Manual vs. Auto – Questions answered

I am not really a teacher, but I think I am qualified to correct several misconceptions.  Many newbies and some experienced at photography, including some of my friends,  believe that if you change your camera settings from AUTO, that you will be shooting manual.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth.  To be shooting in manual, you have to set your camera to the M, which is true manual.

Okay, let’s see what you are getting into if you decide to shoot in M (MANUAL).  First you have to measure the light, so you can decide on your shutter and aperture settings.  How do you measure the light?  You can use the built-in light meter in the camera.  Aim the camera at a neutral scene, or the palm of your hand, or a gray card, or at the blank blue sky about 90 degrees away from the sun.  Any of these can give you recommended settings for your shutter speed, and aperture, depending on how you have set your ISO.

ISO??  Yep, your camera meter needs to know about your film (or digital sensor) speed.  You can pick from a number between 100 and 6400, (most cameras.)  So after you obtain the settings recommended by the meter, then you have to know how to change the settings in the camera.  Your manual should show you how to do that.

If the recommended shutter speed is to slow or fast for your liking, then you can adjust, but then you have to re-adjust your aperture setting to compensate.  Remember,  Aperture means how much light you should let in, and Shutter Speed means for how long a time period that you want to let that light.  If you change Aperture to a large opening, you have to cut down on the time, so you go to a faster shutter speed to compensate.  You will still end up with proper exposure for the picture.

Now after all of this work, do you really want to shoot “MANUAL”?  I don’t think so.  After spending hundreds or thousands of dollars for a modern camera designed to make the job easier, why would you want to.  Heck, count me out.  But I do have the basic knowledge if I ever need to.

I began shooting seriously about 60 years ago, when I took a course through the New York Institute of Photography.  Then, manual was the only way to go.  Ugh!  It was work.  But it made me a better photographer as I learned the basics.  Cameras were all manual, except some had a built-in meter to measure the light.  Otherwise, you used a hand-held light meter.

Now with the modern camera, shooting AUTO is for the beginner, who is unfamiliar with the settings, and/or who just want to get pictures easier until they learn more.  There is nothing wrong with that.  The camera is designed to give you good photographs that way.  But you will get good photos only under ordinary conditions.

So getting back to changing from AUTO, I believe most individuals who turn that dial away from AUTO, think they are shooting in manual, when they are really not.  Most usually go to Av  (aperture priority), or Tv (Shutter priority).  One of these modes is what most photographers, including pros, shoot.  But, circumstances can come up where they need to know how to use the true Manual.  But please know, that just because the dial doesn’t say AUTO, doesn’t mean that you are shooting in Manual.

So let’s get back to changing from AUTO to one of some other settings.

ISO – set the camera between 100 and 6400, or Auto, in most cameras.  The higher the number, the more sensitive the film or digital sensor is to light.  If you set the ISO to Auto, you don’t have to worry.

P (Program)  (EDITED AFTER INITIAL PUBLICATION.)  This is nearly Auto, but you have a bit more control.  You can change the Aperture, and the Shutter automatically changes to the right speed.  The same if you change the Shutter, the Aperture will automatically change to the correct opening.

Av (Aperture Priority).   You set the aperture manually that you want, the camera will read the light and give you the right shutter speed.

Tv (Shutter Priority).  You set the shutter speed manually that you want, and the the camera will read the light and give you the right aperture.

There are other settings on some cameras to make things easier, too.  These are actually more Auto settings, but you can make adjustments if you need.

– A little flower symbol means macro or close-up photography.

– A running man symbol indicates fast action.

– A mountain or trees symbol indicates landscapes or scenics.

I rarely shoot in full Manual anymore.  Personally, when I am shooting birds, I shoot in Tv (Shutter Priority) with the ISO on auto most of the time.  Why??  Because if I shot in Manual, I wouldn’t have the time to measure the light and make the right settings.  By then it would be supper time and the birds would be gone. (Well, that may be an exaggeration.  But it would take more time.)

By shooting Shutter Priority, I know that will I have a high enough shutter speed to catch the action if the bird takes to flight.  I usually set the shutter at about 1/1600 of a second average.  Difference in light can dictate what figure I use.

If it is a really bright day, I may shoot Aperture Priority.  By setting my camera to a real large aperture opening, I will be assured that the camera will give me a fast shutter speed.

There are other fine tuning adjustments that can be made as you go, like adjusting the EV (exposure value), for darker or lighter situations, but that may come in a future “lesson”.

