F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC) .

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC have not been doing much travelling recently. You may have noticed the dearth of posts from this worm. What have we been up to, you may well ask?

The TC has acquired a new toy, somewhat unimaginatively named the Canon PowerShot SX30 IS. We call it the SuperZoom. It’s a point-and-shoot digital camera, with a 35-times zoom lens, going from 4.3 mm wide angle to 150.5 mm telephoto. The equivalent in 35 mm terms is 24 mm to 840 mm.

Have your eyes glazed over already? Do you feel the sudden urge to rush off into the traffic or jump over a cliff, or find some other way to put the zing back into life? Now you have the tiniest idea of what things have been like chez TC recently.

The TC ummed and ahhed for months before buying the SuperZoom. She consulted DSLR experts, read reviews and agonised over the choice. Go for a DSLR with quality “glass” (that’s a lens, folks) and total control over all aspects of the photo, but requiring a number of lenses that are expensive, cumbersome and finicky. Or go for a point-and-shoot with a single zoom lens, possibly compromising on the quality of the picture because a one-size-fits-all solution is often a compromise.

Then Canon produced the SX30 IS at around the same time as the TC decided against a DSLR. Decision made, and in the process the TC had learned a whole lot about just why the DSLR enthusiasts were worried that the SX30 IS might yield disappointing results.

F-stops and apertures, exposure times and ISO speeds, bracketing and exposure bias, focal length, depth of field… It’s fascinating stuff. Especially when you realise that most of the terminology and skills were developed to suit photography done with 35mm film, and that folks now just kind of morph the same terminology into the digital world, where it kind of works. Yes, fascinating stuff. So the TC tells me.

My impressions? For a details-oriented person like the TC, this photography lark looks to be an interesting occupation. From the point of view of those around her? Well, it keeps her out of our hair!

Travel tip

When travelling with a camera, or a camera-wielding TC, be prepared to stop and shoot at a moment’s notice.

The book I’m in

How to Do Everything: Digital Camera, by Dave Johnson. This is an excellent book for anyone wanting to learn about photography and digital cameras.

This worm had a narrow escape recently. I was spending some time in a DK book on photography that the TC took a violent dislike to. Ask her about it, then duck!

The photos

Me with Peg and a piece of bark that’s recently fallen from a Sydney Red Gum tree:

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stop: f/4
Exposure time: 1/125 sec
ISO speed: ISO-80
Exposure bias: -1 step
Focal length: 4 mm
Max aperture: 2.875
Metering mode: Pattern
Flash: No flash, compulsory

The TC has discovered that the camera and Windows both store a number of interesting facts about how the picture was taken. To keep her happy, I’ve copied the details below each photograph in this post. She’s been experimenting with the options available in the camera’s various modes. Even thought it’s a point-and-shoot, it offers an impressive flexibility for those who care to click and flick various buttons, wheels and knobs.

A jumble of bark at the base of a Scribbly Gum:

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stop: f/4
Exposure time: 1/50 sec
ISO speed: ISO-400
Exposure bias: 0 step
Focal length: 11 mm
Max aperture: 4
Metering mode: Pattern
Flash: No flash, compulsory

That looks like a secret code on some ancient rolled parchments, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s the work of grubs living in the bark of the tree.

The trunk of a Scribbly Gum:

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stop: f/4.5
Exposure time: 1/40 sec
ISO speed: ISO-100
Exposure bias: -1 step
Focal length: 18 mm
Max aperture: 4.34375
Metering mode: Pattern
Flash: No flash, compulsory

Two dragonflies mating while one chomps a cicada:

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stop: f/4
Exposure time: 1/250 sec
ISO speed: ISO-100
Exposure bias: 0 step
Focal length: 12 mm
Max aperture: 4
Metering mode: Pattern
Flash: No flash, compulsory

Talk about hostile mergers and acquisitions! Did you know that dragonflies are carnivorous? This worm did not, and neither did the TC.

Before we go any further, I have to admit I’m not sure that the happy couple are dragonflies. Their wings are parallel to their bodies, not at right angles. They don’t look like damselflies either, though. These critters were large: about 4 cm long. Do you know what they are?

One of the pair has a cicada firmly grasped in its legs. The trio was very mobile, and flew up and around the TC twice while she photographed it.

Another shot, where you can see the cicada more easily:

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stop: f/4.5
Exposure time: 1/160 sec
ISO speed: ISO-160
Exposure bias: 0 step
Focal length: 29 mm
Max aperture: 4.34375
Metering mode: Pattern
Flash: No flash, compulsory

A kookaburra, shot at maximum telephoto range (150 mm, 35x zoom, equiv. 840mm):

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stop: f/5.8
Exposure time: 1/80 sec
ISO speed: ISO-400
Exposure bias: 0 step
Focal length: 150 mm
Max aperture: 5.0625
Metering mode: Spot
Flash: No flash, compulsory

The TC is inordinately proud of that shot. It was tricky to keep the bird in focus at such a long distance. She played around with the depth of field (there’s another of her newly acquired terms) and exposure, took a number of shots, then chose the one she liked best.

We’ve already covered trees and birds, two of the TC’s favourite subjects. Here’s the third:



F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stops and focus and zooms, oh my!

F-stop: f/3.5 Exposure time: 1/60 sec ISO speed: ISO-250 Exposure bias: -1 step Focal length: 8 mm Max aperture: 3.625 Metering mode: Spot Flash: Flash, auto, redeye

That’s all for today dudes.

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