View Full Version : DSLR Photography

6th Jan 2012, 10:57 PM
Hello, many of you know I purchased a new DSLR early in 2010. I got a Sony a380 with two lenses, 18-55mm and a 75-300mm lens. I consider myself a complete noob to photography.

The purpose of this thread is to post pictures I have taken of my trains or 1:1 trains and ask for critisizm and critique. I plan on explaining, in my own words, what I discover as I go. Please believe me when I say I am new to photography, I am NEW to photography! Be Gentle!

I just recently got out of auto mode. It took almost two years to become familiar with my camera and I have only recently figured out that I cannot screw something up so bad that it cannot be corrected by simply returning to factory settings.

I encourage anyone who wants to comment on any picture or comments I make. I want to discuss how we, as modelors, can take better pictures of our trains! Please also remember that a perfect picture is subjective. What I consider to be a perfect shot, you may not. I just know what I like to see in pictures of trains so that is my goal.

I know that most of the photography sites I visit tell you that the first thing one needs to learn is the exposure triangle.....uhhhhhh, yeah. Right. The exposure triangle is explained, in professional terms, here: http://www.digital-photography-school.com/learning-exposure-in-digital-photography

I am not gonna lie. I don't completely understand it. What I DO understand is I want to take excellent pictures of my trains (and other stuff) with my camera.

The first thing that I decided I wanted to learn about was Depth of field. Depth of field, in my words, is the depth of the photograph that is in focus. I cannot STAND to see pictures of my trains that the locomotive is in focus and everything else is not. I want the entire picture in focus. To me it just looks more real. So, The setting I started playing with first was Aperture. This is what controls depth of field. The larger the aperture, the larger depth of field. I decided to take several shots at different settings. It is a pain to take, download to computer, upload to photobucket and then post here but I am going to do this because I want everyone to see the difference in the pictures taken. You pros don't look for all the EXIF data on here because I ain't that learned yet! But I will post the F setting for each picture so hopefully it will give a good basic understanding of what the function does on your camera. I also understand that lighting, motion and probably a billion other things will have an affect on the picture being taken. This is only meant as a tutorial/learning excersize.

I am learning a lot as I go along and I hope you will learn with me and teach me.

The following series of pictures were taken in my train room, under flourescent lighting, no flash, with the camera in Aperture priority mode. There were 18 in all. I am only including a sampling of them to show the difference in the settings. I placed the camera directly on my tracks to get down to "eye level" Or at least as close as my camera will allow. If you want to see the entire series, click here: http://s1189.photobucket.com/albums/z424/REM37411/Depth of field/ I think I accidentally loaded them in reverse order so start with the one labeled Depthoffield 001.jpeg and work backwards.

The first picture was taken at F4.5 which means the apreture did not open for very long. 1/20th of a second.

http://i1189.photobucket.com/albums/z424/REM37411/Depth of field/Depthoffield001.jpg

As you can see, the CSX boxcar, the front of the gondola, the covered hopper, the switch on the second track from the right, the caboose ground throw and part of the orange tree are in focus. This area is about 12-14 inches in front of the camera.

This shot is at F6.3

http://i1189.photobucket.com/albums/z424/REM37411/Depth of field/Depthoffield004.jpg

You can begin to see the area of focus growing, It is expanding not only away from me but the area closer to the camera is coming in to focus also.

The next one was taken at f9 and the shutter was open for 1/5th of a second. The time the shutter is open is getting longer, allowing more light in the camera and the camera to focus on a larger area.

http://i1189.photobucket.com/albums/z424/REM37411/Depth of field/Depthoffield007.jpg

Again, see how the area of focus continues to expand.

Next was at f13 and the shutter was open for 1/2 of a second:

http://i1189.photobucket.com/albums/z424/REM37411/Depth of field/Depthoffield010.jpg

If you look at the green boxcar in about the middle of the screen, you can begin to tell that the door is open. In prior pictures, I couldn't even tell the car HAS a door much less that it is open.

Next is f18 and the shutter was open for .8 of a second or 4/5's of a second:

http://i1189.photobucket.com/albums/z424/REM37411/Depth of field/Depthoffield013.jpg

The boxcar door is more clear and the background trees are in focus. Even the background painting is becoming clear.

Next is f25, and the highest f setting my camera would allow at this focal length, the shutter was open for 2 seconds:

http://i1189.photobucket.com/albums/z424/REM37411/Depth of field/Depthoffield017.jpg

As you can see, the entire photo is in focus. This, to ME, is a good photograph. I like everything in focus.

Now, what are the drawbacks? Well, the more that is on focus the more you can see your own mistakes and areas for improvement. Like all of the red and yellow foam that has fallen off my trees on the right, the track that has been weathered at different colors, all the nail heads sticking up, and not in this picture but it shows every little detail, cobwebs, dust specks, junk laying around and what have you.

For you pros, bear with me. I may not be approaching things the way it should be approached but it is the way I see fit.

So, lessons learned for me so far are:

1. Higher aperture= larger depth of field.
2. The higher the aperture setting the more critical it is to have a stable camera, either tripod mounted or sitting on a solid surface. If the shutter is going to be open for two seconds, my shaky hands cannot and will not produce a crisp shot. Photo number 16 in my album is proof. Look close it is blurry. I had the camera sitting on the table and barely moved the camera when depressing the shutter button and that is what happened.
3. Good lighting is critical! I do not have good lighting. I want to work on that aspect next.

After we discuss this for a bit and kick things around I will be doing a segment on lighting. Both camera settings and external lighting.

I hope you have enjoyed so far and we can learn something together!

6th Jan 2012, 11:40 PM
1. I'm not familiar with Sony's glass but I try not too go past f/22 with my Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 as images start ending up a little on the soft side for my liking(I print pretty big so need sharp images).
2. Tripods are handy - even a tiny bean bag will do for sitting your camera on. The other option is to increase your iso.
3. Fluorescent lights can be really painful and give colour casts to your images. Shoot in the Raw format and you can correct easy enough in post-processing. http://www.diyphotography.net/ has a lot of ideas you can make/use to help light on the cheap. I have heard of people using baking paper to diffuse the fluorescent lights and take out some of the harshness.

As for your images, I like the one at f/18 and if you compare that to the f/25 you'll see that a lot of colour is being washed out of the image. If you are shooting in manual mode, don't be afraid to under-expose by a stop or two.

7th Jan 2012, 12:08 AM
Hi Drec, thanks for your response!

I like the idea of using a small beanbag for a stand, neat idea.

I should have mentioned in my OP that As for now I will not be enhancing any photographs or touching them up in any way. The number one reason is, I have no idea how to do that.

I see what you mean about the color starting to wash out. I see that everything will be a sacrifice it appears. The largest contrast to me, is in the tree. The f25 is not as bright as the f18 shot. Thanks for pointing that out.

For this session I shot only in Aperture priority mode but I will experiment further with manual mode and change the ISO to see what it does for me.

Michael Whiteman
7th Jan 2012, 12:10 AM
An inexpensive cable release will allow you to trigger your camera without pushing down on the button and smearing the image.

7th Jan 2012, 12:18 AM
very interesting, especially from someone still stuck on "auto"

7th Jan 2012, 08:31 PM
Interesting development. I went today to see about picking up a remote trigger. My camera is not equipped to accept it! Grrrr! As much as I paid for this thing, I guess they had to sacrifice something to get the 14.2 megapixels in.

Anyway, I think I will do the same setup and adjust the ISO settings a bit to see what it does.

Back to the trainroom batman!

