Challenges with Hughey

Well, not necessarily with just Hughey, but he is the current subject of my photos.

These challenges are with all things moving quickly. There is a significant difference of what is required when, let’s say, I’m taking a photo of Hughey suddenly doing something as opposed to an expected even, such as a car passing by the viewfinder.

The challenge is: taking sharp photos with focus on the right parts of the image.

With pre-set up encounters, I can manually set the camera for how I want the image to look: shutter speed (freeze or motion blur the subject/background), Aperture (sharp background or bokeh) and ISO. I also need to think of where the focal point and focal distance will be – a true composition of an image. It may be as quick as a few seconds to get everything right, it may take a few minutes, depending on the circumstances.

With Hughey’s boisterous behavior, it makes it very difficult to quickly set everything for each picture. He is very abrupt and is often difficult to move the frame to get multiple shots of him to choose the best one. It could be argued that I should just focus on getting ONE shot right and ignore all the other great photo opportunities (poses and compositions). It could also be argued the other way. With “the Hughey problem”, in which I have to capture quick movements from the puppy while he is playing, I have tried a few things:

  1. Full automatic (without flash) – This is great because it allows me to focus on the composition. The set back is that my camera does not allow me to set where I want it to focus, it just chooses whatever the algorithm reckons is the main subject of the photo. The camera also determines what it considers the best outcome for the photo, regardless of the intent I had with the photo (long shutter speeds may happen due to low light or undesired bokeh when the background should have been sharp).
  2. Aperture Priority – This is where I can control the overall feel of the photos. This works most of the time, but in extreme lighting conditions (either too bright or too dark), this mode can often ruin the photo. If I want bokeh in the photo and I set the aperture to 1.8 in a sunny day, the camera may not be able to put the ISO low enough or a shutter speed high enough for the photo not to blow out. Similarly, if I need sharpness with many different depths in the photo (big depth of field), the camera may either not be able to set the ISO high enough or too much noise might be introduced by the high ISO – which may ruin the shot.
  3. Shutter Speed Priority – This is what I have been using frequently with Hughey, as I want to freeze his movements. Setting it to shutter speed priority (to freeze or blur the subject/background) often the camera can’t make all the adjustment it needs for the right f-stop. Hughey is often moving quite quickly and I sometimes am not able to get him in focus fast enough.

Why am I saying all of this? Because I’m not fully satisfied with the photos I have been taking of Hughey when we are playing. I often have to sacrifice sharpness, depth of field or some of the light to get the shot I need. When I go out photographing, even when it is animals in reserves or humans walking on the street, I have *some* time for me to get my (manual) configuration correct to take the photo. A lot of the books I have read from photographers have mentioned that most of their non-posed shots (and even some of the posed ones) are in some way automated – either fully automatic, shutter speed priority or aperture priority. I believe there will be a lot more exercising from my part to get to that point.

Controlled Image

Shutter Speed Priority

Hughey playing in the creek

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