Friday, February 11, 2011

New Camera

Well, I did it.  I bought a new camera.  Even though my furnace needs fixing and my car has weird warning lights popping up, I felt I needed to plop down a few hundred for a nice DSLR.  I went with the Pentax k-x over the Nikon for two main reasons: Price (about $150 cheaper) and faster continuous shooting capability.  When I go to buy new lenses, this decision might come back to haunt me (quick internet searching reveals that Nikon lenses are more readily available), but right now, I have to say I'm completely stoked on my new purchase.  After a little internet research, I figured out the 3 main points of SLR photography (and photography in general): Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO.  How these three go together separate well exposed pics from poorly exposed pics.

I took the camera to the community college class I teach at West Mountain on Thursday night for some trial and error (mostly error). As The Saratoga Skier and Hiker has found, nighttime skiing photography is a difficult endeavor.  Here was my first attempt:

I was trying to capture a decent sunset through my front window as I was driving.  Unfortunately, the auto focus focused on my filthy windshield instead of what was beyond the windshield.  No way to focus while I was driving, so I waited until I got to the mountain to shoot more. I stepped out of the car and shot this:

Better, but a little grainy.  I wanted to open up the aperture to get as much light in as possible, but doing that increased the ISO to a level that I wasn't happy with.  I moved the ISO down to 1600 and took another.

Okay, now we're getting somewhere.  The only problem with this photo is the blur in the center right.  The skiers coming towards me are fine, but the skier moving perpendicular to me is blurry.  Another example:

Clearly I need more shutter speed to capture action.  Or do I?  I've seen some pictures that create a cool effect by panning with the moving object, creating a blurred background, but a focused subject.  I thought I'd give it a try:

Not bad for my first attempt!  I definitely have to remember this technique for mountain biking shots.  I put my camera away for the time being and taught my lesson.  After a warmup break, we came out and took one more run.  I decided to practice some action shots:
For these shots, I cranked the aperture as wide as possible, jacked up the shutter speed, and kept the ISO at 1600.  I tried to pan with the skiers as they were moving, and I used the burst mode on the camera to shoot at 4.6 frames per second.  I have to say I'm pretty pleased with the results.  If this camera can get this kind of resolution at night, it's going to look pretty freakin' good during the day.  Can't wait to try it out.

I'll be teaching the "Master of the Mountain" 2-day class at Gore this weekend, so if anyone wants to dominate the mountain Matt-style, c'mon up and ski with me.


  1. Matt... will you ski with that camera? Is it helicopter proof? Pics look good to me. Stop by Hickory on your way home. Let's have a cold one.

  2. Matt, those look like great results. To me, one of the most frustrating things about p&s cameras is the shutter delay. It's pure luck if you capture a skier at the right instant. Sounds like shutter speed on a DLSR is much better. Good, warm colors and bright whites in your pics too.
    Good luck and have fun!