Monday, 30 March 2009

Taking it a little more seriously: part II

Since late last year I think I've spent about $500 on photography. This includes the camera, accessories and books. At Phototronics, Hilo's wonderful little store where you can buy just about everything you'll need if you're going to spend a few months in the wilderness hunting animals, defending yourself from federal agents and taking a few nice landscape photos, I bought some filters. Those they didn't have I just bought online, although I needed to buy a step-up ring for them - an ND 0.9 filter and a graduated ND (0.6) filter were things I really needed for sunsets, sunrises and perhaps the odd waterfall.

All these were cheap, I haven't spent money on expensive gear. Not yet, anyway. All I want to do right now is to learn about taking decent landscape photos and how to use the camera and accessories to do that without bankrupting myself.

So when is the next step coming? That's an easy question to answer. Not yet.

Obviously the next stage is to buy a proper DSLR camera with lenses. That's expensive and having forked out a couple of thousand dollars recently on car (and vacation) related things, it's not the right time. In addition, my PC can't even cope with RAW images produced by the FZ28, so god knows what I'd do if I had photoshop dealing with RAW images from a mega-megapixel DSLR. That's why I only shoot in JPG mode right now, my computer can't handle much else. So I'd have to buy a new PC plus camera. That's a lot of money. Oh, and the software as well.

Still, I'm now finding the limitations in the FZ28. It's a great camera, don't get me wrong, and fantastic for anyone who's just starting to get into photography like me. The detector has enough pixels to create huge prints and the optics and electronics are damn good, especially for the price. Unfortunately, although I often find some nice spots to take a picture, many of the suggestions from my photography books don't always work. I can't set the aperture to f/16 or f/22 to get an in-focus large depth of field because the lense doesn't go smaller than f/8. I often want to shoot in low light or darkness (I work at night - I'm an astronomer after all!) but I can't set the ISO high because the noise performance is noticeably poor at ISOs higher than 200-400. There's no flash hot shoe so am stuck with the camera's own flash unit (which is nasty, but then again so are most camera's, cheap or expensive) and no way to use a cable release, at least not that I can find - I end up using the timer-delay which works but is a little time consuming and frustrating if you want to time a shot to perfection (can I figure out if that wave will hit the cliffs in precisely 10-seconds?).

Having said all that, I now have my graduated ND filter and want to revisit a few places where I've managed to take a nice shot or two but have been frustrated by the contrast between the dark land and a bright sky - Kilauea Iki springs to mind. Wish me luck!


Beep said...

I've been informed by the SLR owner in my house that the Mac computer processes the unusual RAW format produced by Panasonic cameras ... of course I would watch out for him, because he is on a private "Convert the World to Mac" mission. I say if he's going to keep doing this he should at least get a commission from Apple. However, I will shut up now, because I finally switched and I can't say I miss my PC.

He and several other friends of mine are becoming passionate photographers. One is working on attaching camera(s) to a telescope for a community project.

Anyway I am showing some of them your photos because, like the photo in this entry is, they really are something special! Looking forward to more :)

Zuzana said...

Tom, I did not know you had such a knowledge when it comes to photography! This post (plus the previous one) could be an article published in a magazine somewhere.;)

With that said, the picture above is absolutely stunning; the contrast in colours reminds me of ice and fire.

parv said...

You could use a optically triggered slave flash while connected to the shoe mount with a 1/4-20 screw & 3/4" wide aluminium plate. For a ready made solution, one of the Metz models come with the bracket to attach to the camera. Sunpak also has some digital slave flash. Mind you I have no direct experience with any of these.

As for the lack of aperture for large depth of field, see Digital Depth of Field by Bob Atkins for gritty details, and associated discussion|questions. Just magnify gain or loss of DOF wherever Canon 10D is mentioned due to much smaller sensor in the Panasonic.