Monday, October 10, 2011

Confessions of a pea-shooter

Call me lazy. Call me unadventurous. Call me whatever. I admit I am one of them pea-shooters. Or to be more technically precise, a "P-shooter". The "P" of course, stands for the Program mode setting of modern DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras. In this setting the camera automatically sets everything by itself - the aperture and the shutter speed. With this, a person just basically points the camera at the subject and then takes the shot. That person is a P-shooter. And that's what I am. In other words, I am your typical, albeit a little glorified, point-and-shoot picture taker (at this point, it seems rather inappropriate to refer to myself as a photographer). My rationale for being so is that I wouldn't want to twiddle with the camera settings when my intended subject could disappear at any moment. Despite this amateurish stance on taking pictures of birds, I did get some pretty good results of which I am quite satisfied. I am happy and contented as a P-shooter.

Until recently.

A bird photographer friend of mine posted this on Facebook:

Not surprisingly, this taunting illustration elicited a barrage of comments. One particular comment from another bird photographer friend of mine got my attention. In effect, he said that what's the use of having an expensive camera and lens if they are on P mode all the time. A cellphone camera could have gotten similar results, he said.


I was hurt! I was shocked! I was embarrassed! It was as if a knife had been plunged into my photographic soul. I know for sure that this friend of mine never intended his comment as a personal attack on me (we haven't done any bird photography together yet, so he couldn't have known my camera settings while in the field). 

After the pain of self-humiliation subsided, I once again began to think rationally. I recalled the time when I first got started in photography many decades ago. Of course I was using film then. With fixed ISOs. In those days cameras still don't have any automatic settings in them. Which means I knew how to adjust the apertures and shutter speeds in order to obtain decent pictures. But then, I wasn't taking pictures of birds yet. Manual settings were easier to manipulate with my favorite subjects then, which were: People (I can always tell them to stop moving) and Landscapes (I can change aperture openings and shutter speeds and the majestic mountain would still be there in front of me). Now that I'm into birds, I resolved to accept the challenge that presented itself to me. Going back to manual settings - it's just like riding a bike, right?

Saturday, my wife and I decided to go to Antipolo to check on the status of the Slaty-legged Crake family. It was a drizzly morning - a perfect opportunity to once again hone my skills in photography. To make the challenge even more formidable, I opted to bring my aging Canon 40D instead of the better light-responding 5D MkII.

It wasn't very birdy that morning - the Crakes were even a no-show - but I was able to take pictures of some birds, using manual settings, under a dark and gloomy uncooperative weather.

Pied Bush Chat - manual setting and exposure, ambient natural light: 1/125, f5.6, ISO-1250, partial metering

Spotted Dove - manual setting and exposure, ambient natural light: 1/320, f5.6, ISO-400, spot metering

White-throated Kingfisher - manual setting and exposure, ambient natural light: 1/100, f6.3 ISO-400, spot metering

I was pretty happy with the results of my "experimentation", if I may say so myself. Perhaps now I can say that I am no longer just a P shooter. I am into M too!


Anonymous said...

I found your blog at another site and bookmarked it. Now I have time to look a little more.

I guess I'm not a photographer. Ah, but I hope to learn how to use all those settings on my camera. Sadly, the instruction manual has very few instructions, just how to use what the photo place calls the "Dummy mode". My camera is just a point and shoot, but I think an ok one. We're not ready for an SLR.

I think that is great the two of you can bird together. My husband recently caught the birding bug and now we can enjoy this together.

I have enjoyed what I've seen and will come by now and again.

FStrothman said...

It's okay to be a Pea-Shooter, as long as it makes you happy! You are searching for happiness in approval from others, perhaps your time would be better spent finding out what makes YOUR heart flutter the most! Photo On, Brother! Great Job!

Anonymous said...

spot on with this write-up, i like the way you discuss the things. i'm impressed, i must say. i'll probably be back again to read more. thanks for sharing this with us.

Lee Shin