7th Jan 2012, 09:43 PM
Moving right along. Second set of pictures. These were all taken at f22 (Upon drec's reccomendation, which I do like by the way). They were taken during the same conditions as before, lighting etc. I used a tripod. I have learned that ISO is basically the sensitivity of the image sensor. I do not completely understand this yet. But I did learn that What I will probably do is choose Auto ISO initially, look at the picture and see if I think it should be lighter or darker and adjust from there. One of the great things about digital photography is it really costs nothing to experiment.

The first shot was taken on AUTO, I let the camera choose every setting it chose f4.5 and ISO 400:


The next picture was taken at ISO 100, the lowest ISO setting:


Next us is ISO 200:


Next ISO 800:


ISO 1600:


ISO 3200:


So, what I see from this so far is the higher the ISO setting the lighter the picture gets. I think the camera made a good choice. I see that I could ahve taken multiple shots. In the prior set I used all of the F settings available for that focal length. If I had taken an ISO picture for each one I would ahve wound up with 108 pictures. So, Having found an aperture setting that I like now (f22) I will try and base most pictures offof that setting for my little experiment.

From this point forward, I will use an auto ISO setting, look at the picture and see if I want to adjust from there.

I realize I may be approaching this from the wrong direction to someone who is well versed in DSLR photography, but having no experience to go off of, I guess it'll just have to do!

7th Jan 2012, 11:48 PM
As your ISO goes up the quality of your files will actually go down. When you enlarge them they will have more "noise" particularly in the dark areas. Your best quality will come from a lower ISO, small F-stops such as F-22 and longer exposure times. Basically for every F-stop smaller your exposure will double. I would recommend an ISO of 100 to 400. On another note, while on a tripod be sure to turn off any image stabilization your lens or camera may have. When this is on it will look for movement and actually blur your photo. Keep experimenting with your equipment and have fun!

8th Jan 2012, 08:14 AM
Very good information Richard! Thanks for the tip! I will turn off image stabilization and see where that puts me.

I think the next thing I will experiment with is the lighting settings, flash, fill flash, fluorescent vs incandescent and etc.

I read somewhere that I need to "tell my camera" what white is. The recommendation was holding a white piece of paper in front of it. Can anyone expand on this?

I appreciate the info so far!

8th Jan 2012, 08:54 AM
I have a feeling what you are talking about is the use of a Grey Card to help set your white balance. I've never used/seen a Grey Card and believe they can be skipped - others might hold a different opinion here.

Introducing a flash and fluorescent lights will be fun. Not sure if it's because I'm new but you'd be better reading a lighting 101 post by David Hobby at the Strobist blog. You'll need a Roscoe Green gel for your flash to balance the light output to that of the fluro's you're shooting under. If my previous post doesn't show up and you'd like the link, let me know.

8th Jan 2012, 09:10 AM
Grey cards are usually used to set the exposure. A completely neutral grey (assuming you have a card that color) should be exposed at exactly the center (0) of the exposure meter to get it to come out a proper neutral gray. If you have THAT color right, all other colors will be exposed properly in the picture (excluding tricky conditions like having the sun shining behind the subject). You don't have to use a grey card to do this. Black should be at about -2 on the exposure meter, so you could meter something black at -2 and you'll have the exposure right. From experience I found that my pink foam worked well for a neutral reading and when that was showing I used to meter that for 0. Now with the scenery in, I use the gray ballast to meter for 0.

Here are my recommendations for using a DLSR.

1. To keep the whole thing in focus, use a higher f/stop, but don't just pick the highest. Do some test shots, and use the lowest one you can that will keep the entire subject in focus.
2. Always, always use a tripod.
3. Use your camera's "timer" feature so that you can press the shutter and then there is a pause before taking the shot. Or else use a remote control. Even on a tripod the camera will shake a tiny bit when you press the shutter release.
4. Use the spot meter feature, not matrix averaging or center weighted.
5. Spot meter something of whose exposure value you are reasonably confident... Spot meter gray ballast to +0, or a dark blue engine to -1.25, or what have you. You may have to do some testing to figure out what works best.
6. Use the camera's "white balance" feature to tell it the kind of lighting you have (fluorescent, incandescent, sunlight, etc). This makes a huge difference.
7. Check the histograms in your shots. If you see the bars piling up on the left or right side of the screen you've got the exposure or white balance set wrong.
8. Never use automatic anything. Manual focus, manual speed setting, manual exposure. It's digital. If it doesn't come out right, delete the shot, re-do your settings and try again. I do this all the time. It's the fastest and best way to learn, and will give you better shots than your camera can take automatically.

Especially important is #8. Auto settings are fine for what the camera makers thing of as "normal" operations. For example, over the holidays I took tons of pictures of my 3 year old nephew. I used auto focus, full auto exposure/speed, a flash attachment, and just let the camera figure everything out. The pictures came out great... because that's what Nikon designed it for. Same with taking pictures out doors. The camera "knows what to do" in this situation. But when you are taking pictures indoors of a tiny area but want it to focus/expose like it's an outdoor giant area (which is what we are doing with our trains), well, the camera can't do that (well) automatically, because its computer doesn't know how. So WE have to figure out how and force it to do the right thing for us.

All that said... I think your pics look great. Like you I prefer the ones where the entire view is in focus.

Just remember... faster ISOs and smaller f/stops may make it come out more in focus, etc, but you lose resolution doing that. So always use the slowest speed and largest f/stop you can get away with.

8th Jan 2012, 12:31 PM
I wanted to highlight what Chessack said about the timer feature. Most "consumer-level" cameras won't accept a remote or cable release, but they do have a 3-second timer setting that achieves the same purpose.

BryanC (RIP)
8th Jan 2012, 12:48 PM
I wanted to highlight what Chessack said about the timer feature. Most "consumer-level" cameras won't accept a remote or cable release, but they do have a 3-second timer setting that achieves the same purpose.Yep, my pretty basic Fujifilm SD2500HD does not have the capability of using a cable release but it does have the 2/3 second timer feature.

Although I have not used it as yet, but then I haven't even used a tripod as yet either!

8th Jan 2012, 03:42 PM
3. Use your camera's "timer" feature so that you can press the shutter and then there is a pause before taking the shot. Or else use a remote control. Even on a tripod the camera will shake a tiny bit when you press the shutter release.

I actually figured this one out. I was trying to come up with a way to take a cicture and not shake the camera and figured I could do it this way.

4. Use the spot meter feature, not matrix averaging or center weighted.

I have no idea what your talking about....LOL. I haven't got that far in my camera yet.

5. Spot meter something of whose exposure value you are reasonably confident... Spot meter gray ballast to +0, or a dark blue engine to -1.25, or what have you. You may have to do some testing to figure out what works best.

See number 4.........:rolleyes: Sorry, just don't know what that is yet.

As far as the lighting goes, that is my next experiment. I understand the camera has all kinds of lighting setting and I will be playing with them in my next session, possibly later this afternoon.

For future sessions I will be taking a picture in auto as a base line and then making my adjustment shots after that.

8th Jan 2012, 06:34 PM
Years ago, photographers used to use a "meter" which was like a light detector. They would point it at the subject and see how much light was falling on it. This told them how to set the exposure.

SLR and DSLR cameras nowadays come with internal ones. They fire through the lens (TTL), and they register how much light is falling on your subject. Cameras usually come with 3 types of meters. "Matrix averaging" meters use a very complicated mathematical algorithm to sample light from the ENTIRE image, and the computer inside the camera "figures out" the best exposure. The problem with this setting is that it makes assumptions about the environment which may not be true of your situation. The makers designed it for "normal" use so it works shooting photos of your kids at Christmas using a flash... but not so well shooting long exposures of your trains at tiny F-stops.