I hope this advice helps you a bit more.  But, like the doctor said, “if you still need help, take two pictures and call me in the morning”. 🙂

The female Northern Cardinal

First an update:  It has been confirmed that the mystery bird in yesterday’s post was a winter Myrtle Yellow-rumped Warbler.  At first, I considered a Pine Warbler, but after contacting my friend Eric Carpenter in Austin, Texas, he indeed confirmed the yellow-rumped.

That was so much fun getting different opinions on the ID of that bird, I am thinking of maybe having a weekly contest.  Let me think about that. 🙂

So now, to answer Katie (her blog), who commented to my Northern Cardinal post, by asking if I had photos of a female.  Well, certainly, dear Katie, anything to satisfy my readers.  Here are three of my best.

female Northern Cardinal

Image number 1, photographed July 7, 2007.  Canon EOS 20D with Canon 100-400mm lens.  1/250 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 400.  Partial metering and aperture priority.

female Northern Cardinal

Image number 2, photographed June 27, 2009, Canon EOS 40D with 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter.  1/200 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 800, minus 1/3 EV.  Partial metering with aperture priority.

female Northern Cardinal

Image number 3, photographed April 29, 2008, Canon EOS 40D with Canon 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter.  1/200 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 800. Center-weighted metering and aperture priority.

I hope Katie and the rest of you enjoyed these photos.  Anytime that you wish to request certain species photos, if I can accomodate, I certainly will, if I have some presentable photos.

Click on any of the photos to see an enlargement.

Another Northern Cardinal image

I keep going back through my old archives when I have spare time.  Today when I was adding photos to my flickr page, I came across this Northern Cardinal ( Cardinalis cardinalis) image that I had taken with my old Canon 40D back in 2008.

Northern Cardinal

We were sitting in the bird blind at San Angelo State Park, when it flew in and perched atop a desert sumac.  I had my Canon 500mm with a 1/4 tele-converter attached, mounted on a tripod with a Wimberley II gimbal head.  Exposure was 1/500 sec. @ f5.6, ISO 500.  Center weighted metering with aperture priority.

I love the flashy color of the cardinals.  They are one of my favorite birds to photograph because they are naturally photogenic.  Click on the image to see an enlargement.  Also, click on the Flickr logo on the right side of this page and have a look at some other work of mine.

Tale of The Take – Ruddy Ground Dove

I have had a lot of people ask me all along about how I got some of my photos.  I got to thinking that there is a story behind almost all of my images, so what better than to relate to you, my readers, these tales.  So today I start the series, “The Tale of the Take”.   Catchy name, don’t ya think? 🙂

First up will be my exciting narration of how I was able to obtain this image of a very rare Ruddy Ground Dove.  As with a lot of my photos, a lot of luck was involved.

Ruddy Ground Dove

On Sunday afternoon, February 10, 2009, I got an e-mail forwarded from a local birder.  It was from Don and Linda Burt who live on property at Dove Creek, near here.  They gave a phone number and invited anyone to call or come see a rare Ruddy Ground Dove on their place.

Of course, since I am the consumate “have camera, will travel” guy, I gave them a call.  Sure, they said, c’mon out.  I loaded my equipment into our Mercury mini-van, and Ann and I headed out.

Now, at that time, I was pretty new at this past-time of birding.  I absolutely had no idea what a Ruddy Ground Dove looked like.  I didn’t even have the sense to look for pictures of one.  Fortunately, upon arrival, we found half of the Abilene chapter of the Audubon Society already there looking for it.  They thought they saw it in some trees, but couldn’t say for sure.

This was about 2:30PM or so.  Don Burt called me aside and told me to be patient.  He pointed to a fence gate about 30 yards away.  Just wait, he said, because at about 4:00 a flock of Inca Doves would gather near that fence, and the Ruddy Ground Dove would be among them.

I went ahead and got my Canon 40D, my current camera then, out of the car.  I attached my Canon 500mm super-tele with a 1.4 teleconverter.  I mounted the rig onto my Bogen-Manfrotto tripod with a Wimberley gimbal head.  I got it into position for a possible shot, then sat in the shade and waited.  So did the group from Abilene.

Sure enough, right on time, a bunch of Inca Doves flew in and started feeding near that fence.  The Audubon people pointed out to me the Ruddy Ground Dove.  I sure was happy that I wasn’t alone or I probably wouldn’t have recognized it.  I found it in my viewfinder and was able to get several shots.   Pertinent photo data:  Canon 40D SLR.  Shot at f5.6 for 1/1600 second.  ISO 400 in Aperture Priority.

The Ruddy Ground Dove is very rare in the United States, but sightings are on the increase, as they move up from Mexico.  As you can see, except for the markings, it could have been easily mistaken for a Mourning Dove by a novice like me.

Watch for my next thrilling, exciting, Tale of the Take.