gathering will be held in Solvang, CA, this coming weekend. It's three days set aside where people and their retired racing greyhounds can socialize, go to seminars, shop, and participate in events. One popular event held on Saturday morning is the Solvang Streak. A grassy area within the Solvang elementary school is fenced off, and the greyhounds are allowed to run, either one at a time or in groups (provided they're muzzled), from one end of the enclosed area to the other. The local police clock each hound's speed; the winners of various Streak categories are awarded with racing silks embroidered with the name of the category at the Saturday night buffet dinner at Pea Soup Andersen's.

While the run is not long enough for the hounds to reach their top speed, I'm still amazed to see them go as fast as they do. I'll set my camera to shutter-priority, set my shutter speed at 1/2000 second, ISO at 800 or higher, and then shoot as the hounds pass by. Depending on what model of Nikon DSLR you have, you'd either: (1) turn the exposure mode dial atop the camera to "S", then spin the rear command dial to the shutter speed you want, or (2) on my D300 you'd press the "Mode" button, and while holding it down, spin the rear command dial until "S" appears on the top LCD panel, then release the "Mode" button and spin the rear dial to the desired shutter speed. The camera then picks the appropriate aperture for the correct exposure. I happen to use 1/2000 sec, but if you've never used shutter-priority before, try one shutter speed, shoot a few frames, preview them, then adjust the speed if necessary until you get something you're happy with.

You could end up with pictures like these:

(Front to back): Sheba, Ruby, Callie, Je t'aime, Fiona

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Slow-syncing Sadie the Stalker

Sadie stalks. If she is playing in one room while you are in another room, get her attention and look at her in some funny way. She will stop; she will look in your direction; she will slowly come towards you, then stop, jump, and give you a loud bark. It looks like this:

Sadie will get you...

I wanted to capture her stalking in some unnerving sort of way. To get that effect I decided to use slow-sync flash mode. Slow-sync mode allows you to let in more light so that your backgrounds look more natural and not dark. But this also means your exposure time may be longer, so your subject may look smeared in the image. This is because the flash fires when the shutter first opens. While the shutter remains open if the exposure is long and the subject moves during the remainder of the exposure, the subject will appear blurry or smeared.

To switch to slow-sync mode on the Nikon, press the button with the bolt icon (usually located to the left and below the pop-up flash), and while holding that button down, turn the rear dial until you see the word "SLOW" in the top LCD panel.

I set the ISO to 800 since I was indoors, but I guessed the exposure would be long, but no idea how long. The exposure time ended up being 1.3 seconds. You can see the slow-sync effects: the hallway behind her is overexposed because of the lights in the kitchen, there is a distinct image of her when the flash fired, and there's also a ghostly blur as she walked towards me after the flash fired and before the shutter closed. I cropped and tilted the photo, then used a Lightroom develop preset to get an eerie look.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Why go to Dewey Beach?

This is why...

A woman walks her two greys along the beach

...if for nothing else than to have the opportunity to photograph people and their greyhounds walking on the beach, especially at, or just after, sunrise.

The weather last Columbus Day weekend (when the people and their greyhounds gather) was perfect. But the sunrises on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were devoid of clouds, and I wanted some. When clouds appeared from the west Sunday evening, I was hopeful that they would still be around the following morning before I left for home. The weather cooperated.

This is the only shot I took of this woman walking her two greyhounds. I was waiting for a perfect greyhound silhouette but the hound in the lead wouldn't look forward, so I ended up almost losing the shot altogether.

I put the sun in the middle of the frame and metered on it, knowing that the woman and the greyhounds would turn into silhouettes. The ISO was set at 200 but I knew I was still going to get a high shutter speed (1/640 sec) and a small aperture (f/13) anyway, and having the 18-200mm zoom set at 18mm meant everything would be in focus. An added plus for me was the clouds throwing shadows towards the zenith.