The second type of light sampling is called "center weighted." This takes a sample of the center part of the picture, weighting less and less as you go out from the center. Think of it like a bull's-eye... the center circle gets the most weight, next ring gets 2nd most weight, etc. This ensures that the center of the picture is properly exposed. However, if you have light and dark images in the center, say a Zebra, you could get a false reading.

Spot meters take a reading from a tiny spot. This spot is usually projected into the viewfinder so you can see it. This allows you to sample the light from one tiny area. So you could sample the light from the white stripe of a zebra. Knowing that white is about +1.5 to +2 (depending on brightness), you could spot meter a white stripe and tweak your exposure until you get a +1.5 on the meter.

Here's an example of what I mean:

Matrix Metering samples from a grid throughout the picture and averages the lighting information (in a very complex way).
http://i233.photobucket.com/albums/ee44/Chessack/Model Railroad/matrix_meter.jpg

Center weighted uses information from the middle, weighting the center more than the edges.

http://i233.photobucket.com/albums/ee44/Chessack/Model Railroad/center_meter.jpg

Spot metering samples just from one small spot:

http://i233.photobucket.com/albums/ee44/Chessack/Model Railroad/spot_meter.jpg

The advantage of spot metering here is, I know that road's exposure value. I know from experience that this road is slightly darker than neutral gray, and that if I set the exposure meter to be something like -0.5, I will get a proper exposure. So I sample what I know, and set the exposure based on that.

I could also sample the houses or the bushes or whatever, but I'd have to do some trial and error to figure out their exposure value.

8th Jan 2012, 10:00 PM
Chessak, I really do appreciate that explanation. I understand more now. I'm not gonna lie and say I get it all, but I have a better understanding. I did check the setting and it is set for matrix metering. I will play with the other settings at a later date. I imagine this is more of an advanced function. Now that I know it exists I can add it to the ever growing list of things to attempt shots with.

8th Jan 2012, 10:26 PM
I just spent about 2 1/2 hours in the train room playing with different lights. At work today I purchased a few different bulbs just for this. I have places in the house that I can use them when I am done, and I learned that I can use different lights for different moods or time of day perception.

I have a small work light fixture that has a reflective metal shield around it. I tried several bulbs in it and also my 250w halogen work light.

Here are the results. I am placing them in no particular order. I have a personal favorite type of light but would like to know what you guys think. Again, please remember this is my opinion, you may feel different and if you do, I would appreciate your feedback as to why.

The fixture was placed approximately 8 feet away and up about 7 feet. I was trying to simulate a late afternoon shot.

100w Incandescent bulb:


100 Watt soft white CFL:


100w Bright white CFL:


100wDaylight CFL:


250w Halogen worklight:


I know I probably shouldn't but I really like the light that the 100w Daylight cfl and the 250W halogen light!

I have two windows in the train room but this time of year I get very little useful light in through them. When spring and longer days roll around I will have better opportunity for natural light shots.

I just checked the camera and realized that I took all of these shots set in Daylight white balance. I meant to take them in auto but forgot to set it. I tried a few shots in flourescent and they were so blue I couldn't stand it.

Anyway, I hope you are enjoying the continued experiment and aer getting something out of it, other than a good chuckle at the noob toying with his camera!....:D

9th Jan 2012, 09:16 AM
The reason the daylight shot looks better is that you didn't re-set the white balance. If you had set the white balance for the correct light type they'd all look fairly similar.

They also all look a little under-exposed to me.

9th Jan 2012, 10:29 AM
I also use a Sony DSLR(A200) and have found that I have a horrible time getting the white balance correct. If your A380 is like my camera, you can use a grey card as mentioned above to set a custom white balance. I have just started using one, and really am happy with the results. On my Sony, you go into the white balance menu, scroll to the bottom to custom, arrow to the right to change to menu to set it. Then just point the camera at the grey card placed in the scene you want to shoot, and snap the shutter. The camera will keep that custom setting in the menu until you go through the process to reset it.

The most difficult part might be buying the grey card; my local Ritz didn't carry any and another chain camera shop wanted $15 for one. I found an independent shop that had them for about $6. You can also order them from B&H.

9th Jan 2012, 10:37 AM
Thanks Chessak, as always I appreciate your comments!

Question though, I understand what you mean when you say you believe they are underexposed. My question is, how do I know that? To me the picture looks pretty good. I assume that it is under exposed in your eyes? Is there a standard as to how bright it should be or is this a subjective selection?

I know I said that I am not going to use any kind of editing on my pictures but I wanted to try this just to see what it does. I used the auto correct feature and this is what it did to the picture:


Here is the original:


I think I may put the 100w daylight cfl bulb back in and play with aperture and lighting settings on the camera.

I do know that every picture is going to be different and it will take a lot of practice to be able to guesstimate the initial settings for pictures but that is why I am doing this. Just to be able to analyze a shot in my head, guess the initial settings and go from there.

I think what I want is to be able to take good acceptable pictures without having to use editing software. If I wanted to use editing software, I could have purchased a cheaper camera and a good editing program.

I also think I need to spend a lot of time looking at pictures and deciding what I like and don't like about them.

One of the funny things is, I thought my original picture looked pretty good. But now after lighting it up a bit I realize it didn't look as good as I thought. I like the corrected version better.

9th Jan 2012, 12:40 PM
Hi Ron,

I'm enjoying your experiments with digital photography. I am also an amateur photographer. I use a Nikon D80.

What I like about the picture in your lighting experiments is the angle of the light with the composition of the image. It provides a realistic low angle that works well for a late fall afternoon. I agree with Chessack that, with correct white balance, there will be minimal difference between the light sources. Light sources with the highest CRI (color rendition index, I think) will deliver the most accurate color with the proper white balance. Halogens generally score well in that depertment.

Keep up the good work!

9th Jan 2012, 08:47 PM
Hi REM37411,

I was reading this thread for the first time and just like to add a few words.

Depth of field is influenced by lens aperture, lens zoom and distance between the camera and the subject. This last factor (distance between camera and subject) is so, or even more important than lens aperture, but is also many times forgot. If you can place your camera far from your trains, you'll get more DOF (more image on focus). You can compensate with a little zoom (this will bring the opposite effect, but not so severe) or you can crop the image. Anyway, DOF is like salt for the food, use it just as you like it; if you want the maximum on focus make sure you get the maximum DOF, but if you want to call attention on a particular thing (lets say a loco), make sure the loco is on focus and the background is out of focus.

I certainly agree with almost everything Chessack said and what a fantastic explanation about light measuring methods on post #15!

Finally, about the underexposure: if you look at your photos on post #20, even on then corrected photo, you can notice that on the left side, above the two cars, there are a house, or something that I can not understand what is it, because is all black, there is not detail, that's underexposure! The opposite is when you loose detail on the whites (overexposed). To get out of underexposure, if you are photographing in manual mode, you can give more exposure time. Most of the exposure problems can also be corrected with software.

I'm liking your experiences so, please give us more.

10th Jan 2012, 01:14 AM
MALB and Engineer, I think you just added to the ever growing list of experiments!

To those who have commented on white balance, I am still not so sure I understand the business about a gray card? I place it in the scene and take a picture? Or just let the camera read it?

