Semaphore Beach, Port Adelaide, South Australia is a favorite place for Enigma and I to visit. Especially around sunset (you know the walk on the beach, kind of romantic type thing that people like). Ever since Enigma bought a professional standard digital camera (of the kind that you can attach all manner of specialized lenses to) we've used our trips to Semaphore as an opportunity to improve our photography.
I've had some training throughout my three years at art school on the technical side of working a manual SLR photography camera. Hence I know about apertures, shutter speeds, depth of field and other such technical things but I'm very rusty in applying that knowledge. I never really embraced the idea of me being a photographer even though my teacher said I had a great eye for photos.
Tackling the workings of a modern SLR digital camera can be quite a challenge. Most of the principles are the same as traditional cameras but finding your way around digital displays, menus and buttons unique to modern equipment is a task both Enigma and I muddle through together. I try to explain what should happen with the settings that we kind of work out together. Enigma does all the composition, framing and actually pushing the button to take a picture.
What makes it even harder is that Enigma's camera is able to use lenses that don't work with the cameras automatic functions. This means that we have to work out apertures and focusing ourselves. It's a bit hit and miss but thank god for the digital camera's ability to take hundreds of photos at virtually no cost (other than wearing down the batteries).
Whilst Enigma takes her photos I also carry around my point and shoot - any idiot could use - digital camera. It's fully automatic but does allow for some manual settings if you really want to get a bit arty. Mostly I leave it entirely on automatic. It doesn't have any kind of optical zoom lense (the digital zoom on it produces awful, pixelated images) so I'm pretty much stuck with having to physically move myself to frame my shots.
However something that we both learnt on our last trip to the beach was that sometimes automatic settings are the best to go with. The photo at the top of this post is one that I took of the Semaphore jetty with my basic camera. I just framed the shot so the brightest part of the sun was blocked out and the camera did the rest. Easy. How it should be. Technology working to assist creativity.
Enigma was trying out a new lense that was really struggling with the light once the sun was really low in the sky. Neither of us being that knowledgeable about lenses, we experimented with it quite a bit, until finally it just became obvious that the light just wasn't enough to get a decent picture. Even with the aperture open wide and the shutter set at a slow enough speed that was still good for hand held photography.
Noticing that my camera was still handling the light fairly well and producing well lit photos, I advised that Enigma should simply reattach the lense that came with her camera - the one that allows all of its automatic functions to work - and try that.
The suggestion worked a treat. Enigma was able to take well lit photos for quite some time after that. Even a few night shots too. Sometimes fully automatic is really the way to go. Especially if you're like us and aren't fully conversant with the settings.
More to the point. Photography is meant to be fun. If you are fighting with your camera, using manual settings, it doesn't hurt to switch back to auto for a while. Just so you can get back to the creative part of framing and composing your pictures.
Another tip I learnt during art school, that applies particularly to taking sunset photos, but is a good rule on any photography excursion. Always look behind, down and above, from your current position when taking a photo. Not all the best photos are right in front of you. Below are two examples of photos that I may not have seen if I hadn't taken a moment to look the other way. Both were taken roughly at the same time as the jetty photo above. (Note: if you weren't aware clicking on any image in my blog will usually show a larger version).