Experimenting with Adobe Photoshop

... shooting close-ups in the Computer Room ...

from Don Norris

Writing is a snap these days. What bothers me is a combination of two factors, both of which impale my memory. It's tough, but I find that I can remember more in the morning -- or if I take a long break during the day.

There are seven photos in this essay, all of which I shot while sitting at my computer, in my 'computer room'. It is a quiet place, for the TV doesn't work, the walls are covered with books, records, paintings, folders -- and one cannot find any more free place on the floor -- I have managed to cover the nice wood floor so only a five-foot patch is available for me to roll my computer-chair around.

But the project today is, photograph everything close up, but do it so that each pix is sharp, front to back, end to end. That may sound innocuous, but it is a challenge.  Most folks set their cameras on auto, which is fine out-of-doors, in plenty of light.

This trick is good only if your subject is stationary, of course. It is generally used on close subjects -- stationary subjects. No cats or dogs, no flags, no traffic, no sports scenes. Only stills.

But here, in this small dark room, the only light is one flex-lamp on an arm, plus the light from the monitor. In other words, the shades are drawn, and it is dark.

Except for the computer screen -- and my swing-away desk lamp. That means, in shooting a camera, the lens is open wide and the shutter is slowed to an inordinate speed. Now the shooter has to be careful to brace his body, brace his arms and hands, so that there is absolutely no movement of the camera when the shutter is released. Understanding that, one will get a nice picture -- under rather dim conditions.

It's fun, and it's a challenge.

Now THIS is a narrow depth of field.

Now, in shooting close-ups with insufficient light, the shooter really has to remain still while pressing the button. Here, in this darkened room, with my variable diaphragm open wide -- to f5.5 -- I get very little depth-of-field.

What happens is that only those objects in a short, close-up shot will be in focus. Everthing else, foreground and background, will be blurred.

So as I focus the camera, I also close the diaphragm down from f-5.5 to f-11, maybe even more. The camera automatically compensates by slowing the speed of the shutter.

The result -- if I make sure NOT to shake the camera -- is a much longer depth-of-field. That is, much more of the scene is in focus. I have to take extra care while firing, for the shutter remains open for a comparatively long time. Like one-tenth of a second. It's getting so I can hand-hold my camera for a matter of one or two seconds, and still get an acceptable picture.

Bracing yourself is essential. Leaning on post or a wall for support helps, but a good cameraman trains his body to remain stiff and motionless when he squeezes the button.

Lesson for this day: Practice. Practice a lot. Slow down the shutter speed and close down the diaphragm. Fool around with it, for it really doesn't cost anything, and it's lots of fun.

December 2, 2016

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