---------- Post added 10th Jan 2012 at 12:17 AM ----------

Finally, about the underexposure: if you look at your photos on post #20, even on then corrected photo, you can notice that on the left side, above the two cars, there are a house, or something that I can not understand what is it, because is all black, there is not detail, that's underexposure!

There is a string of black tanker cars behind the BNSF locomotive. They are also behind a row of trees with the light coming in from that angle. I will play with the camera settings some to see if I can get them to lighten up but even with my nekkid eye I cannot see those cars through the dark trees. Not sure they will lighten up, but I will certainly try!

10th Jan 2012, 10:10 AM
Regarding using the grey card. The camera has a menu choice to set the custom white balance. When that is selected, you point the camera at the grey card and push the shutter like you are taking a picture. That saves the custom setting in the camera, and you are good to go. When you make that initial setting, the card needs to be in the setting you want to take photos of so the camera analyses the same lighting that you will be using for your photos. You can then take it away and shoot your photos using the setting you just created.

I have this series of book for my A200 and found it helpful.

10th Jan 2012, 03:17 PM
Question though, I understand what you mean when you say you believe they are underexposed. My question is, how do I know that? To me the picture looks pretty good. I assume that it is under exposed in your eyes? Is there a standard as to how bright it should be or is this a subjective selection?

I guess I have no way to explain how I can tell other than that the pictures "looked dark" to me. Your auto-corrected version proved me right... see how much brighter it looks?

To me the under-exposed shot looks almost like I have sunglasses on while indoors... the corrected version looks sharper and better. the MAERSK truck doesn't look bright enough gray in the original shot. At least to me.

Exposure is somewhat based on intuition, feeling, and the mood you are trying to create. It's also sometimes constrained by choices. If you opened the aperture too much more, the rest of the scene might be right but the nose light might look terrible. So there's always a compromise between the lightest and darkest parts of the shot... and the more difference between those two things, the more you have a "tricky" exposure.

10th Jan 2012, 09:20 PM
I am ready to experiment with the white balance. I see that BN1994 stated that the gray card is a specific card to be purchased through a dealer. But I also see that Chessak references picking a spot on the layout, such as his road and uses that for his reference point. Should I just pick a gray spot in the scene, use it for reference and take a shot? Not real sure where to start here so I may just make an adjustment and try a few shots. What if there is no gray area in my shot? I assume that is where the card would come in handy?

The only gray area I see in shot number one for post 20 is the gray Maersk trailer on it's way to the intermodal yard. I don't believe it is big enough to get a basis shot on?

Or it could be that I am completely confused? lol!

11th Jan 2012, 08:14 PM
Hi REM37411,

Usually those 18% gray cards are not expensive, just a few dollars... You can use them to “calibrate” your camera or to use as a reference for software edition.

If you are seriously interested in photography, it's really a must, to have a good edition software! With Adobe “Camera Raw” it's very easy to do white balance, as well as crop and straighten; unfortunately it's not free (as far as I know) and can't be acquired alone, it's part of Photoshop CS and maybe some other packages. Anyway, you can download a 30 days demo version from the Adobe site. I strongly advise you try “Camera Raw” and I see for yourself how to adjust white balance; I'm sure this will clarify your mind.

11th Jan 2012, 08:20 PM
Hi REM37411,

Usually those 18% gray cards are not expensive, just a few dollars... You can use them to “calibrate” your camera or to use as a reference for software edition.

If you are seriously interested in photography, it's really a must, to have a good edition software! With Adobe “Camera Raw” it's very easy to do white balance, as well as crop and straighten; unfortunately it's not free (as far as I know) and can't be acquired alone, it's part of Photoshop CS and maybe some other packages. Anyway, you can download a 30 days demo version from the Adobe site. I strongly advise you try “Camera Raw” and I see for yourself how to adjust white balance; I'm sure this will clarify your mind.

Thanks for the information! I got software with the camera, the program is called PMB. It allows me to convert RAW files and has a fairly extensive editing program. Problem is, I have NO idea how to use it yet. Haven't got that far. In fact, it even came with a CD but I cannot find it now.......:( The good thing is I have all of the software loaded! I do not remember getting a gray card in it though, I guess that is an extra. I'll swing by the camera shop and see if they have one.

I plan on shooting another set of shots tonight playing with some lighting adjustments.

Stay tuned.............for more!

11th Jan 2012, 11:26 PM
Tonights experiment was strictly with a 100W Daylight CFL bulb. I did not get to purhcase a gray card, that will have to wait til tomorrow morning. I tried several shots with the camera set on different white balance settings. I also increased the F stop to 36 just to try and clear the shot up some. I am playing with settings as I go to decide what I like best. For this lighting I liked the crisp shot it gave and do not feel I lost much color rendering due to the length of time the aperture was open. Possibly it had to do with the source of light? Not sure, I will play with other sources as I move along.

In a few of the shots It looks horrible! I'll comment as I go.

First picture white balance set in auto mode and as I said f at 36:

I am a fan of this shot, I feel like it is clear, crisp and when I hole the computer up to the scene the color is pretty much right on


Second shot white balance was set to daylight mode:

I also like this shot, it is just a tad lighter than the first and to me it looks just a tad more crisp


Third shot white balance set at Shade:

I feel like the locomotive is starting to blend into the background color with this shot. Though still clear the color begins to taper off to me.


Next shot set on cloudy day:

Same as above, it just isn't as clear and crisp as I would like


This shot was set on Tungsten (Incandescent) light:

Oh heck no. WAY too blue!


And the last shot was set on Flourescent light:

Not bad, a little dark and it looks to me like I can see some fuzziness creeping in, especially on the Maersk trailer


I will be anxious to get the white balancecard to try this experiment again. I am seeing that, in my eyes, the settings of the camera are not etched in stone as the example of the flourescent shot shows. Funny to me that the correct setting for the camera gave the worst shot. I will try it again when I get the card and see if it corrects any.

I do feel like a few areas of each picture are underexposed (now that I have that 50 cent word in my dictionary!) but I just believe it is because the actual shot is fairly dark. I have the one light about 8 feet away and 7 feet up with no other light source in the room. The angle of the light is enough to cast a pretty good shadow on those tanker cars so I just imagine they will not lighten up any more. Although they are more light in this set of pictures vs the last set. I assume that is because I incresed the aperture setting to 36 from 22.

I think for the next set I am going to try this exact shot with my 75-300mm lens and back the camera up some. I like the suggestion that was made about backing the camera up to get some more depth of field. I want to experiment with that.

I am also very close to wanting to experiment with some macro shots. I have a cheap lens made for that and haven't really used it yet.

12th Jan 2012, 03:32 PM
Hi Ron,

I'd like to clear up a little misunderstanding I see slipping into this thread. It's about apature. Large apature number (f stop) = small apature opening. Opening up the apture means a smaller number and closing the apture = a large number. This means less light gets to the sensor with a higher apture setting. This is why you need a longer exposure time with a higher apture number. It is the smaller apture opening that results in the greater depth of field.

With regards to the exposure; if the image is underexposed (too dark) and you want to lighten it up without changing the apture, you need a longer exposure.

The camera's flourescent white balange setting is likely designed for cool-white flourescents, not compact flourescents, so that is probably not the correct setting, which is why it looks bad.

Thanks again.

12th Jan 2012, 05:14 PM
Thank you engineer! I don't want to lead anyone in the wrong direction. In my head I understand what you are saying and that is actually what I meant. I am just not very good at explaining myself. I do understand that the larger the f stop the smaller the aperture and thus, as you said the need to leave the shutter open longer.

