Archive for March, 2012

This year’s SE Regionals was a superb event. Compliments all around to the North Beach Schutzhund Club, in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for organizing and hosting one of best Schutzhund trials I’ve attended. The trial featured excellent dogs and noteworthy performances! During the trial, I took more than 3,000 photos. My goal was not to capture every competitor nor every exercise, but to experiment with setting my camera to very high shutter speeds and adjusting the ISO fairly high so the camera could adjust the aperture for a good exposure (shutter speed priority). Above is a sample of the best shots of the weekend. You can see nearly 100 photo highlights on my website – BJ Spanos Ink Photography.

While I did get some very nice images, I also took some real duds. As a result, I learned some things about using shutter speed priority. First, it’s very difficult for the camera (Canon EOS 7D) to set the aperture when the camera is firing off at 1/1000 up to 1/4000 per second in burst mode, even with ISOs that are correct for the lighting conditions. The lighting in the mornings was marvelous, but even so settings that produced well balanced exposure at one end of the field (warm sun glow) were not at all effective at the other end as one end of the field (deep shadow) and vice versa. Also, the quality of focus varied quite a bit. And, it’s hard to make adjustments as the dog is speeding by in a fast recall or long bite. By midday, there was a lot of glare and harsh white light from the clear skies and bright sun, which presents its own set of challenges. See an earlier posts on Calculating Exposure: A Function of Doubles and Halves for more details.

Second, even with a reasonably powerful zoom (Canon EF 100 – 400 mm f/4.5 – 5.6 L IS/USM), it’s asking a lot for the camera to properly expose and focus on a fast moving dog in changeable lighting. Even with the zoom, the lens sees mostly the background (tree, bleachers, grass) and tends to focus on the brightest thing in the frame, which usually isn’t the dog. You can almost hear the aperture say, “Whoa – wait up!”

Third, to get a really soft, satiny look on up close shots of the dog, such as the one below, try setting a small aperture (in this case f/16), high shutter speed (1/1000). The ISO was 2000. The result is the camera does not have as much data to work with, so the pixels are softened. Personally, I love the satiny look of the dog’s fur.

Always fun to experiment and see what I get. Next time, I’m going to try going manual. As always, your comments are welcome!

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