Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Ohio Lighthouses...applying some new ideas.

A few weekends ago my wife and I made a trip up to Port Huron, MI to try and get some winter lighthouse pictures to add to our collections. It was an OK trip, but I wasn't fully satisfied with what we saw (we only made 3 stops, and one of them was on coast guard property so we could only photograph over the fence). So this last weekend, we decided to hit some more lighthouses. Being that the sun is so low on the horizon, we made the mistake last November of hitting some lighthouses on the North side of Lake Erie. Not wanting to face similar conditions (with the resulting less-than-stellar photos), we decided it would be a good idea to head for the South side of Lake Erie, so Ohio here we come!!!

Being that we had limited winter daylight, and we didn't plan on making this an overnight trip, we picked a handful of lighthouses to hit from Port Clinton to Lorain. By the time morning rolled around, there was some very nasty fog which didn't clear up until sometime past 11AM. The thought did occur to me to get out early and get some cool lighthouse-in-the-fog shots. However, I remembered last time we tried that the photos didn't come out nearly as good as they did in my mind. So, we waited until around 9AM to leave, getting us to our first lighthouse right around 11:30AM.

We got some good shots on the trip. I was especially pleased with the shots I got from the Marblehead and Huron Harbor lighthouses. Lake Erie was frozen over as far as the eye could see. I took advantage of the opportunity to walk a short distance out onto the ice so that I could capture the frozen shoreline in a few of the shots.

While I was out taking shots, I figured it would be a good opportunity to try out some of my new ideas picked up from "Understanding Exposure". First, I decided that I was going to shoot mostly in M mode.

In trying to look up just how many of my shots were manual, I noticed a bug in C1. It seems that it's reporting my manual mode shots as being shutter priority. Interesting....

Anyway, my purpose for shooting in M was (as I mentioned in my last update) to try and avoid the pain of dealing with erratic meter readings in Av or Tv when pointing the camera at slightly different subjects. Since taking pictures of a given setting should give roughly the same exposures, I was hoping to be able to set it and (mostly) forget it.

So after switching to M mode, I pointed the camera at the (clear blue) sky to take a meter reading. Unfortunately, I was expecting to have to do a lot of fiddling with settings, so I didn't clearly make note of what my original adjustments were, but as best as I can recall I originally came up with 1/200 or 1/250 @ f/11 with ISO 100. In my sample shots, there was a little bit of blown out highlights in the snow and sky, so I bumped the shutter speed up to 1/400. This gave perfect results for almost everything. When pointing directly towards the sun, I did bump up to 1/500 to avoid blowing out the sky immediately surrounding the sun, but other than making that adjustment every now and then, the settings seemed to be fine. When going into the shadow of the trees, I did have to go to a 1/160 to 1/200 shutter speed, but that was the majority of my fidgeting.

The end result is that I got some great photos with these settings, and I enjoyed myself a lot more in the process . Not having to take the same shot 2 or 3 times because the meter readings would jump all over the place was a relief. I also found that after a while I was plenty comfortable that the exposure was good, and I found myself looking down at the LCD (ie: "chimping") a heck of a lot less.

So here are a few of my favorite pics from the trip. The rest of the pics can be found here: http://www.pbase.com/ldkronos/lighthouses

Marblehead Ligthouse

Watching over a frozen Lake Erie

Huron Harbor Lighthouse

Geese on the Portage River - Port Clinton

Sea Gull plays Spin the Bottle

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