I also undertand what you are saying about the light setting. Is that why it is best to use the custom whhite balance? To "tell" the camera how much light there is? I see another experiment. I want to put the incandescent bulb back in and custom set the white balance to see how that turns out and if it takes the blue out.

Thanks for your response!

I got the gray card this morning and set the camera up. I did not take any pictures with the shorter lens yet as I wanted to put the 75-300mm lens on to see how that affects depth of field.

If you guys want me to post specific information about the photo please let me know.

This one was taken withe the longer lens at a focal length of 67mm ISO 800, A priority, f29 for two seconds and the White balance set to custom, it showed a number of 5400. No idea what that means yet.

Anyway, I REALLY like the increased depth of field! the camera is about 6 feet away from the scene and I am using the same 100w cfl daylight bulb. I moved the locomotive forward about 8 inches to pull the tanker cars out of the dark I wanted to add mroe train to the shot. It looks like it worked fairly well. I am a big fan of this picture. Not necessarily the scene but the lighting, color and general mood of the picture. I am anxious to get other light sources out to experiment with the custom white balance settings now.


I played with this one a little bit, I cropped it and auto adjusted it, jsut goofing around:


I like this picture also, You can see the third tanker car in line and the pickup truck is very clear.


So, that is where I am for now. I think, due to all of you guys guidance, the pictures are improving! I am learning a lot about lighting effects and balance. Most of all I am learning that it is ok to get the heck out of auto mode and experiment!!!

12th Jan 2012, 05:42 PM
Looks good! Just my opinion on the composition, but I really liked the tree shadows on the locomotive in the earlier shots. As far as the focus goes, the foreground is pretty sharp, but the trees in the background are a little fuzzy. I would focus a little further back, so that the train and the trees are sharp, but let the foreground go a little soft.

The 5400 is the color temperature of the white light in degrees Kelvin.

12th Jan 2012, 05:51 PM
Again Engineer, thanks for your response. Out of curiosity, how do I go abut focusing further back? The camera selects the focal point when I depress the shutter button half way automatically. Do I just reposition the camera so it selects a spot further back? I have not figured out how to manually focus the camera yet or if you even can. Uh oh, I see another chapter coming!

12th Jan 2012, 07:39 PM
Sorry, I was thinking about manual focus. That is something worth looking into. For the kind of careful composition and long exposures you're doing, manual focus is probably better. Probably a quick check of the manual will tell you how to turn autofocus off and on. There may also be different autofocus settings.

12th Jan 2012, 08:41 PM
Since I have had this camera I never knew it had a manual focus setting. I feel pretty dumb! :o Found it right on the side of the lens attachment area.

Ok, so now I have yet another setting to play with. I feel like I am walking through quicksand.

I think I will just have a play session next and try all kinds of settings.

12th Jan 2012, 10:02 PM
Don't feel bad. Most of these digital cameras are very complex devices once you get away from the auto settings. I certainly don't understand all the settings on mine.

12th Jan 2012, 11:04 PM
Heh, I've been shooting with a DSLR for years now and still play around with settings trying to learn how to do stuff. I use Photoshop Elements now since I got it from a former employer at a discount and get the updates cheap since I'm a student, but before all that I used "Gimp" which is a freeware photo editing program that I believe is still around. I do not know if it works with RAW images or not, but since it's free, you can go wrong trying it out sometime, at least the price is right, right? I'm watching this thread with interest as I want to take good photos once I start my layout so I really appreciate seeing the results of your experiments.

Since I have had this camera I never knew it had a manual focus setting. I feel pretty dumb! :o Found it right on the side of the lens attachment area.

Ok, so now I have yet another setting to play with. I feel like I am walking through quicksand.

I think I will just have a play session next and try all kinds of settings.

BryanC (RIP)
13th Jan 2012, 10:29 AM
... I'm a student, but before all that I used "Gimp" which is a freeware photo editing program that I believe is still around. ...For those interested, you may find the Gimp site here (free download) http://www.gimp.org/

It is obviously a very capable program! My (personal) issue with it is that it so slow to load (start up) but that may be, at least in part, due to the age of my PC!

Another excellent (and also free) image processing program is Paint.Net which you may find here http://www.getpaint.net/index.html

If you are looking for an image processing program I don’t think you’ll go wrong with either of these!

I’ll add both of them to the Media section of our Links Directory a little later!

Edit: Both programs have now been added to the Media section of the Links Directory: http://www.nscale.net/forums/links/browselinks.php?c=8

13th Jan 2012, 11:20 AM
Wow! How did I miss this thread?!?! Great stuff here and I'm learning a lot. Not much to contribute, but soaking it up. Thanks, Ron, for stepping out on a limb and "learning in public" like this. And to you experts for helping!

One thing I did notice... I love the pics in post #31 for composition and so on... but it really points out how horribly oversized Code 80 rail is. No offense, Ron, I have a couple scale miles of it myself... but the rest of the scene looks so good, the rails end up being one of those "model give-aways".

13th Jan 2012, 01:46 PM
Moose, thank you for all those links! Although I have not jumped into it yet, I now know that I have a fairly extensive editing program in my PMB program that came with the camera. Admittedly, I've no idea how to use it yet but I do know it is pretty powerful and will also convert RAW files. I don't know what the benefits of that are yet. I may start another thread to discuss editing later on.

TD, I know exactly what you mean! I hate the look of those rails! I am feverishly working to get some ballast down to try and hide some of that. I may also experiment some with the angle of the shots to try and deceive the eye some.

13th Jan 2012, 01:50 PM
I completely agree with both points made by TwinDad. I considered myself fairly knowledgeable with photography (my father was the dean of the NY Institute of Photography many years ago), but this thread has made me think differently about my skills. As far as the code 80, I had miles of it on my layout as well. Changed it all out the beginning of last year for code 55. It looks so much better. I have a small area of code 80 left just so I can remind myself of the difference (though I may not keep it for much longer as that is about the only place where I am having problems with de-rails).

14th Jan 2012, 03:04 AM
White Balance and Expouser a two completely different animals... Neither effects the other...

White Balance:
Grey cards are "typically" used for color balancing, not white balancing. While a grey card can be used in post to set white balance, I'm not sure I would use it to set a preset/custom white balance in camera.

What you are doing when you set a preset/custom white balance is telling the camera what is "exactly" white. If you use a grey card, your telling the camera anything in the scene that is 18% grey you want to be white... This can in many cases produce some very undesirable results.

On the cheap... Use a piece of printer paper, but be aware that not all paper is "white" - the "bright white" paper actually works prety good. Next option, get you some white foam board from hobby lobby, like the stuff that is use for photography backing... It's about an 1/8" thick and typically very close to white - I use these a lot in my studio for video work. Finally, I also carry in my bag, warming cards (http://www.warmcards.com/WC1.html), these work awesome, because white is "exactly" white... but if you want your image a little warmer (like photos of people), you can use one of the warming colors - to set the preset. Again, what you are doing is telling the camera, exactly, what you want white.... Lastly, there are ExpoDisc (http://www.expoimaging.com/product-overview.php?cat_id=1), these work like filters, you just put it on the end of your lens... set the preset, and your done, but a little pricy.

One thing to remember about the use of any card... Make sure the card is in the scene, and as close to the subject you want to shoot and your filling the frame when you take your reading... Make sure that the light you'll be using is hitting the card in the same angle that it will be hitting your subject.

