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Manual Curtis

September 21, 2013  |  curtis

We’ve had the Nikon D300 for the past 5 1/2 years. It’s my first SLR camera ever, and every now and then I go through phases of trying to understand manual photography a little better.

For those non-photography types, the SLR camera has 4 modes to choose from; Priority mode which is basically automatic, Shutter priority: where you control the shutter speed, Aperture priority: where you control the aperture and Manual where you control both shutter and aperture.

Manual mode is a place I’ve never been comfortable.

Recently, when I was taking pictures of the moose, I was on shutter priority. It’s not like he was really moving quickly or anything, I just had been feeling more comfortable on shutter priority vs. aperture priority.

Since it was pretty dark outside, I had my ISO bumped up rather high, and my shutter speed was low-ish so I could let more light in.

For some reason, when I hear the language used to explain aperture and shutter speed, I can regurgitate it, but I guess I don’t deeply understand it. So with both Aperture and Shutter speed, I’ve always re-interpret them as lower = lighter, though I know there’s more to it than that.

So back to my Moose dilemma. As it gets more light out, at what point do I dial up my shutter speed and turn down my ISO – or which do I do first and why?

Brian explains things to me in a very technical way, which reminds me of when my Dad taught me how to drive stick shift and doesn’t really register.

So I googled my question and found a lot of really great articles. Basic Photo Tips: Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO – actually got me shooting in manual mode (pictured above). It turns out these three settings are called the Photographic Triangle, which is what I’m really trying to understand.

Does anyone have any easy to understand insight into “The Photographic Triangle?”

Dinner Last Night:
We were running low on supplies, but I had half a cauliflower. So I tried this recipe for gobi paratha which is very different from Vegan Richa’s paratha and served it with left over tahini sauce and tapatillo. I think the tahini hot sauce combo made the dish.

On the side we had a salad “jumble” with kidney beans, corn, celery, cherry tomatoes and carrots tossed in lime juice.


2013 Cost of Camping:
93 nights paid camping (thru Saturday 9/21)
171 nights free camping
264 days this year
Total spent on camping this year: $2,550.07
Daily average cost of camping: $9.66


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  1. I basically leave my ISO on 100 most of the time and shoot with a wide open aperture(1.6) unless dark conditions then I bump up the ISO or for landscapes(you want more in focus so you bring the aperture number up). I love manual mode but my husband loves aperture mode. He thinks technology is at a place that you can shoot in aperture and have great results. It is an ongoing fude as we pass the camera back and forth :) I shoot a lot of pics of my kids, that is why I keep the aperture number low. It makes for soft backgrounds. Hope you have fun playing around in manual.

  2. Love that boy!!!! Curtis looks like he is a patient subject for your experimenting….looks good….As for Photographic Triangle, you are talking to a girl who gave up on Canon T2i for Dummies :{

  3. I’ve recently been forcing myself to shoot in manual as opposed to aperture priority or shutter priority and the results are so much nicer! I think the priority settings are a great place to start though so that you begin to understand what that setting name really means. Think about what you’re shooting… if your subject is in motion, then focus on getting your shutter speed exactly where you want it and then the aperture adjusts (or you adjust it) accordingly. If you want a nice bokeh effect in the background and very little (or a lot) in focus, then find the best aperture for that and let shutter speed adjust accordingly. This is how those priority settings work and so the thinking should stay the same when you shift to manual – you just have more options! As for ISO, I tend to leave mine set at 400. This will produce more “grain” than 100 or 200, but I find it’s good for “all-purpose” shots. If I get really desperate I’ll crank it up to 800 or 1600, but I’ve found that I’m never pleased with the noise and the grain in those pictures. Good luck, keep playing! It’s the best way to learn what works for each unique situation.

    • Thanks Lindsey, it’s so weird that in just the past few days I’m really starting to get aperture and shutter speed. I really appreciate your thoughts on ISO.

  4. I can explain it, but it would take too long in a comment. Feel free to send me an e-mail and maybe we can skype. Or we may meet soon on the road someday soon :)

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