the blog of Seldom Seen Photography

Rookie Mistakes

Gorge MoonsetI hope you are having a great summer (or winter for my friends down south). I’m not sure where the time has gone this summer. It seems like I’ve been busy, but have little to show for it. I know my time has not been taken up by photography. I sort my image in my Lightroom catalog by date, and the catalog for July only has two dates in it. Same with August – and those two were from consecutive days of a non-photography trip where the camera barely left the bag. The purpose of the trip earlier this month was a family reunion. Us Beckers gather every year the first weekend in August.

This year, the get-together was at my sister’s house in Lyle, Washington. For those of you that don’t know where Lyle is, it is a small town in the Columbia River Gorge, on the Washington side of the river, ten miles or so east of Hood River, Oregon. My sister actually lives north of town another 10 miles or so in a house with a fantastic view of Mount Adams. However, I didn’t take any shots of Mount Adams when I was there, the air was quite hazy.

Tanya and I stayed right in the town of Lyle in an Airbnb house with a view of the Columbia River. The only photograph I planned to take that weekend was the image above. I knew by checking the Photographer Ephemeris that the crescent moon would be setting directly down the gorge from Lyle. In fact, I didn’t have to travel far to get the shot. The image above was taken from the deck of our rental.

So why is this post called “Rookie Mistakes?” Because I made a mess of my photo shoot. For those of you that have been to the Columbia River Gorge, you probably know the wind blows there a lot, and the night I shot this image was no exception. So, one would think that I, being somewhat of a professional photographer, would take precautions against camera shake. Well, I thought I did. I used my sturdiest tripod, I bumped up the ISO to 800 and used wide apertures to make for shorter shutter speeds. I shot some 30 images. All of them had camera shake to a certain extent. The one above, the last image I shot that night, was the best of the lot. I used Photoshop’s shake reduction filter, and that helped, but I could have done more. I should have used a weight on the tripod. I should have left the stabilizer on my lens, which I normally turn off when shooting from a tripod, turned on. Bad mistakes. I’m lucky I had even one halfway decent shot.

Mistake number two – the moon (and the planet above it in this image, Jupiter, I think) moves fast. My shutter speeds were between 2.5 and 30 seconds. When shooting stars at night, a 30-second exposure is typically not long enough to have star trails show when using a very wide-angle lens. However, I was not using a very wide-angle lens; I was using a telephoto lens. In everything I shot with a shutter speed over 2.5 seconds, the moon was horribly blurred due to the earth’s rotation. The image above is actually a composite, the moon and Jupiter are a 2.5 second exposure, the rest is a 10 second exposure.

All I can say is that when I downloaded these images to my computer, I was very disappointed. I let the excitement of the photo shoot overwhelm good technique. That’s why it is important to get out and practice your craft as much as possible. Keep working on your technique until it becomes second nature. I guess I’m not there yet. Here I encountered two different, unrelated phenomenon that, had I been thinking properly, should have made me use a fast shutter speed. Neither did. I failed and am lucky to have anything to show. But, I learned a lesson and, hopefully, will not make these mistakes again.

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9 responses

  1. It’s still a great shot, I like it. Unfortunately it’s easy to get caught up in the moment, many a time for me, and forget about technique, and this is so true, the more you are out there, the less this happens.

    August 14, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    • Thank you for your comment Karen. I usually am pretty good with my technique. More practice is needed. Now, if I could only quit my day job…

      August 16, 2016 at 12:15 pm

  2. Thank you for sharing your experiences Joe. It is good to know that you are human also! When on the tripod and wind is a problem, turning the stabilization on (if you have it) actually works very well for me although it would never be on normally.

    August 15, 2016 at 12:24 am

    • Ernie, I am more than human with all the mistakes I make! I just don’t regularly talk about them. It’s funny, I often forget to turn off stabilization when using a tripod and the one time I remember, it hurts me.

      August 16, 2016 at 12:18 pm

  3. Seattle Park Lover

    Thanks for posting this with the details. I was really disappointed with my lunar eclipse photos last fall, and came to the conclusion after seeing similar results from others, that the moon moves too quickly across the sky for even a 6 second exposure that I was using. It’s nice to have that confirmed so I’ll know for next time. It does leave me wondering what the longest shutter speed can be with a long lens since even your 2.5 was too slow. The tip aboit leaving the shake reduction on is helpful too. It’s one of those things that should be obvious, but that I probably wouldn’t think of.

    August 15, 2016 at 1:48 am

    • It really depends on how long a lens you are using. I was using 200 to 350mm and 2.5 seconds was about the maximum. Anything longer, you will need even a shorter shutter speed.

      August 16, 2016 at 12:20 pm

  4. You are a perfectionist. I like that shot very much. Color, contrast, and composition are great.

    August 15, 2016 at 6:18 am

    • Perhaps I am a bit of a perfectionist, but while this shot looks okay on a computer monitor, it won’t look good enlarged as a print. The other ones from the shoot were much worse.

      August 16, 2016 at 12:21 pm

  5. Pingback: Worst of 2016 and Lessons Learned | joebeckerphoto

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