So let's talk about light a bit...
Light is measured in kevlin, and the kelvin is going to define the color, white balancing is just telling the camera what is white, and it does that by reading the kelvin of what you told it to be white (the piece of paper). Having different light sources is going to produce a rainbow of different colors. Some light sources (cheap 4' shop Flos) can have different colors throughout the tube! Do what you can to keep all your light sources as close tot the same kelvin as you possibly can. IE: sunlight is a bout 5,500k and a normal tungsten house light bulb is about 3,200k - putting theses on the same scene will typically produce ver undesirable results! See, our eyes a much more sensitive to these color variances, and cameras are not... They have a smaller kelvin band in which to work with, so if there are too many different light sources, the camera gets confused and your get weird color casts in different parts of the image.

Now, lastly... There are going to be quite a few people that will tell you that if you are shooting raw, this does not matter... But after 12 years of shooting raw, I'm going to tell you it does! Yes, raw editors, can easily change the white balance setting, but having a WB setting too far from reality will effect the way the camera's processor try's to calculate color at the pixel level... Much too complicated for this discussion... But trust me, bad WB is just going to cause you grief in post.

This may all seem a little over wheeling, but let me tell you my friend, the closer you can get the images right in camera, the quicker you'll be shooting photographs - not snapshots!

14th Jan 2012, 03:26 AM
For Expouser, learn to use and trust your histogram! I'm not going to go into great details here because you can Google DSLR Histogram and get all the info you need... They are simple, very accurate tools that will save you a huge amount of time.

What I will say is... The histogram is the graph that most times looks like a "mountain"... Low on either end, high in the middle - hopefully. Every camera's histogram is different, every photographer's "style" is going to have a different histogram. Simple put, it is telling you the luminance levels of the image (the intinsity of the highlights & deepness of the shadows).

Most people will tell you to expose to the right (for the highlights), but this is a personal preference and I typically expose slightly to the left (shadows). While yes, there is more data in the highlights (again overly complicated for this post), I prefer to get my images as close to right for my style in camera, and my style tends to be a bit less bright, and a bit more contrasty than most.

What you really want to make sure is that you don't blow out any highlights, or crush any shadows that you want data for. So in your histogram, you want to make sure that there are not strong peaks on the far right or the far left.

Learn to trust your histogram, our eyes can see so much more detail (dynamic range) than our cameras, and sometimes you have to make decisions on what your going to capture (highlights or shadows) because the camera can't get it all in a single image, and knowing exactly what your histogram is telling you will help you make these discussions quickly and on the fly.

One last note... One of the posts, someone posted "don't use auto mode" - for a beginner, I disagree, somewhat.
These cameras a so sophisticated today, that 95% of the time it's going to get it right. It's the other 5% of the time you need to be on your game. So... as a beginner, soot the images how you "think" it needs to be shot, then shot in full auto and see what the camera thought it should be... Look at the EXIF data and see what settings it picked. Use that auto technology as a learning tool. Then as you get to know your gear better, you slowly start to make the correct manual discussion on the fly and you'll be shooting photographs more than snapshots!

---------- Post added 14th Jan 2012 at 12:27 AM ----------

By the way, I replies with my iPad... It doesn't always pick the correct spelling... So if the are some weird words in those two posts, yell at Apple :)

14th Jan 2012, 10:10 AM
Thanks for all of the information Chris, Yes I agree, that is a bit overwhelming. I understand overall what you are saying but I can see more experiments-a-coming!

I have a question.

You said "Make sure the card is in the scene, and as close to the subject you want to shoot and your filling the frame when you take your reading... "

I am a bit confused. If it is in the scene but filling the lens, how does it end up in the scene? The card I got is fairly large and would not fit in the scene. Should I have a smaller one, set it in the middle of the scene, focus directly on that to capture the setting then back off?

14th Jan 2012, 11:03 AM
The thing to remember is that you set the card in the scene or in front of the scene, but as close as you can physically get it to what you sre shooting. Make sure your light, wheather natural or artificial, is hitting the face of the cardand there are no shadows on the card. Zoom your camera in so that the whole frame is white (focus does not matter).

Then set your camera to take a preset WB reading (check your manual).

Take a reading (mimics taking a photo), REMOVE the WB card from the scene, take your photos as normal.

I have a previous commitment today, but if you are still confused, I'll shoot a shot video tomorrow explaining white balance and histograms.

14th Jan 2012, 11:43 AM
I understand now. I just wanted to be sure that I didn't need to have the card in the shot, focus down on it, do the custom preset then back off. I understand now. The few shots I have taken with custom so far were done exactly as you are describing. I put the card as close as I could, set the camera then removed the card and took my shots. I have not experimented with the white side of the card yet. Thats next but I have to go to work shortly. Hopefully tomorrow morning I will get to play some.

Thanks for the info!

14th Jan 2012, 12:28 PM
I’m absorbing a lot from this thread and Thanks for posting it.

I’ve been thinking of buying a DSLR for a few years now, but I’m still a little intimidated by all the settings. I looked up the Sony a380 and it looks like the same camera my buddy has. He’s a cop and I don’t know how much of this technical stuff he knows, but he just blows me away with the photos he takes with it. I wonder if my photos would improve with just upgrading to a DSLR, because I think it’s going to be awhile before I get out of the auto stage. :D

19th Jan 2012, 11:38 PM
I took a few shots tonight. I was really just playing with some lighting, depth of field and scene composition. Man, this camera REALLY tells on my areas of opportunity on my layout! Roads need help, gotta clean all the foam pieces up of stray colors and lots of little projects to do. I used both lenses. I did not try manual focus though, that is gonna take some practice to learn. I played with it a bit.

How about some general critique on these shots? I can make some adjustments and try again.

I used the 250w halogen light trying to simulate a mid day shot.

I am reworking most of my turf so all of my trees are gone from the area except one. I should have them back in place late tomorrow after the turf dries and I may try again.

First up was shot for 2 seconds at f22 ISO 400 focal length of 140mm:


Next one was at f22 for 1.6 seconds 40mm focal length ISO400


Third shot was at 55mm 1.6 seconds ISO400 f22


The next two I was just playing with depth of field. I put the budweiser truck in the scene

f29 3.2 seconds ISO400 at 55mm:


Last shot was taken at f5.6 for one tenth of a second ISO400 at 55mm. HUGE difference on the focal area. I was trying to focus on the locomotive and succeded. I should have gone just a little bit larger to capture a bit more of the engine:


Overall the halogen light works very well simulating daylight shots. I did not try to white balance the camera this time but I do want to once I get my trees back in place.

20th Jan 2012, 09:02 PM
Some of these have an awful lot of light - but the last one is getting there...

I have three suggestions:
1. Tone down the light a bit.
2. Lower the light a bit to get longer shadows.
3. Soften the light a lot.

So let's talk about as one "technique".
Here is a great rule to remember - "The bigger the light source the better the quality". One of the reasons outdoor photographers like to shoot early in the mornings or late in the afternoon is because the quality of light form the sun is so much better. You have longer shadows and softer shadows - and typically great color. So you want as big of a light source as you can get (we'll talk about how to do that in a sec). Moving your light farther away from the layout is going to make the source smaller, while moving the light closer will make is bigger. In like regards, farther away and the light is less intense and closer it's really bright - so we need to be able to control this as well.