(Shot with the Nikon D300; 18-200mm zoom at 18mm; 1/640 sec @ f/13; program auto; matrix-metered; auto white balance.)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Basement Cat is not amused


I blurred the (hideous) linoleum floor so as not to distract from Indy. (D300 with an SB-400; bounce flash; auto white balance.)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Remembering to check the camera before (and while) I photograph

Checking my camera to see how I have it set before I go photographing has saved me a lot of grief. But something I also need to do is to check it as I'm using it as well.

Case in point: Two days ago I went on an afternoon whalewatch cruise out of Redondo Beach, taking my Nikon D300 along with me. While we didn't see any Pacific gray whales during the three-hour-long cruise we did come across pods of several hundred common dolphin. I guessed I needed to add about +0.3 exposure compensation to lighten the dolphins since they'd be darker than the ocean if they jumped. I took over 150 pictures. When I previewed a few frames to see how they were coming out I noticed the majority of them were overexposed. Then I noticed that I had inadvertently set the exposure mode to center-weighted, rather than set to the usual matrix. Horrors! Fortunately I was able to compensate for the overexposure without looking too heavily post-processed.

So check your camera before you go, and while you are shooting. Here are a few frames from the cruise:

My photo donations to Solvang and Sandy Paws

Having donated two photos to the Dewey Beach "Greyhounds in Art" show last year (which raised funds for Ohio State University's Greyhound Health and Wellness Program) I'm going to donate more of my greyhound photos to more greyhound adoption group events. This year, I decided to donate three photos to the West Coast Greyhound Gathering in Solvang, CA, and to the Sandy Paws event in Jekyll Island, GA. (They are 8"x10" lustre-finish prints mounted in 11"x14" mats.)

I hope these will do well, and raise interest in my greyhound photography, too.

KatieSadie and KatieSadie

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Anticipating the Moment...

When Nikki was scheduled for cancer surgery we decided we'd better take a lot of pictures of her with us. We knew she would be in good hands at the hospital, but still...

So the day before surgery we each took turns posing with Nikki indoors and outdoors. When Nikki and Rachel were inside I took four photos. Nikki was Rachel's heart dog, and made that pretty obvious:

I have learned that when trying to capture that special moment you can't wait until you actually see it in your viewfinder before releasing the shutter. If you do, it's already too late. While it is hard to know when, or even if, the moment will happen, I try to take the photograph an instant before I think it will. If I guess right, I get the shot. It's all about anticipating the moment.

(Shot with the Nikon D200, 18-200mm zoom set at 70mm, bounce-flashed Nikon SB-400, 1/60sec at f/5, ISO 280, program mode, matrix-metered, auto white balance, closest-subject focus mode.)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Nikki, our second greyhound

When we decided to get Alex, our first greyhound, a dog, we adopted Nikki in 1997. She came from Oklahoma via the Caliente racetrack, and became the perfect companion for Alex. After Alex died in 2003 she was depressed for months until we got Sadie later that year.

Oftentimes when I photograph outdoors I will use flash (often an external Nikon SB-400 or SB-800 flash) to fill in shadows. "Fill" is sometimes not an accurate description when referring to fill flash: for me, fill flash is a matter of trying to balance the ambient light (the outdoor light, in this case) and how dark the shadows are. I don't mean to use flash to fill in any shadows completely -- I just want to make the shadows less dark. (I'll talk about how to adjust the flash compensation in another post.)

But in this case, when Nikki was standing on our front lawn one late afternoon I liked how light was falling from her left (or camera right, if you prefer) while the vine-covered wall behind her was in shadow. I positioned myself so that her head was in front of the dark wall and quickly took three photos. I was happiest with this image (the first). I used no fill flash at all in this instance: light reflected from the house to my left provided some fill. With the dark background I was able to capture the shape and texture of her ears (which she often stood up like this), as well as her illuminated left eye.

She was a good, good and happy dog. We miss her.

(Shot with the Nikon D200, 18-200mm zoom at 50mm, 1/180sec at f/7.1, ISO 100, program mode, matrix-metered, auto white balance.)