Saturday, April 26, 2008

Nikko, April 2008

With my new shiny camera, 5 good friends, and new walking shoes, we headed up to Nikko. Nikko is my favorite day trip from Tokyo. I love little mountain towns in Japan and the temples are fantastically beautiful. So I figured it was a good place to test my new camera.
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Lessons learned:
My camera is much much better than the viewfinder. So while most "auto pict" pictures looked underexposed in the viewfinder, they looked great later. The pictures that I thought were better when I messed with the exposure ended up a little over exposed.

Take home lesson: Rather than take many pictures of one thing with different exposures, leave it to auto for now and take more pictures of different things.

My new camera is SLR, which means 1) I can change lenses 2) have more manual control 3) I need to look through the small hole to see compose the picture. This is good for a number of reasons... except it's a bit of a pain with glasses. So, some of my shots were cropped when I didn't mean them to be.

Take home lesson: when in doubt shoot wider shots and crop later

Unfortunately, blogspot is kind of a pain to upload pictures to, so unless anyone cries otherwise, I'm just going to put bubbleshare links.


tornadoes28 said...

You are validated.

Great pictures of Nikko. I especially like picture #9 of the lanterns with the crowds of tourists in the back.

Joseph said...

Fantastic pictures! Thanks for sharing.

I've always heard that the secret to being a good photographer is just to take a lot of pictures. The beautiful thing about digital is that's actually possible for those of us without a scadload of independent wealth... :-)

michaelpanda said...

I shoot Canon so I've never used the Pentax K200. However, I do recall reading on a photography review site that the K200 uses an older pentamirror type of viewfinder ("the small hole to look through" as you put it ;) ), as opposed to a newer, brighter pentaprism viewfinder, which accounts for the image in the viewfinder being dimmer than it might otherwise be on a more professional, higher end camera (which tend to use a pentaprism). However, when you check the LCD screen it should be pretty clear whether the image is over/underexposed.

As well, if it's not possible to "eyeball" the exposure, there are two things you can do - the first (and most useful) is of course just to check the exposure meter in the viewfinder as you're composing your shot. Your camera should have something like that at the bottom of the image when you look through the viewfinder. It probably looks something like this:

-2 oo -1 oo V oo +1 oo +2

When you focus in the scene, the camera should take the exposure and flash it up in the exposure meter. Obviously you want it to show right around the centre "V" mark, since that means the scene is (hopefully) ideally exposed. (Of course, the camera can be fooled, which is when you either need to use a different metering mode, or else adjust the exposure manually using the exposure compensation button)

You can get a pretty good sense of whether your scene is properly exposed (barring certain unusual lighting situations) simply by checking that the exposure balance is at the centre when you focus the screen - for the most part, more reliable than looking through the viewfinder.

The other (and most useful thing) you can do to double check your exposure - and this is especially true if you're having trouble overexposing and blowing your highlights like you mentioned in your post, is to use your camera histograms, one of the best tools a digital SLR gives you.

Rather than explain how to use them in this message, you can read more about histograms here, and how they basically tell you instantly whether your shot is over/underexposed or not:

As for it being a bit of a pain to look through the viewfinder while wearing glasses - I don't wear glasses myself for the most part, but I do know that Canon and Nikon make "eyepiece extenders" specifically for people with glasses. (For example, the canon EP-EX15 eyepiece extender)... I have heard that these things shrink the image size in the viewfinder (which, if your K200 viewfinder image is already dim, might not be a good thing at all) which makes sense since they basically move your face away from the viewfinder. Perhaps pentax makes something similar?

Otherwise, most digital slrs have a "diopter adjustment" (usually a small dial near the viewfinder). You can just turn this wheel until the image in the viewfinder looks sharp and in focus for you (without glasses). I'm not sure if your camera has one, but if it does, this might be the answer to your problem?

Finally, if nothing is working, you can get custom dioptric Adjustment lenses or whatever for your viewfinder, but I don't know much about these or even if pentax makes them for their cameras.

Anyway, hope this comment might help alleviate some frustrations with your camera... (and if not, sorry!) And I agree with the commenter above - take lots and lots of pictures! That's what dslrs are great for - the ability to experiment basically without cost!

Nice blog, by the way. Hope Japan is treating you well.