I am assuming that your halogen is probably a shop light that you can get form Home Depot or something like that? These actually make great lights for both photography & cinematography - providing you can control them. I love the fact that you (we here in Colorado) can get them from HD for about $70 (on sale a lot for under $40) for 1,000-1,220 watts. I have 6 heads that I use all the time... http://bit.ly/xvUG3W

So how do we control this light... Well first, yours is probably a fixed 250w - the 1200 from HD are designed with 4-300w bulbs that you can turn on and off as needed. Second - and here's killer tip #1 - use a Router Control Switch as a dimmer! Yup - this is the ticket - there $20 bucks form Harbor Freight and they will let you dim your fixed light. http://bit.ly/xPPJeY

Next - getting the light soft... remember I said the bigger the light the better the quality... Well softness comes with bigger. Ok, so what is "soft" light... Soft light has soft smooth edges in the shadows. (See image) The best way to do this is with a scrim - or a diffuser or even a softbox designed specifically for your light source. There are just as many different kinds of diffusers, ranging from small to large and with varying degrees of diffusions - and they price range in just as much. Most of the collapsible ones are pricy (http://bhpho.to/ykfybo) - but they work great... Honestly - what I use is this stuff called "RipStop" and I get it in white, it's a nylon kind of material that comes on bolts at the local fabric store. Sweet stuff and it really softens the light. Plus it comes in 4 foot widths and I typically get about 8 feet of it... In my studio I have light stands that I use to hang it - but a lot of my friends buy window screen frames (aluminum) from home depot and use Binder Clips (office store or wal-mart) to clip to the frame.

I have a video shoot for Breyers Ice Cream this weekend - I'll post some of the lighting gear that I just described...

20th Jan 2012, 09:07 PM
I like to crusie through the local pawn shops occasionally. Today I hit one and found a double 500w halogen worklight with a stand that goes to 7 feet. For twenty bucks! SCORE! These cost about 60 new at my store. It was a little dirty but works great. So, I put it to use.

I wanted to experiment with the white balance and telephoto lens.

In this set of shots I set up about 7 feet away and tried various focal lenghts and angles. I was trying to focus on the garage scene and then the cars in the background.

I set the white balance to custom and it set for 2600. I like the color rendering I got out of the shots, it is very true to life color. I am a little dissapointed with my ability to get the entire scene in focus but still got some nice shots anyway.

These close up shots REALLY pull out the flaws. One thing I read about today was using fill lighting. Notice the tractor in the garage how dark it is? I am going to attempt to use some reflectors or another light to throw some light in the garage so the tractor will show up better. Thats a topic for another class. The garage scene is in focus pretty well but the train cars (which are about a foot behind the garage) are not.


I find that to get the entire shot in focus with the telephoto lens I have to back the focal length off. Although this one isn't perfect (a little fuzzy) it is clearer for the whole scene. One of the things, to me, that adds realism is the shadow coming off of the telephone pole. It is muted but visible.


I moved the light over to the left on this shot trying to catch some of the shadows a little better. it turned out pretty good but one thing I noteced, that I HATE is the straight line of the top of the rock wall behind the line of container cars in the yard. I have to break that line up. It looks like......well.....a straight line.


The next two shots were taken while I was goofing around trying to catch the blinking light on top of my radio tower. Oh and for those of you who don't know, that blinking radio tower is on when my track is live. The first shot I realized that I caught a shadow on my backdrop:


This shot I moved the camera angle a bit to eliminate the shadow:


So, once again, please shoot your critiques or comments. I have pretty thick skin so your not gonna hurt my feelings. I can say this, my photography is getting better, simply by trial and error. I still think I am a couple steps away from bonified amatuer but it's getting there.

20th Jan 2012, 09:22 PM
Hi Chris, thanks for the comments. I agree, it is too bright now that I look at it again. In fact the van and the white on the house in the set I just took is too bright also.

Yes, you are right about my lighting but I will definitely take a look at the controls you are talking about. I like the idea of being able to mute the light. I will check that out.

22nd Jan 2012, 11:10 PM
I made a trip today to Harbor freight and found the control Chris described. I got down in the train room for a nice session.....set up my lights, adjusted the tripod....started setting the scene........shot three shots......aaaaaand dead battery. Comletely exhausted. LOL Oh well, that put a two hour delay on my session. So I tossed the battery on the charge and some burgers on the grill.

When I got back down there I shot about 60 shots. various settings and lighting. And I find that I am seeing what most of the folks are describing in my prior pictures. Either too light or too dark or getting color fade and the list goes on and on. I trashed about 50 of them right off the bat. I know it takes hundreds of shots to get "The shot" you want and I am ok with that. I am finding that I am letting taking pictures get in the way of progress. So, I am going to dedicate some time to building and scenery. I really enjoy this part (photography) of the hobby and want to explore more. And I will, it will jsut be later on after I get some modeling done.

If anyone reading this wants to contribute their experimental pictures to this thread please feel free! Or if anyone has what they consider to be a prize shot post that also! I need to see some good and great examples of photographs.

So, for tonights session I chose 4 pictures. The first one, I chose because I really liked the detail of the front of my switcher. It isn't a particularly great shot or anything but I just liked the shot. f40 ISO400 1 second at 280mm:


Next shot I like because of the detail present. Not only can you see my garbage laying around under the trees but you can almost make out the hinges on the hatches for the covered hoppers.

f32 1/4 second exposure, ISO 400 140mm:


The next one I wanted to add in here simply because I have never seen a mini van with hydraulics. Apprently there was a couple kids who hijacked moms soccer taxi and did a little covert operation to it before returning it. At least they had the presence of mind to fill the tank back up before returning. Maybe she won't notice the front end 12 inches in the air!


Last is my "belle of the ball" It is by NO means a magazine level shot but It, in my opinion was the best from the session. I really like the level of light, the detail in the shot and the overall composition of the scene. Oddly enough, a couple things that lend to realism to me are the slope and depth of the ballast going down the right side of the train and the gravel going around the corner of the loading shed. The front of the loco is a bit fuzzy and I probably could have cleared it up. I think what I need to do is hook up to my computer while I am taking the shots so I can see a real time picture. It is hard to tell from a small screen what is clear and what is not.

It is simply amazing to me what little things show up in pictures. I went through with a pair of tweezers picking up small droppings and such and still missed a great big orange branch in the parking lot in front of the forklift. I think one of the things I do not like is the fact that I do not have a sky in the background. There is simply too much green. There was a discussion recently about backdrops and I "think" it was moose who talked about taking your own pictures, sewing them together (through a program) and using that for a back drop after getting it printed out. I may check into that.

Anyway, here is my prize shot for the night. Again, nowhere near perfect but it was the best of the group.


So, once again, I invite all comments, critiques suggestions and otherwise! I hope you enjoy.

24th Feb 2012, 06:28 PM
Hi Ron,

Great scenes. In the last one, the camera is tricked by the lighter background for exposure. The exposure will be better if you exposed for the grass. Point the focusing square at the grass and adjust for 0 ev. I do not know much about your Sony. I use a Canon, which has a great light meter. With that exposure adjustment, re-position the camera and then shooting will give a better exposure on the loco. The rest can easily be adjusted in Photoshop or a RAW editor.

You can also use the on board flash if you have one. Just hold a cut milk container plastic in front of the flash. Or even better, use a white foam (the type that comes in TV packaging, that is like a cloth). Fold it 4 times and press it on the flash. It will diffuse the flash enough so that you will not get flash burns on the image. Will give enough fill light.

Took the liberty of recovering some shadow details on the loco and applied some sharpening. Hope you do not mind.

24th Feb 2012, 08:31 PM
Thanks Ganesh! I appreciate the feedback. I do like how it pulled the detail back out on the front of the loco but it appears now, to me, that the white is way too bright (the pick up truck, the trailer). That is just to MY untrained eye though. I am still experimenting with settings and learning how to use the camera in its most basic form. I have been doing a little outdoor photography lately and playing with that.

