It’s been two weeks since I visited the museum exhibition that inspired me to start this project. (See Museum-worthy Inspiration.) My first step was to choose the scene that I would photograph daily. Check. Now, I must decide what constants my project will reflect and what variables will remain as variables.
For the past week and a half, I’ve been experimenting. When I began, I had no idea that I would learn more about my camera and about photography in the process. But I have. To produce his photos in the exhibit called “6:30 AM”, Robert Weingarten used a slow speed film, procured and cared for carefully, so as to keep this medium as one of his constants. He also set a fixed aperture, focal length, point of focus, time of day, and scene. His only variables were shutter speed and mother nature. By some trial and error, I think I’m close to settling on my constants, too.
My camera is digital. So, no need to worry about the condition of film. I set my camera’s ISO on 100, apparently as slow as it can be set. I set the images to be recorded as JPEG Fine and I won’t do any after image editing. The focal length seems to be around 21mm in all of my shots so far. It’s hard to keep it strictly constant when I use my camera for other events and then have to remount it on the tripod for this scene. But, I consider the boundaries of the scene as constant enough to keep the focal length in check. I do want aperture to be a constant, but have been experimenting a little with it. I know I also need a constant time of day, but that’s been a bit tricky and isn’t completely settled yet, either. (More on that later!) My main variables, like Weingarten’s, will be shutter speed and the weather.
At first, I tried using mid-range apertures between F5 and F8. The camera’s recommended shutter speeds for these settings produced overexposed results. And the foreground was not in focus. Oops! So, I chose F11 instead, in order to keep most of the scene in focus. I learned how to use the Manual setting on this camera — which, I hate to admit, I hadn’t tried in the year since I got it. I set the shutter speed to under-expose because the white snow and white January sky were otherwise overbearing. If I set the camera on auto, the F-stop automatically set at F5.6 with a faster shutter speed. Look at the two below, taken on January 29th. The differences are subtle, but having the whole thing in focus is important. I wonder if I dare use a smaller aperture? Maybe I’ll try that tomorrow.
More in my next post about time of day…