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Photography Question 
Susan Jane Allen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/20/2005
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Shooting a Nightbloomer

Opps! I just went to my gallery and found the photos I had uploaded only for the question and which I didn't want in my gallery and deleted them. And then realized they would be deleted from the question forum too! Luckily I didn't notice one of them, but it's the one that's not my photo and don't want it in my gallery! Anyway, here they are again. I did put the bud without flash in my gallery, but at a suitable size.

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9/22/2005 1:09:41 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/18/2000
  Re - pic without flash
This is underexposed. I suspect that, despite setting +1 exposure compensation, the SD300 will not automatically set a shutter speed longer than 1 second. To get proper exposure in this dim light you'll probably have to set longer speeds with the Long Shutter Mode.
A tripod is recommended. You can also get more depth of field (more of the flower in apparent focus, front to back) by setting a smaller aperture (larger f-number) such as f/5.6 or f/8. This, of course, will require even longer shutter speed unless you can put addtional light on the flower.

Re - the flash picture.
This has a very bright/overexposed hot spot because the flash is too close and too direct. Diffusing the light from the flash will help - a piece of tissue paper an inch in front of the flash, or even a piece of Scotch® tape over the flash can help.

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9/22/2005 2:30:46 PM

Susan Jane Allen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/20/2005
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  Thanks so much, Jon! I will definitely try the tissue paper or scotch!
Not sure whether you had read the previous message with the real question, as well as a picture from the internet of the flower I will want to shoot when it finally blooms. The purpose of uploading the pictures was because I thought they might give some idea of the lighting conditions on my balcony at night. I'm pasting that question below, just in case.

I did use a tripod when I took those pictures, but it wouldn't let me get close enough, so I pushed the legs together and propped it up against the balcony ledge and just used it as a support, which, of course, does not provide enough stability. I'll be moving the (huge) pot so that hopefully I won't have to do that.

Forgive my ignorance (!), but I've gone over my camera's instruction booklet and can find no mention of anywhere that I can adjust the aperture as you suggest. Perhaps my camera doesn't have that function?

However, when searching, I did notice for the first time that I have a custom white balance. How much difference will this make? I'll try it!

Now, another question which only someone with an expert eye, which I don't have, can answer: As to the underexposure of the photo without flash, as I mentioned, saved it knowing it was underexposed for the purpose of providing some indication of the lighting conditions on my balcony at night, but when I pulled it up in Photoshop (which I'm just learning to use) I decided to play around with it, just to see what could be done with an underexposed picture. When I played around with slight brightness and more contrast, I liked the effect (which perhaps cannot be seen clearly in the tiny uploaded example) the colours and "mood" of it.

It is, of course, overall a very dark picture, which I thought, perhaps naively, gives a suitable sombre aura for a nightbloomer. I wish I could upload it at a proper size as I have for my gallery, but anyway, even though you can't see the full effects in the small example, what I liked about it was the subtle colours and shapes which emerge from the darkness. I'm wondering if underexposure can sometimes be acceptable as an effect. I think perhaps you would answer that if one personally likes something, then they should, of course, keep it!

But I think that a trained eye can immediately discern between skillful manipulation and the clumsy attempts of an amateur to produce effects. When, eventually, deciding whether to put a picture up for sale or enter it into a contest, you need a trained eye.

So, in the interest of training my own eye and deciding what and what not to attempt in future when editing a photo, is it the darkness of the photo which immediately produced your gut response of: "This picture is underexposed."? Or is it acceptable to produce dark photos of such subjects, and it is other factors which would or wouldn't render it acceptable?

Sorry about the long-winded questions!

PART OF MY ORIGINAL QUESTION: A flower is about to bloom on my balcony which produces extraordinary blooms about the size of a dinner plate, only at night, and they only last one night (sub-tropics in China).

Now, don't laugh, but though I'm saving for a Rebel 350D, I now only have a Powershot SD300 (IXUS40)---and I want to capture these blooms as best I can, but have no experience shooting at night (and no lighting equipment). Florescent light can come, or not, through the living room window and there's a sad little light bulb on the balcony. I'm afraid flash will wash it out.

The picture from the internet is exquisite because it's taken with lighting from behind. I might try that but have little idea how to set my camera for maximum effect (very much a newbie).

The camera is equipped with the following limited (compared with most of you guys!)features: ISO: 50/100/200/400; 4.0 megapixels, 3x optical zoom; there's a scene mode for night snapshots; shutterspeed 15-1/5000, manual setting is available from 15 to 1 second when in long-shutter speed; evaluative, center weighted average or spot--metering frame when spot is center-fixed; and it has a scene mode for night snapshots and underwater along with other things which don't seem relavent. It also has different settings for flash timings: a slow syncro which is adjusted to slow shutter speeds; auto which fires as required depending upon light level and red-eye reduction which isn't relavent.

Anyone have any ideas about how I can make the most of my camera to catch this beauty when it blooms?

I experimented tonight on the balcony, shooting a bud without flash and will attach too, though don't know if that can tell you anything much. I liked the effect after doing some level/contrast adjustment in Photoshop and have some shots with flash, but don't like them much.

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9/23/2005 1:08:43 AM

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