As strange as it may sound, I actually began studying photography as a teenager before I even owned a camera. I would browse the public library before the internet was commonplace, and read books by National Geographic Photographers such as the late Galen Rowell and Steve McCurry. In the back of the book was an index of images that had commentary and technical details from the photographers. I was familiar with ISO, shutter speed, and aperture by the time I bought my first SLR later as an adult. It is in this spirit that I share small nuggets of knowledge as the masters did.
For more in-depth one on one photography lessons in person (In Hollywood), drop me a line using the contact link above.
Camera Settings: Focal Length: 300mm, ISO 200, f/4.5, Shutter 1/1250, Center Weight Metering
The Challenge: Hummingbirds are small and fast. Worse yet, I wasn't looking for it. It showed up suddenly and my camera was set to something else
The Logic: I already had a 300mm focal length lens on my camera (I had been shooting jets at LAX). The first thought that came to my mind was that I wanted to freeze the flutter of the wings so my first setting was shutter speed. I set it to 1/1250 as a starting point because this is the shutter speed that I knew was fast enough to freeze the blades of jet turbines in my aircraft photography. I changed my setting from manual to shutter priority and kept my ISO at 200 (it was overcast but still bright). Now I had to set my metering mode. I chose to go with center weight (because again, hummingbirds are small). This gave me an aperture of f/4.5 which I accepted because at 300mm f/2.8 would probably give me too narrow depth of field. Furthermore, I wanted the image to be as sharp as possible and stopping down from f/2.8 to f/4.5 would help to do just that.
Camera Settings: Focal Length: 300mm, ISO 400, f/8, Shutter 1/400, Spot Metering (A tripod is a must)
The Challenge: The Moon is bright.
The Logic: My first thought was to spot meter so that the vast dark sky would not factor into the equation. I usually use f/8 as a starting point for most photographs of objects and this was no exception. My ISO was already set at 1/400 so I left I left it there. Moving the shutter dial brought me to 1/200th of a second for exposure, but I wanted the dark patches of the moon to be more pronounced. I stopped down to 1/400th to cut the light in half and voila!
Camera Settings: Focal Length: 50mm, ISO 200, f/4.2, Shutter 1/60, Matrix Metering
The Challenge: The couple that hired me for maternity photos had just finished their nursery. I wanted to somehow incorporate the new room into the day's final shot. The challenge was to tell a short story with just light.
The Logic: I use speedlights that I can trigger wirelessly and got the idea to have a light emanating from the crib to represent the coming child, the hope, the anticipation. At the time I still used Nikon's CLS (Creative Lighting System) to trigger my flashes. I have since moved away from that system in favor of PocketWizard RF triggers because it is not very reliable in most conditions that I use it. I wanted the ambient light to be a soft glow so I turned off the lights knowing that the bounced light from the speedlight in the crib would create a light canopy off the ceiling. I kept the same exposure setting I had when the room's lamp was on and clicked the shutter.
Camera Settings: Focal Length: 50mm, ISO 100, f/16, Shutter 23 seconds, Matrix Metering
The Challenge: This was not a controlled fireworks show. These are illegal fireworks set off by American Patriots on the 4th of July
The Logic: Focusing into a dark sky is a bad idea. I focused on the building directly in front of me (L.A. SECURITY STORAGE - You can see the sign is sharp). In this 23 second exposure you can see four firework explosions, three of which occurred in the same spot, and one a little higher. A tripod is a must.