Looking over the previous posts, I have been on Fashion Show overload for four consecutive entries. I think some of you might already had enough, so a little break is in order. Do not worry, I shall return with a few more remaining entries soon, but for now, lets move on to something non-fashion for a change.
For those of you who have missed out on a huge chunk from my entries, I have purchased a new RM380 compact camera from the PC Fair 2009. The camera is still very new to me, thus I took some time to familiarize myself with it.
One of the main reason why I purchased this camera was the capability in long exposure modes. The Panasonic Lumix LZ8 is capable of shooting shutter speed from the range of 1/2000 to 60 seconds. At 60 seconds, the camera can capture the sky of bright stars, which I have yet to try. Most other compact cameras, especially the ones in this budget category does not offer any control over the shutter speed at all, let alone the long exposure option. Being able to open the shutter longer than usual can provide very creative photography opportunities !!
Here are some examples. The following pictures were taken at the overhead bridge at Bandar Tasik Selatan, where I walked across every single day to and back from work.
To capture the above pictures, the following camera settings and tips are used:
1) I placed the camera on the hand railing.
I did not bring a tripod, it would be ridiculous to do so since it would defeat the mobility of using a compact camera. Hence, the flat, sturdy surface of the hand railing worked just fine in the absence of a tripod.
2) I used Manual control.
Forget Automatic, it will not work as well. If you want your camera to work for you, you have got to take control of it manually.
3) I set the F-number (aperture) to the highest possible on my camera.
Using narrow aperture (high F-number) will enable greater depth of field, meaning wider area to be in focus and sharp. For landscape shooting I want everything to be as sharp as possible. My camera's highest F-number is f/8.
4) I used the lowest ISO setting.
The lowest ISO in the LZ8 is 100, which was decent enough to minimize noise and ensure clean pictures.
5) I varied the shutter speed from 4-6 seconds.
I was abiding to the rule of 5 seconds. Of course, this depends on the brightness of the scene, and also a lot of other conditions. I adjusted by trial and error until I achieved the desired result.
6) I switched off the Image Stabilization
There is no point to use IS when you are using a tripod or resting your camera on a flat surface, since there is no movement at all. The IS mechanism will always move to compensate the non-existent movement, and this will cause the slight blur in the image captured. For non hand-held shooting, turn the IS off for sharpest image possible.
7) I set the self timer to 2 seconds.
By clicking on the shutter button, even a slight vibration from the finger would create blur on the picture. To prevent this problem, use self timer on the camera.
8) I turned off the flash.
There is no point in using flash unless you have subjects like people within a few meters away from the camera. The flash will not be able to fire that far away, thus its pointless to even use it.
9) I turned off the AF assist lamp.
Like the flash, the AF assist lamp works within a certain range of distance from the camera. When you are focusing somewhere considerably far, the AF assist lamp is useless.
10) I shot during the Golden Hour.
Most landscape and scenery pictures are at their best during the Golden Hour, which is 30-45 minutes after the sunset. At such time, the sky is not completely dark yet, but the colour appears to be more intense with traces of natural light still available.
Often people would come to me and say that it is impossible for compact cameras to do good night shots, or taking pictures in low light conditions. I do admit that compact camera has its limits, but to say that it is impossible seems a little far fetched. Same goes to some preconceptions of DSLRs being able to capture good pictures during the night. Some might go as far as needing to use the all-way ball head carbon fibre titanium alloy 6 feet tall tripod or gorilla pod or whatever alein pods out there, coupled with the wireless/wired remote control shutter release and a what not. No matter how you choose to see it, this entry serves to remind myself, and to prove that even a little humble compact camera could go a long way, if I could just put in a little more thought into it. Simplicity works, trust me.
Photo note: The above shot was taken at full 60 seconds long exposure. The auto white balance of the camera was quite unreliable, as shown in the aberration of the colors. Nevertheless, it can be tuned in camera, but the next train was approaching already. Somehow, the off-colors seemed very dream like in a way.
All I needed and used for those shots were:
1) A cheap, budget low end compact camera, but with manual controls.
2) No tripod, just improvised by placing the camera on a flat surface.
3) A bit of understanding on how the camera works.
4) and the most important of all.. tonnes of patience.
Weekend is near.
More photos to share with you guys soon. Cheers !!