Photographer's Barn Tour (or how to make friends with your new camera)

Ever since Santa Paws left a new camera under our Christmas tree, I've been waiting for some decent weather so that I could dink around with it.  Reading instruction books is above my pay grade, and so I've learned that the best way for me to get acquainted with a new piece of equipment is to just use it, hoping not to break it in the process.

The sun finally came out yesterday, and so we headed out into the countryside to find shapes, colors, contrasts, textures, and barns.  Barns are excellent photography subjects, in my viewfinder.  Generally, the scene is made up of the complementary colors of red and green.  But not always, as you shall soon see.

Earlier in the year I asked Santa to bring me a camera small enough to fit in my pocket, lightweight enough not to wrench my back out of shape, easy enough to use that I wouldn't need to read the instructions, and (here's the hard part among all these prerequisites) one that would take good pictures.  The tiny camera/iPhone revolution is a wonderful thing, but those little lenses don't always take very good pictures.  I want to be able to take good pictures when I go to Ireland in June.

Santa rewarded my request with this sweet little Nikon Coolpix S9100.

It's a great little camera . . . small enough to fit into the palm of my hand.  It's not much larger than a deck of cards, and so the small and lightweight parts of my request were satisfied.  It's a true point and shoot camera in that it doesn't have a lot of buttons or settings to mess with.  I already have two DSLR's if I want to mess around changing lenses, apertures, shutter speeds, and other such settings.  Also, it does not have a conventional viewfinder, but only a digital screen.  This might have bothered me at one point, but it doesn't any longer.  I've grown accustomed to using the screen with my Canon point and shoot.  Besides, now that I'm forced to wear glasses, I don't need to remove my glasses to use the screen like I do with the viewfinder.  (Some of you who have worn glasses all your life may wonder why this is a problem.  Believe me, when you start wearing glasses at the ripe old age of 52, they feel like an octopus wrapped around your face.)

So we stopped first at a cemetery.  Don't ask me why.  It was there.

I started out just using the "auto" setting, which takes the "temperature" of a scene and then chooses what it thinks are the best settings.  In our area in winter, it is always the "golden hour".  To a photographer, the "golden hour" is when the sun is positioned in the sky so as to provide the best light for highly saturated colors.  This generally occurs in the first couple of hours after sunrise, and the final hours just before sunset.  Just think about it.  Have you ever noticed how images shot at high noon are not as pretty as the ones shot just before sunset? 

We live just a gnat's eyelash above the 45th parallel.  Since Planet Earth is tipped on its axis approximately 23°, that means the sun never rises above approximately 22° above the horizon.  (I'm very good at math.)  Also, our days are very short right now.  The sun comes up, the sun sets.  That's about it.  High noon is only an illusion.  While I'm not happy about the short amount of daylight we have this time of year, I never complain about the seemingly endless daylight we have in the summer time.  And I never complain about the full-time golden hour in winter.

So after snapping the "auto" image, I moved on to one of the "Effects" which allows me to select only certain colors of an image.  The rest is in black and white.  Here, I selected only the red:

Here, I selected for orange/yellow:

Interesting, huh?  I can see how this will allow me some artistic license.

When I turned around from taking these images, I saw the color in this one:

Here, I had it set back on the auto setting. 

Depending on what I want to bring out in an image, I have the option of using some of the "scene" settings (which for me is a lot easier than trying to figure out the correct aperture and shutter speed).  There are scenes for fast shutter speeds that will freeze action, say for shooting cars on a racetrack.  Or maybe you're taking pictures in a museum where flash photography isn't allowed.  How to you get enough light?  Thank your camera if it knows how to adjust the ISO setting.  (Because I don't know about you, but my camera needs to be smarter than I am.)  Or maybe you're taking pictures of snow.  Have you ever noticed the blue tinge you get in images of snow?  Well, enter the camera that knows to turn down the blue in your image while at the same time giving you a little more light with a larger aperture or a higher ISO. 

We left the cemetery and drove out into the countryside to the tiny little burg of Yamhill, Oregon.  Being an old town, there were so many interesting textures in the architecture we saw there.  For example, I really liked the contrast in colors on these wooden structures:

I didn't think of it when I took the above two images, but when I saw this brick wall, I thought to use the "Sunset" scene, which amps up the red in the image a little bit.

Contrast that with what happens when I use the "Sunrise" setting, which will bring out more of the blue in the mortar between the bricks:

It's subtle, but significant.  Which do you prefer?

Also, I used this opportunity to try the "Macro" scene, which makes it possible for me to focus up closer by making changes to one of the focusing elements in the lens.  Notice the nice sharp focus in this handheld image, and how the texture in the brick and mortar stands out.

Now compare that with the macro "button" that I can use in the auto setting.  I need to play around with this a little more, but I didn't think this did as good a job as the macro "scene".