So far I have not done much of any editing on any of my shots. Just an auto adjust here and there. I figure I need to learn how to use the camera before I learn how to edit.

I had put this project on hold for a bit because of all the other stuff I got going but I may break the camera back out soon and fire this thread back up.

Again, thanks for the comments!

Mark W
24th Feb 2012, 11:06 PM
Hi Ron,

Great follow along. I had a couple face-plam moments, but for the most part everything is working out for you, and that's what counts. :)

The only thing I feel has not been fully explained yet (along with a few misleading bits of info) is the custom white balance issue, which I feel this is the very first thing any new photographer should master before diving into the more advanced shooting techniques such as varying depth of field.

This starts a bit technical, but it should make perfect sense by the end (I hope).
The first thing to understand is that your DSLR reads "light" as a value of brightness. The most common standard results in 256 values of brightness, a range of 0-255. Now, in order to resolve color from brightness, each pixel of information must be filtered through 3 channels; Red, Green, and Blue (RGB). Thus, each pixel of information is described as three individual brightness values. Red can be described as (255,0,0), meaning there the value of red is 255 (the brightest) and the value of green and blue are both zero.
Can you guess what RGB value pure white is? Yep, it's (255,255,255) because 255 is the highest value the camera can read.
How about black? (0,0,0)
This one's the important one: gray can be any string with all three values being identical, (minus black and white of course).
(For more in depth info, check out RGB Color Model (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RGB_color_model)on wiki.)

Now that we understand how the camera reads light and how that light is turned into color, we can begin to focus on how we can ensure the camera reads the correct color. As someone explained earlier, different light sources emit light in different tints and temperatures. To an untrained human eye, these different color "casts" can go completely unnoticed simply because the human eye is able to subconsciously adjust white balance automatically. In the camera however, everything is recorded precisely as it is.

This is where custom white/gray/color balance is introduced by use of gray/white cards. An earlier post incorrectly said these are not the same things however, while they are indeed different "things", they are all ultimately used the same way for the same purpose, to set the neutral value of light.

How to set this is different from camera to camera, however the ultimate goal is to "show" the camera what neutral gray is. For this, you can buy a gray card, use a sheet of white paper, gray paper, use a white/gray board or white/gray wall or anything which itself is or should be neutral in color. You'll want this surface to be lit using the same lights that falls on your subject, but that does not necessarily mean you should put the card in the scene, or use a gray from the scene. You could, but be extra careful as the card may pick up on reflected color which will affect the balance. In my next post, you'll see a quick (unlike this one) run through of a recent photo I took. For my custom white balancing, I simply photographed the wall directly adjacent to my scene, out of focus with nothing else in view. Being out of focus with nothing else in view helps the camera average the proper color cast.
For best results, this is where the 18% gray comes in. 18% is said to be the ideal density (value) of gray at which a camera can record color cast. If you go too dark, the color cast is lost in the darkness, too bight and it's lost in the brightness. Since you can underexpose white, that's why white cards can be used while still getting that approximate 18% gray. However you cant effectively over expose black, so obviously there are no "black cards".

So now we have our baseline photo, and it probably looks wrong.
Below, I have an example of my white balance form earlier this week. The first photo, you can see how crazy orange the wall is! This is because the camera recorded the image using the last custom white balance setting I had, which obviously was for a much bluer light than this. Using the orange image, I sampled the color which reads (230, 148, 23). Now here's where it should start to make sense. Since the wall is a neutral color, these three values should be identical. Using the orange photo, the camera now has the information it needs to make the wall neutral. The camera applies a filter of (-86,-4, +118) resulting in (144,144,144).


Again, this can be done using any value of gray, but the best results are achieved around the 18% value.

And finally the main point of all of this, now that what should be gray is gray, all other colors will be recorded as the correct color too.

This is all completely independent from exposure, aperture, shutter speed, resolution, composition, ect. which would be the next step of the process.

Mark W
24th Feb 2012, 11:52 PM
.. I know it takes hundreds of shots to get "The shot" you want and I am ok with that...

NOOOOoooooooo : p

In truth... it only takes ONE. ; ) To be SURE, it takes 3-5. (Bracketing exposure, I'll get to that...)

Here's a quick (compared to my above post) run through of a recent photo I took:

This photo has many features I am pleased with, but I am most pleased with the back lighting of the three center trees. I've been asked a few times how I achieved this shot, so here's a quick break down. The set up is quite simple, and here it is:

The yellow stand is a halogen work light (the sources out of view so I don't get a flare.) You can see its position relative to the scene and my camera. The black card just in front of the camera is "flagging the lens", or blocking light from the source from shining directly on the lens. The two white cards are used to bounce light back into the shadows of the scene. In the next photo, I dropped the right bounce card to show how much darker the shadows would have been.

Notice how dark the right corner of the module is in this one.

That's it for the set up. Having set the white balance using the wall (see the earlier post), I already know my color is correct. Since I'm concerned with depth of field, I want a small aperture (large f number). I went with f/22, which also means I'll need a slower shutter speed in order to let in more light, but that's no problem because I have a tripod. I also want to keep my ISO "sensor speed" to a low number. The lower the number, the slower the sensor is, however the better quality of the photo. Again, since I'm using a tripod, I can expose for as long as necessary.

Here is the In-Camera result. f/22, 1sec. exposure ISO-200. Notice that the histogram on the bottom left. That is a bar graph showing the number of pixels at a specific value. On the graph, left is black, right is white. The taller the bar, the more pixels within the image are that value. This photo has a particularly good range of value but don't be concerned if less than half of the graph shows value. The biggest thing to watch for is spikes on the far left or right. You can see I have a small spike on the right, however the intention of this photo is to be brightly back-lit, so I'm ok with that. One thing to do here is to "bracket" your exposures. Since my priority is aperture and resolution, I would take a photo with 1.2", 1.5", .8" and .6". This way, if I ultimately decide this photo is too bright, I have a less bright back up, or if its too dark, I have a more brighter backup. Anyways, this one will do. :)

The next photo is the "Processed Raw". For the beginner, just shoot as .jpgs and don't bother with processing RAW until you master the shooting techniques. Trying to learn shooting techniques AND processing techniques at once will create many, many, many, many bad shooting habits. The most infamous "I'll fix that in Photoshop". It is ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, better to have something done in-camera.
Nonetheless, for those interested, I processed this Raw by adjusting for lens distortion and I bumped saturation a touch.

Next is the clean-up. I didn't want the light stand in the photo, and you can see I caught the corner of my lens flag in the frame too. I also removed the safety bumper at the end of the track, straightened the tree trunk that was bothering me on the right side and made sure the pine on the left looked "planted".

For this photo, I wanted to see the sunlight bursting through the forest. To achieve that, I did this. I streaked white over black, then using the engine and trees as guides, erased that streak away for objects closer to the camera. This is called a depth map since it is used for depth effects.

Above was the hard part, the easy part is simply setting that black and white image to "Screen" a type of blending mode in which black becomes transparent and white is blended into the image. Now I effectively have the "god rays" of the sun through the trees.

And the final step is to once again adjust the color. While we know the color in the above image is correct, we also know that artistically sunlight is yellow. If you compare the above and below, the above color begins to looks odd, doesn't it! In addition to the yellow of the sun, I added a bit more saturation and a touch of green as would be reflected from the trees. These subtle color adjustments also make the scene look larger in scale don't ya think?


And there ya have it.

Michael Whiteman
25th Feb 2012, 01:31 AM
Thank you Mark for that great presentation and explanation.