Rosa, my 1.5-year-old Sony NEX C3, had to be stuck in her dry box when the haze hit Singapore hard in June. The skies and air cleared up in July but then I was completely engulfed with my charity event and preparation for Hari Raya Aidilfitri. It was only after a week of Hari Raya had passed that I had a chance to venture out with the pros from a photography group founded on Facebook to catch the sunrise together. And of course, a date with the pros also meant a date with Rosa.
Before this, the last time I took her out of her box was during Hari Raya, to get the customary first-day-of-Raya family photos. So I think I changed her settings a bit to suit better for portrait shots (basically, go on Automatic mode). This year I even made the effort to do some Lightroom and Photoshop on my family photos – take a look!
Rosa doesn’t come with a remote shutter capability, but this time instead of depending on the 10-second timer for the group shots, I relied on the Smile Shutter. Gotta say, the face detection is pretty good and the smile detection is even better!
And then I kept Rosa again, until last Sunday’s sunrise photo-outing. I forgot to check my settings before leaving the house, and when I set up to take my first shot, I was perplexed as to my camera’s habit of taking three long-exposures in a single shot even though I’ve switched out of Auto and into full Manual mode. I couldn’t for the life of me remember what settings I had done, or why/when was the last time I caused something like this to happen. I kept looking at my controls and took several more shots before it finally hit me: It’s not on Auto + It’s on Jpg only = It’s on HDR mode. And then I remembered when/why I’d set this; it was during the sunset at Changi Boardwalk. Seriously, how could I have made such a major oversight? Obviously I’m too out-of-touch with the whole photography thing already. I forgot how to woo Rosa!
But was it that bad? Not one bit! After I turned off HDR (by switching from Jpg only to Jpg+RAW), I tried my usual don’t-really-know-what-I’m-doing-just-shoot-that-scene-already fumbling with my Manual mode settings. When I got home, it was obvious with just one glance that my HDR shots turned out much better than the ones after that. The clarity, sharpness, colours, everything was better when HDR was on. Even though the HDR shots were only in Jpg format and the rest were in RAW, Lightroom still responded better to the Jpgs than RAWs.
Yet, who am I kidding. Out of the 20 shots I took in total, only 1, a single, pathetic 1, turned out good enough.
The reflection isn’t solid (the water wasn’t still), the whole scene was slightly slanted (Rosa doesn’t come with a spirit level/digital level either, it was all dependent on my “eye power”), the reflection of the Supertrees are cut off (because my 16mm lens simply couldn’t fit everything in, and if I’d stepped back, the boardwalk I was standing on would be visible at the bottom). The only things this shot had over the rest were image sharpness, good balance of lights vs. shadows, and the simply amazing colour of the sunrise (the only shot with good timing). Oh, I forgot to mention, this date with Rosa was also the first time I used an ND filter that I’d purchased just two weeks ago. So I mixed and matched my filters (ND, CPL and UV) across my different shots, and this one I believe had only the ND filter on.
So now I’m left thinking, should I just rely on my HDR mode for all future landscape/architecture photo-outings, then? Some of the pros suggested that I try vertical shot panorama and stitching them together in order to get better image quality. Also because of my problem with my lens not being wide enough , someone suggested an easy way out that slipped my mind – use the Ultra Wide Angle Converter. I don’t have it, but I believe it can be borrowed from an ex-colleague of mine or at least rented from one of the few camera rental shops here.
I’ll continue to test out the various techniques and tools of photography. I still have that good book on composition I got from a book sale that I haven’t finished reading, and there are lots of good articles and tutorials online. I wish I had a one-to-one mentoring every time I went out on a phototrip, though.
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