See how much better the focus is in the upper image?  However, this isn't really a fair trial because the tree trunk is round while the wall is flat.  With macro photography, the depth of field is narrow, which decreases the camera's ability to focus.  Flat subjects will always be easier for the camera to focus on than round ones.  I'll have to do some more experimentation with the macro settings.

Also, there are "high key" and "low key" scene settings.  I'm going to quote from DIY Photography to explain this one:

The first thing is that the picture is bright. Yes - to create a high key image you need to set your exposure levels to high values. You will want to watch out, though not to over expose. The other noticeable feature of High Key images is the lack of contrast. In addition for the tone being bright, you will notice that it is almost even across the scene. This is achieved by carefully setting the lighting of the picture.
In Low Key images the tone is darker, and the controlling color is usually black. There will be lots of dark areas in the picture. It is very common for Low Key images to give special attention to contour lines, emphasizing them with highlights.  Low Key images are also notable for a great deal of contrast that they display. Most notable is the rim light. A light surrounding the subject illuminating only the contour of the shape. So the contrast is between dark shape and bright contour.
So I'm still a little hazy on which setting to use to achieve the effect I want, but when I saw this subject, this is the mode I was trying to convey:

I was trying to bring out the bright gold color on the leaves while having other stuff in the image sort of fade away.  I got it wrong however, and chose the "High Key" scene, which gave me this:

Totally wrong.  When I chose the "Low Key" scene, I got the image I wanted.

So, after stopping to snap an image of this pretty holly bush/tree (do you have any idea who big holly bushes get?),

we headed out into the country on the hunt for barns.

Here are some of the barns we saw:

I've always loved the sight of leafless oak trees.  Their branches remind me of lace.  When I first got interested in photography several years ago, I went in hunt of this image which I call "Four Oaks".

Here it is in sepia.

This is still one of my favorite images of all time.  I use it a lot when I make home made greeting cards.  I like to put it with this verse:

Storms make oaks take deeper root.
~George Herbert (1593-1633)~

Here are the barns using the "Sepia" effect on my new camera, which apparently also has a softening effect to give it an antique appearance:

Compare that to the "High Contrast Monotone" effect

and the "Black and White" effect.

Can you see the difference in the 2nd and 3rd images?  Interesting, huh?  This is another one I'll have to experiment with some more.  I'm not sure when you would choose one over the other, but it's an interesting difference.  I can imagine that a silhouette image would be nice with the high contrast monotone setting.

And here are some more barns.  Red barns:

green barn,

and this brown barn.

And then, the light was waning in our short allotment of daytime, and so we headed home.  But we couldn't resist stopping to snap this image of these ladies we refer to affectionately as the "Saddle Shoe Cows".

I hope you have enjoyed my little tour of Yamhill County and the settings on my new camera.  I have to say that I am really happy with my new camera.  It works just as I want it to, and it is a nice compact size.  Today has turned gray and gloomy again.  I'm looking forward to some more good weather so I can play with it some more. 

10 comments from clever and witty friends:

Vroomans' Quilts said...

Thank you for the information and the photos - I'm in line for a new camera, and 'easy to use' is tops on the list.

Colleen said...

Loved all of the photo detail in this post. I also asked for a simple small pcoket pint and click camera. I have the big almost SLR but its sometimes hard to carry and the iphone just doesnt do it for me. My favorite feature on thie little SOny is the landscape setting. I cant wait to take great photos with it!

Kathy said...

I love the way you can just have a certain color in the pictures. Also I call those cows oreo cows. LOL Happy New Year and GO Ducks!!

Kathy said...

oh I left out that I love your photos. I love taking pictures of barns too. We have such a selection of them here in Oregon don't we?

sunny said...

I'm sorry, but Kathy has it right - those are Oreo cows! I especially loved your green barn, and the sepia Four Oaks. Now I'm in the mood to take pictures, so maybe I'll head out tomorrow. I have a really great little Canon Powershot S95 in addition to my DSLR. I never leave home without the little camera. Hubby tells me there's a new one that's even better, but I'm sticking with this little guy for awhile. Thanks for the photo lesson!

Lee said...

Thank you for the wonderful, fun post using your new camera :) Yamhill County...is the BEST!! I know it well!

SweetPepperRose said...

Thanks for sharing your photos - love the antiqued oak and barn photo - and camera knowledge. I got a Nikon CoolPix P500 back in the summer. I'm always saying I gotta read my instruction booklet, and now looking at what you did with yours, I'm just gonna take an afternoon to do nothing but take pics. Thanks!

Kate said...

Aren't new cameras fun! Looks like you got a winner from Santa Paws. Great photos.

Quilter In Paradise said...

this was fun - loved to see all the different things your camera will do. I have a little one like this that I use all the time. I need to play a little more and see what it will do!
Beth in Dallas

quiltzyx said...

NICE!! I carry a Coolpix in my purse & many of the photos I've posted are from it. The one I have now is actually my 3rd one...and it's a lovely blue that matches my car! I do tend to take quite a few shots with it while driving, but don't tell anyone....