It is going to be a struggle to make my blog quota for this month. I only have one to go after today’s entry, but currently in the midst of something that is limiting my access to the Internet which quite frankly is a pretty important component to blogging. I will try my best, but the Life Intrigued Complaint Department might get a little busy on Dec 1st. I did want to pull away from my current activities and introduce you to one of my new favorite pastimes (and provide a lead-in to some future posts). Let’s get right to the topic shall we? I would like to introduce you to:
PHOADTOGRAPHY: The fun activity of taking photographs of various interesting subjects while cruising down the road usually at a high rate of speed. This pastime can be performed by anyone in the vehicle except the driver and only requires a digital camera with high shutter speeds and/or high ISO capabilities.
Pretty clever eh, combining two nouns representing the two key components of the activity and forming a new word. Okay, admittedly it is kind of lame, but there is one key aspect of this …. no one has taken it (yep, I checked Google) which means it is ALL MINE (true to copyright rules, the act of putting this concept out for public consumption today makes me the rights holder!). Note, the name is unique, but others already have galleries out there with snaps from the road … I just have a new not-so-clever name for it.
As a little background, I have been twiddling around with this for a number of years in a desperate attempt to put some fun into long vacation rides. It really started by trying to take pictures of various state signs as I crossed the borders. This had a side benefit of putting a place holder in my digital image cards so I knew at least what state I was in when a group of pictures was taken. It then evolved into a little game trying to get the sign centered on the frame as I flew by at 65+ mph. From there it evolved into trying to capture other interesting things discovered in our cross-country jaunts. Due to some inner ear issues, my wife prefers to stay off of planes as much as possible, so our vacations tend to have a lot of car travel in them, giving me plenty of time to hone my craft.
Every activity is a little more exciting if you are trying to reach some kind of achievement/goal. In the process of refining phoadtography, I have set a context (guidelines if you will) that hopefully make this a little more entertaining and potentially more challenging to boot.
Rule #1: A little blur is okay, a lot of blur is not: Clearly it is going to be hard to get anything really tack sharp when you are shooting from inside a car traveling down the road. Not only do you have the motion of the vehicle to worry about, you are often shooting through a window, typically spotting subjects, focusing and snapping in under 2 seconds and with all that trying to compose around other moving objects. Do your best and I highly recommend fast glass. My preferred glass is a Nikon 2.8 end to end zoom
Rule #2: Grain is the name of the game: There is really no way around it unless you want to take a mortgage out on your house to buy the mega-glass and if you are like me, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. To compensate, you have to jack up the ISO to help freeze the image and we should all know by now what that does to the overall quality of the image… GRAIN. Learn to love it and at worst case, employ a little noise cleanup software (the new Lightroom 3 does a pretty awesome job by the way). On the highway on sunny days, my ISO is usually set on 1600, but off the highway it can go down to 800 without issue. This changes during the day which just adds to the challenge.
Rule #3: Horizontal trumps Vertical: When you are at a shoot with your tripods at the ready and your assistants fluttering about, composition separates the men from the boys (and of course the equipment bank account). On the road, it is a different story. If you have time to compose, you are probably holding up traffic. Instead, the task is horizontal centering. The goal is to hit the shutter at the exact moment in time that is centered horizontally on the frame. This can be made easier or significantly more difficult depending on the glass you happen to be using. Over the years, I have become pretty good at the required timing and actually use a 70-200 zoom usually at the extent. When you are just starting out, you might want to use a wide glass or pull that zoom all the way back to give you more frame space to work with. One critical requirement comes into play here. If you are going to be showing off your centering skilz, no cropping allowed in post processing (and yes, we can tell!)
Here is an example of horizontal centering. Admittedly the car wasn’t going 65 at the time, but this is a good shot of a well centered sign snap (from a lettering perspective).
hit the jump to see the rest of the rules and some examples from the road