Learning DSLR Photography: Summer Fun

My latest photography adventure happened on Canada Day. I don’t think I can remember a July 1st that wasn’t sunny and warm and this year didn’t disappoint. We spent the day in a park surrounded by good friends and later went home to barbecue. We set up a slackline, hung a swing in a tree, played frisbee and bocce ball, coloured, played music (my friends did while I took pictures), and drank boozy blueberry lemonade. We couldn’t have asked for a better July day.

This was my first time turning my DSLR on people instead of objects and it was pretty challenging. I ended up with a lot of grumpy-looking faces – not because my friends were in bad moods but because I often managed to catch them between smiles. And whereas I had been used to shooting in aperture priority, this time I switched to playing with shutter speeds to capture motion. I wanted to see what I could do with both blurred motion and with crisp action shots.

Bright sunny days like this one are hard to capture since they tend to overexpose the shots and since the shade we were in tended to make everything too dark. I spent a lot more time playing with editing after the fact as well – and as usual I learned a lot!

learning photographylearning dslr photography

With these shots I was happy I remembered a tip from a photography book and used the metering function on my camera. Depending on which mode you choose (I’m pretty sure I went with centre-weighted) the camera adjusts the way it reads the lighting throughout the frame. In the first image, without metering, the background is quite bright and Kelly is a bit too dark. In the second the camera uses the centre of the image to determine the lighting, rather than the whole image, so she is a lot brighter and stands out more against the background.

learning photography

learning photographylearning photography

learning photography

The photography resources that I’ve read recommend staying away from spotty shade like this. Thought it definitely made it more challenging to get the lighting right, I kind of like the patterns on her legs and face. To me that dappled sunlight is the perfect evocation of summer.

learning photographylearning photography

Canada Day37learning photography I love the way that two photos side by side can tell a sort of narrative. I had posted just the second of these photos of my friend’s nephew, and then realized it wasn’t complete without the first.

learning photography      learning photography

learning photography      learning photography

These shots were so much fun. My acrobatic friend Dan was attempting to do handstands on the slack line. Though he was never actually totally still, the first two photos look quite static, except for the blur of a hand or foot, while the second two are a lot more dynamic. It would have been fun to get an even bigger range, with some perfectly crisp and some blurred. It was kind of silly of me to take each picture individually instead of using the multiple shots feature: I was so busy trying to time the shutter properly that I didn’t have time to change the settings at all. I also could have paid more attention to framing: in the first two the tree gets in his way and part of his leg gets cut off. I could argue that it was intentional and that it adds to the feeling of instability, but I know that’s not true. So much learning!

learning photography

Only 10 days after the summer solstice, daylight still seems to go on forever. But around 5 or 6 the sun was low enough to create the most amazing golden tones. I see why photographers like the later hours of the day so much.
learning photographylearning photography

learning photographylearning photographylearning photography

This shot is one of my favourites from the whole day and it makes me wish I had played a bit more with lower shutter speeds. Normally blurring isn’t a good thing but here I think it really works to capture her movement and joy. Most the of the other shots had a shutter speed of 1/250 but this was was only 1/25 (I love that this information is embedded in the photo itself. Makes learning a whole lot easier than film did).

learning photography

learning photography

I think the hardest part of assembling this post was choosing which photos to use and which to leave out. I snapped photos all day long so I had a lot to go through. Hopefully I don’t change my mind about my decisions!

Do you have any tips for photographing people and action, especially on a sunny day? Leave a comment below!

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